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.”