'Who was it, Alwy?'

“Who was it, Alwy?” Gunnilda asked as he came around her side of the bed and sat next to her.

“You got to get up, Gunnie,” he said gently, putting an arm around her shoulders. “You got to go up to the keep. It’s Baby—she’s real sick.”

Gunnilda was up at once. She pulled her dress over her head and put her slippers on while still standing, hopping on one foot and then the other.

“You kiss that Baby for me,” Alwy said, trying and failing to catch her hand as she ran for the door.

Gunnilda flew straight to the bed.

Egelric leapt from his chair as she came into the room, but Gunnilda flew straight to the bed. “Baby, oh Baby!” she murmured, running her hands down the girl’s limp body. “What happened, Egelric?”

“I don’t know,” he said miserably. “She either has a fever, or she sat too close to the fire.”

“Maybe the fire gave her a fever. Oh, Baby, why must you always sit so close to the fire?”

But Iylaine did not hear.

'I can't wake her!'

“Oh, Egelric—I can’t wake her!” she wailed.

“I know, I know—don’t you know what to do?” he asked desperately.

Gunnilda stood and turned to him.

Gunnilda stood and turned to him.

In his voice and in his eyes there was the same unwavering trust she saw in her children when they came to her with their hurts and their problems—they believed that she would always know what to do. And this tall and grown and broad-​shouldered man was looking at her with the same helpless faith.

“Sure—sure I know what to do,” she said, putting on a brave smile. “You got to bathe her face with cool water, and take all these blankets off of her, and let her sleep it off. And then you spank her the next time she wants to sit next to a fire!”

'You spank her the next time she wants to sit next to a fire!'

Egelric smiled in relief. “Has she done this before?”

“Well, you know she likes to sit by the fire. I always tell her she will get all pink like a berry on one side and white on the other if she always sits that way.”

She tried to laugh, but her heart was pounding.

She tried to laugh, but her heart was pounding. She had never seen Iylaine this way. She had never seen a child this way. She had seen them feverish, she had even seen them delirious, but she had never seen them unconscious and unwakable. But Egelric was awake, and she had to keep him calm.

She went back to the bed and pulled the blankets down. What a slender child she was! She brushed Iylaine’s hair back from her face—it was odd that her skin was dry—and noticed her ears. And she was afraid again, for she could not know whether elf children were different from human children, and whether she was doing the wrong things.

But Egelric was standing behind her.

But Egelric was standing behind her. She could feel Egelric standing behind her the same way she would feel the wind at her back, or the warmth of a fire. Whenever she was where he was, she no longer went bumbling along her own ways, but always moved in relation to him, the way the sun went around the earth. No doubt the sun always knew where the earth stood, even when she wasn’t looking.

He had been gone for a month, and for a month she had been bumbling along without him, but now he was here—and Alwy said he had come home alone. But even if he hadn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered. She had decided it wouldn’t matter. She wouldn’t go to him again the way she had—but she would know he was there, up on his hill, behind the trees. The sun never expected to touch the earth, but contented herself to turn around him. And so would she.

And so would she.

And they had this child between them—who was neither her nor his child, and so could belong to both of them. He had sent for her—he knew it too. He hadn’t sent for the wise woman. He had sent for her.

“She will live, won’t she?” he asked timidly.

'She will live, won't she?'

She knew that if she told him she would, he would believe it. “Of course she will.”

She saw his chest rise and fall as he took sharp, gasping breaths—she herself knew what that meant. He was trying not to cry. Poor man! The men were nothing but big boys, she knew. And boys did hate to cry.

He looked exhausted. He had ridden all the way home from Scotland just this day, and here he was at the darkest hour of the night in fear for his child.

She laid a hand on his shoulder.

“You look tired,” she said, laying a hand on his shoulder. “You come a long way today. Why don’t you go lie down and let old Gunnie take care of this Baby for a while?”

“That’s the Mama talking,” he said with a smile on his trembling lips. “There’s nothing a nap won’t fix.”

“Pish! I won’t say nothing, but you need one more than anything else.”

He suddenly caught her in his arms and held her so tight against him that she had to stand on her toes.

He suddenly caught her in his arms.

“Well, I guess maybe you needed a hug too,” she gasped, squeezed breathless.

But he still shook.

“I guess you could use a cry, too,” she told him, “but I know you won’t before me, so that’s another reason to go lie down somewhere.”

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

'I'm sorry.'

“Pish!” she said. “You got nothing to be sorry about, except you smell like drink, and you’re all naked, and you don’t let me breathe—a regular brute of a man, what!”

“Sorry,” he said again, releasing her, shame-​faced.

“Now, you either go lie down somewhere else and sleep it off, or you sit real quiet in this chair here, and stay out of my hair. I’m going to take care of this Baby!”

She smiled at him with a courage and a composure that she did not feel, but she saw that he believed.

She smiled at him with a courage and a composure that she did not feel.