The air was stale and heavy, the kind of stillness that crept into your lungs and suffocated you. The kind that would cling to your skin, wrapping itself around your neck and choking you slowly, painfully, and miserably. It was a pain that could not be eradicated – because you were stuck in the same small, windowless cell with its stagnated air and looming darkness. It was difficult to keep track of time, because the weeks that went by had blended in to one endless day that dragged and dragged. Unless she would come.
Alaric had tried to move on, in his head at least. He knew that she was unattainable, knew that she was now happily in love with his brother. The one that had always been better, had always been able to get all the girls – even when they were teenagers. Now, with the one girl that Alaric thought he would have for life, his wife, the eldest Prince had stolen her away. He didn’t know why or how it happened, but the thought that he had not been enough, that it was Lorcan that had snatched her away right in front of his eyes, absolutely broke him.
Alaric’s gaze drew to the dusty wall at the back of his cell, where he had etched small lines into its surface with a fallen stone that he had found on the floor. It reminded him how long he had been here, how many days had passed by whilst he had been slowly rotting away in this dreaded cell. 28 shaky lines were carved upon its surface, 28 days since he had last seen the light of day, had last felt the warm breeze upon his skin. It had been so long, he could barely remember what it felt like anymore. The only thing that he could recall were her eyes, her beautiful expressive brown eyes that would sparkle with joy whenever she looked at him. Except, they didn’t do that anymore. Not with him. Even though he had murdered his own father for her.
Oh, how he would do anything to go back to the days before everything had gone wrong. The days when she would look at him like he was her entire world; just like she was to him. He would do anything for her, just to get her to love him again. Goddess knew he’d sacrifice his own shifter form to get even one more smile from her pink lips.
Footsteps echoed against the walls, the sound penetrating the thick silence that Alaric had become so accustomed to. He glanced up to the thick bars, straining his eyes to see into the dim light that swung pitifully from its place on the cracked ceiling. He knew what those footsteps meant, signalling an end to another day. He didn’t know if it was actually the end of the day, or if they just didn’t come back to him after his second meal, but he knew that after this he would be left alone. This time had become his favourite of the day because it meant that he could curl into that cold back-left corner of the cell, weep silently and alone, until the guards came to torment him again.
The feet eventually came to a stop outside his cell, a loud huff bellowing out of the guard’s lips as he unceremoniously dropped the food tray on the floor before waltzing back the way he had come. The contents of the bowl – a thick, stodgy stew of sorts – flew out onto the floor. Usually, Alaric would jump at the food, wolfing it down whilst trying to ignore the cold lumps that always threatened to come back out. But today – today was not a good day. He did not have the energy to rush towards those bars, to wrap himself around them and try and scrape as much as the spilt food from the floor as he could.
Besides, what was the point?
He had always prided himself on being the happy one in his family, the glass-half-full member of the Royal family. Lorcan had been the quiet, broody one – even from a young age; and Serena… She had always been too clever for her 10 years, too wise and closed off - it had scared even him sometimes. But now, with everything that had happened to him, with everything he had lost, he couldn’t help but wonder if this was it for him. If this was the end.
Was he destined to rot away in this cell? Never to see the light of day again? Never to see his love’s eyes once more? Would anyone even remember him if he died down here, or would the guard’s dispose of his body like it was some spoiled trash?
No one cared about him. So why should he care about himself?
Alaric’s eyes slowly slid shut, a stray tear sliding slowly down his dirty face. Curling further into the corner, pressing his body against the cold brick in the hopes that it would somehow provide some heat, he resigned himself to another miserable and lonely night. The peacefulness that surrounded him would have been comforting, if only it wasn’t so cold, and the air wasn’t so sour and thick. The silence was nice, calming his heavy heart as he quietly cried himself to sleep.
Except, what was that sound?
It sounded like… No, no he was making it up. He’d imagined many things through his stay here. This must be one of them.
But no, the sounds continued, growing closer this time. Hissing, muffled screams, and heavy thuds reverberating around the prison. His heart pounded in his chest as the sounds grew louder, a particularly loud scream making him jolt in his position. He pushed himself further against the cold wall behind him, wishing that he could disappear into its brick and hide away from whatever was coming.
Was it coming for him? Was someone finally coming to kill him?
Alaric’s palms were sweaty, throat growing dry as the sounds suddenly stopped mere feet away from his prison cell. Through it all, however, he couldn’t help but to think about her. His Arabella. If he was going to die right now, he wanted his last thoughts to be of her soft lips as they caressed his own, and her laugh that sounded like heaven to his ears. He smiled, mind made up: he was ready to die.
He waited, and waited. But death did not come for him. Nothing came for him; except a slender, pale, feminine hand that wrapped around one of the bars of his cell. It rested there for a few moments, nothing accompanying its arrival, before a sound that he had not heard since he had first been pushed into this wretched cell arrived to his ears. The click of a lock, and with it, the door that had been keeping him imprisoned swung open. The only thing now standing between him and his freedom was the person that had opened it.
A tall woman. Slim and as pale as the Moon that his people worshipped so much. He didn’t know who she was, had never seen her before, but the smile upon her lips was something that he was extremely familiar with. It was the same smile that his father used to have. One that promised suffering and pain, one that would stop at nothing to get what it wants.
He stared at this strange woman, heart in throat as he slowly straightened up. Struggling to his feet, his eyes remained locked onto the strange woman – she had an almost ethereal glow to her, and her crimson eyes drilled into his own like she wanted to possess him. Who was she?
The woman took a step back, nodding her head down the darkened corridor as she drummed her thin fingers against the wrought-iron bars of his prison. Opening her cherry-painted lips, he caught sight of two sharp teeth that protruded over her plump bottom lip.
She smirked, extending one of her pale hands towards him, “Come on, lover boy. We have work to do.”