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The War of the Ring

Chapter Text

England 1953

 

Lucy was sitting with her mother at the Professor’s old house in the country. They were in one of his many sitting rooms, the one on the ground floor, seated side by side on a divan. Lucy and her family were staying with the Professor for a few days of vacation.

“Mother, I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”

“And what is that, dear?”

“Do you know of any relations of ours that are estranged from their family?”

“What a question! Why do you ask?”

“No reason, really. I’ve just...heard some rumors, I guess.”

Mrs. Pevensie sighed. “I don’t know what you may have heard, Lucy dear. But I will set the record straight. It isn’t distant relations that are estranged. It’s my sister, Anne. She married a man that father was convinced was mad. He seemed normal enough, but he talked about things that made him sound insane.”

“What sorts of things?” Lucy wondered what her mother would say if she knew about Narnia and Middle-Earth. Would she claim that Lucy and her siblings were insane as well?

“Magic mostly, and he spoke gibberish and called it a foreign language. The poor man was touched in the head. But Anne was wildly in love. She ran away with him. We haven’t heard from her since.”

“I didn’t realize you had another sister, other than Aunt Alberta.”

“We don’t talk about Anne. She ran away with that man, and she never contacted us again. Father searched for her for a while, but we couldn’t find her. It was like she had vanished completely. To us, it became as though she had died. And it was too painful, the grief was too great, to talk about it. All this happened before Peter was born. We spent so many years not talking about Anne, I never thought to tell you about her.”

Lucy’s heart was pounding. She didn’t know the name of Caliel’s mother, but a suspicion was beginning to form, a suspicion that made her quite happy.

“What was the man’s name, this Uncle of mine?”

“Oh, I don’t remember...something odd. Nan...Nander...Nan...” Mrs. Pevensie tilted her head to one side as she thought about it. “Nanor. That was his name.”

“Nanor,” Lucy repeated, a smile forming on her face. That was definitely an Elven name.

Edmund popped his head in the doorway. “Dinner is about to be served, if you want to come to the dining room.”

Lucy and Mrs. Pevensie followed Edmund through various passageways and rooms til they came to the dining room. As they took their places at the table with the rest of the Pevensie clan (as Lucy dubbed them), Lucy whispered to Edmund,

“I need to talk to you later. I think I found out the truth about my Middle-Earth double.”

Once they were seated Edmund leaned his head close to Lucy’s and whispered back, “What did you find out?”

“Now is not the time to discuss it.”

Later, when dinner was finished and the family was gathered in the parlor Edmund again asked Lucy to explain. They were seated in a window seat, the curtain pulled a little ways in front of them. Lucy glanced around the room to be sure no one was listening who shouldn’t be. Mrs. Pevensie was sitting on one of the couches with Jill Pole beside her and they were deep in conversation. Eustace was sitting on the floor at their feet with a book in his hands. Mr. Pevensie was sitting in a chair beside the Professor and they were in the midst of a lively debate. Peter was in the corner of the room at a small desk, writing something. Susan was laying down on a couch apparently sleeping.

Lucy turned back to Edmund. “I asked mother if we had any estranged relatives.”

“What did she say?”

“She has a sister, Anne, who ran away and eloped with a man that grandfather didn’t approve of. This was before Peter was born. They haven’t heard from her since.”

“You think Caliel could be Anne’s daughter? You think we’re cousins?”

“That’s exactly what I think.”

“Great Scott! We’re related. Cousins! That is strange. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? She does look exactly like you. Cousins seems much more plausible than ‘distant relations.’”

Lucy sighed, pulling her knees up her chest and turning away from the cheerful room to look outside at the world falling to darkness. The stars were beginning to appear in the night sky.

“Don’t look so sad, Lu.”

“Do you think we’ll ever go back? Or was that it? Are we done?”

“I don’t know. But whatever happens, you know Aslan has it all under control.”

“I know. I just wish we hadn’t left. I do love our family and living here in England, but I love living in Middle-Earth too. I want to go back.”

“Patience, Lu. If it is going to happen, then it will happen. You just have to wait.”

 

 

 

 

Middle-Earth T.A. 2951.

 

Aragorn was just returning from an orc hunt with his brothers, Elladan and Elrohir. As they entered the valley of Rivendell, Aragorn turned away from the path that led to their home.

“I am going to be a while yet,” he told his brothers. “I need some time alone.”

“Don’t want to see father yet?” Elrohir asked with a knowing look.

Aragorn shrugged.

“He is only stern with you, Estel, because you have such a heritage. You have much responsibility to carry and he only wishes to see you carry it well.”

Aragorn sighed. “I know.”

“Go on, brother,” Elladan said. “Take your time; we will make your excuses to father.”

Aragorn turned and began to walk through the calm and beautiful woods. It was a cool and fresh evening and he breathed the air deeply, trying to bring some peace to his troubled mind. He had come of age this year, twenty years old, and he was expected to take over the leadership of the entire Dunadain. It was a responsibility he was wary of. He was not convinced that he would do this well. It was too great a task.

As he walked, Aragorn became aware of a silvery voice singing. He stopped walking and stood still for a moment, listening. Having been raised by Elves he was quite used to hearing beautiful music, but this voice was unlike any he had heard before.

He began to walk toward the sound and when he reached the clearing where the voice was coming from his heart leaped into his throat. There in the center of the clearing, singing the beautiful song that had drawn Aragorn to that spot, was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. She was pale, as Elves tended to be, and her dark hair fell in glorious waves over her shoulders and down to her waist. Her dark eyes were shining as she looked up at the stars.

Suddenly her song stopped, and she turned to look at Aragorn. “Hello, stranger.”

Aragorn couldn’t speak.

She smiled then, and his heart stopped beating. “You must be Estel, the Dunadain boy whom my father raised.”

“Arwen?!” Aragorn found his voice. “You’re Lord Elrond’s daughter?”

“Yes.”

“I thought you lived in Lothlorien.”

“I have been there for many years, but I decided to journey home for a time to see the rest my family. I will go to my father now. Walk with me.”

Arwen held out her hand and Aragorn gave her his arm to lean upon and together they made their way to Lord Elrond’s apartments. All the while Arwen talked and laughed and Aragorn watched her in awe and admiration.

 

 

 

Middle-Earth T.A. 2953.

 

Gandalf tapped his fingers lightly on the intricately carved tabletop as he listened to Saruman speak.

“There is little evidence that Sauron is rising again,” Saruman concluded a long winded speech.

“I disagree,” Gandalf said immediately after he had finished. “And I believe this council has already come to the conclusion that he is in Mordor and he is searching for his Ring.”

“We have agreed on that,” Glorfindel piped up, causing Saruman to glare in his direction. “or at least the majority of us have agreed.”

“I believe we need to focus our efforts,” Celeborn said slowly. “Not on whether or not Sauron is indeed in Mordor but rather where the Ring is. If he were to find it and use it, that would mean certain death for Middle-Earth and her inhabitants.”

“Yet there is no evidence,” Saruman began, but he was interrupted by Galadriel.

It was a rare occasion for Galadriel to be so rude, and everyone at the table turned to her in surprise.

“Sauron declared himself two years ago,” Galadriel said “He has taken up residence in Mordor once again. Of that there can be no doubt. Yet my husband is right; we need to focus our efforts to find the Ring before Sauron does.”

“I agree,” Cirdan said.

“The Ring is long gone,” Saruman said with a wave of his hand. “Sauron will never find it because it is not anywhere that can be found.”

“You cannot be sure of that,” Gandalf replied. “And it is too dangerous to simply leave Sauron to find it on his own. He has been looking for it, of that I am sure. All those orcs that have been scouring the lands east of the Misty Mountains? They are his servants and they are looking for his Ring.”

“You are paranoid, old friend,” Saruman responded. “Sauron may be in Mordor once more, he may be looking for his Ring as you suggest. But there is not a chance he will find it. It was lost in the Anduin when Isildur fell, and it was swept out to the sea. Sauron will not find it.”

“Can you be sure of that?” Glorfindel asked. “Absolutely certain? Because the lives of everyone in Middle-Earth may depend on our decision here today.”

“I am absolutely certain,” Saruman replied.

Gandalf watched him closely from under his bushy eyebrows. He did not trust his old friend. The evidence was not convincing. The Ring could very well still be around, hidden, somewhere. The fact that Saruman was not more worried is what was worrying Gandalf now.

“We will do nothing,” Saruman continued. “We do not need to go searching for a Ring that is not going to be found. You can protect your own lands as well as you can and the for the rest? We will wait and watch.”

Saruman stood, signaling the end of the meeting. He swept out of the room.

Radagast twitched his nose nervously. “What do you think, Gandalf?”

“What I think is best kept to myself for now,” Gandalf replied. “We will watch and wait, as the head of our order has declared.”

“You will keep an eye out for any sign of the Ring,” Galadriel asked, “just to be safe? I fear Saruman may be mistaken in his wish that the Ring was lost to the sea.”

“I agree with you on that,” Elrond said. “Yet even if it was not lost to the sea, it is likely lost in the earth and unlikely to be found by either Sauron or ourselves.”

Gandalf did not say anything, for there was nothing more to be said. He would simply watch, and wait. But he was determined to be more diligent than Saruman intended to be in the matter. Gandalf was almost convinced that Saruman would indeed be very diligent in watching for the Ring. That suspicion troubled his heart greatly and he hoped that he was wrong. It was too great an accusation to share, however, so he carried his burden alone. Galadriel could tell that there was something troubling his mind but she did not press him.

 

 

 

Middle-Earth T.A. 2956.

 

Harunir ran his finger lightly across the ground, his eyes searching the dirt, grass, and stone in front of him for answers. After a moment, he looked over his shoulder. “This way, Estel.”

Aragorn knelt beside Harunir and followed his gaze.

“You see their tracks?” Harunir questioned. Aragorn was a decent tracker, but at twenty-five years of age he was still quite young and could do with some more experience.

“I see them,” Aragorn responded. He studied the horizon. “Shall we go after them?”

“Of course. This pack of orcs won’t be allowed to live another day to hurt any other innocent lives.”

They both stood and began to walk in the direction the orc pack had gone. Suddenly, Aragorn froze, motioning for Harunir to stand still.

“You hear something?” Harunir whispered.

Aragorn nodded, his hand on his sword hilt. “Someone approaches.”

“Someone is already here,” A friendly voice spoke to their right.

Harunir and Aragorn looked and saw none other than the wizard, Gandalf the Grey.

“If you are going to be trying to kill a pack of orcs by yourselves, I might as well accompany you. We can’t have either one of you getting yourselves killed, now can we?”

“Gandalf?” Harunir was stunned. “I haven’t seen you since I was very young!”

Gandalf chuckled. “Yes, and your companion was younger still.”

Gandalf fell into step beside the two Rangers and they continued tracking the orc pack.

“Do the two of you often try to kill entire orc packs without assistance?” Gandalf asked.

“Sometimes,” Harunir said. “We do not often have much trouble either.”

“Ah, I see. Expert fighters, are you?”

Aragorn laughed. “We have to be, in our line of work.”

“Tell me, young Aragorn. Do you have any plans to reclaim the throne of Gondor?”

Aragorn’s step faltered for a moment. “I...no. No, I do not. Neither my father nor my grandfather nor his grandfather felt the need to rule that kingdom. It will take a greater man than I to sit on the throne of Gondor.”

Gandalf nodded, but did not say anything.

When the orc pack was found, they were swiftly dealt with. Harunir was right, he and Aragorn hardly needed any help defeating the orcs, despite the fact that there were nearly thirty of the creatures.

“These orcs are getting braver,” Aragorn commented. “They are coming out of the mountains more and more.”

“It is disturbing,” Harunir agreed.

“I fear it will only get worse,” was Gandalf’s reply.

 

 

 

Middle-Earth T.A. 2957.

 

Aragorn checked over his pack once more and then swung himself into the saddle. At Gandalf’s suggestion he was riding to Rohan to help King Thengel fight the orcs that had invaded his territory.

“Do not use your name, Aragorn,” Gandalf said.

“I was considering going by the name Thorongil,” Aragorn replied.

Gandalf nodded. “That is fitting. Good luck, my friend.”

Aragorn nodded and then turned his horse’s nose towards Rohan. It was almost strange to consider that Gandalf had indeed become a friend in the past year. He was a great wizard, after all, and Aragorn was no more than a Ranger. But a friend he had indeed become and Aragorn was grateful for that.

 

 

 

Middle-Earth. T.A. 2968.

 

Bilbo rummaged through the trinkets on the table. He was at the marketplace in Hobbiton, trying to find a decent gift to give to his cousin Primula for the occasion. She lived down in Bywater, but that was no reason he couldn’t get her a gift for her newborn son. After all, Bilbo wasn’t the kind of Hobbit to frown on shenanigans. He had, after all, gone all the way to Erebor and back with a group of rowdy dwarves. So no, he wasn’t going to be like so many of his relations and ignore this new member of the family simply because they lived a slightly less respectable life. Frodo was a Baggins, after all, and deserved to be recognized as such. And anyway, who could fault a newborn for his parents’ lifestyle.

 

 

 

Middle-Earth. T.A. 2977.

 

Dale was flourishing and the people had been trying for some years to make themselves a kingdom, and not just a great city. Bard was reluctant to be a king, however, and so the people’s wish was never granted. But things were changing now. Bard had recently died and his son Bain, though reluctant, could not help but give in to the demands of his people. He would be their king, if that is what they so desired.

Bain was in Erebor now, sitting at a table across of Kili Dragon-slayer, King Under the Mountain as he discussed different crown designs they could use to create the first crown of the first king of Dale. Bain listened and nodded but didn’t say a great deal. He had grown up in the shadow of King Kili, and he was not entirely sure how he felt about being on an equal level with the Dwarf of legend.

 

 

 

 

 

Middle-Earth T.A. 2980.

 

Aragorn dismounted from his horse and led the animal slowly through the quiet wood. He was entering Lothlorien and oh how ready he was for a rest. He had spent over twenty-years fighting wars with Thengal King of Rohan and Ecthellion Steward of Gondor as they tried to beat back the orcs and other foul creatures that Sauron pitted against them. It had been a long time since he had been able to sleep without the worry of an orc attack, a long time since he wasn’t leading men into battles. This was a much needed and long over-due rest.

He hadn’t gone far before Haldir appeared from seemingly nowhere. “My Lord, Aragorn. The Lady of our Wood bids you welcome. Follow me; I will lead you to Caras Galadhon.”

As they walked, Aragorn could not help but ask, “Have Lothlorien heard from Lady Arwen of late?”

“She is visiting us even now, my Lord.”

Aragorn felt his heart skip a beat. Arwen was here!

His heart did another flip flop when she met him at the gate to the city.

“Come with me, Aragorn. My grandmother expects to see you.”

As they walked together through the city, they began to talk and Arwen soon put Aragorn at ease. She was sweet and carefree and filled with laughter. Much to Arwen’s surprise, she found Aragorn a much more agreeable companion than he had been at age twenty. He may still have been so very much younger than herself, but he was a boy no longer and though she tried to still her beating heart she knew it was no use. She was falling in love with a mortal man.

Her father was not going to be happy about his.

 

 

In the Shire, a tragedy had occurred in the form of the deaths of Drogo and Primula Baggins. It was a boating accident (that is precisely why respectable hobbits keep away from water) but there were some tongues that wagged and suggested it may not have been an accident at all. However that may be, Frodo Baggins was now an orphan at only twelve years of age and it was his kind, albeit strange, relation Bilbo who chose to take him in and adopt him as his heir.

 

 

 

 

Middle-Earth. T.A. 2989.

 

Kili studied Balin silently. Was he in earnest?

“Our Kingdom is thriving here. Ori is an excellent steward for you. I am not needed, and it is my desire to see if I cannot reclaim Moria for our people.”

Kili still did not answer the old dwarf. Was Balin completely mad?

“I thought the same thing, laddie,” Dwalin commented. “He’s mad, for sure. But let him go. He’s been craving another foolhardy adventure for fifty years at least. First it was with Thrain, then Thorin, and now he wants to go off on his own. He might pretend to be the level-headed one among us, but it isn’t true.”

Kili laughed. “Alright, alright. You can take a group and see what you can do about Moria. But be careful, Master Balin.”

“I am always careful,” Balin replied.

Later that week Kili watched as Balin led a group of brave Dwarves away from Erebor on a quest to reclaim Moria. Whether this was a good idea or not, Kili still wasn't sure.

"Will Uncle Balin come back?" Thorin Alyon asked, coming to stand beside his father. At forty-three, Thorin Alyon was a strong warrior, Dwalin had seen to that. And through the joint efforts of Balin and Ori, he he had a sharp mind as well. Kili had little doubt that his eldest son and heir would lead Erebor well when the time came. 

"I do not know what will become of Balin," Kili told his son. "But I do feel that something is going to happen soon. I do not know what, but I can feel the change in the air."

"You sound like mother," Thorin Alyon laughed.

Kili smiled. "Yes, perhaps I do. I would not be surprised or ashamed if your mother was beginning to rub off on me. But however that may be, I do feel it, Thorin Alyon. Something is about to change."

 

 

Chapter Text

It was a very busy day in Hobbiton. Food was being cooked in all the houses, which in itself was not a rare occurrence, but the amount of food being prepared was exceptional, even for Hobbits. Hammers and mallets were out in full force as streamers and balloons and signs were strung all over the fences and trees on the Part Field. Arms were aching as table after table was carried to the big tent in the middle of the field. Lights were being strung in the party tree. The air was filled with the laughter of the happily working hobbits, the squealing of the children under foot, and the smell of wonderful meals being prepared.

It was the day of Bilbo’s grand celebration. His birthday.

And into the chaos currently taking place in that field appeared six people, quite by accident.

“Good gracious!” the Gaffer exclaimed as one of the persons who had just appeared trod on his foot.

“Oh I’m so sorry! I didn’t meant to…I only just arrived,” the woman apologized.

“Who are you?” The Gaffer asked.

“Jill. Jill Pole.”

The other members of her party, those strangers who had just appeared under the party tree, gathered around her.

“Great Scott!” One whistled. “We’re in the Shire.”

“And who are you?” the Gaffer asked, suspicion creeping into his mind. This had happened before, he knew. But he wanted to be sure.

The other Hobbits had all stopped their work and were coming closer and closer, curiosity drawing them forward.

“I’m Eustace,” the young man said.

And then one of the older young men stepped forward. “My name is Peter, Peter Pevensie. These are my family, Susan, Edmund, Lucy, Eustace, and Jill.”

“I knew it!” The Gaffer exclaimed. “Samwise!”

A younger Hobbit came running over. “Yes?”

“Go and fetch Mr. Bilbo immediately. He’s got some unexpected visitors. Friends,” the Gaffer added as Samwise trotted off. “I’m Hamfast Gamgee,” he said, turning back to the newcomers.

“Excuse me, did you say Mr. Bilbo?” Lucy asked.

“Yes, ma’am. Bilbo-”

“Baggins,” Lucy finished, darting away from her companions and running after Samwise.

“Now where in tarnation?” Hamfast Gamgee watched her go.

“She’s just excited to see Bilbo again,” Edmund explained. “Out of curiosity, what year is it?”

“What year?” the Gaffer coughed. “Why it’s 1401, by Shire reckoning.”

“It’s 3001,” Eustace explained to the others.

“We have been gone a while then,” Edmund commented quietly.

“What’s the occasion?” Jill asked.

“Why we’re celebrated old Mr. Bilbo’s birthday! We’re getting the field ready for the party tonight.”

“It’s Bilbo’s birthday?” Eustace asked.

“Yes, indeed it is. One hundred and eleven, he is. Older than most Hobbits ever live to be, that’s for sure and certain.”

Lucy overtook Samwise very quickly and ran up hill toward Bag End. As she neared the front gate she noticed a wagon coming along the road with a familiar pointed hat sitting atop a familiar head.

“Hello, Gandalf!”

“Why, Lucy! What brings you to Middle-Earth?”

“I don’t know yet,” Lucy laughed, entering the front gate where a sign was posted.

