Mael-Gûl: 10. The Council Of Elrond

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10. The Council Of Elrond

Authors note:
Completely A.U. Legolas slave fic. This story was inspired by Bluegolds story "Bound", which can be found here: http://daemel.freespaces.com/authors.html#blue
I use similar plot ideas here with her permission.
Betareader: Many thanks to Randy, who polished this chapter and made it so much better! All still remaining errors are my own.
Warnings: Slash. M/m, BDSM, d/s, torture, toys, non-con and debatable consent. Very graphic descriptions. Special warnings for this chapter: none. Please heed the warnings!
Disclaimer: Universe and characters are not mine, but Tolkien's. The idea of the spell, however, belongs to me. Some sentences of this chapter are directly liftet of the book
"Fellowship of The Ring" (1954), Harper Collins Paperback Edition 1991, Book One, Chapter II, PP. 243 and 247ff. Others are lifted from Peter Jacksons movie. Credit will be given in footnotes. However, I have taken some dramatic liberties with the lifted passages, as well as with the whole council events and background, here. Apologies to all Book-Purists!

For all other disclaimers and authors notes see Story Intro.

_______________________________


VIII. The Council of Elrond


The council began one hour before noon, and Legolas sat beside his people, clad for once in the raiment of a prince. He was introduced to the other participants as 'Legolas, son of king Thranduil of the woodland realm of Mirkwood', and only the other Elves present – and of course Mithrandir and Aragorn – knew this for the dark joke it was meant to be, albeit none of them showed him derision. Aragorn himself took his place across from him, near Elrond's seat. He was clad in fine garb, but was introduced just as Strider, a Ranger from the North, not as Aragorn, chief of the Dunedain. Obviously, he hesitated to reveal his true identity just yet to the strangers present.

Legolas studied the other participants with interest. He knew most of the Elves; he recognized Gildor Inglorion, since he had seen him a few times when Aragorn was in Eregion guarding the Shire with the other Rangers and Gildor's people crossed their way, and he had once seen Galdor from afar. He was glad to see Glorfindel back in Rivendell, but could not give the other Elf much more than a respectful bow, since the council was just about to start when Glorfindel moved to his seat. He did not know most of the Edain present, though.

Some of the older ones were introduced as Messengers from Dale and Laketown, but he did not recognize them, nor did they seem to remember him; it had been nearly eighty years when he'd last visited Laketown after all, just after it had been burned by the Dragon Smaug, and they had surely not even been born at the time.

He remembered the Dwarves of Erebor, yet recognized them not; one Dwarf was like another to his mind, and although the name of Gloin of Durin's line tickled his memory, it did not tell him much until Gloin glared at him and Mithrandir asked the Dwarf to forget old slights in favor of the present dangers. Only then did it dawn to him that this old Dwarf probably was one of the thirteen his father had imprisoned, just before the Dwarves retook Erebor and Smaug was slain, and Dwarves, Men and Elves fought together against the Orcs in the Battle of the Five Armies.

Legolas shuddered. There were other memories linked to that time he did not really wish to recall. The Battle of the Five Armies had been the last time he had fought as a free Elven warrior of Mirkwood, rather than Estel's slave. And the time between that, before Estel... he did not wish to remember.

To distract himself he contemplated the Hobbits. He knew Bilbo very well, of course, but had never seen his nephew, although Bilbo had told him many stories about him. The old Hobbit had a kind heart and liked Aragorn's Elven shadow well. He knew by now that Legolas was a slave, bound to Aragorn by spell and law, since he could hardly live in Rivendell without finding out at least that much, but he had never let Legolas feel it. Legolas considered him a friend.

The younger Hobbit was harder to discern. He seemed a little startled and much quieter than his uncle. Of course, given his recent brush with the Nazgûl and the One Ring of which Aragorn had told, that was hardly surprising. Legolas wondered where the other Hobbits of Aragorn's account were. He liked the Periannath1 and loved it when Aragorn stayed around the Shire, since they were friendly people and worth fighting for.

