• Published 23rd Aug 2015
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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

  • ...

A Murder of Crows and the Pass of Caradhras

A Murder of Crows and the Pass of Caradhras

Having been alive for thousands of years, Lord Elrond had bore witness to a great many things coming to pass in his lifetime, in addition to hearing of many more transpiring far away and removed from himself. All in all it had, either rightly or wrongly, given him a sense of having a fairly good idea of what went on in the world. But even he couldn't deny that what events were unfolding in front of him were highly unexpected.

It was late in the evening when he had been approached by both Gandalf and Twilight Sparkle, about the prospect of a different way of proceeding with the plan to destroy the ring; a way that, according to how it was presented to him, could quite possibly resolve the situation in a matter of days, rather than months.

It sounded totally, and utterly preposterous in basic concept. And yet the Equestrian had presented the theory in such a concise and thought out manner, that even he couldn't deny that there was an aspect to it that seemed logical; at least in theory anyway.

That was how he wound up here in one of the crafting houses, watching alongside Gandalf and a rather tired looking Frodo, as the pony went about trying to bring her plan into fruition.

Acquiring the requested amount of lead had been a trivial matter; it was a staple in many artisan crafts that the elves worked on.

They all watched as Twilight went about working her magic, first reducing the lead to a viscous state, before holding it aloft in her magic and working it, molding it, not unlike a sort of runny clay.

"Alright, Frodo, put the ring in and let's see if this works," Twilight stated as she held the pool of liquid-esque metal in front of her.

Frodo nodded as he approached, gave the ring one last look as he brought it out, and then placed it in the middle, before stepping back again. "So... how exactly is this supposed to work again?"

"It's quite simple really," Twilight spoke as she proceeded to fold and wrap the lead over and around the ring. "Lead has an extremely high molecular density to it, allowing it to effectively shield against harmful forms of energy that could, without terribly exaggerating, melt your internal organs. We're going to encase the ring much like it's a piece of plutonium, and render it inert to everyone around it. Granted it's not a perfect solution; radiation and dark magic aren't 100 percent compatible, so some bleed through may still occur. But since we lack the thaumium additives that would be needed in an application such as this, I'm going to instead try and compress the lead it on itself around the ring, actually increasing the molecular density in the process, in an effort to enhance its shielding capabilities."

Frodo blinked in confusion, looking up to Gandalf for clarification. "Did any of that make sense to you?"

Gandalf shook his head. "I understood every word she said, and yet I could not even begin to tell you the meaning behind them," he muttered in admittance. He was starting to wonder if her translation efforts had failed, and she was actually slipping back into her native language during it all.

"Would you like me to run it by you again in Sindarin?" she asked sarcastically, having heard the entire exchange. But she chose not to pursue the matter, and focus instead of properly shaping the lead to suit their needs.

Elrond remained silent and simply watched, possessing the knowledge that they were dealing with matters far beyond their level of understanding. They were essentially being outsmarted by a pony; a very intelligent pony, but a pony nonetheless. He wasn't sure what that meant, as he watched her effortlessly wrap the accursed ring in a thick layer of lead without ever touching it, and molding it into a solid, seamless cube, whose overall dimensions suggested it was smaller than the ingot that had been supplied.

"There. Hopefully that should do the trick," Twilight said with a breath as she sat the block on the workshop's oaken table for closer inspection, and more thorough examination. "I'm not feeling anything like I was previously. I think it might've done the trick."

As much as Elrond wished to believe otherwise, he had to admit that the oppressive presence of the ring being in such close proximity to them had suddenly ceased. It was like the ring was miles away from Rivendell, rather than just a few feet away from where he stood.

Even with all that he'd seen transpire in his time, he would admit that he was quite impressed by the results.


And then the statement from Frodo caused them all to look over on the table, and at the block of lead. Or rather the fact that the block was starting to bubble in the center at the top.

"Oh no..."

It was like watching a piece of butter being thrown into a hot skillet, as the lead sagged and wilted, before finally melting into a large middle that surrounded the ring, and dripped off the table to the floor, filling the air with an acrid scent of defeat.

The ring, apparently, was not impressed with Twilight's science.

"Oh you son of a bitch!" she shouted at the ring in both fury and disbelief.

Gandalf didn't want to admit to it, but he had allowed his hopes to be raised when Twilight had laid out her plans to him. She had spoken with such conviction, such certainty, that he'd allowed himself to believe that she was speaking from experience and success on the matter. Sadly that wasn't the case.

"A valiant effort. But Sauron is not easily defeated. We will simply have to proceed accordingly," he stated.

"This does nothing to invalidate the other half of the plan. Frodo and I can still teleport to Mordor and end this within a day's time. We'll travel fast, we'll travel light, we'll make our way up Mount Doom, and we'll bring down Sauron's empire where Saruman failed to do so," she stated quickly.

"Perhaps. But it would be unwise to follow such an approach, in light of this new development," Elrond spoke up from where he stood. "You yourself said, that when you were engaged in a battle of wills against Sauron within Saruman's mind, you saw many terrible things. We have no way of knowing what Sauron might have seen, nor do we have reason to believe that he did not see anything. He could now be aware of far more than we ever thought possible. You have directly challenged him, meaning he will have all the more reason to be aware of you. We have no idea of what consequences may yet come about, from your attempts at addressing the situation by yourself," he pointed out.

"And your idea of trekking over hostile terrain for months on end is better, how exactly?" Twilight asked him in an openly hostile manner, making no effort to hide her distrust of him right now. Despite Gandalf's assurances, she was still having a hard time trusting Elrond's plan. "What makes the slow and dangerous option the preferable of the two? How... how do we know you're not working with Sauron?"
Gandalf flinched at the reappearance of the question. He had sincerely hoped that they had gotten past this point of distrust. So much for that idea.

