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“Hmm,” the man says in a faint chuckle, still not turning.

Brogan steps forward and grabs him, pressing the gun against his head. The man does not resist him, which surprises me. Kat, to my right, stands poised to spring forward as well, though she refrains for now.

“I must say, you have caught me by surprise,” he says.

His voice is peculiar, not like the voice of a man. Rather, it sounds heavy and hollow, reminding me more of how the Necromancer sounds when he speaks.

“Where are you keeping the princess?” Brogan demands.

“How naïve to think that threatening me with death is going to help you get to her,” the man says back calmly.

“It can’t hurt my chances,” he replies, disdain in his voice.

“Such brashness,” the man continues condescendingly. “Little wonder those of your kind were so adept to ripping each other apart.”

“What do you know about that?” Kat asks, stepping forward and gently pulling Brogan away from the man.

“Everything. I have been here for a long time.”

“Doing what?” Brogan says angrily.

“Waiting for the right time to finish what started long ago.”

“Tell us then why we shouldn’t kill you now,” Kat says, much more forcefully than before.

“It would be unwise,” the man answers. “I am all that stands between you and a horde of soulless creatures itching to tear you and your princess to shreds. Killing me will draw them all here into this trap I’ve been setting all these—”

“You can’t call them,” I cut in, my confidently spoken words stunning Brogan and Kat. “You want to, but you can’t.”

“Then it’s you who has taken my voice.”

“What’s he talking about Kaela?” Brogan asks, almost disappointed like he thinks I’ve been hiding something.

“She doesn’t know,” the man laughs. “Doesn’t know that she has been sent her like an assassin, placed in the dark behind me to cut my throat so I cannot scream for help. Sent by those who first called me here ages ago.”

“He’s speaking nonsense,” I tell them.

“Oh, but I’m not. You are why I could not sense your arrival. Why my army must have been blind to your presence. See, they are drawn to your kind, to your blood. Had they so much as gotten a whiff of it, or had you harmed one in any way, I would have been ready for you. But now I see that something has changed. I have failed somehow. I am no longer useful.”

“Useful to whom?” I ask.

“It doesn’t matter, young wraith. You will find the one you seek in the chamber behind me, but even she can’t save them.”

He looks up at Brogan, whose focus is too much on me to stop him from reaching out with a concealed blade and cutting his hand. Brogan grimaces as he drops his gun, the man picking it up before Kat is able to draw hers, but he does not point it at her.

“Don’t be rash,” he says, his voice like a parent reprimanding a child. “Remember, when I die, they rush back to me, all of them. Like bees swarming a hive. They will consume you.”

He smiles as he speaks, glancing over at me. I know what he is about to do, but there is no way to prevent it. Even as he lifts the gun to his head, I feel the dread of death filling the air. Brogan jumps up to stop him, but too late as he pulls the trigger. In an instant, the man’s lifeless body drops to the ground, leaving us precious little time to avoid the same fate.

Kat and Brogan lean down to examine the mysterious being, but my eyes are already looking up, my heart already feeling the rumblings of the angry hordes as they rush through the streets above. They are coming.

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