Once upon a time, long before the Thorgel Fayne, the people of the Ranka tribe decided on a law. For in those days, there were many farmers in Ranka; but artisans were few, and scholars fewer still. So the tribal council declared a solemn bond of honor, that the laws of inheritance should be changed. From that day hence, a farm could not be divided among many heirs. Only one child could inherit a family’s land.
In this manner, the Ranka tribe flourished: its scholars and artisans increased, but the number of farmers remained the same. Crafts and culture flourished, and there was plenty of food for all.
But in the early days, when this began, there were three children living on their parents’ land: Sutu, the eldest boy; Hagobar, the only girl; and Frono, who was the youngest of the three. They worked together happily.
Because he was the oldest and the strongest, Sutu chased the pjanel away from the land and tended the livestock. The pjanel grew to fear him even as the livestock came to trust him.
Because she was beloved of the plants, Hagobar tended the vineyards. They rewarded her with luxuriant growth and luscious fruit. She also looked after the Hugmups.
Frono was too little to have many duties. He helped to clean the house, and did other small chores.
Frono yearned to tend the vineyards, like Hagobar, or to chase the pjanel, like Sutu. What exciting and glamorous chores they had!
“Someday I will be bigger than you,” he warned his brother Sutu, “and stronger besides! I will chase pjanel much better than you!”
“You’ll never be as big as me,” his brother replied. “Even when we go to Narabo, there is none bigger than I! No, Frono, you boast too soon, and for nothing. You must find your own talent.”
“Someday I will help you cultivate the vines,” he informed his sister Hagobar, “and I shall do better than you! The vines will be longer than Sutu is tall, and the fruit will be bigger than your head!”
Hagobar concealed her laughter, and then replied, “The vines cannot grow that tall, fruit that large would burst! No, I have a special gift for vines. Set yourself a better goal that is your own!”
Sutu and Hagobar congratulated themselves on their kindness to their little brother, but Frono hid and cried.
And so they worked and lived for many years, not thinking of the day when one of them would own the land.
One morning, the parents called the children together.
“Mother and I must go to Narabo,” the father said. The children cheered, for Narabo was a busy place, filled with excitement! A trip to Narabo was always a special delight.
“But you will stay behind,” he explained to disappointed moans. “We cannot leave the livestock or the vineyards untended. Summer has ended, and Red is near. The Hugmups could leave while we are gone. We could even have frost; you must be here.”
The children sighed in great disappointment, but they did not protest. They knew too well the dangers of a sudden frost.
“Mother and I shall return tomorrow,” the father promised, “before the setting of the sun. Continue your chores, take care of each other; remember, we trust each one of you.”
The children promised to obey their father’s instructions. The parents departed, leaving the children behind.
Sutu found no pjanel that day; he only had to gather the livestock for the night. Hagobar groomed the vines, but gathered no fruit. It wasn’t time. Frono had even less to do; his job was to help his parents. Since they weren’t there, there was nothing to do. That was the first day.
On the second day, Sutu chased a pjanel and tended a wounded animal. Hagobar pulled some weeds, and plucked a ripened fruit. Frono still had nothing to do. He sat and moped in the house all day.
The children prepared themselves for their parents’ return. The sun descended slowly, and their excitement grew with each moment.
The clock in the hallway struck twenty-three. Sundown was near.
“What are they bringing us from Narabo?” Sutu wondered out loud. “Perhaps a saddle, of finest leather. Father remarked that my saddle is worn!”
“What are they bringing us from Narabo?” Hagobar asked with delight in her eyes. “Perhaps some new combs and cosmetics. Mother said I shall soon be a beautiful woman!”
“Who cares what they bring us from Narabo!” Frono ventured. “I just want them to come home!”
Sutu and Hagobar laughed, as one gently laughs at the antics of a child, but Frono was still worried.
The sun set behind the great mountain in the west, and the clock struck twenty-five.
“Our parents would not be late without good reason,” a worried Sutu said. “Perhaps Father had to search all Narabo for just the right saddle,” he speculated.
“Our parents would not be late without good reason,” said Hagobar sadly. “Perhaps Mother had to haggle many hours for just the right combs,” she speculated.
