The Emerald-Opal Heir - 36

The Emerald-Opal Heir - 36

A Chapter by A.L.

The Phoenix


The last thing Clara expected to find on her search for Beckett’s corpse was a girl in a coma. 

Her sole mission for the day was to scour the castle, find Beckett - either dead or nearly there - and retrieve him. She’d planned to possibly even put Beckett out of his misery if she could work up the courage to do so. Margo would help people escape, Niko would lead a chase, and Clara would find Beckett. That was the plan. 

She was checking her eighth room when she discovered a girl asleep in a bed. Her strawberry blonde hair was fanned around her and her skin was pale. 

Clara instantly recognized her as the girl Beckett had been with at the ball and hatred turned her stomach into a boiling mess. She felt the cold press of her daggers at her sides, a reminder that this girl was at her mercy. Would anyone even notice in the chaos of the coronation? 

Before Clara could reach a decision, there was a soft click as the doorknob turned. She cursed under her breath and darted to the bookshelves lining the far walls, scaling them in a few seconds so she could balance precariously at the top. 

The door flew open less than a moment later and Clara sucked in a breath as she realized the intruder was none other than Beckett. 

Her first thought: he’s alive? 

Then: Why isn’t he at the coronation? 

Followed quickly by: If something happened, I’m going to kill him myself. 

She wasn’t sure what she was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t Beckett to throw himself onto the bed. His sobs echoed throughout the room, strangling Clara’s heart. He whispered something Clara couldn’t make out as he curled up beside the girl on the bed. And he cried. 

Clara bit her lip, hesitant to interrupt. Was Beckett on their side? It was possible that this melancholy was because Emmeline had succeeded in killing Baelle, but she doubted Beckett would be this upset over that. Should she attack him, just in case? Ask what was wrong? Wrap him in a hug? Conflicting emotions warred in her heart and she found herself torn between helping and harming him. 

Climb back down, and if he makes a move to attack, you can defend yourself, her mind argued, a logical enough answer. 

She made her way back down the bookshelves, Beckett not even glancing in her direction. Was he actually asleep? Or was he pretending not to acknowledge her presence so he could sabotage her? 

“Beckett?” The name slid from her mouth before she could stop it. No response. She took a hesitant step closer, and repeated herself a little louder. “Beckett?” 

She could just barely see Beckett moving around until his blonde head peered up at her. 

His face was a mess of tears, his eyes so red and puffy that Clara wondered how he could even see. There was a bright red line on his neck, as though someone had tried to slit his throat and failed. His gaze caught on her and shock overwhelmed his features. 

“Clara?” Beckett’s voice was broken and frail.

All of her caution deserted her at that moment. Her promise to kill him was long forgotten and all she wanted to do was press him into a tight hug and not let go. 

Light flickered to life around her face, courtesy of Beckett’s magic. It wrapped around her, pulling her closer to him until she was perched beside him on the bed, the dying girl behind them still breathing shallowly. 

“Your eyes,” Beckett breathed and Clara felt a blush rise to her cheeks. “Is that … The assassins said they killed you.” 

“Assassins?” Clara asked, her own breath catching in her throat. 

Beckett nodded once and there was an unfamiliar hesitance in his voice that sounded oddly like fear. “Baelle hired them as a means to scare me, but it’s a long story. They said they killed you, though.”

She shook her head. How could this possibly feel so awkward and so natural at the same time? 

“I’m alive, Beckett.” Her fingers hesitantly strayed to his, as if meant to reassure him. 

He exhaled shakily and Clara sensed that he was on the verge of breaking down and fear tingled at the base of her spine. 

“Baelle… she’s gone,” he breathed, and there was no remorse in his voice. 

Clara blinked. “She’s dead? Emmeline succeeded in killing her?” Goddesses, it was finally over. A low laugh escaped her lips. 

Beckett nodded. “Yes, but …” He paused as if struggling for the correct words. “Emmeline managed to kill Baelle, but she had to sacrifice herself in the process. Emmeline is dead.” 

No. They’d been through the plan so many times, and there was nothing in about Emmeline dying. 

