The Dark Times

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The Dark Times; Part 5

Aituár's jaw dropped at the sight of a huge cave, with a dome shaped ceiling and a lake in the middle - a lake that shone like a diamond, lighting the entire cave up with a shimmering blue light. Looking around, she could see several black holes in the walls - tunnels leading in every possible direction.

'You have to dismount now' said Licorne's voice in her head.

The unicorn lead the way towards a rugged wall, and Aituár followed close behind.
'Climb up, and say that I sent you' said Licorne.

Aituár looked up at the wall dubiously.
Up there?' she said. 'Why?'
'No time to explain' said the unicorn's voice in her head. 'Hurry!'

Aituár approached the wall hesitatingly, but a closer look revealed several hand - and footholds. She started climbing, and soon she could see an opening in the wall above her.

Suddenly a shrill voice yelled 'Friend or foe? Who goes there? Friend or foe?'

Aituár looked around, in vain. Then she looked up, and spotted a black bird above her.
'Licorne sent me' she said.
'Go on!' answered the bird. 'Go on!'

Aituár reached the opening and stepped inside.
'Hallo?' she said, hesitatingly.
'Anyone here?'

But there was no answer, only silence.

Just inside the opening Aituár could barely see a candle in the dusk. She opened her shoulder bag and searched the inside pocket, hoping that her matches were still there.

They were! Relieved she struck a match and lit the candle, lifting it and looking around. It looked as if someone lived here - there were wooden book shelves along the walls, a table and a bed in a corner - but apart from that the cave seemed empty.

Aituár looked out and shouted to Licorne 'The place is empty!'
'Come down!' replied Licorne.

Aituár had a last look around.
'Wait!' she said, and disappeared back into the cave.

Aituár had spotted some familiar dried herbs hanging from the ceiling. Searching the shelves she found a couple of leather pouches, just like the ones she used herself.

'Hurry!' called the voice of Licorne in her head.

Hastily Aituár gathered some of the herbs in the pouches and pushed them into her bag before climbing down.
'Whose place is this?' she asked.
'It belongs to Jeremiah, the hermit', replied Licorne. 'I was hoping he'd be here, I need his advice...'

'I gathered some of his herbs - do you think he will mind?' asked Aituár.
'Not if you use them well' replied Licorne.

Without hesitation the unicorn selected one of the many tunnels leading away from the huge cave, Aituár following close behind.

Suddenly the unicorn stopped so abruptly that Aituár almost bumped into him.
'What is it?' she asked anxiously, sensing distress.
'Look for yourself' said Licorne's voice in her head.

Aituár stepped forward and caught her breath. A huge dragon was lying on the rocky floor, dead.

'Probably some young fool trying to impress a princess' said Licorne.

He sniffed the air and twitched his ears, as if sensing something. Aituár looked around, and suddenly she could sense it too.
'Behind that rock over there' she breathed, and pointed.
'Would you please get it?' said Licorne.

With a feeling of dread Aituár approached the rock. She peered behind it, and was surprised to see a huge egg, rather like an ostrich egg. She picked it up and carried it back to the unicorn.
'What is it?' she asked.
'It is a dragon's egg!' replied the unicorn.

To be continued


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