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