December 1, 2015 Edition
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Mindee Arnett's Newsletter:

Musingly, Mindee

Welcome to the inaugural issue of my newsletter. Just to set the right tone, I’m going to let you in on a little secret—I had to look up the word “inaugural” just now. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard it before, and I’m sure I’ve used it before, but I’ve never bothered to make certain I knew what it meant. I thought I knew, but I’ve been wrong about other words. More than I would like to admit. Does that ever happen in your writing? Or even worse, in your talking? I’ll admit that I didn’t much think about using words correctly until I started writing and publishing. But now it’s on my mind all the time. The good news here, though, is that “inaugural” does mean what I thought—“marking a beginning.”


But in this first issue, I really want to talk about endings. Go figure. The reason being is that in the “For Readers” section below, I’ve posted the alternate ending to The Nightmare Charade. This is the ending I would’ve used if I had gone forward with my plan for the fourth book. I’m not going to say much about it, but let you be the judge of what worked and what didn’t. Obviously though, the whole thing is one big spoiler, if you haven’t read Charade. I promise that in future editions of this newsletter I will include spoiler-free short stories and supplemental material. Oh, and please bear with me, all you kind and lovely readers. This newsletter is a work in progress. I’m going to fine tune and change it up as need be. Have a suggestion or feedback? Send it to me, I’d love to hear. Otherwise, happy reading!


Let’s talk about endings. I’ve said in other places, and I’ll say it again now that endings are the most important part of any book. They are the feeling/thoughts/hangover that you give the reader to take with them when they leave your story world behind. It’s like gymnastics. If you can nail the “landing” you’re going to score high with the judges. Of course initially, beginning are more important, but only until you’ve got the reader hooked. After that, the end game needs to be foremost in your mind.

Caveat here—I don’t have it all figured. Not by a million light years, I promise you (and after having reread the alternative ending to Charade recently, I can claim my lack of knowledge with absolute authority). But I realize that sitting here telling you what I don’t know isn’t helpful. The cool (and awful) thing about writing—and life in general—is that 90% of it involves figuring out things as you go. Lots and lots of trial and error. So here are some of the things I’ve learned so far:

1.  Figure out your ending as soon as possible. I’ve said many times before in interviews and blog posts that I’m a pantser who likes to stop for direction. This means that I rarely know my ending ahead of time. At best I have a vague notion of where a story is going. Do you remember the computer game Minesweeper? I’ll give you a hint. It looks like this: 


Well, that game is a bit like how I write. I click on a box (write a chapter or scene) and then, presto, more of the surrounding boxes automatically open up. I just keep clicking until I reach the end. Only trouble is, sometimes that ending is one big ole bomb and things just explode and fall apart—“game over” style. This is why I’ve learned to think about and to plan my endings as soon as it’s possible for me to do so. If I can do this, I can avoid the mess and the need for excessive rewriting. It’s better not to go in blind. But how does a writer do this, you say? Well that leads me to number 2.

2.  Know your character’s arc and make sure the ending reflects their change. I’m going to admit right here that I struggle with this part. Hard. So hard that I might not accomplish it at all in some of my novels—but let’s not digress down the self-doubt and loathing hole just now, thanks. But the character arc should drive everything in the story, including the plot. This is a really tough one to explain, but I’ll use Guardians of the Galaxy as an example. (If you haven’t seen this movie, I can’t help you. Also, why???)

Anyway, the “ending” in GotG starts when Peter and his buddies go to stop Ronan from destroying Xandar. This is technically the start of the third act in the film, but as far as I’m concerned it’s the start of the climax/ending. As such it lines up really well with Peter’s character arc. When we first meet Peter he’s the king of running away. He runs away from his mother’s death. He runs away from Ronan’s men when he first finds the orb. He’s just not a stand up and fight kind of guy. But by the end—he is. He’s changed, and that act of going onto Ronan’s ship is a satisfying outward reflection of his internal change (a reflection we get again when he finally opens his mother’s present). Your ending should do the same. And so should mine. This is one of my goals in future books—to make sure my ending outwardly reflects the internal change in my character(s).

