For the next month of my life, every day is the same. I wake up in my bed, either alone or with Ember curled beside me, and once Nova joins us the three of us eat breakfast. Then I’ll put on the most casual dress that can be found and I’ll meet Theo outdoors in the grassy field where he will teach me more about fighting, while Ember hangs out with Phoebe and Nova.
I will train all through the morning until lunch, when all seven of us will then pack a picnic and take the walk to the lake, where we will eat and swim, and just enjoy each other’s company. Ashton took the news of Ember liking Phoebe great, sure he was bummed that he wouldn’t get the girl, but he did seem genuinely happy for her all the same.
Then, after a long day, it’s dinner and bed. At night, I search for Beckett. Every night I fight through my walls of consciousness to find him, but he’s not there. I don’t know if he’s ok, if he’s dead, or just hates me.
Today seems a little extra hot, despite it being the end of December in the Terra Realm, the earth realm. Earth, the place I used to call home, is preparing for Christmas. I’ve learned how to wield most weapons, but I do still lean towards my own energy. Today I grip throwing knives, they sting with memory, as I fight off Theo and the two soldiers at the same time.
River comes at my back with a sword, but effortlessly I throw up my shield so as he connected with it he felt a shock radiate his body and he fell to the grass laughing. I threw a knife, following through the way Beckett had shown me, it caught itself in Ashtons sleeve as he tried to swing at me. Then finally I pulled my energy into my hands and sent it out, wrapping itself around all three fighters and pulling them into the air.
“Ok, ok! White flag waving over here,” Theo laughed, as he sat immobilized in the air. With my smile smug I lowered them all, wiping my sweating hands off on my dress.
“You’ve really gotten good at this, Astra. Even though I’m not sure why you needed to learn to fight, we’ll always protect you.” River said kindly, and I tried to not be too defensive as I retorted-
“I shouldn’t need protecting at all.” I still haven’t forgotten that someone tried to kill me, that now a servant must taste all my food and beverages before I ingest them. Fighting will not protect me from poison, but it will hurt the person who deemed themselves able to hurt me.
“Well, I think that does it for today. Boys, can I talk to Astra alone?” Theo asked, giving them a hard look. They chuckled and hit each other’s arm, ’yeah alone time’, they joked before taking off for a jog.
“Well aren’t they classy,” I joked after their public display of testosterone. Theo shrugged sheepishly, pushing a curl off his damp forehead.
“They just know I’ve been trying to get alone time with you for a while,” he admitted, making my cheeks grow a little warm. It’s true, I hadn’t been alone with him since the night I was poisoned. Since the night Beckett walked away from me, told me to let myself love the prince.
‘Prince charming,’ he had called Theo. Since then I hadn’t allowed myself the chance to even fall for him, even though it would be so simple really. The way he stepped up to train me, despite the king and queen’s adamant disapproval, made him somehow even more desirable.
Or the way he cares for his people, the residents of this realm always get so excited to see Theo, whereas for the king it’s more of a demanded respect. I’d spent the last month forcing myself around everyone, as I mentally prepared for what would come.
A day where I could lose them all. The day when Parallax strikes, I have to look into Beckett’s eyes and kill him. Being around them, at the same time, filled a big black void in my gut. The one left by Beckett, after he asked me to kill him quickly.
“I’m sorry?” Theo had been talking as I pondered my future, and now I feel bad for not retaining any of it. He smiles at me, stepping closer, a lot closer. I need to force myself not to step back.
“Where are you, Astra? You’re here, but your head...it’s somewhere else at all times.” I’d thought I was good at hiding it, but he saw right through it.
I sighed, “honestly I was thinking about what’s going to happen. With Parallax?” Theo sighed, nodded, and pulled me to his chest before I could even object.
He smells like the woods, like leaves and fresh air, and I let him hug me. After a while, I even wrapped my arms around him and squeezed tighter. The pressure doesn’t disperse the darkness in my soul, though. Doesn’t replace the Beckett sized hole in my heart.
