Osh had not been so nervous about anything in many years.

Osh had not been so nervous about anything in many years.

“Go on!” Tashnu whispered. “What are you waiting for? Grandchildren?”

Osh had already picked out his son’s voice from the others behind the door. He could not understand the English at this distance, but it sounded like he was doing what he did best: making others laugh. And his son had never been too proud to laugh at his own jokes. There was that same high-​pitched, bleating laugh he had laughed since boyhood. It only made the jokes funnier and him more adorable.

Osh feared he would cry.

His son sounded happy. All the men and women and children with him sounded happy. Osh feared he would cry. He had not been a happy elf in many years.

Finally Vash rolled his eyes and opened the door for him.

Finally Vash rolled his eyes and opened the door for him.

Osh saw him at once across the room, with his fair hair—he had let it grow—his tall, lean body, and the graceful way he bore it, with one proud line from his head to the foot that bore his weight, and all the rest of his limbs awhirl in sweeping gestures illustrating his joke.

Osh could have watched him for hours.

Osh could have watched him for hours: he had already come closer to him than he had ever thought to be again. But a little boy squealed, “Vash is here! Jupiter!”

His son lifted his head. “Vash?” he cried. And then: “My father!”

Osh did not have time to wonder how his blind son had guessed at his presence before he had spoken. He did not have time to wonder how he crossed the room so quickly and without stumbling. He only had time to brace himself before the impact.

He only had time to brace himself before the impact of his body.

“My father! What are you doing here?”

Osh was being squeezed and shaken too much to reply with more than a laugh.

“Egelric told me you were being married today,” Vash said solemnly. “He thought I would want to come. He wanted me to tell you that he could not come himself for his elder daughter’s sake, but for the sake of the younger he wishes you happiness and good fortune and a great number of pointed-​eared children with ugly noses.”

Osh’s son laughed and kissed him quickly on both cheeks before turning to the other two elves that had accompanied them. “And Shus! And Nush!”

'Your eyes!'

Shosudin gasped, “Your eyes!”

“My eyes!” he cried gleefully and looked back to his father.

“Kiv… Your eyes!” Osh whispered.

'Kiv... Your eyes!'

When last he had seen them, they had been an eerie white, as if their blue had been veiled over with snow clouds. Now the blue was clear again.

“My eyes!” he laughed. “But you mustn’t call me Kiv now, my father. I have a new name now, by the rite of the men which is called ‘baptism’. Now I am called Paul.”

Shosudin lifted an eyebrow. “Pol?”


“What does it mean?” Osh asked.

'It means little!'

“It means ‘little’!” his son laughed. “A fine joke on me! But the men name themselves for other men, and I am named for a man who was blind and began to see because he became a Christian. And so did I.”

“That’s not possible…” Vash murmured.

'That's not possible...'

“Look at me! Or let me look at you rather!” Paul laughed.

“The Bright Lady said even she could not let the light back into your eyes. If you believe her, that is…” he added under his breath.

“I think their ‘Abbot’ has powerful magic,” Paul said. “Greater than the Shalla’s. Or, if not him, God who worked through him, as he said.”

Osh wanted to know more about this magic, but the curly-​headed little boy who had announced their arrival had meanwhile managed to squirm free of the grasp of a curly-​headed man.

The boy bowed.

He bowed and said in English, “Good evening, sir. I am Lord Cynewulf, and this is my father’s castle, but you may call me Old Man. Are you Paul’s father?”

“How did you guess?” Vash smiled.

“Because they look almost alike except for the hair. And because you are his best friend, but he hugged this elf first.”

“Did you understand?” Vash asked Osh.

“I am fader of him, yes,” Osh grinned. It was funny to be saying it in English, but it was a joy to be saying it at all.

'I am fader of him, yes.'

His son seemed to be calling across the room to his wife, for he followed an English phrase with “my lady-​cat” in the elven language. Osh tried to guess which of the young women was she, but the little boy was intent on talking to him.

“Are you a knight or a lord, sir?” he asked. “I have asked your son, but he never wants to tell me.”

Vash laughed. “Is it important?”

“What if I have unintentionally been treating Paul below his rank?” the boy asked slyly. “As far as I know he only comes in after the knights.”

