An- Oh my God, here it finally is...the last chapter of 'The Lord of the Rings 2003' trilogy. I can't belive it's actually here after five dedicated years of writing. Don't mind me if I babble; I'm going on lack of sleep and feeling a little emotional right now (we've never been this dedicated to anything before). And I'll mention this now incase I manage to forget; if you feel like you're going to need a little more LOTR2003, the lovely Jane has decided to post her drawnings yet again, this time on the site deviantart. Her user name is Musicartlover (if it gives you trouble searching for it like it did me, google Musicartlover profile and it'll pop up). So far she's got an Elijah picture up in scraps and more to come! Oh, and happy birthday to Jane as of last monday (the last of us to turn legal!!) Now we'll let you read the end, and expect a huge academy awards speech at the end!
It was a quiet pounding sound that brought Niori out of her deep sleep, and she listened to it for a moment before she realized what it was.
Knocking. Someone was knocking on the door.
"Umm…Niori…" Erin's semi apologetic voice reached her ears, "we know that you gave us the stay away look, but it's three in the morning and we kinda want to go bed."
Oh right; she had forgotten that Jane and Erin shared the room too.
"Just a minute," she called out to them.
She unwrapped herself from Legolas's arms and sat up.
"Legolas," she said softly as she gently shook his shoulder, "Legolas…wake up."
He did just that, and when he realized that it was Niori leaning above him, he smiled a huge smile up at her.
Niori couldn't help but smile back.
"Hello," he told her as he sat up.
"Hi," she replied, half tempted to tell Jane and Erin to find somewhere else to sleep.
But she wouldn't do that to them.
"Come on," she told him, "you have to leave…Jane and Erin have decided that they'd like to get some sleep."
"Just me?" he asked, and she saw the invitation in his eyes.
He had his own room too after all.
"Just you," she replied, "I need sometime with my girls."
"I guess I can let you go for that long," he kissed her as he said it.
"Umm…we're still out here."
Niori got changed into night clothes and Legolas redressed, and then they walked to the door.
"We're good," Niori called to the girls on the other side.
The door opened, but Niori didn't pay attention to it.
"See you in the morning," she told him.
"I don't know how I can bear to wait that long," he murmured as he leaned down and brought his lips to hers.
"Ah right; believe me, we're totally pumped that you two are engaged and happy, but can you be engaged and happy at a time that we're not standing in the doorway?"
Niori broke away from him and turned to look at her friends. They were standing there patiently if not a little awkwardly.
"Go on," she looked back at Legolas and gave him a tiny push towards the door.
Just before he walked out, Niori spoke again.
"I love you."
Legolas turned back to her for a moment.
"I love you too."
Then he walked out, closing the door behind him.
"It's so damn weird to see the two of you mushy," Jane commented lightly.
"We're so used to seeing you all over each other," Erin finished where Jane left off.
"We so have a right to be mushy! This is like the beginning all over again…after everything. He just asked me to marry him…I'm pregnant. Oh my God I'm engaged."
The immensity and truth of it hit her all over again; she had had a month to get used to the idea of being pregnant, but this was so new…
"Okay," Jane said as she sat down on her bed, "spill. I don't mean about the sex that you obviously had, but everything else. Like any decisions."
"I thought you two were tired."
"We were until now," Erin replied as she too sat down cross legged on Jane's bed.
There was enough room left, so she joined them.
Niori so felt a sleep over party coming on. If they had ice cream and a chick flick, then it would have been complete. Over dosing on some pop would have been good too.
And Carla. Then it would have been just like it used to be…
Niori knew not to feel grief over Carla anymore, but there were some moments that she couldn't help it. It didn't matter that Carla was happy…only that she wasn't here. She should have been here drilling Niori for the same answers that Jane and Erin were.
"You're right," Niori told them as she settled and let Carla rest in her mind but not cause her pain, "we did make love and I wasn't scared at all."
"So I said that I didn't want to know about the sex, but I'm glad to hear that. But no details please."
"I think it's too personal for sharing anyway."
Erin and Jane stared at her with wide eyes and gaping mouths.
"Right now," Niori tired to explain, "it's not just sex…it's…well, there's no way to describe it. It's like healing…but something between only Legolas and I. I promise though, when this phase is over, I'll go back to describing every touch, sound and sensation…because you love hearing it so much after all."
"Yes," Erin replied sarcastically, "because that's what I live for; your sex stories."
"They're just that damn good," Niori said with a wicked smile.
"They certainly are…interesting," Jane replied diplomatically, "and that reminds me; I still have to bring up the thousand years age difference…now it's so much better. But back to the point; I said no sex, but details on everything else!"
"First off, please make sure I am there for that, and secondly we haven't even begun to think about thinking about details!" Niori told them with a laugh, "his whole thing yesterday was spur of the moment, I just know it!"
"Okay," Erin conceded, "we'll let you off the hook about the wedding, but not the kid; you've known about the pregnancy longer than yesterday!"
