Chapter Thirty-One: Part Three

……………

Legolas was gone. Yet, Amoran was the one who was truly leaving. It was a beautiful, early summer day. There was a sweet breeze passing by the opening of the cave where the Mirkwood Elves made their home. They were preparing for a summer festival. This one apparently lasted longer than the winter festival Amoran enjoyed. The preparations began weeks in advance and the sweets flavored the air in holiday. Off in a small grove where the light broke through the thatch of the forest ceiling, Amoran and Nichae stood with two horses. She was repositioning Jasphine in a sling while Nichae spoke in his native tongue to the horses that were quiet and responsive; nodding their heads and tossing their manes.

"I am unsure of what to say."

Amoran looked up from Jasphine's sleeping face to Nichae and smiled. "Do you have to say anything, Nichae?"

He smiled in reply and led the saddled horse to Amoran's side. "It only seems right. I feel like I am stealing you away."

"Don't," she said simply.

"Lireal said that yours was a tragic romance and that we should try to ease your pain in whichever fashion possible. She said that I should lend myself to your position," he said, his eyes on the horse, almost uncomfortable with speaking to Amoran his wife's words.

"First I was a barkeep's daughter. Then I was a thief. Then I was a woman with a price.Now I am a tragedy. Sometimes I wonder why. Why this? Why me? Why do I do this to me? There were moments in between where there was a promise of something more. And each time, I distanced the person who could have given it to me. There was Halla. When I happened upon him, he could have saved me. I still could have turned back. I was young enough then. I could have gone home. But instead, like the little thief I am, I tried to steal from him. And I forced him to brand me. There certainly was no going back from that. Then there was Jasphine. A horrible situation gave me a daughter and I abandoned her. I could have been a real mother. And then there was Legolas . . . I still do not understand what I did wrong. I had an Elven prince! But I still wanted more. I am no tragedy, Nichae. I am selfish and greedy and a horrible example of Man." Amoran paused and was surprised to feel tears in her eyes. She took a long breath before adding, "I disgust me."

"He loves you," Nichae said, patting the horse without thought. "In some fashion."

Amoran went still.

"He has never said that," she replied, pointing a finger at Nichae. She could hear her heart in her ears. Her blood was pounding. There was no reason for her to be taking these words with such intensity. "And it is not your place to say."

"I can see it in his eyes."

"Should we not be on our way already?"

"His father saw it too."

"'Tis nearly midday. I knew we should have left last night."

"That is what King Thranduil feared, what he saw in Legolas. Not in you."

Amoran sighed. "Why are you saying this, Nichae?"

Nichae looked back to the horse as if he was going to talk to it again, instead of Amoran. Normally, she wouldn't mind because the Elf seemed quite taken with the animals. But now she felt tormented by what the Elf was saying and he didn't even have the decency to look her in the eye.

"To answer your why," he replied. "This time, it was not you that took you from the person that could have saved you and it was not your fault. You cannot be held responsible for what the king saw in Legolas. This time, it simply was not meant to be."

"How bold of you, Nichae," Amoran said, placing a hand on Jasphine's head. "To speak so openly of your king's motives and your prince's love. Some would say you are being too bold."

"I only wish to ease your pain."

"That is not why you are here," she replied, bending her neck and kissing Jasphine on the top of the head. "You are here to take me away. Mayhap it is time you do just that."

"Shall that make this hurt any less?" he asked and Amoran knew he actually cared. For some reason, that helped.

"Nothing can," she said simply.

Nichae nodded his head and Amoran sighed. He held onto the reigns while helping her mount the horse. She adjusted herself for long travel's comfort and repositioned Jasphine so the child rested in her lap and was held against her mother with the sling. When she was finished, Nichae handed her the reigns and mounted his own horse. As they set out upon the path leading away from the Halls of the Elven King, Amoran thought she could hear the divine voices of the Elves singing from their stone prison amongst the darkness of Mirkwood and the light of the summer holiday to come. The sweetness on the air was the last to leave her as the darkness descended and the path grew tight. It was the last thing Amoran would remember of the halls when cold nights would steal upon her broken youth and when she would tell her daughter about the Elven King and mayhap one day about the prince. No. She would never tell Jasphine about the prince. He was just for her.

……………….

