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.
It was always a relief when all four hobbits were fast asleep. Frodo was often restless these nights. I feared the problem would increase the closer we moved to Mordor and the longer he wore the Ring around his slender neck. But for now, he slumbered like a contented halfling child, wrapped securely in Sam’s arms. Master Gamgee had become a blessing to the Ringbearer that even I had not foreseen that night I hauled the young spy through the window at Bag End and threatened him with my wizard’s glare. I could not now imagine how Frodo could have functioned thus far without him.
I crossed to the pile of sleeping hobbits and carefully stepped around the small mound of tangled blankets and curls that was Merry and Pippin in order to secure what I wanted from Sam’s pack. The pouch of salve had little left, but as I had hoped, Sam rationed the last of it, his frugal hobbit sensibilities forbidding him to use it all on Frodo’s well-spanked backside, although he had clearly been tempted to do so.
I smiled down now at the young gardener and the Ringbearer, remembering the scene between them earlier. It had severely challenged poor Gimli’s restraint. His eyes had glistened with the strain of suppressed laughter.
The dwarf and I were seated across the fire from the hobbits, plainly at a fair enough distance to give them a feeling of privacy within their small circle. It was a clear evening, though, one in which sound travels easily, so we could hear the amusing quibblings of the little ones quite well.
“Sam, no!” Frodo had said, scowling at Sam who stood peering unhappily down into the pouch of salve. “I don’t need that.”
“Beggin’ your pardon, Mister Frodo, but you do. It’ll help ease that fire on your poor little bottom and you know it.”
Frodo sniffed and grumbled, “It’s amusing to hear you speak that way since you’re the one responsible for the fire on my ‘poor little bottom.’”
Sam narrowed a sharp look upon Frodo. “’Scuse me? Who’s the one responsible for that again?”
“I-I --” Frodo blushed and resumed his pout. “I don’t like that stuff. It’s sticky.”
“That well may be, but you’ll lay quiet while I spread this on, little sir, and I’ll not be hearing any back-talk about it.”
“Sam!” Frodo glared, positively indignant.
“Why are you fussin’, Frodo?” Pippin piped up from his nest in Merry’s arms. “It helps take the edge off the sting. It really does. And it’s not sticky.”
“It is too.” Frodo’s sulk deepened, making him look all of twelve years old.
“Hush, Pip. You’re supposed to be going to sleep,” Merry said. He turned to frown at Sam. “What’s wrong?”
Young Gamgee had been glancing around, displeasure tightening his face. “Well, a bit of privacy would be nice while I do this, but I don’t want to take Frodo far from the fire now that night’s closed in and it’s getting chilly, not when I have to pull his britches down again.”
Frodo looked utterly mortified, his already-thin patience shredding. “I do happen to be standing right here,” he exclaimed. “And I’m telling you, I don’t need that sticky stuf --”
“Mister Frodo, I really don’t think you want to keep giving me sass about this, now do you?”
Frodo’s eyes grew huge. “Sass?” He paused and considered Sam’s expression, then he fumed, still rosy with embarrassment, and grumbled, “Perhaps not.”
“If you’re worried about privacy, Sam, just do what I did,” Merry offered. “Sit with your back to the fire and turn him over your lap right here.”
Frodo huffed at Merry. “Must you also talk about me as if I wasn’t here?”
Merry ignored him. “Go ahead, Sam. No one wants to watch.”
“I do.” Pippin giggled. “And I plan to watch!” Then he caught Merry’s glare, cleared his throat and made a poor attempt at sobering. “Sorry. I won’t watch, Frodo. Not much.”
Frodo’s scowl went impossibly deeper. Sam meanwhile was nudging the blankets around with his foot. He took up Frodo’s hand. “C’mon, Mister Frodo. If you behave this shouldn’t take long.”
“Sam!” Frodo cringed back. “You wouldn’t! Not here!”
“Aye. Here and right here. And you’re only calling attention to yourself with that tone. You’re going to get this salve smeared on your hot bottom, Mister Frodo, make no mistake, and if you give me trouble I can make it a little hotter, so’s you’ll be only too happy to let me do this.”
Frodo blushed so intensely his face fairly glowed in the firelight, his wide eyes full of astonishment. Watching Sam with worried fascination and clearly no idea of how to handle this new and authoritative side of his formally biddable servant, Frodo drew a finger to his teeth and started gnawing at the nail.
“Ah, ah, ah,” Sam said, taking hold of Frodo’s hand. He drew the wet fingertip to his lips and kissed it, then smiled softly at his master and said, “C’mon now, Mister Frodo. You know it’s for the best. Behave for me now. Mmm? My hand already stings something fierce.”
Frodo broke into the sweetest smile, casting an adoring gaze at his servant. “Ah, my poor Sam. All right. Perhaps the salve will help your hand as well.”
I watched them for another moment now, recalling Frodo’s immediate compliance. He allowed Sam to ease him over his lap and draw his britches down from what did indeed appear to be a sore posterior, then he remained still while Sam applied the athelas salve.
Of which, I again now noted, there seemed to be precious little left. Surely not enough for what Legolas would require. However, it was better than nothing, so I left the slumbering hobbits and the snoring dwarf and the sleeping Captain of Gondor and headed out for the watch point. It would be best that Legolas have what he needed early enough to apply it in the pre-dawn hour before the others awoke.
He heard me approach, of course. I paused at the small clearing where Aragorn and Legolas lay and I held up the pouch. Legolas signaled me over and I moved towards them silently, knowing the reflexes of a Ranger, even one as clearly exhausted as Isildur’s heir was at present.
I stood over them for a moment, studying Aragorn. He looked spent, lying atop Legolas, his cloak covering his body, only his head and one arm visible, both resting upon Legolas’ chest. Aragorn looked beautiful, his features boyish and tranquil. Ah. At last. Peace for the troubled young king. And, no doubt, a flaming backside.
Legolas also looked content, his small grin luminous. His arms encircled Aragorn, and he had what appeared to be Aragorn’s breeches balled up under his head, serving as a pillow.
I squatted down and handed Legolas the pouch. “There is, I am afraid, little left,” I whispered.
“Better than nothing.”
“My thoughts exactly. Fortunately Samwise has a hobbit’s knack for husbandry. He shall wonder what happened to the rest of this when he looks for it again, though.”
“I shall not worry about that for now,” Legolas wisely murmured. “Perhaps he will not notice its absence until late tomorrow when we stop, and by then Estel will be busy making more.”
“Hmm. Perhaps.” I glanced at the young Ranger who lay so still he barely seemed to be breathing.
“He did well, Gandalf,” Legolas whispered. “His pain has been purged. The Aragorn all know and love shall return tomorrow.”
I reached out and touched the head of dark, tangled locks, feeling the peace flowing through the man and up into my palm, a quiet warmth. “Yes.” I nodded, closing my eyes. “He has returned to himself.” I lifted my hand and glanced again at Legolas. “You have done well, too, Greenleaf.”
“Nay.” He blushed. “It is he who has triumphed.”
“Legolas.” I gave him a gentle, knowing grin. “This young human is rare, but take credit where it is due. He thrives because of your love, my humble young Thranduilion and there’s an end to it.”
Blushing anew, Legolas looked away and grinned. I wondered if this resplendent prince had any understanding of his importance in the life of the extraordinary human lying atop him, sleeping so soundly.
“Thank you,” Legolas murmured, holding up the pouch. “I shall make good use of what little there is.”
I nodded and stood, releasing a soft groan and inwardly cursing my tiresome old creaky form. Then I bid Legolas goodnight and left the pretty scene. All was as it should be, at least for tonight. I neared the encampment, sensing the contented pulse of those sleeping there, reaching out to pull me in. A quiet peace invaded me. Yes, for tonight all was well within the Fellowship.
“Sorry.” I tried to suppress a chuckle, without success.
“You have a trying sense of humor, elf.”
He was only making me chuckle more. “Estel, I truly am sorry, but I am barely touching you. You shall needs suffer some pressure if I am to spread this on your backside. And unless you plan to trek bare-bottomed all day, we must get these breeches on you.”
Aragorn growled low in his throat. “Why did you have to spank me so hard and for such a long time?”
“I felt I was being merciful. I can, however, continue last night’s lesson if you do not cease this wriggling and whimpering.”
“I advise you to watch your tone and your position,” I said teasingly.
Aragorn pushed himself up on one stiff arm from his place over my lap, turned, and shot me a glare over his shoulder. “You are enjoying this too much, sir.”
“Aye. No doubt.” I grinned and pushed him back down. “But you shall not enjoy the feel of your breeches if I fail to spread this small bit of salve that is left onto your tender bottom. So be brave, little Ranger. After all, both Frodo and Pippin have lived through this treatment, Frodo twice now. Surely you have as much stamina as a halfling.”
“Enjoying this far too much,” he grumbled.
He was right. I was enjoying this far too much. But I also felt for my Ranger-child. His bottom looked quite painful, and I knew the day would be difficult for him, but at least he would enjoy this small bit of comfort. I carefully smoothed the salve onto his sculptured cheeks, struggling to behave myself despite the lovely sight spread over my lap. Aragorn's bottom, now an attractive shade of crimson, glistened beneath the salve, severely challenging my restraint.
This business of spreading a cooling salve on a hot spanked backside was new for us, a treatment Aragorn had devised out of compassion for both Sam’s worry and Frodo’s bottom following the duel spanking Boromir and I had given the Ringbearer. Would that I had enjoyed the salve’s soothing benefits lo these many years! I should have had Sam to represent my interests.
“I should deny you this comfort and let you feel your lesson in full all day,” I now told my gasping victim. He froze and went silent. “Well,” I continued, “I was never allowed to luxuriate in the benefits of this.”
“Nor was I.”
He fell silent, then he sighed and said, “Dawn approaches.”
I lightly glazed my fingers over his warm skin, watching it drink in the healing salve and echoed his sigh. “So it does.”
I knew that, like me, Aragorn was reluctant to end this time together. We always were after we had been through this. And yet, when we rose and left this place my young Estel would become Aragorn again, more and more so the closer we got to camp.
I thought of him as he was last night, lying atop me, safe in my arms, exhausted, yet alert, his blood coursing with the after-effects of what he had been through. It always took a lot of soothing to calm him down afterwards, but it was one of the best parts, the petting, the rubbing, the soft caresses and all the kissing and cuddling he wanted. To my delight, my Ranger-child always wanted quite a bit.
I willingly obliged, indulging him in whatever he desired, and the one thing he always needed most was to stay right in that little-boy place I had brought him to. It was difficult to get him there but, once there, Aragorn could lose himself in it, and we both delighted in that.
So it was hard to get him to fully settle down and sleep. He did not wish to waste time sleeping. He fought it like a drowsy child who longs to stay up and listen to more tales in the Great Hall. Much as I knew he should sleep, I had not the heart to demand it of him. His body would demand it soon enough. But he would valiantly fight his weariness, and I loved it when he could last.
When safe in this little-boy place Aragorn was completely mine again, free of expectation, free to act as he saw fit rather than what befit him. So I would try to help him achieve his desires by talking to him, sometimes going over the points I wanted him to remember, making sure he understood all, and thoroughly enchanted by him all the while.
He would yawn, big and wide, and then shudder. He would snuggle his face down in the crook of my neck and breathe deeply, smelling me, and then murmur, “Mmmm . . . Leg’laasss, you smell soooooo goooood.” And I would chuckle and hug him closely and whisper soft endearments to him, tell him how good he was and how proud I was of him.
Aragorn would listen, embarrassed and squirming, but fascinated. He would idly play with my hair, a favorite distraction, twirling it around his fingers, drawing it up to rub the strands against his lips or his face. He would lie unmoving, and watch me, gazing as though spellbound, and I would return his transfixed gaze, allowing him to read everything he needed to find in my eyes, all the love and acceptance he yearned to see there.
And my beloved loved to kiss. Small innocent kisses, bigger longer ones, luscious, lazy ones that seemed to last forever. He sometimes even fell into exhausted slumber with his mouth still pressed to mine, drifting off to sleep with a kiss on his lips. It always made me smile.
Last night, when Aragorn’s glassy eyes had grown heavier and heavier and he kept shaking himself to keep awake, I made certain that his most important lessons followed him into oblivion:
“What did you learn tonight, sweetling?”
“uhhhh . . . learned . . . ummmm . . . .”
“Learned . . . thaaa . . . thaaa I should come to you when . . . um . . . when I get sad inside.”
“Good. Sad, or what else?”
“Angry. Or if I feel outa control.”
“Mmm, very good, little one. And what else?”
“What is the most important thing to remember at all times?”
He buried his face against me, blushing from what I was demanding he say and slipping a bit, reality pressing to reassert itself too soon. But this was our ritual, and in the deepest part of him, Aragorn loved the release this place offered him. “Leg’laaaasssssss.”
I felt his grin, then, softly: “Leg’las is always watching.”
I smiled. “And?”
He groaned and I reached down towards his hot bottom. “Wait! Wait! NO! And-And-And Leg’las . . . L-Leg’las loves . . . .”
“L-Loves me . . . no matter what.”
“Aye. Very, very good, little boy.”
He released a heavy sigh of obvious relief, then: “I . . . I am always watching you, too, Leg’las”
“I know, my beloved Ranger-child.”
“And I love you no matter what, too.”
“Aye, sweetling. I know.”
I had smiled again. And I smiled now, remembering his soft snores moments later.
“Why have you stopped?” Aragorn asked quietly.
I gazed sadly into the depleted pouch. “I am afraid that is all there is.”
I hid a quick grin at the disappointment in his voice. “You could always reconsider using your personal athelas supply, the store you brought from Rivendell.”
“Nay. We have been over that,” he quickly grumbled. “I hope we happen across some today. In this region, I do not know.”
I reached for his breeches and started threading them over his boots.
He pushed up again and turned, saying, “I can do that.”
“Lie still and let me just get them up to your knees,” I insisted. He relented, and I worked them on and up halfway, then I helped him up from my lap and he began to ease the breeches over his bottom. Aragorn paled and released a gut-wrenching moan. He winced and bit his lower lip and concentrated. I struggled with him in spirit, but there was little else I could do. I certainly understood his distress. I had suffered the same fate often enough.
When he had managed to get his breeches fully up and fastened I handed him his belt and sword and then he donned his cloak. “Will you be all right?” I asked. “Able to walk I mean?”
“You mean able to walk without that telltale sway?”
We both grinned. “No. You usually manage to hide that quite well, although I do not know how.”
“Years of training, mellon nin.”
“Aye. Many years.”
He was quiet for a moment, then he smiled again and murmured, “I shall be all right.”
The sun was just beginning to crest over the horizon. I turned my head and winced, watching the golden dawn spill over the landscape. Then I suddenly dropped my gaze. I felt it vibrate between us, the shift, elusive, trembling into form. We remained silent, unwilling to move, facing each other and breathing deeply, as though drawing in the last traces of a fading aroma before its sweetness dissolved from the air and into mere memory.
He gathered me close and placed a curled finger under my chin, forcing my gaze back up to his, and within that moment, as brief as a heartbeat, he became Aragorn again, that luster returning, that extraordinary presence and perfect authority catching fire within him as the sun’s first rays kissed his dark locks.
Wearing his soft half-smile, he cupped my face with one hand, holding it still, then he moved his fingertips over my cheek, watching their progress, mesmerized. My heart quickened. I missed my little boy, but, oh, how I thrilled at the return of the exquisite man now gazing at me so intensely, a deep radiance in his eyes.
“My beautiful Legolas,” he said, that soft resonant quality of his voice stirring my insides. “Thank you, beloved. Like Sam, you did well. Let it go now.”
I blinked in surprise.
“You answered my need, and I shall not allow you to suffer regrets for failing to do so more quickly. Let this go now. Do you understand, little one?”
