Gift of the Valar - Chapter 27: Retribution
Bilbo, with a word of thanks showed the Sheriff to the door. He stood watching him at the doorway of Bag End a moment, then as he departed went back into the hall, the darkened shadows of the smial absorbing the last light of the day. He went to the back guest room, found a seat and waited for his friend to awaken. He looked at his grey face, listened to his raspy breathing and found himself thinking that Prody's soul would soon depart this earth. As he was lost in his thoughts he sighed, rather too loudly, waking the lightly sleeping healer. Bilbo told him gently of Fullmore Proudfoot's visit. The news of Ted's capture seemed to sadden, rather than anger the old hobbit and he shook his head "how can two 'o the best Hobbits in the Shire attract such tragic happenings Bilbo?" he asked sadly. Bilbo was afraid to try and answer that query, he reached down and squeezed Prody's wrinkled hand and just shook his head wordlessly. Prody sighed and closed his eyes a moment, his thoughts of pain readily showing upon his tense brow and thin lipped features. He opened his eyes and said "well, in Frodo's state, I'd best not be sending him without some help from a calming draught." Bilbo nodded and listened patiently as Prody described what to place in Frodo's morning tea.
The next morning Bilbo woke Frodo with a breakfast tray and the news of Teds capture. Frodo refused the breakfast, which Bilbo had expected....but with a little help was able to sit up and drink the tea. Bilbo waited long moments for Frodo to say something, anything about the mornings news. "Well my lad, as painful as I know this will be....Fullmore tells me you've got to present testimony in front of two witnesses to charge and hold Sandyman....they can not hold him with out a formal charge I'm afraid" Bilbo said regretfully. Frodo leaned back into his pillows and looked out the window a few minutes as he gathered his thoughts. The day was bleak and promised a damp chill as he saw the clouds cover what little light the sun had cast. He looked to his Uncle "Oh Bilbo, what is the point? Ted's punishment will not bring Chrys back...I fear she is lost to me now" he whispered brokenly. "Now my lad, it'll not bring her back, nor do we yet know of her health, but this will keep the Shire safe from his despicable ways...it will keep Marigold safe" he said trying to interest Frodo in his statements. Frodo. who'd been looking away out the window....looked to Bilbo once more. He knew he owed Chrys and Marigold that, he'd been unable to protect Chrys, but he'd not let another hurt happen to those he loved. He fought to see his way clear of the sadness and melancholy that covered his thoughts and agreed to go.
Bilbo made sure that Frodo finished his tea, called for Sam to help Frodo dress and went to see Prody for a few last words of advice. Prody met him in the hallway and wordlessly went with Bilbo to the kitchen. He gave several pouches of herbs and a crock of tonic to Bilbo, advising him to keep Frodo calm and lightly sedated with the tea infusion, but to use the tonic if greater pain became evident. Then he went to check the sling and swath which cradled and protected Frodo's badly broken arm. He nodded to Sam and with a few painful gasps Frodo was helped down the hallway of Bag End and towards the waiting cart. "Now try ta get 'im ta eat Bilbo, he's far too thin and the herbs'll set better with food in his stomach." Bilbo nodded but knew that in Frodo's depressed state of mind, food was not a concern that the ill hobbit would take well to. "I'll do my best...now you rest and we should be back by nightfall. If something should happen and we are delayed, the Gaffer shall be here at luncheon, afternoon tea and dinner. I've asked him to stay the night if we are held up." Bilbo said as he clambered up to the seat of the cart.
Sam had helped a tired and dizzy Frodo into the cart, settling him upon an array of blankets and quilts and tucking a warm cloak about him. Frodo did not speak but leaned his head back tiredly against the side of the cart. Sam, looking upon Frodo's worn features, could see how just the walk to the cart had tired his friend and he worried about how he'd fare on the trip. He'd packed a basket of snacks, hoping to tempt Frodo to eat, but he'd also brought his elvish lessons for he knew that he just might pull Frodo from his sadness with a distraction such as this.
