Posted for this story's 7th anniversary... the last chapter!


Chapter 43: The End of an Age

That night at dinner they were unusually silent, and their friends easily noticed. It was the first time since Aragorn's and Arwen's marriage that the couple was available to dine privately with the Fellowship, and earlier in the day all of them were eager to see the couple, both of whom had been very busy with state and family affairs. Even that excitement could not cover the four's deep concerns over the important choice they had to make.

Gimli was the first to give into his curiosity.

"Why are you all so solemn?" he asked bluntly, glancing meaningfully at the four of them. "None of you have spoken more than a couple of words for hours."

"Are you feeling sick?" Merry asked. "You all don't look sick, but maybe you get sick in a way different from hobbits."

"No, Men experience the same symptoms as hobbits, I believe," said Aragorn, a slight frown on his face as he looked at his friends; his wife mirrored his expression. "Has something happened?"

"I suppose you could say that," Will said, exhaling softly. "Gandalf just told us today that, if we so wish it, we can go home."

"Home!" Sam muttered in awe. "But how? You landed in the pond by Hobbiton!"

"Those of our friends who wish to return to their former land would sail from the Grey Havens," said Gandalf. "They have many weeks still to make their decision."

"If any of you wish to remain, all of you would have a home here in Minas Tirith," said Aragorn.

Arwen nodded in agreement. "There is plenty of room in the Citadel. And if the Stone City is not to your liking, I am sure my father would gladly have you in Rivendell."

"I imagine you could find a place with all of us," said Legolas with a smile. The others nodded.

"Thank you," said Elizabeth softly. "We appreciate your generosity, truly. But we have not made any final decisions yet."

"But you can't leave!" said Pippin suddenly.

"Peregrin!" Frodo muttered sternly. "That is their decision to make, not yours."

He fell silent for a brief moment, but his gaze caught Anamaria's. "But what about Amrothos?" he asked. She blinked, and then set her unmoving stony gaze onto the hobbit.

"Pippin!" Merry groaned.

The younger hobbit turned red. "Oh, right…"

"What about Amrothos?" asked Aragorn, his gaze moving from Pippin to Anamaria. The hobbit remained completely silent, and after a moment, the woman exhaled loudly.

"We're only friends- not that it's anyone's business," she added, frowning darkly at Pippin. He turned a darker red.

"He, at least, fancies you," said Merry.

Her gaze softened. "Do you really think- no," she broke herself off. "We are not having this conversation. It's none of your business- no one's business," she added, glaring at the table one last time before standing up and stomping out of the room.

The silence after her departure was deafening for approximately ten seconds. After that, Jack finished off his goblet of ale with the smacking of his lips. "She definitely likes him." He turned to the two younger hobbits. "Well done there, by the way. I haven't seen her that angry in a long time."

"I didn't mean to!" Pippin argued. Merry said nothing, but his frown spoke lengths.

"Peace," said Aragorn calmly. "We know you did not, Pippin. Nonetheless, I would recommend that both of you leave her to her own affairs from now on. What happens- if anything happens- is between Anamaria, Amrothos, and his father." The two of them nodded. "As Gandalf said, our friends," he nodded to Will, Elizabeth, and Jack, "have a long time to decide. Éomer, who left with the rest of his people just a couple days ago, as you know, said that he will come for the body of King Théoden once he has set order in Rohan, and he said to expect it to be sometime after Midsummer. The elves of Rivendell and Lórien have decided to journey back to their home with his funeral procession, and I believe that with them it would be best for you," he nodded to Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and Merry, "to travel back to the Shire. It could be as long as August until any decision must be made, so you will not bother them about the issue unless they speak to you specifically about it." This last comment he directed mostly to Pippin, who nodded solemnly.

"I saw that Éowyn left with her brother," said Merry. "Did she and Lord Faramir… well, you know…"

Aragorn smiled. "Yes, though it is not to be revealed to others beyond this room," he warned. "Faramir and Éowyn will marry, but it will not be publicly announced until after Théoden's funeral."

"That is wonderful to hear," said Elizabeth with a smile. "I have not spoken much with Lord Faramir, but he seems to be very kind and honorable, and Éowyn does seem to love him."

