Larrkin (larrkin2) wrote,

A Word, Sir - fanfiction

Surprise! I can hardly believe this myself, but Le Muse suddenly showed up with a story for dear friend Kat's birthday. Over the years many of you have written to me with suggestions and ideas and bunnies and I've appreciated them all. This short, stand-alone story comes from one of those suggestions, although I can't remember which of you sent it. Thank you, whoever you are.

I hope to someday finish Foster Father. But I was so happy to be back in business I didn't care what Le Muse wanted to write. At least this tale features Boromir (who else would I write about for Boromir-centric Kat's birthday?) so all you Steward of Gondor-lovers won't feel deprived. I hope you enjoy this little tale, and, as ever dear readers, thanks for your outstanding patience!


 photo wordsir_zpsd66b8404.jpg

Boromir and Gwinthorian hold a mischievous discussion that someone overhears.

For dear Kat, on her birthday.

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended. This story is not meant to violate the rights held by New Line, Tolkien Enterprises, nor any other licensee, nor is any disrespect intended. I don’t own Tolkien’s original characters, however, my OC’s, Gwinthorian, Garrick, Devon and several other Rangers are exclusively my own.

A Word, Sir
by Larrkin

"Ah, the Tower of Ecthelion!" Gwinthorian said. "Such a beautiful sight."

I paused and stood quietly in the shadows, hidden amidst the trees on the outskirts of camp, and moments later Boromir and my elfling came strolling my way, side by side, their gazes turned toward the distant white tower.

"Aye," Boromir said in a tone of dreamy admiration, his steps slowing. "My Grandsire built it."

Gwin chuckled. "Yes, Boromir, I know. Hence the name?"

Boromir sniffed and darted Gwinthorian a sheepish grin. "Aye."

"'Tis all right. I understand," Gwin said with another gentle laugh. "If my grandsire had been behind the creation of such a marvel, 'tis quite likely I'd find myself amazed by the sight of it as well, no matter how many years I had spent gazing at it." He paused, cast his companion a swift glance, then added in a light, casual tone, "Faramir told me that you once tried to climb it."

The Steward halted in his tracks and stared at Gwin. "What did you say?"

Gwin froze as well and peered up at Boromir. "I-I don't know. Did I say something wrong?"

I narrowed my eyes, wondering just what my elfling was about.

Boromir shifted his weight. "N-No, nothing. I . . . I just . . .." He cleared his throat and glanced off. "Faramir talks too much."

Gwin watched him for a moment, then said with a warm grin, "Come now, my friend. Faramir was merely boasting about you. We were riding towards the city one evening and I was admiring the tower and he said, 'Did Boromir ever tell you about the time he tried to scale the Tower?' and I said that, nay, you had not, and I asked him to tell me of it. So he shared the tale, his voice full of respect and pride."


"Yes, truly," Gwin replied. "He was proud of his courageous big brother for attempting such a feat."

"Courageous indeed!" Boromir scoffed. "I hope you're wrong."

Gwin studied him with a puzzled frown. "Why?"

"Because --" Boromir sighed, gazed at the Tower and said, "Because, Gwinthorian, 'twas not my finest hour. Nor was it some deed of heroism, and Faramir well knows it. I was deep in my cups that night, as were my so-called friends who challenged me to climb."

"Oh, yes! I recall now. Faramir said you had been celebrating your birthday."

"Celebrating! Aye!" Boromir scoffed again. "It was quite a birthday. I was well and truly celebrated to be sure, which was why I accepted their mad challenge." He shook back his tawny locks and sighed again. "Sheer madness."

Gwin gazed at Boromir for a long moment, then: "Do you remember anything about that climb?"

"Nay. Not much. It's not a memory I care to revisit."

"Then you can recall nothing," Gwin said, nodding. "Understandable."

"Well, no, I didn't say that." Boromir leaned back on one leg and frowned up at the tower. "I . . . well, I recall that I could scarce hold on. There were small spaces between the blocks, just big enough for my fingertips and the toes of my boots. But I kept slipping. I don't know how I held on at all. And I had only climbed about ten feet before . . . before --" He paused and shot Gwin a look.

"Before Lieutenant Damrod and half a dozen guardsmen showed up and hauled you down," Gwin said. "I know. Faramir told me."

"Did he?" Boromir crossed his arms over his chest and raised a brow at Gwin. "And just what else did my obliging little brother tell you?"

"Oh --" Gwin shrugged and repeated Boromir's words. "Not much."


