The Gift of Time
27th of Overlight, AE 721
Many eras ago, elves were quite like other humanoids. They appeared much the same as they do now, had similar innate gifts, but those were the only things that differentiated them. They lived the same lifespans as other humanoids, much of it spent working the field or the forge to provide for themselves and their families, and they found this to be unsatisfying. The elves longed for more time with their families, more time to enjoy the world around them, to transform it into a better, more beautiful place for their children. They longed to work with their hands not only to put food on the table, but to make beautiful things simply for beauty's sake. The elves convened and decided to plead their case with Senetsal, who was then the god of the arts and beauty. They picked three individuals to go: Altonzar, of the dark elves; Celduin, of the sun elves; and Pryscene of the sea elves. The three went to Senetsal and begged of them, "Please, allow us more time and we shall dedicate ourselves to your ideals. We shall teach ourselves the arts so we may make the world more beautiful." Senetsal looked upon them approvingly and said, "I do not have the power to fulfill your desires, but take my favor to Prem and he may grant your wish." Senetsal bestowed upon them a rolled canvas, and the three continued their journey to seek out the god of death and time. Along their journey, the three unrolled the canvas to look upon the favor Senetsal had given them. They found the canvas to have been painted entirely black, and began to panic. "Surely this is an incomplete piece that Senetsal has given to us by accident," worried Pryscene. "Perhaps this is a test! Maybe we are meant to complete the painting and prove our ability to make beautiful art," suggested Celduin. Altonzar remained quiet for a time before saying, "Senetsal would not make such a mistake, and surely we would lose their favor if we altered their canvas. It is dull and lifeless but we must deliver it as-is." The rest of the three reluctantly agreed, and carried on with their journey, making their way to Prem's domain and, as with Senetsal, begged of him, "Please, allow us more time. We wish to dedicate ourselves to Senetsal's ideals and make the world more beautiful. We bring with us Senetsal's favor." They presented the death god with the rolled canvas, watching as he unrolled it before them. In the low, tenebrous lighting of Prem's domain, the canvas did not appear merely black; it was warmth. In the dusky, ominous domain, the canvas appeared positively thermal. It was dark and cozy and welcoming. Nothing about the canvas itself had changed, it had simply arrived where it was meant to be. The three elves waited as Prem looked upon the painting. He asked of them, "You have journeyed quite long and far, and have even come to my domain despite knowing it is dangerous. For what do you go to such lengths?" Celduin replied, "For my child who cannot see. I wish to learn to play delightful music for him so he may still experience the beauty the world has to offer." Altonzar replied, "For my friends and family who spend every day working in order to survive. I wish for them to be able to truly live and partake in activities for their own happiness rather than for money." Pryscene replied, "For myself. A life without art is not one I wish to live." Prem looked upon each of them and nodded. "Then so it shall be. Live your lives in a way that would please Senetsal, and when you do I shall grant your people this gift." The three elves returned to their homes with news of their success. The change was not immediate, the elves still had their work to do, but in the brief moments of rest during their days, they created. Some added decorative embroidery to their clothes, other sketched each other with sticks in the dirt of the fields. They spent more time on the functional pieces they created, making neater lines and adding small flourishes. Over time, they found their aging slowed. They were able to sell their wares and services for more money, and began to prosper. Ever since, elves have dedicated at least some part of their lives to creative pursuits, to repay Senetsal's favor, and ensure Prem never desires to take back his gift.
This myth is common knowledge among most elven peoples, it has been adapted into children's books many times, and most remember their parents or teachers reading it to them at some point in their lives.
Variations & Mutation
Depending on who is telling the story, sometimes Celduin or Pryscene are the one who does not panic and insists on delivering the canvas as-is. Their reasonings for undertaking the journey also occasionally change, but usually maintains that there is at least one answer that is mostly selfless, and one that is mostly selfish, and both are acceptable answers.
The Gift of Time shares a few different things about elven culture, one of the major things views about art and aestheticism. In elven culture, if something is beautiful, not necessarily to everyone, but to someone, then it cannot be useless because beauty and simply pleasurable stimulus is a meaningful and important goal. Elves look at their long lifespans and see the possibility for centuries of dullness and dissatisfaction, or for centuries of beauty, comfort, and happiness, and it is understood that cultivating an environment that one can derive pleasure from just existing in is an important part of achieving that. Through the reasoning of each of the characters for why they undertook this journey, it's also shown that elven culture does not have as much of a bias against expressing selfishness as others do, specifically when it comes to striving for what they view as an ideal life. While selfless acts are still viewed as kind and noble, it's not viewed negatively to care about one's own well being first and foremost.