Frodo woke and found himself lying in bed. At first he thought that he had slept late, after a long unpleasant dream that still hovered on the edge of memory. Or perhaps he had been ill? But the ceiling looked strange; it was flat, and it had dark beams richly carved. He lay a little while longer looking at patches of sunlight on the wall, and listening to the sound of a waterfall.
“Where am I, and what is the time?” he said aloud to the ceiling.
“In the House of Elrond, and it is ten o’clock in the morning.” said a voice. “It is the morning of October the twenty-fourth, if you want to know.”
“Bilbo!” cried Frodo, sitting up. There was the old hobbit, sitting in a chair by the open window drawing on his pipe.
“Yes,” he said, “I am here. And you are lucky to be here, too.”
“Where’s Sam?” Frodo asked at length. “And are the others all right?”
“Sam was here until I sent him off to get some rest, about half an hour ago,” answered Bilbo. “But my own dear Frodo, I am afraid that Findol and my…my friend Dori have passed from this world, as has Haladon and Orophin.”
Frodo blinked, as though he had been struck in the face, “Passed? But I saw them, their wounds could not be as bad as all that. And who is this Orophin?”
“He was our mysterious guardian apparently, sent from the Elves of Lothlorien east of the Misty Mountains, told to reveal himself only in the most dire of need to protect you,” said Bilbo. “And I’m afraid their wounds were indeed beyond our skill to treat.”
Frodo, overcome with exhaustion and a sudden grief, bowed his head and wept, “Oh uncle, I am sorry. I am so sorry. They have died because of me. This is all my fault.”
Bilbo’s head snapped up, his own eyes brimming with tears, “You must never say that Frodo, you must not even think it! They died because of the Enemy, which is neither right nor fair. They gave their lives gladly so that you, and The Ring, could get here safely.”
“Oh Bilbo,” sobbed Frodo. Bilbo sat on the bed and held his nephew as the two hobbits wept together for their fallen companions.
“What happened at the Ford?” said Frodo, after they had recovered. “It all seemed so dim somehow; and it still does.”
“Yes, it would my lad. You were beginning to fade,” answered Bilbo. “The wound was overcoming you at last. A few more hours and you would have been beyond our aid. But you have some strength in you, my dear hobbit!”
He fell silent and shut his eyes. After a while he spoke again. “I have been reckoning,” he said, “and I can’t bring the total up to October the twenty-fourth. It ought to be the twenty-first. We must have reached the Ford by the twentieth.”
“You have talked and reckoned more than is good for you,” said Bilbo. “How do the side and shoulder feel now?”
“I don’t know.” Frodo answered. “They don’t feel at all: which is an improvement, but” -he made an effort- “I can move my arm again a little. Yes, it is coming back to life. It is not cold,” he added, touching his left hand with his right.
“Good!” said Bilbo. “It is mending fast. You will soon be sound again. Elrond has cured you: he has tended you for days, ever since you were brought in.”
“Days?” said Frodo.
“Well, four nights and three days, to be exact. The Elves brought you from this where you lost count. We have been terribly anxious and Sam, bless him, has hardly left your side, day or night, except to run messages.”
“And where we are now,” Frodo hesitated, “is Rivendell safe?’
“Yes, at present, until all else is conquered. The Elves may fear the Dark Lord, and they may fly before him, but never again will they listen to him or serve him. And here in Rivendell there live still some of his chief foes: the Elven-wise, lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas. They do not fear the Ringwraiths, for those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power. Still,” he said, “we must keep up our courage my lad. You will soon be well, if I do not talk you to death. You are in Rivendell, and you need not worry about anything for the present.”
“I haven’t any courage to keep up,” said Frodo, “but I am not worried at the moment. Just give me news of my friends, and tell me the end of the affair at the Ford, as I keep on asking, and I shall be content for the present. After that I shall have another sleep, I think; but I shan’t be able to close my eyes until you have finished the story for me.”
Bilbo moved his chair to the bedside, and took a good look at Frodo. The colour had come back to his face, and his eyes were clear, and fully awake and aware. He was smiling, and there seemed to be little wrong with him.