"Well . . . uhhh . . . I cannot quite recall . . .."

Boromir waited, his steady gaze locked on my elf, and Gwinthorian, never one to bear up well under close scrutiny, shifted about in the thick silence, then said, "Oh very well. He told me that the next evening, the evening after your attempted climb, Damrod brought him to your chamber to hear you read a ten page treatise the lieutenant had made you write."

Boromir nodded. "Anything else?"

"Aye. He said the title of this treatise was, Reasons Why Climbing the Tower of Ecthelion Is a Dangerous Enterprise, and Why I Shall Never Again Attempt Such an Asinine Deed."

"Ah. You certainly recall that in fine detail."

"Well, 'tis a memorable title." Gwin shot Boromir a sudden frown and asked, "However did you manage to fill ten pages?"

Boromir uncrossed his arms, snorted a small chuckle and said, "The title alone took up the first page." They both laughed. "I don't remember how I filled ten pages, but I did. I had to."

"I dare say failure was not an option."

"Nooooooooooooo. Definitely not an option."

"I imagine you were disinclined to refuse your Lieutenant."

Boromir barked a laugh. "That's a mild way of putting it. 'Disinclined.' I shall have to share that one with Faramir."

"Aye, well, one cannot help noticing how alike Damrod and my Halbarad are in size and build."

"Noticed that did you?"

"Not to mention a history of respect and obedience to your Lieutenant under certain, well, certain . . . circumstances."

"You've a way with words, sir."

"Words, yes. Had Halbarad forced me to write such a treatise, I would have used a great many very long words."

Boromir chuckled. "I dare say you would!" He turned to Gwin again, saying, "Well? What else?"

"What else?"

"What else did my loose-tongued little brother share about this episode?"

"Ohhh . . . well . . . let me see . . . only that Damrod then made you throw your entire treatise in the fire." Gwin 'tsked' and shook his head. "Poor Boromir! How unfair! After you had worked so hard."


"I assume it was hard work."

"Aye. Well . . .."

"I can understand why 'tis not a memory you care to revisit."

"Hmm. Aye." Boromir watched Gwin expectantly. "But, as we are now well and truly revisiting it, do go on."

"Go on?"

"What else did Faram--"

"Oh! Oh, well, that was all he told me."

Boromir tilted his head to one side, narrowing his eyes on Gwin. "Perhaps that was all he told you, but given your familiarity with certain consequences for certain actions I reckon you can guess what happened after I threw my treatise in the fire."

"Well," Gwin said with a casual toss of his bright locks, "I reckon Damrod turned you over his knee and spanked you."

Even in the gathering twilight I could see Boromir's face flush a brilliant shade of red. Plainly taken aback, he gaped at Gwinthorian.

"Faramir did not say if he was made to stay and witness it, but if he was, well, oh my!" Gwin exclaimed with what I sensed to be naughty delight. "Legolas and I have been spanked in each other's company before, but 'twas done at the same time, so we were, of course, too distracted to watch one another. But to be turned over your lieutenant's knee and spanked whilst your little brother watched, that would be something else entirely. Most humiliating!"

Boromir went an amazingly deeper shade of red. Why Gwin was choosing to plague him in this manner was beyond me. I was usually able to discern what my elfling was about, however his motives were ofttimes uniquely his own and left me shaking my head. I intended to look into this further and impress upon Gwinthorian that such harassment was ill-mannered and unacceptable, but for now I was resolved to step from my hiding place and rescue the beleaguered Steward when, suddenly, he released a low, deep chuckle, straightened his broad shoulders, lifted his chin and said on a rueful sigh, "Aye, my little friend. You have spoken truly. It was most humiliating."

Gwinthorian gasped and softly exclaimed, "Then Faramir did - Damrod made him--?"

"Indeed," Boromir said with splendid poise. "Faramir was made to stand witness that he might know what to expect should he ever attempt such a foolhardy act."

"Oh, Boromir!"



Boromir laughed. "Ew indeed, Gwin. As I said, not a memory I enjoy reliving."

I had to grin, admiring the Steward's good-natured patience. He seemed to be in no need of rescuing, so I waited to see where my tactless elfling would go next. I sensed he had another purpose in all this.

"Given how dangerous it would've been for you to climb the tower when drunk, I suppose I understand your lieutenant's extreme reaction."

"Nay, Gwin," Boromir said with an indulgent smile. "Damrod was by no means extreme. His reaction was just."

