Chapter 22- Forging the Fellowship

A/N: forget me? it's been awhile. but here, at long last, is another chapter, inspired by a Lord of the Rings marathon. Enjoy!

The next morning dawned, golden and chill as the sun slowly crept up to warm the earth. Marina, still fully clothed, having fallen asleep waiting for Boromir the previous night, was roused by the first tendrils of sunlight that began to stream into her room. When she woke, it took her a moment to remember where she was, and what had happened the previous night. When it finally hit her, she sank back down into the pillows, as a small pit began to form in her stomach. Nearly seven hours later, and it seemed that she was no closer to discovering the cause of Boromir's strife than she had been the previous night.

Frustrated, she got out of bed, and throwing a rich elven cloak over her shoulders, she left her chamber, feeling the sudden urge to be outdoors.

The city of Rivendell was surrounded by a lush, dense forest, and as she walked deeper and deeper into the trees, Marina found her mind clearing. There was a calming, meditative air about the wood, she was filled with a sense of clarity. She had overreacted, she thought to herself. There was nothing wrong with Boromir… he was simply overwhelmed from their journey…

While the thought seemed to satisfy the ill feeling within her, there was still a small space in the back of her mind, where doubt lingered.

She continued to walk through the forest, completely losing track of time, when suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she spotted another figure moving through the trees. It was an elf—a woman, tall, dark-haired and pale-skinned. She was beautiful… otherworldly, thought Marina. The elf noticed her, and raised her hand in greeting. Marina moved closer.

"Few humans have ever ventured back into this wood," the elf said in a light, musical voice. "Most fear losing their way, wandering too far."

"It's so peaceful out here," Marina replied. "Almost worth getting lost for."

The elf smiled, as though pleased with her answer. She began to walk, slowly, and Marina followed.

"You have come from Gondor?" the elf asked.

"Yes," Marina responded.

"And yet… that is not your home."

Marina stiffened. How was it that these elves knew everything?

"No…" she replied cautiously.

The elf smiled kindly. "Do not be afraid. It is written in your eyes."

"How do you do that?" Marina found herself asking. "You and the other elves… it's like you can read minds…"

The elf laughed. "It is no divination of that sort. We do not read minds… there are very few with that power. We simply notice… we see things that humans take for granted. A look, a movement, even a flicker of an expression. It comes from the many years spent upon the earth."

At this, Marina relaxed a little. They walked on, talking. Marina learned that the elf's name was Arwen, daughter of Lord Elrond.

As she listened to her speak, Marina noticed an aged sadness in Arwen's voice. The elf-princess spoke of how her people were beginning to leave the shores of Middle Earth.

"The world is changing," she said. "Today, my father meets with the peoples of this land, to decide it's fate."

"It has been said that the One Ring has been found," Marina said.

Arwen met her eyes. "The Ringbearer is here," she said simply.

Marina's eyes widened. The Ringbearer? Here in Rivendell?

"And that is what the council is deciding?" she asked. "What to do with the Ring?"

Arwen nodded. "My heart tells me that this task will come at a great cost, to all who undertake it. Where darkness looms, pain and suffering are sure to dwell." She cast a glance upward, toward the sun. "The sun is fading," she said. "The council will be ending soon, and night will fall soon after that. We should return."

Marina nodded, and followed Arwen back. When they reached the city again, Arwen stopped. Turning to Marina, she said, "I do not know if fate will have us meet again, Marina. But may the grace of the Valar go with you, always."

"I hope that someday, our paths cross again, Arwen Evenstar," Marina responded.

Arwen smiled, and gave a small bow of her head, before turning, walking down the sloping hill. Marina went the opposite way, back to her room.

She was halfway there, making her way along one of the outer corridors, when she heard voices. She followed them, careful to tread extremely lightly on the ground, unwilling to give herself the slightest chance of being caught. The voice speaking was that of Lord Elrond; Marina recognized its slow but confident timbre. She quickly stole down a sharply winding staircase, until she reached the meeting place. It was a circular patio, at the center of which stood a stone dais. The delegations of men, elves and dwarfs who had come to Elrond's council sat in chairs around it. Elrond himself was at the center. She ducked down behind the low wall that surrounded the patio, and crept around until she came across a small gap in the stone, inconspicuous and yet strategically located so that she could see what was transpiring.

"Bring forth the Ring, Frodo," Elrond said, motioning to one of the strange, short folk that Marina had seen the previous day from the balcony. The hobbit walked forward, setting something on the dais. Marina gasped silently. It was a small, gold ring—the One Ring of Power. A feeling of despair settled over her, and she wondered if the rest of those present could feel it also.

