Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Previously- Joshua and Celeste left the burrow and were traveling to Juroosh.

  It took two more nights of travel to finally approach the crossover point from Korelia to just outside of Juroosh. In this time, Joshua and Celeste slept in the day and traveled onwards at night, rationing what supplies they had left and keeping their senses alert for Korelians. The air was gradually becoming less humid, and a natural breeze had picked up, pushing back some of the heat. The thunderstorms that had been chasing them— but not quite catching them— flashed behind their backs, urging them to travel on more quickly.

  As they got closer to the border, and odd smell began to waft to them on the breeze. It took only a moment to recognize the scent of smoke, but there was something else in the air that Celeste couldn’t quite recognize. Joshua glanced back and Celeste, seeing her by the light of the nearly full moon as it found its way from behind a cloud, and she nodded, telling him she smelled it also.

  They moved more quietly and cautiously after that. More signs of danger were soon made evident as they came to a path through the jungle with trampled greenery and hoof prints. A foreboding sensation filled Celeste at the sight of it. She knew this couldn’t be good. Fearfully now, they continued on through the trees parallel to the newly made path.

  Strangely, the animals in this part of the forest were nearly silent. Celeste only occasionally heard the hoot of an owl or a rustle in the trees. Goose bumps pricked her arms as Nutmeg’s ears flicked backwards and forwards. Celeste ran her fingers through his main, murmuring, “Shh, shh,” as much to comfort him as to comfort herself.

  Reaching a small clearing in the trees, Joshua pulled up and dismounted Amos. Celeste followed his lead, tying the horse to a tree.

  In a whisper which seemed fitting to the atmosphere, Joshua explained, “Something’s wrong. I’m going to go ahead and look. You wait here and be very careful.”

  “What? I don’t want to wait. Let me come.”

  Joshua raised his hands in a plaintive manner, “I know you want to come, but there’s no point taking unnecessary risks. I’ll be quick. Watch the horses.”

  Before she could say another word, Joshua lithely ran off into the darkness, fading like a ghost in the trees. Celeste let out a breath of annoyance and reluctantly sat near the horses.


  As Joshua moved through this familiar territory so close to Juroosh, he dreaded what he was going to see. A sense of death and darkness pervaded the landscape, and he almost didn’t want to know what had become of the town he had called home for the last three years.

  Thunder boomed nearby as he came to the slight rise that overlooked Juroosh below. The scent of smoke and fire was almost overpowering here. Joshua slowed as he neared the tree line, leaning on a tree to catch his breath. Dread once again clutched at his heart. Stubbornly pushing it aside, Joshua crouched down, and, on his elbows and knees, shuffled forward until just below the rise that would show him his town. He paused a moment, took a breath, and inched forward. The first thing he could see was a Korelian army camp with tents and horses tied in a row near Juroosh. Then the town came into view.

  Joshua’s heart stopped for a moment, and he shut his eyes in horror, trying to reconcile what he had just seen with the Juroosh he knew so well. Taking shaky breaths, he opened his eyes once more.

  Juroosh was decimated.

  Fires still burned, lighting the atrocity better. Everything was destroyed: houses, taverns, shops—not a building was left untouched. All were either already burned to the ground or were roaring with fire and slowly falling apart as Joshua watched. Lying in the streets, Joshua could see men, woman, and even children dead, defenseless and slaughtered. These people didn’t fight; they couldn’t; they didn’t know how to even if they had wanted to. So they had tried to run. But they were running from Korelians—Korelians with orders to kill—and so the people were shot or stabbed in the back by the Korelian monsters even now sleeping peacefully in their tents.

  As Joshua’s eyes scanned the town, up and down, looking for some little bit of movement anywhere, he audibly groaned in anguish, knowing this was his fault. His fault. He felt like he was falling from the world, his body spinning, his mind lost in grief. He dug his fingers into the grass, trying to keep from tumbling helplessly into his abyss of regret.

  The last emotion that washed over him was rage. Joshua clung to the hillside, less from grief now and more to keep himself from stupidly running down the hill to kill as many Korelians as he could. These monsters had slaughtered a peaceful town, and, in a circle of emotion, he thought again, how it was all because of him. These people were all murdered because of him. He buried his face in his dirty, shaking hands.

  If only he had never come here! If only he could have stayed in the castle for the past three years, the Korelians wouldn’t have known of Juroosh and wouldn’t have cared about it if they had. This slaughter was his fault. It was his fault! Joshua continued to shake with more sorrow and anger that he had ever felt before.

  Lightening flashed, and, at last, the rain caught up with Joshua. With one drop then two, the sky let loose the floodgates and wept for Juroosh, pouring from the heavens in buckets, drowning out the fires, and washing the blood of the innocents from the streets.


  Celeste sat, huddled under the tree near Nutmeg and trying her hardest to manipulate the falling rain away from her. She could successfully direct a wave of the downpour away only to be hit by the next onrush. As she began to shiver, she sighed and gave up for the time being. Instead, she picked up a small stick that was, of course, damp, and focused her annoyance into her magic to try to light the stick on fire. Alas, all she could manage was an ember that glared for a moment and emitted a stream of smoke. She blew on it, and the ember flared a bit brighter but refused to light. Celeste put her hand near it but could barely feel the warmth.

  “Well what are my powers good for if I can’t even keep dry and warm in the rain?” She asked of no one, dropping the stick and drawing her knees closer to her.

  A branch snapped nearby, and Celeste leapt to her feet, standing closer to the tree and looking around her. She saw nothing through the trees and darkness and rain, but she knew she hadn’t imagined that sound, so she stood ready. Then she saw movement out of the corner of her eye, and she spun as a figure emerged from the trees. Lightening flashed, and Celeste sighed in relief as she recognized Joshua.

  “Joshua, thank heavens, I thought you were a Korelian or some kind of living nightmare.”

  Joshua stood quietly in the rain and said nothing.


  He glanced at her, and Celeste realized there was an awful pain in his eyes. “They’re…” he began.

  Celeste went to him. “What’s wrong? What did you see?”

  “Juroosh,” Joshua let out a breath. “Juroosh is destroyed. Everyone has been… slaughtered.”

  Celeste could do nothing. She couldn’t breathe. Her mouth opened slightly as if she wanted to scream, but no sound came out. Chills slithered down her back. In her heart, she had feared something like this as they had neared the town and the smoke wafted through the air, but she hadn’t believed it, hadn’t even admitted in her mind that it was possibility. Celeste’s hand went to her forehead as faces flashed through her mind. She hadn’t known many people in Juroosh other than Randle, but she had spoken to a few like the innkeeper and that blacksmith. Images of the baker and his wife, putting pies on the windowsill flitted through her mind, and Celeste moaned, pain piercing her heart. All those people!

  Joshua was staring at the ground, his fists clenched, and Celeste suddenly realized how he must be hurting much more than she was. Her heart ached as it filled with sympathy. Without thinking, she closed the gap between them and wrapped her arms around him, hugging him tightly. Joshua stood drenched and frozen. After a moment his arms came up and draped around Celeste, hesitantly at first, then tightly. He buried his face in her hair, a sob stuck in the back of his throat as he grieved so many lost friends.

