Averin's Pre-Breakfast Scheming

Averin paused at the great wooden doors that exited the Wave Camp. He clutched his coat closed at his chest against the cold night air and listened. The wind moaned across the parade ground that stretched before his military headquarters. No surprise there; it blew constantly in Zephyr. In a dormitory on a floor above him, someone rolled in bed, while a second fae snored softly. In the ground floor mess hall, dishes clattered, and chairs scraped on the flagstones. The palace guards had just changed shift, and his off-duty soldiers were sitting for a late evening meal. Laughter spilled from the carnival, on the other side of the island. Just a normal night on the palace island—an island kept floating thanks to the constant siphoning of his magic.

The waste left him hollow. Or, rather, that was how he pictured his core when his precious magic flitted off to fund frivolous nonsense like the daily palace décor change and carnival glamour. Who cared what temperature the fake lava spilling from the even faker volcano in the carnival was? Yet, a dozen conjurers had spent the day working on just that, each minuscule temperature tweak robbing him of magic he’d rather use for defeating Darien.

You know I could keep the whole show going for a thousand years without ruffling a hair on your head. Swirling briskly in his core, his magic wasn’t lying. His well was so deep, he could probably have supported the vortex, the carnival glamour, and the daily décor changes for a millennium. That leaves you with plenty for a fight with Darien.

That's not the point, he snapped back. No one should have to squander their power on a façade designed to con both friends and enemies into believing we're powerful enough to fritter our magic away. It was dishonesty on a scale not even he could justify—and, like most fae, he wasn't scared to twist the truth to achieve an end. Worse, it was also cowardly.

The only answer to Zephyr’s problems lay in killing Darien. With him gone, the need for the elaborate hoax would fall away. He and Rican would finally be free of Pa and Mother’s folly. He grimaced. Fear and, he suspected, guilt had always stopped his parents from agreeing to a proper offensive to topple Pyreack, hence the need for lies. His defeat at Angharad sixty years before when Lena had been slaughtered hadn’t helped convince them otherwise.

So, dutiful son that he was, he continued to endure his bones grinding together like millstones with each pull of magic used to keep the lie alive. That was a side effect of the rotten deal Rican had made with the two-faced god when he’d discovered Pa and Mother’s cheating. Just like Pa’s body withered every time he stole magic from their people, Averin’s frame ached when he supplied the minute-by-minute power needed to uphold the treachery.

Do I need to repeat myself? At least you have the power to do it. His magic preened like a bird.

Stop trying to cheer me up by boosting yourself. He sighed as he started walking to the carnival to join Rican and Stasha in the Oddity. It didn’t help that the sway of his legs and hips jarred up his spine, or that the need to appear chipper and in command despite the never-ending ache was exhausting. Was it any wonder that at times his control slipped, and he felt his eyes and features darken? It had almost been a relief when that swine Darien had blocked his magic while he, Stasha, and the rest of the gang had been in Ocea—almost because he knew that Pa would be suffering instead of him. That was worse than any agony he had to burden.

He caught the almost silent rasp of boots on the stone path, followed by the familiar squeak of chafing fighting leathers. No doubt a palace guard on patrol, but he twirled his hand, calling a gale of magic to his fingers. Ears tuned to every sound, he waited for the walker to appear. A minute later, a shadow glided along the moonlit path toward him. As he suspected, the fae was dressed in the regulation black fighting leathers, black cloak, and black boots of his palace watch. They passed each other, saluting crisply.

His magic settled back into a slow swirl in his core. It’s not as if I haven’t given you the answer to the problem. Nudge Rican hard enough and that shiny crown prince’s circlet will topple right off his head. When you’re king, you can destroy Darien and rebuild Zephyr. And I’ll finally get the honor I deserve. His magic hated being second best at anything.

He narrowed his eyes and sucked in a sharp breath. How many times must I tell you? I don’t want to be king—ever. That’s Rican’s calling, and he’ll do a good job of it. So get used to being second in line—always.

The whirlwind shifted on its axis, setting up a mournful whine only he could hear. A mild protest that at any other time would have made him smile.

But not tonight, though. Not when the plan he and Mother had given their all to for the last sixty years—which would have freed him and solved Rican’s lack of magic—was unraveling just as they stood on the brink of victory.

