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.
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.”
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.