The Writer - Chapter 24

The Writer - Chapter 24

A Chapter by A.L.

The Silent


“Forrest, are you doing okay?” His mothers voice is soft, worried. She’s been like that since the day he was Read, and he doesn’t know why. Hadn’t she said the Reading went ago? He responds with a small nod, afraid of what will happen if he tells the truth. She smiles her broken grin and turns away. He has appeased her for now. 

Forrest disappears into his room, trying to get some rest. He hasn’t been sleeping well lately. The kids at school are making fun of him for being “weak”. Every day, he pictures himself showing them how strong he actually is. But every time he does, all he can see is his father punching him. 

I never want to become my father, Forrest decides. Never will he hurt someone just to show them he can. 

That night, he hears his mother whispering. For a moment, he thinks Brooks has returned. But it is only his mother’s voice, her soft mumbling filling Forrest’s ears. It’s too distracting, and he wants to sleep. 

He creeps out of his room, making his way down the small hallway. The door to his mother’s room is cracked open just a hair. He peeks inside to find his mother kneeling at the window. Is she … praying? 

“I’m scared,” she whispers. “I’m scared for Forrest. Racke, I know that cursed Reader was lying. Please, take away the Curse. I don’t want to live like this anymore. What if … what if he hurts me? Is that family?” 

Forrest bites back his angry retorts. His mother seems to be more worried about herself than she is for Forrest. What if he hurt her? His Curse wanted to see it happen, but he held it back, biting his lip. 

His mother is shaking now. He is sure she’s crying. A small part of him wants to open the door and run in and hug her tight and tell her it’s okay. The other part wants to let her suffer. He shakes his head scornfully. What is he thinking, letting harm come to his mom? 

Forrest is about to step into the room when the floor creaks beneath him. His mother whips around, practically snarling as she faces the door. Her expression doesn’t relax when she sees that it’s only him standing there. Instead, she seems afraid, shrinking back against the wall under the window. Forrest is afraid now too. 

And then it dawns on him. She sees his father in him. For once, Forrest wishes he was more like his mother. He wishes that he was nothing like his father. He wishes that he was just a normal person. 

“Forrest, darling, come here.” His mother is insistent, but there’s something off about her. Maybe it’s the maniacal look in her eyes. Or the way the grin drips off of her face. Her hands are outstretched, reaching for Forrest. 

“I’m going to bed now,” he says softly, before turning and running. He slams the door to his room shut and vigorously begins to shove what little belongings he has into a bag. This house is suffocating him. His mother throws herself against the door in a weak attempt to open it. “Forrest, darling, come out here and talk to me.” 

He closes his satchel and shatters the window with the pummel of his sword. Glass sprinkles the ground like fresh snow. Forrest doesn’t hesitate as he crawls out the window and falls into the garden outside. The air is liberating. 

He runs. 

The group was gathered around a small campfire when Forrest woke up. The sun was beginning to sink beyond the horizon, casting long shadows across the ground. 

“Are you feeling okay?” Coral asked him, her words bearing an eerie familiarity to those of his mother in his dream. Her blue eyes were filled with anguish and worry as she pressed a hand to his forehead. “You’re freezing. Morgan, can you hand me the extra blankets?” 

The other boy obliged and Forrest didn’t protest as Coral wrapped the cloth around him. She pressed herself closer to him, maybe to conserve heat. She was so close that he could feel her heart beating. He grabbed her palm and began tracing letters into it. 

What happened? Where is Calli? Anything else?

Coral let him finish before explaining as the others began to cook dinner. “You dove in after Calli, and we saw both of you floating downstream but didn’t want to risk getting in the water. We found you on the shore a while later. Calli is sleeping between Morgan and Rae in the heap of blankets - she was worse than you were. Nothing else really happened.” 

Forrest nodded, mentally checking things off in his mind. Margo distributed dinner a few moments later, and Calli started to stir. 

With a start, Forrest realized that there was something different about her. Calli’s hair had darkened to an almost black shade. Her skin was slightly paler, her lips blue. Fear raced through him and he quickly asked Coral for a mirror. 

“I never travel without one,” she replied softly, handing him a cool piece of metal. 

Guilt tore through him as he recognized the mirror as the one he had found while looking through her drawer. Coral didn’t seem to notice that he was uncomfortable, so he peered at his reflection. 

He almost didn’t recognize himself. How long had it been since he last looked at himself? Months, probably before the Argentic situation. 

Scars were engraved in skin, and his eyes were fierce and dark. Unlike Calli, the river hadn’t darkened his hair. Instead, there were a few small streaks of pepper, like the river had sucked a few years off of his life. Yeah, swimming in that again would not be happening. 

“You look beautiful to me,” Coral commented when she saw him frowning. 

Morgan snorted. “Aww, beautiful Forrest. Does anyone want to compliment me on my dashing looks?” 

No one did, and Morgan pretended to cry. 

“What time is it?” Calli mumbled, her first words since being pulled out of the river. She glanced upwards at the quickly blackening skies. 

“The moon will rise in roughly half an hour,” Rae explained. “Rest first.” 