"Since we left the village," she admitted, "sorry guys…I just wasn't ready to tell you."
"You've done that before, so you're forgiven. But have you thought up any names? You can't know what you're having, so you'll have to make two lists…"
"Both," she informed them, and only received blank stares, "I'm having both. I'm having twins."
After a moment the two girls squealed and hugged her.
"Oh my God!" Jane cried in excitement, "That's freaking amazing!"
It was funny that they didn't think to ask how she knew any of this.
"Wait," Erin said suddenly, and Niori thought that she was going to ask, "are you going to name them normal names or Elf names?"
"I don't know. Legolas and I sort of came to an agreement…well okay, it was more like me suggesting and him mumbling an incoherent reply, but that we split it; I get the boy name and he gets the girl."
"You should so pull an Erin and name him Orlando."
Jane somehow managed to say that with a straight face.
"As hilarious as that would be," Niori said, on the verge of laughter again, "I would never be able to say his name without laughing hysterically, and people may come to wonder why."
"In that case," Erin replied, "let's find some paper and a pen and start some brain storming. Let's face it Niori; you won't be able to make a decision this big without us!"
As the celebrations began to wind down, there was still one question that was left at the back of everyones mind. And Jane was the first one who found it within herself to ask it.
"Eldarion," Jane asked, "what will you do now?"
"After the celebration ends," the young king replied, "I will gather the remainder of the army and march to the enemy's land and finish this war. That's what they all want…for this to be over for good."
"Eldarion!" Arien, who stood with Niori a few feet away, cried, "You cannot!"
All of them turned to stare at the young girl, who looked only at her brother, her eyes wide.
"Arien-" Eldarion tried to explain, his voice sounding as though he was talking to a five-year-old.
"No!" Arien replied forcefully, "The killing and destruction must end now! If you were to virtually destroy the Easterlings, then it will stay in those who are felt like a sore. In a few generations, the sore would have festered to the point where they will find a way to seek revenge for their oppression…and then all of this will happen again. Do wish another war for our children? Our grandchildren?"
Everyone stayed silent, unsure how to respond, so Arien just continued.
"Treat those who remain with kindness and peace and it will last beyond what violence and revenge could! Make them feel as though we will work with them to make Middle Earth peaceful once more, and they will feel no need to try and gain power again…not if you share a small portion of that power with them. Haven't I already proven to you that not all are our enemy? Hasn't Neda proven that to you? Or even those who turned to our side after they attacked the village?"
Eldarion opened his mouth, his face unsure now. But Arien still hadn't convinced him, so she drew on an argument that she knew would have all the effect she needed.
"It's what father would have done!"
At that, Eldarion almost looked stricken. It was then that Niori realized just how big of a shadow Aragorn had cast and how hard it must have been for Eldarion to even try and live up to it. He had done an amazing job and, in Niori's opinion, he was just as great of a king as his father was, but apparently Eldarion still had some doubts.
"There would need to be a liaison or ambassador, between our nation and theirs," Eldarion told her, "Who would we send? Who would want to go into the land of the enemy? Who would desire the position?"
"Me," Arien told him simply, "me."
Now they stared at her in complete shock, and her face steadily became more and more determined.
"I know the language and I can learn more," Arien continued, "I can be taught the customs and ways easily enough. Neda can teach me all that I need to know about his nation and people. And I can bring parts of our nation to them."
Eldarion started to protest, but Niori quieted him by placing a hand on his arm. She stepped past him so that she stood directly face to face with Arien.
"You know what that would mean?" Niori cautioned Arien, her voice dead serious, "What you would have to do? Your life would be divided; half your time would be in that strange land, with only one person who is remotely close to you. A lot of people there will resent, maybe even hate you. You will get to come home, but not long enough and not at first; you'll have to help rebuild the nation, because although they sustained no physical damage, they no longer have a king or army, and that could cripple them if it's not taken care of. You'd also have to ensure that the nation became peaceful, and when you do get to come home, it'll be as much business as pleasure. As an ambassador, your job would be to look out for the interests of the people you speak for. That means you'll have to go against a lot of people, maybe even your brother. That's a lot to put on the shoulders of a twelve-year-old. Would you be able to do it? Give up everything you know to help them…help the nation that the men who did such evil things to you came from?"
"Yes," Arien replied without hesitation, "some may have hurt me, but not all. I refuse to judge an entire people based on some, no matter how many somes there were. Besides, rape is something that knows no one nation; men in our lands commit that evil. I'm sure that if we invade their lands, there will be some of our men who take advantage of the chaos and do the same thing to the Easterling women that their men did to me."
Arien was ready to do the job that she had just volunteered for. Not only was she ready, but was probably the only person who could do it right.
"Let me do this Eldarion," Arien almost pleaded.
