Egelric rose awkwardly at the sound of a knock.

Egelric rose awkwardly at the sound of a knock. He was not yet accustomed to manipulating such a large baby. His hands still expected to find the tiny boy he had left.

Just then he was happy enough that he thought he could forgive anything – even Alred for taking him away from Sela and the baby. Later he would come to miss those lost three months, but just then he was happy.

He remembered only as he was opening the door that Alred was supposed to stay at Thorhold for a few days. Sigefrith, perhaps? It was someone Belsar knew, for the dog wasn’t barking.

It was not Sigefrith.

It was not Sigefrith.

“Oh! Oh! Damn!” Egelric cringed. “I forgot to take the rope down!”

The elf gave him a nearly comical look of long-​​suffering. “Somehow I knew you would say that,” he sighed. “Here’s your rope, anyway.” He handed him the rope that Egelric had hung from the big pine earlier, when he had been desperate for help in finding Sela.

“Thank you,” Egelric grinned sheepishly. “Won’t you come in?”

“Since I am here…” He stepped inside.

“I couldn’t find Sela when I came home. I thought you might know…”

'I thought you might know...'

“I could have told you she wouldn’t be here. I couldn’t believe you left her for so long.”

“I had no choice! I had no idea she would run off like that!”

“Of course she would. Her kind aren’t fit to live in houses,” he scoffed, “any more than old Belsar is. She only does because you’re here. I could have told you that, too.”

She could have told me if you hadn’t taken her words away!”

The elf looked down at the cold fireplace.

“Perhaps you can tell me what’s wrong with her? She looks as if she has been ill.”

“I already did tell you that. I told you she couldn’t live without you. And I told you that those words mean nothing to you men, and so, do you see? Now you have proven me right.”

'Now you have proven me right.'

“What do you mean?”

“You didn’t believe me.”

“I didn’t die.”

“If you had, she would be well now. Where is she? In the other room?”

“Aye. She’s tired.”

The elf snorted. “She will be fine. Now.

“Are you telling me she was ill because I was not here?”

'Are you telling me she was ill because I was not here?'

“I did tell you, and I am telling you. Perhaps you will believe me this time.”

The elf looked all around the room as if he sought something on which he might permit himself to rest his eyes. Egelric thought he was carefully avoiding looking at the baby.

“Don’t you care to see him?” Egelric grinned maliciously and held up his drowsy son. “I named him after you.”

'I named him after you.'

“What?” the elf gasped, startled into looking at the baby.

“Wulf,” Egelric said.

“What? Wulf? Oh!” The elf laughed appreciatively. “Because of what I said about dogs and wolves. That’s a rather cruel thing to do to a little girl, to name her Wulf only to get even with me.”

“It’s a little boy.”



“I assure you.”

“What?” The elf stared at the baby in amazement.

“You ought to know that I am capable of having sons! It is all I have ever had. Elfleda’s first baby was also a boy.”

“But that was Elfleda. Egelric…” He laughed. “And you tell me she isn’t a dog! That child isn’t yours, if it’s a boy.”

'That child isn't yours, if it's a boy.'

“What?” Egelric cried. The baby began to whimper, startled at the noise.

“An elf can’t have sons with a man. It isn’t possible. It took five generations of marrying men for the women of Elfleda’s family to be able to have sons.”

Now Egelric was stunned. He laid the baby across his shoulder and absently tried to comfort him. “It’s a lie!” he hissed.

The elf shrugged. “I’m sorry. Unless you have an elf for a grandfather?”

“I think not.”

'I think not.'

“Nor do I.”

“Well – only look at him!” Egelric cried, holding the baby out before him again. “Doesn’t he look like me?”

The elf glanced down at him and shrugged. “Looks more like his mother.”

“But he has round ears like mine!”

“All elf babies have round ears when they’re still small,” he laughed.

“But he will have my nose, don’t you think?”

'But he will have my nose, don't you think?'

“He still has a baby nose. You will see.”

“You lie! You laugh at me! This is some joke of yours – and I do not find it amusing.”

“I’m sorry, Egelric,” the elf said earnestly. “Sorry for you. But you should have known that no good would come out of choosing to be with such a creature.”

'But you should have known that no good would come out of choosing to be with such a creature.'

“Out! Out of my house!”

The baby was crying now. He knew Sela would grow frightened if she heard the shouting and the baby crying. He had to get the elf out.

He sighed. “I’m sorry, Egelric,” he said again. “I shouldn’t – ”


The elf nodded and went out without another word.

The elf nodded and went out without another word.

Egelric laid the baby back across his shoulder and soothed him into silence again.

It was certainly a lie, he thought. Wulf was his son–he knew it. Surely a man would know his own son!

But Sigefrith hadn’t, he remembered – and he had been grateful for that once.

He was certain now that they had been right not to tell Sigefrith the truth. It would have been too cruel.

He was certain now that they had been right not to tell Sigefrith the truth.