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

Fear  by Ariel

Warnings: This fic is rated for graphic medical details, contains some violence (fights) and hints at darker themes, but contains no slash or sexual themes.  *This particular chapter deals with the issue of child abuse - (though not sexual abuse and not the abuse of one of Tolkien's characters).  If a discussion of this subject is likely to upset you, I would suggest you do not read.

 Author's Note:  OK... back with the angst.  I will warn folks from the onset that this chapter deals with my OC and a turning point in his life.  It is a very necessary part of the tale as a whole and I have been told it is a good read, but it does not have much Frodo in it.  Sorry.  Because of what goes on in this chapter, my OC will be out of the way for a while and I will be concentrating on some Frodo, Primula and Drogo interactions as they struggle to overcome this injury in the next chapters.

I have also found that when this chapter was posted on, none of the people who usually get author alerts from me got them.  So, if I haven't run into you lately to tell you that I had a new chapter up, then I am telling you now. :p

Fear Chapter 12 - Like Father, Like Son


Dody was surprised how easily he took to the exercise of stealth and deception. It was almost as if he had been bred to perform acts of thievery and deceit, or at least trained from infancy to perform them. He walked past the main hall, saw in hand, with hardly a comment from any of the older hobbits who whiled away the day sunning themselves in the entry garden. He wasn't sure if that was a testament to his unruffled façade or because an afternoon of gossiping over an injured child, his relations and their affected prospects had made them even more interested in their upcoming teatime than was usual. Past Brandy Hall's expansive gates and gardens, the main road led north and slightly east so that it drew away from the river. The land was low rolling hills, not as impressive as the mass of the Buck Hill, but enough so that the road ahead was often lost amid the rise and fall of the well worn way. Even if someone had seen Dody leave Buckleberry, they would probably have assumed he was headed towards the apple orchards that grew in the rich black soil between the road and the river. His casual turning onto the overgrown eastward-leading trail might have raised an eyebrow or two had any seen him do it.

The path was deserted but Dody stole along it as quietly as a hobbit could. Sunlight lit the wings of drowsing insects and the airborne seeds of aspen and elm, filling the air with drifting motes of yellow light. The site seemed peaceful, contented. It hardly seemed possible that mere hours before painful and irreversible things had happened beneath the shade of these trees.

It was waning afternoon and the light had a quality that usually soothed the mind and filled the heart. If Dody's errand had not been so dire, he would have paused in that wood and drunk up the haze of quiet like a draught of strong wine. Afternoons like this reminded him of his mother. For as long as Dody could remember, it had been Lacy Brandybuck's ritual to spend teatime with her children. She had called it her 'constitutional' - and she had cherished the interludes as much as her children had. When Dody was very small, he and his sisters would gather around to hear stories and relate to each other the passing fancy and gossip of the Hall, but as his sisters matured and discovered more entertaining ways to spend their teatimes, Dody had kept the custom alone.

He had been a prideful child then; haughty and arrogant. He would frequently assert, to cousins who barely noticed his existence, that he was too old to be coddled, but hazy, sunlit afternoons would inexorably draw him back to the comfort of his mother's arms. The two of them would meet in the garden under the shade of an old hawthorn and sip tea. Sometimes they would talk of simple things and sometimes the subjects would drift into realms of meaning that had made Dody's head spin. He had not always understood what his dear mother said, but to hear her voice and feel the comfort of her hand gently stroking his dark curls had been enough for him. He would lay his head in his mother's lap and there, beneath the shade of the trees, he had been content to be her baby.

He wondered if she had a garden where she was now, and if he saw her again, would she even want him to lay his head upon her knee?

Despair had become such a familiar emotion that it did not even inspire tears any more.

Dody had fallen into a sort of fatal calm. He knew what he had to do. The voices in his mind had hushed in expectant silence, watching and waiting as he went through the flawlessly silent motions of a master thief. He reached the tree that Frodo had fallen from earlier in the day and climbed it with unwavering single-mindedness. At the broken branch he cut through the hinge of wood that still held it and watched without emotion as it snagged on the branches below him. The necklace sparkled in the fading light. Dody climbed to it carefully and pulled it out of its green perch.

