Beta appreciation notes to Kat and Derby – thanks to my precious and patient team! Also, thank you, Derby, for the splendid bunny, and thank you Kat for the IM brainstorming and instant gratifiction when I needed a boost. 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.
Quest Chapter II – Little Boy Thievesby Larrkin Larrkin2@yahoo.com
“Thieves! Thieves! Little boy thieves!”
The old woman’s scream ripped through the quiet village. Aragorn and I looked at each other, stunned, both of us thinking the same thing. Little boy thieves?
“Thieves! Thieves! Alarm! Alarm!”
Aragorn cast me a grimace and we ran towards the woman’s cottage on the edge of town. The folks of Drumold seemed interested, but, oddly, only some came hurrying to aid the furious old woman. Calm lot, these villagers, even if the goods weren’t of much value. We outdistanced the others, reaching the old one first, save another woman who was trying to calm her.
Waving her spindly arms and dancing with upset, the old one screeched and babbled out her fury: “Stoled! Bread and two gooseberry pies! Right from my yard! I saw ‘em! Cross the western field, high-tailin’ it into the wood!”
“Bread and pie?” I muttered to Aragorn, both of us casting about, watching the few others grow near. “All this fuss for bread and pie?”
“It appears this one bakes for a living,” Aragorn said, nodding to the cooling racks behind her cottage. “Likely our ‘little boy thieves’ have just stolen part of her income.”
“Gone! Scoundrels! Stuffin’ themselves with my good living! And market day tomorrow!”
Aragorn quickly stepped close to the old woman, and said in his soothing voice, “Peace, good mother. Does this cover your loss?” He took her hand and pressed a coin into it.
Instantly calming, she stared down at the coin, then up at Aragorn, then down again, then she looked at the woman beside her, then she turned her gaze back up to Aragorn. “Aye, sir, ‘tis more than enough, but ‘tis not your duty to pay --”
Waving off her grateful befuddlement, he turned to me and said, “Come sir. Let us track down these thieves and bring them to justice.”
We broke into a dead run, across the field towards the forest, ignoring the babble of the folks now converging on the old one.
When we were halfway across the field, Aragorn finally spoke: “They shall never sit again.”
“The good folk of Drumold shall never sit again?” He fired me a wry smirk. I couldn’t help laughing. “I’m sorry. I know, this is not funny.”
“Nay. It is not.”
We ran on. “I can scarce believe they would dare do this!” I exclaimed.
“Nor can I.”
“After you warned them and left orders! Aragorn, that they would disregard your orders so blatantly!”
“As I said, they shall never sit again.”
We hit the edge of the forest and
entered its shadowy depths, still racing along next to each other,
still well ahead of the men behind us who had now set out from
Drumold as well.
“We are speaking of Merry and Pippin, are we not?” I ventured.
“Aye, my fledgling. Who else?”
“Aye. E’en if the Ring was influencing Frodo, he wouldn’t do something like this.”
“The Ring rouses his temper. It does not tempt him into mischief. At least, it has not done so yet. We both know who is running ahead of us, back towards the cave.”
Well, we thought we knew.
“Ho, there! Strider!”
We halted, peering off into the deep shadows of the forest. A small party appeared, weaving through the thick trees, four huntsmen whom we had met earlier in the village, and three reluctant young lads who looked to be around twelve summers old. Each huntsman held a boy by the arm, marching him along, and the last held several loaves of bread and the remains of a battered pie. One of the lads appeared to be wearing the rest of the pie.
Aragorn and I exchanged sheepish glances. Nay, our little ones were not that foolish after all. Thankfully, we had done them a disservice in our dastardly thoughts.
“Orin!” Aragorn called back. “Your hunt was successful?”
Orin, the brawniest of the hunters, chuckled. “Aye! So to speak.”
“Ran smack into ‘em!” said the hunter named Palin.
“They weren’t bein’ wary,” Joss, huntsman three, added. Cerin, the fourth hunter remained silent. With his lips pressed together in an ominous frown, he grasped the arm of the littlest boy.
Now the few men from Drumold came running up. “Aye, as we thought,” one called. They halted and took in the scene, casting glances of exasperation back and forth. One of them leaned over his knees, gasping and growling an irritated, “Not again!”
Orin cast the sulking lads a glare, then turned to Aragorn and me. “They’ve done this a’fore.”
“Aye,” Palin said. “Thought we’d walloped this outa ye last time, lads.”
“But this were different!” the littlest boy piped up. “We was – EEK!”
His protest ended in a yip when a firm swat landed on his backside. “Enough, my son.” Cerin had finally spoken.
“Ye’ve pie all over ye, lad,” Orin said. “Y’ can’t claim you didn’t steal it.”
“We did,” the biggest boy now shot back with a sulky glare. “Aye, ‘deed we did. But they asked us to.”
Aragorn stiffened. A hot jolt shot through me. They?
“They.” Orin heaved a tired sigh. “They indeed. They who?”
“The other boys,” the lad announced with indignation. “The strangers. Two of ‘em. They was over there.” He gestured off. “By Little Stream, where you caught us. They was standing back behind the crowberry bushes.”
The men exchanged aggravated gazes. Clearly repeat offenders, these young thieves had, thank the Valar, no credibility. Aragorn and I listened on, nervously fascinated.
Orin snorted. “Aye. Indeed. Other little boys.”
“From whence?” said Joss.
The lads exchanged vague stares. “Uhhh, they din’t say where. Out . . . out camping, they said!”
“Out here. Alone. Camping. Two lads camping alone.” Orin looked skyward.
“Don’t make it worse for yourself by lying,” Palin said.
The boys gaped around at the adults. Poor wee brats. They were defenseless. The truth was too unbelievable. They shared frightened looks, knowing they had no way to back up their truth.
Of course, Aragorn and I could do nothing but watch. We could hardly swoop in and save these urchins, although we knew they were being honest. I felt Aragorn inwardly seething, though outwardly he seemed but mildly interested. I swallowed hard.
“But they was camping, da! They said they was!” littlest boy cried, yelping again at his father’s next swat.
“They said they would give us ha’pence for each goodie we brought them,” biggest boy said, growing even more defensive.
“‘Goodie?’” Orin frowned. “What kind of word is that?”
A hobbity word, of course. Now the middle-sized boy chimed in, both of them supporting each other with growing desperation. The littlest, however, rubbed his bottom and remained silent.
“Their word! They said it! ‘Goodie’ were their word!”
“They said they was fair hungry for some of that bread and pie we’d just finished off --”
“Just fin --” Orin’s frown deepened. “Hold . . . you mean, you thieved from Ma Rennit twice this day?”
The men bristled. The boys paled and began talking faster.
“Aye, well, the first time, y’see, we lifted a few loaves and a pie for ourselves --”
“And we ran out here and we was sitting o’er there, by Little Stream, eating --”
“And we was purt near done --”
“When these other two boys showed up --”
“Popped up out’a the crowberry bushes on t’other side of the stream --”
“And I were so scared I dropped the rest of me pie all over me!”
“We was all spooked, and we would’a lit out, but right off they was fair spoken and right sorry about the spilt pie --”
“And they din’t come no closer. They stayed put, just talkin’ friendly like --”
“And the littler one talked kinda funny, but it were nice soundin’ --”
“So we wasn’t scared or nothin’ --”
“And they asked how came we by our goodies --”
“So we told about lifting from Ma’s coolin’ racks out back’a her cottage --”
“‘Cause tomorrow’s market day, so she bakes --”
“And they laughed and said we wurs’t clever for our thievin’ --”
“‘Best day to thieve!’ said the little one, and we agreed!”
During this frenzied telling, the men ‘tsked’ and cast scoffing glances amongst themselves, plainly believing not a word. These lads must be well known for their fibbing in order to be so wholly disregarded, even with their detailed report. A stroke of luck for our Fellowship.
“So then they asked, was there more goodies to be thieved --”
“GOODIES, they called them!”
“Aye, goodies! And we said, aye, market day being tomorrow and all --”
“Best day to thieve!”
Well, the brats were simply determined to hang themselves. Of all the ridiculous honesty! I fidgeted and glanced at Aragorn, unnerved further by his peaceful air. Why all this rattled me so I could not say, but watching these three writhe under examination, battling a hopeless battle, tweaked my anxiousness. ‘Twas certain, of course, that Merry and Pip would likely never sit again. Watching these hapless lads struggle, I agreed that our mischievous hobbits deserved whatever Aragorn did to them.
“So, they said they was fair hungry --”
“The fish wasn’t biting and the rabbits slipped their snares --”
“So they’d missed supper last night and their first breakfast --”
First breakfast. I dared not glance at Aragorn.
“And they asked would we go back and filch them a pie and some bread --”
“And they offered us ha’pence when we got back.”
“Ha’pence for each goodie – EEK!” Littlest brat was silenced yet again.
“And when we got back, they was gone!”
“Flat out gone!”
“And then you jumped us --”
“And I dropped pie on myself again!”
The boys finally stopped to draw breath, the pie-covered one in near tears. They had been honest, I had no doubt, little good it did them. The men never stopped exchanging dubious looks. Alas, poor wee brats. They looked around, knowing their fate.
“THAT’S THE TRUTH! EEK! DA! That’s the truuuuuuth!”
“Would we could believe you,” Orin said, the men now adding their comments:
“You’ve got yer story straight with each other, I’ll give you that.”
“Not a’tall likely, though.”
“Other little boys?”
“With ha’pence to spend?”
“On ‘goodies,’ no less?”
“Where could they run to?”
“And if they were so starving, why would they leave without their ‘goodies?’”
“You’ve come up with much better tales than this one, haven’t ye, lads?”
“More to the matter,” Orin now said, commanding the attention of all. “If these strange lads had coin to spend, why not come into town and spend it, honest and fair? Or if they were mischievous rascals, why not steal the goods themselves, save their coin ‘stead of offering it to you three? Why ask you to steal for them a’tall? It makes no sense, lads.”
Indeed, their story made no sense to all but Aragorn and me. The pitiful boys stood trembling and utterly without answers. They looked near tears. I felt Aragorn tensing beside me. I vow, if he had to witness much more of this miscarriage of justice he would likely explode.
“We must be off,” he suddenly said, drawing everyone’s attention. Merciful Middle Earth - how ominously calm he seemed! A second later he released a soft chuckle, saying, “Clearly you have matters well in hand.”
Sadly for the lads, I fear the men did. So we parted from the group, heading off into the woods whilst they made for Drumold, loudly protesting little boy thieves in tow.
