Title: To Be Willing To Die For
Author: Raina
Summary: Some messages, some people, some causes are just simply worth dying for. One man will give the ultimate sacrifice of his life so another might live. More than one person will be effected by this, lives will be changed - but is all hope lost?
Warnings: Mentions of character death.
Author's Note: This story was inspired by the song 'No Greater Love' by Steven Curtis Chapman. Other, smaller parts of this story were inspired slightly by the song 'Hey You, I Love Your Soul' by Skillet. If one knows those songs, I am sure they can see the marks, the effects of those lyrics in this story. You have those musicians to thank for this tale.

What is this? Not a one-shot for a challenge? Can this be? Do not ask me where this came from, especially considering I have other tales I am supposed to be working on for my readers. -ducks behind Aragorn- It was his fault!


Man of courage with your message of peace
What is that look in your eyes?
Why have you come to this faraway place?
What is this story you would lay down your life to tell?
What kind of love can this be?

Trembling hands grasped weakly at the arrow that had mortally wounded him as he kneeled on the ground. Surprise flashed through the depths of his eyes, and pain slowly edged into the gray orbs. His eyes travelled to meet his attacker - no, his attackers - and his gaze filled with compassion and love, instead of hatred and anger that one would expect to find in the eyes of one that is looking upon their killer even as they die.

The look in the dying man's eyes brought his attackers up short. What was this look in his eyes? What did it mean? How could there be that undying love and sorrow and forgiveness in his fading eyes when they had killed him?

Aragorn's mouth opened and closed slightly as he fought to draw in breath. He reached out weakly as one of his killers approached him. The other man grasped the ranger's hand and placed another hand on Aragorn's shoulder. Strider leaned against the other man as he fought to stay upright. "I...," the ranger tried to speak but pain laced sharply through his consciousness, sapping his strength. Slowly, Aragorn began to crumple towards the ground.

"Easy now," the other man helped to make sure Aragorn didn't injure himself further as he lowered the ranger to the ground. "Brave man... I do not understand... Why did you do this - why have you come here? Why did you lay down your life? What is this story you would tell at all costs?"

Aragorn stared up at the man, confused. Why had they suddenly changed? A moment ago they would no sooner willingly drink poison than to talk to him. But he would take his chances. "Caer... it is about Caer."

The man beside Aragorn stiffened. Caer was a young man that had murdered the town leader - he was one of the most hunted men around this part of Minhiriath. Of course, they had all known that Strider was associating with the young man - it was part of the reason why they had shot him. He could not be trusted, they had all deemed. But there was something about the ranger, something about the look in his eyes, that had brought Aderyn forward to be with Strider even as he died.

"He didn't kill Jago, your town leader." Aragorn relayed his information. "I have evidence that proves his innocence. Do not kill Caer."

Aderyn hesitated. He wanted to believe Strider. But there was so much that pointed to Caer... "Evidence that proves his innocence, you say?"

The ranger nodded before stiffening and gasping with all his might for more breath. He had to prove Caer's impeccability before he gave up the ghost - he had to bring peace between these townspeople and the young man. Shifting to pull out the required proof - the evidence that would be a message of peace to them all - he closed his eyes tightly against the pain and struggled for his breath once more. "Here." Strider rasped out.

There is no greater love than this
There is no greater gift that can ever be given
To be willing to die so another might live
There is no greater love than this

Aderyn's eyes glistened with tears as he looked at the corroboration the ranger presented to him. Aragorn's hand gripped his arm with surprising strength.

"Don't let Caer hang. He has committed no crime." The ranger pleaded with the human before him. "Please."

Aderyn swallowed the lump in his throat as he looked at Strider who with his last breath and strength was begging for the life of another to be left intact. "Why do you do this?"

Strider coughed hard, blood coating his mouth as he struggled with his breathing. "Just don't... let... Caer hang... please!" His life was fading quickly now, he could feel it. The pain was receding, but he knew before his life was completely gone he had to be assured that Caer would not hang. Otherwise, all of this would be for naught.

"He will not hang." Aderyn assured the dying man. If this was the only comfort he could bring the selfless human, then he would give it to him. Surely, there was no greater love than what this man had shown him. And if it meant his own life as well to keep his promise to the dying ranger, then Aderyn would gladly give it.

"What did he say, Aderyn?" Ivorr approached the two and Aderyn stood to his feet, proffering the proof Strider had given him. Several of the other men drew nearer, one of them dropping down by the ranger's side, an unexplainable look in his eyes as he checked Strider over.

"Caer is innocent, and this ranger has given his life to prove this." He levelled a strong gaze at the older man's eyes. After a moment, Aderyn's gaze slipped back down to the ranger and he choked at what he saw. Tears began to fall, unchecked, unashamed. He was amazed at all that had happened.

Strider had given his life, and even when they had killed him he had still loved them and had forgiven them. Aderyn's life would be forever touched by this.

--

Broken hearted from all you have lost
How can you sing through your tears?
What is this music that can bear such a cost?
What is this fire that grows stronger against the wind?
What kind of flame can this be?

