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She bid farewell to the rest of the moss maidens, who, despite having spent the last month with her, still watched her go like a bunch of suspicious foxes. Serilda left the camp alone.
She would go to Adalheid and slip into the public house, so that as soon as the veil fell, she would be ready to explain everything to Gild and Erlen. She would ensure that the weapons Gild had been making were delivered to the moss maidens. Then she would enter the castle and do whatever she needed to do—cause a distraction or stall the Erlking, keep him from making his wish—giving the moss maidens time to get into position. When the time was right, she’d blow the whistle and the maidens would descend and slaughter the dark ones, one by one, using the same spun-gold arrows that had once killed Perchta.
The plan was a good one, she told herself, as she made her way through the forest.
It will work, it will work, it has to work.
As soon as she reached the edge of the Aschen Wood and saw the city wall rise up in front of her, she felt a tug deep within her chest. Somehow, this place had started to feel like more of a home to her than Märchenfeld ever had. All she had loved in her old life was gone, snatched away from her.
All she loved now was here, within these walls.
If the veil fell forever, this city would fall. The first victim to the demons.
She could not let that happen.
Serilda made her way down the quiet streets. Though wagon and carriage wheels had cut grooves through the snow, they were quickly filling up again. All was quiet and still, most of the people bundled up inside their homes, smoke rising from every chimney. She passed a young boy throwing seeds out for a brood of chickens, and a man shoveling snow from his front step, and an old woman bustling by with her hood pulled over her head and a basket smelling of warm yeast buns on her elbow.
No one saw Serilda, right beside them but hidden behind the veil. The spirit who did not even leave footsteps in the blanketing snow.433
She made her way to the public house and slipped into the front door right as Frieda was slipping out, humming to herself and carrying an armful of books. She paused briefly as she passed Serilda, a shiver overtaking her. She glanced around with a curious expression, before she shook it off and continued her humming, heading toward the library.
The main room was empty—the townsfolk kept away by either the snow or the ominous Endless Moon. Serilda headed up to the second floor. A door stood open at the end of the hall, where she could hear the telltale sound of a spinning wheel whirring diligently, matched with Leyna’s chipper voice.
Serilda glided down the hall, already beaming when she came to the doorway.
The room was cold, due to the single window left open, where snow was dusting the sill. Despite the chill, heat flooded Serilda as she stepped inside.
Bundled in a jacket and scarf, Gild sat at the spinning wheel, feeding strands of wool into the maiden hole, his foot tapping against the treadle, strands of glistening gold winding around the bobbin as if it were the most natural thing in the world. A tray of meats and cheeses sat on a table beside him.
Leyna sat cross-legged on the rug beside him, using a comb to pick through raw wool fibers, preparing them for Gild to spin. She was prattling on about some prank one of her friends had pulled on the superstitious old man that lived up the hill, and Gild was beaming, perhaps a bit too encouragingly.
The sight of them both made Serilda’s nerves sing with inexpressible joy.
They were safe. Gild wasalive—not cursed, not trapped—no longer the poltergeist forever haunting Adalheid Castle.
What’s more, as she took in the room, she saw that he had been very busy.
Bundles of golden thread were stacked against the walls. Some had been braided into thick chains, like those the hunt used. But much more had been twisted and forged into arrowheads, swords, daggers, and spears. She wondered if Gild had even slept, to have been so prolific.
It was more than she could have hoped.434
The moss maidens would be thrilled. As thrilled as they ever were, at least.
Biting her lower lip, Serilda stepped across the room and knelt beside the spinning wheel.
Did she imagine the way his fingers hesitated?
But then Leyna handed him another bunch of wool and he returned to his work.
Serilda reached forward, wishing she could push back the lock of hair falling into his eyes, but her fingers slipped right through.
Gild’s brow furrowed and he reached up to scratch his forehead.
With a sigh, Serilda glanced out the window. There were still hours until sunset.
A loud caw made her jump.