Disclaimer: I don't own them, and I'll put them back when I'm done!
Author's Note: Well guys, it's been fun. I'm really going to miss this fic; I feel very melancholy now. Luckily I have something else fun in the works. Elrond's speech is taken verbatim from "The Ring Goes South" in FOTR. Thank you all for reading!Epilogue: The End
The goodbyes were said in the great hall, by the fire. Elrond stood in a corner and watched as the members of the newly formed Fellowship went from person to person, bowing, hugging, and kissing as each relationship allowed. Aragorn was missing; Elrond's eyes sharpened and he gazed piercingly around the room. He had been there just a moment ago, whispering to Arwen…ah, there he was, coming out from a curtained alcove, holding Arwen's hand and grinning from ear to ear. Aragorn's hair was slightly more mussed than it had been a few moments ago, and Elrond rolled his eyes. The return of the Ranger's pearly white teeth had obviously induced the Evenstar to kiss him. Elrond sighed and averted his eyes.
His eyes fell on Merry and Pippin. The young hobbits were being hugged and kissed and laden with foodstuffs by the female members of the kitchen staff. Both lads looked happy and fully sated, and Elrond fought the urge to roll his eyes again. Aragorn was lucky that the hobbits had no political inclinations; it would be hard enough to defeat Sauron without having to worry about Merry and Pippin usurping the throne.
At last, everyone drifted outside, as the sun was setting and it was almost time to depart. Elrond waited until they were all outside, fully prepared to walk out in state, issuing wisdom and a touch of drama. His plan was dashed, though, when Gandalf fell into step with him.
"Peace returns to Rivendell, eh, Master Elrond?" the wizard said with an infuriating grin. "Although things have been decidedly less volatile these past few weeks."
Elrond ran a hand over his face. "Even hobbits who desist in pulling pranks still manage to get into trouble. My household will never be the same."
Gandalf just smiled.
Elrond walked out onto his porch and looked over the assembled Company. His heart pounded with relief, for though their task was full of perilous danger, they would soon be gone, and Rivendell would be peaceful again. He was well aware of Gandalf at his side, smiling a small, knowing smile.
Elrond beckoned the Company to him. "This is my last word," he said in a low voice. "The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Doom. On him alone is any charge laid: neither to cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to any servant of the Enemy nor indeed to let any handle it, save members of the Company and the Council, and only then in gravest need. The others go with him as free companions, to help him on his way. You may tarry, or come back, or turn aside into other paths, as chance allows. The further you go, the less easy it will be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid upon you to go further than you will. For you do not yet know the strength of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road."
His speech finished, Elrond settled for looking grave. The Fellowship nodded solemnly, murmured their goodbyes to him, and faded slowly into the night.
For several long minutes, the Lord of Rivendell stood frozen, listening for the sound of returning footsteps. Behind him, he could hear Arwen weeping softly and Bilbo comforting her. The wind blew through the trees. The inhabitants of Rivendell turned towards the doors and disappeared within. Elrond suddenly gave a great shout of glee and jumped, fist pumping the air.
"They're gone! They're gone! All will be normal again, for a while. Come, we must break out the wine! No more mishaps!"
Chuckling maniacally to himself, Elrond danced back into the house. Arwen and Bilbo, left alone in the cold behind him, stared after the Elf Lord in amazement.
"I do believe he's relieved," Bilbo said. "That was certainly the dance of a weary host. I've done it myself many times, after company has left."
Arwen sniffled. "My father needs to lighten his mood. He's far too uptight."
Bilbo chuckled and patted her arm. "There, there, my dear. Come on, let's go inside and have some tea. After all, why not? It's the end of the world as we know it."
Arwen nodded and they went inside together. Tea sounded good. After all, it really was the end of the world as they knew it.