Chapter 27

Just the Beginning

Okay, fans! The chapter you've all been waiting for! (I've always wanted to say that, an it won't be the last time, either…) The next story is published separately, and will be called "The Tale of Adelaide II." There will be tons of Rohan goodness, Adelaide/Eowyn girl-power, a LOT of bad language and beer, and so many graphic love scenes your computer will fry up. Reviews are ALWAYS welcome!

Off a bit, Frodo awoke from his nap upon the large stone face of an ancient ruin. He had been trying to sleep on the subject of going off by himself to Mordor. Mind you, he didn't relish the thought. He would have rather been at Bag End, with a nice cup of tea. But all of that seemed so far away, further than he could have known it to be. And there was a job that needed to be done. A very tedious job. And no one, not even she, could help him. He didn't like it. But he knew what he had to do.

He decided first to return to camp and explain matters to everyone. Doubtless they weren't going to be very happy, but he had to do it, and they weren't going to hinder him by saying he couldn't. Aragorn would understand.

But as he was leaving his little nest, a tall figure stepped in front of him. It was the man, Boromir, gathering wood. At least he pretended to be gathering wood. His smile was fake. At least it seemed to be fake.

"No one should stray out here alone," he said. "Least of all you. So much depends on you."

Frodo didn't answer the man. What was he supposed to say? He was fifty, older than Boromir, and not a child any more. Of course, he needed protection, but he was not a baby to be scolded like that, and least of all by Boromir.

"Frodo?" the man seemed somewhat sincere. "I know why you seek solitude. You suffer; I see it day by day. Are you sure that you suffer needlessly? There are other paths, other ways we might take, my friend."

My friend. He had said my friend. Was Boromir his friend? Frodo didn't know. So many times had he come into conflict with him; so many times had he come into conflict with the whole journey. It seemed strange now, to be called a friend by this man.

"I would go but for the warning in my heart," said Frodo. The man advanced.

"What warning? Against what? We are all afraid, but to let that fear destroy what hope we have left is madness!"

"There is no other way this may be done."

"There are other ways, you foolish little one. Why do you not choose to see them? Or perhaps you do not want to see them." Boromir continued to stack wood. "Perhaps you wish to follow Gandalf's advice. And it is just advice. The wizard, Lord Elrond, and all those who speak of destroying the Ring…they have only advice to offer you. But I! I can offer you a true way out of this."

"There is no way out of it," Frodo retaliated. "I mustn't back down now. I know you wish to help me, Boromir. But there is only one way, and no other."

"I think," Boromir edged in slyly. "That you are concerned that this is the only way because Gandalf told you it was the only way to save Adelaide. Is that true?"

Frodo looked up quickly; he had not thought of that before, but why was Boromir bringing that up?

"Gandalf said nothing of the kind," he replied, a little testily. "I think it was made quite clear at the council that unless the Ring is destroyed, Adelaide may stay here forever."

"Is that not what you want? It is what many want."

"I want whatever makes Adelaide happy," Frodo said, beginning to feel defensive. "If she wants to go home, I will not bar her way. Besides, there is more than that. She is not meant to be here. She is from another world, another time. She isn't meant to stay here forever. It's not her place."

"So you are worried for her safety after all," Boromir smiled. "Never fear, Halfling, the human lady can take care of herself."

Frodo trembled, feeling the deliberate slap of the man's words. So it all boiled down to racism, did it? Boromir had struck a chord, and he knew it.

"Why should you fear for the maid, Frodo?" he chuckled. "After all, consider the differences between the two of you. She is tall and strong, as bright as a sunny day in springtime, always laughing and playing. You are short and weak, moody and depressed, and I have yet to see you smile. You are half her size, and are not even a tenth of what she is."

Frodo wasn't quite sure how to respond. Everything Boromir said was true, and the hobbit listened miserably as the man continued.

"Now, were she to come to Gondor, I must admit, she would be beloved. My father has spoke ill of her, but it was he who commanded me to go to Rivendell for council, and it was he who also mentioned that she would be there. I was not expecting such a dazzling beauty. Would she not make a marvelous princess?"

"She wouldn't like it," said Frodo, shaking. "She's not a bird to be caged up and ordered to sing when commanded. She is not what you believe her to be. She's American," he added, for he understood, more than the others, what Adelaide's kind of world meant to her and how it affected her. But Boromir turned a deaf ear to this.

"Then what is she, halfling?" Boromir's eyes burned into him. "If you know all about her, might you not tell me what it is that burns within her so badly? What bothers her, Frodo? Why is she not to be caged up? Why wouldn't she like it? Is it, perhaps, this power that she bears? You know, Frodo, that if a powerful man holds the Ring, he may be able to do anything. Anything! Think of it! It is power, my friend, can you not see that? What could she do if she held it in Gondor? What could she not do! And standing by our side, she would make a valuable ally. Her power is in her mind…think what an advantage she will have over Sauron!"

"How dare you!" Frodo's voice bubbled up from the thoughts in his heart and came out of his mouth in a shrill, furious shriek of anger. "How dare you insinuate that my lass would ever do such a thing as that…if she were ever to touch the Ring, Sauron would see her, he'd capture her, he'd know…he would kill her, and kill us all!"

