Exams are finally over! Victory is mine!


The sun had risen and it was already high in the sky, its warm light trickled through the branches, golden and ruby leaves were carried on the wind, you could hear them dance on the stone floor. Sophia stood in the window with her eyes closed, she payed attention to every sound, to every scent. She could hear elves singing in the distance, somewhere off in the forest, it brought peace to her scarred soul.

This is such a strange place, so many things to process and so little time to do it in, she thought to herself.

She turned and paced for a moment, then finally settled on the edge of her bed, it groaned slightly under her weight. As she sat there, she mulled over everything that has happened since she's been trapped on this world. Playing with her helmet, she turned it to face her, the reflection revealing much of her mood. She felt lonely, but hopeful, humanity's greatest power, that and curiosity, she smiled at herself, things were starting to look up, even if she was stuck here.

However that didn't alleviate the pain she felt, turning her helmet upside down she looked at the picture that was placed firmly inside. She looked at the smiling man on it and her throat tightened, warmth flowed through her, but it was filled with sorrow. His features were sharp, strong chin with a small stubble, his skin almost as white as a Spartan II's, he loved his armor way too much. Short light brown hair, blue grey eyes with a hazel center, central heterochromia if she remembered correctly, it was the first thing she noticed about him when they first met, she smiled at that memory "You crazy fool." His black ODST BDU looked dirty and used, he looked dirty and tired, but that hopeful smile of his was ever present. She was glad that they at least got to serve on the same boat, saving Lasky's neck got you perks apparently.

"I'll find a way back to you, I swear it." she whispered as she ran two fingers absentmindedly over the photo.

Standing to her full height, still gazing into her helmet as if it could reveal some great truth, she allowed herself one small sob and with that placed her helmet back on her head, the automatic lock around her jaws sealing it in place, completing her armor. The blue line of her shield appeared, fully charged.

As if on cue, there was a knock at the door.

"Yes?"

"My lady, Lord Elrond has requested your presence, the Council is about to begin."

"Thank you, Lindir. I'll be there in a moment."

"Yes, my lady."

With that she heard his footsteps fade down the hallway.

Sophia let out a long sigh. "Time to face the music." sheathing her combat knife, the Spartan made her way out the door, Lindir was standing at the end of the hall, waiting, he slightly smiled as she approached.

"Follow me, my lady."

She nodded "Will there be anyone there that I haven't met yet?"

"Yes, a few dignitaries, my lady. From neighboring lands, they arrived this morning." there was an awkward silence "My lady, if I may be so bold, is everything all right?"

She chuckled "Yeah, why do you ask?"

Lindir slightly turned as he walked "You were unusually silent at supper last night, and you left for your quarters quite early."

"Yeah, about that, I just needed some time to myself."

A slight frown appeared on his face, elves are incredibly perceptive, his frown then settled and he smiled warmly "The matters of the heart are indeed a mystery to all, elves included."

She didn't answer, but she didn't have to, the elf understood all too well.

They stepped out into a garden when they heard Elrond's voice ring clear.

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

"Just in time..." Sophia whispered, Lindir smiled and turned to leave.

Lindir smiled and quickly took his place at Lord Elrond's right.

She stood there for a moment, the council had their backs to her. She was a few feet behind Boromir, Gandalf noticed her standing in the shadows and smiled under his long beard. At Lord Elrond's left sat Lord Erestor, they both noticed Sophia lingering in the dark.

"Middle-earth stands upon the brink of destruction, none can escape it. You will unite or you will fall." everyone looked positively depressed at that "Each race is bound to this fate, this one doom." Lord Elrond then glanced at Frodo, who minus his close encounter with the Grim Reaper looked like he was in perfect health, physically at least "Bring forth the Ring, Frodo." Elrond's voice changed from warning to understanding as he addressed the hobbit.

Frodo, for his part, wiggled off his chair and slowly approached the stone pedestal in the center. He tentatively placed the Ring on top. Shock and fear was palpable in the air.

Lord Elrond glanced up at Sophia, there was an expectant look on his face, she just slightly moved her head from side to side, there was a flash of understanding in his eyes, barely noticeable but the Spartan caught it, Elrond understood, she didn't want those present made aware of her presence and bombarded with questions she couldn't give answers to. Her role was clear, so she just listened, carefully.