Aragorn looked back over his shoulder several times. I watched him, and when the Drumold party was far in the distance he said, “Come, my fledgling.” And he darted off to one side. We ran through the forest and before long we were back at the river, standing where the young thieves claimed to have met the ‘other little boys.’ Aragorn studied the ground around the crowberry bushes, obviously expecting to find what he did.
“Hobbit tracks,” he said, pointing here, there, all over. “Easily identified.” Sure enough those unique hobbit footprints were everywhere. “‘Tis this I find more interesting,” he said.
I followed his pointing finger, narrowing my eyes, seeing nothing. “What?”
He crouched down, pulling me with him. “Here.” He pointed at the dark soil. “And here. And here.”
I narrowed my eyes, straining to see something, and finally I just barely made out a light whisper of a print. I glanced up at Aragorn. He was watching me.
“Elf,” he said.
Merciful Middle Earth.
It was, of course, my fault. I could scarce believe Merry and Pippin would do what they did, but they did, and it was, of course, my fault.
They had seemed exhausted. We had begun traveling at night again, so the hobbits were always quite weary at dawn when we made camp, crawling beneath their blankets each morning right after eating. This worked out well for Aragorn’s trip to Drumold.
It had taken three nights of journeying to reach the area where the village lay. Owing to the mountainous region, Aragorn knew of another comfortable cave wherein we could find shelter. Gimli was most pleased. So was I.
I knew of this cave, for Aragorn and I had traveled these lands together several times. As did the cave at the foot of Caradhras, this one meandered deep into the mountainside, branching off here and there to form chambers and alcoves. One chamber in particular held some lovely memories.
It lay off the main passageway, down a corridor that curved around several twists and turns. Had Gimli known that mithril laced this chamber’s walls we likely would have needed to leave the dwarf behind. Little Aragorn or I cared about the mineral but for the fact that it made this pretty, sequestered ‘room’ sparkle and become quite magical when torchlight glittered over its walls.
So when Aragorn informed the Fellowship of our heading I could not help turning a soft grin upon him. He caught my look and returned it in kind, as though to say, ‘Aye, elfling mine. That cave.’ There were other caverns in the area he could have chosen, so it touched me that he chose to rest in this one.
Sadly, it proved to be my downfall.
Aragorn planned to head for Drumold after the morning meal when the little ones were their most drowsy. He and Boromir would travel to the village, about a half-hour’s hike away, and return with our provisions by afternoon. That would give them time to rest before we set out again that night. A fine plan. But we were traveling with hobbits. Mischievous, heedless hobbits. Worse still, they had been left in the care of a dreamy, heedless elf.
All had been well when Aragorn and Boromir headed down into the woodlands that surrounded our cave. Merry and I watched them trudge down the embankment and into the forest. The little one sat puffing away at his pipe, studying the countryside whilst perched on a boulder beside where I stood.
“Is that where Drumold is?” he asked, pointing off in the direction our two warriors were headed.
“Aye, in that valley.” I nodded. “Between those two hills.”
“Not that you need to know where it is, young rascal,” Gandalf said, he and Gimli coming up behind us.
“Oh, I know,” Merry replied, wide eyed innocence incarnate. “I was just making conversation.”
“Well, yer wee blanket mate is yawning and fussing in there,” Gimli said, gesturing over his shoulder with his pipe. “He’s fair grumpy. I think ‘tis bedtime, laddie.”
Merry blushed ferociously. “Oh,” he said in a small voice. “Right.”
I glared at Gimli and muttered, “You dwarves are a crude lot.”
“Aye, so ye’ve told me many times, elf,” he said with clear delight, eyes glittering.
Merry slid down from the boulder. “Think I’ll go in to bed now. I’m as tired as Pip is.”
“Indeed. Off with you. Get some rest,” Gandalf said. “Frodo and Sam are already sleeping.”
We watched Merry disappear into the cavern, then I scowled at the dwarf which he thoroughly enjoyed ignoring.
“I need a smoke and some sunlight and some good company more than I need a dark cave and sleep,” Gandalf said. “Gimli and I shall share watches until our ambassadors return.”
“Since you’ve been given the especially dangerous charge of hobbit-watching duty.” Gimli grinned.
“I have not been given special hobbit-watching duty,” I shot back.
“Oh, no? Then what did Aragorn mean when he told the halflings, ‘Legolas shall be keeping watch over you?’”
“Come, Gimli,” Gandalf said with a sigh. “Enough prattle. Let us away.”
I glared after the dwarf, watching him stump off beside Gandalf. Those two had formed an uncommon attachment since our Quest began. I would have considered that in a more interesting vein, but the notion made me ill.
Gimli had been right, though. Those had indeed been Aragorn’s very words, and after he uttered them Pippin had turned to him with a tragic look and said, “Aragorn. What must you think of us?”
“I hold you in the highest esteem, sir,” he had replied. “And Legolas shall be keeping watch over you.”
And so my dangerous hobbit watch began. Soon after Merry had entered the cave and curled up with Pippin under their blankets I followed him inside. I paused and listened, hoping to hear hobbit snoring. Merry, Pippin and Sam all snored, and in different pitches, so I could easily discern who was asleep. Frodo, however, did not snore at all. He was unique in so many ways, that sweet little one.
Sam was indeed snoring away, but Merry and Pippin were, well, they were engaged in what sounded like the beginning of the kind of intimacy I did not care to hear. So I instantly stopped listening. Hobbits!
Truly, though, this could not have been better. Not that I had made a habit of studying halfing intimacy practices, but I was aware enough to know that they always fell into a deep sleep immediately after . . . well, afterwards, and they stayed asleep, near motionless, until roused. Fine. They would soon be snoring as well, and until they were, I was not listening.
I grabbed up my arrows, bow and quiver and strolled outside to check over my equipment. Alas, it was going to be a long day. Perhaps Merry and Pippin inspired my next thoughts, but I began to consider an idea . . . .
What harm could it do? I put together a quick torch. Surely I could spare a few minutes away. After all, Frodo and Sam were already deep in slumber, and even if Merry and Pippin were not quite sleeping yet, they soon would be. When the little ones were exhausted they barely moved for the entire time they were out, save, again, Frodo, who was sometimes restless. Aragorn certainly had not intended that I sit watching their every sleeping moment until he returned. Nay, not at all! I could spare a few minutes.
I lit my torch and strolled to the tunnel, pausing one last time to gaze over the halflings. Then I turned and jogged down the main corridor of the cavern, quickly arriving at the passageway I remembered well. I followed it, moving through its few twists and turns, and at last I reached the chamber I had longed to revisit.
The mithril laced walls burst into glittering light, reflecting my torch’s flame, instantly warming my heart, sparking my memories. I stood silently gazing around, flooded by images and feelings . . . . Ai! It was too, too sweet! My heart thrummed faster, stronger, hammering in my chest. I vow Aragorn and I had left our voices embedded in these glistening walls, the intimate sounds of our many joinings, the wild cries that burst from us in our most heightened moments of passion . . . .
“All your clothes off, pretty one! Now! Quickly!”
I shuddered and closed my eyes, soaking in the sensations, listening to the echoes residing there, waiting for me:
“Shhh, hush elfling mine. No rushing. Settle down. This time will be slower and loooooonnnnger.”
“Oh, no! Noooo! Please, Ara’gorn, nooo, I-I-I cannot --”
“Aye, you can.”
“I wish to play with you, so you shall be patient, and you shall behave.”
I shuddered and leaned back against a wall, sliding down to sit crossed legged, listening to more, different voices, another time:
“Hush, Estel . . . feel what I am doing to you.”
“Mmmm what, sweetling? Do you like that?”
“You know I do . . . Ahhh!! Leg’las! I-I-I --”
“Mmmmm, you are too delightful.”
I bit my bottom lip, lost now, our past voices swirling around me, inside me, through me, and I groaned softly and listened, more and more and more, forcing myself to linger in that twilight of remembered delight:
“Aye . . . therrrre . . . therrre . . . .”
“Like that, pretty elf?”
“Mmmm, aye . . . .”
“Ah, my beloved Dúnedain . . . .”
“Aye, of course, again . . . again . . . again . . . .”
I opened my eyes and lifted my head with a jolt! What? How long I had been there? I leapt up and grabbed the torch and flew down the twisting passageways, charging back to the main chamber. Four mounds of sleeping hobbits buried beneath their blankets as usual, asleep.
I halted and released a calming sigh. Shaking my head at my silliness, I moved to the mouth of the cave to gauge the time. Foolish of me, really. What had I expected to find? Four hobbits missing? The shadows cast by the boulders outside had indeed moved. Near forty minutes had passed? It seemed as though I had spent but moments lost in memory.
I felt a stab of guilt for having feared the halflings would do something as dishonorable as running off. Such would have been beyond folly. Aragorn had vowed to be ‘profoundly displeased’ should any hobbit take it into his head to visit Drumold. They were not so ridiculous as to invite such a fate. Had they actually dared to run off there would have been nothing they could have said to excuse their disobedience. It would have been outright insubordination.
But they were sensible hobbits, endlessly good at heart. Aye, they were indeed mischievous, but who amongst us was not at times, save Gandalf and Gimli? Glancing back at the blanket covered mounds, I smiled quietly. Four little ones, sleeping like babes. All was quiet in the cave . . . .
Quiet. I paused. Listening. Quiet. Very quiet. Exceedingly quiet!
Moving swiftly towards the hobbits, I listened more closely . . . ai! Only one distinctive snore – Sam’s. No. No.
I knew they were gone before I yanked back their blanket and stared down at two hobbit haversacks and some cleverly piled branches.
My heart jumped! No. NOOOOO!
I gasped and stood trembling, trying to think. I had been gone for well over half an hour. Merry and Pippin could have already reached Drumold!
I grabbed my bow and quiver and raced from the cave, tearing down the embankment and into the woods. I could not believe they would do this! How did they dare so brazenly disobey Aragorn?
He was going to be . . . Valar help them! Aragorn was going to be much more than just profoundly displeased. I was much more than profoundly displeased! How could they justify this? How did they dare? When I got my hands on them . . . .
It got worse. Truth slammed into me so hard I stumbled. My fault. My fault! Valar help me as well! This was indeed my fault. I had been derelict in my duty, indulging myself in erotic memories so deeply and for so long that those two little horrors had time to escape right under my nose.
Streaking through the woods, I thought fast. If I could reach them before they got to Drumold, before they were seen, I could avert disaster for us all. No one need know. No one need find out. No one need become upset. Aragorn could be spared his profound displeasure and the three of us could be spared his disciplinary response. Perfect! A pact of silence. It seemed perfect.
