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Ere The Final March VII chapter III
A Singular Comfort
part I of II
“Sometimes a spanking is not exactly deserved, but it is greatly needed. You are in need of a sound spanking, little boy, and I mean to make certain you receive a good long one.”
I stood there, watching Halbarad gaze at me with that determined look I knew all too well. I had first seen that look in a cave many years ago, moments before he had stormed my way and hauled me up over his shoulder. Incredibly powerful man, Halbarad.
I truly disliked that look, though.
No. No, I hated that look. I truly hated that look!
I felt my face harden into the glare I usually reserve for an orc whose head I was about to separate from its body. Hal remained dauntingly tranquil. Oddly, I felt not only that queasy stomach flutter that came with an imminent spanking from my lieutenant, but a wave of the belligerence I used to feel at such a moment in my youth.
So, he was indeed going to spank me. Spank me! Why? He had best have a very good reason why, and he did not. He had no reason! I had done nothing to deserve this! And regardless of his comment about it not being deserved, but being greatly needed, that was absurd. I did not greatly need this. If Hal had exercised the courtesy to ask me, I would have gladly told him – “No, sir. Your superior insights with regards to my disciplinary needs are wrong. No. No!”
Why would I seek such a thing? Why would he think I needed such a thing? I had done all I could. I had led as best I could. Granted, I had made a few mistakes of late. Of course I had. I knew that I had. But, as mistakes go, mine were small ones, and I had done the best I could! All right, those mistakes had caused those I loved some distress. I knew that, too! I should not have sent Gwinthorian to Osgiliath. I should not have separated Boromir and Faramir. That was blatant thoughtlessness, and because of my thoughtlessness, Faramir had suffered; Pippin had suffered; Gwinthorian had suffered and Boromir had thrown several backside-risking fits upon learning of his little brother’s behavior in his absence. Very well, I admit it. All that was my doing.
But I had truly done all I could in every other respect, all that was expected of me. And tomorrow I would be leading thousands of brave warriors from many noble races to a battle we could not possibly win. I was to lead them to their deaths. I was to be the instrument of their deaths. I did not want to be the instrument of anyone’s death. I did not want this. I had never wanted it. I most certainly did not want it now.
And Halbarad stood there ready to spank me? Of all the unfair – no. No!
No, No, No, No, NO!
I almost roared it. I almost did. Instead I held my tongue and redoubled my glare and Halbarad redoubled his blasted serene composure. It was all I could do to check my rage! It seemed a rage excessive to the moment, but I felt it nonetheless. It surged, burned, burst inside me! It wanted out, and I longed to let it explode, just explode, roaring off like one of Gandalf’s fireworks! I clenched my fists. I ground my teeth. I glared at my lieutenant. I ached to do something loud and violent!
I wanted to storm around this beautifully appointed room, hurling furniture! I wanted to kick something hard and fall to my knees and howl as I had when we thought Merry and Pippin were dead and burned in that pile of orc corpses! I wanted to bellow a roar that would shake the foundations of this city! And I fully understood Pippin’s actions in the bathing chamber a few days ago. What perfect sense! I wondered if Halbarad would lift a brow if I charged in there, slammed the door, waited for him to follow me, then started hurling bottles at him. The thought made me burst into a bitter laugh.
My laugh had an interesting affect on my lieutenant. Halbarad actually looked a bit . . . miffed. He narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest and simply watched me with his thoroughly unnerving stillness. Oh, indeed, my lieutenant was clearly put out.
I rather liked it.
Of course, Halbarad had no idea I was laughing at my own absurd imaginings. He clearly thought I was laughing at him and his not-so-veiled threats. I should have corrected his false impression. I should have. That would have been the polite thing to do, the decent thing to do. But, to my surprise, I just stood there, being impolite and indecent and thinking that this must be how Legolas felt when he deliberately mounted his horse at the Ranger camp a few nights ago and rode away, leaving me with no word.
I rather liked this, too.
I wondered what had gotten into me. I did not care what had gotten into me! Whatever had gotten into me it felt familiar and sweetly dangerous. I had not felt this for a very long time. It felt, for lack of a better word . . . Valar help me, it felt . . . naughty. Perhaps the weight of responsibility had finally begun affecting me. I had slipped into madness. It truly had been only a matter of time.
Had Legolas been acting like this I would have known what had gotten into him. Legolas needed a certain kind of attention and he knew how to get it. But I was not seeking that kind of attention. No. I was not. I might not know what had gotten into me, but I did know that I was not seeking attention of any kind . . . .
I truly hated that look of his!
I wondered if I flustered whomever I was about to take over my knee like this. Halbarad made seconds last for years with that steady and wrenchingly even gaze of his. It shot right through a person and lodged itself somewhere around the midsection, making the stomach clench.
I remembered this feeling. Just two years ago Hal had looked at me in that same manner, the time when I had been trying to learn a dangerous elvish trick on horseback and instead ended up with a broken arm, two broken ribs and in disgrace with, of all souls, Gwinthorian. Halbarad, in an impressive display of stamina, had first spanked Gwin, who had goaded me into my very poor choice, then tanned me as well, showing no sign of fatigue. I marveled that I survived the humiliation.
That was not the way it worked! Hal spanked Gwin and I spanked Legolas. That was the way of things! But to be spanked alongside Gwinthorian? I was Hal’s equal – no, I was his superior, his Captain! I did not deserve to be demeaned that way alongside his brat of an elfling!
But, as the Grey Company happened to be in Mirkwood at the time, Thranduil, along with Glorfindel and several other elders in attendance, including, unfortunately, my own ada, decided otherwise, awarding the disciplinary duties to a very eager Halbarad.
“I vow you could do with a bit of humbling, Estel,” Elrond said, adding, with an ominous lift of one eyebrow, “Be grateful, my son, that I am not dealing with you myself.”
Having experienced Halbarad’s spanking skills when he was determined to make a point, I saw no reason to feel grateful. Oh, how I’d struggled with the entire matter! I resolved to not break down, forgetting, in my fury, that Halbarad would simply keep spanking until I displayed a suitable response to his efforts. I was determined to respond with silent defiance. Of all the idiocy.
And I knew what was coming. I had watched Gwinthorian go first. Hal made me watch.
“You entered into this pact of dangerous horseplay together, Aragorn. You took Asfolath without Glorfindel’s knowledge or permission. You knew you were only to practice that ridiculous stunt when Legolas was there to help you. Gwin goaded you on and you took the bait. So you will be spanked in the presence of each other. Now attend!”
Attend indeed! I had actually been tempted to pull rank. Not that it would have done much good when a slew of elvish elders had already passed judgment and when Halbarad was in the kind of a mood he was clearly in. He had been waiting with uncharacteristic and forbidding impatience until my broken arm and ribs healed and I was well enough to have the waywardness spanked out of me. The wait had done nothing to cool his ire.
I had struggled to remain composed while Hal’s noisy elfling bawled and kicked and wept and put on his usual shameless display. I swore I would not degrade myself in that manner when I took his place. After all, I had been over my lieutenant’s knee before. Halbarad had spanked me off and on over the years. However, it had been a while. In fact, it had been nearly fifteen or twenty years since the last time I had invited Devon to join me in another one of my little private adventures that somehow went badly, as they all seemed to go badly, and I had ended up over Hal’s knee.
Garrick, Halbarad and Legolas had always taken a dim view of the harmless adventuring Devon and I enjoyed several times a year. When whatever crisis we quite innocently spawned had been resolved, leaving us to face what Dev called ‘certain doom,’ Legolas and Halbarad would decide which one of them would attend to my disciplinary matters. Halbarad usually assumed the duty. Legolas was the disciplinarian in my life, except when the Rangers were involved, and then Hal took over, after discussing it with Legolas, of course, out of courtesy.
