Beta appreciation notes for my astounding team:

Kat Ė thanks for your incredible "waffly" reviews, for your enthusiasm and encouragement, and for being such a constant light.

Bella Ė thanks for the expertise and the ever-Tookish excitement

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 March

Chapter V Ė Part II, A Poem of Forgiveness

by Larrkin

 

Larrkin2@yahoo.com

 

Comfortable? Was I comfortable?

My brother had already done his usual thorough job and now he was going on! How like him to push my every limit. That he knew well what those limits were comforted me. Boromir knew them better than I did. But my backside was beyond comfort and I would likely never be comfortable again.

Yet, I heard myself answer, "Y-Yes, Borímir," for I both cringed and rejoiced to be back over his knee. But my thoughts were so afire they overwhelmed even the blaze my brother had created on my bottom. My mind spun around what he had just said:

"I know what you did, and I love you as I always have, little urchin . . . Faramir, you are as dear to me as you ever were . . . Come now, sweetling. We shall discuss this matter, and you will answer for your deeds, and we shall be done with it."

I could scarcely breathe for the shock of it! Those glorious, frightful words! He knew! He already knew! Oh! My brother knew of my disgrace! I lay there, quivering from his words alone, and then, when the spanking began, I gasped and cried out, my body jolting, arching upwards. And, again, I heard him in my head:

" . . . . I hope that I will be able to abide by Aragornís wishes and leave you able to once again, someday in the future, sit a horse. I am glad I did not give him my promise, though."

Ah, my brotherís unique wit. I feared heíd already broken that promise to Aragorn. Aragorn . . . Aragorn had told him, so Aragorn knew as well! Ohhhh! I heard my own repeated sobs and I lowered my face to my open palms. Aragorn knew what Iíd done! And Damrod knew! What was it my brother had said of Damrod . . . ?"

"Aragorn told me of something Damrod shared with him about you and Frodo and Sam."

These great and honorable warriors all knew what Iíd done! My soon-to-be King knew! I shuddered and groaned in humiliation, and Boromirís words kept swirling: ĎI know what you did . . . I know what you did . . . know what you did . . . .í

Frodo and Sam . . . the thought of them took me right back to our cave at Henneth Annun, our Rangerís refuge behind the falls. I cried out and clutched great fistfuls of coverlet and buried my face in the damp cloth, shaken more by the memories assaulting me rather than what Boromir was doing to my backside.

Iíd refrained from showing Frodo my anger when he admitted that heíd lied to me about Gollum. Instead, Iíd held myself in check and allowed Frodo to help us capture the creature. Iíd then had Frodo taken back to where Sam was still sleeping while I saw to the securing of Gollum, permitting my men to Ďinterrogateí him at will.

I remembered it, the shame of it, what Iíd allowed them to do, but strangely, I remembered it now as if watching from a safe remove, where the passions of the moment did not color my perceptions.

My men were loyal and well trained to follow orders. They were also tired and frustrated and troubled by dark forebodings. They were angered by the escalating incursion of the enemy into our lands. And so theyíd shown a ruthlessness with Gollum that made me turn my head and look away until I finally stopped them and questioned the creature myself. He was a savage beastie, but he answered me well enough, and when I returned to Sam and Frodo with my new information as to the great secret Frodo was hiding, Samís explosion triggered my own. Iíd just finished saying that I would show my quality, and Sam had erupted:

"Quality!" heíd shot back. "What quality? If you use Mister Frodo and the Ring for your own selfish gains, youíve got no quality, Faramir, Captain or no!"

Mablung had just entered the storeroom with us. I heard his soft gasp at Samís words and a rage as violent as what had clearly exploded in the little one now burst within me. That he would dare speak to me so! Dare to suggest that I was acting with any cause other than loyalty to Gondor!

Instantly, I remembered what Iíd come here to do. Quite ready to administer a spanking, I surged forth, hauling Frodo from the recess heíd pushed himself into, eager to deal with his deceit.

"NOOOOOO!" Sam cried, and he grabbed for me.

But Mablung was fast, catching Sam up and securing him at once. And then . . . and, and then . . . .

"Faramir."

I perceived my weeping, low and anguished, and I felt the scorch of each fresh spank and I heard Boromirís gentle call:

"Where have you gone, little brother?"

I couldnít reply.

"Are you perhaps back at Henneth Annun with Frodo and Sam?"

I sobbed, nodding a bit, still lost in that vision. Boromir breathed a soft, "Ahhh," and he began to spank me with slower, lighter swats Ė just as he used to do when he wanted to talk, when he felt I was ready to concentrate more on speaking and thinking instead of on his spanking. But he kept the swats up, slow and even and hot and comforting . . . always knowing what I needed . . . .

"Tell me what you are remembering," Boromir said in his gently firm tone of command. "Tell me, Faramir. At once."

"I-I spank-spanked Frodo . . . gr-grabbed him and-and t-took him over my-my knee! Then I sp-spanked him!"

"Did you, little urchin?"

"Y-YESSSS!"

"And why did you do that?"

"H-He had lied! L-Lied to me about Gol-Gollum!"

"Ahh. I see. You felt Frodo should have been truthful with you."

"Y-Yesss, and I was so an-angry!"

"Were you too rough with the little one? Did you spank him too harshly?"

I shook my head, gasping now, and I cried, "Nooo! Of c-course I wouldnít do tha Ė he-he was little! So little! L-Like a child! I was careful! But I was angry! He lied about Gollum and he l-lied about the R-Ring! And Sam was yelling at me, m-mean yelling!"

"ĎMeaní yelling was he? Iím sure Master Samwise was quite upset with you."

"Y-YESSSSS!"

"NOOOOOO!" Sam had screamed, over and over. "STOP! DONíT YOU HURT HIM! NO, NO, NOOOOO!"

I flinched, hearing Samís frantic cries again, thundering in my ears, and I remembered the sight of him, thrashing uselessly in Mablungís tight grip, my second lieutenant looking annoyed that this small pest was proving such a nuisance.

But it was indeed madness surging within me, because I saw Samís fury and I heard his desperate screams and I cared not. I merely whisked a strangely pliable Frodo up and turned him over my knee, tore down his britches and proceeded to spank his sweet little bottom. Frodo felt small and light, delicate, so I was indeed being careful, but he quickly came alive, gasping and wriggling over my lap after my first dozen spanks.

Again, I didnít care. I spanked him with fast, sharp swats that I knew would sting, and I was gratified by his mewling and squirming, and yet . . . . I felt it again now as I had then, that same hot flood of revulsion at what I was doing Ė what I had done. Iíd done it with a sense of prerogative, sanctioning myself for a callousness Iíd never before known. This halfling upstart deserved a good spanking! Impudent, lying brat, daring to deceive me! I would set him straight forthwith!

