Beta appreciation notes for my astounding team: Kat – thanks for being such a constant light. Chris – thanks for the help
This one is for Shotboxer, who started me on this journey with her longing to see Boromir survive, and for all those who share her longing.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended. I don't own these characters. This story is not meant to violate the rights held by New Line, Tolkien Enterprises, nor any other licensee, nor is any disrespect intended.
Ere The Final MarchChapter V – Part I
The Cleansing Graceby Larrkin
"Faramir! Wake up!"
I felt strong hands shaking me gently . . . and I heard his voice, my brother’s voice . . . Boromir’s voice . . . Boromir . . . Boromir . . . .
"Aye, little brother; I am here. Shhhh, quiet now. I am here."
"Boromir . . . ." I heard it as I had countless times, his voice on the wind, calling me, mad imaginings, longings for a dead brother . . . Boromir, in my vision, dead . . . I heard myself whimper again, "Boromir."
Another soft shaking, and gentle call: "Aye. Faramir, open your eyes. I am here." Then a direct order in that no-nonsense voice I knew so well. "Wake up at once, little urchin!"
My eyes popped open. There he sat, holding me upright, gazing at me with that intense stare of concern. Boromir! Alive! Ah . . . yes, alive. Of course alive.
"Another nightmare," he said, smoothing my hair from my face. "The same vision? Me floating by in my funeral boat?"
I nodded, trying to quiet my breathing, my racing heart calming as I stared at him. "Yes," I croaked, wincing and squeezing my eyes shut, trying to close away that vision I’d had so often.
My brother pulled me into a hug, his big warm body alive, so alive. It was just what I needed, to feel that life in him, and Boromir had always seemed to know what I most needed.
I opened my eyes and found that we were not alone. Aragorn and Legolas stood nearby, watching me, and the halflings stood at the end of my bed, also watching with wide eyes. I drew back, flustered under so many worried gazes, my brother lowering me down again and bracing up a few pillows under my head.
"Has he done this often?" Aragorn asked, drawing closer to stand at Boromir’s shoulder and look down at me.
"Twice since we were reunited, but Damrod told me that he awoke like this once a night after his vision, sometimes more."
"Once a night and sometimes more?" Legolas joined Aragorn to watch me as well. "Such would serve to exhaust him."
I was beginning to feel oddly nonexistent. So I said, "It is nothing. It will pass."
My brother gave me a frown of admonishment, then glanced up and exchanged his frown with Aragorn and Legolas, who were now wearing the same frown; then they all lowered their frowns to me. I sensed, strangely, that I now had three big brothers to deal with, and even more strangely, I didn’t mind.
Ignoring my statement, Aragorn went on: "Legolas is right. Such a repeated violent waking would wear him down. Little wonder he was not himself in Ithilien when dealing with . . . ." Aragorn quickly stopped himself, but not quickly enough.
"With who?" Pippin asked, coming around to the side of my bed opposite the others.
"When dealing with Frodo and Sam?" Merry inquired, joining his cousin, both now wearing worried looks. "Did something happen with Frodo and Sam, Faramir?"
"Gentlemen," Aragorn said. "The matter does not concern you."
Merry looked ready to contest that notion, but surprisingly, Pippin turned to me and smiled softly and took my hand, saying, "Of course nothing happened. Faramir was kind and gracious to me when he found I’d been given this beautiful livery that had been his when he was a child." Pippin ran a palm over his chest, proudly caressing the White Tree, the insignia of Gondor, on my old raiment. "He helped me learn my oath to Gondor, and he was goodly company, and I’ll hear no ill word spoken of this noble man."
I grinned at him, my face warming. Dear little Took.
"Oh, Pip," Merry said, "I wasn’t about to malign him. I was just curious." Turning to look at Aragorn, he asked, "Why is he still having these dreams, even though he knows Boromir is alive?"
Aragorn shook his head. "I do not know, Merry." Then he glanced at Boromir and said, "I feel they will end soon, though."
I felt as if I didn’t even need to be there. They all seemed content to carry on this conversation about me in my apparent absence. It was more than odd. I wondered where I’d gone.
"Is there anything we can do to help him?" Pip asked.
"Perhaps you should ask Faramir your question, Pippin," Legolas said with a small smile.
They all then realized what they’d been doing, and they shifted and grinned a little at each other, looking collectively sheepfaced. I chuckled and said, "Thank you, sir," to Legolas.
"Is there anything we can do to help you, Faramir?" Pip asked me directly.
I knew they all meant well, but I felt ill at ease, feeble and fussed over. I struggled into a sitting position, the little ones and Boromir fussing anew by quickly bracing up pillows behind me. Noticing two breakfast trays in disarray near the door, I said, "I clearly slept much later than all here. You have already had breakfast?"
Aragorn, Legolas and my brother shifted and shared a knowing glance at my sudden change of topic, but the hobbits merely darted a quick look between themselves and allowed me my out.
"Yes, we’ve eaten," Merry said.
"Legolas and Aragorn ate in the dining hall," Pip replied. "But Boromir waited for you so you need not breakfast alone."
I nodded. Gesturing to Pippin, I said, "And look at you, sir! Already turned out in your Gondorian finery. Are you off to see to your duties, Guardian of the Citadel?"
"Oh, how I wish I was dressed for duty, sir!" Pippin said. "But, alas, I am turned out like this because Aragorn and Legolas are about to escort Merry and me to Aragorn’s chambers --"
"The ‘setting of the transgression,’" Merry added.
"Aye, the ‘setting of the transgression,’ according to a certain Ranger, in order that this same Ranger might administer some soap to my poor cousin and me."
Hoping to get the halflings going more and focused even further away from myself, I feined stupidity and said, "That seems a ways to go for a bath, Pip. We have a bathing chamber here."
Pippin and Merry blinked, their cheeks instantly flushing, then Pippin shot back in a hushed, indignant tone, "Faramir, for goodness sake! We’re not going for a bath! Aragorn isna going to-to bathe--" Now they both went crimson. "The soap is for our mouths! We’re supposed to get our mouths washed out with soap, remember?"
Merry now looked ready to squirm out of his clothes.
