Some things are better left unseen.
The kids at Haven have been waiting. Legend foretold the veil-seer would lead them to victory over their sworn enemy, Helm. With her arrival comes the shocking realization that she is the one thing they never expected: a mortal.
Verity didn't want the cornea transplant for her sixteenth birthday. She couldn't have imagined it would make her the veil-seer, a coveted weapon in an ancient feud. Now she's stuck trying to master her new powers, make friends, and stay alive. Having been saved by Helm too many times for comfort, Verity wonders which side she should be fighting for. The problem is something evil lurks in Haven, and the only thing it wants is for the new veil-seer to die.
Haven Awakening shows that turning sixteen isn't always sweet.
Gryffyn Phoenix takes the YA scene by storm with the first book in the Haven Awakening series—a supernatural fantasy filled with life-threatening conflicts, heartbreaking betrayal, peer pressure, and the dangers of finding true love.
We were standing outside one of the most nightmarish locations in any teenager’s existence. Surely whatever denizens of hell we were about to meet must be beyond my beginner abilities. There’s no way I was physically or mentally armed enough to take on this mission. What the heck was I thinking?
This was a high school, for heaven’s sake.
I was so going to die.
“What do you think we’ll find in here?” Impressive. My voice barely had a squeak.
Cass shrugged. “No clue. There’s always some kind of negative force at high schools. A massive amount of miserable teenagers assembled together five days a week guarantees it.”
Great. Here I thought we’d be facing the Amityville horror, not health class at first period.
“We’ve been tracking high rates of suicide and violence.”
“Who does the tracking?” And why didn’t they get the veil-seer eyes?
“Willow and Nyn handle our research and spotting.”
“Isn’t Nyn the Princess of the Tuatha?”
Even better. Not. Royalty didn’t seem that trustworthy in the real world. Why would it be different here?
“How do you know they’re right?”
“Don’t worry so much,” she soothed. “There’ll be something horrible.”
Looking around at the cityscape, I took in a moment to register the cloud-laden skies, three coffee shops on the block, and in the distance the soaring majesty of a single mountain towering over it all.
Oh, wait … not a mountain. That’s a volcano.
“Are we in Seattle?”
“How’d you know that?” Cass’ suspicious gaze was smothered by my smug one. “Right. Kaydn and his damned light and air lectures.”
Actually, it was my little brother Jake’s fascination with Mount St. Helen’s, but I am so not telling her that.
“Why are we alone?”
“What do you mean?”
I looked around. “Where’s Kaydn?”
A popping sound went off, and he appeared. If I was going to die at least I’d have some amazing scenery near me. “Okay, let’s do this thing.”
“Hold on.” Kaydn put a hand out to stop me and glared at Cass. “What’s the evidence?”
“Nyn’s people have been watching it for months.”
Well, color me shocked. Apparently they did a lot of research before we went out on these little expeditions. I still had a lot more to learn about Haven’s inner sanctum. Side note: something I probably should have kept in mind and pursued with more diligence before declaring my readiness to rumble.
The fact I was laughing inside at the phrase did not seem like a good sign for my sanity. Seriously, what was I … a jet or a shark? Capulet or Montague?
“Let’s do it then.”
Road kill or shark bait?
As we took the long walk up to the front doors, I registered for the first time that the place was deserted. “Where is everyone?”
“Some norm holiday,” Cass explained.
I’d never actually seen the inside of a regular sighted kid’s high school. It looked like what I expected. It also smelled—bad. Was this normal? I hoped not. The hallways were wide, with lockers lining either side. Every so often there would be a doorway with a large glass inset showing me neatly lined desks.
Figuring out the smell was coming from either the overflowing garbage baskets, or what I guessed was open sewage leaking out from beneath the restroom doors, was small comfort.
“What do you see, veil-seer?”
“Me losing my temper if you keep forgetting my name,” I snapped at Cass.
Kaydn touched my shoulder and ran his fingertips down until they brushed my hand. “Just relax.”
Breathing deep, it took me only a few minutes to catch it. There was a transparent trail of black ooze on the ground. “It’s this way,” I whispered. As we followed it, the trail grew heavier. Wider. “Cass, what kinds of things would we normally see here?”
“At most some ghosts, though based on the numbers, I’m guessing there might be a negative energy vortex.”
“Ghosts are real?”
“Everything you’ve seen and experienced and you still ask that question?”
“Yes.” I shrugged. “Some stuff still surprises me.”
“Which makes you an idiot,” Cass sneered.
