Author's Note: Well... this is it. The final chapter. I never thought this story would have so many faithful readers when I first posted it... So a HUGE thank you to all of you, who have been with me through this journey, encouraging me in my first attempt at LOTR fanficton. Words cannot truly express my gratitude. I would also like to thank Ivy for being my BETA in the first chapters of this story and, of course, my wonderful Marisa who worked on the rest of the chapters, giving her precious advice on the way.
A last comment before you move on to read the chapter. I have to admit I don't like the use of songs in stories, unless they have a certain importance for the chapter. In this final one, I had to use a song that would trigger Elaine's memories and move her into action, creating an irony out of the situation she finds herself in. I tried to avoid it, but the plot itself was based on it, so I just used a few phrases here and there, the ones that made Elaine ponder on some things. Moreover, I believe everyone knows "Immortal" by Evanescence, so there was no need for me to use all the lyrics.
Disclaimer: See Prologue.
"italics": lyrics of song
It was truly unbelievable. After so much time, one would think it would diminish. Just because she got used to it. But did she really? Even if she told herself the same things over and over again? Even if she experienced the same feelings? Even if the initial shock was now gone and she was filled only with sadness; complete, profound sadness?
But love is like the sea: tranquil and tremendous; calm and raging; serene and stormy; deep and shallow; warm and calm; beautiful and terrible; desired and feared. It changes according to weather. Or your perception of this natural force; how familiar you are with its blue liquid weight. The first encounter is always marked with awe at the unknown and excitement at its discovery. Then, as time passes, you face its peace; and its wrath. Either gliding gracefully on its serene surface or fighting in the raging waves. It's up to you whether you fall in its deep abyss forever or survive the storm. And as the old sailor, you learn to love it, accept it until you become familiar with it and the excitement is gone. Then another feeling develops: respect. Respect for the bond you share and the experiences you've been through while travelling on its waters. Nothing strikes you as strange anymore. You have no fear of the unknown, because it is all familiar and expected. The peacefulness and the storms; the shallow and deep waters. You feel secure and safe in its embrace even at its darkest moments.
And so Elaine travelled on her sea the past six months; on her love. She was the old sailor now, having experienced the calmness and the storms and the tides... She was fully aware of them now that the memories replayed before her in clear cut, colourful stills. And she became all too familiar with it. She learned every inch of its surface. The pain had become a habit but she could not let her love go. The peace it offered with that blanket of security and comfort around her arms were not easy to let go.
It was while in such musings that the rush came back. The intensity of the feelings hit her with such force, that she was left as breathless as the first time she discovered them. The passion returned; the itch on her fingers to touch his skin, the thirst of her lips to drink in his essence, the desire to get lost in his arms... And it was painful to know that she would never again experience those bad, good, terrible, beautiful, small and majestic, important and trivial things that constructed her world.
Even after all this time, she was still affected by the thought of him. She could still feel the burning and the urge to let him take her, to the place where all she could see were the sapphires in his eyes and all she could hear was the symphony of his whispers and ragged breath. It was those seconds of utter abandon when they truly saw each other. When all barriers, pride, insecurity and fear were gone and the only thing left was the real 'them'. The real 'her'. The real 'him'.
As the first notes of the song reached her ears, she got up groaning to turn off the radio.
"…'cause your presence still lingers here
and it won't leave me alone…"
The lyrics seemed to mock her. The words fell heavy as stones on her already wounded heart. Yet, some sadistic force inside her stayed her hand. She had had enough torture the past six months. Enough time to think. Enough time to hurt. The book was always glaring at her from its corner. As if it dared her to believe; to believe that it had all happened and that it was not a sick fantasy of her mind.
But she was afraid. She had already been in her beach house for a week, as summer had inevitably come, yet she had never come close to its sandy gold. Especially close to the rocks, that once led her in her paradise. She didn't even dare look out of her window, fearing what she would see. As long as there was that small hope inside her heart that it had been true, she could go on and find a reason to live. But if she went there… and found that she had created everything in her mind… that there was no such place as Lim Aear…
Her heart could never take it.
"…there's just too much that time cannot erase…"
One month. It was only one month. And the past six months did nothing to ease the intensity of the pain. What was a month? Who would ever take her seriously if she told them she had been doomed to love beyond death in only one month? She had hoped that her feelings would diminish as time passed… that the wounds would heal and each breath wouldn't be such a burden every day.
Trust a love between an elf and a mortal to defy all rules of logic.
