Folks, this is the final chapter of "Things Fall Apart," although there is an epilogue, as will be explained at the end.

My daughter and I are flying up to New Jersey tomorrow to visit my parents. My daughter has been saving money for months because I promised her we will visit New York City. Hah! She won't be able to buy anything in the stores on 5th Avenue that she is so anxious to visit! But hope springs eternal, as the saying goes. Anyway, I probably won't be posting for a couple of weeks.

An update on the nominations for MPA awards. I actually have three stories nominated: "Fellowship of the Reins" under the category of Animal-Based, "A Wizard's Wand" under the category of Elfling, and "An Offer of Friendship" under Most Emotional. A heartfelt 'Hannon le' to the folks who nominated me. For information on the MPA awards, you can go to this address: www . elvenlords . net / MPA / MPA2005library . htm . You have to eliminate the spaces from within the address. I put them in to keep the fanfiction program from stripping the address out.

Farflung: I too am not sold on the idea of Valinor. Yes, I liked Gilglîr's solution to the housing crisis.

Melannen Amarie: Thank you! I am afraid that this about wraps up this story, but I will begin another one in a couple of weeks.

Dragonfly: If you think Thranduil showed how much he has grown and matured in the previous chapter, wait until you see what happens in this chapter.

Mearas: If the last chapter made you happy, this chapter should make you even happier!

Beta Reader: Dragonfly

Chapter 77: The Gift of a Name

"I thought myself reconciled to the loss of my son," Thranduil said to Elrond the next day. "Indeed, I believe I was reconciled. But even though I would have survived his loss, I don't mean to suffer it if it can be avoided. When Legolas returns home with me, be sure I will keep him close!"

"It is no easy matter to keep Legolas from roaming," Elrond warned, "as I have reason to know!"

"I do not doubt you, Elrond; still, I will give him duties in and about the Great Hall. He has grown mature and responsible. If I give him a task that requires him to remain near me, he will comply."

"True, but what if his talents were better employed elsewhere?"

"Oh, you and Mithrandir are of one mind," smiled Thranduil. "Mithrandir thinks Legolas is destined for some great mission, doesn't he? But, Elrond, my son can be just as courageous a general within the borders of Mirkwood as without!"

"But what if it is not his destiny to lead great armies into battle?" asked Elrond thoughtfully. "With his talents, it may be that his way lies on another path."

"Nonsense," Thranduil said dismissively. "He is a Prince! What other path could there be?"

For all Thranduil's eagerness to bring Legolas back to Mirkwood, that was one path the Prince would not be traveling for the time being. Thranduil decided that the original plan, that Legolas would remain in Rivendell at least until Caranlass' children were born, was a good one. Elrond found it much to his liking that the King was not motivated by selfishness. Far from it!

"If I were to take Legolas away now, of the Mirkwood Elves only Edwen Nana would be present at the birth of Caranlass' babes," the King said to Elrond. "It seems hard that at such a time the young couple would not be surrounded by more of their kin—for Tathar is like a brother to Legolas, aye, and like a son to me!"

Messengers were therefore dispatched to inform Gilglîr and Tawarmaenas of the state of affairs. Both were overjoyed to learn that Legolas was healthy and only a little disappointed that they would have to wait several more months before being reunited with him.

"After all," said Tawarmaenas bravely, "we are Elves. We will still have not one day less with Legolas!"

Caranlass' pregnancy progressed satisfactorily, as well it might, given that she was being watched over not only by Edwen Nana but also by Galadriel, Elrond, and Gandalf. It would have been a brave infant who had been balky under the circumstances! And so the term of months came to an end and in due course Caranlass went into labor.

When Caranlass felt the first contractions, Galadriel and Edwen Nana shooed the watchers and well-wishers out of the room so that they might attend the mother-to-be in privacy. All the ellyth, as was customary, betook themselves to a nearby chamber to keep vigil, all save Gandalf, that is. He nervously lit his pipe and was promptly banished to the garden.

"Have pity upon Tathar," Elrond scolded the wizard as he showed him the door. "He looks as green as a leprechaun, and your noxious weed will probably be the final straw that causes him to lose his stomach—and then the rest of us shall lose ours!"

So Gandalf paced in the garden while the others paced within. Their anxiety was needless, however. As she had already demonstrated in so many ways, Caranlass was equal to any eventuality, including the rigorous task of birthing twins. Far more quickly than anyone had expected, Galadriel and Edwen Nana were swabbing and swaddling two infants. The babes emitted the requisite wails when they first emerged into the light, but after they were cleaned and made comfortable, they complacently yawned and fell into a contented sleep, one on either side of the new mother. Edwen Nana remained to see to the comfort of Caranlass, and Galadriel went to inform the awaiting ellyth of the arrival of two new Elves.

