Chapter 1: The Council of Elrond

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Elrond of Rivendell gazed upon the eyes of those gathered at his Council. Many had come…Men…Dwarves…the Elves of Mirkwood…even Gandalf the Grey had arrived, at his side sat a young Hobbit, whose blue eyes shifted nervously from prying eyes.

"Strangers from distant lands, friends of old..." he began, addressing the Council sternly. "You've been summoned here 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."

He took a breath, before continuing. "Each race is bound to this one fate, this one doom."

He then turned to Frodo. "Bring forth the Ring, Frodo."

The young Hobbit looked around hesitantly before walking forward and, placing in plain view of all present, a circlet of gold.

Murmurs sprang from all present, as Elrond bowed his head, and Frodo returned to his seat beside the wizened Wizard.

"So it is true...," one man was saying. "The doom of men...it is a gift."

All eyes turned to him.

Boromir of Gondor stood, his eyes lit by a strange fire. "A gift to the foes of Mordor! Why not use this ring?"

He paused, well aware that all were staring at him in sheer puzzlement. Elrond shifted slightly in his seat, surveying the man carefully.

"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," Boromir continued carefully, his voice ringing with the passion he felt for his people. "Give Gondor the weapon of the Enemy. Let us use it against him!"

"You cannot wield it! None of us can," spoke one of the Men, a Ranger with a rugged look about him. "The One Ring answers to Sauron alone. It has no other master."

Boromir turned slowly, to face the Ranger, contempt blazing in his eyes.

"And what would a Ranger know of this matter?" he sneered, his voice reflecting the contempt visible in his eyes.

All eyes turned as a young Elf stood abruptly.

"This is no mere Ranger," spoke Legolas, son of Thranduil, King of Mirkwood. "He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. You owe him your allegiance."

There was a stunned silence, as Boromir looked between the sitting Ranger and the Elf standing before him. Elrond registered the look of disbelief on Boromir's face as he regarded the Ranger, dressed in poor cloth, a strange ring perched on his finger.

"Aragorn?" Boromir repeated, his lip curling. "This is Isildur's heir?"

"And heir to the throne of Gondor," Legolas finished firmly, his eyes shining with defiance.

The Ranger, Aragorn, raised his palms. "Havo dad, Legolas," he said softly, the Elven tongue sliding easily out of his mouth.

Legolas obliged, eyes still fixed on Boromir, who still was surveying Aragorn sharply.

"Gondor has no king," he said finally, taking his seat. "Gondor needs no king."

A hooded figure sitting next to the Ranger stirred.

There was a heavy silence. Finally, Elrond cleared his throat.

"Aragorn speaks no lie," he said finally. "It is clear that the greatest of you even could not resist the allure of the Ring. We cannot use it in battle against Sauron. Even now, he is awake, and is building an army so large, I fear if the Ring would fall to his possession, his victory would be so complete, none would remain to remember the existence of the free peoples."

"It is not only Sauron we must fear," Gandalf said in a weary voice. "For Isengard too has been tainted with Sauron's evil presence. With the use of his puppet Saruman, he would build an army unfathomably powerful. Even now, as we speak, Saruman is cross-breeding Men with Orcs and producing a new kind of Orc, ones that can travel twice as fast, and are far more powerful than the Orcs of Mordor. Worse still, this new breed of Orc displays no weakness to sunlight."

"Our list of allies grows ever thinner," Elrond spoke. "The Nine have left Minas Morgul, and have come very close to snatching the Ring away from young Frodo. It is with your help, Aragorn, that the Ring stays in the hand of the free peoples."

"Where are they now?" Frodo asked, a definite fear coming to his voice.

Elrond shook his head. "Word of their location has not met my ears of late."

"They crossed into Mordor not two days ago," came a female voice. "They travel now not as riders in black, but rather, as wraiths on wings. I can only assume they have taken more orders from the Eye."

All eyes turned to the hooded figure sitting beside Aragorn. She lowered her hood, to reveal a fair lady, pale as ice, with long dark hair and a crystalline gaze. Oddly enough, there was something Elven in her features.

"Lúthiel," Elrond said coldly. "I do not remember ordering your presence here."