Lying there in the palm of his hand, the trinket seemed smaller than he remembered it. It was the same necklace that he had often seen gracing the neck of his beloved mother, but with a sudden flash of insight, Dody realized that no part of that gentle hobbit lady was mirrored in its sparkling facets. It had nothing to do with her. It was truly just an ornament, a thing; cold and timeless and it held no more respect for or memories of his mother than it had the elven ladies it might once have adorned. It did not remember any of them, nor did it care that it had inspired him to a thievery that might have, in turn, caused the death of an innocent. He turned it idly in his hands watching the afternoon light lifting specks of color from the gems' fathomless depths. Lovely as it was, Dody was pained to realize that he valued the soft cotton shawl he had snatched from his mother's deathbed infinitely more. At least in those beloved folds, he could still smell his mother and could still imagine her soft fingers in his hair while he held it. This impersonal trinket, bereft of the treasure it had graced - his warm and living mother- had lost any hold it might once have had on him. Let Marietta wear the cursed thing! She would certainly make no more impression on it than had his mother. Without another thought he pocketed the gems and began his descent.


It was well dark by the time Dody approached his home. One window in the parlor glowed golden with the light of an oil lamp but the rest of the smial was unlit. Dody approached the back gate, planning to slip in through the garden door, the entry furthest from the parlor. With luck, his father and his new wife would not even know when he had returned.

The kitchen was dark, but Dody knew the room well. He crept inside and drew the door closed. The cabinets were to his right and the kitchen table to his left. The pantry also lay to the left and was dug deep into the hill to keep perishables cool. He touched the chair and the table to ascertain their positions and moved through the warm darkness in a desperate sort of silence. Even his breathing was noiseless. He was long practiced at this kind of stealth and knew the briefest bump of a chair leg or shuffle of stumbling feet would alert his father that he was sneaking into the house.

His plan was to slip into Marietta's parlor and, if convenient, place the necklace somewhere inconspicuous but visible so that the lady would be sure to find it. With luck, Marietta would think she herself mislaid them, or perhaps she would be too leery of Dodinas' wrath to announce the loss before a thorough search was made. If his luck was bad, as was usual, and the necklace was already known to be missing, he would confess that he had only wanted to see the gems - that seeing them brought back fond memories of the mother he loved and missed. That excuse would certainly be believed, and though he might be punished for taking the jewels, none would be the wiser of his involvement in Frodo's deadly fall.

Dody was first aware that he was not alone by the sound of another's breathing. He instantly recognized the raggedly drawn inhalation that seethed with barely contained fury. His father sat somewhere in the shadows of the room, waiting for him. Dody paused, feeling the sickly drop of panic shiver through his bowels and the blood draining from his face. He was caught! He heard movement and the shade of a lantern was lifted, revealing, in its meager light, his father's profile and the side of one meaty arm. Dodinas sat at the table, scowling but with the light of satisfaction gleaming in his cold eyes. He held his anger in check but Dody knew it would not stay there long. A mug was on the table and the boy could smell the ale on his father's breath. There was an eager hitch in his father's wheezes that terrified Dody. Was he angry enough to strike him? To have a hapless victim at his mercy, to have a reason to torment and abuse was Dodinas' meat and bread and Dody knew it all too well, but he had only once seen his father irate enough to actually beat him, and Dody had barely survived the encounter.

"Where've you been, boy?" his father growled. Dody's insides chilled further at the tone of voice. Dody's luck had not held; Dodinas knew about the necklace. Dody was as certain of that as he had been of his father's ignorance earlier. Over the course of the afternoon, he must have learned of the theft - and had deduced, correctly, who the thief had been. Dody could hear the dangerous thrill in his father's voice. He was angry and wanted to punish his son - an activity that always seemed to give the older hobbit an obscene measure of pleasure. Dody had learned to predict the magnitude of the impending punishment by the level of eagerness he could hear in his father's voice. This time his father sounded exuberant. Necklace returned or not, Dody would pay for his folly.

"I... I've been..."

