the brothers of gifts and greed

by Keiran Gill

In a meager village in the grasslands, three sons were born to a young woman. The woman was very poor, and her husband had recently passed from an illness. She had grown so beggared that she could no longer afford to buy food, and she sold everything she owned to provide for her children. So, without idea of what to do, she proceeded to the village elder for help. Tears in her eyes, she begged and pleaded for advice, so much so that he needed to appease her. When she had finally settled, he welcomed her inside his home, and told her that he held good news for her. He told her that he had dreamt of three brothers who would have the powers of the gods and who would give gifts to the world, as a reward to the mother for her sacrifices. So, to the woman’s relief, the elder told her that the village will provide her their aid in raising the brothers.

The sons were named Artis, Bellum, and Sapientia, and lived a pleasant childhood. But one day, when the brothers were older, they fought against each other. They had wanted to know which one was the superior of the three. Their battle had proved futile; each was equally as strong as the other, so they agreed to a wager instead. They would each create something, something so useful that it would be a gift to the world like no other. The brother who had created the most magnificent thing of the three would be the superior. 

Sapientia had created a curious plant; unexpectedly, he mashed it into pieces, mixed it with water, flattened it, and dried it; and from that, he had created paper. Artis had created a small worm. He drew a wispy thread from one end of the worm; from this, silk was created. But Bellum had two items instead of one, in hopes of having stronger odds in his favor; two rocks, both of them highly lustrous and unlike anything ever seen by any mortal. One was pale and strong, and became known as iron. The other rock shone with brilliance had a beauty like no other; it became known as gold.

Neither brother could agree on who had won the wager. In anger, they had gone separate ways, each god swearing that he would prove himself the finest. So, they set out, with vicious intent to fulfill their promises. 

With their followers, the brothers created towns which grew into great cities, which grew into great empires. Silk made Artis’s empire especially skilled in trade, and he gave his subjects another gift; the gift of resourcefulness. Paper was highly valued in Sapientia’s city as a way to store knowledge, and Sapientia gave his subjects the gift of wisdom with it. And Bellum’s metals gave his workers the ability to expand their empire and break the mountains; with this, Bellum had given his subjects the gift of strength. All the brothers’ cities had prospered greatly, so much so that their bet had proved pointless; each empire was equally as great as the next, and so the brothers found it useless to persist in the wager. Artis and Sapientia, knowing how their creations would benefit humanity, shared them with the world.

But Bellum had not shared his gifts. He knew the power that his gifts gave to his empire, which he believed was the only kingdom worthy. So, Bellum hoarded his metals, and did not share them anywhere outside of his kingdom. His gift of gold was useless to the empire; any tool made from it bent and broke with little effort. But the gold was prized above the iron for its beauty and rarity, and as such, everyone assumed that the one who had the most gold was above the rest. Bellum believed himself to be the greatest man alive, for he had more gold than any other man in the world. His desire to be the finest god of the three drove him to seek possession of his brother’s gifts of silk and paper, believing them not worthy of their gifts—or their crowns. 

Seeking power, Bellum had created a tremendous army, one which consisted of his loyal worshippers, one that used weapons and armor forged of the very iron that he had created. His soldiers, imbued with the power of his strength, were prepared to fight to the death. With this army, he intended to take his brother’s kingdoms and destroy them. 

Bellum’s armies advanced on the kingdoms at once, destroying every village and town and city in their path, leaving nothing but death and ruin in their wake. He sent threats to his brothers, demanding that they surrender their thrones or be destroyed along with their kingdoms. Neither had surrendered, however; they were willing to fight against him, even if it meant their end. So, Bellum continued his reign of terror, and destroyed town after town, until he reached the capitol of each empire. Sapientia and Artis did not fear for their own lives, but rather, for the lives of those loyal to them; knowing that their subjects would be killed if they resisted, they surrendered to Bellum.

Bellum, driven mad with power, decided to have cruel pleasure in his brothers’ final moments. He agreed to make a deal; to prove himself the superior brother, he forced Sapientia and Artis to partake in a battle. There was one condition, however: only one brother was allowed to emerge the victor. So, Bellum, Artis, and Sapientia fought each other; and, just like before, neither brother had won. The battle had lasted for a great many hours, for each brother had their birth-given godly powers to aid them, and since all were equally as strong, none could win. Bellum was stubborn and refused to end the battle, and persisted in his combat. Artis and Sapientia still had that drive to defeat each as they did all those years ago, wanting to emerge the stronger brother. But, both unwilling to fight any longer, they came to the realization that they wanted the same thing: to put an end to Bellum’s insanity. Coming to this agreement, they both stopped fighting each other, and raised their weapons toward their maddened brother. 

Infuriated by this, Bellum called upon his loyal warriors to join the battle on his behalf, hoping to better his chances in winning, but to no avail; for not even Bellum’s gift of strength could aid his warriors in combat against two gods. Once his warriors had lost, he called his soldiers into the arena. Once they had lost, he called more soldiers, and more soldiers, until eventually he had his entire army fighting against his brothers. Eventually, once he had run out of soldiers, he called servants and workers and every last person willing to fight for him into the arena. Bellum had doomed his entire kingdom to die in a battle they could not win. When his brothers had vanquished every last one of his units, they attacked Bellum; and, with their combined strength, defeated him. Since Bellum had fallen at the hands of gods, he was truly dead, for the only thing that can kill a god is another god’s power.

With Bellum gone, the empires were at peace again. No longer hoarded by Bellum, his precious gifts of metal and strength were given to the world by his two brothers. Now, every living human would benefit from Bellum’s gifts, not just his devoted followers. But even with good intentions in mind, Artis and Sapientia had unknowingly blighted mankind eternally; for before Bellum had expired, he had cursed all gold under his dying breath, and anyone who laid eyes on it would be consumed by his hateful greed.