The Writer - Chapter 34

The Writer - Chapter 34

A Chapter by A.L.
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The Healer

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Clara soon discovered that breaking into the allegedly “impenetrable” castle was way easier done than she had expected. It took her less than an hour to get inside the walls, and she wasn’t harmed at all. 

Arriving outside of Argenti, Clara had immediately been intimidated by the spires of the castle that seemed to stretch forever into the sky. Guards in silver were posted at every entrance to the village - or at least, every known entrance. After all, Clara still had a few tricks up her sleeve. 

If anything else, her time as a Sprite Hunter had provided important knowledge of the art of escape. 

The thrill of breaking in was something Clara missed greatly about the simple life of a Hunter. There was something empowering about scaling walls and leaping across rooftops that she loved. 

Finding an entrance into the village was relatively easy. A thick forest lined the walls to the city - probably supposed to be too thick to bring caravans through in any spot but the main entrance. Instead, the trees just gave Clara the height she needed to get onto the wall. There was a particularly tall weeping willow that leaned over the wall ever so slightly. 

The bark was rough under her fingertips, but the pain felt good. It distracted Clara from the growing anxiety in her stomach and gave her something to focus on. 

Once on the wall, Clara only had to worry about being spotted. The wall was maybe twenty feet off the ground and maybe two feet wide. As long as she stayed low, she wouldn’t be seen. And her method worked well, the guards didn’t look up at all. 

A tiny part of Clara wondered if Baelle was expecting her, but she pushed the thought away. Baelle probably didn’t keep dibs on her at all times, plus she probably was expecting Clara to be mourning over Titus and maybe Bones too. Obviously, the goddess didn’t know Clara at all. She didn’t grieve, she avenged. 

Getting from the roof to the wall wasn’t a huge problem either. Clara followed the perimeter of the wall until she reached a house with a sloped roof that was only a few feet from the wall. 

She launched herself upwards, grabbing onto the shingles as she shimmied onto the roof. It was warm underneath her and Clara almost wanted to lay down and rest, but she reminded herself that Beckett, Emmeline, and Newt could be in danger and she couldn’t waste time. 

Midnight gallivants with Johnny and Gwen had taught Clara how to navigate roofs easily. She knew how to leap onto sloped surfaces almost silently, and she could easily pick her way to the castle roof by roof. 

When Clara finally reached the walls bordering the castle, she knew it was time to get serious. Her breathing came slow and quiet even though her pulse was racing. 

The castle was painted in silver (obviously) and was surrounded by a deep moat. The water was deep, black, and kind of scary looking, like there was no bottom. Clara decided swimming would not be a good idea. 

Instead, Clara opted for a slightly easier option that involved quite a bit of luck and also a lot of skill. 

Clara balanced on the wall, hoping no one would spot her. She allowed herself one deep breath before she pushed herself off the wall. Her feet hit the ground hard and Clara had to quickly catch her balance again. 

The ledge sandwiched between the moat and the wall was only about a foot thick and made of stone that crumbled beneath her feet. Now the problem would be getting across the moat. 

Clara dug through her bag until she found the piece of cloth she’d nabbed from a kite stranded in a tree earlier in the day. She laid it in the moat, making sure the water didn’t touch her at all. The cloth floated on the surface, never sinking. Next was a pebble, which also seemed to hover on the surface too. 

Just as Clara had hoped, the moat wasn’t actually a moat at all. It was a clever illusion designed to make the water look deep when really it was probably sap or tar covered by an invisible shield. 

She placed one foot over the moat and the shield seemed to hold her weight. When she was sure that the shield wouldn’t collapse, she grabbed her pebble and cloth before darting across the rest of the moat to the other side. She stopped long enough to tuck her pebble and cloth away before continuing. 

The on the bottom of the castle was coated with ivy, but Clara didn’t want to risk climbing it. Instead, edged her way around the bottom next to the moat. 

About halfway around the castle near the back, Clara discovered what she had been looking for - an entrance. It was tucked away among blankets of ivy, definitely unused. The ivy wasn’t a problem - the gargoyles were. 

