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Chapter 11: The Council of Elrond
Devin woke early the next day, feeling refreshed and well. She considered waking Kitty to make sure she would be up in time for the council, but figured her friend would probably appreciate a little more sleep since she was bound to wake up feeling a little hung-over after all the wine she had consumed the previous evening. Devin walked along the terraces above the loud-flowing Bruinen, where she met Frodo and Sam; and watched the pale, cool sun rise above the far mountains with them, and shine down, slanting through the thin silver mist; the dew upon the yellow leaves was glimmering, and the woven nets of gossamer twinkled on every bush. Sam walked beside them, saying nothing, but sniffing the air, and looking every now and again with wonder in his eyes at the great heights in the East. The snow was white upon their peaks.On a seat cut in the stone beside a turn in the path they came upon Gandalf and Bilbo deep in talk.
"Hullo! Good morning!" said Bilbo. "Feel ready for the great council?"
"I feel ready for anything." Frodo answered. "But most of all I should like to go walking today and explore the valley. I should like to get into those pine-woods up there." He pointed away far up the side of Rivendell to the north.
"You may have your chance later." Gandalf said. "But we cannot make any plans yet. There is much to hear and decide today."
Suddenly as they were talking a single clear bell rang out.
"That is the warning bell of the Council of Elrond." Cried Gandalf. "Come along now! Both you and Bilbo are wanted. You, too, Miss Devin."
Frodo, Bilbo, and Devin followed the wizard quickly along the winding path back to the house; behind them, uninvited and for the moment forgotten, trotted Sam. Devin sent him a slight conspiratorial smile and held a finger to her lips. Sam nodded silently.Gandalf led them to the porch where Frodo had found his friends the afternoon before. The light of the clear autumn morning was now glowing in the valley. The noise of bubbling waters came up from the foaming riverbed. Birds were singing, and a wholesome peace lay on the land. To Frodo his dangerous flight, and the rumors of the darkness growing in the world outside, already seemed only the memories of a troubled dream; but the faces that were turned to meet them as they entered were grave.Elrond was there, and several others were seated in silence about him. Devin was surprised to see that Kitty had already beaten her there, though her friend did not seem too happy about it. She had her eyes squeezed shut and was massaging her forehead with her fingers in an attempt to relieve her hangover headache. Elrond drew Frodo 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 come hither through greater peril or on an errand more urgent." He then pointed out and named those present whom Frodo had not met before while Bilbo, Gandalf, and Devin took the remaining seats between Frodo and Kitty. First Elrond introduced Glóin's son Gimli. There were also several other counselors of Elrond's household, of whom Erestor was the chief; and with him was Galdor, an Elf from the Grey Havens who had come on an errand from Círdan the Shipwright. Legolas was there as a messenger from his father, Thranduil, the King of the Elves of Northern Mirkwood. And seated a little apart was a tall man with a handsome and noble face, blue-eyed with light-brown hair, proud and stern of glance.He was cloaked and booted as if for a journey on horseback; and indeed though his garments were rich, and his cloak was lined with fur, they were stained with long travel. He had a collar of silver in which a single white stone was set; his locks were shorn about his shoulders. On a baldric he wore a great horn tipped with silver that now was laid upon his knees. He gazed at Frodo and Bilbo with sudden wonder.
"Here," said Elrond, turning to Gandalf, "is Boromir, a man from the South. He arrived in the grey morning, and seeks for counsel. I have bidden him to be present, for here his questions will be answered." Devin knew even before Elrond had spoken who this man must be, but she could have sworn his description in the book had been a little different.
"Hey," Kitty whispered, leaning close, "is it just me, or does that guy look really familiar?"
Not all that was spoken and debated in the Council need be mentioned. Much of what was said was already known to the two girls, particularly Devin, who remembered the original story in more detail than her friend; but it served as a good refresher course for them both. Much was said of events in the world outside, especially in the South, and the wide lands east of the Mountains. Of these things Frodo had already heard many rumors; but the tale of Glóin was new to him, and when the dwarf spoke he listened attentively. It appeared that amid the splendor of their works of hand the hearts of the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain were troubled.
