Silence falls over the council of the ring, utter shock leaving most speechless. Those whose introduction to Elsa was mere minutes before, her ice magic is literally an ability none thought they'd ever witness, or even dream. The few personally acquainted with Elsa were surprised by her loud and brash outburst. The one astounded the most by her display is none other than Frodo, who is the only individual, other than Elsa (and Sauron), who could truly know that the ring has been silenced. And yet, despite the variety of reasons to be quieted, it is, yet again, Gandalf who speaks first,
"Lady Elsa, what…was that?"
Elsa, brought out of the reverie that was her success, blushes slightly when becoming aware of every eye focused on her. Her quick regal composure dismisses her embarrassment in a flash, as she readies to speak before the crowd, "My apologies to those present, this behavior is unbecoming of me." She looks over the cube once more before placing it back on the stump, "It may sound implausible, but I can…hear the ring while in mere proximity, similar to how a holder hears it, or so I've been told." She fixes her eyes on Gandalf, to confirm her statement. His nod convinces her to continue, "I am not aware of who else is capable of what I claim, perhaps Frodo, but, unbeknownst to you, apparently, this ring was becoming quite an…annoyance." She glares back at the ice-encased ring, wishing she could just clench her fist and shatter it into golden sand, "Thus, my volatile actions just now."
The gathering of eyes simply stare and blink. Occasionally someone opened his or her mouth, about to speak, pause, then close it shut. Elsa notices that a few people are still drawn towards her wall of ice. With a blasé gesture it dissolves into a flurry of soft snowflakes, eliciting a few 'ooooohs' in admiration.
Eventually, a leader of Men speaks up, "Just what gives you the confidence that your ice block will suffice? Tis' summer, thing will melt before even leaving Rivendell."
Elsa fixes a cold glare on this individual, the softens when remembering how little of her powers she's exposed, "I understand your incredulousness, but my ice can be more durable than any metallic creation I've seen here. Little powers exist that can either break or melt it." She glances back at the cube again and an idea forms in her mind, joined by a tiny smirk on her face, "In fact, if you doubt me so, feel free to destroy it yourself." She backs away from the cube, simultaneously bowing and waving her arm out in a sweeping motion.
The leader studies the cube, which is little bigger than the ring itself, and, with a smug smile tugging at his lips, rises and draws his sword. He taps at the ice with the edge, goes through a few slow practice paths, never drawing the sword higher than his eye, then, with the sword high above his head, he swings it down with the might to sever a head.
There is a crack.
He looks expectantly at the ice, but is befuddled by a lack of any discernable mar on the cube. Convinced he had accomplished something, and failing to inspect his own sword, he readies himself for another swing.
Again, a crack is heard.
Checking again for any inspections, he is livid when finding none. In a scream of rage he strikes once more in a blur of silver.
A shatter erupts that silences any and all murmuring making the rounds through the crowd. All intensely focused on a dozen pieces of steel spiraling outwards before quickly descending. The leader is frozen in place, his eyes wide and vacantly staring at, or through, the broken remains of his prized weapon.
Of course, the cube of ice is undamaged. It simply lies there as if nothing happened.
Satisfied with her successful demonstration, Elsa grabs her 'prison' and heads straight towards Frodo. She bends slightly so she can place the ice directly in his hands, "Here you are, Frodo. I believe my construction will make your status as 'ring-bearer' an easier task. The ring should bother you no more." She gives him a small smile, and as they share a warm glance, her eyes widen slightly as she thinks of something else, "Oh, I would also recommend you find a sack or pouch for it. Although it won't melt or break," Under normal circumstances anyway. "it is still quite cold."
She rises to her full height and slowly looks over the entire fellowship, making eye contact with each individual. "I wish you all great luck on your journey. While I know my construct to be strong, I doubt even it can hold against lava." She gives one more glance over before curtsying and turning to walk back to her original position.
"Pardon me, Lady Elsa." It is Legolas who speaks, catching her attention. She pauses to look back, "But what should we do in the instance it does survive the fires of Mt. Doom?" While murmurs do sprout, most of the council merely nod their heads in agreement to Legolas' inquisition, and gaze upon Elsa once again.
