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Story Data

Posted November 10, 2006

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Series: The Edge of a Knife

Title: Another Path to Tread

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.

Rating: PG-13.

Summary: A:tS, LotR. When all other courses have been weighed, apparent folly may prove the only path worth taking. 600 words.

Spoilers: Angel post-"Not Fade Away"; AU for LOTR.

Over the many millennia following the final triumph of Sauron over the peoples of Arda Marred, the power of the Valar in the native lands of Ilúvatar's children slowly dwindled. As time passed and those who remembered their names all perished or passed into the Uttermost West, their influence fell further and further into myth, until they were able to directly meddle only in the lives of a handful of Men whose part-Elven ancestors they had kept sheltered during the Great Fall.

The bloodline of Aragorn Elessar, who had reclaimed the scepter of Arnor barely long enough to fight a rearguard action while its peoples fled the coming slaughter, and his wife, Arwen Evenstar, who had defied her father's wishes to follow her heart, was the focus of their limited interference. The sons of their son were preserved through the long eons in an unbroken chain; for good or ill, they each were marked for destinies greater than those of other Men. In them was embodied one last spark of hope that all, perhaps, was not lost, the faintest echo of long-forgotten Númenor.

Despite changes in name and rank, despite the family's ignorance of their history and responsibilities, they were of Luthien's line, which it was said of old would never fail, and in that truism all the Valar's plans for the future were based. The last of the heirs born within the twentieth century of the Western calendar of the fifth age of Man, was especially exemplary of that unusual heritage; he embodied more potential and danger both than any other of his ancestors in many years. From their vantage point in their mystically hidden realm, they watched his tempering with impatience and a trace of fear: the Seers among the Elves had suspected since his earliest childhood that in the forging or breaking of him the final fate of the second-born of Arda might well be decided.

The rebirth of the ruler of the other-dimensional army Sauron had summoned to sweep his enemies from Middle-earth in the shell of young Wesley's beloved was one of the final signposts warning that that End was near. The resurfacing of the One Ring, in the possession of an insignificant evil on the opposite side of the world, was another. Surreptitiously, so as to avoid notice of the Beings in Power over the mortal world, the Valar responded to these threats by lending the damaged Man what help they could: needful knowledge always unasked-for at his fingertips, and an increase in his magical ability. But even that was not enough. When he struggled against the dark Warlock, Vail, his might was not sufficient to prevail: Wesley perished painfully with neither heir nor victory on the horizon, and for one interminable moment all seemed lost.

Until Illyria acted. The Warlock was killed, the Ring retrieved, the god-king's worshippers called upon as a pool of power-- and life was breathed back into the body of their Champion. She had snatched a possibility of victory from the jaws of defeat, a development no-one had been expecting.

The Valar watched Illyria slide the Ring on her finger and did nothing to stop her; instead, they waited eagerly as she rolled up Time like a curl of ribbon on a spool. For they knew that when all other courses have been weighed, apparent folly may prove the only path worth taking: and so the chessboard reset itself, intact and whole, with two extra pieces on the board.

Time ran forward again. And Wesley Wyndam-Pryce took the first breath of his second life in the forests of Eriador.


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