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.

NOTES for this chapter: A bit more slashiness than my usual fare; romantic, not graphic.

Ere The Final March

Chapter V – Part IV

Exquisite Absolution

by Larrkin

You wouldn’t!” Pippin cried. “Not on Boromir’s first night back with us! And we have to ride another four hours until we reach Edoras tomorrow! Oh, please, Aragorn, no!”

We were just so excited to see Boromir again,” Merry said. The firelight glowing on his somber little face, he turned to Eomer, whose mount he had shared earlier. “You and Aragorn are right, of course. We shouldn’t have jumped down like that. It really was very dangerous, running amidst all those prancing horses, but --”

Although, we had done it before,” Pip interrupted, casting a beseeching look at the frowning captain. “When you and your men attacked the Uruks who’d taken us, remember? Your whole company rode in amongst the Orcs, arrows flying, spears sailing, swords hacking! It was lovely!”

Merry darted his cousin a glance. “Pip, not now.”

Why not? We had to run and weave our way around dancing horses then, too.”

Yes, but it was hardly the same thing.”

It is!” Pip insisted. Whirling back to us, he began again, his arms waving, his face bright with excitement. “You saved Merry and me at the last minute from this one Orc who was determined to dine on us! Drove a spear right into him!”

Pip, listen, this really isn’t the time to --”

There were thundering horses everywhere! Hacked up bodies crashing and falling, mass hysteria amongst the Orcs! It was a battle! More like a massacre, because the Orcs were in a panic!”

Pip! Please! Don’t say anything mor --”

And,and,and, there Merry and I were! Right in the thick of it! And we-we started scootin’ along, crawlin’ on our bellies, with all those horses thunderin’ and racin’! And I dinna see how we weren’t squished then and there like a coupla’ wee bugs!”

Merry lowered his head to his palms. “Oh, no.”

In fact, I flipped over, and right above me was this horse rearin’ up, his hooves slashing, pawin’ the air right over me!”

Pippin!” Merry groaned.

And I rolled away, and we got free, and then Merry and I ran and dodged and weaved, and at one point we had to race right underneath this one horse, right under its belly --!”

Merry’s head shot up. “Peregrin!”

Finally jarred from his memory, Pippin blinked over at him in surprise.

With a sigh and a sad scowl, Merry said, “You’re not helping, Pip.”

Pippin glanced at his stunned audience, his eyes widening. “Oh. Right.”

Gimli cleared his throat. “But what a lovely scene of horrible details you do paint, Master Took.”

Well, I . . . .” Pippin fidgeted, glancing at us nervously. “Of course, you know how I exaggera --”

Aragorn lifted a halting palm to Pippin, waving off any further words.

Daro si!” Legolas muttered, falling into the elvish as he sometimes did when truly upset.

Aye, Pippin,” Aragorn said. “Stop now. Do not ruin your ill-timed honesty with a fib that would, I assure you, serve no purpose.”

Pippin winced. “Right.”

Aragorn cast him a fond smile. “We are not angry. You and Merry were quick and clever and you survived when you could very well have been slain. I believe I can speak for all warriors here in saying that we are proud of you. But Gimli is right. You paint a far too clear picture, little bard. You must allow us our alarm when hearing such grim details.” Aragorn paused and lifted his chin, his gaze turning stern. “And the fact that you survived something similar before does not excuse the unseemliness of what you did this morning. Merry, too, is right. The two situations were quite different.”

Pippin sighed. “Right.”

After an awkward silence during which two halflings squirmed, Merry finally said, “We’re sorry. Truly we are.”

Aye, and we’ll never do it again, will we, Merry?”

Never. Never again. We were –” Merry suddenly paused and glanced at me, that mischievous sparkle I remembered so well lighting up his eyes. He turned to Pippin and said, “You know what we were, don’t you, Pip?”

After darting me a glance as well, Pippin, of course, didn’t miss a beat. “Aye,” he said with clearly phony seriousness. “We were naughty, weren’t we, Merry?”

Naughty. Yes, Pip. We were indeed quite naughty.”

We were naughty hobbits, Merry.”

That’s exactly what we were. Naughty hobbits. Very naughty hobbits.”

Not naughty enough to be spanked, in my opinion. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Oh, I agree, Pip. Our naughtiness was not so severe as to demand such drastic measures.”

But it was naughtiness, nonetheless.”

Indeed, it was. And if good is good, then naughty is naughty.”

Aye, Merry, that’s true. Naughty is most certainly naughty.”

Yep, and we were naughty hobbits.”

Oh, we were, Merry, we were. Two very naughty hobbits.”

Aragorn and Legolas looked to be trembling from the effort to hold back an explosion of laughter. Gimli studiously repacked his pipe and Gandalf lowered his head, both of them clearly trying to hide the fact that they were grinning like mad. And Eomer, poor unwitting man, furrowed his brow and frowned his everlasting frown.

Excuse me,” I snarled, struggling to sound provoked rather than on the verge of laughter myself. Two halflings turned wide-eyed gazes upon me and blinked in innocent expectation. “Until a minute ago I’d have been inclined to agree that the two of you didn’t deserve to be spanked. I’d even thought to put in a good word for you, perhaps plead a bit of leniency.” I paused to glower. “But now that I think on it, Eomer and Aragorn are right. I know of two very . . . two very cheeky hobbits who would benefit from a good bottom warming.”

Eomer courteously corrected me: “You mean two very naughty hobbits.”

It was too much for the others. Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf burst out laughing while the two little imps fell upon each other, giggling. I remained stoic, the effort to keep from joining in the mirth making my eyes water. However, one look at Eomer’s bewildered expression and I also collapsed into laughter.

I sense that I am missing something,” Eomer finally said, quietly dignified, setting off another round of chuckling and a far-too detailed explanation of the matter from the two hobbits . . . the two naughty hobbits. I still hated that word.

When we had all settled again, Aragorn said, “Getting back to the matter at hand . . . .” and he went on to admonish Merry and Pippin once more, making clear to them what a dangerous thing they had done, his light scolding complete with questions that had no answers, such as, “Did you not notice how fervently Eomer and I were trying to pull you back up to safety?”

Pip tried to answer the unanswerable. “Aye, well, but, y’see --”

And still you fought us,” Eomer growled. “Aragorn and I did not realize what you were doing until it was too late to stop you, so you had little trouble struggling free.”

You were even scolding them, Aragorn,” Legolas said. “I heard you shouting orders, such as, ‘Pippin! No!’ and ‘Merry! Stop!’

Aye. You did.” Eomer nodded, his scowl deepening.

Aye, so I did,” Aragorn rumbled. “Well? Merry? Pippin? Do you two have anything to say for yourselves?”

The little ones, freshly contrite, were full of sincere apologies for being so reckless, but they had no defense other than natural hobbit impulsiveness, which didn’t seem to take them far with the unhappy warriors. In the end, Eomer deferred to Aragorn’s decision as to what Merry and Pippin’s consequences should be. Aragorn turned with a sigh to Gandalf.

I feel you have both made your point, Aragorn,” the wizard said, gazing at the halflings with the flinty though fond look he reserved just for them. “We have been dealing with our hobbits long enough to understand the folly in trying to change their natures. They will be impetuous, especially these two, and there’s an end to it. But when they fully understand the importance of prudence as regards a certain matter, they will usually adhere to caution the next time. I doubt they will be so foolish as to do this again.”

True,” Aragorn said, nodding at Gandalf’s wisdom. “Nevertheless, I feel that at least a small penance is due. This matter seems unfinished otherwise, and I wouldst not leave these little ones feeling forsaken in any way.”

Aragorn ignored the hobbits’ promise to not feel forsaken should he leave the matter be and instead suggested to Eomer that they take Merry and Pippin aside and show them, by way of a “friendly reminder,” that natural hobbit impulsiveness was costly. The halflings grimaced at the sentence, muttering something about this reminder sounding none too friendly to them, but Eomer was pleased with Aragorn’s suggestion. He grabbed a torch and the little ones rose with dignity, following Eomer and Aragorn off into the night.

If my big brother’s wincing was any indication, the two captains delivered some goodly swats. Catching my look and raised eyebrows, Legolas held up five fingers. Not bad, but certainly enough to create a burn. Soon the small party returned, Merry and Pippin a bit glassy-eyed, and walking in a careful manner. They looked sulky, but they were certainly not in the shape they would have been in after a full spanking.

The matter then settled, Eomer excused himself to rejoin King Theoden and the assorted others from Rohan who sat gathered ‘round another small fire close by, Gandalf and Gimli accompanying him to chat with the Rohirrim for a while.

It seemed that Merry and Pippin could not bear to be out of contact with me for long. They had sat across the fire from the rest of us while under examination, but now that they had been attended to they headed right for me, scrambled onto my lap, and leaned back against me as though they belonged there. I was content, covered with warm little halflings, my arms curled around them. Aragorn pressed up on one side of me, and Legolas pressed up on the other side. It felt wondrous.

Merry and Pippin shifted some, releasing a few small gasps. I grinned and murmured, “Do we have a problem, gentlemen?”

Aragorn and Legolas sniffed and grinned.

Aye,” Pippin muttered. “Your legs are too hard, Boromir.”

Would you prefer the ground, little one?”

No, no! I’m fine. Your legs are fine. Sorry. It’s just that, well, who knew that just five swats from Aragorn could sting so much?”

You think you had it bad, Pip,” Merry said. He fidgeted again and made a hissing sound.

Oh, Merry!” Pippin took his cousin’s hand and held it. “I know! Eomer has quite a swing.”

Merry turned to him. “You can’t really know, Pip.”

I-I know. I-I mean, I know that I can’t really know. It just looked like he had quite a swing.”

Well, he did,” Merry grumbled. “And I plan to make certain I never end up over that Eomer’s knee.”

I was puzzled. “Didn’t Eomer just now turn you over his knee?” I asked Merry.

Oh, no. They didn’t go to all that trouble,” Merry said. “They just hoisted us up under their arms –”

Bottom in front,” Pippin added. “The way you played with us that time you showed Legolas how to spank a hobbit while standing. And they yanked down our britches and swatted us like that.”

I vow I could feel little Merry blushing from head to toe. He turned slowly to Pippin, yanked his hand back and said in clipped tones, “Thank you so very much for that detailed explanation, Pip. I’m surprised you didn’t describe the swats.”

You deserved every one,” Legolas said. “We all paled watching the two of you darting past the horses’ hooves. And hearing how you managed to live through something similar was of no comfort.”

Aye,” Aragorn said. “You have survived much, and when I think of how easily you could have been hurt simply because you were being reckless bratling hobbits . . . .” He made a growling sound in his throat. “It makes me long to turn you both over my knee and tan your backsides properly this time.”

We weren’t being reckless bratlings, Aragorn!” Pip protested.

Yes, we were,” Merry said, “but what else could we do?” He squirmed around to wrap both arms about my middle, declaring, “There was Boromir, and we just had to run to him. It was so good to see him. There he was! Our Boromir! Sitting up straight and strong on that horse, looking glorious!” Merry sighed. “Mercy, Aragorn! What else could we do but run to him?”

