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The man beneath the tree had returned. The cottage was dark. The night was dark with only a sliver of a moon, half-hidden by ragged clouds. But he needed no light. He fixed his eyes on the small upper window where Rose slept alone for the first time in her life. Or sat alone, he should say, though the window was tightly closed tonight. Funny, that she should finally listen to her grandmother now that poor woman was dead, but no matter, for his watch was ended. He’d kept his vow. Rachel Woodman had died in peace, over Rose at least. 

And now, she was with Lillie now. And Aldam too. Strange and wonderful as that still seemed. Eedan would never forget the bliss on Aldam’s face as he’d felt his own hands growing cold, the peace in his voice as he’d slipped away. Eedan had heard that same peace in Rachel’s voice as she’d said her last words. He hadn’t heard it in Lillie’s, but Rachel’s pain had drowned out everything else that night. He’d heard nothing but her heart breaking with each wrenching sob. 

And with no one to hear him but the Creator, he’d made his vow and he’d kept it, though he’d had no idea how long such a frail-seeming, broken-hearted, old woman could go on, once she had a baby to protect. But he’d made it work, and he still believed he’d done the right thing, despite…well, it was over now. It was time he fulfilled that other promise. He took a deep breath, gathering himself, for a running leap, when a cry shattered the stillness of the night. 

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