9. First Impressions NEW 12.11.06
"Kitchen?" Boromir said, bouncing in my arms as he realized which way we were walking. "Tea with Mag?"
"Yes, we are having tea with Mag today," I replied, smiling at his wide grin. "But you must sit at the table with me, understand? No playing in the kitchen."
"No playing," he repeated, shaking his head sadly. "Eating."
"Yes, just eating," I laughed.
As we walked down the corridor to the kitchen, I saw several men coming towards us, talking and laughing amongst themselves. Probably guards just off-duty; many of them liked to sit in the kitchen and have a quick chat with whoever happened to be there before they headed home. If any such men came in while we were there, Boromir always sat perfectly still and stared at them, fascinated. Of course they all knew who he was, and would take a moment to greet him, which delighted him to no end.
I noticed one man lagging near the back of the group who did not look like a guard, however; his posture was all wrong. Maybe a Ranger, just in from Ithilien? Boromir would be thrilled, I thought. The first time he'd seen a Ranger, his eyes had gone so wide I was almost afraid they would fall out of his head.
Boromir noticed the men and gasped. "Guards, guards!" he whispered, patting my shoulder and pointing. He raised his voice to its normal level. "Hello, guards!"
They stopped for a moment, greeting us cheerfully. "Ho there, young master!" "Good day, little man, miss!" "If you hurry, Mag has still got warm scones." "Unless that rascal Celeblas has eaten them all, of course."
The man who was not a guard did have the look of a Ranger about him, now that I saw him more closely. However, he did not acknowledge Boromir, me, or even the guards, only looked as if he were irritated at the fact that we were blocking his way. In fact, we were not, for he went by easily, at quite a brisk pace.
"Then we should hurry," I said to the guards with a smile, "for it would not do to let Celeblas have all of Mag's fresh scones."
"Scones please!" Boromir exclaimed happily. "Good-bye, guards, good-bye!"
Laughing at his eagerness, they bid us farewell, and we continued to the kitchen, though I was more than a little annoyed with the impoliteness of the Ranger. He had acted as though we did not even exist - even the busiest of lords could be counted upon to give a quick "good-day" if he encountered the two of us in passing.
The kitchen was empty of guards, Rangers, or loitering household staff. At this time of day, there was a short lull in between distributing trays for tea and beginning preparations for the evening meal, so only Mag and a few kitchen workers were there. When we entered, Boromir piped, "Hello, hello!", and Mag turned with a wide smile.
"There you are!" Mag exclaimed, catching Boromir's waving hand. "Ready for your tea, are you?"
Boromir nodded. "Yes, yes, please, tea!"
We sat in our usual spot, and when Mag brought us tea and cinnamon scones (which were indeed still warm), I asked, "Mag, who was that Ranger that just left the kitchen?"
"A Ranger?" she said, dusting her hands on her apron and joining us at the table. "I don't remember seeing a Ranger, dear. What did he look like?"
"He was not wearing any sort of uniform," I said, buttering a scone for Boromir, "he was wearing - it looked like travel leathers...I'd never seen him before."
Mag chuckled. "Ah, that must have been Captain Thorongil," she revealed.
"That was Captain Thorongil?" I was more than a little surprised. "No, Boromir, scones are not for dunking - it will just fall apart in your tea..." I turned back to Mag, "..the Captain Thorongil?"
"And why are you interested?" Mag wondered, a twinkle in her eyes. "Have you got a fancy for him?"
"Certainly not," I answered a little tartly. "He had rather a...roguish look to him, and he was rude to Boromir! Boromir said 'hello', loud as you please, and the man walked on by without a word! Everyone else spoke to us."
"Perhaps he didn't think Boromir was speaking to him," Mag said, helping herself to a scone. "He is a bachelor, you know. Most bachelors pay no mind to little ones, no matter how sweet they may be." She directed a smile at Boromir's crumb-covered face. "And I've never heard of the Captain being rude before...."
"Well, the guards stopped and spoke to Boromir," I pointed out, "and he ignored all of us. He just strode by as if we were not worth his time." I caught Boromir's hand just in time to keep him from shoving half a scone in his mouth. "Not so much at once, silly boy."
"He's only just gotten back," Mag said as I broke the scone into quarters, "and I believe he was on his way to see the Lord Denethor. He likely had other things on his mind, dear."
I could not fault him for that - if I had been summoned to see Lord Denethor, I likely would not notice a choir of Elves singing in six-part harmony. "You may be right," I admitted grudgingly and Mag chuckled softly. "But I do not ---"
"Mag, have I left my map case in here?"
All three of us glanced up, and there stood the subject of our conversation. He was lean, with very intense eyes and a face that gave nothing away. I had been right; he was wearing travel leathers that looked as if they had seen much hard use.
"Indeed you did, Captain," Mag replied with a glance at me. "It's just here." She stood up and went to the shelf where she kept lost items.
He was very tall, and moved with uncommon grace, but he did not seem like a mighty warrior, as the rumours about him would have one believe. He was not nearly as handsome as many women said, and while his smile was warm, his presence was somehow quietly overwhelming. I was a bit uncomfortable around him, truth be told.
I, however, was not an 18-month-old boy. Boromir was utterly fascinated; his eyes, wide with curiosity, followed every move the man made. But when the captain spoke to him, Boromir hid his face in my shoulder.
"Why are you so bashful?" I asked, surprised. "Come, say hello to Captain Thorongil."
He glanced up uncertainly. "H'llo."
Thorongil crouched down so that he was nearer to Boromir's level, impressing me with his thoughtfulness. Most people did not understand that it made a child uncomfortable to have someone looming over him. "I am pleased to meet you, young Master Boromir," he said with a smile that suddenly warmed his entire face. "And to meet you, miss."
Emboldened by the friendly reaction, Boromir reached out with grubby fingers to touch the silver star on the captain's cloak, and I made to stop him, but the captain shook his head. "It is all right," he said, "it has certainly seen worse things than a little boy's sticky hands."
"Star," Boromir announced, all shyness now vanished. "Star please?"
"Boromir!" I exclaimed, aghast. "That is the captain's, not yours."
Captain Thorongil laughed, a merry sound that was at odds with his rather fierce appearance. "Very like your father, are you not?" he said. "You have no qualms about asking for what you want."
"I am sorry," I said, while Boromir was studying the Captain carefully, "he -"
"There is no need to apologize," Captain Thorongil assured me with an understanding grin that melted the last bit of my irritation towards him, "it never hurts to ask, even if the answer is no." He stood, wincing as if his knees pained him, then tousled Boromir's hair. "Perhaps I shall see you again, Master Boromir - for now, I have an appointment with the Lord Denethor, and I have kept him waiting long enough."
Mag had been standing ready with the map case; I knew perfectly well that she was waiting in order to give Captain Thorongil's actions a chance to change my mind toward him. Now she handed the case to him, saying, "Remember, there's always bread and cheese on the sideboard, if you get peckish in the middle of night. You look as if you haven't had a proper meal in weeks!"
"That is very nearly the truth," the Captain said with a grimace, "I shall keep it in mind. And thank you for keeping this," he patted the case, "in a safe spot."
"Goodbye!" Boromir called, waving. The Captain returned the gesture with a hint of a smile, and left the kitchen as silently as he had entered it.
Mag sat back down and sipped at her tea in silence, though I could see an amused sparkle in her eyes. Boromir returned his full attention to his scone. I sat there, drinking my own tea and pretending to be oblivious to Mag's gaze.
"Oh, all right," I said at length, and Mag burst into laughter at my reluctance. "Perhaps he is not such a rogue after all."
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