"DON'T LIE TO ME, BOY!" Dodinas hissed, not even waiting for the excuse. This was the way they always played this game - and both father and son were old hands at it. Dody would offer up heartfelt explanations but in the end, Dodinas would cow him down. If Dody submitted, his punishment would be less severe, but if he tried to protest his innocence, Dodinas would be merciless. Dody's panicked mind spun. His hand clenched onto his pocket and he felt the smooth hardness of the now hateful jewels. For an instant it seemed as if Dody's world stood still. He looked at his father and saw the fury in those hard, dark eyes. He rubbed the gems, and incomprehensibly, a thrill of triumph rose and sang in his ears, filling him like a heady draught of strong wine. The germ of an idea was forming in his mind and the realization of it filled him with both hope and horror. Dody had been seeking his own death, but he had not had the strength to accomplish it, and yet here, in the cruel and violent form that was slowly coming to its feet before him, was his answer.

The gems were found and now returned to the home to which they belonged. The child who had fallen would likely die of his injuries and the only thing that would remain of the whole unhappy incident would be the gnawing guilt that would eat up Dody Brandybuck's insides. And yet here was a possible salvation. Only once before had Dody seen his father as angry as he was now, and that had been the night he'd almost been killed. What if he could get his father angry enough, infuriate him until he lost control again? The older hobbit might just succeed this time. The thought made Dody's head spin. Hobbits did not kill - it was a concept totally alien and purposeless to them, but Dodinas had almost done it before. That time had taught Dody a terrifying lesson: that his mother had been his protector all those years, and that now that she was gone, he was at the mercy of a hobbit who had none. Though, perhaps, he could use even that dearly paid for knowledge. It would be an elegant solution to his dilemma. His guilt would no longer plague him and his father would stand accused of a crime more heinous than any in Dody's memory. The dark lure of that revenge sang in his ears. Dody raised his chin and stared into his father's dark and glittering eyes.

Though he had never actually tried to anger his father, he had a good idea of what would do it. He had always before tried desperately to placate not enrage, but Dody was fairly sure that if he tried to resist, to fight back, his father would strike him. The chill of fear ran up his back but with it this time came also a spark of defiance. Oh, it would be worth his life to see his hateful father brought low! Dody had killed, or at least been the cause of severe injury to Frodo Baggins, a child whose life was precious to many, unlike his own. There was nothing he could do to change that, but if, in his final living act, he could bring his own father to justice for his cruelty... THAT would be worth any amount of pain.

"You stole that necklace, didn't you?!" Dodinas growled. "And now your stepmother is off to tell Rory about it going missing. She left me a note, but I needed no note to figure exactly where the thing had gone. Your sneaking, thieving little fingers snatched it, didn't they? And now the whole Hall will know of your indiscretions!" Dodinas halted mere inches from Dody's face, his hot, ale-sodden breath blowing cruelly onto Dody's chilled skin. "You know how much I dislike the family meddling in my private affairs." The boy stiffened, willing his heart to remain resolute.

"It was my mother's...," he said softly, the dangerous edge to his voice nearly buried by fear. "You had not the right," he finished, in a barely audible tone.

Dodinas grasped his son's collar and shook the boy harshly. "You DARE to tell me what I can and cannot do with my own things?!!?" His eyes were lit with a cruel fire, his mouth was specked with spittle and his face was flushed as red as a radish. "YOU are the one with no right, boy... " He shoved back hard and Dody's body slammed into the cabinetry. Flashes of light exploded behind his eyes, but Dody still somehow kept his feet. "You have NOTHING that belongs to you here, it is all mine. ALL of it - and I say where my things will go." He slammed his son's head against the casement again and this time Dody had to shut his eyes to keep the world from spinning. "'Going to tell Rory'! Ha! I could have told her where that necklace had got to. Now she's gone and told the whole Hall my son is a worthless thief! Airing our private business...!" He gripped Dody's shirtfront tighter. "It's none of their affair what goes on inside this house, is it, boy?"

Dody's instinctive response of a panic stricken assertion rose almost before he had a chance to squelch it, but he mastered it with a newfound, hideous resolve. No, he thought forcing his own anger to the fore. Something odd was happening to him. Despite the fact that he knew his goal was to enrage his father, knew he ultimately was trying to get his father to beat him to death, something inside of him seemed to thrill with the chance to finally be allowed to fight him. He knew he was no match for the stocky hobbit. He had been born with his mother's build: lithe and wiry, and at 20 years, was already late in filling out, but though he knew what would result from a conflict between them, he was still elated to try. At last, he would stand up to his father! Even if his resistance were squashed the instant it rose, it would be worth the effort of defiance! He stiffened his back and scrambled to regain his feet.

