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Chapter Eight

 

I woke the next morning to Boromir's gentle nudging. I opened my eyes and he smiled somberly down at me.

“ Wake up, little wife,” he whispered. It would become a routine after that, the regular way that he woke me. For the rest of my life, with or without him, I would expect those words whenever I woke.

The light through the windows was blue and crisp. It was early morning. Boromir handed me a cup of juice, and I sat up in bed to drink it.

“ The elves brought us breakfast this morning,” he said. “ We leave with the others in a few hours. Eat quickly and dress.”

I nodded, and moved to a little table in the room that held fruit, bread and cheese. I watched Boromir dress as I ate. He tied on his tunic and cape, and pulled on his gloves. His battle horn – a symbol of Gondor – hung around his arm.

“ Did you have a peaceful sleep?” I asked, feeling awkward in the wake of our discussion last night.

“ No,” he said plainly, not looking at me.

“ Nor did I,” I muttered.

“ Well,” Boromir said, sliding the sheath that held his sword around his shoulders. “ After this morning we will have little time to consider our dilemma. For me it shall be a welcome change.”

“ Yes,” I said. “ But I will miss Rivendell. And I am not sure I have a fondness for all of our companions. That elf seemed rather contrary. And I am embarrassed to look upon the heir to Gondor's throne, after I treated him so rudely the other night.”

Boromir grinned as he fastened on his belt.

“ What did you do?” he asked, apparently pleased with the idea of my disrespect. I smiled a little at it myself.

“ Told him to mind his business, essentially, when he asked about my interest in Gandalf,” I said, and Boromir laughed.

“ No matter,” he said, sitting across from me at the table. “ He is not Gondor's king. He fled from that responsibility.”

“ But why?” I asked. Boromir shrugged.

“ Because he is a coward, I should think,” he said. I said nothing, and swallowed the rest of my juice. Aragorn had not seemed like a coward to me, but I was not surprised that Boromir felt threatened by him. After all, if he took Gondor's throne, Denethor would have to step down, and Boromir would have no chance of reigning after him.

I dressed after eating, and Boromir and I left our room and went down to Rivendell's front gates to meet the others. The sun had risen by then, and a soft, yellow light streamed down through the trees. Leaves fell around us as we walked to where most of the fellowship was waiting at the bottom of the path that led into Rivendell. I caught one in my hand as we walked, and thought of what Faramir had always told me. That when he found me I was covered in leaves, only a small lump on the forest floor, one that he would have passed by if he had not caught sight of my hand out of the corner of his eye. When we reached the others I let the little yellow leaf fall to the ground.

I was introduced properly to those I had not yet met. The blond elf was named Legolas and he offered me a disinterested bow. The dwarf who had tried to destroy the ring the day before was called Gimli, and he gave me a short smile. I got the distinct feeling that all but Merry and Pippin believed that I should not be there. I could not read Aragorn's feelings on the matter, and he only gave me a little smirk when our eyes met.

“ We are waiting for Gandalf,” Aragorn explained.

“ Might we go back up to the kitchen and have a proper breakfast while we wait?” Pippin asked.

“ You've already been fed,” Legolas said, frowning. “ Two trays of pastries and an entire basket of fruit, if my memory serves.”

“ Haven't the elves ever heard of bacon?” Pippin whined. “ Sausage?” Legolas rolled his eyes.

When Gandalf at last came down, he walked with Elrond, and the two were followed by a number of regally dressed elves. Elrond made a short speech, and the elves watched us go mournfully as we began to walk away from Rivendell.

“ So, we walk then,” I said, trying to break the silence.

“ We will draw less attention on foot,” Aragorn explained.

“ And there may be places we travel through that would not accommodate horses,” Gandalf added. I did not like the sound of that. Apparently, neither did Pippin – I saw him give Merry a wary look. Sam gave the one pony we brought with us, who bore our heavier supplies, a worried glance.

