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She screamed, letting out a torrent of words and curses and pleadings to God as she scrambled off the bed. Her right ankle tangled in the sheet, she fell to the floor with a thump and then backed into a corner. As she went, those lemon eyes followed her, the hooded thing coming over the top of the bed at her as though weightless.

Perhaps it was because she had been sleeping in her father’s house, or perhaps because all of her fear and grief were bound tightly to Ted Halliwell’s vanishing. But in that moment, Sara called for her father like she had as a little girl, waking in the dark from a nightmare.


The cruel, hooded thing froze with its knife fingers stretched out toward her. Lemon eyes went dark.

Like a statue, it had frozen solid, halfway across her bed.

Within the consciousness of the Sandman, Ted Halliwell screamed his daughter’s name. She’d called out to him. His powdered bones sifted with the sand and the dust, and he fought the horrid will of the monster. Holding him back was like stopping a bull from charging, yet he had done it. His soul felt as though the strain would tear it apart, but for the moment, the Sandman had been halted.

Grains of sand shifted. Skittered to the floor.

No, Halliwell thought. But he knew it was no use. His love for Sara had given him the strength to stop the Sandman, but he would not be able to hold the monster.

Pain clutched at the core of him, the part that would have been his heart if he still had flesh. The maelstrom that was the Sandman had slowed. It parted like curtains—like a veil—and he could feel the hatred searing him. Those terrible eyes looked inward, now, and they found Halliwell there, alone.

“I wanted my vengeance,” the Sandman said. The voice echoed around inside the maelstrom, inside the consciousness that was all that remained of Ted Halliwell save those powdered bones, scattered amidst the grains of the monster. “The fox bitch, Kitsune, and the nothing, weakling man, Bascombe. They turned my brother against me and I wanted vengeance. You denied me that vengeance, little nothing man. You infest me like pestilence, like rot, like conscience, and I will not have it.

“You must be punished. The little girl’s eyes will pop in my teeth, and I will be certain that you can taste them on my tongue, as if it were your own.”

The words/thoughts slithered inside Halliwell’s mind, and whatever trace remained of him, soul or echo, shuddered—not with fear, but with rage. The man in him might have let death and this bizarre damnation corrupt his spirit, weaken him, but his daughter called his name and now this abomination mocked her love for him and her pain. The man might be afraid, but Ted Halliwell was more than a man. The soldier in him, the detective in him, the father in him was not afraid.

His grip on the Sandman tightened.

The monster roared fury. Halliwell felt aware of every bone shard, every particle of yellowed bone and marrow that mixed with the substance of the Sandman, and he reached out into the paralyzed limbs of the child-killer and he took hold.

Fucker, he said/thought. That’s my little girl.

Awareness radiated out from Halliwell’s consciousness. His senses searched the maelstrom, knowing already what he would find. There, hiding in the midst of the soul-storm created by the merger of their spirits, their essences, he found the third consciousness locked inside this body. Peering, spying, from the maelstrom, was the Dustman. Swiftly brutal, the Dustman might be the brother of the Sandman—another aspect of the same legend—but he was also a kind of mirror. The Dustman was an English legend, proper and grim. He was a creature of order, where his brother was chaos and anarchy.

Help me, damn you! The blood’s on all of our hands, now. You can’t just hide, or he’ll erode you away to nothing!

Still the Dustman did not stir.

The Sandman remained paralyzed, but Halliwell’s grip began to slip. Somewhere beyond the tiny universe that existed within the maelstrom, he heard his daughter’s voice again. She muttered prayers to God. By now she’d be rising from that corner, trying to get past the monster to reach for the phone to call the police, or maybe she’d just run.

God, Halliwell hoped she would run.

“He’s a coward,” the voice of the Sandman sifted through the churning gloom around Halliwell. “He dared to stand against me, to betray his brother, and now he’ll be nothing, no more than you.”