  Neither of them said a word, but they stood there for a long time, trying to comfort each other from such a terrible loss as the sky wept for them.

Friday, January 1, 2016

[The Long-Awaited] Chapter SEVENTEEN

Previously— Joshua and Celeste are from Forellia, a country on the brink of war with its neighbor, Korelia. Joshua, unknown to Celeste, is a prince, and the King’s brother. Joshua had been in a town called Juroosh for three years, ferrying back and forth across the border to Korelia to gain intel and to steal the Prophecy Stone, a magical tool used by sorcerers to charge and direct their magic until the day they are powerful enough to control it themselves. Joshua soon discovered that Celeste herself was the girl from Prophecy, and the Stone began to awaken her powers.

When Joshua and Celeste began to return to the capital city of Forellia, they were ambushed by Korelians hunting for Joshua, the thief of the Prophecy Stone. The leader of the Korelians, Kailak, demanded the return of the Stone, and Joshua gave to him a large opal, convincing him that this was, indeed, the Stone. Instead of releasing them, however, Kailak kept Joshua and Celeste as prisoners, taking them deep into the hot and humid jungles of Korelia.

Several days of torturous travel later, Kailak left his men to go to the nearest town in order to send a message to his king, explaining whom he had captured. After a few hours of drinking, however, several of his soldiers also decided to go to the city in order to have some fun. They left behind only one man, a man who had been unpleasantly eyeing Celeste and threatening to take her into the woods and have some fun with her. When he finally attempted to do just that, Joshua, who had laboriously worked his bindings off, attacked him, only to be knocked unconscious by the Korelian.

Celeste, out in the jungle alone with the vile man, but before he could do anything to her, grew very cold with rage. The Prophecy Stone surged, and Celeste caused the Korelian to freeze, then shatter, just as Joshua, having awoken, burst through the trees.

Drained, Celeste fell into a semi-conscious state, leaving it to Joshua to return to camp, retrieve their horses, and carry Celeste through the jungle to a man-made burrow in the ground he had stumbled upon a while back in his explorations.

When Celeste came to, Joshua eventually convinced her to attempt magic once again, and after a teasing jibe from Joshua, Celeste managed it.

A couple days later, as Celeste practiced her new found powers over water, fire, and air, Joshua was outside, retrieving water for the horses, when he heard Korelians coming near him. Joshua escaped to the burrow before they saw him, and Joshua stood very close to Celeste, her heart-rate picking up as the Korelians passed above ground.

Once they were safe, Joshua and Celeste decided that they should let a couple of days pass to put some distance between themselves and the Korelians, but once that time had passed, they planned to leave the confines of the burrow and head back to Juroosh where they hope to cross over and return to Forellia.

Now for Chapter seventeen...

   The following days passed slowly for Celeste who wanted to leave that seemingly god-forsaken land of Korelia now that she knew their attempt at escape was imminent. She passed the time practicing her magic, which she still felt was impossible—the magic surprised her every time when it actually worked. Each power had its own difficulties, but Celeste could feel the Prophecy Stone helping to shape and direct her own magic as she flexed this new muscle inside of her. Although it was challenging and required concentration, each time she tried again, it got a little easier.

  Of the three elements she had learned to use, fire was the easiest, and water was both the hardest and her favorite. She felt the possibilities were nearly endless with water, and learning something new each time she used it was thrilling. For instance, Celeste found she could pull the moisture out of the air and make it rain, or with an icy thought she could create frozen sculptures. With focus, she felt she was slowly but surely getting the hang of it. However, one time when she had called the water to form a design in the air above them, Joshua had unexpectedly made a comment, surprising Celeste and causing the water to fall on their heads, soaking them.

  “Right then,” he had said, holding the pot they used to make coffee. “I can take a hint. I’ll just make the coffee then.”

  Celeste had smothered a laugh and done her best to draw the water from their clothes.

  When she wasn’t practicing her magic, she and Joshua sparred, usually a suggestion made by Joshua when Celeste’s fidgetiness began to drive him crazy.

  These things helped the days go by a little more quickly, but overall, they were still a long three days.

  Finally, on the fourth day, they decided to leave at twilight.

  Celeste anxiously performed any tasks needed doing before they could leave such as packing their few belongings and re-fastening the horses’ bridles and sadles. Every time Joshua offered to help, she simply replied, “No thanks,” and carried on with whatever she was doing.

  When twilight finally did fall, Celeste was anxious, both afraid to venture from her safe burrow and desperate to return to her own beloved Forellia. “Shall we go?” She tried and failed to keep the anxiety from her voice.

  Joshua laughed, “Eager, are we?”

  “Yes, as a matter of fact, I am eager to get out of this hole, as life-saving as it has been the past few days.”

  Joshua glanced around the burrow and nodded in agreement. It was great in a bind but really not spring-home material.

  Joshua went to the covered entrance, cautiously looking out before exiting as Celeste brought the excited horses nearer. When Joshua gave the all clear, Celeste grinned and led first Amos out for Joshua, then returned for Nutmeg. Nutmeg harrumphed at her as she returned. Celeste smiled, seeing that Nutmeg had mostly recovered from his capture and gotten his old jealousy back. “Well,” she explained to him, “Joshua can hold onto Amos while he waits for me. That’s why I took him out first.” The horse eyed her, seemingly not quite accepting that excuse yet. Celeste shrugged, “That’s the only excuse I’ve got.”

  The above-ground world of Korelia was as muggy and unpleasant as before, but this time it wasn’t quite as wretched since Joshua and Celeste were not in captivity. As Joshua led the way into the gnarly trees of the jungle, Celeste raised her face to the cloud-covered sky and the stifling yet fresh air above and close her eyes. She had not felt the outside air or the freedom of above ground for days. Biting her lip, she focused and brought up a breeze to blow away the still and humid air. Joshua gave her an appreciative look over his shoulder.

  The little light that seeped through the trees was already fading as twilight dimmed and thunder rolled in the distance. It must have been raining out in Korelia somewhere. Celeste just hoped it wouldn’t find its way to them.

  The underground world she and Joshua had been living in for a week had changed their sleep patterns since day and night had no longer affected whether they slept. So as twilight fell into darkness around them, she and Joshua were alert and continued in a north-easterly direction, Joshua leading the way.

  The hoots and growls and cries of the night filled the air, and Celeste was reasonably afraid something would leap from the trees to attack. She wondered how she could have slept through the cacophony before. Although she was constantly glancing into the trees, however, she saw nothing except for the glowing eyes of some type of bird. Luckily, it didn’t attack them.

  Silently, they continued on through the night as lightening flashed occasionally near enough to brighten their path. It was early dawn before they stopped to eat and sleep. Both of them— sore, tired, still a bit weak from their captivity, and out of the habit of riding horses—helped slowly set up camp. There wasn’t much to do, though, since they both reluctantly agreed a fire was a bad idea. So with the horses taken care of, Celeste and Joshua sat eating the little remaining jerky for supper. Soon, Celeste knew, they would have to get back to Forellia or find something to kill and eat with only a dagger as a weapon. Or her magic, she supposed, although the thought didn’t thrill her.

  “I just realized,” Joshua began, “that I haven’t asked about your family. Do you have some back in the city?”

