Summary: what if Aragorn was raised by the dark?

2933 year, III Age

An orc glanced at the dead woman's body and spat on it before preparing to give a final blow to the child. The boy looked at him with wide open eyes full of tears but didn't try to run away.

"Back off!" a cold, almost disgusted voice sounded somewhere behind the orcs. They stepped aside, giving path to some young warrior, looking much like an elf. He approached the child and the orc and gave the latter such a glance that he considered the best to retreat as far as possible.

"Leave us alone," the warrior ordered in the same cold manner… and the orcs obeyed, though with a shade of disappointment on their faces.

"So… who are you, little one?" the elf asked, frowning as he looked around and saw the child's mother.

The boy didn't answer, only stared at the stranger just like at the orc before that.

"Don't be afraid…" the elf continued, wincing slightly and trying to touch the child's cheek. "I won't harm you… You are safe now…"

The boy pouted and hit the stranger's hand with his tiny fist.

"Oh…" the stranger smiled. "A typical Faithful one… Well, come on, you have no chances against me anyway!" with these words accompanied by a sad smile he picked the child up in his arms and carried him to the horse that stood near by, waiting for its master.

They stopped in a small deserted settlement. The boy sobbed one last time and looked up into the elf's eyes.

"What do you want with me?" he asked gloomily like an adult captive would.

"I want to help you," was the answer. "I am very sorry I was too late to stop the orcs earlier. I wanted to talk to your father… to offer… a treaty to him. But now… now I have only you… last hope, nearly lost… astel*…"

"Why do you call me so? Who are you" the child demanded.

"I am the prince of Darkness…" the warrior smiled. "But you may call me Orthenner."

"The dark are bad!" the boy stated assuredly. "And you are bad too. You will deceive and kill me."

"Why would I save you then?" the maia retorted with yet another smile, jumping off the horse with the child still in his arms.

"You want to torture me yourself."

"Oh, of course I do!" Orthenner laughed. "But first I want you to eat and sleep… you must be very tired…" he approached one of the houses and knocked some melody on the door. After some time the door squeaked opening and an elderly man peered out.

"Oh, my lord…" he bowed slightly. "How did the parley go? And what is this child for?"

"It's all finished, Gelnern… Isildur's heir is dead… as well as his wife and almost all of his people. This child is the only one I could save but…" the maia smiled sadly. "It's Arathorn's son."

"My lord," Gelnern breathed out. "It's… it's impossible! Such mishap and such luck in one day… in one event even… What are you going to do with him?"

"Care about him and raise as if he were my own child… After all it's partially my fault that he is all alone now."

The boy listened to the talk not quite understanding why the dark one wanted to raise him… and what was he going to talk about with his father. The strangest thing was that the dark one was sorry and sounded sincere about it. The dark always kill the light… why this one was sorry? That was a puzzle.

"Gelnern, may I stay at your house for the night? The kid must be exhausted and starving…"

"Of course, come in!" the man opened the door wider, letting the maia in.

"I am not going with you!" the boy tried to protest. "You are bad!"

"Ah… Faithful one…" Orthenner sighed stoically, shrugging and glancing at Gelnern. "I am going to have really hard times with this one…"

2954 year, III Age

"May I go with the others, Tano**?" a young man ran into the room.

"Where?" the maia asked, raising his head from the book. "You look… excited."

"Scouting raid… I want to go too…" Astel murmured gradually quieter and quieter. "I am not a child already!"

"You are not indeed." Orthenner watched him with amusement and slight surprise. "But why are you asking now, so suddenly? What has happened?" he remembered himself being about the same age… Maybe there was really no other reason for his excitement but the age and dreaming of adventures.

"I… no, it's not suddenly. I have asked you already, don't you remember? But you didn't want to listen…" the young man was biting his lips and looking so much like an impatient puppy that the maia laughed:

"Yes, I do remember… Two years ago, and then again… And this time I won't say "no" to you. Go… and be careful. You know I would hate to lose you…" he closed his eyes.

"Why?"

"He hasn't changed much since childhood…" Orthenner thought. "Still the same…" and said aloud. "Not mentioning that I came to loving you quite a lot, I have to keep one promise…"

"What promise, Tano? You've never told me of any promises," Astel almost forgot what he had come for.

"It's a very old promise… and it was very difficult to keep. Maybe only now I have a chance to fulfill what I had to…" the maia explained vaguely, old memories floating through his mind. The Great Wave… Tar-Miriel's frightened face… his own despairful thoughts… too late… too late to save anyone… too late to stop the disaster he himself caused…

"Forgive me," he asked her then. "Forgive me if you can for I won't be able to live in peace with myself being unforgiven…"

"Don't say so, because I won't be able to survive this to hate and curse you, maia…" the last queen of Numenor replied. "Not will the others survive…"

"And their deaths are all my fault…"

"Don't think about what is already doomed," she glanced at him with some mad hope in her eyes. "Promise me not to harm those who have a chance, who escaped this! Promise to spare the lives of the Faithful!"

He looked to the West. The wave was rising higher, to the sky, obscuring the daylight.

"I promise you."

"Swear!"

"I swear… dei Arte a gelli Ea***…" the maia could not hold back these words, so desperate and bonding him forever…

… the next moment the wave crushed on the island of Numenor, burying it forever…

Orthenner shook his head. The memories were still so bright that they hurt.

"Tano.. do you hear me?" Astel asked the third time. "What has happened to you? Tell me… what was that promise about?"

"The promise? It's a long story, tairni****… I'll tell you when you are back from the raid. Go now… By the way, who is leading you?"

"Morhonn…" Astel replied disappointedly.

"Good. Though I will worry anyway," the maia murmured watching him leave and hoping he would forget to demand the story later. And so it happened… Having returned from the raid the young man spoke only about a fair elven maiden he saw in the woods of Rivendell.

25 day of Sulime, 3019 year, III Age.

"Come forth!" they cried. "Let the Lord of the Black Land come forth! Justice shall be done upon him. For wrongfully he has made war upon Gondor and wrested its lands. Therefore the King of Gondor demands that he should atone for his evils, and depart then for ever. Come forth!"*****

The maia pressed his forehead to the cool stained-glass of the window. They have discussed the whole plan several times with Olorin's help and through the palantiri… It had to work all right. But for some reason the maia worried.

"This is the end of the war…" he whispered. "Finally… Gel-Astel******, my last hope, you've made it possible, you release me from so many bands now.. The ring will be destroyed… the promise will be fulfilled," he paused. "Only why does it hurt so much?"

He watched the Black Gate opening… and the battle… and yet he heard also quick steps somewhere in the heart of Mount Doom. Today it was proving its name well. The doom.. the fate once chosen… it could change.. it would…

.. it did.

There was a sound of mighty explosion… a wave of release energy… the Black Tower began to shake and crumble… Yes, the war was over. He was free…

For the men down there at the Black Gate his scream might sound full of rage and despair – so much pain was released in it… but there was even more joy…

Already disembodied, he flew above the battlefield watching his foster-son for some time.

"Thank you…" a barely audible whisper reached the ears of the future king of Gondor. "Thank you, Gel-Astel…"

The end

Comments:

*astel – 'hope' in the language of the dark (invented not by me though)

**tano – 'master, teacher' (the same language)

***dei Arte a gelli Ea – 'before Arda and the stars of the Ea (as the whole universe)'

****tairni – 'disciple'

***** quotation from LotR: RotK, "The Black Gate Opens"

******Gel-Astel = Gil-Estel ;) yes, in the same language as previous words.