The flames were swiftly licking up the oil-slicked kindling. The rising smoke and heat nauseated Merle. The flames seemed to be caught up in an intricate dance; it entranced her. Her thoughts were becoming increasingly sluggish, dark specks danced within her vision and her head throbbed and reeled as consciousness threatened to flee. What little pride remained in her did allow for that. No, she would never let these boorish villagers, neighbours see her cower. She could not deny that her mother was a witch, but they had never had any ill will towards the villagers though now, she wanted to wring a neck or two…

            Just then, there was a commotion near the back of the crowd. The people gathered around her to watch her "trial" were shouting now. She could hear the neighing of horses. There was more angry shouting. Then a rider appeared before her as the flames seemed to part before him. His face, the horse, everything was a torrent of swirling colours. He must have cut her bonds, because suddenly found herself embraced by strong, sure, arms. The material of his clothing was mercifully cool against her cheek. Merle heard the clashing of steel before darkness enveloped her.

~ ~ ~

"For the last time, no! The child cannot stay with us! You know full well the risks involved! You don't have a choice, Gabe!"

So her saviour must be Gabe. She wondered who this man is, willing to risk his life to save a poor, peasant girl…

"Look at her! The girl is harmless! What do you suggest we do with her then? Those idiots back there killed her mother and almost her!" her saviour whispered heatedly.

"It's your fucking problem. You got us into this mess. You get us out."

"Honestly, Mick! You can be such a cold hearted bastard sometimes!"

Silence.

"Alright, alright! Why don't we just deposit her at some old folk's home and leave them some funds…" Mick said in a contrite tone.

"I don't like it," Gabe replied. "Damn, if only we weren't on this mission… I guess we really don't have a choice, do we…"

            Apparently the conversation had ended for saw the shadow of the approaching man towards the, cave? Yes, she was in a cave, it seemed more like a gigantic cavern though, and there was the incessant dripping of water somewhere… She heard the coming footsteps and hastily closed her eyes. Large, gentle hands lifted her chin. He was applying some kind of ointment to her cheek. Strong, burning sensations assaulted her; she didn't even know she had scraped her cheek. She opened her eyes to see the first pair of grey eyes she had ever saw. No one in her village had grey eyes, it was considered the mark of favour of the Gods. But his eyes were full of warmth, they seemed almost teal-grey in the lighting of the cavern.

"Don't worry. The pain will pass in a moment," he was right the pain turned into a dull aching and then disappeared.

"My mother was always good at healing," she blurted out. "One time, when Old Man Ranil got attacked by the mountain cat, and he was about to die, but my mother saved, him, even though his guts was torn out, there were cuts all over his body, but mom saved him…She always was good at healing, she could heal anything…" She couldn't stand it anymore – the pain. She burst into tears as his warm, soothing arms wrapped about her.

A/N: Ahh…the uncertainty, the doubt. You don't know how people will receive it. You must know what I'm talking about! Please give comments! I strive to improve at every opportunity. Your comments WILL make a difference.