The Emerald-Opal Heir - 30

The Emerald-Opal Heir - 30

A Chapter by A.L.

The Goddess


Emmeline wasn’t sure whether to curtsy or bow when she stepped into the temple, so she decided to stand there awkwardly. 

The twelve goddesses were seated in a u-shape around the otherwise empty temple, the same order as the handprint had been on the gate, Ibenily and Dixral in the center. Emmeline stared back at them, her confidence slowly slipping away. What was she doing here? 

“You don’t offer your respect,” noted Dixral, more of a statement than a question. 

Emmeline wished that Newt would’ve fought more to come with her. She felt alone and ever since the stupid test from the council in Golla she was on edge. Her biggest fear? They’d been dead wrong, but … Emmeline pushed the memory from her mind. 

“I don’t respect those who don’t deserve it,” she retorted. She wasn’t quite sure where this anger was stemming from, but she knew that she didn’t care. After everything the goddesses had put her through, they warranted every ounce of hatred she could give them. “But I didn’t come here to complain. I want you to turn me into a goddess.” 

The silence was intimidating. Emmeline held her breath as she looked every goddess in the eye. 

They were dressed in white robes that made Emmeline’s cloak and worn clothes feel inadequate. Even though they each looked immensely different, they were all several feet taller than her, choosing their “immortal forms”. As if she was scared of their power. They wouldn’t strike her down lest risk Baelle winning and killing all of them. 

“I want you to make me one of you,” she said again, louder this time. 

“Yes, we’re discussing it, dear,” Ibenily assured her, voice falsely warm. “It’s not something that’s easy to do, nor is it something we should-”

“Anything you’d like to discuss can be said in front of me.” 

The goddesses shared a look. Did they meet at scheduled times just to talk, or had they been waiting for Emmeline? She couldn’t picture them just having tea and biscuits like old friends, but she also assumed that they had to communicate every once in a while. 

“Fine,” said a goddess with flowers woven into her braid. She had to be Zachryona, then. “Make an argument as to why you think you should be a goddess.” 

“It’s the only way to take Baelle down,” Emmeline began. 

“Is it?” Ibenily asked with a raised brow. “You Wrote Baelle so that you or the prince would kill her. It’s going to happen whether you’re a goddess or not.” 

“I tried,” Emmeline said. “When we infiltrated her party, I tried to kill her and I failed.” 

“And why is that?” 

“I wouldn’t be here if I knew, now would I?” she spat back. “It … it probably has to do with the slaver dust that was used on Newt and I. My gifts haven’t been working properly since. It’s like I can’t feel them at all.” 

It wasn’t something she’d told her friends yet for obvious reasons. Newt would probably panic and freak out and become ten times more protective. Clara might try to heal her and Forrest would probably offer some reasonable explanation about how she just needed time. She wished Beckett was still with them, because she knew he would understand. Although Newt now had powers he couldn’t control, it was Beckett who Emmeline could relate to the most. 

She glanced up at the goddesses. “You can’t tell me what’s wrong?” 

“We don’t know either,” admitted Dixral. “Baelle should have died, which is why we’re willing to even consider your plan to become a goddess. Normally, we would tell you no and have you leave, but…” 

“But it might be the only way,” Emmeline finished, feeling sweet relief wash through her. “I talked to my brother about this too. He’s confident that it will work if I do it right.” 

Understanding flickered in Ibenily’s features and Emmeline bowed her head. 

When the goddess finally spoke, her voice was filled with pity. “The thing about a goddess is that her power resides in the people. We are only as strong as our supporters.” 

“That’s why you can’t kill Baelle,” Emmeline guessed. “Her following is strong because she’s been growing it since before she even became a goddess. And when she gets supporters, you lose them.” 

“There is only so much we can accomplish in our current states,” Quiglin agreed. 

“To allow you to become a goddess would cost the majority of the magic we have left,” Elyviel explained. “Even if we each gave up a small fraction of our power, it will pretty much eliminate us from the game.”

“Will I be more powerful than all of you?” 

