The Dark Times

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The Dark Times; Part 30

Aituár was lifted up higher and higher, all the while struggling to free herself from the firm grip around her waist. This was not easy, not with an excited dragonling in her arms. Aituár decided to give in, for the moment, and waited anxiously to see who or what her attacker was.

Whatever it was, it was standing behind Aituár, and now it slowly turned her around. At first all Aituár could see was tree tops, but then she noticed a big brown eye regarding her wonderingly. Aituár held still and looked back, trying to see more of the creature, but it was well hidden among the leaves.

To Aituár's surprise a big tear rolled down the creature's cheek. It slowly lowered her and gently dropped her down on a thick and soft tuft of grass. And then it was gone.

Baffled Aituár remained seated, looking all around her. Where had it gone? How could something so big move so quietly? Aituár listened intently, but there was not a sound to be heard. In fact, it was a bit too quiet.

Aituár hastily scrambled to her feet. The leaves were no longer rustling in the wind, and there was no sound of birds despite the break of dawn. She made sure that she had a firm grip of Déomarr before moving deeper into the forest, determined to put some distance between herself and the creature as fast as possible.

Aituár tried to recall Antaja's instructions while wandering through the forest. The Mountain of Truth, in the south-west and, at the foot of the mountain, the Halls of Eternity. But what was the name of the wizard that she was to look for?

Involuntarily Aituár's thoughts returned to the creature that had lifted her up. What kind of creature had it been? She had only seen an eye, and it had cried – but why? Because of her? For her?

Aituár decided that she had walked far enough and that it was time for a break. She put down Déomarr and wriggled out of her backpack. The dragonling stretched and began strolling around, sniffing curiously at this and that. When he found a heap of dry leaves he lay down and rolled over on his back with obvious pleasure. The sight of the food that Aituár had unpacked soon distracted him however.

Together they sat down to have a drink of water and to eat some of the fruit that Aituár had been carrying with her. The forest around them was still eerily quiet, not a leaf stirring. This made Aituár feel uncomfortable, and as soon as they had finished the meal she got up and put the backpack back on.

Aituár proceeded more carefully, with the dragonling happily waddling after her. The trees seemed to be growing wider apart, now, and soon they had reached the edge of the forest. Aituár looked up at the sky, wondering if they should risk travelling out in the open, or wait until dark. Maybe they had better stay close to the forest to be ready to dive in between the trees if needed.

A distant rush of wings made the decision easy. Aituár hastily retreated back into the forest, picking up Déomarr on the way. The forest would obviously be a safer place for them, at least in the daylight.

Aituár began walking, following the edge of the forest but making sure that she stayed among the trees, out of sight of the birds. The sound of wings had passed over their heads, but was still heard every now and then; sometimes close by and sometimes far away. It seemed that the great flock of birds was circling over the forest, searching.

It was almost noon when Aituár got a stinging feeling between her shoulder blades. She quickly turned around, but could not see anything moving. Yet she got the distinct feeling of being watched from somewhere among the trees.

Aituár looked at Déomarr. The dragonling had also stopped and was staring into the forest baring his teeth, his whole body tense. He seemed to be prepared for a fight, and his attitude alarmed Aituár. She quickly scooped up the dragonling and started running, darting between tree trunks and low branches.

Suddenly the ground gave away under her feet and they fell down into a deep pit. Landing with a heavy thud Aituár looked up at the twigs that had covered the hole. She realized that they had fallen into a trap – but who had made it? And why?

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