“I know that you’ve read the Heraclitus you were assigned, William,” Marius Severand said. “You were observed by the kitchen staff reading the copy of Fragments from our library several nights ago while consuming a beef brisket sandwich at the keeping room table.” “Yes, Father,” said Will. “And Linna, did you complete this assignment as well?” Linna continued to eat in silence, not looking up from her plate. Her father and brother waited. Finally Will broke in, unable any longer to hold back what he wanted to say. “’We must know that war is common to all and strife is justice, and that all things come into being through strife necessarily.’” Marius turned his head to regard his son. “An interesting choice of quotation. Tell me what it means.” “Because of panta rhei, which is the idea that everything is changing all the time, from moment to moment, it follows also that there’s always strife, there’s conflict, between what something was and what it has to become.” “Ah, that’s good,” his father said. “Strife, yes. But don’t forget justice.” “I’m not sure I understand that part.” “Dike eris. Strife is justice. There is a balance and a harmony to be found at the center of this conflict, between the moment’s destruction of a thing and the moment after, when it’s remade.” Suddenly Linna spoke up. “’Souls smell in Hades.’” Will grinned at her and Marius smiled softly. He said, “And that’s your quote from Heraclitus for this evening?” “Yes,” Linna said, defiant. “Yes it is.” There used to be more dinners that were shared at the long table in the West Hall of Arcyn. It had been their custom, since they were very young, to sit at one end of the table with their father for nearly every evening meal, and he would discuss with the two of them the books they had read, the films they had screened in the theater room, their observations of the world. He gave out stern lectures when needed yet he always allowed for the small moments of humor they loved to see in him. More and more often, now that Will and Linna were eleven years old, they dined apart, or one of them ate in the kitchen with the staff because no-one else was home, or the twins dined together in the keeping room. What neither of them, Will or Linna, would acknowledge as true was that their father, Marius Severand, who had been so dominant in their childhoods—always present, always guiding them, teaching—was now more distant as they had become older and independent. He was gone from Arcyn for lengths of time, sometimes months, and when he was home he was often found away from the manor, out on the grounds, alone in the Reverie House. In the way that children take on the moods of their parents in order to feel closer to them, Will and Linna now often fought with each other, lashing out in the grip of a tension and tiredness they did not understand. The week leading up to Christmas was different—or rather, it was the same as it used to be. Marius Severand remained at home and the three of them spent every day together. The most elaborate dinner of the year took place on December 21, the Winter Solstice, which is where they were now, discussing Heraclitus. Will and Marius Severand were dressed in formal jackets for the night and Linna wore a new dress that was a rich dark green color, trimmed with white at the sleeves and collar. After dinner they retired to the vista room on the second floor, which overlooked the front of the manor and the drive that led up to the main entrance. It was a Winter Solstice tradition: Marius poured out a sip of Cognac for each of them, more for himself, and they sat in plush, high-backed chairs drawn into a semi-circle around the fireplace. Though it wasn’t cold here in California, it felt to each of them that the temperature had been dropping all night, and the flames that blackened the logs on the hearth gave a welcome warm glow. It was silent in the vista room. Will and Linna did not speak in the presence of their father unless he spoke first. Abruptly Marius rose from his chair, his Cognac drained empty, and moved to the balcony, opening the doors to go outside. Will and Linna exchanged an excited glance, then followed. It had begun to snow across the grounds of Arcyn. It was the most beautiful kind of snow, falling so slowly it was possible to pick out a single snowflake and watch it flutter down from above to settle next to others on the ground before melting away. There was no wind; there was no cold—yet the snow continued to fall and began to accumulate in white tufts on the green lawns. “I promised you snow for your birthdays,” Marius said to them. “Did you forget?” He turned away from the view and swept them both up into his arms. “Happy birthday my little ones.” Then he held them both at arm’s length, one hand on Will’s and one on Linna’s shoulder, looking at them closely. “You’ve grown, haven’t you. Twelve years old now. I’m proud of both of you.” Will sniffed as if tears were in his eyes. Linna held her father’s gaze. The snow had begun to swirl around them, falling onto their faces. “There’s something I need to speak of.” Marius released them. His hands went to his sides, fingers curling into hollow fists. “It’s time for your Trials once again.” Involuntarily, Will reached for his sister’s hand and held it, until she pulled it away. He glanced over at her. Her eyes were closed. Snowflakes clung to her lashes. “We won’t let you down, Father,” Will said. “I know that you won’t.” “Will you be administering these Trials?” Linna said. Her father shook his head. “Not this time, no.” Now he drew close to Linna and went down onto one knee so that they were level. He put both hands on her shoulders. “It’s not too late for you, Linna. I have faith in you. You’ll pass, this time.” “I don’t want to take them.” “We don’t have a choice.” “I want to go to school with Will.” “We have the best teachers in the world for you here.” “I want to go to school with Will.” Marius did not speak for a moment. “If you pass these new Trials, maybe you can.” Linna also didn’t speak. Then she said, “May I sleep in the top room tonight?” “Of course.” And so Linna, later that night, was moving down the hallway past Will’s bedroom and then her father’s, her flashlight’s spotlight fixed to the floor. She had put on a terrycloth robe over her nightgown; her feet were pressed into warm white bunny slippers. At the end of the hall there were stairs going