Shosudin wished Tashnu could have come.

Shosudin wished Tashnu could have come. They needed one elf to watch Malcolm and one elf to watch Egelric, since Vash wasn’t likely to watch anyone but Iylaine. For that matter, they needed a fourth elf to watch Vash.

“Supposing you told us what you came here to tell us?” Egelric snapped.

'Supposing you told us what you came here to tell us?'

It seemed Vash had been watching too long already.

“Yes…” Vash said weakly. “First, I… What did I want to say first, Shus?”

“Iylaine,” Shosudin said hurriedly. “Did you recognize the elf who saved you last night? The one…” He looked back to Vash.

'The one who stayed in the water?'

“The one who stayed in the water?” Vash concluded.

Iylaine answered with a scarcely perceptible shake of her head. She was stroking her belly as if it were a cat sleeping on her lap.

Shosudin asked, “Do you remember the elf who brought your baby back to you?”

'Do you remember the elf who brought your baby back to you?'

Shosudin had been speaking gently for Iylaine’s sake, leaning towards her, and he was startled when he heard Malcolm exhale sharply through his nose. They needed another elf.

Iylaine whimpered, “I hate him. I hate him and Uncle Mustache and all the elves who stole my baby.”

“No, Iylaine,” Vash said. “You mustn’t say that. He didn’t steal your baby – he only brought him home to you. He was your father. He was your baby’s grandfather. And he died last night to save you.”

'And he died last night to save you.'

Everyone was watching Iylaine.

Egelric spoke first. “Pol?” he asked.

Vash stared too intently at Iylaine to answer.

“Yes,” Shosudin said.

Egelric sighed and was silent long enough that Shosudin turned back to Iylaine. She had stopped stroking her belly and was only stroking the back of one thumb with the other.

“Where is my son now?” Egelric asked.

'Where is my son now?'

Shosudin thought that Vash was leaning dangerously close to Iylaine. He spoke quickly in the hope of distracting the two men, if not Vash himself.

“He is with her mother’s brother this morning. In truth, he is with all the elves who love him. However, he will surely wish to stay with Polin and his family.”

“Perhaps if he were given the choice, he would wish to go to his true father now,” Egelric growled.

“I never did,” Iylaine said softly.

'I never did.'

They all turned to her. Vash was startled enough that he sat up straight.

“The difference,” Malcolm snarled, “is that Finn’s father loves him too much to ever have let him go!”

“Malcolm…” Egelric warned. “Not today.”

“What?” Malcolm cried.


“I’ll not be letting you say he didn’t love her enough the morning after he died for her.”

Malcolm smacked the pillar beside him in frustrated anger, but he said no more.

“What about this other elf?” Egelric asked. “The one who brought her home.”

“Oh.” Vash looked uneasily at Shosudin. “That’s Dru. He’s…”

'Vash looked uneasily at Shosudin.'

“The father of Nush’s wife,” Shosudin supplied.

“No, I mean… Iylaine, you ought not to speak with him alone if you meet him again.”

Shosudin closed his eyes and sighed.

“What?” Malcolm howled.

“He would never hurt her, of course,” Vash said quickly. “I only mean he’s a little…”

“Odd,” Shosudin said.


“Unpredictable,” Vash added.

“Oh, I like that!” Malcolm cried. “This odd, unpredictable elf just happens to be near my wife the night she is lured out by an elf who looks and talks just like you!

“It was not I!”

“And now he knows where she lives! Oh, I like that!”

'And now he knows where she lives!'

“All the elves know where she lives,” Vash said.

Shosudin winced. He could not prevent Vash from saying foolish things any more than he could watch Vash and Malcolm at the same time.

Malcolm slammed his fist against the pillar, but even this did not cause Iylaine to look up from her contemplation of her tiny hands.

“And he never came near the house until he brought her home last night,” Vash said stubbornly.

“And what was her so-​​called father doing out here last night?” Malcolm asked.

“He was… with… Dru…”

Vash looked desperately at Shosudin.

Vash looked desperately at Shosudin, but Shosudin did not know what to say now to save Vash from his foolishness.

“Just in case he got ‘odd’ or ‘unpredictable’?” Malcolm cried triumphantly.

Vash opened his mouth and said nothing.

“And now who will be ‘with Dru’, now that her father is dead?”

'And now who will be 'with Dru', now that her father is dead?'

“Dru would never hurt Iylaine,” Vash said. “He’s not… not…”

“Dangerous,” Shosudin said firmly.

“And what about this other elf?” Malcolm asked. “He’s obviously dangerous!”

“That’s another matter we wanted to speak about,” Vash began, but Malcolm did not let him speak.

“Unless he was you!”

“He was not!” Vash gasped.

“Malcolm!” Egelric barked.


“Unless you are dangerous!” Malcolm cried, ignoring him.

“It wasn’t Vash,” Iylaine murmured. “I could tell. I touched his hand…”

'It wasn't Vash.'

Her tiny, childlike voice put a stop to all the shouting. Shosudin was not even certain Malcolm could understand what she had said from where he stood.

“Iylaine!” Vash whispered. He was balancing precariously on the edge of his chair.

He was balancing precariously on the edge of his chair.

“It wasn’t like your hand, cousin. Your hand is so…”

Vash waited, breathless. Shosudin tried to watch both him and Malcolm, but during one of the glances he sent up at Malcolm, Vash slid off his chair to kneel at her feet.

Vash slid off his chair to kneel at her feet.

“How is it?” he whispered.

Shosudin knew that this was the end of the conversation.

“Get away from her!” Malcolm howled.

Egelric leapt up from the bench in time to stop Malcolm with a shoulder to the ribcage, but he was only a temporary obstacle, and Vash was already on his feet.

'I shan't hurt her!'

“I shan’t hurt her!”

“Hurt her?” Malcolm snarled. “You shan’t touch her!”

“She is my cousin!”

“She is my wife!”

“She was my wife before she ever heard of you!”

'She was my wife before she ever heard of you!'

Shosudin groaned.

“No one is touching anyone!” Egelric roared. “Get out of here, you young fool!”

“Vash!” Shosudin shouted. “We go!”

To his surprise, Shosudin was able to get Vash nearly to the door almost without dragging him, though he did not turn away from Iylaine. And then the foolish girl cried out his name.

And then the foolish girl cried out his name.

Now it was all Shosudin could do to hold him still. He needed another elf to help him carry Vash out the door.

Iylaine had only called out for him once, but Vash was crying, “Iylaine! Iylaine!” until Shosudin thought his own heart would break from the sound.

Shosudin thought his own heart would break from the sound.

Meanwhile Malcolm was calling down Gaelic curses on Vash or the both of them, and Egelric was still shouting for them to leave.

Somehow Shosudin managed to turn him around. From the moment Vash lost sight of her face, he stopped his bellowing and doubled over, nearly collapsing with sobs.

He stopped his bellowing and doubled over.

“She won’t come!” he wailed in their language.

Ordinarily Shosudin preferred to let his brother remind Vash of the cold truth, but he was the only elf at hand.

“You knew that, Vash. Let’s go.”

'You knew that, Vash.'

“But she would have come, Shus,” he sobbed. “Last night or any night. She loves me! If I had called her as he called her, she would have come. Last night or any night in all these ten years! Why did I never call her?”

“Because you love her. Now let’s go.”

'Because you love her.'