ABOUT THIS FINAL CHAPTER. I began this chapter a couple of months ago at home in Asia, wrote the last paragraph on vacation in Quebec last weekend, finalized everything as best as I could on board a plane to Vancouver, and am now posting it from an Internet café in San Francisco.

Oyez. It's got to be the hardest chapter I've ever had to generate due to time constraints. But it's been fun. :–) And I can finally give the story closure.


RESOLUTION

It was going to be a beautiful Fall, everyone could tell. The season promised to drape the elven realm of Ithilien in vibrant reds and golds, and soft greens and browns. Already the hues, both rich and subtle, were painting the perfect backdrop for the coming bonding ceremony of Hamille and Faewyn, the first ever to grace the fair elven woods.

Weeks ago, Hamille had been shaken by the long hours spent sitting helplessly before the unmoving body of Legolas outside the Shadow Realm in the Mountain of Death. In the empty hours, he had pondered on the light and joy that the smiles and laughter of his prince had cast upon the realm of his people. He had realized more than ever before the fragility and uncertainty of that precious life, and in his fear, Hamille had resolved that if Legolas should escape the realm of death, he would immerse Ithilien in the cheer of a celebration to drive away the dark memories while his prince healed. Thus very graciously but firmly, Hamille had persuaded both families to hold the ceremony in Ithilien. Faewyn was quite happy with the beautiful woods, and so the matter had been settled with considerable ease.

As the elves of that young woodland realm made preparations for the ceremony, Aragorn recuperated in the comfort of the White City's rooms under the watchful eye of his Queen and the Citadel's healers. Slow had been his healing at the start, for his body and spirit had suffered much, but under the gentle ministrations of many caring hands, he began to partake of food and drink, and to regain some strength. Legolas had been under similar care for the first week, but the child of the Eldar, once assured of Aragorn's steady if slow recovery, had soon chosen to return to the beloved oaks and beeches of Ithilien, for his true respite came from the sun and the good earth, and it was the song of trees that gently drove out from his mind the dark whispers of his battle with black Shadows.

Yet, the elf prince had not stayed away long, for no great peace could he find till he could see and hear for himself the return of confidence to the friend he had risked his life to save. He worried still for Aragorn, for though the King had no lack of care that would restore health to his body, the elf knew that it would be harder for his spirit to recover from the terror of the Shadow Realm: an ordeal unlike any other that he or Aragorn had encountered in their lives.

"A stranger foe I have not met, Hamille, and few have been more deadly to Aragorn," the elf prince recounted to his friend as he gazed at the dark mantle overhead one moonless and starless night. "It weakened me more than I ever thought it could, but it must have been infinitely worse for Aragorn, for it exacted much of his life force."

Legolas knew that no one but he would understand the dark dreams from the past that might assault the man's mind at moments of vulnerability; no other person save he who had ventured into the Realm with Aragorn – where the man had lost his very self – would feel the depth of fear and agony those recollections could bring.

And so Legolas had returned to reside in the City for a while, to be near his friend: a discreet but observant presence. When Aragorn lapsed into pensive reflection and thought no one would notice – Legolas did. When the demons from a damned existence troubled him, and he fought not to show it – Legolas knew. The elf prince took care to spend time with Aragorn each day, sometimes to listen to his thoughts, and sometimes to merely sit beside him in speechless companionship, while the man took time to grasp the full significance of all that had taken place and come to terms with his narrow escape from becoming one of the Forgotten.

Aragorn grew stronger, gradually resuming the lightest of his duties each morn and afternoon, meeting with his Councilors and attending to the smaller matters of court as soon as he was able. But at the close of each day, he quietly and gratefully sought the calming presence of his elven friend: the one soul in whom he could confide without hesitation any lingering doubts or questions about his long, long days in the unnatural tomb of the Shadow Realm. Legolas had been his harbor when they stood in that uncertain plane between life and death during their escape through the Holding Gate, and the elf was still his refuge even during this period of healing. Here, he felt as he did then: safe and understood, anchored to an unchanging strength when all around seemed to move relentlessly fast.

