'How are you this evening, my daughter?'

“How are you this evening, my daughter?”

Catan had been feeling somewhat optimistic, for her sister had eaten a bowl of soup an hour before and managed to keep it down, but the sight of so much emotion stirred up her own troubles again.

However, the sight of her father-​​in-​​law could serve to settle them. She only had to look at him to be reminded that Paul’s gentleness with her was not the fleeting tenderness of new love, but a part of him, whether learned or inherited.

She only had to look at him.

“I’m feeling better than yesterday and not as well as tomorrow. But I fear I’m interrupting…”

“It is not interrupting if you bring something better. Come with me for meeting my other daughter, who is younger than you, but I know her since longer time.”

'Come with me for meeting my other daughter.'

Dunstan had told her that Paul’s sister was there, though he said he wouldn’t have guessed they were related if he hadn’t been told. Neither would Cat. They were different colors and had different faces, and Lasrua even seemed shy. Cat only hoped that it was truly shyness and not animosity.

Lasrua even seemed shy.

When Lasrua seemed unwilling to smile in reply to Cat’s friendly grin, Cat in desperation asked, “You didn’t tell her I bite, did you, Osh?”

“No… but I tell her you scrache!” Osh gestured grandly with one hand to distract her from the other, which came slyly sneaking around her back to tickle her opposite side.

Cat swatted his arm away and laughed.

Cat swatted his arm away and laughed, “Paul! Your father is scrache-​​ing me again!”

Paul rolled his eyes. “Father, first of all, it is scratching, not scrache-​​ing.

“No! Because the scratching hurts, and the scrache-​​ing, it makes her laugh. See?”

This time he freely tickled her with both hands. Catan shrieked and wriggled, but it felt so good to laugh after two days spent holding back sobs.

Better still was the look on the two faces opposite her. She thought she was beginning to see a family resemblance after all.

She thought she was beginning to see a family resemblance after all.

“I think you’re embarrassing your children,” she giggled.

“That’s why!” he whispered in her ear. He grinned at his son and daughter and said, “Having children is so amusing sometimes! And look, my Cat-​​daughter: my elf daughter is so beautiful. Not like a goat at all. So you see, don’t be afraid to have a daughter. She will be beautiful like you.”

Cat smiled at him, for she thought it was a sweet thing to say both for her and for Lasrua, but Paul spoiled it by barking, “Father!”

The two bickered sharply for a moment, ending with a glare on Paul’s side and a mournful frown on Osh’s.

Catan supposed she could guess the subject of their argument.

Catan supposed she could guess the subject of their argument, but she had no idea what Paul could have said to him. Perhaps he had told him not to speak to her about children. Perhaps he had told him why. She did not know. He never spoke about it with her.

“I’m very glad I was able to see you this evening, Osh,” she murmured and patted his arm. “I was sorry to miss you yesterday. I shall leave you now to talk…”

“No!” Osh protested. “You don’t leave because of me.”

“No, no,” she reassured him, “I leave so you may be alone with your family.”

'I leave so you may be alone with your family.'

“So are you my family. You stay. And we can’t stay long time. We have the long ride tonight to do.”

Cat still did not know where the elves dwelled, but she was able to guess that it was not far, because Paul immediately asked, “Where are you going?”

“We are going in your cave, if it is empty still.”

Her husband exploded again, and this time Osh defended himself with equal vehemence. All that Cat could understand was the occasional occurrence of “sírú Madra”, which she knew was a reference to Osh’s sister, one of the highest-​​ranking elven ladies left alive.

Lasrua watched them with a frown, and Cat stood awkwardly by, watching her for lack of something better on which to rest her eyes.

Cat stood awkwardly by.

At last Lasrua seemed to remember she was there, and with an impatient roll of her shoulders she hurriedly explained, “After your wedding, the elf Sorin told my father the next time he went to see my brother, he should not bother coming back.”

Cat did not know who the elf Sorin was, but she nodded and pretended to understand.

Lasrua continued, “And today the elf Sorin learned he came here yesterday, so he sent him away.”

Paul and Osh stopped arguing and looked at her with the same, slightly sheepish expression.

“Away…?” Cat asked.

“Banished. Like my brother.”

“For visiting his son?” Cat gaped.

'For visiting his son?'

“My father has no son,” Lasrua said bitterly. “I have no brother. Do you understand?”


“It is the law,” Osh said gently.

“You can’t be taking a man’s son away with a law!

“Perhaps it is different among the men.” Lasrua lifted her head as if it was a point of pride, though she spoke with a mocking sneer: “Our laws and our customs are more important than mere family ties.”

