All right, my friends, this is it, the end of the journey! My humble thanks and grateful appreciation to my faithful readers and friends. I have really enjoyed getting to know you, and this was a wonderful experience. I have another story to publish: a short joke that I will post after the last movie. Some have written me that it will be hard to see Thorin die, so I wrote something that I believe will lift everyone's spirits. The story is done and waiting to see if Peter Jackson sticks to canon, and it also ties my stories together. (Imagine that!) Anyway, my grateful thanks to those who reviewed and gave me much encouragement and thoughtful help. Now my husband is beginning to read it, so I look forward to his insights.
To my dear Eric, when you get to this page, you'll realize how fitting the last few lines are, for they will always be true, and I am grateful to God for the blessing you are in my life.
Saraya warmed to her wifely duties with joy and enthusiasm, but Legolas embraced his role of husband with even greater zeal and loved his wife as though he was trying to scour away all traces of his former life. The elves stood in wonder as the couple strolled hand in hand, laughing merrily at their private jokes, and Thranduil watched them together with a new-found sense of peace. Legolas had never been so exuberant, and Thranduil was finally able to let go of his regret.
Life at Erebor, however, was not so peaceful since Deline resolutely spurned all Theran's attempts to win her. The heir had planned a two-month campaign with military precision and enlisted toy and jewelry makers to craft amusing and rare gifts. Every morning she found hand-written notes and requests for outings and walks in the gardens. He even interrogated her friends to discover all her preferences and planned surprises where she worked in the archives.
"What am I not doing right?" he growled in frustration as he sat at dinner one night with his parents and some of their closest friends. "Tell me."
"Well, my lad," Balin said sagely as he glanced at Agathil who was of the same mind, "perhaps you should ask her. So far, you've done plenty, but maybe she doesn't want 'doing.'"
"Go talk to her, son," he said, "and do it now. This has gone on long enough."
Theran pushed himself away from the table and headed down the main stairway only to see her talking and laughing with a guard below. The thought of a rival never occurred to him, and he hurried down the steps.
"I would speak to you, Deline," he said, warily eyeing the guard who quickly bowed and retreated.
"Very well, Theran," she said coolly. "I'll find you later, Nogrin!" she called out to the guard with a smile. He grinned at her and returned to his post.
"Why are you talking to Nogrin, and what is your relationship with him?" he demanded. She looked up with fire in her eyes.
"Since we're not courting, that is none of your business, Theran Durin!" she said angrily with her arms crossed.
He shook his head in despair and held out his hands.
"Then tell me what I'm doing wrong, Deline!" he cried. "I want to win your heart and yet you refuse me over and over. What am I doing wrong?"
She marched up and poked him in the chest.
"I'm not an engineering problem to solve, Theran," she said fiercely. "I want passion! I want a dwarf who would make a fool out of himself for me and let the world see it because his love for me is greater than his pride. You're like the time-piece in the Great Hall, all gears and wheels! All mind and no heart!"
Theran stood with his mouth agape and, all at once, he knew what he had to do. His face hardened with determination, and he grabbed her hand and tugged her out to the middle of the Great Hall against her protests.
"What are you doing?" she cried, looking around at all the dwarves who stopped in surprise.
"This," he said, and he pulled her into his arms and lowered his lips on hers. He wrapped his arms tightly around her, and Deline felt him shaking as he kissed her in full view of everyone. He kissed her gently, tenderly, but with unmistakable feeling, and he shuddered as he felt her soft lips under his.
I'll either win her now or lose her forever after this, he thought briefly, and he moaned at the thrill that ran through him. This must be what father always talked about. After only a few seconds, he pulled back and put his forehead to hers. Both of them were breathless. Then he dropped to his knees and put his hands on the curves where her waist met her hips. The ever-growing crowd gasped, and Thorin and Grace looked over the railing with Balin and Agathil.
"I beg you, Deline, for the honor of your hand," he said hoarsely with tears in his eyes, "for I don't think I'll survive if you refuse me again."
