A/N—Well, this is the final chapter, and so before I get started, I need to give out some special thanks to several different people.
First, my greatest appreciation goes to my beta, Ithilien. Without her, who knows what kind of junk would have ended up polluting this story. I know I have said it before, but you truly are the greatest, Ithilien. Thank you so much for all your help.
Also, thanks to my best friend, Mia, and my parents. All your support and friendly suggestions have helped make this writing experience truly enjoyable!
Finally, a GIGANTIC 'thank you' goes out to each and every person who has reviewed this story, whether once, or 32 times. I cannot even describe to you the joy I felt each time I received your reviews. This story ended up being a bit longer than I had intended, but you all stuck with me, and that means a lot to me. You guys have made writing this story not only fun, but self-satisfying as well. THANK YOU!!!
And now, without further ado, I give you…
Chapter 33 A Time For Rest
Legolas was nearing the end of his endurance.
Never before had his body felt so weak, so drained, each passing minute sapping him of even more strength. Every step, every breath was becoming increasingly difficult, leaving him teetering dangerously on the brink of collapse. Every inch of his body was screaming in pain, the hurt so fierce that Legolas found himself longing for the black oblivion of unconsciousness, so that his suffering might ease, even if only by the smallest of measures. Only the certain knowledge that to falter now would endanger not only himself, but also his companions, allowed him the strength to keep moving. But even that would soon not be enough. Already he had stumbled several times, and were it not for the steadying hands of his friends, he would have certainly fallen and not likely risen again.
"He cannot go much further, Aragorn." Gimli's concerned voice sounded from Legolas' left side as he stumbled yet again, his friends' arms immediately tightening around him to keep him from falling.
"The inn is just ahead," Aragorn replied grimly. "If he falls, we will have to carry him, Gimli."
Legolas' jaw clenched. His friends' words, combined with the fact that they were talking about him rather than to him, served to add further injury to his already severely battered pride. Unfortunately, it was taking every ounce of strength left within him to merely place one foot in front of the other, and he had not the breath to object to this insult. And if he were completely honest, he would have to admit that Gimli was correct in stating that he could not go much further. But he was not about to let his friends carry him either. Aragorn would not be able to with his injured arm, and the mere thought of Gimli trying to lift him was enough to safely jerk his mind back from the brink of unconsciousness.
Aragorn and Gimli had stopped, and Legolas stumbled to a halt also, wondering vaguely if he would ever be able to start again.
"The inn," Aragorn murmured, motioning to the squat front of a building across the street and a few yards down.
"There is no sign of Kiesco or any others waiting for us," Gimli muttered thoughtfully, squinting in the early morning sunlight.
"That does not mean they are not there," Aragorn replied grimly. "Kiesco knows where we were staying. It is highly likely he has men stationed inside ready to inform him the moment we return. I am afraid we will have to leave our saddlebags behind, Gimli. It is simply too great of a risk to try and retrieve them."
"What of the horses?" Gimli asked. "Will they not be guarded as well?"
Aragorn slowly shook his head. "Kiesco does not know that we are onto him, nor does he realize we are trying to leave. With any luck, he will not have posted a guard in the stables. It matters not though, whether there are guards or not. We must retrieve the horses, for we will never make it out of Norvil on foot." This last was said with a pointed look in Legolas' direction.
Legolas realized that he should probably add his own opinion to the discussion, but he was still trying to catch his breath from the trip to the inn, and he couldn't think of a single think he might say anyway.
"Stay with Legolas, Gimli. I will go and see if our way is clear."
Before Gimli could argue, Aragorn had crossed the street and headed toward the inn, skirting close to the wall so that he might hide his presence from anyone looking out from one of the building's many windows. Legolas and Gimli watched him apprehensively until he disappeared down the side alley beside the inn. Then the waiting began.
Fortunately, they did not have to wait very long before Aragorn reappeared and began hurrying back toward them, once again using the same stealth motion as he had before.
"The way is clear," he gasped as he reached them. "We must hurry though."
With the help of Aragorn and Gimli, Legolas began to stumble forward once more, though he could not contain a low moan of pain. He wanted this nightmare to be over. He wanted to be able to simply lie down somewhere and rest, to let his mind drift away from this world of pain and worry. When would this mad flight come to an end?
