'You value my life lightly.'

“You value my life lightly,” the elf grumbled when Egelric opened the door. “With these clouds, how am I to see whether there is a moon?”

“Oh – I hadn’t thought of that,” Egelric said sheepishly.

“No, you wouldn’t have. You have your elf now, and never mind about the rest of us. Here’s your rope. May I come in, at least? She won’t dare come after me here.”

“You might stay the night,” Egelric offered as he stepped aside and dropped the coiled rope in a corner.

“Hmm! I believe I prefer to take my chances.”

He went at once to the fire, with a glance at the cup on the table where Egelric had been sitting a moment before, and he held out his hands to warm them.

He went at once to the fire.

“What is so important that it was worth risking my life?” he asked. “Everything looks calm enough in here, and it sounds like a happy baby back there.”

“Doesn’t sound like two, does it?” Egelric asked.

“Two babies?” He stood straight and tilted his head, as if listening. “You do have two babies in the other room. What’s the other one? Another half-​​breed of yours?” He smiled ironically.

'Another half-breed of yours?'

“Another one, but not mine.”

“What? Is it truly?”

“Its father is an elf, and its mother one of the girls that was attacked last winter. Now – would you like to see it?”

“Hmm. I suppose I should.”

Egelric went back to the bedroom. Wulf was sitting up in the cradle and had been sucking on the leg of his stuffed lamb, but now he held it out to his father and squealed for attention. Egelric ignored him, for Sela was crouching by the fire with her back to the door, her body coiled around the other baby, and the sight troubled him.

Sela was crouching by the fire with her back to the door.

“Sela,” Egelric said gently. “Let me see that baby for a while.”

Sela did not move.

“Sela, please. He won’t hurt it. I shan’t let him. We only want to see it for a moment, just a moment.”

She shook her head firmly.

Wulf squealed again and held out his lamb. Egelric heard the elf speak a few strange words from the doorway, and Sela wailed and held up the baby at once. Egelric snatched it up and turned back to the elf.

“Get out of here!” he yelled.

Wulf dropped his lamb in dismay and began to whimper.

“Take him, Sela,” he muttered. “I – ” He could say no more. He followed the elf out into the other room.

“She probably thinks I intend to eat it,” the elf chuckled and picked up the cup to sniff it. “What is this? It smells like overripe apples.”

'What is this?  It smells like overripe apples.'


“Is it good with raw babies?”

Egelric glared at him.

“Oh, look at you,” the elf snorted. “I shan’t eat your babies. I’m not a savage. Let me see it.”

Egelric held up the baby for his inspection. “Why don’t you explain to me how this baby, too, is a boy, if elves can’t have sons with men?”

Egelric held up the baby for his inspection.

“Oh, Egelric, you don’t understand,” he sighed. “An elf mother can only have daughters, and an elf father can only have sons. And, naturally, if a child has an elf father and an elf mother then it might be either. Your so-​​called son, for instance.”

“I think he’s mine. I think he looks like me.”

“If it pleases you to think so,” he shrugged. “May I touch it for a moment?”

“You won’t hurt it?”

“Certainly not.” He brushed his first two fingers over the baby’s forehead, which caused the baby to wrinkle up his face – which caused him to smile.

The baby wrinkled up his face--which caused him to smile.

“You like him, don’t you?” Egelric said maliciously. “You think he’s cute.”

“Certainly not! I – ”

“You do! Cute as cute! You’re simply dying to kiss him. I can tell.”

“Certainly not!” He stood up straight and scowled – but it was clearly an attempt to prevent himself from laughing.

He stood up straight and scowled.

“He wouldn’t be yours, now, would he?”

“Certainly not!” he gasped.

Egelric laughed. “You blush like a maid. I don’t believe you would know how to make one of these if you wanted one.”

“I – I think you drank too much of your cider drink!”

“And I think you could use a drink.”

“Elves do not drink such things,” he sniffed, but Egelric saw his glance dart briefly over to the cup.

“You would like to try, though, wouldn’t you? I can tell! All you want to do tonight is to kiss babies and get roaring drunk. You’ve come to the right house, young man – or elf! I have everything you need. Here, get started kissing this baby,” he said as he thrust the drowsy infant into the elf’s arms, “and I shall pour you a cup.”

He thrust the drowsy infant into the elf's arms.

“Now – now – now!” he cried in alarm.

“Now now now, I’m not asking you to nurse it. Only cuddle it a while.”

Egelric clucked to himself in satisfaction as he went to pour another cup of cider. It did good to see the sneering creature discomposed for once.

It did good to see the sneering creature discomposed for once.

“The devil!” he cried gleefully when he turned back and saw the elf’s livid face. “I would invite you here more often if you didn’t terrorize my wife! What fun I would have with you! And Alred too. Now, give me back this baby and take this cup. If elves don’t drink such things, then you don’t know what’s coming to you.”

“Oh, I’ve seen how you men behave. Like savages!” He sniffed the cup dubiously.

“Like dogs! I know. Try it. I shan’t tell your father.”

“My father!” he cried in despair.

“He will never know. You may sleep it off here. I have another bed.”

'You may sleep it off here.  I have another bed.'

“Oh, no!”

“One cup won’t do you in. Come now! Are you a wolf or a dog?”

“I’m an elf!”

“A man or a maid?”

He snorted and took a sip. “Oh! It’s vile!” he cringed.

'Oh!  It's vile!'

“It’s quite good once you get to the third cup. Take your time.”

“It’s a little sweet,” he said thoughtfully after a second taste.

“Good! Now tell me, what am I supposed to do with this child?”

“Do with it? How should I know? I don’t even know how babies are made.”

“That’s what I get for trying to joke with you!”

'That's what I get for trying to joke with you!'

“I think it would be good with raw babies,” he said as he peered into the cup.

Egelric laughed, and the elf with him.

“Why is it that you have him?” he asked after another sip. “What about his mother?”

'What about his mother?'

“His mother is dead.”


“So it would seem that I am the logical inheritor of orphaned elf babies.”

“Indeed it would.”

“But – what shall I do with him?”

“I suppose that he and Wulf should get along well.”

“Can’t you – I mean – shouldn’t he be raised with elves?”

'Shouldn't he be raised with elves?'

“What is Sela?”

“But she…”

“I think she wants to keep him. He is so cute, after all.”

“But I…”

“Look at you!” he tittered. “I can tell you want to kiss him.”

“But what about his father?”

“Oh!” The elf snorted and took another drink of cider. “His father won’t come after him. That kind breed like vermin, and the least sparrow is a better father than they. You know, Egelric, that fatherhood is one of the differences between dogs and wolves.”

'You know, Egelric, that fatherhood is one of the differences between dogs and wolves.'