Disclaimer: The Lord of the Rings does not belong to me, but this story does. And I'm not making any money with this, in case anyone was wondering.

Miscellaneous notes: Sorry about the very long delay, and thanks to everyone for reviewing. I'd make the note longer, but I'm eager to finally post this chapter, and thereby officially finish the story. I hope reading was as much fun for you as writing was for me. :)

Oh, and I haven't forgotten about the little side-story from Legolas' point of view. It is in the works -- I've been surprised to find that the mind of the elf turns out to be a rather dark and twisted place. Ah well.

~ Epilogue ~

The view is breathtaking. Finest white sand, and right behind the edge of the beach a color explosion of jungle foliage and tropical flowers. Legolas is silent; he drinks in the sights like other people around here the tequilas and banana daikiris. Contentedly cradled in his arms I am silent as well. I need my rest after the commotion of the morning. Also, the sun is hot and heavy in the sky, and we've never been somewhere this sunny before.

Even after a century, I find that our travels to remote corners of the earth always hold that element of agitation, mainly because, while we manage to avoid airplanes and airports with a little magical assistance, we like to stay in hotels like everybody else. The mornings are particularly exciting, because Legolas tends to treat an all-you-can-eat breakfast like minor warefare.

The intensity is a family trait -- this is one of the few things I have learned. I have also learned that Legolas and his father have a lot in common, although I'm quite sure both would disagree. One thing they have in common is the coldness, and I suppose the ruthlessness in battle. There's also a bone-deep conviction that the end justifies the means... generally I have found out that Legolas is a lot less nice than I first thought. I guess I used to harbor a few illusions in the first few months of our relationship, but he's cured me of those. Luckily, I had no illusions regarding Thranduil -- only expectations, and those have turned out the be mostly accurate.

The nicest thing I can say about Thranduil is that he is a good king, which doesn't make him a good husband. He is very much a Macchiavellian ruler . . . very shrewd and very calculating. He also seems to have gotten over his passion for good wine, which, while it doesn't make him a better person, at least makes him a more clear-headed thinker. And he is a good judge of character -- his choice of a spouse proves that beyond doubt.

His pretty little wife doesn't look a year older than I do, and she is everything he is not -- kind, gentle, warm . . . It is also very plain that she loves him with a passion that borders on desperation. But although he has chosen well in this matter at least, he still treats his wife like just another pretty bauble in his growing collection of precious glittery things. It's not that he has replaced her, but he has been ignoring her for so long it has become a habit.

All in all, it's no wonder she is depressed. Legolas description of her was 'spineless', and although it was spoken in a fever dream, this is what I expected -- a spineless beauty with nothing to say for herself. I was wrong, as was Legolas. Despite the tragic aura that surrounded her when we first met I have come to value Legolas' mother; she is a very sweet, very intelligent lady. She has had the misfortune of growing up in a rather medieval environment, with no opportunities to nourish her very bright spirit. Since we've become fast friends and she's more of a sister than a mother-in-law, I've been working on rectifying that -- among other things.

While he is very adept at ignoring his wife, Thranduil certainly takes notice of his son. His cool acceptance of Legolas' accomplishments is evident, as is his jovial behaviour towards me. He has figured out I might be useful, although he is not at all sure for what.

Legolas thinks I'm useful too -- he maintains I have a stress-relieving effect on royalty,and on him in particular. He says keeping the future king relaxed is an important task, and one I've mastered very well. On those occasions he's always wearing a rare, faint grin, and his hands try to wander where they shouldn't, at least not in front of his loyal subjects.

Legolas is a leader. It is something I only realized after we came to Mirkwood, and also something I would never have believed until I saw it, because he had so fully subsided under Aragorn's lead as long as the Fellowship existed. But at home he is utterly different. He can be cold, ferocious, incredibly ruthless, and a very, very intelligent fighter. I think he is mildly vexed that the opportunities for bloodshed in defense of the realm are almost non-existent after Sauron's demise. There are the occasional bloodthirsty, stupid humans, but mostly nowadays Mirkwood is a quiet, peaceful place.

And this is another preconception I had, and which has been swiftly put to rest. I used to think elves would like quiet, peaceful places where they could wander around singing and pick flowers all day long -- all night too, if they are so inclined. I failed to consider the bows, and the knives, and the disconcertingly feral smiles.

Elves like flowers, and they like to sing. Male elves like nothing more than a swift bout of killing after lunch to relieve the boredom, after which they can either compose a little ditty about blood glistening prettily on the leaves, pick some flowers for their loved one, or rip their arrows out of the cooling corpses and repair them lovingly.

Since the attacks are not forthcoming, they like to entertain themselves by bashing each other's heads in, which is done elegantly and ruthlessly, and in the presence of as many females as possible. They use blades with alarming frequency, too, secure in the knowledge that there is very little that can seriously harm an elf.

