Only once its destruction had run its course did the little beast lie down again, tuck its head into its puff of chest feathers, and give a few satisfied flicks of its long tail.
“Well,” said Gild, his voice haggard, “I guess that explains why it isn’t out in the menagerie.”
Serilda let out a high-pitched squeak of a laugh.
She and Gild glanced at each other.
Then, having forgotten about the drudes—or perhaps mutually, silently agreeing that they’d rather take their chances with the nightmares—they unlocked the door and fled.
They had just started down the hall of gods when Serilda screeched to a halt.
“Gild, wait!” she cried, grabbing his arm. “I can’t go down there. Look at me.”
Gild’s gaze swept up and down her twice before understanding brightened his eyes. “The hunt isn’t here.”
She heaved a sigh. “I know, but there are plenty of dark ones who would love to tell him that I was spotted running through the hall wearing nothing but my bloomers!”112
An amused grin broke over Gild’s face. “You could be starting a new trend.”
“Be serious.” She whapped him on the shoulder.
“This wouldn’t be a problem if you’d been practicing your—” He snapped his fingers and disappeared.
Serilda rolled her eyes and turned around, fully expecting him to have reappeared right behind her.
But he hadn’t.
She frowned and spun in a full circle, searching.
Gild did not come back.
She let out a disgruntled noise. “Gild!”
Flailing her arms, she huffed and glowered at the nearest god, for no particular reason other than she had no one else to blame for her current predicament. The window depicted Solvilde, god of sky and sea, blowing wind into the sails of a large ship. As with the others, the artist had chosen to depict the god regally—in flowing robes that changed from crimson red to a pale blue, like a sunrise, and a crown of pearls shimmering brightly against their dark skin. But Serilda imagined Solvilde would dress in something practical—airy shirts and comfortable breeches, leather harnesses for carrying their important gadgets. Compasses and telescopes and the like. She’d always pictured the god to dress something like a pirate.
“Ask and ye shall receive.”
She whipped around. Gild stood in the hall, a swath of burgundy velvet in his arms.
Serilda could have melted with relief. “Thank you.”
“Nothing to it. Was hoping I’d get a chance to pick through your undergarments, too, but the twins were there, watching me like little owls. Children are terrifying.” He faked a shudder.
She rolled her eyes. Gild pretended to be frightened of children, but he was the first to wrestle with her five when they were bored, the first to spot Anna when she practiced her handstands, the first to hold Gerdrut’s hand113when she got scared. She wondered if he was always so good with little ones. She thought it might be due to something buried deep inside him—forgotten experiences of caring for his little sister.
“You wouldn’t dare pick through my undergarments,” she said, snatching away the dress.
He made a noncommittal shrug. “Thought you might want a new one of … those things.” He made an awkward gesture toward her legs.
“A chemise?” She sighed. “I’ll have to go without. Turn around.”
Gild lifted his eyebrows at her. A touch of pink was making the freckles on his face more pronounced, but there was something daring in the look. Something roguish. And in that moment, Serilda felt a thousand unspoken words sparking in the air.
They had never talked about what had happened between them, the third night she’d been asked to spin straw into gold. The night his kisses had burned trails down her throat. The night she’d had absolutely no qualms about letting him see her without her chemise, her bloomers … without anything.
But Gild didn’t press the point.