Don't own LOTR
Well, this is it. The final chapter. To those of you who have stuck with me, especially those who review, I cannot thank you enough! Your reviews help make me a better writer, and know that if you've made a comment on something I have tried to take it into account in some way. I know I don't update nearly often enough, but I hope you've enjoyed reading anyway, at least as much as I've enjoyed writing it. This was supposed to be a short tragedy, ending around chapter 9 before the second attack and before Gimli came to the rescue. Clearly it took on a life of its own, partially thanks to readers who deserved more! So again, thank you and enjoy!
Legolas and Gimli visited with the hobbits and their families for another month, before they re-grouped with the soldiers left in Bree and began to make their way back to Gondor. The hobbits had decided to stay behind, as there were no longer any graves for them to visit and their children were too young to join them on the road. Sam especially did not want to leave Rosie behind with the new babe, so Legolas and Gimli promised they would try to send Aragorn or Faramir up to the Shire for a visit, whenever the king or steward could be spared. They took their time on the road, befriending the soldiers, and had many a merry adventure along the way. But those are tales in themselves, for another time.
They arrived in Minas Tirith with the first of winter's chill, intending to stay with Aragorn for the week and then return to their separate homes before the weather turned in full and the snows began. Aragorn refused any kingly pretence upon their arrival; he waited only until they reached the Court of the Fountain, the garden of the white tree, before racing to greet them. He and Legolas threw their arms around one another. "Ah my friend," said Aragorn, "you have returned to us!"
Legolas did not respond. Gimli coughed, nudging the king's foot. "Other ear, lad."
Aragorn pulled back. "Legolas, you have returned to us!" he repeated, rather more loudly that was necessary.
Legolas grinned. "I see you have received our letters. I am not completely deaf, Aragorn; a might less shouting will be sufficient." Aragorn blushed, and Legolas clapped him on the shoulder. "Yes, I have returned, and this time I intend to keep my promises."
"I would not hold you to such a promise, Legolas," said Aragorn seriously. "In fact, call it not a promise, but rather a hope. What more than hope can a man ask for?"
"A full meal and some ale, I should say," said Gimli.
Aragorn laughed. "But of course! Arwen is waiting within, and we are anxious to hear news of the North. Will you share a meal with us?"
Legolas nodded. "Gladly, if you might give us a moment to wash and change. We are also eager for news."
"And send something hearty to those soldiers who accompanied us!" Gimli added. "They are a fine group, and deserve our thanks for such hospitable companionship."
"It shall be done!" Aragorn led them within, ignoring the unhappy councilors who would have him attend to other duties.
As his friends washed the grime from their journey, Aragorn met his wife and son in their private dining room. "Well then, Estel," said Arwen, "did you remember our friend, or do you care not that he has returned?"
Aragorn laughed. "I do not need to remember, meleth, now that he is with us! You were right; I have lost none of my love for him."
Arwen smirked. "As always."
What followed was a hearty meal, in which all five shared tales of their adventures and news of the places they had seen. Legolas was constantly turning his head to catch the words, but he seemed to have established a reasonable flow that kept his neck from any strain. He moved once more with all the grace of the Eldar. "It seems your injury is a blessing," said Arwen. "You are adapting better than any elf I've heard of; most would not accept such a disability."
Legolas shook his head. "It isn't a disability to me. Yes, it prevents me from being quite the warrior I was – as Gimli will tell you, a dwarf could surprise me in broad daylight if he came from the left. I would be of no use to any fellowship now, but I care not. This maimed ear prevents the sea from taking a hold of me. Even if I cannot hear the same for the rest of my life, I will be pleased for the time it has given me here."
"Hmpf, I'd still like to see you as hale as you were before…before all of this," said Gimli over his cup. "Tell me what you've done with the bastards who began this."
Aragorn glanced at Legolas, who was staring back at him with such an intensity he had to look away. He took a breath. "The council sentenced them not long after you departed. We took their actions as well as their stories into account; those who did not attack you of their own free will were banished from Gondor and Anor. Any who continued to speak ill of the elven race and those who were proven guilty of spilling blood were put to death. Publicly, of course, to quell any further treachery."
"Banished!" exclaimed Gimli. "Much too simple, whatever sob story they might have had! It is an easy enough punishment to escape; who's to recognize them and know they are not welcome?"
Aragorn smiled grimly. "Folk who are banished from Gondor are branded, Gimli, and the crime determines where. For this, their faces were marked."
"Life at all is merciful to them," the dwarf complained.
"It is said the woodelves do not believe in mercy," Legolas said quietly, twirling a knife between his fingers. Gimli and Eldarion looked at one another, neither quite able to forget the wild, murderous vengeance Legolas tried to claim from Gwarod. Would he ask for the right to duel each of the banished men?