“You look splendid,” he said aloud. “I will risk a brief tale without consulting Elrond. But quite brief, mind you, and then you must sleep again. This is what happened, as far as I can gather. The Riders made straight for you, as soon as you fled. They did not need the guidance of their horses any longer: you had become visible to them, being already on the threshold of their world. And also the Ring drew them. Your friends sprang aside, off the road, or they would have been ridden down. They knew that nothing could save you, if the white horse could not. The Riders were too swift to overtake, and too many to oppose. When the Ringwraiths swept by, your friends ran up behind. Close to the Ford there is a small hollow beside the road masked by a few stunted trees. There they hastily kindled fire; for the elves of our company knew that a flood would come down, if the Riders tried to cross, and then they would have to deal with any that were left on his side of the river. The moment the flood appeared, they rushed out, followed by the rest of us with flaming brands. Caught between fire and water, and seeing the elves revealed in their wrath, they were dismayed, and their horses were stricken with madness. Three were carried away by the first assault of the flood; the others were now hurled into the water by their horses and overwhelmed.”
“And is that the end of the Black Riders?” asked Frodo.
Alas, no,” said Bilbo. “Their horses must have perished, and without them they are crippled. But apparently the Ringwraiths themselves cannot be so easily destroyed. However, there is nothing more to fear from them at present. Your friends crossed after the flood had passed; and they found you lying on your face at the top of the bank, with a broken sword under you. The horse of Eothain was standing guard beside you. You were pale and cold, and they feared that you were dead, or worse. Elrond’s folk met them, carrying you slowly towards Rivendell.”
“Who made the flood?” asked Frodo.
“The Lord Elrond commanded it,” answered Bilbo. “The river of this valley is under his power, and it will rise in anger when he has great need to bar the Ford. As soon as the captain of the Ringwraiths rode into the water the flood was released.”
“Yes, it all comes back to me now,” said Frodo: “the tremendous roaring. I thought I was drowning, with my friends and enemies and all. But now we are all safe!”
Bilbo looked quickly at Frodo, but he had shut his eyes. “Yes, we are all safe for the present. Soon there will be a Council where we shall discuss all that has and needs to be done. But for now you must sleep. I shall take a walk, I think, and look at the stars in the garden before I turn in myself. Sleep well, my dear fellow!”
Next day Frodo woke early, feeling refreshed and well. He got out of bed and discovered that his arm was already nearly as useful again as it ever had been. He found laid ready clean garments of green cloth that fitted him excellently. Looking in a mirror he was startled to see a much thinner reflection of himself than he remembered: it looked remarkably like the young nephew of Bilbo who used to go tramping with his uncle in the Shire; but the eyes looked out at him thoughtfully.
“Yes, you have seen a thing or two since you last peeped out of a looking-glass,” he said to his reflection. “But now for a merry meeting!”
He stretched out his arms and whistled a tune.
At that moment there was a knock on the door, and Sam came in. He ran to Frodo and took his left hand, awkwardly and shyly. He stroked it gently and then he blushed and turned hastily away.
“Hullo, Sam!” said Frodo.
“It’s warm!” said Sam. “Meaning your hand, Mr. Frodo. It has felt so cold through the long nights. But glory and trumpets!’ he cried, turning round again with shining eyes and dancing on the floor. ‘It’s fine to see you up and yourself again, sir! Bilbo asked me to come and see if you were ready to come down, and I thought he was joking.”
“I am ready,” said Frodo. “Let’s go and look for the rest of the party!”
“I can take you to them, sir,” said Sam. “It’s a big house this, and very peculiar. Always a bit more to discover, and no knowing what you’ll find round a corner. And Elves, sir! Elves here, and Elves there! Some like kings, terrible and splendid; and some as merry as children. And the music and the singing-not that I have had the time or the heart for much listening since we got here. But I’m getting to know some of the ways of the place.”
“I know what you have been doing, Sam,” said Frodo, taking his arm. “But you shall be merry tonight, and listen to your heart’s content. Come on, guide me round the corners!”
Sam led him along several passages and down many steps and out into a high garden above the steep bank of the river. He found his friends sitting in a porch on the side of the house looking east. Shadows had fallen in the valley below, but there was still a light on the faces of the mountains far above. The air was warm. The sound of running and falling water was loud, and the evening was filled with a faint scent of trees and flowers, as if summer still lingered in Elrond’s gardens.
“Hurray!” cried Pippin, springing up. “Here is our noble cousin! You are looking much more like your old self!”
“Of course he does,” said Bilbo from a bench by the railing. “He’s a Baggins, not some Bracegirdle from Hardbottle! I told you yesterday he was mending just fine, and just fine is how he’s mending.”
