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He was beginning to annoy me.
I knew Boromir was trying to help us, and we certainly needed the help. After Weathertop, we all became aware of how dangerous Middle Earth could be for the four of us and how unprepared we were to defend ourselves. Merry, especially, had brooded about it off and on. I’d see that look of his, that frown of concentration, and I’d know that he was once again mulling over our ill preparedness.
How it came about that Boromir began to train us I do not know, but he started the evening of our second day out from Rivendell, gathering us around him, working with us as a group, in pairs and then one on one. Aragorn, ever watchful, would sometimes join in and then we’d all be clanging our swords around, drilling with these two magnificent warriors. We felt honored to have them teaching us, and we began to learn what we would have to know.
Well, some of us learned. Merry, Pip and Sam learned. I however, tended to mostly embarrass myself. I was doing my best, but it was so different from learning something new and fascinating from a book.
It wasn’t that the actual physical demands were too great. I am just as able-bodied as my friends are. I listened just as closely. I remembered the maneuvers. It was mostly learning by repetition, conditioning our limbs to obey without thinking, by instinct. The others seemed to have plenty of that to call upon. My instincts, however, well, I feared I had few, if any.
And that was the problem. I knew full well that I had to learn to fight, that we would be called upon to do so, perhaps soon. I was trying, but I felt clumsy and slow and awkward. I was poorly suited to this. Dear Sam tried so hard to help, probably too hard the first few days, stepping in when Boromir would ask something of me that made me hesitate:
“Come, Frodo! Show me what you should do when I attack you like this.”
“Uhh . . . .wait! Wait! Stop! That’s too fast!”
“You must be just as fast, little one.”
“Here, Mister Frodo, you remember. Boromir just showed us that. Look, you hold your sword like this, and this, and then you do this. Remember?”
“In a minute, Boromir. He’ll get it, won’t you, Mister Frodo?”
I truly love my Sam, and I know that everything this dear hobbit does he does for my sake, but oh, how such exchanges made me blush! After a few days Sam backed off and allowed me to blunder unaided. I suspect Boromir had asked him to stop helping me quite so much, and the warrior had been right to do so. I simply had to adapt to this new discipline. Sam could not do this for me. I would have to learn it on my own.
Boromir kept trying to drill into our hobbit heads that the sword was an extension of our arm, and if that was the case I’d dropped my arm right at the feet of the Ringwraiths that awful night at Amon Sûl. My terror in that moment . . . I can scarcely remember it in full it was so horrifying. But I do recall feeling as if the life was being sucked right out of me by that oppressive evil. My limbs refused to obey. To drop my sword at such a moment was bad enough, but then to trip, to fall backwards and to let myself be totally at their mercy!
Weathertop had taught me not only an appreciation for our danger, but that I had no facility for fighting, not even in order to defend myself. It was not a comfortable discovery to make, and only I could do something to change that.
I’ve since come to realize that I don’t have a heroic bone in my body. I lack assertiveness. Oh, I have a courage of sorts. I was brazen enough to stand up and volunteer to destroy the Ring, but how had I imagined I would actually do it, especially after having just recovered from nearly being killed by that Morgul Blade?
And now, even when being trained by two of surely the most capable, courageous warriors in all Middle Earth, I still couldn’t seem to find my nerve. Even Pip outdid me, although he always was a brash little scamp and of course he would love such rough carousing about. But I was beginning to feel humiliated by my uncertainty. I felt like a fraud. I felt degraded. And I felt like an embarrassment to my kinsmen.
After a week of this I despaired of the whole business. I began to dread stopping for the day and facing our training sessions. I began to find ways to put off joining in the lessons when called, holding out until Boromir would give me a stern look that I dared not challenge. I even began to long for Sam’s protection again, ashamed of such dishonorable thoughts. Then I found myself resenting Sam for not stepping in when Boromir was so relentless.
The man was beginning to annoy me.
“You are not doing him any favors by indulging his ill-manners.”
I looked up to see Gimli approaching. He plunked down near me on the low boulder and gave me a sidelong grimace. “Boromir, the wee hobbit is challenging you with his behavior.”
Gimli sighed. “Ah, well, I understand. There’s only so much you can do. He is hard to control I’m sure.”
I glanced over at the dwarf. “Excuse me?”
“Frodo,” Gimli said, looking at me as if I didn’t know whom he’d been talking about.
