Read the first part here.
Prince Charming had been searching for his missing sister for three weeks now. He had unknowingly followed many false paths in his determination to leave no stone unturned when it came to finding Eliza. It was almost midnight when he came across a high wall, covered in thorns that glowed with a strange magic. Behind it, he could hear chatter and music- the sound of a Kingdom enjoying a peaceful night. Were these the people who had Eliza?
Slowly and quietly he dismounted his horse and climbed the vines to get a better look. His men watched from below and waited for their orders. When he reached the top he peered over, and nearly fell off the wall from the shock of what he saw.
A Kingdom made of Shadows inhabited by creatures born from darkness and in the grounds beneath him was his sister- her face covered in tears and her body shaking with pain. One of the Shadow Creatures grabbed her wrist.
Three weeks of living in the Shadow Kingdom had meant Eliza’s body clock had adjusted to the long nights and sleeping during the day. She felt that her eyes were adjusting to the night too- she could see things more clearly and the sun made her uncomfortable. When night fell Dyana was always waiting for her in the garden. Things were almost perfect. Almost.
“Will the King and Queen be attending dinner tonight?” Eliza tried to ask it casually, but he voice came out a little too high and tense.
“Don’t think so,” Dyana’s tone was light and breezy, but there was something hidden in it that made Eliza’s stomach tighten. “I think they’ll dine with each other tonight.”
Eliza thought about dropping it, but her growing unease nagged at her. “Do they usually dine apart from the rest of their Kingdom?”
Dyana shrugged, “It depends.”
Eliza took a deep breath in the hopes that more oxygen would somehow still her hammering heart. “Do they usually dine apart from you?” she re-phrased her question. Dyana could not run from it now.
The Shadow Princess sighed. Eliza saw her eyes cloud over as she considered her answer. “Does it matter?” she countered.
“Yes,” Eliza said. “I don’t want them to think that I’m stealing you away from them.”
Dyana turned to her, her face softened and she took her hand. “You’re not.”
There was a moment when everything was fine again. Eliza considered letting it stay that way, but she knew it was a temporary fix- a bandage over a much deeper wound. “Then let’s dine with them.”
Dyana dropped her hand again.
“Why?” Eliza pressed.
“I don’t want to.”
Her words were like a stab to her chest. “Was I that awful?” Eliza could feel a lump in her throat that she was struggling to speak around. “Did I say something wrong? Did I embarrass you in front of them?”
“No,” Dyana frowned, shaking her head. “Of course not.”
“I don’t want to see them tonight! Can you just drop it?”
“Bullshit,” tears stung Eliza’s eyes. “You were so excited for me to meet them and now we’re not allowed to be in the same room? Three weeks they haven’t looked at me. Three weeks you haven’t even let me be in the same room. I did something.”
Dyana saw the tears running down Eliza’s face, she heard the pain in her voice and she cursed the very magic she was made of. “You haven’t done anything. Please. Just stop.”
“I can’t,” Eliza’s hands shook as she wiped the tears from her eyes. She was crying too hard to speak properly. “How can I?” was all she could manage. What she wanted to say was How can I spend my life with you if your parents don’t want me here? How can I ask them for your hand in marriage if they can’t even look me in the eye?
“Please,” Dyana said again. “We can’t have this conversation.”
“Because when we do, you’ll have to leave.”
The words stung more than Eliza had ever thought was possible. “You want me to leave?”
She started to turn away. Dyana grabbed her wrist. “No!”
“Then what is it?” Eliza waited. Her question hung in the air between them. A thousand thoughts filled Dyana’s mind as her heart filled with dread.
“It’s just…” her voice trailed off. Her wide and sad eyes offered no answers.
“Fine,” Eliza pulled her wrist free and walked away. Dyana did not follow.
Eliza was shaking. She didn’t want this to be it. She didn’t want to go. But how could she fix something if she didn’t know what was broken? How could she stay somewhere she wasn’t wanted? She was exhausted and about to climb the vines before a faint, but constant crackling sound stopped her in her tracks.
What was that?
And what was that smell?
She took a few steps back. She had been so wrapped up in her argument and misery that it took her a moment to realise that the vines outside the wall were on fire. A scream made her turn back and look at the Kingdom. Flames rose quickly on all sides.
Shadow Guards and Knights charged against them, but what could they do against firelight? The thorns and magic that gave the Kingdom and people their shape were engulfed by an inferno in a matter of moments. Eliza watched the Kingdom crumble to the light. She heard screaming as the people around her disintegrated, the essence of everything they were scattering in the smoke and floating up towards the stars.
She tried to find Dyana. To protect her. To hold her. To somehow keep her together as everything fell apart. But the Shadow Princess was already gone.