Frodo embraced each of the party in turn, who greeted him with the same enthusiasm as Pippin. When he got to Bofur and Gimli though, the hobbit bowed low and said, “My service will be forever yours’ and your families’, and the family of Dori, most noble of Erebor’s sons.” Bofur said nothing, but silently wrapped his arms around Frodo.
“He was a stubborn blighter,” said Gimli for them both. “And we shall bear the tale of his deeds back to the Lonely Mountain with us, of how he faced the chiefest of the Dark Lord’s servants and did not quail, but stood as a Son of Durin in their face.”
Suddenly as they were talking a single clear bell rang out. “That is the warning bell for the Council of Elrond,” said Bilbo. `Come now my friends. Both of you and Frodo are wanted.’
Frodo followed Bilbo with Bofur and Gimli quickly along the winding path back to the house; behind them, uninvited and for the moment forgotten, trotted Sam.
Bilbo led them to a porch on the other side of the house. The light of the clear autumn morning was now glowing in the valley. The noise of bubbling waters came up from the foaming river-bed. Birds were singing, and a wholesome peace lay on the land. To Frodo his dangerous flight, and the rumours 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.
Walking toward them was a tall elf whose face was ageless, neither old nor young, though in it was written the memory of many things both glad and sorrowful. His hair was dark as the shadows of twilight, and upon it was set a circlet of silver; his eyes were grey as a clear evening, and in them was a light like the light of stars. Venerable he seemed as a king crowned with many winters, and yet hale as a tried warrior in the fulness of his strength. He was Elrond Half-elven, the Lord of Rivendell and mighty among both Elves and Men. “I am Elrond and it is my honour to welcome you to Rivendell, Frodo son of Drogo. Please, join us.” He reached down and took Frodo by the hand, leading him to an empty seat before sitting two seats to the hobbit’s left.
Frodo looked on gathered in wonder, for he had never before seen Elrond, of whom so many tales spoke; and they that sat upon his right hand and his left were revealed as lords of dignity and power. On Elrond’s right, between he and Frodo was an elf clad in silver who was very tall, and his beard was long, and he was grey and old, save that his eyes were keen as stars, whom Elrond named as Cirdan the Shipwright. It was the elf to Elrond’s left who drew Frodo’s eye, for she was grave and beautiful. She was clad wholly in white; and the hair of that lady was of deep gold, and no sign of age was upon her, unless it were in the depths of her eyes; for these were keen as lances in the starlight, and yet profound, the wells of deep memory. She was named Galadriel, Lady of the Golden Wood.
Elrond identified the others gathered there to Frodo, each of whom lowered their eyes and bowed on their introduction. Beside the Lady Galadriel was an elf tall and straight; his hair was of shining gold, his face fair and young and fearless and full of joy; his eyes were bright and keen, and his voice like music; on his brow sat wisdom, and in his hand was strength. His name was Glorfindel, and he had faced more terrible servants of the Enemy than any there had.
Beside Glorfindel there were several other counsellors of Elrond’s household, of whom Erestor was the chief; and Gildor Inglorion, who had warned Elrond of the Ringbearer’s plight so the floodwaters could be prepared; and with them was Galdor, an Elf from the Grey Havens who had travelled with Círdan the Shipwright. There was also a strange Elf clad in green and brown, Legolas, 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 fair and noble face, dark-haired and grey-eyed, whose face was stern and commanding, and a keen wit lay behind his searching glance. He was cloaked and booted as if for a journey; and was clad in greens and browns which were stained with long travel. His locks were shorn about his shoulders. He gazed at Frodo and Bilbo with searching eyes.
“Here,” said Elrond, turning to Frodo, “is Faramir, 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.”
Seated next to Faramir was an old man that caused Frodo to look twice because he thought it was Gandalf returned to them. Indeed, the man had the same piercing eyes under a bushy brow, with a hooked nose overlooking not a small beard flowing down his chest. But this man was robed in deep brown and he bore a staff of rosewood, that had green shoots growing out of its head. And where Gandalf appeared as an old man beyond reckoning, this stranger seemed to be both young and old together, with broad powerful shoulders and a straight back, but his hands were weathered and gnarled as old roots. He seemed to Frodo coiled, as an animal ready to give fight or flight at a moment’s notice, and his eyes were always moving. “This is Radagast, of the five wizards of Gandalf’s order. It was he who sent us word of Gandalf and Saruman’s plight and is now the last of the Istari yet free. He has journeyed from his home in Mirkwood to give a full account of what his part in what has happened and to advise on what may yet be done.” The wizard’s eyes met with Frodo’s and bowed his head to the halfling.
