The Emerald-Opal Heir - 28

The Emerald-Opal Heir - 28

A Chapter by A.L.

The King


The Shattering 

Alys was lying on her deathbed, and here Beckett was, trying out the throne he knew he would only get to sit on for a few hours. 

“Hold still,” cried the man before him, nearly spilling his paints. “You’ll mess up the picture.”

Beckett heaved a sigh but stopped fidgeting in his seat. 

The Sacred Blade replica was laid casually across his lap and a copy of his crown was resting on his brow. Robes in shades of emerald, accented with silver threads flower over his shoulders. Baelle had personally taken the time to paint all twelve of the goddess’s symbols onto his cheeks, a custom that was supposed to demonstrate the goddess’s approval of the monarch. 

He didn’t feel like a king. 

Instead, he was sweaty and bored out of mind, and he was pretty sure that this was supposed to be a punishment. 

“Your Highness, it would benefit me greatly if you stopped moving,” the painter grumbled, peaking over his easel with narrowed eyes. “It’s like you don’t want to have this portrait painted.” 

How astute of you, Beckett almost retorted. Instead he plastered on a false smile, the one he’d grown so accustomed to using. “Why would you ever think that?” 

The painter gave him a dirty look and Beckett offered an innocent shrug before settling back into his throne. In the past, he probably wouldn’t have tolerated anyone treating him like a little boy, but now he wished everyone saw the immature brat. It would make him less of a threat and possibly save Alys’s life. 

He started to zone out again, delving into the realms of his imagination when the doors to the study flew open. The painter nearly leapt out of his skin and his brush went flying. 

Baelle stood in the doorway, her hair disheveled and her eyes bloodshot. Beckett had never seen her look so upset before, and the possibility of something hurting her was unsettling. Emotions just fueled Baelle’s anger, and when she was angry, she turned to punishment. 

“Milady,” squeaked the painter. “I wasn’t quite finished-”

“Finish the picture the best you can. Beckett, come with me … and bring your sword.” 

Goddesses, what was going on? Beckett’s heart was pounding frantically in his chest and his mind was jumping to every possibility. At first he was afraid something had happened to Alys, but why would Baelle be so concerned when she wanted the girl dead anyway? 

Baelle was practically running and Beckett had to increase his stride to keep up with her. He didn’t recognize the wing of the castle they were heading to, but that didn’t mean anything when he’d never taken the time to explore. They were still working on building a new palace in the Crossover Forest, so the coronation would take place in Argenti. And despite having lived in the castle for weeks now, Beckett had only taken the time to visit a few rooms. 

As they advanced down the corridors, Beckett realized that this had to be the guest wing. Not only was it full of large pairs of doors, but it was covered in decorations from all twelve of the patron lands. He saw paintings depicting the beach for Nelith and smelled the incense that was commonly used in Dinrali. While Alys had probably once stayed in one of these rooms, she’d been moved closer to the medics after her illness. Beckett wondered which of these suites had been her’s. 

“Here we are,” Baelle announced as they arrived at a pair of nondescript doors. Her voice was unwavering and yet Beckett caught the way she was wringing her fingers. 

She gently pushed the doors open and Beckett immediately caught a whiff of a healing draught. He waved the stench away before stepping into the room … and finding a sight he’d hoped he’d never see. 

Two large beds stood on opposite sides of the room, framing a circular rug in the center. And lying on the rug in a convulsing heap was Steel. 

Beckett rushed forward, barely comprehending what was before him. 

A handful of healers were bent over Steel, pressing their hands to his pale skin. Blood was spilling from a wound in his chest where it looked like he’d been stabbed. 

His pulse was an aching throb in his head. 

It was supposed to be me. This had to be an early assassination attempt, except whoever had done it had mistaken Steel for Beckett. 

“He’s going to live,” he overheard one of the healers whisper to Baelle. “But whatever spell he’s under needs to be undone…” The rest of the conversation was drowned out when Beckett noticed the other boy hiding in the corner. 

Glass was slumped against the wall, clutching a wound on his forehead. It looked like he’d been thrown into the wall. 

“Are you alright?” Beckett hissed, kneeling so that he was eye level with the boy. 

Glass nodded once, though his eyes had a dull look to them. Probably a concussion of some sort. He gave a small shrug and gestured to his face. 

“Right,” Beckett commented softly. “You’ve had worse.” Like having your tongue cut out by a wrathful goddess. “I meant more of the mental stuff. They said your brother is going to be okay, so I guess that’s good.”

