12. The Council of Elrond
I closed my mouth, which I had opened to say that I did not want to take part in this council, and turned to Glorfindel, my hands raised in a gesture of defeat. "Why can't he ask a person in the usual fashion? To at least give you the time to adjust to such a summons?"
Glorfindel shrugged but turned back to the houses. "We have a saying about wizards," he told me. "Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger."
"Yeah," I said bleakly. "I know that one." Glorfindel raised a delicately slanted golden eyebrow at me. "However, you would have been invited even if Gandalf had not insisted on your inclusion." At that moment the bright, clear sound of a bell drifted across to us from one of the many turrets of the Last Homely House. "This is the signal for the council. Please remember what Gandalf said. It is best if you don't speak at all, and especially that you don't reveal anything you might know."
Caught in the intense blue gaze of the elf-lord I only nodded, swallowing dryly. What had Gandalf told Glorfindel about my origins? And why wanted Gandalf that I took part in the council? Why, indeed, had Gandalf sent me to Middle Earth? I had not dared to ask the wizard, as he had indicated plainly on that first evening, when I had met him here in Rivendell that he would not give me any further explanation.
However, I did not believe for a second that he had only wanted to give me the chance to find my true home here in Middle Earth, no matter how dearly I had wished to escape my life back on earth that day on the hill.
I sighed. There was nothing I could do to solve this mystery at the moment. So I turned and followed Glorfindel up the winding path to the house. The elf led me to a wide porch which faced southwards to the peaceful valley of Rivendell. The terrace lay in a spot of bright sunlight, and even though it was the end of October, it was comfortably warm out here in the open. A long table had been put up on the terrace, with a number of wooden chairs with high regal backs arranged around it. On the table a number of maps and old documents were spread out. Elrond sat at the head of the table. Next to him was the dark haired elf called Erestor, who served as Elrond's scribe for such occasions, as Glorfindel had explained to me.
Glorfindel led me to the far end of the table and chose a chair next to me. I looked around the table full of curiosity. My heartbeat was speeding up, and there were butterflies in my stomach. The chapter of the council had always been one of my favourite chapters. It felt very strange to be here now, and to know what was going to be decided here today. I shivered in spite of the warm sunshine bathing my face. I experienced a frightening sensation of unreality which made me grip the armrests of my chair so tightly that my knuckles stood out whitely. I realized that the thing I feared most by now was to wake up back on earth, with my life just as it had been, and the last weeks only a dream which could never come true.
I forced myself to breathe slowly and evenly, and to concentrate my attention on the other members and guests of this council.
Gimli was present along with another dwarf who had very white hair and an extremely long beard the same colour as his hair. That had to be Glóin, Gimli's father.
Next to Erestor a tall, fair-haired and grey-eyed elf was seated. Galdor, Glorfindel told me, an emissary from the Grey Havens. Then came Elrond's twin sons. They were identical twins and looked like a younger, more carefree version of their father. There were several more elves of Rivendell at the right side of the table, who I had seen before, at dinner or in the gardens, but there was a strange elf in their midst who wore travelling clothes of green and brown and not the delicate robes favoured by the nobility of Rivendell. This elf was slightly smaller than the Rivendell elves, his figure very slender and lithe. He had long, silvery-blond hair, but his eyes were a greenish-brown colour like oak-leaves. Legolas, prince of Mirkwood, the son of Thranduil, king of the Elves of Mirkwood, Glorfindel explained to me in a low voice.
On the other side of the table a man sat with his chair moved back from the table a little, so that he was placed apart from the other diners. He had short dark hair, which barely touched his shoulders, and proud grey eyes. His clothes were rich and well made, but they were badly travel-stained. On his knees he held a great horn, which was tipped with silver. Boromir, I whispered in a low voice. Glorfindel raised his eyebrows at me, his look stern and reprimanding. I gulped and pressed my lips together. Don't talk. Don't think.
Next to Boromir Aragorn had taken seat, his face grave, his eyes cool. There was a certain tension around his shoulders. As the bell rang a second time, Gandalf entered the porch along with Bilbo and Frodo. Bilbo sat down next to Aragorn, and Frodo between Bilbo and Gandalf.
Now every seat was taken.
Elrond rose from his seat and looked at the faces of elves, dwarves, humans and hobbits gathered around the table. "In dark days ambassadors of all free peoples of Middle Earth have come to Imladris, to hold counsel in the face of the threat of the dark lord in the East. I ask for the blessing and the wisdom of the Valar and the One for all that is discussed today."
