The Seven Swords 

In the highlands, a woman went in search of wisdom and philosophy. Some clerics said that she must go to a tower on a low peak lightly covered in snow. When she came to the tower, a round, gray structure of stone only three or four stories high, she found that the main hall was dominated by a forge. A tall, wiry man of bleached hair and ice blue eyes in a dark wool cloak worked the anvil. Is this where philosophy resides? she inquired with some hesitation. Philosophy is homeless, he muttered, but some say he dwells here. I had expected someone else, the seeker admitted. A fair princess in torn robes, perhaps, or a naked virgin clothed in the scarlet of a bleeding heart held in her pale hand. The blacksmith dropped his hammer in shock. That is something I have never seen or heard of till now, he admitted, but I like you well enough and will help you with your quest. And this was the nature of her quest. First, she ventured to an abandoned shrine to retrieve a sacred sword. As she was leaving the shrine with it, she saw all the wildflowers and beasts fall dead for many miles around. It grieved her to see this, so she returned the sword to its rightful place, heedless of how the blacksmith would feel. When she emerged from the shrine a second time, the moors flowered and the beasts awoke from death. Returning empty-handed to the tower, she was surprised to discover that the tall, cloaked man was pleased, though he said nothing, and held out the abandoned sword for her to keep. Then she wandered the mountains until she came to a wide, silver lake of mists. On the shores she found bits of metal darkly glinting in the sand. These she brought to the blacksmith, who heated them and made a beautiful blade, good as new and inscribed with fine letters. For her third quest, he sent her to a lone peak far away to recover a relic buried under a cairn. The relic was a heavy thing shaped like a rolled up tapestry and made of rock, mud and rust. The blacksmith showed her how to soak it, boil it, wash it, scour it, and treat it in various ways until all that remained was aperfectly polished sword of the highest quality. On the fourth quest, she entered a tomb in the black woods to sit without water or food for three days as a sword hung over head. Only after her fast did it fall only inches before her without scratching or cutting her skin. Of the fifth sword, nothing is known. Of the sixth, only that nobody else could retrieve it from a great stone in an enchanted town, and yet she pulled it out with ease to the amazement of all. Returning to the blacksmith and now possessing six beautiful swords, the seeker asked him what the swords meant and when she would learn wisdom. And thus the man with the dark cloak and iced blue eyes said that only one sword remained to be found. It was greater than any sword and meant more than any wisdom or philosophy she had learned or not learned till now. To find it she would need some oars, nets, a pearl, or maybe nothing at all. What rare metal is this sword made of? she asked. It is made of ghostskin and the tears of the night, said the blacksmith. Follow the wasp and the kraken, the sheep and the fish, the morning star and an ancient rock. And do not forget the wind. 

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