Disclaimer: I don't own any character or location from Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings nor am I making money off of this fic.
Author's Note: A big thank you to Efia-an for her proofreading and suggestions. Here goes the last chapter. Enjoy...
Epilogue: One Decade Later
Years passed much like they always had in the Woodland Realm. The forest prospered as winter gave way to spring each year and peace prevailed throughout Middle Earth. Thranduil was preparing to leave for Valinor along with many of the remaining elves in Eryn Lasgalen. Legolas would then become king of the realm but he had plans of his own.
He had already discussed it with his father. He would sail to Valinor when the time was right, but before that he would take those elves that were loyal to him and travel to the Ithilien. The land had been mostly forgotten since the War of the Ring and Legolas wanted to make a new elven residence there.
Alerae had agreed to travel to Ithilien a few years after Thranduil sailed to the Grey Havens. Legolas had kept his promise in traveling about Middle Earth with her in the past few years. Whenever they had a few months to themselves they would go to another realm. She had heard that Ithilien had not been looked after since The War of the Ring when it had been abandoned, but she had faith that her and her husband and all of the elves that followed them could make a new home there. However, she was still greatly enjoying living in the Woodland Realm and was happy that they had years yet to stay there.
She had settled into her new home in Eryn Lasgalen and had finished all of the necessary studies required for her to rule beside Legolas. Sidhion often traveled from Rivendell to see her and once in awhile she and Legolas journeyed there. In fact, it was nearly time to pay him another visit.
Alerae often wrote to Arwen in Gondor and they remained good friends. The journey there was too long to be made frequently, so they shared stories through letters. Eldarion was almost eleven years old and faring well although causing a lot of mischief. Aragorn was also doing well.
Antien was still happily unmarried. He remained co-captain of the guard and was planning to travel to Ithilien with Legolas and Alerae when they went.
Alerae had finally met Gimli when he had come to visit a few months ago. At first she wasn't sure what to make of the dwarf but after he had settled in he became quite friendly and she often found herself talking and laughing with him.
Alerae had a lot of new responsibilities as princess of the realm. She was aware that the decisions she made could affect all the residents of the forest. When she had time to spare she relaxed by reading, swimming, or riding. Occasionally, she would help the maids in the kitchen. She knew how much work they did and often volunteered some of her time, especially when Legolas was occupied elsewhere. They always tried to talk the princess out of helping them but she was just as stubborn as ever.
On one of these days she had gone down to the kitchens to aid her friend, who was cleaning up from morning meal.
Alerae rolled up the sleeves of her dress and stood next to Eleniel, who worked as a part time cook.
"How are you feeling?" Alerae didn't look up from the dish she was furiously scrubbing to ask.
Eleniel's beloved had proposed marriage some time after Alerae and Legolas had been wed. The couple was married six years ago. Eleniel was now with child and ecstatic about it.
"I am alright. Much better than I felt this morning. The baby will be born in just a few short months," she paused, looking at the dishes still to be cleaned, "It seems that this pile will never get any lower."
As Alerae picked up another plate, two firm hands were placed on her waist from behind and she started, dropping the glass dish. Eleniel gasped and caught it just before it smashed. Alerae spun around in Legolas' arms and gave him a scolding look but his sheepish grin soon made her smile.
"Lady Eleniel, would you excuse Alerae for the rest of the afternoon?"
She nodded, "Thank you for helping me, Alerae."
He smiled and took Alerae's hand, escorting her outside to the path that led to the archery range for some friendly competition. He could easily win in an archery trial against most anyone, especially his wife, as she had only started learning just before their marriage. Even so, she was always looking to improve and maybe one day best him in at least one game.
After a few hours of practice she suggested that they help the stable hands with some of their daily tasks. Cleaning up after that many horses was certainly an all day job. Of all the chores she had attempted, this was what she did best. The pair stayed the remainder of the afternoon, allowing some of the stable hands to retire to their families earlier than expected.
Before they left that evening, she had to check on her ever faithful mare, Astalder. Beside the roan lay a young colt that had been named Nostalion. The foal had been born a few months ago and had already grown significantly. Though he was rather outgoing, Alerae's mare would not let anyone but Alerae touch him. She smiled as Astalder nuzzled Nostalion affectionately.
Legolas finished putting the last of the hay bales in their proper place and then came over and wrapped his arms around her.
"He is a strong colt; he will grow up to be a fine horse, especially with his mother's care," he said as he watched the horses.
Alerae nodded her response and leaned back against his chest.
"It kind of makes one wish for a child of their own." He looked thoughtful.
Alerae looked up at him. They had made many compromises since being married, but the subject of children was one that they had never had to compromise about.
They had talked about having a child but she just wasn't ready yet. Legolas agreed and they were still young, he said, despite Thranduil's encouragement for them to have one. Someday, it would be the right time for them and they would further the Greenleaf line.
He continued, "Not that I'm in any hurry."
"Neither am I, meleth," she turned in his arms and kissed him lightly on the neck, "We should finish putting the brushes away." He nodded and they set about completing the last of the chores in the barn.
A few minutes later, they sat down on a hay bale and observed the now tidy stable which would need cleaning again tomorrow. Through their bond, Alerae could feel how content he was at that moment. She smiled and leaned against him, pulling pieces of hay off of his tunic and out of his hair.
The next morning, Alerae was lying next to her husband in their oversized bed. It was almost the end of autumn and most of the colorful leaves had fallen to the forest floor. She curled up on her side next to him as she watched him sleeping.
Legolas stirred beside her, bringing her out of her reverie. He turned onto his side and his breathing evened again. She moved closer to him and touched the tip of his ear and he murmured something about her. She loved the way his foot twitched when she ran her finger across his ear.
Everything she had been through to get to where she was today had certainly made her stronger. It seemed like such a long time ago that she met Legolas at the inn; even longer, perhaps, since she had stabbed her master to death. Sometimes, just before she and Legolas made love, she would have painful flashbacks of her time at the inn. When this did happen, Legolas always quelled her fears and made her heart race for quite another reason.
Just as she was thinking of him, his eyes opened and he pulled her close, resting his forehead on her dark hair as he breathed in its faint scent.
"I'm happy to be married to you, Legolas."
He responded by taking her hand and kissing it lightly, "And I am glad to be married to you."
They spent the remainder of the morning together. They didn't speak; instead they sat close to one another, listening to the sounds of the forest as the sun rose, as bright as the future.
Alright, so, that was it. How did you all like it? I would really love to hear from each and every one of you (hint, hint).
Thank you all for sticking with me through this story. I don't think I could have had the motivation to finish without all of your supportive reviews. Constructive criticism is still welcome.
A big thank you goes out to Linilya Elf, for letting me borrow one of her ideas (Legolas' foot twitching).
And for old time's sake...