I hadn't expected to write my first Hobbit story and now I've written another. Fickle, fickle Le Muse. This one would never have been written without Kat's constant encouragement. Thanks for the help, sweetie, and for casting your eagle eye over my scratchings and making me look presentable. And great big hugs of appreciation to my gentle readers, for your phenomenal loyalty and extraordinary patience.
After his last spanking Bilbo told Thorin, "There won't be a next time." Well . . .
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. I just like to play with them.
An Entity Apart - part 1 (1/3)
Another glorious morning. It seems the sun shines more here than it did in the mountains. This morning it lured me out into the front garden after stuffing myself with Beorn's bread and honey and warm milk. Many more days here and I'd gain back some of the weight I'd dropped since leaving Rivendell. Most of the dwarves were still sleeping. They're enjoying being able to do that. A few were up sitting at the table, Balin and Thorin, heads together, talking quietly at one end, Dori and Nori, who seem to be early risers, and a couple of others wandering about.
Our third day here and I could feel Thorin growing restless. He was eager to continue on. Perhaps we'd leave today or tomorrow, not that anyone bothered to tell me in advance. Thorin consulted with Balin and Gandalf about what our next move would be, and now they'd been including Beorn. I could become upset about being excluded from any such confidences or I could sit back and accept it as The Way of Things. I'm merely a humble burglar; I go in the direction I'm pointed. Obedience, I'd recently come to learn, was a big issue with Thorin Oakenshield.
"Good little grocers do as they are told."
I blinked at the memory of Thorin's words during the spanking he'd given me. It had been some time since that spanking and I hadn't done anything to earn myself another . . . well, aside from saving Thorin's life, and even he, rigid authoritarian that he was, wouldn't spank me for that. He'd thanked me. But he had taken me aside shortly thereafter and said, "You know that I am most grateful for your heroic deed, Master Baggins."
"Yes, but, really, it's quite alright --"
"Not entirely alright," he'd interrupted. "It's true that you saved me and our Quest, but another fact remains. If you recall, during your spanking I explained that you are a member of this Company and subject to a warrior's code of obedience."
A chill shot up my spine.
"I had given you a direct order to stay to the rear in times of peril."
He was using that 'tone,' the one I'd heard whilst I was in a most undignified position over his knee, my bottom on fire. Sensing I had but moments before this went somewhere I didn't want it to go, I said, "But-But, you said that I should stay to the rear 'as much as possible.'"
He gave a short nod. "True."
"And that I should listen to and obey my wiser self when I was confronted with a dangerous choice."
"Aye," he said with an indulgent half-grin. "You remember my words well."
"So, you aren't angry about me saving your life, are you?"
"No, I'm not," he said. "I'm merely pointing out that, all heroics aside, you did exactly what I'd ordered you not to do. You risked your life."
Realizing that this wasn't going to end with me over his lap, I breathed a sigh of relief and said, "But I didn't do so needlessly." Thorin frowned and I instantly regretted pushing matters when I was already off the hook.
He leaned down close to my ear and said in that deep-voiced, spine-shivering tone, "Just consider this a reminder, little one. Watch your step, because I'm watching it as well."
And he'd ended with a sharp swat that made me yelp.
Why that scene fired through my mind now I couldn't say, especially out here in the sunshine where the air was pleasant and fragrant with the scent of sweet grasses and flowers and herbs and the gentle hum of the harmless giant bees drifted around me like a song. I chose a spot under a tree, picked a wildflower, twirled it between my fingers and watched a litter of puppies playing in the sun. I laughed at their antics and named a few of them after the dwarves, making their tumbling and rolling around all the funnier. The morning was almost too perfect. At one point Thorin came to the door, his focused gaze traveling over the garden until he spotted me. I grinned at him and gave him a small wave.
"Do not wander off, Master Baggins."
"No, no. Of course not," I replied, and he vanished into the house again. Who could stay indoors on such a morning? I turned my face to the sky, blinking at the brightness and the intense blue, and a sweet calm fell over me. It was almost like being home, almost like the Shire. I hadn't felt such peace in some time. It felt as though you could breathe in peace, a sweet, clean aroma. This place wove a magical spell, and I let it soak into me and fill me.
A sudden movement caught my eye - ah! The ponies were outside the enclosure. They were magnificent. I had never seen such ponies. They tossed their long manes and trotted about, swishing their tails and dancing around each other. They were like the puppies, romping and playing, enjoying the warm sunshine and the soft breeze and their delicious freedom. I just had to be nearer to them, see closer up, so I stood and trotted towards the opening in the enclosure . . . then I was there, at the entrance way, looking out into the wide, wide meadow, and there were the ponies, gamboling about, black and white against the backdrop of intense green grasses and blue, blue skies. The animals positively glowed. It seemed I'd caught their interest. They paused and looked at me with their quick, intelligent gazes, flashing me glances that seemed to say, "Come out! Come play with us!"
