• 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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Hunting Prey

Hunting Prey

"There's something I don't get."

For Spike, Frodo, and Sam, their journey down river had been largely quiet the first few hours, other than the background noise of the river itself serving to remind them of where they were, and what was going on.

And now that trend was changed by Sam speaking up.

"What's that?" Spike asked as he slowed his rowing in order to better hear whatever was bothering the hobbit.

"Just how are Twilight and the others going to find us and meet up with us again?" Sam asked. That was one thing he hadn't figured out quite yet. He knew that the Alicorn was quite smart, but he really wasn't seeing how smarts would avail them in this situation.

"Oh. That's easy," Spike replied before he started rowing again. "After so many mishaps and adventures back in Equestria, Twilight finally wised up and figured out how to track the magic of my flames. Since it's used for sending and receiving messages, it's sort of like a beacon; like a bonfire in the dead of night. Once the others are located, she can just follow the signals and it'll lead them right to us," he explained.

Sam wanted to ask more, but he'd already been having enough trouble keeping up with things as it was. Adding more strain to his mind wasn't going to be doing him any favors. He opted to just continue rowing in silence. Spike was confident that they would be found by the others, and once again reunited, so that was good enough for him.

"I still do not understand. How did she do it?"

Now it was Frodo that broke the silence, bringing Sam and Spike's attention to him as he sat at the back of the boat, looking at the ring in a most perplexed fashion as it dangled on its chain in his hand.

"Rainbow Dash possessed the ring, but she was not possessed by it. So many have fallen victim to its lure since its creation, lusted after it for themselves, killed for it... yet she gave it away freely, as if it were nothing but a worthless trinket. How did she do such?" he asked without really addressing anyone.

All Spike could do was shrug as he rowed. "Rainbow Dash is pretty loyal to her friends. Maybe the ring realized she couldn't really be tricked into doing what it wanted, and it gave up on her?"

"If that were the case, wouldn't that mean her will is stronger than Sauron's?" Sam asked. The very notion was laughable, bordering on impossible. And yet he'd been there to witness the ring being returned to Frodo freely.

"That could be the case for all we know," Spike replied, uncertain of what else to say. He knew how determined Rainbow Dash could get when she really wanted something. And if she wanted her friends back more than the ring, Sauron had no hold over her. He might have far greater magic than Rainbow Dash, but magic alone only went so far. He'd learn the hard way that he was facing somepony whose determination was incorruptible. From the other side a terror to behold. Annihilation-

He stopped his thought process when he realized that some music he'd heard on the other side of the mirror were starting to bleed through. If he kept that up much longer, he'd break out into song. Not that some singing wouldn't be good for lifting up their spirits, but he didn't know if it'd be appropriate right now.

Besides which, he didn't know all the words; some had simply been too jumbled to understand.

"She's a pretty stubborn pony. I don't think even Sauron could match her there," he added.

"And what of you? How were you unaffected by the ring when you touched it?" Frodo asked him.

"Huh," Spike replied, not sure of that himself. "Maybe it's because, out of everyone that touched it, I'm the only one who actually tried to destroy it without thinking about it. Which I'd try again if given the chance. Maybe it got scared by the experience," he explained. After a pause, he decided to elaborate. "A dragon's stomach is probably the most hostile, inhospitable environment one could ever find themselves in; worse than even Mordor. In addition to being like a blast furnace, we've got digestive acids strong enough to melt diamonds, and they're probably the hardest thing in existence. If I could've kept it down longer, we might not be in this mess."

"Should we try again?" Sam asked. If they didn't have to go to Mordor, he'd try anything.

"Maybe. But not now. If I cough it up again, better on dry land than in the middle of a river where we'll never find it," Spike stated. Even if they couldn't find it, someone, or something, might...

The Uruks that had taken Merry, Pippin, and Fluttershy hostage had left Amon Hen well behind, moving in a westward direction until the forests had thinned out, eventually coming to a region known as the Wold that was made of open plains, occasionally dotted by clusters of rocks and boulders. The Wold was part of the eastern half of the Mannish Kingdom of Rohan.

Of all the Uruks that had originally attacked the Fellowship, only forty had survived. That number would've been sixty, had it not been for the tenacity of their captured quarry. Three hours they had spent trying to properly apprehend them, only to be thwarted time and time again, as more of their forces were slowly whittled down. Had it not been for their superior design, they might never have caught them.

The survivors had only stopped once since Amon Hen, and it was so they could better secure their three captives for the travel to Isengard. They bound the Hobbits' wrists, and Fluttershy's fore hooves and wings with rope, allowing them to carry the hobbits in a rough piggyback fashion. Once that had been tended to, they were off once again.

Despite being roughly the same size of a hobbit -at least by some measurements- they had found out the hard way that Fluttershy was considerably more difficult to transport in this particular manner. Initial efforts at piggybacking her had resuled in nearly losing another member of their group, him nearly being strangled as she hung limply on his back, and the rope pulling tightly against his throat. That had required a reevaluation of how the proceed.

The large Uruk that had drawn the short straw in carrying her, had been the same one to finally get hold of her at Amon Hen. He'd found it necessary to practically throw her over his shoulder for transport, holding onto her with one arm, and rear her hooves hitting him in the back with each rough movement made.

Aside from binding them for transport, they had also removed any weapons the three still had on their person.

For Merry and Pippin, this meant their personal gifts from Galadriel. The Lady of Light had given each of them an ancient Elven or 'Noldor' dagger carried in an intricate sheath. Fluttershy had no weapons to speak of, but they had easily found her trinket from Galadriel that she had still in her possession.

