The room was silent.
Anhura sat at the head of a large table, surrounded by people who had been commanded to take care of her.
"You must eat, princess." The maids had said as they served the evening's meal. They had been saying that for the past four nights, yet Anhura would still turn her nose up at everything the chefs could offer her. That morning, she had caught sight of herself in one of the palace's grand mirrors, and only after a few moments did she realise that she was the pale, ill-looking creature staring back. Her long, white hair was tangled and knotted; her eyes were dark, sore and heavy from her unrest, and her bones stuck out in places they were not supposed to. Then, at her request, every mirror in the palace was covered with a large white sheet, making it impossible for Anhura to see herself in such a state. She was relieved.
As the plate of food was carried, once again, from the table, Anhura placed a hand on her bony stomach and thought nervously about where she would go now. She would walk the hundreds of stairs down to the dungeon to find Pallis, rotting and starving – much like herself – and then she would… what? She didn't know. Ask him why he tried to kill her? If he was sorry for killing Adakias, his own brother?
She had too many questions for Pallis, but even so she didn't want to see him. She didn't want to look into his dark, menacing eyes and be reminded of what he'd done. But she had to. It would be her closure. If not, she thought, she would lay endlessly in her room, starving and not sleeping, all of her questions unanswered.
Anhura dismissed all twenty-one of the maids and servants that surrounded her and waited until she was the last person in the room. No one knew about her plan to see Pallis, and she would take no one with her. She stood, holding the edge of the table for support, and made her way to the kitchen.
Her meal sat on the counter, still boiling hot and completely untouched. Anhura knew it would be simply thrown away if she didn't take it, and she was sure that Pallis would be starving down in the dungeon. She crouched, her knees aching, and pulled a dark robe from under the counter. She wrapped it around herself, covering her glistening hair with the hood, and tied it securely. Now she looked no different from any of the servants roaming the palace, and no one would look twice at her. The hot plate warmed her fingers as she began the descent down to the dungeons, and every step she took echoed around the dingy walls. She had never been to the dungeons before, but she had seen people go down and never come back up. She was almost shocked to see that there were no guards as she approached the cells, fearing that Pallis could escape at any moment and kill her in her sleep. She wondered if he still would kill her, given the opportunity, now that she was home and Adakias was dead. She wouldn't put it past him.
As she approached his cell, Anhura was sure that Pallis would be able to hear her by now. She drew in a deep breath, nervous and frightened, before wiping all emotion from her face.
"I wondered when you'd come." Pallis's soft, dark voice echoed around the dungeon. He was stood, arms folded and leaning against the cold brick wall of his cell. He smirked at her in an attempt to be intimidating and cocky, but in the dim light Anhura could see that he was just as weak and frail as she was. "And you brought dinner!" Pallis exclaimed.
"You're lucky I came at all," Anhura said, putting the plate on the ground and sliding it to him. The meal was gone in a flash; he grabbed the potatoes with both hands and shoved them into his mouth, followed by the meat and vegetables, and in less than a minute it was all gone. He moved back, sitting against the stone wall; arms on his knees, and stared at Anhura.
"They really taught you to eat properly in the Dark, didn't they?" She said.
"Mmm." Pallis smiled, wiping his mouth with his sleeve, "They teach you to eat at all, Princess?" He said, eyeing up her tiny, malnourished figure.
"Not everyone has gotten over Adakias' death as quickly as you."
Pallis's eyes widened, and within seconds he was up, his hands wrapped around the bars, glaring angrily at Anhura.
"Don't you dare." He said, "Every moment of every day I spend wasting away down here I can't stop thinking about him. I never meant for my brother to die."
"No, you meant for me to die." She said coldly. Pallis could only shake his head. Whatever reasons he had for trying to kill Anhura, they didn't matter now. The only person he blamed for Adakias' death was himself, and he knew that hurting Anhura would not bring his brother back. He lowered his head and leaned against the metal bars. The great Pallis, heir to the Dark, was weak. And for a moment Anhura saw him for what he really was; a boy caught up in something much bigger than himself – a boy who had not yet grown up, and would have to live with his childish mistakes for the rest of his life.
