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While the hidden passageways through the palace did lower security levels, it wasn’t to the point of carelessness. Where the passageways led demonstrated what was considered most important. In short, none of them directly entered the Mage-King’s quarters, study, or other personal rooms.
The Sisters had been planning an assassination for quite some time. Removing the Mage-King was their primary purpose, after all. However, without a high likelihood of success they weren’t willing to make the attempt and expose their existence in the process. With the support of the alliance, this was their best opportunity. The three Sisters led the way to an exit not far down the hall from the Mage-King’s presumed location, explaining the most likely location of guards upon their exit.
Half of the twelve mages stepped out of the hidden passage at the same time, three facing each way down the hall. The two pairs of guards who had been expecting servants and little else weren’t able to react in time, barely lowering their weapons and beginning their approach before the spells targeted at them completed. Even with armor that resisted magic, Douglas and Xavier had spells designed exactly for that. Two guards immediately perished inside their armor, while the others were injured and armor damaged.
Cletus and Faron, who had the most martial training of the group, took advantage of that damage to finish them off. While the armor was specially made to resist magic, that also made it little better than mundane armor against standard weapons. A properly skilled combatant could exploit the gaps in their armor and kill them just the same as anyone else. The guards in the royal palace weren’t unskilled, but princes were able to receive the best training in all of Scoubar- one like Faron who volunteered to be part of the Mage-Hunters especially so. With a disadvantage in numbers, the first guards stood little chance.
As expected, wards were triggered all throughout the palace. Some had been disable ahead of time, but some couldn’t be reached from within the hidden passages. Dispelling magic tried to rip apart the defenses of the mages present, forcing some of them to take a moment to reassert their shields. Another expenditure of magic that was eating into their limited stores. Other wards were clearly alarms, and some fortified the area.
The group rushed towards the Mage-King’s study, expecting to have to break through the door. They couldn’t afford to have a lengthy confrontation, since even if the distraction was effective the guards in the palace would eventually overwhelm them. Instead, the doors burst open and four figures rushed out. More guards in magic resistant armor.
Peat was the first to achieve any sort of magic, holding a handful of needles in his hand and propelling them forward with magic. Any of the typical sort of fey magic he would have done was not usable in the current circumstances- but the needles weren’t something that could be absorbed by the armor. The two guards in front raised their shields and blocked most of the strongly propelled bits of iron, but the force behind them penetrated the armor in areas not blocked by the shields, mostly the upper right chest and shoulder. The two shortly behind them had no shields, but they were mostly covered by the front guards.
Just moments later, spells were exchanged from both sides. As they were casting, many of the mages from the alliance realized that the two rear guards were speaking the language of magic and casting spells, but their best bet was to continue their own spells and bring them into effect first.
Xavier and Douglas used their last armor crushing spells, attempting to use the wards on the armor of the front two against them, by projecting magic inside the armor. Though their spells were silent, they weren’t able to disguise the magical runes that came along with it. The two guards in front were quick enough to react that the spells didn’t achieve their full potency. One managed to step back and throw up an arm, and while that arm was mangled the guard didn’t immediately perish. The other charged forward, throwing off the location of the spell enough that he came away basically unharmed.
The two enemy mages launched dispelling magic at the same time as other spells came towards them, the various pieces of magic clashing as they collided, releasing an explosion of magic in all directions. Everyone was armored or protected by magical defenses, but most of the combatants were all at least thrown off balance, staggered for a moment.
Nobody had expected two of the guards to be able to use magic, specifically because the Mage-King was cautious around princes. However, they adapted quickly, spreading out to come at the group from different angles. Faron quickly engaged the guard closest to the front while Cletus and Emerich worked together to dispatch the one with the injured arm.
Lucy focused on one of the princes in the back, looking for an unwarded weak point in the armor through which they were able to perform their magic. She aimed a bolt of lightning towards the jaw of her target, sensing that was where the magic would most easily piece through.
The one on the left was halfway through a spell when he found himself with lungs full of water. He managed to somehow release his half-finished spell towards Douglas, but his fire spell ended up turning almost directly into the wall where it splattered uselessly.
Just as it seemed like they would be able to take out the guards quickly and move on, a wave of magic rolled down the corridor. It sent most of the mages of the alliance stumbling backwards as an imposing figure stepped out into the hallway.
Though he was not significantly above average in height, the presence of the Mage-King was undeniable. His finely embroidered clothes sparkled with runes of magic, and defensive magic formed an obvious barrier around him. Tendrils of magic extended from him to the palace around them, linking with the wards and controlling them.
One guard was dead, another coughing and sputtering a full lungful of water. With most of the mages in the assassination team free to act, they each began their own spells- being careful to try to spread out so their spells would take different paths and not interfere with each other.