Having no knowledge of Elven artifacts, they were unsure what was the purpose of this strange relic, if it was either just a worthless trinket, or if it has Elvish magic contained within the jewel. When it came to Elves, one could never really tell one way or another. Not knowing what else to do, they agreed to bring it to Saruman in the hope he would give them an extra reward on top of the one he would surely give them for their hostages.

Lurtz had been killed before he could tell those under his command that the Fellowship contained four halflings and six ponies. And while some had certainly known that they didn't have the full sets, the exact ratio of possessed to unpossessed was currently unknown.

With the death of Lurtz, the command of the Uruks had passed to the only other Uruk-Hai that Saruman had bothered to name. This Uruk-Hai's name was 'Ugluk'. Ugluk was about Lurtz's height, with deep grey skin and black splotches. His hair was dirty blond and white in color. He was currently in the front of the company as it ran across the Wold's plains.

It was morning currently, four days since their battle with the Fellowship. As they approached a group of boulders, Ugluk raised his fist to bring the company to a halt. At this signal, a group of ten Mordor orcs crawled out from behind the boulders.

When he allied himself to Sauron, Saruman received from the Dark Lord the dubious 'gift' of several hundred Mordor orcs. Through his spies, Sauron had found out about the force of Uruk-Hai sent to attack the Fellowship the day after they had left the Orthanc. Communicating to Saruman through the palantir, Sauron 'requested' that some of the Mordor orcs join the Uruk-Hai in their mission.

Saruman had obeyed Sauron, only because he did not yet have the power to openly defy him. But he just followed the letter of Sauron's order by sending only a few Mordor orcs with orders to lay in wait for the Uruk-hai as they returned from Amon Hen. Their role would be to 'assist' the Uruks bring the hostages he wanted back to Orthanc. Being so close to getting what he dearly wanted, Saruman was not going to simply hand it over to Sauron at the last moment.

Most of the Uruks openly sneered at the sight of the Mordor orcs. It was no secret that, as far as the Uruk-Hai of Saruman were concerned, their Mordor brethren were a lesser breed of species - not having the Uruk's strength, or their sunlight tolerance.

Mordor Orcs, in return believed, the Uruk-Hai to be a disgusting abomination to the whole race that the Free Peoples feared throughout the ages.

The mutual contempt and animosity between the both of their breeds, was underscored in the conversation they started.

"You're late," Grishnakh, the Mordor Orcs' leader, scolded the Uruks. He was distinguished from the rest of his ilk by his ugly white eyes, and similar colored hair that clung to a bald patch on his on his brown skinned head. "Our master grows impatient," he continued. "He wants the Shire rats now."

By 'he', Grishnakh meant Sauron. The Dark Lord had secretly instructed the orcs he sent to Isengard to bring him any hobbits that Saruman displayed an interest in. Unlike Saruman, Sauron did not care if the hobbits were 'spoiled' in captivity; he could care less about their wellbeing. As long as the One Ring was returned to him, nothing else truly mattered. Entire villages, and platoons of Uruk-Hai could be decimated for all that was cared.

"I don't take orders from Orc maggots," Ugluk growled back. Total obedience to Saruman was inherent in every Uruk's very being. "Saruman will have his prize. We will deliver them. Sauron is free to whatever is left over."

While Ugluk and Grishnakh expressed their mutual contempt for one another, Fluttershy quickly checked up on her two friends, finding their well being to be far more important than disputes pertaining to orcish parentage and ancestry.

Pippin was whimpering on the back of one Uruk to her left, in discomfort from rubbing against the rough armor during their charge across the plains. To her immediate right, Merry was on the back of another, a large gash on his forehead, and was seemingly unconscious.

Fluttershy glanced at Pippin, wondering if it was worth it to risk the ire of their captors and call out to him. She knew the Uruks would probably not hesitate to hurt them at the slightest opportunity, for she had witnessed their love of battle, and sadistic grins each time they landed a blow on their victims. The slimy beasts actually seemed to get off on it - even their own pain. She'd seen various Uruks pull out arrows and blades from their bodies and lick the points, seemingly relishing their own blood. It was all very horrifying -and revolting- to consider.

On the other hoof though, despite all of what she and her friends had done in their efforts at resisting capture, they really hadn't been particularly hurt yet - except for herself, who had acquired a nasty bruise during the battle - which rather suggested the sadistic, twisted monsters were actually under strict orders not to unnecessarily harm them. Fluttershy remembered what one of the Uruk-Hai had shouted just as he commanded his warriors to attack them: 'alive and unspoiled'. Surely that applied to the lot of them, right?

If so, she figured there was pretty much nothing they could lose, and so she called Pippin's name quietly, hoping to capture his attention even over the din of the thumping of armored feet, and the rattle of rusty breastplates.

Luckily, he heard her on her first attempt, and looked immediately relieved at the sight of her smiling bravely at him. Fluttershy had to marvel at the hobbit's remarkably childlike attitudes at times; if a simple smile could reassure him at this point, she rather thought he must have truly been a handful when he was little.

"Hey," she said in a low voice, careful to stay as discreet as possible. "Are you alright, Pippin?"

Pippin nodded, although fear crept back into his eyes.

"Yes," he answered just as quietly, "but Merry's passed out, and I can't wake him. I think he's hurt."

Fluttershy had seen Merry crack open an eye a couple of times, and felt sure he was merely feigning unconsciousness, so she quietly reassured his cousin, and instead asked if he knew anything about their captors.