 

No admittance except on party business.

 

Gandalf stopped his wagon and hopped down, following Lucy to the round, green, front door. Gandalf knocked with his staff and was rewarded with the cranky shout of,

“No thank you! We don’t want any more well wishers or distant relations!”

Lucy opened the front door and leaned inside. “And what about very old friends?”

Bilbo came out of his hiding place behind the wall separating the entryway from the living room. “Lucy? Gandalf! Come in, come in!”

Gandalf knelt and gave his friend a hug. As he stood up he knocked his head against the chandelier that hung above the entryway.

“Careful, Gandalf,” Lucy chided. “Don’t break Bilbo’s house.”

“He does that every single time he comes in here,” Bilbo said. “It’s the silliest thing. You would think that he would have figured it out by now. Just duck, you old buffoon.”

“Watch who you’re calling a buffoon,” Gandalf answered sourly.

“Oh cheer up, Gandalf,” Lucy teased.

“Would you like some tea?” Bilbo asked. “Or some wine? Do you want to toast or cheese or anything else? Come on in to the kitchen and we’ll see if I can get you fixed up.”

“Just tea for me,” Gandalf said.

“Oh, Bilbo, I’ve brought friends,” Lucy said, following Bilbo into the kitchen and taking a seat at the table.

“You always bring a houseful,” Bilbo laughed. “How many dwarves?”

“No dwarves, just my family. There are six of us, all told.”

“Six is hardly any,” Bilbo said. “Last time you came through here you brought, what was it? Fourteen?”

“Sorry about that.”

Bilbo smiled as he put the teapot on. “Those were good days, weren’t they, Lucy.”

“Yes, yes they were.”

Lucy studied her friend as he bustled about making tea and putting together sandwiches. He was old, much older than he had been on her last adventure in Middle-Earth. He was covered in wrinkles and his hair was all grey. And yet, for looking so old, he also appeared remarkably hale and hardy.

“It’s my birthday, you know,” Bilbo said, pouring tea for Lucy and Gandalf.

“That is precisely why I am here,” Gandalf said.

“Of course, of course,” Bilbo responded.

“How old are you, Bilbo?” Lucy asked.

“One hundred and eleven!” Bilbo declared, his eyes twinkling. “You wouldn’t guess it, would you?”

Lucy raised her eyebrows. “No, I would not.”

“Seems like yesterday you were a little hobbitling staying out too late and coming home trailing-”

“mud and twigs and fireflies,” Bilbo finished, and then met Lucy’s gaze and rolled his eyes. “He says that every time he sees me. Every. Single. Time.”

“Well it becomes no less true with the telling,” Gandalf replied.

“Mr. Bilbo?”

“Is that you, Sam?”

“Yes, sir. Gaffer sent me to tell you you’ve got unexpected visitors.”

“Meaning Gandalf and Lucy, or Lucy’s relations.”

“Is that Lucy?” Sam asked in awe as he entered the kitchen. Seeing Lucy sitting there at the table he blushed and lowered his head.

“Yes, this is Lucy,” Bilbo turned to Lucy and winked. “go fetch the rest of her family and bring them here and then go and find Frodo. I want him here too.”

“Yes, sir.”

It was a merry gathering in Bilbo’s kitchen that day. Bilbo wanted to know everything that had happened to Lucy and her family in their days away from Middle-Earth and Frodo and Sam were full of questions about all their adventures in every world having never met the Pevensies before. Gandalf simply watched, sitting in the corner and puffing on his old pipe.

When evening came they all traipsed down to the Green Lawn for the party. There was much food and plenty of laughter. This was the perfect way to start an adventure, Lucy thought. With good food and good friends and nothing wrong with the world.

Gandalf brightened the party with a fireworks show, which had all the guests, children and grandparents alike, laughing and cheering. There was on particular moment, however, when most of the Hobbits were running from fear of the giant, red, sparkly dragon. Lucy watched with some amusement as the firecracker took a dive over the gathered guests and they all dropped to the floor in fright. When it disappeared in an explosion of bright colors the cheering resumed once more, and to a greater degree.

Lucy, sitting at one of the last tables was quite close to the wagon where Gandalf had stashed his fireworks. She noticed him stalking his way in that direction and she turned to see two young Hobbits by the wagon, covered and soot and grinning from ear to ear.

“Let’s get another one!”

Before they could proceed, they were accosted by Gandalf. After a firm reprimand, Gandalf motioned for Lucy to come over.

“These two hooligans are going to be washing the dishes for the rest of the evening, there,” Gandalf pointed to where the dirty dishes were piling up by buckets of soapy water behind the crowded tables of party-goers. “Will you keep a firm eye on them?”

“Of course, Gandalf,” Lucy laughed.

Gandalf dragged the two shame-faced Hobbits to the dirty dishes and left them there with a huff. Lucy went and sat on a stool nearby as they began to wash the dishes.

“You don’t think he means us to do all the dishes, do you?” one of the Hobbits asked.

“I think he might, Pip,” The second one replied. Then he turned to Lucy. “I’m Merry, by the way. And this is Pippin.”

“I’m Lucy Pevensie.”

“Oh we know,” Pippin grinned.

“We enjoy Bilbo’s stories quite a bit,” Merry said.

“Though perhaps not as much as Sam does,” Pippin laughed.

The party-goers were soon clamoring for a speech and Bilbo got up with lots of bowing and smiling.

Lucy watched her old friend with a smile as Bilbo proceeded to confuse his guests exceedingly with his “strange talk.” But, like everyone else present, she gasped when he suddenly disappeared.

“What?!”

Pippin grinned. “That’s just old Bilbo. You know, his ring and all.”

“I know about his ring,” Lucy said. “But why did he do that now?”

“He’s planning on leaving,” Merry explained. “He’s been secretive about it, of course, but we have our ways of finding things out.”

“Sam,” Pippin explained.

“Anyway, he’s moving on. Going to Rivendell and maybe back to Erebor too. He’s leaving tonight presumably.”

“And he’s leaving Bag-End to Frodo! Isn’t that grand?” Pippin asked.

“I wish we could just pop out sometimes,” Merry said. “Go on those crazy adventures and then come home filthy rich.”

“Bilbo did not go on his adventures to come back filthy rich,” Lucy laughed.

“No, but we're all sure he is though. Filthy rich, that is.”

Lucy was enjoying the Shire immensely, but she wasn’t about to let Bilbo go on an adventure without her. So when Bilbo left Hobbiton and the Shire behind, Lucy and her family went with him. Frodo and his friends were left behind, much to Merry’s chagrin. Gandalf went his own way, and did not travel to Rivendell with Bilbo and the Pevensies.

When they arrived in Rivendell, they were greeted by Elrond’s sons. Edmund strode forward even as they called a greeting and shook hands with both of them.

“It has been too long, my friend,” Elrohir said. “And I am an Elf!”

“So that is saying a great deal,” Elladan added.

“Come, all of you. Father expects you all to dine with us tonight and then you can rest and refresh yourselves.”

When dinner was over, Lucy went in search of Caliel, having been told that she and her husband were visiting Rivendell. She found her in one of the many gardens, sitting on a stone bench with a young woman, and two girls, seated at her feet. Caliel still resembled Lucy to a great degree. But now she was the elder looking, with streaks of grey in her hair and a few lines on her face.

“Caliel?”

Caliel looked up and then smiled brightly. “Lucy! You’ve returned to Middle-Earth!”

“Yes, I have. Are these your children?”

“Grandchildren,” Caliel corrected with a laugh. “Elwien is the eldest at seventeen years of age, Haliel is ten, and Nengelien is four.”

“It is lovely to meet you all.”

Elwien bowed her head slightly in greeting and Haliel smiled, but Nengelien hid behind Caliel’s skirts.

Caliel laughed. “You must forgive Nengelien. She is a bit shy of strangers.”

“I do not mind at all. Strangers can be very scary things,” Lucy smiled at Nengelien and was rewarded with a tiny smile in return.

“Many years have passed since our parting,” Caliel said. “But you appear completely unchanged.”

“Yes, well, it’s only been one year for me in England since I left Middle-Earth.”

“Ah, the time difference. That always surprises me.”

“Caliel, I have a question that I have been longing to ask you,” Lucy said, seating herself beside Caliel on the stone bench.

“Ask away.”

“Is your father’s name Nanor?”

“Yes, it is. Why?”

“And your mother is Anne?”

“Yes. Again, why?”

“I did some digging, back home in England.”

“Did you find out how we are related? How distant is it?”

“Not distant at all, Caliel. My mother, Helen, had a sister Anne who married a man named Nanor who was, from her accounts, from another world.”

“Are you saying that you and I are in fact first cousins?”

“Yes.”

“Remarkable!”

“I know.”

“That is absolutely wonderful! What fun. Do you hear that, Nengelien? You are cousins with the great Lucy Pevensie!”

Nengelien hid her face and blushed.

“Are you in Middle-Earth to see about the growing orc problem?” Elwien asked.

“I do not know, Elwien,” Lucy answered honestly. “We shall see.”

In a few weeks time Gandalf arrived in Rivendell with the intention of staying there until the Ranger Aragorn arrived. Lucy herself was eager to see Aragorn again. He had only been a child when last she had encountered him so she wasn’t sure what to expect. But this would not be the first time a child had grown to full manhood in her absence.

During their stay in Rivendell Lucy spent many hours sitting with Bilbo helping him write his book about their adventures. Lucy found it a joy to sit and talk with Bilbo, and also to relive those days of traveling with the Dwarves and everything that had taken place at that time in their lives.

“It seems so long ago,” Bilbo said. “And yet it seems like only yesterday.”

“It does at that,” Lucy replied with a smile.

 

Chapter Text

“My heart is troubled,” Gandalf told Lucy. They were walking together along a winding path through one of the many gardens in Rivendell.

“What is bothering you?” Lucy asked.

“That ring that Bilbo gave to Frodo. It concerns me.”

“Why?”

“I do not know, Lucy. Yet I do feel a sense of foreboding concerning it. I would like to keep an eye on Frodo but I have other pressing business and I cannot be everywhere at once.”

“I could look after Frodo. What exactly do you think is going to happen to him?”

“I do not know. But there is no need for you to travel back to the Shire. I may need your help in other matters.”

“What matters, Gandalf?”

“Sauron has, for several years, been searching for his Ring so he can rule over Middle-Earth and cover the lands in darkness. I have a suspicion about that Ring. But I must speak to someone to confirm my suspicions. I would like to ask your help in finding that someone.”

“Who is it?”

“I shall tell you in due course. That is my purpose for waiting on Aragorn here; I wish for his help in tracking down this person as well.”

“Maybe my family can help both ways. Some of us can go to Hobbiton and keep an eye on Frodo and some of us can come with you and help you find this person you are looking for.”

“That is not a bad idea, Lucy Pevensie,” Gandalf said slowly. “I shall put it to your family this evening, at dinner.”

When evening came, the Pevenesies and Gandalf dined with Lord Elrond and his family. Bilbo, who was remarkably tired these days, took his meal in his room.

“When do you expect Aragorn to return?” Gandalf asked once again, as he did every day. Elladan and Elrohir made eye contact and rolled their eyes together.

“I have told you before,” Elrond shook his head with an exasperated smile. “I do not have that knowledge. When Aragorn will return is entirely speculation. But I do expect him within the week.”

“When he returns, I would like to borrow him for a time.”

Elrond raised his eyebrows in question, but said only, “He is not at my disposal, Gandalf. He is his own leader and he alone can tell you if he may be spared for whatever adventure you have up your sleeve.”

“Very well. I shall ask him upon his return. Now, Peter, I have a question for you and the rest of your family.”

“And what is that?” Peter asked.

“I intend to take Aragorn on a journey to find a missing person that I desire to speak to. I would wish to have some of your family accompany me on that journey as well. I also desire to keep a close eye on Frodo Baggins because I do not trust that old ring of Bilbo’s. To that end, I would ask that some of your family move to Hobbiton and watch over him.”

Peter thought about this for a while, and then turned to his family. “I see no objection to this. We are here, after all, to help.”

“I’ll go to Hobbiton,” Eustace offered. “I’ve lived there before and I’ll have less of a hassle integrating into that society. Also, as much as I do long to join in all the adventures, you are all more experienced in that regard and would be better suited to go with Gandalf.”

Edmund nodded. “He’s right.”

“I’ll stay in Hobbiton too,” Jill offered. “That way you aren’t completely alone.”

“Will that suit you, Gandalf?” Lucy asked. “Eustace and Jill will keep an eye on Frodo and Peter, Susan, Edmund, and myself will come with you.”

“That suits me just fine,” Gandalf replied.

“Would you mind our help as well?” Elladan asked. “Nothing too exciting has been happening around here lately and I could do with a change of scenery.”

“That is a decision your father will have to make,” Gandalf replied.

Elladan looked to his father. Elrond thought for a long time and then said, “You and Elrohir are old enough to make your own decisions. I will not say a word against you if you go or if you stay.”

“Where are they going?” a voice asked as a newcomer entered the room and came toward the table.

“Estel!” Elladan rose and shook Aragorn’s hand.

“You are home, safe and sound,” Elrohir commented. “That is good news.”

“Did you expect me to be otherwise?” Aragorn asked with a smile.

“We have guests, Aragorn,” Elrond said as Aragorn seated himself at the table. “Gandalf you know, Lucy you have met. This is Peter, Edmund, Susan, Jill, and Eustace from the old tales.”

Aragorn bowed his head in greeting and then smiled at Lucy. “It has been many years since last we met.”

“Indeed it has. You were but a child, then. No more than ten years old.”

“Alas, I am over seventy now.”

“You look remarkably well for seventy,” Lucy laughed.

“I was not aware that you had returned to Middle-Earth.”

“We’ve only been here for a few weeks,” Peter said.

“Will you be staying in Rivendell?” Aragorn asked.

“No,” Lucy replied. “Gandalf has other plans.”

“Gandalf wishes to request your help in finding someone,” Elrond explained to Aragorn. “And he will take the Pevensies, and possibly your brothers as well, on this journey.”

“Who are you looking for?” Aragorn asked Gandalf.

“Someone I much desire to find,” Gandalf replied. “I have reason to believe he is somewhere on the Eastern side of the Misty Mountains. It is crucial that I find him quickly, before Sauron has a chance to find him.”

“I am most curious as to who this person is,” Aragorn said. “And I am willing to help you search.”

“Then that is settled,” Gandalf said. “Will two weeks be enough to get our things in order and be on our way?”

When he received no negative response from the people at the table, that was, as he said, settled. In the days that followed. Eustace and Jill prepared to travel back to Hobbiton and the rest of the Pevensies, along with Aragorn and Elrond’s sons, prepared to travel wherever Gandalf may lead them.

On the day that they set out, packs on their backs, swords at their sides, walking sticks in hand, Gandalf finally revealed who it was that he was searching for.

“I have reason to believe that the creature Gollum has left the relative safety of the goblin tunnels and has ventured into the world in search of Bilbo and the ring that he stole. It is my hope to find him and question him about that ring.”

“You really are deeply troubled by Bilbo’s ring,” Lucy commented. “What do you fear from it?”

“I do not know yet; that is why I am seeking answers. We must find Gollum.”

In order to search more thoroughly the vast lands beyond the Misty Mountains, they decided to travel in pairs and divide the land between them, meeting every few weeks at one designated spot or another to report what they had found. Once they were beyond the Misty Mountains therefore, they split up. Gandalf and Lucy traveled together, Elrohir and Edmund traveled together, Elladan and Aragorn traveled together, and Peter and Susan traveled together.

Eustace and Jill traveled to Hobbiton. Frodo was generous enough to put them up at Bag-End and so they lived in peace and quiet, watching over Frodo though not really believing that anything was going to happen. What could possibly go wrong in that quiet little country called the Shire?

Lucy sat with her head resting against a tree, watching Gandalf puff out smoke rings from his old pipe. After a time, she spoke, “Do you think we’ll catch him, Gandalf?”

“He’s quite slippery,” Gandalf replied.

“But we did catch a glimpse of his trail this week.”

“And then proceeded to lose it again,” came Gandalf’s response. After a few more puffs on his pipe, Gandalf said, “Aragorn and Elladan have had better luck. I expect when we meet up with them tomorrow they will have found a fresher trial.”

“I hope so.”

Yet when they met up with the rest of their companions the next day, no one had found a fresher trail.

“So we continue on,” Elrohir said grimly, surveying the landscape.

“It is urgent that we find him,” Gandalf said, for the thousandth time. “Do not give up the search.”

“We have no intention of giving up,” Peter replied. “But it is disheartening. It has been months since our search began.”

“And Gollum will continue to lead us on a merry dance,” Gandalf replied. “We must carry on.”

And so the search continued.

The weather grew steadily cooler, until it was bitingly cold and the snow swirled around them and travel became incredibly uncomfortable and tiresome.

“We’re never going to find him,” Susan sighed, leaning closer to the small fire that Peter had built.

“We will, just have patience.”

“I am tired of this long search. Is there not a place we can stay to winter and then continue in the spring?”

“His trail will have gone cold by then.”

“His trail is freezing at this point, brother,” Susan said dryly. “When do we meet up with the others?”

“It will take us three more days at least to reach the meeting point,” Peter replied.

“Three days,” Susan moaned to herself. “This is torture.”

“You could have stayed in Rivendell.”

“And been left out of all the fun? Not a chance. But I do wish we didn’t have to be stuck out in the elements all day and all night.”

On and on the search went. The snows melted, and spring came. Then came the heat of summer and the cool of the autumn and then once more the freezing weather that Susan despised so much. Stuck with naught but one companion except on the rare days when they met up with the rest of the party to share news. Yet they were not entirely left without hope, for they would catch a glimpse of Gollum’s trail here and there and then renew their search with fresh vigor. But always, he eluded them.

This continued in a seemingly endless pattern for several years. Susan had grown tired of living in the wild and never seeing civilization within the first year, by the second year Lucy also was longing to at least spend a holiday away from the wilds. By the third year Edmund was sick of their search, the fourth year Peter was fed up with it. But they kept at it, because Gandalf insisted it was imperative that they find Gollum.

After their second year, having grown tired of the same companion, Elladan suggested they shift things up a bit. And so they did. Gandalf and Aragorn traveled together, Elladan and Peter traveled together, Susan was with Edmund and Lucy with Elrohir. And then the next year they switched it up again.

It was a tiring business, living in the wild, only popping into villages long enough to restock supplies. Never sleeping in a real bed, never having shelter against the cold, the rain, the wind.

However eternal it may have seemed, it did eventually come to an end. In their eighth year of searching, Aragorn and Lucy finally caught up with Gollum. He was a wretched creature, screaming in anger and crying in fright by turns. He was severely malnourished but he refused to accept any food that Lucy offered him and spat at her hands on more than one occasion.

When the whole party was once more together Gandalf took Gollum aside to question him. The others sat together a distance from them and watched.

“This may take some time,” Elrohir commented. “He is not willing to divulge his secrets.”

“We should take him somewhere safe,” Elladan added. “Somewhere out of the wild where Gandalf can continue to question him.”

“Mirkwood is nearby,” Lucy said hopefully. “We could take him there.”

And that is precisely what they did.

When they entered that familiar forest, Lucy’s heart began to sing. But it was also sad. She had thought the forest was sick when she passed through with the Dwarves, but it was even more so now.

When they finally reached the front gate and the guards let them into Thranduil’s halls, Lucy darted away from her companions and went running through the well remembered passageways and rooms. She checked the library first, and then his apartments, and when she did not find him, Lucy went searching for Legolas at his special ledge.

He was there, leaning against the rail and staring into the distance. She hugged him from behind, wrapping her arms around his torso and burying her face in his back.

“Lucy?” Legoals spun around, took one look at her, and then pulled her close. “I had heard rumors that you had returned, but you had not come to visit yet so I did not believe them.”

“I’m here now,” Lucy smiled up at her friend. “I was busy, helping Gandalf. He’s here, by the way. My whole family is, except Eustace and Jill. They’re in Hobbiton. Come on, I’ll explain everything on the way to your father’s throne room. That is where I expect he’ll be meeting Elrond’s sons and my family and Gandalf and Gollum.”

