Beta appreciation notes: Kat and Derby – thanks my precious, ever patient team. Also, thank you, Derby, for the splendid bunny, and thank you Kat for the IM brainstorming. Both of you keep the muse alive and challenged.
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.
A few notes regarding this absent writer:
Ere the Final March took over a year to write, and when it was done I wondered where to go next. I didn’t want to leave behind the characters who existed in the future time setting – Faramir, Garrick and Devon, Gwinthorian and Hal . . . barad. But, I also longed to write some Quest tales with the Fellowship. Gandalf said they needed to travel, “. . . forty days and forty nights west of the Misty Mountains,” time for all kinds of naughtiness to take place! Readers had been asking for more stories in both time lines, so what to do? Finally I decided that I could write in any order and in any timeline. I need not limit myself to form. So I started with a Quest story and the muse promptly froze up and I was stuck. Typical bratty muse antics. So the rewrites began, first as a need to have something to do, but also because housekeeping really did need to be done on the older stories. Once started, the revisions became a passion. I polished all the earlier stories up to Noble Soul, saving ATTBTH for last. Enter, once more, the bratty muse --
Quest Chapter I - The Sweet and Simple Truthby Larrkin
“We shall go through the mines,” I said.
And with that, our Fellowship turned and headed back down the path we’d forged through the snow on our way up this cursed mountain.
Well, there it was. Proof. Truly my word was law. At least it was in that moment. A disconcerting fact, given I had no idea what I was doing. All I did know was that Boromir spoke truly – this would be the death of my kinsmen. Never had I felt so cold. I desperately wanted off that mountain!
I also longed to cuddle deeper against Aragorn, snuggle within the folds of his clothes, lose myself in the safety of his big, warm, powerful body, feel his strong arm beneath my bottom pulling me to him more tightly, wrapping me more securely into his warmth. I wanted to beg him, ‘Pleeeease, Aragorn, hold me closer!’
And so, utterly frozen, I made a quick selection and our course was set. Yet another lesson learned on the Quest: Freezing inspired effective decisiveness. But I loathed being the one to determine our route. I’d stared at Gandalf when he said, “Let the Ringbearer decide.”
What?! All along Gandalf and Aragorn had been guiding our course and I’d been glad of that. So why was this decision suddenly mine to make? What was that crafty old wizard playing at? Dreadful time for him to suddenly hand me the reins! I was so cold that my ability to reason was becoming vague. Everyone, even my dearest Sam, looked at me as though I knew what was best to do.
But I hadn’t known what to do! How could I have known? Given the look of poorly disguised dread on every warrior’s face, save Gimli, at the mere mention of the Mines of Moria, it seemed to me that there was no good pick offered me. This was a ‘lesser of two evils’ choice.
Wonderful. Simply wonderful. I felt mighty unhappy with our dear wizard. I even shot him a scowl when Aragorn turned to start back. Gandalf seemed thoroughly unimpressed with my ire, though. I wasn’t at all sure I planned to speak to him when we stopped for the night.
We’d nearly made it down Caradhras when the vicious mountain decided to bestow one last chastisement for us daring to disturb it. Another avalanche came roaring down, this one overtaking the last two in our group – Gimli and our pony Bill.
It happened when we had just reached the region where the snow was less deep. We hobbits were being lowered to the ground when there was a sudden deafening CRACK! We all jumped. Then we turned to see a wall of blinding white thundering down upon poor Bill and Gimli.
We could do nothing but watch in horror, screaming Gimli’s name when he disappeared under a blanket of white. Moments later he blustered up through the snow with the same savage growl he’d growled when the first avalanche buried us up on the mountain. He’d managed to leap to one side and roll far enough away to avoid the bulk of the snow, but he clearly felt badly for having lost Bill’s reins.
“I’m all right! I’m fine!” Gimli roared to the warriors who were hurrying to his rescue. “Don’t bother with me! See to the wee beastie! I had to drop the reins! Is the puir creature dead?” Then he bellowed some dwarfish exclamations that sounded like incredibly foul language.
Our three warriors turned and charged down to where Bill was floundering, trying to rise. Miraculously, he hadn’t been crushed by the wall of snow that sent him tumbling a goodly ways down the mountain. Oh, how I wish poor Sam had been spared the sight of that loyal pony neighing in terror while being swept away! Sam had been too panic-stricken to even burst into tears.
“Sam! Stay!” Aragorn ordered when he caught sight of Sam running towards the deep snow, Merry, Pip and me racing after him to stop him. My dear gardener did give way to tears then. I took him in my arms.
“Bill!” he cried. “Oh, land’s sake! Good ol’ Bill!”
Good ol’ Bill was made of strong stuff, though. The warriors helped him gain his feet – another miracle – no legs were broken. They led him back to us where Bill stood and endured Sam’s hugs and petting with dignity. But if a pony can look guilty, I swear, Bill did. The violent avalanche had ripped our supplies from his back. All now lay hopelessly buried beneath a massive load of white. Round two, Caradhras.
“We’ll never dig that out,” Boromir said, voicing what we all knew to be true. “Even if we could find our goods under there, our provisions are surely crushed beyond use.”
There was nothing to do but press on. Aragorn was even more insistent we make haste now, eager to get off the mountain and back to the cave where we had stayed before tackling this ascent. When Aragorn announced where we were heading, Sam looked at me and winced, clearly less than eager to be returning to where Aragorn had spanked the stuffing out of him.
Taking his hand in mine, I said, “Think of a nice warm fire, Sam. Won’t that feel wonderful?” I grinned at his grudging nod.
As speed was of the essence, Aragorn decided that the big folk would once again carry us hobbits, so we returned to the travel arrangements Aragorn had assigned when Sam became ill on our way to the mountain. Boromir gathered up Pippin, Legolas took Sam and Merry, and Aragorn settled me on his hip. I knew that the three of them were fond of toting us around like this, but I still felt badly for them. My kinsmen and I were tired; the warriors had to be weary. Aragorn studied me when we set out. He flashed me his knowing grin.
“Come now, Frodo,” he said. “You are no burden. You are doing us a courtesy.” At my puzzled frown, he said, “We lost to the mountain. Warriors do not like admitting defeat. We could not conquer Caradhras, but we can hurry our pace by carrying the lot of you.”
I knew he was seeking to comfort me, but I still had to grin at such an extraordinary load of rubbish. “So,” I said with respectful seriousness, “you’re saying that by accepting a ride we hobbits are restoring some of your warrior pride after the mountain thwarted you?”
We both chuckled. “Indeed,” he said, kissing my forehead. “You and your kinsmen are rendering the Fellowship quite a service.”
I hugged him. “My kinsmen and I are happy to oblige, sir.”
When we reached the cave at twilight Aragorn, Legolas and Boromir immediately set out to hunt for game. The rest of us organized our meager camp, retrieving water and gathering wood. The cave seemed like home, the blackened leavings of our former fire and the pile of leftover kindling waiting to greet us. With the flames helping warm us for the first time in what felt like days, we took stock of what we had left after the mountain took its due.
Fortunately, most of us had been carrying our haversacks. Gandalf had wisely ordered us to keep carrying them rather than piling everything on Bill’s back. “No telling what we shall encounter ahead,” he’d told us. “It is best we not put all our eggs in one basket.” At the time, Pippin had allowed that he could eat a basket full of eggs, as it was nearing second breakfast and my poor cousin still missed that luxury.
“Imagine,” he now said in a hushed tone of horror, his shocked gaze fastening on Merry, “Merry, just imagine the stew we’d be in right now if our pipes and pipeweed were buried under the snow!” Pippin jumped up and scurried over to stand before Gandalf, where he bowed low and said in his most earnest voice, “Thank you for your brilliant foresight, oh wisest of wizards.”
