Beta appreciation notes for original: Kat and Shot – thanks m’dears.
Beta appreciation notes for rewrite: Kat and Derby – thanks my precious, ever patient team.
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
Chapter III – Out of the Past
At 'three' Strider threw back his cloak and sat up, shooting a look across the fire at the three of us. I squished my eyes shut tight and spooned up closer to Frodo and didn't move a muscle, but a moment later I just had to peek at what Strider was doing.
He was watching us with this grin he gets, the one Mister Frodo calls his ‘smoldering grin.’ “Next time he does that, Sam, watch out. He sometimes gets that smoldering grin right before he flies into action, and I can tell you from experience, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of that action.”
Nope, I sure didn't. So when Strider slowly got up I groaned inside and hoped I wasn't going to be the next one to try out that salve he'd made today. He walked real slow around the fire and squatted down next to Merry and Pippin. I probably should've kept my eyes shut in case he looked over at me, but I just couldn't keep from watching.
Turned out that all he did was talk, just a short something whispered in Merry's ear, then Pippin's. They didn't move, which was good, because it meant he wasn't all that upset, not so much as to take them off somewheres for a more hands-on warning.
Then Strider glanced at me and I squished my eyes shut again and didn't open them, even when I heard him heading my way and then crouching down over me. He moved right up close, his lips practically touching my ear and his hair tickling my cheek.
“Young hobbits who are too curious about matters that do not concern them could very well find themselves having trouble sitting,” he murmured. “Consider this my first and last warning, Sam. Let this go, or I promise you a very sore bottom.”
He moved off and I let go that breath I'd been holding. And then, much to my surprise, I heard my Frodo whisper, “Best listen to him, Sam. Aragorn does not make idle threats.”
“Aye, Mister Frodo. I will.” And I did. And I drew him closer and snuggled my face against his hair and went back to sleep.
Sam was quiet after a few minutes, his body relaxing against me, his somewhat desperate grip easing. Not that I could blame him for his anxiousness. Aragorn had sounded quite specific in his warning, and my Sam is wise enough to know when not to test a Ranger’s resolve. So, with his usual common sense, Sam simply went to sleep.
I lay for some time, drowsy, enjoying the feel of Sam’s warm, steady breath on my hair. I felt Aragorn was probably still watching us, but I still had to crack my eyes open to see what he was doing. I was glad I did.
He was, blessedly, sleeping. He’d been right earlier, that a body lays more heavily in true slumber. Aragorn asleep was fascinating, all that power lying dormant, instantly accessible, but, for now, in this moment, at rest. I watched, enjoying the rare and honest silence emanating from him, the vulnerability, and I realized that I’d never seen Aragorn like this before. I’d seen him sleeping once or twice, but curled up and wrapped in his cloak.
This time he must’ve dozed off while watching us, for he now faced the fire, and the warm, reddish glow caressed his serene features. I couldn’t help gazing at how ruggedly beautiful he was, how defenseless. It felt like a moment of remarkable intimacy, and yet, I also felt a bit intrusive watching him when he was so exposed and unprotected, his face suddenly boyish and his mouth slightly open. I felt a shock of fierce protectiveness towards him, a surge so intense it brought tears to my eyes.
I thought about his pain, that which he would not allow me to share earlier, and the fierceness in my heart grew. This man was a protector to us all, even a stalwart Captain of Gondor and an elven warrior Prince. But who protected him? Who did the leader turn to for consolation? Where was his resting-place? He provided that place of comfort for all of us, disciplining us when we became lost to ourselves, never questioning why we needed it or sought it with our behavior, never judging us because we needed it from him. But where was his repose? Where did he go to soothe his spirit?
A heavy, dark pain filled my chest and moved up to tighten my throat. And as I gazed at Aragorn, tranquil in his slumber, I resolved to take whatever steps I must in order to help him. Legolas would be a good person to talk to about how to ease Aragorn’s suffering. There was discord now between them, but I sensed from what I had seen that the problem lay with Aragorn, that both Legolas and Boromir had been trying to reconcile with him, and Aragorn had been refusing. Legolas had known Aragorn the longest, so perhaps he knew of some way to reach him, some way in which I could help, and I finally drifted off with hopes that we could find some way to ease Aragorn’s despair.
I had been sitting on the lowest branch of the large oak when I heard Boromir approach, his long, solid stride unmistakable. I watched him stroll past the edge of the tree line and come to a halt before saying, “Up here.” He flinched and looked up and I jumped down, laughing.
“How old are you in elf-years?” he asked, not nearly as annoyed as he sounded.
“Older than you are in human ones,” I replied.
Boromir made a ‘humph’-like sound and stepped over to where the hill dropped sharply away, a vista of the landscape below visible for miles. The moon was bright and cast a silvery sheen over Middle Earth’s quiet terrain.
I sat and leaned back against the oak and said, “All is calm tonight. A small pack of wolves hunts along the edge of that far mountain, but even if they ran all night they could not reach us. Besides, they are heading in the opposite direction. A stand of red deer in the next valley draws their interest and their hunger.”
He turned to me, amazed. “You can see that much from this distance?”
“Nay.” I smiled. “I am making up a story to entertain you.”
He ‘tsked’ and released a short laugh, then headed over to sit near me. Leaning back against a log, he muttered, “Ridiculous elf.”
I watched him for a moment, then said, “Can you not sleep, little brother?”
He shook his head and picked up a twig and began digging at it with his thumb. “Aragorn and Frodo were talking, very softly of course. But I kept hearing the low hum of Aragorn’s voice and . . . my mind would not quiet.” He looked at me suddenly. “Is it alright that I came out to join you?”
“Of course!” I said, grinning to calm his fears.
“Then I shall go a step further and ask something of you.” He crossed his legs and leaned forward, his eyes suddenly alight. “If I promise not to laugh too loudly, will you tell me of the time you knocked Aragorn flat after he’d spanked you?”
I chuckled at his boyish excitement and his promise not to laugh too loudly. And then I thought ‘twould do him no harm to have something to laugh at, something to lighten his heart that had grown so heavy with concern for Aragorn.
“Very well,” I said, “if you will sit quietly and not interrupt and rest while I tell it.”
Boromir’s eyes sparkled. He settled back against the log, crossed his arms and looked perfectly content to be entertained. “I shall overlook your insulting conditions. I’ll even refrain from reminding you that I am neither a child nor an impulsive Tookish hobbit that you should speak to me so.”
I laughed. “Such restraint! Imagine my relief.”
“And I shall abide by your wishes and listen quietly.”
“Ah, wise youth.”
“But only if I am given a nice, long recounting with plenty of details.”
“Stating conditions?” I ‘tsked.’ “Perhaps not so wise after all.” Boromir blushed and looked so sheepish that I smiled and gazed at him fondly for a moment, then I looked off and narrowed my eyes, casting back in my mind to an event and a time that Aragorn and I would always remember for several singular reasons. I thought of where to begin, then:
“This took place about fifty years ago --”
Boromir huffed a short gasp. I grinned at his stunned expression. Though he knew of Aragorn’s true age and the longevity of the Dúnedain, hearing it spoken of so casually had to be astonishing. I pressed on:
“It was during the years that Aragorn and I were living with the Rangers of the North – Aragorn’s troop, the Grey Company. On a routine stop in Lorien we were asked to escort one of my kinsman, Gwinthorian, back to my father’s realm of Mirkwood. As it so happened, Aragorn had been planning to take a small scouting party, about half the troop – a dozen Rangers – in that very direction. And so we began our journey to Mirkwood with our elvish guest.
“Gwin and I had been friends in our youth, and we were still close, in a manner of speaking. He had ever held a special place in my heart. But we had drifted apart for many years, and during those years great changes had taken place in my life. In fact, Gwin and I had seen little of each other since Aragorn had been born and spent his days growing up in Imladris.
“So Gwin and I were together again after a very long absence from each other, a delightful surprise for us both. And although he quickly understood about the intimate relationship Aragorn and I now shared, he did not know about the discipline aspect of it.
“Late one afternoon, we encountered a small group of dwarves out on a mission of trade. They stayed and talked with Aragorn and his men for a while, but when the Rangers decided to make camp for the night and invited the dwarves to join us, they choose to journey on even though the sun hung low in the sky.
“Gwin, who shared my natural elvish suspicion and dislike of dwarves, muttered to me that they simply did not wish to make camp with a pack of Rangers who moved in the company of two elves . . . .”
“Legolas,” Gwin murmured. “I have a brilliant idea.”
