'There you are!'

“Paul!” Cat cried. “There you are!”

Paul seemed to be trying to make himself inconspicuous, but he came to stand in the doorway. He did not smile.

He came to stand in the doorway.

“You have blood on your cloak, my brother,” Lasrua said in the elven language.

Osh noticed it only then, for the cloak was wine-​​dark already, and only Lasrua sat to the firelit side of him.

“I need to speak with you, my father,” Paul murmured and turned back into the entry.

'I need to speak with you, my father.'

Cat could not have understood the words, but Osh feared she could understand the tone. He only hoped she had not seen the blood.

“What did he say?” she asked.

'What did he say?'

Osh was too apprehensive to answer. He had last seen his son so grim when he had come to announce that he had attempted to kill the man Malcolm and would surely be damned.

“He wishes to speak to our father,” Lasrua said stiffly.

Osh was too apprehensive to make a joke.

“He’s not going away, is he, Osh?” Cat whimpered.

He turned his head and smiled fondly at her. It seemed so odd to him that this should be her first thought and her first fear. She did not yet know what it was to be loved by an elf.

“Anything but that thing, isn’t it?” He patted her arm. “He cannot go away from you, my daughter. I think he only thinks: ‘I am so tired to find this handsome elf beside my wife whenever time I come home. Now I shall ask him to leave.’”

Cat laughed. “Anything but that!”

Satisfied that her fears had been allayed for a time, Osh followed his son back into the small dining room.

Paul had already removed his cloak and untied his hair.

Paul had already removed his cloak and untied his hair, and he sat at the table with his head in his hands. Osh was relieved to see him only distraught and not so grim. His hot-​​blooded son was easily distraught and just as easily cheered.

Osh closed the door, little though it availed against Lasrua’s ears, and went to sit beside him.

“What have you done now, my boy?”

'What have you done now, my boy?'

Paul whispered, “I spilled the blood of an elf.”

Osh’s own blood seemed to gel in his veins. It was the same thing his son had said to him a year and a half before.

Paul lifted his head and looked at him with a seriousness that seemed to indicate that Osh’s worst fears were justified.

Paul lifted his head and looked at him with a seriousness.

But it didn’t make sense – Lor was already dead. Any other elf that came to mind – Madra, Miria, Ris, Sorin himself – would have meant something too monstrous even to imagine. Osh had to hope he had only attacked the man Malcolm again.

“Whose?” he croaked.

“The mate of one of the elves who attacked my Mina.”

“The – ” Osh gasped and then laughed.

Osh gasped and then laughed.

“It isn’t funny!”

Osh clapped a hand on Paul’s shoulder. “I’m not laughing at you, my son. I’m laughing at myself and my foolish fears. When you said ‘an elf’ I thought… one of us! You should have said, ‘I spilled the blood of some miserable kisór creature,’ and not frightened your old father.”

Paul scowled and shrugged his shoulder beneath Osh’s hand, so Osh lifted it away.

Osh lifted it away.

“Is that all?” Osh asked gently.

This only seemed to make his son more sullen, though his face was nearly hidden behind the fine, blond hair he had from his mother.

Osh brushed it back and said, “You’ve done as much before, my son. What is different this time?”

“She was a wife and a mother.”

“Don’t say that,” Osh frowned.

'Don't say that.'

“She was a mate and a mother.”

“You’ve probably killed those before, as well.”

“But it was different this time,” Paul whined. “The other times, it was because they had taken the elf Iylaina or the elf Vash. This time, I simply wanted revenge. And it wasn’t enough to go after the elves who did it. I had to hurt them the way they hurt me, so I had to go after their mates.”

'I had to go after their mates.'

Osh nodded.

“But, my father, if these elves claim to love their mates, I never understood how they could hurt Cat as they did. I thought they must be monsters.”

“And so they are, my son.”

'And so they are, my son.'

“No! Or so am I a monster! I love my wife, and yet I could kill another elf’s wife! And I loved my mother, and yet I could kill another elf’s mother!”

