The throne room was bare, the hoard of the red dragon having been moved some time ago to more secure accommodations. Wide swaths of light poured through the arched windows, framing a table in the center of the room. Ahalo Stormborn sat at its head, flanked by Rungnar the Farseeing and Sevra. Across from him sat the wizened form of a very old man in magnificent robes.
Archmage Coronus Melseri was the very definition of ancient. His robes seemed to swallow him whole, and his wrinkles threatened to suffocate him. He had long, pointed ears, longer than any Elf Ahalo had ever seen. His eyes, however, burned a bright blue that gave the indication that the Archmage was still very much alive and very powerful.
“You know why I’ve called you here, yes?” Ahalo’s voice cut through the silence, bouncing off the walls.
“Yes, yes. Nasty business, this all was. They’ve surrendered, though. There is no doubt that you are recognized as the ruler of Wyrmroost, as the Stormborn clan has always rightfully been.”
Ahalo sighed and surveyed the old man. “Your mages tried to kill not only myself, but others who worked toward my success. This is not to be taken lightly, Archmage Melseri.”
The two men locked eyes and sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity. A servant’s approaching footsteps caused them to look up.
“Tea, sirs?” The young woman offered a cup to each of the men, who took them and nodded in gratitude. The Archmage raised the cup shakily to his lips and sipped, giving a warm smile to the servant as she left.
Coronus sat his cup upon its saucer and leaned forward. “King Stormborn, I do not take this lightly, I assure you. An all out attack on the King, why, it’s unheard of! The mages responsible have been dealt with and I will be cracking down on our rules and self-governance. This kind of thing won’t happen again.”
Ahalo nodded. “You’re right. It won’t. What the Arcanum did is the highest form of treason, Archmage Melseri. I should have every one of your students put to death.”
Coronus clucked, waving a hand dismissively. “It was a misunderstanding, put down without more than a little fuss! Death is too cruel a punishment for them. Think of their families, my lord!”
“Think of the families of my men your people killed. Should they be placated with such talk? Will they see this is a little misunderstanding? What kind of message would it send if the King of Wyrmroost allowed the Archmage that killed her sons to flee back into his tower?”
A loud bang reverberated around the room as Archmage Melseri sprung to his feet, arcane energy crackling around his fingertips.
“You mean to threaten me, human? You threaten ME with death?”
Ahalo stood as well, and spoke with just as much conviction.
“I do not make threats, Archmage, I pass judgements. You are guilty of treason. Your students are guilty of treason. Therefore, I give you a choice. Your students may pay the price of treachery…or you do.”
Archmage Melseri froze for a moment, then began to laugh. “You jest. You know that killing me will bring ruin to you and this city? She will see and SHE. WILL. ACT.” He spit these words at Ahalo, then clutched his chest and rasped for breath.
Shaking his head, Ahalo began slowly walking to the other side of the table. “You think me frightened of some old woman caught in her fever dreams? Surely YOU jest. Now, Archmage, who will pay the price?”
Archmage Melseri narrowed his eyes at the King and spoke, every word dripping with venom. “You cannot kill me, you short-lived fool. I have lived your lifetime a hundred times over and I will live it a hundred times more! You are a mouse threatening a dragon. Death threats…bah! A mortal daring to threaten one of the last-”
Ahalo slammed the table with a fist. “I wouldn’t give a damn if you were Pelor himself, Arkadan. You can die just like everyone else. Would you rather sacrifice them, then?”
The Archmage snarled, electrical energy bouncing between his fingertips. “You’re wrong. You can’t kill us. It’s in the Pact. No mortal magic can kill us, and I don’t think you a God.”
Ahalo frowned, shaking his head at the old man. “No…I’m not. I also don’t need to be.”
Before the Archmage could respond, Sevra’s form appeared behind him. A blade flashed and plunged into the chest of Archmage Melseri. The mage screamed as the poison did its gruesome work. Coronus had a look of disbelief frozen on his face as he fell, and his body slumped limply against the marble.
Rungnar growled, then spoke. “Were you telling the truth, little King? Will the others be spared?”
Ahalo nodded, not taking his eyes off the corpse of one of the last living Arkadans. “The rest will be spared. We will institute a council of mages, ones loyal to us. This will never happen again.”
Sevra cleaned her blade, stowing it at her side. “Were ya really not afraid? I dunno if she be real, but da Empress could be a scary ting ta be messin’ with.”
Ahalo shook his head, turning his head sharply to the doorway of the chamber. “I was more afraid of seeing someone like her.”
All eyes turned upward to the woman striding across the marble, the sound of her footsteps snapping like gunshots. She was dressed finely in black silk, accentuating her beautiful figure. A long cloak and scarf wrapped around her, ink black and ruffling with feathers. Her face was pale except for face paint that blacked her eyes and mouth. She held out a hand, causing the Archmage’s limp body to rise and float gently to her.
As the corpse neared, she took it into a loving embrace. She looked at King Ahalo Stormborn, and smiled. “The Pact is broken, mortal. The Resurgence is nigh.” At this, she gently kissed the cold lips of Archmage Coronus Melseri and disappeared in a cloud of jet-black feathers and the cawing of birds.
The King stood in silence for a very, very long time.