What If: The Ranger and the Ring
19 Rings. 19 souls to bear the weight. 19 paths of unknown futures.
Nine were given to the world of men, who fell to its power and became haunted riders in the dark. Seven to the dwarves, held by the kings amongst them and fueled by greed of gold and jewels. Three were given to the elves, the purest of hearts who would only bring only peace and healing to the world.
But there was one more, one made solely to rule them all. Fueled by the darkest desires of Sauron to take dominion of middle earth, the last ring was created in the fires of Mordor, imbued with strength and power from the dark lord himself. Control. Power. Death. That was the only future middle earth would know until the day Isildur sliced the ring from Sauron's hand.
All seemed well for a brief time, on the journey back to Mordor to destroy the ring once and for all. But the heart of men is too easily swayed by its dark desires of death and power. Isildur refused to bring any harm to the ring, much less destroy it despite pleadings from his own men. So for two years he carried it, studied it, cherished it as if it was some loyal servant. Yet it was he who was the servant, and the ring soon betrayed him, now lost to the world for nearly 2,500 years.
Even more time had passed before it arrived at this moment, dangling around on a simple chain hanging down from the neck of a ranger. The events that had led up to Isildurs heir bearing the ring were simply that of fate. The ring found its way back into the easily swayed hearts of men, and into the very hands of the man that was to become king.
Months prior in Rivendell, a young hobbit had brought the trinket before the court, shocking all whose gaze fell upon it. The man known as Strider, though born as Aragorn, was drawn to it at this moment much as his predecessor was thousands of years before. Once more, the ring sat on trial to determine who should bear it... or who should destroy it. The arguments persisted for some time before Aragorn volunteered to take the ring to Mordor and destroy it once and for all.
"Aragorn..." Lord Elrond spoke his name rich with concern, knowing well of his doubts in himself to fight the temptations of power. The ranger who would not so much as accept his place as king due to his fears, now stood forward to escort the very ring that caused such reasonings in the first place. Lord Elrond had faith in the ranger, but would he find the faith in himself to endure its dark power?
"This started with Isildur. My ancestor. It must end with me." A gaze shifted towards the high elf, blue orbs filled with determination and strength. But it was also tainted with fear and uncertainty.
Now present day, Aragorn rode upon Gondor, not as its king, but as its unchallenged ruler. Its inhabitants watched on in confusion and fear. This was not the man told to one day be their king. This man reeked of death and power and the ring upon his neck showed the verifiable failure of his journey. Many couldn't understand it, while others expected this outcome. Once a man of heart and strength, the would-be king was now only an unbridled rider bent on all the power of middle earth. He made sure none stood in his way, having destroyed even the Witch King and his riders. Any who sought the ring would be his enemy, and they would fall as such.
The ring was his. Middle Earth was his. Aragorn had fallen to the path he feared most and there was no stopping him.