“I think it makes her charming,” Kaydn said, defending me.
So if there was now a perkiness to my step and my head was held a little higher, no one mentioned it. I felt a surge of confidence that always comes when someone you admire makes his admiration and faith clear. In truth, I don’t think there is a more powerful weapon anyone possesses than the belief you offer another human.
Kaydn drew his sword. When I stepped closer to try to read the writing on the blade, he put it behind him and held out his hand to stop me. “Careful there, Very. You don’t want to get close to my edge.”
“What does it say?”
“It’s poisoned,” he answered.
Cass snickered. “Kaydn’s blade is poisoned with the end of illusions. If you get pierced, Verity, you might end up seeing him for what he is.”
“Or what you are,” he snapped.
Right. Moving on. Back to the hunt, and what I was sure would be my certain death.
The trail led us down. To the basement.
I didn’t even realize schools had basements.
By now the black ooze was about two feet wide and looked like it was so thick, if you put your arm into it you’d go up to your elbow. There were splatters of the viscous substance on the walls, and stuff growing out of the ceiling hung down like the tattered curtains of hell.
We found what we were looking for in the basement.
I know I am supposed to be their seer, and explain stuff to them, like what we found and where it was. This one defied my vocabulary.
And there went what was left of my sanity.
The basement was cold and dark. Small pools of light studded the floor from the half windows lining the walls. There was a lot of equipment down here. Piles of outdated athletic stuff, heating and cooling units, even a water filtration system. Why did I expect little rooms with all kinds of secret hiding places?
Instead I found a giant room fit for the land of lost toys.
No matter. In the middle was a giant shadow. A breathing shadow. It seemed to unfold itself and turn its head to stare at us. Where the eyes should be were portals into the burning fires of hell. As it began to move toward us, I could make out that its skin was formed from some burnished copper metal. It had huge horns extending from its head in multiple locations and one central one in the middle of its chest. The ridged armored skin was covered with etchings matching its sword.
“It’s big,” I whispered.
Before I could say much more, it leaped.
One of its arms flashed out, and a set of twelve-inch nails scraped across my chest.
Finally I gave them a hint of its location. Screaming like a wild woman was a very clear, strong, and irrefutable clue.
“Crap,” Kaydn yelled as he dodged the thing’s tail.
Oh right, I forgot to mention the six-foot flat tail with the long barbs studding both sides.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” I gasped past the throbbing fire in my chest.
My body began to shake from the pain as I realized Cass couldn’t see it.
“It’s big. You okay, Very?”
“I’ll live.” I shuddered when I saw green crap begin to bubble up from the cuts. “I think.”
Glancing down I could see a set of four deep lacerations start in the middle of my chest and feet like it traveled across my shoulder and over my back. Sweat covered me from head to toe, and an acidic cauldron seemed to have replaced my stomach. The creature recognized I was out of the running and turned its attention to the two others standing between it and lunch— otherwise known as me.
My knees collapsed as I watched Cass and Kaydn dodge and weave around the creature from my worst nightmare.
As I lay on the floor watching them fight, I realized how little they worked together. Standing on opposite sides, they were each running this fight with their own rules, never really consulting with their partner on what they were doing. A few times they almost stumbled over the other as they kept moving around the enemy and avoiding its deadly hands.
“We need some help,” Kaydn swore.
“I’m calling them,” Cass hollered as she ducked underneath the beast’s arm and swiveled around on her toes to face it again and toss a crystal into its depths. There was a breeze of flowers, and with a popping sound four elves arrived, the ones who didn’t like my “human” smell. When Kaydn pointed out to me they loved to cut strips out of their enemy’s skin and mount it over their fireplaces, I didn’t mind staying farther than downwind. I so haven’t sought out any of their houses at Haven.
D’egan was someone I viewed from afar for good reason. His black coffee eyes felt like they pierced right through you. I had no idea how long his midnight hair was, for it was tied to his life force in some hidden way. All elves kept their long, straight locks bound with special chains making it impossible to tell. The protective metal plates D’egan wore covered his shoulders, forearms, and shins. The rest of his body was wrapped in chain mail, except for his face. D’egan had his bow and arrow, for which Kaydn assured me there was no defense. Most elves would also use a selvar, which was a double-bladed dagger painted with poison. They did not fight fair or with mercy.
His associates resembled him in size and outfits. The one difference was each had a different shade of neon colored eyes—candy-apple red, disco purple, and snowy white. I never did find out their names.
Kaydn suggested it was one of my wiser choices.