Unlike a lot of humans. With interest and trepidation Legolas studied the man who had been introduced as Boromir of Gondor, son of the ruling Steward Denethor. When Aragorn had been in Gondor under the rule of Denethor's father Ecthelion, he had rarely taken Legolas with him to the palace, since he feared to wake the Gondorian noble's desire for his all too beautiful companion and servant. He had also told Legolas to keep his ears hidden at all times, although it was hard to keep his nature a secret, and the soldiers under Aragorn's command used to sharing some gossip or other of 'Thorongil's Elf'.

Therefore Legolas remembered Denethor, and did so with small pleasure, but he had never seen his children. Small wonder; Boromir could have been hardly more than a toddler when they had been there. It was very clear the man did not recognize him, and neither did he recognize Aragorn. Yet he was proud and seemed quite unaware that others beside his own people fought the shadow, too, and Legolas felt bitterness at his arrogance when he thought of his own people's long and desperate and costly fight against the enemy. Yet it was not his place to tell the man that others were suffering too. Let others do that if they had a mind. Or maybe the Gondorian would get a clue with time if he only listened.

So he stopped his secret study and concentrated on the tidings all the assembled messengers told. He listened with interest to the stories of Laketown and Erebor, the vision of Boromir, the Istar2 Mithrandir's tale of Saruman's betrayal, and his narration of the long and convoluted history of the Ring. Yet his heart sank more and more as he slowly began to realize just who this slimy and nasty creature Gollum had really been and of what importance it obviously was. Bitterly he thought: 'Curse you, Mithrandir, could you not have told us of your suspicions before?' Obviously, Gandalf had not even told Aragorn the whole truth why he needed to find Gollum.

He dared not to speak when Mithrandir finished his story of Gollum's interrogation. At length, it was Boromir of Gondor who spoke.

"He is a small thing, you say, this Gollum? Small but great in mischief! What became of him? To what doom did you put him?3"*

"He is in prison, but no worse," said Aragorn. "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 was free. And I do not doubt that he was allowed to leave Mordor on some evil errand."*

Legolas bit his lips. 'Oh, Estel!' he thought, 'Couldn't you have listened to me this morning?!' This was worse than he had feared. Still there was no help for it. Legolas knew he had to speak up now.

"Alas! Alas!" he cried and jumped up. "The tidings that my people were 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."*

Aragorn stared at him, startled and dumbfounded. In his first anger, he could not stop himself. "Escaped?" he cried. "That is ill news indeed! How came the folk of Thranduil to fail in their trust?"*

Legolas saw the dark flash of satisfaction on Elrond's face and gave his master a hurt and angry look. 'You ask that of me?!' he thought. 'I wasn't even there! And couldn't you have found another way to ask this question?'

Still, it was too late. He knew his people would have to pay dearly for this. Bitterly and slowly he said: "Not through lack of watchfulness, but perhaps through over-kindliness. 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. 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 black thoughts."*

And he told the council the story of Gollum's treatment and escape, and of the failed attempt to recapture him. He did not spare to tell them the fate of the slain or taken guards, yet he doubted that any of the present members of the council did much care.

When he was finished, he looked at Aragorn. Estel had dropped back into his seat. He looked at him disturbed and apologetically, since he could well imagine what would happen now.

Yet it was too late. Elrond broke the silence.

"That are ill news indeed!" he said, his face dark and stern. "Mirkwood did us all an ill favor to let that prisoner escape. I fear we all shall dearly have to pay for it. Your realm owes penance for such failure of its trust, young Thranduilion."

Aragorn looked up, pale and alarmed. The three warriors of Mirkwood looked startled at their prince. Legolas straightened his back. With great dignity and a short, apologetic look at his master he stood protectively between his father's messengers and the Lord of Imladris.

