• Published 23rd Aug 2015
  • 10,897 Views, 1,120 Comments

Fellowship is Magic - Mr-War



Something strange is happening in Twilight's palace. The magic mirror has started acting strangely during a period of intense solar flares, leaving her worried about what complications might occur. The next thing she knows, through a sequence of even

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The Council of Elrond

The Council of Elrond

Warm and cozy. That was the best way Twilight could describe how she felt right now. It was relaxing, and she was too tired to want to do anything more than burrow deeper under her covers and...

Her thoughts on the matter ground to a sudden halt as her mind started going to work. Covers? What covers? The last thing she remembered was being in Isengard and facing off against Sauron. What could have happened?

Opening her eyes, she was able to discern two things. The first was that the position of the sun indicated that it was still early in the morning. And the second was that they were back in Rivendell; back in the room she'd been sharing with the others, and tucked into her own bed.

A sudden rumbling against her chest caught her off guard, motivating her to throw back the covers in surprise, and find Rainbow Dash sleeping next to her, head resting against her barrel, her forelegs wrapped firmly around her midsection. Under different circumstances it might've been cute, but this was just confusing.

"What exactly happened last night?" she asked herself.

"We were kinda hopin' ya could tell us that."

At hearing the familiar voice coming from behind, Twilight turned her head and saw Applejack and Gandalf present, both of them looking rather tired, and quite concerned.

"Maybe. But could someone please tell me how I wound up here? The last thing I remember was us landing outside of Isengard," Twilight explained.

"We found you right after you landed. Your friend, Pinkie, seemed to know when you were coming back, and where. Something about feeling a "disturbance in the Force" as she referred to it," Gandalf explained from where he sat.

Applejack nodded in agreement. "Ya passed out right after we found ya. Said somethin' 'bout explaining after ya woke up."

Now that they mentioned that, Twilight did recall something along those lines. It was blurry, but it was still there in her mind; sort of.

"Alright. Now could someone please tell me why Rainbow Dash is sleeping in my bed?" she asked them.

"Because separatin' ya two wasn't an option. Whatever ya two went through must've been perdy bad, 'cuz when we tried ta pry ya both apart, RD bit me good in 'er sleep," Applejack stated, gesturing to the bandaged wrapped around her foreleg.

Gandalf nodded in agreement. He had seen a lot of things in his time, but the degree of protective instinct that Rainbow Dash possessed still managed to amaze him. She had clung protectively to her friend, even when she was unconscious to the point of being unable to even recognize her own surroundings, and unable to be roused, and she still held Twilight close to her as if their lives depending on her forelegs not letting go of her barrel.

"That make sense I guess. Now I remember, she had to fly us out for the last leg of our return trip from Isengard. By that point I was magically exhausted, my aim was way off, and we were falling out of the air. If she hadn't been so quick, I would've crashed into the ground beneath me. After that she took over transportation for the duration," Twilight explained, internally shuddering at the memory of almost hitting the hard ground face first.

"Which brings us back to you being here," Gandalf spoke up,"your note was rather scant on details. But the fact that you are currently present, would suggest that you didn't reach Isengard as you intended."

"Actually we did," Twilight spoke up as she tried to shift her position to better face them, only for Rainbow Dash to snort in her slumber and pull her back down. "We made it to Isengard. We even met with Saruman. Then we came back here."

"You will have to forgive me, but I find that hard to believe," Gandalf stated. He knew Saruman too, too well, to actually believe that he'd simply let them walk away of their own volition. "Saruman's greatest ability isn't so much his magic, but rather his voice. He can be very convincing, making others believe what he wants them to. For you to be here would be enough to suggest that you are operating under his guidance."

"Say wha' now?" Applejack asked as she turned to look at him. Was he insinuating that Twilight and Rainbow Dash were spies or something?

"He's saying that we might be spies for Sauron," Twilight elaborated, doing her best to shift her position in a way that would not only let her hold her neck without getting a cramp, but also not disturb Rainbow Dash enough to pull her back down. "Which is understandable, considering what Saruman's apparently capable of. He wanted us to prove our loyalty by retrieving the ring, and bringing it to him. Naturally we refused. And that's where everything just went so horribly wrong..."

To say Gandalf was having a hard time believing their recounting of events would be an understatement. They had resisted Saruman's voice? How was that possible? Many had fallen to his manipulative abilities; many with wills that were quite strong and steadfast. None of it had made any difference.

"So how'd ya keep from gettin' brainwashed by 'im?" Applejack asked.

"Well at the moment I can only speculate as to the how, but if I had to venture a guess, I'd say that the magic I was using at the time might've cancelled out whatever magic he was using at the time," Twilight theorized. "We didn't just walk into Isengard like we did the Everfree Forest the first time around, we had an army of a few hundred hungry orcs to maneuver our way through."

"Orcs?" Applejack asked.

"I'll explain later. Anyway, trying to sneak through them turned out to be an impossibility, and for a while it looked like we were going to be eaten. So I had to resort to some higher-tier magic to make them more agreeable to the power of suggestion, and convince them that we had an appointment to see Saruman. And I just kept it going all through our discussion in an effort to make Saruman more open to the idea of turning away from Sauron. And when that didn't work we sort of had to resort to... aggressive negotiations..." Twilight admitted sheepishly.

"And pray tell what are these aggressive negotiations that you speak of?" Gandalf asked curiously.

"Ah, well, Rainbow Dash duked it out with the orc that was present, while I went after Saruman in a battle of magic. And while that was successful enough, the end result was... less than satisfactorily I'm afraid," Twilight admitted. "When I went to Isengard, the intention was to bring Saruman back over to our side against Sauron. I tried to expel Sauron's influence from his mind, thinking that would work. But it didn't. Sauron's will is unlike anything I've ever experienced before in my life, and required all of my will just to stand evenly with him. His influence was so tightly intertwined around Saruman's mind, it was impossible to separate the two. It's possible that I might've succeeded if I had more time. But it was leading to an increase in inter-cranial pressure on Saruman. If Rainbow Dash hadn't pulled me away when she had, he would've died as a result of what he was being subjected to. It's... it's possible that he wound up dying anyway. The condition he was in when we left, there was so much blood everywhere, it..."

She had to stop talking at that point, unable to continue. The hitch in her voice as she spoke was a clear indicator that if she went on with trying to explain, she was going to lose what composure she currently had.

Saruman... dead? Gandalf didn't want to admit it, but the thought of that being a possibility had shocked him; more so than he cared to admit. Even though he had betrayed Middle Earth, that did nothing to change their past together. He hadn't wished death upon Saruman, even in light of what his betrayal would mean. And yet... it was a distinct possibility that death had claimed him one way or another. If that were the case, then Sauron had been robbed of a powerful ally. But could one little pony truly achieve such a feat? And through what sounded like an unfortunate accident?

"I did learn something, however. Saruman aligned with Sauron for the purpose of betraying him, and bringing his organization down from the inside," Twilight explained, interrupting Gandalf's thoughts on the matter.

"Wait. So Saruman's on our side after all?" Applejack asked.