“Aye, Frodo, I know, but what did you mean by ‘he’s hard to con --’”
“Well, laddie, after all, ‘tis understandable. He’s a beguiling little thing. It’s hard to discipline the really sweet ones, isn’t it? They never seem deserving of a stern tone.”
I knew I was being baited, but I just sat there stewing and letting the irksome dwarf tweak my conscience, though he was exceedingly clumsy at hiding his intent. He was right, and well I knew it, but being reminded of the truth only made this matter more vexing.
Last night I’d halted our practice early, not because the hobbits looked tired, as I’d claimed, but because Frodo had grown so grouchy that his friends were too distracted to concentrate. They still protected him, whether they meant to or not. It seemed they knew how much further behind Frodo was than they were and they hesitated to attack him in drills. Meanwhile, Frodo seemed aware that they were cosseting him and it made him even more resentful, behavior that was completely out of character for this sweetest of little ones. I’d actually feared for Frodo’s backside yesterday when I caught the look Aragorn gave him . . . and then Aragorn fired me a similar look and I’d feared for my own.
This simply was not working. Something had to be done. Clearly Aragorn was not going to step in and handle Frodo for me. I was their principal instructor. Aragorn respected my authority over them and that was most gratifying. But with that honor came a responsibility.
Gimli was now rattling on about the young dwarves he used to train and he was sure I’d trained many a warrior in my day and oh, my, how some of them needed more work than others and he was certain I’d run across that kind of thing, hadn’t I, and I fell into my own musings again.
I’d sparred with many of my father’s men, of course. I’d trained with them. But it was not my station to do the training myself. Nevertheless, I knew what I was doing. I’d simply never formed many skills in dealing with a recalcitrant halfling.
But Faramir popped into my thoughts. He’d gone through a rebellious period when he was fifteen years old and I was twenty. Although we'd both been taught the use of a sword from the time we were able to lift our little wooden training replicas, we still drilled everyday, as did all warriors. And we enjoyed frequent brotherly sparring matches with each other.
But when Faramir entered into his belligerent years, he decided he was old enough to determine for himself whether or not he joined me in practice, and he began to choose to not bother. He would make himself scarce for hours at a time, deliberately avoiding me and then sneering at me later when I would confront him about his absence during our regular sparring times.
Denethor knew nothing of this, nor did I want him to hear of it. His open disdain of my beloved younger brother had never been a secret. All knew of it and most wondered at it and the cruelty of it tore me apart. I knew something had to be done about Faramir’s behavior before the murmurings of the men reached my father’s ears.
Damrod, my father’s first lieutenant and mentor to Faramir and me, had ever been our disciplinarian in a ‘hands on’ manner. But when Faramir decided to assert his brattiness Damrod was out on scouting maneuvers in Ithilien. He would be gone for months, a fact that had no doubt left my little brother feeling somewhat comfortable in his rebelliousness.
I’d swatted Faramir often, even taken him over my knee over the years, but the last time I had done so Faramir was about nine years old. At fifteen, an all out spanking from his older brother would be shocking for him. Nevertheless, he had invited it, and I was quite willing and able to take him up on his invite.
Faramir was so horrified when I told him what I intended that he actually fought me, and he did so with more intensity than he’d shown in training for months. He left me with a shiny eye and enough bruises to make me proud of him. But I still hauled him over my lap and reddened his defiant little backside until he howled and screamed and promised to do anything I wished if I would only stop.
I glanced at Frodo. He was sitting up on a rock ledge, swinging his little legs off the end, eating his dinner and giggling with Sam about some hobbity secret. I narrowed my eyes.
“And then later, after the battle, this young beardling, black orc blood sprayed all over his fine new armor, came right up to me and thanked me for how hard I’d been on him. I’d saved his life, he told me. Ah, ‘twas a fine moment, laddie.”
I glanced at the dwarf and nodded. “I’m certain it was.”
“Well,” he said, standing. “I think I’ll go see what the elf is up to over there.”
I shot him a sly grin. “Aye, indeed, Legolas will no doubt love your company.”
“No doubt, no doubt.” His eyes twinkled. “Besides, I know you have things to attend to.”
I did indeed.
