The Fellowship - The Council
by Meimi


Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with J.R.R. Tolkien or anyone who hold rights to Lord of the Rings. It isn't mine, I'm just playing with it.

Note #1: This story is basically Alternate Universe, though, perhaps I should say Alternate Timeline since it is still based in the same world, events just happen differently.

Note #2: This chapter actually turned out different from what I had planned. Not that I'm unhappy with it, it did turn out well all things considered (it was kicking my ass rather effectively... Boromir kept insisting on being snide and Gandalf wouldn't shut up). And it is birthing another chapter to resolve some things that didn't happen which I had been planning for. But anyway, feel free to let me know what you think. I'm always open to commentary (criticism or otherwise).

Note #3: You know how I said that the movie canon and the book canon tended to come together into an unholy alliance in my head? Well, that is very true of this chapter. First it wanted to be movie canon, then it wanted to be book canon, and then both of them started fighting over it and here are the results.


By the time the date of the Council of Elrond rolled around the entire valley of Rivendell was ripe for an explosion in some form or another, a fairly violent one if the tense atmosphere was read correctly. The dwarves had arrived a little over a week before and Erestor had been at his wits' end ever since in trying to keep them and the Galadhrim from killing each other. And then the men had arrived a few days later, which just made everything that much more perfect as far as disasters went. That, of course, made Erestor's temperament even more fractious, if that could be believed, which in turn made Glorfindel's life a living hell. Anyone who knew the two friends at all, knew that Glorfindel was Erestor's favorite target, and vice versa, and the Chief Advisor gleefully vented his wrath upon the golden-haired Seneschal, who in turn exercised his own unique form of revenge upon the dour Noldor. Truly, between the two of them it was rather surprising that the halls of Imladris still stood for the council to be held.

Alas, for Erestor and Glorfindel both on the warpath was not the sole source of Rivendell's woes, nor was it the continued strife and possibilities of conflict that smoldered between the dwarves and the Galadhrim. Nay, those troubles were made nicely unbearable by the valley's beloved Lord and the onset of unpredictable and ofttimes vicious mood swings. Very few had escaped his company unscathed and that number was dwindling swiftly.

The presence of both the Lord's elven sons accentuated the unrest rather fittingly. Elladan avoided any and all contact with anyone save his family, and to them he only gave a few fleeting moments of companionship before going off to hide again. And hide well he did, so well in fact that even Aragorn, much to his consternation, could not find the elf at times. This new mode of conduct from his brother worried Aragorn greatly, for he had not managed to wrangle the reasoning behind the odd change of behavior out of Elladan as of yet.

Elrohir was both easier and yet even more difficult to deal with than his twin. The elf knight was calm and poised, polite to a fault and yet no one save Arwen could stand to be around him for more than an hour's length of time. A deep, heavy pall hung about the elf, one rife with a sense of grief and bitter sadness that drove off even the bravest of seekers. And beneath this lay a palpable threat of fierce, coiled fury constrained only by the lingering shade of someone who once was.

Truly, the One Ring was the least of their concerns.

Out of the entire Peredhil clan, it was only Arwen who was pleasant company to keep. Company which Aragorn sought after ceaselessly like a man dying of thirst in the desert. He clung to thoughts of their time spent together jealously, and eagerly vied for more. He was ecstatic that at least one member of his family, even if they had just recently met, could still smile and laugh gaily and for it to be real.

Arwen was not all laughter and smiles, it was true. One who had chosen to sail for the Undying Lands could not wholly be content while they remained in Middle-earth, and there was a touch of sorrow that would steal into her eyes from time to time. But it did not rule her as it did the rest of the House of Elrond, and for that, if nothing else, Aragorn could not help but adore her.

It was Arwen's soothing and delightful companionship that Aragorn again sought out on the morning of the council, and it was within her presence that Aragorn still found himself when the clear bell announcing the time of gathering rang out. It was with a heavy heart and a sick, little knot of nervousness arising in his stomach that he bid her good day and headed off to what would most likely turn out to be one of the most trying experiences in his life.

A terrace well off the beaten path, and somewhat distant to the everyday life of Imladris, had been chosen for the meeting place. Ringed by arches, yet open to the sky, it was large enough to house all those who had been summoned to the Council of Elrond. The gardens around the terrace had been allowed to grow over and hid well the happenings within to any prying eyes from without.

