The Emerald-Opal Heir - 25

The Emerald-Opal Heir - 25

A Chapter by A.L.
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The Survivor

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The kiss in the floating garden had caught Newt off guard. He’d been distracted, buried in memories of the circus and the whippings and his boiling hatred when all the sudden Emmeline had asked him if he loved her. 

It had caught him off guard, and so Newt had acted accordingly. 

He still wasn’t sure why Emmeline seemed off, or, rather, why she had been so desperate for him to validate their relationship. He pushed the thought to the back of his mind, focusing on the present. 

Emmeline’s fingers were intertwined with his as they climbed the steps to the massive palace known as the Court of Dread. 

The name wasn’t exactly welcoming to him, but… 

Newt did find Golla admittedly beautiful, although it pained him to say it. The whole darkness as a theme reminded him of Dinrali. But if Emmeline loved it, he would try to enjoy it as well. 

Emmeline squeezed his hand and Newt realized they were standing at the entrance to the Court. “We’ll go in together,” she whispered to him, voice wavering. 

“Of course,” he agreed. 

They stepped into the Court together and Newt immediately knew why everyone seemed so amazed with this building.

Fourteen pillars were arranged around the room in the shape of a ‘u’, each one engraved with different patterns and shapes that were probably supposed to represent the goddesses. At the opposite end was a row of five throne-like chairs, arranged in a straight line. Each one was occupied by a person, but Newt was too distracted by the view above him to notice. There was no roof, so everything was open to the air. It revealed the night sky, speckled with a million pinpricks of light. There almost seemed to be more stars than there was sky at this point. Goddesses, even Newt was in awe of it. 

Someone cleared their throat at the end of the hall. Newt’s attention shot back to the five people sitting on the thrones. 

Each one wore simple robes of black that made it nearly impossible to make out any defining details about any of them. They wore half-masks on their faces, adorned with gems so that they appeared like the night sky. 

“Hello,” Newt called out, surprised at how much his voice echoed. 

Did these people constantly sit here, or had they heard of Emmeline and Newt’s arrival and rushed to get here? It seemed like a boring job. 

“Welcome,” said the person in the middle, their voice revealing nothing about who they were. “We invite you to join us in the Court of Dread. Is this your first time visiting?”

“I’ve been here before,” Emmeline answered. “But this is Newt’s first time.” 

“Newt, is it?” Again, the middle figure responded. They were probably some sort of spokesperson, if Newt had to guess. The thrones and the “council” was probably just a show to make people think they had some sort of power. “And what is your name, traveler?” 

Emmeline gave Newt a nervous look. She was biting her lip the way she had ever since Newt had met her. He squeezed her hand once, a yes. “I’m Emmeline,” she said. 

There was a sharp intake of breath from the person in the middle. “The Chosen one?”

Emmeline shivered beside him. Newt stroked the back of her hand with his finger, feeling her pulse jumping under his touch. She didn’t like this any more than he did. 

“I wouldn’t call it that,” Emmeline mumbled, blushing. 

“Nonsense,” the person said, their voice rising in pitch. Were they … excited? “The stars have picked you, Emmeline. Your name is woven into the tapestry we call fate.”

What a bunch of weirdos, Newt decided. 

He wanted to move - to leave - but Emmeline was frozen in place beside him. 

“Look, we’re not here for your prophecies,” he interjected. “We just … we need one of your Gollans. It’s really important.”

The mask prevented the person from showing much emotion, but Newt could tell by the tone of their voice that they weren’t exactly thrilled with the idea. 

“Must it be a Gollan?” they asked, mouth twisting into a frown. 

Newt nodded, trying to sound confident. “It’s of the utmost importance that the person is a native Gollan. We promise to allow them to return here once we’re done.”

“Our people are not property, Mr. Newt,” the person said. “You can’t just … borrow them as you please.” 

“Surely there’s someone who’s been begging to leave,” Emmeline suggested. 

Her comment only made the situation worse. The person was standing now, rapidly approaching them. “You think anyone would willingly leave this place?”

Emmeline shrank back, pressing against Newt. He squeezed her hand but she only pulled away. “No, of course not. That’s not what I meant. I guess I was just trying to say, uh, maybe someone just wants-

The person scoffed. “I’m going to stop you right there, before you make a fool of yourself.” 

Emmeline swallowed. Newt’s muscles tensed as he prepared for a fight. His hand strayed to the hilt of his sword, but he kept it sheathed. 

“You two are figures of legend,” the person explained. “The Reader and the only known Survivor of the plague - right here in our hall. It would be sacrilege to refuse service to you.”

Okay, so maybe all this crazy stuff would work out in their favor after all. 