up: she took these and came to a connecting passage where other hallways and stairwells intersected in confusing directions. There was a tall door here that swung out quickly when unlatched—Linna had knocked her head on it many times—and she went through this and up a tightly-twisting spiral staircase, coming out at last into the top room. Her flashlight illuminated the dark space in a sweeping arc. There were unused chairs piled in a tumble of interlocked legs; tables stacked in solid columns like forgotten monuments. Wardrobes stood apart, their doors hanging open, revealing empty insides. Desks, benches, cabinets, stools, bookshelves: heaped in disarray. Linna navigated through the labyrinth, turning sideways to fit through the narrow space between a sideways four-poster bed with no mattress and a massive dining-room sideboard like a wall in the middle of the capacious, vaulted-ceilinged storage attic. Her hideaway, at the heart of this disorder of discarded furniture, was more hers than any other place in all of Arcyn. Her books were alphabetized on a low shelf. The dollhouses and the hope chest and the hobbyhorse from her younger years made islands in the drifts of dresses, hats, blouses, gloves, and feather boas strewn thoughtlessly everywhere. Linna jumped onto the old, creaking couch where she would sleep. She had found a landscape painting buried deep among the uncatalogued contents of the top room—she had hung it on a coat-stand—it depicted Arcyn seen from far away, surrounded by the green brush strokes of trees, and appeared in the flashlight’s circle of light like the gaze of a distant watcher looking in on her family. All of her stuffed animals had migrated over time from her bedroom into this space of hers. She gathered these former companions and observers of her childhood together in her arms and pulled them over the top of her head, and she fell asleep breathing into their fur. In her dream she was walking in the woods. The snow that had fallen earlier still blanketed the ground, a wet white slush that clung to her bunny slippers so that her feet were heavy and difficult to lift. “I don’t have much time. You’d better walk with me.” There was a brightness in the trees in front of her that hurt to look at. Linna shielded her eyes from it, hands in front of her face. “Lux,” she said, “you’re going to have to turn yourself down, I can’t see anything.” A small boy, five or six years old, stepped toward her through snow that melted away from his bare feet. Harsh white light shone out of the shape of him, causing thin, stark shadows to spring back from the trunks of the trees all around them. “Happy birthday, Linna,” he said. “Turn it down!” Linna shouted at him. “Oh, sorry.” The boy came closer and the light that streamed out from him dimmed to a red-ember smolder. “Come with me,” he said. “Where are we going?” “Just to the Reverie House. I have to go soon.” “You just got here, Lux!” “I know.” He sighed. “It’s harder and harder for me to come at all.” “Why?” “Because you’re older now. Your dreams aren’t as open as they used to be.” As they talked they made their way through the woods, walking side by side. Arcyn receded further behind them and the snow on the ground diminished until it disappeared altogether; the path that led forward was dry and the temperature in the air rose sharply. “When I was little,” Linna said, “you were with me all the time, even when I was awake.” “Only in your mind.” “That means you’re not real.” “I’m real.” “When I wake up, can I find you?” Lux looked at her. “You’ll forget about me when you wake.” “I won’t.” They had come to the Reverie House, which was far from the manor, out in the wooded grounds on the edge of a hillside slope that looked northward onto deeper, thicker forestland. It was a simple bungalow with an angled roof. A tall chimney rose up on one side, exhaling a smudged line of smoke. There was no technology allowed in the Reverie House, no furniture, nothing at all except for a wood stove that the manor staff kept burning all through the winter, all day and night. Lux stopped and turned to her. “I have to tell you something before I go. I know you’re scared about the new Trials. I know you’re angry and sad because Will passed the last ones and you didn’t. I came tonight to tell you that you’re not like your brother, or your father, or the others. You’re special, Linna. You’re important.” She said, “That’s what I’d expect my imaginary friend to tell me, that I’m special, I’m important—no-one else says that to me.” “No-one else knows what to say.” “If I’m not like them, what am I?” Lux shrugged his shoulders. “You’ll find out. I know you will. Maybe not for a long time. But you have to be careful. Finding out won’t make anything easier.” The front door of the Reverie House began to swing open slowly. Linna saw shapes through the doorway, silhouettes that moved, thronging, pushing at the walls, slipping out from within as the edge of the door creaked open wide. Lux whirled about and the light burst out from him, driving the Shadows back inside. “When will I see you again?” Linna said. Lux shook his head. “You’ll keep what I said hidden inside, Linna, and when you need it you’ll take strength from it. There’s no-one else like you. No-one else will be able to do what you can do.” He raised his right hand toward her. “I’m sorry, but I can’t risk your father finding out about me.” He gestured, then his hand fell back, and he went inside the Reverie House and closed the door behind him. Linna forgot, between one moment and the next, everything that had happened in her dream. When she woke the next morning she’d have no memory of Lux’s visit or the things he had told her. She would remember the rest of the dream. In it, she was returning to Arcyn after a long journey, walking alone on the path in the woods. There was snow underfoot and she remembered that her father had promised them snow for their birthdays. When she came out from the trees and saw the mansion circled by lawns that undulated softly beneath the pristine white, she knew she had somehow stepped inside a snow globe long-since stilled, with Arcyn in miniature at the center, lit up from inside so that yellow light spilled out of the windows and doors. She was in there too, in the snow globe, standing right at the rounded outside surface of the glass, and she was too small to be seen from high above.