"Silver?" Lux asked timidly, as the dark mage handed him another bundle of food. Silver looked up.
"Would you be able to take us through the shadows?"
Silver met his eyes, and, just as always, Lux could detect no emotion within them; no hint of Silver's answer.
"Perhaps," he mused. "Though I'm not sure what it would do to a human like you."
The shadows danced around him from the flickering light of the glowstones, the silver in his eyes so distant as he glared down at Lux.
The prince bowed his head. "I think," he said finally, slowly, "That I would be willing to risk it. If there's no other way out."
"Did I agree to take you?"
"No, but you said you might," Lux replied hopefully.
"I said I might be able to," Axel corrected him. "But not that I would be willing to."
"Oh," Lux's face fell. Only one possibility remained: to try saving he and Rubin using Silver's easy provocation against him. "Then, are you not strong enough to take us through?"
"I'm strong enough," Silver growled. "And I'm definitely stronger than you."
"Then prove it," Lux told him. He hated to use people, but there was no other option. He could either use Silver, or he and Rubin would remain here until he thought of something else.
"Why should I feel the need to do that?"
"Because it's something that shows your strength. And makes you better than Vipera, because she wouldn't be brave enough. Or are you as cowardly as her?"
"Cowardly?" Silver hissed. "I am not cowardly."
Lux swallowed his fear. "Then prove it to me. Show me that you're brave, if you're not afraid to try it."
"Very well," Silver growled. "Then, are you ready? You might die, in there."
"I know," Lux said, straightening himself. "But I am willing to try it."
"Shadow," Silver said. "Come in with us."
With that, he surged forwards, reaching for Lux's wrist and gripping it tightly.
And suddenly, they were plunged into a world of cold.
Lux gasped as a sadistically freezing wave struck him, engulfing him almost instantly within violent trembling, like a pack of wolves with fangs of ice. Something seemed to pull at him, trying to drag him away from Silver as he clung desperately to the other's arm, his lips forming an endless scream. Darkness fell upon him, allowing not even a touch of light into its domain. He couldn't see anything, not even Silver's fingers as they clasped his wrist, not even his gleaming eyes of tempest silver. Falling to his knees, Lux succumbed to the crushing pain of the world of the dark, buckling beneath the fear that lurked within the eternal darkness.
"Silver!" he managed to scream out, his voice riddled with terror. It was only the mage's strength that held him away from being dragged beneath the torrents of the freezing, crushing darkness.
"Lux, hold on!" Silver ordered. His voice echoed outwards, distant, faraway, all around him and yet completely out of reach. His words were indistinguishable, slurring together in a swarm of chaotic sound. With another frantic shudder, Lux gasped out in pain, trying to drag himself closer to Silver, trying desperately to avoid being lost to the monster of the shadows.
It was like drowning, Lux thought frenziedly. Like drowning in terror.
He screamed again, losing his grip on Silver's arm. There was only one anchor between them - and that was Silver's cold, strong hand, gripping his wrist and attempting bravely to keep him afloat.
"Skala!" he thought he heard the word barked in Silver's sharp tongue, but he couldn't be sure. The voice was so isolated, almost obscure as it rang through his ears.
Another hand, softer and very slightly warmer, dragged him up, and then he was being pulled towards the colder hand, and then the world was spinning and he realised he'd been slung over Silver's shoulders.
Fingers of the dark were still clutching at him, trying to pull him down, but it wasn't so bad as before. He was still convulsing violently with the cold, and the dark seemed to prey upon him, planting seeds of terror within his mind. But he'd stopped drowning, at least. Now, there was only the cold and the dark and the empty echoes of Silver's voice.
"Help me..." he whispered, barely managing to force the sound from his throat, because the fear was still there, still strangulating him with an iron grip.
"Shut up and hold on!" Silver's voice. It had to be. His rough words echoed through Lux's mind, barely understood but somehow translated, somewhere in his mind, into how they would sound if they were not walking through an ocean of blackness and terror and merciless cold.
Silver faltered in his steps, stumbling briefly and falling. There was a jolt, a mumbled thanks, and then they were walking again, and Lux whimpered in pain and fear. Silver might have cursed, but there was no way of knowing.
Another voice called out from far away - oh so very far away - and Lux thrashed violently against Silver's grip, trying to reach its soft, alluring gentleness. A snarl. A cry of agony.
Only later would he realise that the voice had been Shadow's, the snarl Silver's, the cry his own.
"We're almost there, princeling, so stop writhing!"
The words like daggers might, alone, have forced him to subside a little, but it was the fatigue hidden faintly beneath the blurred meanings of the words that pushed Lux to cease his squirming, instead falling back to the violent shuddering; the outbursts of pain every few seconds as each wave of agony became too much.
And then there was the sudden sense of weightlessness, of warmth, of freedom.
Lux sobbed in relief.
"Was it really that bad?" Silver's familiar scorn. Lux didn't care, anything, anything was better than that. Than the echoed words floating within the dark.
"Thank you..." he whispered, barely able to form another word. It was dark, but even so, the light of the moon was blinding; the cool night air warming and liberating.
Silver carelessly deposited Lux before him, dropping him upon the dirt of the ground beneath. Lux collapsed where he lay, sprawling across the muddy ground and feeling the solidity of the earth underneath him.
"You said you could do it," Silver growled accusingly. "Not that you were too weak to stand it, and that you'd let me carry you through."
"I'm sorry," Lux said, but he didn't mean it. It was good, simply to be lying on something reliable again.
"Here." Silver's voice was almost a snarl, as he shrugged off his cloak and threw it at Lux. The warm black garment landed in a heap upon his chest, and Lux feebly dragged it over himself, sinking gratefully into its warmth. "Don't damage it. I'll be back with the assassin in a minute."
He stepped backwards into the dark, and the shadows engulfed his body.
"Well done," Shadow murmured almost absent-mindedly, a moment before she, too, melted into the dark.
Lux was left alone to shiver, absorbing the moonlight gratefully as he clasped the cloak tighter around his body, closing his eyes and digging his fingers into the warm, dark fabric. He was no longer drowning, but that wasn't what brought the touches of a smile to his trembling lips.
It was not completely impossible, it seemed, to melt a little of Silver's cold, heartless shell.