Arwen spoke calmly in a halting version of the Silvan tongue, so that only Legolas fully understood her. "We allowed Hathel to claim the woodelves' vengeance. They recognized one of the men who took part in some of the captives' mutilation. I am told his heart was burned, so his fea will serve your departed kin until Mandos sees fit to release them."
The woodelves had dealt with such horrors in the past that they had resorted to extreme punishments. For the most heinous crimes, the perpetrator was killed, and then their heart was carved out, as Arwen said. Legolas nodded once. "It is enough."
Gimli opened his mouth to ask, but decided not to. Legolas had returned to his plate, and if the elf was satisfied he would be. "So, Aragorn," he began in between bites of turkey, "the little ones wish for a visit from ye, seeing as your son is grown and theirs are not."
Aragorn ruffled Eldarion's hair, much to the displeasure of the fifteen-year-old. "Not quite so grown as he may think."
"However, I have some business in the North in the coming year, and my journeys may very well take me up by the Shire."
"You two have other younglings to visit," said Arwen. "You left before the birth of Lothiriel and Eomer's son Beornwulf."
"Ah!" cried Legolas. "We shall have to make a visit then."
"We missed your birthday as well, lad," said Gimli, eyeing Eldarion meaningfully.
"But we shall remedy that now." Legolas produced a flask from the folds of his clothes and presented it to the young prince.
Arwen glared at the pair. "That had better not be what I think it is."
Gimli poked Legolas in the side. "All his idea."
"It was yours too, old friend, and comes with the compliments of Uncles Elladan and Elrohir!" Legolas grinned.
Eldarion stared at the flask in his hand, which in itself was finely wrought. He opened the top and smelled the sweet liquid inside. "What is it?"
"That is miruvor, the cordial of the elves, elixir of vigor!"
"Powerful stuff," Gimli added.
"And you are not to drink it now," growled Arwen. "It is very strong, sometimes too strong for mortal men who do not need its aid. You will thank them and save it."
"Save it for a more difficult day, or a very cold one," Aragorn agreed. "'Tis best in winter; it sends sunlight through your blood."
With Arwen's dark look turned upon her husband, Gimli laughed. "We meant for you to hold onto it for years to come, lad. Take it with you when you need it most, and it will not set you out of sorts."
"Thank you!" Eldarion replied, tucking the flask safely into his belt pouch. "I suppose I never shall be able to thank you enough times; you are always giving me presents!"
"More than is good for the boy," Arwen added, but she did not look so displeased anymore.
"Oh!" the prince exclaimed. "Legolas, you must have your bow back!"
Legolas shook his head. "It is yours."
"Please," Eldarion said, "I do not mean to be ungrateful, but it is yours. Even if I could ever hope to have the strength to draw it, I could never use it."
"Eldarion, I don't think I will be–"
"At least hold onto it for me, and let the sight of it bring hope to your people again."
Surprised by the boy's wisdom, Legolas nodded. "You have grown more than we thought." He turned again to Arwen. "Tell me what has become of my people."
"Rúmil and Orophin lead them still. They are well, though they miss their true lord. The brothers are excellent officers, however they do not feel comfortable presiding over a whole people. The elves certainly approve of them, but there is ever a sense of sadness in the air. It is becoming another Lothlorien – beautiful, pleasant, but always with that strange atmosphere, as though you are wandering through a memory."
Legolas frowned. "Lingering will only cause them heartache."
"Will it not cause the same for you?" Aragorn asked quietly.
"I meant lingering on memories, not in Middle Earth."
"Is it so different?"
"Say what you mean to, Aragorn."
Aragorn pushed away his empty plate. "I am sorry, mellon, I still worry for you. Now is not the time."
"Walk with me then, and we will make time. If you will excuse us, my lady?" Legolas stood and bowed to Arwen, who nodded in consent. With a heavy sigh Aragorn followed Legolas through the citadel's winding corridors until they reached the sitting room Legolas and Gimli shared whenever they visited Minas Tirith.
A fire already burned in the hearth, and the pair sat down before it. Legolas made sure to sit with his good ear facing the king, and allowed only a moment to pass before he broke their silence. "You fear I shall leave again, and cause so much more heartache."
"Do not deny it, you are not alone. Elladan told me that if I leave again now, before your lifetime is out, then it would be better if I had not come back at all. I am not unaware of the attention I have garnered from this venture, and it shames me to think of the burden I must have been to all of you. I will not leave again, not until you and Gimli have died. My pride, if nothing else, will not allow it."
