“My lady,” the knight asked, his voice low and hesitant with caution.
“Yes,” the goddess said distractedly. She had been silent since coming down the hill, her eyes locked on some far-off sight that only she could see. They passed through the village as though it was little more than fog, and she sat silent while the knight recovered his own horse from the inn's stables. He'd checked it over carefully and mounted up before daring to interrupt her reverie.
“Does something trouble you, my lady?”
“No,” she began, then stopped. After a moment's thought, she went on, “Perhaps... You are certain the smith made the sword himself?”
He glanced at the blade, still lying across her lap. “I'm certain. One of my men made sure. Is something wrong with the blade, my lady? Shall I have the smith executed?”
“No, the sword is well made. Perhaps too well made, at that,” she said. The distant, distracted look came over her face again. “How old would you guess the smith is? I've no eye for age with you humans.”
The knight shrugged a little. “A little shy of his thirtieth year, I would wager.”
“So less than twenty years before the forge and anvil,” the goddess said. “Do you remember how old the last suitable smith we found was?”
“Well into his fifties, my – ah, I see what you mean,” the knight murmured, half to himself. “And he rarely makes swords, living in a peasant village like this.”
She favored the knight with a short nod. “Do you recall what I told you, when I first brought you into my confidence, while we were searching for that last suitable smith?”
“That you sword-gods can make your own swords, but do not. That it is forbidden.”
“Forbidden by compact amongst us all.”
“'Until the fallen rise again,'” he quoted. “So you said, but you never explained what that meant.”
“It means that our swords are too great. Too powerful. We put everything at risk when we use what we craft for ourselves. We agreed to refrain from forging our own blades, until...” The goddess paused and shook her head. She looked back through the village – no, the knight realized, back towards the hill upon which they had met the smith. “I believe,” she murmured, “that the compact may be soon broken.”