A Bad Omen
Gaius raced up the steps of Munemfort, paying little mind to the suffering of his feet on the freezing stone. The suffering of his son, Marcus, was all that mattered to him. Could fate be so cruel, to rob him of his heir the night before his transference? The consequences would be disastrous; his younger son Lucius was not ready to rule and wasn’t anywhere near as popular with the commonfolk as Marcus was. Though if one of his suspicions proved itself to be correct, they could be even more disastrous. As he rounded the top of the stairwell, he came across the antechamber to Marcus’ bedroom and study. Sitting in the antechamber was his son Lucius, laid out on a table with a bloodied bandage over his right thigh. Next to him, a priest, who he had not seen before, stood examining another injury, a cut to his arm. Upon seeing Gaius, the priest bowed to the Nemertingi.
“Father! Father! Me and Marcus; we were attacked, in the woods! They killed our guards, and they got Marcus good, will he-“ Lucius’ flurry of questions was cut short by a second stiff glare from his father.
"My Lord" the priest muttered deferentially "Your son, Lucius, seems to be in fair condition, given the nature of the attack. Marcus though is a different story" he stammered, seeming to choke on his words.
"Would you like a quick summary, or a more detailed going over of his condition?"
Gaius chuckled a grim laugh, the best that could be expected given the circumstances.
"The last time I was involved in the medical field was two generations ago, and I fear I have forgotten all I have learned. We can save the details for later"
The Priest nodded. “Certainly, my lord. Lucius was shot through his thigh and took a cut to the arm from a sword. The arrow missed any arteries, and the cut was only a flesh wound; he will be fine.”
Gaius breathed a sigh, though if it was of relief, sadness or regret, even he was not certain. “What of Marcus? The messenger told me to come quickly”. Lucius opened his mouth to speak at his quick dismissal, but was silenced by a stiff glare from his father.
The priest grimaced “Marcus seems to have been cut across the face by what I think was a short sword. The blade took out his left eye. His vision in his right, I have been informed, has been extremely poor since a riding accident some years prior. For all intents and purposes, he might as well be blind.”
Gaius drew a laboured breath upon hearing the news, though he sensed he was not finished hearing it. He looked at the priest, his piercing, almost luminous green eyes seemingly burrowing through the priest, looking at the very depths of his soul.
“Tell me more”
“He was stabbed through the back, with what I do not know. The blade seems to have punctured his right lung, and come out again straight through his chest. Withholding a miracle, he won’t live past the hour.”
As the priest said this, a wave of cries echoed up from the streets below. Gaius rushed to the window, only to see a great comet, slowly marching overhead, leaving a pale white trail behind it. Dozens had gathered by the Temple of the Seven, watching intently as it carved a path through the night sky. He knew this was the final day of the thousandth year of the First Era, began the day another comet had passed overhead, believed by many to have signalled the collapse of the Arcosian Empire. This could not be a coincidence.
“It’ll be seen everywhere” Gaius muttered to himself “Aiolia, Sucia, Kišaevin, Koh maybe as far as Almuride and Helios, and all across Ornthas. It’ll be seen everywhere. There’ll be chaos in the streets”. He strained his mind, trying to wade his way through the myriad of memories he had collected in his thousand years of consciousness, searching for some kind of memory of the previous comet. For all his efforts, he hit a brick wall about 200 years ago and received only a headache for his trouble. He sighed, he should have learned to stop looking back that far by now By this time, the priest looked thoroughly stumped.
“What is it, my lord?”
Gaius tried to play it cool “Oh, that? It’s… it’s nothing! Just some random comet. Think nothing of it, it’ll be forgotten in a few days”
The priest looked confused, but sought no further inquiries. “As I was saying, he won’t live past the hour, and he’s unconscious, though if you have anything you want to do, I would do it now.”
Gaius pondered this news for a while before arriving at a conclusion “No” he told the priest “There’s nothing I can do for him now. I don’t wish for my last memories of my son to be of him like you described: unconscious, broken and bloodied on a bed” The priest nodded. The Nemertingi turned to Lucius, his eyes burrowing into him like they had done to the priest. Both father and son found it hard to read the other’s expression.
“We will speak of this in the morning. In the meantime, I'll head back to my chambers. My plans will have to change.” Lucius nodded.
Gaius strode back out of the antechamber to the stairs, though this time stilted, and slower than before. As he descended the stairs, the priest checked on Marcus, and as Gaius opened the doors to his chambers, and as the comet began to disappear over the horizon, the priest watched as Marcus’ breathing changed from a nearly inaudible whisper to a silent calm.