Prologue

She sat in the corner, huddled under folds of black velvet, eyes closed and heartbeat slow. She could hear the tavern noises around her, glasses clinking together and laughter bellowing in her ears. As she tucked a strand of her oil black hair behind a pale ear, she used the moment to look up and scan her surroundings.

People seemed to not notice her much at all. There were the loud, drunken fellows who permeated much of the taverns small space, and the barmaids were suggestively rubbing against them, hoping to milk more gold from their pockets.

Her travels had taken her far, her horse tired from the ride and her mind so cluttered with fear she could barely think of her next move. The Inns glowing candlelight shown from the back roads, and she knew traveling into the Kingdom of Undir would be tricky at night. There were ever vigilant patrols in the larger Kingdoms of Moryth, and news traveled these days.

She could feel the balance already shifting, a strange weight on her heart. She wondered if the bar patrons felt it too, the subtle shift in energy in the air, like a hot spark striking cool skin, the sudden shock and the painful aftermath.

She narrowed her eyes and watched the men guzzle glasses of beer and wine, laughing so loudly she could barely hear her own breath

A man turned, locked on her eyes, and smiled a crooked grin. His beard was patchy and she could smell his musky scent from halfway across the tavern. She blinked, avoided his gaze and pulled her velvet hood deeper over her head, consuming her face in shadow.

Although not looking directly at him, she could still feel him; feel his eyes, his lusty gaze, and his presence.

"Hello, miss," a voice broke through the tavern noise. She looked up, found her suitor one foot from her, eyes wild with passion. "What sort of name graces such a pretty young lady like yourself?"

"I am not interested, sorry," she replied, trying to hide her features from him.

"Come on, pretty thing, let me buy you a drink." He insisted, coming closer with those eyes.

"I said no thank you, now leave me alone." She repeated, her tone ragged with shards of anger.

"Just one beer, please, I promise-," he stopped, his stomach afire. His voice would not speak, and the blood pounding in his ears grew louder.

Anger had consumed her, and she pushed the hilt of her dagger deeper into his stomach, her teeth grinding with malice. She knew the pain he must feel, and she felt its energy bathe her in a chilled sludge.

She pulled the dagger quickly from inside him and heard his gurgles of potential words form on his lips. His eyes stayed wide as he fell to his knees, hands clutching a crimson wound.

The patrons had not noticed his slow demise yet, but she knew she had let her guard down, and fleeing was her only option.

She let her anonymity fall from her grasp along with her anger, and her heart began to race.

Tying her hood around her face, she dropped three gold pieces upon the small table, gave the dying man a swift kick, and melted into the crowd.

Just as the night air hit her face as she came from the inns doors, the screams began.

Two murders and counting.