I woke late the next morning, groping for Boromir in the bed. But my hands did not find his sleeping form – he was gone. I opened my eyes and light was streaming in through the arched windows of the room. I blinked and yawned, and called Boromir's name, but he wasn't in the room.
I got out of bed and walked to the window, breathing in the clear air. I realized that I was hungry, and saw that the clothes I had left along the side of the bath yesterday were now washed and neatly folded, sitting on a chair near the door. I decided that I should at least get one more day's use out of my gown, so instead of my traveling costume, I put it on again. I brushed my hair, leaving it down, and walked out of the room to find breakfast.
All of Rivendell seemed to be quiet and empty, though it was already late morning. I began to get worried, then realized it was probably only because Elrond's council was being held. I heard solemn, far away voices as I walked down the main corridor, and saw Merry and Pippin up ahead.
“ Ey, Merry, Pippin!” I called to them. They looked up with surprise – they had been peering through a doorway when I came to them. Merry put a finger to his lips and Pippin waved and smiled. I walked to them and peered around the doorway myself, and saw what they were looking at.
“ The council of Elrond,” Merry whispered.
“ We weren't invited!” Pippin whispered happily from the other side of the door. He had a plate of pastries in his hand, and he picked one up. “ Sticky bun?” he asked, and I accepted.
Out in the courtyard we peered into, elves,dwarves, men and one hobbit were seated in a circle. I saw Gandalf among them. In the center of the circle there was a stone pillar, and on it a gold ring sat. Boromir was speaking. I looked at him – he was now bathed and looking regal in his finest cape.
“ It is a gift,” he was saying, staring intently at the ring. He gave a short speech about how it could aide in Gondor's struggles, and I understood that this was the weapon Denethor had sent him to retrieve. I ate my sticky bun and listened intently with Merry and Pippin.
“ You cannot wield it,” someone said, and I recognized the Strider from the night before. Boromir scoffed at him and dismissed his input as the words of a Ranger.
“ This is no mere Ranger,” an elf said suddenly, standing. He had long, blond hair and looked furious at Boromir's insult. “ He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. You owe him your alligance.” I bit my tongue in surprise at the revelation. I had heard rumors of the absent heir to Gondor's throne – the Ranger I had treated curtly the night before was Gondor's rightful king? Boromir looked just as surprised as I felt, and was speechless for a moment.
“ Gondor has no king,” he said gravely. “ Gondor needs no king.” With that he sat heavily down.
Elrond then proclaimed that the ring must be destroyed. At this one of the dwarves stood suddenly, brandishing an Saxe, and smashed his weapon down upon the gold ring. He flew backwards when he did, his Saxe smashing into many pieces. I saw Boromir exhale with relief.
“ Why does he ask them to destroy it?” I asked Pippin in a whisper.
“ It was made by the dark lord,” Pippin whispered back.
“ It cannot be used for good,” Merry added. “ It can only corrupt. It serves its master.”
I stared at the little ring, which sat, undamaged, on the pillar. This was the weapon that Denethor wanted for Gondor – something that served the dark lord we fought against?
Elrond was explaining that the ring could only be destroyed in the fires of Mt. Doom, where it was forged, as the dwarf righted himself, huffing and embarrassed. My blood boiled when I heard that this tool of Sauron had been made in Mt. Doom, the long ago home of my people, the home that had been stolen from us.
“ One does not simply walk into Mordor,” Boromir said, telling them of the dangers of that dark land. “ It is folly,” he said, seething. I had never seen him so angry. He seemed different that morning, greedy and argumentative. I had expected him to be happy, after we had spent the night in each other's arms at last.
“ Then what would you have us do?” the blond elf challenged, glaring at Boromir. I hated this blond elf at once.
“ I suppose you think you should be the one to carry it,” the dwarf who had attempted to destroy it with his Saxe said, standing up to the elf. I remembered Faramir once telling me that dwarves and elves had a long-standing hatred of one another.
Boromir then stood and shouted, and the dwarf shouted at the elf once more. Even Gandalf stood and joined the fray. I looked back to Elrond as the whole council exploded into argument, and his head was bowed with disappointment. The only one who did not participate in the mass argument was the one hobbit present: Frodo. He sat staring sadly at the ring. I saw his lips move, but I could not make out what he said over the ruckus. He spoke again, and still no one heard. Then, loudly and somberly, he shouted:
“ I will take the ring to Mordor!”
