Chapter 28      Bright horizons           

"You do not look very well, Estel."

"Ahh, and you look wonderful, my lord." Aragorn smiled up into the concerned face of Elrond as the elf lord pulled his mount to a halt in front of him.  "Your presence is both unexpected and welcome.  Very welcome."

Elrond's concerned face broke into a small smile, and he would have said something, but at that moment, his two sons arrived, dismounting and rushing forward to embrace Aragorn warmly. 

"Elrohir, Elladan," Aragorn returned their embrace, then smiled at them somewhat mischievously.   "What took you so long?

Elrohir chuckled and shook his head.  "I told father that we would, in all probability, be forced to rescue you.  He agreed with me."

Aragorn's smile grew into a full-blown grin, but he was distracted from his response by the arrival of the rest of the elves, as well as the two that had caught his attention earlier.  His grin slowly faded as he studied Arwen and Legolas, the joy he felt at seeing them warring with other strong emotions that he felt too tired to sort through at the moment.

Arwen, on a tall bay mare, returned his studied gaze with a slightly worried one of her own, as if she were not quite sure what his reaction to her presence would be.  Aragorn wasn't yet certain himself.

Beside Arwen, Shandarell stood motionless, refraining from his usual shifting and prancing, as if he somehow sensed the weakness of his rider.  Legolas sat pale faced on his back, his eyes continually running over his companions as if to ensure himself that they were all there and safe.  His bow rested loosely in his hands, and his posture was erect and proud, yet Aragorn could still sense the shadow resting over the prince, and it troubled him more than a little.  Yet his friend was awake and here, and Aragorn could only take that as a good sign of recovery.

Gimli and the four hobbits rushed by him toward Legolas, all of them talking at once, and Aragorn could not contain a slight smile as Shandarell snorted and stamped a single foot in protest of the sudden crowd gathering around him.  Legolas looked down at his friends and attempted a smile, yet Aragorn could see that it did not reach the elf's dull eyes.

Aragorn's attention once more shifted back to Arwen as his love dismounted and moved toward him, her worried gaze taking in his numerous injuries.  Aragorn opened his arms wide and pulled her into a tight embrace, barely aware as Elrohir and Elladan moved a step back to give them some privacy.  He closed his eyes and pulled in a deep breath before opening them again and glancing over Arwen's head to Elrond.

"As I said before, your presence here is a surprise," he said to the elf lord, "yet I fear if you had not arrived when you did…"  Arwen, her arms still wrapped around him, gave a sudden squeeze to stop him from finishing the horrible thought, and Aragorn smiled.  "I do not understand," he said simply, deciding to be direct.  "How did you come to be here?"

Elrond shook his head and smiled.  "It is quite simple really," he stated with a glance toward his twin sons, still standing behind Aragorn and Arwen.  "When we arrived in Minas Tirith expecting a wedding, and instead found both you and Arwen gone, I knew that something must have happened.  I learned of your journey to Calembel and all that had transpired before that from one of your advisors, and decided to follow. We arrived in Calembel only a few hours ago, and Arwen told us all that has happened, and we set out immediately to find you.  It appears that we arrived just in time."

Aragorn nodded and let out a weary sigh.  He reached out and tipped up Arwen's chin, forcing her to look at him.  "That does not explain why you or Legolas are here," he said simply. 

"It could not be helped," Arwen answered firmly, meeting his eyes directly.  "Elrond did not know where Malek had his lair, and though I am sure he could have tracked you, it would have taken time that none of us had, least of all you.  Legolas alone knew where the lair was located, and he would not be left behind!  He is the one who led us here so swiftly."

"And I suppose you came along to look after him, right?" Aragorn asked, unable to hide his slight smile.

"She would not be left behind," Elladan put in, echoing Arwen's own words and throwing his sister a wink when she glared at him.

Aragorn only smiled and pulled Arwen back into his firm embrace, his eyes once more going to Legolas, now surrounded by the hobbits and Gimli.  His eyes went to Elrond and he found the elf lord also watching Legolas, a slight frown marring his fair features.

"Have you had a chance to examine him?" he asked Elrond softly.

"Only what I have observed over the ride," Elrond replied just as softly.  "I wish to see to him more closely as soon as I am able."

"There will be time for that soon enough," Gandalf spoke up for the first time behind them, causing Aragorn to start slightly.  He shook his head ruefully at the wide grins Elrohir and Elladan were giving him, thinking that his weariness was making him jumpy.

