Alright, it just figures that with the last chapter something went screwy and messed the whole thing up. Sorry this is a day late. My Windows Word program suddenly and for some unexplainable reason ceased to work. But I downloaded another one, and now I am able to present the final chapter of my To series. Thank you all that have stuck with me through the horrible long waits for updates, and for reviewing so beautifully! I hope you all have enjoyed the story as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Thank you!
Glorfindel strode down the hallway leading towards Elrond's study with an extra bounce in his step. Not many would venture this way save for urgent business, and even then they would carefully consider the urgency of their errand. The Lord of Imladris had been astonishingly short tempered of late. Such a change of character must have something to do with the absence of his sons.
The blond seneschal hummed cheerfully to himself as he walked, drawing wide-eyed stares and admiring glances. If there were ever any doubt as to Glorfindel's bravery, such doubts were now put to rest. No one else would dare step near Elrond's study with such an irritatingly happy smile on their face unless they wished to be heavily involved in kitchen duty for the remainder of their time on Arda.
Of course, there was always the chance that his actions did not spring from bravery, but foolishness.
Determinedly ignoring the gapes that followed him, Glorfindel practically skipped up to the heavy wooden door and rapped it sharply. He then proceeded to bounce on the balls of his feet as he waited for Elrond to open the portal, a small smile tugging at the corners of his lips as he whistled a merry tune through his teeth in a manner guaranteed to annoy all who approached him.
Two servants exchanged significant glances as they crept by. Foolishness. Definitely foolishness.
Elrond looked up, annoyed at the sound of the knock. His delicately pointed ears were already picking up the strains of the melody that Glorfindel was whistling. The elf lord scowled ferociously. His friend knew how much he hated that particular tune. Elrond pushed himself back from his desk, making the legs of the chair scrape loudly. He took a moment to straighten his robes, calm his features…
The volume of Glorfindel's whistling rose.
Dark eyebrows drew together in a disgusted V. With a growl, Elrond crossed the room in three long strides and flung the heavy door open. "What do you want, Glorfindel."
The resurrected elf smiled angelically. Elrond was not fooled. "I have come to keep you company…"
"I do not wish it." Elrond tried to shut the door, but Glorfindel was already pushing his wide shoulders through the frame.
"I only wanted to tell you…"
"I do not wish to hear your voice, you insufferable, annoyance!"
The gold brows rose mockingly. "You wish me to give you your news in pantomime?"
Elrond sat down at his desk and buried his face in his long fingers. "If I allow you to tell me what you have come to say," his voice was slightly muffled, but nothing could disguise the layer of acid. "Will you promise to leave me alone?"
Glorfindel leaned against the wall and idly studied his fingernails.
The Lord of Imladris pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. "I wish to hear your voice."
"In that case," Glorfindel beamed, "I have a letter for you, just recently arrived and I was the only one brave enough to deliver it. Honestly, I haven't seen you so snippy in a very long time."
"I have not seen my son in a very long time," Elrond immediately snapped back. "Ah…I mean…I am sorry, mellon nin. You are right. I have not been behaving as I should." The dark-haired elf leaned back in his chair and drew a deep sigh. "I just want to know what has happened to Estel."
"I know." Glorfindel's face became serious. "We all do, and all the household has forgiven you already." His blues eyes sparked with a smile once more. "Besides," he added digging into a pocket. "I think I have what you want." With a flourish, the seneschal withdrew a letter. He tossed it into the air, and Elrond snagged the parchment without thought. Gray eyes focused on the seal, and suddenly his hands were trembling. It was the seal of Galadriel.
In a second, the letter was open and laid out before him. Elrond sighed softly as he saw the rough scrawl of Estel's hand. But there was another's handwriting in the letter as well. Much more delicate and graceful than Estel's. Handwriting that Elrond recognized as well; that he was more familiar with in fact.
Why was Arwen writing in Estel's letter?
Elrond scanned through the contents of the epistle and his face paled. He scanned through them a second time. They remained the same. The same words telling him the same thing. Slowly, he laid the paper down on his desk and folded his slender hands over it. Gray eyes stared off into the distance.
"What's wrong?" Glorfindel was not smiling now. He gazed at his friend anxiously. "What has happened?"
Elrond started, as though he had completely forgotten that Glorfindel was in the room. His eyes focused on his friend for an instant, then drifted away to stare at nothing.
"Elrond?" the fair warrior's voice was sharp. He leaned over the desk as though he would take the letter.
"He was attacked."
