She waited, but nothing happened.

Isobel held her arm steady, willing a door to materialize, like it had for Reynolds in the woodlands, like it had for her on the floor of the warehouse during the Grim Facade. There was no response to her intention, though, not even a ripple in the air. Her hand, as well as the space before her, remained empty.

She glanced around again and noticed that there, at the end of the hall, one of the walls ended at a staircase.

She ran toward it, and as she sprinted down the passage, the eyes of the figures in the tapestries followed. In her peripheral vision, she saw the heads of the faceless candelabra women turn to watch her pass. Isobel ignored their stares, placing a hand on the grand banister of the staircase, the polished wood shining liquid black in the low gleam of the flickering tapers.

Hesitating for only an instant, already knowing she had no other choice, that she couldn’t go back the way she’d come, Isobel took the steps, rushing to the short landing and then up and around the second flight to the level above. As long as she kept moving, she thought as she climbed, as long as Varen stayed foremost in her mind, she would reach him no matter which direction she went. The dreamworld would take her there. She had to believe that.

And if she couldn’t find a way down to the cliffs yet, at least she might be able to locate a vantage point—a window or balcony from which she could spot Varen again and try to get his attention.

When she reached the next floor, Isobel hurried into the center of another hall, similar to the one she’d left below. She paused, though, when she heard the sound of low and muffled voices emanating from behind one of the many gigantic ebony pairs of double doors.

At first she could make out only mumbling, then one of the two male voices within grew louder, more discernible.

“Not hear it? Yes, I hear it, and have heard it,” the voice hissed, anxious and frantic. “Long—long—long—many minutes, many hours, many days, have I heard it—yet I dared not—oh, pity me, miserable wretch that I am!—I dared not—I dared not speak! We have put her living in the tomb!”

Isobel stepped nearer to the door, straining to catch the torrent of strange words.

“Said I not that my senses were acute?” the voice continued. “I now tell you that I heard her first feeble movements in the hollow coffin. I heard them—many, many days ago—yet I dared not—I dared not speak! And now—tonight—Ethelred—ha! ha!—the breaking of the hermit’s door, and the death-cry of the dragon, and the clangor of the shield!—say, rather, the rending of her coffin, and the grating of the iron hinges of her prison, and her struggles within the coppered archway of the vault! Oh whither shall I fly? Will she not be here anon?”


Isobel scanned the surface of the door wildly, wondering who was behind it. She crept even closer and, turning her head to one side, listened hard, her ear hovering over the lacquered wood.

“Is she not hurrying to upbraid me for my haste?” the man’s voice wailed. “Have I not heard her footstep on the stair? Do I not distinguish that heavy and horrible beating of her heart? Madman!” the voice shrieked suddenly. “Madman! I tell you that she now stands without the door!”

Isobel sprang back from the doors in shock. Whoever they were, they had known she was there. They had heard her on the stairs, but how?

Shuddering, the doors knocked in their frames before suddenly flying apart with a deafening bang, thrown open by a gust of tempest wind that now surged against her.

The empty room within, reversed like the foyer and parlor had been, was one Isobel knew. Varen’s . . .

Except for the two solid black windows, everything else was just as she remembered.

One of the windows, the one through which she and Varen had once fled together, had been flung wide.

The driving wind howled through the casement in an unceasing drone, gusting through the room and past Isobel, moaning as it entered the hall behind her.

Looking up, she noticed a thin crack running vertically all the way across the ceiling and down the wall, separating the room into two and disappearing into the floor. As she stepped over the threshold, she glanced around to find herself alone, with no indication that anyone had been in the room a moment before. But then whose voices had she heard?

Varen’s neatly made bed sat against one wall beneath the chandelier with the electric candles. Their flame-shape bulbs sputtered, trying to stay lit. The nonworking gas fireplace still held Varen’s assortment of glass bottles and dried and dusty reddish-purple roses. In one corner, Isobel saw Varen’s small television and modest collection of video games.

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