The Grey at the End of the World: 21. The False and the True

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21. The False and the True

Freiga had never been so lonely. Logi was out of his head when he was awake - which wasn't often. Adah had kept his promise: he'd brought them food and bandages, blankets even, and a vial of some strong-smelling medicine.
"Get it down him, a few drops in his water, and sprinkle it on the wound. It aids in healing and it will make him sleep. Your people are all around you in the woods, if you want to leave him and go back to them."
 "I'll never leave him! I'm carrying his babe."
He snorted. "More pity you. Don't let it bite your breast off when it's born."  But in spite of his angry manner, before he left he stooped over the unconscious Logi. Awkwardly he reached out to touch the ashen cheek, and Logi turned his face into the hand as though it brought him comfort. For a long moment neither of them moved; then Canohando withdrew his hand and ducked out the low doorway of the cave without another word.
The food he'd brought was soldiers' rations, parched meat and grain, enough to last a long while. There was even a cooking pot and a waterskin. Plainly he did not mean for them to starve.
Freiga went out after dark to fetch their water, hearing afar the noise of the besiegers' camp. It was almost relief a few days later when she heard the clang of battle; small chance of discovery while the fight went on, but afterward would be the time of danger. When quiet fell again, she smothered the fire and shook a few drops of Adah's cordial directly on Logi's tongue. Now the warriors would comb the woods for stragglers, to slay any who'd escaped and rob the dead. She dragged Logi's pallet to where it could not be seen from the entrance, and huddled beside him, muffled in a blanket.
It was three days more before she heard a robin, chirring merrily just outside the cave. She got up shakily and peeked outside. A squirrel was burying a nut not far away - peace had returned to the forest. The wild things knew, the wild things always knew.
She was mad with thirst. Since the battle ended she had not dared to leave the cave, and the waterskin was empty. She had given the greater part of the water to Logi, and still he burned with fever. She crept out cautiously –it would only take one enemy to undo her, lagging behind to heal some hurt or sleeping off his drunk – but no one leaped at her as she went down to the spring, and she returned in safety.
She drank, and bathed Logi's arm, and kindled a fire. He must have food, some meat and barley broth. He was so thin, his face was like a skull, the skin stretched over it. She cupped his cheek, and his head turned toward her hand, but his brow was furrowed as if in puzzlement. When she bent to kiss his lips, he jerked away.
The weather was growing cooler when she shook the last drops of medicine out of the vial. A day later, while she was outside getting water,  Logi came fully awake for the first time. He stared about at the low, close walls, the dim triangle of the doorway obscured by vines. A shallow pit in the center of the room held glowing coals, but from these he looked quickly away, stricken by a dread he would not let himself wonder about.
What place is this? He tried to push up from where he lay, but fell to one side when only one arm responded. He landed on his shoulder and such pain burst in him, he nearly screamed aloud. Some deep part of his mind warned, silence! and he choked back his cry, rolling to his back again and swallowing the bile that came into his throat.
He fingered the painful shoulder and down his arm, swathed in bandages and – he caught his breath – ending before he reached the elbow. He felt the cloth-wrapped stump, craning his neck to see, and abruptly memory returned.
This was Adah's judgment: not death but maiming. He held out his left arm where he could see it, clenched and unclenched his fist. Weak. The muscles wasted – how long have I been lying here?
The vines at the doorway parted and a woman ducked inside – Freiga. Bitterness filled his mouth and spilled out into words.
"Are you still with me, wanton? What must I do to rid myself of you?"
She stopped half across the cave with the filled waterskin in her arms, caught by surprise at finding him awake and so belligerent. She let her gaze run over him, pausing significantly at the missing arm, and ending at his face.
"Wanton, am I? Then what do you call yourself?" Her voice was tight with outrage. "I've fed and bandaged you, I've tended your every need. Had I been less faithful you would be dead this morn, not hurling insults at me! Is this your gratitude?"
He pushed himself up on his one arm till he was sitting. It took all his strength, and he sat gasping a moment before he answered, "Yes! You waste your care on me; I am a monster."
