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"Seven offers this year, and not one from a princess," said Zayn's mum, once upon a time.

Zayn shrugged. "I don't even want to get married yet." He was trying to sketch the Battle of Bradford on the side of the cow barn, but no one ever left him in peace.

"Not to this rabble, you don't," she agreed.

"We're rabble," Zayn pointed out. "I mean, if this royal blood thing is what you're going by."

"Zayn's gonna marry a princess, Zayn's gonna marry a princess!" screeched his little sister, who was eavesdropping instead of milking the cows.

"Or a prince," Zayn said, although doubtless all princes were egotistical nightmares.

"Fine, fine," said his dad. "As long as there's a title involved."

Zayn's mum nodded. "You know what you look like. You're meant for higher things."

Zayn squinted at his sketch and then chalked in more defined abdominal muscles for the knight in the foreground. Historically speaking, the knight should probably be wearing more armour, but art was more important than facts.

"Tower or island, Zayn?" asked his dad.

"What?" Zayn had lost track of the conversation.

Zayn's dad put his hand on Zayn's shoulder. "We've decided to go the whole cursed-by-a-bad-fairy route with this thing. Would you prefer to be rescued from a very high tower with no door or from an island surrounded by man-eating sea serpents?"

"What bad fairy?"

Zayn's dad waved his hand. "We'll figure it out later."

"I don't get it," said Zayn. "How is being completely isolated from the rest of the world going to help me meet people?"

"You don't know royals," said his mum. "They live for this stuff. They eat it up."

"Maybe I could just go to more balls," said Zayn. "I know I've been rubbish about the whole dancing thing, but it's going to be different now."

"Hahaha," said his mum darkly. "Nope. Time for the quality to come to you."

"Come on, son," said his dad. "Pick a peril."

Zayn considered his options. "I don't like open water."

"Tower then," said his dad, before Zayn could add, "Or heights."

 

***

 

It didn't take long for Zayn to decide that he loved the tower. It was so peaceful. He had his paints and the illuminated manuscript his parents had bribed him with and he could sing as loud as he wanted to and no one could hear him. At night he listened to the wind and made friends with the bats, whom his mother had explained were environmentally beneficial and disease-free. Every few days his mum or dad magicked their way up to check on him. Once, by special request, his dad dropped off his two best friends for a visit.

"Bro," said Niall, looking around at the small stone room in disbelief. "You want me to bust you out of here?"

"Nah," said Zayn. "The magic wouldn't let you, and I'm not allowed to marry you anyway."

Niall put his arm around Zayn. "We don't need marriage to have a good time."

"Even if you didn't marry us, we'd still respect you in the morning," agreed Harry, patting Zayn's bum.

"Knock it off, both of you," said Zayn. "I'm talking about the spell. Whoever rescues me from the tower gets to marry me, but they have to be a prince or a princess."

"I really don't think that's fair," said Harry, who had brought one of his scarves for Zayn to borrow "as a taste of home."

"Chin up, Harry." Niall ruffled Harry's hair. "You didn't have a chance at him anyway."

"Neither did you," said Harry, and stuck out his tongue at Niall.

"As if you two would even be interested," said Zayn quickly, because of how woebegone they both looked.

"Yeahhh," said Harry. He went over to the tower window and squinted as if he were scanning for princesses.

"How'd you annoy that fairy, anyway?" asked Niall.

Zayn rolled his eyes. "There was no fairy."

"Really?" Niall seemed to think this was the most hilarious thing he'd ever heard. "Zayn, man. There was like an official herald proclaiming this shit."

"BAD FAIRY CAPTURES RAVEN-HAIRED BEAUTY," Harry recited, with dramatic hand gestures. "WEEPING PARENTS BEG LOCAL ROYALTY: 'SAVE OUR UNMARRIED SON.'"

"Yeah, my parents are crazy," said Zayn. Then they played cards until Zayn's dad came to take Harry and Niall home.

 

***

 

In the second week there was so much commotion at the foot of the tower that it was audible all the way up at the top: shouts, crashes, buzzing noises that seemed to come from some sort of machinery. Occasionally, Zayn could hear the sound of an attempted incantation that got the accents all wrong. Still, Zayn didn't like to lean very far out the window, so he couldn't really see what was happening. There wasn't as much excitement in the third week, and by the fourth, to Zayn's relief, things seemed to have died down completely.

Then, in the fifth week, there was Liam.