"Only what we overhead Twilight saying at the secret council," he whispered, remembering her recollection about Saruman's efforts of creating an unbeatable army. "I think they're supposed to take us to Isengard."

Fluttershy frowned in confusion. Isengard? She'd heard that name before - it was the name of that white wizard's homes, Saruman. In Rivendell she'd been confused at first, for the names of both the wizard and the Dark Lord Sauron often sounded very similar when spoken by the people of Middle-Earth. It wasn't until Twilight explained the differences that she'd made the distinguishment.

Still, Isengard boded nothing good, and she felt what little hope remained in her heart - that the others would somehow save them - fade slightly; their companions would never risk going too close to Isengard - it was full to the brim with Orcs and Uruk-hai, not to mention a very powerful wizard turned evil. Aragorn would never risk Frodo and the Ring's safety in that way, for sure.

She began to ask Pippin another question, but a passing Uruk snapped at her.

"Quiet!" it growled. "No talking, or I'll have your guts for bootlaces!"

Fluttershy nodded fearfully at him, knowing he would make good on his threat. If not now, then certainly after Saruman had whatever he wanted of them.

She knew she could point that fact out to them. She could ask the Uruk if his threat would be had before or after Saruman did the same to him in response for his disobedience. She could even point out that none of them were wearing boots. But despite that fact, she simply couldn't muster the courage to actually speak up in response.

"Oy! I'd be careful with that one if I were you. She killed a cave troll all by herself!" Pippin objected before he could think better of what he was doing.

This, in turn, caused several Uruk to look at him in disbelief, before laughing in response.

"This little one? She killed a cave troll? Impossible!" one of them barked, finding the idea completely absurd.

"Well you don't have to take my word for it! Just ask those goblins you're talking to; they were there, they saw it!" Pippin stated, too nervous to actually shut himself up.

At hearing this, Grishnakh sneered angrily. "You dare to compare us to lowly Goblins?" he asked, appalled and infuriated at such an insult being lobbed to freely. "We are Orcs, halfling!"

"Well what can I say? Orcs, goblins, you all look alike to us Hobbits," Pippin responded and chuckled nervously.

This caused more of the Uruk-Hai to laugh in response at Grishnakh's displeasure. Which in turn served to anger the Orc even further, and motivate him to stomp over and try to assault Pippin for such an insult.

However his efforts were stopped as one of the Uruk-Hai stepped in front of him, and easily shoved him backwards, sending him crashing against the large stone before falling to the ground, much to the amusement of the rest of the Uruks present.

"This isn't over," Grishnakh grumbled as he climbed back to his feet, and made his way back to the rest of the Orcs. This disrespect would be addressed, but not right now.

Throughout the entire demonstration, Fluttershy remained silent as best she could, all the while making observations about both Orc and Uruk alike.

But those observations, and what they entailed would have to wait. For now there were more important matters to tend to. And with that fact in mind she tapped at the back of the Uruk she was being carried by.

"Excuse me. Sir. Could our friend possibly have something to drink? He's been out for quite some time. A-and being dehydrated when we arrive at Saruman's might go against his orders," she stated as best she could, hoping that pointing out Merry's poor condition would earn them some water.

Unfortunately it wasn't water that was given.

All she could do was give a cry of disgusted anger when one of the Uruks forced a vile black liquid down an unconscious Merry's throat. She regretted it as soon as they heard and turned their ugly heads towards her - she thought they would make her drink it too, or perhaps hurt the Hobbits - but they just gargled their black laughter and tossed the filthy gourd back to its owner.

Suddenly, a Uruk began sniffing the air.

"What is it?" Ugluk quickly asked. "What do you smell?"

"Man-flesh," the Uruk replied, "and ponies."

Fluttershy's eyes widened in hope at this. Others in the Fellowship had to be coming to their rescue. As the Uruk said 'Man', Fluttershy secretly hoped that the entirety of her friends were still alive. Given how Ugluk previously threatened her, she knew it wasn't a good idea to press her luck any further by calling for help. But maybe she could leave a clue behind that would lead the Fellowship to their friends?

As if reading her mind, she witnessed as Pippin began removing the leaf brooch that was around his Galadhrim cloak with his teeth.

"They've picked up our trail!" Ugluk cursed. "Let's move!"

At Ugluk's words, both the Uruk-Hai and Mordor Orcs started running towards the Orthanc. Pippin finally had loosened the brooch and spat it on the ground. She was relieved that none of the orcs had noticed his action, or the brooch as they ran over it. Pippin exchanged glances with Fluttershy, who gave him a quick smile.

"Hang in there," Fluttershy encouraged as she tried to get comfortable on the Uruk's shoulder. "I think the cavalry's coming..."

Hours into their journey, Aragorn and the others had eventually met up with Legolas, Gimli, and Pinkie, largely thanks to Rainbow Dash running reconnaissance high in the air, and relaying their position to them; in all of the greenery of the forest, Pinkie had stuck out quite easily. But there had been no sign of Fluttershy and the others as far as she could see.

No sign, other than the trail of twenty or so dead Uruk-Hai that they had been passing before catching up with the others. Some had been killed with their own crude swords, others looked like their skulls had been caved in, and still bearing what looked like horseshoe-shaped indentations in their foreheads. What exactly had transpired was a mystery, but it was evident that Fluttershy and the Hobbits had mounted a considerable resistance to being captured for as long as they could.

They had reunited with one another, shared accounts of what had been going on, and what they had intended to do after that fact. From there they'd headed out in what they believed to be the most likely course taken.

