I took this away from the 'low level adventurers approaching high level adventurers' scenario to a 'high level adventurers presumably about to kick low-level would-be-usurpers butts' kind of scenario. The summoned monster could be something else, but I figured an eye tyrant is pretty epic (would probably need to be bigger!!!) and immediately iconic, bringing to mind that this is classic fantasy. Any other ideas? I'm going to skim the MM again - or if you don't like this concept, we can scrap it. The furniture and candle stands/braziers, whatever could fit into the scene would be golden/jeweled, and the blade dancer would have an Empress Theodora kind of look to her. The picture on the left has a slightly higher point of view to accommodate more space - I liked that one so I worked into it a little more on the computer w/ shading. Tavis, I have to admit I'm perplexed by the version of the scene you described - it may possibly be that there was too much going on. There are adventurers bringing some kind of monster (tied up or bound into submission?) before the king/empress? I get some interesting visuals from the scenario. It does seem like a very specific quest or moment from a module or something. I know we all have different DMing and play styles, and I think they're influencing each of our desires for the cover, LOL. This is good though - we will have one awesome cover image if we can find something that would excite each of us, because it may appeal to a broader section of gamers.
I'm totally digging that! I especially like how the 'king' isn't even concerned: no need to get up, a simple illusion will scare off these schlubs. The fighter looks like he wants to mix it up with them, but is held back because they're now a valuable asset, not a valid target. My idea was less action-oriented - here's your day-to-day activities when you take over (have the king's guards go fetch you monsters for magical research components). It makes sense that another thing you do when you take over is defend yourself against palace rebellions, and it's certainly a more dramatic scene!