Chapter 52: Here, At the End of All Things
The Last Chapter
One Year Later
Ithilien glimmered on the edge of the grassy plains before him, a verdant jewel, darkly green. Riding back from his most recent trip to Minas Tirith, Legolas paused for a moment just to look at the woods, as Arod waited ever so patiently, stoically clipping the tall grass with his teeth. Ithilien…long had Legolas and his small band of elves worked to set nature right again, after so many years of Sauron's subversion. They had brought peace and song, comfort and understanding, to the woods once more, and under the elves' careful guidance, the trees began to listen again, and the stars seemed to shine all the brighter for it.
Some time, over the course of the last year, Ithilien had become home. His home.
Legolas urged Arod on across the last reaches of the plains of Gondor and then finally through the shadowed paths of the woods. He easily marked the hidden presence of all his trained guard whom surely delighted in the return of their esteemed Lord. For if anything at all, Legolas was dearly loved by his people.
From that fateful day when Adrendil had fallen on the walls of Minas Tirith and Legolas had faced the censure of his people at Aragorn's banquet that very night, only to behold them pledging their loyalty and servitude, he had become in their minds not only their leader, but also their champion—one they could depend upon to defend them, even at great cost to himself—for had he not already done that very thing? He had paid in his own blood to secure their safety on the battlefield, then again on the walls of the White City—Legolas, young though he was by elven standards, had earned his people's deep trust and secured their fealty.
But at that exact moment, Legolas was not feeling much like the beloved leader of an elven realm; it was more likely that he felt rather hassled and quite put out. He pulled up short at the stables and quickly passed Arod off to one of the young stable boys who had come from Minas Tirith. He then stalked off to the north in the direction of the most central talan where he met with his advisors, courtiers from the king, and the like. Legolas had his own private study there, where he could think and reflect, or really just be alone if he needed solitude.
At that moment, Legolas really needed solitude. The comfortable, cushioned chair behind his desk sprang to mind. Yes, that was the very thing!
He swung open the double doors, perhaps a little harder than necessary—only to find Sulindal poring over plans at his desk…in his chair. His chief advisor looked up with a knowing smile.
"Ah, Legolas, welcome back. Should I begin the draft for the congratulatory letter to your sister on her betrothal?"
"You knew?" Legolas almost shrieked.
Sulindal bit back another smile and opted for the serious-concerned look. "Well, your lady and I suspected as much."
Legolas shook his golden head. "Conspiring against me, I see. Is nothing sacred?" The prince unceremoniously dropped his pack on an end table, clattering half the piled up trinkets to the floor.
"I answer this 'seemingly so important summons' from Aragorn—only to find out that it's nothing urgent. Except that your Farothin," Legolas said and pointed a finger sharply at Sulindal, "thought it would be a marvelous idea to ask my permission for my little sister's hand. Can you believe it?"
Suindal rose slowly from the long desk and arched an elegant eyebrow at Legolas' indignation. "Well, given the choice between asking for her hand from you or your father—yes, you would be perceived as the infinitely more amiable option."
"Why am I always the last to know?" Legolas huffed. "I hate you all."
"You knew this would come to pass, my friend," Sulindal soothed, "and Farothin loves Celeril dearly. Do you not remember how inseparable they were this winter, and over the summer before when she had tended his injuries so patiently? How at the Yule Ball she favored him for every dance?"
Legolas crossly folded his arms. "It's the principle of the thing, Sulindal. When I received a summons from the king—"
"as in the king, your dearest friend?" Sulindal interrupted dryly.
Legolas narrowed his eyes. "As I was saying, I received a summons from the king, and I immediately dropped everything I was working on—"
"Everything you were working on? Like all those important projects and meetings you had going on?" Sulindal asked with a smirk.
"I was busy!" retorted Legolas.
"Legolas, when that messenger came, I found you stretched out in your garden, braiding daisy chains for Miredhel's hair," Sulindal countered with a sly grin.
Legolas cracked a smile, and Sulindal's grin widened.
"Those were purple crown blossoms from Mirkwood, not daisies," he corrected archly.
"Either way, I am sure she looked beautiful," Sulindal said genially. "You know, Miredhel came by here earlier. She and I both thought that the message might have something to do with Celeril and Farothin's betrothal. I know I don't have to tell you that she was beyond excited." Sulindal smiled at the memory of Miredhel bursting through the door, her face lit up with joy. Seeing her like that, so light-hearted and carefree, well, it reminded him of the old days. For the same reason, he took pleasure in his service as Legolas' chief advisor and delighted in teasing the prince not to take himself too seriously.