I thought about it for a while, decided my course of action, then called the halflings together and began their session. Aragorn strolled over and took a seat on the ledge Frodo and Sam had just vacated, watching while we ran a few drills. But after only a few minutes of warming-up, I had them stop. I ordered Sam, Merry and Pippin to one side, then I called forth Frodo. He frowned and glared, but then he glanced at Aragorn, winced and grudgingly drifted into the open area in front of me.
“Come, sir. Begin!” I said, and I started drilling him alone, one attack move after another, outflanking him time after time, gently correcting him, attacking again, ordering him to come at me, besting him over and over.
Frodo bore it well, but soon he began to tire. The hobbits shifted from foot to foot. They glanced at Aragorn. They clearly wanted to put a stop to this, but they also didn’t, and I felt their building dismay. I regretted putting them through this, but it had to be done and Frodo was my main concern now.
Finally the little Ringbearer reached his breaking point. Huffing and furious, he hurled down his sword with a snarl, scowled up at me and in a most un-Frodo-like tone, he bellowed, “Enough!”
I straightened and nodded at his sword. “Pick it up.”
“Mister Frodo --”
“Sam,” Aragorn murmured. Sam cast him a worried frown, but then he dutifully stepped back a pace and remained silent and miserable.
I turned back to Frodo. “I said pick it up, little one.”
“You pick it up,” Frodo shot back and he whirled and headed for the woods, stomping at first, then suddenly breaking into a swift run. He disappeared into the forest. It was a blatant flaunting of Aragorn’s decree that the little ones never go off alone. Worse still, Frodo was flat out sailing by the time he’d hit the tree line. This was serious.
“Frodo!” Sam cried, and he was halfway past me when I grabbed him. Aragorn was now at my side and he took Sam from me. Pulling the struggling hobbit around to face him, Aragorn leaned down to look directly into Sam’s eyes.
“Boromir will handle this, sir,” he said in a calming tone. “Leave the matter to him. And do not fret, Sam. Frodo is in the best of hands.” I felt a surge of gratitude to Aragorn for his confidence.
Sam gasped and flashed me a desperate look. He studied me for a moment, then he swallowed hard, nodded and muttered, “Right. Aye, sir.” Another remarkable vote of confidence.
Legolas was now at my side. “I shall accompany you,” he said, “You need my eyes and ears to track him.”
“He cannot have gotten far,” I said.
“Hobbits are swift,” he said. “They hide skillfully, and they are able to move without making a sound.”
“Aye,” Aragorn said, nodding to Legolas. “Go with him, mellon nin.”
And so Legolas and I raced into the woods after the headstrong Ringbearer. I’d been trying to provoke a rebellion from him so that I could discipline him, something he’d been absolutely spoiling for, but I hadn’t expected such an outlandish response.
“Why would he do this?” I said to Legolas as we hurried along. “It makes no sense. He’ll have to eventually return. Where would he run to, after all?
Legolas darted me wise look. “It is mindless running. Of course it makes no sense, and Frodo knows it. He is simply, blindly angry, little brother.”
I grinned at Legolas’ new name for me. It still touched me, still made me smile. “Little brother.” To an elf! Me! The everlasting older brother, bigger brother, now ‘little brother’ to Legolas. Oh, it moved me indeed.
“He can’t think this will go unanswered,” I said.
“Nay, he does not. We both know that he expects someone to follow him. Aragorn, most likely. I vow seeing the two of us will startle the little bratling.”
I grinned and nodded, then fell silent so that Legolas could keep his keen elvish senses focused. We ran on for about a quarter hour. I was stunned. I could not believe that the little imp had come such a distance. That Frodo would dare to run so far from safety! It was outrageous!
If he fell and hurt himself, or if some wild thing caught him or some band of roving orcs spotted him he was now too far for anyone to hear his cries. A temper tantrum was one thing, but this was surpassing perilous! I could scarcely think straight for my anger. And I couldn’t wait to get my hands on him.
Legolas suddenly stopped. I froze. He held still, listening, then he began to move forward again, slowly now, gliding silently along the soft forest floor. I felt loud and cumbersome next to him, but he merely walked on, his head tilted to one side, his gaze downcast. A few feet further, and then he halted again and looked around. I watched him.
Legolas focused on a large bank of dense shrubbery just ahead, then he turned to me and winked, nodding his head towards the bushes. He took a step, then Legolas paused.
He touched my arm, leaned closer and whispered, “I get him first.”