"No!" She dropped down beside him. "You loved me once. You loved your friend and Adah – "
"Adah! What do you know of my grandfather?"
"He carried you here. He brought us food and medicine, he – Logi, I love you! Do you honor your friend by turning it all to hate?"
Water filled his eyes and he turned his head away so she wouldn't see. "I wish you had known Haldar. He was – like sunlight on the river, more shining than his hair. He called me 'Thunderbrows' when I was angry –"
Freiga put her arms around him but he was wooden, resisting her embrace; only the shaming tears wetted his face like rain.
"Tell me," she whispered. "Make me know him. He was so beautiful, and he would not betray us, not even – he was brave."
"Better he'd dragged me off to the Commander; he might still be alive! And you'd be with your Tribe, and I'd be whole."
"More like you would be dead, the two of you. The woods are empty now; there's been no sound for weeks. I think they all were slain."
"All?" He strained his eyes to search her face in the dimness. "How long since – " He motioned at his empty sleeve.
"Two moons, a little more. It's healing, Logi. I think the skin is coming back."
She reached for his arm, unwinding the bandage and wrapping it round her hand, to keep it from the dirt. "See?"
Puckered and hideous and oh, so well deserved! Perhaps the skin was growing; he couldn't tell. At least it didn't stink. He'd known a man once whose wound had putrefied; he'd never forget the stench.
"So I'm alive. What now?" She didn't answer, and he eyed her sardonically. "Did you have something in mind when you stopped Adah? A one-armed warrior and a woman from the Tribe that seeks my blood - did you know they meant to kill me?"
"Old Catti told me, to make me get rid of the babe, but I would not. That's why I left, to warn you. "
"There is a babe?" He caught a handful of her hair, pulling her face to his. "How long before it's born? You fool, you should have listened to her! Do you still not understand? One is enough like me, one is too many!"
"No!" She made no move to draw away; she ran a gentle finger along his eyebrows. "Logi, come back! You were not always like this, full of hate and anger. It was no monster wooed me in the pasture, it was a man, passionate and strong – and I would I had gone with you, when you asked me to. There is no other choice now."
"To run away?  It is too late for that. If all were slain in battle, there's only me, and if any of the Guardians are left and I meet with them, they'll finish what Adah left undone. Yet I must find the Hobbits, if any are still alive, and do what I can for them."
"Why must you? What can you do alone – your people are destroyed and you – " She stopped; she would not call him cripple.
He struggled to his feet, panting, bracing his shoulders against the rough wall of the cave. "I made a promise on old Frodo's grave – you don't know what I mean, but that's no matter. Where have you put my sword? I'll have to learn to fight left-handed."
A few days later he demanded to see the battlefield. He was still too weak to walk so far alone, but he gave Freiga no peace until she brought him there, leaning on her shoulder so heavily that she feared he would drag her to her knees.
The grass had overgrown it by then, and she was thankful. There were still patches of blackened earth - some would be funeral pyres for the Tribe's own warriors, but even far inside the hill was ankle-deep in ashes and stank of death.
"You see," she told him, "there's nothing for you here. Come away, Logi. You are not strong enough to fight yet, even if some enemy were here to challenge you."
He growled something unintelligible, but he let her lead him back to the cave. The next day he wanted to go again, but she would not bring him. Angry, he sat outside exercising his one arm, brandishing his sword and making practice thrusts, until he fell back exhausted on the ground. She covered him with one of Adah's blankets and let him sleep till sundown. Then she wakened him and coaxed him inside the cave once more.
Day after day he drove himself and slowly he learned to control his sword left-handed. His strength returned and he went back to the Smials - but not alone, for Freiga would not let him go off by himself. She was afraid he would grow dizzy and faint - he had done so several times - but even more she feared he would abandon her.
She was visibly pregnant now, and she would have known it by Logi's reaction even if her dress had not been growing tighter. He glanced at her sideways and quickly looked away, ashamed and fascinated. He stiffened when she touched him, but he could not change his bandage without help, and had perforce to suffer her to do it.
One night in the darkness some movement wakened her, and his pallet beside her was empty.