3.  Give your reader closure on some level. Now, this is probably more personal opinion than true guidance. There are books out there that end on complete cliffhangers. But, alas, those books aren’t for me. I feel that if a reader has stuck with me through 300 some pages they deserve a sense of completeness. It doesn’t have to be all wrapped in a pretty bow—and certainly if you’re writing a series, it shouldn’t be—but there should still be a definite pause or break in story present in the ending. I would add that as a writer, it’s also easier to give yourself closure, too. It makes starting the next book easier. 

Unfortunately, I don’t have any great advice on how to do this. It’s something unique to each book. But one litmus test (and yes, I had to look up that word too, just to be sure) is whether or not your story includes a dénouement. This is the reflection period your characters go through at the end of a story, the pages where they digest what’s happened and oftentimes look to the future and what to do next. For example, in Empire Strikes Back, which doesn’t end on a cliffhanger even though it feels like it, this is the scene where Luke gets his new hand and he and the others make plans to rescue Han. If you have this moment in your story, you’re most likely giving readers some kind of closure. 

Well, there you have it. That’s all I’ve got. Hope you found it helpful, and I really, really hope you come back for more in the next issue. Send me feedback and comments anywhere—Facebook, Twitter, or at

Happy Holidays and Merry Writing!




SCENE: Dusty has just found out that Deverell is Marrow’ stooge. They are in the dragon caves, and Deverell has tricked Dusty into using the sword on Marrow.

Deverell’s smile lit up his entire face as he held the sword out to me.
My fingers closed around the hilt, and I felt the click inside me, the reassurance of my bond with Bellanax. The sword surged to life. I felt its power flow into me. Once more I became invisible. All my fears drained away. Bellanax was here with me. To serve me to defend and protect.
But then something reared up in the sword, something dark and equally powerful.

For a moment I sensed the two powers in the sword struggling for dominance, and I knew I had to get rid of it. But just as my fingers started to loosen on the hilt, Marrow won.

And then he turned the sword’s power against me.

It was a feeling I’d experienced before. Once on Lyonshold and once in Deverell’s classroom. Marrow’s spirit took hold of Bellanax, and once he had the sword, he had me. The bond was too great for me to break. My mind and will bent toward Marrow’s. A bloodthirsty desire came over me, a desire for death and blood.
But not Deverell’s.
The power in control of the sword now willed me toward Marrow. I turned the sword over in my hand, pointing the blade downward. My gaze fell on the Red Warlock. His face was waxy in his long sleep, his body close to lifeless.
I raised the hilt of the sword above my head, and then with one mighty thrust, I drove it down, burying the blade in Marrow’s chest. 
There was a loud burst of power, an explosion of magic as the sword connected with the Red Warlock. The ground rumbled from the force of it, and overhead, a spray of rocks came cascading down.
But I didn’t notice; I didn’t care. The sword was vibrating in my hand, making my whole body shake. Something was wrong. I could sense the sword’s fear—the real Bellanax and not the piece of Marrow that had infected it.
I tried to pull the sword out, but then the blade shattered.
There was another explosion of magic, and Bellanax’s presence in my mind vanished. I held the hilt in my hand, but there was nothing else left. The rest of the sword lay in pieces around the body beneath me.
My eyes dropped toward that familiar face, my heart pounding hard against my breastbone, as if it were trying to force its way out. But then my heart went still, and all the air in my lungs left me in a scream loud enough to make the walls tremble even louder than they already were.
It wasn’t Marrow lying on the altar beneath me.
It was Eli. He was awake, eyes open, and mouth twisted in a grimace of pain. Blood formed at his lips.
And over his chest where the tip of Bellanax’s blade stuck out.
Chapter 27
The world ended.

