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She swallowed. “Wyrdith? There is … something else. Another reason I came.”
Wyrdith met her eye. “Yes?”
Was it Serilda’s imagination that they, too, seemed suddenly nervous? Did they know what she wanted to ask?
Serilda cleared her throat. “I want to claim a wish from you. It’s a very long story, but you see … Perchta, the huntress, was given my body as a vessel for her spirit, and I want it back.”
Wyrdith gawked at her, speechless.405
“Can … can you help me?”
Slowly, the god exhaled. “It would seem you have a lot of stories to tell.”
“That is a vast understatement,” said Serilda.
A flicker of regret crossed the god’s face, and they slowly shook their head. “I would very much like to help you, but—”
“Don’t say no,” Serilda interrupted. “You owe me. You cursed me for no reason, and my fatherhelpedyou. Please.”
Wyrdith lowered their eyes. They were silent a long moment, as if considering Serilda’s words, before finally they said, simply, “Wishes can only be granted on the Endless Moon.”
Serilda flinched. She had worried this would be the god’s response. “But you’re magic. You’re a god. There must be something you can do.”
Wyrdith gave a humorless laugh. Then they picked up the bound pages Serilda had been examining. “Do you enjoy fairy tales?”
The sudden change of topic was so disconcerting that Serilda wasn’t sure how to answer. “I … yes, I do,” she admitted. “I have this story in a book, actually.Yourbook, I think? A collection a friend gave to me, though I—I’m afraid I haven’t had time to read the story, yet.”
Wyrdith sat on the edge of the cot, flipping through the crackling pages. “It’s an old story, though few know it. I’ve often found, when all is forgotten by history, a good story can still live on. A good story can live forever.”
“I thought it was just a boring morality tale.”
At this, Wyrdith grinned, meeting Serilda’s gaze again. “Morality tale, yes. Boring? No.” The god cocked their head, squinting at Serilda in the dim light. “Would you like to hear it?”
Serilda knew she should say no. The hunt was after them, even now. Surely there must be something they could do to prepare themselves for the inevitable fight once the Erlking found them.
But something had tugged at her when Wyrdith asked the question, a yearning in the pit of Serilda’s stomach. Would she ever again have the chance to listen to a fairy tale told to her by the god of stories?
“Yes,” she whispered. “I would.”
In ages past, there lived a king who had thirteen children. Not wanting only his eldest child to inherit the kingdom, he determined that he would divide the land into thirteen equal portions, so that each prince and princess would be given a part of his kingdom and wealth. This led to a problem, however, for the thirteenth portion of the kingdom, that lay far to the north, was nothing but a dreary swampland, long overrun with vicious monsters, and none of the king’s children wished to rule such a place. The king tried hard to persuade his youngest son, Prince Rumpel, to accept the gift, for he was the most pleasant of all the king’s children and the least prone to complaint. But even the warmhearted Prince Rumpel did not want the northern lands, for he hoped to someday rule over a prosperous kingdom, and he did not wish to be saddled with a land in which nothing good could flourish.
Thus, the king planned a contest, which he believed would fairly determine who should inherit the northern parcel.
He made a decree to all his subjects throughout the kingdom that whosoever should bring him a golden acorn from the magical tree that grew in the center of an enchanted forest would be given their own kingdom to rule and the hand of whichever prince or princess they should choose. Thus, the chosen heir would inherit the lands of the north.
Now, there lived a peasant in the nearest village by the name of Stiltskin, and while he was very poor, he was also a diligent worker with many skills. All that he had, he had made for himself. His leather boots had been stitched by his own hand. His warm cloak made of wool he had spun and woven. He lived on the bread he baked and the vegetables he grew.
When Stiltskin heard of the king’s contest, he thought this might be a chance to improve his lot in life, and he set off into the forest to find the tree with the golden acorns.
Stiltskin had not traveled far when he heard the pitiful squeaking of a mouse, who was shivering beneath a small leaf.408
“Good day, little mouse,” said Stiltskin. “Whatever troubles you?”
“The winter will soon be here,” said the mouse, “and I have no shelter but this little leaf, which surely will not keep me warm or dry when the snows come.”
Stiltskin thought hard on this, and then he slipped off one of the boots he had stitched himself and gave it to the mouse. “This will serve as a very good shelter for you to last until the spring.”
The mouse was grateful. In return, he gave to Stiltskin a walnut shell filled with a single drop of morning dew. “Plant this in the ground, and it will become a great lake filled with clean, cool water,” said the mouse.