The Emerald-Opal Heir - 26

The Emerald-Opal Heir - 26

A Chapter by A.L.

The Warrior


Everything in Nelith reminded him of her. 

The large manors by the crashing waves, the trees with leaves shaped like fans bending in the harsh wind and the rain, and mostly the salty scent on the breeze. Forrest had no trouble believing that this was Coral’s birthplace. 

He wasn’t sure where he was going, really. The house they’d visited previously had been Coral’s vacation home, because her parents were wealthy enough to have two houses when Forrest’s mom could barely afford one. He didn’t know where her parents actually lived, and it wasn’t like anyone was around that he could ask. The beginning of spring in Nelith meant storm season, so everyone on the coast who couldn’t afford a safe enough house moved inland. 

It had to be Coral guiding him, because somehow he ended up wandering aimlessly through a derelict, coastal village that just happened to be watched by a large manor on a hill. 

My house is easy to spot, Coral had told Gwen in an effort to persuade the Hunters to raid her parents. They have plenty of money - enough that they won’t miss a little bit. And they don’t pay for any security either, they assume that the hill will protect them. While Gwen had never taken Coral up on that offer, Forrest knew that they’d seriously considered it multiple times. 

This had to be the manor Coral’s family lived in. 

Forrest’s hand dropped to the hilt of his sword, where Coral’s bracelet was tied. What would he tell them? That their daughter was dead, and that he’d been the one to kill her? 

As he climbed the hill to the manor, the rain and wind pounding against him, Forrest tried to imagine what Coral’s family would be like. They’d never really talked about their pasts, memories too bitter to relive. He’d told Coral about Brooks and the origin of his Curse, but he’d never brought up his mother’s religious obsession that resulted from the incident, nor anything from his early childhood. And in return, Coral had shared little detail about her own home life. He recalled her claiming that she had a lot of cousins but no actual siblings, that her parents resented her for her Blessing, and that she’d run away when she was six because she was scared. Not exactly heartwarming stories, and it certainly didn’t have Forrest excited to meet Coral’s relatives at all. 

When he finally ascended the steps, he arrived in a miniature courtyard, complete with what was probably supposed to be a large fountain. But instead of spewing water, it was overflowing with rain, the marble statue of Lithby in the center crumbling. 

He made his way to the double doors, each one engraved with silver seashells. He knocked once, wondering if this was all just a waste of time. What if her parents weren’t even here? What if they were dead? Or what if they were in league with Baelle? 

But he didn’t have to wait long before the doors swung open, a short woman with graying hair peeking out and struggling against the wind. Her eyes widened as she took in Forrest’s sopping wet form, and then a crease formed in her brow. “Who are you, and what do you want?”

“I’m just here to visit,” he said, cautiously. The woman’s gaze dropped to his sword and she bit her lip. 

“Who told you we would be here?”

“A … a friend of mine. She said she used to live here?” 

The woman’s hands flew to her chest, releasing the doors so they flew shut in Forrest’s face. A moment later, they opened again and the woman grabbed his wrist and dragged him inside. 

Forrest found himself standing before a grand staircase, both sides of the entryway leading to even more rooms. The house was so big it seemed to steal the breath from his lungs. 

It didn’t help that the old woman was furiously toweling him off, rubbing at his hair as if she could dry the curls in a matter of minutes. Her expression didn’t change as she saw the gray streaks, nor did she say anything about the sheer amount of scars that he knew she noticed. She gently took his pack and dropped it to the floor. 

“Come,” she said. “Our home is your home.”

They must have it wrong, Forrest thought to himself, confusion twisting in his gut. Everything Coral said about her family proved just how terrible they were, but here was probably her grandmother, making sure he was comfortable with no questions asked. 

The woman led him to the kitchen and forced him into a seat at the table. She then began preparing a kettle of tea and a platter of biscuits, which Forrest couldn’t help but devour. 

She asked him nothing, only sat and watched him eat with an indifferent expression. 

Goddesses, hopefully this wasn’t some kind of test. 

He slowed down on the biscuits, but still ate a dozen before his stomach felt like it could burst. The woman clasped her hands together neatly and waited until he was done eating to speak. 

“What is your name, boy?” There was nothing derogatory about the way she said boy, in fact, it sounded almost endearing. 

“Forrest,” he answered softly, feeling inadequate in every manner. 

It’s because I never expected to meet her family without her. He’d always pictured her standing by his side when he did this, their fingers intertwined as they announced that they were planning to get married. And now I’m alone. 

The woman nodded to herself. “I am Marianne, but you may call me Mo.” 

It was so formal and yet somehow so casual at the same time. Forrest couldn’t help but be caught off guard by the welcoming manner. 

“And you are a friend of Coral?” Mo continued, her voice lower now. 

