The celebration that Denethor threw for his beloved son's wedding was the finest Minas Tirith had ever seen. The dress I wore had belonged to Boromir and Faramir's mother, and she had worn it when wedding Denethor. It was the most beautiful garment I had ever seen, white satin with delicate embroidery. But I felt as if I were looking at it, looking at my reflection in the mirror as the attendants dressed me, looking at the banners and flowers that decorated the city, from very far away. I could not enjoy them. It was the wedding I had always dreamed of, but I was marrying the wrong brother.
I saw Boromir for the first time since the night our engagement had been announced when I walked down the aisle. Since that night I had been in my room, lying in bed, ignoring Ywavine's attempts to get me to eat something, to bathe. Those hours spent in bed were the precious hours that I had planned on spending with Faramir before he returned to Osgilith, and I was all too conscious that being alone with him would now be strictly forbidden. I had been claimed by another. I hated the idea of it, that I had no say in who I was to spend the rest of my days with.
On the morning of the wedding, for Boromir's sake, I had tried not to betray my misery. I had allowed the attendants to bathe me and had even eaten breakfast. When I walked down the aisle, approaching Boromir, who stood decked out in full regalia, I held my head high. I could not smile, but I did not cry, did not tremble, did not flee. I knew that this was not Boromir's doing, and I did not want to humiliate him. I stood beside him at the alter and we were officially married.
“ You may kiss your bride,” the officiant told Boromir, and he kissed me, shortly and dryly, a look of pity and understanding on his face. I felt sorry for him, too. He knew the depth of the love Faramir and I felt for each other, knew that he was marrying someone who could not love him. But he was just as reluctant as Faramir was to go against his father's wishes.
We walked down the aisle to much cheering, and Boromir had to do the smiling for the both of us. We were led to a reception hall where a feast for kings was served, and we both drank plentifully.
“ Where is Faramir?” were the only words I spoke to Boromir during the festivities, in between guests' congratulations and well wishing.
“ He asked to leave early for Osgilith,” Boromir whispered back. “ Lydia, I am sorry,” he said, keeping his eyes ahead, keeping his joyous face on for the attendants, and his father. I shook my head.
“ It doesn't matter anymore,” I said, deadened. I took a long drink of wine, draining my goblet.
Boromir and I were lavished with gifts. I was given gown after gown, handfuls of glittering jewelry, and embroidered tablecloths, bed sheets and tapestries. I thanked each gifter solemnly as they added their offerings to the pile.
When everyone had presented their gifts, and I had finished two more goblets of wine, Denethor approached us. He gave Boromir a beautifully decorated ceremonial sword, and a small, silver ring that had belonged to his mother. He then stepped in front of me.
“ Lydia,” he said warmly. “ My daughter in law. For you, I have a gift that I admit I do not fully understand. But your husband has asked that I present it to you as a wedding gift, and so I give to you freely. I hope you will find it as charming as he suspected you would.”
Denethor then produced for me a box, and placed it on the table before me. As soon as I touched it I knew what was inside, and my breath caught. I looked to Boromir, wondering how he knew. I opened the box, and stroked that which I had dreamed of for so long. The Ruby Blade.
“ I love it,” I said, tears coming into my eyes. I looked to Boromir, and he leaned to me and tenderly kissed my temple. The guests applauded the gesture. Denethor turned and walked back to his seat, and when he did, Boromir leaned down to my ear.
“ Faramir told me to request it for you,” he whispered. I stared at him, tears streaming down my cheeks, and I nodded.
That night, we were followed to our honeymoon suite by cheering guests, as was custom. My head was pounding from too much wine, and I was exhausted and broken from the charade. Boromir waved to the guests when we reached his room, and I was happy to leave them once we were inside.
Boromir's room was far richer than Faramir's humble chamber, with thick carpets over the stone floors, and a large fireplace. A fire had been set there by servants, who had also left out another bottle of wine for us, and had covered Boromir's bed with flower petals.
