'What do you want?'

What do you want?” Kraaia groaned. “Did you know that it is rude to shout at people and tell them to come here?

Lasrua ought to have bristled at the mere idea of getting lessons on rudeness from the likes of Kraaia, but she scarcely heard.

“I want you to look at this,” she said softly.

“You want me to look out the window?” Kraaia demanded. “Then why didn’t you just tell me to look out the window? I was right upstairs in my room!”

'I was right upstairs in my room!'

Lasrua had not told her because she wanted to know what Kraaia would see. She wanted a witness. She wanted to be reassured that she could at least still trust her eyes when they were open.


“I am looking!” Kraaia growled.

She shouldered her way to the windowsill and pressed her face up to the glass.

She shouldered her way to the windowsill and pressed her face up to the glass.

“What? A deer?”

“Do you see him?” Lasrua whispered. Her eager breath made a fog on the panes.

The slowly-​stepping little fawn reached the wall, looked forlornly over its shoulder at the window, and turned to pace back towards the house again, as he had for as long as Lasrua had been watching. He lifted his knees high with every stride and seemed hesitant to lay his tiny hooves down again. It was his first snow.

It was his first snow.

“Yes I see him! Do you think you have to have some magical elf powers to see deer? Do you think I never saw a deer before?”

“Did you ever see a fawn in the winter before?”

Kraaia hesitated. “No… But obviously there are some, since there’s one right there! So it’s not really worth calling me down here, was it? What did you expect me to do? Moan and sigh and Oh! so cuuuute! like Gwynn? Spare me!”

I never saw a fawn in the winter before.”

'I never saw a fawn in the winter before.'

“Well, congratulations,” Kraaia muttered.

The fawn stepped up to the well and lowered his head to sniff at the reedy weed-​stems that bristled up through the snow around it, but he did not nibble.

“I wonder what it’s doing out just walking around in the middle of the day?” Kraaia mused. When Lasrua ventured no answer, she whispered excitedly, “I bet Frost killed its mother!”

Lasrua stood up. “Stay here and watch him,” she ordered. “I’m going to get my coat.”

'Stay here and watch him.'

Her cheeks flushed, her pulse surged in her temples and wrists—some clump or clot of doubt had stopped her heart for the space of two moons, but that simple statement released her blood like a burst dam. She had just made up her mind to go.

“You’re going out by yourself?” Kraaia asked dubiously.

'You're going out by yourself?'

“Stay here.”

Kraaia stayed. Lasrua was too distracted to be surprised—her only fear was that the fawn had strayed.

“Are you going to look for its mother?” Kraaia asked when she returned.

'Are you going to look for its mother?'

“Their mothers are seldom far,” Lasrua said idly.

The fawn was still outside. He licked his nose and sent another woeful glance over his shoulder at the window. It wrung her shivering body like a pang.

“I think you should go alone,” Kraaia advised. “You’re an elf—she won’t be afraid of you.”

'I think you should go alone.'

Deep below the surface of the rushing flood, a tendril of guilt twitched and twisted like a stem of grass clinging to the earth. All the ladies had gone to market, and Lasrua had been instructed to keep an ear on Kraaia until they or her father and brother returned.

“I’ll just be in my room,” Kraaia informed her. “Not that you’ll need me or anything.”

“Please stay there until I come back in,” Lasrua faltered.

“I’m not feeling well, anyway,” Kraaia babbled. “I’ll probably just lie down. I probably won’t come down for dinner.”

'I probably won't come down for dinner.'

Lasrua was not feeling well either. When she closed her eyes she saw through the lids as through panes of glass, and tears trickled down the inside like rain. Behind them wavered the foggy, dark-​fringed face of a man. His eyes alone were steady and clear as flames and black as coals. His eyes made it so difficult to close her own to sleep.

“Just… stay there…” she mumbled. “Till I get back.”

Kraaia gasped, “Of course!”

Lasrua opened her eyes. The fawn was still outside.

Lasrua opened her eyes.

She could never look at a deer now without seeing the man, not since young Sigefrith had told her who had given him the necklace he always wore: the totem animal of the man’s family, a leaping stag.

If ever he needed to be found…

If ever he were wounded or in danger…

If ever he were dead…

Kraaia said, “Just tell your father when he gets home that I want to lie down today instead of going out.”

'Just tell your father when he gets home that I want to lie down today instead of going out.'

The fawn looked up and strode towards the window, forgetting the snow for a moment. When his forelegs punched into a drift, however, he panicked and jumped up, twisting his back, tossing his head, kicking out his hindlegs skittishly like a leaping stag.

Lasrua’s last clinging doubts were wrenched up and tumbled off into the current, still trailing their thready white roots. The flood flowed smoothly now, unhindered. She was calm as she had not been for the space of two moons.

'Kindly tell him I just stepped out.'

“I am certain I shall return long before he does,” she said imperiously, “but if he returns early, kindly tell him I just stepped out.”

“Will do,” Kraaia said.

Lasrua stepped boldly to the door. Outside she might find nothing more than an unseasonable fawn and the carcass of a doe, but she would know. She would no more lie awake with eyes closed or eyes open, wondering: What if she had gone?

If ever he called again she would not fail to follow.

If ever he called again she would not fail to follow.