Pippin also turned and hugged himself to me. “Aye, what else could we do? There he was, riding towards us, the sun shining on his hair, his big, strong body all better! After that horrible last sight we’d had of him – oh, Aragorn! That horrible, horrible sight! And now, there he was! Our defender! Our brave Gondorian warrior! He’d fought like twenty warriors, trying to save us --”

I heard the two of them starting in, beginning to retell a chronicle of praise based on a lie. My heart sped up and that ugly snarl began within my head, the one I’d heard since that day I’d come to my senses, my face buried in the leafy ground of Amon Hen: ‘Liar! Fraud! Weak traitorous wretch!’

I could bear Merry and Pippin’s words of adoration no longer. “Gentlemen,” I muttered, “I pray you, enough of thi--”

No, please,” Merry said. He lifted his small finger and touched it to my lips, saying, “Please, Boromir, please don’t stop us. Don’t be modest. Let us talk of it.”

I swallowed hard. ‘You’re too cowardly to tell them the truth! You want them to believe these falsehoods! But you know the truth! You know what you did! You don’t deserve anything they’re saying about you. You know it’s not true!’

Aye, please Boromir; we need to talk of it!” Pip exclaimed. “All this time, when we thought you were . . . when we thought --” Pippin sounded near tears; then he swallowed and charged on, saying, “Remember, Merry, when we were trapped on the bridge, and Boromir came charging up, hurling himself right at those Orcs?”

Yes! He was brilliant! And remember --”

I squeezed my eyes shut and lowered my head, fighting to close out the darkness I felt thundering up behind me, the greatest bulk of it closing fast. I knew the little ones were still talking, and I felt Aragorn and Legolas watching me, but I could do nothing about any of that. I had to stop that darkness from reaching me before --!

And it was too late. I’d been too distracted and too slow and now that darkness engulfed me, thick and smothering, that malicious snarling guilt slithering through me, slowly this time, taking a new stratagem:

Remember, indeed, do remember. Remember Frodo . . . think of that quiet, peaceful moppet back when the Quest started. Yesss, think of him, looking up at you, wide-eyed and guileless, or giggling with his kin, or watching the firelight, drowsy and contented. Think of how he felt in your arms, Frodo’s limbs about you, his light form riding on your hip, his legs wrapped around your waist, his hugs and his innocent kisses, his trusting gaze.

And now think of what you did to him! Remember his disgust at your weakness! Remember his face when he turned from you in scorn, then ran from you in fear! Consider what noble little Frodo must think of you now.’

I gritted my teeth and tried not to whimper, tried not to shake, tried not to flinch, tried not to alarm the little ones. But, oh! That darkness now burst fully into flames licking at every exposed inner wound, tearing them open again, hot shocks of guilt slamming into me, ferocious and fast, as the Orc arrows that had pummeled my body.

My stomach churned. And all the while I was aware that I was not alone. I was being watched. Aragorn and Legolas were observing me. I felt them glancing at me as they had been all day.

I didn’t want them to see this, and I did want them to see it. That sullen Boromir of old who had ever sought to punish myself was fighting to take over again. I wanted to hide my sorrow and suffer my painful guilt alone. I deserved to suffer. I didn’t deserve solace, especially not the solace found in the form of a nurturing round of discipline. I deserved to be punished for what I'd done. Yes, that’s what I needed – to punish myself.

But Aragorn and Legolas had long since changed my beliefs about what I thought I deserved, patiently instructing me during many over-the-knee lessons that self-torment would not be tolerated. I’d learned never to try hiding my troubles from them lest I be willing to endure a sore backside. I’d learned that I did not deserve harsh self-punishment, and I’d learned that I did deserve forgiveness, a new notion after a lifetime of Denethor’s disapproval and cold reproach for my misdeeds.

And so now I did show my anguish as I had shown it all day in the small, subtle ways Aragorn and Legolas would have been quick to notice. I’d been eager to invite their attention, although I doubt they would have waited for an invitation had I failed to offer it. I could not find forgiveness in myself for what I’d done to Frodo, and I remembered with promise what Lerin had told me, “ . . . others must heal the pain in your heart. You know of what I speak.”

I had suffered that pain quietly in my early days of healing in Lothlorien, waking in a cold sweat, the peace of my surroundings easing my shaking. But my body healed quickly, my strength returning, and the guilt gained power. The terrors in my sleep occurred more frequently and I became louder when they attacked. From then on Lerin stayed nearby when I slept, ready to awaken me if I became violent. I would feel his arms pulling me up against him and hear his words of comfort, his tone of simple command:

Enough. Wake, little warrior. Come back. You are not allowed to play in the shadowlands. Listen to my voice. Awaken at once.

Soon I learned to fashion a barricade against that darkness, and when I felt it descending I slammed down my barricade and made it stop. As I became better at mastering it during the day, my night terrors also became less frequent.

But, here it was again, the darkness roaring down upon me, a force too long held in check now rushing forth. I had feared it might do so when I returned to those I loved and my guilt resurfaced. Of course it would descend when these naïve little ones showered me with adoration and praised my goodness. Wretched, ugly voice of guilt!

And yet . . . that voice was right. It was right. The plain truth was, I had assaulted Frodo. I had tried to take the Ring from him. I’d betrayed his trust. There was no more to say than that. I’d acted dishonorably. Little wonder I hated that ugly voice of guilt. It was actually the voice of truth, and we always tend to dismiss a truth that does not suit us. I’d fashioned a barricade against it – yet more disgrace. I hadn’t even been able to face my guilt, so I had pushed it away.

And now I was deceiving these trusting little souls. Poor misguided young ones, thinking me so noble when in truth I’d attacked Frodo . . . I’d attacked Frodo . . . .

You did indeed attack him! You would’ve killed the little one to get your hands on that Ring. You’d have left him for dead, abandoned the others and returned to Gondor. And then you would have kept the Ring. You wanted it for yourself. You knew you would be able to wield it better than Denethor would.

And why did you want it? You would have used it to conquer all evil. You’d have restored peace to Middle Earth and brought all kingdoms under Gondor’s rule – your rule. It would be a time of prosperity and plenty, when Gondor’s power would be vast and unquestioned thanks to you wresting the Ring from that shortsighted hobbit and all the blind fools who would see it destroyed.

Such vain dreams of glory! In truth, the Ring had conquered you. You were weak. You attacked a helpless halfling, hurt him, frightened him, betrayed him. You disgraced yourself. Frodo knows you for what you are now. Sam knows, too. That noble soul, Samwise, knows. Of course Frodo would have told him. Imagine his expression when hearing what you did to his Frodo. And Aragorn knows. Thorongil knows. Your Thorongil knows. What a disappointment you must be to him.’

Little brother.”

You didn’t deserve to survive. The elves wasted their efforts saving you. You should have died there on Amon Hen. How can you live with such shame?’

My fledgling.”

Hide your grief! At least have a shred of nobility and don’t let them see you suffering! If they see it they’ll put a stop to it, and you deserve this! You deserve to suffer!’


My eyes popped open. Legolas was whispering into my left ear; Aragorn whispering into my right one.

Let us settle Merry and Pippin in their blankets,” Aragorn whispered. “Then Legolas and I shall talk with you alone.”

I shuddered, suddenly aware that I’d been lost in thought for so long that the little ones had worn down and stopped talking. I’d managed to close out any of their further words of praise, and now Merry and Pippin lay limp and drowsing against me. They clung to me when Aragorn and Legolas stood and began peeling them away, but with Aragorn murmuring gently stern commands, they roused and allowed themselves to be pulled off me and directed towards their blankets.

I watched my two warriors, loving how attentive they were, carefully holding up the halflings until they stopped wobbling, then heading them for their blankets and standing there until the little ones settled in. When Merry and Pippin disappeared beneath their blankets, Legolas and Aragorn turned to me. My heart kicked into full gallop.

Your Thorongil knows.’

Drawing a breath, I prepared myself. I’d watched this gentle scene with the knowledge that I had no right to enjoy such sweetness. It rather amazed me that Aragorn could bear my company, knowing what I’d done. He was the noble man I was not. He had let Frodo go. Thankfully, Frodo had been blessed with a Fellowship of beings more honorable than I was.

Why Aragorn would be interested in redeeming me was not my concern. He was a forgiving man. He was a good man. And there was love there – it could blind one to the flaws in another. It had apparently blinded Legolas as well. Aragorn had said, “Then Legolas and I shall talk with you alone.” So, of course, my big brother also now knew of my disgrace.

And Aragorn most certainly had more than just talking planned. I’d longed for that release, actually longed for him to spank me and let me atone. I’d thought of it and yearned for it since coming to my senses in Lorien. I’d ached for it all day and willingly invited it. I didn’t even care which of them actually spanked me. Either one would do a thorough job.

But now, after thinking it over, after listening to that voice of reason, after seeing the truth and considering the plain facts, I knew that I could not accept any kind of help from them. I’d done what I’d done. How could I accept their help?

And yet, I knew Aragorn and Legolas. I didn’t doubt their obvious joy in our reunion. I didn’t doubt their love or their sincere desire to help me heal. They clearly considered me deserving of forgiveness. I simply did not see myself as worthy of such merit.

I did, however, keep seeing Frodo’s cross little face that day in the woods near the ruins of Parth Galen; I saw him staring up at me, staggeringly beautiful, but with distrust glistening in his eyes from the moment I’d spoken to him. I’d been watching him from a distance for some time, following him, gathering wood as I went, waiting for the right moment, and then he’d paused for a long time, just standing, just staring off, looking small and alone and lost and undecided.

Ah,” I thought. “I was right. He doubts himself and the wisdom of this ridiculous mission. The perfect time to present my side again.”

I kept seeing the moment, remembering Frodo sidestepping me as I talked gently to him, tried to reason with him. I wasn’t threatening him. My tone was loving and calm, and yet he kept backing away from me, acting as though he feared me, feared me!

I’d held Frodo close countless times, cuddled him and watched over him. I’d spanked him and I’d comforted him afterwards as he wept. I’d swept him up in my arms in Moria, carried him from danger as he screamed and cried and fought me. I’d scooped up his weary little body on the march when he looked done in, and he would trustingly drape his arms around my neck and lay his head on my shoulder – I’d loved the little one. And now he feared me?

And what happened next . . . that sudden bright flash of madness . . . what happened next --

Come, little brother.” Legolas pulled the torch from the fire. “All is quiet,” he said. “I feel no danger on the wind. None wouldst dare draw near to harm these little ones now guarded by so many able warriors.”

Aragorn crossed to me, his hand extended. “Aye, come, my fledgling,” he said. “Let us find a more private place for our talk.”

I glanced at Aragorn’s hand, then looked away, saying, “I am weary myself, sir. Perhaps we can attend to this talk tomorrow.”

Legolas drew near, he and Aragorn exchanging a solemn look.

Boromir,” Aragorn said, his voice low and somber. “Surely you do not intend to try denying that you are struggling with a burden. Legolas and I know you too well, my fledgling. Do not insult our intelligence so. You are in need of help, and we are eager to give it you. So come. Your protests will change nothing.”

