Lalaith Elerrina--Ward of Rivendell - Chapter 28

Chapter 28

The shadowy fear that Lalaith had felt earlier, only grew greater as she hurried at a near run, deeper into the trees, and the almost overwhelming urge to turn and run back to Legolas and the others insistently nagged at her. But she stayed true to her course, certain that for the moment, Frodo needed her more. She followed a course that led slowly upward, up the side of Amon Hen, passing the ancient stone remnants of the occupation of Men here. Old stone steps led upward, broken here and there, by the wear of time. And statues, ancient and moss covered were ever present, scattered throughout the shade of the trees, their sightless eyes gazing down upon her.

Her quiver upon her back, laden with arrows of Lorien, as well as Legolas' old bow, and her own two knives, gave her some comfort, but she sensed that the darkness she could feel coming at them, could not be held at bay simply by her own weapons.

She was beginning to wonder if she had taken a different path than the Man and the Hobbit had, when she heard a voice through the trees. Boromir's voice, and she knew he had found Frodo. It did not sound angry at all, but still Lalaith broke into a run, following it where it came floating at her through the trees, from up the slope of the hill. For all the amiability in his voice, she knew Boromir had followed Frodo for one reason. For the Ring.

The spark of suspicion that had been smoldering within her, flickered into a bright flame when she heard Boromir's words grow angry, and escalate into shouting. The trees began to part, and she could see Boromir fling down an armload of deadwood to the ground as he advanced on the Hobbit who looked frightened, as he retreated from the much larger human.

"I ask only for the strength to defend my people!" Boromir insisted. He held out his hand, partly in pleading, though he seemed more to demand it, than ask. "If you would but lend me the ring."

"No." Frodo spoke, and Lalaith could hear the insistence, and the fear in his tone as the Hobbit drew back even further. Though her lungs were already taxed from her hurried jog through the trees up the slope of the hill, she only doubled her efforts, now, and broke into a near sprint, dodging trees, and leaping dead logs as she rushed as straight as she could, toward the two.

"Why do you recoil?" Boromir continued as the Hobbit continued to back away. "I am no thief."

"You are not yourself." Frodo spat insistently.

"What chance do you think you have?" Boromir demanded, his words a whispered hiss. "They will find you. They will take the Ring. And you will beg for death before the end!"

With a sneer of disgust, Frodo turned away, and started to march away, with the air that Boromir should consider this the end of his attempt to take the ring.

"You fool!" Boromir raged suddenly. "It is not yours, save by unhappy chance! It could have been mine!" He started after Frodo, who, glancing back at him, broke into a run. But the Hobbit's short legs were no match for the Man's longer stride.

Boromir tackled the small Hobbit just as Lalaith skidded to a stop beside them, and breathlessly shouted, "Boromir! Stop! Let him go!" She hesitated to reach out a hand, fearing that Boromir, in his madness, might strike out at her before he knew who she was.

"It should be mine!" Boromir shouted, wrestling Frodo for the Ring. He had not heard her at all. "Give it to me! Give it to me!"

"No!" Frodo yelled, pulling something from beneath his shirt. For all the struggling going on between the two, Lalaith could not see what it was. But when Frodo suddenly vanished into the air, she realized it had been the One Ring, and that he had shoved it onto his finger.

Boromir paused also, long enough for the now invisible Hobbit, to kick him away. Lalaith heard a flurry of leaves as Frodo scrambled to his feet, and suddenly, as if from nowhere, an invisible force plowed into her stomach, and knocked her back a step.

"Frodo?" She gasped, reaching out, her hands closing on two small shoulders, feeling the rough cloth of Frodo's cloak and coat beneath her hands, though, to her eyes, it appeared as if her hands were closing over nothing but empty air.

"Very good, Lalaith! Hold onto him!" Boromir barked, jumping up. "The little imp will take the Ring to Sauron! He will betray us, if you let him go!"