Boromir's eyes glinted. "I think you do not understand fully, halfling. Even if she were not the weapon we seek, there would be a pleasure in having her as the crown jewel of my city. She is lovely, is she not? Why are you so hesitant to speak on the matter? Any man would relish a conversation over such a woman."

At this, Frodo's eyes were opened and he saw just how much love this man bore for his Adelaide. It wasn't a man's lust for sexual favors, although that would probably have been the cherry on the ice-cream Sundae. He was greedy for her power, greedy for the wealth she might bring, greedy for her as a woman. It was the dream of a warrior, not the dream of a lover. Nevertheless, for her to even be in this man's clutches…how could he dare wish such a fate on one he admired! Tears of hate and rage boiled up inside the hobbit, but by a masterful suck of air he was able to control himself. He must not let his anger show.

The man, however, had struck deeper than he had dreamed.

"Yes," he sneered. "You think you should be the only one to command her and talk to her and have her obediently respond to you like the lamb she is! I have seen it, halfling. A girl, a young woman, nearly twice your height, with a beauty that even the Elves found pleasurable, and a mind so powerful, so wonderful, that even Gandalf cannot control it...what has she to do with you? For that matter, why should the Elves have seen her first? And why was she taken to Rohan, a mean place of little repute? Their women are shield-maidens; their men are old, and the king there is failing in his duties. Gondor is at the height of its glory; my father rules it well, and it is a prime place for battle and attack. She would do well to come there! Why did she not come there? Why was she fated to spend seventeen wasted years in the Shire! It was folly on behalf of the one who sent her hither. And now she is in a pickle, to be sure! This woman, bound to the Ringbearer! But we do know that her fate is entangled with the Ring, do we not?" he asked slyly. "Bring this thing to Gondor. That way you shall be able to save her, if you love her so much."

"I am going to save her," said Frodo. "But I will not bring it to Gondor. Never! I shall save her by destroying it. That is the only way."

"You speak as the others do, foolish puppet," said Boromir, laughing. "If you would but only lend me the Ring…"

"No," said Frodo, recoiling.

"Why do you recoil? I am no thief."

"You are not yourself," Frodo said, quaking with anger.

"What chance do you think you have?" asked Boromir, turning red with rage, his features twisting. "They will find you. They will take the Ring. And you will beg for death before the End! Fool! It is not your save by unhappy chance when it could be mine…it should be mine! Give it to me!

Frodo had started to back away, but now he saw that the rage in the man's eyes was overpowering, and he was getting attacked. The man was coming at him with hate and blood in his eyes, and Frodo started to run. His mind cried Adelaide's name, but he made no noise. No, not even then would he try and scream out. Then he felt himself hit in the back, and the man rolled over with him, clawing desperately at the Ring.

"Give it to me!" he cried.

"No!" cried Frodo. This must not be! He had to escape. Frightened, the tiny hobbit slipped the Ring upon his finger, and disappeared from the man's sight. Boromir stopped grasping. There was nothing to grasp, suddenly! And then a violent pain shot up through him as he felt himself getting kicked. Leaves fluttered past, and Frodo was far away. Boromir gritted his teeth.

"Where are you? You cursed little brat! I see your mind! You will take the Ring to Sauron and sell us all! Miserable trickster! Curse you! Curse you and all halflings to death!"

Suddenly he slipped and fell, hitting his head. And suddenly, all his rantings and ravings were revealed to him, and he gasped.

"What have I done? What have I said? Frodo! Frodo! Come back! A madness took me, but it is over! Frodo!"

At that moment, he looked up and saw a very slim boot right in front of his nose. For a moment, he thought that Legolas had found him. But the voice was not Legolas' at all. It was more on the feminine side.

Adelaide stood looking down at him, feeling very awkward for having overheard so much, but proud of Frodo all the way for defending her. Her heart stood by him, more loyal than ever. But this man, this poor, proud, silly man…! He couldn't look at her. She was furious. The man had done her a violent act with his thoughts, and now she was going to get even.

"You'd better lie very still until Aragorn gets here, or Gondor won't be seeing the return of its noble captain in the near future," she said menacingly. "I wonder how dear old dad would take that. Probably wouldn't improve his vision of me, but what the hell do I care?"

"Adelaide," he tried to look innocent. "Frodo put the Ring on! I tried to stop him—"

"That," said the girl. "Is the biggest load of BS I have ever heard."

He winced, and then saw that she had drawn her knife, keeping it level with his face.

"Okay, we're going to have a little talk. A little prime-time."

"Maiden, please, I beg of you, have mercy!" said the man. "Do not harm me! A great madness took me, I tell you! I did not mean to do what I did!"

"How dumb do you think I am, Boromir? You must think all the marbles rolled out of my ears. You know, and I know, that you came conveniently hunting firewood in the same place that Frodo decided to meditate, and what do you know? Instant fireworks!"

