2. THIS is the Fate of Middle-earth?
"You were correct, Lord Elrond. Frodo has indeed chosen to carry the Ring."
Unsurprised, Elrond drew is attention away from the land below and turned to acknowledge the speaker. “Ah, Mithrandir. I was wondering when you would seek me out.” The Elf lord spoke quietly as he leaned against the balcony railing. “I am sorry to see the young hobbit so burdened, yet there is nothing we may do to ease this, save offer him the aid and protection of the Fellowship. You know this as well as I do.”
Gandalf walked up to the balcony ledge and placed one hand on the railing. Closing his eyes, he gripped his staff tightly and inhaled deeply. Elrond turned outward towards the land as well, and the two stood for a time, shoulder-to-shoulder in contemplative silence.
The wizard’s light chuckle caused Elrond to cock his head and regard his companion curiously. “We speak of the fall of Middle-earth,” he stated with raised eyebrows, “and yet the wise Mithrandir laughs as though the journey he is about to partake upon is a mere frolic through the trees? Forgive me, but I seemed to have missed the apparent humor of the situation.”
Gandalf opened his eyes and continued to chuckle. “No, no, my old friend. It is I who must be forgiven. I was just imagining the look that crossed Glóin’s face when young Legolas was introduced to Council.”
The usually stoic face of the elf lord threatened to break. “Indeed. . . I had not realized that Dwarves were capable of. . . squeaking.”
Looming danger momentarily forgotten, the wizard and Elf lord broke out into hearty laughter. “Still, I must speak with Glóin,” said Elrond when they had regained composure. “I would not have him placing any more prejudices in the head of his son than he already has. Elves and Dwarves do not see eye to eye as it is, and the history between Glóin and Thranduil will only serve to make things more difficult for Legolas and Gimli. I fear any advice imparted to Gimli from his father may only reinforce this.”
“Have you yet to inform Thranduil of his son’s errand?” asked Gandalf as the two exited the balcony and entered the library of the Homely House.
“The rest of the Mirkwood party will depart this morning. I expect it will take several weeks before they reach the kingdom.”
“Mmmm,” murmured Gandalf thoughtfully as the two departed from the library. “Or perhaps I should have asked: have you informed Thranduil of his son’s traveling companions?”
Elrond grimaced as he gracefully closed the library doors behind him. “You know very well of his thoughts on Legolas’ friendship with Aragorn. While Thranduil recognizes Aragorn’s legitimacy, he is still rather displeased by his son’s loyalty to a mortal—particularly one from the line of Isildur. And I dare say he views you as a rather poor influence as well. It goes against my better judgment to inform him that Legolas is not only traveling with the two of you, but Gimli son of Glóin of the Lonely Mountain, among others.”
Gandalf stopped abruptly. “I, a poor influence?” The wizard snorted indignantly. “Why, that is the most utterly ridiculous—”
“Mithrandir,” interrupted Elrond dryly, for he had not missed the twinkle in the wizard’s eye, “You are notorious for your dalliances in others’ affairs. Need I remind you of one Bilbo Baggins? After your instigation of that incident, it is no wonder Thranduil is so wary of you.”
“Notorious, indeed!” The wizard sniffed in mock righteousness. “And as for instigating, my ancient friend, wizards do not instigate. We simply offer priceless guidance to those who have lost their way.”
Had the two still been in the library, Elrond would have found great difficulty in restraining his desire to throw a large book at the irrepressible wizard’s head. Luckily for Gandalf, the library was some distance behind them now, and there were no other heavy (and possibly quite painful) objects within the Elf lord’s reach.
“Come,” Elrond sighed in exasperation, “let us depart. You have a frightened hobbit to console and I must speak with an irate Dwarf.”
* * *
The youngest son of Thranduil hummed softly to himself as he nocked another arrow to his bow. Unlike those of Mirkwood, the training grounds of Imladris were brighter and more spacious. Legolas’ woodland heritage had given him a natural affinity for the densely-packed forests of Mirkwood, yet even he had to admit that Imladris was immensely appealing.
THWACK! The arrow hit the target with deadly accuracy obtained from countless years of training. Legolas quickly drew another and continued peppering the target with well-practiced ease. As his body mechanically nocked, drew, aimed, and fired, he allowed his mind to wander.
‘Ah, Mirkwood,’ he sighed. ‘Far too long have you been wrapped in a cloak of darkness and evil, and my heart aches at the very thought of it!’
His quiver now empty, the young Elf went to retrieve his arrows. As he tugged at a particularly stubborn arrow, his thoughts suddenly drifted to his father. He frowned.
He had been so caught up in the previous days’ events that he had given no thought to what his father’s reactions might be. The young prince had been shocked and flattered when Lord Elrond himself had requested that he join the Fellowship. Thinking back, Legolas was still unsure of the Elf lord’s reasoning. Though not lacking in battle experience (for he had the many dark creatures of Mirkwood to thank for that), he was certainly not as experienced as those who had faced Sauron in the Last Alliance. Rather, he had expected one of the great Noldor lords still remaining in Middle-earth, such as Glorfindel, to be chosen. And yet, here he was, requested to represent the entire race of Elves in a quest which would quite possibly take him to the fiery pits of Mt. Doom itself.
An image of the Fellowship flashed before his eyes. There was Aragorn and Gandalf, both of whom Legolas knew well and trusted completely. Then there was Boromir, the all-too-human man of Gondor. . . Wide-eyed Frodo, loyal Sam, naively brave Merry and Pippin. . . that Dwarf. . . This was the fate of Middle-earth.
Feeling suddenly ill as the full realization of what he was about to embark upon set in, Legolas sat down abruptly.
