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.

Saturday, June 27, 2015


Previously- Celeste and Joshua had been kidnapped by Korelians. On their seventh day of capture, the leader of the group left, later followed by all but one of the Korelians. Celeste used her magic for the first time and froze the Korelian Cormack and then promptly collapsed, caught just in time by Joshua.


  “Celeste? Celeste, are you alright?” Joshua gently shook her, careful to keep the dagger in his hand pointed away from her.

  Celeste’s eyes were half closed. She was so tired. More tired than she had ever felt in her entire life, and all she wanted to do was sleep. But this person— what was his name?—kept yelling at her. Whatever he wanted must be important. Celeste forced her eyes open, focusing her mind as much as she could. Joshua’s face peered down at her in the darkness, and she remembered Cormack. She’d frozen him. Celeste’s eyes fluttered. “Joshua?”

  “Yeah, it’s me. Are you alright?” Using the dagger, Joshua cut the rope still binding Celeste’s wrists. “I need you to stand.” He went on. “We’ve got to go back to the camp and get out of here before the Korelians come back.”

  “The Korelians!” Celeste’s foggy mind recalled the danger they were in. She dreadfully wanted to fade away into blissful unconsciousness, but she knew she couldn’t. With Joshua’s help, she managed to make it to her feet, swaying in small circles and almost falling asleep with each blink.

  “Look, I’ll support you, ok?” Joshua encouraged. “But we have to move as quickly as possible.” Celeste nodded and held on to Joshua as they made their way back to the camp. Their progress was slower than she would have liked, but everything was sore, and whatever she had done to Cormack had absolutely drained her. It was an incredible effort to stay upright, put one foot in front of the other, and to just keep going.

  When they got back, Joshua gently let Celeste to the ground. She wrapped her arms around herself, suddenly cold without Joshua beside her. “Ok,” he said, “wait here.”

  Joshua ran to the horses first. There were only three left: Nutmeg, Amos, and Cormack’s horse. Quickly, Joshua rifled through Cormack’s bag for anything useful. There was a bit of food, but mostly it was alcohol. Joshua took the food, adding to the pack on Nutmeg. He shifted some of the bags, and let Cormack’s horse go, slapping it to get it running off into the woods. He didn’t bother at the moment to go through the other packs. He brought the horses over to Celeste, handing her the reigns while he ran back to the fire. Scooping several handfuls of dirt on the fire to kill it, he glanced around the camp one last time.

  “Ok,” he said to Celeste who was happily patting Nutmeg’s snout. “Come on, I’ll help you onto Amos. We’ll both ride him.” She was too tired to argue and didn’t think she’d be able to ride a horse by herself without falling off anyway. With a great amount of help from Joshua, she climbed into the saddle and slid as far forward as she could. Joshua leapt up behind her. He paused a moment, then wrapped his arms around her to reach the reigns. In her ear, he murmured, “You can lean back if you like.” Celeste didn’t even hesitate. She leaned against him, feeling warm and safe and tired.

  With Nutmeg tied to them, Joshua gave Amos a kick, and they started off through the jungle. It was hard to see with almost no light, but Joshua seemed to know where he was going. Although the ride was bumpy Celeste could barely keep her eyes open as mind-numbing weariness dragged at her. She struggled to stay conscious. At some point, they splashed into a river and began following it downstream. It got so deep for a time that the water was up to their knees, soaking through their clothes. As Celeste shivered, Joshua automatically tightened his arms around her.

  It seemed both as if they were traveling forever and for no time at all. Celeste, falling in and out of consciousness didn’t actually know how many hours had gone by She was vaguely aware of the rocking motion of the horse below her and of Joshua holding her steady. She swam in dreams, coming in and out of them, unaware of what was real and what was imagined.

  Cormack came at her in a dream, and she shouted, her hands up to try to keep him away. Then she heard a voice, “It’s ok, Celeste. Shh.” And Cormack faded away. Then her mother was there, and Celeste was sick in bed. Her mother was patting her forehead saying, “Shh. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about your father.” Celeste cried. She turned and muttered in her sleep, barely aware of the world around her.

  Eventually, she felt she was sliding off the horse, and she tried weakly to grab something before she realized Joshua had caught her and was carrying her. She nuzzled closer to him, and he held her tightly. “Joshua,” she whispered. He laid her down, and she sighed, quickly falling into a deep sleep.