I glanced quickly at Aragorn, who was speaking to Halbarad on the other side of the camp, then I cast my eager kinsman a frown. Gwinthorian was a mere several hundred years younger than I was. We had enjoyed some splendidly wicked times when we were elflings. But Gwin’s brilliant ideas had often turned out disastrously and sometimes even ended up with me upended over Ada’s lap.
“I fear Gwinthorian is a bad influence on you, my son,” my father used to say just before spanking the naughtiness out of me.
I was oft tempted to respond that perhaps it was I who was a bad influence on Gwinthorian. But, of course, it was not so, for Gwin was ever ripe with mischievous ideas, and I was usually too excited by the waywardness of his schemes to refuse him. I should have refused him more often than I did, but Gwinthorian, puppyish and excitable in a most un-elflike manner, was dear to me, even though he could drive me to distraction. He had ever managed to remain youthful in both manner and spirit, despite the sadness of his early life, one of the many things I loved about him.
So I found Gwin quite hard to resist. He was ever putting forth some brilliant idea, but he was also, unfortunately, far too reckless far too often. If the gleam currently lighting up Gwin’s eyes was any indication, my friend was about to suggest something quite unsuitable, so it was best I immediately waylay him from his newest brilliant idea.
“But you have not even heard my --”
He huffed, then glanced around, but none of the men were close enough to hear us talking. “It concerns those insolent dwarves --”
“They would have needed to stop and build a fire and feed their ample stomachs ere night fell,” Gwinthorian said, sliding closer to me. “Night was nigh upon us when they left, so they cannot have gone far on those stumpy little legs of theirs.”
“Perhaps not,” I replied. “But Aragorn bid them safe journey and so shall we.”
Gwin sniffed. “I did not bid them safe journey,” he grumbled. “And Aragorn does not speak for me.”
“Aye, Gwin. He does.” My kinsman sighed with obvious irritation, so I frowned at him again, saying in my most stern tone, “Gwinthorian, heed me well. Aragorn is Captain of the Grey Company. He commands these Rangers and any that travel with them, so he speaks for us all, yourself included. You are enjoying Aragorn’s protection, so you needs accept all that comes with it, including obedience to his command. Best you remember that and leave these dwarves in peace.”
These were mere facts of courtesy that anyone should have known. But Gwinthorian, for many reasons, oft fell outside normal expectations of form. And it seemed my most stern tone carried little weight, for a moment after my warning Gwin put forth his brilliant idea. It was a classic Gwinthorian adventure, needing our best skills to pull it off and promising some danger and a wonderful reward. Indeed, it had the potential to be a great deal of fun. But if we failed it would be a seriously classic disaster. I was unwilling to chance the second possibility.
“No, Gwin,” I said, turning to study the fire. “No. Absolutely not.”
“But I tell you we can do this!”
“I promise you the dwarves have not gone far to make camp. I can practically hear their dwarfish racket from here.”
“It would be easy to slip by their watch.”
I shook my head.
“And it would be fun, Legolas! Such glorious fun! Like old times.”
I glanced up at Aragorn again, knowing that I simply could not do this. And then I made the fatal error of turning to look at my pleading kinsman. Gwinthorian was astoundingly beautiful, and when he was this eager, his sweet face flushed with hopeful excitement and his wide blue eyes glittering with delight, it was near impossible for me to refuse him anything. And Gwin knew it. He gazed at me now with shameless appeal and I sighed and glanced away again. But it was, of course, too late. I could feel my resolve crumbling, a few of those roguish old times flashing before me. Sensing my nearing collapse, Gwin surged forward:
“I swear to you, Legolas, I am right about the cargo they are taking home. I heard the clink of bottles within the packs their ponies bore.” He leaned in closer. “It simply must be wine of Dorwinian, my friend!”
Dorwinian wine. I closed my eyes, my mouth instantly watering. “Do you truly think it could be?”
“Aye! Of course! Look you where they said they had traveled from when Aragorn asked if they had seen any orcish trouble about. They were trading, aye, and they are returning home to their dark caves with a store of luscious Dorwinian wine.”
Ahhh, I could almost taste it, rich and warming and soothing to the mind and heart, a particular favorite in my father’s halls, and I had been long absent from my father’s halls.
“We can creep into their encampment and lift a bottle a piece. They might not even notice the loss. They surely will not notice it until they reach their wretched caves, and open their packs, and even then they may only think they had miscounted, or that one of their own had helped himself to a few bottles. There would be a lovely row! Think of it!” Gwin paused to chuckle and I grinned. “Legolas, they shall never e’en think to suspect a theft by the two elves they met in passing with a group of Rangers. Dwarves are too proud to expect that an elf could sneak in and thieve from them, right under their noses.”
Thieving. What was I thinking? It was utterly unconscionable . . . and, oh, but Gwin made it sound tempting! As in the old days, Gwin made everything impish sound tempting.
“When the Rangers are all sleeping you and I shall hunt down the dwarves, lift the goods, and be back before any of the men awake. Simple! Aragorn has second watch tonight. You can pretend to be sleeping when he goes off, so he will leave you in peace rather than expecting you to go with him. Then you and I can make our escape. Aragorn shall never find out.”
I blinked, the sound of that name jarring me back to grim reality. “We would need to make very certain Aragorn did not find out. Trust me, Gwin, you would not like his method of dealing with insubordination.”
“That Ranger has no sense of humor.” Gwin scoffed. “Mortals.”
Aye, Gwin could scoff, but he had not known Aragorn long, whereas I was suddenly remembering with disturbing clarity, the last spanking my Ranger had given me. In our Mirkwood days of joint mischief, while Ada was turning me over his knee, Gwin was usually turned over to his tutor, who acted as Gwin’s non-official parental substitute in the constant absence of Gwin’s parents from my father’s court. Gwin’s chastisement usually involved little more than a goodly length of time sequestered alone and additional reams of studying to do. I thought him lucky at the time, and I was usually too embarrassed to confess what my discipline had been.
So Gwin was unaware that Aragorn occasionally disciplined me. There was no reason for him to know, and I preferred that he not know of it. I doubted Gwin would understand how it was that Aragorn sometimes spanked me, how I allowed it, how I needed it, even sought it out from time to time, and how the act held a unique place in our lives. Gwin was a friend, a good friend, a jolly, playful friend, and an elf of extraordinary sweetness and neediness who was able to wring great compassion from me. But he was not the kind of a friend with whom I felt comfortable sharing such an intimacy, especially after having been separated from him for so long.
However, Gwin’s education regarding spankings would most definitely take place should this go badly. I glanced once more at Aragorn and this time he caught my gaze, a gentle smile in his eyes. But a glimmer of curiosity sparkled there, too, a clear, unspoken question: ‘What are you about, little one?’ I began to feel squirmingly guilty for even considering Gwin’s nonsense.
“Gwin . . . .” I sighed. “‘Tis a risky undertaking for a mere bottle of wine each, even Dorwinian wine. I think it best we forget the whole thing.”
Gwinthorian released a soft growl. He shot up and quietly snapped, “You have been amongst these men for too long, Legolas Greenleaf! Their serious ways are driving all that is elvish right out of you!”
Few words could have stung me more. I had taken some teasing from several old friends during my last visit home about this very thing:
“You have been with your Ranger for too long,” they had laughed.
“Estel may have been raised as elf kind, but he has been abroad with men for a few years, so your companion has grown grim and stern.”
“He is rubbing off on you, Greenleaf!”
Perhaps, I had replied with princely dignity, I was simply growing up, a remark that was met with much hilarity.
So I did not graciously hear comments like the one Gwinthorian had just made. He had hit upon the very thing that could sway me. I cast him a glance, which he recognized in an instant, and his perfect features lit up.
“Ah, my dearest Legolas!” he exclaimed. “I knew I need never doubt you! Now we needs but wait until the time is right.”
“The packs must be far enough away from where the dwarves are sleeping, else this trek shall be for naught,” I said hours later.
Gwinthorian and I raced towards the glittering light of the dwarves’ campfire in the distance. Indeed, they had only journeyed about four miles before stopping. They had been easy to find.
“Remember,” I said, “only one bottle each.”
“But of course,” Gwin replied. “One bottle each shall be ample reward!” He flashed me his ready grin and I could not help responding in kind, his enthusiasm shooting through me.