"Just a little further, Legolas," Aragorn murmured encouragingly, as though reading Legolas' thoughts. "The going will be easier on horseback, and once we reach our soldiers' camp, I will have the supplies I need to properly tend to you."
Legolas nodded, still finding the act of speaking too great of an effort, especially now that they were moving once more. They hurried down the short alley beside the inn, then made a quick dash toward the open doors of the stable. A young boy was sitting on a stool by the door, polishing some saddles, and he leapt to his feet as they rushed in. His eyes grew quite wide at the site of them, and his mouth opened as though he were about to speak, but Aragorn quickly reached into a pocket of his tunic and tossed a silver coin in the lads direction.
"For your silence, boy," he said simply as they hurried past.
"Yes, sir!" the boy answered enthusiastically. "Would you like any help with your horses?"
"No," Aragorn called back over his shoulder, already heading toward the far end of the stables, "But if you would be so kind as to stand at the door and give a shout if you see anyone coming, it will be worth another coin."
Looking back over his shoulder, Legolas saw the boys' eyes light up as he quickly turned to do as Aragorn had asked.
At the sight of Legolas, Shandarell began banging against the sides of his stall, neighing loudly in his excitement, so delighted was he at seeing Legolas. The three friends made their way toward him. Legolas could not hold back a weak smile at the sight of his faithful horse, and when they reached the stall, he caught Shandarell's head in his hands and began stroking the horses' soft nose. Shandarell whickered in delight, and began snuffling along the collar of Legolas' tunic, his warm breath stirring the elf's long hair.
Legolas leaned heavily against Shandarell's stall door as Gimli and Aragorn worked on saddling and bridling Cierno. Both of them were talking in hushed voices that even Legolas could not make out, and every now and then one of them would glance worriedly in his direction.
'They are talking about me again,' Legolas thought glumly, his shoulders stiffening slightly at the rankling thought.
When Cierno was ready, Aragorn moved to stand next to Legolas. "Let me help you mount," he ordered gently as he opened the stall door and allowed Shandarell to move out into the corridor.
Legolas would have liked to mount on his own, but he wise enough to realize that if he tried, he would undoubtedly end up flat on his back. And so he allowed Aragorn to boost him up onto Shandarell's back, gasping at the sharp pain in his side. He swayed dangerously for a moment, but then Gimli was hoisted up behind him, and the dwarf's thick arm snaked gently around his waist, offering support.
"We will take it slow as much as we are able," Aragorn assured them as he moved to mount Cierno. "I will be riding right beside you Gimli. If he starts to fall, let me know."
"I will not fall," Legolas growled through clenched teeth, glaring at Aragorn. His brief rest against the stall had helped him regain his breath, and though he was reeling from pain and lightheadedness, he was relieved to know he would not have to walk any further.
Aragorn looked relieved at his response, and went so far as to offer him a small grin. "Shall we go then?" he asked softly.
Legolas nodded, squeezing Shandarell's sides gently. The great horse was still shaking somewhat in his excitement, but he refrained from his normal enthusiastic prancing, sensing his riders' need for a smooth and gentle gait. Legolas was grateful for this, unsure if he would have been able to calm the horse in his present condition.
On the way out of the stable, Aragorn tossed the young boy a second silver coin, then led the way back down the side alley. They had just moved out onto the main road and turned west when a loud shout sounded from behind them.
"There they are! They are escaping!"
Legolas turned to see a large mob of people streaming down the street in their direction, their faces filled with anger and hatred. Their hands gripped various weapons ranging from swords to simple pitchforks. Most of the group were on foot, but at least two dozen men, led by Kiesco himself, were mounted. Their loud shouts echoed through the streets, and Legolas felt a shiver of apprehension run down his spine.
"Ride!" Aragorn shouted, and Legolas did not need to be told twice. He dug his heals into Shandarell's side while gripping the horse's main in a white knuckled fist. His vision went dark for a few terrifying moments as the horse leapt forward, sending waves of agony throughout his entire body. Gimli had a firm hold around his waist, however, and through sheer force of will he was able to fight back the darkness and keep his seat.