The crowd buzzed and hummed excitedly, and Deline looked around before she looked down at Theran with her brows knitted together.
"So, you really do love me?" she asked while still trying to catch her breath. "I'm not some project to you, nor some puzzle to solve?" He took her hands and kissed them passionately.
"I love you with all my heart, Deline," he replied honestly. "I do have one, you know."
She smiled finally and cupped his cheek. "I needed to be sure, Theran. You can be so, so calm and reasonable."
He stood and tipped her chin, his eyes fixed intently on hers. "But I'm also fierce about the ones I love, and where you are concerned, I am insanely in love. So will you have me? I'll not let you refuse me again!"
She nodded smiling, and he picked her up in his arms and kissed her again. "Deline," he cried, "my Deline at last!"
The dwarves cheered wildly and rushed to congratulate the flushed and grinning couple.
"Well, I'm happy that's settled," Thorin said while pushing away from the railing. "Things were getting grim there for a while."
Balin chuckled after taking another look below. "The lad just needed a little humbling—much like his father, if I recall. Deline listened well."
Thorin stared at Balin who smiled cheekily, and the king rolled his eyes.
"I might have known," he muttered.
Theran wrapped his arm possessively around Deline and pulled her to his side.
"Now who is Nogrin to you?" he asked with an edge to his voice. She laughed.
"Aye," he said growling against her neck, "you're mine now and no one else's, and I'll have all other dwarrow know it!"
She kissed him softly, and he leaned in against her lips. Then she rubbed her nose against his and giggled at his dreamy look.
"He wanted advice on courting my sister," she said smirking.
In much the same way over the years, the others found love. Aron was on hand when a group of Rohirrim brought a herd of horses to Esgaroth in trade and a large, gray stallion reared and bucked. A cloaked rider jumped on his bare back and eventually settled the horse. Aron was much impressed by the rider's agility and skill and even more so when the rider's hood fell back and revealed Lady Nellwyn. The two furthered their acquaintance, and Aron eventually asked for her hand. Her brother though found his road much rougher when he traveled to Dale with another herd of horses and met up at the stables with Vonnie and Orel's daughters, who had come to visit. He compared Vonnie to a spirited young filly, and she slapped him soundly across the face.
"How dare you address me that way, you great oaf!" she shouted. Then she kicked him in the shin when he tried to grab her arm. Boldir stood to the side and watched with a huge grin on his face. He was just as outraged at the uncouth lord from Rohan but was having too much fun watching Vonnie to intervene. They had just begun courting, and he grinned at her spirit and fire.
"That's my Vonnie!" he said approvingly, and he held up his hands when she motioned for him to join her. "No need for me to step in, love, you're doing well enough on your own."
The rider rubbed his sore cheek and turned in anger to see Orel's oldest daughter laughing in his face. Lyla Bardone marched up and crossed her arms on her chest.
"Hmm, beastly manners and only good for menial labor. Must be an ass!" she said loudly and turned with a flounce of her shoulder. The rider stood in shock at her words.
"Now see here, young lady!" and he stalked after her toward the town square. That was a mistake because she gave him a loud dressing-down in front of all Dale. After her tirade, he stood with his mouth hanging open and stars in his eyes. A much humbler man later approached Orel to visit his daughter.
When they were done with their official duties, Legolas and Saraya spent as much time as they could in the woods and liked nothing better than to retire to their tiny forest home at night after feasting happily with the elves. Saraya, as Thranduil hoped and foresaw, brought a light and joyful spirit to the elves, and they quickly warmed to her. They also saw how happy Legolas was around her, and their hearts rejoiced that their somber prince was somber no longer. He often read to her in their cozy sitting room and taught her more about his people while she shared her hopes and dreams. One night he opened his treasure box and showed her all the mementos he had saved of their time together.
"Even when you were a child you brought joy to my life," he said as he lifted out each token and watched the happy memories play across her face. "My only regret is not realizing my feelings sooner, my own. We could have had more time together."