And yet, as had happened many times since Gwin and I had stolen away, another sudden thought of Aragorn entered my mind accompanied by a bright flurry of guilt. I gathered my resolve. After all, in the great scheme of things, this was but a harmless lark. Aragorn himself was not above the occasional dangerous folly, so I should stop fretting. We would be back before the sky began to lighten, two bottles of Dorwinian wine in our possession. And Aragorn would never find out. Unless . . . well, unless I told him about it . . . and it was entirely likely that I would tell him about it, as keeping secrets from Aragorn was near impossible.
Halting just outside the dwarves’ camp, Gwin and I crouched in the bushes, searching for their watchman. And, again, Aragorn was my invisible companion.
Who was I trying to fool? Of course I would confess this matter to my beloved Ranger. I would choose to do so, and at once, for Aragorn would know that something had happened from the first moment he saw me. He would be instantly aware of my state, as he ever was, and he would be just as instantly concerned. He would drag me aside and look at me in that way of his, fully expecting an explanation without saying a word, and I would tell him everything. There would be no choice in that. I would have to tell Aragorn, and I would want to tell him.
But when I told him, when I freely confessed, and it was after the fact, when the matter was over and done with and it could now be laughed about, well, how bad could that be?
Gwin and I flinched and spun about. It had just become very bad indeed. Aragorn and Halbarad were crouched right behind us. Gwin began to gasp a yelp, but Halbarad surged at him and closed his huge palm over Gwin’s mouth ere more than a squeak spilled out. Holding Gwin’s head firmly, the lieutenant fastened a stern look upon my kinsman that made his eyes go huge and round.
“Hush,” Halbarad grated out lowly. “Understand?” Gwin understood. He nodded, thoroughly hushed and Halbarad removed his hand.
Obviously Aragorn had been on to us from the beginning. And if any save the reclusive Shire folk can move as silently as an elf can, it is a Ranger. Distracted by our excitement and purpose, neither Gwin nor I had noticed that we were being followed. Astounding negligence on our part.
“We are going back now,” Aragorn growled. “Give Halbarad and I any trouble and we shall make both of you very, very sorry little elflings indeed.”
Too late for that, I nearly replied. I was already a very, very sorry little elfling indeed. But Gwin, unaccustomed to such treatment from a mere mortal, immediately bristled. He shot Aragorn a defiant frown and opened his mouth.
“Hush, pretty one,” Halbarad said in a deadly purr. “Not a word.”
And Gwin, who normally would have turned savage on anyone who spoke to him in such a manner, once more, hushed. He gaped at Halbarad, then he darted me a bewildered glance. But, again, Gwin remained amazingly, and quite thoroughly, hushed.
I, of course, had no thought of rebellion. Aragorn had cast me a glare of such reproachful disappointment that I felt sick with shame. I could not bear to look at him again.
We headed back, running across the damp fields, Aragorn and Halbarad behind Gwin and me. My throat was painfully tight with unshed tears. I had done it again. I had allowed myself to be led astray by the very beguiling Gwinthorian. My face burned and my heart raced and I longed to throttle Gwin for being so tyrannically convincing. Of course I knew how Aragorn would deal with this, and I welcomed it. I longed to be disciplined for allowing myself to be lead into such behavior. I longed for the release a good spanking would bring me, so I swallowed back tears, eager to arrive back at camp quickly that Aragorn could have at me.
But when we did reach camp, several hours before dawn, Aragorn turned to Gwin and me, saying, “Halbarad and I need rest. Go relieve Garrick. Take the remainder of the watch until morning. We are moving on early, so we shall needs wait until we halt tonight to deal with the two of you. Go.”
I nearly lost hold of my fragile control. There was no arguing with Aragorn, of course. I had no right to demand anything, especially not relief from my guilt. My Ranger’s brisk manner said all.
So Gwin and I suffered a day’s wait for our discipline, a sentence in and of itself. Thoroughly ashamed, I bludgeoned myself with a wealth of conflicting bad feelings. I barely spoke to Gwin during our watch, nor during the next day when the two of us rode side by side, in disgrace, at the rear of the company.
“I am sorry, Legolas!” he had cried, after repeatedly trying to pull me into conversation and failing.
I snorted. “Indeed? What for?”
“I do not know!” Then, after my second snort: “I am sorry we were caught!”
Aye, sorry we were caught, not sorry for what we had tried to do, not sorry that he had pressured me into going along with him, not sorry for having imposed on our old friendship and beguiling me yet again. And Gwin knew that such was what he had done. Oh, he knew.
When Gwin at last withdrew into a lonely sulk, my guilt surged yet again, this time for my unforgiving coldness towards him, something that I knew would upset Gwin greatly. I deserved those distressful feelings of guilt. I was making Gwin suffer regrets for having angered me because he did not have the sense to suffer regrets for what we had tried to do.
Gwin was often oblivious to how serious things were, his vague unawareness serving to save his skin more than once. He aroused a kind of stunned sympathy in others, which helped Gwin escape harsh consequences. It had ever been so with him. But not this time. Gwin was going to be held accountable for his deeds, and he had no notion of what was about to befall him.
I found it hard to feel sorry for Gwin’s impending doom since I was facing that same doom myself. Curiously, though, watching him wrapped within his cloak of naïve detachment, I did feel badly for him. Given the stern glances Halbarad and Aragorn he had been casting him last night and today, my younger kinsman was about to suffer a dreadful shock.
The day seemed endless. I spent most of it bouncing from one extreme disposition to another. I decided that Aragorn deserved a bit of the fury I was pouring all over myself. Clearly he had known we were plotting something, and he had let Gwin and I follow our course straight into near disaster. And I had felt Aragorn’s frequent glances of disapproval throughout the day, each one hitting me like a sharp sting and making me feel worse and worse. I felt badly enough without that going on!
When at last we halted my temper was at a dangerous peak. And still time dragged as tedious needs were met, setting up camp, preparing provisions, eating and then the Rangers lighting their pipes. Finally, Aragorn called the men together, sat Gwin and I across the fire from them, and then laid the matter of the previous night’s antics before the Rangers.
Their Captain addressed them openly because what Gwin and I had attempted to do had potentially affected them all, so all were due the knowledge of it and a say in the decision of what should be done with us. Aragorn did not ask for the particulars of what we had intended. I was relieved and grateful for that. I would rather these men not know that Gwin and I had attempted a possibly dangerous stunt merely for two bottles of wine.
The Rangers had known that something had happened, and that the elves were in some kind of trouble, but they knew not what, so they listened with interest, casting Gwin and me glances until I could no longer bear it and I dropped my gaze and simply sat, red-faced, heart hammering and eager to have done with this.
Of course, regardless of what the group decided upon in order to discipline we elvish nuisances, Aragorn was going to spank me. I was not escaping that fate. I had known it from the moment I had heard Aragorn’s whisper behind us the previous night outside the dwarves’ camp. My bottom had actually tingled. If these Rangers decided that a spanking was to be our fate, all the better. I was facing it anyway, and I ached to get on with it.
Finally it was indeed universally resolved that such a childish prank deserved to be answered with a child’s chastisement, namely, a spanking for both of us.
“Their discipline shall take place in private,” Aragorn said. “They shall be taken off into the woods and dealt with where their cries cannot disturb the peace of the camp.”
The men nodded, and I felt a wave of relief, although I had thought it unlikely that Aragorn would seek a public spanking for Gwin and me. Hearing a strangled sound beside me, I shot Gwin a glance. As I had foreseen, he was openly horrified. Pale and huffing, he jumped to his feet his shocked glare traveling over the somber faces of the Rangers.
“What?!” he squawked, clenching and unclenching his fists. “If you think for one moment that I shall submit to such a demeaning act you are all mad! No, no, no, NOOO!”
He whirled on me, breathless and quivering, and said in Sindarin, “Surely you do not intend to suffer such treatment!”
I sighed up at him and replied in kind, “I welcome it. And these are Rangers, Gwin. They understand our tongue, if you recall.”
Gwin actually looked sick. He shook his head slowly, gaping at me as though he had never seen me before. “Welcome . . . you-you welcome it?” he murmured, still too stunned to speak the common tongue. “Legolas, how . . . how can you . . . welcome it?”
“Because we earned it, Gwinthorian,” I replied. “And because it is the lesser pain than the guilt I carry.”
Gwin stared at me for a long moment, then he shook his head again, slowly and still in seeming disbelief. The problem was that Gwin felt no burden of guilt at all, so he could neither hear nor understand me.
Turning back to the assembly of plainly fascinated Rangers, Gwin composed himself, straightening his back, lifting his perfect chin and tossing his silken locks back over his shoulders. With blue eyes glittering and a sulky pout curling his bowed mouth, he darted a challenging glare over the warriors.