"Yes, I took it..." Dody's voice sounded high and strange in his own ears. "I was not willing to see my mother's memory discarded." He tried to pry his father's gripping hand from his shirt, but Dodinas was not moved. "I took it and cast it away," he lied. "Into the river! You shall never have it, Father. Never!" This last was uttered more as a strangled shriek than as enraged defiance, but Dody's eyes blazed with maniacal fury, now much more stirred by rebellion than by the opportunity to seek his own death. He struggled and kicked, connecting once hard to Dodinas' gut and then Dodinas, with a furious roar, struck him across the face so brutally that he dropped to the floor.

Coppery-tasting blood filled his mouth and Dody looked up to see the shadowed but infuriated face of his father bearing down on him. Though his head spun and his eyes refused to focus, he took his opportunity and swung his right arm up and wide as hard as he could.

The blow connected with Dodinas' ear and the older hobbit howled in pain. Dody allowed a flitting smile of satisfaction to cross his face. As Dodinas staggered back, Dody struggled to his knees, his own wrath driving him on to attack his attacker. He pushed his sluggish limbs to try and regain his feet as quickly as possible. Rage filled his belly and while it did, he knew he must use it, but he had only one foot under him when Dodinas returned more enraged than he had ever been in his life.

He kicked Dody hard in the belly, a blow that drove the air from the boy's lungs and his ribs mercilessly into his side. Dody dropped to the ground again and tried to curl around the agony in his middle, but the blows kept coming, peppering his side and arms with pain. Again and again Dodinas kicked and Dody, trapped between the cabinet and his father's vicious feet, could neither escape nor attack. Pain and fear filled him and the impacts blurred until he could not tell one from the other. His vision dimmed and even the sharp edges of his pain blurred and ran together.

It was working. Dody's body went limp and he could no longer even serve the pretense of fight or flight. His will remained maniacally defiant, but his tormented frame was being battered beyond response. Dodinas continued to pummel the boy with abandon, his fury seemingly enraged tenfold by the child's earlier show of will. It was as if Dodinas wanted to reach Dody's fleeing consciousness and beat that into submission as well, but Dody's mind was already drifting, hardly aware of the relentless abuse his slim body was receiving. He had done it. He would be free. He had succeeded in driving his father beyond reason. If he had been able he would have laughed.


The shriek of a horrified female voice broke through Dody's bloody reverie. Marietta. 'Oh, good,' he thought inanely. Now his father would turn his wrath upon her. Dody almost wished he could focus on the scene, it would be worth seeing, but his eyes were filled with blood and his were lids quickly stiffening with pain and swelling. The words shouted above him drifted into his dazed thought.

"What in the sweet Shire's name are you DOING?!"

Dodinas stood, breathless, and backed away from his son, slowly looking down as if only just realizing what had transpired. Marietta Gould Brandybuck, her shawl still wrapped about her shoulders, set her taper to the lamp against the wall and the small kitchen filled with light. She was an imposing matron, severe and thin but as tall as Dodinas and even more formidable. Her dark curls were drawn back in a tight bun and her dark cotton bodice and gown were austere and impeccably tailored; stiff refinement in stark contrast to the scene of brutality before her.

"Sweet heavens!" Marietta gasped as she stepped aside and allowed the lamp to illuminate Dody's battered face. The boy blinked stupidly at her and raised a sluggish arm to shield his swollen eyes from the light. He looked like a runaway cart had hit him. Marietta rounded on Dodinas in an instant of fury that even the height of his madness had not matched. "What kind of idiot are you?!" she shrieked and knelt beside the child to check his pulse.