  When Celeste came to, it was sudden. One second she was asleep, the next her eyes were open. She was laying on her side, and she was immediately struck with disorientation. The Korelians—she had been captured. Where was she? She sat up suddenly. Memories hit her like arrows, and she groaned, everything aching. Cormack. She had turned him into a party decoration then shattered him. How was she supposed to feel about that? Strangely, she felt nothing, only apathy. It had happened. She had done what she had to do, and it had felt natural to her.

  “So the sleeping beauty finally awakens.” Celeste turned, seeing Joshua crouching in front of a fire in a fire pit. For the first time Celeste looked around her. She and Joshua were in some kind of cave or hut, but there were no windows, and she couldn’t see the entrance.

  “Where are we?” She muttered. The only light was from the fire that cast an eerie glow over Joshua. Nutmeg whinnied happily and plodded over the Celeste. “What are you doing in here?” She asked him. “How did you even get in here?”

  “We’re in a—what do I call this?—an underground… mmm” Joshua paused, looking for a suitable word. “Burrow I guess? It’s a place I stumbled across a year ago. Literally stumbled across. I was heading for a tree as cover for the rain, and I tripped over the entrance to this. It’s man-made, but I have no idea who made it. I really wish I could thank him though. Unless he’s, you know, evil or something, but that’s probably unlikely. We are in Korelia, though, so there’s no telling…” Joshua paused, trying to get his thought process back on the right track. “Anyway, we can stay here for a little while, lick our wounds so-to-speak, and let the Korelians get tired of searching for us.”

  “Ok,” Celeste said, nodding. “So…, I froze Cormack.”

  “Yes you did.”

  Celeste nodded again.

  Joshua looked at her sympathetically, “How about we discuss that another day.”

  Celeste sighed, “Ok.” Her raw, bruised wrist brushed against the blanket that was covering her, and she hissed in pain.

  “Oh, here,” said Joshua. “I’ve been making something for that.” He stirred something in a pot over the fire. “You can thank the Korelians for the pot.” He lifted it from the fire and crouched next to Celeste. Gently, he took one of her hands and began applying a greenish-brown muck to her wounds. The muck was warm, but not too hot, and it felt soothing. When he finished he lifted her hand in the air and glanced at her as if realizing how close they were. “Should let it dry,” he murmured quietly, his eyes flickering over her face “before you touch it.” For some reason, Celeste’s heart beat a little faster. Abruptly, he let go of her hand and took the other one, dropping his eyes from hers and focusing on her wrist. Clearing his throat, his voice returned to a more normal volume. “Now,” he said, “This paste has crushed mushrooms in it, among other things. There are two different kinds of mushrooms: one is used for healing purposes, but there’s this other kind that looks the exact same and can cause your hand to have to be amputated. I’m pretty sure I picked the right kind, but if you feel a terrible burning sensation—“

  “What?” Celeste jerked her hand away from him. Then he looked up at her with a grin on his face, and, shoving him, she yelled, “Joshua!” But he just laughed, refusing to apologize.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Previously- Joshua gave Celeste the Prophecy Stone to wear around her neck just before the two of them were captured by Korelians. Since then, they've crossed the border into Korelia and have been traveling for six miserable days. The Korelians get drunk at night and have occasionally thought of doing something awful to Celeste but were stopped before these ideas could come to pass by the leader of the group Kailak.

  The next day marked a week of captivity for Joshua and Celeste. Stumbling over their own feet, the two of them slogged through the mucky jungle, unable to shoo away mosquitos or wipe their sweaty brows as they were led like dogs by a leash. The cries of the beasts of the jungle still serenaded them, but Celeste mostly focused on her legs and feet now, forcing them to move just one more time, then just one more time, over and over and over again.

  Around mid-afternoon, Kailak called for a halt. Celeste immediately and gratefully sunk to her knees, Joshua beside her. Fighting to catch her breath, she asked, “What are they doing?” She hoped whatever it was lasted a long time. “Why are we stopped?”

  “I don’t know,” Joshua replied. They watched as Kailak dismounted his horse and pulled a scroll from his pack. He unrolled it, laying it out and withdrawing a compass. “It looks like,” Joshua said, “Kailak is referring to a map. It seems I know this jungle better than he does.”

