AN: Using some of Tolkien's words, 'cause they're awesome and I can't write better than him. Head's up. Oh, and the creation stuff: I'm going by the Silmarillion here. Don't know if Gandalf really was there, but I thought it would be cool, so now he was there.
Elrond summoned us all one day in December; it was time to choose the Fellowship. Elrond asked Frodo, "Do you still hold to your word, that you will be the Ring-bearer?"
"I will," he replied. "I will go with Sam and Delia." He looked at each of us, one standing on each side of him. I gave him a small smile.
"Then I cannot help you much, not even with counsel. I can foresee very little of your road, and how your task is to be achieved I do not know. But with Delia at your side, you should have at least small guidance that she is willing to give. Gandalf, too, will go with you; for this shall be his great task, and maybe the end of his labors. The other members of your group will represent the other Free Peoples of Middle Earth: Legolas and Ningloriel for the Elves; Gimli for the dwarves; and Aragorn, Boromir, and Eothela for Men. I believe ten to be-" Elrond was then interrupted by Merry.
"But if there is only ten, that will leave no room for us!"
"Yes, we want to go with Frodo as well!" Pippin insisted.
"That is because you do not understand and cannot imagine what lies ahead," replied Elrond.
"Neither does Frodo," I said, defending them. Yes, I stole Gandalf's words. So what. "If they knew what was going to happen, they wouldn't want to go, yes. But they would wish to go, or wish they wanted to go, and be shamed and unhappy about not going. It is because of friendship and love that they go, not because of bravery or wisdom."
"Why do you go, Delia?" asked Gandalf.
"Love, and duty." I looked at Frodo as I said this, and I saw love in his eyes again, though perhaps dimmer than before. Elrond cleared his throat.
"Very well," he said. "Meriadoc and Peregrin shall go with the Fellowship and make it a party of twelve. In seven days the company must depart." And so began the preparations, the packing and saying of farewells to friends that had been made of the Elves.
The shards of Narsil were reforged, and Aragorn named the reforged sword Anduril, Flame of the West. He and Gandalf spent most of their time poring over maps and charts and talking of the journey and the course we should take. They asked me once if I would like to join them to help find the safest way, but I explained my decisions about changing things, and they respected my choice. After that I spent my time with the other hobbits; evenings were spent in the Hall of Fire. There we listened to the Elves tell the Lay of Luthien in full, among other things. During the day, Frodo and Sam would hole up with Bilbo, Merry and Pippin would go off and explore the woods in the valley, and I would write in my journal, or sit and talk with Gandalf when he wasn't with Aragorn. I enjoyed these talks with Gandalf; even when we were talking about the smallest of things, he put a spin on it that opened a new way of thinking to me. One day, close to the end, I asked, "Gandalf, were you there when Elu created Arda?"
"My goodness, Delia," he laughed. "How old do you think I am?"
"Oh, I can't begin to guess, but I do know you are one of the Maiar."
He looked at me, bushy eyebrows raised in something like surprise. "You know that, do you?"
"Yes. The book about Frodo and the Ring tells a lot, and what isn't in there is in the book about Bilbo's adventure, or in a book that holds the history of Middle Earth. It contains the telling of the creation of Arda, and I was wondering if you were one of the Maiar and Valar that had been there."
"Well, yes, I was there." A faraway look came into Gandalf's eyes, as if he were seeing it all again in his mind. "It was magnificent. More than that; there is nothing I can say that can describe it. The world was new, bright, brilliant; the first sunrise contained all the colors of the rainbow. The night burned with billions of new stars, the light beginning its long journey to Arda for the first time. And the music, the music of creation. It was like food to a starving person; it sustained and grew and created and breathed and was almost a being in itself." His voice stopped, but his lips didn't stop moving, as if he was singing along with the words in his head, remembering. I left him quietly to his thoughts.
I spent some of my time trying out my sling again. I stood in the woods, sling in one hand, rocks in the other, and launched stone after stone at a tree. But my results here were nothing like the results I'd had in Hobbiton. There I had hit every target dead on; here I missed nine out of ten times, and that one time was just a graze. As the eleventh stone flew far to the left of the tree, I threw down the sling in frustration and rubbed my arm. It had started to prickle, and then burn as I was practicing. I realized it was the arm that the knife had cut; my lack of sling skill suddenly made sense. I picked up the sling and went back to my room, where I spent the rest of the day upset at the loss. After dinner though, my sense returned to me, and I realized that my skill with the sling would be unneeded with six warriors in the Fellowship.
The day of departure was dark and gray and cheerless. Dusk was falling, for Elrond had warned us not to trust the daylight and the exposure it would bring; not even the sky could be trusted, he said. I heard Sam muttering about rope, Bilbo called good-bye to Frodo, and then we were off, starting up out of the valley. At the very top, we stood and took a last look at the Last Homely House, and then away we went down the other side. We crossed the Ford of Bruinen and made our way south off the Road by little paths in the countryside. Gandalf and Aragorn led, for Aragorn knew these lands so well he could navigate them in the dark that pressed on us; Legolas and Ningloriel kept the rear because of their sharp eyes.