Caring little about courtesy, I had once loftily demanded a vote in the matter and found myself spanked by both Hal and Legolas, each of them well riled and eager to impress upon me the unseemliness of my suggestion, a ghastly memory that made my bottom tingle to this day.
However, calmly awaiting my turn two years ago as Hal spanked his elfling, I told myself that Gwinthorian was simply being his usual excessive self. Truly, how bad could it be? Gwin always filled the air with wailing. When Halbarad finally finished with Gwinthorian he handed him over to Legolas, who had been in attendance to take his beloved kinsman onto his lap and comfort him after his ordeal. Gwin struggled for about two heartbeats before he settled down and began soaking up his Prince’s comfort; then my lieutenant turned to me and crooked a wicked beckoning finger.
Halbarad grabbed me the moment I neared, hauled me over his knee, bared my backside and began spanking me with breathtaking enthusiasm. I instantly recalled the dreadfulness of a Hal who meant business. I held out with dignity, but my willful intent soon shattered and by the time Halbarad had finished with me I had surely outperformed Gwin. My respect for him heightened. Slight though he may be, Gwinthorian was made of stronger stuff than I was.
Two years ago had been quite recent enough, thank you. I did not want Halbarad to spank me with that level of enthusiasm now or ever again. And watching him study me, patiently ready to deal with me in whatever manner he needed to, I knew that to continue in this foul temper would likely end badly for me.
I truly did not want that. I thought of my saddle tomorrow, and I decided to put a halt to this fury of mine now. Then Halbarad would likely only give me a comfort spanking. Such was, no doubt, what he had been planning all along. But he was testing. He was watching. He was considering. My temperament was going to determine what kind of spanking he would give me.
So Hal had nudged me a little in those clever ways of his, using authoritative language that might tweak my temper: “Aragorn, I am not down on the floor. Look at me when I speak to you. Right now, young sir.” A direct challenge. It was what I would have done, studied my subject and decided what was needed. It had worked, curse my clever lieutenant’s hide. At that moment, I had begun to dig myself a very deep hole.
Time to climb out, quickly and convincingly. If I continued in the hot-headed direction I longed to go, there would likely be some damage done to the King’s chamber that made what little Pip had done several days ago look like a slight mess. Halbarad would likely allow me my tantrum, then end my defiance by giving me the kind of ferocious spanking that would have me bellowing as loudly as the wee Took.
If Hal managed to subdue me. If he won when I challenged him. I quickly considered that. Would Halbarad win? I would never best Legolas, but Hal? I had actually fought Hal only a few times, quick, pathetic scuffles that left me bruised in pride and taking an especially spectacular spanking from my lieutenant. But that had been many, many years ago. What would happen now?
Halbarad was bigger than I was. I was muscular, but Hal was powerfully muscular with the kind of stalwart build that was completely intimidating. I had felt that astounding power turned upon me, and I had always sensed that my lieutenant held something back when we battled. Halbarad fully unleashed might be astonishing.
I paced and pondered. And suddenly what came to mind was something my beloved elf had tried to describe to me every now and then, always after he had just fought me, lost, and ended up over my knee anyway, taking an especially spectacular spanking:
“It is a strange sensation of weakness, as though my limbs refuse to respond.” Legolas had paused, quietly gazing off; then he said, “I think there is some secret place within me that controls my strength. It knows my heart well. It will not allow me full reign at such a time.”
“Aye, sweetling,” I had told him. “For what could be worse than winning such a fight with me?”
Legolas had burrowed closer against me. “Please, Aragorn, never speak of such a thing.”
Kissing his head I’d murmured, “Consider it forgotten, elfling mine.”
Though usually patient with my musings, Hal now cleared his throat with pointed purpose. I stopped pacing and turned to look at him, bracing myself for more of his gentle harassing, digging my nails into my palms and willing my temper to hold.
“Why did you stop?” he asked.
I peered at him. “Stop what?”
I honestly could think of nothing to say to him and saying nothing felt rather good. Hal, being Hal, surged forward.
“You are angry, little boy. In fact, you are furious with me because I am about to spank you. A moment ago you were headed for a fine display of bad humor. I ask again, why did you stop?”
His strategy confused me, so I decided to proceed with my own plan and attempt an adult discussion about this. Though it had never worked before, there was always a first time. Halbarad might be willing to listen to reason. I cleared my throat in return and adopted an outer demeanor of calm I did not feel.
“Halbarad, we need to discuss --”
“No. There is nothing to discuss. Put all thought of discussion from your mind at once.”
I pressed my lips together hard, a hot tremor coursing through me.
“Tempting, is it not,” he said in a low, seductive tone. “Tempting to let passion have its way. It is safe to do so with me, my wild pup. No one will see. No one will know. And, best of all, little one, I shall not allow you to get away with it.”
This was getting near impossible! I could feel myself holding on to my fury by my fingertips. It was straining to get free. Valar, help me. Hal was very, very good at this.
He smiled indulgently. “Trust me, Aragorn, you are about to be spanked. Not a comfort spanking, but an all out spanking that will stay with you in the saddle tomorrow. You have nothing to gain by holding back your anger.”
“You had nothing to gain by holding back your anger, little one.”
Legolas’ voice popped into my mind. My elf had said those words to Pippin days ago, after Pippin had thrown his fit at Legolas several hours earlier, effectively creating havoc in the king’s bathing chamber. After dining that night, then seeing Hal and Gwin off to their room, where Hal had some unfinished business with his anxious elfling, Legolas and I returned once again to the Houses of Healing before heading down to the Ranger encampment for a meeting. Pippin had taken up residence in Merry’s bed with the blessings of the Warden, so we should have seen a happy and bouncing young Pip. But we found a shy and quiet young Pip – a dismaying sight indeed.
I glanced at my fledgling, who had just finished straightening Faramir’s bedding after nodding his approval at the lad’s empty plates. Faramir had now settled back against Boromir once more, and both brothers sat casting anxious looks at Pip, then at me. Merry noticed our glances and silence.
“Pip gets like this sometimes after he’s had a tantrum – all pouty and sad. He starts thinking too much,” he had informed us, even though Pippin sat there beside him, his knees hugged under his chin, his nightshirt billowing around him. We all knew how Pippin felt about being talked over when present, Merry best of us all. He waited.
Pippin’s head popped up, his frown firmly in place. “I do not!”
Merry gave him a look. “You do.”
Ignoring him, Merry turned back to Legolas and me. “He thinks about what he’s done later and he gets all embarrassed and remorseful. It’s worse when he’s done something extreme, like that bottle throwing.”
Pippin absolutely fumed.
“I keep telling him he doesn’t have anything to apologize for, but --” Merry leaned forward as though telling we big folk a secret. “He feels foolish after the fact. Not that he’s said anything about this, you understand. I just know my Pip.”
Pippin conquered all hearts, all save Hal’s jealous elfling, but Legolas had always been especially fond of this little one. He scooped up the pouting Took and gave him a swift hug, instantly settling him on his hip, the familiar move that would comfort Pippin’s distress.
“You had nothing to gain by holding back your anger, little one,” he said, smiling quietly into Pip’s sad little face. “You were going to be spanked regardless of what you did. Under the circumstances, I thought your behavior completely understandable.”
Pippin, who returned that special fondness for Legolas, shot a bright-eyed look of astonishment at my elfling. “Really?” he gasped. “You do?”
“Indeed.” Legolas kissed Pippin’s brow. “You had been alone with all that anger and frustration and the feeling that you had no choice but to carry on. That had been bottled up inside for too long. It needed to get out. So how wise of you to seek out a severe response to match your need. I thought you were quite brilliant myself, aside from the danger of the shattering glass, of course.”
I jumped and focused back on my lieutenant. “What?”
“Enough of your reverie, sir” Halbarad said. “Moving away from me in your mind will not save you from your fate.”
I dropped my gaze, studying the pattern on the floor covering . . . early Gondorian, intricate weave, perhaps First Age, the finest of quality . . . .
