Summary: Achilles regards his honor as sacred, but he is not the first to do so. Sequel to "Weakness" and "Strength." Features the same major Greek and Elven characters, plus two new faces. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Sorry, I still don't own them, and I still am not making any money off of them. But that's okay – I love them to death anyway.
Author's Note: Well, my friends, we have truly reached the end of "Honor." It is indeed a bittersweet moment for this author, and I confess I actually teared up once or twice while proof-reading this last installment, just struck hard by the realization that my pet project of nearly three years has reached its conclusion. I can't say thank you enough to all the readers who were loyal and patient enough to stick with me through all the ups and downs of this epic literary journey! My sincere hope is that you all have enjoyed it as much as I have. In regards to the previous posting, many thanks for the thoughtful comments of Crimson Cupcake, silmarlfan1, Redeemed Spirit of Fire, & Trollmela, who also pushed us past the prodigious mark of 100 reviews! Lastly, I feel compelled to mention that there is a much-needed scene in this chapter between Patroclus and Gil-galad, which has been a work-in-progress for over two years and is perhaps my favorite moment in this entire crossover trilogy. More than once the anticipation of sharing it with all of you has served as an inspiriation for me in earlier chapters, and I trust it won't disappoint. So enjoy for the last time, everyone, and I hope that things here shall be concluded to your satisfaction. Love to you all!
"They say there's a place where dreams have all gone.
They never said where, but I think I know.
It's miles through the night, just over the dawn,
On the road that will take me home.
I know in my bones I've been here before.
The ground here's the same, though the land's been torn.
I've a long way to go, the stars tell me so,
On this road that will take me home."
~ Lyrics from "Going Home" by Mary Fahl
It's just a dream. It's just a dream. It's just a dream.
But no dream, even those born of fevered illness, had ever seemed so real – like reliving a personal memory. Maedhros' unthinkable death continued to haunt him, this time taking shape in a nightmare he could not forget no matter how hard he tried. Good gods, was this what foresight was like? Patroclus could only pray it was not so.
He had been witness to a battle in which Fingon, utterly alone, had fought against a great shadow rising up out of the East. Fingon himself had been the lone source of light as the darkness slowly crept forward, swallowing up every rock and tree in its path. The Elven prince had stood like a white tower, mighty and unshakable; but it was not enough, and the Shadow at last had overcome the Hero.
Yet not until the very end, when the White Warrior was vanquished, did Patroclus realize it had not been Fingon at all – but Gil-galad. That had been the very worst by far, those miserable moments just prior to waking. Even now he could not escape the cold hand of horror that gripped him to his very soul. His heart still raced, and his mind's eye would not release the wretched vision.
It's just a dream. It's just a dream, he tried again to convince himself. But even that certain, inner logic was of little comfort, and doubt poisoned his turbulent thoughts. For if even Fingon and Maedhros were not invincible against servants of the Enemy, then surely Gil-galad himself could not be as immune to death in battle as Patroclus had once happily, and innocently, believed. This was a far bigger contest, fought by Powers so great they were beyond his mortal comprehension. And this whole return journey to Lindon…how had it all gone so wrong so very quickly?
Reluctant to disturb his cousin's rest again in so short a time, the young Myrmidon decided instead to calm his mind by going for a long, slow walk around the palace. It did feel good to be up and moving, yet his melancholy reflections would not allow his spirit to be comforted.
It was most unsettling to realize that he was more of a prisoner to this place now, in the unspoken depths of his own heart, than when he had been first brought here as a casualty of war four years ago. It had been so much easier to leave behind Greece – his own homeland – back on the day when Gil-galad had laid that fateful ultimatum out before him. Perhaps he still had not fully accepted the reversal of that decision.
But, gods, why did so much of his short life seem to be spent missing people? He still missed his parents, and no doubt he always would. Then there had been those few wretched months of missing Achilles, his dear cousin, when he mistakenly thought he'd been abandoned by his guardian. And now here he was already missing Gil-galad. Again. Their second time together had been a blessing far beyond anything he might have wished for…but it did nothing to ease the heartache of their looming separation. Already that empty ache of longing consumed him deep from within, bringing a lump to his throat and a burning prickle of tears to his eyes.
But just then, a wisp of movement caught the youth's eye, and he turned his head see none other than Gil-galad himself standing only a short distance away. The Elf was alone and most assuredly had not spent any time in bed that night, either. His lips smiled when he saw the boy, but those red-rimmed eyes were sad.
Sorrow and even guilt weighed on Patroclus' tender heart at the sight of his friend, pulling him down on both knees in a posture of full obeisance to the High King of the Eldar. He simply did not know what else to do. No words could have adequately expressed his surprise, then, when Gil-galad joined him in his uncomfortable position on the floor. And no words were spoken as the Elf at once drew him into a tight embrace, and they both wept freely; but by no means were these the first tears that either grieving party had shed that night.
