michelle [at] waking-vision.comSummary:
Be careful what you wish for. It might lead you down a path you are not prepared to take.Beta:
For BtVS this story takes place during season 3, it veers off just after "The Wish". For LOTR the time is a bit harder to determine. In canon it would be TA 3017, but since I shuffled around certain events (or deleted them to begin with) I would say it's quite a bit earlier.Rating:
AU, so much so it's not even funny anymore. Also, character death.Disclaimer:
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" belongs to Joss Whedon, the WB and UPN. Aragorn, Gollum and Middle Earth belong to Tolkien and New Line. And it were better if the ring belonged to no one. Author's Note:
This is a LOTR/BtVS crossover. For those not familiar with BtVS and Anyanka, I tried to include enough information in the beginning to let you know what her character is all about. Additionally, Frodo's quote is of course taken directly from "Fellowship of the Ring". Written for the Teitho Contest
"If I could turn back Time".Doom is the House without the Door.
What a crap week. Yeah, there was no other word for it: utter crap. It had all started out so nicely for Anyanka. Sunnydale had seemed the perfect Californian town, but under the shiny surface lurked dangers and demons and death. Delightful. There was so much potential there; the town even had its own Hellmouth, for God's sake! The white hats always seemed to prevail, though, maintaining a little head start on the demons and other nasties. Anyanka wanted to even the odds, give the bad guys a chance to catch up and turn this town into living hell.
Fulfilling that girl's wish - What was her name? Cadencia? Corona? - had been one of her best jobs. It had looked innocent enough: eliminate the Slayer's presence from the town. But the repercussions! Sunnydale had suddenly looked like purgatory, a dark and hopeless place where survival was not at all guaranteed. The girl had died first,; sucked dry by two of her former friends - now belonging to the bloodsucking undead. The rest of the gang had killed each other in a fight of epic proportions. Anyanka had actually been able to hear the Slayer's neck snap. It would be one of her fondest memories.
It was rare that one wish turned a world so completely upside down. But when it happened it was a wonder to behold and Anyanka had been more than proud of her work. In the end, being a vengeance demon was not a job, but a profession - a calling for her! Spreading chaos and giving people's lives a dark twist was what she had been doing for centuries. She revelled in her work. And she was good at it.
And then this insignificant man had to come and smash her necklace. Her power source! All her work - down the drain. The vampires, the epic fight, the sucked-dry Corona (or Corolla?). Nobody remembered. Well, that wasn't entirely true of course. Anyanka remembered. And D'Hoffryn, unfortunately. Her superior, for lack of better word.
He had scolded her, threatened to leave her in her mortal shell, strip her powers from her. She had pleaded, had made puppy-dog-eyes (that always worked) and in the end had begged on hands and knees. She had prevailed, but at what a price?
"You have forfeited your right to be a vengeance demon on Earth, Anyanka," D'Hoffryn had said and she had held her breath in anticipation. "But I have taken a liking to you and I will give you one more chance. You will be assigned to another reality, fulfilling the wishes of those who are desperate. Prove yourself."
He had vanished in a puff of smoke. Show-off, pfft! And she had found herself in a land that called itself Middle Earth ("How original is that?" she thought), with a staff in her hand. On the upper end was a gem, and she suspected this was her new power source. Nothing like her fashionable necklace that went with pretty much anything. This staff made her look like an old hag. Damn it all to the Hellmouth!
There was not much to do in this Middle Earth. The occasional wish that the crops would grow (no Walmart around here). That they would win the war. That he would marry the girl. The little hairy ones usually wished for more and tastier food, the gross dwarves wished for stones and gems, and the uber-gorgeous ones with the freaky ears wished for glossy hair (never heard of Herbal Essences, poor creatures). There was no challenge, nothing to gain in these wishes. Nothing that even came close to the havoc she'd wrecked in Sunnydale.
