Shadow King

Author: Claudia

Nominator: Claudia

2008 Award Category: Genres: Alternate Universe: Angst/Tragedy - Third Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: Hurt/no comfort, severe angst

Summary: A shadow version of the King's coronation...if Aragorn had the Ring.

Read the Story

Reviewed by: Elleth  ✧  Score: 10

Chilling to the bone, Claudia retells the crowning of the King of Gondor as it might have been, had things gone otherwise during the quest. She skillfully narrates the story from the viewpoint of Frodo, and while it might have been easy to neglect a buildup of atmosphere and suspense in telling the story from a character's PoV, she does so masterfully. The prospect here, of Aragorn claiming the One Ring, is as black as the sky above Minas Tirith, and the images she draws up are more terrifying than the journey of Frodo and Sam through Mordor: Aragorn fallen from grace, but retaining enough of his power and nobility to heal willingly, promise and bring peace (a version of it), and establish himself as King - and punish cruelly for any diverging thought or attempt to regain the Ring. At all times the reader can trace the Aragorn they know and love from the books or the movies, and in the story finds all of his admirable qualities, but shaken and twisted by Sauron's Ring. The Hobbit's voice also rings (please pardon the pun) true, and shows a hint of that apparently unconquerable optimism that in the source material drove him to complete the quest: If they all must fall, then at least Rivendell will fall last and Bilbo may be spared - for a while. It is easy to believe, like it has been said in the story, that this is really the end of the world- the only hope, perhaps, the return of Gandalf. I would very much like to see a continuiation of this, that could perhaps turn it to a good end still. But even so, I recommend this story highly if you like darkfic. Well done.

Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger  ✧  Score: 10

Ooo, very dark and very tragic. I love how this works in parallel with canon. There are similar lines and similar actions, but it's horribly tainted. Faramir's question to the people of Minas Tirith regarding Aragorn's kingship was especially grim. Just a few well-placed words really knock home the horror of what's happening. I love the subtle narration of how the people ["managed"] to say yes. That was a wonderfully grim touch. Now Faramir's joyful shout of ["Behold the King!"] has such ominous tones to it. And really, that's where the story gets its power. Extremes are best exemplified by using contrast, and the contrast to such a dark tragedy is hope. Which could have presented something of a problem, because there is no hope to be found in this story. That much is abundantly clear right from the start, and Frodo's fractured remembrances of the road to Minas Tirith only serve to strengthen the feeling of utter despair. But Claudia proves to be both a skilled and a shrewd author, because even without hope in this story, there is definitely contrast, and that contrast lies in Tolkien's canon. By picking the most celebratory moments from the books for imitation, Claudia provides instant contrast that makes an already dark AU even darker. And the result is a chilling, bleak look at a terrible future. Fantastic story!

Reviewed by: Imhiriel  ✧  Score: 8

What a truly horrific version of "what if"! It is particularly effective because it uses images and expectations from the true canon events and twists them around, reminding us just how narrow the edge was on which the Quest managed to succeed despite all the odds against it. I kept gritting my teeth as the story unfolded, it was so painful to read the reversal of what "normally" was such a supreme moment of triumph and hope and celebration. The fear and utter desolation was palpable. Aragorn's characterisation rings chillingly true, (ab)using his strengths and virtues tainted under the influence of the evil of the Ring. It perfectly embodies Legolas' assertion in RotK, The Last Debate ["how great and terrible a Lord he might have become in the strength of his will, had he taken the Ring to himself."]. And still Frodo in his despair longs for the Ring, another point for pity. Given my interest in stories about the White Tree(s), I was intrigued by how much even the canonical fact of the barren tree can be changed that it seems not just a sad reflection of the slow decline of Gondor through the millenia, but a specifically blatant example of the desecration of all that is good.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 7

[Naught for naught does Mordor fear him], Legolas remarked, and right he was. And what Mordor and its lord fear, the rest of us mere mortals should fear as well: Aragorn with the Ring is the nightmare scenario for many, and here we see why. I can all too easily imagine this scene, so vividly described and bookended by the image of the dead White Tree. More than just innocuously embalmed, its death throes are images of putrefaction, dying spiders, barrow-wights - just in case anyone had any doubt as to the precise measure of disaster. Faramir's participation in this obscenely staged power ritual is another indicator of what the Ring could achieve, given a host with Aragorn's strength of will: Frodo notes that there is nothing left to steer them on a wise course, and Faramir appears as the very symbol of the truth of that thought: Faramir, who is so well-renowned for wisdom, has been cowed enough to abandon that native gift. Well portrayed and chilling!

Reviewed by: crowdaughter  ✧  Score: 6

A truly chilling story, with a dark vision of an Aragorn at far beyond the way we know him from canon - and yet, chillingly and disquietingly possible and close to canon itself. It is Legolas who says at one point in LOTR that he looked at Aragorn and saw what a terrible ruler Elessar couild have become, if he had taken the Ring. In this tale, we see what Aragorn might have become in that case. It is as chilling as clever a move to let us see that dark alternative out of the eyes of Frodo. Yet the most chilling image, for me, I believe, was the dead branch of the White tree, at the end. Hope is truly gone, from this version of Middle Earth. An AU at it's best, and as an AU should be: firmly grounded on the base of canon, and very believable, but fearlessly exploring even the worst possible development. Great stuff! Thank you for writing and sharing!

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 5

The King has come again to Gondor--but at the cost of all that Gondor held dear. For Aragorn has fallen to the Ring's call, and had convinced the Ringbearer to lend him the Ring--and there is little to indicate that he will ever return the loan. Nay, Frodo of the Seven Fingers has reason to regret his weakness, as do all others. A horrible but fascinating look at what Might Have Been as we consider to what Gondor might have come had the Ring been able to capture Aragorn's attention rather than Boromir's. Having considered in one of my own tales Frodo's realization that he could not hope to defy the northern Ranger as he could the southern Captain, I see this as all too likely a scenario. Well, well recommended.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 3

A sad and scary tale featuring Aragorn as Lord of Gondor, Lord of the Ring, and Lord of the Nazgul. All of those assembled at Minas Tirith for the coronation are nervous, from Frodo to Faramir. I'd be nervous too. Sheesh, there goes the neighborhood. Seriously, a good AU tale with some beautiful, sinister imagery and terrifying flashbacks.

Reviewed by: Antane  ✧  Score: 3

A very dark AU and most definitely one I am glad didn't come about. For Frodo never would get his precious back though I don't doubt he would continue to try and lose more and more of himself and that twisted king would continue to heal what was left extending the torment. No comfort indeed for any of them.

Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel  ✧  Score: 3

Gracious, this was a hideously angsty AU - a version of Aragorn's coronation in which the Ring hasn't been destroyed because Aragorn claimed it. Not for the faint of heart, that's for certain. This gave me shivers.

Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland  ✧  Score: 3

A truly chilling tale which made me shiver to read it.A man of Aragorn's strength would be very bad indeed if he chose the dark side as Legolas remarks. I'm so glad Tolkien's Aragorn turned out very differently,but enjoyed,if that is quite the right word,this well written glimpse of how things might have been,had Aragorn had less strength of character.

Reviewed by: Violin Ghost  ✧  Score: 2

That was truly chilling, especially the part about Aragorn coldly chopping Frodo's fingers off and then "tenderly" bandaging them.

Reviewed by: Marta  ✧  Score: 2

Very chilling, but in a good way! You showed the depths of depravity that the Ring could drive someone to (even Aragorn!) very well.