27. The Running Tide
They encountered Logi many miles north of the border, but it was Frodo Miner who spied the Orc under a tree at twilight. Radagast thought Logi would have let them pass by unaware, but Frodo ran to him as to a long-absent friend.
Logi endured the lad's embrace stoically. "Still alive, I see," he said, but he cast a dour look on the wizard when Frodo gave his name. "I've heard of you, old man."
Radagast had traveled in glacier country once, an age ago, and the Orc's eyes brought to mind crevasses he had seen there, black and narrow, a plunge into the void, but –no, not unless ice can burn, he corrected himself. There was nothing cold about Logi; he seethed like molten iron.
Even bearing in mind that Logi had rescued Frodo from death and torture, Radagast was taken aback at the lad's familiarity. Something about Logi made the hair prickle on the back of the wizard's neck –Canohando's grandson this might be, but still a murderer, and not of some stranger, of his bosom friend.
He did the one good deed when he rescued Frodo, but I would not depend on him for another one. Radagast shook himself mentally. What had come over him, to nurture such a jaded view of anyone?
But Frodo plainly had no such qualms. He repeated to Logi the gossip he had heard, bristling with indignation at the villains who spread such lies. Logi's face was blank until he caught the wizard's eye, and in a flash Radagast divined his thought, You know the truth of this, old man.
On that recognition they became allies of a sort. Logi brought them to the Hobbits he'd adopted, and Frodo discovered second and third cousins among them, rejoicing to find them live and whole. While the Shirefolk visited, the Orc led Radagast apart, ducking into a rough hut faced with bark.
"My son," he said, taking the baby from Freiga without greeting or apology. He held the child so Radagast could see –no Orc-look to this little one; the child was golden-fair.
"His name is Haldar." Logi glowered as if he dared the wizard to comment.
"It suits him well. And this is your wife?"
Logi made no answer, but sat down cross-legged on the dirt floor, babbling baby-talk and playing with his son. For a moment Radagast watched, noting how the Orc's bitter expression softened as the child laughed and pulled his hair; finally he turned to make himself known to the sad-faced woman.
He remained only one night with them, for time was pressing to bring the Hobbits out of the Shire. He had his hands full dragging Frodo away – the lad was determined to remain with his hero, but Logi put him off, and Radagast thought he understood. Frodo would believe no evil of his rescuer, and Logi would not force the truth on him, but nor would he deny it.
It was Freiga who lingered longest in the wizard's mind, and he could not think how to comfort her, neither then nor later. Her eyes followed her husband whenever he was near, but Logi avoided her gaze and rarely spoke to her. Yet now and then he touched her fleetingly, as if he could not help it, as if his tenderness for her refused to die, however he tried to kill it.
Radagast brought Frodo back again to the southern lands, thinking he would do well in the scattered villages, making himself at home in the Big People's barns and stables, all without their knowledge. The lad was adept at hiding and considered it good sport; in later years he became a leader among the Hobbits there.
By autumn there was no one left in Delving but Hodfast and his family, the Commander and Queen Mab. Radagast sat late with them one evening, recounting where he had settled this group or that of the refugees, but mum concerning Logi.
At length he turned to Canohando. "I have a horse for you. The boatman is growing restive and wishes to be gone – it is time for you to sail."
They left Delving three mornings after, the Mayor and his party traveling with them as far as the new settlements in the north.
"I'll return to you this winter," Radagast promised in parting, and the Hobbit nodded, working the wizard's hand like a pump handle.
"Aye, so you will, and we'll have a warm welcome for you. You'll eat from our larder then, and be cozy at our fireside – small recompense enough for all you've done."
The next day they went on, the wizard leading Canohando and Malawen on a single horse. Malawen rode behind, clinging to the Orc, and Radagast was uncertain whether it was to keep her own balance or to hold her mate steady in the saddle. After a while they passed beneath the shade of a woodland so ancient, it seemed a relic of another age, and the thin beams of sunlight that filtered through were like messengers of faerie, whispering of glories long departed, of battles lost and won. They'd been talking quietly, more cheerful than any time since the day last summer when Haldar had come riding – but the forest silenced them.
Radagast had urged – nay, he had all but begged Logi to meet them at the place of embarkation, but the Orc would not.
"What should I say to him, old man? Let him think me dead; that will please him best."
The trees grew nearly to the water's edge, where the land dropped down onto a stony beach, but they smelled salt on the air for a long while before, and heard the waves riding up the shore. At last they caught the glint of sun on water, and when they came out of the shadows they were all but blinded by the light. Malawen slid from the horse without assistance, but when Radagast reached to help the Orc, something caused the horse to shy and Canohando, already halfway down, fell sprawling to the ground.
There was a moment of confusion, Malawen and the wizard stumbling in each other's way to help him up. Then they froze like statues, all three of them, at a howl of protest practically in their midst.