  “I have a dad. My mom passed away a while ago.”

  “I’m sorry. Any sisters? Overly protective brothers?”

  eleste chuckled. “No, I don’t have any siblings. It’s just me and my dad.” Celeste frowned, continuing with “and I just found out that my dad isn’t even really…”

  “What?” Joshua prompted.

  “You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

  “Celeste,” Joshua gave her a look. “I believe in a woman outside of time who can inscribe prophecies on a wall. I think I can believe what you have to tell me. Besides, you’re you. I think I’d believe anything you said even if you said something as ridiculous as—oh—“ Joshua waved his hand in the air as if searching for the most ludicrous thing he could think of. “I’m not funny.”

  Celeste laughed.

  Joshua explained, “I’d be hurt by such an outlandish idea, of course, but if you said it, I’d believe it.”

  “Don’t worry, Joshua; you’re funny.”

  “See? I believe you.”

  Celeste laughed again and, after a moment, began hesitantly to explain. “Well, when I touched the Prophecy Stone,” she fingered the stone in its pouch still tied around her neck. “I died for a couple of minutes, you know.”

  Grimly, Joshua nodded.

  “When I first woke up, I wasn’t on earth. I was in—well—I think—….heaven.” To her surprise, Joshua didn’t laugh, but rather, leaned forward to listen more intently. “And my mother was there.” Celeste continued. “She told me that my father—Jeremy Teal— wasn’t my birth father.” Joshua blinked in surprise.

  “Wow… Celeste, I don’t know what to say.”

  “Neither did I. I was shocked, of course… I mean, Jeremy is my father. I mean, I never doubted it before. In appearance, I take after my mother, but the thought that my father wasn’t actually my birth father… I just… don’t understand.” Celeste sighed, wrapping her arms around herself in the gathering light of dawn.

  “Do you have any idea who your birth father is?” Joshua asked quietly.

  “Yes, my mother told me his name. Hezekiah Blackstone. Of course, I have no idea who this is or if he’s even still alive…”

  At Joshua’s sudden silence, Celeste looked at him. He sat frozen, a strange expression on his face.

  “Hezekiah Blackstone,” he said slowly. “I’ve heard that name before.”

  “What? Really? Where?”

  “In the castle’s library… In a book on magic. Celeste, Hezekiah Blackstone was one of the last known sorcerers of Forellia, but that was over three hundred years ago.”

  “That… that can’t be right. He must be a different Hezekiah Blackstone.”

  “Maybe, but I don’t know. It seems fitting that your father could be a sorcerer like you.”

  “Joshua, how could he be three hundred years old? That’s impossible.”

  “You’re right.” Joshua replied. “It is impossible. But could it truly be a coincidence? It seems too perfect to be a coincidence.”

  Sighing, she replied, “I don’t know. I don’t know! It’s just another layer of mystery, isn’t it.” She didn’t phrase it as a question. “One day my life is normal, and I know where I’m going. The next I’m in a prophecy, I’m kidnapped, I can do magic, and my father isn’t my father, but the man who may be my father lived over three hundred years ago. Nothing makes sense to me anymore.”

  Joshua surprised Celeste by taking her hand. “It’s been crazy, I know, but we’ll get through this, Celeste, together. We’ll get out of Korelia and make our way home, and then we’ll search and search until we figure out the mysteries.” Raising her hand, Joshua kissed the back of it, sending a small thrill through her arm and down her spine. “We’ve got this!” His smile, when she looked at him, was warm, and Celeste couldn’t help but smile back.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones Seth/Eirika fanfiction

Let it be known that I do not own Fire Emblem.

Ok, for those of you who do not know the backstory, let me quickly some important parts: A country called Grado unexpectedly attacked a country called Renais. The king of Renais was killed, and Princess Eirika barely escaped with her life thanks to the noble efforts of her knight Seth who was badly wounded by an enemy named Valter during the escape. War quickly began.
After some time of traveling and battles, Eirika had been showing Seth extra attention due to his wound that seemed never to fully heal. He, ever the dutiful, loyal knight, suggested that she show him less attention, as the princess should not show one knight more attention than other knight. However, he reconsidered his words and told her that he felt more for her than just what a knight should feel for his princess, and she expressed similar feelings.

Now, the basic synopsis of this FF is this: Sometime during the war, Seth was in a battle in the mountains, and he was bested by a Grado soldier who threw him off the cliff. Everyone assumed he was dead. 
He wasn't.
Two years have passed, the war is over, and for his own reasons, he hasn't told anyone he's alive.
Then he finds out Eirika, who is now the queen of Renais, is engaged to be married.

This work is inspired by the beautiful fan-art of Tsuuko, who's picture shall appear in this FF.

I hope you enjoy it!


                Seth pounded again, and again, and again at the red hot, bent horseshoe, forcing it to yield to his wishes. The loud clang, clang, clang of the metal against metal resounded from the smithy out into the street. For the past year these monotonous actions had relaxed him, kept him sane, kept him from yielding to the selfish longings that pained his heart daily.

                It wasn’t clean work, being a blacksmith. Soot coated his simple peasant clothing and sweat dripped down his back. It also wasn’t glorious work, certainly not compared to what he did two years ago, silver knight to Ei- to the Queen, Seth silently corrected himself for the thousandth time, pounding the horseshoe a little harder, one last time before plunging it into water, sending steam rising into the air.

                Trying and failing to turn his thoughts to other things, Seth sighed dejectedly as he removed the horseshoe. However, a ringing bell caught his attention, and he paused in his work to hear the town crier’s announcement.

“Hear ye! Hear ye!” The hubbub on the street gradually died down as the city’s residents also stopped what they were doing. “Queen Eirika, in her supreme benevolence, wishes to announce to the citizens of Renais that she is now engaged and will be married a month from now on the…” The rest of the announcement seemed to fade away as Seth’s eyes widened, his heart stopped, he forgot how to breathe. He clutched the hammer in his callused, shaking hand, his knuckles turning white as he gripped it.

Eirika. Engaged. Engaged to be married. To another man. The strength left his body, and Seth’s knees hit the ground, the hammer falling from his grip. He felt as if his heart was slowly being crushed in his chest. He couldn’t breathe; he gasped for air, trying to fill his lungs, trying to calm his heart, his mind. He had known this was going to happen. It was only a matter of time. Of course she was going to get married. Married for political reasons or… married for love. Seth clutched his chest, his body numb, his mind racing, his heart burning.

                “Seth? Seth, meh lad. What’s the matter with ye?” Gavin, the kind man that had apprenticed Seth a year ago, touched his shoulder.

                “I…” Seth couldn’t make his tongue work, and he was at a loss for words anyway. What was he to say? With great effort, he forced his mouth to form words. “I’m… not… feeling well, Gavin.”

                “Well come on, let’s sit ye down.” Gavin helped Seth to the workbench. Seth put his hands on his knees, his eyes staring sightlessly in front of him. “What’s the matter with ye?” Gavin repeated.

                “Gavin. I’m very sorry, but I need to go. I can’t… I can’t…”

                “It’s fine, it’s fine, lad. In the year I’ve known ye, you’ve been the best apprentice a blacksmith could wish for. Ye just need a break. Ye’re worn out, is all. Do ye need help home?”

