Dark were the clouds that watched over the wind-blown hill forest of Tarelle. The time-bleached wood of the fortress prow was bright against the swirling night clouds, highlighted by a sliver of silvery moonlight which left it shining like an old skeleton. The trees about it rustled like decayed cloth against the same, their verdant branches cast into shadow by the approaching storm. It was an imposing structure, a fact which was far more evident on this night than at any other time in recent history.

The City of Peace, they had called it, those weary, storm-wracked souls which had found this mountain refuge all those eons ago. And yet, since that time, the city of Kavencrest had seen far more darkness than its original inhabitants could have ever foreseen. Far more bloodshed. Far, far more disaster.

Yes, it was a city of darkness. Yet darker still were the brooding sentiments of the man who stood on the plains below, gazing up at the citadel, his eyes steely-coal in contrast to his pale skin. He clenched and unclenched his fists, never removing his eyes from the foremast of the fortress ship, where ravens circled, croaking in delight for the meals the masters of the city had prepared for them.

The man's mount paced excitedly next to him him, eager for movement. They had been stopped for hours, and the large feline was getting restless. The man smiled grimly, sniffing the air about him like a hound in search of game. His dark eyes narrowed as he caught the hint of death in the night air, a sharp acrid contrast to the silky wet scent of ozone which hung thick about the mountain like a mantle of finest velvet.

"Well, Firenze," he said to the great grey-backed cat to his left, "we're home at last, I guess."

He patted the animal gently on the top of its muscular head, sighing ambivalently.

"I wish it hadn't come to this," he said to the windy hill, his coat blowing open behind him like the tail of a night owl.