“So why not be naughty and let it go? Why not fight me?”
I winced. I started to pace again. I would not be baited. I would not be lured. I would not be coerced into a reaction. “You forget yourself, sir,” I muttered, surprised by the hollow sound of my own voice.
“Nay, my pup. You forget yourself. And you forget to whom you are speaking. I know you of old, little boy.”
I declined to look at him. I refused. I paced my short path, fists clenched, breathing shallowly, my heart galloping. But I felt proud of my yet calm tone. “Enough, lieutenant. If you have nothing more to say to me than this --”
“You would like to leave.”
I paused and turned to him. He looked horribly unperturbed, so maddening when my blood was burning my veins. I glanced at the door, judging the distance I needed to travel to get there, then looked back to where Hal was standing. I would never make it. I had seen him move. He was incredibly fast for such a large man. Legolas and I had actually seen Hal chase down and catch a fleeing Gwinthorian once. My elfling had breathed, “I cannot believe it.” Neither could Gwin. And of course Hal now read my every thought, his face reflecting that indulgent look that seemed permanently affixed.
“If you would like to leave, my wild pup, what is stopping you?”
I cast him a wince and uttered a completely honest, “You.”
Again Hal leveled a lazy, confident grin at me. “You could still try, little boy.”
By my count he had called me ‘little boy’ several hundred times in the last five minutes. This matter had now gone beyond tiresome. I took a stance and called forth my greatest measure of self-control.
“There is no need for this, sir,” I said, my voice full of conviction. “I understand your regard for my wellbeing, however, there is no need for alarm. I am doing quite well, as evidenced by my actions over the past few days. I am not wanting, nor needing, nor desirous of any kind of attention, disciplinary or otherwise. I do appreciate your concern, Halbarad. But let me simply ask you, what reason do you have for this? Have you seen anything from me but --”
“Nay, Aragorn,” he said, his tone hushed and gentle. “Aside from the fact that I said we will not be discussing anything, I will say this, you have conducted yourself in a manner that makes me proud of you. In all things, you have made me proud of you.”
A hot rush surged through me, weakening me. I had no idea his words would affect me so, but how wonderful to hear them spoken! To my surprise, a sheen of tears suddenly clouded my vision. I shook my head at him, utterly bewildered now. “Then why --”
“I told you why. Because I care about you, and you need this attention.”
Another hot surge ripped through me, yanking me back from that sweet moment. “I do not!”
“No! I do not!”
“You are in no position to see it, lad.”
“And you are in that position?”
“Aye.” Halbarad fastened that terrible look of determination upon me again. “So, we have had our talk. I have indulged you. Now you will oblige me. If you are not going to fight me then let us get on with this. Come. You will take down your breeches and lay over my lap like a good little boy and we will get down to business.”
I nearly launched myself at him!
“Or would you prefer to let fly some of that simmering temper first?” he went on. “Whatever you choose to do, remember there will be no comfort spanking, Aragorn. As I said, this will be an all out effort on my part. Tomorrow the Army of the West will be led by Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Isildur’s heir, Lord of the Dúnedain, and naughty sore-bottomed little bo--”
“Stop!” I roared. To my surprise, a chair suddenly flew across the room. Odd. For such a large chair, it had felt light in my hands. I watched it smash against the far wall, drop and wobble to a rest, what was left of it. Interesting. But I gave it little thought. Turning back to glare at Halbarad, I snarled, “You will hold your tongue and show me the proper respect, Lieutenant!” I cannot say which of us was more surprised to hear those words.
Halbarad raised both brows. “Will I indeed?” Leveling an intense look at me, he said, “The day I allow you to pull rank on me, little brat, is the day the Argonath tumble into the Anduin.”
He watched me simmer, sensing the explosion I feared I could no longer check.
“Would you care to assault more innocent furniture?” he asked.
Actually I would. And I did. Another chair joined the first, making a splendid crash, against the far wall. The small table that had stood between the two chairs took a backhanded blow that made me yelp in pain. Heavy oak was resistant to a Ranger’s backhanded blow. A fierce ache roared through my forearm, igniting my fury. So I kicked the table! Ruddy hard oak! Then I began to sincerely vent my rage against the rest of the innocent room.
I remembered little of what I did after that. Some of it took a bit of effort, but all of it, save the table, was fun. I relished how utterly unlawful it felt. I was above this behavior. I did not do things like this. And I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Halbarad remained silent the entire time, casually dodging whatever inadvertently sailed his way. I knew better than to intentionally throw anything at him. I was just hurling things at random. But when I grabbed a chamber pot from beneath the bed and drew it back, aiming in the direction of the window, Hal made his presence known.
“NO!” he roared. “Not the window, Aragorn!”
I paused to look at him. Halbarad never roared. He was one of those who never had to roar. It startled me. I considered him carefully. Very ominous look. Hmm. Oh, well. I drew back my arm and let fly. Hal leapt, snatching the chamber pot from mid air. He dropped it safely beside him and turned to me, eyes blazing.
“Right. That is enough then, my lad.” And my lieutenant advanced upon me.
I readied my stance and let him come. When Legolas allowed me to put up some resistance I felt this same way – silly and hopeful. Right now, though, I sensed that, while my fury could lay waste to innocent furniture, it would not serve me quite as well in this skirmish with Halbarad. Nothing had ever aided me in a fight with my lieutenant. Still, self-preservation knows no fear, and when Hal’s big hands reached for me, my desire to see another dawn surged forth.
I am quick in battle. I have to be. Compared to most Numenoreans, I am on the smaller side.
“That should never be an issue, Estel,” my brothers used to say when running drills with me.
“You are swift and strong,” Elrohir had once said while picking me up and tossing me over to Elladan as though I was a sack of meal.
“And quick and clever,” Elladan said, catching me. “You read an opponent well and attack accordingly.”
“So use your gifts to your full advantage, Estel,” Elrond had said, surprising the three of us with his presence. “And cease tossing your little brother about, my sons. He is twenty-one years old. Such treatment is undignified.”
My brothers had possessed enough common sense to wait until our ada left before breaking into chuckles.
But they were right. Orcs are often massive creatures, but they are slow brutes and before they even see me, a blur of whirling warrior, I have them sliced and finished. So I spun into my quickest mode of defense, and Halbarad countered my every move as though finding my attempts somewhat adorable, but not particularly threatening, much like I felt when watching Boromir training the little ones on the march.
It was utterly humbling, much as it had ever been when I fought Hal. At one point he had my arms locked at my sides, my back to his front, and my kicking feet nowhere near the floor, and he scolded in my ear, “Concentrate, Aragorn. Do not make this so easy for me. Come, little bratling, show me what you are made of.” And he had dropped my huffing self into a heap on the floor, backed up, and smiled down at me, clearly having the very best time.
My rage did serve me. I connected with Hal’s iron jaw twice, and though his head snapped back as though on a spring, his glassy eyes showed that he had definitely felt the blow. Both triumph and regret instantly raced through me the first time I punched him, but Hal gave me little chance to ponder that. He grabbed me up at the waist, tucking me under his arm, backside in front and landed several stinging blows to my posterior before dumping me on the floor again. His toying enraged me further and we continued on, though I heard Halbarad’s silent message clearly with his every move: ‘Play if you like, lad. And fear not. I shall stop you before you go too far.’
The second time I managed to connect with his face I drew blood, and my regret outdid any feeling of triumph. I stood there, stunned by my action. Slightly winded, Hal drew the back of his hand over the corner of his mouth, his tongue following to lick at the stream. But he showed no anger. Halbarad merely watched me with a calm compassionate gaze.
“Come then, my pup,” he said. “You are doing so well.” Then he smiled softly, adding, “I am proud of you.”