Angry shouts sounded from behind them, soon followed by the unmistakable sound of pursuit. Legolas did not dare risk his precarious balance by trying to look behind him, but he could tell that their pursuers were hot on their trail.
"Ride to the West," Aragorn cried as soon as the hard packed street of Norvil gave way to dried and dead grass as the last few houses of the town drifted behind them. "If we can get to the soldiers' camp…"
But the rest of what he was going to say was abruptly cut off as Cierno stumbled heavily, nearly pitching Aragorn from his back. The horse recovered from the fall almost immediately, but there was a limp to his stride now, and he inevitably began to slow. Aragorn's face was grim, but he continued to urge Cierno on, coaxing the horse with soft words and gentle strokes to his neck. In response, Legolas slowed Shandarell to match the injured horse's pace.
"We will never make it, Aragorn," Gimli called from behind Legolas. "They are gaining on us."
Legolas risked a quick glance over his shoulder and saw that the dwarf was right. Kiesco and the other mounted men were indeed gaining on them, their faces filled with an evil malice. Legolas had never before so missed the absence of his bow and quiver of arrows. He was completely weaponless, though he doubted he would be able to do much in a battle in any case. He drained of all strength, helpless and weak, yet even if he had been in fine health it was doubtful they would be able to resist the overwhelming numbers against them.
"Keep riding," Aragorn ordered, though it was obvious from the expression on his face that he too realized the situation was hopeless.
Legolas ground his teeth, fierce anger sweeping unexpectedly through him at the unfairness of the situation. How could they fail? After all they had been through, how could it end like this? He cursed the ill turn of fate. Was life really so cruel, so unfair? He found himself wishing that Aragorn and Gimli had never chosen to come after him. He did not want to see them die in this cold and hateful land. He would have rather suffered at the hands of Merton for all of eternity rather than see that.
Just when despair was beginning to enfold him completely in its cold and bitter shroud, an excited shout from Aragorn ripped him from his melancholy. Ahead of them, just mounting a low rise, was a large group of soldiers. They were dressed in the colors of Aragorn's guard, and hope flared anew within Legolas at the sight. Though the soldiers were still a fair distance away, they were moving swiftly in the direction of the elf, dwarf, and King. Captain Jeralk rode at their front, his sword free of its scabbard.
Legolas took the initiative and glanced again behind him to see that Kiesco and his men were slowing. Their faces showed alarm at the sight of the charging soldiers. Legolas smiled grimly, then resumed his focus to what lie ahead of him just as Shandarell leapt over a small knell in the ground. Normally such a small jump would have been completely unworthy of notice, but in Legolas' condition it turned out to be his undoing. Because he had been looking behind him, he had not been prepared for the jump. As Shandarell landed smoothly on the far side of the knell, Legolas pitched forward, off balance. The abrupt jar, combined with Gimli's arm tightening around his waist caused Legolas' body to explode in sudden pain, and he let out a soft cry.
He was vaguely aware of the sound of horses pounding past him, and then Gimli's shout of alarm, before he felt himself tumbling sideways. Shandarell immediately slowed as he felt his rider slipping, but it was already to late.
'This is going to hurt,' Legolas thought distantly as he felt himself falling through open air. He was unconscious before he struck the ground.
Floating in a black oblivion, he felt his world calm, the darkness offering solace for his pain. He was content to drift along, paying no attention to the passing of time, his mind at last finding desperately needed rest. If a part of him objected to the darkness, warning him of the danger of staying here too long, it was buried deep, and he paid no mind to it. He forgot all about his troubles, about the danger to both his friends and himself. Life and light might have continued on around him, but he was oblivious to its presence as it slipped past him, unheeded.
It was some time before he found the strength to rebel against the darkness. Once he did, his journey back to consciousness was not a pleasant one.
As the darkness in his mind began to clear, the first thing he became aware of was pain. A lot of pain. His entire body ached, and a tight band seemed to have settled around his chest, making breathing a somewhat difficult chore. His head was pounding fiercely, and his eyelids, quite against his own consent, seemed to have firmly shut, casting the world into darkness. This might not have been a problem, except that they were now refusing to open, and he did not seem to have the energy to force them. He felt as weak as a newborn baby, and this feeling did not sit well with him at all.