                He thought he surely did. He couldn’t function. He couldn’t think straight, but he muttered, “No. No. I can manage.” Gavin’s worried eyes boring into his back, Seth rose from his seat and half walked, half stumbled out of the smithy and down the street.

He couldn’t grasp a single thought for more than a moment. His heart thumped incessantly, and his lungs still couldn’t get enough air. He was aware of these things, but he really didn’t care about them. The town crier’s words swirled around in his mind, and that was all he cared about. Eirika. Married. Seth, halfway down a deserted alley, stopped and fell against the wall, hands in fists, eyes wide, mouth agape in a silent cry of torment.

                He crushed his knuckles to his eyes, taking slow ragged breaths. He couldn’t... He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t go to work tomorrow and act as if nothing had changed. He couldn’t close his heart forever and say that final goodbye… Not without seeing her. He had to see her. He had to see her, even if it were the last time he ever would.

                The decision his heart had been yearning for years finally made, Seth shut his mouth and opened his eyes, as his heart slowly calmed its rampage. Seth turned from the wall, determined to return home, to change his smithy’s clothing, and then to… see her.


                Eirika listened to the farmer’s tale of wolves eating his livestock and nodded in sympathy and understanding. At the end of his plea, Eirika immediately dispatched soldiers to kill the wolves. The farmer thanked her again and again, bowing repeatedly as he backed away from her.

“Of course. It’s no problem at all.” Eirika murmured tiredly.

                With his exit, she concluded her final meeting for the day. She let out a small breath, standing from her hard throne for the first time since early that morning. Such a simple pleasure of rising to her feet felt incredibly nice.  “Your Majesty,” her advisor spoke to her. “Dinner shall be served shortly. In the meantime, there is some important business concerning—“

                “I beg your pardon, your Majesty,” another man’s voice said. Eirika glanced away from her advisor to the man who handled her weekly meetings with her subjects. David was his name. He continued. “I know today’s meetings have just concluded, but we have a late comer. I explained to him that you were not seeing anyone else today, but, your Majesty, he begged me to allow him to see you. He said it was desperately important.” David shrugged slightly, apologetically. Eirika closed her eyes for a moment, standing before her throne.

                “Of course I shall see him,” she replied. “Show him in.”

                David bowed, “Right away.”

                “Oh, David?” The man turned back to her immediately, looking at her inquisitively. “What is his name?”

                “I believe he said it was Seth.” Eirika stiffened. Then she blinked, and she realized it was just someone else… with his name. “Very well,” she repeated, and David bowed once more, exiting the hall.


                Seth’s heart had taken up its riot again, this time from terror, however, rather than horror, and it was all he could do to keep from turning and leaving the palace before David returned. Was this really happening? Was he really here? Seth anxiously ran his fingers through his hair. Would she recognize him? Could she, possibly? His hair was a bit longer, his clothes far less regal—all black but for a gold lining about his up-turned collar—but they were the best he had now. Would he even be allowed to see her to begin with?

                Seth flinched when David said his name. He turned. “Queen Eirika has agreed to see you.”

                He nodded. The moment for which he had both been longing and dreading had come, and he didn’t know whether his heart leapt from joy or fear. The man gestured for Seth to follow him. His legs like lead, Seth couldn’t remember a time in his life when he was this terrified—not when he met his commander for the first time so long ago, not during the many battles in which he fought for his life, not even when he almost died. Seth stumbled slightly, catching himself before he hit the ground, and tried to calm his ragged nerves.

                The great hall was as he remembered it, although he had not entered it for so long. He peered with anxious eyes towards the throne, managing to stumble again when he saw her, his queen, his Eirika. She stood before her throne, her long bluish hair falling into lazy curls, her simple dress red and white, her delicate hands covered by long gloves, her face... just as beautiful as he remembered it. Nay, more beautiful, more regal. Seth didn’t want to look away, didn’t want to blink, even for a second. She was like a melody he wanted repeated again and again, like a scent he couldn’t get enough of.

When she turned from her advisor and her gaze met Seth’s, she stopped mid-sentence, her sapphire eyes widening. Gracefully, she sank upon her throne, her hands clutching the arms, her eyes never leaving his. Seth clenched his hands. She recognized him! The advisor bent towards her, apparently concerned for her health as David obliviously announced Seth, bowed, and left the chamber. Seth slowly bowed to this, his queen. Yes, his queen, in every sense of the phrase.

                In the quietest, sweetest murmur Seth had ever heard, Eirika nearly whimpered, “S-Seth?” The sound of his name on her lips swept away the last two years for a moment, and Seth closed his eyes, suddenly her silver knight once again, and he had to fight with all his willpower to keep from striding up to her and taking her in his arms. He stood frozen until the moment passed, then carefully looked at her. He managed a small nod.

                “Your Majesty?” Her advisor murmured to her, looking from his queen, to Seth, and back again.

                Standing on shaky legs, Eirika looked at her advisor and said in a clear, strong voice, “Everyone leave the room.”

This took the man off guard.

                “Your Majesy…, I highly recommend your reconsidering that order. Perhaps it would be best to leave the guards at least?”

                “Nay,” she replied, looking back at Seth, “I’m perfectly safe.” A shiver went down Seth’s spine. She hadn’t seen him in two years, yet her faith in him was still so strong? Overwhelmed, he swayed on his feet. “Leave us, Pater. I do not want to be disturbed,” She commanded. Pater looked at them worriedly, then bowed and obeyed his queen, ushering everyone out.

                Eirika’s facade of strength left her when the doors closed with a thump. Her brave face morphed to disbelief and concern and something else Seth couldn’t quite recognize. Deliberately, she stepped down from her throne, but seemed to steal herself from coming closer. Although they were still several feet apart, they were now at least on the same level. “How—“ she started hesitantly. Pausing a moment, she shook her head and began again. “How are you… alive? I- I saw you die.” Her voice cracked, and she closed her eyes a moment, as he had done shortly before. “Is it really you? Is it really Seth? How can this be?”

                Unconsciously taking a step forward, Seth spread his hands and explained, “I didn’t die that day…, Your Majesty. As you know, I was thrown off a cliff by a Grado soldier. I fell quite a ways, but I didn’t hit the bottom. I landed on an outcrop some distance down, terribly wounded… but alive.”

                “You were… alive?” Eirika put her hand to her head, her eyes glistening. “We could have… A pegasus… Somebody could have rescued you. I… We all thought you were gone.”

                Seth’s heart ached at the sight of her distressed face. He explained, “I don’t remember much of what happened after that. They tell me that some children from the village nearby were wandering, playing, exploring. They found me and got help. By that time, however I was feverish, dehydrated… My wounds were grievous. When the people recognized that I was a knight of Renais, they, in gratitude for your saving their village, cared for me and refused to give up on me. For months I lay in bed, so close to death.” Seth tightened his hands into fists. “I barely remember those months. The fevered dreams are all that I can recall.” He looked down, flashes of terror flickering behind his eyes. “Danger. You were in danger. I had to save you. I had to get to you. I had to get up. I had to get better and find you. I had to save you…. These were the only thoughts that pervaded my mind at that time.”

