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A Spring of Joy  by daw the minstrel

Many thanks to Nilmandra for beta reading this chapter for me.


8. Facing Loss

Thranduil crouched next to Emmelin. “What is it?” he cried. “Where is Celuwen?”

“Here I am.” He turned his head to see an obviously worried Celuwen hasten into the clearing with Loriel on her hip. “What has happened?”

Thranduil’s breath caught, and for a second, he was aware only of his relief that Loriel was safe, although she was obviously frightened as she gazed wide-eyed at the suffering Emmelin. Indeed, even as Thranduil watched, Loriel burst into tears of sympathy and buried her face in her mother’s neck. Celuwen swayed slightly, rocking her and murmuring, “Hush, sweetling.”

Thranduil turned back to Emmelin, with horror spreading through him at the suspicion that now blossomed in his head. “What is it, Emmelin?” She raised a stunned, white face to him and opened and closed her mouth, as if unable to make the frightening words come. Into Thranduil’s mind came tumbling a memory from long ago when something that had felt like part of himself had suddenly vanished, leaving a gaping hole in his heart. In that long-ago time, he had come abruptly to his feet in the Great Hall, gasping for air and unable to speak to those who sprang to his aid in alarm.

The sound of running feet made him look to see Ithilden burst into the clearing, his bow in his hand and three Home Guard warriors at his back. Ithilden looked first at the still sobbing Loriel. “Is she hurt?” he demanded. Celuwen shook her head.

Ithilden let out a long breath and lowered his bow. Then his eyes went to Emmelin, and suddenly his face tensed, as if only now that he knew that Loriel was safe did he have attention to spare for his daughter-in-law and whatever her grief represented. He took a faltering step toward her, and Thranduil saw his face, too, drain of all color. And then, unexpectedly, he stumbled and put out a hand to brace himself against a tree trunk. He raised his head, and his eyes met Thranduil’s, and his face abruptly filled with astonished grief.

For just a second, Thranduil closed his eyes, shutting out the sight and knowledge of what he could not bear to believe was true. Then he opened them again. “Celuwen, run and fetch Emmelin’s naneth.” His voice was so calm that he could scarcely believe it was coming from his own mouth. Celuwen whirled and hastened off, with Loriel still on her hip, hiccupping with small sobs.

Thranduil put his arm around Emmelin and helped her to her feet. “Come, child. Let us go home.” He knew better than to offer her false hope. He had known with absolute certainty that Lorellin was gone, and he had no doubt that Emmelin knew with certainty about Sinnarn.

Looking dazed, Ithilden pushed himself away from the tree trunk and came forward to embrace Emmelin. Then he looked at Thranduil. “I need to find Alfirin.”

Thranduil nodded. “Go. I will help Emmelin get home.” With a last pat on Emmelin’s shoulder, Ithilden turned, spoke quickly to his warriors, and then ran toward the stronghold. Thranduil followed after him, murmuring what comfort he could to his granddaughter-by-marriage. And in Thranduil’s imagination, a dark-haired sprite of an elfling ran along beside them, laughing and chattering excitedly about whatever Arda had offered him that day. With a small part of his mind, he noted almost without realizing it that whatever danger had lurked in the woods was gone. The trees were concerned only over their king and those that he loved.


Eilian reached for an arrow to replace the one that had fallen from his trembling fingers, but Maltanaur stumbled up next to him and drew him deeper into the shadows under a pine tree. He was about to protest when he heard someone speaking.

“Leave them. Search for others.”

Blood roared in Eilian’s ears, and for a moment, he could not breathe. Then he heard Orcs running past them, and a horse trotting away. With what felt like a release from bonds, strength returned to him, and he wrenched himself free from Maltanaur and ran on silent feet toward where he had heard Sinnarn and then the Orcs and horseman.