Twilight shook her head solemnly. "No. When I was locked in a battle of wills against Sauron, I saw things; lots of things. Lots of... unpleasant things. Sauron was fully aware of Saurman's intent to betray him, and he didn't care. Instead he allowed Saruman to continue operating under the belief that his betrayal was always a viable option. I'm afraid at that point in time, Saruman was little more than Sauron's marionette, operating under the illusion that he still had free will, and could make his own decisions."

Gandalf was at a loss for words in light of all this information. It didn't surprise him that Sauron could corrupt someone so thoroughly with such ease, but to actually hear it confirmed simply added a new weight to everything. Saruman had talked about how the eye of Sauron pierced all, surely he had to know that his treacherous intents would be found out.

He wanted to offer Twilight some words of comfort, or even advice that might help her with what she was going through right now. But the unfortunate truth was that he had none to offer up. He was as lost as everyone else was on this matter. He wanted to advise her to rest up, but today was going to be far too busy to afford her that luxury. she would simply have to make do with a bath and some breakfast.

And he was going to need to speak to Lord Elrond about all of this. There was no way that he could be kept out of the loop on what has transpired; especially if it was true that Saruman was dead. If that was the case, then that changed everything drastically.


Later in the day, the council was confirmed- along with the fact that only the ponies would be allowed to attend the meeting, much to Spike's displeasure.

Frodo was also attending the council, but much like Spike, Sam, Merry, and Pippin had been left out. "Oh, don't worry," he had told them, trying to be comforting. "It'll probably be quite dull, anyway; I say, I won't be able to stay awake for too long!"

Even if it was supposed to be dull, Spike couldn't help but think, at least they would all know what's going on. As it was there was way too much secrecy in place.

On the brighter side, Spike managed to find Bilbo Baggins, who had traveled to Rivendell after disappearing from the Shire weeks ago. The fact that he looked so much older now than before wasn't lost to him.

He had many interesting stories to tell him, although he was not attending the council either, but that was a decision he had made himself. Elrond himself had implored the hobbit to come, but Bilbo had refused, stating that he was far too tired for such.

So, around one o' clock that day, Twilight and the others bade Spike a goodbye, and disappeared onto the open area where the council was placed. The baby dragon sulked, staring out the window at the lovely scenery.

It did nothing for his spirit.

"Hey!" It was Merry and Pippin responsible for the call. "You certainly look dispirited. What say we teach you how to eavesdrop?"

He whirled about at this. "Are you serious?" Spike asked. The baby dragon had briefly considered trying to eavesdrop, but then abandoned the idea. Eavesdropping on your crush while a stallion was flirting with her was one thing; listening in on an important secret council was another matter entirely. "If I was caught eavesdropping, Twilight will give me a verbal thrashing I'll never forget!" He said.

"Oh, do you always do what you're told?" Pippin asked. Spike cocked an eyebrow at this.

"According to Twilight, I do," he said.

"Are you coming, or what?" Merry asked. "Sam's already in there, and the council's about to begin!" Spike and Pippin exchanged brief, tense looks.

"Alright," Spike said and nodded.

"Good. Spike, you circle around the platform. You'll find Sam back there. And for the love of pipeweed, Spike, don't get caught!"

Spike followed Pippin's instructions, and dropped down from a low window onto the soft earth, and crouched to avoid being seen. He pressed up against the side of the platform, and edged around to find Sam.

"Ah, you're here. We've got a pretty good spot- should be able to hear everything," Sam said, his voice carrying a tone that suggested the dragon's presence had been expected. Spike moved to look over the top of the porch, but Sam instantly pulled him back down. "Are you mad? You'll be seen!" he hissed.

"But I can't see!" he whispered back.

"The faces don't matter- it's the voices and what they say. We're looking for information. Not new friends," the gardener said solemnly. On the other side of the area, Merry and Pippin were crouched behind two pillars. The council was about to begin.


Meanwhile, as the spies went to work doing what they did best, the ponies uneasily took seats next to Gandalf and Frodo. Twilight was between the wizard and her friends, but Rainbow Dash was next to Glorfindel. Everyone sat down, and suddenly became quiet. When all was settled, the ponies took time to observe the guests.

They all seemed to be arranged by race- men, dwarves, elves, and them. The humans looked quite normal, judging from Twilight's descriptions of humans during her visit to the world on the other side of the mirror, except for their clothing. The elves were very fair, and most of them had long, straight hair. The dwarves, naturally, were shorter than the others, and had bushy hair and beards. Many guests they recognized: Frodo, Gandalf, Strider, and Glorfindel. Some they remembered seeing at the high table the night before, and only a couple of faces were new to them.

One of them was another man, broad in the shoulders and firm in countenance. The most distinguishing part of him was the great horn at his side. None of them really cared to speculate as to where it had come from.

There were first introductions. The ponies' introductions were short and vague, earning them many curious looks from others in the council who did not know their story. The man with the horn, they found out, was Boromir all the way from Gondor. Wherever that was.

Finally, Lord Elrond stood up, and all slight whispering ceased. All looked to Elrond with unmistakable respect in their eyes, and the ponies knew he must truly be a wise ruler to get immediate respect from all three races, even the dwarves, all of whom seemed a bit dodgy when near an elf.

"Strangers from distant lands, friends of old, you've been summoned here to answer the threat of Mordor."

At this, Rarity turned to Fluttershy and mouthed 'Mordor?" Fluttershy shrugged lightly, not even noticing the dull twinge in her head from where she met the stone wall back at Weathertop. Elrond noticed this interaction out of the corner of his eye, and then realized that most of the ponies had no idea what he was talking about. He would have to explain the story.

"Middle Earth stands upon the brink of destruction. None can escape it. You will unite, or you will fall. Each race is bound to this fate, this one doom. Ages ago, rings were crafted for the leaders of each race- three for the elves, seven for the dwarves, and nine for men." Glancing over and now seeing the incredibly confused looks on the ponie's faces, except for Twilight who had read this information back in the Rivendell library, he continued.

"These rings gave them the power and will to govern each race. But also, one other ring was created. A master ring, to control all others was created by Sauron the Deceiver, Lord of Mordor." The ponies noticed several people looking very uncomfortable at the mention of Sauron and Mordor. "The ring was lost when Sauron was defeated towards the end of the Second Age- and now, it has resurfaced. That is why we have all gathered here this day."

"This is boring," Rainbow Dash muttered to Applejack. "I didn't know that by 'council' they meant a history lesson."

Applejack nodded only slightly so as to draw as little attention to herself as possible. "Ah have no idea jus' what they are talking about," she whispered back. "It doesn' make much of a difference ta me, all o' this. Ah'll help in any way Ah can, but Ah don' really need ta know all of this."

An old dwarf stood up and started to speak. "Many years ago, a longing kindled the hearts of our people. Some spoke of the halls of Moria, the greatest mansions of dwarves ever to come. Ah, how our hearts yearned for our home of old! One of my close kin, Balin, listened to the whispers, and decided to go to Moria. He took with him my kinsmen Ori and Oin, and many others.

"At first, we received good news: they began working there as soon as they reached Moria. And then there was silence. No messengers came, no news, nothing. That was many, many years ago. We have not heard from them ever since. What befell them, I cannot say." With that, the old dwarf sat down.

