The Emerald-Opal Heir - 17

The Emerald-Opal Heir - 17

A Chapter by A.L.

The Reader


Newt dreamt that he was wandering. 

He didn’t normally dream, not since his coma from the weird Reader sickness. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d woken in cold sweat because a nightmare had scared the living daylights out of him. 

Yet here he was, surrounded by the dark, emptiness of his imagination. 

Newt could sense his power waking inside of him. He pictured it like a cat, yawning and stretching and waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Lying in wait for the perfect moment to attack. 

The power purred at his attention - however bad - and Newt clenched his fists. 

It’s a dream, something goaded him. You can’t hurt anyone here. Let out your magic and find your release. 

It was a dream. 

Newt let the power fill his veins, determined that if this was the only place he could let it run free, then he would - if only in the hope that this freedom would wear it out. 

A prickle of cold energy rushed down his spine. 

He closed his eyes, exhaled once and immediately the tickle of other souls filled his mind. He couldn’t tell what they belonged to - all he could feel was their presence. 

His eyes opened to discover the darkness of the world around him illuminating with small, glowing orbs. Some were brighter than others, some larger too. The only consistent straight was the color - one he’d never seen before and couldn’t describe. If life had a color, one that demonstrated the rainbow of emotions and memories yet still remained one vivid shade, it would be the color of the orbs. 

He drew close to the nearest one, his hand hovering tentatively at its side. Would touching it break the delicate balance between life and the void? 

Newt forced himself to take a step backwards, afraid to touch anything. What if he broke one of these orbs and it was irreversible? He tucked his hands into his pockets to keep his curiosity at bay. 

Something prickled at the back of his mind, a sensation that had him wandering towards one of the larger orbs. He wove his way around the others, barely letting himself breathe before he stopped in front of the brightest of them all. 

It seemed to pulse in his presence. His hand withdrew from the safety of his pocket. His fingers tentatively reached out to brush it and-

The world dissolved into blackness for a moment before a scene unfolded around him. 

A familiar green-eyed figure walked through a library, her hand alight along the sides of the books. Her arms were bare, Newt noticed with a shock. This must’ve been her dream. Newt had wandered into Emmeline’s dream. 

Her emotions seemed to fill the air around him, and though Newt couldn’t make sense of any exactly, he felt at peace. Which was weird. Emmeline didn’t like books, why would she relax in a library. 

It took him a moment to realize that with the bare arms and the ability to enjoy stories, Emmeline was probably dreaming about the life she wished she had. 

A life that he’d never be able to give her. 

He followed her down the rows of books, unwilling to disrupt her. Her piqued interest seeped into him, raising his own heart rate and making him feel light on his toes. Probably a side effect of the atmosphere reflecting her emotions. 

Emmeline turned a corner and her excitement was like a brick to Newt’s face. 

She rushed forward and his own feet picked up speed as he struggled to keep up. His heart leapt as he was overwhelmed with Emmeline’s joy and it was like the most addictive kind of drug. Newt could live off of her happiness alone. 

His eyes watered as he watched Emmeline wrap her arms around the dream version of himself. He saw himself in the way Emmeline saw him - the flaws he’d always been self-conscious about gone. 

Something shook the ground and for a moment Newt wondered if it was the force of their love. 

Until the roof caved in. 

Emmeline’s scream shattered Newt’s drunken state and some of the bookshelves burst into white flame with the sound. He watched helplessly as she threw herself over Fake Newt, chunks of the roof raining down around them. The rocks didn’t hit him, but obviously Emmeline was concerned that they would hit her. 

She probably didn’t know she was dreaming. 

She definitely didn’t know that Newt was watching, ringing his fingers knowing he was unable to help. 

Her cries stung his heart and Newt’s instincts pressed him forward. A chunk of roof passed through his head without harming him. Fake Newt tried to push Emmeline off, but she kept herself rooted to the spot, trying to protect him. 

Demonic laughter shook the walls even harder. 

Emmeline finally got to her feet, and closed her eyes. Her fists clenched and Newt felt the temperature of the room creeping upwards. White fire burst from her, searing the world with a blinding light- 

Newt bolted awake, cold sweat dripping down his back. His heart pounded in his chest and he could still smell the suffocating smoke from the library. 

Beside him, Emmeline didn’t stir. Her breathing was labored, but calming slowly. He laid a hand on her shoulder, reassuring himself that she was still there. He wasn’t in her dream any longer. 

