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B2MeM 2011: Haradhrim Nights  by Mirach

Day 18: Wilderland

Challenge: There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us. 'Tis good to give a stranger a meal, or a night's lodging. 'Tis better to be hospitable to his good meaning and thought, and give courage to a companion. We must be as courteous to a man as we are to a picture, which we are willing to give the advantage of a good light.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

The act of kindness or hospitability usually comes from a generous heart. Write a story or poem, or create a piece of art where your character displays this virtue.

The Sun is Rising

The sky at the east was pale with the promise of dawn. With growing worry, Thorongil looked back. Just a few more moments before the hunt begins anew… There was no wind that would cover his tracks. Even the gentle breeze that has been blowing earlier quieted. Speed was his only chance – that's why he has taken the horse.

In the confusion that ensued when Kadar returned to his men alone, he managed to sneak to the horses, and before anyone could stop him, he galloped away. They did not follow him – Kadar was true to his word.

Soon however, the earth will thunder with the sound of many hoof beats. The dust will rise under the swift legs of horses. Then he will need every mile he can put between himself and his pursuers. He nudged the horse to greater speed. Faster! The sun will rise soon. The pale blue of the east heralded Arien's entry. Faster! Fas-

He slowed the horse and squinted. The desert was grey in the thinning darkness. There was a dark shape against the grey sand. Thorongil bit his lip, looking back – his pursuers will appear there soon – and ahead, at the dark shape. He could pass it without looking closer. It could be just a piece of rock or a dead animal… Yet something told him not to.

After a moment of hesitation, he turned the horse, and galloped there without losing any more time. He held his breath when the shape became clearer. It was no rock or carcass… It was a human.

Quickly Thorongil jumped down from the horse, and knelt at the man's side to search for a pulse. According to the clothes, it could very well be one of Kadar's men. There was no horse nearby – maybe he fell from it during the sandstorm…

There was a pulse! Thorongil bit his lip again, and looked to the east. The sun was just below the horizon. He could see its first rays touching the dunes…

He shook his head and stood up to fetch the water skin from the saddle. He weighted it in his hands - there was only half of it left... He sighed, and brought it to the man's lips. Just a few drops… then a little more… he forced himself to patience while the sun was climbing above the horizon.

Finally the man swallowed, and after a few more sips, opened his eyes. When his look focused on the face of the stranger above him, he weakly reached for his dagger. But the stranger caught his hand, and he had no strength to resist.

"Easy…" Thorongil said. "I will not hurt you. Drink…"

The man watched him for a moment, but then complied, too thirsty to do otherwise. Thorongil withdrew the water skin soon – not to save more for himself, but to prevent him from drinking too quickly. "Here, I will pour some water into your water skin. It should suffice until they find you. They will follow my tracks…"

He did as he said, and then hung it back on the saddle – now only less than one third of water remaining in it. He didn't like leaving the man alone in the desert, but he knew Kadar will be here soon. Too soon, maybe. There was no more he could do, and so he mounted the horse again.

He turned as he realized that the man is trying to call something at him despite his hoarse voice. He came closer.

"Thank you…" were the barely audible words. "My name is Nadhir…"

He bowed his head slightly. "I am Thorongil." Then he turned his horse, and galloped away under the rays of the rising sun.

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