DISCLAIMER: Of course. The characters don't belong to me, I just get to think about them day and night.
"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." The Fellowship of the Ring
A MATTER OF TIME
It had been six weeks since the Council, and very soon the Ring of Power would go south toward its fate. Elrond stood on one of the balconies overlooking the valley of Imladris, protected and preserved for so long by the power of the ring on his finger and the Elves who stood in defense of its borders. How long this beloved corner of Middle-earth would endure as it now stood had become just a matter of time; time as was now counted in mortal years, not in the long ages of which the Elves were accustomed. For surely it was the Secondborn who now determined the fate of them all. That fact, more than any other, told Elrond that the time for his people was passing indeed.
The Company of the Ring will be nine, he mused, although he had at first thought that even that many would be too large and obvious a group. What would keep the Ring and its bearer the safest was surely speed and stealth, but since Frodo and Samwise would be the least swift of the group, the Company's speed would be tempered to them; and stealth would depend mostly on luck in avoiding detection. What the hobbits needed most was defense; navigation; skills in hunting and foraging; and companions who gave them no cause for doubt or mistrust.
The scouts were reporting no activity of the Enemy in any direction for many leagues, and winter was fast approaching. This was the time to set out, if ever the Ring was to leave here.
The companions would represent the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. Hobbits, Men, Elves, Dwarves…… and Wizards, Elrond smiled to himself, although the five Istari could certainly not be called a "people" or a "race". The Istari just were, and luck or fate determined that Frodo already trusted and loved one of them. Mithrandir would join them. Aragorn as well, for this was his fated quest. He and Boromir would represent Men. It would be good for the son of the Steward of Gondor to journey far with Aragorn, Elrond knew, for if by chance the Dúnadan should come into his inheritance and lead mortal Men into a new age he would need stout supporters.
Frodo and Samwise for the hobbits, indeed. Surely a hobbit had to be the Ringbearer, in this Elrond agreed with Mithrandir; Frodo's resistance for so many weeks to the Morgul wounding, and Bilbo's ability to leave the Ring behind when he left the Shire, left no doubt. More hobbits in the Company would have been preferable, if only to take on the burden of Ringbearer should something happen to Frodo and Samwise. Elrond regretted that the Shire was not closer and that representatives from that land could not have been summoned to take part in the Council. If indeed any would have come.
If something should happen to Frodo and Samwise…….. Elrond knew that Mithrandir would not take the Ring, and he would never countenance giving it to a Man, even to keep it save and unused, not even to one such as Aragorn. Elves and Dwarves held not enough trust in the other to let one of them carry it. A hobbit it had to be, and here were Peregrin and Meriadoc at hand………. But no, not them. Elrond could not have explained the unease that gripped him every time he decided that of course Peregrin and Meriadoc *had* to go, they were the only other hobbits in Imladris (save Bilbo). And Frodo already trusted them. Even though Elrond was aware that Meriadoc spent much of his time in Imladris studying maps of the southern lands and no doubt making plans to accompany Frodo, Elrond knew he would not go without Peregrin. And Peregrin must not go.
Four remained to be chosen--- from among the Elves and Dwarves, then. Elrond knew the number of Elves and Dwarves in the Company should be even, two of each, or the others would think themselves outnumbered. But Gimli was the only Dwarf to volunteer, indeed one of only two Dwarves in Imladris at all. Glóin was hale, but not young. Elrond suspected that young Gimli had grown up hearing his father's stories of Bilbo's adventure, as surely as Frodo and Samwise had listened to the same tales at Bilbo's fireside. Intriguing, Elrond thought, that they should meet in this way. Surely there was more at work here than one might think.
One Dwarf, then, and three Elves. As to whom would be chosen……. Elrond had already been approached by a good number of his household, as well as the young son of Thranduil. All clamored for the honor of accompanying Frodo Baggins on his journey. Elrond doubted that Frodo was at all aware of the respect and honor in which he was regarded.
Elrond's thoughts returned to the son of Thranduil. Elrond saw him, now and again, walking through the gardens and talking with Mithrandir. There was already a bond between them. More importantly, Elrond thought, the Prince of Mirkwood had a youthful vitality about him, an eagerness for new things, a light presence and spirit. In him there was as yet only a trace of the melancholy and wistful longing many in Imladris already felt. Legolas' love of Middle-earth was evidenced in his eager stride, the songs of praise and wonder that poured from him as easily as spoken words. And that, Elrond realized, was something else Frodo would need as surely as he would need defense and strength; a companion who brought lightness, joy. Samwise would remind him of the Shire, and stand with him unto death, of that Elrond had no doubt. But music, poetry, the heart of an Elf in its youthful glory; such was Legolas. The young prince had delayed returning home until the Company was chosen, in hopes he would be among them. Such a one should not be denied.
But in the end, how could Frodo possibly accomplish this? How could the Ring cross unnoticed through Mordor? What of provisions and water in that barren and guarded land? The quest must succeed, but it was beyond Elrond's sight to see everything or everyone Frodo might need on that dark road.
Youth and strength would be necessary on such a journey. But whomever was chosen, Frodo should meet them soon, Elrond realized; the young hobbit could not be asked to set out surrounded by strangers. The road would be difficult enough for him. Spies of the enemy would soon be hunting him, if they had not already begun, and in the Fellowship he would find his only safety and defense. And trust, for as long as it lasted. For the Ring would go with them, and in the presence of the One there would be no lasting trust. Even Saruman had succumbed to the Ring without once setting eyes upon it. The thought of it alone had corrupted his mind and heart. What they were expecting of Frodo was almost beyond imagining.
Seven chosen; two more, then. But Elrond could decide nothing further tonight. He would tell Frodo tomorrow about the Company as it currently stood, and encourage him to begin to spend some of what time remained getting to know Boromir and Legolas and Gimli. And they needed to get to know him. The Company of Nine must soon set out, and there was much to prepare.
** TBC **