Frodo whimpered and tensed and released short, desperate gasps, his wriggling little backside growing more and more red. This had been going on for some time, and I wondered that he wasnít full out crying by now, and then I realized that he was holding back for Samís sake, trying to not upset his servant any more than Sam already was, so I put a stop to that by tipping up Frodoís bottom and paddling the underside of his soft cheeks. I quickly got what I knew was a genuine response from him. Frodo was sobbing and kicking and bellowing apologies before I lowered him and returned to his backside.

"Iím sor-ryyyyyyy!" Frodo had wailed. "Please, pleeeeeeeease! No morrrre! OHHHHH!"

"OHHHHH!" I cried out now, sickened by the too-clear memory. Again, I covered my face with my hands. "Ohhhhhhhh!" I had Ďforgottení these awful details, hiding them away to where I didnít have to see them . . . but now! "Ohhhhhh, Borímir!" I wept. "Bad! I-I was so bad and so m-mean!"

"Go on, Faramir. Tell me. How was my little brother bad and mean?"

I crumbled again at the soft tone of his voice. And I couldnít force myself to admit my cruelty. He didnít know the details, didnít know how low I had gone. Damrod had probably told Aragorn the bare minimum of facts. Perhaps that was all he knew, all my reserved second lieutenant had conveyed to him.

But . . . these details, these awful details! How could my brother still be expected to love me after knowing the lack of compassion Iíd shown those two little ones? After spanking them Iíd cast them aside with no comfort, but even worse, Iíd spanked them just to punish them, not to lovingly discipline them for their benefit in any way. How could anyone forgive that? Instantly I felt tempted to hide it again, close it away where it would never be seen. I couldnít tell him! I couldnít risk losing my brother again!

Yes. I could lie again, hide my shame again . . . but . . . I would know the truth. It would live on, festering within me, growing in power, and Boromir would quickly notice it, as he was ever attentive to my state of mind. Eventually I would end up right back where I was now, facing this same coverlet, my bottom once more in flames, my brother patiently demanding yet again that I tell him what I should have told him in the first place, what I should tell him now. I either trusted in Boromirís love for me or I didnít.

And suddenly it came to me Ė I could trust in my brotherís love with all my heart. He would forgive me anything, for Boromirís love was not subject to my actions. It was not provisionary. It was the same as my love for him had always been and would ever be, unconditional. So I could share this darkness with him safe in the knowledge that he would not think less of me. He had already forgiven me my deed before he knew of it in its entirety, just as I had forgiven him for what he had done to Frodo, regardless of what it was.

I fell to weeping again, too overcome to speak right away, and Boromir remained steadfast and patient, delivering his slow, regular swats, reaffirming his devotion with every spank. I felt each one, and they blended with my memories, the sight of hobbit bottoms, over my lap, Frodo first, so small and fair, like an elfling . . . .

"Iím sor-ryyyyyyy!" Frodo wailed, thrashing uselessly. "Please, pleeeeeeeease! No morrrre! OHHHHH!"

"Should you have lied to me, little waif?" I growled.

"Noo, n-no, sirrr! I-Iím sorryyy! Pleeeeeeease stop!"

"I will not tolerate disobedience. Any more of it will be dealt with in this same fashion. Do you understand?"

"Ahhhh! Y-Yes, sirrr!"

"I suggest you encourage your very noisy young gardener to mind his tongue and his temper in the future. His behavior is unseemly, and he shall go over my knee next and be soundly spanked for his ill-manners."

"NOOOOOOO! Oh, please no, F-Farímir! P-Pleeeease donít s-spank my Sam!"

"Indeed I shall."

"NOOOOOOOO! I-Iím the one who l-lied! Please d-donít spank Sam for m-my lie!"

"Hush, little waif. Enough of your insolence. You have no say in this."

Though the bitter memories flowed over me, I sobbed with relief. "Borímir! I-I can tell you! I c-can! I can tell you . . . because-because you . . . be-because --"

"Aye, little brother, because I love you regardless of what you might tell me," Boromir murmured. "You are safe to tell me all."

"You know, y-you know!" I muttered on. "Y-you know and y-you still l-love me!"

"Of course. My love for you does not change, sweetling, no matter what you have done," he repeated. "You are as you have ever been, my little brother, and dear to my heart."

I wept softly. Then, suddenly eager to share this burden with him, I excitedly blurted, "When I-I-I Ė when Ė wh-when I-I --"

"Shhh, easy, my Faramir. Softly, now. Take a breath."

I obeyed, then began again: "When I thought y-you were dead, I was sad, so sad, and I be-became s-sad all the time, inside of me . . . a very big sad, and I . . . I . . . ." Again I broke down into soft weeping.

"Aye, Damrod told me," Boromir murmured. "I know. My little urchin became grumpy inside all the time, didnít you? That very big sad kept hurting all the time."

I blushed horribly at his language and cried harder, his childish talk reminding me of how he used to do this to me years ago, ease under my skin, making me shed all adult restraint. But, considering my own immature speech, it seemed heíd already accomplished that. I nodded.

"And here were these two little halflings, giving you trouble, daring to fly in the face of your authority, for I imagine Sam was misbehaving fiercely in defense of his Frodo."

"Yes!"

And all at once I stopped and pulled back, fearful of I knew not what. Even though I was comforted in the knowledge that Boromir had already forgiven me and that it was safe to speak of what had happened, I did not care to do so. I did not want to even think about it. I closed my eyes, afraid to go back to that ugliness in my mind, to see it again, and at that moment my brother spoke as if reading my very thoughts:

"I know you donít want to remember, but you are going to do so." His voice became low and chant-like, spellbinding: "Settle down and think of it, little brother. Remember. Think on it, but stay free of its pull. You are safe. Iím here, sweetling. Go back now, and tell me what you see. Tell me what happened, little brother."

Iíd never heard such a tone from Boromir, so seductive and pacifying . . . and despite the fact that he was still slowly spanking me and my backside was scalding, each spank ripping through me like a fiery jolt, I did find myself calming enough to once again enter that safe remove from which to see what had happened:

"Hush, little waif," I had said. "Enough of your insolence. You have no say in this."

Frodo began to hiccup between his repeated sobs, his small bottom now glowing. "Yessssirrr Ė s-sorrryyy," he sputtered in defeat.

With one final swat I said, "I trust you will remember this when next you feel like lying to me."

"Y-Yes, sir!"

I pulled Frodoís small britches back up over his hot bottom, ignoring his pained squeal; then I plucked him from my lap and carried him over to where he and Sam had been sleeping.

"You will stay here and behave yourself while I deal with your unruly kinsman," I said, and I lowered him to his feet on the blankets. Still weeping, Frodo stood with his head bowed, rubbing his sore bottom; and then he slowly lifted his gaze to me, his huge eyes liquid with tears and full of astonishment and hurt.

Something wrenched inside me, something that wanted nothing so much as to gather that beautiful, stricken waif up into my arms and hold him, cuddle and comfort him, feel his small arms around my shoulders and his curls tickling my face, his breath warming my neck as his head lay pillowed on my upper chest. Poor, miserable, wounded little one. I gazed at him, fighting my own temptation, then:

"You heartless blackguard!" Sam roared.