I stared at him. Legolas positively smoldered, his blue eyes glittering. Ah, so he also couldn’t wait to lay hands on our reckless little one! Rather, he couldn’t wait to lay his open palm on a certain part of our reckless little one.
I almost pitied Frodo. But then a few images of what could have happened to this sweet young halfling flashed through my mind and I quickly decided that Frodo was fortunate that Legolas wanted to have at him first, giving my temper time to cool. I was sorry that Frodo had invited this. But invite it he had and, as I had been with Faramir any time he made a bid for attention, I was quite willing and able to answer his invitation. He might be getting more than he’d bargained for, but so be it.
I nodded my agreement to Legolas, then we quietly moved closer to the bushes and halted once more.
“Come out of there, little one,” Legolas said.
I flinched. Legolas?
I closed my eyes and sucked back a moan. Legolas had come for me. I suppose Aragorn had sent him because the elf could track me better. I knew one of the warriors would chase me to bring me back, but I’d thought it would be Aragorn. It might have been Boromir, though, since his boorish bullying had made me lose my temper in the first place.
This was entirely that man’s fault! And Aragorn had been sitting right there, watching us! He should have done something, said something to Boromir, made him stop singling me out for such abuse. But he hadn’t, and Boromir kept pushing me, and well, any hobbit would have snapped under such duress. At least that was what I kept telling myself when I took to my heels.
But my run soon began to clear my mind, and as I charged through the woods it came to me exactly what Boromir had been trying to do. In fact, many things became clear, and they all made me uncomfortable: I had been difficult. I knew it. I’d hated feeling at such a loss, so I’d sulked and been a nuisance about this training even though I knew we needed it desperately. Boromir was the most patient of teachers, but I had taken my frustration out on him today. I’d pushed Boromir first. He had simply decided to assert his authority and push me back.
He’d done so marvelously. I’d snapped with thrilling determination. It felt wickedly dangerous. It felt wonderful. I knew from the moment I hurled down my sword that I had earned myself a trip over Aragorn’s knee but I cared not a whit!
My backside now officially doomed, I decided to make the most of my doomed state. Thus my stupid stomping off, then my even more stupid flight into the woods. Oh, how I ran! Made no sense whatsoever, and still I ran.
I ran and ran on sheer angry energy, pushing aside my bothersome voice of sound judgment at first, neither thinking nor caring about how far I was going, nor what dangers I might encounter and certainly refusing to consider what awaited me when Aragorn once again laid hands upon my doomed self.
And then that bothersome voice became loud enough for me to hear it, and I slowed down and I did listen. The truth caught up to me in full and I came to a near standstill, thinking about what I’d done. I stopped then and I glanced around, horrified to realize that I must now be very far from camp. These were not my familiar Shire woodlands. This was the rough, big and unknown landscape of Middle Earth, full of strange sounds and scents.
And so I dove into the huge bank of shrubbery. It felt safe. I’d think about what to do and listen for Aragorn’s approach, and I hoped he would arrive soon. The truth surrounded me again, sounding even louder and more uncomfortable than before. Aragorn was going to make me feel more uncomfortable still. I fretted, wondering just how far I’d run.
Yes, alright, I was definitely in for a spanking, but at least I would enjoy Aragorn’s warmth and comfort afterwards, and I was dearly in need of that comfort even if it came at the cost of a sore bottom. Then I remembered what Aragorn’s spankings felt like and I threw an inner tantrum, furious with myself and my thoughtless, desperate, ridiculous behavior.
And now Legolas had called out! Legolas was waiting outside my leafy sanctuary! I had never considered that he might follow me. So he would take me back to face my doom. I squirmed.
This had suddenly become much more humiliating. The ethereal Prince of Mirkwood came to fetch me back. Why that made me cringe more than if Aragorn or Boromir were waiting for me outside my comforting bush I couldn’t say, but it did. And there was little else I could do but face the beautiful elf. So it was best I get this over with and return to my grim fate over Aragorn’s knee.
Cringing and cursing my temper, I crawled out from under the bush, straightened and looked up. Then I squeaked and flinched. Legolas and Boromir stood there, frowning at me. Two warriors! My legs went weak. All I could do was tremble and stare.
Legolas began to slowly remove the few weapons he had on and handed them to Boromir. They watched me silently. A cold tremor raced up my spine a fearful notion popping into my head. No. No, no, no, no. Legolas wouldn’t. I was too stunned to open my mouth and ask him what he was doing. And I didn’t want to hear what his answer might be. Legolas glanced around.