Thus Elf and Man sat this cool evening in the King's study, having retired early from the chill of the outside to seek comfort in the warmth of a crackling fire, in the feel of thick, soft fur beneath their feet, in the taste of a light wine and cheese, and in the company of good friends. With them sat Faramir and Lord Celeborn also, for the latter had stayed on in the City with his grandsons, partly to make certain of Aragorn's healing, as well as to attend Hamille's bonding ceremony. In between the strings of easy conversation, Legolas studied the face of the King, and it saddened him a little to see that though Aragorn was as close to his hale self as he could be, there seemed still a touch of the Shadow upon him, noticed only by those who knew him best and by he who had fought the darkness with him. Not for the first time, Legolas shivered to think of how close they had been to losing the man altogether.

"I am well, mellon nin," Aragorn said quietly, catching the elf's eye. "Be not overly concerned."

Legolas smiled at having been caught in his contemplation, but Faramir only frowned at the reminder of the events that had almost robbed Gondor of her ruler: not only the malicious curse of Saruman but also the foul deeds of Fierthwain and his mates. At the thought of the villagers, the Steward cleared his throat and shifted in his chair.

"I pray we do not rue the decision we made to spare those villains," he stated in his characteristically even tone, though the elves and Aragorn knew the ire that it hid.

Upon first hearing the full account of Fierthwain's merciless deeds from Lord Langley, Faramir and other Council members had held discussions in the King's absence while the monarch was still healing. Most of them had been so horrified that they had called for the execution of the villagers, and they knew that they would have the support of Legolas' incensed kin. But there had been one or two dissenting voices.

"Execution! Is that not too drastic?" Lord Burion protested. "Those men did not attempt to kill the King himself, and their only wrongdoing was against the elves." The Councilor had little liking for the Firstborn and made even less effort at concealing it. He raised his scanty eyebrows and snorted smugly while his pudgy fingers drummed against the table. "Come now, does that warrant execution?"

Lord Langley was horrified. "Surely you jest, my lord!" he said disbelievingly. "To my mind, what they did to the two elves still amounted to treason, for the elves were part of the King's Company and the Lamp in Prince Legolas' possession the key to the King's salvation. If it had been lost, it would have led to the King's demise!"

"Aye, aye!" agreed other Councilors, whose rage called for a fitting punishment.

Yet it was Elrohir and Legolas themselves who, when consulted on the matter, took pity upon the villagers.

"I cannot express enough my utter anger at what they did, but… the life of a man – any man – is too brief to end needlessly," Legolas said, thinking about his mortal friends as he spoke. "I would not take it unless there was truly no other choice."

"I concur," said Elrohir. "It was despicable what they did to us, but it was out of fear - however senseless - and I would give them a chance, my lords. Clap them in irons and throw them into the deeper dungeons if need be, and put them to good use in service of the City. If they should still refuse to repent thereafter… we shall then submit the entire matter of penalty to you."

"Ultimately, though, the decision lies with Aragorn," Legolas pointed out. "They are his subjects, and we shall abide by what he deems fit."

When Aragorn had recovered sufficiently to hear of the debate and make a judgment, he had quickly acceded to the suggestion of his elven friend and brother. In truth, he had been greatly relieved to hear it, for, though his initial reaction before they left the village had been one of unbridled wrath, that sentiment soon warred with his sympathy for Mathgor and his kind mother who had raised Fierthwain.

"Spare him if you can, my lord," Mathgor had pleaded before the King's company departed from the village. "I am ashamed to face your court on my cousin's account, but I ask for pity upon my aging mother and father, who have loved him as a son."

Thus it was that by the King's judgment, Firethwain and his mates were made prisoners in the deep, dark dungeons of the White City. But Aragorn had been firm in commanding that they merely be spared death, not punishment. Watched closely by the most alert of guards, the prisoners were assigned to hard labor during the day. They worked on the construction and restoration of stone structures and plumbing systems in and around the City, receiving little mercy from overseers who had learnt that the villagers had themselves shown none to Legolas and Elrohir and the King himself. Among the overseers were the dwarf lord Gimli, who took delight in assigning the heaviest of tasks to the men who had caused injury to his elven friend. With him were the brothers Bragor and Dagor, the latter two being honored guests of the City at the invitation of a grateful Queen.