Glaring at Boromir's angry face, Lalaith gave a derisive hiss, and released her hold on the small invisible shoulders. She heard mumbled thanks, and felt a brush of his cloak as Frodo darted past her. A log behind her clattered, as the Hobbit leaped over it, but she did not turn to look. Her eyes were focused on Boromir now, his eyes red with fury, and fixed now, upon her.

"You let him go." Boromir growled as he studied Lalaith's uncurled fingers, and heard the flurry as the Hobbit ran away. "He is going to his death, now. And the death of us all!" His eyes narrowed accusingly, and a fire raged in his eyes. For the first time since she had known him, Lalaith suddenly felt afraid of Boromir.

"You let him go!" Boromir shouted, advancing at her, as he had at Frodo, his eyes lit with mindless madness. "Why did you not heed me?"

Lalaith stumbled backward with a frightened gasp, a tree catching her in the back, and she could retreat no further.

"Curse you!" Boromir railed at her, stomping nearer. "And all Elves and Halflings!" He raised his gloved hand as if to backhand her across the face, and she gasped and flinched, turning her head, awaiting the impact of his strike, shutting her eyes against the pain she knew was coming.

She waited. But it did not come.

After a long moment, she slowly cracked one eye open, followed quickly by the other, when she saw Boromir, no longer enraged, no longer an angry shadow towering above her, ready to strike her. Instead, he was kneeling. Kneeling at her feet. He had pulled his gloves off, flung them aside, and was staring at his hands as if he could not believe what he saw.

"I almost struck her." He mumbled, his face bent downward to the ground. "I almost hit Lalaith. Oh, Great Eru, what have I done?"

Lalaith caught a breath in her lungs, frozen, still pressed against the tree, as Boromir covered his face shamefully with his hands. "Forgive me, Lalaith!" He choked between wracked breaths. "I am sorry."

"Boromir, what has happened to you?" Lalaith pleaded, her limbs suddenly weak with shock in the aftermath of her fear. Her lips trembled, and she could feel the tears in her eyes pushing over the edges of her lashes.

Boromir flinched as if in physical agony, and bent his head downward again. "When will I cease to hurt you?" He moaned bitterly. "When will I do anything that does not somehow cause you pain?"

"Boromir-?" Lalaith asked, taking a step forward, toward the Man's crumpled form.

"At our first meeting." Boromir choked, lifting his head, and glancing up at her through glassy eyes. "So eager was I to hope that there was no real love between you and Legolas, that I boorishly suggested that your betrothal was arranged. Do you remember?

"Then in Lothlorien." Boromir continued, gulping hard. "The morning after you had looked into the Lady's Mirror, and you discovered your past, when Legolas dared not even touch you. I followed you when you ran into the forest, demanding you tell me what had happened. And it was not my place, nor my right to do so.

"And then on the river." Boromir pressed ahead, his voice thick now, with self-loathing. "I came between you and Legolas. I made the accusations I did, warranting more than the mere slap you gave me."

He finished, his voice heavy with mournful hopelessness. "When have I done anything that hasn't hurt you?"

Lalaith swallowed softly, gazing down at Boromir where he knelt in misery, not truly expecting an answer from her, for he believed she had none to give him. And then she remembered, opened her mouth, and softy answered, "When has a day past since our first meeting, when you have not thought of another before yourself?"

Boromir lifted his head, straining to see her. He shook his head, not understanding.

"Boromir, you remember what you have done wrong." She murmured. "But do you remember all that you have done right? Do you remember the flower you gave me at our first meeting?" She lowered herself to her knees before him, and gazed at him beseechingly. "It was not expected or required of you. It was a simple gesture of admiration and respect. And kindness! Never have I met a kinder Man than you, Boromir. How good you have been to Merry and Pippin, though Varda knows their antics would drive many others mad!" Boromir's eyes began slowly to clear, and a hopeful smile pulled at the corners of his lips. "How often have I woken to find your cloak about me as we traveled. Just last night, you again covered me, though you needed your cloak more than I did."

Lalaith smiled softly and continued, "In Lothlorien, when I had discovered my parentage, and I was heartbroken because Legolas believed himself unworthy of me, you followed me because you cared. You were worried about me."

