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Stiltskin and Rumpel rejoiced, believing their prayers to be answered.
But in the next moment, Hulda, god of labor, appeared. “It was I, disguised as411the tatzelwurm, who gave you that acorn,” said the god, “and now I come to claim what is mine.”
Stiltskin was heartbroken, but knowing that a deal is a deal, he offered the child to the god.
Hulda took the babe into their arms. “This child will bear my blessing,” said the god, “as will all of your descendants. So long as they are as hardworking as their founding kings, their labors will be fruitful, their blessings abundant, their people prosperous. I give only one condition—that use of my magic never be given away without recompense, for all good work should be honored with proper payment. Honor my blessing, and your kingdom will thrive for generations to come.”
With these words, Hulda gave the child back to the two kings, and was gone.
The child grew to be as hardworking as Stiltskin and as warmhearted as Rumpel, and the northern kingdom was joyful and prosperous forever after.
Chapter Forty-Eight
As Wyrdith spoke, Serilda had sunk down onto the foot of the cot, astounded by how comforting it felt to listen to the god’s gentle voice, recounting this unfamiliar tale.
Though—not wholly unfamiliar.
“Like Gild,” Serilda whispered once they had finished. “Given Hulda’s blessing, but his magic can’t be given away for free. There’s always a price.” She frowned. “Do you gods realize that your gifts often end up causing so much trouble?”
“Yes,” mused Wyrdith. “Though we generally mean well.”
Serilda smiled slightly, wanting to believe it. “Thank you for telling me that story. I feel like I’ve heard it before, but I can’t place where.”
The worn pages crinkled in Wyrdith’s fingers. “Indeed. You have heard this story, many times, though I would not expect you to remember. You were so very young, but … but there was a time when it was one of your favorites.”
Serilda frowned. “What do you mean?”
Tears sparkled in the god’s eyes. “Serilda,” they said, even though Serilda was certain she had not given her name. “I know you wouldn’t recognize me, but … I would have known you anywhere.”
They exhaled slowly and stood from the cot.
As Serilda stared, the god’s hair grew longer, changing from purple-black to wavy brown locks. Their cheeks rounded, their figure became413curvier, their lips fuller. In appearance, the woman before her was not much older than Serilda was now. When they opened their eyes, they no longer had the golden wheels on their irises. Their eyes, instead, were bluish green, and when they flashed an uncertain smile, Serilda saw a chipped front tooth.
She did not remember her, not beyond what her father had told her, but there was no mistaking that the woman before her—thegodbefore her—was her mother.
Serilda shot to her feet and backed away. Wyrdith. The god. The—
The very being who had cursed her.
Blessed her?
Givenbirthto her?
“H-how?” she stammered, bumping into the corner of the desk.
Wyrdith lifted a calming hand, their expression worried. How was it that a fairy tale told long ago was more familiar to her than the face of her own mother? “Serilda …”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “You’re a trickster god. A liar. This isn’t—you can’t be—”
“I don’t wish to frighten you,” said Wyrdith. “But, oh, my Serilda, if you knew how many times I dreamed of seeing you again. Planned what I would tell you. What I would say—”
“Did my father know?” she interrupted, surprised at the venom in her tone. There were so many emotions warring inside Serilda, she would not have expected anger to be at the forefront, but there it was. Anger, mixed with an odd sense of betrayal.
“That I was Wyrdith? No. No, of course not. He was so young when we met. And I was just … I was the poor orphan girl, come to Märchenfeld seeking work and a new beginning. He was so kind. Sogood.But I … I didn’t realize how deep his feelings for me ran until the night he made his wish and I agreed to grant it.”
“He loved you!” Serilda cried. “He loved you so much. How could you …?”414
“I loved him, too.” Wyrdith stepped closer, hands held in supplication. “As I lovedyou.”