 

***

 

"I can't believe you scaled the actual wall," said Zayn. It seemed like a lot of effort.

The guy shrugged. "It was seven seconds off my best time for a tower this size, actually." He looked kind of sweaty but not too wiped. "You mind if I—" he gestured at his doublet.

"'Course, go ahead," said Zayn. "I'll get you a cold drink."

"Cheers," the guy said, throwing a dirty, tattered doublet over the back of the sofa. "I'm Liam. So, you live here or what?"

"Live here, sort of. You mean you don't know who I am?"

"Should I?"

"Maybe," said Zayn. "I mean, my parents kind of had it proclaimed it in a lot of town squares and I think there were some parchments nailed up on the sides of public houses."

"Huh," said Liam. "Tell you the truth, mate, I don't follow the news too closely. Not really a parchment kind of guy. Who are you, then?"

"Zayn," said Zayn. "It doesn't matter. So what brings you here?"

"Well, I mean, it was a tower, wasn't it? I like to keep fit."

Zayn nodded as if that made sense. "Here's your elderberry iced tea."

Liam stayed long enough to drink his tea, ask about the dragon Zayn painted over the fireplace, and discuss how many knights it would take to defeat it. Then he put his doublet back on. "Well, I gotta get back, I have this thing."

"Right, me too," said Zayn, lying.

It wasn't until he was gone that Zayn realised Liam had never once mentioned rescuing him. Not that it mattered. Between the cluelessness, the work ethic, and the state of his doublet, Liam was obviously no prince.

 

***

 

Zayn's favourite bat was the smallest one. He liked to sleep in Zayn's pocket instead of hanging upside down from his roost, and he always squeaked understandingly when Zayn talked. Zayn named him Louis and told him about all sorts of things: how the large landowners were squeezing the peasants, why his parents didn't understand him, the advantages and disadvantages of growing a beard.

When Zayn sang, Louis waved his wings back and forth to the music. "Baby you're a star," Zayn sang. "I just wanna show you you are, you should let me love you—"

He stopped when he saw Liam's face at the window. The problem with a tower room was that there was actually no place to hide.

"Didn't think I'd see you again," said Zayn, as if he hadn't just been making a fool of himself.

"That was gorgeous, mate. Absolutely amazing," said Liam, and hiked himself onto the windowsill. "Didn't know you were a bard."

"Oh, I'm not," said Zayn. "Cow farmer, basically. My parents, I mean." He didn't mention the whole side-line in magic his parents had going. If word got out, it could give the whole game away.

"Well, farmers are the soul of this land," said Liam.

"Right," said Zayn. "And the bloody royals taxing them right and left."

Liam looked stricken.

"Your family too, huh?" Zayn asked. "Between you and me, Liam, I don't think people like us are gonna stand for it much longer."

"Yeah," said Liam softly. "Could you maybe sing that song again?"

 

***

 

"So you must climb a lot of towers," said Zayn, the next time Liam showed up.

"A bit," said Liam. "Hey, are those bats? I love bats!"

"They're my friends. You want to pet one?"

"God, I would love to pet a bat," said Liam.

"Hold out your hands," said Zayn.

Liam held out the hands of a peasant, large and grubby and callused and capable. Zayn pried Louis from his roost and put him in Liam's hands.

"Ohhhhh," said Liam, and looked at the bat with wondering eyes. "It's so sweet." He touched Louis's furry back gently with one finger.

"He's called Louis," said Zayn. Louis stirred, tried to rearrange his wings, and got them tangled in Liam's fingers. Zayn reached in to help and got tangled in Liam's fingers himself. In Zayn's defence, they were very warm and probably cursed in some way, because the touch of Liam's skin made the back of Zayn's neck tingle.

"Ow!" said Liam.

"Louis!" scolded Zayn. "Don't bite Liam, he's our guest."

Louis twitched his wings and yawned.

"So," said Liam, petting Louis anyway, "how'd you get up here, Zayn? No offense, but you don't seem like the athletic type."

Zayn bit his lip. "Magic spell, like," he mumbled.

"Ooh, I see," said Liam, looking confused. Louis squeaked, flapped his wings, and flew back to his roost.

"He's temperamental," Zayn explained.

"He's really cute. Well, it was nice seeing you again, Zayn." Liam paused. "Do you think—um—how do you feel about princes, by the way?"

