"The soul that perpetually overflows with kindness and sympathy will always be cheerful."
–Parke Godwin

"Fear of the future is a waste of the present."
–Why can't I remember this guy's name? He's so smart and I can't remember his name!

"Yesterday has gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin."
–Mother Theresa

"Never look down on anybody unless you're helping them up."
–Reverend Jesse Jackson

Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings is not mine.
Chapter Twenty-Three
Southern Winds

Legolas felt his body calm. He tried to focus on breathing, did his best to remain conscious. His body wanted rest. His mind wanted rest. It would've been so easy to just give in to that soft eternity that waited to welcome his spirit.

Yet his heart told him not to. He would fight as long as he could, as hard as he could.

It was because of this that Boromir showed himself early. It startled Legolas for less than a second. He'd been expecting some sign that his time was close. "You still have some time," Boromir assured the Elf.

'Not much,' Legolas said quietly in his mind.

"It might be enough. Athos is working like crazy to find a cure."

'Athos? Really?'


'Then . . . it wasn't all a waste. They're working together.'

"Not exactly," Boromir admitted reluctantly. "The others just stormed out on him."


"I wouldn't give up on him yet, Legolas."

'I'm not. And I'm not afraid of death.'

"I know that. Aragorn told me. On more than one occasion."

'Good. So if Athos doesn't find anything . . .'

"Oh, you pessimistic Elf. He'll find something. Just for once, don't think of the worst that could happen."

'The pain's fading.'

"I don't care if the pain is flying on the wings of giant eagles to the top of the tallest trees in Mirkwood. You are not going to die!"

Legolas tried to smile. Even that smile effort sent a wave of pain coursing through his body. He barely felt it. The pain, the world, seemed so distant, so clouded.

Boromir's face was joined by others. Some he recognized: Haldir and the other Elves who'd come to Helm's Deep, Theoden, Hama, and the Woodland Wanderers whom he'd barely known for a day. The others he didn't know, but had heard of: Elves from ages past, great warriors, heroes. He, Legolas, son of Thranduil, Prince of Mirkwood, had earned his place among them.

"At least he looks more comfortable now, Laddie, more relaxed," Gimli noticed hopefully.

Aragorn shook his head. "I think the word you wanted, Gimli, was 'peaceful.' That he does. We're losing him, Gimli."

Gimli sadly tried to make a joke. "He can't die yet! I'm still ahead of him by twelve of those flying things."

"I'll tell him that if he makes it."

"He will, Laddie, he will," Gimli said reassuringly.

Aragorn turned to Gandalf. "How long does he have?"

"I'm surprised he's still alive."

"This stupidblastedwhatchamacalit won't work!"

Morgan nodded. She'd never seen Athos so frustrated. "Wait," she said. "What if . . .?"

"Yes! Let's try it!"

"I'll do it."

"Morgan, I won't let you! Whether you're right or wrong, we can do nothing for Legolas."

"We can find out if we're right. Can you alter the dosage and ingredients so you give me in proportion as much as you gave Legolas?"

"Aren't I the chief authority on gleem poison?"

"That you are. Can you make both the poison and the cure work faster?"


"Good. Do it."

Athos looked a little shocked. "Who made you such a good leader?"

Morgan shrugged. "Peter did."

As Legolas watched, Haldir stepped forward among the others. Legolas didn't have to ask his question; Haldir didn't have to answer it. It was time.
"How long will this take?" Morgan asked.

"You'll have half a minute, at the most. You're sure . . ?"

"Athos, I want this," Morgan said firmly, doing the best imitation of Captain Decker she could muster. "As much as you want this to work for Legolas, I want this!"

"Smeagol, if it doesn't work . . ."

"No one will stand in your way. I thought you wanted that."

"I don't want you to die." He handed her knife, its blade covered with the faster-working poison.

"I'm counting on that."

"Is there anything you want me to tell the others for you?" Boromir asked.

