Notes of appreciation notes for my astounding team: Kat – thanks for your incredible "waffly" reviews, for your enthusiasm and encouragement, and for being such a constant light. Bella – thanks for the making me smile with the lovely nagging and the ever-Tookish excitement.
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.
Warnings for this chapter: A bit more of that tedious warrior slash, but boys and elflings will be boys and elflings.
Ere The Final MarchChapter VI – part I
An Elvish Assuranceby Larrkin
Garrick came to my tent just before dawn. My corporal knew I would be awake. The eve of our march would likely have been a sleepless one for many, but I had rested, as had Garrick, no doubt, and that was enough.
I had heard the sound of rapid hoofbeats drawing to a swift halt moments earlier, then the sound of my corporal’s low deep voice talking to someone, so I slipped out from under my sleeping elf and reached the opening of my tent just as Garrick drew back the flap.
“A summons from Lord Aragorn,” he murmured. “A messenger arrived at the city a short while ago. Our Captain seeks your counsel. Devon is bringing your mounts.”
I nodded. “Five minutes.”
I headed back to our cot where Gwinthorian still lay motionless. He slept more than most elves did. And it was true sleep, a sound sleep, rather than the open-eyed trance elves usually drifted into when they needed rest. Legolas had teased him about it once:
“Does your Ranger wear you out, little Gwin?” he had asked, a sly grin on his face.
Gwin had flushed. Before he could answer, Aragorn, who Legolas had been leaning against as we sat around our fire, murmured, “I would not beleaguer him about such a thing. You sleep a great deal yourself, meleth nin.”
Despite Aragorn’s fond, ‘my love,’ Legolas nonetheless frowned, his sudden flush outdoing Gwinthorian’s. Flashing a roguish smile, Gwin had moved in for the kill:
“Does your Ranger wear you out, sir?” he asked.
Aragorn chuckled softly. Legolas winced a sheepish smile and yielded in good-natured defeat, saying, “Aye, that he does.”
Grinning at the memory, I admired the slight form lying tangled in the blankets. The day before yesterday Gwin had, at his own unspoken request, earned two trips over my knee for tormenting Boromir and an additional short late-night spanking for his disobedience at the Rohirric camp, so yesterday his fine skin bore a remaining pinkness. But now Gwin’s bottom was snowy again, the small rounded hillocks making a lovely target.
I gave him a light swat and said, “Up, little one. We are summoned.”
Gwin yelped and squirmed, tangling himself up more. I chuckled at the charming sight, then turned to gather up our clothing, awaiting my elfling’s petulance.
“Summoned?” He huffed at the annoying blankets.
I tossed him his clothes and began dressing. “Five minutes, Gwin.”
“I can think of only one whose summons you would answer.”
“Aye. ‘Tis Aragorn.”
He groaned. “Oh, bother Aragorn!”
“A messenger has arrived.”
“I know not.”
“Bother the messenger.”
“His timing is atrocious.”
I let Gwin pout and grumble and move sluggishly for a minute. Then I said, “The summons was for me and my counsel, little sluggard. I thought you would like to join me, but if you prefer to stay abed, I can ride to Minas Tirith alone.”
Gwinthorian shot up and readied himself with amazing speed, his sass wisely sputtered in a tone too low for me to hear.
Five minutes later I drew the tent opening aside for my grumpy elf. “Unfair tactics, sir,” he snarled, passing under my arm and simply inviting the small swat I gladly delivered.
“Aye. I am awash with remorse.”
Garrick and Devon stood waiting with our horses. Despite the predawn hour, most of the Grey Company were moving about, the excitement of the march stirring their blood.
“Shall I bid the men break camp, or hold?” Garrick asked.
“Hold until you hear from me,” I said, swinging into my saddle. “It will not take them long if the word is to march.”
Garrick nodded and Gwin and I set off, sending our mounts towards Minas Tirith at a gallop. Nearing the city, we saw another horseman heading there at a pace that matched ours, riding amidst the stirring encampments, his long golden hair streaking behind him, his mount beyond match as were all the horses of Edoras. Eomer saw us and held up until we joined him and together we rode in through the battered city gates, past the craftsmen still working around the clock, by torchlight at night, to achieve makeshift repairs.
The Fellowship stood waiting in the Hall of Kings when Eomer, Gwin and I entered. Even the little ones were there, their eyes shiny with a morning glaze and a sheen of alert. Aragorn bid us welcome and thanked us for coming so quickly. Then he introduced the road-weary messenger who had brought urgent news from Lossarnach, the lands south of Gondor, bordering the Anduin. Aragorn nodded to him and the man told us what he had clearly already imparted to the others.
Now that the coasts had been cleared of the raiding Corsairs the men from the southern fiefs, led by Angbor the Fearless, were marching to join our forces. Pushing at their swiftest speed these troops would arrive within a day. If we held here until the next morning, another thousand men would be at Aragorn’s disposal.
All stood silently, watching the three of us absorb this news. The Army of the West lay spread out over the Field of Pelennor. They would be rising now and preparing to march away at mid-morn. The force to be left defending Minas Tirith was in place. All lay in readiness.
Our legions were far too small in number to challenge the might of Mordor, but success in the field was not our purpose. We were acting as a diversion, hoping to draw Sauron’s attention and thereby giving the Ringbearer a better chance to do what he must. So should we wait a day for these southern troops, or march now, as we were ready to do, leaving the approaching force to be added to the garrison left behind guarding Minas Tirith?
It was an impossible question to answer. We knew nothing about the Ringbearer’s progress or how much time he yet needed. Perhaps we should wait, for if we arrived at the Black Gate too early and our army was quickly crushed before Frodo was able to destroy the Ring, the dark legions would flood back into Mordor, across Gorgoroth, mayhap even catching Frodo and Sam there.
Yet how could we delay when those two brave little ones were in such peril, living with the possibility of being discovered at any moment? Then again, how could we afford to turn away another thousand men when our diversionary force was so small? Greater numbers might increase the length of our last battle by hours, perhaps the very hours that Frodo needed. Ridiculous though it seemed, the matter rested on whether or not Frodo might need those few more hours. Was it worth a day’s wait, or would a day’s wait be our undoing?
An impossible decision to make with any certainty. And we had little time in which to make it.
I watched Aragorn pace a slow path, his head bent in concentration, his arms crossed over his chest. Legolas also watched Aragorn, but the elf’s quick glance flew to me when he sensed my regard. We shared a silent understanding – despite his outward calm, Aragorn was distraught.
Of course he would be. He would listen to the counsel of us all, but in the end Aragorn would feel that the burden of this decision was his alone to bear. I fought a powerful urge to go to him, drag him aside and tell him that it was not so, that he could not shoulder such responsibility himself, that everyone here, all the races of Middle Earth represented, would share in it. But at the moment I could merely watch him pace.
I suddenly thought of a time long past, over sixty years ago, when a younger Aragorn and I were alone in a cave in the Ettenmores. I had pressured him into a decision then – whether he would accept my authority or choose to be escorted back to Rivendell in disgrace. Watching him now, I once again saw my young pup before me, backed into a corner and forced to make a decision he did not wish to make. I saw the weight of pressure upon him, but a greater weariness this time, for Aragorn felt that he was carrying the entire burden of Middle Earth’s fate.
I recalled the ancient adage I had considered then – kings were the loneliest creatures in Middle Earth. Aragorn knew that he had loved ones supporting him. He wanted our opinions, and in seeking our counsel he was trying to share the burden. But within Aragorn’s quiet soul he had closed himself off into that lonely isolation of kingly accountability. The reason why was plainly expressed when wee Pippin’s question broke the silence:
“What do you think, Aragorn?”
Aragorn stopped and turned to the little one. I had seen my pup’s next motions hundreds of times when he made decisions. He raised his chin, tilted his head slightly to one side and observed Pippin with a steady gaze and a clear eye.
And there it was, obvious to perhaps only Legolas and myself, we who knew him so well and could see through his attempted guise – Aragorn felt that this was his burden alone because he believed that the others would agree with whatever he decided. Indeed, it was plain to see why he thought so. All eyes were trained on him, all waiting for Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Isildur’s Heir, Lord of the Dúnedain, the true and rightful King of Gondor, to give his response. As ever, my pup did not let them down.
“I say we hold and wait for the southern force,” Aragorn said with calm conviction.
Gandalf immediately concurred. “I feel this is the best course as well, Aragorn. We can be certain of nothing, save our own sense of the matter. I am as loathe as you are to wait; however we must not think that we are abandoning Frodo. Rather, we are doing as fate has decreed by sending such sudden reinforcements.”
Aragorn nodded. But, as one by one the others agreed, it came as no surprise that Aragorn looked directly at me, a shadow of fleeting turbulence in his eyes giving me a quick glimpse of that still uncertain youth.
Again I was back in the cave with him, this time on our last night there before we were to rejoin the Rangers after our retreat. It had taken a week for Aragorn to truly believe and trust in all I had been trying to drill into his head, that he was not alone, that I was by his side to help him and discipline him and that he would ever be answerable to me for his actions, a truth Aragorn had gone on to test often and had always found intact.
I had just finished giving him his final spanking, a long and hard one, as that had been what my wild pup had silently been demanding all day with his behavior. Aragorn lay in my arms, stretched out upon me, a position we both favored after his spanking. He was no longer crying, but calming now, his head resting on my chest, his fingers playing in the folds of my shirt. He had been quiet and thoughtful for some time. I waited. Finally he spoke:
“Halbarad, that first night, you asked me something, and I . . . I was not entirely
hones --” He halted, swallowed hard, then said, “You asked if I saw myself as Lord of the Dúnedain, Isildur’s Heir, and Captain of the Grey Company. Do you recall?”
“Aye, little pup. You growled back that you already were all those things, that you had been born to those titles and those responsibilities.” I tousled his hair, trying to ease his discomfort. “Such sass.”
I heard his sniff and his small grin and felt him relax some. “Indeed, sir. I have since learned my lesson regarding insolence.”
‘For the moment,’ I thought, but I merely grunted.
“You asked if I wanted that responsibility,” he continued. “I . . . I wasn’t entirely honest with you, my lord.” Aragorn raised up and looked down at me. “I said that I did want it, but, in truth, Halbarad . . . .”
He paused, studying me, needing to make certain of what he already knew in his heart – he would find neither judgement nor condemnation in my eyes, only acceptance. He would ever find it there, as he had all week, and as he did at that moment. So he went on, saying in a hushed tone, “In truth, I . . . I do not want that responsibility. I have never wanted it. It . . . It frightens me.”
“I know.” At his startled blink I said, “You are forgetting what you said right before you growled your sass. You said, ‘What I want does not matter. I have been born to this destiny. The responsibility is mine, and there’s an end to it!’
“That was truth, little boy. In your frustration you blurted out the truth, then you paused, no doubt realizing what you had said and expecting me to judge you as harshly as you were judging yourself. Then came the sass. But in your temper you had indeed been honest, and you said much.”
Aragorn’s eyes filled with tears, but I smiled softly at him and said, “No more of this self reproach, little pup. You may always struggle with the role fate has cast before you. But you do not lack in courage. You accept what is and you ride forth in greatness. When destiny calls you, you do what you know you must. Indeed, you can do no less. Aye, you must learn to be more discerning, less impetuous, but that will come with time. Those around you will counsel you. And you will never be alone, little boy. Rest in that assurance.”
I studied him now, knowing that what had been true for that remarkable youth was still true for this remarkable man. He was trying his best to accept all that came with being who he was born to be. He had done an admirable job thus far, fulfilling every promise of his lineage and more so. He had done the near impossible at every turn, facing each challenge with courage and valor, leading the hopeless into victory, triumphing over incredible obstacles and being that natural leader men trusted and longed to follow.
Yet within Aragorn there still lay an uncertain and sometimes frightened little boy who had never wanted this burden. Of course he would give to others what they sought from him. He did so now. His bloodline did indeed dictate his actions. He was born to this, his regal bearing bespeaking his natural supremacy. It was to men such as Aragorn that other men looked, seeking courage when their own hearts failed, and they found it in his eyes, in his manner, in his voice.