"But I am sorry, my lady! Truly, I am! I merely want to do what is right; I did not wish for evil to overcome me—"

"I know you didn't. Nobody does." Adelaide sheathed her gun and sat down beside Boromir. To the man's surprise, she reached out and gently touched his cheek. "I know you must love me," she said quietly. "But what you just told Frodo, in there, isn't love. It's utility. And I can't be used like that. No girl likes to be used that way. You did Frodo an evil by insulting me, and you did me an even greater one for doing it behind my back! But you have to realize, Boromir, that I love Frodo on my own accord. Love can't be ruled. You think everything can be ruled—me, love, the Ring, fate…life isn't like that."

Adelaide shook her head in pity. "You think it's folly to go into Mordor and destroy the Ring when you've got to see that it's caused nothing but trouble! I told you that in Rivendell, you fruitcake! But that's not the point. I can forgive you the bout of madness because I would have done the same thing. But you attacked Frodo," she added, gritting her teeth. "Nobody—nobody—hurts any of my hobbits and gets away with it. Especially if it's Frodo. I love him very, very much. And of course he's short, and yeah, he's weak, and he'll probably never be drop-dead-gorgeous like me, but who cares? I'm not looking for a soldier. I never was. I don't choose who I fall in love with. I flipped for a hobbit, and isn't that retarded? But it's what happened. No, I don't understand it. But I love him. I'd die for him. I don't care about going to Gondor. I don't care about it at all. All that matters to me is to see Frodo safely to his destination, there and back again, in one fucking piece!"

Then she ran off to find her loved one, leaving the man in the dust and leaves, and weeping, for himself and for the girl that had held so much hope for him and the world he and his people lived in.

Frodo found himself in the shadowy world of the wraiths again. For the third time, he was in a swirling world of blackened hate and power, and it was all he could do to keep from crying out. Terrible things assailed him. He climbed one of the ruins to find peace, and yet, huddled there, found nothing but terror. He peeped over the ledge, and gasped. There was Minas Morgul, the terrible tower of Sauron, and at the top, burning with fire, was the great Eye. And it saw him. And it laughed. Frodo shivered in terror, and felt pain like a thousand knives. He cried out, and lost his footing. But even as he fell, he took off the Ring. And once more, the day appeared in all of its blue sweetness, and he was lying in the grass.

"Frodo?" said a voice, and he leaped up to defend himself. It was Aragorn.

"It has taken Boromir, he said.

"Where is the Ring, Frodo?"

"Don't touch me! Stay away!"

"I swore to protect you!"

Frodo faced the man, and his thoughts ran and whirled in his head. He faced Aragorn with all the strength in his little body. Boromir called him small. He called him no good for her? Well, he'd show him. He'd show them all!

"Can you protect me from yourself?" he asked. One hand uncurled, revealing the Ring in all of its terrible, innocent glory. "Or would you destroy it?"

Aragorn heard the Ring whispering his name. He felt the tug, the temptation. But he also felt the pain and the anguish of the hobbit. He was too clever to be tricked by merely a voice and a stupid golden Ring! Gently he kneeled before the hobbit and took his hand. He closed it over the Ring.

"I would have followed you," he said. "Even into the fires of Mordor."

Frodo looked into the man's eyes and saw there only love and protection. "I know," he said. "Explain to the others. Especially Sam. He will not understand."

"And Adelaide?"

"She knows." Oh, it was hard. Hard for him to say it. Hard for him to know it. Hard for him to accept it. Hard for him to feel the pain it gave him. Aragorn knew this, and more.

"I will take care of her, Frodo. You have my word," he said.

"Thank you," whispered Frodo. "I…I love her. Tell her that." Oh how he wanted to say those words right out to her! Straight out, without any nonsense, from the moment he'd met her, from the moment they'd first touched hands in a greeting...and something more, something else.

"I shall." Aragorn rose. His eyes bore a look of sudden hatred. Frodo stared at him, and then unsheathed Sting. It was blue. Orcs! Or perhaps worse! Aragorn drew his sword. "Run," was the command he gave Frodo. And how that hobbit did run! He swept away from those ruins, to go flee and hide, and to run away to other lands.

Meanwhile, Aragorn turned, and faced down a crowd of Uruk-hai, just looking for trouble.

Adelaide ran her butt off until she felt that she could not longer run, and then met up with Legolas, the hobbits, and Gimli. Adelaide had left Gimli in a bind, and apparently Aragorn had left Merry in a bind, so everyone was sort of scattered to the four winds. They too had been searching, and when she told them what she knew, Gimli snorted.

"There's no use in denying it," he said. "Terrible, lass, just terrible. But you know—"

"Hush, Gimli!" said the Elf, suddenly sniffing the air. "I can feel it, I can smell it; something is wrong. There are enemies about!"

"Argh!" cried Gimli. "Here we go! I told you we'd have a fight yet, lass!"

Argh, indeed, thought Adelaide miserably. Happy-happy joy-joy. But Frodo could be out in it! Pushing everything else to the side, including the dwarf and Elf, she barreled through the forests, to where she knew that the sounds and smells were strongest. As she rounded a corner, she ran smack into an Uruk who was not having a very good day. He slashed at her with his weapon, and Adelaide ducked, just in time. When she bobbed up next, she had drawn her sword. With a strength she hardly knew as her own, she plunged it into the creature's chest and let out a frightened scream. The Uruk gave a dying gurgle and sank to his knees. Adelaide wrenched the blade free and promptly threw up. She'd never killed anyone or anything before.

