Through Shadows to the Edge of Night
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 15, Part 45
Logistics of Love
(December 13, 1451)
Frodo could hardly wait
till their midday halt, when Bergil found a roadside well
where they could water the goats. The ruins of an ancient
scarp sheltered them from the wind that whipped across
the plain and drove great ships of clouds above, now
casting them in shadow, now leaving them in sun. The
hobbit never hauled so much water so fast (splashing
himself rather badly in the process) impatient to open
his father's letter, yet not quite so urgent that he
would let the livestock suffer in his haste. At last,
though, the final bucket gurgled into the trough and the
goats happily lapped up their fill, freeing Bergil and
him to sprawl down in the wizened grass. Wet and
shivering, Frodo lost no time ripping the wax off the
"November 14, 1451
"Mayor Samwise Gamgee of Bag End
Hobbiton (Mailed from the Capitol Smial at Michel
"My dearest Frodo:
"I know this will get to you. I know that your still
alive and well. Oh heavens, Frodo! You have to be!
I still have no word from you. You should of reached
Edoras by October 25, and I should of heard back by
November 12, so Im sending this on to Gondor, in the
hopes that you have taken some different route that I
dont know about. If you get this, there is a letter
waiting for you in Rohan that I dont have the heart to
write twice. Send for it--but first send me one of yours.
"Do not trust Legolas! It aint his fault, but he is
not well. In his madness, he made hisself a ring, and it
is driving him crazier. He has hurt people--I dont want
the next one to be you. Gimli told me all about it. He
and Eowyn are looking for the poor elf. Help them find
him--and you!--if you can. Maybe you can blaze trails or
leave clues behind you.
"Maybe you already figured all this out--I hope not
the hard way! Believe me when I say that Legolas is a
good person who has just seen too much. Try not to be too
hard on him, but keep yourself safe, too.
"I just wrote a lot of nonsense, dident I? Sorry. If
your reading this in Gondor, Strider has control of the
situation and of course it makes no sense to blaze trails
or anything. If you havent reached Gondor, then you cant
read this letter and its all useless. Oh why did Gandalf
and the eagles pluck me from the brink of ruin only to
let me live to lose my son! But no--you must be alive, or
none of it makes sense. I dident come back from the
floods of molten rock for nothing--I couldent of!"
Frodo found himself mouthing the words, "But he
wasn't that bad, Papa!" as his watering eyes made it
hard to read.
"Your mother has taken to going out into the fields
every night and singing old songs to Elbereth, the West,
and suchlike. She pesters the songs from me, learns them,
and then goes out and sings them. She has learned some
Elvish just to sing those songs. The neighbors think shes
gone strange from fear for you, but I dont let them
bother her. By now there used to it, though; they shrug
and say Missus Gamgee does no harm with that singing of
hers. I tell them she does good, and Im behind her, and I
teach her all the songs I know that might help keep you
safe. Rosie never held by that sort of thing before, but
she does now. Her voice kind of trembles when she sings,
but she sounds so pure and sweet that she darn near makes
everybody as hears her want to cry."
Frodo wiped his eyes on his sleeve as he turned the page.
"Three times now weve found flowers laid by the
well, where Rosie goes first thing in the morning. I
think the elves hear her and take pity on her. I wish
theyd talk to me direct, but maybe they cant no more--or
think they cant. I dont rightly understand all this fading
business, but I think I could still hear elves if they
gave me half a chance. I been through too much with elves
not to, and I had no problem with Legolas.
"I will say that May came in from playing all alone
in the woods, saying a 'pretty lady' told her to tell me
your okay, your arm got hurt but your just fine now. I
ran out there straight away, but I saw nobody, and heard
maybe footsteps running away, maybe just autumn leaves
blowing. It comes to me that if Legolas cracked under the
strain of fading, he might not be the only one--some of
the elves, I think, have gone all skittish and hide from
those of us as could still see them, unless its someone
harmless like a child. At least I hope thats what
happened. I got to be honest. May is very small, and
plays with imaginary friends. Poor little poppet!--she
might of played she heard good words about you and talked
herself into believing them. But at least Rosie took
heart and ate a decent meal that night.
"Who am I writing to, anyway? You or me? What if my
dear, brave son lies dead somewhere, and this letter
goes nowhere, and nobody reads it? Maybe I write only for
my own comfort, that by addressing you, Frodo, I can
somehow make you be there, alive, to receive this letter.
Oh I so much want you still to live!
"Ive got to have more faith. Maybe an elf did talk
to May. Maybe there doing the best they know how to bring
us comfort. Maybe if I dont believe that, they and my
son are all as good as dead. It does seem odd that May
would make up that bit about the arm, though. I will do
my best to believe her, then, until I get proof
otherwise. I sure do wish I knew for sure!
