14. The Little Hero
Logi raced away from Hobbiton knowing he could not outrun the barbarians; any second they would be on him and tear him limb from limb, and the Hobbit with him. He rounded a sharp turn banked by a tall hedgerow and yanked back on the reins. Almost before Cambar stopped he had dropped to the ground and pulled the Hobbit down. He slapped the mare on the flank.
"Go on, get out of here!"
She pawed the ground, ducking her head at him, and he hauled her out to the middle of the road.
"Go! Lead them away!" He hit her with the flat of his sword. He could hear the others coming, and he smacked her again with all his strength. The horse leaped away, tearing down the road toward Bywater, and Logi rolled under a hedge barely in time.
As the hoofbeats receded in the distance, he jumped to his feet. "Come on, before they see she's riderless."
The Hobbit crawled out of the bushes, looking wildly in all directions. They were in an orchard, the grass cleanly scythed between the rows of the trees. Logi grabbed the lad by the wrist and ran, dragging him to a shed at the end of the row. Around the side of the building he fell to his knees, scrabbling at a wooden cover lying on the ground. He shoved it aside to reveal a dark hole a couple of feet across, rimmed round with stone.
"It's dry," he gasped, and lowered himself inside, bracing his back and feet against the walls. "Climb over my shoulder, arms around my neck. Quickly! They'll be back!"
The Hobbit obeyed him, agile as a monkey, and Logi dragged the cover over their heads till all but a sliver of light disappeared. Then he began inching his way down inside the old well, hands and feet feeling for holds on the rough stonework, until at last he reached the bottom and set the Hobbit down.
"How did you know -?" the lad began, but Logi gripped his shoulder with iron fingers.
"Be quiet! Voices carry."
He sank down with his knees against his chest, and the Hobbit leaned against him. There was not space enough for both to sit; so narrow that Logi felt stifled, buried alive, and he forced himself to steady, even breaths. There was air enough, but the well was blacker than the darkest night, and the rim of daylight far above, at the edge of the wooden cover, was like an elongated moon.
He answered the Hobbit's question in his mind. I know because I played here long ago. Here Haldar hid, one autumn day, when Adah was with the Mayor and I was charged to watch my little cousin.
How he had searched, that day, in irritation and then in growing fear, terrified what had become of the golden imp who plagued his days and was the darling of his heart! And up he climbed at last, where I sat defeated on the stony edge – I nearly tumbled in from shock!
And very nearly pitched him back head-first – ye gods, but he'd been wroth! Haldar had gone in a moment from impudent mischief to genuine remorse, twining his arms around his cousin's neck, his dirty face to Logi's cheek, smelling of earth and the apples he'd stolen that morning in the orchard.
"I'm sorry, Logi; don't be mad! I didn't mean to scare you."
Oh great heaven, Haldar. Bound helpless, staring at him unbelieving – his Logi would never give him to the fire – his cousin, brother, his most dearly loved –
Haldar screaming when the fire reached him –
Logi pressed his arm against his mouth, forcing back a wail of despair. I did not let you burn, he told the remembered eyes, but they did not soften. He twisted his head from side to side as if he sought escape; at last he sank his teeth into his arm and tasted blood – metallic, like running his tongue across a knife. Shame twisted in his chest, loss and betrayal, his loathsome treachery. Haldar!
"Are you all right?" The voice was hardly a breath next to his ear; the lad had taken his warning to heart. Logi nodded, and the Hobbit's hand closed round his fingers. Involuntarily the Orc clung to the warm little paw, so like Haldar's when he was a child – he rested his forehead on his bloodied arm, convulsed with grief but tearless, his eyes like coals.
Hour after hour they crouched in the empty well, chill and dank with the odor of underground. Not till the last hint of light had vanished up above, would Logi risk climbing up and peering out. When he was convinced no enemies lay in wait, he descended once more and brought the Hobbit up.