Back when she was with the Sprite Hunters, Clara had befriended a young girl named Lucille, whose parents worked inside of Argenti. Her mother was the queen’s personal tailor, and when Lucille ran away, she took valuable knowledge with her. Gwen managed to extract a map of the Silver Castle in very rough approximation before the girl had disappeared. In Lucille’s description, she’d mentioned secret tunnels woven throughout the castle. They were designed to lead from various bedrooms to the outside in case of an attack - and they were mainly sized for children. 

Lucille never mentioned gargoyles - perhaps no one told her about them. Maybe they were a new addition in Baelle’s security. 

The stone beasts were perched outside of the entrance, maybe as decoration or maybe as deterrent. Their faces depicted angry expressions, but the worst part was the way their skin crumbled as they paced back and forth. There were only two gargoyles, one of them slightly fatter and larger than the other. 

Gargoyles were made of stone, though, and that meant that it was nearly impossible to kill them. And since there was no other way into the castle, that meant Clara had to get by them without fighting. 

They spotted her immediately, the fat one pointing a crackling finger at her. The other one almost sounded the alarm, but Clara pushed her finger to her lips and snuck closer. 

“What are you doing here?” the fat one hissed 

“You’re the first person we’ve seen in years!” the little one exclaimed, the voice a bit more feminine and young. 

“Shut up and let the girl talk, Gaia.” 

The tiny gargoyle pretended to pout, but the older one was watching Clara with utmost intensity. “You never answered my question.” 

“Sorry, sir,” Clara said, adding the last bit in case gargoyles were easily flattered. “I … uh … I think my friends are inside the castle, and I wanted to go in and see them - and possibly rescue them.” She wondered if the gargoyles would think she was lying, but the older one nodded. 

“I’m sorry,” he said at last, heaving a stony sigh. “I wish I could help, but the best I can do is let you go without sounding the alarm and keep an eye out for your friends.” 

“Why can’t I go inside?” Clara asked innocently. She was banking on the fact that the gargoyles felt any sympathy for her, and it was evidently working a little bit. But Clara needed them to completely believe her. 

Gaia rolled her rocky eyes. “We’d love to let you in, but we have specific orders from Lady Baelle not to let visitors in.” 

Clara pretended to be upset, which wasn’t hard. “I guess I just have to let my friends die then.” Gaia and the fat gargoyle gave apathetic shrugs, obviously done with the conversation. Cara had to play her last ditch idea. “It’s not like you’d understand anyway.” 

“What’d you say?” the fat gargoyle asked, narrowing his eyes with a crackle. 

“Well, I don’t know for sure,” Clara added, keeping her voice steady, “but I don’t think you guys know what it means to actually have friends. Being gargoyles must be pretty lonely…” 

“You have no idea,” Gaia mumbled, earning an icy stare from the other gargoyle. 

“I might be able to help with that,” Clara offered, studying her nails as if bored already. In reality, she was a bit nervous. If the gargoyles didn’t take the bait, they could attack her and Clara would be in no position to defend herself. 

“We’re perfectly fine, thank you,” Fatso sniffed, though the words sounded forced. 

Clara held back a smile. “I understand. Please do keep an eye out for my friends, and I hope you guys find someone else to talk to soon.” 

Fatso and Gaia shared a look before turning to face her again. “Fine,” Fatso said. “We’ll let you slip into the castle without an alarm - but on one condition - you convince Baelle to free us from service.” 

“Thank you so much,” Clara exclaimed, glad her plan had worked. “Y’know, you could just run away. I doubt Baelle would notice.” 

“That’s a nice thought, but our home is here,” Gaia said. “But I appreciate the idea.” 

Clara nodded once before slipping between the two gargoyles and into the tunnel, stopping once to wave them goodbye. 