She shook her head and kissed him softly. "Don't forget that father would never have allowed it, so now is the perfect time." After being joined for a year, Saraya fainted one day to Legolas' great concern, and soon word was sent to Erebor that she was with child.
"It's not fair that Thranduil found out first," Thorin grumbled, but Grace coaxed him out of his bad mood.
"But we'll be there for the birth," she said encouragingly.
And that came to pass in the fullest sense of the word. At their yearly retreat at Erebor, which now included all husbands and wives, Saraya went into labor, which left the males pacing while the wives and Oin helped Saraya. The labor was long and difficult since the baby was large, and Legolas grew more and more concerned as the hours limped by. Finally, Thorin, Thranduil, Theran, and Legolas went back to the birthing room to see how things were faring, and they heard yelling and screaming. Their eyes went wide, and Legolas threw off Thorin's comforting arm from his shoulder and ran into the room.
"My love, my own," he cried as he flew to Saraya's side.
"The baby's not coming out, Legolas, and she's too exhausted to push," Grace said urgently. "You must help her find the strength, and we'll do what we can to save the baby."
Legolas grabbed Saraya's face and made her look at him. She cried out and closed her eyes, but he forced her to stay with him.
"Together with me, my own, together with me!" he cried. "I won't lose you both!"
"Now!" Grace and Aurelan yelled, and Legolas supported her while speaking his love into her mind. She pushed with all the strength she had left and fainted on the bed. All was silent for a moment before they heard the cries of a baby.
"A precious girl, my prince," Oin said in relief. Grace looked up and pushed loose strands of hair away from her face. Salida gathered all soiled birthing cloths while Aurelan prepared cool compresses for Saraya.
"The baby is healthy, Legolas. The danger has passed," Grace said, and everyone's shoulders slumped in relief.
He blinked and stared at the little bundle that Lara handed him and then turned back to Saraya. He knelt beside her, his eyes wide with fear, and he stroked her face and pushed her damp hair away from her forehead. Grace put her hand on her daughter and sent as much strength as she could, but then she shook her head.
"We need more help, Legolas," she said. "Get Thranduil and my husband and son."
Thorin strode in and stared at his daughter with open worry while Theran drew breath and looked around the room to gauge the severity of the situation. Thranduil and Legolas took positions on either side of her, while Thorin and Theran held her hands.
"She's lost a lot of blood," Grace said, "but with all of us helping her regain her strength, she will be well soon enough. Concentrate…," and they sent waves of love to her while Grace's remaining power pushed them along. Saraya's face slowly turned from gray to creamy gold, and she opened her eyes wearily.
"Legolas?" she whispered. He dropped beside her.
"Oh, Raya, I thought for a moment, I thought …" he said with tears welling and his voice breaking. "Don't ever leave me, don't ever …"
She reached out a weak hand and touched his face. "Our child?"
Then he smiled through his tears, and he showed her their daughter's tiny face.
"A little girl, Raya," he said proudly. She held their daughter for a short while but handed her back before she fell asleep with a smile on her face.
Each took turns holding the precious bundle. Thranduil closed his eyes and breathed deeply.
"You would have loved her, my dear," he whispered so softly that the others barely heard him. "You would have loved her."
Thorin wiggled his fingers impatiently while Thranduil took his time.
"My first grand-child," the dwarf king said when he held her at last, "and just as beautiful as her mother." Then he smirked at Legolas.
"Revenge is sweet!" he said chuckling and wagging his brows. "I only hope I'm still here when her suitor comes to call."
The elf prince stiffened. "I will certainly be following your example, Thorin," he said to much stifled laughter.
As the months passed by peaceably, Ored finally found love with an elf-maid he saw by chance in the forest. One day he was out hunting when he heard a soft, silvery sound. Intrigued, he hid behind a large tree and waited. He was rewarded by the sight of a delicate elf-maid humming to herself as she walked among the trees with her bow and arrows. She seemed to be out more to enjoy the woods than for sport, but she notched her arrow quickly enough when she heard a sound and then dashed away. Ored called after her, but she had disappeared. From then on, when possible, he headed to the woods in hopes of seeing her again. Sometimes, he only caught a flash of white-blond hair; at other times he heard snatches of a silvery voice singing more beautifully than any bird, but she always eluded him and ran from his voice. One day, he climbed a tall tree hoping for a better vantage point to find her.
