Disclaimer: Me no own, you no sue.
A/N: So, here it is, the last chapter. I'm torn between being happy and depressed right now. Also, I had hiccups in choir today, so I'm a bit silly at the moment. Pray for snow this weekened! I won't tell you why, just know that I hate snow, so this is a momentus event. Enjoy the chapter!
Into the West
Lay down your sweet and weary head,
Night is falling you have come to journey's end.
Sleep now, dream of the ones who came before,
They are calling from across the distant shore.
Why do you weep? What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see, all of your fears will pass away.
Safe in my arms, you're only sleeping.
What can you see, on the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea, a pale moon rises.
The ships have come to carry you home.
And all will turn to silver glass.
A light on the water,
All souls pass... - Into the West, performed by Annie Lennox
The seasons slipped by over the White City, and eventually these morphed into years, and the years morphed into decades. Weddings were held, beautiful real weddings that made even complete strangers cry. And soon, the Four stepped back and let their children into the limelight to prove themselves.
Leigh's children all followed after one parent or the other, branching off to live their lives without forsaking the old folks back home. In the end Nimire did indeed marry King Eomer's upstart son, Elfwine, and her two brothers, Randirion and Aerhenion, who were both captains in Gondor's army, served as the wedded couple's guard of honor during the festivities. Leigh's only daughter made a wonderful princess for Rohan, and two years after that marriage, Leigh got her first grandchild. Aerhenion was a bit of a rogue like his father, complete with a matching temper. Unlike his younger brother, however, Randirion stayed closer to the home and acquired more of his mother's traits. Eventually, though, he too was married to a beautiful young woman, and Boromir and Leigh found themselves with an empty house and lots of time to make trouble at court.
On the opposite side of the board, Maylin and Legolas were landed with their three to keep, at least for a while. They watched as their children slowly grew while Jack's daughter and Leigh's children shot up like weeds. Even when they were older, though, Tatharwen, Isilhir and Brethiliel never strayed far from home. Tatharwen would spend occasional summers with her old friend Nimire, but her home was always with her family. And when the time came to make their last, final voyage, Maylin and Legolas stood at the prow of the ship with their children gathered around them.
Between the two Brady Bunch clans, there was Jack and his half-elven daughter. Palandiriel grew up to be the spitting image of her father, complete with the same talents, but enhanced with the grace associated with the other side of her family. She preferred to be on a stool beside him in a performance than anywhere else in Middle-Earth. Even when Jack turned old and grey, and his fingers wouldn't bend correctly over the strings, she followed at his side, a willing assistant and apprentice.
But all good things couldn't go on forever, and the weight of time is a heavy burden, even for the immortal. While Maylin, Jaden and their spouses didn't show much physical sign of their expanding years, the others did.
It wasn't an unexpected scene that was laid out on the rim of the cliff, and the players there found some comfort in the unusual circumstances surrounding the event, but the sting was still sharply potent. Standing amid the waving tall grasses that bordered the sea was a magnificent company that would honor the death of the greatest of kings. Warriors, poets and monarchs stood there with the breeze mockingly flapping through their somber finery. It was a solemn event, though, no matter how the honoree might have wished it otherwise.
King Elessar and his family stood side-by-side with Eomer, who stood with his queen, his son, and his daughter-in-law, who was one of the unhappiest of all those gathered that day. Elves were gathered there, also; grey eyes turned away from the sea and focused on that which had gathered them all from far and wide to this lonely spot on the brink of forever. Standing at the side of one of the Elves, a prince, was a Dwarf, who fought more valiantly against his tears and sniffles than he had against all the armies of Mordor combined.
Standing nearest the bower at the center of the crowd was a strange assortment of people. Some were old, and some were quite young, too young really to understand what had happened. A lady who still appeared youthful and old at the same time with pointy ears, a man whose skin was growing loose and his hair grey, and an immortal human stood nearest of all, and they made their goodbyes with silent respect.
Lying before them on the bower was a lady whose features had been marred with age, but who graced those at her funeral with a quiet smile that beamed through to them even past the veil of death. Her hair had gone past 'silver' a long time before and was now laid out about her in a white cascade.
