The Emerald-Opal Heir - 21

The Emerald-Opal Heir - 21

A Chapter by A.L.

The Reader


The fear blurred her mind into a mix of memories and reality. All Emmeline could decipher was the fear pummeling her in the gut over and over again. 

Alessandro was at a loss for words and Newt was making his way down into the ring and the crowd was staring in silence and … 

All she could picture was the purple tent. The smell of the incense mixed with sweat and fear. The crack of a whip. Screaming children. The visions that left her with nightmares. The feel of skin on skin-

Alessandro was already plastering on a false smile as he dropped Emmeline’s arm, and she could see the gears working in his mind, trying to come up with some sort of excuse for her presence. The crowd was shifting unhappily in their seats, displeased with how long this was taking. 

Emmeline,” Newt hissed. “I think we should go.” 

His voice was shaking and it reminded Emmeline that whatever fear she was feeling, he had experienced far worse on a stage not unlike this one. 

A few audience members were beginning to get out of their seats. 

“I recognize the girl - she’s the Reader the Baelle is looking for!” 

“I heard there’s a huge reward for turning her over.” 

“What are we waiting for then? We could grab them both and get the money-”

Emmeline slipped her hand towards the knife she had hidden in her waistband and she caught Newt doing the same beside her, his fingers trembling. 

A few audience members were beginning to get out of their seats now. 

It had to be so much worse for Newt. He’d dealt with this kind of thing for years now and while Emmeline hadn’t exactly had a pleasant experience Reading people, she at least was able to pretend that it wasn’t related to what was happening now. For Newt, this was probably a trip down memory lane. 

Emmeline took note of the exit. It was too far away to run to without getting at least one person in their way. 

And then Alessandro was waving his hands at the crowd wildly. “You are not allowed to kidnap my performers, so I would prefer if you all sit back down-” 


There were mumbles among the audience, but none of them sat back down. They were probably gauging their chances against a gangly looking circus master and two teens. 

One older looking man stumbled down the stairs, lunging inside the ring. 

He didn’t make it very far before Alessandro snapped his fingers and the man doubled back as if hit. 

Which, of course, only persuaded more people to slip out of their seats. 

Alessandro sidled closer to Emmeline. She began to back away, uncomfortable with how close he was getting. “When the room goes dark, there’s a hidden door five paces to your left. Take your friend and go. I’ll fend these guys off,” he hissed. 

Emmeline didn’t have time to be afraid as the tent was blanketed with darkness. 

There were a few angry shouts and Emmeline could hear the rush of bodies around her. But she forced herself to move towards where Newt had to be, latching onto his arm. 

Two steps. Three. Four. Five. She had no idea how big a pace was or if she was even heading in the first place. But a few moments later, her outstretched fingers grazed the side of the tent. She pushed gently and the tent came away beneath her touch like a curtain being brushed aside. She slipped inside, dragging Newt with her. 

The tent opened to a small room littered with blankets, pillows, an assortment of glittery outfits, and a handful of performers. Performers who looked at her like she was something other

Emmeline felt a blush rising to her cheeks. The staring was something she was used to by now, but this time the performers actually had a reason. 

She was intruding on their space while their master fended off angry crowd members. 

Emmeline was about to apologize when Alessandro burst through the curtain, his hair disheveled and his face bright red. 

He wheeled on Emmeline, and Newt stepped in front of her weakly. 

“What do you think you’re playing at, girl? Walking into a public space when you’re the number one enemy of the kingdoms?” he threw his hands in the air, exasperated. “DO you have a death wish?” 

The rest of the performers watched in stunned silence and Newt was pushing Emmeline backwards, away from Alessandro. 

“It’s not like we had much of a choice,” she retorted. “How did you even know who we were?”

“Your faces are plastered over every vertical surface in both of the kingdoms,” Alessandro scoffed. “If someone didn’t know who you are, they’d live under a rock.” He shook his head. “By coming here, you’re practically screaming your location to the whole world! If there’s not one person out there who doesn’t report you, I’ll be darned.” 

Emmeline wanted to respond with a bitter comeback, but her mind had already latched onto Alessandro’s words. 

They should never have come to the circus. It was a mistake on her part to think she could ever overcome her past. She let her gaze fall, not bothering to admit aloud that Alessandro was right. 

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Newt said, tone low and dangerous.

“Really? Please enlighten us all.”

Emmeline put a pleading hand on Newt’s shoulder, begging him to stop now before he ruined something. “Newt…”

“I should’ve known that a place like this was too good to be true. They’re corrupt - all of them.” He laughed, a dark sound. Emmeline shrank back. 

