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“Let me guess,” said Solvilde. “You liked to tell stories of sailors on the high seas, charming sirens, and battling sea monsters.”
“Well, yes, actually. How did you know?”
Solvilde grunted. “Godchild of Wyrdith.”
“Oh.” Serilda lifted a hand to her cheek. Sometimes she forgot about her gold-wheeled eyes. “They were good stories, I’ll have you know. Do you have any idea how these chains work? If I could just get them loose—”
“It’s too late for that,” said Solvilde. “You should probably run.”
“Run? Why?”
A ring of steel echoed through the room. Serilda gasped and spun around, reaching for the sword just in time to block a tall candelabra that swung for her. Gold met iron and Serilda stumbled back. The dark one—a woman with amber-colored skin and enormous emerald eyes—advanced, swinging again with a throaty grunt. Serilda parried, but the force pushed her back again. Strike, block, swing, parry, every move pushing Serilda around Solvilde and the cage in the center of the room, until she had come full circle. She knew she was lucky that this demon was not one of the hunters, that not all dark ones were exceptional fighters.373
But Serilda was no warrior either.
“Stand down!” Serilda said between panting breaths. “I am your queen!”
This brought a shrill laugh from the woman. “You were never our queen. You are a pathetic mortal.” She pitched a glob of spit at Serilda’s feet. “You think we couldn’t tell His Grim was using you? He needed a mortal girl to carry a child. Once he’s got that, he’ll toss you out into the lake with the other rubbish.”
Serilda scowled. “Well,” she said, scrambling backward as the dark one lunged at her again, “hedoesneed me to carry that child, and he will be very upset if any harm should come to me!”
“Unfortunately for you, a nachtkrapp arrived just after the Mourning Moon to tell us that Perchta, our true Alder Queen, has returned. So no, I really don’t think His Grim will be upset at all to know I rid him of his pesky mortal wife.”
Serilda cursed under her breath. She barely managed to block another thrust of the candelabra.
“Honestly, this could go on forever,” bemoaned Solvilde. “Just fake a swing to the left and when she goes to block, trip her on the right, then run!”
Serilda gritted her teeth. “I’m not running. I came here to save you.”
“And you tried your best, love. Much appreciated, truly. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
Serilda’s arms were shaking with the effort to hold back the dark one, to block another attack. When the dark one pulled back for another swing, she followed Solvilde’s suggestions, swinging the sword to the left. The woman parried. Their weapons clanged, and Serilda swept her right foot around the woman’s ankle. The demon cried out and fell backward, the candelabra flying from her hand and skittering across the floor.
“Nicely done!” said Solvilde, craning their head to see.
“I can’t believe that worked!” panted Serilda.
“No time to celebrate. There will be more coming.”374
Serilda pivoted on her heels. “I’m so sorry to leave you like this!”
“Ah, thanks anyway for trying.”
Serilda took their hand. “I will return for you if I can.”
Solvilde smirked. “And they call me dramatic. Go! Go!”
With a regretful nod, Serilda retreated.
Chapter Forty-Four
She had to find Gild. He would know how to break the god’s chains, or at least how to loosen them. Wouldn’t he?
She raced down the steps to the entry hall, the dark one shrieking for her to stop. Serilda ran into the great hall and threw herself beneath a table, curling up as small as she could and trying to calm her ragged breaths.
She heard the dark one stop at the doorway, but the woman didn’t linger. A second later, she charged off toward the throne room, screaming about there being an intruder in the castle.
Serilda shakily emerged from beneath the table. She would find Gild, help him free the tatzelwurm if he hadn’t already, then they would make a plan for how to help Solvilde.