It was a grim dawn that promised more rain.

From the height of the flat stone, Malcolm could see out over the treetops of Selwood, though the farms beyond were lost in the mist. It was a grim dawn that promised more rain, with a sky that was purple like a bruise. There was little light as yet, but Egelric had finally fallen asleep, and Malcolm thought it his one chance to come here alone.

He had told Egelric almost everything he knew. He had told Egelric that Iylaine’s ears were supernaturally sensitive and thereby reassured him that she would hear them calling from miles away. He had told him that she could make fire by merely thinking about fire, and so Egelric could be certain that she would not be cold. He had told him how all the animals of the forest loved her, and that he doubted that even a wolf or a bear would do her harm.

He had even revealed all of their favorite hiding places—all but this one. He had not told Egelric about the dark lake in the hills.

It was not because he wanted to keep it sacred to the two of them. He had already told Egelric many things he would have liked to have kept secret, but none of that was more important than finding Iylaine.

It was not even because he was afraid of what her father would say if he admitted that they had swam here one night, and he had seen her wearing nothing but a wet shift. If that would have helped, he would have told him that too.

Malcolm did not tell him about the lake, because then he would have had to have told Egelric his fear.

Malcolm did not tell him about the lake, because then he would have had to have told Egelric his fear. He would have had to have told him about her occasional fits of restlessness, and how she had told him she did not want to swim but wanted to go down—and how once she very nearly had.

He had not told Egelric, and he had kept the idea out of his own mind, though it always floated just below the surface of his unconscious like some malevolent, man-​eating fish. But as soon as he heard Egelric start to snore that morning, he had known it was time to come.

He had not come before because he had always known that if she had come here, it had already been too late by the time he had been told of her disappearance on Friday night. He also knew that her body would not resurface for several days. She would come up one last time, and then, unless he found her, she would go down forever.

He had always told her he would not let her go down. He had promised her many things, but he feared now that this was the sole promise he would be allowed to keep.

He would find her if she had drowned, and they would bury her in the churchyard. And if Father Brandt would not allow it and buried her beside Elfleda, then Malcolm would move the churchyard wall stone by stone until they both lay within it.

The lake seemed very far below.

From the height of the flat, overhanging rock where she had always liked to sit, the lake seemed very far below. And yet he knew that the depth of the lake was far greater than the distance from the stone to the surface of the water—greater even than the height of the grim cliff that towered behind him.

Now he was haunted by something she had said to him a few weeks before, the last time she had indulged him with one of her rare outbursts of affection. Neither of them were romantic, poetic young people, but she had had romance enough in her to smile her truest smile at him and tell him that she wanted to go “into his eyes, and down and down and down.”

He had laughed at her because he was too embarrassed to reply in kind, though he would have liked to. But he had romance enough in him to have treasured the words since that day. He had thought it was the closest the wild girl had ever come to telling him she loved him.

Now—he didn’t know. Perhaps she had only wished she could drown in his eyes, since she felt she had to drown.

But he had not found her in the water, and though he knew that her body might stay below several days longer in such cold water, still his relief had so overwhelmed him that for some while afterwards he had not had the strength in his trembling legs to climb onto the rock.

But he had only stopped here for a moment out of love for her who liked to sit here. He still had a long way to climb, for he had not forgotten something else she had said once. Malcolm was going up.

Malcolm was going up.