Stories of Arda Home Page
About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search

Fear  by Ariel

Chapter 5 - Guilt

Dody's anger and feelings of self-pity were easing.  It was impossible for a hobbit, even one of dour nature, to keep such dark thoughts in his heart for long.  Instead, the feelings settled around his mind becoming a dull ache - a pain - that joined with the multitude of hurts he'd had to endure these past few years.  Perhaps it was his age; the early tweens were a bad time for hobbits, full of moods and dark thoughts, self-doubt and insecurity.  All hobbit lads and lasses found the age a trial but for Dody, having experienced so much heartache in his short life, it was worse.  He knew he brought much of his grief upon himself.  It was his nature, he supposed.  Stupidity, recklessness or stubborn pride always seemed to make him say just a little too much or do just a little bit more than he ought.  'Self destructive' his uncle Rory called him.  It was as if Dody held inside him a monster that hated everything; a beast whose sole aim was to torment him, sabotaging friendships and family ties and stealing the warmth of companionship that, despite obstinate denial, he ached for. 

His eyes stung again but he blinked furiously and beat his hand on the dewy grass.  What good was self-pity?  What use were tears?  There was no one left in his world to be touched by them.  Only his mother had ever cared enough to try and soothe his raging temper.  Dody did not know if she could see him from beyond the grave but he hoped she could not.  It would have broken her heart to see what he had become.  He closed his eyes and drew in a hitching breath.  She would have taken his face in her hands, brushed back the unruly curls and looked deep into his heart.  His entire world was once mirrored in her eyes but what would he see if he could gaze into them today?  He knew he would have seen disappointment.  Tears brimmed beneath his closed lids.  He rubbed his eyes quickly.  Even if his memory of her was all that remained in the living world, he would not cause it pain.  He could not bear to even imagine her sorrow.  He would swallow all his tears to keep her from seeing what a wretch he had become. 

Dody stared up at the crystal blue morning sky.  It winked happily from above the gently shifting gaps in the tree's canopy.  Such a jolly sight… on such a miserable morning.  He sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve. 

Far above him, in the tiptop of the tree, the sun glinted on something of surpassing brilliance.  Dody stared at the sparkle of it and gasped.  The necklace!  It had caught on a broken tree branch!  They would never have found it by searching the forest floor.  It glittered in the bright morning, adding an unquenchable cheer to the sunlit sky.  Dody studied it in wonder, his sullen moping temporarily forgotten, and again marveled at the lovely thing.  Uncle Bilbo had given it to his mother on her wedding day.  It was a sumptuous gift and tongues had wagged about it for years.  Old cracked Bilbo Baggins giving a gift worth a king's ransom to Lacy Broadbent?  Most found it hard to believe he would give such a thing just for fondness' sake, but Lacy always demurely denied there was anything between them but friendship.  Nevertheless, even Dody had to admit, she held the piece dearer than anything his father had given her. 

As Dody gazed upwards he found himself idly plotting a route along the branches.  He could reach it if he was careful.  A step where the main stem forked, and then shinny along the branch till he could reach the tip of the broken one.  There was another branch higher up but it was too narrow to hold his weight and there was nothing beside it to hold onto.  One missed step on that high limb and he would fall to…

Just as the thought came to him, a sinking chill stopped Dody's heart.  One missed step on that high limb and he would fall to his death!  The necklace was in the treetop from Dody's own cast.  Frodo had to have seen it.  He had probably been doing exactly what Dody was contemplating, climbing up for it, when he fell.  Cold terror filled Dody's belly as the realization grew.  He swayed against the tree. 

Was he to blame for the nearly fatal injury of a child?  A child that was his own kin!

