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Dreams Lie Beneath
Author:Rebecca Ross

“Clem.” Papa’s voice caught my attention, and I turned to see he was holding a remedy vial out for me to take.

I reached for it, the glass cool against my palm, but I hesitated. “Do I still need to drink this now? Since we’re no longer wardens?” That had been Papa’s reasoning as to why I shouldn’t dream at night. It would be difficult indeed to face my own nightmare in the streets of Hereswith. Dreams often revealed one’s greatest vulnerability; dreams were doors that led into hearts and minds and souls and secrets.

“Best you do,” my father replied, and I watched as he drank one himself before settling in for the night.

Even Imonie took a remedy. I followed suit, uncorking my vial and letting the bittersweet liquid rush over my tongue and coat my throat. A familiar taste, one I had been drinking every night since I could remember.

I lay down in the grass, my eyes growing heavy with exhaustion, and I looked to the mountains, now darker than night against the constellations. And I wondered what sort of things would haunt my sleep, if I ever gave my mind and heart the chance to dream.

Travel was miserably slow.

My father was in no hurry, Dwindle meowed the entire time, and our horse and wagon took a plodding pace as we traveled across the Bardyllis Duchy. But all too soon, the mountains faded away and we were surrounded by crop fields still golden with summer heat, pine forests, and rings of small villages reminiscent to Hereswith. We passed over the Starling River and I noticed the shift.

The dirt roads became cobbled, the forests surrendered to chains of houses, the quiet fragrance of the country gave way to the sounds and smoke and smells of habitation. I could see the haze of the capital in the distance, the sprawling and overwhelming city of Endellion, the seat of the duke’s sovereignty, and I suddenly knew exactly where my father was taking us.

I turned to look at him, and his profile was set like granite, his eyes carefully avoiding mine.

He was taking us to my mother.


My mother’s town house was in the northern quadrant of the city, in sight of the river that flowed through the capital like a silver vein. The last time I had been here to visit her was three years ago, when I was fourteen, and I had longed for Hereswith the entire summer I had spent with her. Longed for the mountains and the meadows and the slower pace of a country town. My mother had sensed the homesickness within me, and I think that was why she failed to invite me the following summer, or the following. We had gradually grown apart when I had chosen to study my father’s way of magic instead of hers.

I felt a twinge of apprehension when I approached her door, and I could only imagine how my father was feeling as he waited in the wagon with Imonie, the afternoon beginning to melt into dusk. I rang the bell, cleared my throat, and smoothed the tangles from my hair, to no avail; I looked like a weary, dust-ridden, and windblown vagabond when my mother opened the door.

Her shock was tangible. Her eyes widened when she realized it was me standing at the threshold, and her expression softened.


“Hello, Mama,” I greeted her with a hesitant smile. I was surprised by how much silver now laced her black hair.

“Where’s your father?” she asked, her voice sharp with displeasure. But she gave me no time to reply; she glanced over my shoulder to see Papa sitting like a defeated warrior on the wagon bench. “Ambrose? Ambrose, come inside. You look weary. And Imonie. Come, the two of you.”

My father eased down from the wagon, assisting Imonie. They began to gather boxes, which my mother rushed to assist with her magic, charming our possessions to glide themselves in through the front door to the parlor of her town house. After that, Papa insisted on taking the horse to the closest public stable, a block away.

I think he was avoiding the inevitable, which was having to tell my mother we had lost the town and currently had nowhere to go.

And so I did. While he was tending to the horse, I sat in my mother’s opulent den that smelled of gardenias and patchouli. Dwindle rubbed up against my legs as I took the cup of tea Mama offered me, and I told her everything. Imonie sat beside me, adding a snort here and there in agreement, particularly when I relayed the arrival of the two magicians.

“The Countess of Amarys’s sons?” Mama echoed, and her eyes slid to Imonie’s. The two women seemed to hold a private conversation, which irked me.

I paused, uncertain. “You know of them?”

“Doesn’t everyone in Endellion,” she replied carefully. I couldn’t judge her opinion of them, not like I could with Papa. “Her lands lie south of here, but the countess primarily resides in the city, where she has great influence. Her husband, the count, passed away years ago, but since then she has become a close confidant of the duke, in fact.”

That only made my indignation flare. Why, then, would Lennox need to uproot my father and me? Why Hereswith, when he could have chosen any town, any village, any slice of the city to be warden of?

“So the sons challenged you and your father,” my mother prompted.

I nodded and continued with the doomed tale, and my mother listened, her gaze resting on me and the scars that gleamed at my neck. She was quiet when I was done, and her silence made me feel uncomfortable. As if she was weighing what she wanted to do with us and our predicament.

“Will you let me and Papa and Imonie stay here for a little while? Just until we can find new work in the city,” I asked, because I didn’t know if she lived alone. If she had a lover or a companion, even though her house felt empty and quiet, full of golden trim that glittered in the shadows.

“Of course, Clementine,” she replied, a lilt of offense in her tone, as if I were being absurd to assume otherwise. “It’ll be like old times.”

It would not be like old times, and we all knew it.

Papa arrived, letting himself in the front door. His footsteps were heavy as he approached, and he stood awkwardly on the threshold of the den, trying not to look at my mother. She rose from her settee, elegant in her lavender gown, her black hair swept back in a loose chignon.

“You haven’t aged a day, Ambrose,” she said to him.

Papa at last looked at her, unguarded, and I thought I saw regret in his eyes. They had parted ways seven years ago. I remembered how they had reached a point when all they did was bicker and argue. They held different ideologies about magic and the intent behind spells. My mother studied metamara and used its whimsy on the stage, captivating audiences as she transformed one thing into another. She believed magic should be fun and entertaining, and my father, with his rigid avertana opinions, believed magic should only be used in logical, practical ways. As a means to guard and defend others.

“Same to you, Sigourney,” he said. “If Clem and Imonie can reside with you, I’ll find lodgings elsewhere.”