At the back of the room was another man whom Elrond did not name, but rather said that his was his own tale to tell. He was a strange-looking and weather-beaten man, his legs were stretched out before him, showing high boots of supple leather that fitted him well, but had seen much wear and were now caked with mud. His clothes seemed finely made, but again stained with travel and dirt. He had a shaggy head of dark hair flecked with grey, and in a sad and stern face a pair of keen grey eyes.
Not all that was spoken and debated in the Council need now be told. Much was said of events in the world outside, especially in the South, and in the wide lands east of the Mountains. Of these things Frodo had already heard many rumours; but the tale of Gimli was new to him, and when the dwarf spoke he listened attentively. It appeared that amid the splendour of their works of hand the hearts of the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain were troubled. Gimli told of a messenger sent to them, asking for information about a hobbit named Baggins and a trinket that he possessed, even offering to part with one of the seven Dwarven Rings for anything they might offer. Their king Dain refused the messenger three times and on the third rebuttal the messenger threatened them with war.
“And so,” Gimli finished, “we have been sent at last by Dain 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 Dain 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 all 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. 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.
“Now, therefore, things shall be openly spoken that have been hidden from all but a few until this day. And first, so that all may understand what is the peril, the Tale of the Ring shall be told from the beginning even to this present. And I will begin that tale, though others shall end it.”
Then all listened while Elrond in his clear voice spoke of Sauron and the Rings of Power, and their forging in the Second Age of the world long ago. A part of his tale was known to some there, but the full tale to none, for not even Galadriel and Cirdan had heard the full account of the latter part, and many eyes were turned to Elrond in fear and wonder as he told of the Elven-smiths of Eregion and their friendship with Moria, and their eagerness for knowledge, by which Sauron ensnared them. For in that time he was not yet evil to behold, and they received his aid and grew mighty in craft, whereas he learned all their secrets, and betrayed them, and forged secretly in the Mountain of Fire the One Ring to be their master. But Celebrimbor was aware of him, and hid the Three which he had made; and there was war, and the land was laid waste, and the gate of Moria was shut.
Then through all the years that followed he traced the Ring; but since that history is elsewhere recounted, even as Elrond himself set it down in his books of lore, it is not here recalled. For it is a long tale, full of deeds great and terrible, and briefly though Elrond spoke, the sun rode up the sky, and the morning was passing ere he ceased.
Of Númenor he spoke, its glory and its fall, and the return of the Kings of Men to Middle-earth out of the deeps of the Sea, borne upon the wings of storm. Then Elendil the Tall and his mighty sons, Isildur and Anárion, became great lords; and the North-realm they made in Arnor, and the South-realm in Gondor above the mouths of Anduin. But Sauron of Mordor assailed them, and they made the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, and the hosts of Gil-galad and Elendil were mustered in Arnor. Elornd told then of the Battles of Dagorland and Orodruin, where Gil-galad and Elendil fell, and where Isildur cut the Ring from the hand of Sauron and took it for his own.
At this the stranger, Faramir, broke in. “So then that is what became of the Ring. If ever such a tale was told in the South, it has long been forgotten. I have heard of the Great Ring of him that we do not name; but we believed that it perished from the world in the ruin of his first realm. Isildur took it! That is tidings indeed.”
“Alas! yes,” said Elrond. “Isildur took it, as should not have been. It should have been cast then into Orodruin’s fire nigh at hand where it was made. But few marked what Isildur did. He alone stood by his father in that last mortal contest; and by Gil-galad only Círdan stood, and I. But Isildur would not listen to our counsel. But soon he was betrayed by it to his death; and so it is named in the North Isildur’s Bane. Yet death maybe was better than what else might have befallen him.
“Only to the North did these tidings come, and only to a few. Small wonder it is that you have not heard them, Faramir. From the ruin of the Gladden Fields, where Isildur perished, three men only came ever back over the mountains after long wandering. One of these was Ohtar, the esquire of Isildur, who bore the shards of the sword of Elendil; and he brought them to Valandil, the heir of Isildur, who being but a child had remained here in Rivendell. But Narsil was broken and its light extinguished, and it has not yet been forged again. Many Elves and many mighty Men, and many of their friends. had perished in that terrible war. Anárion was slain, and Isildur was slain; and Gil-galad and Elendil were no more. Never again shall there be any such league of Elves and Men; for Men multiply and the Firstborn decrease, and the two kindreds are estranged. And ever since that day the race of Númenor has decayed, and the span of their years has lessened.
