Hello! This is my first fic, and I am not in the slightest bit confident about it. It seems a bit too much to take on, a great big multi-chapter AU as your first try, but this idea simply intrigues me! I have written quite a few chapters in advance, so hopefully writer's block will not delay updates too much =)
The premise: What if Gandalf had failed to convince Elrond to let the two younger hobbits go on the Quest? Just how much can the future be changed by the presence (or absence) of two small hobbits? Primarily bookverse, but some movie aspects might slip in here and there... /guilty look This is unbeta-ed, all mistakes are my own. I have tried my very best to get the dates right, but if you find an inconsistency, or that it simply doesn't make sense or doesn't fit with the book, please tell me, through a review or a PM. Thank you very much =)
"There remain two more to be found," said Elrond. "These I will consider. Of my household I may find some that it seems good to me to send."
"But that will leave no place for us!" cried Pippin in dismay. "We don't want to be left behind. We want to go with Frodo."
"That is because you do not understand and cannot imagine what lies ahead," said Elrond.
"Neither does Frodo," said Gandalf, unexpectedly supporting Pippin. "Nor do any of us see clearly. It is true that is these hobbits understood the danger, they would not dare to go. But they would still wish to go, or wish that they dared, and be shamed and unhappy. I think, Elrond, that in this matter it would be well to trust rather to their friendship than to great wisdom. Even if you chose for us an Elf-lord,such as Glorfindel, he could not storm the Dark Tower, nor open the road to the Fire by the power that is in him."
"You speak gravely," said Elrond, "but I am in doubt. The Shire, I forebode, is not free now from peril; and these two I had thought to send back there as messengers, to do what they could, according to the fashion of their country, to warn the people of their danger. In any case, I judge that the younger of these two, Peregrin Took, should remain. My heart is against his going."
"Then, Master Elrond, you will have to lock me in prison, or send me home tied up in a sack," said Pippin. "For otherwise I shall follow the Company."
"Let it be so then. You shall go," said Elrond, and he sighed.
-The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien
Disclaimer: Anything and everything belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien and his heirs, or to New Line Cinema.
Note: Updated 20 Feb 11. I added a bit about the Hobbits' reactions, thanks to Abject Tears' idea. Many thanks to her ;D
December 25th, T.A. 3018
Chill winds had somehow sneaked into fair Imladris, and it was cold even for winter. The courtyard was quiet, waiting almost, with an anticipation that belied the dark forebodings of quite a few people. But that was not the reason for the heavy frown on one Grey Pilgrim's face, bushy eyebrows drawn together and nearly bristling with tension. Indeed, one would not have been too surprised if they had started sizzling.
In the space stood the Fellowship of the Ring, off to save the world, and most likely die in the process. It was not a pleasant prospect, but the brave hearts that beat in the breasts of those who would set forth this day did not quail, even if Frodo did squeeze Sam's arm a little harder than normal, and even if Gandalf's eyebrows looked as if lightning might strike them at any given moment.
He looked slowly around, but could find only courage and nobility in the faces around him. And yet his heart could not rest, somehow.
Boromir of Gondor stood closest to him, clad in the finery of the White City that he had arrived in, shield borne on his back and horn in his hand. The Steward's son's attention was fixed on Frodo, his thoughtful, concerned gaze not discomfiting the hobbit in the slightest. Gandalf felt the slightest stirrings of doom in his heart, and there was a hint of desire in those proud eyes that boded ill, but it was not Boromir who worried him, not yet.
Legolas of Mirkwood stood beside him, eyes on Elrond as the Lord of Rivendell spoke his parting words to the Fellowship. Tall and slender was the Sindar, as was the Elves' wont, slight and yet well-muscled, and Gandalf knew that a deceptive strength lay in those arms. The Eldar might look physically smaller than others, but the strength and speed gifted to them surpassed that of mortals, and the loyalty in the Elf's eyes reassured Gandalf. Legolas had spent the majority of his long years in defence of Mirkwood, and he would not fail the Ring-bearer.
