The Emerald-Opal Heir - 23

The Emerald-Opal Heir - 23

A Chapter by A.L.

The Healer


Clara knew that of all the things to cry over, her appearance should’ve been on the bottom of that list. 

Her body burned and ached in a million different places and she’d only regained consciousness about an hour ago after being practically comatose for a few days. On the bright side, Gwen and the demigoddesses were no longer fighting. But looking into the mirror… 

“I’m hideous,” she mumbled, tracing her finger over her cheeks. 

Gwen put a hand on her shoulders reassuringly, but the pressure didn’t seem to register in Clara’s preoccupied mind. 

Her pale reflection stared back at her with wide eyes. She looked like a wisp of her former self. Thanks to whatever poison the “assassins” had given her had left ugly, red scars down her cheeks. They resembled tears, which was probably why Clara was sure that her tears had fused with her skin. It was as though she was permanently crying now. 

“You’re still every bit the fierce warrior you were before,” Gwen said, running a hand through Clara’s fiery hair. 

“How can you say that?” Clara asked, feeling real tears burn at the corners of her eyes. 

“They can’t steal your spirit,” Gwen answered, though her words sounded forced. Clara choked back a sob. 

It wasn’t like she had been beautiful to begin with, but for some reason it felt like the would-be assassins had stolen so much more than just her looks. And it didn’t help that the bandage around her left arm was tied tighter than necessary, a constant reminder of the mark forever left on her skin. 

Property of the king. 

Beckett wasn’t king yet, but Clara had no doubt that the brand was referring to him. She was pretty sure that he hadn’t ordered the whole thing himself, especially after he’d let her go back at the palace. Was it possible he’d changed so much in such a short period of time? 

And the more worrying thing - once Beckett became king, did that mean she needed to be returned to him? Her stomach churned at the thought of belonging to anyone. 

“Maybe you should lie back down,” Gwen suggested. “Connor said you probably shouldn’t be up and about for a few days. He got rid of those burns on your wrists, but your Blessing is still a bit … sluggish.” 

Clara didn’t need the reminder. The stabbing pain in her arm and stomach was enough. 

“Since when did Connor specialize in healing?” A dull attempt at a change of topic, but Gwen let it pass. 

“Since Karli decided he needed to do something better with his life than study artefacts,” Gwen said, crossing her arms. “He’s been doing this for a few years now, which means he’s experienced and knows what he’s talking about. So when he recommends you get another day of sleep-”

“I’m fine,” Clara protested, an outright lie. 

Gwen raised an eyebrow. “Oh yeah? Then why do you look like you’re about to pass out?” 

Clara felt like it too, but she didn’t want to admit it. Her Blessing already gave her a low enough pain tolerance. And with her magic practically broken, she would’ve gladly traded it in for a normal life. 

A bout of dizziness washed over her and Clara had to lean on the sink for support. 

Her reflection looked like a ghost of a broken, little girl. And if that was what Clara looked like… 

Her thoughts drifted to Alys - Beckett's alleged lover. She wondered what if the other girl too looked like a ghost, if she haunted his thoughts every waking hour. And as much as Clara wanted to feel jealous, there was a tiny part of her that was reminded of Beckett’s reaction to her relationship with Johnny. 

“Are you sure you’re okay, little phoenix?” Gwen asked, purposely using the old nickname to snap Clara out of her thoughts. 

“I’m as okay as I’ll ever be again,” was all she could come up with. 

Gwen nodded, as if accepting this. The young woman was quiet for a moment before speaking again. “I told Karli that I would be accompanying you on the way to Waelia, and then to Maconia.”

“The Rogues explained why?” 

Gwen nodded. “It’s a bold plan, Clara. I’m gonna be honest when I say I don’t know if it’ll work. I really hope it does, but… what happens if it doesn’t?”

It was a valid concern, one Clara knew had not been brought up among her friends. But if they did fail, it would most likely mean that Emmeline would be dead, and with her, any chance they had of defeating Baelle. 

“When do we leave?” she asked, hoping it would be soon. Hoping Gwen wouldn’t say something about Clara needing to stay behind to heal. 

Gwen sighed. “I’ll see if I can weasel some more supplies out of Connor, but we should be able to depart tomorrow.” She gave a small smile as Clara grinned. “Do we have to bring those demigoddesses though?”

Clara rolled her eyes. “Unfortunately, yes. They’re the best defense I have right now.”

Gwen scoffed. “So great that they let you get attacked.” She gestured to the lines now marring Clara’s cheeks. 