                The tears silently fell down Eirika’s cheeks, and Seth longed to reach towards her, to wipe them away, to kiss them away, to make her forget they were ever there. Seth’s fingernails bit into his palm, and he forced himself to relax his hands, his eyes drifting up from her lips to her eyes once more. “When I finally recovered from the brink of death, I was too weak to do much more than eat and sleep. More months passed, impatience for my strength to return almost killing me more than my wounds did. Although there were no more fevered dreams, I was still tormented by nightmares and the war raging and putting you into unimaginable danger. There I was, in bed or wearily taking a few steps, unable to protect you… to be at your side.”

                Eirika’s crossed her arms, choking back a sob. He swallowed, his throat raw from old anguish. “When I was finally well enough to leave, to find you, the journey was slow. I was still weak, and I was so deep in the mountains that to cross them took time. When I finally made it over, a year since my fall had passed…” At these words, Eirika clutched at her arms and closed her eyes, trembling and seemingly trying to control her emotions. Seth took a small breath and continued, “I found another city, a less obscure city than the one in which I made my convalescence, and I learned that the war was over. Of course, my first questions were of your safety. When I learned you were back here, that you were soon to be made queen, I rejoiced and was on the road the next day, needing to reach you.

“As I traveled, however, I made some realizations. First, that since the war was over, you would need far less protection. Second, that in my months of being confined to bed, I had lost my edge. I could walk, but with a sword, a spear— I was so out of practice as to be nearly useless. Therefore, you would be far better off trusting one who had trained frequently to protect his queen.” Eireka shook her head, as if wanting to say something, but Seth rushed on before she could, “My final realization was made, when I arrived and saw you speaking to your citizens. You were happy. You were home. You needed to put the war behind you and move on, and if I were to come into your life again—well, that would have been…” Seth gestured in the air, trying to express himself, to try to explain his reasoning. “It would have been selfish…, and I couldn’t force those painful memories on you again just because I wanted to see you… to hear your voice.” His words were laced with pain and desire.

                Taking another deep breath, Seth finally looked away from Eirika’s tear-stricken face and finished his tale simply and quickly. “I took work with a man named Gavin, a smithy… I’ve been there until now.”

                Silence drifted around them like the wings of a pegasus, but Seth refused to turn his eyes back to hers. He couldn’t. He wouldn’t know what he would see, and he didn’t feel strong enough to look her in the eye again.

                Finally, in a broken voice, Eirika asked, “Then why have you come to me now?”

                Seth shuddered, closing his eyes and turning himself further away, towards the windows filled with the orange rays of twilight. He stepped nearer them, needing to put a little more space between him and Eirika. “Because—“ his voice was unsteady. Again, he clenched his hands and fought to control the feelings threatening to drown him in their tidal wave. “Because the town crier… announced your engagement today.” He barked a humorless laugh. “I didn’t even hear to whom you were engaged. All I heard was that Queen Eirika was going to be married.” Unable to force himself to look at her, Seth let go of the wave of emotion he had been fighting, not just today, but for years. As it washed over him, the force of it made him sway gently and gasp for breath. This was too important. He had to make her understand why her engagement was killing him. “Eirika, my princess Eirika… was going to marry another man.” Seth heard a slight intake of breath, and he fought against the desire to see her reaction. He continued.

                “In some part of my mind, I knew your eventual marriage was inevitable.” Seth clutched at his chest, “But when I heard the words, it was like… It was like my whole world shattered. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think. I was going mad! I quickly came to the conclusion that I had to see you. I had to see you at least one last time,” his voice cracked, and he struggled to keep it steady as, still turned from her, he stared at the floor, the windows, the regal ivory pillars, anything but the direction of his dear Eirika.

“The first time I saw you,” he murmured in a thick voice, “I fell in love with you.” Silence devoured his words. After a moment, he went on, “I didn’t believe in love at first sight. I thought that was a ridiculous notion- to fall in love with a person whose character you do not even know, but that day I stood corrected. I can still recall that moment to my mind... You were walking out with your brother, and you were both laughing. You were going horseback riding… When I met you a short time later, when I began to learn more and more about you… I just fell deeper… and deeper.”

                He paused. This was difficult, more difficult than he’d ever imagined. “You were my princess, of course. I had to protect you, and falling in love with you—I saw no harm. I would only protect you more fiercely, and, besides, there was nothing I could do to stop myself from loving you. I was too far gone that first day I saw you… But again, you were my princess. I was your knight. I knew, in truth, we could never be together. It broke my heart…, but I knew my duty.”

                His mouth kept speaking as if he had no control over it, all the hidden thoughts and feelings he’d bundled up for so long, finally rushing out. “During the war, when you showed such attention to me after I received a wound from Valter, I hoped that you might… But no, I couldn’t believe that you would… love…” Seth desperately wished to look at her, to see if her expression revealed any sign. “But I didn’t want you to think of me only out of pity… So I pushed you away. I carefully tried to tell you how I felt… How I wanted to take you away and protect you, but my duty always kept me from really speaking the truth to you, as I am now. Now… You see, now, although you’re my queen, I’m no longer your knight.” With a shrug, he spoke the truth, “I’m nothing. Duty guides me no longer. My heart rules me, and my heart beats for only one reason, for only one desire... I don’t expect I will ever satisfy that longing, but before you became…” Seth swallowed past the lump in his throat. “Before you became married. I had to tell you. I had to try. I would have died if I had stayed away. At the very least…, I had to see you one last time, to hold onto the image of your face forever.”

The silence that followed these, his fervent final words, was deafeningly loud. Seth stood frozen to the spot, wishing and dreading to hear what she was thinking. Though he knew it was only a few seconds, the silence seemed to stretch on forever. “Please,” he whispered desperately, “please speak to me. Even to send me away. I can’t… I have to—“

“Seth.” The one word, his name, was so filled with heartbreaking emotion that his knees suddenly felt terribly weak, and he had to look at her. He turned, dread and desperate hope warring in his chest.

Eirika’s expression was a mix of so many feelings, that Seth couldn’t understand what she was thinking. Her cheeks were wet from her tears and touched with red. Her lips quivered, unable to decide between a contortion of agony or a smile of joy. She was tremulous, trying to say something further but seemingly unable to utter another word.

Finally, she managed simply, “Oh Seth!” and stumbled towards him and clutched him, pressing her face to his shoulder and crying. Seth, shocked, concerned, and confused, staggered backwards from the force of her motion until his back found a pillar for support, and his legs finally gave out. He slid to the floor with Eirika in his arms, one hand on her back, the other in her hair as she clutched him, weeping as if heartbroken. Seth shiveringly held her to him, his lips just inches from her hair, uncertain what he should do.

She incoherently muttered continually. He could hardly understand her, but he desperately wanted to comfort her and murmured “Sh… sh... it’s alright. It’s alright,” and stroked her hair, clutching her gently to him.

“You’re alive… You’re here,” she whispered through her tears. She continued muttering, but was so emotional that her words were an almost senseless jumble. Seth just held her tightly, on some level knowing how she felt, and trying to ease her pain, his fingers shaking as he ran them through her blue tresses again and again, wondering, hoping, dreading to know whether she felt for him what he felt for her.