Glass shrugged again. He closed his eyes and rested his head back against the wall, a signal that he didn’t really want to talk. Beckett couldn’t blame him. 

He knew that Glass’s thoughts were echoing through his own head as well. It should’ve been me. I should’ve been there to protect him. 

Beckett stood and left Glass alone, returning to Baelle’s side as he watched the healers lift Steel’s body onto a makeshift stretcher and carry him away. Baelle’s expression was blank, but Beckett could see the wheels turning in her mind. 

“We were lucky,” he said, hoping to bring her back to reality. 

“Luck had nothing to do with it,” Baelle retorted. “The assassins didn’t want that boy dead, or at least, they said as much in their letter.” 

She handed Beckett a roll of parchment that she’d tucked away in the folds of her gown. 

He uncurled it, feeling his fingers shake as he read the meticulous handwriting. 

Next time, we won’t miss our mark. Have the “heir” meet us at the oak tree on the eastern side of Argenti, sunset, tomorrow. No weapons or guards, or you will face the consequences.

There was no signature, no way to tell who had written it. And it didn’t even rhyme. 

“So it was only a warning,” Beckett said, more to himself. He needed to solidify this in his mind, needed to prove that this was real. He’d known it was only a matter of time before the threats started pouring in, and he was surprised he’d managed to go this long without one. But imagining that knife in his chest instead of Steel’s sent shivers down his spine. 

“One we won’t be heeding,” Baelle said, like she’d already decided on the matter. 

Beckett was aghast. “What do you mean, we won’t be listening to it? These people obviously have the means necessary to sneak into your palace and murder someone - the only thing that stopped them was self-restraint!” 

“You have magic,” Baelle reminded him calmly. “Isn’t defense one of your gifts?” 

“Yes, but it’s not me I’m worried about. Believe it or not, I have friends in this castle - friends I don’t want to see harmed.” Although you’ve already seen to that, he almost added, picturing Alys’s pale skin. “Besides, all of the lords and ladies, all of the servants - they matter too.” 

“Assassins wouldn’t waste their time going after those in menial positions,” Baelle dismissed. “They want you, princeling, and if you meet with them, then you’re handing yourself over on a silver platter.” 

“So what? You just said I have magic to protect me. If I’m walking into a trap tomorrow, I’ll be prepared.” 

“And you’ll be on their turf. They’ll attempt to kill you either way, so you can go to them or you can let them come to you.” She gave a small shrug, a reminder that none of this mattered to her. She had his will - or what she believed to be his will - and if he died, she would become queen. 

“Look, it’s the innocent lives at stake here,” he sighed at last, sending a pointed look towards Glass, who was still huddled against the wall. “If they come to the castle, that puts anyone in their way of getting to me in danger.” 

“Sometimes it’s necessary-”

“No, Baelle. Contrary to your belief, abusing those who fall beneath you isn’t a necessity - it’s a preference.” 

And with that, he turned and stormed out of the room, praying to the goddesses that she’d let him live another day. 

Beckett was beginning to wonder if it would have just been easier to turn himself over to the assassins. 

He was assigned ten extra bodyguards at all times, which completely ruined his daily visit to Alys and his attempts to see if Steel was still alive. Not only that, but he was practically on house arrest. Baelle stopped by occasionally to give him more busywork for the ceremony, but other than that he wasn’t allowed to see anyone besides his guards. 

What did it matter what flowers rained from the ceiling when the crown touched his head? Who cared what flavor icing was on the third tier of his cake? And, goddess forbid, who would even be noticing how many ice cubes floated in his punch bowls? 

It was all stupid and useless and Beckett wanted nothing more than to fling himself out his windows to the mercy of the gardens below. 

His only comfort was knowing that Glass had successfully delivered all of his letters. 

It had been a challenge to confuse ten guards at the same time to the point where none of them noticed a small boy slipping into Beckett’s room at midnight on the dot. He’d been drained by then, but coherent enough to explain what he needed Glass to do. Glass agreed, luckily, to deliver three letters. 

One to wherever they were keeping Steel, one to the dungeons, and one to the oak tree on the eastern edge of Argenti. 

His trust in Glass was well-placed, because the next evening, he was gathered in his bathroom - the only place he was allowed true solitude - with a flustered looking Brooke and a confused Glass. 

“Thanks for meeting me,” Beckett began, feeling much more kingly now - in a bathroom - than he’d ever felt before. He turned his attention to Glass, mimicking the way Baelle did it with regal authority. “I assume your brother understands what must be done.”

Glass nodded and thumped his chest once. An okay, that Steel knew their plans would be continuing along their original course. 