"Ah," I said, trying not to grin too broadly. "Yes, I do remember." I studied Merry, who was shifting from foot to foot and staring at the coverlet. "So you are being let out for this, are you, my fellow inmate?"
Merry winced. "Yes. How lovely." Then he paused, then shot me a glance, a glint in his eye, as though he suspected my motives.
"But dressed in only your britches and a shirt? Where is your fine Edoras livery?"
"It got badly torn and bloodied in the battle," Merry replied, still watchful. "But they’re trying to fix it." Then he said, "Is there anything we can do to help you, Faramir?"
I sighed. Clever young Brandybuck. I gave up trying for a diversion and said, "I don’t know. I cannot fathom why this false vision continues to plague me."
"Give yourself time," Aragorn said. "It has only been a few days since you learned that your brother was alive. You lived with the sorrow of his presumed death for much longer. "
"Perhaps," Pippin said in a hopeful tone. "Perhaps it would help him to hear the story again." He turned eagerly to his cousin. "I think that would help him, don’t you, Merry?"
The others snickered and shared a grin amongst themselves. Merry said, "Pip. It’s you wants to hear the story of Boromir’s rescue again." Merry then looked at me and said, "You have to forgive him that, Faramir. Pip loves a story. Even if he’s heard it fifty times, he loves to hear it again. And our Legolas here is one of the finest storytellers around. It’s an elvish gift, you know. Pip loves to hear Legolas tell a story."
"Not just me!" Pip exclaimed, darting a frown to his cousin. "You love it, too, Merry. We all loved it when Legolas would tell a story, all the Fellowship. And I’ll thank you to not talk about me as if I wasn’t here."
Everyone laughed and cast me sheepish glances again, even the hobbits after they thought about it for a few moments. When the laughter calmed, Aragorn turned to Legolas and said, "There may be merit in Pippin’s suggestion."
"A means to reinforce the truth and dispatch the fallacy?" Legolas nodded. "Aye." He glanced at me and said, "By your leave, sir?"
I did want to hear it again. Boromir had told me the tale of his rescue by the elves when he’d first sought me out after the Battle of Pelennor. In those first joyous hours of reunion, he’d told me the facts surrounding his survival. But I found myself feeling like Pippin at the moment – I could not hear this tale too many times. It was comforting. I nodded once to Legolas.
Merry and Pippin scrambled up onto the bed with me and settled in, cross-legged and excited, while Aragorn dragged a chair over to my bedside and sat. Legolas perched on the arm of Aragorn’s chair. He narrowed his eyes and stared off for a moment; then he began:
"It had been a terrible battle at the foot of Amon Hen. After hearing the Horn of Gondor, Aragorn raced down the hill, following the sound, slashing Orcs as he ran. Gimli and I kept fighting on, following the direction in which Aragorn had run, the way the Orcs were headed. We kept fighting until there were no more to slay; then we hurried to catch up with Aragorn.
"We came over a rise and rushed down the slope on the other side, into a glen where a fierce skirmish had taken place. The bodies of dead Orcs lay everywhere. But then I saw Aragorn, and I slowed, and my heart wrenched in my chest, for my little brother lay beneath him, horribly wounded.
"Aragorn was leaning over him, touching him, speaking softly to him. At first Gimli and I paused, too stricken to move closer. We stopped and just stared; but then we did move closer, heartbroken by what we saw. Aragorn was clearly trying not to shatter, but he was nonetheless in tears as he talked quietly to Boromir. Without turning, Aragorn said, ‘The Orcs took Merry and Pippin.’
"Boromir, barely able to speak through his agony, rasped, ‘They took them! They took the little ones! I tried! I tried to stop them! Sorry! Sor-Sorry, Th’ron-Th’rongil!’
"‘Shh!’ Aragorn soothed. ‘Shhh, my little fledgling. Hush now. Do not speak.’
"I heard my own weeping. I could scarce move, struck through with shock and grief. This could not be real! I silently begged the Valar, ‘Please! Do not let this be real!’
"Suddenly I sensed others closing on us fast. I whirled and drew my bow. But, these could not be Orcs! They were still not in view, but I felt no evil coming from them. They were warriors nonetheless, mighty warriors . . . . Elves! Ai, elves! Racing forth from the west at breakneck speed!
"‘Aragorn!’ I cried. ‘Elves! A party of elves approaches!’
"Aragorn gasped and shot to his feet, and a moment later Haldir appeared, racing over the hill and down the slope, a dozen Lothlorien warriors with him, bows drawn and weapons poised. They slowed at the sea of Orc bodies, and then Haldir spotted us.
"He and some of his warriors ran towards us while others hurried to secure the perimeters and some fanned out to scrutinize the dead. A few more charged off into the woods following the obvious trail of the Orcs. The Lorien warriors looked battle-torn. Those who ran over to us with Haldir were clearly stunned at the sight of Boromir.
"‘Too late,’ Gimli muttered, his voice thick with tears. ‘Yer too late.’
"‘Too late for the battle, dwarf,’ Haldir said in a hushed tone, shifting free of his weapons. ‘But perhaps not too late to aid this wounded warrior.’
"Haldir knelt at Boromir’s side, and another elf, huge and imposing like Garrick, came rushing up to kneel beside him. Lerin! Ai! Haldir had brought Lerin! Like Lord Elrond, Lerin was both a mighty warrior and a healer, learning his art as Elrond had at the very heart of Elfdom in Middle Earth, under the guidance of the Lady herself.
"Boromir was now frantic, slipping in and out of delirium, calling for ‘the little ones’ and for Frodo and for Faramir. ‘S-Sorry! Sorry, Th’ron--! They took them! Took them!’ he kept babbling. ‘They-they took . . . little ones . . . the little ones!’
"‘Who is he speaking of?’ Haldir asked, he and Lerin examining Boromir’s state.
"‘The halflings, Merry and Pippin,’ I replied in elvish so as to not agitate Boromir further in case he was able to hear me. ‘The Orcs carried them off.’
"‘Lerin! Please!’ Aragorn begged, his voice breaking. ‘Please help him. We cannot lose him!’
"Composed and collected, Lerin was a force of quietude amidst our horror and fear. He drew a small satchel from his back, his movements swift and steady and measured. ‘Shhh, Estel,’ he said in low, warm tones. ‘Speak not of loss. How limited in belief you mortals are! Quiet your fearful heart.’
