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I found myself wandering again, going nowhere in particular, just following one of Rivendell’s many pathways through the golden woods, past the streams, alongside the falls, answering the need to keep moving my muscles and hoping to perhaps distract my mind.
A flawed strategy to say the least. My thoughts followed me, nagging even louder in my solitude. This feeling that I knew him had become consuming. His image danced on the edges of my thoughts. And now, last night, he’d invaded my dreams as well.
Aragorn, son of Arathorn. Isildur’s Heir, Lord of the Dúnedain, Heir to the throne of Gondor, and unyielding lodger in my mind and soul.
I know the history of my people well. I grew up surrounded by tales of Gondor’s glory, and of the splendid years of peace and plenty, of the legends and magnificent battles and victories, of the valiant line of kings and the lore connected with this man. And indeed, he was “no mere Ranger,” as Legolas had condescendingly proclaimed.
Insolent elf. Speaking out against me like that in front of the entire council of nobles. Correcting me as though I were a callow youth in need of instruction. Had I not been shocked to silence by his statement I’d have returned his discourtesy in kind. I may yet seek him out in private to address the issue of good manners. I haven’t decided if he’s worth the trouble. But clearly he and the Ranger are old friends and the pretty elfling prince respects Aragorn since he readily accepted the man’s authority.
But would I? Hm.
I paused, finding myself in a secluded glade, far away now from the graceful elvish buildings glittering in the distance, but still well within the borders of Rivendell’s domain. Perhaps here, away from the eternal tranquility of that otherworldly settlement, I could center myself once more and find my comforting warrior’s discipline.
Sitting on a large outcropping of rock, I forced my mind to Gondor. I thought of Faramir and my father, of my loyal company of warriors, of the crisis pressing down upon our city from the east. Staggering pressures threatened our people . . . and yet, seconds later, I realized that, to my frustration, the wretched man had once again overrun even my most grave thoughts of home.
I shot up with a snarl and began to pace. Perhaps the enchantment of these elvish lands had somehow damaged my mind . . . no. No, how ridiculous and impossible. Still, I was definitely not in control of myself, an awareness that sent a shiver up my spine.
And again his rugged face haunted me, his clear eyes, his strangely wise and patient gaze. Where had I seen Aragorn? Where? I knew that gaze. I did! This was maddening! And it was getting worse. Every day since the council this feeling that I’d seen the man, or served with him, or known him had grown more profound.
The simplest solution would have been to simply ask Aragorn how we knew each other, or if indeed we ever had. But, no . . . no we had. I was sure of it. He knew we had. I may not possess Faramir’s second sight or enjoy my father’s ability to see inside men’s’ hearts, but I knew without a doubt that Aragorn looked at me with a familiar air. He knew the answer to this vexing riddle. I could end my perplexity. I could ask.
But . . . no. I cared not to do such a thing. I could not say why. I just chose not to. I didn’t need his aid. I would solve this myself. I’d remember by myself.
Meanwhile my temperament was suffering. This very morning I had snarled at the youngest halfling about his persistent chatter. I immediately regretted my impatience, for in truth I enjoy these little ones with their merry hearts and laughing ways and trusting, childlike gazes. I felt badly when I saw hurt cloud Pippin’s wide eyes before he pivoted and stalked off.
But I felt even worse when I glanced further away and saw Aragorn watching me with a look of dark disdain, having clearly heard and seen all. A hot wash of guilt had flooded me, making my face burn. Not one of my finer moments.
Blast the man! Why did he haunt me? How dare he presume upon the privacy of my thoughts! And his presumption did not end there. He had taken to issuing me orders as though I were an underling. I! A seasoned warrior, Captain of the White Tower, a leader of men and heir to my noble father the Steward of Gondor!
Aye, that wretched elf was right – I did owe Aragorn my allegiance. But did that include taking orders from him when he was not yet my king? It was a cloudy issue for me. I could consult Gandalf about it, but . . . no. No, again, I cared not to do such a thing. Again, I just chose not to. And, again, I didn’t know why.
I would conquer this. I had readily joined Aragorn in volunteering to escort Frodo on his quest, so I’d chosen the further company of the man. I would be in his presence every day and every night, and I would conquer this!
The quest also gave me the chance to speak with the winsome hobbit about the Ring and how it might be used more wisely. Destroy it? The sheer senselessness of such an act seemed unthinkable. And to place it in the hands of this little one! I am fond of Frodo, sweet-faced charmer that he is, but to see him made Ringbearer? Frodo Baggins, hobbit of the Shire, so naïve, so like a boy, untrained in warfare and unschooled in the ways of the mighty and the sovereign, and yet entrusted with a power so great that it could destroy the enemies of Gondor and secure freedom from tyranny for the peoples of Middle Earth . . . if wielded by the right holder. Now how great a folly was this?
I alone harbored inner objections, though. For all his exalted ancestry, Aragorn displayed the same ignorance that infested the other members of the council. None seemed willing to use the power right at our fingertips. Gandalf, in true wizard’s fashion, bespoke his position admirably, moving even the stalwart dwarves to silence with his fearsome display of the Black Speech, my fellow noblemen shrinking like frightened schoolboys. And that arrogant elfling prince may indeed be a fine warrior, but he is of little use to my cause. He wholly submits to Aragorn’s will in this matter, and the Ranger is resolute.
But, I sense in Aragorn an overall hesitancy to fully accept that command which is rightfully his. It seems beyond reason. However, if he is indeed uncertain about himself or his direction it could prove useful. I am no diplomat, but I am the only one at hand to bespeak Gondor’s need and to champion a higher cause for the Ring. I have never shirked any duty, nor hesitated to do what I must to achieve my goal. Aragorn may yet listen to reason. I can only try. And if he will not, the little one might.
I pondered my course for some time in that secluded glade, struggling to remember the various means of diplomacy my tutors had tried to drill into my warrior’s head, and striving to avoid despairing overmuch that I remembered little of it. And, of course, the constant resurgence of Aragorn’s face and form and voice and majestic manner plagued my thoughts.
The shadows grew long, and yet I stayed there, reluctant to head back to the settlement. I felt no healthier in mind nor spirit than when I’d struck out seeking relief, and returning when I’d accomplished so little was a disheartening notion. Still, I’d wandered far, and I had to return before nightfall as I had no torch. Stumbling about, lost in Rivendell’s hinterland, held no appeal, nor did spending the night curled up in the forest without my cloak.
Darkness had indeed fallen before I regained my chamber. I had blundered into only two dead-ends before finding my way through the dense foliage and back to the path. It could have been worse. A fire had been lit in my room and it was warm and comforting, though I did not expect to find much ease there for my troubled heart. Surely this bewitching place had softened my mind. The nagging sense that I knew Aragorn still consumed me. It now seemed that I could even smell the aroma of the man’s pipe.
“Where have you been?”
I spun, my hand on my sword, and there in a shadowed corner I saw him, or rather, I saw the glow of his pipe.
Aragorn stood slowly and stepped into the light, looking as though he was waiting for an answer, but would not wait for long. Annoyed that he had succeeded in startling me, I made no reply. He grunted low, as if he’d expected my defiance, then he crossed to the hearth and leaned over the fire, knocking the ashes from his pipe. Placing it on the mantle, he turned to study me again, somber and expectant.
Suddenly I could bear it no longer. “I know you!” I blurted out before I could stop myself.
Aragorn stared at me for a long moment, clearly astounded, then he smiled softly and, I swear, indulgently.
“Aye, little fledgling,” he replied. “You do indeed. Although it surprises me that you remember. You were no more than four years of age when I left the service of your grandsire.”
I froze. ‘Little fledgling!’ No! It could not be! Fire shot through my body, memories surging up so fast and thick I nearly lost my legs.
Only one man had ever called me that, a warrior of great renown and honor who had served Gondor when I was a child. A warrior so beloved of my grandsire that he made my own father jealous and anxious for his position of ascension. A man I had nearly worshipped for his valor and had vowed to emulate, and a man who had been good to me, who never seemed to mind me trailing at his feet or climbing into his lap – a man who had cared for me, a man I’d loved.
“Thorongil,” I breathed.
He smiled again. “Aye, Boromir. Your memory serves you well.”
Of course he looked stunned. It shocked me that he remembered me at all, much less the assumed name I had taken so long ago.
He had been so small when I left The White City. Memories of him raced through my head and filled my heart: his sturdy little boy’s body and his wide bright eyes, his quick, eager mind, his stubbornness and determination to master something new, his willingness to accept obedience to the warrior’s code of discipline, although this last was often learned from his position stretched over my knee.
After serving Boromir’s grandsire, Ecthelion, for some time it had became difficult for me to remain in Minas Tirith, not only because my destiny called me away, I knew not where, but because Denethor’s growing distrust and resentment made it impossible for me to remain. Boromir himself played a small role in his father’s swelling rivalry with me, the child’s adoration of the valiant Thorongil being obvious even to the casual observer.
A bittersweet scene flashed through my mind, my last sight of Boromir as I rode from Minas Tirith . . . a child’s high, sweet voice, raw with tears, calling after me. I would ne’er forget glancing back over my shoulder for one last look, and seeing that adorable little boy tear free from his father’s hold and come running behind me, his bright blond hair flying wildly, his arms waving.
“Thorongil! No, please!” he had screamed. “Don’t go! Please, pleeeeease come back! I don’t want you to go!” Then: “Take me with youuuu!”
This last forced me to halt my mount and jump down to deal with him. Boromir crying such a plea in front of his father and grandsire and the scattered men at arms was awkward and it would harden Denethor’s heart anew, but more importantly, it bespoke Boromir’s anguish. My fledgling had deserved my attention.
I knelt and he flew into my embrace, sobbing on my shoulder. I waited until he had quieted enough to hear me, then I drew him back and looked at him, saying in a firm voice, “Boromir, you must listen to me. You belong here, with your people, not wandering the wild with a man seeking his destiny. You shall grow to be a great and noble warrior, a brave Son of Gondor, the pride of your people and a credit to your father and grandsire. This is where you must stay, my little fledgling. Stay, grow strong, and make me proud of you.”
He wept piteously, but he did hear me, and he understood. “Yes, my lord,” he whimpered.
“Hush now, little one,” I said. “Soon all men, even the mighty and the great, shall call you ‘my lord,’ and you shall be worthy of that title. And fear not. No doubt we shall meet again one day.”
He nodded, then flung himself at me for one final embrace, whispering, “I love you, Thorongil.”
I had fought to hold back my own stinging tears and murmured back, “I love you too, little fledgling.”
And now, here he stood, tall, strong, the consummate warrior I knew he would grow to be. I had known who he was the moment he rode through Rivendell’s gates. He was alone, having made the long journey from Gondor without guard or kinsmen. Yet he was clearly unafraid, looking around with wonder and fascination while his mount danced energetically beneath him.
Boromir had the look of his father to him, the resolute pride and confidence, and the glitter in his eye that dared the world to challenge him. Denethor had done well by my fledgling, and I felt a surprising shimmer of regret course through me at having missed all the years I could have spent watching him grow.