She sailed into the fight right with Aragorn, who was seemingly having a hell of a time trying to fight off about a hundred Uruks all by his lonely little self. She instantly plunged into the fight, not knowing how she managed to do it. The sword was light and easy in her hand, and though she had had only a bit of training with Eowyn, she was surprised to see that her training was recalled all in an instant, or else the sword enabled her to fight well on its own accord. Otherwise, she supposed, she would have never been able to fight. The feel of the sword also gave her a strange courage she had never felt before.

"Two!" Gimli shouted across at Legolas.

"I have four," said Legolas. He impaled another Uruk with his arrow and shot at another. "Six!"

"Show-off," grumbled Gimli, and hacked at one standing behind Adelaide, ready to hack her in two. "Three."

Aragorn and Legolas were killing many in that area, but suddenly an order was issued in gurgling tones, "Find the halflings! Find them! Grab the girl!"

"Yow!" Adelaide screeched again, and started to weave away from the battle. But at least thirty orcs ganged up on her.

"Well, hello, little maid!"

"How pleasant that you join our little party!"

"I think you'll be sweet enough for dessert!"

"Argh!" cried Adelaide. She promptly ran in the other direction.

Meanwhile, Frodo was trying to escape. He had hidden behind a great tree, as some of the monsters had moved past, but now he heard voices.

"Frodo! Psst! Frodo! Over here!"

He looked, and saw Merry and Pippin hiding in a little cove, which they had discovered themselves. They were beckoning to him frantically. Frodo looked at them, tempted, for a moment, to hide and escape the Uruks. But his conscience was urging him the other way. There was another way. He had to go his way, the way that he was meant to go. He shook his head.

"What's he doing?" asked Pippin. Merry understood better than he.

"He's leaving," he said with alarm.

Quick, a distraction was needed! This time, there was no sack of mushrooms to throw. But there was the hobbits themselves. Merry and Pippin jumped out to provoke a bunch of creatures heading towards their friend.

"Hey! Hey you! Over here!"

"This way!"

"Come on!"

The hobbits started running at a very fast pace. Over logs, through the forest, they were dragging those hated monsters away from Frodo, so he could escape…leave…and perhaps go to Mordor to save them all…

"It's working!" cried Pippin.

"I know it's working! Keep running!"

But there were too many of them. The Uruk-hai surrounded them from the front and from the back, and then the hobbits found themselves literally trapped. And Frodo ran on, tears streaking down his cheeks. They had done this for him, and he would make the best of what they had to give.

But Pippin and Merry were expecting to die. They weren't expecting Boromir to suddenly come over the knoll, sword in hand, with rage in his eyes. He had been like a father to them; they knew nothing of his treachery. And yet they felt a pride for him, and a love, and a hope. The Uruks saw nothing until Boromir had hacked at least three down, yelling like crazy. Then the others yelled, and began their attack.

Meanwhile, another situation had inevitably come up. Adelaide had been running when all of a sudden she was accosted by another ugly brute. He didn't look happy.

"I'll get you, if it's the last thing I do! Sauruman wants you now, but I wonder what he'd do; merely take you for himself is my idea! No, I'd eat you if I had a mind!"

"Shut up and go follow someone else!' cried Adelaide in a panic.

"Oh-ho! Do you think I take orders from you, little wench? No, you're for the white hand, if I have anything to say about it."

Adelaide swung her sword, but the creature fended off her blow and grabbed her by the hair. That was a weak spot! Adelaide wailed in pain and dropped her sword, both hands flying to her head instantly. The Uruk lunged, hoisting her up over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and carrying her off. Adelaide screamed and kicked, but the Uruk merely held her all the more tightly, and pinched her when she hit home. But then something struck him in the face, and he fell down dead. Adelaide tried to pick herself up, but that was reserved for another Uruk.

"Did that filthy Glugot try to hurt you, poppet?" asked another Uruk, definably more ugly. "Don't worry, my pet, you're with Glishnak now, and he won't let anyone touch you!"

"Oh go away!" Adelaide did something that should not be done, especially to feisty Uruks. She kicked him where it hurt. As the Uruk howled and dropped to his knees, Adelaide fell to the ground, narrowly missing his knife as he slammed it down. Suddenly, an arrow whizzed through the air, and struck the Uruk in the face. He fell with a cry. Another Uruk, who had been approaching, stopped in terror. Adelaide looked up. The fair Elf of Mirkwood was once again defending her, and as he stood over her body; his whole being was taut, and ready to kill. The Uruk shrieked, but it could not escape the bow and arrow of Lothlorien, and Adelaide found herself suddenly being helped to her feet. Legolas' slim hands moved over her body, checking for cuts, and then he noticed her leg.

"Filthy beasts! Adelaide, can you walk?" Legolas pressed Adelaide close to his body for support and protection.