But, in this moment, my pup had shared his true self with me in a glance. Legolas had no doubt received a similar glance from Aragorn ere I arrived. And as Aragorn turned his eyes from me, instantly assuming that reassuring air of sovereignty, I again looked at Legolas, his gaze returning to me, quiet concern plainly etched on his perfect elvish features. I nodded slightly, and he did the same.
Aye, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Isildur’s Heir, Lord of the Dúnedain, the true and rightful King of Gondor was in command. But my little boy was headed for trouble.
Halbarad needed to be the one to deal with Aragorn this time. That responsibility was usually mine, and I embraced it with great enthusiasm, usually to my Ranger-child’s dismay. But Halbarad and I had learned long ago that there were certain times and certain circumstances wherein Aragorn’s lieutenant needed to assume his former role, disciplining his ‘wild pup’ as he had when his very young and inexperienced captain had first joined the Rangers.
Halbarad and I had an inner sense as to when such duties needed shifting from me to him, though we were often at a loss as to how we both knew what we did and why Aragorn’s needs changed, not that it mattered. Circumstances shifted constantly, and no two instances were ever the same. We simply knew what and whom Aragorn needed in each circumstance.
I never felt badly about this. My first concern was Aragorn’s wellbeing. I stepped aside gracefully when necessary. So, as our council ended I exchanged a final look of silent understanding with Halbarad – aye, my Estel needed his lieutenant’s strong hand this time.
Aragorn sent the messenger off with several servants who would see to his needs before he rode back to Angbor and his approaching army. Eomer, Halbarad and Gwin also left immediately, eager to return to their encampments and inform their men of the change in plans.
When turning to exit the hall, Halbarad murmured in a low tone he knew I would hear, “Legolas, Gwin and I shall return at mid-day. Be at ease, young one. We shall not let him suffer this for long.”
Gwin heard this, of course. He cast his beloved a glance, then darted a look back at me. But he wisely held his tongue. Gwinthorian displays extraordinary good judgement and sensitivity at such times, though I would never insult him by telling him so.
Eomer had made some parting remarks as well. “I will send Riders to every camp to make certain all are informed,” he had insisted, refusing to allow Boromir’s men to act as messengers. “Nay, sir. My Riders will be eager for the distraction.” He turned to Aragorn, saying, “Be at ease, Aragorn. Consider this a day’s further preparation. And leave the heralding to the Rohirrim this morn. Rest assured, within the hour every soul upon Pelennor will know of our decision.”
I was pleased to hear Eomer say “our” decision, as indeed it had been a collective agreement, but I knew, as did Halbarad, that Aragorn declined to see it that way. He hid his uncertainty well, though.
Gandalf, Gimli and the little ones would no doubt sense Aragorn’s moodiness. They knew him too well. But they knew how Aragorn could sometimes brood and, given the circumstance, a bit of moodiness was not out of order. Boromir, however, was another matter. Though he was charmingly unable to disguise his true feelings, he did habitually hide the nature of his inner torments, so he had a tendency to look for the same in others. But Aragorn was skilled at this kind of deception, and though his behavior may have left Boromir feeling uneasy, my little brother merely cast me a wary glance before Merry drew his attention:
“Another day to wait --” He gasped and turned a wide-eyed look of excitement to his cousin. “Pip! Maybe the Warden will allow me to go, too! Maybe he’ll think I’m well enough!”
Pippin looked as though he did not know whether to join Merry in his enthusiasm or burst into tears. He smiled hesitantly and said, “He might at that.”
Faramir then completely overwhelmed not only his older brother, but also the rest of our remaining Fellowship with his eagerly voiced remark:
“Indeed! Excellent notion, Merry! Perhaps the Warden will also allow me to –”
Boromir’s roar echoed through the great hall. Faramir and the hobbits flinched. A thundering silence followed. All of us stared at the young Captain, standing there, his chest wrapped and bandaged and his arm bound up in a sling. After having dared to utter such a thing in the first place, Faramir now dared to gaze back at us as though wondering what we were staring at.
I recalled something Aragorn had murmured to Boromir last night during one of the few moments of rest we had taken between our stretches of intimate delight:
“How like you Faramir is, my fledgling,” Aragorn told Boromir, leaning in for another kiss. “He is eager to leave the sickbed and join us in our fight, despite his injuries, just as you were eager to leave Lothlorien.”
“That is Faramir indeed,” Boromir muttered with a warm sigh. “We may need to leave him in restraints when the army marches forth, or I vow he will find some way to join us.”
“Such nerve!” I said in a teasing voice. “You did not spank him enough, little brother.”
Boromir chuckled. “I spanked him as much as I dared! And probably more so. And he bore it bravely.”
“I am certain you spanked my little Ranger well.” Aragorn smiled, his hand moving over Boromir’s broad back in a slow caress. “And I know you were careful, as I was, of his injuries.”
“Little Ranger?” Boromir grinned.
Aragorn kissed him softly again. “Indeed. Lirner dithen in the elvish.”
“Mmmm. Fitting, my lord.” Boromir looked over his shoulder to where I lay hugged up against his body, one hand draped over his lower stomach, rubbing small circles. Turning onto his back, Boromir gazed up at me and smiled. “And what do you call Faramir, my beautiful elf?”
Aragorn buried his head against Boromir’s neck and chuckled.
“And that means?” my little brother asked.
Rising up to grin at his fledgling, Aragorn replied, “Baby brother.”
Boromir joined Aragorn’s soft laughter, saying, “That is also fitting, though Faramir will scowl at the hearing of it.”
My little brother gathered up a handful of my hair and watched it slide through his fingers. “But, as to Faramir’s spanking, I was most thorough, and I made certain that his arm was resting at a comfortable angle and that his midsection was well supported.”
Aragorn smiled quietly, then leaned down, nuzzling Boromir’s neck hungrily. “I knew you would be careful with our gwador laes,” he murmured, his low, throaty tone sending a shiver up my spine and raising tiny bumps of excitement over my little brother’s skin. I smiled at the sight, then watched Aragorn begin to slowly slide his palm down over Boromir’s torso. “You are a powerful warrior, my fledgling, but you are ever careful with the little ones, as I am certain you were with Faramir.”
“Aye, well said, meleth nin,” I whispered, leaning forward to slowly kiss my Ranger, our faces just above Boromir’s. When we parted, smiling, I leaned down, my lips brushing lightly over Boromir’s, my fingers interlacing with Aragorn’s, our palms caressing an ever downward path upon our young one’s now quivering stomach. “You are a gentle man, beloved. Both --” I paused to stare at Aragorn, who was chuckling softly.
“In the Westron, elfling mine,” he explained. “Speak in the Common Tongue. You slip into the elvish when you are excited. ‘Tis of no matter when just you and I are loving. But our little one does not understand you.”
I ‘tsked’ at my silly habit and grinned sheepishly at Aragorn; then I leaned down again, my lips tickling Boromir’s softly panting mouth. “You are a gentle man, beloved,” I said again, this time in his own language. “Both a gentle and a firm man.”
Boromir arched, squeezed his eyes shut and gasped, and my gaze again met Aragorn’s, and we smiled, our brief interlude of rest ending.
Faramir’s expression now shifted to take on a more aggressive position of defiance. Ai! How like his older brother this young one was! And how amusing to see Boromir dealing with the same mutinous attitude he usually inflicted upon Aragorn and me! I bit back a grin and assumed the same scowl everyone else had now turned upon Faramir. As usual, Pippin had something to say:
“Faramir, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he remarked with un-Pippinlike prudence.
“Not a good idea at all,” Merry agreed. “My injuries were less severe than yours. I’m practically all better. When we arrive at the Black Gate in a few days time I will be completely better. I don’t think you will be, Faramir.”
“And just what do you intend to do, sir?” Pippin asked, lines of worry creasing his forehead. “Fight with your arm in a sling and your middle all bandaged up?”
“You were groaning pretty loudly this morning when getting out of bed,” Merry pointed out.
“Aye,” Pippin said. “And, pardon my bluntness, but all that groaning you were trying to subdue, well, I don’t think all that groaning was because of your sore bottom.”
Faramir’s fair cheeks flushed instantly. He shot Pippin a frown that plainly hinted of how he longed to give young Master Took a sore bottom of his own. Pippin was not moved. He went on:
“Thank goodness Boromir had come to fetch us and was there to help you up.”
“And he did have to help you get dressed,” Merry added. “I was turned out before both you and Pip.”
“And Merry had been awake longer than you had last night. We were still . . . uhh . . . talking long after Boromir had tucked you in and rubbed your back until you fell asleep.”
Faramir was now positively red-faced. It was one thing to be scolded by his older brother and his future king, but to be lectured by these two little ones, and to hear them reveal an embarrassing private bedtime ritual looked to be more than the young captain cared to endure.
Aragorn cleared his throat, demanding the floor and taking mercy upon Faramir. “Gentlemen. Enough. You have made your point. Kindly cease your assault upon the captain. He has injuries enough to heal from.”
Faramir cast the halflings a fresh glare. Amongst the few of us still present the impetuous little ones would have been his most likely supporters, much good they would have done him. But even Merry and Pippin had come down hard on the side of reason. Of all the times for these two to display such inconvenient wisdom!
“I trust we will hear no more of this, Captain Faramir,” Aragorn said in a stern tone, drawing the young one’s instant attention.
“No, my lord,” Faramir muttered, his sulk so obvious it now prompted a display of sympathy from the halflings that was equally humbling to their scolding. But the little ones plainly meant well, and they were everlastingly winsome in their attempts to comfort his dismay.
“I’m so sorry, Faramir,” Pippin said. “I know you don’t want to be left behind.”
“Yes, any warrior as great as you would want to join us,” Merry said. “I’m sorry, too.”
Turning to his cousin, Pippin said, “You understand what it feels like to be told you can’t ride with the others and fight, don’t you, Merry?”
“I certainly do!” Merry exclaimed. “I nearly burst into tears right there in front of the whole army of Rohan when King Theoden told me I had to stay behind. I didn’t like disobeying the my liege lord’s orders, but I was so happy when Eowyn came riding along and scooped me up and said, ‘Ride with me!’”
“Aye!” Pippin exclaimed, near-breathless with excitement, eager to tell a little tale to this young man he was clearly so fond of, hoping to distract him from his misery. “She tucked her long, long hair under her hauberk and covered her head with a helmet and no one knew who she was under there.”
Faramir glanced at Boromir, then at Aragorn, then at me. Finally he dropped his gaze to the hobbits. “Eowyn’s deception,” he murmured. He looked off, a faraway gleam entering his eye. “Oh . . . yes . . . I do remember hearing of this.”
“She really looked like just another Rider,” Merry said.
“Aye! And she stayed away from her brother and her uncle and any who might look at her too closely, right Merry?”
“Yes. It was easy for us to become lost in such a great horde of Riders.”
Faramir nodded slowly. “Indeed . . . I can see how easy that would be.”
“Eowyn had been told that she couldn’t fight either,” Pippin said. “But she knew that she could fight as well as any of those Riders, and even better than some, so she didn’t listen, even to her uncle the King. Such boldness! Such courage!”
“Such bravery!” Merry added.
“Such presumption,” Aragorn muttered, frowning.
Merry and Pippin, now feeding off each other’s enthusiasm, barely afforded Aragorn a glance before ignoring his remark and pressing on:
“Anyway, she understood just how awful I felt,” Merry added.
“Just like you feel now, Faramir. So, y’see, Merry really and truly does understand. And so do I.”
“Yes, and we’re sorry.”
Faramir blinked from his stupor and threw a quick glance around again, ending once more with Merry and Pippin. “Thank you,” he said with a calm half-smile and a soft, reasonable voice.
All save the guileless hobbits surely realized the dangerous seeds the little ones had just planted in Faramir’s mind. A flurry of emotions traveled over Boromir’s face. Instantly concerned, he watched Faramir closely, then he turned a sharp glance at Merry and Pippin. Though it was plain that he longed to be angry with them, he could not be so, for he loved them, and he knew they had merely been trying to comfort Faramir. They had simply blathered on in simple honesty, saying the most incredibly wrong things.
“Come, little brother,” Boromir said. “It is time you were back in bed.”