Currently, Aragorn laid at the top of a small rocky hill. He closed his eyes as he placed his ear to the ground. The orcs' movement clearly echoed through the earth.

"Their pace has quickened," Aragorn commented to Twilight who stood next to him.

"Then they likely know that we're in pursuit of them," Twilight quietly agreed in reply.

"They must have caught our scent on the wind," Aragorn surmised as he got up off the ground. He then turned to the nine Fellowship members standing further down the slope. "Hurry!"

Legolas, Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow Dash rushed to join the pair, leaving Rarity, Applejack, Boromir and Gimli in their wake.

Still standing, Gimli puffed raggedly. "Three days' and nights' pursuit. Little rest, no food, and little sign of our quarry, but what bare rock can tell."

Having been in the company of the Fellowship for so long, Rarity considered their options for how to keep Gimli motivated to continue onward, despite the obvious exhaustion he was experiencing. She knew fell well that the body could only do so much before it simply couldn't carry on much longer, as her own was close to that point already. She didn't want to be mean to the Dwarf, but she knew she had to give him a little poke in the right direction.

"You know, Gimli," Rarity observed in a deadpan manner. "I don't hear Legolas and the others complaining about those things."

"I didn't say I was giving up lass!" Gimli stated indignantly. "If they can keep pace, then so can I!"

"The Elf is maintaining his silence simply to spite the rest of us," Boromir muttered to his traveling companions.

"Ah wouldn' put it past 'em," Applejack muttered in turn. Legolas not being able to freely bicker with Gimli as they had, it would make sense that they'd find new ways of taking jabs at one another.

Like the Uruk-Hai who attacked them, the nine hunters had long left the forests around Amon Hen behind. As they ran in a westerly direction, Twilight felt the Fellowship was moving on a downward slope. The Wold's plains would make it easier to track the fiends that had captured Merry, Pippin, and Fluttershy. Still, she found this pursuit among the hardest she had ever been part of. Despite being an Alicorn, she wasn't properly experienced in her Earth Pony magic, and as such didn't have the same stamina as Applejack and Pinkie.

Before the Fellowship began pursuit of the Uruks, Rainbow Dash quietly suggested to Twilight the pair of them commence on their own through flight, levitation, and even teleportation if need be, just as they had before. Both possessed the speed to easily run down the Uruks - not to mention the strength to completely annihilate the lot of them if a simple snatch and grab wasn't possible.

Twilight had replied that she didn't think it wise dividing the Fellowship any further. The events at Amon Hen had shaken her out of any complacency about the threat posed by Saruman's forces. Apart from the three captives, the Fellowship separating into search parties had almost cost Boromir's life. The thought caused her to glance back at the injured Gondorian running behind her as best he could.

Rainbow Dash had, begrudgingly, agreed with her assessment of the situation, as well as agreeing to remain with the others, even if it slowed them down considerably.

Gimli was right about there being little rest, however. Mostly because of Boromir and Applejack's injuries, Aragorn allowed the Fellowship to rest at night for two or three hours at most. Food had technically been available, but seeing as how a small bite of lembas was considered a 'meal' over four days, there was certainly justification to the Dwarf's complaints. The only other time that the Fellowship rested was when Aragorn stopped to examine for further evidence of the Uruk's trail, which was right now.

There was also, technically, the brief periods when they would utilize short-range teleportation to increase their traveled distance. It was only fifty to a hundred feet at any given time, but it was still fifty to a hundred feet that they didn't have to travel on foot, hoof, wing, and whatever other appendage was used in giving them locomotion.

Overall, it was a slight exaggeration of facts.

Not being allowed to venture on ahead, Rainbow Dash had opted to hang back and stay with Boromir, Applejack, and Gimli, who ran at a slower pace for different but obvious reasons. Whereas Gimli might've been better off going with Spike, Frodo, and Sam for the reason that Spike had pointed out, Applejack's speed was hampered by her injured leg. Spike's medicine might've healed the damage incurred, but the underlying muscle structure was still pretty bruised all the way down to the bone. Unfortunately their current predicament meant there was little that could be done about it. Applejack would simply have to tough it out as best she could.

Rainbow Dash thought that Boromir shouldn't come with them out of worry for his injuries, even if they had healed up. But the Gondorian insisted that he was well enough to join the Fellowship in their hunt for the others. She inwardly vowed to look after the injured Boromir as best she could, even if she had to carry him. If any Orc wanted to harm Boromir, this time around they would have to go through her first.

She'd also been the one to come up with the notion that the four of them were protecting the rear as the others scouted ahead, in an effort to boost their morale, and assuage their pride somewhat. They all knew it was nothing but a blatant lie, but it still sounded good to them as they chugged along as best they could.

Aragorn reached the group of boulders that possessed a foul, orc-like odor that was evident to the ponies in the group, whose sense of smell was far more developed than that of the others. He immediately caught sight of the brooch that Pippin had dropped on the ground, and bent down and picked it up before he rested it in the palm of his right hand.

"Not idly do the leaves of Lorien fall," he remarked to both Twilight and Legolas.

"They're leaving us a trail," Twilight spelt out the corollary. Just like she'd been doing for Celestia in the hopes of them being found.

"They may yet be alive," Legolas said with rising hope.

"There's no "may" to it, they're definitely alive!" Rainbow Dash protested fiercely as their two groups finally caught up. Her ears had picked up the mutterings of the Elf before they saw the sight of the brooch Aragorn currently held. She absolutely refused to believe anything else to be the truth. And if it was the truth, then so help her, she was going to do things to the lot of Sauron's forces that even he would come to fear.