“Get on with y’ then, y’ pest of a Took,” Gandalf rumbled, shooing Pippin away with a nudge of his foot. He glared his fierce glare and ‘humphed!’ and looked off, muttering a grouchily fond, “Hobbit nonsense!” Then he sat there, puffing his pipe and stewing, delighting Pippin with his feigned wizard’s ire.
“He’s right, you know, Pip is,” Sam leaned over and muttered to me. “I’m awful glad I have my pots and pans and my seasonings and such. I even stuffed some ‘taters and onions and a few carrots in my pack. Wasn’t sure why I was doing it. I just thought to save poor old Bill from hauling more'n’ he had to. It just felt right, you know, Mister Frodo?”
Dear Sam. I grinned at his ever-insistent use of the ‘Mister.’ “You are part Seer, Master Gamgee,” I said, and then it was Sam’s turn to fluster.
Before long the hunters returned bringing a veritable bounty. We dined later on venison and wild fowl and a lovely stew Sam put together with a brace of ‘coneys’ and his reserved carrots and ‘taters. After we were well fed and dried out and warm, Aragorn addressed our dilemma, thankfully taking charge of planning our course once more.
“We shall again be passing through Hollin,” he said. “There are few settlements in these Lone-lands, but I know of one quiet hamlet, Drumold, tucked within a sheltered hollow, where we may go to replenish our supplies.”
A settlement! This was the first time we would be venturing anywhere near others since leaving Rivendell. We hobbits straightened up from our drowsy stupor.
“Is it a village of men or elves?” Pippin asked, his eyes bright.
“Men,” Legolas replied. “My kinfolk have long since ceased to dwell in these lands.”
“There’s a blessing,” Gimli muttered.
Aragorn shot our dwarf an indulgent frown; then he cleared his throat purposefully and continued: “This will take us off our course to Moria by several days, but there can be no help for it.”
“Aragorn,” Gimli said, “what about splitting up and meeting back? Boromir and Gandalf and I could head for Moria with the wee laddies while you and the elf go trading at the settlement. We could rendezvous outside the Walls of Moria.”
I watched my kinsmen slump at this sensible suggestion. Pippin even shot Gimli a glare.
“No,” Aragorn quickly said. “We stay together.”
He said it with such conviction that none questioned him, not even Gandalf or Gimli, who sometimes did need a little convincing. Aragorn glanced at me, though, and I sensed that he was unwilling to let me out of his sight for long. It comforted me. I hadn’t cared for the idea of leaving Aragorn’s side, so splitting up did not appeal to me any more than it had appealed to my kinsmen.
“Hear, hear!” Pippin exclaimed, coming up on his knees. The rest of us chuckled. He turned to Merry and said, “I wonder how big a village it is!”
“Perhaps they’ll have a tavern!” Merry exclaimed.
Pippin squealed. “A tavern!”
“Gentlemen,” Aragorn said, watching my cousins affectionately. “I am loath to spoil your fun, but only Boromir and I shall venture into the village.”
Merry’s face fell. “Oh.”
“Oh!” Pippin cried, sinking back onto his heels. “Oh, Aragorn, I’d behave. Truly!”
“I am sorry, little one,” Aragorn said. “I know you would behave. But imagine the stir we would make, two men, an elf, a dwarf, a wizard and four wee halflings strolling into a quiet, secluded hamlet. Two men seeking supplies draws less attention. I am certain you understand.”
“Yes,” Merry said with a nod. “That makes sense.”
Pippin, however, looked to be somewhere between a tantrum and bursting into tears.
“It is likely the villagers have never seen a hobbit,” Gandalf added. “In fact, they may only believe little folk to be creatures of legend.”
“We might even frighten them, Pip,” I said.
Wearing a spectacular pout, Pippin slumped down to his bottom in defeat. “Oh, Frodo, come now,” he groused. “Frighten them! Aye, we look menacing all right.”
“Frodo speaks wisely, Pippin,” Gandalf said. “Those who choose to live in isolated lands quite often fear what they do not understand.”
Pippin looked like a lost and woebegone five year-old. I glanced around, noting that all were affected by his unhappy little face. Sam now spoke up:
“Pip, just look at all the talkin’ goes on any night of the week at The Green Dragon. Gossip’in and tall tales and such. Have a strange face show up in Hobbiton and tongues start waggin.’ You’ve heard my old Gaffer and Sandyman and all their cronies go on and on. ‘Less’n they know otherwise, folks are wary of strangers by nature. Even Bucklanders are thought of as odd by some – no offense Merry – and that’s only because they all settled across the Brandywine right up against the Old Forest. So it’s not hard to imagine that mysterious little folk would be thought of as strange, ‘specially when a body’s never seen one.”
This was an extraordinary amount of speechifying from Sam, and it was wisdom, kindly spoken. So Pippin, who had been gazing at Sam, sighed and seemed to accept the fact that he wouldn’t be hoisting any ale in any tavern of men in the near future.
“I suppose you’re right,” he said.
I studied my cousin. Compliance from Pippin was usually more hard won, and there was no telling if his docile acceptance would hold once we neared Drumold and the lure of a possible tavern grew stronger. I fired Aragorn a glance. He was watching me, and I knew at once that I wasn’t the only one feeling a bit anxious about Pippin’s sincerity.
“I trust you fully understand the peril of being seen, Master Took,” Aragorn said, turning a stern look upon my cousin. “I cannot over-emphasize how profoundly displeased I would be should temptation become too much for you.”
Aragorn’s somber undertone sent shivers through me. He didn’t have to say much, and he never had to raise his voice. Aragorn could deliver a splendid promise of disaster with very little effort. Clearly Pippin heard him well. He swallowed hard and let fly some innocent sass, his usual response to disappointment:
“I understand! All right?” he exclaimed, his indignation overtaking his good judgement. “Merciful sakes! I’m not balmy enough to stroll into some strange town when I’ve been ordered not to! I don’t want to risk endangering anyone.”
“I know you do not,” Aragorn said with a tolerant nod.
“I want to help our Quest just like everyone else!” Pip continued, now on an indignant tear.
“I know you do,” Aragorn said.
“And I can be a big help!”
“I know you can.”
“You can help us out now, laddie, by leaving off the yelling,” Gimli said, his eyes sparkling. “Instead, why not sing us that funny little drinking song of yours?”
Everyone laughed. Pippin grinned reluctantly, then he giggled, our clever dwarf shooing away the tension amongst us.
“Which drinking song?” Merry asked. “Pip knows about a hundred of them!”
“At least a hundred!” I joined in, laughing.
“You know. My favorite!” Gimli exclaimed.
“That one with the brook?” Pip said at once, for we all knew the song Gimli requested most.
“Aye!” he replied, grinning like mad. “The one you sang that night at your pub, and young Baggins was skipping ‘round the table whilst you and Master Brandybuck stood atop it and danced. You made up the last line and you two near fell off the table laughing!”
“That one again?” Pippin asked.
“Aye!” the dwarf shot back, slapping his knees and chortling.
“Right then!” Pip scrambled up, pulling Merry and me with him, saying, “C’mon! I canna sing this alone, you know! And one and two and:
“Hey Ho! To the bottle I go!
To heal my heart and drown my woe!
Rain may fall and wind may blow,
but there still beeeee, many miles to go!
“Sweet is the sound of the pouring rain,
And the stream that flows from hill to plain.
Better than rain or rippling brook
Is a mug of beer inside this Took!”
We all laughed again, Gimli near passing out with raucous guffawing. For some reason, he found this particular narrative absolutely hilarious. He roared with laughter no matter how many times he’d heard it before, setting off the rest of us. And the warm sound of affectionate unity echoed throughout our cave.