As soon as they saw what was happening, the elves went to work. Each of them notched an arrow to their bow and shot straight into the ceiling. A shower of bright-white sparks came down, causing the creature to scream in outrage.
Cass drew a sword from the scabbard on her back, and mumbling some words, set it on fire.
Just how lucky can one girl be?
The creature began to make these harsh grunts I guessed were curses of its own. It focused on Cass, though the elves and Kaydn were all mumbling spells that seemed to be causing it problems as well. D’egan and his boys continued to cast light into its depths, and Kaydn appeared to be making holes in it. Cass’s sword moved like lightning, hacking off large chunks as it swung.
I crawled into the corner so I could watch the show from a safe distance, or at least far enough away so the black yuck pouring out of its wounds wouldn’t touch me.
Not a stupid girl … just average.
It was hypnotic to watch a flaming sword arc and swirl over Cass’s head. As she drew closer, the enemy started to use its tail to lash out at the elves. One of them ducked when he should have weaved and fell with a scream of agony as a bright trail of blood sprayed the floor.
This sparked the merciless cruelty of the elves.
Which meant the end of the creature.
D’egan and his two remaining men pulled their selvars. Holding the daggers in the middle, with flicks of their wrists they were able to pull the slice and dice with some Ginsu ease. Their roars of satisfaction were the type of animal sounds you only heard on those nature specials when the gazelle lost the race for its life with the hungry lions.
The cacophony distracted it long enough for Cass to plunge her new-age light-saber into its bulging depths.
I was shocked to watch the sword suck the creature inside like it had turned into a Hoover. As soon as the last sticky bits had disappeared, everyone else started to cheer.
Me? I was trying to keep from spewing over the pain.
What can I say? These aren’t paper cuts. I’m not a fan of becoming the living definition of hemorrhage.
The others were all busy congratulating each other. Only I saw the pop of light when Haydn appeared.
My smile at his entry was genuine.
His wince and nauseous look at my state made my pleasure disappear.
“You are damaged.” He rushed to my side and crouched beside me. As he gathered me close to his chest, I couldn’t resist sighing. Someone who cared. How comforting. And unique. “Why are you damaged?”
“I was expecting Casper,” I whispered. The agony was really clearing “ow” and passing fast into “get me some painkillers before I die” territory.
“They didn’t warn you that you might be battling an afrit?”
“What’s an afrit?”
“A lower level demon, one that eats the energy of children. Haven’t you even been trained in the different levels of demons? Do you know what a wraith is or how deadly they can be?”
When I shook my head, he stood up and blasted the Haven crew with a look of pure loathing. “You idiots,” he sneered. “How dare you jeopardize her in this manner? Kaydn, you swore to me she would be fully educated. I agreed to letting her stay with you for training, for you found her first. Do not doubt I will press my claim should I find her wounded again. She is the only one we have, fools. How could you allow this to occur?”
“Haydn.” I reached out a hand to him and he instantly returned to my side. “I’m fine.”
“You lie,” he stated with bald disdain.
“Just trying to stop a war here, dude.”
“As are we all.” Haydn shot another blistering look at Cass and his brother before allowing his head to fall forward. His expression was of a man who was carrying a heavy burden he just could not hold any longer.
My heart broke a little for him.
Or maybe I gave a piece of it to him for safekeeping. “Haydn …”
He knelt beside me, and his hand cupped my cheek as his eyes caressed my face. “Still,” he winked at me, “I appreciate the effort. I can heal you of the injury if you wish. It might seem strange, however.”
“I’ll take what I can get.” A mental hug to the genius who had created sports bras, because even sitting here in not much more than rags I was still covered. Healing sounded good about now. My torn shirt was enough to prove to me how little I wanted to go through the rest of my life with these kinds of scars.
Don’t you think I have enough of those already?
Haydn’s eyes seemed tired, and the dark shadow of his beard declared how little time he had to take care of himself. I noticed D’egan and his two friends readying their deceased friend to return to Haven. Their grief for their fallen pal made them a little less terrifying. Cass held Kaydn in the corner as he stared at Haydn with an uncomfortable, raw hunger.
It looked like she was holding him back. Away from Haydn?
Or me? Great. Now I felt worse.
“Are you sure?”
My eyes were riveted on his face as he waited for permission. “Please help me,” I whispered. A glance around the room showed me he was the only one who would be offering.
“Doll face, you do know how to pierce my heart.”