Would they let me get close enough to pet them? If I went out amongst them would they approach me, or would they just run off ? I stood there for a moment, thinking, watching them . . . oh! They were too glorious. I had to try. I had to touch them. I just had to. Several of them were fairly close to where I was standing, only twenty or thirty yards away, so I slipped through the big opening in the enclosure and walked out, heading for the ponies. They watched me come closer, then they turned and cantered out towards a big flat rock just a little ways ahead where more ponies had gathered. That rock looked to be a good place to climb up on and pet them, if they'd let me, so I hurried towards it, stepping through the fragrant Shire-like grasses, watching those pretty creatures watch me. They boldly moved closer to me, their coats shining, their manes liquid and glistening, and suddenly I was at the big rock. I scrambled up and stood atop it. Ah! Perfect! Now I was high enough to reach their beautiful heads, close enough to touch their soft-looking manes. I spread my arms wide, right and left, and I stood still. The ponies drew near, giving me friendly nods and making gentle snuffling noises, their velvety noses reaching towards my outstretched hands. I was almost touching them . . . .
Suddenly they flinched, tossed their heads and drew back. I froze, wondering what on earth I'd done to frighten them. "Shh," I murmured, not knowing how to calm them. "Shhhhh. It's alright." But the ponies were already spinning and high-tailing it away from me as though they'd just discovered I was an orc in hobbit guise or something. "Wait!" I called out before questioning if that was a wise thing to do. "Wait! Please! Come back! I'm harmless!"
"But I am not."
I gasped. Two big hands grabbed me by the waist and yanked and I realized that it wasn't me who had alarmed the ponies.
"Get down from there!" Thorin growled, hauling me off the rock. "What do you think you are doing?" Seizing my hand, he began dragging me back towards the enclosure at a pace just short of running. I stumbled to keep up with him, gasping and grunting until I found my feet and enough wind to exclaim,"Thorin!"
"Thorin, please! Slow dow--"
This was absurd! I tried to yank my hand from his grasp, saying in my best Master of Bag End voice, "There is no need to drag me, sir. I'm perfectly capable of --"
"I've seen what you're perfectly capable of," Thorin snarled, ignoring my useless efforts to break free. "You are capable of ignoring my orders and warnings. You are capable of doing exactly what you please when you please with no thought of the danger."
"Danger? Out in this peaceful meadow? What danger? Don't you think you're overreacting a bit?"
He paused, reached back and swatted me hard. I squeaked and wriggled and wished I'd slipped my coat on before coming outside. Any cushion between Thorin's hand and my backside would've been welcome. He started pulling me along again, back to trotting, dwarf-paced. Of all the high-handed, tyrannical--!
"Let go of me!" I cried.
"'Stop talk'--? Thorin! You're making much out of nothing."
"Am I indeed?"
"Yes! I wasn't that far from the enclosure."
He'd raced us across the grasses so quickly that we were now more than halfway back to the gate. But he suddenly halted, dropped my hand and turned to me, and for the first time I caught sight of his face. Oh. 'Scary' Thorin. His scary look defies description. Small wonder the ponies fled. One look at that Scary Thorin scowl and no intelligent creature would choose to stay around. I'd have run, too, but I wasn't given that option.
He spun me about to face the meadow and stood behind me, and I immediately flung my hands back to cover my bottom. But Thorin just put his big paws on my shoulders and said, "Look. Look how far you were from safety. There." He straight-arm pointed past my ear. "You were atop that stone where those two ponies are now grazing."
I blinked. Yes, there was the stone and . . . oh. Oh, my. Well, when I'd looked earlier it certainly hadn't seemed to be perhaps, ummm, sixty yards from the entrance? Perhaps . . . well, perhaps closer to seventy yards away. No, more like seventy-five. I lowered my hands to my sides and squeezed them into fists. How had I managed to so utterly miscalculate the distance to that rock before?
"I make that roughly seventy meters," Thorin growled close to my ear. "Agreed?"
"Well . . .." I winced. "I-I guess . . . uh, yes."
This probably wasn't good. No. Not good at all. But, for mercy's sake! There was nothing here in this quiet meadow save ponies and bees and flowers!
"Anything else you wish to say?" Thorin grumbled.
Well, give me a moment to form some kind of defense and I might--
Thorin whisked me about, landed another strong swat, grabbed my hand again before I could even yell, "OW!" and started pulling.
"Move!" he barked.
I moved, amazed that just a few swats from him could produce such a sting. But reality was taking hold, bringing with it a healthy degree of concern regarding how this was possibly going to end up, or rather, where I was possibly going to end up. I hadn't forgotten what my first spanking felt like. I'd just stuck the experience in a corner of my mind where I stored things I didn't care to think about.
I did cherish the memory of Thorin's comfort afterwards. I thought of that often and I longed for it again, especially during times when I'd barely recovered from one terrifying situation before we were in the middle of another. It embarrassed me no end to have such thoughts, but when something frightening haunted me, or when I was exhausted, but too anxious to sleep, I'd feel an overwhelming urge to seek Thorin out, climb up into his lap and bury myself against his big body, feel his powerful arms around me, holding me close, making me feel safe, making me feel as though everything was going to be alright and that I could rest because he was keeping watch. I'd been Master of Bag End for some time, living my peaceful, quiet life, solitary, independent and, and . . . alone. Quite alone. Never touching others beyond a pat on the shoulder in greeting, or friendly handshake, and that taking place rarely enough. But Thorin's comfort was . . . well, if you haven't had a thing you don't realize how much you've missed it or how much you long for it.
