The Writer - Chapter 23

The Writer - Chapter 23

A Chapter by A.L.

The Silent


A whole day later, the storm finally let up and Forrest and his team finally set off for Dinrali. They were incredibly close, and they travelled faster to make up for the lost time. 

Forrest was unsteady on his feet, but he insisted on walking by himself. He didn’t want anyone to think he was weaker than he was. Morgan helped him hobble along the paths and Calli performed a small healing ritual, though it did little to alleviate the pain. 

He decided he couldn’t let anyone know that his ankle still throbbed with every step. That he could practically feel the poison racing through his veins. 

I’m not going to die, he told himself. If the snake was venomous, I would be dead by now. It’s just my imagination. Still, the pain was hard to ignore, and Coral seemed to know he was grimacing with every movement. 

“We just have to get through Layene and then Dinrali, wherever the Rogues are,” Margo explained as they walked. 

Layene’s scenery was mostly grass plains with huge rocks scattered throughout, along with the occasional village. Rae enjoyed climbing from rock to rock, even if she almost fell quite a few times. The air was cool but still, a few clouds hanging threateningly just over the horizon. Overall, it was nice travelling weather. 

In fact, the day passed without occurrence and Forrest and his team laid to rest in a clump of boulders until dawn. As the sun rose, they set off again. 

It wasn’t long after that they came across a large river curving North. The water was a dark, muddy color as it rushed by - much faster than any of them had expected. Margo suggested they stop to rest while they figured out the best way to cross. 

Forrest slowly let himself relax, reclining on one of the bigger boulders. Coral sat beside him, her soft fingers intertwined with his. 

Bethany was inspecting the map with great interest as she spoke. “This river is actually rumored to come straight from the afterlife itself. It winds through Rackelofft, Dinrali and Layene, basically cutting Dinrali off from the rest of the world.” 

“How does it come from the afterlife if it flows through Rackelofft and Layene as well?” Coral asked. “Shouldn’t the river come from one of those two places then?” 

Bethany shook her head. “I think that the river flows two different directions, like it has a source in Dinrali itself. Then the water travels through Rackelofft and Rackelofft into the outside world.” 

So if you wanted to get to the afterlife, you would have to swim upstream, Forrest found himself thinking. 

“And we can cross it?” Rae asked. “That’s really all that matters.” 

Morgan frowned. “I would assume we could cross it. Beth, does the map say anything about the water being poisonous?” 

Bethany rolled her eyes. “I’m not reading the map, I’m remembering things from school. And I think that it isn’t poisonous, but it’s not good for you. I don’t know, it’s been a while since I‘ve read about it.” 

Forrest nodded. Gwen had taught him something. She insisted on teaching all of the Hunters about their home regions, although no one knew why. 

There was a poem she had taught him, but it was slipping his mind. Something about swimming in sorrow? It didn’t sound fun, and Forrest thought harder, trying to remember something helpful. 

They tossed ideas back and forth for a while. Coral was about to suggest that she could just part the water, but seemed to remember her lost Blessing. Forrest squeezed her hand. 

Rae offered to summon some animals for help, but Coral reminded her that no animals were likely to find them in this barren land. Nor would they be willing to swim across the river, most likely. 

Forrest wondered if maybe they could magic their way across. He tapped Coral on the shoulder and explained his plan, which she tried to repeat to Calli. 

“Do you think you could, I dunno, magic us across?” Coral asked her. “Being a sorceress and all-” But Calli cut her off with a wave of a hand. 

“I told you,” Calli grumbled. “I never actually graduated. A lot of this stuff is beyond me. Also, my power is basically drained until the next full moon, which isn’t for a while now. So no magic.”

“Wait,” Rae interrupted. “What do you mean? Based on how big the moon was last night, it should be full again tonight.” 

Forrest froze. Full moon. 

He tugged at Coral’s fingers. He remembered the night that Newt had gotten sick. He remembered the way that the moon was full so they could have the party outside. 