Unlike Mother, he’d always believed Rican would make an excellent king. His brother would rule with wisdom, diligence, and kindness—but only if Rican could back up that kindness with force. And that was a problem—one Rican couldn’t hope to solve by sealing with his love, Lierin. Add Rican’s almost no magic to Lierin’s not much at all and you ended up with very little of the stuff Rican needed to rule.

That was one of the reasons he’d bought into Mother’s plan to break the bond between Rican and Lierin—Rican needed to seal with someone with real power. With access to an unlimited well of magic, Rican could rule for thousands of years without mishap. Then Rican, the fae responsible for at least part of the mess, could decide if he wished to endure the unceasing pain of keeping the Zephyr lie alive, or if he wanted to bring in much-needed change. Knowing his brother, Rican would speedily end all the deception. It was why he’d sworn to find and then bring the force who shook the world to Zephyr to bond with his brother. It was the only way to truly save them all.

His quest had led him to a scrappy orphan named Stasha. Gaunt and lanky and dressed in rags, she was hanging out in a godforsaken fighting pit in Atria, of all benighted places, where other starving orphans just like her fought for rusty iron coins just to survive. If it hadn’t been for the unstoppable power he’d sensed radiating from her, he’d never have believed she was the girl at whose birth hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and fire had shaken the earth. His pit princess had backed up that force by stealing a silver coin from him. He quirked a smile at her temerity, but it quickly faded.

How was he to know back then that he’d not only fall headlong in love with her but that he’d also long to bond with her? His blood pounded noisily through his veins. Gawky and uncoordinated as Stasha was, he craved her with a passion not even the most graceful female in Zephyr could hope to elicit from him. Even if she remained a leggy foal all the days of her life, nothing would change that.

He rounded a corner that opened onto the palace and slowed as he passed Stasha’s solarium. Glowing gold, he saw nothing through the opaque walls. It didn’t matter. He didn’t need a visual to sense her lingering magic. Powerful air magic mixed with her fire and, if his senses didn’t deceive him, water, fluttered his hair.

From the moment he’d met her, he’d been aware that her magic was a jumbled mess, but it took the events at Topaz Run, when she’d cracked the ice, to convince him that she did indeed have water magic. Although it stung that she’d lied to him when he’d challenged her claim that she’d used only fire magic to dunk the Pyreack, he shrugged. He’d have done the same in her situation. His Stasha wasn’t just smart; she was cunning and had a healthy survival instinct, all things he admired in fae.

Except she wasn’t his Stasha. By rights, if she agreed to their plan, he would have to watch her go to Rican.

The cold bite of the air in his lungs was infinitely less painful than the ache in his chest at the idea of Rican sealing with her. Even though this ludicrous situation was of his making, he doubted the palace song-stringers would believe him if he told them his and Stasha’s story.

The deal he’d made with the two-faced god, in which he’d traded his right to a bonded love for wings, had ended just days before meeting her. After almost three hundred years, his heart was ripe for the taking—and Stasha had done just that. Her sass, caring, courage, and devotion to those she loved had reached into his chest to grip his heart with a force nothing could break.

He rolled his eyes. Well, perhaps not nothing, if Mother’s bond-breaking potion was anything near as good as she claimed it was.

Theoretically, he’d always known Mother’s plan was barbaric—the pain caused by a severed bonding was said to dwarf that of a severed limb. He’d seen plenty of those in battle and could attest to the agony the victim endured. Even with fae healing, few survived a lost limb.

He ripped at the grass and wildflowers swaying against his legs as he walked and then tossed the tufts into the darkness. If Mother’s bond-breaking potion didn’t work, he’d know firsthand how excruciating it was. More pain he really didn’t need.

I warned you about getting close to the firecracker. So did Trystaen and Eliezar. A haughty sniff. You said you had it all under control. Clearly, you didn’t. And what kind of idiot gives his heart to the first fae that comes along? He smiled wryly at that truth stated with his magic’s usual cheerful bluntness.

Maybe it was intervention from the gods. That certainly sat better with him.

Regardless, despite his best efforts at fighting the almost magnetic pull Stasha had on him, he’d failed. Admitting to failure was about as bad as qualifying as an idiot.

At least the bond isn’t one-sided. His magic oozed out a sigh. The way she looks at you with those cow’s eyes. Sickening, really. His stomach flipped. The same way Lierin and Rican gawp at each other. The delicious sensation faded, replaced by gnawing guilt.

I can’t stand back and let Rican and Lierin be torn apart, can I? Not without being a darkness-cursed bastard.