"Faramir is very honorable," said Frodo. "He treated us well when we came upon him in the Wild."

"He looks so much like his brother," Will muttered. The table fell silent as they remembered the fallen warrior and the other who died with him on Amon Hen.

"To Boromir and to Gibbs," said Aragorn, lifting up his glass in tribute, the others swiftly following his lead. "They will forever remain in our hearts and memories."

The company gathered drank, and Will wondered if he and Elizabeth would soon only be a memory for all of their friends here in Middle-earth.

O0O0O0O

The parapet overlooking the Pelennor and the river was her favorite place to be when she needed time to think. She loved the fresh breeze flowing about the high area, and sometimes she thought she could catch the scent of the salty ocean air. She was rather sure that it was only her imagination and her memories messing with her senses.

Anamaria picked at the fine woolen sleeve that made up part of her outfit. The material was dyed a blue that greatly reminded her of the Caribbean waters. Before she joined Jack's crew, one of her favorite things to do was take her small sailboat out on the water and relax. She loved that little boat; she would never quite forgive Jack for taking it and destroying it, whatever his intentions were.

A sigh escaped her lips. She had both nothing and everything in the Caribbean. Tortuga was hardly a reputable place, but she had little choice in the past and she survived it well enough before landing in Jack's crew. And beyond that, she had a boat and the beautiful ocean as her companions, both which made the Tortuga nights and Jack's insufferable moments bearable. Now she had options, and with the friends she had, she could start a rich life somewhere else in the Caribbean.

But there was also the fact that she had friends, people she genuinely cared about, and a new world that seemed to offer just as much, if not more, to her.

She heard footsteps behind her, and she looked over her shoulder and saw a familiar face. "Amrothos."

"Good afternoon, Anamaria." He smiled as he joined her on the wall. She nodded absentmindedly to his greeting as her mind went back to the ocean. She did not love the sea as much as Jack, but she liked it well and, after so many months of not seeing a hint of it, she missed it. She wanted to sail again.

"Anamaria?"

She blinked and shook herself out of her thoughts. "Yes, what?"

"I just asked how you were."

"Oh, right. Yea, I'm fine."

He frowned slightly. "You are sure you are feeling well? This past week you have talked less and smiled little. Is there something the matter?"

She was about to repeat herself and claim that she was fine, but she paused. Long hours of conversation she had with Amrothos revealed quickly that he enjoyed sailing as much as she did; perhaps he would understand her longing, even though he did not know her full back story. And perhaps he would understand why she was so torn in two.

"I have had a lot to think about," she admitted. "I just found out that I'm able to return home."

He smiled. "Well, certainly that is good news. You have spoken often about the beautiful warm waters surrounding your land, and it seems a lovely place."

"That is only because I haven't told you about my time on land, living in Tortuga," she said with a chuckle. "But I'm pretty sure I wouldn't go back to that, not with people like Aragorn, Gandalf, and all the elves supporting me. No, I can do rather well for myself if I go. I just cannot decide if I want to."

The young man's face was unreadable. "Why would you not want to?"

"Well, I have friends here. Actual friends, me." She snorted lightly. "And the thought of never seeing them again actually makes me… well, you know." She shrugged.

"You can always visit; with the Dark Lord's fall, travel will be much safer and easier to accomplish."

Anamaria shook her head. "It's not that simple. My home is… pretty far away. I could not visit."

"Something could be arranged-"

"Just trust me on this. If I went back to where I came from, I would not be able to visit, ever, and no one would be able to visit me." She gazed firmly at him, and he slowly nodded.

"Very well, then," he said in acquiesce. "I do not understand you, but I will take your word on it." He slightly frowned as he contemplated her situation. "So you are torn between the sea of your home and your friends."

"Something like that, I guess."

"What about your sea makes it special for you?"

"Oh, well, it's not really that the ocean is different from others; it's just that I want to sail again. Minas Tirith isn't exactly on the beach, and Rivendell isn't, either. Even if it was, I don't think I'd be comfortable living with a bunch of elves." She smirked at the thought before falling serious again. "I want to live near the ocean, have a boat, and enjoy it again. It used to be my only joy; now I have the joy of having friends to compete with it, as ridiculous as that sounds."

