We were kept in the highest chambers of the castle after Father died. Richard – our Uncle – said our enemies were widespread, and that we’d be well protected in the high towers overlooking the Thames.
Our nursemaids and servants began whispering ghastly rumors, and Edward was frightened and sleepless; I had never seen my brother so terrified.
Edward woke me one rainy night, pulling me from my bed as the thunder burst over the river. He kept his torch unlit: he had a basket of cheese and blankets. Edward had a secret, he said, and it could not wait.
“Richard,” Edward whispered, “we’re in danger. We’ll be dead by winter unless you do what I say.”
He led us into the castle’s rank cellars. Steps led to crawlspaces and crevices in the ancient stone. We crept into its buried guts; eventually, the walls turned to bone-strewn soil.
Late that night we heard echoes blossoming from above. Edward was afraid; he knew a search party had been sent for us. We pressed on, boring through the earth’s cloistered tunnels, holding tight to fistfuls of ropy vines that grew where no sun shined.
The reeking air finally lifted after days of stumbling. We had grown pale and hungry, and licked twinkling, slimy molds that were smeared on the walls for sustenance. We ate fishes that swam in milky, unnaturally illuminated streams. We had grown thin and sickly. We had nearly given up when we stumbled into a great, sprawling cavern of dark ice. Water dripped and whispered from pools of cold, reflective water: blue green mosses and small scuttling things hurried past. We gathered spongy leaves to burn for fire, and medallions of fleshy fruit on the undersides of rocks. We ate well, and slept hard, for the first time in almost a month.
We woke to light, and fresh air, and streaming choral murmurs. Tiny frogs hopped at our feet; lumbering, flightless birds screeched from low perches, and we found pale faces watching us from the edges of the great room: children, like us. They were shy and proud, holding their palms to us in amity.
When he became a king, a true King of the pale, hidden children, Edward denounced the upper air: his first act as King was to send several of the child-warriors to seal the endless, sprawling tunnels that led to the world above.