“I don’t think that elves game out very well in your sword-story, blade-bard,” Tova said. “You make us out to be a lot of squabbling adulterers. Vol and Elw never ruled over much territory and they were mules besides. Let me tell you of a true elven blade from the time before the Creator to set the record straight.”

“Is it a real story,” Hirt asked, “or one you made up?”

With a twinkle in her eye, Tobe ignored him. “In the days of old, long before the Seven Sisters of Naïx dotted her shores, the deserts of that land were lush forests. It came to pass than an elf was lost in those jungles, the last survivor of an expedition. He was wounded for want of a weapon, starving for want of food, and dying for want of sweet water to drink.”

“In those days, great insects lived in the jungles of Naïx, the size and bearing of a man or an orc, and they were doughty survivors because they lived short lives, giving birth in their death throes to children that were better-suited to survive than they. If there was a flood, the child would swim; if there was a drought, the child would not thirst. It so happened that one such insect came upon this elf, lost and dying. And in his plaintive cries, she found something at once both pitiable and admirable.”

“Her child, born the next day, could speak the elf’s language and led him to an oasis. There, able to eat and drink, but unable to penetrate the dense jungles, he began to recover. But the insect soon found that she was better-suited to the elf than the mother had been; what had been admiration was now love.”

“So when, in turn she died and brought forth a daughter, the new insect was adapted to love the elf, and to be loved by him in turn, for although still an insect she had the outside form of a beautiful woman. And, for a time, they were both very happy. But she soon noticed him stockpiling food and water, gathering supplies for a trip to the north, to the coast. When she asked, the elf spoke of his wife and children, whom he missed dearly.”

“And so, heartbroken, the insect died that very night and her daughter was born: in the form of a sword, chitinous and sharp, with which the elf could cut his way through the jungle and return to those he loved. He left then,, bearing her hence, and for he remainder of their long lives together she hung by his side through many a trial and travail.”

Tova folded her hands. “That is a true elf-story for you.”

“If she could have a daughter that was better adapted, why not wait until he was out of the jungle and then have one that looked like an elf again?” Anx said.

“Shut up,” Tova said. “That’s why. And besides, it’s your turn.”

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