“Drega, Enee,” the servant greeted me as he placed a tray of bread, fruit and cheeses on the table in my room along with a full pitcher and a goblet. “Food to break your fast.” He bowed, his robe of many colors touching the ground. “I will return to light the candles.”
I was left alone for the morning. I ate, thought, ate and thought some more. I always eat when I’m stressed. The same elderly servant arrived mid-day with another tray. He greeted me once again and began to light the candles in my room with the slim torch he was carrying.
“Isn’t it a bit early to be lighting candles?” I asked. The day was sunny outside my window. Not a cloud in sight. The heatwaves were rising off the sands in the distance like smoke off a smoldering fire.
“You are Enee,” the servant said not unkindly, but referring once again of my foreign birth. “You are not familiar with our moon cluster.” He lighted another candle. He smiled at me with gleaming bright white teeth for such an old man. “Would you like to hear the story of our moons?” he asked.
I had nothing better to do. I nodded as I popped what looked like a dried apricot in my mouth.
He continued to circuit the room lighting the candles as he spoke. “Obihoot is father moon. He fought hard for Calahoi, mother moon, centuries ago.” The old man gestured toward the moons hanging with subdued pallor in the sky above. “She was pulled from him many times toward the bright one, Parnac.” The old man pointed toward the sun that appeared off further in the distance. “The Altans of old were thankful for Obihoot and Calahoi because they brought us the cool temperature of night yet left us enough light to see. They did not want to see Parnac pull Calahoi into his grip, so our ancestors were pleased when the child, Gresee came to Obihoot and Calahoi. Now with three they could withstand the pull of Parnac.” The old man stroked his neatly trimmed grey beard in thought. “But Parnac is an angry loser. He places himself behind the night three during mid-day and makes all things dark. It is during these dark times that the followers of Parnac roam the land to do their mischief. So, we must light the candles to keep them at bay,” the old man concluded.
I must have looked puzzled because he just smiled and bowed. “You will see,” he said as he backed out the door.
And I did see. There are two full eclipses at mid-day on Alta III. The smallest of the moons cast the darkness first, then there is a break of perhaps two minutes before the sun falls behind the two larger moons creating a total black out for perhaps as long as ten minutes. I would have to time it to be sure. It is a total black out – pitch black. If the old man had not lit the candles I wouldn’t have been able to see my hand in front of my face.
And it was not so much the dark as what came out of it that frightened me. Down below in the city streets I could feel the terror that drifted up from the populace. Everyone was quiet. Even the dogs were silent. Who are the followers of Parnac or are they just a story to frighten children - and in this case a whole populace in order to keep them under control of their Warlords? These are a superstitious people. Superstitious people can be fooled. I may have a chance yet.
I have decided. I can’t sit here until Aldobi-rand calls the G.O. and rats on me. I have to get myself out of this place. I have an idea formulating in my head. It’s a slim plan, but it just might work. It will hinge on my crew and the time before backup can arrive. I may have to agree to my captor’s proposal, but I am feeling more confident every minute that I can get myself out of this place, body and soul intact.