“Impossible,” Clara protested, her voice high and fluttery. “Forrest wouldn’t have let that happen. He had this whole thing planned out, you see? We had distractions and we had backup plans and-” Her voice broke off abruptly and Clara buried her head in her hands. 

“Forrest wasn’t there,” Beckett said. “And judging by Newt’s reaction, I doubt that the … dying was part of the plan.” 

Clara cursed aloud. Newt. Sorrow was already filling her stomach with acid and she’d couldn’t even begin to imagine what Newt was going through. She wanted to yell at Beckett for leaving Newt alone, but she knew that the others would be there with him. Unless Baelle killed them too. 

She tried to speak but her lips refused to move. Beckett slid closer so that he could wrap her in a loose hug, and Clara let herself fall into his embrace. Her whole body shook with silent tears, the despair tangible as it twisted in her gut. 

“How?” she finally managed to ask, her voice thick with emotion. 

“Baelle threatened to kill Newt,” Beckett answered, his tone empty as though he was trying to pretend he was talking about something. Clara didn’t need elaboration, and Beckett seemed to sense it. 

“Is anyone else dead?” 

Beckett was hesitant to respond. “I … I don’t know for sure, but when I fled, a boy and a girl were severely injured. They probably … they’re probably gone,” he choked out at last. 

A boy and girl? That could be anyone. 

Please not Finn, Clara pleaded to the goddesses, aware of her selfishness. She didn’t really want anyone to be dead, but would it be wrong if she preferred one death over another? 

“Clara,” Beckett started, but she cut him off. 

Numbness was sinking over her like a veil, burying her grief, her fear, and her anger. Her only thoughts were harsh and cold. “We can trade stories later.” You can explain how exactly Emmeline died and what you did in your stay here and why you left me. She gently pulled out of his arms, futilely wiping at her eyes. “Baelle is really dead?” 

His expression was one of sincerity, though guilt tinged his voice. “I was the one to deliver the killing blow, so trust me when I say that she is no longer a threat.” 

Clara didn’t realize how much she needed to hear those words. It didn’t come with a feeling of happiness or satisfaction like she’d expected, but rather a sense of fulfillment as though she could finally let go. 

“So…” she whispered. “What now?” 

Beckett offered a small smile and Clara was struck by how much older he looked. They’d been apart for less than a month, and yet he seemed like another person. “I … I don’t know.” 

“You’re the king now.” 

He gave a shrug, but Clara could see him beaming with pride. “Now you have to obey my commands.” 

“Oh, really?” 

“For sure, so tell me you’ve missed me.” 

Clara rolled her eyes. “I did miss you - even when I thought you wanted me dead, though not as much then.” 

Beckett grinned a little wider. “Now slap yourself.” 

Clara punched him in the arm and Beckett chuckled.”I suppose I deserved that, didn’t I?” 

“There’s more where that came from,” Clara promised him. “I still have to get you back for leaving me some nice scars on my wrists.” 

She began to roll up her sleeve so she could show him the pale lines on her skin. His fingers grazed her arm as he pushed her sleeve back further so that the king’s brand was visible. Clara felt a warm blush rise to her cheeks. “You weren’t supposed to know about that.” 

He didn’t respond, engrossed in tracing the letters with a delicate touch. “Property of the king,” he read, his voice dripping with disgust. “Did Baelle do this to you?” 

Clara shook her head, trying to tug her sleeve back down. “The assassins did.” 

Beckett flinched. “I’m … I’m sorry, Clara.” 

“It’s not your fault, Beck,” she consoled him. “I don’t blame you, nor do I care all that much. The brand means nothing to me.” It normally designated someone as one of the king’s prostitutes or a prisoner that the king wanted to kill personally, but at that moment, Clara couldn’t care less. The world was in pieces so why were they focusing on something so infinitesimal?

Because it made it easier to forget everything else.

“You’ll never be able to get a job or a spouse or-”

“Who said anything about any of that,” Clara countered with a wry smile. Beckett didn’t seem satisfied, so she draped her hand over his. “It’ll be okay, Beck. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” 

Beckett nodded once, and when he spoke, his voice was solemn. “If … if you’re so willing to forgive me, do you … do you think you could help me with something?” 

