One Geek To Rule Them All

Chapter 12

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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.

Chapter 12: The Council of Elrond - Part 2

"When I read these words," said Gandalf, "my quest was ended. For the traced writing was indeed as Isildur guessed, in the tongue of Mordor and the servants of the Tower. And what was said therein was already known. For in the day that Sauron first put on the One, Celebrimbor, maker of the Three, was aware of him, and from afar he heard him speak these words, and so his evil purposes were revealed."At once I took my leave of Denethor, but even as I went northwards, messages came to me out of Lórien that Aragorn had passed that way, and that he had found the creature called Gollum. Therefore I went first to meet him and hear his tale. Into what deadly perils he had gone alone I dared not guess."

"There is little need to tell of them." Said Aragorn. "If a man must needs walk in sight of the Black gate, or tread the deadly flowers of the Morgul Vale, then perils he will have. I, too, despaired at last, and I began my homeward journey. And then, by fortune, I came suddenly on what I sought: the marks of soft feet beside a muddy pool. But now the trail was fresh and swift, and it lead not to Mordor but away. Along the skirts of the Dead Marshes I followed it, and then I had him. Lurking by a stagnant mere, peering in the water as the dark eve fell, I caught him, Gollum. He was covered in green slime. He will never love me, I fear; for he bit me, and I was not gentle. Nothing more did I ever get from his mouth than the marks of his teeth. I deemed it the worst part of all my journey, the road back, watching him day and night, making him walk before me with a halter on his neck, gagged, until he was tamed by lack of drink and food, driving him ever towards Mirkwood. I brought him there at last and gave him to the Elves, for we had agreed that this should be done; and I was glad to be rid of his company, for my part I hope never to look upon him again; but Gandalf came and endured long speech with him."

Kitty raised an eyebrow. Dang. Gollum must be a real pain in the ass if Aragorn had preferred strolling around outside Mordor to his company.

"Yes, long and weary," said Gandalf, "but not without profit. For one thing, the tale he told of his loss agreed with that which Bilbo has now told openly for the first time; but that mattered little, since I had already guessed it. But I learned then first that Gollum's ring came out of the Great River nigh to Gladden Fields. And I learned also that he had possessed it long. Many lives of his small kind. The power of the ring had lengthened his years far beyond their span; but that power only the Great Rings wield."And if that is not proof enough, Galdor, there is the other test I spoke of. Upon this very ring which you see here, round and unadorned, the letters that Isildur reported my still be read, if one has the strength of will to set the golden ring in the fire a while. That I have done, and this I have read:

Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul!

The change in the wizard's voice was astounding. Suddenly it became menacing, powerful, harsh as stone. A shadow seemed to pass over the high sun, and the porch for a moment grew dark. All trembled, and the Elves stopped their ears. Kitty felt as though a dementor had tried to give her a peck on the cheek or something.

"Never before has any voice dared to utter words of that tongue in Imladris, Gandalf the Grey." Elrond said as the shadow passed and the company breathed once more.

"And let us hope that none will ever speak it here again." Answered Gandalf. "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 all put doubt aside that this thing is indeed what the Wise have declared: 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 smiths of Eregion heard, and knew that they had been betrayed:

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

"Know also, my friends, that I learned more yet from Gollum. He was loth to speak and his tale was unclear, but it is beyond all doubt that he went to Mordor, and there all that he knew was forced from him. Thus the Enemy knows that the One is found, that it was long in the Shire; and since his servants have pursued it almost to our door, he soon will know, already he may know, even as I speak, that we have it here."

All sat silent for a while, until at length Boromir 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?"

"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 strength hardly to be believed in one so lean and withered. He could work much mischief still, if he were free. And I do not doubt that he was allowed to leave Mordor on some evil errand."

"Alas!" cried Legolas, and in his fair elvish face there was great distress. "The tidings that I was 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."

"Escaped?" cried Aragorn. "That is ill news indeed. We shall all rue it bitterly, I fear. How came the folk of Thranduil to fail in their trust?"

"Not through lack of watchfulness," said Legolas; "but perhaps through over-kindliness. And 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, much though we wearied of the task. 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 old black thoughts."

"You were less tender to me." Said Glóin with a flash of his eyes, as old memories were stirred of his imprisonment in the deep places of the Elven-king's halls.