So Pippin was sorted out and our Fellowship rested there that night and all the next day in order to once more begin traveling under the cloak of darkness. No one minded an extra day of rest before the fire after the exhausting cold on the mountain.
Aragorn and Boromir left the cave the next day, off to do more hunting, they said. I wondered why they were hunting again when the evening before they had brought back more than enough to sustain us for several days. And I wondered why Legolas hadn’t gone with them. I also wondered why they were gone for nearly two hours, and why neither Legolas nor Gandalf became concerned about that, and why after their extended hunting trip they came back with only a few pheasants.
But then I noticed how red Boromir’s eyes were, and how he was trying to keep from looking directly at anyone, covering his lowered head with his draping hair. I caught his eye once, though. He’d meant for me to, for he tugged his head to one side and moved off towards the mouth of the cave to gaze out. I glanced at Aragorn and found him watching me, as though waiting for something. He gave me a tiny nod, and suddenly I understood my role in this. I knew what to do next. I said a few quiet words to Sam, and he discreetly murmured his understanding, bless him, then I began my part.
We hobbits were not permitted to wander alone. One of the warriors had to be with us, even stationing themselves at a discreet distance when we needed a bit of privacy. I stood and said in a low tone, “Aragorn, I-I need to --” It was all I needed say.
“Boromir,” Aragorn said, “Please stand escort for Frodo.”
“Certainly,” Boromir replied, without turning round. I joined him and we headed out of the cave. “We shall gather more wood,” he called back. So now we had an open-ended portion of time to ourselves. We just had to remember to actually bring back some wood.
We walked in silence for a while, then suddenly Boromir scooped me up and settled me on his hip, his interlinked fingers forming a chair beneath my bottom. He sighed then and relaxed, clearly feeling better. I waited, though I felt certain I knew what this was about. It seemed he was trying to work up the courage to say what he needed to say.
I wrapped my arms round his neck and said, “It’s all right, you know.”
He stopped walking and stood still for a minute. I smoothed the loose, feathery locks from his face, tucking them behind his ear. “Boromir,” I murmured, giving his ear a small nudge with my nose, “it truly is all right.”
He turned to me with a shy grin, then he glanced over my shoulder and headed for some boulders. Surely he wasn’t planning to sit on that hard surface – not after --!
“Wait!” I exclaimed. “No, Boro – wait – you don’t want to sit after being spa--especially not on that hard bould --”
Too late. Or perhaps I had wasted my efforts protesting a move he seemed determined to make. Boromir sat and immediately winced and stiffened upwards, sucking a sharp breath. I vow he’d have cried out had he not been so proud. Was the man trying to punish himself further?
“Ohhh!” I clenched my bottom in sympathy. “Get up! Stand up again! Or at least put me down!”
He gave me a pained grin. “Frodo, hush,” he murmured, shifting me around to sit on his lap.
I began to struggle, thinking that I could force him to put me down, but he gave me a stern look and issued a firm order: “Stop that, little one. Straddle. At once.”
Right, then. He wasn’t going to release me. I obediently straddled his waist, huffing a pout of disapproval.
“Nay, sweetling. None of that,” he said, his eyes twinkling a bit at my scowl. “I deserved this.”
“No, you don’t! You certainly don’t deserve to make it worse for yourself!”
“It shall ease in a minute.”
“Oh!” I ‘tsked.’ “Stubborn, stubborn man!”
He chuckled. “Have you been talking to Legolas?” He chuckled more at my responding scowl. “Such a face, little one! I shall survive this, you know.” He kissed my brow and said, “And I did indeed deserve it. We both know why, don’t we?”
It wasn’t the first time the Ring had lured Boromir beyond his power to resist it. He’d felt it at Lord Elrond’s Council. He would likely feel it again. And now Boromir was plainly struggling with what he no doubt saw as dishonorable weakness.
I knew that feeling of guilt and weakness. And of course Aragorn had needed to address it. I had needed him to help me through it after the incident in the mud.
“The Ring affects me, too, you know,” I said.
“Aye, sweetling. I know.”
“It’s awful, isn’t it? Feeling so out of control.”
He nodded and gazed off again. “There comes a . . . a separateness, a feeling as though --”
“As though you’ve stepped outside yourself, and you are watching yourself do something you would rather not do?”
“Aye. It’s just like that.”
“Yes, I know.”
“Aragorn had to speak sharply to me before I could even hear him.”
“Remember the mud?” I said. “I attacked both my cousins! I had completely succumbed to the Ring. Nothing short of you picking me up and spanking me out of my fury got my attention.”
He cast me a wary glance, and I smiled at him, showing him that it was all right to remember such a time without suffering. Though the matter was indeed serious, the actual memory of how we all looked afterwards was funny, and I would not begrudge this good man a moment of mirth for fear of offending my sensibilities.
“Aye,” he said with his familiar broad grin. “You were quite the little orc-ish berserker, sir.”
“I was, wasn’t I?” I giggled more at his remembered name for me. “You whacked the blazes out of me before I could even recall where I was.”
Now he began to chuckle. “And every time I smacked your little backside, mud flew all over, splattering my face.” He stopped to chuckle more. “Ah, Frodo, you were a sight!”
“We all were!” I giggled. “Poor Merry and Pip! Utterly covered with mud! Like you said at the time, you could hardly tell them apart.”
“And both of them furious!”
“With good cause. Oh, how I had attacked them!”
We both laughed, enjoying the memory, ghastly though it had been. Time had healed the incident enough to talk of it this way, but the heart of the pain held true to Boromir’s current plight.
“It was as we said before – I didn’t know what I was doing,” I said. “I was immersed in that dark stupor so deeply I could not stop. You had to do what you did, just like Aragorn had to do what he did that night. I took two spankings for that loss of control!”
“Ah, poor little one!” Boromir shook his head at me. “Aye, that you did.”
“Everything you and Aragorn had to do was all right.” Again I reached up and smoothed the locks from his eyes; then I ran my fingertips along his beard, saying, “So, you see, I do understand how you felt on the mountain yesterday, and I understand why you and Aragorn needed to be alone today, and why your eyes looked so red when you came back, and I understand why you must say what you must say to me now.”
He watched me, those wide eyes full of compassion, and I heard what I had promised Aragorn I would say spill gratefully from me:
“I am sorry, Frodo. I’m sorry I withheld the Ring, even for that short time. It frightened you, and I apologize.”
He smiled quietly and leaned in and gave me a sweet little kiss, “It’s alright, Boromir,” he said, his whisper tickling puffs of breath against my lips. “All’s forgiven.”
Astounding, the power of those words. I hugged him and kissed him back, a brief, gentle kiss, and then he laid his sweet head on my shoulder again, murmuring, “And now, sir, can you stand up? Or put me down? Or at least find a patch of soft grass to settle upon?”
I chuckled. “Aye, little one.” And I rose with Frodo in my arms and headed for just such a soft patch of grass nearby. “I shall oblige your third suggestion, but not the second. I do not care to release you from my arms.”
Frodo watched me with a shy grin, then he glanced away, blushing. “As you will then, sir.”
“Of course, there is a certain young and fiercely possessive gardener to consider. I fear Sam will come in search of you if I keep you out too long.”
“Don’t worry. I told Sam we might be a while.” I shot him a wary look. “But that was all I needed to say,” he quickly added. “He won’t fret. Sam knows I’m with you, so he knows I’m safe.”
A warm rush coursed through me. Again, the power of such simple words! That noble little soul trusted me with his beloved master. My throat grew tight with a sore lump of emotion.
I gingerly sat down under a large oak and leaned back against its trunk, Frodo on my lap. He seemed less inclined to fight his way free this time, his small legs clutching my waist and his arms hugging my neck. Why this felt so wondrous I have no idea, but it did, and I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the sensation of a clinging hobbit.
