Selections from the Writings of Lord Dunsany, by Lord Dunsany, , at sacred-texts.com
THE CASTLE OF TIME
Presently there was a stir in one of the houses, and a bat flew out of the door into the daylight, and three mice came running out of the doorway down the step, an old stone cracked in two and held together by moss; and there followed an old man bending on a stick with a white beard coming to the ground, wearing clothes that were glossed with use, and presently there came others out of the other houses, all of them as old, and all hobbling on sticks. These were the oldest people that the King had ever beheld, and he asked them the name of the village and who they were; and one of them answered: 'This is the City of the Aged in the Territory of Time.'
And the King said; 'Is Time then here?'
And one of the old men pointed to a great castle standing on a steep hill and said: 'Therein dwells Time, and we are his people;' and they all looked curiously at King Karnith Zo, and the eldest of the villagers spoke again and said: 'Whence do you come, you that are so young?' and Karnith Zo told him how he had come to conquer Time, to save the world and the gods, and asked them whence they came.
And the villagers said:
'We are older than always, and know not whence we came, but we are the people of Time, and here from the Edge of Everything he sends out his hours to assail the world, and you may never conquer Time.' But the King went back to his armies, and pointed toward the castle on the hill and told them that at last they had found the Enemy of the Earth; and they that were older than always went back slowly into their houses with the creaking of olden doors. And they went across the fields and passed the village. From one of his towers Time eyed them all the while, and in battle order they closed in on the steep hill as Time sat still in his great tower and watched.
But as the feet of the foremost touched the edge of the hill Time hurled five years against them, and the years passed over their heads and the army still came on, an army of older men. But the slope seemed steeper to the King and to every man in his army, and they breathed more heavily. And Time summoned up more years, and one by one he hurled them at Karnith Zo and at all his men. And the knees of the army stiffened, and their beards grew and turned grey, and the hours and days and the months went singing over their heads, and their hair turned whiter and whiter, and the conquering hours bore down, and the years rushed on and swept the youth of that army clear away till they came face to face under the walls of the castle of Time with a mass of howling years, and found the top of the slope too steep for aged men. Slowly and painfully, harassed with agues and chills, the King rallied his aged army that tottered down the slope. Slowly the King led back his warriors over whose heads had shrieked the triumphant years. Year in, year out, they straggled southwards, always towards Zoon; they came, with rust upon their spears and long beards flowing, again into Astarma, and none knew them there.
HERE ENDS 'SELECTIONS FROM THE WRITINGS OF LORD DUNSANY.' FINISHED ON LADY DAY, IN THE YEAR NINETEEN HUNDRED AND TWELVE.