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A Nightmare in Cobalt

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Viren cast a furtive glance down the hall, to the left and to the right. Bodies were strewn across the floor, human and elf alike, the scene of the previous night's carnage. 

He knew there were more inside the King's chamber. Including the body of the King himself, which the physician was desperately trying to resuscitate at Viren's behest. "I can save the king," he had said to the doctor, "and bring his soul back to the world of the living. But he needs to be breathing first." And only moments before, Soren and Claudia had led the one surviving elf to the dungeons, Claudia passing off the broken end of his horn to her father. 

But Viren had already made good use of that appendage. The elves had no idea how much magic they carried within themselves, and how much they were wasting it.

He was alone now. Good. He looked down to the dead elf at his feet. The creature was a bit too tall for his needs, but he only needed the right person to see. Viren pulled a small empty vial from his robes, and clicked open his staff. He then knelt, and scooped up a small portion of the still-warm blood that lay pooling around the dead assassin. 

He crushed the vial in his hand, and lunar magic flowed from the vial, through him, and into his staff. Raw power, ready to be channeled how he saw fit. 

" Ecnirp eht ekil tsuj kool uoy. " The words flowed from his mouth, distorted and dark, the magic dripping down the staff as he tapped it to the fallen elf's forehead. The black tendrils wrapped themselves around the elf, and then sank into the body, leaving behind a perfect illusion. Brown hair, red scarf, five fingers, wide green eyes milking over with the pall of death, an ugly, gaping slash across the chest. Perfect.

The next part was harder. And really, it would pain him immensely to do such a thing to his friend - well, former friend. King. His ruler, as he'd been so rudely reminded a few hours prior. But any loyalty or love he felt for Harrow had withered rather abruptly. It was a cruel plan, yes, but that egg had to be recovered at all costs. And really, if Viren were smart he wouldn't bother with the next part. An empty throne was an opportunity. But first, he had to ensure the throne would stay empty, and... well. It wasn't an elegant plan, but why fight Opeli or Amaya or any of the other fools on the council for the title of regent when it would be MUCH easier to get a still-living Harrow to name him thusly?

He turned to the door, and schooled his expression into a mask of sorrow, before picking up the basket containing the two-headed soulfang serpent. The door opened, and the physician seemed surprised to see him there. 

"Oh! Lord Viren, I was just about to fetch you - King Harrow is barely clinging to life, but I was successful in coaxing his heart to beat once more. "

"Katolis will thank you for this miracle," said Viren, somber. He was then greeted by the king's pet, a green hawk named Pip, buffeting his head and face with its wings and screeching angrily. 

"Calm down, just a minute," snapped Viren at the bird, waving it away. He looked up to the doctor. "Um, Doctor... if you don't mind. There's another tragic death in the hallway. Perhaps it would be... wise, to move him somewhere a bit more appropriate than the floor outside the King's chambers."

The doctor peeked into the hallway, and stepped back, removing his glasses to run a hand down his face in sorrow. "Oh dear, the poor boy. I don't think I can revive him."

"I did not expect you to," said Viren, closing his eyes and looking down. "Please, leave me now with the King. I have to revive him, and then... break the news to him."

"Of course. I’ll clean up the boy and dress him for burial." The physician turned and locked the door.

Pip had flown to Harrow's body, which was raggedly breathing, but warm and living. The bird shrieked at him once more, staring at him with an accusing eye. 

"Oh, don't be like that," said Viren, voice tired.  "So you had to spend a few hours as a bird. At least you lived!"

The hawk screeched indignantly again, and danced in an angry circle on the king’s pillow. Viren sighed, and warily lifted the serpent from the basket, holding the writhing snake firmly behind each head. The last thing he wanted to was to be bitten by the thing. 

He held the serpent carefully, directing one head at the bird, and one at the king. The soulfang's eyes flashed green, and they sank their teeth into hawk and man at the same time. A brief second, a heartbeat's worth of time passed, and then Harrow gasped and opened his eyes.

Pip went limp, lifeless. 

Harrow coughed violently, doubling over in pain as he clutched the wound in his side. His breath rattled around his injured lung - successfully stitched up by the doctor, but still badly in need of time to heal.  Viren rushed to his side, trying to force him to lay down once more. 

"Go away , Viren" the king wheezed.

"I'm afraid I can't do that just yet."

Harrow narrowed his eyes. "Why not?" 

"There's... been a terrible tragedy. Prince Callum--"

Harrow tried to sit up once more, anger instantly melting to worry. "Callum? I... I heard him call out before the elves came, what happened?"

Viren let his shoulders sag, the perfect picture of grief. "He... came to speak with you before he and Ezran were to depart for the Banther Lodge. I tried to usher him away, but before I could do anything further, the elves attacked." He drew in a breath, pausing for effect.  "Prince Callum… didn’t escape in time."

"No..." Harrow's face crumpled. 

"And what's worse, I fear that Prince Ezran has been abducted by two of the assassins. They were last seen heading East."

Harrow lay back on the pillow, his eyes filling with tears. "My boys..." he said softly, voice hollow.

"My king," began Viren, kneeling at Harrow's bedside. "I swear to you, I will gather the finest forces in Katolis to find Ezran and avenge Callum. We will stop at--"

Harrow held up a hand, his breath hitching as he suppressed his grief. "Viren. Let a father mourn his sons in peace."

"I... of course, your majesty." Viren bowed, and retreated from the room as Harrow finally choked out a sob. Well out of Harrow's line of sight, he smiled wickedly to himself.  Perfect.