Rowena threw herself onto her bed, her skirts billowing around her. The tears were coming quickly now and she realized that there was nothing she could do to stop them.
How ever could this happen? she thought as she swept her raven colored hair from her tearstained face. Three days ago I was the happiest girl in the land…
As she sat on her bed, she remembered:
“Erik! Erik, come with me!” Rowena called down the hallway of the castle, hurrying towards the Baron of Klemote, her betrothed.
“Is there anything wrong, my dear?” Erik asked, running a hand through his curly hair as he followed her through a doorway. “…This is a storeroom.”
“I know, I know…” Rowena replied, ignoring their surroundings, “but I have great news for you and I do not want to tell anyone else yet…”
“What is it?”
“I am with child!” Rowena exclaimed.
Erik’s face lit up.
“This is wonderful, Rowena!” he gasped, lifting her and spinning her around.
Rowena giggled and hugged him closer.
“We should keep this a secret though…until after our wedding in a fortnight,” Erik reasoned as he kissed her hair.
“I agree,” Rowena replied. “It was just simply impossible for me to keep this from you.”
“I love you,” Erik whispered.
“As I love you,” the princess replied.
They left the storeroom surreptitiously and walked down the hallway, Rowena’s hand resting lightly on Erik’s arm, as was the only proper contact they could have in public.
From nowhere, a servant hurried up to them, bowing and talking quickly.
“Your majesty, the queen requests your presence in her chambers immediately,” he explained.
“My thanks,” Rowena replied cordially, releasing Erik’s arm. “Until a later time,” she smiled.
“Mother?” Rowena asked quietly, looking through her mother’s drawing room.
“Ah, Rowena,” the queen exclaimed, entering from an attached bedroom.
“You wished to see me?”
“I have something for you, my dear,” the queen explained, opening the top drawer of her writing desk and extracting a mahogany box. “I intended to give it to you the night before your wedding…but I feel that you should have it now…”
Rowena stepped closer, curiosity lighting her eyes.
“This has been passed down from mother to daughter in our family for fourteen generations…” the queen continued. “Traditionally, the heir to the throne is bestowed with it on the night before her wedding…”
“What is it, mother?” Rowena asked, eyeing the box with interest.
The queen smiled.
“My dear…you have seen only seventeen summers of this life, but you are wise beyond your years. This diadem will provide you with even more wisdom, so that you will be the wisest and the most beautiful queen in the land.”
She opened the box and withdrew a shining silver circlet encrusted with sapphires.
“Mother! It is beautiful…”
Smiling, the queen placed the diadem on her daughter’s hair.
Rowena smiled, imagining how gorgeous she must look.
“You will wear this on your wedding day, and all will know that you are the heir to this throne…”
After replacing the diadem in its box, the queen handed it to her daughter and kissed her cheek.
“Now go, and know that I love you.”
“I love you too, Mother,” Rowena replied before leaving.
The next day Rowena woke early and took her maternity potion.
“How are you feeling, love?” Erik asked when he joined her in her drawing room for breakfast.
“I feel wonderful, Erik. It is far too early to be feeling the baby’s movements…but I could not possibly be happier to be carrying your child.”
Erik grinned broadly and moved around the table to his betrothed who stood to hug him.
“You are my world, Rowena Ravenclaw,” he whispered as he held her. “My everything.”
Rowena pulled back slightly to meet his eyes and was pleased to see the love reflected there.
“I love you, Erik,” she whispered before kissing him tenderly.
“Are you decent, madam?” a voice called from the other side of the door.
“Not him…” Erik groaned before taking his seat at the table once more.
“I am, Count,” Rowena called.
The Count of Hemlock entered the room, looking as smug as ever. His two bodyguards followed him closely.
“Good morning,” he greeted, sneering slightly at Erik before addressing the princess. “You are sure you want to marry him?”
Rowena drew herself up to her full height.
“You speak out of turn, Count,” she admonished.
“And you simply refuse to call me ‘Loren,’” he mocked.
Erik stood quickly.
“Please leave, Loren of Hemlock,” he growled through gritted teeth.
“Oh, I did not address you, Klemote, but if you wish…” he ran his eyes over Rowena once more before sweeping from the room.
The door had barely closed behind him before Erik had his arms around Rowena once more.
