Title: In Darkness Bound

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.

Rating: T

Summary: A:tS, LotR. No one yet lived with a better claim to It than Illyria. 400 words.

Spoilers: A:tS mid-"Not Fade Away" (5.22); AU for LOTR

Notes: Follows "Look On My Works, Ye Mighty" and "The Courage of Men". Challenge fic.

In the aftermath of the battle against the Wolf, Ram and Hart, Illyria left the alley strewn with corpses behind her and went in search of the object known in her youth as Sauron's Bane. She had seen its image in her guide's books and felt its whisper underneath the song of the green; the One Ring still existed, and no one yet lived with a better claim to it than she.

She did not stop to bury the one called Charles, nor to collect the ashes of the half-breeds that had thought themselves her betters. Their deaths signified nothing, laid no additional burden upon her; her decision had already been fixed the moment her guide had expelled his last breath in the dwelling of the creature Vail. She had fought on only to expend her anger, to make trophies of the spines of his enemies and clear the way of those who might dare oppose the actions she planned to take.

The song of the Ring was not as loud in her ears as it had been in the beginning, when she had been new to this world and to her position as god-king of its mercenary armies, but it was still sufficiently audible for her purpose. The Dark One had expended much energy, channeled through that band of gold and power, to bring her forces here; it had resonated with her signature thereafter no matter how far she traveled. Even in this latter day, it still broadcast its presence like a beacon.

She tracked it to Rome, where she ripped it from the broken corpse of a gnat who had dared style himself Immortal based on the gifts lent him by its corrupting power. His blonde-maned consort attempted valiantly to defend him, then shied back in horror when his true form was revealed in death. What one such as he had been planning to do with a Slayer, Illyria could not imagine- but nor did she care. She left the woman wailing pathetically over the corpse without a second thought and returned with her trophy to the resting place of her guide.

He remained in the hall of Vail as she had left him: face up on the floor, frozen in the instant of his death. He would wake soon, to a new and better truth; this future would become the lie. Illyria would make certain that happened.