'Damn stupid cat.'

Egelric lifted the cat with his foot and pushed it away from the fire. “Damn stupid cat,” he muttered. But the cat only came back and rubbed its white head against his leg.

“Iylaine! I told you – what? – twice already to put this cat out!”

“It’s not time for bed yet,” she whined.

“It’s time for the cat to go out.”

“But it’s raining!”

'But it's cold!'

“Luckily, it has a fur coat. Now out with it! When I tell you to do something, will you say me nay?”



“I was only answering your question,” she grumbled, picking up the purring cat.

When she came back into the room, he said, “Come here now. As long as I’m in a bad mood, I might as well tell you something that will make you angry at me.”

'Come here now.'

“Oh, no! I don’t want to be angry tonight. I want you to tell me a story about when you were a boy.”

“I shall tell you a story afterwards if you are a good girl and don’t rant and carry on.”

“Hurry then.”

“Well then, Baby, your Da has to go away for a little while.”

“Again?” she cried.

“Is that a bit of ranting I hear? I haven’t been away since the summer.”

“Are you going to Scotland?”

“No, Baby, I’m only going to the edge of the valley, where there is a new castle to be built.”

'I'm only going to the edge of the valley.'


“Over in the hills where the sun rises. It is for the King’s friend, and it is to keep us safe.”

“The man who wanted to see my ears?”


“I showed him.”

“You did?” Egelric wasn’t sure he liked that.

“He came over to Gunnie’s with His Grace. And I showed him. But I stuck out my tongue at him too.”

'I stuck out my tongue at him too.'

Egelric laughed. “You imp!”

“But he’s my friend now. He said I should tell you he was sorry, but I forgot.”

“I’m happy to hear it. I shall be seeing plenty of him, so it’s just as well.”

“When are you coming home?”

“I don’t know, Baby. It will be a long time in the building, but you know it isn’t far at all. It’s only three hours or so by horse. So if I think to myself as I’m eating my porridge, ‘I should like to see my Baby today,’ then I have only to saddle my horse and I shall be with you in time for dinner.”

'I shall be with you in time for dinner.'

“Will you come every every day?”

“No, Baby. Then I wouldn’t get any work done. But I shall come very often. And every Sunday without fail.”

Iylaine looked at the fire.

“You’re a quiet girlie. You might fuss a wee bit after all, to show your Da you care.”

“I’m not angry like you said. I’m only sad.”

'I'm only sad.'

“Don’t be sad, Baby. I won’t be far.”

“But I won’t see you. I wish you would stay. Are you going ’cause of Mama’s tree?”

“Why would you think that?”

“His Grace said you should go away a while, ’cause of that tree.”

“He told you that?”

“No, he told Gunnie.”

“And you were listening?”

'And you were listening?'

“I was in Wynnie’s room, but I guess they was talking real loud.”

“You should try not to listen to adults’ conversations, Baby,” he sighed. “You only understand half, and that’s worse than hearing none.”

“All right. But is that why? I want to know.”

“If it is, then it was His Majesty the King who decided it for me. He told me I should go; I did not ask him.”

“But how come you would have to go away ’cause of that tree? I want to know.”

“I don’t know, Baby. The people are not used to it yet, and they talk and whisper about it a lot. And about me when I go by. Perhaps that’s why His Grace said that. Perhaps in a while, people will forget it or not think about it as much.”

“Does it make you sad?”

“I don’t know.”

'I don't know.'

“How come you don’t know if you’re sad? I always know if I am.”

Egelric laughed. “Perhaps it’s because the sadness is mixed in with a lot of other things. Now, are you ready for bed?”

“You said I could have a story!”

“I shall tell you a story once we are in bed. That way if you fall asleep I don’t have to carry you in there.”

“But I like it when you carry me.”

“Oh, Baby,” he sighed, bending down to kiss her forehead. “Before long you will be too big to carry, and what will become of me then?”

'Before long you will be too big to carry.'