We walked in silence for most of the day, through a mountainous terrain. Boromir was quiet and serious as we traveled, and often the only sound from our troupe was the tread of our shoes and a twittering from Merry and Pippin, who whispered to each other as we walked.

We stopped to camp that first night on a bank of rocks. As Aragorn made a fire the rest of us began to relax a bit. I put down my pack, which was light, as Boromir shouldered most of our supplies, at his insistence. I had left my dress and nightgown behind in Rivendell, and Boromir had left our tent. Instead of tents, which would have been too heavy to bear on foot, we spread out blankets and pillows on the rocky ground. I prepared the sleeping area for Boromir and I, joining our blankets together.

When I was done, Boromir had gone down the hill a bit and was play fighting with Merry and Pippin, trying to teach them how to use their swords. I had to look away, though it was an endearing sight. Boromir's careful instruction reminded me too much of the days I had sat in the garden watching him teach Faramir the same techniques. Back then, I had always thought it was only a game, that battle would be left to Boromir, who seemed to seek it, and that Faramir was only playing with his brother for sport. I never realized that Boromir was teaching his little brother how to fight in hope that he would someday survive real battle.

I looked behind me and saw Gandalf sitting alone smoking his pipe, and decided to try and speak to him while he was free. I walked up the hill and sat beside him on the rock he rested on.

“ Lydia,” he said before I could speak. “ Aragorn told me you were seeking me in Rivendell. At last we have time to talk. What did you wish to speak with me about?”

“ The Ruby Blade,” I said.

“ I cannot tell you how to use that sword,” Gandalf answered. “ The Ullia kept its magic a closely guarded secret, and I was never in their confidence.”

“ You cannot even give me a hint, something heard in lore?” I begged, my hopes falling. Gandalf laughed.

“ Do not fret, child,” he said, his eyes smiling. “ You will come to understand it in time. That is my belief, anyway. I think there is something inherent in the Ullia that brings the sword its power.”

“ But we were attacked by wolves on the way to Rivendell,” I told him. “ The sword did nothing. It fell uselessly from my hand.”

“ Hmm,” Gandalf said, squinting into the distance. “ Were you frightened?” he asked.

“ Yes,” I answered. “ I thought I would die.”

“ Perhaps that is why the blade was ineffective,” Gandalf said. “ You should try to control your emotions in battle. Or at least try to work from a rage rather than a fear. That is my suggestion, take it as you will.”

“ I did manage to wield fire during the fight,” I told him. “ It came from our camp fire directly into my hand, but it did not burn me. And several nights before I had started the blaze with my breath, not knowing what I was doing.”

“ The Ullia's control of fire is very curious,” Gandalf said. “ And what I know of it feeds my suspicion that the sword's powers must be realized, not taught. I have heard that their control of fire is natural and involuntary, and that it cannot be summoned by will. It must come instead from a primal need.”

“ How can I teach myself not to try?” I asked.

“ That I cannot tell you,” Gandalf said. I sighed.

“ I feel as if I am the downfall of my people,” I muttered.

“ Oh,” Gandalf said, frowning. “ Do not make such an early judgment of yourself. Wait and see. And in the meantime, why not join your husband and the hobbits down the hill? It would not hurt to learn practical swordsmanship in lieu of your blade's unique powers, for now.”

I looked down at Boromir. He was laughing a bit at Merry and Pippin's efforts, but he was also a patient teacher. Nearby, Sam and Frodo sat roasting some meat over the campfire, and Aragorn was watching Boromir. He did not seem to be judging my husband in this moment, but rather was smiling at his antics with the hobbits. Legolas was standing tall on a boulder, looking intently up at the sky. Gimli was approaching Gandalf and I.