So much for the good effort. “Am I to have no say in this?” I grumbled.

They glanced at each other wonderingly, then turned to me again. “Say?” Legolas murmured.

Aye! Say!” I shot back. “I think I should have a say in whether or not I need any kind of help.”

Do you indeed?” Legolas appeared bewildered.

I looked off again, fuming now, knowing when I was being toyed with by an elvish big brother.

Aye, of course you will be heard, my fledgling,” Aragorn said, his voice full of tolerance. “If that what you seek, you shall certainly have it. Now, for the last time, come.”

I felt like a child being handed a toy, patted on the head and asked if he was happy now. The only thing missing was the pat on the head. I turned a scowl up at them, but Aragorn and Legolas suddenly looked over towards the other fire. I followed their glances to where Gimli and Gandalf were now rising, clearly readying to head back our way.

Aragorn dropped his gaze to me, patted my head and said, “A choice now stands before you, Boromir. Rest assured, we are going to talk this night, so your choice is as follows: You can rise and come with us to a place where we can do this privately, or you can remain where you are, in which case Legolas and I will deal with you as we feel we must right here.”

Legolas said, “Aragorn, if you like, I could toss him over my shoulder and --”

Nay, sir,” Aragorn replied. “Thank you for the offer, but I do not think that will be necessary. My fledgling will make the right decision.”

I shot up and the three of us headed off into the night just as Gandalf and Gimli began the short walk back to our fire. Aragorn turned and gave Gandalf a quick wave, the wizard answering in kind, as though he knew what was going on with the three of us. I felt my face warm.

You see?” Aragorn said, grinning at Legolas. “Your little brother can be reasonable.”

I fumed and muttered, “I think it unreasonable to demand to talk when I have said that I don’t want to.”

Now, now,” Legolas said in a tone that made me itch to clout him. “You cannot deny that you are struggling, little brother.”

I feel I can judge whether or not I am struggling, or if I need help with anything, sir.”

Aragorn ‘hmmd.’ “Then you can prove us wrong, little one.”

I’d heard him say something like that before, but I was too provoked with Aragorn for calling me ‘little one,’ to recall where and when I’d heard it. “I prefer you not call me that,” I told him.

A long silence followed. The moon shone bright and full, casting the land in a silvery wash as we moved further and further from camp. I tramped along between them, matching their long-legged strides, my irritation growing. Aragorn finally released another small, ‘hmm,’ followed by a murmured, “I see.”

We are simply concerned for you, little brother,” Legolas said. “There are things that must be attended to.”

I appreciate your concern, but I have no need of it, nor do I wish to be attended to!”

Those who need attended to the most rarely wish to be attended to,” Aragorn said. “However, we will hear you out of course, my fledgling.”

That is all I ask.”

We went further from the camp than I’d anticipated them taking me. It occurred to me that Aragorn and Legolas were perhaps expecting me to become somewhat loud and were therefore trying to avoid any embarrassing rescues or scenes. A comforting, if chilling thought, not that I intended to let things get that far.

It seemed they knew where they were heading. Soon I heard the faint sound of rushing water ahead and before long we arrived at a sudden rocky embankment. We moved down the slope and into a small ravine cut through the middle by a rushing stream, a pleasant surprise amidst all the rocks and plains of Rohan. Following the bank for a short distance, we found a grassy area hedged by the tall boulders and smaller rocks of a long-past landslide.

I glanced around. Nicely sized boulders. Several of them long and flat. The perfect place for a spanking. Aragorn and Legolas studied the choices. Their decision made, Legolas secured the torch and they strolled to a long, low rock. I watched them begin to remove their weapons and place them on the ground, casting glances my way.

My stomach tightened. “You knew of this place?” I asked them.

No, not this place in particular,” Aragorn said. “We knew of this tributary. We have been riding parallel to it for half a day. So we knew there would be grasses here, perhaps small landslides from the embankment, trees.”

A good setting for a nice long --” Legolas paused to glance at Aragorn, then he glanced back at me with a soft grin. “ -- talk.”

I don’t think it necessary to remove your weapons for just a talk,” I pointed out.

Legolas smiled and headed my way with his familiar graceful stride. He stopped in front of me, a breath away, and reached down to unbuckle my sword belt, murmuring, “Ah, little brother, such a wary look. Shhh. Fear not. You shall have your say. But let us dispose of these arms ere we begin.”

After removing my sword and setting it aside, Legolas stood quietly before me, just studying me, his large eyes dark and liquid, traveling over my face, one hand petting a slow path up and down my arm, soothing and languid. He played with my hair, brushing it back from my face, watching it move through his fingers, seemingly fascinated, smiling softly. Then his fervid gaze locked on mine and hot shivers shot through my body. I released a long, trembling gasp. My heart thudded. My breathing became shallow and eager. Something important nagged for my attention, but I was aware of only Legolas, his nearness, his rapt expression, his alluring scent, his touch, his hushed elvish purr:

Aye, you shall have all the say you desire, young one, and we shall listen, but first I would hold my little brother. Indulge me, sweetling, for you have been gone far too long, and I ache to feel you in my arms once more.”

Then Legolas gathered me close and held me, hugging my quivering body with an eagerness and an intimacy he could not have shown earlier on the plains amidst a crowd of onlookers and with two little ones squeezed between us. I heard his groaned sigh, deep and ardent, and I answered it in kind, and then Legolas kissed me, hungrily, as though he’d been yearning to do so all day. It fired along my limbs, blinding, as his elvish kiss had always been, the warmth of his mouth draining the strength from my arms, my legs.

But Legolas held me up, locked against him, the feel of his powerful slender body filling my arms. My sudden weakness made him grin and chuckle softly with that quietly superior air of his, the way he always had when finding me delightful, making me feel even weaker and incredibly younger.

There, there now,” Legolas murmured, his lips against my cheek, his breath warming my skin. “Shhh, I have you. Lean against me. Goooooood. Mmmmmm, how good that feels. Rest in my arms as you used to, little one.” I heard his smile, then: “May I call you little one?”

I’m not sure what the sound was that came from me, but it made him smile and chuckle lowly again. And then I felt myself moving, Legolas drawing me with him, pausing to repeatedly kiss me as we traveled a few steps and I glided forward, urged onward until I found myself once more lost in that seductive scent of seasoned leather and fresh air and wood smoke, those heady sensations slamming into me like a physical blow once again as they had earlier. Aragorn.

He gathered me close just as Legolas had, hugging me with near-ferocious need, his embrace almost desperate, small, fervent sounds escaping his throat. His fingers tangled in my hair and he pulled me to him, his kiss deep and moist and warm. Another fiery tremor shot through me, weakening me all over again. I shook anew, light-headed, my stomach fluttering, my limbs soft, and I was beyond thought.

Mmmmmm,” Aragorn paused between deep kisses, to murmur against the heated skin of my face. “My beautiful fledgling. Mmmmm, Legolas, you are right – how good our little one feels.” His lips now close to my ear, tickling it and sending shivers through me, Aragorn whispered, “We shall call you ‘little one’ if we choose to, sweetling. There will be no fussing about that.”

At the moment I was concentrating on trying to draw a breath and trying to keep standing rather than fussing about anything. I hadn’t expected this, not now, not at this moment. But, of course, a more intimate reuniting would come before anything else. As ever, Aragorn and Legolas knew far better than I what was needed, and when. And, as ever, they were right, for, ohhhh! how I needed to feel all they were giving me! I still sensed that something big and important was hovering in the back of my mind, but it could wait. Nothing else mattered now but this closeness, this touching, this exchange of breath and heat. All I wanted was for this to go on forever.

It did go on for some long minutes, and then that niggling voice, the one that used to crop up, returned: Loving them both was astonishing enough, but at the same time? Together? Something inside me clenched. I sucked a sudden sharp breath and yanked back, unsteady, but all too aware. Darting a startled look between them, I struggled against my insensibility and my hungry longing to ignore that niggling voice and stay in their warm arms.

But once free of their embraces that darkness surged anew. What was I doing? Loving them both at the same time was not the issue! The truth was, I no longer deserved the love my two warriors had once given me.

I shook my head, clearing it further. This had been an instinctive response, something I’d been powerless against. I truly was powerless against them, and had ever been so. I suddenly remembered what Aragorn had said when I confessed to him my confusion over their sudden advances, how I longed for both him and Legolas, and how that didn’t seem right, didn’t seem possible, but how I felt unable to stop it:

Aragorn had grinned softly and said: “Ah, my naïve fledgling! Why do you fuss? Legolas and I have loved each other since before you were born, and yet I can still feel for you what I do now. His feelings for you run just as deep, sweetling, and they are just as true.”

I-I know! I-I mean, I do not doubt either of you, but . . . but, I . . . how . . . Aragorn, how is’t possible . . . how can I --”

Shhh, hush now, beloved,” he had said with his quiet tone of command. “Do not look for reason. Love is what it is, Boromir. Nothing more needs be said. There is no greater folly than trying to question love’s wisdom or trying to deny its power.” He had paused to kiss me, then lower a gut-stirring look upon me. “Just try denying an elf like Legolas what he wants, my fledgling, or try denying to yourself what you want from him. Ai! Now that is folly!”

It had been true and, unbeknownst to Aragorn, Legolas had amused me by saying nearly the same thing when he and I had shared a similar talk. His glittering eyes growing wide and luminous, Legolas had taken on a mesmerized gaze and murmured, “Ah, but there is no seductive power like that of the true Dúnedain, is there, little brother? It must be requited. It cannot be denied, and who, indeed, would be foolish enough to try?”

Little wonder I had succumbed so easily to my two warriors, my two towers of sensual intensity. But to engage them both at the same time had been more than I could submit to. Aragorn and Legolas had accepted that, and now, watching me pull back from them, they looked slightly disappointed, but still accepting of my choice . . . and yet, I knew that they also saw the more driving darkness rising up, simmering behind my gaze.

Aragorn sighed. Still watching me, he said to Legolas, “You see, beloved?”

Aye, Estel,” Legolas said, sadness in his gaze. “I see.”

So be it. There will be time for reuniting properly afterward.”

Aye, during the comforting. When this business is over and our little one is free again.”

Aragorn nodded. “Then let us get on with it. I will stand for this no longer. I know you are as eager as I am to ease my fledgling’s suffering.”

Indeed I am,” Legolas replied.

I’d taken a few spontaneous steps backwards during their little conversation. Now they advanced upon me, so I halted and blurted out, “Hold!” Aragorn and Legolas paused. “You told me that I could have my say!” I said.

They turned to each other, Aragorn muttering, “He is right, mellon nin.”

Aye. That he is,” Legolas said, and they turned back to me.

Very well. What have you to say, Boromir?” Aragorn demanded.

Despite a rough beginning, I tried to present my case, my argument short, but to the point: “I-I . . . I know you have only my best interes . . . Perhaps you assume that . . . Gentlemen, I . . . Although you may think you understand how I . . . .” Pausing to growl at my own feebleness, I blurted out, “I am fine! I am not suffering, nor do I need help of any kind. I appreciate your interest, but I . . . I am quite fine!”