Halbarad could not have laid me out more effectively if he had delivered one of his massive blows. My legs gave way. I fell to my knees, gazing up at him, tears blurring my vision. Utterly embarrassed, I lowered my head and cupped my forehead in my hands, shoving the heels of my palms into my eyes as though to stop the stinging tears I felt forming there, ready to overflow. I shook from the force of something frightening, something I could not place, and I heard my voice croak, “I-I am sorry, Hal. Sorry!”
It was all I could manage, but no matter. I felt myself picked up, Halbarad’s big hands under my arms, lifting me from the floor as though I weighed no more than a hobbit.
“Aragorn,” I heard him say firmly. “Lower your hands and look at me.”
I shook my head, and then Hal shook me. I searched for the floor with my feet, realizing that I dangled well above it. “Now, sir.” Hal said, his voice softly stern. “Look at me.”
I obeyed that tone as I had ever done after our first time together in our cave. Raising my head, I looked directly back at him finding that he had lifted me to his eye level. Fresh tears blurred my lieutenant’s gaze of unconditional fondness, shattering the last remnants of any anger that still remained within me.
I bit my lower lip, a childhood habit I indulged in only with Hal, and one that he had worked on with me, making me stop. I sometimes still did it, though.
“Stop that,” he immediately said with a gentle frown, a response so immediate and remembered I choked back a half-sob.
“I-I am sorry, Hal. So s-sorry. Biggest sorry,” I repeated in a quavering voice, shocked to hear my fledgling’s words coming from my mouth. “Please, for-forgive me, Hal.”
His eyes crinkled at the corners – Halbarad’s quiet smile. He shook his head slightly and sighed, saying, “Aragorn, I do not like that name. Do you remember me telling you that?”
I stared at him, tears trickling down my face. Was he mad? Was he seriously fussing about that silly name? He gave me another small shake.
“What is my name, little one?” he asked.
“Aye, Aragorn, son of Arathorn. I leave your name intact as a show of respect. I still expect you to grant me that respect in return.”
I nodded, and despite feeling so shaken, I was surprised to hear myself quickly mutter with “But you just called me ‘little one.’ And you called me ‘brat’ and ‘bratling’ and ‘wild pup’ and you have called me ‘little boy’ several hundred times today, Hal.”
Halbarad raised one brow, wholly amused, and said, “Well, there’s my obstinate little boy! Still intact I see.”
“And still a ‘little boy,’ I see,” I muttered. “I hate it.”
“I doubt that,” Hal said, a fondness in his voice. “And it fits.”
I lifted my chin, my proud move lessened by the pout I could feel clouding my face.
Halbarad, chuckling softly, simply said, “Come, my insolent pup.” And he slung me under his arm and headed for the bed.
Though intense, our battle had not been long. I should have had a goodly reserve of strength left. But I seemed unable to do anything to wrench free of Hal’s grasp. That strange weakness Legolas had described no doubt. I could do nothing but struggle a bit and watch with growing alarm as the bed grew nearer and nearer, Hal easily striding us across the room.
Halbarad sat on the edge of the bed and slung me up and around and over his knees, clearly unchallenged by the effort. He tucked me closely to him and began lifting my clothing out of the way. I expected to next feel him pulling down my breeches and cool air kissing my backside. But Halbarad suddenly growled deep in his throat, grumbled something, and a moment later the world spun again, Hal whooshing me back off his knee and standing me before him, braced between his spread thighs.
Slightly dizzy, I clamped my palms on his shoulders, Halbarad’s big hands closing around my waist, calming me. I stared at him, anxiously wondering what --?
“Alright now?” he asked me after a moment of stillness. “Steady?”
“Aye,” I croaked, anxiously wondering what --?
Pressing his mouth into a firm line, Halbarad began tugging at the ties of my duster. “Too many clothes,” he grumbled. “Far too many bothersome trappings for me to dig through.”
I stood frozen, watching him in silence, feeling five years old, mortified and quivering and knowing exactly what Halbarad’s intent was. I had done this once to Boromir, back during the early days of our Quest. Though he had endured a thorough tanning the night before from a certain elvish big brother intent on teaching his little brother some new boundaries, Boromir had needed, in fact, silently requested, a smaller lesson from me as well. So I had pulled him between my legs like this to loosen his clothes, readying him for a spanking.
I had done it then because Boromir needed a quick yank back to the diminished boyish state Legolas had spanked him into the night before. ‘Come, little one,’ is the unspoken message. ‘I know you cannot be trusted to do this correctly alone, so I shall do it for you.’ The less shocking course is to pull the offender over your knee and then deal with his clothing when he cannot watch what you are doing to him, or see your eyes as you are doing it.
But this was awful! Utterly effective, but utterly awful. My poor fledgling! Red-faced and trembling, Boromir had braved this embarrassment better than I was. Though begging me to stop, he had stood obediently still. It was only now that I could appreciate what amazing effort that took. In all the years Halbarad had been taking me over his knee, he had, thankfully, never done this to me. My face hot, I squirmed about in his grasp and yanked at his hands, a hushed, “noooooooo!” slipping out under my breath.
Halbarad reached around me and delivered two stinging, attention-getting wallops that made me wince and hiss. “Keep still,” he growled. “Stop that fussing.”
My face now pulsing with heat, I swallowed hard and struggled to quiet myself, Hal fixing a long intense look upon me before returning to his work.
He loosened the ties on my duster, then the ties on my jerkin, pulling both off me in turn and tossing them on the bed. Next he yanked free my favorite red shirt from where it was tucked into my breeches. My favorite red shirt actually belonged to my brother Elladan, but I had . . . borrowed it from his room ere leaving Rivendell. As my brother was larger than me, his shirt was overly long, hanging down to the tops of my thighs, a fortunate matter because the next moment, to my shock, Hal put his hands to my hips, grasped my breeches and began to pull them down!
“Pleeeease! Nooo!” I cried, my forbearance in tatters, and I again grabbed Halbarad’s hands. He looked up at me in mild surprise. “Please,” I said in a hushed voice. “Hal-Halbarad, please! No!”
He paused, considering me with a bemused frown. “Aragorn, surely you do not expect to keep your breeches on. You know me of old, too, and you know me to be a man who --”
“A man who enjoys the order of procedure! Aye! I know!” I shot back. “And I know that when I am over your knee nothing will remain between your hand and my backside! I know! I know! I know! I repeated those words to Faramir several days ago! You were there! I know! For Valar’s sake, Hal! I knowwww!”
A stern glint entered Halbarad’s gaze, suggesting with deafening silence that I had gone too far. Again he reached around and gave me a goodly swat, this single one feeling more like two put together. I yelped and winced again.
“Stop that impudence at once,” he said. “Do not raise your voice to me, Aragorn. If you are seeking something from me, this is a poor way to begin.”
“I-I-I . . . .”
“Polite objection is acceptable,” he said with a solemn look. “But you will not rail at me in that bratling tone. Behave yourself, sir.”
This was going well. I closed my eyes and sought fortitude. First he wanted me to release my anger. Now he did not want me to release my anger. It seemed Hal wanted me to release my anger as long as I refrained from insulting his tender sensibilities in the process. I had no idea what this man wanted anymore! And, when I thought about it calmly, keeping me bewildered was exactly what Halbarad wanted to achieve.
I sighed and looked off, quietly resigning myself to simply getting through this in any way possible . . . hmm . . . what could Legolas and Gwinthorian be up to? Hal moved his hands from my breeches to my waist. He shook me.
“None of that, sir. Look at me, Aragorn. Your attention on me at once.”
I flinched and obeyed that tone.
He studied me for a moment, then he murmured,“Ahhhh. I see.” His grey eyes filled of warm lights and his gaze turned gentle. “Perhaps you would rather I turned you over my knee before I pulled down your breeches?”
Hal’s words sounded dreadful, but I nodded.
“Then that is what you need to ask me to do, little one, is it not?”