Forrest didn’t trust himself to speak, so he nodded, pressing his lips together. He wished he could squeeze Coral’s hand for confidence. 

Mo’s eyes brightened. “Where is she? Why did she send you?”

He dropped his gaze. Goddesses, this was a million times worse than he thought. He never should have come here-


It was a simple word but Forrest could hear Mo’s hopes collapsing and shattering. His trained ear heard the shift in her breathing as she struggled not to break down, and he wished he were deaf. And blind, so that he wouldn’t have to meet her eyes. 

The kitchen was silent, and Forrest stared at his feet until finally, “Will … will you come and tell the family?”

It was a question, but saying no would make him a monster. And Forrest may have been a monster once, but that beast had since been subdued. He nodded once, the cold weight of dread settling over him like a storm cloud. 

Mo laid a hand on his, and Forrest met her eyes, finding only understanding in her gaze. 

“Come. We’re celebrating All Priests Day.” Her voice was low and monotone as if she was pushing all of her emotion away. 

It was All Priests Day? Already? It felt like just a few days ago, it had been Solar Spring. 

All Priests Day was a holiday where everyone was supposed to worship their patron goddesses and essentially become priests. Instead, most families used it as an excuse to visit each other and exchange gifts. He and his mother had never celebrated since Brooks was normally out working and it felt wrong to exclude him. And the hunters never paid attention to the days, so Forrest had never actually participated before. 

Mo showed Forrest through the front hall and to the opposite side of the house, where he felt like he was intruding. 

The entire family had to be there. Cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents - everyone was gathered in a circle, chatting amicably with each other. Gifts in colorful paper sat on the table in the center, varying shades of blue and gold. The fireplace in the back of the room was lit, surrounded by silver candles - probably a tribute to Lithby. 

And then Mo clapped her hands and the sharp sound stopped the conversations abruptly. All eyes turned to Forrest and, oh goddesses… 

It was like hundreds of Corals staring at him, the beautiful gazes with depth greater than the ocean itself. His breath caught in his throat and he could feel blush rising to his cheeks. Whispers spread across the room but Mo silenced them with a glare. 

“This young man,” she said with a grand gesture to him, “is Forrest. He’s a friend of Coral’s.”

There was no hissing, no spitting. No one yelling about how terrible of a person he must be to be friends with her. It was almost worse because Forrest wanted there to be some reaction - preferably something negative so that he could have an excuse to leave. 

But they were so kind, so attentive. 

“Where is Coral?” someone in the back asked. It was a woman that Forrest recognized as Coral’s mom. Although he’d never seen pictures before, they were practically identical, except the woman before him had hair streaked with gray, similar to Forrest’s. 

His silence spoke enough. 

The whole family was dead silent, watching him. There were no tears, no sobs. 

There, he wanted to say. It’s like Coral said. None of you care about her at all, and she was right all along. Except he needed one of them to come with him … 

“Come, sit,” Coral’s mother pleaded, moving over to make room for him on one of the many couches. He reluctantly obliged, feeling out of place as he took a seat. Coral’s mother plopped a gift into his lap, but Forrest didn’t move to open it. 

The man on the other side of Forrest spoke then, cautiously and softly. “So… you … you knew our daughter?”

Knew. Not know. 

Forrest managed a nod. “We were good friends. Maybe we were better than friends. I really don’t know…” Everywhere he looked, someone was watching him and it was impossible to avoid eye contact. “I … we were friends since the first day we met.” 

Something loosened inside of him. He felt tears pricking at his eyes but he forced them away, determined not to show this emotionless family how much he cared for Coral. 

And yet somehow he found himself telling them all about her. 

He told them about how she’d always included the younger Sprite Hunters in bigger missions, determined not to let anyone be isolated - which was why she’d made an effort to be friends with Forrest. He recalled how she’d used her Blessing in times of trouble to escape. And although he didn’t tell them everything about Emmeline and the others, he mentioned that Coral had shown incredible bravery in the face of a goddess. 

“I was Cursed once,” he said, his voice cracking. “And I hurt a lot of people, but Coral wanted to change that and she helped me get rid of my Curse, even if it … if she died.” 

Coral’s mother slid her hand into Forrest’s and squeezed it once. The motion was so much like something Coral herself would’ve done… 

He tugged his hand away. Swallowed the bile rising in his throat. Forced himself to say it. 

“I killed her.” Deafening silence, so loud it drowned out even his own heartbeat so it felt like he was suspended somewhere between life and death. “My Curse was stronger than I was, and Coral suffered. I’m the reason your daughter is dead.”

No one spoke at first and finally Forrest was satisfied. 

There. Now he could have a valid reason to hate them, and they could hate him too and he could prove that he was a terrible person for killing her and… 

“Forrest,” Coral’s mother whispered. “I’m sorry.”