When he leaned closer I thought he was just going to look at the cuts. Instead he licked me. Long, slow glides of the tongue over my skin, lifting the blood and pain with it. It kind of tickled; the raspiness of it reminded me of a cat’s kiss. “Are you sure this is sanitary?” Shifting around I tried to be comfortable with the level of intimacy his mouth’s movements were creating between the two of us.
“My saliva heals,” he promised.
I closed my eyes and tried not to be creeped out by it. Truth is I’m also trying really hard not to be turned on. Failing miserably, but trying.
He adjusted me to lie over his arm as he continued to lick my skin clear of whatever that creature’s nails had done. I looked down and was amazed to see the cuts closing on their own, like time-lapse photography on one of those nature specials. Or any vampire movie I’d ever seen.
We’re not discussing that.
As he finished my back, I could swear I felt him press his lips into my neck and murmur some soft words. Super-powered hearing, now was another skill I needed to learn.
“Whenever you need me, Verity, I will come.”
He poofed away.
I really wished I could get that promise in writing.
This was the leader of the people who were against us? I knew the day I got the transplant wasn’t my lucky day. Boy, had I ever underestimated that. What would my life be like if he'd gotten to me first?
Looking around, I was not surprised to see it was just Cass, Kaydn, and me. Kaydn was turned in the other direction, staring away. His back seemed so rigid I was pretty sure you could used it as a bridge.
I think I just did something very wrong.
Cass was holding open a doorway back to Haven, based on the end of the mess hall I could see in the distance. As Kaydn stepped through it, she put a hand on his shoulder and spoke to him. I couldn’t hear the words. The venomous look she shot me made me really happy I couldn’t.
I started to stand up to follow, but my legs no longer seemed to work.
“It’s the shock.” Cass’s voice was as sharp as a whip.
A shrug. “Your body is predominantly water. When you receive an injury like that it makes waves travel through that fluid. Haydn took away the actual cuts and most of the pain. No one can help you with the hydraulic effect.”
I tried to rise once more and fell just as fast.
Cass crossed one foot over the other and gloated. “Problem?”
“I don’t think I can walk.”
Three swallows and I looked up into her eyes. “I could use some help.”
“You could try crawling.”
My mouth fell open as the hurt surged. “That’s the best you have to offer?”
“What did you want?”
“You could try giving me a hand?”
If there had been anything I could have reached from where I was, I would have thrown it at her. “I think a hand up would be more useful.”
“He seemed happy enough to give you a hand before.”
I shook my head. “What is your problem?”
“Look”—she made a point of glancing at her watch—“hurry up, V. My soap is on in ten minutes, and I forgot to set my DVR.”
Hold up, there’s a television at Haven? I’ve been going through withdrawal for nothing? Now I know she’s a bitch.
I tried to stand and fell down again. “Cass, please help me.”
“I told you already.”
“What do you mean?”
“If you can’t walk”—she gestured to the doorway—“then crawl.”
So I did. On my stomach, using my forearms to pull me along like I was under enemy fire, tears trapped in my eyes through sheer force of will. Hating Cass with a virulence I didn’t think was possible at the ripe old age of sixteen. I tumbled through the opening and lay gasping for breath, looking up at the trees through a watery veil.
“Cassandra.” He shoved Cass when she stepped through and closed the portal after her. “You unholy bitch.”
He knelt next to me and lifted me up. As he held me close to his chest his stare riveted Cass to the spot as effectively as a nail gun. “How could you? She’s new to all this. You might remember mercy is as valued as triumph. Or did you forget today, when a newbie managed to identify a demon?”
“I did it,” Cassandra stated stiffly, “for you.”
“Don’t do me any favors. I have enough stains on my conscience.” Off he strode with me in his arms. I felt like my entire body had been rolled up, wrung out, and then tossed in a dryer.
I grabbed his arm before he turned away. “Kaydn, I’m sorry. I just don’t know what I did.”
“I know, Verity. I know you don’t know why I’m upset. I think that’s what hurts the most.” His tone of voice was so harsh and ugly I braced myself, afraid of him. I didn’t understand. The look he gave me cut to my soul, and I shrank away because of it.
As the door slammed behind him, I could not help the sobs bursting from my lips like bullet blasts. It was true my body hurt, and I hated not being able to control any of my muscles at the moment. I also hated the fact Cass had made me actually crawl in order to get home. I even hated that I was far from home. I missed my family so much it felt like someone had taken one of my limbs.
What made me cry, however, was the fact that Kaydn had just called me Verity.
That hurt the most of all.