"At least we're on the right track," Rarity responded to the sight of the brooch.

"More than that," Aragorn advised. "Our friends are less than a day ahead of us. Come!"

At Aragorn's command, the eight of them recommenced their run. As they began running, they all heard a loud crash come from behind. All but Aragorn turned to see the noise was the result of Gimli stumbling.

"Come on, Gimli," Pinkie Pie encouraged him. "We're gaining on them!"

"I am wasted on cross-country," Gimli panted. "We dwarves are natural sprinters! Very dangerous over short distances!"

"Ah'll race ya over the next hundred yards, Gimli!" Applejack teased playfully in an effort to keep the Dwarf motivated to continue onward, even though she wasn't fairing all that much better herself.

Gimli's frustration at being shown up in endurance by the Earth Pony was evident in his reply. "For your sake, lass, you'd better be well in front of me at the end of that race!"

Through determination and outright stubbornness, Fellowship Team Alpha -Twilight's unofficial designation for their group- had eventually came to rest atop a group of low-lying rocky hilltops that gently sloped into a vast, yellow coloured grassland that stretched westwards as far as the eye could see.

"Rohan," Aragorn described the lands that faced the Fellowship. "Home of the Horse-Lords".

Horse-Lords. Twilight didn't want to admit it, but the name gave her a sense of homesickness, making her miss Celestia and the others all the more. What she wouldn't give to see the sight of another Alicorn right now.

Unfortunately that wouldn't be the case. And she knew, based on her own research, the name carried a far different meaning here in Middle Earth, than it might elsewhere; a meaning that brought her decidedly less comfort.

"Are Rohan's people nomads?" she questioned Aragorn to see if her concerns might be justified.

Aragorn shook his head in response. "No, Twilight. Despite the love they have for their steeds, the Rohirrim reside in farmlands, wooden settlements. The largest is their crown city, Edoras, several days westward from here."

At least there was that as far as Twilight was concerned. She honestly hadn't been looking forward to the possibility of her other friends being captured in this region. She didn't have sufficient money to buy them back peacefully, and she was in no mood to cause any international/interdimensional incidents that might come about as a result of a misunderstanding.

"What reception can we expect these Rohirrim to give us?" Rarity asked.

"Gondor and Rohan have been allies for over five hundred years," the Son of the Steward advised the Bearer of Generosity. "I've no doubt they'll aid us greatly if we ask."

Twilight was pleased when it was Boromir who answered Rarity's question. If the Gondorian was able to speak at length, it was a good sign that he was recovering from his wounds.

Aragorn drew the Fellowship's attention to the task at hand.

"There is something strange at work here," he warily sensed. "Some evil gives speed to these creatures, sets its will against us."

"They're fueled by Sauron's black magic. We're not dealing with natural creatures here," Twilight pointed out, recalling the lengthy details she'd gathered from Saruman during their time in Isengard.

Legolas had moved to the front of the Fellowship as he perched himself on a boulder.

"Legolas!" Aragorn called our to his Elven friend. "What do your Elf-eyes see?"

After a pause, Legolas replied, "The Uruks turn north west. What we have feared is indeed true! They are taking our friends to Isengard!"

"And to Saruman by extension," Aragorn muttered grimly.

"Saruman more than likely knows a Hobbit within the Fellowship bears the Ring," Twilight accurately assessed. "But not which one."

"That makes sense," Gimli agreed. "But I cannot think why the traitor would want Fluttershy, or why he had his Uruk-Hai try to capture you girls."

"Probably because of how badly Twilight and I curb stomped them when we went to Isengard on our own," Rainbow Dash muttered, feeling her anger rising greatly at the thought of just what he had in mind for them. If Fluttershy was hurt by him in any way, he would rue the day he decided to aid Sauron in his efforts.

But then something far more sinister came to her mind. If Saruman had ordered them captured in response to what he'd seen them do during their initial meeting...

"Bastard!" she cursed furiously.

The others heard this and looked at the rainbow-maned Pegasus in surprise. Even Twilight couldn't remember her speaking as such, except on rare occasions.

Seeing she had drawn their attention, Rainbow Dash bluntly took the initiative to speak. "Look. I'm just guessing here, but I'm thinking Saruman might be wanting to upgrade his Uruk-Hai, based on whatever information he can get from us. I dominated one all by myself right in front of him, and Fluttershy killed that cave troll with one blow. So... what sort of results would Saruman get if he had one of us to study at length?"

"By Elbereth!" Legolas gasped in horror upon thinking the ramifications.

"We'd better catch those Uruks soon. Or they'll be the least of Saruman's forces we'll have to worry about," Twilight stated, her mind reeling at the prospect of just what sort of horrors that the white wizard could concoct next. "Let's move out!" she yelled as she dashed off, intent on leading the Fellowship onward by herself if necessary.

Gimli, who had barely been able to catch his breath by this point, quickly found himself being hoisted up on Pinkie's back, as if she'd suddenly just appeared behind him out of this air.

"Ack! what... what's going on here?" he asked.

"You can race Applejack later, we've gotta get moving now!" was all Pinkie had to say on the matter. Gimli couldn't realistically keep up with them, so she'd rectify that matter herself. Besides which, she and Gimli both had rock-related backgrounds. They had to stick together.

As Pinkie broke into a gallop to keep up with the others, Gimli gave a triumphant laugh, while simultaneously holding on for dear life.

For three days and three nights, Fluttershy and her two friends had been hostages to the Uruk-Hai, helpless to do anything as they crossed country to be delivered to Saruman for whatever purposes he'd had in mind.

