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13
Northlight's Dog


For a moment Sam thought his heart had stopped beating. A moment later he told himself he was a fool to have thought all the bad things were past and gone.

He glanced aside at Mister Frodo, who looked deathly pale in the light…and acting on sheer impulse, he seized the star-glass, sprang up from the chair, and marched over to where Northlight stood above the terrace steps, demanding, “Here, you! What business have YOU over here?”

Frodo stared at him in utter amazement, the next moment wondering why Sam’s action should have surprised him, even at his age. Then, seeing Sam stop and sway for a moment, he jumped up from his own chair and caught his friend’s arm, saying, “Come, Sam. Sit down here, do not excite yourself this way.” Sam allowed him to steer him to a chair which Raven pulled out for him, then Frodo sat down in another chair beside him.

“Don’t be afraid,” Ionwë said without moving from where he stood. “I will come no closer. Northlight, I went to your house, but since no one was there and I saw a light across the bridge…I have come to tell you that Beleg and Raegbund have come out of hiding. They got wind of your father’s friend’s arrival, and a while ago they came to my flat—I don’t know how they found out where I lived, I suppose they saw me by chance and followed me home—and asked me if I wanted to ‘have a bit of fun.’ I said I had no wish whatsoever to go back to prison, and wanted naught to do with whatever they were up to. They had been living in the wild for a bit, then they lived in different villages under different names. So does Istuion, but he would not come with them either. They said he has a wife now. And he was never really a bad sort, just easily led, and he liked a thrill. Anyway, I came to warn you. I’ve already sent word to the Queen that they are about. Have you any weapons?”

Northlight stood staring at him, and Sam hoped he was not about to ask Ionwë to come and sit down.

“No swords nor daggers, if that is what you mean,” he said. Ionwë slowly took something from under his cloak, and Sam saw the glint of a steel blade. This Ionwë held with the handle out, and extended it toward Northlight.

“Take this,” he said. “I stole it from Raegbund. He can be wily when he must, but he’s easy to trick also.”

Northlight after a hesitant moment, took the dagger. “Thank you, Ionwë,” he said. “You took a great chance bringing this, did you not?”

“Yes. I am not allowed to have weapons. If I had been caught with it, I would have been done for. But I had to come and warn you. Beleg, as you know, has a very nasty streak—it runs in his family, his father having been just as bad, until he was killed in a fight over some stolen gold pieces. He could be lurking about anywhere. I asked the Queen to provide you with protection, and if he ever finds out I did so, it will be all up with me, especially since I took Raegbund's dagger. But you spared my life when you had every reason not to, and saw to it that I was released much sooner than I otherwise would have been…and this is the least I can do for you in return.”

Sam found himself trembling violently. He looked at Mister Frodo, who sat absolutely still and white, and feared he might be having a seizure, and his eyes looked steelier than the blade. He glanced back at Anemone and Raven, who stood together grimly behind them, and saw Amaryllis peeking out through the partially opened door.

“Did you come all this way on foot, Ionwë?” Northlight asked.

“Yes,” said Ionwë. “I have no horse. And now I’ve no other weapon. And they may be out there…But…”

“Wait,” Northlight said. “Do you see that stable? You have come this far in the dark on foot, and taken a great chance to warn me. So if I allow you to stay the night in the stable-room, I can trust you to do no harm?”

No,” Sam heard Amaryllis whisper behind the door. He couldn’t tell if Northlight heard or not. But Sam was thinking the same. He reached over and touched Frodo’s shoulder, rubbing it a little. Frodo touched his hand. His fingers were icy.

“Thank you,” Ionwë said, “but I think it better not to take you up on your kind offer. I think your wife and child and mother would not sleep well if I were about. And I am afraid now for the safety of my sister and her family as well. I will take a different road back and go stay with her for the night. Perhaps the Queen will have gotten the message and will have posted guards by now.”

“I would give you back your blade,” Northlight said, “for I have our light to protect us—it was given us by the Queen to begin with, and then blessed by all the Powers. My Ada filled this glass from his own for Raven when she was a child, and then he refilled it with new water and Raven gave it to me to carry for protection. So I do not need your weapon. But if you are caught with it, yes, the consequences would be very dire for you, and so I will keep it for you.”