He couldn’t control himself. “No! You’re not allowed to be sorry for me! I killed your daughter. You should hate me!”

“But you loved her-”

“And I killed her! Did you not hear me the first time? I was the one to stab her and to let her fall to the ground and to look into her eyes and know that nothing I could do would ever save her!” He was breathing heavily and at some point he’d stood up. Coral’s family backed away from him, all except her mother. 

“We don’t hate you. How could we when-”

“Shut up!” He didn’t realize he’d drawn his sword. And it was like he was under his Curse all over again, but this time he wasn’t. Not really. Which made the whole situation feel even worse. 

Because now I’m a monster, just like my father.

He dropped his sword and ran. He probably shoved someone out of his way on his panicked sprint to the door. He hoped it was Coral’s mother. 

Rain slipped down his back and soaked him to the bone, but Forrest welcomed it. 

He stumbled and slid down the steps until he hit the bottom and ran even faster. His boots pounded the soggy ground as he made his way to the beach with no intentions in mind beside getting away. 

When he’d first run away with Coral, they’d spent a lot of nights in gambling dens, and then stolen hotel rooms that Forrest won in spars. On one occasion, he’d dreamt of his own death. He’d dreamt of the waves of the ocean rising high above his head and plummeting down over him, filling him until he couldn’t breathe anymore. He was sure that he was drowning now. 

Forrest stood at the edge of the ocean, watching waves rise and fall in the distance, his lungs heaving for air. 

Oh, goddesses, Coral. What have I done? 

His knees buckled and he hit the wet sand. His face came to rest in his hands and sobs shook his body. 

Never had he felt so alone. Not after he’d run away from home, not when he’d spent hours recovering from the torture inflicted by the Rogues. Not even when he’d been locked away, battling with his Curse had he felt so alone in the world. 

Forrest crawled toward the water, feeling the salty waves climb over his fingers. He wanted to let the waves take him and deliver him somewhere where he would belong. 


Was the voice beckoning him forward, towards the water? He was on his feet, taking a tentative step closer. Maybe it was Coral’s voice-

“Forrest, is that you?” 

Yes, Coral! He wanted to shout. It’s me, and I’m coming. I can’t be kept apart from you.

He waded into the water, feeling it rise to his ankles, his knees, and his waist. It was numbingly cold, but he welcomed it. 

The wind whipped the waves even higher. Someone screamed his name and a swell of water collapsed over him. He felt the water dragging him down, down, down as his lungs protested. 

Then suddenly he was back on the beach, coughing up saltwater as he rolled onto his side. And looked straight into Bethany’s face. 

She was shivering, her whole body shaking as she pulled him into a hug. He was shaking too, he realized with a start. His fingers were freezing and his head was pounding. What had he been thinking?

“Forrest, what in goddess’s name were you thinking?” Bethany said, releasing a string of curses. “What the actual-”

“You’re lucky Calli was thinking clearly, because obviously you weren’t,” Morgan grumbled when Forrest finally pulled away. “First you drug my sister, then you ditch us all and assume we won’t follow, and then when we find you, you’re trying to drown yourself.”

“I wasn’t trying to-”

“Oh really?” Calli interjected, her hands on her hips. “Then why did I have to create a spell on the spot to get the water out of your lungs? We called your name, and you only went deeper into the water.”

“It’s not what it looks like-”

“Yeah? Then what is it? Explain to me, Forrest, what was so freaking important that you left us all behind.”

“I wanted to say goodbye!” he shouted and everyone else shut up. 

They were all there, too. Margo, Morgan, Bethany, Rae, and Calli - they’d all come for him, even when he didn’t want them too. 

“I just wanted to finally let her go,” he said, softer this time. “I thought coming here would help, but instead, I learned what a monster I really am.”

So I won’t blame you if you toss me back in the water. I’d actually encourage it.

“Forrest,” Bethany mumbled, wrapping an arm around his shoulder. The others sank to the ground around him, surrounding him with sorrowful expressions. “We … you’re the only one who blames you. Everyone else understands that Coral’s death was a result of the goddesses, not you.”

“But it was my sword-”

“And it was Racke’s Curse,” chimed Margo. 

“You don’t understand-”

“What don’t we understand?” Bethany asked, her voice sharp. 

“I loved her-”

“And so did we! Coral was our friend too, and we loved her just as much as we love you.”
“Then you’re making a mistake.”

“No, Forrest, we’re not. When I look at you, I don’t see a murderer or a monster, I see a boy who is scared and alone. I see a boy who pushes past that fear and takes the lead. You’re so much more than what’s left behind after a Curse, Forrest, and you’re the only one who doesn’t see that.”

He hated how right she was. He didn’t understand how any of them could possibly forgive him or care about him after what he’d done. And mostly, he just wanted Coral back. 