"Now come!" said Gandalf. "Pray do not interrupt, my good Glóin. That was a regrettable misunderstanding, long set right. If all the grievances that stand between Elves and Dwarves are to be brought up here, we may as well abandon this Council."

Glóin rose and bowed, and Legolas continued.

"In the days of fair weather we led Gollum through the woods; and there was a high tree standing alone far from the others which he liked to climb. Often we let him mount up to the highest branches, until he felt the free wind; but we set a guard at the tree's foot. One day he refused to come down, and the guards had no mind to climb up after him: he had learned the trick of clinging to boughs with his feet as well as with his hands; so they sat by the tree far into the night."It was that very night of summer, yet moonless and starless, that Orcs came on us at unawares. We drove them off after some time; they were many and fierce, but they came from over the mountains, and were unused to the woods. When the battle was over, we found that Gollum was gone, and his guards were slain or taken. It then seemed plain to us that the attack had been made for his rescue, and that he knew of it beforehand. How that was contrived we cannot guess; but Gollum is cunning, and the spies of the Enemy are many. The dark things that were driven out in the year of the Dragon's fall have returned in greater numbers, and Mirkwood is again an evil place, save where our realm is maintained."We have failed to recapture Gollum. We came upon his trail and those of many Orcs, and it plunged deep into the forest, going south. But ere long it escaped our skill, and we dared not continue our hunt; for we were drawing nigh to Dol Goldur, and that is still a very evil place; we do not go that way."

"Well, well, he is gone." Said Gandalf. "We have no time to seek for him again. He must do what he will. But he may play a part yet that neither he nor Sauron has foreseen."And now I will answer Galdor's other questions. What of Saruman? What are his counsels to us in this need? This tale I must tell in full, for only Elrond had heard it yet, and that in brief; but it bear on all that we resolve. It is the last chapter in the tale of the Ring, so far as it has yet gone."

The wizard went on to tell of how he came to discover Saruman's treachery after being directed to him by fellow wizard Radagast the Brown, and how upon refusing to join the corrupted White Wizard, Saruman kept him prisoner on the pinnacle of Orthanc. There he saw the once green and fair valley around the tower was now filled with pits and forges. Wolves and orcs were housed in Isengard, for Saruman was mustering a great force of his own account, in rivalry of Sauron.

"At first I feared, as Saruman no doubt intended, that Radagast had also fallen." Said Gandalf. "Yet I had caught no hint of anything wrong in his voice or in his eye at our meeting. If I had, I should never have gone to Isengard, or I should have gone more warily. So Saruman guessed, and he concealed his mind and deceived his messenger. It would have been useless in any case to try and win over the honest Radagast to treachery. He sought me in good faith and so persuaded me."That was the undoing of Saruman's plot. For Radagast knew no reason why he should not do as I asked; and he rode away towards Mirkwood where he had many friends of old. And the Eagles of the Mountains went far and wide, and they saw many things: the gathering of wolves and the mustering of Orcs; and the Nine Riders going hither and thither in the lands; and they heard news of the escape of Gollum. And they sent a messenger to bring these tidings to me."So it was that when summer waned, there came a night of moon, and Gwaihir the Windlord, swiftest of the Great Eagles, came unlooked-for to Orthanc; and he found me standing on the pinnacle. Then I spoke to him and he bore me away, before Saruman was aware. I was far from Isengard, ere the wolves and orcs issued from the gate to pursue me." 'How far can you bear me?' I said to Gwaihir." 'Many leagues,' said he, 'but not to the ends of the earth. I was sent to bear tidings not burdens.'" 'The I must have a steed on land,' I said, 'and a steed surpassingly swift, for I have never had such a need of haste before.'" 'Then I shall bear you to Edoras, where the Lord of Rohan sits in his halls,' he said; 'for that is not very far off.' And I was glad, for in the Riddermark of Rohan the Rohirrim, the Horse-lords, dwell, and there are no horses like those that are bred in that great vale between the Misty Mountains and the White." 'Are the men of Rohan still to be trusted, do you think?' I said to Gwaihir, for the treason of Saruman had shaken my faith." 'They pay a tribute of horses,' he answered, 'and send many yearly to Mordor, or so it is said; but they are not yet under the yoke. But if Saruman has become evil, as you say, then their doom cannot be long delayed.'

