The Firebird Prince

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In the fight, Kellan and Arkan found each other side by side. At one point, at a sudden lull in the fight, Kellan said in a low voice, “I feel like something’s wrong.”

“Don’t you always?”

Kellan ignored his jab and said, “With Zara and Asa.”

“They’re safe in the cellar,” Arkan said. “Nothing to worry about.”

“What if there is?” Kellan muttered. “Your mother’s in there too.”

Arkan tensed. “If something was wrong, the alarm would have been raised.”

As if on cue, the alarm bells started to toll, once, twice—then pause, then again.

Kellan froze. “Trouble in the cellar,” he translated, and without a pause, ran towards the castle.

Mother. Arkan cast a look at the courtyard; it seemed like their soldiers had control over the fight. They would be fine without the Princes. He ran after Kellan.

“Commander Aryan!” Kellan shouted. “Make quick work of them!”

Aryan gave him a sharp nod and Kellan shoved the door open, stumbling suddenly. Arkan caught him before he could fall.

Teeth gritted against the pain, Kellan said, “Go! I’ll catch up.”

Arkan barely hesitated. Kellan could take care of himself; Arkan had other priorities, anyways. His mother was in danger. His sisters were in danger. He had to get to them.

The sprint to the cellar was a blur of urgency. The door hung ajar in an eery way, and the silence that came from inside was equally as unsettling.

Arkan gripped his sword tighter and pushed it open.

The first thing he saw was his mother, cowering against the wall, wide eyes on—

“Ah, here comes the Prince of Nothing,” the man in the room said, smiling darkly. His easy tone contrasted harshly with his position—he stood over Asa and Zara, his knife casually pointed at the former. Arkan’s hands curled into fists.

The Prince of Nothing. The taunt rang around his head, but he ignored it.

“Who are you?” Arkan demanded. “Let the Princess go!”

The man barely seemed affected. He cast a look around Arkan. “Where’s Prince Charming?”

Arkan scowled. “Let. Her. Go,” he said, ignoring his question.

“I don’t think I will.” He smiled. “This is all very cliché, is it not? An enemy, a hostage, and a righteous protester... You need not waste your breath. Everyone knows what you will say. Let’s skip to the action, shall we? I’m getting terribly bored.”

Zara looked at him with wide eyes, hands clutching Asa’s. “Kellan,” she said, trembling. “Is he—?”

“He’s fine,” Arkan said shortly, and the man laughed.

“Not for long,” he said, smiling. “Not for long.”

“What do you mean?” Asa demanded, strong despite the knife at her throat.

“All your late night worries and this one’s healing—” he gestured to Asa— “were all in vain. Your Golden Prince has got poison in his veins.” His eyes glittered darkly. “He’ll be choking on it soon.”

Zara inhaled sharply, a tiny, terrified breath. Asa’s throat moved as if she was going to say something, but she held her tongue.

Suddenly, realization dawned on Arkan. “You’re the dark elf,” he said. “You tried to kill Kellan!”

Asa grit her teeth. “He killed Mother and Father too,” she said quietly, cold fury in her voice.

The man clicked his tongue impatiently. “Yes, yes,” he said. “Enough about that. I’m bored.” He gave the door a look. “Just want my audience to be complete, though. Prince Charming is running quite late. Oh, well. I suppose I shall spare Prince Kellan that particular trauma.” He smirked. “You, however...”

He moved lightening fast, his knife plunging towards Asa, but Asa was ready for it--she grabbed his arm and twisted, making him drop the knife. She caught it before it hit the ground and shoved against the fae’s throat.

It happened so suddenly that by the time everything went still, Arkan was gaping. That...happened.

“If you think,” Asa said furiously, “that I am a helpless little girl who will take what is given to me, then you are sorely mistaken. I will not--” she shoved harder-- “I will not lie down and take the beating, especially not from my parents’ killer.”

The assassin laughed, casual despite his position. “If you kill me, princess,” he said, “your brother will die.”

Asa scoffed. “All bark and no bite, you dog.”

“Hear me out,” he said pleasantly. “The poison is one that works slowly but steadily, and it’s taking hold now. Soon, his body will give in and he will lose consciousness, and then one of my men will kill him.”

Asa’s shoulders bunched. “Call them off.”

“I don’t think I will, Princess.”

Asa growled. “I’ll kill you!”

“No, you won’t,” the man said, smiling. “You can’t.”

Asa glanced down at the knife and realization dawned in her eyes. She shouted in frustration, shoving him away. “There are more ways to hurt you than with a knife.”

“Oh, you remind me of my sister, Princess.” He laughed. “She hates me with a passion, much like you.”

“Could anyone like you?” Arkan scoffed.

“I doubt it,” he said conversationally. “This has been quite a pleasant talk, hasn’t it? Now—” He moved as if attacking again, but Asa shoved the knife into his face again.

“Don’t try,” she said disdainfully. “Don’t even try.”

The assassin laughed. “Oh, please. You really think you can stop me? I have magic, Princess. I can kill you where you stand.”

Asa barely faltered; she tightened her grip on the knife and said, “Do it, then.”

And suddenly, Arkan was choking.

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