Chapter 1 – The Fellowship
Light streamed in to the room, and a light breeze ruffled the curtains. I glanced over at Frodo, who lay in the bed. He looked peaceful; there were no signs of the fever that had ravaged his body; he no longer writhed and screamed like a Nazgûl. The rhythmic rise and fall of his chest told me he was sleeping soundly. Stretching, I left the chair by his bed and walked over to the window. Birds chirped and flew in and out of the trees. I could hear the waterfall underneath the stones of Imladris. It was beautiful here; I didn't realise how much I had missed it.
"I hope I'm not intruding?"
A voice sounded from behind me and I spun around and came face to face with Gandalf. Grinning, I hugged him and gestured him to the chair beside Frodo's bed. He sank in to it gratefully, leaning his staff against the wall. He looked drawn, and tired. His eyes were shadowed and a sense of despair hung over him.
"What troubles you?"
I watched him as he settled down, not missing the way he winced slightly in pain.
"Saruman has allied himself with Sauron."
Gandalf's words were strained, eyes on the sleeping face of Frodo. I clenched my teeth together to hold back the curses. Staring out of the window, I wondered how such a powerful wizard as Saruman could have been corrupted.
"Elrond has summoned representatives of each race to a council here in Rivendell. We must discuss what to do with the Ring. You will be there of course."
Gandalf spoke again, glancing up.
"You make it sound as if I have no choice. I would rather not attend."
I did not look at him and turned back to Frodo's bed. He stirred, and I leant forward, but he did not wake.
"What are you afraid of? You have nothing to fear. I daresay having you there will make the process smoother."
I glanced sharply at Gandalf, and let out a little noise of panic.
"I have everything to fear."
The wizard simply smiled gently at me and I looked away. I had tried so hard to forget what I had done, and yet, it always haunted me.
"My dear, what you did is in the past. The Elves have forgiven you. The people attending the council either do not know of what happened or have forgotten it completely."
Sighing, I nodded, seeing the sense in Gandalf's words. Frodo shifted again, and mumbled. I strode forwards and stood opposite Gandalf. Frodo's eyes fluttered, and opened. They gradually focused on Gandalf.
"Good morning, Frodo."
Gandalf's tone was mild, and he smiled at the Hobbit.
Frodo was cut off by a blur that bounded on to the bed. Sam bobbed up and down talking so fast I could barely hear what he was saying. I caught Gandalf's eye and with a small smile, I left the room.
I walked aimlessly, in no particular direction. I wandered out on to a balcony overlooking the entrance courtyard. Honeysuckle climbed up to the balcony edge, its fragrance permeating the air. I leant forward, resting my elbows on the edge. I allowed myself to be completely lost in the sounds and smells of Imladris. Suddenly, I felt a presence beside me. Aragorn was leaning on the balcony, his back to it and his arms crossed. He was clean of the grime he had arrived with. He was dressed in a loose grey tunic, and black leggings. He wore battered boots, which looked like they had seen better days. His raven hair was soft and wavy, and gleamed in the sunlight. His dark eyes watched me. He suddenly grinned and pulled me in to a bear hug. I clutched him tightly, feeling my fears and worries melt away. He was one of two people on Middle Earth that I trusted completely.
"I thought you would be here. I understand Frodo has woken?"
He resumed his position, his back against the balcony, and his arms crossed. I stood next to him, hands resting on the balcony edge.
"He is awake, yes. He has made a remarkable recovery, considering he has had to fight the Ring's influence as well."
A playful look crossed Aragorn's face and I sent him a confused look, wondering what he was thinking.
"He had the best Elven healers looking after him."
I chuckled and hit him playfully on the arm. Whilst it was true I was skilled in the Healing Arts, Elrond was far more skilled than I. We had worked together to free Frodo of the poison that had ravaged his body.
"You will be at the council, I assume?"
Aragorn sighed at my words, and nodded, turning to face the same way as me.
"Yes, although I am not looking forward to it. I can see it descending in to madness."
I let out a soft laugh, nudging him gently with my shoulder.
"Don't be so pessimistic, Aragorn. It may turn out better than you think. However, I agree with you. I am not entirely looking forward to it either. Maybe – "
I stopped as horses clattered in to the courtyard below us. A group of elves had arrived and a welcoming party came out to greet them. Their cloaks and general dress identified them as those of the Greenwood and as I lazily scanned their faces, I recognised each one. Olithir. Elion. Belanor. My heart constricted as I saw who the last elf was. Legolas. A strangled sob escaped my lips, echoing round the courtyard. The elves looked up sharply, trying to find the source of the noise. I turned away quickly, before they could see my face.
Aragorn turned to me, concerned, dark eyes scanning my face. I couldn't meet his eyes and I breathed deeply for a moment, getting a handle on my emotions.
"Nothing is wrong. We must get ready for the council. I will meet you there."
I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and hurried back to my room to get ready.
"I'm nervous, Seraphina. What if they don't take me seriously?"