"If Mirkwood owes penance, Hir Brannon4," he said, "it will be my honor and my duty as the appointed representative of my father's realm to stand for it."

Elrond looked delighted. Aragorn jumped up. "Legolas, no!" he cried in Elvish. "My Lord, he has no authority to offer this!"

Legolas answered quickly and quietly in the same language: "I'm sorry, My Lord. Yet I am the representative of my father's realm in this council. It is my right!"

Aragorn stared at him, pale and angry, hands balled into fists. Elrond's voice cut through their wordless exchange.

"Havo dad, Estel5!"

Defeated, Aragorn sank down on his seat. Still he looked at his slave darkly and with mute pain. Legolas shifted his concentration back at Elrond.

The Lord of Imladris watched him with dark satisfaction and an expression of hunger in his eyes. Legolas realized that he had waited for this opportunity for a long time.

"Young Thranduilion," Elrond said in Common, "Your offer is heard and noted. We will later decide over this matter, since it is not a concern that needs to trouble this council."

Aragorn closed his eyes. 'Legolas! No!' he wanted to shout. He cursed himself. Why had he not anticipated this? Obviously Elrond had only waited for something like that. Now he had a reason to have Legolas punished, and not only to have him thoroughly tortured, but to do lasting harm. He might insist upon having him mutilated, or even killed.

Aragorn opened his eyes again and glared at his slave, angry and full of grief. He watched Legolas mutely bow to Elrond and sit down again. Fiercely, he decided that he would not give him up. Not without a fight.

Yet for the moment, he could do nothing if he did not wish to make matters worse.

Gandalf decided to intervene.

"Well, well, he's gone,"* he said, consciously downplaying the matter. "That cannot be helped now. What we must decide here is what we shall do with this Ring. We all need to stand together to face this one doom. All free people of Middle Earth need to stand united, or we will all fall. We can not afford to be divided by idle squabbling!"

He gave Elrond a meaningful look, yet the Lord of Imladris held his gaze squarely and unimpressed. Boromir of Gondor interrupted their staring match.

"Well, we have heard a lot of this One Ring, Isildur's Bane," he said, a bit petulantly, "but we have yet to see it. Where is that doom you talked so long about? You said it has been brought to this very place. Show it to us now so we may see of what we speak!"

Elrond nodded, as if he had but waited for that request. He looked directly at the younger Hobbit.

"Frodo, bring forth the Ring!"** he commanded sternly. "It is time!"

Legolas looked at Frodo and saw now he was alone. Bilbo had paled earlier in the proceedings, whispered an excuse to his nephew and sneaked away. Obviously he had decided not to come back then.

Pale and solemn, the little Hobbit stood up and walked to the middle of the council, where he placed a plain, unadorned metal band that looked as if it was made of pure gold. It would have looked unimpressive, had there not been an air of power and pure malice surrounding it that felt as sickening as it was bewitching. Legolas became aware of a soft whisper at the fringes of his mind of a voice he could not truly discern, but could not really banish from his awareness, either. It made him flinch. Beside him he could see that his father's warriors seemed to feel the same, and Glorfindel, Gildor and Galdor too looked all if they felt their stomachs churn. Across him he saw his master draw a grimace and huddle a bit into himself. It was clear that Aragorn also felt the voice of the Ring and did not like it. The reaction of the other Elves and men present, however, was vastly different.

Ah choral of awed "Ah!" and Oh!" surrounded him, and the man of Gondor spoke in awe: "So it is true!"** Even more disturbing was the reaction of Erestor, and of Elrond himself. The Lord of Imladris had undoubtedly seen the band of gold before when he healed Frodo, and had he wished to take it for himself he could have done so then, but now he leaned slightly forward in his seat and seemed to watch the Ring with hunger. Mithrandir watched him with concern. But Erestor... the chief advisor clearly had not seen the golden band before. Raw hunger flashed across his face for just a moment. Only when Glorfindel, who sat beside him, spoke a quiet word and placed his hand shortly on his arm, seemed he to shudder and come back to himself. He paled and looked at the golden band with newfound fear, as if he had been woken from a dream.