His mind had been lost to the hunt for days that were as significant as a moment and as an eternity. He and his companions had ridden long but with endless care in a forest dark as night, quickly forgetting there ever was a sun, only hanging onto the memory of its light. Then he caught sight of his prey. Everyone else saw it as a flicker of shadow amongst shadow but he had seen enough of it to hunger that it was there. Barely sparing his fellows thought or word, he tore away from them with a dangerous lack of caution that he knew better than indulging. But this had been what he had been longing for, waiting for and he shrugged away the grasping voice of restraint. For many breaths, he could not see what he was hunting, but he followed anyway. And when he despaired that there had perhaps been nothing there at all, he caught sight of another promising flicker, a shadow light amongst the rest. Enough of a taste to chase, but to never sate. Even with those flickers, even when he was sure he was following something, he was still unsure of what that something was and if it was worth this following in the end. He heard his fellows chasing after him and he trusted them to know they were close enough to find him. Finally they called after him and for some reason it cut through. He had just seen another flicker and it was close, close enough for him to pause and wait.

'My lord! Please!' Ardel called to him, his voice strident with cold urgency. It was that coldness that shocked his hot blood and pulled him back enough to listen. 'Look about you!'

When he did, Legolas fell into himself, a chill crawling underneath his skin at the disturbance replacing the unnatural heat. He had done the one thing that no one was afforded any longer to do in Mirkwood, to lose one's head to the hunt. It was not that it did not happen; only that it rarely did and if one survived it, one learned to never do it again.

One of his fellows was breathing heavily in the chase, or perhaps in fear of Legolas' urgency in it. This fellow held forth the lantern he had lit back upon the path. Its light was small but it was more than enough to set the darkness awash in veins of significance.

'Webs,' he said in a voice without feeling, eyes wide as he looked upon the webs spread before him in the darkened trees. The spider he could not see, but that did not mean it was not hidden there. 'I almost led myself into webs after something I thought I saw. And how many of you would have followed me?' Legolas looked back belatedly and saw fleeting glances between them, a flicker on each of their features defined as much by Mirkwood's shadow as by meaning.

'We do not have to follow you in to pull you out, cousin,' Ardel replied.

As Legolas led them away and back to the path, he could not deny that this hunt did remind him of Amoran to a sickening degree. They had nothing to do with each other in actuality, but theoretically it was the same. He could not look to Ardel though he knew his cousin close enough to see, because Legolas did not need to be reminded of his pursuit's significance. In a strangely distant voice, he heard himself order their return to his father's halls. They halfheartedly warned him that he would be returning empty-handed but he didn't care. For some time, they traveled in silence and it was easy for him to believe he was not only returning to his father empty-handed but alone. Part of him wished that today had happened in some more recently far-off yesterday, before he met Amoran and perhaps he could have spared himself the spider-less webs he had wove between them. Part of him was glad that he hadn't. He liked to think it was because he would not so easily spare himself the joys he found in Amoran. More likely though it was the fear that it still would not have mattered and he would still be left alone knowing that he knew better. However, slowly Elven song insinuated itself around him and instead of being swallowed by the shadows around them, it was defined by it and seemed to be echoed back to them by the trees lost to all but the Elves and the darkness.

Legolas took some comfort in his people's song, knowing himself far from alone and he returned with his life in excuse of his momentary folly. His father would never consider that to be empty-handed. Still, he could not shake a numb pang somewhere inside himself that had yet to be fully realized. Legolas knew that he would always wonder over that flicker. He would always crave to have followed it to its end and seen what it had been. His curiosity would ever torment him and because he had never seen it realized, there'd be a part of him that would be utterly sure that it would have been a catch worthy, a catch to be proud of. Though he knew better, Legolas would always resent his cousin some small bit for stealing it from him.

………………….

The war was over.

They had stood before the very Gates of Mordor and threw caution into the dead wind with their challenge of a Dark Lord they knew it was not their place to unmake. Their job was to distract, to draw Sauron's eye away from the heart of his keep, to give two hobbits a chance to do what no army could.

Against all odds the might of Mordor fell though, through the confusion, bloodshed, and earthshaking terror, it seemed like an eternity until anyone realized it. As everything came to an unnatural still for an infinite moment with focus so brilliant it was painful, everyone thought they were dead. Even Legolas, Gimli remembered; whose beautiful face had held eyes of unnatural brightness lifted to the dark sky, as unmoving and unbreathing as the most finely crafted statue. With weapons caught mid-motion, grime and blood sharpening his features into something fey, he seemed deadly but not alive. And then in the silence, something broke.