Lalaith gulped hard, blinking her eyes to hold back new tears. Her words faded as she remembered the one thing Boromir had done, for which she could never repay him, or give enough thanks to him. "And in Moria, you saved his life." She murmured softly. "My heart's one love would be dead, were it not for you, my dear, dear friend."

"Your friend." Boromir murmured sadly.

"Yes." Lalaith nodded. She gulped, and scrambled to her feet. She turned her back to Boromir, and took a few steps away from him, only to hear him rise to his own feet, and take a tentative step after her. "For I love only Legolas, and you know well of Sauron's curse." She sighed raggedly, and tried to laugh softly. "You would never do anything rash, knowing it would mean your inevitable death." She turned slowly, to see Boromir standing a few paces from her, gazing down at her, with softness in his eyes. "Would you, Boromir?" She finished softly, suddenly unsure.

For a long moment, Boromir was silent as he dropped his eyes to his hands. At last, in a voice that was as quiet as a breath of wind, Boromir spoke. "I know I am not as Legolas, for indeed, I have not the length of years that Elves are blessed with, or the wisdom that comes with them." Boromir studied his hands as they clenched and unclenched. Lalaith looked at them as he did, and noticed how much they were trembling. "I do not wish to take his place in your affections, for it is he whom you love, and no other." Boromir gulped softly, "But my heart will burst if I cannot tell you of a truth, that I love you."

Lalaith shuddered, her gaze taking on a look of sudden horror. An icy fear seized her in its cold grip, threatening to close off her breath.

"I love you." Boromir repeated plaintively. "With what I possess, though I could never equal him in worthiness, I love you as much as such a mortal as I, am capable."

"No, Boromir. You can't! You-" she stammered. She shook her head violently. "You are no different than Haldir. He once asked for my consent to marry him. I denied him, but he has recovered! He has found another, and he loves Lothriel so much more than he could ever have loved me. You can do the same."

Boromir sighed at her words, and dropped his eyes. "I am me, Lalaith. Not the March Warden of Lothlorien. What I feel for you, cannot end. I know I am but a child in your eyes. I know you are certain that you know better than me. I know you wish to save me from grief and pain. But it is too late, Lalaith. I fear it was too late the moment I first ever saw you in Rivendell."

"No, Boromir," she whispered. "You could not. How could you have loved me at our first meeting? You did not even know me."

"But I did know you, somehow."

"No, Boromir." She shook her head violently. "You could die for loving me. Do you not understand? I am cursed! Any mortal who loves me as you claim to, will die for that love! Eolyn loved me as her own child, and she died, Boromir! If you want to live, forget your feelings for me! Go away. Far away! Leave the Fellowship and return to Minas Tirith, if you must. You will find that you come to your senses soon enough."

Boromir shook his head, and though he did not lift his eyes to meet hers, she could hear the emotion in his voice as he spoke. "From the first moments when I saw you, when I called out to you and you turned to me, from the moment I saw your face, I knew I could love no other. Even if you never loved me, I could love none but you." Boromir gulped hard, and glanced at her momentarily before he looked away again. "It was more than the beauty of your face that captured my heart, Lalaith. There is something deeper within you that I found myself loving, that has only ensnared me all the more as we have traveled together upon this quest. Perhaps I was born to do no more than love you from afar as I have, and if in loving you, I am required to die for you, then I will do so, only willingly."

"No!" Lalaith protested vehemently. "No, Boromir. Listen to yourself!" She tried to hide her misery with anger, but was unsuccessful as she caught a sob in her throat. "It is madness, what you are saying!"

"How could it be madness?" He murmured gently. "Is it madness that Legolas loves you? That he would willingly die for you?"

Lalaith shuddered at the thought and answered softly, "If Legolas were to die, my heart would die with him." She finished in a whisper. "My life would end, with his."

"Because you love him!" Boromir blurted raggedly. "Your heart is bound to him forever. You cannot live without him, any more than you could live without breath. But my life is not so valued to you, as is his. Were I to die, you would mourn me for a time, and then, Lalaith," he gulped hard, "you would recover."

