The Winter Witch: Part 2

Story by The Nimrodellian Tale-Spinner

Mericc stares across a strange sea and an unfamiliar land. The platform that he stands upon juts out into the water, planks creak and groan as he shifts his weight and looks around, trying to find something familiar to tell him where he is. But try as he might nothing makes any sense.

He is obviously standing on a dock in a harbor, but what is this city, and what is this sea? His eyes rise to the horizon and a look of shock crosses his face. No familiar constellations greet him, the stars paint a different picture, tell different tales in the sky. But that is not what shakes him.

Where the moon should be, perfect, circular and unchanging, there lay stretched across the sky, an unholy mess. It is as if some god took a hammer in his anger and smote the moon across its’ side, rending it into pieces. A sound behind him shakes him from the sight and he turns to see where it originates.

A woman in dark blue robes walks down a dusty unkempt street. Long black hair half covers tanned skin and an alluring smile. She carries a staff with a mystic rune across the top and walks towards the Guardian with an easy familiar gait.

Mericc feels a sense of knowing recognition, but does not know why. It is as if he is meeting someone from another life, someone he knew very well…maybe even loved. But then she turns and disappears down an alleyway and he is left with that feeling of overwhelming uncertainty.

It is cold here, uncommonly cold, a sharp wind picks up and Mericc covers his arms. A sharp pain at the back of his neck flares up and….

Mericc awoke with a dull pain in his neck, his body freezing from a sharp wind that came in through the entrance of the cave that he now found himself in. His eyes, half open, scan his surroundings for some clue as to his location.

White pillars of ice buttress a large cave, most likely dug centuries ago by wind and water. Towards the back he sees walls covered by curious runes that the guardian doesn’t recognize. He looks down and see’s that he is laying on a hard stone table, black and sheer. The warrior looks for his equipment but it is nowhere to be found.

Mericc rubs his eyes and tries to focus and concentrate. ‘How did he get to this place and who brought him here?’ He tries to get up, but the pain in his neck flares up again and he lays his head on the cold stone until it subsides. Annoyed at his weakness, he places his arms on the table and builds up the strength to try to get up again.

Months ago he had set out from Dale, eager to join in the battles and troubles that he had heard were stirring in the west. The trip had contained its share of adventures, the world had grown more and more perilous as the years had gone by, and even the safe paths hid their share of danger.

But Mericc was well skilled and dangerous in his own right. He had even managed to pick up a companion along the way. An elf, the first he had ever seen, and Mericc would later wonder why out of all the elves left in Middle Earth, he had stumbled upon his.

He had rescued the elf from a band of marauders, intent on punishing him for some unknown trespass, and had then been rescued by the elf in kind from those same bandits seeking revenge on the Guardian. What the elf had done, Mericc wasn’t sure, Aqualondo had proven to be unreliable with things like details, even when it threatened his life. But even though he was aloof and at times unbearable in his flippant manner, Aqua had proven to be a steadfast companion and a capable hunter, who had assisted Mericc in multiple adventures.

Their current destination had been Rivendell, a fabled refuge of the elves. Aqualondo had sworn he knew the way, having traveled there plenty of times and been on excellent relations with the Master of the house. Mericc at least half believed this, or wanted too, but could never be sure.

The Elf(As he sometimes called him) had a knack for driving people crazy, be they commoner or noble, elf or dwarf. Mericc had a reason though to hope that Aqualondo was not lying about his good name. The Lord in Rivendell was reputed to be a learned lore-master and Mericc had been troubled by reoccurring dreams of late. Dreams about a shattered land and a beautiful mysterious girl. Unused to portents like this, Mericc was both bothered and intrigued by the dreams and wished to speak to Rivendell’s master for possible answers.

They had traveled north-west of the Carrock, looking for a pass that would take them through the Misty Mountains. Finally they settled on one that Aqualondo assured the Guardian was the right one. But halfway through the journey, it was looking less and less sure that the path would lead them out and they decided to split up from their camp and set out to do some scouting.

They would each travel a day in each direction and then meet back at camp and make a decision on the best way to travel. Mericc had wound his way up the mountainside, it was hard work but the guardian was strong and fit, and did not tire easily, and he was making good progress when the storm hit.

It had come seemingly out of nowhere. One minute, the sky was only dreary and overcast, and the next furious winds and snow were threatening to bury Mericc where he stood and make of him a permanent marker on the landscape, one more tally for the mountain gods. His shield thankfully, provided some cover and his heavy armor, while troublesome and heavy, gave him protection from the elements.

He had continued to push on trying to make his way upwards towards a copse of tree’s further up the mountain, when he was assaulted by strange spirits of wind and frost. At first he thought they were just a part of the storm, whirlwinds whipped up by the various crevices and highlands around him, but they were far too localized and Mericc could at times spot a face or claws rippling out from the maelstrom.

He fought back with all his skill, but the storm masked his adversary well, making it difficult for the accomplished warrior to find his mark. He remembered eventually blacking out and then…this, waking up in a strange cave, on an altar of bare rock.

Mericc prepared himself mentally for the pain he knew would come as he tried to lift himself up, when something caught his ear. A voice, soft and entrancing, soothing and relaxing, came to him as if carried by the wind itself. He tried once again to lift himself, but suddenly the air became colder, his senses number, and he found it increasingly difficult to get his muscles to do the job that he wanted them to do.

Still the voice swirled around him and he could start to make out words, promising him peace and warmth, if he would only succumb, to submit. Mericc grimaced, trying to fight, submission was not something the guardian was born for and he did not trust the voice.

He pushed with all his might and lifted his head up. The pain at the back of his neck became unbearable and Mericc grasped at the area where it felt worse and then felt himself blacking out. The soothing voice turned to a hiss and before he went under, he saw through blurry eyes, long black hair and blue robes and then all was darkness again.

Mericc stares across a strange sea and an unfamiliar land…

 

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