“No matter what happens, I know you will be great.” Theo murmured, his face pressed into my hair, his hands rubbing my back. It’s not bad here, in his arms, against his firm chest. The silk of his attire is smooth on my cheek, and I don’t notice the tears soaking it until I pulled my face back a bit.
“I don’t want anyone to die,” I whispered, and he nodded in agreement.
“Let’s hope it never comes to that,” his hand tucked hair behind my ear, trailing under my jaw to lift my chin. As my eyes met his warm hazel ones, I felt my heart rate pick up a bit, and my breathing hitch. So close, he leans in, our noses brush together gently.
“Theo…”, our lips so close that as I whisper his name he breathes it in, before slowly moving his lips down onto mine. They’re gentle, warm, and inviting. I feel my heart skip, and I kiss the prince back.
I’m not sure how much time passed before he pulled his face away, my lips were cold when he once were, and he looked down at me to search for any sign of discomfort. But I smiled, and rested a freckled hand on his golden skin.
“I’ve wanted to do that from the moment I saw you,” he admitted. “You walked into the castle bruised and dirty, but determined and strong, beautiful and captivating.” I don’t say anything, barely allowing myself to breathe.
“I kissed your hand,” he continued, “and you looked at me so confused,” he chuckled. “But your eyes, my lord, I could look at them all day.” I don’t know what to say, I opened my mouth to speak but words failed me. “I know, you’re not great with our customs, and what I’m saying right now is probably making you nervous. I’m sorry, but like you said. There’s darkness coming, and I just need you to know how I feel in case I don’t make it.”
“No,” I shake my head, “don’t be sorry. It’s beautiful, what you said. Really, I think I just need a minute-”
“To talk to Ember? I understand, will I see you at lunch?” I nodded, and left him in the field. My heart racing, I nearly sprint back to the castle. He was so kind, understanding, and patient. Everything that Beckett was not, he truly is the better option. But the black void still asks for him.
Inside the castle I walked to my room, stopping when I heard stressed whispering. I see down the hall, two soldiers talking with their heads down, I push my body tightly beside a suit of armor and allow myself to eavesdrop.
“I don’t know why they’re not letting us prepare more, the war is coming any day now, the prophecy is proving to be true.” One of them whispered, my head swirled. Prophecy?
“I wonder if even the girl knows? She seems to seem so oblivious, splashing in the lake every day…”, the other one replied. This made my blood boil, how dare he assume I am not caring for this war.
“Maybe the king hasn’t even told her? I mean, he’s been known to be a shit king and hide things from us,” there it was. My ammunition.
I stormed from behind the armor and charged at the soldiers, releasing my energy into my palms as menacing as I could. At the sight of me, their faces paled.
“What prophecy?” I demanded, staring them down. Both of them had light hair and tan skin, but it looked sickly as they shook their heads at me.
“We’re not authorized-” one of them started, so I let my energy grow even larger.
“Do I need to tell the king of your true opinions of him? What was it you called him? A ‘shit king’?” I asked sweetly, they gulped.
The room they took me to was quite small in comparison to the rest of the rooms in the castle, and much more dark. I walked in, the room looked a bit like a small library, looking around at the rolls of parchment stuck into the shelves.
“The prophecy...about you? Is over there.” A guard whispered, before they both left me alone, not wanting to be here if heaven forbid I got caught.
The parchment was laid gently on a pedestal at the head of the room, I could see it sitting there in the dim light. Gently I opened it, the cursive scrawl elegantly taking up the page.
Outloud, I read, “As the stars created a force of power in the body of a child not yet born, be it known darkness will create its own to harness. It will be so, that after eighteen years walking the earth, the dark bringer will go to battle in the place of it’s home. There, it will be where the light bringer will sacrifice it’s soul, a supernova will commence and destroy all dark beings, including the home of darkness.”
I feel sick, so sick that I actually drop to my knees for a moment, as I regain my composure. Now, I’m not one for cryptic writing, but it sounded almost like I would have to explode in order to save the world. A supernova, is that not what Nova had said would happen if theoretically I let the pressure win? What if it wasn’t hypothetical?
Gasping for air I get to my shaking feet, grab the prophecy, and slip out of the dark room. Miracuously, I made it to my room unseen.