Chrysanthamum pulled her shawl closer about her as she entered the cool confines of Sandyman’s barn. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkness after being out in the bright sunshine, but in a moment she was able to spot her destination. Her Uncle had bargined the use of some barn space to store his herbs when Ted had fallen from the hay wain last summer and broken his leg. She smirked remembering her Uncle’s tales of how difficult a patient Ted had been, it had taken a long time for the leg to heal and Mr. Sandyman had found it easier to barter for the healer’s services than pay the fees. It turned out to be the perfect arrangement, for many of the plants and herbs she used to mix her infusions and tonics needed to be kept in a cool and darkened space. She approached the back of the barn, making a mental list of the herbs she’d need for the next day’s therapies.
In the darkness, another watched her movements. His eyes followed her as she picked her way through the debris of the barn until she’d made her way to the far corner by the root cellar entrance. He watched with great interest as she unwrapped her shawl to take a list from her bodice.
Chrys shook open the list she’d made earlier that morning and as she went through the wooden crates and searched for the desired herbs she started to first hum and then to sing as her fingers worked. Her voice was fair to hear and the gentle cadence of the elven words brought her comfort; she raised her voice and sang the next verse with a richer and throatier texture. She was thinking as she sang, of the lotions she’d need to mix to begin the deep muscle massages Frodo would need as he began to learn how to use his wasted limbs once again. She was just allowing herself the luxery of envisioning herself rubbing Frodo’s arms and looking into his spectacular blue eyes when she suddenly felt uneasy. She stopped her singing and stood up from her stooped position, as she turned she found herself positioned directly in front of Ted Sandyman.
She started reflexively and backed up a step. “Now, if it ain’t a little songbird that’s flown in ta me barn” Ted moved a step closer “don’t stop yer singing on my account lass…yer song was right soothin’ it twas.” Chrys laughed, nervously “Oh Ted, ya startled me ya did…but as ye can see I’ve got what I’ve come fer” she said as she gestured to the packets in her hand “so I’ll be off…”
Ted took another step towards her and she backed away again, coming close to the wall of the barn. “What’s yer hurry?” Ted asked sneering “Yer got no time fer none but the gentry these days Chrys? Can’t ya show me the kindness ya show ta them up on the hill?” Chrys backed up another step “Now Ted, I don’t think ya ought ta be talking of Mr. Baggins in such a way” she said beginning to feel a little scared as Ted took another step towards her. She looked quickly to her side to find a way to escape. ” Now Ted, ya know I’m a healer up ta Bag End…and it’s near time fer Frodo’s treatment it is.” She said , trying to sound firm. “What’s yer hurry? Perhaps I’ve got me a pain that needs yer healing too, oh yes Chyrs let me show ya what’s hurtin’ on me.” Ted said, his breath right upon her as he stepped towards her again.
She was backed up against the wall, he reached out and caressed a springy auburn curl and leaned one arm against the wall on the side of her. “I’ve ‘eard ye can ease any manner of pains” he leaned in closer “show me how ya bring relief to yer Frodo ta make him better and then I’ll show ya what it’s like with a real hobbit, not a cripple.” he hissed as he leaned in to kiss her. She turned her head away “No Ted, ’tis not right, stop now and know one’ll know” she pleaded.
He grabbed her arm and twisted it behind her back then grasping a handful of her hair he pulled her head back, forcing her to look up at him. He kissed her roughly, pressing his lips upon hers with bruising force and thrusting his tongue into her mouth till she thought she’d gag from the taste of him. He pressed her against the rough boards of the barn and letting go of her hair began to run his hand down to her neck and across the top of her bodice. She squirmed to get away “No Ted…this ’tisn’t right” she gasped.
“I’ll show ya what’s right” he growled “I’ll give ye what ya won’t be getting from an old fool and his crippled brat.” Ted was breathing heavily and as he pressed her body hard against the side of the barn his hands seemed to wander everywhere upon her, she pushed and as he tried to kiss her again she bit his lip until she tasted blood.