"If you knew of the history Sauron had with my bloodline, you would not feel the need to question such nonsense," Elrond said in a low, firm tone as he looked directly at her, his expression hard like steel. "You are the one that chose to face Sauron directly, making him aware of your presence in our world, and giving him reason to watch for any sign of you. You are the one who has been going around, doing as you please with no regard for what consequences your actions may have later on down the road. Your solution may be faster, but knowing so little about how your magic works in our world, it may only make the situation worse. We have no way of knowing how it may interact with the ring, or how it may interact with you during your efforts. Being aware of what you have proven capable of, the ring may bring the full weight of its corrupting influence down upon you, until you finally break under the pressure, just as others before you have," he warned.

Twilight didn't want to admit to it, but she hadn't stopped to consider such possibilities before. What if Elrond was right? What if the massive amounts of magic that long-ranged teleportation required, managed to catch Sauron's attention? What if he was strategically minded, and possessed the ability to analyze their travel pattern, and redirect his forces to the estimated coordinates of where they'd be stopping next? They'd wind up teleporting into the middle of an army of orcs if such was possible, and she'd be too weak to respond accordingly.

Or worse, what if the ring did try to corrupt her, and she didn't have the ability to resist its influence? What if she crumbled like Isildur did, and made off with the ring for herself? That thought alone sent shivers down her spine.

Observing Twilight's reaction, Elrond concluded that she understood what he was saying.

"There is a wisdom that you are not realizing to taking the long route. Sauron's forces, while overwhelming, are still finite. They cannot be everywhere at once, and outside of the Nazgul, none can detect the presence of the ring. They will have no way of knowing where it is. And with the aid of your enchanted cloaks, you are unlikely to draw attention, despite the size of the party," he explained.

"Alright, I'll concede that point. But that doesn't change what you said previously about the ring and its dark influence. How exactly is the slow way any safer with that regard?" Twilight asked. Simply because she'd recognized the wisdom of one aspect, didn't mean she was fully on board for everything.

"While it remains true that we can do nothing about the ring's influence itself, that does not mean we have no options available. Traveling by yourselves, you and Frodo would shoulder the full effects by yourselves. But traveling in the company of the others, its influence will be divided evenly among each of you, minimizing the possibility of any one of you being more affected than the others. With each of you bearing a portion of the burden, it will be far more bearable than if you were on your own," Elrond stated.

Twilight mulled over the answer that she was given. While she had her doubts about that being the case, she so far hadn't seen any evidence to suggest otherwise. Perhaps that really was the case. Perhaps they could keep the ring's influence to a tolerable level if they were all together, for as long as the journey took them.

"What of Boromir?"

It was a softly spoken question on Frodo's part, but she'd still heard it none the less.

"He seems... most vulnerable to the ring..."

Twilight thought on the statement, before realizing that Frodo was right. During the council, if Gandalf hadn't spoken up, she was fairly certain that Boromir would've plucked the ring right off the pedestal and claimed it right then and there. He was a liability if, even in the presence of everyone, he had succumbed that easily.

"Boromir will be addressed accordingly. By myself, and by Aragorn if necessary," Gandalf spoke up firmly, in a tone that suggested to both Frodo and Twilight that the situation wasn't something unexpected, and they had contingencies in place should something like that happen. "In the meantime, I would suggest everyone get some sleep. Tomorrow is the start of what will prove to be a very long day..."

The next morning, the Fellowship was ready to set off. Or, at least as ready as they would ever be.

The Equestrians had some new equipment, and they seemed to fit into Middle Earth better now. But they had to get up at the crack of dawn, which left Rarity trying to tug a very stubborn Applejack out of bed, which was proving to be much easier said than done.

"Applejack! Get up! The rest of us are already up and ready, and we're leaving in thirty minutes! GET UP!" Rarity shouted. But Applejack just rolled over, and pulled her pillow over her head.

It struck Rarity as odd. Being a farmer, she knew that Applejack was the type to rise early. But ever since their arrival in Middle Earth, that hadn't been the case. Now she was sleeping in; something that she had never done before. Twilight's theory was that the absence of her normal farming routine, combined with her body possibly not properly synchronizing with the magnetic fields of Middle Earth -or some other science related matter that she couldn't rightly recall- had left Applejack's internal clock out of whack, meaning she could no longer rise early as she normally did.

"I'll get her, Rares."

It was Rainbow Dash. She had something behind her back. Rarity eyed her suspiciously, and backed up to the door while Rainbow Dash moved towards Applejack's bed. Her new position allowed Rarity to see that Rainbow Dash had an ivory horn behind her back; she instantly recognized it as Boromir's, and tensed.

"Oh dear. You're not going to..."

"Pretty much," Rainbow Dash replied and grinned.

"This isn't going to end well, is it?" Rarity asked.

"Probably not. But like ya said, we need to get going," Rainbow Dash pointed out, before putting the horn to her lips, paused, then-


Applejack screamed and fell off the bed, saying a few curses that, in a different situation, would have motivated Rarity to slap her. Unfortunately, Applejack seemed a bit too violently upset to approach at the moment.

"RRRRRAAAAAIIIIIINBOOOOW!" Applejack's roar echoed through Rivendell. Outside, Legolas, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie looked up.

"That'll be AJ," Pinkie said cheerily, turning to Boromir. "You might find yourself regretting letting Dashie use your horn, Boromir."

Boromir shrugged and grinned. "It's how I woke Faramir. I tried it on our father once, but he was less amused..."

Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy giggled, and Legolas turned away to roll his eyes. Just then, Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, and Spike came out, looking a little flustered.

"We were almost trampled by your friends, Pinkie," Frodo said. "I think Applejack was angry at Rainbow Dash for something..." Pinkie smiled.

"Boromir let Dashie use his horn to wake up AJ," She said brightly. "And sometime within the next few minutes, Rarity will hit them both in the head and force them out here. Listen."

