Blood and Stars

An Arrow

Avery ran a hand through his hair, sighing as he sunk down onto his soft bed. 

He had been planning on speaking with the maid when his brother hauled him off. Avery had allowed it, since he knew his little brother was right.

Mia Harper needed time to cope. She had been attacked by an Emery guard, and held her own.

He felt a swell of pride at that. She had fended for herself. Even if she wasn’t his Soulmate, he knew she was a formidable woman.

So why was she working as a maid? Part of Avery’s magic allowed him see how trained a person was with a weapon, and a sense of which weapons they used.

She hadn’t trained with any, but she knew how to handle a knife, he had guessed when he met her. That night had proved it.

He had also gotten the sense of something else – an everyday item she could turn into a weapon at need. His magic balked there, not allowing him to sense anything else.

Mia Harper. As soon as he had set eyes on her, he couldn’t stop staring. Her rich, dark brown hair that glimmered almost red in the light was perfect with her caramel eyes. Thick lashes with a small nose dotted with freckles that Avery wanted to feel for himself.

She was petite. The woman looked as if she could take off in the slightest wind, with small feet, and rather short.

To anyone else, she looked average, if a bit short. To Avery, she was a goddess.

He longed to touch her, just to brush skin. That way, he could know if Mia Harper was his. And if he was hers.

He found himself wishing that she was his Soulmate. With a slight bit of guilt, he knew that that wasn’t fair to his Soulmate if it wasn’t her.

Avery was so lost in thought that Red had to fly onto the bed beside him, pecking gently at his hand. The prince jumped a bit, looking at the hawk.

Red’s golden eyes met his, and the hawk blinked as if to ask, What’s on your mind?

Avery smiled at the hawk. After Avery had done a favor for a man, he had used his magic to bind Red to Avery. Avery had saved the little hawk when he was a fledgling, and was sticking around. Now, though the bond, Red was smarter than the average bird and was a great friend for Avery.

“You know what I’m thinking about,” Avery chuckled. Red ruffled his wings, spreading them and gliding back to his perch, staring pointedly at his bowl of water.

Avery snorted, but stood and refilled the water. After making sure the window was cracked open for the bird to come and go as he pleased, Avery got ready to go to bed.

He hadn’t been able to sleep very well for the past few days, but laid down to rest anyway.

Alexander swore. “I keep forgetting why I don’t like sparring with you. Now I remember.”

Avery grinned, keeping his sword aloft at his brother’s chin. The older brother lowered his own sword, admitting defeat.

Avery was proud that he was one of the few people in Astana who could beat his brother. Now, no one had ever beat Avery before, but that was besides the point.

His magic revolved entirely around weapons, making him a difficult opponent to beat. He often sparred without his magic, but wasn’t reserved enough to not use it when in a tight spot.

Alexander was sweating heavily, and got up once Avery had lifted his sword away and sheathed it. The younger prince hadn’t even broken a sweat.

Avery lent a hand to help his brother stand up, clapping him on the back. “That move you pulled, the one with feinting to disarm me was quite clever. You nearly had me there.”

Alexander gave him an exasperated look. “Thanks?”

Avery snorted, and waved as he glanced around the training yard. There was a few guards with new trainees, and a few had paused to watch the duel.

He moved to the nearest fence, pulling his shirt back over his head. It stuck to his skin, which told Avery he truly had sweat a bit.

With a shower in mind, Avery headed into the palace. Guards clasped their hand over their hearts as he passed, but didn’t incline their heads, as he wasn’t the Crowned Prince. Avery was quite glad he wasn’t – he didn’t want to be King later on in life.

As he walked down the corridor, Avery paused. His magic sparked in the back of his mind, alerting him to something.

There was a weapon near him – and not the standard swords of the guards. It was a bow and a quiver of arrows. Judging by the gentle tug in his mind, it was west of him, and out of the palace walls.

But within the garden fence. Close enough to strike anyone within the palace with proper aim.

And he could feel the bow being drawn. Avery hissed under his breath, drawing his sword.

“With me!”

The two guards followed him as he ran down the corridors, trying to pin-point the location of the arrow about to be fired. His jaw clenched when he felt the bow being drawn the slightest bit more, and the arrow was fired.

Right before he felt the arrow sail into the palace, he heard a gasp. Glass shattered nearby, and there was a grunt of pain, followed with the thud of something hitting the ground.

Or someone, Avery thought darkly as he put on his pace.

He rounded the corner, and his heart nearly stopped in his chest. 

A familiar head of dark brown, nearly red, hair was sprawled on the ground. Blood was pooling around the body, and Avery felt a roar of rage build in his chest.

An arrow was protruding from Mia Harper’s chest.

His sword clattered to the ground as he skidded to a stop at her side, kneeling. He paid no mind to the glass cutting into his knees from the shattered window.

Mia Harper was groaning softly, shifting on the ground in pain. Avery caught her wrists to stop her from pulling out the arrow herself. He paid no mind to the warmth and tingles that shot up his arms at the contact.

“Dear gods,” Avery swore when he saw the arrow. Mia was lucky – it was too high up to have hit her heart. But it was lodged in the muscle above the organ, and bleeding quickly.

Her eyes, unmistakably clear, fixed on him. She watched his every move as he shouted at the guards to get the healer and find the bowman.

Alone, he tore off part off his shirt and pressed it against the bleeding wound. He couldn’t take it out – if he did, it could cause complications. If it was blocking a major artery, removing it would stop the block keeping her from bleeding out.

Avery felt his panic spike as she started going a bit limp. Her eyes finally started to haze over, fluttering shut.

“Mia!” He tried, but was suddenly pulled away. Avery shouted, fighting against whoever it was that was holding him.

“Easy, brother!” Alexander hissed in his ear. “We can’t tend to her if you won’t let the healer close!”

Avery slowly stopped trying to fight his brother, watching as the healer fell at Mia’s side, inhaling sharply at the sight of the arrow.

“We need to get her to the ward,” the healer said sharply. “Now.”

One of the longest nights in Avery’s life began.

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