"I was so foolish. My brother never belonged in the Dark. I always tried to make him see reason, but he was always meant to see the Light. He was always meant for you. And I- it took his death for me to realise that."
Anhura's expression softened, but she knew it would take years for her to forgive him, if she ever did. She took pity on him, though, and it worried her.
"You're going to have a nephew, Pallis." Anhura said quietly, her hand resting on her tiny stomach.
He glanced wonderingly at the skinny girl before him, in awe and disbelief, and in anger – that she had let herself become so ill whilst she was carrying Adakias's child.
"You should be eating for two," He said, "and yet you're not eating at all."
Anhura bowed her head, hurt by his words. She knew that she needed to eat to keep her baby healthy, and she hated herself for putting it at risk, but she was numb. The simplest actions were as tough as climbing a mountain, and every little thing reminded her of Adakias.
"I'm going to call him Adakias." She said softly.
Pallis sighed, wondering what it would feel like to look at her child, to call him Adakias, to see his brother's face again. Pallis resembled Adakias, but at the same time he didn't. Everyone knew they were brothers, but Pallis's eyes were always heavy – overcome with darkness. Adakias was different, his face was fresh and young and full of hope. He was good. And now he was going to have a son, to carry on his legacy.
"I think my brother would like that." Pallis whispered.
Anhura gently wrapped her robe around her frail body, lifting the hood up over her head, and made her way to the stairs.
"I'll come back soon. You won't starve."
"And neither will you." He said in an almost commanding way. She nodded. "Anhura…" Pallis started as she climbed the first few stairs.
"Yes?" She replied, turning on the spot and looking him in the eyes.
"What will happen to my brother's body?"
Tears welled up in Anhura's eyes, and the ever-present lump in her throat felt bigger than ever, causing her to lose her breath for the slightest moment. She thought she would be used to speaking about Adakias in this way by now, but it wasn't getting any easier.
"A funeral has been planned." She said, just loud enough so Pallis could hear. "The whole world knows that Adakias was born of the Prophecy. He brought our worlds together again. He'll be sent off like a King."
Pallis nodded. His eyes burned with all he tears he hadn't spilled. He was afraid that once he started crying he would never be able to stop, and Anhura would come back to the dungeons to find him drowned, literally, in his sorrows.
"And if I asked to be there?" He said.
Anhura sighed. She could only imagine what would happen if Pallis showed up to the funeral. There would be a riot. But Anhura had a brother, and her sympathies got the best of her. As long as no one could recognize Pallis, there would be no fuss.
"I suppose we can make arrangements. You'd have to wear a disguise, and there would be guards to escort you, but… you need to be there."
If Pallis really did attend the funeral then Anhura would avoid him at all costs. It would remind her too much of that day, but she understood why he wanted to go. After all, she was the one that was supposed to be dead, not Adakias.
Pallis nodded as Anhura left, laying down on his makeshift bed and closing his eyes. He contemplated, and hated himself more than ever. He was angry at the world, at O, The Scientist, for making him this way. After all, Adakias was not the only one born of the Prophecy. From the minute Pallis was born he was destined to follow this path, just like Adakias was destined to leave the Dark and fall in love with Anhura. At the time his actions felt like they were his choice, but now he worried that he would never have a choice. He felt like, although the world was at peace again, he had been left behind in the Dark, slated to spend the remainder of his days alone, wishing to change his fate.
Anhura climbed the stairs carefully, keeping a protective hand over her stomach, when she heard a faint echo coming from the dungeons. She stopped and listened to hear Pallis, singing words that brought tears to her eyes – words she remembered all too well.
'Don't you ever feel like you've been destined
For something bigger than your skin?'