“Gollum!”

“Come on,” Lucy tugged Legolas’ arm and started down the stairs. “I’ll explain everything.”

And explain everything she did.

Thranduil agreed to keep Gollum under lock and key in the dungeon. Gandalf stayed in Mirkwood for a few weeks questioning him, which, as he later said, turned out to be worse than pulling teeth. Eventually, however, he must have got the answers he wanted. He thanked his companions for their help in the search and then left. Where he went was anyone’s guess.

Aragorn felt it was time he returned to his duties as a Ranger and prepared to return to the wild. Peter desired to go with him and Susan, after having a refreshing break in Thranduil’s halls, was ready to join Aragorn on his travels as well. Lucy wanted to remain in Mirkwood with her friends, which no one objected to and Edmund decided to stay with her.

And so the Pevensies were soon scattered across Middle-Earth.

In the South and West, Saruman began to use his influence to poison King Theoden of Rohan’s mind.

And to the South and East Sauron sent forth his trusted servants, his Ringwraiths, to find his ring and return it to him.

 

Chapter Text

 When Gandalf left Mirkwood he headed straight for the Shire to see Frodo. When he arrived at Bag-End it was late in the evening. Lights were still shining in the windows and he could hear laughter from within. Gandalf used his staff to knock on the door, which was soon opened by Jill.

“Oh, hello! Come in, Gandalf. We weren’t expecting you.”

Gandalf followed Jill into the parlor where Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, and Eustace were all gathered. Frodo was sitting in a chair with Sam at his feet and Pippin had just moved from his seat to plop into Merry’s lap when Jill and Gandalf entered the room.

“Gandalf!” several voices exclaimed.

“Are you up to giving us a fireworks show?” Pippin asked hopefully.

“I am here on business, Peregrin Took,” Gandalf responded. “I would like to speak to Frodo alone.”

Frodo looked surprised, but he got up and led Gandalf to the kitchen. As soon as they were out of the room Pippin leaped up and crept to the doorway.

“Who wants to bet they are talking about Bilbo’s old ring?” Pippin asked.

Merry put down the mug that was in his hand and leaned forward. “Do you hear anything, Pip?”

“Not with you chattering behind me.”

Gandalf sat at the kitchen table, which was rather small for him, while Frodo lit some candles. “Haven’t been in here for a few hours,” Frodo said. “It’s gotten a bit dark.”

“I don’t mind,” Gandalf replied.

“What did you want to speak to me about? Is Bilbo alright?”

“Bilbo is fine, or he was the last time I saw him. I wished to discuss his ring with you.”

“We thought that might be it.”

“We?” Gandalf questioned.

“You seemed concerned with the ring when you were here for Bilbo’s birthday a number of years ago. And when you were in Rivendell Jill and Eustace said you expressed a lot of concern then too. We’ve all been waiting for you to show up and tell us what it is that is bothering you about Uncle Bilbo’s ring.”

“Ah. Well. I have reason to suspect it is the ring. Sauron’s Ring, forged in Mordor. He has been searching for his Ring for some years, though many counted among the wise insisted the Ring was never to be found, lost to sea long ago. I have come to suspect that Bilbo’s ring is the One Ring. Where is it, Frodo?”

“In a chest in one of the spare rooms.”

“Go and fetch it, please.”

Frodo went to get the Ring. As he passed through the hallway he glanced toward the parlor and saw Pippin in the doorway. Pippin shrugged and grinned and Frodo couldn’t help but smile as well.

When he returned to the kitchen Gandalf took the Ring quickly and carried it toward the parlor.

“Since everyone is already aware of my concern, they might as well be privy to the rest of my information.”

Pippin ducked out of the doorway when he saw Gandalf and Frodo coming. Once in the parlor, Gandalf threw Bilbo’s ring into the fireplace. After a moment he retrieved it with a pair on tongs. “Here, Frodo. Take it.”

“He’ll burn his fingers if he touches that,” Eustace said.

“No,” Gandalf replied. “It’s quite cool.”

Frodo hesitantly held out his hand and Gandalf placed the ring in it. Gandalf watched Frodo’s face. “Tell me, Frodo. Do you see anything on it?”

“No. It’s just a simple gold band, no markings.”

Gandalf sighed, leaning back in his chair. “That is a great relief.”

“Wait.”

Gandalf sat up straighter.

“There’s something...some form of writing. I can’t read it.”

There was an orange glow on Frodo’s face, and the others could just make out some sort of writing in that glow.

“It is the language of Mordor,” Gandalf said solemnly. “There are few who can read it.”

“What does it say?” Jill asked.

“In the common tongue it reads ‘one ring to rule them all, one ring to find them. One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.’”

“You think this is Sauron’s ring?” Eustace asked. “Blimey, what are we supposed to do with it?”

“That is a decision to be made by wiser minds,” Gandalf replied. “All I can say now is that it cannot stay in the Shire.”

“How did Bilbo get it?” Pippin asked.

“From Gollum,” Merry rolled his eyes.

“But how did Gollum get it?” Pippin asked.

“That is a mystery that I have not yet uncovered,” Gandalf replied. “I am going to look into it. What I have discovered, from Gollum himself, is that Sauron also suspects Bilbo’s ring is his Ring. He tortured Gollum for answers and though he did not get much, he did get two words.”

“What two words?” Sam asked.

“Baggins. Shire,” Gandalf replied.

“Baggins,” Frodo gasped.

“Shire!” Merry and Pippin exclaimed together.

“Is he coming for it then?” Jill asked.

“I fear that is the case,” Gandalf replied.

“How soon?” Frodo asked.

“That I cannot say,” Gandalf replied. “but it would be wise if you were to get out of the Shire as quickly as possible.”

“Where do we need to go?” Merry asked.

“Make for the village of Bree,” Gandalf said. “I will meet you there. I must visit the head of my order first. There are questions I have that must have answers before we can proceed. Go to Bree.”

“We’ll get the Ring safely to Bree,” Jill said. “But what then?”

“We will discuss this when we meet in Bree,” Gandalf said. “I need to go, now.”

“You just got here!” Sam objected.

“I am in a hurry, Samwise Gamgee.”

“Go on, Gandalf,” Frodo said. “We’ll meet you in Bree.”

Gandalf was gone in no time at all.

“Now what?” Pippin asked.

“Now we prepare to leave for Bree,” Frodo said.

“We can pack tonight and leave in the morning,” Eustace said. “We are in an urgent situation, of course, but Gandalf didn’t say it was so bad that we had to leave right this minute.”

With that settled, they all got busy. Each of them prepared a pack of clothes and other things they would need on their journey (including pipes and old toby of course). Jill and Sam filled a pack with cooking supplies and another with provisions. They were all a little anxious when they went to bed that night, jumping at every little creak the old smial made.

 

Gandalf left Hobbiton that night and traveled swiftly to the outpost at Sarn Ford on the border of the Shire. There he found several Rangers, and among them was Aragorn.

“Gandalf! What brings you to the Shire?”

“Many things. Not the least of which is you. I had not expected to find you here, however. I was under the impression you had returned to the wild.”

“I had. But I needed to check in on this outpost. Come inside, Gandalf. There’s no need for us to stand talking out here in the night.”

Aragorn led Gandalf inside where several Rangers were gathered around the fireplace chatting. They nodded greetings to Gandalf but paid him little heed after that.

“Why were you seeking me?” Aragorn asked.

“I have found Sauron’s Ring.”

“Truly?” Aragorn asked with concern.

“Yes. It is in Frodo Baggins’ possession. He is leaving the Shire soon and will meet me in Bree. I have business to attend to at Isengard. If I am unable to get away from Orthanc as quickly as I would like, I need someone to be prepared to meet Frodo and his companions in Bree.”

“I will remain ready for your summons then.”

“Thank you. That is exactly what I would wish. I will get a message to you if I am unable to get to Bree.”

“Take care, Gandalf.”

“You too, Aragorn.”

 

Far to the South, in the city of Gondor, a son of Denethor tossed and turned in his sleep. Orcs had been spotted east of Osgiliath. Boromir and Faramir had been sent with many soldiers to protect the city. The dark clouds over the distant mountains east of Osgiliath and the orange glow that occasionally lit the bottom of those clouds was depressing, to say the least. Faramir rolled over yet again, asleep, but restless. And then a voice invaded his sleep.

 

“Doom approaches. Isildir’s Bane is found. Seek the Halfling and the Sword that was Broken.”

 

Faramir opened his eyes to see his brother kneeling beside him. “Wake, Faramir. The orcs are entering Osgiliath. We must lead our men and protect our city.”

Faramir tried to banish the voice of his dream that still echoed in his head. He did not know what it meant, but he had a job to do here and now, so the dream could wait.

 

On his way to Orthanc, Gandalf encountered Radagast the Brown.

“I must beg a favor of you, old friend,” Gandalf said.

“Anything, Gandalf.”

“Get a message to Elrond, Galadriel, Thranduil, and everyone else. I have found Sauron’s Ring. I am on my way to Orthanc to visit Saruman. Frodo Baggins is taking the Ring to Bree and then either I or Aragorn will escort him to Rivendell.”

“You found the Ring!”

“It has been right under our noses all along, Radagast.”

“I will get the word out!”

“Good. I will see you in time, my friend.”

“Safe travels, Gandalf.”

 

In Mirkwood, Lucy was down in the dungeons, bringing food to Gollum. As she passed the raw fish through the bars, Gollum darted forward from the darkness at the back of the cell and snatched up the offered food.

He tore apart the fish with a relish, enjoying it in all of its slimy glory. Lucy turned away, disgusted but still pitying. When he had finished, she risked looking into the cell again.

“Are you alright, Gollum?”

“Stucks, we is. Why?”

“We don’t want you to be tortured by Sauron again.”

Gollum scooted back toward the dark corner of the cell, covering his ears with his hands and curling into himself. “Don’t send me back!” he wailed.

“We don’t want to send you back, Gollum. That’s why we keep you down here, so you’re safe.”

“Mean guardses.”

“I know. Some of your guards aren’t very kind. But they aren’t mean, Gollum. No one here has been mean to you. They just don’t understand you. You’re different. They’ve never been good with things that are different.” Lucy smiled slightly, a smile filled with sadness and memory.

“We wants out.”

“You can’t leave, Gollum. Because he might find you again.”

“We wants OUT!”

Gollum began to rock himself back and forth and cry pitifully. Lucy watched for a moment and then stood. She turned on her heel and marched straight to Thranduil’s apartments. The guards outside his door let her through without question.

“Thranduil!” Lucy called, passing through a carpeted room filled with books, “Are you decent? Because I’m coming in!”

Thranduil appeared in the doorway of his bedroom. “To what do I owe this great honor?”

“I want to take Gollum out to the woods. And before you object, let me explain. I am not asking you. I am telling you. I am taking Gollum out so he can see the world and feel a little bit of freedom. Then we will come back and he will return to his cell.”

“He is not exactly fond of the sun or stars or the trees themselves. What is the point?”

“Freedom, Thranduil. He’s been trapped down in your dungeon for too long.”

“Very well. Take pity on the creature. He is pathetic enough. Go, take him for a stroll in the woods and bring him back. Take Legolas with you. He may be a pathetic creature, but he is strong. I do not want him to harm you.”

Lucy smiled and stood on tiptoe to kiss Thranduil’s cheek. “Thank you.”

“Why are you thanking me? I thought you weren’t asking for permission.”

Lucy laughed and shook her head. “Don’t look so smug, Thranduil.”

She left his quarters and went in search of Legolas. She found him at the training grounds where he was overseeing the training of the recent recruits to the Guard. He had been in search of a qualified Elf to take the position of Captain of the Guard ever since Tauriel had married Kili and moved to Erebor. Despite nearly seventy years passing, he still had not found someone he thought was worthy. “Can I borrow you, Legolas?”

“Of course. What do you need?”

“I’m taking Gollum outside.”

“You are doing what?”

“You heard me.”

“Why?”

“Because he feels trapped down in the dungeons. You’re coming with me so he doesn’t escape.”

“This does not seem like a good idea.”

“I don’t care. I’m taking him out for a few hours.”

“Alright. I will accompany you. Caiwen!” Legolas called to one of the Elves. “You are in charge. I am taking Lucy and Gollum for a stroll in the woods.”

“Yes, hir nin,” Caiwen replied.

Legolas and Lucy went down to the dungeons where they fetched Gollum. With a very firm warning from Legolas to stay close to them, Gollum hid himself behind Lucy’s skirts as they left Thranduil’s halls.

As they wandered down the path that led through Mirkwood, Legolas kept a sharp eye on Gollum. Lucy watched him too, but with a great deal more compassion.

They had been in the woods for a while. Gollum did not seem to enjoy it at all. But every time that he caught Legolas looking at him he would scramble on all fours to get behind Lucy’s skirts. From there he would peek around at Legolas in the manner of a small child hiding behind his mother.

“I think you scare him, Legolas.”

“And well he should be scared,” Legolas replied. “I do not trust him.”

“He’s helpless.”

“He is conniving.”

“Can we climbs the tree?” Gollum asked.

Lucy looked down at him. “What?”

Gollum pointed to one of the many trees surrounding them. “Can we climbs it?”

“I don’t see why not,” Lucy said with a smile.

“When he does not come down from that tree, you will be the one explaining to my father how he managed to escape.”

“He’s not trying to escape, Legolas.”

Legolas didn’t reply. His eagle eyes watched Gollum closely as he scrambled up the tree. When he reached the top, he stopped. He just sat there, hanging from a branch like a bat.

“See? He’s not escaping,” Lucy said.

Legolas watched Gollum for a time. Then his eyes darted to his left.

“Lucy.”

“What?” Lucy studied her friend. He looked genuinely worried.

“Someone...somethings approach.”

“What? Dwarves?”

“Yrch.”

“Orcs!” Lucy pulled her bow off her back. “Where? How many.”

“To the left. There are many. I cannot count their feet, their footfalls are mingled. If I had to guess, I’d say thirty at least.”

“Gollum,” Lucy called quietly. “It is time to come down now.”

Gollum looked down at her, and he looked like he was going to cry. “We can’t comes down.”

“Gollum,” Lucy spoke more sharply.

Legolas pulled his bow off his back and nocked an arrow to the string, turning in the direction he had heard the orcs. “Lucy,” he spoke quietly.

Lucy turned from Gollum, pulling an arrow from her quiver just as the first orcs crashed through the trees onto the road. The first seven orcs had fallen before the orcs were close enough that Lucy and Legolas had to drop their bows and pull out their swords.

Lucy blocked the rusty blade of one orc. When their blades caught in mid-strike she punched the creature in the face. He stumbled backwards and she gutted him, turning quickly to face the next opponent. Two orcs charged her, swords raised. She blocked the blade of one with her own sword and grabbed the wrist of the other, twisting his arm till he dropped his blade. In anger, the orc bent down and bit her hand. Yelping, Lucy withdrew her hand and kicked the orc with her left foot while blocking another swing from the sword of the other. A third orc was now bearing down on her. Lucy reached down with her bloodied hand and pulled a dagger from her belt, throwing it with skill straight through the third orc’s throat. She cut the legs out from under second orc, even as the first one’s blade cut through her right shoulder. Wincing she put her blade through it’s chest and turned to the next orc that was coming toward her.

A glance toward the tree told her Gollum was no longer there.

Legolas decapitated one orc and then spun around to chop the sword arm off another. He turned on heel and quickly cut the head off another orc and blocked the blow of another with one of his white daggers. He then used his dagger to guide the blade of one orc through the side of the head of the other orc. Then he spun around in time to stop the orc blade that was about to stab him in the back. He knocked the blade from the orc’s hand and stabbed him through the chest and then spun on his heel to block the blade coming down by his shoulder. He glanced toward Lucy and saw that she was surrounded by just as many orcs as he was.

Legolas let out a sharp whistle, hoping that one of the patrols would be close enough to hear and to come to their aid.

Another orc gutted, Lucy turned quickly to block another blade to her left. At that moment another orc put a sword through her side and she cried out in pain. As she leaned over, trying to block another blow and not lose her balance, an orc pushed her from behind and she crashed to the forest floor.

Lucy rolled onto her back and raised her sword to block a blow to her heart. Three orcs were hacking their swords down at her and she held both ends of her sword, holding it horizontally. As the blade cut into her palm she pushed it upward to block the three orc swords. A fourth orc came towards her head with a mace. Lucy saw the mace swinging towards her face and tried to roll out of the way but with the three orcs above her it was impossible.

 

In Osgiliath, Faramir crouched behind the rubble of a broken building and silently put an arrow to the string of his bow. He glanced around the stone he was currently crouched behind, picking a target among the chaos in front of him. Men of Gondor and hundreds of orcs were locked in fierce combat across the city landscape. Faramir caught sight of one of his men falling to the ground and he raised his bow. He let fly his arrow and felt a rush of satisfaction as the arrow sprouted in the orc’s chest and the wounded man got to his feet and engaged a new enemy. Faramir had been doing this for most of the battle. Staying to the sidelines and helping to protect the injured or those who needed assistance without joining the fight itself. Boromir, on the other hand, was in the thick of the fight and enjoying every moment of it. He slashed through one orc after the other, calling out encouragement to his men every now and then.

Eventually, the battle was won.

As Faramir helped an injured man hobble towards the place where the healing tents had been set up on the western side of Osigiliath, Boromir came striding toward him.

“You did well, brother! I saw you save a number of men during the fight. Your arrows were well placed.”

“Thank you, brother. You did remarkably well yourself.”

Boromir clapped Faramir on the shoulder and then turned to the injured man. “You also fought well, my friend. My father will hear of it.”

“Thank you, my lord.”

 

Back in Mirkwood, with a mace coming down to her head, Lucy closed her eyes praying it would be quick and relatively painless.

But the mace never hit her head. Gollum leaped out of wherever he had been hiding and tackled the orc, wrestling the mace from his hand and then biting his neck over and over until his head snapped off.

The orcs above Lucy were distracted and went after Gollum and Lucy rolled away and began to throw up.

In another moment, reinforcements arrived. With the added support of the patrol of Elves, Legolas was soon free to see to Lucy. She was on her hands and knees, still retching.

He put his hand on her back and simply stroked her soothingly, not saying a word. After a moment, Lucy sat up. Legolas handed her his water skin and she took a drink and rinsed her mouth before spitting out the liquid.

“I have been in so many battles, seen so many horrors...” Lucy shuddered. “I’ve never seen anyone bite someone’s head off.”

“Are you alright, Calad?”

Lucy sighed. “I’m fine. A little shaken, that’s all. Where’s Gollum?”

Legolas looked around and then sprung to his feet, his eyes searching the forest around them. “He’s gone.”

“Your father is going to kill me.”

Legolas helped Lucy back to her feet. “He would not even think of it, Lucy. You mean too much to him. Though he may very well give you the ‘I told you so’ face.”

Lucy sighed, cleaning her sword. “Do you think this was a planned rescue? Or was it a capture that Gollum wanted no part of?”

“I do not know. But he is gone, regardless. The orcs are all dead. I do not think any of them survived. So he is not being dragged back to Sauron as we speak. He is free.”

“We’ll have to send a search party after him.”

“I agree. But you are going back to my father.”

“I’m fine, Legolas.”

“Please, Calad. It would relieve my mind if you would simply return to my father.”

“Alright. I’ll go. Just promise me you’ll find Gollum.”

“I will.”

 

Chapter Text

“Maybe you should stay here, Pip,” Merry said, hoisting his pack onto his back.

“I’m not going to be left behind!” Pippin stamped his foot. “Not a chance.”

They were standing outside of Bag-End, waiting for everyone to emerge. They’d just finished a hearty breakfast and were ready for their travels. Everyone was gathered by the front gate waiting for Jill and Frodo to finish cleaning up.

“Merry may be right,” Sam said quietly. “Your mother will certainly kill us if we take you along.”