"He set me down in the land of Rohan ere dawn; and now I have lengthened my tale over long. The rest must be more brief. In Rohan I found evil already at work: the lies of Saruman; and the king of the land would not listen to my warnings. He bade me take a horse and be gone; and I chose one much to my liking, but little to his. I took the best horse in his land, and I have never seen the like of him."

Kitty smirked. She liked Gandalf's style. If the king was going to get all upset, he should have been more specific.

"Then he must be a noble beast indeed," said Aragorn; "and it grieves me more than many tidings that might seem worse to learn that Sauron levies such tribute. It was not so when last I was in that land.""Nor is it now, I will swear." Said Boromir.

"Been there more recently, have you?" Kitty asked.

"No." said Boromir. "But it is a lie that comes from the Enemy. I know the Men of Rohan, true and valiant, our allies, dwelling still in the lands that we gave them long ago."

"The shadow of Mordor lies on distant lands." Answered Aragorn. "Saruman has fallen under it. Rohan is beset. Who knows what you will find there, if ever you return?"

"They may not have a choice." Devin said regretfully. It sounded like the poisoning of the king's mind was already underway.

"Not this at least," said Boromir, "that they will buy their lives with horses. They love their horses next to their kin. And not without reason, for the horses of the Riddermark come from the fields of the North, far from the Shadow, and their race, as that of their masters, is descended from the free days of old."

"True indeed!" said Gandalf. "And there is one among them that might have been foaled in the morning of the world. The horses of the Nine cannot vie with him; tireless, swift as the flowing wind. Shadowfax they called him. By day his coat glistens like silver; and by night it is like a shade, and he passes unseen. Light is his footfall! Never before had any man mounted him, but I took him and tamed him, and so speedily he bore me that I reached the Shire when Frodo was on the Barrow-downs, though I set out from Rohan only when he set out from Hobbit."

Kitty sighed wistfully, looking as though she had fallen in love with the horse just hearing a bout it. Devin smiled knowingly at her friend.

"But fear grew in me as I rode." Gandalf continued with a curios glance at the sighing girl. "Ever as I came north I heard tidings of the Riders, and though I gained on them day by day, they were ever before me. They had divided their forces, I learned: some remained on the eastern borders, not far from the Greenway, and some invaded the Shire from the south. I came to Hobbiton and Frodo had gone; but I had words with old Gamgee. Many words and few to the point. He had much to say about the shortcomings of the new owners of Bag End. But amidst his talk I gathered that Frodo had left Hobbiton less than a week before, and that a black horseman had come to the Hill the same evening. Then I rode on in fear. I came to Buckland and found it in an uproar, as busy as a hive of ants that has been stirred with a stick. I came to the house at Crickhollow, and it was broken open and empty; but on the threshold there lay a cloak that had been Frodo's. Then for a while hope left me, and I did not wait to gather news, or I might have been comforted; but I rode on the trail of the Riders. It was hard to follow, for it went many ways, and I was at a loss. But it seemed to me that one or two had ridden towards Bree; and that way I went, for I thought of words that might be said to the innkeeper." 'Butterbur they call him.' thought I. 'If this delay is his fault, I well melt all the butter in him. I will roast the old fool over a slow fire.' He expected no less, and when he saw my face he fell down flat and began to melt on the spot."

"What did you do to him?" cried Frodo in alarm. "He was really very kind to us and did all that he could."

Gandalf laughed. "Don't be afraid!" he said. "I did not bite, and I barked very little. So overjoyed was I by the news that I got out of him, when he stopped quaking, that I embraced the old fellow. How it happened I could not then guess, but I learned that you had been in Bree the night before, and had gone off that morning with Strider." 'Strider!' I cried, shouting for joy." 'Yes, sir, I am afraid so, sir.' Said Butterbur, mistaking me. 'He got at them, in spite of all that I could do, and they took up with him. They behaved very queer all the time they were here: willful, you might say.'"Ass! Fool! Thrice worthy and beloved Barliman!' said I. 'It's the best news I have had since Midsummer: it's worth a gold piece at least. May your beer be laid under an enchantment of surpassing excellence for seven years!' said I. 'Now I can take a night's rest, the first since I have forgotten when.'

