“A Tale o’ Seven Suns”
Once upon a time, there were seven suns in a land that was very, very bright.
“Where are you going?” the eldest sun asked one morning, as the youngest was leaving the sky.
“I’m going to shine on the land below,” the youngest sun answered. “And I don’t need your permission to do anything!” he added, leaving in a snit.
But he didn’t come back.
The other six were very lonely without the youngest around. But they carried on shining, even though the light was a little less bright without him.
Several days later, the next youngest sun decided to leave the sky, too. The eldest sun asked him where he was going. “What do you care? I can go where I want!” he snapped, and departed even more quickly than his younger brother had.
And he, too, didn’t come back.
The remaining suns were a bit more somber when they realized two brothers were missing, but the sky was still very bright, so they soon put their worries aside and resumed shining unconcerned.
Only the eldest sun continued to worry. And his worries grew to the point where he almost stopped shining when he saw the third sun heading towards the lands below.
“Where are you going?”
The third sun didn’t even answer.
And he didn’t come back.
When the three youngest suns had been gone many days, the eldest sun said that none were to leave the house, and then went to speak to Mother Sky. He explained to her what had happened to her three youngest suns.
“I thought it had become a bit darker,” she commented, with a yawn. “They’re probably just lighting the world below. Don’t worry so. They’ll come home when they get hungry.”
“But we don’t eat!” the eldest sun objected.
“What could happen to my precious suns?” Mother Sky assured him. “Go home and try to relax. You worry too much.”
The eldest sun was not reassured by his mother’s words, but he relented and unlocked the door to their home, and reluctantly allowed the middle sun to leave when he wished to go down to the world below.
He, too, did not return.
By now, the home was starting to grow noticeably dimmer, but there was little the eldest sun could do about it, other than trying to shine a bit more brightly.
There were only three remaining now. When one more wished to go down below, the eldest son tried all he could to persuade him not to go, but he would not listen, and became very rude as he insisted that he had every right to go since all his younger brothers had been allowed to go see the lands below.
But he didn’t return any more than the other suns had.
And then there were only two suns in the home in Mother Sky.
“I want to see the land below, too,” the second sun announced one day.
The eldest sun had been dreading those words.
“I don’t want to be alone up here,” he said. “And I know you won’t return, any more than our other brothers returned. Will nothing persuade you to remain here?”
“Nothing,” the second sun replied.
“Then I will go to the land below with you,” the eldest sun said. “We will stand a better chance together than we would alone.”
The second sun agreed, and they set out together towards the lands below.
They soon reached a massive mountain and discovered that it was Mother Earth’s head.
“Hello, my eldest suns,” she said. “What are you doing here?”
“We’ve come to see you and ask about our brother suns who have gone missing,” the eldest sun replied.
“They passed by and said hello to me a long time ago,” Mother Earth told them, “but I haven’t seen them since. I’m sure nothing bad could have happened to them. What could harm my suns?”
The eldest sun had no answer, but he was sure something had terrible indeed had happened. He and his brother said goodbye to Mother Earth and moved onwards.
Soon they came across the third eldest sun, who seemed pleased to see them. He was with a land-dweller, a large and unpleasant-looking human covered in hair and skins.
“These is your brothers, is they?” the human asked. “They gots money, too?”
“Yes, these two are my brother suns,” the third eldest sun replied.
“What is going on here?” the eldest sun asked, looking at the human suspiciously. The human had harnesses draped over his shoulders, and had bent a large, thin tree all the way down to the ground. “That doesn’t look like a very nice way to treat the poor tree.”
The human laughed roughly. “T’ain’t supposed to be!” he chuckled. “Yer bro here’s supposed to prove ‘is stren’th by holdin’ two trees down like this even longer’n I can. When ‘e does, then he gets me money. An’ he gets to pass by.”
“Did our younger brothers pass this way as well?” the eldest sun asked.
“Mighta done,” the human replied, shrugging his shoulders. “I was busy at the temptress’ place,” he admitted. “Can’t see a bloody thing in the dark back there.”
“We’ll have to keep looking, then. Come along,” the eldest sun said to the the third eldest.
