'Oh!  Good!  Take this baby.'

“Oh! Good! Take this baby,” Egelric said and passed Wulf to the elf before either had the chance to protest.

“Wh – what?” Ears gasped and drew his head as far away from the little boy’s as he could.

Wulf blinked at him in surprise and cried, “No!”

Egelric laughed.

“He’s talking!” Ears said in astonishment.

'He's talking!'

“More wolf than dog, isn’t he? And, good evening, how are you?”

“What am I supposed to do with him?” the elf asked dubiously. “Is that why you wanted me?”

“No, I wanted to ask you a few questions, but I thought it would be fun to let the boy be the first to greet you.”

“Weren’t you afraid I would drop him?”




“Da! Up!” Wulf pleaded and held out his arms to his father.

“You are up, boy! Why don’t you look at his ears, while you’re up there? His ears?”

“Ears?” Wulf suddenly smiled and tried to peer around the elf’s long hair to find his ears.


“Oh, no,” Ears whimpered.

Egelric helpfully lifted a shock of the elf’s hair out of the way. “Pretty ears! Just like Mama has, and Wulf has!”

“Egelric, I shall never forgive you for this,” he said, squirming away from Wulf’s sticky hand.

'Egelric, I shall never forgive you for this.'

“You can always inflict your own insufferable offspring on me in a similar manner.”

“I shall coat him in honey before I do, and let him loose in your hair.”

“Agreed. Come here, boy.” Egelric took the baby and inspected his hand. “What did you get on yourself? Let’s tell Mama you need a bath.”

“Baf!” Wulf crowed.


“That was his first word,” Egelric laughed. “There is nothing he likes more than his ‘baf’. Not even Mama and Da, apparently.”

“Truly?” The elf seemed surprised.

“Wasn’t Finn the same way? Didn’t you tell me? So, you see? Still don’t believe he’s my son? Look at him! My son the fish, also known as Wulf.”

“May I hold him again for a moment?”

“We can try.”

Wulf struggled and whined at first, but Ears laid a hand on his forehead, and the boy quieted and stared intently into the elf’s green eyes. Egelric suddenly regretted having handed him over. There was something uncanny about that gaze. He sometimes forgot that there were many things about the elf that he did not understand – and many things he knew that he did not like.

'I'm sorry I told you he isn't your son.  I believe he may be.'

“Egelric,” he said softly, as if chastened. “I’m sorry I told you he isn’t your son. I believe he may be.”

“Well! It’s about time. I believe he most certainly is. However, you needn’t apologize so much for what you said, if you believed it the truth, as for laughing about it.”

“Did I?”

“You did. Come here, boy.” Egelric took the baby back. “You can be insufferable even without the honey,” he said to the elf.

“Then why do you suffer me?” he smiled.

'Then why do you suffer me?'

“I wish I knew. Then I could try to find a cure. Would you excuse me a moment while I take sticky-​​boy back to Mama?”

“Baf?” Wulf asked.

“You shall have your baf in a little while.”

“You shouldn’t teach him to say ‘baf’, Egelric,” Ears scolded.

“A lot you know about raising children! My father spoke nonsense to me until the day he died.”

'A lot you know about raising children!'

“Mine never did.”

“Perhaps that’s what made you so insufferable. My father’s nonsense saved me from total depravity. Excuse me a moment.”

The elf was staring into the cold fireplace when Egelric returned from the bedroom.

“It’s a little late in the year for that,” Egelric said.

'It's a little late in the year for that.'

“I know,” he sighed wistfully.

“You’re as bad as Sela – or Baby, when she was small. She wanted fires all the year.”

“Doesn’t she still?”

Egelric froze. He didn’t even know.

The elf turned back to him. “Doesn’t she?”

“I suppose so.”

He nodded and folded his arms across his chest. “What did you need to ask me?”

'What did you need to ask me?'

“Won’t you have a drink first?”

“Not tonight. I saw a wisp of moon when I went out, but I’m not confident it won’t disappear this night.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t think of that. Again.”

“If not for your total disregard for my safety, I would almost believe you were growing fond of me, Egelric.”

“I shall be sorry when I accidentally kill you through my disregard.”

“That will be some consolation when I am dead.”

'That will be some consolation when I am dead.'

Egelric laughed. “There are evenings when I am tempted to hang the rope from the tree only to have the fun of talking with you for a while.”

“If you don’t get to your question, I shall believe that is what you intended tonight.”

“Very well! I shan’t keep you. I only wished to know whether I might permit myself to leave for a few weeks.”

'I only wished to know whether I might permit myself to leave for a few weeks.'

“To leave?”

“My king is going to the country of my grandfather, as he does every year, and I should like to go with him. But I don’t know whether I dare leave Sela.”

The elf considered this for a moment. “I find it interesting that you can even ask the question.”

'I find it interesting that you can even ask the question.'


“Sela would certainly not ask it. For her there would be no question.”

“You’re saying I don’t love her properly,” Egelric said bitterly.

“You are a man; you love as a man. Certainly a swan would never dream of leaving his mate, and if he did, he would not be surprised upon his return to find she had died of grief meanwhile.”

'Can't you explain to her?'

“But Sela isn’t a bird either! Can’t you explain to her that it will only be for the space of a few weeks? From one moon to the next?”

The elf shrugged. “I could explain to you that I only intend to hold your head underwater for a count of one hundred, but it wouldn’t help you breathe meanwhile.”

“Very clever,” Egelric snapped.

“Don’t be angry at me only because I tell you things you don’t like to hear.”

'Don't be angry at me only because I tell you things you don't like to hear.'

“I was away for several months last year and she didn’t die of grief.”

“No, but she suffered,” the elf said curtly. “If you don’t mind leaving her to suffer ‘from one moon to the next,’ then you may do as you please.”

“Are you saying I may never leave this valley again?”

“I answered your questions. You may do as you please.” On his lips was a faint sneer.

'You may do as you please.'

Egelric glowered at him. He was not angry at him only because he said things he didn’t want to hear. He also did not like the manner in which he said them. Why, he wondered, did he have anything to do with the creature? He was insufferable!

“It is true,” Egelric said coldly. “You have answered my questions.”

“Would you like me to go?”

'Would you like me to go?'

“You may do as you please.”

The elf looked down into the cold fireplace and sighed with something like regret. “I must hurry,” he said to himself, and he left with no further farewell.

Egelric cursed the elf, swore at himself, and went back to the bedroom to get Wulf undressed for his baf.

Egelric cursed the elf and swore at himself.