So, no, I hadn't forgotten his quiet voice and his comforting warmth, and I did long for that again. But two powerful Thorin swats and I remembered all too well what came before that comfort from him and just what my bottom felt like after he'd finished spanking me.
So much had happened since that spanking. I'd nearly abandoned the dwarves after Thorin rescued me from the cliff, then growled that I didn't belong with the Company. I'd become separated from everyone and lost in the goblin caves, then forced to riddle for my life with that hideous Gollum creature. I'd gone mad with rage and rescued Thorin from being decapitated by those horrible, horrible orcs, and I'd sailed on the back of a Great Eagle. And, oh yes, I'd found a Ring that rendered me invisible and saved my life.
Quite a lot to have gone through, and that wasn't even taking into account the so-called 'smaller' incidents and frights. All of it had a powerful impact on me. But right now all I could think about was an evening in Rivendell when Thorin Oakenshield turned me over his knee and spanked me. Now he was dragging me somewhere I felt certain I didn't care to go and he seemed a mite miffed. Not good. Not good at all. Digging in my heels and refusing to be dragged would likely find me once again slung under his arm and hauled like a sack of meal. That hadn't been much fun the first time and I didn't care to go through it again. Best to try reasoning with him.
We were back inside the safety of the enclosure now. He'd slowed down to a normal Thorin stride - meaning I took two trotting steps to his standard one - so although he still held my hand and kept pulling me along to some unknown destination, perhaps I could persuade him to halt and talk to me. Courage, Bilbo Baggins, Master of Bag End. You faced down Azog, his monstrous wargs and his savage minions. You can handle Scary Thorin.
"But Thorin --"
"I said quiet."
"I just --"
"Silence, little burglar."
'Little' burglar. A bolt of alarm shot through me. Thorin sometimes called me 'Master' Burglar, but 'little' had a whole 'nother meaning. I hadn't heard 'little' burglar since that time. Nor had he called me 'little' grocer, two unique names that went hand in hand with memories of an extremely sore backside and trouble sitting the next day.
"But, Thorin, I-I-I--"
Enough indeed! I huffed and demanded, "Where are you taking me?"
Once again Thorin halted and turned to me. He seemed to have calmed a bit now that we were back inside the enclosure. Still 'Scary' Thorin, though.
"You would prefer we discuss this matter here in the garden?" he growled.
I stared up at him. "Discuss?" I squeaked. "That depends on what you mean by 'discuss.'"
"I thought you would favor privacy," he went on. "'Tis not my preference. I would sooner handle matters this instant rather than taking time to seek out a secluded place away from any possible audience. Your choice, Master Baggins. Do you wish to have our discussion in private, or are you going to keep demanding my immediate attention?"
Well, put that way, no. No, I most certainly didn't care to secure Thorin's 'immediate attention.' That sounded ominous and not at all in keeping with this peaceful morning in this quiet garden where the puppies were still playing. 'Handle matters' also sounded distasteful. He seemed eager to 'handle matters' here and now, and as he hadn't described in detail what he meant by that, or even what he meant by 'discuss,' I reckon he thought I knew what he meant, and, well, perhaps I did. Much as I feared another spanking I had a greater dread of it taking place in the middle of Beorn's garden where anyone might wander out and watch.
I could just imagine it: A dwarf, any dwarf, comes out to sniff the morning air and there I am, bare bottomed over Thorin's knee, being soundly spanked. Said dwarf would run back inside, alert the Company and then there would be an audience of dwarves and possibly a curious shape-shifter watching Thorin turn my backside a shiny red while I kicked and cried and made a spectacle of myself. A shiver raced through me. No, thank you very much.
Given a little cool down time, however, Thorin might opt for a stern lecture about the dangers of wandering off and leave it at that rather than letting his current mood lead him into something that was, in my opinion, just plain unnecessary.
"Well?" Thorin quietly roared.
Only Thorin Oakenshield can roar quietly. Well, Gandalf can roar quietly, too. No . . . no, Gandalf just roars. Thorin reached for me.
"Privacy!" I exclaimed, flinching backwards. "If it's my choice then I choose privacy. Good idea. Uhh, privacy sounds good. I can wait."
Thorin narrowed his eyes and looked ready to revoke his offer in favor of dealing with me right here and now.
"And-And thank you for your consideration," I hurried on. "You're right. I-I really do prefer a bit of privacy for our . . . discussion."
A dark stare.
"I discuss better without an audience." And escaping the possibility of one was the most important thing right now.
Thorin snorted, grabbed my hand and began striding again, muttering, "I shall be doing the discussing. You shall be listening, little grocer."
Right. There it was. 'Little' grocer. I actually felt my backside start to tingle, and it wasn't because of the few stingy swats he'd already delivered. He dragged me along, my hand buried in his huge, warm, muscled paw, and it actually felt good, it felt safe, just that feeling, my hand tucked away, engulfed in his, just that alone felt so safe. And yet, that same paw had once scalded my backside.
My stomach clenched. And, suddenly, I began to get angry.
