The Story of Joon and the liquid sunlight
Once, long ago, there was kingdom called Sagratha. Sagratha had everything you’d expect a kingdom to have . It had a big castle, and a wise King whose name was Beleman, and it had a court wizard named Luxus. The castle was made of many beautiful white towers with flags that fluttered in the breeze, and it had huge gardens where the animals roamed and played. Sagratha had everything you’d expect a kingdom to have.
Expect for one important thing. Can you guess what it is?
If you guessed a Princess, you’d be wrong.
Sagratha does have a Princess, but she doesn’t come into our story until later.
No, Sagratha had everything you’d expect a kingdom to have, the King, the Court Wizard, the big castle and the gardens with the animals. It even had a big lake, where a sea monster would come to visit on nice days in the summer.
The only thing Sagratha was missing, was night-time.
Oh, the sun would go down at the end of the day, but even when the sun slipped behind the mountains, it was never really gone. Sagratha was still as bright as ever. The very towers of the castle, shone as bright as the sun. The flags that fluttered were easy to see in the middle of the night, because even then it was never dark. And because nobody knew what ‘night’ was.
You may wonder, well why would this be bad? People would never have to be afraid of the dark, because they never had any. Children would never have to be told to go to bed when it gets dark.
But you see, if it’s always daylight, people don’t know when to go to sleep. They don’t know how to tell time. And if it’s never bedtime, then certainly they don’t know when to get up the next morning!
Oh, the other Kingdoms had night-time. The Kingdom of Otracia, built on a lake of shimmering water, had night-time. And the Kingdom of Ralmarven, where the castle itself walked about on elephant’s legs, had night-time. (That was when the castle would lay down to sleep, so everyone had to wear seat belts!)
But Sagratha, by some stranger whimsy of the gods, didn’t have a night-time. It was always daytime.
One day, the King called to Luxus, his Court Magician, and said, “I am tired of never knowing when it’s time for bed, or when animals in the garden need to be brought back to the stables. You need to do something!”
“But your Majesty,” said Luxus, wringing his hands in worry, “some things are beyond even my powers! Why, I can create a sextet of symphonious secretary birds, to sing melodies for you!” He clapped his hands and six large birds, looking like little ostriches with rainbow-coloured feathers, appeared out of nowhere. It took eight men the better part of an hour to get them down to the garden. “Or I can make you rich beyond your wildest dreams!” He clapped his hands again, and gold coins appeared in thin air and rained down around the King until they were up to his knees. He climbed out of them and stood before the Court Magician.
“Or I can –“ the Court Magician started to say.
“Yes, I know you can do all that,” wise King Beleman said, “but can you make it dark? Can you give us at least one day’s night?” Beleman stopped to see if that made sense, and decided it did. He was the King, after all.
“My King, my wise and noble King,” said Luxus, bowing low, “I shall have the messenger put the word out to the people, asking everyone if they know how to give us night-time. Surely somebody in your great Kingdom will have the answer.”
King Belenor yawned, because he never knew if it was bedtime or not, and agreed that that was a good idea.
So the word went out to all the people of the Kingdom, and a few who were just visiting, asking if anyone know how to bring night-time to the Kingdom.
And people came to the castle with all manner of suggestions and ideas.
“You could put a big blanket over the whole Kingdom, said the blanket-maker, “then it would be dark, and everyone would be extra cozy.”
“You could dig deep holes in the ground,” said Bran, the hole-digger, “then when you want it to be dark, you just go into your hole.”
“I could make you a magic potion,” said the Sorceress, “so you would everything in dark colours, like it is at night.”
“I could poke everyone’s eyes out,” said Horly the Village Idiot, “and then –“ but the King wouldn’t let him say what came after the ‘and then’.
And people continued to come to the castle with all kinds of ideas, each one stranger than the last.
Finally, when the King was about to give up and get stupendously drunk, a visitor came to the castle. He was a big man, and bald, with black trousers and a white sash, and a huge naginata on his back.
“What is your name, friend?” asked the King.