"Nor do I remember your barring me from this Council," she returned emphatically. "But if it should pain you so much, Lord Elrond, I shall take my leave."

She stood up, a tall maiden clad in white, with a definite silver aura about her.

"I bid you to stay," came the voice of Elrond. "While your presence was most certainly uncalled for, it pains me less to have yet another Dúnedain present at this Council. Tell me, Lúthiel, what have your eyes seen?"

"Dúnedain?" Boromir echoed. He faced the maiden. "You are a descendant of Nùmenòr?"

"Indeed, yes," Lúthiel bowed her head. "I have observed what little you think of us, Boromir, son of Denethor." She turned to face Aragorn. "Estel, I bear grave tidings for all."

Aragorn nodded. "Speak."

Lúthiel faced the remainder of the Council, her voice loud and compassionate. "Mithrandir spoke rightly when he spoke of the wizard Saruman. His treachery far surpasses his power, yet none can match his lust for power. Saruman's eyes turn from the palantir to the stronghold of Rohan. Everywhere, his spies slip past their nets. I have heard word that the advisor to the King Théoden is one they call Wormtongue – Gríma Wormtongue."

Gandalf's face hardened slightly. Lúthiel turned to Gandalf.

"You have heard his name before, Mithrandir," she said simply. "And from your manner, I can only assume that Saruman placed him there. There is growing unrest in Rohan – Saruman's Uruk-hai pillage the villages in the Westfold, and slaughter the innocent restlessly. And around Edoras, I have heard word of the White Wizard. The people speak of him in fear, yet the King blindly believes in him, and they speak of a man with a wormlike manner. He called you Stormcrow?"

"Nay," Gandalf shook his head wearily. "Stormcrow Théoden himself named me. This Wormtongue christened me Làthspell – ill news. For ill news is an ill guest."

"So Rohan is in trouble, this we know," Elrond said. "Is there anything else you wish to speak of?"

Lúthiel paused. "I have before mentioned that the Nine now fly the skies of Middle-Earth – wraiths on wings. They are searching for the Ring, and my Lord Elrond, the power of your people cannot conceal it. I saw them cross into Mordor, they are awaiting orders from the Eye."

"You may be seated, Lúthiel," Elrond said. The maiden bowed her head and sat, her eyes downcast.

"Neither can we wield the Ring against Sauron, nor can we hide it now that the Ring has awoken," Elrond continued wearily. "You have only one choice. The Ring must be destroyed."

There was another long pause, as Elrond's words rung silently in the morning air.

"Then what are we waiting for?" came a rough voice. All eyes turned to Gimli, the son of Gloìn, as he stood, brandishing his axe.

Before Elrond could say a word, the Dwarf raced to the front of the Council. With an almighty yell, he brought the axe crashing over the Ring, before –

Frodo gasped, for at the very moment Gimli's axe touched the Ring, an image of a great Eye wreathed in flame flashed upon his mind. He looked back to the front, where Gimli the Dwarf lay sprawled on the ground, shards of iron laying about the ground, the Ring unmarked.

"The Ring cannot be destroyed, Gimli son of Gloin, by any craft that we here possess," Elrond said, a hint of amusement entering his voice. He looked around the room, a new authority coming to his voice as he spoke. "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 fiery chasm from whence it came."

There was a pause before Elrond continued. "One of you must do this."

Boromir looked up, his fingers steepled. "One does not simply walk into Mordor," he said slowly, his voice patient. "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. It is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire and ash and dust. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly –"

"Have you heard nothing Lord Elrond has said?" Legolas interrupted, jumping to his feet. "The Ring must be destroyed!"

"And I suppose you think you're the one to do it!" Gimli argued angrily.

"And what if we fail, what then?" Boromir pressed. "What happens when Sauron takes back what is his?"

He jumped to his feet. "I will die before I see the Ring in the hands of an Elf!"

The Elves of Mirkwood jumped to their feet angrily as Gimli roared, "Never trust an Elf!"

The Dwarves had now jumped to their feet, as the two parties threw insults back at each other, Legolas holding back the angry Elves, Gimli blocking the angry Dwarves.