"Who are you and why are you seeking me out?" a silver voice called from quite close by. He turned and saw her sitting in the tall tree opposite him. She had wide, green eyes and a delicate, heart-shaped face. He inhaled in delight at her beauty and smiled widely.
"I'm Prince Ored of Dale," he said bowing his head, "and I had to know if the vision of loveliness I saw was only in my imagination."
Her lips quirked at his gallantry, and she gracefully jumped from her tree to his.
"I am Zalia and marchwarden of this border," she said bluntly. "I know of you, Prince Ored."
She looked at him curiously. "Princess Saraya counts you as a dear friend and honorable man. I've also heard that you are in love with her."
He dropped his head.
"I was," he admitted in a low voice, "but I love her too well to deny the truth that she belongs with Legolas. I'm content that she's happy. It was always meant to be, and I've moved on."
She eyed him with surprise.
"You're unusually generous to see it so," she remarked. "Men are not usually so magnanimous. Her regard for you is well-placed."
Then she stood in her woodland garb and held her hand over her heart.
"Fare thee well, Prince Ored," she said and turned to leave, but he grabbed her hand.
"I wish to see you again, Zalia," he said. "I've been searching for you for many weeks."
Her brow furrowed.
"Why?" she asked. He cast about for the right words to say but finally answered with the only words that made sense.
"Because something in my heart glowed when I heard your voice," he said haltingly, "and I'm lonely and tired of being so."
She sat back down.
"So you wish a friend then?" she asked directly in what Ored was beginning to think was her usual manner.
"To start," he said cautiously but with a glint in his eye.
She hesitated and then laughed. She climbed down the tree and beckoned him to join her. He eagerly followed and bowed formally before her while she dipped into a graceful curtsy.
"You're different from most," she said. "I enjoy the woods because they are without artifice, unlike the polite talk of my kind. I'm too blunt for my kinsmen, so I keep to myself, which is why I asked for this assignment. I understand the woods, and the woods understand me."
He grinned, and his eyes lit with an excitement that he had not felt in years.
"Then we are alike for I also have little patience for dancing around the truth, although I know some concessions will be necessary when I am king," he said.
She tilted her head and looked at him speculatively.
"Indeed, but I find that a good heart and a sincere concern for the people always trumps politics among those with honest intent," she offered. Then she grimaced when other elves stepped into the clearing.
"We come with a summons for you to return home, princess," one said. "Your father offers his forgiveness and wishes your return."
Zalia glanced at Ored and frowned. Then she sighed sadly and dropped her head.
"What does this mean?" He asked anxiously. "Where is your home, and who is your father that you're a princess?"
She turned slowly.
"My father is king of another woodland realm," she said with a bitter note in her voice, "and I offended honored guests he hosted at our table."
"You called your illustrious suitor a snot-nosed whelp with sticky fingers!" declared a green-eyed elf with similar features. She glanced at him sourly and then turned to Ored.
"My brother, Derian," she said by way of introduction and rounded on him.
"Yes, but you didn't see his hand on my knee under the table, did you," she hissed, "or his attempts to force himself on me after the feast? So no wonder I asked to serve here and away from father's attempts to barter me off!"
Her brother's eyes opened wide, and Ored stepped in.
"She will not return yet because I, Prince Ored of Dale, ask to court her," he said standing tall and impressive, "and if she agrees, she will stay here."
Zalia's sparkling smile was enough encouragement for Ored, and he took her arm and led her back to Thranduil, who gladly decreed for her to stay until he could reach an accord with her father.
"Thank you," she whispered as they listened to Thranduil and Derian talk. "You didn't need to do that."
