Chapter 1:

Chapter 1


The dim sun peaked through the stain glass windows of the castle's keep. Particles of dust fluttered, and cobwebs danced in a gentle breeze. The throne room was softly lit by the embers of flickering torches. Wooden beams creaked and stone walls stood silent. A row of armored guards lined the edges of the throne room and its adjacent royal halls. A large wooden throne sat in the center of the back wall of the chamber, draped in tattered cloths. And of course, sitting upon this throne was Lancaster, King of Ethros. To his left was his royal advisor, and to his right was his Jester.

"Sire." The advisor started, approaching the king. "Shall I read you today's notes?"

"You may." Lancaster grunted. The advisor cleared his throat.

"On this day, our census has noted that approximately 652 people have died from the blight yesterday."

"It's spreading faster. What about the infection rate?"

"Well, you see sire, the number of people becoming plaguebound is so staggering that we have ultimately decided to cease our efforts in documenting the rate of infection." Lancaster groaned, shifting in the throne he was confined to.

"What else?"

"Let's see... the Council of Alchemy and Magery has requested additional land for spell training. The Royal Guard needs more funding to replace worn equipment. Um, it looks as if a member of the Posy division of our field medics has been quarantined due to suspected infection, we should start looking for a replacement..." The advisor continued. Lancaster sighed, rubbed his old eyes, and stroked his long grey beard.

"Can't you give me any good news, advisor?" The advisor gulped and scanned through his documents, flipping through pages and pages of Ethros' downfall.

"Ah! Here we are!" He cleared his throat once again. "Grimwald will be coming in for an urgent meeting today."

"Grimwald, Grimwald... the name is familiar. Remind me again, who is he?"

"A member of our Lavender division. He fled from Strathum when the blight ravaged their town." A loud knock echoed off the oak doors and through the throne room. "Speak of the devil! That must be him now. You may enter!" The large doors creaked open, and a cloaked figure marched forth. His dress covered and concealed him from head to toe. Gloves, long pants, a hood and coat, and his most striking feature: a white mask, vaguely resembling a bird. His shoes clacked against the cold hard ground before coming to a halt in the center of the room. He knelt down to the ground, lowering and resting his head upon his knee.

"I thank you for this opportunity, Lancaster." Spoke Grimwald in a deep, hoarse voice.

"It serves no problem my boy; but do speak up. I feel more hard of hearing these days."

"Of course." Grimwald said, elevating his voice slightly. "If I may ask, where is your better half?"

"The Queen? The Missis is out fetching me my medicinal elixir. A swig a day helps keep me long for this world, ha ha!"

"Indeed... maybe we should reschedule? I'd hate to divulge such important information with royal family absent."

"Nonsense! You went through the trouble of climbing up all those flights of stairs! I'll catch madam up when she returns. Now! What was it you wanted to discuss, Grimwald?"

"It's about the plague, Lancaster. I just wanted to express my confidence in the disease's development." Lancaster looked down at his advisor, then back at Grimwald in confusion.

"How do you mean?" He asked.

"It is my belief, and professional opinion, that we have the plague under control. We're in the end game now of this pandemic. I wanted to let you know so you don't accidentally waste any more resources on this issue."

"It was my impression that the plague was getting worse, Grimwald. So how do you say it's getting better?"

"The increase you are seeing is just the postmortem twitch of a lost animal. Trust me, no further action is required."

"Well, although odd, I have no reason to disbelieve you. You are part of our kingdom's trusted field medic brigade! Besides, our lab medics almost the cure ready anyway, so either way this nightmare is almost over."

"Cure?" Grimwald's head shot up. Panic and concern washed over his face, although no soul could see under that mask.

"Yes! Our finest surgeon, Elizabeth, has been working on a cure for some time now. She reported to me not too long ago that her work was almost finished, how exciting!"

"May I go inspect her work, Lancaster?"

"What a wonderful idea! You two should exchange notes! With both of you on the same page and with both of your efforts, this blight of ours will be gone before we realize!" Grimwald stood up and made his exit. No words. No acknowledgement. Just a burning will and desire.

Elizabeth worked diligently in the castle's laboratory. A vast assortment of bottles and vials rested on her workbench. Tools dipped into baths of sanitizer and cleaner. Small fires burned gently, kindled to help heat special concoctions. Elizabeth brushed her curls back behind her ears, keeping all of her focus on her work. That is until the laboratory door swung open.

"Lady Elizabeth, I presume?" Elizabeth spun around to greet her visitor, a warm smile on a soft face. Her lilac dress twirled in the air with such elegance and beauty. She was the spitting image of pure innocence.

"That's me! And who might you be?"

"Grimwald of the Lavender division. It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Likewise! And to what do I owe this visit?"

"I was informed that you were on the cusp of a scientific breakthrough. One that might change the course of our history. I was hoping that I could observe your progress on the plague's cure. Seeing how we are both medical professionals it seems only logical."

"Yes, yes of course!" Elizabeth enthusiastically turned back to her work. "I've been experimenting with different combinations of our currently used flora with solutions of healing potions and any other elixirs or liquids we have!"

"Fascinating." Grimwald slowly approached Elizabeth, peering over her shoulder.

"We've been testing our mixtures on rats infected with the plague. Posy, rose, and mint mixed with your average healing potion seems to be the best combination so far. It's a very slow cure and it doesn't seem to always work but I can just feel we're getting close!" Elizabeth gushed on and on. She went into great detail about her work, her process, her results, everything. Her love and passion shone through her words. She seemed so happy just to have the opportunity to do this great work. It was clear at least one person in the lab had Ethros' best interests at heart. Elizabeth continued ranting until she felt a prick on the back of her neck. She smacked where she felt the pain. "Ow! What was that?"

"Oh it was nothing but a mosquito, my dear." Grimwald said, wiping a scalpel on his robe. "The poor thing was too absent minded to numb your neck beforehand. He must've been just as captivated with your words as I have."

"Oh you're too kind!" Elizabeth blushed.

"There's nothing to worry about, I highly doubt it drew any blood before you swatted it away. Now I must get going, it's my turn to stuff the masks for the rest of the doctors. Our epidemic might be over soon but not yet."

"Then I won't keep you. But you don't have to wear your mask inside, Grimwald, the castle is very clean and safe." Elizabeth reassured.

"I'd prefer to keep it on, thank you." He responded coldly. Once again Grimwald made a hasty and silent exit, leaving Elizabeth alone with her work. The doctor worked for another moment or two when she had to pause. An uneasy feeling rested inside her stomach, a particularly... sickening feeling.