Elrond had heard Glorfindel, too. He looked at Erestor, then at Gandalf, and forced himself to lean back in his seat. He seemed to reconsider his actions and gather his strength to resist the whispers. Or maybe he was just biding his time.

Frodo, meanwhile, returned to his seat. He seemed relieved. Obviously he had been loathe to carry the Ring and felt it as a burden.

The man of Gondor seemed to have no such objections. He watched the golden band on the table hungrily, as if he was about to jump out of his seat and grab it.

Yet it was one of the Dwarves who spoke first. Legolas vaguely remembered that he had been introduced as Gimli, son of Gloin.

"So this is the thing we have spoken of all day," he said. "It does not look that much. How do we know that this is truly the One Ring, the weapon of the enemy?"

Legolas looked at him in amazement and irritation. Were Dwarves truly that blind and disconnected from the Great Song? Could they not feel the evil that emanated from the thing?

Gandalf stood up and looked at the Dwarf wearily. "Some, Gimli," he said, "would think that the pursuit of Frodo and all the tidings we have heard so far are proof enough that this is indeed the One Ring the enemy longs for. Yet there is one more test that I have taken, the one Isildur spoke of in his recount of the ring. Upon this very ring that you see here round and unadorned, the letters Isildur reported may still be read if one has the strength and will to set the golden thing in the fire a while. That I have done and this I have read*:

'Ash nazg durbatuluk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatuluk,
agh burzum-ishi krimpatul'"
*

Legolas paled and stopped his ears, as did all the Elves around him. Mithrandir's voice had taken a menacing sound and dark clouds seemed to pass over the sky.

Frodo looked as if he was going to be sick, and Legolas felt as if he would join him. Across him he could see that Glorfindel had paled and looked like his stomach was churning, too.

Lord Elrond jumped up. He looked pale and shaken, and completely cured of any desire to take the ring.

"Never before has any voice dared to utter words of that tongue in Imladris, Gandalf the Grey!"* he said as he could breathe again.

Gandalf nodded grimly. "And let us hope that none will ever speak it here again,"* he said meaningfully, and Legolas understood that this had been the whole purpose of Mithrandir's action.

"Nonetheless, I do not ask your pardon, Master Elrond. For if that tongue is not soon to be heard in every corner of the West, then let us put all doubt aside that this thing is indeed 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 Ring Smiths of Eregion heard and knew they had been betrayed: *

'One Ring to rule the all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to
bring them all and in the Darkness bind them'*

"This is the One Ring, and we cannot allow the enemy to lay his hands back on it, or we all will fall!"

He sat back down. Lord Elrond seemed shaken. If he had pondered to take the Ring for himself, he had been woken up quite skilfully. The other Elves were also deadly pale. Even the Dwarves seemed convinced. Nobody seemed inclined to touch the Ring.

Except the man of Gondor.

Boromir jumped up.

"Nay, It is a gift!" he exclaimed, eyes glittering. "A gift to the foes of Mordor! Long has my father, the Steward of Gondor, held the forces of Mordor at bay. By the blood of our people are your lands kept save! Give Gondor the weapon of the enemy! Let us use it against him!"**

Legolas stared at him, barely able to believe his ears. Had the man of Gondor listened to nothing that had been said at this council? Had he missed the tale of the trials of Mirkwood, Aragorn's tale of Frodo's pursuit by the Nazgûl and of the guardianship of the Shire and Bree by the Rangers of the North? Even the tale of the cursed Dwarves should have told him that Gondor was not the only front line in this war and others had been losing people, too. How could this thick headed son of Denethor stand there and be this arrogant?

