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Leyna and Frieda stood frozen, terrified.
“I will do as I please,” said Perchta. “Thank you ever so much for your assistance, but your services are no longer required. Come, girl. Stay close.” With a flick, she tucked the knife away and gave Leyna a shove toward the door.
Leyna stumbled but managed to catch herself. The baby began to cry.
“L-Leyna!” cried Lorraine. “What is this? Leyna!”
Clutching the crying newborn to her chest, Leyna glanced back once at her mother. Then past her shoulder—to the stairs.
Her eyes met Serilda’s. She gasped.
Then Perchta shoved her out the door and they were gone.
Chapter Fifty-Two
Serilda rushed up the staircase and barged through the door at the end of the hall, into the room where she’d seen Gild spinning. The moment the door slammed shut behind her, she felt the cold press of metal against her throat.
Serilda drew up short with a squeak.
“Halt right there, Huntress!” cried Erlen, gripping her sword in both hands. She was standing on Gild’s spinning stool just inside the door, so that she would be tall enough to hold the sword at Serilda’s throat.
Gild stood on the other side of the room, an arrow nocked into a bow, aimed for her heart.
“It’s me,” said Serilda, lifting both palms. “It’s Serilda. I swear it.”
“Prove it,” snapped Erlen.
“The veil just fell!” She took in a shaky breath. “Prove it? I don’t know! Listen, Perchta had her baby. A baby girl, she’sbeautiful, but Perchta said she had to get back to the castle and she took Leyna with her, to care for the child while she … while the dark ones … They must be planning to make the wish any moment now and we don’t have time for this! We have to help Leyna, and get the baby and—”
Gild lowered the bow. “Serilda! It is you!”
“Oh please,” said Erlen. “She didn’t say anything convincing at all!”
“Let her go, Erlen!”446
With a huff, the princess lowered the sword. “If she kills you, don’t complain to me about it.”
Serilda sobbed and threw herself across the room, into Gild’s arms. He was quick to hold her, dropping the arrow and bow so he could pull her close.
The moment didn’t last. She caught her breath and pulled back, digging her fingers into his shoulders. “She took Leyna!”
“What of the gods?” he asked.
She cringed. She’d forgotten that he and Erlen didn’t know. “I found Wyrdith, but … the hunt came, and took both Wyrdith and Tyrr again. They have them. All seven.”
Erlen cursed beneath her breath.
“Then we really are out of time,” said Gild. “Erlen—pack up the weapons.” Pulling away from Serilda, he strapped a scabbard to his belt and threw a quiver of arrows over his back.
“I do have some good news,” said Serilda, and told them about the moss maidens and their plan.
Gild nodded. “The townsfolk agreed to help us, the ones with some skill in archery, but they aren’t warriors like the moss maidens. Erlen, can we send some of your monsters to meet with them and begin arranging the transfer of weapons?” His eyes were intense and focused in a way Serilda had rarely seen him. “We’ll enter the castle and stall for as long as we can.”
“No—wait! You can’t,” said Erlen, looking up from the bundle of arrows she’d been hastily tossing into a quiver. She stood suddenly, eyes wide. “Gild, you have to stay here.”
He blinked. “What? We decided I would lead the attack.”
She gave a furious shake to her head. “You can’t. I meant to tell you earlier, but I didn’t know how, and then, with Perchta—” She swallowed roughly. “I finished the tapestry. And—and you just can’t go!”