There was a pause. Then, a moment later, identical "Ow!" remarks could be heard, and Rarity's voice could be heard scolding her two friends. "Yup," Pinkie said, "like clockwork."

Minutes later, a disgruntled looking Applejack walked up to them. "Morning," She mumbled.

Then, Rainbow Dash came up. From the bruises, cuts and welts that covered parts of her body, they could tell Applejack got her kicks in before Rarity had intervened. With a grin regardless of her overall condition, she handed Boromir his horn, undamaged, surprisingly enough, and sat next to Fluttershy.

Then, Rarity came out, looking surprisingly unruffled, despite her friends' appearance.

"Good morning," She said sweetly, her supplies in tow on a sort of sled being pulled behind her.

She didn't recall exactly how it had come up in the conversation yesterday, but it had been pointed out that traveling to Mordor even under the best of circumstances was dangerous. And these were anything but the best of circumstances. To go unarmed was even more dangerous.

Granted hooves made the notion of being armed difficult to say the least. But the elves had been willing to consider the idea for those that were capable. That being her, Spike, and Twilight. Out of the three of them, Spike had chosen to stick with the axe he'd received at Weathertop, and Twilight had foregone the option of provided weaponry in favor of her magical aptitude. That left her alone, selecting to go the route of the archer with a longbow, and a quiver full of arrows, which Legolas would be showing her how to properly use on their journey.

A small sword had also been a part of her selected assortment, although truthfully she hoped that she wouldn't have need of using it. The runic inscriptions etched into its structure, combined with the polished appearance, made it look more like a display piece than an actual weapon. If given the choice on the matter, she would have -perhaps surprisingly- favored the procured Nazgul blade instead. Its beastly appearance, she wouldn't mind if it were beaten and chipped in a fight. But sadly such was not to be the case on this excursion.

People were gathering by this point. Aragorn, Gimli, Gandalf, and Twilight joined the group. It was time to leave. When all had assembled, Lord Elrond spoke. "The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Doom," The Elf-Lord said. "On you who travel with him, no oath, no bond is laid to go further than you will."

"No oath to go further than you will?" Rainbow Dash muttered to Applejack. "This should turn out to be interesting."

Applejack shook her head. "Ah thought that we were supposed to stick together. It jus' plains sounds wrong tha' we can leave whenever we want during such an important task."

Fluttershy, who was behind them, stepped forward and muttered, "Do you think anyone will leave?"

"Maybe," Rainbow Dash replied vaguely. "We probably won't though. Not after everything we've been through together."

"Farewell. Hold to your purpose. May the blessing of Elves and Men, and all Free Folk go with you." The Fellowship bowed to him, and then straightened.

"The Fellowship awaits the Ring-bearer." Gandalf said. He had donned his ever-so-spiffy light blue/grayish pointed hat, and carried his staff in one hand. He gestured to the gates, and Frodo stepped forward. He looked very uneasy. He stepped out the gate, followed by Gandalf, Gimli, Boromir, Pippin, Merry, Legolas, Twilight, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Spike, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie. Soon leaving only Rarity and Aragorn in the courtyard.

Rarity was patiently waiting for Aragorn, silently wondering what was taking him so long.

Rarity followed Aragorn's gaze, and saw that it led to Arwen. While she was trying to remain stoic, it was obvious that she was distressed and could not look Aragorn in the eye. Aragorn stood there for a moment, gazing at her face as if he were attempting to engrave it completely in his memory. While she had seen hints over the last few days, at this moment Rarity was completely sure that Aragorn was in love with Arwen, and she with him. She couldn't help but smile at this.

Aragorn stared at her for a long time, before finally turning around and going after the others. He gave Rarity a small smile when he saw she had been waiting for him. They, too, passed through the gates after their fellows. The Fellowship had begun their journey.

Three weeks. That was the amount of time they'd all spent on this trek from Rivendell towards Mordor. The better part of a month, they'd all been together, for better or worse. Primarily worse by Twilight's recollection.

Much as she had done in every other location, she had left a burned notice in the Equestrian dialect outside of their last known location, in order to let Princess Celestia know of where they would be journeying so they could be found. And yet in all the time they'd been here, she hadn't even once picked up even an inkling of another Alicorn being anywhere in this world. She really didn't want to think about the possibility that Princess Celestia wasn't even looking for them. Or if she was, she had no idea of where to look.

Beyond that, there was the simple fact that the Fellowship simply wasn't getting along like a team. Despite the overall mission they were tasked with, they were acting more like a group of people who simply didn't want to be here.

Gimli and Legolas, whenever they had to interact with one another, were trading snarky barbs with regularity. Some of them were funny, others not so much. Despite Legolas being the more stoic of the two, they still came off as being quite childish in their interactions.

It was on the fifth day of their journey that Applejack had gotten fed up with their bickering, and more or less exploded on them, demanding that they act mature. Gimli had, naturally, taken poorly to receiving orders from her, and questioned why a dwarf should feel motivated to listen to a pony. Applejack's response to the question had come in the form of gathering firewood for the journey; that being she delivered a brutal bucking kick to a large, balding tree, and uprooted the entire thing on her own in the process.

The simple, but undeniably brutal demonstration of how much strength she carried in her small frame, had served to quell the better part of the duo's bickering after that. They had even found a bit of common ground to agree on; don't make Applejack angry. After that the two more or less kept to themselves, or focused more on their interactions with others, rather than snarking one another.

Legolas had been spending time instructing Rarity in the proper use of a bow and arrow. It was a bit of a harrowing task, as it required her to develop the ability to actually draw the bowstring back, when it had a 70 pound draw to it. But she was getting better at it the more she went along. She was even getting close to hitting her targets, rather than watching the arrows follow a drastic rainbow trajectory and hit the ground halfway out.