I again closed my eyes, trembling from a rush of renewed anger. I considered hurling more furniture. I considered punching him again. I considered struggling free and trying to make it to the door. I considered all of those tempting acts put together! But instead I opened my eyes and said in a voice quavering with suppressed rage and embarrassment, “Would you please . . . please turn me over your knee before you . . . before you pull down my breeches, sir?” Now my actual words sounding dreadful.
Hal tipped his head to one side, considering me. “I could,” he said. “But this is easier and faster.”
In one swift move, Halbarad yanked my breeches down to my knees.
“There now,” he said, and he hauled me over his lap, tossing my shirt up over my back, cool air whispering over my bare behind. “See? Faster and easier.”
I gasped, but I was distracted at once from my shock, for Halbarad had turned me over his left knee and closed his right thigh over my legs, effectively pinning me down. My upper body now lay across the bed, my bottom was poised over his left knee, and my legs were closed between his. I loathed this position, and Hal knew it. He patted my bottom and rested his hand there, saying in a calm tone, “Nearly done.”
A hot jolt of dread shot through me. Nearly. Oh, no.
As I feared he might, Halbarad gathered up my arms, gently brought them behind me, despite my squirms and gasps, and held them at the small of my back, clamping both my wrists in one of his hands. He then pulled me closer tucking me tightly against his body and he pressed my wrists down so firmly that, indeed, all thought of movement was now impossible, no relief from kicking, no bucking or struggling allowed, no reaching back in a desperate attempt to cover my bottom, none of the small efforts of defiance that were comforting, if fruitless. Hal was in no mood to permit me the privilege of any movement whatsoever. I quivered with the sensation of helplessness.
He sometimes made this awful decision, and it could throw me into a panic for reasons I could not entirely fathom. Legolas did this, too, but only if I gave him trouble. He would then hold me down, often for incredible lengths of time while I tested him again and again. An odd madness went on within me at such times. I was never going to win. But Legolas patiently waited me out until I would finally surrender my struggle and lay weeping over his knee.
Hal’s approach was different. He went right into spanking me. I truly hated both methods. And my memory suddenly popped up with Hal’s words right before the first time he had spanked me: “It would behoove you to accept the inevitable. You are going to be spanked, little boy.”
“Noooo!” I now cried out. “Pleeeeease, Halbarad! Not this! I-I hate it!”
“I know you do,” he said. “Hush. You have no say in this, little one. I know what is best for you.”
And Halbarad began to spank me. His first swat was always shocking. I bit back a yelp with a show of heroic restraint. I never remember how awful it is being spanked by my lieutenant. Legolas is awful enough. His hand swats down in a devious elvish manner, his fingers striking my skin with a quick, sharp sting that makes my skin recoil and my muscles strain. My brothers spanked me in a similar manner, as did Elrond . . . and Glorfindel . . . aye, it was indeed some wicked elvish cunning. Legolas had spanked me for most of my adult life, and he had worked out methods that shattered me every time.
But Halbarad was all human warrior: direct, unreserved and to the wretched point, a Ranger accustomed to going about his business in the most effective manner. I gasped a few desperate short huffs. No comfort spanking. He had made that more than clear. Now his hand was making it clear as well, each spank cracking down with Hal’s customary precision. No matter. I would control this. I would.
“Do not bite that lower lip, Aragorn,” he said in a stern tone. “I mean it, little boy. If I find you have done so when this spanking is finished, if I see one spot of precious blood on your mouth, I shall turn you right back over my knee.”
I released my lower lip from between my teeth and nervously licked at it, hoping there was not one spot of precious blood already there. Of all the --! Halbarad had never seen the benefit to taking one’s adversity out on one’s bottom lip. Another form of respite denied; and Hal’s hand fell and fell . . . .
So, no moving and no self-inflicted pain to divert my attention from the fire he was igniting on my bottom. Very well. I had other strategies. I did. And I would need them, because I could not engage my body to help me, no movement, no release . . . it was dreadful, the limitation, the utter loss of control.
But I could still think, and if I grew calm, if I could concentrate I could escape.
I lowered my forehead to the coverlet, already breathless, straining to hold back the tears stinging my eyes, striving to concentrate on anything but the feel of the next scathing swat . . . .
It was near impossible. Halbarad was too good at this. I had forgotten how good. He knew just how to make me shudder and whimper, how to make me long to crawl out of my body. Hal’s hand would leave my bottom and then came a swift whoosh of moving air and then WHAP! Another hot powerful spank would explode on my sore backside. And all I could get my mind to do then was wail a silent, ‘OWWWWWWWWW!’
Oh to be able to kick! Oh to just buck a little! I longed to knot up the coverlet in my hands and squeeze the life out of it! The lack of movement was maddening, simply maddening. It made for the worst kind of spanking. It made me long to scream like Gwin. It made me long to sob as he did, with absolute abandon. And Hal spanked on, each swat perfectly placed and horribly impressive. Every part of my bottom blazed. Two years had not been long enough.
He spanked me quietly for some time and during that time I kept trying to separate my mind from my bottom. He gave me nothing to distract my attention, no conversation to take my mind off my burning backside and my quivering dread of the next hot swat. His silence was, I suppose, unpleasant justice, for I near always did this same thing to whatever poor victim I was spanking. Do not engage their minds. Let them think about where they are, how they look, what I’m doing to them – how could I be such a fiend?
“It is devious!” Gwinthorian had exclaimed once. “Your silence in the beginning is plain ruthless, sir!”
Hal had puffed his pipe, utterly impassive. “I see no reason to attempt to be heard over your bellows, Gwinthorian. I prefer to wait until you are beginning to settle down and ready to behave like a good little elfling before I waste my breath.”
Flushing a brilliant shade of rose, Gwin fumed. “It is most uncivilized of you.”
“Aye. I am awash with remorse.”
Gwin was right. It was ruthless and uncivilized, and I would continue to do it, knowing firsthand how effective it was. But how did that little elf withstand it?
He yelled, of course. He bucked and bellowed, kicked and thrashed. Ah, lovely freedom! But I needed another way to escape, so I summoned memory, any memory I could. I let go . . . .
“Let, go, Estel.”
Mmmm. Legolas and his elvish purrrrrrr . . . .
“My poor Ranger-child. So weary. So tired of the endless burden of responsibility. It is alright to admit it.”
I grasped at the sudden memory, thinking back upon that spanking, though unable to recall exactly which one it was, just one of the many Legolas had given me sometime over the years. I drifted there, heard my own crying, soft at first, hidden from Legolas, so important to not give in, so important to hold back admitting to Legolas what he sought, so important to resist confessing to what seemed a cowardly thing.
“Let, go, Estel.”
Legolas already knew of it, of course. He demanded that I acknowledge not to him, but to myself that sometimes . . . sometimes I tired of being Aragorn. Even worse, I feared being Estel. I did not want to be either one, and that choice was not mine to make. It had never been mine to make.
“I know it was my choice to do this, but sometimes I wonder . . . .”
Frodo’s voice now danced through my mind, another memory to rescue me.
“In truth, I don’t know what possessed me, Aragorn.”
I saw him again, gazing up at me from where I had him cradled in my arms, stretched out over my lap, his little bottom burning following his spanking, his liquid eyes wide with bewilderment and still red from crying.
“I just wanted it to stop. The Ring was gloating, glad to have caused such discord. They should have known better, all those wise leaders and princes and great warriors! I just wanted to make them stop shouting and arguing. I didn’t think about anything but shutting up the Ring and shutting up all of those shouting big people. So I said I’d take it. And I wanted to be the one to destroy that thing! But Aragorn . . . .” His eyes filled with fresh tears. “What was I thinking?”
I had gathered his trembling body close, longing once again, as I did so often, to take the burden from him. Finally, he sighed and murmured in my ear, “Sometimes I just don’t want to be me anymore, Aragorn. I’m ashamed to admit it, but sometimes I don’t want to be Frodo.”
How well I understood.