He took her hand. "I wanted to and would have even if your brother hadn't come, although perhaps I should have waited until we knew each other better, but I couldn't risk them taking you away from me so soon."
Derian agreed to let his sister stay while he sent word to their father of this new development.
Ored was delighted with Zalia, and the more they talked, the more he was drawn to her. Mortality was no longer an issue, and they walked and talked in through the woods for several weeks before he asked for her hand in earnest.
While the families and their peoples lived behind the barrier in safety, orcs took their revenge on dwarven settlements beyond. Delegations came to Erebor seeking help and, after much discussion, Thorin, Fili, and Kili decided to join forces and attack the orcs in the Gundabad Mountains. Of course, the other families had serious reservations about them fighting orcs on their own lands, but Thorin felt keenly that he owed help to those outside the barrier.
"Then I'm going with you," Grace said firmly. Thorin took her hand.
I'll not risk you, he said. You're too precious to me. I'll fight better knowing that you're safe at home.
She shook her head. You need me. I can't wait and wonder, Thorin. You are my heart just as much as I am yours. Don't leave me behind!
The dwarves from Ered Luin, Erebor, and the Iron Hills set out and fought a long and bloody battle in the mountains. Thorin was brought to his knees by a blow to the head but staggered to his feet to continue fighting while Fili protected his back. The orcs were decimated but at the cost of Kili who fell with a spear in his stomach. Thorin and Grace, both covered in black orc blood, ran to where he lay.
"We need to get him to the Grey Havens now, Thorin!" Grace said grabbing his arm. "His injuries are too serious for me to heal. He has little time left. All I can do now is prolong his life and ease his suffering."
Kili and Tirin had decided not to go to the Grey Havens and instead live out their lives with their people, but she was not ready when a convoy of weary and injured dwarves arrived pulling a litter that carried her gravely injured husband. The sight of her handsome, young husband looking so pale and near death shook her to her core, and she knew then that she could not let him go so soon.
"No!" she cried. "Not yet." She sent word and called her young son and her girls and their husbands to her.
"Get clean linens and cushions for your father, as well as ointments and medicines from the healers to speed healing and prevent infection," she ordered. Then she put her arms around her children. "I'm not ready to let him go, so we are leaving now for the Grey Havens. Do well by our people and then join us. Always remember how much we love you!"
She charged her daughters to prepare their brother to rule and swiftly wrote out instructions for succession. Council members gathered and swore to do right by Kili and Tirin's examples, and they mourned their young king's passing.
Fili stood looking utterly out of depth and lost at Ered Luin. He, himself, suffered minor injuries and stared unseeing at Kili's gaunt face.
"Fili," his brother croaked in a voice so faint that Fili thought he imagined it. He leaned down and put his ear next to Kili's mouth.
"Don't let me live with the elves by myself," Kili whispered. Fili and Nelda had not yet made their decision whether to stay or leave, but he answered firmly.
"Aye, Kili," he said, "I'll not desert you. Get everything ready for us. We'll be there soon, brother!"
Kili smiled faintly, and Tirin carefully stepped in beside him to care for him along the journey, and Grace, Thorin, and Fili sent them off.
Bard and Aurelan were the next to leave after she had been unwell for several years. Healers discovered a serious blood disease that would soon claim her life, so she and Bard prepared Ored and Zalia to rule.
"Father, I can't do this without you!" Ored said fearfully. "I have so much still to learn!"
Bard smiled and put his hand on his son's shoulder. "That is what will make you a great king, my son. Your humility and desire to do right by our people will guide you, and Zalia is discerning. Just remember that tact is not a bad thing. Besides, Thorin and your uncles will help you on your way."
Ored squared his shoulders and nodded. Then he hugged his mother.
"I'm content that you'll be well soon, mother," he said. "Vonnie and Boldir will meet you near the Grey Havens to say farewell."
In the course of time, whispers reached the ruling families of a growing evil in the West. From time to time, refugees arrived seeking asylum and help inside the barrier. Foreston grew, and Tyree's sons founded city states of their own, while Orel's daughters ruled with their husbands over neighboring towns.