“O may Elbereth help us!” he murmured. “What have I gotten myself into?”
* * *
Gandalf smiled to himself as he followed the sound of happily chattering hobbit voices. Stepping around a rather portly bush, he was rewarded with the sight of Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, and Bilbo all seated around a picnic consisting entirely of mushrooms.
“This, my friends,” said Merry as he carefully selected a particularly large mushroom and held it up to the autumn sunlight, “is no mere mushroom. Nay, it is a work of art! Behold, a masterpiece in all its glory that—”
“—would be admired much better were it in my stomach,” finished Pippin.
Merry glared at him. “Get your own mushroom, you uncultured monster.”
“Hullo, Gandalf!” Frodo called out cheerfully as the wizard approached.
“Would you care to join us, my dear friend? Here, have a mushroom.” Bilbo dug through the overflowing basket and offered a wrinkled grey mushroom cap.
Gandalf smiled and shook his head. “No thank you, Bilbo. I leave the mushrooms to you. I will, however, join you.” The wizard carefully leaned his staff against a slim young birch tree and sat down next to Bilbo.
“So, Samwise Gamgee,” started Bilbo with a knowing grin. “Do be so kind as to tell me of this beautiful Rosie Cotton whom has supposedly stolen your heart.”
“I-I-I don’t know what you mean!” stammered the embarrassed hobbit. His eyes darted about furtively as he desperately tried to ignore the large grins on the faces of his companions.
“Ooooh, you mean Rosie COTTON?” teased Merry. “Well, I shall tell you of the lovely maiden who has our Sam so smitten.”
“I am not. . .” Sam mumbled weakly.
Much to Sam’s chagrin, Merry proceeded to stand up and very animatedly discuss the agreeable qualities of the maiden in question.
“Rosie Cotton,” sighed Merry, clasping his hands together and fluttering his eyelids. “She has hair that shines as if it were rays of sunlight. And her lips, why, they are as red as the autumn leaves of Rivendell. . .”
Sam sighed. In truth, he missed Rosie quite a bit. And, as far as his very humble opinion was concerned, Merry’s exaggerated narrative of her was in actuality very truthful.
“. . .and her eyes! Oh, her eyes!” continued Merry. “They are sparkling pools of brown. As brown as—eh? What was that, Sam?”
“Blue,” murmured Sam dreamily. “They’re blue. Not brown. Blue like the morning glories that--”
He stopped abruptly. “But. . . you already knew that, didn’t you?” he concluded with narrowed eyes. Merry’s grin widened. Pippin covered his mouth with his hands in a desperate attempt to stifle his snickering.
“I knew it!” laughed Frodo. “Come on, dear Sam. There’s no harm in admitting it. Rosie’s wonderful!”
“He’s blushing!” shouted Pippin triumphantly.
“I am not!” exclaimed Sam, his blush only deepening.
“Then tell me, Master Gamgee,” said Merry, thoroughly enjoying the other’s discomfort, “do you always turn this shade of red in the autumn?”
“Perhaps he changes with the trees,” added Pippin.
It was all too much for the love-struck Sam to bear.
“Yes! Yes I do!” he flustered. “And if you’re not careful, I’ll hurt you like an autumn tree, too!”
Pippin rolled his eyes. “Sam, you dolt, trees can’t—OUCH!”
“I’m an Elvish autumn tree! So take that!” roared the hobbit. “And that! And THAT!”
Now, it is neither polite nor civilized to smack one’s own brethren with a large stick, but unfortunately for the beleaguered Merry and Pippin, Sam the Autumn Elvish Tree disregarded this courtesy and attacked in full-fledged wrath.
After receiving several welts apiece, the two hobbits finally managed to tackle Sam and wrestle the stick away from his grasp.
Frodo sat comfortably on the grass and enjoyed the spectacle as it unfolded. They were good companions, this Frodo knew. They had demanded to follow him, no matter where the end may take them. Frodo sighed inwardly and watched as the three hobbits tumbled amongst the fallen leaves. He would have to watch over them.
A leaf lazily floated downward and landed softly in his hair. He reached up and pulled it out, but instead of casting it aside, Frodo cupped the leaf in his hands and stared at it. Perhaps it was the elven nature of the leaf—having fallen from a tree of Rivendell, or perhaps it was that he was weary from Council, but as he stared at the fragile thing, it seemed to Frodo that its color radiated onto his hands. It was a deep crimson. The color of blood.
Startled, Frodo blinked and looked up. Gandalf and Bilbo regarded him with concern.
“Sorry,” he began lamely. “I just. . . let’s go inside, shall we?”
“Very well,” answered Bilbo, giving him one last glance. “Merry, Sam, Pippin! Come along, my boys. We’ve had enough of you rolling about in the dirt as though you were swine.”
The disheveled trio picked themselves up off the ground and cheerfully began collecting the remains of the picnic. Laughing and joking, they made their way inside. Bilbo and Gandalf followed.
Somewhat dazed, Frodo stood up and looked after his companions.
“Frodo,” spoke Gandalf gently, “Let it go.” He placed a comforting hand upon the hobbit’s shoulder. “Let it go.”
“Let what go?” asked the confused hobbit.
Gandalf gave a slight nod towards the hobbit’s hands. Frodo looked down. He was still cupping the leaf.
“But,” he began. It was silly, really. He couldn’t explain it, yet he did not want to let go of the leaf. It was so delicate. He wished to protect it, to keep it perfect and unmarred by time or change.
“It fell of its own accord,” said the wizard. “It was destined to do so. You cannot stop fate, Frodo. Let it go.”
Reluctantly, Frodo let the leaf fall. He looked at his hands and shivered. To him, they still bore the leaf’s crimson glow.
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.