"You cannot pretend that having just one ear fixes everything!" Aragorn cried. "You had reason to be a burden; you were in pain, near to death towards the end! You cannot tell me it was all because of the damned gulls, or you would have sailed straight past Gondor the very day you heard them first and gone to the sea."
"That is true. What happened with Gwarod – it made me lose my faith in this world, and question what kind of future I had in it. When I gave in to that despair, the sea-longing took hold, and I had no strength to fight both my grief and the song. My head is quieter now, and I don't feel so sick; I can finally think things through again."
"That does not mean you are healed. In fact, you are worse off than when you left us, by any healer's standards."
"Mind is more important than body. This I can adapt to."
"That does not change what they did to you."
Legolas went rigid. "No, it does not. Nothing will change that," he growled. Then he sighed and turned to his friend. "Aragorn, my life will never be what it was. I cannot forget what happened, I cannot accept it, but I can live with it."
Suddenly Aragorn felt like little Estel again, and he desperately wanted to clutch and Legolas' hand and beg him to be well again, to be whole. "I wish you had never–"
Legolas pulled him close and pressed his forehead against Aragorn's. "No more wishing, no more thinking, no more blaming. I'm here now, and I intend to remain here until I no longer have any reason to."
In the year 83 of the Fourth Age, Legolas sat by the side of a very old man. The man lay in a bed too large for him alone, with the blankets pulled up to his chest. He still had the noble bearing of his youth, but it was clear that he had no strength. "Well mellon-nin," wheezed the man, "I believe this will be our last meeting."
"Oh, I shouldn't say that," the elf replied.
"I suppose I have already died often enough to give folk pause," laughed the man, which resulted in dry coughing.
Legolas put a hand against his back and waited. He was no healer, but the touch seemed to ease the old lungs and the coughing subsided. "That is true, but it is not quite what I meant. I look forward to the day when we will all meet again, and there will be no boundary of death or bodies to separate the joy there will be when we reunite. I envy that you shall reach such a state sooner than I."
"Once I would have disagreed, but I think now that you are right. I miss Eowyn, I miss my brother and my parents. I shall call it paradise if I am simply surrounded by their presence for all eternity. I do hope you and the others will join us one day, Legolas."
"That is how I chose to interpret the will of the Valar, for I cannot let myself think that I would be left abandoned by all of you who I hold so dear."
He squeezed the elf's hand. "I do not believe it will be so. But you may be lonely for a while, and I am sorry for it."
"Aragorn and Gimli have some years yet in this world, I believe. And then…and then I will wait with all the rest of my people, and if all they say is true than I shall wait in peace. Do not concern yourself with my well-being, Faramir. Do not let the cares of this world follow you into the next. Elboron is a good steward; Faelwen an able warrior when she wants to be, and a great artist when she does not. Look upon them with pride, and know that you are the father of a great and noble house."
Faramir smiled. "Did you know Barahir and his wife have a new babe? Another great-grandchild. They want to name him after me."
Legolas chuckled, "There will be a plethora of Faramirs from here to the Shire, for I hear it has become quite popular among the hobbits."
"Do you think that hobbits go the same place as men, Legolas? I should dearly like to meet them again, especially Pippin."
"I have no doubts that they will be there, tending to Eru's gardens. Give them my greetings, if you will."
Faramir nodded. "That I will." They were quiet for a while, thinking over the past and the looming unknown of the future. "Legolas?" Faramir whispered.
"I think I am going to sleep now, I am very tired. Will you send Elboron and Faelwen to sit with me?"
Legolas patted the veined but steady hands and stood. "Of course. Goodbye, Faramir. Of all the humans I have ever met, you are one of the greatest quality."
Faramir squeezed the eternally young hand, with its strangely warped fingers. "We will meet again, Legolas, only this time we shall wake on the other side of the dream. Hold fast to hope, and we mortals will sing you home when it is time."
Legolas smiled, and hummed a quiet melody as he went out of Faramir's bedroom in Emyn Arnen. Faramir could still hear him when his children entered, trying not to look sad, and it brought him peace. He spoke softly with them for a while longer before his eyes grew too heavy, and then he just listened. He could not say how long he lay like that, listening to his children talk and Legolas sing, when he heard a voice calling to him that he had not encountered in a very long time.
"Boromir?" It was not that Faramir saw him, so much as he felt him.
"Come, little brother, there are people who are waiting for you!"
"But I am tired, Bor."
"Let me help you, then." There was laughter, and his brother was suddenly with him, all around him, and he was filled with light and life and all the energy of his youth. He slipped free from the aged body which lay on a bed in Ithilien, and his spirit soared with Boromir. Suddenly they were not alone, but surrounded by a joyous chorus of welcome.