"So mote it be," was the ritual answer all around the table.
Then Elrond proceeded to the introductions of everyone who was present.
When he said my name and introduced me as a visitor from a distant country, I was suddenly aware of the fact that I was the only woman present. Boromir turned around and stared at me for a moment, his gaze piercing. I felt an uncomfortable wave of heat rise to my face and determinedly looked away from the Gondorian warrior.
The first part of the council was spent giving and analyzing news from all directions of Middle Earth by the different representatives of elves, dwarves and men.
This took a long time and was an exhausting business. There were many names and events discussed that I had never heard of and could not even begin to place. I recalled how Tolkien had dismissed those details in the book: "Not all that was spoken and debated in the Council need now be told."
I was tired and my head was throbbing, when finally Elrond began to speak. Listening to his clear, melodic voice my fatigue disappeared at once. Completely fascinated I heard for the first time the whole story of Sauron, the making of the rings and the wars of the second age of Middle Earth.
At the end of his tale the elf-lord sighed, his grey eyes filled with the shadows of dark memories of ages forgotten by almost anyone else. "I remember well the splendour of their banners," he added at last, his voice full of low sorrow. "It reminded me of the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand. Many great princes and captains had assembled for this final battle of the Last Alliance, and yet they were not so many, nor so fair, as when Thangorodrim was broken in the first age of the world – when the Elves had thought that evil was destroyed forever, and it was not so. Valiant warriors of elves and men rode out on the plains of Dagorlad that day, and most of them died that very day." He sighed and cast down his eyes.
"How awful," I blurted out. Almost instantly I felt the warning touch of Glorfindel's hand on my shoulder, and as I felt myself wilt under Elrond's piercing silver gaze, heat suffused my face, and I wanted nothing so much than simply to vanish into thin air, or at least turn into a mouse and run off.
"Yes," answered Elrond gravely. "So it was indeed. But that is the way of this world; my memory reaches back even to the Elder Days. I have seen three ages in the West of the world, and indeed many centuries of defeats and fruitless victories of long forgotten valour."
And then Elrond told about the day when he marched with Gil-galad's army to the plains of Dagorlad as the herald of the High King of the Elves, the day Gil-galad died, and Elendil was killed, and Elendil's famous sword, Narsil, was broken beneath him. His voice firm sounded, but his eyes dark with grief for people dead for more than three thousand years.
"Isildur, in his desperation, slashed at the enemy's hand with the hilt-shard of Narsil and cut off the ring, which held the enemy's most horrible power. The battle was won. And Isildur took the ring for his own."
"So that is what happened to the Ring!" Boromir exclaimed. "We remember the Great Ring in Gondor, but it is commonly assumed that it was lost in the ruin of the enemy's first realm.
So it was Isildur, who took it! That is tidings indeed!"
"Alas!" Elrond replied. "Isildur took it. Círdan and I tried to convince him to destroy this evil thing once and forever. We asked him to cast it into the fiery chasm of the Orodruin, where it had been made. But he would not listen to our counsel. He took it and called it weregild, but its price was high, for it betrayed Isildur when he was on his way back across the Gladden Fields. Orcs came upon his company. Isildur and his three eldest sons and all their men but three were killed. And it was Ohtar, Isildur's squire, who saved the shards of Narsil and brought them and the news of Isildur's death to Rivendell, where Valandil, Isildur's heir, dwelt."
Elrond finished his story with a brief outline of the history of Middle Earth up to this very day. He did not speak of the ring anymore until the very end of his tale.
"Thus it was that the Ruling Ring passed out of all knowledge, and the Three were free of its dominion. Now, however, they and all their workings are in peril again. The One Ring has been found. But others shall tell the tale of its finding, for I had little part in this."
When Elrond had fallen silent, Boromir stood up, and made a speech about the danger of the East and the valour of Gondor, and he told of the dream he had had, which had finally brought him to Rivendell – hoping to find an answer to this mystery.
"And here you shall find it," said Aragorn, and laid the shards of his sword on the table. "Here is the sword that was broken."
"But who are you? What is your business with the heirlooms of Gondor?" Boromir asked, staring at Aragorn in astonishment. Aragorn, back in his faded travelling clothes, did not look like an heir of kings, but like a run-down ranger from the North today.
