5. My Enemy, My Love
The following night, Logi went out as usual to reconnaissance, but he did not return with his men to the fort.
"I want to count the horses," he said. "If they all are mounted, they will be able to over-run us at the Gate, but I cannot see to count them in the dark."
They had passed the meadow where horses were corralled, guarded by riders patrolling the perimeter. "They cannot see you in the dark either," Mazik told him. "They outnumber us ten to one, Logi – they need not all be mounted to over-run us! What I want to know is what they're waiting for. Why do they hold off, why not attack? They are giving us time to make ready – "
Logi scowled. "It makes no sense. Well, perhaps I can find an answer to the riddle."
"Listening to the horse-guards. I'll sleep in hiding when I've learned all I can; I'll meet you here at nightfall."
"Be careful, Logi. They are not blind and deaf."
Mazik wished again that Haldar were with them. The Commander had come with all speed from Sarn Ford, but he had sent Haldar to Tower Hills, at the far west of the Shire, to summon Captain Osta. In another day or two they should arrive, and for Mazik that could not be soon enough. More and more his captain's behavior troubled him.
He would have carried his worry to the Commander that very day, could he have seen Logi veer away from the horse pasture, taking off in a different direction entirely. Logi knew the odds against them were overwhelming, and the men guarding the horses would not be discussing strategy. He had come to spy, but not on horses.
He crept downhill to where a spring passed near the camp. The stream bank was a wilderness of brambles and tangled vines, but an overgrown path led to the water. Logi guessed the barbarians would have found the place by now, and he burrowed into the thorny tangle and settled himself to wait and see who came.
Soon after sunrise his patience was rewarded; he heard voices, and a gaggle of young girls pushed past the branches to gather by the spring. They were in high spirits, laughing and slapping each other with their empty waterskins. Among them was one with the cataract of curly hair he remembered, and he swallowed hard.
Her hair was amber-colored, framing a face made tawny by the sun – she will have eyes the color of the stream, with flecks of gold, he thought. She was more beautiful to his sight than any woman he had ever seen, and he was stabbed by regret that she should be one of Them, an enemy.
The girls filled their waterskins with a great deal of splashing and tomfoolery, so much that there was some danger that one of them would be pushed into the water. At last they finished and started back along the path. The auburn-headed one was last to fill her skin, and the others had turned away before she finished. As she paused to tie it shut, Logi whistled softly, a clear bird-like note.
She glanced toward his hiding place, and he gave the call again, letting it trail away in a liquid warble. At that she chuckled and bent to peer inside the bush. But when she met his eyes, her expression changed; she jumped back with a choked exclamation and fled after her companions.
He listened for excited cries, shrieks of alarm, but there was nothing, only the sound of snapping branches as the girls retreated along the narrow path. When all was quiet, he smiled and crawled deeper into the thicket, curling up like a cat to go to sleep. She did not tell them, he thought as he drifted off.
Next morning he was at the spring again and saw how she stared at the bushes, wondering if he were there. Once more she was the last one to draw water, and when the others were out of sight he got up slowly, taking in her dismay as she recognized him for a foe. He held her with his eyes, willing her not to run, to stay and speak to him.
"What are you doing here? Who are you?"
"I am one of those who guard the Shire. I saw you in the camp, while you were sleeping."
Her brow wrinkled in puzzlement; she was altogether adorable. "You could not have. The camp is protected; no stranger could get in. Why are you hiding here beside the water?"
"I came to see by daylight the woman whose hair I touched by night, soft as a nestling bird. I wanted to know the color of her eyes. Who is the man that sleeps beside your fire – not your husband?"
Self-consciously she put a hand to her hair. "You touched – oh! No, he is my father."
He took a step toward her. "Good. If he were your husband, I would have to slay him, but your father I will spare."
"Will you? But how if he does not spare you, braggart? What if I run back now and tell my people, there is an enemy by the spring – come quick and kill him?"
"I would be gone before they laid eyes on me, like a hawk flying into the sun. But the next day I would come again, and the next, until your warriors wearied of following you to fetch water. And then –"
She looked at him from the corner of her eye. "Then – what? You would force yourself on me, carry me off, cut out my heart?"
He took her hand, and she permitted it; she let him hold her hand against his cheek and run his lips along her fingers.