“Well, I refuse to allow anyone to treat me in such a degrading manner,” he proclaimed contemptuously, at last reverting back to the common tongue. “I am not a human child that you might punish as you see fit. I am not at the mercy of a band of mere human Rangers, nor do I bow to your judgment.
“You have no right to censure me. I am a citizen of Mirkwood, subject only to the rule of my king, Lord Thranduil. Perhaps our deed was a bit foolhardy. In fact, very well, I grant that it was! But we were hardly planning to harm to those filthy dwarves. We were not going there to slay them, for Valar’s sake! We were merely going to make off with two bottles of Dorwinian wine, which we would have gladly shared with any who desired a taste. All things considered, it hardly seems fitting that you should condemn us so harshly for so small a deed.”
The silence amongst the men deepened. I closed my eyes, inwardly cursing my impetuous friend, longing to spank him myself.
Aragorn cleared his throat. “Do you mean to tell me that you risked open hostilities merely for some wine?”
My face burning, I opened my eyes and blazed a look of absolute fury upon Gwin. He caught my expression and instantly crumbled. Plainly realizing that he had made rather an astounding error in judgement, his bravado abandoned him, leaving him wide-eyed and looking deflated.
“Gwin,” I muttered, and I sighed and could say nothing else.
I cast a look out over the men. Gwin’s glance followed mine. Up to this point the Rangers had been disapproving, but in a detached, even somewhat amused manner. Their noble faces were now more sincerely admonishing. I Looked away, unable to face them and I squirmed, longing to melt into a puddle.
“I-I --” Gwin shot me a desperate look.
“Do you realize what could have happened?” Aragorn asked in a hushed voice. “One or more of the dwarves could have awakened. In the heat of sudden attack mistakes are made, needless losses suffered. You would risk the life of another, even one of a race not to your liking, for something so frivolous?”
I cringed. My stomach clenched and I carefully avoided the Rangers’ stares, but I felt their gazes landing like lead weights upon me. I especially kept my eyes lowered when I saw on the periphery of my vision that Aragorn had now turned his head to look directly at me.
“Stealing?” he murmured. “Legolas.”
It was all he needed to say. A hot rush of guilt crackled through me. I near shot to my feet, bellowing, ‘Aye, we are terrible! We are nefarious, thoughtless, selfish, silly creatures deserving of a painful comeuppance! Now can we pleeeeease get on with this?’ It was all I could do to stay put and not storm from the scene.
Gwin shuffled himself around a bit and said, “I regret our action, sir. But it does seem that you are overreacting. I have admitted my guilt, and I-I shall even ask your forgiveness for my foolhardy action. But beyond that I will not go. I shall never submit to what you suggest.”
How Gwinthorian got the nerve to utter that outrageous statement was beyond my ken. I felt I must have misheard him. At least I wished I had.
“This is no mere suggestion, young one. This needs be done in the name of justice,” Aragorn said mildly. “Should you refuse to accept the ruling of this company then you can no longer enjoy its protection. You have become a danger to us. We can not afford to suffer the presence of one who so rashly jeopardizes others in order to satisfy his own selfish desires. You shall either abide by the decision of the Grey Company, sir, or you shall be ordered to leave its custody. The choice is yours to make.”
Shocked by this harsh directive, I glanced at Aragorn, certain he would ne’er turn Gwin out alone into the night. But Aragorn cast me a quiet look that said, ‘It is the only way. Give him a moment; he will yield.’
Aragorn was right. His hands trembling, Gwinthorian sat and bowed his head in thought, clearly undergoing a wrenching moment of truth. I had no doubt he would see the sense of it, ghastly though his fate was to be. Aragorn had spoken fairly; this was justice. But, more importantly to Gwin’s mind, he had been given no choice but to accept Aragorn’s terms.
Finally, Gwin straightened his back, lifted his chin and faced the men. “Very well. It seems I have little choice but to comply,” he muttered. “I shall do so with dignity.”
Poor Gwin, thinking he would get through this ordeal with his dignity intact. My heart went out to him.
It went without saying that Aragorn would attend to me. I had re-entered Aragorn’s life when he had been Captain of his Rangers for several years, and the Grey Company recognized at once how it was between their captain and his elf. I was treated with the fond familiarity of one who had always been amongst them, and the Rangers, sophisticated warriors all, understood that within the bond Aragorn and I shared lay many intricacies, including the matter of discipline.
But, as to the question of who would spank this other troublesome elf, the Rangers merely glanced around at each other. Of course, none could behold Gwin, sitting there, so small and miserable and clearly struggling to remain valiant despite his dread, and fail to feel sympathy for him. As I had quickly discovered after joining Aragorn and his company many years before, these Rangers of the North were a fierce group of battle ready warriors who had singularly tender hearts.
They now displayed their willingness to forgive by beleaguering Gwin with a bit of easy-going harassment. To Aragorn’s question of, “Any volunteers?” a chorus of, “I, my lord!” went up, each man shooting to his feet to tower over the seated Gwin. He gaped at the forest of sturdy men before him and paled.
They suggested drawing lots. Or perhaps they should share in the duty, each taking a certain amount of time with the wee troublemaker over his knee. I feared poor Gwin would expire from mortification. Casting judicious glares at the woebegone young elfling, the Rangers counseled back and forth, solemn and austere and plainly enjoying Gwin’s adorable squirming. I suppose the men were due their fun. When defending himself Gwinthorian had displayed a most unattractive elvish arrogance, behaving in a disdainful manner that would have tested even the most indulgent temperament.
Now resigned to his doom, Gwin endured his trial with as much poise as he could summon, his chin held high and his gaze lowered. He was astoundingly fair, though, and his face flushed to a rosy hue and stayed that way while the Rangers deliberated as to his fate.
Despite my own ill humor towards Gwin, I again could not help feeling grudgingly sorry for him. I darted Aragorn a frown, which he ignored, but before long he brought the matter to a close by appointing the duty of Gwin’s spanking to Halbarad.
Of course, Aragorn’s decision was no less than what everyone had expected. The men had simply been having a bit of fun with the offensive elfling who had earned a good verbal swatting from them. When Aragorn made his announcement, however, Gwinthorian stood slowly in a weak-kneed manner, his large eyes round and wide and locked with utter dread upon Halbarad.
Aragorn’s first lieutenant was a barrel-chested, muscular man who moved with shocking speed and exuded a dangerous air of command. His glittering gaze focused on my kinsman, Halbarad sauntered around the fire and halted a few feet from his prey. Gwin standing a head shorter than Hal, looked like an elfling. Halbarad gave Gwinthorian a lazy smile drenched with promise and Gwin, poor little one, flinched.
My heart lurched. I shivered. Spanked by Halbarad. Ai! Poor Gwin! My knees would have been weak as well. And I fear I would have looked just as stricken as Gwin now did.
“Aragorn,” I whispered, leaning over to him with a sudden and awful thought. “It is entirely possible that Gwin has never before been spanked.”
Aragorn turned to me with a cocked brow. “Indeed? Then he shall have a trial by fire, elfling mine.” I opened my mouth to protest further, but Aragorn looked away, saying, “Enough fussing. Halbarad is perfectly suited to this. Gwinthorian is in the very finest of care. Best you keep your mind on your own backside.” He glanced at me again, though, and seeing my obvious concern, he said, “Very well, little one. Keep your tender-bottomed kinsman company here for a moment.”
Aragorn rose and thanked the men for their assistance in this tiresome business, dismissing them all for the night, and the Rangers broke company to set up their bedrolls and re-light their pipes, visibly satisfied with the evening’s fine entertainment. Meanwhile, Aragorn crossed to Halbarad, the two of them turning their backs to Gwin and me and moving off to speak privately for a moment. I glanced at Gwin. He was gazing at me with wide, fear-filled eyes, looking like a lost mortal little boy. I tugged my head to one side, beckoning him over. Gnawing his lower lip Gwin slunk to my side and sat.
“Stop it,” I told him softly. “We have none save ourselves to blame for this mess, Gwin.”
“But, Legolas,” he fussed,“’tis so unfair! Their judgment is too harsh! We did nothing!”
I gave him a look. “We tried to do something. You know that.”
Gwin picked at the hem of his tunic and pouted. “Wretched Rangers.”
I stared at him, frowned, and shook my head. He still did not understand! Amazingly, Gwin failed to grasp that we had done something wrong. He felt instead that we were being wronged. My compassion for him tottered and finally collapsed.
