'I said I wanted to be alone.'

“I said I wanted to be alone,” Vash growled.

“You didn’t say it to me,” Kiv shrugged.

“I would have if you had been there. And I’m saying it now.”

“But I’m still not there. What are you doing, Vash? Burning your hands again?”



“What then?”


“For what?”

“To die.”

“Oh, Vash,” Kiv sighed. He lit one of the blue glowpots – lately he could not bear to see his friend in firelight alone – and sat beside him. “You shaved. That’s an improvement.”

'You shaved.  That's an improvement.'

Vash snorted.

“I don’t like to see you like this. You’re not yourself,” Kiv said softly.

“How can I be myself?” Vash snapped. “Half of me is far away from here!”

“She has been far away before.”

“Then she did not know. Now she knows. And she does not want me.”

'Now she knows.  And she does not want me.'

“Of course she wants you. Perhaps she does not understand, but she must want you. Just as any creature wants to live.”

“I don’t want to live.”


“I don’t!”

“Yes, you do, Vash…”

“No, I don’t. If she does not return, one of us will die. And she is… she has never been strong…” His voice was already frail from two weeks of fasting, and now it broke entirely.

'And she is... she has never been strong...'

“She will return.”

“She may try,” Vash whispered. “She may not make it.”


“If one of us must die, it should be I.”

“Then what will become of the rest of us? Vash? You begin to sound like your father.”

“You came here to insult me?” Vash asked with a bitter laugh.

'You came here to insult me?'

“Comparing you to your father is not an insult. But you know you are not like him, and the rest of us take hope in that. I think it is harder to see you as you are now than it was when you were missing.”

“How am I?” Vash muttered.

“Hateful. With that, our hope is gone.”

“I am not hateful,” Vash sighed. “I am not hateful any longer. I don’t know why. I woke up today, and I did not hate him any longer. Perhaps it is unfair to blame him for loving her. She is magnificent enough, it is a wonder all the men don’t.”

“That would be inconvenient,” Kiv grumbled as he stretched himself out on the floor of the cave.

'That would be inconvenient.'

“If only I could die before her, and she could be well, then I would hope that he would make her happy. So I can’t hate him.”

“How can a man make an elf happy?”

“I don’t know, Kiv. I think there are things we don’t know about men and elves, or lies we have been told. Explain to me how Egelric had a son with that Sela-​​elf of his.”

“We’ve been through this before,” Kiv sighed wearily. “It can’t be Egelric’s son. It must have an elf father.”

“Then explain to me how it has water nature like its mother.”

'Then explain to me how it has water nature like its mother.'

Kiv could not. “I think you must have been mistaken.”

“I held it. And I think it does look like Egelric.”

“That Lar-​​elf had a son who has air nature like its father. Just as we expected.”

“That does not mean that Egelric did not have a son with the Sela-​​elf.”

“I don’t want to go over this again,” Kiv grumbled. “Why are we talking about this anyway?”

“Because she will have a child with him!” Vash sobbed.

“Oh, that was why,” Kiv sighed.

'Oh, that was why.'

“My darling! And she is only a child herself…”

“Perhaps she won’t…”

“Less than half a moon until the spring! You know that perfectly well!”

“Perhaps it is different with men and elves…”

“Oh, Kiv, quit it, please,” Vash snorted in disgust. “Can’t you simply agree with me and tell me you are sorry for me? Instead of saying ‘Perhaps she will return,’ ‘Perhaps she will not have a child,’ ‘Perhaps she still wants you.’ It is no comfort to me. I don’t believe it. And I don’t think you do either. It would be kinder to me to mourn with me.”

Kiv was silent.

Kiv was silent.

“I don’t know why we expected she would not come to love a man,” Vash said. “The entire purpose of sending her to them was that so she would love the men, and they would love her.”

“The men, yes, but not a man,” Kiv said.

“And why not?”

“Because she is bound to you, Vash. That was the entire purpose of binding you so young.”

'Because she is bound to you, Vash.'

“It was not enough.”

“She does not love him as she loves you, Vash. You know that perfectly well. I think she must be confused. And perhaps angry. That is what Miria and her mother think.”

“What do they think?”

“Think of how angry you are, Vash, at your father and at your fate, because you must be kept apart from her. Now think of Iylaina, who does not even know why. She only has a love and a longing for you that she does not understand, and perhaps she has told herself it is wrong. Or unreturned.”

'How can she think I don't love her?'

“How can she think I don’t love her?” Vash gasped.

“All she knows of love is what the men call love. And suddenly you tell her she is bound to you, and you try to explain these things in English words. And since you were such a beetlehead as to tell her that you have spent more time with her father than with her, then she might think you love her father better than her.”

'She might think you love her father better than her.'

“But she is my wife…”

“Vash, you’re thinking like an elf, and also like a beetlehead. She is an elf, but she thinks like the men. She only knows what it is to be a wife among men. And you know that men marry sometimes for cruel reasons – gold, or power, or titles. She must think that it is so. Among the men, children do not marry except for such reasons.”

'I would have told her more.'

“I would have told her more,” Vash mumbled. “About elf love. But her father was there. And she ran away, and he would not let me go after her.”

“I think you and Shus both need to stop thinking of Egelric as your friend. He likes you well enough, perhaps, but he does not want to see Iylaina with you.”

'I think you and Shus both need to stop thinking of Egelric as your friend.'

“You should meet him, Kiv. You would see. All of the men I have met have been fascinating. They’re not like elves. I tell Egelric the men are mere dogs and the elves are like wolves, but in truth I think we’re the dogs. We’re the obedient, tame ones. The men are wild and free. At least in their thoughts.”

'The men are wild and free.'

“I don’t know why we bothered sending Iylaina out to love and be loved by men,” Kiv sighed. “You love them enough already.”

“That was the entire purpose, was it not?”

“I know. And that is why you must not die, Vash. Or it will end with you.”

'And that is why you must not die, Vash.  Or it will end with you.'