Daylight faded as she crawled through the tunnels. The walls were squeezing in on her and Clara knew that they would have to find another way out. Beckett might be able to fit through the tunnels, but Newt and Emmeline wouldn’t make it. She made a mental note to remember that as the tunnel sloped upwards. 

At the very end of the tunnel was a dead end, or at least, what appeared to be one. In the dark, Clara gently brushed her fingers over the edge of the tunnel and found the cold metal of hinges. She pushed on the wall closing off the tunnel, and a tiny wooden door swung open. 

The tunnel emptied into a spare bedroom, probably for a prince or princess. The walls were covered in peeling paint a soft cream color. A cradle was placed in the center of one of the walls, filled with gray blankets. Propped up on the pillows was a tiny, stuffed bear who was missing an eye. Above the cradle was a mobile with little dragons dangling from it. The room was mostly empty apart from those things, the exception being a changing table in one corner and a rocking chair in the other. 

Clara tried to think of the last royal heir to be in the castle. The Silver Kingdom had always been low on heirs, generally producing one per generation. This room was tiny, probably not used often - maybe designed for the second or third heir that never actually happened. 

As she reached the door, Clara discovered notches carved into the wood panels. They were in horizontal lines, spaced unevenly up the door in a straight line. Beside the lines were numbers and letters. 1y. 18mo. 2y. Ages. 

And carved vertically into the doorframe was Beckett. 

Clara nearly fell into the door. This was Beckett’s room? No wonder it hadn’t been used - he was the child that everyone hated. Queen Persephone had probably used this room to hide him because no one expected a royal child to be raised in a room like this if they were the first heir. And since he was viewed as a traitor, the room was off-limits. 

She twisted the doorknob and stepped out of the room, not caring if she was caught. The air seemed thick with memories of the past. She could picture Queen Persephone rocking a baby Beckett to sleep in the rocking chair. She could imagine the queen marking Beckett’s height in the doorframe like a normal family. The images were replaced with the ghastly images of Beckett’s dead parents in Layene. 

Footsteps startled Clara out of her stupor and she bolted down the hallway, feet padding softly on the carpet until she came across a table covered in vases. She ducked under it and held her breath as the footsteps approached. 

Two guards walked calmly down the hallway, and Clara could see one of them holding a large crate. 

“Her Highness said she needed these right away,” the one with the box was saying, though he sounded amused. “I almost asked her why, but then I saw her with those kids and I knew saying anything would get me killed.” 

“Then why are you saying anything right now?” the other guard asked, glancing around skeptically. “She could be listening.” 

Box Guard gave a careless shrug. “She’s busy with those kids. I doubt we’ll hear from her for a while. Anyway, do you mind sending the inventory slip out while I take this to her? It means a lot…” The voices grew quiet as the men rounded a corner. 

Those kids. The guards had to be referring to Clara’s friends, and it sounded like the Box Guard was headed there right now. She waited a few more seconds before bursting from her hiding place and following the men. 

The carpet masked the majority of her footsteps, although the men did turn around a few times to see if they were being followed. They finally split ways and Clara followed the one with the box down a flight of steps. When they reached the bottom, Clara ducked behind a large tribute to a past king. The statue was more than big enough to hide her. 

The guard knocked on the door at the end of the hall a few moments later, and Clara heard it click open. There were a few minutes of muffled voices, the door clicked shut again and the guard made his way down the hallway. 

There was no time to find a better hiding place now. Clara drew her knives and waited until the guard rounded the corner to the statue before scampering out from behind it and pressing the man against the wall. His eyes bulged as he felt the knife being pressed against his throat. 

Clara was surprised that she had managed to capture him, especially considering her size. She pushed the thought away and put on her fiercest expression. 

“What did you just deliver to Baelle?” Clara hissed, keeping her voice low. “Are there three kids in there? How many guards are posted in front of the door? Answer me!” She shook the man a bit more. 

It didn’t help that she probably looked like a monster. She hadn’t bathed in forever and was still covered in some of the blood from the battle. Her hair was a mess and she hadn’t had a good sleep in forever. The man was probably more scared of her than she was of him, and that was saying something. 