  Aghast, Celeste stared at him, “You know where we are?” The gnarly trees and vines and muck surrounding them looked all looked the same to her.

  “Yeah, I know where we are. I’ve had to hide out in this jungle more times than I can count. A lot of that time was spent exploring and memorizing the territory. Right now, we’re near a town called Akin.” Joshua paused to raise his tied hands and brush a mosquito from his neck. “I sneaked into the town a few times.”

  “To learn information?”

  “I occasionally discovered a useful tidbit, but mostly I just sneaked in to get out of this dratted forest.”

  Kailak called two of his men over to consult with him over his map. Celeste recognized one of them as the man who had found Celeste and Joshua at the Tipsy Tankard. It took her numb mind a moment to recall his name—Alexius. The other man was one who got especially rowdy after he had been drinking. Celeste also knew him, and she hated him. He was the one who always drew the other men’s attentions to Celeste, and he was the one who taunted her the loudest. She thought his name was Cormack. His hair was dirty brown, and he had an ugly scar on his cheek that looked as if it had been deep. Celeste hoped it had been painful too.

  Kailak, folding the map and returning it to his saddlebag, said loud enough for everyone to hear, “There’s a town called Akin a short ride from here. I’m going there to send a messenger to his glorious majesty. I’ll be back in the morning. Alexius’s in charge.” Kailak, a man of few words, mounted his horse and rode from the group. A wave of relief swept over the bone-weary Celeste, and she drooped, thinking how nice it would be to not have to walk anymore. With Kailak gone, the others would set up camp and- and then Celeste jerked up straight realizing that Kailak would not be here to tell his men to leave her alone. What might they do to her?

  Joshua slid nearer Celeste and bumped her shoulder with his own. “You’ll be ok. If it gets down to it, I’ll think of something. I won’t let anyone hurt you.” Celeste wished she could believe that Joshua would be able to escape his bindings and fight off ten men to protect her, but she just couldn’t.

  Two men dragged Joshua and Celeste and tied them up as usual. Joshua groaned quietly as his aching back was shoved against a tree before his arms were pulled back and tied to it for the seventh night in a row. His throbbing shoulders screamed at him, and he silently apologized, telling them he would do something if he were able. Then his right hand bumped against something. He stretched his fingers desperately and managed to grasp a rough rock. Bending his hand a way it really didn’t want to bend, he began sawing at his ropes.

  Although the day was yet young, the Korelians began to drink from their bottles as soon as their horses were tied and their fire was lit. Celeste fought to ignore her pain, fear, and helplessness as the day wore on. Her eyes sought out Nutmeg as they had done every night, and a wave of grief, followed instantly by a stronger wave of hatred washed over her. Her beautiful horse was weighed down with a load of excess supplies—mostly liquor Celeste assumed—and covered in muck from their journey through the swampy jungle. His tail, which was flicking back and forth as he tried futilely to keep the mosquitoes at bay, was full of knots. Celeste wanted desperately to go to him or at least talk to him and give him some kind of comfort and reassurance, but on the other side of the camp, he wouldn’t hear her unless she yelled, drawing everyone else’s attention also. Silently, Celeste prayed a prayer that Nutmeg, at least, would get out of this alive and someday see Forellia once more.

  Daylight faded to twilight, and the Korelians were laughing rowdily. Celeste, weary and aching though she was, could not take her eyes off them for fear. They were growing more wild with every sip, and before the day was up, Celeste knew that something unpleasant was bound to happen. She felt it coming like an omen.

  An hour before dark, Alexius stood, saying, “You’ve convinced me, comrades. If Kailak can go to Akin and have a decent meal and find a woman to warm his bed tonight, than why can’t we?” This was answered by a roar of “Yeah!” and “Why not us?” Alexius went on, “We’ve been in this wretched jungle as long as he has! We deserve a night of fun!” Celeste’s heart was pounding. Was this a good thing? What would happen to her and Joshua? “There’s just one problem,” Alexius said, stopping everyone with an outstretched hand. “Somebody has to stay behind to watch the Forellians.” His finger pointed directly as them, and Celeste shivered at the snarl on his face. “Do we have a volunteer or shall we draw sticks?”

