Summary: Achilles' heel is not his only weakness. A crossover between Troy and Second Age Middle Earth. Focal characters are Patroclus, Achilles and Gil-galad, but it also includes many others from the movie.
Disclaimer: For the last time - Sniffles - I own nothing. And the little script near the end, I took from the "Fellowship of the Ring" soundtrack.
Author's Note: Wow, everybody, I can't believe we're finally here. This really is the last chapter. I mean, I knew all along that I would ultimately finish this story, but it's still a very bittersweet moment. But I simply cannot conclude this fic without special mentions to my dear friends Tori and Feenekks as well as to my sister Hannah, all of whom had major roles in the development of this fanfic, even if it was just letting me bounce ideas off them. Thanks so much, chicas! Thank you's also to Blackeri, Karategal, and our newest reviewer, Redone for their comments on the last chapter! Of course, I'm indebted to everyone who's reviewed this story and helped me along with their encouragement! This fic wouldn't be what it is today without you guys, so Thank You one and all! This last chapter is my gift to all of you who have come with me on this fantastic adventure - your company has truly been the most enjoyable aspect along the way! I love you all, and I sincerely hope you have a very Merry Christmas!
Chapter: The Last
The following morning unfolded very much like the one before it. Patroclus again slept after their early swim, much to Achilles' continued bemusement, and this time the older warrior chose to entertain himself by wandering aimlessly down the empty corridors. All was silent and tranquil, until he became aware of two voices coming from a room on his right. Curious, the Greek warlord entered to find himself in a vast library; and the voices, as he had first suspected upon hearing them, belonged to Odysseus and Cirdan.
"Achilles!" the Ithacan greeted him, his dark eyes sparkling. "I'm glad you've found us. Is this place not marvelous? Elrond brought me here yesterday."
"Ah, so that's where you were all day," Achilles joked as he picked up a small leather-bound volume near him and thumbed through it, noticing at once that the lettering was strange, and he could understand none of it.
"Can you read any of this?" he asked Odysseus.
"Only a little," the elder king admitted. "Cirdan here has been generous enough to help me find some of the manuscripts written in the Common Tongue."
"I am afraid there are not many," the ancient Elf interjected, "but I do hope the few we do have will be satisfactory."
"And I'm sure they will be, my friend," Odysseus told him with a sincere smile of gratitude.
The son of Peleus grinned himself upon seeing his dear friend's happiness. Odysseus was truly in his element here, surrounded by stacks of knowledge and lore, and he was every bit as much at home here as Achilles himself was on the battlefield. No doubt this one experience alone had made the entire journey worthwhile for Odysseus, and Achilles was glad of it. He truly was indebted to this man, to this great king whom he deeply respected and who had delayed a reunion with his beloved family all for the sake of helping a friend reclaim his own loved one. Achilles would never forget it.
"Royal lineages," Odysseus mused in awe as he paged through an aged tome of family trees. "This is wonderful."
Achilles peered over his shoulder at the document and was mildly surprised to see Gil-galad's name near the bottom of one of the genealogies. Apparently, the current High King's father had been known as "The Valiant". And as he found himself inexplicably intrigued, Achilles could not help but wonder - where was the "Valiant One" now?
"How many High Elven Kings were there before Gil-galad?" he asked, turning to Cirdan.
The shipwright raised his bushy silver eyebrows. "You mean in Ereinion's heritage?"
"There have been five before him."
"Five?" the golden warrior echoed. "What happened to them? I thought your people were immortal."
"We are," Cirdan replied, his eyes growing vaguely distant. He suddenly seemed very old and weary then, in a way even the oldest of mortal men would never know. "Those kings all fell in battle, as have countless others both before and after them."
The Myrmidon frowned deeply. "You speak of death as though it were an old friend," he commented. "But what can you truly know of death – you who do not die?"
The venerable shipwright of the Elves locked his young companion in a steady gaze, and he answered with more than a trace of bitterness in his ageless voice, "We who do not die know more of death than you mortals could ever dream – because we do not die. It is a mortal lifetime that can possess only a limited knowledge of death, Achilles, for death itself is the greatest gift ever bestowed upon mankind."
Achilles had no response for that; he could only bow his head in a gesture of uncharacteristic humility as the truth of those words hit him, and he recognized his own folly. Perhaps immortality was not the ultimate reward he had always imagined it to be, after all. He withdrew from the library shortly thereafter and once again meandered slowly through the high, vaulted halls until he had returned to his and Patroclus' room. His cousin was stirring on the bed just as he entered.
"Where were you today?" the boy asked him sleepily. "Not off sparring without me again, I hope."
"No, I was in the library with Cirdan and Odysseus."
Patroclus grinned. "I'm sure Odysseus appreciates that. But did you find anything to interest you, cousin? Something you could learn?"
"Yes," Achilles replied quietly, his voice layered with many meanings. "I have learned much, indeed."
Time passed swiftly; and four terribly short weeks later, the three Greeks stood with their immortal comrades on the main port of the Havens, and the white ship the Elves had given them sat moored in the water nearby. It was finally time to go.
Gil-galad first approached Odysseus, and the Ithacan bowed low.
"I thank you for your generous hospitality and kindness, Lord Gil-galad," he said formally, then added with considerably more feeling, "To meet you has been the honor of a mortal lifetime."
The Elven ruler graciously inclined his head in turn. "The honor is mine to hear such things said – Odysseus, Elf-friend."
The two clasped hands in a final farewell, and Gil-galad moved on to Achilles.
"I am glad to have met you, noble son of Peleus," the Elf said in all sincerity. "And I am likewise grateful that we met while fighting common enemies here in Lindon, rather than fighting as enemies in Troy."
Achilles nodded gravely. "I agree – although, I still would have thought to have beaten you."
