He was only half-awake even now.


Egelric grunted. He was only half-​awake even now, but he had the impression that Baby had been trying to wake him for some time.

“Da! Wake up! Something happened!”

“What is it?” he mumbled. He certainly did not wish to wake up. It was such a luxury to sleep in a soft bed with a fire at his feet.

“I heard something!” she whispered.

“I don’t hear anything.”

“I did! I heard a scream.”

'I did!  I heard a scream.'

Egelric sighed. He was here because it was the new moon, but nothing had happened in the past months, so he was not expecting anything to happen this night. No doubt one of the grooms had been chasing one of the maids, and the scream she had heard was merely the sound of the maid being caught. Or perhaps it was Matilda, he thought with a wry smile. This bedchamber was not far from his lord’s.

But of course he could not tell Baby so. “You only dreamed it, Baby. If something happens, His Grace will send for me.”

“But he will come!” she whispered urgently.

“When he does, then I shall get up. Now go back to sleep. It doesn’t concern you anyway.”

“But it was a bad scream!”

“Iylaine…” he warned.

The use of her name quieted her, and he heard her lie down and pull the blankets back up over her.

Egelric sighed again and let himself slip back into sleep. So soft, so warm…

He did not know how long he slept before the knock came.

“I told you!” Baby whispered triumphantly.

Egelric leapt up and went to the door.

Egelric leapt up and went to the door.

It was Alred, and he wore a cloak.

“Get dressed, Squire. There’s something you need to see.”

“Has someone been killed?”

“An elf.”

'An elf.'

“What?” he gasped.

“Get dressed, and I shall show you.”

Egelric dressed at once, but he was surprised that Iylaine didn’t ask any questions—she only stared at him with wide and frightened eyes. He did not think she could have overheard their conversation in the hall, but it was unlike her to be so quiet.

Alred took him through the gate and around the castle to where a few guards stood with torches.

At the base of the wall there lay a body, curled up as if asleep.

At the base of the wall there lay a body, curled up as if asleep, and an elf indeed.

Egelric kneeled to study the face. It was not Ears.

“Who did this?” he asked.

“Oh, Egelric,” Alred said. “It wasn’t us. The guards heard a scream and went around to see.”

“Is it one of the elves who attacked the castle?”

“We should get the guards who saw them over here to see.”

“How did he die?” one of the men asked.

Egelric leaned closer to look for marks on the face or neck.

Egelric leaned closer to look for marks on the face or neck, but before he could say that there were none, one of the guards shouted a warning, and he looked up to see a pack of tremendous wolves heading towards them at a run.

He saw that they would be upon them in an instant, but he had the time to leap to his feet and draw his long knife.

The men all flattened themselves against the wall to await their attack, but the wolves stopped just past the elf’s body, and formed a barrier with their own.

They formed a barrier with their own bodies.

“Do you think they killed him and are coming back to eat him?” one of the guards asked after a tense moment.

“There was not a mark on him,” Egelric said, endeavoring to move only his mouth as he spoke.

“Perhaps they mean to protect him,” Alred said. “The elves that attacked the castle had wolves.”

“Should we leave him to them?” Egelric asked.

'Should we leave him to them?'

“I don’t think they leave us much choice, though I hope they don’t intend to eat him after all.”

The men slipped slowly around the wall, but the wolves did not follow.

In the morning, when they went to see, they found no sign of the body, nor even the footprints of wolves in the damp earth—nor even their own.