"It seems as though you've given me no choice," Eldarion replied with a sigh, but Niori could see the pride shinning in his eyes; he was proud of his little sister, "not only are you the only one who would so want the job, but you're truly the only one I would trust to do it."
They all waited for Arien to actually realize what she had just done and try to back out, but she made no move to do it. She knew exactly what she had done and had no desire to call it back. This was what she wanted.
"I'm proud of you Arien," Niori told her with a small smile, "so proud of you. I told you once that you'd find the calling that suited you, and you just did. Surprisingly enough, it's politics."
Arien smiled too, and then turned her attention back to her brother.
"I believe I shall go tell Neda of this news," she spoke, her voice cool and collected…a tone that Niori realized Arien had taken from her.
"That's my girl Arien," Niori whispered to herself as Arien walked away, "That's my girl."
The celebrations seemed to be coming to an end, and because of that people were beginning to leave for home.
People had been trickling out for a few days, but now it was larger groups of people who were leaving.
Like Jane and Erin would be leaving in a few days, and that morning, right after breakfast, Mila and her family were leaving.
"Oh I'm gonna miss you so much!" Niori whispered to Belladonna as she rocked her in her arms.
The little girl had unknowingly helped Niori through most of her trials…she had given a figurative light in the darkness; Bella had been the only truly good, innocent thing when Niori's life had been clouded with evil.
God she hated the idea of having to part with her.
"Don't fret too much Niori," Mila told her reassuringly, "for I cannot imagine separating Belladonna from her second mother for forever."
Second mother; Niori liked that. She loved that Mila would make sure that they were able to see each other again.
"We will only return to our house long enough to pack all that we can bring," at their surprised faces, Mila continued sadly, "that village is now more graveyard than home. I have family in another who will take us in for now."
From what Niori had been hearing, most of the villagers felt that way; it was the home of the dead now, not the living. She didn't blame them; let the dead rest there, a memorial to all that they had given. Niori figured that eventually, if not soon, it would become a complete ghost town.
Fifteen minutes later Mila, along with her family and others from the village were disappearing out of sight and into the forest.
Thankfully guides were sent with the people so that they could travel safely (though Niori didn't know if it was just the Elves being kind or guaranteeing that they were out of the forest).
An hour or so after them, it was Gimli who was leaving.
"So I'm so going to have to come visit," Niori was telling him, "I mean, you keep bragging up Dwarf halls, so I'm going to have to go see if you're exaggerating or not."
"Count us in on that visit too," Jane said.
"The three of you will be more than welcome…and it'll show you what a true royal welcome is!"
Niori smiled at yet another jab at Legolas, who was now in ear shot.
"Not that I'll be able to go anywhere outside a two mile radius of this place," Niori rolled her eyes, "for a good part of the next year."
"You might convince me that it should be five," Legolas said as he reached them and put an arm around her waist.
"And the Elf will probably hover and shadow your every move when you take a step outside," Gimli replied, and Niori could see the potential truth in the prediction and couldn't say that she really liked the thought, "but it is better safety that way, for both you and the child."
"Dren," Niori told him, unable to stop the smile, "children."
"Is it now?" he asked with a sparkle in his eye.
Gimli was the first besides the four girls (Erin, Jane, Sil and Arien) and Legolas that she had told about that fact that it was twins. Knowing him, all of Middle Earth would know before long.
"I'll miss you girls," Gimli told them, hugging the three in turn, "and I suppose that that could mean you too," he told Legolas, which made Niori roll her eyes.
Feel the love.
Then he was gone too.
And the girls were finally left with the unspoken fact that they all knew; not too long from now Erin and Jane would be next.
Screw dwelling and being sad, Niori thought as they began to creep in.
"Come on ladies," she told them, lacing her arms through theirs, "we have the next four days and we're gonna spend it having some fun."
It was only a few hours after dawn, but despite her late night, Erin was outside and wandering through the trees (which she had managed to grow rather fond of). Since Niori's announcement three days ago, Erin had begun to get a few things on her mind.
She had been walking around quietly for about twenty minutes, lost in her thoughts when she felt someone take her hand and fall into step beside her.
"Good morning darling," she said without looking at him.
"The same to you," was Frodo's reply.
Erin had been enjoying her alone time, but she would enjoy them time even better. She hadn't had much of that since he had arrived.
He and the others like Elijah had been among those who slept on those cots under tarps outside. Erin could have asked Niori to ask that Frodo get a room inside, but Niori's head was whirling so fast and hard that she didn't. And she just didn't feel comfortable asking the Elf king for permission. As a matter of fact, she didn't think Niori did either.
As much as she loved Frodo, there was no way in hell that she was giving up her bed.
For a few minutes they walked in silence. Then Erin brought up the subject that had been continuously on her mind for the past few days.
"Frodo," she started as she stopped and looked at him.
"Well, I've been thinking," she began again as she took a seat on the forest floor, "ever since we found out that Niori was pregnant, well I've been thinking. I mean, I know that I'm a mother."