When we entered, we did not immediately speak. I sat on the floor beside the fire, still clutching the box that held the Ruby Blade to my chest. The rest of the wedding presents would be brought to us later, but I had insisted on carrying mine back to the room myself. Boromir took off his medals and ceremonial jacket, then his boots. Standing in his shirt and pants, he opened the bottle of wine.
“ Would you like some?” he asked me, raising the bottle.
“ I've already had too much,” I muttered from the floor. Boromir shrugged, and drank from the bottle.
“ Please,” I said, my voice shaking. “ Might we consummate the marriage as soon as possible? I am so tired, I do not think I can keep my eyes open much longer.” They clouded with tears as I spoke. Boromir sighed and walked to me, sat down on the floor with the wine still in his hand.
“ Lydia,” he said, and I looked up at him. “ I do not expect to lie with you tonight. I know that you love my brother, and would not ask it of you.”
I nodded, crying with relief and stroking the box in my hands.
“ I am sorry,” I cried. “ I should have known that.”
“ Come here,” Boromir said, setting aside the wine and holding his arms out to me. I set the Blade's box down, reluctantly, and then collapsed against him, sobbing. He stroked my hair.
“ I do not know what to do,” he said, his voice soft. “ In several days I leave for Rivendell. It will be a long journey. While I am gone you will have time to decide what you wish to do.”
“ What I wish to do?” I said, sitting up and looking at him, sniffling. “ I have no opportunity to decide anything. I can run into my mother's blade or stay in Gondor as your wife.”
“ Lydia,” Boromir said. “ Do not talk of harming yourself. Is a marriage to me cause for death?”
“ Only because I love him,” I said, shaking my head. “ A marriage to anyone else is betrayal.” Boromir sighed.
“ He would not have let you marry him, Lydia,” he said.
“ What do you mean?” I asked.
“ My father,” Boromir answered. “ He would not have allowed Faramir to marry you. He would have found some other way to prevent it, if not this.”
“ How can he hate his own son so much?” I asked, crying again.
“ It is not Faramir he hates,” Boromir said. “ It is the loss of my mother.”
“ That is a child's logic,” I spat.
“ One becomes irrational when they lose someone they love,” Boromir said, and his sentiment did not escape me. I looked away.
“ Please,” Boromir said. “ While I am gone, think about making the best of this. I am not a bad man, Lydia. I know you are now too close to your love for Faramir to think of it, but I could make you happy, someday. Consider it, while I am away.”
I scooted out of his lap, and reached for the box that held the blade. I opened it, and stroked its ruby hilt.
“ No,” I said quietly.
“ You will not consider it?” Boromir asked.
“ I will not stay,” I said, lifting the blade out of the box. “ I will go with you to Rivendell.”
“ Lydia,” he said, shaking his head. “ It is a long and tiresome journey. You are not suited for it.”
“ I am suited for more than you might expect,” I said, looking at the fire reflected on the blade I held.
“ What is the meaning of this wedding gift that my brother asked me to secure for you?” Boromir asked, watching me hold the blade with a nervous expression.
“ It was always mine,” I answered. “ You found it in the forest when the two of you came upon me for the first time. Don't you remember?”
“ Ah, yes,” said Boromir, looking to his lap. “ Father made much of my 'saving' you in his speech the other night, didn't he? It was Faramir who saved you. I would not have noticed your tiny hand amongst the brush.”
“ So,” I said, not wanting to discuss Denethor's selective memory. “ Will you take me to Rivendell with you?”
“ My father will not like it,” Boromir said, frowning. “ This is a mission for the security of Gondor, not a honeymoon.”
“ Do you not have dominion over your own wife?” I asked, tired of bending to Denethor's will. “ Has he the power to forbid it, if you wish it?”
“ But I do not wish it,” Boromir said gravely. “ It is a dangerous journey, and I would worry for your safety.”
“ Boromir,” I said, reaching into my reserves, desperate not to be left alone in Gondor again, waiting, always waiting. “ If you wish to have any hope of someday gaining my love, I must be in your company. I will not grow to love you sitting here in your absence.”