Listen to me, Halliwell hissed at the Dustman. All of those children you visited, the ones who couldn’t sleep or didn’t want to…you were gentle with them. You cast your dust in their eyes and they slept in peace and dreamed the way children should. I’ve felt your mind, I’ve seen it all in your thoughts. We’re all part of each other, now. Is this what you want? To terrify those kids, to murder them in their beds, to mutilate their—

“It’s exactly what he wants,” the Sandman said.

Halliwell’s soul—whatever remained of it—froze at those words. Could that be true? Was that what the Dustman had always wanted? Was that why his brother was ascendant, now, because he didn’t want to fight?

“You lie!” the Dustman roared.

He stepped from the maelstrom, closer to Halliwell now than he had been since the two of them were merged with the Sandman, spirits trapped within. In his greatcoat and bowler hat and with that mustache, he might have seemed almost absurd were it not for the hatred in his gleaming, golden eyes.

I thought I could do nothing, the Dustman said, but now the voice did not echo in the maelstrom. It was right beside Halliwell, in his own mind, thought to thought. I’m only a facet of the legend. A shard. That’s what you’ve become yourself, Detective. A facet.

But that’s all he is, Halliwell replied. One facet.


Halliwell held out his hand for the Dustman to shake, to seal the deal.

The maelstrom calmed. Halliwell felt the Sandman try to break free of his grip and the form he had given himself in this nothing place, this spirit cage inside the prison of the Sandman, was thrown down.

“Go to hell,” Halliwell snarled, and he stood, reaching out once again to shake the Dustman’s hand. There was power in a vow. An oath. And that was what they were about to enter into.

Then the Sandman was there. Somehow he was their cage, but he was also there inside the mindscape with them. Those dreadful yellow eyes peered out from beneath his hood.

“I will not allow it,” he said, almost a sigh, a skittering of words and sand.

Halliwell smiled. The bastard was too late. He and the Dustman clasped hands…

Sara ran around the bed, colliding with the closet door and pushing off. She lunged for the phone on the nightstand, snatched it off the cradle, and even as she did, she turned to look at the bizarre statue—rough like concrete—on the bed.

It said her name. The whispering voice did not sound cruel or mocking. Instead, it sounded familiar.

She froze.

No longer a statue, the thing began to shift and flow as though reality were ocean waves rolling in and reshaping it. The hood went away. The figure slid to the end of the bed, away from her, stood facing her. Its cloak had become a long coat, collar turned up high around its neck. A derby sat upon its head, made of the same material as the coat and the monster’s hands, its flesh.


It looked up at her and she caught her breath. Lemon eyes had turned golden. It had a thick drooping mustache, but all of the same shade, the same gray brown of sand.

But the face…she knew the face.

“Daddy?” she whispered.

The strength went out of her legs and she staggered back, catching herself against the doorjamb, barely staying on her feet.

The thing looked unsure a moment, but then a smile spread across its face, lifting that mustache. Her father’s smile. All of the things that Robiquet had told her—about the Veil and the creatures of legend, about the Borderkind—came back to her now.

“Dad?” she ventured.

“Yeah, Sara-love. It’s me,” he rasped.

His voice sifted, but it was his, like they were talking over a bad phone line and she could only hear him through static. Sara-love. He’d called her that all the time when she was little, almost unconsciously, just the way he’d done now.

A hitching breath came from her and she held a hand to her chest. Hope, she found, could be far more painful than grief.

“How can it be? What are…what was that?”

“A monster, sweetie. I was wrong, all those nights I told you they didn’t exist. But we’ve got it under control, now. Locked it up in here and threw away the key.”

All those nights, as a girl, when he’d come home late, Ted Halliwell had told his daughter he’d been catching bad guys. And when little Sara had asked if he had caught them, his answer had always been the same. Locked them up and threw away the key.

Sara took a step toward him, then hesitated, fear lancing through her. The image of that monster, of those lemon eyes and finger knives, lingered.

“What are you now, Dad?”

His face—sculpted from sand—contorted with sadness and loss. He reached out toward her, though she was still too far for him to touch her.