'As far as I know he only comes in after the knights.'

“What would you do if I told you he was a Duke’s son?” Vash asked, twice as slyly.

“Jupiter!” the boy gasped. “Is he? Are you a duke, sir?”

“And your friend Paul is the eldest son, whereas you are only the third. Therefore he comes in before you!”

'Therefore he comes in before you!'

“Jupiter! This is serious! He comes in before everybody except the royal family and my parents! Cat! Did you hear that? Your husband is a Duke’s son?”

“What?” Paul wailed in the elven language. “What are you telling him, Vash?”

“The truth.”

“We don’t have ‘dukes’ and ‘earls’!”

“Your father is Sorin’s Second. If khór is ‘king’ then dítós dakhör is ‘duke’.”

'Your father is Sorin's Second.'

“I shan’t be anything when Sorin gets wind of this visit,” Osh muttered.

“To me you shall always be what you were,” Vash growled. “As shall your son.”

Osh shook his head. He was grieved as ever at Vash’s defiance of his father, and at Sorin’s obstinacy, and at the unwillingness of either of them to listen to the good advice of anybody else. Worse, Osh himself had allowed himself to be drawn into Vash’s silent revolt by accompanying him to visit his son on this day.

Osh shook his head.

But Osh had so longed to see him. He had nothing else to live for besides his daughter, and she would be married and gone to her husband’s house in less than one moon’s time. His son and his son’s wife should have remained with him. He should not have had to grow old all alone.

'This is my wife, Catan.'

“My father,” his son said in careful English. “This is my wife, Catan.”

“Cat, everyone calls me,” the girl said in heavily accented English.

“Which is why I call her Mina.”

“Does she scrache?” Osh asked, flexing pretend claws. He was not above laughing at his own jokes either.

'Does she scrache?'

“Well,” Paul said thoughtfully, “she tried to kill me the first time we met. But not since then.”

“Kill you?” Osh laughed.

“And her best friend is a Mouse, so you see how sweet and harmless she must be.”

'She smiles like if she doesn't agree.'

“She smiles like if she agrees not.”

“That looks like a sweet and harmless smile to me,” his son sighed. “Isn’t she beautiful?”

Osh had to admit she was, though she was as unlike Miria as two dark-​haired ladies could be. Miria was everything that was beautiful about an elf, excepting her long nose with its unfortunate bump between the eyes. This woman Catan, with her tawny skin and pointed face, was beautiful like a fox.

“It’s a lucky thing I never saw her before this day,” his son said. “I never would have dreamt she could love an elf who looks as much like a goat as I.”

“A goat?” Osh scoffed. “Who says it? You look like me.”

'You look like me.'

Shosudin leaned over his shoulder and purred, “That is precisely what he means.”

Osh decided not to be offended. “So she must like goat looks, so she must like me! Is it not? Black-​hair goat is fine too.”

“Aye,” Catan laughed.

Osh patted his beard fondly, and she seemed to take it as an invitation, for she suddenly stood on her toes and kissed his cheek.

She suddenly stood on her toes and kissed his cheek.

“It’s glad I am to know you,” she said.

“Ah!” Osh cried, charmed speechless.

“Your son has told me so much about you, and how happy he was as a boy. And he hopes he will be as good a father as you are.”

Osh was so moved he could not even cry aloud. Until she had mentioned his son’s desire to be a father, he had temporarily forgotten that this young woman would be the mother of his grandchildren.

'He hopes he will be as good a father as you are.'

He had mourned so long with his sister Madra over the grandchildren they would not have from Kiv and Miria that he had not been prepared to be so deliriously pleased at the idea of the grandchildren he would have from this fox named Cat and his goat-​faced boy Paul.

He could not understand why. They could not come to live with him. He would have to defy Sorin’s law merely to visit them.

But his son soon came to steal Catan away, claiming to be jealous of her obvious attraction to goats of any color. When Osh saw them together he understood.

When Osh saw them together he understood.

Osh had not thought his son would ever see again, or smile again, or joke again, or speak to another elf again. He certainly had not dreamt he would ever take a wife and have children. He had not thought his son would ever be happy again.

Osh had not thought he himself would ever be happy again, either, but he was. He had not been so happy about anything in many years.

He had not been so happy about anything in many years.