Dixral wasn’t smiling when she answered. “You will be the most powerful goddess to ever exist, but I fear even that won’t be enough if Baelle manages to get a place on the throne.” 

Was Baelle going after Beckett’s position already? 

Racke noticed her confusion and answered with, “The prince has a coronation about a week from now. Baelle is hiring assassins to kill him the moment the crown touches his head. She already has the support of her staff, she just needs the throne itself.” 

“And Beckett is letting her do this?” 

“Not by choice. She forced him to write his will and name her as his heir. It's a tricky business that he’s got himself into.” 

“Then our situation is more dire than it was before,” Emmeline said. “You need to make me a goddess.” 

“And as I’ve told your friends before,” Racke continued. “The goddesses can’t just do whatever we please. To have this gift bestowed upon you, you’re going to need to prove you’re worthy.” 

Emmeline wanted to scream. Another test? Because evidently she hadn’t suffered enough already. 

“I’ve given up my entire life to protect all of you. I’ve lost several people I cared about because of your selfishness. I’ve nearly died more times than I can count - and I actually died once, and do you remember what your response was? You only saved me because you wanted to use me. Don’t tell me I need to prove that I’m worthy-”

“But you do,” Dixral cut her off. “This is the same thing your friend Coral tried to argue with Racke before she died. We’re goddesses, not mothers. We aren’t known for our kindness.” 

“Your predecessors gave Estella power without a cost.” 

“Her cost was her life, and the life of countless other Readers,” Elyviel said stiffly. 

Emmeline sighed. She knew she was fighting a losing battle here. What is this test compared to everything else I’ve faced? She told herself this would be easier. She told herself it wouldn’t be a repeat of Golla, where she’d barely been able to drag her tattered heart back to reality. 

“Fine,” she seethed. “When I pass, will I just become a goddess?” 

“We will give you our power,” Ibenily answered. “And once your soul is that of a goddess, you must wash in the Temple of Purity to make your body that of a goddess as well.” 

If only Ernest could see me now, Emmeline thought to herself. He hadn’t believed that the goddesses would even be willing to talk to her, but here she was. Maybe he didn’t like her plan, but he also hadn’t expected her to get this far, which was how she’d gotten the information she needed to get here. 

“What does the test involve?” she asked, hoping and praying that it would be within her ability level. 

“It’s a simple test of perseverance and skill,” Elyviel said in a way that made Emmeline think it wouldn’t be so simple. “At the base of this mountain is an encampment of citizens who want to overthrow us. We need you to go down there and eliminate the threat.” 

Emmeline scoffed. “You’re afraid of a few angry people?” 

Dixral shot Emmeline a glare that had her heart stumbling in its chest. She won’t kill you, she needs you. “How many times do we have to explain? Our power lies with the people, and when they don’t like us, we suffer.” 

A poor choice of words in Emmelin’s opinion, but she didn’t say anything. 

“The people plan to launch an attack the morning of the coronation. We have reason to believe it’s Baelle’s doing,” Ibenily explained. “There’s probably about two hundred people in the camp.” 

“And you want me to murder all of them?” Emmeline asked in disbelief. “I guess cruelty is a common trait of the goddesses.” 

“Not kill,” Racke cried. “Deal with them. Figure something out. This is your test.” 

Emmeline decided that she had never hated the goddesses more. 

Unfortunately, since this was Emmeline’s test, she had to make the trek back down the mountain alone. The goddesses allowed her to “stock up” but all that meant was she got warmer clothes and a new sword. 

She didn’t know where her friends had gone either, and though she wasn’t worried, she’d really hoped to let them know what she was up to. Newt was likely to panic, after all. 

As Emmeline neared the bottom of the mountain, she caught sight of a large encampment spread across the snow. If they would’ve approached from the other side of the mountain, they definitely would have run into the camp. She counted herself lucky because if these people supported Baelle, they probably would kill her on sight. 

So how am I supposed to take out the entire camp? 

She reminded herself that the goddesses just wanted the threat “eliminated” … whatever that meant. It was their very existence and mindset that threatened the goddesses, so how was she supposed to eliminate that without killing all of them?

