The Emerald-Opal Heir - 29

The Emerald-Opal Heir - 29

A Chapter by A.L.

The Phoenix


Clara was excited to be among friends again. Gwen, Finn, and Clara were about an hour’s walk from their original campsite in Emmeline’s old village, and she couldn’t even begin to describe the excitement that filled her chest. 

Emmeline had sent a letter a few days ago, letting Clara know that the other two groups had already returned successfully. 

It hadn’t exactly been a rough journey so much as it was tedious. Not only did Finn and Gwen have no idea where they were going, but the Rogues had deserted them entirely. They’d volunteered to take watch the first night and then when Clara woke up, it was morning and the Rogues were gone. And without Cinnamon's magic, they were stuck at the pace of normal people. Which meant painstakingly slow progress, especially since they couldn’t stop in any villages without risking Clara’s identity slipping. 

“We’re almost there,” Clara announced, unable to keep the eagerness from her voice. 

Gwen and Finn shared an eye roll and Clara blushed. Okay, so maybe she had been talking about seeing all of her friends again for nearly three days straight, but who wouldn’t? Every mission they went on was a chance for someone to not return. 

Like Beckett. And Brooke. And Coral. 

The village came into view soon after and Clara spotted everyone gathered around their campfire. She couldn’t stop herself from barrelling through the brush and rushing into the village street. 

“Clara!” Emmeline cried, launching to her feet with an anxious looking Newt beside her. 

The two embraced, and Newt stood awkwardly to the side. Clara finally pulled away, surveying the rest of the group. 

Everyone seemed relatively unharmed with only a few scratches or scrapes. Forrest was seated between Bethany and an older woman who had a striking resemblance to Coral. Margo, Calli, Rae, and Morgan were sitting in a small circle, playing some sort of game with colored pebbles. Behind Emmeline and Newt was a lanky looking boy with a mischievous grin, who had to be whoever they’d found in Golla. 

“Clara,” Newt interrupted, his eyes flickering from her face to the ground. “What happened to your face?” 

“Are you okay?” Forrest stepped in, his eyes wide with worry. 

Clara wanted to make a joke about everyone caring about her - it seemed like something Beckett would have done. But all she could think of was how she’d felt the first time she’d looked in the mirror and the helplessness that had overwhelmed her. “I’m fine,” she assured them. “It was … Baelle didn’t win this time, alright?” 

Emmeline bit her lip and Newt and Forrest exchanged a look. 

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Forrest asked again. “Baelle didn’t go after the rest of us, only you.” 

Clara decided she wasn’t going to show them the brand on her arm. 

“Where are the Rogues?” interjected Emmeline, glancing behind Clara where Finn and Gwen were emerging from the forest. 

Forrest rushed over to greet Gwen, and Clara took the chance to answer Emmeline. “We don’t know. They disappeared one night.” She left out the rocky relationship with Gwen and their near constant fighting. Emmeline looked like she wanted to say something but she kept quiet. As much as Clara wanted to assure her that the Rogues probably just needed a break, she wasn’t so sure their reasons for leaving were good 

She shot a glance towards Gwen, who was embracing a flustered-looking Forrest. Beside them was Finn, wringing his fingers and when he caught Clara looking, he offered a nervous smile. She waved him over. 

“Everyone,” she said as Finn approached. “This is Finn. He’s from Waelia and he has … peculiar talent.” 

“I’m a Forge,” Finn explained, his voice confident like he was already comfortable with the group. Emmeline and Newt gave him identical confused looks, and Finn continued, “I can improve the quality of weapons to make them more deadly or give them some sort of magical ability. And I can possibly create something that could kill a goddess.” 

Emmeline blinked. “You could make something that could kill Baelle? When wielded by a mortal?” 

Clara had already explained Emmeline’s predicament to Finn and how she didn’t believe she could kill Baelle without becoming a goddess. He didn’t know if a special weapon would actually work, seeing as his power was exhaustive enough without using celestial power. It was worth pursuing their original plan, but at least Emmeline would hopefully have even more assistance. 

Finn shrugged. “It’s just a possibility.” 

Clara could see the desperation in Emmeline’s eyes and her wobbling lip. She made the decision to try with Finn later and attempt to create the weapon. 

“Anyway,” she said, turning the conversation back to the task at hand. “Who did you all convince to come with you?” 