“I apologize if I was out of my place, darling…” he murmured.
“Anyone who rids me of that snake is perfectly in his place, my love,” she responded quietly, shivering slightly. “He frightens me…”
“Shh…” Erik comforted, “once we are wed, he will not be permitted to approach you, I promise.”
Rowena spent the day with courtiers and visiting nobility. She joked with her friends among the servants and wandered the halls peacefully, daydreaming about her wedding.
“Ro!” someone called quietly from an alcove.
Only one person in the world used that nickname.
“Papa!” Rowena exclaimed, hurrying to where her father’s voice had come from.
The king greeted his only daughter warmly, hugging her and kissing her forehead.
“How was the journey home?” she asked.
The king smiled down at her.
“Diplomatic journeys are never enjoyable, daughter, but you will learn that given time.”
“How have the wedding preparations been faring?” the king asked as they walked together.
“Spectacularly, papa,” Rowena responded, “I could never find someone that I love more than Erik…”
The king smiled again.
“It pleases me to know that you are happy.”
“You have no idea how happy, papa…” Rowena said mysteriously.
The king simply laughed, knowing that his daughter would divulge her secret in her own time.
Rowena and Erik weren’t alone again until that evening after supper.
They quietly snuck away and met in the Baron’s rooms.
“I simply cannot wait until we are allowed to see each other at night,” Rowena giggled, hugging her fiancé.
“Nor can I,” Erik admitted, smiling all the same.
Knowing they didn’t have all night, they curled up on Erik’s bed together.
Cradling his soon-to-be-wife against him, Erik sang softly as they sat together.
“For all our tomorrows, my dear one, my dear one, I pray that you never forget…the love that we share will forever be with you, no matter how the day ends…”
“Are you creating this as you sing?” Rowena whispered, snuggling closer.
“Of course,” Erik grinned back.
“I am quite fond of it,” Rowena replied.
A sharp rap at the door interrupted them again.
Erik sighed as Rowena scrambled to hide in his drawing room.
“Yes?” he called when he was sure she was no longer in his bedroom.
“The Count of Hemlock has requested a meeting with you, sir,” the voice called through the door. “I fear he may wish to duel you…”
Erik wrenched the door open and came face-to-face with a terrified page.
“What?” he breathed.
“I overheard him speaking with his men…they plan to challenge you once you arrive, sir,” the page stuttered.
Erik cursed loudly.
“Fine. Magnificent…Pleasant…Tell the Count that I will meet him in the largest arena when he is prepared…”
He closed the door and turned to where he knew Rowena was hiding.
“Darling…” he murmured, opening the door to his drawing room.
Rowena sat on the small settee, her hands clenched tightly in her lap and her face drawn. Her glorious skirts were rumpled.
“Darling, please do not cry…” Erik whispered, dropping lightly to his knees beside her.
“Erik…he could kill you,” she said, her voice quivering.
“No, he could not,” Erik reasoned, “We both know that duels are just to show who is the more powerful man and who has more skill with a wand. Nothing will happen, dear one.”
Rowena lifted her hands to her face and rubbed her watering eyes.
“I love you,” she whispered.
“I love you too,” Erik replied, pulling her into his arms as he stood. “I have to meet him. Join us with your parents, so that the king will be able to begin the duel.”
Rowena nodded numbly and kissed him before watching him leave to prepare.
She hurried from the room to her parents’ chambers. Knocking lightly on the door, she announced herself.
“Mother! Papa! Please open the door…Loren Hemlock has challenged Erik to a duel…They need you present to begin.”
A moment later, the king immerged with his lady on his arm.
“Which arena, dear?” the king asked kindly.
“The largest,” Rowena replied, leading the way down the nearest flight of stairs.
The dueling arenas were several stories below ground level and were lit with burning torches from the walls. Rowena shivered as they entered the designated room.
Loren and his henchmen were already present, standing in the far corner of the room.
Rowena and her parents took seats on the raised dais against the far wall. Other members of the court seemed to have heard about the duel and were gathering on the benches around the walls.
Silently, Rowena prayed that nothing would get out of hand…Duels were known to have fatal accidents at times and she didn’t wish to see any harm come to her beloved.