"So it is true..." Boromir said under his breath. Everyone gazed at the Ring, like they were hypnotized, the Spartan was an inch away from slapping a few upside the head.

So this is the corruption Strider spoke of, the giant warrior mused, she was amazed how quickly everyone got sucked into its grasp. Especially the humans, what a comforting thought...

The Captain of Gondor then caught her attention as he rose from his place "In a dream, I saw the Eastern sky grow Dark, but in the West a pale light lingered." he then took slow and deliberate steps towards the stone pedestal "A voice was crying: Your Doom is near at hand! Isildur's Bane is found!"

The moment he started reaching for the Ring, everyone present grew tense, the Spartan shifted her weight to both legs, the muscles in her body tightened.

"Isildur's Bane..."

Elrond then jumped from his seat "Boromir!"

"Ash nazg durbatulk,
Ash nazg gimbatul,
Ash nazg thrakatulk,
Agh burzum-ishi krimpatul!"

As Gandalf spoke these words in a voice that boomed, the entire valley grew dark, as if someone flicked a light switch.

"Okay, that's new." Sophia whispered to herself, it was almost like pre-battle jitters, everyone got it, even Spartans. It was a very strange sensation, a taste of what the Enemy had to offer. Frodo, the elves, even the men and dwarves gathered were disturbed by it, pained expressions on their faces. So this is what dark magic is like, the Spartan wasn't impressed.

As the old wizard finished the dark slowly vanished, the warm light of midday taking its place once more.

"Never before has any voice uttered the words of that tongue here in Imladris." spoke Lord Elrond has he took his seat as the head of the Council, he didn't look too happy with the way things were proceeding, none present were.

"I do not ask your pardon, Master Elrond, for the Black Speech of Mordor may yet be heard in every corner of the West! The Ring is altogether evil!"

The old man had fire in him, that much was certain Sophia thought, must have been one helluva fighter in his prime.

"Nay, it is a gift! A gift to the foes of Mordor!" spoke the man from Gondor, he pursued his stance with vigor. "Why not use this Ring? Long has my father, the Steward of Gondor kept the forces of Mordor at bay! By the blood of our people are your lands kept safe! Let us use it against Him!"

That piqued the Spartan's curiosity, she suddenly felt a great amount of respect for the Captain and his people. Not many would stick their necks out like that for others, and to think that Elrond thought they were weak.

"You cannot wield it!" suddenly Strider made his presence known "None of us can, the One Ring answers to Sauron alone, it has no other master!"

"And what would a Ranger know of this matter?" Boromir asked with arrogance in his voice.

"This is no mere Ranger, he is Aragorn, son of Arathorn! You owe him your allegiance."

The shock on Boromir's face was priceless "Aragorn? This is Isildur's heir?"

"And heir to the throne of Gondor!"

Woah... Throne? Wait, what, he's a king?!

"Havo dad, Legolas." Strider asked of his friend, Legolas slowly sat down.

Boromir was positively fuming "Gondor has no King, Gondor needs no King." and he sank back down into his seat.

"Aragorn is right. We cannot use it." replied the wizard to support his longtime friend.

"You have only one choice. The Ring must be destroyed."

That did not make the Captain very happy, Frodo was fidgeting in his seat uncomfortably.

The Ring is talking to him, it dawned on the Staff Sergeant. This place gets stranger with every passing minute, she mused as she crossed her arms silently.

"Then what are we waiting for?" spoke the young dwarf, his voice laced with impatience and annoyance, he jumped to his feet and grabbed his axe.

With a battle cry he raised it high above his head and swung it down like a hammer.

The second the axe touched the Ring it shattered into dozens of pieces, Gimli was thrown backwards and landed squarely on his back. There wasn't even a single scratch on the Ring.

With a calm voice Elrond chided the dwarf "The Ring cannot be destroyed, Gimli, son of Gloin, by any craft that we here possess. The Ring was made in the fires of Mount Doom, only there can it be unmade. It must be taken deep into Mordor and cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came! One of you must do this."

The silence was deafening, apparently Mordor wasn't a holiday resort.

