Once upon a time there were four kingdoms: one in the north, one in the south, one in the east, and one in the west. Each kingdom had one major commodity that they traded with the others; a system that remained from the days, long since passed, during which it was all one kingdom and each region had its own specialization.
The Eastern kingdom specialized in iron, which was needed to build weapons. As a result, the Eastern kingdom was fairly wealthy.
The Western kingdom was nearest to the forests, so they sold wood to the others for their fires and their buildings. The Western kingdom was also fairly wealthy, as nobody could go for long without wood.
The Northern kingdom produced stone. Though the quality of stone that came out of the Northern kingdom was better for building than that which could be found in the other three kingdoms, it was not uncommon for people in the other kingdoms to build with their own stone. Thus, the Northern kingdom was rather poor.
The Southern kingdom, though, was the poorest. They had many scholars and libraries. Their major export was education and skilled craftsmanship. This had worked just fine in the long ago world where they were all one kingdom, but, as much as people liked having their children educated, it was generally seen as a secondary expense, not like iron, wood, or even high quality stone. So, many people spent as little as possible in the Southern kingdom.
The division in wealth caused different reactions in the Northern and Southern kingdoms. The king of the Southern kingdom, Gnosi, looked for new, constructive ways to bring in money. This didn’t raise them to the levels of the other kingdoms, but odd jobs and sporadic attractions kept food on the tables of the Southern kingdom. The king of the Northern kingdom, Pikros, blamed his kingdom’s problems on the successful Eastern and Western kingdoms and became bitter.
One day Pikros had an idea while staring out at the great piles of unused stones. He would build a gigantic wall around the kingdom with a huge impenetrable gate. Then he could steal large quantities of iron and wood from his neighbors. Even if they came to get it back, his people would be safe within the walls, and happy because they no longer had to pay for iron or wood.
Construction of the wall was easy, because they had plenty of stone. The gate, however, needed to be made of metal, so the leader scrapped every piece of iron that he could get his hands on, knowing that soon there would be more than enough iron to go around.
Pikros had an intricate system of huge gears built just to move the massive iron door out of the way. To do this, he had to spend most of the money that he had left to pay a skilled and educated iron smith from the Southern kingdom named Logios to design it for him. To keep Logios from ruining his plan, Pikros told him that it was going to be built as a movable dam in the river north of the Northern kingdom, so that water could be redirected down into the kingdom at certain times of the year. Logios liked the idea of helping the Northern kingdom become more prosperous, so he ignored the fact that some of Pikros’ requests didn’t make sense for a dam and designed it for him.
Once the gate and wall had been built, it was easy for Pikros to put the rest of his plan into action. In no time, his people were barricaded behind the huge wall with enough stolen wood and iron to last them several years. They didn’t steal anything from the Southern kingdom, because education was not something that could be stolen.
The Eastern and Western kingdoms sent armies to retrieve that which was stolen from them, but their weapons were worthless against the giant walls and massive gate. Pikros sat atop the wall and laughed.
After a day of failed attacks, it was determined that, to get through the wall, they needed more men and word was sent to the Southern kingdom demanding reinforcements. When word reached Logios that such a request had been made, he volunteered to go alone, ensuring Gnosi that he could fix the whole problem, if given just a bit of time. Logios and Gnosi had been friends for a long time, and the king had learned over the years to trust Logios’ judgement. Logios went to the Northern kingdom with his king’s permission to make decisions that affected the entire kingdom.
When he got to the gate of the Northern kingdom, Logios was met with hostility by the kings of the Eastern and Western kingdoms.
“We asked for an army,” stated Sidero, the king of the Eastern kingdom, “and they send only one man?”
“Maybe,” suggested Xylo, the king of the Western kingdom, “we should invade the Southern kingdom instead, then force them to fight for us.”
Logios sighed and responded, “I promise you, that will not be necessary, I can get you your iron back, Sidero, and your wood, Xylo, but I need three things.”
Intrigued, the two kings listened to Logios’ requests.
“From you, Sidero, I need your finest steel arrowhead, and from you Xylo, I need your straightest arrow shaft. From both of you I need time to let my plan work, and as payment I will only take a tenth of what is recovered for my kingdom.”
“Why would we agree to this?” asked Sidero.
“If my plan fails,” assures Logios, “the Southern kingdom will send reinforcements, like you asked, and we will do it your way. Then, for the next year, we will pay twice as much for your steel and wood.”
Not seeing how it could hurt, since they didn’t think that Logios would succeed anyway, and their kingdoms stood to make a profit if he failed, the two leaders agreed.