She bites her lip, slightly, pondering over the question in her mind. Elsa has never experimented with her powers in the proximity of volcanoes. Or with fires, molten metal, or other heated situations in general. Thus, she forgot about such a circumstance of her ice surviving. Good thing for backups.
"Any of my creations within my range, even those I cannot see, are still under my whim."
"And what be your range, good Queen?" Gimli has now joined the questioning, speaking what each member of the fellowship thought, in addition to the entire council.
"I have a general range of twenty miles of which I can sense and manipulate all to a moderate degree."
"Only twenty? Mordor is much farther than that." This time Boromir. The more vigorous nods of approval from the gathered members accentuate his point.
"However, if I choose to focus on just one piece of ice or snow," She stares directly at the cube, still in Frodo's hand as he had yet to procure something to place it inside, "The range I can work with it increases to five hundred miles."
While the four hobbits are joyful to hear this, Aragorn, Boromir, Gandalf, Legolas, and Gimli exchange looks, unsure of who is to break the 'news' of the distance to Mordor. Elsa, noticing these glances and becoming concerned about this unspoken conversation, brings the questioning to them first,
"I get the feeling that I would be correct to assume that Mordor is of further distance, no?" All five break their impromptu glancing contest to focus solely on Elsa, Gandalf forgetting once again of her perceptive nature. After a few silent moments of locked eyes, they resume their sideways glances. If it weren't for the secretive nature, Elsa would have found the twitching of eyes rather amusing. Eventually, all settle on the man in the middle. Releasing an exasperated sigh, Aragorn responds,
"Lady Elsa, Mordor is over one thousand miles away." He is trying his best to break it gently, but his unintended emphasis on the numerical distance betrays any hope of such. At first, Elsa is expressionless. Over time, as the truth sets in, her eyes widen and her mouth drops to its fullest extent. This gives her face quite the comical look. And yet, despite a considerably exaggerated facial reaction to this revelation, her vocal response is noticeably refrained,
"Oh." While neither of them would ever know it, but Anna would be simultaneously proud because of the similarity and on the ground howling in laughter at the near dopey look Elsa was wearing. Dissimilar to Ann, though, was Elsa's ability to quickly regain her composure, as usual. Yet, "So…" She is unable to complete her statement, or inquiry; she even can't decide which. That one thousand miles factoid threw her quite a nasty head spin. Without realizing it, her hand is playing with her braid; Sam thought it was rather adorable.
"If you wish, I believe we have our tenth member of the fellowship." Elrond has walked to Elsa's side, a proud smile beaming. Elsa shifts her gaze towards him, an unsure look crossing over her face once more. The murmurings have practically ignited into full blown vocal discourse now. The most prominent exclamations being variants of her status as a woman or questioning her abilities to endure the trek. Surprisingly, to Elsa, was that these opinions claimed only half of the discussions. The other half was the rapid responses in favor of her, with nearly all beckoning to her displays of ice magic, and how valuable her type of sorcery could aid an Istari.
She gives Elrond a bewildered look. He merely responds with a small nod, before raising his voice to gather attention, "It is settled." As though a giant blanket of comfy silence had descended on those arguing, all halt speaking and give their attention to the Elf, "The Fellowship will leave at dawn. May their travel be safe and fruitful." The council remains in silence for moments, then split into their preferred groups and hasten new discourse; ale being a popular subject.
Gandalf approaches Elrond and Elsa, ready to approach a topic shared only with Elrond. "Lady Elsa, if you would join us, we would like to discuss certain aspects for you prepare for on this journey, including a way for you to return home."
Elsa, confused and shocked at first, mere exercises her wide eyes expression. But as the 'return home' statement sinks in, an impossibly wide smile breaks out, and once again Elrond is taken aback by her beauty, somehow.
"I would be delighted."
Night has fallen in Rivendell, and most present are either conked out or preparing themselves for slumber. Five remain far from beds though. A man and a woman are having a rather intimate conversation, and it would be best for their privacy to be left undisturbed. The other three, an elf, a wizard, and a sorceress, are gathered at the splintered remains of Isildur's sword.