“And you’re fine with this too?” Beckett clarified. Glass nodded again, bowing his head. “Good. I’m glad to have you by my side.” Glass beamed, and Beckett finally looked at Brooke. “And you understand your role in things?” 

She raised an eyebrow. “I’m ready to be out of my cell for good.” 

“Great, keep that anger.” Where was he even going with this? Everyone had assured him multiple times that they understood the risk of a plot this dangerous. So it was time to change the subject to the thing he didn’t want to discuss. “And for the reason I called you here tonight: I sent a letter to the assassins.” 

“You did what?” Brooke snarled incredulously. Beckett knew he should tease her about caring for him, but it wasn’t the time or place. 

“Glass delivered my note,” Beckett began, and the other boy held up his hands in mock surrender, as if saying it wasn’t his idea. “It was under my direction, Brooke. I told them that I wouldn’t be able to meet them, but I would leave my windows open if they agreed to meet in my room and not harm anyone else in the castle.” 

“How do you know they’ll do it?” Brooke asked, pinching the bridge of her nose. 

“I don’t. I’ve been praying that they’ll listen, but, after all, they are assassins. Which is why you two are here.” 

Glass raised an eyebrow and Brooke put her hands on her hips. 

Alright, so maybe it wasn’t the best plan ever. He had a boy who couldn’t speak and a girl who couldn’t use a sword - plus no weapons for either of them. How were they supposed to protect him from assassins? 

“I’m going to try to negotiate,” he explained. “I have no reason to believe that they will, but a prince has to hope, am I right?” No response. “Look, you guys are my only back-up. I know Glass can win a fistfight - I’ve seen him and Steel beat each other up. And Brooke, you have the same magic as me - ancient, powerful magic. If the assassins attack and I am somehow rendered unconscious or dead, I want you to make sure no one else gets hurt.” 

Brooke let out a low whistle. “You see, when most people see a plan that is likely to fail, they decide it’s not worth it. What do you think you’ll gain from this?” 

“I’m not most people,” Beckett pointed out. “And what I hope to gain from this is allies.” 

“Allies?” Brooke repeated. “You do realize these people want you dead, right?” 

“A lot of people say that,” Beckett said, feeling a mischievous grin form on his face. “But the question is if they actually want to.” 

“I’m lost,” Brooke groaned, and Glass rolled his eyes in agreement. 

“There’s no time to explain,” Beckett said, earning another eye roll from both Brooke and Glass. “But you have to trust me on this, okay?” 

“Fine,” Brooke sighed at last. And then, “Please don’t be stupid.” 

“Ah, c’mon, that’s what I do best,” Beckett retorted with a grin. 

Brooke didn’t smile back. 

Beckett heard the shift of the wind about two hours later, when he was curled up in bed with a riveting book on engineering traps. 

His magic tensed inside of him and began flowing through his veins. It had been a long time since he’d been able to use it in a fight, and his magic was growing restless. He just hoped tonight he wouldn’t be forced to use it. 

“I know you’re here,” he announced, forcing the waver from his voice and managing a bored tone. “You’re not very good assassins, y’know.” 

He felt the touch of a cool blade against his neck and the spark of fear that surfaced inside of him was a reminder not to egg on people who killed for a living. “Really, little prince, because I think you’re the vulnerable one here.” 

“I just want to talk,” he said, skipping the greetings he’d run over in his mind and heading straight for the meat of the conversation. 

“Aww, the little prince wants us to show him mercy,” remarked a voice from somewhere else in the shadows. 

Says the man who won’t dare to show his face. 

This was the riskiest part of his plan - all weighing on a single guess on Beckett’s part. It was logical in some ways, but completely insane in others. If he was wrong, he knew he’d be dead in less than a second. But if he was right… 

He took a steadying breath. “I know you’re working for Baelle.” 

Silence, except for his pounding heart. That had to be a good sign, right? He plowed forward anyway. 

“I mean, how does an assassin slip past several sets of guards and navigate the castle perfectly to fake murder a little boy - a clone of the prince - and leave a note setting a meeting place? Why not just murder me when you showed up yesterday?” 

“We’re showing you mercy-”

“That’s just the thing,” Beckett interrupted with a laugh. “You could’ve killed me yesterday, just as you easily could have right now. And why bother with a meeting place? It doesn’t make sense.” 

“But none of that means we’re siding with Baelle,” argued the person behind him. Rather defensive for someone who supposedly had no ties to Baelle. “It’s called mercy-”

“Then what about Baelle?” Beckett asked. “Why was she so opposed to me coming to see you? You were going to come here anyway, and this puts more people - not to mention the castle itself - at risk.” 