But then! Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, she heard the desperate call of one of those small creatures. Brown, curly hair. The largest blue eyes she'd ever seen. And large hairy feet (unattractive much?) to round the ensemble off. He stood at the banks of a river, alone, a shiny gold ring in his outstretched hand and big crocodile tears running down his cheeks. She really felt for him - except not...
He was going to say it, she could practically feel it. It was on the tip of his tongue. A wish, a wish that could actually change things. She let her mind reach out and pushed him a little, just so that he would not back down. She held the stupid staff at the ready so she'd not miss this opportunity.
And then it was there! "I wish the ring had never come to me," the smallish one said. "I wish none of this had happened."
Ha! This was her hour. She would show them all, and D'Hoffryn wouldn't have another choice but let her back into his good graces! She whirled the staff, making the gem glow, and felt her powers swirl and shift and fight to break free.
At once a whole set of possibilities appeared before her mind's eye:
There was another of the small creatures, he could keep the ring. But no, that reality had a dull ending.
She tried another: The ring in the waters of a deep river, forever gone from any living eye. That was even more boring than the one before!
The ring in the hands of a man, standing at a deep chasm. With determination, he cast the ring into the fire. No, that wasn't entertaining either!
She tried possibility after possibility until ... until she found one that had promise. Yes, she would try that one. It certainly had the potential to live up to Sunnydale.
The gem on her staff glowed in a fiery red and with a voice not entirely her own, Anyanka finally said: "Done."
And the world shifted. ~*~
Aragorn could not even tell anymore how long he had wandered the Misty Mountains. He could take a guess at the month from the blossoming flowers, however accurate that might be this far into the mountains. But the day or even the week were beyond his knowledge and had been for some time. His life had become day upon day of climbing rock, searching caves. He felt like a dwarf, surrounded by stone for miles in each direction. Aragorn longed for the lush greens of his home and he would see Rivendell soon, but it would not be a victorious homecoming.
Gandalf had summoned him those many months ago, whispering in a dark corner of the Prancing Pony of a hidden menace, of a thing they had all thought lost. He had said the Nine had been seen searching the Misty Mountains and there was talk they were looking for the One. Gandalf had his own sources and his own secrets and Aragorn could not fathom how the Istar had come by this information. But even if it was but a rumour, its origin was too grave to just ignore. If the ring was found by the Nine and brought to Mordor, Middle Earth would fall to ruin. Sauron would overrun the lands. Gondor would fall first and Rohan would follow - as would all free peoples.
Aragorn had not needed much prompting from Gandalf and the Istar had sent him to the Misty Mountains to start a search of his own. He had sworn not to fail his friend, but now, after scouring the mountains from Rivendell up to Angmar, from Angmar down to the Gap of Rohan and up again he was weary in body and soul. He had found naught, and short of turning over every rock in these accursed mountains he had searched every nook and cranny for that which he sought. He had come across small bands of orcs several times and occasionally had only narrowly escaped with his life. The darkest memory though, was of the Nazgûl. Once he had heard their screech in the far distance, confirming the rumour that the Nine were searching the Misty Mountains. He could not hope to stand up against them. So he had crouched low, his back flat against the rock, barely breathing for hours, hoping to make himself invisible in the dark of night. He had not moved until dawn, even though he had heard nothing signalling danger after midnight. Better safe than sorry, he thought, and hoped the Nine had not snatched his quarry from him.
This hope was dwindling fast now and while he neared the road that would lead him home, he knew that he had to admit defeat. It gnawed at him that he would come back to Gandalf empty-handed, that he had failed the task his friend had set for him. If the ring was found by the enemy now, it would be his fault, because he had not been good enough, thorough enough, steadfast enough.
Night was approaching fast these days and he knew should make camp for the night and rest his weary body, but something drove him on.There is a cave ahead. You remember it. Seek shelter there,
a little voice in his mind told him. Apparently, his instincts were more alert than his brain since Aragorn could not truly remember coming by a cave in this area on his way south. It could very well be, though. Aragorn had learnt early on that it could save his life listening to his instinct and following its advice. So he did not resist the call of the voice and trudged on.
