Once there was a hunter off in the woods with his dog, who was also his servant. When he shot a plump pheasant with an arrow, he ordered the dog to fetch it. When he wanted his traps checked, he sent the dog to check them. When he wanted anything at all, he told the dog to do it.
As the hunter sent the dog to check traps on this day, the dog turned back to his master and said, “Why must I do what you tell me to do?”
And the man said, “Because I am bigger, smarter, and stronger, which makes me your master, and if you don’t do what I say, I’ll lash your hide clean off your back and sell that instead of fox pelts. Now do as I command.”
The dog did as bidden, but not happily. He found the traps, remembered where they were, and then padded up next to a cat he knew, who he often ordered around when the hunter made him saw. He told the cat, with her sharp claws, to the pluck the dead animals from the tripped traps and bring them to him.
The cat licked her arm. “Why must I do what you tell me to?”
And the dog answered, “Because I am bigger, smarter, and stronger, which makes me your master, and if you don’t do what I say, I’ll tear out your claws so I can pry dead creatures from the traps myself. Now do as I command.”
The cat did as bidden, traveling to a trap and teasing it open. At one trap she found a fly she knew, who she often ordered to alert her of fresher kills than those lingering in the hunter’s traps. She snatched his tiny body between two claws and told him to find her a meal, for she would be hungry when her work was done.
The fly squirmed. “Why must I do what you tell me to?”
And the cat answered, “Because I am bigger, smarter, and stronger, which makes me your master, and if you don’t do what I say, I’ll tear off your wings, leaving you crawling in the dirt, and no one will know what to call you, for you won’t be a fly anymore. Now do as I command.”
The fly did as bidden, or at least he tried to, but his sense of dead things was all a mess thanks to the dead thing in the trap nearby. He didn’t see why the cat couldn’t just eat that, but then, he was only a fly, and knowledge of the grand scheme of life was too perplexing for his tiny mind. So the fly flew and flew, around one tree, and then another, and not far from the traps, he sensed it—the recent death of some animal, its fresh demise wafting on the wind from a cave in the side of a forested hill.
Into the cave he went, and on and on went the cave, until the fly heard a great rumbling and found the source of the stench—a cave within the cave. This not quite as vast cave whistled and howled, but the fly was too simple to have the good sense to fear the unknown. He only feared hands and birds, and a cat he called his master. So into this cave he went and recognized great teeth, and between the teeth, great hunks of old meat, far too much for him to bring back. He buzzed one way, and then another, and he couldn’t decide which meat to tell the cat about. Just when he had almost made up his mind, he sensed it—a hand, mightier than any swatting hand he’d ever dodged. He flew out of the cave as the hand swatted down on its mouth, and then the whistling became a voice.
“Away from me, tiny pest!” Another hand, swinging faster this time. The fly panicked, uncertain, too simple to come up with a plan, and so he flew into another small cave. This one didn’t whistle or howl, and seemed empty enough. The voice boomed again, from within the cave and without. “Out of my ear, little one! Go away before I kill you!”
“I can’t go,” the fly said. “My master sent me here to find her a meal.”
“Oh? And who is this master that dares vex a giant?”
The fly was good-natured and too simple to lie, so he told the giant the truth. “My master is the cat who lies beyond this cave.”
The small cave rumbled, and so did the big one. The giant rubbed at his ear, but his hand couldn’t pry the fly loose, so he went stomping out of his home in search of the cat. This search did not take long, as the cat was still prying a scrawny squirrel from a trap for the dog, and even her feline speed couldn’t save her from the pinching fingers of a giant when it scooped up all the ground around her.
Her pursuer glared with eyes the size of a man’s head. “So you are the one who dares vex a giant?”
No cat would ever take a fall for her thrall, even if she had sent him on his mission, and so she passed her blame along, hoping to do the same to her fate. “It’s my master’s fault. He keeps me so busy that I had to send the fly off to find my meal.”
“And who is this master that dares vex a giant?”
“My master is the dog, off checking traps within these woods.”
The cat had hoped the giant would release her once she had marked the dog, but he kept her in his giant-sized grip when he marched off to find the dog. This search did not take long, as the dog was still checking traps for the hunter, and he was too stunned by the giant’s approach to try escaping.
The giant ground his teeth in the dog’s face. “So you are the one who dares vex a giant? Or is there some other master beyond this one?”
No dog would ever betray his man, even if it was somehow the man’s fault, and so he took the blame upon himself and lied to hide the hunter. “My master is no one.”
The giant nodded. “So I’ve found the last in the chain, the one who has no master and seeks to vex me from peaceful sleep.”
The simple fly batted at the insides of the giant’s ear. “Of course he has a master! I’ve seen him order that dog around a dozen times today alone. I never knew his name before. No One. What a strange name. I’m learning so much about the grand scheme of life today.”
Not to be shown as a lackwit compared to a fly, the giant released the dog. “Then take me to this master. Bring me to the place where No One lives.”
Somewhat confused, but not one to question a command, the dog trotted deeper into the forest and led the giant to a cave in a hill across from where the giant lived. “Here, sir. No one lives in this cave.”
The giant tread cautiously into the mouth of the cave, where darkness obscured the cave’s backside only a few feet from his face. “I see no one.”
The cat, much quicker in mind than the others, seized on the giant’s words and squirmed in the giant’s grip until she pried herself loose. “You see No One? Strike quickly, for No One is a fearsome foe! Do it before he strikes first!”
Not to be seen as weak, the giant reeled back his fist and plowed his knuckles into the cave’s darkness. He punched the cave wall with all his might, shaking loose boulders and stalactites, and an avalanche of heavy and pointed rocks rained down on his head and shoulders. The giant collapsed and hit his forehead on the ground outside the cave, knocking himself out. After a few moments, his eyes blinked open, and he found the dog and the cat standing over him, while the fly buzzed around their heads.
“No One has bested me,” the giant said.
The dog and fly were about to speak, but the cat swatted them both into silence. “That’s right. The master above us is the master above you, a master bigger, smarter, and stronger than you. We do his bidding in fear and you should do the same, or next time you might not wake up from the mountain crashing upon your head.”
The giant swore himself to the service of the great No One, whose words were parsed to him from the cat. Without a master at the top to vex them, the animals put their differences aside and only commanded the giant. Their every need and desire were seen to by the largest creature to ever serve no one at all.