Moria - In the Dark
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: I actually had a lot of trouble writing this chapter and I'm still a bit uneasy about it. I had to rewrite a lot of it after I finally managed to get it out and I'm still not sure whether it turned out all right. Please, feel free to let me know what you think about it. I would really appreciate it.

Note #3: Movie canon? Book canon? Hell, I don't know anymore.


It did not take long to divide up the contents of the packs appropriately and redistribute them out amongst the Fellowship. While several of them weren't too keen upon entering the Mines of Moria, they certainly didn't want to stay where they were any longer than necessary. There was just something present in the air that set them all a little on edge. The sooner they were gone from it the better.

Frodo grunted slightly under his breath as he shouldered his newly acquired pack and adjusted the straps that easily turned it into a hobbit sized backpack. Granted, it wasn't too heavy, the weight of the packs had been distributed quite fairly and the hobbits had gotten the lighter ones due to their size and build. Gimli, on the other hand, had argued hotly for his to be laden down as much as possible, citing the sturdy build of his people as his reasoning for such. Frodo was just glad that his own wasn't going to be awkward to carry around. He hadn't fancied the thought of stumbling around in the dark carrying around a moderately heavy bag that he had to shift around every few minutes to avoid dropping.

After a few more adjustments, the pack's weight settled comfortably against Frodo's back. There, that should do it. He should be able to get where ever it was that they were going without suffering a backache or anything of the like. Smiling contentedly, Frodo glanced around at the others. Boromir was helping Pippin get his own pack settled properly. Sam, meanwhile, was rather intent upon shuffling his pots and pans about so they didn't clank up against each other. Gimli was standing stock still in front of the West-gate, gazing long and hard into the deep darkness beyond. As for Gandalf, who still appeared quite disgruntled, Aragorn and Elrohir, they were all standing near their dwarven companion discussing something or other amongst themselves. And Merry, why he was standing over by the lake, his toes almost touching the water, giving the still, stagnant waters a rather suspicious look. What was that all about?

Shrugging to himself, Frodo walked over to his fellow hobbit and gently prodded him. "Merry? What are you looking at?"

Merry started in surprise, his attention too focused upon the lake to have noticed the ring-bearer's approach. "Oh hi, Frodo," he laughed self-consciously and scratched at the back of his neck. "It's nothing really, there's just something... not right here, you know?"

"Yes, I know," Frodo said softly. And so do the others, he added silently as he looked back at the group in front of the West-gate and took note of the occasional wary glance Aragorn and Elrohir kept giving the lake. "But don't worry, we won't be here much longer."

Merry nodded wordlessly in agreement and gave the cliffs behind them a quick glimpse, shivering unconsciously as his eyes skittered uncomfortably over the yawning darkness of their chosen path. Truth be known, he didn't feel any better about where they were going than where they were now. Both places just seemed very wrong to him and he wasn't sure why. He wasn't a wizard or an elf or anything special, he was just a hobbit. Hobbits didn't get feelings about things like this, they were sensible people... And now he was starting to sound like Sam. How mortifying.

He humphed in disgust at his own thoughts and gave himself a little shake. This nonsense needed to stop right now. He was Meriadoc Brandybuck, responsibility was the furthest thing from his name. These bizarre feelings that were making him so uneasy could go right back to where they belonged, which was probably Sam's head.

"Merry," Frodo began apprehensively, nudging the distracted hobbit to garner his attention, "What do you think that is?" He pointed out across the lake to an odd bit of swirling bubbles that were coming up on the far side from them. They had started just a moment ago, but swiftly seemed to be growing in ferocity.

Merry squinted and peered hard at the bubbles. The feelings of unease that he had been trying to convince himself to get rid of began to scream at him as the bubbling began to expand towards them. "Uhm, fish maybe?" he guessed weakly, but couldn't quite bring himself to believe that it was something so simple as fish anymore than his fellow hobbit could.

"Do you really think that any fish could live in that?" Frodo asked in pure disbelief and gestured emphatically out at the dead, stagnant lake.

"No, not really," Merry muttered and nervously glanced around at the rocky shore they stood upon before sharing a worried look with Frodo. "I think we should maybe get as far away from the water as possible."

Frodo nodded his complete agreement at Merry's suggestion and they both scampered quickly over the pebbles and back towards the rest of the group. The lake continued to produce more and more bubbles as they hurried away.