Elrond also gave him an amused smile before turning his full attention on the wizard.  "You do not look very well either, Mithrandir," Elrond commented, looking the wizard up and down in a way that only a close friend of Gandalf's would ever consider doing.  "You look weary."

"And weary I am, my friend," Gandalf replied, "Yet there is still much work to be done ere any of us can rest.  As we speak, our comrades fight against an army of orcs just east of here."

Aragorn nodded.  "Gandalf is right," he said hurriedly.  "I am most anxious to learn how Faramir and Kenson fair within the canyons."

Elrond also nodded.  "Arwen told us of this battle as well, and Glorfindel and the other half of my escort have gone to see how they might be of aid.

"Glorfindel?" Aragorn asked, then laughed.  "I should have known he would be here as well.  Beware to the orcs within the canyons!"

"Beware indeed," Elrond responded with a smile.  "Shall we be on our way?"

Aragorn nodded, then quickly made his way over to where Gimli and the hobbits were still crowded around Legolas, completely ignoring everything else around them as they all spoke to him at once.  Now, as well as looking pale and weary, Legolas also looked confused, and Aragorn decided to rescue him.

"Well met, Legolas," he called out loudly, as he pushed through the group and made his way to Shandarell's side.  The hobbits and Gimli at last fell silent, and Legolas looked relieved.  "How do you fare?"

Legolas shook his head slightly, brushing back a stray strand of golden hair.  "I shall be fine," he said softly, his voice a bare whisper and his eyes not meeting Aragorn's.

Aragorn gripped his knee tightly.  "It is over, Legolas," he said softly, at last drawing the elf's gaze down to his own.

"He is dead?" Legolas asked, a slight tremor in his voice.

"That's what we've all been telling you," Pippin said somewhat reproachfully, but a single look from Aragorn silenced him.

"That was probably the problem, master Perigrin." he said calmly.  "You were all trying to tell him at once."  He turned back to face Legolas.  "Yes, he is dead," he said simply, watching as a wave of different emotions crossed Legolas's face too quickly for him to discern their meaning.

"Good," the elf finally said softly, before turning his gaze away from Aragorn's once more.

Aragorn half expected Gimli to comment on the elf's simple statement, but when he turned, he saw the dwarf staring up at Legolas with a strange expression, his hand absently stroking Shandarell's neck, much to the horse's delight and Aragorn's surprise.  When Gimli noticed that Aragorn was watching him, he jerked his hand away and sent a glare at his friend's amused look.

"Come," Aragorn said loudly.  "It is time for us to go."  He glanced back up at Legolas, frowning suddenly.

"Some of us are going on to the canyons to see what we may do to help," he said slowly, eyeing his friend cautiously.  "Perhaps you should return to Calembel and…"

"No!"  Legolas' voice was firm and determined, and for a brief instant, Aragorn thought he saw a spark of life return to the elf's eyes.  "I am going with you," he stated, his tone of voice brooking no argument.

"Very well," Aragorn said, realizing that he would be unable to change Legolas' mind.  "Let us be on our way then."

Two of the elves dismounted and offered their horses to Aragorn and Gandalf before slipping up behind some of their companions.  Elrohir and Elladan took Frodo and Sam with them, while Gandalf and Aragorn took Merry and Pippin.  Gimli, of course, rode behind Legolas on Shandarell. 

The company moved swiftly, making good time as they traveled out of the mountains and to the east, toward the river and the canyons.  The sun had not even reached its midmorning position before the high walls of the canyons came into view.

"Riders approaching," Elrohir said quietly, and though he could not yet see them, Aragorn had little doubt that they were there.

"It is Glorfindel's party," Elladan added a couple minutes later as they drew closer.  Aragorn could just now make out the distant outlines against the glare of the morning sun.  "Lord Faramir and another man ride with them."

"That would be Kenson Brantz," he told them.  "He has been of invaluable help to us these last several days."

The two companies came together a short while later, and Aragorn rode forward with a smile to greet Glorfindel, his old-time friend and respected mentor.

"You do not look too good, my friend," Glorfindel said with a concerned frown.

"As I have been told," Aragorn responded with a wry smile, wondering just how awful he really looked.  He reached out to grasp Glorfindel's arm in a firm shake, before turning his attention to where Faramir and Kenson sat on their horses a few paces away.  "How fares the battle?" he asked, already knowing the answer since both of the commanders where here, instead of back in the canyons.

