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Heaven « back

The canopy of heaven was to be built by three brothers, blacksmiths all. One—Aegenus, thick like an old tree with eyes of green fire and hair like thistles—said it should be round, a bowl cut in half by one swift stroke of a supra-heated blade so that the melted edges could be seared into the world.

The second brother had a habit of rubbing the knuckle of his left ring finger; the digit ended just below that last knuckle, scar tissue worn smooth and shiny from his constant ministrations. His name was Xernbawe and he believed that Heaven was square, held up not by one pillar but by four.

The third brother, Ghen, was lame in one leg and deaf in one ear, and he stumped painfully down to the bird hut by the river. "Old Mother," he asked the old witch who lived there. "How should we make Heaven?"

"My fire is dying," she said. "Gather me wood, and I will tell you."

Ghen dragged dead trees down from the hills and cut them into short logs that would fit into the narrow mouth of her soot-blackened fireplace. He stacked the wood behind her crooked house, shoring up the building's developing cold-weather hunch. Resting his aching leg, he sat on her dusty hearth and nursed her fire back to health and heat. "Tell me the secret, Old Mother," he asked her a second time.

"I already have," she replied.

Ghen watched sparks float up into the darkness of her chimney and understood Heaven's purpose.

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