Cletus was the first. He knew exactly what spell he needed for the situation. Bloodline magic drawing upon the connection between himself and the Mage-King specifically designed to pierce through his defenses. Of course, it hadn’t been clear what the actual Mage-King’s abilities were, but it would be better than not using the bloodline component. He was, surprisingly enough, half successful. His spell pierced through the outer barriers, compressed magic ready to burst into fire. Before reaching their full distance, however, the spell still exploded, washing fire over the Mage-King. A few black marks on his face indicated the spell had at least slightly worked, but he didn’t appear greatly injured.
Emerich and Peat worked together to surround the remaining guard, freeing Faron to act against the Mage-King. Instead of using any sort of magic, Peat used the tried and true tactic of kicking the taller human in the back of the knees. While it was only partly effective, it allowed Emerich to wrest his shield away, breaking the hand that was holding it as he did so.
Three spells- two from the Sisters and the other from Errold- rebounded off of the Mage-King’s outer defenses. While they were intended to break through, they only managed to weaken them somewhat while then reflecting in random directions, causing several people to have to dodge out of the way.
The group had nearly achieved a quarter circle curving around the Mage-King and remaining prince. Then everything went silent with a wave of the Mage-King’s hand. While he might have expected that to stop all of the magic, two people were completely unaffected.
Douglas had no trouble finishing his spell, focusing on the area where the Mage-King stood. If one pair of lungs full of water was good, two would be even better. Air out, water in. On its surface simple spatial magic, but still extremely difficult to pull off. He felt resistance to his spell, unusual but not entirely unexpected. The Mage-King had access to nearly limitless resources, including information about magic. He would have done his best to protect himself. Most of the water Douglas had been expecting to put into his lungs appeared behind him several steps, but Douglas felt he’d at least caused some strain for the defenses.
Xavier likewise had only silent spells, so suddenly being without a voice meant nothing. He launched a dispelling effect, knowing that it would doubtless be resisted. Still, he could be part of the efforts to tear apart the defenses. His magic flew forward, a series of swirling runes.
Lucy was capable of silent spells, but since they were more difficult for usually little benefit, she had instead also been attempting a focused dispel to try to sever some of the connection to the surrounding wards. She managed to keep her spell from entirely dissipating even though it was suddenly unable to be finished, but she was only able to slightly thin one of the connections.
The Mage-King seethed with power, gathering above his head several bolts of pure magical force. More gathered power flew ahead of them, hungry runes eating at the defenses of Cletus, Errold, and one of the Sisters. The bolts struck almost simultaneously with the dispelling magic. Blood splattered from Cletus’ shoulder while Errold was able to throw himself to the floor to avoid the energy. The targeted Sister was not quite so lucky, the bolt piercing into her abdomen and dropping her to her knees.
Faron was charging forward, but the remaining prince cut her off. Weapons and armor clashed, and Faron managed to keep some momentum towards the Mage-King. Her left arm reached out, clashing against the wards and spells around the Mage-King. Flecks of her armor started to strip off in the engagement, and she had to lower her stance to keep from being flung backwards by the resulting force. At the same time, she began one of her few silent spells.
The speed at which the Mage-King was able to summon more bolts of magic and tearing energy was concerning. He was able to quickly and precisely control the wards while at the same time calling upon his own substantial personal magic, to the point that the significant numerical advantage seemed hardly relevant. Another round of attacks flung out from him even as he basically ignored Faron. One bolt in particular flew towards Lucy.
She was deep in the middle of casting her own spell. While she tried to avoid the dispel, it struck her almost instantly and weakened her defenses. She held onto her spell as she staggered back, but the real attack was still coming. Three bolts of sharpened magical force flew towards her. The first struck her in the thigh, piercing through it and out the back… but the other two didn’t connect. Not with her, at least.
Xavier Lynwood stood in front of her, trembling as blood dripped from his shoulder and side. If he’d been coming up with a good tactical excuse, he would have said that his own defenses were still solid when he blocked for Lucy. Of course, it had simply been that he couldn’t help himself but to protect his daughter. He saw she was in danger and simply reacted. He managed to stagger to the side out of the way of her own spell.
She managed to complete her relatively straightforward fireball, the only real special feature being that it was cast silently. She was relying more on power and good placement for the effect she wanted. The red-orange runes in the fire swirled to a point above the Mage-King’s head, exploding with force that rebounded off of the ceiling above him, compounding its effects. It was enough to slightly unbalance the Mage-King on his feet, but his defenses still held and he was already on his way to his next series of attacks. She’d thought herself quite powerful, but this was the first time she’d felt so ineffective- and the others weren’t performing much better. But nobody was going to give up just because they might die. They all knew that going in.