This was too much for him - she needed to get him away from all of these people before he did something he would regret. It was probably his new power, the one over life forces. Yes, that was probably what it was-

“Do you have any idea what it’s like waking up each morning and wondering if it’ll be your last performance? Have you ever been forced into a game of pretend for an audience where if you don’t play along, you get beat? Did you ever get punished for the actions of someone else?” His words were spitting flames, but it was the last statement that snagged Emmeline. 

The person who he’d been punished was her.

And although Emmeline knew that there was some sort of bitterness because of that, she’d never imagined that it was deep rooted resentment. 

Why hadn’t he told her? 

Alessandro was at a loss for words, his mouth hanging open as a gaping hole. Emmeline almost felt sorry for him. 

But Newt wasn’t done yet. “I spent over ten years of my life working for a man who would rather have had my dead body. Over ten years. That’s my life right there, wasted away and used for absolutely nothing. So I’m sorry if I wanted to see the other side of things and see what is so enjoyable about a place like this. Sorry if I wanted to tell myself that my miserable childhood happened for a reason.” 

His words cut off abruptly, leaving him panting for air. 

Emmeline could sense the rage boiling under his skin; could feel her own fear and shocking writhing inside of her. 

Alessandro opened and closed his mouth a few times. The other performers glanced at new, their eyes full of alarm. Finally, Alessandro settled his gaze on Emmeline, his expression a mask of pity. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know.”

“Not many people do,” Emmeline let herself whisper, gently tugging Newt away from Alessandro. Newt was still seething, but at least he’d seemed to have deflated a bit. 

“You were part of the circus too, I presume?”

Emmeline nodded, choking back the memories of the visions and sleepless nights. “It was a long time ago and our master is long dead.”

“Who did you work for?” It was an honest question, but behind it was anger. Alessandro evidently didn’t believe in inhumane practices, which brought a little spark of hope into Emmeline’s chest. 

“Zoro,” she answered quietly. “But he’s dead-”

Alessandro groaned. “The legendary Master Zoro. I should’ve known. He always bragged about his official Reader.” He mumbled a few curse words. “I’d like to extend my sincerest apologies to both of you. My circus is much different than I’m sure you’re probably imagining. So can we start over?”

He held out a gloved hand. Emmeline shook it tentatively, already feeling better herself. She glanced at Newt, who was tense but no longer shaking. 

“My name is Alessandro,” the circus master said. “And this is my troupe of rescued children.” 

The performers all waved hello and Emmeline realized that every single one of them was a child, all under the age of eighteen by the looks of them. They looked healthy and happy - everything that Emmeline hadn’t been. 

“I’m Emmeline,” she said. “And this is Newt. I’m sure you already know who we are.” 

Alessandro cracked a smile. “Of course.” He eyed Newt warily but said nothing about him. “As a strong supporter of the goddesses and a protector of their magic, is there any way my troupe and I could be of assistance? I’d offer you positions working with me, but I assume you’ll have to decline.” 

She looked at Newt again. He gave a small shrug and laced his fingers through hers. 

It was an expression of trust and perhaps a bit of fear. He wanted her to make this decision, not because he didn’t want to but because he believed in her more than he did himself. 

“We’re heading to Golla,” Emmeline said at last. 

“What a coincidence!” one of the performers - the boy from outside the tent - exclaimed. “That’s where we’re headed next.” 

Alessandro laughed and moved to ruffle the boy’s hair. “I’ve been working on a gig featuring a Blessed from all twelve patron lands, but it’s hard to find them when I generally try to only take in kids who really need it. Golla is the last place on my list, actually.” He gave a sheepish grin, as if waiting for Emmeline and Newt to make fun of his ideas. 

It occurred to her that Alessandro probably wasn’t much older than her. He was fresh out of his teenage years, and yet here he was with a whole group of children. 

“Would you ... “ she paused, debating if she really wanted to go through with this. “Would you mind two extra travellers? We can help around the caravan if needed-”

“We’d love to have you both along,” Alessandro interrupted. “And our caravans are low maintenance, Miss Emmeline. You and Newt will be fine just to tag along - as long as you keep us in mind whenever you finish … whatever it is you’re doing.” He gave an awkward smile. 

Emmeline nodded. “It’s a deal then. When do we head out?”

Alessandro snapped his fingers and the performers leapt to their feet and immediately began disassembling everything. “We leave right away.” 

The thing about Golla was that it was practically uninhabitable. Surrounded by black, rocky mountains nearly impossible to pass through and therefore useless in terms of land. Inside the circle of mountains was the safehaven where the entire population of Golla lived. 

Emmeline had only been there once before on a tour with the circus and she remembered being impressed with the City of Stone. Built into the mountains themselves, the buildings were dusted with flecks of the gems mined in the mountains, giving the city a glittering glow. In the very center of it all was a floating garden. The midnight black waters were filled with the silver light of scattered lamps. Behind the gardens was a shining palace outlined by twisting columns that stretched towards the sky. It was open to the air and Emmeline could remember that when she’d been there before, the stars had been close enough that she could almost feel them. 

