10. Nightly Ritual
Emptying Boromir's small belt pouches was always an adventure, for I was never quite sure what I might find inside. The boy picked up anything that struck his fancy and stuffed it in one, and he had more pouches than any grown man, of all colours. He simply loved to carry things around.
I sat on the low stool next to the copper tub, knowing I was going to be splashed, but unwilling to stray too far. I have taken care of enough siblings to know that leaving a little one alone in a bath was a stupid, perhaps dangerous thing to do.
Boromir was pitting his new wooden ships against one another -- the Prince of Dol Amroth was visiting, and his young nephew was mightily impressed with the tales of maritime warfare that Lord Imrahil had told.
Boromir kept up a constant stream of chatter, advising me of the progress of the battle. "And now see, these are Corsairs! And this is my uncle - take that, you wicked pirates! You will not escape the wrath of Imrahil! Die, Umbar scum, die!" And a jet of water splashed into the air as the hapless Corsairs were capsized by the soap.
I listened with half an ear as I dumped the brown pouch out on the ground. Here was a rock, as expected, no different from any other rock, that my adult eyes could see; a blue feather, a white one, probably from one of the chickens; a small carving of a horse -- "Boromir, where did you get this?" I held the carving up, for I had not seen it before.
He glanced at me. "One of the grooms gave it to me," he shrugged, turning back to his ships. "Now look, oh no! The pirates have come back, and their ghosts are chasing brave Imrahil!"
I set the horse aside in a "keep" pile, setting the feathers there as well, and putting the rock in the "discard when Boromir was not looking" pile. There were enough stones in his treasure-box already.
Next pouch, this one green -- more rocks; some twigs and leaves, holly berries, a bit of moss, a piece of blue eggshell.
"Aaaahhhhh!" Boromir shouted, and the hem of my skirt was soaked as the two ships hit the water. "But the ghost pirates have not reckoned on the ferocity of Imrahil! He is not afraid of spirits or shades! "
I ignored my wet clothing, for past experience had taught me that I was likely to get much wetter. I had also found that if I let Boromir be a bit unruly in the bath, it was a great deal less difficult to get him into the tub to begin with. Due to Prince Imrahil's visit, Boromir was up far past his normal bedtime, and rather overexcited, so if he was more boisterous than usual, I was inclined to overlook it. And it was only water, after all.
Now he was singing "pirates pirates pirates" under his breath, and I smiled fondly at him.
Thus I was not looking when I foolishly put my hand inside the red pouch, and let out a squeak of surprise as something nipped at my finger.
Boromir looked at me, startled, but looked away again so swiftly that I realized he knew what was in that pouch. Cautiously, I up-ended it, and out fell a turtle no bigger than my palm.
"Boromir," I sighed, "What is this?"
He gave the creature a dismissive look, and I saw he had faint circles of tiredness under his eyes. "Um… a turtle?"
"Yes, I can see it is a turtle," I replied with a bit of exasperation. "What have I told you about putting live creatures in your pouches?"
He heaved a much put-upon sigh. "Animals-don't-like-being-taken-from-their-homes-by- little-boys-and-if-I-put-them-in-my-pouch-I-might-forget-that-it's-there-and-then- they-could-get-smashed-or-starve-and-how-would-I-like-it-if-someone-put-me-in-a-pouch, " he rattled off and I had to look away to keep from laughing.
"Absolutely correct," I nodded once I'd calmed myself. "So why did you pick this one up?"
"I wanted to play with him in the bath," Boromir admitted grudgingly. "He was going to be the dragon. I was going to take him back tomorrow!"
"But you forgot he was there," I pointed out.
"He wouldn't have starved," Boromir said indignantly. "Look, see --"
I looked where he pointed, saw a handful of grimy sugared almonds had fallen out of the pouch as well, and had to fight down a laugh again. "At least you left him something to eat," I relented, "but I would rather you do not bring back animals at all, my duckling. Will you please try to remember that?"
"Yes," Boromir said, nodding his head vigorously, then he saw me scooping the almonds into the "discard" pile and wailed, "No, don't throw those away -- those are mine!"
"Mag will give you more tomorrow, of that I have no doubt," I reminded him. "These are covered in dirt, and you know that you may not have sweets after your dinner is finished. And if you are going to pout," I warned, seeing his expression grow mutinous, "then you will not have any tomorrow."
His face darkened momentarily, but he subsided, for Boromir loved Mag's sugared almonds and did not want to be deprived of such a treat.
"I will wash your hair in a moment, duckling," I told him. "Is there anything in this one I should be warned of?" I held up a blue pouch.
"No," he assured me, but the odd look on his face made me wary nonetheless.
I emptied the pouch gingerly, and found only two slightly crushed flowers: one a rose of deep red, the other a brilliant purple iris.
"The rose is for Mother," Boromir informed me, eyes anxious, "and the purple one is for you. The gardener said you should give girls flowers."
I could not help but smile at him, for he looked so sober. I leaned forward and kissed his forehead. "The gardener is right," I nodded, tucking the iris into my hair, and a proud smile came across his earnest face as he watched me. "It was very sweet of you, my little one." It was an indication of how weary Boromir was that he did not object to being called "little one". "Now, we shall get you clean, and then you may take the rose to your lady mother."
"I will try not to put any more turtles in my pouches," he assured me seriously, covering his eyes as I rolled up my sleeves and began working soap into his wet hair.
"Nor frogs nor mice nor baby chicks nor anything that breathes."
"Not even worms?"
"Well -- all right, worms. And grasshoppers or crickets. But no snakes."
"Oh." His guilty tone made me look at the top of his head suspiciously. "Um…please don't look in the black pouch."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.