“Yer bro’s goin’ noplace ’til he’s coughed up me money!” the human replied. “‘Lessen he’s able to win the bet.”
The eldest sun sighed. “Then win the bet and let’s go,” the second sun suggested.
“It’s not quite so easy as that,” the third sun replied weakly.
“Cain’t seem to tie this here tree to yer bro nowhere,” the human grumbled. “Seems he ain’t got no arms or legs. Bein’ a sun an’ all.”
“Couldn’t you see that when you made the wager to begin with?” the eldest sun asked, appalled. “Very well. Why don’t you let us hold it in place while you get the other one ready? Then our brother can hold them both once they’re ready.”
“Yeh, I s’ppose that could work,” the human grumbled, “t’ain’t how I does it, usual-like, but…I guess it’ll do…since this is so unusual an’ all…”
The human handed the bent-over tree to the eldest sun, and then bent a second tree. Once he had done so, the eldest sun quickly handed the original tree back to the human. The human struggled to hold both trees as long as he could, but the trees were stronger than he was, and soon they righted themselves, and the human was thrown into the air, one bit thrown one way and the other thrown the other way.
Reunited, the three brothers continued on their path, moving past an ugly pit. They didn’t know it, but it was where the human had thrown all his past victims; unlike the lucky third sun, most travelers to pass by that bandit’s lair had possessed arms which the bandit could attach his harnesses to.
It was some time later that they came across the next missing sun. He was sitting with a pudgy little man with even more hair than the last one.
“Drink up!” the hairy little man exclaimed at him as his brothers approached.
“There you are!” the eldest sun said. “Come, we have to gather the others and return home so Mother Sky won’t worry about us.”
“I would, but–”
“Wan’ some rye?” the pudgy little man asked. “‘Course you do!”
“This little man insisted I must have a drinking contest with him,” the middle sun explained. “He seemed to think I want a treasure map, or something. He’s quite implacable about the idea, and he won’t be dissuaded. But I haven’t any idea how to drink anything!”
“I knew you’d never be able to hold your liquor like we dwarves can!” the hairy little man laughed, then downed an enormous quantity. His small wooden leg twitched erratically as he drank.
The eldest sun glanced at the liquid in his brother sun’s cup. It had a very high alcohol content. It would evaporate very easily. “Let us shine on it a bit more brightly than usual,” he suggested quietly, “and perhaps this little man won’t notice that you didn’t imbibe it directly.”
The hairy little man didn’t seem to care one way or another, and as the rye evaporated in the middle sun’s cup, he replaced it with more, while drinking his own, and soon the hairy little man was sleeping beneath the table, and the brothers could move onwards once more.
They walked a long time. Then they could hear a sound they didn’t know. It was a pounding sound, but a gentle one: it was the ocean’s waves hitting the shore.
As the brother suns reached the beach, they heard a voice calling out loudly “Keep in time! The race will never be run by those who lie down to take a rest! Keep going! You’re almost done!”
Running in circles upon the sand, the brother suns saw about a dozen runners, each unlike the other. Most importantly, one was the third youngest sun!
The elder suns began to run over to him, but they were stopped by a large bird wearing a waistcoat. “Stop!” it squawked at them. “You mustn’t interrupt the caucus race!”
“A race?” the middle brother repeated. “When will it be over?”
“It will be over when the race has been run, naturally!” the bird laughed.
“When will the race be run?” the second brother asked.
“When someone has won,” the bird replied.
“How will you know when someone has won?” the eldest sun asked, since he could see nothing to indicate the spot that marked the race’s goal.
“When the caucus race is over,” the bird answered.
The suns tried to understand the rules by which the race was run, but eventually decided that there were no rules, and that the contestants would be running in circles eternally, because the bird was quite, quite mad.
“Surely it’s cheating to be running a race without any legs?” the eldest sun asked casually.
“Certainly it is!” the bird agreed, sounding most upset.
“My brother sun hasn’t any legs,” the second sun pointed out.
With cries against the cheater, the bird quickly kicked the third youngest sun out, and the brother suns resumed their searching journey.
Now they were missing only two, and they were beginning to regain hope once more, shining more brightly again. But they were surprised when they saw a dim red glow shining in the distance ahead. What could produce such a light? The suns thought they were the only light source there was.