All prying eyes save those borne by hobbits, Aragorn noted keenly as he strode towards the gathering. He considered for moment to inform those within of their little eavesdropper, but decided against it in the end. Some niggling premonition that he could not fully explain warned that the little gardner must always be nearby where Frodo was concerned, and Aragorn did not feel that it was his place to ignore it. Besides, if there was anyone more trustworthy than Samwise Gamgee, he had yet to meet them.

The elves, were, as expected, already present. On a short dais the Lord of Rivendell sat regally. Elrond's countenance was stern, and decidedly sour if one knew him well enough. Aragorn smothered a shudder at that, his father was severely unhappy about something or other. Glorfindel was seated on Elrond's left side, looking as august and stately as Aragorn had ever seen him. His expression also looked somewhat sour to those who knew him well, but Aragorn chalked that up to the still form of Erestor standing off in a shadowed corner. He was surprised and mystified that the Chief Advisor did not join his fellow elves, but thought better of asking about it. By the looks of it, he'd get his head bit off for asking a stupid question. Flanking Elrond on his right side was Elrohir, dressed impeccably in robes befitting a elven lord's son, but still bearing those remarkable Mirkwood braids. Aragorn did shudder minutely at the sight of his brother, the elf looked frighteningly benign, belying the ever present sensation of a crouched predator about to strike that fairly crackled about his lithe form. Of Elladan, there was no sign.

Aragorn gave his father a deferential bow of greeting and waited for the expected courteous nod of acknowledgment before seeking out his own seat. The day before he had arranged for an unadorned chair to be placed separate from all others, close enough to be noticed by far enough to drape him in shadows. This way he would only appear to be an unassuming observer, not an actual participant, and thus effectively allow him to gauge the responses and reactions of the other council members fully without garnering too much attention to himself.

At the exact opposite end of the terrace from the elves sat the dwarves. Rigid as the rock they knew so well, they glared at the valley's lord and his companions with blatant suspicion. Of them all, only the group's leader was known to the people of Rivendell, Gloin, son of Groin. Long ago in the early days of his youth, Aragorn had once met the dwarf, for Gloin had been a companion to Thorin Oakenshield in his ill fated attempt to wrest back the wealth of the Lonely Mountain from the fell wyrm, Smaug. Aragorn did not recognize any of the other dwarves, though he surmised that the youngest was perhaps Gimli, Gloin's son, whom he had heard of in passing but had never before met.

The men of the south arranged themselves between the elves and the dwarves on the right side of the terrace, gracing both races with equally curious and suspicious glances. Their leader, a blond warrior who appeared quite seasoned sat in the center of them, looking as if he were quite relaxed, though his shrewd, calculating gaze easily contradicted that. This, Aragorn knew without a doubt to be Boromir, son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor and a bit of a surprise.

Denethor's pride and condescension in regards to the other races, the elves in particular, was well known. In fact, his derision was not limited to the others, and was often known to be directed at his own race at times, and sometimes even at his own people. Aragorn had not expected him to send the son he coveted above all others, he had expected Denethor to send his youngest, Faramir, who was known to be the wiser of the two, but not favored by their father.

On the left side of the terrace sat Mithrandir, the Grey Pilgrim, though he was more well known as Gandalf the Grey to the majority of those present. With him sat two hobbits, old Bilbo Baggins, who appeared as if he would nod off at any given moment, and Frodo Baggins, Bilbo's 'favorite nephew', who looked terribly, terribly uncomfortable to be there at all.

When all had settled, or at least as much as they ever could in each others presence, Elrond began, "I thank you all for coming upon such short notice, for the dark news that must be imparted here is grim indeed. I fear that if we had idled any longer the Enemy would have regrouped and caught us all unawares."

"No offense intended, Master Elf," Gloin broke in smoothly, his expression contrite. Lord Elrond was respected in one form or another by all who considered themselves good, even by the dwarves, despite the ancient elf's... elvishness. "But we truly came in search of Bilbo. We have heard of whispers in the dark, from foul things that have sought after our old friend and something insignificant that he was rumored to have carried with him when he left the Lonely Mountain." The good-natured smile that the old dwarf directed at Bilbo stifled any possible accusations that the others may have presumed to be present.

