Prologue: A Suitable End

After nineteen long and frustrating years of hard work, Captain Barrett's quest was nearly done. Another half-hour - maybe an hour at most - and the beast who had murdered his daughter would be finally, safely, dead.

Dead at last, and justice served: the Captain's pistols and dagger would see to that...

The moon was up now, and the lightly frozen ground crunched beneath his feet. Walter (how long had it been since anyone had called him by his own given name?) smiled: the moonlight made the going easier and he liked the moon … 'twas like seeing the fat, comforting face of an old friend.

The smile faded as the Captain drew his thoughts back to the job at hand. The man he sought had had the devil's own luck over the years, but finally had gone one mistake too far.

What could have possessed him to return to the scene of his old crime? Desperation? Carelessness? Maybe a mistaken belief that all had been forgotten?

It didn't matter. Tonight the Everglot wedding feast would be attended by an extra guest and Walter's long search, along with the prolonged miserable life of this so-called 'Lord' Barkis, would come - at last - to a suitable end.

It wouldn't be much longer now … from across the valley the Captain could see the lights of the village and the outline of the old stone church.

Then something rippled across the disk of the moon and a face came into his mind - one that he hadn't seen for a long, long time.

The face of a dear one lost to him these nineteen lonely, empty years.

"Emily..." he whispered.