They could be gonetonight.It didn’t matter how the king intended for her to bring this child into the world. By sunrise, she could be back in her body again, and she would have her child, and Gild, too. She would have Gild and she could tell him everything.
They could be free.
She shut her eyes, and allowed herself to have this one moment, in which there was hope. In which this awful mess she’d made for herself was resolved.
When she opened her eyes again, her vision was blurred with tears.
She turned to Gild.
He gazed back at her, unsurprised. “We’re not going to break the curses tonight, are we?”
She swallowed. “I can’t leave.”
She wiped a tear from her cheek. “I can’t abandon them. It’s my fault they’re here in the first place.” She glanced at Agathe, who was watching Serilda with heartfelt sympathy. “The Erlking promised me he would release their souls to Verloren if I … if I do what he wants me to do.”
“You mean, bear a child for him,” said Gild with a snarl.
“I wondered if you were not as enchanted with the marriage as he would have us believe,” said Agathe. “You seemed too sensible to be in love with that monster.”
“No,” said Serilda with a wry laugh. “I’m definitely not in love.” As soon as she said it, she caught Gild’s eye, and heat flushed through her cheeks. She looked away. “But I am trapped. I am so grateful you’ve brought me here, but … I can’t break my curse. Not until I know the children will be all right.”
“I understand,” said Gild. “Just as I can’t break my curse until I knowyou’llbe all right.”163
He squeezed her hand, their expressions pained as they realized how much they had hung all their hopes on this moment. Finding their bodies. Snapping the arrows, untethering their souls, setting themselves free.
But it had only been a distraction.
It was never going to be that easy.
“In that case,” said Agathe, “the solution is quite simple, isn’t it?”
They both frowned at her. “What do you mean?” asked Serilda.
Agathe adjusted her bloodied scarf. “You must free the children. You are a gold-spinner, are you not?”
Serilda’s eyes widened in shock, before she realized that Agathe was askingher, not Gild. “Y-yes. But what does that have to do with anything?”
“Well,” Agathe started, “ghosts are magical creatures, just like the beasts we hunt. They are affected by god-spun gold. It is said that if you tie a strand of god-spun gold around a ghost beneath a full moon and call upon Velos … well. It will … you know.” She waved her good hand through the air.
Serilda, mouth agape, glanced at Gild. He looked equally perplexed.
“It will … what?” said Serilda.
Agathe sighed. “Free their souls. Allow them to pass on to Verloren.”
“What?” shouted Gild, startling them all. He clamped a hand over his mouth, but quickly dropped it to his side again and stepped closer to Agathe. “Are you telling me that all these ghosts … This whole time I could have … They could have been freed? All this time?”
“Well,” started Agathe, “you need god-spun gold for it to work.” She looked past him to Serilda, then she stilled. “Oh. I’m sorry. I forgot. You can’t spin anymore, can you? His Grim has been so upset that we don’t have more chains …”
“Uh … no,” said Serilda. “I can’t. It’s complicated.”
“I’m sorry,” said Agathe. “I thought I was being helpful.”
“You have been,” said Gild, dragging his hands through his hair. He started to pace, frenetic energy pulsing through him at this new information. This incredible, unexpected gift the weapons master had given them. “You’ve been very helpful.”164
“Butyouhad access to the golden chains,” said Serilda. “Couldn’t you have freed yourself during the hunt?”