Silence again. So maybe he was drawing conclusions from the most infinitesimal things. Maybe he had been wrong in assuming Baelle was behind this.

The blade pressed closer to his neck and Beckett closed his eyes. He was going to die. 

But then there was the slightest whisper in his ear. “What are you going to do with the information you have?” 

He let out a shaky breath, his neck grazing the knife enough to draw blood. Baelle really had hired these people - and obviously they weren’t supposed to kill him. His guess was that they were supposed to scare him or injure him enough that he wouldn’t fight back at the coronation. 

“I was hoping maybe I could convince you to, y’know, switch sides and not beat me to the point where I’m practically dead,” he continued. He felt like he was talking to himself for all the reaction he was getting. “I could offer you money or power or … I don’t know. I’ll think of something.” 

“Hmm,” the voice purred in his ear. “Your offer isn’t very tempting, princeling, especially considering what Baelle offered us.” 

“Well, what did she offer you?” 

He could hear the grin through the person’s voice. “She offered us the reward of actually killing you on your coronation.” 

“Why would you want me dead?” And why did I not think that you would have other motivation? He was silently cursing himself for his stupidity. There was no way that Glass and Brooke would be getting him out of this predicament. 

“Not that it matters much to you, but this bloodline is corrupt. All heirs have to die.” 

Oh, goddesses, if Brooke revealed herself, they would kill her too. 

He prayed that she was smart enough to stay hidden, and he hoped Glass would too. Neither of them would do well in a fight. 

“No response to that?” A snort. “Our policy is mercy, princeling. We’ll make this short.” 

The knife shifted on his neck and a scream ricocheted off the walls, but not from him. Beckett didn’t allow himself to breathe as two figures stepped from the shadows - a masked assassin and Brooke. Glass was still safe. 

“You can’t kill him yet,” Brooke said, her voice surprisingly strong. “You promised Baelle he would live until the coronation.” 

“Brooke,” he hissed, but her gaze met his. Tears welled in her eyes. 

Understanding filled him with uneasiness as he realized what Brooke was going to do. He couldn’t allow her to do this, but… 

I already am a monster, he told himself. Allowing Brooke to sacrifice herself for me won’t change anything. 

But why even bother living when I’ll die in a few days?

“Kill me instead. I’m an heir too.” She lifted her sleeves, showing off the tendrils of magic on her arms. She may have been talking to the assassins, but her eyes were focused on Beckett’s. 

“Brooke,” he repeated, voice cracking. 

The assassins exchanged glances, weighing their options. Beckett could have thrown himself onto the blade, could have let his magic burst from him and save them both. But he was frozen in fear and shock, just like he had been at the Temple of Purity with Emmeline. 

Don’t be a monster. The voice sounded like Alys’s. This isn’t like you, Beck.

“You wouldn’t kill a little girl,” he tried, hoping that he could stall these assassins. 

The one holding Brooke laughed. “Really? Because Baelle hired us to attack a little red haired girl.” 

No. They couldn’t be talking about Clara, there were lots of other red haired girls. That Baelle would send her assassins after? 

“A little healer, if I recall,” said the assassin behind him. A soft his escaped Beckett’s lips. 

“As good as dead,” agreed the other assassin. “But that’s besides the point. We’ll make it fast, little prince. Remember our mercy.”

And then the assassins struck, swifter than serpents. He lashed out with his magic even faster, bursting with silver light as the knife dug into his flesh. 

He could feel blood on his skin, taste it in his mouth. Clara was dead, and these people had killed her. He would make them pay - he was stronger than them, stronger than even the goddesses. He was just a coward.

And then the assassins struck, swifter than serpents. He lashed out with his magic even faster, bursting with silver light as the knife dug into his flesh. 

He could feel blood on his skin, taste it in his mouth.

His magic deserted him, leaving him alone in the darkness with only the hope that he’d managed to save Brooke, even if he couldn’t save himself. 

Die a hero, he told himself. I’m going to die a hero.

© 2022 A.L.

Author's Note

The black bar at the top is supposed to say The Shattering. We're on part two now!
Also, this was edited because I completely forgot a certain part so there's an additional paragraph towards the end. Oh, and I want to apologize for spelling mistakes in my previous chapters because spellcheck has deserted me.

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Added on January 2, 2022
Last Updated on January 4, 2022
Tags: blessed, cursed, adventure, goddesses, sword, love, death, betrayal, kingdom, kingdoms, war, castle, magic, reading, writing, prince, king, queen, royalty



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