Calli obliged, pulling her blankets tighter around her as she nibbled on her food. Forrest could tell she didn’t want to talk, which reminded him of Coral chastising him for not sharing.

He squeezed Coral’s hand and began tracing more letters into it. He told her what he had heard and felt while in the river. With every letter, Coral seemed to frown harder. She leaned into him so her head was on his shoulder, her lips next to his ear. 

“I’m glad you told me,” she whispered, though her words didn’t sound like she meant them. If anything, she seemed more upset. 

There are some things in the world that should stay hidden. He remembered someone telling him that once. And it was definitely true. What if no one had ever found out Beckett was a prince? Or what if the goddesses had kept to themselves instead of running off to gallivant with mortals. 

We can’t dwell on the what-ifs, he told himself. Focus on what we can change. 

His thoughts were interrupted by a gasp from Coral as a blue light began to approach. Was that the Guide? As it grew closer, Forrest was sure that the fox was back. In its mouth was another roll of parchment. 

“Ooh, the fox is back!” Rae exclaimed. “Does he have another message from Emmeline?” 

“Probably,” Coral said softly. The fox came to a stop in front of Coral and Forrest, shifting into the form of the boy again. Forrest gently took the parchment and unrolled it, Coral reading it from beside him. 

“What does it say?” Margo asked impatiently. 

Forrest didn’t answer, he was still reading. But apparently Coral was done because she whispered, “Emmeline is running away.” She quickly explained what she had read, and Forrest didn’t finish the letter. “She’s taking Newt to the Temple of Purity to heal him.” 

Coral continued to summarize Emmeline’s letter. Emmeline was taking Beckett and Newt with her to the temple. She had also fired the Generals, something Forrest was grateful for. Coral also mentioned that she was asking Clara about Forrest’s visions, and would return the news soon. She hoped they were doing well, and she concluded the letter with news of her meeting with Dixral. 

“That’s never a good omen,” Morgan grumbled. “Meeting with a goddess of death? Ugh.” 

“I’m sure Emmeline has it all under control,” Coral argued, though she didn’t sound so sure. “I mean, we’ve talked to goddesses before.” 

“Lucky you,” Rae sighed wistfully. “Some of us have to stick with making unheard prayers. Anyway, Calli, are you recharging right now? We’re going to have to do the moon cover thing soon.” 

Calli nodded and promised she was gathering magic. 

Forrest quickly scribbled a reply to Emmeline, thanking her for asking Clara. He described their adventures since the last letter, as well as their theory about the moon. He wished her well, and handed the letter back to the boy, who was still hovering beside him. 

In fact, the boy seemed intrigued by the conversation. 

Forrest watched as the boy studied their group, as if waiting for something. When it became clear that the conversation wasn’t what he was looking for, he turned away. 

Wait, Forrest wanted to say, but the boy shifted into fox form and sprung away. 

He has places to be, the voice in his head said thoughtfully. Forrest immediately felt the anger inside him spark. He hadn’t invited the voice’s opinion, but maybe he could exploit it.

What was he waiting for? Forrest asked, hoping to attain some knowledge. 

The voice snickered. It’s obvious, isn’t it? He was waiting for news from his summoner. He can’t read the letters, so hearing what you all say is his only method of news. 

Forrest was confused. Why would the boy care so much for his … summoner? That had to be Emmeline, as the boy was her Guide. Maybe the boy had been a past friend of Emmeline, or maybe a cousin. 

So the boy wants to make sure Emmeline is safe? Forrest clarified. 

Wow, give the boy a prize, the voice muttered sarcastically. Obviously, the boy cares for the Reader a lot.  

Forrest wasn’t sure what to make of that, so he sat in silence as the voice faded from his head. He wondered if anyone cared that much about him. He knew people probably did. Coral obviously loved him. His late mother had loved him. Brooks had too, before he left. 

Love, he thought. A person who loves is the most dangerous. 

Calli’s ritual was interesting to say the least. Forrest had only seen her in action once - when she had fought off the bear. And yet he’d kind of been distracted during her magicky ways. Now, he could see her ritual stuff in real life. 

And it was cool looking. Forrest would’ve traded his Curse for sorcery in a heartbeat. 

Then again, Forrest would trade anything to get rid of his Curse. He hated that part of him and wished it never existed. 

But that was beside the point. Calli’s magic was awesome looking. 

After she “charged”, she stood slowly. “How much time do we have?” she asked quietly, staring at the sky. 

Rae shrugged. “Maybe ten minutes? Not long.” 

Calli nodded. She raised her palm to the sky and the witch mark began to pulse with a soft, white light. Her cloak billowed around her as she closed her eyes and uttered a quiet word that Forrest couldn’t quite hear. 

The ground trembled slightly and Calli’s knees gave out. Morgan made a move to catch her as she fell, supporting her upright. 

Dark clouds began to take form in front of the bright light of the moon. It blocked out the illumination, turning the land around them dark. The clouds hovered there and a few minutes later, there was a tiny pulse of silver light. But the clouds blocked it, and the pulse faded. It was anticlimactic in Forrest’s opinion. 

When it became clear that there would be no more pulses for another hour, Calli released her hold on the clouds. They drifted away slowly. 

