A Guardian’s Subtlety

Story by The Nimrodellian Tale-Spinner

It came upon a time that Mericc the guardian found himself among the hills and valleys of the Barrowdowns near Bree. It was not the kind of place that he preferred to be but in the warrior’s line of work, he rarely found himself in places that did.

The particular reason for this ‘visit’ to the Barrows was to find out what had happened to an expedition that had been sent there a week back. Reputedly it was scholarly in nature but Mericc had the feeling that another motive lay at the heart.

In hard times like these, people often become desperate and the lure of hidden barrow treasure is a temptation that had lead many in the past to their doom. He had found them, bedraggled and lost, clinging to a bare patch of rock on one of the western cliffs of the Barrows. They were exhausted and frightened, at least half of their number had been lost to barrow, beast or madness.

Mericc took pity on them, he understood all to well what people will do when pushed to their limit. Gathering up the remnant of the expedition, the guardian lead them towards the southern exit of the Barrows. The going was perilous, but by the strength of his will and the skill of his blade Mericc managed to take them to the cut in the jagged cliffs and to safety.

While seeing to the last of the expedition, Mericc thought that he heard a scream off in the distance. Perhaps it was the wind, the crags of the Barrows could play tricks on the ears and eyes, but Mericc had to be sure.

So after ensuring the safety of the last of the stragglers, the lone guardian set off again into the gloom. In the distance, the howls of the barghests echoed in the dark and phantoms in the fog peered at Mericc from every shadow. Soon Mericc heard the unmistakable sound of crying over the ridge in front of him and without hesitation, ran to it’s source.

What he found surprised even the seasoned veteran. A small hobbit girl, clutching a book in her hands, sat frightened at the top of the hill.

“What are you doing here girl”, Mericc exclaimed. “Were you cut off from the expedition?”

The small hobbit lass looked up at Mericc and wiped away her tears. “I don’t know nothing about any esper-diction. I came here looking for my Prince.”

“Prince?”, Mericc said dubiously. “The only princes here are long dead and I assure you, you wouldn’t want to meet them. What is your’ name?”

“Lalia, Sir.” The hobbit girl responded. “And I know I shouldna come here, my dad always told me so… But I got to reading my book here about the Cardolan Prince and how noble and brave he was and thought I would go looking for him.”

“But now I’m lost and there are oh so many scary things about.” Lalia said before breaking down into tears again.”

The guardian lifted her up off the ground and wiped her tears. “You are fortunate to still be alive Lalia, but more fortunate still that I found you. Now, lets get you out of here.”

In true hobbit fashion, Lalia recovered immediately from her trauma. “I am really and truly going to be saved? How wonderful!!”

“Yes well, we are not out of it yet”, Mericc responded. “Now lets get out of here as quick as we can.”

Lalia jumped up with glee and began to follow before coming to a sudden halt. “What is it?” Mericc asked.

“Oh I dropped my umbrella in the valley over there.”, she said pointing.

Mericc gave her a look, “You mean the valley by the Wright-infested ruins?”

“Yes, that is the one”, she smiled. “And then there is my handkerchief.”

“Your’ handkerchief?”, Mericc responded dryly, he didn’t like where this was headed.

“Oh yes, It was a gift from my auntie and I just cannot leave it behind.” Lalia continued. “It’s over by those hills where all those nasty dogs are howling.”

“I see”, Mericc said, getting more and more annoyed.

“And then there is my lunch that I left by that nasty old spire over there and the present I brought for my Prince that I left somewhere along the way.” She continued.

“I really think you can do without all that given the circumstances”, Mericc said crossly.

“Now, see here”, Lalia said, pointing her finger at Mericc. “I’m the one being rescued here and I’m not leaving till I’ve gotten all my things back. So there.”

Lalia stomped her feet on the ground, determined not to move another inch. Mericc sighed, he knew what he’d have to do.

A minute later Lalia was kicking and screaming as Mericc carried her like a sack to where the exit of the Barrows was.

They reached it without too much fuss, unless one counts listening to a hobbit girl protest nonstop for a mile about ‘proper rescue etiquette’ and the ‘deadness of Chivalry in the modern age’ as too much fuss.

Which Mericc did.

But finally, they reached safety and then the west road. Mericc deposited Lalia with what was left of the lost expedition and took his leave.

As he rode towards Bree, he could hear Lalia behind, extolling the virtues of ‘Her Prince’ and how ‘That silly warrior’ lacks the social graces. He wondered if she’d make it back home safe, then wondered what her father might do when he got his daughter back.

Judging from his experience with the hobbit girl.

Her father might just send her back.

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