Gimli, in the meantime, had been silently standing in front of the now open West-gate of Moria for quite awhile now, leaning upon his axe and staring uncertainly into the vast darkness beyond. Every few minutes or so he would heave a troubled sigh and unconsciously finger the blade his axe.

Elrohir watched Gimli's antics, or lack thereof, and felt himself growing oddly curious at the dwarf's demeanor. Before he had left to go take care of the warg pack that had picked up on their trail, Gimli had seemed rather eager at the prospect of entering the mines; but ever since he had joined back up with the Fellowship the dwarf had seemed a bit withdrawn and no longer appeared to be pleased about where their path was taking them. It was an odd turn of events and Elrohir found himself wondering as to why.

Frowning slightly as he pondered upon this new little oddity and then failed to come up with a reasonable explanation for it, Elrohir stepped up beside the dour dwarf and crossed his arms. "Tell me, Gimli," he said quietly, meaning his inquiry to be only for dwarven ears and none other's, "What is it that troubles you so?"

Gimli huffed, though it almost bordered upon a sigh, his breath ruffling the bushy mustache of his beard. The dwarf seemed to hunch up on himself at the elf's inquiry and the silence stretched out uncomfortably between them. After a few moments more, Elrohir assumed that he would not receive any answer at all. But just as he decided to turn his attention to other things, Gimli gave a hopeless shrug and directed a sharp, wary glare upon the elf. "I cannot express the eager awe I feel at the opportunity to enter into the halls of my forefathers and witness for myself the splendor of Khazad-dum. No dwarf worth his salt would feel otherwise."

"And yet?" Elrohir prompted, keeping his voice even and calm to encourage his dwarven companion to continue.

"And yet, I cannot help but hesitate all the same," Gimli said sadly, his expression growing almost as dark and dismal as the gate standing before them, "For I fear what we may find once we step beneath the mountains. Balin, along with several of our kinsman, sought to reclaim Moria some years back. It was their greatest wish to drive the rancid evil from our ancestral home. But we have not heard from them for many years now." The dwarf shook his head unhappily and puffed out another hard breath before concluding glumly, "It does not bode well."

"No, it does not," Elrohir agreed somberly and peered hard into the darkness that gathered just beyond the opened gate. While it was true that the elves had been gifted with generally superior senses when compared to the other races, Elrohir was finding it difficult to pierce the gloom with his own sight. He could make out a flight of stair not far distant from the West-gate, but he could not fathom where they might end or perhaps even turn a corner. There was something about the shadows that lurked within, something that he couldn't quite place; but nevertheless he had the distinct impression that whatever it was it was something that was terribly, dreadfully wrong.

Choosing this path was a mistake, he thought cynically to himself. They would only succeed in finding death in the Mines of Moria. He stole a quick glance over at Mithrandir, who was involved in a rather animated discussion with Aragorn and Boromir on how to keep the hobbits and their preternatural urge to eat from compromising their dignity. The hobbits would heed the wizard's command to not snack, but inborn instincts were difficult things to ignore.

Elrohir sighed soundlessly and looked back through the gate. He was torn. They were all eagerly, or perhaps not so eagerly, preparing to enter the long dark of Moria and travel through to their inevitable end. In all honesty, he truly did not care if he met his own end beneath the crush of earth and stone where not even the light of the stars could reach him. It would be... poetic, in a way. But his father had asked him to watch out for Estel, and letting his little human brother blithely walk heedlessly into his doom wouldn't serve that purpose very well. What to do?

"Get it away!" Frodo shouted, the ring-bearer's nigh ear piercing shriek slicing through Elrohir's indecisive pondering and effectively focusing the attention of the entire Fellowship upon him. Well, him and Merry, who, along with Frodo, was doing a rather comical hot foot dance as something slithered ineffectually around their feet.

"It's a snake!" Merry yelled, his voice wavering frantically as he bounced from one foot to the other, doing his best to avoid that thing trying latch onto their feet. "Do something! Anything! Just get it away!"

Sam, being the gardener that he was and having dealt with many a snake in said chosen profession, instantly rushed to the aid of his fellow hobbits. No snake had ever given a Gamgee pause. The rest of the Fellowship stood frozen for several seconds, the pure adrenaline rush caused by Frodo's harried scream now warring with something akin to bemusement within them all.

