Malcolm had left Druid at the stables at Nothelm and had come up the hill alone.

Malcolm had left Druid at the stables at Nothelm and had come up the hill alone. He was not certain he would find Iylaine here, but he knew that if he went to ask at Gunnilda’s, she would send Bedwig along with him to “help him look for her.” Bedwig was worse than an open door.

Anyway, he knew that she lately spent most of her time in the woods above the stable. He did not know what she did there, for it was impossible to sneak up on the girl, but the advantage of her keen ears was that he needn’t walk far in search of her. If she were anywhere in the area, she would hear him call – although that was no guarantee that she would come to him.

Today, however, she did. He had only called twice before she came loping out of the woods near the brook. He was beginning to localize her hiding place by reckoning how far she could have run after his first shout, but so far he could only say that it was within a wide area beyond the stream.

He had only called twice before she came loping out of the woods near the brook.

He stopped and waited for her to meet him in the clearing. It was a pleasure to watch her run. Her graceful stride was neither the waggle-​​limbed abandon of a little girl, nor the self-​​conscious hustle of the young ladies who wondered as they ran how their dress was flapping and whether their hair was mussed.

As for her, her dress billowed like a flag, and he could see her white ankles flashing between its hem and her slippers, but she seemed unaware of dress and ankles and even him. She had not cut her hair in months and it was growing too wild for her, but she let it fly. In the shade it was as pale as threads of silver, but when she ran out into the sunlight it was the color of the sun.

“Hallo, Baby!” he called.

She stopped abruptly just before him, as Druid liked to do when he ran in from the far end of the pasture. For Druid, the fun was in seeing how close he could come to his master before he stopped, and whether his master would panic at the last instant and leap away. Iylaine seemed to stop so short simply because, when she was outside and wild, she had no other gait between a run and a halt.

She had not come smiling.

But she had not come smiling.

“What?” she snapped.

“I came to ask you whether you would like – ”



“I don’t want to go with you.”

“You don’t even know where I’m going!”

'You don't even know where I'm going!'

“It doesn’t matter where,” she sneered. “Only with whom.

“The devil’s tabby kitten! Not this again!”

“I’m certain Synne and Ana and Freya would love to go. Oh!” she sniffed. “But I’m certain you already invited them first.”

“You’re jealous!” he accused.

'You're jealous!'

“I am not jealous. I simply do not wish to spend time with all of your little sweethearts.”

“My – You’re jealous!” he cried, growing angry.

“I am not jealous, you stupid beetle-​​brain boy!” she shrieked.

“We asked you to come almost every day! But this fine Baby was too fine to be seen with the likes of Old Aed’s son and the King’s cousin and the Baron’s nieces!”

'Oh, is that why you like them so much?'

“Oh, is that why you like them so much? Because they’re grand ladies, and I’m just a stupid foundling elf whose father is only a knight, and doesn’t even want to be her father any more?”

“Baby!” he groaned.

“Thank you for having the pity to ask me,” she snarled, “but I shall not impose my humble person on your noble selves.”


She turned and ran up the hill again as lightly as she had run down.

She turned and ran up the hill again as lightly as she had run down.

Malcolm swore to himself – in Gaelic, for he knew she would hear. He was thoroughly sick of her jealousy. She was bad enough when he spent a free afternoon with Murchad and Stein and Eirik instead of with her, but since Affrais and Angharat had been visiting, she had been unbearable. She would not even speak to him long enough to allow him to explain. Women! He would let her go. She was not worth his time.

But when she crossed into the shadow of the trees again, and the glow of her hair went out like the sun behind a silver cloud, he felt a momentary panic. He could not let her run away.

“But Baby! I’m going away! For a long while!”

She stopped abruptly.

She stopped abruptly, like Druid when he reached the far end of the pasture and came up against the fence. She turned to him, and his fury boiled up again. If she came back to him now, it would mean that what had gone before had been but a game to her. It would mean that he had panicked at the last and leapt. It would mean that she had won.

She descended the hill again, but she came slowly now, no longer wild.

She descended the hill again, but she came slowly now, no longer wild. When she stepped back into the sunlight, he could see on her face what this walk was costing her pride. It did not seem that she believed she had won, and his anger simmered down.

“Where are you going?” she murmured when she had come to stand before him again, at a greater distance than the last time.

