The Dark Times

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The Dark Times; Part 29

Aituár waited in the darkness of the earth cellar holding her breath. Déomarr was still sleeping and had not noticed anything of the commotion. Aituár looked around and saw a half-broken crate and crawled in behind it. If someone decided to look into the cellar it was probably wise to give the impression that it was empty.

There was a great rush of wings outside, and then the sound of breaking glass and other noises. What was the flock of birds doing? The noise went on for some time but, apart from that, the birds worked in silence. No cawing and no chattering, which Aituár found eerie. There was a great rush of wings again, and then complete silence.

Aituár stayed where she was, keeping an eye on a small crack in the wooden door where the sunshine was glinting. She decided not to go out until it had grown dark outside, in case the birds were hovering in the air high above. The dragonling was still sound asleep, and Aituár spent the time finishing the backpack. She found more old sacks which she used to pad the shoulder straps.

When she could not see light through the crack in the door anymore Aituár woke Déomarr up. Crawling out from behind the crate Aituár slowly opened the door bit by bit. Fortunately it did not creak and they carefully crawled outside. All seemed still and quiet. There was no moon, but the stars shone brightly. It was a perfect night for navigating in the dark.

Looking up at the starred sky Aituár tried to find the belt of Orion. Once she had managed to locate the three stars in a row she set off, with Déomarr leaping through the tall grass by her side. Best to let the dragonling run himself tired after having spent so many hours asleep.

They walked for a couple of hours. Every now and then Aituár would stop and look up at the sky, making sure that they were heading in the right direction. The landscape around them changed gradually from steppe to bush, and soon they reached the edge of a forest.

Aituár stopped, hesitating. It would be harder to spot the dragonling and herself from the air in the forest, but it would also be more difficult for her to see the sky and the stars. Indecisively Aituár
took a few steps in among the tress, trying to remember what Neni had taught her about the forest.

Had not Neni said that moss always grew on the side of a tree trunk that was facing north? Squinting Aituár looked at the trees around her. She thought she could see a vague light, and a closer look showed that there was, indeed, lichen growing on the trunks, emitting a slight phosphorescence.

That settled it - she would still be able to tell in which direction they were going, and at dawn they would probably be safer in the forest, hidden from spying eyes. Aituár scooped Déomarr up into her
arms and started carefully making her way through the semi-darkness surrounding them.

Aituár was starting to grow tired and had just begun looking around for a place to sleep when an odd sound made her stop. It was a very low and dark noise that made the ground beneath her feet vibrate. It did not seem to come from the ground, however, but from the air around her.

Déomarr was now sitting up wide awake and seemed to be listening as intently as Aituár, who was relieved to see that the dragonling did not appear to be the least bit alarmed. Aituár turned her head this way and that, trying to decide what the source of the sound might be. It sounded like someone talking! But who? Or what?

Well, she could not go to sleep with that noise going on, and Aituár felt very reluctant about turning back. Maybe they could slip past unnoticed in the darkness? Aituár cautiously moved forward as silently as possible.

All of a sudden the noise stopped, and so did Aituár. She stood very still, with a feeling of being watched. She was just about to drop down on her hands and knees when she was lifted up high into the air, with something holding a firm grip around her waist.

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