The Dark Times

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The Dark Times; Part 20

As if it came from far, far away, Aituár could hear someone calling her name. She tried to answer, but could not make a sound. She tried to see who it was, but could not open her eyes. She heard someone rustling the twigs that covered the hole and felt hands gently grabbing hold of her, pulling her out of the hole.

Aituár could feel the sunshine on her face, but it failed to warm her soul. She could feel Déomarr's long thin tongue licking her chin, but the affection of the dragonling failed to touch her heart.

'Aituár, Aituár – wake up!'

Now she recognized Wotan's voice. He was gently shaking her, but she was unable to move even a finger, unable to show any sign of life. And she was feeling cold, so cold inside.

She could feel Wotan's strong arms lift her up. He began carrying her – and Déomarr, to judge from the weight on her chest. A door was kicked open, and then Wotan's bellowing voice shouted:

'Jeremiah! JEREMIAH!'

'Calm down, old friend' said an old man's voice timidly. 'Put her down on this berth here.'

Aituár could feel somone lifting her eyelids, but she was still unable to see anything. She could sense a thumb pressing against the inside of her wrist, at a point where she knew one could feel the beats of a person's heart. Then a spasm ran through her body, and once more she slipped into unconsciousness.

A sharp smell of spicy herbs floated into Aituár's nostrils and she twitched, trying to turn her head away from it.

'Good, good – we definitely have a reaction now', said the old man's voice. 'Now start rubbing her hands like I showed you.'

'What we really need is a kiss from a young handsome prince – but I guess that a dragon's kiss will do just as fine' the old man continued, with a chuckle. Déomarr's tongue was tickling her face, and Aituár tried to stifle a giggle, which turned into a wheezing cough as she accidentally breathed in more of the herbal remedy.

'Now sit her up Wotan, it will help her breathe.'

Indeed, it did seem to help, and soon Aituár opened her eyes and looked at the two, no make that three faces looking back at her – Wotan looking worried, an old man with a long grey beard – and Déomarr's big-eyed long-snouted little countenance practically in her face.

'Uh – where am I? What happened?' croaked Aituár hoarsely.

'Shh – do not try to speak yet' said the old man and got up to fetch a bowl which he handed to Aituár. It was filled to the brim with steaming hot chicken broth, and Aituár drank greedily while cupping her hands around the bowl to warm them.

By the time Aituár had finished the last drop of broth she was sitting up straight, and the colour was beginning to return to her cheeks. Without a word she gave the bowl back to the old man and stroked Déomarr soothingly. The old man looked at Wotan, and then at the door leading out of the hut. Wotan nodded curtly and turned to Aituár.

'You wait here – there is something Jeremiah and me need to do.'

As the door closed behind the two men Aituár began examing Déomarr to make sure he had not been hurt. Something black stuck between the dragonling's teeth caught her attention. Gently prying his mouth open Aituár managed to get hold of it and carefully tugged at it.

Once she had it in her hand Aituár examined it closely. It seemed to be a piece of black cloth torn from some kind of garment, possibly a cloak since the fabric was rough. Could it be from the dark horseman? Had Déomarr really attacked him? Searching her mind Aituár realized that she did not know exactly what had happened.

An odd sound from the door leading to an adjoining room distracted Aituár from her pondering. It sounded as if someone was chanting – a rising and falling melody with odd twists and turns. Aituár swept the blanket that had been covering her aside and swung her legs over the edge of the berth.

Unsteadily she made her way to the door, oddly drawn to the sound. Kneeling down Aituár could make out that it was a woman's voice, and she leaned forward to put her eye to the keyhole.

All Aituár could see was someone's hands weaving odd patterns in the air above some lit candles. When the chanting suddenly stopped, she pulled back in haste and tried to scramble to her feet, but she was too slow. The door swung open, and a dark-skinned woman dressed in an ankle-long white dress was standing before her.

'Welcome Aituár – I have been waiting for you!'

She stretched out a hand to help Aituár get up.

'Come with me – we must get you prepared for your ceremony.'

What ceremony?

Who is the strange woman - friend or foe?

And how come everyone seems to know Aituár's name?

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