"Fear not, friend dwarf," Gandalf called out clearly as he gave Bilbo's shoulder a gentle, comforting squeeze, "For it was not from the wealth of Erebor that that small, insignificant thing came." Gesturing Frodo towards the squat pillar that rose from the very center of the terrace, Gandalf smiled kindly and murmured, "Go on then, Frodo, show them the reason that they have been called here this day."

Gulping as his stomach did a queasy flip-flop, Frodo slid down off of his chair and tottered over towards the pillar on shaky knees. Glancing around uncertainly at all the curious stares directed his way, the little hobbit fished the chain, and the ring it bore, out from beneath his clothes. Hesitating for but a moment, he yanked the chain up over his head and resolutely dropped it and its burden atop the flat surface of the pillar. His duty done, Frodo slunk back over to his seat, scrambled back up into it and fervently hoped that he would not be asked upon to do anything else.

"It is a ring," Boromir stated plainly, his comment unhelpful, though he himself knew well the significance of such objects. Rings usually signified power, and in some cases were power themselves. Gloin nodded simply, as if he had expected this all along, and perhaps he had.

"Aye, 'tis a ring," Elrond agreed, his countenance darkening as long, buried memories clawed their way to the forefront in his mind, "And not just any ring, for it is the Ring of Sauron, the One Ring, forged in darkness to rule over all. That which has come to be called Isildur's Bane, though most have forgotten just what that means."

A small smile passed quickly over the lord's mouth at the expected explosion. Voices raised in disbelief, others demanding a prompt explanation, rang out over the terrace and the empty gardens beyond. Yes, the sight chosen for the council had been well selected indeed, Elrond mused. He allowed them to go on for a few moments longer, better to get some of the tension out now than for it to come out later on, before quelling them all into silence with a stern, level gaze.

It was Boromir who found his voice again first and whispered, "Isildur's Bane, so it was true then." Noting the questioning looks his odd words amassed, his voice grew steadier as he explained, "My brother, Faramir, and I have been haunted by a reoccurring dream of late. I had hoped to speak alone with Lord Elrond about it, for his wisdom is well known, but I see now that its telling belongs to this council in whole."

A moment passed in silence as if he were gathering his thoughts, and then Boromir spoke, "It is always the same, in our dreams we stand high atop Minas Tirith, beside the Citadel of the White City. To the east, beyond the black mountains darkness creeps and a foul, crimson glow emerges. With it comes a warning to seek out the broken sword and the bane of its wielder. Then from the west, a soft white light rises and the tree blooms once more in Gondor."

"Tell us, Boromir," Gandalf asked cautiously once it became apparent that the man would continue no further, "What do you think that this dream mean?"

"Surely it foretold of my journey to Rivendell," Boromir murmured absently, "For just the night before my eyes beheld the Shards of Narsil enshrined here in the House of Elrond. I can only presume that evil will soon move against my homeland and that I am to obtain the aid needed to withstand it in these very halls." Shaking his head, Boromir raised his troubled gaze to Elrond's, "I plead with you, my lord, to allow me to carry the broken sword and Isildur's Bane back to Gondor when I return, for I fear we shall need them and what they represent in the coming days."

"Nay Boromir," Gandalf admonished before Elrond could respond, "Much more needs to be spoken of here and the fate of the One Ring has yet to be decided. And as for the Sword of Elendil," winking impishly, Gandalf looked surreptitiously over at Aragorn, "It is not the Lord Elrond's to give." Aragorn scowled darkly at the meddling wizard as the entire attention of the council was suddenly focused upon him.

Boromir studied the silent, dark haired stranger curiously for a but a moment, then prompted, "It is yours to give then?" Aragorn grimaced at that, but nodded hesitantly after a slight pause. "And who are you, stranger, that you would hold claim to the Shards of Narsil?"

"He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Chieftain of the Dunedain," Gandalf explained blithely, earning him another heated glare from the man in question.

"Isildur's Heir," Boromir mused, not needing to be told anything further. Frowning, he raked suspicious eyes over Aragorn's shadow draped figure, "And you, who have not spoken for yourself, would you have me bow to you as if you were a king of old?"

"Nay," Aragorn sighed evenly as he leveled a stern gaze at the Golden Gondorian, "I would not take that which has not been given freely."