As Gimli began complaining to Gandalf that we were taking the long way to Mordor, I stepped down and walked toward Boromir and the others. As I approached, Boromir's blade accidentally caught Merry's shirt, and Merry jumped back, cursing. He kicked Boromir in the shin, and Boromir fell down, wincing. Both of the hobbits proceeded to jump on him, playfully assaulting him. Boromir laughed and protested, and I looked to Aragorn and grinned. Seeing Boromir laugh made me happy – he seemed carefree in the moment, despite the circumstances of the journey. It had been a long time since I had seen his smile come so unburdened to his face – perhaps the last time was the night our engagement was announced, before we sat down to dinner, when he and I were laughing and dancing without considering who watched.

I sat beside Aragorn on the rock he rested on and watched as the three stood again and prepared to continue with the lesson.

“ So,” Aragorn said, his eyes still trained on Boromir and the hobbits. “ You share such a profound love with your husband that the two of you cannot be separated, even when one journeys to Mordor?”

“ You assume too much,” I said, my smile fading. Aragorn raised an eyebrow.

“ Do you mean to inform me that you will not go as far as Mordor, only to Minas Tirith? For that I already know. But you did not know it when you volunteered to accompany him.”

“ It is not him that I am accompanying,” I told Aragorn. “ I have heard of the burden of the ring bearer, of the necessary destruction of the ring. I want to help. I want to end Sauron's power so that our people can live in peace.”

“ Ah,” Aragorn said, looking to me at last. “ So you quest with us, not with your husband?”

“ What is your meaning?” I asked, frowning. “ My husband labors for the same purpose as the rest of the fellowship.”

Before Aragorn could respond, we heard shouts from the rocks above.

“ Spies, spies!” Legolas was crying. I saw a swarm of black birds heading toward our camp – these couldn't be the spies they referred to, could they?

“ Get down!” Gandalf screamed, ducking under a rock himself. “ Hide!” Aragorn jumped up and doused the camp fire. Boromir ran to me and grabbed me, pulling me under a bush with him. I huddled under the cover of the leaves, Boromir holding me tightly, his breath fast on my neck. The birds flew over us.

When they were gone, we came slowly out of our hiding places. Frodo looked particularly shaken, and I noticed Gandalf staring at him.

“ This passage is not safe,” he said after a few moments. “ I am afraid we must take the mountain pass of Catarhas.” He seemed unhappy with this development. All I knew of Catarhas was that it was seen by my people as the shadow of Mt. Doom, its opposite. I was immediately afraid that it would sense me as a Ullia, a natural enemy to its reign of snow and ice, and try to harm me. But I said nothing, only helped Boromir pack up our things, and took a piece of sausage offered to me by Merry as we were leaving camp. I took a bite of it and held the rest up to Boromir, who shook his head.

“ Have it yourself,” he said, squeezing my shoulder. “ You will need your strength.” I could see great concern in his eyes, and I wondered if he had the same fear I did, that the fire in me would be squelched in the mountain's cold.

 

When we reached the foot of the mountain we made another camp, this one sheltered by over-hanging rock.

“ Rest,” Gandalf said as we spread our blankets around a fire Boromir had made. “ You will need all of your strength for the climb.”

Darkness had already fallen as the hobbits prepared dinner for us. I noticed that everyone but Legolas and Gandalf were huddled close to the fire – even Boromir lingered there, rubbing his hands together. I wondered why – I didn't feel cold at all, though I could see snow on the path ahead of us.

“ Lydia,” Boromir called as he ate with the others around the fire. “ Come sit here, and get warm.” I thought of telling him that I was already warm, but did not refuse the invitation. I settled against his side in the tight circle that had formed around our heat source. We ate a simple stew that Sam and Frodo had made.

“ Nothing like hot soup on a cold night,” Pippin said, shivering. I was feeling a little too hot, myself, with the soup in my stomach and the fire glowing so close to me. I wiped a bit of sweat from my brow, and noticed Aragorn looking at me suspiciously as I did.

“ Did you get a chance to speak with Gandalf?” Aragorn asked me as we all sat around the fire.

“ Yes,” I answered plainly, beginning to get light headed from the heat.