Just a snake, Aragorn thought with some relief as he watched Sam draw his knife and make a futile grab for the offending creature. A snake... out in the dead of winter... The ranger grimaced as he shook his head, drew his sword and started towards the three distressed hobbits. In these lands snakes hibernated during the winter, safe from the freezing temperatures. No matter what species it might hail from, no true serpent would be up and so active in the cold weather. No, the chances of that being something so simple as a snake were slim to none.

"Sam, don't touch it! Frodo, Merry, get away from it!" Aragorn barked out sharply. But the snake seemed to hear him as well as the hobbits, for the instant the ranger's voice became only an echo upon the cliffs the thing froze, then snapped around one of Sam's ankles and yanked.

The gardener squeaked as he was jerked off of his feet and dragged towards the water's edge. "Sam!" Frodo yelled in dismay and dove for his friend, grabbing the stout Gamgee under the arms and holding on for dear life as he tried to prevent them both from being dragged into the water.

The snake had other ideas. The water just beyond the bank bubbled and frothed furiously, then two more snakes whipped out to join its fellow and snatched at the nearby hobbits, hauling Sam, Frodo and Merry high into the air above the lake just before Aragorn could reach them. The ranger cursed sulfurously and immediately charged into the water, swinging Anduril in a wide arc at the closest snake, severing it completely. Merry screamed in terror as he plummeted into the seething water, but his cry was drowned out by an unearthly wail rising up from the depths of the lake.

"Oh Valar," Aragorn whispered in complete shock as a forest of snakes, nay, tentacles rose out of the water around him. What in all of Arda was this thing? What dark pit had spawned it and how had it gotten here? The sound of metal slicing through flesh to his right succeeded in breaking the ranger from his awed stupor just as one of the closer tentacles swung down at him. He ducked under the blow, severing the agile appendage as he rose back up and began chopping his way towards the two remaining hobbits. The others were with him now, they would save Frodo and Sam from this thing.

Elrohir growled silently as he slid out of the way of a barreling mass of tentacles and swiftly twisted the hilt of his sword in his hands, cutting cleanly through the cursed things with a backhanded strike. His hesitation at helping the hobbits had been plain stupidity on his part. He had known that something wasn't right with this lake. He should have known that there had been more to the thing causing the hobbits' fright. Instead it had taken Aragorn rushing to their aid to shake him from his mistaken and short lived relief. I am such a fool.

I could fix you too.

The elf flinched violently as the seductive voice slithered into his mind. Of course, the Ring would find this to be the perfect opportunity to try and convince him to claim it. He should have known.

Yes, you should have, The Ring laughed mockingly, You should have known that I would take any opportunity given.

Elrohir frowned at the apparent insinuation in the Ring's derisive tone. He nodded absently at Gimli as the dwarf enthusiastically cut through another mass of tentacles to his left, returning the vicious grin the dwarven warrior momentarily graced him with. You summoned this thing, did you not?

Of course I did. The elf could practically hear the sneer permeating the Ring's answer. Unlike you, I am not a fool.

Grinding his teeth in impotent fury, Elrohir bent himself to the single task of clearing a way for Aragorn and Boromir, who had both managed to reach the tentacles holding Frodo and Sam while the Ring distracted him. Gimli crowed boisterously as the hobbits were freed by the two men, swinging his axe to the side in an almost careless move and slicing neatly through the three tentacles that had begun to rise from the water nearby. They were winning, or so it seemed.

The deafening roar that rose from the lake immediately after the hobbits were freed, unfortunately, disabused them of that notion.

"Hurry! All of you, get through the gate before it can regroup," Gandalf proclaimed, his commanding voice somehow ringing out above the horrible din as he herded Pippin and a waterlogged Merry towards the West-gate.

The remainder of the Fellowship needed no further instructions and waded quickly out of the foul water, Aragorn carrying Frodo while Boromir toted Sam over his shoulder. Gimli and Elrohir fended off the tentacles that followed, backing swiftly through the gate after the rest had entered into the Mines of Moria. They all shivered as an unholy shriek reverberated outside when the thing realized that its prey had managed to escape its grasp. Perhaps in a fit of pure fury driven frustration, the appendages closest to the gate grabbed ahold of the stone doors and slammed them shut, engulfing the Fellowship in utter darkness as the horrendous sound of a rock slide echoed outside.

When the clamor at last died down to something of a dull roar, Gandalf chuckled weakly behind them. "Well, that was a bit unexpected." Elrohir twitched and briefly wondered if he could get away with throttling the wizard before reluctantly discarding the idea. The others would be able to discern his luminescence before he succeeded in murdering Mithrandir.

