Gift of the Valar - Chapter 20: Still Waters

The next morning Bilbo got up early and packed a picnic basket that would have been the envy of any hobbit; cheeses, fruit, fresh bread and honey, apple pie, pickled mushrooms and Frodo's favorite, gingerbread. The gaffer had given Sam a day off at Bilbo's request, but was himself quite happy to see his youngest going about the business of being a lad once again. Chrys had hoped to bring her friend Marigold, but she'd been asked to visit her Uncle Andy and brother Hamson in Tighfield a few days previous.

As the sun rose to midmorning Chrys entered Frodo's room with Sam at her heels. She was nervous, Frodo's words of the night before weighed heavily on her mind.

Frodo awoke slowly, coming into the realm of daylight to the sound of birds in the garden and Chrys's cool hand on his slightly warm forehead. He opened his eyes, looked up at her and smiled broadly. "How am I today healer lass?" he joked "am I well enough to participate in the afore mentioned holiday?" She frowned at him "perhaps, but ye'll be following my orders or ye'll stay home and pour tea all day" she said with mock seriousness. "Order me as you will fair healer lass, your comand shall be my guide." he said as he sat up slowly and bowed his head to her. Sam rolled his eyes "bit early for this banter, don't ye think? Now then, if ye leave us be Miss Chrys I'll see to it he's dressed without hurting 'imself or breaking anything." he added. for Bilbo's benefit, who'd stood behind the young gardener in the doorway. "Fair enough" laughed Bilbo as he went to prepare elevensies, Frodo'd slept through the first meal of the day. After a quick breakfast, which Frodo managed without spilling his tea or breaking his crockery, they packed the cart.

Bilbo had opted to stay home, despite their protests "No, no" he said "I don't want an old hobbit spoiling your day, besides, I'm rather looking forward to having the hole to myself for a few hours." In reality, Bilbo had decided after long thought to take a quick trip to Michel Delving to consult with a friend of his about some legal matters. He didn't want to worry Frodo with this news, so he kept silent about his plan.

The day was showing it's full summertime warmth as they reached the willow tree near the river. Frodo got down awkwardly from the cart, he still sometimes required the use of a cane, but had otherwise made remarkable progress towards reclaiming his old self. Chrys spread a blanket in the shade of the tree and Sam got out the food baskets as Frodo selected a book and began to regale them with tales of Orcs, dragons and fair elves from across the sea. Chrys was busy weaving a crown of daisies for her head and Sam was absent mindly finishing up the last of Mr. Bilbo's apple pie when Frodo reached the conclusion of the tale of Luthien and Beren. "Such wonderous tales Mr. Frodo" Sam sighed "Do ye suppose they really are true then?" "Oh Sam" Frodo said with a contented smile "I'm certain they are, aren't you Chrys?", he asked as he leaned back to admire the clear blue sky. She didn't answer for a moment and Frodo looked to her, "Chrys?" he prompted. She was looking off into the distance with a faraway look in her deep warm eyes. "Yes, it's true" she said, then looking at Frodo said "not all tales of love have happy endings ye know." Frodo wondered at her meaning, but before he could ask, Sam launched into one of his prolonged re-tellings of affairs of the heart in Hobbiton that hadn't ended happily.

Chrys and Frodo listened patiently, they knew their friend Sam was not often given to long winded speeches, so they let him ramble on, laughing when it was called for and interjecting comments when asked. Sam's speech had slowed, a sure sign he was running out of words, when suddenly Frodo heard a soft snore. He laughed, Sam had fallen asleep in the middle of his story about Lavender Pettigrew and Roland Bracegirdles disasterous wedding party at the Green Dragon last summer.

Frodo sat up to stare at his friend "I do believe our Sam has tired of his own tales" he said with a twinkle in his eye. "No" said Chrys " 'tis the sleeping draught I placed in his tea." Frodo was astonished "you didn't" he exclaimed "why I may have to report you to the board of healers for unsafe practice." he said grinning. "That ye shan't Mr. Baggins for I am still yer healer and if ye've a mind ta get better, ye'll do as I say." she said with a quickly raised brow as she moved a little closer to her patient. "Caught" Frodo said jokingly, "I am at your mercy I'm afraid" .

