13. The Heart Refuses
The barbarians burned Whitfurrows, but there was little killing there. Some Hobbits shot at them from a hayfield just before they entered the town, but a barrage of arrows put a stop to that. The houses and shops, the two pubs at opposite ends of the main street, were all deserted. They did liberate a quantity of ale before they fired the pubs. They were rowdy and boisterous when they rode out of the burning town, racing each other along the road, bellowing tuneless songs in a clackety language Logi couldn't follow.
He had heard it before, of course. He'd asked Freiga about it.
"It is the Men's Tongue," she told him, "for talking with the ancestors. Women do not learn it."
He'd gone to his father-in-law and asked to be taught the language, now he was a man of the Tribe, but Gwanuc laughed in his face. "Your ancestors, whoever they were, would not understand our speech. Give me a grandson, and I will teach him."
Logi knew the strange tongue was used for more than ancestor worship; he heard it at the council fire and anytime the men did not want him to know what was being said. It sharpened his uneasiness among them.
The third day after they destroyed Tulco's company, they passed the Three Farthing Stone, the center of the Shire. That afternoon they came to a split in the road, the main route going on toward Delving, the byway angling north to Hobbiton. For the first time they called on Logi's knowledge of the country.
"Which way will your people be?"
He did not bother arguing that they were no longer his people. Silently he pointed west toward Michel Delving. The leader gave a hoot of laughter and turned his horse onto the northern road.
"If you want the truth from a liar, do just the opposite!" He added something in the Men's Tongue, and the others grinned maliciously at Logi as they rode past. He let them go and followed at the rear, his face like stone. By now he suspected he stood in as much danger from his companions as from the Guardians he had betrayed, and he took care that no one rode behind him. He wondered if any of them had an eye on Freiga, to take his place with her.
They got drunk again in Bywater, rolling the barrels of ale out in the street before they fired the village. The flames leaped hungrily at the starry heavens and cast an orange reflection on the Water. Logi led Cambar into a darkened orchard and dozed against a tree while she cropped the grass. He was not so foolish as to drink with them. If he were wary enough, he might survive.
Hobbiton was in ashes by mid-day. Then their attention shifted to the Hill, and the leader rode his horse right up the stairs to the door. For the most part the barbarians had left the earth-dug smials alone; their habit was to burn, and Hobbit-holes did not lend themselves to that. But Bag End was a jewel among smials, and not to be ignored. With a mighty heave of the shoulder, he burst the round door open.
Logi had no interest in despoiling houses, and at first he remained outside. But he had not been inside the Mayor's dwelling since he was a child; after he'd been waiting a quarter of an hour, curiosity overcame him. He left Cambar standing in the roadway and followed the others in.
They had found ample scope for destruction in the polished furniture and chandeliers, the cabinets of fine china and crystal goblets. Broken glass crunched under Logi's boots, and in the study he found several men emptying the bookshelves, breaking books over their knees and throwing them in a heap.
"We'll burn it after all, from the inside out!" one of them crowed. He ripped a framed portrait off the wall and added it to the pile.
"What's this?" another asked. He held up a crystal dome with something dangling inside; unable to see it clearly, he hurled the glass to the floor and bent to pick up the treasure it had housed. "A tooth –?" he said in tones of disbelief.
Logi reached him in two steps and lifted the thing out of his hand before he could protest.
"That's mine, a piece of family history. Take this instead." He picked up a silver bowl from a table and tossed it to the man.
He brought the tooth outside to look at it in daylight. It was like ivory, yellowed with time and polished to a soft patina, the crude portraits of Orc and Hobbit emphasized by some dark matter that had been rubbed into the etching.
My grandfather and his friend. So it began. He slid the ornament off its silver hook and strung it on a spare bowstring from his quiver; then he knotted it round his neck.
If he ever saw Adah again, he would return it. Right before he tears out my heart, he thought ironically.Anyway, it was better around his neck than trampled and burnt in the ruin of Bag End.
There was a shriek from within the smial, and something darted out and down the stairs. Without thinking Logi threw himself forward and caught it, the creature writhing and squirming in his grasp. He clenched it tight against his chest, closing his free hand on its throat.
"Hold still, or I'll wring your neck."
Half a dozen barbarians burst through the doorway and stopped, seeing their quarry already captured.
"Hey, Logi, throw it here! We'll shut it in and burn it with the place!"
The Orc looked down at what he held, quiet now and staring in blank terror: a young Hobbit with eyes as blue as periwinkle. He took his hand away from the lad's throat.
"What are you doing here? You must have been told to flee!"
"My pony spooked and threw me! I didn't think they'd find me in the cellar."
One of the barbarians was coming down the stairs. "Give the brat to me; I'll see to him. Seeing as how you don't like burning live ones." His smile was taunting.
"Wait, let's see what Logi wants with him. Have you got some other use for him, Greyface? Something we hadn't thought of?" The man nearest the door made a suggestive gesture, and the others brayed with laughter. They started down the steps.
Logi went still as death, hardly believing they could mean what they plainly meant. Then he sprang for his horse, flinging the Hobbit across her back as he threw himself in the saddle.
"Aye, I have a use for him! Stand back, or I'll have your heads!"
He spurred savagely, and Cambar leaped forward. One man tried to grab her by the bridle, and Logi stabbed down with his sword, riding the body down and galloping back along the road toward Bywater. Behind him the warriors ran for their horses and came howling after him.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.