"Hullo Faramir! We've been wondering when you would come, we felt it was soon, but we weren't sure…"
"Let him be, he's only just arrived!"
"Hello, my love."
The last one was accompanied by the sweetest mingling of spirits, and Faramir felt himself lifted higher and higher. He shed his cares, his grudges, his duties, so that when he finally found himself at the foot of a great judge, he was bare, and he was happy. Surrounded by love, he was allowed to simply be.
Many years later, though it was only the blink of an eye in the stream of an immortal life, a little ship came within sight of the white shores of Valinor. There were only two figures on board, both hunched with fatigue. The smaller one was a very old dwarf, who leaned on a beautifully carved walking stick as he looked toward the docks. His eyesight was not nearly what it had been, but he could recognize the shoreline coming ever closer, and he could not prevent the slight tremble of his hands. Legolas had promised he would be welcomed, but how could the elf know for sure?
The second figure, Legolas, steered them for the docks. His eyesight was perfect, and he could make out every detail of the land before him. It was more beautiful than he could ever have imagined, but his heart ached. Once he set foot on those shores his fate was sealed: he could never return to Middle Earth, and despite his promise to all those mortals he had helped to pass on, he was not sure at all if he would be able to see them again. There was a grief about him so strong that it had taken all of Gimli's persuasion, and some of Eldarion's, to get him on board the ship.
Gimli came up beside Legolas and called into his good ear. "Well lad, if you tell me what you see I shall tell you what I hear."
Legolas smiled a bit; this had become their routine as the years went on, and it was truly rumored from Gondor to the Shire that the dwarf and elf could not function without the other. "I see a fair green country beyond shores of white sand. I can see cities in the distance, with white towers that reach out to the morning sun. Close at hand are a few buildings, but there is no one about. There are other ships in the water, in various shapes and sizes, but I fear all put ours to shame. Yet I steer us for a little dock, the only one that is empty. It seems to have been left for our coming."
Gimli nodded. "I hear the waves as they meet with those shores and run out again. I think I hear voices in the distance, as of many fair folk, but I cannot be sure if it is only my imagination. On the wind there is a strange note, something like a song. The same runs through the earth, and I hear the steady drumming of the stones here as I never have before. This world is alive! And above it all are those gulls, calling and calling."
"You see? Valinor welcomes your presence," said Legolas. "Though I admit I am surprised to see no one at all. I do not know where to go from here."
"We'll go together then, one step at a time."
The boat finally met with the docks, and together the pair tied her to the posts. For a moment both stood on the ship staring around them, and back over the way they had come. At last Gimli hefted one of his bags and handed another to Legolas. "Nothing for it but to go forward, and see what happens next."
Legolas took the bag and put his hand on Gimli's shoulder. "Never did I think I would enter Valinor side-by-side with a dwarf."
Gimli chuckled into his thick white beard and looked up. "How about side-by-side with a friend?"
"Together then," said Legolas. So, as one, they stepped off of the boat and onto the dock.
"Perhaps the dock does not count," Gimli suggested. They walked forward slowly, and at the end of the dock Legolas paused.
"I want to feel it," he explained to Gimli as he removed his boots. Gimli rolled his eyes, but it was more a gesture of habit than annoyance. Legolas took his arm again, and they stepped into the sand. Legolas closed his eyes and wriggled his toes, breathing in the mingled scent of sea and earth. Gimli looked about, expecting some raging force to come for him any moment and sweep him back to Middle Earth, or drown him in the sea.
"Well bless my buttons! Mister Frodo, come and take a look at this!"
Gimli whirled around in surprise, for of all the voices he had expected to hear upon his arrival in Valinor, that of Samwise Gamgee was one of last. But sure enough, upon the long hill that ran across the place where the sand turned to fresh green grass stood an old hobbit, with another coming up behind him. They waved wildly at the pair and began running towards them, despite their apparent age.
Gimli turned Legolas in their direction. "Tell me not that my eyes are deceiving me, Legolas, for I would swear I see Frodo and Sam coming down that hill!"
Legolas' face lit up in awe. "Nay, unless it is some trick of this place, I see them too!" He ran to meet them, and Gimli followed. The dwarf found that his legs gained strength with each step, until he barely needed his walking stick.