So it has been for many lives of men. But the Lords of Minas Tirith still fight on, defying our enemies, keeping the passage of the River from Argonath to the Sea. And now that part of the tale that I shall tell is drawn to its close. For in the days of Isildur the Ruling Ring passed out of all knowledge, and the Three were released from its dominion. But now in this latter day they are in peril once more, for to our sorrow the One has been found. Others shall speak of its finding, for in that I played small part.”
He ceased, and after a moment Faramir stood up before them. “Give me leave, Master Elrond, said he, first to say more of Gondor; for verily from the land of Gondor I am come. And it would be well for all to know what passes there. For few, I deem, know of our deeds, and therefore guess little of their peril, if we should fail at last.
“Believe not that in the land of Gondor the blood of Númenor is spent, nor all its pride and dignity forgotten. By our efforts the wild folk of the East are still restrained, and the terror of Morgul kept at bay; and thus alone are peace and freedom maintained in the lands behind us, bulwark of the West. And so in this evil hour I have come on an errand over many dangerous leagues to Elrond: seventy and five days I have journeyed all alone. But I do not seek allies in war. The might of Elrond is in wisdom not in weapons, it is said. I come humbly to ask for counsel and the unravelling of hard words. For on the eve of a sudden assault on Osgiliath, one that took the east side of that ancient city, a dream came to me in a troubled sleep; and afterwards a like dream came oft to me again, and once to my brother.
“In that dream I thought the eastern sky grew 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 Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur’s Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand.
“Of these words we could understand little, and we spoke to our father, Denethor, Lord of Minas Tirith, wise in the lore of Gondor. This only would he say, that Imladris was of old the name among the Elves of a far northern dale, where Elrond the Half-elven dwelt, greatest of lore-masters. Therefore my brother, seeing how desperate was our need, was eager to heed the dream and seek for Imladris; but since our land is greatly besieged and in need of her chiefest captain, I took the journey upon myself. Loth was my father to give me leave, and long have I wandered by roads forgotten, seeking the house of Elrond, of which many had heard, but few knew where it lay.”
“And here in the house of Elrond more shall be made clear to you,” said the stranger in the back, standing up. He cast a sword upon the table that stood before Elrond, and the blade was in two pieces. “Here is the Sword that was Broken!” he said.
“And who are you, and what have you to do with Minas Tirith?” asked Boromir, looking in wonder at the lean face of the Ranger and his weather-stained cloak.
“He is Aragorn son of Arathorn,” said Elrond; “and he is descended through many fathers from Isildur Elendil’s son of Minas Ithil. He is the Chief of the Dúnedain in the North, and few are now left of that folk.”
“Then it belongs to you, and not to me at all!” cried Frodo in amazement, springing to his feet, as if he expected the Ring to be demanded at once.
“It does not belong to either of us,” said Aragorn; “but it has been ordained that you should hold it for a while. I had meant to meet you in Bree, but news of Gandalf’s capture caused me to return to Rivendell, seeking aid from those here to enter the Shire and escort you ourselves. We had not counted on your own uncle Bilbo beating us to the mark, and as a result of my absence I shall forever be indebted to you for the injuries you have suffered.”
“Bring out the Ring, Frodo!” said Elrond solemnly. “The time has come. Hold it up, and then Boromir will understand the remainder of his riddle.”
There was a hush, and all turned their eyes on Frodo. He was shaken by a sudden shame and fear; and he felt a great reluctance to reveal the Ring, and a loathing of its touch. He wished he was far away. The Ring gleamed and flickered as he held it up before them in his trembling hand.
“Behold Isildur’s Bane!” said Elrond.
Faramir’s eyes widened as he gazed at the golden thing. “The Halfling!” he muttered. ”Whose doom then is come? And what is the meaning of the broken sword? Can it really be…”
“It can indeed, Faramir son of Denethor. For the Sword that was Broken is the Sword of Elendil that broke beneath him when he fell. It has been treasured by his heirs when all other heirlooms were lost; for it was spoken of old among us that it should be made again when the Ring, Isildur’s Bane, was found. Now you have seen the sword that you have sought, what would you ask? Do you wish for the House of Elendil to return to the Land of Gondor?”
“I was not sent to beg any boon, but to seek only the meaning of a riddle,” answered Faramir quietly. “Yet we are hard pressed, and the Sword of Elendil would be a help beyond our hope – if such a thing could indeed return out of the shadows of the past” He looked again at Aragorn, and an uncertain hope was in his eyes.