"One does not simply walk into Mordor." said silently the Captain of Gondor "Its Black Gates are guarded by more than just orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep, and the Great Eye is every watchful. It is a barren wasteland riddled with fire and ash and dust, the very air you breathe is a poisonous fume, not with 10.000 men could you do this." the despair in his voice grew with every word he uttered "It is folly."

The elven prince on the other hand was undeterred "Have you heard nothing Lord Elrond has said, the Ring must be destroyed!"

"And I suppose you think you're the one to do it!" shouted Gimli with anger and distrust.

"And if we fail what then?! What happens when Sauron takes back what is his?!" stood Boromir to his full height.

"I will be dead before I see the Ring in the hands of an elf!" Gimli jumped to his feet, accusation mode engaged, at that everyone jumped up and started shouting at one another, accusations and insults flying to and fro.

"This is getting out of hand."

"No one trusts and elf!" Gimli's voice could be heard above all others'.

"Do you not understand? While you bicker among yourselves, Sauron's power grows! None can escape it! You will all be destroyed!" Gandalf tried to reason with those gathered, he wasn't getting through to any of them.

Then out of the shouting match a small but strong voice shouted "I will take it! I will take the Ring to Mordor!"

Everyone fell silent as they turned towards Frodo, Gandalf smiled at his small friend with pride.

"Though, I do not know the way."

"I will help you bear this burden, Frodo Baggins, as long as it is yours to bear." Gandalf spoke as he stood next to his small friend, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder.

"If by my life or death I can protect you, I will." spoke Aragorn, he then to a knee in front of the small hobbit "You have my sword."

Lord Elrond and Gandalf shared a look.

"And you have my bow!" spoke the Prince of Mirkwood.

"And my axe!" looks like Gimli doesn't wanna miss this party either, mused Sophia.

Boromir gazed long and hard at Frodo, but he held no malice in his eyes "You carry the fate of us all, little one. If this is indeed the will of the Council, then Gondor will see it done."

"Hah!" a shout from the bushes and Sam came running "Mr. Frodo is not going anywhere without me!"

"No indeed, it is hardly possible to separate you, even when he is summoned to a secret council and you are not!" spoke Lord Elrond, he smiled with pride at Frodo's loyal friend, loyalty like that was rare in these dark times. As precious as hope.

"Oy! We are coming too!" and came the other two hobbits from behind pillars, quickly taking their places next to their friends "You'll have send us home tied up in a sack to stop us!" said Merry with confidence, Sophia noticed the two of them hiding there a while ago, she just chuckled into her helmet.

"Anyway, you need people if intelligence on this sort of mission, quest, thing." Pippin could be adorable in his naivety.

"Well that rules you out, Pip!" said Merry in triumph.

Then suddenly, there was a sound, a strange sound, something none of them were familiar with, something they haven't known for very long, but Lord Elrond knew what it was, he looked up, but he couldn't see past those gathered, but his elven hearing picked it up, he didn't need to see, he heard. Metal on stone, long and powerful steps. He rose to his feet and a small smile appeared on his face. It didn't take more than a moment or two for everyone present to notice the giant walking towards them, at that moment they all fell silent.

This man, this thing, this giant completely encased in green armor, the craftsmanship of it, or its style, there were no words to describe it. All could feel the strength and power that this being possessed. It wasn't bulky though, it was sleek, thin but muscular, wiry. There was a hiss and the giant's helmet opened up at the sides, it raised its hands and slowly pulled of its helmet, revealing a beautiful young woman with chocolate brown hair carefully arranged in a short pony tail, olive skin and very light blue almost white eyes.

"Got room for one more?" she asked with a small smile.

The hobbits, Aragorn and Gandalf had broad smiles on their faces, Gimli, Legolas and Boromir were surprised but happy to see her.

"Indeed, Spartan!" bellowed the old wizard "You are most welcome!"

Lindir and Lord Elrond smiled at one another.

She took a few more steps and stood behind Boromir and Legolas, towering over them.

"Ten Companions... so be it! You shall be the Fellowship of the Ring!"

"Great! Where are we going?" a large and powerful armored hand landed softly on his small head and tussled his hair.

"Patience, Pip."

"Go now and prepare." continued Lord Elrond "You leave at dawn."