  “I’ll watch ‘em,” somebody purred. Celeste’s eyes darted among the faces, wondering who would have volunteered until her eyes landed on Cormack. She stiffened, an inadvertent tremor running up her spine. Please no she begged in her mind.

  Alexius slapped him on the back, saying, “I thought you just might take up that opportunity.” His smile was malicious as he said, “Just don’t damage her too much.”

  Cormack’s eyes never left Celeste’s as he replied, “I’ll make no promises.”

  Alexius howled with laughter and joined the others as they mounted their horses and made a hasty departure to Akin.

  Cormack made no immediate move. He continued drinking, staring at Celeste until she felt like a mouse being played with by a cat. She was trembling so hard she felt that the ropes restraining her were the only things keeping her together and without them she’d simply fall apart into uncountable pieces. “Joshua,” she hissed, just trying to feel that she wasn’t so alone. Cormack stood, dropping his now empty bottle of alcohol and coming towards them. Celeste closed her eyes, trying to calm her panicked senses. She had to fight back, and she couldn’t do that if she was shaking this hard.  Cormack pulled a dagger from his belt.

  Beside her, Joshua snarled at Cormack, “Don’t you dare touch her.”

  Cormack glanced at him, “And what will you do when I do touch her?” His speech was slurred from drink. “Spit at me? Curse me?” He smiled smugly, “You go right ahead and curse away.” He bent next to Celeste, the dagger held to cut her binds. Joshua’s ropes finally snapped. He didn’t wait a moment. Powered by adrenaline, he leapt at Cormack with a roar, catching him by surprise, and they both went down. Scrambling in the dirt, Joshua somehow regained his footing first and grabbed Cormack, throwing him to the side. Trying to retain his advantage, Joshua went to Cormack before he could stand and kicked him in the side. Cormack cried out in pain and anger, and when Joshua tried to kick him again, he grabbed Joshua’s leg and pulled him down. Joshua hit the ground hard and groaned. Cormack stood, slightly hunched over the side Joshua had kicked. Weakly, Joshua was trying to stand, but Cormack, furious, grabbed Joshua’s head and slammed his knee into it. Celeste yelled, “No!” an unbidden tear falling down her cheek as she helplessly watched. Dazed, Joshua swayed on his knees, but Cormack had retrieved his dagger and, before Joshua could react, slammed the butt of it on his head. Joshua sighed and fell face-first to the dirt, unconscious.

  Celeste cried, “No! Joshua!” staring at his prone form and praying he was still alive. Then Cormack, breathing heavily and very angry, turned to Celeste. He cut her bonds, dropping his dagger and grabbing her wrists to wrap a rope around them as she struggled uselessly. Cormack seemed to have the strength of a bear, and Celeste, weak as she was, felt like a child in his vicelike grip. Her wrists bound, he took hold of her arm and dragged her away from the camp, away from Joshua, into the jungle.

  She twisted and yanked, trying desperately to slip from his talons, but Cormack only growled and dug his fingers into her arm. Celeste whimpered in pain. He pulled her forward deeper into the jungle until it was so dark, Celeste could only see by the light of the moon through the trees’ leaves. Gracelessly, Cormack threw Celeste to the ground in front of him.

  Celeste growled, crawling to her hands and knees as she felt something inside of her, like her gut was twisting, and she realized was it was: cold rage. The past week of being dragged behind these men like she was nothing, being captured in the first place, all the pain from her wrists and legs and back, the taunts, the fear and terror of this moment, and what this man had done to Joshua— all of it melted and simmered into one pure emotion. Rage. In that moment, on the dirt while Cormack was standing over her, she didn’t think it was possible for her to hate an individual more than she hated him. The anger surged through her veins, making her cold all over. Before she knew what she was doing, she shrieked like a banshee and launched herself at Cormack, her bound hands open, her nails pointed like a cat’s claws as she raked them across his face. Cormack stumbled back in shock, clutching the bloody streaks across his face. Celeste grinned like a demon in the moonlight, wanting in that moment nothing more than this man’s death. The cold wafted from her like mist, and the Stone around Celeste’s neck suddenly grew intensely cold, glowing in the darkness. Instinctively, Celeste grasped cold and the rage and the energy and directed all of it straight at the man before her.

