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Vengeance is Best Served Cold  by Larner

In memory of Jim, who always sought to see others not be hurt.

Vengeance Is Served Cold

 

          Frodo carefully placed a poultice of arnica, witch hazel, and willow bark on a blooming bruise on young Samwise’s upper arm, obviously stifling the urge to shout his anger.  “And you say that Lotho and Ted Sandyman did this?” he asked.

          Sam nodded.  “They was layin’ in wait for me near the sweets stall, there in the market.  I’d just got a sack o’ peppermints fer me’n the lasses, and as I was leavin’, goin’ round the stall to get to the lane to the Hill, them two jumped on me.  Ted clapped his hand over my mouth, and that Lotho hit me.  They took the sack and the other brasses as I had left, leavin’ me stuffed into the refuse bin back of the greengrocer’s stall, a corn cob in my mouth.”

          He wiped at the tracks of tears shed in pain and humiliation, and shuddered at the sight of the bruise that showed beyond the edges of the poultice.  Frodo handed the lad a handkerchief.  Sam accepted it with a nod of thanks, using it to wipe his face and blow his nose.

          “The brasses—were they the ones Uncle Bilbo paid you for helping set the new paving stones off the side door?” Frodo asked, his voice carefully modulated.

          “Yes.”  There was nothing else that needed to be said.

          Frodo gave a single, determined nod.  After a moment, once he had a bandage wound around the arm to hold the poultice in place, he said, “I do believe it is time that Lotho and Ted Sandyman should be put in their place.  Although first I shall confront Cousin Lobelia.”

          Sam looked up in alarm into the face of the older Hobbit.  “Missus Lobelia?  But, why?”

          “Because she needs to know just how horrible a son she has raised.”

          After a moment’s thought, Sam ventured, “You think as she don’t know, Master?”

          Frodo’s cheek tightened.  “I am certain that she does know, although in her way of thinking she can find no fault with his behavior.  But reminding her on occasion that others do not find Lotho anywhere as wonderful as she does is necessary, I think.  Now, leave the poultice in place until this evening, just before you go to bed.  It ought to be much better tomorrow.”

          Once the young Hobbit was dressed Frodo accompanied Sam down to Number Three, then set off toward the Proudfoot hole in search of his younger cousins Pulgo and Sancho.

*******         

          The following week Samwise Gamgee followed Master Frodo to the weekly market in Hobbiton, Sam walking a half-step behind the younger Baggins, carrying the shopping basket.  So far Frodo had purchased only two bottles of ink and a bag of hazelnuts, and was lingering near to the storefront where fine silver was sold.  Sam knew that certain Dwarves who dealt with the shopkeeper there had visited the shop three days past, and it had been closed until market day so that the new stock could be inventoried, polished to its brightest, and prices set for the various pieces.  But he didn’t know of either Master Frodo or old Mister Bilbo having any particular interest in obtaining any new silver at this time, particularly as Bilbo Baggins usually commissioned his Dwarvish friends directly for anything he might want.  Seldom did he purchase even silver spoons from any shop within the Shire unless they were highly unusual and of, say, Mannish manufacture.  What need was there for the denizens of Bag End to frequent silver shops when they were friends with Dwarf smiths and corresponded with Elf lords?

          At last the door to the shop opened, disgorging the ample figure of Lobelia Sackville-Baggins clutching, as usual, her umbrella as well as a velvet bag that appeared to hold something in the nature of a silver teapot.  Lobelia’s expression of smirking acquisition changed when she realized she was being confronted by her husband’s younger cousin Frodo.

          Frodo wasted no time getting to the point.  “Cousin Lobelia, I tried to visit with you at home at Sackville Place at least three times this past week, but apparently you have been terribly busy visiting with sick friends, considering Otho’s explanations as to why you were not available.  I so hope that you do not manage to contract any of the illnesses of those by whose bedsides you have sat.”

          Lobelia colored furiously.  “I do not understand why you consider it your business to follow my movements within Hobbiton, Frodo Baggins,” she said huffily.

          Frodo shrugged.  “It is not so much your actions I am concerned with at the moment as it is those of your son Lotho and his toady, Ted Sandyman.  Last week they caught Sam as he was leaving the market and stole his purchases and what coin he had left, allowing him to return home with a distinct bruise on his arm, a split lip, and a knot on the side of his head as well as corn silk between his teeth from silencing him by stuffing a maize cob into his mouth, not to mention his clothing soiled from leaving him jammed into a refuse bin owned by the greengrocer.”

          She turned to glare at the gardener’s lad, causing him to retreat behind his young Master.  “So this little lout has told you?  And what proof did he offer that these charges might be true?” she demanded.