This was absurd. Thorin couldn't really be planning to spank me. After all, what had I done? I had strolled outside the enclosure a bit. Hardly a big, life-threatening deed. Perhaps he felt he'd been too lax with me of late and he was looking to assert a bit of authority. Perhaps he was just making a lot of noise when he really meant to simply give me a stern talking to. Perhaps a steady diet of mead, honey and bread was beginning to make Thorin Oakenshield cranky. Or perhaps . . . perhaps his upset was based upon what I suppose could possibly, just possibly, be interpreted as disobeying an order.
But had he really given me an order? And if he had, did I really disobey that order? He'd said, "Do not wander off, Master Baggins." Well, I hadn't wandered off. Not really. I hadn't taken a stroll around the meadow. I hadn't gone for a walk in the woods. I hadn't disappeared for hours. I'd been right there where Thorin could see me. Just a few yards outside the enclosure. So why was he going apoplectic?
Granted, I was a little further afield than I probably should have been, but this was a lot of fuss to make, even for overly-cautious-when-it-came-to-hobbits Thorin Oakenshield. I held my tongue, though. Wiser to wait and defend myself when he found whatever private spot suited him, at which time I would most certainly be a part of this discussion. Spank me indeed! For a mere stroll? What nonsense! I really wasn't prepared to revisit Thorin's knee.
The morning after our spankings, when Kili and Fili and I were talking alone, I'd vowed to them that I would never, ever again find myself in that position. They'd glanced up from their breakfast, eyes glittering.
"Never, ever again, eh?" Kili had said, the corners of his mouth twitching. He'd raised a brow at his brother. "Never, ever again, he says."
"I heard him," Fili murmured, studiously cutting up a piece of cheese.
"'Never, ever' is a long time, Bilbo," Kili said.
I'd frowned at them, remembering that Thorin had said something similar the previous night when I'd told him he wouldn't need to repeat his over-the-knee lesson: "We have a long journey ahead of us," he'd said, amused. "Anything can happen."
Fili offered me the cheese on the end of his knife, saying, "It's a long journey."
"Anything can happen." Kili grinned, snatching the cheese and popping it into his mouth.
Much as I liked Kili and Fili I sometimes found their manner of speech unnerving, especially when they echoed their uncle.
"I know that," I'd replied, rising above their poorly hidden grins. "Nevertheless, I don't intend to give Thorin cause to . . . to . . .."
"Spank you?" Fili said fondly. Kili abandoned all pretense and chuckled. For some odd reason they found it endearing that I struggled to say the actual word.
"Yes," I'd muttered. "To do . . . that."
"Never again," Fili gave me a quick and vexingly indulgent nod. "Right then."
"Never, ever again," Kili said, dark eyes sparkling. "Right."
Absolutely right. Right indeed! I couldn't imagine I'd ever need another spanking and I certainly couldn't imagine that Thorin was thinking of spanking me now. Not for something so . . . so insignificant. This was just his 'you've been naughty' demeanor, meant to intimidate me into seeing the error of my ways and apologizing for my behavior. I'd seen that look from him more and more of late. He frowned like that at the others sometimes, too, especially his nephews.
I felt anxious about this, though. I couldn't decide if I should allow myself to feel angry about his high-handed treatment of me or if I should be wise and polite and full of the kind of apologies that might calm him down. Both notions worked, actually, which seemed absurd.
Thorin towed me around behind the house to where there was a scattering of smaller buildings in various sizes and shapes. He'd apparently scouted them out as he headed directly for one particular shed and pulled me inside. I quickly glanced around: a wheelbarrow, a plow, other farming equipment, stacked barrels and crates and many of the gardening tools commonly used by farmers in the Shire. But, as in the house, everything was Beorn-size, and everything, including the shed, looked elderly and weathered, yet clearly well-loved and cared for.
"You didn't need to drag me," I muttered, still gazing around whilst trying to shake free of his grasp. "You could've trusted me to follow you."
Thorin shot me a frown. "I'm beginning to think that 'tis best I keep you right within my grasp, at the very least within my eyesight considering what happens when I turn my back and trust you to behave."
"Sir, that is unfair," I said, feeling increasingly indignant. "I have been as cautious, as alert, and as mindful of my actions as has any other member of this Company."
Thorin snorted, but he, finally, let go of me. I watched him stalk to the rear of the shed where he began digging through the stacked crates, searching, I reckoned, for something to sit on whilst 'discussing.' I turned and noticed that he hadn't closed the door. It stood open and beckoning. I glanced back at Thorin - still digging - then edged my way closer to the opening and peered out into the yard.
"Planning an escape?" Thorin asked.
I whirled to face him. Back turned, he was still exploring amongst the empty crates.
"No!" I exclaimed, even though the mad thought had been tempting me. I was a fast runner. If I somehow got to Gandalf, would he prove to be a valuable ally? Or would he side with the leader of our expedition? Was it worth the risk? It was the maddest of mad thoughts, but perhaps if I just ran and hid. . .. Lots of places to hide out until Thorin cooled down.
"No," I went on in a 'how stupid do you think I am?' tone. "No, of course not."
"Good. Because, consider this --" He stepped out from the pile with a big crate that evidently suited him, plunked it down, took a seat and turned a shrewd gaze upon me. "If you run, little burglar, I shall catch you, and when I catch you I shall turn you over my knee, pull down your britches and spank you right there."