Sulindal added mischievously, "Oh, and Miredhel wanted to remind me not to let you stay up here too long after you've arrived. Seems as though she had something cooking for you."
Legolas smothered a grimace. "I still cannot fathom why she insists on stewing up those miserable concoctions—herbal health infusions she called them. Like I need it."
"She got the idea from Eowyn—they exchange letters pretty frequently," Sulindal said and sifted through a pile of missives scattered across the enormous desk. "Speaking of letters," he began, and his gray eyes twinkled merrily, "you received one from Gimli."
Legolas sat up, his mood visibly lightening. "What does the old badger have to say for himself?"
Sulindal had the gall to look affronted. "As if I would read your personal mail, Legolas. You wound me."
"Hand me the letter then," Legolas said and stretched out his arm to take it. Upon receiving said document, he paused.
"It's open. You did read it!" the prince accused, with the air of superiority that one has when he has been proven right.
"No-o-o," Sulindal said jestingly. "Knowing how busy you are, I merely opened it to expedite matters and save you time."
"So, what did Gimli want?" Legolas asked and propped his feet up.
"Well, apparently Aragorn gossips like an old crone," Sulindal said.
Both elves weighed the veracity of Sulindal's comment before chuckling.
"Anyways, your favorite dwarf spent the first two pages berating you for being a pointy-ear, so crotchety and grand in his old age that he can't be bothered to write his dear, old friends…"
"Crotchety?" Legolas interrupted. "The dwarf said I was crotchety?"
"No, I actually threw that in for fun," Sulindal said.
"I'll show you fun," Legolas muttered darkly.
Sulindal pretended he did not hear that comment and continued blithely on, "And then he spent the next two pages doting on Miredhel, and how she was the dearest, loveliest thing, still unsure on how you managed to catch her, and—he's going to be coming down to visit in a fortnight."
Legolas' eyes brightened at the news. "We had both agreed that he should visit before the beginning of summer, but this is most welcome tidings! Miredhel will be ecstatic."
The prince stood, temporarily forgetting the threat of Miredhel's stew, and picked up his pack. He was out the door in the next moment after a hasty goodbye, and Sulindal leaned back in his chair and propped his feet up. All was well.
Legolas hurried his way down the well-trod path, heart gladdening with every step as he heard the contented murmur of the nearby brook or spotted the tiny crocuses peeping out that had finally started to sprout from the bulbs they had planted last winter.
Well-built, sturdy talans peeked from up high, and Legolas thought back to the numerous hours all the elves had spent on each one, how he himself had spent countless more hours on the talan he had built for Miredhel, remembering his promise to do so on the plains of Gondor next to that ridiculously silly tent he'd built, and her mocking smile of his alleged skill. Now their home, long finished, was warm and sunny, and the lovely hand-carved arch over the door of vines and star-flowers had merit enough to impress even Gimli.
Turning the final corner, Legolas slowed his pace, and his fine elven hearing picked out a soft melody from beyond the gate of the round, walled garden he'd built for Miredhel. He stopped to listen to her, and a smile unbidden graced his lips, before he pulled the latch to enter.
Miredhel rested under the trees on a low stone bench, her legs pulled in beneath her, her hands folded across a softly rounded stomach. She had his flowers in her hair.
He drew a deep breath. "Well, I'm back," he said.
And there it is, shamelessly stealing the last line of LOTR!
Well, a story that I originally started eight and a half years ago (!) has finally come to an end. It's amazing to me how much has changed in my life since then—I've moved four times, changed jobs three times, had twins (that alone!) and everything in between!
I always knew that no matter what, I would finish this story. I loved it, loved the characters too much to leave them hanging. I always, from the very beginning of the story knew that I would end the story this way, with Legolas and Miredhel-together, in the garden.
I'm excited beyond words to add it finally to the 'completed' works list on FF, and my greatest hope is that many of my readers who I've come to know (and live for their reviews…) will find that the story has at last been finished and will read it again, this time in its entirety.
All I can ask now is that whether you're a first time reader, or one of my faithful readers like Stefanie or Nev (both of whom have stuck by this story for 8 years! Shout out!)—Please review. PLEASE! It means so much to me as a writer— and this being the last opportunity for this story, I would really love to hear from you, each and every one of you.
I cannot wait for the new Hobbit movie to come out; I know it's going to generate a whole new frenzy of fanfiction for LOTR. And who knows? Maybe I'll be one of them…