Gil-galad was still mourning the second loss of his father, certainly, but there was also pure, unadulterated jealousy involved. How could Maedhros – a Kinslayer! – possibly command more of his father's love than he himself did? It was a childish sentiment, to be sure, but that did not make it any less true.
"I've missed you." His face pressed into the velvet of a royal robe, Patroclus was fully aware of how juvenile he must have sounded, but he didn't care. The statement was true, and it needed to be said. He had missed his friend while back in Greece, and even missed him now here in Lindon. With all the other more urgent happenings, they had not seen much of each other since the Greeks' arrival. The last time he'd cried against Gil-galad's shoulder like this, it had been with grief over losing Achilles; now he wept for the Elf King himself.
"Please, don't make us leave again." He already knew the inevitable answer, but that would not deter him from fighting it for as long as possible.
"I cannot make you, child, but…" Truth be told, Gil-galad had missed him, too; and he did not want to watch another one he loved sail out of his life forever. But in the end, it would be better. Better for Patroclus. He slowly pulled away from their embrace just enough so they could see each other's faces, their noses almost touching.
"Patroclus, your home is back in Greece; your life is in Greece, with your own people – not here, in a land of immortals ever on the brink of war."
But the youth shook his head miserably, finally giving voice to his guilt. "I'm so sorry for all of this; it would have been better if we'd never brought them here."
Gil-galad's heart wrenched. "No, child, this is as it was meant to be. Besides, Maedhros and my father would have found their way to Lindon with or without your aid. Their destinies would not have allowed for anything less. And so I count it a blessing that at least this way, against all hope, you and I were able to see each other again."
Against his will, Patroclus' tears sprung up anew at the infinite warmth in the Elf's words. Gentle thumbs came up to brush away the droplets, and Patroclus wondered suddenly at the softness of that skin. Did the hands of an Elven warrior not acquire the same rough calluses as those of mortals like his cousin? Or did it simply take a much longer time?
But the thought was fleeting, even as Gil-galad's hands remained cupped around his neck, still cradling his face so that he could not turn away to hide his grief. It hurt also to suddenly realize that he would never know Gil-galad's fate in the coming wars. Patroclus knew so little of the dangers that lay ahead of the Elves, and he could not help fearing for his great friend. If the Elven King were to be slain even five hundred years from now, it would be reason enough to grieve at that very moment. But how long could one possibly live the perilous life a soldier without eventually meeting Death?
Gil-galad saw deep, genuine sorrow in Patroclus' eyes and recognized it as how he himself had felt when bidding farewell to his parents for the last time in Hithlum, long ago. Perhaps his own father had not felt so very different back then as he did right now, doing what must be done for the sake of those he loved.
"Child, you must go – return to Greece with your friends, your kin. Even Achilles understands now that this is how things must be."
"But what about you? What about everything that's happening here?"
"Whatever my fate may be, Patroclus, I cannot escape it. I must face it bravely, even as my grandfather and my great-grandfather did. And there are none who might save me from it – not you, not your cousin. Your lives are too short, and therefore too precious, to spend them worrying over me."
Patroclus forced himself to nod in acquiescence. He still didn't like it, but there seemed to be no alternative. Gil-galad was right, of course; for as much as Patroclus loved him and loved these fair lands, Lindon simply was not his home and never could be. Even as he had known deep in his heart four years ago, he would always be somewhat out of place here.
Furthermore, he had noticed that Achilles had seemed a good deal more at peace these past few days, resonating the imperturbable calm of a man who had already made his choice and come to terms with it. And although it may have taken him much longer, Patroclus knew that he had ultimately arrived at the same conclusion.
As none of the Greeks were in a great hurry to leave, they unanimously decided to wait for the favorable sailing conditions of early summer before giving any thought to their departure.
The northern winter of Lindon was truly a novelty for Patroclus, for he had never encountered snow in such quantities before. It appeared to him that everything was coated with a sheet of brilliant diamonds sparkling in the sunlight. He even got to experience his first snowfall!
Eudorus observed his young friend with unmasked amusement. "You've really never seen snow before?"
Patroclus gazed up at the falling flakes in wonder, blinking away the drops that landed and melted on his eyelashes. "Only up on the mountains, from a distance. Never like this."
He was also treated to many views of impossibly bright stars on those wintry nights; and to his eyes, the moon had never appeared so big or so vibrant as it did then, set in a cold, clear sky. But by the end of winter, Patroclus had seen enough, and he rejoiced with the arrival of warmer weather.
As before, Odysseus was content to pass much of his spare time with maps and manuscripts in the libraries, while Achilles and Eudorus were most often found together in the armories and practice yards. Though they both were continually fascinated by the intricate beauty and efficiency of the weaponry, it was Achilles who took a far greater interest in its actual use. After all, there had probably never been, and never would be, another mortal Man who possessed more hope of imitating the Elvish style of fighting than Achilles, the son of Peleus and divine Thetis.