"Does anyone have a torch?" Frodo asked, his voice wavering from either the shock of the attack, relief that he was safe or the fact that he had been thoroughly drenched in ice cold water. Or perhaps all three...

"Just a moment." The sound of shuffling of some sort followed the wizard's muttering, then mild cursing and finally words that only Elrohir could hear but still could not quite make out. A white light shone blindingly from the top of the Grey Wizard's staff then before dying down to a much more manageable glow. "Never fear, I do have my uses," Gandalf said proudly as the Fellowship rubbed at their dazzled eyes.

"Could have fooled me," Boromir grumbled under his breath, grasping his arms tightly as he began to shiver uncontrollably in his waterlogged armor.

"I would suggest that we move on," Gandalf announced cheerfully, "However, I think it would be prudent if you all changed out of those wet clothes first before you catch your death."

Aragorn stared at the wizard as if Gandalf had lost his mind, then shook his head in exasperation and started to unlace his jerkin. "Nice choice of words there."


Her Galadhrim escort had long since set up camp, much to Arwen's growing consternation. They had, in fact, scouted out a secure location for their camp and settled down long before it was necessary. Then they had had an early supper, one that had been garnished a bit more than usual thanks to the extra time their early stop had granted their scouts in digging up a few roots and some hardy herbs here and there. It had been nice, to be sure, but unnecessary and the reason why was really starting to rankle her nerves.

"Rumil!" Arwen growled hotly as she stalked over to the Lorien elf and glared down at him. Once their new camp had been established, the marchwarden had gathered up all of the Galadhrim's cloaks and was now in the process of sewing them together. Arwen knew why he was doing this, of course, but she just didn't see the need for it. She was quite capable of taking care of herself.

"Yes Arwen, did you need something?" Rumil said blandly, not even deigning to look up at the elf maiden.

Further incensed at Rumil's blase demeanor, Arwen fisted her hands tightly. "They are gaining ground while we just sit here!"

"Then they shall be two days ahead of us instead of just one," Rumil replied, his tone just as even and unconcerned as it had been before.

Arwen practically shook as she barely resisted the wholly satisfying urge to smack some sense into the infuriating elf. Instead she turned an imploring, yet demanding, glare upon her brother who sat not far from them and had been watching the ongoing theatrics with mild interest. Elladan gave her one of the twins' patented 'What do you expect me to do about it?' looks in return.

Well, he was no help at all. Sighing, Arwen forcefully released the tension building up in her body and glanced back down at the utterly unaffected marchwarden. Smirking slightly, she watched him expertly stitching the garments together before lightly commenting, "Would you like me to teach you how to embroider, Rumil? You certainly seem to have a talent for sewing."

"No thank you, Arwen, I already know how to do that," Rumil declared, grinning smugly at the flabbergasted expression that crossed her face at his announcement.

"Ar- are you mocking me?" Arwen demanded in annoyance and defiantly planted her hands upon her hips. If he thought he could get away unscathed with making fun of her, he had another thing coming. Even Galadriel wasn't spared her temper in that regard. Of course, her grandmother always set her off on purpose for her own amusement, but that was beside the point.

Rumil chuckled at her reaction and continued with his work. "Far be it for me to ruin whatever image you may have of me in that head of yours, but yes, I do know how to embroider. Quite well, in fact."

"Well," Arwen muttered after spending a few seconds blinking in surprise at his answer, "That's different. Dare I ask why?"

"There has only been the three of us for all of these years, Arwen," Rumil explained matter-of-factly, "And while the people of Caras Galadhon raised us well, there are some things that one must learn how to do on their own. Sewing happened to be one of those things for me, and I decided that if I was going to learn how to do it then I was going to learn how to do it well and not stop halfway."

"Oh," Arwen murmured, deflating sadly at the reminder that not all of her friends still had parents to call their own. Admittedly, none of the three brothers were truly bitter about their lot. They had lost their parents back when Rumil and Orophin had still been very young, and while their remaining memories of them were few and far between, they knew that their mother and father had loved them very much. Thus, it was just another little regret, one whose pondering upon could be used as a distraction from other far more painful ones.

Shaking her head to free it of such melancholy thoughts, Arwen frowned. No, she would not think about that now. She would not allow herself to be distracted from the source of her present irritation. "I still do not see the reason for our continued delay. They are getting away!"

