The Council of Elrond was in full swing. Those who had been invited sat around the small table where the One Ring sat.
The three hiding Hobbits where listening to every word said.
In other words, everything was as it should have been, until...
"Damn it Caine, she's been bitten! There's no saving her now!"
"What if she doesn't turn, Remy? What if she's got the right genes to survive? We can't just kill her without knowing, that would be murder!"
"Yes we can Caine! We have to! For the sake of our world and this one!"
A tattered and ragged group of teens stood next to the pedestal of the One Ring, arguing among themselves. They were all heavily armed, crudely made weapons hanging from belts and strange lumps of metal in hands.
The two speakers seemed to be the oldest of the group but it was impossible to put an age to their faces. They looked youthful, but their eyes held a pain that no-one in the Council could even begin to fathom.
Standing to the side of the oldest boy was a weak-looking girl, obviously Tess, the one who had been "bitten".
By what exactly, nobody knew.
"Who are you? How have you gotten to my Council?" Elrond asked, his tone angry.
The mismatched group of teens fell silent, before one girl, previously called 'Remy' stepped forward.
She bowed low before Elrond- A man's bow- before straightening with a grim smile.
"If you don't mind, Lord Elrond, I have something to... attend to."
Elrond looked cold, but nodded sharply.
With that she turned, grabbed Tess and pulled her aside.
"Hold her." She demanded of two stronger-looking boys, both with long, dark hair and cold looks on their rugged faces.
"I do hope you don't mind getting blood stains on the floor, Lord Elrond, but it will be a lot worse if I don't do this and attempt to keep your home clean."
She pulled a large black thing from her belt. It looked completely harmless, but the girl's face seemed to darken as she pointed it at Tess.
"I'm sorry to have to do this, Tess. I really am, but you're a danger to all of us now."
The sick girl struggled weakly in the grasp of the two boys.
"Samuel, Mike. Keep her still. I don't want to have to do this more than once."
Elrond seemed to have accepted what was happening. He almost seemed to know already what was about to occur.
"No!" The boy called Caine yelled, and two other members of their group grabbed him and held him in place.
Tears were streaming down his face as he attempted to reach Tess, but he could not.
Finally, Remy raised the weapon, aimed it at Tess' head, and pulled the trigger.
"You see, Lord Elrond, our world... our world is in ruins."
The body of the girl had been cleared away and the blood wiped up, along with various other... debris, for lack of a better word. The Council had been disbanded until the next day.
"Three years ago a disease called rabies mutated very suddenly and very violently. It shocked everyone, most were caught by surprise. By the end of the first week of the spread of the disease... almost a third of the world's population were dead. Well, I say dead but really- a lot of them were un-dead."
Elrond opened his mouth to ask something. Mutters erupted in the great feast hall where the group were explaining their predicament.
"Now, you may ask how that is possible. The disease should kill people. But when it mutated, it began to do something very different. The weak died from the disease- which we have named 'The Plague'- but those who were stronger became monsters.
"The Plague ate away at the very part of their brain that made them human (In our world, there are no Elves, Dwarfs, nor Hobbits). The Plague made them lust for the flesh of the living and made them physically stronger than they ever should have been. The Plague created zombies.
"The girl you saw earlier- Tess- had been bitten while we were getting to a safe zone. If she had made it another ten steps, she wouldn't have been attacked... But that doesn't matter. What's done is done.
"As I said, it has been three years. Over that time, the disease has killed off an estimated 6.5 billion people. When the disease struck, there were 7 billion.
"That leaves our world with an estimated population of half a billion. Of course, we don't really know. We're just guessing but that number seems about right. Half a billion may be a lot to Middle-Earthians, but to us... That's just wrong."
"But how did you get here?" Gandalf questioned from his seat of honour.
Caine stepped forward. His face was devoid of all emotion.
"We got lucky. We have a girl in our group who can basically transport people into parallel universes. That'll probably freak you guys out, but we've been with her for a long time and we've used her power more than once, so we're used to it. Megan, c'mere!"
A small girl with mousy brown hair and almost translucent skin stumbled forward after a helpful nudge from a friend.
"I'm Megan. It's nice to meet you, Lord Elrond." She stuttered, and there were more mutters and whispers from the assembled Elves and Council attendees.
"Parallel universes?" Lord Elrond questioned.
The girl's face seemed to brighten considerably and the audience got the sensation that she quite enjoyed talking about her power.
"Yes My Lord. Different worlds, but at the moment there are very few that are actually... habitable."
"And why is that?"
"Since The Plague came about, other people like me have been trying to save themselves and their families, usually after someone got bitten by a zombie.
"I think Remy may have forgotten to mention that tiny detail. The disease is spread by a zombie spit or blood getting into yours, but the most common way someone gets infected is through a bite.