He took Faramir’s arm and began guiding him. Faramir once more looked somewhat dazed, as though his thoughts were firing through his mind with lightning speed. Ah, me, but he had the look of trouble to him.
“You, too, Merry,” Aragorn said, nodding towards the exiting brothers. “Back to bed with you.” Merry frowned in that rebellious Brandybuck manner, but Aragorn firmly said, “The Warden may indeed agree to release you, but until you have been examined you will return to your bed, sir. Is that clear?”
Aragorn was treated to two lovely hobbit pouts, but since neither halfling was eager for a swat or two, there was no challenge offered.
“Yes, Aragorn,” Merry said, and he and Pippin headed off after Boromir and Faramir.
When the little ones had left the hall Gandalf shook his head and sighed in his fondly exasperated tone, “Hobbits.”
Gimli huffed and grumbled, “For all those wee rascals are clever, they haven’t a whit of common sense when it comes to what not to say.”
“No, they do not,” Gandalf said. “They are wholly naïve, still hobbits through and through, thank the Valar. Yet I fear they did innocently lay temptation before that impetuous young captain.” Turning to Aragorn, he flashed his wise wizard’s grin and said, “However, I feel that amongst the three of you a way can be found to dissuade Faramir from any plan that might form in his mind.”
“Nip this dangerous possible misbehavior in the bud. That’s what I would do,” Gimli said.
“Sound advice, Master Dwarf,” Aragorn nodded.
“I shall leave you to it then,” Gandalf said, “and begin to spread this news amongst the troops of the Citadel. I shall also send them forth to inform the tradesmen in the city. But I feel that once word of this gets out it will spread faster than I can impart it. Come, Gimli. Keep an old man company.”
Aragorn nodded. “As you rightly said, once word begins to travel it will likely outrun your efforts. After you have set the wheels in motion, join us in the dining hall for first breakfast.”
I smiled. Aragorn still enjoyed using that hobbit phrase that had delighted him after first meeting the halflings we now so dearly loved. Gandalf and Gimli agreed and the two of them headed out together. I watched the wizard leave, thinking that I needed to speak to him of something, but that I could do so when we met again in the dining hall.
When we were alone, Aragorn sat on the stairs leading to the throne and turned to me. “You saw?”
“How like my fledgling that lad is, and yet, how unlike him, too.”
I wandered closer to Aragorn, saying, “Both with different needs, yet both so full of need.”
“Denethor accomplished much in his lifetime,” Aragorn said with a touch of rare bitterness.
I sat down beside him and said, “Aye, but we have them now, Estel, both brothers, without that dark force poisoning them. As you and I just saw, Faramir has but a single desire at present, and it will be my pleasure to see he receives it.”
In truth, I saw things falling easily into place. If Aragorn and Boromir were paired together until Halbarad returned at noon, leaving Faramir to me, I could assume ‘Gwinthorian duty,’ giving Halbarad time alone with Aragorn in the afternoon. Boromir could spend what time he had in the afternoon with Faramir, and all would turn out well. Both of my beloved human warriors could spend this eve ere the final march in peace.
“Alas, my poor little Ranger,” Aragorn said, casting me a grin. “It seems his elvish big brother is about to assume his duties.”
“‘Tis indeed my turn. That poor young one was fairly bellowing for attention.” I turned to Aragorn. “But we must share all this with my little brother. He is too close to Faramir and too overwrought to really see what his brother is doing.”
“Mmm, true. He will want to take breakfast in Faramir’s room.” Aragorn surged up and began to stroll while forming his plans. “After we have eaten, we shall join them there and I will call the Warden and have Merry examined. I am certain he will be released and then the halflings will likely head out into the city. I shall take Boromir with me to ride throughout Pelennor and see to any questions that may arise from the various camps. We will visit Eomer’s encampment, then stay with the Grey Company until it is time to return, so you shall have your baby brother all to yourself for the entire morning.”
Ah, my precious Estel, planning his strategy, his own troubles pushed to one side. He could do that for now. But later Halbarad would be back.
“Merry and Pippin might enjoy going with you,” I suggested.
“A fine idea. Boromir and I can each take a little one as we ride.” His plans now set, Aragorn again turned to me. “Legolas, before you ‘speak’ to Faramir I know that you will keep in mind the ferocious hiding Boromir gave his little brother yesterday morning.”
“Indeed. And I will surely be reminded of that ferocious hiding yet again when I see what hue still colors his bottom.”
I lay on my side, gazing unseeingly at the empty bed next to me. The two little ones had been lively room companions. I missed them already, and they had only been gone for a quarter hour. But being the sensitive souls they were, the halflings had been sorry to take their leave of me, even for just a morning’s outing of riding the Field of Pelennor with Aragorn and Legolas and my brother.
We had been a quiet group heading back to the Houses of Healing. Merry and Pippin seemed to sense that they had perhaps put a furry foot wrong, but they were wise enough not to inquire if they’d said something they shouldn’t have. I’d long since heard Merry’s tale of Eowyn’s deception and just how they ended up on the battlefield of Pelennor. Listening to the little ones talk of it again had caught my interest, though.
After our early morning summons and council, none of us were tired enough to go back to sleep once returning to our chamber, so Boromir ordered our breakfasts early, he and Pippin staying and eating with us as they had for the past few mornings. Aragorn and Legolas joined us shortly after we had finished, and the Warden was summoned to evaluate Merry.
The little one had, of course, passed the wretched Warden’s examination, much to everyone’s delight. Then Aragorn surprised us all by requesting that I be examined as well. The wretched Warden looked utterly astonished. He stared at Aragorn as though wondering if he had heard him correctly, then he heaved a great put-upon sigh and cast me an indulgent frown that sorely tested my patience. Strangely, I seemed to be the only one who minded the healer’s imperious attitude. Boromir didn’t even so much as threaten him with a scowl. It was disheartening, to say the least.
Even more disheartening was the actual examination. I didn’t know anyone could heave great put-upon sighs as often as did the wretched Warden. Aragorn and Legolas stood at one end of the room, talking quietly with my brother, the three of them casting frequent looks my way as the Warden assessed my condition. When he was finished – and it hadn’t taken him long – he turned to my three attentive big brothers who drew near to hear his verdict.
“My lords,” the Warden began, in a thoroughly disdainful air, “Though young Faramir is healing well, he is far from being able to do much more than what he is right now. As you have no doubt noticed, his stamina is limited. He can walk certain distances, but he tires easily. Riding a horse is out of the question. The jarring would undo much of the healing the boy has been able to achieve thusfar.”
The boy? I ground my teeth and sought restraint by picturing what might befall me should I rise up and clout this insufferable Warden. As I felt my three big brothers would take a dim view of such an action, I merely glared at the Warden while he blathered on, though my efforts did little good since the man addressed himself to the grown-ups in the room and regarded me not at all.
“Yes, he is healing well, faster than I would have dreamed possible,” the man continued. “Nevertheless, ‘tis folly to attempt too much too soon, my lords, if you will pardon my stating the obvious. The enemies’ foul arrows deeply pierced the young Captain’s body. His wounds are now busy trying to knit together within, but the trauma to his entire system was profound.”
Boromir winced and began to pale.
“The lad’s arm is also beginning to heal, but I pray you be mindful that it has been naught but a week since it was thoroughly shattered.”
Boromir started pacing, his head bent, his arms hugging his waist.
“Lord Aragorn, your brilliant use of the kingsfoil worked miracles. You yourself worked a miracle in bringing this quite fortunate young man back from the very brink of death. But let me be forthright concerning Captain Faramir’s condition at present.” I wondered what he’d been thus far if not forthright, but the Warden went on being more tiresomely forthright. I fumed and tried not to listen.
Boromir halted and fastened a tense look upon the Warden as he spoke. My brother ran his fingers back through his hair several times, Boromir’s familiar habit when he was anxious. Not that the news was all that bad, but Boromir was, as he had ever been, overly protective when it came to his little brother.
A wave of guilt coursed through me for putting him through this. True, I hadn’t asked for this evaluation; Aragorn had. But I sensed that he’d done so in the hopes that I would hear the facts about my condition and reconsider any foolish attempts to smuggle myself in amongst the army.
I should have spoken up, saved my poor brother his upset by telling Aragorn that I didn’t need the wretched Warden explaining the details of my state and declaring that I was far from healed and shouldn’t even mount a horse, much less head into battle. I already knew that. But it mattered less to me than the despair of being left behind, watching my brother ride off yet again without me. I could scarcely bear that thought. I had lost him twice – I could not withstand that again.
I longed to lean on the feeling Boromir had said he’d experienced – the sense that all would be well, and that we would survive this horrific storm of darkness. I’d felt that, too, and I remembered what Father had said to me: “ . . . the Sight is more than merely a means by which to see what is beyond our ken. It can also be a tool of prophecy.”
But what I had gone through with Denethor, the way he played with my mind and my thoughts and made me doubt my Sight had left scars. I’d had a strong vision of Boromir dead, floating by me in that funeral boat, and it had proven to be false. I could not reconcile that. How could I trust in my Sight ever again, when I had suffered such anguish because of its false witness? My foundation thus shaken, what I wanted now more than anything was to stay close to Boromir.
When the Warden finally ended his forthright speechifying I now wondered what would befall me should I be just as forthright with the Warden and ask him why, if I was in such dire shape, he had seen nothing wrong with both Aragorn and my brother spanking me. But I couldn’t bring myself to voice such sass. I felt humiliated enough.
Finally Aragorn dismissed him with his thanks and the odious man left us alone. Merry and Pippin turned to me with sad eyes and words of comfort.
“We’re sorry, Faramir,” Merry said.
“Aye, very sorry, Faramir,” Pippin added. “It’s strange, because you don’t look all that bad, I mean, on the outside. Does he, Merry?”
“Not bad, no. You look quite . . . normal,” Merry said.
“Broken arm aside,” Pip added.
“And bandaged body aside.”
“But his color’s good, isn’t it, Merry?”
“Yes! His color is quite good.”
It should have been, considering how their attempts at solace were making me blush. I nodded to them and thanked them, then all had bid me farewell, Boromir coming close to kiss my brow and tousle my hair and murmur, “Be good, little brother. I shall return at luncheon. Not that I think you will dare to do less than eat well, but because I’ve been given another day to enjoy your company ere we ride.”
A tear formed in the corner of my eye, remembering it now, and thinking of how distracted my brother had been since our return from the council. He’d kept glancing at me, his eyes filled with concern. I clearly had been too open with my thoughts when the little ones had been discussing Eowyn’s deception. I hadn’t engaged my usual talents for artifice.
But I had been tired from standing that long and from walking the distance to the Hall of Kings. My abilities had been somewhat dulled. After coming back to my bed and resting a bit, and with Boromir being his overly attentive big brother self, ordering our breakfast, then watching to make sure I ate all of it, I felt myself again. So, before Aragorn and Legolas joined us I had done my utmost to ease my brother’s fretful mind.
Merry and Pippin had been chatting softly together over by the west window, hanging on the ledge to look out at the flower garden, and Boromir had been sitting down by my feet, watching the halflings without seeing them, his mind far away, disquiet tightening his features. I’d nudged him with my foot.
“What troubles you my brother?” I’d asked.
“You do.” He’d shot me a frown, then glanced away again and said in a hushed, forceful tone, “I plan to post guards on your door. And more guards on the door that leads into the garden from the corridor, in case you’re foolish enough to try going out the window.”
“What?” I’d exclaimed. “Why?”
“You know why. Your eyes fairly lit up when the little ones were talking about Eowyn. I’ll not have you trying to do what she did. Guards will be posted.”
“No! That is entirely unnecessary.”
“I plan to do it, little brother.” He looked back at me again, that determined set to his jaw.
“Boromir, give me credit for more sense than that,” I said in an offended tone. “Do you honestly think that I could do what you’re suggesting?”
“No. You could not do it. But would you try? That’s another matter.”
“That’s absurd,” I scoffed. “You can’t believe me capable of what it would take to dress, make it to my rooms for my battle gear and weapons, then get to the stables, procure a horse, and blend myself in with the army as you form on the field tomorrow.”
After hearing myself describe it, I wasn’t sure I could do it either.