At long last, Erik entered the room. He was dressed simply for the occasion and his wand was already in hand. As he approached the center of the room, Loren emerged from his corner to meet him.
The assembled crowd fell silent.
“Salute one another,” the king commanded.
The two men did so and took several steps away from one another.
“Fight honorably,” the king said as his eyes scanned the two men. “You may begin.”
Red sparks shot from the end of his wand at the starting word. The sparks were barely out of his wand when Loren jumped forward, his wand slashing through the air.
Erik was forced immediately to the defensive.
The two men were using nonverbal spells and the spectators almost had a difficult time keeping up with the duel. The only sound came from the rough breathing of the duelers.
Rowena opened her eyes that she hadn’t realized she had closed.
Erik was putting out a fire on the hem of his breeches and Loren was covered in painful looking sores.
Suddenly, Rowena could tell something was not right.
Erik stopped moving. He did not seem to know where he was.
“Illegal charm!” someone in the crowd yelled.
Rowena looked to her father for support. He raised his wand and removed the Confundus charm from Erik.
“Watch yourself, Loren,” the king warned as the duel began anew.
Rowena couldn’t tell who had the upper hand. She was terrified and hated watching her betrothed fighting with the man that would stop at nothing to win her. Oh, Erik… she thought desperately, You should not have reprimanded him this morning…
Suddenly, Erik screamed in pain. The sound echoed throughout the stone room.
Tears jumped to Rowena’s eyes.
“No--” she gasped as she watched him fall.
His head hit the stone floor and blood oozed from the cut that it made there.
“Someone help him!” Rowena cried, standing and hurrying off of the dais.
The king turned the opposite direction and bound Loren with ropes from his wand.
“You may have just killed a member of the royal family, Hemlock,” the king growled. “I believe that it is a true assumption that you will not be leaving these dungeons for quite some time.”
Rowena was sobbing.
The Healers were rushing around Erik, trying to heal as much of him as they could.
The cut on his head seemed to mend and Rowena’s breath hitched in her lungs.
“He will recover?” she asked the Head of the palace Healers.
The man looked sad.
“I am unsure, princess…the damage…it is far greater than it appears. He may have internal bleeding in his head.”
“What does that mean?” Rowena asked desperately, “What does that mean?”
Suddenly, Erik gasped. Rowena ignored the Healer and got as close as possible to the man she loved.
“My dearest…” he rasped. “Oh darling…”
“Erik,” Rowena sobbed, “Erik, you are going to be fine…Our wedding is in less than a fortnight…You will get better…”
“No, Rowena,” Erik whispered, “I am…dying. I know I am. I am so, so sorry, love.”
“You are not dying!” Rowena protested. “I love you!”
Erik tried to smile.
“I do…not know…with what he hit me…but it worked…” he tried to joke. “I love you too, Rowena.”
He kissed her palm gently before his head sank back to the ground.
Rowena felt her heart being torn into pieces. She held onto his hand as tightly as she could.
“Please, no…please…Erik…please,” she stammered.
“He is gone…” the Healer nearest her murmured.
And with that, Rowena’s heart broke.
Loren had been sentenced to life in the dungeons below the castle.
The wedding had been cancelled.
Rowena had not emerged from her room since the night of the duel.
When she first returned to her room, she noticed the mahogany box lying open on her writing desk. Gazing at the diadem, she gently ran her fingers over its jewels. I will never be able to wear you how I was supposed to… she thought to it sadly, I apologize…
She knew she would treasure it all the same, even if she never wore it for her wedding.
The only thing that mattered anymore was her child…the child that Rowena knew was growing within her.
“Oh Erik…” she sobbed into her pillow, “I am so sorry…I never should have let that snake see us together…”
It was a long time before Rowena sat up, her hair in disarray and her gown wrinkled beyond belief.
She walked calmly to her writing desk while her tears continued to streak down her face and lifted the hairbrush from its drawer, yanking it through her tangled hair. She changed into a different gown and stood before her window, gazing out at the setting sun.
Lifting the diadem from its box, she rested it gently on her head.
Next time…I won’t be foolish enough to fall in love… she thought sadly as she stopped her mind from grasping at the pieces of her broken heart.
AN: My first Founders story! :D How was it? Please tell me your opinions...I really would love any feedback.