I could feel it happening, a single moment stretching on into eternity. There would never be anything good again, nothing but this—Eli dying.
I had killed him.
My knees gave way, and I collapsed beside him. “Eli!” I screamed. “Eli!”
It couldn’t be him. It couldn’t. Marrow had been lying here. But then the truth came to me as I spotted the necklace at his neck—stiff like a choker, a green gem at its center. It had been Eli here the whole time. But where was Marrow?
The answer came to me at once, and I turned to the right where I thought Eli had been. On the altar, Marrow was slowly rising to his feet. I saw quite clearly that Deverell had placed the borromean ring on his hand. Now Deverell was helping him, one hand supporting Marrow’s arm and the other casting a shield spell over them. The ceiling was coming down in earnest now.
“What did you do?” I screamed at Deverell. Tears poured from my eyes, and my mind was beyond thinking, beyond anything but the horror pumping through me.
“There was one final piece of the sword lore I didn’t tell you,” Deverell said, shouting over at me. “The only way to free a trapped spirit is to break the vessel that holds it.” He paused, and the smile that crossed his lips might’ve been mistaken for sympathy if not for the cold glint in his eyes. “And the only way to break a sword of power is through an act of betrayal by its master.”
Betrayal. I looked back at Eli, understanding striking me like a blow to the heart. “Oh God, Eli.” I touched his face, panic making me clumsy. I didn’t know what to do. He was bleeding out. He was going to die.
But he was still awake. A moan escaped his throat, and he reached up toward his chest. He clutched at the blade trying to wrench it out, but only succeeded in slicing his hands.
“Stop it, Eli!” I grabbed both his hands and forced him down. I knew if he pulled the blade free he would only bleed out faster. I turned my gaze on Deverell and then Marrow who was fully awake, fully alive once again. “Help me,” I said.
But I knew it was no good. There was no pity in Marrow’s gaze. No mercy. He didn’t even seem confused by what was happening. I supposed that maybe the piece of him that had existed inside the sword had been aware of everything all along. For a moment I expected him to order my death, but he only stared at me, his gaze expectant. And then I understood. Without my dream-seer power I was no threat to him—and Eli was already dying.
A sob erupted from my chest, and I pulled my gaze away from them. I searched for my mother. I knew the Death’s Heart spell was broken, but she was still lying on the altar, unmoving.
Another loud rumble went through the cavern, and a fresh shower of rocks fell. On instinct, I cast a shield spell over Eli and me. But I knew it wouldn’t protect us long. All the magic I’d released when I broke Bellanax had started a cave in. 
“Come, my lord,” Deverell said. “We need to hurry.” He pointed toward the distant shoreline. Marrow started to head for it, but then he stopped and motioned to Paul, who I just realized, was also awake. I didn’t know how long he had been there, what all he’d seen, and I didn’t care.
“I hate you,” I screamed, trying to wound him with my gaze as much as my words.
He flinched, and pulled his eyes away from me onto Marrow.
“Come, Paul,” Marrow said, beckoning to him, weakly. He might be alive once more, but he wasn’t at full health and power. “It’s time to make your choice at last.”
Paul hesitated, but only for a moment. The state of the cavern’s quick collapse didn’t give him much time to contemplate. He raced over to join Marrow. I wanted to attack him, to hit him with every spell and curse I knew, but it was all I could do to keep the shield spell in place. I’d expanded it far enough to cover my mother, too, taking every ounce of magic I possessed to do so. 
Helpless to stop them, I watched as Marrow, Deverell, and Paul reached the edge of the Great Ouroboros and climbed over it, disappearing from view.
They had left us to die.
With my vision blurred by tears, I turned back to Eli. He’d stopped struggling. His eyes were slits, and I knew he was fading in and out of consciousness. Terror at watching him fading spurred me to action at last.
I stood up and raced toward my mother. She was slowly coming awake. “Mom! Help me!”
But she was dazed and weak, barely able to get to her feet on her own, let alone help me haul Eli out of here.
I ran back to him, my mind searching for a spell. The hoist spell, I realized. I pointed at him, hoping his clothes would be strong enough to hold him—the spell wasn’t meant to be used on flesh. I dropped the shield spell and then said,“Ana-acro.”
The magic yanked Eli into the air. His answering scream tore through me. It shattered my concentration, and the spell broke. He dropped three feet, landing hard against the altar. Rocks rained down on us. One struck me in the ear so hard that starburst crossed my vision. I cast the shield spell again.
“Eli, I’m sorry.” I leaned over him, sickened by the amount of blood pouring out from him. His breathing was shallow, made worse by the dust clogging the air.
