Chapter Nine

Authors note

Thank you endlessly for all your wonderful reviews and support. Especially Theresa Green, she is a legend and writes reviews to die for. Go read her work. But I find I agree with Lamiel. ' Dis work is done folks, despite the loose ends.

Minuel watched the smile blossom over the face of her lover, and drifted across the room to look over his shoulder at the scroll he had unrolled, to see what had so lightened his expression.

Legolas looked up at her, the corner of his mouth still raised in amusement, and it caught at her throat, as it had not for some time, how very beautiful he was. Even among elven-kind.

"I am invited to a wedding." He announced, with a mixture of mischief and glee in his voice.

Minuel frowned, a small crease wrinkling the perfection of her eyebrows. She could think of no couples that would be taking such a step of their acquaintance. Then she realised; some of his wretched mortal friends.

The wrinkles increased to include her nose and she turned away from him. Never, she would never understand his fascination for those mayflies. She strode over to the balcony and let her gaze rest in the tall trees of his kingdom. If only he was not so appealing, she would stop coming back.

Legolas watched her, lazily, as she expressed her opinion in movement. His smile if anything increased as he tried to imagine her and Aragorn in the same room, or her and Gleowyn the formidable. "Come with me?"

Minuel spun and looked at him with astonishment. "To a mortal wedding?" She sounded as if he had invited her to a disembowelling.

Legolas shrugged, "As you like. But Arwen will be there, and you were only saying…" he got no further. She stalked up to him like a hunting cat and grabbed him by the hair, tilting his head back to look into her face. That damned smile was still there in his eyes and hovering around his quite delectable mouth. He knew she could never resist a challenge.

"When?"

"Enderi. Humans like mid-summer weddings, it's traditional."

Now she knew he was having a dig at her, as if humans could understand tradition.

"And the dwarf will be there, as well?"

Legolas glanced at the hand written postscript. His smile broadened further, which only piqued her curiosity.

"Apparently he is standing up for the groom."

"On a box?"

Minuel was always quick, and Legolas pointed his finger at her admonishingly, although acknowledging the hit.

"You owe him an apology."

Minuel dropped her eyes; she was still not quite sure what had possessed her when she had needled the little creature last winter. One thing was for sure, after watching Legolas fight his way back from the wounds to his spirit that nearly losing Gimli had caused, she would not be provoking him again. She really had not understood how tenuous her Greenleaf's hold on this world was.

It was traditional for the Queen to attend the weddings of her handmaids, whenever possible, and this time she taped the invitation to Aragorn's pillow to make sure that he read it, and could not tell her, the day before they were going to leave that he had no idea she had arranged something.

Aragorn dutifully read it then turned a pleased expression on his Queen.

"This is good news."

Arwen smiled at him. "And it will give you a chance to catch up with all your old friends and find out what has been happening for the last four months."

Aragorn propped the invitation on the side table and turned again to Arwen.

"Luin and Bin have finally left to re-join the tribe."

Arwen made a little moue with her mouth. "Oh. I will miss little Bin, he is so sweet."

Aragorn chuckled a little in remembrance. "Well Luin told me off roundly for letting everyone spoil him as she was recovering. She says she should call him Big Bin now as he has got so chubby on the sweets everyone feeds him."

"And how are the tribe settled in Druaden."

"Tom reports they are managing, it is very hard for them to start all over again. They have lost mana from losing their home, but they are tough. Tom sends more and more samples of herbs he has collected. At this rate he'll never get back to the Shire and I will be accused of kidnapping him."

"As long as he avoids the cave trolls." Arwen leaned over and blew out her lamp. Aragorn did likewise.

"Some day I am going to tease Gimli about that." Aragorn said with glee. His wife elbowed him in the ribs.

Gimli son of Gloin, lay in the soft dark of his room off the great hall of Aglorand, and counted the chisel marks he could see on the ceiling. It distracted him from thinking. Thinking that he could hear the grinding tread of the cave troll padding towards his cell.

He had put on a good show for Legolas last month, finally managing to convince his friend that he was fully recovered and thus allowing the elf to return to the home that he would not admit he was pining for. Gimli had tried to struggle back to health as quickly as possible as he watched Legolas become more and more stretched and worn. By the time Legolas left Aglorand Gimli swore he could see daylight through him, so pale had he become. But although his tough dwarf body had healed itself, with only a chronic pain in his shoulder to show for his adventures, Gimli wondered if he would ever recover from the humiliation and terror he had felt as the helpless pet of the cave troll child.

He could not think of anyone he could talk to about it. To his peers it was inconceivable; if you were a dwarf you were either hale or dead. So rarely did illness bother them, they could not get their minds round the situation he had been in where he did not even have the means to end his own life. Where his only option had been to suffer.

Legolas loved him, and needed him but never pretended to understand him. They would die for each other in a breath, but it was not possible for him to explain to the elf why he still felt so dead inside, as if a weeping child was curled under his breastbone unconsoled.

Aragorn might understand, but what could he change? The past was a closed book.

He would have to endure, he was so tired of feeling sorry for himself.

With a sudden movement he threw back his bed covers and, going to the fireplace, lit a taper to re-kindle his bedside lamp.

He picked up the wedding invitation from Gleowyn and Telfaren and allowed a grim amusement to cross his face. He expected the ladder jokes to be replaced by box jokes as soon as it was known he would be standing as best man to the messenger. They really were very sweet, these young things. He stood with the parchment in his hands as if borrowing their strength and allowed his thoughts to get lost in the gentle flames on the hearth.

The End

Rose Sared