YvtW Musings - fate of the Fourth Age
In my rewritings of the last part of the Afterlife Arc for YvtW, I've just gotten to the segment dealing with Mg back on Middle-earth. So while my mind was on the subject, I got to thinking about a couple of things...
1. The YvtW-ME's Fourth Age is not going to be anywhere like the Fourth Age of book-canon. For one thing, the world isn't going to become more "mundane" and things like wonder and magick aren't going to slowly fade away. IMO, throwing things like long-term extra-dimensional contact with entities and people who deal in both high-tech and magicks, not to mention other sources of power, would tend to prevent such a decay. If anything, we're looking at a technological/magickal renaissance in at least the human realms, and I think the overall benefits will eventually also spread to the elven realms (that weren't dependent on the elven rings - see below).
2. The Three Elven Rings are not completely divested of power. Okay, at the time, Mg and I decided on this for the sole purpose of keeping Mg's character's evil side from immediately burning down Lothlorien after the rest of us left. So, at the least, Nenya is still can match (if not overpower) 2 or 3 mana MtG fire magic spells... which is pretty dang impressive when you look at MtG fire spells.
Can we do this? Sure. We've been using a mix-match of movie and book canon anyhow, which means our ME isn't tied to either canon. The speculation that destroying the One Ring would depower the Three as well was solely book-canon. The movie never really dealt with the issue. Sure, we see Galadriel, Elrond, and Gandalf leave for Valinor at the end of the movie, but it's not like they have don't other reasons for departure besides "The Last Ride of the Ringbearers" or whatnot. Gandalf obviously is going home after his job's done. Elrond is going to his wife and probably doesn't want to stick around to watch his daughter "drink the bitter cup of mortality". Galadriel likely had a huge case of sea-longing from bearing the water ring. Etc. Besides, in our case, we can't even have a "Last Ride o/t Ringbearers", 'cause Z-man's not going anywhere. Bilbo... okay, I guess he counts, but he wasn't the bearer who actually got rid of the thing. The point still stands - the departure of Gandalf, Galadriel, and Elrond does not have to be an event that is intrinsically connected to the status of "Ringbearer".
3. By not being wholly depowered, the Ring-wrought Elven-realms may not fade as they did in book canon. This is the important consequence of the above supposition that I hadn't quite grasped the first time we wrote the storyarc. Now, we may presume that the Three rings may not be *as* powerful as they used to be, thus created some measure of decay in the two realms they preserved. We may also presume that the power they exerted is also dependent on the ability of the wielder.
This means that Lothlorien, which was the most actively affected by one of the Three, would decay the most, absent its Lady. Now, from what I perceive of Celeborn's character (mostly drawn from fanon, since he's not very prominent in canon), he's probably not going to want anything to do with Nenya. So when it comes to Lothlorien, I would expect more or less the same thing in book-canon to happen to it. To wit - Galadriel leaves; Celeborn and the Galadhrim move up to southern Eryn Lasgalen, and the magic of Lothlorien itself gradually fades away.
Imladris, on the other hand, was less actively affected by its Ring. Given fanon depictions of the circumstances of Elrond's inheriting of the ring from Gil-galad, I personally believe he did a better job of keeping Vilya safe, hidden, and unused for as much as possible. This would probably mean that a lesser able bearer, with the somewhat depowered Vilya, would be able to maintain the preservation of the Last Homely Home if they exerted the ring more (which would be safe to do now)... or if they supplemented the lesser powers with other methods of preservation.
4. Then why should the Three be taken away to Valinor? In the book, Elrond and Gandalf were pretty clear about the fact that the One Ring... indeed, the whole issue of magick rings was an issue that was rooted in Middle-earth and should be kept/resolved there. So if the Three are not depowered by the destruction of the One, then aren't they also still "issues that belong on ME"?
5. So where/who should the Three go to after the former bearers leave? Well, assuming that we keep the canidates among elvenkind (and no, Arwen doesn't count anymore)... Cirdan's a pretty obvious choice for Narya, since he held it before giving it to Gandalf (plus Narya's presence might make Lindon a prominent landmark in the West again in the Fourth Age). Celeborn probably doesn't want Nenya, but hey, Galadriel has two grandsons and her son-in-law has one other Ring... (Okay, so I'm starting to get a little Sue-ish here). The only other possibility would be Thranduil, but I think he'd want an elven-ring even less so than Celeborn.
6. Okay, now on a totally tangential issue, who's going West? Clearly, the three former elven-ring bearers are leaving, each for their own reasons. I'd expect any Noldor/Noldor-descendants in Lothlorien to go with Galadriel, but probably a lot of the Silven/Sindar Galadhrim would stay with Celeborn in East Lorien. I'd expect a lot of Elrond's household (mostly Noldor, probably) to go with him. However, I think Glorfindel would stay, since we're using the reborn-of-Gondolin version of Glorfindel, who most likely returned to serve the line of his king Turgon (Idril/Earendil/etc.), and the last scions of that line - Elrond's sons - haven't left yet. I don't think, especially with personal involvment from PADT, that Imladris will have to worry about being undermanned or fading into obscurity.
Others... Well, I'm still not too sure about Bilbo; though I'm leaning toward him leaving for Valinor with Gandalf & co. (Incidentally, how does he get to leave in the book canon anyhow? Arwen gave up her seat to Frodo; who gave up theirs for Bilbo? :p) Another tricky resolution is for Legolas and Gimli. Since Legolas didn't go with Aragorn and his rangers by the near-sea route from Dunharrow to Pelargir (IIRC), he most likely did not encounter any gull-cries to activate his sea-longing. Though, if we keep the whole settlement-in-Ithilien aftermath of book-canon, I suppose there's a small chance of him hearing a gull sometime during the ensuing years. Whether that activates his sea-longing or not is another question, since Galadriel didn't send him a warning in this storyline. And, of course, whether Gimli goes along to Valinor is also questionable, since didn't encounter Galariel in Lothlorien, become her lockbearer, and win her favor, which would lose him an advocate to the Valar. That problem isn't insurrmountable, though, since there's other ways to communicate and appeal to the Valar in our current storyline.
I'd love to hear what ossian has to say on any of these issues... though I don't think we'll ever get to deal with them in-story at the rate things are going. ^_^;;