The Dark Times; Part 1
Aituár was a young woman in her early twenties, of slender build, with grey-green eyes and dark brown hair.
She was standing in the doorway of her hut, looking out over Anítsir; the village that had been her home for as long as she could remember.
Aituár had not been born here, however. Someone had abandoned her on the outskirts of the village when she was just a baby, leaving her at the edge of the corn fields, where an old farmer eventually found her.
The farmer and his wife had made inquiries in all the neighbouring villages, but nobody seemed to know where the baby had come from.
So they raised her themselves, reluctantly. She was a burden, because they were poor. Aituár never lacked food or shelter, but there was no love, no affection.
Nevertheless, she had grown up to be a fine young woman, maybe not what you would call a beauty, but with an interesting countenance - expressive, with thin arched eyebrows, a long thin nose and full lips - yet sometimes curiously non-expressive and reserved.
Aituár was intelligent and observative, and had taken an interest in herbs used to treat maladies. She had become an apprentice of Neni, the wise woman of Anitsír, believed by some of the villagers to be a witch. She had always felt oddly comfortable in Neni's company, although they rarely exchanged words.
But Neni had died two months ago, yet another victim of the odd malady that was spreading death as well as fear in the village. Aituár had worked together with Neni, trying to find a cure for the disease, but to no avail.
Recently, the medicine man of Anitsír had been starting rumours that it was the 'evil' women, as he called Neni and Aituár, who had caused the malady, a work of the devil.
After Neni had died, Aituár had been thinking of moving somewhere else - but this village was the only place she knew, and some of the villagers still trusted her, consulting her whenever a family member fell ill.
She had made the mistake of trying to cure a little girl who was suffering from the mysterious malady, but the girl died, just like the others. The little girl's family did not blame Aituár, but the medicine man did, declaring that her death was intentional.
Chewing her lip, Aituár considered her options. More and more of the villagers had began listening to the medicine man (who had made no progress in curing the malady himself) - even among those who she had believed to be her friends.
A farmer passed Aituár's hut, and spat at the ground at her feet, obviously not courageous enough to spit her in the face, with a look of utter disgust on his face.
"That does it!" thought Aituár, "I am out of here!"
Later that night, having packed the few things she owned in a shoulder bag, Aituár silently headed for the forest north of the village, hiding in the shadows between the huts.
Suddenly, she froze. There was something wrong. The village should be quiet and the alleys deserted at this time of night, but there seemed to be people around - she had just overheard a mumbled conversation between two men, apparently hiding in the bushes next to the last hut in the row.
Carefully, Aituár changed direction, stepping as quietly as she could. There seemed to be someone hiding outside the west side of the village too - she could not hear anyone talking, but the bushes rustled, as if someone had grown tired of standing still.
Yet again she changed direction, this time heading for the south side of the village. Frowning, Aituár noticed that the cloud covered sky was clearing up, and the full moon was already lighting up far too much of the village and the alleys.
She waited in the shadows, waiting for her eyes to get used to the darkness surrounding her. After hearing nothing for several minutes, Aituár began to make her way out of the village, hiding behind a tree whenever she could.
Just when she thought she was safe, Aituár heard a twig cracking behind her. She swirled around, but -
To be continued