'Where is she?'

“Where is she?”

Egelric cast his eyes to the right and to the left, and at first his gaze passed right over Cat, as if he were blind himself.

None of the ladies had been speaking when he came in, but there was a greater silence in the wake of his snarl.

“Egelric…” Lili began.

“There you are,” he growled in Gaelic.

'There you are.'

Cat knew she was in trouble now—her cousin only felt confident in Gaelic when it came to storming and cursing.

Hetty peeped a timid “Egelric,” and then a relieved “Alred!” as her husband came in, looking grim himself.

Egelric, Alred, and most of the men of the castle had been out looking for her when Cat had returned home. That had been a boon to her: she hadn’t been certain her cousin would allow the elf into the castle at all, and instead, by Egelric’s absence, he had been granted at least an hour of time alone with Ethelwyn, undisturbed.

So far they only knew that the anguished moans and the vicious snarls had ceased, and Cat could only hope that the hour had been time enough.

“What is this story I am told about you bringing a naked man in here?”

“He wasn’t naked,” Flann corrected.

'He wasn't naked.'

“And he wasn’t a man,” Cat added.

“Now, tell me he wasn’t in here and I shall be satisfied!” Egelric said.

“He’s in the room with Wyn,” Catan said. “And… he’s an elf.”

She could see Egelric's fury seething up in him.

Catan had seen men angry before, but she had never seen a display that she would have qualified as “boiling over”. Now, though, she could see Egelric’s fury seething up in him, and before she could speak to quiet it, it burst forth.

“An elf! In my house! You brought an elf into my house!”



Cat was not denying it. Her No was spoken both in self-​defense, in denial of the reality of this onslaught, and also as a command such as one gave to misbehaving children, telling her cousin to stop. The finger he was driving into her shoulder as he roared at her was already more physical aggression than she had ever received from a man.

“My house! With my baby in it! My sons! My wife! My family! My friend! Wyn!”

'My house!  With my baby in it!'


But for Wyn’s name, Alred could not have known what he was saying, but he laid a hand on Egelric’s arm to calm him.

“It’s blind he is,” Flann said, thinking perhaps to minimize the danger the elf posed.

“It’s deaf and dumb and cold he’ll be by the time I’ve finished with him! Let me by!”

'Let me by!'


Alred tried to catch him, for it must have looked as though he was attacking Cat herself. The truth was that Cat had thrown herself in his path, and he dragged her all the way to the door before he remembered the impossibility of opening it as long as she stood before it.

Egelric pounded on the door with both hands.

Egelric pounded on the door with both hands. “Wyn! He’s killed him!”

Cat slipped one hand through the door handle and hung from it as she ducked her cousin’s hands.

“He’s not killing him! It’s saving him he is! He only wants to help him!”

“Wyn!” Egelric gave the one last plaintive cry, and then he was entirely savage, such as Cat had never seen a man. He grabbed the sleeves of her dress and shook her so it was her own head banging against the door. “Sneaking slut! Devil-​lover!”

'Sneaking slut!  Devil-lover!'

Alred had been attempting to herd the other ladies out of the room, but he came back to yank at Egelric’s arms. “Calm yourself! Egelric! Have you lost your mind?”

But Egelric was a far bigger man than the Duke, and furious. Storming and swearing, he did not even hear English.

“Get away from that door or, God help me, I will pick you up by your ankles and beat it down with your body!”


“Egelric!” Alred could shout just as loud.


Egelric paused for an instant, and his arms began to drop. Cat took advantage of his inattention to pull herself up on the door handle and stand a little taller, but Egelric took advantage of her imbalance to grab her by the shoulders and hurl her to the side.

Her hand was twisted and crushed in the door handle before her fingers slipped out of it, and she screamed in pain as she had not yet been able to scream in fear. Then she fell flat at her sister’s feet.

She fell flat at her sister's feet.

She could only hear what was happening behind her. The door flew open and smacked into the shelf, and Egelric and Alred both cried out in surprise.

“Cat!” the elf shouted.

“Don’t hurt him!” Cat wailed in English. She was trying to push herself up again, but her left hand was useless. She would not be able to defend the elf as she had defended the door.

She would not be able to defend the elf as she had defended the door.

“Cat!” His voice had a higher, anxious pitch now that he had heard her own voice coming up from the level of his feet.