"Yeah, there is, if you don't mind. Tell Aragorn there was nothing he could've done. He's sure to think there was. Tell Gimli to keep counting Orcs and Uruk-hai. Tell Morgan not to give up. Tell Avanwë . . . I'M NOT DEAD YET!" With that, the Elf struck out with everything he had, from outside and inside. The pain came back in a rush. The faces disappeared. Avanwë collapsed back, exhausted, into Aragorn's waiting arms.

"YES!" screamed a voice in Faramir's mind, startling him out of unconsciousness. "Yes! They did it, little brother! They did it!"

'Tone it down, Boromir! Ouch!' Faramir slowly opened his eyes.

"I never thought . . ." Elrond started. "I couldn't trust him."

"Athos wasn't the only one who came through," Aragorn shrugged. "Avanwë did a lot of it."

"How did she . . .?"

"It was like Latano said. 'Her strength added to his might be enough to stop it.' They just needed a little help." He looked up at Elrond. The Elf looked guilty. "Ada, it was natural not to trust him," Aragorn said reassuringly. "Almost as natural as it was for Sam not to trust me at first."

"Athos and Morgan! Where are they, Elrond?" Samuel suddenly interrupted.

Elrond got his point immediately. "This way," he said.

"I've seen 'The Wrath of Khan' too much," Samuel quietly told himself. It all seemed so familiar. Something had happened. They would be too late.

It certainly seemed that way when they entered the room. Athos and Morgan were both on the floor, unconscious. Morgan's right hand was bleeding, but her left still held Athos'.

Elrond knelt down to check their pulses and breathing. Aragorn stood silently by the door. "They're alive," Elrond said in relief. "They figured out the only cure." He shook his head. Why had they, together, been able to realize it, when he, Elrond, greatest healer in Rivendell, hadn't. "Let's get them back to the others," he said at last. Aragorn nodded. Morgan had been the only one willing to work with Athos, even after all he'd done to her. They owed it to her to help him all they could. Either she was totally crazy or there was something in Athos most people–even Elves–couldn't see, something the one remaining Woodland Wanderer could.

"Good job, you two," Gandalf said softly to Legolas and Avanwë. "You did it."

"Of course we did," Legolas managed a laugh. "Did you really think I'd let Gimli's count pass mine?" Avanwë smiled. He was well enough to tease the Dwarf; he'd be okay.

"Hannon le, Avanwë. I couldn't have done it alone," he smiled.

"That's why I'm here. You guys needed extra help. I'm glad to give it."

"How did you . . .?"

"It's not the strength of the body that matters, but the strength of the spirit. We both have that, Legolas. It's what brought me to Mirkwood in the first place, what led me to you. I knew you'd need it someday."

"That long ago? You knew this would happen?"

"Not exactly. Some Elves have the gift of foresight, like Elrond, or Galadriel. I could tell you would need my help, but not when or where."

"You guessed right."

"I didn't guess," Avanwë laughed. "You didn't see me, I guess, at Council. I followed you to Caradhras. Then I found you again in Lothlorien. I was at the battle of Helm's Deep, and every battle after that. Then I found you again–here."

"And we're all glad you did. Hannon le."

"My pleasure, mellon nin."

Athos slowly opened his eyes and looked around. All of Imladris seemed to be there, but, thankfully, no one was paying attention to the leader of the gleems. Except Samuel.

"Hey, Athos," the teenager said, trying to muster enough courage to smile at his enemy.

"I won't hurt you, Samuel."

"Well, that's a switch."

"Don't I know it. But how could I hurt you? I can barely move!"

"I . . . I guess you have a point."

"Legolas . . . is he okay?"


"Morgan, too?"

"Yeah." There was an awkward silence, and then Samuel asked the question that had been burning in his mind ever since Athos had arrived in Imladris. "Why did you help us?"

Athos forced a grin. "Because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few . . . or the one."

"You going to tell me to live long and prosper?"

"The idea crossed my mind. Oh, when she wakes up, tell Smeagol never to pull a stupid stunt like that again." He disappeared, still laughing.