Rarity tapped Twilight's shoulder. "Do you happen to know just what Moria is?" Twilight shook her head.

A younger dwarf then stood up and started speaking.

"Less than a year ago, we had a messenger. Not from Moria, but from Mordor." At this, the eyes of many of the attendees grew dark. Rainbow Dash glanced at Twilight with a raised eyebrow. That sounded pretty foreboding to her. "He was clothed in black, and there was a fell air about him. He asked us of the Lonely Mountain to aid his master, 'Sauron the Great' in a 'trifle' matter."

The ponies were greatly reminded of a Ringwraith with the dwarf's description of the messenger.

"He asked us for news of hobbits. He said that his master was looking for a thief by the name of Baggins, who had stolen but a simple ring that he fancied."

The ponies turned as one to look at Frodo, who was nervously shuffling his hairy feet.

"Our reward, if we were to aid him, would be three of the seven dwarven Rings of Power, and the whole realm of Moria. If we refused, things would 'not go well' according to him. Dain, the King Under the Mountain, said to give him time to think about the offer. The messenger said he had not much time and rode off. He has been back two times since, and the next time he comes he expects an answer. That is why Dain sent me, Gimli, and my father, Gloin, to Lord Elrond, who we heard is wise in this course of matter, and perhaps could give us answers." Gimli sat back down.

Elrond nodded solemnly. "You were wise to come to me on this issue." He turned his attention back to the Council. "Bring forth the Ring, Frodo," Elrond beckoned to Frodo, who looked noticeably uncomfortable.

Frodo stood up, slowly and reluctantly, put the Ring down on the stone pedestal. Everyone present at the council felt a slight tug at their hearts when they gazed at the Ring. Those most affected by it's power were the Men. Rainbow Dash could not help but stare at the piece of jewelry. What a beautiful golden color it was... so smooth, so perfect, nothing like any other ring she had seen before.

Boromir also felt a very great need for it, but for another reason; it was a beautiful, precious thing, of course, but if what Elrond spoke was true, the Ring could save Gondor.

"In a dream," he said quietly. "I saw the eastern sky grow dark... but in the west, a pale light lingered." He started moving towards the table. "A voice was crying: 'Your doom is near at hand. Isildur's bane is found.'" He reached for the Ring, and the ponies tensed. "Isildur's bane..." Without warning, Elrond jumped to his feet and yelled "BOROMIR!" Just as Gandalf also rose from his seat and cried,

"Ash nazg durbatuluk, ash nazg gimbatul. Ash nazg thrakatuluk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul!" He thundered.

The area grew dark, seemed to rumble with Gandalf's voice. Rarity gasped and clutched Twilight's foreleg; her friends were noticeably tense. The elves all stopped their ears, and Boromir instantly returned to his seat, getting the idea he shouldn't have moved in the first place. Gandalf fell silent, and the sun returned. The ponies let out a breath.

Those words had instilled a strange sort of terror and foreboding in them, that they could not readily understand. Nearby, Elrond turned to look at Gandalf, and frowned suddenly. Had he just heard a whimpering noise? Perhaps it was Fluttershy, he reasoned.

Little did he know, not far off, Sam had a hand slapped over Spike's mouth. "Never before has any voice uttered the words of that tongue here in Imaldris."

"I do not ask your pardon, Master Elrond," Gandalf said gruffly as he returned to his seat. "For the Black Speech of Mordor may yet be heard in every corner of the West! The Ring is all together evil!" he said, glaring at everyone assembled.

"It is a gift," said the man called Boromir, who had started the outburst.

Twilight was left wondering if the man knew when to stop talking. 'When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging,' Princess Celestia had always told her. Apparently that phrase didn't exist here. Maybe if his throat were paralyzed?

"A gift to the foes of Mordor. Why not use this Ring? Long has my father, the Steward of Gondor, kept the forces of Mordor at bay. By the blood of our people, are your lands kept safe! Give Gondor the weapon of the enemy; let us use it against him!"

Twilight opened her mouth to inform Boromir just how STUPID such a suggestion was, as she knew better than anypony how uncontrollable dark magic could be. And if this ring wasn't dark magic in its truest sense, she didn't know what was.

But before she could give him a verbal beat down, however, Strider was already speaking.

"You cannot wield it!" Strider interupted. "The One Ring answers to Sauron alone. It has no other master," he said.

Twilight was grateful that Strider had spoken- he seemed a sensible man. And more eloquent than she could be right now. If she had tried making the point, she would've just been shouting, unable to properly articulate what was just said.

"And what," Boromir said coldly, "would a Ranger know of this matter?"

"He is no mere Ranger," said a blonde elf, suddenly rising from his seat. "He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. You owe him your allegiance."

If the ponies had been confused before, they were totally lost now.

"This," Boromir said, sounding very much like he tasted something horrible and couldn't get it off his tongue, "Is Isildur's heir?"

Okay, things were just a bit clearer now.

"And heir to the throne of Gondor," the elf added.

To say the ponies were surprised by this news would be an understatement. They had all assumed that the scruffy-looking Strider was just a scoundrel of questionable trust. But to find out that he was the descendant of a king... well that was quite a discovery to be had indeed.

"Well Ah guess that explains a few things," Applejack mumbled to herself.

"Havo dad, Legolas," Strider, or Aragorn, said uneasily, seeing that things were going in a downward spiral. The elf, Legolas, sat down, and Boromir gave Aragorn a positively frigid look.

"Gondor has no king," he said stiffly. "Gondor needs no king." He sat down, and refused to acknowledge Aragorn.

"That was rather rude," Fluttershy murmured, speaking for the first time she dared.

"Aragorn is right," Gandalf said, bringing them back on track. "We cannot use it. The agents of Sauron are already tracking it down." More murmurs broke out at this statement, and Elrond picked up on it immediately.

"There is only one choice," Lord Elrond said, addressing the council again. "The Ring must be destroyed."

Rainbow Dash kept silent on the matter, but she disagreed with the elf's statement. Intellectually she knew that it was the ring influencing her, and without it they'd all be better off. But that didn't mean that she could just so easily let it go. Curse its corrupting influence, she simply wanted it for the power that it possessed.

Suddenly, Gimli stood up. "Then what are we waiting for?" He snarled, picking up his axe.

"Mr. Gimli, wait!" Twilight spoke up in an effort to stop the dwarf from doing something stupid, already knowing where this was going. "My assistant, Spike, already tried destroying the ring himself. The ring survived a sustained blast of 2,000 degrees of heat that melted wrought iron. I don't think an axe strike would do much better," she warned.

"We shall see about that," Gimli stated, dismissing the warning out of hand. He took two steps forward, raised the axe, and brought it down in a mighty arc onto the Ring.

Sparks flew as the axe head was shattered on impact, Gimli being sent flying back off his feet. Quick as a flash, Pinkie had moved from her seat to behind him, and caught him before he could hit the ground.

As Pinkie helped Gimli back onto his feet, Rainbow Dash stood up, looking for the broken pieces of the Ring. She was rather surprised, and admittedly somewhat relieved, that the Ring lay still on the pedestal in one piece, and sat back down. The ponies, except Pinkie, glanced at Rainbow Dash, and then back at the Ring, also amazed that it was not destroyed.