"Lerin’s certitude, despite Boromir’s grave condition, was heartening to us all. He withdrew some leaves from his satchel, crushed them in his hand, then let the crumbled remnants fall, a wet substance remaining on his palm. He glanced up at Aragorn. ‘Peace, young one,’ he murmured. ‘Draw upon your elvish upbringing. No doubt Lord Elrond taught you that ofttimes even the most severe trauma is but temporary. So hold only tranquil thoughts in your heart and mind. It will help me bring him solace.’
"Placing a palm upon Boromir’s brow, Lerin closed his eyes, and at once Boromir closed his. My little brother’s ragged breathing began to slow and he grew quieter, calming more with every passing moment. Meanwhile, several elves were gathering wood and beginning a small fire close by.
"With Boromir now looking sedated, Lerin and Haldir again surveyed his injuries and spoke to each other in rapid, hushed elvish. They would need to work quickly, and what they had to do would be difficult to witness. The fire now crackled.
"Haldir turned to Aragorn and Gimli and me and said, ‘Have all else been accounted for? Where are Frodo and Sam?’
"Aragorn looked remorseful. ‘I know not,’ he murmured. ‘I let Frodo go.’
"‘You let him go?’ Gimli cried.
"‘It was what he wanted.’
"Gimli growled, ‘What he wanted?’
"‘Aragorn, Frodo cannot go to Mordor alone!’ I said in a hushed voice. ‘He will never survive!’
"‘The wee mite will never even make it through Emyn Muil,’ Gimli blustered.
"‘He will not be alone,’ Aragorn replied. ‘Sam will be with him.’
"‘Are you sure of that, laddie?’ Gimli asked.
"‘Aragorn, go,’ Haldir said. ‘Give us some time alone with your young warrior. Find out what has become of the little ones. I agree with Legolas – the Ringbearer cannot survive this journey on his own. If he did leave by himself, he must be brought back, ere all is lost.’
"Aragorn looked grim, but he nodded. We could do no more for Boromir at present. He was in the very best of hands. So we raced through the woods and down the hill to the water’s edge where we had shored the boats. Sam was indeed with Frodo. They had taken a boat and were two-thirds of the way across the lake, paddling like mad. Fearing that hostile forces may still be about, we dared not call out to them. All we could do was to watch them leave us, heading into the unknown.
"We felt helpless and wretched at the sight of those two precious little souls paddling off alone, Gimli muttering in his dwarfish tongue and stomping about like a caged Orc, and me nearly dancing with impatience to launch the other boat and go after them and haul them back. Watching Frodo and Sam, Aragorn looked melancholy, but finally he murmured that Frodo’s fate was no longer in our hands and that there were two other little ones in need of our aid, so we hurried back up the hill to where Boromir lay.
"Haldir and Lerin had stripped Boromir’s shirts and mail and, miraculously, they had removed the three monstrous Orc arrows from his body. They had already staunched the wounds as well. Haldir had been wise to send us off while they tended to my little brother. It grieved us to see his injuries. But, incredibly, he still appeared sedated, encouraging us to hope that he had not suffered through what had been done to him thus far. And he had survived it! He was alive! Breathing!
"Gimli sniffled and wiped at his eyes, but Aragorn and I burst into a few quiet sobs of relief and shed tears at the sight. Haldir said nothing until we had calmed; then he asked after Frodo, and we told him what we had seen.
"‘Ah,’ he said. ‘He has a chance then. Master Samwise will see him through whatever fate has in store for them.’
"Lerin continued working on Boromir, bathing his wounds with some shimmering liquid the likes of which I had never seen, a seemingly alive substance, changing colors and hues as it flowed over and into the wounds.
"‘What is that?’ Gimli asked.
"‘A cleansing agent,’ Lerin replied. ‘It will seek out and destroy any evil filth those arrows carried into his body. There is a healing element in it as well, and a numbing sedative.’
"‘It sounds much like athelas,’ Aragorn said.
"‘It is a derivative of that plant,’ Lerin replied. ‘Combined with other elements, it works in a similar fashion; however it is somewhat less effective. Any may use it, but it does not have near the potency of athelas in the hands of the one true king.’
"‘Ai! Aragorn!’ I cried, and he instantly knew my meaning. Together we raced back down to where our belongings still lay at the water’s edge, leaving Gimli to explain our apparent madness. We retrieved the store of athelas, all of it, and the salve as well, and Aragorn took some of the healing plant in his mouth to chew as we rushed back up the hill.
"Lerin greeted Aragorn’s offering with eagerness and a great smile. ‘Thank the Valar,’ he said.
"Aragorn turned what he had chewed into his hand, and together he and Lerin began applying the athelas to Boromir’s wounds, Aragorn chewing yet more as they worked. I held open the packet with the salve, and when the athelas was well moistened, Aragorn deposited it there and took more into his mouth. By the time he and Lerin had finished dressing Boromir’s wounds, Aragorn had chewed all the athelas. I closed the packet and handed it to Lerin.
"‘Well done, Estel,’ Lerin said warmly. He and Haldir cast admiring glances at Aragorn. ‘This store of athelas will keep Boromir alive until we reach Lorien and the healing powers of my Lady. You have helped to save him.’
"Aragorn nodded in gratitude, clearly moved by those words, his eyes glazing with fresh tears. He gazed down at Boromir. My little brother had slept through it all. His color was even beginning to return.
"‘She sent you?’ Gimli asked in a worshipful tone. ‘The Lady Galadriel sent you?’
"‘Yes,’ Haldir said. ‘She had a dark vision of the Fellowship. She came to me in haste and bid me take Lerin and a party of my finest warriors and follow after you.
‘""Go at all possible speed," she said. "Hurry to Parth Galen, for it is there I see the darkest doom written."
"‘"Parth Galen?" said I in wonder, for you had left many days hence.
‘""I know the journey is long. I am asking you to cross a great distance at an impossible speed, but you must not fail me, my faithful Marchwarden. They will have had to stop for the night, for the little ones will need to rest, so you may reach them before it is too late. But he must not be lost!" I asked my Lady of whom she spoke, and she replied, "He who will fall from grace, the Son of Gondor."