They simply watched me. I huffed and I paced a few angry steps, knowing I was failing to dissuade them, knowing that, if anything, I was making their case for them. How I longed for Faramir’s gifts of graceful speech!

Finally, I halted, drew a deep breath and faced them again, determined to conquer my ineptitude. “Gentlemen,” I said, “I understand your concern, but it is not warranted. I ask that you take me at my word when I tell you that I am in need of no help. Please grant me the courtesy of having a say in my own fate. No rescue is needed. I know myself better than you presume to know me. I am an adult and I expect to be treated with the respect due any adult. So, if you please, consider my advice strongly and curb your desires to take unnecessary action.”

Not quite the poetic effort Faramir would have been capable of making, but I was nevertheless impressed with myself. Legolas and Aragorn watched me for a moment, then they turned to each other again.

He did not heed you,” Legolas said. “He is still attempting to insult our intelligence.”

Aragorn nodded slightly, saying, “My fledgling has always been of a stubborn bent of mind. Even as a four year-old he showed an impressive iron will.”

He does still.”

Aye, but it is strangely charming.”

Mmm, that it is.”

I stared at them. “You did not hear a word I said,” I muttered on a low gasp. “You are not listening to me.”

Ah, but we are listening, little brother,” Legolas said with a soft grin. “We are not heeding your empty words, that is true. But Aragorn and I are listening closely to the Boromir we know and love.”

He is also speaking to us,” Aragorn went on. “He has been all day, most clearly. Not in words, but with sad glances and narrative looks. He has spoken with straightforward sorrow, carefully veiled so that only Legolas and I would hear it. The voice of that Boromir is the one your big brother and I are heeding. He is saying, ‘Please, do not abandon me. I am here. Come find me. Help me.’

Legolas added, “We are hearing the voice of a little brother and a fledgling. His voice is much more eloquent than the voice that is using mere words.”

I shook my head, too aghast to do anything but protest. “No. You both presume too much!”

Boromir,” Aragorn said in a calm tone, “what battle are you fighting? Are you fighting the fact that we know you are suffering a terrible burden of guilt? Or that you need released from that guilt? Or that there is any guilt at all?” He tilted his head back slightly and to one side. “Does that sound like something Legolas and I would accept? Does it sound even remotely reasonable to you? Nay, my fledgling. You must trust that, at present, you are unable to find reason. You are even trying to deny that your suffering exists, after showing it to us all day.”

You started hiding the truth when the little ones began praising their heroic warrior,” Legolas added. “That is when the old habits overtook my poor little brother again.”

We sat and watched it happen, sweetling, right before our eyes,” Aragorn went on. “You had been eager for our help before that darkness arrived, eager, I vow, for this moment, when your big brother and I would take you off alone and help free you from your sorrow. We had taught you that you never deserve to suffer, and you had learned well. But, as Legolas rightly said, you could not withstand Merry and Pippin’s praise, deserving though it was. You have been punishing yourself since. Have you forgotten what Legolas used to tell you time and time again?”

Big brothers take care of their little brothers’ discipl--”

Enough!” I bellowed. I’d stood there in silence, watching them go back and forth, speaking in that synchronous manner that had always made me feel both irritated and vanquished. It shocked me to feel so exposed, and yet, I could not understand why. Their clear understanding should have been comforting. I loved them both. They had nothing but my best interests at heart.

And yet, something screamed within me, demanding the right to be as unreasonable as I chose to be. I . . . I did not deserve this! In truth, I had no idea what I wanted. Uncertainty flooded me. It felt like madness! Panicked, I tried to think, tried to focus, tried to find some thread of purpose, tried to find my anger.

Legolas shook his head in slow disbelief, his eyes full of sorrow. “My poor little brother.”

Aye.” Aragorn sighed. “My poor fledgling.”

You cannot do this,” I stated in a low tone, my anger found and surging forth under such condescension.

The both stared at me sadly.

Truly, you cannot,” I repeated. “You don’t know what I did to Frodo. You will not wish to deal with me when you do.”

I do know,” Aragorn said. “You told me as you lay near death. Do you not remember?”

I remember telling you that I tried to take the Ring,” I grated, wincing under the bitter memory of that blinding agony. “That is all I told you.”

Then come. By all means, you should tell us the details of what you did, little brother.” Legolas advanced upon me. “You are free to do so from a comfortable position over my lap.”

I instinctively backed up. I glanced at Aragorn. He looked agreeable to whatever Legolas was planning. Ah. This would be an elvish spanking then. Unhappy news indeed, but a spanking from Aragorn in the mood he was clearly in would have been no easier.

Though I knew it was pointless, I couldn’t seem to stop backing up, so Legolas kept advancing, wearing the patient look of a predator who has long since cornered his prey. Aragorn turned and sat upon the boulder, pulled one knee up to his chest and watched us quietly.

Most of the time I accepted a spanking from Legolas without the empty effort of resistance. Defiance always ended in the same way, so why bother? But on those occasions when I simply had to struggle – or, as Legolas put it, acted like a ‘mutinous child’ – I ended up feeling that he tolerated it not only for my sake, but because he viewed it as a means by which to reinforce his superiority.

So I’d been here often, determined to fight Legolas and knowing that it was an absurd thing to do. He would indulge my efforts to a point, then he’d put an end to it with humiliating swiftness and I’d find myself over his lap. I was once again in that helpless place, and, once again, I was surprised to be there. I was going to be spanked. I could do nothing to stop it. The certainty of it sent my heart racing and fired my limbs and urged me to take some action, any action, so I just kept aimlessly backing up, not thinking, just moving.

He cannot help himself, beloved,” Aragorn said to Legolas.

I know.” Legolas sighed and cast Aragorn an accusatory glare, muttering, “Ai! the stubbornness of men!” Then he turned back to me and stopped advancing. I stopped retreating. “If you go much further you will be in the stream, little brother. Do you plan to keep backing away, or are you going to stand and fight me?”

I wasn’t ready to answer what seemed like a complicated question. “I . . . I . . . .”

Very well,” Legolas said wearily. “Let us get this over with. Do your worst. Come. Best me, little brat.”

I stood there gaping at him, remembering when he’d said those exact words to me once before – the first spanking he’d given me, that first dreadful spanking! I shuddered. “You know I cannot best you,” I grumbled. “I shall never best you.”

I know,” Legolas repeated with another sigh. He gave me a sad look and murmured, “My poor little brother.” Then he lunged.

I know how swift elves are, but witnessing it still always shocks me. All I saw was a green and yellow blur and then I was tackled, rather gently, and thrown to the ground on my back, Legolas somehow managing to brace me up as I fell, keeping me from slamming down too hard. Nevertheless, I gasped and grunted as he scrambled atop me to sit.

Legolas, have a care,” Aragorn said. “Remember his recent injuries.”

I am having a care,” Legolas muttered. “But I cannot spank him with all these burdensome clothes getting in my way.” He straddled me, pinned my arms over my head with one strong hand and began to unfasten my surcoat with the other. I tried wrenching about, an instinctive reaction, sound judgment having long since flown. With a disapproving frown, Legolas ‘tsked,’ and said, “Stop that, young brat of Gondor.”

I paused, staring up at him, again remembering when he’d called me that during my first spanking from him. He seemed to be doing this on purpose, harkening back to that first spanking, though I couldn’t fathom why, nor did I care to know his reasoning. I struggled anew.

A little help would be welcomed, Estel,” Legolas said, working to sit me up and attempting to yank off my surcoat.

You seem to be doing well,” Aragorn replied.

He is very fussy.” Legolas grimaced from the bothersome effort of subduing me. “He is all arms and fists. If you are concerned about his injuries, consider how violently naughty he is being. This cannot be good for him.”

Try reasoning with him,” Aragorn suggested.

Legolas huffed, grabbed me by my upper arms and looked straight at me, commanding my attention. “I said stop that, my bratling little brother. You will hurt yourself. This fighting will avail you nothing, as you well know. You are going to be spanked. You can do nothing to stop that. So behave yourself, mutinous child.”

Behave myself? Was he mad? Hearing them discuss me in such calm, detached tones had heightened my rage, and now, listening to Legolas utter some of my exact thoughts was so unnerving I could only reply with a burst of fresh struggling, senseless though I knew it was.

Oh, a fine strategy, Captain,” Legolas said.

Aragorn chuckled, slowly rose and strolled over to us, joining the fray. “Hold him,” he said. Legolas moved behind me and held my arms, and Aragorn knelt, straddling me to stop my furious bucking. The two of them stripped me down to my grey undershirt in no time despite my futile efforts to stop them.

There,” Aragorn said, climbing off me and returning to his seat. “I trust you can handle him from here.”

Aye,” Legolas said. “He is just one naughty little brat of Gondor. No trouble. Thank you, Estel.”

My pleasure.”

I roared my first panicked, “NOOOOOOOOOO!” To no avail, of course. Moments later Legolas had me up, my arms locked to my sides under his embrace, my back fastened to his front.

I know you do not like me to carry you, little brother,” he murmured in my ear, “although I rather enjoy it. But I shall give you a choice: Would you prefer to walk the few steps to the boulder where Aragorn now sits, or shall I pick you up and take you there?”

Ah. Yet another choice offered me when I was no longer capable of rational thought. All I could think to do was to struggle.

Very well,” he said, and a moment later my feet left the ground. Legolas lifted me straight up and strolled towards the boulder. I squeezed my eyes shut, flushing with humiliation, and lowered my head, hiding behind my hair and squirming.

Enough of this little boy folly,” Legolas said. “Estel and I shall take good care of you. When we have finished spanking your lovely bottom, you will be yourself once more. Sitting, however, may prove difficult.”

I froze at his words. What had he just said? Legolas sat, flipped me and tossed me over his lap. His arm curled across my lower back, hugging me to his body, a strong reminder that I was going nowhere. But, what had he said?

What?” I murmured on a hushed breath. “What? Both?! Are you . . . are you both going to spank me?”

Aye,” Legolas replied, flinging the tail of my shirt up over my back. “Both of us. As you and I once spanked Frodo together, remember, little brother?”

No!” I gasped.

You do not remember? It does seem long ago. It was shortly after we set out on the Quest –”

No! I-I do remem-but, please! Nooooo! Don’t –”

Shh, my fledgling,” Aragorn said, stroking my hair. “You need us both this night, and Legolas and I are more than eager to oblige that need. Accept what is going to be. We are indeed both going to spank your pretty backside, and there’s nothing more to say about it, so settle down.”

Settle down?! I bellowed another, “NOOOOOOOOO!” and I strained and tried to shove myself up, getting nowhere.

Legolas pulled down my breeches, and the shock of cool air on my trembling skin stunned me as it always did no matter how many times I’d been through this. I kicked, trying to stop him from tugging my breeches all the way down to my boot tops, but of course Legolas won. I lay there, bare-bottomed and helpless. A blast of fresh rage roared through me and I bucked up and wrenched and kicked and relished the split second when Legolas was caught off guard.

He is still fussing overmuch,” Aragorn muttered.