“This is Niko,” Emmeline said, turning to the lanky boy. He winked in Clara’s direction and Emmeline groaned. “His skills are less admirable than Finn’s.” She sent him a glare and Niko stuck out his tongue. 

“Pickpocketing keeps people out of debt,” Niko said, somehow keeping a straight face. 

“Yeah, and it puts people in jail,” Newt countered with a shake of his head. Clara got the feeling that they’d had this argument multiple times before. 

“We’re rehabilitating him,” Emmeline whispered to Clara, though she was loud enough that Niko could hear her. 

“That’s what you say now.” Niko raised his eyebrows and Clara stifled a laugh. 

“And this is Coral’s mother, Delilah,” Bethany announced from the other side of the fire. “We met with Coral’s family, and she agreed to help to avenge her daughter.” 

Delilah offered a shy wave, but as the only adult besides Gwen - who didn’t really count - she probably felt really out of place. Which brought up another good point - what would happen to Niko, Gwen, Finn, and Delilah when Clara and the others would go to fight Baelle. Finn, Gwen, and Niko might be persuaded to join, but what about Delilah? 

We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. 

“I say we head out tomorrow morning,” Forrest said as he and Gwen rejoined the circle around the campfire. “Clara, Gwen, and Finn can get some rest and food while we figure out the best route and start packing - which reminds me, we should probably allot for a few extra days of travel in case we run into trouble.” 

“Did you encounter trouble on your way to Nelith?” Clara asked. She’d assumed that she was the only one who’d actually been confronted with Baelle’s minions. 

Forrest shrugged. “A little, but nothing we couldn’t handle.” 

Bethany scoffed at that and Margo shot Forrest a dirty look over her shoulder before answering Clara. “We got intercepted by Racke, which ended as well as could be expected, and then Forrest decided to be a lone wolf and walked the rest of the way to Nelith alone.” 

Forrest blushed but said nothing, which was pretty much a defense of his actions. 

“We can exchange stories on the way to Maconia,” Newt stepped in. “It isn’t exactly going to be a short trip, so we’ll have more than enough time.” 

Which sounded to Clara like an excuse, but she didn’t point it out. She could ask Emmeline if she really wanted to know what happened, though based on Newt’s response, she wasn’t sure that she should. 

“You should get some sleep,” Forrest not so subtly suggested. 

Clara put her hands on her hips. “So eager to get rid of me?” 

Forrest ran a hand through his hair. “No, it’s just-”

“I was kidding, Forrest. We’re all happy to see each other alive and in one piece. I’ll go find a place to rest.” 

He gave her a relieved smile, and he looked even more exhausted than she felt. Clara was half tempted to tell him to go get some sleep, but she knew he wouldn’t. She beckoned for Gwen and Finn to follow her before making her way towards the house she’d claimed as her own during a prior stay. 

She didn’t normally stay in the little hut she called her own. It was too quiet and after so many nights of sharing a room with the others, she felt that the silence was suffocating. She took Gwen and Finn there anyway, knowing there were more than enough beds for everyone. This had been a village once, after all. 

“There’s a working bathtub,” Clara explained as they stepped into the threshold. “The water is cold, but there’s a few bottles of soap that survived. And you should be able to find a bed somewhere.” 

Finn and Gwen nodded, probably just as tired as she was. They went to explore the house and Clara let them, making a right and arriving in the room of the house that had become her bedroom. It was supposed to be a kid’s bedroom, and although there was something disturbing about sleeping in a dead child’s bed, it was soft and Clara was feeling more exhausted by the minute. 

She laid on the bed and almost immediately, sleep took her away. 

It took two days to reach the mountainous terrain of Maconia, and then several hours to find out which mountain was the one with the gate on the top. 

“I swear it was this one,” Rae grumbled, pulling her cloak tighter around her. 

The air was frigid in the mountains, and as Clara had quickly discovered, even the beginning of spring didn’t take away from the icy winds. Her cheeks stung as the bitter breeze bit at her face but she trudged on, stepping on Forrest’s footprints in the snow. 

“No, I distinctly remember climbing that one,” Margo argued, gesturing to a mountain-shaped lump in the distance. “And I think I would know, considering the experience was traumatizing.” 