"So I stayed there that night, wondering much what had become of the Riders; for only of two had there yet been any news in Bree, it seemed. But in the night we heard more. Five at least came from the west, and they threw down the gates and passed through Bree like a howling wind; and the Bree-folk are still shivering and expecting the end of the world. I got up before dawn and went after them."I do not know, but it seems clear to me that this is what happened. Their Captain remained in secret away south of Bree, while two rode ahead through the village, and four more invaded the Shire. But when these were foiled in Bree and at Crickhollow, they returned to their Captain with tidings, and so left the Road unguarded for awhile, except by their spies. The Captain then sent some eastward straight across the country, and he himself with the rest rode along the Road in great wrath."I galloped to Weathertop like a gale, and I reached it before sundown on my second day from Bree—and they felt the coming of my anger and they dared not face it while the Sun was in the sky. But they closed round at night, and I was besieged on the hill-top, in the old ring of Amon Sûl. I was hard put to it indeed: such light and flame cannot have been seen on Weathertop since the war beacons of old."At sunrise I escaped and fled towards the north. I could not hope to do more. It was impossible to find you, Frodo, in the wilderness, and it would have been folly to try with all the Nine at my heels. So I had to trust to Aragorn. But I hoped to draw some of them off, and yet reach Rivendell ahead of you and send out help. Four Riders did indeed follow me, but they turned back after a while and made for the Ford, it seems. That helped a little, for there were only five, not nine, when your camp was attacked."I reached here at last by a long hard road, up the Hoarwell and through the Ettenmoors, and down from the north. It took me nearly fourteen days from Weathertop, for I could not ride among the rocks of the troll-fells, and Shadowfax departed. I sent him back to his master; but a great friendship has grown between us, and if I have need he will come at my call. But so it was that I came to Rivendell only three days before the Ring, and news of its peril had already been brought here—which proved well indeed."And that Frodo, is the end of my account. May Elrond and the others forgive the length of it. But such a thing has not happened before, that Gandalf broke tryst and did not come when he promised. An account to the Ring-bearer of so strange an event was required, I think."Well, the Tale is now told from first to last. Here we all are, and here is the Ring. But we have not yet come any nearer to our purpose. What shall we do with it?"

There was a silence. Kitty nudged Devin in the arm and leaned close to whisper in her ear.

"Hey, can we hurry things along here? Because this is dragging on a lot longer than I thought it would. I don't know about you, but I'm starving!"

Devin glanced around at the thoughtful faces of the others gathered there. If memory served all that was left was for them to argue over whether or not they should simply hide or destroy the ring, and since the end result was what was most important, she considered giving into the temptation to skip most of the roundabout talk this time, but Boromir beat her to it.

"It is a gift." Boromir said, breaking the silence.

" 'Scuse me?" Kitty asked, staring at Boromir like he must have been dropped on the head as an infant.

"It is a gift. A gift to the foes of Mordor." Boromir said more boldly. "Why not use this ring? Long has my father, the Steward of Gondor, kept the forces of Mordor at bay. By the blood of our people are your lands kept safe!"

Out of the corner of her eye, Devin noticed Aragorn sat back in his chair and shook his head slightly in disbelief as he stared at Boromir in disapproval. Though he said nothing aloud, she knew he must be recalling all his people, the Rangers of the North, and many others had done in secret to protect the people and safety of the land from Sauron's ever spreading evil beyond the borders of Gondor, as it had been outlined in the book. Boromir was proud, and it was true the people of Gondor had contributed much, but they were not the only ones still fighting the good fight.

"Give Gondor the weapon of the Enemy." Boromir said. "Let us use it against him."

"Are you willfully deaf?" Kitty asked incredulously, frowning at him. "Didn't you hear Gandalf? That thing is pure evil—it's Satan in a freaking Sunday hat!"

"You cannot wield it." Devin added a bit more calmly, speaking in a loud and clear voice so that all could hear, in case others were still harboring similar thoughts to Boromir's. "The One Ring answers to Sauron alone. It has no other master."

"That is easy and simple for you to say." Boromir said sternly, turning on her. "It is not your world that is in danger!"