Gwin thought for a moment, then quickly, and easily, gave ground. "I suppose so," he said. "Especially since you were doomed to fail ere you even began."

"Aye. Being that drunk."

"Well, yes, there was that. Annnnd . . .."

Boromir raised a brow. "Annnnd . . . what?"

"And . . .." Gwin gave Boromir a look of baffled surprise. "Well, you are a man, sir."

Boromir watched him. "And?"

Gwin sputtered a little laugh, then said in a tone that suggested Boromir was being rather dim-witted, "Annnd there is no further 'and.' As I said, you are a man."

"I take it you mean that I am 'merely' a man."

"As you will." Gwin shrugged, still chuckling. "You were doomed to fail first of all, because, aye, you were drunk, but--"

"But I couldn't have made that climb even if I'd been sober because I'm 'merely' a man. Is that it, you presumptuous elfling?"

Gwin blinked, looking startled. "Presumptuous? How is stating a fact presumptuous?"

Heaving a sigh, Boromir shook his head, muttering, "How many times have I said it, especially back in the beginning when I first met him, back when the Quest began?"

"Said what? Met who?"

"Never mind. It has to do with the arrogance of elves."

"I fail to see what arrogance has to do with this," Gwin said, all innocence and confusion.

Boromir barked a laugh. "Aye. You wouldn't."

"But facts are facts, my friend, and the fact is, you could never climb that tower, even when sober, however --"

"You could."


"Because you are elfkind."


"Well, that's it then. I must say it now: Ah, the arrogance of elves!"

Gwin stared at him, paced a few short steps as though trying to reason this out, then turned back to Boromir. "Are you saying that I could not climb the Tower of Ecthelion?"

Boromir gave him a look of exasperation. "For all I know you can."

Now Gwin looked exasperated. "Well then? Why are you so upset?"

Clearly summoning patience, Boromir said, "Sir, I am not upset. I do, however, take exception to your attitude. You said, with your arrogant elfling cheek, that the reason I couldn't climb the tower was because I am a man. Not because I was a drunken man, but because I am a man. Am I wrong, or is that indeed what you intended to say?"

"No. I mean, yes. I mean, no, you're not wrong and, yes, that is what I meant to say."

"So you're saying that even when sober I couldn't climb the tower."

"Are you saying that you can?"

"If sober? Of course I could!"

"Excuse me, but didn't I just hear you call it sheer madness to attempt that climb?"

Boromir hesitated. "Aye, but--"

"And I believe there exists the small matter of a certain treatise."

"Aye, but--"

"But now you are saying --"

"I'm saying that, despite the handicap of being a 'mere' man, I could indeed climb the Tower of Ecthelion."

Gwin gazed at him.

"If I were sober, and if I chose to, of course I could. I'm . . . I'm fairly certain I could."

Gwin lifted his brows, then burst into giggles. "'Fairly certain?' Oh, Boromir, come now." And his giggles turned to outright laughter.

Boromir's jaw worked so tightly I could nearly hear his teeth grinding. All thoughts of intervening now faded. I needed to see the outcome of this.

"Gwinthorian --"

"Ai, mellon nin! There is no shame in admitting that an elf can do something a man cannot."

"I can admit it when 'tis true," Boromir said, clearly struggling for control in the face of Gwin's ungracious sniggering. "However--"

"Sir, we could debate this to no end," Gwin interrupted with a tone of finality. "The only way to know who is right and who is wrong, the only way to know who can and who cannot climb the Tower of Ecthelion is --"

"-- to climb it," Boromir said.

"Exactly. To climb it."


The two of them faced each other like a pair of little boys about to spar for the first time. "Very well then," Gwin finally ventured.

"Very well then," Boromir replied with a nod.

"Very well then," I said, stepping from my hiding place. "When shall this contest take place? I would like to attend."


Gwinthorian and I near jumped out of our skin, then we froze, stock-still and dumbfounded, because of all the people to have stepped out of the woods this man was one of the worst.

Halbarad stood there, big, imposing and studying us with an alarmingly calm expression. He'd surely heard everything we'd said from his hiding place in the trees, and whereas eavesdropping was considered to be slightly dishonorable, such concerns didn't, for some reason, apply to Halbarad or Aragorn or Damrod or others like them. I couldn't say why, but there it was.

"Well, gentlemen?" Halbarad raised a brow.