“I knew it,” he said, still shaken. “I’ve been going mad with trying to remember, but I-I just could not --”
“Why did you not simply ask me?” I inquired, knowing full well that the stubborn hardheadedness of the child I knew yet lived in the man he had become.
Boromir shifted from foot to foot, clearly flustered, an exposed and vulnerable look in his eyes, and then he surprised me.
I had expected a defensive response, or an evasive one, but instead, a faint glimmer of that little boy peeked out, and a shy smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he said, “I should have.”
I had to smile back, my heart swelling with sudden pride at his truthfulness. Crossing the space between us, I opened my arms to him, saying, “Aye, but you were always of a stubborn bent of mind.”
He came into my embrace with a wry grin and a small sniff of resignation. “I seem to recall you saying so.”
“You gave me much occasion to.”
“I was but four years of age, my lord!”
“A poor excuse.”
He then surprised me once more. He laid his head on my shoulder as he had in our last moments together years before, although he had to lean down slightly to do so.
I closed my eyes, lost for a moment in the overwhelming bliss of that one small, but enormous gesture. I enfolded him closer, and he responded, allowing himself to be controlled and pulled tightly against me, and I swear I felt the hammering of his heart as strongly as my own.
“I . . . I missed you, Thorongil,” he murmured.
As I did long ago, I fought back the tears that stung my eyes. “And I you, little fledgling.”
We drew back after several long minutes and he looked at me with new understanding, those same glittering and inquisitive eyes searching my face.
“How could I have not recognized you?” he marveled.
“I am much changed,” I replied. “Many years have passed since you last saw me, Boromir, hard years spent roaming the wild as a Ranger. Such a life weathers and ages a man. You were quite young when I left you. As I said, I am surprised you remember me at all.”
Boromir’s intense gaze locked on mine. “But, I did know you, if not in my mind, then in my heart. I could not rest for knowing you, and for not knowing you, and struggling to remember. Yet, now that my memory returns, I see you as plainly as you have ever lived in my mind’s eye.” He smiled, a great warmth of affection in his eyes. “Nay, my lord, you have not aged much from that young hero of my childhood. You are that man still.” He flashed another ready smile. “But it is shocking to stand so tall that I look directly at you.”
I grinned, enjoying his easy and charming manner. “Aye, well imagine my shock, seeing my little fledgling grown so sturdy and strong.”
We shared a laugh, and he observed, “No longer a fledgling, my lord. No longer that little boy.”
I paused, watching him for a moment, then said, “Ah, but as you see in me shadows of the young hero you once knew, I see in you shadows of my stubborn fledgling. You are now a mighty Captain of Gondor, but the little boy lives in you still, Boromir. There is no hiding him from me. I am not taken in by appearances.”
His eyes widened slightly, then he dropped his gaze, that shy grin surfacing again. “You never were, my lord,” he murmured, sounding very much like the child I knew. Ah, but he was so delightful!
This had gone far better than I could ever have dreamed. Now I could move on and deal with the matters that had brought me in search of him.
I had been giving Boromir small orders for several days, measuring his ability to accept my authority, something I felt would be a challenge to a fellow leader of men, as indeed it had proven to be thus far. Our quest would be difficult enough without a constant disruptive undercurrent of insubordination. I would not stand for it. Boromir would have to submit to my command, and I was not sure he would be able to do so, a dilemma that nagged at me. Clearly it troubled Boromir as well, his displeasure with the way things were likely made worse by his resentment of the obvious bond between Legolas and me. Something had to be done.
My purpose became clear earlier in the day when I saw my fledgling snap at Pippin. Boromir’s struggle with my authority, his fascination with the Ring and, as I now knew, his frustrating bewilderment over my identity had beaten him down until his temper had erupted and he had snarled at a guileless hobbit, a little soul in whom he obviously delighted.
Had I not stepped from the shadows, allowing my sudden movement to catch Boromir’s eye, he would not have noticed me watching him. But I wanted to see how he responded, and what I saw reflected in his gaze told me all I needed to know. His instant remorse and shame touched my heart. There was no defiance, only painful regret.
I suffered a few regrets myself, watching Boromir turn and stalk away, guilt weighing heavily on his broad, stooped shoulders. I had been remiss with my fledgling, allowing him too much time to come to terms with his discomfort himself. I knew what needed to be done, and I had no misgivings about doing it. It is, however, no great challenge for me to toss a hobbit over my knee and lower his britches for some much-needed discipline. Boromir would be a different matter.
A hobbit has a unique advantage. If he desires he can fight me all he wants to and he is still going to end up over my knee taking the spanking he deserves. But the struggle, the overpowering and the lack of choice are oddly comforting. They keep a small measure of dignity, for they did all they could to fight it, but were simply unable to stop the inevitable. Good thing, too, for in their hearts they know exactly what they need, and forcing me to stop is the last thing they desire.
As is true for many, there is solace for the halflings in knowing there is a force bigger than themselves who has only their best interests at heart, even if that best interest results in a burning backside. They can feign all the resentment they choose to, pour out their fury and frustration, struggle and kick and thrash to their hearts’ content and still end up getting exactly where they wanted to go – nowhere . . . and, of course, the little ones are not alone in such feelings.
There is, however, a mutual awareness, for they are never disciplined without understanding the reason. Of course, they are rarely perplexed about why they are over my knee to begin with, but in case they are, as they were in Bree when I first showed them the consequences of misbehavior, I explain the matter clearly so that they do understand.
Such is rarely needed, though, for the little ones know very well why they are being spanked, and they know what they need from me, so much so that on several occasions when I have been willing to forgive a misdeed with merely a few stern words, they have continued to deliberately provoke me and press the issue until they at last achieve the result they truly desired.
No matter. The halflings have many reasons for what they need, all valid and worthy of my respect. I care about them as if they were of my own flesh and if one of these beloved small souls seeks an extra measure of my attention, I shall more than willingly give them that attention.
I loved my fledgling just as much. He deserved that same attention, and my lap fits all sizes. Legolas had been there more times than I could count over our many years together, our understanding having been established long ago. But how could I convince Boromir to willingly submit?
I had thought to perhaps threaten him with expulsion from the Fellowship unless he vowed to accept my authority. But I wanted Boromir’s submission to be of his own free will, not in response to a threat. I could, in fact, see no other way. So I pondered the problem whilst sitting in his chamber awaiting his return.
And then Boromir presented the answer himself, laying it before me so clearly that I wondered at having failed to see it myself. Of course, I had never considered that he would remember me from so long ago. The fact that he did, however, solved my problem nicely.
Our affection from the past was still real and potent. Boromir clearly felt it as strongly as I did, and I knew that our old bond would withstand the new demands I planned to place upon it, beginning with the basic form of discipline that had been so effective with him as a child.
I did not deceive myself. Boromir may yield to my authority at present, but he would surely still challenge me on occasion and find himself in further need of correction. He and Legolas had much in common – pride, obstinacy and, if what I sensed in my fledgling was correct, a certain need for attention.
Leaders such as Boromir, schooled in self-sufficiency, often harbored the mistaken belief that the need for loving attention did not befit their station, so they disdained any unseemly longing for even the most simple care, forsaking the little boy inside who yearned for that loving attention, burying him so efficiently that he ceased to exist.
But I would not permit that stoic denial of need to plague my fledgling. Boromir was about to learn that he was worthy of care. As with the hobbits and my beloved elfling, my attention to him was attention deserved.
“Come,” I now told him. “Remove your sword and be at ease. We have much to talk about. You have missed your dinner, my fledgling, and you must be hungry. I shall call for food and drink that you and I may dine alone and enjoy some private conversation.”
Boromir’s eyes lit up. “Aye, a fine idea! I am eager to learn of your adventures since leaving The White City.”
“As I am longing to hear of yours, Captain of the White Tower.” I watched him flash a soft, triumphant smile. “We may be here well into the night.”
Thorongil! I could scarcely believe it. Thorongil. My Thorongil.
When he’d embraced me earlier I’d nearly shed the tears that clouded my eyes. Instead I lowered my head to his shoulder, fighting for control, trying to not shame myself or embarrass him, and yet I could do nothing less than be fully honest with this man who held me so closely. I told him that I’d missed him.
Memories, rich and dizzying flowed through me, wondrous, but also bittersweet. A deep sorrow lurked beneath my skin, forcing my heart to race. Tears kept threatening, tears of remembered anguish in losing someone so dear to me, and the torment of having no power to control that certainty.
But I quickly shoved such thoughts to one side, for here he stood, embracing me, this man I’d cherished in my little boy’s heart so long ago! Thorongil. My Thorongil.
I was delighted with his suggestion that we spend the evening talking and dining alone. I suddenly felt starved, having been away from the settlement since morning, and I felt equally starved to hear all he felt willing to share about himself since we had parted so many years ago. He clearly seemed eager to learn of my deeds as well, so much so that he bid me begin first, insisting that he wanted every detail.
“Come,” he said, “tell me how my mischievous little fledgling grew to become a great Captain of the White Tower. And leave nothing out.”
I did my best. My years spent growing from the boy he had known to the man I’d become had been exacting and often embittering. But overall, I was satisfied with them and with what I had been able to achieve. I felt a certain pride in my accomplishments and in the glory of Gondor, its years of splendor made possible through the dedicated service of our warriors and of the leadership of my father.
It was true, however, that Gondor had fallen onto harder times of late. The building strength of Mordor had slowly begun to penetrate the hearts and minds of my people. I’d spoken the truth at Elrond’s Council – Gondor was the first line of defense for the lands of Middle Earth, and though we were once a mighty force, we were becoming beaten down.
But I would not speak of that at the moment. Aragorn had asked for a personal account of myself and my life, so that was what I would gladly share with him, for this was a time of reunion, and I delighted in the intimacy of it. So we took seats before the fire, a small round table between us, and I began to speak.
Aragorn listened, clear-eyed and attentive, smiling gently at times, but ever with his gaze fastened upon me, absorbing every word. He often nodded slightly, a whisper of a grin on his lips and a look of fond approval in his eyes that sent my heart soaring and encouraged me to speak proudly on, longing to see that look again.
Several times I heard my own words, and I paused, realizing how eager to impress I sounded, much like that little boy Aragorn said he saw in me. He caught my eye when I hesitated, and he smiled quietly, indulgently, I swear reading my every thought. He did so with increased sharpness when Faramir entered my chronicle.
Halfway through our dinner he suddenly said, “Tell me more of this little brother you esteem so highly. Your love for him is strong. Why did he not join you on your journey here?”
I glanced up at him and found that calm understanding in his gaze, and I knew that he had sensed my feelings of frustration and remorse, even though I thought I had hidden that ache well. Aye, he was too discerning, and I suppose the grief I felt when speaking of Faramir would not escape his notice, although I knew I’d never be able to fully express the extent of that grief. I fell silent for a few moments, wondering how to begin, how much to say.
Aragorn waited patiently, then he said, “He was born the year after I left?”
“Aye.” I nodded, idly poking with my knife at the contents of my plate. “When I was five years old. Faramir . . . Faramir is bright and courageous and well-appointed.”
“You are very alike then.”
