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Weeks and Years

by NonAnalogue

NonAnalogue A history lesson
"Aw, Uzte, why do I have to learn all this history? It's boring!"

"Now hold your fire a minute, little Luna. In order to properly appreciate the state of magic as it is now, you need to know where it came from."

"But we're not learning about the history of magic! This is about... calendars."

Uzte paused. The choice of curriculum had confused her too, but she wasn't about to second-guess the Guildmaster's lesson-building chops. After all, she was just the Guild's chef, and she and Luna both were pariahs from the rest of the Magicians' Guild. Best to make sure that Luna mastered 100% everything the Guildmaster taught the other students, Uzte figured. "The Guildmaster says it's important to your education, so I'm going to make sure you learn everything there is to know about calendars."

"The Guildmaster is so... out of touch, though. He's ancient," Luna said, wrinkling up her nose. She was pushing 13, and it hadn't been that long since the accident that blinded her. She was determined to not let that get in the way of becoming a famous magician, though; after the Guildmaster refused to teach her, she went to Uzte. Uzte had only avoided being ejected from the Guild herself for the crime of being a siren by making herself so invaluable that nobody could fire her, and she accepted Luna's request on the spot.

Uzte smirked. "No argument here, you awful little toztoz." Though technically a swear in the sirens' tongue, Uzte had repurposed it as a term of endearment. "Now sit your kontoket down and listen...

"You know of course that we give dates in numbers. Month 1, Month 2, all the way through Month 12. 30 days exactly per month. 360 days in a year. And you know what we count the years from, right?

"What? You don't? How in the-- I thought this was well-known! No problem, no problem. Okay. We count the years from the Council of the Ancients, though at the time they were just the Council of the Elders. It took some time for them to grow into the name, you see.

"The Council of the Elders was a meeting of representatives from each of the big tribes at the time. Humans, sirens, vampires, the list goes on. Trade was really starting to take off between all the different groups, and a problem came up as a result - nobody told dates in the same way. A deal would be scheduled to happen on the Day of Trials for a human, and the siren she was making a deal with wouldn't know whether that lined up with Varzdak or Varzren, since it changed by the season. It got even more complicated with vampires - their days could last weeks in human-time depending on what their elders decreed. So the Council convened to try and hash out the problem.

"The Council argued and argued for ages before finally coming to a conclusion. They defined a day as the time from sun-up to sun-up - longer than the humans' days but shorter than the sirens'. One of the vampires in attendance was quite enamored with numbers, and she found a number of weeks and months that would line up quite nicely with the time it took the sun to go around Ennen 360 times, which they defined as a year.

"Why 360? I dunno. Maybe she just liked that number.

"Anyway, that was 568 years ago now. Side note, that meeting is also what led to Common. You know, the language. Most humans back in those days spoke Old Kenban, which didn’t have a name back then. Sirens had their own language too, as did the vampires and everyone else. So nobody at the Council could really talk to each other, though the sirens made some pretty good progress using pictures and gestures. It took some doing, but they cobbled together a pidgin language to talk.

"Huh? No, 'pidgin,' not 'pigeon.' It means a simple language that came from a mix of other languages. Right, you get it.

"When the Council disbanded, each of the representatives brought back with them a new calendar and a new language, and, well, you can see how much we use both of them now. Remnants of the old ways are still around, though, if you know where to look.

"Yes, like my swearing. But not just that. Back home, the old scholars keep track of the siren calendar. We observe all the traditional holidays, too. Your family was big in the Church; I'm sure they do the same thing. And I'm sure you've seen the big scroll on the wall of the church here marking the Days of Renewal, Hope, Toil, Dreams, Blood, Wind, Passing, and Rest.

"Anyway, one of the few issues that arose with the adoption of the new timekeeping system was that nobody knew much of how to define their new ages. I mean, humans had it easy, so long as they knew a bit of math, but sirens measured their ages by the number of holidays they'd passed and it was difficult to line that up with the new standard years. Then there were the vampires, who never talked about how old they were - only how close they were to their time of death - and nobody knew what to do with that at all.

"They figured it out, though, and it was really only a problem for a generation or two before the kinks got hammered out.

"...So there it is, little Luna," Uzte said. She'd stood up in the middle of the lesson and was tending to a pot on the oven - a twirl of the fingers and the spoon would stir the stew itself. "That's why we have the system we have."

"But..." Luna frowned, thinking. "Why didn't we ever have any names for the months or days again? It seems kinda weird that everyone just went straight for the numbers."

Uzte grinned. "Ah ha," she said, "that's something I know a bit more about. See, people did try to give names to the days and the months. All the time, they did. But none of them ever stuck. Turns out when some king decides to name the months after him and his buddies, most of the people up and say 'you know, even numbers are better than this guy's ego.' And before too long, the numbers were ingrained in people's heads. Good luck changing it."

"Oh." Luna fell silent for a moment, taking in the rich aroma of the stew. "Okay. Is that all for today?"

"Nope. The Guildmaster says that this lesson is perfect for segueing into a math lesson on factoring."