It was not true, and I felt guilty for the lie. I knew no man had any hope of drawing my love away from Faramir. But I could not bear the idea of being left behind, waiting for news of my husband and my love, not knowing even if they were alive.
Boromir was staring at me.
“ I have just realized,” he said, his voice changed, quieter. “ You are wearing my mother's dress.”
“ Yes,” I said, looking down at the beautiful garment, touching the beading around the neckline. “ You know it?”
“ I have seen a portrait,” Boromir said looking away. “ Of my mother and father on their wedding day. I recognize it from that likeness.”
“ Do you remember your mother?” I asked.
“ No,” he said, a deep sadness in his voice. “ I was but three years old when she passed from this world.”
I reached over and touched his face, which was heavy with worry and sorrow. He looked older than his years, having seen much in battle, carried much weight in his family.
“ We should go to bed,” he said, standing and letting my hand fall away. “ tomorrow we leave for Rivendell.”
“ Thank you,” I said in a whisper, shutting the Ruby Blade back into its box. I stood, and reached behind me.
“ Will you help me with this?” I asked, having no attendants to undress me. He walked to me, and I tensed as he undid the buttons, the dress falling open behind me. I thanked him, and he turned away. I could not help but think of his mother and father's wedding night, of the pleasure Denethor must have felt in helping his wife out of this dress. I even let myself imagine Faramir helping me out of the same dress, how I would have turned into his arms when I was free of it, burning with anticipation.
I put on the nightgown that had been made for my wedding night. It was also white, also beautiful. When I turned to the bed Boromir had already settled in amongst the flower petals, his back turned away from me.
I climbed in beside him, and turned in the other direction, not touching him. It broke my heart to do so, even though I did not want to make love to him. I did long for some kind of comfort, and wished that I could at least turn and lie against him while I slept. But I did not want him to misinterpret my meaning, and so I laid still.
I could not sleep, that night. My mind was heavy with worry, my heart was in the shadowy ruins of Osgilith, seeking Faramir there. My eyes would not leave the long box by the fireside, the Blade punishing me with insomnia for all the nights that I had let it fall from my mind.
The next morning, we were seen off with ceremony as we began our journey to Rivendell. As Boromir had predicted, Denethor did not like the idea of my going along.
“ Do not let your bride distract you from your purpose,” I heard him mutter to Boromir as we were preparing to leave.
Ywavine and Wendym. also saw us off, and Ywavine was weeping and asking why I had to go on such a dangerous journey.
“ There is nothing left for me in Gondor,” I told her coldly, turning from her. I heard her fly away behind me, crying. Part of me felt horrible, for her kindness had once saved my life. But I felt so betrayed by her that I ignored this nagging guilt. She had known that I loved Faramir, and had dismissed that love in favor of furthering her station in the kingdom.
I had been suited in attire for travel, and was getting many disapproving stares from the ladies of Gondor as Boromir and I rode to the gates. I wore pants, which was unheard of and scandalous. I had insisted upon them, however, as riding a horse in a dress was not something that would suit a long journey. The attendants who outfitted me had in turn insisted upon a small, red wrap around my waist that resembled a skirt, and a colorful, embroidered belt around it that added some dimension of femininity. Otherwise I was dressed as a man, in a practical white shirt under a tunic with Gondor's white tree on the breast. I waited until I was out of sight of the palace to slide a sheath Boromir had procured for me over my breast. I pulled the box that held the Ruby Blade from the pack on the back of my horse, and slid it into the sheath.
“ You mean to wield that sword?” Boromir asked, riding beside me.
“ Why shouldn't I?” I asked, though the idea of using the sword in actual combat was indeed terrifying.
“ First of all,” he said, “ You have never held a blade in practice, to my knowledge. Also, the jewels on the hilt make it rather heavy, even for a grown man to bear.”
I looked at him like he was mad. The sword felt as light as a wooden arrow to me. I chose not to tell him this, though, not wanting to reveal my true identity to him just yet.
“ Will our course take us past Osgilith?” I asked, dying for even a glimpse of Faramir before we left Gondor.
