Lady From Beyond the Sea-Chapter 3-The mystery deepens
The morning of the Council of Elrond dawned bright and clear. Zandra, as always, was up with the sun, and walking thoughtfully through the dew drenched grass.
She was already in the Council Hall when the bell rang to summon everyone to the council, and selected a seat in the corner, where she could observe, but not be observed.
The tales of all gathered were familiar to her, as she herself had taken part, though sometimes small, in many of them. So she focused instead on the countenances of those gathered. A twinge of guilt crossed Legolas’s features, whenever Gollum was mentioned, and Bilbo’s face showed slight impatience for the Council to be over. She smiled fondly at this. But the face that worried her was Boromir’s. A queer expression gleamed in his eyes since the Ring was first shown, an expression that she had seen too often not to recognize. He frowned when Elrond announced that sending the Ring to the Fire was the only hope.
“I do not understand this,” he said at length, “Saruman is a traitor, but did he not have a glimpse of Wisdom? Why do you speak forever of hiding and destroying? Wielding it, the Free Lords of the Free may surely defeat the Enemy. The Men of Gondor are valiant, and they will never submit; but they may be beaten down. Valor needs first strength, then a weapon. Let the Ring be your weapon, if it has such Power as you say. Take it and go forth to victory!”
“Alas, no,” said Elrond. “We cannot use the Ruling Ring. That we know too well. It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and is altogether evil. The very desire of it corrupts the heart. Consider Saruman. If any of the Wise should with this Ring overthrow the Lord of Mordor, he would then set himself on Sauron’s throne, and yet another Dark Lord would appear. For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so. I fear to take the Ring to hide it, but I will not take the ring to wield it.”
“Nor I,” said Gandalf.
Nor I, thought Zandra, her eyes intent on Boromir, as the Council talked of Gondor’s possible allies. He did not look convinced of the power of the Ring. Fool! Zandra thought to herself, You do not understand Sauron’s power as I do. I will not touch Anything that he has made, much less something of such power as the Ring. Dark memories assailed her, and her body shuddered. When she drew her thoughts back out of the shadows, Gandalf was speaking.
“Well, let folly be our cloak, a veil before the Eyes of the Enemy! For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice. But the only measure that he knows is desire for power; Into his heart (He does not have a heart thought Zandra, ) “the thought will not enter that any will refuse it, that having the Ring we may seek to destroy it. If we seek this, we shall put him out of the reckoning.”
“Yes, but who are they to be?” spoke up Bilbo, Zandra smiled slightly that his impatience had finally shown through, “Who is to go? That seems to me what this Council 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?”
No one answered. The noon bell rang. Still no one spoke. Zandra saw Frodo glance around at all the faces, and deep foreboding filled her.
“No Frodo,” she whispered, tears filling her eyes as she became certain what he intended to do, “Please no.”
“I will take the Ring,” he said, “though I do not know the way.”
She looked quickly at Elrond, her eyes pleading him to say no, but she knew he wouldn’t, and as he told Frodo that he felt the task was appointed to him, she suddenly knew that it was her task to accompany him. That was why she was here. She would go with Frodo to Mordor, and she would aid him in any way she could.
Unfortunately for Zandra, Elrond was not so easy to convince. . .
“This is not a quest for a lady,” he said again to the now irate lady. “There will be many unknown hardships and dangers.”
“You forget that I took part in the Battle of the Five Armies, as well as in the search for Gollum. . . you must also remember where Gandalf met me,” she added quietly, “I know more of danger and hardship perhaps even than you. You have never been where I was.”
“I bear that in mind. It is for that reason that I would have you remain behind. I do not wish you to go through that again, as may happen to members of this company.”
She shook her head sadly, “I thank you for your concern, but if this quest fails? What will be my fate then? I have power of my own, it may be that I can help.”
Elrond sighed, “I would only protect you from any more horror, you have been through too much already,” he took one of her hands in his, “Since Gandalf found you and brought you here, you nave been almost like a daughter to me.”