A small smile tugged at the corners of the Elf King's lips, and he did not seem the least bit daunted.
"There are some things in this life that we simply will never know, my friend, and I do believe this is one of them. But you will be remembered, you know."
Achilles blinked in surprise, taken aback by the sudden change of subject. "Excuse me?"
"Patroclus once told me that it was your desire to have your name remembered for thousands of years throughout the generations to come. But if you sought to attain such eternal renown in Troy, I am afraid you may have been sorely mistaken."
"And why is that?"
"Men forget, Achilles, for their memories are as short-lived as their race," Gil-galad explained succinctly. "But we do not. I am sure the names of Beren, Tuor, and Hurin Thalion mean nothing to you. But we remember them. We remember the men of Dor-Lomin for their alliance with us in ages past, and we will remember you, Achilles, who have fought so valiantly alongside us now. I promise you, your name will endure among our people far longer than you could ever imagine."
Achilles seemed to stand even taller and prouder than usual then, and the two bowed to each other, as one great warrior paying due homage to another, before Gil-galad moved past him to bid his last farewell.
Patroclus stepped forward in somber silence, at a loss for words. What could he possibly say to this High Elven King who had so befriended him? He needn't have worried, though, for Gil-galad himself showed little desire to waste time on words. Instead, he simply pulled Patroclus into a close embrace, and the boy who had been his charge for so short a time returned the gesture gratefully.
A few moments of silence passed, and Patroclus' mind was thrown into turmoil as he suddenly realized the finality of it all. This was the end, and everything he had finally come to love was being left behind forever. He would never see Gil-galad again.
His grip on the Elf tightened reflexively at the thought, and he could feel a similar intensity in the strong arms that surrounded him.
"Thank you," he whispered into his protector's ear, and those two words carried so much meaning that only Gil-galad himself could ever have truly understood.
Pulling back, the Elven monarch gently took the boy's face between his hands and kissed him on the forehead.
"You will do well, child," he said tenderly. "Go in peace, and I pray the grace of the Valar will protect you unto the very end of your days. You will be greatly missed, little one."
At that moment, Patroclus felt the tears he had long feared would come stinging in his eyes, and he sought to conceal them the only way he could think of – by stepping forward once more into the Elf King's arms and hiding his tear-stained face in the immortal's shoulder. Gil-galad held him without the slightest protest, seeming almost as reluctant as Patroclus to break their contact. But the parting was inevitable, and Patroclus finally drew away from the embrace, stepping back slowly to join his two comrades.
Standing behind their sovereign, Cirdan and Elrond likewise offered their farewells; and with one final bow to their ageless hosts, the three Greeks turned at last to embark on their return journey.
"Rest assured, our blessing goes with you all," Gil-galad called after them. "And may the waters of Ulmo bear you safely home. Namarie."
Ereinion Gil-galad watched the Greeks depart, staring long after their ship as it sailed south and finally disappeared over the horizon.
The raven-haired son of Fingon turned at the call and beheld two of his soldiers rapidly approaching him with an unknown Elf in their wake.
"An emissary from Eregion, my King," one of the soldiers announced, motioning the stranger forward.
"My Lord Gil-galad," the messenger greeted with a deep bow. "I have ridden long and hard from Eregion to deliver these into your hands." He held out a scroll of simple parchment and a small velvet pouch, both of which Gil-galad slowly took.
"They are from Lord Celebrimbor," his guest urgently went on. "He made it expressly clear that they were to be given to you alone, my King."
"Celebrimbor?" Gil-galad echoed, his countenance darkening. "Thank you, friend."
With that, he dismissed the messenger and turned back to face the Sea, gently fingering the pouch as the dying sun sank into West and cast its blood-red rays across the waves. He would read Celebrimbor's missive, but he did not need it to know what the pouch contained; for already beneath the crimson velvet, he could distinctly feel two tiny circlets.
Sighing heavily, the King closed his eyes, and a dark cloud of dread settled over his heart – a cloud he knew would never be fully driven away whilst he remained among the living. Gil-galad clutched the pouch tightly in his fist. He must speak with Cirdan, immediately, for his old guardian's counsel would soon be more invaluable than ever. He had heard of this before via correspondence from Eregion, and now it would all seem to have finally come to pass.
The era of peace following the end of the First Age and the overthrow of Morgoth in the War of the Jewels was over. The time of the Rings of Power was come.
Out of the Black Years come the words – the Herald of Death.
Listen! It speaks to those who were not born to die:
"One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them.
One Ring to bring them all,
And in the darkness bind them."
Patroclus stood leaning over the railing of their beautiful white vessel, gazing back toward Lindon in tranquil silence until the Grey Havens had disappeared completely from sight. But still he did not move.
"Well, I daresay Eudorus will be surprised to see the two of us again," Achilles said cheerfully, coming up to stand beside his kinsman. "He will probably think us both shades, returned from Hades to haunt his steps."
Patroclus grinned briefly at that, but his expression soon faded back to one of melancholy reflection.
Achilles' mirth faded. "What's wrong, Patroclus?" he asked in sudden concern and wrapped a strong arm around his cousin's slender shoulders. "Don't tell me you're actually having second thoughts about this? Even Odysseus was ultimately happy to leave; his family is waiting for him, after all."
"I know," the youth replied at once, then paused. "I will miss him, cousin," he admitted quietly, leaning his head against the older warrior's shoulder. "But all the same, I am glad to be going home."
Achilles smiled warmly down at him. "So am I, cousin." He pulled the boy even closer and rested his own golden head atop the one he had pursued to the far ends of the earth.
"So am I."
And so one could say that, for Achilles and Patroclus, their great adventure had come to a close; while for Cirdan and Gil-galad, their grandest tale had only just begun.
But that, my friends, is an altogether different story…