"‘"Boromir!" I cried.
"‘"Yes," she said. "These remaining companions will be parted, one from the other, but death must not rip them asunder. Take Lerin. If you are too late, you will find Boromir gravely wounded. Keep him alive. Bring him to me."’
"‘Blessed Lady!’ Gimli exclaimed.
"‘Aye,’ Aragorn said. ‘Blessed indeed.’
"‘I quickly assembled my swiftest warriors. We ran without stopping for days, and soon we saw moving on the horizon a great dark body of evil, an army of Orcs racing along the banks of the Anduin. We knew they were pursuing you, and we pushed on, hoping to overtake them. We did so several leagues upriver.’
"‘You fought these brutes already?’ Gimli asked.
"Haldir nodded. ‘We did, and we lost two-thirds of our company before we were forced to withdraw lest we lose all. But we cut their numbers in half. We hoped to have slowed them enough so that you would have reached the Falls of Rauros and crossed over to the other side and into Emyn Muil, where you might stand a chance of losing them. I sent back to Lorien for aid, and we few pressed on after the Orcs in case they did come upon you.’ He shook his head. ‘Aragorn, would that we had been more swift.’
"‘Nay, Haldir,’ Aragorn said. ‘Aye, we were outnumbered and our battle short, but without your intervention and your sacrifices upriver, we would have had no chance at all. We would have been overwhelmed at once and cut to pieces, and all four of our little ones would now be in the hands of the enemy, along with the Ring.’
"‘At least we know for certain what they came for,’ Gimli growled, ‘and why they took the hobbits.’
"Lerin took a finely woven cloth from his satchel and began tearing it into bandages, and at that moment Haldir’s scouting party returned. Two of his warriors, both known for their extraordinary vision, even amongst elves, joined us, reporting the enemy’s remaining numbers and that the hobbits were indeed their prisoners. When they gave the Orcs’ position, Aragorn said, ‘What? That cannot be. No one, Orc, elf or man, can travel that fast.’
"‘True, but they are not all mere Orcs,’ Haldir now said. ‘Word had reached Lord Celeborn that Saruman was assembling a war party made up of several different tribes, both Orcs from Modor and a new type of Orc Saruman has bred – the Uruk-hai.’ He paused and glanced around at the dead. ‘Who knows what strength these creatures possess.’
"Gimli snarled and said, ‘Look about you again, master elf. Here lies evidence to satisfy any curiosity. They are big and ugly, but they die like any other stinking Orc. That is all I need to know of them.’
"We could not help grinning. One of Haldir’s trackers said, ‘The Uruks are driving the Orcs from Mordor then, for they are indeed as far off as I reported. It seems impossible, my lord, but ‘tis true. At this pace they will be many leagues hence ere nightfall.’
"‘And ‘tis possible they will not stop at night but press on to wherever they are headed,’ Haldir said. He turned to Aragorn. ‘You must go. If you are ever to save the little ones, you must go now.’
"We knew he spoke truly. It was decided that only Aragorn, Gimli and I would pursue the Uruks. Haldir could then send two of his warriors ahead to alert those at Lorien of their coming, and he would have enough left to help bear Boromir upon a litter with haste, changing shifts and traveling both night and day.
"Haldir hesitated to agree. He rose and said, ‘You could use a few of my warriors, mellon nin.’
"‘No,’ Aragorn stated. ‘Thank you, Haldir, but Merry and Pippin are ours to tend to. I feel in my heart that only we are meant to go after them. Our bond with them calls us forth. You may encounter more hostile forces between here and Lorien. I am at peace knowing that you have a protective force with you.’
"‘Fear not,’ Lerin said, rising. ‘Your young human will indeed survive. Lorien’s enchantment will flow into his veins, healing him and strengthening him quickly. He will rejoin you soon, well mended and even stronger than before.’
"‘I thank you with all my heart, my brothers, for saving him,’ Aragorn said. ‘Losing Boromir would be more than we could bear.’
"We bid Lerin and Haldir farewell and raced off in pursuit of the Uruk-hai." Legolas paused in his storytelling and glanced at Boromir. "And it is here that my part of the story must end, little brother, and yours must begin," he said.
Boromir looked a bit startled to be handed the floor. "I am not the teller of tales you are," he said to Legolas.
"You do just fine, Boromir!" Merry said eagerly.
"Aye, you do just fine!" Pippin said. "Please tell the rest, Boromir!"
Boromir chuckled and cleared his throat, then said, "Well, I shall do my best, but it seems there is little else to tell. I don’t remember the journey back to Lorien. My first vague memory is of the Lady, herself, speaking elvish incantations above me, her intense gaze pouring over me like warm honey.
"I had no sense of time, and when I finally awoke enough to fathom what was said to me, I asked about my friends. I was told that Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli were refugeeing to Helm’s Deep, escorting the people of Edoras. It seemed the fate of all Rohan lay in jeopardy. Nothing was known of the little ones, but Haldir had just left Lothlorien with a force of elves heading for Helm’s Deep. A massive army of Orcs from Isengard was reported to be marching there as well.
"All in Lorien were anxious for their loved ones, as was I. But before long those who had survived the battle limped back with news both triumphant and terrible: Helm’s Deep had been won, but many valiant lives were lost, including amongst them my rescuer, Haldir. Again I was present when all Lorien mourned a great passing, as they had Gandalf, and again I joined in the mourning.
"But my Fellowship kin were alive, and the warriors brought the joyous news that Gandalf was again alive! Gandalf the White, they called him. I felt the Lady must have known this, but she had said nothing to anyone.
"I healed much more quickly than I would have believed possible. The elves tended to me most excellently, and Lerin said that Lothlorien itself had a healing power. They even tolerated my impatience when I started moving around and became overeager to rejoin Aragorn. Lerin was ever mindful of me, and he brooked no insurrection from his oft impatient patient."
Pausing in his narrative, my brother looked at me and said, "So you see, I do understand your frustration, little urchin."
I scowled at him for again calling me by my childish nickname in the company of others, but he merely grinned at my blushing and went on:
"At last the Lady deemed me well enough to rejoin Aragorn. Celeborn’s scouts had been tracking his movements, and soon a party of Lorien’s warriors were escorting me towards Rohan, where Aragorn and his company had last been seen heading."
