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Desert Fires (pt 4)

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There are cold fingers brushing against her brow. They are gentle and meticulous in their movements. Odd, the sensation, where cold meets hot skin. Slowly she begins stirring back into consciousness. Back into the faint twinge of pain, specifically in her midsection. There is a heavy silence all around her, a thickness to the air as she finally sucks in a long breath. Instantly, she regrets such a move.

Draping her arm around her ribs, she hisses lowly while keeping her eyes closed against the sting. The cool fingers lift away from her forehead, the feel of a cold rag retreating. Rolling away from it, she tips to her side, her leg and collar bone straining. 

“It is advised that you move slowly. You are still healing. Quite faster than any normal human should.” A deep, soothing voice sends tingles along Mira’s body. A voice that triggers a deeply loved memory.

“F’dir?!” She gasps, turning and opening her eyes with difficulty towards a blurry image. They have broad shoulders, a physique that tricks Mira’s mind for that split second to use the coveted word amongst her elemental brethren. ‘F’dir’ – meaning ‘most beloved’.

“Who’s that?” The voice asks her, the words from their lips slipping out like silk.

Rubbing away her blurry vision with one hand, she keeps one arm draped around her ribs. She was laying on something extremely soft and lifted off of the floor. The man sitting next to her shifts ever so slightly, but even that small move was one full of grace, more than she had seen any other man achieve so flawlessly. There was something shifting in tow behind him, soft and whisper quiet. But Mira ignores the question. Of course it was not who she thought it was. The hope falling away from her face would not likely be missed. 

“….Where am I?” She demands suddenly, feeding that small flit of hope to her anger, her awareness finally clicking into defensive mode. 

The sound of the rag being set into a wash basin echoes in the silence of the room. Moments linger on until the man finally inhales gently and leans into his sitting position. His arms rest against his knees, fingers coming together in a non-threatening manner to steeple. Half of his shoulder length dark brown hair is tied back into a braid, while the rest brushes past a solid, square jawline. Eyes the color of green emeralds pierce through her defensive manner. He reminded her TOO much of Jason, save for those eyes. So it is with surprise in herself that she recoils back, if only for self preservation. 

“We call it the Aerie. High up in the sandstone mountains.” That soft sound of something sweeping across the floor when he moves makes Mira shift her eyes. She gasps, again feeling her ribs scream in revolt. Wings. He has a set of large, brown wings tipped with the faintest hint of green. They trail behind him like a regal robe of gleaming spun silk. The man continues.

“After your attack on one of our birds, you crashed into our walls. You have our healers quite perplexed.” His thin lips twitch after that, a small grin quirking at the edge of his mouth. Mira can only stare at him in disbelief. Had she ever met anyone that had wings? No, she could not recollect. 

“I…we…I mean…” She wasn’t normally known for stuttering in her amazement in another being. She straightens her shoulders as best she can, curling her arm around her ribs a little tighter and finally steadying herself. “Who are you?”

“WindBack. And you are?” He says smoothly. 

Mira takes note of the name carefully.  He is quite tall, even when sitting. His chest is bare, showing many corded muscles and lightly tanned skin, a few scars along his arms. The only clothing he wears look to be weather worn loose hide pants that nearly match the color of his wings, his feet bare as well. Wetting her lips, she shifts uncomfortably, realizing for the first time, her own torso is bare, save for the wrappings that just barely cover her womanly parts. It takes everything for her not to flounder at the furs to cover herself in a frenzy.

“Mirabar.” She says, her voice coming out completely subdued as she gently reaches for a fur hide and lifts it to better cover her cleavage. But WindBack averts his eyes before he starts to speak again, giving her the moment of privacy.

“Mirabar. Beautiful name.” He says simply, thick arched eyebrows quirking in sink with his thin smile. When he tilts his head to the side for a moment, Mira sees a sinuous-like tattoo from the back of his ear, disappearing beneath his tresses and peaking out once more along his bicep. 