"It's just a scratch," Adelaide murmured, dazed and embarrassed. "I can walk."

"Here, let me bind it. You are right; you have had a close call."

"Legolas, I'm fine."

Recognition of his name from the mouth of the girl caused the Elf to look up into her face. She was not smiling, but her eyes were soft, and her body was willing against his. Ooh-hoo, but things were starting to get a little hot. Unfortunately, there was present business.

He smiled at her. "I am thankful," he said, and hurried away, before things got hotter than they really were.

Suddenly, there was a blast from a horn. Adelaide stood stock still. Legolas turned. "The horn of Gondor!" he cried, racing off in the direction that it had been sounded. He forgot all about Adelaide. Somewhere else, Aragorn heard the horn too. "Boromir!" he thought to himself. "Boromir is in need!" That rascally man was somewhat of an oddity, but they could not deny him help. Suppose he had come upon something more intimidating, like—

"The hobbits!" he roared. "They're after the hobbits! Get to Boromir!"

He slashed at another Uruk and then ran down the way in which the horn was being sounded.

Boromir was blowing with all his mighty breath. He had earlier been sulking and condemning himself for being a fool, but when an Uruk had suddenly stepped up behind him he forgot his fear and his anger at himself and slashed at it. Where there was one, there was more, and so he came running into a whole slew of them. He had killed off many, before he had heard Merry and Pippin's cries for help. And he had come, running to their rescue, for they were good lads, like children to him. And the look in their eyes, of gratitude, was worth more than Gondor itself.

He was furiously hacking at more Uruks when suddenly a huge arrow struck him in the shoulder. He gasped in pain, as red-fire shot through his body. Poisoned? But no; it was the largest arrow he had ever seen, fired by a crossbow. A huge Uruk stood there, a malicious grin upon his ugly face, crossbow in hand. He was loading another arrow, thick as half a man's arm and sharp as an arrow could be. He aimed with deadly skill. Boromir gritted his teeth and lashed out again at another Uruk. Again, he was shot. The pain was more than he could bear. But the devils had not pierced his heart, nor his spirit. Again, he rose to fight off more devils.

Merry and Pippin stood by in fear. They looked with horror upon their comrade, and then started to scream. They clutched at each other for protection, and even picked up rocks to throw, and try to help Boromir, who had been like a father to them.

The large Uruk stringed another arrow and let it fly. Two more arrows he shot like this in the same way, and still the man, the great warrior from Gondor, would not die. More of the fiends were killed. The sixth arrow that was fired, however, brought Boromir down on his knees. He gasped in the pain. All the sweat and blood mingled with his fear of dying, and his terror of leaving the world so soon. His vision blurred, but he did not need sight to see the crowd of Uruks that picked up the hobbits, still screaming, and carried them off, ignoring the fallen man. Oh, and how they twisted with fear and regret! Regret that they could not save their comrade; regret that they were too small, regret that they had ever come! And yet they still flourished with life, kicking and screaming, and trying to get away.

Boromir remained where he was. Before him, tall, victorious, and leering, stood the terrible Uruk-hai. And again, as if savoring the touch and moment, he put another arrow in his bow, slowly. He was relishing the moment. Boromir waited. He awaited his fate. It was acceptable. He had tried to take the Ring from Frodo, whom he had attacked and had sworn to protect. Death would only be too kind now. He would remain proud to the end. If only not on his knees, as if begging. But that must have been the plan of the Uruk long ago. He smiled maliciously. He bent his bow into a firing position.

The Uruk never shot that arrow, because Aragorn came leaping over the knoll, sword in hand, and yelling like a banshee. The Uruk was startled out of a delicious triumph and had only time to back up from the ferocious attack, shooting wildly as he tripped over a stump. Aragorn was on top of him at once, slashing with a terrible war cry. But the Uruk was smarter than all get out, and rolled away. Together they fought, both with terrible strength and ferocity. When Aragorn fell, he rolled underneath the Uruk, got out his knife and stabbed the Uruk in the thigh, up to the hilt. The Uruk roared in pain and threw the man to the side, wrenching out the knife. He threw it at Aragorn; the man raised his sword and slashed it to the side. Then the Uruk threw his shield, a terrible heavy thing with pointed ends. It pinned Aragorn by the throat to the tree. Aragorn managed to get himself free, but then the Uruk took him and started beating him, as man to man.

Aragorn felt terrible and almost defeated. But, grabbing his sword firmly, and calling upon Elbereth, he slashed downward. One of the Uruk's arms became dead meat. Aragorn slashed again, taking off the other arm. And then he impaled the Uruk on his sword. The Uruk looked down ("I've been bloody-fuckin' shishkabobbed!"). He saw the blood. His body was a torso on legs. And he was going to die. He leered at Aragorn, spitting in the man's face. And then he toppled backward, off of the sword, deadweight.

Aragorn was breathing heavily. He had really never met an Uruk, despite all that he had told Adelaide. Adelaide! Where was she? The man looked around. But there was no Adelaide anywhere. He ran this way and that, until he heard a terrible moan. Looking back, he saw Boromir, propped up next to a tree, and groaning in agony. The man was pierced with many arrows, and blood covered him. Aragorn crawled over to his fallen comrade.