Glorfindel paused, half bent over Elrond's desk. He drew back slowly. "Attacked?"
"Yes." Elrond's finger wound a braid around itself. "He was already on his way back to Rivendell…and he was attacked in the mountains."
"No." Elrond's gray eyes burned angrily. "Do you remember Halith?"
The dark look that crossed his friend's face answered the question for him.
"He was attacked by Halith. Captured. They…they broke his leg." A spasm of rage broke the usual placid surface of Elrond's features. "Those…!" The stream of expletives that flowed from the elf lord's mouth caused Glorfindel's eyebrows to nearly become lost in his hair line. Elrond finally regained control of himself. "The twins even passed by the men who had captured him, and they did not realize it. They continued on to Lothlorien." The long fingers of Elrond's hands began to tap on the surface of the desk. "When they found out they turned back and they rescued him, but he was badly wounded and was unconscious for days." The dark elf's voice trailed off and he fell silent for several minutes.
Glorfindel swallowed hard. He did not want to ask, but it seemed like Elrond was unwilling to supply anymore information. "Is he…?"
"He is alive." The words sounded oddly stressed.
Blue eyes narrowed shrewdly. "What else is there?"
Elrond motioned to the letter and the two penmanships. "Arwen writes as well." Elrond's eyes closed gently, as though it were all too much. "She writes to tell me she is in love with Estel."
Silence followed in the words and swallowed the room. Glorfindel felt as if he were being slowly suffocated. He could not seem to breathe properly, as if he had been struck hard and all the wind had been knocked from his body.
Elrond opened his eyes. They were wet. "I will lose her."
His friend could offer no comfort. It was true.
The Lord of Imladris slowly rose from his seat and paced towards the window. He stood with is back to his seneschal and sighed. "It is not fair, you know."
Glorfindel did not say anything, but perhaps Elrond understood his confusion. He turned, and the fair elf saw a sad smile twisting the lips of his friend. "I could not wish for a better or more noble man to be my daughter's husband. It is ironic that the best man is also the one that will cause her death."
Two months later
Aragorn patted the neck of his mount, looking down into the valley of Imladris. He had dreamed of this moment for years. For nearly a quarter of a century he had longed for this. He was home.
And he was seriously contemplating turning the horse around and fleeing in the opposite direction.
"Come now, Estel, surely you are not considering flight?" The cheerful voice on his right caused a broad grin to spread across Aragorn's face. He turned his head slightly, shooting a mock terrified look at his friend.
Legolas grinned back impishly. "The Lord Elrond has missed you," he said seriously. "He will be happy to see you."
Aragorn swallowed convulsively. He was so eager for this, and yet so afraid. For years he had dreamed of returning home to his father and brothers…but he had not imagined that at the time he would not only be coming as a son, but as a most unwelcome suitor of Elrond's only daughter. What if Elrond hated him for taking Arwen's heart…?
A hand squeezed his left shoulder. Elladan had ridden up beside the ranger. The elf lord smiled encouragingly at his younger brother. Elrohir leaned around his twin from Elladan's left side and beamed at Aragorn.
Aragorn smiled tightly back. He had, of course, discussed the subject thoroughly with his brothers while in Lothlorien. His smile loosened slightly and warmed as he gazed at the twins.
They loved their sister, and wanted her to be happy.
But they also loved their brother, and if he could make Arwen happy, they would not stand in the way. Their journey had been exactly like the many he had taken with them before. A wonderful time of fellowship shared with his brothers and his friend.
Now, however, descending into Imladris, he felt dread bubbling in the pit of his stomach. He and Arwen had agreed that a message should be sent ahead. Elrond was informed of their relationship. If he were unhappy with it, what sort of welcoming would Aragorn receive? The very idea of Elrond being unhappy with him made his stomach twist sickeningly. What if the elven lord was angry with him? What if Elrond no longer thought of him as a son?
Aragorn felt bile rise in his throat and quickly took a deep breath. The path they were slowly riding down was so familiar. If he were not so unsure of the reception he would receive, Aragorn knew that he would be nearly delirious with joy. Even so he felt tears prick his eyes. The ranger closed them, trusting his surefooted horse to know the way. He inhaled deeply, filling his lungs with the clean smell of the valley. A small smile tugged at the corners of his lips. Here too, as in Lothlorien, he could smell the faint, pleasant odor that followed elves.
The dark-haired man opened his eyes to see Legolas looking at him anxiously.