"It is simple, Arwen," Rumil sighed, his eyes rolling heavenward in a very put upon manner. He had already explained this several times before, and would probably have to explain it many more times before she was content, or at least something vaguely resembling contentment. "We are going to hunt down and exterminate those vermin. However, you will not participate at all in the upcoming battle." He raised an imperious hand, forestalling any further arguments from her. "I do not care how well you are capable of defending yourself. And yes, I do know how skilled you have become under Orophin's tutelage, but that is neither here nor there. The Lady has given me the duty of protecting you upon your journey and that is what I'm going to do."

Arwen scowled at the repeated explanation, not willing to give up the argument just yet. "And this," she grumbled while gesturing pointedly at the mass of cloaks strewn about Rumil's lap, "Is going to solve the problem?"

"Yes, actually, it is." Rumil smiled pleasantly as he tied off a stitch and bit off the trailing thread. "The cloaks of the Galadhrim will serve to hide you and Roheryn from any prying eyes... as long as you don't do anything stupid."

"You are giving me a lot more credit than usual," Arwen murmured and grinned impishly, "Remember, I typically do not listen very well to what others expect me to do when I feel like doing otherwise."

"You will do this, Arwen," Rumil stated flatly, his voice pure steel as he glared up at her, "You are not a fool. You well know that we would all be distracted if we had to worry about protecting you in the midst of battle. Distractions kill."

"I know," Arwen sighed tiredly, relenting at last to Rumil's logic. She kneeled down in front of him, hugging her knees, and gave him a contrite look. "I am sorry. I do not mean to be such a nuisance, but I just don't like the idea of being unable to do anything to help."

"None of us do, Arwen." Rumil smiled apologetically and started on another stitch. "But it is something we all must face at one point or another. If this were another time and another place, I would eagerly welcome you beside me in battle without hesitation, for I well know how fierce you can be."

"Of course you would," Arwen snorted in disbelief, "But beside you? I think not. You would have me as far away from you as possible so you wouldn't have to listen to my caterwauling, as you have so often put it in the past. But I thank you for the thought anyway, the sentiment is appreciated." Leaning forward impulsively, she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before rising to go join her brother.


Slowly but carefully, Elrohir extricated himself from the two hobbits that had been using him as a pillow. Once Frodo had determined that it wasn't just Gandalf's staff that was providing light for the company, neither he nor Sam had been very keen on letting Elrohir out of their sight, even going so far as grabbing onto his hands and walking along beside him as if they were elflings and he their keeper. It was really quite disconcerting.

The others hadn't helped much either. Mithrandir had only given them the occasional amused glance, though the wizard had been smart enough to not laugh outright at Elrohir's predicament. He would have killed the Grey Pilgrim with extreme prejudice had that happened and damned be the consequences. Gimli hadn't paid any attention at all, instead the dwarf had entertained and enthralled Merry and Pippin with grand tales of his people. Boromir had joined them, asking sporadic questions here and there during the telling. Aragorn had, at least, had enough sense of self-preservation to look somewhat apologetic over Elrohir's problem, but had not even attempted to rescue him from them. Really, weren't brothers supposed to be a bit more useful than that?

He had hoped that his two hobbit limpets would find something else other than him to focus their attention upon once the Fellowship had come across a suitable room to rest in for the night. Unfortunately, said hopes had been for naught. Not even Pippin nearly taking a header down a rather deep hole in the floor had been cause enough for them to release their hold upon him. Thankfully, they had let go long enough to eat, but had returned, along with their bedding, immediately afterwards. Were they trying to drive him mad? If so, they might possibly succeed.

Shaking his head at the situation, Elrohir stepped silently over the slumbering hobbits and made his way over towards Mithrandir. The wizard had announced that he would take first watch over supper, much to the elf's annoyance, and had earned himself yet another reason for Elrohir to kill him once this was all over. Upon reaching Mithrandir's side, Elrohir scowled and waved his hand ineffectually through the pipe smoke that hovered around the Grey Wizard.

Gandalf cocked a bushy eyebrow at the elf but scooted over a bit on his rocky perch, giving Elrohir room enough to sit down. "My, but this is a surprise. My beloved pipe-weed has caused even your father to pause and reconsider approaching me every now and then. And yet here you are, braving the pungent aroma to come speak with me. Such a courageous lad."

Glaring acidly, Elrohir seated himself rather stiffly beside the wizard and tried to not breathe in too deeply. "You know full well why I'm here."

