I ducked around a mass of people coming towards me, and glanced around the room of the inn for Gilliana. I caught a glimpse of the figure of my friend as she flitted from one group of patrons to another. As she turned around she noticed my presence.

"Kalina!" Gilliana called as she grabbed several empty ale tankards and returned to the main bar table.

She really was a pretty young woman; thick brown hair that trailed down past her waist and steel blue eyes that I had seen spit fire when she was provoked. Not that Gilliana was ever provoked much. I had befriended her shortly after she had bought the inn and tavern smack in the middle of our community and promptly turned it into a place where many of the various and sordid creatures of the realm could gather. There had been an uproar when she and had made her intentions for the place known, but Gilliana couldn't have cared less. She had her husband to back her up after all.

Gilliana's husband was a piece of work too. He was a drow. The dark elves that rarely showed themselves before now suddenly seemed quite prominent now that word about Gilliana's inn was out. Malach, the drow, was a beautiful, if ambiguous, creature around here, and the undisputed master of swordplay. What he did for a living and how much of fighting skill he used doing it I'll never ask. He didn't talk to humans much other than his wife and I was rather intimidated by him. Yet beneath the distaste that the human community had shown towards him, I knew that deep within the hearts of the women they found him strikingly attractive and in the darkest recesses of the men's souls they envied his fighting prowess and pretty wife.

"How are you, Kalina?" Gilliana asked as she quickly wiped a table, "your parents, how are they?"

I smiled quietly. My parents hated Malach, in fact they hated all drow and most of the various other creatures that patronized the inn which Gilliana had dubbed The Black Wolf. Gilliana was either oblivious or she just ignored my parents' obvious dislike of her husband.

"They're well," I said, "how's business been?"

"Busy!" Gilliana laughed, "traveling season and they've been coming and going all day."

I twisted a strand of auburn hair around my finger. I wanted to tell Gilliana my news. She and I had become close since she had moved here, though I still didn't understand how she fit together with Malach.

"Shaylin proposed to me," I blurted out.

Gilliana looked up.

"Well, good," she looked at me closely, "isn't it?"

I nodded quickly. Of course it was good. It was how my life was supposed to go. I was supposed to find a nice man and settle down and raise a big family. Why would I want anything else? Shaylin was a handsome man as well as kind; he'd be a good husband.

"Come with me," Gilliana said, "Malach has a friend here and I need to make sure they have everything."

I rubbed my freckled nose and glanced at myself in a reflection of a tray. I hardly looked presentable to meet anyone and Malach always made me feel inferior. I tried to straighten my disheveled hair and hurriedly followed Gilliana. Malach and his friend sat at a table in the back.

I looked from Malach to his friend. The two couldn't have appeared more different as drow go, and his friend was also drow.

"This is Durrit," he said by way of introduction to his wife. Gilliana nodded to them quickly turned to grab a drink.

I looked at the two drow. Malach's features were refined; delicately molded as a statue. Yet there was something austere and almost unapproachable about him. He may have had the beauty of a god, but it was an ice god. Only his wife seemed to be able to coax and warmth out of him.

Durrit on the other hand had an open friendly face that was more boyishly charming than classically handsome. I could see him pulling pranks on friends as opposed to Malach's quiet sarcasm.

Both drow looked up to watch Gilliana as she reentered the room. She immediately went over to her husband, who with one quick unabashed movement, jerked her down into his lap. She quickly kissed him on the forehead and squirmed out of his grasp.

"Not now," she chided, "I'm too busy."

She formally greeted the new drow, who graciously bowed his head, his thick tied-back white hair spilling over one shoulder. He looked up squarely at me and I was startled by his two brilliant sapphire blue eyes. They stood out sharply against his midnight colored skin.

"And you may be?" he asked as he watched me. His voice had a beautiful lilt to it.

"Kalina," I said shyly, giving him a small curtsy. He watched me so intensely I couldn't help but blush. I noticed Malach raise an eyebrow at the exchange.

Gilliana addressed the new drow with a friendly smile.

"What are you here for, Durrit?" she asked.

The dark elf drug his eyes away from me and looked at Malach's wife.

"Just passing through," he said with his smooth accent that gave away that he came from the north, "I heard tell of an inn that housed drow and much to my surprise I found Malach here making good money with a beautiful wife."

I glanced over and watched Malach look almost smug as his friend finished his statement.

"That she is isn't she?" he said with a blatant look of admiration at Gilliana who just rolled her eyes at her adoring husband.

Suddenly there was a loud uproar in the front of the inn. The constable of the community, along with several men burst into the back room where we were.

"We are here to place the drow Malach Elmeer under arrest for the murder of Mishael Greenwood," he announced.