Catan laughed hesitantly.

“Friend!” Catan laughed nervously. “You don’t need a—”

“Who are you?” The elf’s voice was steel-​cold. He let the sword hang low, but his body was straight and alert, and threatening enough on its own.

“I—I’m Cat! Don’t you know me?”

“What are you?”

“I’m only my own self! Friend…”

She lifted her foot and laid it down again, slowly, but she had touched no more than the heel to the floor when the sword went up.

The sword went up.

His body was as still as stone, but his sword arm trembled just enough that a flash of sunlight quivered on the blade and rolled slowly up from the pommel to the tip.

“What did I ever do to you, that you would greet me with a sword?” she murmured. To think that she had dared hope to find him apologetic!

“Who are you?” he growled.

“I’m Cat, daughter of Flann! Don’t you remember me?”

'Don't you remember me?'

“Prove it.”

“What?” she gasped.

He bent and laid the sword on the ground. “Let me touch your hands.”


His legs were long, and he walked as confidently as if he could see her. Three rapid strides, and he stopped abruptly right before her, leaving just enough space between them for their hands to meet.

He stopped abruptly right before her.

His hands were confident too—not groping after hers, but waiting for them.

Cat was oddly disappointed. There had been something endearing about the hesitant hands that used to flutter around hers, and now she was sorry she had not taken them more often. She had since realized how important it must have been to him to touch her, being blind.

She wrapped her hands around his long fingers.

She wrapped her hands around his long fingers, and he pressed his thumbs against the backs of her hands to hold them there. He did not hold them tightly, but she could feel the latent strength of the tendons moving beneath her palms. There was nothing caressing about his hands.

“Are you angry at me, Friend?” she whispered.

“Be quiet!”

She let her tears slip free and fall. He could not see them, and if she did not try to hold them back, she thought they would not be heard in her voice.

The corners of his mouth turned sharply down. “I suppose it’s you.”

'I suppose it's you.'

“I suppose it is!” She laughed, but she had not considered that the sound of tears would surely be in her laughter.

He wrinkled his nose and shook her hands off as if they were loathsome, clinging things.

“Someone was here several nights ago,” he muttered. “She had the same voice as you, and the same—the same voice. But she didn’t have your hands.”

'She didn't have your hands.'

“Some other girl came here?” she asked. She wanted to add: “And held your hands?”

“The same voice. The same accent. She said she was you, but it wasn’t you. I chased her away.”

“I don’t like that one bit! Pretending to be me?”

“Perhaps it was a dream,” he mumbled.

“Oh! If you’re dreaming about me!” she laughed.

'If you're dreaming about me!'

He did not laugh. “What do you want? I don’t want visitors. I thought I had made you understand that.”

“I wanted…”

She was beginning to cry again. She had come up the hill with her last hope, but it too had died, and she was left hopeless. She told herself she would not even ask.

Then she told herself she would ask. She had to know, or she would go mad. And she had nothing left to lose.

She had nothing left to lose.

“I wanted to ask you what you meant when you told me you had ‘bat nature’.”


“I… I want to know about bats. I had a dream about bats.”

He snorted.

“What did you mean?” she asked.

He closed his eyes and sighed.

He closed his eyes and sighed.

“Please,” she whispered.

He opened his eyes and asked, “What will happen to you when you die?”

“If I am a good Christian, I shall go to Heaven and dwell with the Lord. And if I am a sinner and do not repent, it’s to Hell I shall go.”

“I shall tell you how it is for elves. Most of us, when we die, simply rejoin the world as air and water and earth and fire. A few of us—the blessed dead—go to the Island, which is a sort of paradise, and live there forever. And a few others, the accursed dead, live forever here in the world. As bats.”

“What do you mean?”

'What do you mean?'

He sighed in impatience. “Have you never seen a bat before? Blind and shrieking, hated and hateful, living in caves and fleeing the sun?”

“Bats are dead elves?”

“Not all of them. But some of them.”

“But you’re not dead.”

'But you're not dead.'

“Not yet. However, I am already blind and shrieking and hated, and I live in a cave.”

“And when you die…?”

“I shall become a bat and live forever in a sort of hell.”

“You already know that?”

“I don’t suppose you know whether you will go to Heaven, but there must surely be men who are certain they will go to Hell.”

'There must surely be men who are certain they will go to Hell.'

Cat said nothing. She was thinking of Leofric, and that was enough to cause her words to stick in her tightening throat.

He turned towards the cave entrance, as if to hint that he wanted her to leave. “However,” he grumbled, “I do not see what that has to do with you, since you did not even know that.”

“I… I had a dream,” she whimpered. “A giant bat bit me and made me mad, just as my friend Ethelwyn was. But the bat didn’t bite me and fly away. He wrapped his wings around my shoulders and he… he attached himself to me, with his teeth and claws. And I couldn’t pull him off, and he was so heavy I could scarcely stand…”

'It's nothing to cry about, Cat.'

“It’s nothing to cry about, Cat,” he said gruffly. “It’s only a dream.”

“But it wasn’t only a dream! I had that dream on Saint Luke’s Eve, when I used a charm to find out whom I would marry someday.”

“And now you think you will marry a bat?”

'And now you think you will marry a bat?'

“I only wonder what it means…”

“I hope you don’t think it means you will marry me!” He laughed cruelly.

“I… only…”

“Can you imagine?” He held out his arms and smiled up towards the entrance to the cave, as if with his blind eyes he could see this absurd future there in the sunlight. “I marry a woman, and have little half-​monster children, and live in a house. On a farm! And walk behind a plow! And eat bread with butter! Oh, no!”

'Oh, no!'

“No, I cannot imagine,” she said bitterly.

“But do not fear, Cat. You won’t marry a bat. You men don’t have enough magic to find out whether it will rain or shine tomorrow. You certainly don’t know how to predict whom a girl will marry. Then again, if you did, I might not despise you as I do.” He turned his head and grinned at the shadows over her shoulder.

“You needn’t be so cruel,” she muttered.

“No, but it is my nature. Bat nature! Now, tell me. Have I succeeded in ridding myself of you this time?”

'Have I succeeded in ridding myself of you this time?'

“I believe you have.”

“Very good. You see? I have you beaten.”

Cat was feeling rather desolate, but she bristled at the idea of having been beaten. “Beaten?”

“Don’t you remember? You told me you would be my friend if you wanted to be, and I couldn’t stop you. I believe I have stopped you!”

“No.” She stepped away from him and shook her head. “No. It is simply that I no longer want to be.”

'It is simply that I no longer want to be.'