  Cormack had removed his hands from his face and was staring at Celeste with an expression of loathing when he suddenly stiffened, surprise flickering across his face as a blue pallor touched it. He let out one misty breath in the air before ice particles froze him where he stood. The ice spread over his clothes from his head to his feet in an instant, icicles growing from his fingertips and hair, that expression of surprise literally frozen on his face.

  From the trees, Joshua, holding Cormack’s dagger, burst forth, and looked on in wide-eyed shock as the last layer of ice covered Cormack. The frozen figure stood there for a moment, a blue statue in the moonlight. Staring at it, Celeste tilted her head, and the statue shattered like glass, raining down in tiny pieces to the grass.

  With Cormack gone, Celeste’s rage dissipated, and so did her strength. Swaying, she found herself unable to continue standing and collapsed, Joshua catching her just before she hit the ground.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Chapter TWELVE

Previously- Joshua and Celeste were taken prisoner by some Korelians.

  Traveling as prisoners of the Korelians was miserable. By day, the horses walked, and Joshua and Celeste slogged behind, their wrists bound. At night, each was forced to sit in front of a tree and tied to it. Their bonds were only loosened when they were given a small piece of stale bread and a sip of water to sustain them. Leaning back on the rough bark of the tree, they had to learn to sleep sitting up. Hot in the day and cold at night, neither was provided with different or additional clothing, and in no time their shirts and pants were splattered with dirt and sweat-soaked. By the third day their wrists were bloody and raw, their backs ached, and they were sore, dirty, and exhausted from walking all day through the trees. The only time the two could relax was at night while the Korelians ate and drank, mostly leaving their prisoners alone.

  On the second day, they had crossed the border into Korelia. By the end of the day, the cool air had quickly changed to that of the hot and muggy jungle air. The trees were changing from oaks and pines to cypresses. Pretty soon the group would be in the thick of the tropical jungle. As many times as Joshua traveled into this country, he would never stop being amazed at how abruptly the world seemed to turn upside down. He always felt as if he had passed through some kind of portal to another planet. Bird calls, chirps, screeches, and growls he couldn’t identify filled the air. Vines fell from the trees like a snake’s coils and swamps were the landmarks one traveled by. Mosquitoes, already fat on blood, floated amongst the group, frequently choosing a new target. By the quantity of them, one would think the mosquitoes had smelled fresh blood from all the corners of Korelia and come swarming.

  As morning wore to afternoon, sweat soiled their clothes, and the clammy, stifling air wouldn’t let it evaporate. Occasionally it would rain lightly for a few minutes, but the rain wouldn’t be as refreshing one would expect. Rather, it was warm and soaked them without cooling them, only adding to the miserable humidity, and making their arms and legs chafe red and their clothes heavy with water to slow them down.

  By the fourth day, nobody would be able to even tell the party had come from Forellia. The Korelian jungle surrounded them. Snakes were everywhere, and Joshua warned Celeste to watch where she placed her boots lest there be a cottonmouth there sleeping or sunning and prepared to fight. Celeste found herself dividing her attention between walking and searching for the sources of the terrifying sounds of that horrible place. There was never a moment of silence, and Celeste was constantly looking into the trees to see if the croak or growl or squawk she had just heard was some kind of man-eating creature ready to leap at them from the trees. Fortunately, she rarely spotted the owner of the fear-inducing cries; however, that wasn’t always the case. Once, as the group walked near a murky swamp, Celeste heard a kind of guttural roar and looked up in terror to see an enormous scaly lizard on the other side of the swamp. She had read in books of this creature—she believed it was called an alligator— but Celeste hadn’t thought the creature would be so massive. The dinosaur-like monster spread its toothy maw and sat in stillness as if waiting for some unsuspecting prey to wander by. “Don’t worry,” Joshua said as he also noticed the beast. “Once they open their jaws, they hardly ever move until something comes close enough. On this side of the swamp, we’re safe.” Celeste appreciated his trying to reassure her, but she didn’t stop shaking until they were miles away.