“Stop acting so high and mighty,” Pippin said angrily. “It isn’t like the two of you have reached your majority either. We’re all still in our tweens and we are all going to be in a barrel full of trouble when we return from our trip. But we’re going anyway.”

“How old are you, Pippin?” Eustace asked, genuinely curious. He’d lived in the Shire enough times that he knew Hobbits didn’t reach their majority til they were thirty-three, and Pippin did seem a great deal younger than that.

“You can’t laugh,” Pippin said.

“No laughing. I can handle that,” Eustace replied.

Pippin sighed. “I’m only nineteen. But I’m fine! I don’t need to be babied. I can go on this trip. It’s just to Bree, after all.”

“Nineteen,” Eustace sighed. “You are a good deal to young to be traveling with us.”

“It’s too late now,” Pippin said as Frodo and Jill exited Bag-End. “We’ve made all our plans. I can just follow you if you leave me behind and I will too.”

“Are you arguing about Pippin’s age?” Frodo asked as he joined the group. “I think he’ll be fine. We’re just going to Bree, after all. It’s going to be dangerous, but he’ll be back home soon enough. We all will.”

“Can we just get going then?” Pippin asked.

“Lead the way,” Eustace said.

Pippin enthusiastically led the way down the road away from Bag-End, and away from Hobbiton and way from the Shire.

 

Away to the South, Faramir had related his dream to his brother who in turn had told their father Denethor.

“Seek the Halfling and the Sword that was Broken,” Denethor said slowly, stroking his stubbled cheek as he repeated the words of the dream. “I do not even begin to understand why Isildur’s Bane would be in the land of the Halflings. I would advise sending someone to Rivendell to discover the answer to this riddle.”

“Then I will ride for Rivendell at once,” Faramir said.

“No, no. I don’t want you to go,” Denethor said. “I don’t trust you to bring back Isildur’s Bane. It is too great a mission. I’ll send your brother.”

“Me, father?” Boromir asked.

“Do I have another son?” Denethor asked. “Yes, you. You must go to Rivendell, discover the truth about your brother’s dream, and bring back Isildur’s Bane. It belongs to our people. We are the heirs.”

“Isildur’s Bane is the One Ring,” Faramir said. “That is not something that should be brought to Gondor, to tempt us. And it would be unwise to put it so near to Mordor.”

“What do you know of wisdom?” Denethor asked. “I am asking this favor of your brother. You need not trouble your mind about it.”

Faramir and Boromir made eye contact. Boromir shrugged and tried to smile at his brother. Then he turned to his father. “I will go, father. I will see what I can discover.”

“And bring back a mighty gift for me!” Denethor said.

“I will do my best.”

Within a week’s time, Boromir was on his way to Rivendell.

 

Deep in the Misty Mountains, Gollum was crawling his way towards the gate of Moria.

“We do not likes it here. We hates the sun. The windses. But we likes it in our cave, oh yes. Yes we do. But the goblinses! We do not likes them. No, we don’t, precious. But they’s better than the sun. yes. We must go to the goblinses caves. We will be safes there. He won’t sees us there.”

 

Gandalf rode up to the gate of Isengard and under the archway and through the tunnel that led into the lush gardens that surrounded the tower of Orthanc. He rode straight up to the long staircase that led into the tower. As he dismounted, Saruman came slowly down the steps.

“It has been long since you have visited here, Gandalf the Grey; long since you have sought my wisdom and advice.”

Gandalf gazed at his old friend warily. “I bring news, Saruman. I do not seek advice.”

“But perhaps you should. Come, walk with me.”

Saruman placed a hand on Gandalf’s shoulder and guided him down one of the many paths that led through the gardens around Orthanc.

“Tell me, what is your news?”

“I have found the One Ring,” Gandalf said. He watched Saruman closely and saw the light that entered his eyes. A greedy light.

“Ah. So it is not lost beyond all hope.”

“No, it is not. It was in the Shire, all these years. Bilbo had it.”

“Bilbo’s ring? Who would have guessed it? You certainly did not.”

“No, I did not. I have been blind.”

“Very,” Saruman agreed.

“But we still have time,” Gandalf said. “Sauron is searching for the Ring. But we can still find a way to either hide it away.”

“You cannot hide the Ring from Sauron.”

“What would you propose we do?” Gandalf asked wearily.

“Use it,” Saruman replied. “Only to defeat Sauron. Then it could be hidden away. For use only when the world is in great need.”

“The Ring won’t answer to anyone but Sauron himself,” Gandalf replied.

“You do not know that for certain, Gandalf. We could perhaps wield it, you and I. Think of the power! To be used for good, of course.”

Gandalf did not reply.

“What have you done with the Ring?” Saruman asked. “Does Bilbo still have it?”

“No, no. Frodo does.”

“Ah. You grow foolish in you old age, Gandalf. To entrust such a prize to a Halfling? You should have brought it here to me.”

“You would have liked that, I suppose. But I did not think it would be wise.”

“The Halfling will not be able to keep the Ring from Sauron. He will find him, and he will kill him.”

“I have more hope.”

“Hope? What a foolish word. Hope. Sauron has already resurrected the nine. They are on their way to kill the Shire.”

“The nine? How do you know this?”

“I have seen it.”

“You still fool around with that Palantir? After all of our warnings? It is too dangerous! You do not know who may be watching!”

“I know who is watching,” Saruman replied.

Gandalf stopped walking. “Yes, I thought so. How long have you been aligned with him?”

“That does not matter. What matters now is whether or not you will join us.”

“Join you?”

“Yes. Gandalf, there is no defeating Sauron. It is either death, or join him.”

“Then I choose death.”

Saruman looked at Gandalf incredulously. “I had not expected such an answer from you, my friend.”

“Then you do not know me at all.”

“Death it is, then.” Saruman replied, suddenly striking Gandalf with a blast of magic from his staff. Gandalf had been expecting such an attack and quickly blocked it. But Saruman was relentless and eventually Gandalf had to admit defeat. Saruman locked him up on the very top of Orthanc. From there, Gandalf watched as the weeks went by and the world below him changed. Orcs began to swarm around the valley below Orthanc. The trees were cut down. Great caverns were carved into the ground. It was a wretched sight.

 

Pedir watched the sun setting, the sky turning orange and yellow and gold. He sighed, leaning against the lodge at Sarn Ford. Sunsets would never get old.

“Are you well, father?” Elenion asked, leaning out the door.

“Yes.”

“Supper is ready.”

Pedir turned away from the sunset and entered the lodge. Iorlas was filling up a plate of food for himself and Elenion had just grabbed a plate of his own.

“Who’s on watch tonight?” Harunir asked.

Pedir studied the group around him and then shrugged. “Draw straws. I don’t care.”

“I’ll take the first watch,” Elenion offered.

Soon after the meal, Iorlas went to bed. Harunir and Pedir sat by the fireside talking. Elenion made sure he had his sword and his bow and then he went outside and sat on the ground, leaning against the side of the lodge. He lit his pipe and watched darkness creep over the land and all the stars begin to shine brightly in the heavens.

It was summer, so he did not expect to be cold. But as the minutes passed, Elenion began to shiver. It was cold. An unnatural cold.

Elenion got to his feet, staring around him. Something was not right.

Then came an unearthly high-pitched scream. Pedir and Harunir came running out of the lodge just as three horses with riders cloaked in black came galloping up to Sarn Ford.

“Who goes there?” Pedir asked.

He was answered by another unearthly scream.

Then three more of the riders joined the first group and they charge the three men. With swords drawn, the Rangers ready themselves for the fight of their lives.

 

After so long exposed to the wind and rain atop Orthanc, Gandalf was finally able to catch a moth that flutter by one afternoon. He whispered softly to it, sending it for Gwaihir lord of the Eagles in the hopes of a rescue. He was not disappointed.

It was not many days before Gwaihir appeared, scooping Gandalf off the top of Orthanc in the middle of the night. The orcs down in the valley saw him and shot a few arrows, but they did not reach the Eagle.

“Where to, old friend?” Gwaihir asked.

“Rohan, if you please.”

“As you wish.”

Gwaihir flew Gandalf over the plains of Rohan and close to Edoras, though far enough away to not cause a scene.

“Here I shall leave you, old friend. Safe be your journeys!”

“Thank you, Gwaihir. If you would be so kind as to take a message to Radagast the Brown? Tell him my suspicions were true. Saruman has indeed joined forces with Sauron.”

“It is grave news I bear.”

“Yes, it is. Fare well, my old friend.”

Gwaihir left the ground in a flurry of wings and was soon out of sight. Gandalf leaned heavily upon his staff which he had retrieved from Orthanc before his rescue. Saruman was not as clever as he thought he was. It was only a matter of time before Gandalf had been able to counter the spells on the trap door that kept him on top of the tower. Once he was able to enter Orthanc he went straight to Saruman’s office to retrieve his stolen staff and then returned to the top of the tower to await the arrival of Gwaihir. And now he was slowly making his way toward the gates of Edoras. Theoden needed to be warned of the danger Sarumen presented now that he was aligned with Sauron.

 

Hamfast Gamgee sighed as he slowly walked toward Bagshot Row. It been days now, since Sam had disappeared, along with the other guests at Bag-End. Gone. Without a word to anyone. Not even a note for his old Gaffer or a letter to his sweetheart Rosie. Not that Rosie and Sam were allowed to court yet, no sir. Hamfast wasn’t about to let his son, still in his tweens, do such a thing. But there was no denying the attraction between them.

But what was the use in thinking about that? Sam was gone, to who knew where? It was exactly like old Bilbo, except that Bilbo had gone alone and Frodo had dragged a whole party of respectable hobbits off into the wilderness or wherever the devil he had gone. It was not natural. It wasn’t how it was supposed to be. It was…

It was freezing.

The Gaffer pulled his cloak more tightly about him. “Awful cold for a summer night,” he mused aloud.

There was a hiss behind him and quickly spun around, raising his lantern to see along the dark road. “Who’s there? What do you want? I ain’t afraid of you!”

“Baggins,” a creeky voice hissed. “Baggins.”

“Mr. Baggins isn’t at home. You’ll have to come back in the morning, or more likely in a year or so. When those Baggins leave the Shire and run off on adventures, there’s no telling where they go or when they come back.”

The voice hissed again and Hamfast Gamgee shivered from head to toe. That was not a natural voice. What was happening to this world? Where had the sanity gone?

Suddenly a tall horse galloped passed Hamfast, with a rider cloaked in black riding it. It turned towards him as it passed him and Hamfast was almost certain there had been no face where there ought to have been one.

“Pull yourself together. Of course there was a face! Why wouldn’t there have been a face? Just one of the Big Folk passing through. Maybe an old friend of Bilbo’s. It’s no concern of ours.”

 

Chapter Text

Susan slumped against a tree and watched in silence as Peter built a fire. It was a cool evening. Darkness had fallen on the land, and it was even darker under the eve of the trees where Susan and her companions were now sitting. Aragorn had left them what seemed like ages ago to check on various outposts. He’d left them with his relative Nanor.

Uncle Nanor.

The thought troubled Susan. She had vaguely been aware that she had a missing aunt that no one in the family talked about. But when Lucy discovered the truth, Susan was more than a little disturbed. Why was here family so plagued by other worlds? And yes, plagued was the perfect description in Susan’s mind. They could never be left alone to live their lives in peace. Always had to be whisked away to one world or another. And apparently it wasn't just her and her siblings, as she’d always thought. Instead, it ran in the family. But why? It wasn’t that Susan hadn’t enjoyed her adventures in Narnia and Middle-Earth. But she was tired of them. It only ever ended in heartbreak. So why couldn’t they just not go in the first place? Why did she always have to be dragged into messes that she cared nothing about? And what about Lucy? Her sweet little sister who was becoming increasingly less exuberant with every adventure. And it wasn’t just the maturity of age, not to Susan’s mind. Susan was convinced that Lucy was slowly becoming depressed and that if she got ripped away from the world she loved so much again and again, it would slowly kill her. Why did Aslan torture them in this way? What was the purpose? Susan did not understand it at all.

And she understood Nanor even less.

He had been remarkably curious about their family, his wife’s nephews and neices. His nephews and nieces.

It was bad enough they had to live in both worlds, now they had actual family in Middle-Earth. Susan hated it. Hated having another connection to this place. She wanted to go home. To live in England. To be showered with compliments from all her suitors and to never go on another adventure. Ever.

Nanor seated himself beside her and began to nonchalantly sharpen his sword. Susan studied him. He was well over a hundred. But he was healthy and strong still. His hair was speckled with silver and there were many lines on his handsome face. But he did not look old. He could have passed for a middle-aged gentleman in England. After a time, he spoke. “I understand, you know.”

“You understand what?” Susan asked. Peter looked up from where he was building the fire.

“I was thrown into a world in which I did not belong. I didn’t want to be there. I wanted more than anything to be home again. I could not understand the purpose of being ripped away from my world.”

Susan didn’t respond.

Nanor continued, “But there is always a reason. Always. We may not understand it at the time, if ever. But there’s always a reason. And for me, that was Anne. If I hadn’t endured that separation from my world, I wouldn’t have had Anne. I wouldn’t have been given my two beautiful children and my wonderful grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

“I’m not getting married though,” Susan said. “So that isn’t my reason for being uprooted.”

“But there is a reason,” Nanor insisted. “Aslan knows what He is doing.”

Susan’s mind went back to the first time she had uttered a similar phrase. It had been a cold morning, the sun not yet risen. Her cheeks had been soaked with tears, her head pounding with a massive headache. And there had been Aslan, lying lifeless on the Stone Table. Lucy had been beside herself with grief. And all Susan could think to say to comfort her was, ‘he must have known what he was doing.’

Did she still believe that though?

Hardly.

 

 

Lucy hummed softly as she folded another dress and stuffed it in the bag on her bed. The tan-colored bag stood out sharply against the white cover-spread dotted with delicate pink flowers. Lucy turned from her bag and surveyed her room, her mind going over the list of things she had already packed.

“Are you ready, Lucy?” Legolas poked his head inside her door.

“I think so.”

“The Dwarves have arrived. We’ll be leaving within the hour.”

“Alright. I’ll be right down.”

Legolas disappeared again and Lucy buckled her bag closed. She swung it over her shoulder along with her bow and quiver. Her sword was already strapped to her side along with her dagger. They had received word from Radagast that Saruman was possibly aligning himself with Sauron and that Lord Elrond was gathering delegations from around the world to meet in Rivendell to discuss the growing darkness of the world. Legolas was going for Mirkwood, and Lucy had decided to tag along. She didn’t know which dwarves were going from Erebor. She had yet to return to Erebor since her arrival in Middle-Earth. She had intended to, so many times. Legolas had offered to take her there himself. But somehow she always found an excuse not to. Why, she could not say. She did not fully understand herself sometimes. She loved Erebor and its people, after all. What was she afraid of? At any rate, it was too late now. She was bound for Rivendell.

Satisfied that she had everything she needed, Lucy traversed the familiar halls of the Elven King and made her way down toward the front gate. She could see Legolas standing there, talking animatedly with a young Elf maiden with fiery red hair.

“Tauriel!” Lucy broke into a sprint. Tauriel turned from Legolas and threw open her arms. The two women embraced and then Tauriel stepped back and studied Lucy.

“You have not aged at all.”

“Neither have you,” Lucy laughed. “Though that is to be expected.”

Tauriel pulled Lucy forward and gestured toward the gathered Dwarves. “Lucy, you remember my sons, Thorin Alyon and Fili Arthion?”

“Of course I remember them!” Lucy hugged them both. They were much older than last she’d seen them. Thorin had only been four years old when she left Middle-Earth and Fili had been even younger. Now they were both grown. Thorin Alyon had dark hair, like his father’s (not as dark as his namesakes had been, Lucy noted). He had his mother’s green eyes. His face was clean-shaven and smooth, highly unusual for a Dwarf, and his features were softer than the typical Dwarves' somehow. Lucy surmised that it must be the Elf blood in his veins. He smiled and bowed to her but said nothing. Fili Arthion had inherited his mother’s fiery red hair as well as her green eyes. But his face was more angular than hers would ever be, and in that he looked much more like a Dwarf than his brother. He also had the beginnings of a scruffy little beard.

“Hi,” he grinned. “I’ve heard all about you! Not just from the old legends and histories of Middle-Earth, although you do show up there plenty. But mostly from family history.”

Lucy smiled. “Well you should not believe half of what you hear.”

Fili Arthion laughed. “Father said that is what you would say. Exactly that. I guess he knows you well.”

“Apparently.” Lucy turned to Tauriel, still smiling. “How is Kili?”

“He is well,” Tauriel said cheerfully. “He wanted to go to Rivendell himself but we could hardly both up and abandon our kingdom. Especially since our Stewards, Balin and Ori, have been absent for so many years rebuilding Moria. Someone with sense had to stay behind and keep things in order.”

“Are you suggesting Kili has sense?” Lucy teased. “That is hardly how I remember him.”

“Yes,” Tauriel laughed. “but it has been many years, Lucy. He’s a mature grown-up now.”

Thorin Alyon caught Lucy’s eye and gestured to the other Dwarf who was standing a little further back from the group. “This is Gimli, Gloin’s son.”

“Of course! I remember you too.”

Gimli bowed. “I remember you as well, my lady, from when you lived in the Blue Mountains.”

“Which time?” Fili Arthion asked. “She’s lived there more than once.”

Gimli rolled his eyes at the prince and Tauriel laughed. Lucy had the feeling that she had missed something, some family secret that was amusing to those who knew what was going on and not to anyone else.

“Where is the delegation from Dale?” Lucy asked.

“They haven’t arrived,” Legolas said.

“Did they not travel with you?” Lucy asked Tauriel.

“Yes, they did for much of our trip. But they lagged behind yesterday. Enjoying the sights of Mirkwood, I believe.”

“Not much to see these days,” Fili Arthion said with a grin. “Just dying trees and lots of spider webs.”

Legolas sighed. “That is very true, much as I would wish it were otherwise.”

“We will clean out the forest,” Tauriel said. “Kili and I have already been discussing it. But Sauron has taken precedence for now.”

While she was speaking, three humans entered the front gate and the guard pointed them in the direction of the gathered company. Lucy watched them approach and realized that she did not know any of them.

When they reached the gathered party, Tauriel introduced them. “Lucy, this is princess Kelda. She is the wife of Brand son of Bain son of Bard.” Here Tauriel gestured to one of the men, “And her brother Kell.”

Lucy curtsied to them and received bows and a curtsy in return.

“If this is everyone, then we must be off,” Legolas said. “We have far to go.”

 

 

Sam leaned over and sniffed the stew appreciatively. “I’ve almost got supper ready,” he informed his companions. They were camping along the road, still in the Shire. Twilight was falling, and it was a cool evening. Sam thought that as far as traveling went, this was a pleasant end to a good day.

Merry and Pippin came and sat on either side of him. Sam turned from the stew he’d been stirring and flipped over the sausages he had cooking on the skillet beside the stew pot. When he turned around to rummage in his pack for some more seasoning, Merry and Pippin snatched up a sausage each and then got up and nonchalantly walked away.

“Hey!” Sam scolded. “No eating til I’m finished. It isn’t perfect yet.”

“It’s perfect to me,” Merry said through a mouthful of sausage.

Eustace started laughing.

And then another sound filled the air. Different. High and beautiful. It was the most wonderful sound Sam had ever heard.

“Elves!” Frodo sat up from where he’d been lounging against a tree.

Sam turned toward him. “Here, in the Shire? Can we see them?”

Frodo was already on his feet. “Come on!”

As they crew got to their feet to follow him, Sam grabbed both Merry and Pippin by their tunics with one hand each. “Now don’t do anything stupid. These are Elves, after all.”

Merry and Pippin made eye contact and rolled their eyes together.

“Now why would he suspect us?” Merry laughed. “We’re saints.”

“You never said a truer word,” Pippin replied.

Sam sighed and let them go and followed Frodo, Eustace, and Jill over the gentle hill on the right side of the road. From the top they could see in the distance, some hundred or so yards away, a long line of Elves. They were all dressed in long silver robes and there was an ethereal light that shimmered around them and along the ground.

