Gift of the Valar - Ch 24: Cruel Choices
He was wrong.
At the conclusion of the ceremony Bilbo invited all assembled to a festive tea at Bag End. All knew of the elder hobbit's legendary skills as a host, and none refused his offer. As Bilbo traipsed home, followed by an assortment of Tooks, Brandybucks, Gamgees and Goodbody's, Frodo stepped to the river side of the willow for one last private kiss with his love. He cradled her face in his slender hands and kissed her gently on the mouth, never wanting the bliss of that moment to end.
She smiled at him "Go along with ye now future husband, Miss Marigold and I have tales ta tell one another....lasses only" she added as he looked hopeful that he'd be able to accompany them. Frodo smiled "very well then, but not to long future wife....I have" he paused as he looked about shyly "more such 'gifts' for you" he said with a raised eyebrow and a lopsided grin. "Be off young Baggins, I shall accept your 'gifts' throughout our future. Now be gone with ye that I might have some giggle time with my best friend."
With a wink, a grin and a hand raised in salute, Frodo was gone down the path. Chrys and Mari linked arms and stood watching the slim and somewhat ungainly figure of Frodo run down the path after the last of the well wishers.
Mari sighed dramatically " 'e's all a lass could ever want Chrys. " Chrys smiled with a far a way and gentle look in her eyes " aye, he is at that" she said softly with wonder in her voice but turning to Mari said with a sudden playful ferocity "He's mine Miss Gamgee, ye'll 'ave ta find yerself another." She laughed as she waved the betrothal ring under Mari's nose. The ring's amber stone flashed bronze and gold in the light of the sun and Chrys took a moment to admire the finely wrought metal whose delicate strands were woven to hold the gem. She felt a little shudder as the image of the ring looked to her as a spider's web holding to a drop of blood. She shook her head and thought 'why would such an idea cross my mind?'. She walked to the base of the willow and picked up her flower gathering basket. She and Mari had decided to spend some time searching out some late summer blooms for tonight's birthday party. "Shall we go to the far meadow or up ta Windly bluff?" She asked Mari. "Oh, let's go over the bluff Chrys, I 'aven't seen that view in such a long time!" "alright, bluff it 'tis" she replied.
They set off from the willow tree gossiping of boys and local happenings, stopping on ocassion to pick or cut a few blooms with Chrys's gardening shears. They made their way up the gradually sloping hill, feeling the breeze increase to muss their curls as they increased in elevation. As they gained the top they stood a moment looking over the fields, neat gardens, small sparkling streams and lush trees of the Shire before them. Chrys felt a lump in her throat and a tear come to her eye, for reasons she did not understand the image before her filled her with sorrow and longings she hadn't before acknowledged. As if reading her mind Mari asked "Do ya think ye'll stay here? I mean if Master Frodo is at all like his Uncle, he'll be off someday".
Chrys continued to stare over the bluff's edge to the distant chimneys of Hobbiton. " I do not know where I'll be with Frodo, but where ever we are, it will be enough that we're together." She thought of Frodo's love of tales, the way his eyes lit up as he spoke of lands far away, the magic in his voice as he read his elvish poetry. She smiled "I will travel, far away someday Mari and I will not have the happiness most hobbits seek....but I will have magic with Frodo." She stared at the visage before her, her heart was full of appreciation for the quiet joy's she'd known here, memories of warmth and comfort, times of robust fun...yes she said "I shall miss the Shire"...and she turned having spoken those words and her heart froze.
Before her, holding the terrified figure of her friend, stood the squat, muscled and ugly form of Ted Sandyman. He held Mari about the waist with one large hand covering her mouth as she frantically tried to pull his hand from her face. "I 'ope ye'll not be leavin' the Shire my sweet...we 'ave some things that need ta be settled first" he sneered. Chrys could see the terror in her friend's eyes and knew she had to do all in her power to get Mari away from the evil that was holding her so tight.
She ran to Ted's side "I never said a word, jest as I'd promised, ye must let her go." she said with fear making her voice sound shrill in her ears. "A comely wench such as this?" Ted laughed as he gazed at Mari's blond curls appreciatively and wrapped his arm more tightly about her waist....pulling her back to him. "Why, this little flower 'as all a hobbit could ever want" he said suggestively as he ran his hand about her waist and slowly upwards "...and more". Chrys cringed as she saw Mari's face whiten and heard her breathing become more ragged. "Please Ted, yer quarrel tisn't with Mari, it's me yer after. I followed my part of the bargin, ye must let her go!" Chrys insisted. "Ye did, did ye then....ye did not even think ta tell yer fancy boyfriend?" Ted asked with hatred in his eyes.