Gimli on the other hand was instructing Spike in the proper use of an axe as a fighting weapon. Unlike other members of the group, he didn't see the dragon's diminutive size as a hindrance in his fighting capability; if anything he saw it as an advantage that could be easily exploited against those that would underestimate him. Something about dwarven ingenuity or something like that.

On a more surprising note was the budding friendship that Gimli was developing with Pinkie Pie of all ponies. Apparently there had been a great deal of interest in the fact that her family owned and managed one of the largest, most successful rock farms in all of Equestria, and could sustain itself by supplying the demands of those in need of all things rock related.

Fluttershy was recovering quite nicely from her concussion, and showing no signs of complications, for which they were all thankful. She was even learning from Aragorn about the local flora that had medicinal qualities to it, and which was best to avoid due to being toxic. That would be a lot of use to them, considering they were eating a lot of local flora on their journey in order to help stretch out their supplies as best possible.

Right now she was observing as Boromir went about conducting a sparring lesson for Merry and Pippin, doing his best to instruct them in the proper use of their swords, so they wouldn't just be flailing helplessly in an engagement.

She herself was learning as she observed, memorizing his movements and instructions, and looking for potential weaknesses in his form and technique that would need to be corrected should she need to utilize them herself.

"One- two- three-" he said, going through the steps and swinging carefully at the hobbits. "Good. Faster, now. One- two- three."

On the last blow, however Boromir accidentally hit Merry's hand with the blade. The hobbit yelped and dropped his blade, shaking his hand.

"Sorry, Merry-" Boromir started, but just then, the Hobbit had delivered a swift kick to his shin. "Ow!"

This, of course, erupted into a small, mock fight between Merry, Pippin and Spike, who couldn't sit back just to watch a fight like this take place, without getting in on the fun. "For the shire!" was the yell as Boromir was besieged by the trio pinning him down and tickling him without mercy.

After everyone had had a good laugh, Aragorn went over to try and pull everyone off Boromir.

"That's enough, gentlemen," he chuckled. Spike and Merry exchanged conspiratorial looks. Then, without warning, hobbit and dragon seized a leg each and pulled. Aragorn quickly found himself on the ground right along Boromir. Crafty hobbits, they were.

Rainbow Dash, Pinkie, Frodo and Sam laughed nearby, having front-row seats to the wrestling match. Sam looked up, still chuckling, but suddenly, his expression sobered with curiosity.

"What is that?" he asked, nodding his head towards something. Rainbow Dash, Pinkie, and Frodo looked up, along with the others.

"What's what?" Rainbow Dash asked. Sam pointed out at the sky, and Rainbow Dash squinted. She managed to make out a black cloud of... birds, maybe?

"Nothing, it's simply a wisp of cloud," Gimli said, waving his hand dismissively.

"It's moving fast... and against the wind," Boromir said skeptically. Applejack stepped up next to Rainbow Dash, also squinting.

"Are those... Crows?" she asked. Nearby, Gandalf went tense.

"Crows?" he said sharply.

"Crebain, from Dunland!" Legolas yelled, sounding worried. The ponies turned, as though to ask him what Crebain were, but they were cut off.

"HIDE!" Aragorn barked. "HURRY!"

"TAKE COVER!" Boromir added.

Immediately, there was a flurry of motion around the camp. Sam went about putting out the fire, and Twilight and Rainbow Dash ran to help Aragorn and Boromir hide their weapons and bags, hiding with the two men under an outcropping of rocks. Pinkie Pie and Rarity crouched behind a rock with Gimli. Applejack and Spike slid under a scraggly bush with Legolas, and Fluttershy ducked into a small hole between two rocks with Merry and Pippin.

The crows- or Crebain as they'd been termed- swept low over the camp, some brushed the ground, other, the tops of the rocks and bushes. Everyone was totally silent, not even daring to so much breathe.

To the Equestrians, the crows were obviously a threat. But how?

Then again, Rarity thought as she crouched lower, If an inanimate object can be a powerful weapon, Celestia knows what a crow in this world could do...

Finally, the crows flew away, leaving them in peace. The ponies let out a breath and scrambled out from their hiding places. Gandalf rose, staring grimly after the birds as they passed by.

"Spies of Saruman," he said gravely.

Twilight's breath caught in her throat at hearing Gandalf's words. How... how was that actually possible?

"But Ah thought Saruman was dead," Applejack commented, vividly remembering the tale she'd been told about Twilight's encounter with the white wizard.

"He still could be. Them being spies of Saruman doesn't mean he didn't die, and Sauron assumed control. This... this doesn't really change anything; not yet," she replied. Much as she wanted to believe that she hadn't committed murder, this was too little to actually go on. Where had Saruman been the three weeks prior if he were still even alive?

"Whether or not Saruman lives, it changes nothing. The passage south is being watched. We will have to make for the Pass of Caradhras instead." He turned and nodded. Everyone looked up.

"Oh... My word." Rarity whispered. For the Pass of Caradhras was a gigantic mountain of snow.

"Well... this is gonna suck," Rainbow Dash commented.

"Totally," Spike replied and nodded in agreement.

Four days later, the Fellowship was trekking through the snows of Caradhras. The first two days were all right, though sleeping was a little hard.

On the afternoon of their second day, as they struggled through going up a fairly steep hill, Frodo fell and tumbled backwards down the hill.

"Frodo!" Spike yelped. He turned sharply, and then slipped himself, tumbling down the hill after him.

Aragorn immediately- and carefully- shuffled through the snow to them, pulling the dragon and the hobbit up, and dusting them off. "Are you alright?" he asked.

"Cold, but that's about it," Spike said. "Frodo?" Frodo nodded, and brought his hand to his chest reflexively to look for the Ring. A stricken look crossed his face, and he froze. "Frodo, what is it?"

