In ancient days when the island was new, Moon and Sun spoke. And in those ancient days, Man talked with these elements and was given great knowledge. But not all was good. As some of you already know, SutaKe tricked Mountain into stopping up his flow of ash, which was smothering the crops of the HoluKo and all the nearby tribes. He tricked him by claiming that he could hold his breath longer than Mountain, and to this day Mountain believes that the contest is still being decided. But Sun, wise Sun, saw what really happened. Sun saw SutaKe dive beneath the waves with his lungs full of air, and Sun saw him clamber from the undersea caves, leaving Mountain still staring at the place he went in.

You are a wretch, SutaKe!” cried Sun, his voice drifting down from high above the stars. “You have played a cruel trick on my good friend! Even if you spoke to him, told the truth of what you’d done, I do not think that he would hear. You have performed an evil that cannot be undone.”

I am sorry, Sun.” SutaKe spoke honestly. “Mountain may have been a friend to you, but to us he was death. His smoke pained our lungs, his fire scorched our land and his ash killed our crops. Had he listened to our earnest pleas, I would not have had to stop up his ears with my falsehood.”

An ugly shadow passed across the face of Sun. “The hubris of you mortals knows no bounds! Do you think it is your right to say how we great elements can use our power? I saw that Mountain’s ash blighted your crops. I am not as blind as you have made him deaf! But though Mountain’s strength brought you harm, mine gives life! You thought to end his influence upon the island? Then I shall end mine too.” And like a rushlight being snuffed, Sun’s face vanished from the sky.

Had Moon not still cast forth her distant glow, the island would have torn itself apart. Great was the fear of the HoluKo, and even all the creatures of the forest, for never before had Sun held back his light. This was the first night the island ever saw, and none has brought such terror since. But SutaKe realised that Sun was still there, only hiding in his darkness, and so he spoke.

Sun!” SutaKe shouted to the heavens. “This rage of yours shows that you are just as vain as Mountain. See sense now, and I will not be forced to use my power to bend you to my will, as I did your friend.”

Power?” From the great darkness, Sun spoke. “You have no power, pitiful thing. Your victory over Mountain was won with a trick—a poor trick at that—and I shall not be so easily overthrown. Nothing you can say will make me give you back my light.

I have no need of your light, sky-lantern! We basked in your warmth for convenience, and not for any need. Light and heat, our small fires give both, and with a greater fire you shall be replaced! Do you hear that, star-spark? You are worth less to us than a lump of wood upon the sand. Man’s beacon shall light the land where Sun once shone.”

Do it, then.” Blazing meteors tumbled from Sun’s dim mouth, but gave off little light. “Make your fire, and I’ll have nothing more to do with you.”

You’ll regret those words,” said SutaKe. “Our flames are hotter than your light. You shall not merely be replaced: you shall be outshone. In years to come, my people shall look up at your dim space in the sky and ask: ‘What is that?’ They shall ask, and I will tell them: ‘That is just a smudge upon the heavens, far away. Perhaps in time the rain will wash it from the sky.’ You shall not merely be replaced, Sun: you shall be forgotten.”

The power held by Sun was great indeed, and truly no mere fire could replace it. But while SutaKe knew this, Sun did not. Sun had often looked down upon Man’s fire with a faint trembling of fear. Man could not construct another Mountain, nor forge the spirit-light of Moon, but in those little flames Sun saw himself. Still, Sun was angry for his lost friend, and when he spoke his voice was strong. “So be it, mortal. You will fail and your crops will die, and still I shall not shine: not even for the pleasure of bleaching your bones.” But inwardly he trembled still.

Sun was right to tremble, for SutaKe’s cunning worked stronger now even than it had with Mountain. He went to find the Stoneman of the HoluKo and, finding him, ordered that a great quantity of smooth, flat obsidian be gathered together. In their fear, the HoluKo worked quickly, and the material was quarried before the sunless ground had even cooled.

SutaKe instructed the Stoneman not to chip apart the stones, as he would do for tools, but to take sand and straw and polish their flat sides to a flawless sheen. While the Stoneman worked, the other members of the tribe set about collecting great heaps of firewood. Had Sun seen these two tasks performed, he would have been suspicious. But without light, even Sun was blind, and so the tasks remained unseen.