“Where are they off to at this hour?” Pippin asked.

“They are heading for the Grey Havens,” Frodo said. “They’re leaving Middle-Earth, never to return.”

Sam felt a mist beginning to cover his eyes. He’d always liked the idea of Elves. Loved them the most in all the old stories. And here were Elves, Elves that were leaving Middle-Earth for good. And it made him sad.

They all watched the Elves in silence for a while. And then Merry threw himself onto the grassy floor beneath them. “This is all too serious. When does the fun begin?”

“Come on,” Jill laughed. “Let’s go eat supper and then get some sleep. We’ve got a great deal of traveling left to do.

Merry got to his feet and they all turned to trudge back down the hill to where they could still see Sam’s fire crackling merrily.

“Sausage is probably burned,” Sam said forlornly.

“Wait!” Eustace suddenly hissed. Everyone turned to him in surprise. He was walking backward up the hill, his eyes on the road, not straight in front to the camp, but off to the left side. They all followed his gaze. There was something there, on the road. It was some distance from them and seemed to be hovering along the ground like smoke.

“I feel sick,” Pippin whispered. “And cold.”

“Whatever that is can’t be good,” Jill said. “Come on everyone, back over the hill. Quietly!”

They all picked up their pace and were over the hill and going down the other side in no time.

“The closer we are to those Elves, the less likely that creature will come after us,” Jill said.

That seemed logical to everyone in the group, so they followed Jill as she moved stealthily through the trees between them and the Elves who were still singing and walking along quite peacefully.

Their song faltered, however, when a horrifying screech filled the air. Pippin and Sam covered their ears and scrunched their eyes closed. Frodo felt a sharp pain pierce his chest where the ring was resting against him. It was in his front pocket, and there were several layers of clothing between it and his skin, but the pain still had him crying out.

Eustace clamped a hand over his mouth and quickly motioned to the others to be quiet. Merry grabbed Pippin and pulled him forward and Jill did the same was Sam.

“Come on!”

They quickened their pace. The Elves had begun singing again, but it was a different song. They had also noticed the travelers and were making their way towards them.

Frodo glanced over his shoulder and saw the creature standing there. It looked just a like a man, with a black cloak flowing about it. In the gathering darkness, it was almost impossible to see and Frodo could not make out a face. It watched their approach to the Elves for a moment, let out another unearthly scream, and then disappeared.

When they reached the Elves they were soon surrounded by the group. Sam stared around him in wonder and delight, the horror of the creature on the road forgotten.

One of the Elves stepped forward and addressed them. “Frodo Baggins and his companions, I presume? I am Gildor. Lord Elrond and Mirthandir informed us of your journey. Whatever that creature was who was following you was obviously of Sauron’s making. Stay with us tonight. We will ensure your safety.”

“Can you travel with us to Rivendell?” Sam asked hopefully.

“Alas, we are on our way to the Grey Havens,” Gildor replied. “But we will do what we can to ensure your safe passage out of the Shire.”

“Have you seen Gandalf?” Frodo asked.

“Not for a long time. But he has sent messages to Lord Elrond. You must not tarry on your journey, Frodo. There is much that must be done.”

 

 

Gandalf approached the outpost at Sarn Ford warily. The lodge was gone. In its place was only charred wood and ashes. He hadn’t received word that Sarn Ford had been attacked, but he had been traveling a great deal of late.

As he neared the remains of the lodge, he noticed the first body. Nearly unrecognizable from the slashes to its face. But Gandalf judged from the clothing and the build of the Ranger that it was Pedir. Nearby lay Iorlas.

Gandalf sighed. He closed his eyes and mourned silently for all who had fallen here. And then he set to work burying them. When that was finished he studied the area surrounding the burned lodge. He felt the air and tested a few spells. Yes. This was definitely the Nazgul’s work. They were in the Shire. He could only hope that Frodo was not. At any rate, he needed to find the Nazgul and give them a distraction to hunt so they would leave Frodo alone long enough for him to reach Bree and Aragorn. Gandalf set off at a brisk pace with his features set in a grim expression. Up to this point, things had not gone exactly according to plan. He could not help but worry what the outcome of all of this was going to be.

 

Chapter Text

 Elenion stumbled along the well-kept path, his vision blurred. His left leg was numb to the point that he hardly felt his foot hitting the ground. But he distinctly felt the sharp pain in this thigh. Piercing. Cold. Completely on fire. Breathing heavily, he continued to stumble down the path.

The narrow bridge came in sight. Elenion had the presence of mind to slow his steps. He really didn’t feel like taking a fall down into the rushing waters below.

“Almost there,” he told himself through gritted teeth. Surely by now someone in the Hidden Valley had noticed his presence. He certainly hoped so. He wasn’t sure he could go much farther.

The fire in his thigh flared up suddenly. Elenion hadn’t been aware that it could hurt anymore than it already did. He fell to his knees, gasping.

One thought was in his mind, just one.

Get to Elrond.

His mind was clouding over. Freezing over was a more apt description. Elenion struggled forward on hands and knees. He was on the narrow bridge now, his hands garnering scrapes as he dragged himself over the rough stone.

Every breath was becoming harder. He was getting light-headed. Elenion stopped moving and lowered himself to the bridge, panting. He tried to take a deep breath and failed, pain shooting across his lungs.

“Elenion!”

Elenion was only barely aware of the voice calling to him, the hands that were now touching his side, his leg.

Everything was fading. His senses seemed to have shut off as the world faded from existence. All that was left was the stabbing pain in his thigh.

 

 

Jill struggled to see through the rain as she and her companions sloshed through the mud. They were nearly to Bree, she could see blurry lights shimmering in the darkness through the sheen of water in her eyes. Beside her, Pippin stumbled and she reached out a hand to steady the hobbit.

“We’re nearly there,” Sam said cheerfully to the group as they sloshed along the road.

“Has anyone seen the dark rider?” Frodo asked in response.

“Not today,” Eustace said. “Maybe the rain is throwing him off our trail.”

The creature of darkness had been following them since they left the Elves. But other than sending cold shivers down there back it did nothing but follow them. Whatever blessings or spells that Gildor had laid on them appeared to be working so far.

When they reached Bree, they wearily moved toward the shut gate, Frodo knocked and then they waited, shivering in the cold rain.

A hatch opened in the door and a wrinkled face surrounded by stingy, wet, grey hair appeared. “Who is it? What do you want?”

“Just travelers, passing through,” Eustace said.

“What business have you in these parts?” the man said, eyes the hobbits.

“Our business is not yours,” Frodo said.

“We’re soaking wet,” Jill added. “Please just let us into the town. We just want to find a dry place to spend the night, that’s all.”

“Alright, alright,” the gatekeeper reluctantly opened the gate. “I have to ask questions, you know. There’s strange folks about. Never can be too careful.”

The group tramped through the gate.

“Where might we find the Prancing Pony?” Jill asked.

The gatekeeper gave them directions and then they were sloshing through the muddy streets of Bree in search of the inn.

 

 

Gandalf leaned against a tree and closed his eyes. They were close. Three of them, to be exact.

He’d been tracking the Nazgul for several days, hoping to catch up to them and distract them from Frodo and his companions. As of yet, he had not achieved his goal. He was almost out of the Shire now. And they were there, on the road yet still some miles ahead of him. He needed to catch them before they reached Bree, because that was where he’d sent Frodo and that was precisely where he did not want the Nazgul to go.

Straightening, Gandalf sighed. “I’m getting too old for this,” he grunted as he determinedly marched forward. He would undoubtedly overtake the three Nazgul in front of him by night fall and then he would give them a merry chase. Where the other six were, he was not sure. And that was worrisome.

 

 

When Nanor, Peter, and Susan arrived in Rivendell, no one came to greet them. There appeared to be a hush over the whole valley as though it was waiting for something.

“It’s unnaturally quiet,” Nanor commented. “I can’t hear any singing or laughter.”

“What is there to sing or laugh about these days anyway?” Susan asked.

“The Elves always manage to find something,” Nanor replied.

They made their way into the outer courtyard of the city. As they walked across the pavement, their footsteps the only sound to be heard, Susan sighed. “This is too quiet.”

Suddenly they heard pounding feet and the threesome turned in unison to see an Elf barreling down a nearby staircase.

“Nanor! You have returned!”

“What news do you bring? The valley is so hushed, our hearts are heavy,” Nanor said.

“Your grandson, Elenion, returned some days ago with news.”

“Bad news?” Peter surmised.

“Very grave news,” the Elf replied. “Sarn Ford was attacked by the Nine Riders.”

“The Nazgul?” Nanor gasped, his face suddenly ashen. “My son-in-law was there, at Sarn Ford!”

The Elf sighed, his eyes sad. “We received word from Gandalf; the only survivor of the attack was Elenion.”

Nanor closed his eyes, heart pounding and a head ache blooming behind his eyes. Pedir. Dead?! It could not be possible! What would his daughter do? His sweet Caliel? She would be devastated!

"There is more, I am afraid."

Nanor opened his eyes, his heart feeling as though a fist were squeezing shut around it and it was going to stop beating at any moment.

"Your son, Harunir, was there as well. He also was killed by the Nazgul."

Nanor's vision blurred with tears. He swayed slightly and Peter reached out to hold him upright. 

“Where is Elenion?” Nanor asked. “I must see him.”

“He is recovering. He had been stabbed by a morgul blade. He is in the healing rooms.”

“And my daughter, Caliel?”

“She is with her son. Your great-grandchildren are there as well.”

“Which room?” Nanor asked desperately.

The Elf gave him directions and Nanor set off at a run. Peter followed him at the same pace, but Susan lagged behind. Within a few minutes, she decided not to follow him and went to find an available bed instead. After all, they’d had a long journey and she was tired.

When Nanor entered the room where his grandson was being kept, he stopped in the doorway, his heart in his throat. His daughter Caliel, still as beautiful as ever, was leaning over the bed where her son lay. Her eyes were red with tears, her face paler than usual. But there was her ever present smile as she spoke softly to Elenion. Elwien was sitting on the other side of her father’s bed, watching with an unreadable expression on her face. Haliel was sitting on the floor nearby, with her arms around her sister Nengelien.

When Nengelien saw Nanor in the doorway she leapt up and ran into his arms. He held her close. Caliel looked to him and her eyes brimmed with tears once more.

“Father...”

“I know, child,” Nanor held his daughter’s gaze even as he stroked his great-granddaughter’s back. “I know.”

Peter, who had been standing in the doorway, slowly backed out of the room. He was related to this family. He knew them fairly well. But not that well. This was too private, too personal. He was intruding. With a sigh, he went in search of Lord Elrond. Something needed to be done about the Nazgul.

 

 

Lucy watched a red bird flit across the path in front of them and smiled. It was a pleasant evening. They were approaching the foothills of the Misty Mountains, which they would soon cross. The shadows cast by said mountains were long and night was coming on fast. But for now, it was still pleasant evening. A cheerful warmth was still hanging in the air, birds still singing, the stars just beginning to twinkle here and there in the darkening sky.

“You are cheerful today,” Fili Arthion commented. “It is a lovely day, so I can’t blame you.”

“Isn’t it though?”

Fili Arthion was walking beside Lucy, behind them was everyone else except for Legolas who was a few yards in front of them leading the way.

“I’ve never traveled so far from Erebor,” Fili continued with a twinkle in his eyes. “How do you think I’m doing so far? Coping with all the new experience?”

Lucy rolled her eyes. “We haven’t done anything very exciting yet, so I can hardly answer that question. But in general you’ve managed to deal with the sleeping out of doors and less than perfect rations very well. But then, you are a Dwarf, so that is to be expected.”

“Is that fair?” Fili laughed. “We aren’t all the same, we Dwarves.”

“Oh I know. I wasn’t meaning to put you all in one little box. But as a rule, your race do tend to deal with sleeping on the hard ground every night rather easier than other races.”

Fili shrugged. His green eyes were alight with mischief and grinned at Lucy.

“I’m almost afraid to ask what is going on in that mind of yours.”

“Nothing too devious,” he replied with a grin.

“You are too much like your father for me to trust you,” Lucy laughed.

“I was just thinking...it would be fun to have some laughs in Rivendell, now wouldn’t it?”

“I absolutely forbid you from doing anything stupid.”

Fili grinned. “I wasn’t thinking about doing something stupid. Just...entertaining.”

“I don’t want to know.”

“Then I won’t tell you. That way you can plead ignorance and you won’t be found guilty when my plans go awry.”

“Are you intending for your schemes to go awry?”

“No. But it does happen sometimes. More often than not, actually.”

“Fili, please don’t cause too much of a ruckus in Rivendell.”

“No promises.”

Lucy sighed, but she couldn’t help but laugh as well. “Just don’t break anything or offend anyone.”

“Both of those things are what I’ll label as collateral damage. Sometimes it cannot be helped. But I’ll try not to do anything too drastic.”

“I would appreciate that. We are going to Rivendell to discuss how to defeat the darkness that is taking over Middle-Earth, not to be hooligans and get thrown out.”

Fili laughed. “You would never get thrown out of anywhere. And besides, because this is such a serious mission, I think my bringing some levity to the situation will be just the thing! I’ll be helping; boosting morale.”

“We’ll see about that.”

 

 

Frodo wrapped his fingers around his mug of ale, relishing the warmth of the cup and letting it seep into his fingers. He closed his eyes. He could almost hear that little whisper, the little voice that sometimes plagued his mind. He was convinced it had something to do with the Ring, so he tried to ignore it.

“Well we’re dry now, at any rate,” Sam said cheerfully. “And maybe Mr. Gandalf isn’t ‘ere like he said he’d be. That’s no bother. He’ll show up.”

Jill smiled at Sam. “I’m sure he will.”

“In the meantime, I suppose we’ll just have to stay here for a bit,” Eustace said.

“What happens if Gandalf doesn’t show?” Pippin asked. “Do we just head back to the Shire?”

“Head back to the Shire?” Merry asked incredulously. “With that creature following us?”

“He hasn’t bothered us yet,” Pippin pointed out.

“The Shire would not be a safe place,” a man said, approaching the table. He was tall, and his clothes were worn out and a bit tattered in places. He kept his hood over his head and shading his face so they could not tell who it was.

“It isn’t kind to eavesdrop,” Pippin said.

“No, it is not,” the stranger agreed. He leaned against the table, lowering his head close to Jill’s and whispered something. Jill’s face lit up. The stranger walked away, toward a staircase, disappearing up them.

“Come on,” Jill said.

“Where to?” Merry asked.

“After our friend of course,” Jill said, gesturing toward where the stranger had gone.

“Friend?” Eustace asked.

“You’ll see when we get to his room,” Jill replied.

They all followed her with some hesitancy. When they made it to the top of the creaky stairs, the stranger was there waiting for them. He led them down the hall to his own room, opening the door and letting them pass through. He stepped into the room last of all and closed the door behind him. It was then that he pulled down his hood and smiled at them.

“Aragorn!” Eustace exclaimed. “Good gracious, what was all the secrecy for?”

“Secrecy is vital, my young friend,” Aragorn replied. “Especially now that the darkness covers the lands.”

“Where’s Gandalf?” Jill asked.

“That, I do not know. But he asked me to wait on you here, so here I am. We need to go to Rivendell and we need to leave tonight.”

“What’s the hurry,” Pippin asked.

“The creature following you,” Aragorn replied.

“But the Elves took care of that,” Merry said. “He hasn’t touched us.”

“But their spells are wearing off,” Aragorn replied. “And soon, very soon, you will be in grave danger. Do you know what that creature is, young hobbit? It’s one of the Nazgul. The living dead. Horrors.” Aragorn shuddered. “You would not long survive an encounter with a Nazgul.”

“We haven’t died yet,” Frodo said.

“And you are very lucky,” Aragorn said. “But that Ring, Frodo, will draw all the Nine to you. No spell can hold them off forever.”

“What do we do?” Eustace asked.

“We go to Rivendell,” Aragorn replied. “And we go now.”

“It’s still raining,” Sam pointed out.

“That is a discomfort that must be borne,” Aragorn replied. “We have not time to wait out the rain. The Nazgul are on their way here even now.”

 

 

Gandalf warily approached Bree. It was early morning, the sun not yet risen. The rains of last night had turned the road to a muddy slush that was now staining his grey robes. As he approached the gate, he noticed immediately that it was knocked over, lying flat in the road. With a sigh, he crept forward in the stillness of the cool, grey morning. Without the sun or moon, the streets were very dark indeed, lit only occasionally by the light burning in one window or another.

A piercing scream, higher than any voice ought to be able to reach, echoed through the street. Then a second, and a third.

Well, he’d found his Nazgul.

And they had apparently not found what they were looking for, judging by their frustrated screams. That was good. It meant Frodo wasn’t here. Aragorn had done his duty.

Steeling himself for what was to come, Gandalf marched resolutely toward the screams. Someone had to deal with these Nazgul. Might as well be him.

 

Chapter Text

“So this is Rivendell,” Brand said, surveying the valley. They had stopped on the mountainside to enjoy the view.

“It looks exactly like the drawings,” Fili said. “But more beautiful.”

“We’ve still got quite a ways to go yet, haven’t we?” Kelda asked. “Hadn’t we better keep moving?”

Lucy surveyed their surroundings as they descended into the valley, taking in the setting sun’s warm glow, the green trees and bright flowers and the sparkling waterfalls and rivers that looked like shimmering liquid sapphires in the light of the setting sun. Fili was right; it was a beautiful valley. It didn’t matter how many times Lucy saw it, it still took her breath away.

As they neared the narrow bridge to enter into Rivendell two figures came to greet them. They were both tall with long, flowing dark hair that reached nearly to their waists, pale skin, and deep blue eyes. Lucy expected to see grins on their faces as the twins approached, but instead she saw very serious expressions.

“Welcome to Rivendell,” Elrohir said solemnly.

“Did you encounter any trouble along the way?” Elladan asked.

“Our journey was quiet,” Legolas replied. “We met only one small pack of orcs in the mountains, but they fled and did not attack us.”

“That is well,” Elrohir said.

Lucy couldn’t stand it any longer. “Why do you both look so serious? What is the matter?”

“Darkness is descending in Middle-Earth,” Elrohir replied.

“The One Ring has been found,” Elladan added.

“Sauron has risen again,” Elrohir said.

Elladan sighed. “The reason for our long faces today is for a more personal reason. Caliel’s son, Elenion, was stabbed by a morgul blade. Her husband Pedir was killed. Her brother, our brother, Harunir was killed as well. This was the work of the Nazgul and our hearts are heavy because of it.”

“Oh no,” Lucy sighed. “That is not good at all.”

“Come,” Elrohir said. “You must rest from your journey. Our father will wish to speak with you later.”

 

 

The common room of the Prancing Pony was empty and dark. There was not a soul in sight. One of the Nazgul let out another piercing shriek and the whole building seemed to tremble. They were upstairs.

Gandalf moved toward the stairs cautiously, his hand holding tightly to his staff. This would not be the first time he had dealt with Sauron’s most trusted servants, but he’d certainly never done it alone before.

The first step creaked as Gandalf stepped upon it. Gandalf paused, waiting. There was no sound from above. Casting a simple spell to silence the stairs, Gandalf proceeded up them.

At the landing he paused, listening. The Nazgul were two doors down, hissing at each other. They weren’t speaking, as far as Gandalf could tell.

Gandalf moved slowly down the hallway toward the door behind which he’d find the Nazgul. The door remained shut.

As Gandalf drew near the door, he became aware of a presence to his left. He swung around quickly, and with a crunch the knife intended for his back hit his staff and crumbled into a thousand pieces. The Nazgul shrieked in frustration and drew his sword. Gandalf raised his staff, his mind racing through all the spells he knew, trying to find an appropriate one to use. The door behind him opened and Gandalf instinctively ducked and watched as a blade sliced through the air where his head had been.