"He is Aragorn son of Arathorn," Elrond replied, and his eyes were bright with affection for the tall man, standing next to the shards of Elendil's sword. "He is a direct descendant of Isildur, Elendil's son, and Chief of the Dúnedain of the North."
"But then it's yours!" Frodo cried and jumped to his feet, amazement plain on his small face.
"It does not belong to either of us," Aragorn disagreed. "And I would not want it, even if it could belong to me. However, now is the time to tell the story how the Ring was found, and how it came into your hands."
"Bring out the ring," Gandalf asked solemnly.
I watched as Frodo took the golden ring out of his pocket and held it up before the Council in a small, trembling hand.
A small golden ring.
Just a small golden ring in the hand of a hobbit.
I stared at the ring, and suddenly I was afraid, more afraid than I have ever been afraid before in my life. I felt icy drops of sweat form on my forehead, and I was shivering all over.
The ring seemed to grow in Frodo's hand. I discovered that I could not turn my eyes away from the ring. It seemed to me that the sun had vanished and that the bright and peaceful valley of Imladris was suddenly full of dark and deadly shadows. And a voice seemed to speak to me from the shadows, and it urged me to take the ring because only then I would be able to stay here in Middle Earth forever, where I belonged, where my heart was.
I was close to jumping from my chair and running to the hobbit, when the small nagging voice of my doubts and my fears, which had troubled me so much these many weeks in Middle Earth, suddenly came awake again at the back of my mind. That ring is evil, a part of me was saying. It really is evil. If you ever doubted that you were really in Middle Earth, if you ever doubted that all of this is real, now you know. It is evil. And it is real. But I need the ring, another part of me screamed with desperation. I need it! To stay here! But it was not the ring, which brought you here, the obnoxious part of my brain countered. It was Gandalf. And he did not bring you here to take the ring. You know the story. The ring is not your story.
I felt myself torn apart internally, until I did not know which fear was stronger in my mind, the fear of losing my new home, or the fear of the ring's evil.
Fiery wheels began to grow in front of my eyes, the disturbances of vision often heralding a migraine or a faint. Fiery wheels, turning faster and faster, reaching out for me.
"Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul."A shadow gripped my very soul, and in my fear I cried out, feeling tears running down my face, and I was shaking so hard, I could not even raise my hands to close my ears. When I thought I was close to passing out, I felt someone take my right hand, and within moments a measure of calmness returned to me. The ring was again only a small golden ring, the horrible voice and the fiery wheels were gone from my mind.
I turned my head away from the scene and clutched desperately at the strength of Glorfindel, who had come to my rescue.
"Never before has anyone dared to utter words of that black tongue in Imladris, Gandalf the Grey," Elrond said, and as he rose from his seat, the lingering shadows were swept away, and the sun warmed the company once more. In Imladris Elrond was master, and the shadows, which lived in the valley, were only those of tree and bush and mountain, and they obeyed his command.
I clung to Glorfindel's hand like a frightened child, and for several hours not much of what was said registered with me.
"Who will read this riddle for us?" Erestor asked, and as if on cue, all faces turned to Elrond.
But the Lord of Imladris shook his head. "None here can do so," he said gravely. And Gandalf raised his eyebrows ever so slightly and his blue eyes blazed a warning for me, just as Glorfindel tightened the hold on my hand. "At least none can foretell what will come to pass, if we take this road or that." I swallowed hard, my heart beating like drum almost painfully.
I bit down on my lips, hard. Don't talk. Don't think. And don't look at the ring. Just don't.
Boromir's voice broke my concentration.
"Let the Ring be our weapon if it has such power as you say. Take it and go forth to victory!"
There was a nervous urgency in Boromir's voice and as I looked up, I saw a strange gleam in his eyes as he looked at the ring.
I quickly looked back to the ground. Don't even think of looking at this evil thing. Just don't.
I bit harder on my lip. I bit down so hard that I felt a sharp pain and then the taste of blood in my mouth. But I was glad of the distraction.
How well did I now understand what had happened to Boromir! And I could not even begin to imagine, how Frodo had managed to stay sane on the long road from Bree to Rivendell.
"I fear to take the Ring even to hide it," Elrond was saying. "I will never take the Ring to wield it." I looked up at Elrond and was shocked to see a shadow of the same fear in the elf-lord's eyes that was choking me. I threw a desperate glance at Glorfindel, who gave me a slight smile, and widened his blue, blue eyes. Don't be afraid. I won't let you fall. I felt the soothing mind-touch of the elf and suddenly could breathe easier.
