Author's notes: I've reposted chapter 6 as there is a small but crucial difference near the end. I'm not sure what the significance is yet, but will explore the possibilities in a future story.

Meanwhile, here is the final chapter at last!!!!

Chapter Seven

Fire And Smoke

As Aragorn changed into formal robes he wondered who this was for. *Legolas wouldn't care a brass farthing what I wear, he hated ceremonials nearly as much as I do* he thought. But this would be a public ceremony, the Elf was a hero of the city, and well loved.

In the end he selected sombre black. Black trousers, a black silk shirt, and a tunic stiff with black and silver embroidery. Over this he wore a black cloak with a lining of grey silk. The only ornaments he wore were the winged crown, used only for ceremonial occasions, and the pendant Arwen had given him at their betrothal, which he never removed.

Downstairs, all were ready. All were dressed in their most formal clothes, Faramir with his badge, and Steward's Sword of Office. Arwen wore a dress of plain, soft grey, and again a long cloak of black silk. She had the thin circlet of her rank, and a necklace, a single white stone that shone like fire. Her dark hair was unbound, and streamed down her back to her waist like a waterfall.

Word had spread like wildfire, and the streets were lined with people as he returned to Rath Dinen. At the House of the Kings the bier was lifted by the same guards as before, and the procession wound its way to an open patch of green behind the city. There the pyre had been built. Wood was piled under it and the bier was placed in the centre. Kindling was built high all about it, and all was drenched in sweet oil. Legolas lay peacefully, remote, all cares gone.

Aragorn approached the pyre and spoke in a loud, clear voice. "Today we gather to say farewell to Prince Legolas of Eryn Lasgalen, Lord of Ithilien, Companion to the Ring Bearer, a hero of this city, and my dear friend. He died to save the life of my son Prince Eldarion and is worthy of the highest honours the White City can confer. He will not be forgotten, and his memory will live on in my household for all time."

A guard held two torches ready. He gave one each to Aragorn and Gimli, who approached the pyre steadily. On Faramir's signal they lit the pyre. Aragorn thrust the brand into the fuel and at once it crackled and roared into flame. Gimli did the same, with a hand that betrayed only the slightest tremor.

They stood back and saluted their comrade, a warrior's salute. Then all those present gave the city's mark of respect, right hand placed over the heart, head bowed.

Aragorn spared a glance at Eldarion. His head was bowed, but his eyes were fixed on the pyre. There were tears on his face, but also a new pride and determination. A maturity. Aragorn realised sadly that he was no longer a child.

All was wreathed in fire and smoke, and nothing else of the pyre could be seen, for which Aragorn was thankful. As the flames climbed higher, plumes of smoke rose into the air, billowing towards the clouds. A slight breeze blew the smoke into streamers, which drifted towards the north. North, across Ithilien, towards Mirkwood - Eryn Lasgalen now - the two lands he had loved.

The flames were fiercer now and the thick smoke rose still higher, a great cloud spreading out over the city. The breeze strengthened, and ash and smoke were blown away on the wind, spreading north and west across the lands they had travelled together.

Aragorn watched the smoke and ash drift across the sky. He could feel the heat of the flames on his face, but it wasn't that, or the smoke, which caused his eyes to burn and sting. *Goodbye my friend. I'll miss you. We could not have achieved the quest without you, without your archery skills, your eyesight, your unfailing good humour, your friendship. Goodbye.*

At the other end of the pyre, Gimli stood motionless. His thoughts were chaotic. *I thought you were immortal, that you would be left when I died. I never considered that I would be the one left behind, never thought you could die. I'm sorry, so sorry for tormenting you about Moria and Aglarond. I never knew. Why did you never tell me?!*

Éowyn stood still as a figure carven in stone. *I never really knew you, even when you ruled Ithilien with Faramir and me. You were always - remote. Perhaps I was in awe of you. But I recall the first time I saw you, at Edoras. I had never seen such beauty in anyone. I think I loved you a little - until I met Faramir. I know he will grieve for you - but I wish I had known you better.*

Beside Éowyn, Faramir stared at the pyre. *We worked well together in Ithilien. I cannot imagine who will take your place, who could ever take your place. I wish I was not the one to take word to your people. I dread this task, this duty I have undertaken, they will find it so hard to accept.*

Eldarion, although his head was dutifully bowed, stared unblinkingly at the flames. *If only I had not gone up to the tower to watch the storm. If only the door hadn't slammed shut. If only we hadn't stayed on the roof. Legolas, you said you were going to teach me archery. Father said it isn't my fault, and I suppose it isn't, not really, but still, I'm sorry, so sorry.* Hot, scalding tears ran down his face and he sobbed.

Arwen held her son close as he cried. Maybe Faramir was right, and he needed to be here, but it was not easy on him. Or her. *Legolas, I miss you so much. I love you. I know father wanted us to marry, but I always knew you too well for that. You were always a brother to me, not a lover. But I will always love you. And I will never forget that you saved Eldarion. And Aragorn. Without them, I know I could not go on. Thank you, my brother.*

They watched the smoke billow and drift across the city, across the land. The wind blew northwest, over Gondor, Rohan, towards Fangorn, Lorien and Eryn Lasgalen. In the end it would carry the smoke and ash over the Misty Mountains to Rivendell and Eriador. And when the flames died and the fire was cold, the ashes would be scattered on the Anduin to carry him to the sea he so loved and yearned for. He would indeed travel to the very ends of Middle Earth. And perhaps beyond.


Author's Notes:

So that's it - I'm afraid he really IS gone. (Ducks hurriedly) I'm sorry to all those reviewers who desperately wanted him NOT to be dead, (there were lots of you), but I couldn't think of a convincing way to do it. To be honest, I think this is more realistic - I didn't want to get into the area of resurrection and divine intervention. (And Ithilien, your idea for a sea burial was close, but not close enough).

I can't believe how much I loved writing this, and what fun I had with some of the chapters, so when I typed those final, horrible little words 'the end', I felt a real sense of loss, and immediately started planning a new story. (Several, actually.)

The first chapter is up now, so go along to 'Mission to Dol Guldur' where you-know-who is alive and well. (well, alive, anyway.) I won't go AU anymore, I'm just filling in some of those lovely gaps that Tolkien so kindly left us, and picking up on some of the events that were mentioned in passing in this story.

Many, many thanks for your fantastic reviews and support, it means a tremendous amount to me. Keep reading!!