"As I was saying, people with my power tried to save others by going to different worlds for help. Usually, this has just spread the disease into that world. It has the same effect on those worlds as it did on ours... complete termination.
"But you don't have to worry about us spreading the disease. Before we arrived we made sure all the zombie stuff was gone. I wasn't meant to bring Tess, it was an accident, but it's cleared up now so it should be okay!"
With that the girl stepped back into the group. Silence fell.
"If I understand correctly, your world is in turmoil. You may have gone to any world, any parallel universe with the help of Lady Megan. But you chose here... Or is the world you are landed in randomly chosen, perhaps?"
"That's a good question, Lord Elrond." Said Remy.
"The world we are transported to with the help of Megan is completely up to us. You see, all parallel universes, at least in our world, are contained in books. To most they are just stories. But then, you find someone like Megan, someone with the power to unlock those worlds and get into them. Your world- this one, I should say- is contained in a series of books called 'The Lord of the Rings'."
She turned to give a wink to the elves, men, dwarfs and hobbits behind her.
"Frodo Baggins, you would do well to remember that title. It might come in handy some day!"
"I beg your pardon Lord Elrond. Had to say it, it couldn't be avoided. I suppose we should all introduce ourselves... correct?"
Now, readers, you have to remember that Remy was doing her best to speak like someone born in Middle-Earth. Perhaps she wasn't doing a brilliant job of it, but it could've been worse.
"Now, I'm Remy. Most people would say that I'm one of the two group leaders. I'm twenty-two at the moment, which means I was nineteen when the apocalypse started. My weapon of choice: My precious home-made spear."
Her reddish hair caught the light and glinted slightly golden, while her green eyes seemed to have changed from earlier and now sparkled with joy. She patted the metal spike bound to her back and grinned.
"This thing has slain plenty of zombies in its time. Next up, we have Caine."
Said boy stepped forward. He was obviously just as undernourished as the rest of the group, with dark eyes and charcoal coloured hair that hung about his face like a curtain. He ran his hand through it as he bowed to Elrond and turned to smirk at the waiting crowd behind him.
"Like Rem said, I'm Caine. I'm the second leader, but that just means that most of the little kids look up to me. Back home, I used to scout for food with a few others every day, I'm twenty-one, so I'm the second-oldest. Rem over there is the oldest, but she's about as mature as-"
"Shut it Caine!" Remy laughed, and Caine just rolled his eyes.
"Like I was saying, I'm a hunter. My weapon is a bow, but I'm good with a gun too- we'll explain that weapon to you guys later. Next up is Justin, our resident nerd- uh... smart guy."
A tall, incredibly skinny boy with blonde hair and glasses took a bow.
"I'm Justin. For the past three years I've been researching and testing cures for the disease- to no avail, sadly. But I have discovered a couple of things about the zombies which are pretty interesting, but we can discuss that another time.
"I'm only sixteen, and I prefer not to use a weapon, though when I have to I'm alright with a spear. Who wants to go next?"
There was a short scuffle between teens but finally a broad, well-muscled guy jostled his way to the front.
"Brad's the name. Eighteen years old and I train the little kids to fight. But I'm an all-rounder- I learn pretty fast. I work with Caine to find food, I guess that's pretty cool. I use my fists when I have to and a short sword every other time- scavenged it in an antique store."
Another guy took his turn.
"Xander. I help out the group by building stuff- I'm good with my hands. I make weapons, shelters, mechanical devices for opening and closing doors- I'm a pretty good asset to the team, if I may say so myself. I hunt with Caine too. By the way, we call ourselves The Army. Unoriginal, I know, but it's what we are so it works. Moving on, I'm seventeen and use dual knives to fight. NEXT!"
"Samuel, thirteen, all-rounder. Any weapon you hand me, I'll use. Don't care if I'm using it wrong, I'll kill stuff with it anyway and that's what matters. Hunter."
"You already know me, I'm Megan. I'm twenty-one too but I'm still younger than Caine. I'm also the transporter of the group. The little kids like me, and they listen to me adore than they do anyone else. I don't like fighting, but I'm good with a gun. I think that's all!"
Remy stepped up again, a small smile on her face.
"There are only the little ones left now, so I'll go ahead and intro them for you. Jasmine over here is nine, she's our little chef, and a damn good one at that.
"Clem is six and she's pretty smart for a little kid. She's a good shot with a gun too.
"Lastly, we have Michael. He's silent, hasn't said a word since we found him. He's a bloody genius though, he always finds a way to tell us all the answers."
"Sit. Eat." Lord Elrond said. "Afterwards, someone will show you each to your rooms to rest. We will speak more about this in the morning."
Little did the observing crowd know that Remy would be attending a secret Council the next day.
And they definitely didn't know that she planned to volunteer her services and her gun to help Frodo on his quest- though it wouldn't work out quite the way she had hoped...