"The battle is over," Faramir responded. "And it will be a long time before the few orcs who managed to escape us will even think twice about setting foot in Gondor again!"

Aragorn smiled and nodded his head approvingly.  "You both have done well," he said simply, gaining smiles of gratitude from both men.  "Where are the rest of your soldiers?"

"I have already sent them back to Calembel to rest," Faramir replied.  "They fought long and hard and deserved a break.  We were just on our way to see how you were doing."

"Our task is complete as well," Aragorn told them, receiving only relieved nods in response.

"Then might I suggest returning to the city?" Kenson spoke up for the first time.  "I think I am going to sleep for a week to recover from all this."

"Two weeks," Aragorn replied wryly, swinging his horse around toward the city.  "I am going to find a nice room, with a nice bed, and am going to lock myself away for two weeks!"

His companions only laughed in response, but Aragorn seriously wondered if he might not actually be able to sleep for two weeks.  He shook his head and nudged his horse into a quick trot toward the city.  The only way to find out was to try!


Bright morning sunlight flooded the streets of Calembel, casting the city in a golden glow.  Cheerful birdsong filled the still morning air, and the last thin wisps of fog drifting in from the river dissipated under the heat of the rising sun.

A week had passed since the defeat of Malek and the destruction of his orc army within the canyons, and already the city was beginning the long process of recovery.  Boatloads of the city's refugees had been pouring in steadily for two days, and the docks along the Ciril were constantly abuzz with the sounds of laughter and weeping. The signs of the orc siege were still evident everywhere one might look, yet the scenes no longer carried with them a sense of hopelessness and despair.  The pure determination of Calembel's citizens pushed them on despite their great losses, and the city was well on its way to full recovery.

Despite the early hour, the streets were alive with activity.  A family's joy rang out through the city as a mother and daughter reunited with father and son.  The same scene was being repeated throughout the city, yet unfortunately, not all reunions were filled with joy.  A mother embraced her son, tears streaming down her face for the father whom they would never see again.  An old man wailed his grief to the heavens at the news that his child would not be returning home.  All throughout Calembel, joy mixed with grief, and relief was tempered by the harsh touch of loss.

It was these sounds of grief and joy, filtered throughout the city, that carried on the breeze until they reached the small open window that led into Legolas' room.  Yet the elf did not register the sounds.  He was not even aware of them.  He sat on the edge of his bed, his unseeing eyes staring straight ahead and his hands curled into fists on either side of him.  He had been sitting like this, frozen, for several hours; long before the sun's first rays had lightened the lands.  Every now and then, a wild shudder would course through his slight frame, and he would draw in a deep breath and then exhale, as if trying to rid his body of some dark demon that had a hold on him.

The dream had come again.

Legolas forced himself to focus on the fact, not the details.  He could not let his mind dwell on the suffocating blackness, or the horrible sense of loss of self, like his very soul was being torn from him.  To focus on these things was to invite madness.  The dreams tried to rob him of his very identity, but Legolas would not let them.

He closed his eyes and took several steadying breaths, forcing away the last of his tremors.   "I am Legolas Greenleaf," he whispered harshly into the stillness of the room.  "Son of Thranduil, and prince of Mirkwood.  It will take more than dreams to defeat me."

He opened his eyes again, feeling some of his resolve returning to him.  He decided that he would need to dress and search out Elrond.  His discussions with the elf lord always left him feeling somehow more whole, as if he had gained back a small piece of himself that Malek had stolen, and the lord of Imaldris always had advice concerning his dreams.

Legolas rose gracefully from the bed and ran a not quite steady hand through the tangles in his long golden hair.  He had had a hard time waking from the dream this time, probably due to simple exhaustion, and he felt, and probably looked, a mess.  If the condition of the bed sheets were any indication, his struggle against the dream had been physical, as well as mental.  At least he hadn't cried out this time.  The fact that Gimli was not here with him now was proof of that.  The dwarf's room was right next to his, and it seemed that the slightest moan in his sleep would bring the dwarf running to wake him.

Legolas appreciated Gimli's concern, even if it became somewhat smothering at times.  More than once, Gimli had stayed up through half the night talking with Legolas about anything and everything, and though he claimed it was because he was bored and could not find sleep, Legolas knew better.  Each time had come right after a dream, and Gimli's pointless chatter had allowed him to relax enough to sleep again. 

