6. After the Council
at the golden circle resting in the open palm of his
hand. 'Why did I do it?' he asked himself. Whatever
possessed him to volunteer to take the Ring to the
The answer was simple: He'd done it because he had
to. Everybody'd been shouting, it was clear none of
the great people could trust themselves or each other
with the Ring. It *had* to be somebody small and
unimportant, somebody it couldn't tempt. Him.
So now he was committed, and Sam and Merry and
Pippin too. Well at least they'd have Gandalf to look
after them - and Strider.
Now that had been a shock all right. His lips
quirked wryly, remembering: "He is Aragorn son of
Arathorn, you owe him your allegiance." Legolas had
told Boromir. Which made no sense at all until Boromir
said, "This is Isildur's Heir?". Frodo had stared. Not
just one of the King's People but the King himself.
He'd understood Boromir's bitterness perfectly. If
there was still a King why wasn't he *doing*
something? why didn't he make things right? But of
course Aragorn *was* doing something - he'd seen four
feckless Hobbits and the Ring safely to Rivendell and
now he was going to take them into Mordor itself.
"If by my life or death I can protect you I will."
he'd said and then he'd knelt down before Frodo and
pledged his sword to a Hobbit of the Shire. Having
never had anybody, much less a King, swear fealty to
him before Frodo hadn't had the faintest idea what to
say or do. Luckily Aragorn hadn't seemed to expect
anything from him. He'd just smiled and gotten up, to
Frodo's intense relief, and stood beside him with a
reassuring hand on his shoulder. None of the others
had knelt, thank goodness, but now he had Legolas'
Elven Bow, Gimli's Dwarf axe and Boromir's sword to
protect him too - or rather the Ring. Together with
Gandalf's magic that should be enough, at least he
He glanced up to see Strider - Aragorn - the King
looking down at him with a small frown of concern
crinkling his brow. Frodo slid off the garden bench
and held out the Ring. "By rights this is yours not
Aragorn shook his head. "By right it should not
even exist." gently. "Frodo, if I could I would take
this burden from you but I dare not. Isildur was a
great Man yet the Ring overcame him, I would prove no
"I know." resignedly Frodo strung the Ring back on
its chain and fastened it around his neck. "It has to
be me." looked up at the Man a little shyly. "I don't
know what to call you."
"Aragorn will do very well. It is my name."
"It should be me, not Frodo." Bilbo argued,
stumping restlessly around his nephew's room. "I found
the thing, it's my responsibility. Why did you make me
leave it to him?" he demanded of Gandalf. "I could
have brought it here to Rivendell seven years ago and
saved the boy all this trouble and danger."
"The Ring had already done you great harm." Gandalf
replied patiently. "For your sake it was best it
"So it can hurt Frodo too? No! I won't have it."
Bilbo stopped in front of the wizard, glared defiantly
up at him. "If the harm's already done then what more
do I have to fear?"
"Bilbo," Gandalf laid his hands on the outraged old
Hobbit's shoulders. "nobody doubts your courage or
your willingness but this task is beyond your
strength. You must leave it to Frodo."
Bilbo continued to glare into the Wizard's eyes for
a moment, blinked, then finally sighed. "You're right
of course. I'm just a feeble old Hobbit. I'd be lucky
to make it to the Misty Mountains, much less Mordor."
"I'll be all right, Bilbo." Frodo said reassuringly,
"I have Gandalf, and Aragorn and Sam to look after
me don't I?" with a quick smile at the last, ruefully
Bilbo sat himself down on one of the small chairs
that had been brought down from the old Nursery for
the Hobbits' use. "Yes, but who's going to look after
Merry and Pippin?"
"Boromir?" Aragorn suggested mildly.
Frodo looked at him worriedly. "Is he going to be a
problem? I mean the two of you didn't exactly hit it
off did you?"
"I will talk to him." Aragorn promised.
"The Council of Gondor rejected the claims of
Isildur's Heirs," he told Boromir, some hours later.
"I will not contest that judgement. I have no mind for
strife with any but our common Enemy."
He had finally tracked the other Man down in the
upper gallery of Elrond's library, studying the
painted history of Men and Elves lining its
"My father is Steward of the Line of Anarion,"
Boromir answered defensively. "It is to them that he
and I owe allegiance."
"My House represents that Line too, through Firiel
daughter of Ondoher." Aragorn pointed out drily,
before catching himself up. "But I have no wish to
rehash old arguments. My concern is the Kingdom of the
North, or what is left of it, as Gondor is yours. The
Enemy in the East is our common foe, we have no
quarrel with one another."