The willing acceptance of my unchosen qualities was different than the willing acceptance of my unchosen fate. One was a part of me, the other was expected of me, and though I took my responsibility to my people and my lineage seriously, I sometimes harbored a bitter resentment towards both, sliding into a darkness wherein only Legolas could reach me. If we happened to be Rangering with the Grey Company at the time, Halbarad was also there to assist Legolas if he chose to ask that Hal take his place. Most of the time, though, my beloved elf handled my darkness quite well.
“I shall not surrender you to this,” he once told me, completely unruffled by my sobbing and the fact that he had been spanking me for hours and hours . . . surely it had been hours and hours. “Aye, you have a quarrel with the Fates, Estel. I grant you that. But I shall not lose you to the bitterness that rises within you because of it. I shall do what I must until you come back to me, my beloved Ranger-child.”
Something profound had shifted within me at Helm’s Deep, after we won that impossible battle. But clouded fears haunted my most private moments, and when Elrond had come to Dunharrow, bringing me Andúril, the sword of the King of Gondor, forged from the shards of Narsil, my ada’s eyes had glowed with an intensity that moved me to near tears. Memory surged forth again . . . .
“The man who can wield the power of this sword can summon to him an army more deadly than any that walks this earth,” Ada had said, fixing me with that rapt expression of his. “Put aside the Ranger. Become who you were born to be.”
Another chill ripped through me. I said nothing to Ada, but nothing I became in the future would make me put aside the Ranger I loved to be. Elrond went on:
“Ónen i-Estel Edain” – “I gave Hope to men.”
The chill remained, deeply embedded within me. And I shook my head and was honest with Ada. “Ú-chebin Estel anim.” I told him – “I have kept no hope for myself.”
I felt that self-doubt had diminished after leading the Dead and after Pelennor. In a way, all seemed different now. I felt a calm sense of agreement within myself, a certitude that differed from any time ere this. Legolas knew that. My elf had been watchful of me, and he had not needed to discipline me for any inner torment that made me withdraw into myself. There had been none of that, and Legolas had felt no concern for my well-being.
Until this morning.
Wise elfling mine. And until the meeting, Hal had sensed no conflict within me either. Wise lieutenant. But Legolas and Hal know me too well. Despite my efforts to hide my fresh dread, they had somehow glimpsed it in my eyes, or in my manner.
But I would tell neither of them what had caused this sudden change in me. I would not. That burden was mine alone to bear. I refused to inflict that evil upon those I loved. Halbarad could spank me until I lost consciousness, but I --
“That has gone on for quite long enough, my lad,” Hal said, gruff and in control. “Drift away from me like that again, and I shall spank this tender undercurve until you shall choose to ride standing in your stirrups rather than touching this part of your backside to your saddle.”
That did not sound appealing. “AAHHHH! Hal’brad!” I uselessly tried to buck, crying out again: “Hal’brad, pleeease! Stop! P-Pleeeesse stop! AHHHHH!”
Hot chills ripped through me at Hal’s powerfully rapid spanks ‘neath the sensitive curve of my bottom. I quivered. I did not bite my lip. And I hated my outburst! But Hal caught me by surprise with that sudden attack, wrenching me from my distracting thoughts, which were pathetically less than distracting enough.
Oh, I had indeed felt every spank he had rained down during my reverie. His swats returned to my scorched bottom, and I gulped short, desperate breaths, knowing I could scarce bear more of this and knowing I had to. But I could no longer hold back my tears. I burst into raw crying, loud and fierce, deep-chested cries exploding out of me.
“H-Hal’brad! P-Pleeeeeeease! Pleease stop!”
He did pause, letting me catch my breath. I quivered. I ached to reach back and rub my throbbing backside, long past the point of feeling humiliated by such thoughts. I buried my face in the bedding, let loose, and just sobbed, desperate for release in any form.
“Perhaps you are ready to talk to me then?” Hal said with quiet composure.
I lifted my head just enough to sputter, “T-Talk about what?” At this point I honestly wondered.
“About why I am spanking you, my wild pup,” Halbarad replied.
“But, I-I-I do not kn-know why!”
“I do not!” I wailed.
“Perhaps you could begin by explaining why you have not shared whatever is troubling you with Legolas or with me, allowing us to help you.”
Oh. That. Yes, well . . . no. No, no, nooooo. Not this time. I quickly began to form a defensive diversion, but then Hal spoke again:
“Or perhaps you would like to begin by sharing something else.”
I froze. “W-What else?”
“Aragorn come now.”
“What else?! I-I do not even kn-know what to s-say sorry forrr!””
Halbarad rubbed my bottom, now sending those shivers up my spine. “You do know sweetling.”
His kind tone made me weep even more. I could not bear compassion from Halbarad right now. I needed my edge of defiance! For I could not, would not bring this evil to my beloved lieutenant.
I had done well thus far . . . aye, you have done well Aragorn. Hal had not known. Legolas had not known. I had done very, very well . . . hidden my secret well . . . and I had to keep hiding it. I could not share that with them! Mine to bear . . . mine to carry.
So I swallowed back my dread of more spanking. Could I even bear more spanking? I would have to bear more spanking. But the thought made me slightly frantic. I burst into small pathetic weeping. Perhaps now that I had given in to tears it would be easier. I could at least cry. I could even wail, gain some relief that way.
Ohhhhh, how my bottom hurrrt! But, worse still, I could feel my mind weakening, that inability to think straight descending with awful speed. My words were sounding juvenile. They formed well enough in my brain, but they had an embarrassing childish lilt to them when spilling from my mouth. I knew not what that meant, or . . . or why . . . why it happened, but-but I . . . I was not certain . . . I doubted I could hold out --
“Come now,” Hal said. “You have something to tell me, do you not? Are you hiding a secret from me, Aragorn?”
I heaved a ragged breath, my sobs catching in my chest, and I lifted my head, staring through stinging eyes at the blurred coverlet. Halbarad knew. He knew! How could he know?
I had failed. I failed him and failed Legolas. I had betrayed their trust in me by sheltering them from this, something I would never have tolerated from Legolas and something Halbarad would never tolerate from me. And still Hal found out I had been hiding something! He would not like this. He would tell Legolas, and Legolas would likely spank me, too! And now Hal’s spanking would get worse. I could not fathom worse! If Hal knew, was it not better to just tell him now and spare myself more spanking? I considered it.
Yet I heard myself burst into fresh tears and babble what I knew I must: “N-Noo, nothing, Hal’brad! N-Nothing to t-tell youuu.”
At least he had stopped before destroying the King’s bathing chamber. As for the King’s chamber itself . . . I glanced around, pondering how this wreckage could be explained. But if anyone in Middle Earth deserved a full-blown tantrum, it was my pup.
The condition of this chamber said much. Whatever was tormenting Aragorn, it was far worse than merely his concern over making the right decision about the march. He was hiding something so big and terrible that he had buried it in the deepest recesses of his heart, shutting it away where no other might find it.
It was difficult to hide something that big. Legolas and I would have noticed Aragorn putting forth such a massive effort. But he had seemed fine yesterday, so whatever happened to him must have taken place during those small quiet hours while his exhausted elfling slept.
A nightmare, perhaps, or a vision, a powerful one wherein something monstrous threatened those he loved. When he was protecting those dearest to his heart Aragorn was thrown into his most ferocious emotions. And it was especially bad when he felt the slightest uncertainty within himself.
Aye, that had to be it. Something horrific had threatened his loved ones, and Aragorn had hesitated, felt a moment of doubt and perhaps great fear; so now he was tormenting himself for what he felt was his weakness.
Adding to whatever had just assaulted Aragorn, the messenger came from Lossarnach. Instantly needing to be the strong leader everyone wished him to be, Aragorn had masked his fear and uncertainty and his self-reproach. Little wonder he had flashed Legolas and me a desperate glance.