"No, it is not ridiculous at all." He watched her for a moment, and she held his gaze, noticing for the first time that his eyes were a sea-grey color. "My home, Dol Amroth, is right on the beach and has its own great harbor. If you wish, I am sure some living arrangement could be made for you, and I will see to it that you have a small craft."

"You would do that?" She did not bother to hide her excitement at his proposition; her delight lit up her eyes.

"Yes, of course," he said with a smile. "It will take some time, for my father must return to Dol Amroth and see that all is in order, but I will make sure that it is done."

She grinned. "I cannot tell you how much that means to me, having my own boat again. I can wait for a while yet, don't worry about that."

"I am glad." His smile slightly faded, and he cleared his throat. "In truth, Anamaria, I hope you decide to stay, and that my offer has changed your mind about leaving, especially since you claim you would never be able to visit. You see, I plan to ask my father to allow me to remain in the City for a few more months, and I do not see any reason why he would say no. However, my reason for my wish to stay is, frankly put, you. I have enjoyed our days together greatly and want to spend further time with you. If we continue to get along as we have, perhaps we could… move our relationship further." He coughed and cleared his throat again. "However, if you are not interested, I will go to Dol Amroth and see to your living arrangements, and not bother you unnecessarily."

She blinked, speechless for a moment. When she saw he was still awaiting an answer, and slowly growing less confident as the seconds ticked by, she shook herself out of her dumbness. "That- that would be great. That would be very nice. Yes, I think I'd like that a lot." She nodded to herself for a moment, attempting to process everything that had just happened. As she did, she slightly narrowed her eyes. "You want to stay here- away from the sea- for me?"

He grinned. "I love to sail, but I can wait. I am more interested in, well…" He trailed off, but his implication was clear.

She nodded quickly, wondering why she all of a sudden felt so light-headed. "Yes, I understand. And I think that you staying here in Minas Tirith would be great. Wonderful." She paused for a brief moment. "Thank you, Amrothos, I now know what I am going to do. I need to find Gandalf." She smiled one last time before leaving him, and the young man watched her walk away, his eyes bright with joy.

O0O0O0O

When her husband could not be found in the guesthouse that the Fellowship shared, Elizabeth went immediately to the royal armory and forgery, which he often visited with Gimli to oversee the worker's doings. To Will's surprise when he first visited, he found their technology did not match that of Earth, despite the fact that they seemed to have all available resources. Gimli was little surprised.

"Men were once said to be well-skilled in this area, but that was long ago; and even then, no man can match the skill of a dwarf!"

Will had scoffed. "Nonsense. I will see this place up and running and forging weapons and tools that even best those of the dwarves."

"I would like to see that!" Gimli had laughed.

And so Will went to the royal forgery often, overseeing the construction of faster, more productive machines that would increase the speed and lower the cost of forging items. That day she found both Aragorn and Legolas with her husband as he explained the mechanics of one of the machines, just newly finished.

"Will!" she called out from the large open door of the forgery. She smiled briefly in acknowledgement to her two friends before continuing. "Do you have a minute? I must speak with you." Looking slightly puzzled, he nodded and walked outside to join her.

"What is it? I was just showing Aragorn and Legolas the-"

"Anamaria is staying."

He blinked, not completely grasping the significance of her short statement. "What?"

"Anamaria has made her choice. She is staying in Middle-earth."

"What- how do you know this? When did she choose?"

"Apparently some many days ago." She frowned. "I think she was going to keep it a secret from us, but Amrothos inadvertently let the cat out of the bag. She told him and he mentioned it in bypassing in our last conversation."

Will nodded slowly. "Well… I suppose her choice makes sense. She did not have anything to go back to in the Caribbean, and it is rather obvious that she and Amrothos are certainly becoming good friends. She is better off here."

"Yes, so it seems. And what about us?"

"What about us?"

"We have not discussed this issue at all since the day Gandalf brought it up; we need to make a choice!"

"Elizabeth, we have still about two months, if not more-"

"I think we should make the decision sooner rather than later, and now knowing Anamaria's decision, I really think we should discuss this now." She looked up at him expectantly.

