Author's Note: Writing this story was a remarkable adventure for me. I never imagined the original ficlet would spawn such a long and involved tale. I hope you enjoyed reading An Ounce of Kindness as much as I did writing it. But I need to take a breather from writing. For one, the Christmas season is always a busy time for me—I've been baking up a storm so I've been in the kitchen more often than at my computer. For another, my family is moving at the end of this month, which means it's going to be chaotic around here.
Finally, I need to recharge my batteries (not to mention give my muses a holiday) now that I'm nearing completion of the third book in my ongoing series Chronicles of Ylandre. For those of you who've read the previous books and want to know who's in the next one, the main character is Rohyr's exotic-looking cousin, Reijir Arthanna, with able support from his irrepressible brother Keiran and their trusted adjutant Ruomi and, of course, a number of Essendris make appearances throughout the story.
But I'm not going to stop writing fanfic just yet. Maybe slow down a bit for want of time but not a complete cessation. As for the coming year, my fervent hope is, God willing, it will see the granting of all our dearest wishes and the fulfillment of our fondest dreams.
An Ounce of Kindness
Epilogue: "Let us not dwell on our sorrows but rather on our blessings."
The Last Homely House, tuilë F.A. 3
The great hearth in the Hall of Fire blazed with unabated light and heat. The absence of its founding lord would not end the purpose of the hallowed chamber that had borne witness to many of the events that had shaped Middle-earth's destiny since Elrond established Rivendell in the Second Age. That day would come when Elrond's sons finally forsook the Hither Lands and gave the elven refuge into the care of their foster-brother's heirs. It would not be the same once the valley realm passed into mortal hands. Raised and nurtured by Elves, this legendary center of learning and culture and elven might would not gladly suffer the rule of Men. It would diminish and become a mere shadow of what it once was. Folk would walk its hallways and gawk at its wonders but never truly comprehend the power and mystery that had permeated its very walls.
At present, however, it was still home to the Firstborn though it was Elrond's son Elladan who would henceforth rule, the last Elven steward of this most renowned of the Noldorin bastions in Middle-earth, his beloved Galvreth at his side. But Elrohir would not be his brother's captain and chief counsellor as had once been and long expected. Glorfindel and Erestor would assume those roles until Elladan and Galvreth consigned Imladris to legend.
Elrohir's duty and destiny now lay in the south-kingdom of Men where his mate would carve a Silvan realm far from the green wood of his youth. It would be the first time the twins would truly live apart not simply in a physical sense but also in purpose. Mercifully, it would be a short-lived separation, at least in the eyes of Elves, and not a complete one either for Elrohir had sworn to visit the place of his birth as oft as duty allowed just as Legolas would still on occasion grace his father's halls. Nonetheless, the brethren could not deny that this latest parting affected them deeply and spent much of the Elf-knight's remaining time as a resident of Imladris in each other's company.
He and Legolas would be departing in the morning. A great band of Elves from Eryn Lasgalen was already en route to East Lórien where they would rendezvous with Galadhrim who had expressed a desire to migrate to Gondor and take part in the building of the southernmost and likely last elven enclave to rise in Middle-earth. They would await Legolas and Elrohir at the northeastern bounds of Gondor ere proceeding to the site chosen for the settlement. The Elves would arrive in Ithilien at the onset of summer – plenty of time to raise homes to see them through a mild southern winter.
In the meantime, Elrohir and his archer love made the most of their stay in the vale. As soon as the weather turned pleasant, they had ridden to their cabin. Though it would not be the last they would see of their secret haven, it would likely be years ere they came north again and the times of their abiding here would be infrequent. Their fortnight's stay saw them reminiscing about the past, enjoying the bucolic serenity of the glade and simply basking in each other's regard. When they returned to the Last Homely House, they were aglow with the renewal of their centuries-long loving, recalling to all the heady days after their binding and the conjugal seclusion that followed.
His mind pleasantly occupied by recollections of their stay at the cabin, Elrohir lazily snuggled against Legolas as they lounged together in one of the wide couches in the Hall of Fire. Ensconced in Elrond's great chair across from them was Elladan, Galvreth comfortably settled across his lap, his long legs draped over one armrest and his head resting against his mate's shoulder. Those present smiled at the tranquil picture they presented though none were fooled into thinking either couple cozened into conventional domesticity. The twins were too hot-blooded to ever be utterly tamed and their woodland mates too mercurial to ever settle for a placid existence.