I winced.

"Sam, donít!" Frodo cried. "No, Sam!"

I turned to the livid gardener. He was struggling with renewed vigor in Mablungís arms.

"If youíre too unfeeliní to comfort him at least let me do it!" Sam snarled, his eyes dark with fury.

"I think not," I said, advancing on him. "Frodo can rub his sore bottom himself. I have plans for yours, little rogue."

"Watch yourself, my lord," Mablung said, handing a thrashing Sam over to me. "Heís a fighter. Mind those feet."

Sam was indeed a fighter, his rage inspiring his kicking feet and flailing limbs. I managed to take him from Mablungís arms and carry him back to my stool, but he got in some goodly strikes on the way there.

Once Iíd secured him over my knee though, my left leg closed over his kicking ones and his wrists held clamped at the small of his back, Sam could do nothing but yell. And he did plenty of that. He kept wrenching around, glancing back over his shoulder to check on his master. Meanwhile, Mablung had moved closer to Frodo in case the little one lost all reason and decided to play hero.

"Donít worry none, Mister Frodo, Iím all right," Sam proclaimed with desperate bravado.

The part within me that still harbored fairness couldnít help appreciating Samís selfless courage, but his nobility tweaked my own guilty conscience.

"You underestimate me, sir," I said, raising my hand over his backside.

"I only underestimated your honor," Sam muttered.

I know better than to spank when I am angry. Although Iíd had little experience spanking another, my knowledge stemmed from what I had learned while on the receiving end, and many was the time Iíd heard Boromir say, "I am too angry to deal with you at present, Faramir. I love you, but Iím also angry. Your spanking will needs wait until I have calmed down." Damrod had often said something similar.

But Samís insolent response sparked a sharp fury within me, and my opening swats were much too hard. His swift, wrenching gasp and his spasming body brought me to my senses, though, and I toned it back down to hobbit-sized spanks, my brief loss of control adding fuel to my inner fire of guilt.

I spanked him in silence, my anger simmering and so distancing me from myself that I could think of nothing to say to him. I couldnít let myself examine what I was

doing . . . no, I could not. I had to step back from the Faramir who would never have behaved this way, the Faramir who would have shown compassion, understanding, and forgiveness, the one who whispered to me that Sam was right Ė this was not honorable.

I closed off that old Faramir now . . . and perhaps for all time. Life was no longer what it had been. Life after a loss as unbearable as the death of my brother called forth a side of myself I didnít know well and didnít care to know well, a side that could display cruelty without remorse. Perhaps it could be said that Boromirís death killed my own humanity. But . . . what of that? So be it.

Like Frodo, Sam tried to conceal his discomfort, and I let him. I saw no reason to speed things along. Samís stubbornness was his choice. Again, so be it. I would simply keep spanking him until he relented and broke down. Not even the resolute Master Samwise could hold out against a spanking forever. He would eventually give in, and he did, though it took longer than Iíd anticipated it might.

When he finally burst into sobs I started spanking the tender undercurve of his bottom cheeks, pushing him even further, and forcing Sam to squall and wail. His strength was waning, so I felt safe in lifting my imprisoning leg and releasing his, drawing him up fully over my lap before returning to his now crimson backside.

He may have been weakening, but Sam could still kick, and he did so, though the release was surely a relief to him. And now that he had yielded to the point of honest weeping, I gave quarter and found some words with which to urge him into final surrender:

"It is best you learn some manners now, sir, for we have a journey before us, and Iíll not tolerate your insolent mouth the entire way to Minas Tirith."

Amazingly, Sam had a bit of sass left in him. "Then donít take us t-there! Let us go!"

"Ahh, little rogue." I sighed. "What a recalcitrant race you halflings are!"

"W-What? A w-what race?"

I grinned. "Obstinate, sir. Pig-headed. Look at you. Your poor bottom is fiery red because you stubbornly refused to yield. And what did it get you? A bit of your own back? It seems the cost of your pride was high indeed, and ultimately not worth the sacrifice."

"I-If you say s-so," was all he could manage, still hanging on, incredibly, to the last shreds of his inappropriate nerve.

"I do," I said, my tone firm. "And I encourage you to think before defying me again. Rest assured that if you give me cause Iíll not hesitate to pull down your britches and spank you before my entire company of Rangers. Do I make myself clear?"

"Aye!" Sam sobbed. "C-Clear!"

I felt he was ready to acquiesce. I had already slowed and lightened my spanks, the crimson hue of his round bottom worrying me, so it was time to give him the chance to end this.

"Have you something you wish to say to me about your impudence, my defiant little rogue?"

"I . . . I-I . . . ."

"Yes?"

Sam growled in his throat and released a wrenching cry: "I-Iím s-sorry!"

"A fair start," I said. "Keep going. Try again."

He knew full well what I wanted, and it made him pause and weep, his compliance clearly coming at considerable cost. I simply kept spanking him, waiting.

"Iím-Iím sorry I was impud-impu . . . cheeky. S-Sorry I was so cheeky!"

"Iím sorry I was so cheeky . . . what?"

"I-Iím sorry I was so ch-cheeky, C-Capín Farímir, sir!"

"Very well." I delivered a parting spank then stopped and yanked his britches back up over his blazing bottom. Sam arched and whimpered, but he didnít cry out, though I sensed he would have loved to.

Picking him up, I carried him over to where Frodo lay on his side, watching and weeping silently. I lowered Sam to his feet and his hands immediately flew to his backside in a furious attempt to rub away some of the sting. Frodo scrambled onto his knees and opened his arms to his companion.

"Sam, come. Let me help you, my poor Sam."

"Oh!" Sam said in a small voice. He dropped to his knees before Frodo. "Iím sorry, Mister Frodo! Youíre just as paddled Ďn sore as me, and here I am thinking only of myself."

"Shhhh, my dearest Sam; not at all," Frodo murmured. "Come, let us comfort one another."

The halflings entwined, their hands moving down to gently rub each otherís throbbing little bottom. I had backed away, dismissing Mablung with my thanks; but I paused in the shadows before leaving the hobbits alone.

They didnít notice me, and I doubt it would have mattered to them if they had known I was there, for Sam and Frodo saw only each other. They embraced for a few minutes, and then they shifted down into a more comfortable position, lying on their sides, each still rubbing the otherís bottom and murmuring. Occasionally they would wipe away each otherís tears, or they would kiss sweetly, confirming my suspicions about the kind of love they shared. Ahhh, dear little halflings.

I stood there in the dark, watching, transfixed by their tenderness, and soon I felt tears on my own cheeks. Still, I watched them, those two little ones, softly comforting, and the sight of it and the sound of it touched that humanity still struggling to stay alive within me.