The sudden guilt strangled him and crushed the air from his chest.  An image of his cousin lying still, pale and bleeding at the foot of the tree came back to his mind with cruel clarity.  It had to be so.  What if he had killed the child?  He squeezed his eyes tightly shut.  No!  How COULD he have?  Revulsion made him feel positively sick.  His other cousins' beating now seemed justified - even kindly.  What might they have done if they'd known he was to blame for the fall?  What if Frodo woke and told them?  What if he never woke at all?  Oh what had he done?!  Dody dug the heels of his hands deep into his eyes as if to block out the image of the bloodied child.  How could he ever put this right?  What Frodo had seen or heard hardly seemed important in the light of this discovery but Dody's mind was racing, panicked.  What if Frodo DID tell them he was to blame for his fall? 

A surge of self-loathing rose up to engulf him.  It was so black and foul he would have plunged a knife into his own heart rather than let his twisted mind continue on this course.  Worrying about whether or not Frodo would tell them why he'd fallen!  He should have been hoping his young cousin would be able to speak after this ordeal rather than plotting the protection of his own worthless hide.  The others should have beaten him to death rather than just punching him.  Dody nodded violently in his misery.  Yes, that would have killed the beast that lived inside him.  Kin-killer… murderer of children.  Death would have ended this outrage and spared him this twisting guilt. 

A raw, guttural cry built in his throat and he took up fistfuls of his own hair.  He hated himself at that moment more than he ever had before.  How could he even think about posturing to protect himself?  First theft, now a careless, selfish act that might have caused the death of his cousin.  He was not only cruel but a danger to his kin.  He should have cast himself into the river instead of threatening to do so with the necklace.  There he could drown his agony and hide his hated body under cold, rolling waves of brown.  How could he have done such a hateful thing? 

His breath came in great heaving gasps as self loathing washed over him.  He couldn't drive the image of little Frodo's pale, bruised face from his mind.  He was positive the child had fallen for the exact reason he surmised.  It was too much coincidence not to be true.  Frodo was injured, possibly dead because of Dody's crime, Dody's evil.  Trembling, he stood… and wavered, pale-faced and haunted.  What was he to do?  How could he possibly make this right?  He wanted to die… yes, he DID want to cast himself into the river.  No more pain, no more guilt.  He might join with his mother then.  But what would SHE say to him now?  By his selfishness and cruelty he had harmed the most innocent creature he knew, a bright child whose future had been filled with promise.  If jealousy had colored Dody's feelings about Frodo, it had not kept him from understanding the boy was the last person in Brandy Hall who deserved to suffer from Dody’s thoughtlessness.  He had to make this right no matter what happened to him.  Casting himself into the river would be the coward's way out.  It would fix nothing and the guilt would still be there.  No, he had to right this horrible wrong and he needed to be alive to do it.  After that, he didn't care what happened.

With a self-loathing that was almost pain, Dody jumped to grasp the lowest branch.  He swung up, and crawled to the top of the dark grey arch.  His eyes were watering making it difficult to see, but he dashed them away, furious with himself.  He did not deserve his own tears.  This was something he simply must do regardless of what hurt he took from it.  Perhaps he would gift the treasure to Frodo… or say that the child had found it… or somehow slip it into his pocket… or something.  The necklace dangled above him, hanging in an open space at the very edge of the tree's crown.  Dody scrambled up the trunk, welcoming the cruel scratch of the tough bark on his bared arms and calves as due and just punishment.  It was difficult to climb but any reluctance or instinct for self-preservation he might have felt died instantly in his heart. 

The necklace was higher than he had guessed and the branches that would hold him ran out long before he could reach it.  The gems sparkled teasingly at him, mocking his guilt and anger.  He cursed, hating himself for his uselessness as well.  He felt the frantic need to crush the vile life out of himself swell up again, but he pressed his forehead angrily, painfully against the tree trunk.  This would do no good.  He would have to return, with a saw perhaps, and cut the high branch out so that he would be able to reach the treasure.  He cast one last tortured, shameful glance up at the bauble and then slid recklessly down the tree.


<< Back

Next >>

Leave Review
Home     Search     Chapter List