Saralla tapped the toe of her little slipper near Sorin's head.

Saralla impatiently tapped the toe of her little slipper near Sorin’s head, but Sorin did not take the hint.

It appeared he had composed a new poem of greeting for the occasion. While Saralla was ordinarily amused by Sorin’s poetic excesses, she thought he might have better spent the time dealing with the elf Osh and, especially, the increasingly flagrant revolt of his own son.

Saralla ordinarily appreciated Sorin's poetic excesses.

At last she heard her name in conclusion of the poem. There had been enough of the feminine in his greeting to have made the customary reply, “And you, Sorin,” seem rather humorous. But Saralla had a sense of humor of her own.

“May the earth welcome your footsteps as it seems to welcome your forehead, Sorin,” she grumbled. “Now get up.”

“I thank you for coming so late,” he said as he stood.

'I thank you for coming so late.'

“It is as well I did not wait until morning, if that greeting would have lengthened commensurately. I am an old elf to be standing so long.” She smiled wryly.

“I beg your pardon, Saralla. Please have a seat.”

Saralla was the only elf permitted to sit in the Khora’s vacant seat, and this privilege she never failed to take when she was summoned to the Khor’s chamber. She was not a particularly high-​​born elf herself, and she had achieved her rank solely by virtue of having lived so long.

She had achieved her rank solely by virtue of having lived so long.

She was not ashamed of this, however, for her longevity was no mere accident. All of her contemporaries had died early rather than face the prophesied return of the men and all the problems the men would bring. Only Saralla had had the courage and the love for her people to live on, and to take up the sacred responsibility of maintaining elven society as it had always been, as it always would be.

“Have you learned of what has happened?” Sorin asked.

'Have you learned of what has happened?'

“The elf Madra has told me.”

He frowned. “Does she know too?”

“Did you think the elf Osh would not tell his sister? I think everyone must know by now. But I wonder who had the courage to tell you.”

“The elf Osh told me.”

Saralla snorted. “He is a bold elf, but more importantly it proves how little respect he has left for you.”

'It proves he has little respect left for you.'

Sorin flushed with outrage. “How can you say so?”

“He was so certain you would not punish him that he came to tell you himself.”

“No! He came to ask for his punishment.”

“And what was it?”

Sorin flopped gracelessly onto his throne. “That is what I wished to ask you.”

'That is what I wished to ask you.'

Saralla sighed and tipped back her head until the feathers of her headdress brushed the wall behind her. Her voice buzzed strangely in her constricted throat when she spoke. “He broke a sacred law and your own ban on the same night.”


Saralla lifted her head. “What are you hoping to hear? You speak like a child who has ruled for nine days, not an elf who has ruled since he was a child of nine. You know the laws. You know the penalties.”

'You know the penalties.'

Sorin’s brow contracted and he looked away. Clearly that was not what he had hoped to hear.

“It is the elf Osh, Saralla,” he murmured. “Twenty-​​eight winters have passed us by since he became my Second.”

“One would expect an elf to learn the habit of obedience and duty in twenty-​​eight years,” she said coldly. “The elf Ris, son of the elf Dru, is a dutiful elf. Now he will be rewarded.”

Sorin squirmed very much like a boy of nine. “I shall tell the elf Osh that the next time – ”

Sorin squirmed very much like a boy of nine.

“There must be no next time! Sorin! Has a nation of bees built their hives in your ears? Do you hear what you yourself are saying?”

“Yes, Saralla, but you must allow that it was to see his son…”

“The elf Osh has no son!” She threw up her hands and cried, “Bright Mother! You elves are fools for your sons. Do you see what you have done with your ‘next time’, Sorin? You have said ‘next time’ so many times to your son that all the elves begin to understand that there will always be a ‘next time’.”

'All the elves begin to understand that there will always be a 'next time'.'

“Not all the elves, Saralla,” he growled. “Two elves!”

“More than two! Oh, Sorin, it is but spreading from your son outwards! The elf Shosudin fairly grips your ‘next time’ between his teeth every time he smiles at you. And if the elf Tashnu ever lifts his head from out between the thighs of his tshaítón slut, he will make his brother seem a model of virtue.”

'He will make his brother seem a model of virtue.'

Sorin slammed his fist against the ancient stone of his chair and staggered across the floor, his body bent and his head thrust forward like an elf in a fog. In a fog, one might have believed it the silhouette of Vash himself. They were so utterly, so disastrously alike.

“Mark my words!” she warned. “That entire generation seems intent on damning itself. Because of your son. And because of your ‘next time’.”

'Because of your son!'

“And because of the men!”

“The men! That is why we have laws, Sorin! Once we knew how to live as elves alongside the men. But that was when we had leaders like the elf Sov and the elf Sidin. Ah! Ask the elf Druze how it was. Those were elves!”

“Those were different times!”

'Those were different times!'

“There is one time, and it turns like a wheel. Those laws were made by wiser elves than you, and for times like these.”

“These laws are not binding us! We are unraveling, Saralla!”

Saralla rose, deigning not even lift a hand to request assistance. “Sorin,” she intoned. “When a knot is coming undone, do we untie it or do we tighten it?”


'When a knot is coming undone, do we untie it or do we tighten it?'

“Sorin, what do we do when a knot is coming undone?”

“We tighten it.”

Saralla turned so abruptly that the fan of feathers on her head stirred the air.

“May you have a peaceful night, Sorin.”

She walked to the door, her body straight and her head high like an elf who sees far along the path.


“May you have a peaceful night.”

'May you have a peaceful night.'