“It is not the same thing,” Osh sighed.

“And it was all for nothing!” Paul grimaced. “So stupid! I killed the wife of the – ”

“Mate,” Osh interrupted.

Mate of the Dartesas-​​elf, but the Dartesas-​​elf is already dead! And do you know how he died?”

'And do you know how he died?'


“The elf Dre killed him! Because he was the elf who brought baby Penedict to the abbey! He died to save Penedict! And I killed his wife!”

Osh decided he would not bother correcting him again. He thought his son more upset than the situation warranted, but Osh too had loved Paul’s mother, and if he looked at it in that way, he could almost understand.

He could almost understand.

“My son,” he said gently, “if you knew all that, why did you do it?”

“I didn’t know it! Her son was there, and he told me.”

“You killed a mother before her children?”

“Do you see?” Paul cried, sounding almost triumphant now that he had forced his father to admit he had been cruel.

“May I ask you how long it took you to develop this plan?” Osh asked him.

“I didn’t have a plan. I saw her when I was riding home from the lake.”

Osh sat back in his chair. “That’s what I thought.”

'That's what I thought.'


“You didn’t think.”

Paul looked up at him with that same helpless, guilty expression he had always worn when his thoughts caught up with his deeds.

Paul looked up at him with that same helpless, guilty expression.

“When will you learn?” Osh sighed.

But Paul had already learned. He learned the lesson again every time. However, nothing learned could avail an elf who acted before he thought.

“What shall I tell my Mina?” he whimpered. “It was not a Christian act. She will never understand…”

“I think the men understand revenge very well. And she will be comforted to know that these miserable creatures will think twice before attempting to hurt her again, if they claim to ‘love’ their wives, as you say.”

“But you – don’t – understand,” Paul panted through clenched teeth.

Indeed, Osh did not. Suddenly it was as if Paul had lifted off the mask of a distraught elf to reveal an elf in anguish underneath.

But Osh only saw that terrible face for a moment before Paul hid it in his hands and sobbed, “She’ll never trust me now!”

Paul hid it in his hands and sobbed.

“Certainly she will,” Osh soothed. “She knows you wouldn’t hurt her.”

“No, she doesn’t!” he squeaked. “She’s afraid I shall. She thinks I shall hurt her as those wretched animals hurt her.”

“No, she doesn’t, my boy. Hush now…”

“She does! She won’t let me touch her. She won’t even let me look at her. And she’s so beautiful! And I could never hurt her!”

The sobs came up from deep in his lungs. This was where the anguish had its source.

Osh laid his cheek against the soft hair that might have been Sora’s, and he stroked his hand over his son’s back to ease the ache.

Osh laid his cheek against the soft hair.

He slept on the couch in the hall, directly beneath the big bedroom, and, the construction of men’s houses being what it was, he could hear everything that happened or did not happen above.

However, he had told himself that his son must love his wife in some silent way the men had. He realized only now that he had never truly believed it, and he was sorry he had never spoken of it before.

He pulled Paul’s head onto his shoulder and asked, “Did she tell you she is afraid of you, my boy?”



“Did she tell you anything?”


“Did you talk about it at all?”

“No…” Paul lifted his head and wiped his eyes, revealing that helpless, guilty expression once again.

'There you are!'

Osh snorted and shook his head. “As I recall, the two of you have already had far too many problems due to not telling one another what you were thinking.”

Paul sniffled and vigorously wiped his mustache on his sleeve.

“It is inconvenient to cry when one is married, isn’t it?” Osh smiled and pinched the tip of his son’s bearded chin. “I don’t know whether you should tell your wife what you did today, but whether or not, you need to talk to her about this. Will you?”

Paul nodded reluctantly.

Paul nodded reluctantly.

“Before anything else happens! You’ve been bound to her for half a year, and sleeping beside her from one full moon to the next. Bright Mother!” Osh punched him in the chest hard enough to make him yelp. “It’s a wonder you haven’t killed us all by now!”

'It's a wonder you haven't killed us all by now!'