Aye.” Legolas agreed in a sad tone, holding me down. “I had hoped he might become more accepting when he was positioned and his bottom bared, but so be it.”

I felt myself shifted and moved and within seconds Legolas had turned me over one thigh and clamped his other leg over my convulsing body. I’d done this many times to Faramir, as well as to overly worked-up little hobbits, not because I thought they could get anywhere with their useless fighting, but to calm them down by immobilizing them, the same reason Legolas was doing it to me now.

Hush, little brother,” Legolas said. “Take a breath and think for a moment. Are you really afraid of us? Are you afraid of Aragorn? Of me? Do you think we could ever truly hurt you, beloved?”

I grew still, breathing hard.

Answer him, my fledgling.”

No,” I said. “I-I know you wouldn’t truly hurt me, and I . . . I am not afraid of you, but I . . . I --”

You are not afraid of us, but you are afraid of what a twofold spanking from us is going to be like,” Aragorn said.

I lay there huffing, trying to quiet my anger at my helplessness. “I-I guess so.”

Shhhh, sweetling,” Legolas murmured. “That is understandable. Frodo found it . . . distressing.”

Aye,” Aragorn said. “But, Boromir, just as you and Legolas no doubt did with Frodo, we shall take into account the fact that you will be receiving two spankings, and we shall adjust our efforts accordingly.”

So, fear not, little one,” Legolas added, patting my upturned bottom. “At least, do not fear that this will be more than you can bear.”

Legolas smoothed a palm over my backside and made a soft ‘mmmm’ sound deep in his throat. “Ah, Estel,” he murmured, “how I missed him.”

And his pretty bottom, I vow,” Aragorn said, and I heard them both grin. “I know, beloved. He is distanced now from much of what we taught him. But he knows deep inside that you and I would never overly harm him.”

Aye, he knows. He will need reminded of many things this night. It is clear that he has been too long between spankings.”

Unless he earned a spanking in Lothlorien.”

Hmm. True. It is likely Lerin had to take him in hand once or twice,” Legolas said.

At least once, if I know my fledgling.”

Aye. My little brother has a way of courting disciplinary measures.”

We shall have to ask him about it when he is in a more agreeable mood,” Aragorn said.

Perhaps after we have reminded him of some basic truths.”

Aye, the ones my fledgling had learned so well.”

And from so many spankings.” Legolas sighed. “ Ai! The stub --”

I know, Legolas.” Aragorn sniffed a grin. “The stubbornness of men.”

Aye. Still, ‘tis clear this little one needs reminded of his basic lessons, such as the fact that little brothers never punish themselves, nor are they permitted to judge their own behavior, for they are in no position to do so fairly.”

And that only we are allowed to discipline him,” Aragorn added. “And that he is never permitted to suffer his sorrow alone, hidden within, where we cannot help him with it.”

He was like this in the beginning, remember?”

Aye. He was indeed very much like this when you first discovered how hard he was upon himself. It took us a long time and many spankings to begin changing those naughty behaviors.”

He is once again that little boy, locked in alone with that fell beastie –”

Stop!” I bellowed. It wasn’t nearly all of what I’d wanted to say, but it did silence them. I huffed and gasped, stretched out in this shamefully vulnerable position, listening to these two discuss me in that maddening back and forth manner. I’d had enough!

True, I could do nothing to stop what was going to happen. I was about to be spanked. By both of them. But I was wrong to think myself helpless. I did have a power of sorts – I did not have to submit. I could provoke them past this mortifying conversation and urge Legolas to get on with it. And then, then this condescending elf could paddle me until the Fourth Age if he chose, and Aragorn could take over for him and they could trade me off all night, but nothing in Middle Earth would make me submit. They wanted to ‘rescue’ me from myself? Let them try! They would not succeed.

Ah, my fledgling. Forgive us. We should not make you wait. No more fussing. We are here now, and we will help make all that darkness go away.”

Aye. No more fell beastie to rip and tear at you, little brother.”

I felt Aragorn’s large hand stroking my hair and I realized that he had placed his cloak under my head, I guess while Legolas was shuffling me about. I now buried my face within the folds of material drenched in Aragorn’s sublime scent, and I fought my wild and sudden urge to burst into tears, once more overwhelmed with that feeling of complete confusion bordering on madness.

Two opposing forces warred within me, one side that ached for everything my two warriors wanted to give me, and one side that felt I didn’t deserve anything but suffering and punishment for my disgrace. That side now defended the high ground, armed with rebellion and anger, indignation and the insistence that I was an adult and entitled to determine my own fate. That sounded good . . . but something equally large pulled at me from the other side. I felt tied between two teams of raging war-horses ripping me apart.

And then Legolas gave me something to distract me from that terrifying madness. Legolas started spanking me. It amazed me that I could’ve forgotten something that felt so familiar. Legolas spanking me again felt awfully good and awfully awful.

As he had ever done, he spanked me silently for some time. Legolas preferred silence when starting out. He wanted my bottom nice and warm before he began to speak. That silence had unnerved me at first, but I came to understand why he did it – he wanted no distractions. He wanted me to concentrate instead on where I was and what he was doing to me. He wanted me to hear every spank and to think about how I looked, stretched out over his lap, bare bottomed, knowing that I couldn’t stop him from doing this to me, that I would never be able to best him and that he was indeed my big brother in every sense save size.

To my amazement, I’d quickly grown to like that. In fact, I liked it very much, embarrassingly so. Sometimes I even courted a show of it, his strength never failing to astound me. Legolas once held me down over his lap for nearly an hour while I battled him. I would struggle until I’d exhausted myself, then I’d rest, then I’d do it again and again and again. Every time I exploded with all my might he answered it with shocking ease and an almost bored attitude.

Finally he released an obviously fake yawn and said, “Little brother, do you not tire of these bratty antics?” I’d answered with a snarl and another burst of raw Gondorian warrior power. “Ah, sweetling,” he chuckled, “how amusing you are when full of naughtiness. I vow, I could play with you like this all day. You remind me so of Pippin.”

As furious as he made me, there was something incredibly and strangely stirring about what Legolas did to me at those times. I really did begin to feel like a halfling. The person holding me was a lithe, graceful slip of an elf who looked even younger than Faramir, and yet I could do nothing to stop him. Of course it embarrassed me to actually find enjoyment in that, and it amazed me that I did like it, as I’d always loved my role as big brother to Faramir and a figure of some authority to the little ones.

But I felt comforted having an elvish big brother, just as Aragorn’s attention comforted me. I liked both of them caring enough to take notice of my moods and my actions. I had even tested Legolas at first as I had tested Aragorn in Rivendell, and, as I had then, I immediately suffered the consequences of my curiosity. I would push my limits just to see where they were. Sometimes Legolas had been lenient, but other times I received at least a warning and a few swats. And when I truly crossed the line, either Legolas or Aragorn would deal with me swiftly, no hesitation or question as to what I needed. This was one of those times.

So Legolas was following his usual pattern, and his quiet opening suited me. I didn’t plan to talk anyway. And I could endure a lot. I would need to, for Legolas always did a thorough job, and he was now. My bottom had heated quickly, more quickly than I seemed to remember it doing. I gritted my teeth and rubbed my face into Aragorn’s cloak and struggled to move away in my thoughts.

For some odd reason, Lothlorien and the last time I’d been spanked popped into my mind, not exactly the best choice for trying to mentally elude a current tanning, but my big brother’s hand kept swatting my burning skin again and again and in all the places where it had already landed far too many times, so I would take any avenue of escape I could get.

He is drifting, beloved,” I heard Aragorn say.

Aye,” Legolas replied. “But he often tries this at first.”

Mmmm. It can go on for some time, depending on how stubborn he is feeling.”

No matter, Estel. Even this obstinate bratling cannot hold out forever,” Legolas said, a shrug in his voice, steadily paddling a random pattern all over my sore bottom. “And, in the meantime, I am content in the doing.”

Aragorn chuckled. “I do vow.”

I ignored their banter, concentrating on my thoughts of Lerin, who, oddly enough, wasn’t a silent spanker. Surprising, given his stoic elvish air. But Lerin scolded softly, and in that condescending manner elves seemed to direct at humans, as though they were tolerating our childishness. Aye, Lerin was different than my big brother when it came to talking during a spanking.

But there was one way in which he was very like Legolas. It was an odd thing about elves. Unlike the two men who had spanked me, Aragorn and Damrod, the two elves who had spanked me had a distinct feel to the way their hand connected to my bottom. It was lightning fast and sharp, and it made me want to arch up with each stinging swat, and . . . and Legolas was doing it now, as he had been since starting . . . so familiar, his particular spank . . . his style different even from Lerin’s . . . but so familiar, so much my Legolas. It made me long to weep, it felt so good and familiar, and so awful and familiar . . . my Legolas, spanking me again . . . yes, I longed to cry out and sob and just let that feeling flood me, let myself kick and wail and thrash about with complete abandon, like Pippin.

But, no. None of that. No response.

I tightened my muscles and instantly regretted it. It didn’t help to tighten. I knew it didn’t help. It made the sting worse. And yet, when the spanking had been going on for some time, the first thing you wanted to do was tighten and somehow block the feel of the next swat; and then, if you were stupid enough to tighten, the sting of the next swat was actually worse.

Just try relaxing after that. Just try thinking of something else. I winced into the folds of the cloak. I ground my fists into the cloth. I lifted my head and drew big slow breaths. I inched slightly here and there and sought an escape, any escape to keep from crying out. No crying out!

So, Lerin . . . I was thinking of Lerin . . . his lap was bigger . . . big elf. Lerin was a big elf, a full head taller than I was. And he had talked more, talked about . . . about . . . what had Lerin talked about? Oh, yes, he said things like, “You are full of surprises, little warrior.” His name for me, ‘little warrior,’ . . . and, and ohhhhhhh! My bottom hurt!

I heard myself gasp. No! No noises! No gasping! No response!

Then I heard Aragorn say, “Almost. He caught himself, though.”

Legolas sighed. “I am tempted to comment again on the stubbornness of men.”

I do not advise it. You have said that many times this evening, too many times for such a stubborn elfling.”

Consider it implied.”

There would have been no point in trying to speak to him before now, mellon nin.” Aragorn went on. “He was bent on refusing to respond to either of us.”

After a short pause, Legolas said, “But he knows that silent defiance does not work. He tried that before with you.”

Aye. And regretted it. True, he knows it does not work. But he was hardly able to form rational thought ere you started spanking him. I feel he is softening some now that his bottom is so colorful, but he has been under powerful attack from those inner fell beasties for several hours.”

My poor little brother. Aye, he was lost to any voice other than the one that meant him harm.”

I listened to them, wondering if they thought I couldn’t hear them discussing me. But, no, how ridiculous. Of course they knew I could hear them. They meant for me to hear them. Aye, they could talk to me in this way, actually talk to me and yet not talk to me. They could talk to me by letting me listen to them . . . .

Of course! A memory suddenly unlocked. I knew what they were doing! Of course I knew how this worked! I’d done this very thing myself along with others, with Aragorn and Legolas both, or perhaps with just one of them. I’d done it to the little ones. In fact, Pippin had adorably called Legolas and me on it once:

I can hear you, you know! I’m not deaf! And it’s very ill-mannered of you!”

