Wick bore the candle aloft. “You know what this is, don’t you?”

At the flick of a slimy finger, the frogs retreated. “Of course we do,” burbled their king. “That accursed spark is what allowed you to roast us for eating, powered the machines that drained our swamps.” He drew out his following words with thick malice: “It has brought nothing but death to my people, even here at our last outpost.”

“What if I told you,” said Wick, trying to be sly, “that this is the last flame in the world, and that the secret of its creation has been lost?”

The frog king lolled out its tongue in a moment of thought. “I would say that my people should attack you now, at all hazards, to ensure that it is drowned in the cleansing waters of the last refuge.”

“Consider this an opportunity,” Wick said. “The last fire is traveling to the summit that it might be rekindled in the souls of all my people. If you would allow me to pass, my people would be in your debt.”

“You do not have a good record of being beholden to those to whom you owe much,” sneered the frog king. “Ask the aurochs that, if you can find one.”

“The fire might be the only thing that can hold back the decay and rebuild our world,” Wick replied. “Surely you, in your wisdom, feel the end closing about all life even here in the last refuge.”

“You would have me put my trust in that which caused the decay in the first place? Perhaps it is simply time for us to fade quietly away with one last noble act.”

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