“ And did you find the answers you sought?” Aragorn asked. I did not like the confrontational manner with which he spoke. What was he trying to pull from me? And what had he meant before, when he said that I was serving the fellowship instead of my husband? What distinction was there?

“ You will have to ask him,” I said, standing. “ I do not feel well.”

“ What's wrong, m'dear?” Gimli asked as I walked over toward our blankets.

“ Nothing,” I called back. “ Just tired, I'm sure.” As soon as I stepped away from the fire I felt a little better, a cool breeze blowing past me. I reached our blankets and knelt down, untying my cape and pulling off my gloves. I breathed in relief as my temperature returned to normal.

“ Lydia?” Boromir said, coming up behind me. He knelt down beside me and laid a hand on my shoulder. “ It is as I feared,” he said. “ The cold of this place will overcome you.”

“ I am fine,” I said, lying down on the blankets and looking up at him. Behind his face, stars were clear in the night sky. “ Might I just have something cool to drink?” I asked. He frowned.

“ Something cool?” he asked. He took off one of his gloves and placed his hand on my forehead. He jerked his hand away when he did, then brought it gingerly back.

 

“ You are warm,” he said, quiet and awestruck. “ So warm that I feel it move through me when I touch your skin this way.”

 

            “ And your touch sends a cool wave through me,” I said, breathing in relief. “ But I thank you for it. I was becoming too hot, drinking steaming soup beside the fire.”

 

            “ This is fascinating,” Boromir said, lying down beside me as the others moved their bedding closer to the fire and prepared to go to sleep. “ But I hope my touch will not suck all of the warmth out of you.”

 

            “ We shall see,” I said, still holding his arm, bringing his hand up to my lips and kissing his palm. He moved closer to me on the blankets.

 

            “ Perhaps we will balance each other,” he said, and at that he snaked a hand under my shirt, placing it on my bare side. His cool touch felt to me like a dive into a lagoon on a hot summer day. I smiled, moaning softly and drawing myself closer to him.

 

            He kissed my eyes as I began to drift into a comfortable sleep.

 

            “ I feel guilty for hiding this secret from the others,” Boromir said, smiling. “ I have my own flame to warm me inside and out, and they are left with the meager heat of the fire.”

 

            “ Tomorrow,” I said, sleep beginning to take me. “ tomorrow, when we climb the mountain, as the temperature drops, then I will keep them warm as best I can.”

           

“ But for now you will settle for your husband,” Boromir finished. After he had said it we both heard a different meaning in the unthinking words.

 

            It did feel like I was settling for Boromir, and it was unfair to both of us. But we did not peruse the issue further that night. We only slept, hands on each other, and by the time I fell asleep I did feel cooler, but I was willing to suffer a little for his warmth.

 

 

The next morning, we woke early and ate quickly, then began to climb the mountain. Rested and warm despite the cold weather, I admired the beauty of the place as I walked beside Boromir.

 

            “ Ooof!” we heard someone behind us exclaim as we walked. Everyone turned to see Frodo, who had fallen in the snow. He struggled up with Aragorn's help.

 

            “ I'm alright,” he said. “ I only tripped --” he broke off abruptly then, and I saw him clutching as his breast.

 

            “ The ring!” he said. I turned to Boromir, but he no longer stood at my side. I looked back down to Frodo, and saw Boromir bending to pluck something out of the snow.

 

            It was the ring, still on the chain that Frodo carried it on around his neck. Boromir held it up into the light, and I got my first good sight of it. I felt the warm feeling in me regulate to a greater heat. The ring of power. I stared at it, mesmerized. The ring that had been forged in my people's rightful land. I burned with a sudden anger. The ring belonged to the Ullia. Sauron had stolen our home, and he had used it to create this power. It was ours. I stepped toward Boromir.

 

            “ It is a strange fate,” he was saying, staring at it in his hand. “ That we should suffer so much fear and doubt over such a small thing.” He seemed frozen in

awe. I was suddenly furious, watching him hold it. Boromir wanted the ring for Gondor, but it was not Gondor's to have! It belonged to the Ullia, to me! I walked faster toward him.

