Araphel snorted, hoping to hide his fear behind a veil of irony.

Araphel snorted, hoping to hide his fear behind a veil of irony. Such a long delay could not bode well. He feared Baraqiel had used it to tell Ezeqael, the leader of his decade, or – worse – the leader of them all.

“I was beginning to think the old elf had captured you,” he said. “He certainly never lets me near the house.”

Baraqiel answered with a snort of his own as he appeared fully.

Baraqiel answered with a snort of his own as he appeared fully.

“We need to have a talk about that ‘old elf’,” he muttered.

“Did you see her?” Araphel asked – heedlessly, but he could not help it. He had only looked upon her for a minute, only touched her once.

“We need to have a talk about her, first,” Baraqiel sighed.

“How is she? Isn’t she beautiful?” There was more than a fatherly wistfulness in his voice, and Baraqiel understood its meaning.

“She is no monster, Araphel. She looks…”

“Just as a baby is meant to look! A bit like her father, a bit like her mother, and a bit like her own self…” He smiled foolishly. He could not help it.

He smiled foolishly.

Baraqiel waved his hands in impatience. “And no teeth, and no claws or wings, more importantly. I wouldn’t have believed it, brother, but she – ”

“She has my eyes!” Araphel cried.

'She has my eyes!'

“ – she heard me sing!” Baraqiel intoned. He did not like to be interrupted. “She heard me sing the Thrice Holy.”

Araphel was finally made speechless by that remembered beauty. He thought it would have made a lovely lullaby, but it was not for a man’s voice to sing. When at last he held his daughter in his arms, he would have to content himself with the earthly songs he knew.

Baraqiel hurried to speak while he had the opportunity. “I saw her mother as well. She couldn’t see me – ”

'She couldn't see me--'

“Isn’t she beautiful?”

“Brother!” Baraqiel grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him.

Araphel fell silent, but he could not stop grinning.

“You truly do love this mortal creature, don’t you?” Baraqiel sounded surprised, and not entirely pleased.

“Wouldn’t you?” Araphel asked him.

“Brother…” Baraqiel said warningly.

“I know,” Araphel whispered.

“You have a task to accomplish.”

“Which I can accomplish while loving that woman.”

'Which I can accomplish while loving that woman.'

You may not love that woman. Sebastien may.”

Araphel did not reply, but he supposed some guilty expression passed over the face of the body he had taken, for Baraqiel’s voice grew still more stern.

'You shall not tell her who you are.'

“You shall not tell her who you are!” he warned. “Nor who you were. If you do, you will certainly be replaced here.”

“I shall make her love this Sebastien,” he said meekly. “Though you make it difficult by asking me to be detestable. And it’s a bit of a shame about the nose, too.”

'It's a bit of a shame about the nose, too.'

He tapped the high arch of it with his knuckle and tried to smile. Baraqiel was not known for his sense of humor, but Araphel had to distract him before this Sebastien began to blush.

He truly had planned – at least half-​​heartedly – not to reveal his identity to Flann, but he had been surprised by her reaction to his letter, and still more surprised by his own.

He knew now that even if she came to love Sebastien, she would not love him fully. He feared he would not be able to live a lifetime with only the half of her, knowing that her locked-​​away love for Brude truly belonged to him, and knowing that he had the key.

“No one would have believed a son of the old Duke could have had any other nose,” Baraqiel grumbled. “It was your idea, I am told.”

'It was your idea.'

“I needed a father who was rich and wicked,” Araphel cackled. It appeared his distraction had sufficed. “Fortunately my daughter will probably have Brude’s nose, if she doesn’t have her mother’s. Don’t you think?”

He began to smile again, for the idea pleased him. He had been fond of Brude’s body – the heavy-​​boned solidity of it, and the surprising grace of the broad fingers – though he did not miss the sunburns.

But Baraqiel was not thinking of such mundane matters. “I don’t know.” He shrugged his wings. “We don’t know. Never has such a child been born. For I have seen her mother.”

Araphel nearly asked again whether he had not found her beautiful.

Araphel nearly asked again whether he had not found her beautiful.

He was forgetting everything in his excitement: not only what he had already said, but also what he should and should not say before his superiors.

“She is no daughter of Eva,” Baraqiel said. “Simply put. That is how.”

Araphel’s mouth slowly fell open. He had been certain she was no demon – certain!

“Her race had its time upon the earth while we were still in chains,” Baraqiel explained. “I believe she is a daughter of Dana.”

They stared at one another in silent recognition of the impossibility of this statement.

They stared at one another in silent recognition of the impossibility of this statement.

“She is nevertheless mortal,” he added.

“But… I have met her father,” Araphel said. “And her sister.”

Baraqiel lifted his head and sighed as if he had been reminded of something else. “I have seen her sister as well. And lying next to her sister there was an elf.” His voice was beginning to take on a scolding tone. “This elf is entirely a creature of the Second Emanation, just as this Flann is.”

“Morgriana?” Araphel gasped.


“And just as mortal. He, and two of the other elves in that house.”

“His father and sister,” Araphel explained. “But how…”

“You did not tell us the elves here had magic,” Baraqiel said angrily. “We thought they were all of Nimea.”

“But I thought – ” Araphel blurted. Fortunately he caught his tongue in time.

Fortunately he caught his tongue in time.