While they could not admit it to themselves, or one another they too were a bit relieved by the results of Gimli's attempt.

"The Ring cannot be destroyed, Gimli, son of Gloin, by any craft we here possess," Lord Elrond said. And going by what their otherworldly guests had told them, those crafts included potent magic as well. "The Ring was made in the fires of Mount Doom. Only there can it be unmade. It must be taken deep into Mordor and cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came. One of you must do this," he said, looking at all present.

The council fell into a dead silence for a few moments. Boromir broke it, saying, "one does not simply walk into Mordor," in a low voice.

"Well what about flying instead?" Rainbow Dash suggested.

Boromir ignored her as he continued. "Its black gates are guarded by more than just Orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep. The Great Eye is ever watchful." Everyone stared at him, captivated. "It is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire, ash and dust. The very air you breathe, is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly."

"Alright, I agree with him," Rainbow Dash added. "Going there sounds like a suicide mission to me."

Legolas stared at Rainbow Dash and Boromir with disbelief. "Have you heard nothing that Lord Elrond has said? The Ring must be destroyed!"

"Rainbow, have ya not been listening? Why agree with him anyway?" Applejack asked her friend, agitated by Rainbow Dash's argument and more by the fact that part of her agreed with it.

"Because I'm not in the mood for dying right now. Are you?" Rainbow Dash asked, annoyed like she had to explain a basic concept to someone who should full well understand it. "Seriously, the air's poisonous! We can't contend with that!"

"Oh, and I suppose that you think you are the one to do it?" Gimli confronted Legolas, standing up to challenge him.

"Boromir, it cannot be used or even hidden; it must be destroyed," Aragorn added firmly.

"I'm not entirely sure about that," Twilight stated. The part about hiding the ring struck her as being a possibility, and she had a theory for how to go about trying it. That was if anyone would listen to her.

"And what happens if we fail?" Boromir snapped. "What happens when Sauron takes back what is his?"

"I will be dead before I see the Ring in the hands of an elf!"

Chaos erupted upon Gimli's cry. The elves, offended, jumped up and yelling angrily at the dwarf, held back only by Legolas. The men and other dwarves stood up and started to argue furiously. Aragorn and Boromir argued heatedly, Applejack and Rainbow Dash were nearly screaming at each other, and Pinkie just yelled random things just for the sake of yelling. Twilight and Rarity were shocked, and Fluttershy was quivering in terror and despair. Gandalf sighed and shook his head, looking disappointed. Then he tried to restore order, only to become a part of the fray himself.

Twilight looked around at the chaos, and suddenly, her eyes landed on Frodo. He was pale, and looked very distressed. He was staring at the Ring and rubbing his forehead.

"Frodo?" She said, standing up and going over to him. "Frodo? Are you all right?"

Frodo did not respond. She gently shook his arm and spoke to him again, but still he said nothing. Rarity and Fluttershy were hanging back with Elrond and Glorfindel, two of the only people that hadn't joined in the fight. Twilight looked to them, and then looked at the Ring. Was that the reason why he looked so worried and upset?

"Frodo?" She said again. Just then, Frodo turned and met her eyes. There was a hint of something in there she couldn't identify- strength, perhaps?

"I will take it!" He cried. Twilight was the first to hear him over the din, mainly due to proximity. The others, however, seemed to either pay him no attention, or simply hadn't heard him.

The constant yelling, and arguing back and forth over an evil artifact, was wearing down her composure greatly. She could feel her right eye twitching in frustration, and she was certain a vein in her forehead was starting to become visible. Finally she'd reached the point where she simply couldn't take anymore.

"EVERYONE OF YOU JUST SHUT UP ALREADY!"

The sudden, booming voice had carried far more fury than Gandalf's exercising of the black speech just moments ago; a feat impressive in and of itself.

Everyone immediately stopped their bickering, and turned to witness as Twilight's eyes shined brightly enough to be whited out, her mane flying wildly from an unfelt breeze blowing in every direction. All the while she was seething through gritted teeth as she glared at them.

"All of you. If you can't quit bickering like children, then all of you shut up, and let the adults speak!"

And just like that it all stopped. Her eyes returned to normal, her mane fell back down, and her body posture wasn't so hard. With that done, she gestured with her foreleg over to Frodo.

Boromir, however, was not in the mood. "And with what authority does a pony assume to speak above all others?"

Twilight frowned back at Boromir. "On the authority that while you were all sleeping safely in your beds last night, I was in Isengard facing down both Saruman and Sauron by myself!" she stated, wanting to make it quite clear that she was in no mood to be trifled with.

Hushed -and some not so hushed- mumbled erupted from most of those present at her declaration.

"I've seen things. Things that a mere man such as yourself couldn't hope to understand; things that would scar your mind if you encountered them yourself. And I'm here to tell you that you seriously underestimate what Sauron is capable of, if you think that ring would let you use it against the one who created it! The fact that I'm still walking around after what I've been through, should tell you all that you need to know at this point, about what authority I assume to speak with!"

Not a word was uttered as Twilight panted to catch her breath. She was very thankful for that fact, as she didn't want to get into another shouting match about who knew what. Nodding as she panted, she turned to Frodo, and gestured for him to step forward.

Frodo, after recovering from his shock, and realizing that he now had the floor, looked all of them in the eye. "I will take the Ring to Mordor," he said softly. "Though..." he hesitated, his tone losing some of its potency, "I do not know the way. Bilbo's maps were not exactly precise about that piece territory..."

"I will help you bear this burden, Frodo Baggins," Said Gandalf, stepping forward from where he had been arguing with Boromir earlier on. "As long as it is yours to bear."

Aragorn nodded, wanting to move things along. "If by my life or death I can protect you, I will!" He walked over to Frodo and stood by him. "You have my sword." The rest of the ponies went to stand next to Twilight, and Rarity nudged her. She turned, and they saw Gandalf and Elrond sharing a knowing look.

"And you have my bow," said Legolas, stepping in.

"And my axe," Gimli added, sending a piercing glare to the elf.

Boromir slowly approached Frodo; mainly because of his proximity to Twilight. He didn't want to admit it, but that pony possessed a fury most soldiers did not. And if her bold claims were indeed true...

"You carry the fates of us all, little one. If this is indeed the will of the Council, then Gondor will see it done."

"HERE!" Someone cried. And to everyone's surprise, Sam and Spike came out of their hiding spots and ran up next to Frodo.

"Spike!" Twilight cried. "Were you eavesdropping?"

Spike gave Twilight a sheepish smile in response at being caught. Meanwhile, Sam looked at Gandalf and Elrond and crossed his arms.

"Mr. Frodo's not going anywhere without me," he said.

"Me neither," Spike added.

"No, indeed it is hard to separate you, even when he is summoned to a secret council and you are not." Lord Elrond said with a raised eyebrow.

"Spike-" Twilight said, clearly intending to shoot down his idea.

"No! Frodo's our friend, and I want to help him any way I can! Don't try to stop me!" Spike said, glaring at Twilight. "You can ground me if you want, but it's gonna have to wait until we get home."