Hard enough was the prisoners' burden during the day, but when evening fell and they sought what rest they could in their dank, dark cells, came the second – and at times it seemed less bearable – part of their punishment. It was a torture not meted by order of the King, but designed and delivered by courtesy of the dwarves.

This was the hour – often two – when the villagers were made to endure the very loud and spirited singing of Gimli, Bragor and Dagor. Late each afternoon, or in the night if they so chose, the dwarves came stomping into the dark dungeon and sat themselves just inside the doors of the cells, out of reach of the prisoners who were chained to the wall at the ankle. Then, with their vigor boosted by mugfuls of ale at the ready, the threesome heartily sang every song they knew, knowing that their booming voices would set off deafening echoes in the stone enclosures, loud enough to rattle the bones and curl the insides of the prisoners. The dwarves held nothing back. They bellowed out rousing tunes about courage and loyalty, and war cries that they greatly favored, as well as songs of ire with no few curses in the lyrics. They rendered, too, their dirges for the dead, complete with wailing, for the passion of the Naugrim was something they had no qualms about displaying. The dwarves also beat out their passion - often in deliberately ill rhythm - upon drums fashioned expressly for the purpose. And though the songs resonated well with the hardiness of dwarves and their stone homes, the sounds were hard on human ears unused to such robust expression. Even the prison guards kept a respectful distance away when the dwarves visited.

"I am most grateful to Gimli for showing no quarter to those merciless scoundrels," Faramir remarked. "It will be long before those sounds can be dredged out of their nightmares!"

Aragorn and Legolas could not help smiling as they imagined the villagers trying - and failing miserably - to stop their ears against Gimli's roar, for flesh and bone had little hope against a voice that could quite easily penetrate wood and stone.

"But has Gimli not become weary of the task?" Lord Celeborn wondered.

Faramir almost snorted in amusement. "Weary? On the contrary, my lord, Gimli is only too happy to oblige! I'm sure he wishes it could go on longer!" he exclaimed. "But the men shall be sent to Ithilien next month, as we agreed. They shall be put to good use there, I trust. Hamille shall see to it."

Legolas nodded. The villagers, at Aragorn's suggestion, would be sent to Ihitlien to help with the building of talan to house the guests from Mirkwood who would be traveling there for the bonding ceremony. The elves did not truly need the help, of course, but Aragorn thought that it would allow the villagers to see for themselves how good a people the Elves were, and he was certain that they would subsequently beg to serve the remainder of their sentence there rather than face the dwarves again. How long that sentence would last, no one could yet tell, for Aragorn was adamant about one point: that they would be released only when they felt true remorse for what they had done to Legolas and Elrohir.

"My people will be quite happy to oversee their conduct for a while, but remorse may be slow in coming," Legolas remarked. "They will have to be returned to the City at some point."

Faramir raised a hand in assurance. "Leave that to us, Legolas; if they have not seen fit to change their thinking by then, we shall do as we see fit," he said. "But in the meantime, here's a question that is entirely unrelated, and I hope I am not being too forward with it: are there no plans for you to be wed, Legolas?"

The abruptness of the question left the three listeners reeling – Legolas not the least. Rarely witnessing such directness from the Steward, and never on the subject of marriage, the elf prince was dumbfounded for a moment.

"I? To be wed, you ask?" Legolas spluttered at last. The pallor on his face drew one of Lord Celeborn' rare smiles, and Aragorn bit down on his lower lip to keep from showing his mirth.

"Yes, you," Faramir answered without blinking, his expression sincere. "To be honest, I would have thought yours would be the first wedding held in Ithilien, but it seems Hamille has been a better wager –"

"Wager?" Aragorn held up a hand to interrupt, amused surprise apparent on his face. "I knew of no such wager!"