In the shadowy dark, he was nearly upon Sinnarn and Tynd before he saw them. In disbelief, he froze for a second and then sprang forward to crouch next to Tynd, who lay sprawled face downward, with an arrow in his back, reaching into a trench in which Sinnarn lay on his back, staring up at the sky, with three arrows in his chest. Eilian sprang into the trench. He could see now that, covered in branches, it extended to either side, ready to trap the unwary who might approach Dol Guldur. He put his trembling fingers on the side of Sinnarn’s neck, but he knew before he did it that he was too late. His nephew was dead.

Maltanaur spoke from the edge of the trench, where he had rolled Tynd over. “Tynd is dead.” His voice was gentle. “Hand Sinnarn up to me, Eilian. We need to take the two of them and leave at once.”

For a moment, Eilian did not move. He stared into the face of Ithilden’s son, which in death looked unbearably young and bewildered rather than frightened.

“Eilian,” urged Maltanaur. “We cannot tarry. That horseman was one of the Nine. We have to leave now before he comes back.”

Eilian looked up at him. “A Nazgűl?” He felt as if his brain had stopped working, and he could take in almost nothing.

Maltanaur nodded grimly. “I had hoped I would never feel that terror again, but there is no mistaking it after you have felt it even once. Give me Sinnarn. We need to be on our way.”

Eilian looked down again at the body of Sinnarn, and then, with a sob he could not repress, he bent and gathered it in his arms.


Legolas led Beliond and Annael out of the trees and along the path that ran through the warriors’ areas. “We should report at once to Ithilden,” Legolas said. “He needs to know that we have tracked Gollum back here.” He turned onto a side path, and with Annael and Beliond just behind him, he entered the open door of the building housing Ithilden’s office.

Ithilden’s aide looked up from the even larger than usual stack of paperwork he was sorting. Something flitted across his face that Legolas could not quite identify. “Is Ithilden here, Calith?” he asked.

“No.” Calith looked past Legolas at Annael. “Do not be alarmed, Annael, but you are needed at home.”

Legolas turned quickly to see Annael blink and take a sharp breath. He looked at Legolas. “Let me know when we are to leave again.”

Legolas nodded. “It will probably be almost immediately. I will speak to the king and Ithilden, and to Mithrandir, and then I expect they will want us to go on until we find Gollum.” Annael nodded and slipped out.

“You did not find him?” Calith asked.

“No, and we tracked him back here, so I am sure Ithilden will want to know where he has gone.”

Calith reached for a sheet of parchment that looked like a duty roster. “You are probably right. Tell Ithilden I have arranged for someone else to take up the task. Beliond will tell them what to look for.”

Legolas opened and closed his mouth. He had always known that Calith took care of most of the routine work, but the aide did not usually issue orders directly, particularly one as serious as removing Legolas from the hunt for Gollum. “What is this about?” he demanded.

Calith sighed. “The king will tell you, Legolas.”

With rising alarm, Legolas stared at him for a moment and then spun to leave. Beliond stepped to one side to let him pass. “I will come to you if you need me,” Beliond said. He eyed the aide. “Calith and I are going to have a little talk now.” Legolas glanced back to see Calith grimace and then hurried out of the building.

As he hastened toward home, he frantically searched for some cause that would keep Ithilden from his office, mean that Legolas would no longer lead the patrol after Gollum, and also produce some crisis at home for Annael. Abruptly, he thought of Eilian’s mission to the south, and with a flare of panic, he sped up and all but ran across the bridge and up the steps to the palace.


Deeply shaken, Legolas left his father’s sitting room. For a moment, he leaned against the hallway wall, drawing long breaths and trying to take in what Thranduil had just told him. “Are you unwell, Legolas?” asked someone.

He looked up to find Mithrandir regarding him with concern. Legolas straightened. “I am well enough.”