"It is now many years ago," said Glóin, "that a shadow of disquiet fell upon our people. Whence it came we did not at first perceive. Words began to be whispered in secret: it was said that we were hemmed in a narrow place, and greater wealth an splendor would be found in a wider world. Some spoke of Moria: the mighty works of our fathers that are called in our own tongue Khazad-dûm; and they declared that now at last we had the power and numbers to return." Glóin sighed. "Moria! Moria! Wonder of the Northern world! Too deep we delved there, and woke the nameless fear. Long have its vast mansions lain empty since the children of Durin fled. But now we spoke of it again with longing, and yet with dread; for no dwarf has dared to pass the doors of Khazad-dûm for many lives of kings, save Thrór only, and he perished. At last, however, Balin listened to the whispers, and resolved to go; and though Dáin did not give leave willingly, he took with him Ori and Óin and many of our folk, and they went away south."That was nigh on thirty years ago. For a while we had news and it seemed good: messages reported that Moria had been entered and a great work begun there. Then there was silence, and no word has ever come from Moria since."Then, about a year ago a messenger came to Dáin, but not from Moria—from Mordor: a horseman in the night who called Dáin to his gate. The Lord Sauron the Great, so he said, wished for our friendship. Rings he would give for it, such as he gave of old. And he asked urgently concerning hobbits, of what kind they were, and where they dwelt. 'For Sauron knows,' said he, 'That one of these was known to you on a time.'"At this we were greatly troubled, and we gave no answer. And then his fell voice was lowered, and he would have sweetened it if he could. 'As a small token only of your friendship Sauron asks this,' he said: 'that you should find this thief,' such was his word, 'and get from him, willing or no, a little ring, the least of rings, that once he stole. It is but a trifle that Sauron fancies, and an earnest of your good will. Find it, and three rings that the dwarf-sires possessed of old shall be returned to you, and the realm of Moria shall be yours forever. Find only news of the thief, whether he still lives and where, and you shall have great reward and lasting friendship from the Lord. Refuse, and things will not seem so well. Do you refuse?""At this his voice came like a hiss of snakes, and all who stood by shuddered; but Dáin said: 'I say neither yea nor nay. I must consider this message and what it means under its fair cloak.'" 'Consider well, but not too long,' said he." 'The time of my thought is my own to spend,' answered Dáin." 'For the present,' said he, and rode into the darkness."Heavy have the hearts of our chieftains been since that night. We needed not the fell voice of the messenger to warn us that his words held both menace and deceit; for we knew already that the power that has re-entered Mordor has not changed, and ever it betrayed us of old. Twice the messenger has returned, and has gone unanswered. The third and last time, so he says, is soon to come, before the ending of the year."And so I have been sent at last by Dáin to warn Bilbo that he is sought by the Enemy, and to learn, if may be, why he desires this ring, this least of rings. Also we crave the advice of Elrond. For the Shadow grows and draws nearer. We discover that messengers have come also to King Brand in Dale, and that he is afraid. We fear that he may yield. Already war is gathering on his eastern borders. If we make no answer, the Enemy may move Men of his rule to assail King Brand, and Dáin also."
"You have done well to come." Said Elrond. "You will hear today all that you need in order to understand the purposes of the Enemy. There is naught that you can do, other than to resist, with hope or without it. But you do not stand alone. You will learn that your trouble is but part of the trouble of all the western world. The Ring! What shall we do with the Ring, the least of rings, the trifle that Sauron fancies? That is the doom that we must deem."That is the purpose for which you are called hither. Called, I say, though I have not called you to me, strangers from distant lands. You have come and are here met, in this very nick of time, by chance as it may seem. Yet it is not so." Elrond's keen eyes rested briefly on Devin and Kitty. "Believe rather that it is so ordered that we, who sit here, and none others, must now find counsel for the peril of the world. Middle Earth stands upon the brink of destruction. None can escape it. You will unite, or you will fall. Each race is bound to this fate, this one doom. Bring forth the Ring, Frodo."
Devin furrowed her brow slightly in confusion while she watched Frodo quietly step forward and place the ring on a stone pedestal. Wait a minute, weren't they supposed to talk more about the background story and finally explain how the Ring came to be in Frodo's hands? There had been at least two or three pages worth of that in the book. Did this mean everyone else had already been briefed before their arrival?"So it is true." Boromir mumbled lowly to himself. All were silent as they stared at the small golden ring until Boromir stood from his seat. "In a dream I saw the eastern sky grow dark and there was a growing thunder, but in the West a pale light lingered, and out of it I heard a voice, remote but clear, crying:Seek for the Sword that was broken:In Imaldris it dwells;There shall be counsels takenStronger than Morgul-spells.There shall be shown a tokenThat Doom is near at hand,For Isildur's Bane shall waken,And the Halfling forth shall stand.
