The Writer - Chapter 22

The Writer - Chapter 22

A Chapter by A.L.

The Healer


“Whoa, is that a real Rogue?” Brooke exclaimed, nearly bursting with excitement. 

Cinnamon rolled her eyes. “As opposed to an imaginary one?” But she gave a small smile anyways. The Rogues had instantly taken a liking to Brooke, and Kalaia had confronted Clara about a “magical presence” inside the heir. 

“That could mean she’s Blessed or Cursed as well,” Kalaia reminded her. “But her story about being an heir could be true - if more estranged than Beckett.” 

If anything, that only made Clara feel worse. She reminded herself that Brooke had dragged herself into this, and it wasn’t Clara’s fault if she died. But she couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit of responsibility and protectiveness. 

Titus was at her side as she made her way over to Bones. The man was busy, overwhelmed with soldiers requesting things from him. 

Clara pushed her way through the small crowd, forcing her way to the front. 

“Bones, we need to talk,” she said loudly, though she was barely heard over the cacophony of voices. 

“Sorry, Clara, a bit busy right now,” Bones managed as another soldier began to yell about how hungry he was. “Maybe we can talk later, when I’m not swamped. Are you sure someone else can’t handle it?” 

Clara was about to respond angrily when a flash of light caught her attention. 

A bluish fox ran towards her, paws leaping over the ground with incredible grace and agility. As it drew closer it, the fox shifted into the human boy form. He handed Clara the parchment as he had before. 

Clara noticed that the rest of the crowd had cleared in the Guide’s wake, but she ignored them. 

“What did you bring me?” she asked softly, accepting the letter. 

She read quickly, barely comprehending. Emmeline had visited Luca with Beckett, and they had been captured by a bunch of Rogues. Beckett had helped them escape, but something seemed off about the description. When Emmeline had returned to the mansion with Beckett, she Read Newt and decided to take him to the Temple of Purity - she was on her way now. And she had forced the Generals to leave. 

Emmeline also mentioned that Forrest was hearing voices. And she begged Clara to help fix him. 

If only my Blessing would start working again, Clara thought bitterly. It had been nearly a week since the weird bird thing, and her wounds were only just starting to pick up speed on their healing. 

She scribbled down some random notes, mentioning Brooke and and also the whole Uris and Kalaia predicament. Bones and Titus were at her side, begging for details but she only wrote faster. Ever since the last note, she kept pen and parchment on her at all times, so it was no problem. 

She handed the letter back to the boy, who shifted into a fox and darted away. 

“What did Echo say?” Titus asked for the millionth time. “Clara, I swear to the goddesses…” 

“Give me a minute to talk,” Clara interrupted, rolling her eyes. She quickly explained what Emmeline had told her in the letter. Titus and Bones seemed okay with it, but the Rogues suddenly appeared at her side. 

“Did you say the Temple of Purity?” Kalaia whispered. 

“Ooh, where’s that? I wanna go!” Brooke squealed. Lou and Cinnamon shushed her simultaneously. 

“Yes, that’s where Emmeline and Beckett took Newt,” Clara continued. Had the Rogues not heard her? Maybe they hadn’t. 

Kalaia frowned, shaking her head in her hands. “Oh no. Seriously?” 

“You think I’m joking?” 

“But Baelle has guards posted all around there,” Kalaia mumbled bitterly, crossing her arms. “There’s no way they’ll get through there without capture.” 

“I thought you didn’t know anything about Baelle’s plans,” Titus argued, narrowing his eyes. 

“We don’t,” Cinnamon repeated. “But when we still sided with her - however foolishly - we were stuck on guard duty whenever we were running low on spare Rogues. It’s terribly boring.” 

“You said she didn’t trust you,” Clara said. No way, she thought. If she had trusted Kalaia, Cinnamon, and Lou when they were still with Baelle, Clara was going to kick herself. 

“She doesn’t,” Kalaia said calmly. “We’re too young. But when she was running low on guards, she would send the younger Rogues to guard the temple. She knew Emmeline would probably end up back there.” 

And I just sent the letter, Clara groaned inwardly. She would have warned them, but now she had no way of making the Guide return. 

“I need to go warn them,” Titus whispered. He was about to take off when Bones grabbed his arm. “Let go of me!” Titus protested, trying to wrench himself out of Bones’s tight grip. 

“Titus, calm down.” Bones slowly released Titus until the boy was calm enough to be dealt with. “There’s other things we need to remember. We have no idea where in the Crossover Forest Emmeline and the others are. Also, we have an entire army at our expense now that we’re not taking orders from the Generals. We also have Brooke, and we need to protect her.” 