I hate that, so I tried to divert their attention from those rather violent pastimes towards a few Earth activities I hoped would keep them occupied. With Legolas' consent, I introduced them to opera, among other things. To my astonishment, it worked. Not quite as I expected, but it did. Ah well, at least I've succeded in keeping them occupied, now that there are no orc attacks to keep them alert and -- let's face it -- entertained. The Mirkwood elves are quite a bloodthirsty lot.

Still, it's quite disquieting, walking through the forest at night and stumbling over male elves who, armed to the teeth, are belting out Rossini arias in front of their loved one's balcony. Legolas has done it too, once, because he knew perfectly well how it would embarass me. He got a load of dishwater on the head for his pains, and has never tried it since.

Speaking of that, I smile a little as I remember . . .

A fragrant night, the silvery shine of the new moon and the textured silence of the wood . . . I am alone in the palace kitchens, high above the ground, tiptoeing over polished, magically protected wood in search of the little honeycakes we had for lunch. I find them quite soon and carry them to the balcony where I sit down, leaning against the delicately carved railing. Then I unwrap a small cake, pop it into my mouth. Chew it slowly, blissfully happy about virtually everything around me, from the fresh air to the silence to the lingering taste of honey-sweetened dough unfolding on my tongue.

I sigh, a long, low rush of utter contentment.

Celeste Anna, forma divina . . .

I startle, almost choking on a piece of cake. The voice is divine, a full, rich tenor. And I know only one elf who would substitute 'Anna' for 'Aida' and make it sound that good. Still, he wouldn't dare--

Mistico serto di luce e fior,

Del mio pensiero tu sei regina --

There is hushed snickering somewhere below, and what I can only describe as dreamy sighs on the left, where the queen's maids live. I rise, cheeks bulging around the cake, a volcano of wrath.

Tu di mia vita sei lo splendor.

More male snickering from the stupid princes' bosom bows; I frown at the offending cads lounging nonchalantly around Legolas as if they just happened to be there by accident, and allow my hands to clench around the railing until my knuckles whiten. Legolas smiles, an almost indiscernible curving of lips, and, raising his head further for increased dramatic effect, launches into the haunting coup de grace.

Il tuo bel cielo vorrei redarti,

Le dolci brezze del patrio suol;

I remember that my mouth is still full of cake, and swallow violently. I have a lingering suspicion that the imbeciles from the royal guard are humming along. One of them is twanging the string on his bow in a highly suspicious fashion. I can feel the blush creeping up my neck towards my face . . .

Un regal serta sul crin posarti,

I hate being embarrased. There is going to be revenge, if I only knew how . . . the stack of dishes I notice in a corner alerts me to the existence of the nice, full bucket of dirty water. It doesn't take long to back into the room and haul the container to the railing, smile innocently, and watch the water describe a satisfyingly wide arc.

Ergerti un trono vicino -- ah, shit!

I paid for that, as I expected to. But I am happy to say he has never tried it since.

I smile a little wider over the recollection and snuggle deeper into Legolas' loose embrace. He squeezes my hand gently and I turn it over and kiss his palm, marveling at the fact that he manages to sound as good swearing as he does singing Verdi.

For him, swearing is nothing new -- not so for his fellow elves. And so there is another thing I introduced them to, because they used to be abominably bad at it. For all its intricacy and lyrical beauty, Elvish is not a good language for swearing, but there are others. And as a member of the royal house of Mirkwood (or Greenwood the Great, as it is called now), which is populated by very hard-headed males, swearing is very much a survival requirement. It is at any rate preferable to drawing a knife and threatening to slice someone open.

I can still remember the look on Thranduil's face as his wife called him a 'conceited, calculating bastard' over supper. She screamed it so it was sure to reach him over the length of the dinner table, and then she threw down her napkin and went away. I've also noticed the looks he's been throwing her since, which have gone from utterly disinterested to noticeably heated. This was a year ago, and she plans on keeping him on tenterhooks a little longer. I, for one, am cheering her on.

Being an elf is always about being in touch with one's self, and as a people that first opened their eyes underwater, elves are very much in touch with their inner shark. It's admirable, really, how they have taken to swearing, although at this juncture it lacks the inventiveness they display in their other endeavours. 'Stupid fuck' is somehow not all that subtle, but they persevere.

On the whole I can say life in Mirkwood is exciting enough, as are the occasional visits to my parents. Thankfully the portals open through time as well as space, so I hope to have many years of precious visits left.

Legolas bites my ear, effectively scattering every semblance of coherent thought. There's a langurous quality to his nibbling, indicating that he's been rendered amorous by the midday sun and the heavy floral scents, but doesn't intend to rush anything. Only thinking about the possibilites not rushing offers sends butterflies fluttering through my stomach.

And as I turn around in his arms, all but drowning in the silvery blue of his eyes, the silky shine of his hair against deeply bronzed skin, I realize another misconception will have to fly out of the window.

Because elves do get a tan.