Grief gripped her heart in a merciless fist at these words, and a sob wracked her. "No, Boromir. Do not speak like that! I do not want you to die." She covered her face in her hands, fighting to remain afloat in this tumultuous sea of frightened emotions.

Lalaith shuddered as she felt Boromir step forward and catch her arms in his sturdy, calloused hands. "But what I said, is true. You bear no great love for me. No more love than that which you feel for a friend." He, took a breath and continued, his voice soft, and sorrowful. "Still, I cannot deny the love I have felt for you from our first meeting. And if I can do nothing to show you that love, save to die for you, I am willing and ready."

"How can you say that?" Lalaith choked in angry disbelief, wrenching at the hold he had upon her, and pounding her fists weakly against his chest. "You would throw your life away, on a whim? You do not know what you are saying! You are a fool, Boromir! You are little more than an ignorant child! You are-,"

"Please, Lalaith." Boromir whispered, his voice softened with pleading. His hands captured hers, and held them unmoving against his chest. His hands were rough and large and scarred, unlike Legolas' hands, lean and strong, and soft in their touch. "I have been a warrior all my life, and I am well acquainted with the risks of death. Still, I would never lightly toss my life away. But if I had to choose between living, and dying to save you, I would give my life up, gladly. For you, it would be a worthy loss."

"No-," Lalaith began through furious tears, but she could not finish, for she had lost all hold upon her emotions, and she was weeping, great wrenching sobs, so that she fell helpless, against his chest.

"Lalaith." Boromir breathed as his arms circled about her. His arms, like his hands, were large, and brawny, yet they were gentle also, holding her softly against him, as if he held something of immeasurable worth in his arms. "It grieves me to see you cry like this. You mourn me as if I were already dead."

"And well I should." Lalaith choked out. She lifted her face and looked up at him, blinking her eyes to clear them of the tears that clouded her vision. Her voice was weak and pathetic in its pleading, but she did not care. "I do not love you. But I do care deeply for you. Please. Save yourself. Stop loving me. I am begging you, Boromir."

"I cannot do that, Lalaith." Boromir whispered softly.

She studied his rough, bearded face, scarred and toughened from battle and the hardness of his life, but his eyes had grown warm and dark, reminding her somewhat of Legolas' eyes when he looked at her. Lalaith glanced downward. It was hard for her to understand how his hands, so capable with sword and shield, so rough and calloused, and so merciless against their foes, could be so soft now, so gentle as his fingers trailed lightly along the wet lines of her tears, and brushed softly over her shivering lips.

"I could never stop loving you." He whispered. His breath brushed against her mouth, and she blinked quickly, suddenly aware of how close his face had come to her own. But she did not back away.

She drew in a quiet breath as she felt the soft brush of his beard against her face and then his lips, pleasantly warm and soft, gently touched her own, once, and then twice. He drew slowly back, his eyes searching her face as if begging her for permission to kiss her again.

"Boromir-," she whispered breathlessly, but she was unable to say more as Boromir cradled her face between his hands, and with infinite gentleness, pressed his lips softly against hers.

Lalaith's heart seemed to melt within her, for this was not a kiss of passion, or possession, but of caring, of gentle compassion, and of love, absolute and unselfish. She knew Boromir was painfully aware that this was all he would ever have of her, but still he was not grasping and greedy. His lips were warm, and surprisingly soft and far more supple than she would have expected. And his beard, a strange sensation, tickled her face lightly as his lips softly moved over hers, tentatively tasting only what she was willing to give him.

At long last, Boromir drew back, sighing softly as he did.

"I love you, Lalaith Elerrina. And I will love you, always." He breathed, and released her, drawing his arms back to himself. His hands hung limply at his sides now. "But I know to whom your heart belongs." He sighed, and the sound of it broke sadly upon her heart. "And I know it is not me."

For the briefest moment, all she could see were his eyes, love and pain mingled within his gaze. And then, he turned away and fell heavily on a moss covered log, and dropped his face into his hands.

"Oh, Boromir." Lalaith whispered, reaching out and resting the tips of her fingers lightly upon his shoulders.