All turned at once and looked at him, surprised and silent.
“ And I will help you,” Gandalf said at last, a sadness in his voice. Next Aragorn volunteered to assist Frodo, then the blond elf, then the over-eager dwarf, and finally Boromir. My heart sunk. No. Boromir could not go to Mordor. I wanted to scream in protest.
Suddenly, from the bushes, Sam appeared, insisting that he go along, too. Elrond looked down on him, and agreed with a sigh.
Before I knew what was happening, Merry and Pippin had run into the courtyard, too.
“ We're coming, too!” Merry announced, and Elrond frowned.
I never would have imagined that I was bold enough to do what I did next, but before I could stop myself, I was walking into the circle.
“ If they go then so do I,” I said plainly, looking at Boromir. He looked quite displeased.
“ Lydia,” he said, furious. “ Do not be ridiculous.”
“ This is not a journey that can accommodate the quester's wives,” Elrond said.
“ Wait a moment,” Gandalf said, staring at me. I met his eyes, and pleaded silently with mine.
“ Elrond,” he said. “ This is the girl I have told you about. The last of the Ullia.” Elrond then regarded me differently, though he still did not seem pleased with my presence.
“ I realize this, Gandalf,” he said. “ But you have also told me that she does not know how to wield the Ruby Blade. Only if she could use that weapon effectively would she be an aide on this quest.”
“ And I forbid it,” Boromir said. “ Lydia, you will return to our room now,” he demanded.
“ Please, Boromir,” I said, my voice a tiny squeak.
“ Do not be so hasty to dismiss your wife, Boromir,” Gandalf said, frowning at him. “ Both of you underestimate the power of peril in bringing out the warrior in the Ullia,” he said, looking back to Elrond.
“ And you underestimate my desire to keep my wife out of peril, wizard,” Boromir snapped.
“ Let me see the Blade,” he said, and I drew it from my sheath. He examined it, turning it over in his hands. He looked long at it, and then at me.
“ Perhaps you are right, Gandalf,” he said at length. “ She would be a suitable companion for Frodo. The Ullia were born in Mt. Doom, after all. And there is a rage in this girl that may develop into something more.”
At this, Gandalf and I looked to Boromir, and the eyes of the rest of the council followed.
“ She will come as far as Minas Tirith with me,” Boromir relented, his voice tight. “ My wife is not traveling to Mt. Doom. I do not care whose blood she possesses.”
I walked to his side at this allowance, so grateful that I had to blink tears away. I took his arm, but he was stiff under my touch.
“ Then you shall be the fellowship of the ring,” Elrond said gravely, looking at the ten of us.
After the council, Rivendell remained quieter than it had been the day before. There was no feast for lunch, as most of the members of the newly formed fellowship had retired to their rooms for somber reflection. As Boromir and I entered ours, I was afraid to speak. I knew that he was furious with me for garnering Gandalf and Elrond's permission to come along after he had forbidden it.
When we walked inside the room Boromir took off his cape and gloves, and laid them aside. He walked to the windows and looked out over Rivendell. I expected him to whirl and scream at me any moment for disobeying his command – he had seemed so quietly livid when we left the courtyard where the council had been held.
I stood in the center of the room, awkward and tense, waiting for him to speak. He turned to me at last.
“ So they mean to destroy the ring,” he said. I could not read his voice, but he seemed calmer.
“ It would seem so,” I said, still unmoving.
“ I still do not believe their plan can work,” Boromir said, looking back out the window. “ Sending a hobbit into Mordor? It is madness.”
“ Then why should we go along with them?” I asked. If Boromir had to participate in this quest then I wanted to come along and at least learn what I could from Gandalf, but I would prefer that he did not go at all. I had a dark feeling about the trip already.
Boromir was quiet for a long time, and I could not tell if he was considering my question or hiding something from me.
“ We must do what we can to help,” he said at last. “ Their path will take them past Minas Tirith, and we will stay with them until we reach our home.”
“ What will you tell Denethor?” I asked. Boromir's face darkened.
“ I will know when we reach Minas Tirith,” he said, and I didn't understand what he meant. I walked to him and placed a hand on his back.
“ Why did you ask to come along?” he asked, turning to me. I looked up at him.
“ Because I feel that I could contribute,” I told him. “ Because I feel that I can learn from Mithrandir – if not how to wield the sword then at least how to develop my control over fire.”
“ Is that the only reason?” Boromir asked. He touched my face. I was surprised with his gentle demeanor. Where had all of his anger disappeared to?
