The Price of Love

Today's Challenge:
"Darkness is only driven out with light, not more darkness."
--Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Write a story or poem or create artwork where your character battles and overcomes their darkest hour.

Title: The Price of Love
Author: Linda Hoyland 
Characters/Pairing: Aragorn,Ecthelion, Denethor,Arwen
Rating: PG 
Warnings: none
Book/Source: LOTR book-verse 
Disclaimer - These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain. 

Aragorn sat in his cabin, staring through the porthole. They would soon reach land and he would have to leave its sanctuary. Above him, he could hear his comrades still celebrating their victory over the Corsairs far into the night.

If only he could return with them and deliver the tidings of victory himself to Ecthelion! He loved the old Steward dearly, and knew that love was returned. Why, though did love have to be so destructive? The first man he had loved as a father was now somewhat cold towards him because of his love for Arwen. He had come to Gondor in the hope of winning renown and with it the love of Elrond's daughter and his foster father's consent to woo her.

He had found the honours he sought in Gondor and more,the fatherly love of her Steward, Ecthelion. Aragorn had never sought to take Ecthelion's love from his son and heir, Denethor,but despite his attempts to be but a faithful Captain, his bond with the Steward had grown. Aragorn could imagine the father he had never known as being not unlike the Steward, while Ecthelion had yearned for someone who would give him the warmth and affection that Denethor was so loth to express.

Denethor had grown to hate Aragorn for the bond that had formed with his father and had set about trying to discover his true identity. Aragorn was certain now that Denethor knew he was heir to the throne of Gondor, as did his father. What he feared was the use either might make of that knowledge.

Ecthelion loved him, maybe more than he loved the son of his loins;the old Steward also loved Gondor and if he thought a King would renew her will to fight against Mordor, he might well offer the crown to his favourite Captain in the aftermath of so great a victory. That was,if Thorongil could produce the proofs that he were indeed Isildur's heir. He would move swiftly while he were still Steward,knowing his son had other plans.

As for Denethor, Aragorn was certain that the Ecthelion's heir was doing all in his power to discredit him. As well as Denethor's open attempts to damage his reputation,there had been too many pretty girls in taverns offering themselves to him, and strangers trying to get him to overindulge in drink for such matters to be mere coincidences. If Denethor could not discredit him, what else might he do, slip a knife under his ribs in a dark alley, challenge him to open combat? He doubted the former, though jealousy could drive a man mad, while the latter could lead to war and brother fighting against brother. Such a fatally weakened realm would then fall easily into Sauron's clutches.

Aragorn knew he must leave, but to do so now! He cared about his men and many were good friends. It would hurt Ecthelion so much,maybe damage his already failing health. Would the old man ever understand that Aragorn had acted out of love both for him and for Gondor by leaving?

Then if he left now would he ever return? Denethor would never offer him the crown. Would his son be any different or even his grandson? It would be too late to win Arwen's hand in marriage. How could he ask her to forsake the life of the Elder for a few short years at his side?

Aragorn looked out again. They were about to make land at Dol Amroth. The white sands and the great castle gleamed in the moonlight. This land was so fair!

The moon then vanished behind a cloud plunging everywhere into darkness. Aragorn felt the darkness in his heart was even deeper. Surely this was his grimmest hour.

He placed letters and reports he had written on the table in his cabin, including a note for Ecthelion. He yearned to say far more than the cold brief words. It was too dangerous, though as he knew Denethor would read it. Then gathering his belongings together, he prepared to slip away into the night.

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