Yeah, this was totally testing skill and perseverance

Maybe if she got them to leave, it would be enough that the goddesses would let her pass this stupid test. She could burn down the tents. Or she could destroy their food supply so that they would be forced to retreat. 

Either that, or they’d attack right away. 

It’s a risk you’re going to have to take, she decided. It was that or commit a mass murder, and Emmeline’s guilt was already heavy enough. 

She perched on a large boulder overlooking the camp, scanning for anything that might be of use. If only she had Forrest with her, to fight his way in. Or maybe Newt, so he could quickly take everyone out with his soul magic. Heck, she would settle for Clara even if her magic wouldn’t be very helpful. 

Without her gifts, this would be near impossible. No invisibility, no strength, and no ability to heal. Goddesses, Emmeline was intimidated just thinking about it. 

Just take out the food supply. 

Emmeline continued her descent, trying to figure out the best way to sneak into the camp. Would she even be noticed? Maybe she could get to the food supply without being seen. 

Her heart was pounding a frantic rhythm in her chest as she reached the outer line of tents. Unsurprisingly, there were no guards or anything that looked like a trap. Either these people were overconfident in their abilities, or she was missing something. 

Emmeline tentatively took a step into the camp. No sirens wailed and no one came to kill her. She took it as a good sign. 

There were voices coming from deeper inside the camp and it occurred to Emmeline that maybe she should have figured out where the food was before she made any moves. A rookie mistake, really. As if she needed another reason why she shouldn’t do this alone. 

Logically, where would they keep any food? 

Probably close to wherever they ate … which meant it was most likely near the center of the camp where everyone currently was. 

It was too late to change her mind, so Emmeline crept forward. She wished she had more than a sword and Wiley’s skill with weapons. It didn’t feel like nearly enough. 

She followed the sound of voices, her breathing growing shallower with every step. Fear coursed through her veins, accompanied by an odd sort of an excitement. Every tiny noise sent her mind into a panic. 

The voices were louder now and Emmeline could hear raucous laughter as well. 

She continued forward, lifting each tent flap to see what was inside. Empty beds, a table covered in rolls of parchment, and the occasional empty one - but no food supply. She was beginning to think these people just didn’t eat. 

Emmeline was about to slip around the corner of a particularly large tent when her heart skipped a beat. She was frozen in space, unable to move except for a slight hovering as her body lifted off the ground. 

Goddesses, they had put spells on the tents and now she’d fallen right into their trap. 

Any attempt she made to move shot bolts of fiery pain through her limbs. It burned bright inside of her and eventually she was forced to give up. 

There were footsteps in the distance. Excited whispers.

Emmeline choked back a scream. The people were going to find her, suspended in midair and they were going to deliver her to Baelle. If they didn’t kill her first. 

She could hear the frantic voices growing closer and then they stopped abruptly. 

There was a small pinch in her arm and Emmeline dropped to the ground. At first, she thought she could move but then she realized that the paralyzing effects of the spell hadn’t worn off, instead they’d been increased so that her muscles seized and locked. It was oddly similar to the poison slavers used. 

Goddesses,” breathed a low voice. “Look at what we’ve found.” 

Silhouettes of people entered her vision, obscured by her lowering eyelashes as her body began to drift off slightly. She forced herself to stay awake, each second more agonizing than the last as fear overpowered all of her other emotions. 

Someone was stroking her cheek and there wasn’t anything she could do about it. 

“It’s the one her Majesty is after, isn’t it?” 

“Of course it’s her. Look at the eyes! Emerald green, just like she described them.” 

“And look, she’s a Reader, too!” 

Emmeline was cursing internally, praying to the goddesses that they would help her out even if it was her test. They won’t kill me, Balle probably wants the honor. 

Someone was whispering in her ear now. “I know you can hear me, Echo. I’m going to remove the poison so you can move, but if you run or attack, we will kill you. Understand?” The voice paused and then gave a dry chuckle. “I’ll assume your answer is yes.” 

She was concerned that they knew her stage name, but maybe that was what Baelle was telling people now. 