I grinned and nodded, lowering my gaze to hide my sudden tears, and I felt him lean in to kiss me. Aye, my Aragorn had returned.
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“I’m telling you, he’s walking funny.”
“He’s not, Pip. And stop looking over your shoulder at him. I don’t see how you can tell how he’s walking, since he’s taken the rear guard all day. And just what are you implying anyway? That Aragorn was . . .was . . . Pip. Are you even hearing what you’re implying?”
“I’m not implying anything. I’m making a simple observation.”
“It’s perfect rubbish. Don’t you think so, Frodo?”
I was beginning to think I would drop back and walk with Sam and Bill. “Leave me out of this.”
“I know it when someone’s walking like they’ve just been spanked. Now, Frodo here,” Merry went on, “he really is walking funny.”
“Merry!” I cried. Honestly. Stubborn Brandybuck! Merry would say anything to back up his point. No one would be safe.
“And you’re walking funny, too, Pip, despite all that salve I put on you last night.”
“And you didn’t leave enough for poor Frodo, you thoughtless knave, ” Pip said with mock indignation, clearly just eager to have something to throw at Merry, as it had nothing to do with their argument. “Poor Frodo. All hot-bottomed from that heavy-handed Sam and not near enough salve to cool the sting.”
My face surged with sudden heat. “There was plenty for me, thank you.”
“Oh, yes. I forgot.” He winked at Merry. “That stuff is sticky.”
I frowned at my cousin, knowing what he was about. It was late in the day and Pip was getting bored with the trek and fidgety to stop, so he was looking to stir something up just to break his monotony. Aragorn was walking just fine as far as I could see, and what Pippin suggested with his little hints went so far beyond even the wildest imaginings that it entered the absurd. Aragorn spanked indeed! Of all the --! Pip was simply spoiling for an argument. My young cousin fell into decline towards late afternoon when he began to tire.
Aragorn had already sent Legolas to look for a place to camp. He would head off and reconnoiter, then come back with a report of the region’s goings on and the location of a fine place to stop for the night. But every day during the last hour or so of our trek, Pippin would get fussy and quarrelsome and sometimes downright feisty. The only reason Merry hadn’t tanned his little backside for it yet was because by the time we’d stopped and set up camp, Pippin was behaving himself and Merry would let it go. There would soon, no doubt, come a time when Merry would have his fill and not let it go, though, and woe to Pip when he finally pushed Merry too far.
For now, though, Pippin couldn’t seem to decide on a target to focus upon, Merry or me. He continued to be a nuisance until finally we both reached a point wherein we’d had enough and we left him to his own devices. I dropped back, let Boromir pass, then took up a place beside Sam and the pony while Merry scooted ahead to walk with Gimli.
Pip shot an angry frown over his shoulder at me, then he turned back around and began marching along in a childishly stomping manner until Boromir came up behind him, swept him up and plunked him on his hip, saying, “Come now, little one. It’s been a long day. Enough storming. You are simply irked with the monotony of the trek and looking for a distraction. I doubt you will choose to badger me however, will you?”
Pippin wisely shook his head. “No, sir. The memory of last evening is still quite fresh in my mind.”
“And back here I vow,”
Boromir said with a chuckle and a squeeze to Pip’s backside
that made him yelp. Sam and I exchanged a grin.
“Well, Aragorn’s salve does not completely cure, you know,” Pip said. “It just lessens the effects a bit, so to speak."
“Speaking of Aragorn, do you think he’s walking fu--”
“But we are not speaking of Aragorn, Peregrin,” Boromir said firmly. He gave Pip an exaggerated frown. “Is that clear?”
“So we should perhaps talk of something else for now. Keep our minds from idle speculation and things that do not concern us.”
“Come then. No need for frowning. All is well.”
But sometimes Pippin hears something yet fails to truly hear it. And sometimes he feels a niggling small irritation within him that soon blossoms into an unreasonable big irritation that Pippin often cannot fathom himself. He just knows something is itching at him, and it’s bothersome and he needs to do ‘something’ with his frustration. The ‘something’ almost always ends unhappily for Pip.
I’d kept an eye on him earlier as we set up camp and now I considered a few odd facts more closely. Pippin had taken far greater offense at Merry and I abandoning him than he normally would have. Had we done so at any other time, Pippin would have shrugged in his carefree manner and gone toddling off to find something else to get into. Seldom letting such things get under his skin, and rarely knocked down in spirit, Pippin was inclined to let things roll off his back.
However, yesterday had been very hard on Pip. Aragorn walking away from him had clearly affected him more deeply than he let on. And as I watched him now, dragging things from his pack and hurling them down with too much force, I realized that whatever dark wound had been born of that, it had not fully healed, and it appeared to be causing Pippin pain again.
Without question, Boromir had bandaged Pip’s wound well yesterday, even though that bandage came in the form of a sore bottom. When Sam and I returned to camp, after my introduction to the disciplinary talents of Master Gamgee, Pip was Pip again, laying on his tummy and giggling at something Merry was saying and then teasing me with far too much Tookish glee. So Boromir had settled Pippin’s heart and spirit wonderfully.
This morning I’d opened my eyes to the welcome sight of Aragorn, Legolas and Boromir eating breakfast and chuckling together, looking peaceful and calm. Clearly Aragorn was once again the Ranger we knew. He stood while eating and Legolas sat on the grass beside Boromir, who was yet a bit rumpled from sleep, his blanket tangled around his legs.
Legolas soon got up and wandered off with his empty tin, leaving Aragorn and Boromir to finish eating alone. The two of them talked for some time, then Aragorn draped an arm around the younger warrior’s neck and drew him close until their foreheads touched. I turned to Sam and he returned my private grin, and then I glanced over at Pippin.
He had the strangest look on his face. Pip seemed . . . bewildered. Sadly bewildered. From where I sat I could see my cousin and the two men beyond. Pippin watched them, then he glanced down, his young face blank and pensive. He simply stared at his half-eaten breakfast as though not even seeing it, much less knowing what to do with it, a definite sign of distress within my cousin.
I was about to get up and go to him when he glanced over at the men again and found that, to his surprise, and mine, they were now watching him. Aragorn crooked a ‘come here’ finger at Pip. He hesitated for a heartbeat, then he rose, leaving his tin of ignored first breakfast, and went over to the warriors. Ever sensible, Sam moved Pip’s tin closer to the fire to keep it warm.
Everyone was now interested in what was going on between Pippin and the two men. Hiding behind a poor front of breakfasting or packing, the rest of the Fellowship repeatedly glanced in their direction. Meanwhile, Boromir stayed but a few minutes with Aragorn and Pip before he strolled off in the direction of Legolas.
Aragorn placed a hand on Pippin’s shoulder and guided him over to some large rocks, speaking quietly to him in his gentle Ranger-like manner. He indicated a nice sized boulder, apparently inviting Pip to climb up and have a seat. I raised my brows, thinking this quite an unlikely thing for Pip to accept.
Nothing could have enticed me to sit on a hard boulder this morning, and Pip clearly felt the same way. He shook his head. Aragorn paused, then he grinned, removed his cloak, folded it up and placed it on the rock. Pip blushed and bit his lower lip, then he scrambled up and settled his sore little backside on Aragorn’s cloak.
I smiled at the scene. Pip was now at eye-level with the standing Ranger, and for some time Aragorn talked quietly to the Took. Pippin watched him, clearly riveted, nodding every so often. Aragorn kept touching Pip in some way, brushing his curls back from his face, resting a large palm on his thigh, or reaching around him to lightly rub his back.
Pip went from looking slightly wary to wide-eyed and enthralled, and finally he smiled at Aragorn so sweetly that the Ranger burst into a wonderful smile of his own. He grabbed Pippin up and into his arms, and hugged him while Pip wrapped his legs around Aragorn’s waist as he had the evening before with Boromir.
Pip’s light giggle sailed through the camp, straight into our hearts, bringing sudden grins to everyone as they continued to go about minding their own business. Boromir, however, watched openly, his smile radiant.
So it seemed all was well. Whatever Legolas had done, he’d worked elvish magic with Aragorn, although I still maintained that it was pure folly to even suggest that Isildur’s heir and heir to the Throne of Gondor would submit to a spanking from anyone. Legolas was simply close to Aragorn, as he had told me: “You must leave Aragorn to me. I have known him a long time. Trust that I can help him.” He certainly had done so.
And so now, watching Pippin descend into this strange dark cloud was bewildering. Perhaps Merry and I had truly hurt him earlier. There was no one to ask for an opinion. Sam was off with Aragorn, who had seen what looked like a likely place to find some athelas. Merry, always the inquisitive one, was once more talking to Gimli, whom he seemed to find particularly interesting since yesterday - something about axes - and Gandalf was already digging out his pipe and his pouch, an early evening ritual the wizard enjoyed and one I chose not to disturb with my troubles.
I decided to go over and have a talk with Pip myself, but suddenly Boromir approached him, and just as suddenly I heard Legolas call to me. I looked up and he tugged his head to one side, inviting me to walk with him a bit. A private stroll with Legolas? Certainly! I smiled at him, then glanced back at Pippin. Boromir was now sitting beside him, talking softly and pulling a rather pouty Pip close. Ah. Again my cousin was in good hands. So I jumped up and scooted over to join Legolas and we strolled off, walking quietly for a while, but not far.
“Has the salve helped your condition?” he soon asked.
I coughed a surprised laugh. “My ‘condition?’ I guess so, yes. Well, it may take a few days to feel completely . . . I mean, it usually does take a few days, and Sam was very thorough, but --” I paused and composed myself. “Yes, thank you. It’s somewhat better, but not completely better.”
“Good.” Legolas bent down and swooped me up under my arms and plunked me solidly atop a large boulder. I squealed and arched, my sore bottom stinging. Legolas stared directly at me, holding me right where I was, despite my wriggling. If I had thought to try scrambling down I needed to rethink that immediately.
“Legolas!” I sputtered. “What are you – stop tha – let go of – why are you – OWW! That hurts!”
“It is meant to hurt, perian-hên.”
I huffed and shot him a glare, and thought to inform him that I was not a ‘hobbit-child,’ but a fully-grown, adult hobbit who had come of age long ago, even though I felt he knew this and was trying to make a point with his Sindarin pet name. But then I paused, and really looked at him.
Although Legolas wasn’t Farmer Maggot angry, his eyes flashed in a manner that made me think twice about provoking him further. I had no idea how I’d provoked him in the first place but I felt certain he was about to tell me, and I was right.
“Frodo, did you know that elves have a very advanced degree of hearing?”
Oh. Oh dear.
“T-They do?” I squeaked, still squirming.
“Aye, we do. And should I choose to, I could hear a conversation, or even a hushed argument, that was taking place, oh, say, across an encampment.”
“Could you indeed? Oh. Well.” I released a small cough. “W-Well, wouldn’t that be an interesting gift to possess?”
“It often is.”
“Of course, one would want to examine one’s ethics when possessing such a gift, and . . . and choose to avoid listening in on private conversations, or arguments, wouldn’t one? Such a thing hardly seems appropriate.”
I have no idea what happens to my sense of self-preservation at times. I hear what comes out of my mouth and I wish I could snatch the words back from where they hang like heavy weights in the air. Legolas merely watched me, his blue eyes glittering, and I suddenly hoped that Sam and Aragorn were off finding fields and fields of athelas. Having a goodly store of salve on hand sounded very desirable.
“Master Baggins,” he said in a dangerous purr, “perhaps you should stop talking now and listen.”
“Yes.” I swallowed hard. “Perhaps I should.” Legolas leaned in a bit, so pretty and so close. My chest thrummed.
“Should you ever again speak to anyone as you spoke to Sam last night, I shall not only make what he did to you seem trifling in comparison, I shall make certain that the cooling salve is kept far away from your scalded little bottom.”
I blinked and stared at him and my mouth fell open, though no sound came out.
“Then, I shall borrow some of Master Gamgee’s strongest soap, and cleanse the insolence from your pretty mouth,” he added, running a fingertip back and forth along my bottom lip.
A hot jolt shot through me and I drew a fluttering slow breath, seeking composure.
Legolas tipped his finger under my chin, closed my mouth and murmured, “I trust I have made myself clear, Master Baggins.”
I still couldn’t speak, so I nodded, quick short nods.
“Excellent. Now that we have settled that matter, there is but one more.”
I still could not form words. I merely watched him and tried to keep from envisioning the soapy scene he’d just described.
But suddenly Legolas smiled, gentle and breathtaking. “Be at peace concerning Pippin, Frodo. No fretting. All shall be set to rights. Aragorn shall help him. Very soon. As soon as he has made more salve. Pippin will need it.”
I shook from my stupor, instantly understanding. “Oh! But . . . but Pip is already so sore from yesterday! Legolas, he cannot bear another spanking so soon!”
“Hush now.” Legolas kissed my brow, then looked at me, lifting his chin, demanding with a mere look that I settle down. “He cannot bear going without it. Can he?”
I stared at him. “N-No . . . I-I guess not, but --”
“Trust Aragorn to know what Pippin can tolerate,” Legolas said. “You know that our Ranger shall not hurt him.”
“I know. I do trust Aragorn, but-but, poor Pip!”
“Frodo, in your heart, do you think that Pippin will be worse off after Aragorn sees to his needs, or is he worse off now?”
I didn’t need to think it over. “He is worse off now.”
Of course Legolas was right. And Aragorn was right. They understood my own cousin’s needs better than I did. They knew that Pip needed what Aragorn had to do. Their wisdom and their insight surprised me. It felt wonderfully reassuring. Still, oh, poor Pip!
Legolas ran his fingers through the curls falling down on my forehead. “Aye. Then are you at peace with this, sweetling?”
I sighed deeply and nodded. “Yes.” He flashed me that dazzling soft grin. “Legolas?”
“May I please get down off this very hard rock now?”
He chuckled softly. “Of course.” And in the next instant Legolas gathered me up and I was once again straddling his hip.
“I know,” I said with a little smile. “You like doing this.”
“And are you going to carry me back to camp now?” It felt like a fair question. He was just standing still, swaying slightly.
“That was my plan, aye.” His eyes glittered. “Do you mind so very much?”
“I should,” I muttered. “It seems inappropriate. Certainly unbefitting the Ringbearer.” Legolas studied me, grinning even more beautifully, something I would have considered impossible. “And yet,” I went on, “I saw Boromir do this to Pippin earlier, so he clearly enjoys it as well.”
“We big folk are a peculiar lot.”
I grinned. “Indeed you are. He carried my cousin for the last half-hour of our trek today. I should think that would have been taxing after a long day’s march. Boromir just came along and scooped Pippin up, like you did now, cheeky as you please.”
Legolas watched me for a moment, then asked with gentle seriousness, “Do you dislike being carried like this, little one?”
“No!” I shot back with a speed that made me blush.
Legolas laughed quietly and kissed my forehead again, then he began strolling back towards camp, slowly, as though wanting to make the journey last longer.
“This closeness is pleasant,” he said. “Is it not?”
Again I needed no time to think. This was pleasant. I nodded.
“Then there is no reason to fuss, Frodo. Enjoy each pleasant feeling for what it is when it comes. They are always too fleeting.”
I watched him, a warm swell rising within me, then I quickly kissed his smooth cheek and said, “That is a pleasant feeling, too, beautiful Prince.” I vow I’d completely lost my senses. My face burst with heat and I flinched and squirmed and longed to melt into a puddle.
But Legolas turned to me, all softly knowing smiles and quiet acceptance, and he stopped walking and Legolas kissed me, his sweet elvish breath entering me, dissolving me. Sam was first in my heart, now and for always, but I felt that even my Sam would not begrudge me a stolen kiss from an elf.
