Sweetdew trotted in and heaved herself down at Eithne's feet.

As soon as the door was cracked wide enough for her bulging belly, Sweetdew trotted in and heaved herself down at Eithne’s feet like a little guardian lion. Eithne did not think this a promising sign.

She had never before done anything to make Cian angry. She did not even know what his anger could be, but she knew it must have been mighty—on the scale of everything about him. It might have annihilated her, and she would have but brushed its surface.

She had never before done anything to make Cian angry.

She knew only that she would never know her husband, and in her despair she scarcely tried. She was no more than a moth moving over his deeps, and if she wet her wings she would drown.

Eithne lowered her head and crossed her thin arms over her belly. She knew she could not protect her babies with her flesh and fragile bones, but she hoped with the gesture to remind Cian they were there.

She lowered her head and crossed her arms over her belly.

She watched his feet as they stepped into her sight, and then his handsome legs, and then his waist, and then the hand he lifted with graceful slowness, like a feather falling upwards. Eithne watched with wide eyes for as long as she dared—until it neared her neck.

She squeezed her eyes shut and waited to feel it latch onto her throat, to crack her spine, to hold her still while he shattered her cheekbone or gouged out her eyes with his other. After spending the day horrified at what she had done, she had spent the evening horrified at what he would surely do.

But the hand only settled on her chin with feathery lightness and tipped up her face.

But the hand settled on her chin.

“What have you gone and done, my own love?” he asked sorrowfully.

Eithne only trembled, still afraid to trust him. She realized now there could be brutality surpassing mere brutality; he might tease some sign of confidence or affection out of her so that he could shatter that, too.


He brushed his thumb over her lips heavily enough to part them, and then she hurried to speak. She thought it better to be slain at once than to be caressed before being killed.

“Was Sweetdew telling you?” she squeaked.


'Are you very angry, Cian?'

“Are you very angry, Cian?” she whispered.

He sighed and dropped his hand. His eyelids closed as slowly as feathers falling, but he said nothing.

Osh twitched and sighed peaceably in his chair, as men and elves slept when Cian laid his gentle spell over them, but Flann was as limp as a half-​stuffed doll.

Flann was as limp as a half-stuffed doll.

“I am not angry, Eithne,” Cian said. “I am only very sorry, as I hope you are.”

“I am,” she whimpered.

“How sorry are you?”

'I am not angry, Eithne.'

“Very sorry, Cian. Very, very sorry.”

Her lip began to quiver, and now she wished he would come and gently put his thumb on it again. Instead turned his back to her, and he went to lay his arms on the mantel and his head on his arms.

Eithne rubbed away a tear.

Eithne rubbed away a tear. She thought she would have preferred anger—at least ordinary, human anger—to the speechless sorrow of angels.

“I only ask,” he said wearily after a while, “because I fear you will soon be sorrier still. You and I both.”

She tiptoed up to him and asked, “Why are you saying so?”

'Why are you saying so?'

He answered her with another question. “Why did you do it?”

All through that horrific evening she had imagined herself explaining it, and now her stored-​up speech poured out of her.

“Because she was needing to sleep! There’s your why! It’s half the night she spends on tears, and all the day sitting and shivering. She sleeps less than I!”

“And so you thought you could make her.”

The coolness of his reply robbed her of her own defiant fire. “As you do Cat and Connie…”

“Did I ever teach you how to make a fairy sleep?”

“Isn’t it the same…?” she whimpered.

'Aye, it's the same.'

“Aye, it’s the same,” he muttered. “Except that it’s unspeakably more difficult! Isn’t it?”

Eithne looked down at her own feet.

“It isn’t like making a hen or a cow sleep, is it?”

Eithne mouthed the word, “No.”


It had been far more difficult than she had imagined. It had been so difficult that she would have believed it impossible, except that in the end she had succeeded—and too well.

She had stroked her sobbing sister into sleep, using her hands to guide her magic as Cian let her do when she was learning. She had traced the long spokes down and across Flann’s body, and spiraled the wheel all around, trying to lay out the sticky web of slumber as Cian had taught her.

But it had not been as it was with the chickens or the cows. With Flann it was like trying to build a web across an open door—while a winter gale was blasting through. The strands had blown back, twisted, tangled, until in desperation Eithne had flung a web of sleep over her sister like a pall, so raggedy and matted that even the cobweb-​building spiders of the basement stairs would have been dismayed.

And now Eithne did not know how to wake her.

And now Eithne did not know how to wake her. A spiral of sleep could be unwound by tugging on the trailing end, but the clump that covered Flann was too heavy for her to lift.

And if he could not, either? Was Flann’s death to be her “sorrier still”?

“But can’t you wake her?” she pleaded.

“Of course I can. But what would you have done if I had had to go away for a time?”

She lowered her eyes again.

“Eithne,” he sighed, “I promised Sebastien I would not go near Flann or her daughter. And now you oblige me to break my promise.”

'But it's to help her...'

“But it’s to help her…” she peeped. “He won’t mind.”

Cian grunted and tapped his fingers on the mantel top for a moment. Then he jerked his head towards the cradle that Osh had brought in earlier when he had taken up his grim watch in the chair.

“That’s the baby in there?” Cian muttered.

'That's the baby in there?'

“Aye.” Eithne smiled hopefully.

“I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to look at it, as long as I’m here.”

He made no movement towards the cradle, however, until she took his hand and led him herself.

She took his hand and led him herself.

“Isn’t she beautiful?”

He snorted.

“I’m certain our babies will be just so pretty. Aren’t you?”

“Only so pretty?” he muttered.

He stared a long while, leaving Eithne time to wonder and fear at what he meant. Perhaps, she thought, he was imagining such a baby, but black all over, with tiny horns and tiny wings.

'Only so pretty?'

“But they’ll look just like her, except prettier, won’t they?” she pleaded.

“Aye, lass. Now let us help her mother to wake before she starts to cry and you expect me to change her diaper.”

“Or nurse her on your breast,” she giggled nervously. “Magic milk!”

'Magic milk!'

“Ach, Eithne!” he groaned. But he squeezed her hand as he went by, murmuring almost to himself, “I love the laughter of you, lass. Don’t be robbing me of it now.”

She did not understand what he meant, but it was enough to make her little attempt at merriment die.

It was enough to make her little attempt at merriment die.

“I shall try to wake her only partly,” he said, “and step outside before she wakes enough to see me.”

“And if she does see you?” Eithne asked timidly. “I’ve been wanting my family to meet you, lad…”

“Ach, Eithne!” His groan was shrill with something like despair. “What a mess you’ve made!”

She hoped he only meant the spell.

She hoped he only meant the spell.