A harsh denial, railing at the Fates –and Logi was standing at the forest verge, staring at the Commander's shortened leg, his crippling infirmity.
It seemed as if time slowed to take it in –Canohando half up, half down, hanging on his crutches – beside him Queen Mab pale with fury, glaring –and Logi with contorted face, crying out at heaven. Then Canohando straightened and reached for Malawen.
"Wait, Elfling." Involuntarily his eyes sought the missing arm, and his lips tightened. Logi was silent now and watchful, as waiting for a blow, his left arm holding something to his chest. "You came to say farewell? What have you got there?"
Logi tugged awkwardly at the shawl tied over his shoulder, until they could see the child he carried, awake and gazing around him with wide eyes. Malawen sucked in her breath and backed away, but Canohando beckoned.
"Bring him here. Your son?"
He helped unwind the shawl and blanket; he leaned heavily on his crutches and stroked the baby cheek. Haldar gazed in wonder at the grey countenance bent above him, so like his father and yet not the same; at last he gave a fruity chuckle and grabbed the Commander's nose.
Canohando laughed in spite of himself. This child, this child– "Melethril, come and see!"
Malawen took a step toward him, but then she caught Logi's eye and jerked away, turning her back to stare out over the water, one trembling hand above her eyes to shade them. "Look, is that the boat?"
They came to stand beside her, Logi at Adah's heels as he used to be, when he was just a lad. The boat sat like a ring on the glimmering Sea, bobbing with the swell.
It was small and round, a pearly membrane stretched on a sapling frame. Within it stood an Elf, a long oar thrust in the water, as if without his holding it the coracle must bound away, eager to be free. Slowly he poled in closer, till he bumped against the shore.
"It is time," said the wizard.
Canohando swayed on his crutches, and Logi caught his elbow. The Commander glanced at his grandson wryly. "The Orcs have come off badly in this war. What will you do now, Logi?"
" I made a promise to Old Sam…"
Canohando's eyes sharpened on him, measuring. "Keep it, then, and the Powers keep you faithful." He flung an arm round Logi's neck and for an instant pulled him close, then he touched the baby cheek once more and turned away.
Clumsily he clambered into the coracle, Radagast helping him. Lightly Malawen stepped in and settled between his knees, her head against his chest, his arms around her.
Logi bundled Haldar in his blanket and tightened the shawl that bound his son to him. He felt the boatman watching him, but the Elf was veiled in light; looking at him was like staring at the sun, and Logi blinked and dropped his eyes.
Radagast bent over to embrace the pair in the boat, the hem of his garment trailing in the water. "You have paid your debt to the Ring-bearer, and somewhere, I doubt not, he knows of it and thanks you. Henceforward the Hobbits are under my protection."
"Will they survive, old man?"
"While the earth endures, the Little Folk remain, though no one knows but the wildings of the forest. This I have been promised."
He stepped back, and the Elf gave his oar a push that set the coracle spinning away from shore.
"Good journey to you!" the wizard called, and Canohando shouted,
"The Valar keep you, Brown One!"
Logi squinted, keeping Adah in sight as long as possible. The Elven boatman shifted his weight, steadying his frail vessel without missing a stroke of his oar, and of a sudden Logi's eyes were opened.
He shouted; he ran at the Sea to throw himself after them, heedless of anything but his need to reach the boat. From boyhood he had envied that artless grace, that harmony of motion, it could be no one else –
The sea floor dropped away and the Orc went under; he could not swim one-armed. He came up sputtering, and Haldar wailed at the shock of cold and wet. Then the Brown One was beside him in the water, keeping him afloat, and the coracle danced away across the waves, beyond all hope of catching it. But the shining boatman raised a hand and brought it to his mouth; he flung his arm out wide toward shore, as if he blew a kiss.
The Hobbit settlements took root, their dwellings delved 'neath rocks and spreading tree roots, hidden from any eyes except their own. They learned to sleep by day, and twilight was their morning. By night they were abroad in field and garden, in barn and dairy and the farmhouse kitchen, skimming the cream and taking their little share, but leaving all in order, better than they found it.
So legend grew around them, for they could not be utterly unseen; now and again some farmer caught a glimpse, who stayed awake to aid a difficult calving – and legend grew that luck bestrode the farm the Small Folk favored.
Kindly farmers, or those who craved good fortune, left offerings sometimes: a bowl of milk, a skein of homespun yarn. But not all Men are kindly. There were a few who tried to force their luck, to capture one of the nighttime visitors and make him give a blessing. And soon another legend grew, of the dreadful fate that fell on anyone who molested the Little People.
So the northland was transformed to pastures and fields and tidy villages, and the people were tall and sturdy, with fair hair. But the Hobbits, in their dwellings underground, still loved a pipe and a mug of beer, a bit of cozy gossip before they went to bed.