Elsa is confused as to why Elrond and Gandalf would bring her to a broken sword. After the council, Elrond mentioned there was one more discussion to be talked before she left, but left no reason why it was delayed until later. Luckily, her confusion would be soon abated, she hoped.
"Lady Elsa, do you know your stake in this quest?" Elrond's question nearly came out of the blue to her. Granted, she did expect the conversation to cover her appearance and apparent joining, but the use of 'stake' through her for a loop.
"Pardon me, but…stake? That appears to be a rather drastic use of the word."
"Indeed, but a relevant use still. After your mentioning of travel by and through the North Mountain, I have searched through our lore to see if it would be possible to gleam more information out of it." There is a natural pause in his speech, as he prepares the next part of the explanation, "The reason the North Mountain is held in such lofty and fantastical speaking is in part of its lack of relevance. By relevance, I mean that, in contradiction to the various beliefs I've discussed before, in Middle Earth's entire history, there are two recorded instances of the legendary mount significantly altering historical events."
For the first time since her arrival, Elsa finds an occurrence to raise an eyebrow. Reasons unknown to her, a multitude of artists who attempt a royal portrait found it necessary to depict her with a smug grin accompanying an arched eyebrow. She detested this and rejected all because of her demand of demurred confidence in the painting, not as though she were a smug prick.
"Significant? How could a mountain, yes a mountain with magical properties, but a mountain nonetheless, possibly alter these events in history you suggest?"
Elrond studies her after the inquiry, then shifts his gaze over to Gandalf, who has been silent thus far. He merely returns the look, attempting to convey how he appreciates the method Elrond uses for this tale better. Eventually, he gives up in an annoyed huff and turns to Elsa,
"The first event was my journey to this world. As an Istari, or wizard, I, and my four brethren, were of a different realm before tasked with the protection of Middle Earth. Our path here required the North Mountain."
"And Middle Earth has been forever grateful of their assistance ever since." Elrond, not necessarily interjecting, adds his own viewpoint as emphasis, "I myself can attest to that."
"And the second?"
Once more, Elrond and Gandalf share a look, despair seeking through in this instance.
"There was a period in which Sauron, when he was renowned for benevolence, disappeared over fifty years. He returned seemingly with no change, but in retrospect that was the beginning of his path to darkness. Care to take a guess on how he vanished?" Gandalf takes his turn in unveiling additional dark history.
Elsa's face drops in accordance to match Elrond and Gandalf's, "Don't tell me…"
"Yes, he was quite vocal about his experiences on the North Mountain. I always found it rather annoying at first." Gandalf strokes his beard in drawn-out pulls, seemingly taking forever to reach the end. Or perhaps the length of the beard made it appear that way, Elsa couldn't tell. "Nonetheless, repetition of history is one of Middle Earth's stronger suits, so despite our initial hesitance in potentially including you, I now find there is no other choice."
Her emotions in a random complex state, Elsa can only manage a blank look with pursed lips, eyes continually shifting between Elrond and Gandalf. She's grateful to finally achieve focus when Elrond moves to speak.
"The question is, Queen Elsa, is what your arrival will herald."
Saruman is pacing rapidly in his chambers. Frustration consumes him. One, his fiercest and craftiest enemy had escaped; and two, preparations for the Uruk-hai army were agonizingly slow. If he bothered, that portion of the forest would be razed in a day. He never bothered to consider the Ents because the Ents contacted none in hundreds of years. To anyone but a wizard, Ents were mere myths. Why would they bother an army?
One last aspect stewed Saruman's annoyance that was quickly simmering into rage: why had Sauron ignored his previous contact? Although it was to deliver the unfortunate news of Gandalf's escape, information that would certainly displease that flaming eye, bad news is still better than ignorance. At the least, it would allow the opportunities to accommodate for him in their plans.
And yet all Saruman received was silence. The longer it occupied his thoughts, the higher his tempered flared. He is about to lash at his surroundings with indiscriminant magic when he feels a pulse. Pausing, he waits. After a moment, the pulse beats again. He turns, his eyes drawn to the center of his room. Another pulse. Inconceivable. Emitting a glow of fluctuating colors, the waist high pillar covered in a sheet is growing ever so brighter. The palantír is active.