Iíd watched until Sam drew one of the blankets up and over them, hiding them from view, then Iíd turned and moved away down the dark corridor of rock. Never in my life had I felt more lonely or desolate.

I whimpered now and buried my face in my cupped hands, coming back to the present under a wave of chagrin, back to Boromirís gentle swats. I knew Iíd been talking while remembering, telling my brother all of it, although Iíd been speaking the memories differently from the way Iíd been thinking them.

"Very good!" Boromir murmured. "Very, very good. You told it well, and it was difficult to do so. Iím proud of you, Faramir, very proud."

"Proud of m-me?" I shot back. "You c-cannot be p-proud of me!"

"Cannot? Ah, I see. I cannot be proud of you because what you inflicted upon Sam and Frodo was punishment Ė is that it? You cast them aside without comfort. But, more importantly, it was your intent that mattered. You did not spank the little ones for their benefit. Nor did you spank them in love. You spanked them in anger, in retaliation for their misbehavior. It was not discipline; it was punishment."

"YESSSSSS!" I sobbed anew, cringing under the truth, hating the way it sounded when spoken aloud, hating the dishonor of it. "Yesss! It w-was punishment!"

"And you have never been punished that way, have you little brother?"

"N-Nooo! No, Borímir!"

"Anytime you were spanked it was loving discipline, meted out because you were in need of it; is that not true?"

"YESSSSSS! And-and-and that was my badness, Borímir! Thaís the-the bad! I-I punished them! I-I was bad and m-mean!"

"You were not Ďbad,í sweetling. I cannot let you say such things. You simply made a hurtful choice to invite suffering. I would have thought my little brother had enough sorrow to bear without inviting more."

I paused in my heavy weeping to listen, and to say, "Wh-Wh-What?"

"Faramir, you have not a bad, mean bone in your body. You punished Frodo and Sam to punish yourself. Your pain over my supposed death was overwhelming. You plunged into the darkest despair, a whirlpool of despair that fed on more pain, more sorrow. You invited more suffering, little brother, seeking it in any way you could, and what better way to make your hurt bigger than by doing something you felt was reprehensible? Then you could suffer guilt, punish yourself even more.

"But, Faramir, it is not your place to discipline yourself. When you have been disobedient, you cannot judge your actions fairly, and you are never permitted to punish yourself for them. Big brothers take care of their little brotherís discipline, remember? I understand that you thought I was dead and there was no big brother to help you, but Damrod loves you like a father, and he is more than able to deal with you in my stead.

"However, I am alive. I am here now, paddling you for punishing yourself, and for punishing Frodo and Sam in order to achieve more suffering. Iím not angry with you, Faramir; I am sad about what you did, and the choice you made to suffer. You never deserve to suffer. My little brother misbehaved, and when little brothers misbehave, their big brothers spank them.

"So, there, there, sweetling. No more fussing. You bravely told the first part of your tale and I am proud of you, Faramir. Biggest proud. All will be well now. I am here. I am not dead. And I will not leave you alone with your guilty regrets."

I shattered and sobbed into my hands, huge, racking sobs. Boromirís patience, his loving praise and his acceptance of me, despite what I had done, washed over me, warm and surging, loving, slithering like Lerinís elvish healing liquid into all the ravaged places within me that had been festering.

No, it was greater than elvish healing; my brotherís pure, unconditional love and forgiveness, his pride, given without hesitation Ė "I am proud of you, Faramir. Biggest proud." Ė it was greater than any elvish potion.

My big brother, here with me, spanking me, always knowing what I needed, always, always knowing! I twisted around, near blinded by my tears, and I knew he was not finished, but I had to feel Boromir hold me then, as he used to Ė I needed to feel everything I used to feel, the strength of Boromirís arms and the warm life pouring from him.

He gathered me up at once, enfolding me against him. "Shhhhhhh," he purred. "Thatís it, sweetling. Release it. Good, very good."

Again, it was that lulling tone that had brought me such comfort earlier, the same Boromir, but with a slight difference, and still my everlasting big brother. I fell into repeated sobs, holding on to him as though afraid to let go, and my brother returned my fierce embrace.

"I know," he said, rocking me slowly. "I know, little brother. Hold on to me. Hold tight. Let it come. Let the relief come. You are deserving of it."

I could scarcely bear to hear his exquisite words. I certainly couldn't speak. But there was no need to, for Boromir murmured on in that soft voice, that wonderfully patient tone:

"Aye, sweetling, you deserve this release. Mmmmm, thatís it. Breathe it in . . . like sweet air after a spring rain, breathe it in. Hold on to me. My little brother has a good heart. He does not deserve punishment. He deserves forgiveness."

The more he murmured the more I wept. I held on, as he kept telling me to, listening to his enthralling words, and Boromir kept speaking them, a gentle refrain, a poem of forgiveness, enclosing me as securely as his strong arms were wrapped around me. I lost all sense of time, though I knew Iíd cried at some length, as my eyes were so sore.

Soon I began to tire and my weeping slowed, his constant litany soaking into my very being, easing my mind and checking my tears. I wondered that he seemed to know exactly what to say, what language to use that would soothe me so perfectly.

But then I realized that he, too, had survived his own terrible battle with guilt. I knew not the details of what had happened, but Iíd never believed what Sam had bellowed at me in Osgiliath, that Boromir had tried to kill Frodo. Iíd immediately dismissed Samís accusations.

No. Such was impossible. The Ring may well have driven Boromir briefly mad, and he clearly had done something heíd regretted. But Boromir was still the brother I knew and the valiant man he was, and nothing would make me believe that he had tried to kill little Frodo. Iíd stared at Sam when heíd hurled his claims, astonished at his ferocity, stunned that he would openly charge Boromir with such dishonor in front of the men who had loved my brother.

Though outraged by Samís accusations, Iíd realized that his anguished words had been just that, words screamed in frustration and rage, Sam exaggerating the truth in an attempt to make me fear the Ring and hopefully gain them their freedom. Yes, whatever had happened between Boromir and Frodo had, no doubt, been bad, but it had not been as bad as what Sam made it out to be.

And Boromir survived the guilt that had followed. He survived not only the near-death it seemed he had invited, but also the ensuing horror of his regret. So he must have had someone like I had, someone he cared about so much that their forgiveness would matter . . . Aragorn. Yes. The affection they bore each other was plain. Boromir looked at Aragorn as I looked at Boromir, with admiration and love. Who better to help heal my brother than his future King?

Of course, Aragorn would not have handled Boromirís healing in quite this manner. Iíd seen Damrod spank Boromir once, but that had been when Boromir was twenty and I was fifteen and Damrod had hauled me into Boromirís room to witness his disgrace, thereby impressing upon us both what a bad idea it was to even consider climbing the Tower of Ecthelion. Iíd learned the lesson well, and had never tried to do so.