Balin's beloved Agathil passed after a short illness, and all mourned deeply. In the following months, he grew restless and decided to reclaim Moria.
"It's foolish, Balin!" Thorin grumbled angrily. "Orcs roam over those lands, more than you can manage, and who knows how entrenched they are in our former halls."
Balin reached out his hand and touched Thorin's arm.
"My beloved Agathil is gone, Thorin," he said sadly, "and my bairns are grown with lives of their own. You reclaimed your kingdom, and now I want the chance to restore another. I'm almost at the end of my life as well, and I don't want to spend it watching others live theirs."
With that, Thorin bowed his head and gave his consent sadly.
"This will break Grace's heart," he said, "but I know she'll understand."
Saraya, Legolas, and their daughter, Callie, came to say their farewells. Grace and Saraya were distraught but tried to hide it for Balin's sake. Several of the old company decided to join him, including Dwalin and his wife, Smelia, and Thorin gave his blessing to all volunteers. He equipped them richly with all that they needed and pulled his old friend in for a hug.
"You'll be outside the barrier, Balin," he said, "and we won't be able to reach you in time if there's trouble. May Mahal guide you and keep you well, my dear friend."
Balin nodded and grinned up at his king.
"You are my best friend and leader, Thorin, and I'm honored to have followed you. Besides, you'll see me again, I don't doubt! This old dwarf still has a few tricks he hasn't tried out yet!"
Then Grace and Saraya threw themselves on him and squeezed the air out of the old dwarf.
Balin bowed and kissed her hand and then Saraya's. "My dearest girls," he said fondly.
Tyree and Salida left next after he suffered two heart attacks, but by then Aron and Nellwyn were already ruling, since Tyree's health had been failing for some time. Orel and Lara decided to go with them.
"Our numbers are dwindling, Thorin," Grace said as they lay in bed. He groaned with pain from his head injury that never quite healed, and she sang to him and rubbed his head and stroked his ears to ease the pain. His headaches had been growing worse, and over time he relied on Theran more and more to handle matters. Sighing softly in relief, he held her tightly and looked deep in her eyes.
"Do you want to go, my heart?" he asked. "Theran is ready to rule."
She shook her head. "Not until Saraya delivers safely. She had such trouble last time, and I don't want to leave until I know all's well. Then I will follow you anywhere."
He kissed her softly. "I like the sound of that."
The baby was due any time, and Legolas demanded to help his wife from the start, so elvish healers taught him what he should know, and Thorin and Grace arrived in the Woodland Realm just as labor began in earnest. Thranduil met them outside and hurried them in.
"Breathe, Raya, breathe!" Legolas implored as Grace, Thorin, and Thranduil rushed into the room.
"She's much bigger than last time," a healer whispered, "and she's having trouble again. She's too small to give birth to a full-sized elf-child."
Legolas gripped her hand and kept her eyes on him while Grace helped the healer. Even though it was not considered proper for other males to be there, Thorin was too worried about his daughter to care, and he moved into position to sit her up and support her back while Thranduil kept his hand on her upper arm to send her what strength he could.
"Steady, sweetheart," Thorin said soothingly, "we're all here to help you."
She screamed and gave a mighty push. The squall of a baby filled the room, and all cheered. Then she went rigid and grunted as she bore down hard.
"Mahal, there's two!" Thorin shouted.
Legolas took her face and commanded her to breath and then push when Grace and the healers called for it.
"Almost done, my own, almost done."
"Push!" Grace yelled, and Saraya grabbed Legolas' hands and pushed hard while Thorin held her shoulders. Another cry sounded, and Thorin slowly lowered his daughter against the cushions and kissed her forehead.
"Well done, my beautiful, beautiful girl," he said.
"Two boys, my lord," the healer said to a stunned Legolas, "and I'm afraid that these are the last children she will bear."
The prince turned slowly as everyone stared at the healers.