Was he expecting an answer? I glanced at Gwin, seeking a clue. His wide eyes had never looked wider. Evidently he'd lost all powers of speech. I know I had. For the fact was, we were well and truly snagged, and Aragorn's barrel-chested lieutenant watched us as though he knew full well that there was nothing Gwin and I could say in defense of what we'd been considering. I could scarce believe we'd been considering it myself. I wasn't at all certain I had been in earnest. I was also moved by the similarities between Damrod and Halbarad and the way they both made me feel when well and truly snagged. Surely Halbarad wasn't planning to . . . he wouldn't--

"Gwinthorian?" Halbarad said. "What have you to say?"

To my surprise, Gwin shook himself free from his astonishment and suddenly had quite a bit to say. "Oh, well, we were just talking, Halbarad. Boromir and I would never actually, I-I mean, you cannot think that we would really make such dangerous, foolhardy plans. Oh, no! No, no, no indeed! We are not that rash. You know us, sir, and the Captain and I, I-I mean the Steward of Gondor and I are not careless youngsters seeking a thrill. Why, climb the Tower of Ecthelion? You must know that we would ne'er do such a thing, Hal."

Nay. Gwinthorian, in fact, had nothing to say. But throughout his little elf's recital of utter rubbish Halbarad listened, his strong, handsome features unchanging until the last when something Gwin said made his eyes flash with a sudden and dangerous glitter. Ah, yes.

"I mean, Halbarad," Gwinthorian quietly slipped in.

I let go a sigh, mortified to be caught in the act of planning something so preposterous with this silly slip of an elf. But, as Gwin had tried to explain, we hadn't really been planning anything . . . not really. We'd been carried away with some harmless bravado and chest-thumping, but we hadn't been serious. Had we? Climbing the Tower of Ecthelion? Was I demented? I'd been right - 'twas sheer madness.

But, in truth, did that matter? We'd said what we'd said and Halbarad had heard what we'd said and I was certain it sounded as though we were intent on being insanely reckless. And that, alas, was what mattered.

So I turned to the elf beside me and said, "Gwinthorian. By all that's blessed, hush."

Gwin gaped at me, but Halbarad let loose a soft chuckle. "Listen to your accomplice, little one," he said. "He is wiser than you are."

"Aye, Hal," Gwin said, plainly resigned.

"Wait for me in our tent," Halbarad told him.

"Hal, please--"

"Now, Gwinling."

"Pippin and I were going to sing for everyon--"

"Not tonight. You are done for the evening. Go."

"But Boromir and I were not . . . in truth we would never . . . we-we were only--"

"I know what 'you were only,' Gwinthorian. Now go."

"Oh, Hal!"


"NO! Please! No counting!"


Gwin spun and raced off towards the encampment, his long blond locks flying. I felt for him, although I really couldn't see that Halbarad intended to be overly harsh. After all, we had merely been talking. We hadn't planned anything, and I doubt we would have. And yet . . . and yet, again, did that matter? For when I looked at Halbarad and found him studying me with a close and contemplative frown that shiver shot through me again and I felt entirely guilty of something. I squirmed inwardly. Surely he wouldn't . . . surely he didn't plan to--

"A word, sir," Halbarad said, ordered rather, and he turned and headed back into the shadows of the wooded copse, clearly expecting me to follow him.

I followed him. Keeping up with his long-legged strides, I suddenly remembered a time when another certain Ranger and I tromped off into the hinterland of Rivendell, heading for a rendezvous that shifted my world. It seemed an age ago, but I'd ne'er forget every detail of that first time Aragorn spanked me.

Now my stomach clenched at the sight of his lieutenant's broad back moving through the foliage ahead of me. I recalled what Gwin had said about how similar Hal and Damrod were. Indeed, they were similar in build, similar in manner, similar in many ways. The thought brought me little comfort.

We pushed through to a small clearing and Halbarad turned to me. I sucked a sharp breath, struggling to calm down. He watched me for a moment, then crossed his arms over his chest, bent his head and strolled a few slow, contemplative steps. I fired a look around the clearing, seeking out any traitorous fallen log that might serve him in a way I didn't care to think about. I didn't see one. Not a one! No 'spanking' log! I felt a profound shimmer of relief. The trees were all standing tall, bless their wooden hides. I saw only one young elm that had cracked and fallen over against another, forming what resembled a fence rail. But it was too small to support the weight of two men and too high for spanking purposes. If he tried to sit on that Halbarad's legs would dangle off the ground.