“There,” Boromir said to him, pointing to a nearby fallen tree. “That will do, don’t you think?”
“That will do excellently well,” Legolas replied. “Thank you, little brother.”
Casting me a lazy smile, Legolas advanced upon me. I sucked a breath and flinched, but before I’d even lifted a foot to run he swept me up, tucked me under his arm and headed for the fallen tree, Boromir at his side.
Nooooooo! I think I yelled it; I’m not sure. My voice seemed to have vanished. I couldn’t fully reason out what was happening. All I heard in my head was a repeated and screamed ‘nooooooooo!’ I struggled like a rabbit in a snare, much good that it did, but I had to do something!
Perhaps Legolas just wanted to discuss my poor decision. Lecture me – yes! I needed to be lectured. A lecture would serve me just fine. Even a stern scolding would do nicely. He couldn’t have a spanking planned, oh please, please, please not that! Surely Legolas wouldn’t do such a thing. This powerful elf wouldn’t spank a hobbit!
I couldn’t bear it. I had to ask. “Wh-What are you doing?”
Boromir snorted and chuckled a bit.
“Why, I should think that was obvious, little bratling,” Legolas replied. “I am going to spank you.”
I couldn’t breathe. And a vision of the scene flashed in my mind, Legolas, watching me, pulling down my britches, gazing at my bare bottom where it lay tilted up over his lap . . . ohhhhh! Now I did yell it:
“Noooooooo! Please, Legolas! NO! Please, please don’t! I’ll be good!” I cringed at my tone and my begging. I sounded like Pippin. And I cared not a whit! Neither, unfortunately, did Legolas.
“Hush,” he scolded. And that was all.
I ignored him, of course. Hush indeed! I gasped and grunted and whimpered small desperate sounds during that entire brief journey none of which Legolas seemed to notice. He reached the log, sat, swung me around and tossed me over his knees. I hit his legs and yelped, my stomach clenching, and I quivered and stared down at the bark of the tree, stunned, thinking that I couldn’t be here, I simply couldn’t be. But, ohhh, I surely was!
Shock followed shock. Legolas unfastened my braces and yanked my britches down. No amount of imagining matched that awful moment. The cool air kissed my bottom and a hot wash of shame flooded me and . . . and I couldn’t help myself. I began to cry. Legolas hadn’t struck a single blow, yet I was weeping from embarrassment alone. I covered my face with my hands, curling up inside, utterly humiliated.
“There, there now, sweet one, shhhhh,” Legolas murmured. “I know you are distressed, pretty Frodo, and I am sorry for it, but I shall not apologize for what I am about to do. Running off as you did was dangerous and foolish. You knew that. And you knew what you could likely expect to suffer for such serious disobedience.
“So I shall not go easy on you, sir, despite your alarm. I intend to make certain that you remember this lesson well, and that you never again dare repeat such a perilous act.”
And Legolas began. And from his beginning, shocking swat I knew that, indeed, he would not be going easy on me. The first spanking Aragorn had given me had been shocking, too, so maybe it was the distress of being over Legolas’ knee for the first time that sent me into such instant wails. No matter, wail I did. And, oh, to think that Boromir was right there, too! Watching! I vow that disgrace made the sting even worse.
He was good. The elf was horrendously good. Each swat crashed down, biting into my hot skin, igniting my bottom, and I kept arching and wailing and trying to wriggle away from the next one, to no avail. This biting sting had to be some kind of elvish specialty! I sobbed and kicked my legs uselessly, tangling them in my britches until I couldn’t kick any more. Legolas paid no attention. He kept up his steady, even pace. Then I heard his words above my wailing.
“You will never run away from camp again, will you, Frodo?”
Why did a person who was spanking another person feel that this was a fine time to have a conversation? Had this elf learned his technique from Aragorn? And did he seriously expect an answer? I gave him one.
“No-No-Nooooo! No, I-I won’t! N-Never! N-Never-never-never again!”
“And why will you not do so?”
“B-Because you’ll s-spank me if I doooo!”
I heard Boromir snicker close by. Lifting my tear-filled gaze I saw that the warrior had seated himself right beside us. He grinned down at me and shook his head. “Do you think it is wise to be saucy while in that position, sir?”
Oh, this was dreadful!