You know what to do. His magic spoke with bright certainty.

The echo of boots across a stone path reached him. He recognized Rican’s heavy gait and listened for Stasha’s light steps, then frowned. Rican was alone. Where was she? Was she safe? Stomach a pit of snakes, he gritted his teeth against the grating in his bones and sprinted around a corner to almost collide with Rican.

Rican grabbed his arm. “Av! Steady, or you’ll have us both on the ground.”

He wrenched away. “Stasha? Where is she?”

Rican sighed. “And you really think this plan is going to work?”

“You dare answer me with a question?! Where is she?” Now he was even quoting his pit princess. Wouldn’t she just love that? Right up to the moment she discovered he’d plotted for her to seal with his brother.

Rican pulled him off the path, away from a group of carnival revelers, who’d stumbled toward them. Given the racket they were making, it was unlikely they’d hear anything, but still, it was the right thing to do. “Lierin’s been sent away,” Rican whispered. “She came to the Oddity to say goodbye. I couldn’t—” His shoulders slumped. “Anyway, when I looked for Stasha, she’d gone.”

Gone? Had she followed another conjured food item and ended up with the Lost? His magic whipped him three feet into the sky. He didn’t fight it. Towering above Rican, he snarled, “Gone where?”

“Back to her room,” Rican hissed. “Calm down. Deja took her there. I’ve been to check on her. Maelia says she’s already in her bedchamber. I wasn’t about to barge in on her.”

Good. The thought of Rican in Stasha’s bedchamber made him want to break things—starting with every bone in Rican’s body. He snapped his fingers, and his magic pulled back, easing his boots back onto the ground. “So she’s safe? No more adventures with imaginary honey cake?”

Rican gave him a sad smile. “You and I really need to talk. This plan is never going to work.” He ran his fingers through his golden hair. “Not for either of us.”

A sound barrier, he commanded his magic. And make it a good one. The air molecules locked together in a dome around him and Rican. Confident that no one, not even the wind, would hear him, he said, “I’ll give you my right arm before I let you have Stasha. It’ll be less painful. But there's no point in talking to Mother. We need to find Pa.”

“He’s at the aviary. I bumped into him when I left the Oddity. He didn’t look happy.”

“He wouldn’t be if he’s at the aviary.” Pulling the sound-deadening dome along with him, he started along the little-used path through the grassland to Pa’s aviary. Pa always went there on the rare occasions he and Mother argued.

“You have a plan?” Rican asked, falling into step with him.

“Just a fragment.” But that didn’t mean he wouldn’t have something concocted by the end of this brisk walk to the furthest point of the island, where the private aviary sat, enjoying the best view of the city below.

“I could just step down as king. It’ll solve everything.”

He stopped and grabbed a fistful of Rican’s cobalt-blue tunic. “No. For a thousand times, no. How many times do we have to discuss this?”

Rican’s fingers folded around his and squeezed gently. “I don’t see another way out of this mess.” His voice was mild, containing none of the anger Rican must have felt toward him. After all, it was his and Mother’s plan that had gotten them both into this—after Rican’s meddling had sent everything to hell in the first place. But there was no gain to be had in assigning blame, no matter how much he wanted to. Rican bore no grudges—and that was why he had to be the king who led Zephyr into peace once Darien was defeated.

 

Ashamed of his anger, he let go of the fabric and turned his hand to clasp Rican’s. “I did this. I’ll fix it. I give you my word. If I fail you—”

“You won’t fail me. That’s how I know you’ll be a better king than I will. Darien will see right through me. The second Pa dies, Darien will know Zephyr is weak. He’ll attack. You can count on that.”

You can see the answer, can’t you? The air swirling in his core stilled. You caught a glimpse of it back in that ratty inn when the firecracker bargained with you to go to Angharad in exchange for her coming here.

How right you are. He pulled his hand away from Rican’s and slapped him on the shoulder. “Darien won’t be alive to attack us.” He flashed a smile. “Trust me, brother. I’ve got this.” He almost floated the rest of the way to the aviary with Rican at his heels. Even the ever-present gnashing in his bones eased.

Light glowed from within an enormous yet graceful domed glass-and-steel structure almost shrouded in cloud. The door was open, so he strode onto the black-and-white-checkered tile floor. “Pa? You in here?”