And all at once it occurred to me that I did not have to submit to this man. Halbarad was Aragorn's first lieutenant. He had no authority over me. I was the Steward of Gondor!

"Gwinthorian has a gift for stirring folks up," Halbarad suddenly said, startling me from my inner bravado. He had stopped strolling and was gazing at me. "Many times my elfling's words have caused trouble for Devon, even for Aragorn." He paused, watching me in a way that made me forget about being the Steward of Gondor. "Is that what happened here, little Captain?"

The 'little Captain' startled me, but it was the glitter in Halbarad's eyes that made my heart race. "Uhhh . . .." was the best I could achieve.

"Did I hear you and Gwinthorian challenge each other to climb the Tower of Ecthelion?"

"Welllll--" My mind went blank. I dropped my gaze, seeking courage from the grass at my feet.

"Boromir. Look at me," Halbarad ordered in a tone I knew all too well.

I obeyed him, finding a stern determination in his gaze that made my stomach clench anew. I shifted from foot to foot. I truly, truly did not want this man to spank me! "Well, no, sir. Of course not," I finally burbled. "I-I mean, we didn't make plans to actually do so."

"Did I hear you and Gwinthorian challenge each other to climb the Tower of Ecthelion?" he pressed, cornering me as expertly as Damrod would have done.

"W-Well, I know that's how it looked, but-but --"

He waited.

"But we wouldn't really have - I mean, I would never have--"

He moved as swiftly as Damrod. Grabbing my elbow, Halbarad began pulling me, saying, "Let us make certain of that, little Captain."

I staggered along, my arm locked in his iron grasp. Struggling was out of the question, but the idiot in me came surging to the forefront and I heard myself stupidly blurt out, "Sir! I am the Steward of Gondor!"


"You have no authority over me!" I couldn't believe I was saying it. I should've bitten my tongue off.

He said nothing. He'd arrived at his destination - the uneven, jagged stump where the young elm had fallen over. I stared at it. Impossible! Halbarad couldn't sit on that! I couldn't imagine what he was about to do.

His plan was simple for one who had the strength to achieve it, and Halbarad most assuredly did. He braced his boot on the stump and yanked me forward across his leg. I fell, my stomach hit his powerfully muscled thigh, and suddenly I was head down, bottom up, and in a horribly perfect position for a spanking. I was dangling at such a high angle that only the toes of my boots touched the ground behind me, and in front I hung staring at the grass below. I couldn't so much as struggle. I could barely even reach behind me to cover my backside. But Halbarad ended my humiliating attempt to do so by grasping my wrists and locking them over my back in his tight fist. It had all happened so fast my head spun, then I realized he'd started speaking:

"Aye, you are indeed Steward of Gondor, and I shall now tell you what I once told another impudent young warrior in need of a spanking: The day I allow you to pull rank on me, little brat, is the day the Argonath tumble into the Anduin."

This couldn't be happening! Well, there was a ridiculous thought. I lay hanging, stunned, frozen in place and feeling the nerve-jangling, heart-thumping way I felt when a spanking was about to descend. And from Halbarad! Merciful fathers! A spanking from Halbarad!

He moved swiftly, tugging up my surcoat and tucking it under my arms. And then - oh then! Halbarad yanked down my breeches! My face went up in flames. I pictured the sight I made, bare bottomed, trembling and upended over Halbarad's thigh. I shuddered and winced and squeezed my eyes shut, seeking valor. I'd endured Legolas. I'd endured Aragorn. I'd endured the two of them together. And I'd endured Damrod. I could endure this, couldn't I?

"Please!" I heard myself sputter. "Sir! Please don't!"


"Can we not discuss this?"

He chuckled. "We shall. Shortly."


And Halbarad's first swat fell. I reared up, stunned, and cried out: "AHHH!" By all that was blessed! Surely that was an intense opening swat meant to get my attention! Then another fell, hot and powerful and making me squirm.

"AHHHH!" I cried out, unable to stop myself. "Halbarad! Please! OWWW! T-Too hard!"

"Stop that," he said. "Stop your impertinence at once, sir." And I sensed his heavy hand rising again over my stinging bottom. I braced and tightened.


Four burning swats and Halbarad paused. I gasped and quivered, my eyes glassy with tears of shock. How was I going to bear this? And how did little Gwin tolerate it on a regular basis? What was that wee elf made of? Was I really so much weaker than he was? A few tears trickled down my cheeks.