I caught and returned his grin, flushing at the notion. “Nay, my lord. Faramir and I are very different in many ways. There is so much about Faramir to be admired I scarce know where to begin.” I lowered my gaze, thinking of my brother’s ready smile and modest laugh and his bashful, self-effacing manner. How to describe him? How to do him justice? Finally I simply started talking:
“Faramir is quiet in nature, good and kind-hearted, almost to a fault. He has far more patience than I do, and his skills are more subtle and complex than grand and showy, like mine are. He was always a good student, far better than I was, so he is splendidly well-spoken, with a gift for diplomacy. And he has a fondness for music, and he has a talent for storytelling and lore and . . . and . . . .”
Aragorn grinned. “You are describing him admirably, my fledgling. Go on.”
I glanced at him, still feeling I hadn’t said enough, but unable to think of what more to say. Then I recalled one very important thing -- “Ah! I near forgot! Faramir can see into men’s hearts, like our father, though he does not judge them harshly, the way Denethor does. And he is blessed with the Sight – he dreams visions.”
Aragorn’s brow went up, and a shimmer of affection for him shot through me. It seemed he really understood my little brother, and admired him as well, just from listening to me speak of him. Encouraged, I went on:
“Faramir is also a fine warrior, most able and quick with a bow, and an excellent strategist and leader of men. He Captains the Ithilien Rangers, an elite guard that watches over our borders. But he, well, Faramir does not glory in battle.”
A sudden flash of anger erupted within me, that familiar heartache surfacing. I dropped my gaze and said, “My little brother never hesitates to do his duty. Aye, he has at times needed my help, but any Captain in such a situation would need such help! Faramir always, always strives to do his best and to do what is right, but . . . .” I took a breath, struggling to calm myself, knowing Aragorn was watching me closely.
“Faramir is of a gentler nature than I am,” I finally added. “He would sooner solve disagreements with words than with swords. That is an admirable quality, is it not?"
He nodded slowly. “Most admirable, my fledgling.”
I looked up at him again, and said, “Aye, you see the truth of it, as do I, as do many others who appreciate and love my brother for the good man that he is. But to others . . . .”
I turned to gaze at the fire, my throat tight and sore, something big and hurtful seething and raging within my chest, just below the surface of my skin, at a level wherein I could control it, but just barely. I glanced down to see my knife trembling in my aching hand, and I relaxed my grip and went on:
“To-To certain others, those who are blinded by stupidity and would see no value in him regardless of what he does . . . to those others my beloved little brother seems weak and faint-hearted and of little worth. But it is not true!”
“But you support Faramir with your love, and you care for him and protect him,” Aragorn said, his tone gentle. “You have ever protected him.”
“Aye!” I shot back. “From those too lackwitted to see his value!”
I stared at him, struggling to find words for a despair so great I rarely let myself fully feel it. I finally muttered, “Aye,” and I was able to utter no further word on the matter.
Aragorn looked as though he hadn’t expected me to be able to do so. He merely lowered his eyes to my plate and gave my remaining dinner a nod and said, “You must finish, my fledgling.”
Strange how comforting his quiet, simple command was. Somehow it calmed me. The comment was something one would say to a child, and a sudden memory flashed forth –
“Finish eating, Boromir.”
“Because it is your duty. You need to grow big and strong if you plan to be a great warrior of Gondor one day. Eat, sir.”
“Even those green things?”
“Aye, even those.”
“But they are nasty, Thorongil.”
“Nevertheless. Duty requires it, little one.”
“Sometimes I do not like duty, Thorongil.”
“I dare say.”
I grinned at the memory, then to my utter shock, Aragorn suddenly said, “Eat, sir. Duty requires it.”
I gasped and shot him a stunned look and he burst into a chuckle, grinning a positively roguish grin. I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing as well, my heaviness of heart instantly vanishing. Of course, I sputtered out the only reply I could:
“Sometimes I do not like duty, Thorongil.”
“I dare say.”
And we laughed again. I paused a bit before obeying just to gaze at him admiringly, and then I did as he ordered, saying, “Now I would hear of you.”
His life told like a fanciful legend. He told it humbly, almost apologetically, downgrading his heroism through much of it as though uncomfortable with his valor and his own deeds. Such a life he’d led! I found myself inwardly squirming at what suddenly seemed like bluster on my part when I’d been speaking, but he hadn’t seemed to think as much, so I tried to diminish the feeling.
When he finished, then chuckled at my amazement, shrugging off his heroic deeds yet again, we spoke on, enjoying each other’s company. Hours later, long after our dinner remains had been taken away, when the room glowed warmly with firelight and a cloud of smoke from his pipe hovered white and sweet-smelling above us, we still sat talking quietly. I could not recall the last time I’d felt so content, so . . . safe. I had certainly never felt like this in Denethor’s presence, even though I was the one he doted upon, while poor Faramir . . . .
No! I would not slip into that torment again! Not now. Not while sitting here, sharing the company of this compelling man. I had felt at ease with Aragorn this whole time, even when we paused for occasional breaks, saying nothing. We would sit quietly, watching the fire, and then one of us would start talking again, casually, as if suddenly recalling more that we wanted to say . . . so much to say.
Ethereal voices blending in song now floated through the darkness outside.
“The elves are singing in the Hall of Fire,” Aragorn said. “The fires burn all year there. Songs are sung and great tales are told long into the night.” He gave me a lazy smile. “Tonight we share our own Hall of Fire, little fledgling.”
I chuckled softly. “How can you continue to call me that?” I asked, though I was surprised to notice that I didn’t mind it at all.
“It suits you.”
“Indeed it does not!” I returned, still grinning. “Do I look like a little fledgling to you?”
He shifted his gaze to me and said with gentle seriousness, “Indeed. I still say the name suits you.”
Stubborn man! I laughed again. “It does not!”
“No, it does not!” Not that I cared, but he could be truly vexing.
A short silence followed.
“Boromir,” he finally said, gazing levelly at me, “it does.”
I stared at him, ready to object again, but a suddenly smoldering undercurrent in his manner and something glittering in his steady gaze made me pause.
It was unsettling. I did not like it. My throat felt dry and I swallowed hard. And then I drew a calming breath. This was simple enough to explain. His stubbornly determined air had simply . . . surprised me. Few ever dared give me such a look. I was unaccustomed to it. Little wonder I’d been startled to silence. His reaction had surprised me and I did not like it and I was unaccustomed to such treatment and this suddenly seemed a silly thing to bicker over, even in good sport.
Of course, the issue itself was not what had mattered. The confrontation had, and the outcome. But I decided to be gracious about this. Ridiculous small matter. I smirked and shrugged, feigning indifference. I’d fashioned a casual response when he spoke again:
“It pleases me to call you that.” His gaze softened and he cast me his ready, winning smile. “But fear not, little fledgling. I shall try to refrain from doing so in front of others.”
Well. There was a comfort indeed.
I considered my reply. Unbefitting though it was, I genuinely did not mind him calling me by that name. It even felt oddly soothing. A strange warmth stirred in my chest to think that Aragorn wanted to use that endearment, that it pleased him to preserve that affection between us. But images of how four blithesome hobbits might respond to hearing Boromir, Captain of the White Tower, called ‘little fledgling’ made my cheeks burn. And if that comely elf ever heard it! The burn now seared!
“You do not mind it so very much, though, do you?” he suddenly asked, and his glance told me that he already knew the answer.
Again I was thrown, and I heard myself blurting out the honest truth, “No, my lord.”
He smiled suddenly. “You are a great lord yourself now, Boromir, as I once told you you would be. Do you remember that day?”
“Of course,” I replied.
Did I remember that day? Aye, alas, the memory lived. I might not have recognized Aragorn as Thorongil, but I would never forget him leaving. After he’d ridden away I’d cried myself into a stupor and my father had glared at me for days, thoroughly ashamed by my behavior. And oh, the pain of his disapproval! I felt it still, like a stab upon an old wound that had never fully healed.
My heart quickened, fierce memories slamming into me: Thorongil, abandoning me for something better, my despair and my bewilderment, my confusion as to what I had done to make him want to take his leave. Surely I had done something wrong. I’d made him want to go away. My fault . . . my failing.
Then came my father’s condemnation of my tears, the shame I felt at disgracing him, my sudden loneliness and uncertainty and fear and my anguish and longing for Thorongil, for his strong arms and his understanding gaze and his patient willingness to explain things to me. The pain of it had been shattering, and I had decided then and there to do whatever I must, be whatever I needed to be in order to avoid ever feeling that way again.
I studied Aragorn now from the corner of my eye. He stared at the fire as though working out some plan. What could he be thinking about? The quest, no doubt. I pondered what it must feel like to be who he was, Isildur’s Heir, a king without his throne, a wanderer, living in self-imposed exile. In a way, I could imagine it . . . but then again, I could not.
A shadow returned to my mind, the feeling that Aragorn seemed neither ready nor willing to embrace his destiny. After what he had told me, I had to credit some of his mysterious reluctance to his upbringing. From the age of two he had lived here in Rivendell with his mother, becoming Lord Elrond’s adopted son and raised amongst these elves. He was probably more akin to elves than to men in thought and feeling.
So how could Aragorn understand the needs of his own people after spending his most tender years learning from these serene folk? The early lessons are the most important and from what I had seen this was not an ideal place to raise a young human warrior, a future king of men.
Still, the elves had indeed taught Aragorn well. Amongst his own people, during his days as Thorongil in the service of my grandfather, Aragorn had been a great warrior and leader, so I could hardly question his upbringing. But could these elves have given a man the same sense of duty to his people that he might have learned surrounded by his own kind? Of course, his years with the Rangers needed to be considered . . . he was such an enigma.
But, in truth, all this meant little, to me at present. Aragorn was yet the Thorongil I loved, and that was all that mattered to me. Perhaps he was a man questioning his destiny, but Aragorn was no less the valiant hero I’d loved, and loved still, even if he was a man in search of himself.
I did, however, wonder briefly how he viewed this question of the Ring. I remembered my thoughts from earlier that day, before I’d known Aragorn was Thorongil, thoughts that he could possibly be convinced to favor Gondor’s cause. And it suddenly occurred to me that, although Denethor had hurt my poor brother deeply yet again by his heartless scorn, my father had been right to insist I travel to Rivendell instead of Faramir. My stomach fluttered and shivers danced along my veins.
This had gone far better than I could ever have dreamed.
I, not Faramir, had a childhood bond with Aragorn, a bond that stood strong even to this day, therefore I now enjoyed a unique position to effect the course of our journey. I could yet gain the Ring for Gondor! If Aragorn could be influenced by anyone, I was best suited to that task.
A sudden horror slammed into me! What was I thinking? How could I take advantage of our old attachment? It was unseemly to even contemplate such a thing! What kind of man was I to consider dishonoring the memory of all Thorongil had been to me merely for gain?
I struggled to work this out . . . did it come down to a choice between defiling that memory by using it to sway Aragorn and hopefully gain the Ring for Gondor, or to honor our past connection and thereby abandon all hope for Gondor? There had to be an answer. I narrowed my eyes at the fire, thinking.