“You played a part in that too,” Clara reminded her, meaning it partly as a joke. She certainly didn’t blame either Gwen or the Rogues - the assassins had been invisible and powerful. 

But apparently Gwen actually thought Clara meant it. “I know. I’m sorry.”

“I was only kidding-”

“You may have been,” Gwen said. “But I still failed you. I wasn’t there for you when Johnny died and I didn’t do anything to try and stop you from going with Emmeline and the others after the fighting in Viridia. I let you go to war and let you watch one of your friends die. I haven’t protected you from anything.”

Clara turned so that she was facing Gwen and wrapped the only adult who’d ever really cared for her in a hug. “You may not be my real family, Gwen, but you’ve done more for me than any of them ever have.” 

“I’m sure that’s not true-”

“You’ve known me since I was, like, four. You’ve practically raised me. The last time I even spoke to one of my family members was Lola and I saw her just before I left for this trip, but only for a little bit. Before that, I can’t even remember the last letter I got from a sibling.” Clara heaved a sigh. She’d been used to the heartbreak from a young age. “Gwen, you took care of me and you gave me a home and a family. If you think you’ve failed me, then look at how my real family treated me. One little attack that you couldn’t have stopped isn’t going to change that.” 

“I know, I know,” Gwen mumbled, but she didn’t sound convinced. 

Clara took Gwen’s hands in her own, feeling a small smile surface on her face. “Johnny would be proud of you.” 

They were words she often whispered to herself, even if they didn’t seem genuine. 

Gwen laughed at that. “I think he’d be proud of all of us. He’d be happy just because we’re still here and we’re still breathing.” 

“And laughing,” Clara added, her voice high and reedy with emotion. “And overcoming.” 

Gwen nodded her agreement. “That’s why I’m letting you come to Waelia. If you can overcome everything else, then this little … incident isn’t going to change anything. And,” she continued, “I know you would sneak along anyway.” 

“You know me too well,” Clara said, and it was the truest thing she’d said in a long while. 

If this was what Waelia really looked like, Clara was unimpressed. 

She knew that most of the land was desert full of golden dunes of sand and not much else. But she hadn’t actually expected, well, absolutely nothing

The Rogues, Gwen, and Clara stood on the border of Golla and Waelia, facing the desert as the hot wind whipped their hair into tangles. It was probably a million degrees out there and Clara could already feel sweat rolling down her spine. 

She’d pulled her hair up into a ponytail, accented with a few tiny braids. Gwen said the style made her seem more fierce, which was probably just her trying to make Clara feel better. 

The scarring on her face had lightened a little, thanks to her newly reinvigorated Blessing. Whatever marks Beckett’s weird ropes had left were almost entirely gone with Connor’s healing knowledge, and the brand on her forearm was no longer bandaged. It had taken only a day for her to be well enough to depart, and after a few days of travelling, Clara was back to feeling the way she had before she even poisoned herself with the Death Daisy. She forgot what being healthy felt like, and it was unnerving. It made her feel as though she was preparing for something. 

“It’s kind of boring, isn’t it?” Kalaia remarked, her flat eyes grazing the expanse of empty land. 

“What were you expecting?” Gwen grumbled. “A giant sandcastle?” 

The pair of them had been at each other’s throats since they’d left the inn, exchanging snarky comments, rude statements, and even an occasional attempt at a punch - though Clara normally stepped in before things went south. 

“There’s a city far off in the distance,” Cinnamon said, pointing at a peak on the horizon. “That’s the spire of a church. It’s about a day’s walk from here, if I had to guess.” 

Probably the only civilization for miles, Clara thought to herself. Most of Waelia’s population probably lived there, meaning it would be their best bet for finding someone willing to come with them. 

Preferably a Blessed, because they needed all the help they could get. 

Without another word, Clara began marching through the sand towards the city in the distance. She could hear the others trudging on behind her, offering mild complaints about the heat already. 

Clara was drenched in sweat after only an hour of their walk. Her canteen was nearly empty and she was pretty sure that she was going to collapse and not get up again. 

“There’s … an oasis … just … ahead,” Gwen said through labored breathing, nearly doubled over. 

“Great,” Clara replied through gritted teeth. 

She could see what Gwen was talking about just about a hundred yards away. It seemed like an infinite distance. 

The Rogues trotted past her, unaffected by the heat. Perks of being immortal, if Clara had to guess. None of them stopped to offer Gwen or Clara help, which was expected but also a low blow. 

