Paul might call her by his affectionate nickname for her, but Cat knew that tone of voice, and she stopped.

“You and Rua go back into the house,” he commanded.

“I was only going to open the door,” Cat murmured. He knew by the sullen anger of her own voice that she must already have peeked outside.

“I shall do it myself.”

Cat did not turn around, so Paul could not demand obedience with his eyes.

Cat did not turn around.

“If he’s not coming to tell where my sister may be found,” she growled, “you may tell him to go to the devil!”

Paul feared that Eithne had already been taken there, but he could not say so to his wife and his sister. Somehow he would have to turn back a demon while making them believe he was only sending a rascal away.

“Go inside, ladies,” he ordered. “I shall tell him all that needs to be said.”

“And if he has the gall to mention Flann…” she hissed.

'And if he has the gall to mention Flann...'

“Go inside.”

Cat dipped her shoulder and seemed to be about to turn, but the monster outside banged on the door again with a terrifying urgency. Paul was reminded there was nothing standing between a demon and his wife and baby and sister but an oaken door.

Paul laid one hand on Cat’s shoulder and one on Lasrua’s and parted the ladies like a curtain. “Inside!” he barked as he passed through on his way to the door.

He threw it open suddenly enough that it banged against the body outside with a satisfying thump. He saw Sebastien’s startled face peering up at him for an instant, but he forced him farther back with sheer height and speed and snarl, and Sebastien stumbled against the wall with a second thump.

“Please!” he gasped.


“Where is she?” Paul growled. “Where is she?”

“I don’t know…”


“I don’t know… Please…”

“Cian took her away! Where are they? Where would he take her?”

He could hear Cat and Lasrua hesitating in the entry. If not for them, his fury would have been sufficient to make him unafraid, but as it was he was terrified – and he no longer dared order them away for fear of reminding Sebastien of their presence.

'I don't know!'

“I don’t know!” Sebastien whimpered. “I have not seen them! I know nothing, I have not seen!”

Remarkably the demon seemed to be more frightened than he – shivering with a real, physical fear, and sweating with the real, metallic-​​smelling sweat of a man in panic. He was either a very convincing actor or a very weak demon indeed – not like the Demon Dre at all.

Paul pressed him against the wall and whispered, “I know what he is. I know what you are.”

'I know what you are.'

“No!” Sebastien squeaked. “It is not true! It is a lie!”

Paul grabbed a fistful of the demon’s tunic and shook him against the wall.

His ear was close enough to Sebastien’s throat that he could hear the heartbeat resonating in the empty chambers of his lungs: a wild, runaway, galloping rhythm that was not the same for five beats at a time. His cheek could feel the heat of the blood straining to burst out of the arteries of his neck. That sort of fear, he thought, could almost kill a man – provided he was only a man.

“How do you even know what I’m talking about, if it’s not true?” Paul breathed.

'I am just talking with the Abbot before I come!'

“I am just talking with the Abbot before I come!” Sebastien chattered. “He will tell you! He will tell you it is a lie! I am only a Christian man! He regrets now! A cruel lie!” he sobbed. “And unfair!”

“I have no reason to believe you,” Paul muttered. “And you have nothing to do here. Now go away before I hurt you.”

Sebastien did not reply, but he stayed where he stood, trembling and stubbornly hesitant as a last drop.

'But Flann...'

The cloud-​​tainted light of the winter sunset was cruel to his angular face and his beakish nose, glinting off the unwiped moisture in his mustache and highlighting his swollen, tear-​​tinged eyes. The purple-​​dark shadow of Paul’s head lay over the side of his face like a bruise, but the harsh light never quite left him no matter how he cringed. He seemed a miserable creature demanding only pity and not worthy of fear.

Then he spoke. He whispered, “But Flann…”

Paul heaved him up by his sleeves and slammed him against the wall again, knocking his head back with an audible thud.

“There is no Flann for you!” he hissed.

'There is no Flann for you!'

“Only let me talk to her!” Sebastien sobbed. “Please!”