Hadn’t that only been about a week ago? And if the moon completed a cycle every thirty days or so, there was something wrong. Coral turned to him and he quickly explained. Coral gasped as he told her, eyes wide. 

“Forrest says there was a full moon a week ago, the day that Newt got sick when they were on the roof,” Coral exclaimed to the others, who were still arguing. 

Calli paled. “That’s impossible. We were taught the moon cycles in depth at school. There’s no way … unless…” 

Morgan finished for her. “Unless Baelle found a Rogue to change the moon cycle. But why would she do that?” 

“To make people sick,” Rae answered quickly. “That’s what happened, right? To Newt?” 

“Yes, but why didn’t Emmeline get sick then?” Margo pointed out. “The moon would have affected both of them, right?” 

Unless it didn’t affect Readers, Forrest realized. And then it clicked. 

Baelle thought she needed Written, and she thought she could do so because Emmeline hadn’t technically finished the Writing. And that meant tht Baelle either needed Emmeline or another Reader. So if she made a bunch of people sick, there was a chance Emmeline would turn herself in. But in the case Emmeline didn’t, Baelle could create an illness that turned people into Readers. 

Luckily, Coral seemed to be having similar thoughts. She summarized her theory for the group, explaining Baelle’s desire for an obedient Reader. 

Calli nodded along with the explanation. “It makes sense. But then shouldn’t the first round of illness created enough Readers for her? The full moon still shouldn’t happen for another two weeks or so.” 

“Unless the first one failed,” Margo pointed out. “I’m sure we would’ve heard if a bunch of Readers popped up out of nowhere.” 

“So she’s trying again tonight,” Coral concluded. “Which means we needed to be inside and warn as many people as possible. Is there any way we can make every person in the kingdoms stay indoors?” 

Calli scoffed. “No, no way.” 

Forrest was trying to come up with a way frantically. They couldn’t let Baelle win, but there was no way that they could force everyone in the kingdoms to stay inside, much less spread the word before tonight. 

“Can’t you, like, take away the moon or something?” Rae offered. 

Calli stared at her. “For the last time, Rae, I am not a full sorceress! Besides, the amount of energy it would take to remove the moon - not to mention the consequences.” 

“Energy?” Margo asked. 

Calli rolled her eyes, obviously done with the conversation. “Look, the point is that we can’t take the moon away, and we can’t force everyone to stay inside. Our best bet is to warn the people we come across and hope that the weather grows worse.” 

We can’t just take the moon. The words bounced around in Forrest’s head, repeating themselves over and over again. 

Why don’t you just hide the moon? 

It was the voice again. The one that Forrest loathed. It’s sound sparked hatred in him, but it was overwhelmed with intrigue. 

Hide the moon? Forrest thought back frantically, searching for an answer. How could we hide the moon? 

Well, it’s simpler than taking it. Just cover the moon. Forrest couldn’t tell if that was sarcastic. 

Cover it? Like with enough clouds that the sky turns dark? Sounds kind of apocalyptic to me, Forrest commented, though the idea had already taken hold. 

He tapped Coral and quickly explained the idea the odd voice had given him. She turned to repeat it to the others and the voice returned again. Oh, what would you do without me? You guys are lucky… 

Shut up, Forrest snapped. He wasn’t sure why he was so angry, but he still was upset that this … this voice was in his head. It felt like a person’s mind was their only completely private place, and now his was being invaded. What if the voice was evil and it saw all kinds of memories? 

“A cloud cover might work,” Calli mumbled to herself. “But as I said before, I’m pretty drained. I need to gain a bit of magic first. How long do you think it takes before the weird illness sets in?” 

Coral thought for a moment before responding. “Maybe the sickness only strikes at a certain time. Forrest, were Emmeline and Newt on the roof at an hour exactly?” 

Forrest didn’t remember the exact details, but the more he thought about it, the more he was sure that the weird flashy thing only happened on the hour every hour. It made sense - Baelle could get as many people as possible with that theory. 

He repeated it to Coral and the group. 