"The Ring," Frodo whispered, looking mortified. "The Ring, it's-" Suddenly, the three looked up. The company had stopped, and was waiting for them. But not far off was Boromir, crouched in the snow... With the One Ring in his hand, dangling as he held it from its chain.

Pinkie Pie smiled. "See? You didn't lose it, Boromir has it!"

Pinkie -with maybe the exception of Pippin, who was naturally oblivious at times- was probably the only member of the Fellowship seemingly unaware of the tension involving Boromir and the Ring. She had been paying attention at the meeting, but her innocence and trust kept her unaware of possible problems that could arise.

So, naturally, neither Aragorn nor Frodo was comforted by her observation. But Aragorn began to walk up the slope, the baby dragon and the hobbit following suit.

"Boromir," Aragorn called. But the man did not respond. He was staring intently at the Ring, studying it. Up the hill, just behind Gandalf, Twilight turned to the wizard, apprehensive.

"Gandalf... What should we do?" She whispered. "Should we-"

"Do nothing." Gandalf hadn't even looked at her. His piercing eyes were fixed on the scene below. "Do nothing. Aragorn will handle it."

Back below, Spike, Frodo and Aragorn stopped short a few feet before Boromir.

"It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt, over so small a thing... Such a little thing..." Boromir whispered, his hand slowly approaching the Ring.

Rainbow Dash silently agreed with him. It was only a little golden ring. A little golden ring forged in pure evil, and constantly tormenting all of them, herself included. Whispering sweet and terrible nothings into her ears, trying to seduce her into taking it for herself.

She could take it. She could take it and be so far gone away from here, none of them would ever catch her. She could be miles away from them, and there'd be nothing they could do about it.

Except for maybe Twilight. Twilight was the one pony who could bring her down. She'd be on her on a Manehattan Minute, pinning her down on the ground while holding onto her for dear life, begging and pleading with her to not give into the ring's influence, crying at the prospect of their group being driven apart and...

She sighed to herself. She didn't want the ring quite that badly.

"Boromir!" Aragorn's tone was sharp, cutting through the silence and tension that surrounded them. Both Boromir and Rainbow Dash fell out of their trance. "Give the Ring to Frodo," the Ranger said sternly.

Boromir moved forward and held out the Ring. "As you wish," he said, a bit of laughter suddenly coming into his voice. Frodo snatched the Ring back, his breathing somewhat heavy. The corner of Boromir's lip turned up in a slight smirk. "I care not."

He reached out and ruffled Frodo's hair, knocking out a bit of snow that'd been caught in it when he fell. Then, the Gondorian turned and went back up the hill after the rest of the Fellowship.

As Frodo put the chain around his neck again, Twilight happened to glance for a brief second at Aragorn, and froze. He had his hand on the hilt of his sword, as though he were prepared to draw it. She paled slightly but looked away before the others could see her face. Had the Fellowship already come down to that?

Rainbow Dash turned away as well, keeping her eyes off Frodo, and ignoring the siren call of the Ring that even now remained with her.

One pony, however, had seen the look in her friend's eyes.

"Rainbow," Applejack muttered to her when there were no others to overhear, "don't even bother with it."

"Bother with what?" Rainbow Dash asked, a clueless expression upon her face.

"You know what I'm talking about. It's like the Alicorn Amulet. It brought no good to Trixie, and this certainly won't do you no good, either."

"Now why in the world would you think I want some gaudy old ring?" Rainbow Dash asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Because Ah saw that look in your eyes, Rainbow, and Ah feel the same way you do!" Applejack admitted quickly. "Ah want ta take it an' look at it, an' even try to wear it, but Ah know that Ah can't. Ah saw those Black Riders and what they can do. Ah heard stuff in that council. And all that Ah'm feeling proves it! That Ring is pure evil, it is."

"Hmm," the Pegasus replied noncommittally. "Sure you ain't imagining all this?"

"You know Ah'm not, ya feather brained idjit!" Applejack snapped at her. "It won't shut up. It just keeps callin', callin', callin'. It's callin' like a foal with a fever callin' fer her momma. It won't quit whisperin' things ta me. Things ta try an' tempt me ta take it from Frodo by force," she admitted.

"Yeah?" Rainbow Dash asked and blinked. "Like what?"

"Like how with it, Ah could grow apples as big as houses. How the farm would never be in trouble again with all the money we'd be rakin' in with it. Ya know, all the biggies ya'd expect from a farmer," Applejack admitted. "What about ya?"

Rainbow Dash remained silent for a moment. A long, uncomfortable moment.

"Lots of different things," she admitted and sighed, looking down at the snow. "At first it was telling me things like how I could be the greatest Wonderbolt to ever exist with it. How I could even own the Wonderbolts all by myself; like actual slavery ownage. But then, when that didn't work... it started playing dirty. It started playing on my loyalty to you and all the others. Started whispering things about how I needed it in order to protect my friends, and how they'd all die around me if I didn't take it for myself; how I'd be a horribly disloyal friend if I let Frodo keep it, because he couldn't possibly protect everyone. How only I, with its help, could keep everypony safe," she stated and closed her eyes. "I... I think it's right about that, too..."


"I mean, just think about it, AJ," Rainbow Dash interrupted, "I'm the fastest in the group. I could hothoof it all the way to Mordor before the others even got halfway. I could toss it into Mount Doom inside of a couple of days if I really booked it. And all the while Sauron would have to focus on me, not us. The others would be a lot safer if I just stopped thinking about it, and actually went and did it."
Applejack had no retort for that. Here she thought Rainbow Dash was succumbing to visions of glory and power, and instead she was wrestling with temptation, and planning how to end things on her own to keep them from getting in harm's way. She was twisting the ring's message back against it.

Without a word, she stepped over and pulled the Pegasus into a firm hug.

"Alright, alright," Rainbow Dash finally replied and squirmed her way loose. "Enough with the mushy stuff. Ponies will talk."