"Of course," Frodo said as he sat down beside her.
"But in many ways I'm not," she continued, "I missed so much. I know that it was my choice, and I still know that it was the right one, but…I want to experience all that."
"What are you saying Erin?"
"I want more kids," she put it plainly, "I'm not pregnant now, so don't freak or anything. But I want them, even if it's only one more; I want to do all the things I missed out on with Elijah.
"I know that you're, well older for a lack of a better word, and you already went through all of this. This is your choice too…what do you think?"
"Erin," he replied with a smile, "I've been searching for a time to ask you the same thing."
Erin beamed happily.
"I mean," she continued, "we should wait until everything is settled. I know that it could happen anytime –that is how Elijah came around after all-, but since we're going to be traveling with our son, Jane and Pippin, I doubt we'll have to worry about that for now. But after everything is settled and all that in The Shire, do you want to really start trying?"
"I would want nothing more."
And in that moment Erin saw a bright future for herself…one that would match if not surpass even the happiest ending of the happiest fairy tales.
"Sorry honey, as much as I love you, which is very much, I really don't want to sleep on the ground if I don't have to." Jane said apologetically, gesturing at the ground she was sitting on. "I much prefer a bed, which is (regrettably) only big enough for one person. Besides, I'm sharing a room with Erin and Niori- they're both ditching Frodo and Legolas for beds too, though Legolas does have his own room, so I really don't know why she's still with us."
Elijah shrugged. "It's okay. I understand. I don't mind the ground, and I know that you do." They were sitting in the tent that Elijah and Frodo were sharing, but since Frodo was out for a walk with Erin, they had the tent to themselves for a while. Jane was sitting cross-legged, and Elijah was lying down with his head in her lap. She was absently twirling her fingers around in his curly hair.
"Yeah. I'm more of an 'indoor girl' who's boyfriend happens to be half-hobbit." She stopped and made a strange face. "Is that what you are?"
He looked up at her cautiously, like he feared for her sanity. "Um, yes, Jane. I am in fact a half- hobbit."
"No no no," she laughed. "I mean, are you my 'boyfriend'? It doesn't seem like the appropriate term to describe...what you mean to me." She finished quietly.
He looked at her thoughtfully, and put his hand on her cheek. "I know exactly what you mean."
She sighed and looked at him thoughtfully, but then her expression faltered as the thought she'd had in her mind all day resurfaced. "I can't believe we're going to the Shire..." She changed the subject, a slight sickness swooped in her stomach that had nothing to do with being sick and everything to do with nerves. She was scared.
He noticed her pained expression. "Is something wrong, Jane?"
"No, nothing", Jane insisted, shaking her head, " It's just the thought of leaving Niori is hard. But I know it has to happen, after all, she is marrying Legolas..." Jane smiled, insanely happy for her two friends. "Of course, it had to happen eventually." She added, "Everyone seemed know that except for Niori and Legolas."
Elijah nodded, agreeing. Suddenly, he sat up and faced her. It looked like he was trying to be nonchalant, but she could tell that there was something important he wanted to say. "Jane, I've been thinking...when we get to the Shire, we're getting a place of our own, right?"
Jane raised her eyebrows. Oh, that. "Um, yes. Of course. I mean, I hoped you weren't still going to be living with your parents." She made a disgusted face. "That would be horrifying. And you are 18 now, after all. Perfectly legal to vote in Canada." As hard as she tried, she couldn't say it with a straight face.
He made a face that was half amused, half bemused. "Right. Because that's very relevant here in Middle Earth." Jane laughed.
"Yeah, I know. I'm random."
Elijah grinned and rolled his eyes. "Yeah, 18 years old. Although in Hobbit years that's practically an infant. Hobbits aren't really adults until they're in their 30's."
Jane couldn't help but grimace comically. "I wish you wouldn't refer to yourself as an infant."
"Oh my God!" He burst out laughing, and she joined him. "You seriously need to get over that." He said, still half-laughing.
"I keep thinking I have, and then you go and refer to yourself as an infant."
He shook his head, still smiling. "It must be so strange for you, to come back here after a year, and go from seeing me as a baby, to seeing me like...this." He vaguely motioned to himself.
"Yeah, it was strange at first, but I've gotten used to it." Jane said. "I think it's taken Erin a lot longer, and I don't blame her." She sighed. "I hope she has another baby with Frodo, so she can enjoy watching her child grow up." She said very softly. "She deserves that."
Elijah nodded, but his mind was elsewhere.
"Out of curiosity," Jane said suddenly, shaking Elijah out of his thoughts, "Do you consider yourself more a hobbit, or a human?"
He scratched his curly head. "Honestly, before you four got here, I thought myself more a hobbit, because that's all I'd ever known. Ever since I met my mother, I've noticed a lot of the physical and personality traits I got from her. Not to mention, I've fallen in love with a human..."