His feet carried him without the help of his mind. It had been this way for the past moon. He would walk, hardly paying attention to his surroundings and suddenly his brain would catch up and he was surprised at the distance he had covered. He had lived off the sparse offerings of the mountain for too long. He needed rest, proper food, and sleep - a lot of it.
The cave mouth was a gaping hole in the mountain and the last light of the waning day illuminated what lay beyond. Aragorn had never held much love for the undergrounds, but after this misfortunate quest he would be glad if he never had to look upon a mountain again. He stepped from the warm evening into the chill of the cave and shuddered involuntarily. Walking further inside the dark and cold increased, but there was something else assaulting the ranger's senses. A feeling of dread, yet of anticipation was rolling up and down his spine. Something or someone was in here, and this other presence did not mean him well.
He was instantly alert, his body and mind waking up at once, and crouched low in the cave, making himself as small a target as possible. Orcs might have sought shelter here, and for a lone wanderer "flight" was a concept that ensured survival much more than "fight". Aragorn stilled, listening ahead, but could not hear the melee orcs tended to cause wherever they went. But he heard... something
. It sounded like a one-sided conversation and the one talking was anything but happy.
Carefully he went deeper into the cave, hiding behind protruding rock and melting into the wall until the cave opened up to a fresh-water pool, the waters mirrored in the ceiling above, painting the rock in shadow and light.
A creature was sitting at the lake's edge, a creature so strange Aragorn did a double take. He had travelled far and wide in his life, but he had never seen anything like it. It was gangly and rather hairless. It had arms and legs, but seemed to walk like a dog - on its fours. Its skin was of a sickly colour as if it had not left this cave in a long time and its body had forgotten how the rays of the sun felt. It was a repulsive creature, but at the same time pity tugged at Aragorn's heart.
It spoke, holding something in its hands Aragorn could not make out. Its voice was high-pitched and hysterical. The sound reverberated off the cave-walls, therefore the ranger could make out the gist of what was being said.
"It's going to leave us! We knows!" Here the creature clutched tighter whatever it held in its hands.
"We always been good to it. Precious! Leaves us a lone. No! No," it wailed into the darkness. And in that moment it opened its hands and Aragorn could see a plain golden ring in its palms. It looked inconspicuous and he would have dismissed it had not Gandalf sent him here for exactly that purpose. Luck had found him again and his homecoming would not be a sad one after all!
Without conscious thought involved he charged forward, his impressive sword at the ready, and lunged at the startled creature. It gave a panicked shriek that grated in his ears and then started wailing and cursing at him. He did not want to harm it at first, but it was small and wily, scrambling out of his way, biting at him, slipping from his grasp. They did not fight, they grappled and his friends would have had a lot to say about seeing the Chieftain of the Dúnedain on his hands and knees brawling with a being not even half his height and weight.Kill it, or it might still escape and take the ring with it!
the voice said and it had a point. It the larger scheme of things, the ring was more important than the creature, but he was loathe to kill it. It seemed desperate, frightened and he hesitated to kill someone unarmed.
He ignored the voice and tried to grasp the creature's hands - in vain. In the end, after the being had bitten him (hard), he lost his patience. He raised the sword in his hand and struck...
The hilt of the sword connected solidly with the creature's skull and it collapsed instantly, tightly clutching the ring even in unconsciousness. Aragorn just sat there for a moment, catching his breath and nursing his bleeding hand. He then took the elven rope from his pack and bound his captive securely.
He would take it to Rivendell, with the ring, and put both in wiser hands than his own.It is much easier to just take the ring and leave the creature here.
No. The being might have information they needed. He would take it along. And this way he would not need to touch the ring. He shuddered at the mere thought.Information? You have heard it talk. It will hardly offer coherent thought!
They needed to try. Elrond would know what to do. Or Gandalf. He was just the one to deliver what he had found.You would hurry back to them and hand them this treasure on a silver platter. The ring is in your grasp. Take it. It is yours by right!