“I have remained in the shadows until such a time as this,” said Aragorn. “The world is changing once again. A new hour comes. Isildur’s Bane is found. Battle is at hand. The Sword shall be reforged. I will come to Minas Tirith.”
The morning waned as many and more things were discussed. Bilbo spoke of how he came by the Ring on the quest for Erebor; Legolas told the Council news of Gollum’s escape, whom Aragorn and Gandalf has hunted for together; and Radagast informed them all of what Gwaihir saw and that there had been no sign of either Saruman or Gandalf since that day. And finally Frodo gave a full account of his journey from the Shire, helped by Bilbo when his memory failed him.
Once a full reckoning was given, silence fell across the porch. “What then are we to do?” Gildor broke the quiet, “This is The One Ring, such is why this Council is gathered. What needs must be done now it is gathered?”
“Well we can either hide the Ring for ever; or to unmake it,” said Radagast. But both, I fear, are beyond our power. Who will read this riddle for us?”
“None here can do so,” said Elrond gravely. “At least none can foretell what will come to pass, if we take this road or that. But it seems to me now clear which is the road that we must take. The westward road seems easiest. Therefore it must be shunned. It will be watched. Too often the Elves have fled that way. Now at this last we must take a hard road, a road unforeseen. There lies our hope, if hope it be. To walk into peril-to Mordor. We must send the Ring to the Fire.”
“The road must be trod, but it will be very hard,” Cirdan of Mithlond spoke for the first time. “And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.”
“Very well, very well, Master Elrond!” said Bilbo suddenly. “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.”
Faramir looked in surprise at Bilbo, but the smile died on his lips when he saw that all the others regarded the old hobbit with grave respect. Only Bofur smiled, but his smile came from old memories.
“Of course, my dear Bilbo,” said Elrond. `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.”
Bilbo nodded, “But then who is to go? 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. Frodo glanced at all the faces, but they were not turned to him. All the Council 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.”
Galadriel raised her eyes and looked at him, and Frodo felt his heart pierced by the sudden keenness of the glance. “If I understand aright all that I have heard, I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will.” said the Lady Galadriel speaking for the first time. Her voice was clear and musical, but deeper than woman’s wont. “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 it is a heavy burden. So heavy that none could lay it on another. We 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.”
“But you won’t send him off alone surely, Masters?” cried Sam, unable to contain himself any longer, and jumping up from the corner where he had been quietly sitting on the floor.
“No indeed!” said Elrond, turning towards him with a smile. “You at least shall go with him. It is hardly possible to separate you from him, even when he is summoned to a secret council and you are not.”
Sam sat down, blushing and muttering. “A nice pickle we have landed ourselves in, Mr. Frodo!” he said, shaking his head.
Later that day the hobbits held a meeting of their own in Bilbo’s room. Merry and Pippin were especially indignant when they heard that Sam had crept into the Council, and had been chosen as Frodo’s companion.
“It’s most unfair,” said Pippin. “Instead of throwing him out, and clapping him in chains, Elrond goes and rewards him for his cheek!”
“Rewards!” said Frodo. “I can’t imagine a more severe punishment. You are not thinking what you are saying: condemned to go on this hopeless journey, a reward? Yesterday I dreamed that my task was done, and I could rest here, a long while, perhaps for good.”
“I don’t wonder,” said Merry, “and I wish you could. But we are envying Sam, not you. If you have to go, then it will be a punishment for any of us to be left behind, even in Rivendell. We have come a long way with you and been through some stiff times. We want to go on.”
“That’s what I meant,” said Pippin. “We hobbits ought to stick together, and we will.”
“Well, anyway,” said Bilbo, “nothing was decided beyond choosing poor Frodo and Sam. I was afraid all the time that it might come to that, if I was let off. But if you ask me, Elrond will send out a fair number, when the reports come in. Have they started yet, Gimli?” The dwarf was sitting on the porch outside Bilbo’s room drawing on a stout pipe.
“Yes,” said the dwarf. “Some of their scouts have been sent out already. More will go tomorrow. Elrond is sending Elves, and they will get in touch with the Dunedain, and maybe even with Thranduil’s folk in Mirkwood. The Lady Galadriel has set off for her home beyond the Misty Mountains. And Aragorn has gone with Elrond’s sons. They shall have to scour the lands all round for many long leagues before any move is made. So cheer up, Frodo! You will probably make quite a long stay here. In any case, I think that when the time comes, I shall go with you. My own sire went on an adventure with your uncle, it is only fitting I come on one with you. And in any case, I think I quite like your company and want to enjoy it a bit longer before you get yourself killed.”
