Start Again


In an ancient land, far from where you stand today, there were three wealthy lords. Fortune had been kind to them in many ways, bestowing upon them both money and power. Each of these lords owned much land, more than they themselves could occupy or otherwise benefit from, and so they took to offering the land to those who were less fortunate than they. In return they would receive compensation from their tenants, payment for the use of their land.

Each had many tenants on their land, some whom were more capable of providing the compensation than others. Some were given to struggle, for one reason or another, and had trouble meeting those demands.

The first lord was driven to fury by the failure of some of his tenants to compensate him a a timely and complete manner. He would drive them from his lands when compensation was not given in accordance with his demands. He would accept no excuses, as the reasons for the failure were not important to him. The only thing that mattered was that he received what was agreed upon as compensation. He had no patience for the troubles of his tenants, regardless of the cause, and soon he found his lands growing empty with no tenants to be found.

In the city he met an equal, another ranking lord. He told him of his troubles.

"These peasants try my patience," he told the other lord. "They do not understand the value of their gold or the service I provide."

"Have you ever wondered if the service you provide is worth what you demand in return?"

"Of course! I give them good land to live and build upon and they squander what they have. Without me they have no shelter and would be living in the streets."

"And yet they have all left you, or have you driven them away?" The other lord paused. "Perhaps it does not matter. In the end you will find yourself alone."

The second lord also leased out his land to others who were not fortunate enough to have acquired their own. He was a man with a great heart, who sought to help those in need and saw his fortune as a way to reach those ends. His tenants were never left wanting, as he demanded no compensation for use of his lands. When his tenants were hungry he brought them food. When they were thirsty he brought them wine. When they needed clothing, he dressed them in the finest clothes in the land. Whatever they needed, he gave them without ever asking anything in return.

Over time his tenants overran him, exhausting his fortune and taking up residence in his house. They built nothing on his lands and cared little about what was there. They did no work. They did little aside from gorge upon the lord's bounty until it is gone.

The second lord went to the city, where he came upon another of his kind. He asked this other lord where he had gone wrong.

"I have given them everything that I have. They have never gone wanting. They have never been without in a land where so many have nothing."

"Have you ever wondered if the service you provide is worth what they demand in return?"

"I only wanted them not to be poor, hungry and without clothing or shelter. I wanted them to be able to live without the burdens of worrying how they would make it through another day."

"And yet they have all left you, or have you driven them away?" The other lord paused. "Perhaps it does not matter. In the end you will find yourself alone."

The third lord, upon returning from the city where he encountered the other two lords, looked out across his lands. He asked the other two lords to come with him, to see how he had fared. They looked out over his lands and saw the people being industrious. They did not lack of anything, and when the lord rode through the lands they smiled and waved to him.

When they reached the manor of the third lord, the other two asked him, "How have you managed to keep your tenants so hard working, prosperous and respectful?"

"Did you see the young couple walking with the mule?"

The other two lords indicated that they had.

"They work at the temple, distributing food and blankets to the sick and the insane. They work very long hours, and the temple can pay them little in return, and so I only ask of them what they are able to pay, and usually they pay me a little bit more."

"But your land is worth more than they likely pay!" insisted the first lord.

"It is worth less when empty and untended."

"Why make them pay at all?" asked the second lord. "Surely given the good work that they do for so little reward, and the fortune that you have, you could charge them nothing at all!"

"I suppose I could, but does not my land have value?"

"What about the others?" asked the first lord. "Surely they pay more than this couple with the mule!"

"There is a man called Joshua who lives at the western end of my lands. For many years he struggled as an apprentice to a carpenter. He did not have very much money and his parents died when he was young. I charged him a single gold emblem for each month he lived on my land. When he finished his apprenticeship and came into his own as a carpenter, his fortunes improved. He then came to me and told me he wanted to start paying me more, and so he does. He pays what he can, just as all my tenants do."

"How is this fair to the other tenants when some pay more than others do?" the first lord demanded to know.

"They know that if bad times fall upon their house, that they can come to me and I will listen with both my ears. They tell me I am fair and just, and this is all I seek to be."

"Each plot of land has a value based on its size," insisted the first lord. "It is only fair to charge a fair and just price based on the size of the plot."

"Perhaps you are right, but there are other rewards and other compensation outside of the measure of gold. There is a woman named Mary who brings me one of her pies whenever she has a fit of baking. There is a family who often asks me to join them at events of personal significance to them. I have been to their weddings and to the birth of their children. I have gone fishing with them and into the forests to hunt. My house is never empty, and there is plenty."

"I gave them all that I had and now I have nothing," said the second lord.

"You are welcome to stay with me. My house has many rooms."

Two children ran through the room where the three lords sat, laughing and playing. The first lord wrinkled his brow and looked away, but a moment later the third lord noticed him looking wistfully towards the children.

"Your children?" he asked.

"They are all my children," replied the third lord. "The joy of children is one of life's great rewards."

"I have to go," spat the first lord. "My lands need tending to."

"You are always welcome in my house."

"You do not want me here. I would drive away these wretched vermin who take advantage of your kindness."

"My door will remain open. You are always welcome."

Translated roughly from a story told to me in a dream by Anastasia today.


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