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Dreams Lie Beneath
Author:Rebecca Ross

But I chose not to wear any of it. I poured lavender-steeped water into my basin and washed my face and arms. And then I went to my wardrobe and found the dress I wanted. A long-sleeved gown made of black velvet. I had only worn it once before, to a winter solstice party that my father didn’t attend, and the looks I had drawn made me so self-conscious that I decided I wouldn’t wear it again.

But this night seemed to call for it.

I undressed, remembered I still had tiny trinkets in my pockets, and returned them to their proper size. I drew the black dress on, pulling the golden ribbon at the bodice tight.

I brushed my hair but left it down, and I fastened my leather weapon belt to my waist. Two small daggers gleamed at my hips as I walked back to Papa’s room. The belt had been his gift to me on my fifteenth birthday two years ago, when he had at last allowed me to join him in fighting on the new moons. In my mind, it marked my coming of age.

He was sitting in his chair this time, dressed in his finest and out of breath from the effort. This was truly going to be a disastrous night, I thought, and watched him frown at my choice of clothes.

“Where did that come from?” he asked.

“It’s one of Mama’s old dresses,” I said. “She sent it to me last year.”

His frown deepened, but then he coughed, and it seemed he forgot about the gown. I poured him a cup of water, which he drained, and then he stood and motioned for me to come closer.

“How are your stores, Clem?”

I knew he was asking about my reserved magic, the amount I had available to burn. Magicians could fuel their spells in one of three ways: body, mind, or heart. Depending on what energy force the magicians preferred to cast with, we needed things like food, drink, sleep, good company, books, art, music, and solitude to refill, or risked burning ourselves into oblivion.

I often cast with my mind and my body, and while the dream divination had drained a portion of my reserves, I measured myself and found that I still had plenty to give.

“My stores are good.”

“Then I need you to glamour me.”

“Glamour you? This fever must truly be making you senseless.”

“Yes, just a little. To hide that I’m ill.”

He waited for me to do something. I merely gaped up at him.

“Papa . . . I don’t think—”

“This is a good idea,” he said, reading my mind. “Please, daughter. This night is important, and I must make an appearance with the arrival of these . . . visitors.”

“But I don’t think you should fight tonight,” I said. “You’re far too sick for it.”

“We’ll see. Perhaps I’ll feel better after dinner.”

Unlikely. But he was right; these magicians had come all the way to Hereswith to see him, and he looked terrible.

I drew in a deep breath and worked a gentle charm over him. Another spell of my mother’s. One that brushed away his paleness, the perspiration on his brow, his glazed eyes, the lankness of his hair, the uneven tilt of his shoulders. But the glamour wavered, and I saw a much different version of him. There was no gray at his temples, no hollowed cheekbones, no furrows in his skin. It was like catching a glimpse of him from the past when he had been younger, before I had been born, and it rattled me a moment. As soon as it came, the vision was gone, and I thought it must have been influenced by my glamour. He now looked vibrant and hale, just as I knew him to be, and I exhaled a soft sigh.

My father rushed his palms over the front of his jacket, which was already pristine under Imonie’s care. He was nervous, I realized, and I reached out to take his hand. The fever still burned beneath his skin. I felt a stab of fear for him.

“Whatever the reason they’ve come,” I began, “I’m sure it’s not as terrible as we both imagine.”

He only smiled at me, tucking my hand into the crook of his elbow.

Together, we descended.


The blond magician was beside the hearth, where the shelves overflowed with books. The dark-headed one was standing on the threshold of the solarium, gazing into the small glass chamber, where Papa and I grew an array of plants. The magicians reeked of curiosity and judgment, as if our provincial lives were something they would later spin into a joke they told at court, and I stiffened the moment they both turned toward my father and me.

Imonie had already taken their cloaks, and I could see they were dressed in the latest fashion: cream cravats, waistcoats embroidered with moon phases and stars, black jackets with coattails, trousers with silver trim running up the sides, knee-high boots that only carried a hint of dust from the road, and belts with rapiers sheathed at their sides.

I sensed their weapons were not intended to keep them safe on their travels.

“Mr. Ambrose Madigan,” the blond greeted Papa with a sharp smile. “It’s an honor to meet you. Allow me to introduce us. I’m Lennox Vesper, and this is my brother, Phelan.”

“You’re the Countess of Amarys’s sons,” my father said, and while he sounded polite, I heard the cold shift in his voice. “You’re also a long way from home and the luxuries of your court. What brings you to the border?”

Lennox was still smiling, but it was stretched far too wide, and he reminded me of a puppet in a child’s nightmare. “We’ve come to see Hereswith. To go as far as we can before stepping into the mountain duchy.”

“The mountain duchy is no more,” Papa said. “And Hereswith would have been better prepared if we had known of your visit.”

“Yes, well, it was a sudden change in plans,” said Lennox, and he glanced at his brother. Phelan was silent, but his eyes were on me, dark and inscrutable. On the gleam of weapons I wore at my hips.

“Come, then,” my father said, indicating the table, where Imonie had just finished setting down dinner platters. “Eat with us tonight. Refresh yourselves. You must indeed be weary from a long journey.”

“And we thank you for your generous hospitality, Mr. Madigan,” Lennox said, and unbuckled his belt, leaving his rapier by the door.

Phelan followed suit, but I was not about to shed my weapons, even if it went against all manners to partake in a meal armed. The four of us arrived at the table, and an awkward moment passed. The guests were to take their seats first, to lower themselves in gratitude, but the magicians were not sitting.

No, Phelan was staring at the meal that was spread between us, and Lennox was staring at me.

“Forgive me for asking, Miss Clementine,” Lennox drawled. “But do you always take part in a meal with weapons on your belt?”

“It depends on the night,” I replied. “And the company.”

Lennox laughed, a garish sound that instantly set me on edge. Like Mazarine’s laughter had. I felt my hands gripping the back of my chair, my knuckles draining white, and I wished I had let them knock on her door.

Phelan finally broke the tension. He drew back his chair, sitting with an elegance that was reminiscent of a waltz. My father and I waited for his brother to also relent, and then we were gathered at the table, ready to eat.

My stomach was wound in a knot, but I put a proper amount of food on my plate. Venison with currant jelly, rosemary potatoes, glazed carrots and beets, boiled eggs, and a cold salad of fruit and toasted nuts.