Perhaps I could help Aragorn and Gondor both. Even the strongest men sometimes failed to consider the best possible outcome or to make the most learned decision. I’d often won Denethor’s admiration and regard by challenging him openly, confronting him with what he may not have considered or did not wish to hear. Risking his disapproval sometimes brought a sweet reward. Even if he chose not to agree with me, Denethor had at least respected my courage in opposing him. So, oddly enough, a bit of insubordination had often worked in my favor.
“What goes through your mind, my fledgling? You have the look of mischief to you.”
I flinched and glanced at Aragorn. He sat watching me with that soft, agreeable smile and a gaze of pure affection. I recognized the look. He used it often with the hobbits. I squirmed, astounded that I could feel so immediately and deeply touched by that look.
“Ah,” he murmured, “I see I am right. You still go silent when you are caught planning naughtiness.”
Naughtiness? Of all the irksome words! The man could be exasperating.
I flashed him an exaggerated frown, saying, “Aragorn, for pity’s sake, I am a full-grown man! I am no longer a boy, nor am I an impish hobbit.” Heaving an indignant sigh, I then muttered, “I hope you also plan to save this patronizing treatment for when we are alone, or the others will never learn to respect my authority.”
He sobered so suddenly I instantly felt I’d been overly harsh. I’d begun to call up an apology, but just as suddenly he said, “Your authority?”
A hot spark shot through me. Again, that feeling I did not like surged forth.
“Aye, well, my authority as such . . . . ” No words formed in my head.
“I do not understand.”
Shifting in my seat I replied, “Well, what I mean to say is . . . the authority due me as . . . the authority any commander . . . I mean, any . . . any . . . . As I am certain you agree . . . . ”
I sounded absurd.
Aragorn studied me, waiting. My throat went so dry I had to swallow hard. I did not like this feeling!
He wasn’t doing anything but watching me, patiently, without emotion, without a frown of disapproval or judgment. Yet I could not calm my hammering heart, nor could I seem to find my tongue.
Releasing another low grunt from the back of his throat, Aragorn stood and moved to the hearth, cleaning his pipe as he had before and laying it again on the mantle. Then he turned to me again, his eyes bright with an alarming gleam.
“This is the very matter I came to speak with you about,” he said.
My absurdity held. “What matter?”
The alarming gleam deepened. “Before we leave Rivendell you and I need to reach an understanding, Boromir. I refer to the chain of command within our Fellowship.”
It was my turn to watch him silently.
“Frodo directs this quest,” Aragorn went on. “As Ringbearer he decides our course. My role is to support Frodo in any way I can.”
“As I understand it, that is a role we all share.”
“Indeed. However, it is important that you also understand that, while Gandalf guides our course and Frodo bears the Ring, I am to be obeyed in all other matters.”
I sat transfixed, wondering when this matter of leadership had been decided. And for reasons surpassing my understanding, I became slightly . . . vexed.
“Do you understand what I mean?”
“Aye,” I replied, trying to avoid feeling insulted.
“What do I mean?”
I wrestled my temper and promptly lost. “Surely you must know.”
He simply watched me, a far more effective method of making me squirm than if he’d become aggravated by my discourtesy.
In truth I didn’t mean to challenge his authority. Not much. I was, for the most part, willing to concede it to him. In my heart, Thorongil yet lived in Aragorn and I meant no disrespect. But I couldn’t help feeling a little vexed by his condescension. It felt almost as if he was trying to provoke me, a ridiculous notion I dismissed at once.
I simply had a desire to show him that I could be of use, that my opinions should be heard, and that I deserved a say in all matters. I had much useful experience as Captain of the Guard, and I felt that this quest would benefit from two strong leaders, if for no other reason than to keep the dwarf and the elf from slaying each other. For now, though, I would give him the answer he still awaited.
Stubborn, stubborn man.
“You mean that you have assumed command of the Fellowship, and that your authority is to be recognized and your orders obeyed.”
He said it with a sigh of annoyance and a veneer of control so thin that a slight tap might have shattered it. But that veneer would shatter when I chose to tap it. For now I had just flicked it lightly to test its strength, and my fledgling’s impertinence was firmly in place.
I thought carefully, anxious to deal with everything at once and fully aware that Boromir had no idea the depth of all he had revealed to me. I had ached to comfort him immediately, yet I knew what he needed most while he spoke was my attention and my restraint. So I had struggled throughout the evening, wishing I had Denethor before me to answer for his cruelty to both his sons and fighting down my own ferocious regrets at having left Boromir when he had been so young and unable to understand.
But I had reined in my desires thus far, so I could practice control a bit longer for his sake. I had a specific purpose to accomplish tonight. I would handle this carefully. I would do this right. My fledgling deserved no less.
As for his so called 'answer' I merely 'hmmed,' returned to my chair, sat and faced him, saying, “I know this shall likely prove difficult for you. You have much experience as a leader, so accepting a subordinate role shall be hard. I do understand, and before we go on I wish to say that the Fellowship is fortunate to be joined by a warrior such as you. You are invaluable. I can think of no other I would sooner choose for the quest, and even more so after this night. I am glad of your company, Boromir.”
He watched me, his eyes growing wider with my every word. He looked plainly fascinated at my change in tone, wondering at it, and waiting with wary curiosity to see where I planned to go next. I had meant every word, though, and he needed to hear them, needed to know that I saw his value and was thankful for his companionship before this discussion became more difficult for him.
“However,” I continued, “there are some basic matters you must fully understand and accept before we move any further, for despite your obvious devotion to a warrior’s code of ethics, you do possess a mutinous air, my fledgling. I am certain you know of what I speak. You have felt it, have you not, this inner struggle when I give you an order?”
He hesitated, a just response to feeling a bit cornered, but he was honest. “Aye,” he finally muttered.
“When you issue orders to your men you expect them to be obeyed.”
“As do I. Soon we shall be out in the wild. The others, Gimli, Gandalf and Legolas are all well seasoned in the ways of battle --”
He interrupted me with a snort of contempt. At my expectant look he said, “Legolas? Seasoned?” Another snort.
“Ah, I see,” I said, surprised that he would be so openly insulting of someone he knew I regarded highly. A clear, if covert, affront. His inner distress was beginning to surface.
“Do not underestimate the elves. Think of your ancient lore. You may not have had many dealings with these folk, nor care for them and the strangeness of their ways, but do not judge them simply by their looks. Legolas is an old and dear friend, and he is ruthless in battle. Look deeper, my fledgling. Do not be taken in by appearances.”
He dropped his gaze, flushing, obviously troubled by his own intolerance and even more troubled that he had displayed it to me and been scolded for it. Ah, well. This was going to be an evening of painful lessons for my fledgling.
“Perhaps you feel that after this night of renewing old bonds it will be easier for you to accept my leadership,” I continued.
Boromir drew a long breath and let it out slowly, his jaw working. He truly was trying to cooperate, hard as this had to be for him. “Perhaps.”
“And then again, perhaps not.” He shifted in his seat again. “Boromir, when I issue orders I expect to be obeyed. Can you do that?”
His color deepened. “Of course. I have done so.”
“You have done so, aye, but whether you are aware of it or not, you resent the subordinate role enough for it to be plain. True, you have not confronted me openly, but much can be said by way of an underlying hostility. I fear that soon your enmity will become so profound the others will begin to detect it, if indeed they have not already begun to do so, despite the fact that, at present, you disguise your displeasure in softer raiment.”
Immediately he squared off, ready to object, but I quickly added, “Boromir, of course you resent having to submit to a higher authority. You are accustomed to command. And, although this night has meant much to us both, I see no reason to believe it will change your nature.”
He shot up and paced a few steps, then spun to face me, sputtering, “Why do you think tha --”
“Sir," I said firmly, "I did not, ‘assume’ command as you scornfully implied. Such language suggests that I forcibly seized the position regardless of what others might think. The position, in fact, was awarded me, yielded me by all, understood and accepted by all because I am the one best suited to it. So you see, this night has not fully driven all thoughts of rebellion from you.”
He clearly ached to challenge my statement, but he was unable to do so. His disquietude grew, a flurry of emotions crossing his strong features whilst he shifted his weight from one leg to the other, plainly bewildered and uncertain as to what to do with himself, reminding me yet again of that little boy of old, as he had so often this night. I felt for him, but we had far yet to go.
“Sit down,” I said. “We are not finished.”
He glanced at me as though I had just announced his doom, but he obeyed. He would certainly rally his defenses, but I was ready. I waited a few moments, letting him settle himself, before I spoke again.
“We needs settle this matter now, before it becomes worse.”
He made no response.
“It will indeed become worse.”
Again, no reply.
“Do you not agree?”
His few nods were small and grudging.
“I did not hear you.”
He raised his head with a snarl and snapped, “AYE! I-I don’t know that I agree with all you have said, but, aye! All right! Very well! If indeed something needs to be settled as you say, let us do so now!”
I allowed a suitable silence to build, his harsh words hanging heavily in the room, then I said in a stern tone, “Look at me, sir.”
He closed his eyes as if this was absolutely more than he would bear, but then he opened them quickly and fired me a furious look.
“Do I look like a hobbit?”
Boromir went scarlet, dropping his gaze to glare at the table. “No, sir.”
“Boromir!” He shot me a quick look ere I could issue him yet another order to do so. “No, I am not a hobbit, so do not snarl at me. Address me with courtesy and respect, as I do you. And I trust you shall choose to treat all others with the same respect, be they man, elf, dwarf or little hobbit.”
My poor fledgling was positively red-faced. It was difficult to watch him suffer a humiliation he had brought upon himself. I did not enjoy this. But I wouldst not permit Boromir to treat anyone with such disrespect. Earlier today when he had barked at Pippin, Boromir had wounded himself as much as he had wounded the little one, perhaps even more so. Aye, this was difficult for both of us. But I was committed to doing for Boromir what needed to be done. So I waited, watching him wage war within himself, struggling to let him work this out, and ready to respond in any number of ways.
My fledgling was made of strong stuff. He cast a long sideways glare at the fire, closed his eyes and opened them slowly, then turned to me. “Please forgive me, my lord,” he said, coldly dispassionate. “I was unmannerly and spoke with disrespectful harshness. I am sorry.”
Again, he surprised me. Of course he was fairly quivering with unspoken bitterness, his words a bit shaky, but it surprised me that he had been able to say them at all.
I longed to jump up and haul him from his chair and hug him senseless, but I merely smiled and said, “'Tis alright, my fledgling. You are forgiven. Think no more on't.”
He released a breath and shifted his shoulders. They looked stiff and tight. I imagined they were by now. “Pippin needs to hear those words from you as well,” I told him. “Do you not agree?”
He nodded. “Aye. I’ll see to it tomorrow.”
“Good.” I grinned suddenly. “You know, for all you disdain Legolas, the two of you have much in common.” He frowned at me, clearly having never expected to have heard such a thing, nor particularly happy to be hearing it. I chuckled. “He has a fearful temper and little control over it as you saw in council.”
My words affected him as I had hoped. He stared at me, his eyes wide, then he burst out laughing. I went on: “I feared he would not be able to sit still without jumping up and losing his elvish reserve. Especially when he was seated so closely to the dwarves.”
