The Dark Times; Part 2
Aituár swirled around, but too late. Before she could see who the attacker was, someone pulled a bag over her head and wound a scarf around as a gag, pulling it tight. A second attacker grabbed her hands and hastily tied them together in front of her.
One of them slung her over his shoulder and carried her away. Aituár tried to kick and squirm, but in vain. She tried to cry out, but a muffled groan was all she could make through the thick cloth.
Aituár tried to figure out which way they were going, but was surprised when the footsteps gradually started echoing hollowly. Finally the man who had been carrying her put her down. The gag was removed, and the sack pulled off her head.
Unprepared, Aituár blinked at the sudden light cast by torches, illuminating a gallery with rock walls. Then she realized that she had been taken to the old abandoned mine.
'Sorry about this' said the village chief, with the medicine man standing next to him, a smug smile on his face.
'But people have been accusing you of being a witch, and that is a very serious charge.'
'The Arbitrator will be arriving any day now, and you will be given a fair trial.' At this, the medicine man looked disappointed.
'But until then, we have to make sure that you do not run off', continued the chief.
He made a sign to the two soldiers who were standing on either side of Aituár, and they grabbed her arms none too gently and lead her away, into the old stables. There they tied her hands to one of the iron rings still fastened in the rock wall. One of them slashed the shoulder strap of her bag and snatched it away, and then they left her alone.
Aituár was standing very still at first, trying to understand the full width of what had happened. A witch? She? As difficult as it was to understand, it seemed that most of the villagers had now turned against her. She had not even received any warning.
But she would not give up that easily. Aituár had her doubts about exactly how 'fair' the trial would be - she had heard stories about witch-burnings lately.
It was no good standing here moping - she had to do something about it. After listening attentively Aituár was convinced that everybody had left, and that there was no one around. She started working on the ropes that tied her hands together.
The ropes were tight, but gradually she managed to ease one of the knots within reach of her teeth. She bent down and started gnawing it, trying to loosen it up.
Aituár was so concentrated on what she was doing that she did not become aware of his presence until she noticed a shadow on the floor. Looking up she saw a tall, slim figure in a black cowl, with the hood pulled up over his head, hiding his face.
For a moment that seemed to last an eternity they both stood still, as if time itself had frozen. Aituár could feel a chill running down her spine. Not being able to see any face beneath that hood made her feel very uncomfortable.
Aituár stiffened as the stranger approached her.
'Surely it cannot be the Arbitrator - not already?' she thought.
She tried to twist the loosened knot out of sight while nervously backing away from him until she could feel the rocky wall in her back.
The dark figure whipped out a dagger, with a slightly curved sharp blade that reflected the light from the flaming torches.
'He has come to kill me', thought Aituár. 'So much for a fair trial!'
Looking around as if making sure that there would be no witnesses, the stranger reached out, and -
To be continued