If possible, it had grown stronger. As she looked back and had time to analyze how many things -important things- had happened in that short time, she felt as if that love had suddenly stretched over to centuries. So many emotions, so much pain, so many intense feelings could not fit into a month. Or a year. Or even a decade. The circumstances had forced them to go in such a fast pace, that they had missed the true meaning and gravity of everything. They had never realized what had blossomed between them and it was only after these months of meditation that Elaine finally realized the size and sublimeness of their love.
And the pain… the sadness… the terrible, so terrible loneliness…
She looked at the soft drizzle outside her window. The world had turned a dull grey as the clouds covered the darkening sky; as if the weather had taken pity upon her soul and decided to let out some of her sadness. It was not a raging storm, she was feeling; nor the freezing cold the snow brings as it falls on the ground. It was exactly that silent drizzle outside, steady and treacherous like the pain which was -slowly but steadily- eating her soul.
"…your face it haunts
my once pleasant dreams,
your voice it chased away
all the sanity in me…"
The book was glaring once more at her from its corner. It seemed to haunt her, like his face. Every time she closed her eyes, she felt the piercing gaze. For how long…? How long would she have to live like this? How long before she went insane?
The sky lit up with the first thunder, bringing the rocks to light at the end of the beach… her own 'haunted mansion'. The sound was deafening, but Elaine didn't even flinch. Her eyes were glued upon the beach and her rational side was trying to stop the memories triggered by the song and drown the small flame of hope that sparked inside her.
She could not live like this. Uncertainty was a terrible thing, yet living without hope was even worse.
What to do? What to do under the irresistible power of Fate that draws you to your other half? What to do when you cannot feel complete unless you are united with your soul mate?
She hurriedly put on her shoes, not even bothering to grab a jacket. The drizzle had grown to a heavy rain by now and people were running to find shelter from the sudden summer storm. She took a step towards the door but halted, as she caught sight of the book with the corner of her eye.
"But you still have…"
She approached it with a sad smile and leaned down to lay a soft kiss upon its cover.
"All of me…"
I'm coming, my Prince. I'm coming to find you.
The sound of the song soon couldn't reach her ears, as she ran down the stairs and burst through the front door to the heavy onslaught of the water above her. She felt a strange freedom in that natural chaos; wild and uninhibited, like her present emotions. She ran as fast as she could, her feet sinking in the wet sand, the rain making her jeans and T-shirt difficult to move in. She could not feel their cold touch; she could not feel anything but hope. Hope that she would find him there and tell him that they could finally live their own 'happily ever after'.
Her running gradually slowed down. Her few numb steps halted too. The view before her cut her breath short, as if she had received a painful blow.
There were no bushes. There was no cave either.
There was no Lim Aear.
"No… no, please God, no…" she moaned as she made her way to the smooth rocky surface, which had once been the entrance to the staircase that lead to the Gate, hidden behind the wild vegetation of the bushes.
She began feeling the rock for something… anything that would show her there was a cave there. But there was nothing. It was a simple compilation of rocks… Crying from her rage, she started hitting them furiously with her fists, as if the action would lessen her pain.
Everything is lost… There's no hope now…
There was no Lim Aear. There had never been. Her Prince was only a hallucination because of the sedation drugs…
What is left for me now…?
She slowly slid away from the rocks defeated and wiped her angry tears with her hand, not even bothering to take a second look at the bloodied scratches on her knuckles. She was a pitiful sight, drenched to the bone, the heavy rain and tearful face giving her the appearance of the most wretched creature in the world; and that's how she felt. She turned around and started walking back home.
"Leaving without saying goodbye?"
Her head turned sharply at the sound of the voice she never thought she would hear again.
Oh, she was going mad. Her pain and memories had brought back the object of her desire to torture her even more… He was leaning casually against a rock, like he did that day in the gardens of Lim Aear against a tree, when she had gotten lost between the massive vegetation… Dear God, how long ago did it seem…
Legolas was wearing a pair of jeans and a shirt, unlike that day. And although he tried hard to keep a calm exterior, she could tell he was battling with himself not to crush her into his arms.
Could it be…?
"Please tell me I'm not dreaming again…" she pleaded as she slowly approached him. Even wet from the rain, with his clothes clinging to his form, the elven light never left him.
"You never dreamt, ël tithen nín." /my little star/
At the sound of her endearment, she broke down. With a whimper she rushed to his arms, Legolas meeting her halfway and finally crushing her in his embrace. She ran her hands over him, touching his face, feeling his heartbeat under her palm to make sure he was real… And he was. His skin was warm beneath her and his lips that descended upon her with hunger and desperation left no room for doubts. He was there… and he was with her.