Zayn looked into Liam's worried brown eyes and was angry, suddenly, at the rules that meant Zayn wasn't supposed to like him. "They aren't so great. I like regular people just fine."

"Oh," said Liam. "I thought maybe you might want to be rescued or something and then if you did want to be rescued you might appreciate it if the person who rescued you was a prince."

"Nope," said Zayn. "I like it up here. You—you can keep visiting me. If you want."

"Yes," said Liam, and bounced a little on his simple wooden chair.

 

***

 

"We were thinking we'd try the island instead," said Zayn's dad. "Princes aren't what they used to be."

"What if I liked someone who wasn't a prince? Hypothetically."

Zayn's mum sighed. "Zayn, I know Niall and Harry are in love with you, but—"

"We're just friends, mum."

"Well, regardless," said Zayn's dad. "Your mother and I want you to have the best possible future, and locking you in a tower hasn't worked out the way we planned."

"I like it up here," said Zayn. Plus, he knew Liam could do towers. He wasn't sure how good Liam would be with the man-eating sea serpents.

Zayn's mum put her hands on her hips. "In the tower? Come on, Zayn, you have one room. This is crap."

"Well," said Zayn. "You put me here."

 

***

 

"I'll totally take it back if you don't like it," said Liam.

Zayn stared at the intricately carved lute in his hands. He'd never seen anything like it. When he plucked a string, the tone was exquisite.

"I just thought, since you like to sing?"

"It's beautiful," said Zayn.

"Really?" said Liam. "You really like it?"

"I love it," said Zayn. He didn't mention that he couldn't play. "But like—where did you get it? Workmanship like this?"

"Oh, you know," said Liam. He scratched his nose and looked out the window.

"You didn't like—take it, did you?"

"Take it?" Liam looked bewildered.

"Never mind," said Zayn. He knew Liam didn't magic it up, because once Liam had mentioned that he couldn't do spells. Zayn didn't see how someone who dressed like Liam could afford to buy it either, but there really wasn't a polite way to ask.

 

***

 

"Of course I can find you some new boots," said Zayn's mum, studying Zayn's sketch. "But these aren't your usual style, love."

"I'm branching out," said Zayn. He'd drawn boots that he thought would be suitable for climbing towers. "Can you make them a size bigger than usual, too?"

"Are these boots for you, sweetie?"

"Who else would they be for?"

"I don't know," said Zayn's mum. "I thought maybe you were planning to make a friend."

"There's no one here, mum," said Zayn, and that's when Liam put one of his stained old boots over the window ledge.

Zayn immediately tried to get between the window and his mum's line of vision. "Thank you so much for visiting, mum," he said loudly, hoping that Liam would get the message and drop back below. "I'll see you soon, okay?"

"I've only just got here," said Zayn's mum, right as Liam pulled his entire unkempt self through the window.

"Sorry," said Liam, "didn't mean to interrupt."

Zayn's mum gasped and curtseyed so low Zayn thought she might actually fall over. "Your grace," she intoned, practically purring.

"My lady," said Liam. He brushed his dirty hands off against his drooping, threadbare breeches.

Zayn cringed and hoped his mum wouldn't be terribly angry at Liam once she realised the truth. "Mum? I'm sorry I forgot to mention before, this is my friend Liam, he likes climbing things. Liam, this is my mum."

"Thank you for honouring us, my prince," Zayn's mum whispered. "Thank you for saving my son from this evil enchantment."

"Whoa, mum," said Zayn. "Can I, like, talk to you a minute?"

"The honour is mine," said Liam, ignoring Zayn. "Please rise." The phrase rolled off his tongue with such strange ease that Zayn knew something wasn't right.

"Zayn!" his mum hissed. "Where are your manners! Bow to the prince!"

"Mum! He's not a prince."

Liam cleared his throat. "Well, actually…"

"Zayn Javadd Malik," said Zayn's mum. "Apologise right now to His Royal Highness Prince James, third child of Her Majesty the Queen."

There was a massive twittering and flapping of wings from where the bats were roosting.

"I mean," said Liam. "It's really not a big deal."

 

***

 

Zayn's last hour in the tower was a blur. There was a magic hidden staircase, apparently, that only a true prince could locate, and Zayn's mum only had to hint a couple of times before Liam found it. In the end Zayn barely had time to say good-bye to Louis and grab his lute. Liam escorted him politely down the winding stair, because Zayn declined to be carried. Liam wouldn't even meet his eyes.

There were horses at the foot of the tower, and a carriage.