The second daughter of five in a family that had had little, Marietta had grown up keenly aware of how to take care of herself both socially and financially. Her marriage to Dodinas was unusual, in that hobbits rarely remarried, but it had been an arrangement of necessity and convenience. After Lacy's death, Dodinas' habitual cruelty to his son became a secret embarrassment to the family. It was considered distasteful to discuss or interfere in such private affairs, but when Dodinas beat his son it became impossible to ignore. Rory Brandybuck, believing that marriage had settled him before, sought a bride for Dodinas - one who could control him and who also didn't mind having the use of his fortune. Though Dody knew nothing of the arrangement, Dodinas had been vaguely aware he had little choice but to marry Marietta. Luckily, he had found enough of similar temperament between them to find the arrangement comfortable. For her part, Marietta had been contented as well. She had a place in the powerful family, a lovely home, and a hobbit to provide for her. It was all that she had expected from her life and she was not about to risk any part of it.

Dody jumped at her cool touch, unable to see her through the blood and only becoming aware of her nearness by the rustle of her petticoats. Marietta touched his neck, and took in the sight of his bloody nose, swollen eyes and split and bleeding lips. Satisfied that the child did indeed live, she allowed one look of horror to pass unobserved over her face and then composed herself with an almost professional detachment, as if she, while furious at the condition of her stepson, was not at all surprised to see it. She got to her feet and faced her husband, her face livid. "You could have killed him!" she hissed. "What kind of fool are you? Where would that act have left you, my dear? And more importantly, where would that have left your daughters and me?! Have you no sense?"

Dodinas stepped back, his rage cooling as the logical tack of her argument struck home. "He's the one who stole your necklace!" he protested.

"I deduced that much!" Marietta shot back in disgust. "He's the only one who'd have been likely to steal in this house."

"Then why did you go to Rory?" growled Dodinas back at her, still defiant though now beginning to panic as he realized the position he had placed himself in.

The look Marietta then favored him with was as cold as the cruelest steel. She glanced down at the feebly twitching form of Dody and, with an arched brow, looked back at Dodinas. Her disgust was obvious. "To report the theft, and to let him know whom I suspected, of course. But if I'd thought you would be foolish enough to do this ..." she hissed, then shook her head. "Most folk won't kill their own kind, let alone their flesh and blood....," she continued. "But you have already proven your stupidity in that regard. I see it was too optimistic of me to presume you had learned your lesson the first time." Dodinas stiffened, but could not counter her, especially with the evidence still lying bloody on the floor. "This will be hard to explain, Dodinas." She gestured idly towards his son. "Do you want to be banished? Do you want the family to forsake you? Dody may be a miserable brat, but he is your son, and a child. Do you really think that the Brandybucks will tolerate you doing this to a child?!?" Dodinas let out a sudden breath, the weight of her words and the import of his situation apparently sinking in. He also looked down at his son and his previously red and furious face paled. "I've made a life here, Dodinas," she continued. "And I like it. I don't wish to have it disrupted because of your idiocy. You were warned once before - and whether you realize it or not, you were almost banished then. Remember why you agreed to marry me, Dodinas, and why I agreed to be wed."

Dodinas pulled back as if bitten and stared at his wife as she again bent to see to Dody. If they bore each other little love, at least they keenly understood one another. He respected her and the power she wielded within the Brandybuck family, she being cousin to Menegilda, but it seemed respect alone was not enough to keep his vile temperment in check.

"He says he threw it in the river," Dodinas continued, almost apologetically. "I lost my head..."

"Yes, you did," Marietta agreed. "You should try engaging your mind first for a change. He would not have discarded something that precious. Aha!" She had been running her hands over Dody's feebly resisting form searching for broken bones when her questing fingers encountered the hard bulge in his pocket. She wormed her way into the garment and pulled the gems triumphantly forth. "You see? Even your son is not stupid enough to throw something this valuable away! You should have had more confidence." She looked over her shoulder disdainfully at her husband.

Dodinas swallowed, looking resentful at her assertion, but he masked it quickly. "'Boy's a fool. I know him better than you do. Throwing those jewels away would have been just like him. I think you have far too much confidence in him."

"Perhaps, but in the end, I was correct, was I not?"

Dodinas grudgingly nodded. "Well, the blasted thing is back - and that would've been the end of it, if you hadn't gone to Rory. He's my son and I'll settle him as I see fit. It's no business of theirs what goes on in my own house."