“We love you, Forrest,” she continued. “Even if you’re won’t do it yourself, that’s what we’re here for. We have your back and you are not alone. You never will be, ever again.” 

Was that tears or rain streaming down his cheeks? 

“It’s okay to cry,” Rae muttered under her breath. “We’ve all mourned. Now it’s your turn.” So they were tears then, not raindrops. 

But crying and mourning meant accepting that Coral was gone, and that wasn’t something Forrest was sure he’d ever be able to do. He bit his lip, trying to stop the weeping before it began, but… 

Goddesses, now I’m crying,” grumbled Calli with a bitter laugh. “See, Forrest? You don’t have to move on now, but you can start.”

“I don’t want to forget her.”

“And you don’t have to,” Margo said. “No one said you have to forget Coral or even the pain of losing her. What we want you to do is heal, which is going to take time and it’s not going to be pretty.” 

The bigger the hurt, the bigger the scar. 

“But we’ll be there,” Bethany added. “We’ll be right beside you.”

It was more thank he ever could’ve asked for, and he knew it was a debt he’d never be able to repay. But… that was what friends were for; helping someone even when there probably would be no gift in return. 

His heart felt a bit lighter, too. There was still the weight of the grief he’d yet to express hanging over him, but it was easier to bear now. It still hurt and yet Forrest knew it wasn’t his burden to bear alone. He felt like crying all over again, but for a different reason. It was as though Coral was wrapping him in one of her hugs, telling him that everything would be okay. 

“There’s just one more thing I have to do,” he managed to say. “And I have to do it alone.”

There were more gifts than he had ever imagined piled in his lap. 

He’d made the ascent to the manor on the hill by himself, leaving his friends to seek shelter in an abandoned inn. It wasn’t that he didn’t want them by his side, but … this was something he wanted to see to. 

“Open them,” Mo said with a smile, gesturing to the box on the top. 

They’d welcomed him back with open arms, offering him the same seat as before and not even expecting an apology. Warmth was seeping back into Forrest’s limbs and it felt like the fractures in his heart were beginning to piece back together. Slowly, but progress was there. 

He felt a blush rising to his cheeks. “I don’t want to steal someone else’s gifts.”

“Oh, sweetie, those are Coral’s,” said Delilah - Coral’s mom. “We’ve been saving them since she first disappeared, just in case she ever came back. And … well, you should have them.” 

Which was how Forrest ended up practically buried in thin paper, the gifts that had been meant for Coral strewn about on the floor in front of him. A jeweled comb, a telescope rimmed with gold, and even a small model ship called The Cursebreaker. It brought tears to his eyes, much to Delilah and Mo’s dismay. 

“Do you not like it? We can give it to one of the little ones-”

“No, no, it’s fine. It’s perfect, actually.” He forced a bittersweet smile. The Cursebreaker. Coral had broken his Curse, and it felt like the boat was mocking him. 

Once he’d opened the remainder of the gifts, the family stuffed him with more cake than he’d ever seen before. By then, it was night and the younger kids were beginning to slow down, dropping their gifts to the floor as they began to fall asleep. One of the little girls fell asleep on Forrest’s lap. She’d fiddled with his sword - nearly decapitating her brother - and told him all sorts of riddles. Forrest had played along, chasing her around until she finally settled down enough to sleep. When Mo finally came to fetch her, Forrest almost wanted to say that it was fine, but he knew that he needed to prepare to leave. 

He told Delilah he was going on a quick walk and promised to return in less than an hour before hurrying out of the house, the model ship tucked under his shirt. 

The rain had slowed to a drizzle, enough to make the steps slippery but not nearly as rough as before. He quickened his pace as he approached the beach, determined to make this final sentiment as fast as possible.

When he arrived on the beach, he gently untied Coral’s bracelet from his sword and refastened it on the mast of the model ship. 

They’d talked about being pirates before as a joke. Coral wanted to leave the kingdoms and find a life elsewhere, but Forrest knew now that it would never happen. As much as he hated it, he belonged here. He still had a mission to fulfill and a world to save. 

He pushed the boat into the water, letting the pull of the tide drag it into the crashing waves. Maybe it would end up on the Beach of Lost, or maybe it would find the coast of another world. 

It wasn’t letting go, and it certainly wasn’t moving on. 

The boat was a promise - a promise that this wasn’t goodbye. He would find Coral one day, but not yet. Not when he had so much to live for. 

Besides, he knew she’d be waiting for him when the time finally came. 

But until then, Forrest had a goddess to destroy. 

© 2021 A.L.

Author's Note

Sorry this one took so long - I was actually really excited to write it. Although this chapter took an unexpected turn from where I'd hoped to go (I wanted to try and take a sadder route), I think I like this outcome better. Hope you enjoy!

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Added on December 28, 2021
Last Updated on December 28, 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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