The Emerald-Opal Heir - 33

The Emerald-Opal Heir - 33

A Chapter by A.L.
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The Knight

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As the silver palace loomed overhead and Forrest was convinced he was going to die. 

Not that he didn’t have faith in his plan - he had spent three sleepless nights fixing every tiny mistake and creating contingency after contingency. No, it was going to work. He just wasn’t sure if he could handle the stress. 

Emmeline nudged his side, her face paler than normal and her expression trying to mask her fear. Forrest offered a fake, reassuring smile. 

They were waiting right outside the city borders, preparing to split up for what could be the final time. Forrest knew that the easiest way to get caught would be entering the palace all at once, since thirteen random people sticking together was already suspicious enough. It had taken nearly their entire stay in the realm of the goddesses to finish the costumes they’d be donning for the coronation. 

“The nobility are being escorted in,” Calli called from the top of the wall that surrounded Argenti. Beside her sat Clara with a spyglass pointed towards the castle. Both were wearing nondescript shirts and pants in shades of black. “Bethany and Morgan, that’s your cue.” 

Forrest watched Bethany suck in a breath and Morgan clench his fists. They were both wearing deep shades of jade, showing support for the Green Kingdom that they were pretending to be coming from. 

“We’ll be fine,” Morgan said, assuring himself more than anyone else. 

They wouldn’t be allowed to take weapons with them, but Morgan had sewn seeds into the buttons of his jacket in case they were under attack, and Bethany had recovered enough to use her Blessing. 

“Be safe,” Emmeline wished them. “This isn’t goodbye.” 

“Of course not,” Bethany agreed, but they began the process of farewells anyway. Forrest shook Morgan’s hand, noting how sweaty it was. And for good reason, too. 

Then Bethany wrapped him in a quick hug, startling him, and Forrest sensed that this was her unspoken reminder that they weren’t going to do anything reckless. He blinked back his fear and choked back a goodbye. Saying goodbye made this seem real, and Forrest was still in denial.

“Good luck, everyone,” Morgan said, attempting a nervous smile as he tugged on Bethany’s arm. “We should hurry up before we’re late.” 

Forrest watched the two of them disappear, unable to decipher the mixture of emotions stirring in his gut. His mind was whirling with the possibilities that he hadn’t thought through. Would Morgan and Bethany be barred from entering if they were late? Would their disguises hold?

“Next group,” Clara called. “Priests and priestesses.” 

Emmeline, Newt, and Calli began shuffling forward, all three of them dressed in white robes and veils. They were each allowed to carry a ceremonial dagger, which Finn had personally imbued with whatever magical properties he somehow mastered. Still, they’d taken extra precautions. Calli would use a spell on Emmeline and Newt to make them switch identities with Margo and Niko, who would be roaming the castle along with Clara. 

“Last chance to back out,” Niko added with a grin. 

“I think we’re already past that point,” Newt sighed, his eyes rimmed with dark circles. ”Besides, don’t you have something else to do?”

Niko crossed his arms. “For once, the answer is no.”

“Niko-” Emmeline warned. It was unnerving to see her voice coming from Margo’s mouth. 

He rolled his eyes in response and Forrest began to regret giving a thief with the maturity of a toddler so much responsibility. Niko was supposed to be the distraction, since he looked like Newt right now. Their hope was that anyone on Baelle’s team would follow Niko instead of looking for the real Newt. 

“We’ll be heading out now,” Calli said, leaping down from the wall but leaving her spyglass with Clara. 

Forrest handed her a veil and dagger. “You remember what to do if you get called upon?” 

Calli rolled her eyes. “I don’t think I could forget it if I wanted to. You’ve been  reminding us nonstop since before we left Maconia.” Forrest didn’t respond, waiting to see if she could repeat their backup plan. “If Baelle calls on Emmeline or Newt, I’ll pretend I was mistaken in thinking she was pointing at me. I will proceed to the throne and recite the blessing and lead the audience through the prayers. Believe me, Forrest, I’ve committed this to memory.” 

Forrest nodded, reassuring himself that this was going to work out. 

