When all the reports of the scouting expeditions had come in, it became clear that the time had come for the Company to set out. A single black cloak, tattered and slashed, had been found in the river, as well as the bodies of eight of the black horses drowned in the Ford, or dashed upon the rocks of the rapids below. Nowhere were there any other signs or tidings of the Black Riders or any other servants of the Enemy, and the sense of their evil presence was gone from the land.
"Gandalf advises that we delay no longer, and I am in agreement," said Elrond, when he had called the Company together. "The time has come; if the Ring is to set out, it must do so soon. Do you still hold to your word, Frodo, that you will take the Ring?"
"I do," said Frodo. "I will go with Sam."
"And do you others still hold to your intention to accompany Frodo on this quest?"
Elrond studied their faces as each one of the Company reiterated his vow to serve and protect the Ringbearer.
"It is well," said Elrond, satisfied. "I hereby confirm you as the Fellowship of the Ring; the Company shall be nine, and the Nine Walkers will be set against the Nine Riders that are evil. Gandalf will go with you, for this shall be his great task, and perhaps the end of his labors. Together, the rest of you represent the Free Peoples: Legolas shall be for the Elves, and Gimli son of Gloin for the Dwarves. For men, you will have Aragorn son of Arathorn, for the Ring of Isildur concerns him closely."
"And Boromir also," said Aragorn with a smile, "for he is a valiant man, and the road to the East leads also to his city."
"And for the rest of the hobbits," said Merry stoutly, "you have us!"
"Let it be so, then," agreed Elrond. "The tale of Nine is fullfilled. In seven days you must depart."
Boromir stood in the courtyard of Rivendell and watched Sam as he fussed with the arrangement of packs on the pony that was to accompany them on the journey. Merry and Pippin were giving helpful advice while Gimli looked on. Boromir had been introduced to Bill the Pony earlier that morning. Bill was an unusual name for a pony, but Boromir gathered that there was a bit of a joke attached to the name; something to do with an unsavory character the hobbits had met in Bree. Sam obviously cared deeply for the pony and his affection was returned by the animal. Boromir hoped, for Sam's sake, that their path would not take them where a pony could not go.
Boromir checked the tightness of the strap on his shield, and adjusted his swordbelt. He was ready. He looked up as Legolas came down the steps and joined the group in the courtyard. His manner towards Boromir had warmed considerably in recent days, as the friendship between Boromir and Aragorn had become evident. Boromir greeted him with a nod. Good, he thought, our company is almost complete. They were only waiting for Frodo, who was closeted with Bilbo, and for Aragorn and Gandalf.
Boromir tried to curb his impatience at the delay. Now that they were about to set out, the sense of being cut off from his city and his people was acute; he was eager to return to them as soon as possible. Who knew what had occurred in his absence? Faramir was a capable leader, and was surely doing what he could to encourage the men under him, but Boromir knew well that the morale of the soldiers of Minas Tirith was waning in the long, hopeless battle against Sauron. The coming of Anduril would do much to encourage his men.
For the Sword of Elendil had been reforged from the shards of Narsil by the elven-smiths, and Aragorn had renamed the blade Anduril, Flame of the West. Boromir had greatly admired the reforged blade that Aragorn had shown him; on the blade and sheath was engraved a design of a rayed sun and a crescent moon, representing the twin realms of Gondor and Arnor, and between them a design of seven stars representing the high kingship of Elendil. It was an impressive weapon, and if Aragorn was truly the son of kings, he would be an impressive warrior. Hope again stirred in Boromir's heart at the thought that the Flame of the West might indeed help stem the tide of war that threatened Gondor and his people.
Aragorn appeared on the other side of the courtyard as Frodo and Bilbo came down the terrace steps, closely followed by Gandalf and Elrond. As the others gathered round to hear Elrond's final words to the Company, Boromir grasped his horn, and putting it to his lips, blew a great blast. The sound of it rang loudly in the valley as the echoes leapt from rock to rock.
"Loud and clear does the Horn of Gondor sound in the valleys of the hills," said Boromir proudly, "and then let all the foes of Gondor flee!"
"Slow should you be to wind that horn again, Boromir," said Elrond sternly. "Not until you stand once more on the borders of your land, and dire need is on you."
"Perhaps," said Boromir, though he was not sorry. "But I have always sounded my horn at setting forth; and though I walk hereafter in shadows, I will not go forth as a thief in the night."
Elrond turned and faced the rest of the Company and addressed them solemnly.
"The Ringbearer is setting out on the quest of Mount Doom. On him alone is any charge laid: neither to cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to any servant of the Enemy nor indeed to let any handle it, save members of the company, and then only in gravest need. On you who travel with him no oath or bond is laid to go further than you will. You may tarry, or come back, or turn aside into other paths, as chance allows."
"Faithless is the one who says farewell when the road darkens," growled Gimli.
"Maybe," responded Elrond, "but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall."
"Yet sworn word may strengthen a quaking heart."
"Or break it!"
Many Elves had been gathering in the courtyard and on the terraces above to witness their departure, and those who were close by now came forward to bid the Company farewell with many words of encouragement and blessing. Bilbo, too, came forward and took his leave of the hobbits.
"Go now with good hearts!" said Elrond at last. "Farewell, and may the blessing of Elves and Men and all Free Folk go with you. May the stars shine upon your faces! May the Valar protect you on your path under the sky! Nai elin sila an nif lin! Nai tiruvantel ar varyuvantel i Valar tielyanna nu vilya!" They turned, and passing under the arch, left the courtyard. They crossed over the bridge and climbed the steep pathway up through the mist onto the high moor above Rivendell. Boromir glanced back one last time before the valley was completely hidden from sight. He remembered his arrival in Rivendell and how he had thought it a strange and beautiful place, so unlike his city of stone that he had felt lost and alone. He had sought answers here, and had found them, but in the finding, had discovered more questions.
Those questions have answers, as well, he thought, as he turned his face towards Minas Tirith once more. And I will find them.