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The Name

There was a man thrown by his enemies into the Volga river. His body tumbled along the currents fast until it found a place where the waters eddied into ice formed thick over his head.

He hit at the frozen world with his fists, trying to break through, and when he knew it wasn't going to work, he tried to write a message with his nails; little stick letters on the sheets of ice above him . The message wasn't to anyone; he barely knew what he was writing. In the end it was blood and nerves, a mindplay to keep him from despair. He looked again at the words, his name, a mighty, once-dreaded name. But by then, even his prodigious lungs could sustain him no more and the man fell away into the caves of the under-river.

The ice was so thick it didn't break up until late Spring, when a bear broke through it to hunt fish, and the stick words broke too, like a child's puzzle. If a bard finds the man's remains, he could guess a fine tale of deception and ambition, blood and war.

But the man's real story is of clear water over his bones, a red sun growing younger as flowers rise to meet it, winter that turns into spring. He watches it all at peace, and doesn't even remember his name.

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