Chrys froze, wide eyed she stared at Ted and she nodded slowly. She had told Frodo of Ted's attack in the barn, that day so long ago under the willow, but she knew the news had gone no farther. Frodo had cared more for her safety than about seeking revenge. At the time, all she'd wanted was to keep her friend safe, and now here she was, in the hands of this evil creature. Ted smiled, seeing the look of loathing and fear cross Chrys's face " so ye didn't keep ta yer bargin eh miss high and mighty....perhaps I'll not keep ta mine." he said as he allowed his hands to roam more freely over Mari's waist. Chrys could see that Mari was near to fainting from the terror and Ted's squeezing. She had to find a way out of this.
She slowly walked closer, narrowing her eyes she shook out her curls. "We could finish what ye started in the barn Ted, Mari'll tell no one, it'll be our secret." She said softly. Ted laughed "Such a lady ye are Chrys, why is this the manner the fancy gentlehobbits 'ave taught ye?". She had to keep Ted's interest focused on her...."I'll show ye what manner I've been taught" she said, trying to fight her revulsion off enough to affect a suggestive demeanor, "but ye'll 'ave ta let her go Ted, I'll not 'ave an audience." she insisted.
Ted looked from one lass to the other, both were fair and he found his desires torn in two, but the thought of finally getting one up on that upstart Baggins settled it for him. He reached to his waist and grabbed a length of rope, sat Mari down near to a tree and tied her hands behind her. As he tied her he stared into her wide brown eyes and hissed "ye try and run and yer friend'll not survive the fun I've planned fer her." Mari nodded as a tear slipped down her cheek.
"Ok my love, I'll gladly take a sample of what ye been givin' that Baggins brat....but she stays 'ere" he gestured to Mari's shaking form. Chrys licked her dry lips and silently prayed she'd be able to get through this charade. "Ye've shaken her to the core Ted, she's about ta faint...let me see to her, please?" Ted laughed and looked at Chrys hungrily, she'd soon be his...let her spend her time drawing out his game, he was enjoying the power he'd found ta control the whimsy of this lass. "See ta her then" he said gruffly. Chrys slipped past Ted and reached to hug Mari...as she hugged her she pulled the gardening shears from Mari's apron pocket and whispered "go get help" as she slid the shears into Maris' bound hands. Out loud she said, " 'tis going ta be jest fine Mari...."
Ted grabbed her hand and pulled her roughly away from her friend and as he pulled her towards some nearby gooseberry bushes she managed one more look to Mari. Their eyes locked, Amber warmth trying to calm the fear filled brown of the blond haired hobbit lass. Chrys swallowed her own fear and prayed that Mari would be strong enough, fast enough to save her. Ted yanked her hard to a spot out of Mari's sight.
As Chrys and Ted disappeared behind the bouses, Mari set to work. Opening the shears she set to sawing at her bindings, several times feeling the pain of missing the rope
and sawing her own flesh. She didn't pause, but kept the shears moving, up and down, back and forth until at last she was free and with a deep breath she stood up. For one instant she contemplated going to save Chrys herself, but then grew worried that Ted would overpower them both. She turned on her heel and in flash of furry hobbit feet was down the path swiftly and silently. She ran as the wind, knowing that the only chance Chrys had was to be found in the village, at Bag End.
Chrys could barely contain her rising panic as Ted pulled her into the bushes and away from Mari. The last fear filled glance from her friend haunted her. Ted pulled her to him and grabbing her face in his hands looked into her amber eyes. "Time ta finish what we started lass" he breathed heavily upon her. Chrys shuddered, but knew she had to keep her wits about her. She readied herself for his kiss, expecting bruising force and pain. She was unprepared for his gentle caress and tender kiss.
She stared at him, confused as he gently played with her curls "is 'e soft with ye then? Does 'e treat ye as a delicate treasure? Does 'e whisper 'is elven poetry and sing 'is songs 'o far away lands?" He asked softly, kindly with an honest desire to know. Chrys was startled for a moment, unable to answer, then it dawned on her....Ted was jealous of Frodo and felt in some way beneath him. This new found revelation stunned her and she was frozen as Ted grew impatient waiting for his answer. His calm demeanor fled within seconds and Ted squeezed her arms hard as he shook her "well, does 'e?" he demanded.
Chrys could only nod as her eyes filled with tears at the memory of the last kiss they'd shared not an hour ago. Ted watched her eyes soften and her lips part softly, invitingly as she was transported to that memory. He gripped her arms so hard she felt her skin bruising as he shook her from her reverie " 'e's barely a hobbit, less than any 'o us folks from these parts....that upstart is naught but a whelp 'o the Brandybucks....some say 'is mum got 'im with the elves one night as she wandered near ta the old forest" he hissed. She stared, mesmerized by his anger and his pain.