"So now I would consider myself more human than hobbit. I mean, I look more human than hobbit, don't I?"
"Well, you certainly have the ears", she brushed his hair aside to touch his slightly pointed ears, "and the larger feet, and certain characteristics of Frodo's face, but your physique is more that of a human."
"And you'd know all about my physique."
"I'm practically an expert."
Unable to restrain himself any longer, he leaped forward and wrestled her to the ground in a tickling fight.
"No! No!" She laughed, and she retaliated.
Unable to take any more tickling, they both laid down on the ground of the tent, which was covered with a soft blanket and two pillows.
"You know, it's too bad we missed your birthday when you were away, because we would have thrown you one hell of a party!" Jane said mischievously. "Ah...my 18th birthday." She reminisced. "I was here in Middle Earth, you know. And I believe it was Niori's 18th birthday party where I got wasted and embarrassed myself in front of Aragorn...It's difficult to remember..."
He laughed darkly and rolled his eyes. "Well done."
"We can always celebrate once we get to the Shire...to our house...to our bed..." She giggled in anticipation, turning onto her side and kissing him on the forehead.
"Actually Jane, there's something I wanted to talk to you about...about that." He spoke. "I've actually gone ahead and bought a house around the corner from Bag End. Now, I know it's different in your world - clearly, it's different in your world", he spoke under his breath – " but people in Middle Earth usually must be married before they... move in together."
Before she realized what he was saying, she wanted to hit him for the jibe. Then it hit her.
"You...want to...marry me?" Her voice was becoming exceedingly high.
He got up onto one knee in front of her and pulled a hand-crafted wooden ring out of his pocket. It was a dark coloured wood with two tiny roses entwined carved onto it. It was perfect. Jane could hardly contain herself.
"Oh wow! Did you make this?" Jane asked, taking the ring from him and looking it over. "It's beautiful!"
"Yes, I did." He said proudly, but his face still remained slightly tense.
"I can't believe you asked me to marry you!" she beamed. "I mean, I was actually planning on asking you once we got to the Shire, but this is...wonderful." She had tears in her eyes.
He remained poised on his knee, waiting. "Is...is that a yes?"
"Oh my God- Yes!" She put the ring on her fourth finger on her left hand and kissed him. It fit perfectly, just like she knew it would. Everything was perfect.
When Erin and Frodo came back from their walk they came across Niori and Legolas sitting by themselves in the courtyard. Legolas was leaning back against a tree while Niori in turn leaned her back into his chest. His arm was wrapped around her shoulder as he hummed to himself and she looked down at the open book in her lap.
Erin almost awed at how Hallmark the entire scene looked.
At first the two didn't notice Erin and Frodo approach, but as they came closer Legolas looked up.
He gave them a quick smile and a nod before leaning down and saying something to Niori. Then she looked up and gave them the same smile.
"Hey guys," she said, closing her book, "what's up?"
"Nothing," Erin replied, deciding that she wanted to sit down too.
Hopefully Niori and Legolas didn't mind the company. Or Frodo for that matter.
"Just relaxing," Frodo elaborated when Erin didn't, "and planning."
Niori's eyes lit up as she focused her eyes on Erin.
"Must be pretty good plans," Niori said with a smirk, "because Erin, you have a few twigs stuck in your hair."
Erin's hand shot up to her head, and as she ran her fingers through her hair, she realized that there were a few sticks tangled there.
Damn! She thought that she had gotten them all out.
Now Legolas was giving her a smirk that matched Niori's and Frodo was staring down a tree to avoid anyone's eyes.
Erin on the other hand decided to pull a Niori.
"What can I say?" Erin said with a shrug, "the forest floor just looked so inviting."
Legolas and Frodo looked a little surprised by her answer, but Niori burst out laughing.
"I'll have to keep that in mind," Niori said with a grin when she was able to talk again.
"You haven't already?" Erin asked, her voice all innocence.
This type of banter was kind of fun when she wasn't dying of embarrassment.
"I'm in a don't kiss and tell mood, remember?" Niori replied with a wink.
"I think," Frodo spoke again, his voice still measured as he looked at the tree, "I'll go see if Pippin needs any help deciding what to take tomorrow."
Erin saw Niori's face momentarily fall, but the smile came back almost an instant later.
Erin kept her face from showing it, but she still felt the same way.
It had to be worse for Niori; at least when Erin left she would have Jane. In a manner of speaking, Niori would be alone.
Erin wasn't the only one who saw the look that flashed across Niori's face in that instant.
"I should go too," Legolas said softly, looking down at Niori, "I have to take care of a number of things. You two should stay and…talk."
Legolas looked up at Erin for the last bit, and she could read the message in his eyes.
She's going to hurt when you leave tomorrow, it said, tell her it's going to be okay and nothing will really change.
"Good idea," Erin said with forced brightness.
Niori wasn't the only one who could use said reassurance.
