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But she didn’t finish. Already, she could see the refusal etched into the god’s face.
“You have given his family name,” said the god. “What ishisname?”
She let out a frustrated growl. “I don’t know! That story told the start of his lineage,hundredsof years before he was even born! How should I know his full name?”
“Wait!” It was Frieda who called out. The librarian was gripping Leyna’s hand, and pressing her other palm to her forehead. “Wait,” she said again. “I’ve read about this family. In those books I showed you, remember? When you came to the library?”
Serilda shook her head. “They were blank. Everything was …” She trailed off.No.They wouldn’t be blank. Not anymore. They would be full. Full of history. Full of a powerful and respected dynasty—the family who had ruled over this city and the northern lands for centuries.
“It’s baffled scholars for ages,” said Frieda. “How the family died out suddenly three hundred years—”
“The prince,” said Serilda, hardly daring to hope again. “Do you remember the name of the prince?”
Frieda considered the question. “They call him the lost heir,” she finally said. “Ermengild? I … I think his name was Ermengild.”481
Serilda turned back to Velos.
The god of death gave her a slow nod. “Who would you summon?”
She licked her lips and steeled herself, afraid that it wouldn’t work if her voice trembled. “I would have you bring back Ermengild Rumpelstiltskin, prince of Adalheid. Gold-spinner. Hulda-blessed.” She hesitated, before adding, “Poltergeist.”
Velos gave her a look that was almost proud. “You have spoken true.”
The god of death raised their lantern. The flame inside glowed brighter.
Serilda held her breath. Too scared to hope. Feeling like she would shatter into a thousand brittle pieces if she dared.
And then—a baby’s cry.
She gasped and looked down at the tiny bundle in her arms.
Her child was wailing. All pink cheeks and flailing hands.
Serilda was so surprised she nearly dropped her, and every person in the crowd jumped forward as if they could catch the child themselves.
She started to laugh. Then every emotion poured out of her as she squeezed her daughter against her chest, sobbing and shaking and afraid to believe, to trust this was real—
She spun around. Gild was sitting up, staring at her. He looked half dead still. Pale and wounded, one hand pressed to his chest, his face pinched, even as he tried to smile.
“After all that … please don’t drop our child.”
Her laughter continued, uncontrollable, as she fell to her knees. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’ll be more careful. I’ll be—Gild. You’re alive! And you aren’t cursed and I’m not cursed and our baby—and the Erlking and—”
“Too much,” he groaned. “Slow down.”
She couldn’t stop crying. Couldn’t stop laughing. The child wouldn’t stop wailing. Serilda knew she would need to be fed soon, and bathed, and loved—loved so very much.
But first …
“I love you, Gild,” she said, pressing a hand to his face. “I love you.”482
Though still weary, his grin was brilliant. “I love you, too, storyteller.” His gaze found Erlen, seconds before she joined their embrace. “I even love you, Alder Queen.”
“You have your moments,” said Erlen, not trying to hide the fact that she was crying, too. “Do you think we can figure outmyname?”