Story by The Nimrodellian Tale-Spinner
Briana approached the exhausted warrior, preparing to deliver a fatal blow that would end his life and his usefulness to her. Mericc struggled to rise but Brianna smiled wickedly, spoke a few words and the now familiar pain pierced him at the back of the neck, sending him reeling.
The Ice Witch walked confidently, slowly, relishing every moment of this, her final triumph. Soon this foolish man would be dead and Brianna could begin the long, exhilarating wait until the child was born and the sorceress’s true plans could begin to unfold. She watched Mericc attempt to rise again and she laughed, a cold merciless laugh that echoed throughout the cavern, and she mocked him in her cruelty and malice.
Mericc struggled against the pain, knew that he had to fight it, knew that he had to resist. He would not fall like this, helpless and alone, without even a sword in his hand or companions by his side. Anger began to well up inside him, anger at the prospect of dying like an animal at slaughter, powerless and impotent.
And then suddenly, as if answering his pleas, something rose from inside the warriors heart. From the center of his chest a hidden reserve, impenetrable and formidable, started to grow from a place stronger than steel.
It came to him when he was in greatest danger and it would serve him well in years to come when the paths he walked would become perilous and dark. A look of intense determination crossed Mericc’s face as he ignored the agonizing pain at the back of his neck. He put his hands on the ground, lifted his head, and rose unarmed to face the Ice Witch.
Briana’s face, went from a look of triumph to a look of utter shock as the warrior stood up to face her and beyond all reasoning began to approach. Her lips curled in a sneer and she muttered a few words but this time nothing, the pain that she knew must be wracking the powerful soldier before her had no effect.
She backed up, the dagger that moments ago she wielded with such malicious glee, hung limply by her side as Mericc approached threateningly. The warrior was unarmed but radiated such an imposing presence that his lack of armor or weapon didn’t seem to matter.
Briana continued to back away, looking for something to return the advantage to her favor, but all of her twisted machinations and dark artifices seemed worthless now against a threat so grim and immediate. She looked past the warrior towards the entrance to her abode and saw something that returned her confidence and advantage. Mericc noticed the change in the sorceresses’ countenance and turned around to face an old adversary.
The ice grim blew into the cavern, finally returned to it’s mistress’s home after an unsuccessful hunt for living beings. Briana shouted a word of command and the grim, noticing the faint amounts of heat still emanating from the strong warrior standing opposite the sorceress, attacked with a furious hunger and desire.
Mericc did his best to fight off the grim and it’s ever-changing form, but unarmed and exhausted as he was, the warrior’s chances were slim. Now it was Mericc backing away deeper into the witches’ cave and Briana and the grim who were advancing.
The warrior looked around for something to help ward off the grim and from the corner of his eye, under some ragged blankets, he saw the hilt of a sword. Summoning up what strength he could, Mericc ran towards the niche, and recovered his blade. He was still unarmored but at least now he could die as a warrior should. The grim attacked and Mericc fought back with all of his skill and experience.
The fight went back and forth evenly for a while, the grims multitude of shifting forms and shapes matched by Mericc’s instinctive battle prowess. But eventually the trials of the past few days and the strain of the last few minutes began to take their toll on Mericc. He was losing ground and the grim’s attacks were starting to find their mark more and more through his ill-equipped defenses.
Briana cackled and instructed her servant to finish the job. The grim sensed it’s victory and it took on the form of a ravenous wolf, cold and unforgiving. Before it could deliver the fatal blow though, it’s color went from a bright white to a flaming red, it’s growl became a piercing scream and it vaporized in a maelstrom of bitter cold and sudden flame.
Mericc looked to the ground where the remains of his opponent lay and saw an elvish arrow, covered in the tell-tale marks of fire-oil. He looked up and saw his companion at the cave entrance, standing with his bow nocked with another of his deadly fire arrows, a grin splitting his face from ear to ear.
Aqualondo had tracked the grim through storm and crevice, using all of his skills as a woodsman and his peculiar gifts as one of the Eldar to stay out of the creature’s sight. He had figured on a fight and so had splashed a few of his arrows with a special fire-oil, a fitting weapon against a creature of ice and cold.
Following the grim into the cave he saw the last minutes of the fight between the grim and his friend Mericc and decided that he wasn’t about to let the warrior have all the fun. And now they both turned and faced Briana Frost, the Ice Witch, standing alone without any more servants or evil devices to save her. Mericc approached the witch, backed by Aqualondo whose bow was aimed at the still dangerous sorceress.
Briana knew that she was out of options, all options but one. She moved quickly towards the rearmost recesses of her home, followed quickly by her pursuers, deflecting a flame arrow by quickly summoning a gust of biting wind to blow it off it’s path.
She ran towards something that resembled a crystalline globe atop a rocky dais. It swirled and moved like a frost grim, and within it’s facets many different faces and forms appeared and then quickly disappeared only to be replaced by something else.
Before either Mericc or Aqualondo could stop her, Briana took the globe from it’s pedestal, lifted it up and smashed it at her feet. Her form became less solid and stable, and in a flash Briana Frost had transformed herself into a spirit of wind and snow, not unlike the grims whom she had as servants.