The long days passed in a blur, with little happening. We traveled by night, slept in the day; meals were cold when we had them, for we couldn't risk a fire. The wind never stopped blowing, and even though Elrond had provided us all with warm clothes, there wasn't a moment when we felt fully warmed. Even when I slept, huddled in Frodo's arms as I was, I was still not warm. Two weeks we traveled under those conditions, and then a day dawned that was different. We had reached the land of Hollin, also called Eregion, and ahead of us could be seen the Misty Mountains. Gimli spoke of the three peaks ahead of us, and what lay below them: Moria, and Khazad-dum. We made camp under some holly bushes, and even risked a fire, for Gandalf said that it was safe. The mood was cheerful for the first time in a while, and the food was warm.
I had an idea as we were sitting there. This was as close as it would get to the scene in the movies where Boromir tried to teach Merry and Pippin how to use the swords they had. Where did they get swords? Aragorn had found a couple blades just the right size for a hobbit while at Rivendell, and he had given them to Merry and Pippin. My idea was my own little joke: suggest to Eothela that maybe the two young hobbits could benefit from a lesson or two in handling a sword. They had their swords out now and were admiring and comparing them. Before I could say anything to Eothela, though, she nudged me with her elbow and indicated the two. "Do they know anything at all about swords?"
"No, nothing past the idea that the pointy end goes into your foe."
"Ah. That may be a problem later."
"Oh, definitely. I know Aragorn would have given them a few pointers had he found the swords earlier."
Eothela looked thoughtful. "I would teach them, but I know little about swords; axes are more my specialty. But I know someone who uses a sword." She turned to her right, where Boromir was stretched out in the sun, hands behind his head. She reached over and tapped him on the chest. "Wake up, sleepy head. Look at the young hobbits over there." Boromir opened his eyes, raised himself on his elbows, and observed Merry and Pippin. They were now standing and pretending to fight each other.
"What are they doing?" Boromir asked. "Are they trying to pretend at sword-fighting?"
"Yes, I think that's what is happening," Eothela agreed.
"They're terrible." He began to lay back down, but Ella stopped him.
"Go teach them how to use those swords they have," she coaxed. He groaned. "They'll thank you later when they keep their first orc from decapitating them." Boromir rolled his eyes and rose to his feet, walking over to the hobbits. Ella and I watched as they copied his movements, and soon the whole camp was watching. Frodo came to sit down by me and said, "Did you start this?"
"Me? All I did was talk to my friend Ella." I looked at him innocently, but I was having trouble keeping the smile off my face. We both cracked up at the same time, and I became aware of Ningloriel watching us. I smiled at her and she smiled back. My attention was drawn to Merry, Pippin, and Boromir again as he told them that was enough for today and turned to walk away. Merry and Pippin looked at each other, nodded, and then ran after him, swords raised and half-yelling, half-laughing. Boromir turned back around quickly, his eyes wide, and somehow blocked the first swing at his legs. The second got through, however, and he grunted as the sword hit his left leg; apparently the swords were not sharpened, and that was a good thing.
When the boys found out that their swords weren't sharp at all, they discarded them and each grabbed one of Boromir's legs; together, they pulled his legs out from under him and he fell on his back. The fight dissolved into a wrestling match, with all three laughing and infecting the spectators with their laughter. I noticed Aragorn standing on the ridge above us, seeming to listen to the south and the west, then come and stand on the edge, watching us. He was the only one who did not join in the laughter, and my smile faded as I thought of what made him so sullen. Merry, Pippin, and Boromir had stopped wrestling, and now Merry called out, "What's the matter, Strider?"
"All things but you are silent," he replied. "I can feel it. There is no sound for miles about us, and your voices seem to make the ground echo. I do not understand it."
"But what do you guess is the reason?" asked Gandalf shrewdly. "Is there more in it than surprise at seeing five hobbits, not to mention the rest of us, where people are so seldom seen or heard?"
"I hope that is it," answered Aragorn. "But I have a sense of watchfulness, and of fear, that I have never had here before."
"Then we must be more careful. If you bring a Ranger with you, it is well to pay attention to him, especially if that Ranger is Aragorn. We must stop talking aloud, rest quietly, and set the watch." And so we all settled down to sleep, Boromir and Eothela huddled together like Frodo and I, and Sam took the first watch with Aragorn, who was still silent and alert.
When we woke, Gandalf and Aragorn informed us that we would have no fire and that we would have to move by night again, starting now. No one was happy with this, although no one complained louder than Merry and Pippin. As we moved on, I assured them that they could still look forward to having good warm meals in the future, for who knew where this journey would take them? As they walked away happier of heart, Frodo said, "You know." I just looked at him, seeing the question that was always there, and being unable to answer. Will I make it back? Will I be the same? he wonders.