I looked over at my mother again. She’d recovered enough to stand up, but her limbs shook and the glazed look remained on her face. She stumbled over to us.
“Help me lift him,” she said, panting. She grabbed his legs, ready to pull.
“Don’t you know a spell?” I said, coming around to stand at his head.
“No fictus,” my mother said.
I gulped, understanding. She hadn’t dream-fed in days, maybe weeks. Pushing back my rising despair, I grabbed Eli by the arms. Together we managed to pull him off the altar and drag him to the perimeter wall. His moans of pain were quieter now, but no less powerful in their effect on him.
“Shhh, Eli,” I said, struggling to hold both the shield spell and his body. “You’re going to be fine.”
But I knew it was a lie. We had no chance of hoisting him out of here.
Stupidly, helplessly, I started to cry again, huge sobs that wracked my whole body. I fell to my knees, defeat crushing down on my like the collapsing cave walls. My mother fell down next me, and I could tell by the tremble in her body that she was at the end, too—drained of energy both physical and magical.
Her arms wrapped around me as I wrapped mine around Eli. I was going to die with the two people I loved most. It was a small comfort.
My tears slowed, my breath ragged in my chest. I couldn’t see, and I could barely hear over the sound of falling rock.
My ears pricked, but my mind rejected the sound. It had to be imagination, a delusion brought on by despair. No one was coming to save us.
“Dusty! Where are you?”
“Selene!” I clambered to my feet. “Selene! Is that you? We’re over here!” I dropped the shield spell long enough to summon fire. I willed it as high as it would go, hoping she would see.
Seconds passed like minutes, before I heard the sound of wings beating the air. Selene appeared above us. She was covered in dirt and blood, her wings ripped in places by the falling rock, but she dove toward us with the same grace and ease she’d shown in the gladiator games.
I threw my arms around her for a second, then pushed her toward Eli. “He’s dying. Can you help me lift him over?”
She nodded and bent to put her arms under his back. I stepped away, giving her wings room to expand. I could see her struggling as she lifted him up, her wings seeming to punish the air. But she made it up and over, disappearing over the other side.
“Come on, Mom,” I said, grabbing her hand. Then with renewed hope, I helped hoist her up and over. Then I tried to scale the wall, but I couldn’t manage it on my own. Not until Selene reappeared. She hovered above me, grabbing hold of my shirt. Her help was just enough for me to reach the top and slide over.
Eli was laying on the ground just ahead, my mother beside him. I cast another shield spell over us. We still had a long, long way to go, but I tried not to think about it. We would make it somehow.
But the path ahead was treacherous. I didn’t see how Selene and I would manage to carry Eli all that way.
But then another miracle happened right before my eyes. The dust had cleared just enough for me to see the shape of a man approaching. Corvus, I realized as he drew nearer. And I understood that those few minutes I’d managed to turn on the beacon had been enough for him to make his way here.
My spirits lifted. Corvus reached us, surveyed the scene in a second, and then bent toward Eli. He picked him up easily. Eli had lost consciousness completely by now. I tried to tell myself that this was a good thing—that at least he was out of pain for the time being. But I wanted him awake. With his eyes open I could be sure he was still alive.
My heart climbed into my throat and stayed there as I followed after Corvus. Selene walked beside me, my mom in between us so we could help her keep moving forward.
The ascent took an eternity. Once we reached the passageway, I was able to let go of the shield spell, but boulders and piles of rock constantly barred the way. Selene and I took turns blasting them or lifting them out of the path. All of us were covered in scrapes and blood as we waged war against the cave trying to stop us.
Finally we reached the spiral steps. I didn’t know how it was possible, but they remained intact, the damage below too far down to have reached up here. Still, I could tell Corvus was weakening. He was strong but he was old. Sweat coated his skin, mixing in with the blood and dirt.
And Eli, I couldn’t think of at all. Every moment I waited for Corvus to set him down, telling me there wasn’t any point in carrying him further. Telling me that he was dead.
But Corvus didn’t stop, and finally we reached the low-ceilinged building. It was full of people, police officers, mostly. I screamed at them, shouting for someone to get a doctor.
Hands closed over my arms, and I struggled to break free. It lasted only a few seconds—long enough for me to get a glimpse of Eli’s deathly white face and the way he wasn’t moving at all, not even to breathe—and then the magic struck me, a sleeping spell designed to put out of my misery.
But nothing could save me from the dreams. They carried the truth of what I’d done; the truth of my betrayal.
And worst of all—the truth of the dream-seer curse.