Mithrandir glanced at the door next to which Legolas stood, and his face softened. Legolas hurried on before the wizard could speak. “I am sorry, but we have not caught Gollum yet, although we tracked him back here and think we are only two days behind him. Other scouts are going after him soon, probably later today.” Legolas knew that Gollum needed to be found. He was too dangerous to leave loose in the woods. But in the face of what he had just heard about Sinnarn, the fate of Gollum seemed like a trivial matter.

“I will go with the scouting party,” Mithrandir said. “Thranduil has things to attend to other than guests just now.” He paused. “Is your family certain about Sinnarn?”

Legolas hesitated. “Emmelin is,” he said reluctantly. He could not quite accept Emmelin’s conviction. She and Sinnarn had not been married very long. Perhaps she was mistaken. He pushed aside a fleeting memory of how he had felt Tuilinn’s absence when she died. They had not been bonded. Perhaps that was different. Perhaps married people were more sensitive and felt an absence even when the other one was injured.

Mithrandir sighed. “I am sorry.” He looked away for a moment. “I wonder what they found.”

Abruptly, Legolas wondered that too. He had been so distraught by the news that Sinnarn was probably dead that he had not even thought about what might have killed him. Suddenly, to his own surprise, he was shaking with rage. The White Council had driven Sauron away. In a battle that still haunted Legolas’s nightmares sometimes, the armies of Bard, Dáin, and Thranduil had slain the Orcs and wargs. They had struggled and suffered, and they had won. And now something had killed Sinnarn. Or perhaps it had. Legolas’s heart still shied away from accepting that idea completely, but his mind had taken in what Thranduil told him, and already he was planning what he might do about it. He would be hanged if he would let the Shadow edge its way back into his home.

He realized that Mithrandir was watching him closely. The wizard smiled at him. “I will go and pack my belongings and take my leave of your adar. Thank you for your help with Gollum.”

Legolas nodded, and Mithrandir walked off toward the guest wing. Legolas hesitated for only a second and then made his way along the hall to knock on the door of Ithilden and Alfirin’s apartment. “Come in,” called Ithilden’s deep voice, and Legolas entered his brother’s sitting room.

Ithilden sat in his chair near the hearth, clutching what looked like a full cup of tea in both hands. Although he turned his head to look at Legolas, for a moment he seemed so lost in his own thoughts that his face showed no sign of recognition. Then he pulled himself more erect. “I did not know you were back.” He frowned, as if trying to remember something. “Did you find Gollum?”

Legolas crossed the room to sit in the chair across from Ithilden. “No. We tracked him through Esgaroth and Dale and then back here. He is heading west. Calith said to tell you he is sending more scouts to try to get hold of him. Mithrandir is going too.”

Ithilden blinked. “Has he harmed any more children?” His voice was bleak, and Legolas knew he was thinking about his own “child,” adult though Sinnarn might be.

“No.” Legolas leaned toward his brother. “Adar told me that Emmelin feels her bond with Sinnarn is gone. I hope she is wrong.” Ithilden nodded, but it was not hope that Legolas saw in his face.

The opening of the apartment door drew Legolas’s attention, and he rose as Alfirin came into the sitting room carrying a tray with bread and a bowl of fragrant soup. She set the tray on a small table at Ithilden’s elbow, and then turned to Legolas, who took one look at her white face and stepped forward to embrace her. He tried to say something comforting, but found he could think of nothing. Indeed, the despair he saw in both Ithilden and Alfirin shook his own resolve to be hopeful. Emmelin was not the only person who had a bond with Sinnarn.

Alfirin pulled away and patted his shoulder. Then she turned to Ithilden. “You have to eat,” she said firmly. She took the tea from his hands, frowned at the full cup, and then picked up a spoon from the tray and handed it to him.

“Alfirin, I have told you I am not hungry.” Ithilden sounded exasperated.

“You are,” she insisted. “You just do not know it. Ithilden, please!”

Legolas watched as Ithilden drew a breath and then took a small spoonful of the soup. He glanced at his wife. She smiled slightly, and he took another. She bent to kiss the top of his dark head, and his eyes closed and his mouth tightened.

