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Ch. 4 - Journeys Begin and Secrets are Kept
“So, this is who we are to keep safe?” Thranduil eyed the small gangrel creature that Gandalf had named Gollum. The ElvenKing sat on his throne and looked at the stooped over personage that looked back at him with big watery eyes that held a wary, mistrusting gaze and Thranduil at that moment discovered why he was called Gollum as the odd, spindly personage made a sound roughly akin to the sound the kitchen cats made when spitting up a hairball. Thranduil’s eyebrows shot up at the sound and he looked dubiously at Gandalf.
“Yes, well.” Gandalf sputtered out, “It is for his own good, though I doubt he will thank you for it.”
“Indeed,” Thranduil mused, looking at the gangrel creature in a doubtful way.
Gollum looked at the very tall Elf who was looking down upon him, “What’s this place, Precious?”
Thranduil looked down his nose at Gollum, with no intention of telling him anything that he did not need to know, “This is where you are to stay. You are to visit with us for a time.”
Gollum eyed the tall elf sitting on his throne and regarded him with suspicion, “Must go! Cannot stay. Don’t want no visiting!”
“Nevertheless, you shall remain with us.” Thranduil said in a voice that could only be described as steel wrapped in cordiality.
Gollum eyed him again and emitted a sound, “Baaaaaaaaah!!!” and then blew air through his thin lips in what could only be described as a raspberry.
Again, Thranduil raised an eyebrow and looked at one of his guards to come forward, “Raeven, take Gollum to a cell on the first level. Be sure he has what he needs. Be quick about it!” He motioned for Gandalf to hand Gollum’s rope that held his hands bound to his guard.
“Yes, My King, it shall be done,” Raeven said, nodding with his hand on heart and then receiving the tether from Gandalf.
“Dravedir! Go with him!” Thranduil motioned to a second guardsman.
“Yes, My King!”
As they left Gollum could be heard mimicking and mocking, “It shall be done, Yes my king…”
Both Celebren and Legolas exchanged glanced after watching the two guardsmen and Gollum leave the auxiliary chamber. They then turned their attention back to their father.
Thranduil’s face held a bemused expression as he looked quizzically at Gandalf, “This we will do, Mithrandir, though it remains a most odd request.”
Gandalf harrumphed, “Regardless, it must be done!”
Thranduil returned, “And it shall be. Tell me Mithrandir, for how long we to keep him as our ‘Guest’?”
“For as long as it takes.” The grey wizard stated.
Thranduil gave a sardonic sigh. “I was afraid you were going to say that.”
Gandalf looked at the ElvenKing and Thranduil gave him a pointed look as well. “Yes, well. It is as it needs to be.” He looked in the direction Gollum was taken and sighed musing inwardly. He turned back to Thranduil. “Use him well. He may yet reform!” Gandalf ended with somewhat forced optimism. Thranduil tilted his head and his eyes bore amused doubt. “Yes, allright.” Gandalf replied to the look somewhat testily, “But still, use him well.” He ended hopefully.
“It shall be done, Mithrandir.” Thranduil affirmed yet again. Gandalf inclined his head, thankfully Thranduil had acceded to his wishes. The ElvenKing then looked at Aragorn and smiled, “Glad you are to be rid of this charge?”
Aragorn smiled ruefully, “It was a duty to be performed. And a duty I am glad to see discharged.” He admitted freely.
“Can you not take your rest here for a few days? Your company is always welcome and missed when you are gone.” Thranduil offered to the grim Ranger. “And of you course, Mithrandir! You always bring us such ‘entertainment’.” His words dipped lightly in irony when speaking to the old Wizard.
Gandalf gave him a look that appreciated the irony of his words. “Yes, of course. I look forward to the bounty of your table.”
Aragorn looked at Thranduil and said, “After such an arduous journey, a few days respite would be most welcome, Hannon Le. Thranduil King.”
The few days spent feasting at Thranduil’s table were a much-needed salve for the weary hearted travelers. After the feast on the second day Legolas sat in his suite of rooms with Aragorn and Gandalf. He prized the time he was able to spend with both the Dunedain Ranger and the old wizard. He felt a kindred bond with both and neither treated him with undue care and caution, as if he was to be guarded every second of every day. Legolas understood why his father was the way he was. He did not fault him for trying to protect him. And he respected his father like no other. His strength, his wisdom, his resilience. As he had said to Aragorn earlier if he were half the elf his father was, he would account himself well. But he was no longer a child, had not been one for a very long time. He truthfully did not know if his father realised this in any practicable way. It was one of the reasons he valued his friendship with Aragorn, who saw him as not as Thranduil’s son or Celebren and Sadron’s little brother but as himself. He loved his family beyond all but sometimes he did not know if they truly saw him for who he was, rather than who they thought he was. He had even had to fight to lead patrols within Mirkwood but finally he wore his father down until he gave in and even then he had to abide the presence of body retainers, known or unnamed.