Applejack just chuckled and shook her head in response. "A'right. But seriously, RD, don' be tryin' ta do that. If ya get yerself in trouble tryin' ta be a hero, Ah might not be able ta save yer hide," she warned.

"If it's something I couldn't get out of on my own, I wouldn't ask you to try," Rainbow Dash replied.

To say the next few days on the Caradhras pass were utter misery would be a drastic understatement.

In addition to the naturally steep and treacherous terrain of the mountain to contend with, there was the added misery of a blizzard that had blown in out of nowhere. A blizzard with fierce, biting winds that blew against them from all directions, practically cutting right through the heavy clothing that Rivendell had supplied them for the journey. Gandalf's, Spike's -and even Twilight's- efforts at lighting a fire to provide some measure of warmth proved futile at every turn, due to the hostility of the elements they were faced with.

Rainbow Dash had tried valiantly to alleviate their misery by taking off into the sky to break up the clouds that were raining down the snow on them. But despite her best efforts the clouds remained, her Pegasus magic ultimately proving useless against the inhospitable weather. All she'd gotten for her troubles -beyond the appreciation of the others for trying- was being completely covered in snow from nose to tail, and dampened spirits.

Dampened spirits or not, she hadn't let it get her down. There was still plenty of work left to do as they made their way up to the Caradhras pass. There was a ton of snow in their path that had to be cleared, everyone pitching in to help out to whatever extent they could, making extensive use of the heavy winter clothing they'd been supplied with. She, must like the others, was exhausted at this point. There was just so much snow that needed to be moved, and she'd tried so hard to break up the blizzard even before engaging in this sort of work. She wanted to close her eyes, wanted to rest her aching body, even for just a few minutes. She just wanted to lay down and close her eyes.

But she couldn't do that. The others all had to be as tired as she was, but they were still soldiering on. Boromir and Aragorn certainly weren't letting their tiredness get to them, they were continuing on in a manner she respected.

"Alright," Twilight spoke up with a sigh, "this is taking too long. We need a change of plans."

"And what might you suggest?" Legolas asked, curious as what alternative she might have in mind. Simply because the cold didn't affect him like it did the others, in no way made this task any more pleasant for him to deal with.

"Snow plow," Twilight replied simply, before turning her attention back forward, her horn flaring to life in the haze of the blizzard. In a flash her magic materialized before them in a wide, angled plate that came to rest in their path. She grunted, scraping at the ground with her hoof in an aggressive manner, before marching her way forward.

The others watched on, some in amazement, as the magical construct began parting the snow in front of them, piling it off to the sides, and giving them a wide berth to proceed as it scraped along the ground. Why she had waited to long to take such a course of action, they didn't really know. But the important thing right now was that it was an option right now.

The next two nights of their journey up the mountain were no better. If anything it was even worse. The third night, they were hiking up a winding trail, next to a high wall of rock, feeling the strain of their efforts.

Rainbow Dash's exhaustion had caught up to her some time ago. Several times Aragorn had to shake her awake so she wouldn't get left behind, but it did little good overall, as it was only a few minutes before she was out cold again. Right now she was riding atop Bill, limbs hanging limply as she slumbered restlessly, providing him with warmth as he provided her with transport.

The snow by this point was deep enough that movement was all but impossible. Anyone who could take a passenger was doing so in light of the fact; Spike was atop Twilight's back, Sam on Applejack, Merry on Pinkie, Pippin on Fluttershy, and Frodo atop Aragorn. Anyone else was shouldering an extra share of supplies to make room for transportation purposes.

Much like before, Twilight had been doing her best to forge them a path. But the deeper the snow became, the harder it was to cut them anything more than a narrow path that was barely shoulder-width. Finally the constant effort had simply gotten to be too much to keep up with, forcing them to resort back to trudging through on foot, hoof, and anything else. Right now Gandalf was in the lead, with her following close behind. Legolas strode by the wizard, to a turn in the path, and stared out intently. The company stopped, a cruel voice rising on the wind.

"Cuiva nwalca Carnirasse; nai yarvaxea rasselya!"

"There is a fell voice in the air!" Legolas called to them.

"Legolas is right guys, I'm picking up a voice in the air as well," Twilight said to the Fellowship, her ears twitching with a renewed awareness.

"It's Saruman!" Gandalf roared over the wind.

Twilight wasn't sure what to make of this new information. On the one hoof, she was relieved to find out that she hadn't wound up murdering Saruman while trying to free him from Sauron's hold. But on the other, him being alive -and apparently conscious- meant that things were about to get a lot worse for them.

Worse in the form of, with a rending echo, a horde of rock slabs and boulders were now falling from the mountain's arms, and heading in their direction.

She didn't want to admit it, but maybe, just maybe, they would've been better off if she'd just flat out killed Saruman when she had the chance...

"AGAINST THE WALL!" she yelled as everyone shoved themselves flat against the sheer cliff wall to avoid the onslaught of stone.

"He's trying to bring down the mountain! Gandalf, we must turn back!" Aragorn yelled through the storm.

"NO!" Gandalf says, determined to continue through the mountain, knowing that Saruman was deliberately trying to drive them in a different direction.

With determination against all odds, Gandalf steps out onto the ledge, rising on the snow, chanting out a counter command to Caradhras. The old wizard's voice bellows into the air, attempting to calm the rage of the mountain.

"Losto Caradhras, sedho, hodo, nuitho i 'ruith!"

The wizard's voice was drowned out by a more terrible cry in the maelstrom.

"Cuiva nwalca Carnirasse; Nai yarvaxea rasse;ya; taltuva notto-carinnar!"

Lightning struck the tip of Caradhras, sending a second avalanche of sheer white snow onto the Fellowship bellow.

Twilight, thinking quickly, deployed a force field over and around them, serving to keep them from being crushed, and buried alive where they stood. All the while, Gandalf continued his duel against the will of Saruman, trying to command the mountain, but to no avail.

