Gebrick and the Demons Three

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Rather as the uniqueness of Calavrian society shaped the story of The Blacksmith and The Wizard, the story of Gebrick and the Demons Three is a product of the Lancesian culture it originates from. Like its Calavrian counterpart it was told as a folklore tale in the evenings after work, though due to the disparaging view Lancesian nobles held of Gebrick this was often done covertly. As if as a precaution, the tale still takes pains to stress Gebrick’s subordinate role to Tyaus and renders the feats of the Humble God as humorous rather than serious – in this case, explaining certain historical and colloquial traits associated with a village of unknown origin.

Benito Vallore, who was responsible for collecting much of the lesser-known folktales of Gebrick and Vaitera, notes that the version of the story recorded was more popular in southern Lancereaux, with different villages adjusting certain details according to their location. Unusually the scholar took it upon himself to try and pin down the probable origin of the story using its most popular version as a starting point, and eventually decided on the village of Savois. His reasons were a collusion of landmarks which fit most version of the story – a round hill just outside the settlement, the proximity of large buttress of stone named Demon’s Rock near the Chatoyan lake – the history of the village, which has suffered under the excesses of three particularly unpleasant lords in the distant past, and the reputation of the village folk in the district, which Vallore described as “of epitomising a particular bucolic stupidity excessive even for Lancesian peasantry.”

There were once three demons called Toby, Tarran and Tegg who decided it was time to come south for a bit of mischief, and they chose Savois as their target due to the piety of the folk there. Now Tyaus heard of this and was of a mind to raise up the Chatoyan and drown the whole lot of them, but Gebrick, mindful of the village nearby that’d be drowned as well, begged for a chance to solve the issue himself.

“Very well then!” said Tyaus. “You can have a go at dealing with this, but if by you fail I’ll raise the lake and take care of the business myself.”

So Gebrick went down to outside Savois hiding himself in a nearby tree he listened to the three demons arguing with each other on how best to destroy Savois. Tarran said thunder and lightning, Tegg said fire and water, and eventually Toby jumped up and exclaimed “You two are both wrong! I’ll take that pile over there and bury the whole lot of ‘em in one go, and save us the bother of it later.” And because demons are lazy creatures, the other two agreed.

But Gebrick heard this and thought to himself “Well now! I know a trick worth two o’ that!” And down he hopped out of the tree and went to Savois.

Now in Savois was a poor cobbler who’d had the misfortune to be kicked by a horse and gotten a broken leg, so all his work was piling up and he had no leathers for repairs. This was who Gebrick went to, and struck up a bargain with the old man.

“Now see here goodman,” Gebrick said, “I’ll take that pile of worn-out shoes over there to market and repair ‘em, and all I ask in return is that pot o’ cobbling glue to keep, and a skin of ale as well.”

Of course the cobbler agreed to these generous terms and Gebrick threw all the shoes in a sack and started walking out of Savois with them slung over one shoulder. Just as he planned he met Toby, about a mile outside the village, and hailed the demon innocently, asking if he might want to stop and share a brew on the road.

Now it was a fierce hot day and the pile of dirt was heavy, so Toby agreed readily and took a big drink from the skin Gebrick gave him. When he was done (and a pretty sight it hadn’t been, though Gebrick was smart enough not to show it) he wiped his lips and sighed happily.

“Well, doesn’t that just beat all!” he said. “Now goodman, I don’t suppose you know where the village of Savois is? I’ve been looking for it a long while now and this dirt is getting heavier by the hour.”

(It had only been a morning since he’d started but remember! Demons are a lazy lot!)

Then Gebrick said innocently, “Oh sir, I do know where it is, but you’ve a long way to go yet! I set out from that village many a day ago and worn out a good many pairs of shoes since I did. Have a look!” And he tipped out the shoes he’d gotten from the cobbler onto the dusty road.

Then Toby swore and stamped and threw the pile of dirt down so hard the earth beneath him cracked and swallowed him up. The pile of dirt can still be seen, and it’s called Cobbler’s Hill in remembrance, but Toby hasn’t been seen since!

Then Gebrick smiled but he wasn’t done yet, for there were still two more demons to deal with. So he went on to market and go the shoes repaired and bought some leather, more than enough before going back to Savois and returning the whole lot to the cobbler. Then he went straight to find Tarran and Tegg, who had learned of their brother’s failure and were arguing again over how to destroy Savois. Gebrick hid himself nearby and listened to them again, and a horrible sort of talk it was.

Eventually Tegg said, “Water’s best for the likes o’ them. I’ll drown the whole lot of ‘em, and wash the whole place clean in one go.” And because demons are lazy Tarran agreed. But Gebrick smiled as he heard this and went back to Savois.

There he went to the village blacksmith and brought an iron bucket that had rusted through in places for a song and a penny, blacking the rusted bits with soot before heading to the Chatoyan. There he set the bucket down, before going down the beach a ways and using the glue from the cobbler’s to make a rod from a nearby branch and some string, and he started fishing to pass the time.

It wasn’t long before Tegg showed up, all huffing and puffing and smelling of brimstone. Now as well as being lazy demons tend to be a stupid lot, especially the ones that go around destroying villages for no reason, so Tegg had clear forgotten to bring a bucket with him. But seeing the bucket all sitting near the lake convenient-like he was mollified a bit and set to trying to scoop up water in it to drown Savois. But of course the water ran clean out of it, and Tegg stamped and swore something fierce to see.

