Lord of the Rings

The Ring Goes South

A Company was chosen to accompany Frodo and Sam, Nine Walkers to be set against the Nine Riders. Gandalf would go, of course, because this was his great task. The others would represent the other Free Peoples--Legolas for the Elves and Gimli for the Dwarves.

Aragorn represented Men, because the Ring of Isildur concerned him closely, and Boromir would go as well, because his road back to Gondor would lie with that of Frodo for hundreds of miles.

Finally, Merry and Pippin insisted that they go, and Elrond consented for the sake of their great friendship to Frodo.

Preparations took two months, as scouts were sent far abroad seeking news of the Riders. Plans were made, supplies were packed, and Aragorn's sword was reforged.

During those two months, Frodo and Sam were often found in Bilbo's room. Bilbo would read passages from his book, or would take notes of Frodo's adventures.

On the morning of the last day before they left Frodo was alone with Bilbo. The old hobbit pulled out a box and gave Frodo his old sword, Sting. "Also there is this." He held up a small shirt of mail. It shone like moonlit silver, and was studded with white gems. "Pretty thing, isn't it? It is my dwarf-mail that Thorin gave me."

"I don't feel I should look right in it," said Frodo.

Bilbo insisted he take it, though he could wear it under his outer clothes to hide it. "Just a plain Hobbit you'll look, but there will be more about you than appears on the surface." Reluctantly, Frodo consented.

Finally, the day had come. Elrond and several members of his household came out to see them off. Boromir lifted his war-horn to his lips and blew a blast. The echoes leapt from rock to rock. "Loud and clear it sounds in the valleys of the hills," he said, "and then let all the foes of Gondor flee!"

"Slow should you be to wind that horn again, Boromir," said Elrond, "until you stand once more on the borders of your land, and dire need is on you."

"Maybe," said Boromir. "But always I have let my horn cry at setting forth, and though thereafter we may walk in the shadows, I will not go forth as a thief in the night."

The Company stood quietly, each lost in their own thoughts. Sam checked the packs on Bill the pony.

Finally, Elrond addressed them. "The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Doom. On him alone is any charge laid: neither to cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to any servant of the Enemy nor indeed to let any handle it, save members of the Company and the Council, and only then in gravest need. The others go with him as free companions. No oath or bond is laid on you to go further than you will. For you do not yet know the strength of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road."

"Failthless is he that says farewell when the road darkens, said Gimli.

"Maybe," said Elrond, "but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall."

With a final farewell they left. "Good luck!" cried Bilbo, "I don't suppose you will be able to keep a diary, Frodo my lad, but I shall expect a full account when you get back. Farewell!"

The Company traveled southward along the west side of the mountains for two weeks. At length they reached the land of Hollin, and turned west towards the passes. As they climbed the winding road up the mountainside it started to snow, and soon the snow became a blinding blizzard.

Eventually they could go no farther. They halted and huddled close to the cliff for protection. Gandalf gave each of them a sip from his flask of miruvor, the cordial of Rivendell.

They tried to light a fire for warmth, but it passed even the skill of Gimli to strike a flame that would catch the wet wood. At last Gandalf picked up a branch and held it aloft. With a word of command he thrust the end of his staff at it and a great green and blue flame sprang out. The wood flared and sputtered.

"If there are any to see," said the wizard, "then I have written 'Gandalf is here' in signs that can be read from Rivendell to the mouths of Aundin."

They cared little that they may be seen, though, as they were glad of the warmth. Throughout the night they slowly fed the fire, waiting to see what morning would bring.

The snow stopped near dawn, but as the morning light grew they could see that the clouds above were still heavy with the threat of snow. They all agreed that they had to return the way they had come, but the path down the mountain was buried in deep snow. Boromir and Strider started down the slope, digging a path for the others.

Legolas watched them struggle through the snow, and then turned to the others. "Men may dig a way," he said, "but for running light over grass, or over snow, choose an Elf." He sprang atop the drift and ran down the slope. "I go to find the Sun!"

After an hour or so, Legolas, Boromir, and Strider returned. The Men had forced a way, with Legolas running ahead to scout out the path. The Company made their way down the mountain, with the Men bearing the Hobbits on their backs.

They needed to find another way past the mountains. Caradhras had defeated them.

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