Faramir coughed self-consciously in the manner of one who has revealed too much and absently ran a finger along the arm of his chair, keeping his eyes on the movement rather than his companions. "I fear this good wine has loosened my tongue somewhat," he admitted sheepishly. "It was a wager only between Eowyn and myself. We – er – discussed whose would be the first wedding in the woods of Ithilien. I – wrongly of course – insisted it would be Legolas', but my lady was quite certain it would not be. It turns out that she had the greater foresight."

A spurt of laughter from the three listeners followed this confession. "She did indeed!" Legolas concurred light-heartedly in his silvery voice. His tone was one of mirth, but deep within, he was reminded of the decision he had made many years ago: that the remainder of his time in Arda would be devoted to Aragorn and his family and the running of his kingdom, for they would be gone in the twinkling of an eye in the span of an elven lifetime, and the immortal would then have ages uncounted to think of other matters. "There will be time in abundance to pursue that," the elf said, smiling. "Besides, Faramir, my life is often so unsettled; which elleth in her right mind would wish to be betrothed to me?"

Faramir and Aragorn raised their brows in genuine disbelief and shook their heads.

"Almost the entire female population of the Greenwood, I would imagine," the Steward said teasingly.

"Aye, and half the maidens in my kingdom!" Aragorn added. "And that's only counting those who would confess it openly!"

Laughter rumbled again within the group, and Legolas felt how good it was to hear it once more from Aragorn. Little had the man been able to laugh since their return, and the elf silently thanked Hamille for holding the coming celebrations so close to Minas Tirith, for the joy was already spilling over to the hearts within these stone walls.

Just then, more laughter came drifting in, and a bright-faced Eldarion entered the room with the children of Faramir, their mothers in tow. Standing to greet the ladies, the men and Legolas noticed Eldarion holding something in his hands, where it lay carefully nestled.

"Father, Legolas! Look what we found!" the young prince called out excitedly, running towards Aragorn and extending his hand, displaying a bird with a broken wing, a fledgling of no more than three weeks.

"We found it outside his window, and its mother is nowhere to be seen!" Faramir's daughter explained to her father. "So we have to care for it."

"And now you must show us how to mend the wing," Eldarion said to Aragorn, stroking the frightened bird comfortingly. "Please, Father? Could we do it now, before bed?"

Three wide-eyed expressions pled with the King and Steward, and the long-suffering mothers standing behind added their own resigned looks.

"Pray excuse this disruption," Eowyn said with an apologetic nod to Legolas and Lord Celeborn. "They insisted on bringing their – um, patient – to the King."

"Even his uncles would not do," Arwen laughed softly, placing her hands on her son's shoulders. "Elladan and Elrohir were only too glad to relinquish the task to you, Estel."

Aragorn gazed lovingly at his beautiful Queen and realized how hard-pressed she and Eowyn had been to keep the children occupied after the departure of the Hobbits and their young ones. Much as Merry and Pippin would have liked to prolong their stay, the Mayor of Hobbiton felt they had neglected the Shire for too long, and so – with the Phial of Galadriel safely returned to him – Sam and his company had said their farewells, leaving behind three disappointed children who sorely missed their company and who grew restless as a consequence.

Taking pity upon their wives, Aragorn and Faramir nodded of one accord. "Come along then," said Aragorn in a gentle voice reserved for his son. "Let us perform our service to this poor fledgling, and we shall put him – and three other young ones standing before me – to bed for the night. Take your leave of these gentlemen and let us be on our way."

Among happy cries, the children bade Legolas and Celeborn good night and skipped off with their parents, dragging their fathers along by the hand. Aragorn turned to give Legolas a smile that promised he would be back, before giving his son his full attention.

Celeborn looked fondly at his granddaughter and her family as they left the room. The eyes of the elf lord – eyes that could freeze or kindle fires in the stoutest of hearts – now softened in a face where wisdom resided without age. Sitting down slowly, Celeborn continued to gaze at the door through which Arwen had just exited.

"It was for this that I stayed, Legolas," the elf lord whispered, almost to himself, yet fully aware that Legolas would hear him. "It was for times such as this."