"Theres some folks as wont talk to me now. They say
I should of knowed better than to send my boy out
adventuring--especially since I been out there beyond the
borders, myself, and should know the dangers moren
anyone, if half the tales be true. (They say. I aint told
them half of all thats true--Itid turn there hair grey if
I did!) But they blame me for breaking Rosies heart. She
dont eat right no more. Shes starting to get thin. Your
sister Rosie-Lass does all the cooking these days, and
keeps trying to coax her Mama to have a bite, but cant
hardly tempt her.
"Maybe there all right about me. Oh heavens, Frodo,
what have I done? To you, to Rosie, to the whole dear
"Love and tears
Frodo must have looked thunderstruck when he lowered the
letter, because immediately Bergil asked him, "Bad
"Only about me." He got up and paced around
their campsite, shivering despite the protection of the
old stone wall. "Or rather, no news about me, which
is worse than bad news, if you're parents warned to
expect the worst. Bergil, how long does it take a letter
to get from Edoras to the Shire?"
"Give me a minute--I used to know such things by
heart." After some reflection he said, "The
Shire is seventeen days from Edoras by post, thirty-three
by walking horse, and sixty-six on foot." Rather
proudly he added, "They test us on distances in
officer's training--'tis all part of tactical."
"Seventeen days..." Frodo calculated, and then
sighed with relief. "That means my family would have
gotten word from me by now. Unless..." He turned a
worried face to Bergil. "I heard of delays in the
"Between Edoras and Gondor, not going the other way,
and even that has resolved--why do you think your
father's missive reached you? Relax--your parents have
read your first letter, and are probably sitting down,
without a care in the world, to a fine mid-day meal,
which I hope will taste better than field rations eaten
cold from the pack. You do intend to fix our evening meal
tonight, and pay off that debt you say you owe me?"
"Absolutely," Frodo said distractedly as he
reread the pages in his hand. "I suppose you also
know how long it takes post to travel from Minas Tirith
to the Shire?"
"It all comes back to me now. Twenty-six days by
"Thank you--I don't need the foot and horse details
right now." He tucked the letter inside his weskit.
"And how about from Nurnen to the Shire?"
"Hmmm...that is harder. Normally mail from the Shire
does not...but how foolish of me! All I need do is add
the Nurnen-to-Gondor figure to the..."
"The number, Bergil! You can keep your equations to
"Thirty-six days, Master Frodo."
"And don't call me...sorry. I guess I was sounding a
little masterish there, wasn't I?"
"A little bit, my friend. But plainly this message
has concerned you. Now sit down and rest! You have been
walking all morning, and will walk again all afternoon
when this break ends--so make the most of it." Then
his brow furrowed. "Oh wait--I miscalculated.
Forty-six days. They do not ride at full speed from Minas
Tirith to Nurnen because they have few stables for fresh
mounts along the way."
"More than a month--and the same length of time back
again for the reply. Much can happen in that time."
Bergil looked on him sympathetically as he unpacked
lunch. "It troubles the soul, does it not?"
"The time when you realize you must become your own
"Aye," Frodo said quietly, as he laid his
cold-cuts out on bread. It had seemed like such a good
idea, though, when he rode out from Edoras...
"You had better change your wet clothes,"
Bergil said, and tossed over Frodo's pack.
Frodo hardly said a word all afternoon. Herding goats did
not take much of his attention, not with an experienced
hand like Bergil to show him the way of it. But all the
rest of the day words ached in his head, carefully
chosen, rearranged, discarded, started over again, till
after awhile anything he could possibly write began to
sound ridiculous and short of the mark.
By nightfall, though, he pretty much had settled on what
he had to say--and then forgot most of it again as he
cooked dinner, bringing out those herbs and spices he'd
purchased beyond the rations issued for his journey. The
good food heartened him--he used one of his mother's
winter recipes for those days when everything in the
larder pretty much resembled the dried fare and preserves
in their packs, anyway. It warmed his belly with memories
of home. At last he opened up his writing-kit and started
"December 13, 1451"
The pen-brush stroked the numbers onto the paper like new
shadows in the flickering firelight. Frodo frowned a
moment, then wrote,
"Frodo Gamgee Gardner
Nurn Post eventually
"Dear Papa and Mama:
"Please forgive the odd return address, but that's
the name they know me by hereabouts. By now, if all has
gone as it should, you would have gotten my first letter,
at least, and know that I have come to no harm. And yes,
May must have really spoken to an elf--you probably know
by now that I did get wounded in the arm, but recovered
"Mama, thanks for all the songs! No matter what
dangers I have faced, I have come through just fine, so
keep it up, and hang the fool neighbors if they don't
like it! After all, Bag End has a reputation for
eccentricity to maintain--who can fault us if we keep up
the traditions of the Bagginses before us?