Frodo and Sam stood together, looking so small and insignificant in the company that he smiled, for he knew better than anyone just how surprising these Halflings could be. Frodo might be small, but had a great heart, he was already sure of it, and was taking after Bilbo in terms of unexpected strength. Their Ring-bearer possessed a quiet authority, a gentle spirit, and if anyone, anyone at all, could break the Dark Lord's dominion, it would be this one. Sam stood by his master, and Gandalf was absolutely sure that he would face down a Balrog, should it threaten his master. Sam, simple, brave Sam, who had taken Gandalf's advice to heart. No, he would never lose his master.
Gimli, son of Gloin, was next, and the stubborn steadfastness of the Dwarves was outlined in this stout figure. He was proud, no doubt of it, just as Legolas was, and Gandalf suspected they would not exactly keep the peace, but they were good warriors, loyal to a fault, and they would not fail Frodo, by life or death.
The one who had first made that oath stood a little behind Gimli, in the shadows as he had spent so much of his life. Aragorn, son of Arathorn, son of ancient kings, Heir of Gondor, and his friend. For over 50 years he had known the Dúnadan, watched him grow from a noble young man to a battle-hardened ranger, and yet still so noble- so very, very noble. The Hope of Middle-earth would, without a moment's hesitation, give his life for the Ring-bearer, and Gandalf believed in him perhaps the most out of all the Company. Aragorn walked a hard road, but its end was nigh.
No, the reasons for his dismay were two identical, dark-haired Elves that stood flanking Aragorn.
They were trustworthy. They possessed the strength and agility of the Elves, their hearts were brave and good and true, and they would most probably not fall to the temptation of the Ring, though no one could be certain about that. Their love and familiar presence would strengthen their foster brother on the way, and although it was slightly unfair to have three Elves against one Dwarf, that was not a major concern. In other words, Elladan and Elrohir, sons of Elrond, were well-fitted for the Quest, very well-fitted. He should have been satisfied.
But fear struck at his heart, for the two who should have been here were not.
December 1st, T.A. 3018
"They are too young, Mithrandir. Too young and too innocent and too irresponsible."
The hidden valley of fair Imladris hosted, at the moment, an extremely stubborn Maia and an even more stubborn Elf Lord, which was not a particular good combination. They had been debating this subject for hours (without success) and both were quickly losing patience, but far too disciplined to indulged in a shouting match (although greatly tempted). The topic of the last two members to fill the spaces in the Fellowship was controversial, to say the least.
"That is true, they are young. But so are Frodo and Sam, inexperienced and untried."
"Frodo at least is not untried, and he was meant to be the Ring-bearer. Samwise's loyalty is undoubted, and he will be a steadfast companion for his master. Meriadoc and Peregrin, on the other hand, treat all this as some kind of glorified adventure. A joke."
"They made it to Imladris along with Frodo and Sam. They are loyal to Frodo as well, and all four are bonded by friendship and love. Their cheer will sustain Frodo on this dark road, when he needs it most. Elrond, you underestimate them. They will be true when their time comes"
"Aye, as I said, they are good-hearted. When they are called upon to stand forth, they will: But what can they do? It remains that they have no reason to go on. They will be in great danger-"
"As will all the Walkers."
"The others are tried warriors, and know well the dangers they are walking towards. You cannot deny that they have all spent long years fighting the Shadow, and even the two Hobbits are acquainted with it, now. The younger two, on the other hand, have not the slightest idea of it. They may have faced the Black Riders, but they were terrified. They should return to their home, where they can be safe."
"Nowhere is safe now."
"Elrond, safety has got nothing to do with anything. They wish to go. You do not know how passionate these Halflings can be, when their hearts are aroused. They will burn Imladris down before they let Frodo go."
"You have been arguing for hours now."
"We have not been arguing." They retorted in unison, looking up from their argu- debate to glare darkly at the Heir of Isildur, who stood in the doorway and remained remarkably unaffected.