"Nothing evil. Yes, I think I might carry you away – I will bring a horse tomorrow and carry you before me, into the Western land of woods and sea. We will leave our people to their war-faring, and fly to where no man nor woman lives, except us two, and I will teach you what love is." As he said it, it became possible in his mind, more than possible, inevitable.
She tittered nervously. "You do not speak like any of our men, nor even look like them. Are you certain you are not a spirit of the woods?"
"What do you think?" He drew her close, her body against his, sliding his fingers into her hair. She resisted only a little, but she grew still when he bowed his head and kissed the hollow of her throat, and then he bent her back against his arm and covered her mouth with his.
"Will you come with me?" he demanded when he let her go.
"What manner of man are you? Are all your people like you?"
He grinned, teasing her. "There is no one else like me, or only one. I am an Orc, and my brother is an Elf. Have you heard of Orcs?"
But no, she had never heard of them, and she shook her head. "You are different from other men," she said again, "but I cannot leave my Tribe. And now I must go back, or they will miss me."
He let her go, and went back to the fort to stride in late for morning council, earning a reprimand from his grandfather.
"Where have you been? Have you learned anything useful, with all your creeping round their camps?"
Logi prated glibly of numbers of horses, the arrangement of the tents, the type of weapons and gear he had observed. "No armor, only corselets of leather," he finished.
"Well, you've used your eyes," said Canohando. "Haldar is back. Tonight show him the camps, and cast about, the pair of you, make sure there are no others. We must be watchful, for we cannot tell when they will move, nor where."
"Toward the bridge, where else, or why gather here?"
Canohando went to stare out the window, as if his gaze could pry out the purposes of the enemies who lurked beyond his sight. "Where do they come from, I wonder? If I wanted to invade the Shire, I would follow the Greenway past the Barrow Downs, and come up from the south. Easier to bring cavalry through Sarn Ford, than over a narrow bridge." He tapped his teeth absently with his knife handle. "Let Mazik's people watch the camps tonight. You and Haldar go into the Forest; make sure they're not slipping through – "
"Through the Old Forest?" Logi bit his tongue; one did not laugh at the Commander, but the idea was preposterous.
"The Trees would not let them through, you think? We can tame them, but they do not love us, Logi. 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend.' We'll spare a night or two, to know for certain. They are not sneaking down the Road to Sarn; we have a daily courier on that route."
"Right, Adah; the Old Forest tonight." Logi saluted and went out to find his cousin.
Haldar greeted him by coming up suddenly from behind and throwing a hip against him, trying to knock him down. Logi took a half turn backward and dropped his cousin in the dust.
"Be sober for once, you zany! This is no time for games."
Haldar laughed at him from the floor, making no effort to rise. "Oh, I imagine we'll play with them before we're done! What have you been up to, Orc? Mazik was bending my ear before I broke my fast this morning; I'm not certain he wasn't waiting outside the door for me to wake. You've got him all a-fidget, whatever you've been doing."
Logi reached down and hauled him to his feet. "He'd do better to fret about those barbarians. Mazik is an old woman; never mind him. Did you hear Adah's orders?"
"Before you did. I've got the flutes already."
"I haven't slept," Logi grumbled.
"I have rations for us. You sleep and I'll keep watch; we'll spend a full circuit of the sun inside the Forest. It's the only way to be sure that no-one's coming in."
Logi raised no further objection. They went out through the courtyard, Haldar joking nonstop with the guards at the gate, till one of them exclaimed,
"The Commander'd best put you on the gate when the enemy comes: they'll be laughing too hard to shoot, listening at you, and we'll mow them down like grass."
"But will they make good hay? My Brethil gets the colic from poor fodder – it's not worth sickening the horses, just to use up our dead barbarians," Haldar pointed out sensibly, and the man guffawed.
"Get on with you! I'm glad to see you back, Elf; it's dull here when you're gone."
Haldar grinned and feigned blowing a kiss; then he broke into a trot to catch up with Logi. The Orc had not stopped to talk, merely nodding acknowledgement of the guards' salutes.
"They would follow you to Mordor," he said as Haldar fell in beside him.
"Probably," said the Elf. "But we'd need you to plan our strategy. You're like the Commander, and not just in looks."
"Thank you: grey and ugly. If you returned only to insult me, go back to Sarn."
Haldar laid an arm across his neck; he was a head taller than Logi, with a sinewy grace that belied his broad shoulders, but the Orc was all muscle, like a bull.