We both chuckled in short bursts, Boromir releasing some of his tension nicely. I felt a twinge of guilt, making my beloved elfling the subject of some teasing when he was not there to defend himself, but I accepted the swat of self-reproach. I was speaking nothing but the truth.
“I kept waiting for them to come to blows,” Boromir said. “Although it was he who held back his companions when they shot to their feet.”
“True, and I could scarce believe it. I was proud of him.”
“Well, he’d already been admonished once by you in front of all. I vow he did not wish to invite more.”
“I regretted having to do so, but I had not expected that he would turn his ill-temper upon my fledgling.”
“Ohhh," I grinned and gazed off fondly. "He has ever been so.”
Boromir quieted, relaxed now. He studied me with interest, clearly curious about my fond gaze. “You have known each other long,” he asked, endearingly casual.
“Aye," I grinned again, softly. "A long time. Legolas and I have traveled many paths together.”
My fledgling became even more charmingly jealous, asking with veiled, barely controlled envy, “And does this proud prince of Mirkwood ever rebel against your authority? He backed down easily enough in council.”
Aye, Legolas had indeed backed down, but not before he had behaved badly, disrupting the fragile peace of Elrond’s Council. Part of me itched to inform Boromir that Legolas had already answered to me for his little show of temper, and that my elfling was at this moment likely spending an uncomfortable evening standing up in the Hall of Fire.
Revealing to Boromir that Legolas sometimes ended up over my knee might have made this easier for both of us. He would have perhaps been comforted in knowing that he was not alone in this, that the proud elf already submitted to it.
I spanked Legolas for his often ill-planned choices and his wayward temper and for reasons that had to do with a need for attention, but he did not challenge my authority. If my temperamental elf stayed true to his nature on our quest, Boromir might learn his secret, but I would not break that trust to make my present task easier.
“Legolas sometimes rebels, but he seldom needs to be reminded of who is in charge.”
Boromir nodded and a silence fell. I could let this go no longer. But, as he ever seemed able to do, my fledgling surprised me yet again.
“I know how you remind the hobbits who is in charge,” he suddenly murmured.
I cast him a glance. He kept his gaze on the fire and said, “You spank them.”
I watched him in silent astonishment.
“I overheard them talking several days ago,” he went on. “I was sitting in a grove, near a statue that was overgrown with thick foliage, so I was hidden from their view when they happened by, chattering as they often do. I couldn’t see them, but I-I accidentally heard what they were saying.”
He narrowed his eyes, gazing off as though watching what had happened and flushing slightly. “Sam wanted to stop and let Frodo rest on a stone bench nearby, but Frodo insisted he was fine and he told Sam to stop fussing, and Merry laughed and said that he knew why Frodo didn’t want to sit on that stone bench, to which Pip of course asked why.”
I smiled to myself, remembering the day exactly and knowing how Frodo’s bottom became so sore.
“Sam insisted that Frodo needed a rest," Boromir continued. "He said, ‘Here, Mr. Frodo, you can sit here on my lap, nice and cushioned.’ Merry howled with laughter and said, ‘Sam, you grow more Tookish everyday! Frodo doesn’t want near any laps right now. Do you, Frodo?’”
I chuckled and Boromir grinned in spite of himself. Still staring off, he went on.
“Pippin was now beside himself. He demanded to know what was going on, and then, suddenly, he paused in mid-fuss and said, ‘Oh. Oh, I see. Oh, dear! Poor Frodo!’ I was about to go find out what was wrong with the little one, see if he needed any help, but Frodo quickly said, ‘Pip, stop it. I’m fine.’ But Pippin pressed on, saying, ‘Was it a bad one, Frodo? I mean, a long one?’
“Sam now sounded close to clouting Pip. ‘For pity’s sake,’ he cried. ‘Leave him alone! Can’t you see he’s blushing enough?’ And then Merry said, ‘They’re all bad ones, you Took.’ And Pippin muttered, ‘Aye, that’s true.’”
I had not stopped chuckling since he began. “Go on!” I again implored.
“Well, by now my curiosity was burning, and I nearly stepped out to ask them what they were yammering about, but a moment later Frodo said, calmly, ‘It was a spanking, Pip, like any we’ve all had from Strider from time to time. And, yes, my backside is sore right now, but it always is for awhile after he's spanked me. I’ll be fine.’”
Boromir paused to shake his head in amazement. “I was sure I had not heard them aright, but then they went on! Pip said, ‘Aye, true, we’ve all suffered Strider's expert spankings. But some seem worse to me than others.’ They all agreed to this, and then they started discussing which 'Strider spankings' were the most memorable for each of them!”
'Strider spankings!' I laughed loudly. That would have been an interesting discussion. Boromir gazed at me with mildly amused astonishment. “To hear them talk! Do you spank these little ones every day?”
It took me a moment to recover from laughing anew at that. Finally I shook my head and choked out, “Nay, o-only when needed, but that does seem to be often.”
Boromir was now laughing aloud, too. It felt good, sharing such merriment with him. We had been struggling though difficult matters, with bigger matters yet to come, so this bit of enjoyment was most welcome. The little ones had once again charmed my path.
“You tell a story well, sir,” I said, our chuckling winding down. “And I do discipline the hobbits in just that way, as you may find yourself wanting and needing to do sometime.”
“Spank a hobbit?” He looked startled.
"Indeed. It might be the very thing they need from you, sir."
"I could never sp --"
“Do you care about them?” I asked. “Would you do anything you could to see they obeyed you and therefore remained safe?”
He paused and thought for a moment. “Aye.”
“Does it seem overly harsh to you? After all, they may look like children, but they are adults . . . at least, I think Pippin is an adult." I knit my brow, pondering. "I am not certain of that.”
Again, he thought this over. Then Boromir fired me a glance, his eyes widening fast. He shot to his feet and began to wander aimlessly and with sudden edginess. “Well, n-no . . . no it doesn’t seem overly harsh. True, though not children from what I have seen thus far they sometimes act like little boys.”
“Naughty little boys.”
He stopped and fired me a frown. “That’s a wretched word, Aragorn.”
I chuckled. “But to the point.” Grinning at his wince, I said, “The first time I spanked them they were furious before hand. Then, after I had finished with each one and they all were comforted and sore-bottomed, they promptly fell asleep.”
Boromir watched me, stunned. “They fell asleep?”
“They were exhausted and frightened and alone, with no direction and no one to guide their next move. I had been watching for them, knowing they were due to arrive in Bree, and that Gandalf was not there to meet them. I had to get them and the Ring safely here.”
A sudden memory surged forth – Frodo, small and wary and utterly beautiful, sitting hunched over in that dark common room, a lost sweet lamb amongst a rowdy pack of hungry wolves. I shook my head. “You should have seen them, Boromir. Four halflings in that dangerous Inn, alone and acting like --”
“Heedless halflings,” he said in a hushed voice, resuming his seat with a groan of dismay, his eyes full of dread.
“Aye. And they tried to challenge me.”
He made a sound of disbelief. “No. They did not!”
“Faith! The little bratlings!”
“Mmm. Of course, I was a stranger, and a scruffy-looking stranger, so they were simply being cautious. But I could not hope to safely transport four insubordinate hobbits all the way here without establishing some discipline from the start. I had to assume authority over them.”
Boromir froze, his gaze locked on mine. It seemed he was barely breathing. Then he shot to his feet once more, again too flustered to be still, pacing a short path, his arms stiff at his sides, ending in tight fists. He anxiously cleared his throat with a feigned cough, and said, “Well, perhaps I was wrong.”
“You were not wrong.”
“After all, they are, as you say, adults.”
“What does being an adult have to do with this?”
“Spanking them does seem overly harsh.”
“They needed to be treated with honor and, and dignity.”
“They needed to understand what would happen should they rebel, my fledgling. They needed to know that I would not tolerate them endangering themselves or any of us because of stubbornness or foolishness. They needed to know that I was in charge."
I stood and blocked his path and grabbed him by his muscled arms to halt his mad pacing. Holding him steady, I looked at him and said, "And, just as importantly, they needed to know that I was concerned for them. I honored them with my care and attention." I sighed. "Indeed, I should have disciplined them more, because it was their disobedience that resulted in Frodo’s stabbing and near-death.”
Boromir scowled and shot back, “But to use such a method! You could have simply demanded that they accept your authority and that would have been enough!”
Ah. Finally. My opening.
“Is it enough for you?”
Boromir simply stared at me, his mouth open slightly. Then in a small voice he murmured, “Aye.”
I watched him. “Is it, my fledgling?”
He made no reply.
“Boromir,” I said calmly, “it is one thing to say you accept something, to know in your mind why it is necessary, but it is another thing to accept it in your heart and take it deep inside of you.”
I felt him trembling. He shook his head ever so slightly, seemingly dazed, yet in his glistening eyes I saw an understanding he could not conceal. But he was appalled, and a moment later he pulled back from me as though my touch burned him. I released his arms, but I held his gaze.
“As you do with Legolas, you also have much in common with the little ones. They needed to be shown who was in charge and so do you, my fledgling. I intend to see it done so that no question of my authority remains in your mind.”
“A-Aragorn . . . .” He stared at me. “You cannot mean to --”
“Y-You cannot be serious!”
He breathed a soft, “No. I shall not permit you --”
I gave him a quiet, knowing grin. “Aye. You shall permit it. You are a man of good sense, and you see the sense of this, although you wish you did not. Boromir, I care about you as much as I care about the halflings, and I plan to do everything possible to see that no harm comes to you. Aye, this shall be hard, but it shall be done, now, and as often as is needed.”
He flinched at that, his gaze becoming even more startled. I continued casting him a soft grin, and I took hold of his arm right behind the elbow, saying, “Deny it to yourself if you like, but deep inside you know that I am right in this, and you know that what I am about to do is just. So come, my wise little fledgling. Do not give me trouble. Accept what must be.”
“Not much further.”
“You said that a while ago, young sir.”
“If I have to ask again we shall stop and attend to matters here in the middle of this path.”
I did not care to imagine how he thought to do that.
“Or, we will return to your chambers and I shall attend to you as I am beginning to think I should have last night.”
“Please, Aragorn, not much further. Look! This is where I left the path yesterday morning.”
He released the dissatisfied grunt I was coming to know all too well. “And how long must we now battle through this forest?”
“The hidden glade I told you of is not far.”
“You said that a while ago, young sir.”
But we truly were almost there, and as I led Aragorn through Rivendell’s now somewhat familiar hinterland I tried to keep from thinking of why we were headed for the secluded grove I’d spent most of yesterday pacing.
I could scarce believe this was happening. I couldn’t fathom what he was about to do to me, what he’d nearly done to me last night before I’d shamelessly begged him for quarter --
He had already taken a firm grip on my arm and was leading me to the bed when I shook from my daze, panic smacking into me. Not only did he mean to do this at that very moment, but he was also planning to position me as he had when I was a boy of four – upended and over his lap! And would he lower my breeches as well? Probably so! I went breathless with fear.
I would sooner have faced all the orcs in Mordor than to submit to this! I had sought some way to gainsay him, something other than I was a warrior, an adult, a respected Captain of Gondor and, and, and . . . I did not want to be spanked!