Relief.

So long had many been starved for it, that its realization felt more unnatural than the prospect of death. A cheer ran through the men, a sounding so loud Gimli's ears buzzed. He looked to his Elven companion, expecting to see pain for though Gimli would never admit it, he knew Legolas' ears to be much keener than his own.

However, Gimli did not see pain on Legolas' fair face. He saw a sea of such unfamiliar emotion that its tide seemed to have born the Elf far away. Legolas heard nothing but was not lost to the moment. He was embracing it behind his eyes, letting it wash over him. It was the strangest, unsettling, and yet most unexpectedly beautiful thing to witness amidst such death and destruction.

A small, knowing smile broke as Legolas opened his eyes and looked to him with kindness and respect tinged in an ever present sadness that Gimli had always attributed to his Elvishness. Now that he knew his friend better, he realized that sadness to taste differently than Elvish melancholy. It was born from some strange reticence. A caution to not smile too brightly, not look too closely, not laugh too heartily, not realize the risky love of anything, and most certainly not to speak too much of why. Gimli knew he was not the only one to see it. Surely others had tried to speak of it to him in some roundabout way to take him unknowing. But Legolas was proud and stubborn; far too clever for such tactics.

Gimli was also proud and stubborn but possessed a bluntness that always seemed to throw the Elf off balance and cause him to drop his sharp wit. None of that would matter of course if it were not the right time. He had learned quickly that for an Elf, everything was a matter of timing. So he embraced patience and waited; watching for sign of his moment.

Minas Tirith was alive in the night, dancing under stars unusually bright with voices rising in tones of new hope, though they seemed the slightest bit coarse from sudden overuse. Except for the Elves. They had spent millennia doing nothing more than singing odes to leaves, stars, and spoons. Well, Gimli had never heard an Elf sing to a spoon, but it seemed like something he could expect them to do. The air was deliciously sweet and after the long smell of dead things, it seemed thrown even more surely into sharp relief. Still, the sweetness couldn't quite do away with the smell of burning. But Gimli did not mind the slight smell of smoke in the air, from the large pyres, necessary cooking fires, and the thousands of candles flickering in the night. No, though the Elves seemed slightly uncomfortable with it and their eyes, bright with joviality and perhaps a little of their overly saccharine wine, would travel about them a bit nervously.

"I know not whether to take offense or compliment that it seems every time I am in an Elf's presence other than yours, he looks around as if expecting more Dwarves to pop out from the very earth about him," Gimli grumbled to Legolas around the rim of his pint. The Elf smiled at him a little too perfectly. He had always thought that smile looked fake when he had first met Legolas, too pretty and well placed, but underneath it, he always suspected with a little jealousy that it was more true than not. But not this smile or any of the smiles of this night. They looked so pretty that he suspected there was some unseen ugliness behind them and Gimli wondered that if he were to tap at it as he would a seemingly untested stone, he would find a fault running inconsistently.

"Nay, 'tis not you, dear Gimli," Legolas replied, turning away from the sight of Aragorn and his new bride. His voice seemed the tiniest bit off; the first echo Gimli recognized calling back his suspicions from his first tap. "For they know you to be of the Fellowship; a true Elf-friend in our eyes."

"Perhaps in yours, Legolas," he said, "but I am still left unsure whether your folk truly look at things with the same eyes as you."

"If they do not, in time they will come to see. Yet, can you say that your folk would look upon me with any less unease?"

"Nay," Gimli reluctantly admitted into his ale. Legolas looked away momentarily, to Arwen and then to Aragorn, separately. Elessar, Gimli had to remind himself, though his friend would always be Aragorn. He watched as the Elf turned his eyes purposefully upon his own kind.

"They are searching for green things amongst the stone," Legolas continued. The change of topic seemed a bit deliberate in Gimli's opinion, but he allowed it. "'Tis distressing for us. Mayhap we feel displaced amongst this city of Men."

"Fortuitous it seems then," Gimli said with insight, "that the stars are so very bright."

Legolas looked up north towards the sky quietly for a long moment. He appeared to be looking at something in particular; one star among the rest. "Seems to me not the least bit unexpected."

Gimli grumbled in his chest, slightly ruffled at the perceived insult.