“Um, yes there are three kids in there,” the man replied quickly, his voice of equal volume. “Oh, and a dead one too. There are two guards in front of the door, but they’re armed with only a sword each. I delivered a box of slave trading stuff.” 

“Go, and if you tell anyone you saw me, I will find you,” Clara threatened. She didn’t really care what the man did, Baelle was already down here and it couldn’t get much worse. 

The guard bolted. 

Clara took a deep breath before peering around the statue. True to Box Guard’s words, there were two guards posted at the door. 

Each one carried a single sword and neither of them were holding it correctly. It took Clara only a few minutes to knock each of them out with a blow to the head with the hilt of her dagger. But their mini fight had been relatively loud, and Baelle hadn’t come out to check on them. 

Clara remembered what the man had said about the slaver box he’d delivered. 

The box probably contained dust, which meant that everyone in there was in danger. And maybe, just maybe, the box had already been opened. Everyone in there would be unconscious. 

Clara removed the strip of cloth from her bag and tied it loosely around her head to filter the air. Then she turned the doorknob and stepped inside of the room. 


She could see the dust drifting gently through the air. If it weren’t for her mask, Clara was sure she’d be unconscious on the floor by now. With the door open, they were beginning to clear out but it would be a while before the air was completely breathable.

Who to heal first? 

The room appeared to be like a mini office, though Clara couldn’t be sure. There was a table in the center and a few chairs sitting around it. In one of the chairs was Newt, drool leaking from the corner of his mouth in a way that made Clara smile to herself. In the chair slightly behind him was the ghost boy who’d delivered messages for them. Why is he here? 

On the floor in front of Newt was the crate and the sleeping form of Beckett. Across the room, Emmeline was unconscious in a scary looking chair, Baelle lying behind her on the floor. 

The ghost boy was the only one awake, and he was staring at Clara. 

“Here,” she whispered, stepping over Beckett and towards the Guide. Silver straps secured his wrists to the chair, and Clara carefully undid them. The boy was solid when her fingers brushed his translucent skin. “Are you going to run?” she asked him when he was free. 

“I have to go.” Clara was taken aback by the sound of his voice. She’d never heard him speak before. 

“That’s … that’s fine,” Clara said with a nod. 

The boy looked sad for a moment, sending a glance towards Emmeline and Baelle. “Here,” he mumbled, patting down his pockets for a moment before producing a tiny pad and pen from nowhere. He hastily scribbled a message and folded the parchment, which began real when it left his hands. “Go here when you escape. And protect my sister, will you?” 

“Your sister?” But the boy was already shifting into the silvery fox, and then he was gone. There was only one person who could be the boy’s sister. Emmeline. 

Clara ignored the shock, remembering that her friends were all unconscious. Baelle stirred slightly, and Clara immediately bent down to Beckett. She figured he could protect her if Baelle were to wake, since had magic and all. 

Why he wasn’t tied down was beyond her, but Clara placed her fingers on his temples anyway. His skin was cold to the touch. 

Clara poured a bit of her healing power into her touch, but Beckett didn’t so much as flinch. She gave him more until finally his eyes fluttered open. His expression morphed into one of surprise and he opened his mouth to speak but Clara pressed a finger to his lips. “Watch Baelle and let me know if she wakes up. Oh, and grab some fabric to use as a mask.”

Beckett shut his mouth and gave a small nod, yawning before making his way to Baelle’s side. She heard a ripping sound, probably him making a mask. 

Clara focused her attention on Newt next. She brushed his hair away from his face, pushing a tiny bit of healing magic into him. Newt took considerably less healing to wake up than Beckett, maybe because the prince was so much smaller. 

“Put this on,” Clara ordered, grabbing the hem of her shirt and slicing off part of it with her dagger. Newt took the cloth, wrapping it around his face. He looked a bit out of it, but other than that he was unharmed. Clara then cut off the ropes securing him to the chair and helped him to his feet. 