"Papa, you did exactly the right thing to send me
out in the King's service. The more I learn about
Nurn's need, the more convicted I feel that somebody
has GOT to help those poor folks out. And why not me?
What kind of a mayor would you be if you exempted your
own from hardships you assigned to others?
"Besides, how many other gardeners could you find so
steeped in family stories like ours? Every mile makes it
more obvious that I'm going to need a lot more than a
green thumb for this job--no one of my generation has the
experience, but stories are the next best thing. And it's
a young hobbit's job--oh, I know all about 'The old that
is strong does not wither,' but you and Uncle Merry and
Uncle Pippen have ties and responsibilities that a young
fellow like me needn't think about as yet."
Again Frodo paused, letting himself feel fully what he
was about to write.
"I guess I know I'm not coming home any time
soon." He took a deep breath, then added,
"Don't you worry about me--any of you. A star has
shone on me from the moment I rode out from Bag End. I've
had some narrow scrapes, sure, but my luck hasn't failed
me yet. You just keep singing those songs whenever you
start to get scared for me, and I'll do all right.
"I left Minas Tirith early this morning and hit the
road with Bergil son of Beregond--the same one I told you
about in my last letter, who rescued me on the access
road through Druadan..." Frodo shuddered and pulled
the blanket tighter around him as he blew on the fire.
The winter wind felt cold, and he missed Uncle Merry's
Bergil leaned over and said, "You should not write
by campfire light. My Mum always warned me that I could
wear out my eyes that way."
"Hobbits live underground," Frodo replied.
"Our night vision is slightly better than that of
men." And his better still, he only now began
to realize, far from the lamps of Minas Tirith. "But
thanks for caring." He added a quick summary of the
day's events, then cleaned his pen and put it away.
"Anything left of supper, Bergil? I believe I would
like a little more."
"Not a drop--too delicious to last the night, I
fear. I washed the pans while you bent over your
letter--did you not hear me?"
"I'm afraid not." The hobbit gazed to the
northwest. "My heart and mind walked in the Shire,
for a little while."
Bergil nodded and gave him a moment of silence before
saying, "Well, your folks certainly taught you the
art of cooking! I had no idea anyone could work such
wonders with mere field rations. Consider all debts
"Your turn tomorrow, remember."
"Tomorrow we shall dine in Osgiliath, and neither of
us will have to cook."
"Next night, then."
"Excellent!" Bergil laughed. "Then you
shall be in my debt again."
Frodo couldn't help but grin back. "That depends on
your own skill at cooking."
"Alas! In that case I shall accumulate such debt by
the time we reach Mordor that my children's children
shall still be paying tribute to Bag End." A
fleeting sadness crossed his face--but then he pretended
like he'd never frowned at all.
"Not necessarily." Frodo sat up. "Do you
really want to keep me in your debt? I started
sword-training mere months ago and need rather
desperately to hone my skills. Will you spar with me, on
a regular basis?"
"That should not be too hard; we can do it when we
stop and graze the goats. Sure, I can do that for you. It
would benefit me, as well."
"Fine then--it's agreed!" And they shook hands
on the matter.
"Oh--and Frodo? I figured out something as we walked
Frodo stared at him. "What are you talking
"The post actually travels thirty-five days between
The Shire and Nurnen. I forgot that none of the
information about marching, walking horse, or postal
horse speeds matters once the messenger reaches the Port
of Poros, because from that point on, all travelers
(whether footed or hoofed) sail up the river at the same
speed, anyway, and the river ships run swift."
"Bergil, you are trying to drive me crazy, aren't
"Oh--did I not tell you? That was in my job
description. To guide, protect, assist, and if possible
Frodo laughed and got up, wrapped his cloak tight around
himself, and started to walk away from the campfire.
Bergil asked, "Where are you off to, now?"
"Really, Bergil--that's kind of personal."
"Oh. Sorry. Of course. Yet we need to settle our
watches, since we have no thorns to build stockades for
the goats on this side of the river. And on the other
side stockades would not suffice."
"Don't trouble yourself about that. I'll take first
watch. You go ahead and tuck yourself in."
As the ranger bedded down, the hobbit went a little ways
off from the camp, but not just for the reason that
Bergil had assumed. Frodo wanted to see what the night
looked like beyond the firelight. Something had changed
since his dream of Valinor, that first night that he had
fallen asleep with May's glass upon its cord around his
neck. He no longer needed to peer through the lens itself
to tell the spots where the grass turned green, and where
the frost had left it golden-brown. He saw colors in the