Without waiting for a response, Gimli rose and walked out the porch, humming to himself as he went. “He’ll look after you my lad,” said Bilbo. If he’s anything like his father, he’ll see you through.”
For a while the hobbits continued to talk and think of the past journey and of the perils that lay ahead; but such was the virtue of the land of Rivendell that soon all fear and anxiety was lifted from their minds. The future, good or ill, was not forgotten, but ceased to have any power over the present. Health and hope grew strong in them, and they were content with each good day as it came, taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song.
So the days slipped away, as each morning dawned bright and fair, and each evening followed cool and clear. The hobbits had been nearly two months in the House of Elrond, and November had gone by with the last shreds of autumn, and December was passing, when the scouts began to return. Some had gone north beyond the springs of the Hoarwell into the Ettenmoors; and others had gone west, and with the help of Aragorn and the Rangers had searched the lands far down the Greyflood, as far as Tharbad, where the old North Road crossed the river by a ruined town. Many had gone east and south; and some of these had crossed the Mountains and entered Mirkwood, while others had climbed the pass at the source of the Gladden River, and had come down into Wilderland and over the Gladden Fields.The sons of Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir, were the last to return; they had made a great journey, passing down the Glanduin into a strange country, but of their errand they would not speak to any save to Elrond.
In no region had the messengers discovered any signs or tidings of the Riders or other servants of the Enemy. Even from the Eagles of the Misty Mountains they had learned no fresh news. Nothing had been seen or heard of Gollum; but the wild wolves were still gathering, and were hunting again far up the Great River. Three of the black horses had been found at once drowned in the flooded Ford. On the rocks of the rapids below it searchers discovered the bodies of five more, and also a long black cloak, slashed and tattered. Of the Black Riders no other trace was to be seen, and nowhere was their presence to be felt. It seemed that they had vanished from the North.
Elrond summoned the hobbits to him. He looked gravely at Frodo. “The time has come,” he said. “If the Ring is to set out, it must go soon. But those who go with it must not count on their errand being aided by war or force. They must pass into the domain of the Enemy far from aid. Do you still hold to your word, Frodo, that you will be the Ring-bearer?”
“I do,” said Frodo. “I will go with Sam, and Gimli too has said he will come.”
“Then I cannot help you much, not even with counsel,” said Elrond. “I can foresee very little of your road; and how your task is to be achieved I do not know. The Shadow has crept now to the feet of the Mountains, and draws nigh even to the borders of Greyflood; and under the Shadow all is dark to me. You will meet many foes, some open, and some disguised; and you may find friends upon your way when you least look for it. I will send out messages, such as I can contrive, to those whom I know in the wide world; but so perilous are the lands now become that some may well miscarry, or come no quicker than you yourself.
“And I will choose you a few more companions to go with you, as far as they will or fortune allows. The number must be few, since your hope is in speed and secrecy. Had I a host of Elves in armour of the Elder Days, it would avail little, save to arouse the power of Mordor.
“The Company of the Ring shall be Nine; and the Nine Walkers shall be set against the Nine Riders that are evil. With you Glorfindel will go; for he has before faced such dangers as you shall and knows the perils of this world.
“For the rest, they shall represent the other Free Peoples of the World: Elves, Dwarves, and Men. Gimli son of Glóin has already spoken for the Dwarves, and I shall send my own two sons with you for the Elves. They are willing to go at least to the passes of the Mountains, and maybe beyond. For men you shall have Aragorn son of Arathorn, for the Ring of Isildur concerns him closely.”
“I would have asked you to come, for I know from you kinsman Haladon that your people are valiant and true,” said Frodo, “only I thought you were going to Minas Tirith with Faramir.”
“I am, and you honour me by your words,” said Aragorn. “And the Sword-that-was-Broken shall be reforged ere I set out to war. But your road and our road lie together for many hundreds of miles. Therefore Faramir will also be in the Company. He is a man of strength and courage.’
“There remains one more to be found,” said Elrond. “This I will consider. Of my household I may find another that it seems good to me to send.”
“But that leaves no place for us!” cried Fatty in dismay. “We don’t want to be left behind. We want to go with Frodo.”