Fate's intervention had prevented Patroclus from getting very far in his Elvish lessons with Gil-galad four years ago, yet he remembered enough that certain words and phrases were still comprehensible to him. Before long, he even found a new and willing teacher in a certain Elf named Erestor, a close friend of Elrond and Glorfindel.
Also this time, unlike the last, Patroclus took much more notice of the unparalleled beauty of the Elven women. Of course, it was impossible to guess their ages, but every single one of them looked as though they were in a prime of life that no span of years could touch. And he wondered in his heart if it had ever happened that a child of mortal Men was wedded to a daughter of Elven kind – and what would happen to both parties if ever it should come to pass.
Yet he knew it was foolish to entertain any such hopes himself. For he was only Patroclus, son of Menoetius and cousin of Achilles, and the blessing of an immortal hand could only be bound for one far greater. His uncle Peleus had been honored with a bride of an ageless race, but that had been an arranged marriage. It wasn't as though he had earned the union by first winning her love and consent. Such a man who could, he thought, would indeed be a mortal worthy of remembrance throughout the ages.
In due time, as the final preparations for their departure were being made, Gil-galad approached Achilles with a casual remark. "Cirdan has suggested that in the future we keep one ship set aside here specifically for your use, should you again require transportation home from our country."
Achilles smiled, but the light of it failed to reach his eyes as he replied, "Then I must thank Cirdan for his generosity…but I very much doubt that this scene shall ever repeat itself again." His eyes stung suddenly, and he found it difficult to swallow around the formation of his next words. "This truly is good-bye for us, my lord."
Gil-galad only nodded gravely, and watched as the fearsome Lion of the Myrmidons dropped to one knee before his feet. When they had done this four years ago, the Elven King had bowed in turn; this time he chose not to. For gone now was the obligation to formality, and Gil-galad opted instead for the more personal gesture of laying his hand on Achilles' head. Yet he said no more.
When the actual moment of their departure arrived, Eudorus' farewell consisted of all the formalities a common soldier could muster, while Odysseus somehow managed to part from their host with a broad smile on his bearded, aging face. But the same could not be said of Patroclus.
The young Greek's chest was tight, so tight he could barely breathe. He did not want to go through this again! How could he bear it, even if he knew it would be best for all of them? It would not do for him to weep here again like a mere child…and yet he found he could not prevent it.
Gil-galad favored him with a sad and gentle smile. "I see your tears, child, and I regret that there cannot be a happier ending to this tale. But even so, I pray that you would live your life with joy… and weep no more for Ereinion."
The Elf's throat constricted suddenly, so that he could not have said more even if he wished it. Nor did Patroclus himself have anything to add, as even a sad and simple 'good-bye' would not be vocalized; all that needed to be heard between them had already been said.
After one last embrace that was far too short, the High King and his former captive parted for the final time. Patroclus boarded the ship with his countrymen, and sails were raised to catch the wind that would drive them farther and farther away from the lands and the faces they'd come to love.
Achilles was first to break the heavy silence on board their vessel. "This never gets any easier," he admitted with a sigh. "I hate leaving again."
"I hate saying good-bye again," his kinsman added despondently.
But Odysseus actually smiled at his friends and remarked fondly, "I hope you have children someday, Patroclus. You'll have the most incredible stories to pass on to them."
His comment did manage to make Patroclus smile, if only for a moment; the younger Greek had never thought of it that way before.
They watched the harbor until the tall figure of Gil-galad disappeared against the shoreline. The Elf King had worn his brightest armor for the farewell, perhaps to make himself visible from a distance for as long as possible, even to mortal sight. But ere long, he too had vanished altogether.
Patroclus released a long, trembling sigh. Now that the Grey Havens were already falling away behind them, the parting no longer seemed so unbearable. Because even though the separation this time was infinitely more final, there was a greater peace about it. After all, they'd already been granted their second adventure to Lindon…and surely there would not be a third. Perhaps this time he could truly leave looking forward, rather than back into a past that was never meant to be his future.
Slowly, deliberately, Patroclus turned away from the stern of their ship and went to join his silent cousin at the prow. They were both facing south now – toward Greece.
Toward the land that would forever be their home.
(And I'm pretty sure it's for real this time!)
"The Perilous Realm is perilous. Those who have travelled to it...know they will not be allowed to stay there, but when they come back, they are overwhelmed by a sense of loss. As Sam Gamgee says of Galadriel, the inhabitants of Faerie may mean no harm, but they are still dangerous for ordinary mortals. Those who encounter them may never be the same again…"
~ Tom Shippey, in his Introduction to "Tales from the Perilous Realm" by J.R.R. Tolkien
Author's End Note: And so, at the end of the day, this crossover series concludes without having drastically altered the canon of Tolkien. Because even though bringing Fingon and Maedhros back from the dead was a huge step, the rest of Middle Earth's history is now free to play out exactly as we already know and love it. Yes, there was some definite déjà vu here at the ending, but I made sure to include some very critical differences also, if one would only take the time to look for them. Thank you so much for reading! ~ Halo