The mage scratched his head. There was no getting around it. The King was definitely dead. “I did not do that,” he said, pointing at the body, laying comfortably on the bed. There was no one else in the room. In fact there was no one else in the whole tower. There were still some traditions that these people kept.
They would come, of course. If the mage didn't show off the fully healed King within a day or so the Vizier would come looking for answers. “The fucking Vizier,” the mage groaned, running his hand over his frustrated face. The mage was some distant cousin of the Vizier. Despite everything, nepotism still had its place and while the two had never met before this, it would look good for the family when the mage healed the King from his long term malady.
“Necromancy,” the mage said, snapping his fingers, as if it was the most obvious answer to the problem. “Sure, why not. What else do I have to lose?” He looked around the room and frowned.
The Kings quarters were lavishly appointed. Large paintings hung on the wall and an ornate chandelier hung from the ceiling. A single door, tall and made from thick oak, was the only way out into the rest of the castle, and while the two of them were the only ones in the tower, the library was not. He sniffed and pinched his nose. “I’d fuck it up anyway,” he muttered, which was true. He knew well that being a successful necromancer took at least three lives to accomplish.
“Time?” he asked, peering out of the barred window that overlooked the steep drop all the way down to the ragged rocks of the cold, deep ocean below. “Turn back time and not open the door when that fuck came calling.” He shook his head again. “Agh, it doesn't even matter because this asshole will still die.”
He looked down at the King’s face. It was peaceful and his mouth had a slight smile; clearly the illness took him in his sleep and he didn't suffer.
“Tell the truth?” he said, stroking the small goatee he had grown. “I mean, some of them would believe me, right? Surely enough to keep me from the gallows.”
The mage wasn't a famous man. His magic had not done anything of any note, and there were definitely going to be others out there who would gun for him if they found out that some nobody spellcaster from the back end of nowhere got the job of healing the King.
“The truth is part one,” the mage said, nodding to himself. “No magic was used here, that should be obvious to anyone. Should mean I am left alive at least.”
Looking around the room, just to ensure there was nothing around that would make life worse for him, he exited and slowly started descending the stairs. It was a long way down to the bottom and he needed all that time and more to think of part two.
The Kings son would be a problem. The prince was only 12, but he was fiercely intelligent and had already grasped some of the finer points of ruling. All of his teachers were enthusiastic in their praise for the boy, and there was almost no chance of anyone recommending a regent should the King die prematurely.
The Vizier considered just killing the boy, but both of them dying this close together? That would stretch the bounds of imagination too much. No, there had to be another way to solve that problem.
The mage should have realised the King was dead by now, and the magical residue he had left in attempting to heal the illness would be all the evidence needed to pin the Kings death on him, tarnish his families name and leave the boy in charge. Then he would use his influence over the lad to have his own name changed, so to avoid the inevitable questions asked about his connection to the incompetent mage and he would then, as penance, exile himself. And he would be free. Free from this wretched family, free from serving this inane bloodline and free from any bonds being a part of the monarchy since his own birth had brought.
But the boy would be a problem. The Vizier would have preferred the daughter. Less intelligent than her brother, and less emotionally connected to the Vizier. She would not care what he did. She would also likely not care about her father either, such was her attitude towards life. Only a year younger than her brother, but already detached from the majority of her family. Aloof and quiet. She would have been a great Queen.
The Vizier paced and thought. He didn't have much time before the mage would report the death of the King.
The mage talked to himself quietly as he descended the final run of stairs and entered the long hall which connected the King’s private tower with the rest of the castle. Ahead of him, two large doors which opened into the main hall sat closed. On the floor, seated with his back against them, the young prince waited.
“Your highness,” the mage said sadly as he approached the boy.
“Is he ok?” the boy asked. In that moment, the mage forgot he was a prince, and only saw a frightened child waiting for news of his father.
“You shouldn't sit on the door like that,” the mage said, holding out his hand and helping the young prince to his feet. “It’s bad for you.”
“My father,” the boy said, his voice tightening and his eyes darkening, reminding the mage that the boy was much more than that. “Did I hurt him?”
“The King is,” the mage started, before realising what the boy had said. “Did you hurt him? What do you mean?”
“I took him a meal two days ago. I made it myself, without the supervision of the cook.”
The mage looked down at him. A voice spoke in the back of his head. A way out. A way to save face. “I-” the mage said.
“Did I hurt him?” the price repeated trying hard to not let his voice crack.
“I’m sorry,” the mage bowed his head. “The King had passed before I arrived. I cannot tell the cause of death, but I do not believe it to be the malady I was summoned to cure.”
“It was my food?” the boy asked.
“I was on my way to find the Vizier to explain. It very well may have been something to do with the food. It’s hard to say. Your doctors will be able to give a better idea of what happened.”
“I’ll get blamed.”
“You’re the Prince. No one can fault you.”
“The Vizier can. He doesn't like me. He will have me killed.”
“Not if you leave,” the mage said slowly. “Run away.”
“Where would I go?”
“Head north, into the wilds. There are many towns and some cities beyond the forests. You could make a good life up there.”
The Vizier peered out of the door and up the hallway. There was no one here either. He made his way up the stairs, calling for the mage and the King as he did. No answer. He arrived at the door to the Kings room and knocked. When no sound came from within, he opened the door and found the silent form of the former King still lying in bed with that slight smirk on his face. There was no sign of the mage.