With the arrowhead and shaft, Logios constructed a perfect arrow that he could count on to fly straight and true. Armed with just the one arrow and his bow, Logios approached the gate alone.
Pikros appeared high above the gate and looked down to Logios’ single arrow, then laughed.
“Surrender now and save everyone some time and effort,” demanded Logios.
“You know better than anyone, Logios,” laughed Pikros, “that this gate is impenetrable to swords and battering rams, how do you expect to break through with just one arrow?”
“To break through it is not my plan,” stated Logios, cocking the arrow.
“You can’t possibly think that if you assassinate ME, my heirs will open the door, can you?” asked Pikros, crouching a little more behind the top edge of the wall, “because they wont.”
“The thought never crossed my mind,” replied Logios, drawing back the bow.
“You must be crazy then,” replied Pikros, with a smug smile.
“Must be,” agreed Logios as he took aim. After one long, slow breath he released the arrow. It sailed through the air and stuck between two of the large gears on the door.
Pikros laughed again, “See, the door is still standing. Your plan has failed.”
“I told you,” said Logios, “that was never my plan, and I assure you, it has not failed.”
With that, he turned and walked away.
Sidero and Xylo had been watching eagerly from a ways down the road and as he approached Sidero said, “That wasn’t much of a plan. Now, go get the army we were promised.”
Without stopping, as he walked past, Logios stated, “The third things I asked you for was the time to let my plan work. It is now time to give me that.”
“How long?” asked Sidero.
“A few days, but I’ll be back tomorrow,” replied Logios.
That night, Pikros made a startling discovery. He couldn’t open the gate; Logios’ arrow had lodged itself between two gears, locking the gate in place from the outside. The river was the only water source for the Northern kingdom and, since Pikros hadn’t actually been rerouting the river, as he had told Logios, they still had to go every few days to fill up the large tank carts. The plan had just been to do so under the cover of darkness. He had been so focused on keeping the others out that, he hadn’t considered the possibility that he might be building his people a prison.
When Logios approached the gate the following morning, Sidero and Xylo twenty paces behind, Pikros called down, “Very clever Logios, now take your arrow out of the door.”
Logios smiled and asked, “Are you ready to return what you have stolen?”
“How about,” Pikros countered, “Instead of giving all of the wood and iron back to the Eastern and Western kingdoms, I give YOU half of it to remove your arrow.”
Logios didn’t respond, he just looked silently at Pikros and shook his head in disappointment.
“Why should the Eastern and Western kingdoms have all the riches?” Pikros asked, “Every time they build a wall with their own stone, it’s like they are taking coins straight out of the pockets of my people. I just took what was ours, and I will give you half of it, just to remove an arrow. You can be a rich man.”
“This is not the way, Pikros,” Logios stated, then turned and walked away.
Pikros yelled after him, but Logios didn’t look again at the wall until the following morning.
Again he approached alone, Sidero and Xylo trailing him just close enough so that they could hear what was said.
“I bet you are just about out of water now, Pikros,” he said as he walked up.
“Yes, please let us out,” pleaded Pikros. Their water tanks had run dry that morning. Nobody had gone without yet, but if they didn’t get the gate open, it was going to be a hard night.
“Have you decided to return what you have stolen?” asked Logios.
“Never, it is ours,” Pikros responded, crossing his arms.
“Have a good day, Pikros,” Logios said, then turned and walked away.
The next day when Logios arrived, Pikros yelled down at him, “You are going to kill my people, over what? Some wood and Iron?”
“No, Pikros, this is not my fault, you can stop it any time you want,” Logios replied, “Now return what you have stolen.”
“Fine.” Pikros said, with a heavy sigh, “If you remove the arrow from the gate, we will give back the wood and iron.”
So, Logios walked to the gate and used a long stick to dislodge the arrow.
Sidero and Xylo where so impressed with how Logios had diffused the situation, that they asked how he had come up with the idea. To which he responded, “The benefit of a quality, Southern kingdom education.”
Not only did the tenth of the wood and iron that Logios had been promised help stimulate the economy of the Southern Kingdom, but as news of the Logios’ clever deeds spread, more and more children from the Eastern and Western kingdoms were sent to study in the Southern kingdom. Thus, business in the Southern kingdom was better than ever. Within a few years, the Southern kingdom was wealthy once again.
The Northern kingdom had lost the trust of their neighbors, used up their stores of stone, and had no money or iron left. The conditions went down hill fast, and within a year of the incident with the wall, the people of the Northern kingdom had all left for other kingdoms, leaving Pikros behind the wall alone.