Why We Count the Hours

An alternate mythology fable I cooked up for a writing contest a while back. It won, but I wasn't very happy with it. Feedback is very much appreciated, as I feel the story is rough right now. Especially with dialogue, it seems to fall flat. I will edit later, so please keep that in mind as well.

Back in the days before the Elder Gods ruled ether and stone, before the Spirit of Being dwelt deep within the springs of the earth, and before the nine Virtues had begun their rule of nature and men, there were but four Things in all the world: Sun, Moon, Time, and Vice. Now, Time in these days was not so strong as she is today. No man was there to count her, and nothing swam in the sea or crawled on the land or flew through the air that could yet feel her power.  Every moment was hers, but she could feel herself slowly fading away from irrelevancy.

Time desperately wanted to live, and so had come before our story begins to the house of Vice. She had pleaded with him, not knowing what else to do, and asked that he find a way to give her meaning. Vice told her he could do this thing. He would sow jealousy in Sun and Moon, and they would compete for and think on Time so much he swore she would be the strongest of them all. This said, he did demand something in return for his hard work. For every time Sun or Moon thought about Time, He demanded a single hour.

Time hesitated, for her Hours were the source of her power. She kept them locked in a porcelain bag, hung by a string on the soul of the flower. But the bag was full to bursting, large enough to hold the hours of all Time. She could never run out of them, she thought. Time swore by the depths to give of her power in return for more, and left Vice to fulfill his pledge.

On swift wings he flew, licking his chops all the way, for Vice had wormed his way into many things, and he knew that the first taste of an innocent thing is sweeter by far than honey.  He would weave a master evil, and spend the rest of his days gorging on a fresh hour’s innocence whenever he wanted.

First, Vice came to the bright-steel house of Sun, glittering with purest light. Sun held all light in these days, and shone always for the whole of creation. Sun was very proud of her strength, and boasted to whoever would listen that it was her power only that could illuminate all hiding-places and burn away every lie. When Vice found her, she spoke, in her wisdom, “My brilliance reveals me all things, and you, false one, are no exception. You have come to bask in my beauty.”

Vice said to her, “I would that I could, Lady of the Day, but my journey’s purpose is far less joyous. In my passing through and back in the Deep, I overheard scoundrel Moon in collusion with the keeper of minutes. My lady, I cannot abide the plotting of the ungrateful, but before I covered my ears to hide from their slander of you I heard Moon asking for hours with which to compete for you glory. I thought it only right that I tell you.” At this Sun grew overcast and fierce, and said “I fear nothing from Moon. She is dark and small, and no amount of time could hide her ugliness should she shine.” Sun said this, but inside her a brooding anger boiled; she busily began to work on other things, but Vice was gone before his last word had tickled her ear.

Between Sun and Moon stood nothing but empty space for a very long while, but Vice travels as the stream, and in no time at all had reached Moon’s pitch dark cave. He made his way blindly into its depths, feeling along the walls, further and further down. After a very great while, he felt the tunnel widen into some kind of larger room. Above, it had been dark, but here the essence of darkness hung in the air like a net. A lesser being would have been caught up in it and never returned to the surface, but Vice was clever and danced right up to Moon, through her traps.

 She spoke first, in the smallest whisper that may be sounded, and asked, “what brings you here, brother? Come closer, that I may hear you better…” Vice, however, was clever, and knew that before him opened a trap even he could not escape. “I must not, sister. I could never see the way, and fear that I must hurt myself. It is such a shame you have no light to spread as Sun does. I would look upon you in your full beauty, for such a meager reward as recognition surely is the least of what’s deserved by your greatness.” “You know better than any, Vice: I will never be bright. Besides, I am no beauty. My face is scarred, and served best by darkness. Now, trouble me no further!” Moon said.

At that the air began to thicken, pushing menacingly at Vice from every side. “Stop!” he shouted.” Look, even now you overpower me. How easily must you be able to defeat Sun! It is true you have no light of your own, but by weaving a net of darkness, you may steal all you need. Imagine yourself, hidden and shining, dark and bright, more powerful than any! Is this not your birthright? I will go now, but I beg you, think on my words.” Vice left, proud in his abilities, for he knew he had convinced Moon to steal Sun’s light, Sun to be jealous of her rays, and Time to pay him richly for the service of doing what was in his nature. Vice knew he was certainly the greatest of the four.

Moon, meanwhile, went straight to work on the most wondrous net she had ever built. From the reaches of the deep she plucked the darkest tendrils of night and wove them strong and tight, until at last her work covered the whole sky. It was nothing you could hold or see, but it was indeed strong enough to capture Sun, for it had a substance stronger than that of earth. Her weaving accomplished, she wrapped herself in the net, and, hidden from all eyes, sped off to lie in wait for Sun to return from filling the realm.

When Sun passed by where Moon was hiding, Moon sprang up and cast the magnificent trap over her.  Not even the smallest gap was left to let her light out, the bonds were so well crafted, and Moon moved swiftly and gathered all the light left hanging in the sky. Thus, for the first time, all creation was dark. Then, a new light spread across the land, slowly at first, then faster and faster as Moon’s stolen light began to glow again. Perhaps, had she been alone, Moon may have seen that she had no skill in weaving light. She would have noticed the unnatural pallor of her visage, and the weakness of her glow, and how the light brought out her scars. But she could still hear Sun’s muffled curses from inside the net, and Vice’s words still rattled hard in her heart, and so she shone on with determined pride. She continued to collect Sun’s remaining light, growing brighter and brighter until suddenly there was no more light to collect. Moon had no way to make more except now to release Sun and steal from her once again.

In her predicament, she wished she had more time. She had felt powerful and loved, if only by herself, while shining. She did not want to be of the darkness when she could now control the light. And so, recording the time it took to make another net of shadows, she wove another, and then split the old. Out leaped Sun in a jealous fury, beating Moon back with sheer strength, shards of light and snaking tendrils of shadow whirling around them as they fought for control of the day. For as long as Moon had held onto her sheen, Sun pushed back, beating her across the sky, until finally Moon tripped her and caught her once more in her dark net. This time, Moon grew brighter than before by catching some larger chunks of light Sun had left behind from the fight. Moon did not find all of them, however, and it is of those lost fragments that the stars are made.

While all this was happening, Vice had made his way to the frozen sea and laid belly-up beneath the overturned sack of hours Time had promised him. Sun and Moon were now obsessing over getting more time to shine than their foe, and the hours poured out in a rush to Vice. The battle between Sun and Moon went on for ages, and neither Sun nor Moon could seem to win: sometimes Moon caught more light, but then Sun would fight more ferociously and take a greater victory. All the while, Time gained power as her hours were more and more valued, and Vice grew plump on his payment. One day, however, Time saw that her once- full sack was nearly empty. Vice had drained the entire bag without a care, and showed no sign of stopping. Time was powerful enough now to defeat Vice, and so hammered out her years to make a razor whip, which she called Age. Vice, now fat and weak, did not resist when she began to beat him, but left only the last 24 hours to her. Now every hour, Time could not give the world a new span of time, but only let us rewrite the last.

Thus it is said, a man’s life is like a sheet of notes. Little things are writ in pencil, and the large in pen. Every day the sheet is erased; when the eraser runs out, it is what you have left on your page that counts. Therefore, my children, count your hours, but not like Moon or Vice. Know simply that yours are few, and make them great.

The End

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