Blood for Blood.

Prologue-Planning Revenge

Not many Underlanders knew what exactly had occurred in the cellar of the former Duchess's home. They knew that Captain Stayne's wife had been kidnapped and held prisoner, and that she had eventually been rescued after many days of imprisonment. They also knew that Stayne had taken a bloody revenge out on her kidnapper, but as to what exactly he did, the rumors were as varied and as macabre as they could be. Some said that Stayne cut the legs and arms off Lord Maxwell before blinding him and finally beheading him. Others maintained that he was cut to pieces by Stayne, and then the pieces flung outside to rot.

But one common theme ran through-they all agreed that whatever Stayne had done, it was justified. Lady Stayne was much loved throughout all of Underland for her kind disposition and strong will. She was also lauded as a marvelous healer, and many times had saved the life of an Underlander with her skill and knowledge of healing potions. The citizens also remarked on how fiercely loyal she was to Stayne. The young Lords of the White Court had been amazed that a man like Stayne could have won the heart of Alannah. When asked, she would merely smile and reply-"I saw what he truly looked like."

They had faced many obstacles, and come out of them stronger than before. Their daughter was spoiled rotten by all, but still kept the sweet disposition she had inherited from her mother. It was agreed by everyone that nothing horrid must ever happen to the Staynes ever again.

Unfortunately, this was not to be.

The man sat in a small tea shop in Witzend, his flat gaze taking in all the activity. He glanced impatiently at his watch. 2:30. He sighed in annoyance, and then turned at the sound of the door opening. He smirked, and then motioned to the person who had come in. The man who had entered walked quickly over to the table, sliding into the unoccupied chair. He spoke in a quiet voice, as if afraid of being overheard.

"I found out what you asked me to. The lady is married to Captain Ilosivic Stayne, and they have a three year old daughter. The lady is seldom apart from either, and rumor has it she is quite skilled with a blade. I doubt you'll be able to overpower her enough, Sir. Best to just forget about what happened." The man jumped in fright as his companion slammed his fist down on the table, eyes blazing in anger.

"Forget?! Captain Stayne committed a horrible crime on a noble Lord, and not only is he not condemned and imprisoned by the Queen, he is pardoned and praised. He should be subjected to horrible tortures, and from what has reached my ears, having his wife taken from him would be the most exquisite torture of all. Now, instead of telling me how it is impossible, perhaps you could tell me how I can manage."

"Well, she goes riding alone every day, at about three. But even then, she is armed with a dagger, and I've seen how skilled she is with it."

"Your negative attitude is not helping, Lieutenant. Perhaps you wish for me to double the payment I gave you in exchange for information." The man pulled a large purse out of his pocket, and Lieutenant James Carter gaped in shock.

"Put that away! Have you gone mad? Bad enough that I'm here-if someone should see me accepting that Captain Stayne would have my head! I agreed to give you information about Lady Alannah. I have done that. Whether or not you can use the information is of no concern of mine. I must be returning to Marmoreal. Farewell, Sir."

Carter stood to leave only to be stayed by his companion's hand resting lightly on his own. "Allow me to accompany you out, Lieutenant. Perhaps we can talk further out of the sight of these patrons."

Carter sighed. "Very well. But I will not change my mind."

They walked out of the shop, and Carter turned to his companion. "You may speak your piece, Sir. We will not be overheard."

He suddenly gasped in shock as he felt a sharp pain in his stomach. He looked down in amazed horror at the sword protruding from his stomach.

His companion, with a sardonic grin, suddenly yanked the sword swiftly out. "I don't appreciate negative people, Carter. You did not have the correct attitude. I have been planning my revenge for years, and nothing is going to stop me. Is that clear?"

Carter could only gurgle in reply. He slid to the ground, his life swiftly ebbing out.

The man watched impassively as he died, and then wiped his sword on the ground.

"Thank you for the information. I will be sure to use it."

He walked over to his horse, then mounted and rode off.