He’d snorted. “It doesn’t matter what I think you to be capable of. It matters what you think, young headstrong, and indeed, I do imagine you to be that foolhardy.”
“I am wounded, big brother.”
“I should say you are.”
“I mean I am offended! Hurt by your insinuations and lack of trust!”
“Keep your voice down.” He nodded towards the halflings, then added, “I’m posting guards.”
“Boromir, please, don’t. Don’t shame me so.”
He snorted again and looked away. “At least two guards per door. And there’s an end to it.”
I’d gasped in overblown disbelief. “How can you think that I intend to go against everyone’s orders and somehow follow along?”
“Because it’s what I would do.”
Well, he’d won that argument. I could think of no response to such clean logic. So that had been that. Boromir had relaxed a little after announcing his edict, but his distracted frown never faded entirely. I could almost read his thoughts, my brother having little talent for shielding his feelings. He was searching his mind for anything he might have overlooked, any way in which I could escape my rooms tomorrow. Fortunately, he’d missed the only one he’d left available to me.
I rose from my bed now-oh! . . . slight wobble . . . I just needed to let my balance catch up to my actions. Really, though, once up on my feet I was quite fine. I’d even been permitted to stroll alone along the inner wall corridors yesterday. Then Boromir had come and found me and walked back with me.
I grabbed up my breeches, pulled them on under my nightshirt, walked steadily to the window and pushed it open a bit further, assessing my task.
Vines covered the high wall on the far side of the garden where it butted up against the mountain. When I was twelve I’d taken a friend’s dare to climb those vines up to the top of the wall where a narrow pathway lay along the rock, access for the gardeners to attend to the foliage from above. If I made it to the top, I was then going to follow the pathway down to the maintenance sheds and there meet up with my friend.
It had taken me a while to make my way unseen to this far room usually reserved for the nobles, and it was indeed empty, as I had hoped it would be. I’d gone out the window, through the garden and struggled up the vines.
Damrod was waiting for me at the top.
My friend had run smack into the lieutenant who was coming in answer to a curious message sent to him from one of the healers: young Lord Faramir had been spotted acting most suspiciously in the Houses of Healing. My friend had immediately buckled under Damrod’s intense frown and, well, Damrod was his usual authoritative self.
After he sent my friend off to his home, telling him that he would be there later to report this situation, Damrod marched me to my rooms where he calmly demonstrated his displeasure by scalding my backside. I’d spent the rest of the day stretched out on my stomach, writing a treatise entitled, “Why Climbing Vines Up High Garden Walls Is a Dangerous Enterprise, and Why I Shall Never Attempt Such An Asinine Deed Again.”
I now planned to ignore that treatise.
The wall looked higher than I’d remembered. Odd what time does to one’s memories. The vines looked thicker, though. That was good. I stood studying the distances and trying to determine what kind of effort it would take to scale those vines with one arm. Finally I decided to go out into the garden and examine that wall more closely. Of course, I wasn’t going to make my escape now. Today was for forming my strategy. Tomorrow, after our final good-byes, I would be left alone while the army formed on Pelennor. Plenty of time for what I needed to do. And tomorrow, when all marched away, I would be with them.
“Thinking of doing some gardening?”
I jumped, nearly toppling over. A firm grasp, strong hands on my arms, grabbed me and steadied me.
“Ho there, sir!” Legolas chuckled. “Gently.” He studied me closely, then he asked, “Better?” At my nod, he said, “Forgive me. I did not mean to startle you.”
“No, I . . . it’s simply . . . .” I paused to peer at him. What in the name of all things blessed was this elf doing here? “It’s just, I-I didn’t hear you come in. I thought you were off with Aragorn and Boromir and the halflings.”
“Aye. Well --” He turned his head and looked out the window. “I had something I had to do.”
I watched his quick elvish gaze dart around the garden. A chill raced through me. Legolas returned because he had something to do? Here? In my rooms? Whatever could that be? I suddenly recalled what my brother had said just the day before:
“I may have one big brother, but you now have three.”
“So I’d feared,” I’d said with a wince. “And two have already asserted their big brotherly duties over the past few days. Only one has yet to turn me over his knee and I have no desire to experience an elvish spanking, thank you.”
Boromir had chuckled. “Nay, trust me, you do not!”
Squirming inwardly now, I glanced again at Legolas and quickly tried to draw his attention back inside. “Did you forget something? Are the others waiting for you? Perhaps you are to meet them in the stables?”
I tensed, watching his sharp eyes moving, moving . . . . “I asked if the others were waiting for you.”
“Nay,” Legolas replied in a removed tone, still engrossed in his survey of the garden.
Suddenly, his attention fastened on the vine-covered wall. He stared at it, following it to its top, then down, then up again. My stomach clenched and I heard myself blathering the question I should have been more wary in asking: “What is it you need to do?”
Legolas turned a slow look upon me and raised a brow. “Faramir, why are you here at the window?”
I quickly sought a lie that looked like an innocent truth: “I was admiring the flowers.”
Legolas observed me with cool regard, distractingly beautiful. I hadn’t spent enough time around him to know his ways. So I tried to sense what he was feeling, and it became instantly clear to me that he was actually straining to hold back a laugh. His perfect features now tightened with the effort. Then he failed. A light chuckle burst from him and he regarded me with a sparkling gaze of indulgence that made me feel like a child caught in the act of pilfering sweets.
I felt a sudden surge of anger. There was nothing funny about my answer, save that it was a shameless lie, and Legolas had no way of knowing that. In truth, I had no need to fret. After all, what could Legolas do to me? Even if he, too, suspected my interest in Eowyn’s deception, what proof did he have of my intentions? None. Would he dare to discipline me for something I had merely been thinking about doing, but hadn’t yet attempted? Certainly not. Boromir would not stand for it! My brother would not allow Legolas to spank me with no proof of cause, and I was certain that Legolas wouldn’t do so. So what was all this about? And why was he still holding on to me?
“Forgive me again,” Legolas said, amusement still dancing in his eyes. “Admiring the flowers,” he repeated with a soft nod. “Of course.” He cleared his throat. “Tell me, sir, for I am curious --” He looked out to the garden again. “What lies atop that far wall?”
Again, Legolas took a moment to compose himself. At least he didn’t laugh this time. Rather than releasing me, though, he nodded towards the wall and said, “The tall one, the one covered with vines. I see something up there, along the edge of the mountain.”
Ah. Keen elvish vision. I followed his gaze, then we looked at each other again. If I lied this time, well, it would be a genuine lie and easy to disprove. Dratted clever elf. Nothing save the truth came to mind, so I said, “A pathway.”
Legolas raised both brows now. “Ah. A pathway to where?”
“And the shed is accessed by gardeners?”
I nodded, looking away.
“And there are stairs, I assume, leading down from the shed to the street below?”
Legolas grew quiet. I rode out his silence, the seconds dragging, my dread mounting, and my anger surging. And still Legolas remained silent. Dratted stubborn elf. I felt his eyes upon me. I considered pressuring him into some kind of action, but I worried about what that action might be. So I stood, waiting, summoning patience.
Another memory flashed through my mind, this one from yesterday when Boromir had been telling me of his first spanking from Legolas and I’d shown what my brother felt was too much approval of the elf’s tactics:
“Rest assured,” he had said. “I shall remind you of your sass and ask you again about your sympathetic feelings towards an elvish spanking after you have experienced your first one.”
“You may never get such an opportunity, my brother.”
“Ah, little urchin. I know you too well. It is only a matter of time.”
“Faramir,” Legolas suddenly said. I flinched. “Look at me.”
I defied him for a moment, then I obeyed.
“Shall we continue our game, sir, or shall we pass over this artifice? Aside from admiring the flowers, what else are you doing here at the window, my naughty gwador laes?”
Boromir and Aragorn would have enjoyed Faramir’s expression when first hearing the elvish name I had given him. I would have waited until a time when they, too, could have witnessed it, but I had needed to shock Faramir into unwise action, so it was best to use the name now. This game needed ending. His was a lovely expression of startled indignation, though. I vowed Faramir would not take to his nickname as readily as my little brother had taken to his.
“You will have no proof of his intent,” Boromir had told me earlier when he and Aragorn and I stood at the entryway to the Houses of Healing. They were about to depart, having sent Merry and Pippin ahead of them to the stables.
“No matter,” I had replied.
“I told him I would post guards, and he only shrugged it away.” Boromir gazed off, seeing nothing, so anxious that it saddened me. “Faramir objected, but he would have objected more strongly if he hadn’t had some other scheme in mind. I am missing something. He’s plotting. I know it. But I could not for the life of me see what he might be up to.”
Aragorn placed a hand on Boromir’s shoulder. “Enough fretting. Legolas will deal with Faramir. You know how convincing our elf can be when he has a misguided young one stretched out upon his lap.”
Boromir’s gaze shifted to me.
“Consider how many times I persuaded you to confess the harmful thinking you had been struggling to hide, little brother,” I said with a smoldering grin. “Time spent over my knee always makes you more cooperative."
My little brother chuckled. “Aye, well, I dare not consider that, but I know you are well suited to this task.” Then he had again hesitated, still uneasy. “I spanked him so much yesterday,” he muttered. “I don’t know that Faramir can bear more.”
“Then he should not have sought more, my fledgling.” At Boromir’s quick look of confusion, Aragorn continued: “Aye, he did seek this. Think back. When Merry and Pippin began to speak of Eowyn your brother first cast a glance at the three of us before slipping into his daze. Boromir, he was making certain he had our attention before showing us all what he was thinking of doing.”
Boromir stared at him, then looked off again, remembering.
“Faramir is clever,” Aragorn continued. “He knows how to get what he needs.”
“He might not plot out how to get it,” I added, “but his instincts provide a way, as they did this morning.”
“He is seeking one last show of affection from one remaining party, my fledgling,” Aragorn said, nodding at me. Boromir’s astonished gaze followed.
“Faramir did ask for exactly what he is hoping to get, little brother,” I had said. “He knows he has not the strength to join the march. He likely does think that he is planning an escape, but his higher wisdom knows better. It found a way to get what he needs.
“What Faramir desires is one last assurance of devotion. And he knows he can withstand it, as Aragorn said. So let us trust his instincts and give our baby brother what comfort we can ere we march away tomorrow and leave him here alone.” I smiled into Boromir’s glistening eyes.
“Aye, Legolas,” Boromir had said with a nod. “An elvish assurance. Some attention well deserved from his remaining big brother.”
Ah. What was it about these sons of Denethor that touched me so? I looked at the young one standing before me now, glaring, wary, spending his costly energy to appear strong, bravely trying to hide his weariness, and I felt the same fierce surge of protectiveness I had ever felt for his brother.
Boromir often needed protecting from his hurtful inner thoughts. He needed to be spanked into a state wherein he could hear me, and then I could reassure him of his goodness and expose his inner fell beasties as the false torments they were. Faramir also suffered from fell beasties, though his told him that he was unworthy. He and Gwin were much alike – gentle souls ravaged by cruelty, seeking assurance of their worth again and again, hungering for it as Boromir had hungered for attention when Aragorn, and then I, began disciplining him.
I thought of a time, not long ago, when Boromir lay resting in my arms, facing me on his side, yet another spanking heating up his bottom. He had taken on a look of melancholy that Aragorn and I had come to recognize as his ‘thinking of Faramir’ look.
“You are thinking of him, are you not, little brother?”
“Aye.” Boromir paused to swallow hard, his eyes beginning to sparkle with a fresh sheen of tears. “Faramir . . . .”
I kissed him lightly and issued a softly spoken order: “Tell me.”
“I was thinking that Faramir deserves this, too. He deserves this . . . this biggest good feeling I always get after you or Thor . . . I-I mean, Aragorn spank me.”
“Ah, such a loving thought, sweetling. We shall needs make certain Faramir has the chance to enjoy that feeling often.”
My little brother had grinned with heartrending gratitude. “Aye, Legolas. Thank you. Faramir will be so happy.”
I was about to make Faramir quite happy indeed. I had good cause. I could scarce believe that this little one, his chest bandaged and one arm broken, was seriously intending to scale an ivy covered wall. Little wonder Boromir had failed to consider such a possibility. It was too preposterous. Yet, the absurdity of it hinted at Faramir’s desperation.
