30. The Council of Elrond (I)
The delegation of Mirkwood, bearing a message for the Lord of Imladris and a bride for a warrior of Imladris, had made camp for the night upon the plains. With the guards posted and fires lit, a large number of the company had now chosen to amuse themselves by dancing merrily around the center fire (and the bride-to-be) singing marriage songs gleefully.
Legolas, the messenger for his father, King Thranduil, sat by the fire near Galithil and laughed at the antics of his friends, while Galithil’s father, Eregdos, captain of the warriors of Mirkwood, mock-scowled in feigned displeasure at his daughter’s betrothal. Lady Merilin, another warrioress of Mirkwood, flopped down next to her kinswoman, laughing breathlessly, “As if you did not taunt me enough after my marriage, Cousin!”
“What are you talking of? I was abroad in Middle Earth at the time you and Cand were wed! We did not return until six months after the feast!” Galithil protested feebly as several of the other elves began tossing autumn flowers into her hair as though adorning her for a marriage banquet.
Snickering, Legolas put in, “True, but you must admit that we more than made up for it in the first days after we returned.”
“There!” Merilin and the others renewed their assault on Galithil’s dark hair over the warrior maid’s shrieks of protest until Eregdos bade them be silent lest they rouse every orc on the plains. Galithil grumbled that perhaps it might not be a bad idea.
Gimli, son of Glóin, heard the sound of the horses approaching in the darkness before he saw them. His father’s company was drawing nigh to the eastern entrance to Rivendell, and up until now, the road had been all but empty of travelers. The dwarves of Lonely Mountain were not quite within the protective circle of the Last Homely House, nor had they yet received the assurances of the Lord of Rivendell’s protection. So they circled immediately, axes brought to bear, against any foe who might be riding to bar their way.
To the east, the full moon was rising but still far from overhead, bathing the dark world in an almost-golden glow. Up the road, riding openly, came a party of elves, but not wearing the colors of Imladris. Three rode toward the front: one a wizened, fair-haired elven warrior, another a dark-haired elven maid, but the one in the lead caught Gimli’s attention the most. The reason most striking was that this elf, though leading the company, seemed the youngest. His dark gray eyes snapped with that rather disconcerting elvish alertness, that suggested he had seen Gimli long before Gimli had seen him, and had already had time to evaluate the dwarf as a potential threat or target. Almost as soon as their eyes met, the chins of both elf and dwarf lifted with mutual disdain, and not a word was spoken. The elves did slow their horses as they passed the dwarf walkers, but the young elf in the lead afforded Gimli and his father little more than a precursory nod in greeting.
Exchanging glances, the dwarves harrumphed. “Elves,” snorted Glóin. “They’re all the same.” Gimli laughed in agreement, and they continued on their way.
Aragorn was speaking softly to Arwen upon a veranda shortly after he and the rest of the hobbits had reached Rivendell when her eyes suddenly shifted past him, brightening with surprised pleasure. Turning to look, Aragorn smiled as well at the sight of Legolas coming up the steps toward them. “Well met, son of Thranduil!” he called happily.
“Aragorn. Undómiel.” Legolas bowed to each of them in turn.
Aragorn noted with concern the somber demeanor of the prince, but Arwen was speaking the required words of welcome on behalf of her father at the moment. “What brings you to Rivendell?” he asked when the chance came to speak.
“I--” Legolas broke off again as Arwen hastily excused herself all at once, a twinkle of sheepish mirth in her bright eyes.
Legolas and Aragorn stared at her swiftly-retreating form in confusion, hearing what sounded suspiciously close to a giggle in her wake, then were even more baffled when Glorfindel came just as swiftly up onto the veranda, giving the two of them hardly a nod in acknowledgement but striding after the Evenstar, perturbation on his fair elvish face. “Arwen! A word?”
Elf and Ranger turned back to each other, and each murmured simultaneously, “What was that all about?” Neither could provide any useful information, and the two were about to continue their conversation when Elladan arrived to inform them that Lord Elrond had called a council upon the porch for all the newly-arrived visitors to Rivendell.
Aragorn sighed, “I fear what tidings you bring must either wait or be disclosed in the council, my friend. I’ve much to acquaint you with as well, but time grows short.” Indeed, no sooner had he said this than a single clear bell rang out, the warning bell for the Council of Elrond.