There was no answer, but she heard him breathing.
"Where are you going?"
"Go back to sleep. I am well enough; I don't need your nursing."
She felt her way to the entrance where he stood. "No? Now you are healed you'll leave me here alone – heavy with your child! I cared for you, but who will care for me when my time comes?"
"Your Tribe infests the Shire from end to end. Your own folk can take care of you."
She gave a hollow laugh. "Logi, are you blind or only foolish? I ran away, I followed after you! Do you think they would take me back with open arms? The fire waits for me as it does for you, if they capture us. But I would bring this babe to birth, for all its father will take no notice of it. You owe me something for your life."
At first he did not answer, but at last he said, "I must find the Hobbits, wherever they are hidden. I made a promise."
"To me also you made a promise! Find your Hobbits, then, but let me come." She touched him and he moved away, but a moment later she felt his hand smoothing her hair.
"All right, Freiga. Bring the blankets and kettle; I would have left them for you."
From then on they roamed the Shire by night, hiding in daytime to sleep in tangled thickets or heaps of brush along the edge of fields. She had not known where she was to begin with; by the stars she could tell if they were going north or south, but otherwise she was utterly lost. But Logi knew his way; he went unerringly from one village to another, only to find them all alike deserted and destroyed. His face fell into lines of hopelessness, but he would not give up searching.
One evening when she laid bare his maimed arm, she paused to look closely at it, running her fingertips over the stump.
"It is healed, Logi. You don't need the bandage any more; best leave it open to the air." She bent on impulse and pressed her lips against the scars, and he jerked away.
"Leave it, then. Wash out the bandages, in case we need them later."
"When our child is born." She hesitated, but the question had been for a long time in her mind. "Logi, would it please him, if we named the babe for him?"
She doubted she needed to specify who she meant, and she was right. Logi turned on her so suddenly she jumped back, afraid that he would strike her.
"What fool's question is that? He's dead, he's burned!"
"In the Tribe they say – the spirit rides the smoke, into the sky. What if he's up there looking down on us?"
He snorted in disgust. "You're like a child! He is not in the sky. Be silent, woman."
"How do you know?" She kept back out of his reach, but she could not let it go. "I think he is, and says, 'I was the price – don't let it be for nothing.' I'd like to give your son his name. I think he would be glad."
He did not answer, and she did not dare say more. In silence they rolled in their blankets and went to sleep.
She was finding it harder to keep up with him, as the growing babe made her more unwieldy. She thought if she had another vial of Adah's medicine she would empty it all at once into the waterskin. Half for her and half for Logi - a few drops at a time had kept him sleeping for a month, so how long would they sleep if they drank it all? Perhaps she would wake to the child already born, and nuzzling at her breast. She sighed.
She wondered if Logi were going mad, whether from some poison in his wound or merely from evil conscience, it made no difference. She wondered if he would turn one day and kill her. But Logi was all she had, for good or ill.
He hardly spoke, and she had ample time for thought. She knew Haldar had disapproved of her, and yet he had kept watch for them. And the terrible day he was captured, he kept their secret.
The Chief had left the Jewel around her neck – in her flight from Logi she had forgotten it, and it was proof of her shame,  that she had been with someone. But they could not prove she'd been with an enemy – that would have meant her death – and Haldar had gazed at her blankly, as at a stranger. Very cruelly they had handled him; twice he cried out, but never a word they got from him.
She had been cold with fear. Her own father would have lit her death-fire – but Haldar kept silence, and she forced her face to impassivity, not showing her pain at the Shining One bloodied and brought low. Then Logi came, and she thought to see them hacked to pieces, both of them. She had stared in disbelief when he slew his friend.
And now his guilt will eat him up –
 The sky arched over her, deep and still as water. Help him! she whispered. Forgive him, and we will name the child for you.

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.

Story Information

Author: jodancingtree

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 4th Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 02/07/06

Original Post: 06/22/05

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