The Three Brothers

William de Breteuil stands guard over the trea...

William de Breteuil stands guard over the treasury after the death of William II to defend the succession claim of Robert Curthose, the king’s elder brother. The youngest brother, Henry, however, is determined to obtain the royal treasures and succeed as king. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My apologies.  I have neglected to share the various adventures of my son’s favorite character with the world, perhaps to its betterment.

Tonight he allowed me to tell a story of my own:

The Three Brothers

Once upon a time there was a great waterfall pounding down into the earth, surrounded by stunted, yellow-leafed trees.  Where it pounded there was a deep trough full of its frothy waters, and at the bottom of this trough there was a cave.  The cave was reached by swimming down and up, and it was not a cold and damp cave.  Rather it was a dim and soft cave, filled with luminescent moss and warmed by volcanic steam that came up from somewhere deep in the earth.

Three brothers lived in the cave, and had done so for three years.  They had escaped from their uncle, an evil duke, and hidden in the cave for three years.  In all that time they had never ventured out, as the moss was nutritious and the water was there for the drinking.

This was the final day, and all along the wall of the cave there were rows of hash marks marking the passage of time.  The boys took turns gouging out the time and the eldest brother dug out this final day and turned to his brothers.  “It is done.”

The brothers knew that at the end of three years their evil uncle would have established his son, their cousin, as the heir to their inheritance.  Their cousin would have reached the age of maturity today, and they knew their uncle wouldn’t wait a day longer than necessary.

So their cousin had their inheritance, but the brothers were now of no consequence and they were now safe to leave the cave.

The eldest brother looked at the lapping water of the waterfall.  But the youngest brother felt something troubling him.  “Maybe we should wait for a few more days.” The second brother looked at him incredulously.  “I’m not waiting another hour to see the sun, and to walk in the open breezes.  Stay and mold in this cave if you like, but I will enjoy my freedom.” With that, he threw himself into the water and was gone.

The eldest brother looked sorrowfully at the youngest.  “I’d best go and protect him.” He too dove into the water.  But the youngest brother didn’t feel right about it, and so he stayed in the cave.

The two older brothers slogged out of the water and walked back toward the Duke’s village.  The waterfall wasn’t far from the village and the day was warm.  They enjoyed the sun’s light, though it was so bright it hurt their eyes.  Once they reached the village, the brothers looked around for the celebration.  At last one asked a villager, “aren’t you celebrating our cousin’s coming of age today?” “Oh,” said the villager.  “That’s tomorrow.”

The two older brothers looked behind them.  The Duke’s guards were following them.  More stood in front of them.  In bewilderment, the brothers were taken before the Duke.

The Duke was furious. “You disappear for three years, only to appear the day before my son’s coming of age!  You waltz around my village for all to see.  Now I have to postpone his celebration until you tell me where your brother is, and all of you disappear for good.”  The elder brothers were taken down to the dungeons to be tortured.

The youngest brother realized what had been bothering him.  The second year they had been here in the cave had been a Leap year.  They had forgotten to add the extra day, and so his brothers had rushed back to the castle a day early.

The youngest brother knew that the Duke would imprison his brothers.  He knew that the second brother would be silent, but that the eldest brother would tell where he was as soon as they threatened the life of the second brother.  They would do that on the second day of torture.  So the youngest brother dove into the water of the waterfall.  When he came out, he walked in the direction opposite the Duke’s village.

Knowing what he knew, the youngest brother was still helpless against the Duke.  He didn’t even have a sword and the Duke had a small army.  He didn’t even have a hut to call his own, and the Duke had a castle.  He was penniless, and the Duke had a small fortune.  What could the youngest brother do to help his brothers?  He thought and thought as he walked to the first village away from the Duke’s castle.

When the youngest brother entered the first village, he told them what he suspected, that his brothers were being tortured and that the Duke meant to take their inheritance for his own son.  The villagers listened and asked what they could do, and he told them.  They gave him some food and let him borrow an old horse.  He traveled on to the next village and told them his story. On and on traveled the youngest brother.

So while the Duke’s men surrounded the waterfall and dived for the cave, the youngest brother spread his story throughout the villages of the Duke’s realm.  By the time the soldiers gave up on the waterfall, he had traveled throughout the villages and hid himself in the one farthest from the Duke’s village.

The Duke was furious that he did not have the youngest brother.  He had to delay the inheritance of his son.  He fumed and fretted, but thought that sooner or later the youngest son would turn up.

Even though the villagers had listened to the youngest son, what could they do against the Duke and his small army?  The youngest son had told them what they could do.  Don’t go to the Duke’s village.  Don’t bring grain, don’t bring potatoes.  Don’t trade your food for money, keep it in the villages until the Duke changes his ways.

So that Saturday the Duke’s cooks went out to the market, and there was no market.  None of the villagers had come.  There was no food to buy.

The Duke sent out his men to ask where the villagers had gone.  The villagers all had an excuse.  One of them had been sick, another had a lame horse, and a third had been visiting his relatives and missed market day.  None knew why anyone else had missed market, and they were simply apologetic.

No matter. The Duke’s cooks had stores enough, though the Duke missed his fresh meat and vegetables.

The next week the cooks went down and there was no market.  This time the Duke rode out to see what had happened.  He saw that the villagers turned away from him, that they wouldn’t meet his eye when they made their excuses.  They had been turned against him, and though the Duke was evil he was no fool.  He sent out his spies to listen to the villagers and report back to him.

The spies reported that the villagers were angry that the Duke had imprisoned and was torturing the two eldest brothers.  The Duke could only assume that his own guards had told the villagers what he did in the secret dungeons below the castle.  He had a purge of his own guards.  Many were questioned, a few were tortured, and a few ran away only to be tracked down and slain as traitors.

The next week there was no market, and the Duke’s castle was full of hunger.  The Duke sent out an announcement that he was releasing the two eldest brothers.  He did so, throwing them out of his gates.  The sympathetic villagers smuggled them out to the farthest village in a hay cart, where they met their youngest brother.  “What have you done?” They asked him.  “The Duke is terrified.  He released us rather than go hungry.” “I did nothing,” said the youngest brother.  “I just taught the villagers how powerful they truly were.”

The next week there was no market, and the Duke sent out his men to retake the two eldest brothers.  Though they searched, the soldiers could not find the brothers.  Enraged, the Duke had another purge, and many of his soldiers were tortured or killed.

Sitting on his throne, starving, surrounded by only a few dozen terrified guards, the Duke realized he had been beaten.  No one had stormed his gates.  No one had fought his guards.  No one had risked a sword fight with his mighty sword.  But he was beaten.

The Duke announced that he was abdicating his Dukedom.  He left his crown on his throne and left in a carriage for a neighboring kingdom with all the gold he could find.

When they heard about the loss of the Duke, the brothers rejoiced.  They traveled from village to village, and in each they had a celebration.  When they arrived at last in the Duke’s village, the hungry villagers welcomed the brothers and the food and merchants they brought with them.

The people shouted for the youngest brother to become Duke, and the elder brothers agreed.  For he had not been the best in battle or the strongest in arms, but he had brought the people to freedom.

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