Ah, well. So be it. Halbarad would make things extraordinarily clear to Gwin. Let him see what facing real consequences for his actions felt like. I had just been humiliated in front of these men that I had traveled with and lived with and fought with for many years. Gwin would be leaving our company in Mirkwood, whereas I would continue on with Aragorn’s troops, the memory of this disgrace riding with me. My anger with Gwin and with Aragorn and with this entire absurd business reached a destructive peak.
“Is there nothing we can do to appease them?” Gwin now asked in a sulky tone.
“Aye, Gwinthorian. Go peaceably.”
“Legolas, do not jest with me at a time like this! How can we submit to a-a spanking?”
“Because it is just, you ridiculous brat!” I snapped. “Did you not hear Aragorn? How can you fail to see what might have happened? Gwin, we are fortunate they caught us ere some dreadful thing occurred!”
He stared at me. “But . . . but a s-spanking! Oh, Legolas!”
I heaved a sigh. “Aye, a spanking. It shall sting your pride and your hindquarters. But considering what could have happened, we are being treated with exceptional fairness.”
Gwin lowered his gaze and pouted for a moment, then he said, “It shall . . . hurt.”
I glanced over at Halbarad and snorted. “Memorably.”
“Legolas --” Glassy-eyed, Gwin looked at me again. “Is there nothing we can do?”
“Aye,” I muttered, watching Aragorn and Halbarad now turn and head our way. “Do not tense your backside.”
Halbarad paused before Gwin, studying him for a moment, then he said, “Come, sir,” and he headed towards the woods, fully expecting Gwin to follow. Gwin looked panicked; then he rose and bravely fell into step behind the Ranger. Aragorn nodded to me and we also moved off, twilight beginning to close around us.
It seems there is always a private place to be found, a fallen tree, a suitable rock, a conveniently placed stump. We did not need to go far before discovering just such an advantageous find, a perfect log for Aragorn to sit upon. He draped his cloak over it so that I might have a place to rest my upper body upon, then we removed our weapons and he drew me over his lap and pulled down my breeches. I braced myself, pressing my face against the cloth of his cloak, and waited for the first spank.
But Aragorn did not immediately begin. He simply laid his warm hand on my bottom. He sometimes paused like this before beginning, and it was always a marvelous feeling, just his intimate touch, stabilizing and comforting, like a soft kiss, an apology to the flesh he was about to make smart.
“Why, Legolas?” he asked.
Oh. A talk. With me in this exposed position. Wonderful.
“I do not know.”
“Gwinthorian is a bad influence on you.”
That was one thing I did not need to hear. My father insinuating that I was so weak-willed as to be easily swayed was bad enough, and that had been hundreds of years ago. I was not prepared to either listen to, or accept, the same accusation from Aragorn.
“Gwin does not influence me!” I growled. “I am not some feckless elfling to be pushed about and manipulated! I made my own decision!”
“Then you thought it a good idea to run through the night and thieve some wine from the dwarves?”
Of course I did not. And put that way, it sounded as ludicrous as it was. But Aragorn was just trying to get me to admit my foolishness and I was not of a mind to cooperate. All I could feel at the moment was an increasing anger, pounding louder and louder in my ears. Let him do what he would and be done with it!
“I do not feel inclined to discuss this matter with you any further, Ranger.”
“Ah.” He was quiet for an agonizingly long moment. “Then we should get on with this.”
“By all means.”
“Let me see what I can do to influence your inclination . . . elf.”
Suddenly, my anger exploded. A flash of pure madness overtook me. I shot up from his lap. Never expecting such a move, Aragorn had not been holding me down firmly. I staggered backwards, wrestling my breeches back up, glaring at his shocked expression and feeling such a wave of defiance I could barely see straight. I was surprised by what I had done, too, but it felt dangerously good, and I allowed my fury glorious free reign.
“Legolas?” Aragorn gazed at me as though wondering if I had taken leave of my senses.
I vow I had. But for some sudden and puzzling reason I simply could not allow him to do this. Of course I deserved it. He was fully within his rights. This was just. So I had no idea what possessed me in those quick, fierce moments. But my shame and regret and fury balled up into a mass of such wretchedness I could no longer think sensibly.
I needed to fight something. I needed to fight this horrid sensation, which was, of course, impossible, so Aragorn suddenly became the perfect target for my wrath.
“I have changed my mind,” I stated. “Turn me out if you choose, Captain, but you shall not do this to me.”
“Indeed.” Aragorn stared directly back at me. “Then I repeat, little one, we should get on with this.” He stood and advanced on me. “For, as you know, Legolas, I shall never turn you out.”
I attacked first, driving my shoulder into his middle and hoisting him up over my back to dump him behind me. But he grabbed my waist on the way, and I ended up crashing to the ground with him, both of us stunned, then scrambling to get the advantage over the other.
It was a short and sorry excuse for a fight. As usual, my anger was fierce in word and intent, but a poor ally in action, and I quickly found myself lost in that familiar weakness, my muscles failing me and my will faltering every time I had the perfect opening to overpower him. Aragorn knew that I would never truly harm him, of course, and he used that fact to his advantage.
But I managed to leave him gasping when he at last wrestled me back to the log and dragged me over his knees. Though a bit light-headed myself, I was still aware of him tearing down my breeches, clamping his arm around the small of my back and yanking me against with an iron grip that clearly proclaimed, ‘You are going nowhere, little one.’
Then Aragorn’s first swat cracked down on my backside, and he instantly had my full attention. I sucked a ragged breath, shocked by the speed and strength of his swats. He had me squirming within moments, my bottom heating fast. Aragorn left no part untouched. He spanked down again and again and again, the swats falling relentlessly and I kicked and gasped and huffed and squeezed my eyes shut, struggling to concentrate, to maintain my composure.
Then a desperate wailing pierced the night. I flinched. Gwin. And, oh, how he was carrying on! I tensed, distracted only slightly from the savage burning going on behind me, my bottom now throbbing. Tears surged up and raced down my cheeks, and I began to sob, not only because Aragorn had lit a fire upon my backside, but because of Gwin’s frenzied cries.
“Pay no attention,” Aragorn said in an utterly unruffled tone. “From the sound of him, you were right, little one. Gwinthorian has likely never been spanked. But fear not. Halbarad shall deal with him fairly.”
His words failed to comfort me. I struggled to close my ears to Gwin’s misery and tried instead to focus on my own misfortune. I felt for him, of course, but I could do nothing for poor Gwin, and his bellowing increased my own distress. I had enough to hold my attention at the moment because Aragorn was outdoing himself tonight. I kept waiting for him to say something, demand once more that I explain myself. The sooner we began talking the sooner this spanking would end. I was more than ready for it to end.
But Aragorn kept on in silence. So I wept and squirmed and kicked and finally I reached that frantic level when it seems the spanking has been going on for hours and it is never, ever going to be over. My resistence failing on all levels, I now heard another of Gwin’s piteous howls and fresh guilt surged over me.
Poor, poor Gwin! He was suffering because of me. I knew what would happen if we were caught. Well, I knew what would happen to me, and I guessed what would happen to him, too. And I should have stopped him. I should have refused to listen to him, much less join him in his madness.
Gwin would have sulked. He would have fumed at me. But he would have eventually let the matter go. A true friend would have told Gwinthorian ‘no’ and accepted his ill will. Had I done so my pitiable kinsman would not be out there in the night, sobbing and frantic and facing the terrible fact that he had no choice but to accept his fate, his little bottom on fire whilst he lay over that very large and determined Ranger’s knees, taking his first spanking. Again my heart lurched and I shivered anew. Spanked by Halbarad! Ai! Poor Gwin!
My fault. My failure. My weakness. Oh, I deserved this spanking, and for more reasons than one, and I sobbed openly, full of fresh remorse. All of this was my doing, and I suddenly longed for Argorn to spank me until the break of dawn.
But all at once, to my shock, I realized that Aragorn had . . . stopped. Apparently he had finished. He began to rub my sore bottom as he sometimes did when he was done. But he could not be done! We had not even talked and Aragorn always insisted that we talk about why I was being spanked. He insisted that I admit my guilt so he could then tell me that it was all over now, and that I was his good elfling again.
I stared off, dazed, wondering what to do, stunned by the thought that I needed more. I was not ready for this to end! And I needed Aragorn to know that! I certainly could not tell him of it. He should know that I needed help with this new and painful guilt I was feeling over Gwin’s suffering. I did not feel absolved. I felt bewildered and unsatisfied and now slightly panicked.