“You are looking pensive this evening, mellon nin…” Legolas looked up as Aragorn drank from his goblet of the fine Dorwinion vintage that Thranduil traded for.
He smiled ruefully, “Just pondering things that cannot be changed.” His normally merry blue eyes somber.
Gandalf looked at his young friend as he puffed on his pipe, “Your father loves you very much. He just cannot see past his own pain at times.”
Legolas closed his eyes and breathed deeply in an effort to control his emotions. In this he resembled his oldest brother, Celebren. They both used their words carefully, thoughtfully. It was his middle brother, Sadron who had inherited the fiery temper of their father, and who more often spoke before he thought. “I know that, Mithrandir.” He said resignedly, “And for the most part I accept his restrictions because I know to disobey would be to hurt him greatly and this I have not the heart to do. But at times….” he sighed again, “I wish things could be different.” Then in a mercurial shift that was so much a part of Legolas’ sunny nature, “But enough of dwelling on things that cannot be changed,” the golden-haired Elf said as he walked over to a near table which held the decanter of the fine Dorwinion vintage and began to refill his glass. “What will you two be off to do? Now that you have delivered this ‘sterling personage’ into our care?”
Gandalf looked his young friend and pondered on the concept of things that could not be changed, Thranduil’s blind insistence on keeping Legolas at his side chief among them. Legolas may not have inherited Thranduil’s quick temper, but he most certainly inherited his stubbornness and resolve. He hid it well the old wizard mused, but it was there, and something would ignite it, he just did not know what. “Well now,” Gandalf spoke aloud, “That remains to be seen.”
Aragorn drank from his goblet savouring the fine taste of this wine, among the things that he did enjoy that were not often available to him in his travels. As he allowed the wine to roll around on his tongue he looked speculatively upon his old friend whom he had known since childhood, “Gandalf,” he said pointedly, “In all the long years that I have known you, I have never known you to not have a plan.”
Gandalf looked at Aragorn, “Yes, allright!” he admitted somewhat testily. He looked at Legolas, “What you are about to hear I will leave it to your own judgment upon whether or not you shall tell your father.” Legolas raised his darkish eyebrows but bowed his head in acceptance of responsibility. “What I told your father was indeed the truth, every word. I just did not tell him all because this knowledge, the full knowledge, must be kept among the few for whom it is necessary.”
“Should I know?” Legolas inquired, “Should I leave the room?”
Gandalf, “No, I believe that Mirkwood may need this knowledge at some point and I trust your heart to know when the time might be right to tell your father, but now is not necessarily the time.”
“Surely my Adar can be trusted, Mithrandir.” Legolas affirmed, both pleased by the old wizard’s trust in his judgment and a little disturbed by Gandalf’s seeming lack of that same trust in his father.
“Legolas, I trust your father implicitly to act in a way that will protect his own people. That he will sacrifice everything for their protection. But this goes beyond Mirkwood, this deals with the very survival of all the Free Peoples of Middle Earth.” Legolas pursed his lips. He still was not sure about Gandalf not telling Thranduil straight away, but he did also say that Legolas could decide to tell his father if he deemed it necessary. It felt good to be trusted to be able to make his own decisions; he nodded his affirmation to Gandalf and the old wizard began his tale.
“Years ago, the dragon Smaug was defeated and Erebor was re-established as a dwarven stronghold—”
“Which had been achieved as a part of your plan—” Knowledge that Aragorn quickly imparted, a smile illuminating and changing his usually grim visage. He could not resist needling his old friend. It was one of his few consistent joys.
Gandalf shot him a disgruntled look but soldiered through the interjection. “As you know, Bilbo Baggins of Hobbiton, was a part of that traveling party of Dwarves. Legolas, I’m sure you remember.”
Legolas laughed, “I’m not likely to forget. The dwarves interrupted Adar on what was supposed to be a merry feast outside our halls under the stars. Three times. Adar savors every moment he can spend in his forest, under the stars and does not like to be disturbed.”
“Yes, well,” Gandalf said by way of apology, “Dwarves are not the most subtle or best behaved even when they aren’t half mad with hunger.”