A thousand thoughts pounded his mind relentlessly. What was the white fire in Emmeline’s dream? Was this another vision? 

He couldn’t fall back asleep and since he didn’t want to wake Emmeline, he decided to pay a visit to the small shop in the hotel they were staying at. 

It was a small place - Newt was sure it had once been a cottage. They were right on the border of the Crossover Forest and Elyviella, so there wasn’t much danger of Baelle finding them. The innkeeper was a small woman who was probably in her hundredth year of life based on her inability to see. 

The hotel was only two floors and the stairs creaked under Newt’s weight. The innkeeper was asleep at the desk as he snuck into the front room. Why anyone would want a souvenir from this place, Newt had no idea. 

He knew he should probably pack some more food. Emmeline was nervous enough as it was, and he doubted the innkeeper would notice a few missing pieces of fruit or bread. Guilt wrapped itself around his limbs like a heavy chain as he piled food stores into a bag. 

The gift shop was pretty much empty other than food. There was a chipped mug, a set of tarnished golden spoons, and a few dust covered books with titles in ancient text Newt could barely read. He was about to leave all the junk behind when a leatherbound notebook caught his attention. 

The spine was painted a dim gold color, but Newt liked it. He picked it up and flipped through the pages, surprised to find that they were blank. It seemed like the type of thing that would have an amazingly complex past. 

You’ll just have to give it one, a tiny voice in his mind suggested. 

Newt could read and write, albeit not well. He’d never really taken advantage of the skills since Zoro never encouraged practicing “impractical” abilities. Then, once he’d run away, he never had time to simply sit down and write. He’d read, of course, when Emmeline was recovering from Baelle’s second attack. 

But writing? Newt never had the chance to write before. 

He stuffed the notebook in his bag so he didn’t have a chance to think about it. He snatched a pen from the front desk. The innkeeper probably had extra. Hopefully. 

When Newt got back to the hotel room, Emmeline was sleeping peacefully. 

He took a seat at the table by the window that overlooked the vast plains of Elyviella. His hands pulled the notebook from his bag and Newt didn’t even think as he uncapped the pen and pressed it against the page. 

And with that, he began to write. 

Newt decided that they would’ve been better off if they’d never stayed at the inn. 

On their way out, the innkeeper confronted them happily, her eyes not quite focusing. In her hand was a flyer so crumpled Newt wondered if it was older than her. 

“Did you hear? The circus has come to town?” 

Newt froze, his heart dropping to his stomach like it was made of stone. His finger twitched and Emmeline grabbed his hand, her pulse frantic against his skin. 

“Here, take it,” the innkeeper insisted. Her wrinkled face broke into an expression of delight as Emmeline reluctantly took the flyer. Newt was tempted to rip it from her hands and tear it to shreds. 

“Thanks,” he managed instead, his voice cracking. 

“Of course,” the innkeeper said with a smile. “My husband and I met at a circus once. I thought maybe the two of you would enjoy the experience.” 

Emmeline’s nails dug into Newt’s flesh. He bit down a response and simply nodded, pulling Emmeline out the door before the innkeeper could notice anything suspicious. She called farewell to them as they stepped out of the inn and into the cool air. 

Emmeline’s face was pale as she dropped Newt’s hand to look at the flyer. 

“Just toss it,” he advised, voice thick with worry. His back stung, reminding him of the crack of the whip and the sharp, metallicy scent of blood. “That innkeeper was demented anyway.” 

“She’s right,” Emmeline whispered. 

Confusion flooded Newt’s mind with questions. “About what?” 

Emmeline met his eyes, her mouth pressed into a thin line. “We should go. We barely do anything together, Newt.” 

Where in the world was this coming from? 

“Are you okay?”

Emmeline nodded, blinking once. “Yeah. Of course. Sorry, I just had a nightmare and I’m still a little shaken up…” Her voice trailed off and her eyes drifted back to the poster. 

Newt’s stomach writhed with guilt for watching that nightmare. 

“I agree we could do more together,” he tried. “But the circus is not somewhere that screams ‘love and happiness’ to me. And I know the same goes for you.” 

Her expression was still steely. “If we let our fears control us, then Golla will be ten times worse,” she pointed out. Golla was the destination she’d chosen specifically, although Newt wasn’t sure why. Clara and the rogue Rogues were travelling to Waelia, Forrest and his friends going to Nelith. Newt wasn’t exactly thrilled about Golla being the destination in mind but if Emmeline was willing to face her fears, he knew he should too. 