"Now, if that don't beat all," Samuel smiled.

Morgan felt her dream slowly slip away. It had been peaceful–a quiet ride on the ocean, in a canoe, with twelve-foot-tall waves. 'Only a Woodland Wanderer would call that peaceful,' she thought.

She gathered as much information as she could without opening her eyes. Legolas was alive; she could hear him talking to Avanwë. Athos was gone, but Faramir was nearby. Someone else was by her and . . . no, two people, talking quietly. She could recognize Aragorn by his accent, and Samuel by that note of humor that was almost always in his voice.

Morgan opened her eyes to check her guesses. She'd been right. "Smeagol?" Aragorn asked, amused. Morgan smiles sheepishly. "Where in Middle-Earth did you get a nickname like that?"

Morgan shrugged. "Long story. It worked?"

"You're still alive. I guess you and Athos got something right," Samuel smiled.

"He has a good heart," Morgan nodded. "He didn't want any of this to happen. I recognize the strategy well enough to know that Heather got most if not all of her orders from Angelica. Athos . . . wouldn't do that." She fought back a surge of pain as she tried to sit up. Aragorn put a hand on her back to help her out. "Hannon le. If you could . . ." she started to say to Samuel.

Samuel nodded and handed her Peter's old stick. Morgan took it gratefully and somehow managed to stand up. She fastened his grey cape around her neck, and it seemed to shrink to the right size.

Aragorn seemed to know where she wanted to go. "Don't tell Elrond," he whispered. "And don't go unconscious again. Elrond'll kill me." Morgan nodded, and Aragorn led her out to the gardens. Heather nodded to Tova, and the two of them followed.

Morgan easily found Bilbo, seated on a low bench, writing what was probably going to be a poem once he got an idea. His mind was elsewhere. He looked up as Morgan sat down beside him.

"They're fine," Morgan said before Bilbo had a chance to ask. The old Hobbit let out a sigh of relief. Strider silently slipped away, a speciality of his.

"You look sad, child," Bilbo said quietly. "Too sad for your age. You can't be more than twelve!"

Morgan tried to smile. She knew she looked young. "I'm thirteen, and I'm not always this sad. And my name's Morgan."

"Well, Morgan, please, tell me what's happened, and if there's any way I can be of help, I'd be glad to do so."

"I'm afraid there's nothing you can do now but listen." She told him everything she could, everything she knew. It helped more than she thought it would; with Peter gone, she'd thought no one would listen to her, but Bilbo not only had plenty of time. He was also interested.

"And so now you're the only one," he said quietly when she'd finished. She nodded, tears on her cheeks once more. Then she remembered . . . 'Not all tears are an evil.' She adjusted her glasses a little and fell silent.

"Morgan?" a quiet voice asked from behind her.

Morgan turned. "Tova! Heather! Mae govannen! Have a seat!" Tova hesitated, but then sat by Morgan, and Heather sat by her.

"We're so sorry, Morgan," Heather managed to say.

"I know you are," Morgan said understandingly. "You both thought you were . . . doing the right thing. Heather, you're young, and you've seen far too much hatred, too much violence. You just wanted it to end. I'll never blame anyone for that. Tova, I know how strict the elves are about loyalty, about their laws. I know it wasn't always like that, that after the third village was destroyed you had to enforce those laws to keep your people from scattering, as our island is in danger of doing even now. No one had broken any law for a long time before we Woodland Wanderers started breaking them left and right. We must have caused quite a disturbance."

"How can you even think of forgiving us for . . ." Tova started.

"For what you did?" Morgan touched the cross Peter had worn and was now around her neck. Aragorn, knowing it was of some great significance to the two of them, had fastened it there while she was unconscious. "It's what they would've wanted. It would make a lie of all we work for to hold any of this against you two. Behind the mistakes and doubts in you, I can see your courage, courage our world needs desperately."

"Morgan, I know we'll never be able to replace the other Woodland Wanderers," Tova hesitated, "but would you let us join you?"