   On the sixth night, as usual, Celeste and Joshua were seated in front of and tied to two trees. Celeste moaned as she leaned back. It actually felt good to sit on the hard dirt after the constant walking of the past six days. Both she and Joshua were covered in filth from trudging over the muddy, swampy ground, and their wrists, which were tied to the tree behind them, sent daggers of pain up their arms anytime they shifted their weight. Celeste’s entire body ached, and as the twilight turned to night and the air cooled, she would begin to shiver uncontrollably as her rain and sweat drenched clothes kept her from keeping warm. She was aware of this, but she was so mind-numbingly weary that she thought she may actually sleep well for the first time since they had been taken prisoner.

  “Look at the bright side,” Joshua said as the Korelians built a large fire to keep the jungle beasts at bay. Joshua paused, trying to think of a bright side, “Nope, sorry, I can’t think of one.” Celeste turned the faintest of smiles towards him. Joshua had been the only comfort in this horror. He somehow managed to retain his ridiculous optimism as he encouraged her in the day and distracted her from her woe at night.

  “I get to see another country for the first time,” Celeste provided.

  “Ah-ha, yes, see? There is a bright side. Now you can tell all your friends that you’ve been to Korelia. I bet none of them have been here.”

  “Yes, and I hope they never have to come here. Although I doubt I’ll ever have the opportunity to tell them anyway. Once we get to the king, you’re probably dead, and if you’re dead, I certainly won’t be able to survive whatever they subject me to.”

  “Hey, now where’s that fighting spirit you had back in Juroosh? You’re the girl who can do anything she puts her mind to. You’re the girl who’s going to save the world, remember?”

  Celeste raised her eyebrows at him. “Save the world, eh? I would kill all of these monsters if I had that kind of power, but I’m afraid I don’t even have enough to even save myself.”

  The Korelians began to unpack their seemingly unlimited supply of alcohol to drink, as they did every night.

  “Well,” Joshua replied, “how about I save you, and then you save the rest of the world… Just as soon as I figure out how to complete that first step, we’ll be on the road to victory.”

  “It’s a deal, Joshua. If we miraculously escape from this alive, I’ll try my best to save the world.”

  “At least we have our goals then.”

  The two of them sank into silence as they watched their captors grow drunk. It seemed the Korelians had forgotten to feed their prisoners that night, but Celeste was numb and beyond hunger. She was very thirsty, but fresh water wasn’t easily found here. Usually it had to be purified before it could be consumed, which was why, Celeste assumed, the Korelians drank so much liquor instead. She didn’t like it when they become very intoxicated, though, for when they did, they would come over to Celeste and leer at her and talk of taking her into the woods to have a little “fun.” Kailak had thus far not allowed too much of this talk, but Celeste was terrified the men may at some point grow so drunk and brazen that they would ignore him or wait ‘til he was asleep in his tent to come after her.


  As the night wore on and Celeste fell into semi-consciousness at her tree, Joshua grimly watched as the men drank yet more. He worried they may taunt Celeste again, and he was completely helpless to protect her. If just he had something with which he could cut through his binds, he could wait for the Korelians to fall into a drunken stupor. Then he could kill them all.

  Joshua didn’t like killing, and he had only done it a few times before when absolutely necessary, such as when he had broken into the Korelian king’s treasury to steal the Prophecy Stone. Someone had spotted him, and Joshua had shot him before he could call an alarm. Joshua had grimly walked past the bleeding corpse and escaped with his life. That was necessary. Killing his captors now if he had the chance may not be necessary, but if he did have the chance, he would take it to get vengeance for the suffering they had inflicted upon Celeste and himself. Most Korelians were cruel and lacked normal human compassion, but these especially seemed to lack common decency. Joshua didn’t think the world would miss them if they did not reach old age.

  The men laughed and roared into the night, under the weary but dogged eye of Joshua. After another hour or so, and to Joshua’s relief, they began to fall into a drunken sleep. After the last Korelian began to snore, Joshua slowly relaxed his tense muscles. When he knew she was safe, Joshua looked at Celeste. By the light of the fire, he could just make her out. Her head was tilted forward slightly in her sleep, her long blond hair was falling about her face, and her eyes were closed. She appeared thus peaceful only when she managed to sleep, and Joshua took comfort in watching her at night after the others fell into dreams. The bone aching weariness from their six days of travel, however, would not let him remain awake for long. Joshua had let Celeste’s peaceful face lull him to sleep each night since they had been taken prisoner. His eyes drifting closed, his head nodding, Joshua sank into a cold and uncomfortable slumber.