It was, of course, low and dishonest. It was beneath me. It was utter folly to collude with two bratling hobbits. What I longed to do was haul them back, spank them soundly, then invite Aragorn to spend his profound displeasure upon them as well.
But I could hardly do that. This never would have happened had I been where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to be doing. Merry and Pippin would be sleeping and I would not be flying through the forest in pursuit of them.
I was probably going to regret this. I already did regret this. And I doubted I could keep such a secret from Aragorn. When had I ever been able to do so? What made me think I could do so now?
But as I tore through the woods towards Drumold, none of that mattered. Nothing of good common sense mattered. All that mattered was bringing those two little ones safely back, righting a wrong I had caused with my negligence. A small sensible voice within me kept trying, though. It warned that this was going to end badly, as things had always ended badly when I tried to lie to Aragorn.
I did not care. I was too angry with myself to care. I was too angry with the little ones to care. Of course I could not spank them. Not if I planned to keep all of this secret. And how could I hope to keep it secret? Pippin keep such a secret? From Frodo and Sam? Something was going to slip out. This was an absurd plan!
Ohhhhhhhhh, oh how I longed to wallop those two little ones!
But running fast calms me. So I ran hard and fast and I began to think more clearly. Truly, what harm was there in doing what I planned to do? I would be, after all, saving Aragorn from an upset he did not need to experience. That was a good thing, and a thoughtful thing. Aye, keeping all this secret, if that was indeed possible, would be a good, thoughtful thing to do. And the little ones would be happy to agree to the idea and save their deserving backsides.
Now to get two monstrously naughty halflings to safety before they caused a calamity that would bring the wrath of Aragorn down upon us all. Those two! Merciful Middle Earth!
Gimli likes to have fun with us hobbits. So after I’d slid down from the rock and headed in to the cave I popped a grin. Sure, his little teasing made my face hot, but it wasn’t a bad hot, it was a pleasant kind of feel-it-in-my-tummy hot. And it was teasing because of my relationship with my Pip, and I really kind of enjoyed whatever teasing I took about that.
He was already wrapped up in our blankets when I joined him. He usually waits for me because he likes the way I bundle us both up, so finding him already covered threw me. A warning shot up my spine. Something felt wrong.
I hurried under the blankets and drew him close. His back was to me though. I braced up on one elbow and nudged him.
“Pip, love. Turn over. Look at me.”
No response. And then I heard it. A sniff. A crying sniff. Pip was crying! I pulled him around to face me. His eyes glistened with tears and his little cheeks were wet with them. He must’ve been weeping hard to produce so much so quickly. And right away, he starts in:
“I’m sorry, Merry! Sorry!”
“Shh, sweetheart, shhhh.” I hugged him and held him and wiped the tears. “None of that now. No need for sorries. Just tell me. What’s got my Pip so upset?”
“It’s so stupid!” he sputtered. “I feel so stupid, gettin’ all upset about this!”
He held back a second, but that’s about as long as Pip can hold back when something is bursting inside him to get out. “Town!” he cried. “I- I wanted to go to town!” He really let go then, quiet little sobs, so embarrassed by his tears that he covered his face with his hands.
“Ahhhh, Pip,” I murmured, easing his hands down. “I understand. ‘Course you’re disappointed.”
“Well YOU aren’t crying about it. Nobody else is crying about it!”
I kissed his turned up nose. “Your upset makes perfect sense, of course. It would’ve been lovely to toss back a few beers and enjoy a bit of rollicking tavern life again, yes?”
“Aye! Oh, Merry! I miss it so. I’m happy to be here with Frodo of course, and to be part of this big adventure. But, I miss normal life sometimes!”
“‘Course you do. How could you not?”
“I miss the Green Dragon and the lads there and our life at the Hall and, and, and I miss – I miss FOOD! I mean, I know we eat plenty of game and the warriors are fine hunters and Sam’s the best cook, but ohhh, Merry, I miss . . . BREAD!”
“Mmmm.” I nodded. “I miss it, too.”
I nodded again, missing it even more now that he was going on about it. “That bread we packed from Rivendell only lasted a few days.”
He sniffled. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it after supper tonight. I miss the kinds of things the womenfolk used to turn out of the ovens at Brandy Hall, all the breads and rolls and cakes and pies, and then I was thinkin’ about that black bread they served with sweet cream butter at the Dragon, that dense, chewy bread, good for soaking up beer in the stomach. Sometimes we just ordered a loaf and yanked off great hunks to gnaw at. Remember?”
My mouth watered. “I remember.”
“And I couldn’t stop thinking about it and thinking about it. And Gimli, oh, he was being his usual self, asking me ‘was I alright,’ you know how he’s always keeping a close eye on us hobbits, like all the big folk do, making sure all’s well with us. That’s right nice, and I like that, but tonight I was snappish with him --”
I just kept nodding. Pip was off and running. Good. He couldn’t keep things bottled up for long. I just kept nodding and listening.
“ -- and finally he and Gandalf left, and all of a sudden I felt like I do when I’m about to cry. So I quick got under our blankets, ‘cause even though Frodo and Sam were already wrapped up and probably sleeping, I didn’t want to chance them hearing anything, and then I just started crying.” He let go with fresh weeping now. “And I’m sorry for crying about something so silly as bread and pie and such! I’m sorry I’m such a nipper, Merry!”
“C’mere,” I said. I rolled over onto my back, pulling his trembling body on top of mine, and I wrapped my arms around him and waited. Pip drew his knees up on either side of me so he was straddling me whilst still lying down and he snuggled his face into the curls at my neck, our ultimate cuddle.
“Go on then, m’love,” I said. “Have to.” And I just held Pip then and let him cry. His left hand played with my hair and his right hand cupped my shoulder, grasping it, then squeezing my shirt into his fist over and over. And I just held him and petted his curls and rubbed his back, and I listened. That’s the hardest thing to do, listen to my sweet Pippin crying. Not spanking crying. That I don’t mind quite as much as I do this. He’s earned those tears after I’ve spanked him, and he needs to spend them. But this sorrowful crying broke my heart.
It was then that I thought up my plan. First off, what exactly had Aragorn told us not to do?
“You are not to enter Drumold looking for a tavern, gentlemen. Do you understand me?”
“Do not enter into Drumold.”
“Legolas shall be keeping watch over you.’”
“Aragorn. What must you think of us?”
“I hold you in the highest esteem, sir. And Legolas shall be keeping watch over you.”
Right. He’d told us to not “ . . . enter Drumold looking for a tavern,” and to “. . . not enter into Drumold.” So what if we didn’t exactly enter the town, but kind of scouted out the perimeters?
I thought of the baker folk in Hobbiton. Their kilns were lit all the time, night and day, and they were right hot. So the bakers lived on the edge of town, just outside Hobbiton proper, in fact. Soooooooo, what if –
“Pip! Pip, I have an idea.” He instantly lifted his head, his eyes bright and full of hope.
“You do? Oh, Merry!”
As usual, I’d planned out something we shouldn’t have even considered doing. But such was the power of my Pip’s tears. I couldn’t stand hearing him cry if I could somehow fix whatever it was making him cry. It had always been that way with us. I had to help, just had to. And so I did.
I hadn’t worked out all the kinks, and there were a few, such as, ‘how do we get away from a watchful elf?’ and ‘how will we get back into the cave without being seen?’ I passed these off the way I usually did: “We’ll figure that out when we come to it. It’ll work out. I’m sure of it.” That’s always good enough for Pip. I was the one to blame if it all blew up in our faces, though. Gandalf’s fireworks suddenly came to mind. And our last run on Farmer Maggot’s crops . . . .
But I was willing to take on that responsibility if it would stop Pip’s tears. And it did. I’d already worked out the biggest problem – how to slip under the fence, so to speak. Aragorn’s fence wasn’t that much different than Farmer Maggot’s. It was a fence of words, though, so I’d needed to find a way to wriggle under it honorably.
I’d done that well enough to suit Pip. He became instantly excited. Quietly, of course, because Legolas was about. At least, I thought he was about. I’d heard him come into the cave shortly after me. But, come to think of it, I hadn’t heard him moving around for awhile. ‘Course he was likely just sitting there all silent, the way he often did, so quiet he barely seemed to be breathing . . . .
I risked a looksee. Legolas was GONE! I stuck my head out more, then more, looking all around. No elf. Pip joined me, asking just what I was thinking:
“Merry . . . he – he’s gone!”
I turned to stare at him. “He is.”
Typical Took. I grabbed him and said, “Wait! Wherever he is, he’ll be back, so we have to make it look like we’re still here under our blankets or Legolas will be hauling us back before we’re even halfway to town.”
So we worked fast making fake hobbits and covering them up, fearing that at any moment we’d find ourselves over a certain elf’s knee. But we managed it! And the next thing I knew we were hot footing it out of the cave and down the embankment outside, pausing only long enough to make certain that Legolas wasn’t right outside the cave, or returning from a private moment. But he wasn’t anywhere to be seen, so off we went!
We raced through the forest towards the place where Legolas showed me Drumold lay. It wasn’t hard to find since I knew which direction to head. Towns have cottages with hearths, and smoke houses and – oh, how I hoped – baking kilns, and the like. It was a coolish day, but the air was damp, so it would hold the wood smoke hovering just above the town. Pip and I just followed our noses.
It was meant to be.
We came to a stream. Through the woods in the distance we could see Drumold lying beyond a wide field. But right across from the stream from us were three boys! Pip and I hid, watching them, not believing our eyes – these lads were silently sitting there stuffing their faces, finishing off some lovely bread and pie.
Glory be! Were two hobbits ever so lucky? It was Fate. We crouched down behind a crowberry bush and made our plan.
Pip is a far better fib-teller than I am. I come up with plans, but I can’t match him for sheer fast thinking. And if he can use diversionary tactics in answering, he chooses that. So the lads across the stream never stood a chance. Best of all, when we popped up and greeted them one of them dropped his pie down his front. The lads jumped up, scared, but there was a sudden squeal diverted their attention. One of them was now splattered with pie, spilt down his chest in his fright.
“Oh, no!” Pip cried. “Oh, that’s terrible! We’re verrrra sorry ‘bout that! We dinna mean to scare ya’!”
They were indeed scared a moment before, but at the odd sound of Pip’s words the lads’ fear turned to curiosity. Pip’s darling burr and their pie sloppy friend instantly distracted and intrigued them, and so they held their ground and talked to us. Pip was prepared.
