The Stone Warrior

Started by Jubal, August 20, 2015, 11:11:34 PM

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The Stone Warrior

There was once a little village, in a valley where the ground was red and the rivers fast. It – as all villages did in that far off land, in those far off days – had a lord, who in this village was a young and ambitious man.

His ambition at first did great things for the village – for he always wanted to build more, produce more, work more, and so he chose carefully how to spend money in order to make more money, building bridges, fixing house rooves, buying new ploughs and oxen, so that both he and the village prospered. The villagers saw that their vines grew strong, their roads were firm, their houses safe, and he for his part bought fine silks for his lady and fine toys for his children, and fine blankets for his bed. He had built a prosperous village, and the villagers thanked him for it. And all, for a while, was well.

But then times grew harder.

The rains failed – the valley grew dry, and the crops withered. Worse still, bandits came down from the mountains, stalking the roads nearby and attacking weary travellers.

The lord of the village pondered what to do. He could not bear – being an ambitious man – the thought of not being able to give his lady her fine silks, or not being able to give his children they toys they wanted, or not sleeping on blankets as soft as he desired. So he demanded more and more money from his villagers. After all, he reasoned, he had created their prosperity to begin with; and his ambition turned to cruelty, and the villagers lived in fear of him as much as of the robbers and the withered corn.

It was then that Tammin – old Tammin, wandering from place to place – came upon the village. He talked to the villagers, and saw their plight, caught between their lord's harsh taxes and the perils of the bandits. After he had talked to them, he went up to the lord's house, and was received as a guest – for everyone knew of Tammin and his deeds, for his fame was great in those days.

"Honoured Tammin," said the lord, "is there anything you can do about the plight of this place? I will reward you richly if you can aid me."

Tammin thought for a moment, and agreed that he would do something for the village, and the lord promised him rich reward if he was successful. So Tammin went down to the village, and he called for mason's tools, and set to carving a great figure of stone, twice as tall as a normal man. The stone warrior stood in the centre of the village, and Tammin promised the lord and the people that they would be protected by it, at least until he returned from the errand he was on, going further into the mountains. And so Tammin headed onwards, and the stone warrior stood where he had left it.

That night, the bandits finally decided they had enough strength to attack the village. They came with bows and spears, and started to shoot and throw them into the village and its houses. But not a single one hit, for the stone warrior moved – and the arrows bounced off it, and wherever they shot the warrior seemed to move. And the bandits were amazed and afraid, and they left to think what to do the next night.

Come the dawn, the villagers awoke to find broken arrows strewn upon the floor, and snapped spears – just one had damaged the stone warrior, one great spear lodged fast by its left eye. But it still stood tall, and the lord of the village was greatly pleased with Tammin's work.

On the second night, after resting during the day, the bandits attacked again, determined to destroy the mysterious stone guardian. They came with swords and axes, and hacked at the sides of the stone warrior. Some chips flew off; but the stone was hard, and the axes blunted and the swords broke. And the bandits were amazed and afraid, and they left to think what to do the next night.

Come the dawn, the villagers awoke and saw the great axe-marks down the side of the stone warrior, and they saw axes and swords shattered upon the floor, and they were elated to see that they had been protected once again. "Truly," said the lord, "Tammin should be justly rewarded for such work."

On the third night the bandits were truly enraged, and no longer thought of attacking, only of killing. They tried to set a great fire around the village, to catch the trees and dry grass and burn the valley, with piles of logs and wood. But it hardly reached a single house – for there was the stone warrior, stamping out the flames with its feet, until its feet were cracked from the heat, but it kept stamping and stamping and stamping until the last flame was gone. And the bandits were amazed and afraid, and they finally fled away down the road, never to be seen in that valley again.

And on the fourth day Tammin returned to the village; the people had found the bandits' weapons left on the roads, and were rejoicing around the fallen stone warrior, its feet finally broken and cracked from the heat of the fires. But when the lord of the village came down to greet Tammin and give him his reward, he stopped and was amazed.

For Tammin had a patch covering one eye, as if he had been wounded just above it. And he walked as if with a limp, as if he had been cut deep in one side. And his feet – his feet were bandaged and he walked slowly and painfully, as if he had been burned.

"How has this happened?" the lord asked. "Who or what has done you these injuries, honoured one?"

"One should always share in the successes of one's creations," said Tammin, "But I have always thought that it is just important to take a share in their hurts."

And the lord saw Tammin's injuries, and he saw the breaks on the statue – the speared eye, the great axe-marks, the burned feet – and he saw the wisdom of his words. Whether the village grew rich or poor, he did so with it, and earned back the trust of his villagers. Tammin, for his part, went on down the road toward the plains – but the broken stone statue remained in the centre of the village, the guardian that had more than done its duty.

Tellers' Notes

I think this is one of the stories of Tammin that perhaps loses least when written down, and it's one I rather like, though it's perhaps not typical among them. The concept is, as eagle-eyed fans may note, a slight homage to a similar story which I think it somewhere in Tolkien's Unfinished Tales (the setting and story are very different, but the idea of a guardian whose maker shares its pains is inspired from there). This is very much a "late Tammin" story where he acts as a sage figure more than as a hero, though crucially he is dispensing the same theme in advice (our reliance on one another) that governs his "adventure stories" and allows him to win so many of them.

In telling terms, the physical nature of the stone warrior's wounds can be emphasised physically by the storyteller, and their being repeated several times (coupled with the actions being repeated) can help a lot with hammering the whole thing home. I think I did less of the dialogue directly and just reported it when I told it - though in written form having the actual dialogue down certainly looks better, and it's all simple enough that it shouldn't be hard to include when telling.
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