"He thinks he's so subtle," Niori rolled her eyes when the men were gone, "but he's really not."
"Well," Erin replied, "not even Legolas can be utterly perfect."
Niori chuckled, "Don't let him hear you say that; it might just wound his ego."
"Which, by some miracle, manages to match your own."
Niori was just about to retort when Jane's voice suddenly broke through the air.
Both girls turned to see Jane rushing towards them.
Erin's heart jumped into her throat as dread seized her stomach. Was something wrong?
When Jane was close enough, Erin saw that she was smiling broadly.
"Elijah…I…" Jane panted when she reached them, "we…wedding…"
It took a moment for the words to click together, but when they did Erin squealed loudly, jumped to her feet and hugged her friend.
She even forgot to be a little bit upset.
Niori was on her feet a second after and was too hugging Jane.
Jane was practically jumping up and down from excitement when the other two girls let go of her.
"Oh my God!" Erin cried a moment later, another realization came to her.
If Jane was getting married than that meant that Elijah was going to be the groom. Good lord, her son was getting married.
That made her feel so old.
"Congrats!" Niori spoke up with a bright smile, and then it turned into a joking one, "but way to go and steal my thunder!"
"Thank you!" Jane giggled, "And stealing your thunder is impossible Niori; you're not only getting married, buy you are having twins and your fiancé pledged to do the whole fade away from grief and follow you in death thing…fairly certain that if anything, you stole my thunder before Elijah even purposed! And he so surprised me with the proposal! He was all 'it's improper to move in together without being married' and he bought a house…"
Oh good, that was one problem that no longer had to trouble Erin's mind; the idea of the four of them trying to live together was a nightmare waiting to happen. Now Jane and Elijah would have their own place and Frodo and Erin would have Bag End.
"Not that living together without being married is a bad thing…" Jane said almost the moment after she said it, looking at Niori, " I mean…"
"No offence taken Jane," Niori replied with a laugh, "Legolas and I don't particularly care, and when have I ever been proper? And I'd love to see someone try to tell me that I have to get married right away…before I can fit into the perfect wedding dress. And come on now; Legolas and I have been living together…for the most part-" her face grew a little dark for a moment as memories rushed her and then she forced them back, "since I got back to Middle Earth."
"And it's going to be so beautiful!" Jane continued with a joyous sigh, "I've always wanted an outdoors wedding, and The Shire will be perfect for that!"
Having already been in The Shire Erin knew that was true, and in her mind she was already making a list of possible locations to show Jane once they got there.
Not only as a friend, but as the future mother-in-law, Erin had a traditional duty to help plan the wedding.
Not that she's be one of those interfering, nagging mother-in-laws of course.
Jane was still going on about how perfect her wedding would be when Erin realized that Niori looked anything but happy.
"What's wrong Niori?" she interrupted, confused and concerned.
Why would Niori be upset?
"Oh!" Niori replied, looking and sounding guilty, "nothings wrong. I'm totally happy for you Jane, and the wedding you're describing sounds absolutely beautiful…I'm just sad that I'm not going to be there."
Erin just stared at Niori in shock, and Jane looked at her in complete disbelief.
What was Niori talking about? Of course she would be there!
"If you plan to have it when you get to The Shire but before you move in together, there's no way that I could ever be there," Niori replied, her voice sad, "I'm going through my first pregnancy after having a difficult one and giving birth to a stillborn…do you think Legolas and I are going to chance me going that great a distance? I love you Jane and the thought of missing your wedding makes me want to cry, but I can't risk my babies anymore than they already have been."
Erin hadn't even thought about it that way, but now that she did she didn't blame Niori; there was no way she should travel. The only reason she had traveled to here was out of necessity, but for Niori a trip to The Shire wasn't necessary. If the situation had been switched, Erin sure wouldn't, and neither would Jane.
No one had though of that, especially not Elijah when he purposed and Jane when she accepted. It had been assumed that Niori would be there…
Jane could never demand that she be there, not under those circumstances.
Jane looked ready to cry at the prospect of Niori not being there, and Erin couldn't wrap her mind around it.
How could Niori not be there.
"Then we'll get married tonight."
Jane said the statement suddenly and simply.
"Say what?" both Erin and Niori asked at once.
No way Erin had heard her right.
"Elijah and I will get married tonight," Jane repeated.
"How exactly is this going to work?" Erin asked, unable to believe that Jane, who was usually a planner, was saying this.
"What about that perfect Shire wedding you were just talking about?" Niori asked, also in disbelief.
"I'll still have that," Jane explained, "but later; I'll get married tonight kind of Vegas style, just to make sure that when we get back to The Shire we're not 'living in sin' or whatever," she paused, "again, not that's anything wrong with that. But then later, when everything's all settled and fit to travel we'll have that Shire wedding…it'll just be renewing our vows, that's all."
Come to think of it, the whole renewing vows in The Shire sounded good to Erin too…she'd have to mention it to Frodo.
