1. Chapter One
The line of Isildur having failed, they urged me to proclaim myself King. But it was a title I forbore to take, being content with Prince. The aspiration to be led is not the same as to obey – they were a people born of disobedience and whomsoever they might choose to lead them, they were not inclined to do as they were bidden. At its best such inclination reveals itself as spirit... at its worst as treachery. As Prince of Cardolan, I experienced the worst.
Then along It came. A gift of order in a disordered world.
Nine rings the Lord of Gifts bestowed upon the kings of men. The rings conferred long life, but not all who received them are still alive. Those that are possess a life that is no life at all – they are but wraiths dwelling in the shadows. Yet some of the ring-bearers died, as men are wont to do, from battle and intrigue – and so their rings passed on to others. When Isildur possessed the One, it drew the lesser rings to itself, and one indeed entered the regalia of Cardolan, with guardians of little speech and much discretion.
“Take it, my Prince,” said the gnarled old chamberlain. “It has been kept hidden even from the former kings. Great Isildur decreed to his sons that none but whom the elders judged worthy should wear the lesser rings. And they were only to be ceded up in time of greatest need.”
The ring conferred authority upon me. Though thrust to the fore by the men of Cardolan, to no descent from Isildur could I lay claim. My lineage it happened was far older, but I was my own man, king over but a single subject. Authority in men’s eyes was what I badly needed – the authority to command that they seek their own greater good.
Now authority is naught but the perception of power, as colour is naught but the perception of light’s vibration. Yet man relies on the sensation of colour to make such vibration apparent. And so it is a strange thing: that by pressing the eyes, colours can be made to appear in the absence of light. And that is true of authority too – especially the might which is conferred by rings. Its nexus with true power might well be nothing but a play with mirrors.
From whence, then, sprang the ring’s might, if it were not from true discretionary power?
As authority is apt to do, it cascaded down by stages. From the sky, or so we nine kings fondly thought. Snatched by Fëanor from the very stars, imprisoned in the metals that he wrought. But the Lord of Gifts had deceived us all. In secret he had forged a ring of his own blood to displace the stars. Ours was but delegated might – ours were but shadows of that One Ring.
So I, whose chief delight it was to gambol through the wild woods, rejoicing beneath the sky, found myself by degrees drawn into the machinations of power. Fire is power and power is fire. Its very life is to devour. It is in truth no more than the eating up of its fuel.
But just as fire remains alive by finding ever more to burn, so a man who rules must feed his power. If he forbears to devour his neighbours then he must devour his own people. To defend his lands he must send men to their deaths, leaving orphans sobbing, widows weeping in their lonely beds. For the people demand of him peace in their lives and freedom from terror. So he must make war first upon one group, then another – whomsoever now the people fear. Yet war breeds injustice, injustice breeds resentment and resentment breeds foes. And so new foes continually arise to replenish those who fall. To feed his fire a man of power must sow dragon’s teeth – and reap a harvest of armed men.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.