Of course he could not share his torment with anyone just then. Not everyone should share in that. But my lad still felt he must shoulder that burden alone, and therein lay his error. He had sought help from neither his loyal elf, nor from me. He had, in fact, hidden his troubles from us as well as from all others.
I had been working on this problem with him for over sixty years now and I was beginning to despair him ever getting my point. It was simply good manners to share, even to share one’s troubles. Aragorn’s tenacious devotion to self-sacrifice made me long to spank him until the beginning of the Fourth Age.
And yet, despite his wrongful thoughts, I was proud of my pup, for Aragorn had flashed Legolas and me that glance of need, and though but a flicker of a look, it had been enormous. Aragorn had reached out to us, knowing we would see his need and respond at once. It was a remarkable step for him. I doubted he saw it that way, though. In fact, he had seemingly regretted his moment of weakness and gone back to hiding his distress.
Ah, my determined young captain! He would bear whatever this was alone. He would inflict his torments on no other. He would cloak his suffering. And ‘twas obvious he had done so admirably well. Legolas had clearly spent little time alone with him this morning, for he had made no mention of this darkness Aragorn was hiding. My pup had managed to beguile his watchful elf. An amazing accomplishment. Aye, Aragorn had ever been skilled at protecting those he loved.
So, my boy had some new, secret and awful dilemma he was choosing to endure alone, and for weeks he had been holding up under a tremendous amount of pressure. The strain of that would have been enough to trigger a violent response in anyone. Even Aragorn could withstand only so much. He needed help finding his way free from his strangling knot of despair.
If pushed in just the right way, my pup would shatter, and I knew exactly how to push – assume an overbearing role, call him little boy a hundred times, challenge his every insistence that he did not need help, relentlessly humor him, indulge him, mollycoddle him, and all the while keep shifting my own demands to keep him off balance until his frustration boiled over into fury and he finally exploded. I had been here with Aragorn many times. And he had responded, at first, as he had many times.
He deflected. He paced. He pondered. He glanced at me briefly, distractedly, as though seeing through me and wondering why I was there. He pretended a competence he did not feel; he demanded to talk things over; he insisted upon being treated like a grown up.
And today his preferred defense was one of his favorite strategies – he removed himself from the situation. He slipped away in his mind several times and for long periods, distancing himself from me and my threats and his situation. It was a quiet form of rebellion, and a desperate one. But, considering the strain he was enduring in order to remain calm, retreating into memories and musings was his best option.
The way to handle Aragorn at such a time was to remain persistent and let him agitate himself into a lather. It took little more than that, for he was strung tighter than his beloved elf’s bowstring. I let him go, watching him, knowing when he needed to be yanked back to the moment. And I yanked him several times. It jarred him. It confused him. He did not like it. Good. I remained the immovable force he needed.
How he had wanted to end this! But he had no idea what to do, no notion of how to escape his fate. My poor desperate lad had actually started to glance longingly at the door. I fought off a doting smile.
Aragorn knew he could not get past me. He was an exceptional warrior, but I had five inches and two stone on him. I would have bested my pup even if he were in his finest form. And Aragorn was not in his finest form. He was a little boy in trouble, hurting inside and needing something badly.
One last, gentle belittlement had done it and Aragorn had flown into a rage so profound that he had torn this room apart with a seeming unawareness of his actions.
I had seen him behave this way before, of course, but I had seen it in the wild where nothing of any great consequence was damaged. The first time Aragorn’s temper had exploded was in our cave in the Ettenmores, right before his third scheduled spanking of the week. Tender-bottomed from two previous spankings, Aragorn was unwilling to submit to a third, despite my insistence that, aye, it was indeed going to take place, and no, there was nothing he could do to change that. After nevertheless trying in his most diplomatic manner to reason with me and getting nowhere, Aragorn had finally reached the end of his tether and flown into an impressive tantrum. I had watched with interest.
Sadly, there were few things to destroy in the cave. I blocked him from attacking the food stores, leaving my lad little else to vent his rage upon. So he had made a mess of our clothing and the extra bedding stored along the walls, and he hurled the wood that had been stacked in a neat pile, wisely slinging none my way. But other than that, Aragorn was reduced to stomping about and roaring and spewing forth filthy elvish curses with brow-raising mastery. He even knew some terms that I, thankfully, did not.
Afterwards, of course, with a freshly soaped mouth and a sore bottom, my pup obediently set the cave to rights. I insisted he deal with the mess he had made of our living quarters and the duty was no less than what he had expected.
But Aragorn had been astonished by his violent behavior and embarrassed by it. I could not help appreciating his valor, though, and I told him so. It took courage to let fly such powerful emotions and fits of outright rage were a release this young one rarely allowed himself. I felt that growing up amidst the sedate atmosphere of Rivendell was, in part, responsible for his self-possession.
I once again admired his eruption today. I would needs remember this, though. When Aragorn exploded into a tantrum, there had best be no breakables around. He would not be able to set this room to rights, and I felt certain he would be astonished by what he had done. It was an impressive swath of destruction.
Something less than impressive was his so called ‘fight’ with me. Anytime Aragorn’s fury drove him to challenge me he went on to lose spectacularly. Were I not fully aware that he was fighting with all sincerity I would have thought Aragorn was simply playing with me, the way Gwin plays when wants me to subdue him and force him – a game I enjoyed just as much as he did.
But Aragorn’s blows had indeed been sincere. They hurt him more than they did me, though, especially the second one. At the sight of my blood my pup had stepped back, dumfounded and stricken, and all it had taken to shatter him at that point was a kind word.
I now dropped my gaze to his very red bottom. So different from a slim little elvish bottom. A man’s muscles were more defined, even in his hindquarters. The first time I had spanked my pup his bottom was still softly boyish, much like my Gwin’s. Aragorn had grown more muscular over the years. An odd thing to notice perhaps, but it may have been the position.
I liked having him in this position. I again thought of the first time I had spanked Aragorn. I had subdued him in just this way, holding his wrists at the small of his back and tucking his legs between mine. At the time he had been somewhat frantic, and this served to calm even the wildest little boy.
I grinned at the memory, recalling how I had longed to get him right where I had him after the warg disaster that had terrified every staunch Ranger of his Grey Company down to the last man. After securing him like this, I had leaned over his trembling slight form, and murmured, “It would behoove you to accept the inevitable. You are going to be spanked, little boy. You’ve been very naughty and willful, and it is time to face the consequences for your actions. Such behavior will not be tolerated, Aragorn.”
Ever responsive to such nudges Aragorn had tested his helplessness, trying to buck up and wrench about in his panic, to no avail. He had hated this position ever since. Or so he thought. In truth, I sensed from Aragorn the same thing I knew Gwin felt when I did this to him.
“There is something frightening about it, the helplessness of it. At first I cannot bear it, Hal.”
“Only at first, sweetling?”
“Aye . . . well, nay . . . I-I think I hate it the whole time you are doing it to me.”
“Only ‘think’ you hate it the whole time?”
“Aye . . . well, but then, then I start to feel . . . .”
“I start to feel . . . well, safe. Does that make sense?”
“I want to move, but you will not let me move. You decide that, not me, and . . . and it is very confusing, but somehow, well, somehow being denied the freedom to make that decision is what feels . . . safe. I am not certain how else to say it.”
“You said it very well indeed, my Gwinling.”
I had smiled at the time, knowing that what Gwin was trying to say was that there was a strange and mysterious center of calm to be found when all choice was removed. No more decisions to make, no allowances, no permission. Another took that from you, and within that restriction lay a sense of trust and safety, a release of responsibility for one’s actions, and therefore, an absolution from blame for any possible wrong choices.
And so I felt it was with my pup, for even after I released his wrists, as I had a few minutes before, he had kept them there, locked at the small of his back. I watched him, marveling at that. He was crying into the bedding, finally allowing himself to weep as he had plainly longed to do, every deep sob pulling at the secret hurt within him.