“Well?” I said, deciding to push him further. “Answer me, my naughty gwador laes. Why are you here when you should be resting?”
“Answer you?” Faramir scowled and tried to yank his arms from my grasp. “I do not answer to you, sir. And stop calling me by that undignified name. I’m not your naughty gwador laes!”
“Indeed you are, and I shall call you by that name as I please,” I replied, recalling how his brother had challenged me in much the same way the first time I had spanked him.
Faramir set his jaw and again tried to tug his arms free, saying, “Release me.”
“Stop that, little one,” I scolded. “You might further injure yourself.” He glared directly back at me, pressed his lips together and purposely began to struggle all the more, wincing, clearly testing his wounded arm. These brothers! I gave my head a small shake and exclaimed, “Ai! The stubbornness of men!”
Faramir blinked and froze, gazing at me as though he had heard those words before. Perhaps he had. Boromir had told him much about the three of us and, according to Aragorn, I overused the phrase. Aye, Faramir had, no doubt, heard it through his brother, perhaps in a story about one of Boromir’s numerous spankings.
But all this struggling would not do, so I pulled Faramir into my arms, picked him up and headed for his bed. It is no burden for me to lift and carry a man. The only problem is that it shocks and humiliates them, so they struggle, often clumsily, and that can prove awkward. It is best to move quickly when hoisting a startled warrior. Faramir only had time to sputter a few broken: “What are you – Stop! – You cannot do thi – Don’t! Put me dow--!” before I was settled on his bed and carefully turning him over my lap.
Faramir kept gasping and making the same small desperate sounds I had always heard from both my beloved warriors when they found themselves so easily handled. I understand. They are too astonished to speak. Warriors are used to a certain level of physical supremacy, so it shocks them to be so controlled by someone much stronger. It reduces a warrior to a helplessness he has not experienced since his young years. Oh, yes, I had felt that often enough to understand.
But Faramir quickly found his quite able tongue and he began to bellow his objections. I placed one arm across his lower back and the other over his thighs and held him still; then I simply let him bellow. I began to answer his much-repeated phrases when I could get a word in. It seemed polite.
“Let me go! You dare to . . . you cannot do this!”
He paused. “You can’t take me over your knee!”
“I have already done so, baby brother.”
“Don’t call me that! And you know very well what I mean!”
“I know . . . what?”
More huffing, then a largely bellowed, “You cannot spank me!”
“Aye. I can. And I intend to. And perhaps your roars are reaching the women’s wing, baby brother. You can seek to meet the famous Lady Eowyn when we are gone and perhaps compare notes on your spankings.”
He snarled and tried to kick, then he cried, “Only my big brother spanks me! Only Boromir!” He paused, then: “And-And Damrod! And-And Aragorn!”
I grinned. “Last night Boromir told us of something that you and he had agreed upon – that you now have three big brothers. Is that not true?”
Faramir heaved several short gasps, then he grumbled, “Yes! But . . . well, yes, but --”
“Aragorn had his turn affirming his big brotherly rights and Boromir had his turn. Finally, it is my turn. Perhaps Boromir told you that I take my big brotherly duties very seriously. So I hope you are comfortable, little bratling of Gondor. You are going to be here for a while.”
Faramir growled and struggled uselessly as he had been all along. I checked again to make certain his injuries were well supported and bearing no strain, then I flipped up his nightshirt and grabbed the waistband of his breeches.
I sighed loudly and said, “Faramir, if you continue to roar you will wear out your voice before I even begin.”
“DON’T!” he roared even louder.
I decided to save him the trouble of further objecting to the loss of his breeches and swiftly tugged them all the way down and off, ignoring his wriggling and his roared, “AHHH NOOOO!”
“There,” I said. “Now, what were you say --” And then I saw his bottom. It was still quite rosy. Boromir had indeed paddled his little brother thoroughly. Very pretty bottom, though, sweetly rounded and much like his older brother’s, only a bit smaller as Faramir was a bit smaller than Boromir.
“Don’t pull down my breeches!” Faramir choked.
“Again, I have already done so, little one. It does no good to tell me not to do these things once the deed is done.”
“Undo the deed!”
think not. And you have no cause to object, baby brother. You have
a sweet little bottom. A bit rosy at the moment, but even that is
“Stop that! Stop talking about my – agghh!” He sputtered in frustration and gasped. “Legolas, you cannot simply – you cannot spank me for standing by the window and looking at the flowers!”
I held back my laugh. Amazing that he still clung to his absurd excuse of flower gazing. His stubbornness matched both Boromir’s and Aragorn’s. I was plagued by obstinate humans!
But I smiled. I did love my stubborn warriors so, and this little one with his gentle gaze and his sad eyes that noticed so much had also become wedged in my heart. I decided to allow him a bit more of this useless posturing. It would comfort him. Faramir was unable to physically fight me, but he was brilliant and fair-spoken and quite able to wrap others up with his words. He deserved an attempt at self-defense. It was only fair. The first time I had spanked his brother I had allowed Boromir his proud attempt to best me first. So let our match begin.
“Once more, baby brother, you tell me what I cannot do when I have already --”
“NO!” he cried. “You haven’t yet begun!”
He was right. I cocked another grin. “True. I have not yet begun your spanking. I shall amend that now.”
“NO!” he cried again. “Legolas, wait! You are being most shamefully unfair, sir!”
“Am I? How so?”
“Because . . . Because my offense does not warrant such a harsh response!”
“I see. Thank your for your opinion.”
“I am about to be spanked for looking at the flowers? That is unreasonable!”
“You are about to be spanked for planning something dangerous, young bratling.”
“You cannot read my thoughts!”
“You have no proof of what I was thinking! You only saw me at the window, looking out.”
“Then, how --” He paused to heave a few short gasps. “How can you do this? How can you reconcile such an action to your conscience?”
“My conscience is at peace. But thank you for your heartfelt concern, sweetling.”
Faramir gave some furious little kicks, then came at me again: “In the name of fairness, sir, you cannot simply grab me up and spank me without proof of cause!”
“Then I shall needs be unfair. My conscience is at peace with such unfairness. And I believe I shall have my proof of cause ere we are finished.”
“By beating it out of me? That is dishonorable, sir! It is beneath what is decent, beneath courtesy, beneath your princely station, beneath you!”
Oh, how he was seeking to provoke me! “Faramir, I am about to spank your naughty little boy bottom. You know that a spanking is not the same thing as a beating.”
“’Tis still wrong! It is just plain wrong!”
“Hmmm. As you will.”
“But I-I . . . .” He growled yet again, his frustration peaking. “I was just . . . I was just standing at the window, looking out! I hadn’t done anything yet!”
“Yet?” Faramir was too careful of speech to have accidently made such a slip of the tongue. He had done so on purpose, though I doubt he would have admitted it. Perhaps he was tiring of this. “‘Yet,’ baby brother? Were you planning to do something, sir?”
“No! But . . . But . . . .” He paused again, huffing and furious to the point wherein temper oft makes itself known. And it did. “This is unjust, you asinine elf!”
I did laugh then. I could not help it. “Sir, you are either incredibly courageous or incredibly foolish.” I patted his bottom lightly. He had earned his first spank, but he would needs anticipate that a bit longer. I decided when the first blow fell. I refused to be provoked into awarding it at his pleasure.
Faramir groaned wearily. I had indulged his battle long enough. Clearly out of arrows to fire, he let fly what he had been saying all along: “You have no right, sir, no right to treat me this way!”
“From whom would I seek the right?”
“From my liege lord!”
“And who speaks for Gondor now?”
Faramir froze. He seemed barely able to grind out his answer: “The . . . Steward.”
“Your big brother?”
He nodded, trembling again. I felt for him. I knew he trusted me not to hurt him. However, in similar circumstances, I would have trembled, too.
“Boromir won’t . . . he-he won’t let you . . . my big brother will be angry with you if you, if you . . . .”
“Nay, Faramir,” I murmured. “We both know the truth. Your big brother was filled with apprehension, as you no doubt witnessed this morning. And you know why. We all feared what you might do tomorrow when we go forth. You were quite open with your thoughts in the Hall of Kings. The little ones were clearly concerned. Aragorn and I spoke to your big brother of this. Then, much relieved, he left you to me. He knew from experience, nay, from many experiences, that I would be able to help you see the error in your thinking.
“So, in answer to your earlier question, that is why I stayed behind, little one, and that is why I am here – to dissuade you from any foolish escape attempts.”
“Nooo! Legolas, no! I-I --”
“Shhh, sweetling. Enough,” I said, rubbing his back in slow circles. “I understand why you cannot admit to what you were thinking when I came upon you by the window, for it is the most unbelievable of schemes. But after you have had time to consider the matter, perhaps you will want to change your story. And ‘tis all right, little one. We can take as much time as we need. I have you to myself all morning.”
“Noooo . . . please,” Faramir breathed. “Don’t . . . don’t p-paddle me . . . don’t.”
There was little conviction in his child-like pleading. I patted his smooth little bottom once more and murmured, “Aye, it is now my turn to care for you as you so deserve, sweetling, and I intend to show you exactly what happens to naughty baby brothers when they have earned the displeasure of their big brothers.”
Faramir sucked a sharp breath at my last words, as though once again hearing something familiar. He whimpered, then said in an unsteady voice, “But . . . but you’re not . . . you are not my big --”
“I shall stop you there, baby brother, lest you say something you may regret. You do indeed have three big brothers now. Do you not?”
He could do no more than nod.
“So I trust that you will never try to tell me that I am not your big brother, and I strongly advise you never to utter such a thing to Aragorn. He would not take kindly to that at all, little one.”
“Legolas . . . please,” he murmured, his voice quavering. “Please . . . I-I . . . cannot endure --”
Ahhh. At last. No more fighting the inevitable. I smiled down at him and stroked his honey-colored locks, soft beneath my palm. “Aye, you can endure it. Your pretty bottom has been through much. I know. But I shall not give you more than you can bear.”
And I ended our skirmish of words by finally letting the first spank fall. I knew it would feel awful to him, and clearly it did. Faramir arched his back and howled, then fell into immediate wailing, sounding like Gwin. I kept on, knowing that this was what he sought, and refusing to fail him, regardless of how difficult it was to hear his cries. After the first half dozen swats he seemed over the initial shock and he stopped yelling with each spank. He simply sobbed and kicked and tried to wrench about. I allowed him a little movement to sooth his panic, for he needed that comfort.
I spanked Faramir easily, lightly, but it had to have a meaningful edge to it. He needed something between a gentle ‘comfort spanking’ and an all out spanking such as his brother had given him yesterday. Most of all Faramir yearned for this closeness, the position and the feeling of attention and worthiness, the love from a figure of authority. I marveled, as I often did, that this simple act carried so much power. Faramir was drawing what he needed from it, as we all did, each in his own fashion. To be forced into a situation so overwhelming, forced by a loving hand into a rare and delicious place of protected helplessness . . . ahhh, it warmed and thrilled, each searing spank ripping through the body, leaving you exhausted and softened, stricken, and yet always, always sheltered, watched over, loved.
It might seem unbefitting to feel pleasure in spanking another. When Aragorn or Boromir or one of the little ones lay kicking and crying over my lap, his bottom growing redder and hotter from my spanking hand, it might seem unfeeling to smile, even softly. But I sometimes caught myself doing just that. And I had seen others do the same. Anyone who had spanked another would understand the plain truth of it – doing this for another, with another, was an act of devotion, and it felt good. It could even make one smile. The person over my knee was suffering, but only in the physical sense. Hidden within a spanking were countless, glorious blessings, and those hidden blessings were pleasurable to the soul.
“He is at such peace afterwards,” I had once told Aragorn as I lay watching Boromir sleep in my Ranger’s arms after Aragorn had spanked him soundly for yet another misdeed my little brother knew he should not have done, yet done anyway, Boromir’s oft-practiced cry for attention. I lay on the other side of him, stroking his hair while he slept so quietly he seemed to scarce be breathing. “It is captivating to see him thus. He throws himself into fighting a spanking, struggling against it, then he simply accepts defeat and falls gratefully into that little boy resignation. Such sweet release!”