“Oh, shut up,” Morgan interrupted. “You’re both wrong. Rae, your mountain is the one we were going to climb but we determined it was too steep. And Margo, the one you’re looking at is the one we passed by the base of.” Which led to more verbal attacks, involving a lot of cursing. 

Clara shot a look to Delilah, who was watching with mild amusement. Despite her age, Delilah had really taken to the group - courtesy of her large family. She was quiet most of the time, only speaking when she was offering bits of advice, recalling a memory of Coral, or spoiling Clara, Finn, and Rae with little candies she kept in her bag. It was a refreshing break from Niko, who tried to pickpocket someone at least once an hour just to prove that he could. 

“Do you remember which one it was?” Forrest asked with a sigh, directing the question at Bethany. 

She shrugged. “They all look the same to me.” 

“You?” Forrest looked to Calli, who shook her head. Forrest rubbed his temples and Clara took note of the circles under his eyes. 

“You’d think something as important as the gate to the heavens would’ve been easier to remember,” Newt commented. “Next time we need to find this place, I’m making a map so we don’t end up wandering around the mountains for hours.” 

“There isn’t going to be a next time,” Emmeline said. 

“At the rate we’re going, it would be more beneficial to stop and rest before we continue,” Gwen said. “We’ve been staring at the mountains for quite a while and none of you can decide which one we need to climb.” 

“We’re on a bit of a time crunch,” Forrest reminded them. 

“And I think we’re all missing the the obvious solution,” Clara said. “Why don’t we just pray to the goddesses and ask them? Or better yet, have Emmeline use one of her gifts. Certainly there’s one that’ll be of use.” 

Emmeline shook her head a little too quickly. Was it just the wind, or was she blushing when she reached for Newt’s hand? “I don’t think any of my gifts are going to be helpful here. Sorry.” 

“It’s fine,” Delilah assured her with a matronly smile. 

“Emmeline is probably still our best bet for prayers,” Calli said. “The goddesses seem to love her. Either that, or one of the Blessed, which leaves Clara, Bethany, Gwen, or Rae. Maybe Newt, if he still considers himself Blessed.” 

“I can do it,” Clara offered. She wasn’t really sure why, but she wanted to talk to Elyviella. They’d been close previously, Elyviella giving Clara visions of what had occurred between Luca - Baelle’s father - and Ibenily. 

No one objected and Emmeline actually looked grateful, so Clara closed her eyes. 

Hey, Elyviella. It’s me again, Clara, your little Blessed. I know you remember me, and I bet you’ve been watching our journey. You know that we’re coming to open to the gates to speak to you, right? So could you give us a sign, just so we can find you? We’re a little lost, and-

Clara didn’t even get to finish because there was an audible gasp. Her eyes flew open to discover a golden pillar of light radiating from the top of a nearby mountain. 

Thank you, Elyviella. We’ll see you soon. 

“That’s one of the mountains that all three of you ignored,” Forrest pointed out with a laugh. “We would’ve been wandering around for days.” 

And Forrest was right, because it took longer than Clara would’ve expected to reach the mountain peak. The snow was even deeper on the mountain and the chill seeped into her boots like an evil poison. The rocky ground was uneven and sometimes slid under their feet, leaving the constant fear that the whole side of the mountain would collapse underneath them. Clara was pretty sure the mountain was designed to be impossible to get to the top. 

It felt like a miracle when they finally reached the top, Emmelina and Delilah lagging behind as Newt and Gwen helped them over the last rocky crest. 

And there was nothing there. The top of the mountain was flat, covered with a fluffy white blanket of snow. A few lone pine trees watched over the two kingdoms that stretched out beneath them. 

“There’s… There’s no gate,” Emmeline breathed, echoing Clara’s disappointment. 

“Bethany, you do the honors,” Morgan said, waving towards the empty air before them. “You were the one to discover it last time.” 

Bethany nodded once, determined, and stepped forward. She held out her palm and the air around it rippled like someone had tossed a stone into a pond. A gate flickered into view, made of pure gold. Across the center was a large bar with twelve handprints engraved into it, each one labelled with a name of a patron land. 

“It’s beautiful,” Clara heard herself say. 

Behind the gate was a spiraling marble staircase that stretched upwards into the clouds. It was truly a breathtaking sight and she wished it was a better known legend. The Sprite Hunters would’ve tracked this place down should they have known about it. 

“It is,” Emmeline agreed, her emerald eyes wide. “Should we, y’know, open it?” 