Calli was quiet for a moment. “If I’m outside when the sun sets, I can recharge for about a half an hour. Then I’ll cover the moon for as long as I can. Maybe another Rogue will catch on and help me so it doesn’t take so much energy.” 

“Sounds like a plan,” Margo decided. 

“Wait,” Calli interjected. “I’m going to be vulnerable when I’m doing this. And with Forrest injured, we’re going to need a place to rest for the night. Do you think we can get across the river?” She offered Forrest a small smile. 

“I can freeze a way across,” Bethany whispered. “If you follow exactly in my footsteps, I can probably make a tiny bridge for us.” 

Unfortunately, that was the best plan they had. After a few more minutes of sorting out the precise details, the plan was set. Bethany would lead them across the weird river. They’d find shelter and wait until nightfall, resting as much as possible. Calli would block the moon on the hour every hour, hoping that Baelle didn’t notice or another Rogue would catch on. And in the morning, they would set off to find the Rogue lair. 

It was a complicated series of events, and if one thing went wrong, it could ruin so many other things. 

“We’ll take it one step at a time,” Margo reminded everyone. 

Coral squeezed Forrest’s hand again, and she gave him a small smile. He understood it without words even leaving her lips. And then we’ll go to Rackelofft and remove your Curse. 

He was so close, he could feel it. 

He just hoped that he would survive until then. 

“Bethany, I swear, if you drop me,” Margo threatened loudly. “I don’t need a bath - especially if the water is dirtier than I am.” 

Bethany rolled her eyes. Forrest wondered if maybe that was what siblings were like, and part of him longed for one. But he also enjoyed being an only child and being carefree when it came to most other people’s safety. 

“I told you, if you fall, it’s not my fault,” Bethany argued. She frowned, her brow knit with concentration as she stood on the bank of the river. 

Part of Forrest agreed with Margo. The water was scary looking - and if truly did flow through wherever the afterlife was, he wasn’t sure that he wanted to go swimming in the same water that dead people did. 

But he also knew that Bethany was trying her hardest and her Blessing probably would be working overtime to support their weight. 

Bethany took a breath before stepping onto the water. It crystalized under her touch, but the ice hovered uneasily in the water. Although it would likely hold its placement and a bit of extra weight, the ice was wobbly and one wrong move could send any of them plummeting into the river. 

She took another step, and another. The ice glowed a pale blue, eerily floating in the dark water. 

In less than a minute, Bethany had crossed the entire river. The path of floating footsteps trembled, evidence of the strain it had on the girl. “Who’s next?” she called. “The last one might have to swim a bit!” 

This sparred the rest of the group to life. Coral went next, Forrest right behind her. 

The ice was oddly springy, like walking a taut rope. It required impeccable balance as well, and Forrest had to pinwheel his arms to keep from falling in. He heard small gasps from behind him, most likely Rae. 

He was almost across when he heard a crack - like glass shattering. Ahead, he saw Bethany stumble backwards, clutching her head. Coral rushed forwards, Forrest right behind her. Together, they gripped Bethany under the arms and hoisted her up while she shivered slightly. 

“Hurry up!” Coral called. “She can’t hold it for much longer.” 

“We’re hurrying,” Morgan retorted loudly, along with a few choice words that the others echoed. Morgan, Margo, and Rae were across now. That left Calli suspended in the middle by small sheets of ice. She was frozen - not literally. 

“Calli, c’mon!” Rae shouted. 

“She must be afraid of the water or something,” Coral grumbled. “She’s not going to move.” 

“Alright, who wants to be the hero and go save her?” Margo said sarcastically. But it was just then, quite coincidentally, that the ice shattered completely and the current swept Calli away. 

Normally, Forrest wouldn’t have gone chasing after some random sorceress floating down the river of death, but she was their only plan for stopping Baelle’s and they needed her. 

He handed Coral his sword, which he hoped she got the message from. Before anyone could react, he ran towards the river and jumped in.

Immediately, he felt the chill of water seeping into his bones, slowly draining the life out of him. He wasn’t sure what he had expected from this river of death, but it wasn’t for his energy to leave him. Forrest’s limbs felt limp and he momentarily forgot why he was in the water. He wanted to let it carry him along forever. 