They met and embraced with great joy, any fears of this new land momentarily forgotten. Then the four beheld one another, taking in all the changes that the years had wrought. Frodo and Sam were undeniably old, with grey-white hair and wrinkled skin. But they shone with health and vitality, and both had lost the taint of the ring that had hung about them when they were in Middle Earth. Gimli, too, showed all the signs of his age, but he was beginning to lose the feeling of those aches that had been settling deep into his bones. Legolas, though he looked no older, had changed as well. His hair had not been cut since Gwarod sheered it, so that it now hung unbraided down to the small of his back. A black band was tied about his ears. Though their physical aches were eased, the deep-seated grief both Gimli and Legolas felt remained, leaving such a sadness in their eyes that it made the hobbits' hearts ache.
"Hello," said Frodo.
Legolas smiled. "Hello indeed, my friends."
"How did you find us?" asked Gimli.
"We didn't know that we would!" Sam exclaimed. "Only we were saying that we should like to take a walk today, and Lady Galadriel suggested that we might enjoy going down to look at the ships. There was something in the way she said it that made us sure there was more to it, but that is how all these elves talk so we thought we might as well. Now we've found you! Oh Mister Frodo, isn't it wonderful?"
"Yes it is, Sam. Won't you come back with us now? It isn't very far, we've been visiting. We live on Tol Eressea, the island you passed as you sailed in."
"You can leave your things behind, and later we'll ask for some help in taking it all from the boat!" Sam added.
Still somewhat bewildered, Legolas and Gimli agreed to follow the hobbits. "Is Bilbo with you?" asked Gimli, for he remembered the hobbit fondly from the tales his father told.
"Bilbo died some years ago," Frodo replied. Although there was a hint of sadness in his voice, he did not seem to mind the subject.
"I – I'm sorry," Legolas stuttered.
"Don't be, he was much older than any hobbit I've ever known," said Frodo. "Besides, he was quite happy in the end. We mortals were not meant to live forever. This place just gives us healing, and a lot of extra time."
Legolas gripped Gimli's shoulder, and the dwarf patted his hand. "Fear not, lad. I'm glad to know it, and now we're here I'll be sure to leave you with some good company. But let's not think about that just yet, this is a happy place!"
"Oh, very happy!" said Sam. "Gimli, did you know the Lady Galadriel still talks of you? She will be glad to see you again."
Gimli spluttered for a reply, and could not think of one. Frodo laughed. "And we were very glad to see all of the letters you sent along with the other ships. Come! Tell us what has happened; we have had no news of Middle Earth since Elladan and Elrohir arrived."
Legolas bowed his head, recalling that the twins had sailed over a year ago, before even Aragorn began to feel his time was coming. They had no wish to watch Aragorn and Arwen die, and so they departed. Legolas had not been the last elf in Middle Earth, but the others had no intention of leaving, and he had been alone in Ithilien. Gimli patted his arm, and the dwarf's steady manner of relaying all their pleasant adventures brought him back to the peace of Valinor.
Frodo took Legolas' hand while Gimli and Sam continued to talk. "Why do you wear that band, Legolas?" he asked quietly.
Legolas blinked. "I thought they would have told you. My ears were…badly harmed in an incident many years ago. They are quite terrible to look upon."
"They did tell me. Sam also said that you were deaf in one ear. But I mean to ask why do you still wear that band?"
"I would not spoil Valinor with the sight, nor shame myself in the presence of such high powers," Legolas answered, trying to quell the bit of anger in his voice.
"Will you come closer to repeat that? Valinor certainly slows age, but I cannot hear quite so well as I did in my youth."
Legolas sighed, determined to phrase his response more gently. He leaned down, but before he could speak Frodo gripped the black band and pulled it off. "Frodo!" Legolas shouted, his hands going to his ears in order to hide them. "That was a cruel trick, unbecoming of…a…"
Legolas felt smooth flesh under his fingertips, running up into a pointed tip. He gasped and stared down at Frodo. The hobbit held up his hands with a grin, wiggling all ten healthy fingers. "It takes time to heal from deeper wounds, but those that are physical heal quickly," he explained.
"What's going on, Legolas?" Gimli called from his left.
His left. Legolas turned slowly, at the same time letting his healed hands fall back to his sides. "Gimli," he whispered. "Gimli, I can hear you!"
Gimli gaped at the renewed elf before him. His ears were as they always had been, save for a thin line that ran across to mark the place Gwarod had cut, for it was not forgetting those dark moments of life that made for healing. Clapping his hands, Gimli dropped his walking stick and embraced Legolas. "At last, my lad, we are on our way to being whole! Oh, I will call this land truly blessed if it does no more than bring you back to me!"
Valinor did much more than this, for it brought peace to them all. It reunited friends and kin, and in their memories those mortals who had passed on lived again. So the Princes of Ithilien are dead, by the standards of Middle Earth, but each time their tale is repeated, they live again - happily ever after, beyond the end of their days.