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B2MeM 2011: Haradhrim Nights  by Mirach

Day 5:

Challenge - Menegroth: Write a story or poem or create artwork that will illustrate the consequences of isolation.


The streets were strangely quiet. Usually there would be music, the smell of spices and cooking meals, the chatter of many voices. The day here stopped under the merciless rays of noon, and began again in the evening, melting its scents and tones into the soft darkness of the night. Now it was quiet.

Thorongil kept to the shadows, all his senses alert and ready to fight. His eyes glistened like the eyes of an eagle, but he knew he is not the hunter tonight. He didn’t know the one he tried to pursue, while the other knew him. He was the prey that tries to turn the hunt.  

The tavern was dark when he approached it. He retreated deeper into the shadow at the other side of the street, and drew the dagger. Without a movement, he watched the building. Nothing moved. Nobody went in or out. He felt like in an illusion. But what was the illusion? The full tavern, people, colours, dance and music yesterday, or the emptiness and silence now?

If he wouldn’t stay to bury the girl, maybe he would know what happened here. Yesterday he left the tavern to be alone, and now – he felt like the only living soul in the city, and it was unnerving. Was there a raid of some unknown enemies? But then there would be traces in the city, fire and blood, or at least destroyed stalls of the merchants. But the stalls stood in their places – just the merchants and their wares were not there. Everything was like it used to be. Just the people were missing.

It could be a trap, Thorongil thought as he watched the empty streets with wary gaze. But he could not imagine how someone could want his death quietly, by the hands of an assassin, and then involve the entire city in a trap to get him when he avoided that fate. No, something else must have happened here while he was alone in the desert. Maybe he should leave while he can. Leave the oppressive silence of the city behind, leave the memories of the girl’s eyes behind. No, he could not. They would follow him wherever he would go. The one who wanted his death would follow him too, and he did not like to run before a danger. It was better to stand up and face it, then expect it to attack from behind while running before it.

Quietly he followed the shadows to the back entrance of the tavern. He stood right on the place where the girl was hiding just one day ago, but he did not know it. He pressed the door handle carefully. The door was not locked. His eyes already used to the darkness, he could see the faint contours of the kitchen. It was dark and empty like everything in the city.

He walked through the kitchen to the main hall. Carpets and cushions on the floor awaited customers, but nobody used them today. The room he hired a few days ago was upstairs, but he was hesitant to go there. Something was not right in the room…

Dagger ready, he made a few steps towards the stairs.

A quiet, metallic sound made his blood run cold. The sound of a drawn sabre.

As quick as a thought he turned around. He saw a dark figure, shadow among shadows, and the cold glistening of steel in his hand. The figure didn’t move, though, and so he didn’t attack either.

“Where are the people?” he asked.

A cold laugh was his answer. “They are all home. In the Night of the Dancing Death, nobody walks out. But a stranger like you would not know that.” The last words were accompanied by a dark sneer and the sound of drawn steel from all around the room.

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