 

            “ Boromir!” Aragorn shouted, snapping me out of the trance that I had fallen into. I stopped in my tracks, and Boromir looked up to Aragorn.

 

            “ Give Frodo the ring,” Aragorn said, his voice cold, his eyes quietly aflame. Boromir hesitated, then stepped slowly toward the two of them, at last offering the ring to Frodo. The little hobbit reached out and grabbed it hastily.

 

            “ As you wish,” Boromir said, smiling tightly at Aragorn. “ I care not.”

 

            As he walked back to me, I saw Aragorn's hand leave his side, and realized that he had been gripping his blade. My eyes met his for a moment, and a silent threat passed between us.        

 

 

 

The climb up the mountain was grueling. I was not cold, but my limbs were tired, and my cheeks were blasted with wind. The mood of the others was low as we trudged through the snow. All of us hated Legolas a bit for being able to tread lightly over it.

 

            As we reached the higher parts of the mountain, the snow became so thick that the hobbits had to be carried. I could see that Boromir was worried about me as he held Merry and Pippin above the drifts, but whenever he turned back I would offer him a reassuring smile. I was not cold, after all – the others were far worse than I was.

 

            When we stopped to rest and catch our breath for a moment, I noticed that Pippin's lips had taken on a purplish color, and I could not hold my secret in any longer. I walked over to Boromir, who held Merry and Pippin, both of them shivering, their usually cheerful faces drawn and scared.

 

            “ Pippin,” I whispered, rolling back the sleeve of my shirt. “ Here,” I said, taking his small hand and placing it on my wrist. At first he only gaped at me, confused, but then a look of warm comfort spread across his face.

 

 

            “ That is purely magic!” he said, his face lighting with glee. “ Your skin is so warm – but how? And I feel warm, just touching it.”

 

            I offered my other wrist to Merry, and he sighed happily as he held it.

 

            “ Thank you,” he said, the tremble of the cold leaving his voice as he said it.

 

            When Pippin was sufficiently warmed he let go of my wrist, and I snaked a finger inside of Boromir's long glove, finding his skin beneath the cloth. He was icy cold to the touch.

 

            “ Do not waste it on me,” Boromir said, moving away. “ I can already see the red leaving your cheeks.” He watched me with concern as I moved to Frodo and Sam, who curiously took my wrists.

 

            “ You waited quite a while to let us in on this secret,” Aragorn said, looking at me as Frodo and Sam held my hands to their freezing cheeks.     

 

            “ I had to wait until we had the most dire need for it,” I returned coldly. “ It saps my own heat and energy to offer it. I have not much to spare.” At this, Frodo instantly dropped my hand.

 

            “ I did not mean to be greedy,” he said sweetly. I smiled down at him and touched his chin, which was now a bit warmer.

 

            “ Don't be silly,” I said, leaving my hand on his face. “ You are welcome to it. I am not weakened yet.”

 

            “ And I thought the Ullia's gifts were only myth,” Aragorn said, still staring at me.

 

            “ Then you see at last that they are not,” I said, bringing my hand to his cheek when Sam had released it. Aragorn flinched at my touch, as if I meant to burn him, then took my hand away.

 

            “ Save your strength,” he said. “ I have not the heart to take it from you.” I turned from him then, and saw Boromir staring at us. He looked angry, and I felt suddenly woozy.

 

            “ Listen,” Legolas said, making all of us fall suddenly silent. “ There is a fell voice in the wind.” I listened intently, but I could not hear what he spoke of, only a far off rumble like thunder. The skies above us grew dark, and I did not doubt that Legolas had perceived some ill force at work with his elf ears. The gathering darkness terrified me. I snuck behind Boromir and huddled against the mountain with Merry and Pippin.

