“We will make you useful,” said Jantris, storm-crowned. “Tell me, dead man, what is the most useful thing?”

At one time, Yaun could think of many useful things, such as the pot his mother had used to cook meals daily, or the piece of sturdy twine they used to fasten the door to his home shut since the wood had warped and it no longer closed properly. He may have thought of the heavy wooden screens the men of the village affixed to their houses during especially bad storms to protect them. Every house in the village was covered, no matter how destitute, and the men worked tirelessly, day and night, until all were secure. Yaun’s uncle had promised when he was older, he would join in their making, and had shown him the tools.

Now those screens, those men, Yaun’s uncle, the piece of twine, the pot his mother owned, and his mother were all carbon; and that carbon had turned into dust and mixed with the dust of the valley and been shit upon by wild dogs.

“A sword,” said Yaun, who was now a dead man.

“Good,” said Jantris, smiling with his very white lion’s teeth. “This is a promising start.”