But Aragorn’s detestable reasoning was sound, curse his loathsome Ranger’s hide. He’d masterfully woven me right into the fabric of his flawless design. I had even provided him some thread with my little tale of hobbit spankings. Then he’d finished me off by appealing to my sense of integrity and fairness. I’d desperately wished I had neither.
Vile, obstinate, clever man! Nevertheless, Aragorn was right – his authority must be absolute. I’d shuddered, knowing what my agreement meant and what he demanded I now face. Worst of all, I knew that I would indeed submit to it.
But at that moment when panic hit, my stomach clenched, instinct had surged forth and I’d yanked my arm from Aragorn’s grasp.
He had paused and turned to me with raised brows and a look of mild perplexity and I’d just stood there, gaping at him, too overcome to speak. Of course, I had no argument to offer him. But I’d seen Faramir in that spanking position often enough to conjure a fine image of what was about to take place and, well, panic is panic. That vision was all that filled my mind, making integrity and fairness costly notions.
Aragorn gave me a quiet smile full of understanding that fairly murmured, ‘I know you did not intend to do so foolhardy a thing as pull away from me, my fledgling, so we shall not speak of it. Now, come.’ And he again took my arm and began hauling me towards the bed.
Again I’d panicked, dug in my heels, and blurted, “Aragorn, no, please! Not here! Not in my chambers!”
He seemed less than pleased. “Boromir --”
“Please! I grant you all of what you are saying! I do! And I shall submit to-to-to . . . this. Valar help me, I shall! But-But . . . .” I rasped on in a hushed voice as though all of Rivendell was listening. “Please, just not here! There are too many others about, others who may . . . may . . . .”
“Hear something?” He studied me with interest. “Do you plan to make a ruckus?”
“Pippin makes a dreadful ruckus.”
“I do not plan to make a --”
“Two or three swats and he is already starting to bellow.”
I huffed an indignant sigh. Bellow indeed! I had resolved to not make a sound, not one solitary sound. But then, I had no way of knowing what to expect, and I strongly desired more privacy than my chambers afforded for whatever this detestable Ranger’s efforts might enkindle. “I assure you, sir, I certainly do not intend to bel --”
“I vow, all of Rivendell knows it when Master Took is over my knee.”
Oh, he was really having fun now. I groaned and tried to stop listening with the result that I listened all the more.
“Later, when Pip has recovered, the more sympathetic elves will pat his little bottom and offer words of solace as he passes.”
“He seems comforted.”
“Please, sir!” He paused. “I beseech you!” I said hurriedly. “This – this . . . beleaguering . . . .” I paused to sigh, then: “I shall submit to . . . to your discipline. I shall. But, please, I beg you, not here. And your jesting tone, sir, I . . . th-this is difficult enough as it is.”
Immediately his gaze softened. “Forgive me. I wouldst not make this more difficult for you, my fledgling. But exactly what do you suggest?”
Panic shook me again and I thundered, “I do not know!”
He frowned. Sincerely. “Your tone, Boromir,” he finally said. “I understand that you are distraught, but this is no time to test my patience.”
“Nor do I intend to do so,” I replied with far more composure than I felt. “And I apologize for my tone. I have no other solution to this, but surely there must be something . . . .”
He sighed and glanced outside. “We shall find no privacy in the dark of night. Torches light the pathways and gardens, and I do not think you want this to take place under torchlight.”
Torchlight! Whilst stumbling back to the settlement earlier I had longed for a torch - I knew of a private place! But, would he . . . . ?
"Aragorn, must we do this now?" I blurted . "Right now?”
He looked at me.
“I know a secluded place where we can go, but we will needs wait until daylight to find it.”
Aragorn lifted his chin a bit and narrowed his eyes, contemplating me closely.
“It's where I had been all day, a private glade off to the north, surrounded by trees and bushes, and there is a rock ledge, near the exact same shape and size of a --” I glanced at the bed, my face burning, then I shook my head quickly to rid myself of the image.
“You are suggesting that we wait until morning to do this?”
He looked skeptical. “This plan seems ill-considered. You are likely to get little sleep tonight, knowing what the dawn will bring.”
A fair point. But frankly, any delay was tempting at the moment. “So be it.”
Again he turned a thoughtful look outdoors. “Is it far, this place of seclusion?”
I swallowed. It was. But he might refuse if he knew that. “No.” I shrugged. “Not far.”
“If it is not far --” He turned to me with a shrewd glance. “-- then why go? I thought your goal was to put distance between us and the curiosity of others.”
Again my stomach clenched. “It is perhaps . . . a bit . . . far.”
He shook his head slowly and gave me such a stern frown that I feared he would yank me across his knee that moment. “You are making a poor case for yourself, my naughty fledgling. This is an unfortunate way to begin.”
“I know,” I muttered on a sigh, ready to suffer the defeat I’d earned, my hatred of that one detestable word growing hotter.
“However,” he went on, “I know this is very hard for you. So, I agree to wait until morning. I shall come for you at dawn. I assume you can again find this place you speak of?”
I’d assured him that I could. And last night Aragorn had been proven right yet again. I’d suffered a sleepless night waiting for the morn and my horrible fate . . . .
It made no sense that I should be so drenched with dread. The entire matter annoyed me. I grew more and more angry with myself. It was only a spanking. How bad could that be? I tried to talk myself out of my fear but I hadn’t been able to resolve myself to what Aragorn was planning. Not all night. As each hour had dragged by and flown by my fear remained steadfast. Only a spanking? It became a fearsome word to even contemplate.
Finally, during the last weary dark hour before pre-dawn, my anger drifted away and reason again resurfaced and I grasped the simple truth of why I’d failed to conquer my fear. Of course, I’d known the answer all along, from the moment Aragorn had told me what he intended to do to me – I’d dreaded the embarrassment. Pain wasn’t the factor. The humiliation was. I may still indeed be Aragorn’s little fledgling, but I was also an adult. I admired Aragorn. And he was going to turn me over his knee and spank me. Every time I thought of it I winced.
Little wonder I was drenched in dread. And although I always loved awakening just before dawn, this morning when the sky began to lighten and the birds began their songs I’d sincerely hated both. When Aragorn's quiet knock came I had near shot through the ceiling.
Tromping through Rivendell’s lush grounds, my stomach twisting, each step bringing us closer to my terrible fate, I’d felt groggy and ill. Clearly I looked it as well. At one point Aragorn took hold of my arm and stopped me.
“Boromir, are you unwell?” he asked, full of concern. “You are too pale. Perhaps we should return.”
I’d immediately brightened. Return? A reprieve? Aye! Indeed! Let us return! I endeavored to look even more poorly. He knew it at once.
“Aye, it is all right, my fledgling,” he said, a glitter of cleverness in his gaze. “We can do this back in your chambers, or in mine.”
“N-No!” I had sputtered. “No, my lord. I’m fi –”
I walked into a tree branch, Aragorn’s bark yanking me back to the moment. It sounded like his patience had positively expired. “Just ahead!” I cried. “Here! We’re here!”
Shoving through the last line of saplings, we entered my secluded glade and I whirled to face him, a grin on my face. Then I suddenly wondered why I was grinning.
Another moment of this endless tramping and I would have hauled him by the scruff of his neck all the way back to Rivendell and blistered his deserving backside in front of all and sundry. I would have been tempted to feel misled if I believed Boromir foolhardy enough to try it, but he was no fool, so surely this secluded place he had spoken of was somewhere within Rivendell’s borders. I was, however, beginning to have my doubts.
Although it had taken longer than I had hoped it would have to reach his sheltered glade, it was indeed a good place for Boromir to receive his first spanking from me. He looked boyishly pleased with himself. Then he remembered why we were here and his beaming smile vanished.
His face paled with the same terror he had worn last night. I had expected no less. He was struggling to be a model of grace in adversity, but this was a bit much even for a seasoned Gondorian Captain. Orcs, traitorous wizards, Dark Lords, monstrous vile things of the night he would face. But this impending lesson over my knee was splintering the nerve of my mighty fledgling, and I would prolong his suffering no longer.
I felt his watchful gaze as I strolled to the large stone ledge he had described. Indeed, it would serve my purpose well. Sitting down, I ran a palm over its smooth surface, so perfect and welcoming, as were all things found within these lands, a living entity. I slid back enough to leave a space beside me, room enough for his broad chest to rest upon. Aye, this would suit well.
I turned and studied him. My poor fledgling looked overwrought, exhausted from what had no doubt been a sleepless night, yet he was also still cleverly alert, as proven when he tried to beguile me into inappropriate sympathy. Little brat. I had nearly laughed.
How young he suddenly looked, standing there, trying not to sway with fatigue. He had been dressing when I came to fetch him at first light, but I bid him wear only what he had already donned – his shirt, breeches and boots. It would save me burrowing beneath tedious layers of clothing to find my target.
He looked more youthful without his mail and his Gondorian finery, my powerful but anxious young warrior, struggling so hard to be stalwart. How like Legolas he was. How appealingly like my beloved elfling.
I crooked a finger at him. He did not move. I gave him a moment.
“Aragorn --” he began.
“At once, sir,”
“You do not want to make me fetch you.”
Eyes downcast, he released a small shudder and moved towards me on stiff-looking legs, crossing the small expanse separating us. Flashes of what he might be feeling fired through me, snatches of what Legolas had shared after the first time I had spanked him:
“When my stomach hit your thighs and I fully felt that position over your knees, ai, Aragorn!”
Boromir was likely anticipating that right now. It was one thing for him to imagine a small hobbit stretched across my lap; envisioning himself there would be fairly devastating. He was quivering within, shaken by feelings he had likely not experienced in many long years. And we had not yet even begun.
When he was close enough I clasped his arm and yanked. He flinched.
“Shh,” I murmured. “You have been over my lap before and survived the experience.”
“Aye,” he croaked. “But I . . . I fit the experience differently.”
“My lap is still sufficient for one little boy.”
“But, my-my lord . . . I am not . . . not a little . . . I may not fit --”
“Hush,” I said. “Let us see.”
I gave a firm tug and drew him down, situating us both until he lay spread across my thighs, his upper body resting along the rock on one side to make him feel more secure, his legs draping behind him. He was heavier than my elfling, of course, but he felt good over my lap, nicely solid, and I was surprised that his weight did not bother me at all. I smiled. Ah, how satisfying to feel my fledgling back here where he belonged, safe over my lap.
“You fit excellently well,” I said eager to share my enthusiasm with him. He gasped, harsh and low, muttering something I was not meant to hear and was grateful I had not. “Are you comfortable?”
He stiffened slightly, then rasped, “Comfortable? Am I comfortable? You are concerned for my comfort?”
“Of course,” I said. “And I am being polite.”
Again he muttered to himself and I grinned anew, lifted his shirt and grabbed the waist of his breeches, expecting the protest that instantly followed.
“No! Ah! Aragorn! Please! Must you . . . must you --”
“Must I pull down your breeches?”
He made a grating sound deep in his throat.