"Do you really know what you're asking for? The only thing I can offer you is a life of hardship and danger, facing death every day, a life you can't plan because you don't know whether you'll live to see another sunset, a life of fighting and hiding, hiding even from your own people. I don't doubt your courage, but is this what you want?"

"I want to do this," Tova nodded. "I will gladly be an outcast from my own people if it means I can save them, even from themselves."

Heather nodded, too. "If I can keep Athos from tricking just one more kid like he tricked me, it's worth it."

"Thank you both. You couldn't know how much this means. Yes, you can never replace the others, and I wouldn't ask you to. It's impossible. Just be yourselves. That's all any of us need to do." He held her hand out, palm down. The others placed theirs on to of hers, like a very small sports team. "One for all, and all for one!" Morgan shouted.

"Perfect!" Bilbo exclaimed, and started to write. Morgan, who knew how annoying it was when people read over her shoulder, motioned to the others, and they left the Hobbit alone in the garden with his thoughts.

They were halfway back when they ran into Faramir. "Looking for the Lonely Mountain?" Morgan teased. The steward looked a little lost.

"Actually, I was looking for you."

"So are the gleems. What's on your mind?"

"Two things, actually. When we first volunteered to take the Hobbits' place as prisoners, did Peter know what might happen? I mean, he was hurt the worst of all of us already. Didn't he know that what the gleems could do might kill him?"

Morgan nodded. "He knew. He volunteered because he knew it might kill anyone else, as well. He was always . . . willing to risk his own life so that someone else wouldn't have to. It . . . it didn't matter if that someone else was me or Angelica. He'd do it just the same."

"I got the feeling he'd known. He was really brave."

"You know, he'd say you took the same risks. Sure, you didn't know exactly what you were walking into, but you had a pretty good idea."

"And you?"

"I knew what I was getting myself into. We've been captured more times than I want to count–I lost track somewhere around ten billion–and every single time, any or all of us could've died. None of us ever thought it'd all happen in one day, but maybe that was better, as well."

"Better for everyone but you. I know, Morgan, what it feels like to be left behind, to be the only one remaining to grieve for the passing of friends . . . of family, which actually brings me to my other question. I have this annoying song stuck in my head, but I only know the first two lines."

Morgan smiled. It was such an ordinary problem. "What song?"

"Deep in the Heart of Texas."

'Peter would know the words,' Morgan thought. Absent-mindedly she reached into one of the pockets in his cape. A piece of paper was there, folded up. She took it out and unfolded it. She looked at it for a moment and whispered a silent 'Thank you.' Then she handed it to Faramir.

"The stars at night are big and bright
Deep in the heart of Texas.
The prairie sky is wide and high
Deep in the heart of Texas.

The sage in bloom is like perfume
Deep in the heart of Texas.
Reminds me of the one I love
Deep in the heart of Texas.

The coyotes wail along the trail
Deep in the heart of Texas.
The rabbits rush around the brush
Deep in the heart of Texas.

The cowboys cry, "Ki yippee yi!"
Deep in the heart of Texas.
The doggies bawl and bawl and bawl
Deep in the heart of Texas.

The stars at night are big and bright
Deep in the heart of Texas.
The prairie sky is wide and high
Deep in the heart of Texas.
Deep in the heart of Texas."

"Remember today, little brother," a voice on the winds said. "Today, new life begins."

"Remember today, little sister," came a familiar voice. Morgan nodded. She needed no more explanation from Peter.

Days passed in Rivendell. The Woodland Wanderers were buried there under the stars. Wounds healed. Strength returned. But soon they felt their homes calling, and Morgan, Heather, and Tova knew they needed to return.

So they gathered together once more: Elrond, Gandalf, Galadriel, Glorfindel, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Bergil, Faramir, Eowyn, Eomer, Avanwë, Radagast, Samuel, Susan, Nora, Ronosa, Tova, Heather, and Morgan. Once more, Elrond was eager to offer an alternative.