Alessandro whistled softly. “I can see why everyone wants to live here.” 

“Golla is definitely overrated,” Newt remarked. The starlight brought out the gray in his eyes, making them seem deeper. Emmeline tried not to be distracted by them. 

Alessandro turned to Emmeline, tipping the top hat he’d donned ever since departure. “Well, madam, I suppose this is where our paths part ways.” He dropped into a small bow. “It was my pleasure to accompany you.” 

“Thank you for having us,” Newt said stiffly, still not exactly thrilled over the idea of travelling with the circus members. 

“Good luck,” Emmeline called, truly meaning it as Alessandro gathered his performers and made his way towards the nearby inn. She did hope he found a performer, and she hoped he would continue his work. Rescuing orphans and giving them a good home? It was admirable work. 

Once he was out of earshot, Emmeline finally turned to Newt. His eyes were fixed on the palace. “Golla has their own castle?” 

“Not exactly,” Emmeline said, feeling the need to defend the beautiful city. “I think it’s more for looks than for function. Do you remember performing here?” A dangerous question, but Emmeline needed to make sure he was stable before risking interaction with any other people. They were lucky it was night and no one was out and about. 

Since the population of Golla was so small to begin with, it was hard to find someone permitted to leave. The city was beautiful, but to many of the sheltered people, it wasn’t enough. Emmeline recalled how hard it was for Zoro to find Marlene and get permission for her to leave the city. For her and Newt to get someone willing to come with them … it was going to be challenging enough and she didn’t need Newt messing anything up with his anger. 

Because as much Emmeline loved him, Newt could hold a grudge. 

“I didn’t go on that tour,” he said, voice monotone. 

Good, Emmeline thought to herself. With Alessandro gone now, she had to hope whatever was making him irrationally grumpy would disappear too. 

“Walk with me,” she said, abruptly changing the subject. Their best bet would be the palace - perhaps the city was preparing to kick someone out that would be willing to join Emmeline and Newt. 

She linked her arm through Newt’s, pulling him close and leaning her head against his shoulder. His posture softened at her touch and they began to make their way to the floating gardens. 

They fit into each other’s side like two pieces of a puzzle, like they’d been made for the sole purpose of becoming the other’s missing half. And while Emmeline didn’t believe that soulmates existed to complete each other, she had to admit that her heart felt more whole with Newt beside her. 

A wooden bridge arched over the still water and Emmeline led Newt over it, pausing at the top. She glanced over the side of it at her reflection, which gazed back at her, features crystal clear and unmarred by ripples. 

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she remarked, hoping Newt would respond. 

He didn’t, and she was beginning to get concerned. He’d been this awkwardly silent since they’d left the Crossover Forest a few days ago, and she wasn’t sure why but she was becoming increasingly determined to find out. 

“So,” she said nonchalantly, leaning backwards so she could see his face. 

His eyes were unfocused, gazing at something far off into the distance and his jaw was locked. His muscles were wound tightly with tension. He didn’t react to her at all. 

A deep breath in and a deep breath out. 

“Newt?” she whispered. “Do you love me?” 

He blinked, suddenly jolted into reality. His gorgeous eyes met hers. “Of course, Em. Is that even a question?” 

She was going to respond but her words died away as he whispered, “I love you.” 

Her knees almost buckled as Newt pulled her closer, looping an arm around her waist. Their foreheads bumped together and she pressed her nose against him, her fingers tangled in golden hair. 

The force of his words was enough to steal her breath away, to make her lungs seize. 

“I’ve always loved you, Em, and I always will. No goddesses, no Curses, no bloody war - nothing can stop me from loving you,” he whispered onto her lips. “Do you love me?” 

“Goddesses, Newt, you are a million times better than any Blessing any goddess could ever give me. Whatever lies ahead of us, Newt, nothing will be able to tear us apart. I promise you.” Her heart was alight with flames and-

His lips were on hers and they were kissing and the world died away and it was the two of them. He was fire and he was ice and he was every one of her gifts rolled into one. He was the ocean and she was drowning. He was the night sky and she was a helpless stargazer. He was her reason to fight when the entire world was falling apart. 

Her heart ached. 

“When this is over,” she murmured. “When this is over I want to get married here. Under the stars, at night, just the two of us.” 

“Whatever you want,” he said. “As long as it's you I get to keep.”

Emmeline couldn’t bring herself to respond so she kissed him again, harder this time, desperate. Her mind kept flickering to the future, what could happen to her but she pushed the thoughts away. 

Even if she was the pen - the one to write the story - he was the burst of color - the one to make it brighter. 

© 2021 A.L.

Author's Note

Is the last scene corny?
*spoilers* - is it too much foreshadowing?

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Added on November 21, 2021
Last Updated on November 21, 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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