The Folly of the Wise - Part One: The Council
The Folly of the Wise
"Strangers from distant lands, friends of old. You have been summoned to answer the threat of Mordor. Middle-earth stands upon the brink of destruction. None can escape it. You will unite, or you will fall. Each race is bound this fate, this one doom." Lord Elrond's words hung heavily in the still air as he paused before speaking again. "Bring forth the Ring, Frodo."
I pricked up my ears and I watched the young Halfling, Frodo, as he slowly, almost reluctantly, stepped forward. He took a small, gold band from his pocket and placed it on the stone pedestal in the center of the courtyard. I heard gasps and whispers around me, and I leaned forward to closer examine this thing - the thing that could overthrow Sauron and forever rid us of his ever-present threat. Beside me, I heard Ottar, a man of Laketown, whisper, dread in his voice, "The doom of man!"
*No! Not the doom of man! The salvation of man!*
"So it is true..." I said softly, more to myself than anyone else. But as I noticed the questioning stare of Elrond and the wizard, Gandalf, I continued, louder. "It is a gift! A gift to the foes of Mordor. 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. Give Gondor the weapon of the enemy. Let us use it against him!" I could not hide the eagerness of my voice; surely they saw the truth of my words? Surely they realized that it was hopeless - not to mention mad - to attempt to destroy the Ring!
But hardly had I finished speaking than another man, a Ranger, protested. "You cannot wield it. None of us can. The one ring answers to Sauron alone. It has no other master."
I smirked. "And what would a Ranger know of this matter?" I did not bother to keep the scorn from my voice. The Ranger opened his mouth as if to speak, but instead lowered his eyes. An Elf, the Prince of Mirkwood, jumped up suddenly. "He is no mere Ranger. He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. You owe him your allegiance." I was momentarily speechless as I turned to this so-called Aragorn. "Aragorn? This...is Isildur's heir?"
"And heir to the throne of Gondor." The Elf added. I glared at him, as Aragorn spoke in Elvish, a language I did not know. I assumed that it was something along the lines of, "Sit down," for the proud Elf slowly did so, not taking his eyes off me, meeting my glare. "Gondor has no king," I informed him smugly, "Gondor needs no king." I walked back to my chair and sat down, closing my eyes for a moment to keep my temper under control.
The wizard, Gandalf, once my brother's tutor, stood up. "Aragorn is right," he said. I guess that he looked at me, but I did not bother to look up. "We cannot use it." When I did raise my head, I saw Lord Elrond nod. "You have only one choice." He paused, scanning the members of the Council. "The Ring must be destroyed." I sighed in exasperation.
Gimli, the dwarf, stood up. "Then what are we waiting for?" he bellowed. I straightened up as if to stop him as he grabbed one of his companion's axes and struck the Ring with all his strength. I glanced at Frodo: the young Halfling winced as though the blow had physically hurt him. To my relief and surprise, the gold band remained perfectly intact, while the axe was in pieces. A dwarf helped the astonished Gimli to his feet, as Elrond said, "It cannot be destroyed, Gimli, son of Gloin, by any craft that we here possess. 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 firey chasm from whence it came."
They were going to do it. They were going to destroy the Ring!
"One of you must do this."
I barely heard Elrond's last words. My mind screamed at them in despair. I could not suppress a sigh of anguish. *Fools! How could they be so blind?! Did they not see that this was madness - to destroy the only weapon that we have against the Enemy? They, who call themselves the Wise, they cannot see their own folly!*
I spoke again, trying to control my fury, to keep my voice calm, in one more desperate plea. "One does not simply walk into Mordor. Its black gates are guarded by more than just orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep. And the great eye is ever watchful."
As I spoke, I locked eyes with the young Frodo. He met my gaze with wide eyes. I could see dread and terror - and pain, in their crystalline depths. He small, innocent, Elvish-looking face was a shade paler than it had been, and I could see him trembling. It appeared that I had convinced at least one member of the Council. After staring at me for a few moments, I saw him straighten his shoulders and set his lips in a firm line.
*Have I not fully convinced you yet? I shall.*
"'Tis a barren wasteland, riddled with fire and ash and dust. The very air that you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly."
Once again, that Elf prince, Legolas, stood up. "Have you heard nothing Lord Elrond just said? The Ring must be destroyed!" I felt my blood boil again. Who was he to speak thus? A prince, yes, but only of the forest of Mirkwood. Gondor is far greater, far more powerful. I opened my mouth to reply, but Gimli, the dwarf, beat me to it.