"This is not a decision we want to rush."

"But it is not rushed! I had come to acceptance long ago, many months ago when I began contemplating never returning home. I had finally come to peace with never seeing my father again. And now Gandalf throws this at us! I need to have my mind at peace once more, Will; I cannot go on like this. The question gnaws at my heart night and day."

"Is all well?" Legolas asked hesitantly as he slowly approached, Aragorn right behind him. Elizabeth glanced at them apologetically; she had not realized how loud she was.

"Yes, we are fine," Will said. His wife frowned at him.

"No, we are not." She turned to the other two. "Anamaria has decided to stay in Middle-earth. I want to put my own heart to rest and decide our fates." She turned back to her husband. "Let us not continue to dodge the issue. I want us to decide."

He lifted up his hands in defeat. "Well, Elizabeth, what do you want?"

She opened her mouth and then closed it, her fiery, forceful spirit dissolving. "I- I want to remain with friends- but I- I want to see my father again." She sighed and closed her eyes, partially turning away from them. "But he is old, and only growing older. How much longer do I have with him: five years, maybe ten years? And if we decide to travel back to the Caribbean, it will have been a year since we disappeared… what if they have already accepted our deaths and moved on? What would my sudden reappearance do to him?"

"I cannot say," Will said gently, laying a hand on her shoulder while Aragorn and Legolas watched her sympathetically. "But what would happen to us here? I do not know what we can do here, now that the War is over."

"There are many things you could do here, Will," said Aragorn. "You seem to enjoy working here in the forgery. If you wish it, I can put you at its head. You could also join the guard, or become a merchant, or any number of things. I will see you well-started."

"I want to be with Elizabeth as often as I can," he confessed. "I do not think the latter two professions would allow that as much. However, I must admit that I am enjoying my work here in the forges, working to improve these machines and finding any sort of way to beat Gimli at his own game." The others laughed lightly. "I think I could work here."

"That is well," said Aragorn. "And Elizabeth, my wife would relish your company as one of her ladies, if you wish it. You two could live here in the Citadel or in the sixth circle if you want more privacy."

"I would enjoy that," said Elizabeth softly. She exhaled. "I came to terms long ago that I may not see my father again. I simply have to come to those terms once more." She nodded, as if assuring herself she was doing the right thing.

"I am not sure if the Caribbean would have been a viable choice for us now, considering how much time has passed," Will said gently.

Elizabeth only bobbed her head slightly in acknowledgement. "Yes. Staying here seems the obvious choice, really." Her gaze moved from her husband to her friends. "And I have grown greatly accustomed to this world and its people, and I cannot imagine a life in which I never saw any of you ever again. You all have become dear friends to me."

She suddenly looked to her husband again, her affection now turned into worry. "But what about Jack?"

He frowned deeply; he knew what she worried about. "I do not know. I cannot think of any sure reason he would stay here in Middle-earth, and I do not think he would stay because of us; he was always his own man."

"Perhaps he will surprise us; he has certainly changed since we first came here," said Elizabeth, but she was unable to conceal her doubt. "Oh, I know I cannot stand him half the time, but a world without Jack Sparrow seems wrong. How could we convince him to stay?"

"Perhaps he could be a part of Gondor's navy," suggested Legolas. "He would be on a ship very often."

"No, I doubt he would go for something like that, though if you dare offer it to him, Aragorn, you could try," said Will. The other man nodded thoughtfully. "Maybe we could entice with him some sort of… oh, hidden treasure of some sort. He would stay to search for something like that, surely. Are there any legends of hidden treasures somewhere around this world?"

"Nothing I am aware of," said Legolas, and Aragorn only shook his head. "Truthfully, my friends, there could be such a legend, but we have no way of knowing it if the legend comes from the East or South. Little is known about those lands; the elves have had little reason to explore them, and most kingdoms of Men residing here in the West have been enemies with Men of the Eastern and Southern Lands for as long as I have lived, and longer. Now that Sauron has fallen, perhaps it will change."

"Peace is indeed what I seek with countries both East and South," said Aragorn. "For the first time in centuries, Gondor may become allies with nations in these areas and learn more about these lands."