"Spike, this is far too dangerous," Twilight said firmly, not liking this one bit. "And we have to get home! Princess Celestia is probably searching for us by now!"

Spike simply shook his head and backed up closer to Frodo.

"You don't have to, Spike. I'm not asking you to," Frodo said.

"You don't have to ask. This is what friends do," Spike said simply. "Besides, you guys might need a dragon for something or another."

Twilight turned to Gandalf and Elrond, pleading silently for help. The two men merely shrugged.

"I'm afraid that, on this level, we have no authority," Gandalf said. "Spike is your assistant, and without your Princess Celestia here, you are responsible for him." Twilight groaned.

"I... I'd like to help too..." Someone said. Everyone turned to see Fluttershy standing there, staring at the ground.

"Oh, Fluttershy, not you too..." Twilight moaned, putting a hoof over her face.

"And you're not going anywhere without me!" Rainbow Dash commented boisterously, lightly stepping through the crowd of people to Frodo. "We've been through a lot together, dude, and we can accomplish even more awesome things." Rainbow Dash grinned to the hobbit, and Frodo just shook his head and smiled.

"Eh, why not. Count me in too," added Applejack, stepping up beside Rainbow Dash. "Ya were right kind ta us when we first came here, an' hopefully ah'll be able ta repay that kindness," she muttered to the hobbit.

"Me too!" Pinkie stated as she bounced over to where the others stood. "This isn't my usual kind of party, but a party is still a party!"

Rarity just closed her eyes and shook her head. Without offering up an explanation, she calmly walked over and stood with the others. If they were going along for this mission, she might as well too. She couldn't, in good conscience, leave them to do something like this on their own. And if Princess Celestia were to show up to take them back home, she wasn't about to go back to Equestria without them.

"We're coming too!" And just then, Merry and Pippin ran up, jumping in next to Frodo and Spike. Spike gave Twilight a pleading look.

"Oh... alright..." Twilight said and sighed. These ponies might be crazy, but they were still her friends. She wasn't about to lose them; not after she'd seen Sauron for herself, and felt what he was capable of. "If you'll permit us to go, Lord Elrond."

The Elf-Lord smiled. "Of course," he said.

"Yes! After all, you need people of intelligence on this sort of mission... quest... thing!" Pippin said. Merry cocked an eyebrow and looked at him, and Gandalf rolled his eyes.

"Well, that rules you out, Pip," Merry mumbled.

"Ah reckon it rules most of us out," Applejack chuckled, knowing that Twilight was the only real smart one around here.

Elrond looked at them all.

"Sixteen companions," He mused out loud as Twilight joined her friends. "You shall be the Fellowship of the Ring." The Elf-Lord declared.

"Great!" Pippin said. "So. Where are we going?"

"You don't want to know..." Twilight mumbled to herself. They were all discussing this whole thing with an attitude far more appropriate for crashing a birthday party, than for storming the gates of Mordor. "Maybe it's a good thing I'm coming along. Apparently I'm one of the few present who actually has some concept of what we're facing."

"Hey, hey," Rainbow Dash spoke up and poked Twilight's side with her wing. "Tell them about Ragnarok and the rest of those orc things."

"Oh. Right," Twilight replied and nodded.

"Orc things?" Boromir asked.

Twilight nodded in confirmation. "Isengard hasn't been sitting idly by on its duff, waiting for Sauron to do everything himself. Saruman was quite busy."

As her horn glowed, and her magic went to work, everyone became aware of something being displayed over the stone pedestal the ring had been perched on just moments ago.

"Saruman calls them Uruk-Hai, elite orcs bred to excel where others have failed, their weaknesses to sunlight and such being refined right out of them, although I don't understand how he did that. They've been built from the ground up to be a force to contend with. Very strong, very aggressive, very resilient to physical damage," she explained, a rough image of an Uruk-Hai being displayed for all to see. "Saruman was quite proud of his creations; to the point he was openly bragging about them while we conversed."

No one said a word in response to this statement.

"That said, they're not without their own weaknesses. While the enhanced musculature they possess makes them quite durable, it also hinders their mobility. In technical terms they're overbuilt, to the point it slows them down, and denies them a full range a movement compared to a man. The neck alone, while protected against the possibility of the spinal cord being snapped, prevents them from being able to turn their heads very far in either direction. In addition to this, their armaments are crudely forged from both cast and wrought iron as opposed to steel, meaning a need for much greater weight for comparable results to be had, slowing them down even further. On top of which, is the fact that there simply isn't time for these hundreds -if not possibly thousands- of orcs being mass produced, to be trained like proper soldiers who have years of experience."

The display cut out once all the relevant information had been given.

"Their primary strength seems to rely purely on shock and awe, and in overwhelming quantity to make up for the abysmal lack of individual quality. And I do mean abysmal. For all of their strength, Rainbow Dash was able to utterly dominate in a one-on-one battle, thanks in no small part to the fact that she possesses a much fuller range of movement," Twilight concluded.

"He never even had a chance," Rainbow Dash stated proudly, wings flaring as she grinned while mimicking the uppercut she'd used to knock the orc out cold in their encounter. She'd mopped the floor with him while Twilight did her thing against Sauron and Saruman; the two sour pusses as she liked to put it, since it was easier to remember that way.

"Dominating combat against an unskilled opponent completely at your mercy. Most certainly a high mark, worthy of utter respect," Boromir replied sarcastically. "You must be proud."

Rainbow Dash set back down on her hooves and frowned at Boromir for that crack. But one glare from Twilight was enough to shut her up before she could verbally retaliate.

"If she is, then she deserves to be. When the hordes outside of Orthanc saw us fleeing, it was her maneuvering skills that kept us from being made into pin cushions by their crossbows," Twilight stated.

"Crossbows?" Legolas asked.

Twilight nodded in response. "Sauron is obviously seeking to supplement the lack of quality control, with mechanical intervention."

Legolas' displeasure over this announcement didn't go unnoticed by Rainbow Dash. But why exactly the elf cared was something she couldn't understand. Right now she was just glad for the vote in confidence Twilight had given her in the wake of Boromir's disregard for her accomplishments.

Over where he sat, Elrond listened in silence. While the method utilized in acquiring this information was unorthodox, and quite dangerous, it was undeniable that they would all be better off, now that they knew about what Isengard was up to. These Uruk-Hai were bound to pose problems for all of them, meaning that they would have to proceed with great caution.

And with that caution, came an undeniable fact about the newly formed Fellowship; they were all quite rough around the edges, and had a tendency to bicker with one another. That simply wouldn't do. They were going to need to learn how to bond, if they were going to have any hope of success in this mission.


Legolas and Gimli looked ready to stick their heads in a bowl of pudding before looking at one another. When they were forced to, however, one would deal the other a positively evil look. Boromir was still acting terribly icy towards Aragorn, and refused to acknowledge the Ranger's presence. The hobbits were nervous, and Gandalf seemed a bit on edge himself.

Applejack was feeling extensively stressed, particularly with Rainbow Dash. How could that crazy agree to not destroy the Ring? So, being so terribly nervous and on edge, she began to get just a little irritable. And that slight spark of irritation would prove to be the beginning of a rather entertaining night, she was certain of that.