"They took the little ones!" was Boromir's first and unselfish thought. Aragorn tried to look over the wounds, but Boromir grasped him. "Frodo. Where is Frodo?"

"I let Frodo go."

"And the Ring?"

"The Ring is no longer in our power."

"Then you did what I could not. Forgive me," said Boromir, his eyes darkening and his lips stained red with blood. "I tried to take the Ring from Frodo. I have failed. And my city will fall…!"

"No," said Aragorn, understanding, perhaps, the greater and more victorious achievement of confession. " You have fought bravely, Boromir. You have won, my friend." Again, he tried to take the arrows out. But Boromir stopped him.

"Leave them! Aragorn, go to Minas Tirith. Save my city."

"I do not know what strength is in my blood, but I swear to you, I shall not let it fall," said Aragorn. Boromir smiled, and then clasped his sword to his chest.

'I would have followed you anywhere, my friend…my captain…and my king!"

"Farewell."

Aragorn bent over the man, but he was already dead. A sudden hush of tenderness and death stole over Aragorn, and he closed Boromir's eyes, and kissed his brow. "Be at Peace," he said. And then he turned. Legolas and Gimli had come up behind them. But there was still no sign of Adelaide. Aragorn gasped.

"Where has our little maiden gone to?"

Adelaide had not gone off in the direction of the horn. She had gone limping off in the direction of the boats. She knew where to find Frodo. She wanted to find him; she loved him, and wanted to tell him so. He needed to know it, so that he would go through his journey knowing and caressing it. They both knew it in their hearts; they expressed it to each other all the time...but she wanted him leaving on his journey with that thought in mind. Even in this last moment, if he chose to part, the pain and the humiliation would not hurt her so badly, for he would be far, far away. But the thought twisted her heart and rent her soul, and she held back threatening tears of anger and sorrow. Through the trees she limped, and although the pain was terrible, she managed to make it down to the beach. Frodo was standing there. He had been standing there for a long time, tears running down his cheeks and remembering a conversation he had had with Gandalf.

I wish the Ring had never come to me.

So do all who live to see such times, Frodo. But that is not for them to decide. All you have to do is to decide what to do with the time given to you.

Frodo began to cry. He was terrified of leaving; terrified of leaving without his Adelaide and perhaps leaving her to her death or something worse. But then, a rustle in the trees caught his attention, and he turned in time to see Adelaide step out. She was covered in blood, but her white face betrayed signs of fear and love. Frodo could not look at her. He couldn't. What on earth was she thinking to do, ruin things for him? But she came and landed on her knees near him, and took hold of his arm.

"Thought you'd leave without a good-bye, huh?"

"Adelaide, Adelaide...go back, Adelaide, don't do this to me..."

"Do what? Do what for God's sake, Frodo?" Adelaide shook him. "Am I hurting you by saying goodbye? Or are you the kind of guy that likes 'farewell'? For God's sake, I don't want you to go away without me saying at least that!"

"Adelaide, let me go!"

"I am letting you go. Why the hell should I hold you back?" She needed to encourage him, not pull him down. "I want you to go. You have to. But you sure as hell are not going to forget me. Look, please, I'll give you my—wait, Haldir took my hankie." She reached into her bosom and took out her locket. Inside was the picture of herself. She cut a lock of her hair off, curled it up, and put it into the locket. Pressing it shut, she wrapped it around Frodo's wrist.

"There," she said. "A maiden's favor for her knight. They used to do that, you know. Now get lost and don't come back until Sauron's pushing up daisies six feet underground, okay?"

Frodo's lip trembled, and he felt that he could hold nothing back any more.

Sobbing, he threw himself at Adelaide, wrapping his arms around her and tangling his hands into her soft hair, his fingers threading through each strand and snaring them tightly so she could not get away. His body pressed urgently against hers, his breathing fast and shallow, his movements hurried and desperate. But he loved her. And he was going to let her know it.

"I love you," he said passionately. "I've loved you since I met you; I was so in love with you I wanted to make love to you whenever I saw you, and you made me hungry for you whenever you obeyed me or fought with me, and I still love you now, for all your faults and failings, and I think I'll die if I don't take you now, here, right here on the sand...I don't care who's watching..."

Adelaide felt the hobbit bending her body backwards, so quick she felt as if her spine would snap. This love he felt for her was so deep; it was beyond anything else she'd experienced. His lips were like fire, scorching her lips, eyebrows, cheek, forehead, any other part of exposed flesh he could get at...he bit her throat ravenously and pressed her down to the ground, wriggling himself between her thighs and pulsating there urgently. Never before had he wanted her so badly, especially when he felt her legs wrap feverishly around him, and he heard her panting his name, her breast heaving in the excitement and warm fury of his ravishing attack. He moved to her heated core, knowing that only four layers separated their union, and she felt his hardness pushing insistently at her. It felt good, it felt right, and it felt so beautiful that she could not, for the life of her, imagine this sort of thing with anyone else. Frodo was the one she loved, had always loved, even though they hadn't always gotten along. And Frodo? He'd loved her, loved her with a passion that was aflame now, more so than it had ever been, and she was burning up inside that love, wanting to be at the very core and heart of it, fanned by his caresses, his kisses, his embraces.