Legolas attended the Council with Eregdos and Thorod, one of the guards. Such Councils were always interesting, it was said, and Legolas himself had only attended one other. Yet he could safely boast that this time he likely sat privy to one of the most interesting Councils Imladris had ever held.
There sat Glorfindel, still looking quite put-out over whatever little tiff he seemed to have with the Lady Arwen. Legolas would dearly love to know what that was about. Near Glorfindel sat two of the dwarves Legolas had seen on their way to Rivendell the night his own company had arrived, though what business dwarves had in Imladris now, he knew not (and cared less.) The elder of the two, a dwarf of important appearance, with a long, forked beard nearly as white as his garments, was in conversation with Glorfindel now, perfectly at ease. He was richly dressed, wearing a silver belt and a chain of silver and diamonds around his neck, and a heavy silver ring with a large black pearl upon his right hand. The younger had a beard of reddish color, but something in his features told Legolas that he was the elder dwarf’s son, or at least a close kinsman. He was clearly a stranger to Imladris, and gazed frequently about him as though expecting a foe to spring out from behind one of the seats (or perhaps from in one of them.)
Dismissing the dwarves, Legolas turned his attention to the more interesting characters. Mithrandir had arrived just then, accompanied by, to Legolas’s fascinated curiosity, two hobbits. The elder of the two greeted the dwarf as Glóin, with a familiarity that led Legolas to realize that this was none other than Bilbo Baggins, the same hobbit who had traveled through Rivendell and Mirkwood to the Lonely Mountain decades before. Amazing! Mortal or not, nearly eighty years had passed, and Mister Baggins had aged quite well for a mortal. Legolas knew the blood of Númenor ran in Aragorn’s veins, but it had not occurred to him that hobbits might live quite so well so long.
Elrond rose and drew the second hobbit to a seat by his side, and presented him to the company, saying, “Here, my friends, is the hobbit, Frodo son of Drogo. Few have ever come hither through greater peril or on an errand more urgent.”
Legolas contemplated the hobbit curiously. If he were any judge of hobbits’ age, this one was very young, and he wore a rather bewildered and apprehensive expression, as though he did not quite comprehend the events unfolding around him, and could not be certain exactly how he had become embroiled in them. At the moment they were hearing the speech of another man in their midst, a richly-dressed man of Gondor, Boromir the son of Denethor, the Steward of Gondor. When he had spoken of the struggles in Ithilien to hold back the Enemy’s forces, Aragorn rose and cast a sword upon the table before Elrond, its blade broken. Legolas and the others stared.
“Here is the Sword that was broken!” said Aragorn.
Legolas bristled at the condescending look the Steward’s son bestowed upon Aragorn. It seemed he would speak some equally patronizing words, had not Frodo the hobbit cried out, “Then it belongs to you and not to me at all!” and sprang to his feet. The son of Thranduil was now puzzled. Had the hobbit brought the shards of Narsil to Rivendell? Of what did he speak--
“Bring out the Ring, Frodo!” said Gandalf solemnly. “The time has come. Hold it up, and then Boromir will understand the remainder of his riddle.”
The Ring…The Ring…Legolas felt as though an icy hand has squeezed his heart, and felt Eregdos and Thorod tense beside him. The young hobbit seemed no less at ease, and in his trembling hand, he slowly held up a small, golden ring, gleaming and flickering with his slight movement. “Behold Isildur’s Bane,” said Elrond. Frodo’s eyes seemed somehow ashamed, both fearful of and loathing the thing in his grasp, and he placed it upon the table, backing away from it. Strange, thought Legolas, that after all the Ring had done to corrupt Gollum, this hobbit had borne the Ring all the way from…wherever he had been, the Shire perhaps…and showed no sign of having been seduced by it.
A debate broke out almost at once between Aragorn and Boromir over the premonitions many were suffering concerning the doom and great deeds at hand, punctuated by a few well-chosen words from Bilbo. “The words were not the doom of Minas Tirith,” Aragorn had said of Boromir’s dreams, “but doom and great deeds indeed at hand.”
But still, Boromir seemed to doubt, and more irritatingly, still he patronized Aragorn. “And who are you, and what has a mere Ranger to do with Minas Tirith?”
Legolas forgot himself. “This is no mere Ranger,” he snapped, rising. “He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and he is descended through many fathers from Isildur, Elendil’s son of Minas Ithil. You owe him your allegiance.”