They wished each other good luck, Emmeline taking slightly longer in her hug with Forrest as she whispered, “Don’t forget.” He nodded as subtly as he could, voice caught in his throat. 

Meanwhile, tears were streaming down Margo’s face as she pressed a kiss to Calli’s lips. 

Forrest felt himself smile despite the circumstances. Bethany had been right about one thing, at least. 

Next was Delilah, Finn, and Rae’s turn to leave. They would be going through the same doors as all the other villagers, which meant they might face more scrutiny but there wouldn’t be a guest list. Forrest knew that it was probably the safest of the groups, which was why Delilah was pretending to be Finn and Rae’s mother. 

Soon, only Clara, Niko, Margo, Forrest, and Gwen were left. 

“The soldiers are entering now,” Clara informed them as she slid off the top of the wall, pocketing the spyglass. 

“That’s us,” Forrest breathed, shooting a look towards Gwen. 

“Relax, Forrest,” Clara mumbled as she wrapped him in a hug. “It’s all going to work out, okay? You’ve accounted for literally everything that could possibly happen and then some.” 

“I know, I just don’t want another-”

“Another Coral,” Clara finished. Then she blushed and whispered, “Farewell, until we meet again.” 

Goddesses, how long had it been since he’d said these words? 

Gwen continued the next part. “In life or death.” 

“The miles keeping us apart,” Forrest added, the words tasting bittersweet on his tongue, like tears and kisses in one. 

The three of them finished together. “Will never break the bond that keeps us close.” 

Forrest allowed himself to hug Clara back, memorizing the color of her hair and the freckles that dotted her nose. She was the little sister he’d never had, he realized. The family that didn’t leave him. 

Gwen also hugged Clara, albeit for a lot longer than Forrest had. Then Forrest and Gwen began their walk to the entrance of the palace. 

Forrest was glad for the thick fabric of his soldier’s uniform, as the sun hid behind the clouds and a bitter breeze raced through the narrow streets of the city. His fingers were glued to the hilt of his sword and he kept reminding himself that he was overprepared. Five daggers were hidden throughout his uniform, including one strapped across his chest that Finn had made especially for him. The hilt was shaped like one of those swirling seashells and Coral’s name was engraved at the base of the blade. 

Gwen looked equally uncomfortable, even though this was not her first mission. Forrest wondered if she was always this nervous and he hadn’t noticed, or if this was the largest scale mission she’d ever been a part of. 

“Alright, the checkpoint is just ahead,” he said under his breath. 

“I can see it for myself, thank you,” Gwen responded bitterly. “Are you sure Emmeline did her job?” 

“I watched her do it myself,” Forrest answered, not managing to hide the awe in his voice. “She’s the goddess of stories, Gwen. She can manipulate words. I don’t doubt her ability.” 

“We’ll see about that,” Gwen said, voice thick with tension as they stepped into the end of the line of soldiers waiting to enter the chapel, where the coronation would take place. Forrest noted with great satisfaction that the guards around him also seemed to be nervous. 

His muscles were stiff and tense as they shuffled forward. Worries pounded against the walls of his mind like rain in a hurricane. He was so caught up in his own thoughts he didn’t realize they’d reached the point of admittance until the soldiers with the list of names were staring at him. 

“Sir?” the one on the left began. He didn’t look much older than Forrest. “We asked what your name was.” 

Forrest stumbled over the name he’d recited hundreds of times now. “Brooks Gould.” 

The soldier on the right furrowed his brows, as if trying to place Forrest’s face. Forrest ignored him, holding his breath and praying no one would recognize him. Calli didn't have enough magic for another disguise, so Forrest had hoped he would get by without it. 

“Huh,” the first guard said, a look of genuine shock on his face. “I haven’t seen you around before, but your name is on the list.” 

Forrest nodded his thanks, trying not to show his relief on his face. He stepped forward, about to enter the sanctuary when the second guard reached out a hand, grabbing Forrest’s arm and holding him back. 

“You seem familiar,” the soldier remarked. “And not in a good way.” 