The frenetic fluttering of wings reached him. Pa was with his hummingbirds. Without waiting for an answer, he fought his way through a jungle of plants to the very back of the aviary. Birds of every hue and color fitted through the air or perched on vine swings and tree branches. They squawked and flapped as he elbowed past.

Surrounded by iridescent blue-green-and-red hummingbirds, Pa sat in a wicker chair, feeding a tiny bird nectar through a thin reed. He held up a hand to silence Averin, who took the opportunity to toss his sound barrier around the aviary. The bird gulped the last drop and winged away. Pa put the reed onto a table next to his chair and turned to Averin and Rican. “A deputation. Let me guess. Cold feet?”

 

“Freezing feet,” Averin said. “It can’t happen.”

Pa sighed. “A bit late for that, don’t you think, son?” Even though Pa wore his strong, energetic glamour, his face was drawn and pale. Pa had tried more than once over the years to convince him of the folly—the cruelty—of breaking Rican and Lierin’s bond should Stasha be found, but with his heart bonded to the two-faced god in exchange for wings, he hadn’t understood.

Now he did. “I screwed up. I accept full responsibility. I’m asking for an opportunity to fix this.”

A long, canny stare, then Pa nodded. “I’m glad you’ve come to your senses, even if it’s at the eleventh hour.” He steepled his fingers. “My problem is, I can’t defy your mother.”

No news there. Guilt had crippled Pa just as surely as the poison Darien and Cyran had tricked him with had trapped his magic and wasted his body. Mother had paid the price by giving Pa all of her magic. Pa had never forgiven himself for it and thus would do nothing to thwart her, even if meant they all suffered. It really was time the kingdom had a devoted king who put the nation first.

“I’m not asking you to.”

His assurance must have been lost on Pa because he added, “She must only find out when it’s too late for her to stop things.” A wry smile. “Hopefully by then I’ll have faded so she can’t take it out on me.”

Averin swallowed a sour taste. How much integrity was there in that? Not much, to be sure, but who was he to judge his Pa. A lifetime sealed to a wronged Mother couldn’t have been much fun. He rubbed his stubble. “We all know Stasha has magic she isn’t telling us about. I suggest we use it.”

“She bonded with Deja as you suspected she would?” Before they’d arrived at the carnival that evening, he and Pa had agreed to give Deja to Stasha. They’d both hoped it would inspire her to fess up that she had more than just fire magic. His pit princess was made of sterner stuff.

 

He couldn’t resist a smile, then winced, guessing he looked like a lovesick youngling. “Like a charm. But not a word from her about how strange it was for a Pyreack fae to bond with air magic.”

“Deja took her home tonight,” Rican added. He stood a few paces behind Averin.

Pa nodded. “So, interesting. An imminent bond between Averin and Stasha isn’t enough for her to confide in him.”

He cringed at that truth and dragged his hand through his hair. “She has her reasons. Good ones, given everything.”

Rican shot forward and stopped an inch from Pa. “That doesn’t mean we don’t need to stop this cursed plan. I’m not sure Lierin and I will survive being parted. In fact, I know for sure that there’ll be consequences none of us have foreseen.” His arms windmilled, almost knocking a silver-and-gold parrot flying by out of the air. “Why do you think I’ve spent all my time researching this? It’s incredibly dark magic we’re dabbling with.”

Pa gripped Rican’s hand and squeezed it while steadying the parrot with his other hand. “Relax, my son. I’ve suffered enough dark magic to last this family many lifetimes. The last thing I want is to push through with this hairbrained scheme. All I’m suggesting is that we can’t bring Stasha into any plan to deceive your…” A quick look around. “Mother.” His voice had dropped to a whisper.

Whipped. Totally whipped. Averin's magic sounded exasperated. Nothing unusual about that. Smart and intuitive as his magic was, it wasn’t tuned to the nuances between fae that made life fascinating—and ensured that good decisions and even better bargains were made.

That’s why I head up this outfit, he drawled to his magic. To Pa, he said dryly, “I’ve put up a sound barrier.” At least if Pa was fretting about Mother, the pressure was off him about Stasha’s lack of trust.

Pa fell back heavily in his chair. “What do you both propose?”

Rican folded his arms. “To be honest, this is all on Averin.”