"You three could stay here," he said kindly to the Woodland Wanderers. "You have a chance for another life, away from war, grief, despair."

Morgan smiled a little and shook her head. "We'd rather help others to have that chance."

Elrond tried again. "You know, you could bring the whole island here if you had to. It's safe. The people here will protect you. What's stopping you?"

"Do you really want to know what holds me to that world?"

"Not a lover, I hope," Elrond sighed.

"I guess you could say that, though more so love for a large group of people than one person. Would you like to see?" She looked now like a strange kind of leader; with her grey cape, tall stick, cross, and Peter's sword at her side, (She'd given hers to Heather.) she looked like some strange mix of Gandalf, Aragorn, Faramir, and the other Woodland Wanderers.

Elrond nodded. "I'd like to see."

"–said the blind man to his deaf daughter who was walking a lame dog," Morgan finished promptly. Everyone looked at her. Only Pippin seemed to think it was funny. "What?" Morgan asked.

"Humor," Samuel said, trying to keep a straight face. "It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." The two thirteen-year-olds burst out laughing. Elrond shrugged. Gandalf shrugged. Everyone started laughing.

"Can you get us there, Morgan?" Radagast asked.

"I think so."

"Want some help the first time?"

"Sure. Hannon le."

"My pleasure."

"Close your eyes, everyone," Morgan said. They did, and the quiet wind of Imladris started to blow around them. Morgan felt Radagast's hand on her shoulder and concentrated. The wind blew faster, harder. For a moment, though her eyes were closed, Morgan saw the blue of the Sea, the white gulls, the grey havens, and the young teenager knew what it was. They'd left Middle-Earth, yes, but it was also Peter's way of saying he was proud of her. She relaxed, and the wind died down to a gentle breeze.

"Open your eyes," Morgan said. They were in a forest, this time in the United States of America. "This is my home," Morgan smiled. "That house to the north, that's where I live. My sister, thank goodness, covers for me when I have to be somewhere else. My parents know nothing of all this. They're on vacation for a week to celebrate their engagement anniversary. I'm not usually gone this long."

"Who does know about this?" Elrond asked.

"My sister, my bird, my sister's bird, the squirrels, the deer, the trees. That's about it here, Elrond. My brother's only two, so innocent, so young; I don't want him to have to see this, the suffering, the death.

"I don't know if we can win this war, but I know why we fight it. Last Sunday, at Church, after the service, there were three boys downstairs playing tag. My brother joined them and started yelling, "Tag! Tag!" I joined, and, before long, no one knew who was it. I dragged my sister and another friend into what had become tag football. My brother was still running in circles and shouting, "Tag! Tag!" but the rest of the boys were tackling each other. The rest of us joined in, all except him. Nothing real tough, of course, except for the oldest boy. He's six or seven, I think, and a good fighter.

"But we only fight this battle because everything we know and love is threatened. I love this country; I love our island; I love both of my families, my friends, this world. I can't move the whole world to Middle-Earth, and not everyone would come if I could, myself included."

"Are you ever going to come back?"

"As often as I can."

"Morgan," Gandalf said. "The cabin on the west side of the forest, you'll find a Palantir. If you ever need help, don't hesitate to use it." Aragorn nodded.

"Hannon le. And if you need help, don't you hesitate to tell me, either. As long as we're not trapped in some dungeon, we'll come." She turned to Radagast. "Can you get them back?"

"I'm not going with them."

"You're staying here?" Heather asked, delight in her eyes.

"Well, I guess that's up to the head of my order." He turned to Gandalf with a playful smile. "May I stay?"

"You'll follow the rules this time, no more darkness covering the whole Earth?"

"Yes. But I will help in any way I can."

"Hannon le, Radagast," Morgan smiled, "and welcome to the Woodland Wanderers."

xWhit3StaRx -- Man, does that feel good to finally get that all posted. :) One story down . . . way too many to go. :) Hope you liked the ending, and hope I didn't disappoint you by not killing off Legolas. :) Maybe another story . . .