‘Who were we?’ Nobody special. Just some lads out for a wee camping excursion. Did they ever go camping? They did? Wasn’t it fun? Where did they go when they camped out for a day or two? ‘But where’d we come from?’ Oh, lotsa places. We’d been here and there and oh, all over. Mostly the same places they went to. Where were they from? Oh. Drumold. Right over there. Oh.
“And where’d all those goodies come from?”
“Goodies?” the littlest one had giggled. “What’s that?”
“Anything yummy for yer insides! That pie looked right yummy. And it looked like you were finishing off some yummy bread, too. Goodies! Did ye, well --” And Pip gave them his adorable knowing grin and a wink. “Did ye accidentally lift ‘em from somewheres?”
They glanced at each other warily, then back at us. Pippin giggled. “We accidentally lift goodies sometimes when we’re at home. And we never get caught. I’ll betcha you’re right good at it, too?” And, in light of our admiration, they loved admitting to their thievery.
This was, by decent standards, utterly wicked of Pip and me. Had we no shame? A fair argument could be made that we were taking disgraceful advantage of some innocent youths.
But, again, there was a way to wriggle under that fence of uprightness. For these youths weren’t innocent. Not entirely. They were naughty little boy thieves, not that far removed from Pip and me, who had, just recently, been running through Farmer Maggot’s cornfield, our arms piled with stolen goodies. There was an old saying – no honor amongst thieves. And therein lay my wriggle space beneath that fence.
Pip and I laughed.
“And market day tomorrow?” he exclaimed. “Best day to thieve!”
My turn to speak up. “What splendid timing!”
“So clever!” Pip added.
“There’s probably lots more goodies waiting to be sold.”
“What you lifted there won’t e’en be missed!”
“Verrra smart! Well done!”
They lapped it up, but the clincher came when I held up a ha’penny and offered it in exchange for a loaf of bread and a pie. In fact, I offered a ha’penny for each goodie they lifted for us.
“It shouldn’t be nothin’ for clever lads like yer’selves to lift just a few more goodies.”
“Especially when we have ha’pennies just waiting to go to a worthy cause.”
“We’re fair starved. The ruddy fish weren’t biting last night, so we dinna have any supper.”
“And no first breakfast neither. The ruddy fish still weren’t biting and rabbits had slipped by the snares we’d set last night.”
“What’ya say, my fine lads? Wanna earn some coin?”
Of course they did. And off they went. We came out from around the bush and watched them head for the village.
“How long d’ya suppose it’ll take?” Pip asked.
I shrugged. He took my hand in his and we smiled at each other.
“You always have the best plans, Merry.” I shrugged and looked off. “You do. They don’t always work, of course, but most of the time they do.”
My face warmed. “Pip. Stop.”
“No, really. I love your plans. And this one was brilliant.” He leaned in and kissed my cheek. “Imagine! Bread and pie!”
Suddenly a hand clamped over my mouth and another clamped over Pippin’s!
“Not today, my lads.”
I smelled that elvish scent and before I could draw breath to scream I felt myself pulled close to that strong body, feathery soft hair tickling my face, then WHOOSH!
Legolas scooped me up under one arm and Pippin under the other. We dangled and gasped, our arms waving in front and our legs kicking behind, and Legolas whirled and took off, back through the woods at a speed that made me dizzy. Ohhhhh! I watched the ground beneath me whiz by at a sickening rate. It felt as though we were flying! I swear his feet weren’t touching the ground.
“Legolas, stop!” Pippin cried.
“If you dunna stop I’m going to be sick all over yer breeches!”
“Me too!” I said, and I meant it sincerely.
He stopped, put us down, flung us over his shoulder and took off again.
“This is better?” Pippin wailed.
Actually, it was better. We were upright. I didn’t feel like I was going to lose my breakfast anymore. I looked over at Pip. He was watching me, looking tragic but resigned.
“Oh, my poor Pip!” I cried, feeling a wash of guilt that sickened me all over again. “I’m sorry!”
“No, no, nooooo, m’love.” He actually winked at me. “It was still a splendid plan, and we nearly pulled it off.”
I sighed and gave him a weary smile. Was there ever one such as my Pip? Merciful Middle Earth.
Legolas had been running for a long time. We had to be getting close to the cave now. Suddenly he stopped and put Merry and me down on a big rock. For a minute everything was spinning. Then my head cleared and there before us was a pacing and right furious elf.
Legolas pacing? Legolas didn’t pace. He always stood with quiet elvish propriety even when we knew he was pretty miffed about something we’d done. Or he’d look fairly amused, like he was ever so entertained by our nonsense, but only slightly miffed. I found it fascinating and admirable and a bit unnatural.
But I’d never seen him pace the way he was now, back and forth, glaring at Merry and me like a cat trying to decide which trapped mouse to devour first.
Oh no. Not a spanking from Legolas. Pleeeeeease not that! I remembered being over his knee before and my bottom tingled right furiously. How a creature as beautiful as our elf can deliver a spanking that makes me long to sit in a tub of salve for the rest of my days is beyond my ken. Aye, all our big folk delivered spankings that were absolutely breath taking. But the way those elvish fingers smacked over my flinching skin . . . ! Pleeeeease, not a spanking from Legolas. He read my mind.
“No, you monstrous halfling brats. I am not going to spank you.”
I relaxed so much that I felt I could melt off the rock. So did Merry.
“You deserve it. You know you do. But I shall not spank you.”
This made no sense. Legolas was clearly furious. And he simply wasn’t one to show that as a rule. So what was he . . . . ? I couldn’t stand it. I had to ask.
He stopped and clamped a glare upon me that made me flinch.
“Hush up, Pip,” Merry said, his usual response to my idiotic outbursts. I looked at him. “Well, aren’t you curious?”
“You are, too.”
Legolas looked ready to change his mind and wallop us into next week. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, then opened them, that mystifying elvish decorum back in place. He gave Merry a keen look.
“Perhaps Merry is not curious because he knows why I am choosing to not spank you.”
I fired Merry a glance. “Do you?”
“Pip.” He cast me his look of fond forbearance. “How’d we get away in the first place?”
Oh. I shot Legolas a glance. Of course. He hadn’t been doing what he should have been doing. Well. Well, well. How interesting!
“Stop looking so pleased with yourself, Peregrin Took, or I swear I shall upend you and spank you silly, consequences be damned!”
I sobered at once. On the outside. On the inside I was shamelessly delighted. “Aye. Sorry, Legolas.”
“Nay, I think not,” he said, frowning at me. “I doubt you are the least bit sorry that I cannot spank you. And I do not begrudge you that. But have a care, sir. Your obvious delight with my dilemma is most unbecoming.”
He went silent again, looking back and forth at us. Interesting predicament for poor Legolas, I had to admit. I eagerly awaited his next move. But just to show him that I understood, I slipped down from the rock and went over to him and took his hand. He turned a startled gaze down at me.
“Poor Legolas,” I said with absolute sincerity. “We’ve made a lot of trouble for you today. We’re sorry.” I shot Merry a glance. “Aren’t we, Merry?’
He slid down from his rock and joined me. “Yes, we’re very sorry.”
Legolas sighed and picked us up, sitting us on his hips in that now-familiar ‘hobbit-tote’ our warriors loved. He strolled to the rock and sat and Merry and I found ourselves situated in his lap, one on each knee, the safe side up.
“You plan to propose a pact of silence,” Merry said. “Don’t you?”
Legolas hesitated, looking oddly unsure. “Aye,” he finally said. “Not for my sake, but for Aragorn’s.”
And I suddenly understood. “Of course you’re not doing it to save yer own skin. You just don’t want to upset Aragorn.”
“Because he has enough to worry about,” Merry added. “It’s a noble pact, sir. An honorable one.”
Legolas nodded, watching the ground, looking a bit calmer, like his old self. “I feel it is the best course.”
Merry watched him closely with that look he gets when he’s going deep into the heart of another and seeking out their feelings. He amazed me when he did it. And within a few moments he spoke in that low, throaty tone of his:
“Aragorn’s charge was more to Pip and me than it was to you, sir.” Legolas looked at him. “You know that,” Merry went on. “Yes, he charged you to ‘watch over us,’ but I think we all know that there was always an underlying touch of levity in that duty. He didn’t really think you’d need to watch us every minute. After all, he’d already given us his orders. That should’ve been enough. We didn’t need a keeper. Not really. I mean, clearly we did, but we shouldn’t have. So I think you’re being too hard on yourself if you really believe you’ve neglected your orders. Please don’t do yourself such a disservice, Legolas.”
I cast my Merry a soft smile, impressed with him, like always. And Legolas, well, he seemed a bit comforted. Oddly, though, I wasn’t sure he believed Merry, and this suddenly felt like one of those warrior’s code things we hobbits dinna always ken.
“Very well,” he said with an agreeable air. “We shall enter into our pact.”
Legolas put a fist out before him, and Merry and I followed suit and we all bopped our fists together. Pact sealed.
“We are but five minutes from the cave,” he said. He nodded ahead. “That way. Can you run with me the rest of the way?”
“If you run slowly,” I said, and we all chuckled.
“I must know one thing,” he said. “What were you thinking? Did you actually expect to succeed?”
Merry looked a little vague, then he said, “Yes. If we did get caught when we tried to get back to our blankets, we could just say that we’d been coming back from a private moment. And you weren’t around, and we had to --”
“Aye.” Legolas gave us his ‘perturbed elf’ frown. “But to so blatantly disobey Aragorn’s orders --”
“We didn’t!” Merry and I both said. Merry continued:
“Aragorn told us not to enter the village looking for a tavern --”
“And to just plain not enter the village --”
“And we hadn’t.”
Legolas stared off silently, then he closed his eyes and shook his head and sighed and muttered, in a perfect imitation of a fed-up Gandalf, “Hobbits.”
We stood, and Legolas had but one last thing to say: “It is a good thing I caught up with you before you went any closer to Drumold. At least no one saw you. There would be no room for pacts had that happened.”
Merry and I exchanged glances. Merciful Middle Earth.
This cave had many chambers. Very obliging of it when there were several hobbits who needed spanked.
Merry and I followed Aragorn and Pippin down the corridor that led from the large chamber where the rest of the Fellowship were resting after supper – breakfast for those like us who slept during the day and marched all night.
I glanced down at Merry. I had never spanked this little one. I didn’t particularly relish the task now. But if ever a hobbit needed a tanning, Meriadoc did. He trudged along, eyes straight ahead, fastened on Pippin.
I knew he felt ultimately responsible for all of this, and, well, when the facts came out, it seemed he was. During our meal, when Aragorn had laid the matter before the astonished Fellowship, Merry had clearly been embarrassed, and regretful, especially when Frodo uttered a hushed, “Oh, no. You didn’t!”