His friend looked to him and blinked several times in succession, as if trying to catch up from where he lost himself to his musings. Legolas quickly explained, "Earendil." He swallowed and flickered his gaze across the room, jumping over Arwen smiling at her Estel. His eyes fell upon Elrond's guarded but kindly face in a spell of understanding. "No doubt the lord has no small need for a knowing light in such a gray joy."

Gimli cleared his throat and mumbled something that he couldn't quite remember, but he could still hear Legolas' clear laughter with his own throaty chuckle in memory. His attention was diverted by the Hobbits discussing genealogy with Lord Celeborn.

"So that makes you and Lady Galadriel second cousins!" Pippin said, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms, looking right-pleased with himself. Celeborn nodded while taking a sip from his goblet. His eyes searched out his wife, almost entreatingly. Galadriel laughed and turned to continue a conversation with one of her grandsons, ignoring her husband's plight; it was difficult for Gimli to distinguish which twin she was speaking with however for they were nigh impossible to tell apart from looks alone. When he tore his eyes from the Lady of Lothlorien to ask Legolas if he bore any distant relation to Galadriel as well, he found his friend long gone.

Gimli harrumphed but took his time finishing his ale. As he watched Pippin draw out his pipe and Lord Celeborn hastily excuse himself at the first sign of it, Gimli's face stretched into a wicked smile with an idea. Luckily, Legolas was not there to see it, for if he had, he would have quickly hidden himself amongst his Elven companions, finding safety in numbers. However, instead he had already stolen away with himself alone. The Dwarf reached a hand inside his jerkin and felt that his pipe was still where he had stashed it away. Looking over to where he knew his friend would have disappeared into, he laughed to himself, deep with sole conspiracy. Several persons nearby looked to him strangely, not seeing reason for his sudden amusement. Sam glanced over but knew better than to become involved. Galadriel however caught Gimli's eyes with curiosity. He delivered her a sly wink before removing himself from the cluster of the wedding celebration into the night after his unsuspecting friend, Galadriel's quick laughter being tucked away into his mind for safekeeping.

Several armed guards nodded their heads at him with respect as he made his way in the late of the night towards a familiar spot. Here the wall separating the top tier of Minas Tirith ran twice as tall as Gimli. Thus, the view it offered was lost to the Dwarf, but his Elven companion seemed vastly fond of it. Of course, he saw things that Gimli could not unless guided in his efforts of seeing past the stonework. Still, he could imagine that it offered the best view of things beyond the mortal city about them. Starlight cast a long shadow making the wall seem larger than it was, yet also more ephemeral, alike some indistinct ghostly image bleeding out from the sky where the wall cut across it in the Dwarf's perception.

With a grunt, Gimli sat himself down at its base. He pulled out his pipe and his small hidden treasury of pipe weed, speaking to it in undertone as he drew a large pinch out and stuffed it in the pipe. After closing the pouch and setting the pipe carefully aside, he pulled a piece of flint from inside his belt.

"Where are you now?" he muttered to himself as he began searching inside the tops of his boots. "Ah, ha ha! There you are!" he said as he pulled out a short twig that he had stashed inside his boot for just this purpose. Gimli ignored the sensation of the air disturbed above him, as if someone were shifting, leaning over to glance at him. He cleared his throat and turned towards the wall to his side, striking at it a couple times with the flint to light the twig. Quickly tucking away the flint and grabbing the pipe, he lit it with the twig, drawing on the pipe and puffing with satisfaction. With a practiced motion, Gimli shook the twig's little flame out, tapped it to his tongue, before sticking it back in his boot to use later. Sighing and letting out a long, wispy trail of smoke, he leaned back into the stone embrace of the wall behind him. He soon found a rhythm that he knew would work perfectly into his plans.

Puff. Puff. Puff.

Long savoring of the burning in his chest, forcing it down, causing the moment to last, delicious with unnatural heat.

Puff.

Exhale . . .

There was the tiniest cough from above.

Gimli had to swallow his smile in order to draw on the pipe again.

Puff. Puff. Puff.

Savor it, the burning, hold onto the unnatural moment.

Puff.

Exhale . . . .

There was a far more conspicuous cough at that. It almost sounded purposefully louder than needed. The Dwarf was sure victory was imminent. He was about to do something with a few puffs of pipe weed that the Dark Lord hadn't been able to do with all the might of his foul creatures.

Puff. Puff . . .