"Rainbow, quit leanin' on the table, it's rude manners." She hadn't even realized- much less cared- that she'd said it. It was a minor observation. Rainbow Dash must've been in a good mood, because her reply was as sarcastic as before they came to Middle Earth.

"Yes, Mom," she grumbled. The rest of the Equestrian visitors took in a sharp breath.

Now, keep in mind, everyone at the table was too polite to stare at the two friends. They glanced casually out of the corners of their eyes, but they didn't watch outright. But these were the first words spoken that evening, and some- mainly Gandalf and Aragorn- were looking for the opportunity to get some friendly conversation started.

Unfortunately, this wasn't exactly the best conversation-starter to be had.

Spike and the others knew a fight was coming on from the instant Rainbow Dash opened her mouth. "Applejack..." Twilight whispered in a pleading tone, "please don't..."

"Honestly, Rainbow," Applejack growled, ignoring her completely. "Can't ya grow up?"

"Shut your face," Rainbow Dash hissed.

NOW they were attracting stares. Fluttershy went bright red and covered her face with her hooves, sliding down in her seat. Things were about to get ugly, and she knew it.

"Is everything all right, you two?"

Twilight could have kissed Aragorn for his intervention, if she didn't know it wouldn't help. Applejack didn't look at the older man, instead glaring at her rainbow-maned friend.

"Everything's jus' fine. If Rainbow wants ta prove that she's a featherbrained idiot, Ah won' stop her." Applejack said coldly.

"Why don't you go buck a tree, tree bucker?" Rainbow Dash snarled.

Applejack snorted in response. "Tha's the best ya got?" she asked.

"Well if you'd like, I could make a crack about you and your brother doing some unsavory things," Rainbow Dash offered up and wiggled her eyebrows.

"THAT'S IT!"

SLAM

Everyone jumped, and now all eyes turned to Twilight. The -usually- calm, cool and collected Alicorn now had a barely veiled expression of pure fury on her features. This was even worse than what they'd experienced back in the council when she'd made everyone stop arguing.

"The both of you- outside," she said in a low, dangerous tone as she bristled furiously. "NOW!"

Applejack and Rainbow Dash stood up, refusing to meet each other's eyes, and left the hall. Twilight followed them, nearly slamming the door behind her as she too left the hall.

Fluttershy whimpered in embarrassment. "Sorry..." she whispered to them all. "Applejack and Rainbow Dash... well... they... have problems... sometimes..."

"It's quite alright, Fluttershy," Boromir said quietly. "One can't expect friends to get along all the time."

Gandalf chuckled at this.

"Yes... you would know, wouldn't you, Boromir? You and Faramir certainly had some nasty disputes when you were children, eh?" the wizard said. Fluttershy looked up.

"You have a brother?" she asked curiously. Boromir nodded.

"Yes. My younger brother, Faramir; my polar opposite in almost every way. Bookish, pacifist-"

"Quiet," Gandalf added softly under his breath. "Well-behaved." Boromir flushed, and Fluttershy and Rarity giggled.

The Fellowship turned to see Twilight, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack coming in. To everyone's surprise, Applejack and Rainbow Dash looked both embarrassed and humbled at the same time, each of them walking with a flinch with each step they took. Twilight looked pleased, if not a bit stressed. They all returned to their seats in silence, although the two formerly bickering ponies had a bit of trouble with sitting down silently, and now the others openly stared at them.

"Er... sorry 'bout that," Applejack said softly.

"It's alright," Aragorn said. There was a long pause, and everyone went back to what they were doing.

Suddenly, Twilight spoke.

"Rainbow Dash, pass Applejack the salt," she said tonelessly.

"That's alright, Ah don't need any-" Applejack began. But she caught sight of the look on Twilight's face, and she froze. "... On second thought... Ah have a sudden craving..." Shakily, she accepted the salt from Rainbow Dash, and scooted her seat a little farther away from Twilight's. There was suddenly a small noise. A choked sort of noise, like someone had gotten caught on something while swallowing.

It was Pippin. He had a fist over his mouth, and was looking away so no one could see him snickering. Applejack and Rainbow Dash gave the hobbit venomous looks. "What, if I may ask, is so funny, Pippin?" Rainbow Dash gritted out through clenched teeth.

"Y-You two," The hobbit giggled. "I haven't seen anyone so terrified since Lobelia Sackville-Baggins came to visit Hobbiton!" There was a collective groan from Frodo, Sam and Merry.

"The night was getting so pleasant, Pip," Merry grumbled. "Why'd you have to bring old Lobelia up?"

"Honest!" Pippin choked. "Frodo! Do you recall, after Bilbo left, she came to your house?"

"I'm still trying to forget that little incident," Frodo mumbled.

"We're not terrified!" Applejack snapped.

"Yes, you are!"

"No, we're not!"

"Yes- You- Are!" Just then, Pippin began to pound his fist on the table as he laughed. But, on total accident, his fist hit his spoon, which happened to be buried in a clump of mashed potatoes. It had a catapult effect, and sprung up to hurl a lump of mashed potatoes into Merry's cheek. The other hobbit yelped and turned to glare at his cousin, who was now laughing even harder than before.

"YOU-!" And then, Merry did only what comes naturally to one whom has just been assaulted with mashed potatoes- he grabbed a handful of peas, and smashed them into Pippin's hair and face.

"OF ALL THE TROUBLE-MAKING-" Gandalf roared, jumping to his feet.

Bad idea.

Pippin had retaliated as well- only, it missed Merry and hit Gandalf, who fell back in surprise and knocked into Applejack, who smashed her elbow into her plate of food. She slid into Twilight, who consequently fell to the floor.

"Hey!" Applejack snapped, giving Pippin an angry glare. But, just then, a handful of... something... hit the side of her head. Growling, she looked up to see Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Spike with pseudo-innocent looks on their faces.

Getting into the swing of things, Merry chucked a handful of food at Pinkie, who shrieked in delight and retaliated. Her retaliation hit Legolas in the side of the face; in turn, his elbow slammed down onto a spoon that was filled with soup. Like Pippin's opening blow earlier, the spoon had the same catapult effect- splashing a load of soup into Gimli's face.

"You know what this means, right?" Spike asked, knowing what was about to transpire.

"Food fight!" Pinkie screamed delightedly.


Later, a majority of the Fellowship was lined up before Lord Elrond and Glorfindel. Elrond was shaking his head disapprovingly, and Glorfindel was just snickering helplessly under his breath.

"You are all quite aware," Elrond said, rubbing his temples, "that when I asked you to bond, I did not intend for you to go to this particular... extreme measure..."

For indeed, everyone was a mess. Splattered with food, and seeming very fatigued, fifteen of the Fellowship members had gotten deeply into the food fight before Lord Elrond came in to see what all of the various crashing and screaming noises were about.

Needless to say, he was not pleased with the sight that greeted him.

"We apologize, Master Elrond. For our immaturity," Gandalf said, ashamed. For he, too, had flung a potato or two at Merry and Pippin when the opportunity had presented itself. After all, when would he find an opportunity like THAT again?

"Pippin started it," Boromir grumbled, pulling a clump of pudding out of his hair.