“So you’ll find someone to accompany us?” Emmeline asked. Newt could feel the hope in her voice, warming his chest.

“No, not quite yet,” the person laughed, finally relaxing a little. “Although I doubt anyone would attempt to impersonate you, there is still the risk factor that you aren’t who you say you aren’t. This is the test we give everyone who wishes to become a Gollan.” 

Fine, Newt thought to himself. This can’t be that bad.

He wasn’t even worried until the mysterious person offered a twisted smile and said, “You’ll have to face your fears.” 

Face your fears.

“What exactly do you mean by that?” Emmeline asked, beating Newt to the question. He was glad she was faster, though, because he wasn’t sure that he would’ve been able to keep his voice steady. 

“I meant what I said,” the person answered curtly. “We’ll do it right here, right now. Gollare will call upon each of your greatest fears, and if you can beat them, you’ll wake up. If you can’t, well, eventually we’ll administer the antidote but you won’t be worthy to take one of our people with you.” 

“Fine,” Emmeline said, without waiting for Newt’s input. 

He sighed. This impulsive side of her was new, and while Newt didn’t despise it, he didn’t exactly like it either. 

“We’ll take the test,” he confirmed. 

It can’t be that bad, he repeated to himself. It was just his greatest fear - and with everything that had happened with Baelle, it couldn’t get much worse, could it? 

The person grinned at them. “I am a qualified priest of Gollare, and I will guide her power into the two of you, okay?” They placed their hands on Emmeline and Newt’s temples. Goddesses, their fingers were so cold. The person began to hum softly. 

Golla’s magic reminded Newt of Dixral’s. It was dark and deep, a cold wind on a dreary day. It swept over him and dragged him back into the recesses of his own mind. 

Newt encountered only darkness at first. The only sound was a distant humming and his heart thrumming in his chest. The world dropped away, leaving only Newt. Alone. If this was fear, it wasn’t so bad. 

Then came the voice. It grated against his mind, scraping and scratching. 

Why can’t you just leave me alone?” 

Colors erupted into a scene around him, and Newt found himself in front of Emmeline again, though her face was drawn in anger. Her lips were pressed together in a thin line, her emerald eyes narrowed in his direction. 

They were standing on the edge of a cliff, Emmeline’s back to the churning waves so far below. The salty wind tousled Newt’s hair and the ocean roared in the distance. 

“Answer me!” Emmeline demanded, her voice sharp.

Newt felt her anger tear into him with barbed words. “Emmeline, are you okay?”

Her voice was shrill, rising higher and higher as her face flushed with color. “I don’t understand what your issue is. I don’t want you, Newt, so stop following me.”

What are you saying, he wanted to ask. Where was this coming from? He didn’t remember following her up here, so what did she mean by not wanting him? 

“You’re not good enough,” Emmeline spat at him. “Your mother was right to leave you behind. It wasn’t to help me, it was to get rid of you.” She shook her head with disgusted pity that only deepened the pit growing in Newt’s chest. “I should’ve left you with Baelle.”

She’s not right. Whatever this was, it wasn’t Emmeline. It had to be some other creature, probably designed by Baelle, meant to hurt him-

“Emmeline-” he tried, but she cut him off. 

“You’re going to back away slowly,” she warned, holding out her shaking palms. Then, when he stayed frozen in shock, “You don’t get it do you, Newt? Either you back away and leave me alone, or I jump.” Her eyes were filled with primal panic. 

“What did I do?” he pleaded. Why do you look at me like I’m some sort of monster? 

“Newt, I don’t want to do this,” she whispered, her tone beginning to betray her emotion. 

It felt like something was aflame inside of him, burning him from the inside out. Emmeline took a step backward, and another, until her ankles were grazing the rocky edge of the cliff. She wasn’t bluffing. 

He scrambled backward, trying to show he was listening. But his quick movement startled her and Emmeline yelped. Her balance shifted, but she didn’t fall. 

“I won’t get any closer,” he tried in a hushed voice. 

“Promise you won’t come after me again,” she said. 

“We both know I can’t promise that.”

I know that, but obviously you don’t.” Her gaze filled with terrible regret. “You weren’t good enough, Newt, but you kept trying anyway. You don’t know when to give up.” 

A deep breath. He saw the tiniest movement and his scream caught in his throat as Emmeline tipped backward and her body toppled off of the edge. Her cries echoed as she fell but Newt was rooted to the spot. His vision was tunneling, he could picture her falling and trying to grab onto something, but his hands were locked at his sides. When she finally hit the rocks in the water, her expression was one of peace. Like she was glad she was finally away from him. 

She’d left him, just like his mother. Just as the Generals had decided he was too much of a vulnerability. Just as at the ball, he’d been expected to sit in the back and watch everything go down without him. 

