The Ring of Sapphire

by Varda
Elrond knew without being told that the Ringbearer had arrived in Imladris. Long before the sounds of voices and running feet rose from the dark courtyard to where he sat in the Observatory he could feel the familiar pain in his hand. Looking down, he saw his ring, Vilya, The Ring of Air and Sapphire, glowing in the dim light of the silver lamps. In a fleeting vision he saw Gil-galad, his face full of beauty and sadness, take it off and give it to him so many ages ago. Elrond mourned the noble Elven lord, and so much else that he had lost….but he was brought back to the present by pain.

All the beauty of Imladris Elrond had built by the power of Vilya, greatest of the Rings of the Elves. But greater still was the Enemy’s ring and now it called to Vilya to envelop its pure radiance in its dark vortex. And he, as bearer and guardian of Vilya, felt his finger burn with icy fire. He clenched his hand; he would not submit. He would not let the One ring have the Elven ring. Nor would he do that which he had so often pondered; take for himself the Great Ring and put beyond hazard for all time the fate of Imladris, now hemmed around with enemies. Although born of men as well as Elves, he would not sin as Isildur sinned, taking power that was unlawful; taking The Ring…

A voice spoke among the many in the courtyard that Elrond recognised as Aragorn’s. Another pain smote him, this time of the heart. Aragorn, Dunedain, had exiled himself from this house for many years, but Elrond had not fooled himself that he had exiled himself from the heart of his daughter, Arwen. She never mentioned him, by which Elrond understood she loved him the more. For she knew her love pained her father and so she spoke not of it. But by the power of Vilya Elrond could see into the darkness of the future and he knew this man, high born of the race of Numenor as he was, represented his beloved daughter’s doom, and her death.

Rings of power, thought Elrond, turning Vilya idly on his aching finger; they give, but they also take…

Then in a swift movement Elrond got up and strode to the door and swept down the long wide stone staircase and emerged into the courtyard, full of Elves and horses and hobbits. He saw walking towards him, in his usual dusty and mud-stained clothes and battle-worn scabbard, Aragorn, the Dunedain…

He bore something in his arms, and Elrond realised it was the body of a hobbit, wrapped in Aragorn’s grey-green Ranger’s cloak. Frodo the Ringbearer, he thought, and he was momentarily taken aback by the small frame carried so easily by the tall man. But he knew hobbits were small, Bilbo had lived in Imladris for many years, and this one was the nephew of Bilbo…but somehow he had not expected Frodo, bearer of the greatest burden on earth, to be so tiny and frail. For all his own worries pity sprang up in Elrond’s heart. A sudden flare of one of the torches showed Frodo’s face, green-white and wasted, and Elrond knew at once the look of one whom the Enemy has poisoned.

Not watching where he was going Aragorn almost walked into Elrond. He looked up and said, his face strained with concern;
‘Help him, father….’

A pang shot across Elrond’s heart; he had not heard Aragorn call him that since he was a boy, even though Elrond was his foster father and loved him as a son. He just nodded in reply, and reached out and took the small burden into his arms. As he turned to carry Frodo inside a small figure detached itself from Aragorn’s side and trotted along with him. Elrond looked down and saw it was another hobbit, sturdier than either Bilbo or Frodo, with a curly head and weatherbeaten face, obviously intent on following him.

‘There is no need for you to come along’ said Elrond, not unkindly. ‘I will take good care of your master.’
The little face looked up, stricken. Tears started into the blue eyes. Aragorn said to Elrond in a quiet voice.
'Let him come too, my Lord.’ He smiled and winked at Sam. ‘You will have a hard time keeping him away….’
Elrond thought for a moment then shrugged and said;
‘Let it be as you wish. He will not long bide what he is about to behold….’

In a wide airy room high in the Northern Tower of Imladris Elrond laid Frodo on a great bed and ordered lights to be brought. Soon the dim room shone like day, and light streamed out into the dark. Elrond ordered everyone from the room but himself and Sam, who sat down at the foot of the bed and made himself as small as he could, hoping not to be put out….

Elrond stood for a while looking out of the great window towards the waterfall of Rivendell. In the darkness he could still see it, luminescent in the moonlight, ceaselessly musical, lulling the tired heart. He sighed; he would need all the strength he could derive from the beauty of Imladris for this task…a sudden thought struck him and he turned to Sam.
‘Will you help me….’ He had not asked Aragorn what the hobbit’s name was…
‘Sam! My name is Samwise Gamgee, begging your pardon my lord and yes please, can I help?’