I looked down at Frodo and saw that his blue eyes were clouded with worry. I placed a hand on his shoulder.
"You carried the Ring here, and fought the poison of a Morgul blade. That alone is an impressive feat; one which will earn you recognition in the eyes of those attending this Council. They will listen to you."
I gave him reassuring words, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. He gave me a small smile and turned to face the entrance to the courtyard where the council sat. Giving him a small push, we walked through the archway and in to the courtyard. Elrond was seated in a high backed chair facing a round, stone table. The gathered people sat on chairs that were arranged in a semi-circle on the other side of the stone table. An empty chair was next to Gandalf and Frodo glanced up at me. I motioned for him to sit and with a grateful glance, he sank in to it. I noticed his legs were shaking and once again, placed a hand on his shoulder, lending him comfort
I stood next to him and looked round at the faces of the council. I skipped over the Elves, not wishing to make eye contact with Legolas. My eyes rested on a man seated next to Aragorn. He was clearly from Gondor: he held himself with pride and a certain arrogance that only Gondorians had. His fair hair was shoulder length, and a light stubble adorned his chin. He wore the uniform of a soldier, and a sword rested by his feet. A jolt went through me as I recognised him. He was the eldest son of Denethor, the Steward of Gondor. I had not seen him or his sons in a long time.
His eyes travelled up and down me and I bristled slightly. I was wearing what I always wore to formal Elven meetings: a pair of brown boots that ended just below my knees, hugging my calves; a pair of grey leggings; a light blue tunic which was nipped in at the waist to show off my curves (I believed that women should show off what they had proudly). A bow and arrows nestled between my shoulder blades, along with a pair of twin blades. My hair was tied back in to a braid. Silver thread ran through it, making it shimmer. My necklace hung at the base of my throat. I noticed that it was starting to burn me. I knew the reason why but refused to acknowledge it. Pulling my eyes from the Gondor solider, I fixed my gaze on Elrond, who stood and spoke to the assembled people.
"Strangers from distant lands, friends of old, you have been summoned here to answer the threat of Mordor. Middle Earth stands upon the brink of destruction; none can escape it. You will unite or you will fall. Each race is bound to this fate, this one doom. Bring forth the ring, Frodo."
He waved a hand towards the stone table. Frodo got up and walked forward. He gingerly placed the ring on the stone table. As if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, he walked back to his seat. Murmurs erupted from the people. They were staring as if a great gift had been placed before them. Disgust rose within me and I stared at the ground.
"So it is true. In a dream, I saw the Eastern sky grow dark. But in the West, a pale light lingered. A voice crying, 'The doom is near at hand, Isildur's Bane is found'."
The soldier next to Aragorn spoke suddenly. He stood and walked towards the ring.
Aragorn's voice rang out, his tone sharp. Boromir looked up suddenly. He stared at me warily, eyes narrowed. I hadn't realized but I had reached for the hidden dagger I always carried. I sheathed it, but didn't relax. Boromir returned his attention to the ring.
"It is a gift. A gift to the foes of Mordor. Why not use this ring? Long has my father, the Steward of Gondor, kept the forces of Mordor at bay. By the blood of our people are your lands kept safe. Give Gondor the weapon of the enemy. Let us use it against him."
Boromir stared round the circle, his face slightly smug. I let out a short bark of laughter and all eyes turned to me. Elrond caught my eye and he tried to look stern, but I could see amusement in his gaze.
"You find something funny, my Lady?"
Boromir looked at me coldly, tone sharp. I stared back, keeping my gaze level.
"I find the stupidity of some Men funny."
A loud guffaw erupted from one of the Dwarves. I gave him a small grin, and turned back to Boromir.
"To think that we could use it against Mordor is pure madness."
Boromir looked as though he would answer me but a voice cut him off before he could.
"Seraphina is right, Boromir. You cannot wield it. None of us can. The One Ring answers to Sauron alone. It has no other master."
Aragorn spoke up, and I gave him a grateful look.
"And what would a Ranger know of this matter?"
Boromir shot back almost instantly, his voice sneering.
"This is no mere Ranger. He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. You owe him your allegiance. He is heir to the throne of Gondor."
Legolas spoke before I could. Boromir stared at Aragorn, shock dancing across his features.
"Gondor needs no king!"
He sat down but didn't look at Aragorn again.
"You have only one choice. The Ring must be destroyed."
Elrond spoke in to silence that had occurred.
"Then what are we waiting for?"
The Dwarf that had laughed picked up his axe and strode forward. Swinging his axe up and then down, he struck the Ring. A Nazgul scream erupted in my head. Burning pain engulfed my body; old wounds that had been made by Morgul blades seared my skin. Clutching the head of Frodo's chair, I fought to keep myself under control.
"Seraphina! What's wrong? What's happening to you?"
