The Dark Times; Part 22
Aituár was still huddled behind the stone statue when she could see a faint silvery light. This surprised her, as she was still keeping her eyes firmly closed. The light grew stronger, forming a cloud of mist. In this cloud there gradually emerged the head of a unicorn.
Aituár almost cried the name out loud, but stopped herself just in time. She remembered that when they first met1 they had communicated with each other in thoughts rather than in spoken words. And sure enough, there was the unicorn's voice in her head.
'Aituár, continue to keep your eyes closed. You did just the right thing, but they are summoning a spell to counteract your chant. Listen carefully – behind the second statue to the right from where you are now, there is a secret passage. In order to open the door, twist the statue's left hand around. It is hanging down by his side. Hurry – but remember to keep your eyes closed no matter what happens!'
Aituár started crawling on her hands and knees, a bit awkwardy since she could only use one hand. The other hand was still clutching Déomarr who had stayed remarkably still and quiet, as if the dragonling understood that there was danger afoot.
With her right shoulder pressed against the wall so as not to lose her sense of direction, Aituár crawled behind the back of the first statue. Licorne had said the second one so she continued her crawl. Then something happened that made her blood run cold.
There were voices chanting, hoarse but oddly shrill. The sound sent a shiver down her spine but, when Aituár heard Jeremiah and Antaja begin another chant, she started moving again. She finally reached the second statue and crawled in behind it. Fumbling, with her eyes still closed, Aituár found the statue's left hand and twisted it clockwise. Nothing
She was just twisting it in the other direction when there was a flash of purple light from the centre of the cave, and the light was so sharp that Aituár could see it through her eyelids. It was followed by the sound of glass shattering, and she realized that the crystal ball must have exploded. She could hear cries of pain when the cowled figures were hit by the flying glass splinters, and Aituár was grateful that
the stone statue in front of her was shielding her from the pieces.
Behind her Aituár could suddenly feel rather than hear the rock rumbling behind her, and when she stretched out her hand she discovered that part of the wall was gone. Just when she was about to turn around and crawl trough the opening a body came flying through the air. It hit her in the chest, and they both tumbled backwards into the passage. The rock smoothly closed around them.
The rock had effectively sealed off all sounds of the fighting, and Aituár could just hear someone breathing next to her. She desperately tried to crawl away from whoever it was that had attacked her and that was now sharing the compact darkness with her. Much to her surprise, the other person did not try to stop her. Instead a match flared up,
and to her great relief Aituár saw the familiar face of Antaja, who was lighting a candle.
'Quickly – we must go before they find out that we are gone!' said Antaja and started walking into the passage. Aituár was just about to follow her when she realized that something was missing. She ran after Antaja and grabbed the candle for her, searching frantically behind every stone, in every crevice.
'What? What is it? What are you looking for?' asked Antaja.
'It is Déomarr' said Aituár, with anguish in her voice.
'We left him behind! He is still in there, together with
those – those –'
Her voice broke, and instead she began hammering on the stone wall with her fist, trying to find a way to open it.
'We cannot go back now' said Antaja slowly.
'But do not worry – Wotan will take care of him. We really must go now, or all the efforts that Wotan has made to protect you will be in vain.'
With sinking heart Aituár reluctantly followed Antaja into the passage. The witch was going very fast, almost running, and Aituár was soon panting from the effort of keeping up with her. Every now and then they would stop to listen if anyone was following, but all was quiet.
The thought of Déomarr being left behind was weighing heavily on Aituár’s mind, and she felt sick at the thought of the dragonling attacking those cowled figures, without her to hold him back. He was still so small, no bigger than a half-grown kitten, but with the heart of a lion. What made her feel even more uncomfortable was the thought that she was putting her own safety before that of the dragonling.
All of a sudden Antaja stopped, so abruptly that Aituár, who had been deep in thought, bumped into her. Aituár was just about to ask her why when Antaja put a finger to her lips and leaned forward to whisper into her ear.
'There is someone ahead of us! Shh!'
Looking over the witch's shoulder Aituár could see an eerie silvery light shining from somewhere in front of them. The source of the light was hidden by the twists and turns of the passage.
'You stay here while I go to investigate it.' whispered Antaja and disappeared around the corner. Her last words seemed to linger behind her, finding an echo in Aituár's soul.
'It might be a trap.'
Will Aituár ever see Déomarr again?
Will Antaja find out what is expecting them?
And if she does - will she make it back?