Of course, I needed to start spanking him again and soon, lest he start to fuss over much, and think over much. Aragorn was too quick. Letting him recover before the goal of the spanking had been achieved only did him a disservice and sometimes even meant starting all over. He needed the consistent, comforting, wrenching feel of my hand swatting his sore bottom in order to go where I demanded he go.
And he would indeed go there, for I would not leave my pup to whatever darkness was feasting upon him. I loved the lad as though he were my own. In many ways, Aragorn was my own, and he was suffering an inner anguish to which I would never abandon him. I would continue to show him his worth if we were here all night.
Aragorn had managed to take quite a lot of spanking thus far, and without much protest, further proof that he was trying to protect me from that darkness clawing at him. He did not want to tell me of it for fear that it would affect me as well.
It touched me that my pup included me amongst those that he felt needed protecting. I was most grateful. But it stopped now. And the truth was, no matter how noble Aragorn felt, and no matter how much he longed to protect those he loved from this new evil, he also longed to be helped as well. He longed to be seen. Deep inside him was little Estel, the frightened boy I could touch, the one Legolas could touch, the boy who needed to be found, picked up and held close and comforted. That little boy needed to know that it was all right to seek help, even help with the most terrible of evils. That was the Estel I would speak to now.
Since pausing in his spanking I had been talking the soothing nonsense talk that he needed, a calming murmur of gentle phrases, childishly loving phrases that would seep into Aragorn’s mind and heart, easing into his tight muscles, luring him into that younger place.
Now I slowly moved him, picking him up at the waist and repositioning him over my lap, his legs free to kick if he chose. I rubbed my hot palm down his thighs, watching him twitch them, testing his movement. He could bear that freedom now, and he deserved it. I told him so:
“Good boys are allowed to kick, Aragorn, and you have been good for me.” I waited.
He paused in his weeping, lifted his head, sniffled and said in a small voice, “Th-Thank you, H-Hal’brad.”
I smiled. Ah. He was indeed ready to move on, ready to talk and listen. And his willingness spoke to his fear of this thing that tormented him. I had actually taken this break in his spanking long before I usually did, and he accepted that. No rebellion. Aragorn stretched his legs out, giving a small groan at the feel of his released muscles, then he kicked a little. I patted his bottom.
“You are welcome, little one. You can move your arms, too, if you like.”
“I-I c-can? Are you s-sure?”
Ahh, Aragorn’s much repeated phrase, the one he had used with me from the time of his first spanking. Again I smiled down at him. “Aye, sweetling. I am sure.”
He tested by pulling his arms just a little, clearly surprised to find them free, and he brought them around, hugging his elbows close to his body and grasping big handfuls of bedding.
“Thank y-you, ‘gain, s-sir,” Aragorn said between little sobs.
“You are welcome again.”
Now I frowned a bit. I had not realized how fragile Aragorn was. But then, Legolas said it had been some time since he had been spanked. I wondered just how long it had been. It usually took more spanking than he had just received before Aragorn surrendered his defiance. But I sensed that this, too, had something to do with his inner anxiousness to be helped.
Reaching down I smoothed Aragorn’s wild dark locks back from his face and said, “You have not been biting that lip, have you, my pup? Turn your face that I might see you.”
He lifted his head again and obediently turned. He cheeks were streaked with tears, his eyes swollen, but his bottom lip, often a target when Aragorn was fighting to keep from giving in, was unbitten.
“Very good! No blood. Good boy,” I said, genuine pride in my tone. And I began again, spanking Aragorn more lightly this time, but that was all it took. Aragorn’s ‘thank you’ was lost in his wail. But he was ready, so it seemed, to speak with me. Meanwhile, he needed ritual and structure. He needed to feel my hand spanking down, grounding him in that feeling, letting him know that he need have no fear, that I was not finished with him.
I spanked Aragorn easily, covering his hot backside with a solid pattern for several minutes, and then I began again:
“But you were disobedient, too, little boy. You drifted away from me, thinking of other things and going other places. You were not here, feeling your spanking. Is that not right, Aragorn?”
“A-Aye! I-I am soo s-sorrry, Hal’brad! Shoudn’t, sh-should not have done so!”
“I forgive you, my pup. But you will not do so again. Do you understand me? If I feel that you are going too far into your thoughts, I shall have to spank you like this.” I gave him a stronger wallop. Aragorn kicked madly and cried out.
“Then no more drifting away from me.” I returned to my gentle spanking.
“Good. Now. I know you are hiding a secret from me, my pup. Are you not?”
Aragorn wept fresh tears, buried his head in the crook of his arm and wrapped his other arm around my lower leg. Hmm. Something new.
He nodded. “Aye!”
“Are you allowed to keep secrets from me, little boy?”
Aragorn kicked some more and wriggled his bottom, as though to escape the next swat. It never works, but I know they must try. I delivered another hard wallop.
“Answer me. Are you allowed to keep secrets from me, or from Legolas?”
Shaking his dark head, Aragorn sputtered, “N-N-Nooo! B-But I-I-I had tooo!”
He was testing me, but in a passive manner. No matter. I stood willing to respond as he requested. Another hard swat fell, making Aragorn kick again and cry out.
“No, sweetling. You never have to keep secrets from us, especially big secrets. Do you?” I kept up his steady even spanks.
“N-Nooo, but-but Hal’brad, I-I-I --”
“Hold. Slow down. Take a breath.” He tried to obey me and ended up coughing and I took a few minutes to calm him down. Then I said, “Go on. But what?”
“If I t-told you, y-you might get m-mad,” Aragorn said into the bedding.
Ahhh. I understood. “Aragorn, when you have been naughty, what must you do?”
He tensed. “T-Tell?”
“Aye. You must tell me. Answer me then – have you done something naughty, little boy?”
He sucked a big breath and kicked and wriggled, trying to squirm from my lap. I held him firmly, still swatting, Aragorn truly struggling with his answer. I started spanking harder and faster and he quickly made up his mind.
“AHHH! May-Maybe I did something a-a little n-naughty!”
“Tell me,” I said in a firm voice, slowing my hand again.
“It-It was really Gandalf’s f-fault”
I paused, staring down at him, my hand in the air. I had not expected that. Very well. I would give him every opportunity to explain this. But he had best get to it quickly. Aragorn was clever. He could twist a matter around and play with it forever if I allowed it. Swatting down, I said, “Gandalf’s fault.”
“AAAHHH! Uh huh. He m-made me.”
Summoning patience, I said, “You will stop this nonsense at once, my lad, and tell me what this secret is, or so help me, you will be a very unhappy young Ranger.”
Aragorn’s muscles tightened and he hesitated, then muttered, “I-I already am a-a very unhappy young R-Ranger.”
Valar help me. I nearly laughed. I had to admire his insolent spirit, inappropriate though it was. Cheeky brat.
“Aragorn!” I swatted down hard and watched him arch and yell.
“G-Gandalf . . . he-he gave it to me!”
“Gave what to you?”
In a quick, hushed voice, he said, “The Palantir.”
I froze, hand raised again. A wave of horror shot through me. “What?”
“H-He said it belonged to the one true K-King, and that I should do with it what I w-would, look or not, but to k-keep it safe, and h-hidden.”
I had sometimes questioned Gandalf’s wisdom. Giving Aragorn the Palantir was probably the diplomatically correct thing to do, but knowing my lad as I did, I could not help feeling some resentment towards the wizard. I imagined Legolas would be furious as well.
“It w-was sc-scary, Hal’brad.”
I stared down at him, “Do you mean to tell me you looked into that thing?”
“Aye.” He hesitated, then added in a small voice, “Twice.”
“Twice!” Struggling to remain calm, I lowered my hand to Aragorn’s blazing bottom, resting it there, feeling the intense heat, trying to quiet my panic before asking my next question and wondering if I should even ask it, “Aragorn, what did you see?”
to be continued