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Not So Harmless

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Pain was something Belba Baggins was well acquainted with, more so than the average Hobbit should be but then not a soul in the Shire would consider Belba an Average Hobbit… Not anymore anyway.

Belba had been young when the Fell Winter hit, teaching her the truth of hardship. Winters in the Shire had always been mild but not that year, that year the chill was relentless but their ignorance was the Shire’s biggest regret. None had expected such a harsh or long winter so appropriate supplies were not stored and rationing was introduced too late, starvation, illness and practically feral wolves lay siege to the Hobbits and claimed many lives including Belba’s father. The Fell Winter taught Belba the pain of the body and the soul as grief struck their family but the worst was yet to come.

After the loss of her father Belba’s mother, Belladonna Took-Baggins, began the slow and painful process of fading. Belba was forced to watch, barely a tween and years yet from her majority, as her mother slowly wasted away. Belladonna held on as long as she could but before long she was bed ridden, unable to care for herself and incapable of caring for her daughter. That was when the families stepped in.

Being a Hobbit meant having a large and often overbearing family, being a Baggins meant having no say as said overbearing family moved themselves into Bagend to care for Belba and her mother.

Belba was only 30 when her mother finally passed away, she was returned to the earth in a simple ceremony but Belba remembered little of it. What she did remember came in flashes of disjointed conversations and memories as her family decided what to do with her. Belba was too close to her majority for another family to adopt her and move in to Bagend but she was too young and deemed too vulnerable to be left alone. That’s how it was decided that Belba should be married.

Arranged marriages were not unheard of within Hobbit society but nor were they exactly common, even less so where a Hobbit is not yet at their majority and has no say in the spouse but that’s how it was for Belba. She met her groom-to-be merely days before the wedding and spoke not a word to him until they were exchanging vows. He was a handsome enough Hobbit, taller than Belba and appropriately portly but he came from what was considered a lesser family. He was a very distant relative by marriage on the Sackville-Baggins side so it was decided that he would take on the Baggins name and move in with Belba. Not usually the practice but as she was considered a young heiress an exception was made. Tobias however was a very proud Hobbit and didn’t appreciate the way other Hobbits considered his new bride to be more than him in every way. More respectable, more wealthy, more attractive, simply more and so Tobias Baggins felt it was his right as Belba’s husband to put her in what he considered to be her place.

Belba was too young to realise what was happening as she became house bound on her new Husband’s orders, as he took control of her house and her money slowly but surely isolating her from her friends and family. Tobias also wanted children, children to reinforce his place as head of the house and to bolster his position within the Baggins family but try as he might, and he tried plenty, he could not get Belba with child. Tobias was not a gentle husband, so it stood to reason he was not a gentle lover, the more desperate he became the rougher he grew. Some days Belba was glad she was not allowed to leave Bagend, at least it meant that she would be spared the pitying glances or demanding interrogations as her fellow Hobbits saw her bruises.

The years passed in a blur for Belba, Tobias began drinking more, shouting more and lashing out more but Belba tried to take it all in stride, tried to do her duty as a wife but it was a struggle; at least until the incident just short of ten years after they exchanged vows.

Tobias came home late one night; he’d been drinking with his friends at the Green Dragon and Belba had been at home waiting with his dinner. He came barrelling drunkenly through the door, shouting and singing as he swayed precariously through the smial. Belba was sitting at the dining table, as was expected of her, cold meal untouched while waiting for Tobias to return. Seeing her husband’s drunken state Belba lost her apetite and began to clear the food from the table as Tobias stomped into the pantry in search of more ale, he was not pleased when he found the cask empty.

The drunken Hobbit trapped his wife in the kitchen, shouting at Belba as she filled the sink and began to wash the dishes.

“Where’s the ale wench…” Tobias slurred, shaking his empty tankard.

“You drank it all Tobias, that’s why you went to the tavern. The weekly delivery is due tomorrow, there will be more then.” Belba said with a sigh, she was so very tired. She tried not to flinch as she felt Tobias’s hands pulling her away from the sink.

