A low wailing drew Isobel’s attention forward once again.

There, at the very end of the passageway, a door that she knew had not been there a moment before swung open by itself.

Pinfeathers cawed softly in her ear and, with a loud flutter and flick of feathers, took flight from her shoulder. She watched the bird soar ahead of her, flapping his wings, then shooting straight through the open door and out of sight.

Isobel hurried down the corridor after him, preferring to have the company of a monster than to be left alone in this place.

As she drew closer to the door, the wailing emanating from within grew louder and more distinct. The sound began to build toward shouting, and soon—screaming.


The cry, ragged and frayed, caused her to stop in her tracks. Standing frozen in place within the frame of the door, she took in the scene before her.

In the center of the room sat a narrow bed. A dark-haired man lay on the white sheets, his face gaunt and sickly pale. He writhed amid the tangled linens, howling and moaning while, above him, a thick smear of rippling black clouds spread wider against the ceiling.

“REYNOLDS!” the man on the bed shrieked.

Beside him, a young doctor dressed in a black coat, the white collar of his shirt rumpled and sweat-stained, stooped over his patient.

“Edgar!” the doctor said as he wrung the struggling man’s pallid hand, oblivious to the otherworldly storm that churned above them. “Edgar, you are safe!”


Poe, Isobel thought with dull shock. This man twisting in agony before her . . . it was Poe.

Her eyes grew wider as they swept upward, toward the fog roiling directly over his bed. Sharp faces and snatching claws swam through the haze, surfacing to snap at their tormented victim like frenzied sharks.

Terrified, Poe whipped his head from side to side on his pillow as though the rest of him were bound by invisible fetters. His chest rose and fell with quick breaths. He moaned and ground his teeth, the veins on his broad forehead bulging, standing out like blue cords.

That was when Isobel saw it—the thin silver string that stretched between the vapors whirling above the bed and the center of Poe’s heaving chest.

The quivering strand seemed to be made of a luminous and ethereal light, as wispy as gossamer.

Poe arched against the bed, shouting, while streams of shadows began to pour out of the tempest. Swirling tendrils of black smoke invaded the room, shooting out in every direction. The streams floated through the air like coils of ink in water and glided across the floor, skimming the walls before forming into the wraithlike figures of the Nocs.

But these were not the Nocs she knew.

Though they had hollow, shell-like bodies, they did not possess the red tint to their quill-coarse hair and claws like Pinfeathers and the others. Instead their claws were a deep blue, their hair and teeth indigo.

Then Isobel realized that she did recognize one of them. It was the Noc from the marble crypt she had stumbled into while in the dreamworld, that same creature who had asked her help in piecing himself back together. Here he appeared complete. Intricate carvings lined the salt-white skin of his naked chest. Etchings of ships tossing amid tumultuous waters sailed across his porcelain torso, while the detailed image of a diamond-scaled sea serpent wound its way down the length of one arm.

Scrimshaw, Isobel thought, remembering his name in a flash.

The Noc moved to hover over Poe. Leaning down, he grabbed for Poe’s other hand, his claws digging into his wrist, threatening to puncture the skin. The creature grinned. Mocking the doctor, he began to whisper in Poe’s ear.

“You made the mistake of trying to outsmart yourself again, didn’t you?” he hissed. “Now look where it’s got us.” He pointed a claw toward the ceiling. “Trapped. Right in the eye of the storm.”

“Edgar,” spoke a voice from within the fog.

The first sign of white came in the form of veils, the gauzy, silken material fluttering amid the eddying maelstrom.

Dropping Poe’s hand and shrinking back, Scrimshaw dissolved into wisps with the clipped cry of “Teka-lili!”

The other Nocs followed suit with the same strange outburst. They shot away in different directions, slithering into the walls and between the floorboards like snakes.

Poe’s screaming intensified when Lilith’s face surfaced through the murk.

The clouds of darkness rolled back from her flawless features. Her white arms, encircled in twining veils, stretched out from the abyss.

Her hands fastened around the silver cord as though grabbing hold of a rope, and she began to use the swaying ethereal strand to pull herself from the vapors.

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