“That. Was. Awesome!” Rae shrieked. “I wanna be a witch!” 

Calli didn’t even have enough energy to correct her. She gave a tiny smile before lying down on one of the blankets to regain her magic. 

“She’s asleep,” Morgan whispered a few moments later. “Let her sleep.” 

Forrest nodded. He understood where Calli’s exhaustion was coming from. Just like after his Curse took over, Calli was drained. 

“That was pretty cool,” Margo admitted after a bit of silence. “But what exactly are we planning after today? Just keep moving and looking for the Rogues? I mean, they have to be somewhere.” 

Coral sighed. “None of the goddesses have given us any hints, right?” 

Everyone shook their heads. Forrest kind of wished that Racke would appear to him and tell him where to find the Rogues, but he knew it wouldn’t happen. From the very moment he was Cursed, he had wondered if one day Racke would return to correct her mistake. He knew she couldn’t come into his house, so when he ran away, he hoped she would find him. No such luck. When he helped Emmeline on her journey, he thought he could pique Racke’s attention enough to get her to help him. And when he was tortured? He shuddered at the thought. She hadn’t cared enough to even spare him from death. 

And that was the thing about the goddesses. Everyone praised them, prayed to them, worshipped them. It was a simple fact that the goddesses were good and the Rogues were bad. 

But that didn’t mean the goddesses were without fault either. Ibenily had left Luca to be attacked by Baelle. Racke had Cursed Forrest and never cared enough to fix her. People all over the kingdoms were Cursed and forced to live that way just because a goddess held a grudge. It was unfair, but it was reality. 

“Do you think anyone would answer if we tried to ask?” Margo wondered aloud. “Like, if we made a group prayer to all the goddesses.” 

“I doubt it,” Rae said, and Forrest was in complete agreement. “Because some of us are Cursed, that means we won’t be getting any of those goddesses. So that leaves out Racke and Maconil, probably Lithby too - since she doesn’t like Coral. And any other goddess plus the ones who sponsor our Normies wouldn’t respond. That leaves the Blessed, which is me and Betahny.” 

“So Farosha and Quiglin,” Bethany clarified. “That doesn’t give us many options.” 

Or you could ask me, the voice in Forrest’s head purred, startling him. He jumped and Coral was immediately at his side. 

“Forrest, what’s wrong?” 

He shook his head vigorously, signaling that he didn’t want to talk, but Coral wasn’t letting him off the hook this time. “Forrest…” it was a warning. 

Ask me, I dare you, the voice hissed. Forrest felt anger sparking inside of him, ready to spread like a wildfire. But Coral was there again, her fingers in his cooling down the roaring flames. 

Fine, Forrest thought angrily. Where are the Rogues - the ones we’re looking for? And you obviously have been eavesdropping, so you know which. 

The voice did the equivalent of a rude gesture. Well, Mr. Smarty, you could just look for signs of a group of women. What’s something that women - however resourceful they are - can’t live without? 

Forrest raised an eyebrow, vaguely aware of all those watching him. Do I look like a woman to you? 

I mean, not really. But, hey, who am I to judge? 

Forrest was boiling again, but Coral's soft fingers brushed against his again and he forced himself to be calm. Tell me, please. 

The voice sighed. Fine, I won’t even get into this conversation with you. Long explanation short, the Rogues are about five miles west of here. There’s smoke just over the ridge, something you would’ve noticed if you weren’t staring at the sorceress. 

Forrest was going to find a way to strangle his own brain if it was the last thing he did. 

And you couldn’t have just started with that information? 

The voice disappeared without a response. Forrest was glad to feel it leave, he wasn’t sure how much more of this he could take. 

He quickly explained to Coral through gestures what the voice had told him about the whereabouts of the Rogues. As she summarized the information to the group, Calli began to stir again. It would be a restless night for all of them, it seemed. 

“Well, we can fight the Rogues tomorrow,” Margo concluded. She helped divide up shifts, to get the most sleep possible. Forrest and Coral were first, and the others lay down to get some sleep before their own shifts later on. 

With the fire flickering in front of him and Coral at his side, Forrest almost felt at peace again. Almost

He missed the good old days when all the Sprite Hunters had to worry about was if Sprites were actually real or not. He missed being able to relax each night enough to sleep. He even missed adventuring with his friends. 

And he missed talking, just a little bit. He wanted to be able to tell Coral how much she meant to him. That in the river, she was the one who he worried about. But he couldn’t. Not yet. 

As the fire began to die out and left Coral and Forrest in the dark, he once again felt his Curse stirring inside of him. Almost immediately, Coral’s presence chased it away again. He was grateful that the darkness hid his blush. 

But it also hid the worried gaze Coral was giving him.

© 2020 A.L.

Author's Note

The story is coming to an end, so the the best parts have yet to come. I anticipate a few more chapters (about five or so from each POV) to add up to around 10-15 more chapters. Hope you enjoy!

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Added on December 26, 2020
Last Updated on December 26, 2020
Tags: adventure, fantasy, blessed, cursed, fiction, mythology, death, love, friendship, kingdom, prince, princess, queen, king, youngadult, ya, goddess, sword



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