“Fine,” Newt relented. “But if it gets to be too much, we’re leaving.” 

Emmeline’s smile was enough to convince Newt that he’d made the right choice. He quickly added, “Maybe we’ll get lucky and there will even be someone from Gollare there.” 

She laughed at that. 

“Don’t push our luck, Newt. The goddesses wouldn’t be that kind.” 

The tent smelled of heavy perfume, smoke, and bad memories. 

Newt’s muscles tensed at the smells and the sounds and the all too familiar sights of the circus. The huge red drapes at the entrance were eerily similar to the white ones he’d passed through hundreds of times before. 

At his side, Emmeline held his hand tightly. She’d changed out of the tattered ballgown back at the small village they used as camp, and now she was wearing one of Newt’s spare shirts. It was far too big on her, but Newt thought she looked all the more adorable with sleeves that fell to her fingers. Her cloak was wrapped snugly around her - either to block out the wind or the memories. 

“Tickets! Buy your tickets here! Master Alessandro presents his best show yet! Tickets!” 

“I wanna see the Lion-Tamer again! Mom, please!” 

“The Reader is just this way, folks, and she’s the real deal! Buy a Reading and you can get your next one half price!” 

Emmeline stumbled once and Newt wrapped his arm around her waist to keep her upright. She shivered at his touch but Newt didn’t dare draw away. They were both relying on each other to get through this… 

“This was a bad idea,” he hissed in her ear. 

“Keep moving and buy us tickets,” Emmeline growled in response, her voice wavering. 

Newt wanted to argue but he knew Emmeline wouldn’t leave unless she was in actual danger. If it came to it, he decided he would drag her out of the tent, kicking and screaming, if he needed to. 

The man at the ticket booth had the longest beard that Newt had ever seen. He raised a hairy eyebrow at Newt and Emmeline. 

“Two tickets,” Newt requested. 

The man’s eyes drifted over Emmeline, who was practically frozen. “You sure your lady there wants to come in? She don’t seem alright.” 

“Two tickets,” he insisted louder. 

“Are you sure, sir-” 

“Shut up and give me the tickets,” Emmeline said softly, her emerald eyes gleaming with anger. 

The man blinked and then held out his hand for money. Emmeline dumped a pile of gold coins into his palm. His expression immediately brightened and he handed over the tickets without further hesitance. 

Emmeline pulled Newt to the entrance of the tent, the tickets clenched in one hand and Newt’s arm in the other. 

There was a small boy - maybe ten years old at the most - at the entrance to the tent. He was dressed like a performer, a tiny top hat balanced on his head and a tunic of navy blue. In his hands were a bunch of tickets. His eyes lit up as Emmeline and Newt approached. “Hello, ma’m and sir. I’ll take your tickets if you’d like to see the show - the next act starts in about ten minutes. Or, if you like, I can take you to our Reader.” 

“We’ll go see the show,” Newt said before Emmeline could make any stupid decisions. 

She sent him a look like she completely disagreed, but Newt ignored her and handed the tickets to the young boy. 

“Enjoy,” the boy said with a falsely cheery demeanor. 

Newt promised that he would and offered the boy a few extra coins. He knew that it could make a difference in a circus kid’s life. 

The circus seats were already nearly filled, the only seats left were in the front row. The fact was surprising until Newt remembered that people in the front row often had to participate in the circus and it terrified people. 

Newt and Emmeline took the nearest seats to the exit, and the lights almost immediately dimmed. Newt’s hands clenched around the edge of the bench and he forced himself to stay calm. 

A spotlight illuminated a figure in the center of the ring. 

The shadows around him deepened as the man dropped into a bow. He was smaller and skinnier than Zoro had been, at least. His suit was a rich jade color and his dark hair was tied back behind his head to better show the white scars on his face. 

“Welcome to the Circus of Dreams!” cried Master Alessandro, his lips curling into a smile. “I hope you all are having a wonderful day so far, but I bet it’s about to get a million times more magical.” He winked once and blew a kiss to the crowd, butterflies bursting from his fingertips. 

Newt rolled his eyes. The trick was simple - one he’d seen many times before as a performer. The man was obviously good with his hands to manage the sleight of hand trick. The butterflies weren’t even real - it was all the work of lighting and a few cards. 

Everyone else, however, seemed on the edge of their seats, watching with rapt attention. 

