Reviewer responses:

LalaithoftheBruinen: Very glad you like this story and yes, this last bit is still to come. I felt that chapter six was a fitting end, but this almost alludes to a possible sequel…

Spanishgoddess86: Thank you for your kind words! I'm glad you liked the bit with Thranduil listening, I GOT OUT of bed at like 4 a.m. when that popped into my mind and just WROTE it. So I wouldn't forget to do it when I fully woke up. I hope you enjoy this bit too…it's definitely an epilogue though, not really the end which already happened well in chapter six.

HarryEstel: Glad you like this and hope you enjoy this last bit.

Shadowfax2931: Hey Amanda. I got your e-mails and I'm glad that you managed to get reviews to work. Thanks for reading the story…I have a LITTLE more for you here, but not much. Enjoy!

Sielge, Losing Grip and Deana: Hey you guys! Thanks for continually reviewing this story. It means a lot to me. I am so glad you enjoyed it and I am hoping you enjoy this last bit too. It kind of alludes to a sequel…which I may write.

Mornflower: My Morn…does your head still hurt from banging it into the desk? I hope not. Glad you enjoyed the so-called end of the story and hope you like the epilogue. I don't know if I would associate the word "brilliance" with me, but hey…thanks for saying it anyway!

Kirsten, Lynx Yamato, Rutu, Aknightofni: You are all so nice to me! I'm happy that you liked the story so much. It makes writing so much more enjoyable! I hope you like the epilogue and perhaps you'll want a sequel…the trip lends itself to one…

Slayer3: Hey there. Thanks for that review! I don't write slash and I don't post Mary-Sues if I write them at all. I'm not into that stuff, though I have seen a few well-done stories. Anyway, thanks for reading and enjoy this epilogue. If you like my type of fics, I have a bunch of other ones under my penname here on and on the Mellon Chronicles Web site...which is an awesome, must-read series of stories…Cassia and Sio are awesome!

KeshieShimmer: Me? Unexpected things? Nah…wait a minute…yes…now that I think about it…I DO do unexpected things! Hehe…glad you liked this and I'm hoping you enjoy the epilogue. I might write another story after this, but I'll try to finish When a Shadow Falls first…I have left people hanging WAY too long on that and I feel really bad!!!


ALAS, tis over. But if you all review and ask for one, I might do a sequel…you shall see why it would be possible and even likely for me to do one when you finish reading this epilogue. Thanks for reading and thanks for reviewing…you are all great…even you lurkers who don't review!

-Gwenneth


Chapter Seven: Epilogue

:

Legolas knew one thing for certain.

He had never felt so good in his life. Once he had let out the story of his mother's murder, the weight of the tragedy had all but disappeared.

True, he still felt some guilt and definitely felt sorrow, but he was not burdened or bogged down by it.

Stretching his arms above his head tentatively, he smiled. The wound in his back was healing well. Since he had released his emotional hurts, his physical ones had begun to rapidly heal.

Estel, for the most part, was a constant fixture at his side and Legolas was glad the two would be given permission to leave the Healing Ward this day.

Thranduil had meant to deal out judgment to the five elves who had cornered and attacked Estel, but he couldn't bring himself to do it while Legolas had been unconscious and on the brink of either passing or waking up.

So, he had waited.

And now, Legolas and Estel would partake in the proceedings. It was fitting; they had been the most ill-effected by the incident.

As Estel helped him from the bed, Legolas sighed. "How shall I know what is right if it is my choice to decide their fate?"

His friend smiled. "My Ada always says to trust your judgment. You'll know what is right when you must. Come on, we're already late."

Legolas laughed. "Don't you think my father would allow me some reprieve from being on time? I am, after all, still unable to move in most directions."

"I'm sure he would forgive you, Legolas, but you know you want out of here. Show Bardon that you can move about and he might let you."

Legolas laughed harder at that. "You need to get to know Bardon better, mellon nin."

The man smiled. Every time Legolas said those words, he felt a flutter of emotion in his breast. Truly, to get to this point had been hard for both of them. Hard for Estel to prove his worth and for Legolas to let go his hate. But they had done it and it made it all the more wonderful to hear the words "mellon nin".

A light tug on his sleeve returned his attention to Legolas, who was moving toward the doorway. "You said we were late, let's go."

And the two hurried, or did their own version of hurrying, toward the council chambers where Thranduil had decided to hold the proceedings.

It was a short trip, but it tired the Elf out anyway. He was healing, but not healed yet. With a small grimace he pushed open the doors to the chamber and walked in, Estel trailing a step behind with his limp.