Jack considered as he looked on the face of his friend what others said about their own dearly departed. Books claimed that the dead merely looked to be sleeping. This was untrue for two reasons: firstly, it was not possible for any living thing to be so stiff and cold in every physical way, and secondly, Leigh's smile was too cheeky to symbolize anything other than her ultimate victory over death. Somewhere, she was floating through the ethereal realms poking some spirit and saying, "Look at all the people who turned out for my funeral! Top that! Wish they'd all wear something a little more colorful, though."
The last three of the Four stepped back and made room for the other grievers to take their turn at the bower. Each stooped and whispered something in her ear, generally smiling as they did so, and keeping in mind what Maylin had told them all in her speech about the departed. The Valar had claimed Leigh for a higher purpose than a restful eternity in the Halls of Mandos. Some poor soul was going to stumble into another world someday and regret it when they found out who their travel agent was.
Lastly, there was Boromir, who took longer than the others had, and left the grave side with a kiss on his beloved's forehead. He came to stand beside Aragorn, his brother-in-arms, as his wife was lowered into the earth.
"Are you alright?" the king asked.
"Yes," said Boromir. "Deeply saddened, but hopeful for the future."
"Hopeful?" asked Aragorn.
A slow, cheekily knowing smile spread over the Steward's face, and he said, "I'll be seeing her again. Leigh didn't tell us all her secrets. All I have to wait for is the end of this leg of the journey."
The boats in the harbor creaked, swaying on the heave of the waves and bobbing against their tethers. Another would set out that day, vanishing off into the sunset and out of the mortal world. Everything in the sheltered cove was lively as the preparations brought in fresh faces and new passengers bound for the most distant of all lands.
A prince and his lady stood at the prow with three beautiful young people, their children, surrounding them. Between the lord and lady was a huddled little creature with white hair and hoary beard to match. He was very old, that creature, but not quite so old as to not recognize the honor being bestowed upon him, and he stood as straight and proud as his withered form would allow. Should a casual spectator pass by the boat without stopping to look properly at the little Dwarf, they might feel some sort of pity for him. But if they should look closer, and take the time to examine his eyes, pity would be the last concept in their minds.
At the mast there stood another beautiful couple, a single infant girl-child held in the arms of her mother. The child, Ambariel, would be too young to remember what she was leaving, and it was her mother's one sorrow that she might never understand the mortal kind of Middle-Earth. But her husband was there, his comforting arms around her, and the woman thought she could hear the voices of her lost friends coming to her on the winds from the west.
It had come to the end now, for all those on the ship, at least the end of their lives in that world. They had given many years and faced many perils to ensure its survival and continuing freedom, but now it was their time to go. Middle-Earth would get along just fine without them, and another calling had possessed them so that they could not tear their eyes away from the never ending line of the sea's horizon.
The dockworkers moved in a synchronized unit, and as one they untied the silver ropes binding the bird-like vessel to the shore while the sailors unfurled the shimmering sails. In a moment the craft was freed and moving with eternal patience away from the dock and out into the wide expanse of the ocean. Waves lapped at its hull like friendly handshakes or loving caresses. Those onboard turned for a moment from their view of the distant horizon and glanced back to the shore, taking one last look of their old home.
Standing on a cliff, a weathered grey cloak flapping about his boots, was an old man blighted by time. His beard was very long and white as the passing clouds, as were the long locks of wispy hair floating out from beneath his hood. His aged eyes teared-over as he watched the swan-prowed ship cleave through the grey waters, but his breathing remained smooth and even all the while. A tear slipped free from the corner of his eye, but none of its fellows followed, checked by the joy of those sailing away. One tear. One tear for the years of their adventures. No more were needed. Their friendship would endure forever, and nothing could ever change that.
On the ship the people looked back to the world before them, their farewells given and their decision made. On the shore, a lone old man watched them depart, the wind and the dreams of his own nearing future soothing his sorrow. The sun sank, and the swan-prowed ship soon ceased to be even a speck on the sea, and the man on the shore stood watching as the day gave way to night.
A/N: Thanks to my awesome beta reader, who I can only hope will put up with me in the future, and here's to all you wonderful reviewers! Say 'end' in your review if you've read my parting statements. Love you all, God bless!
Replies to the Accountless:
God is God! I am not...: Thank you! Ha, yeah, Spiderman can be distracting. Thank you so very, very much, and hopefully I'll see you around when I start another fic someday. Thanks again! By the way, I've already had one or two requests for another fic with the kiddies, but I think that would be stretching your patience. There's still the possibility of a spin-off, though, in which the Four would be featured from time to time. Let me know what you think!