Legolas kept right on swatting. “Perhaps you would like another chance to answer me,” he said. “Why will you never run off alone like that again?”
“B-Bec-cause it-it w-was dangerous! S-Shouldn’t have run so far! And-And-And we’re not supposed to g-go off by a-alone!”
“Aye, sweetling. A short version, but good enough I think,” Legolas said, and he finally rested his hand on my stinging bottom.
I shuddered and wept grateful tears and sank across his lap. It had been awful, and Legolas certainly had a method that rivaled Aragorn’s. But even though Legolas had set my bottom on fire, I was actually getting off easy. Aragorn’s spankings were just as severe, but they were longer than what Legolas had just put me through.
So I lay there, twitching and sniffling and blessing my good fortune. Then I felt Legolas shifting me. A little shiver of anticipation fluttered through me. Ahhh! No doubt this resplendent being would now gather me to him for a little comforting, a prospect that suddenly made my flight into the woods and my humiliation seem worthwhile . . . well, almost.
“Your turn,” Legolas said.
My turn? To do what? Surely I hadn’t heard him correctly, and then I felt myself being handed like a sack of meal to Boromir, who plucked me cleanly from Legolas’ hands, lifted me over to him and settled me across his knees!
I gasped, my eyes popping wide, and I sucked a quick breath. “No!” I squeaked. I could only squeak. It carried little weight especially when squeaked through shuddery tears. “Boromir! N-No! P-Pleeease! Nooo!”
“Hush,” was all he said.
I hated that word! I panicked. I bucked up. I tried to scramble away. But Boromir patiently wrapped his heavy forearm over my back and held me down with little effort, and a moment later his hand spanked down with a sharp crack.
Flames ignited my already burning skin and I shrieked and burst into tears once more, my body exploding with jerky wrenches and bucking, as though trying to fly off Boromir’s lap. My britches still strangled my kicking and I could only heave both legs up and down, useless, but I did it anyway.
Boromir kept spanking me, unaffected by my antics. He held me down with firm pressure, a promise of more strength if needed, but allowing me a little movement to ease my frenzy.
The man was clearly a soldier, methodical, spanking my throbbing bottom with patterned precision rather than the random traveling swats Legolas and Aragorn bestowed. I couldn’t decide which method was worse, although I hadn’t known until now that there were different methods. This was awful enough. And it lasted longer, forever, just forever and ever, hours, no doubt, although that might have been an unfair estimate since I’d been so sore before he even began. No matter really. I sobbed long and loud and wholeheartedly.
Finally I lost all control and wrenched my hand behind me to shield my bottom, knowing it would be to no avail. But I’d gone beyond thought now. My body was acting on instinct alone, so when Boromir merely tucked my hand under his, holding it at my back I returned to the strategy I’d tried at the outset. Begging hadn’t moved Legolas, but perhaps it would move this warrior of Gondor.
“P-Pleeease! Please s-stop! Bor’m-mir pleeeease! N-No more! P-Please stop!”
To my utter shock, he did. Thanking the Valar for tenderhearted warriors, I lay there, sobbing and quivering, willing to do anything, say anything to keep Boromir from starting up again. I was desperate to know that he was finished, but he didn’t lift me and I dared not do anything to invite more spanking. So I just lay still and sobbed and tried to stop gasping, tried to breathe normally again, aware of his big hand covering my bottom.
But something felt strangely familiar . . . ah, yes! This was how I felt after Aragorn finished spanking me. Amazing as it seemed, Boromir and Legolas together had spanked me about as much as Aragorn usually did on his own. I hadn’t been unduly treated by these two, much as I hated to admit that loathsome truth to myself.
It would’ve been easier to feel justifiably resentful of their excessive abuse if they had indeed been excessively abusive. But they had not. What had made this so awful was the fact that both these magnificent warriors had done this to me at the same time, both of them watching the other spank me. Oh! That realization alone sent me into fresh weeping.
“Shhh, Frodo, shhh,” Boromir said. “Listen to me, little one. Hush now and listen. Legolas spanked you for running off, and I spanked you for your behavior in training, as I think you know.”
“We shall discuss that further in a moment, sir. But first, perhaps there is something you wish to say to us.”
I blinked down at the rough wood before me, hoping I wasn’t expected to say much. I could scarce form thought, much less speak.
