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B2MeM 2011: Haradhrim Nights  by Mirach

Day 9:

Challenge - Nargothrond: Write a story or poem or create artwork where the characters have to decide between loyalty or betrayal.

Tracks in the Sand

The old woman watched the desert. Her eyes glistened in the shade of the head-cloth like deep wells with a calm surface. Somewhere there the stranger walked away from this city, away from her life, the wind wiping his tracks away as if he would have never existed. Like her life, when she goes. The little house will be swallowed – either by the city or the desert; her children will age and die, following her on the path. And then… the wind will carry away the memories of her just like the vanishing tracks. She was not afraid.

She turned her face to the tall man waiting for her answer.

"No, I have not seen him," she said, and calmly looked into his eyes.

She could not read any emotion in them. They were black like polished obsidian, and just as hard. He made one step closer, and the sun reflected in the blade of his sabre. Sharp and deadly was its edge, as it seemed to cut the hot wind blowing from the desert in two – its song hissed like snakes winding around the blade. Like cobras whose bite brings death.

"I know you are lying to me," he said with a quiet menace in his voice.

"Maybe…" she smiled. "Would you like some lentil soup? I just cooked it, and it will get cold…"

It seldom rained in the desert. When a storm came, it was often just wind and lightning in the dark, menacing clouds. Such a lightning she saw in the man's eyes now – the menace of approaching storm.

And then the clouds dissolved, and his laugh fell like rain on the land.

"Thank you, but we are not hungry," he said when he stopped laughing. "And we don't kill old women for courage. May the spirits of the desert bless you," he said, and mounted his horse. His men followed him.

The old woman watched the desert. A cloud of dust rose under the hooves of vigorous horses. Slowly the thunder of hooves faded in the distance and the dust settled. The wind wiped the tracks, as if they would have never existed.

She smiled, thinking about loyalty and mercy. Maybe something endures after all…

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