|Posted by Christie V Powell on|
This is a scene from "Unearthed" where Keita learns to trust her friend Carli even when confronting her greatest fear.
A whiff of smoke stung Keita’s nose. She clenched her fists, trying to stop her hands from shaking. It didn’t work. “They’re going to burn us out, aren’t they?”
Carli nodded. “But don’t worry. They can’t burn us while I’m here.”
“They’d see you stop it!” Her voice was higher than she intended.
“Not so loud.”
Keita buried her face in her hands. Images were parading through her mind. Old trees devoured by flames. A hedge of maples turned to black ash. People running, screaming, carrying friends and family, their exposed skin changing to red and black and streaks of struggling green.
Heat licked the air. Keita could see flickering orange light through the gaps in the crates. They would have to move. Fight the guards. Never mind how many. Petrifying couldn’t be worse than this.
“Keita, just calm down! I can help. Trust me.”
“I can’t!” The words escaped before she could stop them.
“Of course you can. You’re a tough never-show-fear Sprite, remember?”
“We all hate fire.”
“Not like this.”
Carli looked concerned but not at all afraid. Keita forced herself to sit straight, but she couldn’t stop the shaking. “I’m sorry. I’m being weak.”
Something crashed behind them, and Keita barely stopped a shriek. “That wasn’t close,” Carli said.
Keita straightened again. “Sorry. It’s just... during the takeover… the Stygian started a wildfire in the Vale. It shouldn’t have burned, not with the trees covered by the first winter snow, but… it did. Fast. I got Avie, Glen got Zuri—she was visiting—and we went straight for the Summit. I left Avie in the mountains, when we were far enough away, and came back. I found Father. He had made it up the canyon. He tried to talk to me, but the pain…and his skin…and... and… he didn’t make it.”
Carli’s face had turned pale under her freckles. “I’m sorry. I knew you were pretty bad off when you got to the Summit.”
“I was alone. They didn’t let me leave again. And Avie didn’t show up… It was half a season, sitting in the Summit with nothing to do but worry, and I didn’t even know if she was alive.”
Carli took her hand. “Keita, I’m sorry. Really. But you’re not alone anymore. I can get us out of this, but I need to you trust me.”
Keita could see her reflection in her friend’s eyes. I’m glad there are no other Sprites here, she thought. I look pathetic. Carli was calm, in control. Keita had seen her do amazing things. She’d put her life in her friends’ hands before, time after time. She could do it again. She took a deep breath. Then, slowly, she nodded.
Carli smiled. “We’ll be fine,” she promised.
A sudden crack told her that the roaring fire had reached their hiding place. Keita flinched.
“It’s okay,” Carli said. “Look.”
Slowly Keita turned. The crate behind her was ablaze. She scurried back, but even as she moved she noticed that the heat wasn’t hurting, not even when her toes and skirt brushed the flames. She looked back at Carli. “How are you doing that?”
“I’m not. We’re doing it together.”
“Look.” Carli held out her hand. The fingernails were cracked and discolored, but even as the girls watched the injuries blurred and faded away. “You should have seen it a few minutes ago. I got stepped on in the mob. We’re sharing our defenses, see? Zuri calls it unifying.”
An orange flicker played on Keita’s sleeve, part of the flames dancing all around them. They were sort of pretty, she thought. If you could get past the fact that they wanted to kill you. She took a deep breath. They were safe. At least for now.