He knew that it was Gimli's unending support that had allowed him to make so much progress against the darkness that had come over him from Malek's spell.  He could feel the darkness, and yet he felt helpless to fight against it.  He felt somehow fragile, as if he was glass that would shatter at the slightest touch.  It was Gimli that held him together.  His numerous talks with Elrond helped, yet it was the time spent with Gimli not talking about anything of importance that truly strengthened him.  Elrond helped him learn how to fight the darkness; Gimli kept him sane throughout that fight.

Legolas shook his head and moved over to the washstand.  Pouring water into the basin from the full pitcher, he began cleaning up as best he could.  He knew Gimli would be arriving soon, wondering why he wasn't up yet, and Legolas didn't feel like facing his friend's questions at the moment.

He had almost finished when a sudden glimpse of his reflection in the small mirror above the basin caught his attention.  He froze, staring at the image and attempting to stop the sudden chills running through his body.

The mirror was small, but not small enough to hide the hideous scratches that covered his chest, and it was these marks that caught his full attention now.  He grimaced, clenching his teeth as he ran a hand over the still healing wounds.  Arwen had taken the bandages off just yesterday, and this was the first time that Legolas had actually looked closely at the scratches.  Elves heal quickly, and Legolas was no exception.  Already the marks from the whipping he had taken were fading from his back, and soon there would be no evidence of the brutal beating, not even a scar.  Yet the wounds on his chest were different.   They were healing incredibly slowly, and it was already obvious that they would leave scarring.  Even Elrond had been unable to speed up their slow mend.

Legolas groaned softly, his mind returning to the awful moment when Malek had carved the little design into his flesh, whispering words so dark and evil that he had been unable to resist their black touch.  He had been overcome with a cold and darkness such as he had never known, and it was at this time that he had lost himself.  Now, it looked as if he would forever bear the mark of that moment; Malek's mark.

Legolas tore his eyes away from the mirror, only to have them come to rest on his small knife resting next to the basin on the stand.  He stared at the blade, the hilt intricately carved with the design of leaves.  The knife had been a gift from his father, the steel dwarven crafted and impossibly sharp. 

His hand went out to slowly touch the hilt, his fingers tracing the intricate silver leaf designs.  'One cut,' he thought numbly.  'It would only take one cut to forever erase this mark from me.  Then it could be my mark, not his!'  His hands were shaking more than a little now, and his eyes returned to the image in the mirror as he slowly raised the blade…

"What are you doing?"

The question was asked calmly, but with a firm undertone that demanded a response.  Legolas jumped, cursing himself for getting so distracted that he didn't hear the door to his room open.  He turned to see Gimli leaning casually against the frame, his eyes slightly narrowed as he studied Legolas.

"Nothing," Legolas said simply, dropping the knife back to its place on the stand, then turning and donning his tunic swiftly.  He kept his back to Gimli, not wanting his friend to look at him until he had managed to regain some control of his emotions.  He didn't expect his friend to believe his answer, and he tensed in preparation of the questions he knew would be coming.  He was surprised, instead, when Gimli let the matter drop.

"Merton Fallow Candywell  III has just returned to the city," the dwarf said instead, his voice conversational despite his narrowed eyes and continual study of Legolas.  "Aragorn is going down to the docks now to meet with him.  It should be quite a show.  Want to come?"

Legolas at last turned to face Gimli, and he could not contain a small smile of his own at the wide grin covering the dwarf's face.  "Lead the way," he ordered, and with a grunt, Gimli pushed away from the doorframe and led the way into the hall.

The two friends walked in companionable silence for a while before Gimli at last turned to Legolas.  "You had another dream last night."  It was a statement, not a question.

Legolas glanced down at Gimli, then looked away and grimaced before nodding once.  He didn't even consider denying it, knowing the dwarf would be able to see right through the lie.

Gimli did not press the subject, for which Legolas was thankful, but the dwarf walked with a new scowl that caused people to dive out of their way. 

They reached the edge of the city quickly, and just in time to see the fat mayor and his two advisors swaggering up the road that led from the docks to the city.  Aragorn and Faramir stood directly outside the gate waiting for him.  When Legolas and Gimli joined them, the ex-ranger greeted them both, studying Legolas closely before turning back to watch the three men approaching.  Legolas was used to the looks and said nothing.

Merton was beaming when he finally reached them, despite being a little red faced from the walk.  He sketched a slight bow to Aragorn, his advisors echoing his movements, then straightened and began rubbing his hands together excitedly.

