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  • Two Stories
  • Rio Johan (bio)
    Translated by Rain Chudori

the greatest sword of the greatest swords

On one of the brightest, bluest days of summer, the most illustrious, prestigious blacksmith across the mountains felt the signs that his spirit would soon be sent by God Tengri to the underworld. He therefore decided to create one last work, one last sword: the greatest sword of the greatest he had ever made.

True that both the health and the mind of the blacksmith had begun to decline, yet no one in the region had come close to matching his forging skill, as proven by the dozens of weapons he’d made for dozens of khans, either those who had nothing left but legends and those who were still dwelling in this realm. The blacksmith himself was no longer sure of how many requests for “the greatest sword” had been granted by him; and when the news of his ultimate work spread throughout the region, unfurling from valley to valley, from hill to hill, from tribe to tribe, without delay khans of various tribes sped on their horses toward the blacksmith’s yurt, hoping to claim the sword.

The first to arrive was Khongkhai Khan, whose tribal dominion happened to be directly behind one of the mountains near the blacksmith’s yurt. Right after handing over all kinds of gifts and offerings—given by the khan’s associates and received by the blacksmith’s only servant—Khongkhai Khan conveyed the purpose of his arrival: “I want the greatest sword of the greatest swords that soon will be born from your hands.”

“Ah yes, my lord Khongkhai Khan. Look, if I am not mistaken, it was only two years ago that I made you the greatest sword—or was it three years ago? And now you want the greatest sword again?”

Next was Tomorbaatar Khan, who came from the peak opposite that of the first guest. This one expressed a similar desire: “May you, the greatest blacksmith for whom I have the greatest respect, entrust the greatest sword of the greatest swords to me?”

“Ohohoho, the wise and virtuous Tomorbaatar Khan, you’ve come to me twice: first, you asked for the greatest sword; second, you asked for a greater sword than the greatest sword that you’d asked for before. And now you’re asking for the greatest sword of the greatest swords, too? Wait a minute—was it you or Sukhbataar Khan? Wait, wait . . .” [End Page 1]

The third was Naimanzuunnadintsetseg Khan, who had travelled across three valleys, two crests, three pastures, and four forests to appear before the blacksmith. “With respect for you, the grand and glorious blacksmith of the mountains, the purpose of my arrival today is none other than to hope that you will grant me the last work of yours, the greatest sword of the greatest swords.”

“Well, well, Naimanzuunnadintsetseg Khan, haven’t I ever made you the greatest sword? Let me first remember the precise request you made the last time you came to me: you asked me to create the greatest sword out of the greatest swords I’d made for you and for your opponents, right? And if rumors aren’t wrong, with this sword you’ve managed to vanquish your nemesis, Nugai Khan, whose sword was also forged by myself, or was it Nekhii Khan? Wait a minute, your mortal enemy wasn’t Oktai Khan, huh?”

Next came Mongolekhorniiugluu Khan, followed by Ulagan Khan, and the next morning came Turgen Khan, then Khunbish Khan. Then Batbayar Khan and Batjargal Khan appeared at the same time, and there was a fierce argument that would’ve ended in bloodshed had the blacksmith not stopped them immediately. Later on were Timicin Khan, Medekhgui Khan, Batuhan Khan, Naranbaatar Khan, Dzhambul Khan, Batzorig Khan, and khans from every tribe of the mountains, each with the same request and the same hope. However, the blacksmith himself hadn’t yet determined to whose hands this last work of his would be entrusted; in fact, he didn’t want to bother thinking about it.

Day after day, the blacksmith was relentlessly and meticulously forging his final work; then suddenly, one morning at...


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