If Damrod had disciplined my big brother this way after that, I never knew of it . . . although, Iíd sometimes suspected . . . but Iíd always immediately dismissed my suspicions. Boromir spanked? The Captain of the White Tower, spanked? Ridiculous. But whatever Aragorn had done, and I felt it would have involved long talks, it had affected my brother deeply. From what Iíd seen of Aragorn, his powers of fair speech were impressive, so it made sense that such was how my brother was helped to move past his shame.

"Mmmm, very good," Boromir now said. "Very good, my little urchin. My brother is so good."

"My brother is s-so good,í I croaked back.

He sniffed, a small prelude to the grin that I knew followed; then he said, "Your poor voice. It has been through much. But I fear it must hold up longer, for you know that we are not finished yet."

I shuddered and pressed my forehead to his shoulder as if seeking to hide. But, yes, I did know. Of course he was right. Damrod would have also told Aragorn about the second time Iíd spanked Frodo and Sam. So, yes, I knew there was more to withstand, and that was how it needed to be, for my brother was ever thorough in all things, bless him.

"I know we are not finished," I whispered, and I hugged him tighter, saying, "And do not harbor regrets, big brother. You have a tender heart, but --"

"Hush, you presumptuous brat," he said in a half-teasing voice. "And fear not for my tender heart. It is tender enough to carry on rather than shying away from what needs to be done. Fear instead for your tender bottom, for I shall not fail you, Faramir. I will continue until every ugly scrap of guilt is gone and my little brother is again at peace."

Ah! That was my Boromir! I grinned against his shirt and shuddered anew. "Valar spare me from dedicated big brothers," I muttered.

He chuckled outright and said, "Aye, true words indeed! Let us finish this business then."

Once again I was flipped over and positioned back where Iíd been. I couldnít stop the whimper that slipped out. And when Boromirís first spank fell, a hot bolt shot through my limbs and a cry of pure distress burst from me. Oh, blessed ancestors! This part was going to be very, very hard!

Boromir set up a steady rhythm once again, spanking away as if my bottom hadnít already been through an ordeal. I instantly burst into tears, the shock of it ripping through me with each swat on my already searing skin. I kicked and squirmed and wailed, unable to control myself, despite my vain thoughts to preserve some dignity. What folly. But, though I certainly did not like this, I did not fear, for I trusted that Boromir understood how far he could take me.

"To continue," he said, "There was a second discipline session with the halflings, am I correct?"

"YESSS!"

"Are we back to bellowing, little urchin?"

"OWW! NOOO! No, no, no! I-I mean, no, sir! Sorry! But, for the love allóaahhhh! Boromir, please! Ow! OwOwwOwww!"

"I dare say."

"AHHHHH! Boromir, for pityís sake! Have a c-care! Iím already so s-sore! OWWWWWW!"

"Have a --?" I swear I could hear my brother frowning. His next few swats, much stronger, took my breath away. "That is quite enough, Faramir. Stop it. Stop your impertinence at once."

"AHHHHHHHH!"

My big brother let me know what he thought of my advice by spanking me in silence for awhile, letting me think over my behavior. And I did.

Finally, he asked, "Have you found your manners, sir, or do you plan more sass?"

By now I was more than willing to agree to anything. "Found my manners! I-I found my manners, Borímir. Sor-Sorry! Iím sorry Ďbout the sass! I w-will behave!"

"Very well then, little urchin. We shall try again," he said, his voice suddenly soft. His spanking slowed and lightened in intensity. I wept anew with relief. "Now, the second spankings you gave Frodo and Sam, something about an escape attempt?"

"They did! They tried t-to escape!"

"Tell me what happened. I want to know the details. How did they try to escape? Tell me as you did before. You were so brave, and Iím so proud of you."

My brotherís spanks slowed even more, but they stayed steady and sure. Using nearly the same words as he had before, and in that same, rich tone of soothing resonance, Boromir said, "Come, little brother, take me back there with you again. Think on it, but stay free of its pull. You are safe. Iím here, sweetling. Go back now, and tell me what you see. Tell me what happened, little brother."

Again I laid my head to one side and drifted, connected to Boromir by his eternal spanks, watching what had happened and showing it to him as well:

It began with a loud bellow: "Theyíre gone!"

We had entered a clearing in a wooded glen where Iíd called a halt to rest. Mablung, who kept the maps and went over them with me, was showing me a few suggested entry points to the besieged Osgiliath based on new information the scouts had just brought to us, when we heard the cry:

"Captain sir! Captain Faramir! Theyíre gone!"

Mablung and I ran to a sheltered spot full of boulders and moss where the halflings and Gollum had been settled. Indeed, there was no sign of the little ones. The camp erupted, Rangers scattering out to beat the bushes and search the woods before I even gave the order to do so.

Calder, who had been guarding the hobbits, waved his hand at the rocks and blurted, "They were right here! They were here one moment, my lord, and when I looked again, they were gone!"

Distant screams that could come only from one beastly source filled the air. Moments later two Rangers came trudging back, one man grasping each emaciated arm as they suspended Gollumís kicking, writhing frame between them.

"They tricks us!" he whined in that pathetic voice. "Tricks us! Tricksy hobbitses! Tricks all of us!"

"What do you mean,Ďtricks all of us?í" I thundered. "How many of you are there in that skinny body?"

Gollum twisted his features into that horrible mask of his and screamed at me, "BAHHHHHHHH! Stupid men! Bad, mean, cruel Rangermen! We hates them! Hates them! They beats us! Hurts us! Arghhhhhh!" He closed his eyes and writhed and wailed in that gurgling voice that made me want to cover my ears.

"Aye, methinks you have not been beaten enough, you wretch!" Calder grumbled, glancing at me for permission to have at Gollum.

I sighed and shook my head, unable to bear more cruelty. Not that Gollum deserved mercy. He wrenched about, snarling, baring his ghastly teeth and glaring at us with his insane malevolence.

"Stupid, blind Rangermen! Right before your eyes! Tricksy hobbitses vanish right in front of you, and they leaves us! Leaves us! We hates nasty hobbitses! They vanish and leaves us all alone! To run away alone!"

"Which way did they run?" I demanded.

"Bad master tricks us again! Leaves us with cruel men," Gollum suddenly halted his tirade and stared at me as though just now hearing my question. Making another horrible face at me, he tossed his head back and moaned. "Arrrrrrgh! Stupid, stupid, stupid Rangermen! Blind! All of you! Blind!" And he went on to curse all humans in terms so odious that I turned to my men and growled, "Take him away. Bind him first, and shove something in his foul mouth to shut him up."

I watched Calder jam a cloth into Gollumís screaming mouth, tie his hands behind his back and place a rope with a short lead around his throat before the men bundled him off. Good riddance. Iíd get nothing intelligible from that raving creature. Meanwhile the Rangers were drifting back to the clearing, plainly perplexed that the little ones seemed to have simply disappeared.

Calder turned to me again, saying, "Sir, I swear, I did not see the little ones running away, nor did I hear anything."