"Wonderful job," he gushed, grinning all about him.  "You have done well!  The city still stands.  Not that a small handful of orcs could stop us!"  He quickly added, chuckling as if at his own private joke.

Aragorn merely stared at him, and the fat mayor began to fidget slightly under the scrutiny. 

"I have returned now, so you may return to your own home.  Have no fear about Calembel, she is in good hands!"

"Why have you returned?"  Aragorn spoke the question softly, and Merton gave a slight start before letting out another chuckle, this one sounding somewhat nervous.

"What do you mean?" he asked.  "This is my city.  I am the mayor."

Aragorn shook his head slightly.  "You are the mayor no longer," he stated quietly.  "You gave up that title when you fled when your people needed you most.  A leader should be a man of honor and courage, not a cowardly liar."

Merton's face had gone decidedly red, and Legolas wondered for a moment if the man's head was going to explode.  A vein throbbed in his forehead, and he looked as if he was having trouble breathing.

"How…how dare you!"  He finally spluttered, but Aragorn cut him off, his voice remaining calm and controlled.

"I am king!"

This single statement caused all of the blood to drain from Merton's face as quickly as it had come.

"And as king," Aragorn continued, "I hereby strip you of the title of Mayor, along with all subsequent titles and benefits that go with that position."

Merton started spluttering, apparently unable to speak.

"Furthermore, I hereby banish you from the city of Calembel, and warn you that if you ever return here, it will be a crime punishable by death.  Now go!  You have five minutes to be gone from my presence."

Merton stared at Aragorn as if he thought the king had gone mad, his eyes wide, his great chins drooping with his surprise.  "You have no ri…"  He never finished the sentence.  Gimli stepped forward and slammed his fist into the fat man's face, feeling the satisfactory crunch of the man's nose.  Merton fell to the ground, blood splattering his face and his eyes rolling.

"The king told you to go, now go!"  Gimli growled, reaching down and hauling the dazed man back to his feet.

Merton looked as if he was going to argue, but a single threatening step forward by Gimli changed the man's mind.  He turned and fled, waddling down the road as fast as he could go and glancing over his shoulder as if afraid Gimli might be following him.

For the second time that day, Legolas felt himself smile.  A real smile, not one that he put on for the benefit of his friends.  It was definitely a good start to the day, and he even found himself forgetting about the horrible scratches marking his chest.

"I bet that felt good, Gimli," Faramir laughed lightly, watching the man running away.  "I was almost hoping that you would refrain so that I might get a chance."

Gimli only grunted, and Legolas thought he saw Aragorn hide a small smile as he turned to the two remaining advisors.  The men stood nervously, obviously unsure whether to risk Aragorn's wrath or take off after Merton.  Aragorn settled it for them.

"You are both no longer welcome here." He stated flatly, eying them firmly and with no hint of mercy.  "Leave now, and never return."

The two men turned and fled.

"Well, that was interesting."  Faramir stated, watching them go.  "So, now we have a leaderless city in a time when it most needs a leader."

"Are you suggesting that I should have let them stay?" Aragorn asked with a wicked grin, fully knowing the answer.

"Of course not," Faramir scoffed.  "Fat lot of good they would have done.  Probably would have made things worse, not better."

"My thoughts exactly," Aragorn stated seriously.

"That doesn't change the problem," Faramir pointed out.

"No," Aragorn agreed, "but I think I know just the person who can step into the job."

Faramir laughed, already nodding his head.  "I agree," he cried happily.  "Now should we go and tell him?"

"And then can we go home, Aragorn?" Gimli asked, joining the conversation.  "If I remember correctly, we were about to celebrate a wedding before all this interfered.

Aragorn laughed.  "Trust me Gimli, I am as anxious to return home as you are.  I just want to make sure everything is settled here before I go.  Just a few more days."

Gimli grunted, then nodded.  "Well then," he huffed, "Faramir is right.  Let's go and tell Kenson that his wandering days as a merchant's guard are over, and that he is suddenly the new owner of the top merchant businesses in the city.  I wonder if he will be surprised?"


To say that Aragorn offering him the position of mayor surprised Kenson would be a vast understatement.  The man was shocked!  Yet it did not take him long to accept the offer, especially with over two hundred men within the city practically begging him to take the job. So it was, two days later, that the force of Gondor left Calembel under the capable eye of Kenson and began the long journey back to Minas Tirith, after receiving a firm promise from the new mayor that he and his son would be attending the upcoming wedding.

