Pallis didn’t know what to expect as he approached the miniscule, crumbling shack on the riverside. He’d been tirelessly tracking his foolish little brother for weeks, only to find him here, in this dingy spot on the infamous river bank.
What was he doing here. With her. Pallis didn’t know why, but he got the feeling only trouble could come from this place, that something very unfortunate was about to occur. He had to get in there and ensure it didn’t happen to Adakias. Maybe he could get some sense into his little brother’s foolish head and finally make him see reason.
Pausing to collect himself outside the slightly slanted wooden door, Pallis took a deep breath and smashed it with all his might, sending splinters flying in every direction, practically knocking it off its hinges.
He was met with a stunned silence as he glared into the tiny, dilapidated room that had a strong odour of medicine and desperation wafting all around it. There were three people peering back at him from inside this room- his little brother, looking shaken but blessedly unharmed, her, and a shrivelled, squat little man with a strange hunger in his tiny piggy eyes. Something about this man brought a chill to Pallis, which was quite a challenge to accomplish considering he was the Prince of Darkness and heir to the Throne of Evil. It was best this man be disposed of as swiftly as possible. With barely even a glance in his direction, Pallis twirled his dagger in his hand and sunk the blade into the vile doctor’s chest, letting him drop to the floor in a pool of spiders and pushing him aside without a second glance.
Despite his status and position in the Dark, Pallis had never enjoyed killing. He didn’t have a problem doing it, but it had never been a pleasant activity for him, despite his father’s best efforts to make that the case. This was likely Adakias’ doing, Pallis supposed. It’s not like he could have picked his strange merciful streak up from anyone else. But regardless, he only killed when he felt it was necessary to do so, when there was a reason for it. His little brother was here, and the doctor was in the way. He could have been a danger to Adakias. That was all the reason Pallis needed to end his miserable existence.
With another twirl of the now blood soaked dagger, he began approaching the pair squatting on the filthy floor. Both of their faces were asking a silent question, particularly Adakias’, whose face also held a trace of apprehension.
‘I’ve been tracing your steps’, Pallis growled by way of explanation. ‘Along with your dainty little friend here. You two have been on quite a journey, haven’t you?’
Pallis noticed the girl eye the dagger anxiously and inch closer to Adakias, who put himself between her and Pallis.
She was the reason his brother had put himself in harm’s way, had been dragged into multiple dangerous situations, and had possibly even risked his life. All for her.
He should just stab her now, rid this world of her manipulative presence and make Adakias see reason. But Pallis knew his brother better than to think that would work. Adakias was a dreamer, a sensitive, caring soul who believed in love- he may not have been too badly affected by the vile doctor’s death, but witnessing the murder of someone he’d been fooled into loving would destroy him, change him forever into a shell of his previous wonderful self.
Pallis didn’t want that to happen. But he still needed to get her away from him. Maybe he could…
He could change her mind instead? She was clearly a shallow little madam, she didn’t really love Adakias. If she found out he was poor and had no riches to offer…
‘Did you really think’, Pallis said to Adakias, taking another step towards the couple, ‘a princess like this could ever really love poor folk like us? She requires riches, fine foods and fancy clothes, objects of the utmost value.’
Pallis gave a smug smile. Now she would go away and leave his brother alone. But she didn’t move. Instead, Adakias flew to his feet and turned to face Pallis, having to crane his neck back to look him in the eye.
‘She’s already been charmed and chased by every pompous prince around! They’ve offered her towering piles of gold, polished pears and gowns of fine silk. And you know what?’ Adakias reached down and grabbed the girl’s dainty, china white hand, smiling at her fondly.
‘I’m the one she chose!’
‘It’s true’, the princess affirmed in her soft, tinkling voice that made Pallis feel sick. ‘I’ve been seduced with every kind of gem in existence, offered palaces and riches beyond my wildest imagination. But I chose him. I love him.’
The lie was so obvious it was difficult for Pallis not to laugh.
You love him, do you? Then why did you force him to come here, a place that was clearly dangerous? You were sick and in need of medicine, sure, but Adakias’ presence was not a necessity to be healed, hell his presence caused the sickness in the first place. You were probably going to use him as some sort of bargaining chip, weren’t you? Going to dispose of him once he’d ‘served his purpose’, no doubt.
Pallis snarled, taking a step back away from his brother in order to address the girl still kneeling on the ground.
