The Three Builders
(a fable of Termag)
(a fable of Termag)
The nurse stood as Bailar entered Sura’s bedroom, stumbling a little. “All is well?” he asked.
“All is well, and gods willing, all shall be well.” The nurse often wondered how such a clumsy oaf could yet be a sorcerer, but there he stood. But a kindly man he is, and a good ‘un to give a home to a girl left at his door. She smiled and departed.
“I helped in the kitchen today, Father!” said Sura, sitting on her bed. Her round eyes gleamed in the candlelight. Rain drummed on the house, a comfortable sleepy sound.
“Nurse told me. She said you did well.”
She grinned. “I did! She said I would get cut or burned, but I was very careful. I’m almost five, I’m a big girl! I can help.”
“Indeed you can.”
“Yes. And then I’ll grow up to be a great sorcerer like you.”
“I’m sure you’ll be an even better one.” Bailar smiled to himself. He was no great sorcerer, but for a river town like Exidy he was adequate.
“A story, Father?” Sura bounced a little. “I’m not too big for a story.”
“Of course.” He sat on the bed and began:
Once, in the time of Camac That Was, in the Faraway West, was a fishing village. The village was remote, and they had to mostly provide for themselves. Most families had a fishing boat, and a garden, and could see the sun set over the ocean. Theirs was not an easy life, but it was the only life they knew and they were content with it.
Into this turmoil came three young men from other places, sent out from their families to make their homes. The first man said, “I shall build my house of rocks, with narrow windows and a sturdy brass door. This raider shall not break in.” When the raider came, he pounded at the brass door but could not batter it down. Then he took his great hammer, and smashed through the wall. He carried away the young man’s possessions, leaving behind a rubble.
The second man said, “I shall build my house of sturdy logs, with a great wooden door. This raider shall not break in.” When the raider came, he pounded at the great wooden door but could not batter it down. He took his great hammer and beat at the log walls, but made only some splinters. Then he took oil, poured it on the side of the house, and set it on fire. When the young man ran from his burning house, carrying what he prized most, the raider took it and more besides, leaving behind a smoking char.
The third man said, “I shall build my house from straw mats. I am a poor man, and what little I have the raider may not want.” When the raider came, he looked upon the flimsy house and laughed. “I shall simply walk through the wall and take what I will,” said he. But when he pushed the wall down, the entire house fell onto the raider, trapping him in the tough mats. As the raider struggled to escape, the young man took his hunting-spear and spitted the raider upon it. He dragged the raider’s body to the chief, who rejoiced with all the village and gave him the promised reward. The chief made him an advisor, and the village prospered.
“For it is not what you are given in this world that matters, but how you use it. The end.” Bailar smiled and stroked his foster daughter’s hair.
“That was good,” said Sura. “So you don’t have to be big and strong to win the battle?”
“Not if you are clever and use the talents you were created with,” said Bailar. “Now it’s time for the sorcerer’s daughter to go to sleep. We go to market tomorrow.”