“Well if there’s no ale to be had then you’d best keep me entertained like a good little wife” Tobias had a feral look on his face as he pulled Belba in for a rough, wet kiss. The smell of alcohol made the young Hobbit lass want to throw up, she thought that she probably would have if she’d eaten anything past breakfast that day. Soap covered hands pushed uselessly against the body before her as Belba turned away from the kiss.

“Please stop Tobias, you’ve been drinking and I’ve chores…” Belba didn’t get to finish her protest as her Husband’s hand made contact with her face.

“If I wanted ye’ ta talk lass I’d ‘ave told ye’ to.” He growled, grabbing Belba by the shoulders and shaking her.

Belba wanted to cry out, the pain radiating from her cheek and from Tobias’s grip on her arms throbbing through her smaller frame, but she knew from experience the more noise she made the worse his reaction. So Belba tried to do what she always did when Tobias got like this, she tried to shut down and let her mind go blank. However, it seemed this time Tobias was sober enough to notice the blankness of her expression, so he struck her again and again until she came back to herself and the pain of her reality.

“Ye’ think I’ll let ye run away from me? I own you Belba Baggins” he spat her name as though it were a slur, as though it felt filthy on his tongue. “Until death do us part sweetheart… though perhaps I should do something about that, you’re not as comely as you were and what use is a barren spouse.”

“Tobias what are you saying?” Belba cried, falling out of his slackened grip and against the sink, her hands reaching out to steady herself.

“I’m young enough to remarry and with Bagend to call my own I’d have my pick of the pretty young lasses” A wicked glint in his eye the Hobbit stepped forward threateningly, hands reaching for Belba’s throat. “I could make it look like an accident, or suicide. No one’s seen you in long enough, they wouldn’t question it…”
Belba reached behind her, hands seeking something with which to defend herself. Her desperately grasping hand came in to contact with chilled metal and just as Tobias lunged forward Belba pulled her hands in front of her cradling the carving knife she’d used for dinner against her sternum. Belba fell against the sink with the force of Tobias’s weight against her, forcing her to release the knife and instead grasp his hands around her throat. Belba tried to struggle against him, kicked out and tried to scream but she couldn’t get enough air. Absently she felt a damp warmth spreading across her chest, probably her lungs finally giving in but then the grip around her throat slackened enough that she could take a large breath and Belba screamed. Screamed in a way that she’d always longed to but had been too afraid to do, she screamed like her life depended on it, even as clumsy hands tried to cover her mouth, because this time it did.

Tobias was glaring at her and pulling her down to the ground with his weight alone as Belba heard banging on the door, desperate calls of her name from the familiar voices of her neighbour Hamfast and Bell Gamgee.

“Please, help me!” Belba screamed as loudly as she could “He’s going to kill me…” Those hands were around her throat again but this time the previous strength was lacking but Tobias’s weight on her body was enough to limit her breathing ability and the wet warmth was spreading further each second. Until suddenly his weight was pulled of her.

Belba’s vision swap as her lungs finally got enough air, she saw Tobias being held back by Hamfast and his brother Halfred as Bell fell to her knees beside Belba but Beba’s eyes were fixated on the blossoming red stain over Tobias’s shirt and the handle of her carving knife sticking out from his stomach, just below his ribs. As though in a trance Belba forced herself onto her feet, it was like being submerged underwater as she walked to Tobias despite the unheard warnings of those around her and grasped the knife. With what felt to her as incredible slowness but in reality took less than a moment she pulled the knife out and dropped it to the ground only to watch the red stain spread. Bell tried to run for a healer but Belba’s bloody hand on her wrist stopped her, Bell turned away but Belba watched as the Gamgee brothers lowered her slowly dying husband.

“Best call the watch” Belba said softly with a tired smile to the Gamgees, “I’ll put the kettle on”

The brothers left with a concerned look to Bell who merely nodded and waited with Belba, watching the broken lass as she put together a perfect tea service while stepping over her husband’s bleeding body careless of the blood on her hands or feet.