The Guardian watched the burning embers of the campfire. The fire was getting low so Mericc threw a fresh bundle of kindling into the flames and they flared up in eager acceptance of this new fuel. Giving the fire a cursory glance, the experienced warrior went back to the task he had been working on the past hour or so. With practiced skill he took hammer and tong and beat out various dents and blemishes in his armor, a neccesary skill for someone who often found himself in the thick of battle. After working for a few minutes, he would hold up his current piece to the fire and inspect it for quality then resume his repairs. Some pieces required more maintainence than others, even someone as skilled in combat as Mericc couldn’t avoid every blow aimed at him and his body carried the bruises and scars to prove it. He held up his current armor piece and with a keen eye, saw that the repairs were done. After each plate of armor was finished, the guardian would take a cloth rag and a flask of oil and work it into the armor until it shined in the half-light.
It was slow, patient work, but Mericc knew how important it was and each night, before he went to bed, the hammer and tong would ring into the night air again. A form on the other side of the campfire shifted and groaned, but Mericc paid it no attention. The owner of the groan needed no attention given to him since he was more than capable of generating attention for himself and did so at every opportunity. Mericc smiled, Aqualondo had traveled with him for years now and The Elf, as Mericc would often call him had proven to be a capable hunter despite his often overbearing and exasperating personality. But loyal and true companions were hard to find in these dark times so Mericc would do his best to overlook The Elf’s penchant for mischief and trouble-making. The Guardian’s brow furrowed as he considered a dent that was proving most difficult to work out and with his hammer, he rapped a sharp blow that echoed in the night.
“Goodness!” His companion groaned, “Not that I need it, but how is an elf suppose to get any beauty sleep around here?”. Aqualondo stretched his arms then sat down by the campfire. “If I knew you’d make all this human racket, I wouldn’t have bothered going through the trouble of finding an out of the way place to camp.”
The campsite The Elf had found sat in a cut in the rocky face of a hillside that jutted out a few miles north of the East Wall in Rohan. Plants and vegetation hung overhead from the top of the hill, shielding the smoke of their fire from the crisp night air. It was a good spot and Mericc was always grudgingly appreciative of Aqualondo’s ability to find such hiding places. But then it stood to reason that someone as adept as Aqualondo was at getting into trouble, while still managing to stay alive all those centuries, had to be good at hiding out after the deed was done. Mericc had often wondered how old Aqualondo actually was, but had given up asking since The Elf was terrible with details and would tell wildly different stories depending on which day he was asked.
“We wouldn’t need the hiding place if you hadn’t roused every orc in the East Wall with that little stunt of yours”, Mericc said matter-of-factly, not bothering to look up from his work.
Aqualondo grinned mischieviously, “Little orcs who play with fire really should be careful where they put it. They are such careless children. And it was just a bit of fun, they had no business traveling those woodlands anyways. I daresay many of them will have a hard time getting around properly for a good while.” The Elf looked up at the stars and whistled gaily as he remembered his handiwork.
“We are trying to make it the Dale-lands as quietly as possible”, Mericc glared at Aqualondo. “It will slow us down considerably, if we have to fight every orc patrol along the way. So you can blame yourself for the noise of armor repairs.”
Mericc had spent the past couple months helping the people of Rohan deal with various troubles, both political and orc related, with limited success. At times it felt as if his efforts were focused as much on trying to sort through the various dealings and schemings of Rohan’s Thanes than he did keeping the tide of orcs and easterlings at bay. There was a sickness on the land of the horse-lords and Mericc had his suspicions that dark rumors of intrigue and in-fighting in Edoras were at it’s heart. But before he could look into them, he had recieved an urgent message from a friend. The roads to the Dale-lands and Erebor had been cleared and what was more, there was trouble in his home-town of Riverwatch.
“Well if you insist on me staying up”, Aqualondo chimed in, breaking Mericc’s train of thought, “You may as well repay the debt by telling me a story from your past in Dale. I gathered from what you’ve told me previously that your’ father was some famous swordman or something? And that he reigned as Lord Protector over your hometown of Riverwatch for years?”
Mericc nodded. “Aye, and my town knew…relative peace..for as long as he lived..” Mericc’s voice trailed off and the guardian looked into the fire with a troubled expression on his face as he recalled the last time he had seen his father. Aqualondo watched Mericc with a curious look, there was much in this that he knew Mericc wasn’t telling him, but the warrior was never very open with certain events in his past and the elf had..mostly..learned not to ask.
“I don’t suppose you’d be willing to tell me how your father died and how you became Riverwatch’s protector for a while would you?”, Aqualondo asked, though he knew the answer he would get. Expectantly the guardian only shook his head and Aqualondo let out an exagerated sigh. “Well how about what the town was like before your’ father took over?”
Mericc’s eyes gleamed and a smile crossed his normally grim face. “Ahhh, now that is a tale I might tell and since I know elvish curiosity won’t be still until I tell you something, I believe this story will do just fine.”
Mericc put down the rag and the armor piece he was polishing, threw some more kindling on the fire and began. “It is strange to me how fate plays out at times, how often the unexpected hand accomplishes what the greater cannot. Thus is was in the outpost town of Riverwatch where a fiend and a tyrant had taken over…”