Angrily, he felt the urge to give the Gondorian an overdue rebuke. He was saved from any comment by his master. Aragorn made a face at Boromir's passionate exclamation. Now he said intently: "You cannot wield it! None of us can! The One Ring answers to Sauron alone. It has no other master!"**

Legolas looked gratefully to his master and got a small, wordless acknowledgment in Aragorn's gaze. He had the feeling that Aragorn had meant his words as much for Boromir as they were meant as another reminder for Lord Elrond, whose earlier temptation had not been gone unnoticed by his foster son.

Elrond gave Aragorn a veiled look; he had well understood the rebuke and he seemed a bit rankled by it, yet astonishingly enough he seemed rather accepting of the reminder to be on his guard.

Not so the man of Gondor.

Boromir seized Aragorn with a long look. "And what would a Ranger know of this matter?" he challenged.**

It was too much. Forgetting his position and all caution in his anger, Legolas jumped up.

"This is no mere ranger!" he exclaimed. "He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. You owe him your allegiance!"** 'Not to mention the very continued existence of your realm due to his time as Thorongil, when he was routing the threat of Umbar for your grandsire,' he did not add. 'You may just have been a toddler then, but I was there!'

Let's see if that ignorant child of Denethor knew even enough of his own history and that of his realm to recognize the names as belonging to the royal line of the lost northern kingdom of Arnor, Gondor's sister realm, now the only remaining heirs of Isildur and of Gondor's crown.

Across him, he could see that Aragorn briefly closed his eyes again. 'I will be punished for this,' Legolas realized. 'Oh, well. I fear it doesn't matter any more.' Well, Estel had said this morning that it was time for him to face his destiny. He would have had to reveal his true identity during the course of this council, anyway. Even so, Legolas send him a mute 'I'm sorry, master!' with his eyes as Aragorn gaze met his again. Aragorn just raised his brows and looked resigned.

Legolas would have sat down then, but for Boromir's incredulous words.

"Aragorn? Son of Arathorn?" the man of Gondor asked. "This is Isildur's heir?"**

It was the tone. It had Legolas seething. 'And so much more than you will ever know, too!' he thought. 'I'm sorry, Estel, but I have to do this!'

In an bout of malicious satisfaction he added: "And heir to the throne of Gondor!"**

Aragorn spoke up. He rose his hand. "Havo dad, Legolas!"** he commanded.

Inwardly, the Ranger pleaded: 'Please, Little Leaf! Do not make this worse! I do not even know if I can yet get you out of this alive already!' He was all too aware of the expression of Elrond, who seemed like a cat about to consume the mouse. It was true that Aragorn would have been forced to reveal his identity to the council during the course of their meeting sooner or later anyway, but for Legolas to do it unbidden was a very stupid idea. And to do it like this... 'Please, Little Leaf, sit down!'

To his relief, Legolas obeyed. Boromir looked derisively at him, then back at the man who had been revealed to him as heir of his own realm's vacant throne.

He sneered. "Gondor has no king," he said. "Gondor needs no king!"** And with that he resumed his place.

Gandalf got them back on their purpose.

"Aragorn is right," he said, as if it was the most natural thing of the world now to speak the newly revealed true name and identity of the Ranger, "we cannot use it. The Ring is altogether evil."**

Elrond took this as his clue. "You have but one choice," he said. "The Ring must be destroyed."**

Legolas was amazed. He had not really believed the Lord of Imladris capable of fighting the temptation to take the Ring himself for good. Still, he agreed with the Lord of Rivendell for once. It was an enticing thought: the One Ring destroyed, Sauron gone forever, and with him the threat of Dol Guldur. Mirkwood would be free of the Shadow at last, and maybe without the constant fight against the Orcs and Nazgûl, they might even finally find the strength and numbers to throw off the oppression by the other Elven realms, even if it meant the death of all the hostages. Yet even without a rebellion they would at least not be caught between two front lines anymore, and Mirkwood might finally heal.