She suspected so, for there came a chorus of hushed, disbelieving whispers from the congregation.

One man's voice dominated, speaking more clearly than the rest and commanding attention. "It is a gift," Boromir said, lust in his voice. "A gift to the foes of Mordor." He stood, and Marina could see that his face was set, his green eyes sparkled with prospect. "Why not use this ring?" he questioned the council. "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!" He circled around the dais, making eye contact with each man, each elf, and each dwarf as he went. "Give Gondor the weapon of the enemy," he implored. "Let us use it against them!"

"You cannot wield it," came a second voice. Boromir found himself challenged by the same man he'd encountered the previous night in the corridor. The man's eyes had lost none of their intensity, but his voice was low and calm. "None of us can. The One Ring answers to Sauron alone."

"And what," Boromir asked scathingly, "would a mere Ranger know of this?"

The man said nothing, but one of the elves jumped to his feet belligerently. "This is no mere Ranger!" the elf declared. "He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. You owe him your alliegence!"

Incredulity filled Boromir's face. "Aragorn? This is Isildur's heir?"

"And heir to the throne of Gondor," the elf added, warning flashing in his gaze.

Aragorn murmured something to the elf that Marina could not discern, and he sat down, though his eyes remained trained on Boromir.

"Aragorn is right. We cannot use it," chimed in another man. He was tall and clad in grey, and the lines in his face were deep.

"You have only one choice, then," Elrond concluded ominously. "The Ring must be destroyed." His words hung in the air like a death sentence. Marina watched as Boromir sunk into his chair, a look of disbelief on his face.

"What are we waiting for?" The gruff voice of one of the dwarves broke the silence. He stood, brandishing his axe. With a great cry, he struck the ring with the weapon. The stroke was true, and the response instantaneous. The Ring did not budge, but the axe shattered, and the dwarf was flung backwards. More disturbed murmuring followed.

"The Ring cannot be destroyed, Gimli son of Gloin, by any craft that we here possess. 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." He paused, staring from his ageless eyes at those before him. "One of you must do this."

Silence followed this statement.

Boromir closed his eyes, massaging his temples in despair and frustration. "One does not simply walk into Mordor," he said softly, thinking of all Marina had told him of her homeland. "It's black gates are guarded by more than just Orcs. There is an evil there that does not sleep… and the Great Eye… is ever watchful. 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?" the blonde elf interjected again, rising to his feet once more. "The Ring must be destroyed!"

"And I suppose you think you're the one to do it!" the dwarf called Gimli chimed in, malice in his voice.

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

"I will be dead before I see the Ring in the hands of an elf!" Gimli cried. An outbreak of angry voices followed, as the council all stood, beginning an argument that stopped just short of an outright brawl.

Marina watched the fray, horrified. Take the ring into Mordor! She thought. It's a fool's errand. There can be no victory in this way.

A voice suddenly sounded out among the clamor:

"I will take it!"

Marina looked to see who it was that had spoken, but could not make him out, for the group continued to fight.

"I will take it!" The voice cried out again, and this time, the crowd was silenced. Bodies shifted, and Marina could see that it was the hobbit who had spoken.

"I will take the Ring to Mordor," he continued. "Though- though I do not know the way," he finished, his last words betraying the fear in his voice.

The wizened, grey-clad man stepped before him. "I will help you bear this burden, Frodo Baggins. As long as it is yours to bear."

Aragorn stepped forward next, kneeling before the hobbit. "If by my life or death I can protect you, I will. You have my sword."

The blonde elf stepped forward next, offering his bow and his service to the hobbit. Not to be outdone, Gimli also agreed to lend his axe to the cause.

Boromir stepped forward then. Marina couldn't contain her gasp, and quickly covered her mouth with her hand. He can't go! She thought desperately. He will be killed!

"You carry the fate of us all, little one," Boromir said to the hobbit. "If this is indeed the will of the Council… then Gondor will see it done."

A sudden rustling from a nearby bush preceded the coming of a second hobbit, who declared that Frodo would go nowhere without him. Two more hobbits followed his suit, entering from where they had also evidently been hiding out of sight behind the wall.

Elrond looked surprised, but not displeased as he said, "Nine companions… So be it. You shall be the Fellowship of the Ring."

With that, the Council appeared to have concluded, and Marina was immediately reminded that she could not be discovered. Heart heavy at the prospect of what was to come, she fled the Council area, returning to her chamber, where locking the door, she collapsed onto the bed and wept.