“Serilda, come with me,” said Wyrdith, reaching for Serilda’s hands, but she yanked them away.
Serilda had eyes only for the Erlking and the huntress. Having used up his bolts, the Erlking switched to two long, slender swords, and Perchta now held a mace—but the moss maidens were dancing around them, just out of reach.
And the rest of the demons, the hunters and the court …
They were gone. The ambush had worked. Caught off guard against the moss maidens and Erlen’s monsters, they had fallen easily to Gild’s golden arrows. The demons had been forced back into the gash in the earth, back to the depths of Verloren.
All but two.
“Serilda,please,” said Wyrdith.468
“I’m not leaving until Perchta and the Erlking are gone.”
“We will all end up in Verloren if we don’t go now!” Wyrdith turned to Velos. “Can’t you stop this?”
Velos’s voice rumbled regretfully. “The ground is too weak, and the land of the lost has grown unstable in my absence. This castle will fall.”
Serilda looked down at the bodies of Gild and their child. Crouching before them, she took the ring off Gild’s finger and slipped it onto her own, as he’d asked, then scooped her baby into her arms.
Holding her for the first time.
Tears threatened to smother her again, but she fought them back as she turned to Wyrdith. “Take her, please.”
Wyrdith’s face crumpled as they took the still form of their grandchild into their arms.
“I will take the gold-spinner,” said Velos.
Serilda rounded on the god, teeth bared. “No! You can’t have him, not yet!”
But Velos gave her a kind smile and settled a hand onto her shoulder. “Their spirits are already gone. You cannot keep them here.”
Horror tightened around her throat. “No, no, they can’t …”
“I will carry his body,” the god said. “So you might give him a proper burial.”
Tears streamed down her cheeks as the god lifted Gild’s body into their arms.
Wyrdith and Velos started after the others.
Parsley was running across the parapets, which swayed dangerously beneath her. With a grunt, she jumped, launching herself into the gardens. She struck the ground with a graceful roll and looked up, panting. “We are out of golden arrows. They are getting away—the Erlking, the huntress! What else can we use to fight them?”
Serilda spun around in time to see the Erlking and Perchta cutting their way through the forest folk that were still desperately trying to hold them469back. But it was a losing fight. Without the golden arrows, they were no match for these final two demons.
Serilda scanned the menagerie, the gardens, the wide-open gates that led to the courtyard. A ferocity like she’d never felt before surged inside her. “I have an idea.”
Give me two minutes,” said Serilda. “Meet me at the drawbridge, and tell the rest of the moss maidens to retreat!”
“Retreat?” bellowed Parsley.
Doubt flashed over Parsley’s face. Then she steeled herself and gave a firm nod. Without another word, she was gone, rushing back into battle.
Serilda hardened her resolve, made it as unbreakable as god-spun gold. Then she started to gather armfuls of the golden chains that had been used to bind the gods.