Blood was coughed forth, warm and scarlet red, while the cold winds of the night howled against the shrouded world and all in its path. Trees shivered and swayed, as they whined at the cold that burrowed into their bark. Faint flakes of snow and ice accentuated the cold and fell on slated roofs and those that guarded them. Though, for what strength and defense a holy structure could bear, it was defenseless against the blight that had already burrowed within.
Incomprehensible mumbles filled the halls, and shadows danced on the walls. From those of humble origins who simply served, to those born into silver and gold, conjecture and doubt reigned. Yet, for the congregation that gathered, there was one group among them that seemed different, both for where they stood and the role they played; the physicians.
“Where is Janos?” Tomas asked, throwing his dark eyes and messy hair on the figures he could see with cautious glances. His arms hung from his sides like ropes, tired muscles struggling at the thought of so much as a wave.
“That’s not important,” Peter, his fellow physician replied, scratching his fair hair and trying to wipe off the grease and sweat that was endlessly proliferating his face. “We need a plan, before our heads are on pikes.”
“We need Janos, where is he?” Tomas asked again.
“He is with the Queen, again…” Peter replied with a nervous demeanor; once more wiping his nose and rubbing off the filth on his sleeve. “Keep your voice down, before you get us killed. And help me think. We need a plan.”
“He is with the Queen at a time like this, even though the King is—?” Tomas began to ask, though before he could, he was interrupted by the presence of another who forced a shiver up his spine.
“The King is what?” A man by the name of Istvan demanded to know, marching towards the door they loitered before and throwing off the flakes of ice and snow that clung to him. He stood taller than both men, his thick neck stretching from the large, but richly ordained body below. Fine fabrics of rich colors called any eyes that wandered, though it was the opulence that came in the form of gold and silver that kept it. Yet, for all the gold and silver, it could only do so much to keep eyes off his thin mustache and combed over dark hair. “Go on, speak, I haven’t got all night!”
“My lord!” The two physicians said, in a panicked unison as they bowed.
“Did I ask you to lick my boots?” Istvan asked with a tumultuous tone. “Answer my question, now. Or so help me, you very well will know what I stepped in when you lick them.”
The two physicians stole a glance to one another, silently holding a conversation with their wrinkles and eyes. “My lord—” Tomas began, though quickly trailed off and bit the inside of his own cheek.
“The King… The King—” Peter added with nervous uncertainty, though he could not finish other than with a faint weak mumble. “The King…”
“I suppose I should go and see for myself!” Istvan proclaimed. “You two going to wait out here while the man you’re here to see goes unchecked?” He demanded to know, pressing past them. “Get out of my way and get back to work!”
“Right…” both mumbled.
With a hard push that threw open the door, Istvan strode into the room. It was a crowded space, the furniture and decorations lost to the mob of nobles that occupied it. Whispers filled the scene, seeming to advance and retreat, much like the waves of the tide. With nods and glares, and a half dozen daggers behind every smile, Istvan was quick to distinguish friends from foes. Though it was the King that called his attention, as it did everyone.
On a bed alone, lay the man they had all been summoned to see, the man whose blood and authority held the Kingdom in place. Yet, at that moment he was all but drained. His skin was pale, drenched by sweat, the hairs from his head clinging to his skin and doing little to hide his sickliness. Drool hugged the pillows, and the indignities of his own body lay apparent by smell alone. His eyes, when opened, held a look of pain that glazed over all sight in his view, while the panted breaths of his lungs raised his chest in a manner that screamed of what was to come.
In the company of the whispers, Istvan took a knee besides the bed, though quickly shuffled over when a wetness pressed against him.
“Sorry,” Peter said softly, as he returned to his post and glanced at a piss bucket. “I spilled some… Something there earlier.”
Istvan scowled ignoring the comment and smell as best as he could, while turning his attention to the task that lay just out of hand. With a reach, he extended his arm and opened his hand to clasp the limb of the King he served.
“My King?” he asked softly, though to no audible reply, as the mumbles of a groan were all that left the royal lips. “My King?” Istvan asked again much to the same result. With a sigh, he rose and turned to his fellow nobles, though not before ordering the physicians in a manner to gain praise. “The two of you, get back to work.”
With quick movements, Tomas and Peter hurried to either side of the bed and began their tasks once again. They brought forth a multitude of objects and dried plants, waving to one another with discreet orders. Though, time and time again they turned their eyes to their books for guidance, each page revealing the harsh reality of a situation they already knew.
“This could not have come at a worse time,” Istvan said in anger, as he took his place beside the other nobles. “The Ottomans are on our borders waiting for the moment to push into our territory. If there is no figure of authority to rule, they will take advantage of the weakness. We need a plan, if this gets any worse… When this gets worse.”
The room roused itself with the harsh words of what the future could bring, noble men already cutting the kingdom apart with their desires and preparations. All the while, the truth of the scene lay apparent to only the two physicians.
Tomas and Peter watched with wide eyes, as they stared at the King, who had finally fallen still. His gaze was endless, staring out at something none of the living could see. His breaths were still, and the drops of blood that had pooled, were left to run dry. With a glance to one another, they pressed their ears to his chest. There the two of them lingered for a moment, before they silently shared a look of fear, while the mumbles and greed of those in the room were oblivious to the still heart before them all. With a nod to one another, the physicians slowly shuffled their way to the door. Step after step, they moved in silence. Yet, before they could reach the door, a voice held them in place.
“Where the hell do you two think you are going?” Istvan demanded to know, his voice loud enough to quell all others in the room. “Get back to the King and help him!”
Tomas and Peter held their place, beads of sweat pouring down their faces. They took turns opening their mouths, yet were both unable to say anything.
“We can’t…” Tomas finally croaked.
“Maybe a priest…” Peter followed.
“What?” Istvan demanded, as his eyes leaped from his patron to the two physicians and back again.
“He’s gone…” Tomas whispered softly. “The King is… Dead…”
All eyes fell to the tranquil King, a somber silence befalling the room. Like the still surface of a body of water, a calm lay on each guest’s face, though below the veiled mask each wore, a turbulence quickly drew to the surface.
“Where is she?” Istvan demanded to know, his voice finally asking what all those besides him thought. “Where is the Queen?”