“I have something for you, too,” said Gerdrut, reaching into her pocket. “A fine gift for Her Luminance!” Her grin was sparkling as she held up her hand. In her fingers was clutched a small golden ring.
Serilda accepted it from her, and when she turned it toward the candlelight, the air caught in her lungs.
Pressed into the gold was a familiar design. A tatzelwurm wrapped around the letterR.
“Gild’s ring,” she breathed. “Were you with the poltergeist? Did he give this to you?”
“No,” said Gerdrut, confused. “I found it. In that hall with all the tapestries. I was told to sweep the floors, and I found it stuck in a groove behind a table leg, covered in dust. Polished up nicely, I thought.” Her smile became even prouder.
“Really?” said Serilda. “You found it here?” She tried to slip it on, but it got caught on her first knuckle.
“I know it’s small,” Gerdrut hastened to add, “but I thought maybe you could put it on a chain? Maybe … maybe Gild could make you one, or something.”
Serilda pulled her close and gave her a tight squeeze. “I do love it. Thank you. Until I find a chain, will you keep it safe for me?” She took Gerdrut’s hand and slipped the ring onto her finger. “A perfect fit.”
The child flushed pink. “Are you sure?”
“I would entrust it to no one else.”288
Gerdrut clasped her hands against her chest. “I will protect it, I swear.”
Serilda nodded. “I have one more request. Once we’ve finished this magnificent dessert … would you take me to see these tapestries?”
The lanterns and wall torches and candelabras were always burning bright in the castle, and the hall of tapestries was no different. Three grand chandeliers hung from the tall rafters in a line down the center of the impressive chamber, and a standing candelabra was positioned between each tapestry, illuminating each work of art in an amber glow.
And they were works of art.
Serilda had never before seen such skilled workmanship. The strands were so delicate, and each woven detail breathtakingly lifelike.
Most peculiar, though, was how many of the tapestries seemed to be taken from a story.
A story that Serilda had told. In some cases, a story she hadlived.
A horde of dark ones, with the Erlking at their helm, charging over the bridge to Verloren while an enormous black wolf howled from the depths below.
Perchta dying in front of Gravenstone Castle, an arrow shot through her heart, while a princely Gild looked on.
Gild at his spinning wheel, surrounded by piles of straw while threads of glistening gold emerged onto the bobbin.
The Erlking preparing to stab a slender horn into a mass of tree roots, while a white unicorn watched with downcast eyes.
Then there were images that sent chills skittering down Serilda’s spine. Stories she did not know.
There was the tapestry Gerdrut had told her about. The young princess—who was undoubtedly Gild’s sister—sitting atop a throne crafted of thorns, with a crown of willow branches on her head. She was surrounded by289monsters, but rather than attacking her, as the monsters in the Verloren tapestry had attacked the Erlking and Perchta, these creatures gathered around the child with respect and deference. As if they were guarding her.
The next tapestry was one of the largest in the hall. Serilda had to take many steps back so she could try to take in the image all at once.
To the left stood the Erlking beneath a glowing full moon. White snowdrifts lay at his feet, and in his hand was the end of a golden chain. That chain connected to a line of beasts that filled up the rest of the tapestry. Each one with a hanging head, their posture speaking of defeat while the Erlking lorded over them.