Feeling like an intruder, Legolas quietly left the apartment.


“Eilian,” Maltanaur said again, his voice more insistent this time. “Eilian, we are far enough away from Dol Guldur to stop safely, and we need to do it. We need rest and food.”

For a moment, Eilian considered ignoring him, but long experience had taught him that there were times when Maltanaur would not be denied, and the tone of his keeper’s voice suggested that this was one of them. He slowed and then halted, still holding Sinnarn’s body. Maltanaur carefully set down the body of Tynd and then turned to lift Sinnarn from Eilian’s arms and lay him down too. This was the first time in four days that Eilian had not had Sinnarn in his care, and his arms felt light and empty.

“Go and get firewood,” Maltanaur ordered. “We will eat something hot.” Eilian hesitated for a second and then obeyed. When he returned with the wood, Maltanaur had a fire pit prepared, and he took the wood from Eilian. “Sit,” Maltanaur said.

And suddenly, Eilian felt as if his legs would hold him no longer, and he dropped heavily to the ground. “What am I going to tell Ithilden? What am I going to tell Adar?”

Maltanaur shot him a look from under drawn brows and then went back to building the fire. “You will tell them what happened. They will mourn, and you will mourn with them.” He paused, added another stick to the pile, and said, “And because they have been patrol leaders themselves, they will know that you could not have done better, and they will not blame you.”

“Do you think that is what I care about?” Eilian cried. “Even I know I am not to blame. I have been an officer a long time, Maltanaur. I have had warriors die before. But this is Sinnarn! My brother’s son, upon whom my adar dotes. And what of Alfirin and Emmelin? This will drive them to despair.”

As he reached for his flint and tinder, Maltanaur sighed. “Your adar has suffered loss before and has survived it. So has Ithilden for that matter. So have we all. What is more, because the Shadow has returned, we are likely to suffer it again. But we Wood-elves are a tough lot, and your family might weather this better than you fear.” He started the fire and rose. “I hear a stream in that direction. I am going to get water.” He held out his hand for Eilian’s water skin and departed to fill it and his own.

Eilian sat staring dully at the two bodies, tightly wrapped in their cloaks. He supposed if he were honest, he would admit that he did feel responsible for their deaths. He always felt responsible, even though at the same time, he knew he could have done nothing. But he also thought that Maltanaur was right. Thranduil and Ithilden would not blame him. He was less certain about Alfirin and Emmelin.

His thoughts turned to what Maltanaur had said about the return of the Shadow. Maltanaur was undoubtedly right about that too, he thought unhappily. The deaths of Sinnarn and Tynd were only the beginning. Elves who now used their bows only for hunting would have to return to battle. Not tomorrow perhaps. If history repeated itself, the Shadow would spread north only slowly, but spread north it would.

And what of him? For a moment, despair washed over him. As Thranduil’s son, he would not be able to wait until their situation grew desperate. He owed it to his father’s people to serve them as a warrior now, when he was needed. Even in his wilder days of youth, he had never flinched from serving the realm, and he would not evade his duty now even if he could.

But his stomach tightened when he thought of leaving Celuwen and Loriel in the little cottage in the settlement. He would not do it, he decided almost instantly. They would go to his father’s stronghold where guards would watch over them even when he could not. Celuwen would have to heed him in this. She had been determined to raise Loriel in the woods, but he would tell her about what he had seen, and she would realize it was no longer possible.

He thought of his daughter. What would the future hold for her? Maltanaur had told him that children who were loved did well even in times of war. He had advised Eilian to look at Sinnarn. Grief swelled in Eilian’s throat, and he lowered his head to rest on his drawn up knees.

Maltanaur came back and set about making a stew from some of their dried provisions. He sat down next to Eilian to wait for it to cook, and after a moment, he touched Eilian’s arm. “I know you mourn, Eilian, and I am sorry. We will all miss them.”