The tears that fell spoke of deep loss, and an empty gaze stared out unseeingly at the beautiful view before them. But there was no comfort to be found in the beauty of Rivendell, and Elrond's breath caught in his throat as his heart inside felt as if it had broken into a million tiny pieces.

A fortnight past they had received a missive, via Halbarad, from a sorrowed and guilt-filled young man, informing them that Strider, Ranger of the North, had given up his life to save the young man's. Young Caer had apologized profusely, and told them he had tried to persuade Strider from going to the townspeople on his behalf, but quite obviously to no avail.

Elrond could still recall the grief stricken looks that immediately accompanied the twins' expressions - looks that mirrored the shattering of his heart. His youngest... Elrond was not sure he could bare the thought of his son being taken from them all so early in his life. The last of Isildur's heirs killed, all because of townspeople that were a little too quick to judge and slow to compassion. The world's last hope, but more importantly his sons' hope - his hope - had been stripped brutally away from everyone by Death's cold hands.

But despite his heartache at all he had lost, Elrond found a warm feeling deep inside at how Aragorn had chosen to die. Elrond could not have asked for a more nobler or honourable death for his son, the one that had mended his family when it had been cracked apart by tragedy.

Stepping closer to the balustrade, the Lord of Rivendell found himself singing softly to no one in particular. A song of gratitude, a song of praise poured forth from his lips, creeping up from deep inside the smashed fragments of his heart.

Inside the room to which the balcony Elrond stood upon belonged, Elladan and Elrohir lounged upon a couch, their grief making manifestation of itself. The older of the twins had curled up in a corner of the lounge, sinking deep inside of himself. Elrohir lay beside his twin, his head resting just against Elladan's leg. Elrohir drew comfort from this contact, though Elladan found that he didn't have any consolation to give anyone, least of all himself.

When the soft melody of their father reached Elladan's ears, his gaze lifted to look through the open balcony window to the world outside. For several days the skies above had been overshadowed and there had been scattered showers, but in a lull in the rain their father had stepped out onto the enclosed, projecting platform.

Elladan was slouching from the waist up against the arm of the couch, and when he heard the soft voice singing from the veranda he slowly straightened out. Elrohir, having felt his brother's muscles tighten, lifted his head to allow his twin to stand. Curious at what Elladan was doing, Elrohir followed his brother's gaze out to their father. Slowly standing as well, the younger twin trailed his brother toward the balcony door.

The twins exchanged glances, wondering how their father could be lifting his voice in praise through the tears of grief they all shed. But as they listened to the words, Elladan and Elrohir began to understand. The thoughts that swam through their heads began to take on a course their father's had only moments before. And they understood.

Elrohir was the first to join Elrond's song.

They all knew that if they did not look upon the great deed their Estel had done that brought about his death, they would lose themselves to grief. The twins knew they couldn't do it again, if they lost themselves in their sorrow like they had when their mother sailed then it would destroy them. Elrond was of like mind.

The three did not need foresight to tell them that it was not their time to depart Middle Earth. But, it had been so much easier to stay in Arda when they had Estel; with him gone, it would be harder by tenfold to linger in these lands.

It was a strange thing - unexplainable - that as they sang their spirits lifted. They were far from soaring, but the sting of depression and the sea of sorrow that threatened to drown them, crush them, kill them had lessened. At the same time, though, their tears began to fall even more. Elrohir broke off singing first and leaned against his brother for support as he began to cry once more.

Elrond turned and approached his sons, wrapping his arms around their shoulders and resting his head against their own foreheads. For a time they just stood there, crying softly - yet still there rose a melody on the wind, though they had ceased to carry on the song. Their hearts still sang, deep and mournful. It sorrowed them that the people that had killed Aragorn had been so foolish as to shoot first and ask questions later - that they had not first acted upon love and compassion instead of their own fear and prejudice.

Yet just as their Estel, they could not find it within their hearts to blame the villagers... instead they felt for the folly of the burghers.

As they stood letting their sorrow and pain seep out of them, flow around them, and float away from them, the clouds above began to break up and the Sun peeked her head through and let her rays shine upon the Peredhil family as if to try and offer condolences. There was a flame of hope, love and passion that burned within them, and, despite the hard winds and storms that had tried to put it out through the trials and tribulations of the recent days, the fire grew stronger. They would not let hate dictate them any more.

The three looked up into each others' eyes, and a strange sense of peace - even though they still ached - settled upon them. For the first time, Elrond and his sons noticed the cloud coverage was breaking up and they turned their faces to the light above.

After a while, they all suddenly turned and came to stand next the to balustrade railing - the Sun above shone her rays upon the three elves and the wind teased their hair. Though their hearts still bled, whatever came, who ever travelled thus would not find them estranged. They were willing to face whatever came next with the hope, love and passion that Aragorn had taught them when he entered their lives.

Then they heard, drifting towards them on the gentle breezes, the sound of someone approaching the valley...

The End

A/N: Some people would say that it seems unlikely how I wrote Elrond and his family, but I am not sure I quite agree. When I wrote this, at that time, I did not realise, but part of their reactions could relate to the song 'With Hope' by Steven Curtis Chapman. Therefore, I think their reactions are believable, and quite possible. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion.