“It’s a trick.”
Her stare is hard and level. Ten years from now it will give some hapless swain a lot of trouble, but for now it’s focussed on the jar I’m holding. I’ve learnt to laugh at times like this, to say, of course it’s a trick, and wink. It’s better this way. Laugh first, and their laughter hurts a little less.
The words are on my lips, but as the jar vibrates in my hand I see the sliver of uncertainty behind her stare.
“All magic is a trick,” I tell her, “a trick played on nature.” I almost say, on the old high gods, but I’ve learnt not to stretch these fragile moments. Her solemn eyes drink in my certainty, and feed me back a flicker of belief. A flicker! I had the belief of kings and warriors, once. It’s hard, sometimes, to rely on the wavering belief of children, and to know that even this will fade and die.
There will be no power then to trap the thunder, and men will believe again, strong men.
It’s better this way.