There was a sharp prick in her arm and feeling flooded her again. Emmeine tensed, prepared to make a break for it. Sure, the goddesses would be disappointed but maybe they would understand that this was her life on the line… 

It’s more likely they won’t, she reminded herself. The goddesses expected her to succeed. 

Which meant that she needed to stay here until she could find a way to escape and also take out the camp. 

She forced herself to stay still as a man hoisted her to her feet. His touch was anything but gentle as he gripped her arms hard enough to bruise. Emmeline found herself watching the people who had gathered, seeking supporters amidst the growing crowd and finding no one. 

“I’ll alert her Majesty,” someone decided, before taking off into the camp. 

The man holding Emmeline began looping rope around her wrists, tying a tight knot attached to a leash. He jerked it backwards, causing Emmeline to stumble into him and then he shoved her to the ground. She fell to her knees, fighting back a scream. 

“Her Majesty just wants her alive,” snarled a woman standing nearby. “Doesn’t mean we can’t mark her up.” 

What did I ever do to you? Why do you all hate me so much? 

The woman strode forward and knelt so that she was at eye level with Emmeline. Her long fingers grabbed Emmeline’s chin, forcing her to look. 

“This is for what you did to my children,” the woman spat. The punch hit Emmeline square in the jaw and the metallic taste of blood filled her mouth. Fiery fear churned in her gut but Emmeline forced it away. “And this is for me!” A hit to the stomach this time. Emmeline doubled over, the breath stolen from her lungs. 

Satisfied, the woman got up and walked away, but by now there was a queue of people behind her, each one with some unknown grudge against Emmeline. 

The blows fell like rain and Emmeline’s whole face was swelling. She curled herself into a ball to the best of her ability, but every time she tried to slip away, the man holding her leash yanked her back. Emmeline was reminded of the time Zoro had almost sold her to the king and queen of the Green Kingdom. He’d poisoned her to make her seem useless, but King Gray had seen right through it and tried to steal Emmeline. She recalled the shackles that had held her back as the king kicked her. A scream rose in her throat, and this time Emmeline couldn’t stop it. 

The crowd cheered, spurred by her pain. Blood trickled from her nose and mouth, painting the dirt beneath her scarlet. Goddesses, couldn’t Baelle get here already? 

She had spoken too soon, though, because a moment later, two figures appeared near the largest tent. One was the person who had slipped off to find Baelle, and the other was a ghostly figure of a goddess with dark hair. She grinned when she saw Emmeline, and the crowd made a path for her. 

“Oh, Emmeline, I thought you were smarter than this,” Baelle sighed as she approached. 

It’s not her. It was just a vision - an illusion - from Baelle’s witchcraft. The goddess wasn’t actually here, she was back at the castle. 

Emmeline refused to respond or look away, suddenly glad her shaking fingers were hidden behind her back. The drugs were still in her system, dulling her mind, so she was determined not to say anything lest it expose her current weakness. 

“Where are her friends?” Baelle asked the other people, her gaze narrowing. 

The man behind Emmeline answered, “She came alone. We found her after she tripped our burglar alarm.” 

Baelle’s gaze shot back to Emmeline like an arrow, her trademark grin forming on her face. “All alone, huh? I don’t believe it for a second. Where are your friends, Em? Are they hiding nearby, plotting my demise through a clever trap?” She paused, as if she was expecting a response, but none came. Her attention flashed to Emmeline again. “You’ve looked better,” she commented, taking in the bruises and cuts that marked Emmeline’s skin. 

“I’ve also looked worse,” Emmeline slurred. “What’s your point?” So much for not talking. 

Mirth flickered in Baelle’s eyes. “I’ve missed our little chats.” 

“Just kill me and get it over with. We both know that’s what you're here for.” 

Baelle raised an eyebrow. “Oh? But what if I’m not?” She took a step closer, hands on her hips. “Why are you here, Emmeline?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” 

“I would,” Baelle answered. There was a gasp from behind her, and the crowd parted again to reveal twelve kneeling people. Emmeline’s friends. They all had their heads bowed, each of their faces obscured with a blindfold and a gag. 