“We aspire to make dreams come true,” Alessandro continued, raising a hand to the top of the tent where a few lanterns remained lit. He closed his fist and the flames blinked out, reappearing in the palm of his hand. 

A candle, Newt thought to himself. Probably some sort of flint striker hidden in the sleeve of the jacket. 

The flame flickered out, and the entire tent was plunged into darkness. 

Emmeline shuddered beside him and Newt gave her hand a small squeeze. Around the ring, flames burst to life in a perfect circle. 

Alessandro stood in the center, face alight with joy. Dancers swung above him, dangling from only silks as they spun faster and faster. More actors poured into the ring, the flames splitting as they approached to let the performers pass through. 

Newt couldn’t focus on just one thing. One moment he was watching a girl dressed in black pass in and out of shadows, wearing them like a cape of darkness, and then the next thing he knew his focus was on a boy and girl dancing together. Orbs of water hovered over the boy’s head like a crown, while the girl wore a dress of flames. He saw a little girl that couldn’t be more than a toddler wobble into the circle and lift Alessandro off his feet with one hand. 

As much as Newt wanted to believe that these kids were enjoying the performance, he couldn’t help but be reminded of how much he always hated showing off. His Blessing was his and he didn’t need to show it to others for their entertainment. He knew Dixral agreed with him too since he’d once been convinced he was Cursed instead of Blessed.

Even the little boy from the outside of the tent joined the show. Although he didn’t do actual magic, when he began to sing a haunting song about ghosts wandering the kingdoms, Newt couldn’t help but admire his talent. 

Beside him, Emmeline sat rigid in her seat. The flames reflected in her eyes, giving her the appearance that she was burning with fire too. 

“I’ve never actually seen one of these before,” she admitted. 

“Zoro ran things a little differently,” Newt whispered back, picturing Zoro’s harsh whip and the laughter of the audience. 

Before he knew it, Newt realized the show had come to its finale. Most of the actors exited the ring, waving and blowing kisses to the crowd. They looked well-fed and cared for - something that filled Newt’s chest with warmth. 

“As per usual, our show concludes with a dream come to life,” Alessandro announced, his dark eyes scanning the crowd. “The Circus of Dreams hopes to prove to you that reality and fantasy aren’t all that different.” His gaze fixed on Emmeline, his face breaking into a smile as he stepped forward. “You there, young lady. How would you like to be granted the experience of a lifetime?” 

Newt wasn’t sure what she would choose at first, but Emmeline gave a blinding smile and nodded. “Of course I would.” 

Alessandro beckoned her to the ring, and Newt watched as she climbed down the steps into the ring. By now, the flames had died out leaving only the soft glow of the lanterns hanging from the ceiling to illuminate the tent. 

Emmeline looked so tiny compared to Alessandro, but she held her head high anyway. 

“Now, young lady, what’s your name?” he asked, voice smoother than silk. 

“Emmeline,” she answered. Newt almost wanted to slap her for giving her real name, but then again, this was her first time being caught in the magic of a performance. 

“Emmeline,” Alessandro repeated, a wide grin spreading across his face. “What a beautiful name for a beautiful girl.” 

Newt felt fire burn through his veins. Alessandro glanced up at him and laughed. He forced an amused smile back, but adrenaline filled his limbs with tingling energy. If Alessandro turned out to be evil… 

“So, Emmeline,” Alessandro continued, turning from Newt to the crowd. “I’m about to blur the lines between reality and imaginary, between real and fake, between truth and lies.” When he raised his hand, sparkles glittered like stardust on his fingertips. “I want you to think really hard about your greatest desire - what your heart wants the most.” 

Emmeline closed her eyes and Newt had the selfish thought that she was picturing him. 

Alessandro placed his fingers on Emmeline’s temples. She flinched under his touch but didn’t recoil. 

With a flourish of his hand, Alessandro tried to draw glimmering lines of sparkles from her head, but nothing appeared. He frowned once, quickly masking it with a smile. Newt’s heart began to pound in a panic. 

Alessandro dropped Emmeline’s temples and instead reached for her arm, pulling back her sleeve. Emmeline leapt back at the touch but the damage was done. 

“You’re a real Reader,” Alessandro breathed.

© 2021 A.L.

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Added on October 12, 2021
Last Updated on October 12, 2021
Tags: blessed, cursed, adventure, goddesses, sword, love, death, betrayal, kingdom, kingdoms, war, castle, magic, reading, writing, prince, king, queen, royalty



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