How we had grinned! But . . . odd, that it was also working on me now, even though I knew deep inside what they were doing.

It is as we said, beloved – deep inside my fledgling knows many truths that have simply slipped from his mind at present,” Aragorn was saying. “He has been cut off from much of what he knew.”

It is understandable,” Legolas added. “That unforgiving voice he grew up hearing and knew too well came forth to take advantage of our absence. The first time I spanked him I told him that we would never seek to judge him or punish him, and that he would learn to accept that truth if we had to paddle it into him every day.”

Aragorn sniffed a short chuckle. “And we near had to do so.”

True,” Legolas responded in kind. “But that judgmental harshness was part of him. He constantly lapsed into it, not to be defiant, but because it was what he knew best.”


Estel, you and I had moved him past that, or it seemed we had. Yet, the moment he did something he thought inexcusable, he fell right under that cruel spell again, so much so that he cared nothing for his own safety!”

Aye, pretty one,” Aragorn said, his tone soothing. “But softly, Legolas! Remember who is over your lap and under your care. Aye, it is maddening to think of what that cruel voice did to him, but think on it only, beloved; do not let it overwhelm you. Would you like me to take him –”

No! No, Estel. I am fine. I am still paddling him with the same force. It simply . . . horrifies me, seeing that darkness owning our precious little one again. I had hoped . . . I had thought we might have cured him of it.”

Nay, elfling mine. There is no cure. Mayhap he will always carry that small cruel shard within him. We can only do as we are doing, as you and I have done since we first understood the extent of his suffering. We can fortify his defenses and provide loving discipline when he falls under that vicious spell again. We know that he wants this, beloved. And we both long to provide it, and shall gladly do so as often and as long as he needs it, but, as you once told me, my wise elf, our anger cannot serve him; our love can.”

I listened to their quiet conversation, fascinated, and I felt my insides melting, and that savage shard within screamed even louder: “Weakling! Don’t listen! They seek to rule over you! Be your own man! You are an adult, not a child! You disappoint me, Boromir . . . this kind of behavior is beneath you . . . you know better, my son . . . I expect you to act with honor and dignity; you are the son of the Steward . . . I am ashamed of you, Boromir . . . do not shame me, my son . . . .”

But Aragorn’s quiet, gentler voice was going on. I reached down slowly, wrapping my arm around my big brother’s lower leg, and I shoved that other ugly sound aside to hear what my Thorongil was saying:

Legolas, he is softening so quickly now. Our force is still alive within him. I know you feel it as I do. Aye, he is torn, but he is far from lost to us, nor has he been this entire time. You feel that as well, do you not?”

Aye, Estel.”

That first time you spanked him you said to me, and rightly so, that you and I have him now. That wretched influence is not here, save that it lives in his mind.”

Legolas sniffed another grin. “Aye, and I imagine your Dúnedain memory recalls each word I said that day.”

I couldn’t help turning my head and glancing up at Aragorn, needing to see him. Aragorn was grinning fondly at Legolas; then he closed his eyes and said, “Therein lies our victory, Aragorn. Therein will we triumph over the darkness that has tormented him. Not with our fury against the one who has wronged him, but with our love for Boromir himself. We are far from powerless against this thing that lives inside our little one. He already aches for what we long to give him. And we have him now! True, it will be a challenge to heal him. It will take time, for the poison infecting him runs deep. But we know of it now, and we can arm ourselves to battle it. And I know of no instance wherein darkness won out over love.”

I burst into tears. I buried my face in Aragorn’s cloak and sobbed into that fragrant cloth, flooded by so much at once – my throbbing bottom and the impact of each new spank, Aragorn’s soothing palm petting my hair – I felt it all wash over me like a massive wave of care.

But, to hear what they had said! To know how they had discussed me, so lovingly and with such devotion! That had sent me into fits of tears. This was what they thought of me! They had made me privy to their feelings, and yet . . . I had known they felt this way about me. I remembered it. It was as familiar as the burning feeling in my bottom.


Aragorn’s voice cut through the sound of my broken sobs and I lifted my head. My tears blurred him, but I could see his soft smile, his quiet gaze of affection. He wiped the tears from my face and said, “Ah. Did you hear me, my beloved little fledgling?”

I nodded, falling into repeated sobs. “Arag-gor – Le-Legola – Tho’ng-Arag – I-I-I –”

Suddenly Legolas scooped me up, and everything spun, and then I was crushed to him, gathered against him, surrounded by his scent, his hair, his arms. I clung to Legolas, pressed my face into his shoulder and just wept, feeling him hug me, feeling Aragorn smoothing my hair and kissing my head.

Aye, he heard you, my beloved Dúnedain,” Legolas whispered.

He heard us both. For they were your words.” Aragorn rubbed my back, Legolas holding me up, keeping my seared bottom free from his lap. “Good,” Aragorn murmured. “How clever of you to overhear my words, fledgling mine.”

I felt Legolas smile, then he rocked a little, saying, “Shhhhhhh, softly little brother, softly! Goooood, very good. Breathe. Breathe easy. Quiet down. You shall have your say now.”

Aye, sweetling,” Aragorn said. “This, at last, will be the ‘say’ you demanded earlier. You have not truly had that yet, and you have something you wish to explain, I believe.”

Aye, Estel, he did. And it is, therefore, your turn to spank him.”


The cry escaped me before I could think. Legolas lifted and turned me, placing me across Aragorn’s lap. I felt jarred, shocked, and I kept sputtering and protesting the entire time: “Nooo! Ple-noo! I don’t want another – plea – don’t!” But they situated me quickly. Legolas moved to sit close to my head, tucking Aragorn’s cloak under my face again and the whole transfer took less than a minute.

Legolas and Aragorn were calmly unaffected by my objections, my big brother’s only comment being, “He is making quite a fuss.”

Hmm,” Aragorn replied, hugging my body to his and settling us in together. “Aye, well, to have just gone through one spanking and be faced with another – it is a disturbing reality.”

I simply wept, trying to not tense.

Legolas leaned down and kissed my head. “You are doing so well, little brother.”

I bucked and kicked and my physical protest went about as far with Aragorn as it had with Legolas. When I finally settled Aragorn ran his palm over my stinging backside. He made a low, throaty ‘mmmm’ sound, then he said, “Such a pretty bottom, little one. Nice and warm and round and perfect. Mmmm. But it needs a bit more color, my beloved fledgling.”

Then Aragorn started spanking me. I stiffened, the shock of his first blows ripping through me, and I roared out my first cries from this new position.

If memory served, Aragorn was capable of a much more intense spanking than what he was giving me. But on top of what Legolas had already done to my backside, it was bad enough. Aragorn also spanked me silently for a while, although I wailed so loudly I doubt he could have been heard had he tried to speak.

Whatever made me think I could have held out against this? My resistance was gone. I sobbed. I kicked. I apologized just to apologize. I promised to be good. I cried out endless pleas, sounding like that ‘little one’ they kept calling me, sounding like Pippin, the warrior now gone. Aragorn even indulged me by letting me buck around a bit. All I wanted was to make it stop!

My-my say!” I finally sputtered. “Y-Y-You said – m-my – s-sayyy!

Aye, my fledgling. Go on. Have your say. Something about, we did not know what you did to Frodo.”

Frodo! I’d forgotten. How could I have forgotten? Of course, how could I have thought of anything but what Aragorn was doing to me?

You ‘forgot’ because you’re weak and cowardly. Yes, you want this affection, but you are not deserving of it. So tell them! Tell them what you did. Then prepare to be uprighted and set free. They will not want to suffer your company further. You will most likely be ordered from them, back to Minas Tirith no doubt, ahhh, yes! Back home to Denethor in disgrace, with no Ring! Just what you deserve.’

I squirmed and burst into another volley of tears. Oh, to remember Parth Galen again! To have to tell them!

Help him, beloved,” Aragorn said. “He is too frantic. Help him settle enough to speak.”

Listen to me, little brother,” Legolas murmured, his voice soft and chant-like and mesmerizing. “Grow quiet within. Settle down and think of what happened. Remember. Think on it. Watch it, but stay free of its pull. You are safe, little one. Aragorn and I are here, two great warriors protecting you. So go back now, and watch, and tell us what you see. Tell us what happened, sweetling.”

I listened, lulled by his placid voice, and I realized that Aragorn had slowed his spanks, so much so that I could drift away from the pain. As I had done with Legolas, I curled my arm down Aragorn’s leg, holding on, and I tried, and I saw it again, the shadow and sun-speckled woods, Frodo’s cross little face . . . pretty Frodo, gazing at me warily, backing away from me . . . .

I stepped aside from the Boromir in the forest; I sucked several deep breaths, and I watched as Legolas told me to, without feeling the horror of what I’d done.

I-I tried to get Frodo to lend me the Ring,” I said. “I talked softly to him, gently. I tried to reason with him. But he was frightened of me. Of me! Sweet Frodo, frightened of me!” I released a sudden loud sob.

Nay, my fledgling. Stop.” Aragorn swatted me hard. I jerked and cried out. “Feel what I am doing to your sweet bottom, Boromir.” Another hard swat, and I cried out again; but then Aragorn returned to his lighter spanks, saying, “Remember where you are, sweetling. You are not at Parth Galen. You are safe over my knee.”

Shhh, my beloved little brother,” Legolas murmured, still petting my hair, still using that lullabye tone. “Rest in the safety of our arms. Aragorn and I shall let nothing harm you. Just tell us a story. Tell us what you see.”

I shuddered and closed my eyes and went on: “Frodo wouldn’t listen to reason. He backed around me, s-said I was not myself. And I got mad at him . . . and . . . and –”

Aragorn swatted me hard again, and I cried out again, and said, “NO! Ar’gorn! I-I don’t know w-what happened! T-Trying! I-I’m trying! But-but-but –”

Ahh!” Aragorn said. “I see.”

Shhhhh, sweetling,” Legolas said. “We see now.”

You do not know what happened next, do you, my fledgling?”

Noooooo! I d-do know, but-but I don’t know . . . I – I remember my ang-g-ger. Like an explosion! Blinding me! Hot, blinding anger! Then . . . then I said . . . ohhh, Ar’gorn! Leg’las! Oh, I s-said things! Bad, mean things! I said things to fri-frid-den . . . s-scare l-liddle Frodo! Told him th-they would find him, and take the R-Ring!”

Aragorn gave me another hard swat, and Legolas said, “Stop. Breathe deep, little brother. You are doing so well. We are very proud of you, sweetling. But you must stop now and calm down. Shhhh, feel Aragorn spanking you.”

Where are you, Boromir?” Aragorn asked.

I felt his fresh swats on my scorched bottom, grasped his leg tightly, twisted the cloak in my fist over and over, cried into the already wet cloth, squirmed and arched as much as Aragorn would permit me to, and although I’d just been drowning in terrible memories, lost in the darkness of Amon Hen’s woods, there was suddenly no question in my mind as to where I really was.

Answer me, my fledgling. Where are you?”

