The Seven Suns
It happened that long ago the people of Lim Xhe would labor in their bountiful fields beneath the brilliant light of seven suns that soared through the heavens each day, for the gods had created the world with seven suns in the sky that there would be light everywhere. But the people complained for the fields were too hot, as each of the seven suns shone with light and heat upon the bare backs of the men.
But what could they do? For the gods had made seven suns in the sky, and it was not their place to change it. Even if they knew how.
It also happened that Masama, the wisest of the village elders of that time, had grown tired of the heat and the light and said to the people, “Legend tells there is a great black dragon chained up beneath the mountains of Yulim who will eat the suns out of the sky, and that is why he is chained there. Suppose we release him to eat some of the suns and then chain him back up when it is not so hot?”
The villagers agreed this was a wise solution to the problem, for they could only be blamed for releasing the dragon and not for taking the suns out of the sky. They gathered together seven great heroes to travel to the mountains and release the dragon: the mighty warrior, who was known only as Heron, and his two brothers. The great and large warrior, Maltan, who carried a warrior’s club made from a whole tree. The clever wizard, Niiyan, and his apprentice. And the archer and famed bow-man, Xueshin.
These seven boasted they would travel across the plains to the mountains of Yulim, find the dragon’s cave, and let him free of his chains to eat three of the suns, then chain the dragon back up. The heroes left amid fanfare and cheers, but alas, the dragon proved too much for them, and too wily and cunning. Of the seven, it ate six, and escaped into the sky.
But the heroes did not sate its vast appetite, and so it devoured the first of the seven suns, while the people of Lim Xhe cheered, for they did not yet know the heroes had been eaten by the dragon.
A stranger came to the people, wandering down from the north covered by a great hat and carrying a worn staff to which was tied all his possessions in a small cloth bag. “What have you done,” asked the stranger of the people, “That there are only six suns in the heavens?”
“It is cooler, is it not?” boasted the people, and Masama, too, answered, “Honorable stranger, the seven suns are too hot in the sky and so seven heroes set out to free the Dragon of the Yulim Mountains and allow it to eat three of them. They will chain it back up, and then it will be cooler to work in the day.”
“Is that so?” answered the stranger, “Then I will wait here to meet these heroes, for they must be great indeed if they can set free the Dragon of the Yulim Mountains and catch it again, when even the gods were hard-pressed to chain him up in the first place.” And he stayed the night, sleeping in the hay gathered by one of the farmers, out among the bugs and cattle.
The next day, the dragon ate another of the suns in the sky, and the people cheered and toasted the heroes.
“One more to go, and then the heroes will return,” Masama proclaimed proudly.
When the dragon ate another sun the following day, the people again cheered and waited for the heroes to return. But when they had not come back by nightfall, the people grew anxious. Masama cautioned them, “It may be that they are fighting a battle with the dragon right now to chain him back up, and they will be back by the morning,” and it calmed their worries.
The morning came, and the dragon gobbled up another sun from the sky. “Perhaps,” Masama said to the people, “The heroes have decided four suns is too many, and three is better.” And the people nodded in agreement but began to worry again.
When the great dragon flew across the sky that evening and swallowed another sun, the people worried greatly. “Perhaps the gods have met the heroes, and told them two suns is best,” Masama said to the people, but even he did not believe this.
The stranger in the wide hat who had been sleeping in the farmer’s field asked, “What will you do if the dragon has eaten your heroes? For your crops will not grow in the darkness, and it will be difficult for me to see the roads to travel.” And Masama fretted.
The stranger spoke to the people and said, “I will tell you this, you must scare the dragon away, but there is only one thing the dragon fears, and that is the thunder god, Yuma. It was Yuma who chained him after he ate too many other greater gods and lesser spirits who tried, and so Yuma is the only one he fears.”
“But where is Yuma?” the people asked, and many fled to the temples to pray to the gods, and to Yuma in particular, but the gods did not deign to speak to them nor Yuma to answer, and the dragon hungrily swallowed another sun at noon.
“I have met in him my travels in the north, and Yuma has grown old and is no match for the dragon any longer,” the stranger told the people, “But the dragon does not know this and still fears him.”
The people turned to Masama for guidance, for there was only one sun left in the sky, which the dragon might choose to devour at any time, and Masama thought and thought. “We must frighten the dragon away from the sun, or back into his cave, and yet only Yuma can do this. To scare the Dragon of Yulim, we must make the dragon think Yuma is coming.”
And the people thought, until the stranger untied and opened up his cloth bag and said, “I have here a most special invention found in my travels. It is called a fire-cracker, and it makes a loud noise like thunder and flashes like lightning.” And he showed them a handful of small, rolled papers with tiny strings in them, and many of the people laughed.
But Masama quieted them and said, “We could use these to make the dragon think Yuma was coming.” Masama was also shrewd, and inquired, “Will you show us how they work, and what will they cost?”
The stranger smiled and said, “I will give them to you for free, for the loss of all the suns would stop my travels as well. To make them work, you simply light this fuse.” And he did so, throwing one up into the air where it flashed brightly and rang in the air.
“We will need to send them much higher than that to scare away the Dragon of Yulim,” said Masama sadly.
“Let Xueshin fire them into the sky upon his arrows,” cried one of the people, come late to the gathering, for he was even now helping the one surviving hero in his walk home. The people cheered and then quieted as the famous bow-man told them of the tragedy that had befallen the other six, and how the cunning dragon had played at being smaller and weaker than it was until it had been freed, and then eaten the great heroes snip-snap with barely a fight, leaving him injured but alive to drag himself away as it ate the suns.
And so the people planned, for in the twilight, the people could see the huge black silhouette of the dragon on the horizon, resting and waiting to gobble up the last sun, and knew they would need to be swift.
“I know where the cave lies, for I passed it on my way here. I will go and wait for the dragon to hide there, then chain him back up,” said the stranger, and Masama thought that was both brave and foolish. “I hope you do not get eaten,” he said.
When the great dragon took to the sky again, flying towards the red sun setting on the horizon, the great archer Xueshin fired his precious jade arrows up into the clouds, which flashed and rang as though Yuma himself were shaking them, for Xueshin had tied the fire crackers to the arrows.
The dragon turned to flee as the sky rang and rolled with sound and light from the arrows of Xueshin, the fury chasing the dragon across the sky and back down into his cave in the mountains of Yulim, where it hid in the deepest chamber.
At that moment, the stranger leapt out from where he had hidden and chained the dragon back up, laughing, “I may be old and weak, but I have tricked you back into your cave, and here you will stay!” And so it happened that the Dragon of Yulim cowered before his ancient nemesis, the thunder-god Yuma, who left the cave and wandered down many different roads, filling the land with booming peals of laughter.
Copyright (c)2007 Raven Daegmorgan