"You should go, now." He managed to choke out, without lifting his head. "You must find Frodo. He would flee from me if I were to follow him, and it is not safe for him to wander about, alone."

"Yes." She agreed softly. "Yes, I should." She turned slowly and started in the way she had heard Frodo run, but then paused, and glanced back at Boromir. He had not moved. He did not even lift his head.

Her heart twinged at the sight of him this way. How she wished she could see him as he should be, tall and proud and fearless, ready to face every obstacle Sauron put at them.

"Boromir." She called back gently.

He did not move, save for a small, almost indiscernible shake of his head.

Lalaith sighed, and not knowing what else to do, turned and began to run in the direction Frodo had gone.

********

"Frodo! Frodo, where are you?" Lalaith gasped, scrambling through the trees at the peak of Amon Hen, and breaking through into a place clear of trees.

She found herself now, upon a wide, flat circle, paved by great flagstones. And in the middle, set upon four aged pillars, was a high seat, reached by a stair of many steps.

"Frodo!" She cried again, glancing up at the seat, and about her at the shadowed trees. "Frodo, please! Where-,"

An involuntary gasp clutched her lungs, cutting off her words, for in the distance, coming from the haze in the south east, a murky darkness, both like and unlike a black mist, came flying swiftly toward the hill upon which she stood, dim and insubstantial, but in its indistinct appearance, much like an arm. Very soon, it would be upon her. The mist came, and touched a hazy finger upon Amon Lhaw east of where she stood watching, then it glanced away, and lit upon the peak of Tol Brandir in the midst of the pouring falls of Rauros. It would come and touch down upon Amon Hen next, and the thought filled her with a black dread.

But as it sped at her across the space between the jutting peak of Tol Brandir, and the high seat which she stood beside, a form, small, like a child, materialized out of the air right before where she stood, falling from the high seat, as if Frodo had just tumbled over the edge and jerked the ring from his finger in the midst of his fall.

"Frodo!" She cried out, as he fell into her arms. She staggered backward, and collapsed onto the ground, still managing to keep the hobbit cradled like a child, within her arms.

She glanced above her, seeing to her relief, the shadow pass above them. It missed Amon Hen, and groped out west, and faded.

Frodo scrambled up, dusting himself off as he did. "I'm sorry, Lalaith. I didn't hurt you, did I?"

"I am not hurt." She assured him, gulping hard. The threat of the shadow above them, was gone, but a black fist still gripped her heart. Danger was near.

"We should not be here, Frodo." She said, glancing toward the trees about them with a feeling of distrust. "Danger is coming, and it draws ever closer. You should take the ring and go. Back to the edge of the water."

Frodo gulped hard, and glanced down at himself, starting suddenly as he made a fearful discovery. "Oh, no." He muttered heavily. "Where is it? It was in my hand just a moment ago."

"The Ring?" Lalaith demanded, looking into Frodo's open, empty hands which he showed her as proof that it was gone. "It must have dropped in your fall. It can't have gone far." She put her hands out to push herself up and help in the search, when the pressure of something smooth and round beneath her hand, cool between her palm and the cracked stones, caused her heart to nearly stop.

"Elbereth Gilthoniel." Lalaith muttered beneath her breath, hoping that her first thought was wrong, and that she had not inadvertently touched the One Ring. Her fist, though she wanted more than anything, to simply draw her hand away, closed round the cool, smooth object, and drew it close.

And then as she brought it to her face, she saw it, cupped serenely in the curve of her palm. Fair and flawless, its unblemished form glinting innocently.

"Frodo." She breathed, frozen as if she cradled a venomous spider in her hand.

The Hobbit had been turned away, his eyes searching the ground desperately. But at her voice he turned to her, and his eyes grew large and round when he saw it sitting sweetly in her palm.

"Oh." He breathed, a tremor shivering through his voice. He remained where he was as Lalaith slowly rose to her feet, her eyes fixed unmoving on the Ring. He hardly dared to move, partly believing that any sudden motion he made would cause Lalaith to bolt away. It was an odd feeling, as if he were in a state of drunken vertigo, to see the Ring after all these months, with someone else.

