The Dark Times; Part 3
The dark figure reached out for Aituár's hands, and cut the ropes off with one swift move. Hardly believing her eyes, Aituár stood paralyzed for a few seconds, before hastily pulling away from him.
She slowly backed out of the stall, not letting the stranger out of sight for a moment. He remained standing by the wall, not moving a muscle, until Aituár started turning to the left, intending to head for the mine entrance.
At this the dark shape started gesturing, and it seemed that he was pointing her in the other direction, deeper into the old mines. He had still not uttered one word.
Aituár hesitated, uncertain of what to do. The mine entrance might be guarded, but she did not know if there was any other way out. Well, if there wasn't, she could always turn back. Aituár decided to follow the stranger's advice.
Turning to the right, she saw her shoulder bag and its contents spread out on a pile of moulding hay. Hastily she kneeled down and gathered up her things and put them back into her bag. Everything seemed to be there, except for the small leather pouches containing various herbs.
Aituár stood up, with the bag under one arm. She would have to repair the shoulder strap later, but there was no time, and this was not the right place for that. After one last look at the hooded figure, she headed into the nearest tunnel.
As Aituár walked on, the torches became more scarce, until finally ending. However, the old air shafts seemed to let in enough light to allow her to see where she was going, once her eyes had become accustomed to the semi-darkness. It also seemed that the walls were glowing slightly with a greenish colour.
Then, behind her, in the distance, she could hear upset voices.
"Oh no", she thought, "they must have discovered that I have escaped!"
Aituár started running, but then stopped and stepped out of her sandals, taking them in her hand. When she started running again, the rock floor very cold beneath her feet, it was almost without a sound.
At first she thought it was her heart pounding, but the noise seemed to be growing louder. Aituár stopped briefly to listen. It sounded as if something very big and very heavy was coming after her - she could feel the floor vibrating under the soles of her bare feet. And whatever it was, it seemed to be gaining on her.
Aituár started running again, running for her life. In despair, she looked around for a place to hide. Then she spotted a dark crack in the wall, narrow, but hopefully not too narrow. She looked into the crack, but could not see anything but blackness.
The thundering footsteps seemed closer than ever. Quickly Aituár slipped sideways into the crack, that seemed to be widening a bit inside. She turned around, peering through the opening, waiting, holding her breath.
Suddenly a big hand clasped over her mouth and pulled her backwards, deeper into the crack. Aituár could feel the pressure of cold steel against her throat. "Shhh!", someone breathed softly into her ear "not a sound!"
Then the footsteps were heard right outside the crack, and they could hear someone breathing deeply. Whatever it was did not slow down however, but continued past them, into the tunnel ahead of them.
When the sound had died away and everything was quiet, the hand over her mouth loosened its grip.
"What was that?" whispered Aituár, in a slightly shaky voice.
"Probably a troll, or an orch, or some other hideous creature of the mountain" said a dark, soft voice.
"You had better stay away from them. Now go - and don't look back!"
And with that, he gave her a push in the back, and then pulled back into the crack.
Of course she could not help looking back, curious. But she could not see anything, the inside of the crack was as black as before.
"Thank you!" she whispered, before heading deeper into the mountain.
To be continued