Then Gebrick hailed him politely, asking him what the matter was, and Tegg was so upset he actually answered truthfully.

“Blasted bucket’s spring a leak!” he said. “Now I’ll have to go find another, and I’ve a village to drown.”

Then Gebrick shook his head, putting on a sorrowful expression. “That’s not the fault of the bucket sir, that’s the fault of the lake. It makes anything that touches it dissolve, see?” And holding up his rod (whose string he’d cut all quiet-like when Tegg was stamping about) he showed the demon the shortened line.

Then Tegg stamped and swore some more until Gebrick calmed him down. “Now sir, I’m not too fond of any folk around here myself, so I’ll show you a trick. Now see this!”

He took some sand from the lake bank and sprinkled it into the lake, where it sank down. Tegg looked right confused at that, but Gebrick explained to him. “A lake can’t dissolve sand, or it’d have no bottom to speak of, so all you need to do is make a bucket from the sand here and you’ll be right as rain.”

Then Tegg, utterly fooled, thanked Gebrick profusely and set to making a bowl of sand while Gebrick sneaked away all quiet-like. Of course sand doesn’t make that good a bowl, and the water melts it in any case, so no matter how much Tegg tried he couldn’t scoop up more than a few bits of water. By sundown he was right upset, not to mention angry, but he couldn’t stop for fear of looking a fool (not that he didn’t already) so he kept right on going and eventually Tarran came to find him.

“What be you doing, you mutton-brained fool?” he said. It was no way to speak to a brother, but demons have never been much for courtesy.

“Now don’t you go calling me names!” said Tegg rather crossly. “I’m a-making bowls out of sand to drown Savois, and the more you talk the longer it’ll take!”

Of course Tarran couldn’t think of a good answer to this (not being the brightest knife in the drawer, or especially fond of his brother besides) so he turned around left Tegg to it. And true to his word Tegg kept on trying, going on for years after, until wind and weather and time had turned him to rock. And there he sits to this very day!

But before all that there was another demon to deal with, and Gebrick went to find him. Tarran wasn’t much pleased that one of his brothers had been buried and the other was sat by a lake making bowls of sand, so he came to a decision after a bit of a wait, on worship-day.

“No more waiting!” said he. “I’ll go right to the village my own self, no waiting, and I’ll call down a storm that’ll wipe ‘em off the face o’ the world. Pious lot are making my head hurt with all that bell-ringing anyways.”

Now Gebrick heard this and was worried some, since it didn’t sound like a trick would work this time, but he took himself off to Savois anyway and warned the people there. As he stood in the chapel telling them however he came up with an idea, which the village folk agreed too quickly enough. So they all set to it, and by midday and Tarran’s arrival they were all ready.

Tarran entered the village, but he was almost run into on the way by a farmer clad only in his hat carrying a live eel (which Gebrick had pulled out of the village pond for him with his fishing rod). The demon was baffled at this, and roared at him.

“Stop, fool! What are you doing?”

Then the farmer doffed his cap at the demon politely and said, “Well sir, this vile creature’s ett all the fish in our pond, and the sherrif’s decreed it’s to die. I’m off to the Chatoyan to drown it.”

“But it can breath in-” began Tarran, but the farmer was already running again with the eel in his hand. The demon shook his head and carried on into the village. Near one house was another group of people, this time fully clothed but with their ears painted green, and they were building a wattle fence around a tree with a songbird in it. The demon stopped again and stared in amazement.

“What are you doing?” he asked in surprise.

All the folk bowed to him, and one spoke up. “Good day to you sir. We’re just building a fence around this bird here. It does make music so sweet, and we’d like to keep it with us forever and always.”

“But surely it will just fly away!” said Tarran, and sure enough at that moment the bird took wing and flew off, with the village folk upping sticks and following after it with hammers, shouting at it to stay still. More confused that ever, the demon carried on and reached the village square, where he stopped in amazement a third time.

Most of the village was there outside the chapel, which had been painted with stripes and spots and clashing colours that hurt the eye. The paint matched the clothes of the villagers, which had been dyed all sorts of garish colours, and most had daubed paint on themselves as well, or hung necklaces of turnips and radishes around their necks. Gebrick was leading them in a hymn, disguised as a priest of Tyaus, but half the villagers were singing one and half the other and a few weren’t singing at all, but banging pots as drums and blowing through bits of grass instead of pipes. The din was awful, and made worse by another villager who’d gotten the village sheep together and was trying to make them join in with the singing, to little success but a lot of baaing.

Tarran looked at this bizarre sight with googly eyes and a jaw all slack for a while, then he started to laugh. He laughed till the ground shook, he laughed till thunder cracked overhead, and he laughed till his sides were sore. He laughed and laughed and laughed till he had no more laughter, then he laughed some more as he left the villages, wiping his eyes and horns.

“Well!” he said. “If those fools want to worship Old High ‘n Mighty then he’s welcome to ‘em! One bunch of fools deserves another!” And still laughing he went back to hell and never troubled Savois again.

But Gebrick went back to Tyaus and reported his success and Tyaus congratulated him, though he did demand that the chapel have the paint washed off.