Elizabeth glanced at her husband. "Exploring uncharted lands sounds like something in Jack Sparrow's field."

Will slightly smiled at her. "Perhaps there is hope, yet."

O0O0O0O

The longest day of the year came and went and still the Fellowship remained in Minas Tirith, but their days together were drawing to a close. King Éomer had sent word that he was to soon come for the body of Théoden, and with his procession was to journey all the elves, the hobbits, Gandalf, and if he so chose, Jack, to Edoras and then back to the lands of the North. Anamaria's, Will's, and Elizabeth's choices were at this point known by the rest of the Fellowship, and while their friends rejoiced in their decision to remain in Middle-earth, they anxiously awaited the captain's decision. Most of the Fellowship, as per Aragorn's request, did not try to persuade him any which way. The three who already made their decision had no such qualms.

They were unusually cautious and not too persistent with their pestering, but they were earnest. Throughout the month of June, Jack had endured pestering from both Anamaria and Will, and even Elizabeth threw in a word or two by her husband's side. The captain, however, left no clues about his thought process or any hints about which direction he was leaning towards.

Despite his evasive answers and despite the fact that it did not seem they would have any influence over his decision as the weeks passed, they had not completely given up on him.

"Jack."

He turned from the enormous statue of some sour-looking king in the throne room to look at the speaker. "Elizabeth." His brows rose as she dangled something in front of him.

"I found this in the market yesterday. It comes all the way from Dol Amroth, which is supposed to be rather far away. Uncanny, is it not?"

He took a step closer and cocked his head as he inspected it. "It looks nearly the same as your old bracelet! Only with real gems now, of course." The captain unconsciously brought up a hand to touch one of the stones.

To his surprise, the woman dropped it into his hand. "It is yours. Consider it a thank you for the adventure."

Jack grinned. "You're too kind." Reaching into one of his many pockets of his old, ragged coat, he pulled out the bracelet he took from her back on the Dauntless. "You can have this back," he added as he tossed it to her.

Elizabeth caught it, surprise obvious on her features. "You kept this worthless thing all this time?"

"Eh. It looked nice."

She smiled as she put on the bracelet. "It does look nice. And it is a bit of- well, a bit of my old home." He nodded idly as she glanced down, and as Jack turned around and took a step back to see if the statue looked more or less bad-tempered at a distance, Elizabeth said suddenly, "Jack, you can't leave!"

He blinked once before turning to her. "You want me to stay?"

"Of course!"

"You weren't just agreeing with Will all this time just to make him happy?"

"No! What sort of woman do you take me for?"

"True." His eyes lit up in acknowledgement, but his expression quickly melted into a puzzled frown. "I thought you hated me."

"What? No, of course not!" She paused. "Well, yes, sometimes I cannot bear your presence, but that hardly means I dislike you, never mind want to see you leave forever."

He blinked again before nodding. "Ah. Well, glad we got that cleared up." Looking once again at the statue, he decided that it looked equally angry both close up and further away.

"I am serious, Jack," she insisted, following him as he moved onto another statue to see if it looked just as cross as its neighbor. When he found a similar expression on its face, he idly wondered if all of Aragorn's ancestors were really angry men or if they were just carved that way. His thoughts about the statues and their resemblances to the people they were modeled after went on as Elizabeth continued. "You cannot leave after all that has happened. You have nothing to go back to in the Caribbean that you cannot gain here, and if you left, you would be leaving behind people who genuinely care about your welfare. I mean, here, what with our friends, you could easily get a ship. You could maybe even command many ships under Aragorn's army, or-"

The only word the man heard out of her speech was 'ship', and it was the one he latched onto. "Ship? You think someone would give me a ship? For free?"

"Well, Gandalf did say that we were going to be given a ship to sail to the Caribbean. Why wouldn't they give you a ship for this world instead? It would not hurt to ask."

Jack nodded thoughtfully. "That is true." He smiled brightly at the young woman. "Very true." He turned once again to the statue in front of him, and then looked back to the one that he was looking at before. "Say, do you think that Aragorn's great grand-dads were all this angry or that they were just carved that way?" He paused. "Maybe Aragorn would know."