Elrond laid bare the scar on Frodo’s shoulder, and examined it closely.
‘You did well, Aragorn’ he thought to himself. ‘But not well enough…’
The wound was apparently healed, now only a cold white mark. But Elrond knew it was an unnatural healing; under the skin the black tip of the Morghul blade was working deeper and deeper, towards the little creature’s heart. Frodo stirred in his sleep and murmured a name;
‘Gandalf….’
‘I should have met him at Bree, and I failed him…’ said a voice behind Elrond and he turned to see the Wizard, his face dark with concern, standing at the door.
‘We great ones have let this little one down, Lord Elrond….’
‘Not this time…’ replied the lord of Imladris, feeling a sudden resolve to save the hobbit, at whatever cost to himself.

Gandalf walked to the bed, and held out to Elrond something wrapped in a piece of black silk. Elrond took it and unfolded it and drew in his breath with a sharp hiss. On the black material lay a knife hilt, wrought in the shape of a skull. It was the hilt of the dagger that had struck Frodo. Elrond said to Gandalf
‘This is a sore trial to overcome…..’

Then Elrond took from his robe a silver blade made by Elves and cast with healing spells. He placed the tip on the healed wound in Frodo’s shoulder and heard a whimper from Sam but ignored it and bearing down with all his strength he cut into skin and flesh and muscle. Frodo cried out and Gandalf closed his eyes….

‘Gil-galad was an Elven king
of him the harpists sadly sing
The last whose realm was fair and free
Between the mountains and the sea….’

‘This, my brother, is the beginning of the end for us’ said Gil-galad sadly as he drew off the Ring.
‘We will linger on in Middle Earth but never again will it be our home. It is spoiled, and we are a broken power…..’

Smoke trailing across the battlefield made his eyes smart, or perhaps it was tears.
Gil-gald smiled sadly…
‘Farewell….’

‘But long ago he went away
And where he dwelleth none can say….’

He had probed for what seemed an age, and he knew the hobbit was growing weaker. The other one, the sturdy halfling, had braved the sight of his master’s pain to take Frodo’s hand and hold it as Elrond cut deep, but no life or warmth flowed into the fingers.
‘He’s getting awful cold, Lord Elrond…’ said the hobbit with a stifled sob. Elrond said softly;
‘Not long now, Sam….’

And there it was, the remains of the weapon of Sauron. Elrond did not touch it when the sharp tip of the Elven needle finally withdrew it. He let it fall onto a piece of clean linen on a silver dish, and despite his loathing, he studied it.

It was a tiny blue triangle, of fine steel it seemed but on close examination it was veined with black. Tiny specs of lighter metal gleamed malevolently. As the Elf studied it the shard suddenly became a wisp of smoke and vanished. Gandalf gave an exclamation and then Elrond said calmly;
‘It is gone, Mithrandir. We have won, for a while….’

Almost at once Sam could see a difference in Frodo. He was still deep in sleep, pale and cold, but a tiny tint of colour came into his cheeks and his breathing became easier. Elrond gave a sigh of relief, and picked up a length of pure linen to bandage the wound. Despite all his care, his hand brushed a chain round Frodo’s neck, and he touched the Ring.

It was inert, almost invisible against Frodo’s cold skin. It was of dark gold, with a red tinge as if fired in blood. But when Elrond’s hand with Vilya passed across the hobbit’s body it began to glow. Then the Elf-lord let his hand come into contact with it…..

In the valley of Imladris was only ruins. Wolves hunted along the terraces and courtyards, and crows sailed among the pillars. The Elves were gone, and only desolation reigned where the Hall of Mirrors had rung to the sound of the harp. Elrond’s heart was torn with grief, even as he told himself this was only the temptation of the Enemy.

‘All this will come to pass, unless you take me, Elrond half-elven…’Elrond shook his head but could not speak.
‘Stretch out your hand to me, and let the halfling die. What does he matter, against the beauty of Imladris…..’

‘No!’ shouted Elrond, and he found himself standing with the silver dish still in his hand, and Gandalf and Sam staring at him. He passed a hand over his eyes. Gandalf said to him;
‘I think we can all rest now….’

Later, when the Halfling was sleeping peacefully with his little servant watching over him, Elrond sat again in the Observatory, wearied by his struggle with the evil weapon of Sauron. He heard voices below and peered carefully over the balcony of the viewing platform. There on the terrace was Arwen, and with her stood Aragorn.

Elrond drew back, but snatches of their talk still carried to him. He knew he should leave the place, but he could not. At last their voices died away and he looked out again. Below in a moonlit patch of marble pavement Aragorn had reached over and taken Arwen’s hand in his, and had put a stop to their talk with a kiss.

Elrond turned away, and soundlessly he passed out of the Observatory down the stairs and along the moonlit gallery. In his heart no longer was sadness, but sombre joy. He became aware that the pain in his hand had ceased and looking down he saw the great sapphire on the gold band of Vilya sparkle in the starlight. He thought of Frodo, recalled to life, and he smiled….

‘The last whose realm was fair and free
Between the mountains and the sea….’*

* JRR Tolkien; The Fellowship of The Ring