“I made my choice,” said Tyrr in their gruff tone. They grabbed the arrow in their leg and yanked it from their flesh. Not gold, she noticed, explaining why Tyrr was not already trapped in their wyvern form. Maybe the Erlking was finally running out of his magic arrows.
Serilda grimaced, covering her mouth with both hands as blood gushed across the rocky ground. “You’re immortal. How can gods bleed when the dark ones do not?”
“We are made of flesh and bone,” Tyrr said. “They are made of nothing but darkness.”
Tyrr staggered to their feet and yanked Serilda up beside them. Folding their large hands over Serilda’s shoulders, Tyrr stared into her eyes. “Find Wyrdith. Warn them the hunt is coming. I will lure the dark ones away and keep them preoccupied until the veil falls.” Tyrr flashed a haughty grin. “Be careful, godchild of Wyrdith.”
With a flourish of their arm, one broken arrow still jutting from their shoulder, Tyrr transformed back into the hulking form of the rubinrot wyvern. They raced for the plateau’s edge and jumped, soaring out over the ocean waves. Moonlight glistened off their scales as they spiraled upward,wantingthe hunt to take notice. The god of war spun back toward land and soared off, disappearing into the night sky.
Shivering, Serilda wrapped the cloak around her and looked around. For a long moment she couldn’t move, paralyzed by fear and cold and the horrible sensation that the hunt would be upon her any moment. The Erlking must have been close to strike Tyrr, and yet, she heard no howling hounds or stampeding horses or the haunting bellow of the horn.
The night was eerily quiet, but for the crashing of waves far below.397
Her legs shook from the flight and the fall, but she made her way to the cliffside anyway.
The edges looked like they’d been sheared away with a knife, plummeting straight down to the whitecaps below, only the occasional ledge breaking up the sheer cliff face. She felt like she was standing at the edge of the world.
“Wyrdith?” she called. But her voice was weak and the wind stole the name away as soon as it left her mouth.
Again she searched the horizon for signs of the hunt. The plateau was wide enough that she’d have some warning of their approach, but she was vulnerable here with nowhere to hide.
She looked over the ledge again, scanning the bluff. She saw nothing that suggested a shelter or a home. Nowhere a god might find sanctuary.
How did one find a god if that god did not wish to be found?
A cloud passed in front of the Hunter’s Moon, casting the world in darkness.
Which was when she saw a glint of gold.
She squinted. Her eyes stung from the wind and she rubbed her palms into them, just as the moonlight spilled again across the cliffs.
She was peering at a long golden feather, trapped beneath a fallen rock on an outcrop, fluttering in the relentless wind.
Serilda got onto her hands and knees. It was a far drop, but there was a ledge wide enough to catch her, and a few craggy holds in the cliffside that she might use for purchase.
“Wyrdith?” she called again. “Can you hear me?”
Only the wind responded.
Checking the clasp on her cloak, she slid one leg off the ledge, turning awkwardly onto her stomach before sliding the other leg over, too. Her feet scrambled against the rocks until her toes found a ledge. Inhaling deeply, she scooted herself down until she was barely clinging to the clifftop. Already her arms were shaking from the effort, but she managed to find a398small crevasse to wedge her left fingers into. She lowered herself down, foot by hand by foot, and managed to get halfway to the feather before the small foothold she’d found broke from her weight.
Serilda screamed and fell, hands scraping against the cliffside.
She landed in a heap.
With a moan, she held up her hands. Her palms were raw and bleeding, but she hadn’t broken any bones.
She peered up to the plateau’s ledge and realized with a sinking feeling that she had no way of climbing back up. Then she looked down toward the ocean and shuddered. The last thing she wanted to do was scale these cliffs, because even if shecouldmake it to the bottom, the waves would just toss her against the rocks, with no shore in sight.
After picking bits of sharp rock from her palms, she scooted closer to the feather. How long could such a delicate thing last here, bombarded by the ocean winds? A day? A season? A decade?
She had no way of knowing, but she was sure of one thing as she grabbed the feather and yanked it free.
At one time, it had been Wyrdith’s. The great golden raptor.
She twisted it in her fingers. A subtle haze of light bounced off the sheer black wall.
Serilda frowned. She twisted the feather again, watching its light glitter, almost imperceptibly reflecting along the surface.