Written by Kate Diller.
Graphic by Emma Robinson.

He didn’t hear the footsteps behind him, hadn’t heard the bodies fall. The glass came to his lips, smooth liquor gleaming in the light from the moon above him. The shadows slipped forward, blades in hand. They faltered, though, when he turned to face them, setting his glass down on the railing he leaned against.

He blinked, surveying the symphony of weapons before him. “Who’s trying to kill me now? My wife? My sisters? Their husbands? My father?” He chuckled. “Don’t you know that hundreds have tried to kill me? And yet here I stand?”

The dark figures said nothing, seemingly frozen under his gaze. He took it as a sign of deference, moving toward the stairs. But a shadow stepped in his pace and he felt something coil around his ankle.

“Silly of you to presume anyone in your family has power of this particular army.” Her voice was soft, barely more than a whisper, but he heard every word, almost inside of his head. She moved toward him, stepping from between her men. He knew her and yet he didn’t, couldn’t place where he’d seen her. Sharp eyes met his, clear and authoritative.

“Who are you? An assassin? Why don’t you just kill me? Going to make a shoddy speech?” He snapped, desperation plain in his voice as the coil moved up his calf.

“I’m not here to kill you, that would be a waste of my time. No, I’m here to warn you.”

“Warn me?”

“Don’t start a war, Your Majesty.”

“What makes you think I’m about to start a war?”

“The shadows speak and I listen.”

“What?”

“Nothing. You should listen to me. I’d hate to actually have to kill you.”

“I don’t understand.”

But she was gone, the shadows with her, nothing left of them. Nothing except the coil. He leaned down, prying it from his body. The metal melted away in his hands, leaving only a ribbon of paper. There were a few words scrawled onto the scrap, only five, but still unsettling.

The Chancellor would be displeased.

The realization hit him all at once. The girl could only have been one person. His body shook. The paper disintegrated. He looked at the moon and then started down the stairs, as if his run-in had never happened.

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