‘You know, I understand how you could love an honest man’, he said, a smirk spreading across his face. She didn’t know who Adakias really was, did she? She didn’t know he was the Prince of Darkness, or maybe that he was from the Darkness at all. How could she? After all, she was the Princess of Light, heir to the Throne of the Sun, there was no way someone like her would stay with someone like Adakias. Now that knowledge would get her dangerous, manipulative presence away from his brother for sure.
‘In fact, why don’t you ask my brother here where he grew up?’ Pallis smirked again at the look of confusion that spread across her face, glancing at Adakias, who was wide eyed with horror.
‘Oh look at her face!’ Pallis exclaimed, grinning. ‘She really doesn’t see it! She doesn’t know that you’re from the Dark, and you’ve been lying to her all this time.’
A pained expression flooded Adakias’ face as he knelt down to the same level as the girl, grabbing her other hand and looking her right in the eyes.
‘Anhura, please, just let me explain. I… I really meant to tell you sooner, I swear, I just… I was worried that you’d, I was sure you would…
‘But, you know the truth now, and it doesn’t change anything, right? And you still love me, right? And I still love you, so… it doesn’t matter, right? We can change the world, so we can get through this, right? Anhura?’
Adakias was stammering now, his panic obvious in his voice, his face, his posture.
Slowly, gently, the princess raised one of her petite white hands and placed it over one of Adakias’, look of confusion forming into a calm smile.
Pallis stood in shocked silence, unable to comprehend what he’d just witnessed. She… even after finding out Adakias was the Prince of Darkness, she was still claiming she loved him? How was that possible? Was she really that determined to make him believe the lie? Was she really so willing to play with his brother’s emotions like that?
This little tart was even worse than Pallis had thought.
Features forming a fierce snarl once again, Pallis twisted the dagger in his hand. He had no choice. There were no more peaceful options left, nothing to say to convince the manipulative lying little bitch to get away from Adakias. It was regrettable, of course- Adakias would never forgive him for this, but unfortunately it had to be done. It was for his own good. She deserved it, anyway, intentionally fuelling Adakias’ suicidal fantasies. Pallis had always known his little brother resenting him was a possibility, but after this it would be a certainty, a cold hard truth Pallis would have to learn to live with.
But if it meant Adakias was safe, it was worth it.
‘I’m sure she would love to hear your explanation’, Pallis said, advancing on the pair yet again. ‘Especially considering your presence is the reason she is sick.’
He glanced at the girl again. Still, she made no move to leave his brother’s side, hand still clasped firmly in his.
This was it, then. He had to do it, for his brother’s sake.
Pallis sighed, giving a shrug as he prepared his dagger.
‘But I suppose it doesn’t really matter, anyway’. He took another menacing step towards the princess, a grimace spreading across his face.
‘After all, she won’t be able to feel anything…’
Another step. Here goes.
‘After I stab her in the chest’.
Pallis launched himself at the princess, squeezing his eyes shut as he plunged the blade forward.
Pallis felt the blade sink into flesh, hearing a gasp of pain as warm, thick liquid started trickling down his hand.
That shout. It was… too close.
That gasp, the voice it belonged to was… too familiar.
Pallis’ eyes flew open, only to find himself staring directly into Adakias’ own wide, pain filled eyes.
Please, God, no.
Slowly, like every joint was encased in ice, Pallis looked down at the dagger in his hand.
It was sticking out of his little brother’s side.
Time seemed to stand still. Nothing moved, or made a sound. The tiny dilapidated room seemed to dissolve right before Pallis’ eyes, along with the girl squatting there, lost as his mind tried to comprehend what had just happened.
What he’d just done.
This couldn’t be real.
It just couldn’t be.
That didn’t really just happen.
This was… a dream, was all. Just a dream. He would wake up, and Adakias would be there, and he’d be safe.
But the longer Pallis stood there, staring into his brother’s shocked eyes, he knew that this was real. He’d just stabbed his own brother.
He’d just stabbed his own brother.
All of a sudden, time seemed to move forward again, the filthy room crashing back into view, the girl reappearing on the ground, tears pouring down her face. Pallis felt his grip on the dagger slip as Adakias fell sideways, limp body plummeting towards the cracked, spider ridden floor. He managed to grab his brother’s small form seconds before it smashed into the wood, falling to his knees beside him. The ground beneath his knees seemed sticky and… warm? What was…?
In what had felt like no more than a few seconds, a large pool of scarlet blood had formed around the trio, slowly inching its way up the girl’s once pure white dress and into Pallis’ sleeves and trouser legs.