"Holy shit, I think we're setting the fucking beach on fire! You sure I can't come with you?"

"No, you mustn't. You cannot. If you were to do so, what would I do? I would be too tempted to stop, to quit, to throw everything away and run far off with you. No, my sweet lass, I must do this on my own. This is my burden. You must understand this."

"I do, I do. It's just that..." Adelaide's eyes filled with tears, childish tears that she could not stop. "It'll be so long, Frodo. And I want...I want to be with you."

He chuckled. "I know you do. And it seems so silly for you to know, and I to be in complete darkness. I wish my path were clearer."

"To me it is." Adelaide wiped her tears and smiled shyly. "Please don't give me up," she begged. "Let me be with you constantly, in thought and heart, Frodo. As you're ever in mine. I don't want to believe I could belong to anyone else. I know…I know that everything will be alright. Leave the future alone. Fuck the future and live now. Love me now. Love me always."

He kissed her again. "I feel as though I could do anything now, even if they asked me to carry It to the moon and beyond, if only I may return to you! But I worry about you, and I fear for you...I always have. What if death separated us?"

"Then I'll have no choice," Adelaide smiled through her tears. "I'll have to go on. But for now, let's be as we were. I love you. I don't want you to give me up."

He shook his head. "I never wanted to, either. I was just afraid…cowardly, cowardly! It may mean so much heartbreak, but as long as we have each other, I wouldn't mind."

"Nor would I."She was starting to cry herself.

"My lass, will you do something else for me?"

"Sure."

"I want you to be a strong girl. I want you to get better and better every day, learning about Middle Earth and its peoples, customs, and traditions, and I want you to do everything under the sun. If you want to ride into battle, do it. If you want to learn how to wear armor like a man, do it! I want you to grow up more and more each day, alright? I will feel better in my heart if I knew you were doing that for me."

Adelaide's eyes were warm as she considered the little hobbit. "I'd be crazy to say no," she chuckled. "I'd be completely insane to refuse you that."

Frodo smiled and cupped her face in his little palm. Adelaide was everything in his life. She was the mother he had lost. She was the girl he had longed to court for so long. She was the wife he was longing to have. She was the sister he never had. The cousin. The niece. The aunt. Everything feminine in his life was balled up into Adelaide. He couldn't lose her now, not when he knew her so well and so wonderfully…no one else knew her likes and loves…

Frodo pressed up against her, tangled his hands into her hair and kissed her as hard as he could, seeking her mouth out with his tongue and letting it glide everywhere on her face and throat. She could feel his throat against hers, as she arched back and let it run over hers. His curls underneath her chin, tickling and rubbing unmercifully. His slim nose, nuzzling her ear, her eye, her own nose, her lips and cheek…his eyelashes fluttering over her skin, exciting her to the point of pain, and then drawing back to watch her pant his name. Kept her steady with one hand—one hand!—as he kissed her on the lips one last time. There was something beautiful about kissing her; the way she made him feel so special, and the way he delighted to make her feel special. Pressed her down to the ground, and wriggled his way between her legs. Throbbed there, while his hands searched everywhere on her body, nearly tearing away the clothing.

Finally, he pushed her away.

"I will never forget you," he said huskily. "I promise, Adelaide. And I will come back to you. You have my word."

"I'll pray for you," she grinned through her tears. "God will watch over you, like He does me. He always has, I suppose, and now He'll take it from here with you. Since I can't always be with you...God will have to be. May the wind be light beneath your wings and the sun be at your back..."

"And may your eries receive you at the journey's end," Frodo finished the quote. "My goodness, Adelaide."

"Told you I had the book practically memorized." She kissed his brow, turned, and ran from him back into the forest. She ran as far as she could go before she stopped near a tree. All around her, she was sickened by what she saw: dead Uruks, bloody ground, and the smell of death. Her head was in a whirl. And now, Frodo was leaving her…

She threw a fit.

Not just a jump-up-and-down-screaming fit, but a beat-the-trees-kick-the-dead-Uruk-screaming-yelling-cursing-and-sobbing fit. And then she fell to her knees in a great big sob. She poured out her tears as if they had been a downpour of rain, and sat with her knees hunched up to her chin. Frodo was gone. He was leaving for Mordor. She loved him, but oh! She wished that she could go too. But her place was not by him now. Not now. Aragorn needed her. And so did the others.

Sam, meanwhile (I guess you've been wondering where he went to) had discovered that Frodo was missing, and, guessing his master's mind better than anyone, was running back to the boats faster than all get out. He had just come in as Adelaide had burst back into the forest. Frodo himself had taken one of the boats and was paddling towards the Eastern Shore.

"Mr. Frodo! Come back!"

"No, Sam," whispered Frodo. He could not endanger any of his friends. He turned. Sam had begun to do a very foolish thing; he was walking straight into the River, trying to follow his master! Frodo cried out in alarm.

