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The sound of sirens made Alarath look away from the stranger. They split in the air in the distance, growing closer every second. They were unlike any warning horn he had heard used in the Empire, too loud and shrill. It sounded less like a call to battle and more the warning cry of a predator. He looked back at the stranger.

As if he’d perfectly anticipated Alarath’s thoughts, the stranger laughed. “I’d suggest running. This world’s changed more than you know.” He tossed a small object to Alarath. Thin, black, and seamless. One side of it lit up as Alarath held onto it. “We’ll talk again soon.”

Alarath crushed the object in his palm and let the pieces fall to the sidewalk. “You think a few empty words will be enough to turn me into your dog? I have a reply for your masters.” He struck forward, thrusting his dagger toward the stranger’s throat.

Before the blade could make contact, the stranger disappeared. His voice came from behind Alarath, “I didn’t, actually.” Alarath spun around. The stranger stood ten feet away, looking as unconcerned as ever. “But that’s why we make plan B’s, isn’t it?”

“What are you playing at?” snarled Alarath.

“A game with a much larger board than you could possibly imagine,” said the stranger. “And which you’re already a piece of, whether you want to be or not.” He tilted his head, listening. “Now, I really suggest you run.” And he vanished.

Alarath spun around, but the man was nowhere to be seen. The sirens were growing louder. It now sounded as if they were almost on top of him. A moment after the disappearance of the man, a white carriage careened around the corner of a building. Lights atop its roof flash, and the siren blared from it.

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