He did not know if he would be allowed to survive long enough to see it happen, now. After all, he just had offered himself, and his life, as payment for his people's safety. But he wished he could see Mirkwood healed, or even be allowed to fight this war at Estel's side. He owed Estel his loyalty, and it pained him to abandon him now.

Legolas was swept out of his contemplation by the reaction of the Dwarf, and it thoroughly startled him.

Gimli jumped up. "Well, what are we waiting for?"** he asked and rose his axe, only to bring it down full force directly on the Ring.

There was a great crash and a cry. The axe broke into little pieces. Legolas could see both Aragorn and Elrond shield their faces with their hands, and Glorfindel flinched away, too. The Dwarf cried and fell to the ground. He looked amazed and seemed too startled to get up for a moment, until two of his people knelt beside him and helped him rise. Over all the commotion and at the fringes of his perception, Legolas could hear a malicious voice speaking syllables that sounded a lot like the hateful words of the Black Speech Gandalf had uttered before. Frodo flinched in his seat. The little Hobbit looked as if he had felt the blow to the Ring physically himself, and now suffered a profound headache.

The One Ring, however, remained completely unharmed, unscathed and unscratched, as before.

Lord Elrond gathered himself together. With dignity, he said:

"The Ring cannot be destroyed, Gimli, son of Gloin, by any craft we here possess. The ring was made in the fires of Mount Doom. Only there it can be unmade. It must be taken deep into Mordor and cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came. One of you must do this."**

Legolas eyes were wide. So this was what they were planning? Who would Elrond appoint to carry this out? Surely Estel would have to go. Aragorn had been in Mordor before. But with the Ring of Power? Would he have to face this suicide mission alone? And what if the One Ring tempted him? Would he manage to withstand? Surely he would need some companions!

Even so it was a mission bordering on madness. Carrying that thing through the wilds when every single servant of the enemy was out looking for it?! On the other hand it sounded mad enough that it could just have the chance of success, and it was ingenuous in its simpleness. It sounded very much like an idea Mithrandir would have, and Legolas suspected the Istar had been the one who convinced Elrond to go through with it. Suicide mission or not, it sounded like it was their one possible chance. Maybe, just maybe, there was real hope!

Yet not everyone shared his opinion.

Boromir spoke up again. "One does not simply walk into Mordor," the man of Gondor said. "It's black gates are guarded by more than just Orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep. The great eye is ever watchful. It is a barren wasteland, riddled by fire, dust, and ash. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men you could do this!"**

Legolas had enough. Didn't that ignorant Adan realize that he sat here in the company of some who had been already there? Legolas himself had never been to Mordor, since Estel left him behind the one time he had to travel there, but his own grandfather Oropher had perished before the very gates Boromir just described, together with two thirds of his warriors. Only to have their sacrifice, and the hard-won victory of the Last Alliance, later betrayed by Isildur's greed, and to be accused posthumously to have caused Gil-Galad's death with their early demise and failure to submit their warriors to the command of the Noldor king. Legolas' own father Thranduil had fought there. Even Elrond and Erestor, as little as Legolas loved them, had fought in that war, as had Glorfindel. More so, Legolas thought with pain of Mirkwood's south, corrupted by the long presence of Sauron, and since then his servants, in Dol Guldur. And that man talked as if nobody of them knew what Sauron's touch on a land would mean?

And besides, didn't that son of Denethor realize that only the destruction of the Ring could bring an end to Sauron and final relief from the war against the Shadow? Relief for Gondor; relief for Mirkwood, too, at least from the threat of Dol Guldur! He was beyond caring now. Whatever his own fate, he had to make sure that his home got this one chance at least!

He jumped up.

"Have you heard nothing Lord Elrond has said?" he fiercely exclaimed. "The Ring must be destroyed!"**

Yet not Boromir answered him, but the Dwarf who had attempted to do just that without success. Challengingly, Gimli said: "And I suppose you think you're the one to do it?!"** He jumped up in his anger, ready to face the hated Elf.