Legolas pressed my head down to his shoulder and I remained that way, resting quietly until we were nearly back to camp; then I lifted up, watching the movements of our Fellowship ahead through the trees.
Legolas slowed and looked at me. “What is it, Frodo?”
“Well, about Pippin, I do understand, and I agree that he needs . . . it’s just that, well . . . how will Aragorn . . . he cannot simply grab Pippin and start spanking him.”
Legolas chuckled softly. “Pippin shall provide an incentive. Watch and wait, sweetling. It shall not take him long.”
What had Merry called it? “’Tweens.” A fitting name. Pippin was as Faramir had been between the ages of fifteen and twenty - probably a just reckoning in terms of maturity and time between men and hobbits - no longer quite a child, but growing into young adulthood.
In many ways, Pippin reminded me of Faramir at that age, retaining that lingering uncertainty beneath a veneer of bravado, indulging flashes of impulsiveness, making ill-advised choices, and possessing an underlying desire to be thought of as mature while harboring a playful childishness within . . . of course, such a description could fit all four of our halflings, but Pip had an extra measure of carelessness to him, a result, no doubt, of always being the youngest, something with which I had no experience.
And there were his veiled, persistent bids for notice, so like my little brother. It wasn’t always mischief with Faramir. He had many small methods of gaining attention when he needed it, and those were the memories springing forth as we set up camp and I watched Pippin’s moodiness grow.
I considered what we had talked of earlier when I’d gathered him up from the path. There was little said about his frame of mind, or where it was fast headed. After a bit of instruction about what we would not be discussing, I got him talking of his beloved Shire, especially a place he loved telling me tales about called The Green Dragon, and then he seemed to relax and ride happily. He had even become quiet several times and laid his head on my shoulder, and a warm feeling of pleasure hummed deep within me. Then he’d think of something else to say and up his curly head would pop and he was off yammering again. Pippin could talk the birds from the trees with that charming lilt of his. I enjoyed listening to him prattle on. And I sensed that Pippin delighted in this new closeness born between us as much as I did. Odd, all the gifts a sound spanking could bestow, the first being this melding of hearts through the comfort that followed the storm.
I’d gone to sleep fretful after Legolas had left to join Aragorn last night. Despite the charming distraction of hobbit antics, and even though I’d wanted to trust the elf’s assurances that he would be able to help Aragorn, peace had been long in coming. Then I was cracking my eyes open to the coming day and the sound of, “Wake up, little brother. How you humans love to sleep.”
I had flipped over, ready to do verbal battle, tangling my blanket around my legs, and there was Legolas, sitting beside me, Aragorn standing next to him . . . smiling. He truly was smiling, relaxed and smiling, gazing down at me, looking like, well, looking like Thorongil again. I grinned back, relief surging within me. Legolas shoved some breakfast in my direction and the three of us spent some time talking quietly while the drowsy hobbits indulged their last bit of slumber before beginning their morning.
It was light talk, simple talk, with no mention made of the strife of the past few days. We watched the halflings stir and come alive, always an entertaining sight as they so resemble sleep-tousled five-year olds befuddled by the intrusive waking world. Legolas had me tell of the delightful hobbit scene the night before, Sam and his salve and Frodo’s obstinate behavior. They had been surprisingly easy to overhear, so I was able to report the incident nearly word-for-word. Aragorn laughed, drawing the attention of all, followed by a continued watchfulness from the Fellowship. Not that I could blame them. The man’s transformation was fascinating to observe.
Aragorn was indeed himself again, just as Legolas had promised he would be. Legolas had done it. I could not fathom how he had managed it, nor did I care. Aragorn and Legolas had been together longer than I’d been living, so if the elf hadn’t known how to get through that thick Ranger skull, I don’t know who would have.
Whatever ancient bond connected Legolas and Aragorn, it was blessed by the Valar, and, though I could scarce allow myself to believe it true, the two warriors were clearly, incredibly, willing to include me in their close fellowship. Me. A ‘little brother.’ A ‘fledgling.’ I don’t know which was more astonishing, to be cast in such a light, or the fact that I so willingly accepted being cast in such a light, and did not mind it in the least. Oh, if the warriors of Gondor could see me now! The very thought of it made me wince. But here, amongst the three of us, I was content to be a little brother and a fledgling . . . nay, more than that – I relished it.
After a time, Legolas stood and headed off to talk to Gandalf. Aragorn grew quiet. He shifted his weight from foot to foot, then he crouched before me, seemingly undecided as to whether or not he would sit. Finally he did sit, cross-legged, and his silence grew even deeper for several long moments. I waited. He stared down at his remaining breakfast, as though concentrating intensely on something, and I had no wish to interrupt his thoughts. At last he let go a long slow breath. He cleared his throat, and I expected something momentous to come out of his mouth, but he surprised me when he looked up.
“You should finish eating,” was all he said.
I watched him for a moment, then shrugged and did as he said. Once again he started in on small matters: who would take the rear-guard today, who would lead with Gandalf, who would walk amongst the hobbits, for he always liked the little ones to have a warrior in their midst if needed quickly, things like that. Finally he set aside his tin and turned to me with a contemplative gaze.
“The other day,” he ventured, “the incident with the soap --”
He paused, as if he listening to my silence. But, yes, how accurate a thought; Aragorn listened on many levels.
“We shall talk of this now, my fledgling,” he said, once more his forthright self. But he yet held back, waiting, it seemed, for a response. And, suddenly, I knew what to say.
“Aragorn, please, forgive me,” I said. “I-I should not have interfered.” A flood of realization washed over me, and I heard myself speaking what I’d managed to push aside for several days, not wanting to think on it. “All that happened, everything that happened was my fault. I disobeyed you. I remained and meddled in a matter that was none of my business. I provoked you into losing your temper. I caused it all, and I am deeply sorry.”
He gave me that small modest smile and a single half-shake of his head, saying, “Nay, Boromir. Not all. You did not cause it all.” He took the empty tin from my hands and set it aside, then took my hands in his and said, “You only did what your heart told you to do. You saw injustice, the powerful abusing the helpless.” He flashed a quick grin and added, “Although, ‘tis unlikely anyone would consider Legolas helpless. But, I think you saw more than Aragorn and Legolas that day. You saw . . . others aside from us.”
I knew in an instant that he understood everything. That day at the water’s edge, I had flown into a rage triggered by years of watching Faramir suffer injustice at my father’s hand, years spent anguishing with my little brother, infuriated that our father abused his power simply because he could, because none could gainsay him.
And Aragorn not only saw that, he understood it, and he accepted it without judgement. He did not fault me for the manner in which I, instead, had judged him, casting him in that role of Denethor. A sudden, sharp pain lodged in my throat and I lowered my gaze, struggling to hide the glassy sheen that filled my eyes. Aragorn so often defied what I’d learned to expect from the world, and each time he did, he moved me to tears.
“I-I wronged you, my lord.” The words needed to come out, broken perhaps, but I needed to say them. As ever, he seemed to understand that. He remained silent, allowing me my say. “I did not think you dishonorable. Truly, I did not. I know it seemed my words were . . . it seemed I thought you capable of such cruelty . . . and I did not!” Nothing came out sensibly. I tightened my fists and released a sigh of frustration.
“Ah, little fledgling,” Aragorn said, a soft smile in his voice. His hand came around behind my neck and he leaned in, gently pulling me towards him, until I felt his forehead touch mine. “Shhh, there is no need to explain. And there is nothing to forgive. I know you did not think me that contemptible. It was the bruise in your heart that spoke that day. Such deep pain lives on and grows. Old rage is powerful, and rarely discerning. Forgive it within yourself, Boromir, and perhaps save the fury of it for use in battle.” We both sniffed and grinned. His fingers laced through my hair, moving along the tight muscles of my neck, relaxing the tension there. “I cannot allow you to suffer guilt because of this, no more than you would see me do the same.”
I smiled quietly. “Aye, my lord. Enough suffering of guilt.” I lifted my head and gazed at him, and I had to ask: “And you are . . . you are all right now?” It seemed an ordinary way to ask such a big question.
“All right?” He grinned again. “Aye, all is well now. ‘Twas a powerful but brief madness that ruled my heart. What happened has been healed.”
“Legolas was of some help then.”
He raised his brows slightly as if considering the question, or perhaps, how to answer me. “He was.”
I smiled softly. “Ah, so wise these elves.”
He leaned in close and whispered, “I would not tell him that.”
I chuckled. “Nay, my lord. He is arrogant enough as is.”
“I would not tell him that, either.”
Again I chuckled. Aragorn glanced off to one side, then said, “There is but one more who needs this matter of guilt attended to,” he said.
I followed his gaze to the area where the halflings had slumbered. Pippin sat there, alone, but for Frodo, who sat a little ways off, studying his cousin with eyes full of concern. The youngest halfling stared down at the tin of breakfast on his lap. He just stared, without eating.
“Pippin with no appetite,” Aragorn said with a sigh.
“Aye. A sorry and worrisome picture indeed.”
He glanced back towards me. “I shall need your help in this matter.”
“You have it, of course, my lord. I answered some of the little one’s need, but clearly not all.”
“Aye, and I thank you for your efforts on his behalf.” He dropped his gaze for a moment, clearly remembering yesterday’s scene when he’d turned away and left Pippin to my care.
“Enough suffering of guilt, Aragorn,” I reminded him softly.
He looked up at me with a gentle grin and a glance of admiration that sent a sweet jolt through my veins. “Ah, my clever fledgling. Aye. No more. Now, here is what I propose we do.”
He laid out a quick strategy for dealing with Pippin. It was brilliant of course, and I instantly agreed. We glanced towards Pip once more, and a moment later he raised his sad gaze to us again, flinching when he saw we were watching him. Aragorn crooked his finger at him, bidding him to join us. Pippin hesitated, but then he slowly rose and shuffled our way, leaving his breakfast behind. Aye, a worrisome sight, almost as worrisome as Pip’s uncharacteristic wariness and his slight hostility towards Aragorn.
“Are you feeling ill, Master Took?” Aragorn asked him when he drew near.
No one pouted as Pippin pouted. “No. I’m fine.”
“Is there something wrong with your first breakfast?”
I watched, knowing from the glance that traveled between them that the term ‘first’ breakfast had some special meaning for Aragorn and Pip.
“Nay. It’s fine and I’m fine and everything’s fine.”
“Just not hungry?” Aragorn asked, ignoring Pip’s snarly tone.
He shrugged and dropped his gaze. “I guess not.”
Aragorn glanced at me, his eyes bright with dismay. My turn to act.
“Well,” I said, rising with a suddenness. “I shall go help break camp.”
“Now?” Pip said with some alarm.
I gathered our tins. “Aye. ‘Tis morning. Time to pack up and set out.”
“Thank you, Boromir,” Aragorn said, also rising.
I nodded at him and left them without glancing back at Pip. I wasn’t brave enough to stomach the look of abandonment he would give me. In truth, I would have rather stayed and listened. It might have been an excellent lesson in how to strike a peace accord.
But what Aragorn had to say to Pippin were for the little one’s ears alone. I was still intensely curious, though, watching the Ranger’s easy treatment of his solemn charge. I tried to busy myself, but I glanced over at the two of them so often that I eventually gave up trying to look like I was doing anything but watching from a distance. A wild notion came to me to seek out Legolas and have him listen in, but I immediately flushed at the thought, ashamed of the level to which I had sunk.
The man was miraculous. He soon had coaxed a relaxed look from Pippin, then an interested look, then a somewhat admiring, compassionate look, and finally a sweet Pippin smile followed by an even sweeter laugh. Then Pippin was giggling in Aragorn’s arms, grabbed up and held and simply giggling. My cheeks began to hurt and I realized I’d been smiling to ridiculous excess, but I couldn’t seem to stop. I just watched, loving the sight, remembering what it felt like last night to have those little halfling legs wrapped around my waist as they were now wrapped around Aragorn’s. It looked as exquisite as it had felt.
All was indeed well. I entertained the thought that it might stay that way, that Pippin could perhaps be spared, but Aragorn was right; the deeper matter between them was yet unresolved and it would remain so until dealt with, regardless of how many pleasant moments passed.
Pip’s mood had started sinking towards late afternoon. Aragorn had deliberately placed me amongst the halflings during our march, “Stay close to Pippin. Watch him. He will begin to show his true self late in the day.” And he had, picking on Frodo and Merry with even more zeal than usual until his two kinfolk quit his company altogether. I had stepped in and done what I could for him, carrying him and trying to lighten his troubled heart, and for a small, blissful time he was himself. But now, as he fumed about, fussing over a number of matters that displeased him, it was clear that Aragorn’s predictions were about to come true. What needed to happen was indeed going to take place.
We had stopped for the evening, camp was set up, the fire started, and the halflings were pulling things from their packs. All was in readiness. Legolas was set; the dwarf was prepared; Aragorn and I were primed and Gandalf, ever content to remain on the periphery of these matters, had found himself a nice high perch upon a boulder where he could smoke and watch the drama of the evening unfold.
Aragorn moved first, asking Sam to join him in seeking out some athelas, and helping him make more salve.
“Aye! Thank you, Strider! I’d love to!” He’d paused and thrown a concerned look to Frodo. “You’ll be all right while I’m gone, Mister Frodo?”
“Sam.” Frodo had ruffled a bit. “Of course I’ll be all right. For pity’s sake, I’m fine. Run along.”
And Sam did, trotting after ‘Strider’s’ strides, off towards the woods a short distance away. Gimli was up next. He meandered over to where Merry had been sitting silently with a stony-faced Pip.
“Master Meriadoc, I thought of some more points regarding my axe and its many fine uses. Would you like to come share a pipe with me and pick up where we left off last night? I have some fine stories of orc bashing to share, if you’re of a mind to hear.”
“Would I?” Merry jumped up, then he suddenly sobered and glanced down at Pippin.
“Go on,” Pip grumbled. “Enjoy the fine stories of orc bashing.”
And Merry did, scooting off alongside the dwarf, who just couldn’t resist calling back a comment that was most unsuitable: “I would ask you along as well, Master Peregrin, but I cannot recount a story when I must tell it to such a long face.”
Pippin’s return scowl defied belief. Frodo studied him from a short distance. The Ringbearer’s large eyes reflected his every emotion, and he clearly was beside himself with concern. He looked prepared to rise and go talk to Pippin. Time for Legolas and I to move in.
I crossed to Pip, seeing Legolas from the corner of my eye as he stepped from the shadows of the trees and headed for Frodo. The Ringbearer took notice of my approach, but an instant later, Legolas softly called his name and Frodo’s attention immediately shifted to the elf, who gracefully tugged his head to one side in silent invitation. Frodo’s eyes lit up.
Neither Aragorn nor I had been so unmannerly as to speak of this before, outside of a few small hints and teasing remarks, but it was understood, at least amongst the three of us and, as we now knew, the secretly observant Gimli, that Frodo harbored a quiet, but profound, fascination with Legolas – not quite what Faramir and his mates would have called a ‘crush,’ but close to it. It was too endearing, although Frodo would have certainly been horrified to learn that we knew of it. I doubt he had admitted the truth even to himself.
But small mention of the matter was made earlier today, when we had nearly finished packing up and were moving casually about, far enough from the hobbits to discuss the evening’s plans with Gimli and Legolas, making sure we all understood what role we would play later.
“Aye, young Merry will no doubt take me up on the offer. He was interested in all my talk of axes last night. I’m certain he will want to hear more.”
“Good,” Aragorn had said. “And Legolas, I know you shall have no trouble taking Frodo off for awhile.”
“Naaayyy, no trouble whatsoever!” the dwarf had chuckled, eyes twinkling. “He’ll get the captivated Ringbearer off alone just fine, but will the Ringbearer suffer returning quite as easily?”