Just when her legs were about to give out, she hit solid ground. 

“Goddesses,” Gwen breathed beside her, her hands behind her head. “I feel like I’ve just run twenty miles.” 

Clara nodded her agreement, too exhausted to actually respond. 

The temperature was noticeably cooler inside the odd oasis, which Clara soon realized was actually a checkpoint village. It wasn’t the main city from Waelia, but to keep travellers like Clara and Gwen from dying it allowed for a rest stop. 

Sand covered bricks created alleyways and yellow shaded walls surrounded the miniature town. The buildings stretched overhead, made almost exclusively of stone, creating shady alleyways. She could hear the trickling of water too, and she noted that at the sides of the buildings there were tiny basins into which streams of water flowed. There must have been a whole water system on the top of the town. In addition to shade created by the houses, trees had been planted along the streets and on the roofs of the buildings. It was amazing what these people could do without the work of Farosha on their side. It was almost … inspiring. 

Clara felt slightly more refreshed now, although she was still completely parched. Her skin no longer felt like it was on fire and even if she was in desperate need of a drink, she wasn’t in danger of dehydration anymore. 

“Can we find some water?” she asked Gwen and the Rogues, the latter of which had their arms crossed as if they were bored already. 

“Of course,” Gwen said with a tired smile. “And we can probably find a Waelian here, Clara. Why even bother travelling into the city itself?” 

“Because it was what Emmeline said,” Kalaia interjected. “She specifically wanted someone from the city. That’s what she told us in her letter.” She raised an eyebrow, daring Clara to disagree. 

“But if it’s convenient and just as likely to work, why does it matter?” Gwen argued. 

“What if it doesn’t, though?” Cinnamon asked, any trace of her former softness now gone. “We need a native Waelian, and what if-”

“There will be at least one native Waelian here,” Gwen said. “I bet it on my life.”

“What about a willing one?” Kalaia countered. “Or one who will actually aid our team with their abilities?”

Gwen groaned. “I don’t know what your problem with me is, but-”

“My problem is that you completely interrupted our perfectly fine mission, disrupted our orders, and completely made a mess of everything!”

“Oh, I messed things up? You guys were supposed to be watching Clara with your godly divinity and you nearly let her get killed!” 

“You were there too-”

“There was one of me and three of you-”

“-would’ve been paying attention if you weren’t involved-”

“-no wonder they only consider you half goddesses-”

Clara was done with Gwen and the Rogues picking fights with each other. She was tired of them arguing constantly - especially over her. 

They were all too busy insulting each other to notice her slipping away. And although being left alone hadn’t worked so well last time, Clara was willing to risk it if it meant even a momentary escape. 

With Gwen and the Rogues causing a big scene, Clara managed to push through the growing crowds of people and into one of the stores. 

None of the shops had doors - they were all open to the air with their products displayed confidently in the streets. There were a variety of items too - ranging from clothes to special waterskins meant to draw water from the air to jewelry created from glass made of sand. Most of the people wandering around seemed to be Waelians - at least as far as Clara could tell. There was a lot of sunburnt skin, a lot of head scarves created specifically to protect their faces.  

Had Titus looked like them? She couldn’t help but picture him with a similar outfit, his face pink and peeling. It was odd, unfamiliar even. 

The locket grew heavy around her neck, like it sensed she was thinking of Titus. 

A finger tapped her shoulder and Clara jumped, startled. 

She was met with the face of a boy about her age and his eyes immediately widened as he took in her face and her new scars. “Uh, miss? Are you okay?” He dropped his gaze, wringing his fingers. 

Was this what she would be dealing with every time she went out in public now? Questioning stares and pitying glances? 

“I’m fine,” she said, a little harsher than she meant to. 

The boy flinched and guilt filled her stomach. He couldn’t be older than thirteen and here she was, freaking out on him. 

“It’s just …” he paused, considering his words. “Have you checked in with our Chief yet?” 

“Your Chief?” Clara wasn’t aware that there was a chief, but then again, she’d never been here before. 

The boy nodded. “It’s kind of a recent thing. The lord and lady of Waelia appointed her to keep the peace while they went to some meeting with the new prince. She was the richest of the nobles, so they left her in charge.”

Interesting that the lord and lady hadn’t left one of their children or even a trusted friend in charge instead. They must have really trusted the chief. 

“And I have to … check in with her?” 

Another nod. “That’s also a new thing, but this one is by order of some Baelle lady. She wants to know who is moving from patron land to patron land. Don’t worry, it’s not a big deal.”

