'Vash!  You come again!'

“Vash! You come again!”

For a moment she was merely a girl, younger than he, shy and delighted to see him. The pink light of her room made her cheeks seem almost alive, almost blushing, and if he did not look at her long ears, her face was very beautiful. Then it soured.

“I wish I could believe you came for the pleasure of seeing me,” she frowned. “These past years I think you only come when you want something from me.”

'These past years I think you only come when you want something from me.'

“I shall stay all night,” he said, “if you will answer my questions now. And we shall talk about whatever you like,” he added hastily, fearing she had misunderstood the “stay all night”.

“If, if, if,” she snapped. “When did you start making demands of me? Who is the teacher here?”

“If you are the teacher,” he murmured, “then teach me what I want to learn.”

She hesitated a moment at his shoulder, so close to him he had to lean away from her for fear her breast would brush his arm.

She hesitated a moment at his shoulder.

“Did you change your mind?” she asked.

He whispered, “Never.”

Her searching gaze clung like cobwebs to his cheek. He dared not turn his eyes to her.

“Another moon,” she said at last. “You will see.”

“I am not here for myself tonight,” he sighed.

'I am not here for myself tonight.'

“That is a novelty,” she tittered. “I wish I could think it was for me.”

“I am here for a friend.”

“Iylaina?” she snapped.

“No! The elf Paul, who was called Kiv.”

“Oh,” she sniffed. “That one.”

She walked behind him.

She walked behind him – perhaps, he thought, so that he could not see her eyes.

She had shrugged off his every attempt to learn more about the miracle that had restored his friend’s sight. He believed it was because she could not explain it, and she did not like to admit she did not know. But he had not come to talk about that.

When she passed in front of him again he said, “He has a wife who is a woman. A Scotswoman.”

“Oh, the Scot men again!” she groaned.

'Oh, the Scot men again!'

“She has fire nature, Nimea.”

“That is not possible. Or she has had an elf in her family.”

Vash sighed in impatience. “I do not wish to go over the list of possibilities and impossibilities as regards these strange men among the men. Let us say for now she has an elf grandfather. Let us say she is an elf! She has fire nature. Paul has fire nature. What would you say about their children?”

'What would you say about their children?'

“Two elves with fire nature will not have any,” she said wearily. “But I have never heard of a woman with fire nature.”

“Their baby has water nature.”

“They have one?”

“They will,” Vash smirked slightly.

'They will.'

“They can’t.”

“They will. They can. Can’t they, Nimea? Hasn’t it happened before? The elf Silea, twin sister of the elf Druze? Didn’t you help her?”

She narrowed her eyes and stared at him.

She narrowed her eyes and stared at him.

Now Vash regretted having spoken defiantly. However, as her glare hardened, he began to believe it was more than that: he had strayed onto forbidden ground.

Then she smiled. “I cannot help your friend, Vash. The elf Silea had water nature. I could help her, but I cannot help your friend’s wife if she has fire nature. Even if she were an elf.”

“I don’t think she needs your help. Her baby is safe so far.”

“How far?”

“One moon.”

'One moon.'

“Never!” she gasped. “Else you err: she does not have fire nature, or the baby does not have water nature.”

“She does, and it does. I have seen. She has locked her fire away, in a sort of fire that is like ice.”


“Is that what you did to the elf Silea?” he asked. “Ice nature?”

“It is not ice, Vash. How are air, water, and fire unlike earth?”

'How are air, water, and fire unlike earth?'

“Unlike earth, they flow.”

“Water will flow into fire and fire into water, and the greater will submerge the lesser. The flow of the greater must be stopped.”

“That is what she did…”

'That is what she did...'


“Cat. Paul’s wife.

“How?” she cried.

“I don’t know. She doesn’t know either.”

Her sharp little fingers clamped over his wrists. “Who did it to her? Who?”

'Who did it to her?  Who?'

“No one did. She did it herself.”

She was panting through open lips, and now it was she who turned her eyes aside.

Vash spoke before she could recover. “What happened to the child of the elf Silea?”

'What happened to the child of the elf Silea?'

He and Paul had decided that much might be explained if they knew the fate of this missing elven noble. The disappearance of such an elf over a century ago could account for the existence of these strange Scot-​​men of the north, who had fire nature and perhaps some slight, latent magic.

Her eyes locked onto his, and she smiled slowly. “Don’t you know?”

“No. Druze and Midra don’t know, either. They were already dead.”

“I think they do,” she chuckled.

“They claim not to. Or rather, Midra claims not to, and Druze is raving most of the time.”

“Vash, who was the mother of the elf Iylaina, grandmother of the grandmother of the elf Elfleda?”

'Vash, who was the mother of the elf Iylaina?'

“My father’s grandfather’s grandmother, the elf Risa. The elf Iylaina was the sister of my grandfather’s grandfather. And of the elf Druze.”

“Vash!” she scolded and clucked her tongue at him. “Do you suppose your father’s grandfather’s grandmother carried a child through her sixty-​​second winter?”

“But… you helped her yourself, Nimea,” Vash murmured. “So that we could give a child to the men, so that one day the elf Vin would be born and come to grow up with us.”

'But... you helped her yourself, Nimea.'

I helped her!” Nimea laughed. “I helped her! Is that what your father taught you? Is that what his father taught him? Silly, vain creatures, to ignore your history when it does not suit you!”

“What do you mean?”

“Dear Vash, I did help the elf Iylaina come into the world, as we have just discussed. Her mother was the elf Silea.”

'Her mother was the elf Silea.'

Vash gasped. It meant that there was no missing elven noble after all. The great Khora Risa had not carried a child through her sixty-​​second winter: it had been her daughter’s child.

It also meant that there was a great hole in the ancestry of Finn: perhaps his blood was not as good as they had thought.

“But we believed the elf Iylaina was khórrón, and pure of blood.”

'But we believed the elf Iylaina was khórrón, and pure of blood.'

“She was, Vash,” she chuckled delightedly.

“Then who was her father?”

She swung herself around to lean against him, bent her head into the angle of his neck, and whispered, “The elf Druze.”

'The elf Druze.'