"Did you plan this?" asked Zayn, when Liam stepped up into the carriage after them. "Why didn't you tell me?"

Zayn's mum glared at him. "Apologies, Your Grace, my son is terribly shy and unused to the company of men."

"I understand," said Liam, sounding awed. "I'll just ride separately so you two can rest."

"Amazing," sighed Zayn's mum, when they were alone in the carriage. "So understanding, so unpretentious."

"Right," said Zayn. He kept his eyes shut all the way to the palace, where he was shown to his own chamber while his mum met with Liam's parents in the throne room. Zayn lay on a very very tall bed and stared up at the canopy until Liam knocked on the door.

"I can't believe I was going to give you new boots," Zayn said when Liam came in. He was wearing some kind of fancy robe and he'd had a shave. Zayn barely recognized him.

Liam winced. "I didn't mean for it to happen like this."

"How did you mean for it to happen?"

"I didn't know you'd think I was a commoner," Liam burst out. "I wanted to tell you, it's just you didn't seem to like princes very much and I didn't want you sending me away." He was twisting a lace handkerchief in his fist. His hands looked so clean. They weren't Liam's hands at all. "I'm sorry about that bad fairy."

"Look," said Zayn. "I know my mother's given you an earful, but we don't have to get married."

Liam sat down on a purple embroidered divan. "Yeah, Zayn, actually we do."

"You haven't even asked me yet," Zayn pointed out.

"But I rescued you!" Liam said, offended. "Look, the kingdom's in a weird place right now. We've got two bordering kingdoms with eligible princesses and each one's ready to go to war if I marry the other. Plus, the price of bread has gone up and the peasants are restless."

"You could lower the price of bread," Zayn suggested.

Liam's eyes go wide. "That's such a good idea, Zayn, you're so clever. But my mum was thinking, we need a romantic story to distract them. If I marry the farmer's son I heroically rescued, it shows we care about the people."

"Oh," said Zayn, and buried his face in a goosedown pillow. "I thought you liked me."

"I do," said Liam, after a pause. "It's what's right for the kingdom."

Zayn didn't answer. After a while Liam stopped saying his name, but the carpets were so thick Zayn couldn't even hear him leave.

 

***

 

Liam's parents smiled at Zayn over the silver candlesticks on the dinner table and talked about the nobility of labour and the unity of the people and the pet jaguars they were importing for their summer palace. Zayn's parents couldn't be happier.

Apparently Zayn was meant to be some kind of permanent houseguest now. "My castle is your castle," Liam told him, so Zayn had Niall and Harry over to visit.

"Sick lute, bro," said Niall.

Zayn shrugged. "I can't even play."

"I could teach you."

"Teach me first," said Harry to Niall.

Zayn picked up the lute and put it down again. He noticed that Harry and Niall were standing awfully close together. "You can have it. I don't want it anymore."

 

***

 

"It's just a reception to announce the betrothal," said Liam. "Everyone wants to hear your story."

"When did we get betrothed?" asked Zayn.

"Come on, Zayn," said Liam. "Don't get locked up in a tower by a bad fairy if you don't want a prince to rescue you."

"I didn't want a prince," said Zayn, but Liam wasn't listening anyway, he was hollering out the window to a passing servant. He used to be such a good listener, back in the tower. "I only wanted you," whispered Zayn anyway, to the back of Liam's head.

"—in his chambers immediately!" Liam finished, and then turned back to Zayn. "A page is on his way now to get you dressed. You don't have to stay for long, anyway. We could leave early and come back here."

"I'm not in the mood," said Zayn. He didn't want to spend more time in his chamber. Nothing in it felt like his. When he looked out his window, all he could see was the inner courtyard. There were no bats.

"Remember when you showed me your paintings?" said Liam. "You seem so different now."

"You don't know me," said Zayn. "Maybe I was always different."

"Fine," said Liam. "Wish I was." He almost slammed the door when he left, but the draperies got in the way.

 

***

 

"I'm so sorry you had that terrible experience," said the countess at the reception. She hadn't made any remarks about his rustic charm yet, but Zayn was sure it was only a matter of time.

"I was fine," said Zayn. "I liked the tower." The reception was incredibly loud and there were so many people and he hated it when people felt sorry for him, because it was always for the wrong reasons.

"Such a beautiful story. You must be so grateful to the prince."

"Yes," said Zayn drearily.

