'It looks bigger without all the junk in here.'

“Hmm!” the Duke grunted. “It looks bigger without all the junk in here. Rather cavernous, in fact – though I suppose you are accustomed to that by now, Friend.”

“I prefer a cavern with a fire to a shed without,” the elf said.

“This cavern has a couple – no, three! There’s one upstairs, too. I think we shall put Lena and the baby upstairs, eh, my dear? It’s warmer up there.” He pointed up at the loft when his question was met with a blank smile. “Upstairs? Up?”

“It is up for me!” Lena cried breezily and laughed.

'It is up for me!'

“It is up for you, and up for baby, too! She doesn’t seem to mind the idea,” he said to the elf. “Egelric said Sela was terrified to come into the house the first time.”

The elf snorted. “The Sela-​​elf was accustomed to sleeping under bushes. The Lena-​​elf is not that sort.”


Alred paused to rub his nose. He knew it was useless to query the elf further on the manners and customs of his kind or Lena’s, and Alred personally did not like to delve into the elf’s opinions of Sela, Wulf, and “that sort” of elves.

“There’s a fire in the kitchen here,” he continued, “and another on the other side of the chimney. There’s more room up in the loft on that side, but you might prefer to put your bed by the other fire back in the corner.”

'You might prefer to put your bed by the other fire back in the corner.'

“I think I shall. Thank you.”

On any other subject, the elf was polite and affable, and he even had a mischievous sense of humor that Alred could not help but appreciate. He would simply require a little taming, just as Sela had – though not of the same sort.

Lena, however, was delightful just as she was.

“Would you mind lighting the candles, my dear?”

“Now I light candles!” she said eagerly, and as she looked around the room, every candle that passed beneath her gaze sprouted a tiny flame.

Alred laughed. “To think I had an elf in my castle all these years, and yet I was always trotting down the corridors with candlesticks and burning rushes.”

“One would not ask such an elf as Lady Iylaine to light candles like any servant,” the elf said coldly.

'One would not ask such an elf as Lady Iylaine to light candles like any servant.'

Alred frowned with a corner of his mouth, but there was some truth in what the elf had said. He had never sent Iylaine scurrying down corridors with candlesticks and burning rushes to light his lamps ahead of him; it was not certain he would have asked the service of her if he had known she could have lit them by merely looking at them.

It was simply that he did not like the elf’s poorly hidden disdain for Lena, which was only the more galling because the elf had made everyone understand that his treatment of her should have been far less respectful than it was. The liberties he granted Lena seemed to be due to his own status as an outcast from elven society, and yet he granted them with the haughtiness of a lord.

“Oh, no, oh, no, don’t mind that!”

'Oh, no, oh, no, don't mind that!'

Alred hustled across the room to pull Lena away from her scrutiny of a rough charcoal sketch on one of the pillars. “We shall have one of the maids scrub down the walls before you move in. I wish I had thought of that before.”

He left her smiling dazedly and returned to the elf.

“Please apologize to her for any obscene graffiti the guards might have left. I believe they were already moved into the new barracks before I employed the young artist whose masterpieces on those walls have so regrettably hastened the amatory education of my nine-​​year-​​old son. However, the previous crew made up in imagination what they lacked in artistic talent.”

'The previous crew made up in imagination what they lacked in artistic talent.'

The elf smiled slowly. “You realize that she will have to describe them to me before I can tell her they are obscene?”

“Yes… that is rather awkward… I hope you will tell her that men cannot actually perform all the maneuvers here portrayed, nor have they been invested by their Creator with such prodigious instruments wherewith to perform them. Don’t want to frighten the girl, after all.”

'Don't want to frighten the girl, after all.'

“Or tempt her.”

“Frighten her!” Alred laughed. “I assure you.”

“You give me another reason to wish I had eyes.”

“You might ask my son to give you a descriptive tour,” he sighed. “Him and Haakon and that Heafoc. Boys these days! That’s the kitchen, Lena!”

Alred hurried after her.

“Kitchen,” she repeated gravely.

“This is where you may cook. Do you know how to cook?”



“She doesn’t know how to cook,” the elf said. “She doesn’t know how to do anything except sing and dance and be pretty.”

“When a lady is as pretty as this, what more could one ask of her? Do you know what pretty is, Lena?”

“Pretty is Penedict!” she cried.

'Pretty is Penedict!'

“That is the best possible answer to that question!” Alred smiled. “A pretty baby he is. Pretty is Lena, too.”

“I can cook what we need,” the elf said coolly.

“That won’t be necessary. I shall have your meals sent out to you. And, if you ever change your mind, you are always welcome at our table.”

“Thank you.”

“Is there anything you like to eat or don’t? Iylaine eats as we do, but she was raised with us.”

The elf shrugged. “We shall eat as you do. We live with the men now.”

'We live with the men now.'

“We live with Alred-​​man!” Lena giggled.

“We live with the man Alred,” the elf corrected. His voice softened when he asked Alred, “Do you have bread and butter?”

“Of course! Do you like that?”

“No. But I should like to learn.”

Alred paused for the split second required to think of a funny commentary on bread and butter, and in that time so many things happened that he forgot it entirely when it was over. The door was thrown open and slammed shut, and something tall and green and squealing darted between him and Lena. The elf cried, joyously, “Iylaina!” before snarling something in his own language that sent Lena scrambling to sit in the corner, her head down, fairly cowering.

Alred let out in a gasp the breath that should have borne the funny comment.

Alred let out in a gasp the breath that should have borne the funny comment.

“Kiv!” Iylaine cried. “Gwynn told me you were here! Do you mean to stay forever and ever?”

“Iylaine…” the elf murmured. “Please don’t call me that. And, Iylaine…”

'I can come see you every day it's fine!'

“I can come see you every day it’s fine! It isn’t far at all. Only think of it! Now I shall have an elf for a friend! And you may tell me what I don’t know about being an elf! Come up in the loft with me. I used to play here all the time when I was little. Come on!”


Iylaine dragged the feebly protesting elf to the ladder and sent him climbing up ahead of her.

Alred was left with Lena, who still sat with lowered eyes. Her entire body was seized in a deathlike stillness, making this gesture of humility seem somehow sinister.

'You needn't sit there, Lena.'

“You needn’t sit there, Lena,” he said softly. “Even our King does not demand that we sit on the floor in his presence. You live with the men now.”

Lena glanced up at him, but she did not rise.

“I shall have Hetty show you how to curtsey when a lady such as Iylaine enters the room.”

She did not answer. He did not think she understood. And before it could be explained to her, he would have to make this haughty elf understand.

He would have to make this haughty elf understand.