Chapter 28

Eli lived.
There was that to be grateful for.
In the end it was all that mattered, all that kept me from giving in and giving out. The fact that he lived enabled me to crawl out of bed in the mornings, to eat, to sleep, to live myself, even if on the most basic level.
He spent three months in the hospital. I spent only two weeks. Mostly, I think they kept me there for monitoring.
“Suicide watch,” I heard them whispering in the hallway outside my door. “Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress.
It might have even be true, but for me the changes in myself were just acceptance of my life as it would be from here forward. A life without Eli. Oh, we would dream-feed together again eventually, if the Magic Senate had its way, but it would never be like it was. Our contact would be limited.
I didn’t visit Eli in the hospital, although later, Selene told me that he’d asked for me—all the time, she said.
But I knew he didn’t mean it. How could he? He’d almost died. And the doctors told my mother that he would never be the same physically. There would be lingering issues. His hopes of being on the gladiator team were over. I’d ruined his life, in every possible way short of ending it.
Those two weeks in the hospital, Selene came to visit me nearly every day. She would sit by the head of the bed and play with my hair—sometimes braiding it, sometimes brushing it.
“You’ve got to get better, Dusty,” she said on one occasion. “If not for yourself or for me, then at least for Eli. He’s worried about you. He can’t talk much, but when he does it’s about you.”
I sat up straighter, panic squeezing my chest, emotions choking my throat. “I’m fine. I don’t even know why they’re keeping me here.”
She cut me with a look. “This is not fine. You’re like a walking, talking zombie these days.”
I could only stare back at her. Did she want me to be cheerful? Did she want me to smile and pretend that everything was all right? I considered trying to force a smile to my lips, but it was too much effort. Everything felt like too much effort these days. Breathing, thinking.
But I kept on, because there was nothing else to do.
“I mean it, Dusty,” Selene said. “I didn’t go through all that crap getting down there to rescue you for nothing, you know.”
“I know.” I tried to tell her that I was glad she’d come. It seemed that as soon as Lance had told her the truth about Paul that day, she’d left the hospital to find me. She found Mr. Corvus instead. He’d been trying to figure out where I went once the signal in the beacon died. Selene had known right away, once she saw it was the Menagerie.
I would be forever in their debt.
My mother was in far worse shape than I was, physically at least. Even still, during my hospital stay, she came to visit me in my room, shuffling in like some hunchback as she pushed the IV pole in front of her. Several fluid-filled plastic bags swung back and forth from its top.
“What are you doing, Mom?” I said, summoning the energy to sit up.
“Checking on you,” she said, a glare coming to her face. “I’m told you’re not recovering as well as you should be.”
I gaped at her. How could she scold me now? After all this? I tried to argue, but the words wouldn’t come. Deciding it wasn’t worth the effort, I slumped back onto the bed and turned my head away from her.
She sighed and then approached the bed. I felt her weight as she sat down. Then to my surprise she climbed in beside me. I started to protest, but her arms wrapped around me, the tubes in our IVs entangling.
Let me go, Mom, I thought, but again the words remained stuck in my head.
Mom’s face pressed against my ear. “I love you, Dusty.”
Tears burned my eyes, a sob built in my chest.
“I love you, Dusty. No matter what. I always will.” She paused, and I could hear the tears in her voice now. I felt them on my cheek. “But you have to forgive yourself.”
Something snapped inside me. I felt the break and then the pain came pouring out. I closed my eyes, at the mercy of its flow. I didn’t know that pain that wasn’t physical could hurt so deeply. No bruises marred my skin, no blood, no broken bones. But it was as if a fissure had opened up inside me, despair leaking out like acid.
Even worse was that I understood that it would never stop hurting. This pain, this guilt, was forever.
It was just me and my broken heart now.