"And be mad at him," Elrond said tersely. "Because you will all be bonding further as you clean up this mess."

Everyone turned and gave Pippin a positively evil look. He grinned sheepishly, unable to do anything else.

"Er... I'll go get started, then," he said, quickly ducking into the other room. As the others trudged in, Elrond pulled Gandalf aside and whispered to him.

"The most dignified, responsible, well-behaved beings you've ever seen. I believe those were your exact words, Gandalf?" Gandalf grunted.

"First of all," he said, "you do not know the ponies and dragons I've seen in the past. These seven are Gods compared to some. Second of all, everyone must have their moments of spontaneity, don't they?"

Just then, they saw Applejack shove Rainbow Dash face-first into a puddle of pudding dripping from the wall. They exchanged brief looks.

"And third... I can be wrong, can't I?"


"You are a seamstress?"

Rarity looked up at the sound of the voice behind her. Being the only one with enough sense to excuse herself at the preliminary signs of a food fight threatening to break out, she was the only one on cleanup duty voluntarily. That meant she could afford to step away from her task if needed.

And at the moment, being addressed by Arwen seemed to warrant stepping away from mopping the floor.

"Er, a bit more than that actually. But for all intents and purposes, yes I am," she replied. "Don't let the hooves fool you, darling, I'm a master with needle and thread."

"Per chance would you be able to make me a dress?" Arwen asked.

Rarity's ears perked up, her eyes lighting up at the question she was being presented with. Being asked by a respected member of a new race to create a dress, specifically for her? Already her mind was kicking into high gear over the possibilities this could generate.

"Oh, darling, you have no idea what I can do!"


For Gandalf it had been a very long, very eventful day, and his old bones were letting him know that they weren't happy at him for all the strain they'd been under. Apparently getting into a food fight, even if it was all in good fun, wasn't a good idea after all. The newly formed Fellowship had certainly bonded with one another, even if it was in an unorthodox manner.

Regardless of such facts, he was glad that it was time to rest. Tomorrow was going to be the start of a long, harrowing journey for them all. They were going to be getting an early start tomorrow, meaning they needed to rest up while they could. And he was going to take full advantage of that fact, right here, and right now.

And then came a knocking at his chamber door. Again.

"Gandalf? Are you awake?"

This time around, however, the knock was far softer, less frantic, and accompanied by the voice of Twilight, rather than Fluttershy. At least there was that.

Once again, he got up from his bed, and made his way over to the door to open it for his guest. The sooner this was resolved, whatever it was, the sooner he could get some sleep.

"To what do I owe the honor of royalty visiting me at such an hour?" he asked.

"Did I wake you up? I'm sorry. I just... couldn't sleep. Something's weighing pretty heavily on my mind, and I didn't know who else to turn to," Twilight explained.

Sensing that this was more than a simple visit, Gandalf ushered the Alicorn inside. "What seems to be the trouble?"

"Do you trust Elrond?"

Gandalf had to stop and blink at hearing the question. Out of all the things he hadn't expected to hear, that was certainly up there.

"How do you mean?" he asked, hoping to get some clarification.

"Do you trust him? I mean do you really, really trust him?" she asked.

"Where exactly is this coming from?" Gandalf asked. They weren't getting anywhere fast. Did he trust Lord Elrond? What sort of foolish question was that to ask?

"It's this whole plan. I... I don't trust him," Twilight stated flatly, before quickly holding her hoof up to Gandalf. "And before you go into some spiel about how great Elrond is, and how we should all trust him because of his wisdom, here me out on this at least."

"As you wish," Gandalf replied and sat back down on his bed. This he certainly had to hear.

"Alright. I don't know what experience you've had with Elrond before in the past, so I honestly don't know how this might come across to you. But I honestly think that he can't be trusted. Maybe he's working with Sauron like Saruman, maybe it's of his own volition, I don't know exactly. But whatever it was, this whole idea just seems so... flawed in terms of basic logic," Twilight stated. "I mean, seriously, think about it for a minute. He was there in the council, he saw how everyone was being affected in the mere presence of the ring; most of us were ready to tear each other to pieces to try and take it for ourselves. And what exactly is his great plan for destroying the ring? Send the sixteen of us to Mount Doom, which is in Mordor, which is filled with poisonous fumes, and Sauron always surveying his domain. So in addition to us being negatively affected by the ring, and in close proximity to it as well as one another, we're being sent right into the heart of enemy territory? It... it just sounds like a recipe for disaster. It's like Elrond is hoof-delivering the ring to Sauron himself, by sending us into a situation where the odds are so thoroughly stacked against us it's not even funny, and chances are very good that we'll kill each other along the way, provided Sauron's forces don't get us first!"

Gandalf had agreed to listen to Twilight as she spoke her peace to him, but he was finding out that it wasn't as easy as he'd first assumed. Besides the content of her message, and all it entailed, there was also the delivery. At some point during her explanation she'd started pacing back and forth. But the longer she continued talking, the more frantic her pacing became, along with the more frantic her voice became. She sounded like she couldn't make up her mind between being frightened with suggesting what she was, and convinced enough in the validity of her position to defend it with outright hostility if it proved necessary.

Going by what the other ponies had told him, he was going to need to intervene before some breakdown occurred.

"So what do you suggest?" he asked.

That made Twilight stop her pacing, and face him directly, as she tried to reorient her thoughts.

"Well... we don't really know for certain that the ring can't be destroyed by our efforts. We know that simple magic, a dragon, and one very grouchy dwarf with an axe can't do it. So perhaps instead we need to turn to a different discipline; science. Back in our world we have a chemical compound called thermite that's often used in welding applications and... sorry. Getting ahead of myself," she apologized, realizing that talk of skyscrapers and railroad tracks might be best reserved for a different time. "Anyway, thermite is a combination of two very simple compounds, those being iron oxide, and powdered aluminum. When ignited it's capable of burning at temperatures in excess of 4,000 degrees, and it's self-oxidizing so it can't be extinguished by water; it has to burn until it's consumed itself. That in itself is between two and three times hotter than the magma found within a volcano like Mount Doom. If I have access to those components, we might be able to destroy the ring by tomorrow," she explained.

Science. It was a field of discussion that Twilight had spoken of so passionately during their initial meeting. And yet it was one that Gandalf understood so little about. Her explaining science to him, was like him explaining magic to mortal men; utterly confusing. It was similar to alchemy from what he could tell, but that was as far as his understanding of the subject went.

"I know not how things are in your world, but aluminum is extremely rare in our world. Few have ever heard of it, and those that can actually afford it, guard it as jealously as a dragon would a pile of gold. It is quite unlikely you'd find anyone willing to part with it, even for such a noble purpose," he explained.

"Oh..." Twilight replied, ears drooping in response to this information. "Alright. Suggestion number two; tricking the ring. Elrond says the ring has to be cast into Mount Doom; the volcano in which is was forged, in order for it to be destroyed. But all lava truly is, is rock that's been super-heated to the point it loses its molecular cohesion. If we gathered some granite, limestone, quartz, maybe a few other geological samples for good measure, Spike could easily generate the heat to make them melt into a simulated lava, and that might work," she suggested.