“Do you think we should fret about it, little brother?” Legolas had once asked me when I puzzled over the matter aloud. He cast Aragorn a wink.
I’d nearly replied with some bawdy sass, but I glanced at Aragorn, recalled his feelings about coarse speech and changed my mind. He’d grinned at me in that fond way that makes me feel as though he knows just what I’m thinking.
“Relishing an armful of a fetching hobbit is a harmless pleasure, my fledgling,” he said. “And they enjoy it as much as we big folk do.”
“They may, however, also wonder at their contentment,” Legolas added. “Well, not Pippin.” We chuckled softly, then Legolas went on: “But Frodo once pondered it. He fussed when I took him up in my arms, saying that being carried about in such a manner seemed inappropriate and unbefitting the Ringbearer.”
Picturing Frodo saying this, we exchanged fond grins.
“I vow he did not dwell on it long,” Aragorn said.
Legolas shook his head. “When I asked him if he truly disliked it he quickly said, ‘no!’ So I spoke a few words of reason to him and he was content.”
“Words of reason?” I asked.
“I told him to enjoy each pleasant feeling for what it is when it comes, for they are always too fleeting.”
“Mmm,” Aragorn nodded, puffing his pipe. “Good advice, my fledgling.”
I blinked at the soft, boyish voice. “Aye,” I told Frodo. “Sorry.”
“What for?” he asked, smiling. “No need. But, are you certain you’re comfortable? I can --” He began to move from my lap.
“Nay, sir,” I said, tightening my arms around him. “None of that, now. No fussing.”
He took little convincing. “Oh, thank you,” he said. He made himself more comfortable, curling up and laying his head on my chest once more. “I . . . I really do like this, Boromir.”
“As do I.”
“There is a comfort of sorts in being with someone who . . . what I mean to say is --” He lifted his gaze to me. “You understand what the Ring, well, what it feels like, you see.”
I saw indeed. And it seemed Frodo needed to talk about this, so I simply nodded and let him speak on.
“My kinsmen aren’t the least bit affected by the Ring. Aragorn doesn’t seem affected by it either, nor does Legolas, nor Gandalf nor Gimli. They don’t even seem curious about it.”
“I think they are perhaps somewhat curious,” I said. “They may even consider what they might do with it. But they know better than to act on it, and they are able to practice restraint.”
He nodded, his eyes wide and serious. “You see? You do understand. And, Boromir, you’re the only one who truly understands deep inside what it’s like to be moved by the Ring.”
He was right, and I could scarce believe I was now hearing this from Frodo given the things Aragorn had discussed with me earlier!
“Boromir, Fate fashions mixed blessings. Because the Ring affects you, you can offer our little Ringbearer a unique service. When you are off alone, apologizing to Frodo, Fate will, perhaps, provide you with an opportunity to do something that no other in our Fellowship can do --”
A wild thrill shot through me. I reflected on how perfectly everything was playing out, thanks to Fate. And I knew well my part in what was to come, the part that I alone could play. Again, Frodo seemed most anxious to speak on. So I merely gave him another nod and another, “Aye.”
“I’m glad the Ring doesn’t interest my beloved kinsmen or the others. I don’t want them suffering from its influence. I-I wish . . . .” He looked down shyly. “I wish it didn’t touch you either, sir. I know it has the power to torment you, as it did on the mountain. And I’m sorry that it does, especially when something happens the way it did yesterday, and then today when you had to suffer the --” He winced. “Consequences.”
I felt my face warm, but I remained silent. There wasn’t much I could say until he had finished, and clearly he had more he needed to let go.
“Forgive me for saying this, or even thinking it, but . . . but --”
Frodo shook his head, then he again lifted his gaze to me, his eyes full of a disquietude that wrenched my heart.
“Oh, Boromir! Gracious help me! But I’m glad that you know what it’s like to be controlled by the Ring. I’m so sorry! I hate to say that. I do. Forgive me! It’s a terrible, selfish thing to say. I don’t wish this anguish on anyone, especially someone I care about so deeply, my loyal Captain of Gondor. But I’m comforted by the fact that you do understand, and that I’m not so very alone in this.”
I grabbed him up, gathering him closer. Frodo trembled, still babbling, somewhat desperately, as though trying to cover up what he’d just said with apologies.
“I’m sorry, Boromir! I’m so sorry!” He buried his face against my chest, grabbing fistfuls of my surcoat and twisting the cloth, then clutching at me as though clinging to a lifeboat. “Forgive me!”
Ah! Poor little mite! As though the burden of carrying the Ring was not enough, Frodo now felt It beginning to distance him from even his beloved kinsmen, coming between him and his most profound source of comfort. I wondered if Frodo had ever felt this alone. How frightening for him! How awful.
“Shhhh,” I said, kissing his brow. “No need for sorries, sweetling. Of course you would find solace in a kindred spirit. No need to feel badly about that. There is nothing to forgive.”
“Enough now,” I ordered in a firm tone. He grew quiet.
I couldn’t believe what he had said. It was too astounding after all Aragorn had told me. But now I understood so much, and I could help Frodo, and I blessed every unseen element that had fit these pieces together so perfectly, bringing the two of us to this moment. To begin with, though, Frodo needed calming down.
“First of all, sweetling, what you said is neither terrible nor selfish. It’s simple nature to long for others to share our troubles with. You mustn’t --”
Suddenly Frodo yawned so mightily that his whole body shook! I paused, thoroughly surprised. But then, how tense he must have been! Why wouldn’t he be weary? I suspected that the Ring wore him down in ways the rest of us couldn’t imagine.
Hmmm. Perhaps a short nap would do him some good. It would also give me time to think on what I wanted to say to him. I began to rock, back and forth.
“You don’t need to do that.”
“You don’t need to rock like that. I’m not tired.”
“I know. I like rocking, though. Indulge me.”
“Oh. I see.” Another massive yawn. “Very well, then.”
He relaxed and I began stroking his soft curls and rubbing his back and murmuring tender words to calm him. Frodo lay still against me and before long his little limbs collapsed and he loosed a tiny snore. I smiled, kissing his fragrant locks. After his nap there would be time to share with him the sweet and simple truth Aragorn had helped me discover whilst I was over his knee.
I watched Aragorn hang the pheasants over the branch of a tree, then turn to me. My stomach clenched. “Maybe we should nab a few more birds.”
“We have enough.”
“You know how Pippin loves pheasant. And Gimli can eat a whole bird by himself.”
“We have enough.”
“It would be easy --”
“Boromir, we did not even need these.” He tilted his head to one side and studied me. “Having second thoughts?”
“About the pheasants?”
“About your spanking.”
I snorted. “Not at all! Why would I have second thoughts?”
“It would not matter if you did.”
Aragorn strolled over to a group of annoyingly well-placed boulders, picked one, sat and considered me again. I shifted my weight. I squirmed without moving a muscle. I wondered what he found so interesting. And finally an awful foreboding popped into my head. Best to ward it off now.
“Please do not crook your finger at me.”
He lifted a brow. “Then come here.”
“Maybe we could talk it over first.”
“What is there to talk over?”
I had no response.
“I could count to three if you prefer, ere I fetch you.”
“Count?” I grimaced. Of all the awful suggestions!
“Aye. Like this: One.”
“Aragorn please! Do not count!”
“Mmmm.” He nodded, grave-faced. “A wise choice. You do not want me to fetch you. Your spanking will be much worse if I am forced to fetch you.”
I began to hate the word ‘fetch’ nearly as much as I hated another certain word. And what I wanted was to somehow avoid this spanking altogether.
