Denica’s Message (extended)

In chapter 2 of Haven, Haven’s mother returns with the news of her family’s demise on her lips. Though that scene was only written from Haven’s memory in the novel, I’ve rewritten it as it happened. Enjoy!

Denica’s Message

Haven was never meant to be Queen. She was always meant to live the life of a princess, happy, carefree and just a little bit spoiled. She’d spent nineteen years of her life that way, and didn’t know any different – that is until the war brewing to the West found her door. It was a beautiful summer afternoon when her blissful life shattered like glass.

Sitting on a stone bench in the grand front courtyard, Haven laughed with her best friend, Lareina, whose beautiful blonde hair shone like gold in the sun.

“You’ve got to listen to me, Lady Haven.” Lareina grinned, blue eyes dancing with mischief. “Prince Emeril would be a perfect husband.”

Haven groaned, tilting her head to the blue sky above. “Not this again, Lareina.”

“No, no, listen!” Lareina laughed. “He’s handsome, endearing, smart, kind, and did I mention handsome?”

“You did.”

“You’d make a beautiful couple. Can you imagine the little Haven’s and Emeril’s running around Salander castle?” Lareina took her hands. “Please consider him, Princess. You know he’s always had eyes for you.”

Haven rolled her eyes. It wasn’t the first time they’d had this conversation. For much of her life, her family and friends had pushed them together, eager for a royal union. But Haven couldn’t see her young friend like that. She’d known the southern Prince since she was just a girl. He’d always be the silly boy who cried when he scrapped his knee on the castle steps, or wove crowns of flowers for them both in the spring. Emeril was her friend, and no amount of charm would change that.

“You know how I feel about Prince Emeril, Lareina.”

“I know, I know.” Lareina sighed wistfully. She finished the braid she’d been artistically weaving into Haven’s hair, and tied it firmly at the ends. “At least you have beautiful hair, if not enough brains to marry that man.”

“Lareina!” Haven gasped. Their gazes met and they both erupted in laughter, holding on to each other for fear of toppling off their bench.

Before Haven was ready, their laughter petered out and Lareina stood quickly. Haven’s brows pulled together, and she slowly rose alongside her guard.

“What’s wrong–” she began.

Lareina cut her off. “Get behind me.” She pulled two long daggers from their sheaths. Haven did as instructed. She was used to things spooking her guards. But on such a beautiful day, she couldn’t imagine what would break Lareina’s good mood.

A shout from the castle steps shattered her bliss. Her stomach soured. What was the shout for? Lareina motioned her back, blue eyes wide. Nearly tripping over her skirts, Haven stepped back toward the castle. Everyone froze around her, including Lareina. Haven glanced at her guard, and the maids suddenly still like stone. What was going on?

Up the great castle steps limped her mother, Queen Denica Fyre. Blood soaked her riding clothes and dripped from her damp hair. Haven gasped. Her mother’s eyes were vacant, her body moving on its own. Her left leg twisted at an awkward angle and a large cut ran diagonally across her face.

“Mother?” Her small voice shook. Haven pushed Lareina aside, her heart racing in her chest. Lareina reached for her, long fingers wrapping around her wrist. Haven ripped away and ran to her mother.

Before Haven could reach her, she collapsed. Blood pooled around Denica’s body.

Shouts echoed through the courtyard, awakening the still masses. Haven hardly heard them. She fell to her knees beside Denica. Her fingers trembled as she reached for her mother. Two daggers protruded from her back. “Mother?” she whispered. Tears burned her eyes.

Her mother’s face shifted slightly, tears leaving tracks over her blood stained cheeks. Focus returned to her gaze and she slowly blinked up at Haven.

“My love. My Haven,” she murmured. Haven bent to hear her, gingerly touching her shoulder before brushing her hair from her face. Haven’s whole body quivered with unending grief. What had happened? Where had her mother come from? Why wasn’t she on the front lines with her father and brothers? Dread welled inside her gut.

“Mom.” Her heartbeat pounded in her ears. “What happened? Where is father? Why are you–” Her voice broke in a sob. Haven’s vision blurred. She desperately wiped the tears from her eyes, trying to savor her mother’s face. Without a doubt this was going to be the last time their eyes would meet. Haven needed to savor every detail of her mother’s olive skin, amber eyes, and radiant features.

Denica’s lips quirked in a smile, and her fingers twitched beside her face. She tried to move, to raise her hand to her daughter’s face. She frowned when she couldn’t. This realization only made Haven’s tears burn faster.

“They killed everyone,” Denica whispered. “Your father, your brothers… all those soldiers. They’re all gone.” Her eyes widened at the recollection. Haven smoothed her mother’s hair. She tried to soothe her, but Denica only shook her head slowly and continued. “You’ll be Queen now, my love. But you have to run. Haven, promise me you’ll run.” A cough wracked her mother’s body. Crimson dripped from between her lips. “You have to run,” she repeated. “Promise me.”

Haven slowly nodded. She couldn’t find the words to speak. Her mind raced to think of a way to save her mother. If only her immortality could stretch beyond herself. She’d gladly spill her own blood to keep her mother alive for one more minute.

“Run,” her mother repeated. Haven nodded as the bright amber of Denica’s eyes faded. “You have to run,” she whispered again. “Promise me you’ll run.”

“I promise,” Haven gasped through her tears and embraced her mother for the last time. Her mother’s body went limp, her eyes gazing sightless at the suddenly cloud filled sky. Haven sobbed into her mother’s hair, clutching her body against her own. Her heart ached. She had never lost a single person in her life, and here she was, alone. “I promise, mother. I promise,” she cried. “Just come back. We’ll run together. Just come back.”

“Haven,” someone whispered near her ear. Soft hands held her shoulders. She pulled away from them. She couldn’t let her mother go.

Not yet.

She had just been here. She had been alive, and speaking.

“Come back.” Haven pushed the hair from her mother’s face. “Come back and we’ll run.”

When no answer came, those hands gently pried her from her mother’s dead body. This time she let them, collapsing into the warm arms of her friend, letting the sobs wrack her body and her grief consume her.

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