She glanced over to see the children watching her with wide, fearful eyes. Had they realized the truth, too? Could they see what this meant?
No. Serilda wasn’t even sureshefully understood what this meant. She wanted to believe this was her imagination running amok. Surely she was mistaken. This was just a tapestry, it didn’t mean anything.292
And yet, she knew she was right. She would have taken poison on it.
“We need to show you something,” said Hans, one hand tense on Gerdrut’s shoulder.
“It wasn’t here before,” Gerdrut said. “I swear. I didn’t notice before … I would have told you if I had!”
It took Serilda a moment to shift away from the seven gods captured with golden chains and realize that whatever had upset the children, it was something entirely different from what had upset her.
“What is it?”
They guided her down to the end of the hall, where one final tapestry hung in the corner, barely touched by the candle’s glow.
It took her a moment to realize she was looking at a portrait of herself. Dressed in black riding gear and her new crimson cloak, with her hair pinned back, she looked more like the Alder Queen than ever. But there was no mistaking the golden wheels in her eyes. Itwasher.
She was standing in the throne room of Adalheid, flanked by two columns, each wrapped by tatzelwurm carvings. In her arms was a swaddled baby.
Hope shimmered inside Serilda.
Brilliant, ecstatic hope.
It was her. Her and her child. She wasn’t dead.
Her lips trembled and she had just dared to allow a hesitant smile to touch her lips when Hans put a hand on her arm.
“There’s more,” he said, and she remembered the children’s stunned expressions. Not just stunned.Horrified.
Fricz picked up one of the standing candelabras. “We wanted to see it better,” he explained. “And when you shine the light on it …”
He carried the candelabra so that it was directly in front of the tapestry, scattering the shadows against the wall.
Before her eyes, the tapestry changed.
It was no longer Serilda holding her child.
It was the huntress.
She would free the unicorn and the gryphon.
She vowed to do it as she lay awake on her birthday, thinking for once not of her disappeared mother, but something entirely different.
Serilda could do nothing for Solvilde or Tyrr or Hulda, not while she was in Gravenstone and they in Adalheid. But Eostrig, the unicorn, and Freydon, the gryphon. They were here, stabled in the courtyard. She did not know how she would open the cage or remove the golden harnesses that had been bound to their massive bodies. But she would find a way.
She could not let the Erlking have the gods. Not for one wish, and certainly not for seven.
They must be set free.
Tonight, she vowed. Beneath the Mourning Moon, after the hunt had ridden off.