categories: Cocktail Hour
In the last week I have been a traveler to mystical lands. Elves, trolls, dragons, pixies, you name it I’ve seen it.
It started when I brought my daughter to the Great Wolf Lodge outside of Charlotte. She liked the water park but loved Magi Quest, a game that required that she wander around the hotel and point her magic wand at various dragons and trolls and fulfill quests that garnered her runes and gold. When they gave her her wand (thirty bucks even before I bought her the 17 dollar wolf “topper” for the wand handle) they asked her what she wanted her magic name to be. She replied, with little hesitation, “Whisper Claw.” (That’s my girl.)
My nephew Noah, who is 16, came too and once, while he was chaperoning Whisper Claw from the Twisted Forest to the Pixie’s Perch, I tried to wander off to find a quiet place to call my editor. There is noise everywhere in Great Wolf Lodge—from the din of screaming excited children to the wolf howls that are the place’s theme song to the singing of the animatronic “forest” show where the lost boy pops out of the log to the periodic roar of the enchanted bear on one of the Magi Quest video screens. When I asked at the front desk if there was any place I could find to make a business call (we had no cell service in our room), they suggested the conference center at the hotel’s far end. I trudged the eight miles or so down to the center and opened the double doors to find that this week the center was home to the Universal Cheerleader Association, a thousand jumping and screaming and flipping and cartwheeling teenage girls.
No matter. I barricaded myself in the business office and made my call. And when I emerged, avoiding the line of girls doing back flips and round offs and handstands, I saw a sight that filled my heart with pride. TV screens adorn the walls all over the lodge and these screens display, not Sportscenter, but the up to the minute results of that day’s Magi Questing. And it was there, as I stared up at the screen, that I saw the name of the day’s top point getter and rune collector: Whisper Claw.
My interest in the game increased considerably after that. I wonder now if there are Magi Quest parents, the way there are tennis parents. I do know that the numbers in the “Best of the Year” category indicate that some children forgo schooling to live in the Great wolf Lodge for months at a time.
I tried not to let my own competitive fever infect my daughter. But when I told her she was the day’s top point getter you could see something happen in her eyes. She began to run, not walk, from the elven tree stump to the silver river. And when she had trouble casting her spell at the Pixie, Dad stepped in and showed her. “It’s a little like casting a fishing rod,” I said, as if she had ever done that. When she still had trouble, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands, taking down the damn pixie by myself.
Back in the room Hadley relaxed in her wolf den, a walled off section of the main room with bunk beds inside a wall of plastic “rocks.” She had a TV in there too and kept it on the results channel, all the better to see the name Whisper Claw perched above the other lesser names.
“The Whisper Claw clan has a motto,” she called out to me.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Clawing our way to the top.”
We laughed but a little while later all the laughing stopped. It was ten, time to go to sleep, but there had been a disturbing development over the few minutes when Whisper Claw was putting on her pajamas and brushing her teeth. A new name, “Awesome Sledgehammer,” was making its way up the ranks.
We made fun on of Sledgehammer at first, calling him or her not-so-awesome when she or he was back in sixth place, still laughing when the sledge got to third. We said goodnight and turned off the lights and I lay there thinking I might know who this new contender was. That afternoon a bunch of older boys, either high school seniors or college freshmen, had joined the game. They laughed at it and treated it ironically but I noticed that this didn’t stop them from playing it obsessively. They also had a fairly brilliant strategy, passing their one wand from one to the other while the rest went back to the room to sleep and party. Was this group Awesome Sledgehammer?
I was almost asleep when I heard the TV click on in the wolf den.
“Sledgehammer is catching Whisper Claw,” a voice called out.
There was only one thing to do of course. The game closed at 11, which gave us forty five minutes. We turned on the lights and pulled our clothes back on. As we ran back toward the lobby we strategized. “Runes are the quickest way to get points,” Whisper Claw said. I suggested we should fight the red dragon, a risky move because you could fail, but a points bonanza if you slayed the beast. The Magi Quest equivalent of shooting the moon.
It was all for naught. When we got back to the room Awesome Sledgehammer had passed Whisper Claw. We took it well, consoled somewhat by the fact that Team Whisper Claw still was the day’s leading rune getter.
The next day we left Great Wolf Lodge with our heads held high.
But next year we are going for a week.
(Footnote: is it just a coincidence that right after that visit my wife and I started watching Game of Thrones? What a great show, by the way.)