"Are you certain all is ready for tomorrow?" Elladan murmured at length.
Elrohir smiled faintly, aware that his twin deeply rued their imminent parting. With Arwen's fate now sundered from theirs, Elladan had turned fiercely possessive of the rest of his family. Already he missed their father though Elrond had left but three years ago. And his yearning for their mother's presence was greater than ever. Were it not for his promise to Elrohir to remain in Middle-earth until the end of Aragorn's reign, he and Galvreth might very well have taken ship with Elrond when the latter departed. As it was, he had confided in his brother an acute fear of what closeness to their now mortal sister and her family would cost him when the end came. He would not be able to bear bidding any of them goodbye, knowing how final that farewell would be. And he marveled at his brother's courage that he should live in close proximity to that inevitable loss.
Elrohir did not think himself brave at all. He was simply doing his duty as he always had. And he did not for a moment believe that Elladan would balk at performing his were it his destiny to go in Elrohir's stead.
"'Tis not forever, gwaniuar"—older twin—the Elf-knight replied soothingly. "We will still see each other. More often if you come to Ithilien now and then. You need not visit Minas Tirith when you do," he gently added.
Elladan sighed so pensively that Galvreth straightened up and hugged him close. "You know full well that I shall not be able to desist from visiting them," Elladan dolefully said. "Especially when they have young ones for us to dote on." He turned his face into the curve of Galvreth's neck. "'Tis grievous enough that we shall lose her. To learn to love her children as well knowing we will be forever parted from them is beyond my forbearance."
Galvreth glanced at Legolas. The impact of their family's sundering would always reverberate through the twins' lives just as the sorrow of another such parting never truly diminished for their sire. But just as Elrond had found a measure of relief from his grief in the loving embrace of his silver-crowned lady, so would the twins come to terms with this greatest loss through the healing devotion of their mates.
"We will go only if you can bear it, Elladan," Galvreth assured him. "'Twill be your choice and none will censure you should you decide otherwise." The hint of steel in his pronouncement made clear what he left unsaid. That any who dared accuse his beloved of cravenness would have this Wood-elf to deal with.
Seeing Elladan's tremulous smile and glistening eyes, Elrohir decided it would be best to call it a night ere his twin turned maudlin. Elladan loathed over-sentimentality and Elrohir thought to spare him the embarrassment of recollecting an evening's indulgence in it. His intent did not escape the older twin and Elladan's smile turned bright and grateful.
"You truly know me so well," he remarked as they rose to their feet.
"After three thousand years? I should think so!" Elrohir snorted. He squeezed his twin's shoulder. "Let us not dwell on our sorrows, brother, but rather on our blessings. The greatest of which are right here with us and forever will be."
He drew Legolas close and Elladan did likewise with Galvreth. Arm in arm, they left the Hall of Fire together.
Ithilien, Gondor, iavas F.A. 3
The splitting of wood and the scrape of chisel and adze resounded through the forest. As did the lilting strains of a Silvan folk song.
Here in one of the most pristine regions of Ithilien was the emerging colony of Wood-elves founded by the youngest prince of the elven kingdom of northern Eryn Lasgalen. Here had Legolas of the Fellowship of the Ring come to make a home for the length of a mortal monarch's reign. A home he would share with the younger son of Elrond who as brother to Gondor's queen and kinsman to her king would take a seat in the Great Council of the kingdom and have much say in its running. Just as he had in the valley realm of his youth.
As one of Elessar's ranking counsellors, Elrohir would oft visit Minas Tirith that his king-brother might have the benefit of his wisdom and millennia worth of experience. In the same manner would Legolas and his good friend Gimli lend their aid to their erstwhile Quest comrade. The Dwarf was bringing many of his folk south as well and was expected to arrive in Gondor the following summer. If all went well, he intended to settle his people in Aglarond of which he became enamored during the War. Éomer had expressed great pleasure at having the Dwarves dwell in his kingdom and already indicated that he would grant the lordship of the Glittering Caves to Gimli should the Dwarf make it his permanent abode. Likewise had Faramir in his capacity as Legolas' overlord bestowed upon the Elf-prince the formal rule of the elven colony in Ithilien.
A mortal who strayed into the Elves' midst might believe he had wandered into a waking dream. In the manner of all Wood-elves, many houses rested in the boughs of the very trees themselves, scattered flets revealing the domiciles of former Galadhrim. Cabins and cottages on the ground there were aplenty, however, for not all the Silvan folk of Eryn Lasgalen made their homes in the trees.