Boromir blinked in abject surprise at that, then nodded haltingly in tentative, if reluctant, understanding. If this Aragorn's words were to be fully believed then it was quite possible that he did not wish to be king of Gondor, or even to be perceived as a king of anything. It was the wizard, after all, who had announced Aragorn's heritage to all present and not the actual man himself. Interesting. Perhaps... perhaps there might be something gained in making the acquaintance of this Dunedain from the North. If he could make an ally out of this man, who would not be king, then mayhap the Shards of Narsil would find their way to the White City.

"What I would like to know," Gloin said, taking the lull created by Gandalf's little bombshell as a perfect opportunity to voice that which was bothering him, "Is how such a thing came to be in the possession of my old friend, Bilbo."

"That, my dear Gloin, is a rather convoluted story," Gandalf hummed as he scratched at his beard, "It is obvious that he gained it during your journey together, and he has informed me of how he truly obtained it, but I am not sure how to tell it."

"Oh, go on, you old coot," Bilbo muttered sleepily from where he had curled himself up in his chair, "You're like a child fair bursting at the seams to tell a juicy secret."

"Aye, I am," Gandalf chuckled heartily at that, but sobered quickly as he muddled over the dark things he must tell the others, "Long has the ring been lost to Middle-earth, so long in fact that many had thought it destroyed. But no, it was not truly lost, it was only hiding. Waiting."

"Waiting?" Gloin humphed, "You speak as if it has a mind of its own."

"Oh, it does, my friend. It does indeed," Gandalf replied, a hush falling over them all at his words, "It waited until such time as it chose to come into the possession of a halfling, one by the name of Smeagol. It drove him mad, twisting him into something foul and abominable and for five hundred years it kept him within its thrall."

"Gollum," Bilbo murmured, his eyes drooping drowsily.

"Yes, Gollum," Gandalf nodded in agreement, "And from Gollum's clutches did Bilbo wrest the ring, for it no longer desired to be coveted by the creature of its making. And through Bilbo the ring came to Frodo, and through Frodo it has come to my notice."

"That does not explain how those, those things knew that Bilbo had it," Gloin growled in frustration, "And how is it possible this Gollum has survived for so long? Halflings do not live for five hundred years."

"The long life of the creature is the work of the ring," Gandalf revealed reluctantly, waving his staff sternly at the others as he continued, "Do not be swayed by such knowledge, for longevity it may give even should you escape Sauron's forces, but it is still not life. If anything yet remains of Smeagol in the creature, Gollum, then it is a tortured existence that deserves only pity if nothing else. Nay, do not dare consider the possibility at all, for even I would be corrupted by such a thing."

Gandalf allowed for a pregnant pause before answering Gloin's other question, "As for how they have learned of Bilbo's taking of the ring, I am not sure, but I believe it is again through the creature, Gollum." He shot a questioning look over at Elrohir.

Nodding his acceptance, Elrohir finally began to impart the news he had brought with him from Mirkwood, "This creature was brought to the halls of King Thranduil by a ranger, and at the bidding of the Grey Pilgrim it was placed in the keeping of the elves," he smirked lightly at Gandalf as a hushed murmur passed through those assembled, "Alas, through foul means, all those who guarded the creature were slain and it was swiftly spirited beyond the borders of Mirkwood."

"What?" Gloin bellowed in indignation, "Have the elves of that wretched forest grown so weak as to lose such a simple prisoner?"

"It was not through easy means that the creature was taken," Elrohir scowled, the forbidding feel about him shifting, focusing upon the dwarf for the moment, "Never before have the spiders and the orcs worked together, all are prey to Ungoliant's spawn, and yet, in this they have done so."

"And did you not attempt to retrieve the creature?" Gloin continued on scornfully, uncaring of the danger he was so seemingly eager to court, "Could the great king not muster up enough of his precious elves to take it back by force?"

"Nay," Elrohir stated plainly, a humorless smile twisting at his lips, "For most of us have been campaigning in the south of late."

"The south?" Gloin grumbled warily. They all were familiar with the danger that lurked in that direction, for all who lived near to the cursed woods were well acquainted with the history of the black fortress found therein, "Of Mirkwood you say? And why have you been all the way down there?"

"Foul things have been seen moving within the walls of Dol Guldur," Elrohir's smile was not quite as humorless as it had been before, for now he felt a smidgeon of amusement at the horror inching its way over all present, "Dark things that have been heard to shriek their fury."

