A Shadow Among Legions

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We are not many.

We are one.

The Chancellor's hands and feet.

His boots on the ground.

The blade in his hand.

The Shadows in his Legions.


— a mantra of the Shadow Legions



The Shadow Legions marched deep into the mountains of Klavash, streams of movement in perfect, organized unison. They were not many. They were one. A magnificent mechanism. One shadow that spread farther and farther across the New World, the dominion of the Chancellor permeating the land like a plague.

They were the blades in his hand, created for war, their training cruel and rigorous and mind-altering. They had no family, no kin. Only the Chancellor and one another.

It was in the very heart of Klavash — a few leagues from the lone village of Harrivral, where he'd been raised — that the young shadow, Darien, came fully apart inside.

Darien led the company, hand chosen because he knew the mountains. He had grown up in them.

They had been trekking through the mountains three days, and Jujen and Valeria had joined Darien at the front of the line. General Thrain was bringing up the rear. They marched for their first battle, and the three shadows were talking eagerly of the coming fray, when the child appeared.

A tiny, spindly thing, as most Klavash girls were. She couldn't have been more than five or six years old. Brown doe eyes shone from behind her fur hood, bits of curly black hair poking out in messy strands like a fraying rope. Snow coated her parka, as though she'd been rolling in it. When she stumbled into the clearing before them — giggling and then, at the sight of the soldiers, hushing to a whimper, scared like a poor bunny caught in a snare — the whole regiment froze.

They had not seen a single soul in these mountains, but they knew what was expected if they did. A single cry could alert a Morgathian spy. Darien had been all eyes for men at the edge of their path.

But a little girl?

She might have been no older than his own sister had been the day the Legions came for him.

"What do we do?" Valeria whispered to Darien.

The hell does she mean, what do we do? There's only one true answer. Only one thing we can do. Oh, gods!

He glanced aroundbut the General remained at the back of the line, nowhere in sight. By the time he reached the front, the girl would have shrieked or run for help. The call was on Darien and he had but fractions of a moment. All were looking to him. He had been the one chosen to lead them through the mountains. He was the one that Thrain spoke to, as to a son.

The girl was ten yards from them, trembling silently like a fawn spooked by hunters.

Then, without command, Jujen raised his musket eagerly beside him. "You know what we gotta do!" he muttered.

Jujen was grinning.

Frantic, Darien whispered, "No, it'll alert the whole —"

But it was too late.

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