"Nor I," agreed Gandalf. "Its evil is too great."
"But what strength do we have?" Erestor asked, "to find the fire in which the ring was shaped and unmake it therein? Isn't it folly to believe we could get there unseen? A path of despair?"
It was Gandalf, who finally answered. "It is our only hope. A decision of wisdom and necessity – and if folly should be our cloak, so be it! Because in all things the enemy sees malice and desire of power; into his heart the thought will never enter that any will refuse it, that having the Ring we might seek to destroy it. This is the only chance we have to put the enemy out of reckoning."
"At least for a time," agreed Elrond. "But this will be a most difficult endeavour, a hard road indeed that we must choose. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it."
"But who shall go?" inquired Erestor. "Who has the courage to take on this quest? Who shall bear this burden?" And he pointed at the ring, which Frodo had placed in front of him on the table. Frodo sat hunched and pale on his chair, watched by Bilbo with worried eyes.
Suddenly the older hobbit sighed and straightened up. "I will. You need not say another word. I started this mess; I'd better end it. Although I was very comfortable here, and I had the ending for my book all planned."
I swallowed hard when I heard this valiant offer of the ancient and already quite frail hobbit. I had seen his face as he had looked at Frodo just now. Bilbo had offered his life because he was afraid of what the ring was already doing to his nephew. Gandalf turned Bilbo's offer down with kind words, and all the Elves were looking at the old hobbit respectfully, and Glóin smiled to himself lost in memories of another story, which had not been as dark and dangerous. Only Boromir did not understand the quality of the offer and looked at the hobbit with an irritated expression on his face.
Although Bilbo looked secretly relieved at being told this quest was meant for others, at the same time he seemed to be a little bit annoyed with this decision. When he asked who would be sent instead, his voice was more than a bit grumpy.
"I am only an old hobbit, you said so in no uncertain terms. And I really do miss my meal at noon, which I had to skip for this splendid Council. Can't you think of some names now? Or put the choosing of your messengers off till after dinner?"
Silence fell. I did not look at Frodo. I knew what would happen. I felt choked. I wished there was a way I could help him that I could tell him everything would work out, that he'd succeed. And the ring seemed to whisper to me: yes, yes, tell them, tell them everything, tell them, tell them, and I will know, I will know… and I shivered again. But there was the comforting touch of Glorfindel's hand. And I had promised I would not say anything of what I knew. I would never look at this evil ring again, I thought. And I would keep my promise. No matter if I was allowed to stay, or if Gandalf chose to send me back.
"I will take the Ring," a small, high voice suddenly said. "Though I do not know the way."
Elrond rose from his seat and walked over to the hobbit. He knelt down in front of the hobbit, carefully keeping as far away from the ring as possible, and took Frodo's hands. "If I understand anything from all the stories and tales discussed here today, I think that this task has been appointed to you, Frodo. And that if you do not find a way, no on will."
Elrond returned to the head of the table and looked at the assembled.
"But who shall go with you?" he asked. "Because it is as I said, neither wisdom nor strength of arms will win your day, but you may need both ere you come to the end of your quest."
Sam, I thought. Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli. And Merry and Pippin. I swallowed hard. And Boromir. And Boromir. Poor Boromir. Suddenly I felt Elrond's gaze on me. I looked up into his silver-grey, piercingly keen eyes. Sam. Gandalf. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. Boromir. Merry and Pippin.
Elrond inclined his head ever so slightly.
At that moment, Sam jumped up from the corner where he had been sitting.
"But surely you won't let him go alone, Master Elrond!" he cried, anxiously looking at Frodo, who stood transfixed, clutching the ring in his hand.
"No, indeed," Elrond answered, and for the first time I saw something like a grin on the serious face of the elf-lord. "It is hardly possible to separate you from him, even when he summoned to a secret council and you are not."
Sam ran over to Frodo. He was blushing furiously and trying to hide behind his friend and master, which was, of course, impossible, because Frodo was much more slender than Sam, especially since his illness.
"But I think," Elrond continued, "that we should choose a company, fellowship, to accompany the ring-bearer. Although their number must be few as our hope lies in stealth and secrecy."
"Send nine and one," Gandalf suggested. "A counterpart to the nine riders foul and black, and one on top, a sign of hidden strength we may yet possess."