"Don't you think you better ask Elijah about all this first?" Niori cautioned, though Erin could see the pleasure in her eyes.
Niori wanted to be there as much as Jane wanted her to be there.
"It's already impossible for one of my best friends to stand up with me at my wedding," Jane replied softly, "and I'm going to make damn sure the other two can."
Erin felt a pang when Jane said that; Carla not being there felt just as wrong as Niori not being there. She would always feel that trickle of pain and grief when days and moments like this came, of that Erin was sure.
God only knew how bad it would be when Niori's wedding day rolled around.
Elijah would understand and wouldn't argue, but he should be given a warning notice.
That was a big thing to plan in less than a day.
"You better go inform Elijah of all of this," Erin told her, forcing down laughter when she imagined Elijah's face when Jane gave him the news.
Jane nodded, and already she was turning things over in her mind to find a way to make this all work.
Erin and Niori were alone again a few moments later.
"So, bridesmaids right?" Niori asked though she already was sure of the answer.
"That weird you out?" Niori asked out of curiosity.
Erin paused, thinking it over; the fact that she was being a bridesmaid at her son's wedding was extremely strange, but she wasn't exactly bothered by it.
"A little," she admitted.
"We better go snag us some dresses…I know just the place."
Niori made it sound like it was such a hassle, but the grin on her face showed that she was thanking God that Jane had decided to do this.
Erin was thankful too.
Then another thought came to her and she wasn't so thrilled.
"Oh crap…I'm going to be sleeping on the ground again."
It was only right that the newlyweds get the room for their wedding night. Though Erin completely blocked out the knowledge of why they would need said room. She would not think about it.
"Don't expect me to be there," Niori told her, "Legolas obviously has his own room and that's where I will be."
"Been sneaking off to that room have we?" Erin teased.
"Only to try and decide which adjacent one would make the best nursery."
"Well, I guess we better go let people know…I'm sure Frodo would love to have a heads up about this.
"Let's do it."
"Jane, would you hold still, please?" Niori grumbled as she yanked the strings on Jane's corset.
Jane was practically jumping up and down. "I'm sorry, Niori, I'm just so excited, and" - one particularly hard yank from Niori shut her up pretty quickly. "Ow..."
Niori was lacing her into a gorgeous white and silver Elven wedding gown that was borrowed from one of Legolas' relatives. It was sleeveless, with an off-the-shoulder neckline bordered with silver. She wore silver slippers on her feet and white flowers in her hair (to honour a hobbit tradition), which fell loosely over her shoulders. She was holding a small bouquet of the same white flowers that decorated her hair. Not bad for a couple hours of work. She was positively quivering with excitement.
"Jane, I honestly can't believe you're not nervous at all." Erin said, her face displaying her disbelief. "I mean, I knew I wanted to marry Frodo, but still... I was scared."
"Scared' is an understatement." Niori said under her breath, rolling her eyes. Jane shot a sideways grin at her, but Erin let it pass.
Jane turned back to Erin and shrugged. She knew that there was nothing else she wanted in the world but to marry Elijah, and that was that. She'd always wanted to marry young, and she'd found her soul mate. She voiced this to Erin.
Erin still looked incredulous. She rearranged her blue gown that was only a bit on the large side.
"There, I'm finished." Niori said, a smug look on her face as she admired her work. She looked a knock-out in her perfectly-fitted purple gown, her baby-bump just visible. "You won't be able to breathe, or eat, or function much at all, but your waist has never been so tiny!"
"Gee, thanks, Niori." Jane said, taking a stab at sarcasm, but failing because of the permanent smile on her face. She couldn't really breathe that well, but it didn't really matter to her. She adored that dress, and thought it the most perfect dress ever to get married in.
A knock came at the door, and a Sil and Arian popped their heads in the room. They beamed when they saw Jane in her dress. "You look beautiful." Sil complemented.
"The ceremony is ready to begin when you are, "Arien added.
Jane nodded, and her heart sped up in her chest. This was it. She was really getting married. She looked down at the engagement ring on her left hand and twiddled it.
"I'm coming." She murmured, and the two princesses nodded and left.
Jane turned to her friends. "How do I look?" She said, and her voice cracked on the last word, as tears sprang to her eyes.
Niori and Erin both gave her a huge hug. "I'm so glad you're here for this, Niori. I wouldn't have it any other way, you know." Jane sniffed, pulling a handkerchief from her cleavage and dabbing at her eyes with it.
"Don't ruin your make-up, Jane. It's all that I have left from my supply." Niori admonished, but her eyes filled with tears. Jane sniffed and shoved the hankie back down her dress.
"Okay, girls, let's go out and watch Jane marry my son." Erin said blandly.
Jane let out a choked laugh and hugged Erin. "You're going to be my mother-in-law." Jane stated, and Erin cringed.
"We're going to have the same last name!" Erin said incredulously.