He had thought they had simply learned their magic from Dantalion, since he had been trapped among them for centuries. However, Araphel had not mentioned Dantalion to Ezeqael or Baraqiel. He had already become too involved with Dantalion and told him too much.

Furthermore, even had they never met, the mere presence of such a mighty being in this valley would probably lead to Araphel’s replacement by one of his superiors. And it would have been a relief, for Dantalion was more than he could handle.

Now there was Flann.

But now there was Flann. There was Liadan.

“ – they didn’t have any,” he concluded feebly.

“Perhaps they hide it, for reasons of their own,” Baraqiel grumbled. “We don’t know what they are doing here. I don’t know how they came to be here at all. So far as we knew, they never left their island during all their time on earth.”

Araphel was not particularly interested in these elves, but he was beginning to feel that their presence was another danger to his happiness.

“There is one other in that house who is not pure,” Baraqiel continued, “so they must be mating with daughters of Nimea. And she has a child who is some sort of chimera,” he grimaced.

'She has a child who is some sort of chimera.'

“The father is a cousin of Flann,” Araphel mumbled.

All his excitement had paled before his growing fear. Surely Baraqiel would tell the others, and all his brothers who were not otherwise occupied would descend on the valley to investigate these unusual beings. Perhaps they would even lust after his Flann.

“Did you tell anyone?” he asked softly.

“I – ” Mighty Baraqiel seemed to hesitate. “Do you think I should?”

Araphel arched his eyebrows and nodded in encouragement.

Araphel arched his eyebrows and nodded in encouragement.

Baraqiel rubbed his forehead, as if his forehead could ache. “If Shemyaza learns of this… of this daughter of yours…”

Araphel clapped his hands. “He will forget our task again! No, brother, we can’t allow it. And it would be hard on Flann’s sisters. There are nine of them, but that’s rather too few to go around.”

He tried to laugh, but he was sickened by the thought of his brothers fighting over the delicate girls, perhaps even injuring them as they tried to wrestle them away from each other. He imagined someone prying Flann from his arms… Ezeqael claiming his right as a leader, or lustful Ethraphel, who would not even be interested in the children he might have…

“There are nine of them?” Baraqiel asked.

'There are nine of them?'

Araphel felt a chill run over him. “The elder girls are married,” he said. “And the younger are quite young.”

“Of course,” Baraqiel said quickly. “That is not what I meant. However… You know, you had a daughter.”

“Yes.” He could not help but smile at the words. Never had a son of heaven had anything but a son – a monstrous son.

“What sort of children would she have with one of us? And the children’s children?”

Araphel’s smile quickly waned. “She’s only a baby! Twelve days old!”

'Twelve days old!'

“What are twenty years to us? What are generations to us?” Baraqiel asked with growing eagerness. “We might have wives. Proper wives.”

“I think Flann would make a fine wife as she is,” Araphel muttered.

Immortal wives,” Baraqiel whispered. “You will see your Flann grow old and die.”

Araphel could not deny it. Still, in a body one felt the passage of the years. Twenty years to Sebastien were not nothing. And he would see his daughter grow up…

“Whom would you have her marry?” Baraqiel asked. “A man? A lump of clay? Even her mortal mother is superior to that.”

'Even her mortal mother is superior to that.'

This Sebastien was a nervous, hot-​​blooded creature, and Araphel twisted his hands in agitation. They were finer and longer than Brude’s, and sometimes he wondered how Flann would like them. Now he was only wondering how he could protect her with them, her and their baby.

You are forgetting our task,” Araphel reminded him.

'You are forgetting our task.'

“I am not,” Baraqiel said coldly. “Nor shall I tell anyone for now. But you must ensure that Amarel does not learn she is your daughter.”

Araphel was grateful to have found kindling for his anger. Anger was easier to bear than helpless fear.

“Isn’t that why he’s here in the first place?” he snapped. “Isn’t he here to keep an eye on me?”

Baraqiel blinked at him in surprise, and then he smiled. “Are you so naughty that you need a guardian? Amarel is here for the same reason you are.”

'Are you so naughty that you need a guardian?'

“Why? To watch over Aelfden? Am I so incompetent than I need an assistant?”

“No! Calm yourself,” Baraqiel laughed. “There’s another one here.”

“Another one?” Araphel gasped. “Who?”

“We don’t even know. He has to find him first. Or her. This one was never supposed to be born.”

“Oh…” Araphel briefly thought over the men, women, and children he had met as Brude. Then he had another thought. “You don’t suppose it’s – ”

'You don't suppose it's--'

“Your daughter?”

“But she was born after he had been given his task,” Araphel said in relief.

“She was conceived before,” Baraqiel reminded him.


“You must not mention her to him, Araphel,” Baraqiel warned. “Let him find her in his own way, if she is the one he’s seeking. But so much has gone wrong in this valley that she may very well not be,” he sighed.

'She may very well not be.'

Araphel recalled that Dantalion had found the situation amusing. But Dantalion had been right – Araphel and his brothers found no amusement in chaos. On the contrary, it only made him afraid.

“And you must not tell her what she is,” Baraqiel added. “Love her as a step-​​daughter if you like, but she must not know she is yours.”

Araphel nodded. He had not decided for himself what he would or should tell Liadan. Perhaps he would discuss the matter with Flann someday.

Perhaps he would discuss the matter with Flann someday.