The child looked up at the starless sky. He tried to imagine what it must of looked like in the ancient days. The elders told stories of the time before. In his mind he pictured a bright and luminous sky, as bright as day, with not one sun, but millions of tiny diamonds shining down illuminating the world. It was beautiful dream and a welcome reprieve from the terrors of the total darkness before him. No one had looked upon a star in long generations. The wisdom of the ancients was lost and few even believed they had ever existed at all. The knowledge and understanding of the world had faded from fact to story, from story to myth. Now all that was left was children’s tales and lullabies, childish dreams that every adult grew out of with haste and looked back upon with either nostalgia or scorn.

He was lost in the dream when he heard the footsteps that ripped him away from tranquility and remind him what he was doing in the darkness, away from the village. He crouched down behind an old wall and stopped breathing. He tried to gather up his courage, he tried to be strong, but his mind screamed, monsters! His mind shifted violently from the soothing childhood tales to the harsher, cautionary terrors of the beasts that would devour a child who got lost in the dark.

The monsters in the darkness were the bogey man of the Carrintine people. It was said that the souls of the ancients fed upon the strength of children who dared to defy their caretakers. He had been forbidden to explore the outskirts, a rule which had more to do with protecting him from monsters of flesh and blood and less the ethereal shades of a race a thousand years dead. Still, the forbiddance had not stopped him. At evenfall, he slipped away from tired eyes to test his courage. He was nearly old enough to take the rites, but he was a cautious boy who wished to test himself alone before subjecting himself to the council’s judgment.

Now whatever courage he sought to test was failing him at the sound of distant footsteps. Truly, little enough courage to be sure. Slowly he began to breath again, short, quick breaths that he thought were stealthy. It only served to inform anyone nearby that a small animal was hyperventilating behind the wall. He sat for a while, listening between his short sharp gasps. Silence greeted he ears and for a moment he thought he imagined the footsteps entirely. Then, as if at once, he heard them again, closer now. The suddenness and nearness of the sound startled him anew. He gasped a deep breath, stifled a squeak and stopped breathing all over again.

Then the sound was gone, replaced by a disquieting silence. After another few moments he found his courage. Twisting himself about he crept to the end of the wall and peered around the corner. He was blanketed in darkness, and his young mind was convinced nothing could see him. It was only when he looked out did he realize, with sudden terror, the double edged sword that was darkness. Right his naive mind was, the darkness hid him well from searching eyes, but so to did it hide whatever monster sought him. 

He stared into the black, paralyzed, too scared to pull away for fear that any movement might reveal his presence. He remained transfixed for what seemed like a long time. The silence persisted. Then a warm, stank breath blew across his face from the unseen beak just inches from his face. He reached one trembling hand forward and felt it. He fainted, falling limply to the ground. The dar’rak chirped a disapproving chirp.

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