Marietta again looked at him coldly and stood. Righteous indignation vied with contempt in her gaze and Dodinas' own guilt answered it. He squirmed, wishing he could take back his suddenly foolish seeming words. "No one has the 'right' to do this." She pulled herself up to her full height and stared him levelly in the eye. "By these kinds of actions, you have made it their business, Dodinas. Do you think Rory likes interfering in such matters? Of course not, but you have forced his hand. You have not acted wisely and have raised a child that few can stand and fewer can handle. But he's a Brandybuck - and Rory's responsibility, ultimately. As distasteful as he finds it, your brother has deemed it necessary to interfere. And I feel the same." She looked down at the lethargic Dody who was struggling painfully to sit up and motioned Dodinas forward. "Come," she said with brusque efficiency. "Help him to his room. He will need to be cleaned and his injuries dressed and I will not do that on the kitchen floor."

Dodinas bent and lifted his son. Dody groaned and stiffened when he realized who was aiding him and tried to slink back against the cabinets, but his trembling body was too weak to evade his tormentor. Dodinas, with incongruous tenderness, moved Dody's fending arms aside and pulled him to his chest. His encircling arms trembled and he laid his cheek against Dody's sweat slicked curls. "Why do you make me do these things to you?" he asked in the barest of pained whispers. Then, aloud and to Marietta, he asked, "And what do you propose to do now, my sweet? As you say, if I am banished, your home, and my fortune are forfeit."

"Unfortunately, yes," Marietta answered carrying the taper she had held aloft and guiding them back to Dody's room. "But I do have other options - ones that will, I think, turn out best for all concerned."

Dody had never in his lifetime known such impossible rage. He had also never felt quite so powerless to express it. He hated his father more at that moment than he had ever done in his life, but he loathed Marietta even more. Why had she interfered? His lovely plan had gone as wrong as it could possibly have. He'd paid his due, taken the blows and yet he had gotten nothing for his sacrifice but pain. No blissful release of death, no Dodinas in irons, no Marietta turned out of his mother's home. Nothing had gone as he had desperately needed it to. And now he was being held and comforted by the vile creature whose hands had caused the agony! It was too much to bear! Tears of rage squeezed out of his swollen eyes and he struggled to free himself from his father's hold. If Dody could not get any of what he had sought then he would not let his father assuage his guilt by caring for him now. He arched his back and cried out as his father's grip tightened over his bruised ribs.

"Just let me carry you, Dody. It will be easier this way."

"No!" the boy protested through thickened lips. "Don't you touch me! Never touch me again!" He continued to struggle, but even he could see how futile the effort was. His strength was waning rapidly as the bruised tissue stiffened and grew hot, but he could not bring himself to stop. It was as if a dam had burst and he could no longer hold back the defiance and rage he had loosed. His father sighed and squeezed his fingers into Dody's shoulder in a guilty show of compassion. Dody felt ill. Dodinas had been like this the last time too; so guilt ridden by his incomprehensible actions that for a while he had actually been kind to his son. That had been the first time in his life Dody had felt he had some power over his father. It had been an odd feeling but had only lasted until the bruises had faded.

They reached Dody's room and laid him on the bed. He rolled across the mattress and plastered himself sullenly against the wall, out of reach of either of his persecutors. After a few moments he heard them whispering to each other and then there was the sound of the door being closed and locked. Dody sagged, exhausted from his torment and finding the strength and resolve that rage had given him quickly ebbing. In the quiet darkness of his room, he found himself wondering if he had inherited his father's lack of common sense as well as his temper. What in the world had he been thinking? He hurt everywhere! From the tips of his ears to the toenails on his furry feet! That he had brought this upon himself, deliberately, now seemed the most desperate kind of folly. He suddenly felt too tired, too heartsick and too lost to feel even hatred. All he desperately wanted at that moment was his mother's touch. She would have stroked his brow, wiped his bruises with tincture and murmured soft words of comfort in his ear. Oh, how he ached for her then! He tried to remember her face and though images of her movement, a sweep of skirts or the graceful arch of her hand came easily to mind, he had trouble seeing the rest of her. Was he losing those memories already? He focused on the vision of her hand as it moved the curls from his face. Yes, he could see that and could almost feel her soft fingertips on his heated skin. She would have been proud that he had brought the necklace back. She would have thought it brave. He sighed and with the beloved image of his mother foremost in his thoughts, he fell into a pained and uneasy sleep.