“Joon,” said the man.
“June? But that’s a girl’s name.”
“Not June, Joon.”
“Oh yes, that’s much better.”
“I can solve your problem,” said Joon, “not by covering up your sunshine, but by redirecting it. I can make your endless sunshine go somewhere else.” He paused for dramatic effect.
“But I am going to need three things. I am going to need a tail feather from your finest phoenix, and I am going to need your hottest forge, and I am going to need the hand of the fairest maiden in the Kingdom.”
“The tail feather from my finest phoenix you shall have.” The King clapped his hands, and a horrific squawk arose from the garden. Moments later, a servant brought in a feather, four feet long and shimmering with all the colours of the rainbow.
“The hottest forge in the land, you shall have.” He clapped his hands again, and four men gingerly carried in a huge round brazier, full of bright, hot embers.
“And the fairest maiden in the Kingdom is my own daughter, the Princess Elowyn.” (See, I told you she’d come in later.) The King clapped his hands a third time, and the most beautiful maiden in the land stood before Joon.
“Now,” said Joon, “I need your servants to carry the brazier out to the place – “ there was a moan of dismay from the servants – “where the sun shines the hottest against the sand.” The King, whose hands were becoming sore from all the clapping, waved them to the servants, who picked the brazier up and carried it outside.
“Now Milord,” said Joon, “I can give you that which you seek.”
“This, I need to see,” said the King, and he followed Joon out into the courtyard.
Finally everything was ready. The brazier was placed where the sun shines the hottest against the sand. The phoenix feather shimmered in the bright light. And Princess Elowyn looked especially radiant.
“Now, Sire,” said Joon, “we all know that nothing shines as brightly as beauty itself. So Princess Elowyn, if you would stand just… there…” and he moved the Princess three paces to the left.
She shone with a radiance as bright as the sun, and the sun, feeling challenged, shone even more brightly, until it was hard to see.
“Now, I need three shovels of sand, from where the sun shines the hottest against the sand, poured into the brazier.” The servants took turns pouring the sand into the brazier. Before long, it melted and became like liquid gold.
“You just invented glass,” said Luxus the Court Magician sarcastically, “We already have glass.”
“Not glass, my friend,” Joon said, “but ink, made from liquid sunshine.”
“And what do you do with the liquid sunshine?” the King asked, squinting.
“As my friend the Court Magician could tell you,” Joon said, dipping the end of the phoenix feather into the golden ink, “any power has to have a ‘from’ and a ‘to’. It can’t just sit there, power has to be doing something. It can be harnessed. Or, it can be redirected.” As he spoke, he started drawing yellow designs on his skin with the tip of the phoenix feather.
“So I am going to take your sunshine, and redirect it. I am tattooing myself with ink made from your liquid sunlight, and these tattoos will draw your sunlight away from the Kingdom and sent towards your enemies, like a blast of, well, sunlight.”
Finally he finished drawing his tattoos on his skin with the liquid sunlight.
“Now, your Majesty,” he said, stepping away from the crowd, “allow me to demonstrate.”
He raised his naginata high in the air, until the blade glinted in the sunlight. Then he brought it down with a flourish, and the tattoos on his arms, chest and forehead glowed. And the sunlight all around them flowed through the strange tattoos until there was none left outside. The King looked around him and marvelled at the darkness.
“But what will you do with all my sunlight?” he asked Joon.
“Watch,” Joon said. And he held his weapon and gave a yell, and a burst of pure light erupted from the weapon, shot out and instantly turned a stack of wood to ash.
The King and all the Court, even Luxus the Court Magician, agreed that that was most impressive. And that what they all really wanted, finally, to have a good night’s sleep.
“But often can you do that?” the King wanted to know, before he went to bed.
“How often does the sun burn brightly in your sky?” Joon asked.
“I see your point.”
And Joon was named the King’s Protector. King Beleman was so impressed, he even named the hottest month after him.
The Sun eventually forgave Joon, and Princess Elowyn married (no, not Joon, that would be too obvious.)
But that is a story for another day.