"Odd one, isn't he? Of course, now he's got you, he can stop gallivanting about and stay in the palace where he belongs. When's the wedding?"

Zayn looked down into his wine glass. "I don't know."

The countess tapped him playfully with her fan. "Coy one, aren't you," she said, approvingly.

 

***

 

Zayn set out early. Liberating a horse from the stables was easy, and he had a map of the forest he'd found in the palace library. "You never brought me flowers," Zayn belted happily as he rode, "never held me in my darkest hours." The air was crisp and fresh and there was no one to overhear him singing. The only problem was that when he got to the tower, none of the spells Harry had researched for him seemed to work. He couldn't find the magical hidden door and there was no way up. Zayn kicked the base of the tower and sat down against a tree.

"It was nice to hear you sing again," said Liam, emerging from the woods. He had his old tower-climbing clothes on. Zayn didn't understand how Liam had visited him so many times without Zayn figuring out how weird he was.

"Did you follow me?" said Zayn. "That's creepy, Liam."

Liam's face fell. "But I wanted to protect you from brigands."

"I can take care of myself."

"Can you climb that tower?"

"None of your business," snapped Zayn.

"I'm here to help," said Liam. "I know what you want."

Zayn rolled his eyes. "Don't be gross."

Liam sighed and turned toward the tower. There was a stone jutting out about two feet from the ground, and Liam started there. Sometimes he was in Zayn's line of sight and sometimes he disappeared around the other side of the tower. Zayn could see him, though, when he was climbing in the window.

He stayed in the tower for about five minutes, and when he started climbing down, there was something tucked in the front of his doublet. He was moving much more gingerly now.

"Here," said Liam, and thrust something small and furry into Zayn's hands. There was a sudden sharp pain in Zayn's thumb.

"Hey, Louis," said Zayn. Louis settled his wings and squeaked in a way that was outraged and self-satisfied at the same time.

"I figured you might be missing him," said Liam. He reached out to pet Louis.

Zayn snatched Louis away. "Don't you touch him!"

Liam held up his hands. "I was only trying to help. Like when I rescued you from the evil curse, remember?"

"Oh my god," said Zayn. "Haven't you figured it out yet? There was no evil curse, Liam."

"What? Wait. Why were you in the tower then?"

Zayn looked at him evenly. Liam didn't look angry, just interested. "My parents thought it would make a good story. Pulled you in, didn't it?"

"Well," said Liam. "The first time I really was just climbing a tower. Didn't know anything about all that."

Zayn blinked. "When did you figure it out?"

"My sisters did, really, when I told them about you. Then my parents sent me back to make a better job of it."

"Because I made a good story," said Zayn, putting Louis in his pocket and jumping to his feet. "I suppose we're even."

Liam nodded slowly. Zayn swung up into the saddle so Liam wouldn't see the tears prickling in his eyes.

It was a long ride back to the castle, and Zayn didn't sing at all.

 

***

 

A few days later, Liam and Zayn were watching some kind of diplomatic presentation from the balcony of the throne room. Liam's parents thought he spent too much time outside the palace walls. He was meant to be getting statecraft practice.

"Send me no more dowry offers," Liam's mum said to the envoys from the neighboring kingdoms. "My son is already betrothed to an innocent local boy he heroically rescued from a bad fairy's curse."

"Why do your parents keep saying we're betrothed?" Zayn hissed to Liam.

"Why do you keep saying we're not?" Liam hissed back.

"Bad fairies are a terrible scourge," agreed one of the envoys, somewhat dubiously. "You must be very proud of your son."

"And of his consort," said Liam's dad. "This tragic victim exemplifies the honest hard-working virtue of our people, and also how much we love them. Stand up, Zayn, wave to our guests."

Zayn froze. He didn't think, when all this started, just how much he'd have to talk to people, how much he'd have to be looked at.

The queen was looking up to the balcony where Zayn and Liam were seated. "Zayn, my dear?"

"I'll handle this," Liam whispered.

"No, you won't," said Zayn, and pushed him back down. He stood up and took a deep breath. Everyone cheered.

"The thing is," said Zayn, "the thing is there was no bad fairy."

"I can't hear him either," the king said to the envoys. "That's enough now, Zayn."

"I wasn't cursed," Zayn said more loudly. "Thank you very much for being nice to me, but it wasn't true and I'm sorry and I can't live like this. Please don't have a war."

The hall erupted in noise.