"We'll get used to it." Jane said, smiling through her tears.
"Eventually." Erin added, and she hugged her.
Taking a deep breath, Jane stepped out of the little room and into the back of the hall, where Elijah was waiting for her at the front with King Thranduil who would marry them in the Elven custom. There was a group of 30 or so, sitting and standing in the large room. She knew or recognized most of the people. Eldarion were sitting in the front row; Jane could just make out the back of his head. At the front of the hall, Pippin was Elijah's Best Man, with Legolas standing beside him.
When Jane met Elijah's eyes, his face broke into a beaming smile, and it was like everything and everyone else in the room disappeared. A small band began playing some kind of pan flute, but Jane didn't really hear them; all she could think about was him. He was wearing a formal, silver Elven tunic over a long-sleeved white shirt with highly-polished brown boots. Erin and Niori walked ahead of her, each carrying a small bouquet of wildflowers the colour of their dresses.
Frodo took her arm to lead her down the aisle. When she took his arm, she couldn't help but randomly feel a small pang for her own father, back in her own world, whom she'd never really had a close relationship with...
All of a sudden she was at the front, letting go of Frodo's arm, taking Elijah's hand, and staring into his eyes, which mirrored her own exhilaration. She could hardly believe that time could pass so quickly when the minister asked her the all-important question, and she managed to whisper, "I do." She held out her slightly shaking hand and he put the wedding band on her ring finger, and she did the same to him.
When King Thranduil finally said something along the lines of 'you may kiss the bride,' what can only be described as a burst of happiness exploded in her chest. Jane absently chucked her bouquet over her shoulder (which Niori caught) as she and Elijah wrapped their arms around each other. Mr. and Mrs. Baggins kissed as the crowd erupted in cheers.
While the party continued, Jane, Erin and Niori were able to slip out without being really noticed. Anyone who did, let them go. The three of them stood on the bridge that over ran the stream together, leaning on the rail and looking up at the trees silently.
There was really nothing that had to be said; everything, things that had really meant nothing to things that had meant everything, had been said over the past twenty years. It'd be said again and again, but right now the silence was all that they needed.
It was really the others' presence that the three girls needed. Tomorrow would bring yet another separation; Erin and Jane would be heading of to The Shire while Niori was staying put in Mirkwood.
It wasn't a goodbye…just a see you later. For all four of them; Niori would go visit Erin and Jane and vice versa. Someday, hopefully a long time from now, Carla would meet them at the gates to the next world, each in their own turn.
For them, there was no such thing as goodbye. There was no end to the love and friendship they all felt, and it would bring them all together once again.
"This is going to sound so strange," Erin ventured after awhile, "and you'll probably think I'm nuts, but I swear I dreamt-"
"About Carla?" Niori interrupted, her voice not surprised in the least, "A dream that you knew wasn't just a dream?"
"You too?" Jane as in astonishment, showing that it had happened to her too.
"How do you think I found out that I was pregnant?" Niori asked with a smile.
"Wow," Erin replied with her own smile, "all she told me was that she'd come back as a ghost and kick my ass if I mourned her too long.'
All three of them burst into laughter.
"That's our Carla alright," Jane spoke with a shake of her head
"Besides," Niori said as her laughter ended, "did you really think that Carla would leave here without making sure we all knew that she was alright?"
The other girls shook their heads, knowing that Carla would have fought tooth and nail to be able to do just that.
Niori, who stood with Erin on one side and no one on the other, had the distinct feeling that, if she looked over, Carla would be standing on her empty side. She didn't look, because it didn't matter what she would see. Niori was a hundred percent certain that, no matter what her eyes could or couldn't see, she was still standing there with them.
The four of them together yet again. Together always, no matter what separated them, whether it be miles or death.
"Well then," Jane spoke as she stared out over the dark landscape, "this is it; our final big journey together."
"No it's not," Niori replied with a smile as she too turned her eyes to gaze at her new home, "It's just a new beginning."
An- There it is. The End. It's been a fun and wild ride that's for sure, and the four of us are sad to see it end...but nothing can go on forever! Do you remember somewhere at the first if the chapter we mentioned the whole sleepover thing, and that was a small tribute to how this thing started; four thirteen year old Lord of the Rings fangirls who we're watching Fellowship of the Ring, high on Pepsi and trying to think up something. All of the sudden Erin comes out with 'I wonder what would happen if the Fellowship came to 2003' and thus all of this was born.
And we never would have gotten to this point if it hadn't been for you guys, the best reviewers EVER! You guys somehow managed to get through the first story (which I cannot believe, since I look back at it and think how horrible it was!) and came this far. Hopefully you enjoyed reading this thing as much as we have writing it.
So, that's all we have to really say, other than goodbye reviewers. Goodbye and much love to all of you. We couldn't have done this without your support, so this belongs as much to you as us. Thank you all so much.
Much love from us all,
Niori, Jane, Carla & Erin.