Aragorn was a true Dúnedain, possessed of that extraordinary insight of his race. He oft sensed and understood my feelings ere I did. But he was failing me! How could he disappoint me now? My panic surged. Already shaken from his spanking, I felt fresh anger slam into me.
“Have your inclinations changed, little headstrong?” Aragorn asked in his softly teasing tone. “I had asked you ‘why,’ if you recall, and you answered me with elvish sass. If you are now willing to discuss this in a civilized manner I shall gather you onto my lap for our talk. Or, we can talk while this spanking continues. Your choice, little one. Are you ready to behave?”
Was I ready to behave? Nay! I was ready to knock him to the ground and shake him and scream, ‘You should know what I need! I need more spanking! But I cannot ask for more! I need you to know that! Help me!’
But I was too furious and frustrated to do anything but fume. I could not respond to Aragorn’s demand that I choose something. Had I said that I was not ready to behave, he would have kept spanking me. Aye, it would have been more of what I knew I needed, but I would be taking it under false pretenses, and it would mean nothing.
Aragorn had to know that I needed more from him without me having to ask. He had to know why I needed more so that he could explain it back to me as he always did, helping me understand what seemed so hard to fathom.
But Aragorn believed that I was ready to behave and talk to him without further spanking. And that made all the difference. I did not want more if I had to ask for it. My fresh despair and rage blinded me to all rational thought and I was too disheartened to do anything but lie.
“Aye, my lord,” I murmured. “I am ready to listen and behave.”
Aragorn turned me over and held me there on his lap, gazing down at me for a moment. He looked calm and peaceful and in no way prepared for what I did next. I scrambled to my feet before him, drew back my fist and punched Aragorn squarely on his jaw with a force that sent him flying backwards off the log. Then I stood there, stunned, thinking it was rather a fine blow, albeit perhaps a little too hard. But a flashing thought had whispered that if I hit Aragorn, I had best make it a good hit, one that would put him down long enough for me to get away.
But, of course, this was madness! I had taken leave of my senses! Get away? To where? I wrestled my breeches up in a state of shock. What, by all that was merciful, was I doing?
I dared not stay to ponder it. I leaned over to look at Aragorn, making sure he was not unconscious. He was flat on his back, shaking his head, his legs draped up over the log, but he was clearly just dazed, moments from looking up at me, snarling, and clamoring up to attack me. So I turned and charged off into the night, running to I have no idea where.
By the position of the stars I was gone a mere hour. But to me each second lasted an eternity. My excitement over my deed was gone nearly before it was done, before Aragorn had hit the ground, actually. But the regret was staggering.
I had almost immediately turned around and gone back. Then I thought it would be best that I never stop running. Perhaps some hungry pack of wolves would find me and mercifully dine on my foolish hide. I had neither my bow nor arrows nor any weaponry with which to defend myself. I had left everything on the ground beside Aragorn when he took me over his lap and in my frenzy to flee I had not thought to snatch them up before I ran. Incredible, a madness so profound that I had momentarily lost touch with even the fundamental need for self-defense.
In the end I had to return to the camp. Aragorn would not come looking for me. He would know that without weapons or provisions I could not have gone far. He would also know that if I did not wish to be found, not even he could find me. He would simply wait for me to cool down and come to my senses. And indeed, there was nothing else to be done. I knew what I would ultimately be facing the moment I had felt my fist connect with Aragorn’s jaw.
And so I returned, coming up slowly upon our camp, hanging back in cover of darkness to observe from a distance at first. I saw Gwin and Halbarad, sitting near the central fire. Of course, my kinsman knew I was there. Now surprisingly calm, he raised his bright head to gaze out at me, seeing me clearly in the dark with his elvish eyes, looking startled, but saying nothing about my presence.
Gwin himself made for a rather startling sight. He lay on his stomach with his head and chest draped across Halbarad’s long, straight legs. The powerful Ranger puffed his pipe, seemingly utterly contented, his large hand rubbing circles on Gwin’s back and petting his silky locks. And Gwin, his eyes swollen and red, wore a look of serenity unlike any I had ever seen gracing his sweet features. Gwin looked . . . happy.
I would have considered that further, but just then Halbarad dropped his gaze to Gwin’s raised head. He paused and drew his pipe from his lips, then he glanced back up and looked straight at me with a directness that hit like a blow. I flinched. But I knew he could not see me. I was too far away to be seen by mortal eyes and hidden in the safe blackness of night. Yet Halbarad was one of the Dúnedain, like all the Rangers in the Grey Company. Perhaps he sensed me there. He stared at me with frightening accuracy for a long moment, his handsome features growing more stern. Then he looked down at Gwin again, murmured a few words to him and placed his hand on his elf’s golden head, guiding it back down.
And, though Halbarad’s gaze was unnerving, the more astonishing sight was Gwin, obviously so satisfied and snug. I longed to stand and just watch the lovely scene for a while, but I suddenly longed for Aragorn, ached for him, in fact. Halbarad shot another penetrating frown in my direction and I instinctively moved back a few paces. I intended to ask Aragorn about this, for it did seem that Hal could see me, and that simply could not be.
But Aragorn was not in the camp. I moved about the perimeter in all directions, looking, but he was nowhere to be found. The watch. Aye, that made sense. Aragorn would want to see this matter done before we rejoined the others, and he knew I would return ere long, so he took the rotation, knowing that I would seek him at the watch point, and there he would finish dealing with me, saving us both the raised brows that might occur should I show up at the camp looking for him.
I moved off and headed to where we had determined earlier to set the watch, a high rocky area that looked out over the surrounding countryside. This region was quiet for the moment, but watch must always be kept. I made my way through a stand of trees and looked up high to a bank of boulders ahead, and there I saw him, a black seated form silhouetted against the night sky.
I had glimpsed him for only a second when something swooped down from above and hurled me to the ground, landing atop me with a force that knocked the wind from me. I was flat on my stomach, struggling for air, a solid weight upon my back. Before I could panic, Aragorn growled into my ear.
“Do. Not. Move.”
I had no intention of trying to do so. Aragorn had me so fully pinned I could barely breathe. He sat on the small of my back, leaning over me, his hair dangling against my face, my wrists twisted behind me and held in his iron grasp.
“Now are you going to behave?”
I managed to croak, “Aye.”
“Well met, Legolas. I have been sitting in that tree waiting for you,” he said against my ear. “That is Devon sitting watch.”
I released a small groan.
“We have business yet to finish. I do not think you want to draw Dev’s attention, so get up and come with me, my mutinous elfling.”
Aragorn rose and waited until I struggled to my feet, then he stalked off in long, determined strides. I had to trot a few times to keep up with him. And soon I realized that he was leading me back to the same place where we had played our little scene earlier. Of course. How like him. Aragorn was methodical. He was painstaking. He did not leave things undone. I was unfinished business and he meant to finish me. Oh, the price of a temper!
I resigned myself to whatever he would do to me, and what he did upon reaching his familiar log was exactly what he had done earlier. He sat, hauled me over his knees, yanked down my breeches and with the simple statement, “Now, let us try this again,” Aragorn began spanking me just as he had before, hard and fast and with dreadful thoroughness.
I could not believe what it felt like. My backside was still tender from before, and I simply could not breathe at the first blows. Then I let go a wail that rivaled Gwin’s earlier ones. I began sobbing at once, and I kicked and wriggled and bucked up, all to no avail since his grip was now unmovable, holding me there, a reassuring restraint. I heard my repeated sobs and wails echo through the woods.
Yet, as savagely as it hurt, I was safe. Aragorn knew how far he could take me. He was not abusing me. He never did. He was, in fact, answering my earlier need. He understood without my having to ask, his Dúnedain insight now shining through. I wept, in part, from relief.
After enough further spanking to make me sorry that I had not kept running until I reached my ada’s realms, Aragorn finally, finally began to speak:
“Now we shall begin again, bratling elf, returning to my question of ‘why.’ But first, forgive me, beloved, for failing to understand exactly what you needed from me,” he said, swatting down with relentless precision.
I replied with all honesty, “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
“Our problem had to do with some muddled thinking on your part, little one.”
“AHHH, Ar’gorn, nooo! Pleeease stop! P-Pleeeeeese no morrre!”
“More . . . aye, that indeed is the very matter. I believe you felt you needed to suffer more in order to be able to atone enough for what you had done,” he said. “Gwinthorian’s loud cries made your orcish jabs of guilt even worse, telling you that you needed more spanking, more hurt, more and more and more. Was it something like that?”