"Try reallocating tax revenues toward social welfare," called Zayn down to the king and queen. "That will show unity with the people much more effectively than making your son marry me."

When Zayn turned to look at Liam, Liam's face had gone white.

"I'm sorry," said Zayn. "I have to go." And then he was out of the throne room and into the corridor and around the corner and down the back staircase and out the side door where Harry and Niall were waiting for him.

 

***

 

"We could've got you out of there ages ago, you know," Harry said. He was riding behind Niall on Zayn's second favourite horse from the castle stables. His arms were wrapped tight around Niall and Louis was fast asleep in his hair.

"Well, I had to make up my mind," said Zayn. He was riding his first favourite.

Niall snorted. "Had to get your fill of Liam, more like." He made a rude gesture and Harry almost fell off the horse laughing.

"Didn't even touch him," said Zayn, and urged his horse on faster.

Harry frowned. "I'm worried about your parents though. Won't the queen be upset with them?"

"They'll probably be able to fix things. A bit of forget-spelling here and there."

"So what's wrong?" asked Niall.

"Nothing," said Zayn. He was going to feel completely terrible for the rest of his life, so he might as well get used to it.

 

***

 

Liam arrived after they'd made camp for the night. Harry and Niall were already curled up together in the tent. They didn't seem to be pining after Zayn these days. In fact, no one was pining after him at all. Zayn tried not to mind. He lay on the ground with his head on some soft green moss and watched Louis zoom around in the trees with his mouth open for mosquitoes.

"That's the worst tent I've ever seen," said Liam, sitting down next to Zayn at the dying fire.

"I'm not going back," said Zayn, once he'd recovered from the shock.

"I know," said Liam. "I didn't mean to scare you." He had a day's worth of beard growth and he wasn't wearing any of his court jewellery. He looked like a particularly strapping peasant.

"I can't get you any elderberry iced tea," said Zayn, pointedly failing to rise. He reminded himself that now Liam could marry one of those princesses. He could imagine the whole dumb wedding. Liam would look great in all his dumb wedding clothes.

"I liked that tea," said Liam. "I liked you."

Zayn closed his eyes. "I know, I'm a diplomatic coup. Why are you here, Liam?"

"I missed you," said Liam. "You're not a coup. I don't know what that is, but I know it's not you."

"It means you don't love me," Zayn explained. "It means you don't want me personally."

Liam slapped his thigh triumphantly. "There, you see? Told you it wasn't you."

Zayn didn't say anything.

"Wait, Zayn. You think I need a political reason to want you?"

"You did say something in that vein," said Zayn, but his heart was already beating faster.

"It's not what I meant," said Liam. He sounded truly horrified. "I mean, yes, I was trying to do what was right for the kingdom, but also, but also—okay, look, I messed up. What if we started over?"

"Like, in the tower?"

"If you want," said Liam. "For now I think you could use some help with that tent."

"Harry and Niall are sleeping in it," said Zayn. "And I don't think there's room for four."

"The open sky's good too," said Liam, unperturbed. "You're not the only one who doesn't like palaces." He lay down next to Zayn. "Move your head, you're hogging all the moss."

So Zayn turned his head and kissed him. When their mouths were together, there was room for them both.

 

***

 

"So is he traveling with us?" Niall asked in the morning, when he emerged from the tent and found Liam and Zayn still out by the campfire.

"No," said Zayn, lifting his head off Liam's thigh.

"Yes," said Liam, yawning, "if it's okay with Zayn." He stretched with an appalling display of musculature and got to his feet.

"I thought you would marry one of those princesses now," said Zayn. He picked a leaf out of Liam's hair.

"I mean," said Liam. "I do have two older sisters. Might as well let them make the strategic marriages. It's not like I'm going to inherit the kingdom."

Liam only shrieked a bit when Zayn threw him over his shoulder and spun him around and they collided into Niall's horse by mistake. There was a jangling sound.

Liam slid down from Zayn's hold. "Is that Zayn's lute?"

"Niall packed it just in case," said Harry. "Oh, look, there's Louis. Are you ready to go sleepy-byes, Louis?" He fluffed up his hair invitingly. Louis swooped down to Liam's shoulder instead.

"Where are we headed, anyway?" asked Liam.

Zayn considered this. "I think an island. Surrounded by sea serpents."

"You know what I love?" said Liam. "Wrestling sea serpents. Ow!"

"Watch the claws, Louis," said Zayn.