“So how can you tell,” one of the younger children, one who had come in with the last refugees before the gates were barred, whispered. “How can you tell if your sword has the sword ghost inside of it?”

“Well, little one,” Anx said. “The Dayfather, or the Nightmother–or perhaps both if they are quarreling again–will appear to you in a dream and say that it is thus.”

“Oh, please,” Tova said. “Fill that child’s heads with such nonsense and they’re sure to believe the next rattle they find is from the Creator’s very cradle.”

Hirt, looking toward the child, asked: “Young’un, have you ever had a dream about a truly magnificent sword you’d like to share with us?”

The child, after a reassuring nod from their mother, bobbed their head enthusiastically.

“Tell us, then. Keeps the stories, and our spirits, flowing.”

“Okay, well, I dreamed of a big mountain with fire in it. Like they say that there is way in the south. A vol…a volc…a volca…”

“Volcano,” Tova sighed. “At least lie with the right word, yes?”

“Volcano.” The child furrowed their brows before continuing. “So these people wanted to make a sword, okay? But then one of them said that they should let the Creator make them a sword, and that would be the best sword. But the guy that said that? The other guys didn’t believe him, they laughed. They said if he could get the realtor to make him a sword, he would be their new king and they would totally throw the old one into the vol…volc…volca…fire mountain.”

“What happened next?” said Hirt.

“Well, the guy, he knew that the fire mountain was going to burp up a fire river soon,” the child went on. “So he did what the blacksmith does and made a big mold in the shape of a sword. And he put it on the side of the fire mountain. And then when the fire mountain woke up and the fire river started to flow, it flowed into the mold and filled it up. So when the guy went back, he opened up the mold and the Creator had made him a sword, just like he said.”

“A fine tale,” Anx said. “Now tell me, little one: did the other ‘guys’ keep their word and throw the old king into the fire mountain, and make the fire smith their new king?”

“No, they said it didn’t count because he made the mold, not the creator,” the child said sadly. “I woke up before I found out what happens next.”

“That part, at least, is quite realistic,” said Tova. “The perfidy of human nobles is the one constant in this world of ours.”

“Well, what do you think happened next?” Hirt said, the sweep of his arms encompassing the room. “Come now, someone, finish this tale of fiery swords for our young blade bard here.”

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