It was a glad thing to Surr.

The sun was sinking behind the world, but the air was warm with the humid heat of rapidly growing things. The leaves had come out early this year, and it was a glad thing to Surr, for it seemed that some of his mother’s old happiness had come out again with them. If he was not mistaken, his father had left her one last gift before he had gone away forever. Perhaps she would even have her heart’s fondest wish: a daughter.

She was behind them on the hill.

She was behind them on the hill, only gathering up the whiplike stems of the young soft-​​rush to make her baskets, but he could hear her giggling as she chased after the first butterflies come to feed on the first blooms. He thought her so beautiful that he would not have been surprised to learn a few of them mistook her for a flower and fluttered down to kiss her cheeks. If they did not, he told himself that he would correct their error when she came down.

But Surr’s daydream ended abruptly with his mother’s laughter. Her scream seemed to strike him across his chest like a lash, and all his blood throbbed with a bodiless pain and a horror like nothing he had ever felt before.

His brothers seemed to feel it too.

His brothers seemed to feel it too, for they all howled, even little Llam.

An elf on the hill screamed, “Bleed! Bleed! Bleed!”

An elf on the hill screamed.

Surr saw the flash of sunlight on a sword.

“Take the baby and run home!” he shouted at his brothers as he ran up the hill. “Get Lar or Llen or anyone!”

'Take the baby and run home!'

Surr did not have his own sword, but he did not stop to think about that. He did have his knives, but he did not think about that either. His only thought was that he had to be with his mother.

She lay amid the weeds.

But there was nothing he could do for her. She lay amid the weeds, and a deep gash across her chest still bled a slick stream down her throat and across the earth – far too much blood for it to have come so quickly without being called out of her.

His own blood beat against his body, as if it would join hers. Just then he did not care if the elf killed him too.

“You killed my mother,” he muttered.

“Perhaps I shall kill this elf, as well,” the elf growled.

'Perhaps I shall kill this elf, as well.'

He was tall and blond and magnificent, and Surr had never dreamed there could be so much fire in one elf. He could scarcely bear his own fire as it flared up in response.

“I wish you had killed me and left my mother alone,” Surr said.

“Ah, but I shall not,” the elf sneered. “I must leave this elf live. It shall run home and tell its father that the blind elf can see again. And now that he can see, he is looking for vengeance.”

“My father is dead,” Surr snarled.

'My father is dead.'


“My father is dead! The elf Dre killed him – because he took the Scot-man’s baby back to the men!”

The tip of the sword slowly sank towards the earth.

“You like the men, don’t you?” Surr shouted. “He helped the men, and he was killed for it! And to thank him you killed his wife! My mother! And the baby she would have had! My father’s last child!”

'And the baby she would have had!'

Surr thought for a moment that his blood had found a way to escape his body by bursting from his eyes, but then he realized that it was only tears. It seemed strange to him, for he felt no grief, only anger and hatred and a pain that seemed larger than his body.

“He tried to kill my wife,” the elf said. “He raped my wife and left her to die.”

'He raped my wife and left her to die.'

“My mother didn’t.”

The mighty elf’s voice quavered. “How could he do that to my wife if he loved his own?”

“How could you?”

The elf howled wordlessly and smacked at his head with his free hand.

The elf howled wordlessly and smacked at his head with his free hand.

Here and there tufts of dead, dry weeds burst into brief flame. Surr had never felt his own fire mount so high, and he feared for a moment that the elf would kill him without his sword.

But then the elf sheathed his sword and ran.

“Her name was Khara!” Surr shouted after him.

'Her name was Khara!'

The elf did not slow.

“My name is Surr!”

The sound of running feet was shortly replaced by galloping hooves.

Surr dropped to his knees amid the weeds.

Surr dropped to his knees amid the weeds, the sweet-​​rush, the flowers, and his mother’s blood. The blood he had from his mother was calling out to hers.

He too had always wondered how his father could have done it. Now he understood how blood called after blood called after blood, through the ages, like another wheel that turned inside of time. He did not see how it could ever end.

He did not see how it could ever end.