Arriving at the light’s source, they saw the second youngest sun trapped inside a huge red lantern that hung atop the temptress’ tower. He called out to his brothers as they approached, begging them to save him.
The temptress smiled at the brothers as they entered her tower, and asked them what services they wanted.
“We want our brother back. He’s in your red light,” the eldest sun told her.
“Oh, I need him to light my place so my customers can see it,” the temptress told him. “So you can’t have him. But I’m sure I can show you a good time instead,” she added, blinking her single great eye. “Come with me.”
She led them through a huge door, and they went along with her, despite their brother yelling at them not to. One by one, she caught the suns in giant jars, except the eldest sun, who dodged in time.
“Hold still!” the enormous temptress shrieked at him. “I need your light! Just give in!”
“Why would you need our light?” the eldest sun replied.
“How else will my customers get here? How else will they see my beauty?”
“What beauty!?” the eldest sun retorted. “They can’t see what doesn’t exist!”
“You ignorant dolt! Get in this jar and shut your horrible little mouth!”
“I haven’t got a mouth! I’m a sun!”
“I’m a lovely temptress, and my customers make lengthy journeys here to give me vast sums to canoodle with me, so they need to be able to see me,” the temptress insisted, batting her massive eyelid.
“I would think such activities were best done in the dark, where they could be hidden away lest prying eyes discover them to wives and such,” the eldest sun pointed out.
“Oh.” The temptress paused, thinking. “I might be able to charge them more that way, mightn’t I?”
She deliberated and deliberated, but eventually relented, and released all the suns she had captured, even the one in the red lantern. Then there were six suns, together at last, and only the youngest was now missing.
Eventually, they came upon a cave mouth, guarded by a terrible dragon. They could hear the youngest sun’s voice nearby, but it was hard to hear, as though it was passing through something thick.
“Greetings, madam,” the eldest sun said. “We are seeking our youngest brother. Have you seen him?”
“Don’t get near my eggs,” the dragon replied. “I’ll have no one poaching my babies ever again!”
“We don’t want your eggs or your babies,” the second sun assured her. “We were just wondering whether you had seen our brother.”
“I’ve seen no one and nothing but that monster that tried to take my babies away!” the dragon snarled, beating her wings in their direction.
“Stay here,” the eldest brother said, “and keep her attention.” While his brother suns were distracting the dragon on her nest, the eldest sun slipped past her and into the cave.
Inside the cave, the eldest sun discovered a huge larder, stocked with many comestibles. It was being tended by a massive, mammalian cook, with a bushy tail and an apron. The cook, who was preparing to crack an enormous egg, looked at the eldest sun with curiosity.
“How did you get in here past my best hen?” the cook asked.
“I didn’t see any hens,” the eldest sun asked. “I’m seeking my youngest brother.”
“Well, he certainly isn’t in here, as you can see,” the bushy-tailed cook said. “Would you like to help me cook this egg?”
“Does that egg belong to the dragon outside?” the eldest sun asked.
“That’s not a dragon. That’s my best hen.”
“No, I’m quite sure that’s a dragon,” the eldest sun answered. “And I think she’d like her egg back.”
“Oh, she hasn’t any idea it’s even missing,” the cook laughed. “I got that silly bandit to make a trade! He swapped in this glowing rock I discovered nearby while the bawdy cyclops distracted the hen. These eggs scramble up quite delicious, you know. Sure you don’t want any?”
“That glowing rock cooked your hen, you know,” the eldest sun told him. “All golden brown and delicious.”
“What? Where will I get my eggs now!?”
The cook ran out to look, and the eldest sun quickly rescued the egg, then hurried out in pursuit. He told the dragon who had really taken her egg, and she quickly ate the cook. Then the dragon got up and resumed sitting on her own egg, releasing the youngest sun.
The seven suns were reunited at long last, and able to say goodbye to Mother Earth and then return to their home in anxious Mother Sky.
That was weirder than I remembered.
Originally posted 7/6/2015
(How do I keep re-posting these things so close to their original posting date? Weeeeiiiiiird.)