Legolas, blushing furiously, had fired him a frown. “You dwarves are a coarse lot.”
“Perhaps, but we are not blind, Master Elf.”
“Nor, unfortunately, dumb,” Legolas sneered.
I’d struggled back a laugh at Aragorn’s sigh of vexation. “Gentlemen, this is neither the time, nor the place --”
“One would have to be dumb indeed to not see how the little one watches you.”
“Frodo watches everyone, you ignorant lout,” Legolas returned, a bit too defensively. “There is none but Sam in his heart.”
“True.” Gimli was obviously enjoying himself now. “But --”
“Enough of this!” Aragorn rumbled. “Let us stay our course, shall we? We are not here to discuss Frodo’s secret passions.”
“Aragorn, please!” Legolas had chided, his voice hushed.
It was some time before the dwarf could bring his chuckling under control.
I fought back a smile remembering it now as I sat down near Pippin. He looked up at me expectantly, all but saying, ‘Aye? What can I do for you?’ I reached over and began drawing him close, aware that Frodo had jumped up and was scooting off to catch up with Legolas. Good. But my small problem was feeling quarrelsome and he struggled against me a bit.
“I prefer to stay seated right where I am, thank you,” Pip grumbled, his wriggling something less than sincere when I pulled him up onto my lap, as was his muttered, “Stop that!”
I held Pippin firmly, fielding his huffs and his small fidgets, and I talked quietly to him, ignoring his curt replies. Eventually he just fell into a testy silence and sat still. But he soon leaned back against my chest, allowing me to run my fingers through his curls and play with the fringe on his little scarf. He enjoyed my touch and this closeness, but Pippin was surely lost in his abiding discontent. His grouchiness was not directed at me. He was vexed by the anger he could not control, and fearful of its power over him. I was merely a stand-in for an enemy he could not see. I felt for him. Poor petulant lad.
At least I had soothed Pippin’s most immediate pain last night, and it ended up being a time we both treasured. He understood about Aragorn. He even sympathized with him, and he found contentment within his own compassion. What passed between Pippin and me did not vanish in the face of what he felt now.
But Pippin had awakened this morning to the sight of a Ranger who was clearly no longer suffering, and last night’s contentment, while cherished, suddenly became a memory. Seeing Aragorn this morning, laughing, and obviously himself again was no doubt as much a relief to Pip as it was to us all, but it also aroused in him the hurt he’d experienced yesterday when he’d been humiliated, ignored, wounded and left alone by Aragorn. All that came roaring back, along with his fury. And now Pippin wasn’t about to let the comfort he had received from me be the end of it.
He needed what Aragorn had denied him yesterday, to feel that Aragorn cared about him and valued him enough to take him over his knee. Pippin did not feel valued or cared about now, and he wouldn’t feel so without that one particular demonstration, despite the amends Aragorn had made this morning. Part of Pippin’s aggravation was with himself for having accepted those amends in the first place, thereby allowing Aragorn to think that all was well now, that he didn’t need to confirm his care by means of a spanking. Oh, Pippin was furious with himself for that!
I observed the position of the shadows, judging that the time was now right, and I said, “You are certainly ill-tempered this evening.” I hadn’t spoken for a while, so he looked up at me in surprise. “Just what is it that keeps galling you?” I asked.
He frowned at once. “Nothing is ‘galling’ me.”
“Explain this to me then, young petulant sir. Last night you were well spanked and contented --”
“Ugh!” he exclaimed, struggling up straight. “That’s an objectionable way of putting it, sir!”
“Nevertheless, you were, and after you took a nice nap upon me, I delivered you to your cousin where you received some soothing salve for your hot bottom.”
He tried to scramble from my lap, muttering, “I don’t have to stay here and listen to th --”
“You do as long as I have hold of you, Master Took,” I said, snatching him back into place and holding him still. “You’ve been disagreeable since we stopped to camp, so you will listen, and we will discuss this.”
“And I have no say in it?”
“Hear me out, Pip; then you can leave or have all the say you like.”
He set his mouth into a stubborn frown, crossed his arms firmly over his chest and said, “Very well.”
“Better. Now, where was I?”
“Ah, yes. After what looked like some pleasant salving and general fussing-over from your loving Merry, and a vocal concert from Frodo, conducted by Master Gamgee, you then got to tease your equally well-spanked cousin and watch him turn twelve shades of red.”
He couldn’t help it. A little grin tugged at the corners of his mouth.
“Then after a good night’s sleep wrapped within your Merry blanket, you had what looked to be a fine talk with Aragorn this morning, and it seemed all was well.”
The grin vanished.
“Your good mood lasted most of the day, until the time when you usually get fussy and grumpy to stop for the night.”
“I do not get ‘fussy and grumpy!’”
“And you began to pester Frodo and Merry until they found more pleasant company to walk with. At which time I gathered up your bothersome self and you and I shared what I thought was a very nice trip until we stopped to camp. Am I right?”
“Your manner of telling it leaves much to be desired, sir. But --” He softened a look up at me, the sweet Pippin peeking out. “You’re right about the nice trip. It was nice, Boromir. Thank you.”
Now I couldn’t help smiling. I kissed his cheek. “You are welcome. It was nice for me as well.” He grinned and lowered his gaze. I studied him for a long moment, then I brushed the curls from his forehead, saying, “Let me help you, little one.”
I knew what his answer would be. Indeed, he just wiggled his feet nervously and shook his head.
“I-I canna think of a way for you to help me, but thank you, Boromir. Yer’ so good to me, and I --”
Suddenly he straightened, his back going rigid. I heard them, too. Aragorn and Sam were returning. Sam’s chatter flowed before them into the camp, and I thought of Aragorn’s earlier words: “It will not take me long to make the salve once Sam and I return. I shall chew the athelas on the walk back so it will be ready to add to the ointment, but you will hear Sam. When I return, Boromir, you begin.”
It was time. I took a breath, closed my eyes, opened them and set my part into motion.
“I have an idea,” I said. Pippin looked up, interested in spite of his peevishness at Aragorn’s return. “You and I should engage in a small bit of sparring.”
He stared at me. “Now? Before dinner?”
“Why not? You and Frodo did so just for fun last evening, remember?”
“Aye,” he muttered. “How could I forget? I skewered the Ranger’s coat and you favored a spanking.”
I knew the mention of it would kindle his memory and those feelings would flow even hotter. I didn’t like doing this, but it needed doing for our plan to succeed, so I leveled a stern frown at Pip, and said, “Had you been in my charge at the time, rest assured, my lad, you would have been soundly spanked.”
“I wish I had been in your charge,” he murmured in full sulk.
“As do I, my impossible young Took. There would have been no more sword flinging, and Legolas would not have needed to be dangled over the cliff to retrieve Merry’s weapon.”
He turned a frustrated gaze up at me. “But, Frodo and I were not engaged in actual training at the time, so that’s why Aragorn was in charge, right?”
“You know it is. I decide your fate only when you are under my care in training. At all other times, Aragorn’s rule is law.”
He studied me for a moment, then said, “Boromir, if you and I go a few rounds now, would it be considered training?”
I shook my head. “It is only training when I call the four of you together and give you drills to practice. Nay, Pip. This would just be for fun, like you and Frodo did, a way to release some strain from the day. What say you?”
I sat quietly and waited, watching him think. He stared off, his eyes focused intently on some remote point, and oh, how his sharp mind was clicking away! Within moments, he had it all. It was extraordinary, watching his eyes light up with a gleam of excitement and sudden purpose.
“Aye!” he exclaimed. “Aye, Boromir!” He scooted from my lap as though he’d just caught fire. “A bit of sparring for fun sounds just fine!”
I rose, watching him scurry to strap on his sword, a bit stunned by how easy it had been. Aragorn was indeed brilliant! Turning to him, I saw that he and Sam were busily mixing the salve. Aragorn’s clever gaze lifted to mine and we exchanged slight nods, then I shot a quick look to Merry and Gimli. They were still talking a little ways off, Merry holding Gimli’s axe while the dwarf talked and pointed at the weapon in places. Gimli and I exchanged a nod as well. And, firing a quick look into the woods, I saw Legolas, clearly returning Frodo to the ground after carrying him. I grinned. Shameless elf. He gave the little one a slight tap forward on the backside, making Frodo’s pretty grin blaze forth. Utterly shameless elf.
“I’m ready,” Pippin announced, marching past me, his sword strapped on and a bright green fire sparkling in his eyes. He looked like he couldn’t wait to hack away at me.
I gathered my sword, strapping it on and following him, feeling all eyes upon us as we entered the one clear area of packed dirt near the campsite. It lay waiting like a stage ready for players. It was quite an odd feeling. Pip and I took stances across from each other, raised our weapons, and I barked my first, “Come! Begin!” wondering if all of Aragorn’s predictions were about to come true.
I had no trouble accepting my role. If it would help Pippin, I would gladly do what I must. I had not hesitated to provoke Frodo in the same manner, and Pip’s temper was already up, so it shouldn’t take as long to rile him. And Pippin had a purpose. His beginning assault surprised me, though. I’d been the one attacking Frodo, but Pip was the aggressor in our match, coming after me with a keen intensity that made me proud of him.
He engaged me for a goodly time before he paused, lowered his sword and stepped back to breathe a bit. I glanced at our audience. Aragorn had been right to pair a hobbit to each warrior. All had now gathered to watch, the little ones transfixed, their expressions of alarm locked on their youngest. Pippin was obviously not himself, and that meant trouble.
“Come!” Pip cried. “Again!” And he came at me.
Had I not been so taken aback by his insolent call of command, I’d have laughed, then maneuvered behind him and whacked his saucy bottom with the flat of my sword. But there was no time for such pleasantries. Pip was once again having at me with admirable poise, and now, finally, he had decided to make his move.
He tried. He tried again. He tried several more times to achieve his purpose. But I’d taught him the trick, and, unlike the hobbits, I knew how to ward it off. This would not happen as Pip wanted.
He was wearing down now, huffing and frustrated to a tearful degree with my constant parrying. Each time I thwarted his attempt, his fury grew and grew, and soon it became overpowering, reducing Pip to a jerking mess of useless limbs. He bounced around too much, exerting too much energy, tiring himself, and making my task much easier.
Now I took the offensive. All I had to do was keep outflanking him, then attack him, again and again and again, following a pattern similar to the one I’d used with Frodo. At last he stepped back and lowered his sword a second time, panting, his eyes bright with rage.
Merry had endured enough. “Stop it, Pippin!” he growled. “You’re exhausted. Come on. You’re going back to the fire and sit down for a while.”
Merry took a step forward, but got no further. Gimli’s hand on his arm stopped him. He shot the dwarf a look of surprise, defiance entering his gaze, much good it would do him should he press the matter with Gimli.
“Merry,” Aragorn said, and his name on the Ranger’s lips said everything. Merry accepted his need to stand down. But he glanced at us all, bewildered, yet now obviously aware that something beyond his say-so was about to happen to his Pippin.
Frodo was another matter. We should have predicted the Ringbearer’s distress. He’d been through this with me before.
“No,” he said with a commanding finality. “Merry’s right. That is indeed enough. Leave off, Pippin. Boromir, no more of this. Aragorn, tell them to stop at once.”
His shocking audacity stunned everyone to silence. Aragorn stared at Frodo as though he didn’t know what to make of him, nor what to do with him, and for some unknown reason, a notion popped into my mind – the Ring.
But Legolas acted with smooth elvish confidence. He leaned over, took Frodo by the shoulders, and turned the Ringbearer to face him. Legolas looked directly into Frodo’s wide eyes for a long moment, then he said something in a firm tone – and in elvish. All heard it, but of course no one save Aragorn, Gandalf and, to my surprise, Frodo, understood the elf’s words.
Frodo paled. His startled gaze fixed on Legolas, he murmured, “You would not.”
“Do not test my resolve, little one,” Legolas said, in the Westron this time. He straightened, watching Frodo intensely, murmured something else to him in elvish, then added, “Now.”
The Ringbearer swallowed hard, turned to the Ranger, and said, “I’m sorry, Aragorn. Please forgive my . . . my . . . .” He shot a glance up at Legolas who gave him a stern nod. Frodo swallowed hard. “Please forgive my impudence.”
“By all means,” Aragorn replied, still looking a bit astounded.
Pippin, meanwhile, had caught his breath. Clearly aggravated to have lost his audience, he now made his presence known. “WELL?” he thundered at me in a most un-Pippin-like tone, drawing every shocked eye.
It was becoming an evening of astonishing hobbit effrontery. I glanced at Aragorn, catching the smile in his eyes. His mouth remained still, but his eyes smiled. Drawing his sword, he stepped forth, striding onto our stage with a casual air.
“Boromir, you look in need of a break,” he said, swinging his sword with casual ease. “Allow me to relieve you.”
Four hobbits sucked an inward gasp. I turned to Pippin, and in a flash, in one bright instant, I saw understanding alight in his gaze. He glared at Aragorn with absolute fearlessness, his eyes full of alarming zeal, as though Pippin saw his fate written out and he couldn’t wait to assist in his own doom.
“By your leave, sir?” I said to Pippin.
“Aye, my lord,” Pip said. “By all means. I’ve no desire to tucker you out.”
I nodded at Aragorn. He took my place across from Pippin and I moved off, joining the others, stationing myself beside a tense and fretful Sam.
The dark Ranger and the boyish halfling moved cautiously, sidestepping in a circle like a slow dance, their swords raised. Pippin’s curls fluttered, his white shirt billowed around his slender little form and his scarf hung disheveled at his neck. He looked both weary and alert, intent on his goal. Aragorn was doing what I would’ve done, giving Pippin a chance to attack first, allowing him the opportunity to release a little fury. Pip would not wait much longer, though, and, when it came, Aragorn would not parry the move I’d been blocking, the move that all but perhaps the hobbits knew was coming.
Pip released a sudden cry and attacked and they were engaged. Indeed, it did not take Pippin long. After only a few minutes, a wicked light ignited in his eyes. If he knew he’d been given this chance, he did not show it. He simply played his part as though he had been in on the planning of it all along.
And it was by far Peregrin’s finest fling ever. He twirled his little blade around Aragorn’s long heavy sword and whooshed the Ranger’s weapon so high it practically took wing.
“’Ware!” Gimli bellowed, though I’m uncertain as to why, since we were all plainly fascinated and already staring with rapt expressions. We watched Aragorn’s sword gracefully sail, end over end, spinning gloriously, glittering as the sun flashed across its surface. It finally descended and hit the ground, bounced up upon impact, sailed end over end again and came down point first upon a blanket Merry had spread out earlier by the fire.
No one made a sound. Then Gandalf, sitting upon that high rock, cleared his throat and said, “Samwise, have you that salve?”
The hobbits seemed too shocked to breathe, but Sam nodded as if dazed and held up the full pouch of salve. Of course, the warriors had known what to expect. At least we had known what Aragorn had predicted we could expect. I’m not certain I fully believed Aragorn could be right since just last evening Pip had given me his word. He wouldn’t dare do what he’d promised he wouldn’t! But he had done it! I could scarce believe it. Pippin had actually flung Aragorn’s sword! I had no trouble making my next words sound sincere. I meant them most sincerely.
I took a step towards Pippin and roared, “Peregrin Took! Just yesterday you promised me never to do that again!”
“Aye!” Pip returned with hot fury. “So I did!” He pointed his sword at me and said, “But my promise was to YOU!” He whirled on Aragorn, pointed his sword up at the Ranger, and snarled, “I did NOT promise HIM!” He then threw his sword to the ground and stood huffing at Aragorn, tears in his eyes, a picture of utter hobbit rage.