"Are you all right?" The fair elf nudged his horse closer to Aragorn's and whispered so that he twins would not hear. "It's not your leg, is it? Nothing is paining you?"
Aragorn made a face at his friend. "You are worse than the twins combined. I have not been bothered by my leg for nearly a month. I am completely healed, I promise, mellon nin." He smiled, but knew that there was a very melancholy edge to it. "I was just enjoying being…" before the word home could cross his lips, he clamped them shut. He did not know yet if it would really remain home. "Back." He finished lamely.
Legolas scowled inwardly as he saw pain flash in Aragorn's silver eyes. He knew what was going through his friend's mind. He knew what word the man had just avoided. How could he not see that his worry was groundless? Did he really know Elrond so little?
The prince punched Aragorn's shoulder lightly. "Do not fear, Strider," he said, keeping his voice teasing. "Your father will probably only lock you into your room for a decade or two, to make up for the two and a half of your absence."
The smile Aragorn sent his way was weak, but it was a smile.
There. The ranger pulled his horse up abruptly. He could not breathe. Could not think. For an all too brief moment it did not matter in the least how Elrond was going to greet him. He could see the Last Homely House.
There had been a time when he was sure that he would never see it again.
Elrohir clapped him on the shoulder and rode past, followed by Elladan and Legolas and still Aragorn could not move. His horse whickered unhappily, wanting to follow the others.
At last he touched the animal's flanks with his heels, urging it forward. The beast needed little urging and quickly broke into a trot to catch up to the others. Aragorn was paying very little attention to the horse. His eyes were fixed upon his father's house, and the reception awaiting him there.
Now that was odd.
The gates were opening already. Aragorn frowned. Why were they opening the gates already? Usually they would wait until the group was within hailing distance and had identified themselves.
The twins exchanged a puzzled look, obviously as confused as he. Legolas shrugged.
A slim, dark-haired being shot between the gates, pelting down the path. Aragorn felt his heart leap convulsively into his throat.
The lord Elrond was unmistakable, even at a distance. Long dark hair flew behind him as he moved towards them with incredibly speed.
"Ada," Aragorn breathed. He so badly wanted to leap forward…and run away at the same time. He didn't know what to do; he didn't know what to think…
"Estel!" The clear ringing of Lord Elrond's deep voice resounded and even Aragorn could not fail to hear the unrestrained joy.
Aragorn's horse leapt forward as he dug his heels in. The animal snorted in surprise, but was eager to run. Mid-gallop, the ranger threw himself from the speeding beast into the arms of his father. "Ada!"
Elrond staggered with the impact of Aragorn's solid frame, but remained standing. His arms wound around the human so tightly he was in danger of leaving bruises. "Ion nin," he whispered as he clutched the man desperately. "Le bar. Le bar!"
"Yes," Aragorn answered as he buried his face in his father's shoulder. "Yes, Ada. I'm home!"
Time seemed to freeze for a moment as Aragorn pulled back and gazed into his father's face. Elrond was staring into his child's eyes, his hand tracing lines that had been drawn across the ranger's skin. Aragorn could hear his brothers and Legolas coming up behind him, but could not move. This was what he had been waiting for. All the years he had been gone… Everything seemed to be crashing in upon him. His years of service in Rohan and Gondor; the nightmare of Mordor. Finally he thought of Arwen. Loving her, and knowing what it would cost her to love him in return.
Aragorn met Elrond's eyes and saw that the elf lord's feelings towards him were not changed. Emotion overwhelmed him, to the point where he was silent for several minutes, not trusting his voice to remain steady. "I have much to tell you, Ada," he finally managed.
The dark-haired elf lord stroked a strand of hair from his son's forehead. "I look forward to hearing it," he answered. "I have missed you greatly, Estel."
Aragorn smiled crookedly, trying to make his voice light. "What then, you are not disappointed that I am returned after so short a time away? You did not enjoy the peace that I left in with my absence?"
"Peace is highly overrated and only desired until one has obtained it." Elrond's smile was tender, his eyes soft. "And you could not disappoint me if you tried, ion nin."
The words stirred something deep within the ranger…like the memory of a dream, or a dream of a dream. Despite the jesting tone of his father, Aragorn knew that the words were absolute truth.
Estel buried his face in Elrond's shoulder once more. He was indeed home.
Le bar!--you're home!
Ion nin--my son
Mellon nin--my friend
Well, that all folks. I don't know when I'll be writing again, but I do have some ideas for stories, and I will get them out. I love this website too much to do otherwise.:) One final time, a great big thank you too all of you!