I find myself startled by one of the dwarves demanding, "What are we waiting for?" He hefts an axe, and I wonder what he plans to do with it.
Pain sears my mind. I bury my face in my hand in a vain effort to hide from it. It is almost as though I myself am struck, and yet I know I've not been touched. This pierces deeper.
Ever so slowly dread grows in my heart; already the simple gold band is a part of me. Sweat beads on my brow; I feel it.
Lord Elrond's fateful words echo in my ears: the Ring must be cast back into the fires of Mt. Doom. "One of you must do this."
Boromir's description of Mordor freezes my heart as the sweat trickles down my cheek. The Eye... Has he seen it? I struggle not to tremble, my own memory of it only a blink away. He paints a scene like no place on earth I've ever beheld before, not even in my dreams. A place so far removed from my beloved Shire as to be beyond my grasp to imagine it.
A heated argument between Legolas and the Dwarf ensues -- Lord Elrond called him Gimli. Boromir attempts to enter the fray but is completely ignored. I did not know such distrust and dislike existed between the Elves and the Dwarves.
I no longer hear the words distinctly, but the anger grows, entwining all present. I cannot tear my eyes from the Ring, but for momentary glances at various disputers, the Elves and the Dwarves, Gandalf and Boromir. The upheaval around me is as nothing to the turmoil in my heart. Please, let it be decided! But a growing dark of realization creeps into my heart; it is only begun. My eyes dart round the council. Surely, among all these great and wise people there is someone who will bear this burden? Is there no one else?
I am loathe to admit it, but even now I feel it tugging at me. There It sits, so far away. I kept It so close for so long...
The Black Speech of Mordor rings louder and louder in my ears. Does no one else hear it? It is the inscription on the Ring; the words Gandalf uttered earlier, but now not in Gandalf's voice but that of another...
Finally, I am wholly unable to endure the bickering of the people or the hissing of the Ring one more moment. I hop to my feet and open my mouth. I know what I will say; fear sticks in my throat.
"I will take it."
No one listens. I strengthen my resolve.
"I will take it!"
Now they hear and turn all eyes on me.
"I will take the ring to Mordor, though, I do not know the way."
Sam is not going to be happy about this.
Gandalf promises to help me. What a relief to know he will accompany me. Strider -- Aragorn -- offers protection with his sword by his life or death. It is difficult for me to comprehend such an offer on my behalf. Legolas offers his bow and Gimli his axe. I already know he is quite good with it. Boromir is willing to support the council's decision, not just in word but deed as well.
Sam! Dear Sam. He looks abashed at Lord Elrond's gentle chastisement but no less determined to come with me. I should send him home to the Shire, but I cannot deny that my heart is a bit more at ease knowing he will be with me.
Merry and Pippin rush in, refusing to be left behind. Lord Elrond's face is a picture of irritation. I cannot help but smile to myself. His lifetime spans the ages, but I think he's never met the likes of hobbits. Small we may be, but we manage to surprise even the very wise.
Though I appreciate the pledges of the representatives of the free peoples of Middle-earth, none touches me more deeply than Sam's. He has unsettled Lord Elrond and though I would not choose to put him in danger I also could not refuse his desire to fulfill his own promise to Gandalf. With Merry and Pippin's pledges, I find myself squaring my shoulders a bit, standing a little taller, breathing a little easier. For the moment, the burden seems a little lighter.
It is decided. Nine Walkers set against Nine Riders. The Fellowship of the Ring.