The Firebird Prince

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Zara had to do something.

The fae—whatever his name was—had clearly dismissed her as harmless, focusing instead on Asa (who was a weapon in and of herself) and Arkan (who was more formidable as a swordsman than Zara liked to admit). She had to work the lack of focus to her advantage.

Her mind had started to come up with something, but then the fae flicked his hand, and suddenly Arkan was pressing his hands to his throat, making horrible, wheezing sounds.

The tension in the room increased palpably. "Arkan?" his mother said, low and panicked.

"Can't—" Arkan cut off, hand fluttering above his collar as if that would help him breathe. Zara watched him, wide-eyed.

He sank to his knees, clutching his neck and gasping for breath. His mother let out a very dignified shriek and rushed forward to him, hands hovering above him.

"Stop," she begged, face crumpling. "Stop, please."

The fae shrugged casually. "You just have to surrender, you know," he said. "I have no need to kill him."

"Fine," the queen said desperately as Arkan's face drained of colour.

"No," he choked out. "No."

Asa's hands clenched into fists. "Stop this!" she ordered sharply. "What has he ever done to you?"

"I believe," the fae said, suddenly serious, "he was of the men that killed my parents."

Arkan made a strangled sound, but it was hard to tell if it was because he could never t breathe or if he was surprised."Your parents must have been fools," Asa retorted, and Zara mentally facepalmed, "if they got caught when they should've known better."

"You will not," the fae said, clenching his hand, "insult my parents."

Arkan doubled over with a choked noise, his eyes squeezed shut. His shoulders were quivering with the effort to get air.

Without restraint, the fae continued to tighten his fist, and Arkan's noises grew more desperate and weak. Then suddenly, the fae stilled, his hand going lax. Arkan gasped, coughing hard enough that Zara thought he'd hack up a lung.

While his mother went giddy with relief, Asa tensed beside Zara. "What is it?" she asked suspiciously.

"I have," he said, "what I wish for."

Asa squinted at him, visibly confused, as Alina fretted over Arkan.

"What you wish for," Asa said slowly, trailing off. Suddenly, she clutched Zara's hand. "Kellan!"

"Aren't you smart," the fae sneered. "Well. I've got to go now..." He muttered something and suddenly, Zara couldn't move. Asa's hand was frozen around hers.

He smiled, and between one blink and the next, disappeared.

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