“Aye,” Aragorn murmured, gazing fondly down at his fledgling. “Little wonder he seeks this so often. He does whatever he must to gain such peace and attention. And, Valar help me, Legolas --” Aragorn turned a glowing look upon me. “How I love that he seeks this so often! I feel as contented and settled within as he does.”
“I know,” I said. “A sound spanking warms both souls, or all three, if you and I are both paddling him.” We exchanged a grin, then I said, “One time, after I had given you a good hiding and you lay sleeping in my arms, Halbarad came upon us, and he knew, in that annoying Dúnedain manner, that I was feeling uneasy for relishing your spanking too much. He said --”
“When was this?” Aragorn interrupted.
I frowned at him. “The Troll Incident.”
“Oh.” Aragorn winced. “Poor Dev. Garrick didn’t even bother to take him off in private to spank him when we got back. He just marched him to one side of camp, yanked down his breeches and tanned poor Devon’s backside.”
“Hmmph. I should have done the same.”
Aragorn darted me a look. “I am glad you practiced restraint.” He grinned his fetching half-grin. “It would not do for the Grey Company to see their Captain treated in such a shameful manner.”
“Hmmm. It vexed me to wait until my watch that night to turn you over my knee, but I made up for it.”
“Indeed you did!”
I went on: “Later, when Halbarad came to relieve me, he said, ‘It is reasonable to feel gratified while spanking him, especially when he has caused you great alarm. At the risk of insulting your elevated heritage, little princeling, such a reaction is only human.’”
Aragorn laughed. He raised his head, glancing over to where the little ones lay sleeping, buried beneath their blankets, then he had relaxed back down and grinned at me again and said, “Well, our Quest hath provided us with many chances to enjoy the blessings a sound bottom warming brings.”
“Indeed.” I had laughed softly. “We are awash in blessings.”
We were still awash in blessings, post Quest. This winsome, hungry young man had provided all three of his big brothers with many of them in just the past few days. Given the sadness of his life with Denethor, I felt that Faramir would continue to provide us with opportunities to enjoy plenty of blessings.
Using a fraction of my usual strength, I spanked him in silence for some time, as is my preference with anyone gracing my knee. Let him feel where he is, what is happening to him, what he cannot escape or wriggle away from or make stop. Let him envision the scene. After he has been alone with his thoughts for a while, his only distraction being his own kicking and weeping and loud cries, then I demand his attention and make him respond to me. Faramir seemed quite ready to be cooperative. I had one specific request – he needed to admit why he was really at the window, and what he had been planning.
“You are behaving beautifully, baby brother.” I waited.
Faramir’s sobbing slowed. He hiccuped through his tears and said, “Th-Thank you.”
I grinned. He had softened already. Had he been at his full warrior potential Faramir would have no doubt given me much more of a fight, probably lasting as long as his intractable older brother often did, stubbornly denying my demands until his bottom was a remarkable shade of red and he simply could bear no more.
But it is only then that they understand, only when discomfort wrenches them from their rebellion and slides them into a realization as to what is really happening here. For a spanking is never about bending another to one’s will through the application of pain. It is something far deeper, something felt with the heart. It is helping another allow themselves the acceptance of grace, letting them first pass through the intensity of a spanking in order to be reminded of certain truths, that they are loved, they are safe, and they are worthy of this attention.
Faramir was now ready to slide into that acceptance. And when the one over my lap turns from his angry resistance and comes to me, ahh, that is most splendid, a warm thrill unlike any other.
I expected no further disobedience from Faramir. He was weakened, and he had been through a blistering spanking only a day earlier, so he could scarce afford defiance. I had already begun to slow my spanks, though still maintaining a certain sincere force. He was ready to accept from me what he so desperately needed.
“I am proud of you, little one. You have been so brave. My brave baby brother.”
Faramir paused and held his breath, then he shattered altogether and he began fresh weeping, this with a more fragile sound to it, the repeated sobs of one lost in helpless abandon. Just those few gentle words finished reducing one obstinate young Captain of the Ithilien Rangers to a little boy stretched over my lap, reaching for me, yearning for acceptance and affection and the assurance of his goodness. Ah, yes, so like his brother.
Aragorn was right – the former Steward had left quite a legacy of sadness and pain. And that was what touched me so about these sons of Denethor, that fragile core and the lonely gaze hidden beneath a capable façade. So like my dearest Gwin. How perfect that Aragorn and I had them now, these two sorrowful brothers. Ours.
“Th-Thank you, Leg-Leg’las,” Faramir finally choked out between his broken weeping.
“You are most welcome, sweetling. And now, let us talk.”
He was slowing. Finally, finally slowing. Yet, it hadn’t been a long spanking . . . yes, it had. And I was in no shape for it. And when that first swat fell it felt . . . it felt very, very bad. Boromir’s teasing words kept dancing through my mind, our little conversation about an elvish spanking:
“ . . . I have no desire to experience an elvish spanking, thank you.”
“Nay, trust me, you do not!”
Oh, indeed, I had not. Yet here I was, over the lap of this beautiful elf, over another lap of another warrior, my third big brother, and I was being walloped on mere conjecture alone. Not very sporting.
And, oh, how this hurt! Hurt, hurt, hurt! I’d quickly become too choked with tears to beg him to stop, too shocked at first to do much more than open my mouth and wail, fire racing through my limbs with each blow. Then all I could do was cry and cry, kick, move a bit as Legolas saw fit to allow, and hope I could withstand what he seemed certain I could.
I had to trust his judgement on that, and I did. Everything Boromir had told me of Legolas, everything I had seen of him thus far and, most of all, Boromir’s complete devotion to him had built a solid foundation of trust within me. Legolas would be careful with me. He would be cautious, as he had been in Boromir’s story of the double spanking he’d received from Legolas and Aragorn.
I was certainly grateful Aragorn and Legolas hadn’t decided to spank me as a team! But, no . . . no . . . they knew better . . . I trusted them to know better, and Boromir trusted them and loved them. My three big brothers. All ready to paddle me if I put a foot wrong. What was it Aragorn had said after spanking me?
“In addition to Boromir, you have me, and you have Legolas, and I urge you not to make the mistake of underestimating him because of his beauty. You also have Halbarad, who I do not think I need tell you not to underestimate, and lastly you have Gimli, another whose strength far exceeds his appearance. You would be well advised to consider all of us when you contemplate doing something foolish. Am I making myself clear?”
Faith! A horde of watchful guardians had descended upon me! Damrod could take some time away and travel to the sea. But the three who would be watching most closely had now made their devotion well known all over my poor backside. My three big brothers. Mine. Just the thought of them, all three of them, caring about me, thinking me worthy – was such a wondrous thing possible?
“Faramir,” Legolas now said.
Oh. A response. Yes, he wanted a response. And, ohhhhh, yes, yes, his spanks had slowed to a near stop, becoming even lighter in force. I had realized from the start that Legolas wasn’t using near the strength he could have, thank the stars. The strength he had been using was quite sufficient.
I heard him sniff and knew he’d cracked a grin. Perhaps a bit more decorum was called for, if . . . if only I could find where it had gotten to.
“I-I mean . . . I m-mean, yes, s-sir?”
“Better, little one. Stay with me. No drifting off in your mind. Do you understand?”
Well, it made sense, that. Elvish insight, I suppose. Or perhaps a sense that had sharpened with his vast spanking experience – this knowing that another was not quite paying attention to the matter at hand, but was off on some inner journ--
“Faramir!” A hard swat descended.
“OWWW! Yes, s-sir. I unnners-stand. No drift-ting. S-Stay. I un-unnerstand.”
“Good. Then let us now talk about why you were at the window.”
Talk . . . now we would talk. Very well. I could do little else. I’d tried talking my way out of this earlier, but the elf had made the rules for our match and I was at a definite disadvantage since he had decided to avoid the tedium of playing fair. Rather a forgone conclusion as to how that was going to end, not that I saw it at the time. I could do no better fighting him with words than Boromir had fighting him with physical strength. Wretched elf.
“Faramir!” A most sincere spank descended.
“AHHH! YES! What, what, what?!”
Legolas heaved a short sigh. “Do I need to cease comfort spanking and go back to a full spanking, baby brother?”
Comfort spanking? What was that? Whatever it was it sounded preferable to a full spanking. “NO! No, p-please, Leg’las. I-I am with you, s-sir.”
“Then answer me – why were you at the window?”
There was no other choice but the truth. I knew I could trust him with it. He wouldn’t think less of me. But . . . oh! To admit to such foolishness! OH! I simply started weeping again. How could I tell him? How could I have been so stupid? Hot embarrassment slithered through every part of my body.
“Shhh, sweetling, shhh,” Legolas purred, his voice soft, musical, lulling. “It is safe to tell me, Faramir. Nothing you say will make me think less of you. I shall love you no matter what manner of nonsense you had planned.”
What? Love me? How . . . and yet . . . yet, if he did not care for me, l-love me, would he go to the trouble of spanking me like this?
“Faramir, hear me,” Legolas demanded. “My love for you will not change sweetling, even when you admit the truth of your thoughts to me. So you will answer me now. Why were you at the window? Why I am spanking you, baby brother?”
Baby brother . . . baby brother . . . why was he spanking me . . . like Boromir . . . like my big brother . . . like that time Boromir . . . when he . . . .”
“Faramir. Think. Why am I spanking you?”
“Because you f-found out that my friends and I w-were trying that tr-trick you for-forbade, try-trying to s-stand on our saddles at full g-gallop--”
“N-No? Then why, in the name of the Black--OWWW! Ahhh!”
“No. I am unhappy with what you did, Faramir, and you shall be walking for a fortnight as I had promised you. You are not even to approach the stables. I warned you to never attempt such a foolhardy trick, and you deliberately disobeyed me, little boy.”
“And that is w-why you are sp-spanking me!”
“Is it? Aye. It does seem so on the surface. That is the reason you are over my knee. But look deeper. Use that special vision you have been gifted with. Why am I really spanking you, my sweet baby brother?”
“Be . . . because . . . because you l-love me.”
“Aye. You are here because I love you. Because I care about you. You know that I shall never look away when you have been disobedient, nor will I ignore your recklessness. Any time you needlessly endanger yourself I shall haul you over my knee and spank you until your little bottom glows. I love you, Faramir. That is why you are here, so I will continue to paddle your behind until your defiance is purged and I hear from you what I need to hear. Then you and I will talk of this, and when we have said all that needs saying, then, little one, your spanking will stop. So, you see, you do have the power to sway my hand, Faramir, but I shall know it if you are not sincere, and you will find the consequences of that very unpleasant indeed. Now, what have you to say?”
“Y-You are . . . Leg’las, you are s-spanking me be-because y-you care about m-me . . . because y-you love . . . l-love m-mee? Is that r-right?”
Legolas paused. I heard him gasp. Then: “Ai! Faramir! How very wise you are! So quick and clever! Aye, precious baby brother. That is indeed right! Because I love you, and because you were planning something very naughty, something that would hurt my gwador laes. Is that not true, little one?”
I nodded fast, eagerly, loving his praise, aching now to tell him all. “Y-Yes! Leg’las, I-I was planning to g-go up the w-wall, escape up the v-vines, like I did wh-when I was tw-twelve!” I blurted out, a fresh burst of tears following my confession.
“Very good, sweetling. How brave you are to be so truthful. But that was a naughty deed to plan, little one,” Legolas murmured, his tone lightly scolding, but far from harsh. “You are injured, and something tells me, my bright child, that you had little real hope of accomplishing such a naughty escape. True?”
I buried my face in the bedding and wept softly, saying, “Yessssss. I-I . . . ohhh, Leg’las!” I raised my head and looked back at him, seeing his shockingly beautiful face, full of concern, his compassionate blue eyes watching me. “Leg’las I couldn’t do-do it! I could n-not!”
“Of course you could not, precious baby brother,” he murmured. “I know you could not. And you knew it as well, deep inside. Poor, poor little one. You could not escape, and yet you were planning it. But thank you for your honesty, sweetling. That was very brave of you. And I do still love you, my Faramir. That remains unchanged and still strong.”