Is then the doom of Minas Tirith come at last?"
"The words were not the doom of Minas Tirith." Devin said when no one else spoke. "But doom and great deeds are indeed at hand, for Isildur's Bane is found."
"And who are you, and what have you to do with Minas Tirith?" asked Boromir, looking at her with skepticism. "Why does a mere girl sit at the Council of Elrond?"
"Oh, hell no." Kitty muttered tartly as both girls tensed and stared daggers at him for the sexist remark. "You'd better respect her if you want to keep your teeth."
"Kitty." Devin said lowly, placing a hand on her friend's shoulder. "Go easy on him. He doesn't know who he's messing with."
"This 'mere girl' is Devin Gladwin, and her surly companion is Kitty Larson. There is more to them than meets the eye. They are both Readers from another world who possess much knowledge of the history and legends of our own. They are also capable of reading the flow of future events." Elrond said, surprising the girls and astonishing the rest of those gathered. All present, even Frodo and Aragorn, looked at them with wonder; and Devin found herself under the watchful stare of Legolas' keen grey eyes again.
"So much for keeping it a secret." Kitty whispered, echoing Devin's own thoughts.
"Another world? Such a thing is not possible." Boromir said, reluctant to believe without further evidence. "What proof have you to verify their claims?"
Elrond glanced at the girls. The girls looked at each other for a moment, silently arguing over who was going to take it from there. The batteries on their phones were all but dead, and they weren't about to waste them on a chauvinistic jerk.
"I myself have seen proofs of their otherworldliness." Aragorn spoke up in their defense. "They brought with them from their world several items, though it is my understanding that their power is now fading, capable of amazing things without the use of any magic: thin black boxes that could shine light in the darkness and produce strange sounds; a small metal box called a lighter that allows one to hold a flame in hand without match or torch; a can of mist capable of shielding the wearer even from the incorrigible midges of the Midgewater Marshes; and another can containing a substance called hairspray was used by Miss Devin in concert with the lighter to produce a spray of flames."
"And what would a Ranger know of this matter? Has it not occurred to you that they could have been tricks?" Boromir asked.
"He isn't just any old ordinary Ranger." Kitty said, standing. "This is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. He's Isildur's heir. So, how about showing a little respect?"
"He is Isildur's heir?" asked Boromir with doubt in his eyes as he looked again at Aragorn.
"And heir to the throne of Gondor." Kitty added.
"Please, sit down, Kitty." Aragorn said calmly as Devin tugged on her friend's sleeve, silently bidding her to do the same before a fight broke out between them.
"Gondor has no king." Boromir told Kitty. "Gondor needs no king." He added, shooting a look at Aragorn. Devin sighed, stood up, and crossed the porch to Boromir. She motined for him to lean down so she could and whisper into his ear. The others, who could not hear her, (the exception being a few of the Elves) were amazed at the look of wide-eyed astonishment on the proud man's face as he stepped back and stared at Devin with a newfound wonder. Even in Gondor very few knew of what she had just spoken. Kitty smirked at the priceless expression of bewilderment on Boromir's face as Devin quietly returned to her seat with dignity.
"Dude, what did you say?" Kitty whispered curiously.
"Nothing major." Devin whispered back. "Just something he already knows but that I couldn't possibly have, unless Elrond was telling the truth: Faramir saw the dream three times before he ever did, even though Boromir was the one their father wanted to come, and the reason for this is because his younger brother strongly shares the strength of his Númenorean ancestors. "
"Oh, yeah. Trolling fictional characters like a boss." Kitty whispered, grinning, while they bumped fists as inconspicuously as possible.
"Isildur's Bane is found, you say." Said Boromir thoughtfully as he took his seat again. "I have seen a bright ring in the Halfling's hand; but Isildur perished ere this age of the world began, they say. How do the Wise know that this ring is his? And how has it passed down the years, until it is brought hither by so strange a messenger?"
"That shall be told." Said Elrond.
"But not yet, I beg, Master!" said Bilbo. "Already the Sun is climbing to noon, and I feel the need of something to strengthen me."