Without lifting his head, Eilian nodded. He did mourn acutely for his nephew, and for Tynd too, but he also mourned for what the entire Woodland Realm was about to lose.


The trees rustled, and Thranduil reined in his horse to look ahead. The long days of waiting were over. “They are near,” he announced, and Ithilden and Aniond rode up on either side of him. Behind them, the guards halted, and Thranduil could hear one of them softly telling the riderless horses to stay close by.

“We will walk,” Thranduil said, and slid off his horse, with Ithilden and Aniond echoing his movement. Thranduil glanced at his son. Ithilden’s face was bleak, but in the last day or two, he had returned to his office, and he and Legolas had begun negotiating with the Dwarves for a supply of swords and examining lists of warriors who had gone home to their families. Thranduil knew Ithilden’s strength; he had relied on it for long years. But he also knew that strength would not keep pain away from Ithilden’s life, and indeed might make his son decide to suffer for the sake of others, because he knew he could bear it. And sadly, Thranduil had to be grateful for that fact. He was very much afraid that he needed Ithilden now more than ever.

“Wait here,” he ordered the guards and led the other two through the trees toward the sounds of two Elves walking toward them. Only two, Thranduil thought, and with grief so strong that his body flinched at the pain, he let go of the last shred of irrational hope. He heard Tynd’s father take a sharp breath, but Ithilden made no sound.

They had not walked far before Thranduil caught a glimpse of movement, and then Eilian and Maltanaur came into view, each holding a cloak-wrapped bundle. When they saw Thranduil and his companions, they halted. Thranduil lifted his eyes from the body in Eilian’s arms to the frozen look on his son’s face, and his heart twisted again.

Ithilden walked toward Eilian and reached for Sinnarn’s body, and with a small moan, Eilian surrendered it. “I am so sorry,” Eilian gasped.

“I know,” Ithilden said with a tremor in his voice. “We will talk later, but I know.” He turned to carry Sinnarn back toward the horses, and Thranduil could scarcely stand to look at his grey face. Aniond took Tynd’s body from Maltanaur and turned to go with Ithilden. But Thranduil walked forward to embrace Eilian, who leaned against him in a helpless appeal that nearly broke Thranduil’s control.

“I did not get to them in time, Adar. I am sorry.” He looked up at Thranduil and shuddered. “At least one of the Nazgűl is at Dol Guldur, and Orcs are gathering there again.”

Thranduil’s heart seemed to stop beating. He glanced at Maltanaur, who nodded a confirmation, and then turned back to Eilian. “You have met a bad enemy, Eilian, one I had hoped none of us would ever see again. You and I and Ithilden will talk about what this means, but for today, we will not think of it. Today I will rejoice to have you home again, and tonight we will mourn for Sinnarn and Tynd.” He put his arm around his son’s shoulders. “Come. We have horses for you and Maltanaur. We will go home. Your wife and daughter are waiting for you.”

As he led his son back toward where the horses and guards were waiting, the trees bent their branches toward him and murmured sounds of sympathy. But underneath their concern for him, he could also hear the dark note that had crept into their song of late. He thought suddenly of his dream of the trees burning. If the Shadow was returning, then every living thing in the Woodland Realm would feel it, and none of them would be safe from the kind of loss that Sinnarn’s family and Tynd’s had suffered.


Legolas stood next to Eilian, who held Loriel. It seemed to Legolas that Eilian had not let his daughter go from the moment he had walked into the palace. On the other side of Eilian, Celuwen stood with her hand on Eilian’s arm. She was dry-eyed now, but Legolas had seen her weeping earlier in the day and knew that to her grief over Sinnarn was added the regret she felt over having to leave their cottage in the woods. But he had heard the tone of Eilian’s voice when he had talked about the danger in the south, and he knew that this was a decision from which his brother would not back down.