Elizabeth stared incredulously at him. "You haven't been listening to a word I've been saying, have you?" She lifted her hands up in frustration and stormed out of the large room, Jack not even sparing a last glance as she left.

Later that night, the Fellowship was once again gathered for a meal together; it would be one of their last before departing with Théoden's funeral procession for Rohan. In the middle of their meal, during a lapse of conversation, Jack said unexpectedly, "Can I have a ship?"

Aragorn blinked. "A ship?"

"Yes, a ship. You know, boat. Sails, riggings, deck, all that. To own." He paused. "For free, preferably."

Legolas smiled. "I am sure something could be arranged. Perhaps Círdan of the Grey Havens could see to it." He glanced at Gandalf for confirmation, and the wizard nodded.

"And if that elf is of no use," said Gimli, "I will build you one! My people began learning the art of building ships once we moved back to the Lonely Mountain, what with the River Running flowing right into our halls and so much trade with Dale and Esgaroth done by boat. Our boats are sturdy and will bear you far."

"There is no need for either," said Aragorn. "Many vessels small and large came into the state of Gondor's possession due to many of their owners perishing in the War. I am certain that I could find a ship currently unmanned that would fit your needs."

"Wonderful," Jack said, sitting back in his chair. "It looks like I have several options. Well, I am glad that's settled."

"Glad what's settled?" Merry asked, completely baffled.

"Well, the only way I'd stay here is if I had a ship. I have many options, it looks like, and now that I'm guaranteed a ship, I figure I'll stay."

"You mean you won't go back to your old home?" Pippin asked, his eyes lit up.

"Well," Jack said thoughtfully, "I have a ship here, and I have some nice connections here, so I figure that jumping on a boat and sailing the ocean here would be less of a hassle than traveling all the way to these Grey Havens and going back to a world where I'm lesser off than I am here."

"That is wonderful!" Elizabeth grinned.

"Calls for some sort of celebration!" Pippin added.

Jack shot up. "Rum!"

"We'll have someone bring it here," Gimli agreed enthusiastically.

Aragorn and Elizabeth glanced at each other distastefully as the others eagerly responded to the addition of Jack's exotic drink to the meal. The man shook his head.

"I will endure the presence of the foul drink if it makes Jack happy," said Aragorn to the woman.

"As will I," Elizabeth replied. "But best keep a few bottles of wine on the table for us; it is bound to be a long night."

"But a joyous one."

"Very much so," she said, smiling as the barrel of rum was rolled into the room to the chorus of cheers.

O0O0O0O

EPILOGUE: Six Months Later

The sun was just beginning to rise in the east when the two men met at the docks. While there were workers on the docks of Harlond even at this time of the day, little heed was paid to the two cloaked figures standing at a small, but sturdy one-man boat, nor to the tall man leaning against a wall at the end of the dock, waiting patiently.

Jack glanced up and down at the ship. "It's not The Black Pearl, but it'll do for now."

"I am glad you approve," said Aragorn with a slight smile. He brought his fur-lined cloak a little closer to him as the wind picked up.

"Does it have a name?"

"Not to my knowledge."

He looked it over with a critical eye. "Well, it's not black, but it is a nice bright white. Hmm. The Pearl, Jr. it is, then, at least until I find myself a Black Pearl the Second."

Aragorn laughed softly. "It suits the name of a ship under your command."

"Thank you," he answered cheerfully. His smile faded after a moment and the captain, his eyes still on the ship and his emotions carefully veiled, said, "I've been thinking about maybe delaying my trip down South and heading up North instead, down the-" He frowned, pulled out a map from his pocket, unfolded it, and studied it for a moment. "-going down the Brandywine, and to the Shire, see if the hobbits need anything."

Aragorn's smile faded. "I have the same desire to be up there and be of assistance, Jack, but from Frodo's letter, it seems they have rounded up all of the brigands and are now taking care of any of their kind who willfully assisted them, and are bringing them to justice. You must remember, too, that the letter was dated mid-November and only arrived yesterday. By the time you arrive there, it will be near spring, and if I know anything about hobbits, they will be actively rebuilding the Shire."