“Take this with you,” Frodo said, and Sam started, and saw him pick up his own light from the table, rise and go over to stand beside Northlight, handing out the star-glass to Ionwë. “It will light your way and ward off danger, if you will but believe in its power. The others shall stay here tonight, and Northlight’s glass will be sufficient for our safety. Here, take it…”

And he actually ascended the steps and extended the light to Ionwë, who after a long hesitation took it, looking down at the little elderly hobbit in wonder.

“Thank you very much,” he said at last, cradling the glass in both hands. “I will see that you get it back.”

“The Queen said,” and Sam could hear Frodo actually smiling as he spoke, though his back was to him, “that this phial once held the perfume her bridegroom gave her for their wedding. So you see it goes a very long way back.”

“I will be most careful of it,” Ionwë said very softly.

“May the grace of the Powers be with you,” Northlight said with uplifted hand.

Ionwë bowed his head and lifted his hand in return, then turned for the road. When he was well out of sight, the others went inside the house and closed the door.

“Well!” Sam said. “What do you make of THAT?”

“Do you really think we should trust him?” Anemone said. “He may up to some sort of trick.”

“He took a great chance,” Northlight said. “It was extremely brave of him to do this. Never would I have thought it of him.”

“I think he can be trusted,” Raven said, to Sam’s utter surprise. “He loves Northlight. I have seen that more than once. As well he might, for the reasons he gave, and more, although his guilt will not allow Northlight to truly befriend him, and keeps him at arm’s length. And his nephews are fond of him, and he of them; I have seen that also.”

“It just seems funny to me,” Sam said. “It’s like with that Gollum maybe. Mister Frodo was good to him, and spared his life when it would of made more sense not to, and then that Stinker turned on him and betrayed him like the stinking little rat he was.”

“But there was the Ring then,” Frodo pointed out. “Ionwë did not have that to sway him.”

“What will we do now?” Amaryllis spoke up. “What if they’re out there now? What if they climb in the windows and cut all our throats with their daggers when we’re asleep? Or set the house on fire with us tied up inside? Or commit unspeakable actions on us, and then hack us up to tiny bits? And then go out and murder our friends and cousins in their beds, even their little babies? Oh, I wish I’d never been born!”

She was weeping and trembling all over and Northlight put his arms around her.

“Don’t be afraid, little one,” he said caressing her hair once more. “Remember our light? It will keep all evil from the house.”

“Granddad,” she turned her head toward Frodo, “you shouldn’t have given him your light! It was bigger than ours! Why didn’t you just let Daddy give him ours? Oh, I wish at least ONE of us was big! If only Uncle Guilin would come out…but they might murder him too and leave his body out for wild beasts to devour.…”

“Your imagination is vivid, my child,” Northlight said, “but I do not think they will try anything. They know what would happen to them if they did, and I do not think they are so anxious to go back to prison and this time be put to death for their crimes.”

“That didn’t stop them before,” she pointed out. Sam had been thinking exactly the same thing.

“They are older now,” Northlight said, “and they know what it is to live in prison, and be hated by all, and exist in exile. I think they are not brave enough to take the chance since Ionwë refused to join them. I fear more for him than for us. But if it will relieve your fears, little one, I will stay awake in the night and stand guard over the house.”

“But you could not even defend yourself on the road,” Amaryllis whimpered.

“I was taken by surprise then,” Northlight said.

“Amaryllis,” Raven said, “you must not speak to your father that way. I have faith in his ability to protect us, and so should you.”

“I come from a long line of warriors,” Anemone pointed out to her granddaughter. “And although I no longer have my powers, and am not so young anymore, I have been known to use my wits to get out of a tight spot. And here is Sam, who fought a giant monster spider, who was willing to face down Ionwë to defend us. I truly do not think he is afraid of anything.”

Sam felt himself blush. He saw Frodo grin proudly.

“That’s right, I’m not,” Sam said sticking his chest out a bit, at the same time feeling a little silly. “And if anything tries to get in here, they’ll have Samwise Gamgee to answer to.”

“Just the same,” Amaryllis sniffled, “I wish SOMEBODY still had their powers around here. I wish I had some. And that I was brave. But I’m not.”