"I understand." Boromir said slowly.
Relieved Aragorn changed the subject. "The Hobbits
are brave but inexperienced, they will need watching,
guarding. Especially the two younger ones."
"On such a mission - quest - thing." Boromir
agreed, lips curving in amusement.
Aragorn nodded, also smiling. "Exactly." the smile
faded. "They have no idea what they are facing."
"I gathered as much." Boromir said quietly. "I will
be glad to do what I can for them. Merry and Pippin is
"So they are called. Meriadoc Brandybuck and
Peregrine Took are their full names. They have not
been trained in arms, unfortunately, such is not
"Then they had better learn. I have some experience
as a teacher."
"Good." Aragorn nodded politely and walked away,
satisfied he and the Man from Gondor understood each
Boromir watched him go troubled by confused
emotions. It would seem the long lost King had no
interest at all in his Southern Kingdom. That should
have pleased him, yet somehow it did not. Instead he
felt like a child abandoned by its parents to live or
die in the Wild.
Dwarves have tenacious memories, never forgeting a
wrong or a benefit. And they always pay their debts.
The old Hobbit could say what he liked but Gimli knew
his father, his uncle and his other kinsmen would have
died long before reaching the Lonely Mountain if not
for their Master Burglar. The Dwarves of Erebor owed
their restored Kingdom to Bilbo Baggins. Now his
nephew and heir had taken an even greater quest upon
himself and Gimli son of Gloin intended to go with him
every step of the way, even into the fires of Mordor
itself, to repay the debt owed the uncle.
And for the nephew's sake as well. Gimli liked what
he'd seen of the youngster, he'd obviously inherited
Bilbo's courage as well as his Ring. And thanks to his
father's stories Gimli knew better than to judge the
young Hobbits by their seeming softness. They had old
Bilbo's blood in their veins, his strength and cunning
would be there when they needed it. And in the
meantime their older, more experienced companions
would look out for them.
It was a pity they couldn't leave sooner, the Dwarf
looked disapprovingly at the airy open halls and
terraced gardens around him. Insubstantial, flimsy
sort of place this Rivendell with no proper walls and
trees growing right inside the rooms. Not at all to
Dwarvish tastes. Still he could stand it for a month
or two if he had too.
And he did. The Dunadan was quite right to want
their route thoroughly scouted before they set out. It
seemed the Rangers were as hard pressed as everybody
else, with evils left by Angmar creeping out of their
hiding places to haunt the Wild.
His father Gloin had been quick to remind Aragorn
the Dwarf Halls of the Blue Mountains and Erebor
itself were open to his people should they need
refuge. Long ago the Dunedain had sheltered Durin's
folk, driven from Moria by Durin's Bane, and the
Dwarves did not forget it.
The bell rang for the noon meal and Gimli turned
his wandering steps towards the Great Hall, stumping
stolidly up the winding paths and several flights of
The Wood-elf, Legolas, appeared walking along an
intersecting path also on his way to the Hall. Gimli
was none to enthusiastic about this companion. Still,
that bow of his might be of some use. He gave the Elf
a stiff little nod of greeting.
The Elf nodded back and they continued on in silent
company. It wouldn't be so bad. Gimli assured himself,
he'd be civil as long as the Elf was - and with seven
other companions they needn't have much to do with
If the Dwarf could be civil so could he, Legolas
told himself. Just be distantly polite and keep
conversation to a minimum. That axe of his should
prove useful anyway, Legolas was familiar enough with
the roads east to have some idea of the perils they
Once again Aragorn had turned away from his
destiny, quixotically offering his sword to the
Ringbearer. Yet Legolas had seen Gandalf and Elrond
exchange a near wink, as if very well pleased by their
protege's decision. The ways of Wizards are subtle and
tortuous, and Elrond's great age and Mortal blood made
him almost as inscrutable.
It was concern for Aragorn, as well as admiration
for the Halfling's courage that moved Legolas to join
their company. If Isildur's Heir was to travel through
the Kingdom that denied him and into the territory of
his bitterest foe he would need a friend at his back.
As for the Ringbearer himself, Legolas' father
Thranduil had been most impressed by Bilbo Baggins. If
Frodo was anything at all like his uncle that
seemingly gentle exterior concealed unsuspected
resources of courage and cunning. He would need those
qualities badly, and all the help his companions could
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