After some time, she gradually quietened as Seth gently rocked her back and forth. “Seth,” she whispered, then laughed brokenly, “All I seem to be able to say is your name.” She lifted her still damp face from his chest to look into his eyes. He gazed back at her, extremely aware of their proximity, of every part of them that touched. They were so close. So temptingly close. Every move she made, as tiny as it may be, was noticed by Seth. His eyes roved across her face, his lips tingling.

“Eirika,” he whispered, the only word on his thoughts, the only word he could possibly think to say.

“Seth,” she responded, her voice just as quiet in the huge hall, so quiet even he almost could not hear it. She continued, “Seth, there’s something you don’t understand. You see…,” she reached up her hand and brushed his cheek with her knuckles, sending tremors racing through him. Then she whispered, “I’m in love with you too. I have been for... for so long. I don’t even know when I started to love you. Maybe, as you say, I’ve been in love with you forever.” Seth’s heart stopped; his eyes widened; his body tensed. Was this real? It must be some dream, some fantasy. It couldn’t be…

“What?” He choked out, his palm cupping her face.

“These past two years,” she replied in a voice laced with agony, “have been torture. I thought you were…,” she stopped herself, seemingly unable to go on. “Oh, Seth,” she shook her head, “you speak of loving me as if it had been unrequited. But it wasn’t. It never was. I love you. I love you so much it hurts.”

Disbelief and joy raged through his body as his heart thundered in his chest. Then he his crushed his lips to hers, his hands on her face, in her hair, on her back, pulling her closer to him as his mouth moved against hers desperately. The scent of her, the feel of her molding herself to him, returning the kiss, the soft touch of her lips, nearly drove him mad and made him drunk from the taste of her. He thought he must be giving Eirika bruises with his fierceness, but he didn’t care. He didn’t care. She loved him! She loved him. In his wildest dreams he hardly dared imagine that she might return his affection. All these years, wasted. No more. He was here. She was in his arms, and he would never let go.

 His callused hands held her- his dear Eirika- sank once more into her hair, stroked her face as he kissed her again and again. Her gloved hands slid up around his collar. Her fingers brushed across the back of his neck.  Electric jolts went down his spine, and he almost lost control of himself entirely. Biting back a murmur, he brushed his lips against hers once more and finally pulled away, just an inch. But after only a moment, only a breath or two, he found he couldn’t keep away, not when she was this close, not when the desires of his heart had been granted. He kissed her cheeks, erasing the tears that had tormented him to see. He kissed her eyelids, and she let out a half-crazed laugh. Seth tried futilely to calm himself. The years of adoration, unable to be expressed, had been consuming him, and now that he was here, that this was happening… What was calm?

“Is this a dream?” He murmured as his lips touched the skin below her ear.

“If it is,” she replied, “I never want to wake up.”

Any ideas of containing himself were dashed with those words. She shivered when he kissed her neck, and he wrapped his arms more tightly around her.

“Seth,” she said. Her responsibilities intruding upon her thoughts as she realized just how long they’d been in here alone, talking…, kissing. What must everyone think was happening? She suspected half the guard was outside the doors, waiting for the signal to strike in fear for their queen’s life.

Oh, but she didn’t want to leave.

Fervently, she whispered his name again, trying and failing to draw his attention to her duties.

“Say it again,” he breathed, kissing her jaw.

“Seth…” He silenced any further words as he kissed her red, bitten lips. Eirika’s thoughts were banished from her mind, and she grasped onto him to keep from completely melting into a pool of gibberish.

When he finally released his hold on her, she put her hands to his face, trying to catch her breath, the color in her cheeks having deepened. “Seth, I have to… we can’t stay here. I…” she poorly tried to explain as his feverish eyes raked across her face.

Wishing he didn’t understand what she was trying to say, he concluded, “Duties?”

She nodded thankfully to this, having had a hard time finding her voice at all, “duties.”

“My dear Eirika,” Seth spoke her name lovingly. “Forgive me for losing myself.” She shook her head, attempting to silence him, but he continued. “I know I shouldn’t have let myself lose all sight of our vast difference in station, but I… Eirika, I can’t live without you. It was hard enough to do before, but now? Now it would be entirely impossible.” Eirika’s face twisted into one of softness and love. “This isn’t the time or place,” Seth murmured, “but I can’t wait. Please, my love, I’m completely underserving…, but I beg you… marry me.”

“Beloved Seth!” Eirika’s eyes filled again with tears, but Seth thought—he hoped— that these were tears of a different sort. “Of course,” Eirika said. “Of course I’ll marry you. I could never marry another, knowing that you’re alive, that you love me back!”

Seth soared, the grin that had not touched his face for so, so long, finally finding its way back to where it belonged.

He kissed her. Oh, how he kissed her. Never had he dreamed by the end of this reunion with his queen that he would be holding her in his arms and kissing her without reserve. He wished they could stay like this forever, adoringly clutched in each other’s arms. But a knock at the door froze them both for an instant.

Then Eirika laughed almost drunkenly, stroking Seth’s face. They quickly disentangled and rose to their feet. A knock came again, and Seth sensed some urgency behind it. He realized, suddenly, what all of the Queen’s poor guards must be thinking. He knew that if he had been on the other side of those doors, he would be the epitome of anxiety.

Hastily, Eirika straightened her ruffled clothing, and Seth, smiling, lovingly pushed a stray lock of her hair back from her face. She returned the smile, and, finally neatened, sonorously pronounced, “Enter.”

The door opened, and the man Seth supposed was Eirika’s advisor— What was his name? Pater?— Entered. Glancing between Seth and Eirika, still standing rather close together and off to the side in the Great Hall, Pater said, “I’m so sorry to intrude, Your Highness, but… That is…” Pater stuttered, “Do you… require anything?”

“Well, Pater, Seth shall be dining with me tonight so please set another seat at the table.”

“Of course, You Majesty. If you are ready to dine, the food and your guests been waiting for… quite some time.”

Eirika smiled, glancing at Seth. “I’m famished,” she said. She looked back at her advisor, “We will be there momentarily, Pater. Seth will escort me.” Seth longed to take her hand in his, but with Pater watching, he just gazed at her instead.

Pater cleared his throat, “If that is what you wish, your Majesty… Your guard are just outside these doors.” A smile touched the corner of Seth’s lips, feeling that last statement was a warning for him.

When Pater left, Seth murmured, “I shall be dining with you tonight?”

She grinned, “Of course.” She took his hands in hers. “Seth, my love, you shall be dining with me the rest your life.”

Such words he never thought to hear! “Eirika…, how could God have granted such divine a creature to me of all men?” He would not let her answer that, for he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her with all his heart and all the love he possessed, never to leave her side again.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


A/N- Sorry for such a long delay on chapter 16. My brother coming to town really threw me off, and I've having a hard time getting back into it. I'm trying, though :P
Also, sorry about this chapter. It needs to be edited a lot, but I just can't deal with it right now. I messed with it a little, but I can see it needs a lot more work.. Ah, well, hopefully the next chapters will be better.

Previously- After Celeste froze her attacker Cormack, the two of them escaped, and Joshua took them to a burrow he had found a while ago, and there they stayed to recover. While there, Celeste used her magic again.