Helpless, that is, except for paying attention to their captors, and looking for any opportunity that could potentially be exploited.

Such an opportunity arose on the fourth night of their journey, as the company of Orcs and Uruks fell into a disagreement about the pace they we keeping, and insisting that they weren't going any further in their journey until after they'd had a chance to stop and catch their breath. From there it had just been a matter of waiting until the complaints about maggoty bread being all they had to eat, before the perfect moment presented itself to her.

"If you roast the bread over a campfire, the heat will drive the maggots right out of it," she spoke up from where she currently laid on the ground, her and the Hobbits being dropped unceremoniously during the rest break.

This caused a number of the Orcs from both groups to look at her in response. It was enough to make her flinch and wish to hide behind her hair, but she knew that she couldn't do that. She had to remain strong, and stand firm, for the sake of her friends.

"Although if you steamed it over a pan of boiling water, it would be softer and easier to eat," she added.

"You know how to cook?" one of the Uruk asked her with genuine curiosity.

"Oh, quite a bit actually," she replied and eagerly nodded, hoping that this was the opportunity that they needed. "If you'd like, I could go about preparing you all something that would be far more tasty than old bread. I know about some of the indigenous plants, which I could probably blend together in a nice vegetable stew."

The Uruk-Hai weren't animals in the traditional sense that Fluttershy was used to dealing with. But that didn't change what her senses were currently telling her. And with three days of exhaustion to contend with, and the prospect of being provided good food, she could see that it was slowly beginning to wear away at their dedication to the mission Saruman had tasked them with. Slowly but surely, it was wearing down their resistance, and making them more agreeable to what was being presented.

"We don't have time for cooking a meal!" Grishnakh protested angrily.

Fluttershy frowned in response, sensing that she'd have to present a bolder front to maintain control of the situation. "If you have time for building a fire, then you certainly have time for cooking a basic meal," she stated. For that, the scrawny Orc had no immediate retort to offer up. She assumed that meant the ball was still in her court. "If I had some help, we could be done far quicker, as well as eating much sooner," she explained.

She knew that it was a long shot to be presenting such a concept to them. But still, all forms of life appreciated and enjoyed good food. And she wasn't being overly forceful in her approach to convincing them. She was just offering up little suggestions, little offerings of help. She might not have chaos magic like Discord, or the ability to make somepony do something they didn't want to do. But she did have her own unique talents and skill set that sufficed her in a number of situations.

As she watched, as she listened and observed them, they were slowly talking amongst themselves in gruff but hushed tones, speaking in a language she didn't understand, but it sounded similar to what Gandalf had said during the council with Elrond. Whatever was being said, though, she could tell from body language that it was a very intense discussion.

Finally, some of them turned back to look at her.

"You get your help, we get our food?" one of them asked.

"Oh, yes, of course," she stated readily and nodded in agreement.

More discussion between them, just as intense as it was before. These Orcs weren't animals, but she could still tell that the temptation was very strong with them. Strong enough that the resolve to blindly follow saruman's orders was beginning to falter; not significantly, but perhaps just enough.

"What kind of help do you need?" they eventually asked.

The halfway point had just been reached. Now it was time to see if things would pan out. She took a steadying breath, before proceeding onward in an all or nothing fashion.

"Resource and supply gathering. I know a few of the local plants, but those might not be available in sufficient quantities. If I'm going to feed all of you, I need access to everything readily edible in the immediate area. That means I need Merry and Pippin's skills in identifying what plants are good for eating, and what aren't. I'll also need some of you to transport back whatever they find that they can't carry on their own. We'll also need water, and lots of it for the purpose of boiling for the stew. Lacking proper cookware, some of you will need to use your breastplates and helmets in place of cooking pots and buckets for transport and boiling purposes," she stated, laying out precisely what would be needed and expected if they were going to get anywhere.

"Now wait jus' a minute there!"

And then Grishnakh interrupted furiously and stormed his way over to where she and her friends were currently perched.

"You think we're letting you go, just because you're promising us food? How stupid do you think we are?"

Fluttershy frowned in response, once against sensing that she'd need to present a strong front in order to deal with Grishnakh , before he managed to ruin everything.

"They're not being let go, they're going to be within Orc custody the entire time, even escorted wherever they go as they gather what I'll need for making this stew. Escape is hardly likely, considering the fact that it's nighttime, and there are so many of you and so few of us. Even if we could see to make a break for it, we'd be caught in no time at all. And once we were caught, I'm certain it would be very bad for us, orders from Saruman or not. Trying to escape would serve no purpose for us, and just wind up making the situation worse for the lot of us," she explained, listing the numerous reasons as to why Grishnakh's concerns were completely unfounded.

"Now then. Are you going to help, or are you just going to complain? We have a lot of work to do, and if you want to actually eat tonight, I'd suggest making yourself useful. You can start with making us some torches so we can actually see what we're doing."

"That it. I can't go any further."

The spirit of Fellowship Team Alpha was running strong, as strong as it ever had since they became joined by unlikely events. But the flesh was another matter entirely.

For three days and nights they'd been keeping up pursuit with the Uruk-hai party, in a desperate bid to save their friends before Saruman could get his wicked hands on them, and commit who knew what sort of blasphemous acts against nature in the process. And in that pursuit they'd largely forsaken rest, food, and pretty much everything else that was necessary for maintaining health. They'd been driven forward by desperation and adrenaline, concluding that they'd rest once everyone was united again.