“Frodo?” Boromir said. “I can begin again if need be.” He lifted his hand from my bottom and I knew at once what to say.
“I’m sorry! Sorry, sorry, s-sorryyyy! I’m s-so sor-sorry for everything!”
“Everything?” he asked, lowering his hand. “And what is everything?”
“I-I’m s-sorry I r-ran! And, and, and I’m s-sorry I threw d-down my sword! And I’m s-sorry for, for --” I paused, so completely vanquished that I had to sob out some of my mortification. “I’m s-sorry for being so . . . so . . . .”
“And you are sorry for being such a sulky little hobbit bratling?”
“YES, YES, YESSSSSSS!”
Oh my. That last one hurt. But my bottom hurt worse, and the truth hurt most of all – I had been disagreeable. I had been a . . . a ‘sulky little hobbit bratling,’ overly foul term that it was. But most of all, I was indeed very, very sorry.
Boromir glanced over at me, one side of his mouth quirked up into a small grin. I returned his look and nodded. There was more to discuss, but Frodo had said enough for now, and Boromir gathered him into his embrace.
Trembling and weeping, Frodo buried his face into the broad chest before him until only a mass of dark halfling curls was visible. Boromir looked serene, calmly murmuring to the small bundle in his arms. It stirred my heart, as did Frodo’s immediate response. He clung to Boromir’s shoulders as though hanging on for dear life, and he kept muttering tear-soaked small ‘I’m sorries.’
Boromir held him elevated, keeping Frodo’s hot bottom from touching down. I vow, that adorable backside glowed. It had to hurt, but I knew how thorough Aragorn was, and I knew that Frodo had surely felt similar to this from my Ranger. Boromir and I had not pushed Frodo beyond his endurance. His upset, however, was profound and certainly understandable.
For some time now Frodo had been saying how sorry he was, and Boromir kept trying to tell him that all was forgiven, but Frodo now pushed back from my little brother’s chest and turned an urgent look up at him.
“N-No, please, s-sir!” he pleaded. “I mean, I m-mean I’m sorry for being such a failure! S-So incompetent! I-I’m sorry I’ve disappointed you!”
Boromir looked horrified. “No, Frodo! You haven’t disappointed me! Have I given you that impression?”
Frodo shook his head and answered miserably, “N-Nooo! Y-You’ve always be-been supportive, alw-ways telling me how w-well I’m doing, w-w-when I know I’m not!” He fell into desperate weeping again, lowering his head in shame.
Placing a curled finger beneath Frodo’s trembling chin, Boromir lifted his small woebegone face and gazed down at him fondly. “But you are doing well, sweetling,” he murmured. “I would not lie to you. You have improved greatly. Everyday you improve. That constant drilling I put you through today was proof of how far you’ve come. You held your own against me admirably. You know that you did.
“This was what we needed to discuss further, for you are too hard on yourself, Frodo, and your feelings of failure drive you to more ruinous extremes. It is not warranted. I tell you truly, you are doing well.”
Frodo searched Boromir’s expression. “But, but, you’re always correcting me, and I make so many stupid mistakes --”
“Shhhh,” Boromir shook his head. “No mistake is stupid, sir, and if I hear you talk that way again I’ll have to turn you back over my knee.” Frodo blinked and flinched.
Casting him a gentle smile, Boromir brushed the wayward curls from Frodo’s forhead, then said, “Mistakes are good, little one. You learn from them. All of you make mistakes, and all of you learn from them. And I correct all of you, Merry, Pippin, Sam and you.”
“But I make so many more mistakes than the others! I-I’m failing you and them.”
“Shall we continue then?” Boromir said, turning Frodo slightly as though ready to drape him back over his knee.
“No! No, please!” Frodo squeaked, struggling.
“Very well,” Boromir said, pulling him back. “You have much to learn, all of you do. I know you feel a need to excel. I understand how hard it is when you cannot seem to master something new as quickly as you would like.” He paused to grin. “My tutors used to despair that I would ever learn the finer points of diplomacy, and for good reason, whereas my younger brother, five years my junior, grasped those concepts almost at once. I remember that frustration, the anguish of my shortcomings, and I do understand how you must feel.”
Frodo listened quietly. He was hearing Boromir now in a deeper place. I marveled, wondering how it was that my little brother could think himself no diplomat. He clearly knew how to reach Frodo’s aching heart, how to soothe him, sharing the pain he himself had once felt so that Frodo would not feel so alone in his.