“Is that what you meant?” I went on, allowing him the experience he had invited with his question. “Must I pull down your breeches and spank you on your bare bottom?”
He buried his face in his open palms and released a strangled gasp. In a way I longed to comfort him. But Boromir's embarrassment was part of this humbling ritual and I intended to make certain he felt his exquisite squirming to the utmost.
“Answer me, sir. You would rather I did not pull down your breeches and bare your bottom, is that right?”
“Aye!” he shouted. "Aragorn, please!"
I let his cry hang above us for a long moment, enough to make him cringe inside, then I lightly scolded him. “Mind your tone, little one.” He sucked a sharp breath at my term, and I pressed on: “Allow me to save you the effort of further protest. I shall never spank you with your breeches up, my fledgling. I do not spank breeches. I spank naughty backsides. And there’s an end to it. Do you understand?”
Oh, indeed he did. And he certainly did not want me to elaborate further on the topic.
“Aye,” he quickly said, his tone most polite. “Aye, my lord, I understand.”
I continued on, slowly lowering his breeches and when the cool air hit his backside he groaned once more, softly, as though in anguish. In a very real way, he was. I was certain that his blood pumped furiously, his limbs trembled, and he was enduring numerous sensations against which he had little defense, all painful reminders that he was not in control here. It was time to add my own painful reminders.
I pressed my palm down on the small of his back, stabilizing him, a gesture of reassurance, not restraint, and rested my hand on his rounded bottom. How different his backside was than a soft little hobbit bottom, or a slim, smooth-skinned and perfect elvish bottom. Mmmm . . . aye, Boromir was indeed very different from my Legolas in this respect. My fledgling’s backside was much more muscular. I could not resist giving it a few little fond pats.
But he was truly shaking now. I made him wait no longer. I raised my hand and brought it down with a smart crack. He jumped at the first swat. They always do. That initial whack is shocking, not just the hot sting upon quivering flesh, but the intense intimacy of it.
I held nothing back, moving into a steady spanking rhythm, something that would help him cope. Each spank brought an involuntary flinch, and as time wore on and his backside began to warm and glow, a small explosion of breath accompanied each flinch.
Clearly he had resolved to not cry out. That was all right. Legolas usually began with the same resolve, stubbornly stoic despite his discomfort, so unlike the wriggling, kicking halflings. The little ones are honest about what they are feeling, Pippin in particular. A spanking stung, and they surrendered to that fact, admitting their discomfort with charming openness.
Boromir was struggling inside though, mightily, and despite his determination to appear unaffected my fledgling would not be released from my lap until he had surrendered. It took a warrior longer to reach that point than it did a halfling and I understood that. I understood all too well.
No matter. I would wait.
Fury helped me carry on at the beginning. Thank the Valar something had. I focused on that and on my resentment of Aragorn, what he had the audacity to be doing. And I cursed my stupidity, at how easily he’d led me into this . . . aye, focus on that anger, on that, and on how humiliating this position was. A jolt shot through me when my stomach hit his thighs and it had taken a sheer act of will to remain where I was when he drew down my breeches. Devastating, all of it.
And now . . . now Isildur's heir was spanking me. He had been spanking me steadily for some time and I . . . I was running out of fury. Embarrassment was quickly becoming an unimportant matter. Now all I longed to do was writhe and squirm and wriggle away from his relentless spanking hand, pride be cursed!
Yet I still wouldn’t allow myself to do such humiliating things, except . . . I-I had inadvertently bucked up a bit, and Aragorn had held me down more firmly, reminding me that I didn't want to be doing that anyway, thank you, Isildur's heir. But now . . . now the anger and the shame were being driven from me with each increasingly biting swat.
None of this made sense. A spanking could not hurt this much! It couldn’t! This was a child’s chastisement! How did the hobbits withstand it? How could they jest about it and tease each other about it, this harrowing, endless, fiery experience?
Had they really suffered this more than once? And how could they be so foolish as to invite this again after enduring it the first time? Were their wee bottoms as tough as the bottoms of their furry feet? Was that possible? No. No of course not. Well, not likely. But just how did they withstand this? How?
Was I more delicate than a hobbit?
Aragorn must be spanking me harder than he did them. Had to be. He couldn’t do this to a sweet little halfling! He was a fiend, but he wasn’t that fiendish. The poor creatures would scarce be able to walk afterwards, much less ever sit again. For that matter, would I? So much for my sheer act of will.
I’d lost track of how long he’d been at this . . . hours now. Hours. It had to be hours. I tried to blink away my blurred vision to judge the length of the shadows . . . no. No, impossible that they looked no shorter now than when we’d arrived here hours and hours ago! Not possible. Not. I simply couldn’t see well enough; my vision was too glassy with unshed tears. But I refused to reach up and wipe them away. I would not. I clenched my fists. No! I would not.
I had fought so hard to hold back any traitorous weeping. But after a while my tears listened to my blazing backside instead of my will and a few wet drops had splashed down onto the stone beneath my face. Still, he need not know . . . he couldn’t see them. I was braced up on my elbows, my head hanging down, my hair blessedly covering my face. Aragorn couldn’t see that wetness beneath my face, and he wouldn’t! I wouldn't allow him to.
My jaw ached from gritting my teeth. Throbbing waves radiated up towards my back and down the tops of my thighs, although he’d only struck my backside . . . again and again and again, over and over, tirelessly, over and over. If only I could’ve gone numb. But, no. Nooo, of course, my behind only became more tender as he went on, and on, and on, and on . . . untold numbers of swats for hours and hours and hours now. Made sense it would hurt more . . . sting upon sting upon sting.
Aragorn had to tire! How could he be this relentless? How was he able to sustain such an unwavering, forceful swing when every one of my muscles now ached and quivered with weariness? How could he not tire?
I wasn’t sure I could bear much more. I would not dishonor myself and stop him by force. I could of course, but I couldn’t. I really could not. And I wouldn’t. No, no, no, nooooo, I would not! But surely, oh please, surely this was enough!
I had to make it stop. I had to do something. This was too awful, too endless, too smothering, too blinding and big.
He wanted me to yield. Very well! So be it. I’d yield, and gladly!
Curse my weakness and his inflexible need to control! Curse my helpless position and his power to demand what he wished! Aye, I’d yield. I’d stop this. I’d force my frenzied mind to focus, form a dignified plea for leniency, and he’d have my dratted assurance that I’d accept his authority.
The sound of his voice hardly seemed real.
“Such lonely, silent tears . . . ah, my poor, beloved fledgling.”
My words had their predictable effect. Boromir went rigid, even more rigid than he had been; then he collapsed. He melted down from his elbows, crossed his arms before him and dropped his head to them with a gut-wrenching sob.
Even in his submission he struggled for some measure of control, muffling his first low and desperate sobs into his arms. It was not to be, though, for his surrender hit him too hard and it was too powerful to hide or contain.
Within moments he raised his head and gulped shuddering intakes of air between raw, bursting cries. I slowed my swats and began rubbing circles on his lower back.
“Shhhh . . . easy . . . breathe, little one . . . shhhhh.”
‘Little one’ befit him now. At this moment Boromir was as defenseless as the last time he had been over my knee at the age of four, and he was likely even more fragile. He desperately needed to hear that endearment, know that it was permissible to be so weakened and vulnerable. Impossibly hard feelings for one such as my fledgling. His weeping, once started, grew louder and more frenzied.
But he was right where he needed to be, where I wanted him to be.
I stopped spanking entirely and rested my palm over his hot and fiercely red bottom. He truly had taken a lot but, sensing his limits, I had brought him right to the edge of them. He trembled now, nearly depleted, and I began speaking softly to him, simple words that brought comfort to hobbit and elf alike: “Shhhh . . . breathe . . . listen to my voice now. Gooood, sweetling, you did so well, I am so proud of you . . . shhhh . . . .”
I kept him there, safe over my lap, and I continued murmuring to him, giving him time to find his breath and simply abandon himself to his exhausted weeping, his head buried in his arms, his hair shielding his face. He needed to be calm enough to listen now. Hopefully he was sufficiently spent in both body and mind and had nothing left to fight me with, for indeed, what was coming now would be even harder for him than the mere physical ordeal he had just suffered.
I usually did my talking during a spanking, but I also saved some of it for afterwards. I would gather up whoever was over my lap and enfold him to me, reassuring him with soothing words and gentle touches. Sometimes I would stretch out with Legolas, stroking and embracing him, though most often, as with the hobbits, I cuddled him on my lap as well.
But whoever was over my knee they never minded staying there until I decided to let them up, a feeling I understood entirely. And, comfort issues aside, I had learned long ago what could happen if I allowed a warrior too much freedom at this point. Sadly for Boromir, a certain elfling’s behavior had set the standard for him as well.
So my fledgling would remain where he was for now, feeling his vulnerable position and the ever-present threat that I would begin spanking him again if need be. Not that I felt Boromir was capable of more than his current and heartfelt crying. But, though vanquished for now, my determined fledgling was still himself, that tenacious spirit lying dormant at the moment, yet still potent. And that was as it should be. It was never my goal to break the spirit.
A spanking is not meant to diminish. It is meant to nourish. The unspoken message conveyed to anyone over my knee, hobbit, elf, or man is, ‘I care about you. I am not indifferent to your need, your guilt, your loneliness. I shall not walk away, leaving you to suffer alone. You shall not be passed over or ignored. I see you, and I care enough to discipline you.’
For a spanking is a loving act, a trust, and a bond. Indeed, who does not hurt when our pain goes unheeded . . . or worse yet, when it is seen, yet dismissed? And who does not need a little attention sometimes simply because they do?
What I wanted for my fledgling was the knowledge and the acceptance that there was nothing wrong with needing the attention he so deserved. He had lost that knowledge long ago, his yearning to be noticed ignored until he finally shoved aside any further desire for it rather than to go on suffering its loss. He had locked away that need in his little boy heart until it was forgotten.
But the longing for concern and affection from another never entirely dies, especially when it was once enjoyed and lost. And so the appearance of Thorongil had reawakened that longing in Boromir, rousing not only his hope, but his confusion and fear. Little wonder he lay here quivering. And little wonder he would struggle mightily with what I had to say.
“I am proud of you, Boromir,” I began after a pause. “You did well. Yet, perhaps you wonder why this was needed. Was it not enough to simply tell me that you accepted my authority?” I sighed, listening to his still soft shudders. “Aye, it was most likely enough, and you are here in part to understand that acceptance on a deeper level as the hobbits needed to.”
I pressed my hand more firmly into the small of his back. My more meaningful reason for this spanking would be the hardest for him to endure. But he had to hear it, just as the hobbits and Legolas always had to hear it when they sought this from me. He had to understand that this was about more than just power.
“But, more importantly, you are here because you are deserving of this, my fledgling, and this is where I shall place you again in the future, as I am certain it will be needed.”
He sucked a quick breath and paused, then he shook his head in tiny rapid moves of protest. That was fine. He would need to hear these same words often before he understood.
“Aye,” I said. “This shall surely be needed again, sweetling, and you shall be given it, and you will accept then as you have now, because you accept my authority over you. You are deserving of my attention, my fledgling, now, as ever you were. When you hungered for my notice as a child, I gave it to you, and sometimes it came in this form, with you stretched out over my knee, just as you are now.”