Elrond shot Legolas a quelling look, for it was not his place to make such a thing known, but Legolas was losing patience with the man of Gondor’s dismissal of his friend, who was in fact of higher birth than the Steward’s son or arguably even Legolas himself, the elf admitted. At least it brought Boromir up sharp. As the man turned to stare in astonishment at Aragorn, the heir of Isildur muttered, “Sit down, Legolas,” in the grey tongue. Legolas did so, but noted with amusement the approving look he received from Bilbo. Could it be that the elder hobbit had known who the Ranger was?
Aragorn spoke to Boromir, “For my part I forgive your doubt. Little do I resemble the figures of Elendil and Isildur as they stand carven in their majesty in the halls of Denethor. I am but the heir of Isildur, not Isildur himself. I have had a hard life.” And he recounted much of his existence as a Ranger to the assembled, and much of what he said troubled them all. Then it was old Bilbo’s turn, and he told them at last of his discovery of the Ring, and how he had come to take it from Gollum. Some of the others had clearly had the tale before, but to Legolas it was wholly new, and he listened with amazement, while the old hobbit, actually not at all displeased, recounted his adventure with Gollum at full length.
Then, less willingly than Bilbo, Frodo told of all his dealings with the Ring since the day that it had passed into his keeping. No sooner had he sat down than Bilbo gave him a mild critique of his storytelling--and chided the rest of the company for not making a properly respectful audience by constantly interrupting with questions. Legolas quashed a grin; he rather liked the elder hobbit.
Then it was Gandalf’s turn to speak, and his account was even more troubling. He spoke of the White Saruman’s treachery, saying, “In all the long wars with the Dark Tower treason has ever been our greatest foe.” He told them of his explorations with Aragorn in search of the One Ring, and his own investigation into the annals of Minas Tirith for records of Isildur’s finding of the Ring. Not until Aragorn spoke of his search and capture of Gollum did Legolas hear anything that he had already known, and the feeling of helpless confusion amid this great storm of events at last began to recede. At least from Aragorn’s part, Legolas had not been but a mere bystander but had had some ability to make a stand in the dreadful times that were coming upon them--or at least he had for a time until he had allowed Gollum to get away. Legolas felt a renewed sense of shame and despair, realizing now, only too well, what the consequences of his own incompetence might be.
He was brought out of his bitter reverie by a sense of incredible terror at Gandalf’s next words:
“Ash nazg durbatuluk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatuluk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul!”
The change in the wizard’s voice was astonishing. Suddenly it became menacing, powerful, harsh as stone. A shadow seemed to pass over the high sun, and the porch for a moment grew dark. All trembled, and many of the elves stopped their ears. Legolas felt that he had no such ability, though he longed for it, but the dreadful sound seemed to half-paralyze him, and though he went rigid in his seat and squeezed his eyes shut amid a wave of sheer nausea, he could not block out the Maia’s speech.
“Never before has any voice dared to utter words of that tongue in Imladris, Gandalf the Grey,” said Elrond, sounding distinctly tense as the shadow passed and the company breathed once more.
“And let us hope that none will ever speak it here again,” answered Gandalf. “Nonetheless I do not ask your pardon, Master Elrond. For if that tongue is not soon to be heard in ever corner of the West, then let all put doubt aside that this thing is indeed what the Wise have declared: the treasure of the Enemy, fraught with all his malice; and in it lies a great part of his strength of old. Out of the Black Years come the words that the Smiths of Eregion heard, and knew that they had been betrayed:
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the Darkness bind them!”
Gandalf paused, looking with narrowed eyes at each of them in turn, as if to make sure that they grasped the significance of the words. Then he went on. “Know also, my friends, that I learned more yet from Gollum. He was loath to speak and his tale was unclear, but it is beyond all doubt that he went to Mordor, and there all that he knew was forced from him. The Enemy knows that the One is found, that it was long in the Shire, and since his servants have pursued it almost to our door, he soon will know, already he may know, even as I speak, that we have it here.”
All sat silent for a while, until at length Boromir spoke, “He is but a small thing, you say, this Gollum? Small but great in mischief. What became of him? To what doom did you put him?”
Legolas cringed mentally; he knew the time was fast approaching when he must confess his shameful failure to all here, but before he could speak up, Aragorn answered. “He is in prison, but no worse. He had suffered much. There is no doubt that he was tormented, and the fear of Sauron lies black on his heart. Still, I for one am glad that he is safely kept by the watchful Elves of Mirkwood. His malice is great and gives him a strength hardly to be believed in one so lean and withered. He could work much mischief still, if he were free. And I do not doubt that he was allowed to leave Mordor on some evil errand.”
