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Hugs and kiss to Cairistiona, my wonderful beta.
The boats had reached the lakeshore, and Frodo knew that the critical moment was near. All the time, until this moment, the journey had one direction: straight to the south, down the Anduin, which meant that they could delay the decision. But no longer. On this very spot the members of the Fellowship would have to diverge. For some of them, the route from here would be towards Mordor, and for the others towards Gondor.
Having stepped out of the boat, he stretched after the long period of sitting and looked around. The terrain in front of them rose slightly, and the hills were covered in deciduous forest that had not yet turned green. He threw a quick glance over his shoulder, towards the eastern shore, and frowned. The burden he carried suddenly became heavier, and he could almost feel the evil from that dark distant land, so distant that he could not see it from here. But he now had other worries – about the evil that was much closer and more palpable.
The Ring was malicious and powerful, which he had been discovering more and more, every next day of the journey. Ever since they had departed from Rivendell he could hear its whispering and feel its every thought. That mighty object – so small, yet so dangerous – tried to beguile each and every one of them. He could feel the Ring addressing each member of the Fellowship – flattering, threatening, promising, seducing. Nobody was truly immune, not even Gandalf, not even himself. That was why he was exceptionally happy that the hobbits were more resistant to its influence; the promises of power didn't mean much to them. But in the last few days, since they had left Lothlorien, he felt things were getting out of control. The Ring set a trap for Boromir, promising the salvation and prosperity of Gondor. And it was quite clear that Boromir had fallen into it.
Yes, for some of them, the route from here was supposed to be towards Mordor. Or perhaps... for only one of them.
The decision had been ripening in him since the morning, and now that they had arrived, while the evil grew stronger all around them, it achieved its final form. He knew that if they started talking about their next moves, Aragorn would advise him to take one of them as a protector on the journey to Mordor. And although he knew that Aragorn felt a huge obligation to go to Gondor, he wouldn't be surprised if the ranger offered himself to be the escort. He trusted Aragorn, and on one hand, that option was very tempting; it would be great to have a friend and protector like that with him. But on the other hand, he now realized there was only one way to continue the journey.
Alone. He had to diverge from the Fellowship.
The Ring will try to break the Fellowship, Galadriel had told him after he had looked into the Mirror. And now he realized she had been right. In the end, the Ring would destroy everything, and he had to stop it if he could.
So he had to leave them. He would go to Mordor alone, to stop the Ring from bringing more evil to the Fellowship. He was afraid – or to be more precise, he was terrified – and he knew he could die. But he intended to leave and he would persist in that intention. He was sad, too, because he would miss all of the Fellowship – especially the other hobbits, his childhood friends. And especially his dear, dearest Sam. But he had no other choice.
The plan was clear and simple: to disappear from the camp, but not to go very far. And while they were occupied in searching for him, to come back, take his bag and one of the boats, and cross the lake. He now only had to find the way to accomplish it.
Feigning nonchalance, he slowly moved away a few steps pretending to observe the forest, and in doing so he came closer to its edge. He then quickly looked back towards the Fellowship. Everyone was occupied either by sorting their backpacks or by hiding the boats; nobody looked towards him. Well, now or never. He took a few more steps and ducked behind the nearest tree, vanishing from their sight.
Goodbye, my friends.
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