The Grey at the End of the World: 24. A Little Tenderness

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24. A Little Tenderness

Logi led Freiga back and forth across the Shire, from the Green Hills to the River, from Quarry nearly to Bindbole Wood. He was relentless in his search, and impatient with her when she sank exhausted to the ground at each day's end. But they found no Hobbits, and from Bindbole they turned back cautiously when they found signs that the Tribe was in the area. The season was growing late, and the barbarians seemed to have taken the forest for their winter quarters.

At the end of  November there came a heavy snow, and Logi took refuge in the Brockenborings. Here at last they encountered Hobbits, by accident, one might have said. The Little Folk were deep within the delvings, and Logi's repeated halloos brought no response. But Freiga lost her way one morning, following the sound of water and hoping to find a spring inside the caverns, to save her going out into the cold. There were so many interlacing tunnels, she grew confused and blundered from one blind turning to another until she was utterly lost and frightened, whimpering softly and rubbing her swollen belly as she walked, as if it were the babe who wanted comforting.

She called for Logi, but he had gone out seeking food; though he could no longer handle a bow, he contrived to set snares using his one hand and his teeth. Freiga was alone, and at last she curled up in despair against the stony wall, watching her torch burn down and wondering how long it would take to starve to death. Small chance that Logi would trouble to search for her, when he returned and found her gone.

And then a quiet voice said, "This way, mistress," and she looked up in amazement at a little woman no taller than her waist, beckoning from down the tunnel. The Hobbit led her back through the labyrinth, to the chamber where she'd begun, where their blankets were piled around their makeshift firepit.

"You've known all along that we were here!" Freiga exclaimed. "Why didn't you answer Logi when he called? He is no enemy to you; he's one of the Guardians!" 

"Can anyone be certain who the enemy is, when all the world's gone mad?" The Hobbit's hair was white, her face like a withered apple. "From my grandmother's days – aye, and before that, even! – the Commander's protected the Shire, but now he's turned against us. My sister's son saw him at Stock village, killing his own children. Oh, these are terrible days, mistress! I very nearly didn't stop to help you, till I saw you're big with child." She sighed, and then she smiled. "One mother looks out for another, dearie, even if one's tall as a May-pole."

She would not stay, once Freiga was safe in her own place again. Indeed, the whole time she never came within arm's reach, plainly not trusting a Big Person even when she gave assistance.

"Stay out here near the entrance after this. I wouldn't want you to come to any harm, so near your time you are, and not everyone would take the risk to help you."

"Logi wants to help the Hobbits - he's been searching everywhere for you -" Freiga began, but the old woman shook her head till her snowy braids swung back and forth.

"You tell him not to, then! We'll keep ourselves to ourselves now, mistress, thank you all the same. If we can't even trust the Commander, we're safer on our own."

Freiga was baffled by the woman's reference to the Commander, but Logi understood when she told him. He swore and banged his fist against the wall; then he went back through all the tunnels he had already searched, shouting himself hoarse.

"It was not the Commander at Stock! It was me, his grandson, the traitor – not Canohando, never Canohando! I know you see me – shoot me if you will, it's what I deserve, but don't blame the Commander."

There was no answer. At length he came back to the fire and threw himself down in silence. He had trapped a hare outside, but he would not eat.

Freiga expected that they would travel on at once, when the Hobbits spurned his help, but for the first time Logi seemed to notice how awkward she had grown. She had repeated the little woman's remark about mothers looking out for one another, and she thought perhaps it shamed him. In any event, he made no move to leave the caverns, and from that day forward he went himself to fetch their water, gruffly commanding her to rest. 

The babe, when he arrived a month and a half later, was unlike either of his parents. His face was like a rosebud, all crumpled petals waiting to unfold, but his skin was Elven-fair, and his fuzz of hair, when they carried him to the mouth of the cave where there was light, was blonde as the winter sun. The child was two or three days old by then; it was the first time Logi had looked closely at him.

"Haldar..." he whispered. He reached for his son, and Freiga tucked the babe in the crook of his arm, folding his fingers around the little thigh, to hold the child secure. Logi bent over him till their faces nearly touched, and suddenly a strangled cry burst from his throat.

Freiga caught fearfully at her baby to snatch it away, but Logi was weeping, choking on his sobs, and holding Haldar so tight he frightened the child, till he added his baby squalls to his father's grieving.

From that day on, Logi would hardly be separated from his son. He made Freiga fashion a pouch for him to wear against his chest, to carry Haldar in, and he curled protectively around the child as he slept. He let the little hands curl round his fingers, and Freiga found to her amazement that he could sing, when he began chanting Elvish lullabies under his breath to soothe the baby's cranky times. She could hardly get the child away from him long enough to feed.

Meanwhile the snow melted and the days grew long, and at last they departed from Brockenborings. It was still cold, and Freiga bundled Haldar in a blanket of rabbit fur. She wanted to push farther north, to avoid the Tribe, but Logi was bound to go to Delving, in case any Hobbits were still there.

It was strange that until now they had never argued. Logi had taken her in passion and turned from her in loathing; she was the cause of his treachery and his revulsion was as violent as his love had been. And she on her part had given him a few sharp retorts, but she had never fought him. She fought him now, furious as a wolf defending her whelp.

