Between the shadows of Solomon’s room, the young prince coddles the artefact which casts a soft, sapphire glow across his features.
He cannot find sleep, and sleep cannot find him, for he does not know whether this occurrence should be reported to his father, or swept under the rug and never spoken of again.
There is a knock at his door.
He straightens up from his desk. He glances at the entrance, then says, “Come in.”
Lilith takes a step inside. “I heard noises while patrolling,” she tells the prince, with one hand kept on her sword, and the other still lingering on the door’s golden handle. “Are you all right? It’s rare for you to be up this early…” She does a double take on the prince’s sunken eyes. “Or late—did you even sleep at all, Sol’?”
Solomon holds up the glowing piece of rubble that holds both all his kingdom’s hope and nothing simultaneously. “A man I’d never seen before gave me this today.” His head remains turned away from her as he speaks. “The man claimed it began glowing when a new Halloran was born. Apparently, that was days ago.”
“And it’s real?” Lilith marches forward. She snatches the artefact from his hand. She squints, and observes the damned thing with more doubt than Solomon has ever seen in her.
“That…” Solomon sighs. He purses his lips together, then shakes his head and rests his chin against his palm. “That part is unclear,” he tells Lilith. “I’m not sure what to do with it.”
Lilith crosses her arms. She hands it back to him. She scoffs. “Well, it’s certainly ominous in either case. It looks like someone’s heart is beating inside it. Grosses me out.” Although Solomon agrees, he does not consider this repulsive. To him, the object is a thing of beauty—one he finds himself torn over, due to the mere prospect that he will have to hand it over to another, so that they may find the Halloran they seek.
“What do you think?” he asks Lilith, all the while holding on to the hope that she will agree a search based off something so small, so futile, would be a ridiculous waste of time. That way, he could keep the artefact. It would be his. All his. Forever.
However, the knight smirks, and pries the object from his hands again. Solomon’s heart drops. It has only been gone for a second, but he already misses the artefact already. “I think we should try,” Lilith declares. And the young prince cannot help but wonder, if she desires to keep the artefact to herself, too—if this is why she has agreed to such madness. “The guard has been lazy lately. It wouldn’t hurt them to be sent out for a short while.”
“Of course.” Solomon finds himself nodding, for he does not know what else he could say to make the stone stay, aside from expressing his agreement for her plan. “I’ll make the necessary arrangements and send a letter over to father.” Perhaps, the stone will come back to him in time, once the guard return with nothing.
Lilith gives his shoulder a curt, and casual pat. “Thanks,” she whispers. “I owe you one.”
He laughs. He glances up to her with a certain fondness he will always keep in his heart for the good friend she has been throughout his life. “You know that’s not true. You owe me nothing, Lilith. Plus,” the young prince smiles, “if you find the Halloran, I’ll be the one forever in your debt.” It is a joke, yet, they both know how close it could grow to being reality if the Halloran are truly planning a war of their own against his country, as the Council suspects.
Lilith returns his smile, though hers, is bittersweet. “I’ll find what you’re looking for and I’ll bring it back, Sol’.” Her grip around his shoulder tightens—not enough to hurt; well enough for Solomon to notice. Their eyes meet. Lilith gives the prince her word in the form of a kiss, then silences him, with two fingers pressed to his mouth. “You don’t have to say anything,” she whispers. “I know you’ve never loved another soul because of your curse.”
“Then why bother?” Solomon slips his hand around her waist, beneath a sword that has saved him more times than he can count. “You are wasting yourself on me.”
Lilith leans in. She bites the skin of his lower lip, then lets her teeth linger. “I already have, Solomon,” her voice is low against his ear. “You needn’t worry about that. I’m fine with this.”
But it is Solomon doesn’t know if he can live with himself for taking advantage of the poor girl. Her future is bright. She should not have to linger in the darkness by his side, when so many others could love her like he never could. Never will.
He does not want to hold her back. And as Lilith takes him to bed, then undresses him with a care he cannot ever comprehend, Solomon promises himself this will be the last time.
I cannot keep doing this.
It is wrong, he thinks. For the both of us. For my country, too.
This is not how a Prince should behave.