And the sky full of stars: Part XX
by: Jen

NOTE: The poem that Aragorn recites is from Tennyson's Ulysses. It is my favorite poem, I only slightly butchered a few lines for it to fit into this story. :-)

The day of departure arrived. Unfortunately, new beginnings always call for endings. Aragorn and Arwen sat in their chambers. Waiting. Aragorn looked at Arwen.

"Do you ever regret not following your father into the West?" Aragorn asked. The question had always plagued his heart but he rarely mentioned it.

"Never. Not even for one moment." Arwen said.

They both stood as Gimli and Legolas entered the room. It wasn't often that such loved friends left Middle-Earth. They had not been present at Galadriel and Elrond's departure and they would not be present for this one. The sight of sailing ships was too much for Arwen to bear. But they would see their friends off with one last happy memory to carry with them. Legolas kept his pace even with Gimli's slow deliberate steps. Gimli hobbled on crutches, wincing with every step. His gritted teeth statement had become all too common since his accident. And though his legs had both healed enough to walk, they would never be good enough to carry him any long distances. They stopped in front of Aragorn. He stood tall and proud.

"There is a verse passed down from the great mariners of Numenor. When after many years had passed the great king Aldarion longed again for the sea and it is said he spoke these words to his crew:

"Come, my friends -
'Tis not to late to seek a newer world
For my purpose holds to sail beyond the sunsets
And the baths of all the westerns stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Blessed Realm
And see the great Valar, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides, and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are-
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
To strive, To seek, To find, and not to yield."

Aragorn and Arwen embraced their dear friends one last time, before watching as Legolas and Gimli walk out of the castle chamber and out of their lives forever.

Gimli slowly made his way down the trail to the beach, grimacing with every step he took. He stopped at the on the sand near the docks, were Elesia was waiting. She smiled at him and he opened his arms to her. She hugged him tightly.

"I shall miss you Gimli. You have been like a brother." She said.

"I shall miss you, too." Gimli said, he saw Legolas approaching. "There have been far too many goodbyes for one day. I can not stand to watch another. So I will take my leave." He bowed low.

He walk up the dock and climbed into the ship. Legolas stood beside her. His eyes scanned the horizon. The mountains in the distance. The trees. The coast line. And finally turned to face her. They gazed long into each others eyes, but neither could find the words to say.

"I did not envision a departure such as this. I wanted… I wanted… … …" he sighed, knowing the futility of his words. "I wanted a great many things." Legolas said, his voice full of emotion.

Contained in those words were all the feelings that he would never say aloud. Could never say. There was a deep sadness and regret that filled his eyes.

"Good journey." Elesia said.

"Good journey." He said. He reached a hand out as if to touch her, but thought better of it, and simply turned to walk away. He hesitated for a long moment as if he were going to turn back to her, but he did not. He instead rushed up the docks and climbed onto the ship.

The ship set sail. She watched as they drifted out to sea. Legolas was busy working the sails. They got smaller and smaller as the sails caught wind. She strained to see him against the ship, but they were too far out. She would never see him again. In that moment, she understood the meaning of goodbye, with a certainty she had never known before. With no one around to watch, her statement crumbled. She sat down in the soft sand and cried.

On the ship Legolas and Gimli looked back at land.

"I shall miss it." Gimli said.

Legolas looked back. He could see her. His hands gripped the railings. He turned his face away. His eyes filled with tears.

"What is it?" Gimli asked. Gimli was still staring back at the shore line but lacking elvish sight could see nothing. He glanced at Legolas.

Legolas looked to the endless seas and then turned and looked back at the shoreline. He could see her. Small. Alone.

"Gimli there is no life in Valinor if she isn't part of that life." Legolas said.

Gimli smiled. "It's about time you fool came to your senses. Go back and get her."

"Bring her with us?" he asked astonished.

"A dwarf and a mortal. Why not. She has as much of a chance of getting into Valinor as I do." Gimli said.

"If we do not find the Straight Way?" he asked.

Gimli shrugged, "Then we have one last adventure together and you drop us back on the shores of Middle Earth."

He looked back at the shore line and smiled at Gimli. "Wait for us." he said. And without another word he dove into the ocean.

"Legolas!" Gimli yelled. Legolas began the swim back to shore.

Elesia's gaze was fixed upon the ship, but she did not see him dive into the water. Nor did she see him as he swam towards shore. It was only when he stood and began wading out of waves directly in front of her that she saw him.

He walked over to her and extended his hand. She took it and he pulled her to her feet. He was dripping wet. She looked up at him and opened her mouth to say something but words would not come.

"Come with me." he said.

"I thought.." she began but he covered her lips with his fingertips.

"I care not what the Eldars think. I only care about you." he said. "Come with us. If you desire it."

She looked at their hands, hers were hidden inside his larger ones.

"I desire it." she said at a whisper.

Her eyes rose to meet his. He bent down meeting her lips with his. His kiss was gentle, sweet. It was patient, whispering promises that there were more of these kisses waiting only for her. And all she need to do were ask. Her hands went to his face, soft as silk, behind his neck, through his hair. His arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her ever closer to him, until her small frame was pressed full against his. They knew not hold long they stood there. Hours, minutes, centuries could have passed while they tried to memorize each others faces with a touch. They were interrupted by Gimli, who had managed to turn the sails and head back to the docks.

"You could have just turned the ship around." Gimli said.

| Part XXI |
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