Legolas was startled. He had not realized he would provoke such a reaction from the Stunted One. Yet now it was too late. The man of Gondor jumped up.

"And if we fail, what then?" he asked. "What happens if Sauron takes back what is his?"**

But it was the Dwarf again who finally tipped the balance. Clearly and pointedly, he cried:

"I will be dead before I see the Ring in the hands of an Elf!"**

Aragorn rolled his eyes and closed them briefly. He looked pained and resigned. 'Confound it, Legolas,' he thought, 'I did not think that you would take the task of representing your father quite that literally! Did you need to display his hot temper and his habits toward Dwarves, too?' Yet he could do nothing to stop what was happening now, so he remained in his seat, weathering the yelling and the angry arguments.

The Elves among the council jumped up as one. They advanced on the Dwarves who stood to face them and readied themselves to fight. Even the Elves of Elrond's household followed through. Only Elrond himself remained slumped in his seat, all too aware that he had completely lost any control of the situation.

They all heard Gimli's angry shout: "Never trust an Elf!"**

That did it. Legolas felt old, long honed instincts of royalty and well-trained royal command taking over and completely forgot his position as a slave. He advanced threateningly two or three steps on the insolent Dwarf, who squared himself to meet him. Behind himself, he could feel his warriors advance, ready to fight, and his arm sneaked out, preventing them in a silent command. However that obstinate Stunted One made his blood boil, they were on Elrond's territory here and the Dwarf was Elrond's guest and under the protection of Imladris' hospitality. Even if Mirkwood, and themselves, had all been free, they would not have been within their rights to attack here. Even so, his mind was in a haze, hot anger boiling within him he didn't fully understand. Yet he was too upset to care much about it.

He was not the only one. All the other Elves beside Elrond himself were on their feet, too. So were all the men except Aragorn. The Dwarves were standing too. All were shouting in anger at each other. Finally the wizard entered the fray.

"Do you not understand? While you bicker among yourselves, Saurons power grows! None can escape it! You'll all be destroyed!"**

Most of the assembly ignored him. They simply continued to argue and yell at each other. The only one remaining seated now besides Elrond and Aragorn was the Hobbit. Frodo looked at the Ring as if it held some odd fascination for him. Over the whole bickering, the angry arguments, he could hear the voice of the One Ring in his head, repeating the verse Gandalf had quoted earlier over and over. It was as if the golden band was riddled in flame, poisoning all around it with its malice. Frodo could clearly hear its voice:

'Ash nazg durbatuluk, ash nazg gimbatul.....'

Sick to his stomach, he cried: "I will take it!"**

They did not hear. He jumped up and cried again. "I will take it!" he repeated. "I will take the ring to Mordor!" **

Finally, Gandalf heard him and turned around to him. They all looked at him. The arguing died down.

In the sudden silence, Frodo repeated: "I will take the Ring to Mordor." More quietly, he added: "Though I do not know the way."**

Gandalf seemed to recover. He gave the Hobbit a solemn bow.

"I will help you to bear this burden, Frodo Baggins," he promised, "As long as it is yours to bear."** Solemnly and with great dignity, he made his way over to the Hobbit and placed himself beside him.

They all looked at them in wonder. It was as if they had awoken from a trance. Then, Aragorn stood. Determinedly he made his way over to the Hobbit.

"If by my life, or death, I can protect you," he said intently, "I will."** he went down to one knee in front of him. "You have my sword." He stood up and placed himself behind Frodo. He looked at Legolas.

Legolas looked back at him. There was no question. Where Estel went, he would go, too. If he was still alive to do it.

"And you have my bow,"** he added without further hesitation. He went over to stand beside Aragorn. He caught the expression of his master's gaze, and it was one of renewed hope and veiled triumph. Aragorn turned his head to look at Elrond.