“I’ll heal Emmeline next,” Clara continued, watching Newt’s gaze flit to his girlfriend. “I figured that with the slaver dust, she’d be harder to heal. Can you carry her?”

“I think so,” Newt muttered determinedly, though he stumbled a bit as he walked. 

The pair made their way to Emmeline’s side. Newt set to work removing the metal clamps from the girl’s wrists while Clara focused on healing Emmeline. 

The Reader was barely breathing, her chest rising and falling but only barely. Clara gave even more healing up, and finally, Emmeline’s breathing stabilized, though she remained asleep. Her head lolled to the side as Newt attempted to move her. 

“Wait,” Newt interrupted, stopping suddenly. “What about Baelle?” 

“Right,” Clara stuttered. “Beckett’s keeping watch to make sure she doesn’t wake up. C’mon, we need to hurry.” 

“Beckett?” Newt frowned. “Clara, you didn’t wake him up, did you?” 

“I did,” Clara said, frowning as well. Why couldn’t she wake up Beckett? He was right behind her, wasn’t he? 

She turned, expecting Beckett to have a sword pointed at Baelle. Instead, she found him with his eyes closed and hands placed on Baelle’s arms. Golden magic flowed from his fingertips that looked a bit like … 

“Beckett!” Clara cried. 

He looked up suddenly, looking terrified. Clara felt a wave of shock roll through her as he finished healing Baelle. He’d stolen her power and used it to wake up the enemy. 

No wonder he’d taken more magic to wake up. He’d been faking it, stealing her magic to use on Baelle. Clara felt the pain of utter betrayal fracturing her heart. “I trusted you, Beckett.” 

He didn’t respond at first, but finally he whispered, “I’m sorry.” 

Clara hesitated before doing anything, but apparently something had broken between Newt and the prince. The older boy lunged at Beckett, tackling him to the ground. Baelle was already waking up, so Clara grabbed her dagger and attempted to stab Baelle with it. 

The blade snapped in half. 

Right, Clara remembered. Only Beckett or Emmeline could kill Baelle - and one of them was unconscious and the other was… 

Don’t think about it

Baelle crawled to her feet, eyes locking with Clara’s as she straightened up. Beside the goddess, Beckett was being straddled by Newt, who was throwing wild punches. 

“Newt!” Clara called, nervous energy making her voice crack. 

He looked back for only a second, but instead of anger, Clara only saw sadness in his eyes. “Clara,” he murmured. “Beckett’s made his decision.” 

Clara didn’t want to accept it. She couldn’t meet Beckett’s eyes. 

“Well this is a glorious reunion,” Baelle interjected gleefully. “But I’m afraid my apprentice and I have some work to do.” 

Her apprentice was Beckett. Beckett was working for Baelle. After everything they’d been through, he’d chosen the evil, power-hungry Rogue turned goddess. Clara hated him for it, for betraying her like that. 

“C’mon, Newt,” Clara mumbled. “We need to go before Baelle attacks us.” 

Baelle didn’t wait for Newt to answer, she grabbed Beckett’s arm and the two of them glittered away like the cowards they were. 

“Grab Emmeline and let’s go,” Clara ordered, feeling her stomach sink inside of her. 

Newt nodded, grabbing Emmeline’s limp body. Clara helped drape Emmeline over Newt’s shoulder, and the two prepared to leave. 

“I’m sorry,” Newt whispered as she pushed open the door. 

“It’s fine,” Clara lied, knowing exactly what Newt was talking about. “Beckett made his choice, and now I’ve made mine. The next time I see him, I’m going to kill him.”



© 2021 A.L.


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Added on January 25, 2021
Last Updated on January 25, 2021
Tags: adventure, fantasy, blessed, cursed, fiction, mythology, death, love, friendship, kingdom, prince, princess, queen, king, youngadult, ya, goddess, sword


Author

A.L.
A.L.

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I'm a teen, I'm just looking for advice on how to improve my stories. Any advice is appreciated. I hope to publish one of my stories for real in the near future. more..

Writing