was king of Averon
and of the mountain
s, and Lord, if there be aught beyond those mountains, of all such lands as are. But the King growing weary
, would find certain of the hour
s that have been, and sundry
days that were.
The wisest of his wise folk said, "The days that were, and the hours, have winged their way to Mount Agdora's summit, and there, dipping, have passed away from sight, not ever to return, for haply they have not heard the King's command."
Far up the mountains that limit Averon they found Syrahn, the prophet. He told the King, "These things lie in a cave afar from here, and over the cave stands sentinel one Kai, and this cave Kai hath guarded from the gods and men since ever the Beginning was made."
Eight days' journey beyond the summit of Mount Agdora was a dark cave in a valley dark, where Kai stood guard over the days that were. And the face of Kai was as a warrior that vanquisheth cities and burdeneth himself not with captives, and his form was as the forms of gods, but his eyes were the eyes of beasts.
He said to the King, "Thither, dishonoured and forgot, thy yesterday slunk away. And who amid the dusty heap of the forgotten days shall grovel to find thy yesterday?"
So records Lord Dunsany, in his second book, Time and the Gods, published in 1906, but in better words than my humble paraphrase. I have tried to capture but a grain of its spirit. The image is one of the most lasting of all Dunsany images for me, that beyond all the weird gods and doomed warriors from beyond the fields we know, there is one thing constant, the cave of Kai, where all our hours and days and years lie forever. And Kai laughs at the word mercy.
But it is also recorded that a harper had dust from the past on the strings of his harp, and he could bring back to the King certain hours; and Kai was vexed by the shadow of a harper that stood between him and the world.