But what fortune had the ring brought his line, he thought bitterly. It had cost his forefathers much. Elrond and Gandalf would know what to do.Elrond and Gandalf care nothing for this world. You have heard them talking about leaving for the Undying Lands.
He sighed. His family, and much of his friends were elves and it was one of his earliest fears that they would go where he could not follow and he would be bereft of their love and companionship. He shook his head. This was not important now. Those were childhood-fears he had outgrown long ago. There were more pressing matters at hand.
He looked at the unconscious creature and decided to leave for Rivendell in the morrow, not knowing where those bleak thoughts had come from.
Most of the night went by blissfully quiet, until the creature woke in the wee hours of dawn and cut Aragorn's rest short. It was cursing and wailing again, cackling evilly when it saw the hazardous bandage around Aragorn's hand. It clutched at the elven rope as if it burned and talked to the ring as if its presence comforted it. It might, Aragorn thought. The ring was a powerful thing and he would be glad to be rid of it.
They set out early, Aragorn taking the rope firmly in hand and mostly dragging the creature along, because it refused to walk. It still did talk, incessantly, revealing its name along the way: Gollum. It sounded as friendly as it was.
Gollum's idle chatter nearly drowned the voice in his head that told him to strangle the creature or push it into one of the deep crevices. He was short-tempered and snapped at Gollum. But he did not heed the voice and did not kill the critter. No, he was a merciful man, he told himself. And this one's mind had been bent beyond what it could endure. It did not deserve death for that.But the One Ring in the clutches of one so inappropriate! Its power is wasted in Gollum's hands!
No, it only had the power to destroy.It is a tool in the hands of its wielder. Think of the good a man like you could do with it! The wrongs you could set to right!
He should not think like that, he knew, but these thoughts were coming to him unbidden and unchecked. He knew what the right thing to do was: Take the creature and the ring to Rivendell, let wiser and older beings decide its fate. The ring must not be used. And still, now that the ring was within his grasp he found that his mind decided to challenge all the truths he had learnt over the years. The tiny voice in his head was persistent, whispering of different paths he might take. Those were dangerous thoughts, and he tried to push them from his mind, but he could not think past Gollum's babble and the voice in his head. He tried to ignore both, but that only caused his head to ache. And so he pressed on, eager to reach his destination and hand the responsibility over to others more able to carry it.~*~
Days had passed, Aragorn was not at all certain how many. The hours tended to blur into each other and midday looked the same as dawn to him. Somehow a grey mist lay over the lands, turning the Misty Mountains into a barren wasteland. His surroundings matched his mood. They should be nearer to Rivendell than they were at the moment. Had he lost the trail? Missed the road? Were they going in circles? He could not tell anymore. The months up in the mountains were finally taking their toll and Aragorn felt bone-weary.Why did Gandalf send you alone? That task is too big for one man to accomplish. He should have allowed you to take some of your rangers with you.
Yesterday - Or was it the day before? - he had finally come to understand that the voice in his mind was not at all his instinct. It was not the tingling in his bones that warned him of danger. It was not the hair on the back of his neck that stood on edge before an orc charged him from behind. No ... it was something more sinister. It was the ring, taking hold of his memories and fears and doubts and using them to weaken his resolve. He had known the One was a powerful weapon, but he had not anticipated this. He tried so hard to ignore its whisperings, but he could not. The voice was there day and night, in waking and in sleep. At first, he had countered its challenges, but he was too tired and weary now to keep up justifying his decisions, Gandalf's decisions and the world in general.
So the voice continued to murmur to him, repeating itself in endless succession and in horror he noticed that he forgot how he would counter and that its whisperings started to make ... sense.Take the ring. Denethor will never allow a king to return to Minas Tirith. With the One however, he will not be able to refuse you. You can bring Gondor back to its former splendour.
