The Dark Times

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The Dark Times; Part 9

'I wish you no harm' whispered Aituár to the man clutching a child. Absentmindedly she patted the dragon's egg while thinking - and was surprised to discover that the pecking had stopped.

'I hope it has decided not to hatch now - this is neither the time nor the right place for a baby dragon!' she thought to herself.

'They took my wife and my daughter' whispered the man, 'while I had gone fishing with my son'.

'Who?' asked Aituár.

'The soldiers! The soldiers of the Warlord!' answered the man.

'Did you not see them?'
'No, I just heard them, never saw them - we need to get out of here before they come back!' whispered Aituár.

'I know a place where you and your son can hide tonight!

Quietly they moved between the dark and deserted houses, passed the inn and followed the forest path out of sight from the village. Just as Aituár was wishing for some light the full moon came out of the clouds, throwing enough light on the path to allow the small party to see where they were going.

Aituár would never have found the old fir tree if it had not been for the owl living in the top of the tree. Following the hooting noises she finally managed to locate the tree. She lifted the lowest branches and showed the man the cave they formed.

'There is a lake over there, with drinkable water' Aituár pointed, 'and here are some apples if you are hungry.'

She emptied her pockets of the remaining apples. Aituár looked at the man, and then asked:
'What is your name?'
'I am Mathias, and this is Jonathan', answered the man, indicating the little boy asleep in his arms.

'And my name is Aituár! You stay here - I will go back to the village and try to find some food!

With that, Aituár disappeared into the darkness.

Luckily the moon was still shining, and she managed to find her way back to the village. Winding her way among the houses, hiding in the shadows whenever it was possible, Aituár was wishing that the moon would not shine quite so brightly. The thought had barely crossed her mind when she noticed that a thin fog was forming, softening the moon light.

Aituár crouched next to a house with an open window, holding her breath and listening for any signs of life. Everything was quite, so she decided to climb inside. Standing still for a few minutes to allow her eyes to become adjusted to the darkness of the room, Aituár continued to listen attentively.

After a while she could see that this was a bed room, and she could also make out the doorway. Arms stretched to avoid bumping into any furniture; she made her way towards the next room that turned out to be the kitchen. Squatting, she pulled the worn rag-rug aside, and there it was - a trapdoor!

'They have the food cellar below the kitchen floor, just like in my home village!' thought Aituár to herself.

She grabbed the handle and gently pulled the trapdoor open, revealing a ladder leading down. Pausing for a moment to listen, Aituár decided to climb down - but she would not be able to see anything down there without some kind of light. After opening several kitchen cupboards she finally found some matches and a candle. Aituár decided to climb down a few steps first before lightning the candle - she did not want to risk anyone seeing the flame.

Down in the cellar, Aituár could see row upon row of jars and pots, round pieces of crispbread and slices of dried meat hung up on a piece of rope. Then she realized she had nothing to carry the goods in. Placing the candle in a puddle of melted candle grease, she looked around and found an old sack in a corner of the cellar.

Aituár filled the sack with meat, bread and some potatoes that she found in a crate. She pried open the lid of some of the jars and added pots of raspberry jam, honey and pickled onions. Having a final look around, Aituár spotted a jug at the back of a shelf. Shaking it, she found it was filled with some kind of liquid and decided to add it to the load.

Aituár discovered that the load had become quite heavy when she heaved the sack up over one shoulder. Just as she was to climb up, the kitchen floor creaked above her, as if someone had stepped on it. Hastily she blew out the candle and waited in the darkness, holding her breath. Who could it be?

Yes indeed, who could it be? The soldiers? Another refugee?

And the man carrying the child? Can he be trusted?

...and will the dragon's egg stay quiet or decide to hatch - now?


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