I shook my head. "I am certain you were not lax in your duties. Something seems amiss here. I donít know what it is, but --"

"What the --!"

We looked over to where Frodo and Sam had last been seen. Bram, one of my largest Rangers, stood staring down at two rocks. He lifted his gaze to us, his bewildered expression almost comical.

"Bram?" I said, Mablung, Calder and I strolling towards him. "What is it?"

"I cannot say, my lord," he gazed at me, clearly befuddled; then he peered down at the rocks again. "I went to sit down upon this wee boulder, and I swear, sir, it . . . well, it . . . quivered."

"It what?" Mablung asked.

"It moved! Quivered, like it was, well . . . like it was hurt. Like my sitting on it hurt it."

Calder and Mablung both glanced at me, obviously struggling to control their urges to either say something roguish or burst out laughing. It wasnít funny, but Bram made it so, this big, powerful Ranger staring down in perplexity at two little rocks, as if fearing heíd hurt them . . . .

Two little rocks. Two little rocks!

I moved closer and said, "Bram, I do not doubt your words, however, I wonder that even a warrior of your size and muscle could make a rock quiver in pain. Let us both try it again. You take that rock this time, and Iíll take the one next to it that quivered."

Calder and Mablung looked beside themselves, but Bram was agreeable. "Sit down hard, sir," I instructed. "Let us see if we can make these two little rocks squeal."

"NOOOOOOOOO!"

Bram, who had turned and started to sit, exploded upwards, leapt several feet away and whirled to gape at the Ďrocksí in astonishment. Calder and Mablung also jolted and stared. I stood calmly, fighting laughter in order to present my genuine anger to Frodo and Sam as they suddenly materialized out of nowhere, their shimmering cloaks swirling around their bodies.

Of course. Matching cloaks and clasps, and they had come out of Lorien, that Hidden Land where the Mistress of Magic dwelt in the Golden Wood. I wondered at not seeing it until now, for surely Frodo and Samís cloaks had been gifts of that Lady, and endowed with elvish magic.

My three men were speechless. They peered at the halflings for a moment, then their eyes darkened and they turned to me. By now the troop had noticed that something was going on. They began to gather Ďround, word quickly spreading that the halflings were back and that something interesting was happening with them.

My Rangers possessed a reluctant admiration for these courageous little ones who had dared to wander the wilds of Ithilien alone. So the men congregated and stood watching, eager to see what might happen next. Frodo and Sam just stood there with unearthly calm, gazing back at all of us and looking completely unapologetic.

Suddenly, Frodo sighed and turned to Sam. "I told you it wouldnít work."

Sam sighed back. "Iím sorry, Mister Frodo. I just thought it was worth a try."

"I doubt you will think so when I am finished with you, sir," I said, exasperated by their casual candor. "I assume your cloaks have some kind of magical elvish power of concealment."

Sighing again, Frodo nodded. "Yes. The Lady Galadriel told us the cloaks had such a power. We were forced to test it when we were nearly caught by the enemy at The Black Gate."

A fierce jolt of protectiveness shot through me . . . these two little ones at the infamous Black Gate . . . Frodo in such a dangerous place . . . Frodo nearly caught by the enemy! A hum went through the men, no doubt more reluctant admiration for these two who had not only faced the dreaded Black Gate alone, but had wandered the enchanted Golden Wood and been awarded such gifts by the ominous White Lady herself.

My own feelings confounded me. I was about to discipline Frodo and Sam for this serious infraction. I would not take their cloaks from them, but I would have their hands bound for the rest of the journey so that they could not attempt this again. Yet, I also suddenly wanted to protect them from hurt and harm. The humanity still struggling to survive within me roared that, if I took them to Denethor, they would indeed suffer hurt and harm.

Fighting with my conflicting thoughts, I glanced at Sam, saw his defiant glare, and once again found my justifiable anger. Gollumís voice echoed in my ears, slamming into me anew:

. . . ĎThey tricks us! Tricksy hobbitses! Tricks all of us! . . . Stupid, blind Rangermen! Right before your stupid eyes! . . . Tricksy hobbitses vanish right in front of you . . . Blind! All of you! Blind!í. . . .

The beastie hadnít lied to us. Heíd been right Ė stupid blind Rangermen indeed!

What was I thinking? My first loyalties were to Gondor, as had been my dead brotherís! Boromir would not be suffering doubts. Boromir would be escorting these two and the Ring of Power to Denethor with all haste. He would not permit these two bratlings their complacent misbehavior, and neither would I!

"Your cloaks saved you once, so you thought to now use them to escape?" I continued.

"I figured we could just sit real still until you stopped looking for us and moved on," Sam said. "Then we could be on our way."

"Your strategy was riddled with flaws, little rogue," I said, "one of them being the simple possibility of being sat upon."

Sam winced. "Aye, thatís true enough. But, like I said, I thought it was worth a try, because we sure couldnít count on you to help us."

I heard a murmur of discontent ripple through my men. Even Frodo muttered, "Sam. Please. I think weíre in enough trouble as it is."

"Aye, Mister Frodo, that we are," Sam replied, turning a regretful look to Frodo. "And Iím sorry as I can be about it, but I have to admit Iím suddenly seeing some sense in what Pippin used to say Ė that if he was in trouble with Merry, and he knew he was facing a blistered backside, he might as well let loose with all the lip he had in him, Ďcause there werenít no better time to do so."

If my temper hadnít been up Iíd have smiled at Samís logic, having chosen a similar course of action myself a few times. But at the moment I was in the role of this ĎMerry,í whoever that was, and I was in no mood to tolerate anything more from my two ĎPippins.í

"You dare stand there and show no remorse for what you tried to do?" I demanded.

Sam looked surprised by the suggestion; then he huffed slightly and said, "The only thing Iím feeliní remorseful about, ĎCaptain, sir,í is that it didnít work."

And that was it. Sam went first this time. And even though his bottom still had a rosy glow from his session with me just the day before, I gave that little consideration. As Iíd said I would, I yanked him over my thighs, pulled down his britches and paddled him in front of the entire company.

Bram had seated himself on a real rock and taken Frodo up onto his big lap to keep him subdued during Samís ordeal. Frodo cried, but he sat still and he didnít look away. He stayed watchful and brave, at one point calling out through his tears, "Iím here, Sam! Iím with you!" I had to bite down on my inner lip and remind myself of this little oneís insolence in order to keep going.

Given his already tender state, Sam couldnít hold out for very long. Soon his pride gave way and he wailed and kicked and screamed, and when I felt he had demonstrated the penitence I sought and apologized to my satisfaction, I pulled his britches up over his now quite crimson bottom and passed him to Calder.

He took Sam over to where the company was grouped and watching, stood him up and held him in place while Bram delivered a bravely quiet Frodo to me. Sam winced and squirmed and rubbed his backside, and he wept when he saw Frodoís britches go down and his little rosy bottom exposed. He went so far as to plead Frodoís case, crying, "Capín, p-please, it werenít Mister Frodoís doing, sir! It was all my idea! Please donít p-paddle him!"