Very loud, distinct cough from near above him.

Puff.

"Gimli!" Legolas' normally melodic voice snapped.

"Hmm?" he hummed, stealing one more long draw.

"What do you think you are doing?"

Gimli chuckled, raising his head as if to look to where Legolas was speaking to him from but it was really to aim, before blowing large, sweeping tendrils of smoke into the night sky, so that for a moment, the stars blurred. "Smoking out an Elf."

After waiting another moment for Legolas to reply, he shrugged and began to draw at his pipe again.

"Should you continue this, I cannot be held responsible for my actions," his Elven friend said from above, a slight jest in his tone, yet enough seriousness beside it to cause Gimli to pause.

"Such as?"

He could almost hear Legolas smile, in that completely evil, Elven way that caused Gimli's blood to run cold. "Such as launching your pipe into the east from the very top of Minas Tirith."

Gimli squinted his eyes. "You would not dare . . ."

"Do Dwarves have such fragile memories that you cannot remember what happened the last time our conversation ran thus?" Legolas paused. "I dare say; Aragorn is a bit too preoccupied with his bride to save your pipe this time. It shall be halfway to what is left of Mordor before you can rally the hobbits and Gandalf to your side to form your own little Fellowship of the Pipe."

Gimli paused to consider, contemplating whether it would be worth the energy of a righteous fit and price of replacing a pipe in order to call the Elf's bluff. Deciding however that with Legolas it was unlikely to be much of a bluff and it would deter him from his original purpose, he grumbled but wisely sat the pipe aside for later. And it was rather unlikely that he'd be able to convince the hobbits or the wizard to join any further Fellowship for a goodly long time. In fact, poor Frodo may find some dark corner and start whimpering to himself at the mere mention of a return trip to Mordor. Dark lord or not. Even if Gimli were to try such a thing, Sam would kill him.

Of course, he knew that if he forced the issue, Legolas would make good his threats. However, he was also just as certain that should he pine for that particular pipe, given to him by his father long ago, Legolas would be the first to be waiting for him with Arod in the courtyard the next morning. He'd go with Gimli to Mordor again even if it were he that launched the pipe in the first place.

"There shall be a great deal of sorely disappointed people as soon as your absence is realized," Gimli continued, "which was mayhap, oh, nigh when you left."

"You exaggerate, my friend," Legolas replied from above, annoying Gimli a bit that he held on to such a lofty perch. "None shall take notice of my absence for long."

Gimli could only snort indelicately at this. "The king and queen will not retire before bidding the both of us a personal goodnight. Whatever shadow is chasing upon your heels, best you speak of it now, else no matter what you say in a well-wished goodnight, it shall speak through to them of your disturbance. Do not think it shall not in some small way disturb them in turn. You are their friend."

"Are you offering to chase away my nightmares, dear Gimli?" Legolas teased, contained laughter adding to some type of brittle quality. Not to say that his voice did not lend itself some power, great strength; it simply felt a little too frantically composed. Whenever faced with such a tonality, Gimli had been taught to leave it alone, a rock not fit to be chipped at. Against his instincts, he decided to continue. Should it end badly, the two of them could simply act as if it never happened, as they had done for certain other things before.

"Does your kind even have nightmares?" Gimli asked. "Are not Elves too perfectly pleasant for such things?"

"Nay, we do not have nightmares for we do not even dream," he explained, in a voice that could have been termed contemplative or cautious. "Not as mortals do."

"Oh? Then what, pray tell, is going on in that silly head of yours while you claim to be resting?"

"We have visions," Legolas described, "A mixture of memories of the past and fancies for the future. We have to craft them together, plucking or imagining every moment from whence we find it within ourselves. Binding it fast around us, for a time outside of time, we save the things we thought lost to us and create those that were never ours. It can be as real or as unreal as we make it. We can live how we would will it. We can also trick ourselves into dying if we wish it. There is a very fine line between our dalliance with sweet fantasy and our abandon to melancholy fading. It is a dangerous thing for an Elf to dream."

"Should that be your way to dream," Gimli replied with a discomforted chuckle, "tell me naught of your equal of nightmare."

"They are the same thing."