He looked at Chrys and realized suddenly how pretty she was.The soft afternoon sun glittered a thousand shades of red and gold from the reflection of her cascading locks. He reached over to gently touch one of her red gold curls. "Your hair is a remarkable color" he said fascinated "why, it's all red, gold and brown at the same time somehow." he said softly and with great curiosity. She laughed, a soothing and joyful sound "ye certainly don't know yer way about the lasses do you Frodo Baggins? My hair is called auburn silly." "Well, you're right about that" he said sheepishly "I am silly at times and I don't know my way about the lasses...they've always made me nervous, not knowing what they wanted or what they were thinking of...until I met you." he said, a trace of wonder in his voice. He continued "at first, I was too badly hurt to be worried about being nervous when I was with you, then I was too confused and when you spoke to me in Elvish and understood me....well, you were like an island in a storm to me then."

Chrys was sitting with her legs drawn up to her chest, her arms around her knees. She rested her head on her knees and tilting her head to look more closely at Frodo she asked "and now" she said quietly "what am I to you now?"
Frodo looked to her, almost as if really seeing her for the first time "an angel of mercy, a loyal friend, a lover of elves...and so much more" he said staring at her intently from the depth of his blue eyes. "Only time will tell us where our true paths lie Chrys...and somehow I know that my time with you may be limited in some way" he said sadly "although I would give much to change that." He turned to her, a tear in his eye....she reached to his face and wiped away the lone tear. "Ye carry such sadness Frodo, a very un-hobbit like characteristic...has no one told you?" she tried to joke, but not wanting to make light of his sensitivity continued " I noticed, even through your carry an air of melancholy about you. What brings you such sadness in such a young life?"

Frodo took her hand in his, marveling at how soft her skin was. He looked to Sam and said "I will tell you the secrets I share only with Sam, but you must tell me a few of your own." She nodded wordlessly, waiting for him to continue, wanting to know more of the serious and gentle soul beside her. He spoke softly of his parents, a fateful night that changed his life forever, his view of the drowning and belief that he had somehow been responsible for their deaths. "No Frodo" she protested, ye could not have changed that night, sometimes things for no other reason than it is their time to happen." He squeezed her hand "there is more" he softly. He told her of his visions and his contact with the Valar, his fear of scaring Bilbo with his foretellings and the headaches his trying to surpress them caused. Lastly, he told her that his desire above all else was to find a home where he belonged, "you see" he said "my life here at Bag End is all I've ever wanted. I can't go back to Brandy Hall, to the torment of the numerous relations who alternately ignored me or teased me for being unlike them, why I'd run to live with the elves first." he sighed " I just can't lose all that I've gained. I couldn't bear to lose Bilbo, nor you and Sam..." He held her hand gently in his, turning to look her full in the eyes he said with great intensity and inner pain " I know much of the path before me Chrys, some will bring joy and some great torment. I am looking to the Valar to see where you shall be in my life, for, I feel that we are meant to be and perhaps even in the future." he looked away for a moment and then looked back to her sadly "your part in my future seems cloudy and distant, I do not understand their will in all things, however much I wish to" he finished sadly.

She reached over and brushed a dark curl from his face. "I don't know my future either Frodo Baggins, but I can think of no other path I'd want ta be traveling on, nor any other hobbit I'd enjoy conversin' with more" she smiled shyly and then asked "Now what secrets am I to reveal to you?" Frodo smiled and squinting his eyes stared at her suspiciously " where ever in the Shire did you learn Elvish?" Crys laughed "I'll bet ye thought yerself the only hobbit tween with a gift for languages, but as ye learned....yer not." she said with a pert look on her face. As she began her story her eyes got all soft and dreamy as she was transported in her mind to lands far away. "When I was a small lass, my Mum came down with a sickness that puzzled all who tried to treat her, Uncle Prody included. She grew sicker each day and my Da feared for her life. Well, Uncle Prody had been spending time with Bilbo and after listening to all his tales of the Elves, decided that they might have the skill ta help her.He talked Da into packing us up and going to search fer the healing Elf Elrond." Frodo stared at her in astonishment "Lord Elrond of Rivendell?" "yes" said Chrys "the very one, your Uncle wrote him a letter explaining our plight and he and his elven healers met us in the forests of the old road near to Bree and brought us to Rivendell." Chrys paused a long moment as she re-lived in her mind the peace and beauty of that wonderous place, she smiled as she continued "my Mum was sick a long time, and Lord Elrond had not had a lot of time practicing his arts on it took all summer fer her to be well again. I've gone back myself nearly every summer since then, having a love of the elvish language and a leaning towards healing...well Lord Elrond saw to much of my training himself."