It had been less than a week since I had suffered one of the worst hidings of my life at the hands of a certain elvish warrior who had been determined to assert his big-brotherly rights and solidify his big brotherly role in my life. He’d achieved both goals with memorable effectiveness. Never again would I underestimate Legolas, nor would I take lightly his commitment to the role both he and I cherished. Memories of that day shot through me, making me quiver:
“ . . . Do you want this? Do you accept everything that comes with it? Do you want to be my little brother?”
“Aye! Aye, Legolas . . . please, I-I accept . . . y-your little br-brother.”
Oh, indeed, I’d accepted it most willingly. But it hadn’t ended with that awful spanking. Aragorn had walloped me as well, right on top of that worst hiding of my life. All over the trifling matter of a little cold lake water. It had taken days for the effects of those two spankings to wear off. Facing another trip over Aragorn’s knee so soon after that experience was an unhappy prospect indeed.
“Boromir, look at me,” he now said in his warm, soothing tone, and when I lifted my gaze to him and saw that same warmth in his eyes, Aragorn went on, saying, “I love you, my fledgling. I shall not allow you to languish in your guilty feelings. So, come. If you still long to talk after I have finished heating your backside, I shall be happy to do so. But enough, little one. We have plenty of pheasant. Now come here.”
Aragorn did not play fair. He reached inside me and touched my heart, bringing tears to my eyes with his boundless devotion. Then he simply waited, watching me with his mild and patient expression. He did not play fair! I lowered my gaze and wandered over to him, each step seeming to require tremendous effort.
I almost made it. Two steps away I froze, the sight of his waiting lap becoming too much for me. Such solid thighs, lean but powerful, and when I lay stretched out over them, my jittery stomach clenching –
Aragorn’s tone of gentle command. How the man made his voice both gentle and commanding at the same time was beyond me, but he somehow manag –
I shot him a glare. “NO!”
I barely saw him lunge my way. He must have learned how to move that fast whilst growing up amongst the elves. It put me in mind of a certain yellow and green blur who had constantly bested me in our battle for supremacy a few days back.
Aragorn’s firm grasp clamped over my arm just above the gauntlet and he yanked and then OOMPH!
And there I was, over his lap, those muscled thighs supporting my jittery clenching stomach. I’d barely focused and started gasping my first when he began situating me with his typical ease, pulling my thighs and chest onto the boulder and leaving my legs beneath the knee free to kick. He closed his solid arm over the small of my back whilst foraging through my clothing for his target. I was becoming much too familiar with this procedure.
“I should have made you remove some of these bothersome articles ere I took you over my knee, sir,” he muttered.
Why such an offhand remark would fluster me so was beyond my ken, but oh, how it did! Panic shot through me and I began wrenching around.
Aragorn seemed a bit caught off guard, and I vow catching him a bit off guard vexed him just a little. Despite the fact that my breeches were still up, he managed to deliver such a hearty whack to my backside that I sucked a sharp breath. Merciful fathers! A rare, “Ow!” slipped out. Rare for this early in a spanking, that is.
“Then stop that impertinence at once, little bratling,” he muttered.
I did. In fact I froze. Vexing Aragorn at such a time was profoundly unwise.
“Let us have no further displays of temper, shall we?”
“Aye, sir,” I quickly replied.
“I-I mean, no! No, sir! No more temper!”
He grunted. “Have you anything else to say?”
“Very well,” he murmured, and he continued undressing me. I remained pliable, owing that slip in decorum to utter shock. Of course this was still shocking to me. Would I ever become accustomed to being pulled over a knee and spanked? Would the day ever come when this became so commonplace that I didn’t panic? I wasn’t sure I wanted to be able to answer that question. Perhaps I would ask Master Took for his opinion on’t. I could hear him now: “Panic? Why, no, not at all. Why d’ya ask, Boromir?”
Far too quickly Aragorn finished battling his way through my garments, folding them up over my back. He grabbed the top of my breeches and I winced, squeezing my eyes shut. Terrible part, this! I always tried to pretend I wasn’t here. He paused – a nice, long wait, wretched man – and then he pulled down my breeches with an appalling flair and a speed that made my heart jump.
And then, ohhhhh . . . that cool air breezing over my backside! Nothing matched being turned over a knee, bottom bared, for the sheer feel of exposure. Nothing. And Aragorn held the moment in his hand, drawing it out, toying with it, making certain I felt every second of it. Oh, he did not play fair.
But I understood what he was doing, and why he was doing it. He was satisfying a need that differed for both of us, but was intensely felt by both of us. I felt it every time I’d been spanked, so I had to admit to it being alive within me, lying dormant, ready to surge forth, engulfing me during this most vulnerable moment when I lay defenseless over a lap, my bottom bared and subject to the gaze of whoever held me captive. It made me quiver uncontrollably. But I would ne’er admit to feeling satisfied by this dreadful, sweet sensation of embarrassing helplessness.
That was what Aragorn forced me to feel, and when I was ‘impertinent’ he dragged the moment out like this, drowning me in that humbling sensation, for as long as he chose to keep me there. He had fine methods for doing that, too. And this was where Aragorn’s needs were satisfied, for he enjoyed being able to do this to me.
He loved to touch, rubbing and patting my rear for what seemed like hours, making me lie quietly, trembling over his lap, desperately seeking composure, not that he would permit it. If I did manage the slightest measure of calm, Aragorn would begin to talk, his low, mellow tones melting over me, his words making my skin crawl deliciously. Today he was in fine form.
“Shhh, settle down. Mmmm, such a pretty bottom you have, my fledgling. So round and muscled and smooth. How I love to see you over my knee, waiting for me to spank you. No need to shiver so, little one. I shall take care of all that naughtiness.”
“Aragorn, please! Not that wor – for the love of – AHH!”
“My, but we are forward today. Disturb my time of admiring again, sir, and I shall simply begin all over, taking my leisure e’en longer. So, please, I pray you, indulge me. Do continue to be naugh --”
“Naughty – for as long as you like.”
So, of course, I instantly stopped being . . . that ’n’ word. Those last two whacks had been without the protection of my breeches, and they were much harder swats than Aragorn usually gave when spanking me. They were attention-getting-point-making spanks. His point was well taken indeed.
I trembled, behaving at last, accepting that I’d been bested on every front. And then the truth I’d been shoving aside came slithering in: my defiance had been purposefully done. I writhed inwardly at the fact. I couldn’t look at it but for a fleeting moment. I vow, that truth made me quake as much as did my position.
But truth was truth. Aragorn held me captive in that extended pre-spanking place of helplessness because I had sought it out with my behavior. Valar help me, I’d asked for it.
I was proud of myself for facing the truth. I vow it took more courage to do so than it took to go into battle against a legion of Mordor’s finest. And Aragorn, of course, was ever open to my needs. Regardless of whether or not I could face them honestly, he was more than willing to satisfy them.
So he made me wait, and he did so with enthusiasm. He caressed my backside over and over. He stroked my hair. He ran his big palm up and down my thighs, pushing my breeches down to my boot tops, baring me to his view even more. And again he talked, purring in his seductive voice, soft scolding words, words of gentle reproach rich in ‘little boy’ lingo. It filled my mind, battering down my defenses, making them seen silly and useless. And, at last, Aragorn’s words turned more to the point.
“Do you recall what happened last evening, when you and Legolas and I went out on the hunt?”
“Aye.” Of course I did. We three had gone out by ourselves for two reasons: to hunt and to speak of what had happened on the mountain.
“I would have you think back on last evening now, sweetling,” he murmured. “Think on what was said.”
The scene played through my mind, Aragorn’s hand rubbing my bottom soooooooo nicely . . . .