“She married my father today! There is nothing for you to say!”

“Only to talk! Only to talk!” he gibbered. “Where is she? Let me talk to her!”

“She isn’t here! She’s far from here! And you’re fortunate she is, for my father will surely kill you if he sees you again!”

“Let me see her!” he sobbed. “Where have you taken her? Let me talk to her! Only talk to her! Au nom de Dieu! Je vous en supplie! Tell her I love her! I love her and Liadan!”

'Tell her I love her!'

The baby’s name was more than Paul could bear. He grabbed Sebastien again, well beneath the arms this time, and lifted him up.

Though for an instant he held Sebastien high enough for his head to be out of all shadows, Paul saw not the last lurid light of day on his face, but a bright, white light – a blinding light – a boundless light – a brief flash of what he saw whenever he looked down inside of Liadan.

In his shock and fright he hurled Sebastien away – not at the wall, but blindly away – and he heard his body flop onto the dirt at the foot of the stairs. Sebastien stopped sobbing to moan.

'Get away from my house!'

“Get away from my house!” Paul howled, briefly blind once more. “Come near my family again, and I will scorch your flesh from your bones and find out just what you are underneath!”

Paul’s eyes were slow to see again. Sebastien was now so low as to be submerged by the shadows of the hills, and the light was dying. But Paul could hear him sniffling and sobbing miserably as he pushed himself to his feet.

Paul could hear him sniffling and sobbing miserably as he pushed himself to his feet.

He trudged up the hill alone, a dark figure against the dark land, rising up head and shoulder and hips into the lavender lightness of the evening sky. He did not limp, but he struggled, slogging painfully upwards as though the darkness lay in deep drifts like snow.

He trudged up the hill alone.

Paul watched him go, trying to wish him ill, but his heart bled with an unexpected compassion.

He too had once sought to speak to his love and been cast out like a dog into the cold. He too had once trudged off alone through darkness so deep it covered his eyes. He too had once begged a girl’s guardian to tell her he loved her, and had been denied.

He had once begged a girl's guardian to tell her he loved her, and had been denied.

Whatever anyone could say against Sebastien’s love, the same could have been said against Paul’s. The only difference was that Cat had had no Osh.

Sebastien reached the height of the hill, and there he stopped, as though he had climbed as far out of the darkness as he could, but could climb no higher into the light.

There he stopped.

He raised his hands to his face, and Paul thought he might have been praying – a Christian man, after all – for his silent sobbing turned into ragged gasps for air and whispered, incomprehensible words.

Then it seemed he had merely been crying, for he fumbled at his belt as if in search of a handkerchief or rag – but when he lifted his arms again, just past the shadow of his head there came a brief flash of western twilight against the dimmer southern sky: a mirror, a bit of glass, or a blade.

Paul dropped his arms and leaned forward. Sebastien whipped his arm down with such force that the knife went on without the hand and soared far off into the bushes.

Paul heard the body’s first startled gasp and then the familiar choking, gagging cough, the hiss of a mist of blood being sprayed through a slit in the windpipe, the thud of knees hitting the earth.

Paul heard the body's first startled gasp.

Paul’s fire-​​seeing soul saw the bright flares of blood shocked by its sudden liberty, startled by its first exhilarating encounter with pure air after having labored for so long to carry mere hints of the breath dissolved in liquid rust and iron.

But the drops and splatters fell like sparks into the grass, extinguished almost as soon as they were lit. The blood was dead. The body was dying.

The body was dying.

Sebastien seemed to struggle against the death he had desired a moment before – he clawed at his throat and swung his arm at fate or invisible foes – but when he fell back onto the frosty grass Paul saw it was only the body that had struggled.

His mouth was too thickly smeared with blood to let his lips be read, but his eyes were angry and defiant, staring not at Paul but straight overhead. They were such a perfect reflection of the lavender above that they could only have been the very color of clouds.

Paul had never noticed how much they resembled Liadan’s. He watched them dim until they were as blank as the sky.

He watched them dim until they were as blank as the sky.