Over your kn-kneeee! I-I’m over y-your knee, Ar’gorn!”

And what am I doing to you?”

Sp-Spanking meee!” I wept into the cloak, my words muffled.

Ah.” Aragorn returned again to his gentler blows. “Very good. You are not in the scary woods of Amon Hen. You are a little boy stretched out over my knee, getting spanked. You are safe with me and your big brother, and you are telling us a story.”

I felt Legolas rubbing my back and stroking my hair . . . safe . . . I was safe, and now Legolas was purring to me again in that melodic manner, silvery elvish tones flowing over me, soothing me, and I felt suddenly safe and eager – eager to tell them what happened, eager to get it over with.

I tried to frighten Frodo, b-but he just gave me a dis-disgusted look, and he turned, and he started walking away . . . and then . . . more anger! Huge anger! White hot, hitting me like lightning, jolt after jolt! And a madness, a kind of madness crashed over me. It sounded like a thundering roar, pounding in my head. All I wanted was the Ring! I had to have it! I had to-to save it from those who would destroy it! I couldn’t let them destroy it! I had to get it away from Frodo, get it to Gondor! Save the Ring! It was mine! Mine to use wisely and well! Mine!

I could hear it whispering to me, begging me to save it, promising me, telling me that I alone could save Gondor, and then all Middle Earth from evil, but only if I rescued the Ring from this stupid little pest.

So . . . so I-I chased Frodo, called him a fool! And I caught him and wrestled him down, trying to get the Ring from him, and he kept saying, ‘No! No!’ But I couldn’t stop! Couldn’t stop! Had to have it! Madness! I didn’t care about Frodo anymore. I just wanted the Ring! Had to save the Ring! I tried to stop Frodo’s writhing, wrestle him under me so I could grab the Ring. But he was so slippery and he wiggled so much, and I couldn’t hold him down, and then, then Frodo put the Ring on and he vanished!”

Aragorn and Legolas gasped, but I hurried on, eager to get it done, get it out of me.

Then Frodo kicked me and knocked me flat and ran off! And I staggered up, and I cursed him! I cursed dear Frodo and all the halflings, that white hot fury burning me alive! And then I slipped and fell flat on my face, and . . . and . . . and then . . . it was gone. The rage, gone. Over. Silence. And I was alone.

I smelled the leaves and the soil and I felt dizzy, then, suddenly, everything became clear again. And I knew . . . I-I knew what I’d done! That awful roar was gone. Instead I heard my horrible words hanging in the air like a dreadful echo.

I . . . I started to weep, sickened by what I’d done. ‘What have I d-done?’ I whimpered. ‘W-What have I done?’ And then I screamed for Frodo. B-Begged him to forgive m-me. B-But he was gone! Gone! Sweet, little Frodo, gone! He had run off! F-Fearing me! Hating me! Ohhhh, what had I done?!”

I buried my face in the cloak and sobbed, covering my head with my arms, wanting to hide, wanting to die, wanting to be riddled with thick Orc arrows again, wanting that horrific pain, a pain I deserved, an agony equal to the torment of my disgrace. I longed for that end, that final hiding place.

My limp body was once again seized and I was gathered up, this time into Aragorn’s embrace, his arms holding me against him. Aragorn rubbed my back, and Legolas now stroked my hair and kissed my head, both of them touching me, petting me, loving me, murmuring to me, soft words and sounds of comfort.

I tried to tell them to stop, tried to form words without success, tried to cry out, ‘Stop! Don’t you see? This cannot be forgiven! This is unforgivable! Don’t forgive me for this! I do not deserve forgiveness!’ But words wouldn’t come. They turned to stone in my throat. All I could do was cry, push my face into the crook of Aragorn’s neck, hide beneath his thick locks, hide my shame, hide myself.

I couldn’t return his embrace, couldn’t allow myself to grab him and cling to him . . . no, I didn’t allow myself that comfort. I couldn’t. I hung listless against him. And so, after several minutes of their comfort and soft, loving words I found myself flung back over Aragorn’s knee, and he started spanking me again, each swat jarring like fire across my backside. I roared and sobbed, kicked without meaning to, writhed from instinct alone.

Aye, my fledgling, you do indeed deserve this comfort,” Aragorn said, although I’d confessed nothing. But, as Legolas had often told me, the Dúnedain had such insight –

You will listen to me, Boromir,” Aragorn said, his tone tender but firm. “Frodo did not hate you. When I came upon him he said, ‘It has taken Boromir.’ Not, ‘Boromir attacked me,’ or ‘Boromir betrayed me.’ No. He said, ‘It has taken Boromir.’

I hiccuped and paused . . . what?

Aye, sweetling; do you see?” Aragorn said, slowing his swats. “Frodo did not blame you or think you weak or craven. He knew all too well the incredible force of the Ring, its torment and its powers of persuasion. Frodo had only compassion for you, beloved. He loved you still. He had sympathy for your plight.

He was not ‘disgusted’ by you, as you have said. What you saw as disgust was, no doubt, a hostility directed not towards you, the Boromir he knew and loved, but a contempt for the dark Boromir the Ring had roused. He recognized your darkness as part of himself, that dark Frodo that the Ring sometimes brought forth. Sam usually dealt with that Frodo as you well remember, taking him aside and spanking his master until Frodo returned to himself, just as he had that first time he had seen the Ring influencing his Frodo’s behavior.

Nay, sweetling, Frodo loved you still. Even moments after seeing that dark Boromir, Frodo knew you were not to blame, my fledgling. He knew what to blame for your actions. ‘It has taken Boromir.’

I could scarce breath. I lay frozen in place save for my ragged huffing. It was true. I knew everything that Aragorn had said to be true. He spoke to my heart, and my heart knew truth. Aragorn’s words poured over me like Lerin’s magical liquid had that day I lay near death, flooding me with unheard of relief just before I went insensible. But this time I lay fully awake and feeling that magical ease fill me, soothing the agony that had been tormenting me since I had lifted my head from the leafy soil on Amon Hen and uttered my first horrified, ‘What have I done?’

Clearly our little one heard you once again, my beloved Dúnedain,” Legolas murmured, one hand still petting my hair and the other hand under the collar of my shirt caressing my back. “Your words this time.”

Not mine alone,” Aragorn said. “Frodo’s words as well.”

Aye, Estel.” I heard them kiss above me, then Legolas purred, “Good, little brother. Gooood.”

I pressed my face into Aragorn’s damp cloak, and I shook and I wept, freely, with open abandon, too overwhelmed to sob loudly, too moved to disturb that hallowed truth surrounding us. The moment seemed too blessed. Loud sobbing would have distracted me. Yet I did weep and weep and weep with soft intensity, waves of warmth swelling my insides, my stomach undulating with heat, my heart pulsing and thrumming, relief flooding into and relaxing my every tense muscle. It was shattering, what Aragorn had said . . . what Frodo had said. I cried for some time, soaking the cloth beneath my face. Aragorn continued his slow, steady swats, giving me that anchor to cling to.

Aye, you understand now, my fledgling,” Aragorn finally stated in a hushed voice. “In a way, you were right – you do not deserve forgiveness, but only because there is nothing to forgive. Frodo knew that at once, so much so that he did not blame you for anything the Ring had forced you to do. Therefore, who stands to accuse you of anything? I do not accuse you. Your big brother does not accuse you. Frodo did not accuse you. That fell beastie disproves himself, and I vow he has fled, left my fledgling in peace.”

Aragorn was right. That vicious darkness had indeed fled. All was blissfully silent within. Aragorn now filled me, his voice, the feel of his stinging spanks, and Legolas filled me, his touch, his quiet sounds, his non-descript elvish murmurs and his intoxicating scent.

Ah, cowardly voice!” Aragorn said, chuckling quietly, dismissively. “It truly is powerless against truth. It was preying on you, sweetling, lying to you. But truth outshines a lie every time, and you are hearing truth now. So you see, there is nothing to forgive.”

I continued to cry, but more calmly, listening, sensing that Aragorn had more to say or he would have gathered me up by now. This was unfinished, but he seemed to be letting me take in each lesson slowly, refusing to rush me. Sure enough, moments later he went on, this time using the strategy that had broken me earlier. He began talking ‘to Legolas:’

Aye, there is nothing to forgive, is there, mellon nin?”

Nay, there is not, Estel. Although, I am remembering a time back when our Quest started, the time these five little ones were so naughty in the mud.”

I instantly flushed at being grouped with the halflings – ‘these five little ones,’ but I quieted even more to listen.

Ah, indeed,” Aragorn said, acting surprised. “The first time you let my fledgling know how big brothers disciplined their naughty little brothers.”

Aye. He had been punishing himself, dangerously and needlessly. He needed to learn that such would never be tolerated.”

And that, in matters of discipline, he was your little brother in every sense of the word.”

They had both been repeating that lesson over and over since we left the camp, and now I suddenly thought of earlier when Legolas had been saying some of the things he’d said during that first awful spanking he’d given me, the one that made me everlastingly respectful of his strength and his big brother devotion. Of course. They had both wanted me thinking of that time, and now I listened closely, knowing I was about to learn why.

Ai! what a shock it was for our little one!” Legolas was saying. “And such stubbornness! Ah, the st –”


Daro si?”

I released a tiny grin into the cloak, ‘hearing’ Aragorn nod. As before when I knew they were ‘performing’ for my benefit, ah, how I loved them!

Legolas sighed. “Very well. My point is, you spanked Frodo because he had lost his temper and attacked his cousins, pushing them into the mud and causing the resulting messy melee.”

And you had spanked Pippin for inciting Frodo’s temper with his teasing.”

Which Pippin deserved, as did Frodo.”

Aye. They were ultimately to blame, not my fledgling.”

Indeed, Estel. They were. And although Merry felt that, since amends had been made, the matter should be left with no spankings being given, Sam was wise enough to know better.”

Aragorn ‘hmm-ed.’ “Sam said, ‘It’s like a flung sword. If it just lies there, unanswered, it cuts worse.’ Wise little gardener, as you and I found out later when my fledgling felt that he, too, should have been disciplined, but came to believe that he was not because we cared nothing for him.”

When, in fact, he simply did not deserve to be spanked.” Legolas sighed again, then said, “Estel, you shared some of the things you and Frodo had talked of when you took him off to spank him that night, remember?”

Aye, with Frodo’s permission.” Aragorn snickered, then: “He blushed and said, ‘Yes, you may share anything you like with Legolas. I suspect he already knows when the Ring is affecting me. Perhaps they all know by now. As you said, Aragorn, you will be able to tell when my behavior is unlike me, and so will the others.’

Frodo was just realizing what Gandalf and I had concluded earlier, that the Ring had influenced his behavior in the mud, something Sam had known since the first time he had spanked Frodo.” Aragorn paused, and when he spoke again there was a clever smile in his voice. “Why do you ask?”

Playing along with admirable control, Legolas patiently said, “I am merely curious. Do you recall what Frodo said?”

I did not need to crane my head around in order to see them to know that they were struggling to keep straight faces. I lay quietly, still glowing with the warmth of relief, drenched in affection, my bottom in sheer flames, but at least Aragorn was now just rubbing and the swatting had stopped. It worried me that he still hadn’t let me up, but I tried to just concentrate on their ‘story.’