Pippin, however, in his typical innocent blindness, had seen only the fun and slightly wicked part of it all until Gimli scolded him roundly:
“Did’ye not think of the dangers, laddie?” he exploded. “Terrible beasties would’ve made quite a meal of you two! You can’t run fast enough to escape some of the savage things in the wild!”
Fear of what could have happened clearly fueled his anger, as it did Gandalf’s: “Aragorn gives orders for a reason, y’young fools! You are no longer within the safe borders of your Shire! I would have thought your experiences thus far had taught you to exercise caution. You could have endangered the entire Quest, not to mention the safety of your noble cousin.”
Their words struck deeply, especially Gandalf’s. Glancing at Frodo, then quickly away, Merry and Pippin suddenly looked quite devastated, their guilty little faces touching my heart. Faramir sprang to mind. He often looked remorsefully guilty when Damrod or I was unhappy with him. Of course, moments later he would abandon remorse in favor of trying to save his backside from its inevitable walloping. My little brother’s skill with words made for some fine entertainment when he was presenting a desperate defense. Merry did rather a fine job himself:
“But, Aragorn, we didn’t break our promise! You told us not to enter Drumold looking for a tavern, and then you told us not to enter Drumold, and we didn’t do either one!”
Three warriors and a bristling wizard exchanged exasperated glares. Legolas, however, remained silent and still, his eyes downcast.
“We just sort of . . . scouted out the perimeters,” Pippin added. “Y’dinna say not to do that.”
Wee bratlings! Pippin sat there looking smugly vindicated and I suddenly heard myself blurt out, “And you were seen!”
Legolas turned to me quickly. “What?” Clearly stunned, he shot Aragorn a look.
Nodding, Aragorn said, “Aye. They were seen. Go on, Boromir. Tell them the story of the little boy thieves.”
And so I did, and when I had finished the air in the cave thickened with new waves of tension. Legolas looked positively livid. He turned a frown upon the little ones that made Pippin actually pale. Merry dared not look at my big brother.
“You said nothing about being seen,” Legolas muttered.
“You wouldn’t have made a pact of silence with us if we had,” Pip said in a small voice.
Merry looked guarded. “Pip --”
“He was trying to save you the upset of knowing about what we’d done,” Pippin eagerly told Aragorn, evidently seeking to salvage a little good grace somewhere. “You already have enough to worry about, so Legolas was trying to do you a good turn, y’see?”
Merry sighed. I groaned inwardly.
Aragorn remained still for a long moment, then he turned a slow look upon Legolas who continued glaring at Pip. “Indeed,” Aragorn said. “I do see.”
Now Gimli sat up straight, blustering. “Making a pact of silence, sir?” he said to Legolas. “With these two? Of all the idiotic --”
“I suppose that Legolas had only the best intentions --” Aragorn interrupted.
“Ill-advised, nonsensical, foolish --”
Gimli harrumphed. “Pardon.”
“His was an unselfish and noble thought, however, it seems that Legolas was unaware of everything that happened,” Aragorn continued. “So he could not know how serious a matter this was when making your pact of silence.”
“Not that it should make a diff --”
Aragorn sighed loudly and turned a frown to the dwarf.
“Just stating the obvious.”
“Thank you, sir. I am attending to this quite well.”
Gimli lifted his pipe in salute. “Continue.”
Aragorn looked to be struggling with his temper. Finally he went on: “As for your clever interpretation of my orders, young sirs, my meaning was well implied. Your reasoning is, therefore, overruled.” Quite simple and to the point, and none argued Aragorn’s judgment. He cast a stern glance between the two guilty-looking hobbits. “I am not so easily gotten ‘round, my lads. ‘Tis best for the sakes of your little backsides that you learn it now.”
Merry and Pippin exchanged a resigned and utterly forlorn look, then Merry said, “Yes, sir. We’re sorry.”
Aragorn gave a nod and a small finalizing grunt, then said, “Very well. Two hobbits are therefore in need of disciplining ere we set out tonight.”
Suddenly Merry sat up straight again, fixed Aragorn with his fearsome Brandybuck glare and snarled, “NO! Pip doesn’t deserve to be spanked!”
No? Everyone stared at Merry.
“Excuse me?” Aragorn said in a quiet tone that sent a shiver up my spine.
“It was all my doing!” Merry shot back. “My idea and my plan. Pippin just, well, he just went along with it. He shouldn’t be held responsible!”
Aragorn lifted a brow. “I disagree, sir.”
Merry fumed on, looking ready to explode. Gimli’s observation about the hobbits being at a disadvantage, having not been raised in a warrior culture was true. Despite the lesson Aragorn told me he had impressed upon them when first meeting them in Bree, they still struggled with the deference to command that a warrior took for granted . . . well, once the matter of who was in command had been settled.
Judging from the rigidness of Merry’s back, he was not of a mind to comply. “That’s not fair, Aragorn!” he cried.
Not fair? Stunned, we turned to Aragorn, who looked as though he was trying to decide what to do with this suddenly belligerent Merry. A soft voice beat him to it:
“Merry,” Frodo said in his gentle manner, gaining his cousin’s instant regard. “Please. Aragorn is right. You know he is.”
Merry lowered his gaze. The rest of us silently watched Frodo handle matters with kindhearted expertise. He scooted closer to his cousin and closed his hand over Merry’s tightly fisted one. “I know you feel badly,” he murmured. “But Pippin is quite able to say ‘no’ if he chooses to. And he didn’t choose to. So, yes, dear cousin, our Pip is indeed responsible for his own behavior. It is proper that Aragorn holds him to it.”
“Frodo’s right,” Pippin said in a quiet voice. “I’ve said no to you lots of times.”
“No,” Merry muttered. “No, you haven’t.”
“Well, SOMEtimes I have. I remember doing it. So don’t you go taking on all the responsibility for this. I guess it’s true. What we did was dangerous. I’m sorry as can be for that. But it wasn’t just you didn’t think of that. I didn’t think of it, either.” He sighed. “I guess we have things to remember about this big new world. But I have to say, Merry, what we did, it was great fun, wasn’t it?”
Pip nudged Merry’s shoulder and when his beloved looked up at him Pip grinned a sweetly Tookish grin of resignation and shrugged. “Kinda like old times?”
Merry gazed at him, then he grinned a little and nodded. “Yes.”
What happened next was inevitable.
Gandalf snorted and snarled, “Hobbits!”
Gimli huffed and rolled his eyes and rumbled, causing Aragorn to look at him and say, “Perhaps you would like to administer some hobbit discipline, sir?”
Gimli puffed his pipe and glared at the little ones. Merry and Pip squirmed. “I don’t trust myself,” he growled, though all knew he was in jest . . . almost entirely.
And so I was now strolling down this corridor behind Aragorn and Pippin, Merry at my side. I reached down and tousled his locks. He looked up and attempted a polite smile. Poor little mite. He’d had a rough morning.
Aragorn stopped outside a small alcove and turned back to me with a raised brow. I joined him and nodded and he said, “Come, Pip. You and I shall go a bit further in.”
The two little ones exchanged doomed glances and then Aragorn and his victim headed off. Merry followed me into the alcove. Plenty of suitable boulders. I chose one and secured the torch, then sat and looked at Merry. He looked miserable.
“Come, sir,” I said in a sympathetic tone. “Let us get it over with.”
He fired me a quick glance, clearly embarrassed, then bravely trudged over to me. When he was near enough for me to reach him I scooped him up and turned him over my knee quickly, hoping to spare him some panic, a likely useless endeavor. Working swiftly, I unfastened his braces and pulled down his britches. Merry tensed in pre-spanking fear. He began to breathe in short gasps. Wholly understandable. That moment of first exposure, and to new eyes – oh, it was most dreadful!
“Shh,” I told him, stroking his thick curls, hoping to calm his suddenly quite rapid breathing. I rested my hand on his backside . . . another pretty hobbit bottom, so smooth and small – yet Merry’s bottom was a bit bigger than Pippin’s, whose bottom was a bit bigger than Frodo’s. Frodo’s was the littlest halfling backside to have graced my kn . . . I was dreadful. What manner of rogue was I, comparing hobbit bottoms at such a time?
“Shh, Merry. All will be well.” I lifted my hand.
“Get on with it then!” he snarled.
I froze. “What?”
“I said get on with it!” he snarled louder. “I still think this whole ruddy thing is unfair! But get on with it then! Merciful Middle Earth! What are you waiting for? Aragorn told you to spank me, so spank me!”
I felt my jaw drop. His rapid breathing wasn’t due to fear. Merry was . . . he was furious!
“Nobody cares if I didn’t promise! And I didn’t promise! I didn’t! Did not!”
I’d never seen him so spitting mad. For a second I was too stunned to speak. I finally stammered, “Merry --”
“NO! Don’t you start, too! Don’t you go agreeing with him! Aragorn is being just plain mean! We didn’t do anything wrong!”
What? My face flushed and my heart jumped. “Nothing wrong? Meriadoc --”
“Not fair! Not, not, not fair!” He had scarce stopped to draw breath, much less listen to me. “Nobody sees how unfair he’s being! Nobody cares because it isn’t their backsides at risk! Aragorn just overrules everything! He just says, ‘because I say so,’ and that’s it!”
I frowned down, my hand itching to begin, and sputtered, “Because he’s in command, sir. A warrior’s code of obedience states that --”
“Hang your ruddy warrior’s code, sir!”
My back went rigid. My blood raced. That he dared!
“I’m not a warrior! I shouldn’t be held to your stupid code! I don’t care about your stupid code!”
I couldn’t believe this. Saucy brat! His sass stung. I sat there, mouth hanging open, my arm still raised, my hand poised over his vulnerable and tempting behind, and this impudent little beastie kept attacking me!
Aye . . . attacking me. Merry lay stretched across my lap, his bottom bared and turned up, and he was . . . attacking me?
“And I’ll tell you something else!” he charged on, tears in his voice now. “If it was you who’d done it, or Legolas, YOU wouldn’t be getting spanked! Oh, noooooo! You get away with it because you’re warriors! Warriors aren’t spanked! Big folk aren’t spanked! Oh, no,no,nooooo! Just us hobbits! Just us ‘little ones!’ We look like children, so we get treated that way. No faaaiiiiiir!” He gave some wild little kicks.
Suddenly I understood. Those last words gave him away. They were the most untrue accusations he could have shouted, and they gave this little one dead away. I lowered my hand, resting it again upon his bottom. Merry stiffened. He paused and twisted around to glare at me over his shoulder, his fury-hardened face a study in anguish.
