This Week’s Prompt:6. In Ld Dunsany’s “Idle Days on the Yann.” The inhabitants of the antient Astahan, on the Yann, do all things according to antient ceremony. Nothing new is found. “Here we have fetter’d and manacled Time, who wou’d otherwise slay the Gods.”
The Research:The Lord Dunsany, Time, and Hegel
Who can say how many High Priests Oldowan there have been? How many men, with lanky arms outstretched bearing torches overhead, in tattered vestments have stood at dawn and recited ancient prayers to gods forgotten? To Molech, To Baal, to the Gods of Harappa, to the little gods of long dead villages, to the gods of Greece, to the bestial and regal gods of Egypt, to the bloody gods of the Aztecs, to their northern neighbors, to the Inca’s many fold divinities, to China’s bureaucracy, and so on. No god here is forgotten, no god goes unmentioned in prayer. Who can say how long that roll of ceaseless divinity is?
The High Priest will stand at this point, reciting prayer and receiving offerings for the gods, his only sustenance, until the end of days. He, in many bodies, has done this act for centuries. The first Oldowan stood waiting the gods arrival, enumerating them as they emerged from the foggy vestments of Time. Around him was the city unchanging, the city unbroken. No god could speak for its invention. Houses and altars to those not yet born were already built. A mosque stood before there had been a Mohammed, a Cathedral before a Christ. Temples with many columns, with towering tops, mighty and splendid ziggurats stood. Such was the city that bound time.
For Time was what drove the gods hence from their mighty aether. Time, ravager and many clawed beast, gaping and vast gyre, wound its way across the sea of Chaos. Time hounded the gods, in their multitudes, from hold to hold. Until in Astahan they trapped it. For the High Priest would not bow to time. Nor would the acolytes or adepts, the lesser priests or the stone workers. Here no change would pass. Here eternity would reign.
And every rite was preformed then, along the river Yann. Ever moment remembered, and repeated ad infitium. Who can say how long after, for in Eternity a moment is a millennial? But in time, a ship came down the river Yann. And strange men came, from distant deserts and red clay cities. They came and landed.
And one, one spoke with an acolyte by the harbor.
“Hello,” the stranger said, in a long coat, a face pale and thin.
“Good morrow,” the acolyte said, returning to his labor.
“Tell me what city is this?”
“This is Astahan,” the acolyte responded, not ceasing in his work.
“And what are the gods of Astahan?”
“Why, all the gods are. Here we worship all the gods, that Time would otherwise ravage.”
The stranger paused here, staring out at the calm and blissful river Yann. With a clicking sound he turned to the acoylte again, who was still sweeping the port.
“What of Time himself? Is he paid tribute here?”
And the acolyte paused. His broom hoveredv over the pile of dust, the same pile that had stood there since the dawn of creation. He paused and wondered at the question.
“Time himself? Why, no. Of course not,” he said, and the traveler was appeased at the novel words.
The question still stung in the acolytes brain, however, and like a tumor grew. Did time consume itself? Was time too preserved, destroyer consuming forever? Or was it dead? But if dead, why needed it more chains? And he asked another acolyte. And that one asked another, which delayed his construction and deconstruction of the vessels.
And so the nightly procession saw and paused to admire the well constructed vessels, and so was delayed in observance of the rites of the god Timur. And the delayed observance of one led to chastisement and delay for another. Until at long last, the seconds added up to minutes to hours of delay and failing ritual. And Oldowan rose late that day.
And there was a great groaning noise in creation. The city seemed to sink a little. For as Oldowan rose to speak the many names, he saw a great shape. A many toothed shape, with outstretched arms from a vast precipitous maw.
And how the Gods of Olympus wept. Hera’s gowns is stained with tears as her sire returns. Ares stares with pale skin, his spear clattering as his children Phobos and Deimos seize him. Athena hides behind the aegis and whimpers at dread Time’s approach. Hades, long neglected Hades, awaits time, sitting on his throne with his wife. He is no stranger to the dread passage,and fears not what is to come. Apollo sings a dirge as a great claw grasps his arms. Posideon rages, rages against the coming night, but before all of Astrabdh the great hound Time devours him whole. Zeus, mighty thundering Jove, hurls a multitude of his dreaded bolts, that power which would bow the cosmos. And they barely scorch its mighty form.
Odin and his kin have seen this day, but not this day. They behold not dread Surtr, not the host of Jotunhiem, and not the great trickster, who stands by their side. No, though Time like a wolf does crawl, like Jomundur is vast, it is inconstant and fickle in shape. In one moment as it seizes dutiful Hemidall, it is like a giant, in the next it is an avalanche to bury the All Father. Flames rises to eat their father, holes fall like great mouths to consume the young god Baldr.
The host of Egypt do not weep but try not to flee. Time is a vanguard and this day they knew would come. And so they train helplessly into the inescapable. One by one they are devoured, by earth, plant, tree, and flower. Great reckoner crushes their barges and scatters their bodies among its whirlwind of a form. Osiris feels death again claim him, erase him from the great books. Isis watches as son and husband and father are rent asunder by the unending broil. And when it comes she casts herself onto the fire.
And so on for all the many hosts. The oracles go silent. The nymphs lay weeping before they too are seized and rent. Astahan, its people now bear witness to a terror. Horror of devastation, long for told. And all of man with them that day, saw as Time laid waste to its multitude of enemies. Great fickle power, entropy made manifest, and agent of eldest King Chaos from which all things come, Time now surveys the ruined lands. Who can stand before it? Eternity is now once again silenced. And time, Time waits to devour all it can.
Some hope, some how, that a new wheel might be wrought. Perhaps this victory is for but a moment, and a new refuge from the unthinking ravager can be found. Perhaps, perhaps this is but a piece of the great wheel. But those who saw Time, bedecked in the hides of the dead and forgotten, devouring memory and name and glory, think not such things. The great predator is free now.
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