'How can you tell?'

Malcolm’s skin prickled with the same primitive apprehension he would have felt upon seeing a wolf or a bear at the edge of the woods. “How can you tell?” he whispered.

“They have a way of standing,” Egelric said. “I can’t explain. Like kings. Like lions.”

“Is it the elf you know?”

“I don’t know.”

But the elf finally waved an arm as if he wanted them to approach.

“I have my knives,” Malcolm whispered.

“As do I.”

They crossed the remaining distance together, side-​by-​side, but Malcolm could feel Egelric relax as they grew closer. He concluded that it was the elf his cousin knew.

Malcolm did not think they met as friends.

Nevertheless, Malcolm did not think they met as friends. Egelric had his wary, wolf-​like look about him, and he stared up from beneath menacingly lowered brows. The elf held his head high and looked down at them, and his hair fell over one of his eyes as if the sight of such worms as they was too repulsive for him to bear with the two. The other was queerly green, like stagnant water in the hot sun.

“This is my cousin, Malcolm,” Egelric said when the steady gaze the elf held on Malcolm began to seem an aggression. Malcolm was finding it more difficult to meet the glare of a single eye than of two, but he held it.

Malcolm was finding it more difficult to meet the glare of a single eye than of two, but he held it.

“I see the resemblance,” the elf said coldly, and then he turned to Egelric and compassion spread over his face like ripples across a pond. “How are your boys?”

“They’ve stopped asking for their mother,” Egelric muttered. “I suppose that’s an improvement.”

“I’m sorry.”

Egelric shrugged. “Did you find him?”


“You told Alred he couldn’t hide from you,” Egelric snapped.

'You told Alred he couldn't hide from you.'

This was news to Malcolm. He did not know that Alred had ever met the elf. But he had been away! He had missed all of this.

“He can’t,” the elf said. “That is, he shouldn’t be able to. He is either dead, or he has left the valley, or someone is helping him hide.”

“Is it Gils’s father then?”

“I believe it is. His accomplices admitted it.”

“Who is he?”

“Only one of… her kind,” he said with a wave of his hand. “No one. We are watching for him, Egelric. I begin to believe that he is dead.”

“Then I am sorry I did not have the opportunity to kill him myself.”

'Then I am sorry I did not have the opportunity to kill him myself.'

The elf looked at him sorrowfully. “That wouldn’t have helped.”

“It would have helped me.”

The elf turned a pleading eye onto Malcolm for an instant, but his face hardened at once, as if he had momentarily mistaken him for a friend. He was clearly not accustomed to hiding what he thought.

He was clearly not accustomed to hiding what he thought.

Malcolm stared back at him, fully in control of his own expression. Thus could Malcolm despise him a little, in spite of his height, in spite of his pride, in spite of his beauty… his handsome nose…

“I think it must be a grim satisfaction, Egelric,” the elf said. “Although I know that revenge is a common theme in your stories. Perhaps it is important for men.”

“Don’t elves believe in revenge?” Egelric laughed bitterly. “Druze does!”

“Druze is somewhat…”

“Not even if someone kills your… your love?”

“No elf has killed another elf in a very, very long time,” the elf said softly.

“Except for Sela!”

'Except for Sela!'

“Except for Sela,” he admitted.

“Why, then? Why now? Why her?”

The elf shrugged helplessly and opened his mouth, though he found nothing to say.

“What do you want?” Egelric asked impatiently. “I’m not ready to see you or your kind yet. What do you want today?”

“Oh…” The elf glanced quickly at Malcolm before he spoke, and he took a step backwards as if he intended to make a retreat. “If you don’t wish to see me… I was… I was wondering how you have been, and your boys. There’s someone else living at the house now…”

'There's someone else living at the house now...'

“Aye!” Egelric said with another bitter laugh. “I suppose we must call him one of my tenants! I suppose that castle on the hill is mine now. I’ve come a long way since I had my little shack by the lake!”

“Do you live there now?”

Egelric snorted. “My lord would have me there. I suppose I shall eventually make up my mind to go. I shall hang the rope from the battlements when I wish to see you,” he said with a wolfish smile.

Malcolm did not understand this last, but he did not have time to consider it.

“Will you take your children?” the elf asked with another, quick glance at Malcolm that Malcolm did not miss.

'Will you take your children?'

Malcolm was on his guard at once. He did not think the elf was thinking of Wulf and Gils when he asked it.

“I shall certainly take the boys. My daughter shall live where she pleases. All of her friends are here,” Egelric said with a glance of his own at Malcolm that the elf did not miss. “And her cousin,” he added.

'And her cousin.'

At the word “cousin” the elf’s handsome face went briefly vicious. Egelric stared at him coolly. Malcolm did not think the remark had been carelessly made.

“I suppose I dare not visit you there,” the elf said.

Egelric shrugged. “Perhaps not in the summer. In the winter you can always throw a cloak over your head, or you could let your hair grow like my daughter’s, to hide your ears.”

“Even so, I think your guards will wonder who I am. I don’t know that I could pass for a peasant.”

'I don't know that I could pass for a peasant.'

“No, I don’t suppose you could,” Egelric smiled. “Not when you walk like a prince and talk like a foreigner.”

“I shall come as a foreign prince,” the elf smiled in return.

“Then you will certainly pass unnoticed in the throngs of foreign princes that will wait at my gates. But I think that if you need to speak to me, you will find a way. Only contrive to meet me in a pasture as you did today. Or send a horse as messenger to me.”

The elf turned to Malcolm. By the way his green eye moved as he looked all over Malcolm’s face, Malcolm supposed that he only spoke to him so that he would have an opportunity to study him more closely.

'That is a very handsome horse.'

“That is a very handsome horse,” the elf said. “Is it yours?”


“He may be a little dangerous, though, for so young a rider.”

“My cousin Iylaine has a way with horses,” Malcolm said coolly. In his case it was certainly not a careless remark.

He was not disappointed in the result, for the elf's face briefly quivered with repressed outrage.

He was not disappointed in the result, for the elf’s face briefly quivered with barely repressed outrage. Malcolm knew that either this elf was her cousin, or he envied Malcolm for declaring himself to be.

Malcolm knew that either this elf was her cousin, or he envied Malcolm for declaring himself to be.

The elf looked back to Egelric. “Indeed, I shall find a way. But you may try the trick with the rope if you need me. I am often in those hills. Please greet Alred for me. I have missed him, too.”

Egelric nodded.

“I shall leave you to your horse.” He looked past them and whistled to the stallion. “Come!” he called, and the horse trotted obediently up to them. “Behave yourself,” the elf said to him, and the animal snorted a reply.

Malcolm allowed himself a wry smile. Obviously the elf intended to show him that he too had a “way with horses.”

“It was a pleasure to meet you,” he said politely to Malcolm. “The peace of God on you, Egelric.”

'The peace of God on you, Egelric.'

“And on you, Ears,” Egelric said with a slight bow.

The elf climbed over the fence and walked off into the dark pine woods without a backward glance. He had disappeared within only a few paces. The three of them stared after him, and the horse even gave a sigh of regret as he vanished.

Malcolm turned to him and swore at him in Gaelic. “It’s a traitor you are!”

'It's a traitor you are!'

“You should have seen Belsar with him,” Egelric said.

Malcolm spat and began walking away from the fence. He no longer cared to play games with his horse. He had a lot of thinking to do.

“You two didn’t seem to take to one another,” Egelric muttered, in Gaelic still.

“Do you trust him?” Malcolm asked.

“More than I trust any other elf. But far less than I trust you.

'More than I trust any other elf.  But far less than I trust you.'