He seemed to be in his own cave.

It all appeared to have been a horrible dream. He seemed to be in his own cave. His head lay on one of his own deer skins, which smelled like his own hair. He still had hair on his head – his own long hair draped over his pointed ear and down his cheek. He still had a cheek.

There was a fire, at the same distance from his face as his fire of every night. The heat of the fire was reflected by his own overhanging rock. He was not clinging to the rock, head-​​downward – he was lying on his back. He still had a back. He had no wings.

It was not until he checked his hands that he understood it had not been a dream. The palm of the right hand was all crusted with blood, and it hurt when he tugged at the dried edges of the wound.

He had a wife – he who had thought he would never have a wife at all. He had a woman for a wife – he who had been disgusted that the elf Iylaina be bound to the man Malcolm. But there was nothing disgusting about his wife.

But she was sitting right beside him.

He had a wife, and he did not even know what she looked like. But she was sitting right beside him. He would ask.

“What color is your hair, Cat? It feels blonde to me.” He tried to laugh, but his ribs ached as though he had been squeezed.

Cat did not answer, but she began to rise.

“Cat?” He tried to sit up, but he felt such a pain in his ribs when he twisted his body that he stopped and groaned.

He tried to sit up.

Cat stood, and he heard her skirts swish past his head. He realized suddenly that he did not know whether it was Cat at all. The last thing he knew of her was that Egelric had carried her off, moaning. He did not know what had become of her, and he did not know how he had come to be in his cave.

He did not know how he had come to be in his cave.

No – he did remember. The Mother of Bats.

“Who are you?”

In spite of his pain he pushed himself to his feet. He could still stand.

But the woman who was probably not Cat was already walking towards the entrance of the cave.

The woman was already walking towards the entrance of the cave.

“Who are you?” he shouted. The cave replied with an echo of his question, but the woman in her rustling skirts never replied at all.

He was alone, but he was alive.

He pushed his hair back from his face with his left hand. He realized his right would not be of much use to him for a few days. He picked at it idly with his left, scraping off the dried blood that did not scab over the wound. It was not like the neat slice of the formal ceremony. He had cut deep. He would never see it, but he thought it would leave a beautiful scar.

He thought it would leave a beautiful scar.