At last, with wood and polished stones all set together, SutaKe put his cunning plan in place. The stones he had set out—all flat side up—in a great circle on clear ground. Like a pool on a windless night, this surface caught and threw back any light that touched it. Upon this he placed a stand for the fire, as for a bright beacon on a hill. Upon this stand, the wood was set, so that the great heat of the flames would not crack the glass. At last, SutaKe called out his challenge.

Sun!” he shouted. “In the light of this torch, you see the pyre with which we shall replace you. See how much wood it holds? See the sap-rich twigs and heavy logs? Your primeval flame cannot burn brighter than this marvel made by Man. I give you one last chance. Cast away your bitter feelings, and we will once again live by your inferior light.”

Sun trembled, but knew that in the dark it could not be seen. Breathing calmly for a minute, he made his voice defiant once again. “No more talk, trickster. Set fire to your feeble work. Burn your little rushlight reeds. You’ll strip the island bare before your light could rival half of mine.” But inwardly he quaked.

SutaKe held the torch to his great beacon, and at once the flame began to gnaw. Though his speech to Sun had been a hollow boast, there was yet truth in it. Never since has such a fire blazed as that, the flame of Man’s first night. Huge glowing boughs tumbled to the earth, shattering into white-hot coals. Sparks the size of spearheads rose, taunting the stars with their brightness. And a smoke went up hotter than any that Mountain had ever cast forth.

Sun was confident the fire burned not as bright as he had done himself. Yet how could he be sure? The pressing darkness of that first night had robbed his mind of even memories of light. And would not Man’s mind be the same? Sun began to fret. He did not want to be forgotten! He would, he decided, only match SutaKe’s pyre. He would glow as bright only, and no brighter, so that should the fire sputter and die, Man’s crops should still fail. And if it never dimmed, then Sun at least would be remembered. With this thought in mind, Sun began to shine once more.

As Sun’s light fell across the land, his confidence grew. Yes, he thought. Yes, the chieftain’s boast had been no cause for fear. Even such a fire as that could not light the whole island. Not like Sun. And yet…that one spot, the flame itself, seemed brighter even than before. Sun choked in surprise, sending out a cloud of smoke to swirl among the stars. The light of this fire was brighter than his own! Terrified that he would not even be remembered, Sun burned brighter, matching himself against the flame. Yet every time he increased his light, the fire grew brighter too. Soon, Sun burned as bright as ever, and still the flame outshone.

Sun began to panic. Even with the island lit as brightly as it had ever been, that one glimmer—the flame of Man—was stronger than the light of Sun, and cast its mocking glare into Sun’s eyes. In one last, desperate effort, Sun drew deep a breath and blew upon himself, as Man blows upon an ember. But even as Sun’s breath brightened his flames, the fire of Man shone still more brightly. And so Sun blew for evermore, puffing and staring at the fire Man had built to replace him. But never could Sun’s light outshine that flame, and out of shame, never does he speak.

But Sun, like Mountain, had been deceived. SutaKe’s bright fire had burnt out even before Sun began to blow: the light he saw shining up from the island was his own, reflected in the great mosaic mirror SutaKe had built beneath his flame. So while Mountain was tricked into withholding his deathly ash, Sun was made to give more warmth even than before, so that the crops of Man would flourish in his light. SutaKe boasted of this to the HoluKo, who rejoiced, but one who listened to his speech was still not pleased. Moon, lonely Moon, had seen what happened, and indeed saw more than Man. For this reason, Moon came down to speak.

SutaKe,” said Moon.“With cruel tricks have you deceived both my friends. First Mountain, who I was not greatly fond of, and now Sun, who sought only vengeance for your first misdeed. Neither now can speak. Your crimes have indeed grown great, and someday I too must mete out a punishment. But for now, your cunning has its own reward. Look how Sun’s panicked breath moves him through the sky!”

SutaKe looked up just in time to see Sun dart down below the sea—the first time this had ever happened—and all the HoluKo were too shocked even to be afraid. Moon’s light washed over all, and the mirror put forth no reflection.

Sun will return,” Moon explained. “In his accidental voyage, he shall circle the island again and again, heedless of his course, rising and setting each and every day. You have set that orb in motion, SutaKe, and not even I can stop it. Nor would I try. My friend burns twice as brightly as before, but you shall have his light for only half the time. Such is the way of the things Man makes: you have created Day, SutaKe, but with it you have crafted Night.”

And so it came to be that, while SutaKe won back the light of Sun, fire too would have its part to play. For new-created Night brought cold and dark, and man-made Suns alone must hold them back.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Silent as Still Water | Damon L. Wakes

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