Pippin’s anguish hit the Fellowship like a mighty wave, and it wasn’t as if it surprised a one of us. In those quiet seconds following his broken cry, we were all seeing Pippin as he looked in those moments after Aragorn had turned away and left him yesterday, standing there, alone and abandoned. Memories of his shattered, desolate wails while I spanked him, his inconsolable weeping, far surpassing the pain of his spanking, echoed amongst us, yanking at our hearts, stirring our compassion. We all stood stunned, unable to even react . . . all save one.
Aragorn turned to me. “Boromir,” he said, demanding my attention. “This hobbit is under your command while training, is he not?”
“Aye. He is that.”
“Was this a training exercise, sir? Or were you two engaged in this for sport?”
“We were engaged in this for sport, my lord.”
“Then he is not under your command at this time, is that right?”
“Nay. I believe, sir,” I replied, “he is under yours.”
Pippin stood there, glaring at me, quivering with fury and drenched in defiance, and the contrast between this Peregrin Took, and the one who just this morning had been giggling in my arms, his legs wrapped around my waist, was enough to stun me to momentary silence – as it obviously did the entire Fellowship.
But our plan had succeeded, and now it was time to tie off this tapestry of interwoven threads that had been started several days ago with the fulfillment of a promise and a bar of soap. I decided to push him just a bit further. He deserved the pleasure of flouting my authority with no holds barred.
“Master Took, retrieve my sword and bring it to me,” I ordered. “Now.”
A deafening thunder of silence resounded from the Fellowship, and Pip’s eyes widened, flashing with even brighter sparks of wrath.
“No. Get it yerself.”
I moved swiftly, closing on him in rapid strides, but Pippin did not so much as flinch. He just stood there, fists clenched, waiting for me. His kinfolk were another matter. I glanced their way, catching an instant image of three halflings surging forward, gasping desperate, ‘No’s! and other small cries of incoherent dismay.
Boromir stopped Sam in mid dash, lifted him with one arm, and started carrying him back to where the others were being restrained, Legolas snatching up a struggling Ringbearer and Gimli wrapping his thick arm around Merry’s waist. The little ones had not stopped to consider what was best for Pippin. They were merely panicking and acting in concern.
But they had no reason to fear for Pip, and an instant later they realized that, quieting in mid-struggle and listening to their keepers’ murmured words. Meanwhile Pip snarled and launched his small body at me before my final stride.
It took a moment to get hold of him. He was all flailing arms and legs and fists, pure frenzy, none of it effective. One would think Pippin had completely taken leave of his senses. In a way, he had, and as I finally turned him, then lifted him up and clamped my arms around his kicking, bucking body, I felt a hot surge of sorrow over the pain I had caused him, so much pain to cause such a violent reaction. I am not sure which of us was more eager to end this.
With Pippin now secured in my arms, I suddenly realized that I did not know where to take him. Not one of us had thought to locate a suitable place for me to sit and turn him over my knee. I darted a look around. The others darted a look around. And, for once, there was not a decent rock or stump or log in sight. Of all the times for Middle Earth to let me down! We all glanced at each other with blank expressions while Pip kept struggling and snarling like some wild little thing.
I turned and looked up at Gandalf’s call. From atop his boulder he could see further. He withdrew his pipe and pointed over his shoulder with it. I moved around his bulky perch, and there, hitherto hidden from my view, were several smaller boulders, one of them perfect for a man in need of a place to spank a hobbit. I headed there with my writhing bundle, pleased that I did not have to go far, as Pippin was so unrestrained, but also recalling the state of my own backside. This was going to be painful for both of us.
To my shock, Pip suddenly blew all the air from his lungs and slithered down from my grasp, landing at my feet in a heap, and seeming as stunned as I. Little imp! I snatched him back up and tossed him over my shoulder.
“That will be enough of that,” I said. “You just earned yourself a longer stay over my knee, little one.”
Incredible, the energy he had. He wriggled and tried to kick. He hammered on my back. He even reached up and pulled my hair, for which I gave him some powerful preliminary swats. It seemed Pippin had gone beyond caring about what I was going to do to him.
Thankfully, we reached the rock within moments and I instantly had him down and flung over my lap. Sitting on that hard boulder had been an awful jolt, but I had little time to think about it. I was too busy trying to unfasten Pip’s braces while he squirmed. At last I just yanked and they popped loose, and I ripped his britches down, revealing a rounded little bottom still pinkish from yesterday’s encounter with Boromir’s capable hand. The salve had helped, but Pippin was still about to be one unhappy young halfling.
I saw the others from the periphery of my vision, wandering around to where they could witness this, but staying back, allowing Pip and me a small illusion of privacy, not that such a thing was important to either one of us. I glanced at them, noting that each warrior kept near his hobbit charge in case one of them suffered a sudden urge to play hero.
But I sincerely doubted they would. In fact, I felt that they would likely go about their business in a moment, perhaps peer over, but not intrusively. Of course, they would have no need to actually see what was going on. Pippin was going to be loud enough to be heard back in the Shire.
He was already crying, lost in some personal cloud of bewildering rage. He was yammering too, the typical empty statements of a poor soul held over a knee and about to have his bottom reddened. Pippin knew what he wanted and what he needed, but he was also suffering a healthy dose of dread. His rage, however, controlled him most – a fact Pippin revealed in sure terms, and to the shock of us all, by suddenly mixing some foul language into his tirade.
My hand raised over his bottom, I paused at his vulgar words. “What did you say?” He actually repeated them, and a hobbity gasp could be heard from his kin even from our distance. Aye, Pip was indeed beyond caring what I was about to do to him.
“Peregrin, you have also just earned some time alone with me and a bar of soap.”
He bucked up and wailed, perhaps because of my soap notice, but probably because I ended my sentence with the first swat. Ah, poor Pip. It had to sting. I planned to keep close watch on him. I would never hurt anyone in this position, least of all this sweet, broken moppet. But I would do what he needed, and he did need to feel a certain level of true discomfort if the torments inside him were to be purged.
I knew those torments too well, and I relished the chance being given to me, to right the wrong I had done him, to heal that wound I had inflicted. I could thank him for this second chance by not letting him down, by giving Pippin what he so deserved, and I took that honor most seriously.
So I spanked him with concentrated intent, monitoring his breathing and keeping alert to the color of his pretty backside. I listened closely, but I listened to Pip’s body, not his voice. One could not go by the actual sounds made by this halfling. Pippin’s vocal level was impressive from the outset and not to be credited when considering his endurance. His kicking and attempted wrenching about was no measure of his distress, either.
But I never let the hobbits wrench around much when spanking them. I hold them somewhat still so that every swat meets its target squarely, and because that feeling of control is soothing. But I allow kicking, and Pip was an admirable kicker. In his frenzy, he often kicked his little britches right off. He looked to be doing so now. I suddenly wondered if he had managed to keep them on yesterday when Boromir had spanked him. I would ask my fledgling about it later.
Of course, Pippin always lost control early and threw a small hand back to cover his bottom, so I had learned to watch for that and I would simply push it away. Pip, apparently feeling better for having made the attempt, would remove it.
This understanding of how much strength was needed and how much spanking was required was pure instinct, sensing when enough was enough. I kept spanking Pippin in silence for now, letting him feel all he needed to feel. He squalled and bellowed, becoming frantic quickly, even for him. And he cried. Oh, how he cried. He had much to purge.
But Pippin had suddenly stopped talking, an odd silence, since along with his wild bellows, the garrulous Master Took always yelled out a litany of beseeching, and not only when I was the one spanking him. He pleaded fiercely every time I overheard Merry disciplining him.
But Merry had spanking Pip down to an art, a proficiency he had built, no doubt, from sheer abundance of experience. Regardless of how many times Pip yelled, “No! Please, no more!” or, “Merry, stop! I’m sorry! STOP!” and similar useless phrases, Merry ignored him and spanked on, having clearly fashioned a deaf ear to Pip’s appeals long ago.
But I had nothing to ignore. Pip had uttered not a word since my promise of a session with the soap. It worried me for only a moment before I realized that, despite his pain and panic, Pip definitely did not want to protest what I was doing to him.
After a while, I glanced up and noted that our audience had drifted away, all but one wide-eyed little Ringbearer who I nearly missed seeing at first, hidden as he was in the shadow of Gandalf’s great boulder, his knees tugged against his chest, his head resting upon them as he watched us, and his pink cheeks shiny with tears.
But Frodo was not weeping for Pippin’s pain. Neither was he afraid for Pippin, nor sorry for him. He was simply awash with compassion for his cousin. This was Frodo’s unique manner. He stood witness out of loyalty, out of devotion. And though the others also had those qualities, Frodo felt compelled to act on his. Such had been Frodo’s way since that first night at the Prancing Pony when I had met the hobbits and secured their safety from the Nazgul, the night I had spanked each little one in turn while Frodo stayed faithfully present and attentive to his kin, his enormous eyes glistening with tenderness.
So there he now sat, despite his sore backside, and there he would stay until I had finished spanking Pippin and begun to comfort him. Frodo would then slip away and allow us our privacy, but until then he remained nearby for Pippin – if his cousin glanced over for him, he would see Frodo there.
Pip, however, was not seeing much. He lay, drenched in sobs, his arm curled along my thigh, his face buried against both the wilted linen of his shirt and my breeches. I felt the warmth from his open mouth, moist against the tear-soaked wetness of my clothing, his small explosions of breath melting into me . . . and, as I watched his childlike fist desperately clutching and twisting the material near my knee, that moment burst forth, as it always did, that instant when the exquisite, fundamental essence of a spanking slammed into me so intensely it became almost too sweet to bear.
It was an inexplicable moment, impossible to describe. It could only be felt, a warm, fervent glow deep in my core, radiating through me, and from me, and into the beloved individual over my knee. Each disciplined soul - hobbit, man or elf - bathed in that luscious, intimate moment with me, sharing the mysterious connection unique to this profound, yet simple, act.
“Shhh, easy now, little one,” I murmured. “You are safe . . . doing so well, Pippin . . . breathe now, nice deep breaths.”
He responded, sucking several large gulps of air, coughing and sputtering, then resuming his repeated sobs. I held Pippin tucked close to my stomach, my arm resting over his back, keeping him secured, my palm cupped around his slender waist. He nestled there, his shuddering body snug over my thighs, safely under my control, his bottom aglow once more, freshly rosy and warm. I imagined those soft halfling cheeks looked much like this to Boromir last eve.
I found myself wishing I had witnessed it, and a quick memory flashed through my mind – Boromir and I, talking quietly in his room by the fire that first night I had revealed myself as Thorongil . . . .
“ . . . . I do discipline the hobbits in just that way, as in fact you may find yourself wanting and needing to do sometime.”
How astonished my fledgling had looked! He had gaped at me and said, “Spank a hobbit?”
And yesterday Boromir had all but demanded I paddle this particular hobbit after the little one had flaunted my fledgling’s authority yet again and a well-flung Sting had pierced my coat tail. I smiled.
Pip’s britches now lay spread on the ground beneath his feet. He was tiring, but I still felt resistance in his rigid body. Ah, stubborn, stubborn Took! I began to fear for his fiery little bottom, so I lightened the strength of my blows, knowing that if he yet needed a harder degree of attention, he would respond at once with more rebellion. To my relief, Pippin simply shuddered and continued to squall piteously. No more fighting. Good. Time to help him along some more.
“Pippin, your behavior has been unacceptable.” He responded with a hiccupped pause, clearly listening, then he resumed his weeping. I kept spanking, giving him that mainstay to count on. “Do you not agree?”
“I-I-I . . . .” He gasped and shuddered, making it hard for him to form words. I waited. “Aye, s-s-s-ir.”
“Yesterday you continued to perform a dangerous trick with your sword,” I said. “Boromir had told you many times to stop and you disobeyed him over and over.”
He paused again, flinching with each swat, but drawn up short in his crying, obviously startled to hear me speak of yesterday instead of the matter at hand.
“B-But, that was yesterd-day, and . . . n-nooo! No! Y-You can-na--! No! B-Bor’mir already sp-spanked me for that!” he sputtered.
“He spanked you for sending Merry’s sword over the cliff, and for disobeying him again and again in training, as he was right to do. But he did not discipline you for flinging Sting into my coattail. You were not training when you did that. You were sparring with Frodo, so you were under my care, not Boromir’s.
“I failed to discipline you properly then, Pippin. Had I spanked you for that, you would have learned your lesson and stopped flinging swords. So I am correcting that oversight now. I shall not permit you to behave in such a naughty manner without reaping what you so richly deserve.”
Pippin froze, and it seemed that he stopped breathing for a moment. Then he burst into a torrent of fresh sobbing, as though he had just heard the words he had very much needed to hear, as though he had to hold still and wonder at the fact that – oh! I understood him! I saw the hurt I had caused him!
And suddenly Pippin found more energy to kick, and he bucked his bottom again, punishing me for walking away from him, letting that anger control his limbs, his wild curls flopping about in childish disorder, his small hands now grasping fistfuls of my breeches and twisting. I pressed my arm down more snugly on his back, allowing him to feel safe in his resistance. He deserved to feel angry about my callous treatment of him, and to defy me in retaliation, and I allowed him to do so.
Finally he quieted a bit, clearly feeling better for having avenged himself. I loosened my hold on his trembling back, then patted it and rubbed small circles there, calming him while slowing my swats.
“You could not stop, could you, little one?” I said in a gentle tone. “It was fun, flinging everyone’s weapon and then making them go retrieve it. You alone could do a trick that the others could not. And soon you could not resist ‘forgetting’ that Boromir forbade it.”
Again, he hesitated. A tremor passed through him, and on a low explosion of breath, he said, “Oh! Oh, Ar’gorn!” Pippin shattered, his whimpered words, muffled against my leg, sounding shivery. “Yer r-right! I-I could’na s-stop! Tried, but I could’na! K-Kept doing it! Wanting to s-show off! So n-naughty. I-I knew it was b-bad! Bor’mir said,’No!’ But I h-had to keep doing it! Again and again! Ha-Had to Ar’gorn! Just could’na stop!”
“Ah, poor Pip,” I murmured, slowing my spanks even more. “So tempting, was it not?” He nodded frantically and wailed. “So you kept flinging, hoping to be brought up short for it, hoping someone would see that you could not stop alone, that you needed help, you needed a strong hand to force you to stop. And finally, when something truly dangerous happened, you thought I would step in and spank your insubordinate backside and make you quit--”
He collapsed into renewed crying, all his remorse and anguish and anger and fear spilling forth. I would have felt concerned for how much he was weeping, but it needed to be done; this needed out of him. Pippin’s small body vibrated with the aftershocks of all he had been through since yesterday. In part, I felt he had endured enough. I would have preferred to stop spanking him. But I knew that, in this moment, he needed to feel my hand connecting to his backside, a solid promise and reminder of my steadfastness.
“Let it go,” I said. “Release it now, Pippin. No more. I am here. I am watching. I shall not fail you again. Your sword-flinging days have come to an end, young hobbit. You shall be swiftly attended to if you ever dare fling another sword. Is that understood, Peregrin?” I delivered an especially hard swat that made his head shoot up and a howl surge from his lungs.
“AHHHH! I understand! AYE! I unders-stand! W-Won’t ever do it again!”
“I dare say you shall not, lest you never sit again. Have I your promise, Peregrin Took?”
“Aye, s-sir! P-Promise! You have my p-promise!”
“And do all, save the enemy, have the promise of Peregrin Took, never again to fling their weapons skyward?”
“AYE! Prom-mise! Aye, s-sir! All have my p-promise!” Pippin broke into a wave of deep shudders, then gasped, “OWW! OW OW OW ! Oh, pleeeeease! P-Please, Ar’gorn! No more! P-Please, stop sp-spanking me! I’ll b-be gooood!”
I smiled softly at his sudden pleas, so like him, and again I slowed and lightened my swats, rubbing his shiny bottom between blows. “We are nearly done, but we still need to discuss your ill-mannered rebellion today, little one. Amends will need to be made to Boromir.”