But that resolve was weakening greatly as their pursuit dragged on. The hour was late, the light was all but gone, the forest was thick and unwelcoming, and their pace had dropped significantly.

It had been Rainbow Dash who finally made the declaration, having ceased travel by flight quite some time ago, and had been reduced to trotting along with the others due to her wings no longer being able to keep pace. She hadn't wanted to admit to being unable to keep going, but it had been necessary. Applejack, Boromir, Rarity, and Gimli weren't doing much better than she was, but she knew their pride wouldn't allow them to be the first to speak up about their inability to keep going. That left her to be the bigger pony and demonstrate weakness first for their own benefit. Otherwise she was pretty sure one of them would be dropping dead soon, and she'd much rather avoid that. So she plopped her flanks down on the ground, refusing to move another step even if she had the steam to do so.

"I need to rest," she added.

"Rest is not a luxury that we have," Boromir commented, doing his best to not sound just as fatigued as his blue traveling companion. But the tones of his words betrayed him, easily revealing that he was quite exhausted, and barely able to remain on his feet.

"It's not a luxury. It's a necessity," Rainbow Dash clarified.

Rarity's contribution to the discussion of needs versus luxuries amounted to collapsing on the ground where she stood, far too weary to even protest how dirty her coat was becoming in the process. Not that it had been particularly clean after three straight days of pursuit, but still.

"I'm afraid I'm going to have to concur," Twilight stated. For three days and night now, they've been in near-constant pursuit of their quarry, desperate to get their friends back safe and sound. For three days and nights, racing after a force that was driven on and fueled by Sauron's black magic, while they themselves were propelled by nothing but their own determination.

But determination could only go so far.

"Catching up to them won't do us any good if we have no strength to fight. Even if we could get in front of them in the next five minutes, We'll be killed and captured in short order as we are now. We need to rest, and we need to recoup our strength," she explained as she sat herself down on the ground. "I want to catch up to them as much as anyone. But we'll be of no use to them if none of us even have enough strength to sewing a sword."

More voices of agreement sounded throughout Fellowship Team Alpha, weariness becoming more apparent with each passing moment. It quickly became apparent to those that had no desire to sit idly by, that they were outnumbered in this discussion. That left either resting where they currently were with the others, or venturing on ahead as their group divided even further.

"Very well then," Aragorn relented, "ten minutes."

"One hour, no less," Twilight countered, "this isn't up for debate."

Boromir wouldn't admit to it willingly, but he was amused to no end at Aragorn being overruled by a pony. Not merely overruled, but she was actually going into detail as to why one hour was the minimum amount of time that they should be allowed to rest before heading out again.

By the time Aragorn had finally relented, and heeded to her insistence for an hour's rest, he'd found it necessary to bite his cheek relatively hard to keep from laughing out loud.

"Your friend is quite the skilled negotiator," he barely managed to get out without actually succumbing to laughter.

"Well she did learn from the best," Rarity mumbled in agreement.

Lemnas bread was broke out, and small fire was lit, the process greatly expedited with the assistance of Twilight's magic, as the group settled in for a breather. It was only as they sat down, did any of them realize just how fatigued and hungry they really were.

"What I wouldn't give for a hot cup of coffee right now," Twilight muttered as she observed the fire and idly chewed on a piece of elven bread.

"Yeah, I could get behind that myself," Rainbow Dash agreed. "So then. What's the game plan, once we get moving again?"

"We catch up to the Uruk-Hai, rescue the others, and then make our way for Mordor once again," Gimli grumbled in summation of what they were facing.

"Yeah. That part I know about. I meant how we're gonna go about doing that. It seems to me that we're doing an awful lot of running around just for that," Rainbow Dash pointed out. "They way things are going, Frodo and the others are going to have a week's head start on us. It's gonna be pretty hard to catch up with them, even with Twilight teleporting us."

"Do you have something different in mind?" Legolas asked, doing his best to not let his own discomfort with the idea of teleportation show through his calm exterior.

"Sort of. I've been thinking about this off and on ever since we left. But I'd need Twilight's help to pull it off," Rainbow Dash explained.

"Go on," Twilight said as she turned her attention to Rainbow Dash, curious to see what her friend might have in mind.

"Alright. Just hear me out," Rainbow Dash started as she prepared to go over her plan. All the while hoping she didn't get interrupted as she laid it out. "It's like this. You and I are the only real fliers in the group right now. You and I set out via flight, teleportation, or whatever, and catch up with the Uruk-Hai. Then you use the Breezie spell to turn the two of us into dragons for the engagement. We tear through their ranks with claws, fire, and arrow-proof scales, laying waste to everything that isn't the others. Then we grab our friends, make our way back here, and set off for Mordor before Spike and the others can get any further away from us, just like we planned!"

"That..." Twilight paused, "is actually a brilliant idea, Rainbow Dash. There's just one problem with that."

"Which is?" Rarity asked, wondering what her friend might've missed when laying out her strategy for the rescue.

"That we don't actually have Spike here with us. The spell needs a base to work from for transforming a pony into another species. Without that it's pretty much useless," Twilight stated.

Rainbow Dash just groaned at this. "Can't you, I don't know, just guess at what you're doing?"

Twilight shook her head. "It doesn't work that way, Rainbow Dash. The spell can't be made to work from nothing. I know this because I've tried it before."

"Oh..." Rainbow Dash replied slowly, defeat finally winning out in the matter. "So I guess transforming yourself into a Balrog is out then?"

Twilight nodded. "Even if we had a Balrog, I'm not sure transforming myself into a demon would be the best of ideas to try out."