"I had not named you." Elrond said, smiling. "But I do so now. Come! Tell us your tale. And if you have not yet cast your story into verse, you may tell it in plain words. The briefer, the sooner you shall be refreshed."
To some there Bilbo's tale was wholly new, and they listened with amazement while the old hobbit, actually not at all displeased, recounted his adventure with Gollum, at full length. He did not omit a single riddle. He would have given also an account of his party and disappearance from the Shire, if he had been allowed; but Elrond raised his hand.
"Well told, my friend," he said, "but that is enough at this time. For the moment it suffices to know that the Ring passed to Frodo, your heir. Let him now speak!"
Then, less willingly than Bilbo, Frodo told of all his dealings with the Ring from the day that it passed into his keeping. Every step of his journey from Hobbiton to the Ford of Bruinen was questioned and considered, and everything that he could recall concerning the Black Riders was examined. At last he sat down again.
"Not bad." Bilbo said to him. "You would have made a good story of it, if they hadn't kept on interrupting. I tried to make a few notes, but we shall have to go over it all again together some time, if I am to write it up. There are whole chapters of stuff before you ever got here!"
"Yes, it made quite a long tale." Answered Frodo. "But the story still does not seem complete to me. I still want to know a good deal, especially about Gandalf." Galdor of the Havens, who sat near by, overheard him.
"You speak for me also." He cried, and turning to Elrond he said: "The Wise may have good reason to believe that the Halfling's trove is indeed the Great Ring of long debate, unlikely though it may seem to those who know less. But may we not hear the proofs? And I would ask this also. What of Saruman? He is learned in the lore of the Rings, yet he is not among us. What is his counsel—if he knows the things that we have heard?"
"The questions that you ask, Galdor, are bound together." Said Elrond. "I had not overlooked them, and they shall be answered. But these things it is the part of Gandalf to make clear; and I call upon him last, for it is the place of honor, and in all this matter he has been the chief."
"Some, Galdor," said Gandalf, "would think the tidings of Glóin, and the pursuit of Frodo, proof enough that the Halfling's trove is a thing of great worth to the Enemy. Yet it is a ring. What then? The Nine the Nazgûl keep. The Seven are taken or destroyed." At this Glóin stirred but did not speak. "The Three we know of. What then is this but the one he desires so much?"There is indeed a wide waste of time between the River and the Mountain, the loss and the finding. But the gap in the knowledge of the Wise has been filled at last. Yet too slowly. For the Enemy has been close behind, closer even than I feared. And well is it that not until this year, this very summer, as it seems, did he learn the full truth."Some here will remember that many years ago I myself dared to pass the doors of the Necromancer in Dol Guldur, and secretly explored his ways, and found thus that our fears were true: he was none other than Sauron, our Enemy of old, at length taking shape and power again. Some, too, will remember also that Saruman dissuaded us from open deeds against him, and for long we watched him only. Yet at last, as his shadow grew, Saruman yielded, and the Council put forth its strength and drove the evil out of Mirkwood—and that was in the very year of the finding of this Ring: a strange chance, if chance it was."But we were too late, as Elrond foresaw. Sauron also had watched us, and had long prepared against our stroke, governing Mordor from afar through Minas Morgul, where his Nine servants dwelt, until all was ready. Then he gave way before us, but only feigned to flee, and soon after came to the Dark Tower and openly declared himself. Then for the last time the Council met; for now we learned that he was seeking ever more eagerly for the One. We feared then that he had some news of it that we knew nothing of. But Saruman said nay, and repeated what he had said to us before: that the One would never again be found in Middle Earth." 'At the worst,' said he, 'our Enemy knows that we have it not, and that it is still lost. But what was lost may yet be found, he thinks. Fear not! His hope will cheat him. Have I not earnestly studied this matter? Into Anduin the Great it fell; and long ago, while Sauron slept, it was rolled down the River to the Sea. There let it lie until the End.' "
Gandalf fell silent, gazing eastward from the porch to the far peaks of the Misty Mountains, at whose great roots the peril of the world had so long lain hidden. He sighed.
"There I was at fault." he said. "I was lulled by the words of Saruman the Wise; but I should have sought the truth sooner, and out peril would now be less."
"We were all at fault," said Elrond, "and but for your vigilance the Darkness, maybe, would already be upon us. But say on!"
