Pure pandemonium reigned in the great hall as the Althair Catafracts and Trynal guards had drawn their weapons and began their slaughter. Fire is breaking out across the city in what appears to be a well-planned attack to wipe the kingdom of Bysynth off the map.
Davik was horrified to see his father, Lord Hyram Windblade, fighting against the Bysynthian court. Davik cried out above the din, “Father! What is this?!?!” Pausing in his carnage, Hyram gave his son a savage grin then yelled back, “Vengeance! Come join me!” Shaken to his core, the son watched as his father resumed slaughtering those in attendance.
Despite her horror, Nephelle was adulated to see her father, the king, though having taken a Catafract fist through his chest, make feeble attempts to rise and join the fight. She watched as those attempts weakened and he fell to his side, blood pouring from his chest. Looking at her, his hand raised to a fine chain around his neck, and he pulled a key from under his tunic. Nephelle moved toward him but was blocked by Brand. She glared at him then realized she had been about to run unprotected into a massacre. She cast a spell of invisibility on herself, and Brand spoke into what appeared to be empty air, “Are you sure you want to do this?” His arm was flung aside and she replied emphatically, “Yes!”
She slipped through the crowd, ducking blood-drenched blades and knelt at her father’s side. She whispered their safe word in his ear and explained her invisibility. The king nodded, then held out the key in a bloody fist. When her hand touched his to take it, he grabbed it with his other. Faintly, he commanded, “Protect the scrollcase at all costs!” He gave one last sputtering cough then his body went limp.
Invisible tears streaming down her face, Nephelle knelt there, weeping for the loss of her father and for a great king. Behind her, a group of Trynal guards approached the stage, weapons drawn. One of them slashed at Dreyhan, who nimbly moved aside, then struck back with a savage thrust of his hand. The cartilage in the man’s throat crumpled and he dropped to the ground. Next to him, Davik swung his two-handed sword and cut through one of his guardsmen. Dreyhan stepped on the fallen body and jumped through the air at another, wrapping his feet around the guard’s head and twisting as they fell together. There was an audible snap and only the wolfan rose to his feet. His face hardened against the emotions ravaging below the surface, Davik parried with another guard then finished him off with a quick thrust through the chest. Dreyhan deftly dodged another blade aimed at him, and slashed out with his claws. The guard’s head tore free and rolled off the stage.
Nephelle had to jump over the rolling head but yelled at her friends, “It’s time to go!” They all fell back to the throne, behind which they knew of a secret exit. Davik was the last to enter, taking in the carnage before him. Catafracts were causing massive damage to everyone they encountered and they seemed to be an unstoppable force. Magic just washed over them, and well-forged blades bounced off their armor. His father was cutting down people left and right. In his anger, Davik drew his handaxe and yelled, “Father! The bond between us is severed! I stand by the princess!” He threw the axe and it spun end over end across the room. His eyes wide, Hyram twisted to one side, the blade of the axe passing brushing his face as it flew past. When Hyram looked back to the stage, it was empty and his son was nowhere to be found.
Brand led the way through the passages, a torch held aloft. They went to alert the Praetorian Guard, but found them all slaughtered in their room. They made their way up the staircase to the second floor and hesitated outside the hidden door to the king’s chamber. Nephelle could detect some sort of arcane magic on the other side and Dreyhan could hear a faint thumping, like someone trying to break through a door. They opened the secret door and entered the room. Dreyhan watched as the metal door on the opposite wall moved in tandem with the thumps. He went to the desk in the middle of the room and pushed it in front of the doors for added support, then turned and looked at the rest of the room.
There was a large bed along the wall they emerged from and the side walls were lined with bookcases. Apart from the desk, the only other piece of furniture in the room was a suit of arms in a corner. Nephelle moved around the room, tracking down each trace of magic she could sense. A dagger on one of the bookcases had a shimmering aura around it, and she also found five potions, two of which appeared to be healing potions. She stood in front of a painting of her mother and realized that both her parents were now gone. She had stood in front of this painting countless times, but this was the first time her eye was caught by a slender reflection on the edge. Looking closer, she realized it was a hinge. She swung the painting to the side and could make out a faint outline of a hidden panel behind it. She pricked her hand and put her blood on the panel, but nothing happened.
While she was examining the panel, Dreyhan took a closer look at the suit of arms. The crest on the breastplate looked like it had a slight indentation in the center of it. He called Nephelle over, and she inserted the key her father had given her. There was a soft click behind them, and the panel slid open to reveal the scrollcase, a book, and a gem. Both the book and the gem gave off a magical presence, so Nephelle grabbed them as well as the scrollcase.
The thumping stopped for a moment, and the edges of the metal door began glowing red hot. The secret passageway beckoned to them, and they darted into it. Just as the door closed behind them, they heard a large crash in the king’s chamber and a Trynal accent bark out, “Take anything, take everything!” They scurried down the passageways and stopped at Nephelle’s room. They heard it being ransacked and decided to depart the castle instead. Nephelle paused to say one last prayer for her father before they set off down the passageways to meet at the rendezvous point.