Gimli grunted, for lack of any more eloquent response, knowing it unwise for him to try for it. Legolas was quiet for some time. Finally, Gimli looked up at a shifting of shadow and light in time to see his friend dangle one of his legs down over the wall towards him. From the angle, the Elf had to be lying on his back along the wall. His leg swung a bit and the toe of his boot gently nudged Gimli on the shoulder. He pushed it away with feigned roughness, knowing it was his friend's gentle retribution for the Dwarf's earlier smoke act.

"They do look happy," Legolas said in a gentle voice that carried. "One cannot help but smile in the face of their joy."

"Aye."

"And battle jealousy at their backs," he added almost as an afterthought, though Gimli didn't believe that. The sentiment shocked him in the admission. Jealousy was such an ugly thing and looking at the Elf, he wouldn't have thought someone of Legolas' infinity would be the one to harbor it. Though Dwarves had always grumbled that it was such petty sentiments that guided the Elves; jealous as they were of beauties only Dwarves wrought. Gimli told him as much and Legolas laughed. "Yes, my friend, mayhap we are more often jealous than we would like to think. Of little moments, little pearls of time, that we often overlook in a sea of eternity. Too often, the tides pull them away ere we have a chance to realize what they are." He laughed again. "The sea seems to have that same pull on my thoughts of late, pounding relentlessly against my every resistance. Pulling things away from me that I both cherish and would never have confessed were ever a part of me."

"I would think that the Elves would consider this much of a tragedy," Gimli replied. "Their Evenstar pledging herself to her mortal love's fate."

"Death is the hardest for the undying," Legolas explained simply. "Arwen is no longer one of us. Surely she still sees death as regrettable. However not because of what she shall suffer from her death but of how those who love her shall. When living eternity is expected, forever is not the gift, but finding something or someone worth forsaking it is."

"That is what you envy of them," Gimli answered more than asked.

"From the first time I heard of the Evenstar and her Estel, I wanted a part of that. Not a part of them, but a part of that grace. I once almost convinced myself that I might possess it. I tried to recreate it for myself, though at the time, I was so confused by the rush that I did not realize that was what I was doing. It was as unfair to her as it was to me. What saddens me to such a depth that I cannot tell is the thought that perhaps I was her moment of grace though I know now that she was not mine. It gladdens me now as it did not then that my father took her away before we both realized this. If she still lives -which a great deal of me doubts- she can believe that I pine for her as I am ashamed to say that I do not. I miss her touch, her passions, and the sweetness of her beating heart underneath my palm, as if each pulse was a moment of time tearing away at her. I remember her kindly and with regret. I tried to convince myself and for a time almost did that I could find something in her to define me. Though, if I had been thinking properly, I would have realized that she shied from even defining herself. Yet, I could not stand the thought of waiting for that to come to me. I wanted to make it, force it to be mine. I despaired that I would be waiting forever. I feared that I would not have the patience for it. In actuality, I had only to wait two score years before it presented itself."

"The Fellowship," Gimli mumbled, not wanting to disturb Legolas out of his confessions with a louder reply.

"Aye," Legolas admitted. "Shame carried me to my moment of grace. Though none at the time would have thought Gollum's escape to have turned to boon. I was given the opportunity in a form I had not thought to look for it in. I would have forsaken my immortality for the Quest," he paused and Gimli could hear the smile in his voice with the next few words, "and my companions. Even my Dwarf companion. Mayhap, especially he, to my father's undying dismay."

"And my own father's," Gimli chuckled.

"Aye, in this matter they are quite agreed."

"To their united horror," he couldn't help but reply. Legolas laughed at the absurd truth in the statement.

"And, of course, I was able to help Aragorn claim his throne so that he could claim his bride. I shall admit to taking no small satisfaction in that. In the end, knowing I had some small part in it." Legolas sighed. "Mayhap I do not have reason for such jealousy, considering that the grace of the Fellowship has brought me much and many to hold dear. Come, my dear friend, let us return to the celebration so that the King and Queen may bid us a hasty goodnight."

He leapt down from the wall to land on his feet with feline grace. Legolas waited for Gimli to grunt and find his way to his feet, never offering a hand. Gimli would be insulted by the offer unless full of drink and Legolas knew he had been neglecting his cup in order to sooth his Elven companion. He appreciated it, though it would go mostly unspoken. As many understandings between them did. Gimli's brow began to knit together in concentration as he thought back on what Legolas had just admitted. They walked together, Legolas tempering his stride to stay by Gimli's side, passing guards that nodded their heads in respect.

"Legolas . . ."

