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Perchta swung her legs over the side of the bed. Lorraine and the midwife both cried out and rushed to stop her.
“You have to rest!” said the midwife. “You just gave birth!”
“I will not rest. I am needed in the castle.”
“The castle!” said Lorraine. “Serilda, be sensible. I understand you and that prince have been plotting to gallivant off to—”
“Prince?” said Perchta, eyes blazing. “What prince?”443
Lorraine drew back, surprised, then gestured toward the wall and, far down the hallway, the room where Gild had been toiling away all month. “That’s what we were going to tell you before. Your prince has told us everything and he’s—”
“In the castle!” blurted Leyna.
Lorraine started. “What?”
“He’s waiting for you in the castle,” said Leyna, bouncing the baby nervously in her arms. “He wanted me to tell you that he was going early. To wait for the moon to rise, so he could set a trap. For the hunt.”
Perchta raised an eyebrow and said nothing for a long moment. Then a slow, cruel smile came over her face. “I see. Well. As the Endless Moon is upon us, I shall not keep him waiting.”
Serilda blinked. At some point, Leyna had lit the candles around the room. At some point, the snow had stopped falling and the sky had dimmed.
The sun was setting.
The veil was about to fall.
Serilda gasped and rushed from the room. Behind her, she heard Lorraine pleading with the huntress to lie back down.
Then she felt it. That tingle that swept across her skin. The way a flush of new color spread over the world, always a surprise after seeing so muted a palette for so long.
The veil was down.
“Stop whimpering and bring me my boots,” Perchta demanded. “And you—can’t you keep the child from crying?”
The baby was not crying, not really, though her little snuffle sounds were becoming increasingly agitated.
“She might be hungry?” Leyna said hesitantly.
“She will have to wait.”
“Serilda!” said Lorraine. “What has gotten into you?”
Serilda ducked into an empty guest room, leaving the door open a small crack. Seconds later, Perchta emerged and came storming down the hall, Leyna on her heels, clutching the swaddled baby.444
“I am fine,” said Perchta. “I’ve never rested on a full moon before, why should I start now?”
“Lorraine? Leyna?” called a voice from downstairs—Frieda. “I thought I heard … oh! Serilda!”
“Move!” shouted Perchta.
As the hall fell quiet again, Serilda crept out from the room and peeked around the stairwell, watching as Perchta grabbed her cloak, left behind on the counter, and tossed it around her shoulders.
“She thinks she’s going to the castle!” said Lorraine. “Notminutesafter having a baby. And she wants Leyna to come with her. Serilda, you’re being absurd. You cannot possibly—”
A ring of steel silenced her.
Serilda gasped, throwing a hand up to her mouth.
Perchta had drawn a hunting knife from somewhere within the cloak and now held it to Lorraine’s chest, right over her heart.