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3
Inequity

Inequity




Frodo Baggins followed Lord Námo through the complicated grounds of the Halls of Mandos. “And you tell me there is a particular portion of your halls that is intended for such as me?”

“Yes, for those who have served as blameless tragic heroes.”

“I do not particularly consider myself blameless, my Lord.”

Námo paused and turned to look down on the Hobbit. “Ah, yes--I’d been told of your continued self-blame for that over which you had no control at the time. Well, you will undoubtedly find, Lord Iorhael, that here, too, you are not alone among those you will meet within this particular hall. Come.” Again he turned on his way, and Frodo found he had to scurry to keep up.

They came in time to a separate building with a long set of steps leading up to a massive portico. On a square base on each side of the bottom of the stairway stood a great stone beast, like a huge cat with a great mane of hair about its head, Frodo thought. Lord Namo looked at the building. “This is the Jasper Fforde addition,” he commented. “It is here that several worlds tend to collide. One does need to be careful at times--the researchers from the Unseen University have detected quite a twisting in the fabric of the space-time continuum from having brought so much focus of pathos to one place.” He led the way up the steps, having to pause frequently to allow Frodo to catch up.

The doors opened to admit them, and he led the way inside and down a great hallway, pausing at last before a great blue door that appeared to have been carved completely from lapis lazuli. Slowly and with great grace the door opened, and Frodo had the impression that if doors could bow, this one was doing so in its own way. “This is the Harriet Beecher Stowe Wing,” Námo pronounced proudly. “You will recognize some--ah, Niënor, here you are! And how are you this day?”

A very lovely young woman dressed in homespun that was at one and the same time rather rough and yet remarkably elegant smiled shyly up at the Vala and nodded her head before turning her attention back to winding wool into a great ball. “She still speaks rarely,” Námo confided. “This over here is Little Eva--people still sob over her tragic death. And that,” he indicated a very handsome youth in black robes with a crest that contained a serpent, badger, lion, and an eagle on it, “is Cedric Digory--very nasty case, that one’s death. Oh, and here is one I’m certain you will appreciate meeting--Déagol, this is Frodo Baggins, who inherited that golden Ring you were killed about.”

A Hobbit with rather straighter hair that Frodo himself looked up, smiling, into the Ringbearer’s face. “Did It do for you, same as It did for me?”

“Well, it wasn’t for lack of trying,” Frodo admitted. “And I had to travel for weeks with your cousin.”

“Sméagol still knocking about, then?” asked Déagol, his interest waning a bit. “Nasty thing to do--kill me just like that before I’d had a chance to be taken by that Ring, after all. Well, glad to meet you--nice to see another Hobbit in here after all this time. But I managed to get a fish or two this morning, and need to see them cleaned for dinner.” He held up a great golden fish and his knife, smiled, and turned to his task.

“Well, this is your new home for as long as you choose to remain here,” the Vala smiled. “How about I leave you to it, then?” And with a deep bow he turned away.

Left to his own devices, Frodo began wandering aimlessly through the hall, until at last he came upon a small, rather slender boy sitting in a wheeled chair that looked far sleeker and newer than his rather plain brown clothing. He was speaking to a ragged little girl as Frodo approached, but both turned to watch him as he joined them.

“Hullo, then. You a new one?” asked the boy. “I’m Tiny Tim, and this is the Little Match Girl. Glad to meet you.”

Frodo found himself smiling--he’d always loved children. “Frodo Baggins, at your service,” he said with a bow. “You’re not from Arda, then?”

“No--she’s from Copenhagen, and I’m from London, I am. My dad’s Bob Cratchett--he works for Mr. Scrooge, you see.”

“And how did you end up here?” Frodo asked.

“Well, in a possible alternate ending Mr. Scrooge doesn’t repent when he’s visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, so in that case I die still a child due to tuberculosis in my legbone. And that’s the me who’s ended up here.”

“Then you weren’t blasted by the Dark Lord?”

“Oh, no--I got to go to church and be an inspiration to others for innocence and endurance and everything.”

“And you didn’t have to go without food or water?” The Hobbit was growing agitated.

“No,” the little girl said importantly, “that was me. I starved and died of exposure, you see.”

“And you didn’t have to hide from the Dark Lord?”

“I think Miss Niënor had to do that,” Tiny Tim allowed with a glance toward the place where that lady still sat with her ball of yarn near the lapis door.

“And you never had to carry an unbearable burden hundreds of leagues from your home to an unreachable bloody volcano to throw the blasted thing into it?” demanded Frodo, who was growing furious by this time.

When the boy cheerfully shook his head Frodo pulled himself to his full height of not quite four feet and cried out, “Námo! Lord Námo!”

Within moments the great lord of Mandos arrived. “What is it, Ringbearer?” he asked. “What can I do for you?”

“You mean that I had to go through almost a year’s torture carrying that all the way to and through Mordor, followed by two and a half years of feeling increasingly alienated and empty; and this child--this child only had to appear pitiable?”

“Well, when you put it like that....”

Frodo stalked off. “It’s just not fair!”

Tiny Tim and the little Match Girl watched after the Hobbit. “Sensitive bloke, ain’t he?” the child asked. “Seems a bit upset, he does.”

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