Turning a fond gaze at Merry and Pippin, my brother grinned and said, "And who did we find riding with Aragorn and Legolas but two little ones, looking fit and fine! My heart near burst with joy."
Merry and Pippin laughed, Pippin exclaiming, "I shall ne’er forget that splendid meeting on the road from Isengard!"
"Neither shall I!" Merry agreed.
"And so my part of this story ends as well," Boromir said.
The halflings looked at each other and grinned. "Ahhh." Pippin sighed. "That was grand! A story well told."
"And all the better for being true," Merry added. "For here he sits, Boromir, alive and well!"
The halflings beamed adoring smiles on my brother, who promptly squirmed.
"So, you see, Faramir," Pippin said, turning his cheery little face to me, "there’s no need to be having any more of those addled nightmares."
Merry sighed. "He knows that, Pip. Faramir would stop having them if he could."
"Well, I only meant that this might help, this telling of the tale."
"Aye, there is truth in that, Pippin," Aragorn said. Turning to me, he went on: "Hearing more details of Boromir’s survival may indeed serve to settle those fears yet lingering in your mind."
"Then we should hear it again!" Pip cried. "With even more details this time."
We all chuckled. Legolas said, "Perhaps later, little one. In case you had forgotten, we have business to attend to in Aragorn’s quarters."
The halflings groaned at the mention of their fate. But Merry also cast his cousin a knowing look and muttered, "Oh, Pip didn’t forget."
"Ah," Aragorn said, "but Pippin would not be so coarse as to ask for more of this wondrous story merely to hold off an unpleasant disciplinary action."
Looking utterly guilty and embarrassed, Pippin dropped his gaze.
Merry said, "Well, not entirely for that reason. Pip does love stories, but in this case, more of a wondrous story no doubt holds a certain timely appeal."
Pippin huffed. "That’s not very gracious, Merry. After all, maybe I did forget that business waiting for us at the setting of the transgression."
Aragorn headed around the bed toward the hobbits, Legolas following, both of them studying Pippin and doing a poor job of hiding their amusement. "Then I shall remind you, sir," Aragorn said. "For the soap awaits. Let us bid these noble brothers good morrow and take our leave."
The halflings shared a woebegone glance, but they nonetheless bravely climbed down from the bed.
"The room will seem quiet without you, gentlemen," I told them.
"You and I shall be leaving, too," Boromir said to me. "I thought we would take care of our business in my rooms. It is more private."
It was now my turn to feel a warmth creep into my cheeks at the mention of my fate.
"Ah!" Merry cried. "So you are being let out as well, my fellow inmate."
"Aye, Merry, but you remember what for," Pippin muttered. "Poor Faramir. Suddenly the soap doesn’t look so bad."
"Pippin, enough!" Aragorn said, the others plainly trying keep from chuckling too much at my, or rather at ‘poor’ Faramir’s, discomfort. "Come, sirs, lest you humiliate this man into a relapse." Aragorn raised a brow at my brother, "Boromir, you shall show the Warden courtesy?"
"Aye, sir, of course I shall!" Boromir replied. "I will send for our breakfast, then go seek out the Warden and, I shall indeed be most polite."
The halflings snickered, and I grinned; then we all bid each other good morrow and the little ones were escorted out to their doom. Pippin and Aragorn’s voices drifted back to us:
"Aragorn, a wee spot of second breakfast afterwards will help take away the taste of soap."
"Then we must make certain you have no second breakfast, sir."
Boromir and I looked at each other and chuckled. I watched my brother watching me, his eyes crinkling at the corners from his lingering grin over the antics of the departed halflings . . . my older brother, Boromir, alive and well and here, bigger than life, as indeed Boromir had always seemed to me, and much bigger than any false nightmare.
I returned his grin, then I knit my brow and asked, "Second breakfast?"
"Are you comfortable?"
"Am I com--?"
"I want you to be comfortable. You are going to be here for a while."
"Boromir, I know it has been some fifteen to twenty years since Damrod last had you in this hapless position, but think back and ask yourself if you were ever particularly comfortable when stretched out over his knee."
I couldn’t help chuckling.
"I am happy to be amusing you, sir."
"Forgive me, little urchin. I was not laughing at you." I chuckled some more.
"Forgive me, but that still sounds like laughing. And, lest I forget to mention this later, I would appreciate it if, in the future, you would refrain from calling me ‘little urchin’ when in the company of others. OW!"
It seemed the perfect place to deliver my first swat. "You’re certainly full of sass for one in such a, as you put it, ‘hapless’ position. Not the wisest strategy, Captain Faramir."
I rubbed his back some more as I spoke, then gave him another spank. Faramir jerked and gasped, and rightly so. These were sincere swats, for I’d been sincerely eager to get him right where I had him, and that eagerness was apparent in the force of my opening blows. I needed to reign in my enthusiasm or Faramir would not last as long as I wanted him to. But Aragorn had assured me that my brother was able to endure what I had planned for him.
"He is not up to strolling much farther than your chambers," he had told me just before Faramir woke up with his nightmare. "Neither should he be on horseback or attempting even a light bout of sparring as of yet. But rest assured, my fledgling, our little brother is indeed sturdy enough to make it to your chambers and take a spanking from his big brother. In fact, Boromir, I feel he will begin to heal faster when free of the weighty guilt that haunts him."
Even though he knew where we were going and why we were going there, Faramir had been delighted to don regular clothing and leave the confines of his room. He’d looked like a little boy again, a sweet glitter in his eye and his gentle smile glowing when the warm sun and the fresh breezes hit him. I’d grinned, delighted to see him so happy.
We’d walked in silence, me setting a slow pace and trying to not think about how difficult his attempted escape must have been for him. He looked too thin when out from under his bedding, his shirt billowing around him. Yet, how he had frowned earlier at the exiting servant who had cleared away our empty breakfast trays!
"Oh, sir!" the well-meaning woman had cried when taking Faramir’s tray. "It is good to see you eating again. I guess your appetite returned with Lord Boromir."
"I guess," I’d muttered, watching him avoid my scowl.