“Depends,” Clara said, suspicion hanging heavy in the back of her mind. 

Beckett shot a look back at the girl on the bed. “Alys is sick,” he said simply. “And she needs a healer.” 

“She’s sick?” Clara repeated. “Beckett, she’s nearly dead. There’s not much I can do to fix that.” 

“Try,” he pleaded, his eyes brimming with tears. “Even if it doesn’t work…” 

It wasn’t that Clara didn’t think it wouldn’t work. She was sure that her Blessing would be able to heal Alys. Her hesitance dealt more with the fact that she didn’t want to. 

That after so many weeks of being alone, she wanted to keep Beckett to herself. 

You’re being ridiculous, she told herself. Just because Beckett wanted Alys to live didn’t mean anything, did it? It was common courtesy, or maybe even friendship. 

He wouldn’t know the difference if you let her die and pretended to fail, the darkness in her heart hissed. Clara tried to push the thought away, but it dangled in front of her, a true temptation. 

She thought of Titus’s mother, who was certainly dead by now. A wave of remorse hit Clara like a punch to the gut. Maybe the woman had sold her son away, but did she deserve the painful death that Clara had given her? Had Clara been so blinded by emotion that she’d turned away from the very mercy that made her human? 

“I’ll do it,” she finally decided, and her heart warmed at the hope that soared in Beckett’s eyes. 

She turned so that she could see Alys in full. 

The girl was definitely dancing the lines between life and death, her prim face coated in a sheen of sweat and her delicate features framed by a limp curtain of golden-red waves. 

Clara tried not to pay attention to the way that Beckett grasped Alys’s hand, or the way his gaze focused on the girl’s lips. Stop being jealous, she reminded herself. She had to hope this bitterness would fade in time. 

She laid her fingers across Alys’s temples, feeling a light pulse beat beneath her touch. Her Blessing hovered under her skin, prickling at her fingertips with golden sparks that eagerly leapt onto Alys. 

Magic tugged at her gut, pulling harder than normal as though Alys needed more healing than Clara was able to give. Had she been wrong in assuming that she could heal the girl? Maybe she should stop before the damage to her Blessing was irreversible … 

Clara glanced at Beckett, her heart stalling as she caught the hope in his expression. He was counting on her to save his friend. 

She turned her attention back to the healing, forcing her Blessing to give more of itself. The sensation worsened and Clara gritted her teeth against the pain. The last time she’d felt this much tension while healing was when Gwen had tried to get her to revive a dead body. Was Alys already dead? 

Clara could feel her Blessing straining, as though this was too much. 

C’mon, she begged. You already told Beckett you would do this. Even if a part of her did want to pretend she’d failed, she knew it wouldn’t benefit her in the way she hoped. Beckett wouldn’t turn to her just because Alys was gone. 

Maybe the problem was this jealousy, this hatred for a girl she didn’t know. Healing was supposed to be out of kindness, not because one wanted to be praised as a hero. 

So while Clara knew she’d probably always come second to Alys in Beckett’s life, she was willing to accept this if it meant saving someone who never deserved to fall ill in the first place. Healing was forgiveness and new beginnings and Clara would give Alys both of these things. 

Her Blessing seemed to be invigorated by this change in thought, and the subtle pain in her heart wasn’t from the healing but from the letting go. 

Alys gasped to life on the bed and Clara withdrew her fingers, backing away as Beckett leaned into Alys and wrapped her in a hug. She felt like an intruder in this precious moment, always the outsider and always the extra wheel. 

Beckett whispered something and Alys choked out a giggle, so ladylike, the epitome of noble blood.

Be happy for him, Clara chastised herself, biting back tears. She turned towards the door, trying to escape the air that was thick with tears when someone called her name. “Clara?”

She paused, her hand hovering over the doorknob, fingers trembling. 

“Where are you going?” 

She risked a glance over her shoulder and saw Beckett helping Alys to her feet. The girl looked like a newborn fawn, her legs shaking as she struggled to stay upright. It was a wonder she was standing at all. 