Legolas, who had had almost no dealings with dwarves, tended to take his father’s opinion of dwarves. That they were ill-mannered and not to be trusted. As he remembered the episode that occurred seventy some odd years ago, Thorin’s dwarves had done little to change his opinion of them. “Adar was less than pleased when Bilbo had helped them to escape. Although I remember seeing Bilbo within Adar’s pavilion at Dale when he risked the certain wrath of Thorin by delivering the Arkenstone to Adar and to King Bard. After that Adar always spoke very highly of Bilbo because he risked his life to achieve some kind of peace, naming him Elvellon. One thing he never knew though was how Bilbo was able to help the Dwarves escape.”
Gandalf sighed portentously, “Well there we come to it.”
Legolas looked quizzically at the wizard, “Why do you say that?”
“Before Bilbo and the dwarves came to Mirkwood, they had been held captive by the Goblin King. Somehow Bilbo got separated from the Dwarves and he found himself in a cavern and after getting his bearings and poking around a bit, there on the floor of the cavern he found a ring.”
“But who is to say that it is the One Ring?” Legolas questioned.
Gandalf replied, “Nobody at that point but apparently the ring had been Gollum’s prized possession. Bilbo says he found the ring on the ground and I have no reason to disbelieve him. They set about a rhyming competition and Bilbo said he was getting the better of Gollum. A nagging suspicion told Bilbo that Gollum had no intention keeping his promise and would have killed him for the Ring but Bilbo outsmarted him and left with the ring and he re-joined the dwarves.”
“But Mithrandir, that still does not explain how Bilbo was—” Legolas started.
“Yes, Yes. I am coming to that!” Gandalf replied somewhat testily. Legolas held his tongue and looked at Aragorn. They were both used to Gandalf’s roundabout way of storytelling and neither could resist baiting the old wizard when he started on one of his long-winded tales. Gandalf side-glanced the two of them. “When you are ready to take what I am saying seriously I shall continue.”
Aragorn contritely said, “Pardon us, my friend.”
Legolas bowed his head, “Please continue, mellon nin.”
Gandalf harrumphed but continued with the tale, “Bilbo discovered quite by accident that the Ring caused one to become invisible to the naked eye if the bearer actually placed the ring on his finger. This was how Bilbo was able to enter into Thranduil’s halls and move about undetected while trying to figure a way to free his friends.”
“That was how he did it.” Legolas exclaimed, “It had seemed like someone with knowledge of our routines, but we could never figure out who or how!”
Gandalf replied, “Yes, that was Bilbo sneaking around like a burglar! I knew he had a magic ring, though he would not own up to it. That in and of itself was suspicious, hobbits by-and-large are an honest lot with no real side to them and Bilbo is no different in that regard, but I let the stray thought go by. I did not suspect what he had found was the One Ring. That was not until many, many years later. You see, throughout the years whenever I would visit him, he never seemed to be any older.”
“Years go now, he had his 111th birthday and he had a large celebration. Half the Shire was invited and the other half showed up anyway!” Aragorn laughed softly. He had had dealing with hobbits, mostly in Bree, but they were indeed a hardy folk and very fond of celebrating. Gandalf smiled at the memory of the celebration, even beyond hobbit standards, it was as Bilbo had wanted it to be, a party of special magnificence. He continued, “but the most remarkable thing was he looked like he hadn’t aged a day!”
“I convinced him to leave his ring, which he was always confusticating over, to his young cousin Frodo. Which he did…after a little fuss and bother.”
“That night when Bilbo used the Ring to disappear in front of all gathered on the Party Field. I had begun to suspect what might be and I told Frodo to hide the ring and never use it like Bilbo did.”
He looked at Aragorn, “Much of what you have heard we have already discussed, but what you haven’t heard and I could not tell while we were leading about the ‘sterling personage’ was that I have been to the archives of lore in Minas Tirith and after wringing permission from Lord Denethor, a difficult task at any time, and I was able to find within the oldest archives an entry by Isildur himself describing the Ring of Power.”
Aragorn looked solemn, “I will go to my Dunedain brothers and have them redouble their efforts in the protection of the Shire.”
Legolas looked at both of them, the mantle of responsibility for what he now knew settling on his shoulders, “I will remain vigilant here and guard Gollum. Mithrandir, though it pains me to say it perhaps it is well that Adar does not know all in this matter, though it weighs on my heart the fact that for now I must say nothing.”
Gandalf nodded gravely to his two companions and spoke, “Now that we have given over the charge of Gollum to Thranduil. I must away to the Shire and confirm that which my heart fears. That Frodo is in possession of the One Ring.”
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