The Dark Times

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The Dark Times; Part 15

Aituár struggled to free herself from the grasp and tried to cry
out, but that only resulted in the hand pinching her nose too, so
that she could not make any sound at all, and not even breathe. She
looked up, and what she saw made her struggle even harder - a man's
face, bearded, with nothing but white showing in his eyes, as if he
were blind.

Suddenly the man released his grip and staggered back as a small
gold-glimmering shape lunged at his throat. Aituár gasped for air,
and then screamed:

'Wotan! Help! WOTAN!'

She looked around, but could not see anything moving. Quickly she
grabbed hold of Déomarr - for it was indeed the dragonling that had
attacked the man - and pulled him away from the attacker - and then
she fled.

Aituár ran faster than she had ever run before - running for her
life. In the darkness she stumbled and fell, but quickly got up on
her feet and continued running, brushing through bushes, twigs
scratching her arms and face, looking for a place to hide.

Suddenly Aituár's foot got caught in a hole in the ground, and she
fell flat on her stomach. While trying to ease her foot free, she
tried to hold her breath and listened attentively for any sounds of
being followed, but everything was quiet. Even Déomarr held still
in the grasp of her hand.

Finally Aituár got up, moving very slowly so as not to make a
sound. Wotan had promised to keep guard - what could have happened
to him? Why had he not responded to her screams for help? Standing
still to allow her eyes to adjust to the darkness around her,
Aituár realized she had left her shoulder bag behind. No food, no
water, no case in which to keep Déomarr.

In the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of an eerie light
among the trees. Turning around, Aituár slowly approached it,
moving carefully between the trees. As she got closer, she thought
she could distinguish music and singing and talking and laughter.
But just as she had gotten close enough to have a look, the light
went out and silence fell.

Aituár stiffened, slowly realizing that she had come across some
very unusual creatures of the forest. She tried to recall the
stories that Neni had told her, but she was only able to remember a
few details. Sitting down, she removed the shawl she usually
carried wrapped around her shoulder, and used it to blindfold
herself. Then she waited, absentmindedly cuddling Déomarr, and
feeling oddly comforted by his presence.

And then the music and singing and talking and laughter was there
again, quite close this time. Suddenly a light voice spoke to her:

'You are a stranger in this part of the woods - what is your
business here?'

Carefully choosing her words, Aituár responded:

'Pardon me for intruding, but I was attacked, and fled without
thinking of where I was going.'

There seemed to be discussions, but then a new voice interrupted

'But look at the dragon! She has a dragon!

Aituár was not sure if this was a good sign or not, but the
discussions seemed to ebb out. She waited patiently, and finally
the first voice spoke again:

'If you remain blindfolded we will lead you to a safe place - do
you agree?'

It seemed to Aituár that she did not have much choice, and so she
agreed. A small, cool and smooth hand took hers, and lead the way,
carefully avoiding any obstacles. Finally the light voice spoke

'Count to ten before removing the shawl - and god speed!'

Aituár did as she was told, and when she finally untied the shawl
she was surprised to see herself surrounded by stelae of stone. She
looked around, and slowly it dawned upon her that the shapes around
her looked very much like an ancient grave.

In the same moment as the thought passed her mind, Aituár could
feel Déomarr stiffen, snorting, suddenly attentive, nostrils
glowing faintly. Turning around, Aituár saw -

What *did* happen to Wotan?

How will Aituár cope without food and water?

Is there something in the ancient grave?

And is it dead or alive?


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