"Hush, little rogue," I told him, although I was moved by his plea. "He is your master, and, presumably, you are at his command. He is, therefore, accountable for your actions."

"Noooo! Itís not like that with us!"

"Iím all right, Sam!" Frodo said, his voice quavering. "I did condone your plan. And you took a spanking yesterday because of my lie. It is my turn now."

"Not true, little waif," Iíd murmured, too low for any but Frodo to hear me. "Sam was paddled yesterday for his own ill temper."

"I know," Frodo whispered back.

Again, I was touched, and again I suffered a wave of regret. But I hadnít spared Frodo, either, and he lasted an even shorter time than Sam had. Iíd spanked Frodo until he, too, broke down into a kicking, thrashing, weeping state. And when he had displayed sufficient remorse for his act, I tugged Frodoís britches up and we resettled both halflings back in the place from whence they had Ďdisappearedí where they could comfort each other in privacy. Calder kept guard nearby, but Sam and Frodo were in no condition to run off.

Thinking of it now, of how Frodo looked, rubbing his bottom and sniffling and wiping his eyes with the backs of his hands, I felt my stomach churn and a hot shiver course through me. Suddenly I didnít care if Boromir spanked me until I could no longer breathe or think . . . in fact, I yearned to no longer think. Thinking was awful, and though I tried to keep it from pulling me into that swirling darkness, I felt its terrible dragging force, the memories too real, too dark . . . dark, dark, dark. And then . . . .

I heard his voice, my brotherís voice . . . Boromirís voice . . . Boromir . . . Boromir . . . .

"Aye, little brother; I am here. Shhhh, quiet now. I am here. No more of this, Faramir. No more sorrow. Little brothers do not punish themselves. No more punishing. No more. All is forgiven."

"B-B-Borímir," I stammered, and I realized that heíd stopped spanking me, and was now rubbing my bottom. Ferocious heat radiated from my backside and throughout my body. I kept trying to speak, but I couldnít form words, couldnít talk of the fears tormenting me. Yet, my brother began to answer each fear, again using that lyrical hum of a voice:

"All is well, sweetling. You have not shamed me nor disappointed me. I know everything now, all that you did, every detail, for my little brother was so brave and told me everything. So nothing more is hidden. And there is no need to punish yourself, for I am here, alive and well, and I take care of your discipline, Faramir, not you. Little brothers need never punish themselves.

"I have paddled your bottom so soundly you may not sit for days; and so here it ends, sweetling. With this spanking all accounts are settled. I am proud of you, and I love you as I always have, little urchin. It is over now. Release it. All is forgiven. And, Faramir, you are as dear to me now as you ever were."

I wept as I can never remember weeping before, and Boromir hauled me up into his arms, my weak and boneless form collapsing against him. He rocked me, and his never-ending poetry of forgiveness drenched me, a sweet, soothing warmth flowing through my body. I felt what Boromir had always been able to gift me with Ė absolution, perfect and real, an ethereal sensation unlike any other. I held on to him, that warmth flooding me, and I wept, and I listened to his continuous litany:

"Thatís it, sweetling . . . all over now . . . very good . . . so proud of you, Faramir, so very proud. You did so well. Shhhhh, all is forgiven . . . ." And on and on, lilting, musical words.

I listened, and I remembered how Boromir used to comfort me this way, how even as a young adult I would wake from some terrifying dream, slip from my bed and pad down the corridor to his room, and he would take me in and let me sleep there, comforted by his mere presence, never judging me or making me feel awkward.

"Aye, little urchin. Nestle in and go to sleep," he would murmur when I asked if I could stay, always generous with his compassion and understanding.

This felt the same now as it ever had, like a salve for my heart. And soon his words melted into something else, a solace that seeped into me, soothing me in a different way.

"Faramir, know that your goodness is profound and real. You are precious to me, little brother. You are so much more than you believe you are. All who know you know of your goodness . . . all save one."

I gripped him more tightly, and he returned my fierce embrace, understanding, as he had ever understood, how his next words would shake me.

"Father is . . . he was . . . impaired, Faramir. Nay, he was defective inside. His sickness became your burden to bear, but it had nothing to do with you, sweetling, or who you are. It was his illness alone, a malady eating at him that neither you, nor I, nor any power in Middle Earth could cure, although we both did try.

"Aye, you blamed yourself for never pleasing him, and it saddened me. He made you his object of scorn, but even worse, he made you feel that you deserved that. You never deserved it, Faramir. Denethor did not care to be pleased, little brother. But your goodness ever was, and still is, known by all others. It shines forth, near blinding in its brilliance."

I pressed my face against his shoulder, wanting so much to hear him, and longing for what he said to be true, but I could feel the deeper anguish that had ever haunted my life, that pain that had no salve, simmering within me, still hurtful.

"I know, my brother; I know," Boromir whispered. "So hard to hear me; I know. But I shall say it for the rest of our days in the hopes that it will eventually become real to you. And others will continue to join me, showing you your goodness by their affection for you.

"Listen to me, little brother," he said, a smile entering his voice. "It is near impossible to fool a halfling. They seem like children in their artlessness, but they have within them a strange ability to see the truth inside a person.

"Faramir, when Gandalf explained how Pippin had saved you, I found the little one and brought him here to thank him. We both wept Ė I with gratitude, and Pippin with compassion, for he told me of how you met him and helped him and how kind you were to him, and he also described what happened between you and Denethor.

"Pippin cried tenderly then. Even after knowing you for so short a time, he was certain of the goodness within you. He loved you, and it broke his young heart to see you so hurtfully abused. I do not think he would mind if I told you this:

"ĎPlease Boromir,í he said to me through his tears, Ďplease, can you help him? I canna bear to think of how much hurt heís suffered. So please, can you help Faramir? He deserves it so.í"

I was weeping softly again, remembering the scene, my horror at my fatherís words and my anguish at the thought of that dear young innocent watching. Iíd dared not glance at Pippin when it was happening, knowing that he would have been unable to shield his dismay, and that seeing it would make me lose what little control I was holding on to.

Iíd left the hall without a backward glance at Pippin, and now, hearing how he viewed that ugliness, and hearing how he pleaded with Boromir for help touched something wrenching within me.

"I tell you this to show you of how your goodness shines forth, Faramir," my brother said. "A little hobbit from the Shire saw it at once, and it endeared you to him, as indeed you endear yourself to all.

"You suffered such anguish at the thought of my death that it seemed a part of you also died. But your goodness survived, strong and steady, like a second heartbeat. You felt it, that part you called your Ďhumanity still struggling to stay alive within you.í Thatís exactly what it was, little brother. Your goodness was still alive despite your grief, a goodness that thrives within you.

