7​.​) § The Red Hand

from by Jesse Livingston

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Takumi worked in a foundry. Each day, he shoveled raw metal into the blazing forge and brought out axe-heads, hoes, and plowshares. He was thought by many to be the finest smith in the kingdom.

One day, he received a message from the emperor asking him to make one thousand swords for the war which the emperor wished to wage on a neighboring land. Takumi sent word to the emperor that he would be honored to fill the order. At once, he began his preparations to cease making tools and instead make weapons.

Once he had everything prepared, Takumi lit the forge and began to shovel raw metal into the fire. As he was doing so, a voice came out of the fire. It said, “Takumi, give me your hand.”

Takumi was afraid. He said, “Who are you?”

The voice said, “I am a spirit of the fire.”

“Are you a demon?” asked Takumi.

“Yes,” said the demon. “Give me your hand, Takumi.”

“How do you know my name?” asked the smith.

“All names are known to me,” said the demon. “A demon must always greet one by one’s name. It is the First Law. If I am always to greet one by one’s name, I must, of need, know all names. Now, give me your hand, Takumi.”

Takumi did not want to put his hand in the fire, and he told the demon so.

“Very well,” said the demon. “Then there is something else you must do for me.”

“What is it?” asked Takumi.

“Bring me a child,” said the demon...

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from A Thousand Lifetimes in an Hour, released December 21, 2012

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Jesse Livingston Denver, Colorado

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