Wednesday, January 6, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

  Juroosh was decimated.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

  Joshua stood quietly in the rain and said nothing.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 1, 2016

[The Long-Awaited] Chapter SEVENTEEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now for Chapter seventeen...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Joshua laughed, “Eager, are we?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  “What?” Joshua prompted.

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

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

  Celeste laughed.

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

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

  “See? I believe you.”

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

  Grimly, Joshua nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  “What? Really? Where?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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