Not a big deal? If Baelle found out that Clara was here, it would all be over. Clara had no doubt that Baelle could have soldiers here within the hour - if she didn’t have her men already occupying this tiny checkpoint. 

“Uh, is there any way I could, I don’t know, not go to see the Chief? I’m just visiting-”

The boy shook his head. “Everyone goes to see the Chief. Why? Is there something you’re trying to hide?”

He eyed her suspiciously, but there was a hint of humor in his questioning. 

Clara decided to give him a bit of an honest answer, knowing the best lies were based on the truth. “Baelle is looking for me, but if she finds me, she isn’t going to be very happy with me. I’d really appreciate it if I didn’t have to tell her where I was.”

The boy was quiet again, probably wondering if she was lying. 

“You’ll have to bring it up with the Chief,” he decided. “I’m Finn, by the way.”

“I’m Clara,” she said, offering a nervous smile as she cursed herself for giving her real name. If she would’ve thought to lie, she probably could’ve convinced the chief that she was someone else and kept her identity a secret… 

Finn beamed. “I’ll show you to the Chief, then.” 

As they made their way through the town, Finn waved at nearly everyone they passed. It was clear that the people who lived here were close with each other, and it reminded her of the Sprite Hunters in a way. 

Finn knew where everything was, too. Maybe he’d been a tour guide before, but he seemed to know what Clara would find interesting or helpful. As they walked, Finn pointed out the best places to buy travel packs and the inn that he’d previously mentioned. He also showed her the lord and lady’s “vacation-home”, which made Clara sick to her stomach with the sheer size of it. No one should live in a place so huge as their second home. 

“And here we are,” Finn said at last, gesturing to a pyramid shaped structure. Two columns framed an open doorway filled with beaded curtains. “The Chief is just inside.”

This must have been what Cinnamon thought was the spire of a church. Maybe it had been a church at some point in time. Clara kind of wanted to ask Finn about it, but she figured it would just make her sound like she was procrastinating. Which she was, but… 

“It’s intimidating, isn’t it,” Finn said, misinterpreting her frozen silence as fear. 

“No, it’s not that-”

“Oh yeah?” He sounded as though he didn’t believe her. “I can walk you in if you want. If you’re too scared.”

“Alright, alright, I’m going,” Clara sighed, unable to keep herself from smiling. 

She began to make her way up the steps, sending a look back at Finn. He stuck out his tongue at her.

The gesture was … Clara didn’t know what it was. She waved goodbye and continued her way up the stairs, but Finn was still on her mind. He didn’t remind her of anyone in particular - which was weird because normally she could connect people to others from her past. But he wasn’t a Johnny, he wasn’t a Titus, and he certainly was a Beckett. 

It was … refreshing. She hoped their paths would meet again. 

But right now she had more pressing matters - the Chief and avoiding detection from an overbearing goddess. 

Clara pushed through the beaded curtains and entered into a room that seemed more like a cavern. 

The ceiling had to be at least fifty feet above, tapering to a point in the center that was the top of the pyramid. Despite the sandy floors and the monochromatic walls, the place still felt the most like a home that she’d seen in Waelia so far. 

People moved about the room, talking and trading and just having fun. She caught two women embracing either other, clapping each other on the back like it had been years since they’d last seen each other. It was like someone had picked up a village square and put it on the inside of a building. 

At the very back of the room was a small area surrounded by water features. Two waterfalls seemed to come from nowhere, pouring into tiny pools that formed a moat around what resembled a throne. 

Clara’s gaze rose to the woman perched on the throne, her red skirts and the gold draped everywhere across her skin. And then to the woman’s face. 

Hazel eyes and mousy brown hair that she’d come to know all too well. 

Here was Titus’s mother. 

Here was a woman living off of the profit she’d made from selling her son to a circus. 

Here was a monster. 

Clara’s rage was a beast inside of her and without another moment of hesitation, she unsheathed her dagger and lunged at the woman.

© 2021 A.L.

Author's Note

If all goes according to plan, there are roughly four chapters before the end of part 1. Then, there could be anywhere from ten to twenty chapters for part 2.
In addition, a good friend of mine offered to make artwork of the six main characters (Emmeline, Newt, Clara, Beckett, Forrest, and Coral). If anyone would be interested in seeing it, let me know and I can post it as a chapter picture. You can also let me know if you'd want to see more characters. Thanks, and enjoy!

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Added on December 5, 2021
Last Updated on December 5, 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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