“Really?” Forrest hated that his voice wavered slightly. “I don’t think we’ve met before. I’m Brooks-” 

“I worked with a Brooks once,” the soldier said. Forrest glanced at the man, finding wrinkles in his forehead and years of wisdom in his eyes. “He was quite a peculiar man, and he had a son. He always said he hoped his son would take after him, and he once joked that his son looked exactly like him.”

Forrest gave a nervous chuckle, silently cursing his father. “That’s so weird. Does he still work here?” 

“He hasn’t for a very long time,” the soldier answered, lapsing into silence. 

Forrest realized he was holding up the line, and that behind him, Gwen was offering him anxious looks. Everyone was staring now and anxiety prickled in Forrest’s limbs. 

“I think I’ll just be going now-”

The man’s grip tightened and Forrest winced as he felt bruises blossom on his skin. “A few months ago, there were rumors that Brooks’s son had arrived in Argenti, but not as a soldier, rather, as a prisoner. Did you know that I was on guard duty down in the dungeons when they tortured that boy?”

Alarm bells rang in Forrest’s mind and he was internally screaming at the top of his lungs. Goddesses, in all of his planning, he hadn’t accounted for someone recognizing him. 

Before he could react, the man’s other fist connected with Forrest’s face. The man’s hand held him in place so he couldn’t stumble backwards, but he felt blood drip down his face. It coated his lips with an all-too-familiar coppery tang. 

The man narrowed his eyes at Forrest. “Yes, with the blood you’re the spitting image of that boy, Forrest. Too much of a coincidence that you’re using your dad’s name.” 

“Wait-”

But the man was already calling for help. “Hey, someone get over here! This boy needs to be escorted to the holding cells until after the coronation is over.” 

Forrest shot a look over his shoulder at Gwen. Bitter panic slid down his throat, cold and heavy in his stomach. This was not the plan. 

Go, she mouthed, not very subtly. The guard seemed to be too busy fitting shackles on Forrest’s wrists to notice. The cold metal bit into the still-healing burns on his wrists and Forrest choked on a cry of pain as the man wrenched him forward. 

“If he’s anything like Brook’s told me, I want him under max security at all times,” the soldier ordered, his face stern. Then his expression darkened and Forrest sensed the rising danger. “Better yet, interrogate him. Her Majesty said something like this might occur. Find out if the coronation needs to be postponed. You are dismissed.”

Two soldiers - one female and one male - stepped forward to escort Forrest to the holding cells. Their faces were masks of stone as they dragged him forward and Forrest had no choice but to oblige. 

He could only hope Gwen passed through the checkpoint now. 

A dark thought crossed his mind as he thought of Emmeline. She needed him to tell Newt to save her. And if Forrest wasn’t there…

He waited until they’d entered a side door of the castle, far away from the chapel, before digging his heels into the ground. The guards shared a bored look and the girl tugged harder on his chains. Forrest refused to move. 

The male guard slid closer, grumbling something under his breath before addressing Forrest. “Your cooperation will result in a more tolerant interrogation, so I suggest you get a move on.” 

Forrest stared the man straight in the eyes and didn’t move. 

The man shrugged, sharing a look with the woman, before shouldering Forrest hard enough to make him lose balance. Taking advantage of Forrest’s momentary weakness, the man threw Forrest against the wall, holding him there by his neck. 

Spots bloomed in Forrest’s vision as the man cut off his air. “Grab his weapons, Poppy.” 

The girl - Poppy - took way too long searching Forrest for weapons. The man had relaxed his grip enough that Forrest could breathe, but he was still in an uncomfortable position. Poppy slid his sword out of its sheath and let it clatter to the floor. She ran her hands along his arms and chest, finding the daggers hidden beneath his clothes. When she found the seashell knife from Finn, she let out a low whistle and tucked it away. Forrest growled and gave him a flirtatious smile. 

“I think that’s everything, Erik,” Poppy said with a smile as she pulled the last of Forrest’s daggers out of his boot. She had indeed recovered all of his hidden weapons, leaving him feeling sick to his stomach. 