Suppressing a retch, Pallis searched for something, anything to say.
‘Oh God…what…what have I done’, he stammered, voice breaking as tears began to roll down his face.
‘I…I stabbed you…I…I never meant to, I didn’t…oh God….please…please stay alive’.
He had stabbed his little brother. The one person he had protected, cared for, loved…and here he was bleeding on the floor of a filthy shack. And it was all Pallis’ fault.
What had he done?
Was that tiny, weak voice really Adakias? He sounded nothing like his usual self, happy, chirping voice reduced to a feeble mouse squeak.
With a shudder, Pallis blinked more tears away from his eyes and looked into his brother’s face. It was deathly white, drained of all colour except for a slight greyish tinge. But he was…smiling?
‘Pallis, you’re my brother. I know you’ve tried to protect me. But…this is my destiny’.
This…this fulfilled it. Adakias, he’d…he’d thrown himself in front of the princess, sacrificed himself for her. He clearly loved her. And, the princess…
Pallis tore his eyes away from his brother’s death like face and glanced at her. She looked completely distraught, face awash with tears, both hands desperately grasping one of Adakias’.
‘No, please, no, Adakias…don’t die, I...I love you’, she said softly, voice breaking in the same way Pallis’ had.
She…really did love him.
Their love will be strong enough to erase all the wrong we’ve done.
Pallis looked into his brother’s face once again. He somehow looked even paler than before, and his breathing had become hitched and irregular.
‘Brother, I was short sighted! You tried to tell me, but I ignored you. You…really are the chosen one…the sacrifice…’
If Pallis had just listened, maybe this wouldn’t have happened. If he’d just thought first and stabbed second, Adakias wouldn’t be slowly and painfully losing his life.
‘Just…just listen to my…last words, before I go’, Adakias croaked, blood appearing from his mouth and running down the side of his face, joining the already enormous pool.
‘Live for your love every day. That is my…gift to you’.
Suddenly, something clicked within Pallis’ mind, flooding him with raw fear and panic.
Adakias was going to die.
He was going to die, and he would never see him again.
And it would be all Pallis’ fault.
‘No…no, you can’t die. Please…don’t leave. Don’t die on me, Adakias…’
He was cut off by a vicious sob tearing from his throat, floods of tears suddenly obscuring his vision.
But no matter how much Pallis pleaded, Adakias continued to bleed profusely, his breathing continued to slow and shallow, his face continued to grey.
He continued to die.
Pallis wracked his panic clouded brain. There must be something he could do, some way he could fix this, some way he could save Adakias.
But there was nothing.
Pallis didn’t know what to do.
Pallis didn’t know what to do. It had been 5 years ago- he was 16 and Adakias was only 12. It had felt like at least a few hours of the two of them sitting alone in their dim room, and Adakias hadn’t spoken a single word. That was…unusual, to say the least. He was usually talking Pallis’ ear off as soon as they were alone together, not leaving any space for Pallis to even take a breath. It could be exhausting at times, but Pallis didn’t really mind, even if he pretended to. It was comforting, in a way. But tonight, Adakias had been eerily quiet, just sitting on the edge of his huge bed and staring at the wall in front of him. This wasn’t like his little brother at all. Not that Pallis was worried or anything. Adakias was a foolish child, short sighted and naïve. Yes, that strange gnawing feeling in his gut was just…fatigue, was all. That must be it. He would try to get some sleep, then the feeling would go away. Adakias was just being his foolish self, surely. Nothing to be done about it.
Well, maybe he could say something…just a few words to confirm to himself that he was definitely not worried or anything. Then Pallis could get some sleep.
‘Hey’, he said, forcing his voice to sound aloof and uninterested. ‘Are you sparing me from the sound of your voice tonight?’
And just like that Adakias burst into sudden floods of tears, curling into a ball on his bed and covering his face with his hands.
Pallis practically fell off his own enormous bed in his haste to reach his brother, stopping himself just in front of the tiny, shuddering ball of fabric Adakias had become, freezing in place.
What was he doing? He was the Prince of Darkness, heir to the Throne of Evil, both feared and adored by the citizens of the Dark. What would his father say if he saw what he was doing? Saw that he had practically fallen over himself to help someone, an act that was strictly forbidden to him?
But the sound of Adakias’ sobbing called to something deep within Pallis’ dark soul, and he just couldn’t bear to leave his little brother so broken and alone. It almost felt like a physical pain in his chest, filling him with a strong sense of urgency and protectiveness, a desire to make the sound stop. With a quick glance around to ensure their father was nowhere in sight, Pallis sat down next to Adakias.
