Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings, its characters, and lands are owned by Tolkein Estates and New Line Cinemas. This story was written for my own enjoyment, not for profit.

Summary: The Quest has failed. The remaining fellowship members are taken captive or killed. Enslaved in Mordor, Aragorn meets someone he never expected to see again. Meanwhile, in Minas Tirith, it is up to Faramir to lead the remaining people of Arda in one last, desperate stand. Very AU.

WARNINGS: Violence and strong angst. Canon character death. As all of my stories, contains no sex, slash, or strong language. Rated T.

Chapter One: The End of all Things

His eyes opened, very slowly. Where was he? What had happened to him? The world was dark and blurry, and he thought he could see flames. Pain coursed through his weak body as he raised himself onto his elbow.

"'E's awake!" a rough, orkish voice said. He shivered as their hands dragged him up from the ground, slamming his back against the wall. "Thought ye could stand against the might of the Uruk-hai, did ya?" the creature asked, spitting in his face.

He blinked his eyes, shuddering as the vile liquid ran down his face.

"Well, ye'll soon learn 'ow wrong you were!" The orcs laughed and began to beat him.

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"Throw it in, Mister Frodo!" Sam cried, desperately.

There was a strange, vagrant look in the ringbearer's pale blue eyes. It disturbed his friend. Could Frodo have...? No, that was impossible.

But the hobbit's worst suspicions were confirmed when Frodo said, "The Ring is mine." He broke the chain, bringing the golden circlet to his finger, a strange, menacing gleam in his eyes.

"No!" Sam cried, but his voice was drowned out by the screeching of the Nazgul. The great fell beast flew down, and he covered his ears as its hideous voice shrieked again.

Frodo was focused on nothing but the Ring. Closer and closer it moved to his finger. And then it happened.

Sam forced himself not to watch as the wraith raised its weapon, and he closed his eyes with a cry of dismay. He heard it descend through the air and collide with something. Then Frodo screamed in agony.

He opened his eyes again just in time to see Frodo, his hand cut from his body, hurtle backwards into the fires of Orodruin.

The last thing he saw and felt was a feeling of terrible dread as the Nazgul took the Ring.

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Aragorn ducked an orc blade, dispatching his attacker. But this battle was quite hopeless. There were so many orcs, so few men. It was only to buy Frodo a little time, perhaps just enough to enable him to complete the quest. His friends fought beside him, and this fact gave him the strength to carry on.

When the Nazgul left, he felt relief, but only for a moment, as he watched them fly above Mordor. There could be only one thing that drew them away.

His momentary distraction enabled him to be knocked aside by his enemy's blade, knocked cold on the ground.

When he opened his eyes, he saw a troll's foot looming above him. It stepped down on him, crushing his chest. He struggled to breathe, ready to give up.

Then he heard Legolas' voice. He looked up and saw the others there. Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, Pippin, and Eomer. He took out his dagger and stabbed the troll's foot viciously.

When the pressure was lifted, Aragorn sighed in relief and began to rise to his feet. But when he opened his eyes, he stopped, his blood running cold. There, before him, stood a tall, evil form in black armor. The One Ring was on his finger. "Sauron..." He breathed, in dread. Their diversion had done nothing.

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Faramir and Eowyn stood together in Minas Tirith. They looked out over the fields helplessly, wishing that they could be fighting alongside the others. But that was not to be. They were not yet fully healed from their wounds.

Faramir took her hand in his. "They will return," he said, as much to convince himself as to convince her of it, "The halflings' Quest will succeed. And Middle Earth will be saved."

She looked at him. "If only I could be sure," she replied.

They stayed there in silence for a while, wishing they could know what was happening. Suddenly, the darkness around the city fell, and grew greater than ever before. The steward and the shieldmaiden looked upward simultaneously, in fear and dread.

"They have failed..." Faramir breathed, "No. It is not possible."

Merry Brandybuck came out to them, breathing hard. "Lord Faramir, Eowyn," he gasped, "Something terrible has just happened!"

Faramir turned to him, his eyes still staring at nothing in particular. He could think of no way to put it more nicely to the halfling. "The Quest has failed," he whispered, "The Ring has returned to its master." His eyes glistening and his face pale, he added, "And, more than likely, Frodo and Samwise are dead."

"Dead?" asked Merry in dismay, "It is not possible!" He took to staring off the balcony with them. "It is not true..."

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Aragorn was dragged roughly to his feet. "If you surrender now," Sauron rumbled, "I may have a little mercy on you. And grant you a quick death. Simply call your army off. It is futile anyway."

Aragorn felt his bravery melt. He could be killed at this very moment. The one who touched him was the embodiment of evil itself. But he would not back down. "No," he said, as loudly as he dared, "Never."

"Have it your way then, Heir of Isildur," the Dark Lord scoffed, throwing Aragorn down roughly.

That was all that Aragorn remembered of the horrible day. His head struck a rock and he lost consciousness.

There was no hope left for Arda.

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To be Continued...

A/N: This is a random idea I had. At a random time. I'm not sure how good it is, but I think it may be different. There are not many Sauron-gets-the-ring stories out there, so I decided I'd write one. This will be VERY AU. In more ways than just the obvious. You'll see as it unfolds...

Please review! Constructive criticism please, no flames.

I hope you enjoy it! To all angst-lovers, this will be VERY angsty.

I have NOT abandoned 'A Tale of Two Rangers.' Or 'In His Stead,' for that matter, though I've been having significant writers block on the latter. Chapter Ten of A Tale of Two Rangers should be up soon.

~Luthien