"Mmm," Gandalf hummed in agreement as he studied the reluctant young elf lord beside him. Elrohir was visibly displeased, but that was nothing new. The tension and constant battle readiness were nothing new either, but there was a different, newer sense of stress just beneath the surface now, and it wasn't he who had put it there. "Aye, I do know why you seek me out and it is not because I am constantly annoying you in one manner or another, nor is it for one single reason either."

"Then you know of my... concerns." Elrohir scowled slightly and wrinkled his nose up at the smoke. He could almost believe that it had a mind of its own the way it drifted lazily about him. And perhaps it did, he had witnessed Mithrandir making moving images out of his pipe's smoke before, after all.

"Yes, but which shall we approach first?" Gandalf nodded thoughtfully, his brows drawing together in contemplation. "Perhaps the darkness of Moria itself?"

"There is something here," Elrohir asserted softly, allowing the wizard to direct their conversation to his own liking for the time being. "It was a mistake to come here."

"Aye, it was, but it was one that had to be made," Gandalf admitted, wincing as a sharp edge jabbed into his rump as he shifted in an attempt to find a more comfortable position. "The other paths left to us were worse. Caradhras would have certainly killed us and if we had detoured any other way then either Sauron or Saruman's minions would have caught up to us. By choosing this path there is at least a likely possibility that one or more of us will make it through."

"You are not expecting all of us to survive Moria," Elrohir stated flatly, not at all surprised at this revelation. He could feel the heavy, unnatural darkness lurking at the edge of the light, waiting patiently for the right moment to fall upon the Fellowship and snuff them out like candles.

"No, I do not. I doubt very much that I will." Gandalf sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. He would never have said so much to any of the others, yet there was no denying that death clung to Elrohir like a second skin and thus made it so much easier to discuss it with the elf. It felt right, and perhaps that was the most wrong thing of all.

"What are you expecting?" Elrohir asked as he crossed his arms and leaned back against the stone wall behind them.

"Goblins, undoubtedly, and possibly some cave trolls. The usual, but it is not they that I fear," Gandalf grimaced and watched as a stray bit of ash drifted out of his pipe and floated gently to the floor. "Nay, what I fear is that we will have to contend with Durin's Bane ere before we are free of the Black Chasm."

"Durin's Bane?" Elrohir repeated, his eyes widening in shock. "The balrog? It still resides here? You say that this is the best path even though it leads us into the realm of a balrog?"

"Yes, and it shall be my doom, no doubt," Gandalf grumbled, yanking his pipe out from between his teeth and dumping the ember across the floor, scattering them in his agitation. "I am watching for it, and will continue to do so, but I suspect that perhaps you might sense it even before I do. If you feel anything, even the slightest tingle of that thing's cursed darkness, you must tell me. I must know of its approach, Elrohir."

"Of course," the elf murmured and watched the scorched pipe-weed flare and fall into ash at their feet. He was still a bit too surprised at this new knowledge to do much else. The worst he had been expecting to run into upon this fool's quest had been wraiths, but a balrog... that was something entirely different. Was it even possible to kill a balrog in this age?

"Good good, it will be best if we know ahead of time so that we may prepare," Gandalf said quietly, appearing as if every one of the long years that he had lived now settled about his shoulders not unlike a shroud. He too watched the ashes burn themselves into nothing for a time before finally disturbing the silence stretching between them again. "You must not pay heed to the Ring."

"It is hard to ignore something that speaks to you directly," Elrohir remarked, his eyes still trained upon the dying embers.

Gandalf shook his head, the elf's comment confirming one of his suspicions. "Your grief attracts it, Elrohir, like a moth to a flame. But you must not listen."

"Do not fear for me." Elrohir smiled sardonically as he glanced back up at the wizard. "What it offers holds no interest for me whatsoever. It is only an end that I seek. What possible use could I have for such a thing when it can give me nothing that I desire?"

"Death is not everything," Gandalf groused irritably and scowled darkly at the almost flippant way that the elf seemed to view it.

"It is for me," Elrohir refuted, the plain sincerity in his statement silencing the wizard more effectively than anything else could.

Don't be so sure.

Elrohir stiffened and stole a quick glance over towards Frodo. The hobbit was sleeping soundly, one hand reaching up from beneath the blanket wrapped around him to grasp at something upon his chest. The Ring. I'm not listening.

You will in the end.