“That would be lovely,” Margo gritted out from her place hugging a tree a few paces away. “Since I don’t want to look, someone can describe the view to me later - once I’m not in danger of falling to my death!” 

Morgan rolled his eyes. “You’re not going to fall, Margo.” 

“Open the goddess-darn gate!” 

“Find your handprints,” Forrest said, as if they needed a reminder. “Those from the Green Kingdom are on the left, those from the Silver Kingdom are on the right.” 

It didn’t take long to get situated, everyone standing before their handprints. Emmeline watched from behind, biting her lip. Clara was sandwiched between Niko and Calli, who both looked reasonably nervous. 

As for Clara … she didn’t know why her stomach was churning. It could have been the excitement of getting to meet the goddesses - and not just Elyviella, all twelve of them. Maybe it was the worry of this failing or the goddesses refusing to let them in. Clara didn’t know, but she wanted the gate to open. 

“Go ahead,” Gwen said, her voice tense. “Let’s do this.” 

Clara pressed her right palm into her handprint while those from the Green Kingdom used their left hands. The gate grew warm beneath her touch and when she tried to move her fingers, she couldn’t. It was as though they had fused to the metal. 

“It’s not working,” Forrest whispered, his voice nearly inaudible from the wind. He sounded almost panicked. “Emmeline, does everyone have their hand on?” 

“Yes,” Emmeline squeaked. “It’s glowing, but nothing is happening.” 

“We can’t take our hands off,” Clara exclaimed, trying not to let her fear show. There had to be a way to escape or open this stupid gate. 

“Em, there’s something appearing next to me on the gate,” Newt called out. 

Clara tried to look over, but she couldn’t see past Calli. “What is it?” Rae shouted from the end. 

“It’s a thirteenth handprint,” Newt answered. “What does it say?” 

“It says ‘goddess chosen’,” Emmleline said softly. “I think that it’s for a Reader or an heir.” 

That made sense, but at this point Clara just wanted her hand not to be stuck to a gate forever. 

Emmeline must have pushed her own hand to the gate because suddenly the world fell silent. Clara couldn’t hear the wind or anyone else or even her own breathing. The gate burned under her touch, and just before the heat became unbearable, it disappeared. Clara snatched her hand back as the gate swung open. 

“It worked!” Emmeline exhaled, pressing herself closer to Newt. 

“Does this mean I can go home now?” Niko interjected. 

“Soon enough,” Clara responded. “I can assure you - no one is going to want to miss this.” 

They began their ascent on the marble stairs. Clara felt like she was sullying the perfection of this staircase to the heavens. She was out of place, a blot of color on a blank piece of parchment. The clouds thinned and yet Clara was somehow still able to breathe normally, although it was much colder. Only Bethany seemed unaffected by the temperature, thanks to her Blessing. 

And then Clara stepped onto solid ground. 

What lay before her was awe-inspiring. It was essentially a city in the sky, each building a combination of marble and gold. The monochromatic view should have been bland, but Clara couldn’t blink lest she miss out on something. Twelve mansions lined two streets that met at a point at the far end. A temple lay at the curve in the distance, surrounded by pillars and statues of the twelve goddesses. 

“That’s where we need to go,” Clara whispered. It felt like any noise was ruining the perfect silence that surrounded them. 

No. A voice boomed across the tiny island. We only wish to speak to the Reader. You may escort her to the Temple of the Heavens, but only she may enter. Anyone who disobeys will be punished accordingly. Our business is with her alone. 

“Not exactly welcoming,” Gwen muttered under her breath. 

“It’s the goddesses,” Clara hissed. “What were you expecting?” She knew she should be more careful with her words but she didn’t care. They’d come all this way for what? The goddesses to decide that Emmeline was more important that everyone else? 

“Go,” Newt said, sliding his hand out of Emmeline’s. He leaned his forehead onto her’s and whispered something to her. Emmeline nodded once and pulled away. 

“I’ll be back soon,” she promised, but all Clara could see was a fragile girl with the weight of the whole world on her shoulders. She wanted to accompany Emmeline, wanted to somehow use her Blessing to make this easier on her, but that would be impossible. 

“Well,” Niko said, trying to ease the tension. “Is anyone up for robbing a goddess?”

© 2022 A.L.

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Added on January 8, 2022
Last Updated on January 8, 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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