Andrew Cherry

Master Builders

In a kingdom far away there lived and worked a guild of master builders. They had built many wondrous things and were much in demand, despite the fact that some of their wondrous things exhibited some less than ideal traits.

Still, the master builders were content. The tendency for some of their buildings to fall apart, explode, catch fire or simply vanish with all occupants was, they considered, under control. They knew why these things happened, and they had good ideas about how to stop them (most of the time).

The problem, they had found, was bricks. Some of their bricks – some of the time, and only under certain conditions – would cease to be, often in exciting and inventive ways. So they came up with a plan, and they stuck to it.

The guild of master builders trained people – many people – to assist them in their building. These people were trained to wander round buildings, just after completion, and prod them. Or kick them, or hammer on them, or throw things at them, or… Well. They would subject the building to some severe treatment until they found one of the errant bricks. Once they’d found one, a master builder would come and replace the brick (and any of the rest of the building that the previous brick had taken with it) and all would be well. They even tested the new brick again, just in case it was also a bad brick, that was how well they’d thought this through!

Over time, some master builders decided that they could do even better. They began getting their helpers to bang on the bricks even as they were still building. This, they reasoned, was the pinnacle. So much time saved if you knew a brick was bad even before it had reduced half the new palace to rubble!

More time passed, and some builders had the bright idea that they could probably hammer on the bricks themselves as they were building. This would be even more efficient! And so they began to merge the two things together, until building and brick-prodding were indistinguishable. Eventually, the thought of building without brick-prodding became almost literally unthinkable. Why, to do it any other way would be to invite disaster!

Of course, hiccups occurred.

One day, a bright young master builder was experimenting with making bricks when she realised that if you made them a little differently… They didn’t explode. Nor did they vanish, or catch fire, or mysteriously slip away to an eldritch dimension when exposed to sunlight (a particularly common issue at that time).

She was excited, and told people about this. “Look! You dont need to hammer on these. They just… work. Isn’t that great?” People looked, but weren’t convinced. “How can we have confidence in un-hammered buildings?” they said. “How can we show how diligent we are without spending at least half of our time poking, prodding, and various other offences to bricks?”

The young master builder spent many months telling everyone she found of her good news, but to no avail. “The way we have now works!” they said. “We’ve got such brilliant hammers, and we’ve got so good at it!” they also said. “It’ll ruin our invoices!” said the more cynical but honest amongst them.

Eventually, the young master builder decided that master building wasn’t for her and packed it all in, choosing to live far from any master builders, building, building hammerers or other hangers-on. She was careful to build her hermit shack from her own bricks though.

Everyone was happy, in their own way.