The Elf hummed some response.

"What you said," Gimli continued.

The Elf hummed again, sounding slightly amused.

"It almost sounded as if you were saying you should not envy Arwen and her Aragorn because you have me."

This was met by distinct silence. Legolas still continued walking to his side, but seemed not to realize that Gimli wished a response to this. Infuriating Elf! He seemed to love playing with Gimli's head. Though he knew that was what the Elf was doing, he still couldn't keep his own irritation at the silence in check.

"You are not saying that I am your Aragorn, are you?" he asked with some wariness.

Legolas laughed. "As much as I am your Galadriel," which would have been a reassuring answer if it were not for the fact that it was uttered by a beautiful, tall Elf with hair the color of precious metal. Gimli grumbled about flighty Elves and misbegotten fancies while Legolas laughed by his side, seemingly pleased with so disquieting his companion. Gimli decided to allow a small smile, taking unspoken pleasure in courting Legolas' pure smile and delighted laughter. The shadow would always be there, but with the Elven prince it only served to define his undying light and the grace his path finally lent him.

………………

Finis

……………….

Note to readers:

Almost four years, but I am finished with the story. I have grown a great deal as a writer with this piece. Because of this, I think there is significant disparity between the depths of the piece at the beginning from at the end. Before this work, I was mainly a poet. This was the first piece I wrote that was longer than thirty pages. So this work is special to me because it illustrates how far I've come from nearly four years ago. A great deal of what I have learned from this story, I owe to its readers. Thank you to those who have read this story and replied with your thoughts and suggestions. You are a priceless resource for teaching me how to be a better writer for my readers. So, I admit that I have some regret that I don't believe many of you will be happy with the ending of this story. I am sorry, but I see that this is the only way this story could have ended. I had always planned to not break canon if I could. I enjoy stretching canon, but not breaking it needlessly. Please forgive me if you are irritated with how I ended this. But I didn't see this story ending as the most monumental moment in Legolas' life. I think the Fellowship was (at least until he crosses the sea, but we know little of what happened in Valinor after that). I think the significance of Legolas' relationship with Amoran rests more in how it guided him on the Quest and with his companions, instead of its own romantic credit. Not to say that it was insignificant. Not at all. But it's like what Legolas said towards the end, the relationship was not the same thing to Amoran as it was to him. I think this illustrates how sometimes the importance of the relationship is where it leaves you at its end, not necessarily where it takes you in the run. To Amoran, its importance was in living the relationship and I see her as always holding onto it as the most precious time of her life. To Legolas, its importance was in the wisdom and awareness it brought him about his own motives. Now, I do see some of what he says as being influenced after the fact. The point is that he had to live with his father and king. He loved Thranduil. He'd want to think of his father's actions in the best light, the way Thranduil had actually meant it. So why then would he wish to estrange himself from his father because of something that he wasn't even sure could be and at the time wasn't even sure what he wanted it to be? His feelings for Amoran were genuine but did not run as deeply as they did for his own people and his own family. I think he would realize this after his initial knee-jerk reaction to Amoran's disappearance and act accordingly; rationalizing it to his self in the best way he could live with. No one in this story acted out of true malice. Not Thranduil, for taking Amoran away. Not Ardel, for telling Thranduil about Amoran's indiscretion. Not Amoran, for all her lacking. And not Legolas. It just never had all the makings of a fairy tale. I do plan on going back and changing the chapter set ups, but overall I plan to leave it mostly as it is. I just don't have the heart to go back and change much of the beginning. I hope you all still enjoyed the ride and thank you immensely for your friendship and readership. You and this story have taught me a great deal. If any of you that leave me a review (and each one will be cherished) and wish for me to be able to reply to you, please leave me an email to reach you through. Even if you wish to tell me how horribly I ended the story, I'd still appreciate being able to contact you to thank you for reading and perhaps to discuss how you think I could have improved on it. And of course, this isn't the last fanfiction I'm ever going to write. It's just the last one I'm ever going to post before it's finished. In fact, I have another fanfiction, twisted romance all written up for the Babylon 5 fandom. I will probably be posting that on FF's website soon as well as a couple other archives. If any of you would wish to see it, leave me an email and I'd be happy to arrange for you to be able to read it.

Thank you again. And for all those of my friends and family who told me to just finish the story already, no matter what . . .: Rocks fall and they all die!

Love,

Musedepandora