Memories swelled around him in the current as he fought to keep his head above the water. 

Straps tightened around his wrists. The knife at his cheek. A hissing voice reminding Coral that this was her fault. Pain. He gasped as his head managed to grab a moment above the water before it pulled him under again. 

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’msorrypleaseforgiveme. 

A sliver of air before the frigid ice takes him back. 

Forrest, talk to me. Forrest, I need to hear your voice. Are you okay? Forrest! 

He sucked in a breath of air, legs working hard to propel him upwards in a futile attempt to fight against the current. He couldn’t let it have him. 

Red dripping down his forehead and into his eyes. There’s pain elsewhere too, like a thousand knives. This can’t be normal, can it? More red. His head is light as cotton, he might collapse. Arms at his side, forcing upwards with harsh movements. 

His fingertips were starting to go numb now. The river really wanted him to embrace it. 

Sounds mix. Sights blur. Color drips from the sky like rain. There’s a monster inside of him, tearing him apart. And the voice in the distance, begging him to wake up. Forrest, I didn’t want it to happen. Forrest, will you forgive me? Forrest, I didn’t do it on purpose. Forrest, don’t leave me here alone. Forrest, I’m scared. 

Make it stop, he wanted to scream. But his voice was as dead as his limbs. 

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. 

Pain ricocheting through his body like lightning, striking him everywhere and pulling him down like an anchor to the bottom of the river. 

I’m scared. I’m sorry. Please, Forrest, I don’t want to be alone.

If this was death, he wished it were less painful. Was he atoning for all of his mistakes? Forrest didn’t know. 

I’m not scared of her. I’m scared of losing you. And I’m scared of who I’ll be if you’re gone. 


He broke to the surface again, but the thought of Coral’s panicked voice kept him up. He filled his stomach with air until he floated. The water was pulling him along gently. He wondered how long the river actually was. 

Forrest waited until he regained his strength to begin looking for Calli. He had no idea how far away she was, but he listened carefully until he heard strangled screams. 

He had never been formally taught to swim, but he knew how to swim well enough. Coral’s voice provided him with the energy he needed to paddle towards Calli. He couldn’t see her, only frantic bubbles spiraling upwards. 

And although Forrest was afraid to plunge under the water again, he was more afraid of losing another friend. He took a breath and dove underneath. 

Suddenly, a foot launched towards him. He barely had time to throw himself aside before the foot nearly hit him. Calli was struggling helplessly, fighting against the river. It was going to kill her. Sometimes, a person couldn’t beat something by fighting. The only solution was to give in. 

Calli made it impossible to grab a hold of her, so Forrest grabbed a fistful of her hair and pulled upwards. She thrashed and fought, but years of training to build his muscle along with the weakness the river had inflicted on her made Calli easy to pull. 

He heaved her upwards and supported her head above the water, careful to get his own air too. He could hear her sucking in lungfuls of air, hacking and coughing. 

She calmed down enough to float on her own, and Forrest gratefully let go of her. Calli’s panicked eyes met his and she began to whimper. And yet a moment later, she pulled herself together. “We can focus on emotion later,” she said, more to herself than to Forrest. He nodded in a way he hoped was encouragingly. In reality, he was freezing and needed to swim to shore. 

Forrest waited until Calli was looking at him again before showing her how to paddle with the current instead of against it. She copied his movements roughly until they both ended up on the shore. 

The cool air felt ten times warmer on his skin. 

He heard Calli mumble a quick thanks, but her words were drowned out by his own exhaustion. Sleep pulled him back into the darkness, and Forrest gratefully obliged.

© 2020 A.L.

Author's Note

Let me know what you thought of the river scene!

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Added on December 23, 2020
Last Updated on December 23, 2020
Tags: adventure, fantasy, blessed, cursed, fiction, mythology, death, love, friendship, kingdom, prince, princess, queen, king, youngadult, ya, goddess, sword



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