“I can’t speak for all men, but it is certainly different among the Scots! No law is stronger than the loyalty to blood.” Cat lifted her head as well, entirely proud. “First my brother, then my cousin, then my clan, then my king.”

'First my brother, then my cousin, then my clan, then my king.'

“Reverse the order and you have summed up how we live,” Lasrua muttered.

Avé, Lú, téllénúrú,” Paul said anxiously.

“She might have guessed it already,” Lasrua replied. “If you lived in a cave for a year and your family never bothered to help you. Now we shall live in a cave, and you shall see whether our family will bother to help us.”

“You shall not live in a cave!” Paul cried.

“No, you shall not,” Cat agreed. “What does this mean? Did they send you away forever?”

“So said the elf Sorin.” Lasrua laughed as if she did not believe he meant it.

'So said the elf Sorin.'

“Who is that?” Cat asked.

“Lu!” Paul whined.

“He is our king,” Lasrua said. “He makes the laws. Or he thinks he does,” she snorted.


Cat’s curiosity about the elves was not enough to be worth distressing her husband, so she spoke up to change the subject. “But, Paul, couldn’t they come live with us?”

Paul blinked at her, as if unsure how even to begin a response.

Paul blinked at her.

They had not spoken of their house since the attack. She thought he feared she would not want to live in it now. Perhaps she would not if she had stopped to think about it, but she had not. Now there was another reason to move into it – and one less reason not to.

“It would solve our problem, wouldn’t it?” she asked. “Then when you are called away, your father could stay with us ladies. You can defend us, can’t you, Osh? With your scrache-​​ing?”

'With your scrache-ing?'

Osh laughed delightedly. “The scrache-​​ing is for only you, my Cat-​​daughter. Everyone else I scratch with my sword.”

“Your magic would be more useful,” Paul grumbled.

“So would mine,” Lasrua said.

“Lu!” he sighed. “But it’s a small house, Mina.”

“I know,” she said, “but we’re making it bigger anyway.”

“But it’s so full of people! We two, and Flann and her baby – who will cry all the time, Father. You have no idea what men’s babies are like. And there are your maids, and the housekeeper and the cook.”

'You have no idea what men's babies are like.'

“Don’t forget Lena and Penedict,” Cat said.

Paul winced.

“Oh, is that it?” she sighed. “Well, Osh, you will have to get used to the idea of having Lena around. No one shall be sitting in corners at our house. And a little half-​​elf, half-​​Scot baby, but if you don’t like those, you had better stay well away from our house, for there are bound to be more of them with the passing years.”

'There are bound to be more of them with the passing years.'

Osh grinned at her as if he found the idea rather to be an attraction.

It seemed to have softened her husband, too, so she hurriedly said, “It would please me more than anything to have a full house. Don’t forget I grew up in a house with a father and mother and eight sisters, not to mention all the maids and servants. Not a step could I take without walking on the hem of somebody’s dress.”

“Is that what you want, Mina?” Paul asked softly.

'Is that what you want, Mina?'

“Don’t you suppose my sister and I shall feel safer with two men in the house? Who are elves, no less?”

She had only asked the question to be certain he would agree, though she already thought he would. But as soon as she said it she realized how true it was, and she shivered. Her father-​​in-​​law found her hand in the folds of her skirt and gave it a squeeze.

“Don’t you believe I can protect you, Cat?” Paul asked mournfully.

'Of course I do!'

“Of course I do!” She reached out her other hand to take his. “But this way if someone is too sick to come to you, you can go to him. And you won’t have to worry about leaving us alone, because your father will be there.”

“Well,” he pouted, “of course you may have whomever you like in your house, Mina. Only tell me where I am to sleep, and toss me a crust if there’s anything left after the populace has eaten.”

“What a big baby!” she laughed.

“Look at him!” He pointed at his father’s grin. “He never meant to go to any cave! He was hoping you would ask him to stay.”

'He was hoping you would ask him to stay.'

“I wasn’t hoping, I was knowing,” Osh chuckled.

Paul shook his head. “I hope you don’t mind being wrapped around the finger of this knave,” he said to his wife.

“Not at all!” Cat cried.

'Not at all!'

She passed an arm around Osh’s back to tickle him, but she stopped when she looked over and saw Lasrua’s disapproving face.

“And you, Lasrua?” she asked gently. “Will you like to come to live with us?”

Lasrua shrugged. “I shall like seeing my brother again. And it won’t matter – the elf Sorin is bound to change his mind in a few days.”

'The elf Sorin is bound to change his mind in a few days.'