I stared at him and swallowed hard, envisioning that statement along with a sudden, clear memory of how fast dwarves could run. Those dense bodies pounded along at an astonishing speed. I cleared my throat and muttered, "Well. As I said, I-I certainly wouldn't do anything so, uh, foolish."
"I'm glad to hear it," he said, "however--" He stood, moved past me and closed the door. "Let's remove all temptation."
The shed was loosely constructed, letting in plenty of dim light, even with the door shut. Still, I never saw Thorin swiftly move my way. He scooped me up, carried me over to the crate and plopped me down on it before I could let out a proper squeak. But, I was sitting. Upright. And Thorin was merely standing in front of me watching me with a stern look.
Ohhh. We really were going to have a discussion then. An actual 'discussion' discussion. Using words. Well, well. A strange feeling flowed through me, relief mixed with some uneasiness I couldn't place. It didn't feel good, and it seemed I should be feeling nothing but good. After all, I'd escaped a doom that had seemed certain. I perched there quietly, waiting for Thorin to speak, wiggling my feet as they dangled above the ground.
"I shall ask you again," he said, his voice deceptively calm. "What do you think you were doing?"
I knit my brow. What did I think I was do - ? Ahh. We were back to the meadow when he'd pulled me down from the rock. I looked directly at him and gave Thorin the most obvious answer I could give, which happened to be the flat-out truth. "I wanted to pet the ponies," I said. Surely honesty counted for something.
Thorin's frown deepened. "So you disobeyed my orders in order to satisfy your whim."
He had a gift for making a perfectly innocent act sound like a positively naughty deed. So much for honesty. I had but one defense left. "You hadn't issued an order."
"I told you not to wander off."
"But you didn't order me not to wander off."
I knew I was on extremely shaky ground, but when there is no other ground to stand upon, shaky ground becomes an attractive option. Linguistics was a perilous game to play with Thorin Oakenshield, and I wasn't enjoying it. It felt disrespectful, twisting his words in this petty way. But, again, I felt I'd been left with no other escape route. The memory of a scalded bottom hovered over me and that shaky ground trembled beneath me and I was stuck in between, still feeling oddly unhappy whilst enduring Thorin's stern glare.
He crossed his arms over his barrel chest and silently studied me for what felt like an age. I struggled to keep from drawing my fingers to my face and gnawing at my nails, a childhood habit I'd conquered years ago. Under times of extreme stress it returned, though. Now when I had the nervous urge to chew my nails I reached for my pipe instead. But my pipe was in my coat pocket and my coat was in the house. So I clenched my fists in my lap and waited for Thorin's response. In truth he'd only been watching me for about a minute, but a minute can be an interminably long time when a large dwarf prince is staring at you and he favors spanking as a means of communication.
Thorin leaned back on one leg for a moment, then he seemed to decide something and he headed my way with that same determined stride and that look of gentle menace. A jolt of panic shot through me. I'd seen him do all that before. And I'd forgotten that Thorin disliked preliminary chatter.
"No." I shook my head, clumsily scrambling off the crate. Running was suddenly looking good. Absurd, of course. Thorin was instantly on me. He clamped a paw on my arm, sat and pulled me forward to stand before him, locked between his legs.
"My mistake," he said, undoing my braces. "I should have remembered."
"Remembered what?" I squawked, squirming and trying to bat his hands away.
Thorin picked me up and turned me over his lap, saying, "I should have remembered that action works better than words with little ones."
Just like that. Just like that he'd done it as he'd done it before, and now I was in a position I told Fili and Kili I'd never be in again. Just like that! I was too horrified to do anything but wriggle and squeak, my arms scrabbling over the crate, which was oddly near the same length as the bench in Rivendell had been. Thorin held me stable, one great palm over my back whilst he pulled my britches over my backside and down my legs, whooshed them completely off, then balled them up and stuffed them under my face. And there I was again, just like before, stretched out over his lap, my bottom bare, the cool air touching my naked skin. I whimpered and tried to squirm, hugging my britches to my chin, dreading what was coming next. "No! Thorin, no! Please!" I cried hearing the panic in my voice. "What about our discussion?"
"Indeed," he said, sounding satisfied. "Let's begin it."
I raised my hand and smacked down, watching those soft little hills bounce.
He sucked in a sharp breath. "Nooooo!" he exclaimed on a desperate, low cry. I paused, distracted for a moment by the sight of his wriggling bottom. Such a small, round and pleasing bottom. I smacked down again, leaving a faint pink mark, Master Baggins continuing his objections.
"Ow! Please, Thorin! Please, please don't! Don't do this!"
I started spanking him with a steady, easy pace, a challenge considering how cross I was. "Hush."
"AHHHH!" he cried, then: "But-But, won't the others wonder where we are? Won't they come looking for us?" Ever thinking, my burglar.
"Ah, then you did not see Balin," I said.
"What?" he squeaked. "Balin? When?"
"After we stopped in the garden to talk," I said. "You decided you preferred privacy to having our discussion right there in the open. I began to escort you back here and he came to the door. He must have heard us. We exchanged nods and he went back inside."
"No, I-I didn't see him. Oh, nooo."
"So, no worries, little burglar. Balin is clever enough to see what was happening between us. Should anyone ask, he will make up a satisfactory excuse as to where we are."