"He's gonna get killed out there if he don' quit!" Applejack commented.

"I'm afraid you're right," Twilight replied, before adjusting her magic to create an opening in the side of the force field to let Gandalf in.

Legolas, however, had a different idea in mind, and stepped outside of the force field to drag Gandalf away from the edge, and into the relative safety away from where the avalanche could easily reach them.

"Well that was a fat lot of good it did us," Spike grumbled.

"Cuiva nwalca Carnirasse; Nai yarvaxea rasse;ya; taltuva notto-carinnar!"

Even through the force field, Saruman's incantation could still be heard echoing.

Twilight growled angrily, before proceeding to yell back at the sky in the Sindarin language, much to the confusion of her friends, who could only make out the word "Saruman" with everything else being gibberish to them. But even though they couldn't make it out, it wasn't lost on them that the others in their group certainly could; and whatever it was, it was enough to leave them quite flustered and disturbed.

"What's she saying?" Pinkie asked curiously.

"There are certain utterances in this world that are of such a profane nature, not even orcs are deserving of them being levied against them," Legolas explained, visibly flustered by what Twilight was currently shouting. "This goes far beyond even them..."

Finally Twilight's tirade ran out of steam, and she ran out of breath with which to curse. It had been a futile effort on her part, as she lacked knowledge of how the incantations of this world worked. But at least it had made her feel a little better. And perhaps it had let Saruman know just how furious she was right now.

And all through her tirade, Rainbow Dash remained asleep and oblivious to what had been happening.

"We must get off Caradhras," Boromir stated to Gandalf in a desperate bid to change the subject of discussion. "Make for the Gap of Rohan and press forward to Minas Tirith!"

"The Gap of Rohan takes us too close to Isengard!" Aragorn protested loudly. "We could walk right into Saruman and his henchmen! Not to mention the land would be swarming with Orcs!"

"Is there any other way?" Twilight asked Gandalf.

"There is!" They all turned awkwardly to face Gimli. "If we cannot go over the mountain, let us go under it! The Mines of Moria!" Everyone turned to Gandalf for council. Applejack, who was closet to the wizard at the time, saw that his eyes and expression were dark. What was so bad about the Mines of Moria?

Then again- they were in a world where a little, golden ring was a weapon of terrible power- with that in mind, Moria could be a nightmare.

When Gandalf failed to respond in a timely fashion, Boromir spoke up with a new point. "We cannot stay here! This will be the death of the little ones!" He was, of course, referring to Spike and the Hobbits. While Spike put on a stoic front, he was shaking from the cold. Merry, Sam and Pippin were no better. Frodo seemed to be doing better than them all, for some reason.

"Let the Ring-bearer decide," was Gandalf's verdict on the matter.

Fluttershy, though her teeth chattered, couldn't help but think that it was rather unfair of Gandalf to heap that responsibility on Frodo. The poor hobbit was already notably stressed under the pressure of his position as the Ring-bearer, and didn't need this extra worry on his mind. "Frodo?"

Frodo quietly observed each member of the Fellowship, Gandalf in particular, before finally replying. "We'll go through the Mines."

"So be it." Gandalf said. Although he truly didn't like it one bit. They knew not what they would be facing down below...

The trip down the mountain had proceeded much smoother than the trip up. Not only did they have a path to follow, the wind and snow had also died down considerably; a fact perfectly illustrated by the fact that they could actually cook up some food right now. With Spike's assistance the group had heated up a random rock until it was glowing bright orange, just below the melting point, and serving just fine for heating up some provisions, and warming some cold tootsies.

Rainbow Dash had finally awoken some time ago, and was currently sitting by the rock with some of the others as Sam went about fixing them something.

Others, however, had other matters to tend to, away from the prying ears of others...

"Twilight somethin's wrong wit' Gandalf... Ah can tell in his voice," Applejack whispered worryingly.

"I know I can tell too. He fears something in Moria. He obviously knows something that we don't." Twilight replied and nodded.

"Should we ask him?" Applejack said.

"Not yet. Let's wait until we get off this mountain before trying anything. Saruman obviously didn't want us traversing this path; almost as soon as he started making our way back, the blizzard started calming down. Obviously whatever it is, it's in Moria. But I have no idea what it could be. And I'm really not in the mood to stay here and guess," Twilight stated. After the things she had said last night... she definitely didn't want to stay up on the mountain.

"We'll probably have ta wait a couple o' days fer answers, then. We still got a ways ta go before we reach the bottom," Applejack replied and shrugged.

"You know..." Pinkie said as she more or less popped up next to them, "we really wouldn't have to hike down."

Twilight felt a nervous tingling running up her spine at the tone Pinkie had used in that statement. But curiosity pressed her onward, overriding notions like common sense, and self-preservation and such.

"And what might you suggest otherwise?" she asked.


It was hard for any member of the Fellowship to not experience at least some level of excitement on the journey down the mountainside, riding atop sleds that had been hewn from solid stone through Twilight's magic. Crazy as Pinkie's suggestion had sounded, it was quite difficult to argue with the results. They were covering vast distances faster than they would've if they'd stuck to walking.

Snow went flying as their sleds cut through it, various cheers of excitement and amused laughter coming from just about everyone; Gimli and Legolas were certainly having fun, although they wouldn't admit it if asked directly. Even Fluttershy was helpless to hide the good time she was having.

Rainbow Dash herself was showing off on the way down, more surfing/snowboarding than sledding. Unlike most of the others who were doubling or tripling up, she had her own sled to use, and was doing so boisterously, as she rode down on her hind legs, bobbing and weaving to steer herself while using her deployed wings to act like a sort of rudder for increased control. All Twilight could do was shake her head, and focus on the path ahead of them. She'd thank Pinkie for the suggestion later on, once they were safely at the bottom.