“I was away. Far away, Sara-love. All I wanted was to come back so I could tell you how sorry I am that I didn’t understand when you needed me to. The life you have…I had dreamed it so differently for you. A wedding. A little girl of your own. It took me a long time to realize my dreams for you had to give way to yours. Hard for me. I figured it out, though, sweetie. Eventually, I got it. All that mattered was that you were happy. That you could be adored the way you deserved. But by then, I couldn’t find the words to say it. If I’d seen you…but that never worked out. And then I was gone.”

Sara stared at him. Her hand flew to her mouth and a small sound escaped her lips. Her eyes blurred with tears and she wiped them away.

“Maybe you don’t remember, Sara, but that question…I asked you the same thing, once. The worst thing I ever did, asking you what you were. The stupidest, most heartless thing. And what did you tell me, do you remember?”

Sara did. “I’m me.”

Her father, this odd figure in his hat and coat, this Sandman, took a step toward her. “I don’t know what else I am, but I’m me. I’m what I had to be to get back to you, to be here to say I’m sorry, and that I love you.”

Sara stared at him, her fear still fresh.

“Never was much good at saying any of the important things. But all I wanted was this chance to say it to you. I can…I don’t want you to be afraid. I’ll go now. But—”

“No!” Sara rushed to him, danger forgotten. The idea of losing him again made her cry out. She threw her arms around him. His coat—whatever he was—felt rough to the touch, but she held on tight, afraid he would slip through her fingers.

Whatever part of him this was, it had his voice and his heart. She could not lose those, now that she had them back.

“Please don’t go.”

Even if they had stayed that way for a year, it wouldn’t have been enough for Sara. All of her hesitations and resentments were long forgotten. She had another chance with him, a chance for him to know her and know how she felt, and for him to understand.

In time, he stepped back.

Sara gaped. The silly mustache and hat were gone. The face belonged, now, only to her father. Even his eyes seemed more his own.

“Dad, you look—”

He reached up to trace his fingers along his features.

“How many of you are in there?” she asked.

He blinked and then looked at her in surprise.

“You’re a pretty smart young woman, you know that?”

Sara smiled. “My father’s a detective.”

Ted lowered his gaze, then raised his eyes again. Sara knew that look. She had seen it hundreds, maybe thousands of times growing up. The words had not even begun to come from his mouth, but she could hear them. There was something he had to do. He couldn’t be home with her right now, because there were some bad guys out there, and Detective Ted Halliwell was on the case. He had to stop them before they hurt somebody.

Her father saw her eyes, and he knew.

“I’ll come back. I swear. I can do it, now. And I’ll be here with you. But the Dustman and I have business to handle. Debts to pay.”

“And you have to stop the bad guys,” Sara said, her voice small.

As he nodded, the sand of his flesh and his clothing sifted again, and the hat and mustache returned. The Dustman. That’s what he had called it; what he was, now.


“Detective Ted Halliwell’s on the case.”

He smiled. “I promise I’ll be back.”

“You always promise.”

“And haven’t I always come back?”

Sara thought a moment, then reached out and touched his face in wonder. “Yeah. You have.”

He kissed her forehead. His lips were rough as sandpaper.

“Close your eyes,” he said.

She did. The sound came again, that scritching, skittering noise, along with a little breeze that made her shiver.

When she opened her eyes, he was gone.

But Sara found herself smiling.

Battle raged.

Ovid Tsing crouched, nocked an arrow into his bow, and fired. The arrow took an Atlantean soldier through the eye, the tip punching out through the back of his skull. The impact threw his head back but momentum carried him forward and he hit the ground, rolling, dead before he came to rest on the rocky shore where the Kingdom of Euphrasia met the Isthmus of the Conquistadors.

The eastern flank of Hunyadi’s army had broken. The Atlantean attack was vicious, supplemented by Yucatazcan warriors. Air sharks darted across the morning sky, but they were far away, as were the giants, who fought Borderkind and northern legends at the center of the battle lines. Sorcerers of Atlantis hovered just over the heads of the troops—swords clanging, screams rising, blood soaking the earth—but a dozen Mazikeen hung in the air above the Euphrasian troops, fighting back. The magical combat seemed a war all its own, each side’s sorcerers keeping the others from interfering in the ground war.