Harper’s fingers clutch at my shoulders as she collapses against me. She’s all hummingbird breaths and smoke and the bitter scent of smoldering metal.
“Eli,” she gasps. “Fire.” She must have run all the way from the Home woods and around the cove that separates the woods from my Home in the surf.
The shouts of fire go up all around us as more Sprites run to the water for help. My kin take off to fight the blaze.
I pull Harper over the sand and when she hits the water steam erupts off her skin. I hold her head above the water and ask, “Is everyone out?”
Her voice is rough with pain and something that sounds like trying to breathe past pain. “Sara couldn’t—”
I leave here there, and start running. The sea reaches out to me, one swell after another pulling inward as I push myself away from the shore. Even if it can’t reach me, water is always at my back. I run, and pray her Home tree isn’t burning.
Sea air turns heavy and thick with smoke as I get closer to the woods. It’s mostly gone. A few Sprites stumble through smoke and ash to safety but the Wavesprites put up Forcefields and plunge in, quelling flames as they go. I clear a path with short bursts of water from my palms, and start yelling her name.
There’s no answer. Sweat drips down my back as I start to steam in the heat of the blaze
I pull my water back into me and I start to glow aqua in the middle of a dying inferno. The other spots of blue light in the woods have pushed it back, but it’s still roaring inland. It’s no brushfire, that’s clear as glass.
I stop looking for flames, and start looking for green light against the blue of the Waves and the red of fire.
And in the clearing just beyond the creek bed where the green light of her home tree makes me want to cry, I find her. I find her crumpled and broken, wilted as a rose in a drought. Blistered skin, vines and petals burned and dead, eyes closed to her burned forest. She is the daughter of this place, the very life of the woods. She is so quiet on the forest floor that for a moment I am afraid that she does not breathe, does not live, and the thought makes me still as a sail in a dead breeze.
“Sara,” I whisper to the burning rose.
The rose whimpers, and I rush to her.
I gather her to me, and her bellflower eyes open. A ghost smile crosses her face and she croaks, “I was looking for you.”
“Good thing you found me,” I say.
“I tried to save the tree,” she says, all worry and close knit eyebrows. She’s shaking like an oak leaf in the wind, and I know she losing strength.
“You succeeded,” I tell her.
She smiles, and wilts in my arms.
Her chest rises and falls. The sun is the only thing that can heal her now, and it waits under the horizon.
“What happened to the flower?” I jump at the voice.
“Leena, what happened? How did this happen?” The Flamesprite should know who started the blaze. “Will you help me get her to the creek? I’ll pull water in and maybe it’ll revive her vines. Come on.”
Leena’s white blond hair swirls all around her as she shakes her head. “No, I won’t, Prince.”
She’s called me that since we were children, as if a Wavesprite is better than any other.
“Leena. You’re my friend. Help me.”
“No, I won’t,” she says again. Her fists clench at her sides.
“The precious flower will get no help from me this night. The Flames did this for a reason, Prince. Fire kills all living things in its path. Especially precious flowers.”
“What?” I hold Sara like child in my arms, and I can feel her heart beat through my shirt, too fast.
“You are a living thing, too, Prince. Get out while you still can.”
She glows red hot just as the sun crests the horizon, and a wall of fire explodes from her fingertips.
As I run with Sara, one word plays over and over in my mind: war.
… to be continued.
For more amazing art by Catherine Langwagen, please visit her Deviant Art page (cassiopeiaart.deviantart.com). Stay tuned for our next prompt in the July series on Monday! Follow us on Twitter to get updates and news.
Artwork © Copyright, Catherine Langwagen 2011. All rights reserved. Used with permission.