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Dreams Lie Beneath
Author:Rebecca Ross

The duke had died on a new moon, and that was when the mountains began to spin nightmares into reality, all across the other two duchies of Azenor—the valleys and forests and meadows of Bardyllis and Wyntrough. No one could escape it, and so magicians had risen to answer the danger, perfecting the avertana branch of magic and becoming wardens of intricately mapped territories. Like my father.

Imonie hefted a sigh, as if she knew the exact story I was imagining. It seemed fitting for a new moon day, though. And she set down her potato and knife, leaning on the counter to fix a firm gaze on me.

“I can smell her from the road when I pass that ugly manor,” she said. “Moss and stone and cold winter nights.”

I waited for Imonie to continue, eager to know the truth. Eager to know who I had been drawing over and over for months now.

But then Imonie smirked and asked, “What do you think Mazarine is, Clem?”

“I think she’s a troll from the mountains.”

“You’re probably right, although I haven’t gotten close enough to her to see for myself.”

“Is she cursed?”

“Cursed? I think whatever guise she dons is one of her own making, how she wants to be perceived. For while Hereswith has warmly welcomed those such as me from the mountain duchy . . . do you think the mortals here would be delighted to know a troll dwelled among you?”

“Most people would be afraid of her,” I confessed. “Although it seems people already are.”

“And perhaps she likes the fear,” Imonie said. “Just enough to keep people and their suspicions away. So she can live peacefully here.” Her eyes narrowed at me. “And how did you come to know her true nature?”

“I caught her reflection in a mirror,” I answered, and remembered seeing her two steps behind, crouching toward me with her bloodied teeth and fierce, dark eyes. Would she have harmed me? I wanted to believe that she wouldn’t.

I began to consider a spell I might craft to protect myself, sharpen my senses when I was in her presence.

“A foolish blunder on her part, then,” said Imonie.

“Actually, I think she planned it,” I countered, tracing the bow of my lips. “She wanted me to see who she truly is.”


I realized I still had charcoal on my fingertips, that I must have smudged a mustache on my face. My hand drifted away to hold the strap of my satchel.

“I think she wants me to draw her true self.”

“Of course she does!” Imonie grumbled, returning to her task. “Trolls are insufferably vain.”

“Is something burning?” I asked, sniffing the air.

Imonie went rigid, and then rushed to the oven. A thin plume of smoke rose when she cracked the oven door. “You’ve made me burn the galettes!”

“They look fine,” I reassured her as she took a mitt and retrieved them from the oven.

“Clementine?” my father called from upstairs.

Both Imonie and I froze. When she looked at me, I saw the worry in her expression.

“Is he still sick?” I whispered.

“His fever has yet to break,” Imonie said. “Best you go up and see what he needs. Here, take him this cup of tea. Make sure he drinks it.”

She took the kettle from the stove and poured a cup of a pungent-smelling brew that made my nose crinkle. But I took it as she ordered, nearly burning my hand on the mug. I didn’t realize it, not until I was on my way to the stairs. I set my art satchel down and glanced at the table and saw only one place was set with the fine china. My place. Imonie had not set a dinner plate at my father’s chair, which meant she believed he was too ill to face the new moon.

I had never encountered a new moon night on my own. He and I were always together in the streets, fighting as one.

Dismayed, I climbed the stairs and stepped into his bedroom.

My father was sitting up in his bed, leaning against the headboard, waiting for me. He seemed to get sick every year, right around this time. When summer surrendered to autumn, my father inevitably fell prey to a fever and a cough, blaming it on a final bloom of some vengeful valley weed. And while he always recovered within a few days, I still didn’t know what to do with him when he was like this.

“Papa?” I tried to hand him the tea mug, but he motioned for me to set it on the bedside table. “Did you need something?”

“I received word of a nightmare this morning,” he said.


“Spruce Fielding’s youngest daughter.”


“The very one. She had a nightmare last night. According to Spruce . . . it frightened her so badly that she hasn’t spoken a word today.”

I quirked my mouth to the side, my heart aching with this news. Children’s nightmares were always the worst. They were the recordings that kept me up at night when I read them. They were the dreams I dreaded to see stalking the streets on new moon nights.

“And you need me to go and record it,” I surmised, and a quiet thrill went through me. I had never been the one to divine a nightmare, or to record it in my father’s book. I accompanied him most of the time, and I observed, and I read his recordings afterward so I could prepare for the new moon. But never on my own.

“Yes, Clem,” Papa said, and I could not discern if he was proud or nervous. “Don’t use the divining spell unless you absolutely must. And if you must, please use my spell, word for word.”

I nodded and felt his gaze as I moved about his cluttered bedchamber, gathering supplies for the visitation.

“I will, Papa.” I opened his cupboard, where a hoard of tiny blue vials waited within, gleaming in the light. Remedies. I selected two, the corked glass the size of my pinkie. The dark brew sloshed within them as I hesitated, thought better of it, and grabbed three more vials, slipping them into the deep pocket of my charcoal-streaked skirt.

“Divining,” my father continued, as if he was about to impart a lecture. I inwardly braced myself. “Particularly done with . . . oh, how do I say this, with precarious intent, can open a door that you might not know how to close.”

As if to prove a point, I shut the cupboard door, more forceful than necessary. I could hear the vials rattling in protest, and I met Papa’s gaze, swallowing an impatient response. Sometimes he acted like I had no inkling how to cast a charm or divine a nightmare. This was a lesson I had heard countless times from him, before magic had even sparked at my fingertips.

“I haven’t done anything precarious in months, Papa.”

And by precarious, I meant spontaneous, when magic came to me in the moment. The sort of magic he was afraid of. That was why he was diligent in studying the nightmares, so he could prepare potential spells. His memory was immense and deep, and while I admired him for it . . . my strongest magic was forged from intuition.