Myrddin did not intend to flinch.

Myrddin did not intend to flinch, but his body recoiled reflexively as the demon came swooping down upon him. His body did not realize that Dantalion could not permit himself to harm it.

“Oh, sorry,” Dantalion purred. “I seem to have blown a bit of snow on you.”

'I seem to have blown a bit of snow on you.'

The great black hands came up to brush at his robe, but Myrddin shoved them away. He glared until the demon began to chuckle. He glared until the demon began to laugh aloud. Still he glared, hating with all his heart and hoping it showed in his eyes, until at last Dantalion grew impatient and coughed, “What do you want? I dislike the feeling of snow between my toes.”

Myrddin grumbled, “If you weren’t so determined to intimidate me with your big black self and your – ooooh – scary wings, you could come as a man and wear some shoes.”

'You could come as a man and wear some shoes.'

“How we do suffer to be beautiful,” Dantalion sighed, admiring his broad hand at the length of his arm.

“Would you be less beautiful with boots?”

Dantalion looked down his naked body to where his black feet punched two holes in the snow. “Less beautiful, because more absurd.”

Myrddin laughed. “I would give a lot to see that.”

“Just to please you, I promise that when I kill you, I shall be wearing nothing but – ooooh! – scary wings and a pair of boots.”

'I shall be wearing nothing but--ooooh!--scary wings and a pair of boots.'

Myrddin grinned and reached up to pat the mark across the demon’s cheek. “So long as you are wearing this, I need not fear your scary boots.”

“And what will you do if one stronger than you comes along and steals me away from you? And orders me to kill you with or without boots on?”

“Perhaps the one stronger than I will be my pupil,” Myrddin said with a smug smile.

“Perhaps the pupil will turn against the teacher?” Dantalion chuckled. “Isn’t that how it usually happens?”

'It will be worth it if we make it that far.'

“It will be worth it if we make it that far,” Myrddin grumbled. “Now tell me what you’ve learned.”

Dantalion studied the back of his hand. “About what?”

Myrddin snorted in impatience. “Anything! Do you serve any purpose whatsoever? Why don’t you tell me why the elf Vash isn’t going to the lake any longer?”

“Perhaps the pupil has turned against the teacher. That is, I believe, usually how it happens.”

'That is, I believe, usually how it happens.'

Myrddin seized his beard with both hands in fury. “I don’t want to hear your speculations,” he hissed. “Don’t you have spies in there?”

“That elf does not confide in anyone – least of all a base-​​born spy. He may still speak to the unnamed elf, but – alas! – I am not permitted to go near him.”

“I don’t want you going among the men!” Myrddin cried. “I may need you later, and if they have all seen the mark… Oh!” Myrddin stroked his heard thoughtfully. “But it is true that elf is blind…”

'But it is true that elf is blind...'

“It won’t work,” Dantalion sniffed. “He will know it is I.”

“What does he know about you?”

“I don’t know, but he would know.”

Myrddin stamped his foot in the snow. “And just how do you know that?”

Dantalion folded his arms and stared up at the sky through locks of stringy hair.

'Dantalion folded his arms and stared up at the sky through locks of stringy hair.'

“What aren’t you telling me?” Myrddin growled.

Dantalion waved his hand in annoyance.


Dantalion mumbled, “Because I have already tried.”

“What?” Myrddin shrieked.


“While he was still in his cave. I went to him as the Scot girl, but he knew me.”

“What?” Myrddin hopped up and down, stamping both feet at once.

“You said you wanted a child from the elf and the Scot girl…”

'You said you wanted a child from the elf and the Scot girl...'

“Not by way of you! What good does it do me if it has your stamp on it?”

“Anyway, I did not succeed. But you needn’t worry. Clearly, he did not see the mark.”

“But if he knew you?”

Dantalion was too busy looking up at the stars to answer. He was far too tall for Myrddin to see whether he was rolling his eyes, but the old man thought it likely.

'There is no call for you to arrange any such trysts by proxy.'

“Anyway,” Myrddin huffed, “there is no call for you to arrange any such trysts by proxy. The Scot Aengus will soon be having a child by his own wife, who is also a Scot. And they say there will be two, so we shall take our pick.”


“In the summer. And if that doesn’t work, the sister of Catan will be having a child in the fall, and that one doesn’t even have a father to stand in – ”

“Who?” Dantalion interrupted, pressing his face close to Myrddin’s as if daring him to back away.


“Flann, the sister of Catan. They’re both staying in – ”

“Who?” the demon cried.

“Girl-​​Flann, they call her. Another Scot like her sister.”

“Who is the father?” Dantalion barked, unaccountably angry.

'Nobody knows.'

“Nobody knows,” Myrddin shrugged. “She didn’t…” He squinted suspiciously up at the demon’s face, which seemed, despite the apparent impossibility of the idea, to be growing blacker. However, he did not have a chance to ask Dantalion whether he had anything to do with this mysterious conception.

The demon flung wide his wings, threw back his head, and rent the air with a bellow that pealed from hill to hill like thunder, louder than the cry of any mortal beast.

The demon flung wide his wings, threw back his head, and rent the air with a bellow.

Myrddin clapped his hands over his ears and sobbed in pain, bent double and shaking with the reverberation of the air in his lungs. His eyes streamed with tears and a quivering rope of saliva drooped from his slack lip, but he fought desperately to stay upright. He might well tell himself that Dantalion could not harm him, but his innards melted with fear at the idea of falling at the demon’s feet.

He had never seen the glib, sardonic Dantalion truly in a passion of any sort. His outbursts of anger at being led around by such a creature as Myrddin had been nothing more than the twitches of a horse bothered by a fly. A bound and muzzled monster such as Dantalion could still kill his handler merely with his thrashing.

A bound and muzzled monster such as Dantalion could still kill his handler.

When the roar stopped, when the echoes had died, when Myrddin at last dared unclasp his hands from over his ears, already dogs all up and down the valley were barking. From the hills came the alarmed howls of wolves. Soon men would be crying out to one another in wonder. The monks would be troubled in the morning to learn that they had slept through such a blare – if his spell of sleep had been enough to keep them unconscious at all.

Myrddin ducked as the dark wings swooped over his head. He did not even remember what he had said.

Myrddin ducked as the dark wings swooped over his head.