She blew past the two adventurers, laughing as she made her way towards the entrance and into the mountains beyond. She knew this emergency form was temporary, her plans not fully realized, but soon she would find some new hiding place, and she could still feel, as she raced and blew across the peaks of the Misty Mountains, the heat of the child that would soon be hers.
Mericc stood, half propped on the elf’s shoulders due to his extreme fatigue and watched his adversary as she disappeared into general chaos of the storm. Later on they managed to find the warrior’s lost armor and equipment and packed a few of the more interesting and movable devices in Briana’s cave into their packs.
A dread hung over Mericc that his companions jest’ and assurances couldn’t assuage. This was not over and the full damage that might be done couldn’t even be imagined by the deliberate and single minded guardian. He rubbed his fingers over the back of his neck, feeling the scar that had been placed there by Briana.
He took a drink out of a flask in his pack that was quickly taken up by Aqualondo along with a vow from the elf that he and his drink would never be parted again. Mericc was too tired to berate the elf, it would do no good. He looked out into a storm that never seemed to end and Mericc wondered if it would only get worse. The only thing that he did know was that when it blew it’s hardest, Mericc Angadraug would be there, fighting it to the bitter end.
Epilogue – 9 months later
Dawn broke over the vale of Rivendell, Master Elrond looked up from his writing and watched with a smile the flowers change from their dull night-time browns to vivid reds and golds and blues. A knock on his door woke him from his thoughts and one of his servants approached the lore-master deferentially.
“You have a visitor that wishes to see you Master Elrond” The servant spoke. “He brings….very strange tidings. I tried to convince him to wait, I know that you are busy with your histories, but he is very insistent.”
Elrond suppressed a tinge of annoyance, he hated to be interrupted during his work but ‘very strange tiding’ interested him. “Do not worry yourself too much about it, in fact I was just finishing up. Let them come in and I’ll see about these strange tidings.”
Into his room walked a strange sight indeed. A man walked into Elrond’s personal chamber, clad in intricate armor, a sword sheathed at his side. He knew the man to be a capable warrior from Dale, and he had helped him months previously with some dreams that were troubling him and nursed him back to health after a terrible ordeal in the Misty Mountains.
But it wasn’t what he was equipped with that was strange, it was what was in his hands. In one hand the warrior held a frozen blue tinted hand and cradled in the other was a small child, covered warmly in soft blankets.
The warrior spoke “It is done. After a long search I have found the Ice Witch of the Mountains and this is all that now remains of her evil”. He threw the hand on the floor at Elrond’s feet. The next words came slow and difficult, “Well that and…this” Mericc said as he brought the child closer to Elrond to see.
Elrond stared at the child with wonder. How it had survived such a trip was a miracle but then a thought and a fear came to him, maybe not so miraculous at all. He struggled with whether to voice his concern but decided against it.
The master of Rivendell spoke, “You have done us a great service Mericc of Dale. Briana Frost has been a thorn in our side for some time, making passage over the mountains even more perilous than it already was. I thank you”. Elrond looked to the child wrapped snugly in Mericc’s arms. “I take it the child is yours?” A formality, Elrond already knew the answer.
Mericc nodded, his brow creased with worry. “She is, though…”, The guardian seemed to waver for a moment “I was hoping that I could entrust her to your care.”
Elrond’s eyebrows raised “The child is your responsibility, Rivendell is not a repository for unwanted offspring.”
Mericc seemed to stifle an angry retort but calmed himself and looked out the window.
“It is not that I do not want the responsibility of the child, I do not fly from my obligations. But I have traveled perilous paths and will do so many times yet and have made some dangerous enemies. For them to know that Mericc Angadraug had a child would put both me in danger and more importantly her. I cannot have that. I will give whatever I need to make sure that she is taken care of and check in when I can.”
Elrond considered the offer carefully then made his decision. “I cannot do this at this time, I have many pressing matters”. He saw the warrior’s chest sink, “But, I do know someone in the town of Bree to whom I can send messages too. I will send them right away.” Elrond continued “But know this, neither you nor the girl will be able to avoid who you are. She is the daughter of a great warrior and I see a strength in her that mirrors that of her father’s. Her fate and yours may be forestalled, but not avoided.”
Mericc nodded, taking in what he had been told. “Does the child have a name yet?” Elrond asked.
“Aniwen” Mericc said “If any name is too be given.”
“Aniwen it is then” Elrond replied. “Safe journeys Mericc of Dale”, Elrond said with a slight bow.
Mericc bowed to the learned lore master, gathered up little Aniwen and prepared to leave for the town of Bree. She reached out and grabbed one of his fingers and Mericc felt a surge of conflicting emotions well up inside him. He hoped that the person Elrond had mentioned would take good care of her and part of him wished that his obligations didn’t take him so far away.
But he convinced himself that this was best, the life of a guardian is not an easy one and often-times brutally short. Aniwen would be better off with a quieter life, if such was still to be found in the world. He looked down at the girl and smiled, this is the kind of thing he had fought his whole life to protect, and every bruise and cut he experienced would be well worth it if she could have a better life because of it.
The sun was shining outside, the wind, light and playful, the darkness pushed back for just a little while.