“That means ‘Burning’, correct?” His head corrects itself and he turns his eyes back to meet hers. 

Mira meets his gaze, her golden eyes blinking a few times, incredulous. 

“Close. It means ‘Bright Burn’.” She replies softly. That silence returns, until she finally gives a shake of her head and frowns openly at him.

“How do you know that?” She demands, while her peripherals tell her that they are alone in the room. No guards. No onlookers. No one to stop her if she needs to distract and bolt.

“Oh, I do not know the language. Just a few words here and there. Usually Fire and Air cross paths, here in the desert. I have tried to learn the tongue, but it is quite difficult.” He smiles at Mira, a large, genuine smile that shows a full set of pearly white, perfectly set teeth. It’s quite offsetting. But before Mira can respond, he quickly changes the subject, standing up from his chair and walking towards a table of multi-colored looking food. He waves a hand over it, nonchalantly. 

“Hungry? You must be, after such a fall you and your companion had. He merely sprained his leg on his fall. You, however, have several ribs broken with a punctured lung, broken collar bone and broken leg. We thought you were dead.” He reaches for a bright red apple, biting into it heartily, the juices flecking against his lips. Mira feels her stomach growl in response. Yes, she was quite hungry. But as she begins to move out of her plush, fur lined bed, she looks beneath them. A scowl replaces the longing of hunger. 

“Where are my clothes?” It is hard to keep your voice friendly when realizing your quite vulnerable. 

“Being washed. There was a lot of blood.” WindBack says matter-of-factly, then takes another bite of his apple. 

Mira looks around the room. She notes, with a small bit of alarm, there are no doors to be found. Only one side of the four sandstone walls that has a heavy curtain, letting slivers of bright sunlight seep through. There must be a breeze in the hallway beyond, for the gentle rustling of air was shifting the fabric. Beside her bed, a thin and long robe hangs precariously upon a peg set into the wall. On further inspection of her room, she notices intricate patterns inlaid upon the sandstone. Something that must have taken an artisan years to complete. Before thinking, Mira reaches for the robe. A pained groan leaves her lips and she catches herself from falling off of her bed with her free arm. 

WindBack crosses back towards Mira, reaching for the robe in an exaggerated movement. Perhaps it had something to do with being akin to air. His wings give a slight shimmy, as if readjusting against his will as he turns to her and extends his arm to offer the robe. 

“You really should rest your body.” He says, a curiosity twinkling in those bright green eyes as he stares down at her.

Mira snatches the robe, doing her best to drape it around her with just one arm. It isn’t working out very well. Huffing in frustration, she looks up at WingBack and purses her lips impatiently.

“Kindly turn around.” She commands. 

The winged man grins mischievously, but slowly turns to look away from her as she shifts her legs over the side of the bed. Keeping an eye on his back, mostly distracted by those glorious wings, she moves off the bed and grunts. Her leg was weak, and it takes quite a time for her to finally get the robe properly onto her body. Tying off the waist belt, she can’t help but feel how soft and warm the fabric is, even though it is so thin. While his back is still to her, she brushes past him as quick as she is able.

Reaching for the curtained wall, she pulls it back, if weakly, and begins to step past it. Her mind quickly sees the deadly drop before her, yet her body is still in the motion of moving forwards to escape her confines. A startled gasp straggles from her throat as she feels her body falling forwards off of the sandstone. And another gasp, one of sheer agony, rips free when a strong arm loops around her already bruised and broken waist, pulling her back. She imagined herself quite the rag doll, as bare feet leave the ground in that quick motion to pull her inadvertently falling to her death. 

WindBack is still holding Mira at least a foot off the ground, as she collects herself and takes a few hurtful breaths. Her fingers dig into his forearm, her face screwing up in the pain. Gently she is set back upon the ground, his arm carefully slipping back and away from her. He takes a few steps back as Mira turns to face him, his wings partially stretched out, ready to extend fully if he had to leap from that dangerous ledge. Mira’s eyes blur briefly with tears, not from despair, but from sheer anger.

