Travelling from the capital to the Warlord's summer palace, the carriage carrying the warlord's mistress and her escort had stopped to spend the night in the safety of one the realm's coastal forts. Sadly, it was also the night that a savage band of marauding Moorish pirates, intent on pillaging the coastal villages, attacked.

Vanessa awoke to the terrifying sounds of battle, the crash of swords upon shields, the screams of the wounded and the dying. Moments later the door to her chamber crashed open as the captain of her escort and his four heavily armed men rushed into the room. Leaving his men to guard the door, the captain rushed to Vanessa's bedside and with no pretense of insuring her modesty, threw back the covers and boldly took her in his arms.

"My Lady, there is not time for you to dress, we must escape at once. Those Moorish devils have already breached the fortress walls and are slaughtering the heavily outnumbered garrison as we speak. If they capture the main gates before we can make good our escape…"

The trip through the burning fortress was like a scene from hell, everywhere Vanessa looked there was only death and destruction, the dead mutilated bodies of the garrison lying in pools of their own blood. The Moors were everywhere and my escort had little choice but to fight their way through the burning corridors that led toward the main gate. By the time we'd reached the south tower stairwell, that led directly down to the fortress's outer courtyard and the main gate, all but one of my escort had fallen in battle. But their noble sacrifice had been for naught. The Moorish pirates already controlled the outer courtyard and main gate. Escape was impossible.

Barricading the heavy door that opened into the fortress's outer courtyard, my one remaining escort paused with a look of sadness in his eyes to take me into his arms.

"I'm sorry Lady Vanessa but we're too late and escape is now impossible. And sadly, my only remaining duty is to keep you from falling into the hands of the warlord's enemies."

In shock, Vanessa looked up into the eyes of her one remaining escort as the meaning of his words sank in. An instant later the razor sharp blade of his dagger entered just below her sternum and slipped effortlessly upward toward her heart.