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Crystal flowers fractal through Ashlock’s skull, spars of ice and silicon bursting from her nose and tongue and the thin bone over her sinuses, lancing down into her throat. She can’t breathe. She can’t think. Her eyes are frayed optical fiber, every end a scraped and screaming nerve, and she cannot look away from the beast below.

She claws at the slippery edge of sanity, and Tach is there.

She’s never seen behind his trance before. He is unspeakable. Enormities thunder from his mouth, and her mind kicks backward out of madness, sending her body skidding twenty feet across the ice.