Vius had never found a liking for parties. Especially not the grand affairs that were balls, with their fancy garb and mindless chatter. He stood on the edge of the room, watching his master waltz with a noblewoman. Lady Winella, if he recalled correctly.
The music carried the dancers back and forth across the dance floor, and Vius kept a keen eye on his lord. The man put on a good show, but was an unfortunate victim to a weak constitution. Why the king sent Faioch Arguros of all people to mediate on her behalf, Vius was uncertain.
It wasn’t as if the man could sway the queen of Atlavion with his looks, Faioch did not possess such a gift. He wasn’t a politics man, either, having spent most of his life tucked away with an array of books. Just what had His Majesty been thinking, Vius pondered to himself, watching the dancing.
“Care to share a dance?”
The question interrupted his thoughts. Vius glanced away from the revelry to regard a shapely woman dressed in emerald. While her eyes matched the dress, her hair was a deep shade of crimson, a color Vius was sure had been achieved unnaturally. He shook his head, looking back at the dancing. “I offer my apologies, miss…?”
He trailed, hoping to pair a name with the person. The woman flashed a smile, rouge-painted lips parting wide. “Talith,” she said, taking a few steps closer. Vius gave her another look, blue eyes catching sight of an arm taking hold of his own.
“But, ah,” she added, encouraged by his lack of protest. “Most gentlemen I meet call me “fun”.”
She giggled at the joke, Vius not returning the mirth. “If you would excuse me, Miss Talith,” he said, disentangling himself from her grip, “I have matters to attend to elsewhere. Do have a good evening.”
Talith’s smile fell into a frown, and she heaved a sigh as Vius walked away. Vius paid it no mind, scanning the dancefloor for Lord Arguros. It was beginning to slowly empty as the song drew to an end, though some couples remained to wait for the next one. Vius spied the noble sitting at a table on the other side of the room, Lady Winnella seated beside him. Content with the knowledge that his master was in good hands for the time being, Vius slipped through the throng of people to the large set of double doors on one side of the room. They served as the main entry into the grand hall, and Vius slipped through them silently.
It was time to get to work.
Tal was already inside, if everything was going to plan. Larym sighed, looking out across the rooftops towards the clocktower that loomed tall in the center of the city. It was almost midnight. Rasmar was supposed to meet her there over two an hour ago, and Larym’s feet were beginning to fall asleep. What in the Nine Circles was keeping that blasted dwarf?
The sudden noise in the quiet startled the girl, and she looked around wildly, searching for the source of the sound. If a castle guard decided to include the balconies in their route, Larym could look forward to spending the next several years in the palace dungeons. Spying a short figure in the shadows, she relaxed, shaking her head.
“Stars, you give people a fright,” Larym said, rising from where she’d been sitting since sunset. Rasmar chuckled.
“Must be ’cause I’ve still got talents,” he said. Larym replying with a snort.
“More like ’cause your face looks like it met a mu and lost,” she added, setting off across the balcony. The door they wanted was a few balconies over, and Larym hopped up on the railing.
Perching a moment, she jumped to the next railing and waited for Rasmar. Expecting she would need to catch the dwarf, Larym held a hand out. The stout form sailing across the railing came as a surprise, and Larym turned to regard the grinning man. Letting her arm fall back to her side, the pair continued across, until they reached their destination.
No light shined through the glass doors, but the bedroom was easily seen through the curtains that only half-covered them. The room’s occupant was either away or asleep, Larym couldn’t tell. A finger prodded her in the side and she took a step back to let Rasmar work his magic. Though Larym was a cutpurse for hire, and good at not being seen, she possessed no skill when it came to locks This was where the dwarf came in. He was a legend among burglars and thieves, and pulling a job on the palace required the best.
The latch clicked quietly, and Rasmar pushed it open a small fraction. The pair listened for the sounds of sleep, but decided after several moments that there was no worries of waking anyone.
“Ladies first,” Rasmar said, extending his arm into the room. He waited for Larym to enter before following her, closing the door behind them both.
The room was decorated in vibrant shades of blue, though the colors seemed much more muted in the darkness. Larym scanned the room, searching for where she thought a noble might keep the treasure she planned to grab.
“I’ll check the wardrobe over here,” Rasmar said, approaching the wooden cabinet standing on one side of the room. Larym gave a nod.
“Alright,” she began, spying a wooden box on the desk on the opposite end of the room. “I’ll check over here.”
He walked quickly down the hallway, the only sound that of his footsteps on the stone floor. It was unlikely anyone would be up here, not with the party still going full swing downstairs. Well, no one but the prince, that is. At such a late hour, a child his age would be tucked away, fast asleep.
Vius came to a halt in front of one of the many doors, the lock offering little trouble. Making his way inside, he shut the door behind him. A quick sweep of the room, and his gaze settled on the little bed sitting against the adjacent wall. A curly haired boy slept soundly beneath pristine sheets, the head of a stuffed bear sticking out from the blankets. For a moment, Vius watched the boy silently.
It was not the child’s fault things came to such a result as this. His father just had a very powerful enemy, and orders were orders. If Vius had a choice in the matter, he would prefer letting the boy dream his dreams.
Pulling a dagger from beneath his clothes, Vius stepped toward the bed.
“I pray I am not leaving you in nightmares,” he whispered, gently stroking the child’s auburn curls. Gripping the dagger tightly, Vius’s fingers tightened around the hair in his hand. The blade’s song was short. Once the deed was done, he wiped it clean on the rapidly reddening bedcovers and replaced the dagger in its sheath. With a small sigh, he turned on his heel and departed.
Out in the hall, he had barely taken a step when he heard a loud crash. Jumping, he stilled, half-afraid it would be an unfortunate soul out to discover his crime. Silence fell, Vius holding his breath as the seconds ticked by.
“I don’t think anyone heard that,” came the muffled voice. It sounded like it was behind one of the other doors. Vius crept closer, pressing his ear against the wood in an effort to better hear.
“Alright, then let’s get out of here. We got what we came for,” said a second voice. That one sounded female. Vius knitted his brow together in concern. No one was supposed to be up here, and, he realized, this was Lord Faioch’s room. As far as he was aware, Lord Faioch was still downstairs. So, who was behind the door?
Grabbing the key from his pocket, he pushed it into the lock. The sound drew the attention of those inside the room, and alarmed whispering began.
“Someone’s coming,” the woman said. “Quick, quick, let’s get out of here!”
Vius frowned, barging into the room in the hope of catching whatever thieves had decided to pay them a visit in the act. Running out onto the balcony was a brunette girl and a red headed dwarf, both of whom seemed startled by his sudden entry. Catching sight of what the girl had clutched in her thin hands, Vius went wide eyed in shock.
“The elfstone,” he muttered in surprise, staring at the gray rock Larym held tightly. It was etched with an array of symbols, which glowed a dull green. Breaking from his shocked stupor, Vius ran towards Larym and Rasmar. “You can’t, you don’t know what you’re doing!”
A boom rocked the room as Vius crossed the center. Smoke filled the chamber quickly, obscuring the man’s vision. He paused, waiting for the room to clear some before dashing across to the glass double doors. Larym and Rasmar had already vanished, as Vius stepped outside. With his ears still ringing, he looked out across the city, towards the ivory moon hanging in the sky.