"But we are not far from the house and 'tis a quiet morning. The louder you yell, the more likely it is someone will become curious."
In truth, it was not very likely at all. Balin had already been awake and talking with me, but it was still early and my dwarves enjoyed sleeping late these days whilst they could. 'Twas also unlikely that mere wailing from a distressed little halfling could penetrate the thick walls of that house.
But it would not do for my burglar to become too distressed too soon. I intended to have a lengthy discussion with him and I didn't want him to work himself into an early frenzy. However, he was a most determined hobbit. He writhed about and kicked and wriggled so that, although I had only delivered about a dozen swats, I paused and began to shift him.
"Noooo! Don't! Please don't do that! I'll behave!" he yelled, clearly anticipating my intentions. Clever halfling.
"Enough of that, sir. 'Tis better this way," I said, tipping his bottom over my left thigh and closing his legs between mine. "I don't mind a bit of kicking. But you shall wear yourself out too early at such a pace and I cannot have that."
"I'll stop! I'll stop!"
"I doubt that." And I started spanking him again.
"AHHH! I will! I really, really will stop kicking!"
"I believe you would try," I said. "I doubt you would meet with much success."
"Stop fussing. I do not intend to release you, sir, so hush."
That threw him into a genuine temper. I let him yell. At least he was no longer bucking and wildly kicking, wearing himself down. I would allow him that freedom later when his bottom was a darker hue. Meanwhile I set up a steady rhythm of swats, spanking all over his wee backside, watching him and listening to him.
He was not yet crying, but he soon would be. My burglar now knew what to expect. The first time I'd spanked him he had no way of knowing how long it might go on and how much worse it might become. He was frightened in a different way than he was now. This time he was very much aware, and I expected that, like Kili, he would give in to his tears more quickly - unless he decided to take on Fili's stubborn resistance as he had last time.
He fussed about his position a bit more. That was alright. I expected no less from my outspoken halfling. As long as he remained respectful and didn't hurl foul language at me, I let him sputter. He did need held down, though, as he seemed surprised to be over my knee. Interesting behavior, given he had invited this spanking. Master Baggins knew me well enough by now to understand that nothing would get my attention faster than for him to do something life-threatening. He had done quite a job of that today.
What frightened me most was his ignorance of the peril in which he had placed himself. Oh, he knew what he was doing, but he only knew it deep down inside and that deep-down knowledge had not kept him from disregarding all safety and strolling out into the meadow. On the surface of things he had seen no risk. He had admitted it:
"I wanted to pet the ponies."
He had said it in the small, innocent voice of a youngling who is telling the absolute truth, confident that he's done nothing wrong. He wanted to pet the ponies. He hadn't thought much beyond that. He had behaved exactly the way a little one would have, following his desires, blind to the possible dangers. Nothing had existed for him beyond those desires, and my blood ran cold when I saw my halfling out in that deceptively peaceful meadow, so far from safety.
I should have ordered him back into the house when I'd seen him sitting under that tree. My failing, that. But he'd looked so contented, relaxing out there in the shade, holding a flower in those small hands and gazing off with a soft, wistful expression on his face. He waved at me, and I felt a sudden urge to go sit with him, perhaps even gather my halfling onto my lap and share the morning quiet with him. Powerful urge. But I brushed it aside along with a vague stab of uneasiness. He was safe there. He knew better than to go beyond the enclosure. So I left him in peace after calling out my short warning. Too short, it seemed. The next time I glanced out, my hobbit had vanished.
I'd charged from the house, barreling through the yard, hoping to catch sight of him there before I hit the gate. But I knew where he had gone. And there he was, my wee grocer, blithely strolling out towards a big rock so far from the refuge of the house that it sickened me. I raced silently towards him, not daring to call his name, watching with added horror when he clambered up onto the rock and stood there, an open target, spreading his arms and reaching for the approaching ponies. But those ponies saw me approaching, too, and they changed their minds about visiting this guileless little creature, inspiring the creature to be even more guileless and actually call to them.
"Wait! Wait! Please! Come back! I'm harmless!"
I clamped my hands around his small body and yanked him down, wildly tempted to hold him for a moment, feel him in my arms, safe. But we weren't safe yet, so I grabbed his hand and rushed him back towards the house, listening to his protests and pausing to swat him when he went so far as to proclaim in an impatient tone that there was no danger. Of course he thought there was no danger, else he never would have ventured forth, despite his urges. But hearing him announce such folly as though he had taken it upon himself to educate me about the safety of that meadow was intolerable. I was overreacting? Of course I swatted him.
He never stopped protesting, though, so when we were closer to safety I stopped and spun him 'round, enjoying the way he clamped his hands over his little round backside. Aye, deep within Master Baggins knew what he had coming. But when I pointed out how far he had journeyed from the house he stiffened and went still, then lowered his arms to his sides, his hands becoming fists. Every move my burglar made was telling.
Another good swat on that now unprotected bottom helped him focus again and I hurried him the rest of the way back to the safe enclosure of the yard where, despite the amount of trouble he had already made for himself, my hobbit evidently decided he wanted immediate attention and kept trying to start a dialogue, ignoring my commands to be silent.