“We’re brave when we need to be,” Sam pointed out to her. “I didn’t think I was, till I had to be. Then I found things in me I didn’t know was there.”

“I’m only brave when I DON’T need to be,” Amaryllis said wiping her nose on her sleeve. Her mother stood with an arm around her shoulders.

“You should not have been at the door listening, my love,” she said. “I’ve told you about that, and now you see why. When you stand and listen where you should not, your ear is apt to be stung. Would you like to go and stay with Uncle Moonrise and Aunt Sweetfern tonight? Your father will take you if you like, and then come back here.”

“What if they’re lying in ambush out there right now?” the girl said.

“I’ve my dagger and my light,” Northlight said. “Come, my Bud. It’s not far, and you will feel safer with sea-folk who have their powers yet.”

“All right, but we should leave the light,” Amaryllis said. “Maybe the dagger will be enough. But you had better hold it out in front of you with the blade sticking out, so if anybody comes skulking in the night, you can run them right through.”

She made a dramatic gesture of “running someone through”, and her father chuckled.

“The others will watch to make sure we get there,” he said. “Come, let’s go.”

“It’s a fine thing,” Sam said, after the two went out in the darkness, Anemone standing with the glass to light their way, “when they got to go and get a little lass so upset and frightened. I know I’m not responsible for it or nothin’, M--Frodo, but it’s a bad feelin’ to know that if I hadn’t of come, this wouldn’t be goin’ on.”

“I can understand why you feel that way, Sam,” Frodo said. “That’s how I felt when Amras fell from the mountainside so long ago. But she will feel safer with her Aunt and Uncle. And I am happier than I could ever tell you that you are here. Would you like me to stay with you tonight? Anemone can sleep with Raven.”

“I’d love for you to stay with me, but I don’t like to take Northlight from his wife, nor make Anemone sleep alone.”

“Northlight is one of those people who can sleep anywhere. I dare say he could sleep curled up in a drawer if he had to, like a cat. He will not mind sleeping in Raven’s room for one night. And tomorrow I will take us all to the Palace to stay until this all blows over. I hate to do it, but I cannot take chances with my family.”

Northlight was a while getting back, and Raven began to get fretful. Anemone said he was probably just explaining the situation to his brother, but her brow creased a bit. Frodo brought the light out to the terrace once more, and sat there watching, Sam sitting beside him.

And then they saw a strange sight. Northlight was returning, along with Moonrise…and the biggest dog either of them had ever seen, trotting along between them.

“Where in creation did THAT come from?” Sam exclaimed. Frodo laughed. “It’s not….?”

“Ebbtide? No. Remember Lord Elrond’s stone dog I told you about, that Moonrise copied for Northlight?”

“You mean…” Sam felt ready to fall on the floor. “That’s…”

“You are now witness to the true powers of the Sea,” Frodo grinned as Northlight and his brother brought the enormous canine to the terrace. “Do not worry—he will not bite. Will you, lad?” He patted the big dog on the head.

“Now that’s an eye opener and no mistakin’,” Sam said under his breath.

“Could I venture to say you are all safe for the night?” Moonrise said. “And Ebbtide and I will hunt down these foul perpetrators of evilness and make short work of their mangy hides. And we know just how to do it, don’t we, little brother?” He winked at Northlight and made a soft little throaty growl.

The dog settled himself on his haunches, and even as Sam looked, he seemed to have resumed his stone form. Sam rubbed his eyes and looked again.

“To any outside observer,” Northlight said to him, “he looks like a real dog. I do not believe they would seriously wish to come any closer.”

Sam shook his head, completely dumbfounded for a full moment.

“My old Gaffer would never believe this in a million years,” he said at last.

“Well,” he said as he and Frodo were getting into their nightclothes in the guest room, “I s’pose there’s somethin’ good comes of everything, even bad things. I didn’t expect you to give him your glass…even though it’s just like you to do it. It seems now you’ve finally let go of what happened. Yes, I could see you were still keepin’ a bit of it with you, and I can understand that too. But now you’ve let go of the last of it, and now maybe he can finally be at peace with himself and so can you. It was a long time comin’ and no mistakin’, but better late than never as my mum used to say. And it was well worth crossin’ the Seas for.”



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