“You must hear me now,” Boromir went on in a hushed voice that demanded attention. “I say again, you are doing very well. Your kinsmen simply have an aptitude for this. You compare yourself to their progress and find yourself lacking. But you are not lacking, and part of your discipline is in trusting me to be a better judge of this than you are.”
Boromir smiled gently now, and gave Frodo’s sweet, parted lips a small kiss. “I am so very proud of you, little one.”
Frodo gazed up at Boromir with a look of utter astonishment, and then he crumbled again, bursting into fresh weeping. I felt like joining him. Boromir gathered Frodo’s quivering form close again, hugging him, then he looked over, casting me a quiet smile.
“Your turn,” he said, and he pried Frodo from his body and lifted him into my waiting arms.
Limp and dazed with weeping, Frodo became suddenly aware of what was happening. He sucked a gasp and turned to me. Eyes wide with astonishment, he watched me pluck him from Boromir’s grasp. I laughed gently at his expression, Boromir joining me, and suddenly eager to follow my little brother’s example, I drew Frodo close and gave him a soft kiss on his rosebud mouth before enclosing him in my embrace and holding his trembling body tightly against mine.
Frodo’s small arms twined around me and he breathed a deep sigh, and I swear I could feel his young heart racing. I kissed the top of his head and buried my face in his curls then glanced up at Boromir.
My little brother watched us, his eyes positively glittering. He glanced down in the vicinity of Frodo’s bottom and winced, then he reached over and ever so gently pulled the little one’s breeches back up over his backside.
Frodo whimpered a small, “Owwww.”
I hugged him, Boromir and I exchanging grins. “Aww, poor sweetling,” I murmured.
“Hurts, does it?” Boromir asked, sympathetically petting Frodo’s curls.
Frodo nodded. “Uh huhh. B-But it’s all right. I-I’m alright now.”
Now. How much that word meant. I rocked him slightly, and Frodo relaxed even more and a warm flood of contentment moved through me. Yet one more measure of bliss was needed.
I smiled at Boromir, then I lifted my arm and placed it around his shoulders, urging him to press in close with us, join Frodo and I in an embrace we all three could share. He obliged me without hesitation, one arm coming around my back, the other covering mine, surrounding Frodo and myself, his warm, solid body sliding right in with us, fitting so perfectly, completing us.
I glanced down. Frodo's dewy cheek lay upon my chest and he smiled at Boromir, mere inches away. Leaning forward, he lightly brushed another soft kiss on my little brother’s lips. I would have felt envious except that Frodo then did the same to me.
We breathed a collective sigh of pure pleasure and my heart filled with a warmth so sweet and splendid I could scarcely bear it. We stayed like that for some time, just the three of us, holding on to one another in that quiet place full of softly gathering twilight
But the call of a night bird soon broke the spell and Boromir and I looked at each other, understanding that we needed to get back to the others. He slowly drew back and I stood, still holding my small bundle. Frodo, now quite drowsy, wrapped his legs around my hips as though he had done so before and was well accustomed to the move. But of course – Aragorn.
Boromir gathered our things and turned to me with a grin. ‘Aragorn,’ he mouthed, and I winked and nodded. We started back and Frodo jolted and lifted his face from my chest with a faint look of surprise.
“Oh!” He blinked lazily and began to wriggle to get down.
I walked on. “Shhh,” I said, smiling at his startled expression. “Nay, sweetling, do not leave me,” I murmured. “Stay. Let me hold you.”
“Aye, ride for a bit, little one,” Boromir said with a casual air. “Legolas does not mind.”
“Nay, ‘tis indeed my pleasure,” I said. “I shall even try to refrain from cupping you here.” I placed my hands on his bottom and bounced him up once.
We all chuckled.
“I beg you, sir, don’t do that again!” Frodo said blushing.
“Then accept the ride while you can,” I told him. “You shall soon have that singular freshly-spanked walk and will likely needs move with care tomorrow.”
Frodo groaned. “You’re right. And Aragorn will get that grin on his face and tell me he likes to see me walk like that.”
I nearly dropped him. “What?” I cried. I burst out laughing and then of course had to tell my two surprised companions what was so funny.
When Frodo finally stopped giggling he sighed and shook his curls and said, “The man is incorrigible.”
Boromir and I exchanged looks and again we burst into laughter.