  The next few days passed surprisingly quickly. Joshua and occasionally Celeste would cautiously venture outside to wash up or let the horses stretch their legs or collect herbs for the salve that had already almost completely healed their wrists. Joshua had even shaved.

  They still had food for several days thanks to the Korelians’ supplies, but Joshua scavenged mushrooms that he put into a pot with other herbs and some of their meat to create a surprisingly delicious soup one night.

  As they recovered, the small hut made Celeste a little uneasy. She wanted open space and fresh air. Noticing her growing melancholy, Joshua collected some sticks about the size of swords, shaped them a little with the dagger, and tossed one to Celeste, telling her that they were going to spar. She was reluctant at first, but the energy and familiarity of sparring rejuvenated her. She quickly began instigating their sparring matches, and they’d snarl, then laugh as they whacked each other on the arms, legs, and torso.

  To occupy the time when they weren’t sparring or sleeping, Celeste practiced her magic.

   Capturing the right emotions through which she could funnel her power wasn’t easy, but she was slowly learning how. For instance, water magic was controlled with cool, calm thoughts; fire magic could be manipulated with anger or surprise or determination; she stirred a breeze underground when she thought of freedom. The only magic she had yet to figure out was earth magic. She had tried being out in nature and thinking of growing; she had tried touching the ground and thinking of energy or hard work or relaxation or awe, but nothing seemed to work. Celeste was beginning to believe she had no earth magic.

  On the sixth day, she sat by the fire with her eyes closed and thought of riding Nutmeg through a green valley, neither knowing where she was going, nor caring as she felt the wind through her hair. Celeste’s mouth curled as a cool swirl of air drifted through the cave. She grasped hold of that emotion and tilted her head the right, sending the air dancing that way with a thought. The breeze swirled to the left as Celeste directed it. The air hit a form, and she recognized the outline as Joshua. She opened her eyes, smiling, to find him standing in front of her, his hair mussed from her wind.

  “Hello to you too,” Joshua spoke as he ran his fingers through his hair, trying to return it to a more manageable state.

  Celeste snickered, “sorry.”

  “Of course you are,” Joshua deadpanned, which only elicited another laugh from Celeste.

  “I’m glad my dishevelment could bring you happiness this morning,” Joshua continued.

  “Of course you are,” Celeste mimicked, and Joshua tried not to smile.

  When Celeste succeeded in calming herself, Joshua informed her, “I’m going outside to fill the bucket with water and see if I can find any more edible mushrooms near here. I won’t be gone long, but, of course, stay here and be careful.” Celeste nodded. Joshua retrieved the bucket and after carefully looking out to be sure it was safe, he departed with a small salute.

  Celeste turned her eyes to the fire, refocusing her thoughts on magic. She narrowed her eyes at the dancing flames, and slowly capture her gift, sending the fire dancing to her song. With a small jerk of her head, the fire extended from the fire pit, growing and twirling higher in the air, spinning around her and through the cave as if it was oil in water. The horses whinnied, shying away from the fire, and Celeste turned it from the horses and sent it spiraling through their underground home. As triumph filled her, weariness clawed at the edges of her mind, and she released her hold on the flames. They dissipated in the air.

  Celeste stretched, stiff, wondered how long she had been sitting still, and stood. It seemed she had been sitting for some time, for her legs were numb and unfeeling. With a grown, she began walking the around the hut, her legs stinging with pins and needles. With a sigh, she bent over to rub them near the closed entrance to the underground shelter.

  Slowly stretching back upright, Joshua burst through the entrance, dropping the entire bucket of water on the dirt floor and shutting the entrance, not caring about the mess he had just made. “Joshua!” Celeste cried as muddy water spread towards ehr, “What’s going—“ Joshua grabbed her, covering her mouth with his hand and, in the same smooth movement, pushing her against a wall. Confused, she instinctually struggled before he raised a finger to his lips and pointed upward. She froze, glancing at ceiling above her. Voices. There were Korelians out there. Her eyes widened as fear pierced her heart, and the fire roared a little higher and brighter. Joshua put his lips to Celeste’s ear and spoke in the barest whisper, “I don’t think they saw me. We’re going to be fine.” He pulled back just enough to give her a small nod and remove his hand from her mouth, placing it on the wall behind her. Celeste nodded back and let out a small breath to calm herself. She turned her eyes to the fire and forced the flames down until there were only embers, barely enough light to see Joshua’s face two inches from her own. Being underground, she didn’t suppose the Korelians would be able to see the fire, but she didn’t want to take any chances.

  She and Joshua stood in perfect silence as the voices grew nearer. An unconscious shudder went through Celeste, as her heart pounded in her ears. Joshua put his hand on her cheek to reassure her, and she looked at him. The voices came even closer until it sounded as if they were directly above the cave. A bit of dirt fell from the ceiling as the Korelians and their horses walked across the underground cave’s roof. Celeste’s fingers dug into Joshua’s shirt, her entire body tensed, ready to fight or flea. The voices went silent, and it felt as if an eon passed, Celeste shakily trying to keep her breathing quiet and under control. Then one of the Korelians laughed in response to his companion’s words, and the horses moved off, the Korelians voices fading. Joshua and Celeste remained frozen for silent minutes afterwards, not daring to move lest they were wrong and the Korelians had come back.

  Celeste leaned her head back, sighing as a wave of relief washed over her, though she still shook with adrenaline. She used her powers to let a small fire relight in the pit and looked at Joshua. Now that the danger had passed, she realized how close they were, and that his hand was still pressed to her cheek. Joshua’s eyes stared intently at her face. His thumb brushed her face. Trying to organize his disjointed thoughts, he whispered, “I think they’re gone now.” Celeste couldn’t seem to find her voice to reply as heat washed over her, and she struggled to relax. She answered his statement only with a small nod. Something Celeste hadn’t seen before danced in his eyes, and he leaned microscopically closer. Celeste’s heart pounded in her ears, and she couldn’t understand why she was so nervous. Her eyes flickered over his face. Joshua blinked as if he was suddenly coming out of a trance and quickly pulled back, letting go of Celeste. Celeste’s heart cried out, and she had to force herself to keep from taking his hand. She leaned against the wall behind her, letting it support her and ground her at the same time.

  “Like I said,” Joshua murmured, looking away from her. “I think it’s safe now.”

  “Yeah,” Celeste replied.

  Joshua turned towards the fire, thinking. “Those Korelians were really close. If they had been a bit more observant then could have found the entrance to this place.”

“I know, but what I’m wondering is where they were headed. It sounded as if they were moving north. Were they looking for us or are they going somewhere else?”

  “I don’t think they would be looking for us. I suspect that Kailak will be tracking us down personally. Either that or he’s buried somewhere as punishment for allowing us to escape.” Celeste pushed herself away from the wall, her pattering heart slowing, and sat by the fire, holding her arms as she tried to stop the shivering that had overtaken her.

  “I hope it’s the second option, although I somehow doubt we’d be that lucky.”

  Pulling a blanket from the ground, Joshua draped it around Celeste’s shivering shoulders and replied, “Agreed.” He sat on the other side of the fire. “I say we stay low and wait a few more days before attempting our return to Forellia, let some distance get between us and those Korelians.”

  Celeste nodded, pulling the blanket around her, “Agreed.”

