Lillitha of Darkhaven, the Maestra of Mistery, put her hands on her hips and sighed. Spread-eagled on a lumpy mattress before her lay the ravaged body of what had been, relatively recently, Prince Nonpareil, barbarian king-to-be of the Western Wilds. On either side of her were ranged her compatriots in evil – Mistress Mori, wife of the spreading dark; Eveanizae, Hetaera of Hell; Bal-Shebal, the ruiner of realms; Lady Derisive, green-skinned and grumpy; and Aethelreada ‘the always-ready’ of Azizar. In a corner sniveled a pimple-faced lad of about thirteen – the recently deceased’s stable boy. It was he who’d found the body and raised the alarm.
* * *
Strangely, despite the superb reputation and supposed popularity of the Starving Stag, most of the neighboring tables that evening had been empty. Lillitha was reasonably confident that the unfilled chairs had something to do with the fact that she and her friends had descended unexpectedly upon the little tavern earlier in the day, and spent several raucous hours bemoaning the state of the omniverse over bottles of pestilential wine. In any event, they’d seen the stable boy – Burp or Fart or whatever absurd name he’d been assigned by Prince Nonpy – scuttle by earlier carrying a tray heaped with food and a foaming jug. Mori had recognized him instantly, admitting after a little prodding that she’d seduced Nonpy a few months before as the second phase in her scheme to open a portal to the seventh daemon dimension in Farkar, capital city of the Western Wilds.