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Dreams Lie Beneath
Author:Rebecca Ross

She began to move to the wine cupboard until my father spoke.

“No,” he said. We never drank before battle because it dulled the senses, and I knelt at Papa’s side, my thoughts whirling.

“You’re too ill to accept this challenge, Papa. Let me answer it for you.”

“I’ve no choice, Clem. And I won’t let you face them alone.” He looked at me, his eyes bloodshot. “I’ve no choice,” he repeated in a whisper, and rubbed his brow. We didn’t have much time, and I cracked my knuckles, anxious until Papa took my hand.

“We have the advantage,” he said, and Imonie rushed to make him a warm cup of tea since he would not take the wine. “We know the nightmares that might appear tonight. The magicians of Amarys don’t.”

“Yes, but . . .”

“We’ll treat this night no differently, daughter,” my father said. “Let me rest for half an hour and then we’ll go.” He leaned his head back against the chair and closed his eyes.

Imonie set the cup of steaming tea down on the table. She looked at my father before she pinned her gaze on me.

“This is your night, Clementine,” Imonie said. “Your father will accompany you, but you’ll have to be his strength. You’ll have to defeat this dream before that upstart does. Be patient. Be shrewd.”

I nodded. She spoke those four words to me—be patient, be shrewd—every new moon, just before I went to battle. I think she worried about a nightmare getting the best of me; I had a tendency to rush through things, although I had never been badly wounded before.

My courage wavered, but only for a moment.

I met Imonie’s stare and offered her a tilt of a smile.

“Any other words of advice, Imonie?”

She snorted, but it was impossible to decipher what she was thinking.

“Don’t underestimate these magicians. Particularly the quiet one. He was watching you very closely tonight.”

I remembered the way Phelan had regarded me, the way he had spoken my name.

And all I could think was, I should have let the troll devour them both.


The night was cool and quiet as my father and I walked to the market. Every door was bolted, every shutter closed. It never ceased to surprise me how different Hereswith felt on new moon nights. Desolate and achingly silent, menace chilling the air like fog. It felt abandoned.

I dwelled on the legend of Seren’s fall, like I did every new moon, my gaze drawn to the dark shadow of the mountains. The fortress in the clouds had been abandoned when the curse had been set a century ago, and yet I wondered what phantoms walked those mountain passages. What joy and light and friendship had once crowned the summit, before the duke’s assassination. Before everything fell apart.

Some legends claimed the duke had been a cruel man, passing harsh judgments on his people. His sadism had been the reason why the seven members of his court were driven to kill him. But other stories depicted him as a gentle ruler, claiming his court plotted his demise because of their own desire to rule.

I wondered which one was true as I slowed my pace to keep in stride with Papa. His breaths were labored, his steps arduous. We were almost to the market; the constellations teemed above us, like sugar spilled across black velvet, and I drew in a deep breath.

“You never told me about Elle Fielding,” he whispered.

Fetching Elle’s nightmare already felt like a week ago. “I had to divine the dream. It was . . . unusual.”

“How so?” Papa came to a stop and turned to face me.

“The setting was here, in the streets and market. She was being pursued by a knight.”

“By night?” He indicated the celestial sky above us.

“No, a knight. An armored person of prowess.” I paused, remembering the heavy cadence of his feet as he walked, the rust and blood on his steel. The sparks of his sword. “He was a threat, but I couldn’t see his face. I couldn’t discern what he wanted . . . but it was very sinister.”

The silence roared between us. I glanced up to see a flicker of fear in Papa’s face.

“What did the armor look like?” he asked sharply. “Was there anything strange about it?”

I tried to describe it, but I had only been afforded a glimpse of his legs.

“And what weapon did he carry?”

“A sword,” I replied, frowning. “Have you seen this knight in a dream before?” I asked, which was a foolish question, as I had read all my father’s nightmare recordings. Every single one. Unless he had some entries hidden from me. And I inevitably recalled Mazarine’s words, spoken earlier that day. Tell me, Clementine . . . have you read one of my nightmares recorded in your father’s book?

I had never read an entry of Mazarine’s, which meant she either drank remedies and kept dreams at bay, like me, or she did dream and my father had broken a sacred law of wardenship by refusing to record her nightmares. I wondered why Papa would do such a thing—willingly omitting a nightmare from the ledger—and yet I couldn’t find a good enough answer.

The possibility made me tense, and I stared up at my father, measuring his expression by starlight.

“No, I haven’t seen a knight like this before in a dream. Come, daughter. The sons of Amarys are waiting. It’s time to send them home.” My father’s swift dismissal only fueled my sudden reservations.

“You don’t like their family?” I asked, remembering the ice in his voice when he had heard the brothers’ names.

“Their mother is an old acquaintance of mine.” That was all my father would say, and I was too hesitant to pry for a better answer.

Lennox and Phelan Vesper were waiting for us in the center of the market.

They stood like statues as Papa and I approached. They stood like they belonged here, like they had grown roots in Hereswith, and I inwardly despised them for it. Papa and I came to a stop a good distance from them, a safe stretch of grass between us.

“Are you certain you know what you’re doing, Mr. Lennox?” my father called to him. “There is still a chance to recant your challenge and suffer no humiliation from it.”

Lennox grinned that terrible puppet’s smile. “I know what I do, Mr. Madigan. And there will be no humiliation on my part.”

His confidence was unnerving, but I thought I saw Phelan roll his eyes, as if annoyed with his brother’s theatrics. I watched the quiet brother closely, limned in starlight, seeking a weak point in his spirit.

Phelan looked at my father and said, “We don’t want any bad blood between us, Mr. Madigan. Nor do we want there to be any unnecessary injuries tonight.”

He is noble of heart, I thought. Or considers himself to be. Which almost made me laugh, because there was nothing honorable in arriving to another magician’s territory unannounced and seeking to steal it.

“Do you want me to surrender without a fight, then, Mr. Phelan?” Papa countered, his voice edged with ire. “Do you want me to surrender this town and its inhabitants after I’ve given years of my life protecting it? Is that how wardenship works in the city you hail from?”