Epilogue – Pyre

Three days later...

Everywhere you looked was black. The mood was black. Everyone was wearing black. The houses were draped with black. Even the river looked grey.

It was raining, once again reflecting the mood that had fallen across Mirkwood. In the centre of the city stood an enormous structure. It was a dry, wooden structure, made up of several layers, held up by thin beams. Upon each layer lay the dead. Or more accurately, the dead who hadn't fought under the red eye.

Near the bottom lay those who nobody had identified. The unknown soldiers who nobody knew.

Above them lay those who were not considered hugely important, but who still had family and/or friends who mourned for them.

Further up the structure lay the more important people. Glorfindel, Gimli, Merry, Pippin (both of whom had been discovered amongst the unknown soldiers), Eowyn, Théoden, and Faramir lay there, and people had come from all the various lands to pay their respects to their various lords.

In pride of place lay Legolas. Everyone respected him as the hero who had died to save them. And everyone was equally upset by his passing.

Well, nearly everyone. Raél watched from a distance, outside the city walls. After he had explained what had happened when Legolas awoke to Thranduil, he had been banished. Gandalf had tried to plead his case to the king, but the king was beyond reason. He wanted someone to blame for his son's death, and Raél had fitted the bill perfectly. After all, he had been the one who had delivered the poison to his heir. And Thranduil had banished him from his home, to return on pain of death. He wasn't even allowed to return for his brother's and sister's funeral. And he loathed the prince for it. Legolas had begged him, without even a thought for the consequences that there would be for Raél, and even asked him to deliver messages to his loved ones. Raél was furious, and now thought of the prince as the most selfish person anyone was ever likely to meet. He cursed all of Oropher's descendants, and no longer wanted anything to do with them.

Thranduil was inconsolable. First Oropher, then Laureiane, and now Legolas. He hated Sauron and wanted nothing more than to destroy him all over again, for all he had done to his family. But, Thranduil reflected, at least Legolas got there first.

Everyone stood around the huge wooden structure, and tears glazed nearly every face, and those that weren't had their heads bowed as a sign of respect. Thranduil took one last look at his son's face. He had been cleaned up, dressed in his best clothes, and his bow and knives lay beside him. He looked so peaceful, his lips graced with an eternal smile. Thranduil smiled at how Legolas could have almost been sleeping, if his eyes hadn't been shut.

"Farewell, my son," Thranduil murmured. "Be at peace in the halls of Mandos. I have no doubt I will join you soon."

Everyone watched as Thranduil dropped the torch onto the wooden structure. Those who weren't crying before found that they could no longer stop tears flowing down their faces, mixing with the rain. Tears fell so fast from Raél's eyes far away that it put the waterfall to shame as he saw the flames go up.

Thranduil watched as the flames took his son away from him.

"Goodbye," he murmured.

After the fire went out, Thranduil locked himself in his chambers, and lay down on his bed. True, he had risen higher than ever before, but that only made the fall that much harder. He faded before the sun had set.

Areya left for the Grey Havens the next morning, departing with most of the population of Mirkwood. But even Valinor could not help her forget what had happened to her fiancé, and she found no peace anywhere.

Elladan left for Rivendell shortly afterwards, and set about repairing the damage that had been done to his realm. He held a private memorial service for his father, his sister and his twin brother. But he was long acknowledged as one of the greatest rulers of Rivendell. Those who had survived the assaults on Mirkwood and Rivendell and had decided not to sail now resided there, under Elladan's rule.

Aragorn took up his throne in Gondor, and was thought of as the greatest king of men. By some he was thought of as the greatest ruler of the fourth age, but he never really recovered from what had been done under Sauron's attempt to take Middle Earth. He never really recovered from the deaths of his friends, and although he acted in public like he had, he never forgot what had been done to Legolas, and always held a burning desire for revenge.

Gandalf left for the Grey Havens with Areya, and, try as he might, he could never console her about what had been done to Legolas.

Raél never forgot Legolas' final words. He never forgot what Legolas had asked him to do. He never forgot what it had cost him to do that. And he never forgave him. He never left Mirkwood's forest, and he spent an eternity wandering that wood.

And nobody ever repaired the city of Mirkwood. Mirkwood stood, in its ruined state, as a monument, a symbol of what Sauron had done to Middle Earth. It stood as a tribute to what one very determined prince had led the world to do. And it stood as a tribute to the strength of what the concept of freedom can do.

And freedom changed the world.