The Catching of the Sun
rating: +16+x

There are as many stories about the beginnings of the world as there are slaves in Daevon - that is to say, uncountable, and ever increasing.

Here is one of them.

Listen: here is a story.

Once, in the ancient days - and these are the very ancient days, before nearly anything was remembered. Before humans and stone had hardened like aging wood. At the time when the Daeva came -

- but grandmother! - I thought the Daeva have been here forever. That they came before us, and will come after as well.

Indeed, child, they have been here forever, since before our people arose from the stone - yet it was not always so. And once there was a time when we had been first, and the slopes were all ours and we ranged where we might - before the first of them rode in, in the name of their pótnyā.

It took little time, for her army and the ingenuity of her servants was vast, for her to take control of all the people, and all the farmland, to divide up the woods into blocks and fell their trees, to lay claim to the mine-mouths and all minerals delved within them, and the animals and those that hunted them. Yet she was still not satisfied. And she looked up, and saw the lights of heaven still passing above without care - the sun and moon rising and setting when they would, shedding light and warmth on all the people regardless of whether she willed or gave her leave.

And she said: "I have captured the leaders of the people and taken for my own their land. So too shall I capture the sun, and then there shall be nothing in, or above, or under the earth that does not bow down before me. And then the warmth shall be mine, and the light, and everything in this land, plant or animal or man, shall be mine and bound forever to me.”

So she set her servants to devising a means by which they might capture the sun.

One said to her, "O my mistress, perhaps we may set a snare for it. For just as one may snare an animal when it returns to its den at nightfall, if we follow its movement until it descends at the night, we shall find it upon the horizon and may trap it and bring it back to you."

And she gave him leave to take a division of men and attempt this, promising that if he succeeded, he would be richly rewarded. So the men arose and began their journey, turning their faces always towards the sunset and keeping the dawn at their backs. Sixty days they travelled, until they came to the mountain wall at the rim of the world, and they could go no farther. So there they set up their camp, knowing that the sun would have to alight on the peak of the nearest mountain as he descended, and they took their snares and laid them all around, and took up their spears, and waited for the evening.

They waited and waited, and eventually their quarry drew near, sinking into the west, and they clutched tighter their weapons and made ready their nets. But -

The sun was not caught!

- no, for he dropped down, not on top of their mountain peak, but behind it, and though they scrambled to try to crest it and chase the sun into the next valley, he was gone and night was fallen before they could - for the Daeva did not know, then, that at the ends the boundaries between this world and the spirit world thin, and that the sun can slip into the latter at each evening without ever needing to alight, so agile is his way. They had given no thought to the spirit world, not knowing how tightly it cleaves to this the living.

So empty-handed and ashamed they returned to their pótnyā, saying, “Its den is beyond the reach of our snares, and it has evaded us.” And for their failure she had them bound in chains of iron and cruelly punished.

Now another one of her servants, thinking that he could outdo the former, succeed, and thus advance in the pótnyā’s favour, said to her, “If it slipped our grasp at the sunset at the edge of the world, perhaps we ought to set upon it at midday, when there is nowhere in the heaven that it can hide. And if it can be but pierced with one weapon and bound thus, then we may draw it down to within the range of the nets.” And she gave him leave to devise a way that he could do this.

So the servant went to his forge and made weapons, with hardened tips and shaven shafts so that they could fly further than ordinary weapons, and he attached to them cables and ropes, such that these could be bound around the sun when it was pierced.

And when the day dawned clear and cloudless, he and others of her servants took them up, and went out, and they made themselves ready, and waited as noon approached. And as the sun reached his zenith in the sky they took their aim, and they fired.

But -

Yes, child - their harpoons and arrows all fell short, for there were none among them with strength enough to cast one so far, into the highest ranges of the sky, and the weight of their ropes dragged them back the longer they were unravelled. And so empty-handed the servants were forced to return to their pótnyā, saying, “Our weapons have all fallen short, and we cannot set even a single cable around it.” And for their failure, and thinking that they had lied to her at the first in claiming they might do so, she had them too bound and punished with the rod and the ember.

But a third of her servants, who had been watching closely the failure of the first two, and who was well esteemed among the pótnyā’s people as a highly skilled craftswoman, came to her and said, “O my mistress, I have considered the failures of my predecessors, and I believe I have learned much from them. It seems to me that both were accurate in one matter but not in the rest, and that we must consider both, the approach and the assault, if we are to be successful in this endeavour.

“We must intercept it on its path itself, for so close our weapons cannot fall short, and without cover at the bright midday it cannot evade.” And she gave her leave to devise a way by which she might come to the high airs, even to the outer court of nánga, and set the sun in harness. On this the servant spent long labour, and drafted up many plans: for the building of towers that would stretch up like weeds from a lakebed until they intersected the paths of the clouds as lily-flowers intersect the surface; and the growing of mighty trees, taller than any that have ever been seen on this world; and wings overlain with eagle feathers, that a man might wear and soar as they do almost out of sight. And she made, after all her designing, a great device, of oiled wood and resin-glued linen outside for stiffness and with a heart an engine of metal and coal, that could lift itself away from the earth with the pumping of many wings and upon its own thermals, formed from the warmth of the burning.

So the pótnyā selected two of her servants, and they were her greatest hunters - their arrows did not fly awry, nor were their game-bags ever empty. And she charged them to be the ones to go upon this vehicle in this third pursuit of the sun, and they were armed with bows so heavy that scarcely any others in Daevon could draw them, and harpoon heads as great as a man’s palm and savagely barbed so that they could not release from the flesh of any prey lest it tear off its own skin, and thick cables of bronze. So did the pótnyā’s hunters go, and they mounted their device as they mount horses, and as horses they let it carry them not forward over the steppe but up into the airs.

Near did they come indeed - near enough, it is said, that they could see among the brightness the hairs of his coat, and count the tines of his antlers dark against the blaze. But strong as they were, even the pótnyā’s chief hunters were mortal still, and what mortal can endure his glory? Some say that they fell back when they cringed away from the intense heat, and others that it was even more intense than that, such that they were consumed utterly - and surely that is not too difficult to believe, for if they fell, then there is no trace of their landing.

And when the midday passed to afternoon, and the pótnyā perceived that her third attempt too had failed, and she had her servant brought before her and demanded of her how she had stolen her resources and yet brought back nothing in return. And for her failure she had her punished before all her court, even with rod and ember and wire, and put to death before them.

Seeing this, none of the others dared propose any further methods by which she might attempt her goal, for the fear that they too would fail and be punished even more cruelly as the pótnyā’s patience waned.

And so despite all her efforts, the sun was never caught. Right?

- no, child, and nor shall he ever be. And each day you may see it for yourself, that in his stately journey he still affords his light equally to slave and free, to pótnyā and vassal alike - for there will ever be that the pótnyāt do not touch and cannot control, sure as every tomorrow will follow today.

And the story ends there?

No, child, not there, and not ever - but you must speak the rest.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License