Gandalf used his staff to trip the Nazgul in the door way and slipped past him into the room. The hallway was too tight quarters to engage in a fight. Gandalf took in the room at a glance; the overturned beds, torn blankets, ripped pillows, the vanity’s broken mirror. There was also the third Nazgul, skulking in the corner.

Two of the hooded figures moved toward him, swords raised. Gandalf used his staff to block the blow of one, then with a flick of his wrist he sent a ball of white hot energy from the end of his staff toward the second attacker. The Nazgul was blown backward and straight through the wall. Gandalf made a mental note to fix that later.

The first Nazgul swung his sword again and Gandalf side stepped it, sending another little ball of energy, smaller this time, into the Nazgul’s chest. It shot backwards and hit the wall with a bang that reverberated around the room and through Gandalf’s bones. He was seriously getting too old for this nonsense.

Still, he had three of the Nazgul occupied for now. That gave Frodo some space. But where were the other six? That was the question, and Gandalf was more than a little nervous that he didn’t have an answer.

 

 

Caliel was alone, sitting in her favorite garden—if one could pick a favorite garden in Rivendell; they were all so beautiful and peaceful—watching a bright purple bird strutting across a branch. It’s wings shimmered in the light, almost sparkling. Caliel’s eyes were on the bird, but she was not paying much attention to it. When it flew off to a different tree, her eyes stayed on the branch where it had been. Those dark blue eyes were clouding over and soon a tear slipped from her lashes and traced a wet path down her cheek.

Lucy approached her slowly, not wanting to intrude. She quietly seated herself beside Caliel and just waited.

“He’s gone,” Caliel said softly after a time. “Just…gone.”

Lucy nodded in sympathy, although she wasn't sure which relative Caliel was referring to. “Hopefully in Aslan’s country, or whatever the Middle-Earth equivalent of that is.”

Caliel sighed. “But he’s not here.”

“I know. I am so sorry, Caliel. It is never easy, losing someone you love.”

“He was a good man, my Pedir. Strong and kind and funny. He was...he...” Caliel cleared her throat and turned her face away from Lucy.

Without hesitation Lucy wrapped her arm around her cousin. Caliel let her head drop to Lucy’s shoulder.

“Did it feel like this for you?” Caliel whispered.

“Do you mean the fist squeezing the life out of your heart or the constant ache in your throat or the never ending headaches from all of the what ifs running through your mind or the tears that never stop flowing?”

Caliel nodded against Lucy’s shoulder. “Yeah. All of that.”

Lucy sighed. “I am not going to tell you that this will get easier, Caliel. I won’t tell you that in time your wounds will heal. Not because it isn’t true. But when Thorin died, I was about ready to strangle every person that said that to me, and I’d rather not get strangled to death by my sweet cousin.”

Caliel laughed, a sad laugh but a laugh nonetheless.

“How is Elenion today?”

“He’s healing, but Elrond says that he’ll always bear the wound from the morgul blade. I think he blames himself for his father’s death.”

“There can’t have been anything he could have done. They were attacked by the Nazgul; Elenion is lucky to be alive.”

“I know, Lucy. But he did watch his father die. That will not be an easy thing to forget. And his Uncle too...Harunir...” Caliel took a shuddering breath and squeezed her eyes shut. It didn't help, the tears still began to slide down her cheeks. 

Elladan approached the stone bench where Lucy and Caliel were sitting. He paused some distance away, waiting to see if they would rather not be disturbed. Lucy noticed him and waved him over.

“What is the matter, Elladan?”

“Nothing is the matter, Lucy. But we do have another guest. A man of Gondor arrived a few minutes ago. He has been shown to a room where he may rest and eat. I thought you would like to know. Your brother and sister are speaking to him now.”

“Well if Peter and Susan are seeing to him, I’ll stay here. I can meet him later.”

“Very well,” Elladan moved forward and placed a comforting hand on Caliel’s shoulder. She reached up and placed her hand over his. “I am very sorry for your loss, sister. It pains me to see your gentle heart aching.”

“Thank you, Elladan. I’ll be alright, I promise.”

“It is okay to not be alright, Caliel. Your husband has died, your only brother has died, and your only son was gravely injured. You are allowed to be not alright.”

“I know. But this darkness is bigger than me or you and any of us. It’s not about my personal grief right now; it’s about saving Middle-Earth. So I will be alright until this darkness is passed, and then I will feel free to grieve to my heart’s content.”

 

 

It was late in the evening when Aragorn led his little group up the sides of the hill leading to an alcove where they could spend the night in relative safety.

“No fires again tonight,” He told them. “I’m going to scout out the land and see if any Nazgul are behind us. Be quiet and be safe. I will return soon.”

As soon as Aragorn disappeared into the night, Pippin sighed. “No fire. It’s cold out here! It’s been cold every night. But no fires. It’s not like those creatures can hurt us. The Elves gave us all those protection spells.”

“They don’t last forever,” Frodo replied.

“And if Aragorn is worried, you definitely should be too,” Jill added. “He knows what he is talking about. Trust me. I lived in the wild with him for several years.”

We lived with him,” Eustace corrected with a slight smile.

“I suppose we’ll have to have cold ham again for supper,” Sam sighed. “Sorry. But without a fire I can’t do much better than that.”

“Cold ham is fine, Sam,” Jill said.

“Speak for yourself,” Merry said, crossing his arms. “I want a good old home cooked meal with all the trimmings.”

“Where, pray tell, are you going to find that out here?” Eustace asked.

Merry smiled. “In my imagination, of course! And boy is it delicious.”

Pippin laughed, rather loudly.

“Hush!” Jill said. “We don’t want to attract attention.”

Pippin covered his mouth with his hand in mock horror, but Jill could see the grin behind that hand.

“Who’s gonna notice us out here?” Sam asked. “There’s no one for miles around.”

Following his statement they all heard the unmistakable cry of a Nazgul.

“Apparently he can find us out here,” Merry replied dryly.

“What do we do?” Pippin asked, genuinely concerned.

Jill drew her sword calmly. “We stay here. Get back in those shadows. And pull out your swords that Aragorn gave you.”

“I wish I knew how to use it,” Sam said, woefully staring at the blade in his hand.

“You’ll figure it out,” Eustace said. “No worries. Now back in the shadows.” He had his own sword drawn and he went to stand beside Jill at the edge of the outcropping while the hobbits disappeared into the shadows behind. “We should have thought to teach them.”

“It’s a little late now,” Jill sighed.

Looking down over the plains, it was difficult to see anything. The clouds were covering the moon and stars and night had fallen, leaving the world in darkness. It was easy to jump at any shadow that looked sinister, but there was no telling if any of those shadows were actually Nazgul.

Jill and Eustace stared into the darkness below them, trying to see in the non-existent light. They did not think to turn around and look at the hillside itself. Not until they heard the hobbits cry out.

Spinning on her heel, Jill noticed two hooded figures approaching the hobbits from the left. One was already among them and both Merry and Pippin were hacking away at it’s legs while easily ducking under the swing of it’s sword.

With a fierce cry Jill charged one of the approaching Nazgul and Eustace took the other. Her first stab was blocked, but she quickly recovered and swung again. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a fourth Nazgul joining the party and she wondered desperately where Aragorn was.

Then Sam cried out in anguish, “Mr. Frodo!”

Jill swung around and searched the hobbits frantically. There were only three. Where had Frodo gone? Surely he hadn’t put on the Ring?! The next moment Jill cried out in agony as a piercing sensation lit up her shoulder. It was at once both freezing cold and burning white hot. A similar cry was heard and then Frodo suddenly came back into view as he yanked off the ring.

Jill stumbled to her knees, all too aware that the Nazgul behind her was about to kill her. But the pain blooming in her shoulder was too much to bear.

There was a warrior’s yell that lifted Jill’s heart just before she blacked out.

Aragorn came charging into the fray swinging his sword and a torch as well. He deftly used both the sword and the torch to block unwelcome blades while setting the Nazgul’s clothes aflame. Within minutes, they had all disappeared in a flurry of flames and shrieks.

Aragorn knelt beside Jill, who was still passed out. He peeled back the shoulder of her dress to see her wound. With a sigh, he turned away and went to sit beside Frodo. Sam was holding onto one of Frodo’s hands and there were tears in his eyes.

“I don’t feel well,” Frodo commented.

“I’d imagine not,” Aragorn replied.

Frodo’s face was pale, not white like snow, but pale with a greenish hue. Jill’s face had taken on a similar coloring. Frodo’s eyes began to glaze over as he lost focus on reality.

“We need to go, now,” Aragorn said, picking up Frodo and handing him to Eustace. “I cannot heal these wounds. They need Elven medicine. We need to get to Rivendell. Now.”

Aragorn gently lifted Jill into his arms and turned to the hobbits. “Quickly.”

Merry, Pippin, and Sam quickly gathered all the packs and supplies that had been set down when they first arrived and hurried after Eustace and Aragorn.

“Will they be alright?” Pippin asked.

“I don’t know, Pippin,” Aragorn replied. “I just don’t know.”

 

 

Glorfindel leaned again the railing at the edge of the balcony leading off of his apartments. He could see Caliel from here, wandering aimlessly through a garden. She slowed down as she neared a fountain and let her hand rest on the surface of the water. She tried so hard to be strong and to focus on the task ahead of them; destroying the Ring. But she was so obviously hurting and it hurt Glorfindel to see it. She was so young. Over eighty years old, of course, but still so young. He wished he could have saved her from this pain somehow.

A yellow bird came flitting into his view. Glorfindel called out to it in its own familiar warble and reached out his hand. It came and rested on his palm, chirruping fiercely. Glorfindel leaned closer. Was it saying what he thought it was saying?

Glorfindel abruptly dropped the little bird—who angrily whipped out its wings and flew away—and marched toward the library where he’d last seen Elrond.

“My lord!” Glorfindel called out as he entered.

“What is it, old friend?” Elrond looked up from the book he was reading.

“There are four Nazgul chasing Frodo and his companions.”

“You are sure?”

“As sure as the yellow bird who told me this news. I would like to offer myself to go and find Aragorn and Frodo and the others. If there are Nazgul behind them, then I can easily deal with them.”

“You are as arrogant as ever when it comes to your abilities.”

“Not arrogant, confident. But however that may be, this is an emergency. Do I have you permission to go and find them?”

“The travelers or the Nazgul? Yes, you may go. You need hardly ask me, Glorfindel. You are your own person. If you think it is necessary to assist in this manner, then by all means, go.”

Glorfindel bowed. “I will return with guests for you house, Elrond.”

“Just see to it that you do return, Glorfindel.”

As Glorfindel set out from Rivendell he breathed long and slow deep breaths, relishing the moment. Nazgul. Now there was a real challenge. It had been so long since Glorfindel could say he’d met his match, and he did so love a challenge. Then, too, the Nazgul had recently killed a friend of his and wounded another almost fatally. Glorfindel wrapped his long fingers around his sword hilt, lengthening his stride. It had been too many years since he’d last had anything close to what could be called a challenge.

This was going to be fun.

 

 

Edmund had stayed in Mirkwood when Lucy left, but only long enough to be sure that there was no immediate danger posed for Mirkwood. When no threat arrived in the weeks following Lucy’s departure, Edmund decided it was time to follow his sister to Rivendell. So he packed up his bags, bid farewell to Thranduil, and headed for the Hidden Valley.

 

 

As he approached the stream in front of him, the Hoarwell, Glorfindel’s eye darted from left to right, searching. Not fifty yards to his left, he saw what he was looking for. Two Nazgul, bending low to the ground. Glorfindel turned in their direction and marched straight for them. There was hardly any need for stealth. He was going to be facing them in battle eventually.

As he neared, he could hear them sniffing loudly which led Glorfindel to believe they were looking for something or someone. Presumably Frodo and Ring.

They turned suddenly, having either heard or caught sight of Glorfindel’s approach. They both let out a shrill scream and drew their swords. Glorfindel grinned and drew his own sword. His hand on the hilt of his sword was beginning to glow brightly and he knew the rest of his skin was probably doing the same.

The Nazgul stared at him as he approached and he was almost certain that they shuddered. When they shrieked and ran a second later, he was convinced of it.

Seriously? One glowing Elf is all it takes to scare the Nazgul? Pathetic.

Glorfindel shook his head. He wasn’t really in the mood to chase down cowardly creatures of darkness, but he needed to keep track of them so they didn’t go bother Frodo or anyone else, so a chase it would have to be.

 

 

As night began to fall Aragorn led his companions deep into the trollshaws to—hopefully—throw off the Nazgul. He had not intended to take them to the trolls themselves, but he was in a hurry and so his feet took to the familiar path almost without his knowing. He had spent many a night camped under those stone trolls in years past.

When they reached the clearing where the trolls were still standing exactly as they had frozen all those years ago, Sam gasped.

“Mr. Bilbo’s trolls!”

“That’s right, Sam,” Aragorn said. “Now I have a serious question. Do any of you know the athelas plant? I need it now to help slow the poisoning in Frodo and Jill’s wounds.”

Eustace and the hobbits looked to each other and shrugged.

“King’s foil?” Aragorn prompted.

Still no recognition.

“Never mind. Start a fire and keep Frodo and Jill close to it.”

“But won’t a fire attract the Nazgul?” Pippin asked worriedly.

“We’ll have to risk it. I don’t want either of our companions to succumb to the cold and become a wraith like our pursuers.”

“Is that what will happen?” Eustace asked, his face going pale.

Aragorn placed a firm hand on Eustace’s shoulder. “I won’t let it happen, Eustace. Now, I’m going to go find athelas. I will be back. Get a fire going and keep Frodo and Jill beside it.”

With that, Aragorn disappeared into the darkness.

Merry and Eustace built a fire beside Frodo and Jill. Both the invalids were pale, a paleness with a nasty green hue. Jill had started to foam slightly around the mouth. Eustace pulled out a hankerchief and gently wiped the foam away from her lips. Sam sat beside Frodo and took his frozen hand in his own. Frodo was wheezing heavily, as though every breath were impossible to take.

Sam looked at Eustace, tears in his eyes. “Do you think Aragorn will be able to stop this? He said it was beyond him.”

“He can slow it down at the very least,” Eustace replied. “and we’ll be in Rivendell soon. Lord Elrond will save them.”

Eustace spoke confidently, but as he looked into the still face of Jill, he doubted.

If there were ever a time for you to show up, Aslan, now would be it. Eustace sighed and glanced upwards, passed the stone arms of trolls and the branches of trees to the stars overhead.

Pippin sat with his legs curled up to his chest, his arms wrapped around his knees. Frodo was dying. Jill was dying. Worse than dying. They were going to turn into wraiths. What did a wraith look like? Would they start wearing big black hoods? Would they join the other wraiths and chase them? Pippin shuddered. He didn’t want to think about that. But how could he think about anything else with Frodo wheezing over there and looking like he was dying and Jill lying beside him already looking dead?

“I didn’t think adventures were like this,” Pippin sighed. “They were supposed to be fun. Not scary. Not...not this.” He gestured helplessly at Frodo and Jill.

Merry sat beside him. “I know, Pip. But just think. Someday, this will be a story like old Mr. Bilbo’s. I bet it was terrifying seeing Smaug, and fighting in that big battle. Scarier than the stories tell. But he made it alright. We will too.”

“I hope so,” Pippin replied, looking forlornly at Frodo. Frodo just continued to wheeze and gasp and look like death and didn’t appear to notice his friend’s concern.

“Do you think it’s possible to be a nice wraith?” Sam asked.

No one answered him.

 

Chapter Text

Gandalf listened to the steady clip-clop, clip-clop of his horse as he made his way down into the familiar valley. His heart was beating a similar tattoo on his rib cage. Clip-clop. Clip-clop.

The world was beginning to come apart at the seams. It was not apart yet, and Valar help him he would prevent it from ever coming fully apart. But there was only so much one old wizard could do. And it wasn’t enough. Several emotions raged within Gandalf’s soul as the city of Rivendell came into view, lights twinkling in a hundred windows, silvery songs drifted over sparkling waterfalls and fountains. They didn’t seem to touch Gandalf at all, but blew right over him. Inside, a war was raging.

Fear. Desperation. A strange sense of calm and peace that must have come have Iluvatar himself. But despite the peace that tried to steal over him, the fear came washing back like a mountainous wave. He was going to drown if he wasn’t careful.

Clip-clop. Clip-clop. Clip-clop.

He was on the narrow bridge now, nearing the inner courtyard. An involuntary sigh escaped his lips. This battle, not the one inside of him but the one waging outside in the world, it was only beginning. And what would that battle bring? Death. Destruction.

Hope.

That was what Gandalf wanted to believe. It would bring hope. The Ring would be destroyed, somehow, someway. Sauron would be defeated. Life would return to some normalcy. The world would be saved. The Hobbits could go on living in their cheery little world, oblivious. The Dwarves could mine their gold. The Humans build their kingdoms. The Elves retreat to Valinor. Everything would be as it was meant to be.

But Sauron had to be defeated first and that was what had Gandalf’s mind brimming with fear. He’d faced many dangers, many evils. But Sauron? Had he faced him? Yes. Had he lost? Yes. Embarrassingly so. Still, he’d always comforted himself, Sauron had been cast out in the end; with the help of Elrond and Galadriel and Saruman.

But now the darkness had been brought to light and Gandalf’s comfort was taken from him. Sauron hadn’t been cast out at all. He’d allowed them to believe that so he could build up Mordor in secret and then spring upon the world with a vengeance. He’d played them. And they had fallen for it.

Gandalf had fallen for it.

Another sigh rang in the air.

And then a cry of delight.

“Mithrandir!”

Gandalf’s grey eyes lifted upwards and he saw her. HOPE.

Or rather, Lucy. Lucy Pevensie taking the stone stairs two at a time to get down to him.

“We’ve been waiting for you! I have been so worried! The birds and so many other creatures of Radagast’s have been saying you were locked up and all sort of other terrifying things.”

Lucy was at the bottom of the steps now, and she was striding toward him. She wore a dark blue dress that draped across her lovely form in an attractive way, the skirts waving gently as she walked, like so many waves on the ocean. The only thing missing was the white cap of foam. Gandalf could clearly see the scars that marred her left arm and the one peeking out at her shoulder. Still, despite the scars, Lucy was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful creatures he'd ever laid eyes on. The light in her eyes probably had a lot to do with that sentiment.

Gandalf slowly dismounted. The next moment he found himself wrapped up in the embrace of Lucy.

“You seem tired. Come inside and get some sleep and some food, not necessarily in that order, and then we can talk.”

“Thank you, Lucy. Is Aragorn here?”

“Not yet, no.” Lucy took Gandalf’s staff from him and then wrapped her free hand around his fingers and pulled him gently toward the stairs. “Glorfindel went searching for him and the Hobbits. We’ve received word, or rather Glorfindel received word, that the Nazgul were chasing them.”

“Are they? I chased some of the Nazgul from Sarn Ford through the Shire to Bree. Three of them. Two were killed and one fled.”

“You were at Sarn Ford?”

Gandalf looked down into Lucy’s upturned face as they made their way up the stairs. There was deep sorrow in those eyes.

“No. I was not there at the precise moment that the Nazgul were. I arrived too late.” Gandalf let another sigh heave his shoulders. It didn’t release the tension he hoped it would. “I buried Pedir and the others.”

Lucy nodded, silent. Lost to her thoughts.

They had just reached the top of the stairs when Elrond’s sons approached them. “Ah, Lucy. You find Mithrandir before we did.”

“I saw him arriving. I was up on the high waterfall there,” Lucy waved her hand upwards and to the left. No on looked in that direction. They all knew Rivendell well enough to know which waterfall she was talking about and that there was a little plateau above it, the perfect perch to sit and watch the world or reflect on one’s problems. The twins had certainly spent their fair amount of time on that plateau.

“I will take your horse to the stables,” Elladan said. With a bow to Gandalf, he slowly made his way down the stairs.

Gandalf looked over his shoulder to watch and Lucy started giggling. “I completely forgot about the horse! We would have just left him standing there!”

“He could have found the stables on his own had he wanted to,” Gandalf replied. “But come. I must speak to Elrond.”