"From the first my heart misgave me, against all reason that I knew," said Gandalf, "and I desired to know how this thing came to Gollum, and how long he had possessed it. So I set a watch for him, guessing that he would ere long come forth from his darkness to seek for his treasure. He came, but he escaped and was not found. And then alas! I let the matter rest, watching and waiting only, as we have too often done."Time passed with many cares, until my doubts were reawakened again to sudden fear. Whence cams the hobbit's ring? What, if my fear was true, should be done with it? Those things I must decide. But I spoke yet of my dread to none, knowing the peril of an untimely whisper, if it went astray. In all the long wars with the Dark Tower treason has ever been our greatest foe."That was seventeen years ago. Soon I became aware that spies of many sorts, even beasts and birds, were gathered round the Shire, and my fear grew. I called for the help of the Dúnedain, and their watch was doubled; and I opened my heart to Aragorn, the heir of Isildur."
"And I," said Aragorn, "counseled that we should hunt for Gollum, too late though it may seem. And since it seemed fit that Isildur's heir should labor to repair Isildur's fault, I went with Gandalf on the long and hopeless search."
Then Gandalf told how they had explored the whole length of Wilderland, down even to the Mountains of Shadow and the fences of Mordor.
"There we had a rumor of him, and we guess that he dwelt there long in the dark hills; but we never found him, and at last I despaired. And then in my despair I thought again of a test that might make the finding of Gollum unneeded. The Ring itself might tell if it were the One. The memory of words at the Council came back to me: words of Saruman, half-heeded at the time. I heard them now clearly in my heart." 'The Nine, the Seven, and the Three,' he said, 'had each their proper gem. Not so the One. It was round and unadorned, as it were one of the lesser rings; but its maker set marks upon it that the skilled, maybe, could still see and read.'"What those marks were he had not said. Who now would know? The maker. And Saruman? But great though his lore may be, it must have a source. What hand save Sauron's ever held this ring, ere it was lost? The hand of Isildur alone."With that thought, I forsook the chase and passed swiftly to Gondor. In former days the members of my order had been well received there, but Saruman most of all. Often he had been for long the guest of the Lords of the City. Less welcome did the Lord Denethor show me then than of old, and grudgingly he permitted me to search among his hoarded scrolls and books." 'If indeed you look only, as you say, for records of ancient days, and the beginnings of the City, read on!' he said. 'For me what was is less dark than what is to come, and that is my care. But unless you have more skill even than Saruman, who has studied here long, you will find naught that is not well known to me, who am master of the lore of this City.'"So said Denethor. And yet there lie in his hoards many records that few now can read, even of the lore-masters, for their scripts and tongues have become dark to later med. And Boromir, there lies in Minas Tirith still, unread, I guess, by any save Saruman and myself since the kings failed, a scroll that Isildur made himself. For Isildur did not march away straight from the war in Mordor, as some have told the tale."
"Some in the North, maybe," Boromir broke in. "All know in Gondor that he went first to Minas Arnor and dwelt a while with his nephew Meneldil, instructing him, before he committed to him rule of the South Kingdom. In that time he planted there the last sapling of the White Tree in memory of his brother."
"But in that time also he made the scroll," said Gandalf; 'and that is not remembered in Gondor, it would seem. For this scroll concerns the Ring, and thus wrote Isildur therein:
The Great Ring shall go now to be an heirloom of the North Kingdom; but records of it shall be left in Gondor, where also dwell the heirs of Elendil, lest a time come when the memory of these great matters shall grow dim.
"And after these words Isildur described the Ring, such as he found it.
It was hot when I first took it, hot as glede, and my hand was scorched, so that I doubt if ever again I shall be free of the pain if it. Yet even as I write it is cooled, and it seemeth to shrink, though it loseth neither its beauty nor its shape. Already the writing upon it, which at first was clear as red flame, fadeth and is now only barely to be read. It is fashioned in the Elven-script of Eregion, for they have no letters in Mordor for such subtle work; but the language is unknown to me. I deem it to be a tongue of the Black Land, since it is foul and uncouth. What evil it saith I do not know; but I trace here a copy of it lest it fade beyond recall. The Ring misseth, maybe, the heat of Sauron's hand, which was black and yet burned like fire, and so Gil-galad was destroyed; and maybe were the gold made hot again, the writing would be refreshed. But for my part I will risk no hurt to this thing: of all the works of Sauron the only fair. It is precious to me, though I buy it with great pain.