“ No,” Boromir said stonily. “ We travel in the opposite direction.”
My shoulders fell, and we rode in silence after that. We rode until evening, and then stopped to make camp.
“ Where are we?” I asked as I climbed off my horse. Boromir took it's reigns and tethered both of the horses to a tree.
“ A day's journey from Edoras, in Rohan,” Boromir said. “ We should be able to stay in an inn there tomorrow night.” He took his pack down from his horse and began to erect a tent for us to sleep in.
“ Shall I build a fire?” I asked.
“ Do you know how?” Boromir countered. I scowled at him.
“ How hard could it be?” I asked. He did not answer, and I began to search around the camp for twigs and branches. I gathered the ones I found into a pile, then went to find rocks to place around the edges. When I came back with an armful of them, Boromir had rearranged the kindling and firewood into an organized stack.
“ Look,” he said, as I set the rocks around it. “ You place the kindling at the bottom, inside a sort of box that you create by stacking the branches.”
“ I see,” I muttered, my pride a little wounded. I realized that there would be much on this journey that I would know nothing about, and that I should try to learn as much from Boromir as I could. But I had a prideful streak that became offended when I was corrected. Boromir pushed the rocks in closer to the branches, further irritating me. I did not see the difference that the space of half an inch made.
“ Now,” Boromir said, digging in his pack. “ This is a piece of flint used for sparking a flame. You strike it against a rock, like so,” he said, demonstrating. It took him a few tries, then a tiny spark caught against the kindling. He put the rock back in it's place and returned the flint to his pack.
“ Now blow on the kindling gently,” he instructed. I rolled my eyes at the condescending tone in his voice, and blew, perhaps harder than I should have. But it did not matter, for the force of my breath did not extinguish the flame. It had quite the opposite effect.
I screamed and jumped backward as a sudden, angry flame shot up from the fire, which came to life in a furious burst of heat. I fell backward, and saw that the hem of my pants had caught fire. I moved my hand frantically to try and put it out, and as soon as I did the flame there shot away.
“ What is this dark magic?” Boromir shouted, drawing his sword and spinning round the campsite, looking for a hidden enemy.
“ Boromir, stop,” I said when I regained my voice, my heart still beating furiously against my chest. He looked over, then ran to me, bending down.
“ Are you alright?” he asked, touching my face, assessing my body. “ Were you burned?”
“ No,” I said, rolling up the leg of my pants and checking my ankle. It was unmarred.
“ You unnaturally warm!” Boromir said, touching my forehead, my arm, a look of distress crossing his face. “ Your skin nearly burns my hand.” He looked up around us, into the growing darkness, still clutching his sword.
“ We should leave now,” he said. “ There is some foul sorcery at work in these woods.”
“ No,” I said, touching his shoulder, shaking my head. “ Put your sword away. It is nothing.”
“ Nothing!” Boromir said, turning to look at the fire, which had now died down to a normal size. “ That sudden flame nearly engulfed you.”
“ It would not have,” I said, a sinking feeling growing in my chest as I realized that I would have to explain who I was sooner than I would have liked. “ It was of my creation,” I admitted. Boromir frowned, and put his sword away.
“ You?” he said. “ But you are no sorceress.”
“ I am not, you are right,” I said. “ But I am Ullia. We came from the place you call Mt. Doom, before that place was made evil. We have some control over the element of fire, though I was never told how to harness this power. What just happened was not my intention. It surprised me, as well.”
Boromir sat down heavily, and stared at me with concern for a few moments.
“ Then you are not from Erandis?” he said, thoughtfully stroking his chin.
“ No,” I answered, ashamed.
“ Then you lied to all of us,” Boromir said, disappointment in his voice.
“ I did,” I admitted. “ But I was only a frightened child. I had nothing else. I let the people of Gondor believe what they wished about me.”
“ Does Faramir know about this?” Boromir asked, surprising me with the question.
“ Yes,” I said. “ He keeps the only evidence of my secret for me: a pendant that was around my neck when the two of you found me.”
