It was a very sullen young woman who entered Lady Luitgarde's chamber.

It was a very sullen young woman who entered Lady Luitgarde’s chamber.

Malcolm had convinced Iylaine that it was best to tell her father that she merely wanted to apologize to her stepmother and make her peace with her. This was precisely what Iylaine had been too proud to do before, but Malcolm did not want her father to be given too much hope, in case Iylaine could do nothing to save her. Thus she had her pride to swallow, and it was a bitter enough beverage to make any mouth turn down at the corners.

She was also ashamed to see how surprised and happy her father had been to see her at all, and as always she hid her shame behind her temper. Nor did she like to see how easily Malcolm led her, nor how Malcolm and her father seemed to smile at one another over her head, as if they had some secret from her.

But she could not long remain angry over the head that lay on the pillows.

But she could not long remain angry over the head that lay on the pillows in this quiet room. The girl’s golden face was red with fever, and her eyes were already dark and sunken as if death’s hand had closed them ahead of the appointed hour. Few women survived childbed fever, and Lili’s face gave no hope of recovery.

Iylaine felt very awkward. She had little experience with death and dying. Certainly she had never found herself responsible for another’s illness. She had no experience attending a sickbed.

Iylaine felt very awkward.

“Lili, are you sleeping?” she said in an unnaturally loud voice. “Lili? Lili?”

Iylaine began to grow worried. What if Lili could not be woken? Should she touch her anyway?

But Lili awoke suddenly, and she sat up and gasped, “Ich warte lieber!

She sat up and gasped.

“What?” Iylaine cried.

Lili looked as confused as she. “Iylaine! I’m – sorry… How nice to see you…”

“Lili, I’m – ” Iylaine swallowed. She felt infinitely more awkward now that Lili was awake. “I’m supposed to be here to apologize to you, but I’m truly here to try to help you. But don’t tell my father!”

“Help me?”

“I – Malcolm wants me to try to help you. To heal you. When he was very sick with a fever I was able to help him by laying my hands on him and making the fire come out of him. The fever, that is. Because I am an elf.”

'Because I am an elf.'

Lili’s eyes were wide with the fascination of fear.

“It’s not magic,” Iylaine said hurriedly. “It’s not bad or evil. It is simply making the fire come out of you.”

“Why do you want to help me?” Lili asked after a moment.

“For my father’s sake,” Iylaine mumbled. “Because he loves you. And I love him.”

Lili looked up at the canopy of her bed for a moment before pushing the blankets down as far as she could reach. “Did he tell you so?” she murmured as Iylaine bent over her and pulled the blankets down to her knees.

'Did he tell you so?'

“Malcolm told me so,” Iylaine said quickly. “I don’t know what he told Malcolm. But Malcolm always knows what people think. Sometimes before they know it themselves.”

“Sometimes he frightens me, your Malcolm,” Lili smiled timidly.

“Me too.”

“Will it hurt?” Lili asked as Iylaine lay a tentative hand on her stomach.

“I don’t know. I suppose not.”

Lili was silent after that, and Iylaine was grateful. She felt awkward enough already without having to talk. She was also distracted by the fire she found in the girl.

She was also distracted by the fire she found in the girl.

Lili’s stomach was as hard and bloated as if she still carried a baby of six months inside of it, but it was only a mass of heat and fire. It was a dreadful sort of fire: Iylaine saw at once that it was like a great chunk of coal that was deceptively somber on the outside with its layer of ash, but yellow-​​hot all the way to the core.

It was nothing like Malcolm’s illness, which had been a heat in all his body. But though it was a more sinister sort of fire, she thought it might be easier to combat because it was so concentrated. Lili’s own body was trying to cool it, but it was hopeless – Lili had no way of getting to the heart of it. Iylaine could start in the center and work her way outward.

Iylaine could start in the center and work her way outward.

“What are you doing?” Lili asked after a time.

“Does it hurt?”

“No… it feels a little better.”

Iylaine reached up and brushed her hand over each of Lili’s cheeks. That fire was easy to remove.

“Oh, that feels so much cooler,” Lili sighed happily.

'Oh, that feels so much cooler.'

“It will come back until I have finished here. It will take time. Perhaps many hours.” Iylaine had no idea how long it would take, but she decided it was better to sound as if she did – to reassure Lili if not herself.

“Do you mind?”

Iylaine was taken aback. Surely Lili did not think she would be left to die merely because Iylaine could not be bothered? Was that what Lili thought of her?

“Of course I don’t mind!” she said more snappishly than she had intended.

“I want to live,” Lili quavered. “Even without my baby. If you believe he loves me.”

'I want to live.'

“Didn’t he ever once tell you so?”


“How stupid of him,” she muttered, but she blushed at the thought of how many creative ways she had found to change the subject whenever Malcolm had told her he loved her. She was beginning to think the words were not as easy to say as they seemed.

She was beginning to think the words were not as easy to say as they seemed.

“I never told him I did,” Lili giggled. “I suppose I’m stupid too.”

“Welcome to the stupid family.”

“Why do you say that? Didn’t you ever tell Malcolm?”

“No, I’m stupid too.”

Lili laughed, and Iylaine finally smiled.

Lili laughed, and Iylaine finally smiled.