Gandalf couldn't help but chuckle in response to the suggestion. The way the pony thought truly amazed -and amused- him to no end.

"While I certainly like that idea, I doubt that Sauron and his like could be so easily fooled. Mount Doom has certain magical properties not found elsewhere in nature. I believe the ring would know the difference between the two, and resist your efforts at disposing of it in such a manner," he explained.

"Of course it would," Twilight muttered in a growled tone. That would have to be just their luck. "Alright. The third suggestion isn't so much about destroying the ring as it is effectively... hiding it for the time being. Back in my world, there are certain harmful energies referred to as "radiation" that can be quite poisonous to encounter. While not the same as dark magic, there are undeniable similarities between the two standards. Now, these radioactive energies are kept safely contained in lead containers, shielding ponies from their harmful effects. Not knowing exactly how magic in this world works, it's only speculation and theory, but if I could encase the ring in a solid block of pure lead, say five to ten pounds worth, it might serve to keep its evil contained, or at least drastically diminished, so we're not ready to kill one another for it. It might even be enough to hide the ring from Sauron and his spies, for as long as it takes to come up with a solution on just how we're going to proceed."

Now this was a proposal that Gandalf didn't have an immediate response to. This was something that he had to stop and think about. To think that something as common as everyday lead, could contain such dark forces with ease...

"That may be doable. But at best it would only be a temporary solution. We certainly could not simply leave it at that, as there would always be the risk of it eventually being found, and opened up again," he pointed out.

"I'm not suggesting otherwise. But if Sauron's dark magic possesses similar enough properties to radioactivity, it would at least give us some breathing room until we figured out what to do; both about the ring, and about Elrond..." Twilight replied slowly.

And here they were again, back where this whole conversation had started.

"And please, before you try and convince me about how great he is, and how much he can be trusted, because of something you know about him, let me just point out the blatantly obvious here: Saruman. You said he was the oldest, and wisest member of your order. And yet, despite being the wisest around, he still thought it was a good idea to go and serve Sauron. And if Saruman willingly decided to serve Sauron, why shouldn't I suspect Elrond of possibly doing the same thing? Why should any of us trust him? Why... why should any of us trust you?"

Gandalf had no words of comfort to offer up to the distraught pony. At least not yet. She was uncertain, looking for something to cling to, to provide her with a sense of security; something that would ground her back in reality.

"I... I don't know what to do. I don't know who I should trust, or distrust, or anything. What... What am I supposed to do?"

And now they were getting to the heart of the matter. Perhaps now there were words of comfort and wisdom that he could offer up.

"Do you remember the tale of Isildur, and his failure to destroy the ring when he had the opportunity?" Gandalf asked her. She nodded. "Lord Elrond was present at that battle, and fought alongside Isildur. He was the one urging Isildur to cast the ring into the fires of Mount Doom, and end everything right then and there. But as you may have guessed, that did not happen. What you may not know, is that Lord Elrond found himself in a position to end matters then and there as well. He could have killed Isildur where he stood, and either destroy the ring himself, or succumb to its corrupting influence as well. But instead, he chose to let Isildur leave, despite knowing what harm it could do. He chose to put his friendship ahead of all else."

There were many things he had been told about Equestria. But among them, what stuck out possibly the most, was the sheer amount of emphasis that was placed on the concept of friendship. What better to cite in order to calm down the distraught pony, and help her realize the truth?

The fact that she didn't immediately respond suggested she was at least contemplating his words.

"Now then. Do you believe Lord Elrond would have put his friendship ahead of ending Sauron's existence once and for all, if he was likely to serve the dark lord himself?" he asked.

"I... I don't know. I guess not..." Twilight replied uncertainly, before pinching the bridge of her muzzle with her hoof. "This is so hard. I don't know what's going on..."

"Considering you faced Sauron by yourself, it would all be understandable. No one has ever emerged unscathed from confronting the dark lord. And going by what you have said, you faced many things in your duel against him. It would only make sense that you would be shaken up, and questioning everything you once accepted at face value," Gandalf explained.

Twilight blinked. "You actually think that's what this is? That... that actually makes sense. That would explain why I've been so snappy with the others today, normally I'm very calm even when they're... a little nutty," she explained. Now everything seemed to be falling into place, once the correct context was applied. "This isn't going to be permanent, is it? I'm not going to be short-tempered and aggressive from now on, am I?" she asked worriedly.

"I fear I have no answer to that question. Perhaps, but perhaps not. The best advice that I can give you right now, is to try and hold close to your good memories with your friends. In time Sauron's corrupting nature may fade from your mind, allowing you to more freely return to your previous state," Gandalf explained.

For a while, no one spoke in response, allowing the room to fall into silence. And that silence was leading Gandalf to yearn for his bed more and more.

"Well then... if you're sure that Elrond can be trusted. I have another idea for how to proceed, that I'd like to run past him before we all set off on this journey of ours," Twilight spoke up.

"And what might that be?" Gandalf asked, curious to see what she might have to suggest.

"Well there's 16 of us all together, traveling as a group. That's bound to attract a lot of unwanted attention, even with our cloaks making us all look like hobbits instead of colorful ponies. Plus Mordor is a long way from here, going by what Rivendell's libraries had to say on the subject. We could be walking for months, in constant presence of the ring..." she paused, wanting her points to sink in before continuing. "I think it would be best if Frodo and I proceeded to Mount Doom on our own; with the ring safely encased in lead of course. I can teleport us there far faster than we could walk.

"Going by Rivendell's library, Mount Doom is a little over 1,300 miles from here. Now if I were to teleport the two of us that distance, assuming no complications arose, we could easily travel at a pace of three miles every five minutes, without experiencing fatigue. This would give us a traveling speed of 36 miles an hour, over a span of say... 12 hours a day conservatively, that's about 432 miles traveled in a day. We could make our way to Mount Doom is just a little more than three day's time, and be done with it all.

"That's going by a conservative, paced estimate. Alternatively I could try for long-range teleportation, just like I did with Rainbow Dash when we went to Isengard. Pushing my teleportation to its limits, that would let us travel 50 miles about every 15 minutes, assuming Frodo can handle it. That's a traveling speed of 200 miles per hour, so we could reach Mount Doom in... well let's say about seven hours, assuming everything goes according to plan."

Gandalf listened as Twilight explained what she had in mind. And quite frankly, he was having much trouble comprehending the idea of traveling such vast distances with such ease. He remembered what she had said about teleportation, and how she'd proposed using it to bring himself and herself to Bree from Isengard. But this was still something else to consider.

"Do you mean to say that-"

Twilight nodded in agreement. "If Frodo and I left for Mordor by mid-morning we could, quite possibly, put a permanent end to Sauron's reign just in time for afternoon tea. We wouldn't get back until around midnight, but that's hardly an issue. The point remains that Sauron, and all of the trouble he's caused everyone in Middle Earth, could be ended in less than a day. And when that comes to pass," she chuckled darkly for a second, "Middle Earth is going to be rocked by the biggest, wildest celebration in the history of its existence!"

Author's Note:

Just so you all know: Twilight is not going to teleport Frodo to Mordor, that would end the story far too soon. :P