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Catching his breath, Gild met his sister’s gaze. They blinked at each other.
Then Gild scrambled to his feet. “No!Serilda!What did you do?”378
She had freed him.
Shaking, Serilda stuffed the arrow fragments into a pocket inside her cloak. He couldn’t see her. The Hunter’s Moon had not yet risen. But it would, soon, and then the veil would fall.
“Where are we?” asked the princess. “What happened? Who isthis?” She picked up a skull.
“Adalheid. Serilda broke our curse. I don’t know. Come on.” Gild started for the edge of the pit, having no idea that Serilda was mere inches from him.
“Adalheid!” cried the princess. “It worked? I’m out of Gravenstone?”
“Very clever, Your Luminance.”
Serilda spun around to see Giselle waiting in a doorway, tossing a knife into the air and catching it in such a blatant display of arrogance that it made Serilda want to laugh.
Instead, she fought to mold her face into one of terror as she approached the side of the pit and climbed out on trembling limbs. Behind her, she could hear the princess’s persistent questions and remarks, but she tried to ignore her and Gild. They couldn’t see her. They couldn’t see the dark ones. They couldn’t help.
She was alone now.
“Please,” she said, raising her hands in supplication, “don’t hurt me.”
“Why shouldn’t I?” Catching the knife, Giselle pointed it toward Gild as he and the princess scrambled from the pit. “You just cost my king one of his most prized possessions.”
“Yes, well”—Serilda flashed a smile—“it isn’t the last thing I’ll be costing him tonight.”
Giselle frowned.
Serilda bolted toward the hall.
The knife flew past her, clattering against the wall. Serilda exhaled, glad that her guess had been correct. If Giselle were any good with a knife, she would have been a hunter, not left behind to care for the animals.
She passed the massive dining hall, a game room, then skidded through379the doorway into the great hall. She rounded the massive fireplace. The rubinrot wyvern hung over the mantel, as hauntingly lifelike as it had always been, unmoved after all these years. Its slitted eyes seemed to follow her as she reached for the arrow embedded in its side.
Her fingers wrapped around the shaft, and with a determined bellow, she yanked it free. The arrow’s black tip emerged, along with a chunk of flesh and shimmering scales. The force of it sent her flying backward and she landed on her rear end, panting as she gaped up at the massive beast.
Giselle chased after her, face contorted. “Why do you keep running, little mort—”
She cut off as the wyvern’s head swiveled in her direction. Its slitted green eyes blinked. Once. Twice. A forked tongue darted out from between a horrible maw lined with rows of needlelike teeth.
With a low, vibrating growl, the wyvern yanked one wing and then the other away from the pins that had long held it in place on the castle wall. The beast shuddered with pain, but that didn’t keep it from extending great clawed forelegs toward the floor. It prowled toward Giselle, who backed slowly away.
Serilda couldn’t recall ever having seen a dark one afraid.Trulyafraid.
Giselle raised a hand, as if she could reason with the creature. As if she could tame it with a few fatty slabs of meat. But she didn’t even havethatto ward off this massive beast.
Giselle pivoted on her heels. She started to run, just as the wyvern opened its jaws and spewed forth a rush of molten flames.
Serilda screamed and scurried backward as an almost unbearable heat surged through the room.
When the wyvern was finished, all that remained of Giselle was a black mark on the stone wall, and a tapestry smoldering away to ash.
Serilda’s jaw dropped. She blinked once, twice, three times, before she managed to speak. “You killed her! You killed a demon! I didn’t think they could … be …”
She trailed off as the wyvern swiveled to face her. It clomped closer on380heavy, taloned limbs. Drops of oily blood splattered across the carpets from its open wound.
Serilda trembled as she lifted the black arrow, still tinged with the wyvern’s blood. “T-Tyrr? My name is Serilda. I’m a godchild of Wyrdith. I’m not your enemy. I freed you.”