"No, it's not. Not at the moment." Devin answered honestly with a grim expression on her face. "But it may be in the future, if you should fail to stop Sauron's evil here. If we could come through to this world from our side, then I shudder to think what might also be able to come through from yours. There is no magic in our world. The people of our would be like lambs to the slaughter in the face of such evil; or worse, in ignorance of the situation, some may unleash weapons of mass destruction in a desperate attempt to stop a force which they do not understand. They could decide to go nuclear. If that happens, our world will be destroyed and laid waste in a matter of days. Entire continents could be wiped out, the sky would become filled with dust and darkened with ash and radiation. An endless winter, the likes of which has never been seen in Middle Earth would fall upon us. The very Earth would be poisoned for decades: our entire world could die. Enslavement or death awaits us if your world falls. So if you think I speak lightly, then think again!"

"Dude…" Kitty said quietly, staring at her friend with wide eyes. "You're starting to scare even me." She hadn't even thought about that. Apparently Devin's imagine could be even more frightening than her own sometimes…

"Devin is right. We cannot use it." Gandalf said after another moment of heavy silence while the others all stared at the petite girl, stunned by the atrocities she had just described. In some ways, it seemed their world might be in even more danger than their own should Sauron prevail. Enslavement, or complete and total annihilation: it was hard to say which was worse.

"You have only one choice." Elrond said, standing. "The Ring must be destroyed." Only then would Sauron suffer complete and utter defeat. He would never die while the Ring remained.

"What are we waiting for?" Gimli asked, standing up with axe in hand. Before Elrond or the girls could warn him against such a futile action, the dwarf let out a mighty bellow and swung the blade of his axe down upon the Ring with such force that it shattered and exploded upon impact with the evil object and sent the hardy dwarf reeling backwards.

"Holy—!" Kitty cried in alarm, ducking just in time to avoid being lobotomized by one of the flying splinters of axe-blade.

"You okay?" Devin asked, concerned.

"Yeah… But let's not try that again any time soon…" Kitty suggested, chagrined. That had been way too close for comfort.

"The Ring cannot be destroyed, Gimli son of Glóin, by any craft that we hear possess." Elrond informed the stunned dwarf. "The Ring was made in the fires of Mount Doom. Only there can it 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." He said gravely, glancing at the faces of all assembled before him.

"One does not simply walk into Mordor." Said Boromir grimly. "Its 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 with fire, and ash, and dust. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten-thousand men could you do this. It is folly."

"Have you heard nothing Lord Elrond has said?" Legolas asked, standing. "The Ring must be destroyed."

"And I suppose you think you are the one to do it!" Gimli said accusingly.

"And if we fail, what then?" What happens when Sauron takes back what is his?" Boromir demanded, also standing.

"I will be dead before I see the Ring in the hands of an Elf!" Gimli shouted as he stood. Aragorn let out a sigh as the most of the others present began to join the argument. "Never trust and Elf!" Gimli shouted above the other's heated voices. Gandalf shook his head and sighed as well.

"Are they always this petty?" Kitty asked. "The fate of two worlds are in their hands, and they're arguing over semantics!"

"Very well, very well, Master Elrond!" Bilbo said suddenly before things had a chance to escalate any further. "Say no more! It is plain enough what you are pointing at. Bilbo the silly hobbit started this affair, and Bilbo had better finish it or himself. I was very comfortable here, and getting on with my book. If you want to know, I am just writing an ending for it. I had thought of putting: and he lived happily ever afterwards to the end of his days. It is a good ending, and none the worse for having been used before. Now I shall have to alter that: it does not look like coming true; and anyway there will evidently have to be several more chapters, if I live to write them. It is a frightful nuisance. When ought I to start?"

Boromir looked in surprise and disbelief at Bilbo, thinking surely what he had just said must have been in jest, but the laughter died on his lips when he saw that all the others regarded the old hobbit with grave respect. Only Glóin smiled, but his smile came from old memories.

"Of course, my dear Bilbo." Said Gandalf. "If you had really started this affair, you might be expected to finish it. But you know well enough now that starting is too great a claim for any, and that only a small part is played in great deeds by any hero. You need not bow! Though the word was meant, and we do not doubt that under jest you are making a valiant offer. But one beyond your strength, Bilbo. You cannot take this thing back. It has passed on. If you need my advice any longer, I should say that your part is ended, unless as a recorder. Finish your book, and leave the ending unaltered! There is still hope for it. But get ready to write a sequel, when they come back."

Bilbo laughed. "I have never known you give me pleasant advice before." he said. "As all your unpleasant advice has been good, I wonder if this advice is not bad. Still I don't suppose I have the strength or luck left to deal with the Ring. It has grown, and I have not. But tell me: what do you mean by they?"

