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Chapter 1


“Run for your life! He’ll kill us all!”

Two dozen men surged from a narrow side passage and sprinted down the aromatic Street of Meat Pies. Most wore the plain garb of laborers and slaves, but there were gentlefolk too. From fleet-footed youth to stooped greybeards hobbling with canes, each ran heedless of his fellows, arms flailing, eyes bugging, chests heaving. Pure fear propelled them.

I shook my head in resigned dismay. When would these mad scenes end? When would the good people of Caratha not flee in wild panic every time I came near? When would Carathans finally believe that I, Jason Cosmo, was no bloodthirsty, soul-devouring, genocidal monster who wanted to kill them all, but actually a pretty decent guy?

Apparently not today.

The running men were a flash flood of flesh flowing down the street like a mountain stream swollen by the melting snows of spring, sweeping up all in its path. They crashed against a pushcart piled high with succulent sausage pastries, smashing it beneath their pounding feet. Naught but splinters and greasy smears remained in their wake. One unfortunate runner stumbled and fell. The pack trampled him into the paving stones. When they passed, he struggled to his feet and staggered after them, bruised and bleeding.

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