I learned to cope. Of course I did. My mom expected it. So did Selene and Lady Elaine. Even Mr. Corvus who waited to visit me until hours before I was to be discharged.
He came into the room, carrying a long narrow box in his hand. For a second I thought it contained roses, but as he set it down on the counter beside me, I heard a rattling inside. Dread filled my chest. A part of me wanted to run away, but the rest of me was too tired, too broken. Lying here passively was so much easier.
Corvus stared down at me where I sat on the bed for several long minutes. I stared back. The old me squirmed just a little at the silence, but the new me was okay with it. Didn’t they say silence was golden? I understood that now.
Finally, Corvus cleared his throat and said, “I know you’re going to need some time to recover, but there is work to do and I’m going to need your help.”
I blinked and said nothing.
Corvus didn’t seem to mind. “Marrow is back, and since you’re responsible for doing it, that means you are also responsible for helping stop him.”
If he thought I would flinch or cry, he was mistaken. I was too far-gone for that. I was in the low place, one beyond tears or even caring.
“And it just so happens that we might have the means to kill him once and for all right here.” He pointed at the box.
I shifted my gaze to it for a second. I knew he wanted me to ask what it was, but I didn’t feel like speaking. There wasn’t much point. I already knew what the box contained. I could feel it, a whisper ghosting through my mind.
For the first time Corvus look frustrated, and he reached over and picked the box up once more. This time he set it on the bed beside me and pulled off the lid.
The remains of Bellanax filled the box—the bone hilt, the crossguard, the broken pieces of steel. I looked down at it, an ache squeezing my chest. At least someone had taken the time to clean off the blood.
I pulled my gaze away from the remains and back to Mr. Corvus. “The sword is dead.” I’d tried to say Bellanax’s name aloud, but I couldn’t manage it.
“I don’t think so,” Corvus said. “It’s broken, yes. But not dead. It’s a bit like you. A bit like Eli.”
Now I finally did flinch. Angry tears filled me eyes. “Leave me alone,” I said, turning my face away from him.
“I can’t and I won’t.” Corvus took a step closer to me, his shadow falling across the bed. “You are a part of this. I believe there may be a way to mend the sword, but you will have to play your part.”
“No!” The word came out a scream that surprised me nearly as much as Corvus. “I’m done playing a part in anybody’s game.”
Corvus shook his head. “This is not a game, Dusty. Marrow is back and soon the death count will begin to rise. But if we can find someone who can restore the sword, you might be able to use it to defeat him once and for all. Marrow has the borromean ring now, and that makes him four times as dangerous. We will need a weapon equally as strong to defeat him. A weapon like this sword.”
He paused a moment as if to give me a chance to respond. When I didn’t, he continued, “It will take some time, but your mother has agreed to journey with us. We’ll wait until Eli is better. We will want him along, too. Your dream-seer powers will be a help, but—” 
“Leave me alone!” I shrieked. Pain bubbled up inside me, pouring out of the fissure once more. It came out of me as it so often did—uncontrollable tears.
Corvus waited a few seconds, as if hoping I would recover, but several minutes later he gave up, leaving me alone with only the broken sword to listen to my cries.
Eli comes back today.
The thought whirled through my mind, over and over as I climbed out of bed. Selene was still asleep across from me. It was early, a good half hour before my alarm was set to go off. But sleeping wasn’t something I did well anymore.
Eli comes back today.
Three months had passed since the incident in the dragon caves. Three months since I’d seen him. He’d tried calling me several times, but with my phone destroyed, I’d requested a new number with my new phone. His emails then began to fill my inbox, but I deleted them unread and then cancelled the e-mail account.
“Why are you ignoring him?” Selene asked me after she’d read yet another e-mail from Eli, asking about me.
“It’s for the best,” I said, managing to keep my emotions under control. I’d been doing better, practice making perfect and all of that.
Eli comes back today.
