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Section XXXIII-The Story Unfolds

"Is it secret? Is it safe?" My joy at seeing Gandalf was whipped away by his haggard appearance and abrupt worried questions. For a moment I searched my mind for an answer, desperately trying to remember our last conversation so long ago now. His urgency was palpable, communicating itself to me. Gandalf could barely hide his impatience. Fortunately, once I knew of what he spoke, I was able to quickly produce the sought for item. He practically snatched it from me. I found myself momentarily startled by the sudden desire to snatch it back.

Curious, I followed Gandalf to the main sitting room where he promptly flung the ring into the fire burning there. My eyes widened in horror. I felt unsettled by my need to resist my own impulse to reach into the fire to retrieve it. I could hardly believe my eyes. What was he doing? What was he thinking? Was he mad? I found myself almost mesmerized by the crackling and popping of the flames lapping around the gold band. Slowly it dawned on me that the ring was unharmed. My eyes wandered from Gandalf to the ring and back waiting for what would happen next.

Finally, Gandalf gingerly extracted the ring from the fire and half requested and commanded I hold out my hand. For an instant, I hesitated, shooting a sharp glance his way. Maybe he really was mad. He assured me it was quite cool. Reluctantly, I offered my opened hand to receive the proffered ring into my palm. He dropped it in. Though I trust Gandalf, I couldn't restrain myself from flinching ever so slightly when I felt the weight of the ring. As promised, it was surprisingly cool.

Again his voice held an urgency that I was quite unfamiliar with in my old friend, as he wondered if there were any writing or markings on the ring. Carefully turning it in my fingers I searched for even the merest scratch. Nothing. There was nothing. I heard his soft sigh...of relief? Wait.... Letters, the same color as the fire, flickered onto the band. Odd, it looked like elvish, but I could not read it.

Gandalf turned slowly to answer my questioning gaze. Slowly, he began to unfolded the story of the ring to me. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. The tale was long and detailed. Making tea for us gave me something to do as I tried to wrap my thoughts around everything Gandalf was saying. But try as I might, I knew I fell short of truly understanding. I even imagined I heard the ring speak, but perhaps it wasn't imagined as I noticed Gandalf's eyes also train momentarily on the ring.

I knew that I did not fully comprehend all of Gandalf's tale, but I also knew the ring must be hidden and quickly. My mind searched for a place in Bag End that no one knew of, but Sam knows it better than I do. It must also be hid from him, but where? No one must know of it. I grabbed the ring from the table and headed to the main sitting room searching for a likely hiding place. Crossing the room I stopped. I felt certain no one knew of the ring's presence here but a doubt crept into my mind. I knew I could not hide the worry in my eyes as I looked back over my shoulder at Gandalf voicing my momentary fear, expecting him to calm it with reassuring words. He had not finished his story.

As Gandalf filled in the final details, terror clutched at my heart. Thoughts raced through my mind. This was all so beyond me. I didn't even know where to begin. I clearly recognized my complete inadequacy to deal with this matter. I held out the ring to Gandalf, certain he would know what to do. I was completely taken aback by his sharp refusal. How can a seemingly trivial magic ring, or so I thought of it all these years, bring so much fear to even a wizard such as Gandalf? Yet, he trembled when I tried to give it to him. Fleetingly, I wished the ring had never come to me. Slowly, I understood Gandalf's meaning. Wrapping my fingers around the ring, I accepted his unspoken request, "What must I do?"