“Denmark,” he said quickly. “The King has had a letter. The King of Danes is dead, and his brother is the new king. And so he is Sigefrith’s cousin, and we must go to greet him.”

“You too?”

“I, of course. I am his squire.”

'I, of course.  I am his squire.'

“For how long?” It was remarkable the change that her sudden sadness had wrought in her. She was as meek as a shorn ewe.

“I don’t know. The last time he went, he was away for three months or so. It depends on the weather – the wind – many things.”

“Will you go by sea?” she gasped.

“Of course, by sea, you stupid girl!” he laughed. “We live on an island – remember?”

“It doesn’t seem like an island…” she muttered.

“Ach, of course – you’ve never seen the sea.”

'Ach, of course--you've never seen the sea.'

“I’ve never left the valley.”

“That’s true. But next year you shall come home with me – you have my word! I shan’t let your father forget.”

“I hardly saw you since you returned, and now you’re leaving again,” she whimpered.

“That’s your own fault, you stupid, silly girl. We asked you to come with us all of these afternoons.”

She stiffened, but she was still too meek to lift her eyes to him. He was moved with a sudden pity for her. It was true that it was her own fault she did not understand – but she did not understand.

'You stupid, silly Baby.'

“You stupid, silly Baby,” he said softly. “The King asked me to go out with them. He wants his cousin Synne to marry Murchad, but if I hadn’t been there to make him talk, he wouldn’t have said two words to her since we returned.”

She looked up at him in surprise.

“There!” he laughed. “Can’t you see how my heart is breaking? Stupid girl! A lot of good it did you to be jealous. You missed all our fun.”

'Can't you see how my heart is breaking?  Stupid girl!'

“There was still Freya and Ana,” she grumbled and cast down her eyes again.

These sudden signs of his mastery over her made him bold. “There will always be Freyas and Anas, Baby mine. You’re a fool if you miss out on life because you can’t admit you’re not the only girl in the world. And even more a fool if you don’t realize that hiding yourself in the woods is not the best way to make other people forget that you aren’t.”

“But Freya is prettier than I am.”

'But Freya is prettier than I am.'

“Is she?” he said thoughtfully. “Eirik says she is. Stein says you are.”

“Oh!” she scoffed. “I don’t care what they think.”

He laughed. He would not give her the satisfaction of telling her what he thought.

“But don’t tell anyone what I told you,” he said. “Poor Synne doesn’t know yet.”

“Poor Synne?”

“What a ridiculous couple they are – though she doesn’t know it yet! He never talks, and she never stops talking. It’s exhausting work, Babe, making him look clever. I wish you would come. Then we could wink over them and laugh to ourselves.”

“But it’s too late now,” she whined.

'But it's too late now.'

“Not quite. Sigefrith isn’t leaving until his baby is born, and who knows when that will be? In a few weeks, or? So, next time, when we ask you, you should come. But this evening I want you to come with me alone. Can you? Sigefrith sent me to ride out and tell your father the news.”

“My father!” she gasped. “I can’t go there!”

I think you should. It’s about time you met his wife and babies. I don’t know what his problem is.”

“No!” she shrieked. “No! No!”

'No!  No!  No!'

“Baby! Only come with me, please. You can wait at the lake shore, and I shall tell him you’re there, and if you’re there he will be forced to let you come meet Sela and the babies.”

“I don’t want to meet her!”

“You should, though. Baby, you’ll see. Once you meet them, everything will be easier. It’s only hard because it should have been done long ago, and waiting only makes it worse.”

“You don’t understand!” she wailed.

'You don't understand!'

He sighed. It was true, he didn’t understand. He could understand her attitude, though he thought it rather childish, but Egelric’s conduct was as inexplicable as it was inexcusable.

“Very well, only come with me then. Please? You may wait at the lake, and I shan’t tell him you’re there. It’s a pleasant ride, and I think we shall see the sun setting on our way home. And I want to talk to you. I’m certain you’ve thought of a thousand things you wanted to tell me in these past weeks.”

'I did, but I'm not certain they are things you will like to hear.'

She smiled slyly. “I did, but I’m not certain they are things you will like to hear.”

He laughed. “Come on, then, and tell me as we ride. We shall see whether you have the impudence to complain to a boy who takes you out alone that you are jealous of his supposed sweethearts!”

“I am not jealous!” she cried, but when he held out his hand to her, she took it, and she allowed him to lead her away.

She allowed him to lead her away.