“ I admit that I do not want to be left here without you,” I said, my voice small. “ Or return to Minas Tirith alone.”
“ This journey will not take you past Osgilith, either,” Boromir said, his words heavy with another meaning.
“ I have given up any hope of ever reaching that place,” I said, my voice a tear-filled whisper. Boromir bent and kissed the corner of my left eye. The feel of his lips on my skin sent a trembling pleasure down through my body, and I found it unfair, as I was mourning the loss of Faramir in the moment. We would not go past Osgilith. Was that why Boromir thought that I wanted to venture on with him? No, the reason was much more terrible, and it made me feel so low that I did not even want to see Faramir again, for if I did he would know that I had changed.
I wanted to go because I could not bear to lose Boromir, too. I wanted to stay by his side. I was falling in love with him.
That night there was a more modest dinner, and Boromir and I left early. The next morning the fellowship would set out for Mordor, or, in mine and Boromir's case, Minas Tirith. I was nervous, and certain that Elrond and Gandalf would regret recommending me to the quest. I was fooling myself if I thought that I wanted to venture forth with the ring in order to become a warrior. I was only a lovesick girl, pining for her husband and unwilling to leave his side.
When Boromir and I returned to our room that night we both undressed in silence, and I put on my nightgown. Boromir climbed into bed before I did, and I lingered at the window for a moment before I followed him in. Another night in Rivendell, awash in the moonlight. Our last night, and I would be sorry to leave.
I got into bed and waited for Boromir to find me under the blankets. But he laid, unmoving, facing away from me.
“ Boromir?” I said, testing to see if he was still awake.
“ Hmm?” he said, half-turning.
“ Do you think that I will be – competent – on this mission?” I asked.
“ You regret asking to come along,” Boromir said, turning to me.
“ No,” I said. “ But I worry that I will make a fool of myself.”
Boromir touched my face.
“ I will keep you safe,” he promised. “ There will be no need for you to lift that sword from its sheath.”
I smiled and said no more. I was both disheartened and comforted by Boromir's words. I did not want to ride into war. And yet, I did not want to sit useless while those I loved fought for my safety.
Boromir kept his hand on my cheek, his thumb absently stroking my temple. I scooted forward, the tip of my nose pressed to his.
“ Please,” he said, turning onto his back and looking at the ceiling. “ Do not tempt me, Lydia. I have been lonely for you.”
“ I am not trying to tempt you,” I said, and he turned to me.
“ Then you are sincere in your advances?” he asked. My mouth fell open but I did not know what I meant to say. I curled into myself, growing suddenly nervous.
“ I – I don't know,” I said, backing away again. Boromir groaned, and rolled away from me.
“ You want me to take what is rightfully mine, to make the decision for you,” he said. “ Then the guilt of it will fall on me instead of you.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but as soon as I did I realized he was right. My feelings for Faramir would always stop me from moving to take any physical comfort in Boromir. But when he inched closer to me, when he hinted at his own desire, I wanted to lie still and let him have me.
“ There is part of me that longs to do it,” Boromir admitted. “ But I have my own reservations. For I know that, if my brother walked through the door now, you would fly to him. If he offered you some solace, you would forget this quest. You would forget me.”
“ I would not forget you,” I said, leaning up on my elbow and looking down at him, around his shoulder. “ I could not.” I kissed his neck and he exhaled deeply, shutting his eyes.
“ Would you not regret it if you gave yourself to me?” he asked.
“ I have nothing to give,” I said, avoiding the question. “ I am your wife. I am already yours.”
“ Then the burden of betraying my brother does fall on me,” Boromir said, and I sank back down onto the bed behind him.
“ There is no hope left for Faramir and I,” I said, my voice hollow and broken. Boromir was silent for a moment.
“ But you still love him,” he said, a kind of question in a statement.
“ Yes,” I said automatically, without thinking. My face contorted in a silent sob after I said it. I kept my tears quiet, but I knew Boromir could feel my crying shaking the bed.
We slept on opposite sides of the bed that night. I was long awake, restless and worried about the journey ahead. But before long, my mental preparation for the quest gave way to a fantasy of what Boromir had suggested. Faramir flinging open the door of the bedroom and whisking me away.
Would I go? I wondered, picturing my love's smiling face as he lifted me away from all of this. Would I be able to go, leaving Boromir alone in the bed as we slipped out the door?