The Dark Times

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The Dark Times; Part 16

Turning around, Aituár saw - nothing. Nothing at all. Yet Déomarr seemed to be staring intently at something in front of them. Aituár started backing slowly towards the opening, when a hoarse voice suddenly hissed:

'You... graverobber? Come to rob grave?'

Aituár could feel a chill running down her spine, and the hairs in her neck standing on end. Who - or rather what - was that???

Suddenly Déomarr leaped out of her arms and climbed up on her shoulder, this time looking in the other direction, and growling so hard that his small body was vibrating. In the same instant, Aituár discovered that the chill she had felt was coming from something behind her.

'She is mine' said a calm, impersonal voice from the opening, '- stand back!'

Slowly turning her head, Aituár saw only a black silhouette against the light from the full moon, but she knew who it was - the horseman. He had come for her, and there was no way out.

'Not so fast!' hissed the disembodied voice.

'How dare you give me orders in my own grave, you - you intruder?'

Sensing that something was about to happen, Aituár flung herself down on the ground in an attempt to avoid being caught in - she was not sure what - a crossfire? A fight?

Not a moment too soon it seemed, because where she had just been standing a hole opened up in the ground. The horseman, who had just stepped forward with the intention of clutching her, was not as lucky. With a scream of fury and frustration he fell into the hole, which neatly closed over him.

Aituár hastily got back on her feet and started to back away from whatever it was that inhabited the grave, but something seemed to slow her down and made her every move a great effort.

'Nobody disturbs my peace and gets away with it!' hissed the voice.

'You - graverobber! You - DIE!!!'

Yet again the earth opened up and, with one last effort, Aituár tried to hurl herself away from the hole. She did not succeed completely however, but could feel her feet slipping away from under her. Desperately she tried to cling to rocks and tufts of grass, but she could not get a good grip.

Just when she thought everything was lost, a big hand reached for hers, and one mighty pull got her out of the hole, and out of the grave. Stupefied, Aituár looked up, and saw Wotan's familiar face grinning apologetically at her.

'Sorry for deserting you... let us get out of here - fast!'

'But what happened? Where have you been?' Aituár asked later on as they were following a narrow path.

'I ran into a couple of werewolves, but they put up less of a fight than I had expected. I think that they had been sent to - ah - distract me!' replied Wotan.

'When I returned, you were gone, and all that remained was - yes, that reminds me!'

He handed Aituár her shoulder bag and the snake catcher's case.
Aituár paused to put Déomarr into the case and covered him with the sheep skin. The little dragonling had completely exhausted himself and was now soundly asleep. Watching him, Aituár wished she could get some sleep too, but looking around she realised that they would have to find a safer place than last time before they could get some rest.

'But how did you manage to find me?' asked Aituár.

'Well, the little people would not talk to me - but they do talk with birds and other animals, and one of my ravens managed to find out. Nasty trick they played on you, but you would probably not have had any trouble getting out of the grave if it had not been for that evil-doer.' replied Wotan.

Finally they stopped, and Aituár saw what looked like a cottage - a cottage that had been abandoned long ago.

'Here we will spend the rest of the night!' declared Wotan.

'You sleep in the innermost corner - I will sleep with my back against the door!'

Before going to sleep, Aituár had a frugal evening meal. She wondered if she should offer Wotan some food - not that she had ever seen him eating anything - but he seemed very busy chatting to his ravens. Aituár tried to stay awake in an attempt to find out what they were discussing, but her eyelids felt heavier and heavier, and soon she feel asleep.

Meanwhile, it might be just as well that she did not know what Wotan and his ravens were discussing through most of the night, with quick glances in her direction every now and then, or she might not have been able to get any sleep.

Was this the end of the horseman?

How much does Wotan really know?

And will he ever tell Aituár?


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