The great hall echoed with gay laughter and music, to which many of the nobility were dancing in one corner. Two lords stood aloof, surveying the assembly with arrogant disinterest, discussing the guests. Their discourse was interrupted by a young girl, walking about the room with a look of innocent detachment coloring her lively features. She was clad in a simple gown of deep red lined in gold, the rich colors of which accented the golden shine of her hair and the rosy tint of her cheek. When she had passed, the first man turned to his companion and asked with wonder, "Who was that?"

"Lord Daventry's daughter," the second responded with a sniff.

"I don't believe I've ever heard of her," mused the first.

"No; she's the daughter of his…second wife," he was told, in a voice appropriately suggestive of ruin. The first man nodded in understanding, but observing her graceful progress about the room, said, "She's lovely."

"Yes, but her parentage…" They nodded and returned to their review and abuse of the other nobles.

One would be dead before morning.

Alinea Daventry, daughter of a rich and powerful lord, had first killed a man at the age of fourteen.

Her father, while bound by law to care for his child, ignored her and kept her poor, leaving the raising of her to the servants at Pinecrest, the smallest of his holdings. As such it was managed by servants of the lowest breeding and reputation. When the soldier had come to her room that night, Alinea knew screams and pleas would not avail her—but the dagger she had purchased at a faire became a close ally. She had used it, and the blade was bloodied, the first of many times.

With her small allowance she had from that day poured herself into the furthering of her chosen profession: that of an assassin. Her father could not deny her place as a daughter of society, and she had used her position as one of many assets. She was the master of many weapons and the mistress of many men—all of them dead.