For Good Or Ill

Disclaimer: I don't own any of this stuff.

Author's Note: I wrote this story for my philosophy class. Couldn't have done it without Robin, Sara, DC, and Sara. Thanks for everything, you guys!

He had seen them coming—more elves, dwarves, and a man. He hardly paid them any attention though, too caught up in his own grief and despair. Lord Elrond had not been able to save Frodo from fading, and no amount of wondrous sights could change that. Gandalf had assured Samwise that his master was as good as dead.

Bilbo was terribly saddened by the passing of his cousin and heir, but Sam couldn't find it in himself to comfort the older hobbit. Neither could he handle the sympathy of his friends, Merry and Pippin.

He had been taking a walk to avoid the other hobbits when he had heard the strange words echoing through the hallway. They were dark, and the voice was strange yet familiar. Curiosity overcame him (something not even Gandalf's threats could scare out of him), and Sam found himself witness to a council of men, dwarves, elves, wizard, and hobbit. He slipped unnoticed into the shadows and listened intently to the story of Gandalf's delay, and the discussion on what to do with Mr. Frodo's Ring. His heart ached when Bilbo offered to carry the Ring, and a small part of him was glad when Gandalf discouraged that option.

There was the briefest moment of silence as those in the council contemplated their choices, and it felt to Sam as if the entire world had shifted and placed itself firmly on his shoulders. Stepping out of the shadows, he cleared his throat.

"I will take the Ring. I will finish what Mr. Frodo started."

"We must leave as soon as can be arranged," Gandalf stated. "The Enemy will be watching, but to wait may prove our undoing. Through Frodo, Sauron has seen our intentions to destroy the Ring. He will turn his forces towards our destruction to protect what is his."

"Where shall we go?" Sam asked, fidgeting nervously with the Ring that now hung on a chain around his neck.

"North, to the High Pass. If all goes well, we should be at the River Anduin by mid November. From there we go south," the wizard replied.

"We shall be going as well," Pippin stated firmly. Gandalf gave him a long, sad look.

"I should think not, Peregrin Took." Pippin looked much put out by Lord Elrond's firm response.

"I must agree with Lord Elrond. Had things been only a little different, I may have thought otherwise. But it is best that the Fellowship remain as small as possible, and while two more hobbits are a small addition indeed, the road ahead shall not be safe. Friendship can only endure so much. Let us not test the strength of what is left of that," Gandalf said.

"Six it shall be, then. Gimli of the Dwarves, Legolas of the Elves, Boromir of Gondor, Aragorn son of Arathorn, the Ringbearer Sam, and Gandalf the Grey to lead them. I will have my people make all necessary preparations so that the Fellowship may leave at once." And with that, Lord Elrond left Sam and the others with their own thoughts.

While as brave and hard-working as any other hobbit, Sam did not inspire confidence. He was not a natural leader, was quick to judge, and slow to trust. But he had a job to do, and he trusted the old wizard—and Strider to a lesser degree, even if the other three members of their Fellowship intimidated him.

He would miss his friends dearly, but he was glad that they would not be going into danger. Already he had lost one friend, and he did not wish to lose any more doing something so terribly unrelated to hobbits. Men and elves and dwarves had started this, and now he was left to finish it. If only Mr. Frodo hadn't died, but even Gandalf had abandoned the hobbits once when they had needed him the most, though through no fault of his own.

No, he would allow the Fellowship to help him as they could, but he couldn't trust any of them where the Ring was concerned, and it was better off that Merry and Pippin stayed behind with Mr. Bilbo. He didn't want to have to question their intentions as well.

"Good luck, Sam." Merry gave Sam a large hug before stepping aside for his friend.

"Be careful. Don't be getting into too much trouble while you're gone," Pippin said, discreetly wiping away the tears on his face.

"You should be talking, Pip. You get into more trouble than all the rest of us combined," Merry jested. The three hobbits laughed, a brief and stilted form of merriment that they cut short when Bilbo came up to them.

"Frodo always spoke very highly of you," Bilbo awkwardly told Sam. "You should have this. It's my old blade, Sting. I would have liked to… No. You shall do her justice well enough."

"Thank you, Mr. Bilbo," Sam stated. He took the elven sword and strapped her to his side, trying not to think about how wrong it felt to be wearing such a thing and how it should have been Frodo carrying his uncle's sword.

"Go well," Elrond told the group. Gandalf nodded and led the way towards the mountains in the East.

Taking one last look at Rivendell, Sam followed behind Gandalf; Strider, with the sword of the king reforged; Boromir, son of Denethor; Gimli, son of Glóin; and Legolas of Mirkwood.

The passage across the Misty Mountains was mostly uneventful. The group ran into a bit of cold weather as they traveled the same path Bilbo had started along years before, but the only result was a minor case of frostbite on Gimli's part. The mountains were quiet, and quicker than Sam had expected, they were at the Old Ford.

"Which way now?" he asked wearily.

"We travel to Lothlórien by way of the Great River. There won't be a trail for the Enemy to follow, and the current flows faster than we could travel by foot," Aragorn replied, loading their supplies into a boat. "Do not fret, Master Gamgee, the River will bring us swiftly and safely to our destination."

"It's not natural for hobbits to travel by water," Sam muttered under his breath as he cautiously clambered down into the boat with the supplies. "Excepting maybe them from Buckland, but no one ever claimed they were all there in the head… And what of poor Bill? He sure can't fit in a boat with us," Sam stated loudly, clutching the pony's lead.

"Bill will be all right. He knows his way home. It is better that he should not be coming with us, for our journey shall be long and difficult, and even a pony as stout as Bill might despair," Aragorn replied. The pony seemed to glare at the Ranger, but Sam sniffled softly and unloaded the packs from Bill's back.

"Take care of yourself, Bill. Go on back to Rivendell and wait for me there. Merry and Pippin will take care of you until then. I'll need a good pony to take me back to the Shire when this is all done," Sam told the pony, patting him gently on the nose. Bill snorted softly, nuzzled Sam one last time, then started trotting slowly back the way they had come. Sam couldn't help but feel as if he had just left another friend behind, and hoped that Bill would make it through the mountains before the winter came too heavily.

With one last wary look at the small wooden crafts, Sam climbed in with Gandalf, and they started their journey down the Great River. It seemed as if he had left his old life behind on the banks, and everything that was about to happen would be larger and much more terrifying than anything he had already anticipated. His only comfort was Gandalf's good-natured humming as the River swept them along.