“Our parents would not be late without good reason,” said Frono, who was very worried. “I hope their car did not break down on some long and lonely country road!”
“That can’t be!” Sutu retorted derisively. “We keep the car in good repair.”
“That’s right,” Hagobar agreed. “That’s just a childish fear!”
Hagobar and Sutu smiled a smile of shared superiority, and Frono ran upstairs to cry.
The clock in the hall chimed twenty-eight o’clock. The evening had slipped into night. The parents did not arrive. Sutu hid his nervousness behind catalogs of saddles and bridles and bits. Hagobar imagined hair styles and cosmetics in a mirror. Frono cried himself to sleep. Their parents did not return.
On the third day, Sutu chased a pjanel but neglected the livestock in order to read his catalog. Hagobar strolled briefly through the vineyards, then she read magazines in the kitchen over several cups of harng. Frono still worried about his parents, but now he was worried about the livestock and the vineyard, too. Their parents still did not return.
On the fourth day, Sutu and Hagobar tried to recalculate the day on which their parents would return, but they could not agree. They argued and exiled themselves to opposite ends of the house. Meanwhile, Frono fed the livestock and found three ripe fruits in the vineyard. He also groomed the Hugmups. The parents did not return that day.
On the fifth day, Hagobar panicked. It took her all day to compose herself. Sutu left the house to visit a friend, returning late at night. Frono tended the livestock, chased a pjanel, and set an animal’s broken leg. He raked the vineyard, and harvested two more fruits. Their parents did not return that day.
On the sixth day, Sutu cut himself while trying to make a saddle. Hagobar tried to style her own hair with disastrous results. Neither knew where Frono was. It was on this day that the parents returned.
“Children!” Father called, “Come here right now!” Sutu, caught by surprise, tried to hide the bandage on his thumb. Hagobar made a bashful appearance, embarrassed by her hair.
“Did you bring me a new saddle?” Sutu asked.
“Did you bring me a comb?” Hagobar inquired.
“Where is Frono?” Father demanded.
Sutu shrugged his shoulders.
Hagobar looked mystified.
Frono entered the house just then and wiped his feet. He was covered with dirt and sweat.
“Mother, Father!” he exclaimed. “What happened to you? Are you all right?” He collapsed into a chair.
“I am sorry that we came so late,” Father began, “and I will explain that in a moment. Right now, I am concerned about the farm. Sutu, how is the livestock?”
Sutu’s eyes grew wide, but he did not reply.
“I can tell you, Father,” said Frono, catching his breath. “We only had a few pjanel, but there was no damage. The animals are fine, except Mother’s favorite broke a leg; I set the leg so that the animal can recover.”
Father seemed surprised at Frono’s report.
Mother turned to Hagobar, “How are the vineyards, dear? Is there much fruit?”
Hagobar was nervous, and uttered not a word.
“I can tell you, Mother,” said Frono, mopping his brow. “There was no frost while you were gone. Both Hugmups are still with us, and we gathered six fruits so far this week.”
Mother smiled at Frono.
“Now the reason why we are late,” Father said. “By tribal law, only one of you can inherit this farm.”
“That must be me,” said Sutu proudly. “I am the biggest and strongest!”
“No, that must be me,” Hagobar countered, “I have a talent for the plants!”
“It couldn’t be me,” said Frono, dejected. “I am the youngest and the smallest, and I have no special talents.”
“Children!” Father said. “That is why we were late! I delayed our return so that you could prove to us which one of you is worthy of the farm.”
“Me!” said Sutu confidently.
“Me!” said Hagobar smugly.
“I could always be a merchant,” Frono volunteered.
“It shall be Frono,” Father announced. Sutu was indignant. Hagobar was disappointed. Frono was speechless. Mother smiled.
“Frono is the most deserving!” Mother explained. “He was the only one who obeyed, and he obeyed enough for three!”
And so it came to be that Sutu was a leather worker, and Hagobar a cosmetician. But we would not remember either Sutu or Hagobar, if Frono were not their brother:
For Frono became a wealthy farmer, the Chief of Ranka, and a founder of the Fayne.