Tears stung Zandra’s eyes, “I do thank you, but I am certain that I must go. I have to help Frodo, in whatever way I can. I did not wish him to go, but as he is, I must also. If I am not appointed one of the company, then I will trail behind. You cannot stop me.”
“Very will,” he said reluctantly, “You shall be one of the number,” he smiled slightly, “Gandalf warned me you would not stay.”
“He’s gotten to know me well these past eighty years.” She bowed her head to Elrond and left the room.
The Company was chosen. Their number was ten, and they were called the Fellowship of the Ring. Legolas came for the elves, Gimli for the dwarves, Boromir and Aragorn for men, Merry, Pippin, Sam and Frodo for the Shire, Gandalf for the Wizards, and Zandra for herself.
They took little gear for war, for their hope was in secrecy, not in battle. Aragorn, Boromir, and Gandalf had their swords, the Gimli his axe, Legolas and Zandra each carried bows. The younger hobbits had the swords they had taken from the barrow, and Frodo had sting. Gandalf had in addition his staff, and Zandra carried two light, slightly curved swords across her back. The elves had forged them to her taste.
Elrond came out with Gandalf to bid farewell to the Company, “This is my last word,” he said in a low voice. “The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Doom. On him alone is any charge laid: neither to cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to an servant of the Enemy. The others go with him as free companions, to help him on his way,” here Zandra felt his eyes on her, “You may tarry, or come back, or turn aside into other paths, as chance allows. The further you go, the less easy it will be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid on you to go farther than you will. For you do not yet know the strength of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road. But go now with good hearts! Farewell, and may the blessing of Elves and Men and all Free Folk go with you. May the stars shine upon your faces!”
The first stage of the journey was long and dreary. Gandalf walked in front, and with him Aragorn and Zandra. The others were in file behind, and Legolas, whose eyes were keen, was the rearguard.
He had been very surprised when he learned that Zandra was to be part of the Fellowship. This was not a quest for a lady. No doubt Elrond knew what he was doing in letting her come, and at least this would give him the chance to solve the mystery that surrounded her. He smiled wryly to himself as he walked along scanning the countryside. That is, he could solve the mystery if she would leave Gandalf and Aragorn long enough for him to talk to her.
In a fortnight they reached the land of Hollin. He knew that long ago Elves had dwelt here, and called it Eregion, but nothing in this land remembered them but the stones. It was very saddening to know that sometime, perhaps not too far in the future, all of Middle Earth would have forgotten his people.
The next day, while Sam and Aragorn watched, they saw crows circling the land, and the company knew that their passage was being watched.
Soon their way became steep and difficult. Laboriously they climbed, and presently Legolas saw the first flakes of snow begin to fall. In a short time, the snow was falling fast, filling the air, and it began to pile up. Legolas knew he could walk on top of the snow, but he worried for Zandra, and of course, the rest of the Company. The wind whistled and became a blinding blizzard. Finally the company was forced to stop.
“What do you say to fire?” asked Boromir, “the choice seems near now between fire and death, Gandalf.”
“You may make a fire, if you can,” answered Gandalf. But though they had wood and kindling, it surpassed even the skill of Elf or even Dwarf to strike a flame that would hold, so finally Gandalf lent a hand.
“If there are any to see, I have written Gandalf is here in signs that all can read from Rivendell to the mouths of the Anduin.” Then he took Zandra slightly aside. Though Legolas could not hear what Gandalf said to her, he saw her shake her head, and heard her reply.
“Weather work takes a great deal of power to control the weather in the best of circumstances. In this. . .” she shook her head again, “Sauron would have us pinpointed like a fish on a hook. There would be no more secrecy.”
“Weather work?” Legolas whispered to himself in curiosity, just who was his mystery lady?
Finally it was decided that when the snow slowed they would make their way back down the mountain. Caradhras had defeated them.