Chapter I

The Tavern of the Night

"I'd like to take the coach to the land of Mac' Belev and slap Lady Elaine Fairchild just because she annoys me," said Lady Eilaria.

"I just want to drink," said Mr. Talos, a stout Dwarf. He rolled his head on his stiff neck. The the two had been riding for the past seven hours by coach to the kingdom s capitol - The City of Mirrors. Seven hours had passed in the company of a merchant s wife whose sole purpose in life was to talk - nonstop. The two walked side by side down steps of the stage coach platform and onto a wide cobblestone path.

"M'lady are you drunk?" asked a voice behind them.

"Nope," answered the Elf without looking. Behind them the broad figure of an Orc resplendent in the royal colors of a king quickened his pace to join them.
Recently selected as their Monarch by the sub-kingdoms of Utopia Island, King Kakashi was still getting used to the position. As such he preferred to mingle among
his subjects as an equal, rather than accept the perks of royalty. Many of his enemies took such a notion as a weakness. Many had regretted such a decision.
Still, the pressure was enormous, and as of late the Orc took to drinking whenever he could.

"I just hated that evil looking puppet," continued Lady Eilaria as she wrung her fist. "Sir Rogers, she called him.
Gods, she used it to tell all her stories. Truly the woman suffers from brain fever!"

The path began to climb a slight hill. Upon its crest stood a magnificent three story tudor style structure, the Tavern of the Night.

"My former Sword Master's name is Sir Rogers. Well, Master Rogers... and he looks like a puppet when out of his armor."

"I'm afraid to ask," said the King as he wondered what kind of conversation had he walked into. Above them an owl screeched loudly as it circled above.
The trio stopped and observed it. Owls were mostly nocturnal, and the group wondered what omen it held. They weren't alone. From edge of the woods
surrounding the tavern another figure studied the bird.

Soon the owl drifted out of sight and the group entered through the ornate double doors of the Tavern of the Night. Within were the rich aromas and sounds of a world class pub. Spring had come to Utopia Island after seven months of winter's harsh winds and snows. Now with the first thaw a new age of life and rebuilding had settle over the lands. Merchants, farmers, pioneers and soldiers of fortune were now on the move, many coming to the Tavern of the Night as their first stop to the open adventures that only providence knew.

Hails and well wishes greeted their king and fellow islanders. Kakashi made his way through the crowd and found a stool next to a fellow Orc whose name unfortunately, when translated into the common tongue, was Sir Dong. Telos and Eilaria found old friends who had just arrive, and made several new ones as well. The room was filled with people who wanted to be met, and those who wanted to be left alone; stangers who sat alone in booths, with hoods drawn, silently nursing their drinks. As the day wore on soon the Tavern was alive with the festivities of people healthy with life and hope. Elves, Dwarfs. Orcs, Fearies, Halflings and men dined and drank as one people. Dusk slowly came and still the walls of the pub echoed with laughter and the sound of clinking flagons and plates.

At the stroke of ten a tall, broad shouldered being walked into the tavern causing all to turn with tension on their faces. Perhaps it was the shadowed hood over his... its face, or the creak of worn leather and chain mail. Or perhaps it was the smell of blood. The figure stopped before the bar. A steel, spiked gauntlet cracked the oak surface with a hammer like blow as a voice issued form the hood. A voice like rusty nails being pulled form a coffin lid.

"Ale.. barkeep."

Turning the figure regarded the rest of the tavern.

"And death to any who would disturb me."

From under the hood, two challenging eyes regard the company. They were as black and cold as nail heads.