"You fools!" Gandalf called. "While you stand here bickering the power of the Dark Lord grows ever stronger –"

Aragorn slowly rose to his feet, while Boromir faced the angry mob uninterestedly. Lúthiel's eyes, however, were fixed on Frodo, as he gazed at the Ring with mounting horror. Finally, he got to his feet.

"I will take it!" he cried, his voice masked over the tumult of noise. "I will take it!" he repeated, his voice louder.

Gandalf heard him, and closed his eyes sadly. Slowly, he turned to face the Hobbit. The hubbub subsided.

"I will take the Ring to Mordor!" Frodo said, almost defiantly, looking at each member of the Council in turn. "Though," he said, his voice considerably softer, "I do not know the way."

Lúthiel watched as Gandalf walked slowly to Frodo's side, and placed his hand on his shoulder.

"I will help you bear this burden, Frodo Baggins," he said slowly, "as long as it is yours to bear."

Aragorn stood. "If by my life or death I can protect you, I will." He walked over to Frodo and Gandalf. "You have my sword."

Legolas of the Elves stood up as well. "And you have my bow," he said, joining them.

"And my axe." All eyes turned to Gimli as he walked to the company.

Boromir stood up slowly, choosing his words carefully. "You carry the fates of us all, little one," he said, striding closer to Frodo. "If this is indeed the will of the council, then Gondor will see it done." He joined their ranks.

"'Ere! Mister Frodo's not going anywhere without me!" called another Hobbit as he rushed into the room, and joined Frodo.

Elrond sighed. "No indeed. It is hardly possible to separate you, even when he is summoned to a secret council and you are not."

Samwise Gamgee looked slightly abashed as –

"Hey! We're comin' too!"

"You'll have to send us home tied up in a sack to stop us!"

Two more Hobbits raced into the room: Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took.

"Besides," Peregrin said, straightening himself slightly. "You need people of…intelligence…on this kind of mission…quest…thing."

Meriadoc turned to his cousin. "Well, I suppose that rules you out, Pip."

Peregrin scowled at him.

"Nine…" Elrond mused. His face brightened. "Nine companions." He took a deep breath. "So be it. You shall be known as the Fellowship of the Ring."

Lúthiel stood. "My Lord Elrond," she said. "I too, wish to accompany them on their quest."

"Ten is one too many, Lúthiel," Elrond said, closing his eyes. "Unless one of these companions will leave their quest…"

"But my Lord –"

"You have my word on this," Elrond said, turning to the unabashed maiden. "You cannot go. You have not the years –"

"Yet Frodo does?" Lúthiel persisted. She took a deep breath. "I very nearly equal Estel in his years and experience," she said, the Elvish coming to her easily. "You do not understand. Either he will ride to his doom, or I shall."

Elrond shook his head and replied in the Elven tongue. "You cannot. It is not your years or experience that sets you apart, Lúthiel."

Lúthiel turned to face the Fellowship, and at once realised what was wrong.

"No," she replied slowly. "It is my gender."

"You are needed here," Elrond continued. "Your presence is required more here than in the Fellowship."

"What can be more important than this quest?" Lúthiel persisted. She turned to face the Fellowship again. "Tell me, Estel," she asked of Aragorn in Elvish, "can I not join you on your quest? Do you at least know of what lies ahead of you?"

Aragorn bowed his head. "I know of what awaits me on the road ahead."

"And yet you will still –?" Lúthiel gave up, and faced Elrond. "I take your leave, Lord Elrond."

"Lúthiel –" Aragorn began, but stopped as she left the Council room.

"Right!" Pippin piped up cheerfully. "Where are we going?"

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Lúthiel paused, framed impressively in an ornately carved doorway. She glanced into the chambers within. There was an Elf standing in front of a large window, rivulets of dark hair dancing gently in the wind.

"My lady Undómiel," Lúthiel said.

The Elf-maiden turned, anxiety written on every feature written on her face.

"When did you arrive?" Arwen Undómiel asked slowly.

"Just this morning," Lúthiel answered. "Arwen, he is going."

What little colour there was left in Arwen's pale face retreated slowly.

"He is going?" she repeated slowly, disbelievingly.

"To accompany Frodo on his quest."

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Disclaimer: What do I own? Nothing…except for Lúthiel – and that too, by a slim margin.