'It's dark in here.'

“It’s dark in here,” Iylaine said uneasily. The cave was not deep, and enough moonlight came in to allow her to see—barely—once her eyes had adjusted. Still, it was far darker than outside.

“Don’t like the dark, do you? You’ll feel better once we have a fire. May I leave you here while I go get wood and a rabbit? I assure you, it’s safe here. I sleep here quite often.”

“A rabbit?”

“Aren’t you hungry?”

“Aye, but—where are you going to get a rabbit?”

Vash only laughed. “Be a good girl and stay here.”

“But—but I—”

“You’re not afraid, are you?”

'You're not afraid, are you?'

“Nooo…” she lied.

“I knew you wouldn’t be. I shan’t be away long.”

Indeed he was not. “I found a nice rabbit right outside,” he said as he came in and dumped an armful of wood into a shallow pit in the floor, “but I had to go a little farther to find something besides pine. Didn’t have enough time to get frightened, though, did you?”

“No,” she lied again.

“Now, why don’t you make us a fire and I shall clean the rabbit.”

“But I don’t know how to make a fire.”

“You don’t?” he asked, with an odd note in his voice.

'You don't?'

“I’m not allowed to light the fires. My Da says it’s too dangerous for little girls. But he’s going to show me how when I’m big.”

Vash smiled at her. “Did you ever burn yourself in a fire?”


“Did you ever try?”

“No!” she laughed. “I’m not stupid like boys, to do things that hurt to see if they hurt!”

“You are marvelous,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief.

“How come?”

'How come?'

“Never mind. You do know how to make fires, and I shall prove it to you. Come here,” he said, taking a short branch from the pile and handing it to her. “Now, make it burn,” he said. “Just the tip.”

“With what?”

“With—with making it so.” He sighed and kneeled beside her. “I don’t even know how to explain. Look at the wood. There’s fire in the wood—you simply have to make it come out.”


“You have to—you have to—” He laughed. “How can I explain if you don’t know? Poor girl. I can’t believe you haven’t found out for yourself. Now, listen. Look at the wood. There’s fire all through the wood. Think about this: the tree that made this branch has lived for hundreds of years perhaps. And every day the sun shines down on the tree. And the sun is hot, isn’t it? It’s like a fire.”

'It's like a fire.'

“I guess so.”

“Every day some of that heat from the sun went into the tree. And when you make a fire using this wood, all of the heat that went into this branch over all those years comes out in the space of an hour or two, and that is what we call fire. Do you see?”

“I guess so.”

“So the fire is in the wood, and you simply need to make it come out.”


“Oh, Iylaine!” he sighed.

'Oh, Iylaine!'

“Well, why don’t you show me?” she huffed.

“Because I can’t do it.”

“Neither can I.”

“You don’t even try.”

“But I don’t know how!” she whined.

“Simply—simply make the fire come out. Look at the wood, and think about the fire that’s in there, and make all of it flow up the branch to the tip. Make it go away from your hand, and toward the tip. Simply think about it. Simply want it to happen. You can do it, I promise. Please try for me.”

'Please try for me.'

Iylaine stared at the branch, squeezed the branch, shook the branch, made hideous faces at the branch, but nothing happened. “I can’t do it!” she wailed, tossing the branch back onto the pile.

“Yes, you can,” Vash said, taking it up again and thrusting it back into her hand.

“Why don’t you do it?” she grumbled. “How do you make fires when I’m not here?”

“The same way your father does. But I want you to learn how to do it properly, because if you don’t, you will learn it accidentally some day, and someone will get hurt. If my father had known about this…”

Iylaine stared at the wood again. She stared and stared until she felt as if her eyes would leap out of her head and attach themselves to the tip of the branch. But nothing happened. “Oh!” she cried, stamping her foot in frustration. “I hate you, stupid branch!”

At that, Vash leapt to his feet, for the entire branch had burst into flame.

The entire branch had burst into flame.

Iylaine’s staring eyes went wide. The whole branch was burning, even the part that was in her hand, but it didn’t hurt. It only felt hot—and pleasant.

Vash laughed. “What a temper! Be careful you don’t get any on your clothes, Iylaine. They can burn, if you can’t, and you haven’t any others. Put the branch in with the rest.”

She dropped it at once. “Is that magic?”

“That’s not magic,” he said. “That’s—that’s the way things are. Magic would be making fire where there isn’t any fire, such as making fire from snow. But the fire was already in the wood. You don’t say it’s magic when you plant a bean, and a bean plant grows out of it, do you?”

'You don't say it's magic when you plant a bean, and a bean plant grows out of it, do you?'


“That’s because the bean plant was already in the bean. It’s the same. But it is true that men can’t make fire this way, any more than they can make the bean grow without planting it in the ground, and watering it, and giving it sun. So I suppose you had better not tell anyone you can do this, if they don’t already know. I thought you already knew how.”

“Only elves can?”

“That’s right.”

“Then how come you can’t?”

“Don’t you remember what my name means?”

'Don't you remember what my name means?'

“Deep water.”

“Dark water, rather, but it is much the same. I can’t drown in water, any more than you can be burnt in fire. But you can drown and I can be burnt—rather more easily than not, in fact. And I can make the water come out of the wood, just as you can make the fire come out. That’s how I got this wood so dry.”

“Because of your name?”

“I got my name because of that, rather.”

“Are there other kinds of elves?”

“Don’t say ‘kinds,’ Iylaine. We’re not cattle. It’s more like… your little blond friend, the little boy—he’s very loud and busy, isn’t he?”

'We're not cattle.'

“You mean Bertie?”

“I suppose so. And your little dark-​haired friend, who lives in the castle, he’s quiet and thoughtful.”

“Oh, Dunstan?” she groaned.

“I don’t know their names,” he smiled. “But I see them in the forest sometimes. They’re not the same, but they’re both still boys, aren’t they?”

'They're both still boys, aren't they?'

“I guess so.”

“So, we don’t like to think of ourselves as different ‘kinds’ of elves, but to answer your question, the world is made up of four different things: fire, water, earth, and air. And every elf has a sympathy for one of those things.”

Iylaine considered this.

“While you’re thinking, may I clean this rabbit? I’m rather hungry too. I’ve been out riding as long as you’ve been.”

'While you're thinking, may I clean this rabbit?'

Iylaine nodded, and turned to stare thoughtfully into the fire.