Sunday, July 5, 2015


Previously- after Celeste froze Cormack, Joshua took her nearly unconscious form to a burrow he had found a while ago so that they could hide and recover from their trials as captives of the Korelians.

  Celeste had no idea what time of day it was when she opened her eyes for the second time in that strange burrow. As the fire was the only light in the room, she was left with just her muddled senses to guess at the time.

  Celeste sat up and glanced around the room. The place was a bit smoky from the fire, but it wasn’t very bad. The horses sat at one end of the cave, eating grass Joshua had gotten for them yesterday. The fire pit was in the middle of the “room,” and their luggage was on the other end. She and Joshua lay on opposite sides of the dying fire. The place wasn’t much as far as homes go, but it was ten times better than their previous living conditions. Celeste was grateful for the shelter and the chance to rest.

  She glanced across the fire at Joshua, noticing he was still sleeping. No wonder. He had been awake for hours bringing them here, hiding what tracks there were since leaving the river, gathering water for them and the horses, gathering grass and wood, and preparing the paste for their wrists and other small wounds—all this while Celeste slept and did absolutely nothing. Sighing, Celeste watched Joshua sleep. Quietly, she leaned forward, examining his face in close detail for the first time. He slept on his side, one arm under his head as a pillow, the other draped in front of him. A lock of his shaggy brown hair fell over his eyes. His nose was slender, and his jaw was defined with a few days’ growth. He had the figure of a spy, but sometimes he just seemed different—different from a spy, different from her— like he came from another world than she did. Thinking about it, she decided she didn’t actually care where he came from, but she did want to know more about him. Sometimes she felt connected to him in a way she couldn’t explain. Her eyes danced over his face as he quietly slept, and, as she leaned closer still, she, on a whim, lightly touched her lips to his cheek.

  She blinked at his sleeping face and quickly stood, turning away from the fire. She paused for a moment to organize her thoughts. Sitting there for a moment, an idea occurred to her. Going to the packs, she searched through them to see if there were any coffee. She didn’t suppose there would be, as she didn’t remember the Korelians making coffee at any time (smelling coffee but being unable to drink it would have been another form of torture, especially for Joshua), so when she found a whole canister of it buried beneath half-empty bottles of alcohol, she was pleasantly surprised. Shaking her head at the flagons of poison, she thought, I guess you didn’t want coffee when you could drown yourselves in that, eh? Finding the pot Joshua had used earlier, Celeste added a few twigs to the embers of the fire and blew on them to relight it. Moments later, she added larger sticks to the fire and began filling the pot with water and coffee grinds. With the pot on the fire, Celeste sat crossed-legged waiting and running her fingers through her terribly knotted hair. She never really knew why she didn’t just lop it all off. It was hot and troublesome and got into her eyes constantly. Somehow, she could never bring herself to do it.

  Her eyes flicked to Joshua as if they were drawn to him, and she let out a breath, turning her face away. Too fidgety to wait for the coffee, she stood. Nutmeg whinnied as she approached to see what she could do about his unkempt main and tail. However, examining both, she found that the worst of the snarls had already been brushed out by Joshua. Gratitude filled her heart, and Celeste’s eyes filled with tears for some reason. She swiped at them, glancing at the still figure on the ground. Celeste hugged Nutmeg and retrieved the brush from the ground, going to work on the rest of the horse’s knots, sweeping through hit tail and coat and main. The task of grooming the two horses was relaxing, and when she finished, the horses eyed each other and pawed at the ground as if to say, finally! Celeste smiled at them, saying “You’re both beautiful.”

  “Do I smell coffee,” Joshua groaned from the fire. “Please tell me this isn’t one of those dreams in which you know you’re dreaming.”

  With a grin, Celeste returned to the pot on the fire and poured two cups of hot black liquid, giving one to Joshua.

  “Thank heavens,” Joshua moaned again, this time in ecstasy as he drank the bitter drink. Celeste watched him, happy to have elicited such a reaction.

  “I found it in the bags. There’s a whole canister of it,” she explained.

  “You’re an angel.”

  Celeste laughed, “I’m glad somebody finally figured that out.”

  Joshua nodded at her, his nose in his coffee. Joshua broke the momentary silence as he asked, “So what have you been doing since you’ve been up?”

  “Oh, nothing much.” Celeste took a sip of her coffee, “I just found this and finished brushing out the horses. Thank you, by the way, for taking care of Nutmeg. That was really good of you.”

  Joshua shrugged. “No problem.” After another quiet moment, he looked at her and said, “Today I think we should see if we can wake your magic up again.”

  She tensed, and closed her eyes as she finished her coffee. Staring into her empty cup, Celeste murmured, “I wouldn’t know where to start.”

  “Well that’s why I’m going to help you. You can do this, Celeste. You’ve already proved that much, so now you just have duplicate it.”

  Celeste set down her cup. “What should I do?”

  “That’s the spirit!” Joshua bellowed, far more enthusiastic than she. Celeste made a face at him. “Too much?” He asked.

  “Just a bit.”

  “That’s the spirit,” he mumbled and got to his feet, bringing the bucket of water back to her. He sat opposite of the bucket. “Now,” he began, “you froze—“ Celeste flinched, not wanting to think about it. “—something.” Joshua awkwardly finished. “The point is, freezing is water magic, so let’s start there, shall we?”

  “Ok… What do I do?”

  “Well, how about you focus on the water and try to get it to move?”

  “Right, I’ll just… make water move… with my mind. Should be relatively simple.” Celeste leaned over the bucket and stared at the still water, urging it to do something.

  Nothing happened.

  She scrunched her brow and concentrated, trying by sheer force of will to make the water swirl, slosh, anything.

  Nothing happened.

  She sighed and sat back. “This isn’t working.”

  “Hm.” Joshua bumped the bucket, just to make sure the water was capable of moving. It was.

  “Well,” he said, “I know you might not want to talk about this, but… How did you feel when you froze Cormack?” Celeste looked away. “Were you angry?” He went on quietly. “Afraid?”

  Celeste shut her eyes and forced herself to remember two nights ago. “I was… I was just cold.” She opened her eyes.

  “Cold. Physically cold?”

  “No, cold on the inside. Cold rage. It was as if I was numb, and all I could think about was… how much I hated Cormack, and I acted instinctually, hardly aware of what I was doing.”

  “Cold… Ok.” Joshua thought for a moment. “Let’s try something else.” He moved the bucket to the side and took Celeste’s hand.

  “Um, what are you doing?”

  “Celeste,” Joshua looked down. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but…” He looked back up at her. “You snore when you sleep.”

  Celeste blushed, “What?” The fire in the pit roared to life, and, as if in slow motion, a spark flew from the fire and landed on Joshua, catching his shirt and lighting almost instantly. Celeste gasped as he leapt to his feet and beat at his side. Celeste scooped some water from the bucket with her cup and splashed it on him, putting it out.

  They both just stood there a moment in silence. “I’m so sorry,” Celeste whispered.

  Joshua looked up from his slightly burned shirt and laughed. “What do you mean you’re sorry? You just controlled fire!”

  Slowly, a grin spread across her face. “I did, didn’t I?”

  “Magic!” Joshua said.

  “Magic.” Celeste replied.