Story by The Nimrodellian Tale-Spinner
The Guardian sat at a table in the Prancing Pony, drinking a mug of honey mead and listening to the minstrel ply his trade by the fireplace. Stories and news flowed like Barliman’s Best in the inn that night.
Dark things were rumored to have been seen on the outskirts of the Breeland, brigands, once nothing more than disorganized ruffians, now roamed the hills and forests in ordered companies, preying on even those who were prepared. Rumors of war and strife in the south were on every lip and in each uneasy glance, but Mericc knew these were not just rumors, he knew how very real the danger was.
The tale of the battles and experiences he had in the conflicts in Dunland and the borders of Rohan the past couple months were told by the bruises and aches in his body and the deep lines of care that etched a face far too young to have them. He had performed valiantly, always at the forefront of the fight, lending his shield to whomever needed it be he friend or stranger, as long as there was a need.
He had protected many a life but had also lost many a friend to war and misfortune and the weight of the loses wore heavily on him. ‘You cannot save everyone’ they told him, but it did not make the burden any lighter. He was weary and hoped to spend some time in Bree to rest and recuperate. There was a bridge into Rohan calling him to new adventures, but before that storm a moment of peace.
His thoughts drifted from their inner musings and back to the common room of the inn. The minstrel, a drunken dwarf, was playing a ridiculous song about a disappearing hobbit and the Man on the Moon, while the Innkeeper greeted a group of workmen who had just arrived at the inn.
The group was led to a table near Mericc and he soon gathered that they were employed at Adso’s camp, a worksite along the western road leading through the southern breefields. They were a disheveled and somber lot, mulling over glasses of wine and picking at their food occasionally, more to take their mind off of their troubles than to fulfill any need. They spoke in whispers and Mericc was about to return to his own troubles when one of the men broke down.
“There, there Graham”, one of his companions spoke “I know it’s hard, but we don’t know anything for sure yet” The look on his face betrayed his thoughts though and Graham found no comfort in them.
“He’s gone I tell you and it’s all my fault.” the one called Graham sobbed, “I never should have mentioned what I’d heard about that damned spring in the Old Forest, and now my boy has run off and gotten himself eaten by some wolf or worse than that”.
“It wasn’t you’re fault” consoled his friend. “The boy was headstrong and knew our need, what with brigands harassing all the old waterways and wells, making it difficult for Adso to keep work going. He knew that if Adso’s venture went sour, a lot of good people would go hungry this coming winter. He’s young and no wonder he’d go grasping after any straw he could find. I promise we’ll do all that we can to save him.”
But Graham was unconvinced, “Pah, speak sense Will, you know there is no surviving the Old Forest, anyone that goes in there don’t come out ever. He’s lost to me, my only son, Gone”. Graham put his head in his hands and did his best to drink the sorrow away.
Mericc sighed as he listened, but he was tired, tired in every bone in his body. How many sons had he seen killed? How many fathers and brothers and mothers lost to senselessness and war? Why should he always be the one to put aside personal needs for the good of the many? He was weary, let someone else save this one, he had done enough, what was one raindrop amongst the torrent of sorrow and misery of these days? He called to Barliman to bring him another mead and sat alone with his thoughts.
…A short while later he was fully armed and packing up his horse for Adso’s worksite, he couldn’t help it, he knew even the smallest raindrop was worth protecting.
He rode his horse through the main street towards the west gate, under arched overhangs and past dark cobbled houses filled with the goings on of daily life. Some people stared at Mericc as he passed, his intricately carved armor and many pointed shield was something they were not used to seeing in a land that was still, mostly, unaffected by war.
Mericc hoped that they would never see a time when more of his kind were present. Not far from the gate he came to a section of the town reserved for smiths and craftsmen and here he paused and turned left. There was something he had to do before he left Bree.
The sound of many hammers ringing and fires stoked by the bellows greeted his ears as he trotted past the many forges and smithies in this quarter of the city. The warrior was an accomplished metal smith himself, but that is not what brought him to this place, he rode on past the cacophony of hammer and tong and blade.
As he left the crafter’s homes he guided his steed under the Ironmonger’s Gate and went a little way more before dismounting at the entrance to an ordinary looking house in an unassuming part of the city. The sounds of children at play greeted his ears as he approached, a welcome sound that he had not heard in some time. He knocked and before long the door was opened and a warm smile greeted him.
“Mericc! so good to see you. I had heard that you were in town and wondered if you were going to come see us”, said the woman who answered, a pleasant girl with bright eyes, her dark hair put up into a hastily made bun, a small child in her arms. “Come in”.
Mericc smiled, “It is good to see you Reirosa, it has been longer than I would wish”. A crash interrupted their conversation and Reirosa turned on the two other children in the house “Leish! Lindy! If you two don’t behave there’ll be trouble for it, now settle down, we have a guest”. The two children straightened up but Mericc could see that they had too much pent up energy to stay put for long.
“I think you have more than enough on your hands at the moment”, Mericc quietly laughed, then looked at the small child in her arms. “I am glad to see she is doing well”.
“She gets an unnatural chill to her from time to time but she is doing fine thanks to you”, Reirosa said “She’s a strong one too, can’t keep a rattle but a few days before she’s broken it, but I suppose that is too be expected seeing what you rescued her from.”
Mericc looked at the child thoughtfully trying to mask feelings of worry and regret, but his eyes told all and Reirosa gave him a look of understanding. “Will you be staying?” She asked. “I have supper just about ready and we’d love to have you”. But the warrior only shook his head.
“I would like that and had meant to do so but unfortunately duty calls me again. I will stop by again after it is all over. Do you need anything more from me?” He asked.
Reirosa looked back at the two other children who had run out of self restraint and had gone back to their noisy play, “Six more arms if you can spare them, but I think that is beyond your ability” she laughed. “No, you have done enough, safe journeys and I’ll see you again when you come through. Supper is at five, and you’re always welcome.”
She smiled and they said their good-byes. Mericc remounted his horse and rode on towards the west gate, his heart a little lighter knowing that not all his endeavors were in vain. The Sun was high as he passed out of Bree and into the surrounding countryside. Adso’s camp was not that far and neither he remembered was the danger of the forest he knew he was going to have to overcome in some way.