On Love’s Wings
copyright c. 2016 T.A. Chase
Ari knew Miataga was probably worried to death back in the cabin, but he also knew there was very little anyone could do to injure him. Sure, he could be shot or stabbed, and yes, it would hurt. He’d had it happen many times during battle. Yet his capacity to heal had magnified since bonding with Vikex. In fact, it had grown as the years passed.
Join me in the clearing, but come in as quietly as you can.
He sent the thought to Vikex. For a giant phoenix, Vikex could be as stealthy as a mouse when he needed. More than likely, it had something to do with his magic. Ari had never gotten around to asking his bond bird about it. Of course, asking didn’t mean Vikex would tell him.
Vikex was tight-lipped about most of what he could do. Probably doesn’t want anyone else to find out and try to take advantage of it.
Ari worked his way off the porch to the left of where the shadow crouched next to one of the few trees close to the cabin. Ari didn’t look over there, having fixed the direction in his mind. He’d discovered that the prey sometimes could sense when they were being hunted, and by staring, it might give his pursuit away.
Vikex sent him a picture of where he was in relation to Ari and the intruder. Good. We’ll box him in then I need you to light the clearing up. Vikex agreed and they edged the trap closer.
By the time Ari stopped, he was close enough to hear the person breathing. He wasn’t entirely sure whether the man realized Ari was there or if he still hadn’t picked up any of their movements.
“Are you going to attack, Ariste, or simply sit out in the darkness and stare at me?” The man rose inch by inch to tower above Ari.
Vikex screamed and it was as though the sun was at its zenith. Ari grinned as he got a good look at the man.
“Rockis, what are you doing here?” He clasped Rockis’ hand then slapped his back. “Aren’t you a long way from home?”
Rockis rubbed his eyes, no doubt trying to get them to adjust to the sudden light in the clearing. “I’m here to warn you, Ariste, but telling you outside is not wise. While you trust the people in this village, I don’t, and it’s both our lives if I’m caught.”
“Come inside,” he offered before turning to Vikex. “The light can go out now, but please stay and keep an eye out for people who shouldn’t be out at night.”
Vikex dipped his head as the clearing plunged into darkness again. Ari stroked Vikex’ feathers for a moment, needing the contact to ease him. Something told him bad things were about to happen and he needed to keep a clear head to ensure he, Miataga and Vikex all survived the impending fall out.
“Miataga, it’s all right. This is Rockis. He’s a commander in the army with me. He was my closest friend aside from Vikex until I met you.” Ari introduced Rockis to Miataga who’d thrown open the front door as soon as the clearing lit up.
“Hello,” Miataga said politely, though there was an edge of nervousness to his voice.
Rockis’ eyes widened when he saw Miataga, but he merely bowed before turning to Ari. “Can we talk here?”
Ari nodded. “Miataga can hear whatever you have to tell me. By being here, he’s involved, whether he wants to be or not.”
He motioned toward the chairs by the fireplace. Once Rockis sat, Ari knelt and started a fire to take the chill off the room. Miataga went to the kitchen area and pulled out a kettle.
“We should make some tea,” Miataga said. “I think this is going to take a while. Are you hungry?” He looked at Rockis.
“No, but thank you. Tea would be nice though.” Rockis followed Miataga with his gaze for a few second then looked at Ari. “There was a rumor that you had taken a whore with you on your leave, but none of us who know you believed it.”
Ari saw Miataga tense and he wanted to take Miataga in his arms, to reassure him. “As you can see the rumors are true to a certain extent, but I’m sure you’re not here to gossip.”
Rockis must have heard the censure in Ari’s voice, for he dipped his head in acknowledgement of Ari’s statement. “You’re right. Quila and I left Sendler as soon as I heard. We traveled as fast as we could, hoping we got here before the others. Unfortunately, she can’t fly as fast—or as far—as Vikex can.”
“But I haven’t seen any other soldiers around here,” Ari protested.
Miataga held out the kettle and Ari wrapped it in his hands. After whispering a few words and focusing his power, the water inside the pot was hot. Rockis didn’t response until after Miataga finished pouring out the tea and settled at Ari’s feet.
Frowning, Rockis stared into the flames. “You haven’t seen them in the village because they are waiting about a day’s travel back to Sendler. They think you’ll be taking that course when you leave here.”
“We were. My cousin, Barke, is having visions and we were taking him back to the capitol, so he could start his training.” Ari scrubbed his hand over his face. “I guess we could swing to the east and bypass them,” he muttered.
“You could do that, but you’d still have to stop in Sendler and that isn’t a good idea at the moment,” Rockis told him.
Miataga gave him a confused look. “Why are they after you?”
Ari snorted. “Because I’m not the obedient soldier any more. Too many men and birds have died for no reason in silly little squabbles. It’s not the governor’s fault either. It is all about the Supreme Commander’s greed for more power that has lead so many of them to their deaths.”