As they set off down Bagshot row, Frodo felt a wave of dizziness and he clenched his eyes shut hard to quell the quesy roll of his stomach. The pitch and sway of the cart did not allow him to rest and his dizziness did not abate until they left Hobbiton. Sam tried several times to get Frodo to eat, but his offers of all but the tea were cast aside. He did manage to rouse Frodo long enough to have him correct the syntax of the Elvish translation that Bilbo'd given him to do.
Frodo could not help but smile inwardly when he thought of how proud Chrys would be of Sam's efforts to master the language of the fair folk. Finally, a break in the clouds and a stretch of smooth road allowed Frodo to slumber and the next thing he knew he was being shaken gently awake by Sam. "We're 'er Mr. Frodo, now easy does it sir...'ave this bit 'o tea to wake ya before we go in." Sam urged, his voice a soothing spell in Frodo's tired mind.
Then, with Bilbo and Sam to steady him he got down from the cart and entered the lockholes to confront the hobbit who'd caused those he loved most such anguish. He felt so distant from his feelings, his mind could not see it's way clear to organize the details he knew he'd be called upon to state. He stumbled in his haze and was stopped from a fall by Bilbo "easy lad, here you go then, yes...right here will be good Sam, let's set right here Frodo lad." Frodo eased himself into the offered chair and watched with bleary eyes as Fullmore Proudfoot and a couple of sturdy Sheriff lads escorted a surly looking Ted Sandyman to a spot across the room.
Frodo looked into the sneering face of the Miller's son and realized he'd been right on that day he'd first come to live with Bilbo, Ted had caused great evil. "If'n it ain't that Brandybuck brat and his cracked old Uncle." Ted snorted. Sam bristled, ready to jump to the defense of both of his masters of Bag End. Bilbo placed a restraining hand upon Sam's shoulder, sensing his mood "easy lad" he whispered.
Ted, had only eyes for Frodo "where's yer healer now Frodo...yer not looking too healthy" Ted laughed. Indeed Frodo had paled at the sight of the evil vision before him and had begun to tremble. Ted shook off the hands of the Sheriffs holding him, but made no move towards Frodo so they let him be. Ted stared into Frodo's large blue eyes "she's a fine healer that lass 'o yers ....why a few weeks ago she nearly had an affliction 'o mine feeling really good" he leered suggestively. Bilbo stared in horror at Frodo as his trembling increased and his fists clenched in anger, he tried to steady him with a protective grasp of his frail shoulder but Frodo stood and shook off Bilbo's hand. Eyes blazing with anger he rasped "you shan't have her you animal...you shall never have her." Ted's eyes narrowed and a smile played across his face "neither will you...but I, I have the memory of her soft body pressed ta mine, the taste 'o her sweet tongue and 'er moans 'o pleasure ta fill my nights....what's she left to you?" he said as he smiled lewdly.
With a cry Frodo leapt forward and with surprising strength threw his shoulder into Ted's stomach, knocking the two of them to the floor. As the Sheriffs and Bilbo tried to separate them Frodo reached for Teds throat with his good hand and squeezed, holding him tight as he hissed "I'll have her light, her love and her respect Ted...something you shall spend a lifetime searching for." With that, just as the Sheriff's were grasping hold of their prisoner, Ted let lose a kick to Frodo's injured arm that sent him tumbling with a cry of pain. As the Sheriffs tightened their hold upon Ted and dragged him from the room his voice could be heard screaming "ye ain't done with me Baggins...."
Bilbo and Sam had run to Frodo's side to find him curled up in a ball, clutching his arm in agony, eyes bright with angry tears and heart filled with resolve. They helped him back to the chair, and tried to give him the tonic....but Frodo, knowing of Prody's tonics decided to stay alert and endure this one more pain so that he might ease the agony of his heart. Frodo gave his testimony to Fullmore Proudfoot in the presence of two witnesses and when the matter of sentencing came up at last Frodo was silent a moment. Sam looked to Bilbo, worried that the pain of the arm was not allowing him to answer. Bilbo motioned Sam to be patient, he knew his lad...he knew Frodo to be calmly deliberating a just punishment for Ted.