At the movement of the bed Adakias immediately jumped and flinched away from his brother like he were a dangerous animal ready to tear him apart, a look of panic flooding his small, tear-stained face. Pallis paused, the not-worry increasing inside him in a sharp stab. That was the last reaction he expected from Adakias. Not that he wasn’t used to being treated like he was constantly on the verge of murdering everyone in sight- the majority of people he met knew of his reputation as the merciless Prince of Darkness, just as wicked and ruthless as his father before him (although this wasn’t entirely true), and would react with terror if he came anywhere near them.
But not Adakias.
Adakias had always been fearless and bubbly, happy to spend day to day life with Pallis without so much as a trace of fear or even wariness. It was rather endearing- though Pallis knew to never admit this, for fear of what his father would say about him expressing such a ‘pathetic’ feeling. It was a weakness, he knew. He had to think about his duty to the kingdom, to his father and his responsibilities as heir to the Throne of Evil. He couldn’t be selfish.
Adakias curled into a ball again and began whimpering into his hands, gulping down more tears.
Maybe if he just…his father wouldn’t be too angry if he just asked what was wrong, would he? Oh, he’d be angry, without a doubt- but it would be manageable, right? He’d forget about it pretty quickly, right?
‘Brother?’ Pallis said, in a voice slightly softer than his usual menacing growl. Adakias flinched again and began whimpering louder, taking painful sounding gulps in a desperate attempt to hide his sobbing.
That was it- it didn’t matter if his father was angry, it didn’t matter if he wasn’t ‘fulfilling his duties as heir to the Throne of Evil’, or living up to his reputation. His little brother needed him.
Pallis began to slowly inch closer to the shuddering heap, careful not to jostle the bed in any way.
‘Adakias? Adakias, what’s wrong?’ Pallis’ voice had lost all trace of the threatening growl it had once been, replaced with a gentleness that was so rarely heard its existence was basically a myth. This was a voice he only ever used for Adakias, but even he only heard it on very rare occasions. Adakias paused, sobs reducing to sniffles and violent shudders reducing to trembles, but he remained curled up in a ball, chin resting on his knees and hands covering his face.
Slowly, like he was approaching a skittish animal, Pallis reached forward and gently pulled his brother’s hands away from his face. Adakias didn’t resist or even flinch this time, allowing his blotchy, tear-stained face to be revealed, silent tears still rolling down his cheeks.
A stab of…something hit Pallis square in the chest, a feeling he couldn’t quite describe as he looked into his little brother’s miserable, utterly broken eyes. A strange concoction of worry, sadness and unbridled anger at the unknown source of Adakias’ misery- he had never seen him this distraught before, and never wanted to again.
Pallis lowered his voice into an even gentler almost whisper as he looked directly into his brother’s eyes. ‘What happened’.
With a choked sob and pained whimper, Adakias began to stutter a barely intelligible response, every few words punctuated by a loud sniff or violent hiccup.
‘The…the other ch-children…today…outside. They-they started t-talking about…you…and-and how you take after father, how you’re c-cold and ruthless and will k-kill anyone who gets in your way. Then they told me th-that I was just an annoyance and liability to you, so I’d better watch my back, because you might…will probably…I…’
He broke off, small body wracked by another sob.
‘…and at first I thought this c-couldn’t be true, but…then I…I thought about it more…and…it is true, isn’t it? I’m in your way, I’m a disappointment to everyone. Nobody needs me. You could…kill me and no one…no one would care…’
Adakias fell silent, tears slowed but look of utter misery still fixed on his face. Pallis, too, sat in silence, unable to comprehend what he’d just heard. Did…did his brother really think Pallis would ever, even think of hurting him? Or that nobody would care if he died? Pallis was suddenly filled with a burning, white hot fury at the children who’d made Adakias think these things.
Who did they think they were, the little…
But then, it wasn’t really their fault, was it? They were only repeating what they’d been told, led to believe by the rest of the Dark. It was Pallis’ own fault he had the reputation of a mercilessly cruel monster, it’s what he’d been tirelessly trying to paint himself as since he was old enough to understand his position of power and duty to his father. In order to rule the Throne of Evil, he had to be seen as cruel and ruthless, a tyrant willing to destroy any obstacle in his path. It was no wonder Adakias believed these things. He’d made a special effort to make these things expected of him. But he never thought his brother would…
He had to fix this.
