The last scouts returned. We will be on our way when everything is ready.
It will soon be Yule in the Shire. I do not believe we will be spending it here in Rivendell but rather on the road headed south. Will we even note the day? How grateful I am to be with Merry, Pippin, and Sam. A corner of my mind whispers their families miss them. I push the thought away, long since ceasing to suggest they return to the safety of the Shire. They are determined to accompany me, their devotion truly a comfort.
The morning of our last day in Rivendell, I dread the time to say goodbye to Bilbo, not wishing to leave him. He asked to see me alone in his room, after first breakfast. My sorrow forgotten, I cannot help but observe with interest as he retrieves a wooden box from under his bed. The things within are decidedly not very hobbitish.
He presents me his old sword Sting, in its shabby leather scabbard. I carefully unsheathe it and marvel at the lightness of the blade. The workmanship is graceful and elegant, clearly crafted by Elves. Bilbo draws in close to inform me it glows blue when orcs are about. I push the thoughts of such creatures to the back of my mind.
The mail shirt Bilbo is holding up distracts me from Sting. Mithril, a gift from the dwarves. I momentarily remember the bitter argument between the Elves and Dwarves. I smile to myself at the thought of wearing a dwarf-mail shirt and carrying an Elven-made weapon.
Bilbo bids me try the shirt on, assuring me it is quite light. I admit feeling a bit odd wearing it for all to see, the white gems sparkling. I desire no more attention. At Bilbo's behest, I will wear the shirt beneath my own clothes. It will be a secret between Bilbo and me. I unfasten the fourth button and note out of the corner of my eye, Bilbo's intense gaze upon me. Mistrust creeps into my heart unexpectedly. He spies the Ring hanging about my neck and desires to hold it, one last time, he says. Protectively, I button my shirt. Abruptly, his face seems to change, wild and angry, his hand grasping for the Ring. I clutch the Ring in my hand to hide it. He backs away, covering his face as tears begin to fall. His contorted features frightened me, yet so quickly it passes... I wonder: did he actually change, or was it, in truth, only in my mind? A niggling feeling whispers, it wasn't so much his actual appearance as the momentary realization: if this could happen to Bilbo, would it happen to me?
Bilbo weeps softly. "I'm sorry I brought this upon you, my boy... I'm sorry that you must carry this burden... I'm sorry for everything!"
Dear Bilbo. I have no words to offer him so place my hand on his shoulder hoping to comfort and convey to the old hobbit my continued love for him. His hand grasps mine and I tighten my fingers around his.
It is time.
All gather in Rivendell's courtyard entryway. Elrond pronounces me the Ring-bearer. I try to concentrate on what he is saying. No oath or bond is laid to those who accompany me. They are to continue along the way only as long as they may. He dismisses us with the blessing of Elves, Men and all free folk.
Gandalf speaks. "The Fellowship awaits the Ring-bearer."
A moment passes and understanding dawns; he means me. I glance about me but hardly see anything as I slowly turn. My eyes sweep over those who have agreed to travel with me. They part to allow me to lead the way through the stone arch. I glance towards Gandalf as I pass, and he steps in behind me.
I realize, "Mordor, Gandalf, is it left or right?"
My foot steps onto the path. After walking across the bridge out of Rivendell, I find myself climbing out of the valley beside Gandalf. I do not look back.