Saurman is hesitant, for Sauron never initiates communications. Always Saruman. The possibility of a trick is in the forefront of his mind. And yet, it would be unwise to ignore a summoning, for only a true emergency could warrant this situation. The latter persuades Saruman to act quickly. With a deft rip, the cloth is off, the palantír exposed. Saruman readies his mind, then places his hand to initiate contact.
"Can't we have second breakfast, or perhaps thirdsies?" Pippin's voice rings out through the early valley morning. It is yet to be the eighth hour of the day and already the known troublemaker stomach was causing annoyance. Or the owner of the stomach, the fellowship could never tell. All assumed that once he adjusted to an eating schedule outside of Rivendell things would simmer down. Nonetheless, a collective groan reverberates through eight members of this traveling group, some vocal other silent. Except for one. Numerous ears are surprised to detect a slight, feminine, giggle.
Frodo turns to find Elsa holding a hand in front of her mouth as she glances back towards the bemoaning hobbit. Her shaking shoulders betray her reaction far more than the covered mouth. Yet, all take notice anyway and give her a curious glance, except for Pippin that is. He's still lost in whining over lack of multiple breakfasts.
"His childish nature amuses you?" Gimli is the closest to Elsa, and gives her a curious look as he questions.
Elsa lowers her hand and manages to calm down, she gives one last, longing look towards the hobbit, before sighing and turning to face the dwarf, "Yes, but more so in how he reminds me of my sister." Another cry of exaggerated anguish, "In certain circumstances, of course."
"Your sister, what is she like?" Sam perks up to the conversation, eager to learn about family.
"I bet she's absolutely lovely." Gandalf adds his own pleasant compliment.
"I bet she's beautiful." Merry, eyes seemingly glazed over in wonder, speaks dreamily but somehow coherently.
"Speaking of which, would she be in charge since you are with us?" Aragorn is the next to pipe in, and the first to voice a legitimate concern. Elsa quickly waves off this question though,
"Yes and no. She can make some decisions, but in a case in which I am not around to make decisions, or I've disappeared, the power structure is formed to be a 50/50 union between her and our advisors." A few of the fellowship nod as they continue walking.
"And you're not concerned her youth and inexperience won't damper her?" Boromir, himself the closest to the methods of royalty, appears doubtful that somebody even younger than Elsa could be in a position to rule.
"I think on that about myself every day. Considering my reign as Queen hasn't been that long…" She begins to mumble towards the end, but nobody appears to take notice. "Sure, she is a bit naive, and…bubbly, but what kind of monarchy would educate only the first in line for the throne? She's just as well versed in politics, economics, history, and the likes as I am."
Boromir nods in response. While he acknowledged that he gained much more glory over his brother Faramir from his father, Denethor, even he understood the risks of putting everything into one heir.
"Although if I'm honest, I wouldn't be surprised if her first action didn't involve chocolate or other foreign sweets." Glancing towards the sky while walking, she giggles at her own inside joke. The rest of the fellowship either ignore her or give befuddled looks, lost as to what she finds funny. It's mainly the hobbits that do the latter. Except for Pippin, he's now bemoaning about missing brunch.
Saruman is gazing at the whole of Isengard. His position atop of Orthanc grants him miles upon miles of landscape under his stare. However, nothing in sight matters. His mind is lost in thought over the 'discussion' with Suaron. It was equally terrifying and delectable to witness the dark lord in actual panic. However, he only left Saruman confused on the status of the ring. An icy void? Those words repeated endlessly in his head as he attempts to discern what the ring could be possibly be undergoing to generate that feeling in Suaron.
Quickly after the communication had ended, one of his spies in the sky informed him of the a odd group traveling from Rivendell, the last known location of the ring.
Saruman can only hope that his latest command to the leader of his night riders would generate anything useful.
Find a group of ten traveling from Rivendell. You are seeking out something cold, unnaturally cold. Kill the rest and bring it here.