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“You … uh … probably should rest, then,” Gild said.
“No, I’m not tired at all,” said Serilda, which was true. Though she’d been exhausted during the hunt’s demonstrations, she now suddenly felt wide-awake. A new idea struck her as she thought of what Agathe had told her. “We should continue our search, while the hunters are preoccupied with the … storm.” She affixed Gild with an intent look.
“All right,” he said uncertainly. “If you’re sure.”
“Just let me tuck in these little troublemakers. It’s been a long night and an even longer day. Do you think you could find something for Anna’s wounds? She thought she might have some broken bones.”
“I’ll check with the apothecary for something to help with the pain,” said Gild. “You’ll find that ghosts heal much quicker now than when they were alive.”
“I can go,” piped up Fricz. “Why does no one take my job seriously?”
“No, please,” said Gild, backing away. “You all take care of Anna, and … and Serilda. I’ll be back soon.”
With a wan smile, he vanished. Serilda knew he wasn’t only going to get help for Anna. He needed a moment to himself, to come to terms with her news.
It tore at her insides, the truth screaming inside her skull.
She shut her eyes and forced that truth down, down, down.
“Come along,” she said. “We’ll get comfortable, and then I will tell you a story.”
It has oft been said that a god captured beneath an Endless Moon will be forced to grant a single wish, but in the beforetimes it would have been ludicrous to imagine one of the old gods ever being trapped by tricks or wiles. Just as humans are made of skin and bone, the gods are made of magic and starlight. They have the power to change their forms at will, with no earthly limitations on their figures. With nothing more than a thought and a wink, a god might become the smallest of insects or the greatest of sea serpents. For thousands of years, the seven gods inhabited the lands, the seas, the skies—sometimes as humans, sometimes as beasts. They interfered little in the affairs of mortals, preferring to keep to themselves, and to enjoy the freedom and pleasures their magic afforded them.
But that began to change, many years ago.
For you see, the dark ones had escaped from Verloren.
Velos had done all they could to stop them. The god of death had tried to keep the demons trapped in the land of the lost. But the demons managed to flee across the great bridge and through the gates into the mortal realm, and now they were free to wander the earth.
Unlike the gods, the dark ones did not keep to themselves. Nor did they wish to settle quietly among the human villages and live simple, tedious lives. They would not tend crops or spin wool or learn a trade. They saw themselves as superior to humans. They were stronger and faster and more beautiful, and above all else, they were immortal.
And the dark ones wished to rule.
Soon, the dark ones began to terrorize the poor, frightened humans. They took what they wanted without consequence. Their lives became endless sport, made possible by the servitude of the mortals who could not fight against them.
At first, the gods did not intervene, preferring to let matters settle themselves. But as the dark ones grew in strength and cruelty, the gods determined that something must be done.142
They met at the peak of Mount Grämen on a cold winter’s night, when a solstice moon hung full and heavy in the sky. There, they talked and argued and discussed a solution.
Tyrr wished to slaughter the dark ones and wash their hands of the whole matter, but Eostrig insisted that to do so would only send their spirits back into the ground, where all that maleficence would sprout up as something even more terrible and poisonous.
Freydon wished to send them back to Verloren, from whence they had come, but Velos knew that the demons would never go willingly, and to try and entrap them could lead to a war unlike anything the world had ever seen.
Hulda wished to imprison them in golden chains and drop them to the bottom of the sea, but Solvilde would not hear of the waters being so tainted.
And on and on and on they went, with no suggestions posed that would satisfy them all.
Until, finally, Wyrdith stood. The god of stories and fortune had thus far been silent, but now they took out the wheel of fortune from their heavy robes.
The other gods fell silent as Wyrdith lifted a hand and gave the wheel one powerful spin.
They watched and waited to see where fate would land.
When the wheel finally stopped, the gods peered at the god of stories, waiting to hear what solution they had to offer.
“Fortune smiles on us,” said Wyrdith, “for I have seen what we must do.”