Legolas could keep silent no longer. “Alas, alas!” he burst out in great distress, the weight of his guilt falling more heavily than even when he had carried home the bodies of the two young novices. “The tidings that I was sent to bring must now be told. They are not good, but only here have I learned how evil they may seem to this company. Sméagol, who is now called Gollum, has escaped.”
“Escaped?” cried Aragorn. “That is ill news indeed. We shall all rue it bitterly, I fear. How came the folk of Thranduil to fail in their trust?”
Had Legolas not already been so racked with blame, his friend’s words would have stung. He sighed, “Not through lack of watchfulness, but perhaps through over-kindliness.” *Far more than that wretched creature deserved, as we found out too late!* “And we fear that the prisoner had aid from others, and that more is known of our doings than we could wish. We guarded this creature day and night, at Gandalf’s bidding, much though we wearied of this task.” His heart twisted, thinking of Sornhén and the rope. “But Gandalf bade us hope still for his cure, and we had not the heart to keep him ever in dungeons under the earth, where he would fall back into his own black thoughts--”
“You were less tender to me.”
Legolas broke off at the gruff muttered comment, and turned to see the flashing eyes of Glóin, watching Legolas as if he himself were responsible for the dwarf’s imprisonment in the deep places in Thranduil’s halls. *I grow very, very weary of ever being blamed for events that took place at a time when I was not even present in Mirkwood.* He was grieved still for the failure that had brought him here, and the deaths that Mirkwood still mourned, and found himself with little patience for the old dwarf’s carping. But before he could release a stinging retort, Gandalf intervened. “Now come! Pray do not interrupt, my good Glóin. That was a regrettable misunderstanding, long set right.”
*Since when?* thought Legolas sarcastically, remembering the near-death of Faron beneath the ground at the hands of those dwarves’ vindictive grudges. By the look he shot the elf, Glóin harbored similar thoughts. But Gandalf went on, “If all the grievances that stand between elves and dwarves are to be brought up here, we may as well abandon this council.”
After a brief moment of mutual scowling between them, Glóin rose and bowed to the company, and Legolas shook off his irritation and continued. “In the days of fair weather we led Gollum through the woods, and there was a high tree standing alone far from the others that he liked to climb. Often we let him mount up to the highest branches, until he felt the free wind, but we set a guard at the tree’s foot. One day,” his throat closed suddenly, and he swallowed hard. Aragorn’s eyes narrowed, and he leaned forward. Thankfully, the others seemed not to notice, for few outside his kindred could read his face as the Ranger could. “One day he refused to come down…and the guards had no mind to climb after him: he had learnt the trick of clinging to boughs with his feet as well as his hands; so they sat by the tree far into the night.”
*I left them. A Elbereth, I left them!*
“It was that very night of summer, yet moonless and starless, that orcs came upon us unawares. We drove them off after some time; they were many and fierce, but they came from over the mountains, and were unused to the woods. When the battle was over, we found that Gollum was gone, and his guards were, were slain or taken.” Aragorn’s breath caught at those words, and the faint ire in his eyes that had led Legolas to avoid his gaze vanished, replaced by distress and alarm. “It then seemed plain to us that the attack had been made for his rescue, and that he knew of it beforehand. How that was contrived we cannot guess, but Gollum is cunning, and the spies of the Enemy are many. The dark things that were driven out in the year of the Dragon’s fall have returned in greater numbers, and Mirkwood is again an evil place, save where our realm is maintained.”
All blame or fault in Aragorn’s face had vanished, and now he watched Legolas with soft sorrow in his eyes, a look that tore at the elf even more than the man’s anger would have. It took all Legolas’s will not to look down. But through some deep reserve of strength, both his eyes and his voice remained steady before the company. “We have failed to recapture Gollum. We came on his trail among those of many orcs, and it plunged deep into the Forest, going south. But ere long it escaped our skill, and we dared not continue the hunt, for we were drawing nigh to Dol Guldur, and that is still a very evil place; we do not go that way.” *And we had a dead child to return to her mother.* The thought slipped out before Legolas could repress it, and he swallowed hard.
Gandalf spoke up, mercifully pulling the gazes of the council from Legolas. “Well, well, he is gone. We have no time to seek for him again. He must do what he will. But he may play a part yet that neither he nor Sauron have foreseen.” Then the Maia spoke at length of the treachery of Saruman, in great detail, while the company listened with increasing dread. It seemed that many among them had expected the great Istar to be a natural ally, both of Gandalf and of them. But with Saruman having betrayed them…what chance had they?
