"You can have it done well. You can have it done fast. You can have it done cheap."
"Pick any two!" -- Anon Guest
"You dare talk to me like that?"
The artisan didn't look up. "I talk to everyone like that. Fast and well is not cheap. Well and cheap is not fast. Cheap and fast is not well. Is there more that needs explaining?"
"Do you know who I am?"
The artisan spared a moment to look up. She regarded the king of their realm, master of all he surveyed, and he who controlled who lived and died... in the same manner as a cat might contemplate the very same man. "Yes," she said, and went back to her work.
"Then do me the honour of addressing me with respect."
"Your pardon, sire, but the time I take to honour you steals time from my work. This is a work that must be done fast and well. I have little time for sleep, little time for food, and no time for manners."
"You care for your work more than your head?" challenged the King.
"My work feeds my family and myself. It pays for my home, and it pays for all that we need. If you take my head, then I have no more worries and you have one less artisan." She ran her fingers over her work and reached for another tool. "And since you're demanding my time, you must want me to make something. You can't have that, and my head, too."
The King rumbled a growl. He knew she had a point. But he did concoct a question. "What if I just want one?"
"One quality from your list of fast, cheap, or well."
"Well, when I am done with my work, I may kowtow at you and bless your name for being the first man or woman alive to only want one quality in their commission. All of them demand three."
"How long until you are done with your work?"
"Three days, but please let me have one more to rest."
In four days, the King returned. "I would have you do something well. The best of your work, a shining beacon of wonder and art for the entire kingdom to marvel at."
"I can do that," said the artisan. "You must understand that it will not be cheap. It will not be fast. And I would have your word that you will not execute me or my assistants when it is done."
"I agree to all three terms," said the King.
It took years. It cost a fortune. Yet everyone who saw the work agreed that it was the most magnificent piece that had ever been made. And the artisan was allowed a pension, and a comfortable house to retire in.
If you seek a moral, learn this: All work has a cost, and it will be paid in one way or another.