They wandered into the flickering light, each of them coming together around the brightly glowing campfire. Each of them came with a mission, their countenance solemn as they greeting the others with a nod. Each of them stood looking around them at the other, familiar faces, cast golden by the flames. Without a word they sat in a circle around the campfire, continuing to take in the sight of the others as if seeking to memorize the already well known features.

After several minutes of solitude, one of the men straightened from an easy slouch, clearing his throat to capture the attention of the rest of the gathering. It was unnecessary, as the others looked at him with an air of expectation. This man would put their mission into action, giving them direction as no other could.

"You all know why we're here. I assume that you each have brought with you what you wish to share with this gathering." He was answered by murmurs of agreement and the nodding of heads. "On this night, we will share our stories with one another. Each of you will be given the chance to weave your tale... each of you will be given the chance to listen to these tales. Are we agreed in this?"

All but one member of the gathering nodded in agreement. That one, the youngest, looked around with eyes widened in fear. "But... what if the stories are too... too scary?"

A compassionate smile on his face, one of the others offered, "These are only stories... nothing bad will happen to you... to any of us."

"Do you promise?"

Blue eyes crinkling with gentle humor, the bigger man said, "I promise. Nothing will happen to you... I will make certain of it."

Relaxing the small one said, "all right then... I agree."

The corners of his wide mouth quirking up, the leader said, "All right then, we're all in agreement."

"Who's going to begin?"

Scanning the faces of the others, the leader of the gathering said, "I'll begin....

"The story I will relate takes place in a time when men and women were fighting to bring the world under their control. Rather than learning to work together with the forces around them, they insisted upon mastering those forces. It was a time of violence and bloodshed, and justice rested upon the strongest man.

"In this world were men of honor and courage, who sought to set things right whenever they could.

"My story concerns three such men. They are men who not only epitomized honor and courage, but men who valued the friendship of the others above all else. They are brave and fearless men. Brave and fearless, that is, until they come face to face with things beyond their understanding..."