“ I do not know what to say,” Boromir said with a sigh. “ I have heard of the Ullia, but I thought they were myth.”
“ Not myth,” I said. “ Just nearly extinct. Because of this,” I said, sliding the sword from the sheath on my back. Boromir looked at it with curiosity.
“ That blade has some power?” he asked.
“ Yes,” I said. “ But I do not know what it is, or how to access it. I have searched every book in the royal library of Minas Tirith for any mention of it, but if there was any it was in a language I could not understand.” I slid the blade back into it's sheath. “ And yet, there is an inherited drive in me to protect and keep it.”
“ I have heard that the origin of the Ullia is with the gods,” Boromir said, looking at me with new distance. “ That the goddess of fire took an elf lover, and their union gave birth to the Ullia.”
“ I do not know if that is true,” I said. “ But that is the legend we are taught to believe. Often I have doubted it's truth, because the Ullia I knew were mortal, and lacked the gifts and look of the elves.”
Boromir looked at me for a long time.
“ You could have escaped the marriage to me if you had told my father what you have just told me,” he said at last. “ He would not have allowed a marriage to a woman who was not from Gondor.”
“ I know,” I said, looking down at my hands. “ But I would have been cast out of Gondor for betraying everyone.”
“ You would have no hope of seeing Faramir again,” Boromir interpreted darkly. I nodded.
“ Lydia,” he said, standing and looking down at me. “ I will endure the private humiliation of the knowledge that my wife loves my brother. But you must promise me that you will no longer seek him out. I will not be cuckolded in the name of your love. There I draw the line.”
“ Boromir, I will not betray you!” I said, standing. The promise was sincere, and it broke my spirit to make it.
“ I will trust this,” he said. “ Despite the lies about your being from Erandis.”
“ Thank you,” I said. “ I will not disappoint you.”
“ I do not understand, though,” Boromir said, looking away from me. “ How you will be able to stand looking upon the person whom you love, when you are not able to be together.”
His words made me nervous, and I prayed that he was not implying that this dilemma was his, too.
“ For the moment, that is not a concern,” I said, turning from the subject. “ I am more concerned with cooking dinner, for I am very hungry.”
We cooked some sausages that we had brought from Minas Tirith, and ate them with bread.
“ Here,” Boromir said, standing and going to his pack as we were eating. He pulled out the bottle of wine that had been left for us on our wedding night, which was still mostly full.
“ It's quite good,” he said, holding it up. I smiled.
“ I will have some, then,” I said, charmed by the gesture.
“ I have no goblets,” he said, sitting down beside me again.
“ Never mind goblets,” I said, taking the bottle and drinking from it, then passing it to him. He laughed, and drank.
“ This is quite a wife I have,” he said, grinning. “ Wearing man's clothing, and drinking with me like a comrade in arms.”
And in love with your brother, I thought but did not say. Instead I took another bite of my meal, smiled and shrugged my shoulders.
Boromir and I finished our meal and half the bottle of wine, and I stumbled, quite sleepy, toward the tent when we were through. He cleaned up a bit around the campsite, and I sat inside the tent, holding the flap open for him.
“ Go inside and go to sleep,” he said, sitting back beside the fire. “ I will stay here and keep watch.”
“ Oh,” I said, again finding myself disappointed that I couldn't at least lie beside my husband, couldn't take some comfort in the heat of his body. “ Well, then, wake me when the night is half through, and I shall take my turn.” Boromir laughed.
“ And what will you do if danger approaches?” he asked.
Wake you, I thought, but instead proudly answered:
“ I think I could do something with the fire. I frightened even you before.”
“ Rest as long as you need to,” Boromir said, waving a hand at me. “ I will sleep tomorrow when we are within the borders of Edoras.”
Too tired to argue any longer, I slipped inside the tent and laid down on the blankets Boromir had spread there. I settled down onto my side, but found myself uneasy with the Ruby Blade strapped against my back, now that I was in the wilderness. I took it from its sheath and cradled it in my arms as I slept, the cool metal against my cheek replacing the warm shoulder of a husband.