"Strategy, sir?" Faramir now said, clearly still enjoying his sass. "It seems my options for a sound strategy are limited at this point. A good captain knows when to surrender and relinquish the field."
Again I chuckled. "Indeed. But let us be honest. You may have relinquished the
field --" I swatted him again. "-- but you yourself are far from surrender."
He grunted at my next swat; then he followed with a familiar Faramir maneuver and changed the course of the conversation. "Am I comfortable? Yes, my lord. Surprisingly so. Therefore, you may proceed in making me uncomfortable. OW!"
"I have your permission, do I?"
"Permission? I did not hear you seek it, big brother."
"No need. Your behavior has already granted it to me," I said, ending our small talk with a goodly swat.
I snuggled him closer and began a steady spanking rhythm. Thus far, all was going well. The Warden had been a disappointment, though. I’d gone looking for a fight, and he had been surprisingly agreeable:
"I am taking my brother to my chambers for a while."
"Aye, my lord."
"I shall see he gets there and back safely."
"Aye, my lord."
"I have only his best interests at heart. I shall not overtax him."
"Aye, my lord."
"I shall bring him back when I am ready."
"Aye, my lord."
All in all a very irksome meeting.
Then at last I had Faramir in my chambers and right where I needed him to be. Something felt odd when I’d first situated him and removed his breeches, and then I realized that it had been some time since I’d had a ‘big person’ over my knee instead of a little hobbit. I also realized that I would needs adjust the force of my swats, an agreeable thought given my eagerness to make an impression on Faramir.
Just the feel of him over my lap was calming, and I spanked my little brother as I ever had, moving with careful precision over his rounded bottom, but starting off easily, as we had a long way to go. The pattern felt good in its familiarity. I sensed him softening beneath my hand. He moaned lowly as the heat on his backside built, and he could not keep from squirming. Yet an odd feeling of fulfillment flowed between us, that connection, brother to brother, surging forth the moment I’d started spanking him. Aragorn had been right. I needed to be the one to spank my little brother before he could begin to heal inside.
Faramir made certain he had much to answer for – his refusal to eat and his escape attempt. But, in truth, both of those offenses, typical Faramir waywardness, had been pleas for attention and would be dealt with easily. At the heart of my brother’s plea was his mistreatment of Sam and Frodo.
Faramir would not like that I had been told of what happened between him and the little ones. The moment Aragorn had shared it with me last night I knew that my brother was still feeling ashamed of his behavior. Aye, he had redeemed himself for their capture by letting them go, but that redemption did not speak to the way he had twice cast Frodo and Sam aside without comfort after spanking them. The memory of that haunted him still.
I had been unable to voice my thoughts earlier with Merry and Pippin and Faramir listening, but I felt that, in part, my brother’s recurring nightmares were due to the fact that he embraced any opportunity to punish himself for what he saw as his dishonorable treatment of two defenseless halflings on a noble quest. Even in the abyss of sleep his guilt festered, seeking any means by which to make him suffer – and it had found the best one: That terrifying and repeated vision of my death.
Perhaps someone without Faramir’s history could have allowed himself redemption and moved on, but Faramir had endured a lifetime of shouldering guilt. It was part of him now, living within him, ready to lash out at him at any time and in our father’s voice. Denethor had instilled that burdensome guilt in my little brother simply for being who he was, for being more patient and quiet and learned than his favored older brother; in short, for being more like our mother. Faramir was interested in lore and languages, music and writing. He honored the way of the warrior and valued that tradition, but he preferred counsel to violence. He was simply himself, and Denethor held him in contempt.
I’d often wondered if in Denethor’s twisted mind he saw Faramir as a threat, someone with whom he would needs share my affection – and I was affectionate with my little brother, demonstrative in my love for him. My own feelings of guilt for being the favored one drove me to champion Faramir to my father whenever possible, always hoping that he would someday hear me, turn around and see the treasure that was his younger son.
But it was never to be. Denethor would hear no good word spoken of Faramir, and I often regretted my attempts to intervene as our father would use my praise of Faramir against my brother, denying him to his face and intensifying Faramir’s pain, as he had before I left for Rivendell. When it came to my beloved little brother, I had no voice with our father, and my fury with him at such times was unfathomable.
Denethor’s bitterness worked against him, for Faramir and I were devoted to each other despite our father’s attempts to drive a wedge between us. But Denethor had managed to so poison Faramir’s thoughts about himself that my little brother could no longer find forgiveness within for what he deemed to be his shortcomings. He could find little good within himself at all. He had willingly ridden into certain death because that was what he felt he deserved.
There had been none who could grant Faramir absolution from his guilt when he had thought me dead. Damrod loved Faramir as a son, but our trusted Lieutenant could only do so much. He had been unable to reach Faramir behind his wall of grief. I understood how that was possible.
Lerin had spanked me once when I was under his care in Lothlorien. The big elf made it painfully clear how unhappy he was with my actions, disciplining me for ‘borrowing’ a horse in order to prove to him that I was ready to ride.
"You ‘borrowed’ the horse, little warrior?"
"AHHHHHHHHH! P-Please, no more! I-I’m sorry!"
"Borrow. Hmm. Perhaps this loses something in the translation between Sindarin and Westron. Did you have permission to take the horse from the stables?"
"NOOOOOOO! Ahhhhh! N-Nooo, sir! I’m sor-sor--"
"You did not have permission. In the elvish we would say you had stolen a horse. Is that what you did? Did you steal a horse?"
"Ahhhhhhhh! Aye! S-Stole! I-I stole-stole it! But-but-but, oooooh! Pleeease, Lerin! I j-just wanted to sh-show you --"
"Ah, yes. You wanted to show me that you were ready to do more. Well, sir, what you have shown me is that I need to keep closer watch on you. Thank you for your instruction. Now, allow me to show you what happens to little warriors who behave in such an unmannerly way."
At least he hadn’t said ‘naughty.’ I sincerely regretted my folly, but afterwards, after the comfort and after the confinement to bedrest for the remainder of the day, I was left with a strangely hollow feeling. Lerin was caring and affectionate and I had grown attached to him. But he was not Aragorn. He was not Legolas. And he had not touched the deeper anguish that had driven me to act out and seek a spanking.