My view of him suddenly became lost behind another veil of fresh tears. Proud of me. Still loved me. Yes, yes, this was a love such as Boromir’s and Aragorn’s, such as Damrod’s . . . unconditional love – a phrase almost too magical to be real.
“Faramir, you were planning something naughty, were you not?”
“When you have been naughty, what do you say?”
“I’m s-sorry! Leg’las, oh, big brother, I-I’m so, so sorry!”
He made a small cry and scooped me up, softly, quickly, gathering me to him, my bottom sliding down between his spread legs, his strong arms encircling me, enfolding me against his body, my head gratefully falling to his shoulder, his soft cloud of fragrant hair offering me a secluded haven into which I could bury my wet face. All I could do was weep, wrap my arms around him, hold on, and listen to him, listen to his elvish purr, and his murmured endearments. I finally had to start babbling, had to tell him . . . .
“S-Sorry, Leg’las. Sorry, b-big b-brother . . . sorry, sorry, sorry . . . .”
“Shhhh, little one, shhhh. I know you are sorry. I know. Enough apologies. Your naughtiness is forgiven. All is well. And I am so very proud of you, Faramir. So proud.”
His words continued to flow over me, warm honeyed words my soul lavished in. I squirmed for loving them so. And now I had to talk, tell him all, share all that was so big within me: “I-I j-just wanted . . . so so s-s-scared . . . couldn’t let him go! Oh, Leg’las! To-To see him go off again! L-Leave me again!”
“My poor gwador laes. How terrible for you! Your beloved big brother was leaving yet again without you.”
I clung to him, wept anew, and said, “N-Not again! I-I couldn’t lose h-him again!”
“And so you planned something desperate and dangerous, anything to stay with him.”
Legolas began to slowly rock me. “Aye, of course. Shhh, I see, sweetling. I know. I know.”
His rocking felt so good. He felt so good, so strong, so safe. He held me, just held me, letting me weep softly and soak his silky tresses with tears. I had no sense of time. Perhaps he rocked me for minutes, perhaps for hours. He spoke in that hum of a voice, gentle words, words that bathed me in the most indescribable warmth and pleasure. I listened for a long time, long after my tears had stopped and I’d gone quiet. Mmmm. Another big brother. My elvish big brother. And soon, as though reading my mind, Legolas murmured:
“Faramir, what special name of fondness have I chosen for you?”
I smiled and replied, “Gwador laes.”
I heard him smile back, and he rubbed his head against mine; then he turned and kissed my cheek. “Aye, baby brother. Very good. And such perfect articulation. You speak the elvish well.”
“Thank you. Leg’las?”
“I . . . I like it.” I pulled back from his shoulder to look at him. “I like my special name.”
Again he released a soft grin. “Do you, sweetling?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
“No more fighting the indignity of it, young bratling of Gondor?”
I blushed and shook my head and smiled up at him. “No, sir.”
Legolas flashed his ready smile. “I understand, Faramir. ‘Baby’ brother is perhaps a more private name than is ‘little’ brother, is it not?” I felt another softer blush warm my face. Legolas grinned again, then said, “I shall try to speak your ‘special’ name only in the elvish when others are near, lest your standing be lessened.”
He watched me, seemingly delighted, his eyes full of affection. Then Legolas brushed the hair back from the sides of my face, suddenly distracted and slowly sobering. “I know this fear you speak of, little one,” he said in a hushed voice. “It can be overwhelming.”
I pulled further back to study him better. Legolas? Afraid? Again he read my thoughts.
“Aye, sweetling. Elves can be killed of course, but for an immortal, the greater fear lies in the possible sudden death of those we love.”
I drew a soft breath. And I knew that he did indeed understand. I nodded solemnly. Legolas watched me, then he reached out and guided my head back to his shoulder. He began rocking again.
“Boromir told Aragorn and I of a strong sense he had – that all would be well after this final battle, that good would triumph over the dark forces of Sauron. He said that you felt something similar. Is that true?”
I squeezed and rubbed the fistful of his hair I held in my hand. “I . . . I guess.”
“I . . . I would like to believe that feeling, but . . . but --”
“Come, Faramir. Look at me.”
Legolas shifted my head up from his shoulder and again swept the tangled curls from my face. I looked directly at him. He watched me closely; then he said, “Boromir told us what happened with you and Denethor and your shared Sight that was proven false. But if you would be so kind, little one, I would hear this tale from you. Will you humor me, sweetling?” he asked.
And suddenly I wanted nothing more than to share my fears with this extraordinary warrior Prince. So I started telling Legolas of my last vision, of Boromir in a funeral boat, and of how it was proven false, and how that had never happened to me before. It troubled me still, sitting in the back of my mind, taunting me and making me doubt my Sight.
Legolas let me speak, watching me with his quietly wise and patient gaze as I spoke on and on. I told him more about that day, of Denethor’s hateful words and manner and of how it was through him that I came to believe for an agonizing second time that my beloved brother was dead. And I told him of my father’s near-demented behavior when discussing the Sight and our shared vision.
“My Sight had never proven false, and Denethor and I had never shared the same vision,” I murmured. A sudden shiver raced up my spine. I stared off, remembering that day, seeing my father’s mocking look and hearing his snarled words:
“I had the same exact vision, you know. Down to the detail.”
“Faramir. Stop.” Legolas gave me a small shake. “Look at me, baby brother. You are here with me now, not back there. You shall never again be subject to such a scene. Stay with me, sweetling.”
I focused back on Legolas. He gazed levelly at me, beautiful and commanding and ever protective, his mesmerizing voice dragging me right back into his secure embrace. “I am fine, big brother,” I said with a nod. “Thank you.”
His soft smile returned. “You did well, little one. I wanted to hear your version of this and to watch you as you told it. And I now understand why you would be reluctant to trust your Sight after such an ordeal. My poor gwador laes.” He gazed at me, a soft sadness in his eyes; then he kissed my brow and said, “Come. Let me settle you better. Then I shall tell you what Aragorn and Gandalf and I discussed this morning.”
Legolas took the same position Boromir had been taking for days now, leaning his back against the headboard and gathering me to him, with me lying on my side, resting upon him. I yelped a few times when my bottom was accidentally jarred, and Legolas tried to hide his little grin, though he didn’t try all that hard. I couldn’t help joining him, wretched talented elf.
When we had settled, he said, “Your brother and Aragorn and I were troubled when Gandalf first told us of the vision you shared with Denethor. Gandalf wanted to ponder the matter for a few days. But this morning, when you and Boromir were here breakfasting with the little ones, Aragorn and I spoke to Gandalf again, asking for any insight he could give us.”
Legolas paused and stroked my hair, then: “You heard of what happened to King Theoden, sweetling?”
“Gandalf pondered Denethor’s erratic behavior. He wondered if perhaps something akin to that was happening to the Steward. He had no proof of such a thing, but he said that it was indeed possible.” Again Legolas paused; then he said, “Faramir, was there anything about your vision of Boromir’s death, save the subject of it, that was unlike all your previous visions? Any element that was different?”
I was nodding before he finished the question. “Yes! I thought it most strange. Usually the Sight comes to me in vivid color, appearing just as the world looks. But this vision was cast all in blue, everything shaded in tones of blue and grey. I had never seen that before. It was eerie, mystifying . . . and . . . and --” Again I shivered, and I looked off, seeing my brother, dead in that boat . . . .
“Faramir!” Legolas shook me slightly, saying, “Nay, little one. Enough of that. I did not give you leave to stray from me. Must I have you over my knee to keep you from wandering?”
“NO!” I looked up and saw his gently scolding grin. “Pardon, sir,” I said.
He hugged me again, softly this time. “’Tis all right, bratling. You told me much. I take it you have not mentioned this fact to anyone before now?” At the shake of my head, he continued: “Hmm. Faramir . . . Gandalf said that unless the vision came to you in the exact same manner as it always did, he suspected that the vision you had was not the Sight at all.”
What? I shot up to stare at Legolas, ignoring the hot jolt from my protesting backside. My heart raced. My stomach tightened. “What? I don’t underst – ! Not-Not the Sigh – ! What?”
“Shhh, baby brother, shhhh.” Legolas calmly gathered me to him again, this time lifting me back up onto his lap, once more letting my bottom fall between his spread legs. He held me close, his arms a safe haven. “Be at ease, sweetling. ‘Tis frightening, I am certain, the notion of something else controlling your thoughts. We knew it would be an upsetting thing to hear, but you had to be told. Hush now, little one. Breathe softly for me. Mmmmm. When you have calmed, I will go on.”
“No, please go on, Legolas,” I said, eager for more. Troubling though this was, there was a comfort in understanding. “I’m better now.”
He watched me with a careful eye for a moment before he continued: “Gandalf hastened to remind us that he knows nothing for certain. We may never know how this happened to you and Denethor. But Gandalf formed a notion: Perhaps, in some mysterious way, a false vision came to Denethor by way of a dark source, through some kind of link both known and invited by Denethor.”
“Aye, though Gandalf felt that Denethor did not know it was the Dark Lord speaking to him. But Sauron would know how to strike at Gondor from within. Such a horrible vision, passed on as the Sight, would serve to do exactly what it did – it would demoralize those in power, cripple them with grief, even to the point of madness.”
“Yes,” I said, remembering too well what the dark vision had done to me.
“Ere he made his open assault by sending a part of his armies to strike Minas Tirith, the Dark Lord would first seek to weaken Gondor from within by wounding the heart of its power, as Saruman had in Rohan.”
“Denethor,” I murmured, seeing it all far too well. “But how . . . how would he --”
“Gandalf knew not. He said again that we may never know how Sauron manipulated Denethor, or even if he did, but this new knowledge of how the vision looked to you adds to Gandalf’s thought that it was something other than the Sight.” Legolas paused again, studying me silently for a moment before continuing: “If indeed Sauron had taken control of Denethor, Gandalf felt that it was Denethor who then somehow managed to control your vision, his madness and bitterness running deep. Anything could have come from that corruption.”
And, suddenly, the horrible truth of what had nearly happened slammed into me.
“Aye, baby brother,” Legolas said. “Should these notions be true, Sauron nearly succeeded. Frodo was within Denethor’s grasp, so the Ring was within Sauron’s grasp.”
“Oh!” I breathed, feeling ill. “I did that! I brought Frodo here! Legolas, what nearly happened because of me!”
Legolas shook his head. “Nay, little one. Consider instead the good you did. You released Frodo. You found within you the strength to let the Ring go.”
“No! I-I listened to Sam talking. I found that strength through his words.”
“No matter how you found it, Faramir, you did find it. Despite your own grief, despite the suffering you knew would befall you when Denethor learned what you had done, you found your honor and did as your heart dictated. It was an extraordinary act. And in releasing Frodo, you thwarted the Dark Lord.”
Legolas smiled at me, but I could only gaze at him without seeing him, thinking over all he said.
“Faramir.” He waited until he had my attention, then he said, “I told you this that you might find some comfort in it. Sweetling, you may again trust the Sight with which you have been gifted. It did not give you that false vision. Your Sight is still credible. So the feeling you and Boromir have sensed, this belief that all will be well after the battle to come, is also worthy of your confidence.”
I felt my jaw drop. It was true! “Ohhhh!” was all I could say.
Legolas chuckled. “Well said, little one. I feel the same way.”
“You?” I stared at him. “You believe in this feeling of ours?”
“Of course,” he said, tousling my hair. Pulling me close again, he quietly said, “Many times I have watched Aragorn face the most impossible battles, guided by some mysterious force within him, a belief that Fate has a hand in all he does and that we must stay true to one another. He has often told me, “Legolas, you can scarce go wrong when following your heart.” It is his inner core of trust that sustains him, his trust that, if he does all he can, he will be at peace. In the end, that is all he can do, all any of us can do, follow where our hearts lead us, stay true to one another, and do all we can do.”
He glanced down at me. “I know it is difficult to think of Boromir riding away yet again, to place your trust in the unknown. But, like Aragorn, when you do so, you are also doing all you can do.
“Fate has kept both you and Boromir alive through your own impossible battles. Fate has now placed you here, Faramir, here to safeguard this home for when we return. Aragorn can lead his army into the field with his mind at peace, knowing that Minas Tirith is being held in good hands. And your protective big brother’s mind will also be at ease, knowing you are here, healing, as well you should be.