He dropped him on the grass with some relief – the lad was no lightweight, despite his diminutive size – but to the Orc's astonishment, the Hobbit bounced to his feet and bowed formally from the waist.
"I have not thanked you for saving my life. My gratitude! If ever I may do you any service – or any of my family – you have only to name it."
Logi allowed himself a wry smile, hidden by the darkness. "I will remember. And who shall I look for when I come to claim this service? What is your name?"
"Frodo? Like the hero of olden times?"
The Hobbit's voice was rueful. "Yes, like him. My mother loves reading the old stories; too much so for my comfort. I take a lot of teasing for that name."
"Hmph. No pleasure, is it, inheriting a legend? Well, come on, young hero. The nearest place of safety for you is Tuckborough, and night is the time for travel. At dawn we'll find another hiding place."
"Have you got anything to eat? I'm so empty, it feels as if my insides might cave in."
Logi dug in his pouch for a strip of dried meat. "Here. Make it last; I only have a little." He took none himself. His stomach had clenched to a tight knot against his heart, and the thought of food sickened him.
They walked all night, stopping twice to drink, once at a farmyard well and again at a little streamlet running through a field. Logi would not stop to rest.
"When morning comes we must be under cover; you'll have all day to sleep. With luck I'll get you to friends tomorrow night."
"You're my friend, too," said Frodo, but Logi spat beside the path.
"You'd better hope I'm not! Be quiet," he added, when the lad would have said more. "The wise bird doesn't call while it flees the hawk."
Dawn found them well south of the Road, coming into the broken uplands of Tookland. While Logi was trying to think where they could hide, Frodo touched his hand.
He led him to a copse of trees at the bottom of a hill. There was a sound of water, then suddenly before them was a little waterfall, splashing in a stream. Frodo climbed up the stony edge of the fall and disappeared.
"In here," he said, poking out his head. "Behind the water." Logi followed, clutching at a thorny bush in a crevice of the rock, to save himself from slipping.
The ledge behind the fall was barely wide enough to hold them, but at the back it was nearly dry. The roar drowned out their voices and Frodo mouthed, "All right?"
"Very good." Then he realized the Hobbit couldn't hear him, and forced a smile.
They settled back against the wall. Frodo nodded off, but after an hour he wakened, shivering. Logi drew the lad onto his lap and wrapped his cloak around them both; the Hobbit nestled against him and fell asleep again.
When it was dark they set out once more. Now that he was rested, Frodo had a string of questions he wanted to ask, but Logi cut him off.
"I am not a Guardian. No, nor one of Them, either! My name is no concern of yours. Don't talk."
Around midnight he halted, lifting his chin and turning this way and that to smell the air. Frodo licked a finger and moistened his nostrils, sniffing vigorously.
"Smoke," he said. "But we shouldn't be smelling Tuckborough's chimneys this far off."
"It isn't chimneys; they are here before us." Logi thought for a moment. "How quiet can you be? We must give the alarm in Delving; the Commander will be there, I think, but that's two or three days on foot. The Tooks may be burned out by then. We'll have to steal a horse."
"I can be quiet, but I've never stolen a horse, or even a pony."
The Orc grinned suddenly, clapping the Hobbit's back. "Come on then; I'll make a thief of you, if they don't make corpses of us both. We'll play for all or nothing."
He loped away down the hill, and Frodo followed. A few miles farther they topped a rise and saw the campfires spread down the hill before them, and on the other side of the valley a blacker mass against the dark grey sky: Tuckborough's Great Smials. They felt their way among the trees, staying as far as they could from the barbarians' camp and still observe the place, looking for the tell-tale absence of fires that would show where the horses were picketed. When they had located that, they drew back once more.
"I cannot take you with me. I'll try not to raise any dust, but – I want you to climb a tree." Logi pointed. "That one will do. I'll come back and get you if they aren't chasing me. If they are, I'll lead them off and try to lose them. Either way, stay hid and wait for me. When the moon sets, if I haven't come, climb down and get away – go back the way we came. They've been there already; they won't go back. They're after fresh fuel for their fires."