“If the Ring cannot be kept from him for ever by strength,” said Glorfindel, “two things only remain for us to attempt: to send it over the Sea, or to destroy it.”
“But Gandalf has revealed to us that we cannot destroyed it by any craft that we here possess,” said Elrond. “And they who dwell beyond the Sea,” Legolas thought in a rush of horror of his elder brother Belhador, of Langcyll and his sons, and all the elves who had sought refuge from evil over the sea, “they would not receive it. For good or ill it belongs to Middle Earth. It is for us who still dwell here to deal with it.” Legolas was not the only elf in the company who sighed softly.
“Then,” said Glorfindel, “let us cast it into the deeps, and so make the lies of Saruman come true. For it is clear now that even at the Council his feet were already on a crooked path. He knew that the Ring was not lost for ever, but wished us to think so, for he began to lust for it himself. Yet oft in lies truth is hidden; in the sea it would be safe.”
“Not safe for ever,” said Gandalf. “There are many things in the deep waters, and seas and lands may change. And it is not our part here to take thought only for a season, or for a few lives of men, or for a passing age of the world. We should seek a final end to this menace, even if we do not hope to make one.”
“And this we shall not find on the roads to the sea,” said Galdor of the Grey Havens, and Legolas felt an inkling of alarm, as they talked on about Sauron’s belief that the Ring would be taken west. But all seemed to counsel against following that path, for Sauron would likely predict it. The prince had to admit this was true, from what little information he had heard, and yet…the only option left…
“The westward road seems easiest,” Elrond was saying. “Therefore it must be shunned. It will be watched. Too often the elves have fled that way. Now at this last we must take a hard road, a road unforeseen.”
*Oh, by the Valar, Lord Elrond surely does not mean to…*
He did. “There lies our hope, if hope it be. To walk into peril…into Mordor.” Legolas did not even realize his breath had quickened, and his heart beat ever faster. “We must send the Ring into the Fire.”
Silence fell again. All seemed to feel a dead darkness in their hearts. At last, Boromir stirred, catching the eyes of the others, for he was fingering his great horn and frowning. At length, he spoke. “I do not understand all this. Saruman is a traitor, but did he not have a glimpse of wisdom? Why do you speak ever of hiding and destroying? Why should we not think that the Great Ring has come into our hands to serve us in the very hour of need? Wielding it the Free Lords of the Free may surely defeat the Enemy. That is what he most fears, I deem. The men of Gondor are valiant, and they will never submit, but they may be beaten down. Valour needs first strength, and then a weapon. Let the Ring be your weapon, if it has such power as you say. Take it and go forth to victory!”
*Ai! Has this man heard nothing Lord Elrond has said, or has he already fallen under the spell of the Ring? If it may act this fast, then surely we are all doomed, for no man or elf, however valiant, would survive a trip into Mordor so close to its evil,* thought Legolas, but Elrond spoke up first.
“Alas, no,” he said, to Legolas’s relief. “We cannot use the Ruling Ring. That we now know to well. It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and is altogether evil. Its strength, Boromir, is too great for anyone to wield at will, save only those who have already a great power of their own. But for them it holds an even deadlier peril. The very desire of it corrupts the heart. Consider Saruman. If any of the Wise should with this Ring overthrow the Lord of Mordor, using his own arts, he would then set himself on Sauron’s throne, and yet another Dark Lord would appear. And that is another reason why the Ring should be destroyed: as long as it is in the world it will be a danger even to the Wise. For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so. I fear to take the Ring to hide it. I will not take the Ring to wield it.”
“Nor I,” said Gandalf.
Boromir bowed his head. “So be it.”
Long they talked of the Ruling Ring, and the powers of the other races of Middle Earth--or rather, how not a one had any object of power that could stand against the One, should it fall back into Sauron’s hands. “Ah, alas!” cried Glóin. “When will the day come of our revenge? But still there are the Three? What of the Three Rings of the Elves? Very mighty Rings, it is said. Do not the Elf lords keep them? Yet they too were made by the Dark Lord long ago. Are they idle? I see Elf Lords here. Will they not say?”