I nodded and cried, “Aye!” And I listened, eagerly, fascinated by that tone of his, the one Aragorn used when he calmly came inside me and found what was hurting so badly, then helped me see it as well.
“Ah, my poor little one. Shhh, ‘tis understandable. You wanted to suffer because you felt badly about the mischief, but you also felt badly about Gwinthorian’s plight. You blamed yourself for failing to protect him better, even from himself and his own foolishness. You felt you should have stopped him. You now felt responsible for his poor decisions and his consequent suffering. Is that not so?"
Nodding, I sputtered, “A-Aye, Ar’gorn!”
“Aye, but, tell me, elfling mine, what would you say to Gwinthorian if he told you that he felt responsible for your decisions, and that he needed to be spanked longer and harder and more, more, more because of the poor choices you made for yourself? Would he deserve to suffer more because he was responsible for your plight?”
I shuddered, stunned by the truth, my breathing ragged, realization washing over me like a cooling flood, mixing with the hot surging burn of Aragorn’s spanks. Ah, my beloved insightful Dunedain! This was Aragorn’s gift, and again I wept, in gratitude this time for my Ranger’s perfect discernment.
“Answer me, little one,” Aragorn now said, swatting firmly. “Would Gwin deserve to suffer more because of the decision you made for yourself?”
“Nayyyy! Nay, Ar’gorn.”
I heard him sniff a smile. “Nay, my clever sweetling. I know you are a good and loyal friend, but Gwin makes his owns decisions, as do you, and you are no more responsible for Gwin’s choices than he is for yours.”
“Ohh!” I wept with relief. “Oh, Ar’gorn!”
“If Gwinthorian is determined to be naughty, he is going to be naughty. And it is about time Gwinthorian begins to face the consequences of his actions. I feel Halbarad was most happy to help him do so. Aye, you may have compassion for Gwin when he insists upon such foolishness, but that is all, elfling mine. Do you understand?”
“Good. We shall come back to this matter in a moment, but now, as to my question of ‘why,’ may I suggest something, sweetling?”
Back to something in a moment? I had hoped we would be done in a moment! I fell into fresh tears and resigned myself to never leaving his lap again. Aragorn was still spanking, of course, more lightly now, but every swat smacked well-scalded skin, so I was beginning to struggle with simply forming clear thought. Any help he could give me would be most welcome.
Nodding in short desperate jabs, I squalled, “Aye! P-Pleeease! H-Help!”
“But of course,” he said in a casual tone. “My 'why’ is truly not a hard question to answer, beloved. It is merely a hard thing to admit to, which was why I asked the question in the first place. My guess as to the ‘why’ of what you chose to do is that, for many reasons, Gwin’s mischief making is simply too hard to resist, as are Gwin’s quite powerful skills of persuasion. Is that so?”
Part of me could not accept that entirely. Admitting to such a thing made me feel weak and craven, as though I was easily led astray, and I struggled to fully agree. Aragorn was right. It was a hard thing to admit.
He gave me a moment, then he said, “Legolas, you and Gwin have a history full of playful naughtiness. Of course it would be hard to resist him when he came to you with more of the same. There is no weakness in that, just a bond of behavior that reaches back in time to pleasant memories. I asked for that ‘why’ from you so that you might understand that fact, and allow yourself forgiveness for it. Do not be too hard on yourself, elfling mine. Most anyone would find Gwinthorian hard to resist, even those who do not share a history of mischief with him. His powers of persuasion are formidable. Although I vow he has met his match in Halbarad.”
I burst into fresh tears, a quick laugh mixed in. Once again, Aragorn had found and soothed my baffling wounded feelings with uncanny accuracy. I heard the changed tone in my crying and I felt the familiar solace of being so understood and accepted wash over me.
“Aye!” I shot back, near breathless with excitement. “A-Ar’gorn, y-you are right! S-So right!”
Again I heard him grin. “And I vow there was quite a war going on inside you, Legolas the responsible grown up elf battling Legolas the playful young elfling who was tempted by the thrilling lure of adventure and a delicious reward.”
I nodded, now unable to speak, just listening, and Aragorn was content with that.
“You made an error in judgment, beloved, nothing more. But it had the potential to be dangerous, and that I could not let go. That needed addressing, for there is a difference between danger encountered in battle and danger needlessly courted. You endangered yourself last night, clearly without thinking about it too much. And that, little one, was very naughty indeed.”
“And y-you were angry w-with me!” I heard myself bawl. Shocked by my outburst, I yet went on, wailing, “You were, Ar’gorn! Mad at m-mee! I-I saw y-your angry eyes.”
“My ‘angry eyes?’ Did you indeed?”
Aragorn lifted my backside with his knee and started swatting the tender under curve of my throbbing bottom, holding me down harder when I burst into howls and writhed around.
“I am certain I did look angry, my insolent bratling,” he said, gruff but in control. “I was angry, for you and Gwin did something that could have endangered yourselves and many others. But was I angry with you, Legolas, or was I angry about what you had done?”
Why I never remembered this important distinction was beyond me, but I often forgot it when I was in this position. Those few words made all the difference, though. Aragorn was angry about what I had done. He did not disapprove of me. He understood my waywardness. He always understood it and forgave it, long before I did, long before I could even remember the vital distinction he had just brought to my attention.
“Well?” He swatted harder.
“AHHHH! ‘B-Bout what I-I did! N-Not angry at me – angry ‘bout w-what I did!” I bellowed.
Aragorn grunted his approval, lowered his leg and returned his swats to my bottom, which was by now beyond all hope. I buried my face in my palms and just sobbed.
“Are we done displaying such unseemly sass, little one?”
“Aye, sir! S-Sorryyy!”
“You are forgiven, sweetling,” he said, his tone a bit bemused. “I vow you have been awash with temper this day. It does incite one’s anger to feel influenced beyond oneself by another, does it not? You have been irritable with yourself and your dear kinsman since this time yesterday. My poor Legolas! And I shall guess that Gwinthorian never did quite grasp the heart of the matter, nor respect your anger with him, nor understand the reason you bore it.”
Overcome by my beloved Ranger’s sympathetic perception, I slid one hand behind me, holding it open at the small of my back. I felt Aragorn take it, his warm, large palm closing over mine.
“Shhh, ‘tis alright, elfling mine. I know. Gwinthorian would tempt an explosion of temper from my Grand-dam Galadriel herself. But fear not, sweetling. Halbarad will have made certain Gwin fully understood all he needed to ere he let your kinsman up from his lap. In fact, ‘twould not surprise me if you received an apology from Gwin when we return.” I sputtered a laugh between my hiccupping sobs, and Aragorn squeezed my hand, saying, “And now, as to your mischief, what do you say when you have been naughty?”
“Sorryyyy! I-I am sorry, Ar’gorn!”
I noticed that Aragorn had slowed his spanks yet some more and I shuddered, starting to feel utterly weary.
“All is forgiven, elfling mine. And now we needs move on, back to that final matter, for indeed your pretty backside is beginning to glow.”
Humor. At such a time. I hoped he still felt that blow to his jaw. Apparently he did.
“I have voiced my regrets for having disappointed you earlier,” he said. “I failed to anticipate the depth of your need to your satisfaction, and you let me know of it quite capably.”
I cringed and braced myself, suspicious of his soft, reasonable tone. Aragorn could be quite deceptively mild at times. It was one of his finer artifices. But earlier, in a flash of temperament, I had risen up and punched Aragorn hard enough to knock him over the log and onto his back, near unconscious. Now I winced and braced myself further. Little good it did me.
Aragorn released my hand and yanked me tightly against him once more, saying, “Now, as to that inappropriate display of very bad manners . . . .”
After a renewed volley of spanking that left me gasping and gulping and kicking and finally losing all control and trying to cover my flaming bottom with my open palm before Aragorn snatched up my hand again and spanked on, he finally said, “I trust I am making my point, sir. I know you were beside yourself, but this understanding is fundamental. It goes all the way back to the beginning with us, and I should not needs remind you of something so accepted. But, Legolas, you are never, ever to hit me following a well-deserved spanking. Do you understand?”
“AYE!! AHHHHHHH, Ar’gorn, pleeeeeeease!”
“Have you something to say to me regarding that blow?”
“SORRRYYYY! I-I-I – soorryyyyyyyy!”