"I am so sorry, my lords and lady," the chief healer said, "but her womb is too badly damaged to support another child. We've managed to stop the bleeding and have given her herbs to close her womb. She would have died otherwise."
All looked at Legolas who held his boys in his arms, and they were surprised when he smiled widely and sighed in relief.
"Praise the Valar!" he said fervently.
Thranduil stepped forward and put his hand on Legolas' shoulder. "You aren't disappointed, my son?"
Legolas moved to sit next to Saraya, who had fallen asleep from exhaustion.
"I want my wife to live, father, and having my babes nearly killed her," he said. "Now we can love without fear or reservation. My sons and daughter are more than enough for me, and now I can enjoy them without worrying about losing Saraya. I am very happy with the news, and I suspect that she will be as well."
Soon after, Fili and Nelda sent word that they were leaving now that Seldrin had finally found a wife who would keep him in line. She was just as clever as her husband, and Seldrin could put nothing past her, although she was able to play several memorable pranks on him during their unusual courtship.
I miss Kili, uncle, Fili wrote, and I want to keep my promise. We'll be waiting for you.
Thorin read his note and then looked down at a missive sent by Lord Elrond. Something serious had happened, and a council was convening at Rivendell. Thorin thought to represent the dwarves, but Grace shook her head.
"It's time for someone else to go, Thorin," she said. "We've done enough, and I see that you aren't eating and sleeping as well as you used to. Your headaches are getting worse."
Thorin was loath to admit it, but this last battle injury left him in worse pain than he was willing to say. What bothered him most, however, was that the pain often kept him from loving his wife as much as he wanted to.
"A bit," he hedged. "Very well, perhaps I'll ask Gimli, Gloin's son, to go. He lives outside the barrier in the new settlement and probably knows more about what's going on."
Grace laughed. "He has no love of elves after several bested him in a contest of strength."
He grimaced. "Gloin told me that they cheated him, but who knows what really happened."
At the Woodland Realm, a similar conversation was playing out.
"You can't go, Legolas!" Saraya said. "What about our children?"
He held her around her waist and kissed her forehead.
"I'm certain it's nothing that requires more than meeting to give our thoughts and opinions," he said. "I have every intention of coming home soon."
Then he tipped her chin and kissed her.
"I have many reasons to hasten home."
Before he left, Thranduil met with him privately.
"I feel this is about a growing evil from Mordor and that much will be demanded of us, my son," Thranduil said heavily.
Legolas frowned and put his hand on his father's arm.
"I trust you to keep my wife and children safe," he said, and Thranduil nodded.
"The barrier will hold against anything in Middle-earth," he said, "and I pledge my life. They are my family as well, and nothing will harm them. Take Faldor with you. He is thoughtful and such minds are needed."
Legolas nodded shortly and spent one last night with his wife and children before he set out.
The next day Thorin and Grace asked Thranduil, Saraya, and the children to come to Erebor. They were shocked and worried at how haggard he appeared when he walked slowly to greet them.
"Father!" Saraya called out and ran into his arms crying. Thranduil exchanged glances with Grace, already guessing why he was summoned.
"We're leaving soon," Thorin said bluntly. "I am unwell, and Theran is already assuming my duties. Please send our love to Legolas."
Thranduil was saddened to see Thorin looking so old and tired, and he glanced at Grace and withheld his smile at her still-youthful face.
"Please help my son, Thranduil, and all the next generation," he said solemnly as he put his hands on the elf king's arms. "We are asking you to get them all home safely."
Thranduil nodded. It was a tall order, but he would see it through. They gathered all who remained and spent the last week visiting and making plans.
All of Erebor assembled and cried to see their king and queen leave but were comforted by Theran's steady presence. Thorin and Grace had spent their last two days playing with their grandchildren and reminiscing with their children. All those who remained gave them letters and packages for their parents, and their wagons creaked under their weight by the time they reached the Grey Heavens where Fili was waiting.