A soft sigh on his other side made him turn to look at Annael’s mother. Elowen nodded toward the path. “They are coming,” she said, and Legolas saw that she was right. Approaching from the direction of the palace was Ithilden with Sinnarn’s body in his arms, wrapped in a silken sheet. Alfirin walked on one side of him, and Emmelin on the other, with Annael and Beliniel just behind her. Ithilden laid his son’s body on the pile of wood that had been prepared, and then all of them came to stand near where Legolas was.

Legolas turned now to see his father looking at Sinnarn, with his face for once unguarded in public. And suddenly, in the weary slump of his father’s shoulders, Legolas could see all of Thranduil’s years, years in which evil had been defeated and returned more times than Legolas could recall. His father had been a child in Doriath and seen it fall. He had lost his father and two-thirds of the realm’s warriors during the Last Alliance. His wife had died in a brutal attack. A short time ago, he had presided at Tynd’s funeral, and now he would preside at his grandson’s. Pity swelled in Legolas’s heart, but even as it did so, he saw his father straighten his back and draw a deep breath.

Thranduil looked up and swept his grey eyes across those assembled before him. “People of the Woodland Realm, we have come to honor Sinnarn, son of these woods, known by us all and loved by many among us.  What words can we say about him?” Legolas marveled at how steady his father’s voice was.

From the ranks of warriors to Legolas’s right stepped one whom Legolas recognized as Sinnarn’s friend Amdir. “I am a few years older than Sinnarn, but from the time he became a warrior, he was the friend whose company I sought most often. Sinnarn was a brave warrior who was a menace to the enemy, but there are many such among the warriors of the realm. What I loved in Sinnarn was his gift for play. When we had seen the ugliest of evil or when we had watched the innocent suffer and been able to do little, I knew I could turn to Sinnarn, and he would make me laugh and forget for a while that the next day, I might meet evil and suffering again.” His voice had begun to quaver, and he paused for a moment.

Legolas glanced at Ithilden, standing with his arm around Alfirin’s shoulders. Until two days ago, when Ithilden had returned to his office and summoned Legolas to talk about strengthening the realm’s defenses again, Legolas had seldom seen them when they were not touching one another. He had always believed that Alfirin drew comfort from Ithilden’s strength, just as Legolas did, but he had never before realized how much Ithilden relied on Alfirin’s immovable courage. He was not sure that Ithilden had realized it either.

“I grieve for Sinnarn,” Amdir went on more steadily. “And I grieve for myself and others in my patrol because we have lost someone who was a source of strength for us. In the coming days, I fear he will be sorely missed.” He stepped back among the warriors, who seemed to have chosen him to speak for them.

Legolas scanned the people gathered around the funeral pyre and waited for someone else to speak. To his surprise, the next person to step forward was Beliond. “I have known Sinnarn well only as a warrior, and as a warrior, he grew into someone I trusted and, on occasion, admired.”

Legolas blinked. He too had grown to respect Sinnarn more over the years as his nephew demonstrated his growing maturity, but while he had seen Beliond tease Sinnarn, he had never heard him say he esteemed him.

“I saw Sinnarn’s strength when trouble came to him,” Beliond went on, “and I saw how serious he was about protecting his home. He was a fortunate person because many people loved him. And we were fortunate to have him with us.”

Legolas heard Emmelin draw a shaky breath and glanced to see her grandmother putting an arm around her. Tears ran freely down her cheeks. On Emmelin’s other side, Annael took her hand, and Legolas was suddenly struck by how much loss his friend’s family had suffered. Annael’s grandfather and father had both died in battles against the Shadow. And now his son-in-law had. Legolas felt a sudden flare of the anger that had filled him for days now. How many other Wood-elf families would suffer in the days to come? For that matter, how many deaths would there be in the families of the Men he had just visited? I will not let it happen, he vowed.