Titus glared at Bones, but reluctantly stayed put. 

“I’ll call a meeting,” Bones offered. “We can talk this out with my co-leaders. Does that work for you?” 

Clara and Titus were about to respond when another soldier came rushing over from a large group. “Captain! Captain!” he panted, keeling over. “I’ve just come running from Argenti - I have a message.” 

The soldier continued wheezing as Bones gave him a confused look. 

“Speak,” Bones ordered. 

The soldier nodded. “It’s Baelle, sir. She found out that the heir has joined the rebel cause. And she’s sending an army here, to Elyviel, as we speak.” 

Honestly, Clara was surprised that she was allowed to attend the “emergency meeting”. Titus was there too, and the Rogues. Everyone except for Brooke and the majority of the soldiers was there. 

Bones was sitting at the head of their makeshift table, his partner - Captain Claw. They were deep in conversation about tactics, something Clara found incredibly boring. 

“What should we do?” Claw was asking. 

“What do you mean what should we do?” Bones scoffed. “We have any army of enemies approaching us rapidly. Our only hope for total victory is headed towards its certain doom. What we do is pray to the goddesses.” 

The situation did look bleak, Clara had to admit. 

“Well, obviously we can’t all go after the Reader or Baelle will know something is odd,” one of the other captains commented. 

“But if we don’t warn her, we’re sending her to her doom and ours,” Bones reminded them. “Is there any way we could send a small group out to find Emmeline and Beckett before they get to the Temple?” 

Claw shook his head sadly. “Everyone here is needed. We need all the soldiers we can get if we want even a chance at holding off Baelle’s army.” 

“What about the healer and her fire-powered friend?” another captain asked. 

“That’s out of the question,” Bones interjected before Clara or Titus could respond. “Titus is one of our only magical soldiers which makes him essential. And Clara is one of three healers.” 

“And the Rogues and the heir?” the first captain suggested. 

Bones shook his head again. “Too risky. We need the Rogues here for the same reason we need Titus. And we can’t let Brooke go off alone - especially now that we know Baelle wants her so desperately.” 

Clara wanted to interrupt and say she could go, but she knew the army needed her as a healer. Gale and Keenan were good and all, but they weren’t Blessed. Their power was limited to being human. 

But she also knew that Emmeline needed to be warned. 

“Does anyone here know how to summon a Guide?” she asked in a momentary lapse of silent. Everyone shook their heads, throwing that idea down the drain. 

More debates flew by as Clara watched in silence. Bones was a big supporter of Clara and Titus staying put, but everyone else tried to protest. They knew Clara and Titus could probably manage to get to the Crossover Forest and back in a day or so, but Bones was afraid to risk losing them. 

Claw and Bones were growing louder with every passing minute. Clara could feel the tension between them. 

“They’re not going off into a trap alone,” Bones shouted. 

“That’s not your choice to make!” 

“Actually, it is. The Generals left, remember?” 

“Bones, I understand that your emotions are getting in your way but-” 

“Emotions? Me?” 

Beside her, Titus was shaking slightly. His fingernails were digging into the palms of his hands, drawing blood. Clara reached out a small hand and placed it on his clammy skin, healing the small wounds. 

Yes,  she thought. My Blessing has finally returned. 

Titus gave no notice. He was still trembling, and Clara wondered if Bones and Claw fighting reminded him of the rumored Master Zoro. 

“Stop,” she called out, her voice drowned out in the cacophony. “Stop! You’re scaring Titus!” 

Still, no one paid her any attention. The Rogues glanced her way, but were apparently too afraid to speak out against the captains. The shouting match only grew louder until Kalaia got up to help Titus leave. 

“Bones!” Clara screamed as Titus exited the tent. 

The man spun to face her, and his skin paled as he saw Titus stumbling away. “You scared him half to death.” 

“I’m sorry,” Bones whispered. “Things have gotten a little out of hand.” 

No kidding, Clara wanted to say, but she controlled herself. “You need to settle this peacefully.” 

“There’s no way that Bones and Claw will ever come to an agreement,” one of the other captains muttered ruefully. “If we let them debate it out, the entire world will be in ashes and dust.” 

“Fine, then let the healer decide,” Claw sniffed. “This is all about her, isn’t it? Emmeline is her friend. She’s our third healer. Let her make the choice.” 

Clara … choose? It felt wrong to be passed the weight of such a big decision, and Clara was uncomfortable with it. She either chose to help her friends - or essentially the world - or her other friends - and also the world. 