“I’m a captive?” She asks. She could feel the heat flushing to her cheeks, that rebellious fire growing deep in her very being. Her fingers curl into fists. 

“No. But with all due respect, you and your companion are strangers in our land. And you did formidable damage to one of our large birds. Luckily, the healers are working on him and he will recover to fly our skies again. Had you killed him…that would have been another matter.” His voice is firm, yet compassionate.”

“He was going to eat us! Damn right I had to hurt him to get free!” Mira’s voice reverberates along the sand walls. Eyes blazing in defiance, she ignores the familiar stinging in her bones and muscles. 

“It is in it’s nature to hunt for itself. You musn’t hold that against him.” There! That amused smile, once again! Did this man think it was a joke to hold her here??

“Where is Eryth?” She changes the subject. Because as much as she hates to admit it, she didn’t blame the eagle. It was the only reason she hadn’t roasted it upon it swooping down to catch them. She had hesitated. And now she was here. 

“He’s only a few rooms over. A healer is working on his leg and it should be like new tomorrow.” His arms cross over his barrel chest, shoulders shifting back, which in turn makes his wings shift back further. 

He had to be nearly 7 feet tall. Another aspect that makes her stomach churn in remembrance. Turning towards the ledge once more, she uses her bare toes to help prevent from slipping forwards. Looking down, it is a completely flat and sheer cliff face. No handholds, no outcropping of rocks to easily climb down are anywhere. A gust of warm wind sends her hair tangling back against her shoulders. There are dust granules that float against her golden eyes, causing her to blink and finally flinch away. Chewing upon her lower lip, trying to figure out how she gets out of here, she wonders idly if she could burn the sandstone down to the ground and walk free of this place. Eryth would be able to survive it. 

Unfortunately, Mira was not in the business of killing complete strangers, that have up to this point, only tried to help her back to health. Turning back to WindBack, she mimics his crossed arms.

“How does anyone without wings get out of here?” Gold eyes directly meet his own, her own brow lifting quizzically. 

“Your carried to the requested room or hall, of course.” He replies, meeting her gaze, that feeling of mirth dancing there at how Mira frowns at him in a moment of confusion. 

WindBack moves towards Mira slowly, dropping his arms to his sides, and letting his wings brush out to nearly their full wingspan. He shows his palms to her, a small gesture he means no harm. 

“Would you like me to take you to your companion?” 

“No.” Mira says, a little too quickly. She feels her back press into the sandstone, and she reaches out one hand to help prompt his advance towards her. Eyes flicker between his laughing eyes and spread wings. He stops in his tracks, tilting his head to the side as if saying ‘are you sure?’. Mira simply stares at him a moment more before wetting her dry lips. 

“We mean you no harm, here. Just take a little time to rest. Eat. Your clothes will be delivered to you soon. I will check on you later.” He gives a gentle bow of his head, sending a few stray tendrils over his tattooed shoulder. Once he straightens back up, he moves to the ledge until his bare feet are teetering at the precipice. Turning his back to wide open air, he flashes a quick wink to Mira before letting his body fall backwards effortlessly. 

Mira cannot help but gasp on his behalf as he disappears from view. Still being careful, she leans to look down the cliffside. But her chin snaps upwards against a strong ‘woosh’ of air and the strong sound of wings beating against the wind as WindBack lifts his body upwards along the cliffside and then to bank off towards the open desert sands, away from Mira’s quarters. Her mouth falls open in awe. For he was not the only one cutting through the air and clouds like softened butter. There were dozens of them. All majestic, ethereal human birds freely soaring, all about their day as if they did not have two fire elementals held captive in their mountainside. 

It is beautiful to behold. But doubt tangles her insides. 

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