He’d never noticed before that everyone seemed to choose others over him. It was something he’d ignored and refused to dwell on. His friends hated Beckett more than Newt right now, so surely that counted as something, right? 

Beneath him, the cliff rumbled as if it was eroding. It happened so quickly, he nearly missed it. 

His whole body flipped upside down as he fell, and the next thing he knew, he was strewn across a stiff cot. Adrenaline pummeled him from all sides as he noticed the thick bars imprisoning him in a tiny cell. They were on three of four sides, the wall behind him made of concrete instead. 

And just on the other side of one set of bars was the sleeping form of Emmeline. 

She was alive. It was just a dream. Newt brushed at his face, finding dried tears leaving trails down his face. He’d been crying. 

He was on his feet a moment later, pressing himself against the bars as he attempted to reach for Emmeline. Her face was pointed away from him, but he could make out her shivering and hiccuping. 

And if his own vision was any reminder of how terrible fear was… 

Emmeline had been through everything with him, but she’d always suffered the worst end. While he’d made it out relatively unscathed from Baelle’s castle the first time, Emmeline had died in his arms and only came back because of a goddess’s mercy. And then, again in Baelle’s castle, Emmeline had poisoned so badly she still didn’t seem right. Of course, they’d tried to raid the palace again and only managed to get Emmeline severely injured again. Newt knew her fears had to be a thousand times worse than his. 

He resigned to wait until she woke up before signaling for any sort of guard or attempting an escape. He figured that the prison cell was probably precautionary, maybe so other Gollans didn’t see two unconscious teenagers lying on the floor. 

But as Newt waited, Emmeline’s breathing only became more labored. He wondered why she wasn’t lying on the cot in her own cell. He stroked her back and ran his fingers through the waves of her hair, but his touch only made her tense up more. He ended up monitoring her pulse and life force through his odd magic. 

He could feel the life inside of her straining. She wasn’t dying, but she wasn’t doing too great either. 

Just one little nudge, the tiny voice inside of him pleaded. You could easily wake her up. 

It was true. He doubted the mysterious masked person would know if he tampered with Emmeline’s test. And even if they did figure it out, he could blame it on Emmeline’s waning power and say she was going to die. Surely a religious figure like the masked person wouldn’t want to see Emmeline die. 

No. He didn’t want to use his power on Emmeline. What if he used it wrong and it cost her life? 

The power was an undeniable itch in his fingertips, begging to be used. Once he thought about it, the only way out was to use it. So Newt was forced to give in, and he hated every second of it as he tugged on Emmeline’s life force just the tiniest bit. 

She screamed loud enough that the walls trembled. Her green eyes flashed with alien magic until they saw Newt and she calmed down. An odd outburst, but an expected one. 

Of course, now everyone in the facility knew they were awake. 

Emmeline was at the bars then, her trembling fingers reaching for Newt’s. He let her squeeze his hand, her palms icy as she heaved silent sobs. Somewhere along the line, he’d lost track of her life force, but he no longer had any desire to find it. 

Goddesses. 

He reached out to offer a hug through the bars and Emmeline accepted, warming to his embrace as her tears finally stopped flowing. 

“Whatever you had to go through, I’m sorry,” he whispered, the words feeling empty. His stomach twisted when she didn’t answer, but Newt decided not to push the issue. Emmeline had to fight her own battles, it was just how she was. 

Which was why when the mysterious person came to check on them, Newt did all the talking and explained - rather angrily - that he and Emmeline had passed the stupid test. 

It was why he helped Emmeline out of her cell without a single word. Why he negotiated with the masked figures for a person all by himself. Why he welcomed the new member of their team - a young thief named Niko - without Emmeline’s help. 

And as they bought new supplies (and warned Niko not to steal any), Newt grabbed for Emmeline’s hand but she pulled away. 

He began to wonder if maybe he hadn’t managed to rescue all of her from that vision. 

If maybe he’d accidentally destroyed the part of Emmeline that defined who she was. Oh, goddesses, what a mess he’d created.


© 2021 A.L.


Author's Note

A.L.
Too cheesy? There's a lot going on and I couldn't figure out what Newt would fear the most.

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Added on December 19, 2021
Last Updated on December 19, 2021
Tags: blessed, cursed, adventure, goddesses, sword, love, death, betrayal, kingdom, kingdoms, war, castle, magic, reading, writing, prince, king, queen, royalty


Author

A.L.
A.L.

About
When I was eleven, my cousins and I sat down and decided we want to write a fifty book long series that would become an instant bestseller. Obviously, that hasn't happened yet (and I doubt it will) bu.. more..

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A Chapter by A.L.