“Well?” he barked. “What are you waiting for? You have Aragorn’s orders, sir! Obey your lord and master! Obey your ruddy warrior’s code!”
Ahhh, poor little mite! I could bear it no longer. I swept Merry’s rigid body into my arms and held him tightly, ignoring his gasp, ignoring his immediate struggles. In fact, I shot up from my seat so that he had to either dangle awkwardly or wrap his legs around my waist to be more comfortable. At first he hung and he wriggled, gasping when his britches dropped to the floor. That was too adorable, really, but it was also a most inappropriate moment to laugh, so I didn’t.
Instead I turned and murmured into his ear: “Hush now, sweetling. No more. Shhh. Enough, little one.” He froze and whimpered. “Aww, poor sweet Merry. I understand now. I do. And you do not deserve what you are inviting.”
Of course. I’d suddenly realized that he’d been trying to provoke me into giving him a very hard spanking indeed. I couldn’t imagine why he had tried to do so, other than an overabundance of guilt, but if there were other reasons I would get to the bottom of it ere we left this place.
He’d handled me with such skill that it had taken me a moment to catch on. Merry had fought well using the only tools he had. He couldn’t fight me physically, but he could pummel me with his words and his hurtful accusations. Like Faramir, this little one was a skilled wordsmith. He had very nearly succeeded. I’d felt myself tempted to give him a spanking he would have never forgotten.
But it was not Merry’s nature to be hurtful. When I had calmed enough to step back and really listen, he had not even sounded like Merry, especially what he’d said about us warriors. All the hobbits respected us, but Merry admired us the most, taking a keener interest in our culture than did his kinsmen. Our ways fascinated him and he worked hard to understand them, even adopt them. So his insults had not been in keeping with his feelings.
The final giveaway, though, had been his blatherings about how unfairly the hobbits were treated in comparison with the big folk. Of all the nonsense! No sentiments he could have uttered would have been more false. His voice broke when saying those things, as though doing so had hurt him within.
“Shh,” I murmured to him. “I know, Merry. I know.”
He choked a deep sob, flung his legs around my waist and, clinging tightly to my shoulders, Merry began to weep. I swayed slightly, allowing him time to release what he needed to, giving him a moment.
“B-But I-I do deserve it!” he stammered, his deep voice breaking. “I-I doooo!”
I smiled into his curls. “You deserve to be spanked, aye. And, rest assured, you shall be, my lad,” I said in a firm tone. “But not in the way you were inviting. It will not make you feel better to hurt more, sweetling. It is not about the pain.” I suddenly recalled when I’d said those words before:
“No, Faramir. It is not about the pain.” And I’d taken the belt he was holding out to me and flung it away. “I shall never use such a thing on you. And neither will Damrod. You know that.”
My little brother had stared at me, a guilt-stricken sixteen year-old, his eyes swimming with tears of remorse and with anger at himself for being the cause of the mischief that had ended badly for himself and several friends.
“You don’t deserve to be beaten, little urchin. You deserve to be spanked, that you might feel you have atoned, and been forgiven. A certain level of discomfort shall achieve that nicely, though. It need never be performed to a savage degree. Were Damrod here and tending to your misbehavior instead of being out on patrol he wouldst tell you the same thing. A sound spanking is enough, little brother. Come. Let me make my point.”
Now I quickly sat once more, drew Merry back down over my lap and pulled him close to my body. Given his state of mind, he would have allowed me to spank him too much. He’d just invited it. He wouldn’t protest it. So he needed to be reasoned with right away.
He would hear me better when I had that certain level of discomfort going. Then he could kick and wail and protest and squirm and feel spanked. He could feel free once more to fight me, but for the right reason – because a spanking hurt. And then he could atone.
Sadly for Merry, he wasn’t in the condition his cousin was in. When my first swat cracked down, leaving a bright pink splotch upon his pale bottom, he gasped and let fly a shocked squeal. Aye, a spanking stung mightily when it had been awhile since the last one.
I started at the beginning.
“Why?” Boromir asked, still in that horribly patient tone. “Why did you try to provoke me into giving you a harsh spanking?”
Why? I sensed a trap. None of this felt right. I needed to be spanked, for goodness sake! Intensely, sincerely, really, reeeally spanked! Not that I wasn’t certain Boromir would do a fine job of that without added prodding on my part. Well, I tried.
“I am waiting. What have you to say?”
What I felt like saying was OW! OW! OOW! But instead I spat out the only answer I intended to give: “Dunno.”
“Not good enough. Try again.”
Why, indeed. Was Boromir paying attention to all this? I should have known better! I had known better! But I’d chosen to do what I shouldn’t have anyway. Gimli was right. So was Gandalf. I hadn’t thought about what could have happened. I just plowed on ahead, ignoring the dangers. When they scolded us and I thought of what might have befallen Pip, ohhh, it fair made me ill. My Pippin trusted me. Misplaced trust, poor scamp.
I usually felt like this when we got caught doing something and had to suffer the consequences. Sure enough, because of me, Pip was now getting walloped by a heavy-handed Ranger and I felt miserable. But this time it was much worse. I had endangered him. And I’d also endangered the Fellowship, Frodo, the Quest and all Middle Earth. Well, if you’re going to do a job . . . . All because I couldn’t bear to see my Pippin cry. Oh, yes, I’d just love admitting that little truth!
So it was my carelessness that had made me want to feel spanked and spanked and spanked. As we walked back here, and I watched Pippin strolling ahead of me so bravely, I couldn’t help thinking of how lucky we’d been, and how truly stupid I’d been. Like Gimli said, some horrible pack of wild things could have devoured us alive as we helplessly screamed and writhed, or those lads might’ve been big, dangerous men bent on doing dreadful things to hobbits . . . my mind wouldn’t stop!
I barely remembered coming into this chamber with Boromir. And when he picked me up and turned me over his knee and pulled down my britches – ah! All those terrible thoughts came together into one big mass of remorse and hit me like lightning! And all I wanted then was to hurt. I needed to be spanked. Sincerely spanked. Boromir could do that. I’d make him do it!
I’d nearly worked him up enough. Almost. But, ahhh, clever, clever warrior! I hadn’t given up, though. I didn’t plan to cooperate. Silence was my new weapon.
I was where I needed to be. Fine. Do what you will, sir! ‘Tis no less than what I deserve. I shut my mouth and let Boromir spank on. He was doing a right fine job. My backside already stung like blazes. Perfect. Ruddy marvelous. Go to it, my good man.
And he stopped. He actually stopped spanking me!
“We shall do this my way, sir, or we shall stay here until next week. Answer me.”
Of all the --! “Aragorn won’t let you --”
“Aragorn will understand. Answer me. Why did you do it?”
“We’ll have to get moving soon.”
I lay there. Not talking. Nope. He would start spanking again. He would. Not talking. My weapon was a fine one. Frodo’s voice came back to me, something he’d always said: “There’s none more stubborn than a Brandybuck.” This man was in for a wait.
“I am not your enemy, sir.”
Nothing to say to that.
“I am merely the unhappy warrior given the wretched duty of spanking the most stubborn halfling in the Fellowship.”
I blinked. Was he trying to be funny? No. No grinning. No.
“This most stubborn of halflings was very, very naughty and – ah! You flinch! But he was indeed naughty, sir. He disobeyed orders, even though the orders hadn’t been worded well enough to keep him from wiggling his way ‘round what had been clearly implied.”
That summed it up nicely.
“So, now . . . how to deal with this stubborn halfling.”
The man truly had the most appalling diplomatic skills. And now . . . now he actually rested his hand on my bottom and drummed his fingers! I squeezed my eyes shut and seethed.
“I am thinking of my little brother, Faramir. He’s very much like you. Skilled with words, clever little urchin. And he had a way of courting mischief. He got caught out many times, of course, and suffered the consequences of his actions. But he felt much worse when his friends were involved and got caught along with him and they were disciplined, too.”
I went very still.
“Damrod, our lieutenant, usually took the duty, as he had been doing all our lives.”
“Y --” I couldn’t help it. “Your da didn’t spank you?”
Boromir’s fingers stopped drumming. Now he went very still. “No. Never. Damrod was our disciplinarian.”
That made no sense to me, but I went silent again, angry with myself for my curiosity.
“I sometimes spanked Faramir as well, especially if Damrod was afield. It was during one of these times that Faramir had, once again, gotten into trouble along with his friends. He’d done something dangerous, and he’d led these others into the danger with him. After sending him to his chamber to wait for me, several of my best soldiers and I handled the matter, then I joined Faramir to deliver his much needed discipline. He shocked me by handing me a leather belt. He felt terrible about the trouble he’d caused his friends and the danger he’d put them in, danger he hadn’t even considered beforehand, else he never would have suggested doing what they did.”
“But they could have said no!”
“That’s what I told him.”
Of course I knew what he was doing, and . . . and I-I-I . . . “Pippin doesn’t say no to me!” I finally blurted out.
Boromir burst into a big chuckle. “Shall I tell you how many times I myself have heard him say no to you?”
“No! I mean, well, I --”
“‘No, Merry, I dunna want to hear about Gimli’s ruddy axes.’ ‘No, Merry, you go on.’ No, Merry, I dunna this. No, Merry, I dunna that.”
I huffed and kicked. Had I not been so worked up I would’ve laughed at his accent.
“Frodo was right. Pippin can say no, and he has, and he does and he could have this time, if he’d wanted to. He’s as responsible for his choice as you are for yours. Don’t take on consequences that are not yours to bear, Merry. You have enough of your own as ‘tis.”
I don’t know when I’d started crying. I was, though. And now Boromir delivered a wallop that made me yelp.
“Now. Talk to me. Were you feeling bad enough to hand me a leather belt, sweetling?”
I nodded and he gave me another swat and I choked out a cry. “I-I keep thinking about it, all the bad things that could have happened.”
“As well you should. Not to sound cruel, sir, but I vow that many dreadful fears about what could have happened to you flashed before every member of this Fellowship. Gimli and Gandalf could not even contain themselves. They had to scold. Frodo and Sam went pale and wide-eyed. Aragorn took on that worried frown of his. Only Legolas had no response, though I vow he’d had one when first catching up to you.”
Another big swat. “OW!”
He paused again, resting his hand on my bottom, his tone growing softer, “I shall tell you what I told Faramir that day, sweetling. I threw the belt from me and told him that the point of a spanking wasn’t to suffer pain. The point was to learn from one’s mistakes and to atone. More pain won’t achieve that any faster or any better.