"All right, you have been discussing this for hours now. May I humbly suggest- "
A sigh of exasperation escaped Aragorn's lips. "You seem to have no trouble at all agreeing on my interference in this conversation, can you not agree on your chosen topic as well?"
"No." Aragorn was now quickly losing patience, but he had had decades of experience in dealing with stubbornness, whether from Elves, Half-Elves, Men, wizards and, on occasion, Dwarfs, and he had no intention of letting that go to waste. They had not just been discussing this for hours, they had been discussing it for weeks, and even if both beings were immortal and thus slightly less worried about the passing time that mortals, they had to see that time was short. The Shadow was growing, and every day that went by meant more information reaching the Enemy, and he knew- they all knew- that they only had this short window of time to leave Imladris.
They had no time for Elves and Wizards to argue, for that was what they were doing, to their heart's content- and probably not reach a conclusion in the end.
"He is right." Gandalf did not particularly enjoy admitting that anyone else was right and he was wrong, but in this case, it was necessary. "Time grows short. We must decide, Elrond. Now."
"You are correct. And that is why I appeal to you, let your foresight rest for once, and allow me to send two Elven warriors on the quest. They will be more competent, you know that. Those two hobbits are good-hearted, and loyal, but they do not have the slightest inkling how to fight, and you know Frodo will need protection."
"We need stealth, not strength. And, Elrond, if you send your sons, Arwen will be devastated."
Something welled in the Elf's eyes, a mixture of hurt and anger, and it manifested itself in a voice of dark fury. "Do not bring my children into this, Mithrandir."
"But your children are undeniably tangled in it already."
"Well do I know that!" Elrond cast a look at Aragorn's expressionless face. "But do not try emotional blackmail on me, wizard. It will not work. If needs must that Arwen must fade so that Middle-earth may be saved, then so it will be. If it is saved..." He looked at the Man again. "If it is saved, I shall lose her anyway- and I do not begrudge it."
Gandalf sighed, chastised. "Forgive me. I should not have mentioned her."
Elrond inclined his head. "And so if we may return to our original point, I still maintain that I should send Elves. If not my sons, then perhaps some warriors."
"You have both reiterated these points about a million times, and if you hadn't noticed, the Company cannot wait until the next yén for your decision." Aragorn interjected, and both fell silent, and pondered their thoughts.
"Elrond," Gandalf spoke at last. "I know that it is not logical or practical to bring those two along, and if you are not swayed by this, I will submit to your decision. I do not say that the Quest will succeed if they go, nor that it will fail if they do not. But my heart speaks, and it says that they hold the power to change many things, so many things that we cannot see to all the far-reaching places that they will affect. The world will have cause to give thanks that they go, is all I can say. Somehow, sometime, they will affect the future, maybe not intentionally, maybe not even for the better... But they will change it, if they go."
Elrond was silent for a long moment.
"No, Mithrandir." He said finally, and the Maia's shoulders slumped, till he suddenly looked like a very, very old man, tired and frail. "I am sorry, but I must insist. I will send two warriors of my household."
Gandalf sighed. "So be it."
Aragorn wondered at the sudden coldness that took hold of his heart. His foster father's words made sense, and he trusted Elrond's wisdom with all his heart. If the two send were indeed his brothers, the journey would be considerably more pleasant. But he had learnt to listen to Mithrandir, and could it be his own foresight that stirred within him now, warning him with a disconcerting urgency that this was not the right choice?
Not the right choice at all.
December 6th, T.A. 3018
Gandalf settled himself ponderously onto the oak-laden armchair, leaning back into the mound of silken pillows, and tried his best to avoid the small, bright eyes that followed his every movement.
Frodo's deep blue eyes were boring into him with a gaze that was disturbingly penetrating. Frodo had always been quiet and perceptive, but to be able to read a wizard was unprecedented. Could it be that the Ring... But he would not think of that, not now.
Sam looked embarrassed. But then he always did, when encountering anybody except perhaps Frodo, Merry and Pip. His simple brown eyes were open and unguarded, in stark contrast to Frodo's closed glance, and Gandalf could see curiosity in there, too.