The five elves had already been brought in and when the doors opened, everyone assembled rose and nodded their greetings to the royal and his friend. The prisoners were made to bow and then everyone waited until Legolas had sat before taking their own seats.

Estel was seated beside his friend, to his great surprise, for the Prince and his father were seated in places of royalty.

But he chose not to mention that. Instead, he focused on the fearful expressions of the elves that had attacked him in their blind haze of hatred. Oddly, he felt no anger toward them. Only regret and maybe even a little pity.

Thranduil spoke then, drawing all attention to himself. "You five have committed a high act of treason against the royal family of Mirkwood. Though not your target, you nearly took the life of my son, Prince Legolas and you wounded both him and his friend, a guest in our house and foster son of Lord Elrond. Speak and let it be known why you did this."

The Elf who had done the shooting was prodded forward and he kneeled before his King and Prince. "My liege, there is no excuse for my actions. I and my counterparts were blinded by our hate of men. We…we thought that the man Estel had put a spell on our Prince and would use him to his own gain. We only meant to save him from the man and did not think rationally. I ask you for no pity or ease with your punishment. I only ask forgiveness from you and your son."

Legolas saw his father's eyebrows twitch in anger. Thranduil would not so easily forgive this, he could read that in his father's eyes. The elder Elf was still touchy about it.

To Legolas' surprise, he himself was not angry at any of them. He understood the hatred, knew that it could be blinding. But he was uncertain if it was his place to interject.

When Thranduil wasn't forthcoming with a response, Legolas turned to the King and whispered, "May I deal out the judgment, Adar?"

Thranduil turned to his son in surprise. Legolas rarely asked to make any kind of executive decisions. But, he supposed the Prince had a good reason to want this choice so he nodded his assent.

"Judgment will be passed on you all this very moment…by the Prince."

Eyes widened and the Elves held prisoner looked to Legolas. They were scared, but trying to hide it. One in particular, the young Elf who had run for help in the garden that day, was shaking with dread.

None of them wanted to die. And death was the usual punishment for such traitorous acts. Or banishment, which no Elf was keen on. Living forever with no chance to reside in any Elvish haven was a punishment akin to death for many.

Legolas glanced at Estel who smiled and nodded at him. He had an idea what the Prince was thinking. Emboldened by the look, Legolas rose slowly. He walked over to the Elf who had nearly killed him and stopped in front of him.

They stood about the same height and Legolas looked at the downcast gaze of the Elf. He reached out and tilted the head up.

"So blind was your hatred. But I know what that is like. So strong was your desire to save me. And I know what that is like, too. Which is how I chose my punishment for you all…"

He paused and stepped back, addressing the assembled. "These Elves will be unbound and released. I see no need for further bloodshed. Their punishment will be no punishment at all. They need only do one thing…" he turned to Estel. "Apologize to my friend."

Legolas purposely emphasized friend.

All eyes widened even further, if that was possible. Thranduil was smiling. He would not have had the courage to do what Legolas had done. He was still far too angry.

The Elf who had shot the Prince stuttered. "That is all? Apologize? My Prince, surely you desire more from us?"

Legolas shook his head. "No. I do not. As long as you swear to no longer hold this hatred of men in your hearts, you are free to live life as you had before. I have seen the light, so to speak, and I know now that the race of men is each one different from the other, just as we are. We can not hate a race for the deeds of a few. Swear to me this day that you will not do this and you are free to go."

All five, one by one, stood before the Prince and swore to this; never to hate so blindly again. And to each, Legolas let out a small smile and nod.

And then it was over and the Elves were filing from the room, muttering and discussing the outcome of the events.

Some were surprised, others were not. But one thing was certain…they had a renewed respect for Legolas and his just ways.

Thranduil smiled as Legolas slumped into his chair. "Not always easy, is it?"

"No, it isn't," the Prince said with a smile. "I don't know how you do it on a day to day basis, Father."

Thranduil sighed. "With a lot of luck and patience, Legolas. A lot of patience. Now…we have another matter to speak of."

Legolas and Estel looked up at him.

"Don't look so surprised!" the King announced with a laugh. "I still wish to know what event brought you two together!"

Exchanging glances, Estel and Legolas brought him up to date. The King's eyes darkened at the mention of the men trapping and selling Elves.

"Something must be done of this."

Legolas nodded. "I agree, Father. But what? Shall we hunt these men down and kill them? What course do we have?"