"All is well," she told them. "Tathar, you may greet your children now and thank your wife. The rest of you, as is customary, must wait until the morrow to see Caranlass and the babes. You are free, of course," she added with a smile, "to begin celebrating."

The ellyth gladly retreated to Elrond's private chamber, collecting Gandalf along the way, and there they went through several bottles of wine before cheerfully bidding one another good night and departing to their respective rooms.

The next day Thranduil paid a visit to the proud parents and their newborns. "Which is the ellon and which is the elleth?" he asked wonderingly as he gazed down at the two perfect infants.

"This little red-haired fellow," said Tathar, "is the boy. The golden-haired sprite is the girl."

"Golden-haired," said Thranduil wistfully. "Laurelässe had golden-hair."

"Who is Laurelässe?" asked Caranlass.

"She was Legolas' Naneth," Tathar said hastily. He felt uneasy at the turn the conversation was taking. Thranduil, however, seemed to recover swiftly.

"What will you name them?" he asked, smiling.

"We settled upon the name Gil-galad for the lad long ago," replied Caranlass. "We have not chosen a name for the lass. The name you just mentioned now, Laurelässe, it is so beautiful. Perhaps we may—"

"Caranlass," cried Tathar, horrified, "you don't underst—"

"No! no!" interrupted Thranduil. "I would not mind. In truth, I would be made happy by the choice."

"You are certain?" asked Tathar, flabbergasted.

"Quite certain. It is true that Laurelässe is a beautiful name, and this is a beautiful child. It is a fitting name. It would please Legolas, too, I am certain, for it would honor his mother."

"If you are sure," said Tathar.

"I am quite sure," said Thranduil cheerfully. "That is, if the name is agreeable to the two of you."

"Oh, it is," Tathar assured him fervently. "It would honor us if our daughter bore that name!"

Well, then," smiled Thranduil, "it seems a case of honor all around. May I be the first to toast Gil-galad and Laurelässe?"

Proudly, Tathar opened a bottle of Dorwinion wine presented to them by Glorfindel, who had visited earlier that day, and Thranduil called down health, happiness, and good fortune upon the two infants.

It was a wonder and a joy to all when it became known that Thranduil had given his leave and his blessing for the name Laurelässe to be bestowed upon the little maiden.

"This is not the Thranduil who angrily thrust thirteen Dwarves into the dungeons of the Great Hall," said Gandalf, smiling.

"No," agreed Legolas thoughtfully. "Nor is it the Thranduil who refused to grant me my name so many centuries ago. I thought myself nameless—I was nameless—for many years, Mithrandir, and it took some time to accustom myself to the idea that I was Legolas. Indeed, I was not sure that I wanted to be Legolas. But now I am certain. I am glad to be Legolas. But more than that: I am glad to be Legolas Thranduilion, son of Thranduil, King of Northern Mirkwood. He is a father to be proud of, and he loves me."

"And you are a son to be proud of," said Gandalf. "But have a care, Legolas Thranduilion! He is your father, and you love and respect him. And you should obey him—in the main! But father or no, he cannot always order your comings and goings. Your motives for wandering abroad will not be the same as they were when you fled Greenwood in sorrow and despair. But there will come a day when you will again set forth from the realm of your father."

"That day may be long in coming," laughed Legolas, shaking his head. "My father has drawn up a long list of tasks I needs must accomplish—and all of them require that I remain within the borders of Northern Mirkwood. I suppose I should at least congratulate myself that I will not again be sent in search of a bride!"

"No," said Gandalf, suddenly growing serious. "No, I do not think that will be your quest. But, come," he said, smiling again, albeit wistfully. "Let us enjoy these days of hope and new life. Memories of these days may strengthen us during dark times to come."

"Always the wizard," smiled Legolas. "In enigmatic utterance, you are the rival of Galadriel! But I would not have you any other way. You must forever be Mithrandir."

Gandalf eyes suddenly clouded.

"I shall not be," he said softly. "At least, I shall not always be Gandalf the Grey."

But the wizard swiftly shook off his odd mood, and Legolas, with equal swiftness, pushed Gandalf's words from his mind. And he did not think of them again for a long, long time.

My friends, now the story has cycled around to Chapter 29: Epilogue of "Returning From The Dead." I won't reprint that chapter here, but you may want to reread it, as you should consider it to be Chapter 78, and the final chapter, of this story. Thank you for staying the course. This 'story' turned into a novel! Any requests for the next tale?