It rankled Legolas slightly to realize that it had not occurred to him to wonder about the Elven Rings. He looked around, at Elrond seated at the head of the Council, at Elladan and Elrohir beside him, and Glorfindel and Lindir, at Eregdos at his side. It was said that Gil-Galad had carried one, but he had fallen at Orodruin. Who did possess the Three now, the young elf wondered. Glorfindel, perhaps? Or Elrond? Celeborn and Galadriel? Legolas suspected he would know if his father had ever possessed one. He looked around the company again. The elven lords returned no answer to Glóin’s question.
“Did you not hear me, Glóin?” said Elrond. “The Three were not made by Sauron, nor did he ever touch them.”
“But what then would happen, if the Ruling Ring were destroyed, as you counsel?” asked Glóin.
“We know not for certain,” answered Elrond sadly. “Some hope that the Three Rings, which Sauron has never touched, would then become free, and their rulers might heal the hurts of the world that he has wrought. But maybe when the One has gone, the Three will fail, and many fair things will fade and be forgotten. That is my belief.”
Legolas felt a pang at Elrond’s words. The Lord of Imladris was seldom wrong, and now he spoke as one who knew something more than the others. Legolas looked hard at the elven lord, noting his hands hidden within the folds of his robe. And the son of Thranduil felt a very strong suspicion that were Elrond’s hands to be seen, one of the Three would adorn the half-elf’s finger.
“Yet all the elves are willing to endure this chance,” said Glorfindel, “if by it the power of Sauron may be broken, and the fear of his dominion be taken away forever.”
Even if it meant an end to the power of the Three, the last source of protection for the Eldar, Legolas thought. And if the fair lands of the elves were not protected by the Rings, as Elrond had suggested, what would become of their realms? Then again, Mirkwood had no elven ring, and the lands remained fair, if wrought with danger always close at hand. Would that be the fate of Lórien and Imladris if the Three were shorn of their power? The idea frightened Legolas. There were so few elven havens left in Middle Earth. What would become of them in this war that all seemed to fear was brewing, whether that war be won or lost? What would become of his people?
Elrond was speaking again; Legolas snapped back to the present. “At least for a while, the road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.”
“Very well, very well, Master Elrond!” said Bilbo suddenly. “Say no more! It is plain enough what you are pointing at. Bilbo the silly hobbit started this affair, and Bilbo had better finish it, or himself.”
As the hobbit rambled on, Legolas felt his lips quirking, and some of the dark mood over the Council lightened as any number of the company quashed smiles. Was this self-proclaimed “silly”--not to mention old--hobbit actually volunteering to take the Ring into Mordor? Yet he seemed perfectly sincere, and Legolas felt a flicker of amused admiration for the little aged creature who so matter-of-factly offered to take up a quest that would undoubtedly claim his life.
Laughter died on the lips of Boromir, and his expression became gravely respectful as he too realized that the old hobbit was quite serious. Only Glóin smiled openly, but his smile seemed rather reminiscent, and Legolas recalled that the dwarf had seen the hobbit in his youth. Perhaps such a proposal was to be considered, if only the hobbit were younger. After all, possessing little power or thirst for power of their own, (at least that was what was said) perhaps a hobbit would be better suited to carry the Ring than a man or even an elf. It bore consideration.
But Gandalf laughed then. “Of course, my dear Bilbo. If you had really started this affair, you might be expected to finish it. But you know well enough now that starting is too great a claim for any, and that only a small part is played in great deeds by any hero. You need not bow. Though the word was meant, and we do not doubt that under jest you are making a valiant offer.” *To say the least!* thought Legolas admiringly. “But one beyond your strength, Bilbo,” Gandalf went on. “You cannot take this thing back. It has passed on. If you need my advice any longer, I should say that your part is ended, unless as a recorder. Finish your book, and leave the ending unaltered. There is still hope for it. But get ready to write a sequel, when they come back.”
Bilbo laughed, and the mood of all the company seemed to lighten a little. “I have never known you to give me pleasant advice before,” he said. Legolas was not the only one in that circle of men, elves, dwarves, and hobbits who stifled a snigger. Gandalf shot them all a rather jesting scowl, but Bilbo’s remark that followed caused more barks of laughter to escape the group. “As all your unpleasant advice has been good, I wonder if this advice is not bad. Still, I don’t suppose I have the strength or luck left to deal with the Ring. It has grown, and I have not. But tell me: what do you mean by ‘they?’”
“The messengers who are sent with the Ring,” said Elrond. *Someone decidedly suicidal,* thought Legolas, and caught a look from Boromir that suggested the man held a similar view of the as-yet-to-be-named messengers.