“That is what you are to do, sir, anchor this city and these people with your presence, hold on to that belief that all will be well, and perhaps even share your insight with another who might be suffering from hopelessness and despair. It is a post of great responsibility, a duty far more valuable than what little you would be able to contribute on the battlefield. Your efforts need not take place in battle for them to have meaning.”
I watched this ethereal being smile down at me, his words flowing through me, easing my heart, and I smiled in return and said, “Ahh, my elvish big brother. Now I know what Boromir means when he says I am ‘eloquent as an elf.’”
He grinned and kissed my brow and said, “And so you are. I have witnessed your gifts.”
I blushed and squirmed and immediately yelped when my backside grazed the bedding. Legolas chuckled anew. I darted him a frown.
“I see nothing funny in this.” I sulked. “I shall be unable to sit for days.”
“Good,” Legolas shot back. “Then you can lie abed and heal. I --”
Suddenly, his head snapped towards the door and Legolas went silent. After a moment he muttered, “What are those two doing here?”
Legolas cocked his head a little, as though listening to something. Ah, Boromir had told me of the profound hearing of the elves. Legolas focused on the door and grinned. Then he grinned more. I gazed at him, entertained by him, smiling myself just from watching him.
Suddenly he darted me a look and said, “Best you cover your lower half, baby brother. We are about to have company.”
“All I’m saying is that we should’ve let him know.”
“But then it wouldn’t be a surprise, now would it, Pip?”
We hurried down the passageway from the women’s wing in the Houses of Healing. “We wanted to surprise him, remember? Distract him from his upset. Sing for him, tell him a story, anything to lift his spirits. Bad enough we’re all leaving him here by himself tomorrow. He shouldn’t have to spend the morning all alone, too.”
“For the tenth time, Merry, I agree, but what if he’s sleeping?”
I scoffed. “Highly unlikely, considering how worked up he was earlier.”
“Aye, but that’s been some time ago. We visited with Eowyn for quite a while.”
“I know, but my lady was so happy to see us. And she needed company, too. I’m glad she spotted us on our way here.”
”So am I. She did seem lonely.”
“I know. And with all the Rohirrim riding off tomorrow, and Eomer leaving --” I sighed. My lady had often looked sad, but I had never seen her looking quite so sad.
We turned the corner and headed down the last corridor towards our room at the end. Good thing, too. I was getting tired.
“Aragorn is going to give us that look,” Pip muttered.
“No, he won’t. We’re doing something nice for Faramir. Aragorn will like that. Boromir will like it, too.”
“We’re takin’ a chance, though. I don’t relish the thought of another soapy mouth, and I certainly don’t want another spanking!”
“That’s about the tenth time you said that, too, ever since Boromir and Aragorn let us down at the gate, and I’ll tell you again, you didn’t lie. I didn’t either.” Pip now gave me that look. “After all, what did I say? I said you wanted to show me some of Minas Tirith before we left tomorrow. That’s all I said. And we saw the city the whole way up here. As I see it, that’s hardly cause for a soaping, Pip, and certainly no cause for a spanking.”
“It doesn’t matter how you see it, Merry. It’s how Aragorn sees it that matters. Something about all this makes me feel squirmy.”
I said, “It’ll be fine. We’re not doing anything naughty. We’re doing something nice.”
“I guess you’re right. And this was one of your better plans, Merry. I do love you so.”
We paused outside the door to the room Pip and I had shared with Faramir for days and I grabbed my little mite and kissed him soundly. “I love you, too. C’mon. Let’s go in quietly and quickly. Quietly in case he really is sleeping and quickly to surprise him in case he isn’t.”
Pippin grinned and nodded and we raced into our room and froze. As usual, my Pip had something to say:
“He isn’t sleeping, Merry.”
Faramir was trying to keep his nightshirt from scrunching up while he scrambled from Legolas’ lap. It wasn’t working. His shirt snagged once and got dragged up, and, well, it was clear why Legolas had stayed behind.
“What are you two doing here?” Legolas demanded.
We flinched at the sudden yelp. Faramir had tried to sit.
Legolas sighed and gave a wry little grin and shook his head, saying, “Alas, sir, I fear your dignity is compromised. Come. At least be comfortable.” And he grabbed Faramir up and pulled him onto his lap, letting Faramir’s backside fall suspended between his spread legs.
Pippin finally untied his tongue.
“You spanked him? Faramir was spanked again?!”
Faramir’s face instantly went a shocking rose red. But before Legolas could get out an exasperated, “Peregrin To--” Pippin said, “Good!”
We all turned to stare at him. “Aye, good,” Pip said, looking determined. “I’m sorry Faramir, but good for Legolas.”
I started in a diplomatically scolding tone, “Pip --”
“Well, aren’t you relieved, Merry?” he interrupted in a haughty voice. “After worrying that we’d given him ideas this morning with our talk of Eowyn, aren’t you glad Legolas discouraged Faramir from doing something daring?”
“Well . . . yes . . . but . . . well --” And I had no idea why I was protesting.
Pip turned back to the big folk. “That is why you spanked him, isn’t it Legolas? To make certain he promises to behave himself and stay put?”
Legolas looked so stunned it was almost funny. But Faramir just plain burst out laughing. “Yes, you halfling brat,” he said. “That is why.”
Legolas joined his laughter. He nudged Faramir and said, “You did not promise to behave yourself, sir.”
“Good,” Pip said with a firm nod. “That’s settled then.” He heaved a satisfied sigh and turned to me with a grin. “I feel much better now, don’t you, Merry?”
“Yes,” I said. “Much.”
We grinned and scooted over and scrambled up to sit on the end of Faramir’s bed.
“And now, young sirs, answer me,” Legolas said. “Why are you here?”
“Yes,” Faramir said. “You should be riding across Pelennor with my brother and Aragorn. Have they returned early?”
“No,” I said. “We asked to be let off at the main gate.”
“We kept thinking about you all alone here, Faramir, and we wanted to come keep you company,” Pip said.
“We talked about it on our way down to the stables, before Aragorn and Boromir caught up with us,” I added. “We decided to say that Pippin wanted to show me a little of the city, where his room was and where he’d fought alongside Gandalf during the attack, things like that.”
“So Aragorn does not know that you were planning to come here?” Legolas asked, his brows raised.
He asked it innocently enough, but Pip and I still glanced at each other. Now I started feeling a bit squirmy about this, too. We hadn’t exactly lied about why we wanted to stay in the city, but we hadn’t exactly told the whole truth, either.
“Hmmm.” Faramir eyed us closely. “My guess is that you didn’t exactly lie about why you wanted to stay in the city, but you didn’t exactly tell the whole truth, either.”
Pippin sucked a sharp breath. “That’s it!” He slammed his little palms down on the bed and shot me a look. “That’s it spelled flat out, Merry! That’s what’s been making me feel squirmy!”
I nodded and winced. Faramir watched me with a knowing glint in his eye.
“How’d you know that, Faramir?” Pip asked, delighted.
“Years of experience, Master Took.”
“Well,” Pippin continued, “we were afraid that if we told Aragorn what we wanted to do he might tell us that you needed to rest and to leave you be. So we thought it best to come up with a little something else to say.”
“A little something else.” Faramir chuckled. “I’ve never tried to call it that.”
“It wasn’t really a lie, though,” Pippin said. “We did what we said we were going to do. We saw the city, right Merry? All the way up to here.”
Faramir shook his head and kept up his low chuckling. “Ahh, Pippin,” he muttered.
Legolas then said, “Merry.”
I reluctantly turned my eyes to him. He was watching me with his odd mixture of patience and amusement. “Your plan I take it, Master Brandybuck?” he asked me.
“Oh, Merry is quite the planner of plans,” Faramir said. “He planned our escape several days ago.”
“Aye,” Legolas said, watching me with disapproving fondness. “And a good thing it was that Halbarad invited Gimli and I to join him in the courtyard and help him capture any patients who were naughty enough to stage an escape.”
“Good thing, indeed!” Pippin muttered with a snort. “You walloped me senseless for my part in that, Legolas.”
“And gave me the worst soaping I’ve ever had.”
“And you left Aragorn’s bathing chamber awash in broken glass,” Faramir added, his eyes positively glittering with delight.
“Indeed he did!” Legolas said with mock outrage. “I am surprised they did not need to lay new tile.” We all laughed, Pippin most of all, while Legolas went on: “He was quite the small orcish berserker.”
When we’d calmed down, Pip sighed and said, “Ah, mercy me, but flinging those bottles was fun.” And he set us off laughing again.
“But was the effort worth the cost, sir?” Faramir asked.
“Quite,” Pip replied.
Legolas shook his head. “You are shameless, Master Took.”
Pippin grinned, pleased with himself and having a fine time. Then he sobered suddenly and asked, “Are we in trouble, Legolas? I mean, do you think Aragorn will be upset?”
Legolas ‘hmmm-ed.’ He glanced at Faramir. Faramir ‘hummm-ed.’
“Would you like some advice on the matter, young sirs?” Faramir said.
“Yes, please,” I replied.
“Do not try to wiggle around what you did.”
“Aye,” Legolas said. “Do not disguise your deed by claiming that you had to think up a ‘little something else to say.’”
“And no claiming that you didn’t exactly lie, but didn’t exactly tell the whole truth,” Faramir added. “Instead, be honest about your offenses, and call to attention the good of your intent. For it was good intent and kindness that led you here, my little friends.” Faramir smiled. “You could have been riding around Pelennor, enjoying the morning, but instead you thought of another who might be in need, and you risked Aragorn’s displeasure by following your hearts.” Faramir glanced at Legolas then, and said, “You can scarce go wrong when following your heart.”
“Well said, gwador laes,” Legolas murmured with a soft smile.
Pip glanced at me. “Gwador laes?” he whispered.
I shrugged and shook my head.
“You have heard some expert advice, gentlemen,” Legolas now said. “Aragorn will see the goodness of your deed, and my feeling is that the good in this case will outweigh the naughtiness.”
Pip and I grinned at each other.
“However,” Faramir said, playfully stern, “You have intruded most rudely upon our privacy.”
“Indeed you have,” Legolas agreed with a fake scowl. He turned to Faramir, “If they had burst in here a bit earlier --”
“Please! Stop!” Faramir cried before Legolas could finish the thought. Turning a frown upon us, Faramir went on: “Penance is due for your grievous misconduct, young sirs.” Looking at Legolas he asked, “Do you agree?”
“Indeed. But what penance?”
Faramir narrowed his eyes with gentle seriousness and regarded Pip and me. “We are due some entertainment.”
“But,” Pip squeaked, “that’s what we had planned!”
“Then you had best get on with it,” Legolas said.
Now Pip and I were all smiles. “Song or story?” I asked.
“Story,” Faramir said wiggling around to get more comfortable on Legolas.
“You tell one,” Pippin said to me.
“Pippin, no. I’m no storyteller.”
“You are, too,” he insisted. He darted the big folk a look. “Merry’s a fine storyteller.”
“I’m not either!”
“Gentlemen,” Legolas said, and it was really all he needed to say. He could sound just like Aragorn at times.
We finally agreed that Pippin would tell a story, which is what he really wanted all along anyway.
Pippin turned to Faramir. “What kind of story would you like to hear?”
Before he could answer, Legolas said, “Do you have a story about a hobbit that needed to stay abed and heal, but was very naughty and refused to do so?”
I grinned and Faramir grinned, though his face bloomed again with redness. But Pippin’s fair cheeks were even redder.
“As a matter of fact,” I said. “Pip knows a story exactly like that.”
“Merry!” Pippin huffed. “For goodness sake!”
But I glanced at him, then darted my eyes to Faramir, then back to Pip, silently urging him to look at Faramir, too. Pippin did.
Faramir looked so contented and so happy it was a joy to see, and few things tickle my Pippin’s kind heart more than making others happy, so he grinned and said, “Ohhh, very well. But I warn you, the story ends rather badly for the naughty hobbit.”
“Perfect!” Legolas exclaimed.
And so, Pippin began . . . .
End Chapter VI part I – An Elvish Assurance
Ere The Final March, Chapter VI part II to be continued . . .