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“I’m sure we can,” said Serilda. “We’ll have Frieda check the books in the library.”
“And what about this little girl?” said Gild, rubbing a thumb across the baby’s wrinkled, blotchy face. “I love her, too. I can’t even believe it’s possible. The noise she’s making right now is the worst thing I’ve ever heard, and I lived in a castle with a screaming bazaloshtsh. But still … I love her so much.”
The sun surpassed the horizon, chasing away the midwinter chill. Serilda kissed Gild, and she kissed her daughter, and she kissed Leyna and Erlen and then laughed when Erlen made a face and swiped it away. Serilda could have gone on kissing every single person in Adalheid, except Lorraine chose that moment to suggest they all go to the inn and warm their toes by the fire—even the gods were welcome.
Serilda helped Gild to his feet, beaming. “What should we name her?”
“No idea. I’ve never gotten to name anyone before. Seems like a big responsibility, especially now that we know how powerful a name can be.”
Their daughter’s cries quieted as Serilda rocked her. “We’ll think of something,” she said, in awe at the tender way Gild rubbed one knuckle along the baby’s flushed cheek.
Then he grinned and pulled Serilda close, their brows pressed together, their child cradled between them. “Whatever name we choose,” he said, “I guarantee it will never be forgotten.”
There is the end of my tale, how it happened in truth.
But I see you are unsatisfied. That is the plight for us storytellers, to know that the story is never finished, our listeners never content.
Hush, now. I wish to tell you a different story, and perhaps if you listen closely, you will hear the answers to your questions.
I trust you have heard of the great tapestry maker, famous throughout Tulvask? Her most acclaimed work hangs even now in a Verenese university. People travel from all over the world to admire it, for it is a great work of art—the pinnacle of craftsmanship and skill. Its subject was considered most unique when it was first revealed, though many artisans have attempted to replicate it since.
You have not seen the tapestry? Allow me to paint you a picture.
Imagine a flourishing city beside a crystalline lake. The townsfolk are enjoying a celebration—New Year’s Day, perhaps. There are streamers hung over the streets and baskets overflowing with spring flowers, despite the snow still on the ground. There are the mayor and her wife leading a waltz across the docks. And not far away, a giddy child dancing with—of all things—a hobgoblin.
Ah yes. You are surprised. So is everyone when they finally look. When they finally see. You thought it was only half-timbered buildings and vibrantly painted doors, merry townsfolk and their simple lives. But now you notice the drude peering around a chimney. The nachtkrapp hidden among the ravens. Through the public house window, two moss maidens drinking ale.
Look closer still and you might find yourself making some unusual interpretations as to who these simple townsfolk are. Certainly, the scholars have had their say, but what of you?
Could that be Hulda sitting at the spinning wheel in the background? Could the farmer with a sickle over one shoulder be none other than Freydon? Could the archer with the quiver of arrows be Tyrr? The cloaked figure holding the lantern must be484Velos, and the out-of-place sailor could be Solvilde, and yes, there is Eostrig in that little garden, looking strangely similar to the mythical Pusch-Grohla. The bard with the golden quill? Wyrdith, naturally.
Remarkable, really. You see now why the tapestry was heralded as such a treasure when it was first revealed, how it ushered in an entirely new era in artistry and iconography. Why, to show the seven gods not only among the mortal realm, but interacting with humans? To show the townsfolk no longer afraid of monsters, but welcoming them, befriending them?
It was a novelty in its time, one that is sure to be studied for generations to come.
Yes—you might ask—but what of these four figures, the ones standing in the midst of the revelry? The ones lit by a radiant sunbeam? Surely they must be important, to be given such a place of prominence. But who are they?
Ah, my young scholar. You see now why the tapestry continues to bewilder. There are too many theories to count, and this mystery has yet to be solved.
A man. A woman. A child. A baby.
The most obvious assumption is that these are the lord and the lady of the village, along with their two children, presiding over the festival.
But of the four, only one—the child, a little girl with golden hair—wears a crown atop her head.
The man and the woman wear simpler garb. A pale tunic, a gray traveling cloak.
And her strange eyes—we mustn’t forget that. It is easy to miss at first, the detail is so small. But do you see it now? The touch of gold? Do they look like wheels to you? I’ve always thought so myself, but what can it mean?
Look closer still.
The baby has those golden eyes, too.
Strangely enough, so does the god of stories.
Maybe that is the message the artist wished to convey. Human, god, monster—we are all the victims of fate and fortune. Whether or not the great wheel will land in our favor, only time will tell.