Merry- strong, brave, intelligent Merry, had a curious mixture of Frodo and Sam in him. Open and honest, and yet frighteningly perceptive, Gandalf feared that Meriadoc Brandybuck had already guessed their verdict.
Pippin, little Pippin, with wide eyes that filled with wonder and laughter at the slightest drop of a leaf, whose soul was laid so bare before everyone, whose spirit was still so untouched by the evil that had brushed all of them. He was open, yes, but with a naiveté that did not show in either Sam's or Merry's eyes. Pippin, thought Gandalf with an uncomfortable shiver, would happily chat away with an orc if it so much as smiled at him.
And he'd probably mistake a glower as a smile, too.
It was this disconcerting thought that made him take hold of his resolve and speak.
"Lord Elrond and his council have discussed this matter at length. We have decided that with Frodo, Sam will go." None of them looked particularly impressed; they'd known that already. "But Pippin, Merry, I'm sorry. You must return to the Shire."
There was silence, before Merry turned away sharply, silent and withdrawn. Pippin cried out indignantly, "But we want to go with Frodo!"
"What you want is hardly Lord Elrond's top priority, foolish Took." Gandalf returned gruffly, trying not to wish that for once Pippin's wishes were followed. "You will return to Hobbiton and warn them of what will come."
"What will come?"
"Death, Pip." It was Merry who answered him, quietly and with a maturity that belied Elrond's earlier words. "If Frodo does not succeed, so much more than just our cousin will perish. Middle-earth will fall into shadow, and the Hobbits' laughter will be crushed, and all that is green and good in this world will be gone.** We will go back, Peregrin, to wait and watch for the day the Shire burns."
Pippin's face turned white, and he stared wordlessly at Merry, before leaving the room in startling, stark silence, and Gandalf with a sick feeling at Merry's words, so chilling and definite and frightening in one so young.
Sam looked horrified, Merry looked resigned- and Frodo looked indescribably happy.
There was unmistakable joy in the Ring-bearer's face, and his inscrutable eyes turned transparent as sweet relief filled his face. Frodo's greatest fear, Gandalf realised, was of letting his friends die in his quest.- Pippin and Merry most of all, for they were so young.
Well, at least Frodo will have less distractions, was his rather inadequate consolation.
December 25th, T.A. 3018
'This is my last word. The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Doom. On him alone is any charge laid. . . . 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 will it be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid on 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.'*
They may indeed be your last words to me, Elrond. The thought came unbidden to Gandalf, and he frowned at such morbid ideas. It was perfectly possible that he might not come back, true, but he did not need to dwell on that now.
A cold breeze whipped into the courtyard, and Gandalf shuddered slightly. In front of him, Frodo turned, trembling slightly, and with Sam's firm presence behind him.
The Ring-bearer led the way out of Imladris, and there was not turning back now, no matter what Elrond said. One by one, the Walkers followed.
Sam followed his master, leading Bill, and already whispering anxiously to Frodo, no doubt about something he'd forgotten, perhaps that they'd packed too little food. Sam had been rather adamant that Hobbits needed their nourishment.
Then came Aragorn, striding forward, head bowed in silent thought. Legolas and Gimli walked forward next, as if in some unspoken truce- for now. And the twin sons of Elrond followed, shoulder to shoulder, moving in sync, motion to motion. Boromir, son of Gondor, walked forward, and finally, Gandalf followed them, chasing darkness from his thoughts, and setting his gaze firmly on the road ahead.
The Quest had begun.
A/N: The words in italics are going to appear rather often! They signify that they are taken from the original Lord of the Rings book, simply because I cannot resist segueing in a few references to Tolkien's work- it's just too beautiful to let lie! So I try to fit in these little portions of the book where they make sense, as a little tip of the hat to their author, who wrote these amazing stories for us to read and dream about!
*Pgs 273-274, The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien. Collins Modern Classics 2001 version.
**Paraphrased from a scene in Two Towers the movie, when Treebeard refuses to go to war.