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Telling Time in a Fantasy Setting

Updated: Jun 25, 2021

I knew when I first designed my world that I didn't want to use a standard clock to mark the passing of time. I didn't much like sundials because my primary location was far north of the equator so in winter a sundial is of extremely limited use.

I didn't like water clocks because they're hard to transport.

I did however like candle clocks! So candle clocks is what I went with.

I designed this candle clock (photoshop is not my best skill, but I think you get the idea).

[Candle file from Wikimedia: Adapted by Marie Mullany, provided under Creative Commons Share-Alike]

I decided that each ring represents 2 hours and that there are three candles in a day, morning candle, day candle and evening candle. This was inspired by the medieval method of splitting the day into 3 as well.

I named my primary time unit nub and half of that (1 hour) a nib. I defined telling time as what candle it was and what ring the candle was on. So 8 AM is the first candle, fourth ring. 9 AM is half to the first ring of the day candle etc.

And with that, I thought I was done. But then I came across the this phrase: "he would buy himself enough time for the hunt to catch up."

And it got me thinking.

That phrase didn't fit my culture or the time period. It sounded wrong. In fact, I didn't like it.

So I went on and invited a whole set of expressions related to time (along with the help my editor):

· As the candle burns [down]: Time is passing

· Run out of candle: Run out of time

· Flicker of the candle, flicker: A moment, a second

· Turn of the flame: A small period of time, a few seconds

· A dribble of wax: A few minutes

· As the candle burnt between them: time passed as they stared at each other, or waited for each other

· Snuffed [his|her] candle: Killed [him|her].

· Stretch the wick: Bought time, increased the available time.

· While there is wick: While we have the time.

There might be more in the future :)

So that got me thinking more and I made a video on the topic of time and telling it in a fantasy world:

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