'Baby, could you come with me for a moment?'

“Baby, could you come with me for a moment?” her Da asked. “I need to speak with you.”

Iylaine dropped the wooden tiger she was holding. She didn’t like the sound of her Da’s voice.

“Baby?” Gwynn asked, her mouth trembling.

“Baby won’t be long, darling,” her Da said. “I only need her for a moment and then she will come play with you again.”

'Baby won't be long, darling.'

Gwynn swallowed her tears and in the meantime clutched the tiger Iylaine had dropped.

“Did I do something bad?” Iylaine asked nervously as she followed him into Yware’s room, where they were alone.

“No, my baby angel, you haven’t done anything wrong. Come here.” He sat in the chair and pulled her over to stand between his knees. And with his broad hands he smoothed her hair down over the sides of her head, and with his dark eyes he gave her such a look that she suddenly wanted to cry.

With his dark eyes he gave her such a look that she suddenly wanted to cry.

“I have just come from talking with His Majesty the King and your cousin Malcolm.”

“We didn’t do anything,” she quavered.

“I know you didn’t, Baby. Listen to me.” He bent down and leaned his forehead against hers for a moment.

He bent down and leaned his forehead against hers for a moment.

Now she began to cry.

“Don’t cry, Baby. I haven’t said anything yet. Do you know what I mean to say?”

“No, I don’t,” she blubbered.

“Whisht,” he said, and he smoothed her hair down again, and held his hands on either side of her head, covering the ears hidden beneath her hair. “Malcolm was in trouble today,” he said after a moment, “for breaking a little boy’s nose. Do you know whose?”


“The groom Arnulf’s boy, Anson. Do you know why?”

'Do you know why?'


“Don’t you, Baby?”

“No,” she whimpered.

“Malcolm told me that Anson and some other boys were bothering you – calling you names, and pulling your hair, and making you eat dirt, and throwing you in the pond.”

'I never told him that!'

“I never told him that!” she sobbed. “I never did!”

“Isn’t it true?”

“I don’t know.”

'I don't know.'

“How is it that you don’t know?”

“I don’t know.”

“Oh, Baby,” he sighed. “Why didn’t you even tell me?”

“What did he do to Anson?” she begged.

“He broke his nose.”

“Oh, no!” she sobbed into her hands. “Oh, no! I never told him anything!”

'I never told him anything!'

“Perhaps the boys told him, girlie.”

“Now they will break my nose!”


“They said – they said – ” She shuddered as she fought down another sob and wiped her nose on her sleeve. “They said everything Malcolm does to them, they will do to me.”

'They said everything Malcolm does to them, they will do to me.'

“Nobody shall break your nose, Baby,” he said, wrapping his arms around her.

“I guess they will too!”

“Nobody shall break your nose. Nobody shall hurt my Baby anymore,” he said, but she thought his voice was shaking, and she wondered whether that meant he doubted his own words. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t you believe I can help you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t you trust me any longer?” he asked, and now his arms were shaking in addition to his voice.

'Don't you trust me any longer?'

“I trust you.”

“Then why don’t you tell me things any longer? You have secrets from me now, and I don’t believe they are good secrets. I don’t mind your little secrets with Wynnie and your friends, but you have secrets that frighten me, Baby.”

“It’s ’cause I’m an elf, isn’t it?”

“What do you mean?” he asked, sitting up and looking into her face.

'What do you mean?'

“I have elf secrets I can’t tell ’cause you’re a man.”

“Elf secrets?” he whispered. “Who has been talking to you, Baby?”

“No one,” she mumbled.

His face was white. “Don’t talk to the elves, Baby,” he said, his voice hoarse. “Don’t let them talk to you.”

'Don't talk to the elves, Baby.'


He pushed his chair back and fell on his knees before her, and then he clutched her tightly against him, sobbing, “God help me, God help me…”

Iylaine was afraid.

Iylaine was afraid.