Her heartbeat tripled speed and the fire inside of her burned higher and hotter. 

It’s not real. Baelle is the goddess of illusions and witchcraft - she can make this up. 

But what if she wasn’t? Emmeline hadn’t seen her friends on the way off the mountain. Had they been captured earlier? 

Newt met her eyes, his expression terrified. Goddesses, they were going to die. 

“I’m going to make a deal with you, Emmeline, even though I know it’s futile. You can swear fealty to me - swear that you won’t hurt me and that you’ll support my reign - and I will let you live.” 

“You’re not the queen,” Emmeline stated, earning a slap to the face from her captor. 

“And you’re not in a position to argue,” Baelle snapped. “The heirs are dead and the throne belongs to me.” 

The heirs are dead. 

She hadn’t even waited until the coronation. Beckett and Brooke were both gone - and it probably hadn’t been peaceful. 

Emmeline’s eyes watered as she pictured Brooke, her frail body broken as she pleaded to be saved. She could see Beckett, fighting with everything he had even if it was useless. Maybe he had betrayed her, but Emmeline had hoped he could still see reason. 

“That’s right,” Baelle said, her voice high and mocking. “Cry all you want, it’s not going to change anything.” 

Emmeline cursed at her and Baelle snarled. Pain tore through Emmeline’s body, ripping and shredding inside of her. She couldn’t help the scream that escaped her lips, couldn’t stop the tears that poured from her when it finally stopped. 

It’s not real. 

“Swear fealty to me, and they all live,” Baelle demanded. “Promise you won’t hurt me and I’ll let all of your friends go.” 

“And me?” 

“We both know that your death is necessary. But just think, all of your friends will be alive. I’ll even let your golden-haired prince live.” She shot Newt a disgusted look. “I liked him better in my prison, but you can’t have everything I suppose.” 

Beckett and Brooke were dead. Emmeline was about to be killed. Baelle was going to kill all of her friends if she didn’t say yes. 

It’s not real. 

Beckett’s cold, lifeless stare sparked flames in her chest. 

It’s not real. 

She saw her own death and she’d felt it before, and the fear stoked the fire. 

It’s not real. 

Emmeline met Newt’s eyes again, and she saw the fear and she pretended that it was real and she kindled the fire. 

A burst of white light exploded from Emmeline, her ropes and her captor disintegrating into a pile of dust. The people screamed in terror and pain as the pure flames of hundreds of years of rage burned through them. Emmeline’s friends screamed too and she knew that Baelle’s false versions of them were dying. 

She saw Baelle’s illusion rippled, the goddess looking straight at her, terrified. Emmeline hadn’t realized she’d been screaming until her throat grew raw and her voice became hoarse. Baelle’s illusion caught fire and vanished abruptly. 

The flames faded away, leaving only the acrid stench of smoke behind. 

Emmeline felt empty and hollow. She’d used the gift the goddesses had given Estella to defeat Baelle, and based on the feeling inside of her, she’d used all of it. On an illusion. 

Her limbs felt weak as she forced herself to stand, taking in the slaughter she’d committed. Goddesses. She wanted to collapse again, to bury her head in her arms and sob for what she’d done. Those people were right to hate her. 

Tears streaked down her ash covered face as she climbed the mountain once again, a souvenir in tow. It was not lost on her the irony of the situation. To become a goddess, she had to embrace cruelty and indifference. She had to murder several dozen people, had to witness her friends die at her own hands. 

So when she entered the throne room of the goddesses, she endured all their stares. She left a trail of ash and soot behind her. And then she tossed the burnt remains of her captor’s head to the ground, watching it roll and leave a path of blood. 

“I hope you’re happy,” she spat. “Because next time, there will be divine blood spilt on your floor.”

© 2022 A.L.

Author's Note

Sorry this chapter took a little longer to come out - I was a bit busy with midterms and other classwork. I also ran into a few issues with writer's block and the realization that at this point I should've planned the end of my story. Let me know what you think of the emotions because that's one thing I really struggle to write.

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Added on January 15, 2022
Last Updated on January 15, 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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