Well, let me see if my Dúnedain memory can satisfy your curiosity, elfling mine.” A pause for them both to grin, then: “As I said, Frodo realized that the Ring had driven him to do what he did. He even described it, saying, ‘I really don’t know what came over me. I was angry, because what Pippin said was embarrassing and I didn’t like it, but Boromir was right – I did overreact . . . It was as if I were trapped within myself watching myself do those dreadful things. And a voice inside me was screaming, “Stop!” and yet, I couldn’t stop! I wanted to, and I couldn’t . . . To feel that wildly out of control, and to not be able to stop!’

I gasped, hearing what I had felt on Amon Hen, but in Frodo’s words!

Go on, Estel,” Legolas said in a quiet tone, and I knew they were both paying close attention to my reactions.

So, we talked about the problem of Frodo being held responsible for any naughty behaviors he committed while under the influence of the Ring, was it fair to hold him accountable for what he did. Umm, to choose the words he said you might find most interesting at present, he said, ‘I am not looking to escape blame. I was the one who lost control. The guilt is mine.’ And I replied, ‘Nay, you are too hard on yourself, Master Ringbearer. You are responsible, yes, and you are being held accountable for your actions, and you are accepting that honorably. But you are not guilty of anything, and you are not entirely to blame. It was neither your intent to harm your cousins, nor go against my orders. Nevertheless, you did both, and there are consequences to be paid.’

I suddenly started weeping again, and I felt Legolas stroke my hair and Aragorn rub my bottom.

Go on, Estel.”

Then our beloved little Frodo said something I shall never forget. I was so proud of him. He looked at me with his wide-eyed, sincere gaze and said, ‘Aragorn, whether or not I’m in my right mind when doing something, it is still me doing it, and it is still being done, perhaps to the harm of another. And, when I come back to myself again, I’m left with the feeling of guilt for having done it. You shall have to hold me accountable for all that I do, whether or not I’m under the Ring’s influence. If you do not, where do I go with my guilt? Yes, perhaps it is undeserved guilt, but nevertheless, the fact of it remains. It IS. It exists. And it will haunt me if it is left alone. You know I am right.’

I tensed, tears streaming down my face, and I heard Legolas ask, “And what did you say?”

I said, ‘Aye, little one.’


Aragorn started spanking me again, and though it was not near what he was capable of doing, it felt horrible beyond all thought and belief on my already throbbing backside. It felt awfully awful but, aye, incredibly, it did feel awfully good. I couldn’t help exploding into wild bucking and kicking and wriggling, though, anything to try to get away, avoid each new spank. Aragorn put up with it for a bit, but when I lost all control and threw a hand back to cover my bottom, he growled a low, “Very well.” Clasping my hand to the small of my back, he tipped up his leg and started spanking the tender area under the curve of my cheeks.

NOOOOOO!” I yelled, then, “AHHHHHHHHHH! Noooooooo! Th’rongil! Noooooo, pleeease! Noo, no,no,nooo, Th’rongil! Sorrrrrrryyyyy!”

Aragorn lowered his leg and released my hand, but he went back to spanking my already flaming bottom I curled my arm down around his leg again, but I could do nothing else but lay there, kicking and bawling. I squalled and tensed and squirmed and howled like Pippin, and I didn’t care how I looked or how I sounded.

Now, my little fledgling,” Aragorn finally said. “You were naughty, were you not?”

I couldn’t believe it. He wanted me to respond? I could barely breathe and I was expected to converse? I answered with a desperate wail.

Try again, little brother.”

AYEEEEE! N-N-Nauuuuughhtyyyy!”

I believe he is capable of no more, Estel.”

I know. That is all right. Help him, elfling mine.”

It was naughty to try to take the Ring, was it not, little brother?”


What do we say when we have been naughty?”

SORRRRYYYYYY! I-I-I’m s-sor-sorrrry!”

Very good, my fledgling. Nearly done.”

NEARLY? But Aragorn slowed his swats just enough for me to find some threads of scattered thought.

You did something else very naughty, something little brothers are never allowed to –”

Puni-pun – I-I punished my-myself! Lid-ddle broth-liddle broth-ers nev, they never puni-punish themsel – naught! W-Was naughty –”

Fair enough,” Aragorn muttered, and he stopped spanking me. I sobbed, and Aragorn whooshed me up into his arms . . . or maybe it was Legolas . . . I didn’t know, I just felt strong arms, many strong arms holding me as I shook, lightheaded. I couldn’t stop quivering and crying . . . and they moved me, gently, no pressure on my bottom. I just felt those powerful arms, hugging me to their bodies, warm lips on my face, my brow, my head, settling over my mouth between my sobs. I arched, trying to relieve some of the sting in my bottom, wrenching an arm around, struggling to reach down and rub – but a gentle palm beat me there, rubbing softly, tenderly.

I couldn’t open my eyes, couldn’t stop crying, and yet their touches felt so good, so, so good. And I finally collapsed, exhausted, letting Aragorn and Legolas take all my weight. It seemed I was no burden. I felt them both stroking my hair, kissing me softly, wiping each tear from my face . . . and they murmured to me, both of them, their low voices blending, a harmony of soothing phrases, exquisite absolution flowing over me:

Shhh, little one, we know all that you did now . . . You have had your full say . . . no more naughty . . . it is all over now, sweetling . . . Shhhh, quiet now . . . we are here, little brother . . . No more naughty punishing, my fledgling . . . No more sadness or fear . . . No more sorrow, beloved . . . All is forgiven, and there is nothing to forgive . . . You told us all there was to tell . . . and you were so brave, and now all accounts are settled . . . It is over now, my fledgling . . . Release this, little brother . . . We love you as we ever have, sweetling . . . .

On and on they went as I listened and marveled and thought that no moment in my life had ever been so sweet. And still I cried, but it wasn’t spanking crying, not just that, not just sore-bottomed little boy crying, and I knew because Aragorn asked me if it was:

Shhhh, sweetling, shhhhhhhh. Is this just our sore-bottomed little boy crying?”

No-nnoooooo, noooooo! B-Biggest – big-biggest –”

Shhhhhhhh, my fledgling,” Aragorn murmured. “We know.”

You took quite a long spanking, little one. But you were so brave, and so good, and we are so very proud of you, are we not, Estel?”

Very proud,” Aragorn said. “And sore-bottomed little boys are allowed to cry all they like.”

Finally, exhausted from tears, I opened my stinging eyes enough to see them. They had somehow positioned me between them, my body cradled up against Aragorn’s arm and my thighs resting over Legolas, both of them gazing down at me, glassy eyed. A few tears had slipped down my big brother’s perfect cheeks, so I reached up, caught the wetness on my finger and flicked it away, making both of them smile softly.

Aragorn then sobered and said, “Tell us, sweetling, did you deserve that long spanking?”

I choked out a quick sob, then whispered, “Aye.”

And do you deserve to be forgiven?” Legolas asked.

I had to think for a moment, then I said, “N-No . . . no, n-nothing to forgive . . . and, and yes, I-I’m forgiven for trying to p-punish myself . . . so, no and, and yes . . . right?”

Aragorn and Legolas both smiled again, their eyes shining, then Aragorn said, “Aye, exactly right, beloved. Did Frodo forgive you?”

N-Noo. Nothing to for-forgive,” I stammered, my voice catching. “Frodo w-wasn’t m-mad at me and-and-and he doesn’t h-hate me, and he kn-knows it was the bad R-Ring, not me . . . he knows!” I couldn’t help weeping a little more, that truth hitting me again, another wave of sweet relief.

And do Aragorn and I forgive you, little brother, for trying to punish yourself?”

Aye! Forgiven for that. No more bad – y-you forgave that.”

Aragorn and Legolas both leaned down to kiss me again, softly, reverently. They wiped the fresh tears from my cheeks.

Ah, my sweet little brother,” Legolas murmured. “Welcome home.”

Aye, sweetling. How we missed you.”

I beamed and sniffed and wiped at my eyes, then I winced and said, “Leg-las?”



Aye, my fledgling?”

My-my bottom hurrrrrrrrts!”

They exchanged a quick glance and grin of indulgence; then Aragorn said, “Poor little one. Such a sore bottom.”

I w-want some s-salve!” I cried.

Aragorn chuckled. “I am sorry to report that there is none, nor has there been for some time. I am afraid you shall have to do without, sweetling.”

I wept some at that. They seemed sympathetic, and they let me sit sulking with my disappointment for a few minutes; then Legolas kissed me again and said, “Poor little brat of Gondor.”

Aragorn said, “Gondor – aye, in Gondor you had no salve.”

But he had not been spanked for many years, remember, Estel?”

I felt myself pouting. “Y-You spanked m-me too m-much and too h-hard!”

Legolas turned to Aragorn and said with gentle seriousness, “I thought we were somewhat lenient.”

Mmm.” Aragorn considered this. “Too lenient, apparently, if he has this much sass left in him.”

My arm is not tired,” Legolas said with a lazy smile. “Nor do I weary of this, Estel.”

Niether do I.”

Mayhap we should go another round, then? Settle this brat of Gondor’s remaining insolence?”

Well, we wouldst wish to not leave our little one feeling forsaken in any way.”

NOOOOOO!” I howled, though I knew they were playing with me, and oh, how I loved it! “I promise n-not to feel forsaken!”

They grinned and kissed me again; then Aragorn went contemplative and quiet. Playing with my hair, he said, “Tell me, Boromir –”

I blinked at his use of my name.

“– you took Faramir over your knee when he was naughty, did you not?” At my nod, he continued, “If Faramir had been lost in a realm of his own hurtful invention, you would have no doubt spanked him senseless, would you not? You would have wanted to make clear to him that it was not his place to punish himself, and that he was in no position to judge his actions fairly. You would want him to know that you were not upset with him, but you were upset with what he had done, true?”

And,” Legolas went on, “you would have wanted him to know that no matter what he had done, you loved him, and that you had never stopped loving him, and that you would never judge him or condemn him. You would want him to know that your love was unconditional, and that he could trust in that love with all his heart. Is that not so, little brother?”

Shaking and weeping silently again, I nodded and gasped, “Aye . . . uncon-condi –”


Unconditional,” I said now, finishing the magical word I’d been unable to finish then.

I hadn’t told Faramir every detail I’d remembered, but I told him much, and he’d been silent throughout the telling. Although I had felt my little brother slide around in order to watch me shortly after I began, I’d not glanced down at him once, gazing off instead as I envisioned the time and the story.

Coming back now to my chamber, to my bed where Faramir lay curled at my side, listening to me and watching me, I finally dared to drop my gaze to him, wondering how he had taken it all, wondering what my little brother would now think of me.

Faramir’s eyes were wide and full of fascination, glistening with a soft sheen of tears.

Well,” I said. “That is how Aragorn and Legolas helped me, little urchin. Does that answer your question?”

End of Part V; Chapter IV – Exquisite Absolution

Ere The Final March, Chapter V – Epilogue, to be continued . . .