Inciting Event: Mercenary Nyx is offered reinstatement as a bel dame assassin if she agrees to hunt down rogue bel dames. She then learns the bel dames have, in essence, instigated a civil war against the Queen.

Rhy’s POV: Rhys, Nyx’s former partner, is sent to Nasheen, home of the bel dames, on a secret negotiations mission.

First Plot Point: A scalper bug blister (bomb) hits the palace in Mushtallah, and Nyx and her team flee to escape the Black Plague. Lots of relatively big events have happened up to this point, including Nyx’s almost dying. But this is the moment that literally forces her and her team out of their “Normal World” and into a new paradigm—both physically and within the scope of the conflict.

Rhys’s POV: Rhys translate a deal with the rogue bel dames and learns they’re wanting to sell weaponized flesh-eating sand. At this point in the story, Rhys is really just a subplot. But his encounter with the bel dames and their lethal sand is the introduction of the Maguffin he and Nyx will be chasing right up until the end of the story.

First Pinch Point: Nyx succumbs to a contamination programmed to kill the Queen’s head of security. This not only offers new clues about the nature of the antagonist Nyx is facing, it also heightens the tension by alienating her from the formerly sympathetic Queen.

Rhys’s POV: Rhys receives a call from someone using his nom de guerre from his mercenary days with Nyx. This is an excellent and subtle moment that nicely emphasizes the threat against Rhys and his family.

Midpoint: Nyx and her team arrive in Tirhan to find Rhys and use his recording to figure out who is trying to kill Nyx. When Nyx and Rhys finally meet up, joining their plot lines, it offers several significant shifts in the story, not least that of reigniting their uneasy relationship. It also brings the important revelation of the identity of the bel dame who is after Nyx.

Second Pinch Point: Bel dames attack Nyx’s allies, cut off Rhys’s hands, kill his wife and daughters, and leave Nyx for dead. This is a lethal pinch point that is so dark it seems like it might be better suited for a Third Plot Point. But it does its job here of (brutally) emphasizing the stakes and setting up the decisions the characters will make at the Third Plot Point.

Third Plot Point: After Nyx is reanimated, bel dames attack their new safe house, and Nyx realizes the new magician she hired has sold them out. Compared to the previous pinch point, this is a relatively low-key scene. But it pulls the characters around the corner into the Third Act. The author used this structure because Nyx’s death at the Second Pinch Point meant she couldn’t be present for the next eighth of the story, up to the Third Plot Point. This wouldn’t have worked as well had she died at the Third Plot Point and stayed dead for the next eighth of the book until the Climax. So even though it made for a weaker Third Plot Point, this timing was necessary to keep the Third Act running smoothly.

Climax: Nyx and her team arrive in the border town to bait their trap for the bel dames. They’re moving into action, ready to take the fight to the antagonists.

Climactic Moment: After Nyx and her team kill the bel dames, they are attacked by the flesh-eating sand. Nyx’s magician destroys the sand—and the tension immediately ends as the characters’ goals are fulfilled.

Resolution: Nyx parts from her team, talks with Alharazad, and starts on a new mission with Anneke. When setting up for a sequel, the Resolution will be as much about asking a few new questions as tying up the loose ends on the existing questions.

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