‘I would’, Pallis said, breaking the silence.
‘I’d care if you died. Adakias, you’re my brother. I would never, ever do anything to hurt you. You’re not an annoyance, or a liability, or a disappointment, and I need you. Don’t listen to what the other children say- you’re completely safe with me. I’ll never hurt you, I promise.’
Silence fell between the brothers yet again, with not even Adakias’ sobbing to break it. Pallis glanced at Adakias’ face, taking in his expression. He looked less distressed now, but there was still something troubled behind his eyes, a sadness that lingered there. It was obvious he wasn’t fully convinced of Pallis’ promise.
Pallis sighed, starting yet another internal debate with himself. There was something he could do to fix this, something he knew would work, a simple statement of fact that would undo any wrong that had been done. He remembered hearing it somewhere, part of an old myth or legend.
The unrelenting constancy of love and hope can rescue and restore you from any scope.
His brother had always seemed to believe this with his whole being, despite being raised as the Prince of Darkness in a land forever shaded. Pallis knew this would work.
But, his father…
It had been made very clear to Pallis over his entire life that he must never, ever, even think of saying this word, that it showed fatal weakness and he would be treated as a traitor to the kingdom if he dared utter it. It was strictly banned to all citizens of the Dark, but especially to him- he had his royal responsibilities to consider, after all. It would result in severe punishment, without a doubt. Should he…but it was so risky…
No. Screw his father, screw the kingdom, screw his royal responsibilities.
Adakias was more important.
Pallis took a deep breath and let out another sigh, inching closer to his brother again.
‘You know I love you, right?’
Adakias blinked, gaping at his brother in bewilderment- he knew the rules against that word too, but they’d never applied to him as much. He wasn’t the heir, after all.
Pallis smiled, wrapping his arms around his little brother and pulling him close, resting his chin on Adakias’ fluffy head.
Pallis was dragged from his panic stricken thoughts when a grey, ice cold hand grabbed his own, blood slicked one.
‘You know I love you, right?’
Pallis blinked, shocked. But…that didn’t make any sense. Pallis had just tried to kill the girl he loved, and as a result had stabbed him instead. He was suffering because of him. He was dying because of him.
Adakias gave his hand a firm squeeze, smiling weakly.
Pallis let out another sob, grabbing his brother’s hand just as the princess had done.
Why did it have to be him?
Why was he the calculated sacrifice, the one who had to die?
Why couldn’t it have been the princess?
Why couldn’t it have been Pallis himself?
Why couldn’t it have been anyone else?
Just not Adakias. He deserved to live, and love, and laugh.
He deserved far more than this.
Pallis was vaguely aware of the girl speaking, and Adakias responding to her, but he was in such a state he didn’t hear what they were saying.
‘L…listen, both of you’. Pallis was once again pulled from his thoughts by his brother addressing him.
‘I’ll disappear. But you…you will live on, and take care of this world. You can help to rebuild it. Do this, for me. Take…’
He was cut off by a violent cough, shuddering as his breathing became more laboured.
‘…take the love inside my mind. Before…I…die…’
Weak voice trailing off, another shiver ran through his body. He glanced at the princess, then at Pallis, both of whom had tears flooding their faces.
And with one last painful gasp and one last gentle smile, Adakias became still. Pallis felt the grip on his hand release, saw the rise and fall of his brother’s chest cease and his once vibrant eyes become glassy.
All was still.
All was silent.
Adakias was dead.
Once again, time seemed to stand still. Pallis didn’t know how long he knelt there, clasping his brother’s lifeless hand and staring into his empty, dead eyes, but he knew that no matter how long it had been, it would never sink in.
His little brother was dead.
He would never see him again.
Never see his young, happy face, never hear his booming yet gentle laugh, never pretend to be disappointed in his talk of dreams and prophecies.
Never tell him he loved him.
Adakias was dead.
He was gone.
Pallis wanted to join him.
He wanted to stay here for eternity. He couldn’t go out and face the world, couldn’t live life, not when he had denied his brother the chance to do the same.
He couldn’t keep going like this.
Remembering Adakias’ final wish, Pallis attempted to wipe the tears away from his face.
His brother had asked him to rebuild this broken world.
Asked him to bring peace, and live on.
So, despite the agony he felt in his heart, Pallis would do just that.
It would be tough.
It would be painful.
It would be agonising.
But he would do it.
For his little brother.