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As the other children swooped forward to embrace Gerdrut, Serilda leaned back, confused.
“That … doesn’t sound like a nightmare.”
Gerdrut shook her head, still crying. “It was … such a lovely dream!” she said between her sobs.
Serilda opened her mouth, but closed it again. She looked from Gerdrut to the other children, then finally to the closed door.
It didn’t make any sense.
“All right,” she finally said, taking in a deep breath. “All right, my loves, we should try to get some more sleep, if we can.” She stood and did her best to straighten out the covers and get them all to lie back down. “Snuggle in now, and I will tell you a story.”
“Will it be a happy story this time?” asked Anna.
Serilda laughed, before she realized that Anna meant the question in seriousness.
“Well,” she said hesitantly, “I suppose I can try.”
The veil had been created. Without full access to the mortal realm, the dark ones could no longer torment the humans, and a sense of balance was restored. The gods returned to their solitary lives.
But Wyrdith was unsatisfied.
Stories are only half told until they’ve found a listener, and though Wyrdith had long preferred the brutal beauty of the ocean as it crashed into the northern basalt cliffs, they found themselves growing more and more unhappy. And so, the god of stories decided to venture out among the mortals.
Wyrdith took to traveling throughout the human world.
They would take the shape of a common sparrow and perch on a windowsill, so they might listen to the tales a mother told to her children.
They would don the guise of an old man and hunker into the corner of a public house to listen to the local fishermen tell their tall tales of whales and merfolk.
There was a time when Wyrdith even disguised themselves as a traveling minstrel, performing for peasants and royalty alike. In between their own performances, they took note of the stories told in every village they passed through.
The more they heard, the more enamored the god became with humans, who could find as much pleasure in a quiet bedtime tale as they could in an epic adventure. Their stories were full of joy and struggles, victories and defeats, but always there was an undercurrent of hope that filled a place inside of Wyrdith that they had not known was empty.
One could say the god began to fall in love with those mortals.
A year came to pass in which Wyrdith gathered with the villagers of a small town on the autumnal equinox to enjoy Freydon’s Harvest. But that year, there was more worry than joy, for the harvest had been so poor that the villagers feared they would not have enough food to last them through the winter.240
Rather than cast blame on Freydon, god of the harvest, the villagers accused Wyrdith. They were sure the trickster god had spun their wheel and this year, the wheel had dealt them a great misfortune.
Wyrdith was baffled, for they knew the wheel was not to blame.
Unable to understand why Freydon would abandon their responsibility to ensure a bountiful harvest, and angry that blame had been put at their own feet, Wyrdith took the form of a great bird and flew off to find the god of the harvest.
Freydon was enjoying a simple life on the eastern plains of Dostlen, where they tended a tidy garden and spent afternoons fishing at the delta of the Eptanie River. They were most surprised to see their old friend, the god of stories, and gladly invited Wyrdith to sit with them in the shade of an ancient fig tree to enjoy a game of dice and a cup of pear cider.
But Wyrdith was too angry to be appeased.
“This year’s harvest was abysmal,” said Wyrdith, “and the people are suffering! Why have you not made the grain plentiful and the orchards abundant? Why have you forsaken the good villagers who rely on you?”
Freydon was most taken aback by Wyrdith’s ire. They set down their mug and leaned forward with an almost pitying expression. “My dear friend, I have not interfered in the affairs of mortals for many centuries.”
Wyrdith did not understand. “But only last year, the autumn harvest was most bountiful!”
“Yes, as it has been for more than a decade, I am told. But that is because the rain fell and the sun shone and the farmers properly tilled their land and sowed their seeds.”
Wyrdith’s eyes widened. “I see,” they said. “So I should speak with Hulda, who must have made the farmers lazy this year. And I should speak to Eostrig, who must not have blessed the new-planted seeds. And I should speak with Solvilde, who betrayed us all with a summer of drought.”
At this, Freydon gave a boisterous laugh. “No, no, you do not understand. The others have sequestered themselves in their own sanctuaries, as I have, preferring to avoid the cycle of blame and blessings foisted upon us for so long. The seeds and the rain—they have their own will now. As for the farmers, if they gave in to laziness, they have only themselves to blame.”241