Jack nodded, folding and putting the map away. "I suppose you're right. Seems a right pity what happened to the Shire; they were excited to be going home, and came back to ruins. Those four, out of all people, didn't deserve that. 'Especially Frodo, after what happened to him….' The thought of the Ring, despite it being destroyed over nine months ago, still made him uneasy.

"No, they did not," Aragorn agreed. "But they will rebuild and recover. Frodo mentioned some of the efforts they were already making."

"And Saruman isn't going to be bothering them ever again," the other mentioned with a smirk. "I only wonder how long Wormtongue served him before he snapped and killed him like that."

"It was his choice to follow him," said Aragorn grimly, "and he could have left many times, especially after Saruman lost his power. Frodo's letter even mentioned that Gandalf told him to leave him; but in the end, he did not."

The captain shrugged. "Good riddance, the both of them."

"Perhaps."

Jack shrugged again, glancing up at the boat. All the supplies that he needed for a long journey were there, his personal belongings were packed, and he eagerly wanted to sail the ocean once more, but now that it came down to the actual moment, he felt a strange reluctance about leaving these people behind. Slightly frowning, he turned his thoughts away from his strange mood and quickly thought of another topic of conversation.

"So, Amrothos has been acting odd lately." He raised his brow expectantly; if anyone knew anything about any sort of situation, it would be Aragorn.

The king smiled. "Since you are leaving, I will tell you. He revealed to me last night that he received a response from his father about his request for his permission to court Anamaria. I am not sure what the outcome would have been if Amrothos had been his only son, but he is the youngest son of three, which worked in his favor, I imagine. Imrahil wrote that he agreed if I gave my blessing, and, of course, I did. The two have only grown closer these last few months. If she agrees- and I will be surprised if she does not- he will court her. A courtship is rarely shorter than six months, and often passes a year in length, at least in Gondor. If all goes well, he will propose, and they will be wed ere a year has passed."

Jack smiled softly. "She will be happy, I think. This place brought out a side of her she never revealed even to me, and she laughs a lot more than she did in the Caribbean. And Amrothos isn't stupid enough to try and keep her away from the boats."

Aragorn laughed. "Indeed, no! She seems to enjoy sailing, and often that is their topic of conversation."

He nodded, glancing at the boat once more. He could think of no other topics to stall for. "Well… I suppose I should be going. Sun's still climbing, and I want to be out before the docks get too busy."

The other's gladness softly faded into an expression Jack could not quite read. "You are sure you wish to leave? You would have a stable life here."

"And that's exactly why I'm leaving."

Aragorn slightly smiled. "You are sure? I imagine you could rise quickly in the Navy of the Reunited Kingdom. The current captain is soon to retire…"

He shook his head. "You should know me by now, mate. I like you, really, but I don't do very well under authority. That whole concept doesn't quite register in my head, if you take my meaning. Will and Elizabeth are better at that sort of thing; they'll get along fine enough here in the City. I am quite ready to be out on the sea again. Savvy?"

He nodded, if not exactly in understanding, at the least in sympathy. "Then out to the open waters you shall go, Captain Sparrow. Do you still agree to my proposition?"

"O' course. It's easy money."

"You do realize that the further you travel South, the less information you will have about the lands you visit? Once you travel past Umbar, there will be no maps to aid you, for even Gondor has no information beyond that point. While I traveled far in the South many years ago, it was by land, and I kept little record of the distance or what I saw where, and it seems that my memory is the only thing in Gondor that knows or remembers anything of the many lands beyond. Record your distances, the shoreline, and all the places and peoples you come across. Buy and trade for goods that Gondor has not seen. Bring back as much information as you can to me, and you shall be readily compensated for your work. Indeed, I nearly forgot," and here he pulled out a small pouch, "a small accommodation, but a taste of what will come, if you do your work well."

"Aw. You shouldn't have," Jack said as he took the coin pouch, swiftly pocketing it.

Aragorn only smiled knowingly, but slightly frowned as he went back through his memories of his travels. "I remember coming upon no lands that spoke the Common Tongue past Umbar, and even there it was an uncommon tongue, though perhaps you will be lucky."