Averin looked for a spot to rest up against the wall that wasn’t occupied by birds and plants but found none. He shoved his hands into his pockets to stop himself wringing them—it sometimes eased the ache in his joints. “I propose that we pick up where Lena left off. Let’s send Stasha to Fort Rah to assassinate Darien. That way, the pressure is finally gone. Mother will have no imminent attack from Darien to panic about, and Rican and I will be free.” He nodded at Rican. “You and your paltry magic will rule Zephyr. I’ll continue to be your big stick if you need to bully anyone into accepting the new order of things.” Warmth curled around his heart. “But I doubt you’ll need it. Despite what you think, you’ll be a great king. Everyone is tired of war and will relish a period of peace and stability.”

 

Rican shifted. Pa, on the other hand, had turned to stone in his seat. Averin had given up hope of ever getting a response when Pa stirred. “She’ll do it?”

“In a heartbeat. Killing Darien so she can end the war is what drives her.” He allowed a cocky smile. “That and irritating me at every possible turn.”

Pa snorted. “I’m sure you give as good as you get.” He gestured to Rican. “As future king of Zephyr, what do you make of this assassination plan?”

Hands clasped behind his back, Rican paced across the tiny available space. Birds cawed and cackled, but he didn’t seem to notice. “It’s sneaky. You could even argue that it lacks honor.” Averin only just managed to resist rolling his eyes. May the gods forbid Rican’s un-fae-like honesty to sabotage a good plan. Rican added, “It’ll take some subterfuge to keep it from Mother. That’s going to be the tricky part. And I suppose we can’t risk bringing anyone else in on it.” He stopped and smiled. “Despite all that, in principle, I like it.”

Averin sighed with relief that the first hurdle was behind them. He slapped Rican’s back. “Glad you approve. I’ve been carrying this around with me from before Angharad. And as for getting help… Stasha has her people, and I have mine. Klaus, Feral Fox, El, and Trys will do anything for us. We can use them as needed.”

“And the Pyreack lieutenant? What about him?” Disdain curled Pa’s nose and twisted his lips.

Good question. Averin rapped his fingers against his thigh. The wind had whispered to him that Suren, Feral Fox, and Klaus had told Stasha the truth about the raven he branded onto Suren’s cheek. Stasha hadn’t been happy with his masterful plan for keeping tabs on Suren. Ensuring she was happy was his number one priority—after guaranteeing that nothing got in the way of their bonding, of course. He’d have to remove that brand in the morning. He shrugged. Suren had proved himself in battle, so there was no need to be paranoid. A trickle of truth told to Suren would ensure Averin suffered no loss of face by having to retract. In the meantime, he said with assurance, “Stasha trusts Suren, and I trust Stasha.” He grunted. “And any wisecracks about that trust not being mutual and I’ll tie you both in knots.”

Pa and Rican exchanged smiles that suggested no fear at his threat. Pa’s smile faded. “Then pull Suren in on a need-to-know basis.” He rolled the reed on the table beneath his fingertips. “Your mother’s plan for breakfast must go ahead. Stasha and she must leave the table convinced that Stasha is to seal with Rican.”

By implication, that meant Stasha had to be convinced that he didn’t want her. He sucked in a breath to ease the nausea twisting his gut. What if he couldn’t later convince her that it was all a lie? What if she never gave him another opportunity to tell her that he loved her? Life without her at his side would be bleak and cold indeed.

A plan might be called for, his magic said laconically.

It would have to be a damned good one. He scratched his stubble, thinking. “After breakfast, she starts her training with El. Maybe we can speak to her then? Explain things.” He had a date with her after breakfast anyway. “I’ll tell her about the plan to take down Darien so we can dodge Mother’s scheme.” It seemed churlish to call it a “scheme” when he’d once been Mother’s greatest supporter, but he’d always been pragmatic. He called it thinking on his feet.

Pa snorted derisively. “You’re sure the jilted fae, who showed up in the carnival wearing blue and green flames, will sit quietly while you spout excuses?”

“No. Not really.” He wouldn't if the tables were turned. His fingers twitched nervously in his pockets. “A glamour, perhaps.” He sniggered. “Or maybe I can stand on the other side of the island.”

“And you wanted this fae to seal with me?” Bemused, Rican shook his head. “Averin, this is one conversation I really don’t want to miss.”

 

Pa grinned at Rican. “Me neither. It’s going to be a real doozy.” His mirth was replaced by an eye flash. “Averin, a post-breakfast meeting with Stasha is essential. She's too valuable to this family and to Zephyr to be antagonized and alienated—as she will be after she hears your mother's plan. We must bring her back into the fold as soon as we can, or we risk creating a devastating enemy.” That explained why Pa was willing to defy Mother, even if done surreptitiously. "You know her best. Give us a plan of action, and Rican and I will do our parts.”