"Shhhhhhhh, little Captain," Halbarad murmured, though how he heard my silent tears I didn't know. He rubbed my fiery backside sending shivers over my body. "No need to be afraid," he said. "This shall not be a full spanking. And lest you worry for a certain bratling elf, I spank Gwinthorian in a less intense manner, although for a longer time. A much longer time. You, sweetling, are simply receiving a few sincere swats."

Sincere? Merciful Middle Earth! I swallowed hard, relief shooting through me, though I fretted over just how many of these horribly 'sincere swats' were going to fall ere this determined lieutenant felt content.


"You understand why you are here, do you not?" he asked me.

I nodded eagerly, trying not to think about the next spank. "Be-Because Gwin and I were talking about climbing the Tower. AHHHHH!"

"Very good. As I said, I realize that Gwinthorian can sweep normally sane men along insane pathways, but it alarmed me to hear where the two of you were going. I am certain you understand."

"Aye, sir. Aye, H-Halbarad. AHHHHHHHHH!"

"Now, little one," he said, releasing my arms just long enough to wipe the tears from my cheeks, "tell me the name of the treatise Damrod had you write after you tried to climb the Tower."

"R-Reasons Why Climbing the Tower of Ecthelion Is a Dangerous Enterprise, and-and Why I Shall Never Again Attempt Such an Asinine D-Deed."

"That is a goodly and wise title, is it not?"

I nodded. "AHHHHHH!"

"I cannot hear you."

"Aye, H-Halbarad!"

"Do you hold with all you wrote that day and with the lesson you learned?"

"Aye, s-sir."

"Do you need to relearn that lesson?"


"Your tone, young sir. Do not roar at me."

"I-I mean, n-no. No, Halbarad. No, s-sir."

"Ah. Then I take it you were simply swept along a dangerous pathway with Gwinthorian today, a pathway little ones travel when they are trying to prove themselves better than, or at least as good as, the other."

I whimpered, thoroughly red-faced. "Aye, sir."

"Had I not happened to overhear your conversation, would you have followed through with your dangerous plan?"

"AHHHHHH! No! No, sir! No, I-I wouldn't have gone through with it."

"And if Gwinthorian had said that an elf could climb the Tower while a man could not?"

And I knew at once that this was where I'd stumbled from that path of sanity today and allowed myself to be pulled along a more dangerous and foolish course.


"AHHHHHHHH! I-I would have agreed with h-him. I'd have told Gwin that he was r-right. Perhaps he can make that c-climb, but a m-man, especially th-this man, cannot."

"Aww," Halbarad said, a grin in his voice. He rested his big palm on my hot bottom. "How wise you are, little Captain. Annnnnd?"

"Annnnd . . . and I'm sorry, H-Halbarad. S-Sorry."

"Very good, sweetling."

A quiet sob slipped from my throat followed by a shudder of relief. Halbarad released my arms and began speaking calming, gentle words to me, telling me how good I'd been and how brave and I squirmed, loving it too much. He rubbed my back with one hand and my blazing bottom with the other and it was all too sweet. I'd lost count of his burning spanks. However many had fallen they'd created quite a fire. But now I purred under his pets and wiped the tears from my cheeks, feeling exceedingly fortunate to have earned nothing more than this 'swatting.' It was more than enough. Poor Gwin, the troublesome little bratling.

Halbarad kept me resting there, draped over his muscled thigh, petting me, and murmuring to me for some time. Finally he drew my breeches back up and with the utmost care he pulled them over my stinging bottom. I hissed and squirmed.

"Easy, young sir," he said, another grin in his voice. "Come now." He picked me up, plucking me from over his thigh, and stood me before him. I couldn't help reaching around to rub my sore backside. I kept my eyes lowered, though, feeling too mortified to look at him.

"Boromir," he murmured. "Come, lad. Look at me. At once. 'Tis all right."

An order was an order. Halbarad stood half a head taller than me, so I shyly glanced up at him, and even in the gathering dusk I saw his compassionate smile and the kindly crinkle at the corner of his eyes.

"No need to feel ashamed, sweetling," he said, smoothing the hair back from my eyes. "You did well, and you answered true, and I am proud of you."

I marveled at the exquisite feeling that coursed through me, the same feeling that always coursed through me after my backside had been warmed and all was forgiven.

Halbarad kissed my brow, turned me around, gave my behind a pat and said, "Come. Aragorn will be looking for his fledgling and Legolas will be wondering where his little brother is. And I advise you to prepare yourself. For tonight I vow they will both want to know just how your pretty bottom became so red."


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