Yes. Gondor needed her king. Even Ecthelion had subtly admitted as much, had all but openly asked him to stay. But he had refused. The time had not been right.The time is right now. The days are darkening. You need to act soon or there will be no kingdom to come back to.
But not with the ring on his finger! "Not like this!" he replied vehemently and Gollum looked at him oddly.
"It leaves us, precious!" the critter accused again like he had done ever since Aragorn had captured it. The creature was trying his temper.Gollum is unimportant. The ring, the ring is what counts! Imagine what power you would have ...
And the voice started to recount again how his life - how everybody's life - could be bettered because of the One. No one could stand against him, and he could ride into Minas Tirith in splendour, wearing the crown of Numenor. And you could marry your queen,
the voice whispered. Elrond is cruel indeed to forbid you that which you most desire.
Elrond has his reasons, he argued weakly.Selfish reasons. You know he loves her more than you.
No. It was not true. None of it was true. "No," he said aloud. And again, "no," not caring that Gollum became agitated again.You know I am right. Elrond will not grant you your wish. I will.
And try as he might, Aragorn could say nothing to that.
It went on like that. For days the ring was speaking to him and he became deaf to the voice of reason. Yes, he remembered Isildur's fate, betrayed by the evil of the One Ring. But he was stronger than Isildur, was a better man, would be a better king. And the ring would aid him in his endeavours. Elrond would be proud to see a king returned to Minas Tirith. He would give Aragorn his daughter in marriage. He would rule Gondor and be a just leader.Yes, that will be your fate.
Yes. Then you just have to stretch out your hand. Do it, and this glorious future will be yours.
In a last untouched corner of his mind the thought prevailed that he was about to claim the life of another for the wrong reasons. He could reach his goals differently, honourably. But the power of the One swept away those thoughts in a mighty torrent and all that was left was the wish to hold that simple gold band in his hands. Feel the cool metal, its weight on his finger. Be the one to wield the mighty weapon. He could do it. He knew he could.
Gollum was still bound with the elven rope he had had in his pack. The rope was slung around his neck and he led the creature along like one would a horse or a dog. Gollum would screech and rant from time to time, clutch at the rope in misery, but he seemed to have given in to his fate in the end. But he still had the ring and Aragorn would remedy that fact.
Without warning he grasped the rope tight, drawing Gollum to him. He took the pitiful creature with his bare hands, shaking it, crushing it. He hands came around the scrawny neck and without conscious thought involved he began to press down, cutting off the creature's airway.
Gollum's large eyes became even larger, and his hands clutched at Aragorn's clothing, his hands, his face, his hair and he felt tainted wherever Gollum had touched.
"Traitor!" Gollum hissed with his last breath and then said no more.Yes. You have done the right thing. Take up your reward.
And Aragorn pried the ring from Gollum's hand and as soon as the One was in his grasp all his doubts and fears vanished. All became clear. And he could not believe how he had ever listened to Elrond and Gandalf, when the ring offered the greater wisdom.
He kept the ring in his bare hands, wanting to feel its touch on his skin. He took up his belongings and set out again. Away from Rivendell. He did not spare Gollum another glance.~*~
Anyanka was pleased with her new reality. Oh hell, she was ecstatic! The changes she had made had only begun to take effect, but already a life had been lost. And soon, things in Middle Earth would become darker, more sinister and it would be because of her. She had not lost her touch. Oh, on the contrary! From the look of things this could even beat Sunnydale. That had only been a town, one God forsaken spot in America no one was likely to miss. But this? This was a whole continent, a world in itself, and all of it would be swept away in a tidal wave of war and suffering pretty soon. There would be an avalanche and only in a few month's time, Middle Earth as these creatures knew it, would be no more.
And all because of one wish. One wish uttered in despair, without thought of the consequences. The darkness that was brewing in Middle Earth would swallow the little creature with the big blue eyes - just like it would swallow everything else.
And Anyanka leant back again to enjoy her creation. She would not miss this for the world!- The End