Gloin cursed viciously at that, "Nazgul! And did not your king feel the need to inform any others of this?"

Elrohir frowned mildly at the dwarf's presumption, "He is not my king. But that aside, Thranduil has seen no need to inform anyone save the Golden Woods of this. The aid of others is unnecessary, we have been more than able to keep the wraiths from amassing even the ghost of an army."

"Not your king?" Gloin muttered inquisitively, as he truly looked at the young elf for once, "And who are you to bear the braids of those blasted elves of Mirkwood and yet not be beholden to their king?"

"I am called Elrohir," Elrohir replied simply, a downright nasty grin gracing his features at the shocked utterances of 'Orc Bane' and 'What is he doing here?' that emanated from the dwarves.

"My apologies," Gloin managed through gritted teeth, his face so scrunched up it appeared as if he had swallowed a lemon, "I did not know."

"Be that as it may," Gandalf said abruptly, hoping to stave off any further raising of hackles, "The fact remains, the Enemy now knows that Bilbo had the ring and has probably figured out by now that he has passed it on to Frodo."

"Then what shall we do about it?" Boromir asked bitterly. He was quite sure that the grey wizard probably already had a plan, but also quite sure that he, in particular, and those present would not care to hear it. "If you allowed it to be taken to Minas Tirith, I do not doubt that we could keep it safe, but I will not fool myself into thinking that you view that as a viable option."

"Nay, Boromir," Elrond declared wearily, a negligible frown marring his smooth countenance, "There is no place in Arda that the ring will truly be safe from those who seek it, even the protection afforded by Rivendell is only a temporary solution. The ring has become as much an extension of Sauron, himself, as it is his tool." The Elven Lord shook his head to emphasize his point, "No, the only recourse is its destruction."

"That shouldn't be too hard to do," Gimli muttered, hopping to his feet and resolutely gripping the haft of his axe as he sauntered over towards the pillar and that which it bore, "A well placed strike should rid us of this nuisance once and for all."

"Nay, friend Gimli," Gandalf contended, swiftly rising to his own feet and moving to halt the determined dwarf, "Spare your axe this, for it would shatter ere the ring did."

"Truly?" Gimli blinked up at the wizard in surprise, then turned appreciative eyes upon the small band of gold, "Remarkable craftsmanship then. But... if we cannot destroy it through normal means then how shall we be rid of it?"

"Only through the flames that bore it can the ring be undone," Elrond explained sternly, "It must be thrown into the molten core of Mount Doom."

"You cannot be serious," Boromir laughed scornfully, "Do you even understand what you propose? Even were you to get past the endless sea of orcs that dwell within Morder, there are other evils there, things that do not sleep." He gestured sharply as he expounded further, "And even the land will refuse you, for the mountains are unscalable, the marshes are pure deathtraps and the very air itself is a poisonous perfume. And if that were not enough there is still the Great Eye, for it misses nothing that passes through its lands. Even with an army of ten thousand men you could not do this."

"And yet, it must be done," Gandalf stated tonelessly.

"Truly, you are all insane," Boromir muttered disparagingly as he rose to his feet and walked over to join Gandalf and Gimli, "And what madman have you convinced to take this fool's errand? Tell us who," Boromir demanded as he crossed his arms and shot the wizard a contemptuous look, "Did you not say that none were safe from the corruption of the ring, not even yourself? If that is so, then what poor halfwit have you convinced to sacrifice themselves to your doomed cause?"

"I will take it," a little voiced piped up before Gandalf could respond. Frodo quailed a little as all eyes turned towards him, but continued on bravely, "I've carried it this far, bearing it a little longer won't make much of a difference in the long run."

"Frodo," Gandalf said kindly, "I don't think you quite understand the nature of this terrible task. The danger it courts is-"

"No. No, I do understand," Frodo interrupted, cutting off his dear old friend before the wizard could try and convince him otherwise, "But, you see, surely it must have come to us Baggins for a reason. And I couldn't rightly let anyone else take up such a heavy burden when it's our responsibility to see it done."

"Oh Frodo," Gandalf sighed helplessly as he reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose in complete consternation.

"How very convenient for you," Boromir muttered snidely, causing the grey wizard to wince even further.

Oh yes, this was going to turn out to be just lovely, Gandalf thought despondently.