Thranduil sighed. "Giving the order to hunt down and destroy any living being is difficult, Legolas. But think of all the innocent lives the death of a few slavers will save. Can you not justify it that way?"

The Prince frowned. "I shall never be able to justify death, Father. But you are right, we have no other recourse. Unless we were to imprison them for the rest of their mortal lives." He turned to Estel. "Do you have an opinion here?"

Estel was a bit taken back by the question, but quickly recovered. "IF you ask me, I think that life in prison would serve them right. Mortals will not live forever, but we do have memories and we do have desires to be free. If you jail these men for the duration of their life, perhaps they will see the error in their ways. Perhaps it will punish them further than an easy death."

Thranduil nodded in thought. "So you think it is a greater punishment than death then, to imprison them?"

The man nodded. "I do."

"Then so be it."

Estel looked at the King. "You…you'll do what I suggest?"

Nodding, Thranduil smiled. "You know mortal minds and hearts far better than I, Estel. I trust your judgment, no matter what my feelings toward men may have been a few short weeks ago."

Legolas smiled at his father. "Then you truly trust Estel?"

"Yes, Legolas, I do."

Estel laughed. "Hey…enough already…we all trust each other, let us not discuss it further. My brothers will truly be amazed that I have managed to befriend the King and Prince of Mirkwood. They warned me not to think I could."

Thranduil and Legolas laughed. "Perhaps a visit to Imladris would be in order then? So they will believe you when you say you have befriended us?" the King said with a smile.

Legolas' eyes brightened at that. He had not ventured there in many long years. "Honestly, Adar?"

The king nodded. "Honestly. And on the way…we can take care of those men…"

Estel glanced at Thranduil. "But your highness, that is far out of the way! The southern borders of Mirkwood."

Thranduil's eyes widened. "Legolas? Why were you on the southern border?"

The Prince blushed. "Well…I…see…" he sighed. "I was going to place flowers where mother…and i…where…"

Thranduil stopped him, recognition dawning in his eyes. He had forgotten the time of the year it was. "I see. As you do every year when you think I do not know where you go…"

Legolas' head snapped up. "You knew?"

The King smiled. "I knew. Most years I silently followed you and laid my own down. This year, I did not. I dearly wish I had."

The Prince was stunned. He had never known his father followed him. "Why did you not come this year?"

Thranduil shook his head. "I know not."

Estel piped up. "Then perhaps it was fate. For if you had been along, Legolas and I might never have met."

The two Elves nodded in agreement. "Perhaps…" Legolas said. "But you know Estel, knowing you is rather painful…"

Estel smacked him on the arm. "But we still need to figure out how to capture those men?"

A voice piped up from the doorway. "Pardon the intrusion, hir nin…"

The Elf who had just been pardoned of treason stepped into the chamber and bowed low. Thranduil beckoned him forward.

"Speak, what is your name?"

"Celronen." Legolas' head turned and he stared at the Elf.

"For whom are you named?"

The Elf swallowed. "My father. He was once the head of your royal guard…he perished with the Queen."

And now Legolas really understood how the Elf had hated men so strongly. So did Thranduil and because he now realized this he pardoned the intrusion.

"What do you wish to say?"

Celronen took a deep breath. "I wish to take a party to the southern border and round up the men who hunt our people."

Thranduil's eyes narrowed. "Why? So you can kill them?"

Celronen shook his head. "No, my liege…so I can prove to you that I have let go my hatred. The temptation to kill them would be great. I wish this chance to prove myself."

Legolas looked to his father as the king pondered the request. "You may do as you have requested, Celronen. And you may bring the four elves who conspired with you so that they too may prove themselves. I will send Ranthir, head of my southern patrol, to see that you do not kill unnecessarily."

Celronen bowed and thanked his King, hurrying from the room.

Legolas smiled. "That solves that problem, Adar. So when do we go to Rivendell?"

Thranduil and Estel laughed. "When do you wish to go?" the former asked with a smile.

Of course Legolas answered, "Right now…"

Estel smiled. "How about next week? You still can't walk straight, remember?"

It was Legolas' turn to smack him. But Thranduil nodded his agreement. "I think a trip to Rivendell next week sounds wonderful. I shall send word by carrier pigeon immediately."

Legolas and Estel smiled happily. "Oh wait until your brothers hear about this trip…do you think they will hover over you like mother hens?"

"Oh yes…definitely, but you shall not escape that treatment either, dear Prince."

A smack resounded in the hall and a chuckle escaped the King.

"Young ones…"

THE END (for real this time...)