Once upon a time, the standard collection of three brothers were assigned the usual set of pointless tasks.
The oldest brother, being at all times the biggest and knowing himself to be the smartest, took no care at all. His task was completed swiftly, but without any wisdom was not completed well. Worse, his actions had offended the richest man in the kingdom, and he was soon served with a suit for his troubles. As the case progressed, it became clear to all that he had failed miserably.
The middle brother, often ignored, took up his lute and spent his time at music, letting his assigned task languish as he pursued his art. He spent many hours of many days in many inns and clubs. He chased elusive sounds. He chased a true love. He found many things to be happy about, and in time found himself married with a enough children to fill out his band. In due time, he died as he lived, a happy man surrounded by the joy he brought to all around him. And yet, as these stories go, he too must be judged a failure for he had ignored the arbitrary task that fate (or the Author) had assigned him.
The youngest brother, going by all that is expected in this sort of story, set out diligently to accomplish his task. From time to time, stories of his one brother or the other’s fate would reach him as he sought first the tallest tree in the forest, then the sharpest herring, then some knights with weird and rude habits of accosting people and setting tasks, and finally a decent shrubbery. Along the way he was plagued by rabbits, coconuts, and swallows. Eventually, stories came to be told of his exploits, and even the Author had to admit that by the arbitrary rules in play, he had succeeded.
It always begins with a fount of knowledge. The all-seeing eye that watches and records, and the leak from it back into the mortal world.
Leaks always seem like a good idea at the time.
Some over-confident blowhard is brought down by a well-timed leak. The gods are keeping useful things like “fire” to themselves, but a gutsy mortal, acting on a leak, can steal it.
But all too often, the result of a leak is more scandal, and punishment of the source.
That is partially why Sisyphus is still pushing that boulder, after all.
And even though he has since learned to apply tools to his problem and shave years off his sentence, math tells us that his sentence is still forever. He’s also learned that magic such as levitation is considered cheating, and didn’t earn him any goodwill. Cheating was the larger part of why he was condemned to that boulder in the first place.
In fact, his only way out is to simply endure it, serve his time, and hope that he is laboring in a side timeline that will be looped back into the normal frame of things so that after his infinite service, he returns humbled and can redeem his good name.
They won’t believe the tale he’ll tell, of course.
From humble beginnings and all that rot. Roses growing from manure. Right.
Those are all nice ideas for a story. But in my world. Heh.
The mirror has been on that wall for a long time. No one now living can quite explain why it’s there at the back of a stable. But there it stays. It has resisted most attempts to remove it, some from people who sunk low enough to try to steal it in the night. Most who attempted to steal it were found wandering around in a daze, with no explanation of what happened.
I did see it hit square on by a thrown shoe once. It didn’t break. I felt more than saw the shoe go past, then flinched as I realized I was about to get an eye full of shards of glass. But it didn’t break. Strangely, the shoe was nowhere to be found.
The farrier was rather upset about that missing shoe, and tried to stick it on me. As the one on the receiving end of it, that didn’t sit well at all. But I’m no one important. I’ve just been around the place, done my time.
I’ve tried wandering afield, but it never lasts. Stable boys find reasons to push me along. Innkeepers don’t want me where the guests might see. Farmers seem to worry that their milk might curdle or their cheeses get ideas. I guess they fear that some cheese with ambition will succeed, and then they will find themselves on the wrong side of the law. I don’t really know, they run me off before it gets that far.
So after I while, I find myself drawn back here.
Back to the manure pile.
And the mirror behind it.
Clear that my humble beginning will be my humble end.