Though the Elves had only begun building at the start of summer, most of the structures were already finished and the rest would be ready for habitation ere autumn ended. The indefatigable strength and astonishing discipline of the Firstborn permitted them to accomplish in a tenth of a time what might take up to a year or more for mortals to finish. As Elessar remarked when he visited the colony a few days ago, it was no longer a puzzle to him how Elendil and his sons had managed to build Arnor and Gondor with such speed that both kingdoms were fully realized within their lifetimes. They'd had the aid of their Elven allies after all. Indeed, going further back in history, one had only to consider the swiftness with which the great cities of Gondolin and Nargothrond were built in the First Age to comprehend the extraordinary abilities of the Eldar.
A slight distance away from the rest, the most preeminent of the cabins stood before the wide stream that marked the northern bounds of the settlement. Preeminent not because of size or architecture or greater beauty but simply because here was the home of the colony's sovereign lord and his consort.
With meticulous care, Legolas smoothed his fingers over the various etchings he had carved into the last of the wooden boards that would form the wall of sliding panels that opened onto the wide porch fronting the stream. The others were neatly stacked on one side of the chamber. Satisfied with his endeavors, the archer detached the hardy leather sheets that had served as a makeshift wall and began to ease the panels into place. He sang softly as he worked, thinking of how pleased Elrohir would be when he saw the finished wall. The Elf-knight was due back from Minas Tirith where he had attended Council at Aragorn's request.
Their new abode was very similar to their Rivendell cabin though the changed environs and circumstances necessitated a few alterations. To ensure utmost privacy, the sleeping alcove had been turned into an enclosed bedchamber and a small hearth and adjoining bathing room were added. The great room had also been slightly enlarged and accordingly furnished in the event of visiting relations and friends. But Legolas wanted the cabin to be a home first and foremost and not the stately residence of the ruler of a realm. Thus, come the following year, the archer planned to build a number of guest cottages around a common great hall where any and all functions of an official or formal nature would be held. Legolas envisioned a central structure that would serve as the Ithilien Elves' emblematic seat but at the same time prevent most outsiders from intruding on their lives by restricting their movements within the colony.
Lost in his thoughts, he inadvertently slipped a panel into the wrong groove in the floor. Frowning, he started to remove it but because its base was slightly thicker than the space into which it had been inserted, it stuck. The archer swore under his breath at his carelessness.
"Elrohir Peredhel at your service," a voice intoned behind him. "And methinks you need it."
Legolas chuckled and turned around to welcome the Elf-knight. "How went your first meeting?" he queried after their customary kiss.
"Well enough," Elrohir replied. He bent to help Legolas dislodge the recalcitrant panel. "Estel has chosen good men to advise him though I think Imrahil and Faramir outstrip them all by far."
"But you must be the best of the lot," Legolas declared.
Elrohir smiled. "I dare say you are biased," he said.
The panel came loose and, with the younger twin's aid, Legolas guided it into its proper place. Together they installed the rest of the panels. Legolas happily slid them aside that they might view the vista beyond. Elrohir watched him with equal pleasure.
"Whatever would you do without me, lass dithen?" he teased.
"Only as much as you would accomplish without me, rochiren vorn"—my dark knight—Legolas shot back, smirking. "And your eyesight leaves much to be desired if you still deem me a little leaf."
"I do not need my eyes to tell me how much you have grown," Elrohir replied with a rakish grin.
Laughing softly, Legolas wove his arms around the Elf-knight's waist and pulled him close. As he did, he happened to glance at the painting that hung over their bedchamber mantelpiece. An Elf-child's colorful rendition of the valley refuge of Rivendell. Elrohir followed his glance.
"Who would have thought that the sweet child who gifted me with that painting would himself be gifted upon me?" Elrohir huskily murmured, smoothing his hands purposefully down the archer's back.
Legolas beamed, delighted by the possessive caress. "And who would have imagined that child would win himself the gallant Elf who showed him such kindness when he needed it most?" He kissed Elrohir long and deeply. "I deemed you my greatest hero then, my heart," he whispered against his Elf-knight's lips. "I still do. I always will."
They came together as they had in centuries past and as they would in unnumbered years yet to come—in heart, body and spirit. Theirs was an inviolable union. One as eternal and implacable as time itself.
Tuilë – Quenya for spring
F.A. – Fourth Age
Iavas – Sindarin for autumn