The voice seemed to drift to him from very far away, familiar, yet at the same time unreachable. He moaned in frustration, or at least, he would have if his mouth hadn't decided to rebel against him as well. It seemed he had absolutely no control over any part of his body, and this fact was beginning to cause him to panic. Why couldn't he move? Would he ever escape this darkness? It had been comforting at first, shielding him from the pain, but now it was only taunting him, keeping him from the light he knew lay so near.
"I think he might be waking up." The voice was back, and though Legolas heard the words, he was having trouble putting together their meaning.
"How can you tell? He looks exactly the same as he has for the last two days, Aragorn." This voice was lower and somehow more gruff than the first, and at its sound Legolas felt himself drift a bit closer to the brink of consciousness.
"That is not entirely true, Gimli. His face has regained some color, and his breathing is no longer as labored as it was before."
"This is true. For a while there I thought for sure we were going to lose him." The second voice had dropped even lower, and there was a grave note to its tone.
"He will live, Gimli, have no fear. If he were a man, I would not be so sure, but already his wounds are mending nicely."
"He lost too much blood," the gruff voice replied. "When he fell from the horse…. I tried to catch him, Aragorn, but—"
"Do not blame yourself master dwarf. I am sure he would not want that."
'They are talking about me,' Legolas slowly realized, and with this dawning comprehension he felt the last reluctant grips of darkness release his mind. He felt control of his bodily function return to him, and with a great effort he forced his eyes open, blinking them groggily against the bright rays of the sinking sun. He was lying on his back on the ground, a soft piece of folded cloth serving as a pillow. A blanket was laid over him, and beneath its thick covering he was stripped to the waist. He could feel the tight pressure of a bandage wrapped tightly around his ribs, and as he shifted restlessly he realized more bandages bound both his wrists and his left thigh.
"He's awake!" a voice cried out joyfully from beside him, and Legolas winced as the pounding in his head increased somewhat. Two shadows fell over him then, and with some difficulty he was able to make out the features of Aragorn and Gimli, their faces both furrowed in concern. Gimli sported a small bandage above his left eye, and Aragorn's right arm was bound from wrist to elbow, but neither of them looked to be gravely injured. Legolas was relieved, though he could not recall exactly why he would have believed them in danger.
"How do you feel, Legolas?" Aragorn asked softly, brushing the back of his hand gently across Legolas' brow.
Legolas tried to answer, but found that his mouth was too dry, his throat too parched to form any words. Fortunately Aragorn seemed to realize his dilemma, for the cool rim of a cup was pressed to his lips and a small trickle of water was allowed to flow down his throat.
"Better?" Aragorn asked after removing the cup, and Legolas nodded.
"What…what happened?" he questioned weakly, his mind trying desperately to pull together the shattered bits of memory flittering tauntingly just outside his grasp. "Where are we?"
"We are approximately two days ride from Norvil," Aragorn answered matter-of-factly. "As for what happened? That is a bit of a longer story. What do you remember."
Legolas closed his eyes and concentrated hard on remembering. He recalled stumbling through the streets of Norvil, desperate for rest and nearly collapsing from pain. He remembered retrieving Shandarell from the stable at the inn, and then being chased out of the city by a large mob, but after that his memory went completely blank. "We were being pursued," he mumbled slowly, "By Kiesco and some other men. But how did we escape?"
"We almost didn't," Gimli replied grimly. "If Captain Jeralk and his men hadn't shown up, we would all be dead now."
Aragorn nodded. "They came right in time," he agreed. "Jeralk says a man dressed all in black came to their camp and warned him we might be needing help getting out of the city. He said the man wouldn't tell him why, but merely left his warning and then rode off. Jeralk didn't know whether to believe him or not, but in the end decided to take a group of soldiers and ride toward the city to check it out for himself. It is lucky for us that he did."
"A man dressed all in black?" Legolas questioned, struggling to sit up. Both Aragorn and Gimli immediately reached out to push him back down, and Legolas, lacking the strength to resist them, gave in. "What did he look like?"
Aragorn was looking down at Legolas sternly, obviously prepared to give him a lecture about staying still, but his expression changed at Legolas question and tone of voice. "Do you know who the man is, Legolas," he asked, obviously curious. "Whoever he is, we owe him our life."
