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Desert Sun

Helpless Whatever little courage he had was quickly diminishing before his eyes. He had no idea which way the door was and the smoke was quickly overcoming his lungs. There was no way out and before long the orange flames would consume them too. He was weak, tired and hopeless. This was it, the end of his life. Looking down at the bundle in his arms he almost laughed out loud. So unperturbed by the chaos around them was the little angle in his arms that she smiled up at him. She was a beautiful baby girl, with her mother’s brown flaked grey eyes and sand colored skin tone, her small head covered in the same dark hair that covered his head and a whole life ahead of her. Ignoring heat and smoke he sat on floor where he’d stood and focused on his daughter. The only thing he’d had left in this world. As the flames began to lick his being he continued to look down at her as he wept. She was his hope in a hopeless situation, the only comfort to him being the knowledge that he would die today but she would live. When at last -hours later- the fire was died out, the only thing that remained of the house behind the hill was the burnt corpse of a man sitting cross legged his skull bent downward towards the unscathed baby fast asleep in his scotched arms.

  Lost and Found Nayara Breathing was getting a little easier, which she assumed meant she was recovering well. In the past few nights Allegra had been forced to remain in her hut and give in to the healer’s orders. Allegra had nearly died after being caught in a sand storm then being been buried alive in sand and ruble, the healer had impugned the disaster to ‘angered spirits’ and had refused to let her go anywhere fearing the ‘spirits’ where still out to get her. Despite being the daughter of the previous healer she had never believed in the spirits. Too many times had she seen her mother make overly dramatic proclamations for the sake of people hearing what they sought after. And if she was ever wrong she would tell fables of the spirits working in ways we simple beings did not understand as a way of atonement. As a wife with two husbands and three still living children Allegra had not the time or the patience to wait for spirits to let go of whatever liability they held her.
The people of Nayara lived by a matriarch system and also practiced polyandry. The women worked all day on the dry earth attempting to coax the desert into blessing them with enough roughage to last their families through the winter while the man attempted, mostly without success, to fatten the camels. Most of their efforts were wasted due to the unforgiving conditions of the desert. It was not a rarity for whole families to die off during the winter due to hunger or succumbing to illnesses brought on by the night’s cold. As the head of her family it was her responsibility to ensure that her children would be safe and warm during the winter along with her husbands. She worked hard on the land every day and because she was so persistent she was able to salvage more from her land than most. She also had the advantage of having her lands closer to the river. Everyone had thought her crazy for having her lands so far away from her hut as it was believed to bring the land owner bad luck but she had done what she felt was best. The crops grew better if they were closer to the water, bad luck or not. It was just past noon when Allegra gave in to her pains and started the ride back home. She knew it would be a long ride as the camel she rode was slow and old but she did not care for the young fast ones. It always made her stomach ill at ease when they moved too fast.
 The desert heat had never bothered her much; she’d grown up under the sun and so was accustomed to its heat. As she made her journey in the serene silence –excluding her camel’s peevish mules- she thought hard on the year to come, Aldan and Erina her youngest children would be coming of age in the two months to come. For Aldan, her son, it would be fairly easy. With his strength and looks he would be married of in no time. Even so she worried about his temperament towards the tribe’s ways. For all his fourteen –soon to be fifteen- winters, the boy had never complied with the way things were done. He believed that simply because men where stronger they had the right to rule over the home and the tribe. Allegra had tried explaining to him that women did not “head” or “lead” anything, what they did was nature the tribe. As woman had been naturally gifted with the ability to give birth and they had a patience that could only come from being a mother. It was this natural gift that allowed them to take care of the tribe along with their families efficiently and to always do what was best for the tribe outside any subjective interests. The motherly nature of woman allowed them to love and care for the tribe. Men were more primitive in their thoughts and actions. They competed and fought among themselves and it was this primitive behavior that made them unsuited to care for the tribe. Aldan had thought Allegra’s reasoning flawed and had no qualms voicing his ideals. She sighed. Whatever poor woman took on that burden would be very brave. Good thing he hadn’t voiced out his opinion to too many people or his good looks wouldn’t do him any good. Erina was a different story all together. Looking back it was difficult to believe it would be fourteen winters now since the night her little miracle had come into her world.
 *** 