Of course, Legolas knew all that had taken place between Aragorn and Frodo and I, even though he had been far ahead of us up the mountain. He had turned and looked back at us and listened, and it was as though he was right there beside Aragorn, watching me toy with the Ring. So the two of them had gazed at me intently when I began speaking of the incident in a nonchalant way, dismissing it as a trifling occurrence.
“I vow, in all honesty, ’twas nothing. True, for a moment I was fascinated with the thing. But I’d never intended to keep it, for Valar’s sake! I was simply picking it up to give back to Frodo, that’s all. I pray you both, don’t make more of this than it is.”
I must have taken leave of my senses. Aragorn and Legolas looked quite calm though, surprisingly so. Actually, they looked at me as though I hadn’t said a word. For some reason I couldn’t fathom I became irritated.
“You agree, then, that this little episode was but a slight . . . slip,” I said.
“A slight slip,” Aragorn repeated, coolly emotionless.
“Aye,” I said with firm resolve. “‘Twas but a small matter, over and done with. I shall apologize to the little one, of course, and there’s an end to it. I would appreciate it if we could move on and not dwell upon it.”
The silence that followed lasted several hours. But all too soon, Legolas spoke again. Not to me, however. Clearly I’d been banished from the conversation. They did keep their eyes on me as they spoke to each other, though. At least they knew I was there.
“It is my turn, Estel.”
“I know, mellon nin. Nevertheless, I shall handle my fledgling this time.”
Legolas darted him a look. “But --”
“I know it seems unfair, but what happened on the mountain took place between Boromir and Frodo and me. It is my right.”
“I am sorry,” Aragorn interrupted again, then he lowered his voice and he spoke to Legolas in rapid elvish. Legolas paused, then nodded, grinning a bit.
“Excuse me!” I growled. “Did you not hear what I said?”
They both turned to me with frank amazement. “Of course we heard you,” Aragorn said. “Did you hear yourself? You bespoke your need eloquently with every word you uttered, sir.”
I gaped at him, sudden dread racing through me.
“Boromir,” Legolas said. I flinched, taken aback to hear him call me by my name. I did not like it. “Surely you did not think we would take your empty pretense seriously.”
“We care for you too much to do such a thing,” Aragorn said.
“But we do hear you, little brother.”
“Quite clearly, sweetling.”
And all of a sudden my silly posturing seemed as absurd as it was. My panic increased, but along with it came a flood of bewildering gratitude that near made me shatter into tears.
“What happened to you on the mountain was no small matter,” Aragorn went on in a compassionate tone. “You were enchanted by the Ring, my poor fledgling. You did not even hear me speak to you at first, did you?”
My throat tightened. I swallowed hard and shook my head. “No, I didn’t.”
“You were spellbound,” Legolas said. “I watched you from afar. You were frozen, holding that cursed thing up, staring at it, clearly mesmerized. I was about to race down over the snow and rip it from your hand. My poor little brother.”
I blinked, overwhelmed by the concern filling their eyes and their hushed, sympathetic tones. Unable to face them, I dropped my gaze, feeling ashamed to be so unaware of myself and embarrassed by my cheek. I suddenly felt four years old again, listening to my patient Thorongil explain why little boys needed to be spanked.
“I’m sorry to have sounded so offhand,” I suddenly heard myself mutter. “I know what happened was serious. I do.” I paused, struggling with how to say what I meant, a wave of sudden honesty crashing over me.
“I-I did not like admitting that I could be so controlled by the Ring, even though it has happened before. But . . . but I was, indeed, beyond myself, and I frightened Frodo, and I angered you, Aragorn, and I . . . I’m just so sorry to have disappointed you both --”
They converged upon me before I could finish my thought, engulfing me in their gentle hugs and small kisses and murmurs of comfort. Then Legolas grabbed my forearm, spun me around and swatted me so hard I gasped.
Turning me back to face him, he asked, “Are we disappointed in you, little brother?” I stared at him, too stunned to reply. Legolas shrugged, spun me around and whacked me again, this time even harder.
“Answer me, little brother. Are Aragorn and I disappoint --”
“Nay! Nay, you are not disappointed! Not not not!”
Before I could recover, Aragorn yanked me away from Legolas, spun me around once more and gave me a stinging swat of his own. I yelped again ere I could stop myself, and when he turned me back to face him I couldn’t help reaching back to rub at my offended bottom. They had both put much into their wallops.
“Am I angry with you, my fledgling?”
“NAY! Not angry! Not!” But I paused, studying him, then I warily added, “Not now.”
“Ah. I see.” Aragorn nodded, one brow going up. “I was not angry with you on the mountain, either. I was fearful for you, sweetling. The only way to reach you was to speak sharply to you. And after you had returned the Ring to Frodo and ruffled his locks and turned away, deceptively lighthearted, I frowned, watching you move off, sensing the darkness that was now feeding upon you. It was all I could do to keep from coming after you and settling matters then and there on the mountain.”
It was such a ridiculous notion that the three of us broke into grins.
“Thank you for practicing restraint,” I said.
“There were no conveniently placed fallen logs or boulders to sit upon and take you over my knee,” he replied, and we all chuckled.
They released me and we began walking through the gathering evening shadows, heading slowly through the woodland and towards a few sparse meadows beyond.
“I truly didn’t hear you speaking at first, Aragorn,” I said.
“Time held still, as it did at the Council of Elrond. The Ring seemed . . . big, shiny, glowing, casting a bright, golden light that was like a vision of goodness and truth itself.”
“Evil, evil thing!” Legolas spat.
“There is nothing good or true about the Ring.”
“I know it now,” I said. “But when it was dangling on that chain before my eyes all I could do was stare at it, wondering how something so small could cause such misery, and thinking that . . . well, thinking that perhaps it was simply being misunderstood.”
“Misunderstood?” Legolas exchanged glances with Aragorn. “How so, little brother?”
“I don’t know. But I thought that, if I touched it, if I took off my glove and touched it, I could understand what it was trying to say.”
“I fear that, even if you had been wearing your glove, touching it would have likely driven you still further away from all that was real,” Aragorn said. “That was also why I spoke so sharply. I was about to draw my sword and come to you and have you place the chain on the tip of my weapon, that I might then return it to Frodo. I dared not touch it myself.”
Aragorn turned and fastened a stern look upon me. “You are never to try to touch that thing again. Do you understand, my fledgling? You are never, ever to touch the Ring.”
I nodded, startled by his urgent tone and by the grim frown Legolas cast me.
“And if you feel that the Ring is tempting you, you are to tell either me or Legolas,” Aragorn said.
“But I cannot always tell when it is happening. Nor do I get any advance warning.”
“I understand,” Aragorn said. “And in those particular instances you shall not be held responsible for neglecting to say something to us. But in those times when you are aware of the Ring taunting you, even in the smallest way, you must tell us.”
“At once, little brother.”
“With no delay for any reason. Do you understand? Promise us.”
“Aye, Aragorn. Aye, Legolas. I promise.” It was truly a most delicious moment.
They decided that the next day would be a better time to take care of disciplinary matters than that night during the watch. Aragorn pondered the wisdom of this, though, feeling that I would suffer a sleepless night. Legolas snorted.
“Look at him, Estel. Our little one is exhausted.”
“For mercy’s sake!” I’d blushed mightily. “‘Your little one’ indeed! Ridiculous elf!”
Legolas was delighted. He laughed softly, making Aragorn grin and making me growl in feigned exasperation. How these two could reduce me, Captain of the White Tower, to feeling like a tweenish Took!
“Stop pouting, little fledgling,” Aragorn said.
Pouting! Pouting indeed! I kicked a rock in my path halfway back to Rivendell.
“Ah,” Legolas said. “Ill temper. Proof. He is tired and grumpy.”
Blessing the encroaching darkness, I fumed and blushed twelve shades of red.
