The musicians started up again, blasting out a joyful ditty on blockflötes and reed pipes. Rose petals were tossed into the air. Dancing commenced as a group of fishermen performed an energetic jig right there on the cobblestones, followed by dozens of children linking arms and prancing in and around the onlookers. Soon, Lorraine and Frieda were ushered onto a bench, which was then hoisted up on the townsfolk’s shoulders and paraded about while the crowd sang a traditional wedding ballad—the tempo too fast and everyone mostly off-key.
Serilda’s cheeks hurt, but she could not stop smiling.
And yet—despite the joy that overflowed inside of her—she felt a deep sadness, too. Gild’s hand was still in hers, and when she glanced up at him, his gaze was haunted.
He gave her hand a squeeze. “Wishing you could be a part of it?”
“More than anything.” He shrugged, feigning nonchalance. “I’m used to360it, though. I’ve been wishing to be out here, on their side of the veil, for a very long time.”
“Does it get easier?”
He frowned, considering. “I thought it had. But after I met you, it got a thousand times worse. I would have given anything to follow you out of the castle.”
Serilda leaned her head against his shoulder. “We’re together now.”
“And now,” he said, “I’d do anything to see you on the other side, with them.”
She swallowed. If they succeeded in breaking Gild’s and his sister’s curses, then the two of them would be mortal again. Gild would be on the other side of the veil. Mortal again.
But Serilda would still be just a spirit, with no mortal body to keep her. She couldn’t even rely on breaking her own curse anymore, not so long as Perchta inhabited her body.
“Gild,” she said, turning her attention back to him, “after we free Hulda and Tyrr and Solvilde, I am still going to try to find Wyrdith.”
His brow creased. “Why?”
“Because I have a wish to make.”
Gild peered at her a long moment. “So, you’re going to free three gods, and then run off and capture a fourth? Serilda, I don’t think—”
“Not capture. This isn’t about capturing anyone. Wyrdith cursed me before I was even born, and why? My fatherhelpedthem.” She leaned into Gild, tugging the cloak tight around her as a stark wind blew in from the lake. “Wyrdith owes me. And when I meet them, I’m going to make them grant my wish.”
“I want my body back,” she said. “And my child.”
My child. My child. My child.
The words rang in her head like the chime of a bell. Over and over and over.
“Gild, I need to tell you something,” she blurted.
Gild tensed at her sudden intensity. “What’s wrong?”361
“Nothing. I mean, everything. Obviously. But it’s not … I just need to tell you something. That maybe I should have told you a long time ago. I wanted to tell you. But I couldn’t. I kept hoping you would guess, and then I wouldn’t have to keep the secret anymore, but I don’t know if you ever did. If you ever wondered …” She trailed off.
Gild was studying her, his brow furrowed.
She’d tried to tell him a thousand times since they’d fled from Gravenstone. She’d gone over the words in her mind, too many times to count. Practiced what she would say, tried to imagine his response. She’d opened her mouth and shut it, uncertain, again and again. The timing never felt right, stumbling through the woods, afraid that the wild hunt might find them at any moment.
Even now, she wasn’t sure how to begin.
The music was suddenly too lively, too ebullient. Jarring to Serilda’s ears.
“Not here,” she said, pulling him away from the crowd and toward the marina, out onto the end of the one of the docks. The lake was empty of boats today, but the water was choppy from the wind. From here the music and laughter had to compete with the creaking of fishing boats, hulls thumping hollowly against the docks, waves lapping at their sides.
“Serilda?” said Gild, anxious at her long silence.