“Not tonight, or at least not yet,” Lucy replied. “Elrohir, have you informed your father of Mithrandir’s arrival?”

“No, but has no doubt discovered on his own.”

“Well go and tell him anyway, just to be sure. I’m going to make sure that this dear old wizard gets some food in his stomach and then takes a nap.”

“That is hardly necessary, Lucy,” Gandalf objected.

Lucy turned to him, her eyebrows raised, eyes sparkling with fire, daring him to defy her.

“Though I cannot deny that a little sleep does sound pleasant,” Gandalf conceded.

Lucy grinned and dragged Gandalf toward a guest room where he could stay while Elrohir went to speak to his father.

 

 

Glorfindel knelt, scouring the ground carefully. Yes, he was getting close. He could feel it. He could find no tracks, which probably meant that Aragorn and the Hobbits hadn’t made it this far, so he was headed in the right general direction. But even without any evidence, Glorfindel could feel it. He was close.

He could feel the presence. An evil presence.

Nazgul.

Squaring his tired shoulders, Glorfindel started moving again. He had chased those two Nazgul he’d found until they seem to evaporate into the air. Gone back to Mordor, perhaps? He did not know. But he was disappointed there had been no fight. Still the chase had managed to tire him. He was out of practice. He'd let himself get too comfortable, apparently. Lazy. His bones weren't used to all the action. Though honestly, it had not been that long since he'd seen action. Only seventy years or so.

As he walked briskly through the heather and fern, he could not help but notice the nipping cold that bothered his limbs. The weather was turning. Winter was soon going to be upon them.

He was within a hundred yards of the group when he first heard it. The gasping, wheezing that constituted breathing. The presence grew in his mind. Pure darkness fighting desperately to obliterate the light.

Someone had been stabbed by a morgul blade. Glorfindel knew it as sure as he knew his own name. He quickened his steps. Aragorn was a healer, but he wasn’t up to the task of a morgul wound, not yet.

When Glorfindel came striding into the clearing he scared Pippin almost out of his wits. In any case he leapt to his feet and stood sputtering while Merry drew his sword in surprise and Sam’s mouth gaped wide open. It was then that Glorfindel noticed the light bouncing off of the stone trolls and the faces of the Hobbits and he realized he was glowing more brightly than usual.

Trying to dim the light within him, which was an impossible task, Glorfindel strode quickly toward the two figures lying on the ground. He dropped to his knees beside Eustace and laid his long fingered hand on Jill’s forehead.

“I need athelas,” He said calmly.

“Aragorn went in search of some,” Eustace said. His voice was strained and his eyes never left Jill’s face.

Glorfindel closed his eyes and sent his mind searching. He soon found what he was looking for.

Estel. I’m here. Get back with the athelas, if you have any, as quickly as you can.

Glorfindel?! The relief and joy in Aragorn’s mind was almost palpable. Glorfindel indulged a slight smile, despite the desperate situation.

Hurry, my friend.

It wasn’t long before Aragorn came barreling into the clearing, athelas in hand. “It took forever to find! Thank Aslan you are here! I can’t do this alone.”

Glorfindel took the athelas from Aragorn’s outstretched hand. “Show me Jill’s wound.” Eustace dutifully complied, pealing back the shoulder of her dress. Glorfindel set his jaw and set about his work, applying the athelas and closing his eyes, feeling the power that surged through him, searching for the gentle healing touch he knew was buried somewhere in all that battle fury. He wasn’t a healer like Elrond, but he could do this much at least. Every bone in his ancient body tingled as the power surged through his being and into the wound, clearing the evil and darkness. He drained the wound of the poison of the morgul blade and then opened his eyes, rocking back on his heels.

He felt weak.

Glorfindel took a slow, deep breath. He couldn’t pass out, not from this little bit of healing. But that was the problem, wasn’t it? It wasn't a little healing. This was a morgul blade and it was nearly beyond him. But there was one more wound to cleanse.

“All I can do is clean the wounds of the poison. Elrond will have to do the rest.”

Aragorn nodded. “Cleaning the wound is more than I could have accomplished.”

Glorfindel quieted his mind, willing strength into his body as Sam opened Frodo’s tunic to reveal the wound on his chest. With a quick prayer to Aslan, the Valar and anyone else who might be listening to him, Glorfindel closed his eyes and hoped he would have the strength to clean one more evil wound before he passed out from exhaustion.

Almost before he was done the shrill cry of the Nazgul could be heard. For one moment, Glorfindel panicked. Everyone else did too, but their panic did not abate. They all stood, rigid, swords at the ready. But Glorfindel was already breathing steadily again. He could hear them; not just the shrill cries but the terror behind it. Two of their number were apparently dead, Glorfindel heard, listening to the shrill cries. They were terrified of pursuing their target because they sensed Glorfindel’s own presence but they were terrified of returning to their Master.

A small smile graced Glorfindel’s face as he finished with Frodo’s wound. “They will not follow us. They are too frightened.”

Glorfindel stood shakily to his feet. “Yet we are still in a hurry. We must get these two to Lord Elrond. But the gravest danger has passed. They will not turn into wraiths.”

Sam began to pack up the few supplies that had been brought out of his pack while the others hoisted their packs on their backs. Aragorn picked up Frodo and Eustace struggled to his feet with Jill in his arms. They began to walk, out of the clearing and away from the shrill cries of the Nazgul.

Glorfindel tripped over a root and sagged into the trunk of a tree. The bark bit in his hand and for the first time in a very long time, he winced in pain. Aragorn slowed his walk and glanced at his friend, and then his face went very pale.

“Glorfindel?”

Glorfindel’s vision was blurring. He tried to see through the haze, but it was no good. That healing stunt had been more than his poor body could handle.

“Here I go again,” Glorfindel breathed, imagining death to be upon him. He blacked out then and fell to the ground.

 

 

Lucy and Caliel were sitting on the side of one of the many fountains found in Rivendell. Caliel’s hand drifted on the surface of the clear water. Neither of them was speaking. From where they were sitting, Lucy could see the narrow bridge that led out of Rivendell. It was empty. She turned back toward Caliel and in so doing caught sight of the stranger from Gondor. He was standing by a window, several stories above them. Watching them.

Lucy smiled and lifted a hand in a wave. He seemed surprised to have been caught staring, and retreated from the window. His name was Boromir and he came from Gondor but much more than that Lucy had not yet been able to discover. She had been distracted by Caliel’s grief and Gandalf’s arrival.

“We have a friend,” Caliel said. When Lucy turned to her in question Caliel nodded her head in the opposite direction, over Lucy’s head. Lucy turned to see Legolas walked toward them.

Lucy smiled. “Come join us, Legolas!”

Legolas seated himself beside Lucy. “Only if I am not intruding.”

“You are not,” Caliel said. “We could do with some cheerful company.”

“I would imagine Lucy and yourself to be the two most cheerful beings in Middle-Earth. If you need cheering up you will have to look for it beyond this world.”

Lucy laughed. “There are plenty of other cheerful people besides ourselves.”

“Perhaps. But none quite reach the same degree of cheerful optimism as the two of you,” Legolas replied.

Caliel shook her head. Legelos noticed that there was more grey hair on that head than there had been when he had first arrived in Rivendell. Her grief was taking it’s toll it would seem.

“How is Elenion?” Legolas asked.

“Better,” Caliel replied. “But he still blames himself for his father’s death.”

“Gandalf blames himself as well,” Lucy added. “Honestly, the pair of them. Wallowing in what-ifs. Gandalf, at least, ought to know better.”

Legolas seemed about to reply, but he stopped, his brows furrowing. After a moment of silence, Lucy touched his arm. “Legolas?”

“Someone is coming.”

“Who?”

“I am not sure. But someone approaches.” Legolas looked toward the narrow bridge. “I do not know who it is but they are desperate. I feel we should meet them.”

Lucy was already standing. “Well come on then.”

The three of them traipsed toward the narrow bridge, Legolas still frowning, concentrating listening. Before they’d quite reached the narrow bridge, they could see who it was coming down the valley towards the bridge.

“Is that Eustace, and Aragorn?” Lucy squinted. “They’re carrying someone!”

“More than one someone,” Caliel added.

They quickened their pace, reaching one end of the narrow bridge as they other party reached the other end. They could see them all quite clearly now. Eustace struggling to walk for the weight in his arms, that weight being the still form of Jill. She looked like she was sleeping. Sleeping too soundly. Aragorn was also carrying someone, and that someone was an Elf.

Legolas gasped and then sprinted across the bridge.

“Glorfindel!” Caliel cried out, sprinting after Legolas.

Lucy noticed that three Hobbits were following Aragorn, also bearing a load. A fourth hobbit.

Why, it was Bilbo’s nephew, Frodo! What in the world had happened?

Aragorn and Eustace were talking at once, trying to explain everything to Legolas and Caliel. They were all headed back over the bridge towards Lucy.

“Fetch Elrond, quickly!” Legolas ordered Lucy sharply.

Lucy didn’t ask questions. She spun on her heel and ran.

 

Chapter Text

 Lucy was pacing in one of the hallways in the healing wing of Rivendell. Frodo, Glorfindel, and Jill had all been taken to separate rooms and were being ministered to by various healers. Lord Elrond had turned his attention to Frodo first, and then to Jill.

Lucy sighed and continued her pacing. Jill and Frodo had been stabbed by morgul blades. They would bear the same lifelong scar that Elenion would. And Glorfindel...according to Aragorn he’d nearly killed himself trying to preform a healing that was beyond his power. Caliel was with him, helping the healers if she could but willing to simply sit by his side when her assistance was unecessary. She was extremely worried for Glorfindel. Lucy was worried for all three injured parties. Aragorn was assisting the healers in Frodo’s room. Eustace was at Jill’s bedside and refused to be moved. Sam was with Frodo. Peter and Susan were in a room nearby with the remaining Hobbits trying to keep them calm.

Lucy sighed and continued her pacing. She could hear the Elves speaking softly to one another as they worked.

Legolas exited the room Peter, Susan, and the Hobbits were currently occupying. He said nothing, he simply caught hold of Lucy’s arm and led her to one of the many sofas along the wall in the wide hallway. Lucy reluctantly sat.

“You will do no one any good by wearing yourself out.”

“I was just thinking,” Lucy said glumly.

“You were worrying too much. Lord Elrond has said that Frodo and Jill are safe from death. Glorfindel, I have no doubt, will also be safe soon enough.”

“I was just wishing I could help. If I had my cordial, I could fix this. I could probably even save them all from having the wound that would never fully heal. The cordial could save them from that. If it wasn’t lost in Erebor’s Treasury.”

Legolas closed his eyes. He didn’t speak for a moment and when he did, he sounded rather depressed. “I am a fool.”

“Legolas!”

Legolas opened his eyes. “Lucy, I am sorry. It never even occurred to me.”

“What never occurred to you?”

“Kili was bent on finding the cordial for you. He spent ten years organizing a constant search for it.”

“He didn’t need to do that. He must have had more important things to occupy his time as King of Erebor.”

“He found it, Lucy.”

“What?”

“He found your cordial. He’s been keeping it for your eventual return. I had forgotten about it until you mentioned your cordial just now.”

“Kili has it! I would have thought most of it spilled when Thorin threw it away.”

“It was less full than it had been previously. It was also missing its cap. Kili had one designed especially, from diamond, just like the bottle.”

“Could we send for it?”

“We could; we will. Yet it will not do any good for our friends now. It will take too long to retrieve it.”

“Do you think perhaps it could be capable of healing the morgul blade wounds so they won’t keep flaring up, so they’ll actually heal, even if it isn’t applied until much later? I know the cordial has it’s limits, but we could at least try.”

“When we have your cordial, we can try. Although this valley is not feeling the affects, it is indeed the middle of winter elsewhere. I’ll see if I can arrange a messenger today, but it may be difficult for one to travel at this time of year.”

“Thank you, Legolas.”

“You are welcome, Calad. Stop fretting. Glorfindel and the others will be fine.”

“I know.”

And yet, despite knowing they were going to be alright, still Lucy’s heart was heavy. What if they did die? What if she had to face another lost friend? What if?

“Lucy.” Peter sat beside his sister where Legolas had been sitting moments before. “You are worrying too much. Jill and Frodo will be fine. And Lord Elrond is seeing to Glorfindel so he will no doubt be well soon enough. He has survived death once before.”

“You don’t really ‘survive’ death, Peter.”

“You know what I mean. He came back. I do not think he is in any danger of dying right now. Lord Elrond was concerned, but not overly much. He’ll be right as rain in no time.”

Lucy sighed. “I know.”

“You have to stop expecting the worst, Lucy. That isn’t like you.”

“I know, I’m sorry.”

“Let me see your smile again, Lu.”

Lucy rolled her eyes. “Right now? While our friends are on their sickbeds?”

“I don’t see a problem with this.”

“You don’t think it’s a tad inappropriate to be smiling in this situation?”

“Not at all.”

Lucy grinned. “Well I suppose I’ll have to teach you proper manners.”

“Ah, see. There’s a smile. I didn’t realize there were rules about when it is okay to smile.”

“Oh there are. One place that it is inappropriate to smile, for example, would be a funeral.”

“We’re not at a funeral.”

“That’s just one example.” Lucy swatted Peter’s arm.

Peter laughed and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. In a few minutes, Lord Elrond exited Glorfindel’s sick room.

“How is he?” Lucy asked.

“Ill. He nearly killed himself trying to heal Jill and Frodo.”

“But he’ll be alright?” Peter asked.

“Yes, he will. He was not beyond my healing. He will be weak for a few days more, but he will recover.”

“There, see? You had nothing to worry about, Lu.”

Legolas soon returned. “No one is willing to travel this time of year, but if you wish I could go myself and fetch the cordial.”

“No, Legolas, there’s no need for that,” Lucy replied. “Lord Elrond says everyone will be fine. We’re in no hurry. And we can test the cordial on those morgul wounds at any time. I can wait til Spring.”

 

A few days later, when Jill was starting to feel better, Lucy and Caliel assisted her out into one of the gardens. They sat down on a bench not far from one of the many fountains of Rivendell. Thorin Alyon and Fili Arthion were by the fountain and Fili was unashamedly splashing water at his elder brother.

“It’s nice to be outside again, and not confined to bed.” Jill took a deep breath. “And this fresh, clean air helps a lot too. I was having the most horrid dreams!”

“I’m just glad you’re alright,” Lucy said.

“Me too,” Jill replied. Jill watched Fili splashing his brother for a moment and when he turned and waved at Lucy, Jill asked. “Who are the Dwarves?”

“Fili and Thorin. That’s Tauriel and Kili’s boys. They came with me from Mirkwood to attend Lord Elrond’s meeting about the fate of Middle-earth.”

“Oh, yes. About that. Was anything decided?”

“It was postponed,” Caliel answered. “We were waiting for all parties to arrive and then you came with all your wounded and the meeting hasn’t taken place yet.”

“It will soon, though,” Lucy said. “Now that everyone is starting to feel better.”

 

Lucy was right. As soon Frodo and Glorfindel were feeling better Elrond assembled everyone in his council chamber to discuss the growing darkness in the world and what could be done about it.

 

Chapter Text

Lucy seated herself beside Legolas, trying to appreciate the beauty of the vines, trees, and flowers surrounding and covering the open balcony where Elrond had gathered everyone but her mind could only focus on one thing. Darkness.

It was here.

Across the circle of the gathered guests, Aragorn subtly rested his hand on Glorfindel's elbow as the elf gingerly sat down beside him. He was rewarded with a glare.

"I'm not helpless, Aragorn, for Yavanna's sake."

"Mind your tongue," Gandalf huffed from the other side of Aragorn.

"Still, Glorfindel, Aragorn was only being kind," Arwen said, sitting beside him. She had arrived in Rivendell from Lothlorien only the night before. "You are still weak from your healing stunt. Honestly, what were you thinking?"

"That lives were in danger of being lost to darkness," Glorfindel said. "I had no choice but to help them."

Thorin was desperately trying to ignore his younger brother and appear as a dignified prince of Erebor whilst his brother was busy making faces at Merry and Pippin (and receiving just as many silly faces from the two hobbits). Sam was hovering by Frodo's side and Bilbo was nearly as worried on Frodo's other side. Gimli was seated near the princes of Erebor and was simply watching the elves around the circle with a guarded expression.

Susan, meanwhile, was keeping her eye on Boromir, someone she was not inclined to trust from her observations. Peter was conversing amiably with Brand as Kell and Kelda sat beside them in silence, simply watching the proceedings.

Tauriel and Caliel were deep in a conversation of their own, mostly about their children and the things they got up to in their youth. Eustace had a protective arm around Jill's shoulders. Elenion and his daughters, Elwien and Haliel, were clustered together, Haliel trying not to look like a child amidst all the adults gathered.

Elrond and his two sons were at the front of the ring of chairs, the only people in the room still standing.

Lucy shuddered. Something was wrong. Her only explanation was the Ring.

Edmund wrapped an arm around Lucy's shoulders. "It'll be alright, Lu. After all, when have we ever lost?" Edmund had arrived in Rivendell only a few hours before Arwen had the night before, and Lucy was immensely glad that he was with them again.

Before Lucy could respond, Elrond called the meeting to order. "We are all here to discuss what must be done with the One Ring. The decision made here today will affect all the people of this world which is why I have asked for delegations from every race and country to be here. I am disappointed no one from Rohan answered our summons, but that cannot be helped."

"What can be done about the Ring?" Brand asked. "Are we going to hide it?"

"Hiding it or destroying it appear to be our only options," Elrond replied. "But the evil of the Ring cannot be hidden forever. Sauron will find it eventually and when he comes for it, it would take all of Middle-Earth and more to stop him from taking it."

"So we destroy it," Thorin said.

"If it were only so easy," Elrond replied. "The Ring can only be destroyed in the fires where it was created long ago, in Mount Doom."

"Great," Susan crossed her arms. "How exactly are we supposed to get the Ring into Morder without being noticed? That would never work."

"Those are our only options," Elrond stated again. "Hide it, and face the full brunt of Sauron's wrath when he comes for it. Or destory it, by taking it to Mordor and Mount Doom."

"So either way, we appear to be doomed," Kell said.

"We can't hide it," Aragorn said. "Sauron will eventually find it and as Lord Elrond stated he will come for it. Many will die and eventually Sauron will take back what is his at which point Middle-Earth will be lost to darkness for all eternity. The Ring must be destroyed. It is our only hope."

"That is hardly hope," Boromir said. "Walking the One Ring right into Mordor is a suicide mission."

"But it is our only chance of defeating the darkness," Lucy said. "So what choice do we have?"

"None," Glorfindel replied. "If that is the only way to save Middle-Earth then that is what must be done."

"I agree," Tauriel said.

"All the armies in the world could not march into Mordor and defeat Sauron," Brand said.

"I agree with that sentiment," Boromir said.

"Then we don't use armies," Caliel said. "We sneak in with a small band of soldiers, taking the Ring to Mount Doom without drawing attention."

"You think that would actually work?" Boromir scoffed.

"That appears to be our only option," Elenion said. "In which case, it is pointless to continue to argue over it. That is the only option. If we are to save Middle-Earth it must be done. End of discussion."

"It will be extrememly dangerous," Gandalf said. "But I believe it can be done."

"Then all that remains is to select the party that will carry the Ring to Mordor," Elrond said.

"It is a fool's errand," Boromir said.

"I'll take it," Lucy offered.

"I'd go," Bilbo offered. "It is my fault it's out in the world, after all."

"Forgive me," Elrond said softly. "but you are far too weak to undertake such a mission, Bilbo."

"I'll go. It is mine," Frodo said. "I can take it to Mordor."

"You do understand the danger of such a mission?" Elrond asked.

"I do."

"Then Frodo shall go," Elrond said. "Lucy, if your offer still stands, you may accompany him. He will need more than one companion on this journey."

"I'm going with Mr. Frodo," Sam said.

"So are we," Merry said and Pippin nodded.

"You are far too young to go on such a journey," Elrond countered. "You should not have even come to Rivendell."