At this the only thing Rainbow Dash could do was shrug in response. "It was worth a try."

"It was a darn good idea. Jus' lousy timin' is all," Applejack reassured her.

Rainbow Dash just grunted in response. "Fluttershy, I hope you're alright," she thought to herself. If she'd lost her friend, she didn't know what she'd do.

"I can't see a thing; not even my hand in front of my face," Merry whispered.

Whether it was through pure dumb luck, divine intervention, or simply Fluttershy's unique talents, the trio had managed to slip away from the Uruk-Hai, undetected by the brutes as they focused on more pressing matters at the moment.

Neither Merry nor Pippin had believed what they'd witnessed from the time of Fluttershy offering to make the brutish orcs a meal. It had to be one of the craziest things witnessed. But despite that fact, things had apparently transpired just as they had. Apparently the offer of fresh food had been so alluring, so overwhelming, they simply hadn't been able to resist. It was as if their appetite had consumed all common sense on the matter, leaving them reduced to the point of relenting when Fluttershy had insisted that they be allowed to assist in finding various edible ingredients to make sure there was plenty of food to go around.

Then came the cooking. Sweet mercy the cooking! Neither of them had any clue just how Fluttershy had pulled it off, but she'd actually gotten some of the Uruk-Hai to prepare and cook the meal as well, using breastplates and helmets for cooking pots as they chopped up the various ingredients for blending into pots and pots of simmering stew.

From there it had just been a matter of time, waiting as the stew cooked until it was satisfactory to the intended masses, before the trio made their move. Slowly, silently, they made their way far away from the voracious eaters, inching their way out of their sight.

What followed next had been anything but expected. The sound of thundering hooves echoed in the distance according to Fluttershy and her pony ears; far too many hooves to be their friends coming to their rescue. Too many hooves, and too many arrows as the Uruk-Hai were ambushed by someone or something unseen in the darkness. From there it'd been their cue to retreat as fast as possible, not wanting to get caught in the middle of whatever had been unfolding in front of them.

That led them to where they were currently, trying to find their way through the darkness of the woods, while simultaneously trying not to make any commotion that would lead to them being found.

"Just keep moving. So long as the fires are to our backs, we've got to be heading in the right direction," Pippin insisted as he kept a hold of Merry's shirt sleeve, while also holding onto Fluttershy's tail to try and avoid any of them being separated from one another in the darkness.

"There's no telling what could be behind us," Merry pointed out as he stumbled along, unsure of either his footing or their destination. "This isn't like procuring a few vegetables from a farmer's field, you know."

"All the more reason to be quiet," Pippin hissed.

"We need to get up higher. Off the ground," Fluttershy whispered as she led them further on, not particularly caring where they went, just so long as it was somewhere safe. "Quickly. Up this tree."

It was a fairly tall tree that she stopped again; tall enough to hopefully discourage anything from looking for them. They could hide within the canopy, possibly resting some as they did, and then gather their bearings in the morning.

She stood at the base of the tree, letting Pippin climb up her back first as he made his way up the tree, before allowing Pippin to do the same. Her wings were still bound, as there had yet to be an opportunity for them to be untied during their escape, so that meant having to climb and shimmy her way up the tree much as the others had done. But she was certain that she could easily do such.

"Alright. Come on up," Merry called.

Nodding, Fluttershy stood up on her hind legs, wrapping her forelegs around the trunk of the tree to climb up after them.

Before she even got two feet off the ground, however, she felt her hind leg being roughly grabbed, causing her to scream in surprise as she turned to see what had a hold of her.

As best she could tell, it was Grishnakh, and he didn't look the least bit happy. How he'd managed to track them down in the darkness was of less concern right now, than the spear he currently held in his other hand.

"You thought you were so smart, huh? Let's see how smart you are when I put a maggot-hole in your belly!" he stated as he raised his spear.

His follow through, however, was hampered by Fluttershy kicking him in the face with her free hind leg, disorienting him. She then quickly followed up with several more such applications, before his hold on her was finally broken.

"You're going to regret that!" Grishnakh stated as he cradled his face, and felt that his nose had been broken in the scuffle. "Tell me where the others are, and I might make your suffering less!"

The next thing he knew, he found himself being roughly grabbed from behind, and squeezed about his neck as it became more difficult to breathe freely. He tried to pry loose from whatever had a hold of him, but was finding that it was easier said than done. Whoever currently had him was significantly stronger than he'd thought. That, coupled with the lack of air he was getting, made escape far more difficult than it should've been. The fact that it was getting darker didn't help matters either...

Merry and Pippin watched, eyes wide with surprise as Fluttershy went about choking the orc out, demonstrating a level of viciousness that'd only been hinted at in their encounter with the cave troll. And she continued choking him, until his body finally went limp. Whether she'd killed him, or simply rendered him unconscious, neither was really sure. As little care as she'd shown when she let his body drop to the ground, it could easily be either.

Not that either one of them was going to protest the rough treatment he'd been given, however. Certainly not after he'd made it known that he considered them to be disposable and edible.

"Are you alright, Fluttershy?" Merry asked uneasily, almost afraid of what answer he might get.

Fluttershy looked up at them, panting heavily, and looking weary. Whether it was from physical exertion, or something else, neither one of them knew for certain. All they really knew was that as she looked up at them, her eyes went wide, and she proceeded to scream loudly.

Author's Note:

Yes I ended this chapter with a cliffhanger... But the chapter was getting too long and I had to end it somewhere. :ajsmug:

Stay tuned for the next chapter! :pinkiehappy: