Princess Haven is immortal. She has survived drowning, blunt force trauma and even an arrow to the heart. But when the mortality of her friends and family is threatened by war and the evil Queen leading it, Haven is powerless. Will Haven rise to the occasion and lead her kingdom to safety or make a daring last stand? Their existence is at stake.
“You will be perfect. You will be great. You will be a just Queen.” Haven paced the length of her chambers, trying to calm her rattled nerves. “You will lead them fairly. You will save them. By the grace of the gods, you will.”
A knock at the door startled her. She stopped abruptly catching her own haunted gaze in her vanity mirror. “Princess?” A light tinkle of a voice followed the knock.
“The coronation begins shortly, My Lady.”
Haven never thought she’d live long enough to take the throne. In a family of two older brothers, and a healthy father, it would never be expected that the eldest daughter would ascend. But it was her misfortune to be blessed with longevity. Haven had outlived much of her family, and as the idea of becoming Queen grew nearer, that blessing had only become a curse.
She had thought of perhaps ending her life just to spare her people her inadequacy. She could try hanging herself, but the moment she was released from the noose, even if her neck broke, air would return to her lungs, and her neck would mend itself. She could slit her wrists, or even her throat, but the wounds would heal in minutes, the scars in hours. There were many ways she had contemplated, until Haven realized something. The only thing worse than living forever without her family would be to leave her people without a Queen, especially in times like these.
There was war at their doorstep. Rythern needed a Queen, one that would not die like the rest of her family. They needed Queen Haven Fyre, one of the last remaining members of her royal lineage. Only she could lead the kingdom past this time of turmoil, or so she hoped.
“I will be out in a moment. Thank you.”
“Of course, My lady.”
Haven imagined the perfectly tailored curtsy the maid would have, then listened for a moment as the woman scurried away. Turning to her vanity, Haven took in her amber eyes, regal dress and pursed lips. Dark wavy brown hair turned to red just along the bottoms, ending at her breasts. Jewels adorned her ears, and neck, bright and glittering against her olive skin. It was unusual for her to wear something so extravagant. They looked out of place against her collarbone, and tucked away in her thick hair. Frowning, she decided it may be her choice to wear them as Queen, but whether she chose to or not, it would be expected. A Queen was always supposed to do as she was expected. Or was that just what princesses were taught? She would never know with her mother gone.
Turning from her reflection, Haven took her leave.
The coronation was held in the main throne room, as per the custom. With high vaulted ceilings, large stained glass windows, and a red carpet leading up the center aisle, it was just how she had imagined. The colors of her family hung on large banners from the walls to her left and her right. Red and gold shone back at her. Candles dappled the walls and the ends of the aisles, dusting the room in a golden glow.
For a moment Haven felt a flash of concern for the guards lining these aisles. What if one of them were to get too close to the open flame? Upon inspecting one more closely she realized there wasn’t a piece of fabric in sight. She sighed in relief. They were in full Queen’s guard armor.
Turning her gaze from the décor, Haven found herself basking in the warm glow of candles, tears springing to her eyes. This was a glorious room, filled nearly to the brim with people. Her people – the ones she would lay down her life for. Even if for Haven, there could be no such reality. She wished that her mother were here, standing beside her most trusted advisor. She’d known Toma practically since birth. She couldn’t remember a time when the aged advisor hadn’t been at her father’s side. Toma stood just in front of the throne at the end of this never-ending aisle. In one hand he held a golden scepter, and in the other a great silver sword, with a beautiful handle made of gold and adorned with rubies. These things would dub her Queen of Rythern, along with the crown she assumed was hidden until the right moment.
Blinking away those tears that threatened to fall, Haven steeled herself. She had to look strong before her people, who’s eyes all rested on her.
The perfect picture of a young but able Queen finally stopped at the end of the red carpet. Haven held Toma’s eyes for just a moment, then kneeled.
“Princess Haven Fyre of Rythern. We are gathered here today for your coronation.” Toma’s voice echoed over the crowd and through the great hall. All were silent as they bowed with her. “My Lady, in our greatest hour of need do you consent to be made Queen of the kingdom, in sickness and in health, until your last hour?” A smile pricked at her lips, as she was sure it pulled at Toma’s. She knew as well as he that there was no sickness or injury that could ever take her. She would be Queen of Rythern until her last breath.
“I do.” She said, keeping her eyes to the floor as she had been instructed.
“Will you treat your people fairly, and with justice, so long as you live?”
“Will you put down your own life for the people of Rythern if the day should ever come? And will you, My Lady Princess, lead us into the glory of battle should war ever come to our door?”
Haven stood without question and rose her eyes to meet Toma’s, which blazed like the sunrise at dawn. She could see the pride within them. So genuinely did he care for Haven, and never had he been more proud of her than in this moment.
“By the grace given to me by all the realm and the people of Rythern, by your mother and father, Queen Denica and King Keane Fyre – I now pronounce you, Princess Haven Delyth Fyre, Queen of Rythern. Long may you reign.”
“Long may she reign,” the people echoed back.
Haven couldn’t help the smile that lit her face. Taking her great skirts in hand, she climbed the stairs to join Toma, who gently turned her to face the crowd. The scepter was placed in her left hand, and the sword in her right. A moment later she was bowing again, and the royal crown of a thousand rubies was placed on her head. Straightening, Haven looked to the crowd.
Every person in room echoed again, “Long may she reign.”
Then as per instructed, Haven turned to her Queen’s throne. Sitting there would complete her marriage to the kingdom. In a very real sense she’d said her vows, and had married her husband. Though the husband was not a man, but a great country. One she never imagined would be entrusted to her.
Turning to face the crowd, Haven moved to sit, and as she did so, caught sight of a shadow moving in the rafters. But it was too late. As she opened her mouth to shout for her guards, an arrow shot her in the chest. Blackness swallowed her.
Haven awoke with a gasp. Frantic screams rang all around. Toma knelt at her side, along with two others. She had three women as her personal guard, and these beautiful ladies were two of them. Deep blue eyes met hers. Gradually she heard her soothing words. Lareina was a warrior and a healer. She was the one to pull the bloody arrow from her chest. “Thank you,” she murmured, trying to stand. The other girl held her down.
“Just a moment, My Lady Queen.” Blythe looked around cautiously, in a stance that Haven was sure would be meant to block any further attack.
“Blythe, come now.” Haven chastised with a sigh. “If there were any further attack you could be dead. I should be the one shielding all of you.”
That earned her a smile from the strong-headed girl, and once Blythe seemed sure the coast was clear, she helped her majesty to her feet.
“Thank you,” Haven breathed, smoothing her dress with her hands.
Blythe only nodded and moved to join the protective formation that Haven hadn’t realized encircled her.
“Are you alright, my Queen?” Toma asked, inspecting her for further injury.
“Honestly,” Haven rolled her eyes. “This is far too much of a fuss.” She turned her eyes outside of her Queen’s guard. Some had fled from the throne room, while others seemed frozen in place. A few candles had been knocked asunder, but luckily no one seemed injured. She was thankful that whoever made an attempt on her life seemed to be long gone. With the ordeal everyone was making, she couldn’t help the embarrassment that flooded through her. “Toma, how do we get these people to remember their heads and quit running about like a pack of startled hens?”
Toma, who still seemed concerned over her person, finally looked into her eyes and understood. They needed order in the throne room so that the guard could give chase to her assassin. “Raise your voice and they will listen, my Queen.” He nodded, gesturing to the people.
“Alright,” she said, clearing her throat and turning to address the room. “Ladies and gentlemen, I will have silence in my court.”
For a moment the noise continued, and Haven feared she hadn’t spoken loud enough. But once the moment passed there was a hush through the crowd. Their panic seemed to lull now that the Queen, who’d clearly been shot straight in the heart, seemed to have made a full recovery.
“Thank you.” Haven said, though she hesitated, unsure of what she needed next.
“We should remove the people from the throne room, my Queen.” Toma whispered to her.
Haven smiled and gave him a grateful look. “As you can see, I am alright. Now if we are to find my would be assassin, we must have order.” She tried to give a grave look to the crowd before continuing, “We will continue with this evening’s festivities as planned in the ballroom where you will find plenty of wine to soothe your souls. Could I please have everyone evacuate the room in a civilized fashion?” Haven took this moment to motion to a few guards to escort the lot out of here. “I will join you soon.”
Once the crowd seemed assured that no one else was going to be targeted by flying arrows, they fled the room in an relatively organized manner. As the buzz of conversation left, Haven turned back to her guard and her advisor.
“Well done.” Her advisor nodded to her before moving on to the head of the Queen’s Guard, a tall, broad man named Ciroc. She listened for a moment as Toma gave orders for a full-scale investigation, and to have the castle put under lockdown.
Haven turned back to her personal guard and friends. Lareina waited patiently with her third guard, Malka, a gifted archer in her own right with emerald green eyes and short brown hair. Blythe had yet to rejoin them, and as second in command of the Queen’s Guard, she was also barking orders about securing the throne room. Haven smiled at the lot of them. She’d known these three since she was a child, and trusted them more than words could say. They were likely blaming themselves for her temporary injury, and she would not have it.
“My Ladies, it appears we still have a party to throw and I am covered in blood,” she said.
“We will have to get you to your rooms then, my Queen.” Lareina smiled, placing her hand gently on her forearm. Blythe rejoined them then, and seemed to have overheard their intent.
“I will gather a few guards to bring with us.” Blythe said, calling out to several of her trusted Queen’s Guard nearby. Haven recognized a few but could not recall their names. She thought to tell Blythe that this was far more than necessary to escort her to her chambers, but one look at the woman and Haven knew there would be no arguing.
Once the guards were gathered, they formed a loose circle around her, Lareina always staying by her side. They moved out the back entrance of the throne room, and made their way slowly to her rooms.
Blythe seemed intent on investigating every dark corner they passed, making their usually short journey, quite long and tiresome. By the time they reached her rooms, she feared the banquet would already be over.
“Blythe.” She said, pausing as per instructed.
“Yes, My Lady Queen?”
“I don’t mean to rush you, but I don’t think my assailant is going to jump out at me when I’m surrounded by guards.”
Blythe seemed to consider this, and with a quick nod she sheathed her sword. “You’re quite right, My Lady.”
Haven was pleased to find their pace quickened, and soon she was in her rooms. Lareina nearly danced over to her dressing room, always eager to pick a dress for her Queen. Blythe stood guard at the door, and Malka disappeared into the other room, leaving Haven to stare at herself in the mirror.
Blood smeared across her chest, drowning the reds and golds of her dress in darkness. With the amount of blood soaking her bosom, she should be dead. She knew that, and so did her guard. They would always be overprotective of her for fear of her death, and she would always be protective of them for they could die.
Raising her eyes from the sight of her own blood, her amber gaze stared back at her.
“Is this what it’s like to be Queen?” she whispered.
A girl who cannot die, constantly assaulted by enemies. If this is what it’s like to rule this kingdom, maybe I was always meant to be Queen.