Around him, others were now telling their memories of Sinnarn, but Legolas was lost in his own memories. Sinnarn had been closer in age to Legolas than even Eilian was, and the two of them had kept one another’s secrets on more than one occasion. Legolas had seen Sinnarn struggle to accept the heavy responsibility of being the son of the king’s heir, and in the last few years, it seemed to him that Sinnarn had succeeded in doing so. His death was a waste, Legolas thought angrily. I will remember Sinnarn’s gift for finding moments of joy, but I will also do anything I can to drive away the thing that killed him.

At last, the voices ceased, and Legolas looked again at his father, and suddenly, he blinked. The weary Elf was gone. There before Legolas stood the king of the Woodland Realm, one who would fight the Shadow for every inch of soil, every rock, and every tree, and if by some mischance, an enemy overcame him, he would grasp it by the neck to drag it down with him and spit in its face as he did so. I should have known, Legolas thought, his heart lifting a little.

Thranduil spoke the ritual words. “To our great sorrow, the fëa of Sinnarn, son of the Woodland Realm, has fled to the Halls of Mandos to await the fate that Iluvatar has set for him.  He has no more need for the shell before us, and we send it to the air and the winds, but we keep Sinnarn in our hearts.” He took a torch from one of his attendants, lit it from an already lit one that had been thrust in the ground, and put it into Emmelin’s hand. Ithilden and Alfirin put their hands over hers, and together, they lit the pile of sweet branches upon which Sinnarn’s body lay.

Thranduil’s minstrel raised his voice in a song of mourning and all around Legolas other voices joined with his. They rose with the smoke into the starry sky, sending Sinnarn on his way to what Legolas hoped would be many moments of joy.

At length, the funeral was over, and people began to drift away. Thranduil came to take a wide-eyed Loriel from Eilian’s arms, and then started toward the palace with Eilian and Celuwen walking hand-in-hand behind him. Eilian stopped to speak to Ithilden, who drew Alfirin closer to him and fell in step behind Thranduil. Emmelin walked between her parents, who each had an arm around her. She had been staying in their cottage and would return there, although Legolas knew that Thranduil had invited her to stay in the palace.

Someone touched Legolas’s arm, and he turned to see Annael’s mother. Even in his grief, he smiled at her. He had loved this Elf-woman from the time he was small, and she had been one of those who coaxed him back into life after his mother died. “I am sorry for Emmelin,” he told her, as he embraced her.

Elowen nodded, but when she spoke it was not of her granddaughter or her granddaughter’s husband. “I do not know when I will see you again, Legolas, and I wanted to tell you goodbye.”

He frowned. “What do you mean ‘goodbye’? Where are you going?” She smiled, and abruptly, he understood. “You are sailing west,” he said, trying to hide his dismay.

She nodded. “I have been away from Annael’s adar for too long, and perhaps I will find him waiting for me. Emmelin is going too.”

Legolas immediately saw how Elowen and Emmelin would comfort one another. “I am sorry to see you go, Elowen. I will miss you.”

She patted his cheek. “You will get along fine without me. And I like knowing that you will be a friend to Annael.” She looked at him soberly. “Take care, Legolas. The peace is ending. I know that you will do what you can to drive the Shadow away again. Indeed I know you must do that. But still, take care.”

“I will,” Legolas assured her, “and I will keep an eye on Annael too.”

She laughed. “How odd. He said the same thing about you.” She stretched to kiss his cheek, and he embraced her, kissed her brow, and let her go.

As he watched her disappear along the path to her cottage, he thought about the strength he had seen people show that day, even in the face of blinding sorrow. There was now an empty space among them in which Sinnarn had once stood, but his loss had not crushed them. They would struggle on. Eilian had described a creature that used fear as a weapon, one against which there seemed to be no defense. But there were forces stronger than fear: love, honor, duty, loyalty, and sometimes, sheer stubbornness. Among the Wood-elves, these qualities flourished.

He started home. The peace was ending, but they would face the future and fight the darkness back again.

The End

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