Legolas stared at Aragorn for a moment, then slowly shook his head. He did not know why, but he somehow suspected the man who had warned Jeralk to come to their aid had been Tervanis. But if he told Aragorn this he would then have to explain why, and he did not feel quite ready to do that yet. "How long have I been unconscious?" he asked, choosing instead to change the subject. For a moment Aragorn appeared as though he would press the matter, but much to Legolas' relief he did not.
"Two days," Gimli answered briskly. "You gave us quite a scare, elf. Next time you consider tumbling from your horse, kindly do not do it while I am riding behind you!"
"Two days," Legolas gasped, and then the rest of the dwarf's statement hit him. "I fell off Shandarell?" he asked, groaning. "That makes two times in the span of a few weeks!"
"Two times?" Gimli asked, raising his eyebrows. "When did you—"
"I'll explain later," Legolas interjected weakly, turning his attention back to Aragorn "Finish telling me what happened after Captain Jeralk arrived."
"There is not much more to tell," Aragorn replied. "Kiesco and his men are dead, except for a few who escaped and fled back to the town. We feared they would return with greater numbers, and so we moved camp and have been traveling slowly back toward the border."
Legolas digested this information, then repeated as if to confirm it. "And I have been unconscious for two days?"
Gimli and Aragorn both nodded. "Your body needed the rest," Aragorn murmured softly. "I fear we pushed you to far."
"We had no choice," Legolas answered lightly. "I understand this Aragorn. I would hold you blameless for my injuries and recovery."
Aragorn nodded, but he still looked somewhat glum.
Legolas sought to distract him. "Tell me who that man was in the alley outside Merton's guild?" he asked with his returning recollection and mounting curiosity. "What was that talk about a medallion?"
Gimli and Aragorn exchanged glances, and then began telling Legolas about their meeting with Thorbis, leader of the thieves' guild, and their dangerous alliance with the man in order to free Legolas and defeat Merton. Legolas' eyes widened slightly at the tale, and when Aragorn told of how Gimli had offered his life in exchange for the medallion, he turned to stare in surprise at the dwarf.
"Elvellon…" he began, but Gimli, looking extremely embarrassed, interrupted him.
"I knew the medallion would be found," he stated dismissively, waving a hand in the air. "Do not try to thank us, elf, for it was nothing."
Nothing? Legolas looked back and forth between his two dearest friends. It seemed they had both suffered so much in order to free him. He owed them both more than he could ever repay, and a simple thanks somehow did not seem enough.
"You are our friend, Legolas," Aragorn said softly, as if reading his mind. "You would have done the same for either of us. In truth, if it were not for you, I would be dead now. You saved my life in Merton's office, and I was never given the chance to thank you."
"And yet if it weren't for me you would not have been there in the first place," Legolas pointed out. "Both of you have sacrificed much for me."
"Aragorn is right," Gimli stated stoutly. "We are friends Legolas, and true friends do not abandon each other in times of need. Now let us forget this silly topic and move on to something more important. Legolas, I want to hear everything that has happened to you from the moment you left Minas Tirith."
Aragorn and Legolas stared in wonder at the dwarf, but then quickly broke into grins at Gimli's obvious embarrassment. The dwarf clearly wanted to change the subject, and after a moment Legolas decided to accommodate him.
"Very well," Legolas said lightly. "But first, I would like another drink of water, Aragorn, and then I am going to sit up. I am tired of having to squint up at the two of you."
Aragorn and Gimli both frowned and tried to argue, but Legolas remained resolute, and in the end Aragorn agreed that he would probably be fine if they propped him against the base of a tree. It took a few minutes to get him properly settled, and though Legolas was in some pain by the time they had finished, he was also relieved to be off his back. Both Gimli and Aragorn were watching him like a hawk, but Legolas managed to ignore them as shifted to find a comfortable position and then began telling his tale.
He started with his and Dar's capture in Minas Tirith, and went on to explain the long journey that had brought them to Norvil. His explanation took a long time, partly because Gimli and Aragorn kept interrupting with questions. If either of them thought he was leaving something out, they would grill him incessantly until he explained in greater detail.
"Svellon." Aragorn murmured softly, his brow furrowed in thought as Legolas reached the part of Dar's escape and his own subsequent poisoning. "I have never heard of it."