And this time the relief of absolution came, coupled with understanding. And when I collapsed across him, drained, certain I would never sit again, I knew that this was the feeling I had yearned for, this solid feeling of safety, this knowledge that regardless of what my temper or my waywardness led me to do, Aragorn would pull me back from that abyss of my own making. He would pick me up when I fell, bring me back when I had lost my way, and through it all he would help me feel comfortable with that need and see it for what it truly was – the most natural of cravings, a need he would always be happy to fulfill, even when I tried to refuse, and when I did not ask for it. It was the most profound trust imaginable, and I thanked the Valar for my scalded backside.
Aragorn scooped me up into his arms and gathered me to him, letting me cling to his shoulders and hold myself up until he spread his legs and settled my poor bottom between them.
“Shhhh, all over now, sweetling, all over,” he murmured against my ear. “Shhh, breathe easy for me now, elfling mine.”
He nuzzled my hair, left soft kisses along my jaw, and finally he reached down and around me, his hand closing over my burning bottom. He rubbed gentle circles over the tender skin, and it was worth suffering the sting just to feel his hand, so hard and resolute moments before, now soothing, comforting. And all the while my Ranger murmured his words of reassurance – I was loved, I was good, I was brave and beautiful, all his sweet, small endearments I felt embarrassed to crave. I nestled my face into his hair and listened, drinking in that precious solace.
After rocking for some time Aragorn drew me back and gazed down at me, resting there in his arms. His eyes glittered, his smile tender and full of fondness. Then he shifted slightly and my bottom hit his thigh and I yelped. He snickered a quiet laugh.
“You spanked me t-too much,” I grumbled, softening my complaint with a pout that I knew would delight him. It did.
“Nayyy, little one,” he said, raising a brow. “Not at all. That blow you gave me was quite an enormous naughty thing.”
“Aye, I-I know, and I did not mean that, Ar’gorn!” I shot back, instantly and surprisingly awash with regret again. “Y-You did not spank me t-too much! And-And I am so, sooo sorry I struck you! So, soooo sorry!”
“Shhhh, hush now, sweetling. I know you are sorry. And yet, as you can see, because that was indeed such an enormous naughty thing, it still has power over my poor elfling. It needs to be answered with a most sincere chastisement.”
I blinked up at him. Swallowing hard, I croaked, “It . . . it needs t-to be answered?” I held my breath, certain he could not intend to spank me any more. I could bear no more. Surely my Ranger knew that.
Aragorn smiled with gentle seriousness and gave me a soft squeeze, almost as if in apology. “Aye. Needs to be. We are a week from the kingdom of your father. Every other day until we arrive in Mirkwood you and I shall seek a private place in the evening and I shall draw you over my lap and heat your bottom, elfling mine. You need a solid lesson to help you remember to never again do such a naughty thing.”
I stared at him. Every other evening? For a week? My mouth hung open, but all that came forth were uneven gasps and broken grunts of disbelief.
“Tomorrow night you may rest easy,” he went on. “But the next night, you shall be back over my knee and so on until the week is through. I feel it is just.”
“I am sure you are trying to tell me that you agree.”
“I cannot allow you to suffer guilt for the blow you gave me, sweetling. I understand why you did it. I even understand why you could not ask for what you needed, and I am sorry for my part in the despair that drove you to deliver that desperate blow. But I know you, little one, and I sense that, deep inside, you still harbor regrets, small orcish jabs of guilt that shall continue to feed upon my sweet elfling unless I help rid you of them all.”
Aragorn leaned down and kissed me, softly, but with a certainty that said he would hear no more about this. And he was right, rot his everlastingly insightful Dúnedain soul. I was still shaken by that awful blow, and I did still feel guilty about it. But now I knew that by the time we reached Mirkwood, Aragorn would have seen to the matter with his unending Ranger efficiency.
He drew back again, and flashed me his irresistible grin. “Ah. Very good. No fussing. I am proud of you, beloved. You know that I can do no less than attend to your every need, for I shall suffer no guilty torment to trouble the heart of one I love so dearly.”
Boromir shifted. He had moved closer while I talked, and now he lay stretched out next to me, his head pillowed on my thigh. I had been stroking his thick hair while storytelling, but now I realized that I had paused during my final thoughts, so I began again, and he released a soft sound of comfort.
“And of course he did it,” Boromir now said. “He spanked you every other day for a week.”
“You know Aragorn.”
“Aye.” He groaned. “I know him. And of course he did.”
“And I never did that enormous naughty thing again.”
He made a sound of disgust. “How I hate that wretched ‘n’ word!”
I laughed. “Aye. It is a wretched word. But there are few others that sound like it and mean exactly what it means. It carries a distinctive power, little brother. It does make one squirm within.”
He made the same disgusted noise. “Well, I suppose it applies well here. Punching Aragorn!”
“He did have a sweetly swollen jaw.”
Boromir laughed. “I imagine Halbarad took note.”
“Aye, Aragorn took a little teasing from him, I think, the next day. But, after I had run off, Aragorn had not gone back to camp. He had waited a while to see if I would return, and when enough time had gone by, he secured my weapons under a shrub and went to lie in wait for me. He knew I would do just what I did, check the camp for him first, then assume he was on watch. There was only one approach to the watch point, and that was where he waited for me.”
“Oh, vile, clever Ranger.” Boromir snickered.
“Aye. Few things escape Aragorn’s eye, or his insight. He told me later that he had known what Gwin and I were about all along, although he had not known the particulars. He had been observing us since early in the evening when Gwin’s secretive manner had alerted him to possible elvish mischief. Then he had bid Garrick take his watch and Aragorn had left my side as usual, as though heading for the watch point, setting me up for my own naughty fall, so to speak. It worked of course. He and Halbarad waited until Gwin and I slipped away, then they set off right behind us.”
“This Halbarad sounds like quite the loyal warrior.”
I nodded. “He is that, little brother. Devoted to Aragorn, as are all the Rangers. But Halbarad . . . .” I paused and gazed off, unwilling to go into all these relationships at the moment. It was late and my little brother had enough to learn about Aragorn and me now without bringing all our Rangering years with Hal and Gwin and Garrick and Devon into view. There would be plenty of time in the weeks ahead for more. “Halbarad is like a father to Aragorn in many ways. I am certain you shall meet him sometime.”
“I would like that, and to meet all of the Grey Company!”
I laughed softly at his boyishness again and glanced down at him. “I hope you are not disappointed in my story.”
Boromir turned his head to look up at me, clearly surprised. “Disappointed?”
“It was funnier when I told you about it before, that day by the river when we first talked.”
He grinned at the memory, then turned back around and yawned. “It was funny that day because you became so excited in the telling. But I liked this long story even better. I like hearing the details, and thinking of the two of you and your bond that goes back so far.”
I laced my fingers through Boromir’s hair, thinking over my story. Although I had remembered each particular, I had not spoken them all aloud. Some things were left private between Aragorn and me. But I had spoken the important points in full, and that had been more than enough. And it had been a satisfying thing to do, sitting here beneath the silent stars, sharing a memory with this complicated young man who had sought me out on a night of sad difficulties, wanting to hear more of this story about Aragorn and me. It was incredibly touching.
Something elusive danced in my mind, a ticklish sensation that there was a greater purpose to all this waiting to be noticed and seized. I narrowed my eyes, running back over the last words in my story . . . .
“Legolas, I cannot allow you to suffer guilt for the blow you gave me. I understand why you did it, sweetling. I even understand why you could not ask for what you needed, and I am sorry for my part in the despair that drove you to deliver that desperate blow. But I know you, little one, and I sense that, deep inside, you still harbor regrets, small orcish jabs of guilt that shall continue to feed upon my sweet elfling unless I help rid you of them all . . . You know that I can do no less than attend to your every need, for I shall suffer no guilty torment to trouble the heart of one I love so dearly.”
Boromir’s sudden call startled me. “Aye, sweetling?”
He grinned and blushed at the endearment. “We are so fortunate in Aragorn.”
“We are indeed.”
“We must find a way to help him.”
“We shall. Fear not. We shall help him. Rest now. I shall wake you when I hear Gimli approaching. No, stay where you are, little brother. Do not fret. I can hear that dwarf long before he arrives. You shall have plenty of time to fully rise.”
We both grinned and I watched him close his eyes and soon his breathing was slow and heavy and even. My thoughts turned back to my story, and to Aragorn, and to the cold distance within him earlier, the obvious pulling away.
I had closed off all feeling enough times to know where his heart and mind had gone, and what he was suffering. But Aragorn had never permitted me to stay locked in painful inner solitude for long, and neither did I intend to leave him there.
To be continued . . . .