 

            “ Saurman,” Gandalf muttered darkly, and suddenly there was a great bursting in the snow above us, as if a bolt of lightening had hit the mountain. Snow and rock came tumbling down, burying us. I clutched Merry and Pippin to me in an effort to keep them warm, but lost Boromir as the white covered my eyes.

 

            I struggled for breath. Merry and Pippin were holding desperately to my arms, and my warmth was draining quickly, as well as my strength. I choked under the weight of the snow, and the cold penetrated me to my bones.

 

            I heard a swishing sort of sound, and Boromir was suddenly above me, thrashing the snow and rocks away.

 

            “ There you are, little wife,” he said with a shaking voice as he uncovered Merry and Pippin as well. I had to rip my hands out of theirs, and when I did I collapsed against Boromir.

 

            “ What did you do?” I heard Sam shout at them.

 

            “ I'm sorry,” I heard Pippin cry. “ I didn't mean to do anything.”

 

            I tried to lift my head to tell him I did not blame him, but I couldn't. I was shaking in Boromir's arms, my teeth chattering.

 

            “ We must get off of this mountain!” Boromir was screaming to Gandalf. “ We must take the Gap of Rohan! This chill will be the death of the halflings and my wife!”

 

            “ We cannot take the Gap of Rohan!” Aragorn called over the howling wind. “ It will take us too close to Isenguard!”

 

            “ Then we shall go through the mines of Moria!” I heard Gimli shout. There was a pause, and then Gandalf spoke:

 

            “ We shall let the ring bearer decide,” he decreed.

 

            “ Then quickly!” Boromir shouted, frantic. “ She is failing.” I tried to open my eyes, to tell them I was fine, only cold, so cold. But I felt as if they had been frozen shut, and was shaking too hard to move.

 

            “ We will go through Moria!” I heard Frodo say in a panicked voice. I then felt Boromir turn, and we begin to move back down the mountain.

 

            The last thing I felt before I fainted away was a small hand on my shoulder as Boromir carried me.

 

            “ Leave her!” I heard Boromir shout.

 

            “ I only wanted to give her back some of her warmth,” I heard Pippin say tearfully. I lost consciousness this way, wishing that I could comfort the young hobbit, wanting to tell him that it had been my mistake, not his. But all went black before I could. 

 

 

In the darkness I found my mother. I had a vision of her, standing on the rim of Mt. Doom, smiling at me as the molten lava inside the volcano glowed behind her. I was floating before her, there but not physically present.

 

            “ Lydia,” she said, and the memory of her voice, once lost to me, made me want to weep. My mother had been beautiful, and so bold. She was much heartier than I had ever been, able to vanquish Nasgul and orc, or any other foul creature who sought to steal the blade she wielded.

 

            “ Mother,” I cried in the dream, but I did not have arms to reach for her.

 

            “ Daughter,” she answered, giving me a knowing smile. “ You seem afraid.”

 

            “ I am afraid,” I cried. “ I am a coward, mother. I have failed you. I am nothing like you were.”

 

            My mother surprised me by lightly laughing at my fears. But then, I remembered, this had been the way she was. Light as air, despite our plight.

 

            “ Do not worry, my darling,” she said. She tossed her long, dark hair over her shoulder. Her gown was glittering with rubies. “ You have not disappointed me. You will not disappoint me.”

 

            “ There is no one left to tell me how to use the blade,” I said.

 

            “ The blade itself will show you in time,” she calmly intoned. As she spoke I began to float slowly away from her.

 

            “ Mother,” I said, weeping. “ Do not leave me. I miss you.”

 

            “ And I miss you,” she said, still smiling at me with a soft look. “ You have not lost me,” she said as the edges of my vision began to crumble. “ I will also come to you in time.”

 

 

            My eyes popped open then, and I sat up, gasping, my forehead crashing into Aragorn's. He jerked backward, and sat rubbing a red spot that my skull left behind, grumbling. I gulped air, staring about me and not seeing, still in my dream. My mother would come to me in time? But how?