"Doubt it. But no worries; I've been in many places where I can't understand a word they're saying, and I pick up strange tongues well enough."

He nodded. "Very well, then. Be careful; while the lands I traveled were less hostile than Harad and Umbar, it has been many years."

"Oh, don't worry about me. I've survived some interesting situations. And in the end, there's always Bonnie." He patted the sheath of his gun.

He glanced at him wryly. "I hope that sort of situation does not come to you, and that you only fight in self defense."

"What sort of man do you take me for? I like to avoid fighting, thank you very much."

His wry expression did not abate as he continued, ignoring Jack's words as if they were not spoken. "Indeed, I would ask you to keep any sort of lawbreaking to a minimum. I'd prefer if you kept yourself an honest sailor."

"Of course," he piped cheerfully.

The king raised an eyebrow, clearly unimpressed. "Promise me you will not go around breaking the law."

"I give you my solemn oath that I will do my uttermost best not to break the law."

Aragorn smiled.

"In your lands."

Aragorn's smile disappeared.

The captain held up his hands in a peace offering. "Easy, mate. If anything should occur- which, of course, it won't- nothing shall come back to you."

"How can you guarantee that?"

He opened up his arms. "I'm Captain Jack Sparrow."

The king opened his mouth as if to argue, but then closed it. The hour was growing late, and he had already stayed much longer than he had planned. Glancing behind him at the man waiting at the end of the docks, he said, "This farewell has gone on long, and I imagine Halbarad grows weary of waiting for me. I should head back up to the Citadel."

Jack nodded. He untied the boat from the dock and stepped lightly up the gangplank and onto the deck. Glancing back at Aragorn, he said, "I suppose I will be seeing you in a year or two."

He nodded. "Send word to me, if you can."

"Sure thing. I'll attempt to stop by around Anamaria's wedding."

"I believe she would appreciate that," Aragorn smiled. As the boat's sails were released and it caught wind, the king lifted up his arm. "Farewell, Jack."

Jack tipped his hat in his direction, and the man turned and walked off the deck to where Halbarad waited for him. The captain watched him walk away for a moment before turning his eyes to the Anduin, and he easily steered the boat into her eagerly flowing waters. As the vessel floated south, he spared one last glance at Minas Tirith before concentrating fully on the waters awaiting him.

He was ready to meet the horizon.


And I am done! Seven years of writing, of learning, and *tons* of editing, and my very first fan fic, the one that brought me into the wonderful, creative world of fan fiction, is completed. Over 200k words, too!

Just in case anyone is wondering:

Will this story have a sequel?:
No. This story was the brainchild of a thirteen-year-old long since grown up, and while I have had tons of fun writing- and rewriting- it over these last seven years, I have several other stories that are dying to be written. I definitely don't regret writing it, though, because I learned more from writing this than anything else. And, of course, it was fun, and I like it as a happier alternative to the POTC sequels- I shall always be happy with the characters as they were at the end of the first POTC.

Why in the world did you continue to write and/or rewrite this?:

I'm a bit of a completionist, and I liked the idea enough to continue as opposed to deleting it. The first major rewrite in 05 was to get rid of some horrible ideas my middle-school self thought were brilliant, and my larger, second major rewrite at the end of 08 was to scrape a couple horrible side stories and overall put it in a state where I could continue writing without shuddering in horror at what I wrote in the past. All minor edits ever since are because I am also a perfectionist.

What are you working on next?:
I'm working on pieces, both very different genres. The first one is a post-War, book-verse, Aragorn-centered fic that takes place from June to November the year Sauron falls/his coronation. It's a political drama with a decent amount of action/angst, some humor, and a dash of canon romance. Faramir also plays a large role, and there are cameos from Arwen, Gandalf, minor Tolkien characters, and a lot of OCs. So far it is over 200 pages long. Learning my lesson from this story, I am not posting it until it is completed, and hopefully it will be up in 2011. The second story is one I'm co-authoring with a friend of mine. It will be a Buffy/LOTR crossover, taking place after the third season of Buffy, and it will primarily be an action/humor piece.

Any other questions/quibbles?:

Feel free to PM me here on this website.