"And now," Gandalf said, "we come to the matter of the Ring-Bearer. For who among us could carry this burden?"
The Council, gathered in the shade of Elrond's porch, looked questioningly at each other, till each saw that none of them knew of whom Gandalf spoke.
Boromir, son of Denethor, rebuked the wizard, saying, "Surely that is the least of our problems. Seldom has an assembly of so many of high repute gathered in one place."
"And that is itself the problem," Gandalf replied sternly. "None of us may carry the Ring. I myself have carried it too long already. For the gravest danger to the Ring-bearer's mission is not the Dark Lord, but the Ring-bearer himself. Or, as may be, herself."
"Herself?" Gimli repeated, incredulous.
"You will meet her shortly," Gandalf said. "She may do what none of us could hope to, for her greatness is that she is the humblest creature I have met in my travels—and I have travelled more than a little. The Ring tempts all to power. It corrupts all whom it touches. Anyone who thinks highly of himself—anyone accustomed to the esteem of others—in short, any one of us—would ourselves become the new Dark Lord long ere we reached Mordor. Ah, I hear her approaching now."
In the distance, hooves drummed against the hard earth of the road approaching Elrond's house. They did not stop, but turned to a sharp ringing as the animal continued onto the paving-stones leading into the house. Soon a small, light-yellow horse with a flowing ribbon of pink mane passed out from the house, under an archway, and stood before them, regarding them with wondering, innocent eyes. The members of the Council likewise stared back in wonder, for great gossamer wings were folded along her sides.
"Um. Hi?" the yellow pegasus mare said. She looked to Gandalf.
"This is Fluttershy, of the Pony folk," the wizard said the the Council. Then turning to her, he said, "Fluttershy. The burden I ask you to bear is a heavy one. So heavy that none could lay it on another. I do not lay it on you. But if you take it freely, I will say that your choice is right."
"Okay," Fluttershy said. "If you think so." And Gandalf placed around her neck a silver chain, which bore a plain golden ring of no remark, save for an almost sinister, winking gleam.
Aragorn, son of Arathorn spoke. "You shall not bear it entirely alone. Many who stand before you now already have pledged their lives to see you safely to the land of Mordor, even unto the very crack of Mount Doom."
"Gee," the pegasus mare said, taking stock of all those gathered there. "That's an awful lot of people."
"A shamefully small number, lady," Aragorn said, "to stand against the evils arrayed against you. But if by my life or death I can protect you, I will. You have my sword."
Legolas stepped up. "And you have my bow."
"And my axe,” Gimli said grimly.
"Or ... um ... I could just fly it there," Fluttershy said. "If that's okay with you."
The members of the council looked at each other in wonder.
Gandalf stroked his beard. "I was thinking you could fly back from Mount Doom. After walking all the way there, experiencing many marvellous and terrible adventures, and witnessing the heroic death of at least one of those present here."
And the rest of the council all coughed and shuffled their feet.
Then Elrond spoke. "To walk into Mordor needlessly would be an act of folly."
"Flying's good, too," said Gimli. All save Gandalf nodded in agreement.
"Okay," Fluttershy said. "I'll just go drop this nasty thing in the big boiling volcano, then." And she unfurled her wings and leapt into the air.
"Wait!" Gandalf called after her. "You're missing out on a wonderful learning experience!" But she had already vanished from sight.
All were silent for a time, until at last Elrond spoke again. "This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere."
"Hooves," Gandalf corrected, still cross.
"Yes. Small hooves. And to divert the eyes of the great, we must straightaway move on Mordor, though all the might of our armies be naught but a distraction from the mission of this most humble mare—"
"Hi again," Fluttershy said, landing softly on the flagstones before Elrond.
Gandalf spoke softly. "Back so soon? Does this burden weigh heavily, now, my dear Fluttershy? There is no shame in saying so."
Fluttershy shook her head. "Oh, no. I gave the Ring to Rainbow Dash. She's a much better flyer than I am."
"Rainbow Dash?!" Gandalf struck the stone floor with his staff. "Fool!" he cried. "You have doomed us all!"
And thus began the Fourth Age of Middle-Earth, the Age of Awesome. And the shadow of Rainbow Dash fell across the land, and all trembled before the terrible glory of Her rainbow.