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She grunted. “Which you ruined.”
“An honest mistake.” He shook his head, his expression giving in to the wonder he must have been stifling since they’d first seen Erlen in the lunar rotunda. “I thought you were dead. I thought the Erlking killed you all those years ago.”
“Please,” said Erlen. “He just left me to rot away in that castle of his. The joke is on him, though, isn’t it? He underestimated me. He left me a prisoner, but I became a queen. It took less than a year to earn the respect and loyalty of the monsters he’d left behind. Turns out, the dark ones weren’t much nicer to them than they are to humans, so it was easy enough to claim them as my own.” She smiled haughtily, but it was quick to fade. “Though, I suppose I’m queen of nothing now. These last months have been the worst of all my years of captivity. Having to keep hidden while the dark ones acted387like the castle was theirs. And now I don’t even have my dear monsters anymore. They were my family. My friends. But they fled after the battle and never came back and I … I failed them. They trusted me, and I failed them.”
“You didn’t fail anyone,” said Serilda. “You were brave to stand against the dark ones. They are an impossible enemy.”
“No. Not impossible,” said Erlen. “I’ve seen them defeated. Tossed back into the pits of Verloren. I thought that we … that I could … I thought maybe I could be the one to do it. To save us all.” She looked away, and for the first time, Serilda could see how she still had the heart of a little girl on the inside. A child doing her very best.
“What do you mean, you’veseenit?” asked Gild.
She shot him a bewildered look. “In my tapestries, of course.”
Gild’s brow furrowed.
“He hasn’t seen them,” said Serilda. “He was locked in the dungeons the whole time we were at Gravenstone.”
“No,” said Gild, snapping his fingers. “I saw that one. In the great hall. The gross one, with the Erlking and Perchta being eaten alive in Verloren?”
Erlen brightened. “Easily my favorite. And you see? If the tapestry shows them in the land of the lost, then there is a future possible in which they are no longer in the mortal realm.” Her shoulders drooped. “But the tapestries tell me only what’s possible, not how to accomplish it.”
Serilda sucked in a slow breath, understanding finally striking her. “You said that you’re Hulda-blessed,” she said. “This is your gift. You weave tapestries that tell the future.”
“A possible future,” Erlen clarified. “I make good use of them when I can. It’s how I knew the dark ones were returning to Gravenstone, otherwise we never could have prepared like we did. Hiding away for weeks without being discovered wasn’t just luck.”
Serilda’s legs felt suddenly weak and she slumped onto the step of a mausoleum. “The tapestry with the seven gods.” Her gaze darted up toward Tyrr. “It shows that he will capture all seven. And …” Her lips quivered. “And the one that showed Perchta holding my child …”388
“Perchta sometimes,” said Erlen. “But sometimes you. You see? That future isn’t decided yet. Once the future is permanent, the tapestry will be unchangeable, too.” She frowned. “As for the one depicting the seven godly beasts … that one has never changed. I fear it’s inevitable.”
“No!” said Serilda. She swept her hand toward Tyrr. “We rescued Tyrr, and the Erlking doesn’t have Wyrdith, yet.”
Erlen shrugged. “We don’t know when it’s meant to happen. I wove that tapestry more than two hundred years ago, and I’ve never known when it would come to pass. But I am certain that it will.”
Serilda studied the princess, amazed at her gift. “There’s a tapestry in Adalheid. It shows a garden party, with the two of you and your parents—the king and queen. Except, the king and queen are dead. Depicted as skeletons.” She cringed, wishing there were a gentler way to talk about this. “Do you think maybe it was one of yours?”
Erlen paled. “I … don’t remember that.” She picked at the lace cuff of her nightgown. “But it might have been, yes.”
“That’s awful,” murmured Gild. “You must have been so young when you wove it. Do you think you knew what it meant? That it was … inevitable? That our parents would be killed and we would be … whatever we are.”
Erlen shrugged. “I suppose we’ll never know.”
Serilda pursed her lips.
HadGildknown what it meant? Had their parents? Or had the young princess been so horrified she hadn’t even shown it to them?
It did explain why the tapestry seemed to glow on the mortal side of the veil. Why it had not been destroyed by the basilisk’s venom. It really was crafted of magic. A god-blessed tapestry.
Suddenly, Tyrr launched to their feet on top of the gravestone. “Nachtkrapp!”
Serilda gasped and stood, reaching for the sword at her hip only to remember it had been lost inside the castle.
A beat of wings was followed by a large black bird soaring toward them.389
Tyrr lifted the broken stick over one shoulder, preparing to throw it. “Not as good as a bow,” they muttered, “but it will do.”
“Wait!” screamed Erlen. “Don’t hurt it!”
Tyrr hesitated.