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Back to Middle-earth Month 2010 Stories by Dawn Felagund

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Maedhros recalls a superstition of the captives in Angband. 350 words. Warning for dark themes.

Challenge: Are you superstitious? Do you hold beliefs based on magic rather than reason? Write a story, poem or create an artwork where characters' behavior is dictated by some kind of superstition.




It would come to pass that one of the ancient mines beneath Angband would need to be reopened, and one would be selected from among the prisoners to vouch for its safety. Delvers, we called them: The chosen one was sent crawling into a passage crumbled so that a grown Elf could barely fit and with a loop of chain around his ankle. When the chain stopped paying out, he was dragged back--usually dead or close to it, his mind enfeebled by lack of air, usually beaten to death soon thereafter for not working--and the depth measured to which the mine was safe for the others to work.

We would be herded together in a room and the foreman would select from among us. I was never in danger of being selected, for my worth in ransom far exceeded even the richest vein of ore that might be found just beyond the reach of one of the ancient mines. But the others--the others knew that their lives depended on some indefinable providence, for there was no logic to how delvers were selected. The old and the young, the sick and the strong--all were at times selected.

As the foreman made his circuit, around me the Elves would fall to their knees until only I was standing among them. In the rough dialect of Angband, they would chant a prayer of painful simplicity: Varda, spare me. Varda, spare me. Hands pressed toward the heavens, though there was only rock above us. That was all there was to it, spoken again and again until the room roared with prayer and one from among them was snatched with a cry and taken away.

Most of the captives had been born in Angband. Most had never seen the stars.

I asked once, "Why do you pray? Even those who pray are taken." They pray softer, said the one I asked in guttural Quenya. Softer than we do. We must pray like we are certain not to be taken. Those taken--they've deserved it. We do not pity, do not mourn.




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