Frodo cried out, his voice urgent. I let out a sharp hiss as the pain only intensified, a freezing fire that spread throughout my veins like water crashing upon the shore. Holding my head, I ran towards the Ring and clamped a hand down on it. The screaming died away and the pain dulled, leaving a throbbing behind in its wake. I looked down at the Dwarf. He was on the floor, an astonished look on his face. The shattered pieces of his axe lay beside him. With a grunt, he got up and returned to his seat. I felt the stares of everyone upon me. Prising my fingers apart, I dropped the ring down on to the table. Drawing in a shuddering breath, I stared down at the Ring for a few moments. Faint whispers floated towards me and I suddenly jolted away. Ignoring the shocked stares of everyone, I moved back to stand with Frodo, eyes fixed firmly on my feet. There was a long beat of silence before Elrond spoke, addressing the Dwarf.
"The ring cannot be destroyed, Gimli, son of Gloin, by any craft that we here possess. The ring was made in the fires of Mount Doom. Only there can it be unmade. The ring must be taken deep into Mordor and cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came. One of you must do this."
Elrond's tone was grave. Involuntarily, I cast a look at Legolas. Our eyes met and a shock raced through me. I broke the gaze, jaw clenched tightly against the swirling in my stomach.
"One does not simply walk into Mordor. Its black gates are guarded by more than just Orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep. The great Eye is ever watchful. It is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire, ash, and dust. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten-thousand men could you do this. It is folly."
Boromir spoke quickly, his face incredulous. Everyone started talking at once. Then, it turned in to shouting. It was chaos. I sighed gently, watching the ensuing madness. Looking down at Frodo, I found him quite calm, seeming almost uncomfortable with all the noise. My eyebrows furrowed as a thought snaked in to my head.
The Hobbit had borne the Ring to Imladris from Bree – Aragorn had explained his part in escorting Frodo and his Hobbit friends. It had been a rather long journey and for Frodo to resist the Ring's influence for that long was remarkable. He should have fallen in to darkness after being stabbed, and yet, here he was, healing well. Who was to say that he could not take the Ring all the way to Mordor?
As if sensing my gaze upon him, Frodo looked up. He stared up at me, eyes wide and confusion in his face. He glanced back at the arguing, and quite suddenly, turned back to me. Something told me I knew what he was going to say and I merely gave him an encouraging nod. Turning back to the chaos, he took a deep breath and spoke up.
"I will take it."
His voice was lost in the noise. With a determined look, he stood and tried again.
"I will take it!"
His voice rose to a shout. Silence fell as everyone looked towards the little Hobbit.
"I will take the Ring to Mordor! Though…I do not know the way."
Frodo looked a little abashed and shifted uncomfortably under the gazes of those before him.
"Then, I shall go with you. You have my allegiance."
The words spilled from me before I could fully think about the implications of what I was committing myself too. Staring round at the gathered people, I straightened up, drawing a little closer to Frodo to make it clear that I would not back down.
"I will help you bear this burden, Frodo Baggins, as long as it is yours to bear."
Gandalf came forward, placing his hands reassuringly on his shoulders. Frodo smiled at the wizard, and I began to grow more confident as Aragorn walked forwards and knelt before Frodo.
"If by my life or death, I can protect you, I will. You have my sword."
Aragorn rose and stood beside Gandalf, nodding at me.
"And you have my bow."
Legolas walked over to join us, bowing slightly to the Hobbit. I kept my gaze forward, not daring to look at him. For a moment, I felt eyes upon my face before he moved to stand next to Aragorn. I pushed away the sudden feeling of disappointment, hands clenching at my sides.
"And my axe!"
Gimli came forwards too, the growled words seemingly directed at Legolas. A small smile crept on my face at the Dwarf's animosity, a little glad it was not directed at me.
"You carry the fate of us all, little one. If this is indeed the will of the Council, then Gondor will see it done."
Boromir spoke unexpectedly, walking to stand with us all. I gave him an approving look and he gave me a short nod, obviously getting over our earlier differences. Elrond glanced over us all and opened his mouth to speak, when a rustling in the bushes interrupted him. Sam appeared and ran to stand beside Frodo.
"Mr Frodo is not goin' anywhere without me!"
He crossed his arms defiantly, his chin raised.
"No indeed. It is hardly possible to separate you two even when he is summoned to a secret council and you are not!"
Elrond's words were tinged with amusement, eyes gleaming as he took in the newest addition. Suddenly, two more Hobbits ran out from behind pillars to join Frodo and Sam. With a smile, I recognised them - Merry and Pippin. I had not exchanged more than a few words with them since they arrived several days ago; I had been kept busy with Frodo.
"Wait! We're coming too!"
Merry cried out, grinning at Elrond.
"Anyway, you need people of intelligence on this sort of mission, quest…thing."
Pippin nodded enthusiastically as Merry rolled his eyes.
"Well, that rules you out, Pip!"
Merry whispered to his friend, nudging him. Elrond smiled and inclined his head. He was silent for a minute, and then he addressed us.
"Ten companions…so be it. You shall be the Fellowship of the Ring!"