"Not ugly – fearsome! My best and dearest brother, someday to take his place with Adah and Osta, the Keepers of the Shire. But you will make me your second-in-command, or I'll put slugs in your bed."
Logi bit back a laugh; it never took Haldar long to wrap him round his fingers. "There'll be no competition for the post; no one else would have it."
"Don't be too sure; I'm not the only soldier knows a born general when I see one. What's happened to make you cross-grained as a bear? I made sure I'd find you dancing with impatience, trying to prod the Commander into action – you love a battle as the Hobbits love beer!"
Logi made no answer, and Haldar let him be; he was accustomed to the Orc's sullen turns. When they came under the eaves of the Forest, he loosened the string on a narrow bag at his belt and shook out a pair of wooden flutes.
They separated, whistling softly into the instruments, a sound faint as dewfall on trembling leaves. Gradually they blew louder as they spread farther apart, until they lost sight of one another among the Trees, but their music blended: birdsong, frogsong, a whisper of wind along the ground. Deep and deeper they penetrated into the Forest, and calm followed on their footsteps as if the Trees sighed, and stretched their limbs, and went to sleep. After a while they drew together once again and let silence fold around them. Haldar held out a hand for Logi's flute, but the Orc reached back over his shoulder and dropped it in his quiver.
"I'll keep it while we're here. Will you stand watch?"
"No, I'll sit," the Elf teased him. "Oh, I'll be here, brother; I'll not leave you unprotected! Go on to sleep, and try to wake more cheerful."
Logi chose a level place away from any Tree, and lay down on the ground. "You took your sweet time getting back," he complained. He waved his hand impatiently when Haldar would have spoken. "No, never mind; I know you came as quickly as you could hurry old Osta along. But I have something to show you."
They stayed in the Forest until the second dawn, exploring down the Withywindle and up the other side, finding no sign of intrusion. Only at the eastern edge, where the barbarian encampment pushed up against the Trees, they saw fresh stumps and the marks of logs skidded out.
Haldar whistled under his breath. "They'll wish they hadn't done that, if they live so long."
But Logi shrugged and hustled him away, and they were both hidden in the brambles by the spring when the girls came to fill their waterskins.
Haldar had questioned him relentlessly, but Logi had told him nothing. He could not explain; he did not understand why she drew him so, this soft-haired vixen. But whatever mattered deeply to him, as this enemy girl mattered, he must share with Haldar. Two creatures only on the green earth he loved, his cousin and Adah; but he feared his grandfather as much as loved him. Haldar was his other self.
The woman was with the others, hanging back again, letting them leave without her. When they were gone, Logi went to her, but Haldar remained in hiding.
He took possession of her hands, not waiting for permission. "I am called Logi, but I do not know your name."
She searched his face as if she hoped to find the truth of him written there. "I am Freiga. What do you want of me?"
He chuckled deep in his throat, throbbingly aware of her nearness. "You, I want you. Freiga, come with me!"
She took a step backward, but he followed and wrapped his arms around her, burying his face in her hair. "Soft, so soft," he murmured. "My Freiga."
After a moment, her arms came up around him. "My father would burn you alive; you are the enemy."
"Not enemy to you! Let them fight, your father and my grandfather. You come away with me."
They stood for a long time entwined, not saying any more, but at last a bird cried noisily in the bushes and they sprang apart. She caught up her waterskin.
"I have to go. They will come looking for me."
"Wait! Where do you go all day?"
But a twig snapped somewhere nearby, a voice called, "Freiga?" She hastened down the path, and Logi faded silently into the thicket.
"You've run stark mad, you know that, don't you?" Haldar had not moved from where he'd been concealed. "Of every woman alive, did you have to pick one of Them?"
"There is no other woman, not for me. I would give my right arm for her."
Haldar clicked his tongue. "You're apt to give your head, if Adah gets wind of it! Orc, wake up – they've come to kill the Hobbits, steal the Shire – you cannot make alliance with such people! Find you a wife among the Guardians."
"I do not want a wife; I want this woman, Freiga, and none other! And I will have her, Haldar – wait and see. By heaven, I will have her, come death, come blood, come fire!"
He got up, heedless of caution, and plunged across the stream into the woods beyond. Haldar went after him more carefully, looking back to be certain they were not followed.
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.