RATING: PG-13

DISCLAIMER: The characters from Lord of the Rings and their wonderful world

are borrowed from J.R.R. Tolkien. The plotline and all other characters are

copyright 2002 Emily (emi_kins@yahoo.com)

A/N Sorry this took so long. There were so many problems with the site and then I moved and it took a while to find the disk. Anyway, here's the grand finale! I hope you enjoy it. Watch this space. Who knows, I might have another story soon. ;)

53.

Elenath stopped short at the top of the rise a short way outside of the palace gates. They were approaching slowly, banners unfurled as the sentries had told her. Her breath caught in her throat as she saw her grandfather and King Thranduil upon their proud horses, but then dread filled her for Legolas was not with them. Merethiel had noticed this as well.

"Perhaps he will arrive later," she offered. "Perhaps he was not yet well enough to travel."

"Perhaps," whispered the princess, trying not to panic as the large party neared and Lord Elrond looked up to catch her eye.

Her heart beat quickly in her chest and her legs longed to run to her grandfather as she had when she was a child, to be swept up into his arms. She longed for simpler times when Lord Elrond could calm the ache in her heart, heal any hurt, right any wrong. But she was no longer a child, and the agony that her heart felt at the absence of her beloved Legolas would not be comforted. Not by her grandfather or anyone else. So she stilled her heart and held fast her legs. Then, managing a smile, Elenath allowed her gaze to wander to the masses of Elves that accompanied the two royals. Why were there so many? The number utterly overwhelmed her. Those from Rivendell returned her smile with smiles of their own. But those from Mirkwood remained somber, their gazes searching and serious. Many remained hidden beneath their cloaks.

Haldir nudged the princess's elbow. "Your Highness. They draw nigh. You must greet them."

With a nod of thanks to him, she stepped forward, toward where they had stopped no more than five hundred yards away. One numb step after another, she approached them with all of the dignity and grace that she could muster. And with each step she took, her heart tore a little more because it became more and more clear that Legolas was not with his father beneath the standard of Mirkwood. Still, she managed a low curtsy before the king whose horse danced nervously beneath him. "Welcome, my lord, to Rivendell."

Thranduil allowed a polite smile to touch his lips and nodded as he tried not to watch the hooded figure that stealthily crept up behind the princess.

She moved swiftly toward her grandfather and lifted her hands to grasp his as tears of joy and despair began to well in her eyes. "Welcome home, Grandfather. My heart sings." she paused to still her wavering voice and took a deep breath. "My heart sings to see thee again."

The proud and joyful look in his eyes spoke volumes, but Elenath did not hear her grandfather's spoken reply, if indeed he made one. She heard only the soft, familiar voice that spoke quietly into her ear as a warm hand lightly caressed her bare arm from behind. "Your beauty takes my breath away, Willow."

The bittersweet expression in Elenath's eyes changed at once to pure, radiant joy as she let go of her grandfather's hands and turned. "There is only One in all of Middle-earth who calls me by that name," she whispered to the hooded figure who stood there. "Reveal yourself, for my heart refuses to believe that which my ears know to be true."

The hood fell back revealing long golden hair and cerulean blue eyes that glinted with love in the last light of the setting sun. "Alas," said Legolas softly, "for I have come to claim the princess Elenath for my wife and have found a great Queen in her place."

She was overcome with the sight of him, yet she reached out to touch his face as if trying to convince herself that he was real. "Legolas. I feared you were dead."

Pulling her near he replied. "I feared the same of you, my love. Praise the Valar, I was wrong. if this is not a waking dream."

"I assure you, it is not," she whispered, just before his lips claimed her own.

"Tell me," he said between kisses, "Tell me that you will be my wife and I shall be the happiest Elf in all of Middle-earth."

"I will," she replied, and a great cheer went up from the Elves that were nearest them and spread throughout the entire Company.

***

Legolas and Elenath were married less than a month later in a ceremony meant to bond two lives, two hearts, and indeed two kingdoms forever more. For many years, the prince and princess lived in peace among the green branches of Mirkwood. No one, neither Elf nor Man nor Wizard, would have guessed that a thousand years later Shadow would return and Princess Elenath would give her life to save her beloved. But that is another tale entirely.

THE END