Kili had sometimes acted like this when he was younger . . . sometimes he still did. When he felt in need of some care he behaved in an attention-seeking manner that oft left him with a sore backside. Fili would try to distract him away from his doomed path, but when Kili set his course there was nothing his older brother could do to deter him. Kili would push and push and push until he gained my undivided attention in whatever form that took.
Once, when returning to check on Kili after a spanking, I heard Fili's voice: "Why do you do these things?" I paused outside my nephew's door in the shadowy corridor, just able to peer unseen into Kili's chamber where he lay on his bed, curled up on his side. Fili sat propped up, holding his little brother's head in his lap and petting his dark hair. "Don't just shrug at me, Kili. Tell me. Why?"
"I don't knooww."
"Beleaguering Uncle when he'd told you several times that he was busy at the moment? You saw me signaling you to stop."
A pitiful sniff. "Uh-huh."
"And I know you saw what your badgering was doing to his temper."
"You also knew what he might do to you if you kept that up."
"And yet you --"
"I don't knooowwww!"
Silence while Fili stroked Kili's locks, then my older nephew murmured, "Well, I think I know why you push. Uncle has had much to do of late. And sometimes when he has certain duties he takes me with him--"
"And he doesn't take me," Kili said, a pout in his voice.
"I know, I know. You're in line to the throne, and I cannot always come with you and Uncle when you're doing kingly heir-like things. But I don't like being left behind."
A deep sigh. "Of course you don't."
"No matter." Another sniff. "Just the way it is."
More silent snuggling, then Fili murmured, "I think that when you long for Uncle's attention you do something to push him into giving you what you want."
"I don't want a spanking!"
"You want his notice, little brother. No, a spanking isn't exactly what you'd hoped for, but at least when he's spanking you he is focused entirely on you.
Kili tried to shift away from his brother but Fili muttered, "Stop that," and wrestled Kili back down beside him.
"Leave me alone, Fili! Go away."
"Aye!" Short pause. "No."
Recalling that scene, I had halted and looked down at my wee yammering grocer. "Where are you taking me?" he had demanded in a tone unbecoming a disobedient halfling already headed for a spanking. When Master Baggins becomes worked up inside his usually flawless civility oft suffers. But when I turned and scowled down at him his eyes widened, his manner improved and he quietly listened to my offer to take care of things then and there.
"Your choice, Master Baggins. Do you wish to have our discussion in private, or are you going to keep demanding my immediate attention?"
He knew what I meant. Beneath his false display of ignorance regarding the word 'discussion,' my grocer knew exactly what I meant to do. His gaze held a hidden awareness that I sensed even he did not acknowledge. But he agreed that my plan to seek a more secluded place for our conversation was for the best.
Even if he'd surprised me and chosen to have our discussion then and there I would never have spanked my hobbit in such a public place. He was loud when I had him over my knee and his cries would have drawn forth my curious dwarves. Not all, but some, would have wandered outside to watch, and I did not wish to subject my halfling to the stares of others. I was unwilling to share him with an audience. I'd offered to hold our 'discussion' there in the garden knowing he would refuse the option. Refuse he did, most apologetically. But first he gazed up at me in a faraway manner, lost in thought. I gave him a moment, then demanded a decision, and when he still looked as though he was not really listening I reached for him, eager to move on and vacate the garden before someone disturbed us.
"Privacy!" he cried, flinching back. "If it's my choice then I choose privacy. Good idea. Uhh, privacy sounds good. I can wait."
Master Baggins is a singular mixture of wariness and extraordinary bravery. Pound for pound, few could match the remarkable courage of this wee hobbit. Yet he flinched when I moved to grab his arm. Again, he said much without saying a word. My halfling didn't fear me. He did, however, fear the spanking he knew he'd invited. So he drew back. It was an admission of what his underlying intent had been all along, and I struggled to keep the stern look on my face whilst letting him stumble through his apologies and pretense. It would not do to cast him a fond smile at such a time. I often found myself struggling in such a manner when watching my hobbit.
I had explored the various outbuildings around Beorn's house the day after we arrived, securing his permission first. "I have nutting to hide and liddle that will interest a dwarf," he had rumbled, with a casual wave of his hand. This shed was perfect. After pulling Master Baggins inside I left the door ajar just to see what he would do when my back was turned and I was otherwise occupied. I had no qualms about playing with him this way. My grocer had frightened me badly this morning. And, despite his apologies and his overdone politeness two minutes earlier in the garden, the moment we were inside the shed he once again began grumbling with an impudent air that just begged to be answered. Every time he opened his mouth he dug himself in deeper and revealed more about his state of mind. I enjoyed our back and forth about the folly of imagined escape, and I enjoyed ending it by closing the door, picking him up, carrying his light, compact body over to the crate I had chosen and plunking him down.
It was then that he said, "I wanted to pet the ponies" and went on to point out that I had not issued an actual order so he had not been obliged to obey me. "But you didn't order me not to wander off."
I stared at him, seeing him more fully now that I was no longer rushing him about. He sat perched on the crate, wearing the tentative expression of a tangled up little one who had invited something unpleasant and now wondered what on earth he ought to do about it. He seemed certain of what was about to happen, and he wanted it in part and in part he did not. Just as Kili always had.
