The Dark Times

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The Dark Times; Part 11

Before Aituár had time to stop him, the mysterious figure quickly stepped in under the branches and struck a match.

'So we meet again!' boomed a dark voice.

Aituár stared in astonishment at the bearded, one-eyed man she had met in the forest a few days ago. What was he doing here?

'Methinks you had better step outside with that there thing you have in your bag.'

He stooped down and chose among the jars on the ground, and handed her a small jar of honey. Leaning closer he whispered in Aituárs ear:

'Feed it this, but only a little at the time - it will grow bigger soon enough!'

Turning to the others, who were now wide awake, he said:

'Greetings strangers, my name is Wotan - what might yours be?'

Aituár stepped outside and walked to the shore of the lake, where the moon shed enough light to allow her to see what she was doing. She opened her shoulder bag and took the egg out, carefully placing it on a thick tuft of grass. There was definitely a crack in the shell, and scratching could be heard from the inside.

Aituár leaned closer, remembering what the unicorn had said about making sure that she would be the first thing the dragonling would see when it broke through the egg shell. She looked at the jar of honey - probably a good choice, since the dragon would be able to find it in the wild, and surely honey would make it kind and gentle? But how come Wotan seemed to know so much about the dragon's egg?

Now there were several cracks in the shell, and they were slowly widening as the creature inside struggled to get out. Aituár tried to help, gently peeling away bits and pieces of the shell - and there it was! Looking more like a half drowned bat than anything else, and partly covered in slime.

Carefully Aituár picked it up in the palm of her hand, wiping off the slime with the hem of her skirt. Once the dragonling was dry, it seemed to grow more active, unfolding its paper-thin purple wings and uncurling the long tail, with the golden scales that covered the body glimmering in the moonlight. Suddenly the dragonling emitted a tiny 'Skraaawk!' looking intently at Aituár.

This was probably a sign that it was hungry, and Aituár opened the lid of the jar and dipped her little finger in the honey, and then gently prodded the long thin snout with amazingly big nostrils. A long thin tongue emerged and cautiously licked the strange substance, and then licked off all the honey.
Three more times Aituár dipped her finger in the honey, and also offered the dragonling some water from the palm of her hand.

'I shall name you... Déomarr... Déomarr!' she murmured softly.

She put the honey jar in her shoulder bag, emptied the biggest of her leather pouches, and carved some air holes in it with the dagger. The dragonling curled up in her hand, and promptly fell asleep when Aituár gently stroked its back.

With some difficulty she put Déomarr inside the pouch, because the dragonling was grabbing a thistle in its tiny claws and refused to let go, even in its sleep. She closed the pouch and hung it in a string around her neck, inside her tunic to keep the dragonling warm.

As she returned, she noticed that Wotan already seemed to have gained the confidence of the others, and they seemed to be discussing something.

'Aituár!' said Mathias, looking up with an eager look in his face, 'Wotan has promised to show us the way to a safe village tomorrow!'

Aituár was not so sure that she really trusted the stranger, but decided not to say anything. After all, she might be wrong.

'We had better get some more sleep then!' she said lightly.

'I will come back for you tomorrow at dawn!' said Wotan, and was gone in a moment.

There was nothing much else they could do, and so they went to bed for the second time this night.

Who is this Wotan?

How did he know where to find them?

And how did he know about the egg?

Will Aituár manage to keep Déomarr a secret?


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