On one hand, she wanted desperately to see Emmeline, Beckett, and Newt again. She had never wanted to be in the army in the first place. She never wanted to be with a bunch of soldiers - especially as a healer. Bringing Emmeline the message also meant Clara had a real purpose, a turning point in the world. The army would lose more people without her, but a third healer was unlikely to turn the point in the battle. 

But on the other hand, Clara had a new family among the soldiers too. They didn’t treat her like a little girl anymore. She was one of them - proof of which was that she was sitting among the highest ranks. What if she had the ability to save Titus or Bones - if they were injured - and she wasn’t there and they died? How many lives could she save? Besides, Emmeline was likely to be captured anyways. It was only a matter of time. 

The pressure was building on her, suffocating her. 

I have to do something, she thought bitterly. What would Johnny do? 

But he was dead, so obviously his choices weren’t the best ones. Yet there was something human about him, something Clara didn’t want to lose about herself. 

Memories pressed in on her, begging to flood in. She forced them back, saving them for a later time. A time where she could afford to lose focus. 

“Lou, how hard is it to make a storm focused in one area?” she asked softly. 

Lou gave a small shrug. “Not terribly hard. It depends on how large and harsh the storm actually is.” 

Clara nodded to herself. “Okay, okay. And Cinnamon, how hard is it for you to slow someone down instead of speeding them up?” 

Cinnamon had a similar reaction. “Relatively easy.” 

Clara inhaled deeply. “Lou, Cinnamon - I need you to do both of those things to Emmeline and Beckett. Make it nearly impossible for them to get to the Temple of Purity. But don’t kill them.” 

The two Rogues nodded. 

“So you’re staying,” Bones said, practically lighting up. Clara wanted to be happy too, but she could already feel the guilt of her decision weighing her down. This could seriously injure Newt if he wasn’t healed on time. 

“Yes,” she answered softly. “But I … I need some alone time.” 

And with that, she ran out of the tent so that no one could see the tears silently streaming down her cheeks. 

The bitter wind tore at Clara’s cheeks and hair, but she ignored it. She was sitting in a tree, one of the only ones in the vast plains of Elyviel. It was the only place she could think. 

The memories were pushing at the corners of her mind, begging to be let in. 

Johnny smiles at her, and Clara feels incredibly happy. She doesn’t see him smile much anymore, especially since the soldiers have been after them. Gwen says that they’re safe, the soldiers are only there because they’re looking for someone. They’ve been locked in the cave nonstop now. Clara hates it, but at least they get one day a week outside. And that’s why Johnny is smiling. 

“You two behave,” Gwen warns as they scramble out of the cave. “Don’t do anything kissy or illegal!” 

“We always behave,” Johnny assures her at the same time as Clara says, “We’re not like that, Gwen.” The pair shares a look as Gwen just laughs and sends them on their way, warning them to return by dinner. 

Johnny giggles as they run. “Race you to the field!” He bursts into a sprint, Clara at his heels. 

The dart through the trees, easily finding their ways through the winding paths. Clara has grown used to living here, she knows everything around her home. 

They arrive in the field of wildflowers a few moments later. Clara collapses into the flowers in a fit of giggles, Johnny beside her. They take a moment to catch their breath before relaxing. Johnny gives a smaller smile. “Sorry about my cousin. You know she’s just teasing.” 

“I know,” Clara replies. She keeps forgetting Johnny and Gwen are related - one of the few people among the Sprite Hunters to be so. “We’re just friends, and that’s fine. We’re twelve.” 

Johnny nods and they are lost in their thoughts for a little while. Finally, he speaks. “Do you wanna play hide and seek?” 

“Sure,” Clara agrees happily. Hide and seek in the cave is less fun because Gwen makes them play with the younger children. Hide and seek in the open also means more places to hide and more fun - especially with all the possibilities. “I’ll seek first.” 

She closes her eyes, counting as the scent of blossoming flowers envelope her. “8...9...10!” 

She opens her eyes, finding Johnny still sitting right in front of her. He is paler than normal, something that seems odd. “What’s wrong?” 

“Do you still have the Death Daisy I preserved for you?” he asks softly. 

Clara is taken aback by the weird request. “Of course. It’s in my stuff back in the cave. Why?” She is surprised Johnny remembers the blossom. His magic has vastly improved under Gwen’s tutelage and he can grow many more plants now. 

“Keep it with you at all times, for me,” he requests. 

“Yes, I will when we get back. Now, are we going to play or not?” she sighs, exasperated. Why can’t they just play the dumb game?” 

“Yeah, sure,” Johnny says. He sounds distracted. “Make sure to find me by sunset.” 

Clara closes her eyes again. The flowers are stinkier this time, releasing more scents. It’s almost as if they’re panicked. 