Legolas looked at the aged elf in surprise, for it was rare for the mighty and elusive Lord of Lothlorien to speak to him – a child by comparison – of matters so close to his heart.

It was for this that I stayed.

The words echoed in the elf prince's mind though the speaker had gone silent, for the prince understood to what Celeborn alluded. It was the answer to a question that Legolas had long wished to ask but had never voiced - till now.

"And this is why Elladan and Elrohir chose to stay as well, is it not, hir nin?" the young elf queried. "Why all of you did not sail with Lord Elrond and the Lady Galadriel?"

The nod was almost imperceptible, but Legolas saw it.

"Dire indeed would have been the fate of Elessar in the Shadow Realm had I not still been in Arda, and the heart of Arwen would never have mended," the elf lord replied. "Aye, Legolas… it was for times such as this that we chose to stay. There may yet be times when they will need us in the coming years… till they have lived out their lives."

The elf lord's eyes glistened when he had finished, and he turned them full upon the silent elf prince. "But this is no strange matter to you, is it, Greenleaf?" he asked quietly. "You understand this, for you feel and do no less for Elessar, and for Gimli."

It was Legolas' turn to nod. "Aye, hir nin," he replied, casting his eyes downwards. "Aye." And he could say no more.

There was a hint of a smile from Celeborn as he took a deep breath. "It is well, then," he said. "These whom we cherish shall not want for love."

The two elves sat still and silent for a while. Young and old they were, ages apart, but each understood the fullness of the other's heart, and they were glad.

"I hear that your kin will soon be here for the bonding," said the elf lord, lightening the tone of the conversation. "It will be good to see your adar once more. When last we met, we were in arms, and though the victory over Dol Guldur was sweet, it is best left in the past."

"Aye, my lord, he will be here in two weeks perhaps, and he will be very pleased to have your company as well," Legolas said. "And though I too look forward to meeting with him, I cannot say I welcome the thought of listening to all he has to say to me. I have not faced him since… since the Shadow Realm."

Celeborn grew grave again and leaned back in his chair. "We shall both have to face him."

Legolas shook his head. "Hold no blame against yourself for what you did, my lord; Adar will understand," he said.

"Let us hope so," said the elf lord.

"The ceremony will raise his spirits at least; he is very fond of Hamille," Legolas smiled as he thought of his friend. "And Hamille himself will finally have something to divert his attention from me. He would not release me from his sight for weeks after our return, while I recovered."

"He had a right to worry, for it was an unnatural dark you were subjected to, Legolas," Celeborn said, studying the face of the younger elf. "Are you quite well now?"

"Yes, hir nin, quite well," Legolas replied.

"And how is Hamille?" asked Celeborn.

"Happy, of course – "

"That is not what I meant," said the elf lord. "Is he coping with the Sea longing?"

Legolas drew in a breath. He had not expected that question.

"Has he spoken of sailing?" the elf lord pressed on.

A slight shadow passed over the elf prince's countenance at the mention of the affliction that he himself bore. "Aye, he has spoken of it," he replied after a pause. "And his family would not be averse to it."

Legolas stared into the fire unblinkingly, and Celeborn wondered if the elf might be pondering the impending departure of a good friend.

"He will sail then?" Celeborn asked in his deep voice.

There was a slight shrug of slim shoulders. "That chapter of his life has not yet been written, my lord, and I cannot read it," Legolas replied. "But… for now… he has said that he will not leave so long as I remain." The elf looked up and smiled. "I fear he takes too much to heart my adar's charge to see to my well-being - and I cannot deny, hir nin, that I am glad."

Celeborn nodded in understanding. And the two elves sat speaking quietly till Aragorn and his brothers came to join them, and the rest of the evening passed in pleasantness.

That Fall, Hamille and Faewyn were bonded in a beautiful ceremony, in the presence of their King and Prince and Lord Celeborn of Lothlorien, and the White City of Gondor rejoiced with them.