Frodo climbed the tree and waited – endlessly, it seemed, but in truth it was well before moonset when he heard a whisper and saw that Logi had returned.
"Not just any nag – I got my own mare back!" the Orc exulted softly. "Come down, little hero, let's be out of here."
They crept away, Cambar setting her feet down as gingerly as if she caught their fear, their need of stealthiness. When they were well out of hearing, Logi urged her to a canter, but at dawn he sought another hiding place.
"There are two armies of them. One in the Tookland, but where's the other one? We dare not ride by day."
The second night they saw the Downs pushing against the sky, a patch of star-less dark. Long before they came to Michel Delving, Logi slowed Cambar to a walk, picking his way as through he passed through crowds of enemies.
"We have to hurry!" Frodo wasn't loud, but his whisper carried.
"Quiet!" the Orc mouthed at his ear, but it was too late.
"Who's there?" came a challenge a little way ahead. Logi reined in one-handed, covering Frodo's mouth.
"Answer; give your name," he muttered. He slid to the ground noiselessly, keeping a grip on the bridle.
"Frodo Miner of Hobbiton, at your service. Are you a Guardian? Hobbiton is destroyed, and now they are at Tuckborough!"
Quietly Logi lifted him down from the horse.
"The devils!" swore their unseen questioner. "All right, sir Hobbit, come and tell the Captain." They heard him moving closer, and Logi pushed Frodo forward.
"Go on, and the Mighty Ones keep you!"
He swung onto Cambar's back and dragged the mare's head around, kicking urgently. She sprang away, not silent now, and the sentry roared, "Who goes there? What's this trickery?"
"No trickery!" Logi shouted over his shoulder. "Take him to the Commander!" He heard a whoosh of air – an arrow – and flattened himself along the horse's neck. "Run, my lady, run! Or we both are dead!"
He escaped without being hit. Other than two or three arrows, there was no pursuit.
I hope it's someone with the sense to listen. He felt a qualm at dumping Frodo and running, but he did not fear for the lad. There was not a Guardian alive who would ill-treat a Hobbit.
Not even wicked Logi. Pity the poor Guardians! It seems I'm one of you in spite of everything. But Adah's bit off more than he can chew this time – there'll be no turning back this tide that's flooding over the Shire.
He had been once with his grandfather to the Old Havens, where the Elvenfolk used to sail away. Away from Middle Earth to the golden-hearted West – Logi had watched in wonderment as the tide washed up the estuary, and Canohando told him the water would flow back the other way, a few short hours later.
"I thought to go myself, one time. But I stayed to guard the Shire." His tone was matter-of-fact, without regret.
Time to go now, Adah. There's no saving the Shire this time.
There was no saving Logi this time. He'd thrown away his new life, such as it was, when he rescued Frodo.
They would have slain me anyway. He shrugged. With all sides in this conflict after his blood, he'd not come home alive – but he had no home, no people, anymore. Freiga belonged to the Tribe; she was lost to him now, and someone else would claim her. For himself, he had his weapons and his horse, and the carved tooth round his neck.
By rights he should have given the tooth to Frodo, but he couldn't bring himself to let it go. It nestled in the hollow of his throat, soothing, as Adah's Jewel had never been.
Because I'm an Orc, he mocked himself. A bear's tooth suits me – and I've saved my own Frodo now. The wrong one, naturally. The thought brought Canohando very near, and it came to him that he wanted his grandfather.
He'd kill me the moment he laid eyes on me! But perhaps that was what he wanted after all – to be judged, and pay the penalty. Anything to close his ears to Haldar's scream.
And one other thing he wanted. He reined up, taking his bearings. Why, he had no idea, but he wanted to see Bag End once more. He wanted to stand by the lichened stone that marked the Ring-bearer's grave, and next to it the grave of Old Sam, that paragon of loyalty.
He himself had not been loyal. In some obscure way he felt he owed them an apology.
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.