"Another adventure, uncle!" Fili said, happily rubbing his hands together. "But most of all I want to see Kili well."
"Is this the last fleet of boats?" Grace asked as she shielded her eyes in the bright sun. They had arrived a year ago to see Kili, young and healthy, waving from the dock along with the others. Thorin and Grace ran and embraced him and Tirin, and tears ran down their faces to see their old friends. Aurelan glowed with health, and Tyree had lost his pinched look of pain while Orel laughed and joked. Thorin, himself, stood hale and hearty, the twinkle in his eye restored. He looked over at Grace. She looked almost the same, and he shrugged, no longer caring.
"Look uncle!" Fili exclaimed and pointed to a small, lonely peak in the distance.
Kili stepped up. "Your brothers, aunt, made some, ahem, additions to the place to make you all feel more welcome."
The dwarf king stared at his very own scale-version of Erebor and grinned as he took his wife's arm.
"I feel at home already!" he said.
Thorin remembered their joyful reunion that day and hoped this bright morning would be even better. Correspondence came sporadically, but elves fleeing from the war told them what they knew and that Legolas was in terrible danger.
I think these are the last," Thorin said standing with the others. They had watched boat after boat dock, and elves from all over Middle-earth disembark, but still saw no signs of their families. Grace clutched his arm and looked over at Aurelan's worried face. Bard leaned over and kissed her frown away. Tyree stood grimly with Salida, and Orel tried to comfort Lara.
"I couldn't bear it if they didn't all make it, Bard," Aurelan said, leaning her dark head against his.
He patted her arm.
"Thranduil promised," he reassured her, "and they planned well. You'll see, my lily."
Four more boats docked, and no more appeared on the horizon. Lord Elrond, Gandalf, and Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel stepped off with Bilbo Baggins and another hobbit that they did not recognize. Behind them was Thranduil smiling widely.
"As promised," he said gesturing behind him as their families came rushing forward from the other boats. Theran nearly bowled his father over with a mighty hug while Saraya ran to Grace with Callie. Legolas followed behind carrying their sons.
"You made it, my friend!" Thorin said clapping him on the back. "We were so worried."
"You had reason to be," he replied soberly, and then he smiled, "but, by Aule, it's good to see you again!"
They all stood on the dock, and new grandchildren were introduced and cuddled. Finally, Thorin called their attention to the mountain peak, and they all turned and gasped.
"Compliments of Grace's most thoughtful brothers," he said proudly, "and you'll find smaller versions of your homes as they were."
They all talked excitedly, and Thorin pulled Grace to him and raised his hand.
"If someone had told me at the beginning of my quest that my life would turn out this way," he began, and he glanced over at Gandalf and Lord Elrond, both looking most amused, "I would have called them fools indeed, and yet here we all are. I wish that others could have joined us, and they may still find their way here, but I tell you all now that I am humbled and warmed by your love, and I would not be anywhere else. Now I invite you all to the new Erebor to rest, enjoy each other's company, and prepare for new adventures!"
They all cheered and headed to the horses and carriages that awaited them.
"I never imagined that your journey would end so well, Thorin," Gandalf said as he leaned over and shook his head in disbelief. "I thought your pride would be your downfall, but I stand corrected."
Thorin wrapped his arm around Grace and smiled.
"Long ago on that first night at Rivendell, I thought about the life I could have had with Grace," he said softly, and he gazed lovingly into her eyes, "and I despaired that it would ever come to pass, but this is more than I ever dreamed, and I am forever grateful."
And with a nuzzle of Grace's nose and kiss on the tip, he took her hand and caught up with the others.
"Happy, my heart?" he asked as he settled her on the pony in front of him. His gray hair and her golden locks blew and mingled in the breeze. She held his arms tighter around her and smiled as she leaned against him.
"Very," she replied. "All I need to be happy is to be with you," and their laughter caught on the wind as they followed the others home.
And now I say farewell! It's been a pleasure. When I'm done with my original story, I'll let you know with a post from this one. Cheers! Oh, and please review one last time!