“Your big brother is right. You have had enough for one day.”
I thought for a moment, then asked, “So, shall I be excused from helping prepare the buck he bears on his shoulders?”
After a pause, Legolas said, “We could take turns with him, Estel. It would not take us long. Twenty spanks each in preparation for tomorrow. Such sass deserves attention from both of us.”
Aragorn playfully narrowed his eyes upon me. “Hmmmmmm.”
I couldn’t help it. I laughed. “Pardon,” I said, and they both grinned.
By the time we were in sight of our cave again, I was able to admit that I had been dismissive of the matter not out of fear of a spanking, but because I had known what I needed. I’d been seeking to provoke a good long lesson.
And I began to understand one reason why Aragorn had told me to recollect last evening as I lay here over his knees. I’d tried to provoke a strong response again today. More pheasant indeed. Some lessons came slowly.
“Do you recall what I said about that poisonous Ring, sweetling?” Aragorn now asked me, still rubbing my bottom. “What did I tell you to never do?”
“Never touch the Ring.”
“And if you feel that the Ring is tempting you, or calling to you?”
“Tell you or Legolas.”
“Very good.” He stopped rubbing my backside. I quivered, knowing he’d raised his hand above my bottom, ready to bring it back down. “And why were you behaving as you were just now, cheeky and dismissive, as you were when we set out last evening?”
I stupidly tensed my behind and stammered, “B-Because I felt so terrible about what I-I’d done that I-I-I --” Ohh! Horrible thing to have to admit!
“I w-wanted a long s-spanking.” And now I was one big mass of clenched muscles.
“Very good, little one.”
I didn’t last long. Odd how that double dose of spanking from a few days before had weakened my resistance. One would think it would have strengthened it, the way a broken limb knits back even stronger than before. Doesn’t work that way with spanking.
I lost control quickly and loudly, my kicking becoming so violent that Aragorn had to pause and reposition me to remove that freedom. He trapped my legs, closing them between his and clamping down so firmly I could barely move.
“There now,” he said, picking up where he left off. “Much better.”
I bellowed even louder. Finally I committed the ultimate misdeed. I flung my hand behind me to cover my blazing bottom. But Aragorn dealt with my error in judgement swiftly, grasping my wrist and pinning it to my back before continuing on as though nothing had happened.
Total restraint. How awful and how exquisite! I had done this to Faramir and I’d done it to the little ones. I knew how it affected whoever lay over my knee. Having it done to me, though, ohhhhhhh, Valar help me! The sensation left me too helpless to even sort out my feelings.
After what I am certain was several hours of Aragorn’s hand rising and falling, after he had discussed this matter and after I had collapsed, shattered and wet-faced with tears, he slowed and we went over his important points once again, the ones particular to this spanking:
“Are you evil or bad or weak for what you did on the mountain, sweetling?”
“What, in fact, are you?”
“Aye, my wise fledgling. As we talked about, you are simply human. And you are especially susceptible to the Ring, that is all. It does not make you weak. Those nobles who sat at Elrond’s Council felt the power the Ring can give forth, and they witnessed your battle with it. Aye, Gandalf halted your attempt to touch the thing by rising up with his Black Speech, but the fact remains that you did stop. And you stopped on the mountain. That shows profound strength of will, little one. I am proud of you.”
Why did such words shatter me as effectively as did his spanking?
“And lest you still feel tempted to doubt your strength of will, consider this – had I feared that you would have been a danger to this Fellowship due to your vulnerability to the Ring, I would have asked Lord Elrond to dismiss you from the Quest.”
I had quieted my loud sobbing to listen, and now I raised my head and turned to stare at him, a rush of horror filling me.
“Aye, sweetling. I would have replaced you in an instant rather than risk this Quest and rather than risk your well being. I wouldst ne’er have placed you in the constant tempting path of such an evil object had I doubted you at all. But I know you to be a good man, a strong and worthy man, my beloved fledgling. I knew you were stronger than the Ring.
“Now we know for certain how susceptible you are to it, and we needs be mindful of that. And that is all. So, tell me, are you weak, little boy?”
“N-Noo, sir. Not-Not weak.”
“Ah,” he said. “My fledgling is a bright lad indeed.”
He gathered me up and smiled at me with a proud fondness in his gaze that clutched at my heart. And after he had held me and comforted me to perfection, when I lay quietly in his arms, Aragorn began speaking to me of something else.
“There is something very important I would discuss with you, ere we return.” He shifted our positions so that we could look at each other more directly.
“Shhh,” he said right off. “No need to tighten that brow, little one.” He paused, watching me relax, then he said, “What I have to tell you is of import, but it is not a bad thing.”
I calmed again at his simple manner of speaking and his quiet smile.
“Boromir, Fate fashions mixed blessings. Because the Ring affects you, you can offer our little Ringbearer a unique service. When you are off alone, apologizing to Frodo, Fate will, perhaps, provide you with an opportunity to do something that no other in our Fellowship can do --”
“I-I fell asleep?” Frodo stirred in my arms, his sluggish limbs clumsy. “Bor’mir?”
“Aye, Frodo. All is well. You slept but a little, though. No more than half an hour. Would you like to sleep more?”
Frodo lifted his face to peer at me through a half-lidded gaze. A few delicate imprints from my rumpled clothing had left lines on his dewy cheeks and I smiled, utterly charmed, watching him rub at his eyes with his fists.
He yawned mightily again, quivered, then moved around on my lap, clearly needing to change from his stiffening position. “I had not meant to sleep at all,” he said, sounding amazed. “I didn’t feel sleepy. Or so I thought.” He glanced up at me. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m not,” I returned with a grin. I kissed his brow. “Shh. No fussing now. I enjoyed resting for half an hour with an armful of sweet hobbit.”
He blushed. “Well, thank you, sir, for providing such excellent bedding.”
“You are most welcome.”
“I suppose we should be getting back, but . . . .” He sighed, casting me a shy look. “I’ve enjoyed being out here with you. You . . . well --” He blushed again. “You feel good, Boromir. I feel safe when you hold me like this.”
Cuddling him closer, I murmured, “Then we shall needs try to do this more often.” He nodded against my chest, and I paused, gathering my thoughts and hoping my words would come clearly and easily.
“I shall take you back, but first, there is something I need to discuss with you.”
Feeling him tense, I looked at him, and softly grinned. “No need to tighten that brow, little one. What I have to tell you is of import, but it is not a bad thing.”
And, just as I had earlier in the day when Aragorn had said those words to me, Frodo relaxed, sharing my grin.
Boromir smoothed the hair from my brow, his eyes crinkling at the corners. Such a kindly smile. I couldn’t help relaxing. Whatever he had to say, it was clearly important to him. He had paused to think, the way he often did when he had something momentous to share. I found that endearing.
“Before you fell asleep you had been talking about how the others were not affected by the Ring. Do you recall what else you said?”
I winced. “Yes. I said that I was glad the Ring didn’t affect my kinsmen or the others, and I-I said that I wished it hadn’t touched you either.”
I paused. I hadn’t felt good saying what I’d said earlier and I was no more comfortable with it now. It still seemed a cruel thought. But I had to admit the truth – I was glad that Boromir was affected by the Ring. Awful as that was, selfish though it seemed, it comforted me to know that at least one other felt this irresistible pull.
“What else?” he said in a hushed tone. “Go on, sweetling.”
“And I said . . . I-I --” My throat tightened into a painful knot, the words sticking there. I drew my hand to my mouth, seeking my nails with my teeth.
But Boromir pulled my fingers away, as Sam always did, then he gathered me closer, and held me, just held me quietly. Tears suddenly stung my eyes, cropping up out of nowhere, and I pressed my face against the buttery soft leather of his surcoat and wrapped my arms around Boromir’s big solid body, so strong, so soothing.