"So. That is what passes for entertainment in your world then."

"Perdy much," Applejack said as she trotted along, spirits high after the ride down the mountain, and the excitement of it all.

Even occasionally being thrown into a snowbank when they couldn't steer out of the way had done little to dampen her good mood; especially since Rainbow Dash had experienced her own bit of snow diving, when she'd been thrown head first into a drift, with nothing but her hind legs sticking out and kicking wildly when she'd been thrown off her sled while showboating.

"We got a whole host o' games an' such fer winter. If we had a frozen pond ta cross, we could even teach ya how ta play hockey."

As Applejack conversed with Gimli on matters of Equestria, Rainbow Dash couldn't help but feel a certain bit of mischievousness overcoming her; how could she really not, when the sun was shining, and it was so much more pleasant than it had been up on the mountain?

Suddenly, her happy little mind came up with an idea. Applejack was in her direct line of vision- no one in the way, no straying to the side... Just straight ahead. In her mind, Rainbow Dash pictured a small bulls-eye on the back of her friend's head. Could she? Certainly. Should she? Well... she doubted that the other members of the Fellowship would let Applejack rip her apart, but still...

"Ah, what the hay," Rainbow Dash thought. Quietly, she fell a little further back, stooped down, and picked up a hoofull of snow, patting it in her hooves. At that moment, unfortunately, Boromir noticed that the fastest member of the Fellowship had fallen behind. He turned, shifting his shield, and froze when he saw her with the snow.

Rainbow Dash, in turn, froze when she saw the man look at her. Busted... A pleading look in her eyes, Rainbow Dash used her free hoof to make a slashing motion across her throat. Boromir blinked, and then turned to look back at the company. He saw the back of Applejack's head unobscured by the others, and- being a bit of a prankster himself- understood Rainbow Dash's intentions immediately. The Gondorian winked, and turned his back to the rainbow-maned Pegasus, feigning ignorance.

Rainbow Dash grinned- Boromir was definitely someone she would look forward to knowing better. Carefully, she ran forward, lined up the shot, and hurled the snowball at the back of her friend's head.


"AUGH!" Applejack cried out, attracting everyone's attention. Boromir bowed his head and snickered softly to himself.

Whirling around, Applejack glared immediately at her antagonizer; it didn't take a genius to guess who it was. "RAINBOW!" She barked. Rainbow Dash grinned impishly.

"That was for the pudding!" She called triumphantly.

Applejack looked confused for a moment, wondering what the hay Rainbow Dash was talking about, before she remembered.


"YOU DESERVED IT!" Rainbow Dash yelled back.

But, as with most arguments between the two friends, the fight escalated quickly. Of course, Applejack had to pick up a lump of snow and hurl it back at Rainbow Dash, who dodged with irritating ease.

"Applejack!" Twilight said angrily. "Don't give her the satisfaction of letting her juvenile antics get to-"

"WE'RE ON RAINBOW'S TEAM!" Merry and Pippin screamed simultaneously, running up the hill to Rainbow Dash. Twilight groaned and slapped a hoof to her forehead.

"Traitors," Applejack huffed. Aragorn chuckled and stepped forward.

"Seriously, gentlemen, we are on a schedule. Now-"

Without warning, a snowball to the face cut off the Ranger. Sam, Frodo, Spike, Rarity, Fluttershy and Pinkie gasped. Legolas, Gimli, Twilight, and even Gandalf's respective jaws dropped. Boromir was grinning mischievously, and wiping snow off his gloves. No one was quite certain how Aragorn might react to being nailed in the face with a wad of compressed snow.

Slowly, Aragorn wiped the snow from his face, looking surprisingly calm. "I..." Everyone drew in a tense breath. "... Am on Applejack's team."

Twilight couldn't believe any of this. They were trying to make good time on their journey to Moria, Aragorn of all people had been the one to point out that they had a schedule to keep. And now he was succumbing to this juvenile nonsense, just like the rest of them? This was all too much!

And then a snowball hit her in the side of the head.

As the snow fell away, she could see that it was Pinkie who had taken it upon herself to make her the recipient of a cold interruption.

"Of course you know, this means war..." she stated firmly.

What followed next was a massive snowball fight, kicked off by Twilight taking an early lead in using her magic to send them forming and flying in every direction, very quickly.

Before anyone could actually say the word "bedlam" it had broken out, with everyone -absolutely everyone- taking part. Rarity had intended to remain neutral, and avoid getting hit, but she was quickly heard screaming for Pippin's blood when he got her in the mane with a particularly large ball.

The sides were as followed- On Rainbow Dash's side, there was Rainbow Dash, then Pinkie, Fluttershy, Spike, Merry, Pippin, Boromir and Gimli. On Applejack's side was Applejack, then Rarity, Twilight, Aragorn, Gandalf, Frodo, Sam, and Legolas. Applejack was mainly aiming for Rainbow Dash. Rarity was mainly aiming for Pippin. Aragorn was mainly aiming for Boromir. Legolas, naturally aimed for Gimli, and the remaining eight aimed for everyone else.

The snowball fight went on for far longer than anyone was counting. Applejack's side had a significant advantage- partly because they had both Rarity and Twilight on their side, partly because they had an elf and a wizard. The fight ended when Rainbow Dash simply gave up and tackled Applejack into the snow. Eventually, Applejack got the upper hand, and shoved Rainbow Dash's face in the snow.

As Aragorn and Boromir finally tore them apart, Pippin approached Rarity.

"Aye," the hobbit said. "You've got a good aim, Rarity. You hit me in the forehead." He rubbed the aforementioned body part, flinching. "We even?"

Rarity paused for a moment, considering this. Then, she levitated another snowball from behind her back, and smashed it over the youngest hobbit's hair. Then she smiled. "Yes, Pippin. We're even."