"We will not go within a day's journey of that place, are you listening? The Hobbits want no help from you. Do you hear them calling for your aid? If any Guardians have survived, you say they'll be at Delving, and all the more reason for us to stay away! You keep Haldar strapped across your chest – do you want an arrow in his back?"

"What if no Guardians are left and the Hobbits are abandoned? Freiga, I made a vow! I must save them if I can."

"And how will you do that? A one-armed man against the entire Tribe? You were a great warrior, Logi, but not so great as that!"

Were, she said. He was not a great warrior now.

"You need not come," he growled, but she ran to plant herself in front of him, holding out her arms.

"Give me my baby! If you are bound to throw yourself on death, we'll have to manage without you."

He glowered, his arm tightening on the bundle at his heart as if he feared she would tear Haldar by force away from him, and her tone softened. "The Hobbits do not want you, Logi, but we do. Think how Haldar quiets when you sing, however hard he's crying. I will not let you take him into danger, but we need you, he and I."

"I made a vow," he repeated more quietly.

"Is there no place but Delving, where Hobbits may be hiding? That was a stronghold, you say, but what of smaller places?"

He walked in silence, thinking. They were nearing the split in the road where they would have to decide, north and out of the Shire, or south to Delving.

"The Tribe was east of the Wood; I wonder how far west they got before the winter stopped them. We might go round the northern edge of Bindbole… If we found someplace secure like Brockenborings, I could leave you and Haldar while I went to check on Delving; it would be due south, two or three days is all."

To that she agreed reluctantly. They turned onto the northern road, and not four days later they found the Hobbits at last, or were found by them.

 They could see the Hills of Evendim piling up against the sky, seeming no more than a day's journey away,though in truth it was many miles. It was dusk, and Freiga had fed Haldar and wrapped him up warm and dry while Logi buried the coals of their little campfire. They were just lying down to sleep when a voice spoke from the shadows.

"Here's a riddle worthy of Mad Baggins himself, who posed riddles to dragons! What would he make of the Commander's son, alone in time of war with none but an infant and an enemy woman? Where have you lost the Guardians, Captain, or did they lose you?"

Freiga gasped and tried to rise, but Logi pulled her back beside him on the ground. "You know me, then, somewhat. Come out where I can see you. You need not be afraid."

"All in good time. First tell me what you do here. You are far from the Brandywine where I used to see you - you and the golden lad. Where is he, the one they called the Elf?"

"Dead." The word fell heavy, making a space of silence in its wake. "I am seeking Hobbits, if any are left alive, to save them if I can."

"Hmph. Will you fight off the invaders with one hand? It seems they've had the best of you already." Logi stiffened, but the tone was gentler than the words. "You Guardians are a doughty breed, I'll give you that. Where does the woman fit into this picture?"

"I'm his wife," Freiga broke in before Logi could answer. "Are you a Hobbit? A Hobbit rescued me when I got lost in the caverns."

"Did he now. He must have been a brave fellow. Where was your goodman, that you needed rescue?"

"I was hunting." Logi sat up, shifting Haldar to lie along his arm. "Are there Hobbits still in these parts, or are you no more than a ghost of mockery? I am a Guardian, sworn to protect. Show yourself, if you are flesh and bone."

There was a dry chuckle from the darkness. "Oh, that's the Commander's son – well I remember, quick to lose your temper." He heaved a gusty sigh. "So you survived, one-armed, and found yourself wife and child. You're luckier than many. I've seen none of your comrades since last summer, when we fled the Marish. Aye, and fled again, over and over, till we came here, as near outside the Shire as we can get. What's the word from the southland, Captain? Shall we ever go home again?"

"Your homes are burnt to ashes. We lost the war at Tuckborough."

Haldar woke suddenly and wailed. Logi bounced him gently, murmuring comfort, and after a moment the Hobbit came to stand beside him.

"You're none so bad a father; better than I'd have thought. How did you come to wed a barbarian?" 

Logi made no answer. When the baby quieted, he asked, "How many of you are left? Has the enemy come this far?"

"Not yet. We've talked of planting gardens and digging smials, but I doubt we'll be left in peace. Some of us think better to go into the Hills. It's wilder country there, easy to hide in, if they follow us."

"They won't go into the mountains if they can help it," said Freiga. "They want the settled land, now they're strong enough to defend themselves."

The Hobbit snorted. "Is that the way of it? I'd as soon not see the enemies that can make such Men afraid; like Trolls, I suppose, in stories told to children. Are any more of the Guardians still alive?"

"I don't  know. I need to get to Delving and find out –"

"Logi, they'll kill you!" 

The Hobbit looked from one to the other. "The Commander doesn't think much of your marriage? I don't suppose he would. That's why you're all alone, I take it."

"Let us stay with you," Freiga begged. "Logi can still use his sword, and I can help you. I know my people, I know how you can hide –" She clung to Logi's arm, where he cradled the babe. "You swore to protect the Hobbits, and here they are! You don't have to go to Delving – there are those right here who need you." 

Their visitor cleared his throat. "We would be glad of your protection, Captain. You need not go to Delving."

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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