The pace was slow and relaxed, allowing a comfortable journey for the tired and injured soldiers, and it was over a week later when they finally reached the city.  The weary soldiers were given a hero's welcome, and the preparations for Aragorn and Arwen's wedding  picked up directly where they had left off.  The city was abuzz with excitement, and as the days drew nearer to the big event, Minas Tirith took on a festive air, with wild decorations adorning every household.

When the wedding finally arrived, the whole city erupted into wild celebration, which lasted several days.  The ceremony had been beautiful, as everyone had known it would be, and after it was over, everyone was reluctant to return home.

It was Kenson and Dar who were the first to depart, for Kenson still had much work to do within Calembel.  Dar was a little teary eyed as he bid Pippin a fond farewell, yet his face was aglow with pride as he rode out of the city beside his father.  Elrond and his sons left shortly after.   The four hobbits were the next to leave, after staying for many months and ensuring that none of the grand food from the feast ever went to waste.  It was a sad farewell, but one tinged with the knowledge that it would not be a permanent separation. 

Legolas and Gimli remained in Minas Tirith for several more weeks after the hobbits' departure, and Aragorn was saddened when he learned that they at last planned to leave as well.

"Where will you go?" Aragorn asked Gimli late one night.

"Back to Mirkwood," Gimli answered immediately.  "Legolas improves everyday, but the dreams still come to him every now and then.  I think it will do him some good to return to his home.  He misses it, that is obvious."

Aragorn nodded.  "And will you be going with him?" he asked, fully aware of Gimli's distaste for his best friend's home.  Aragorn could not blame the dwarf, for he knew that Gimli would not be greeted warmly within the home of Legolas's father.  The tension between the two races was still high.

"Aye, for a ways anyway."  Gimli responded.  "As I said, he is doing better every day, and I am not sure how much longer he will need me.  Within Mirkwood he will have the support of his family and his own kind, and I must admit that I long to return to my own home for a time.  Yet at the same time, I am loathe to leave him until I know he is completely well."  Gimli let out a sigh and shook his head sadly.

Aragorn laid a hand on his friend's shoulder and squeezed encouragingly.  "I am sure everything will turn out fine."

Gimli smiled up at him in thanks, then turned and left to find Legolas.

Several hours later, as Arwen and Aragorn were walking arm and arm in the gardens, they heard a sudden splash, followed by a loud shout of protest and the unmistakable sound of laughter.  Looking at each other curiously, they hurried along the path until they rounded a sudden bend and looked upon a very strange scene.

Gimli, sitting dripping wet within the narrow basin of one of the garden's large fountains, was glaring at a very amused Legolas, who could not seem to contain his laughter.

Aragorn and Arwen stared at the pair, unsure of what to think or say.  The sight of Gimli was quite amusing, but they were more interested in Legolas' reaction.  It was the first time that the elf had laughed aloud since regaining consciousness on the boat in Calembel several months earlier, and the simple sound brought soaring joy and hope to both of them.

"It was an accident, friend Gimli," Legolas gasped, still unable to stop his wild chuckles.  "An accident, I swear."

Gimli growled something in response, but from where Aragorn and Arwen stood, they could both clearly see the smile that he was hiding from Legolas.

"An accident, eh?" He shouted, pushing himself to his soggy feet.  "I'll show you an accident!"  And with these words, he launched himself out of the fountain and after an already fleeing Legolas.

Aragorn and Arwen stood motionless for several seconds, unsure of what they had just witnessed.  At last, Aragorn shook his head, then bent down and laid a gentle kiss on Arwen's forehead.  "I think things are going to be just fine from here on out, love," he whispered softly.  "Just fine."

Arwen, head cocked and listening to Gimli's fading roar and Legolas' continued laughter, could only agree.


Well folks, there it is!  Those horrible six letters!  I cannot describe to you the relief and yet sadness that I feel right not. sniff sniff  Sorry it took me so long, but RL can be really mean at times. Ok—Enough of that.  My apologies if some parts seem a bit rushed, but my time limit was quickly running out, and I did not think any of you would like to wait yet another week to get this. Hope everyone enjoyed this chapter, and since it is my last, I am doing it up right, special thanks and everything! 

First, thanks to my family—For the support, all the wonderful ideas, and just for putting up with all my whining!