“I … I need to go find Forrest and help the others,” Clara explained, saying the first reasonable excuse that came to mind. 

Beckett nodded solemnly. “Is there anything we can do to help?” 

“Head to the sanctuary. Newt and the others should still be there, and I’ll meet you there after I find Forrest.” Hopefully he’s still in one piece. 

“Alright,” Beckett agreed. He looped an arm around Alys’s waist and the two of them hobbled towards the doorway. Clara opened the door for them, and when Beckett passed, he leaned in closer. His eyes shone with unshed tears. “Thank you, Clara. I don’t know how I’ll ever repay you.” 

She smiled, masking the pain well as they hurried off in two different directions. 

Forrest was supposed to enter with the other soldiers, which meant if he’d been caught, they’d probably taken him to the dungeons for interrogation. Clara dug through her memories, searching for the path she’d taken to find Emmeline and Newt all those weeks ago. 

She rounded corner after corner as a fire burned in her chest. 

Her mind was a void of darkness and pain as she navigated the maze of passageways and stairwells until she plunged into the depths of the earth, wishing it would swallow her whole. 

The dungeons were suffocatingly familiar, but luckily Clara didn’t have to advance very far because Forrest’s cell was the first. 

He was slumped over in a metal chair, his wrists and ankles secured to the arms and legs of it. In the corner was a table covered in wicked looking vials and bottles, but otherwise the cell was empty. Clara easily picked the locks on the iron bars with a hair pin from her bun and slid into the cell. 

Forrest didn’t stir at her approach and Clara realized he was mumbling things under his breath and shifting in his sleep as if fighting off invisible nightmares. There was no sign of injury, which meant this state was probably induced by the potions on the table. 

I can’t lose anyone else. 

She dropped to her knees before Forrest and lifted her hands so they rested on his forearms. His skin was feverish under her death and his curls were soaked with sweat. His chest rose and fell with shallow breaths. 

Clara cursed under breath and set her Blessing to work. It didn’t seem at all weakened by Alys’s intense healing or hindered by the burns that Beckett had left her. Was she finally healing? 

Forrest’s pulse quickened as golden magic danced across his body. His eyelids fluttered once and then he was screaming at the top of his lungs. 

Clara stumbled backwards, her fear a rampant beast in her gut. 

Forrest’s shout grew hoarse and he finally lapsed into silence as he caught sight of Clara, shrinking away from him. Regret filled his eyes. 

“Are you-” she began, but he cut her off. 

“Let me out,” he begged. “Please.” His voice was filled with defeat and Clara felt her heart cracking even further as she began to pick the locks on the chair. Forrest wriggled uncomfortably as she worked and Clara wondered how long he’d been down here. 

Finally freed, Forrest leapt to his feet. “I need to get to the sanctuary,” he said urgently. 

Clara bowed her head, not willing to meet his eyes. “The coronation has already been interrupted, Forrest,” she said. Goddesses, how could she break the news? Forrest had already lost one person he cared about, and she knew he and Emmeline were close friends. “It’s over. Baelle is dead.” 

Forrest stiffened and for the first time, Clara sensed true fear in his words. “And Emmeline?” The question was soft and weak. 

“She’s dead,” Clara whispered. “Emmeline is gone.” 

Something inside Forrest broke and together, he and Clara slid to the floor. He wept openly, and Clara felt her own tears finally making an appearance. He shook in her arms and Clara couldn’t comfort him and then she was shaking too. 

Or was the whole castle shaking? 

Forrest cursed under his breath, pulling away from Clara and rubbing at his red eyes. She felt the shards of glass in her chest dull ever so slightly, still sharp enough to cut but nothing slicing her with every thought. 

“Does it ever get easier?” he asked. 

“You of all people should know it doesn’t,” Clara reminded him. “Which is why we need to go find Newt … before he burns the world down all around us.”

© 2022 A.L.

Author's Note

Boo emotions! My spell/grammar check isn't working again! Writing this chapter was more difficult than I expected, so I hope you enjoy all the angst that was not planned and shouldn't exist.

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Added on February 6, 2022
Last Updated on February 6, 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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