 

He closed his eyes and rocked on his heels. Perhaps it was fear, but nothing came to mind.

 

Rican cleared his throat. “Will Stasha even agree to sealing with me?” He sounded both doubtful and hopeless. “The fae I saw tonight is more likely to set me on fire than bond with me.”

Was it childish that he relished the memory of every spark Stasha’s dress had fired at Rican?

His magic laughed. Your words, not mine.

He forced the smile off his face and shrugged. “If she believes I don’t want her and that it will help destroy Darien, then yes, she probably will.” He shook his head, suddenly seeing a possible solution to defusing his headstrong pit princess. “The best way of disarming Stasha is to embarrass her. Her biggest secret right now is her magic. So if we—”

“Force her to reveal that she’s been lying about her magic, she’ll be on the back foot for long enough for you to reason with her,” Pa interrupted.

“Exactly. We have to find a way to take the puff out of her sails.” He gnawed his lip. “No easy task. She thinks the sun shines out of her butt.” He grinned as if he'd just been robbed of a silver coin by a scrappy orphan. “Most of the time, she’s right.”

 

“I think we all saw that tonight. Her dress was just outrageous,” Rican said with a bemused expression. “She's the perfect match to your humility.” A smile. "Or your lack thereof."

Averin canted his head and grinned. “I'm not denying that Stasha and I are perfect together. We're going to make a formidable team.” His mirth slipped away. First, he had to convince her that he was not only sorry for the anguish he was about to put her through but that he loved her with all his heart. “I suggest we highjack Eliezar and Stasha’s training session. A plausible story, some taxing physical exertion, and a bit of glamour, and we could trip her up.”

“In that case, I’m taking Eliezar’s skin.” Pa rubbed his hands together. “Our Stasha is in for a rough day if I’ve anything to do with it.”

Averin's heart clenched. She'd curse him for putting her through a physical trial. "Averin, wipe that misery off your face," Pa snapped.

 

Not realizing he’d let his face relax into showing his inner turmoil, he tossed his shoulders back and cleared his expression of everything but hard determination. “I’ll plan everything tonight with El and Trys and brief you before breakfast on what Eliezar would do and say in the situation we’ve set up.”

“There’s still no guarantee that she won’t try and incinerate us when our glamours drop.” Rican still looked glum.

“You’re coming?” He raised an eyebrow. Like Stasha, Rican had also never been one for physical exertion. It was the one and only thing Rican and Stasha had in common.

“You bet your life I’m coming.” A grin tugged Rican’s lips. “Maybe you should drag Suren along. We can shove him in front of us if she starts shooting flames.”

Averin chortled. “That is the most cowardly brilliance I’ve heard in an age.” He sighed. “Jokes apart, Suren could be a valuable part of our assassination team. Feral Fox and Klaus too. We really need to open our minds to all possibilities, no matter how seemingly outlandish. I’ll have Suren on hand tomorrow as well.”

Pa rubbed his jaw. “What a day. That I should live long enough to once again see fae and humans working side by side for the greater good.” His fingers rapped on the table. “Your mother is really, really going to struggle with this, but it’s our only hope.” He’d long known that Mother had a problem with equality between fae and humans, but she'd never be drawn into explaining why. If all went according to plan, it was one more thing she’d have to accept in a long line of upcoming disappointments.

Pa stood and held out his hand. “Averin. Rican. My sons, we have a new deal. Care to shake on it?”

Warm hope unfurled in Averin's chest as he stood aside to let Rican shake with Pa first. Pa then held out a powerful-looking hand to him. Knowing how frail it was under the glamour, he shook it without squeezing too hard. “A new Zephyr awaits us. It just breaks my heart that you won’t be alive to enjoy it.” Unable to bear seeing Pa's reaction—or letting Pa see the tears glistening in his eyes—he hurried from the aviary to find Eliezar and Trystaen. Together, they’d set a trap for his pit princess that, hopefully, would see him and Stasha safely on their way to bonding.

But if it didn’t work, the repercussions would be unbearable. He shook the thought from his head and walked faster.

Thank you for reading Averin’s thoughts on the events that led up to Stasha revealing her wings. I’m sure Erin and I will have more alternative POVs to share with you as the series progresses.

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