"But we did come," Pippin said. "We have even faced the Nazgul already. We're going with Frodo."

"And if you won't let us go with them, we'll just follow after them," Merry said.

"They will," Jill grinned. "Don't think they won't."

"Very well," Elrond said. "Four hobbits and Lucy-"

"I'm going," Legolas said before Elrond finished his sentence.

"As am I," Aragorn said.

"If this is indeed the will of the council," Boromir sighed. "Then I will accompany the ring-bearer."

"I would also wish to travel with them," Glorfindel said.

"We cannot all go," Arwen stated softly as others started to speak up. "We will still need to have people guarding the Shire and patroling the wilds and protecting the villages and farms that are in the open."

"I can lead the Rangers in Aragorn's absence," Elenion offered.

Aragorn nodded. "Have Nanor help you."

"Of course."

"I wish to help get the Ring to Mordor," Elwien said.

Elenion frowned. "Daughter, I have no desire for you to undertake such a dangerous mission."

"But I want to help." The frown on Elenion's face did not budge and Elwien sighed. "I am an adult, father. I am making this decision for myself."

Caliel smiled. "Let her go, Elenion. I made a similar choice when I was closer to her age and I came back in one piece."

"Very well," Elenion sighed.

"I also wish to travel with the Ring-bearer," Thorin said. "The Dwarves will not shirk their duties in regards to the safety of Middle-Earth."

"I'm going too!" Fili said.

Tauriel frowned, but she said nothing against her sons going. All she said was, "Take Gimli with you."

"I must return to my people," Brand said. "But if Kell is willing, he may go for our people."

Kell nodded. "I will do whatever my King wishes."

"My family is in Middle-Earth for the sole purpose of helping in times of crisis," Peter spoke up finally. "We will go with the Frodo to Mordor."

"How do we expect to sneak into Mordor with nearly twenty people?" Boromir asked. "Surely a smaller party would be wiser?"

"Nineteen is not a large number," Elrohir said.

"You have a greater chance of succeeding than if it were a full army with hundreds and thousands," Elladan added.

"If there are no other objections," Elrond said, "Then it is decided. Frodo will carry the Ring to Mordor with eighteen companions to ensure he completes the mission to destroy the One Ring."

"Nineteen travelers," Gandalf muttered. "Let's make it an even twenty. I'll go."

"Very well, Gandalf," Elrond replied. "Twenty companions...the Fellowship of the Ring."

 

Chapter Text

Lucy strapped an extra dagger to the side of her pack and then placed another inside her left boot. She had her sword at her waist and her bow strung over her back. Pulling her pack onto her back, Lucy surveyed the room around her, trying to decide if she'd forgotten anything.

It was time for the Fellowship to leave Rivendell.

There was a knock on her door, and when Lucy answered it, Edmund stood before her.

"I brought you something, Lu."

"Oh?"

"Kili sent it to Thranduil and Thranduil gave it to me just before I left Mirkwood." Edmund held out a little diamond bottle that Lucy recognized instantly, although the cap was new.

"My cordial!"

"It's about time you had it back."

"Thank you, Edmund!"

"Are you ready to leave?"

"Yes. I just finished packing," Lucy said as she strapped her cordial onto her belt.

"We'd better get down to the courtyard before they all leave without us."

Lucy and Edmund walked through Rivendell hand in hand. When they reached the courtyard where they were to meet with the rest of the Fellowship, everyone was already gathered. They were nearly all surrounded by family members bidding them farewell with embraces and tears.

"Are we all here?" Gandalf asked.

Aragorn counted heads for a moment and then replied, "Yes. All twenty of us are accounted for."

"Then let us be off. The journey is long."

"Farewell, Fellowship," Elrond said solemnly. "Do not fail."

"We don't intend to," Boromir replied gruffly.

And with that, Gandalf led Frodo out of Rivendell and everyone else fell in line behind them, Glorfindel taking up the rear.

As they set up camp that evening, as far from Rivendell as they could get in one day, it began to snow. Lucy watched the snow falling, her face upturned letting the flakes fall into her face.

Edmund sat beside her, his eyes roving the growing darkness outside the camp circle. Peter and Glorfindel were on the first watch, both of them patroling the surrounding wilderness a few paces from the camp.

Fili plopped down beside Lucy, a grin on his face. "I keep expecting you to stick your tongue out and catch those flakes."

Lucy laughed. "I may have been considering it."

Fili stuck his own tongue out and attempted to catch a flake. It proved more difficult than he'd anticipated and his failings left Lucy laughing. Boromir watched them silently from across the fire. Sam was busy cooking up something for everyone to eat. Aragorn was a short distance from the fire instructing Merry and Pippin in the use of their small swords. Neither one of them particularly wanted to be training in the snowy weather, but they were both excited to be learning so they didn't complain too much. Jill and Frodo were sitting together, both of them subconsciously messaging the places where they'd been stabbed with morgul blades. Eustace was tending the fire and helping Sam with supper, his eyes often darting toward Jill, concern evident on his face. Legolas and Elwien were deep in discussion together and Thorin and Susan were in a heated debate of their own. What on earth they were arguing about no one knew. Gimli had already laid down in his bedroll and was doing his utmost to ignore the circle around him in favor of a little sleep. This was forgiven by his companions because he did have to be on watch in a few hours. Kell was sitting by himself, wrapped in his own thoughts.

"Aside from the cold, this isn't so bad," Fili said cheerfully. "This whole ring business will be over and done with, without too much trouble, in no time at all."

Edmund grunted, slightly scoffing, but said nothing.

"Adventures never go quite as planned," Lucy said.

"True. Do you think our adventure is going to be a great legend some day, like the rest of your stories?" Fili grinned. "Of course it will. We're saving the world! Oh just wait til I tell Father that I've done a greater deed than even he has, despite being the Dragon-Slayer. I'll be the saver of the world."

Lucy laughed. "It'll be a joint effort, so don't get too puffed up."

Fili chuckled. "I won't get puffed up, Lucy. I promise. But honestly, I can't wait to be a part of the tales that are passed down from generation to generation. It's a family tradition at this point, being legends. It's my turn to shine."

"Don't do anything reckless for the sake of glory," Edmund said, shaking his head but laughing in spite of himself.

"I won't," Fili rolled his eyes. "Although...neither one of my parents is known for being particularly careful in matters such as this. They're both reckless."

"That is very true," Lucy laughed.

The Fellowship journeyed along the Western side of the Misty Mountains for several weeks without much happening. The snow only lasted a few days before letting up, but the cold continued to plague them.

One night as they sat around the fire, Gandalf said, "We have a decision to make."

"And what decision is that?" Kell asked.

"How we are to proceed. We have not mapped out a course for ourselves, and it is time we made one."

"Aren't we just going to Mordor?" Pippin asked.

"Yes, Pippin," Gandalf sighed. "But there are many paths to get there. And more immediately, we have a choice to make. Are we going to go over the mountains at the pass of Caradhas or are we going to follow the mountains til we reach the Isen and Rohan and then turn Eastward?"

"I say we should go through Rohan," Boromir said. "It would be safer than taking the pass."

"Except that it takes us a good deal too close to Isengard," Aragorn said, "And I would prefer not having to deal with a bad wizard on our journey. It will be plagued with enough hardship as it is."

"It has been a very long time since I was in this portion of Middle-Earth," Peter said, "But I agree with Aragorn. As dangerous as the pass may be at this time of year, it would be far more dangerous to risk running into Saruman."

"There is another option," Thorin said. "Some of the Dwarves of Erebor have been in Moria for many years. We could go through the Mines and not have to deal with either the pass or Saruman."

"That is not a bad idea," Lucy chimed in. "Balin would not object to our passing through Moria."

"But there is the small matter of not having heard from them in over fifteen years," Gimli spoke up. "Something isn't right in Moria, even King Kili thought so, though we have yet to send anyone to check on the settlement there."

"And it is only a settlement of Dwarves, after all," Susan said. "The rest of Moria will still be overrun with orcs, will it not?"

"Should we take a vote?" Jill asked. "For I doubt we will come to a conclusion otherwise."

No one disagreed with her, so Jill continued. "All in favor of taking the pass of Caradhas, raise your right hand."

Aragorn, Peter, Glorfindel, Legolas, Susan, Merry, Pippin, Elwien, Kell, Eustace, Gimli, and Edmund all raised their hands.

"And for going through Rohan?" Jill asked.

Boromir alone raised his hand.

"And Moria?" Jill asked.

Thorin, Fili, Lucy, Frodo and Sam raised their hands.

"Well that is decided then," Gandalf said. "The vote is overwhelmingly in favor of the pass of Caradhas, so we will begin to direct our course in that direction."

 

Chapter Text

 The snow continued to fall as the Fellowship made their way toward the mountain pass over the course of the next several days. By the time they began their ascent up the mountain, it was already a good three feet deep. Because of this, the hobbits had to be carried. Aragorn had Pippin riding merrily on his back, Boromir carried Merry, Peter had Frodo, and Edmund carried Sam. Gandalf and Aragorn led the group up the mountain, pushing a trail through the deep snow. Glorfindel took up the rear and everyone else fell in line in between.

Lucy pulled her cloak tightly about her shoulders and focused on finding her footing. Underneath the snow was a thin layer of ice which was causing more than one member of the Fellowship to slip.

The snow was falling in earnest now, huge fluffy flakes swirling around Lucy and making it impossible to see more than a few feet. Kell was directly in front of her, but Lucy could barely make out his red cloak.

Through the howling wind Lucy heard what sounded like a scream. She stopped still, causing Legolas, who was behind her, to bump into her.

"Apologies, Calad. It is difficult to see in this weather."

Lucy turned around to better have a conversation despite the shrieking wind. "Did you hear someone scream, Legolas?"

Legolas leaned his head forward to catch what Lucy was saying. A puzzle look crossed his face, and his eyes glazed over for a moment. Lucy knew he was listening intently.

Suddenly Legolas went quite rigid.

"What is it?" Lucy demanded.

"What's holding us up?" Gimli shouted from behind Legolas. "Why'd we stop moving?"

"Legolas?" Lucy touched his arm.

"Jill has slipped," Legolas said, peering through the swirling snow.

"Is she alright?"

"She went over the edge," Legolas replied.

Lucy gasped. "Oh no."

Lucy spun around to get a better view of what was in front of her and her feet skidded across the ice. Legolas grabbed onto her arms and jerked her backward into his chest before she could fall off the path to the abyss below.

"I can't see anything," Lucy sighed.

"Thorin caught her," Legolas said. "He's clinging to the edge of the cliff, holding Jill. Eustace and Susan are attempting to pull them back onto the path."

"Can you see them?" Lucy asked, trying to see more than the white flakes of snow in her eyes, without success.

"My vision is little better than yours. But I can hear them."

After a moment, Legolas' grip on her arms loosened. "They are both back on the path. I think we will be moving forward again."

Before anyone moved, however, Gandalf's voice came booming over the wind. Lucy guessed he'd probably used some magic to make his voice loud enough to hear. "I don't think we'll make it this way! The path is going to get more dangerous as we go up, not less." There was a moment's pause and then, "I am making the decision for us. We are going back down the mountain and heading for Moria."

For a moment no one moved, and then Glorfindel, at the back of the group, turned on his heel and headed down the mountain. Slowly, one by one, the Fellowship got themselves turned around and headed back down.

After a few more days of travel, the snow stopped falling. It was still piled several feet deep, so the hobbits continued to be carried as much as possible.

One night, as they camped under the shadow of the mountain on their way toward the gates of Moria, Lucy watched Frodo from across the campfire. He looked tired. They were all tired from journeying, but he look beyond exhausted. The dark circles under his eyes, his pale complexion, the pained look in his eyes. Lucy tried to remember if she'd seen him eat anything today and was almost convinced he had merely picked at his food.

"Legolas..."

Legolas, laying on his back beside where Lucy was sitting, turned his head slightly and opened his eyes. "Hmm?"

"I think the Ring is hurting Frodo."

Legolas sat up immediately. "Hurting him how?"

"Look at him."

Legolas studied their young friend for a moment. "I do believe you are right, Calad. Yet I am not sure there is much we can do about it. This is his burden to bear. He chose it."

"But we're all members of this Fellowship, we're all entrusted with making sure that Ring gets to Mordor and gets destroyed."

"That is so."

"So why not take turns carrying it? It will lessen the effects on poor Frodo, and if it is constantly changing hands perhaps it won't cause anyone so much harm as it appears to have done to Frodo already."

"That is not a bad idea, my friend." Legolas rose to his feet and crossed the camp to where Aragorn and Glorfindel were sitting. He knelt beside them and relayed Lucy plan. They both thought it wise, and Aragorn went to explain the idea to Frodo. It wasn't long before the entire Fellowship was aware of Lucy's intentions and most, if not all, whole-heartedly agreed to it.

"How long will each turn be?" Merry asked.

"A few days?" Kell suggested.

"Or one day," Elwien said. "That way after our turn it will be 19 days before we have to bear that burden again."

"I like the idea of just one day," Jill said.

"Then one day it is," Aragorn said. "Unless anyone has an objection."

No one did, so Frodo passed the Ring off to Merry and everyone settled back into their bedrolls for the night. Glorfindel was on first watch that night, and along with looking out for orcs, the ringwraiths, and any other evil, he also kept an eye on Merry to see how the ring would affect him. Aside from sleeping rather restlessly, Merry appeared to be fine. Glorfindel was glad Lucy had thought to suggest this idea of hers. Frodo really had been starting to be in pretty bad shape.

 

Chapter Text

 As they traveled under the shadow of the Misty Mountains on their way to Moria, Lucy thought back to the last time she'd been traveling on this side of Middle-Earth, so many years ago. Before the Quest to re-take Erebor, back during her first visit to Middle-Earth. When she, Legolas, and several others had gone in search of the exiled dwarves. The memories of wandering for so many years, and then the war with the orcs before they finally settled in the Blue Mountains, were keeping Lucy company as the Fellowship picked their way across the snowy landscape.

She and Thorin had been almost happy back then, despite being in exile. There hadn't been anything clouding their friendship. Lucy idly wondered if she'd miss Thorin more or less if he'd died while they were still on good terms.

It was true they had mended things just before he died. But a death-bed confession and offering of forgiveness wasn't nearly as satisfying as years of solid friendship.

The night before that fateful battle was what was passing through Lucy's mind now. She could still feel the sting of Thorin's fist against her face, feel herself flying through the air...crashing into the stone floor in Erebor.

A burst of anger coursed through Lucy, surprising her.

But why shouldn't she be angry? He'd hurt her. Physically. Emotionally. Psychologically.

Why, exactly, had she forgiven him again? He was a--

Lucy jumped when she felt a hand on her arm, immediately reaching for her sword.

"Easy, Calad," Legolas said softly.

Lucy glanced around. The Fellowship was spread out in front and behind her. They were walking through the foothills of the Misty Mountains, the mountains themselves towering over them on their right. Snow covered the ground, but for once it wasn't falling. It was a clear, bright day. The air crisp and cool.

Lucy shuddered as a chill beyond the mere weather passed over her.

Legolas wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "Only a few more hours, Lucy, and then it will be someone else's turn to carry the Ring."

The Ring.

Lucy sighed.

"What were you thinking about? You looked disturbed before I brought you out of your reverie."

"I was thinking about Thorin. I was...angry. Just remembering what happened, I was getting angry. Angrier, I think, than I even felt at the time."

"The Ring will have that affect."

"Yes, but it doesn't create those negative emotions, Legolas. That's the part that worries me. It doesn't create them, it simply exploits them. Which means, as much as I have tried to forgive and move on, I'm apparently still harboring some bitterness over how everything transpired."

"You will feel better once you no longer have the Ring. I believe you are not feeling harbored anger over past events but rather the memory of the anger you felt at the time. You were upset then, and the Ring drudged up those memories."

"I just don't want to be that person who holds onto grudges, especially of a deceased person. And Thorin and I made up, we were okay before he died...sort of. I mean, it all happened so fast..."

"Think of something else, Lucy," Legolas suggested. "We're almost to the gates of Moria. You'll see Balin again after so many years."

Lucy grinned. "I wonder what he'd been doing in Moria all these years. Why has he been too busy to contact Kili and the rest Erebor?"

"I do not know."

"I hope it is simply an oversight, and something isn't seriously wrong."

Legolas paused in his walking and glanced over at his friend. Her dour expression made him sigh. "That was not the best topic of conversation, it seems. Let me try again. Think about Narnia."

Lucy smiled. "I'm sorry I'm being so negative today."

"I blame the Ring."

"That seems reasonable to me," Lucy laughed.

 

 

It was early in the morning when they came upon the small lake the lay before the gates of Moria. The sun may have risen on the East side of the Misty Mountains, but here to the West, directly in the shadow of the mountains, it was still dark. Snow dusted the ground, the a thin layer of ice was across the top of the lake.

"This lake didn't use to be here," Lucy said thoughtfully as the Fellowship walked along the thin path between the mountain and the lake.

"It looks like it's been here awhile," Kell commented.

"Well it has been a good long while since Lucy was in Middle-Earth," Boromir said.

"Where's the gates into Moria?" Pippin asked forlornly. He was staring at the rock face beside them. It was smooth, without a crack in it.

"Dwarven doors are incredibly hard to find once concealed," Gimli replied smugly.

"Well that isn't going to be a very useful quality if we can't find it," Frodo sighed.

"We'll find it," Gandalf said, running his hand along the surface of the stone.

"What if we don't?" Pippin asked, sitting down and watching Gandalf. "What if this is it. We can't get into Moria. We couldn't go over the Mountain. The Quest just died."

Glorfindel, who had been watching Gandalf with an amused expression on his face, turned sharply to fix Pippin with a piercing gaze.

"Our Quest has not died, young Hobbit," he said gently. "Where has your eternal optimism gone?"

Pippin returned Glorfindel's stare. "uh...I don't know." Pippin rubed his hand over his face and then grinned. Merry had plopped down beside him and suddenly Pippin elbowed him in the ribs. "Look at me! I'm as grim as Aragorn and as humorless as Gandalf! This Ring certainly does do odd things to a person. And I've only had it since we got up this morning!"

Glorfindel relaxed as Pippin's genuine laughter filled the air. The poor Hobbit had only had the Ring for a few hours and it had turned his cheerful personality quite sour. What was going to become of them all on this journey to Mordor?

"Found it," Gandalf said. He said a few words in Elvish and then the door began to take shape. It wasn't like the hidden door in Erebor. It looked like someone had painted the door, and the subsequent carvings and words on it, into the side of the mountain using gold and silver.

"That's quite beautiful!" Jill exclaimed. "What is it?"

"Ithildin," Legolas said. "The elves make it from mithril."

"The Elves?" Kell asked. "I thought this was a Dwarf gate."

"It is," Gimli insisted.

"Indeed," Legolas replied. "The Elves and Dwarves worked together to make this gate. There was, as surprising as it may sound, friendship between the two races when these doors were made."

"The question now is how to open them," Gandalf said. "I do not remember the password, although the riddle transcribed on the door should be useful."

"That will not be necessary," Glofindel said. "My memory is long and does not diminish with the years. Say 'mellon' and the doors will open."

Gandalf's nose twitched, and Lucy almost thought he was miffed that Glorfindel had remembered something which he himself had forgotten. With a huff, Gandalf spoke the Elven word for friend and the doors opened.

"Into Moria we go," Susan said.

"Hopefully nothing too horrific waits inside this dark cavern," Eustace sighed, trying to see inside.

"We shall soon see," Peter said, hand on his sword hilt.

Slowly, the group moved forward, passing through the door in groups of two or three, as it wasn't wide enough for all of them to enter at once. It was pitch black inside. The early morning light from outside was leaking in the open door, but it only went a few feet and then there was nothing but blackness.

"Hold on," Gandalf's voice called out through the darkness.

A moment later a light appeared at the end of his staff and illuminated the entire room they had entered.

The sight that greeted them was one that made the Hobbits shudder, and the rest of the Fellowship instantly draw their weapons...