Serilda gulped and glanced at Tyrr. “Well,” she said slowly, “I hoped I wouldn’t be completely alone.”
“Wyrdith lived a nomadic life,” said Tyrr. “They might be difficult to find.”
“I know,” said Serilda. “But I know there was a time when they lived on the basalt cliffs in the north. I might be wrong, but I think they could be there still.”
Tyrr regarded her for a long moment. “The cliffs are not far. We could be there before midnight.”
Her insides warmed. “Really? You’ll come with me?”
“I will take you to the cliffs,” said Tyrr. They grinned hungrily, teeth flashing. “And should we encounter the wild hunt, I will relish the chance to return Erlkönig’s favor and put an arrow intohisflesh this time.”
Serilda did not know whether she was more terrified or euphoric. The wind in her face tasted of salt, so she knew the ocean was not far off. The crimson cloak billowed around her, whipping against her back, while far below, the world was painted in swaths of burgundy and ochre—the forest’s final hurrah of brilliant colors before the onset of winter would cover everything in gray and white. Dappled moonlight lit the earth in patches of silver and she occasionally spotted the flickering torchlights of a village settled along a black, winding river.
She searched the ground below for signs of the hunt barreling across the land, but everything was serene and still.
She wished she felt comfort in that.
This was the final full moon before the winter solstice. This was the night the Erlking would be hunting Wyrdith.
They dove into a cloud, and she could see nothing but wispy gray. The cold gnawed at her fingers the farther north they flew, making it difficult to cling to the scales on Tyrr’s back. She lowered her face as wind stung her cheeks and frost gathered on the tips of her braids.
Tyrr banked sharply to the west. They dipped beneath the cloud cover, and Serilda drew in a bewildered gasp to see a black abyss beneath her.
Churning waves speckled silver and white as they crashed against jagged rocks far, far below.395
“Here!” she cried. “Land here!”
Faint moonlight defined a sharp line of the black basalt cliffs, giant columns plummeting toward the ocean. They were bigger than she’d imagined, and Serilda couldn’t help the sense of foreboding, of helplessness. Could Wyrdith really be here, in this cold, inhospitable place? The cliffs stretched on for miles and miles. How would she ever find the god?
“There!” she said, pointing toward a narrow plateau. The god flattened their wings and soared down. Serilda’s stomach swooped toward her throat and she clung tighter.
A whistle came from down below.
She felt a thud as something struck the wyvern. Tyrr hissed and bucked, leaning sideways so unexpectedly Serilda screamed and barely held on. As the wyvern regained control, she glimpsed the black fletching of an arrow jutting from behind one of the beast’s shoulders.
Wide-eyed, she looked around, searching for the hunt below, but it was too dark.
“Tyrr!” she screamed as the wyvern turned sharply again. Suddenly they were free-falling. The beast spun through the air—Serilda was upside down, then airborne—and her fingers at last lost their grip on the god’s scaled back.
She screamed, arms flailing as her cloak whipped around her, and she dropped headlong through the air.
Then the wyvern was there. Claws in her cloak. Wings around her.
They slammed into the ground with such force, it knocked the air from Serilda’s lungs. Their bodies rolled together across the rocks of the plateau, and she felt every scrape, every thump, every brutal strike of the unrelenting ground. When they stopped, she found herself sprawled beside Tyrr in their human form—not wings, but arms wrapped around her.
“Tyrr,” she croaked, struggling to draw in breath as she pushed herself onto her knees. She saw the arrows. One had snapped in the fall, and only a396broken shaft still stuck out from Tyrr’s shoulder. The other arrow she found intact in their thigh. “Tyrr! Are you all right?”
“I will be,” groaned the god, sitting up and looking around. “But the hunt is close.”
“I’m sorry,” she gasped. “I shouldn’t have asked you to bring me here!”