"And I suppose you think you're the one to do it?" he roared. Legolas did not answer, but his eyes glinted in silent fury. The other Elves of Mirkwood stood up in wrath, as well as the rest of the dwarves. Then I decided to step in, to try one last time to convince them. "And if we fail, what then?" I demanded. "What happens when Sauron takes back what is his?"
My voice could barely be heard above the din the Elves and dwarves were making. I heard Gimli's voice rise above the others. "I will be dead before I see the Ring in the hands of an Elf!" This was answered by the Elves of Rivendell - save Master Elrond and his sons - standing up and joining in the dispute. I also was in the middle of it - arguing with that fool wizard, Gandalf. I heard Gimli again: "Never trust an Elf!"
Suddenly, over the deafening noise of our argument, a small, trembling voice spoke up.
"I will take the It! I will take the Ring!"
I froze in mid-sentence, as did everyone around me. The tiny voice of the young hobbit somehow had carried over the loud noise of the argument, and now everyone - myself included - turned to stare at him. Frodo's eyes were wide and he seemed as shocked at his words as we were. But - to my astonishment - he did not shrink back, but continued, softly. "I will take the Ring to Mordor. Although...I do not know the way."
His words hung on the air. It was so silent that I could hear an eagle's cry high above us. No one moved.
Then, the wizard, Gandalf stepped forward and laid his hand on Frodo's small shoulder. "I will help you bear this burden, Frodo Baggins," he said. "As long as it is yours to bear." There was silence again, until: "If by my life, or death, I can protect you, I will. You have my sword."
Of course, it was that so-called `Heir of Isildur' - Aragorn. He stepped forward and stood behind Frodo. A shorter pause this time, before Legolas stepped forward as well. "And you have my bow." He was closely followed by Gimli. "And you have my axe." The Elf prince looked as though he were about to say something, but after glancing at Elrond, remained silent. Frodo looked a bit bewildered by all the volunteers (though he did seem relieved when Gandalf and Aragorn spoke up).
Then, I stepped forward. "You carry the fate of us all, little one." Frodo stared up at me silently, looking slightly distrustful. "If this is indeed the will of the council" - I looked around - "then Gondor will see it done." I could not help but send a rather smug glance toward Aragorn, but either he did not notice or chose to ignore it.
"Here!" a voice suddenly shouted. I turned around in surprise and saw Samwise, Frodo's servant, rushing forward to stand by his master's side. "Mr. Frodo's not goin' anywhere without me." He said firmly, folding his arms across his chest. In amusement, I looked at Lord Elrond, hoping that he would allow the hobbit to join as well. He was smiling - something I had not seen him do the entire time I had been in Rivendell.
"No indeed," he said with a chuckle. "It is hardly possible to separate you - even when he is summoned to a secret council and you are not." The hobbit turned a bit red and I saw Frodo smile reassuringly at him. It was obvious that these Halflings shared a special bond - like brothers; like my own brother, Faramir, and I.
Suddenly two other voices rang out again. "We're coming too!" It was two more Halflings, rushing into the courtyard to stand beside Frodo and Sam. "You'd have to send us home tied up in a sack to stop us," one (who I had learned earlier was named Merry) stated firmly. "Besides," the younger one (Pippin) added. "You'll need people of intelligence on this sort of mission...quest...thing." I stifled a laugh as Merry said, "We that rules you out, Pip." These truly were amazing creatures, these hobbits. They seemed to have some sort of magic about them - they were capable of drawing a smile to even the most reluctant face.
Elrond spoke again. "Nine companions," he seemed to be musing over this. I instinctively straightened up, and felt the others do the same. "So be it. You shall be the Fellowship of the Ring."
I held my head up proudly and glanced at the others. Aragorn's face was emotionless and Gandalf seemed to be in thought. Legolas and Gimli were pointedly ignoring each other and looking in opposite directions. Frodo still seemed bewildered, and Sam was whispering something in his master's ear, which brought a smile to Frodo's lips. Merry was grinning, and then Pippin said cheerfully, "Great! So, where are we going?"
I shake my head in amusement as I hear some scattered chuckling from the others. This will be a very interesting journey, with the hobbits along. I would certainly like to get to know them better. In Gondor, they are only a legend - Halflings, we call them. Most people do not even believe they exist. My brother Faramir would enjoy their company very much. He is one of the few who adamantly believe all the old tales. I will have much to tell him when I return.
Young Pippin is already asking about supper, receiving no reply to his earlier question. Seemingly out of nowhere, Merry produces an apple and hands it to his younger cousin. Yes, this will be a very interesting journey indeed.
To Be Continued...