Just before I left, Lerin said to me, "I have done all I can for you, little warrior. You are healed in body, but others must heal the pain in your heart. You know of what I speak."
I did know. And of course Lerin was right. The anguish over what I’d done to Frodo began to heal only after Aragorn and Legolas had taken me off alone the first night we were reunited and spanked me in a joint over-the-knee session that I shall never forget. It reminded me of the time Legolas and I had spanked little Frodo in a joint session, and I seem to recall Aragorn saying something about his brothers doing the same to him.
But only then could I breathe easily again, feel deserving again, and be able to accept the adoration Merry and Pippin sought to lavish upon me for my valor.
Had the elves of Lothlorien not performed their miracle, perhaps in time Faramir would have found one to love who could have eased his suffering, not through the cleansing grace of discipline, but through pure love and acceptance. Hopefully, such a love was still in the stars for my little brother. But, until then, his big brother had returned. Thank the Valar for the perfection of their timing, for ere I marched with Aragorn’s united armies tomorrow, I would free my beloved little brother from his torment.
I could help Faramir with his guilt as no other could, for I had endured it myself. He did not know what I had done to Frodo at Amon Hen. I’d dreaded telling him, wishing I would not have to do so, wishing I could remain the heroic big brother. But it was indeed necessary for me to tell him of it. Faramir’s offense against Frodo had not been as severe as mine had been, but it carried a merciless pain of its own. By sharing my disgrace, I could help ease his.
Faramir was writhing and whimpering, and his bottom was beginning to color nicely. So, dispensing with first things first, I began speaking to him:
"How are we doing, bratling?"
Faramir’s short gasps were strained. "‘We’? Oh, ‘we’ are doing well, thank you. ‘We’ do not care for that name, though."
"Some words do get under the skin," I said. "The first time Aragorn . . . when I first met him, I made the mistake of mentioning that I abhorred a certain word, and I swear the others on the Quest somehow learned of it, for it seemed they began saying it with unusual frequency."
"What dreadful manners, m-my lord."
"Aye. We were a coarse lot."
"W-What word did you abhor so?"
I began to tell him, then thought better of it. I’d already heard the word ‘naughty’ enough to last a lifetime. I was unwilling to invite more by confessing it to my little brother, who often liked to tease.
"It is not important, bratling," I said. "I shall tell you what is important, though. This matter of your refusal to eat while I was away."
"Boromir, the facts have been overblown. It was not that bad-AAAAHHH!"
"I know you are not going to compound your offense by scoffing at the seriousness of this matter."
"N-NO! Ahhhhhhh! No, sir! I-I wouldn’t do that! Sorry! I’m sorry, Boromir!"
Ahhh, there was a familiar phrase. I had to smile. ‘I’m sorry, Boromir!’ Soon he would not be able to say my name correctly. This routine was comforting to us, we had followed it so often. I changed none of it now, knowing how it would nourish us both.
"Sorry for what, little urchin?"
"I’m sorry I . . . I didn’t eat."
"Is refusing to eat acceptable behavior?"
"Then why, little brother?"
Faramir never liked my ‘why’ question.
"Why must you ask ‘why?’" he had demanded once following a spanking.
"I must know that you fully understand what you have done to deserve your spanking."
"But I DO understand!"
"Not always, little brother."
"I don’t like it when you ask me that."
"Ah, well . . ."
"M-Must you ask me that?" Faramir now huffed, true to form and still quite cheeky.
"Take your time," I said, my spanks increasing in speed. "I am at peace knowing you are comfortable."
"Aarghhh! Boro – all right! All right! I-I . . . AHHHHH! I didn’t like you leaving to go to Osgiliath!"
"Faramir, you knew Aragorn had ordered Gwin and me there."
"YES! Of c-course I knew!"
"You knew it was not my choice or of my doing."
"YES, I KNOWW!"
"I am not bellowing at you, little urchin. Kindly stop bellowing at me."
"I-I’m sorry, but-but--" Faramir’s first small sobs broke through, burst through, in fact. "B-But the comparison is hardly f-fair. You are not being spanked!"
I ignored his fair point. "Let us try to remain civil, sir. We are just getting started."
"Ohhhhh!" He buried his face in his palms. "Ohhh, noooo!"
"Getting back to the matter at hand, you knew I was under orders, so was it fair to behave as you did?"
Faramir simply wept; then he slowed and raised his head, shook his hair from his face, took a deep breath, and said, "Boromir, you are looking for sense where there is n-none to be found! Fair? No, it was n-not fair to blame you or p-punish you for leaving as you did. It was ex-exceedingly unfair! Yet there you are, s-sir! I can offer you n-no further ex-explanation!"
I slowed my spanks, fascinated as I always was when he did this. Faramir had an uncanny ability to make a great deal of sense when under extreme duress. He would only be able to do this while his mind was still clear, but it astonished me that he could do it at all, lie there, well into a spanking, and yet speaking like a diplomat at a council meeting. It would not last long, but it was amazing to witness.
"Go on," I said.
Faramir paused, as though sorting his thoughts from what was happening to his bottom. He would quickly reach a point wherein what was happening to his bottom outweighed anything else, and then he would become slightly befuddled, as any other did when weakening under a long spanking. But, for now, he seemed clearheaded enough.
"G-Go on?" he said.
"Aye. You said that I am asking for sense where there is none to be found."
"Oh. Y-Yes. Uhh, t-there is no rationale behind what I did. You were not even here t-to notice that I wasn’t e-eating, so why would I do such a thing? It made no sense. T-There was no reason, no reason why I-I stopped eating!"
"Ah, well then, you see, little brother, this is a good example of why I ask you ‘why.’ There was indeed a reason."
Faramir buried his face in the coverlet and sobbed. "Nooooooooooooo!"
Aye, there was, and he knew the reason, and he knew I would make him tell me what he never liked admitting. "Faramir, you do know, and you are not going anywhere until you answer me."
"B-But I don’t-don’t kno-AHHH!"
"I don’t know whyyyy!"
"You do," I insisted quietly.
"I DON’T KNOWWWWW!" he howled.