Elrond seemed angry and about to intervene, although Gandalf shot him a hopeful look. They were distracted by the Dwarf.

"And my axe!"** Gimli said and went to place himself besides the Elf. Legolas rolled his eyes. Valar protect them! This was all they had needed! Yet he did not dare to speak. Before anyone could say anything else, Boromir intervened.

Proudly he stated: "You carry the fate of us all, Little One! If this is indeed the will of the council, Gondor will see it done!"** He stood beside the dwarf.

Gandalf still looked at Elrond, who stood up now himself and watched them with wrinkled brows. Still, before Elrond could say anything, he was interrupted by a shout.

"Mister Frodo doesn't go anywhere without me!"** A strange Hobbit sprinted forward out of the bushes, placing himself besides Frodo. Gandalf smiled at Elrond. Elrond relented. He sighed.

"No, indeed, Samwise Gamgee. It is hardly possible to separate you, even when he is invited to a secret council, and you are not!"** He turned back to the others, but was interrupted by two more shouts.

"Oy! We're coming too!" shouted another Hobbit Legolas had never seen before. He realized that this had to be another one of the three who had accompanied Frodo to Rivendell. The Perian was accompanied by the forth of the gang, who looked a bit older. "You have to send us back tied up in sacks to stop it!"** this other one said. They stood beside Frodo and the one called Samwise.

Elrond straightened up. He seemed taken by some kind of vision.

"Nine companion," he said. "So be it! You shall be the Fellowship of the Ring!"**

Legolas caught his master's eyes, who was looking at him with relief and hidden triumph. So Aragorn thought the matter of Mirkwood's penance closed. Legolas bowed his head. He doubted that it would be that easy.

He was proven correct with the next words of Lord Elrond.

"The council is adjourned," the Lord of Rivendell announced. "The midday meal will be served soon. I invite you all to meet us there again."

The Hobbits seemed all eager. Frodo went over to the little stone table in the middle of the council place to take back his Ring. The assembly slowly dissolved, when Elrond raised his voice again. "I ask my fellow Elves, however, to stay awhile. We have still to discuss the matter of Mirkwood." He shook his head at Mithrandir. "No, Gandalf, this is a private matter of the Elves. I suggest you go and talk the coming journey through with Frodo and the others."

Some of the Dwarves and the man of Gondor looked up at that with sudden distrust, but since the One Ring was safely back with the Hobbit and the Elves obviously did not intent to invite the Ring Bearer to their meeting, they let it go and left.

Aragorn stayed. He looked at his slave in alarm. His face fell. Legolas squared his shoulders. It was time for him to pay up, then.

__________________ 0 _____________


-- TBC --


Notes:

1) Periannath – Sindarin: Halflings (plural form of perian – Halfling.)

2) Istar – Sindarin: Knowledgeable One, one of the Wise; a wizard. The latter translation, though incorrect, is the usual meaning of the word in Common Speech. The Elves knew the Istari for a special order; most humans didn't.

3) This and some of the following dialog is lifted from the book: J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord Of The Rings (1954), Harper Collins Paperback Edition 1991, Book One: The Fellowship Of The Ring, Chapter II: The Council Of Elrond, 243 and PP 247ff. Lifted sentences and dialog is marked with an asterisk*; but I adapted some sentences to fit my purpose. However, while I quote parts of the chapter, I have taken the liberty to mix Bookverse and Movieverse here, and taken some other dramatic liberties to fit the events into my AU; for example, in the book Gandalf had told Aragorn that they searched for the former bearer of the One Ring, of course. Here, that and a few other things are changed. Later I also use some dialogue of Peter Jacksons FOTR movie, which will be marked with two asterisks**.

4) Hir Brannon – Sindarin: Lord Master. Here used in the meaning of 'high overlord'.

5) Havo dad – Sindarin: sit down.

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.

Story Information

Author: Crowdaughter

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 05/11/11

Original Post: 12/23/06

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