"So forgiveness is yours for the taking, Faramir, and it is deserved. Therefore, cry the darkness away. Let all of this go, and come back to me, for my little brother has suffered long enough, and it is time for forgiveness. As Pippin said, Ďhe deserves it so.í"

And cry I did. I cried until it seemed I could cry no more, that anguish within me shattering under the onslaught of my brotherís love and compassion. Boromir held me, his arms strong and sure, his tender discourse constant, destroying the wall grief had enclosed around me. For the first time since Iíd had that horrific vision, I felt free of it, and I sensed that it would haunt my dreams no longer. I saw it for what it had been Ė an empty torment, one that no longer held sway over me, its power destroyed by my big brother and his tremendous love.

A profound drowsiness swept over me, yet I had too much left to say to indulge it. So I drew back from Boromirís broad shoulder in order to stay awake and talk to him. But when my backside came down fully upon his hard thighs I nearly leapt from his lap, a jolt of hot pain ripping through me from my scorched bottom. I couldnít hold back my cry.

Boromir spread his legs, letting my bottom slide down between them, and though it still sent a fierce blaze through me, it did feel better to be suspended above any surface. I looked up at him gratefully and he smiled and shook his head.

"You are a sight, little brother," he said, brushing my wild locks from my face. He wiped the tears from my cheeks and kissed my brow, then he placed a curled finger under my chin and lifted my face to peruse it. Boromir sighed, his expression one of sad amusement. "As ever, your fair skin does you no credit when you have been crying. Like Pippin and Frodo, you wear your weeping openly."

I had to grin, relishing how good it felt to do so.

"Now then," Boromir said. "What do you wish to say, little brother? First draw a slow breath, then speak quietly. Your throat has been through much."

I nodded and obeyed him, and suddenly I could think of nothing to ask, my questions having flown, so I heard myself asking him something silly: "Frodo and Pippin, y-you spanked them often?"

He grinned. "Travel with hobbits for any length of time and you will find yourself eventually spanking them." We both chuckled; then he said, "They are the most delightful creatures, but they can be full of mischief and cheeky beyond measure. Aragorn and Legolas and I had quite the time with them, especially little Pippin. He held the record for spankings."

We chuckled more, and I leaned back against his supporting arms, delighting in my brotherís obvious affection for the halflings. Theyíd clearly had an influence upon him. Boromir had often seemed older than he was, living too much in his role of the first born son of the Steward of Gondor. He was now more relaxed, still the big brother I loved and admired, but with a new and engaging ease and happiness to him.

"Sam and Frodo . . . I was so hard on them," I continued. "You said that all was forgiven, but Boromir, what of . . . will they . . . ."

"Will Sam and Frodo forgive you?" he asked. I nodded, and he smiled again. "Aye, little brother. Of course they will. I know them well, and I love them with all my heart, and I can tell you truly that they will indeed forgive your behavior. In fact, I vow they forgave you everything the moment you had a change of heart and released them."

I blinked, Samís voice when we parted coming back to me, ". . . Youíve shown your quality, sir . . . ."

"Ahh," Boromir said, studying my expression. "I see that they did. Fear not, my brother. These little ones have large hearts and an enormous capacity to love." He paused to grin. "Frodo and Sam have been forgiven many times themselves, though, in truth, Sam rarely needed disciplining. Nor did Merry. But Pippin and Frodo needed a bit of extra attention."

"And you three warriors saw that they received it, I vow," I said, grinning.

"Oh, of course!" We chuckled again. "Although, Merry had been dealing with Pippinís misbehavior for some time before the Quest, so he often took over those duties."

"As Sam did for Frodo?"

"Well --" Boromir gazed off thoughtfully. "No, Sam began to discipline Frodo after the Quest began. It was a new world for them both, but they were most ready for it."

"They are . . . close," I said, suddenly shy.

Boromir smiled at me gently. "Aye, little brother, very close. They have a special bond, a deep love, and that easily moved to a new place for them when Sam began disciplining Frodo. It became quickly clear to all in our Fellowship that the Ring had started to influence little Frodoís behavior, and Sam stepped in to answer Frodoís new needs most efficiently."

"It was apparent, their love."

"Aye, and though you did not comfort them yourself, Faramir, you left them in each otherís arms. That was a compassionate act. You did not abandon them in your heart as severely as you feared you did, for you gave them what privacy you could. So, you see, little urchin, you are not as terrible as you think. Sam and Frodo both forgave you your actions. It is fitting that you forgive yourself as well."

His words brought a sudden thought to mind. "How did you come to forgive yourself, Boromir? Did Aragorn help you?"

He froze and stared at me. "What?"

"In Osgiliath, Sam bellowed that you had gone mad and tried to kill Frodo to get the Ring. I knew he was lying Ė that my brother would never do such a monstrous thing, but I knew that something must have happened at Amon Hen. Then today in his story Legolas said that the Lady Galadriel spoke of you as Ďhe who will fall from grace.í So, I assume that what Sam bellowed was at least partly true."

Boromir simply watched me, clearly stunned, and it hit me like a sudden arrow to my chest Ė he did not know that I knew of this!

I panicked. I began shaking and I hugged myself close to him again, feeling a fresh rigidness in his body. "I-I thought you knew that I knew," I murmured, "But, how could you know? Iím sorry, my brother!" I buried my face against his shoulder again.

His arms came around me and I felt him relax and hug me to him. "Shhhh, little urchin, shhhhhh. Donít fuss," he said, sounding so much like himself again that I quivered with relief. "You simply surprised me. All is well. Iím sorry I upset you."

I shook my head. "Not your fault. I didnít realize --"

He pulled me from his shoulder and lifted my bowed head. "Look at me, Faramir," he said, and when I obeyed I saw my brotherís kind expression back in place, the shock having fled.

"You startled me," he said. "But you should know how this feels; you werenít aware that Iíd been told about your dealings with Frodo and Sam."

Ahh, yes, I did indeed know. "Yes, brother, youíre right."

"I had planned to tell you now what happened between Frodo and me," he went on. "And for the very reason you mentioned, to show you that I understood. I, too, had done something I felt was unforgivable, and yet, I was shown that forgiveness was possible --" He paused to grin. "-- and that I had best accept it."

I wondered at my brotherís sudden, quiet smile. Boromir studied me closely for a long moment, then he said, "But, perhaps you do not need to hear of this, or perhaps this is a bad time --"

"NO!" I cried.

Boromir laughed.

"I mean, no, truly." I grinned, anxiously eager for his story. "I mean, I am fine. And Iíd like to hear how Aragorn helped you."

"Aragorn and Legolas."

"Legolas? Legolas also helped you?"

To my astonishment, Boromir blushed. "Aye. There is much to tell you, little brother, and I hope you are ready to hear it."

"Of course I am ready," I said.

"Very well, little urchin. Then get comfortable again, for this may take some time."

 

 

 

 

End of Part II, Chapter V- A Poem of Forgiveness

Ere The Final March, Chapter VI, to be continued . . .