Lalaith's limbs wrenched with pain as she held the Ring, for the urge to turn and run wildly away from Frodo, was almost too strong for her to fight. And though her hand and arm ached with the effort of holding up the Ring's weight, unnaturally heavy for such a small object, the simple task of tipping her hand, and letting it fall away, had somehow become impossible.

Vile wench. The Ring was saying. Worthless snaga. How could you have ever thought that you could help the Ringbearer with anything? You do not even possess the strength to let me fall to the ground, weakling that you are! Snaga that you are, void of your own will! Take me now, back to my master, and submit to your fate!

The One Ring paused as if thinking of something to itself, and then spoke again. Better still, perhaps you could keep me for yourself. You are the child of Valar. You could be more powerful than Sauron, if you allowed yourself to be. You could defeat Sauron and all that is his, with the power that is in me! And you will rule Arda with me upon your hand! Surely you possess the will to use me for naught but good!

But then, as a flash from some other point, some other power beyond the ring, Lalaith suddenly saw in her mind, Elrond's worried face as he had been in Imladris, when she had told him of how the Ring had spoken to her, calling her snaga, meaning slave, in the Black Speech.

"Anything uttered from that vile tool of Sauron's is a lie." Elrond had vehemently insisted when she had told him and Gandalf what it had called her. And his words continued now, to echo within her mind.

Lalaith blinked hard, aware of Frodo's anxious face where he knelt in front of her, watching her, his large blue eyes wide and worried as they gazed fretfully at her.

Heed me, filthy snaga of Mordor! Together, we shall dominate all of Middle Earth! The Ring screamed in a violent panic, sensing her thoughts, and its weakening link to her mind.

Lalaith found herself shaking her head. She did not want to dominate all of Middle Earth. She had what she wanted. And as that soothing thought calmed her fretting mind, she could see Legolas' face again, as it had been that bright autumn day, wise and fair, and both boyish and manly at once, and the pleasure that had brightened his eyes when she had at last found the courage to speak of her love for him, and had given him her promise of marriage. Legolas knew she was no slave of Mordor, as the Ring had claimed. But that she had her own will. She was free to choose. And with few moments left to do so, she chose.

Frodo watched Lalaith, his heartbeat caught within his chest as she began to speak, as if to the Ring, her words soft and measured. "Le na i cor o bauglir." What was she saying? Frodo watched her carefully, wishing he could understand. "U-anirion le. U-anirion thaur bal o Sauron. U-lastha caita lin. A u-nion snaga lin."

"Lalaith?" Frodo asked quietly, hardly daring to breath as the Elf maiden lifted her gaze and focused on him, before she glanced momentarily back at the Ring.

"I have defeated it." She said gently. "Sauron's Ring can trouble me no more with its lies." A look of almost restful peace came over Lalaith's face as she smiled at Frodo, and held the ring out to him, letting it slip easily from her palm into his. "Here, Frodo. Do not lose it again."

"Thank you, Lalaith." He said softly, in a somewhat breathless voice, and watched Lalaith smiled with quiet relief in her eyes as his fist closed around the Ring. He gulped, sensing, somehow, that a great battle had been fought and won, inside of Lalaith's mind.

"Frodo? Lalaith? Where is Boromir?" Lalaith jerked with a start at the voice, and turned to see Aragorn only a few paces away from them.

Frodo was just as startled, and his eyes had taken on a frightened, hunted look again as he blurted breathlessly, "The Ring has taken him."

Lalaith began, "Yes, but-,"

"Where is the Ring?" Aragorn demanded, drawing a few steps closer.

"Stay away!" Frodo cried out, as if suddenly afraid, as he scampered away beneath the stone seat.

"Frodo?" Aragorn asked, as he darted past Lalaith, and stopped several paces from the Hobbit. Throwing a confused expression at Lalaith as she came slowly to stand beside him, he said, "Has he forgotten that I swore to protect him?"