As much as the celebrations had lifted his spirits, Aragorn still felt a disquiet within that could not be assuaged by the cheer of festivity, or the comforts of his kingly residence, or the administration of healing herbs. The glow of health had returned to his countenance, but in his eyes, a trace of pensiveness still remained, as one who has been witness to some secret sorrow that is impossible to tell in words and therefore cannot – save to one who has been there with him.

And so it was not long after the wedding that he sought the companionship of his friend Legolas, and together they journeyed to the Glass Pool, with only a small group of elves as escort. Glad was Aragorn for this avenue of escape, for as soon as they began to climb the trees that both concealed and provided the only access to the place, his heart began to lighten, and when his feet touched the ground that ringed the pool, he felt - as he always did - that he had returned to another home.

In this refuge, there was a calm that Aragorn could find nowhere else, even if it was only for a while. Strange though it was, he felt safe here where no walls hemmed him in, a security reinforced by the presence of Legolas' eagle-eyed elven guards positioned in the tops of trees, assuring that no intruder could approach within miles of the place. Here, Aragorn felt a warm peace even in the cold of the season, and the random array of woodland sounds seemed to him the sweetest music. The shifting rays of the sun, as they filtered through leaves of red and gold, played on his skin and left shadows he did not fear.

It was in this haven that Aragorn finally found a greater freedom to speak of his ordeal than he had done anywhere else. In the hours beneath the dark blue of twilight, as he lay wrapped in the thick blankets Legolas had brought for him, and the elf kindled a fire for his benefit, the man cast away the Crown of his rule and the stoicism the role demanded. Listening to the melodious voice of the faithful lomelinde, he let it draw tears from his eyes as if it were singing his tale. Here at last, Aragorn the man - not the King - felt touched by a cleansing purity, and the remaining traces of his dark memories washed slowly away.

"I was in a strange place those long, dark weeks, Legolas," he whispered, his breath misting in the cool air. "I think… I was in a shadow place even before I entered that stone prison. And then… and then when my memories were taken, I was so lost. I have never faced such fear, such despair…"

Legolas' hands worked deftly to build the fire as he listened to his friend. He wished he could remove those dark memories quickly from Aragorn's mind, lamenting that only Time had that power.

"Fear no longer, Aragorn, you are in the light now," the elf said nonetheless, and the fire sprang to life as if to illustrate his words of comfort. Brushing off bits of dry leaf and dirt from his hands, Legolas settled himself on a blanket beside his friend.

"Yes, I am, Legolas, and it is blessed," Aragorn responded. His eyes were trained on the dancing flames, but it was not the fire he saw, and when he spoke, his tone was low and sad. "If there is one thing the Shadow Realm has taught me, my friend, it is this: that I could lose all that I love, and all that mean much to me, in an instant. And thus it has reminded me in forceful terms to use well my days on this earth."

Legolas smiled in understanding. "That has ever been part of your wisdom, Estel," he said. "The Shadow Realm merely prompted you to remember it."

Indeed, since his return, Aragorn's mind had taken inventory of many people and many things that held value for him as he lay healing in the White City, for he had forgotten them once, and wished never more to do so again. He devoted much time to Arwen and Eldarion, noting things they said and did that he had taken for granted before. Lovingly, he wrapped each memory and stowed it away, hoping he would never lose it. He had spoken at some length with the hobbits before they left for home, and in doing so, reminded himself about each of their strengths and quirks. His brothers, too, received his attention as he engaged them in happy recollection of the days of his childhood and youth.

But this moment here in this refuge - as he lay looking at the stars and revealing his innermost thoughts without restraint - this moment was for Legolas alone.

"For those dark, dark hours, my friend – who knows how many? – you were all I held on to, all that I believed in - indeed, all that I knew," Aragorn said. "I escaped a fate worse than death only because you were there, and you knocked at the door of my soul till I answered, even as you promised you would. Ever shall that door be unlocked for you, Legolas."