"It is a horrible drug," Legolas stated grimly. "I do not remember much of the rest of the journey." He hoped neither of his friends would press him for more detail. He did not particularly wish to relive the torturous effects of the drug upon his body. Thankfully his friends seemed to sense this and did not press him.
"When did they put you in the cage?" Gimli asked gruffly after a few moments of silence in which Legolas tried to collect his thoughts.
Legolas stared at him in surprise. "How did you…" he began, but Aragorn answered his question before he could finish.
"We saw the cage as we were searching the guild for you and Servius. So they did put you in it?"
Legolas nodded. They were getting to the more difficult parts of his story, and he suddenly wished he could claim weariness and have his friends leave him in peace. And yet he knew he would have to explain things to them sooner or later, for they would have it no other way, and it would probably be best to get it over with now.
"And why did they have you moved?" Gimli asked, his voice sounding strangely gentle.
Legolas winced. That was the last question he wanted to answer. How did he explain to his friends that Merton had moved him because he had started to lose his mind. Because the darkness had been too much for him and he had collapsed beneath its weight. His pride was burning within him, and try as he might he could not think of a suitable answer.
"They moved him, Gimli, because Merton did not wish to risk having him die before I had arrived and he could use him against me," Aragorn said softly, his gaze fixed on Legolas "Legolas was undoubtedly still suffering from whatever poison the assassin gave him, and Merton wanted to make sure he was somewhere where he could heal properly."
Legolas stared up at Aragorn in surprise, reading the understanding and compassion in the man's eyes. He felt waves of relief wash over him, and he nodded at Aragorn in appreciation. Aragorn smiled slightly and nodded in return.
"Tell us about the assassin, Legolas," Gimli urged, showing his own understanding by his willingness to change the subject.
Legolas shrugged. "Tervanis confuses me," he stated simply. "I do not understand him, nor do I think I ever will. He is like no other human I have ever met. He wanted to fight me, and yet when he realized the battle was unevenly matched, he left me alive with the promise that we would face each other again another day."
Neither Gimli nor Aragorn appeared too happy to hear this piece of news.
"He said he was coming after you again?" Gimli demanded, his face darkening in anger.
"Why is he so intent on fighting you?" Aragorn added, "It does not make sense."
Legolas shook his head. "I told you he confused me. He said something about waiting for this challenge his whole life. He did not exactly say that he was coming after me Gimli, only that we would meet again."
"He sounds rather mad to me," Gimli grumbled darkly, "And if he thinks he is going to fight you again someday, he will have to get past me first!"
"So what do you intend to do, elvellon?" Legolas asked gently, "Stand guard on me for the rest of your life?"
"Gimli is right, Legolas," Aragorn spoke up before Gimli could reply, "I think this matter is serious. I do not like the thought of a trained assassin hounding your every steps."
"Yet what can we do?" Legolas replied. "Tervanis and I will face each other again some day, Aragorn, of this I am certain. I do not look forward to that day, but I do not fear it either. Do you and Gimli have so little faith in me that you would shut me away in a box in order to protect me?"
"It is not that we do not have faith in you, Legolas," Gimli objected. "It is just that….well….I mean…"
"We do not want to see you get hurt," Aragorn finished for him, his eyes locked on Legolas. "Valar knows you have had enough pain since you have known us."
Legolas was touched by his friends' concern, and he sought for a way to reassure them. "Perhaps nothing will come of this," he said lightly. "Perhaps we are worrying for nothing."
"Perhaps," Aragorn answered softly, but in their hearts, they all knew this was not the truth.
It took them over a week to reach the homestead of Del and Fandon. They journeyed slowly, giving Legolas plenty of opportunities to stop and rest. Though the elf was steadily recovering, his wounds had been severe and numerous, and it would take some time for him to heal completely. Aragorn and Gimli were never seen far from his side, like two protective nursemaids fussing over their accident prone child. Legolas, who normally would have enjoyed his friends' company, began wearing a look of exasperated annoyance and tried to avoid them whenever given a chance. Unfortunately, this did not seem to deter Aragorn or Gimli in the slightest.