“Because it isn’t about the pain, little one. Giving you a harder spanking will not help you hurt less inside. But a sound, loving spanking with just the right amount of sting and soreness will help you feel that you’ve atoned for your wrong. You can kick and cry and say you’re sorry. You can feel the effects of your spanking for awhile, and you can know that someone cared enough about you to discipline you for what you did.”
I rarely heard Boromir say so much at one time, and how perfectly he said it all, too. So eloquent, this man. I thought he was finished, but suddenly:
“There are . . . well, there are other reasons for a spanking of course. Some have to do with the need for attention and other deep down inside reasons. But, here and now, this is straightforward as can be, Master Brandybuck. You know it well, do you not?”
“Uh-huh.” I was crying steadily now, wondering why I’d needed him to explain all this to me when I’d already known it. Suddenly he chuckled, low and tenderly.
“But, Merry, anyone who tends to his beloved cousin’s discipline so faithfully and lovingly already knows these things. Is that not so?”
I had to cough out a tiny chuckle of my own, since I’d just been thinking that. “Yes . . . I guess I d-do. No . . . I-I know so. I do know those things. Just hard to s-see straight . . . sometimes.”
“Indeed, it is. And now I have done your explaining for you, haven’t I, sir?”
I nodded. “Uh-huh. But you s-said it well. You said it all p-perfectly. I-I felt so bad, Boromir, so very, very bad, and-and I got so scared s-so fast. All-All I could think was that I needed to hurt, hurt as b-badly on the outside as I felt inside. And I t-tried to get you to-to --”
“I know. Hmmm, ‘deed I do, sir. I know well what you tried to do. And you nearly succeeded. I cannot oblige you to the degree you were seeking it, little one, however --”
Oh no. Boromir’s hand left my sore bottom again. I sensed it up there, ready to crash down on my poor behind. Valar help me, I tensed.
“Let us see if I can deliver enough loving discipline to help you atone. I feel certain I can.”
He was off to a right good start. Ohhh, oh, it had been a while! I hadn’t been courting danger as frequently as Pippin had since the Quest began, so all these warriors had never spanked me. I didn’t know what to expect from Boromir. Aragorn was awful enough, thank you. Boromir, well, thus far he’d seemed just as effective. After a few good minutes under his steady, even spanks I was more than ready to claim that I felt fully atoned.
He didn’t, however, ask. Fine time for him to stop asking questions. He just kept spanking me and spanking me and I was kicking almost immediately, squirming around on that big broad lap and kicking and crying. More thick, hard thighs to bounce my tummy across – ohh, these dreadful warriors!
“OW! AHHH AHHHHHHHHH!”
Oh, so embarrassing! I don’t do this well. I’m better at spanking than being spanked. Pip takes a spanking wonderfully well. I’d be tempted to ask him for some tips but for the fact that he’d laugh like a loon and never let me live it down.
No matter. I never planned to be turned over this man’s knee again. Never! And I never planned to be turned over that elf’s knee. Never, ever!
How did Pippin withstand this? Boromir surely hadn’t walloped him this much! Help me atone? He quickly had me to the pleading stage.
“Ahhhhhhhh! Pleeeease, please, n-no more!”
“Faith, Merry, you’ve not the stamina of your little cousin,” he dared to say. “We’ve just gotten started.”
Few words could have sent a shot of panic through me more effectively. I tried to talk him out of what I hoped I hadn’t heard him say.
“B-But you s-said, y-you said – din’t need more pain --”
“Nor do you, sir. But you do need enough to feel you have atoned.”
“This is enough!”
He chuckled. “I regret to inform you that ‘tis not your place to say how much is enough. Sorry. That is my choice to make. You will needs trust me to do so well. You’ve a nice warm glow to your pretty bottom, but we have much ground to cover yet, so settle down.”
Well. What did I expect from a hardheaded Gondorian warrior? Pretty bottom? Ohhh, now I envisioned all this anew, which was exactly what he’d been trying to make me do. I cried out and bucked and writhed, my bottom really burning dreadfully now. Little he cared, heartless sod.
“Much g-ground? W-What ground?” I asked, trying to speed things along.
He spanked for a while in silence, his message clear – ‘I set the pace here, sir.’ And so he did. Oh, I let him know how truly ready I was to be receptive anytime he chose to cover whatever ground he wanted to cover.
“AHHHH! P-Pleeease! AHH, Boromir, pleasepleaseplease!”
“Shhhh, settle down, little one.”
“Try, sir. You are doing so well.”
At least he was no longer insulting my stamina. Well, I’d earned this. So I lay there and took my spanking and Boromir, heartless sod Gondorian warrior spanked on. I threw a hand back at one point, truly a desperate act, and he snatched it up and held it, of course. And yet he had the nerve to continuously praise me. And finally, finally we got on with it.
“Why are you being spanked, sweetling?”
Ridiculous question! But I often asked Pippin to explain the obvious when I was spanking him. Best to leave no room for doubt.
“‘Cause I-I made up a plan and we r-ran off, down to-to Drumold.”
“Did you know that Aragorn had forbidden you and Pippin to go there?”
“AHHHHHHH! Uh-huh! Y-Yes!”
“So you understood his orders?”
I kicked and wriggled and bellowed, “YES! Unner-Unnerstooood!”
“And you willfully disobeyed his orders.”
Merciful Middle Earth, would this drilling never end? “Y-Yessssiiiir!”
“What do you have to say then, Merry?”
“I’m sorrrryyyyy!” I wailed, finally delighted to do so. “Sorry, sorry, sorryyyy! I-I-I’m sorry, Bor’mir!”
“I know, sweetling. Good. Very good. Now, moving on --”
He lifted his knee, tipping up my backside, and delivered a few well-placed smacks to the undercurve of my bottom. I squealed and wailed.
“Is the warrior’s code stupid, sweetling?”
“AHHHH! NOOOOOOOO! NONONOOO! AHHH! PLEE-NOO-NOT STUPID! NOT, NOT, NOT!”
“So you are sorry for being such a nasty mouthed little bratling?”
“Very well.” Lowering his leg, he returned to my throbbing bottom. “Such a temper, sir. I never knew you had it in you. But, wait – perhaps I have heard one of your kinsmen speak of the famous Brandybuck temper . . . or was that the famous Brandybuck stubbornness?”
I gave up ever sitting again. And I’d never, never ever run off on a spree again! And I didn’t care to ever eat pie or good black bread again.
“I suppose I do not need tell you that ‘tis folly to ever try twisting Aragorn’s orders about to suit your purpose, little one.”
“Was that what you did?”
“Y-Yes, B-Bor’mir! Uh-huhhh!”
“Such behavior is unacceptable for a warrior. And you are a warrior, Meriadoc. Your heart is as great as any warrior’s in this Fellowship, any warrior’s in Middle Earth. Therefore I do hold you to a warrior’s code, sir. I say so knowing that you love and respect that code, regardless of what you said in your fury and despair.”
Oh, how his words entered me and curled ‘round my heart and soothed my sorrow! “I’m I-I . . . big, big sorrryy, Bor’mir. S-Soo, sooooo, b-big sorryyy.”
“I know, sweetling. All is forgiven.”
I buried my face in the crook of my elbow and just wept, all of it washing through me and out of me, all the fright and remorse, all the bad feelings, all the guilt. And I realized that Boromir had stopped spanking me. My bottom was scorched, but, oh, what a fair price to pay for this feeling.
And then Boromir gathered me up, carefully, for I was well and truly melted. I felt his strong arms holding me up tight against him, and I reached around his broad shoulders and held on, giving him all my weight, though he seemed unaffected by it.
“Shhhh,” he murmured and rocked. “That’s it, little one. Good. So good, sweet Merry. All over now. I have you. That’s right. Hold on to me.”
And I did, I just drifted there, my bottom in flames. But I felt so good, so impossibly good. After a while I felt a small impish voice spark within me again, and I heard myself muttering a pouty, “That h-hurt.”
Boromir chuckled. “I do vow.”
“You said it din’t have to be ‘bout the pain --”
“Shall I turn you back over my knee and we can see if more spanking will make you feel more atoned?”
I yelped and grasped his neck, holding on tight, and he laughed again and ‘tsked.’
“Cheeky bratling. You are much like your wee cousin, sir.”
I played with the ends of his hair, feeling so melted and spanked and cared for and safe and suddenly heard myself murmuring something I hadn’t expected to say: “Pip’s w-why I did it.”
Boromir gently drew me back to look at me. Such kind eyes. Such a concerned gaze. Ah, so safe, this good Gondorian warrior. I could tell him anything. He wiped the tears from my cheeks and said, “You mean, you did all this because of Pip, little one?”
“H-He had been crying.”
Boromir’s eyes widened slightly. “Ah. Of course.”
“I couldn’t bear my Pip crying like that over just some bread. And he was so embarrassed about it, so ashamed of himself.”
“Shhh, sweetling, shhh. I understand.” He kept brushing the tears from my cheeks and then gathered me up again, saying, “Ahh, now all makes sense. Pippin’s tears. Of course. I told you of my little brother . . . I could not bear his tears either. And I sometimes got into trouble shielding Faramir from things that would have made him cry. But, like you with Pip, I couldn’t bear to see it. Except when I was spanking him, that is.” We shared a quick grin. “So, aye, sweet Merry, I understand. Of course.”
I can’t say why I told him what I did, but I was glad I did. He understood. This warrior we had so quickly come to love and respect understood, and, again, my burning bottom seemed a small price to pay for that.
He gave me a gentle squeeze. “Pippin is blessed in you, m’lad.”
I sniffed, feeling my face warm. “‘Tis I who am blessed.”
“I wonder that we haven’t heard his bellows.” I wondered the same, then he said, “Aragorn must have taken him deep into the cave.”
I hoped I had taken Pippin into the cave deeply enough so that his wails did not upset Merry. He had enough to manage without having to hear his cousin’s distress. And Pippin was being his usual vocal self.
How was it possible for so much bellowing to come out of such a small body? It was understandable coming from a full-sized elf such as Gwin. Until meeting Pip, Gwin was the loudest wailer I had heard, Devon coming in a close second. Measure for measure, this wee halfling surpassed them both.
Pippin had been fairly agreeable, not that he had been given much choice. He wouldst rather I not do this to him, of course. He drew back slightly when I sat down and turned to him. Those last few steps to a waiting knee and a spanking are, in my experience, near impossible to make. So I strolled back and gathered him up, carrying him on my hip to the boulder of my choosing.