Then Aragorn's spirit finally broke free of some unseen chain upon it, and Man and Elf talked as they had not been able to do for many months. The King, whose heart had not truly reopened in fullness since his release from captivity, now spoke of hopes and fears and of things past, present and future. He hid nothing, for Legolas had seen his whole life. All its moments - significant or trivial - had been laid bare to the elf in the light of Galadriel in the Shadow Realm. The years fell away, and their hearts were both young and old, their laughter was of joy, and even their silence was of a deep faith in their bond of love.

Then in that span of silence, Legolas kept the vow he had made in the darkness of the Realm: that he would teach Aragorn to listen to the Sound of Existence. The friends closed out the rest of the world that night, seeking only the Sound. They listened to it and remembered that they were but two minute beings in a vast, endless World: one part of it they could see, and the other they had yet to encounter. Aragorn learned all this and marveled at it, and he kept that knowledge ever in his heart, so that in the latter days of his life, he too would stop from all that he was engrossed in, and take some time to find that Sound, for in doing so, he would touch all there was in his world and beyond.

Having heard the Sound, the friends engaged once more in deep conversation; and though their hearts were lightened, their eyes grew heavy, and ere long they fell asleep to the sweet, unceasing song of the nightingale.

In the middle of the night, when a lingering wisp of the black haze in Aragorn's memory sought to trouble his mind and push him onto shadowed corridors where he would once again walk in fear and loneliness, Eärendil shone forth brightly above them with the light no shadow could reach. Then, without conscious thought, the adan sought Legolas' arm, and he clasped it in trust and companionship as he had done when their spirits had been wandering lost in the dread and depression of the Shadow Realm. One quick grasp was all that transpired, but it was enough to reassure the mortal soul that he was not alone, enough to tell him that the Life who had once delivered him from Death was still here, still with him.

And thus they remained, mortal and immortal, peaceful smiles ghosting their slumbering faces, till the sun rose once more to drive away all darkness. Here, no foulness would touch the souls of the Elf and the Ranger. Here in their secret haven, they were confident in the knowledge that whatever shadowed realms they might enter throughout the years to come, they would endure; for – stronger than the sun, and brighter than the Glass of Galadriel – was the light they would always be for each other.


FIN

It's 2019 and I still respond to all reviews posted now and beyond...

I poured many, many, many hours into the writing of this tale. If you enjoyed it, please do leave a note, particularly if you are marking it as a favourite so that you can come back and read it.


Note:

(I dedicate the section about Hamille's wedding to Red Squirrel, as the idea for Hamille's bonding was inspired by her question about the little elleth who had been so interested in Hamille in Once Upon a Strongbow. You are free to feed her acorns for inspiring the end of Hamille's bachelorhood and getting him a wife, or chase her up a tree because she has made him no longer available.

The Glass Pool, for those who are unfamiliar with it, was first mentioned in my other story, For the Love of the Lord of the White Tree.)

And so we come at last to the end of this tale. I have felt great satisfaction in the telling of it, as I had long hoped to weave a tale around one of the most intriguing - and largely ignored - mysteries in Tolkien's works: the skeleton by the door in the Mountain of the Dead. In Shadow Realm has thus been the fulfillment of a personal dream. It seems apt that I finished this chapter while flying over the Rocky Mountains, for it had also been another of my dreams since childhood to see these magnificent mountains. Though I have now seen and visited part of them several times, their majesty never fail to bring tears to my eyes each time they come into view. What a privilege. They remind me much of the Misty Mountains of Arda.

I thank the readers who have shared this journey of the Shadow Realm with me. As always, my appreciation goes out to those who have taken time to post reviews, particularly those who have done so faithfully since the beginning, and one who came in at the end but went back and reviewed every single chapter. (That's you, Twinkly. ;-) ) You know there is no other reward writers ask for than your continued interest and responses.

In response to a frequent query that sounds something like "when will you post a new story?" - I'm afraid I have no answer at the moment. It may be some time before I can write and post another, but you know that Aragorn and Legolas are never absent from my heart and mind, so when I find inspiration - and mainly, when I find TIME - you'll hear from me again. :–) Till then, my friends - keep well, may the Light of Hope and Love ever be with you.

Namárië.