“Exactly!” declared Bilbo with all seriousness. “And who are they to be? That seems to me what this Council has to decide, and all that it has to decide. Elves may thrive on speech alone--” *We do not!* thought Legolas indignantly, “--and dwarves endure great weariness; but I am only an old hobbit, and I miss my meal at noon. Can’t you think of some names now? Or put it off till after dinner?”
Legolas stared at his knees, consumed by rather brooding thoughts. What elf or man could possibly be good enough, wise enough, strong enough to bear the Ring all the way to Mordor while resisting its pull? Aragorn, perhaps? *And yet it claimed Isildur. Still, Aragorn is not Isildur. What of Mithrandir? Or Glorfindel or Lord Elrond?*
The noon bell rang. Still no one spoke. He stole a quick glance around the Council, all of whom seemed to have their eyes downcast, deep in thought. Suddenly, and rather disconcertingly, his eyes met the eyes of Frodo Baggins, the younger hobbit. They blinked at each other and looked at the rest of the Council again. Legolas eyed the elven lords, the wizard, and Aragorn. Would they not speak? At the very least, if messengers were to be chosen, they were the ones to do the choosing--
“I will take it!”
Legolas jumped. So did several of the others. Everyone stared at the small, young hobbit who had spoken, feeling a collective sense of complete shock. None looked more shocked than Frodo himself. The hobbit swallowed hard. “I will take the Ring,” he said in a soft, but astonishingly steady and firm voice. “Though I do not know the way.”
Only Elrond had not looked up. Now he raised his eyes to meet Frodo’s, and Legolas felt his heart lurch at seeing the sudden keenness of the glance. Elrond spoke. “If I understand aright all that I have heard, I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will. This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the Great. Who of all the Wise could have foreseen it? Or, if they are wise, why should they expect to know it, until the hour has struck?”
Legolas listened, silent and thoughtful, though for some strange reason his heart was racing in his chest. Not with fear, but with anticipation, the adrenaline surging as it had not since he had taken his place to begin the Great Gathering Trial. *Indeed, something great is about to happen here. Yet all is ready; I can feel it. How very strange. Lord Elrond must be right. Hobbits are not renowned for their strength, nor their wisdom, nor their courage, and yet…perhaps that is the point.*
“But it is a heavy burden,” said Lord Elrond to Frodo. “So heavy that none could lay it on another. I do not lay it on you. But if you take it freely, I will say that your choice is right; and though all the mighty elf-friends of old, Hador and Hurin, and Turin, and Beren himself were assembled together, your seat should be among them.”
“Here!” barked a new voice suddenly, and all the assembled blinked and looked around, as a third hobbit sprang up from where he had quietly been sitting on the ledge just behind the plants that lined the porch. “But you won’t send him off alone, surely, Master?” cried the new hobbit, who looked to be younger than Frodo. Jumping up around the corner, he scurried to Frodo’s side, and glanced rather sheepishly around at the august company before folding his arms firmly. “Mr. Frodo’s not goin’ anywhere without me!”
Lord Elrond eyed the newcomer for a moment, then smiled slightly, “No indeed, it is hardly possible to separate you from him, even when he is summoned to a secret council and you are not.”
“Oy! We’re coming too!”
*And two more hobbits! Will wonders never cease?* Indeed they were a wonder, scampering on those huge, wooly feet of theirs to flank Frodo’s left side. Lord Elrond had been dryly amused by the first eavesdropper’s sudden appearance, but now he looked quite disgruntled. It was an expression Legolas had never seen on the Lord of Imladris, and he suddenly found himself desperately stifling a laugh. Few beings in Middle Earth could boast the ability to throw off Lord Elrond, but as he stared at the two newest intruders, he could not seem to think of a thing to say. Legolas bit his lip, but a snigger still escaped. Fortunately, even as Elrond looked about to turn his scowl onto Legolas, Elrohir snickered behind him, and the elven lord was successfully distracted into glaring at his son instead.
Gandalf rose. “We shall consider it, my dear Peregrin and Meriadoc, we shall consider it. Frodo shall not be lacking in companions, that I can promise you. Let us adjourn for the time being, Lord Elrond, and discuss who is best suited to accompany Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee on their quest.”
Samwise shook his head, blushing, and muttered, “A nice pickle we have landed ourselves in, Mr. Frodo!”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.