His honeyed locks tossed with the more insistent shakes of his head, but aside from a few low gasps, and small gulping sobs, he remained silent. It was building within him, though, that violent swell of emotion and denial.
“You are not here because I disapprove of you, or because you disappoint me, for indeed you do neither,” I continued. “You disappoint yourself and punish yourself more than I ever could, or would ever choose to. I do not judge you, Boromir, any more than I judge a hobbit or an elf. I am proud of you, of the man you have become, and I say again, you are here because you deserve to be, because you needed to be.”
He did try to move then, his panic exceeding his honor and the threat of more pain. A greater pain now roared within him, and his only thought was to escape, run! How well I understood.
The few swats I quickly delivered would have felt hideous, and he arched and cried out, doubtless against his will. But my words stung him more: “There is nowhere for you to run where you shall not find yourself waiting, my beloved fledgling.”
He froze, silent, then a few hitching breaths broke free and he slumped across me once more. He started crying again, haltingly, more frantically now, hushed and desperate as though he had to hide it.
“I-I . . . Arag-gor . . . I-I --”
“Shhh . . . hush now,” I murmured. “Do not try to speak. Not now. You may speak soon, but not now.”
I did not want him saying anything yet, and of course he would try to. He was grasping for any way out of his anguish, even if it was no more than a choked and broken attempt to utter words.
Not yet. I would not allow him that distraction yet.
“Listen to me, sweetling, you made certain Faramir received attention from you, that he never lacked for the care you knew he needed. But the care you yourself deserved was ripped from you at an early age.”
I sighed again. “Would that I had been able to stay with you longer when you were a child. I am sorry, Boromir. Forgive me, little one. I owe you those words. And although I cannot amend the past, I can, and I shall, see to you henceforth.”
“A-Ar-gorn, plea-plea – sto-stop! I-I canno --”
Another solid crack on his bottom silenced him.
“Aye, you can hear me out, sweetling, so hush now. As you see, we shall still be addressing this matter of obedience from time to time. So be it. I am content with that, because the little boy I see living in you still is a good little boy, worthy of my attention. He needs a loving hand to correct him when he misbehaves, for he is too brutal with himself if he feels he has done something wrong. My fledgling shows compassion to others, yet he spares little of it for himself.
“But you shall never escape my notice, Boromir. When you need my attention, you shall be given it. When your mutinous air resurfaces, and rest assured, my unruly brat of a fledgling, it will, I promise you this: I shall never think less of you for it. Nor shall I think ill of you for any other headstrong acts. Neither shall I ignore such matters, nor cast you from my affections, nor make you live with your guilt. You shall be attended to, just as you have been here, and then all will be forgiven and forgotten.” I paused and grinned. “Until the next time.”
This was more than he could bear. Boromir burst into fresh sobs, loud, gulping sobs, wrenching, flowing up from a deep place within him. Good. Excellent. He had managed to hear all I had to say, so I allowed him his release now. He was feeling too much to separate it all, but he was certainly no doubt writhing within from his staggering feeling of exposure. Unconditional acceptance is a shattering thing, as is compassion from another for what we cannot bear to look at inside ourselves.
So I let him weep, and I rubbed his back and I murmured soft words of endearment to him and I simply loved the man over my lap as I had loved the child who had once been there. After a while he began to quiet, his sobs slowing, in part, from sheer exhaustion, and when he calmed to a soft crying and hiccupping I felt it was a good time to move him.
Slowly and with great care, I drew his breeches back up over his crimson bottom, Boromir groaning and twitching in a rather adorable manner. I could budge him no further without his help, though, so I said, “Come. Let me make you more comfortable. I long to hold my fledgling close.”
He shook from his stupor, then he shot up too quickly and stumbled when his feet hit the ground.
“Easy. Slowly, sweetling,” I told him, rising swiftly to steady him. He was groggy and wonderfully malleable, just as I had hoped he would to be. “Come, little one,” I murmured. “Follow my lead.”
Speaking to him with simple words and a gentle tone I pulled him down to the soft grass. Boromir had little will to do anything other than what I told him to, and within moments we were resting entwined, my shoulders braced against the rock ledge, Boromir half-lying over me, with his weight on his side, sparing his sore behind. I wrapped him up in my embrace, gathering my fledgling close until his upper body rested on mine, his head on my shoulder.
I inhaled a deep breath of contentment and he released a few small involuntary shudders. As he had when I first took him over my knee, Boromir felt good in my arms, warm and solid and entirely mine. We lay there in the fragrant morning for some time, Boromir becoming so still that several times I wondered if he had fallen asleep. But then he would stir, snuggle closer to me in a way that made my chest swell gloriously, and perhaps rub his face against my shoulder. I felt the peace within him, the calm beating of his heart and his soft, quiet breathing, and it was utterly perfect. I could not help leaning down to press my lips on his forehead.
“You can never disappoint me, my beloved fledgling,” I murmured. “I love you now as I always have, and nothing you can do will ever change that. And now --” I kissed him again. “Now you may speak.”
Speak . . . hmmm . . . .
The word slithered into my mind, finding no foothold.
“You do not have to speak, though,” Aragorn added. “Lie quiet if you wish. You feel good in my arms. There is no need for words.”
I doubted I had any. They were just beginning to form in my own mind, but to speak? The challenge was beyond me.
And what could I say to him? I could tell him that I never wanted him to move, never release me, that his body felt warm and soothing and his arms around me comforting, and that the light touch of his lips sent a shock of enjoyment rippling through me.
I could tell him that I loved all his gentle, sweet words, especially the ones that made me feel like that four year-old again. I loved him calling me ‘sweetling’ and ‘my fledgling.’ My fledgling. I was his fledgling! Oh, the warm jolts that sent through me! How could I love it so? How could just that endearment from him, that special name for me make my heart thrum so? How was it that I loved him talking to me in terms that I might’ve used for Faramir in his youth, or that might now be better suited to the little ones? How could I love it so?
I could tell him that nothing in my life came close to what I felt in this moment, this wondrous, bewildering, sheltered feeling, and that I could likely shatter again in my next heartbeat, and that I had never wept so as an adult, and that, even though I should be furious with him because of my throbbing backside, in truth, I felt so loved, so safe, so . . . so . . . .
Were there any words big enough for what I was feeling?
No. Nothing I could say would be big enough, nor make sense at this moment. So I heard myself say something fairly senseless:
“Denethor never did that.”
A short pause, then: “Did he not?”
“Ah.” Another kiss. “My poor fledgling.”
The aching knot in my throat threatened to burst again, inviting another surge of tears.
“But you wish that he had,” he added.
I squeezed my sore eyes shut, but my tears still trickled free. Unable to respond, I buried my face into his shoulder and barely nodded. Aragorn sighed deeply, his arms holding me tighter as though to shelter me from the memories.
We lay this way for a while, Aragorn slowly petting his fingers through my hair or kissing my head. I relished his closeness and his scent and his touch, feeling safe, and finally I murmured, “Denethor didn’t have to do that, spank me like that, because . . . because he . . . .” I forced myself to stop and think and to find what I was struggling to say. “He would . . . all my father had to do was look at me a certain way, and . . . .”
“Ah,” he said, his voice flat. “Is that all?”
“Aye. And seeing that look . . . a pain would strike at my heart, and I would learn.”
I felt him tense. “Aye,” he said in a low, grating tone. “You learned. Indeed. You learned.”
And I suddenly saw that look, Denethor’s angry look, and a shudder ripped through me. I pressed closer to him and winced my eyes shut again, not wanting Denethor there with us. But Aragorn was there, my Thorongil had me, and he immediately began to rub my back, drawing me closer . . . cuddling me . . . ahhhhhh.
“Shhh,” he said. “He is not here, sweetling.”
“How did you know I was think --”
“You tensed, my fledgling. And your breathing became rougher. It was not hard to determine why. You were thinking too much, thinking of your father, I vow.”
“Stop it, little one.”
I pressed my face against him even more.
"Shhh. That’s right. Hold on t me. 'Tis just the two of us here, no other. I will allow no other," he went on, his voice deep and strong. "I shall have my fledgling all to myself."
I felt a sudden calm, and I had indeed stopped thinking of Denethor. In an instant I had stopped. I raised my eyes to Aragorn, needing to see him. He was already looking down at me, watching me with a strange mixture of sadness and compassion.
“Aragorn, please, I-I cannot seem to think well just now . . . but what is this I . . . why do I feel . . . ?”
He tucked my head back down to his shoulder and kissed my hair and said, “Shhhh, there is no great mystery to be found here, but you have been given more than you can fathom at present. Things will make sense soon, when you are less weary and overcome. We have much time to sort things out now. Still, I shall help you if I can at the moment. What do you wish to know?”
“Just now, you said that I learned . . . ?”
Aragorn paused, drew a deep breath, then released it on a long sigh. “You learned that your waywardness did not bring you the attention you longed for, even in the form of discipline," he said, in a bitter, sad tone. "It brought shame and humiliation. It left you with unbearable guilt and no way to relieve that guilt. No forgiveness. No . . . no peace. Just endless regret. You learned that affection came at a price and you had best meet that price. You learned the wrong lessons, my poor fledgling . . . hurtful lessons. But no more. No more.”
Aragorn's voice had grown more dark and hollow as he spoke and I realized that it was because of me. His anguish was for me! All he’d done was for me. Not to punish or subjugate or shame. But because he cared about me . . . loved me. He had said so: 'I love you now as I always have.' Was such a wondrous truth possible? He was here, holding me, and I felt so safe . . . so entirely his.
And suddenly it didn’t matter that I couldn’t fathom it all right now. All that mattered was that love, and the soaring feeling that I’d found something I’d lost long ago and desperately missed all my life. A treasure had been returned to me. My next words left my lips before I even heard them in my mind.
“I love you, Thorongil.”
“I love you, too, little fledgling.”
I feared my chest would burst for swelling! His reply was so instant, so heartfelt, awarded with a gentle hug and a small kiss to my brow. A tiny sob of joy burst from me ere I could think and, embarrassed, I pressed my face against his shoulder again, wrapping my arms around him more tightly.
After a moment he said in a tight voice, “Boromir. Your embrace is wondrous, but I cannot breathe.”
I gasped, and laughed and quickly loosened my hold, too quickly in fact, and I accidentally rolled back some onto my scorched bottom. “AHH!” I cried and fell against him again. Aragorn was now laughing as well.
“I think you shall be happy to leave your mount behind in Rivendell.”
I drew back, trying to keep my weight on my hip. “I do not find that humorous,” I said, though it was clear that I did.
He gave me a soft triumphant smile. “Aye, you do, little one.”
A sudden shaft of sunlight burst through the trees, shining down into our glade and spilling around Aragorn, illuminating him in a shimmering white glow. For a moment I could do nothing but stare, too overcome by his splendor to speak.
“Come,” he said. He opened his arms, flashing me his quiet, handsome grin. "Come my fledgling. This is where you belong now."
“Aye, my lord.” And I gratefully sank into the embrace of my king.