When Frodo spoke, his voice was clear of the haze that had overwhelmed him for so long. His path was clear, in this matter a light had been shown to him and Bilbo listened to Frodo's chosen punishment in amazement. He asked that Ted be taken to Bree to serve out a sentence of confinement in the house of the head constable of the area, a Man. He should spend his years there as a servent in the man's house while in his spare time learning to read and write in Westron and Elvish. Finally, Frodo asked that when Ted had shown the humility needed to be a servant, he be taught a skill that would gentle his bullying nature and bring some comfort to those in pain, while providing Ted a sense of purpose. Sam was stunned by Frodo's suggestion that Ted train to become a healer. Fullmore Proudfoot listened in silence, but he nodded his agreement to all of Frodo's requests.
As Frodo's voice trailed off, a rasping quality to his last words, he grew dizzy and nearly fell from his chair. Sam and Bilbo steadied him and helped him rise to his feet to make his way to the cart for the ride home. Bilbo once more tried to get Frodo to take the tonic, but Frodo flatly refused. "I do not want to sleep Bilbo, at least not sleep such as Prody's tonics offer." he groaned as Sam helped up into the back of the cart and settled him into his nest of blankets. Bilbo, leaning over the side of the cart, ran his hand through his nephews curls "my brave lad, I shall try to keep the cart steady...perhaps you shall find your own sleep." Frodo nodded "I have felt in a cloud for a long time Uncle, I need to feel, don't you see?....I have spent to long hiding from my feelings and now, well I believe that Ted has helped me see my own purpose more clearly. Please don't ask me to numb my feelings, even if it is to dull the pain." He grimaced as he shifted against the side of the cart "not all pain is bad Bilbo" he said, blue eyes wide with sudden aknowledgement as he whispered "Sometimes pain helps you to remember, and provides a focus for tasks not yet started." Bilbo stroked the pale cheek of his nephew, tears in his eyes he nodded and climbed to the seat to start the journey back to Bag End.
Frodo closed his eyes wearily, his head making a steady bump, bump along the sideboard until Sam folded a blanket and placed it behind his head. Frodo smiled his thanks and then lifted his good arm to have Sam settle close to him. They rode in silence some minutes before Sam spoke "How could you do it Mr. Frodo?" Frodo turned to his friend with a questioning look "do what Sam?" Sam fidgited nervously then asked "How could ye ask that 'e be trained as a healer? After what he done ta Miss Chrys...how could ya?" Frodo smiled sadly "Chrys would have wanted it....you see, there is good in everyone Sam, there has to be, or well...the world would be just too ugly a place for gentle beauty like hers." He sighed and cast his mind back upon conversations and dreams he'd shared with Chrys, days of shared tales and whispered poems upon the blanket beneath the willow, and then squeezing Sam's shoulder said " If we don't look for the goodness Sam, the evil part in all of us would take hold...and I can't, nor would Chrys want, that to happen." Sam watched the pale and thin features of Frodo in the dying light of the day. He saw in that moment, in the light of his shappire eyes, the pain of his choices. He saw the future in that moment and a chill left him shaking as he knew in his heart that not all of Frodo's choices would be kind to him. He trembled from this revelation and Frodo, noticing the shudder of Sam's sturdy shoulders, hugged him closer. "Here Sam, stay close lad, I shall do my best to see you home safe tonight." As the cart jostled it's passengers, lulling them slowly to sleep, Sam's last view was of Frodo's clear blue eyes. He was looking to the stars, stars whose radiance cast a glow upon his fine features and left Sam thinking 'only an elf could share such light with the stars.'