“That is because you do not understand and cannot imagine what lies ahead,” said Elrond. “But also neither does Frodo. Nor do any of us see clearly.” Elrond smiled at the hobbits, “The strength of your friendship is clear to me, and I am willing to trust to that rather than to any great wisdom. But the Shire, I forebode, is not free now from peril; and I had thought to send you back there as messengers, to do what you could, according to the fashion of your country, to warn the people of the danger to come. In any case I judge that of your faithful friends, Meriadoc shall go with you Frodo. The others of you; Fredegar, Tolman and Peregrin, you are guests of my household and may remain here for as long as you would stay. Now the tale of Nine is filled. In seven days the Company must depart.”
The Sword of Elendil was forged anew by Elvish smiths, and on its blade was traced a device of seven stars set between the crescent Moon and the rayed Sun, and about them was written many runes; for Aragorn son of Arathorn was going to war upon the marches of Mordor. Very bright was that sword when it was made whole again; the light of the sun shone redly in it, and the light of the moon shone cold, and its edge was hard and keen. And Aragorn gave it a new name and called it Andúril, Flame of the West.
Aragorn and Glorfindel walked together or sat speaking of their road and the perils they would meet; and they pondered the storied and figured maps and books of lore that were in the house of Elrond. Sometimes Frodo was with them; but he was content to lean on their guidance, and he spent as much time as he could with Bilbo.
In those last days the hobbits sat together in the evening in the Hall of Fire, and there among many tales they heard told in full the lay of Beren and Lúthien and the winning of the Great Jewel; but in the day, while Merry was out and about with Pippin and Fatty, and Tom Cotton would wonder the tall hills surrounding Rivendell, Frodo and Sam were to be found with Bilbo in his own small room. Then Bilbo would read passages from his book (which still seemed very incomplete), or scraps of his verses, or would take notes of Frodo’s adventures.
On the morning of the last day Frodo was alone with Bilbo, and the old hobbit pulled out from under his bed a wooden box. He lifted the lid and fumbled inside.
“Here is your sword,” he said. “But it was broken, you know. I took it to keep it safe but I’ve forgotten to ask if the smiths could mend it. No time now. So I thought, perhaps, you would care to have this, don’t you know?”
He took from the box a small sword in an old shabby leathern scabbard. Then he drew it, and its polished and well-tended blade glittered suddenly, cold and bright. “This is Sting,” he said, and thrust it with little effort deep into a wooden beam. “Take it, if you like. I shan’t want it again, I expect.”
Frodo accepted it gratefully.
“Also there is this!” said Bilbo, bringing out a parcel which seemed to be rather heavy for its size. He unwound several folds of old cloth, and held up a small shirt of mail. It was close-woven of many rings, as supple almost as linen, cold as ice, and harder than steel. It shone like moonlit silver, and was studded with white gems. With it was a belt of pearl and crystal.
“It’s a pretty thing, isn’t it?” said Bilbo, moving it in the light. “And useful. It is my dwarf-mail that Thorin gave me. I got it back from Michel Delving before I started after the Party, and packed it with my luggage: I brought all the mementoes of my Journey away with me, except the Ring. But I did not expect to use this when I went back for you, though I wish I had taken it with me, and I don’t need it now, except to look at sometimes. You hardly feel any weight when you put it on.”
“I should look – well, I don’t think I should look right in it,” said Frodo.
“Just what I said myself,” said Bilbo. “But never mind about looks. You can wear it under your outer clothes. Come on! You must share this secret with me. Don’t tell anybody else! But I should feel happier if I knew you were wearing it. I have a fancy it would have even turned the knives of the Black Riders,” he ended in a low voice.
“Very well, I will take it,” said Frodo. Bilbo put it on him, and fastened Sting upon the glittering belt; and then Frodo put over the top his old weather-stained breeches, tunic, and jacket.
“Just a plain hobbit you look,” said Bilbo. “But there is more about you now than appears on the surface. Good luck to you!” He turned away and looked out of the window, trying to hum a tune.
“I cannot thank you as I should, Bilbo, for this, and for every one your past kindnesses,” said Frodo.
“Don’t try!” said the old hobbit, turning round and slapping him on the back. “Ow!” he cried. “You are too hard now to slap! But there you are: Hobbits must stick together, and especially Bagginses. All I ask in return is: take as much care of yourself as you can. and bring back all the news you can, and any old songs and tales you can come by. I’ll do my best to finish my book before you return. I should like to write the second book, if I am spared.” He broke off and turned to the window again, singing softly.