“Shhh,” he said, beginning to rock again. It felt so very nice. I wouldn’t escape this talk by falling asleep this time. If Boromir stood ready to help me, though, maybe I could . . . .
“Boromir?” I said in a small voice. “Please, can you . . . will you --”
“Look at me, Frodo.”
His hushed voice wrapped around me as warmly as his arms did. I lifted my eyes to him. Ah! Once again, that crinkly-eyed gaze, so like my Sam’s gaze. “Can you help me?” I asked him.
He smiled so gently my throat clenched again, and he said, “It would be my pleasure. I am the only one who can help you. Isn’t that right?”
I blinked, feeling as though he was about to tell me a truth I already knew.
“Aragorn pointed out a sweet and simple truth after . . . well, after --”
“-- after he was done with the hard part.” I grimaced on his behalf.
“Aye. I thought myself weak, you see, because of what happened on the mountain. I truly was mesmerized. Had Aragorn not barked at me the way he did, I might have touched the Ring, and I likely would have become even more lost in it. I felt ashamed at my lack of resistance.”
Smoothing my falling locks from my eyes again, Boromir went on, saying, “But, as Aragorn wisely pointed out, Fate fashions mixed blessings. Because I am so susceptible to the Ring, I am also uniquely suited to help you, sweetling. I alone can offer you the solace of genuine understanding. I can offer a pair of arms when you need to be with one who feels as you do.
“Before you fell asleep you spoke of this very thing.” He paused to release a soft chuckle. “It startled me, for what you were saying – that of all the members of the Fellowship, I am the only one who understands what it’s like to be moved by the Ring – was exactly what Aragorn had said to me earlier today. I am susceptible to the Ring’s power. I am the only one --”
“-- who can comfort me when it comes to the Ring’s influence!” I interrupted. I smiled at him, pleased to see him so pleased. I was happy in this, but I wasn’t happy, too. It still seemed horrible and selfish of me to be too delighted, for my happiness came at the price of this good man’s peace of mind. I couldn’t tell him that, though.
But Boromir was studying me in that same knowing way that Aragorn sometimes did just before he told me what I’d been thinking. I vow Boromir was beginning to pick up Aragorn’s mannerisms.
“Ah, sweet Frodo,” he said, rubbing his large hands over my back. “By all that is reasonable, ‘twould seem wrong for you to be happy about my misfortune, wouldn’t it? But reason carries little weight when it comes to the Ring. It is a wholly unreasonable thing. So I know you wouldst not wish this for me, but it truly is Fate’s mixed blessing.
“As I told you ere you drifted off to sleep, little one, of course you would be pleased to find a kindred spirit. Why wouldn’t you be comforted to know that you’re not alone in your feelings? So I cannot allow you to suffer guilt over this.
“The Ring has taken so much from you, Frodo. It’s ripped you from your beloved homeland and forced you onto a dangerous Quest. You undertook this task in a pure, unselfish desire to do good, to save that which you love and to put an end to the fearful darkness looming over Middle Earth.
“And the Ring hasn’t stopped with merely tearing your life apart. Now it invades your thoughts and troubles your heart. It lies to you, forcing you to behave in ways you don’t like. And now it is beginning to make you feel distanced from your greatest source of comfort – your beloved kinsmen. Is that not so, my poor Ringbearer?”
Careful not to meet his eyes, I dropped my gaze and nodded, tears clouding my vision. Boromir gathered me close once again and held me, rocking, ever rocking.
“Enough!” he whispered with a hushed vehemence that made me flinch. Kissing my brow, he said in a low, smoldering tone, “Sorry to startle you, but you have lost enough, Frodo. Please don’t let guilt taint this gift I have to give you. Embrace it, sweetling. It might not look like a gift, for you know the Ring’s torment too well. But if you can accept this unique comfort that I alone can give, then you shall be triumphing over the Ring. And – And you would be giving me a gift as well.”
I pulled back, staring up at him, and he paused, searching my fascinated gaze with an earnest yearning that touched my heart. “I hope I said all that in a way you could understand,” he said. “If you listen to me with your heart, little one, the way you do so well, I feel certain you shall hear what I’m trying to say.”
I watched him for a long moment, stunned by his quiet common sense. “Oh, Boromir! You’re as eloquent as an elf.”
He chuckled, seeming a bit stunned himself. “Well, Aragorn worked most of that out,” he said with a modest smile. “I am merely helping you see what he helped me to see.”
I leaned up and kissed him, then gave him a hug. “I believe you are being modest, sir. I know Aragorn’s methods. He shows you the path, but you must make the journey of discovery.”
He chuckled. “With him behind you, swatting you along every step of the way.”
“Yes!” I laughed. “My poor captain!”
His grin widening, he said, “Nay, ‘twas worth the unpleasantness, sweetling. I was enlightened, to be certain. And I . . . well, I think you know exactly what I mean when I say that I needed Aragorn to do what he did, the way you needed him to do the same to you after the incident with the mud.
“That is why I said I deserved it,” he continued. “That word has many meanings, depending on the circumstances. In this case, I did indeed deserve exactly what I got. As Aragorn explained, I deserved it because --”
“-- because you are worthy of it! Oh! Of course!”
Quite rude of me to interrupt yet again. I couldn’t stop doing it. But Boromir didn’t seem to mind. Well, not much. He merely picked me up and gave me a playful swat, then sat me back down, grinning at my squeak.
“Pardon,” I said, rubbing my bottom.
Boromir gazed at me fondly, then he took my hands in his and said, “Aragorn and Legolas made me promise to tell them when the Ring begins to affect me. I would like you to do this as well, little one. I know how swiftly the Ring’s voice can hit, but, if you can do so, seek me out and let me try to help you. I know that your loyal Sam will most likely serve that purpose admirably, but . . . but --”
“But sometimes you will be able to understand in a different way,” I said.
He nodded. “I don’t know what, if anything, I shall be able to do, but perhaps I can do something. I shall, at least, know of the battle you are waging within.”
“I’ll make that promise, sir, if I can have the same from you in return.”
“You have it,” he said.
He didn’t hesitate a moment, and I smiled, touched by the faith he had in me. “And if I haven’t said anything to you,” I went on, “but you begin to notice that my behavior seems suspicious --”
“I shall tell you,” he said. “And I’ll do what I can. And if you see that I am not myself --”
“I shall tell you.”
We exchanged a long, respectful gaze, then we hugged, our pact sealed. I wondered if we stood a chance against the Ring, but our bond was a hopeful one, and I felt comforted by it.
“Thank you, my loyal Captain of the Guard.”
He grinned shyly. “You inspire loyalty, sweetling. Thank you as well.” He glanced towards the sun. “And now, we must go back.”
“Wood!” I said, scrambling from his lap. “We need to gather some wood.”
“Indeed! Or Pippin will have questions.”
I giggled, beginning to gather up branches. “He’ll accuse us of stealing away to find Drumold and hoisting an ale without him.”
Boromir laughed. “Ah, I fear Legolas will have to sit on that wee bratling to keep him from following us into the village.”
I joined his laughter. “Legolas and Gimli!”
“And Gandalf, too! Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf.”
“Aragorn and I shall return to a squashed Took.”
“A squashed Took with a glorious pout.”
Chuckling, our arms full of fuel for the fire, we headed back to the cave. Boromir suddenly halted. He looked down at me, and sadly said, “I cannot carry you back, little one. You shall have to walk.”
I burst into laughter. “I think I remember how, sir.”
I vow, his responding pout was as grand as any my cousin had ever produced.
End - Tales of the Quest - Chapter I
Tales of the Quest Chapter II to be continued.