This was now a battle of wills, and having fought this battle from both sides, I could only feel glad that I was on this side of it today. I’d been on the other side many times since Aragorn and Legolas came into my life, and engaging in a battle of wills when the odds were so heavily stacked against me was utter folly. Regardless of who was spanking me, I had heard similar words from both of them when I refused to cooperate:
"You are proving to be quite belligerent, little brother. You know such behavior gains you nothing. However, I shall patiently adhere to your wishes and continue spanking your pretty bottom until you decide to answer me."
"Such willfulness does not become you, my fledgling, and it never works. But, you know best, as always. I can wait. I do not mind spanking your pretty backside while you make up your mind to give me the answer I seek."
I never had won one of those battles. Nevertheless, a stubborn adherence to one’s usually nonsensical cause holds a certain appeal when it seems all may be lost. Faramir had always shared that notion.
I simply kept spanking. Moving my hand down and focusing my swats on the sensitive undercurve of his bottom, I upheld the tradition I had learned all too well:
"This is stubbornness, little urchin. I cannot imagine what you hope to gain, but I promise you this: I will outlast you. So the choice is yours. Since you are, as you say, comfortable, I am content to keep spanking you until you give me my answer."
Rearing up with a gasp, Faramir squalled, "AHHHHH! No! Please!"
"Answer me, sweetling."
"I-I-I--" He wailed, then blurted, "I was trying to get y-your attention!"
I nearly groaned as deeply as he did following that outburst. I’d made that confession too many times myself to remain impassive when my little brother yelled it. He collapsed again. Burying his face and rubbing it back and forth on the coverlet, he kicked as if trying to shake off something clinging to him.
"That’s right, sweetling," I murmured, returning my spanks to his bottom. "Good, very good."
I kept spanking him lightly, riding out his humiliation with him, telling him how good he’d been, how brave. He needed to continue being brave, though, and so did I.
"And your escape attempt," I pushed on. "Were you really thinking you would succeed, or were you again simply trying to get my attention?"
Faramir moaned and released a fresh burst of weeping. I had reached the point wherein it was hard to keep from feeling heartless. This needed to be done in just this manner, but I sympathized with Faramir’s distress. He had to admit his misbehavior and take responsibility for his actions before he could allow himself forgiveness for them.
However, it took perseverance to force such hard confessions from him when I really longed to gather him up and comfort him. I once again found myself admiring both Aragorn and Legolas their resolve when spanking me. They surely longed to spare me the ordeal, just as I did when I had one of the little ones over my knee, and as I did now with my little brother.
"Faramir," I called softly, for he hadn’t answered me. "Why?"
"To get y-your ‘ten-a-a-atten," he stammered. "I wanted y-your atten-attention. Sorry, Bor’mir! S-Sorry!"
"Shhhh, little urchin. Very good. You did very well, sweetling. I’m proud of you."
I did gather up my weeping brother then. He needed a break before we attempted what was coming next. I had spanked Faramir enough over the years to know his limits, and I had room yet to spare in that allowance. But he was certainly uncomfortable right now. He was limp and trembling, and he seemed disoriented, as if he didn’t know what I was doing with him.
Still, I enfolded him in my arms despite his somewhat startled demeanor. "Shhhh, little brother, shhhhh." I began murmuring to him, words and phrases I’d used with Faramir since he was a child mixed with the new ones I had learned from being on the receiving end.
But something was amiss. Faramir’s weeping became more intense. He actually tried to pull away from me. I gathered him in more firmly, rocking a little, listening to his crying, listening for a clue as to his thinking. He would not be comforted. He, in fact, seemed . . . angry.
Suddenly, I realized the problem.
"Faramir," I quickly said, "we are not finished yet."
He stilled. "W-What?"
"We are not finished yet, little urchin. I have merely warmed you up, and now I am giving you a chance to catch your breath. But this spanking is far from over. We still have more to discuss."
His crying all but stopped. He gazed off over my shoulder, shuddering, but quiet. I could almost hear him thinking. "More?" he whispered, his voice quavering.
I smiled to myself. Of course he would be upset that I had stopped! There had been no relief, save that of a moderate kind for his attention-getting misbehaviors, no absolution for the greater offense that had been tormenting him. Faramir felt disciplined for his wrongdoings, but he did not feel better. For Faramir to feel better, his backside was going to have to feel much worse.
And yet, he had to be wondering how he could have expected me to help him with his greater pain when, to his knowledge, I didn’t even know what had happened with Frodo and Sam. He would either have to tell me of it, or live with it as he had been. I imagine that Faramir’s despair had overwhelmed him when I stopped spanking and gathered him up. He’d longed for me to fix what was broken inside him, and he’d suddenly realized that I could not do so without a painful admission of guilt from him. But, just as I did not want him to know of my disgraceful mistreatment of Frodo, he did not want me to know of his.
Small wonder his crying had become desperate. I recalled that anguish, longing for the same absolution from Aragorn or Legolas but feeling too ashamed of my actions to confess them. Somehow the truth always came forth, to my furtive delight. Now my brother would know that furtive delight as well.
"Aye, Faramir," I said in a firm voice. "There is more, much more. Aragorn told me of something Damrod shared with him about you and Frodo and Sam."
My brother sucked a sharp breath and stiffened.
He struggled a bit, but he had little strength in him at this point, so I held his quivering form easily. "Settle down," I said, and when he ceased his squirming, I took hold of his arms and drew him back to look at him. Faramir appeared startled and slightly bewildered, his wide eyes shiny with tears; yet he also seemed breathless and expectant.
"I know what you did, and I love you as I always have, little urchin," I said; then suddenly my eyes teared as well, an elvish voice speaking to me from the past, words I now used with my brother’s name: "Faramir, you are as dear to me as you ever were."
He drew a hitched breath and released a bursting sob, and I smiled at him softly and said, "Come now, sweetling. We shall discuss this matter, and you will answer for your deeds, and we shall be done with it. And I hope that I will be able to abide by Aragorn’s wishes and leave you able to once again, someday in the future, sit a horse." I grinned at his shocked, yet hopeful blink; then I kissed his forehead, adding, "I am glad I did not give him my promise, though."
Then I turned my little brother over my knee again, situated him quickly, and said, "Are you comfortable?"
End of Part I, Chapter V- The Cleansing Grace
Ere The Final March, Chapter V, to be continued . . .