Iron and Ice
“But why?” I ask Eli. He runs his hands again and again through Sara’s ruby ringlets, as if his touch will wake her when the sun has not. “Why would the Flames want to hurt us? We’re all the same”
He shakes his head. “We’re not. Not according to Leena.”
“What does that bitch know?” I’m so angry small pieces of metal are embedding themselves in my palms. Magnetism through emotion is only convenient during a fight. Otherwise it just makes me look deformed. I shake the bits of debris of my skin and onto the sand.
“Harper. They want Sara.”
We’re waiting for the sun to heal her skin and slow her breaths. She’s wilting more by the second and her vines are so burnt that it’s hard to see them through her hair. I will the sun to rise faster, but I know it has to fight the horizon to show us light.
“But that makes no sense.”
“It’s does,” he says without taking his eyes off her. “She makes the earth. She has all the power. Leena’s next in line, after her. Without her, they can take over. Rule us.”
“They might want her, but that won’t matter if the fire gets to the gates. It was heading that way.” The thought of the gate on fire makes my skin crawl.
“If she is gone and the gates burn, the world is theirs.”
“That can’t happen. What do we do?”
“Keep her safe and stop them.” He shakes his head at her as the skyline turns pink with the promise of a sunrise.
“How?” I ask. I wonder if anyone has ever look at me the way he’s looking at her.
“I don’t know, but I think we need Colt.”
“Oh, joy,” I let my eyes roll to Eli, and he laughs once, hard and bitter.
“Nobody needs Colt,” I say.
“Yeah,” he agrees, “but if we want to keep Sara and Homewoods, we do.”
“Crap,” I say, as three bottle caps fly over to stick to my calves. “Well go get him, then.”
Eli’s blonde eyebrows knit together and he glances at Sara and back to me. I sigh.
“You don’t want to leave her?” My tone is mocking.
He smiles at me. “Please Harper?”
I make a noise that sounds like half snort, half growl. “Fine. If she wasn’t my best friend…ugh. I guess I’ll go, then. If she’s dead when I get back I’m going to drown you in your own power.”
He looks at me, hard. A well of years betrays me, and he stands up to give me a proper hug.
“It’s going to be okay,” he says. I hope he’s right. Otherwise I’m torturing myself for nothing.
I trudge out to the point, where the water is black in the lifting darkness. The wind tugs at my hair, and it smells like salt and fish and something spicy and exotic. Colt.
Over my shoulder, Homewoods glows orange and I know if it keeps up it’s going to burn the gates, and that’ll be the end of us. Humans are only separated from us by the gates that provide camouflage to Sprites. Without it, they’d figure out their world couldn’t run without us growing their plants and regulating their minerals and crashing their waves against shores to keep tides regular. And when humans don’t understand, they destroy. Fire will prevail.
“Colt!” I scream into the abyss.
“Hey sweetheart.” The soft voice at my ear makes me jump.
“Ugh! How long were you watching me watch this mess,” I push him away with the flat of my palm that a lump of metal has stuck to. He winces, though I know it couldn’t have hurt him
“You’re cute when you’re concerned.” He pulls the lump of metal off my palm, and I stagger forward.
“You’re an ass.”
“Only when provoked,” he says. “So what’s all the commotion? I would have been here sooner, but I was over the mainland.”
I give him a rundown.
The first question out of his mouth is, “Sara?”
“I hope,” I say.
He thinks hard for a moment, and I hate how beautiful he is. Wiry but muscled under tan skin, eyes so light a glacier would be jealous, and hair the opposite.
“And I guess it’s you and I to the rescue?”
“Something like that.”
He nods once, wrap his arm around my waist, and kisses me so hard I can’t think.
When he releases me his eyes burn sapphire in the morning light, and he says, “Let’s go save that gate, beautiful.” He takes off running, full tilt toward the blaze.
I shake my head and I follow, the sun finally at my back.
… to be continued.
For more amazing art by Catherine Langwagen, please visit her Deviant Art page (cassiopeiaart.deviantart.com). Stay tuned for Becky’s response to our July series on Friday. Follow us on Twitter to get updates and news.
Artwork © Copyright, Catherine Langwagen 2011. All rights reserved. Used with permission.