Egelric hurried up through the woods towards the downs.

Egelric hurried up through the woods towards the downs, and as he went he whipped viciously at the naked bushes with a length of twine that he had picked up along the way. He was going to see the redhead, and the old man be damned. She was the only one he thought bold enough to hold her own against him tonight.

The trees began to thin, and now he climbed towards the dim blue light of the open sky. He began to see shadows that lay more heavily over the shadow that surrounded him, cast by a moon that was waxing full.

Suddenly Egelric tossed his twine aside and drew his knife.

Suddenly Egelric tossed his twine aside and drew his knife. Something large had just gone bounding past on a path parallel to his own. It was not the galumphing of a bear, and it seemed to leap more than a wolf or wild dog would do – those were his two great fears. Nor did he think a man could move so rapidly. It was almost certainly a deer.

It would be something to bring down a deer with his knife, and it might do him some good to kill it, but he knew the animals too wary to be taken so easily, so he sheathed his blade and walked on.

He had only walked a few more steps before he whipped it out again. A tall form had come to blank out the patch of starry sky towards which he had been walking.

A tall form had come to blank out the patch of starry sky towards which he had been walking.

At first he was stricken with the realization that he had met the Dark Lady at nearly this spot, though it had been a dark moon then. But then a gentle voice cried softly and with apparent delight, “Egeric!”

“The devil!” he snarled, and he slammed his knife back into its sheath. “The last person I need to see on a night when all I really want to do is kill somebody!”

“Egeric,” she repeated sadly. “I see you.”

“The devil you do! Go home! Sela go home!”

'Go home!  Sela go home!'

“Egeric, I talk you.”

“No, you – ” He stopped and sighed. “Listen, it’s Egelric. E-​​gel-​​ric.”

“E-​​gel-​​ric,” she repeated, brightening.

“Now go home before I hurt you! Go home!”

“I go home,” she said eagerly. “I talk you! Good mornin’!” She lifted the hem of her skirt and bent in a graceful movement that made a rather awkward curtsey for all that. “How to you day?” Then she stood on her tiptoes and shook her little fists in excitement, pink with pride.

Egelric threw back his head and laughed. He could not help it – she was no more than a child.

Egelric threw back his head and laughed.

“First of all, it’s evening, not morning. Good evening,” he said precisely and pointed at the sky. “Good evening.”

“Good evernin’,” she repeated, looking up.

“Eve-​​ning,” he corrected. “Look at me now.”

“Evenin’,” she repeated to the sky.

“No, look at me. You see me.”

'No, look at me.  You see me.'

“I see you!” She looked at him and laughed.

“Good evening, Sela,” he said, bowing.

“Good evernin’, Egelric,” she giggled and bowed.

“Evening,” he corrected hastily. “How are you today?”

“How to you are day?”

He laughed. “How – are – you?”


“How are you?”

“Oh, Sela,” he sighed. “You shouldn’t ask. You had better go home.”

“You make fire.”

“No fire. Why are you always asking for fire? Are you cold?”

“No fire?”

“No fire. Put on a cloak, for God’s sake! You go home and make a fire, or whatever you elves do, wherever you elves live. I must go.”

'I must go.'

“You go home?”

“Not precisely.”

“What you call… dis?” she asked as her hand darted out to take his.

Her hand darted out to take his.

“This? Hand.”

“Hand,” she laughed. “I see you hand.”

“I see your hand,” he corrected.

“I see your hand.”

“Very good. However, I believe you are not seeing it but holding it rather.”

Indeed she was closely watching his mouth as he spoke, but he could see that he had quite lost her with this last.

He could see that he had quite lost her with this last.

“Look,” he said, lifting their hands together. “You hold my hand. I hold your hand.”


“Look.” He dropped her hand and bent to pick up a handful of pine needles. “Hold,” he said, bringing them up before her face. “Drop.” He let them fall. He broke a twig from a tree and held it up to her. “Hold,” he said, and “drop,” as he let it fall.

She watched him closely, like a child, silently mouthing the words as he went.

She watched him closely, like a child.

“Hold,” he said of a bit of branch, and “Drop” again.

Now she bent to take a handful of needles. “Hold!” she said, and then she tossed them in the air. “Drop!”

“No,” he laughed. “That’s throw. Watch.” He took a twig in each hand and dropped one and threw the other as he spoke the words to demonstrate the difference.

“Drop,” she repeated solemnly with a handful of needles, and “Trow!” she giggled as another handful rained down on their heads.

“You little wretch!” he laughed as he pawed at his hair and dug needles out of the collar of his cloak. “I shall throw you!

'I shall throw you!'

“You trow I?” she laughed breathlessly and shook her fists. “I go home!”

“You had better go home, or I shall! What a child you are! Where’s your mama? Didn’t she ever tell you not to throw things at such men as I?”

“I trow you!” she threatened with a dazzling smile.

“It’s throw,” he corrected. “Throw.”


“No, throw. Stick your tongue between your teeth, like this. Thhhhrow.”

She squinted her eyes in determination and put the tip of her tongue between her teeth, but she produced more spit than sound. She clapped her hand over her mouth for an instant, but then she began to laugh so heartily that he was carried away with her, and he laughed until tears gathered in the corners of his eyes.

'No trow, no trow, I drop you.'

“No trow, no trow, I drop you,” she said after they had caught their breath, which only set them off laughing again.

“I haven’t laughed like that,” he said as he wiped his eyes, “since… I don’t know. Since I was a boy perhaps. God bless you.”

“God pless you,” she repeated.

'God pless you.'

“Aye, that’s right. That’s sweet of you, though I suppose you don’t know what you’re saying.”

She smiled expectantly at him.

“Go home, Sela,” he pleaded gently. “You’re too sweet to be out here with me, and too pretty to last long. Though God knows you could probably strangle me if you would. You would like that, wouldn’t you?” he smiled ruefully as he rubbed his throat. “Don’t you all?”

Her smile grew softer as he spoke.

Her smile grew softer as he spoke, as if she understood more than what was in his words. Then she began to speak to him in her own language, and though he could understand none of it, he thought he caught such compassion and wisdom in her voice and in her dark eyes that he was suddenly mortified. She was no child, and neither had she the mind of a child.

“Please go home,” he whispered to the face she held too close to his.

'Please go home.'

“Please tank you welcome,” she whispered in reply.

“Please go home,” he repeated miserably.

“I go home.”

“Thank you.”



He smiled sorrowfully at her, and she dipped into a bow and then bounded off like a hare.

He trudged up the hill, picking pine needles off of his neck as he went. He was sorry she had come, and sorry she had gone. He had felt like a boy for a moment with her, but he did not think he would be so easily fooled the next time. The next time? He would have to hope there wouldn’t be a next time.

But he would go home. He no longer cared to see that vicious redhead tonight.

He would go home.