          “I found him with his pants stained, put a cold compress to his head and fashioned a poultice myself for his arm, as well as helping him brush off the cabbage leaves and mashed maize kernels from his clothing and face.  As the two of them have a reputation for doing such things to the younger and smaller fry within the village, I cannot help but believe Sam’s story.  Do you seek to deny that Lotho is a lout who constantly relies on Ted Sandyman to back him up in such misdeeds?”

          Instead of denying this, Lobelia went on the attack.  “I do not begin to understand why, each and every time a child within Hobbiton comes home with a bump or bruise or two, the wretched creature claims that it is due to my Lotho!”

          “Perhaps,” answered Frodo with a wry tone, “it is because he is a bully and a lout in his own right.”

          “You have no proof of any such thing…” she began, but Frodo cut her off.

          “No proof?  He’s broken my arm once, and pulled the other arm out of its socket on another occasion.  He and Ted both love to steal things from my clothing when I’m swimming in the Water, to the point I refuse to carry anything of any value on me when I do so or come into town to the market.  So, yes, Cousin Lobelia, I have much evidence of Lotho’s perfidious character to rely on.  I am here solely to warn you that the next time I catch him bullying anyone smaller or younger than he that I will most certainly make him pay for it.  Do you understand me?”

          Sam was most surprised to realize that for once in her life Lobelia Sackville-Baggins was speechless, even backing up a step in the face of Frodo’s self-assured manner.

          Frodo waited for a response to his threat, and when it was not forthcoming he gave her a stiff nod and turned away. 

          Just then Sam spotted little Sancho Proudfoot streaking through the market, shrieking at the top of his voice and pointing back behind the greengrocer’s stall.  Frodo turned and strode off in that direction with Sam running behind him, seeking to keep up as best he could with the tween’s long strides.

          They found Sancho’s older brother Pulgo being held by Ted Sandyman, an arm twisted up behind his back.  Lotho loomed over the young Proudfoot threateningly.  “I said, weakling, that I want the coin from your pocket.  Or didn’t you hear me?”

          “But it’s not mine!  Ow-owwww!” the smaller lad cried as Ted gave a wicked tweak to the arm.

          “Doesn’t matter whose it is, you urchin.  It’s now mine, so give it to me!”

          “I can’t give you what’s not mine,” Pulgo whimpered.  “It’s not mine to give, I tell you—no!  No!  Oowwwww!” he wailed.

          “Then whose is it?” Lotho growled, leaning even closer.

          “His!”  As best he could with his free arm, Pulgo pointed behind Lotho, and the heir to Otho Sackville-Baggins turned to find himself face to face with his Cousin Frodo.

          “What’s this one doin’ with that one’s coin?” grunted Ted.

          “I asked him to hold it for me until today,” Frodo said calmly.  “Now, Ted, Lotho, I ask that the two of you unhand my young kinsman there and leave me to retrieve my own money from him.  And I assure you that it is indeed mine and not yours.”

          “And if I say it’s mine?” Lotho said, standing straight, hoping to cow Frodo into backing off.  “Who’s to tell me different?”

          Frodo gave a small smile, straightened some, and gave Lotho such a sudden, heavy punch in the face that the heavier youthful Hobbit fell back upon the ground, stunned at the unexpected power of the attack successfully made against him.

          “No!” shrieked a female voice, and Ted turned to see Missus Lobelia running to her son’s side.  He was so surprised he let go of Pulgo’s arm, and the young Proudfoot slipped away to hide behind Frodo’s back.  Frodo stepped forward and swung a second time, and now it was Ted Sandyman who lay on the ground near to his own Master, felled by a single powerful blow given him by Frodo Baggins.

          Frodo swiftly knelt by Lotho’s form and rummaged in his pocket, withdrawing a copper, a silver, and several brasses.  He kept the copper and the brasses, and dropped the silver on the ground by Lotho.  He reached to Pulgo, who surrendered to him a handful of brasses of his own.  Frodo counted out eight brasses into Sam’s hand, then dropped the difference in value between the copper and what he’d given Sam on the ground near the silver.  The remaining coins he pocketed.  He turned his attention on his cousin by marriage.  “I told you that the next time I caught him bullying or stealing from younger or smaller Hobbits I would make him rue it.  I would have you know that I keep my word.  Good day, Cousin Lobelia.”  He straightened his jacket and turned, placing one arm around Pulgo and the other around Sam.  “Now, I do believe that there are some wonderful horehound drops as well as peppermints available at the sweet stall.  Shall I treat both of you and Sancho?  I do believe I saw him a few minutes ago in the marketplace.”         

          As Frodo led them away, Sam craned to see Lotho struggling to sit up, his hand to his jaw where Frodo had hit him.  Never had Sam, who loved watching the adults wrestle in the marketplace in the summer, seen such a blow.  Now, this was a new skill Frodo had brought home from his last visit to Brandy Hall, that was certain! 

          He turned away, glad that he was a friend to Frodo Baggins.





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