"The messengers who are sent with the Ring."

"Exactly! And who are they to be? That seems to me what this Council has to decide, and all that it has to decide. Elves may thrive on speech alone, and Dwarves endure great weariness; but I am only an old hobbit, and I miss my meal at noon. Can't you think of some names now? Or put it off till after dinner?"

No one answered. The noon-bell rang. Still no one spoke. Devin and Kitty knew who it had to be, but Devin had already cautioned her friend not to say anything the previous evening. She felt that if they had to go into such danger and deal with the slow poisoning of that treacherous Ring, it should be by the company's own choice. She felt it was an important difference to their resolve between choosing a difficult path for themselves of their own free will, or being made to feel as though someone else had forced them into it. It may not seem like much in the beginning; but when things were hard, it could make all the difference. And she had faith Frodo would step up to the mat when push came to shove without any prodding from them.

Frodo glanced at all the faces, but they were not turned to him. All the Council, aside from the two girls, who seemed to be patiently waiting for something, sat with downcast eyes, as if in deep thought. A great dread fell on him, as if he was awaiting the pronouncement of some doom that he had long foreseen and vainly hoped might after all never be spoken. An overwhelming longing to rest and remain at peace by Bilbo's side in Rivendell filled all his heart. At last with an effort he spoke, and wondered to hear his own words, as if some other will was using his small voice.

"I will take the Ring," he said, "though I do not know the way." The two girls were smiling softly at him, knowing the courage it must have taken and the hard journey he would have ahead of him. Gandalf closed his eyes briefly before turning with the others to raise their heads and look at the young hobbit. If at all possible, he had been hoping to spare Frodo as well from the burden of continuing to carry the Ring. Elrond raised his eyes and looked at him, and Frodo felt his heart pierced by the sudden keenness of the glance.

"If I understand aright what I have heard," he said, with a brief flicker of his eyes to the two girls and back, "I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will. This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the great. Who of all the Wise could have foreseen it? Or, if they are wise, why should they expect to know it, until the hour has struck?"But this is a heavy burden. So heavy that none could lay it on another. I do not lay it on you. But if you take it freely, I will say that your choice is right; and though all the mighty elf-friends of old, Hador, and Húrin, and Túrin, and Beren himself were assembled together, your seat should be among them."

"And I will help you bear this burden, Frodo Baggins." Gandalf said. "For as long as it is yours to bear."

"You have my sword." Aragorn said, standing so that he might cross the porch and kneel before the brave little hobbit.

"And you have my bow." Legolas said, coming forward.

"And my axe." Gimli said, also stepping forward to join the group. The elf-prince looked less than thrilled, and the dwarf shot him a look that said 'deal with it'.

"You carry the fates of us all, little one." Boromir said. "If this is indeed the will of the Council… then Gondor will see it done."

"Hey!" Sam shouted abruptly as he suddenly sprang from his hiding place and ran over to stand beside Frodo, unable to contain himself any longer. "Mr. Frodo's not going anywhere without me." He insisted stubbornly, crossing his arms.

"No indeed!" said Elrond with a smile. "It is hardly possible to separate you, even when he is summoned to a secret Council and you are not."

"Oi! We're coming, too!" Merry cried out as he and Pippin jumped out from behind two columns, startling the elf-lord, who appeared to be incredibly taken aback to find that his security had been breached by not just one, but three hobbits. He had spotted Sam early on from his seat, but he had not been aware of these other two mischief makers. "You'll have to send us home tied up in a sack to stop us."

"This was your doing somehow, wasn't it?" Devin asked, looking at Kitty.

"No one sends a maid to disturb my slumber after a night of drinking and gets away with it." Kitty replied with a Cheshire cat grin.

"Anyway, you need people of intelligence on this sort of… mission. Quest. Thing." Pippin said.

"Well, that rules you out, Pip." Merry said. Devin raised an eyebrow while Kitty smiled in amusement.

"Nine companions." Elrond said thoughtfully.

"Ahem. Actually, make that eleven, Boss-man. We've decided we're coming, too." Kitty said as she and Devin stepped forward to volunteer.

"We've stuck with you this far." Devin told Frodo and the others. "We might as well go the whole distance."

"So be it. You shall be the Fellowship of the Ring." Elrond said.

"Great!" Pippin said. "Where are we going?"

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