“Aye! Am-mends! Aye, sir!”
“You shall apologize to him in full hearing of the Fellowship tonight.”
“You shall then go to each of your fellow halflings whose swords you flung and apologize for your discourtesy.”
He paused over this one - amazing, considering that he was still twitching with each swat to his burning backside. Apologize to his hobbit kinfolk? Pip probably felt they deserved his apology, but still, how humbling! Not that he had much choice. I helped him along with a harder spank.
“OWWW! AYE! AYE, my l-lord! Apol-pologize! To all! I-I will!”
“Ahh, very good. And now, Pippin, perhaps you have something to say to me?”
“Oh!” He drew a quivering breath, then blurted out, “I’m sorryyy! Please forgive m-me, Ar’gorn! I’m so-so sorry!”
“For flinging Sting into yer coat yesterd-day! For nearly k-kill . . . kill - Oh! Ar’gorn! I c-could have k-killed you!”
Clearly the thought had haunted him, terrifying poor Pippin. His voice had fallen to a low level, hushed and steeped in horror. Perhaps the others had thought of this as well, pushing the thought away. But Pippin’s fright had been inescapable, and he shook violently now, crying newly miserable sobs.
“Shhh, Pip,” I soothed, swatting lightly, reassuringly. “Think back on it, little one. I was watching. I saw Sting fly and took note of its path. I knew it would not hit me, and had it been any closer I would have moved clear. I did not know it would puncture my surcoat, though. Aye, it was dangerous and you should not have been flinging swords as you were, and someone could have been hurt at any time, but trust that I would have jumped clear if I had needed to.”
He shuddered and quieted a bit, then said, “Is that why you didn’t get ang-gry? Be-Because you knew you were not in dan-ger?”
I thought about it. I had not become angry because I was stuck in a place wherein I felt little, but I answered, “Aye. That is one reason why I did not get angry.”
He lay quietly, thinking, still flinching with each swat, and before he got curious and asked about my other reasons, I steered him back on course. “Keep going. What else are you sorry for?”
“Else?” He paused to release a few sobs. “W-What else? . . . uhhh . . . For-for-for--”
“For flinging my sword today?”
“And for using vulgar language and behaving like a ferocious, hair-pulling, nasty little orc who slithered from my grasp?”
He hesitated again, but then quickly wailed, “Aye!”
“And, Pippin, I have not forgotten the soap.”
A soft whine escaped his throat along with a quick sob and a barely uttered, “Aye.”
“You have been through enough for tonight,” I said. “However, when we stop tomorrow, I shall attend to it.”
Another shudder: “Aye, sir.”
I stopped spanking then and lightly rubbed his hot little cheeks, amazed that he could tolerate any touch at all. But, although his time over my knee had been long and intense and most certainly meaningful for a hobbit with an already tender bottom, I had not been overly harsh with him.
Pippin sniffled, still weeping softly. And he suddenly seemed so very tired. He turned his head to one side and lowered it to my thigh, his body collapsing heavily upon me. I could see his features now, the side of his face that was turned towards my stomach. He sniffled some more, raised his head and swiped his sleeve all over his face, then dropped his head to my leg again.
I raised my brows and smiled down at him, just watching him, lying there, behaving, quieting down, awaiting my pleasure, so helpless and trusting and completely vulnerable, his bare, crimson bottom practically casting a glow. His eyes, swollen and glassy with tears, stared straight ahead at nothing; his bowed mouth - poised in that slightly open pout that was so uniquely his - looked a bit too puffy and darkly pink, as did his small nose. Pippin, like his Ringbearer cousin, was remarkably fair, and his features took on a ruddy flush when he had been crying.
I suddenly remembered our witness, glancing over just in time to see Frodo getting up and stretching, then casting Pip and me one last look. Suddenly he turned his head in the other direction and smiled. Following his gaze, I saw why. Sam stood there, waiting, clearly having come to find him. Frodo strolled over to him. When he drew near, his servant reached out and fussed with the Ringbearer’s cloak, pulling it around to cover him more in front. Then Sam put his arm around Frodo’s shoulder and they both disappeared into the growing shadows of twilight.
I dropped my gaze to Pippin, leaned down and kissed his dewy cheek, then I gathered him up, ‘shushing’ his mewling and small fussing noises. Again he straddled me, his arms curling over my chest, his face buried against my shoulder. I spread my legs as best I could so his sore bottom nestled between my thighs, sparing it from direct pressure. The pose would have been incredibly intimate but for Pippin’s long billowy shirt drooping down in front and behind him, covering him to mid-thigh. Of course, I doubted that Pippin would have noticed, or cared, even if he had not had a blessed stitch on at the moment.
“Pip, this morning, when I talked to you, do you remember what I said?”
He was silent for a moment, thinking, then he murmured, “You s-said many th-things. And y-you told me a story.”
I rubbed his back, grinning softly to myself. “But, what was the first thing I said?”
“I liked y-your story.”
“I know you did.”
“Maybe – maybe you could tell me another s-story.”
“Or you could tell me that same story again.”
“I liked it.”
“Peregrin. What were my first words to you?”
“You apologized to me. You said you were s-sorry for walking away from me when I-I --”
“Aye. I was sorry for my part in your unhappiness. And I am sorry for failing you, little one. As I promised you this morning, and again just now, I shall never do so again. Should you prove disobedient, I shall answer your behavior as needed.” I hugged him to me, brushing my cheek against his soft curls. “We both had apologies to make to each other this day. And we both now have promises to keep to each other.”
“Aye,” he said in a hushed voice. He hiccupped a few times, then drew several quavering breaths and rubbed his tear-soaked face against me.
“I don’t suppose there’s any chance you’ll be forgettin’ that one promise of yours, the one about . . . well, about--”
“The soap?” I smiled at his tensing body and his sharp nod. “Not likely.”
It was early dusk, the sky soft, dark bluish and gray. I had more to discuss with him, and now that he was calming, he would be able to hear me, but I needed to get off of this unforgiving rock. So I stood, cupped my right hand under Pippin’s thigh, and my left around his waist and headed off towards a small open field. It felt better to move, although the immediate sensation of blood coursing into my still-enflamed hindquarters was enough to make me bite back a groan. Wretched painstaking elf.
My passenger wrapped his legs a bit tighter around my waist and coiled his arms about my neck to hold on, and I steered us out into the soft pre-evening meadow. I did not want to go far, just a little ways off to isolate us more for what I needed to say to him. I had been walking for perhaps five minutes when it occurred to me that I was holding a half-naked halfling. I could go back for his britches and dress him, but it seemed too bothersome a notion.
“Aragorn?” Pip raised his head from my shoulder and gazed at me.
“I have no britches on.”
I chuckled. “Is that so?”
He blushed and gave me a gentle pout.
“Are you cold, sweetling?”
“Cold? Am I cold?” He looked as though he was not certain he had heard me right. “Sir, between the attentions of you and Boromir, my backside will probably never be cold again.”
“That might prove convenient.” I now received an exaggerated frown that made me chuckle again. “I am sorry, Pip. Shall we go back and get your britches?” I stopped and waited.
He looked over my shoulder to see how far we had come, and plainly decided it was not worth the trouble of returning. “Oh,” he said with a sigh, laying his head down again, “No. I suppose if you don’t mind, I don’t mind.”
I smiled and continued on. “I do not mind.”
Before long I found what I desired, a few small rolling mounds, one of which was at a perfect slope. I lay down on the grass, leaned back against the upward side of the gentle mound, and stretched Pippin atop me. Then I pulled off my cloak and covered him. When I had finished situating us, he lifted his head to gaze at me with a faint look of surprise.
“You know,” he said, “this is almost exactly what Boromir did last night. He hauled me off, just as you did now, then he found a quiet place, and laid down, and draped me over him like a blanket.”
At first I just smiled at the vision, but then I felt my face color slightly. I knew exactly what he meant. Legolas had not carried me to a quiet place, but I had been in Pippin’s same position less than twenty-four hours ago, right down to my cloak covering my throbbing behind where I lay blanketing Legolas. Pip watched me closely.
“So, this is like what Boromir did,” I repeated, having nothing more intelligent to offer.
“Aye. It’s curious. Is this a common practice amongst men or something? After tanning a hobbit’s behind you follow this course?”
I grinned, glad to see his Pippin-ness returning and the teasing twinkle in his eye. Amazing, these halflings. I resisted the urge to tease back by answering that, “Yes. Warriors train for months in hobbit-spanking techniques and comforting procedures.”
“Nay, bratling. But clearly Boromir and I have a similar way of dealing with just-spanked hobbits.”
I guided his head back down and ran my fingers through his wild soft curls, enjoying the feel and texture, like Frodo’s, thick and fine. “How are you feeling, little one?”
He thought for a moment. “Better . . . and worse.” I waited. “You know what I mean, don’t you?” Before I could respond he surged ahead: “Frodo told me that Lord Elrond raised you as his own, that he’s your foster father.”
“He is. I even call Lord Elrond, ‘Ada,’ for he is that to me.”
“Well, then I’m certain you know what I mean. Anyone who can scowl like Lord Elrond must be able to spank with equal intensity. I’m sure that when you were a little sprout you had occasion to test his disciplinary abilities.”
I laughed. “Aye.”
“And afterwards, you always felt better --”
“And worse.” I leaned down and kissed his curly head. “Wise young hobbit.”
He sighed, then said in an unexpectedly pensive tone, “Perhaps. About some things.”
Suddenly I remembered something, a similar experience I could share with him, always a better way to impart help than was mere discourse. I thought it over carefully, shifting it about in my mind to see if the point of it still worked, even if I tinkered with the actual facts. It did.
“Pippin, during your time in Rivendell, did you meet an elf named Glorfindel?”
“Oh, yes! He was very tall and very pretty . . . well, all elves are, but this one was near as pretty as our Legolas, same hair, same eyes --”
“Yes, that would be him,” I interrupted, less than eager to invite more of this Glorfindel adoration. He was an Elf-lord, from a house of Princes, mighty of the Firstborn, but to this guileless little halfling, who knew no better, Glorfindel was ‘very pretty.’ There was something oddly sweet about that. “I have another small story for you.”
“Ohh! About you and Glorfindel?”
“Aye. When I was a young lad, Lord Elrond would usually take his sons, myself included, wherever he went, to Lothlorien or Mirkwood, or anywhere he traveled on diplomatic affairs.”
“That must have been lovely.”
“Well, yes, but that is not the point of my sto--”
“Did you like traveling about with him?”
“Of course you would. Why wouldn’t you?”
“Pippin. Do you want to hear this?”
“Aye. Oh!” He turned his head up to me, suddenly contrite. “I’m sorry, Aragorn. Please forgive me. I interrupt a lot. It’s a bad habit.”
“Indeed it is.”
“It can drive Merry to distraction.”
“I am fast heading there myself, young Took.”
He paused. “Oh.”
“Any more such interruptions and we shall return to camp at once. Or perhaps that is what you prefer.”
He snuggled down onto me. “No, please, Aragorn. Not just yet. And I do want to hear your story. Please go on. I’ll be good.”
I kissed his head again. “Very well. Now, as I was saying, Lord Elrond usually took me with him, but there were times when he did not.”
I began to rise.
“NO! NO!” Pip cried, scrambling to push me back down, which I indulged. He gave me a beseeching look. “I’m sorry, Aragorn! Please! Wait! I’m sorry. Not another word! I swear it!”
I gave him a stern glare. He smiled innocently and laid his head back down.
“To continue, one time when I was forced to remain in Rivendell, Glorfindel was left in charge of me. I was about twelve years old, and I was angry that I had not been allowed to accompany Elrond and my foster brothers to Lorien for a visit. Glorfindel had just returned from there, so he volunteered to stay behind with me.”
I paused. I could feel Pippin itching to again ask me why I had to stay in Rivendell, but all these particulars were not important. What was important was how closely my tale matched what Pippin had just been through. I wanted him to focus on that, and not get caught up in a lot of nonsense his Tookish curiosity would lead him to pursue, for I was indeed filling in with the most ridiculous nonsense. Glorfindel a nursemaid . . . I hoped Legolas never caught wind of this.
“Glorfindel was a skilled rider,” I continued. “He had a beautiful white horse, Asfaloth. I think to help ease my brooding, Glorfindel began teaching me some elegant riding tricks. I felt grown up and excited to be taught such lessons, and I worked hard every day, learning techniques I still use. Glorfindel was a master, and Asfaloth was an Elf-horse, near magical in abilities, so I never fell, even when learning the hardest . . . all right, Pippin. Stop squirming and ask what you will before you burst.”
“Did you have your own horse you could practice on? Did Glorfindel allow you to practice all you wanted to, even when he wasn’t there? Were you --”
I placed a finger over his lips and said, “Stop. I did indeed have my own horse, and no, Glorfindel did not allow me to practice when he was not with me. That was strictly forbidden. Nor was I permitted to attempt this trick on any steed but his own. I was safe only when on the Elven-horse. Asfaloth would not suffer me to fall. But I did not know that at the time. I thought it was my own gift for riding that kept me from falling.”
“Ah, well then, perhaps you can tell me what I did next, Master Took.”
“Well, not that I know for certain, and not saying that I would do such a naughty and disobedient thing --” I laughed and he grinned. “But I imagine you might attempt to take Asfaloth out on your own one day and set about practicing alone, even though you’d been told not to.”
“And I imagine you were caught out, and that Glorfindel is the spanking kind of elf.”
“You are correct, in part, and I shall not even declare my uneasiness with just how correct you are,” I said, making him giggle. “However, an unforeseen problem arose: Asfaloth, being Elven-trained, and therefore smarter than even the most intelligent orc, refused to follow my commands.”
Pip gasped, then pushed his face against my chest and snickered.
“So, Pip, what did I do then?”
He turned his head and said with a resolute sigh, “Ahhhh, me, poor youth! You fetched your own steed, who would innocently obey your every disastrous wish.”
“Well, now I believe I shall indeed declare my uneasiness, for you understand the delinquent mind too well, Peregrin Took.”
Pip covered his face with his hand and groaned. “Ohhhh, dear! Ohhh, poor, poor Aragorn! What did you break?”
“And two ribs.”
“OHHH!” He rose up and kissed me twice in my midsection, then lay back down and sighed again. “Well, I canna admonish you.”
“It would do you little good. I was but a child at the time. But to continue this story --”
“Oh! There’s more?”
“Unless you would like to go back to camp.” I made a move to rise again.
“No! No, I want to hear more, please. What did Glorfindel do? He didn’t spank you right there and then did he?”
“No. He was angry of course, but he was more concerned. He got me back to Elrond’s house quickly and he scolded me, but that was all he did that day. It took several days for him to put me to rights. Glorfindel is a healer, as is Elrond. “‘You fragile humans love to challenge immortals,’ he would say.
“Nevertheless, the elf lord worked his magic, and I was healed within ten days. Elrond was due back in one more. I knew that Glorfindel would discipline me, as this matter was his concern, and he would most likely do it before my Ada returned. So the day he pronounced me healed, I began to fear for my backside. Aye, Pip – Glorfindel was, most assuredly, the spanking kind of elf.
“But he did nothing. Aside from a stern, long lecture about trust and responsibility and honor, Glorfindel did not discipline me. He said I had suffered enough from my injuries. He could see no reason to put me through more discomfort.”
Pippin’s limbs stiffened and he released a hushed, strangled sound. For a moment, he seemed to barely be breathing. I kept petting my fingers through his curls and now I slid my free hand under my cloak and rubbed his back.