She was wiping his face.

Oh, she had come back! Why had she left him for so long? He sighed as he felt her removing his shirt, gently holding his stiff, sore limbs to fold the fabric back. In his dream, he heard her soft exclamation and the hurt and sorrow in that cry smote his heart. He was sorry that he had distressed her - he had not wanted to - but he would explain that it was only for her love that he had done it - to perhaps reach her in that place she had gone to. He yielded to her tender touch as she rolled him onto his side and with infinite care, removed the rest of his garments. Half in his dream he felt her bathing his heated limbs. Everywhere the cloth touched his skin was soothed, his aches made a little less painful and his muscles a bit less contracted. There were herbs in the water she used; thyme, mint, and something with an acrid scent that bit but passed its soothing numbness deep into his battered body. Movement became easier, but as his pain eased, consciousness struggled to rise. He did not want to wake. This dream was far more pleasant than his waking reality. He wanted to cherish it and her blessed, welcome presence for as long as possible. She had come back to him and that was all he knew or cared.

But that realization itself gave him pause. As reason reasserted itself, he understood that this could not be his mother. She was dead and long gone, and because his attempt had failed, he could not be feeling her longed for hand against his cheek. The clink of crockery and the elegant whisper of rich fabric greeted his returning senses. No, this was not his mother who tended him. A pang of regret seized his heart as the illusion faded, but he pushed on towards consciousness.

He still ached horribly. His ribs hurt with every shallowly drawn breath and his face was hot and swollen. If he lay perfectly still, it was not as bad, but when he tried to open his eyes, his body protested and the automatic grimace of pain that ensued caused its own suite of misery.

"Don't…" came the gentle voice that had exclaimed over his injuries earlier. Dody was puzzled. He almost didn't recognize the voice. He had never heard Marietta speak to him with anything even resembling tenderness, but it was definitely her talking. Her hand stroked his forehead and Dody was too shocked by this uncharacteristic action to think to pull away. There was a sound like the touch of glass on glass and then the soft murmur of liquid pouring. Marietta slipped a hand under his head and carefully raised it while putting a cup to his lips.

"Drink," she said. "It's brandy and willow bark. It will ease your pain and make you sleepy again."

Dody obeyed, still in too much wonder to resist. The drink had been sweetened but was still bitter and biting. He almost gagged, but knew the relief it would bring and so forced the concoction down. When he had finished the drink, he managed to get one eye open a crack and looked up at Marietta sitting beside him on the bed. He stared at her wordlessly for a long moment, not knowing what else to do.

"The usual response is to say 'thank you'," she offered with slight grin. Dody sighed and closed his eyes, too weary and confused to trust his voice. "I will take that as said," she added softly laying his head back down and returning the cup to the table.

For many long minutes Dody just lay there letting the brandy's fire warm his belly and begin to spread gentle feelers through his limbs. It did feel better, but Dody was loath to admit it. His long hatred of Marietta and the character he had always assumed for her was at complete odds with her current actions. He didn't want to see her as other than the enemy, but he could not deny the kindness she had shown and he was in no condition to refuse it. He opened his eye again to study her.

She was looking back at him. Her face again displayed the mask of gentle amusement that Dody had always interpreted as disdain. He had thought her haughty and cold, but now he wondered if he had been incorrect in his assessment. There was concern in her eyes and sadness, but these were tempered by efficient practicality. It was irony that he perceived, not haughtiness. She saw much that she could do nothing about and instead of despairing over it, she did what was needful, what she could, and took note of the rest.

"You are welcome," she said smiling wryly.

"…I…I'm sowwy…" His lips seemed as reluctant to form the words as Dody felt to speak them but Marietta nodded graciously, perhaps sensing the effort it took for him to thank her. He started to shift in his discomfort but thought better of it as his bruises protested.

Marietta pulled the blanket back over him and laid a kindly and ever so gentle hand on his shoulder. She sat unmoving for a moment, looking out the small round window that opened onto Dody's room. For the first time the boy noticed that it was morning and the cheery light was spilling in as if nothing dreadful had happened the night before.