He became enraged “only giving it to the gentry eh? We’ll when I’m done with ye no one’ll want ya” he stared with evil intensity into her tear filled eyes “an if yer thinking a tellin’ anyone, I’ll be sure ta see that yer friend the Gamgee lass ain’t marriagable neither.” She started to cry as he seized her throat with both hands and choked her till her world became grey and fuzzy. She felt herself losing conciousness as his hand ripped at her bodice. As she fell to the ground in a faint she dimly heard someone calling her name.
Sandyman looked up as he heard another voice in the barn. Cursing he dropped the nearly unconscious Crys to the floor and ducked into the root cellar.
Chrys heard it again “Chrys, Miss Chrys….where are ye lass?” It was Sam, she breathed a deep sigh of relief and then looking down at her torn dress quickly grabbed her shawl and wrapped it tight about her. She adjusted the shawl to be sure it hid the affects of Ted’s affections, praying that Sam’d not notice she called “over here Sam”.She couldn’t let anyone know what had happened, she wouldn’t endanger her friend Mari.
Sam came rushing over to find Chrys sitting on the floor, pale and mussed looking but otherwise fine. He was puzzled, it wasn’t like Frodo to be wrong with his visions….’perhaps with the sickness an all’ he thought to himself ‘he jest got worked up’. “It’s Mr. Frodo Miss, he’s fallen and ‘urt himself again”. Chrys stood up, with the help of Sam “You OK then Miss?” Sam asked, not liking how shaky she seemed to be. “Fine Sam, jest a bit tired ’tis all….now let’s go see to yer Mr. Frodo.”
By the time they got to Bag End, Frodo’d been helped to his chair by Uncle Paladin while Bilbo held a cloth to his nephews freshly bleeding head wound. Chrys rushed over and taking the dressing from Bilbo’s hands held it to Frodo’s head a moment. He looked deep into her eyes, she saw fear there and concern…for her. “Are you alright?” he whispered. She stared at him, surprised by his use of common speech. She looked away “yes, of course” she answered curtly then got up to get more dressings for his wound.
Paladin sensed that Frodo was still worried about the lass, she seemed to be fine however and he was about to suggest that the three elder hobbits return to their discussion of the lad’s future when he saw Frodo reach for the lasses shawl. Frodo reached up to take a corner of Chrys’s shawl and pulled it off quickly. Chrys gasped in surprise and looked down at her torn dress with shame flooding her face as she frantically rearranged her shawl to cover her nearly exposed breasts. Frodo felt hot anger seething within him as he saw the torn dress and bruised areas around her neck “He…he did this to you didn’t he?” he said hoarsely.
She stared him full in the eyes “I, I fell down in the barn, I don’t know what yer talking of.” Frodo leaned wearily back into the chair, he knew she was lying. He also knew that there had to be a reason for it. Tears filled his eyes, he knew somehow that he’d been the cause of this. She saw his tears and sat down quickly in front of him, fearing he was hurt “Are you in pain Mr. Frodo?” she asked. “I think you alone know the answer to that Miss Chrys.” he answered softly.
Saradoc had had enough. “Now Miss, this is important, we represent the rule of Law in the Shire and what you’re about to tell us will aid us in a difficult decision we’ve got to make regarding your patient.” Sam, looking with sudden understanding at the faces of the gentlehobbits before him burst out “What do ya mean ta do? Send ‘im away? After all e’s been through? That’s hard sirs, that’s cruel and hard it is” Saradoc glared at the young gardener as Bilbo soothed him “calm down my boy, we’ll come to an understanding I’m sure. ” Then turning to Chrysanthamum asked gently “what did happen to you lass?”
Chrys continued fixing Frodo’s dressing as she explained that she’d fallen in the barn and that as she stood to get up had been grabbed from behind by a lad wanting ‘a bit of a kiss’…but she hadn’t seen who it was in the darkness. Bilbo nodded but raised an eyebrow “Did they mention why they thought it appropriate to steal a kiss from an unwilling lass?” he asked. Chrys was silent. Paladin encouraged her “This really is important my dear, you’ll not be in trouble.” She looked to Bilbo with teary eyes and said softly “He mentioned how I shouldn’t mind giving a kiss or two since I was practicing my healing arts here…up on the hill he said.”