“I could not understand it,” I went on, “but I was much relieved. Oh, wonder of wonders! I had escaped a spanking! My relief did not last long, though. Instead I began to feel confused and grumpy, wondering why Glorfindel had let me off so easily. My confusion grew through the next day and now I also became resentful and quick-tempered. When Lord Elrond and his party returned that evening he noticed my brooding and snappishness immediately. I lashed out at my brothers, and Elladan and Elrohir were mystified by my behavior.”
“Aragorn,” Pip said in a small voice. “I-I --”
“Shhh, hush. Let me finish, little one,” I murmured. Of course, Pip now knew the purpose of my tale, but I would follow it to the end. “I wanted to be near no one. I could not fathom my own wrath, but I knew the anger inside me was taking over and growing larger all the time.
“Finally, the day after Lord Elrond’s return I invited my brothers to the meadow with me where the horses were grazing. I had bragged about the fancy tricks Glorfindel had taught me in their absence, and, judging from their reactions, they knew nothing yet about what had happened. They were much older than I, and they knew something was not right, but in their concern for my strange behavior, they went along with my wishes.”
“Oh, Aragorn! Please, I --”
“I shall not tell you again, Peregrin. Hush.” I kissed him once more, feeling a small tremor pass through him. “Of course Asfaloth barely acknowledged me when we entered the meadow, so I whistled for my horse instead, and, as he galloped my way, a mighty, ‘STOP!’ made both my brothers turn. I did not need to turn. I knew Glorfindel’s voice. But then I did turn, and saw Glorfindel and my ada approaching us swiftly, thunderous looks on their faces. I know not why, but I turned and ran.”
He lifted his head and gazed at me, his eyes glassy with tears, yet his features calm and quiet and full of understanding. “Of course you did. You knew you couldn’t get away, so you ran. You knew you couldn’t win, so you, no doubt, fought when you were captured.” I nodded slowly. “You cursed and struggled, but your heart was glad, because you weren’t going to be spared.”
“And afterwards, you felt better.” He smiled softly. “And worse.”
He studied me, a deep radiance in his eyes. “You needed what you needed.”
“And what was that?”
“You needed to be drawn up short for disobeying orders. But, more importantly, you needed to know that Glorfindel cared about your welfare, and that he would spank you for being a danger to yourself, and . . . ” A bright sparkle flashed in his eyes. “ . . . and that he would not permit you to behave in such a naughty manner without reaping what you so richly deserved.”
It was my turn to smile softly. “Those words sound familiar.”
“I snatched them from the air when you said them a while ago, and tucked them into my heart.”
Pippin reached up dreamily and touched my cheek with his small hand, his focus following where his fingers smoothed along my beard. “It is a strange thing, Aragorn,” he said, a rich undertone of sadness in his lilting voice. “To be forgiven is grand, to get a second chance, lovely. Both bring a sort of relief and solace.” He turned his gaze back to look directly at me. “But we need more than that to soothe the dark places inside, don’t we? Only a special kind of attention brings solace of the heart.”
I glanced down, feeling the sting of tears behind my eyelids. Peregrin Took brought tears to my eyes. “Wise young hobbit.”
“Ah. Those words sound familiar, too.”
He flashed me his irresistible grin. There were no shadows lingering in Pippin’s eyes and I suddenly knew that this was what Legolas had seen reflected in me last night, this comforted inner glow that made him smile down at me with that great warmth of affection. I felt myself smiling the same way now at this treasured halfling, and I saw him receive that warmth like a sweet, soothing stroke.
There was no more to say. Pippin inched up enough to kiss me softly and slowly, then he laid his head down and nuzzled his face against my neck. He was still and quiet for several long minutes, and I wondered if he had begun to doze, but suddenly he said, “Last night I was still napping upon Boromir when he carried me back to camp. But, Aragorn, if I should fall asleep, promise me you’ll stop and put my britches on me before we return to the others.”
I chuckled. “I fear you would awaken the moment your britches touched your bottom. But perhaps we should return now ‘ere you drop off. You must be hungry, little one. You did not eat much today.”
He lifted his head and stared at me. “Yer’ right! Why, I’m fairly starving! And --” He sniffed the air. “Is that . . . could that be dinner?”
“Hungry hobbits can find scents in the air as keenly as elves do.” I grinned. “Aye, it smells as though our hunters brought back something good for Sam and Gimli to turn on the spit.”
“Oh!” His eyes grew wide. “Oh, Aragorn! Suddenly I’m so hungry!”
“Come then,” I said, cupping his thighs and rising from the grass. “Can you stave off your hunger long enough to stop and pull your britches on?”
“Oh, bother! I suppose I can.”
I was proud to see my Pip walking back under his own power, even though he did walk in that certain . . . way. Last night Boromir had been carrying him when he delivered my cousin to my arms, so this was a step up. It had only sounded like Aragorn was killing him a while ago. But then, with Pip, it always sounds like whoever is spanking him is killing him, including me.
His sweet eyes, bright and clear, were still a bit swollen, even though the sound of his spanking had ended some time ago, but his expression – ahhh, that was, once again, purely captivating Peregrin Took. He stood for a moment, that winsome, almost otherworldly contentment back in his face as he cast his gaze around at all of us. My heart sped up just at the sight of my little beloved, so himself again.
Pip instantly noticed Aragorn’s sword, still left where it was, stuck in the blanket just as it had speared down from Pip’s, no doubt, last fling. Legolas had not let us touch it.
“No, Sam,” he’d said when Sam had been reaching for the sword to remove it earlier. “Leave it there.”
None of us had questioned him. Legolas sometimes produces this . . . tone that I, for one, dare not challenge. When hearing that tone, on occasion, I marveled that Frodo had survived a session over the elf’s knee.
So Aragorn’s sword remained right there in our midst like a monument, a reminder of Pip’s attack of madness. But, upon seeing it, Pippin marched himself straight over to it and plucked the sword out of the ground, turned and brought it back to the Ranger, who stood waiting with a most gratifying smile, a smile I think I reflected.
Pip turned the sword, laying it flat, cupping the hilt in one hand and letting the blade rest in his other palm. Holding it up to Aragorn, he said, “My lord, please accept my formal apology. Your sword.”
Oh, my heart near burst with pride! Aragorn quickly shielded his sword, and if he had not swept Pippin up into his arms and hugged him senseless after that, I know everyone else in the Fellowship would have. He squeezed until Pippin squeaked, and then he chuckled and put him down and ruffled his curls, saying, “Apology accepted, my fine Took.”
Pippin beamed up at him, then he quickly glanced around, his eyes fastening on Boromir. He scooted over to the warrior, whose grin was so broad it looked near impossible to achieve. Pip pulled to a halt before him and bowed his head, saying, “Please accept my apology to you as well, my lord. I was disagreeable and insubordinate, and I broke my promise to you about the sword flinging . . . although, I didn’t really break my promise, since --”
Aragorn cleared his throat.
“I-I mean, aye, perhaps I did break my promise, if you look at it a certain way, and since most would look at it in that certain way, I guess I did, even though others may look at it as a mere bending of the particulars --”
“Peregrin,” Aragorn said in a soft tone.
Pip winced and raised his eyes to Boromir. The poor man was fairly trembling with the effort to hold back an all-out belly laugh. “I-I broke a promise to you, sir, a deed most foul by a hobbit’s measure. I ask your forgiveness, and I vow never to do so again.”
I think my poor Pip squeaked even more loudly when Boromir swept him up and hugged him. “All is forgiven, my hot-headed little one,” he said, and when he followed his words with a pat to Pip’s bottom, my cousin let loose a loud yelp and nearly exploded out of the man’s arms. I would have challenged the haughtiest elven warrior in Elrond’s house to keep from grinning after that.
When set on his feet again, Pippin then turned to us. One by one he came to us and apologized for his continued sword flinging and asked our forgiveness. It was more than astonishing. I was last, and by the time he was finished with me, we were all in near-tears, and poor Pippin fair hugged to shreds. But he still wasn’t done.
Gandalf had come down from his boulder and now sat near Gimli, the two of them watching with glittering, smiling eyes. Pippin went over to them and bowed and said, “I know I dinna fling your swords or anything, but I apologize for causing such a disruption in the camp, sirs, and well, I’m sorry.”
“Peregrin Took,” Gandalf said, removing his pipe so that his smile could break free. He sighed. “You’re a rascal, but a fine lad. Go on with you now.”
“Wait,” Gimli said, and he grabbed up Pip and hugged him so hard I near stood up and reminded him that this was a hobbit, not a sturdy dwarf he was squeezing. But Pip merely squeaked again, and Gimli said, “I agree with the wizard. Off with ye.’ We need a spot of supper.”
Pippin answered this outpouring of affection with typical Tookish tact and a bellowed, “Aye! I’m well and flat-out STARVING!”
He, of course, stood to eat.
Fortunately there was an overabundance of dinner, and Pippin managed to polish off quite a bit before he began to look like his tummy-happy, satisfied self again. I stood and ate beside him and, when he began to slow, he also began to talk quietly, telling me some of what had gone on. I hadn’t asked. I never pried into these things, although I rarely had the opportunity to. Pip and I were usually spanked at the same time for the same mischief, or I was spanking him for any number of reasons. This business of him being taken aside and spanked alone by a big person was new for us.
But twice in two days now my cousin had been hauled off and soundly spanked outside my ken. I could have watched with Frodo, but then again, I couldn’t. I just could not. Hearing it was bad enough. I have no problem hearing Pip wail when I spank him, but it’s an entirely different matter when another, especially one of the big folk, is disciplining him.
Still, Pippin knew I’d be curious. So, as he had done last night after Boromir had returned him to my arms, he told me what he thought I might find interesting. He talked of where they went, and the story Aragorn had shared with him about when he was a lad in Rivendell, but Pippin left out the details that were harder to express, and I was fine with that. I’m quite certain I couldn’t have explained how I felt and what I was thinking when being spanked, and I wasn’t sure I could have abided hearing the same from Pip.
Aragorn kept glancing at my cousin while he ate, and when Pippin was finally sated, and I had retrieved the salve from Sam, the Ranger came over to where I was preparing a place to sit and take my cousin across my lap and apply the salve.
“Merry,” Aragorn said softly, and with touching respect, “May I?” He held out his hand for the salve.
He would not have pressed it had I refused, and that, in part, was why I could not deny him, that and the look of tender sincerity on his face. I glanced at Pip, taking in his soft smile and the understanding in his eyes, and it was as if that understanding leapt from my cousin to myself, and I saw at once what Pippin saw.
Aragorn needed this as much as Pip had needed to be spanked. The Ranger had final amends to make as well, and although I was certain that both this morning when they talked, and now during their time together, Aragorn had apologized for twice walking away from Pippin and refusing to discipline him, Aragorn yet longed to perform this last penitent step. The small part of me that had looked forward to doing this for Pip quieted at once in favor of Aragorn’s greater need. It was me who Pippin would lie curled up with tonight. I would comfort him in other ways. For now, this gentle warrior deserved his own final measure of comfort.
I handed Aragorn the pouch and he leaned down and kissed the top of my head. “Thank you,” he said. “Come, Pip.”
Pippin winked at me and flashed me his most fetching smile, then he scooted off after the gracefully striding Ranger. I turned and found my cousin’s pipe and his packet of pipe-weed and laid them out. He would want a nice calming smoke after all this. Then I pulled out my own pipe, packed it, and sat back, puffing contentedly, waiting for Pip to return and watching the Fellowship go about their quiet evening.
“He shall most likely be returned to you fast asleep tonight,” I said.
Merry flinched, nearly dropping his pipe. He tossed me a look of surprise.
“Pardon me,” I said, sitting down beside him and helping him brush a few cinders from his britches. “I did not mean to make you jump.”
“Oh, that’s all right,” he said with a quick grin.
“Elves do not have this problem amongst ourselves. We always hear another’s approach. I should remember to make a little noise of some kind before speaking so as not to startle others.”
“I just didn’t see you coming, I guess.”
“You looked lost in thought.”
He started re-packing his pipe. “Just thinking about Pippin.”
“He gives one much to think about.”
Merry grinned. “Always.”
I watched him get his pipe going again, then I said, “I wanted to come and thank you for what you did.” He glanced up at me with charming confusion. “I am certain you would like to be the one spreading salve on Pippin right now. But you gave that pleasure to Aragorn. That was good of you, Merry.” How these hobbits can blush!
“Well . . . .”
He shrugged and grinned and I readied myself to hear Merry’s typically reticent response to praise.
“Knowing Pip, I’ll have plenty of opportunities in the future to salve his little backside.”
“But this time, it meant a great deal to Aragorn, and you willingly yielded him your right, and that was a kindness, Meriadoc.” I did not often push so, but Merry far too willingly accepted the supportive role, and for once he needed to smile over his deed.
“Well . . . .”
“Say, ‘Aye, you are right. Thank you, Legolas.’”
He turned a startled look up at me and slowly drew the pipe from between his lips, his mouth remaining in the shape of a surprised, ‘oh.’ I watched him, one eyebrow raised expectantly.
He cleared his throat, then said, “Aye, you are right.” And suddenly he smiled and dropped his bashful gaze. “Thank you, Legolas.”
“You are most welcome.” We remained still and quiet for a few minutes, then I put my arm around his shoulders and said, “We sat like this just last night, waiting for Boromir to bring Pippin back.”
“That’s right,” he said in a slow tone of amazement. “It seems longer ago than just last night.”
“Aye, it does.”
“We were also watching Sam and Frodo have at it. Samwise Gamgee, spanking Master Frodo Baggins.” He shook his head. “Who ever would have thought it?”
“I would.” At his wondering expression, I added, “Look at them. Even now.”
We glanced over to where Sam and Frodo sat. They were not close enough for us to hear what was being said, but no matter. I could have listened in, but I did not even bother as their actions spoke loudly enough. Sam clearly was not satisfied with the amount of dinner Frodo had eaten, and indeed, it did not look like he had consumed enough, even to me. So Sam was practically hand-feeding his master, holding food out for him, and stubbornly refusing to take no for an answer, even though Frodo tried to shove his offerings away several times.
Finally Sam reached his limit. He slammed the tin down, wiped his hands on his britches, then grabbed Frodo’s hands and leaned in close until the Ringbearer had no choice but to look at him. Sam then began to speak, and, from the widening of Frodo’s eyes, it looked as if Samwise was promising him chastisement for his behavior similar to what I had threatened him with earlier when he had become so impudent with Boromir and Aragorn. Then Sam picked up the tin and continued, and this time Frodo did not fuss, but simply accepted what Sam handed to him, pouting, but obedient.
I glanced down at Merry. “‘Twas ever thus with them, Merry. Perhaps a little more so now.”
He watched silently for a moment, then he said, “You know, Legolas, already this is an extraordinary journey. And I’ll tell you something else.” He leaned closer as though imparting a secret. “There’s been a disturbing outbreak of, well, over-the-knee discipline within our Fellowship, if you know what I mean.”
“Hmm.” I nodded with mock solemnity. “You mean, there are entirely too many spankings going on around here?”
Merry jabbed his pipe at me and exclaimed, “Exactly!”
“Well said, Master Meriadoc.” He gave me his little wry smile and began puffing away again. “It is good you are getting your smoke in now. I do think Pippin will most likely be asleep, or near sleep, when they return. The salve shall calm him, and he already looked as though he was beginning to tire while he ate.”
“Yes,” Merry said. “And the more he ate the wearier he got.”
“So he was growing very weary indeed.”
We both chuckled softly.
“But it was good to see him acting like himself again, eating too much and jabbering away. Pip needs to talk after something like that. Of course, he doesn’t tell me everything.”
“I am sure he is discreet.”
“Oh, yes. He just shares a few things, like the story Aragorn told him.”
