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Gild threw them both into the air.
Then Serilda was falling. Screaming. Wind in her hair and whipping at her cheeks.
But they did not crash upon the rocks.
Instead, she and Gild blinked out of existence mid-fall.
Serilda stumbled as her feet hit hard ground that had not been there before. Instead of vivid sunlight, she was surrounded by tall columns and a dais holding two majestic thrones, lit by a row of candelabras.
She would have fallen to her face had Gild not been gripping the rope. He hauled her up to standing and made quick work of untying her.47
Then he let out a whoop of laughter. “His face! That was everything I’d hoped for!”
Serilda turned to him, bewildered and trembling. In the span of half a minute she’d gone from being led to her wedding feast on the arm of her wicked husband to being kidnapped and shoved through a window where she should have fallen to her death, to being magically transported into the castle’s throne room.
“What did you do?” she asked, her voice still shaky. “And why? What are you—”
“I’ll explain later,” said Gild, yanking the ropes off her. “Come on, we need to keep moving. He’ll know we were sent back to the throne room.”
He grabbed her hand and raced for a narrow door tucked behind the dais, where presumably servants might have waited to heed the monarch’s summoning. Beyond the door, a dim, narrow corridor stretched in the direction of the kitchens.
“Gild, stop,” said Serilda, even as her feet hastened to keep up with him. “What are we doing?”
“Just a fun little wedding tradition,” he said, coming to a stop as the corridor branched off into a T. He peered around both sides, before waving for Serilda to follow him. He turned right, hurrying down a hall, then up a flight of steps that ended in a closed door. Gild put his ear against the wood, listening.
“What wedding tradi—”
He shushed her, frantically waving his arms.
Serilda crossed her arms over her chest.
A moment passed, then Gild looked at her, eyes glinting, and nodded for her to go on.
This time, she whispered. “What wedding tradition?”
“You know,” he said, “the one where the bride is kidnapped and spends all night hiding from the groom until he’s forced to pay a ransom for her return.”
She stared at him.“What?”48
Gild cocked his head. “Don’t they do that in Märchenfeld? It’s great fun. You’ll see.”
She shook her head. “The Erlking will not think this isgreat fun,and you know it.”
“You’re right, he won’t.” Gild snickered. “But I will.” His eyes widened and he held up a hand, urging her to be silent again.
They listened, and it took Serilda a moment to pick up on the footsteps. At first she thought they were coming from beyond the shut door, but no, they were coming from the corridor behind them.
Gild’s eyes widened as he realized it at the same time.
He shoved the door open and took Serilda’s hand again, pulling her through.
The door slammed in their wake.
“There!” someone yelled.
Serilda started running, Gild beside her.
It took a moment to get her bearings, but as they ducked in and out of parlors and studies and game rooms and libraries, all the while hearing the storming of dark ones in pursuit, Serilda found she didn’t much care if she was lost. Or if she was kidnapped, for that matter.