The Settlement Planning Meeting
‘Order! Order!’ called Henghis Grub, the chair of the meeting.
It had not been going well, and many a strongly held view had been voiced, only to be shouted down by an opposing strongly held view, which in turn had similarly been countered by another.
‘I call this meeting to order!’ he cried further. The two burly guards who flanked him took a step forward and presented their stout wooden staffs to the agitated crowd, which appeared to settle them slightly.
‘Thank you,’ said Henghis. ‘Now if we have any questions — sensible ones that is — I will be happy to present them to our esteemed panel who will be able to give you all the answers you require, but it will be done so in an orderly manner.’
A tall, athletic man, clad in furs and carrying a flint tipped spear raised his hand.
‘Yes,’ said the chair, ‘Hillman the Hunter, isn’t it? What is your question?’
‘Forgive me if I’m a bit slow on the uptake,’ said Hillman, ‘but what exactly is a henge?’
‘I’ll take this one if I may,’ said Gorthorp Prang, standing upon the panelists’ mound. He was attired in woven robes, smartly strapped with leather and decorated in an assortment of gemstones. He had earlier introduced himself as an ‘architect’ but had given little detail on what one actually was. ‘It is the future. It is a monumental project, a plan of great ambition and limitless potential. It will stand as a landmark to us all, an everlasting testimony to our greatness. In thousands of years to come, long after we have all gone, future generations will look in awe and wonder at our creation and marvel at our ingenuity, and the name of the Wibbleplomp people will never be forgotten.’
‘Yes, I sort of get that,’ said the hunter, ‘but what does it actually do?’
‘It brings famine and ruin to our tribe!’ called out a voice from the back. This came from Borgran Tharb, a well known farmer in the area. It was greeted with many supporting jeers.
Gorthorp waved a pair of placating hands and said, ‘I can assure you it will not do that. It will bring prosperity to your tribe and many others throughout Wibbleplomp, and of course create employment in the realm as a whole.’
‘We don’t need to create employment! I’m finding it hard enough to hire farmworkers as it is. If they all leave and work on your ridiculous project, I’ll be bankrupt and have to go back to hunter-gathering.’
‘What’s wrong with hunter-gathering?’ said Hillman.
‘Well, nothing per se. I’m just saying that I’ve worked hard on developing agriculture, which I should point out is a genuine creator of prosperity, and I don’t want to see it threatened by what is clearly nothing other than a monumental folly.’
‘Borgran makes a good point,’ said Hillman. ‘If he and other farmers revert to hunter-gathering, there’ll be less for me and others to hunt and gather.’
‘Not to mention,’ Borgran interjected, ‘All the extra labour you’ll have to bring in to build this henge thing. They’ll be taking all our food too.’
‘And women,’ said another voice in the crowd.
‘Gentlemen, gentlemen,’ said Henghis. ‘Perhaps we should hear from the Druid High Priest, Algradh the Wise.’
The robed and cowled druid swept forward and addressed the crowd, ‘People of Wibbleplomp. The henge is more than a testament to our greatness. It is a gift to the deities. The spirits of the land and the air. The sprites of the forest, the soul of the sun and the goddess of the moon. And in return they will bestow their favour upon us. They will provide for our every need, and much more beyond I should expect.’
‘They brought the bloody plague last time,’ said Henrig the Healer. ‘Remember, when you did all those sacrifices?’
‘That’s because the offerings turned out to be impure,’ said the druid. ‘It’s not our fault that those chosen were not fit for purpose.’
‘Worked me ragged did that last outbreak,’ the healer complained further. ‘Why can’t we divert our resources to better healthcare instead of this waste of time and effort? I simply can’t get the leeches these days.’
‘Yeah,’ cried Swotling the Scholar, ‘And education. Why should it be that only druids are entitled to learning?’
‘Housing!’ called out Bogob the Builder. ‘It’s in a crisis! Have you seen the price of daub and wattle?’
The druid priest made some arm gestures of religious significance, understood only by him and his kind.
‘These too are all worthy causes. But first we need to build up our infrastructure. Without investment there can be no return, just as surely as there can be no harvest if we do not plant the seed.’
There then came some scuffling at the back.
‘Let me through,’ an agitated voice was heard to grumble. The crowd grudgingly parted and a fiery flame red man barged through, brandishing a long-handled poleaxe. ‘What,’ he said challengingly to the panel, ‘are you going to use to make this henge?’
‘Dorick the Explorer,’ said Henghis, ‘We’ve not seen you here for many a season.’
‘I have travelled afar and seen many wonders,’ said Dorick. ‘And when I heard you were planning to build a henge I hastened to return. I ask again, how will you build it?’
The architect answered, ‘Why, from stone, of course.’
‘No!’ said Dorick. ‘Look at this!’ And he presented to the crowd the axe head that topped the pole he carried. It was brown and shiny, and looked very, very sharp. ‘Bronze!’ he said proudly.
Many in the crowd went ‘Ooooohh!’
‘This is the future,’ he continued. ‘I have seen it. Soon everything will be made of bronze, and stone will be no more. You must built the henge from bronze.’
‘Dear, dear, Dorick,’ said Gorthorp, in an overly patronising manner. ‘You are so easily misled. Bronze is a passing fad. A craze. Your poleaxe may look impressive now, but soon it will lose its lustre. It will corrode, it will blunt. Whereas stone remains unchanged forever, weathering every storm and withstanding attack from the mightiest armies. And besides, Bronzehenge would be a silly name.’
A titter ran through the crowd.
‘Nonsense!’ declared Dorick. ‘I have witnessed warriors wielding with great dexterity weapons forged from bronze, and shielded similarly from a fearsome opponent. They will come, they will overpower us. Unless we also equip ourselves with bronze.’
A worried murmur waved over the throng. Could there be a threat to the people of Wibbleplomp?
‘The gods would never allow such a thing,’ spoke the druid priest. ‘They will smite any practitioners of this heretical material. That is, if we were to honour them with a worthy appeasement.’
‘Such as a henge?’ asked an unseen voice.
Everyone started talking amongst themselves in a deeply concerned manner.
‘So,’ Henrig queried, ‘the henge will protect us from the army of bronze?’
The priest looked Henrig squarely in the eye and said, ‘How long do you think you will survive without it?’
‘And the gods will save us?’ came another question.
‘If we all put our backs into it and make a jolly good job of it — then yes!’ answered the priest.
‘I don’t want my farm invaded by bronze warriors,’ said Borgran.
‘They’ll take every last deer and boar from the forest!’ said Hillman.
‘They are dim-witted, boorish savages!’ said Swotling. ‘Build the henge!’
‘Build the henge!’ another voice echoed.
‘Build the henge!’ added further cries, until it had become quite apparent that a consensus had been reached.
Henghis smiled and stepped down from the mound. Unnoticed by the jubilant crowd he wandered into a nearby copse where he met Dorick behind a dense thicket.
‘Good work, Dorick,’ he said, handing the explorer a leather pouch of gemstones. ‘Now be gone before they realise what you’ve done.’
‘That I will,’ said Dorick. ‘I thought I might take a trip to Avebury.’
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