“Well, that tears it Paladin” Saradoc’s voice boomed in the sudden silence of the room. “We’ve come just in time to rescue this lass from Bilbo’s foolish lack of judgement. I’ll not see my nephew exposed to more of this either. I say we take Frodo home to Brandy Hall and relase this poor girl from her services here.” He looked about the room and walked over to where Chrys sat at Frodo’s side “Luckily no real harm’s been done” Saradoc continued “more than one lad has stolen a kiss from an uncertain lass…but we don’t want any rumors spreading now do we lass?” as he spoke Saradoc placed a familiar hand upon Chrys’s bared shoulder. Sam could see that Chrys was uncomfortable with this display, when out of the corner of his eye he caught the explosive wrath of Frodo.
“Get your hand off of her , I didn’t hear her inviting your attentions Uncle.” Frodo’s voice was cold in it’s anger. Bilbo was aghast “apologize at once Frodo.” “I will not” Frodo said quietly “Chrys has done nothing wrong…she’s the one who was attacked and you are blaming her attack on the fact that she’s been helping me” Frodo’s voice had increased in volume as his ire rose, his weakened voice couldn’t take the strain and he started to cough. Chrys handed him a cup of water when the coughing subsided.
“Now Frodo…” Paladin started to say. “I am not finished” Frodo said firmly “you dare to accuse Bilbo of having poor social judgement and yet, you’d…you’d let her attacker go loose and unpunished because…because why? Because she had the strength to work here…to bring me back from nothingness to life once more….” he gasped and started coughing again but held a hand up to distance himself from the helping hand of his Uncle. He continued “for that she develops a reputation for being familiar with hobbit lads….so that unwanted and unlooked for displays of affection are suddenly all right? A stolen kiss is a passing flirtation worthy of a wink and nudge of ones’s elbow? Don’t you see?” Frodo pleaded with his Uncles “That wrong is just that…it’s wrong no matter what social group you belong to.” He coughed and had trouble breathing for a moment. Chrys looked at him with concern but as his coughing fit passed her look changed to one of pride and admiration. She’d wanted to melt into the floor moments ago, but now found herself sitting a little taller. She handed Frodo more water and all waited for him to continue.
The Master of Buckland opened his mouth to speak when Bilbo leaned over and whispered into his ear “I wouldn’t, I’d let him speak his piece if I were you”. Frodo continued, staring accusingly at his visiting Uncles “I am certain that you will convince yourselves you’ve no need to listen to a hobbit lad barely out of his tweens. You’ll find a way to dismiss what I say…” he was finding breathing more difficult ” but I wouldn’t were I you….I’ve lived more these last 8 months with Uncle Bilbo than all my years at Brandy Hall. Although there have been difficult times and I… and those I love have suffered, I wouldn’t trade a moment of it…for here I have lived a life with love, compassion and loyal companions to enrich my every moment.” Frodo paused to smile weakily at Sam before he once again started coughing and took another moment to catch his breath. He sat up as tall as his weakened body could in the chair and he stared at them, challenging them with his bright blue yes. “My life may be short Uncles….but I have found a life here that is rich in all that matters. He slumped back into the corner of the chair, a tear sliding down his pale face as his chest heaved with the effort of breathing. “Please don’t take away my home, just when I’ve found where I belong….” his voice was barely audible as he slumped forward in a faint.
Chrys caught him in her arms and soothed his sweaty curls as a tear fell to his bandaged head. Sam and Bilbo quickly helped Chrys out from under the weight of the unconcious lad and placed him upon the bed. The Uncles stood by, uncertain of what to say, watching as Chrys checked Frodo for further injury from his exhaustive discourse. She turned to them “he’s jest exhausted, with rest and and time to recover his strength, he’ll be on the mend in the next day or so. I would ask that all of you leave to allow him this rest” She said staring directly at the two gentlehobbit’s who’d brought her Frodo so much pain. She remained behind, seated by his bedside with his hand in hers as the door softly closed behind the departing visitors.