When they were a half a day's ride away from the homestead, Aragorn sent a soldier ahead with news of their arrival. The man returned several hours later with the message the Del and Fandon welcomed them into their home once more, and invited them to stay for as long as they would like. Aragorn had suspected this response, and he began thinking of ways in which he could repay the friendly family for all that they had done for them.
Kenson Brantz was there to greet them as they rode into the homestead's large yard. He rushed forward as Aragorn dismounted, a wide, relieved grin on his face. Aragorn offered his left hand to the man, his right still heavily bandaged, and the two shook.
"Thank the Valar you have returned safely," Kenson said joyfully, his eyes shifting to where Legolas was dismounting from Shandarell under the watchful eye of Gimli. "I see your mission was successful," he added, "You will have to tell me everything that happened."
"It is a long story," Aragorn warned him with a weary smile. "How is Dar?"
Kenson's grin grew even wider. "He is doing much better," he said lightly as Gimli and Legolas moved over to join them. "Del has insisted that he start taking short walks in the afternoon in order to regain his strength. He is walking right now with Eleana."
There was something in the way that Kenson said this that caused Aragorn to smile. "Del's eldest daughter?" he mused softly. "She is very beautiful."
"So Dar has noticed," Kenson responded, his eyes practically glowing. "They spend most of every day together."
Just then the subject of their conversation entered the main yard from around the barn, Dar's face lighting up at the site of them. Legolas smiled and moved over to greet him even as Del and Fandon came out of the house to welcome their guests.
They stayed at the homestead for three days, resting and recovering their strength. Then they rode on for Minas Tirith, the weather favoring them so that they made good time. It took them only three days to reach the White City, and Faramir and Arwen were there to meet them as they rode into the main courtyard of the Citadel, dusty and weary, but glad the journey was over. Arwen raced forward as Aragorn dismounted and threw her arms around him, clutching him so tightly he thought he might be crushed. He returned her embrace gently, breathing in deeply of her sweet scent and realizing, perhaps for the first time, just how deeply he had missed her.
"I am so glad you are home," she whispered against his shoulder. "So glad you are safe!" She released him then, but only long enough to embrace Legolas, and then, to the dwarf's everlasting embarrassment, Gimli as well.
Faramir stood behind her, grinning widely, his handsome face filled with relief. "I knew you would be safe," he called out cheerfully. "Once you were together again, that is."
Aragorn smiled and glanced toward Gimli and Legolas. "Yes," he murmured softly. "Together we can handle anything." His gaze fixed on Legolas then, and an unspoken message passed between them.
"Come, tell us all that has happened," Arwen urged, moving back into Aragorn's embrace.
Aragorn smiled, and together the companions began making their way toward the front doors of the Citadel, home at last.
THE END…..for now. ^_^
I hope you have all enjoyed this story, and I thank you for reading it on until the end. You are all the GREATEST!!!! There will probably be major revisions to this last chapter eventually, but at the moment I am out of time. You get the point, anyway…^_^
And now for an important announcement regarding the sequel to this story! I DO intend to write another fic in which Legolas and Tervanis face one another again, but before I do this, I would like each and every one of you to help me. How? By simply sending me your suggestions. What and who would you like to see featured in this story. Obviously it is going to focus on Legolas and Tervanis, but what supporting characters would you like to be featured as well. Let me know what you want to see in this next fic! If you have any ideas, share them. I know there are some wonderful imaginations out there, so let me see what you can come up with. I will take any and every suggestion, though I will tell you now that I will not write any slash in the story. I will probably not be able to use every idea, but I still want to know what you all want, and then I will do the best I can. You can send your suggestions to email@example.com. If you leave your suggestion in a review, I cannot promise I will have it on hand when I actually begin writing, and so I ask that you do send it via email if at all possible. I hope you all will take part in this, and I am looking forward to hearing your suggestions!
That said, it may be a while before this next story actually appears. I am going to be basically incommunicado for over a month, and my time on ff.net will be EXTREMELY limited. My family is going on vacation, and when we get back I head off for my first year of college away from home. I won't be writing until I am well settled in, and I cannot tell you how long that will be. I will do my best to hurry though, I promise. ^_^
One last thing before I sign off. If anyone is in need of a beta reader, check out Elenora. You can send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Goodbye for now, and thanks for all the fun!!!!