Sam. Merry. Pippin. Gandalf, I thought again. Aragorn. Boromir. Legolas. Gimli.
I looked up and met Gandalf's blue gaze, which was just as keen and penetrating as Elrond's had been.
Just then the discussion was interrupted by servants bearing trays with dinner because we had indeed spent the whole day talking, and even though the sun was already setting, not yet all decisions were made. While we were eating silently, the servants lit a large fire in the middle of the terrace, which would keep us warm should the debate on who was to go with the ring-bearer last deep into the night.
Elrond and Gandalf were deep in talk during the meal, and I could easily guess what they were talking about: the fellowship, and who should be chosen to accompany Frodo.
When the remains of dinner had been cleared away, Elrond returned to the matter at hand.
"There are several suggestions as to who should accompany the ring-bearer. I shall tell you who we think would be of help to this dark and dangerous quest. But it is up to you who are named to decide whether or not you will take on this quest. Nine and one, Gandalf has said.
And I agree. The one should be Gandalf as a leader for the company. But who else is to go?
To honour the alliance of all free peoples of Middle Earth, who have met for this council, one representative of each people should go: dwarves, elves and men."
Elrond paused for a moment. Then he looked at Legolas, who inclined his head gracefully.
"Legolas, son of Thranduil, shall go for the elves."
He turned his gaze to the dwarves, and Gimli rose to his feet at once and bowed to the elves and the rest of the Council.
"Gimli, son Glóin, shall represent the dwarves."
Aragorn rose from his seat. "And I shall go for the men. And I hope that I will not be alone." With that he turned to Boromir, who stood up at once and bowed to the ranger, although his eyes remained full of doubt. His voice, however, was firm, when he spoke. "Gondor shall not fail the world in this hour of need. I will go with you, and one day we shall draw swords together to fight for Minas Tirith and Gondor!"
"Sam has already offered," Elrond said after Aragorn and Boromir had taken seat again.
Just then Sam rose to his feet and held up his right arm, as if he was at school and wanted to ask something of the teacher. Elrond nodded and smiled at the plump hobbit. "My Lord Elrond," Sam said with a trembling voice. "You should consider Merry and Pippin. They would do everything for Frodo. Without them, we would not even have made it to Bree!"
Gandalf smiled at this, but he caught Elrond's eye and gave an almost imperceptible nod.
"Very well," Elrond said. "Though my heart is not sure about this decision, Merry and Pippin shall go with you, too."
The Lord of Rivendell sighed. Then he looked up and directed his penetrating gaze at me again. Suddenly apprehension welled up inside of me. What was the meaning of this?
"And Lothíriel. As Gandalf has reminded me that women, too, have lives, homes and destinies to loose, should our plan fail."
Lothíriel? Me? Go to Mordor? Oh fuck.
What did Gandalf know?
Why should I go?
I looked at Frodo, pale and withdrawn. Going to the end of the world to save the Shire. But he would not live to enjoy it. I knew what would happen after all. He would pass into the West.
And there was Legolas, who was going to save a world, where he could not stay after hearing those damn gulls at Pelargir. Aragorn. Boromir, who I knew would die.
But what of me?
What of me?
Why was I here?
Why should I go?
Suddenly, quite out of the blue I remembered an evening of our journey from Bree to Rivendell. A campfire. A dark night sky with myriads of stars. The sound of cicadas in the grass all around. The easy companionship with the hobbits. The valour of Aragorn. Glorfindel's bright power, which he would sacrifice, to save Middle Earth, even though he knew it would hasten the day of farewell for his people.
I remembered the sudden, unexpected feeling of belonging.
A feeling of home.
A feeling I had experienced for the first time in the middle of nowhere, stinking of sweat, battered and bruised, pursued by evil enemies…
Whatever else might be on Gandalf's agenda, where I was concerned, I realized with a start that in the middle of all the toil and trouble of this Middle Earth my wish had come true, the wish, which had made me leave my studies and the city of Erlangen weeks ago.
I had somehow found a place where I belonged, a place, where I wanted to be – no matter what. A home. And not only a home, but a home I would die for.
I looked at Gandalf and felt a smile spread across my face.
"I will go wherever it is necessary to go," I said in a calm and clear voice. I knew without looking at him that Glorfindel smiled at me, this magical bright smile, which only elves could smile. I felt a bittersweet feeling of pain and joy in my heart, but I did not cry.
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.