 

            Before I had much time to consider it, Boromir dove to my side.

 

            “ Do not be so hasty to sit up, little wife,” he said, and I could hear hours of worry in his voice. He put his arms around me and carefully laid me back down on the blankets I sat on. “ You are still weak,” he told me, stroking the side of my face. 

 

            “ Where are we?” I asked, my voice a croaky whisper.

 

            “ At the foot of the mountain again,” Gandalf said, walking over to us. “ You lost your wits on Catarhas and tried to offer your energy to others without considering the consequences. If I had realized what you were doing I would have stopped you immediately. We are lucky that Aragorn was able to heal you,” he added.

 

            I glanced over at Aragorn, who sat on the ground nearby, his hand on his forehead.

 

            “ She has already thanked me,” he said sarcastically, removing his hand to reveal a bump. I smiled at him.

 

            “ And I thank you,” Boromir said, turning to him. “ Your medicine saved my wife's life.” He touched Aragorn's shoulder, and they smiled tightly at each other.

 

            “ Lydia?” I heard a small voice inquire at my side. I looked over to see Pippin peering at me nervously.

 

            “ Pippin,” I said, smiling at him.

 

            “ I am sorry if we sapped your strength,” Merry said, walking up behind him. “ We did not know that we could.”

 

            “ And nor did I,” I said. “ I am embarrassed to be so unfamiliar with my own capabilities. Do not apologize,” I said, looking to Pippin, who shyly smiled.

 

            “ Now that Lady Lydia is awake, we should leave at once for Moria,” Gimli said, clearly eager to take this path. “ There you will be met with a hospitality you have never experienced before,” he added, smiling down at me. “ The dwarves will take care of you.”

 

            “ I do not think she is ready to travel,” Boromir said, holding my limp hand in his.

 

            “ I'm fine,” I said, though I could not imagine standing.

 

            “ The tonic I gave her will begin working shortly,” Aragorn muttered. “ Just allow her a few more minutes.”

 

            “ I was worried,” Pippin said with a smile, sitting down beside Boromir and I.

 

            “ As was I,” Boromir said, looking down at me. “ What would you say to my taking you back to Rivendell?” he asked me after a pause.

 

            “ No,” I said shortly. Pippin laughed. Boromir gave him a look, and he was quickly quiet.

 

            “ But you are my husband, Boromir,” I said, staring up at him. I felt my strength returning a bit as I spoke. “ You can do with me what you please,” I reminded him. I knew that he would not actually return me to Rivendell. Doing so would mean abandoning the ring bearer.

 

            “ That's not the way it works in Hobbiton, really,” Pippin said innocently. “ Me mum bosses me dad around all the time!”

 

            Boromir and I smiled at each other at this.

 

            “ The choice is yours,” Boromir told me.

 

            “ You know I'll stay,” I told him, and he nodded gravely.

 

            “ I cannot protect you from yourself,” he said. “ Promise me that you will not experiment with the Ullia's gifts again.”

 

            “ I promise,” I said, remembering the vision of my mother. She had told me that the powers I sought would come to me, if I let them. I vowed to give up on

trying to wield them, and to trust instead the advice of both my mother and Gandalf, to let them surface naturally.

 

            As Aragorn had promised, most of my strength returned within a few minutes. I took Boromir's hand and stood, and the others began to pack up again and prepare themselves to head for Moria.

 

            “ I'm sorry I caused a delay,” I said, embarrassed, to Gandalf.

 

            “ Hmm,” he said. “ Do not suppose that it was your fault that we came down the mountain. There was some dark force at work there. I suspect it was Saruman.”

 

            “ Who is that?” I asked.

 

            “ An old friend who now fights against me,” Gandalf said. “ A thirst for power has corrupted his mind.”

 

            We began our journey to Moria then, our hearts a little heavy from the ordeal on the mountain, and only Gimli without fear about this path we had been forced to take through the darkness.