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It Started Simple Enough

Written by: Kuwanger

It started simple enough. It was in the final days of April, when the dreary rain made way for sunny days. With the roadways still muddy, the people of the village still went out to check on their fields. And the city peddlers came out to sell their wares on loan, for the promise of many more bushels of oat or rye than could be gotten when harvest time came and trade would be to their disadvantage.

It was in this year that a man came peddling magical seed, which needed no weeding nor tending except for planting and harvest, and the yield per acre would increase as well. Such a magical seed, he claimed, would allow a man to plant a hundred fold more crop and still have numerous hours of relaxation while the other farmers tireless tilled and de-weed their land. With such enormous claims, many were interested in the price the man requested. He requested an apparently modest price, of 20% of the crops from the seeds that would be produced; he explained that simply the higher yield would offset most of this cost.

Yet still, only a few dared risk their livelihood on magical seeds, and the few who did only planted a portion of their field to this new magical seed. So, contracts were signed for the seeds sold, the fields were planted, and the seeds were as true as the man had said. The oat and rye seemed especially hearty, no weeds shot up between them, and virtually none withered and died back into the earth.

The farmers who bought the seeds, and especially their neighbors, were monumentally impressed. At harvest time they gave the man the 20% required and eagerly asked if he would be back next year to sell more. The man would simply smile and nod, and the farmers dreamed of the next summer, where they could plant their entire fields with this magical seed and relax in joy of all the free time they'd have.

Winter passed and very quickly again spring arrived again. The man arrived again in the trailing edge of April to sell his magical seed. At first many farmers lined up to buy the magical seed for themselves. But, this year the man demanded 30% of the crops. Even with the larger crop yield, that was a bit much. Land to plant more crops was scarce until someone without an heir died off, and that would likely be some years hence. So, only a fraction more bought more of this magical seed. Those who the year before had bought the magical seed decided to simply replant the seeds of the children of the magical crop from the year before.

But quickly they noticed a disturbing problem. Replanting to a much larger scope of their land, the children of the magical seed did not sprout. Not only them, but the neighbors of the magical seed would not sprout as well. What sort of magic was this? Searching the city, a representative of the farmers found the seller of the magical seed. The man smiled and explained: the magical seed were genetically engineered to not produce viable children.

Genetically engineered? The farmers wanted to know what that meant. The representative, on returned, explained to them as best he could, repeating what the man had told him. The magical seed were changed, the man had said, to release toxins to kill the weeds about them, but to make sure that farmers would buy the seed anew each year, they had also been changed to not survive more than a generation. The farmers were outraged at this deception. Rye is rye and oat is oat. If they did not produce children, how could they truly be called rye and oat?

The harvest came and true to his word, not a single child or even near neighbor of the original magical crop had survived to bear fruit or anything. Weeds grew strong in those farmers fields and would require much tilling the coming spring. Those who had bought magical seed that year paid their 30% of crop, and not a single person asked if the man would be back next year. But in the end, they knew he would be back to peddle his wares.

Many years passed and the price the man demanded always seemed to vary between 20% and 30%. Few would ever take up his offer, but one farmer did every year. Each year he would buy a very small parcel of magical seed, the least the man was willing to sell. And every year this one farmer would plant beside them the heartiest of rye and oat he could find from his neighbors. And each year he replanted their children in hopes of finding ones that would survive.

On the fifth year of this, the farmer had gone through nearly all the heartiest of rye and oat from his neighbors. Frustrated, he decided to plant the weakest of his crops beside the magical seed. And behold on the sixth year did their children bear fruit. They were scraggly things, barley mentionable as oat or rye. But they stood alone, with no weeds or tilling. Seeing this, the man bred their children with the children of his heartiest strain. Within but a few years he had his own magical seed to offer for sale.

When the man from the city arrived to see the farmer selling his own magical seed, he was aghast. He told the man to stop at once, that he was infringing his intellectual property. The farmer quipped back it wasn't very intelligent to have been so easily tricked to breed again; besides, it wasn't the man's property as he had sold the seed. The man from the city said that's not what intellectual property meant, and he threatened that the king would be very displeased and send his army to destroy the farms of all those who bought his seed.

For you see, said the man, he was a servant of the king, who had been sent out to sell the magical seed to all those of the land who would buy it. And to facilitate the king's control, there had been made a decree that any magical seed made could only be sold by the original maker or one he'd authorize to sell it. The farmers were first shaken by this news, and no one that year bought the magical seed of the king. But the one farmer with has magical seed shared out his magical seed; if he could not profit from his work on the magical seed, neither could the king.

Within two years all the farmers in the village and many of neighboring villages were heavily planting their fields with the magical seed of the one farmer. The servant of the king caught wind of this, and the king sent forth his army to destroy the fields of the village, too late in the year to replant their fields and to insure their collapse. But neighboring villages supported them, and the next year they again replanted their fields with the magical seed.

By then the magical seed had spread throughout the kingdom, and the king realized he was in a bind. He could not destroy all the fields, for to do so would insure his own starvation. And he could not destroy any single field, for his neighbors would come to support him. But perhaps he could destroy enough of the fields that the many villages would surrender to him, and in return they would get the land of the many to be outcast neighbors.

So, the king sent out his armies, and they began the destruction of the fields of many villages. He tried to court the villages whose fields he had spared. But he quickly discovered that they no longer viewed him as king. The many villagers, from those whose fields who had been torched and those whose fields were untouched stormed the city. The part of the army still stationed there fought valiantly, but the waves of villagers were too much for them. By the end of the day the king's head lay severed at his feet.

The villagers knew next not what to do. They still wanted the trinkets and wares of the city, but if they simply left the city might once again be headed by a king to suppress them. So, they formed a council of people from the many villages. And they let the city choose their leader to carry out the council's commands. And their kingdom became a haven from the suppression through the control over magical seed.

Copyright 2005, EuroHacker Magazine