A long time ago there was a great hero in the land of Eire. Having traveled many miles and accomplishing great deeds, he came to offer his services to the high king. When he approached the castle, his reputation was enough to be granted an audience within.
"Oh great king, I come to offer my services as a swordsman. Accept me into your guard, and I shall serve you for all my days." He pleaded before the king.
To which the king responded;
"I already have more swordsmen than I know what to do with, and I can see no more room for you. Yet, if you defeat my greatest swordsman in a tournament, I will let you in my guard."
And so a tournament was called. Each warrior fought well, and the battle was close. In the end, however, the hero lost. He kept his life, but lost the match by a hair. Defeated, the hero left the castle, only to return the next day.
Going before the king a second time, he once again asked to be of service;
"Oh great king, I come to offer my services as a blacksmith. Accept me into your workshop, and I shall serve you for all my days."
As before, the king replied;
"My smithy is full to the limit, I have too many workers there already. Yet, if you can out-craft my greatest smith, I shall let you in."
So the hero went to the blacksmith shop and set to work crafting a fine blade. The king's best blacksmith worked on a masterpiece as well. When both swords were finished, each was a marvel to behold, and yet, when put to the most minute of tests, the blacksmith's blade was a tiny cut above the hero's sword.
Defeated again, the hero left the castle, only to return the next day asking to be a poet. As before, there was a contest that the hero narrowly lost. On the fourth day, he tried scribing. On the fifth day, he attempted shipbuilding. On the sixth day, he worked as a harpist. Every time, he was excellent, but just not quite the best.
On the seventh day, he approached the king again. By this time, the high king was losing his patience.
"Hero, you have tried to gain a place in my castle as a swordsman, blacksmith, poet, scribe, shipbuilder, and harpist. Every time you have failed. Why should I listen to what you propose to me now?"
"Oh high king, if I cannot gain a place among your men this time, I shall leave the castle and never return. I have proven myself not to be the best at all those crafts, yet, ask yourself, high king, do you have anyone else among your men who can do ALL of those things?"
The king was stunned. It occurred to him that he had no one who was skilled at swordplay, smithing, poetry, scribing, shipbuilding, and harping. In fact, the hero was very nearly the best at all of those tasks, whereas the finest of the kings men in any one of those tasks had very little if any skill in any of the others.
"No, hero. I don't. What do you propose to do?" he replied, half-knowing the answer.
"I wish to do all of those tasks for you, oh king. Call upon me for any of them."
"I accept your request. It would make my court proud to have such a talented one such as yourself as my champion. You have proven great skill in each task, even if you are not quite the best. You have also proven that you ARE the best in a very special way."
Now it was the hero's turn to be surprised. "In what way am I the best, oh king?"
"You have proven to be the most determined and courageous hero I have ever seen. There is no other would keep trying after so many setbacks, and succeed at the end. For this, you shall be let into my court!"
And so it was. As the years went on, the hero quickly proved to be the greatest of the king's men, for nowhere else could such a man be found who knew how to do so many things, and more importantly, nowhere else was there such a man who would never quit until he had been given his due.
A short tale based vaguely off of an old Irish story.