When Clara opens her eyes, she begins to search. It seems that Johnny has chosen a very good hiding place this time. She can’t find him, no matter how hard she looks. It’s nearly night by the time she returns to Gwen, empty handed. 

Gwen looks nervous. “Where were you?” 

“Playing hide and seek,” Clara answers. “Is Johnny in there? I can’t find him.” 

Gwen frowns, paling just like Johnny did earlier. “No, Clara. We thought both of you were taken.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“Clara,” Gwen whispers quietly. “The soldiers have found us.” 

The scene skipped ahead about a month. Clara felt herself wake up for only a moment before she plunged back into dim memory. 

Her feet are pounding on the wet ground. The moss seems to welcome her, like a bed. But if she stops to rest, she will die. Even her Blessing won’t save her from that. 

She hates her Blessing. She hates that she was a jerk to Johnny that last night. She wishes that she had never joined the Sprite Hunters in the first place. If she knew what it would lead to, she never would’ve joined them. 

Faster and faster, her legs pump. But they are tiring quickly. She barely manages to think between heartbeats. 

A game of hide and seek. Tha-THUMP. Never finished. Tha-THUMP. Johnny is gone. Tha-THUMP. All her fault. 

The guilt is pulling down her like the weight of the sky. Could she have saved him, had she been there? Did he die alone, or was he surrounded by soldiers? Was he scared, wishing that the pain would fade? 

Worst of all: did he blame Clara? 

She had asked Gwen if an afterlife existed. Gwen had given her an indirect response, but the answer seemed to be yes. The young woman was too grief stricken to do much leading these days. 

Clara wonders if Johnny was looking after her from the Underworld, or if he blames her so badly that he never wants to see her face again. That he wants revenge on her. That he haunts her with every ounce of his being. It certainly feels like it. 

Run. Run. Run. 

She can’t escape. She won’t escape. The soldiers will catch her and they will question her about something she doesn’t know and they will kill her just like they did with Johnny. She will die alone and in pain and deserving of it too. 

The blossom in her pocket seems to pulse with energy. 

She wonders if the magic stored in it is enough to overcome her Blessing. She sees silver streaks in the dark shadows of the trees. 

Please forgive me, Johnny. She sticks the flower in her mouth, wincing at the bitterly sweet taste as it floods her senses. Useless. Useless. Useless. The words bounce through her head as her vision tints black. Please forgive me. 

Clara startled awake, nearly toppling out of the tree. But strong hands were there, keeping her from falling. 

“Titus?” she asked, glancing up at him. He seemed lost in his thoughts, but he radiated heat in the chill of the wind so she let him stay. “Titus, are you okay?” she asked again, wondering if Bones had broken him. 

“Who’s Johnny?” Titus asked. 

Clara nearly fell out of the tree again. “J-Johnny? Why do you ask?” 

Titus shrugged, but his expression was hard, his lips pressed into a tight, narrow line. “You said his name in your sleep. Did he hurt you?” 

“What? No! It’s just-” she stuttered, stumbling for an answer. “No.” 

“Sorry,” Titus mumbled, sensing her discomfort with the topic. “I was just making sure you weren’t in danger. So he didn’t hurt you?” 

“No,” Clara repeated, a small tear forming in the corner of her eye. “If anything, I hurt him.” And with that, the whole story came flooding out of her. She had never told anyone what had happened that night. She assumed Emmeline knew - being a Reader and all. Titus listened as she spoke, and finally, when she finished, he was quiet. 

“This is going to sound heartless,” he said at last. “But we need to focus on the battle. Clara, I know this is hard. I know you miss Johnny. But you need to keep your head in the game. Fight for me, for Bones, for your friends, for Johnny. For whoever.” 

“I know,” Clara whispered. “I know.” It was time to let the past go. No more dwelling on Johnny’s death. He was gone, and there was no coming back. 

I’ll see you on the other side, she thought mournfully. 

It may have been a coincidence, but at that moment, the wind blew faster. It tousled her hair and dried the tear on her cheek. 

You don’t need to miss me, I’m right here. It was almost like the breeze carried Johnny’s message for him. I’ll be here for you.  

Clara smiled to herself. Titus was right. She needed to win this battle for her friends. 

But also for herself. 

© 2020 A.L.

Author's Note

I just want everyone to know that (according to google docs), the word count for this piece is 69696. So perfect fitting for the perfectionist inside of me. Anyway, have a nice day!

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Added on December 20, 2020
Last Updated on December 20, 2020
Tags: adventure, fantasy, blessed, cursed, fiction, mythology, death, love, friendship, kingdom, prince, princess, queen, king, youngadult, ya, goddess, sword



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