"Go back Sam! I'm going to Mordor!"

"Of course you are! And I'm coming with you!"

Adelaide would have said that it was that kind of beautiful strength that built character, but Sam was a fat hobbit, and hobbits, I might have mentioned, do not like water, and cannot swim. Especially really fat hobbits.

"Sam!" screamed Frodo as his friend floundered towards him feebly. "You can't swim!"

Sam gave a gurgle, and went under.

"SAM!" screamed Frodo. He swung the boat around as fast as he could, and paddled quickly to where his friend had gone down. He reached down, felt flesh, and jerked quickly, hauling Sam inside the boat. Up Sam came, wet as a water-rat and looking scared.

"I made a promise Mr. Frodo! 'Don't you leave him, Samwise Gamgee!' And I don't mean to! I don't mean to!" Sam began to cry. Frodo felt the tears come upon him as well. His best friend was risking all, and would apparently not leave. He wished Adelaide could have done so. But no, Sam didn't understand, whereas Adelaide had. Sam was the better one to take. And he was a friend. Frodo sniffed. He could not go alone, whatever else may happen.

"Oh Sam!" he cried, and hugged his friend. For a while, they remained in an embrace. Then Frodo gripped his friend's shoulders, business-like. "Come on," he said. "We've got a long way ahead of us."

A hand touched Adelaide's shoulder, and she looked up, in time to see Aragorn's haggard face. He looked as if he had had a tussle with a mountain lion. But his face was grave, and Adelaide knew that the news could not possibly be good.

"Boromir is dead."

The words hit Adelaide hard. For the first time, she realized just what the man had meant to her, as a father might have meant to his daughter. He had been her protector, her father, and her friend, despite all that he had done to Frodo. He really hadn't been a bad man. Just misguided and erred in his ways. But this news brought on a fresh flood of tears, and Aragorn just let her cry. Crying was a good thing, sometimes, and even the strongest of men needed it.

"Frodo has left, hasn't he?" Aragorn asked her.

"Yes," she sniffed. "I said good-bye."

"You are not following him?"

"I can't." Adelaide wiped her eyes and then her nose. Nothing more needed to be said about the issue, seeing as Aragorn knew all about it anyway.

Aragorn kissed her brow. "Poor, brave thing," he said tenderly. Then he rose, and took Adelaide by the hand. She rose as well, and they came over to where Boromir lay. Adelaide was sickened by all the arrows in him. But they arranged him tenderly in a boat, with his sword upon his broad chest, and sent him over the falls of Rauros of the Anduin. Each of them sang a song in memory of him: Aragorn took the North, Legolas the West, Gimli the South, and…well, no one spoke of the East, but Adelaide sang a simple little requiem she'd learned at school. Then Legolas started to push one of the boats into the river.

"Hurry," he said. "Frodo and Sam have reached the Eastern Shore!"

"Huh?" Adelaide was startled. "Frodo and Sam? How'd you know?"

"His yelling could easily be heard, but you did not hear it. He went along with Frodo."

Adelaide just grinned.

Aragorn stopped Legolas, and the Elf cocked his head. "You mean not to follow them?"

Aragorn shook his head. "Frodo has chosen his own path now," he said. "Not even we can say otherwise."

"Let's face it," said Gimli. "The Fellowship has failed."

Adelaide couldn't stand it. "Another Boromir," she said to Gimli. "He was such a fucked-up, negative loser! For Pete's Sake, can't we think rationally about all this? We can't give up now. We just can't. We haven't failed."

"What if we remain true to each other?" asked Aragorn. "We will not abandon Merry and Pippin to torture and death."

"Huh?" Adelaide was puzzled. Aragorn bound up his wound and sheathed his knife. "Leave everything that can be spared behind," he ordered. "We travel light. Now. Let's hunt some orc."

Adelaide could not contain herself, and neither could Gimli. Legolas smiled. Gimli let out a rumbling, "YEAHHHH!"

And the four of them ran off into the forest, determined to track and find Merry and Pippin.

A little ways off, Frodo and Sam had climbed over large shingles of rocks, and now faced the terrible mountain of Doom, more than a thousand miles away. Dark clouds, ominous and lurking, surrounded the mountain, and lightening prevailed near it. All seemed light where Frodo and his servant stood, and for a moment, Frodo was struck with a memory of his beautiful Adelaide, the girl that he would have given his life for. She would have given anything to see this, he thought to himself. The Mountain of Doom. Totally cool. He smiled, as he heard himself thinking of her strange and coarse, but ever-jovial tongue. Resolute, he stared out.

"Mordor," he said softly. Sam came up behind him, carrying a few things that he felt they needed. "I hope the others find a safer road."

"Strider'll look after them," said Sam.

"I wonder if we'll ever see them again," said Frodo. Meaning, he knew, Adelaide.

"We may, Mr. Frodo. We may," said Sam, knowing full well that his master meant Adelaide. Frodo turned. He knew that Sam knew that he had meant Adelaide. He smiled.

"Sam," he said. "I'm glad you're with me."

And together, the hobbits started off towards that terrible road, not knowing their End.

End of The Fellowship