Erik dropped his grasp back to Forrest’s chains, preparing to move him again. 

This is your last chance to escape before Baelle has you for good, he reminded himself, the steel of determination bringing him strength as adrenaline flooded his veins. 

He jerked his shackles upwards, looping them around Erik’s neck. The man choked, struggling under Forrest’s grip. He tightened the loop of the shackles, Erik clawing at his arms. Forrest fought against his morals. If this man didn’t die, then surely Forrest would. 

He felt a sharp prick in his neck and his grip on Erik loosened. The man slid to the ground, convulsing in a heap as Forrest’s shackled hands went to the point of the pain. He felt something there and he tore it out of his skin, finding a feathered dart. 

His vision swam and he dropped to the ground beside Erik, heaving up the contents of his stomach while Poppy laughed maniacally from further down the hallway. 

Poison? Was it lethal? What were the effects? Was it lethal? Had he already said that? 

Forrest cursed aloud and was rewarded with a kick to the ribs. His breath seized in his lungs as Poppy lifted him to his feet by his shirt collar. She left her fellow soldier in the corridors as she dragged Forrest to the holding cells. 

He took pride in vomiting on her not once, but twice, even if he was punished with a punch to the gut both times. It only made his stomach churn more. 

Forrest barely took notice as Poppy tossed him behind bars and swiftly locked the doors with herself inside too. He was too out of it to put up much fight as she strapped him into a chair. Memories surfaced in the back of his mind, coated with crimson stains from the last time he’d been in a prison cell. 

He forced himself to focus on reality as Poppy popped open a kit of potions on the table in the corner of the cell. The colors blurred in his drugged mind and he was unable to read any of the labels. 

“Which one do you want to try first?” Poppy asked when she caught him looking. 

Forrest wisely kept his mouth shut as pounding started behind his temple. The sharp pain made it incredibly difficult to stay rational. “What does the blue one do?”

She smiled at him, a mixture between coy and malicious. “It’ll burn you up from the inside out, sweetie.” She said it in a way that made Forrest kind of want to drink it just to see if she was telling the truth. He shook the thought away. 

Poppy glanced at the bottles, and then glanced at Forrest again. Her expression hardened into one of resolve and she lifted a vial filled with a dark purple liquid. 

“Do you want to know what this one does?”

“Sure.” 

Poppy grinned at him and Forrest hated how it dripped down her lips like wet paint. “You’re hilarious. This potion puts you in a nice little nap until the scryer gets here. Does that sound nice? You look very tired.” 

Forrest felt himself nod exuberantly and Poppy shook her head with pity. 

Goddesses, what was he doing? He needed to be awake and he needed to get to Newt and tell him that Emmeline had to be rescued and- 

Poppy perched on the wooden stool in front of him, popping the lid off the vial. 

She pressed it to his lips and Forrest swallowed the contents of the bottle without a moment of hesitation. It burned as it slid down his throat and it threw his stomach into turmoil. Immediately, he lurched forward against the straps on the chair and Poppy stood, taking a cautious step back.
“Oh no, I forgot to mention the side effects!” 

Forrest nearly vomited again, but he was too busy trying to suck in desperately needed breaths. His mind felt as though an iron band was tightening around it, squeezing his thoughts from his mind-

“It might be a little uncomfortable,” Poppy whispered, her voice far away and close at the same time. “But then again, you are a prisoner.”

He tried to speak but his tongue was useless and he ended up gasping for air instead. The noose on his mind was growing tighter by the second and Forrest could feel unconsciousness lurking in the back of his mind, a predator waiting to pounce. 

“I would say sweet dreams, but I’m afraid that this potion prevents that,” Poppy continued. “Have fun with the waking nightmares!” 

Forrest felt his limbs weaken and the last thing he managed to think before darkness claimed him was of Emmeline. 

She’d made a grave mistake trusting Forrest. 

As it turned out, the only thing he was capable of was killing the people he cared about.



© 2022 A.L.


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Added on January 23, 2022
Last Updated on January 23, 2022
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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Fatefall - 1 Fatefall - 1

A Chapter by A.L.