The idea of seeing him filled me with the worst kind of terror. I couldn’t be near him. The dream-seer curse was real. He’d almost died because of it. I would never let it happen again.
But I didn’t know how I would manage to avoid him once he was back at Arkwell.
I got dressed and hurried down to the cafeteria. I was the first one there, well ahead of the crowds. I couldn’t stand being around anybody more than I had to these days. Especially people like Katarina Marcel. She hated me worse than ever.
I didn’t blame her.
But Eli was smart. I knew he would soon realize that I was eating before everybody else. Lunch I could skip and avoid him, but I still had to eat some times.
As I gulped down my food, the answer came to me. It was one I’d been considering for a long while now. My mother and I talked about it regularly—she usually trying to convince me and me usually tuning her out.
But now—
Eli comes back today.
But now, I realized, it was time to start listening.
Reports and rumors of Marrow’s activities had begun to trickle in these last few weeks. He was somewhere out west, it seemed. There were said to be groups of magickind exiles living out there in the most desolate areas around Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada—places where few ordinaries ever strayed.
Mr. Corvus had given an entire lecture about the history of such exiles the other day in class. 
“There are some magickind whose physical appearances and powers are too different from humans for them to live close to the ordinary world,” he said. “You all are, I’m sure, familiar with the ninety-percent humanoid resemblance rule at Arkwell. But what you might not realize is that there are many magickind who don’t even come close to such a percentile. Over the years most of them have migrated to remote areas, seeking protection and safety in...”
Later, I realized the lecture had been for my benefit, another one of his many attempts to convince me to go on his quest to mend Bellanax.
I dumped my tray and hurried out of the cafeteria, convinced that Eli would arrive any second. My heart was beating fast as I made my way to Monmouth Tower. Despite the snow on the ground and the sharp wind biting my face, I was sweating by the time I arrived.
It was early, I knew, but even if he wasn’t here yet, I would wait. It was a safe place to hide.
When I arrived at Corvus’s office, I saw the door was opened. I stepped inside without knocking.
He looked up at me, surprise on his face. “Dusty? What can I do for you?”
I glared, disliking the way he was pretending not to know. For a second, I almost changed my mind. Then steeling myself, I said, “All right. I’ll do it. But only if we leave now.”
“Now?” Corvus glanced at the wall, as if pretending there were a window there for us to see the snow outside.
I put my hands on my hips. “I mean soon. As soon as possible.”
Corvus leaned back, tenting his fingers in front of him. “All right. We leave as soon as possible.”
I straightened up, relief already beginning to settle over me like a warm blanket on a cold day. “There’s just one condition. When you first mentioned the trip you said that it would be me, my mom, and…and Eli.” Saying his name hurt, and I sucked in a breath, trying to keep my cool. “I don’t want him to come. If he does, I won’t. Got it?”
Corvus stared back at me, thinking it over. “The Magi Senate will not be pleased to have their dream-seers separated.”
“We’ve already been separated. What’s a few more months?”
“Good point.” Corvus inclined his head. “All right. No Eli.”
I nodded, unable to speak for fear of what I might say or do. Guilt mingled with my relief. I knew Corvus and my mom would think I was avoiding the situation. But I wasn’t. Not really. My feelings for Eli, my desire to be with him, was as strong as it ever had been. Strong enough, that I was afraid if I was near him I might begin to forget what had happened. I could never forget it.
And now, as I left the office and headed back to my dorm to pack, I knew I would be safe. Absence might make the heart grow founder, but it would also keep him alive. I loved him enough to stay away.
Forever…if I could.

16-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.
The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it.
Jeth soon finds himself pursued by a mysterious figure hell-bent on capturing him and his crew—dead or alive.
Copyright © *2105|* *Mindee Arnett*, All rights reserved.

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