I sadly watched him tighten his little hands into fists as he struggled to keep from drawing his nails to his teeth to ease his awkwardness and longing and confusion. He was ripping himself in two separate directions. And all this because he urgently wanted something from me.
So much had happened to him in such a short time, and he had braved it all with exceptional composure. Never had I seen someone change his temperament as profoundly as had Master Baggins. When I first met him, I would never have predicted that this rumpled, curly-headed grocer would become the loyal, fierce fighter he had proven himself to be. He had been keeping up with my experienced warriors admirably.
But now, suddenly, we were at rest, however briefly, and he could allow himself to seek something he yearned for, something he could not acknowledge needing even to himself. He sought what Kili sometimes sought. My halfling longed for the reassurance of knowing that someone was looking out for him, and that he was worthy of notice and care. He yearned for attention with a pure and desperate hunger, and he had pursued it as a little one did, completely focused on what he wanted with no regard for his own safety.
Very well. I would treat him as the little one he now was. Little ones ignored the dangers around them to get what they wanted. Little ones told the truth because they didn't think they had done anything wrong. And little ones, despite the futility, tried to run from the consequences of their actions. So when my little burglar realized too late that he had best try to escape me - much as he had the first time I spanked him - I grabbed him, turned him over my knee, undid his braces and pulled his britches down and off, stuffing them under his head.
And now, seeing his small, wriggling bottom turning slightly pink under my steady spanks, I felt the knot in my stomach begin to dissolve. He was safe. Safe within the enclosure and safe over my knee. Nicely secured between my legs to discourage too much kicking, Master Baggins was, for this moment, all mine again. And I felt the way I had the first time he lay over my lap, the way I always felt when I spanked my nephews for doing something dangerous rather than for doing something merely mischievous or disobedient. I felt settled, calm and satisfied.
My halfling, however, was far from satisfied. He was at the first stage of his spanking, the angry stage, a phase unique to him. My nephews felt no anger towards me when they went over my knee. They felt guilt; they felt shame; they felt regret; but they knew they deserved to be disciplined. When their guilt was oppressive they even welcomed it.
But my burglar had not consented the first time I spanked him. He hadn't seen it coming, so he had been shocked and furious and combative, his fear fueling his outrage. All things considered, he had deserved his fury, and evidently he felt entitled to indulge that fury again, for even though he knew that, deep within, he had provoked this consequence, he hugged his britches to his chest, braced himself up on his bent elbows and began a litany of protest. I spanked away, letting him release his objections, his "Oww's" and "AHHH's" and his familiar complaints until I heard him utter, to my astonishment, a Khuzdûl curse. Quite a nasty one, too. I paused, hand in the air, stunned. So much for forbearing the use of foul language.
"What did you say?" I asked him.
He froze, gasping. "W-What?"
"The Khuzdûl," I said, resting my hand on his bottom. "You said a word in Khuzdûl."
"Uhhh . . . you mean--" And he said it again, but in a questioning tone.
His hobbity voice lacked the guttural dwarvish timbre to do that word justice. And as he had, endearingly, somewhat mispronounced it I felt that he was repeating something he had overheard without understanding its meaning. I doubt any of the Company would have taught him that word. They were fondly protective of him, as they would be a loveable, slightly reckless, younger brother. But, my burglar had grown closer to Fili and Kili after their spankings in Rivendell, so perhaps --
"Did someone teach you that word, little gutter-mouth?" I asked.
"What?" He swiftly turned and looked at me over his shoulder. "'Little gutter--?' N-No!"
"You overheard someone say it?"
He winced. "Well, y-yes."
"Do you know what it means?"
He studied me with a guarded expression. "No. I-I just thought it sounded good. And . . . And . . .."
He said it without saying it: 'And it got your attention. It got you talking to me.' I raised a brow. "And . . . what?"
"Nothing . . . I-I just liked the sound of it."
"Do you think it wise to use a word without knowing what you’re saying, or whom you might offend?"
He turned back around, lowered his head and rubbed his brow on his britches-pillow. "No, sir," he muttered in a huffy tone. "I-I suppose it isn't. But--"
Again his intent was clear: He had achieved his goal, so did anything else really matter? I started spanking him again. "But, what?"
"But-- AHHHH! Alright! Alright! I'm sorry! I-I shouldn't have said it!"
"Mmm. Indeed no. Well, do not fret. We shall handle it."
"Handle?" He tried to twist 'round and look at me again, but I pressed my elbow between his shoulders, keeping him facing forward. "Handle what?"
"Your inappropriate language."
"But-But, what's that word mean?"
"If you didn't know you should not have used it so freely."
"You aren't going to tell m-me," he said in a sulky tone, "are you?"
I had muttered that word to myself countless times since beginning this Quest, but I said, "I choose to refrain from using such language in front of my naive young halfling. It is unbecoming. Nor shall I stomach you speaking it. 'Twill be all right, though. No more fussing. We shall take care of that naughty gutter-mouth."
He tensed, growled low in his throat, squirmed again, then let fly that word thrice in a row, still mispronouncing it a bit each time. It was a similar challenge to the one he had thrown at me in Rivendell when I asked him what had happened with the trolls and he had snapped. And with his small tantrum he told me much - he was doing well enough to indulge his temper, he did not over-fear me and he definitely continued to need this.
Onward to Part Two