"Do not leave me again…" Legolas told her between kisses in a soft voice, with a tone that spoke clearly of the raging emotions inside him. For six months, he had waited until she found the courage to look for him… For six months he had watched her drown in her pain and hopelessness, unable to do anything but wait… Now that the moment had finally come and she was in his arms, it was hard to believe it. But it was true… they were finally together and nothing would separate them again.
"I was beginning to worry you'd never appear, child!" an amused voice came from behind them and Elaine disentangled herself from her husband's embrace to face its owner.
"The old fisherman…" she exclaimed in a wonder-filled voice, looking wide –eyed at the person before her.
"Yes, yes… That was me, my dear. You may call me Gandalf," he said with a smile and shook the remaining droplets off his hood. The rain had almost stopped, as suddenly as it had appeared… like every summer storm.
"You knew everything, didn't you? You knew what would happen," Elaine told Gandalf, as the pieces slowly moved to the right places and the picture of the puzzle was finally becoming clear.
"Oh, wizards know many things, but not everything," he answered with the familiar twinkle in his eyes that Elaine remembered all too well. Gandalf smiled at Legolas, who was standing behind his wife, an arm wrapped protectively around her waist; as if he was afraid he would lose her again.
"Can somebody PLEASE tell me what happened..?"
A shadow crossed the elf's face briefly at her question and the wizard's eyebrows rose.
"Why, you died my dear!"
Elaine was officially confused now.
"Then how am I here? I'm not a ghost, am I??"
A laugh escaped the wizard at the terror written on her face and he shook his head amused.
"You're quite alive, I assure you. The Lady of Light said you would both have to pay a price for your love, am I correct?"
Elaine nodded, trying desperately to figure out where this was going.
"You thought that Legolas' sacrifice was his decision to bind himself to you and die of grief because of that, and that your own was to leave your life behind and stay with your husband in Lim Aear," the wizard continued, Legolas sighing behind Elaine. "Things are not that simple child. They were never meant to be."
"The remaining Elves of Middle Earth… or Earth, as you may call it, had to return to Valinor. It was after you were… gone, that the elven world realized how much the world we had known so far had changed… that we were no more part of it… and so the Elves decided to leave these shores forever," Legolas explained, wincing visibly at the memory of her death.
'I give this to you, so that your children will not forget their parentage, when our kind walks these grounds no more. We shall not meet again, Elaine.' Galadriel's voice echoed in her mind, as the memory replayed before her eyes. So that was the reason she had given her that book… The Lady of Light had known all along what would happen and had made sure that she left a small token of their kin behind, a proof that their race had actually existed… a proof for Elaine that it had all been true… a spark of hope that would bring her back to her husband's arms…
"Your love was the force that made the wheels start spinning for the return of the Elves to Valinor. You both played your role in the complicated net of Fate," Gandalf continued.
Elaine wasn't sure if she was exactly happy at the fact that she had been a mere pawn in the Valar's greater plan. Nor at the fact that both she and Legolas had to go through such a predicament to make it succeed.
"The Valar restored you to thank you for the return of the first-born to Valinor and tried to make everything seem as a dream… or a hallucination, as I'm sure you were told." Gandalf added, when she saw doubt written on the young woman's face. "And in the end, your sacrifice was your own life to save Legolas'… and Legolas' sacrifice was his immortality to spend the rest of his life with you on Earth as a mortal."
Elaine's eyes widened at that. Had he given up his immortality as a price to stay with her? His last chance to join his family and friends at the Undying Lands?
"But you'll never see your kin again… Your own family…" she told Legolas, as she turned to face him.
"Where am I to go except by your side?" a playful smile played on his lips, as both of them remembered another time when he had uttered the same words.
It was too good to be true. Not even the happiest ending of all the happy endings in fairy-tales was as wonderful! The young woman was sure her heart would burst from excitement and relief, hope and utter happiness at the turn of events. She did not bother to question Gandalf how the Valar had managed to bring her back from death… or how they had brought her back in time. She had seen the power of the Elves' magic and actually… she didn't even care anymore. She would spend the rest of her life with the person she had thought lost to her forever only minutes ago and nothing else mattered!
"Gandalf, I don't understand. Why did we have to go through all this trouble to make the Elves return to Valinor? Couldn't the Valar just ask them? And where the hell is Valinor, anyway??"
Gandalf laughed heartily once more and Legolas chuckled shaking his head. Oh, his sweet Elaine… He had missed her so much!
"Have you learned nothing, Elaine?" Gandalf asked her in an amused voice, as they all started walking along the beach. "Do not question fate; just meet it."
I would like to thank you once more for your support! Stick around for my new story "Sleeping Beauty", which will be posted this week!