All at once, every candle in the room was extinguished, though there was not the slightest breath of wind. Flann screamed, and Egelric and Alred cried out again. Except for the light coming in through the open door, they were all as blind as the elf now.

They were all as blind as the elf now.

As she pulled herself up on her sister’s skirts, Cat heard the scrape of a sword being drawn, and she cried, “No!” again, still willing it to be untrue, still telling her cousin to stop.

“Put your sword away!” Alred howled. “Damned idiot! You can’t hit what you’re swinging at when you can see!”

“I shall hit this one!”

“Put it away before you kill me or the women!”

Somehow the elf found Cat in the dark. Never had anything felt so good to her hands as his bare skin and the muscles of his arm and shoulder moving beneath it. The men were all her enemies, and he was her only ally.

Somehow he found her in the dark.

“Let him go!” she sobbed. “He isn’t here to hurt anyone!”

Mouse slipped past them all to the open door. “Wyn!”

“What’s going on here?” Alred cried, exasperated.

'What's going on here?'

“He’s an elf,” Flann said in the low voice of one spectator explaining a scene to another. “He’s here to cure Wyn as Iylaine cured Lili.”

“Let go of her!” Egelric snarled at the elf, ignoring his audience.

She could hear him feeling his way towards them in the dark, and the elf’s arm leapt from her hands to swing at him. She heard his fist hit and even felt the jolt in his body as his hand ran into a stationary object. She heard her cousin swear in Gaelic again, and she knew they were in trouble.

“Let him go!” she pleaded. “It’s blind he is! He can’t hurt anyone!”

“That hurt!”

Cat felt a hand close over her wrist, and before the elf could catch her, Egelric had yanked her away and held her pinned against his own body in the crook of his arm.

Egelric had yanked her away and held her pinned against his own body in the crook of his arm.

“Get you out of my house!” he roared.

“He can’t see!” Cat sobbed. “Let me go with him!”

“That I will not!”

The elf backed as far across the room as the great door, but he did not open it. “What will you do to her?” he growled.

“That’s no affair of yours! You’ve seen your last of her and all my family. If I see you again, I shall carry you out of here in pieces!”

“You shall not hurt her for my sake,” the elf warned. His very voice seemed venomous, and Cat was reminded even without seeing his ears that he was no man. “If you hurt her, I will break your heart a dozen times, and not until you have laid the last of your beloved ones in the ground will I allow you to die.”

'I have nothing left to lose.'

“Devil! Who are you to threaten me?”

“Her friend. Your enemy. A dangerous enemy, Egelric. I have nothing left to lose.”

“Devil! I shall kill him!” Egelric shook Cat like a rag doll, provoked beyond reason. He seemed as mad as Ethelwyn. “Alred! Take her!”

Alred brushed past Cat, but he did not attempt to take her. “Get out of here,” he said to the elf. His voice was warning but not threatening. “This is his house, and you are not welcome here.”

“Alred!” Egelric growled through clenched teeth, but with Cat’s struggling he did not dare release her.

'Let me go with him!'

“Let me go with him!” she cried. “He’s blind! He can’t find his way home!”

Someone—the elf or Alred—opened the door, and they both disappeared into the corridor. She heard the shouts of the guards and the clang of one of the iron torchères hitting the stone floor. The light in the corridor grew that much dimmer. She also heard Alred telling them to let the elf go.

Cat fought with her cousin, desperate to run after the elf, and finally Egelric’s impatience to see what was happening drove him to push her out the door ahead of him.

But the elf was already gone.

“He’s blind!” Cat whimpered.

'He's blind!'

He had over two miles to walk in the utter darkness of his eyes, and there were men and dogs out in the forest, still looking for her. She did not even know whether he would be able to find his way home at all. She had held his hand all the way down.

“How can you be so cruel?” she sobbed.

“Cruel!” her cousin roared. “Get you to bed and don’t let me see you before the morning, or I shall show you cruel!

“Egelric, Egelric…” Alred sighed. “Get you to Wyn’s side and don’t let him bite Mouse, if you please. It’s over for tonight.”

“But he’s blind!” Cat pleaded.

“I shall do what I can, my dear,” he muttered and headed for the door.

'I shall do what I can, my dear.'