Frodo shook his head in disbelief "the adventures I'm looking to have, why you've already experienced! Don't tell sleepy head over there" he said as he gestured toward a still snoozing Sam "he'll be frightfully jealous." He looked at her cuiously, "but why did you not speak of this before?" Chrys brushed a curl from her face, "well, as grateful as my parents were to the elves, they were afraid folks of the Shire would think me 'strange' or 'odd', so they pretended I was visiting other relations when I was visited Rivendell." Frodo smiled sadly "strange isn't it? How much what others have feared of the opinions of their neighbors have shaped our lives." He shook his head and then sighed "now for less pleasant memories Chrys....what really happened in Sandyman's barn?" he asked as gently as he could.

Chrys looked away, over the quiet and gently flowing river before her. Resting her head once more upon her knees she hugged herself tightly and said "yer vision was right Frodo, it 'twas Ted and no, I didn't fall. He tore my dress and tried to choke me in his...his anger and his lust." she finished in a whisper as a tear slid down her cheek. Frodo reached over and wiped away her tear as he moved closer and protectively put his arm around her shoulder. He gently held her as she cried, he stroked her sun kissed curls and murmered "I'm sorry Chrys...I'm so sorry my dear lass" She sniffled and he handed her a handkerchief. "I..I should of been able to take better care of myself...I'm ashamed of what he could have done if Sam hadn't come" she admitted. Frodo was astounded. He drew apart from her "You're ashamed....why Chrys, you were the one that was wronged. Why should you be feeling shame? I can understand anger or disgust...but shame?" he questioned. Chrys leaned her head on Frodo's shoulder once more " I could have, I should have fought him harder and now, well now I'll always have the memory" she shuddered as she remembered the rough grasp of his hands and unwanted intrusion of his kiss "and now, now I shall have more fear" she whispered brokenly. Frodo who was trying once again to comfort her as he stroked her hair, paused and putting his hand under her chin turned her face to his. "What fear do you speak of?" he asked narrowing his eyes and then an idea came to him and his face hardened with the gradual realization of what she was about to say. "He threatened you didn't he Chrys? he asked with barely supressed
anger, "didn't he?" he asked again.

Chrys looked over at Sam then turned her pale face towards him "yes Frodo, you musn't tell Sam...but he said he'd hurt Marigold if I told anyone." she said sniffling through her tears. Frodo felt anger fill his heart, he clenched his hands and set his lips in a tight line, ready to rail against the evil bullying of Ted Sandyman. When he looked of a sudden to Chrys's face. She was pale with a stream of tears running down her cheeks. He suddenly felt ashamed of his own anger 'she needs your empathy and compassion far more than your anger' he thought to himself. He sighed heavily and stood up awkwardly. He held out his hand and helped Chrys as she rose to her feet. Keeping her hand in his he walked to edge of the river. "See how smooth the water is in the middle of the river?" She looked at him and nodded through her tears. Frodo squeezed her hand, smiled at her encouragingly and bent down to pick up a rock. He threw the rock in the river where it made a quiet splash, but the ripples from the splash grew and grew until at long last they very slowly began to subside. Chrys looked questioningly to Frodo, sniffling and waiting for an explaination. Frodo, still holding her hand looked her full in the eyes and cocking his head to one side gestured to the river. It was smooth once more.

He put his arm about her waist and drew her close to his side as he said soothingly "The river is much like our lives...sometimes flowing deep and fast, sometimes slowing to match the pace of the land around it, but always filled with quiet beauty. The ripples, the disturbances in our lives only serve to help us truly appreciate the times of beauty more fully. I'll not let Ted take your quiet beauty from you Chrys, I promise you." Chrys, with a sob threw her arms about his neck and looking into the forever blue of his eyes said "you are a special one Frodo Baggins, and I don't know why, but I believe in you....thank you " she whispered as she hugged him to her.

Frodo was taken aback by the emotion of her gesture. He felt a warmth in his heart that forced the stirring of some long withheld feelings. He fought with himself to regain control and felt a little weak in the knees as he disentangled himself from her embrace. He looked to her protectively "I'll not tell Sam, but you are to go nowhere without Sam or I, and I'll see to it that Marigold's visit to her brother is extended least until I can figure another way around this."

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