Thanks to mia_philosephet—For getting me into this in the first place! LOL

Special thanks to Thundera Tiger and Ithilien—For beta reading several of my chapters and offering wonderful ideas and constructive criticism.  (Everyone should go and read their stories)

And a big thanks to all those of you that have reviewed, whether you commented one time, or 27 times.  I have said it before, but I will say it again.  Your support meant a lot to me, and I never would have made it through without all the encouragement!  THANKS

As to those of you who have asked about other stories…Yes, I do intend to write more.  I am actually working on more than one story at the moment, and as soon as I decide which one I want to do, you can start looking for it!  Once again.  Thank you!!!

Thundera Tiger—I will admit that I have considered you one of my greatest supporters.  A chapter was not complete until I learned what Thundera Tiger thought of it. All my family always wanted to read what you had to say.  Also, your own stories have been a great source of inspiration.  I hope you know how much you have helped me and how awesome a writer you truly are.  I mean it.  Thank you very much!

Ithilien—It is truly a good feeling to know that an excellent author thinks that my story is good.  Thank you for beta reading so much for me and helping my work be as good as it could be.  Can't wait for your next update.  I truly love your story, and will continue reading it until the end. (I don't think I could stop if my life depended on it. LOL)  Once again, thank you very much!

Mia_philosophet—Well, it is finally over.  Thanks for all the support throughout this, and just being a sounding board for me.  You are my dearest friend!  Your awesome girl!!!!  Ready to start another story? LOL

Shadow warrior—Thanks so much!  I am glad to know that this story remains enjoyable for you.  I appreciated all your reviews!

Bayleef14—Thanks for the review!

Seaweed—Yep, last chapter.  But keep an eye out for some more stories, hopefully coming soon.  Thanks for all your reviews and support.

Analorien—Well, did you like the ending?  Hope so.  You have been with me since near the start.  Thank you so much for your support!

Cheysuli—LOL  Maybe I just thought that Pippin had gone through enough!  Anyway, glad you have enjoyed, and thank you for your support.

PepperVL—Thanks for all the reviews.  Did you like the ending?

Rings of the Cosmos—Sorry I made you wait so long.  Hope you like this chapter.  Thanks for your support.

Stephanie—Thanks so much!  It feels good to have fans. LOL  Hope you liked the ending.

SpaceVixenX—Thanks for the review and your support. I hope you enjoyed this chapter.

Guardgirl—Your support means a lot to me!  Thank you so much!

Kerstin—Well, I am not sure I will write THAT one.  But expect another story for sure.  Thanks for your encouragement.  I am glad you liked this story.

Lairuniel—Sorry, girl.  This is the last chapter.  I could have spread it to two, but I really have too much going on for that.  I wouldn't have been able to post for a REALLY long time.  Anyway, thank you for all the reviews and wonderful encouraging words.  I hope you like the end, and keep an eye out for my next stories! LOL

Anonymous—Yep, I will write another story.  Don't worry.  Thanks for your support throughout my writing of 'Dark.'  Hope you like the end.

Mizalaye—Thank you very much.  Your support has meant much to me.  Hope you like the ending.

Daphne—Thanks for the review and I hope you like the ending.

Sunchaser—Your support has meant a lot to me.  Thank you!!!

No name—120%  I am getting better.  LOL  Thank you for your support.

Greenleaf-Legolas—Thanks for your continuous support.  You have been a wonderful encouragement to me!

Chocchip—Thanks for the review and the fav list!  I hope you like the last chapter.

Tigrin—I always enjoy new reviews.  It encourages me when I find out that yet another person has been reading and enjoying 'Dark.'  Thanks for taking the time to review!

Firefoot—Another Legolas fan?  LOL  Hope you like the end.  Thanks for reviewing.

Marillion—Thank you for the review.  I hope you like the end.

Elfmaid—Yep, last chapter.  Hope you liked it.  Thank you for reviewing all those times.  Means a lot to me.

Mercies Angel—Thank you for reviewing.  I greatly appreciate every single review.

Greenleaf—Does this mean you will read my next story? LOL  Hope you enjoyed this last chapter, and thank you for your continuous reviews.

Earl Grey—Thanks for the review.  Hope you like this last chapter.  You greatly encouraged me!

Fliewatuet—I actually consider giving you a worse cliffhanger last chapter, but I decided to be nice.  See, I can be nice!  Thanks for the review!

Littlefish signing out…for now!