“About when Aragorn was twelve and Lord Elrond left him behind in Rivendell with Glorfindel, and Glorfindel began teaching him fancy horseman tricks, and Aragorn got into some trouble because he wasn’t supposed to be practicing alone, but he did anyway, and he broke his arm and several ribs, and . . . Legolas? What is it?”
I quickly schooled my features. “Nothing. It is simply . . . I think I have heard that story before.”
“Oh. Perhaps you have. Maybe from Glorfindel, or Lord Elrond’s sons.”
“Aye. Most likely.”
Merry continued on, and I listened, grinning from time to time. I was shocked by how drastically Aragorn had altered his story to befit hobbit ears. There were parallels in the tale comparable to Pippin’s last few days, to be sure, and Aragorn would never have dared to tell that tale as it truly happened. But to tell it as he did! Aye, it was shocking indeed.
I stayed with Merry until night closed around our camp, and just as the dwarf was clomping off to take first watch, Aragorn came back carrying a bundle wrapped in his cloak. All that could be seen of Pippin were a few of his curls.
Merry scooted over to where he had already spread out their blankets. In a scene similar to the night before, he sat and held up his arms, and Aragorn lowered a sleeping Pippin to his cousin’s lap, just as Boromir had done. I glanced over at my little brother, who was sitting and talking with Gandalf, and we exchanged a smile, both of us clearly sharing the same memory.
Pippin was well and wholly asleep tonight, though. He did not so much as move or crack open his eyes for a drowsy, ‘Hullo, Merry,’ as he had last night. A tiny snore escaped his parted lips. Merry watched him for a moment, then glanced over at me with a grin. “You were right.”
I nodded and smiled, then I stood and began moving off, past Aragorn, who turned to join me.
“Legolas,” Merry called in a soft tone.
I paused and glanced back at him.
“Thank you for keeping me company.”
I smiled. “The pleasure was mine.”
Aragorn and I headed towards where he and my little brother and I had placed our belongings, not far from the hobbits, who tended to hug the fire, but far enough away to talk quietly amongst us without the chance of being overheard. I glanced at Aragorn from the corner of my eye and said, “That looked like a very hard rock you were sitting upon to spank the little one today.”
He cast me a look. “Aye. Well, all the soft rocks were taken.”
“Such a long spanking, too. And I imagine you had to sit somewhere just now to apply the salve.”
“I took him back to that same rock, and aye, it was still hard.” He cast me a feigned frown. “There’s that trying sense of humor again, young elfling.”
I lowered my head and bit my bottom lip, but a few snickers escaped. “I simply thought to suggest that another session with the salve might be in order. You did not get much this morning. We could steal off when Boromir goes to sleep, or when he takes the watch from Gim --” Aragorn was giving me a thoroughly sincere glare. “What? You still have it, do you not?”
“I . . . well . . . .”
“Ah, I see.” I slowed my steps. “You had your arms full of sleeping hobbit when you came back. Did you leave the pouch out by the rock?”
“Aye, but --”
“I shall go and fetch it.”
He halted. “No, Legolas!”
“I did not mean that I left the pouch by the rock. I meant that I had my arms full of sleeping hobbit.”
“Then why --”
“The pouch is not --” Aragorn growled, shot a look skyward, then grimaced at me and heaved a sigh. “Pippin has it.”
“Pippin has the pouch.”
“He still has it?”
“Aye! In his hot little hand.”
I really could not be blamed for my sudden burst of laughter. But, at his fierce glare, I immediately apologized. “Oh, forgive me, mellon nin. But, I am afraid, well --” I glanced over my shoulder. Merry had wasted no time in burying Pippin and himself beneath blankets and cloaks. “I fear there is no way to retrieve the salve without raising some hobbity questions.”
“I know!” His glare grew fiercer. “But it would help if you stopped giggling like that, you impertinent elf.”
“I do not giggle!”
“Hmmph. As you say,” he muttered, and we continued the few last steps to our small separate area.
He started leaning down to retrieve his bedroll, but I put my hand on his arm and stopped him, saying, “Aragorn, I vow I shall not laugh, but tell me how it is that Pippin is yet holding the salve. Please. I am simply so curious.”
He straightened and gave me a dubious scowl. Then he lowered his gaze, and thought quietly for several long moments. Finally he drew a slow breath and began speaking in his low tone.
“I had Pippin turned bottom-up over my lap, and I was rubbing his back with my left hand, trying to quiet him, because he had started chattering again, as he is wont to do when he is nervous.”
I grinned. “Or anytime.”
Aragorn nodded and flashed me his own small grin, but then quickly dropped his gaze again. “I finally said ‘shh’ enough for him to hear me, and when he quieted, I lowered his britches and took the salve in my left hand. But he fussed, saying he did not want me to stop rubbing his back. So I had him hold the pouch for me while I dipped into it and rubbed the salve into his little backside, with one hand and rubbed his back with the other, and then, well, when I had enough spread on him, well . . . .”
Aragorn was irresistible when ill at ease. I grinned to see just a bit of that little boy still present, peeking out at me.
“I saw him close the pouch back up as I rubbed, and then . . . then we talked a little, and he . . . .” Aragorn studied the ground and unmindfully kicked the dirt a bit. I remained still, watching him, enchanted and smiling softly.
“He sang this little song . . . well, he called it a ‘lullaby.’” Aragorn’s tone slipped off, faraway, becoming dreamlike. “‘It’s an old, old song, Aragorn,’ he said, ‘and simple, a simple old hobbit lullaby. But, if you don’t mind, it would feel good to share it with you, in return for your kind service.’”
He still had not looked up, still seemingly bemused by his own preoccupation. Meanwhile, I barely breathed I was so spellbound, and I could not stop grinning, especially when Aragorn mimicked Pippin’s charming manner of speech so well. Valar help me but I loved the man!
“And . . . well, you know, Pippin has this pleasant little voice, so I just listened, resting my hand on his bottom, but still rubbing his back, because he seemed to want me to, and he became more and more drowsy as he sang, and then he just dropped off, suddenly – just fell asleep.
“So I kept him there to make sure he was solidly sleeping, then I pulled up his britches and removed my cloak and covered him, gathering him up, and wrapping him while I turned him over. He did not stir once, and I took no notice of where the pouch was, nor did I think about it until just now when you mentioned it, and . . . and that is all there is to it.”
All there was to it. I stood there, delighted by Isildur’s heir, Lord of the Dúnedain, Captain of the Grey Company telling of how he was so captivated by a hobbit’s lullaby that he forgot all else. And he said that was all there was to it. My Ranger was, indeed, irresistible like this.
Aragorn turned and leaned over and busied himself, sorting out our things, pulling forth this and that, his blanket and bedroll, Boromir’s cloak and blanket, my cloak, all the while avoiding my gaze. Finally he rose with a sigh, turned to me and said, “Stop that.”
“Stop grinning at me like that.”
My grin broadened.
He shook his head, deeply into his pretense of annoyance. Dropping his soft bedroll he turned around and began lowering himself to it, muttering, “Presumptuous elf.”
“I am not ‘presumptuous.’ Nor am I ‘impertinent,’ as you called me before. According to Frodo, I am ‘cheeky.’”
Aragorn blinked at me in surprise, lost his footing and fell, bottom-first, the last few inches. “What?” he said, wincing. “What did Frodo call you?”
“‘Cheeky.’ He called me cheeky.” I grinned again.
Aragorn glanced over at the Ringbearer, now drowsily collapsed over Sam. “Well, Frodo is right. You are. Although he is just as impertinent and cheeky for calling you that.”
He grinned and gave a shrugging nod, stretched his long legs straight out in front of him and drew forth his pipe and pouch. I watched him packing the bowl.
“Merry told me an interesting little tale,” I said.
“Apparently it was something you told Pippin. Something about Glorfindel, and training and horses.”
He was amazing. He barely blinked. “Oh?”
“And in this tale you were but twelve years of age, and imprisoned at Imladris, left behind with Glorfindel while Lord Elrond and your brothers went visiting.”
“Oh. That tale.”
I grinned and stretched out, leaning back on my elbows. “Aye, but I remember that tale differently.”
He held a flame to his pipe and puffed away to start his smoke. “Do you indeed?”
“Mmm. As I recall it, this incident happened but two years ago. We were with the Company, and the Rangers were camped near Mirkwood. Lord Elrond and your brothers and Glorfindel, were visiting my ada’s court, so we spent several weeks visiting with them.”
He puffed slowly.
“Whilst there, you decided that you needed to learn a highly dangerous elfin trick on horseback, and you wanted me to teach it to you. I fought my better judgement about the matter. It is nothing for me to grab the reins of a galloping horse, fling myself in front of it and fly up and over and into the saddle, but --”
“It is a wondrous sight to behold.”
“Perhaps, but --”
“You are very good at it, Legolas.”
“Well . . . .” I blushed a little. “Thank you, but to contin --”
“I love watching you do it.”
“Aragorn! You are being most discourteous. Pray stop interrupt --”
“And I still say I could master that trick.”
Aragorn glanced at me. His eyes positively glittered. He was having fun. Aragorn looked perfectly innocent of course, but he really was having the best time deliberately interrupting me. It had taken me a minute to notice his mischief, but now I recalled having seen and heard a certain young hobbit do this very thing to others, myself included.
“Stop that, young bratling Took,” I growled. He grinned in a perfectly wicked manner and puffed and looked off, pleased with himself. Amazing that Aragorn can be so authoritative and commanding when this naughty little boy yet thrives within him. But ‘twas ever so with my Ranger-child, and I loved that little boy.
I narrowed my eyes upon him and muttered, “I did not attend to you well enough last night.”
He coughed out a mouthful of smoke. “Indeed you did. You attended to me most admirably.”
I ‘hmmphed,’ then said, “Where was I?”
“You had just finished discussing the matter, I believe.”
“Oh, I recall – the trick. I was about to say that mortal bodies were not made for such a move. It is too dangerous. But I eventually relented. You were so eager and begged so sweetly.”
He darted me a sudden grimace and snorted. “Beg indeed!”
“So I began trying to teach you the trick, much to the chagrin of those older and wiser than yourself. Halbarad in particular frowned with distinction.”
Now he scowled good-naturedly. “Legolas, I was there. No need to recount the entire thing.”
“Glorfindel offered you the use of Asfaloth, but only while you were training, as Asfaloth would not allow you to fall. I believe he said something along the lines of, ‘At least make use of Asfaloth whilst behaving like a ten year-old, little Estel. He has more sense than you do.’”
Aragorn became suddenly absorbed with relighting his pipe, a tiny sparkle of amusement lighting up his eyes. I pressed on:
“You were to practice this trick only when I was there with you, helping you and supervising you.”
He grunted and mumbled, “Again, sir, I remember the facts.”
I laced my fingers behind my head and laid back, gazing up at the stars. “Mirkwood was apparently too quiet to suit Gwin, so he decided to stir up a little trouble by stirring you up.”
“I do not ‘stir up,’ sir,” Aragorn shot back. “And if I did ‘stir up,’ Gwinthorian would certainly not be the one to stir me up.”
“Things were apparently too quiet to suit you as well, for you allowed him to goad you into --”
Another snort. “Goad indeed.”
I chuckled. “Goad you into a provoked state by saying that a mere man could never perform such a trick and that you were wasting your time and mine and taxing poor Asfaloth needlessly.”
“Little pest of an elf,” Aragorn muttered.
“Halbarad warned Gwin to stop, but Gwin was being most irritating and you were determined to prove him wrong about the strength and capabilities of men.”
“And you are, again, enjoying this too much, sir.” He withdrew his pipe and pretended to study it. “I told Pippin that story because I was trying to make a point --”
“Exactly what you told me two years ago. You were ‘. . . trying to make a point.’ Well, you made your point then, also, but not the one you had meant to. You proved Gwin right, that men are not able to do what he dared you to do. And you suffered a broken arm and two broken ribs, proving Gwin’s point for him.”
“I reported the injuries accurately in my story,” he grumbled.
“So I heard. And according to everything else I heard, that is about all you reported accurately.”
“You will allow that it is much less humiliating for a twelve-year old boy to be spanked for such naughty disobedience years and years ago than it is for a grown man, a warrior, a Ranger to be spanked for it now.”
“Not ‘now.’ Then. It happened two years ago. I was two years younger then.”
“And Glorfindel did not spank you, nor did I.”
He turned and glared at me. “I was not about to tell Peregrin Took that Halbarad, my lieutenant, had spanked me two years ago for my foolish choices! The parallel in our stories was my goal, and it was similar enough. I only had to alter a few small facts.”
I gasped and chuckled. “A few small facts? Aragorn, you re-wrote the entire incident!”
“Glorfindel playing nursemaid? Glorfindel staying behind in Imladris to ‘watch over’ a twelve year old human?” This time I burst out laughing.
“Legolas.” Aragorn glanced around. “Hush.”
“Hush indeed! Aragorn, you fabricated a whole new story! You took an incident that bore but a little resemblance to this matter and carved it up to suit your means.” I ‘tsked’ with superficial reproach. “I am appalled, sir. It was a wicked falsehood to tell a trusting hobbit.”
“Oh, for mercy’s sa --” He actually rolled his eyes. “A ‘white’ lie, sir.”
“You once told me there was no such thing.”
He studied his pipe again. “It depends.”
“Aye! On who is telling it!”
“Nay, it depends on the good it does. This small white lie achieved my goal, and no harm was done.”
I shook my head and narrowed my eyes at the stars. “Perhaps we should save this discussion for when we next meet up with Halbarad and Gwin. I feel certain your first lieutenant will have a strong opinion on ‘white lies.’”
Aragorn grew still. He probably knew me to be in jest, nevertheless, he said, “I do not think it necessary to burden Hal with something so trivial.”
I grinned. “Perhaps you are right. He would no doubt bid you stand and confess yourself a lying knave in front of Pippin, then make you tell the truth.”
He turned to me with a menacing, lazy smile. “Legolas --”
“And you would want to stand, for Halbarad would have heated your backside so soundly, sitting would no longer be an option.”
“That is enough, bratling elf. You are going too far.”
“And he would likely resort to soap for the outright audacity of the deception.”
Aragorn paused. “Ah. Soap. I have a duty to perform with a certain young hobbit and soap tomorrow.”
“You are changing the subject, Lirnir-hên.”
“What did you call him?”
Aragorn and I both flinched at Boromir’s sudden question. We had been too distracted with our quibbling to notice his approach.
“You called him something elvish, yes?” Boromir sat down next to me and glanced back and forth between Aragorn and myself. “What was it?”
I sat up and exchanged a blank look with Aragorn. Boromir watched us with growing interest. “Was it something vulgar?”
“Of course not!”
I cast Aragorn a small grin. He looked composed, but I knew him. His eyes held that ‘do not’ glow. I cannot say the look was unfamiliar to me. The last time I had seen it was at the Counsel of Elrond when I had chosen to ignore it. But I understood his reluctance to let Boromir know of his ‘Ranger-child’ name, so I casually said, “It translates in the Common Tongue as something like . . . ‘my lord.’”
“Oh. Is that all?” Boromir grinned at Aragorn. “I have learned my first elvish, Lirnir-hên.”
Aragorn closed his eyes very slowly and took a breath, clearly summoning patience while I near bit a hole in my tongue to keep from exploding with laughter. My eyes watered from the effort.
Meanwhile, Boromir muttered to himself several times, “Lirnir-hên . . . Lirnir-hên . . . hmm, it is awkward. I much prefer ‘my lord.’”
“So do I!” Aragorn exclaimed, his eyes flying open.
“Then I shall stick to the Westron, if it is all the same to you, my lord.”
“Thank you, Boromir.”
“And I shall stick to Lirnir-hên,” I said, sharing a quiet smile with Aragorn. “On occasion.”
“Thank you, Legolas,” he replied, his eyes glittering with warm and loving lights.
Epilogue: Solace of the Heart