"This was very foolish, you realize," she said and then regarded him sadly. "I know you can see what he is like… and I know you dislike what he is, but can't you see that you are following that same path?" She frowned. "Do you want to be like him?" She shook her head. "I am not your mother, Dody, but I do care what happens to you. Not enough, perhaps, to put up with your temper and sullenness, your very apparent hatred of me and wanton disregard of my property…" She spared him a look of disapproval. "…But enough to want to see you done right by. If you could have once seen beyond your hate, you would have seen that I could help you. Even your father was able to recognize aid when he saw it." She straightened and took her hand away to lay it primly in her lap. "Be that as it may, I believe you deserve to be given a chance at the very least."

"…you needn't…" he began.

An arched eyebrow stayed him. "On the contrary, my dear boy, you have made it imperative that I do something. I won't have you ruining my home with your impetuous behavior. You and Dodinas are too alike; you clash like two bulls in the same pasture. I should have done this two years ago, but I suppose late is better than never at all."


"I am sending you away, Dody. For your protection and for mine. Dodinas could still be banished but I think with this solution we might be able to permanently avoid such embarrassments. You are going to live with my cousin, Menegilda, until you come of age and can go your own way." She paused, letting her words and their import settle into his brain. "I doubt Mene would want you either but she will definitely agree you cannot stay here. Your uncle will be your guardian from now on, and let us hope you can recognize this change of fortune as the boon it most undoubtedly is."

Dody could not think what to say. He did not even know what to feel. Leave his home? Truly, with his mother gone he had nothing that held him here; even the memories of her presence in the various rooms were fading, but to leave? He looked out the small window to see green leaves stirring against the pane. There was a time when the image of that sunny garden automatically made him think of what he had lost, but it had been too long since he'd lost it and new unhappy memories were replacing the old beloved ones. He thought of what it might be like living in Menegilda's home, with her fine furnishings and pristine parlor. She had always been kind to him if not overtly warm, but then, he chided himself, what reason had he ever given his relatives for warmth towards him? Living in Brandy Hall had to be preferable to dealing with either his father or his wife, however kind she was currently being. This newfound 'generosity' could probably be attributed to Marietta's recognition of an opportunity to rid herself of a problem, but whatever the reason for it, Dody found he was not adverse to the idea of leaving. Perhaps in the hall he would be given a chance to start again, see if he could make his own way without the strangling oppression of his father's tyranny. Perhaps he could even make amends for the injury his thoughtless acts had caused to Frodo Baggins. It was a way that he could assuage his guilt without anyone ever knowing he had played a role in the accident. That thought suddenly gave him the most incredible sense of lightness, of exhilaration, relief and excitement. Despite his injuries he felt the urge to get up at once and leave that hateful place.

"… when?…" The word was difficult to say through his swollen lips, but Marietta seemed to understand.

"Well, I'll not take you up in daylight looking like that. We'll see how you are doing this evening. If you are up to travel, I will guide you to the Hall and we will slip you in by Menegilda's smial. I believe it would be unseemly for any to see you in your present condition so we will try and avoid that if possible. I also believe it would be wiser if you were never to speak of this again to anyone. Do you understand? Mene will know, and Rory, of course, but it is not something the rest of the Hall would be comfortable hearing. I think it would be best for all concerned if it remained a secret. Perhaps you should consider that a condition of our 'deal'?" Dody was too achy to nod but Marietta assumed his affirmative. "Alright then! I am glad you see the logic of this, Dody. I truly am interested in your welfare - and think you deserve far better than you have got. Take this chance and make a life for yourself. You have the prospect of growing into something other than what your father has become. Please, for your own sake if there is no one else you would swear by, don't throw away this opportunity."

The drug was taking effect and Dody was beginning to feel too quiet and sleepy to even nod. He closed his eyes and felt the world slipping away from beneath his lids. Hope, so long forgotten, buoyed him and he felt optimistic for the first time in years. It was not enough to keep his drugged mind alert, but it was enough for him to find peace in the dreams that filled his tranquil sleep.


<< Back

Next >>

Leave Review
Home     Search     Chapter List