Page 151

“Then why did you leave?” Serilda shouted, her emotions spilling out of her like a pot bubbling over. “We thought you were taken by the hunt! We thought you weredead! And all this time you were … you werehere.Hiding in a cave, and … and writing books of fairy tales? Living in Verene?”
“I was trying to protect you. Both of you. I knew the Erlking would find me again. He had come so close before, and I knew he would not give up. If he ever found out about you or Hugo, he would use you against me. I couldn’t let that happen.”
Clutching the sides of her head, Serilda paced between the desk and the bookshelves. Her thoughts were spinning. Her entire world was spinning.
Wyrdith. God of stories. God of fortune. Her own patron deity.
Wyrdith was her mother.
Her mother was alive.
Her mother was not mortal.
“Great gods,” whispered Serilda. “Am I …? What does that make me? Am I …part god?”
Wyrdith burst into chiming laughter. “There are no half gods. That isn’t how it works.”
“But my eyes! And my stories! I can … I can tell stories that often end up coming true, somehow.”
Wyrdith nodded. “You have some of my magic. I knew it from the moment you were born. Of course, your father blamed the wish.” Wyrdith’s eyes crinkled at the corner. “Is he … did Hugo ever … find happiness? After I left?”
Serilda could feel the hope coupled with dread at this question. Was it possible that the god of lies had truly loved her father? Simple, compassionate, hardworking Hugo Moller?
Serilda sank against the bookshelf. “He’s dead.”
Wyrdith gasped and pressed a hand to their chest. “No. Oh, Hugo. How did it happen?”415
A mist of tears gathered in Serilda’s eyes. Then, without warning, a great, wrenching sob.
She slid down the bookcase and buried her face into her knees.
“Serilda!” Wyrdith was at her side, arms around her. It was all too much. The affection, the comfort, the arms of her own mother, the truth of who that mother was …
Between her sobs, Serilda told Wyrdith everything. From the night she had hidden two moss maidens in her onion cellar to protect them from the wild hunt, to the lie of gold-spinning she had told the Erlking, to being taken away to his castle. She told her about Gild and the children and how Papa had become a nachzehrer. About the curse and Gravenstone and Perchta and—
Her own child.
Her own baby.
Who was due to be born in four short weeks. Who she had not even had the pleasure of feeling grow inside her belly. And yet, the love she felt for that unborn child was so strong it made it hard to breathe when she let herself think about it. Think about how much she wanted that child. How much she wanted them to be all right.
How much she knew that child would never be all right, because Perchta had her body and everything was wrong, everything was terrible, and she didn’t know how to fix any of it.
Wyrdith held her and let her cry and didn’t interrupt the tale, not once.
By the time Serilda finished, they had both settled with their backs against the bookshelf, Wyrdith’s hand rubbing soft circles between Serilda’s shoulder blades.
“What am I going to do?” Serilda said, using the red cloak to wipe away her tears. “He’s taken everything from me. I can’t win against him.”
“He is a dreadful opponent,” said Wyrdith. “One we have been fighting against for longer than I can remember.”
Serilda groaned and pressed her forehead to her knees. “And you’regods. I’m just me. A miller’s daughter.”
Wyrdith hummed. “You’re my daughter, too.”416
The words sent a chill racing along Serilda’s spine.
“That is one of the great things about being a storyteller.” Wyrdith nudged Serilda gently. “We get to write our own story, too.”