That moment was a difficult one when I was doing the spanking as well. I, too, wouldst rather not have needed to do this. But what Pippin and Merry had done could not be let go with scoldings and warnings. This was the fundamental matter – obedience to my orders. From our first meeting in Bree Pippin had known what to expect if he disobeyed me. I had sensed then that he would be over my knee often, but at least from that moment on it had been Pippin’s choice as to whether or not he ended up there again.
I had thought it odd that this was so often his choice, but it was less of a mystery when Merry had mentioned a few things about Pippin’s upbringing in the Great Smials: “They’re a leading family, even amongst all those Tooks down in Tookland. Pippin is my uncle and aunt’s only son. He has three older sisters who babied my Pip up one side and down t’other, so little wonder he took to following me around like a little puppy any time they visited Brandy Hall. Pip grew up kinda liking a lot of attention, you know, Aragorn?”
I did indeed. I had two elvish big brothers that doted on their mortal little brother. I had an ada who did the same. I had any number of High Elves who tutored me and companioned me and watched over me and befriended me. I had never suffered the anguish my fledgling and his poor little brother had suffered. Like Pippin, my need was born ‘neath a different star. “Aye, Merry. I do understand.”
Pippin needed never again worry about having the attention he sought from me going unanswered. I had made a disastrous mistake at the start of the Quest by ignoring this little one’s needs when my own had become more important to me. It had taken much effort from myself and from the rest of the Fellowship to heal that wound I had inflicted upon him. Never again would I make that mistake. Pippin’s ‘flung swords’ would ever go noticed by me, and by all of us, I vow. And none begrudged this little one the fling.
He had ever been wiggly over my lap, so I had secured him well, my arm fastened over his back before I began. As it had ever been, Pippin’s bottom was too charming. It was small and round and it had a little bounce to it every time a swat fell and I really felt badly about the fact that I could not help appreciating such things. If that spoke to some foulness in my character then so be it. Pip’s bottom was still charming.
His britches, true to form, now lay kicked off a few feet away. Powerful legs our Took had. And powerful lungs.
His bellows echoed slightly round the chamber. I had chosen this smaller space on purpose. In a larger chamber Pippin’s echoed wails would have likely caused a cave in. I had lived through one of those once whilst wargs waited to devour Devon and I. Never again.
“Ar’gorrrrrrn noooo, pleeeease! D-Dunna spank me th-therrrrrrre! NoNoNooooooooo!”
“I have lowered my leg. I am no longer spanking under the curve of your sweet bottom.”
“Ahhhh,” he got out between sobs. “Th-Thankewww.”
“I shall now return to directly spanking your sweet bottom.”
I would have stopped, but that I knew Pippin’s needs when it came to a spanking. So, although his bottom was nicely red, I spanked him a bit longer and just a bit lighter, letting him kick some more and cry some more and say how sorry he was some more. He had already apologized. He oft became stuck in repetitive sorry-making. That was fine. There were worse things he could be bellowing than excess ‘sorries.’ But now I wanted him to show me that he fully understood the reason behind his position and the need for all those apologies.
“Sorrryyy, Ar’gorn! So, s-so sorryyyy!”
“What are you sorry for, sir?”
“S-S-Soorrryyyy . . . sorry we r-ranned off!”
Ah. He was at that place where his language suffered. No matter. Pippin never had trouble making himself understood.
“AHHHH! Soorrry we-we --”
And he went on to list everything they had done from agreeing to a plan to making a pact of silence with Legolas – ohhh, my elfling had much to answer for! Despite his stammered answers, though, poor Pippin failed to list the one answer I was seeking, the one that encompassed all else.
“Aye, Pip, you did all those naughty things, ‘tis true. But what was the biggest naughty thing?” He heard me above his wails, of course. He went very still, then:
“W-We dis-disobeyed yer or-orders!”
“Aye, sir. You did indeed. Are you ever allowed to disobey my orders?”
“Where did you first learn that lesson, little bratling?”
“Ah. Then you do recall it.”
“Uh huhhh! Aye! Aye, Ar’gorn!”
“What will happen to you should you ever choose to disregard my orders again?”
“Th – This! Sp-Spank-Spank-king! AHHH! L-Lotta s-spank-king!”
“Indeed. Count on it, my lad. I shall not risk you to your disobedience and carelessness.”
And now, finally, I could end his spanking. Only one final step remained. “What do you say --”
“Very good, sweetling. All is forgiven.”
I stopped, and I rested my hand on his burning little backside. Pippin paused, then his breath caught in a hitching sob, and his heavy sobbing changed to a softer weeping, reflecting a tone of solace. Sweet, sweet moment! I smiled down at him.
I had learned that Pippin preferred to lie across my lap for a short while after his spanking was over. After past spankings, when scooping him into my arms immediately, I had caught a slight whimper that hinted of how he was quite content to lay still, if only for a few minutes. I liked that, too. So I let him linger there and I petted his curls and rubbed his back, resting my hot hand on his hotter bottom. I rubbed there a few times, too, until Pippin squirmed and then I stopped. Such was Merry’s duty.
Finally Pip shifted a little and I knew that it was time to gather him up into my arms. He held on to me, sniffling now and then, and I rocked, and for some time all was still, the soft sputter of the torch the only sound.
Would I ever tire of holding a well-spanked hobbit? I would indeed feel a sense of loss if these little ones ever decided to adopt more dutiful ways. I smiled at the notion. Utter folly. Such was akin to thinking that Gwinthorian would ever become wholly obedient, or Dev, or my elfling . . . .
Legolas. My thoughts filled with him, his guilty glances and his awkward manner when our Fellowship held our council. I was not angry with Legolas of course, but neither was I pleased with him. Save me from undue upset? I could scarce wait to hear what he had to say for himself.
He had said not a word about what had happened when we first met up again outside the cave. Boromir and I were busy removing our packs and opening them when he had emerged from the cave with quiet greetings. Something was off in his tone, of course. Already he was struggling. Without yet looking up at him I asked what I always ask when returning from somewhere:
“Anything to report?”
A pause, then, “No. Nothing.”
The words had caught in his throat, something I knew he heard as well. I chose to believe Legolas had done it with veiled purpose. No matter. What mattered was what he had tried to do on the surface.
I recalled a time when I was fifteen and Elrond had hauled me, struggling and protesting to that dreaded special chair in the corner of his study:
“No, Ada, pleeease! Please, please stop! I was just about to tell the truth!”
“‘Just about’ carries no weight, my son. Especially when your truthfulness hinges upon my raised brow.”
When I straightened and looked at Legolas, he knew. He glanced at Boromir, who had risen as well. My fledgling has absolutely no gift for subterfuge. His sad face reflected all. Legolas seemed to shrink several inches.
“Aragorn, I-I-I --”
“We shall needs deal with our hobbits ere we set out today,” I told him. “After the march, when we stop again, you and I shall take first watch. Until then, come sweetling.” I had pulled him into an embrace. As I had feared, it did nothing towards relaxing him. “Shhh,” I had murmured. “All will be well.”
I glanced down to Pippin. His head still lay on my shoulder and he watched me closely, his gaze solemn. I gave him a soft smile of encouragement.
He lifted his head. “Merry found me crying. That’s why he came up with his plan. He was trying to help me.”
“You were crying because you could not come into Drumold?”
He nodded. “It was all my fault. He did all that for me.”
“Nay, Pip. Merry was responsible for his choices, as were you. Just as you could not suffer him to accept the blame for your behavior, you cannot take the blame for his. What he tried to do was kindly done, and I am certain he was trying to help, but the responsibility for his choice is his alone to bear, as is yours.”
“But, it was because of me, because he canna bear to see me crying --”
I shook my head and placed a finger at his lips. “I vow it is indeed hard for Merry to see you cry. It is hard for me to see you cry, even though my hard hand on your wee backside is usually the cause.” As I had hoped, he joined me in a little wry grin. Good. An easy heart heard truth more easily. I went on:
“But Merry could have soothed your tears in any number of ways, sweetling. He could have listened and held you and sympathized and told you how sorry he was that things were as they were. He could have distracted you with some little hobbity tale or with shared memories. He could have even chosen to . . . .”
I halted. My face went instantly hot. What was I thinking? Oh, what I had nearly just said!
Pippin, however, giggled. His eyes lit up. Clever, wicked imp that he is, he said with all innocence, “He could have . . . what, Aragorn?”
I gave him an indulgent frown. “Brat of a Took. Never mind.” He giggled again. “My point being, Merry had choices and he chose his course of his own free will. He is a strong-willed stubborn Brandybuck, my lad. He will not be compelled lest he chooses to be.”
Pippin had sobered, listening. He nodded. “Aye. That’s my Merry all right.” His gaze turned curious. “Why do you think he chose to do what he did, Aragorn?”
I could not say with complete certainty. Merry’s motives might have been as straightforward as they seemed – a need to indulge Pippin’s longings and have a little adventure. But I felt that, beneath his stoic surface, Merry had needed a little attention. Since leaving Rivendell he had been threatened with a spanking for the pipeweed mischief, but when Master Brandybuck and his partner in misbehavior had been offered a spanking or a lesser consequence, they had chosen the latter. So it had been a while since Merry had been over a knee.
I strongly sensed that he had no idea that a basic need for attention might have been behind his choice. Those in need of attention rarely recognize their need, especially when in the midst of needing it the most. I think Merry rarely recognized such a need within him at all.
But his waters ran deep, as did Boromir’s. I trusted my compassionate fledgling to handle what I was certain Merry had brewing within him. Master Brandybuck had looked ready to explode with guilt.
But did this little one gazing at me with such concern need know any of this? Only a few seconds had passed since his question. He quietly waited with trusting expectation. I gave him a gentle grin. “I think Merry shared your desire for some bread, sweetling.” Naught but truth.
Pip nodded somberly. “Aye. That’s what I thought, too.”
“Come, then. Let us see how Boromir is doing with him,” I said. I stood, cupping my hands ‘neath Pippin’s bare – hmmm. He squeaked.
“My britches, sir!”
I chuckled. Holding onto him with one arm, I bent and snagged up his britches, Pippin squealing and grasping at me whilst I tipped him about. I finally put him down long enough for him to struggle into his britches, then I scooped him up again, grabbed the torch and headed out into the corridor.
“You big folk!” He huffed in totally unconvincing ire. “I once told Legolas that I wondered if I’d have any dignity left by the end of this Quest.”
I laughed and kissed his brow. “Aw, sweet Pip. Whatever would you do with dignity?”
End - Tales of the Quest - Chapter II
Tales of the Quest Chapter III to be continued . . . .