The other sat with him and held Malcolm's hand in one of his.

Malcolm thought at first that the creature inside of him had been born: himself, but a grown man, a father, a husband – fully-​​formed. It was a relief to him. Now he did not have to worry.

The creature sat with him and held Malcolm’s hand in one of his. The other he held over the wound, which no longer hurt.

The creature spoke gently, firmly, sadly. Malcolm was not listening, but there was another voice that replied. This voice was sobbing. This voice cried as grown men seldom allowed themselves to cry.

It seemed inconceivable that the other he had borne could be speaking to anybody but himself, yet he did not think it was his own voice replying. He could not imagine why he would be sobbing. He felt so very peaceful.

He felt so very peaceful.

And the voices were speaking a language he did not understand.

After a while, the second, sobbing voice rose up and went away, and Malcolm was left alone with the other, who was himself, it seemed.

He had begun to feel that he had had a body of his own again: he was in a certain place, at a certain time. There was a certain amount of light behind his eyelids, though not much. It was night, and it was dark, and he was cold. It was October, early evening, and the swan star sacred to Dana’s ancient people would be soaring over his head. He was in a forest.

“Why are we here?” he asked himself in Gaelic.

“I don’t understand,” the other said softly in English and let go of his arm.

Lacking that comforting touch, Malcolm panicked and tried to sit up.

Malcolm panicked and tried to sit up.

“Hold!” The elf laid a hand on his shoulder. It was Vash.

Malcolm was not outraged, only bewildered.

“Am I dead?” he asked. The last thing he remembered was dying.

“Not unless I am too.”

“I must go home!” Malcolm gasped. “Baby!” And then he looked warily up at the elf. He did not know whether the elf intended to allow it.

He did not know whether the elf intended to allow it.

“You must hurry,” Vash murmured. He seemed dazed. “She has been crying for you, and it is not good for her child.”

“My Baby!” There were times lately when he spoke of two people with the one word.

“Please don’t tell her the truth,” the elf said. “Please tell her it was an accident. It will only frighten her. No elf will dare harm you again. I give you my word.”

'I give you my word.'

Malcolm was bewildered. The blood had soaked into the spongy ground, but he had seen such quantities of it that he could not understand how he still lived.

“If my legs are any indication,” Vash said, “you will find yours shaky. But I cannot take you home. You must find your own way. And please hurry. I cannot bear to hear her crying for you.”

'I cannot bear to hear her crying for you.'

There was a bitterness in the last words that had not been in all the rest, and it caught Malcolm’s attention more than the words itself. He did not know what to make of it, or of anything. He knew he ought to have questioned the elf, but his thoughts were sluggish and numb, like frogs in a cold pond.

Malcolm tried to stand. His very limbs were sluggish and numb, and his cloak was stiff and damp and sticky with drying blood. It would take all his torpid thoughts together to come up with an explanation for this that would not frighten his wife.

The elf was already walking away.

The elf was already walking away. There would be no time for anything. Malcolm was alive, but he was alone, and he was no more husband or father than before.

“The peace of God on you, Vash,” he cried. He did not know why. The words had come more quickly than his thoughts could move.

“And on you, Malcolm,” the elf replied in something like a shouted sigh.

'And on you, Malcolm.'