"who's 'e ta be playing the part 'o a gentlehobbit....with me Da's money and the success 'o the mill...it should be me...me that gets the best of the lasses." She trembled as he stared coldly at her, his anger replaced by cold, calculating intent. "Frodo, Frodo Baggins" he whispered coldly "all the lasses fancy his strange ways and 'is odd looks." She didn't dare move or breath so entranced was she by his carefully woven spell of hatred and malcontent. He continued "dark locks, pale skin...thin ta sickness and blue eyes....yes, there's somethin' queer about our Mr. Baggins lassie, ye'll thank me later fer showing ya what happens with a real hobbit lad."
Chrys could only stare, terrified into the depths of Ted's cold and heartless brown eyes as she shook her head 'no'....she wanted no part of him and felt herself starting to panic. Ted brought his face closer and ran his hand from her bronze and amber curls down,down her cheek and soft creamy neck, stopping just short of the top of her bodice. "Oh yes lassie, 'e's a queer one 'e is. The say 'e watched 'is parents drown that night...cold little bugger 'e is your Mr. Baggins." Ted sneered, hatred for Frodo and lust for Chrys battling with one another in his eyes "let me show ye some warmth" he hissed.
Suddenly Chrys felt his hand tangled about the curls of her head as he forced her head back roughly and kissed her with all his anger and his jealously. She struggled to breathe, feeling faint as his mouth continued to wage war with hers. Then, as suddenly as he'd started, he stopped. She fell weakly to her knees as his hands let her fall. His raucous laughter filled the air "I knew ye'd be liking it hard lass, why look at ye...panting lustfully...yer chest heaving all fer Ted, not some fancy Baggins brat." He looked down to where she'd fallen in the dust and getting down on his knees said "If it's Ted yer wanting love, 'e's right 'ere. I'll make it as hard as ye like, fer now I can see that yer liking it hard..."
Chrys had to think fast, she had to play along and keep him distracted by his hatred as long as possible. She took a chance that his jealousy would win out over his lust. She grabbed his arms " Ted, I'd not been kissed in such a manner before....I, I never knew a lass had a choice" she said eyes flashing " 'ow else can ye be kissing me....I want ta be sure I'm choosing the right Hobbit ta pledge me troth with" she said softly. Ted stared at her, suspicious a moment, but as she reached to him and brought his face to hers, suspicision melted under the warmth of her kisses. She stopped, not sure that she would have the strength to carry out her plan. "Frodo is a soft kisser Ted, and sometimes a lass wants a sense that she worth more 'n a little peck."
Teds eyes lit up " I'll kiss ye till ye're screaming fer mercy then lass" he said and he pushed her shoulder down as he twisted her body and landed himself atop her. He brought his face to hers and kissed her with all the force he could find, hungry and painful force that brought tears to her eyes as he thrust his tongue deeply into her mouth and sucked the air from her senses. Taking his tongue out he ran it down the side of her cheek and nibbled upon her ear as his hands began to move to the back of her dress and work the lacing of her bodice. His lust was unleashed and he clambered atop her, running his hands around her waist and across the top of her bodice as he used his other to continue to loosen the lacings in the back. She knew now that she'd have no choice, her gamble hadn't worked and as he used his knees to force her legs apart she reached behind her. He was panting heavily and his hands seemed everywhere as his mouth continued to assault her. He lifted his head up readying himself to bury his face in her chest as she pretended to moan, arched her back and stretched above her. Using the widest arc she could she smashed the rock down upon his head.
With a groan he collapsed upon her. She rolled him off her in disgust and moved away. With tears in her eyes and hands shaking she stood up and straightened her dress. As she began to move awy from him she felt a sudden grip on her ankle. Instinctively she spun around and kicked the already bloodied face of Ted Sandyman as hard as she could. With a howl he let go and grabbed his nose. She quickly turned to run and found she was backed up aginst the edge of the bluff. Ted was coming to his feet with an ugly sneer and hatred in his eye, she glanced over her shoulder. Not ten feet away, the bluff ended and the land fell away into rocks and brush until it ended 100 feet below on the banks of the Bywater.
As Chrys saw the evil of Ted's intent and felt the remnants of his lust and jealously she knew she had but one choice. She started to back up...five feet, three...Ted was nearly to her, one foot and a last trembling glance behind her stayed the view of far off Bag End. In her minds eye she saw again the easy grin, laughing blue eyes and dark locks of her beloved....she felt the smoothness of his slender hand as it held hers and heard the wonder in his voice as he proclaimed his love. Ted lurched forward desperately as he finally realized that Chrys would choose death to time spent in his arms. "Nooooo" he cried as she closed her eyes, bid her love good bye and stepped back into oblivion.