This concluding chapter is dreadfully short, I know --- but it seemed sufficient. Many thanks for such wonderful support for this unusual little tale!
BUDGIELOVER has given me an idea for a teeny, tiny "sequel" to this story, which will be called "Master of Bag End". I'll get it posted as soon as it's finished!
Unlike my other stories, this is strictly movie-verse, just for fun --- and AU from beginning to end.
DISCLAIMER: Of course. The characters don't belong to me, I just get to think about them day and night.
ELEMENTARY, MY DEAR GANDALF
I may be the only one who has noticed Samwise hiding in the bushes --- observing, and watching everything from the shadows, as did I at that innocent party that seems a lifetime ago. No, wait --- Gandalf sees him too, I can tell. He winks at me and says nothing.
Why is Sam here? Surely he cannot imagine that any harm can come to Frodo at this Council. Perhaps he fears that Frodo is not yet fully recovered from his ordeal --- and who can blame him? Frodo survived by mere hours, Elrond tells me, and may never be fully healed. Here in Rivendell he can take his ease, at last able to rest and relinquish his burden. Elrond will nurture him until he is well enough to return to the Shire. Best of all, he is reunited with his beloved and long-absent relative. This little one has done well --- no one can ask more of him.
Wait… somehow an argument has broken out. Frodo seems to be unaware of the raised voices and commotion that now surrounds him; the Ring has him mesmerized, but whatever he sees or hears, it is for him alone.
What is this dissention? Why does Elrond allow it to continue?
"I will take the Ring."
Silence. No one can believe their ears.
I have felt awe but seldom in my life --- when Bilbo Baggins vanished before my eyes, I felt it --- and now, Frodo Baggins volunteers to bear the One Ring into Mordor.
Gandalf steps forward --- to gently dissuade Frodo from an impossible task? No --- to stand with him. Stars above, this little one will need an army to stand with him. Does he know how far it is to Mordor? Does he realize that the Nazgûl are not dead, but will continue to hunt him? After all he has been through… I shake my head. Who, better than he, knows what he has been through? And yet his resolve appears firm, although he is trembling. I am humbled by such courage. Gandalf's hand goes to his small shoulder, squeezes gently.
And so, what began as a game between Gandalf and myself --- to identify one hobbit at a party of hundreds --- is a game no longer. He asked me to pick Frodo out of a crowd --- to recognize him. At last, I do. We all do.
So much has befallen this young hobbit I watched having fun at what now may turn out to be the last party he ever attends. Now it is the Enemy that observes him from the Shadows, and the Dark Lord seeks to draw all that is good into the Shadows as well. But we who watch --- Samwise, myself, and others too, I suspect --- we will die before allowing Frodo to be lost. Such courage, such spirit. The Shadow will never take this one while we draw breath.
If a Man pledges his word, and his life, to another, let death alone keep him from his duty. You do not ask it of me, Frodo Baggins, but I pledge you my word. Perhaps the skills I have spent a lifetime learning will aid you in some way. If you will have me, I, too, will stand with you.
And yet I cannot stand. I am drawn forward, and drop to my knees before him.
If by my life or death I can save you, I will.
** END **