 Allegra was still mending from birthing yet another boy and trying to get over the disappointment when he second husband –Dornan- entered the hut looking as if he’d actually seen the fabled spirits the healer’s spoke of. The most valiant of her husbands it had taken Allegra a moment or two to recover from the shock of how he looked enough to ask what was wrong but before she could form the words she noticed the shifting bundle in his arms. As confusion creased her tanned forehead he fell to his knees before her and wept. The bundle in his arms shifted once again and there was a shrill cry from it. A few moments passed by as the crying-both her husbands and the child’s- registered. He was carrying a child and crying like a man who’d lost his mother. She knew not what was going on but the little thing was screaming it’s lungs out. Getting up with difficult as her body was still in pain, she waddled over to where he knelt and knelt beside him. Looking down at the child in his arms all she saw was a very frustrated little face all red and its little fists waving above its face. The child was easily the prettiest thing Allegra had ever seen with its pink lips and tinny mouth she felt her heart break seeing such beauty in pain. Without thinking she took the child into her arms and cradled her to her breast. She smiled as the child wrapped her little mouth around her nipple and started suckling. She immediately stopped crying but kept her eyes closed as she hungry took all that she could take. While the child fed she took the time to examine her.
Moving the skin that protected the child from the elements she noted that the child was undressed and her skin covered in what seemed like soot. As if she’d been playing in ash. She frowned. Whoever was responsible for this child had clearly been a careless person to have let the child get to be in such a condition. Looking down she realized that the child belly button seemed a bit raw. Her cord must have recently fallen off. Poor thing must be about a week or two old. Examining the child further she looked up to find the child’s breathing had slowing and she suckled a little less often but was unwilling to let her breast go. The child’s hair was so light she almost didn’t notice it there. Looking at it against her hand she realized something she should have realized at first glance, this child was not a child of Nayara. Her hair was light almost to the point of being the color of the moon yet her skin was a few tones lighter than Allegra’s own. she could look further at the little one a shocked gasp had Allegra looking up to find Dornan looking at her through tear filled eyes.
He looked moved a little closer to her then looked down at the child fast asleep in her arms. The tears streamed down his face silently. “I have never believed in the gods or the spirits. But I do now. This… this child has shown me. There has to be someone greater than we are to have created her.” This statement only managed to make Allegra frown at him. Hearing him she’d assumed her referred to the child’s beauty but looking at him all she saw on his face was misery and… horror.
How a small child could frighten a grown man she had no idea. “Dornan please do speak your mind. You come to me in weeping holding a child with no explanation to offer but parables and tears. What happened? To whom does this child belong and what has you so pained?” Even as she asked whose child it was a fragment within her winced at the thought of have this baby belong to anyone else. It shocked her to realize this within herself but she managed to keep her thoughts from showing on her face. As if the question was too much a weight to bear Dornan’s shoulder’s hunch further and the tears continued to fall. Perplexed by his behavior Allegra silently waited until he would compose himself enough to speak.
As his silent sobs died down he cleared his throat to speak “I was on my way back from the river by the hills when I saw the smoke in the sky near the foot of the hill. I was hesitant to go closer to the hills given the late hour but I found myself there after a while. The fire was almost out and the hut had fallen on itself. I was going to walk away believing there to be either no one there or no survives when… when I heard the child cry. I used a large tree branch from nearby to get through the smoldering remains and try and find the crying child. She was there, lying in the arms of someone… I think it must have been her parent. The person was burned like coal and only his bones and some blackened flesh remained, cradling her with his face turned towards her.” With the image clearly placed in her head she understood why he’d cried so much. Her stomach threatened to empty it substances as she closed her eyes and tried to get the image out of her head.
Closing her eyes did not help the image seemed to be scratched into inside of her eyelids. Opening her eyes she felt the tears run down her face as she pictured that poor soul burning… That night she’d made the decision to protect this child for the sake of that unknown being who’d clearly loved her so. Neither her nor her husband ever brought up the question how had the child survived-even though they both thought it-. They feared to know the truth of it, because it may mean letting the child go and him because all he wanted to do was forget he ever saw what he saw. Allegra had given birth six times and four of those times she’d lost her children. Three had been girls and so to have this miracle come to her now after all she’d lost seemed to her like the world’s way of righting a wrong to her. It was sad someone had to die for that to happen but it had and she was going to count her stars and thank the gods for their blessing. She named the child Erina after her older sister and has loved her since.
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