"I think he questions if you can protect him from yourself." Lalaith explained, putting a restraining hand on Aragorn's arm to keep him from approaching the Hobbit any closer. For now, having touched the Ring, having felt for herself the pull of its seduction, she knew why Frodo was afraid. Perhaps only Frodo, fighting its whisperings day by day, fully knew how difficult it was to resist the Ring, and how close she had come to succumbing to it. And how strong that pull must be for others the Ring deemed weak enough to ensnare. Others, like Boromir. And Aragorn.

"Or would you destroy it?" Frodo asked, his fingers uncurling from around the Ring.

Lalaith heard Aragorn draw in a breath as he saw the Ring in Frodo's hand, and she gulped hard.

"Aragorn?" She whispered as the human stepped toward Frodo, his eyes fixed upon the Ring. But he did not respond, as if he could not hear her.

"No, Aragorn." She muttered to herself and took a step after him as he reached a hand out, and paused, his fingers hovering mere inches from the Ring in Frodo's palm. What was the Ring whispering now to Aragorn's mind? Only he could know. His fingers trembled. But then Aragorn knelt so as to be at eye level with Frodo, and instead of taking the Ring, he gently circled his hands beneath Frodo's, and pressed the Hobbit's own fingers closed around the Ring.

Lalaith released a breath, not realizing until now, that she had been holding it.

"I would have gone with you to the end." Aragorn breathed, choking softly on his words as he pressed Frodo's fist, tightly holding the Ring within it, closer to the Hobbit's chest, and drew his own hands away. "Into the very fires of Mordor."

"I know." Frodo answered, his own voice breaking as he spoke. "Look after the others. Especially Sam. He will not understand."

He glanced with sad large eyes up at Lalaith who stood behind Aragorn, watching him soberly. "You will explain it to them, won't you Lalaith?" He pled. "You, more than anyone, understand why I must take it. Alone."

Lalaith bit her lip softly. Frodo was going-, alone? Alone to Mordor? She should have guessed before now that Frodo had been planning this, and while this new thought surprised her, she understood why he was doing it. He wanted to keep the rest of the Fellowship from succumbing to the pull of the Ring. The pull she had almost fallen victim to. He wanted to protect his friends.

Aragorn also understood, for he began to nod slowly.

But then he stopped, as his eyes fell to Frodo's sword, still in its scabbard. He scrambled quickly to his feet, drawing his own sword, and ordered, "Go, Frodo."

Lalaith's look of confusion mirrored Frodo's until she glanced down, and saw what Aragorn had seen, as Frodo drew forth a blue glowing blade.

She gasped sharply.

"Lalaith," Aragorn ordered, grabbing her arm, and practically shoving her toward the Hobbit, "go with him."

"Aragorn, no!" She snapped, jerking her own bow from her quiver. "I will not run away! Let me fight with you! You will need my bow!"

"I did not tell you to run away!" Aragorn shot back. "Go with Frodo! He needs you more than I! Whatever you do, keep the Orcs away from him!"

He gestured toward the trees that descended back toward the waters of Nen Hithoel, and commanded, "Run." Aragorn's eyes darted back and forth between the Hobbit and Elf who both stood as if unsure whether or not they should obey him.

"Aragorn-," Lalaith began, reluctant to go as Frodo was, who had paused behind her.

"Run!" He practically shouted again.

This at last, spurred them to action. With a last furtive shake of her head, Lalaith turned away, and Frodo shoved Sting back in its scabbard. Then the Elf and Hobbit turned and darted away, down into the trees, shaded and dark, the air beneath them quiet and expectant, as if waiting breathlessly for what was coming next.


You are the Ring of a tyrant. I do not want you. I do not want the vile power of Sauron. I will not listen to your lies. And I am not your slave**.


**Snaga is the Black Speech, but I put it in for two reasons. 1- I don't know the word for slave in Sindarin, and 2- The Ring has been calling her "snaga" for some time, so to say "No, I am not you snaga", using the very word the ring has been using, just rubs the Ring's proverbial nose in the fact that she knows she is not its snaga, and finally has the confidence to say it.

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