Birth of a Faerie Tale: Part III
Author: Sheela

~* Epilogue *~

Slowly, two travelers made their way across the land, the impressive mountains looming behind them. The sun was sinking low on the horizon, casting its last rays of light on them. Even from a distance, they seemed an unlikely pair: one tall and slender, walking with the natural grace of a wildcat, the other short and sturdy, his heavy steps speaking of his enormous strength. They couldn't have been more different, and yet they were the best friends, with a friendship unmatched in Middle Earth. They had traveled far together, seen many things, and encountered countless adventures, always coming out on top and earning themselves the fame of two of Middle Earth best warriors.

But the land they were traveling through now was peaceful and war and fighting were far from their minds. They walked comfortably along a well-treaded path, a steady flow of cheerful banter and teasing between the two friends.

"You haven't even told me where we're going," Gimli accused the elf next to him.

Legolas smiled down at his smaller friend, before replying. "I told you I had a promise to keep. I didn't even ask you to accompany me you could have easily stayed in Ithilien. Your dwarven craftsmanship would surely be appreciated there."

"What? Stay there and leave all the fun to you alone if you run into trouble? And as I recall, you always manage to find trouble wherever you go, Master Elf. Who would be there to save your sorry, skinny elf- hide if not for me?" Gimli demanded.

"Oh, really?" Legolas asked, pretending to be surprised. "I would have sworn those mercenaries we had a fight with last months were after you, Master Dwarf, because you had cheated them at cards and stolen their money?" he mocked, knowing exactly how sensitive the dwarf reacted to this matter.

"And I keep telling you that I had won it in an honest game. Is it my fault that they can't lose a fair game against a good dwarf?" Gimli scratched his impressive beard that was showing the first streaks of silver. "But I showed them what a real dwarf is made of! That was a lesson they'll never forget!"

"You mean, we showed them, don't you Master Dwarf?" Legolas corrected him softly. "I seem to recall saving your hide from some pretty nasty looking swords..."

Gimli grunted in a sort of non-committal agreement. "But as I said, we showed them that a dwarf and an elf are not easily attacked from behind! Ha! The statement on their leader's face was priceless when he found that all his companions had fled!" The shorter wanderer roared with laughter, causing some birds to fly up into the sky, frightened by the loud sound. Legolas merely grinned, pleased to see his companion in such high spirits than at the memory of their last fight.

They walked in silence for awhile, until Gimli spoke again.

"You know, you still haven't told me where we are going," he said, brining up the subject again. "Is it far? The night is approaching and we should set up our camp before darkness falls completely."

"No, it isn't far now. And tonight, if everything goes well, we shall not sleep out in the open but in comfortable beds! As to where we're heading, let's just say, it's an old friend and a surprise for you, my impatient friend."

Gimli merely grumbled at in his opinion this typical elven answer. `Not far and a surprise!' The dwarf had already been of the opinion that elves should be forbidden to speak in such riddles and relative terms for a long time now. It would make living with them far easier!

"Not far, you say. I bet we would already be there if you didn't have to stop at each and every tree that we pass!" Gimli accused his friend, trying to pull him into another argument about the elf's love and admiration for the forest. If anything, a good argument would keep him occupied and entertained during the rest of their journey.

But Legolas merely shrugged his shoulders at the accusation and grinned, easily seeing through the dwarf's attempt. With a few large steps, he reached the top of the little hill they were climbing and gestured down.

"There, my friend, lies our destination and our place for the night," he said.

Gimli followed his arm and saw, about half of a mile away, an old farm house with a barn and two gigantic old tress behind it, surrounded by a low stone wall. At the sight, the dwarf's brain began to recall the scene before them.

"I remember this place!" Gimli exclaimed. "We came here with the fellowship of the ring, before we entered Moria!"

"Aye," Legolas assented, pleased to see that his friend was remembering and at his obvious joy at seeing the farm. "And it was here that I gave promise to a certain lady that I intend to keep. Come now." Slowly the two warriors made their way down the hill and towards the house.

As they came nearer the two could make out the form of somebody sitting on a bench in front of the house, enjoying the last rays of light. The person an elderly woman as far as Gimli could tell from the distance was bent over a stack of papers on her lap, so she didn't notice the dwarf and elf coming closer. The woman kept scribbling on a piece of paper, a smile occasionally appearing on her face, as if something on the parchment amused her.

When they were but a few steps away, Legolas called out to get the woman's attention. "Vedui'!" *Greetings!*

The woman's head snapped up in surprise, and she looked closely at them. Her tanned skin revealed the wrinkled lines of age, which increased in number at the slight frown. The sun reflected off her gray hair which was most likely blonde once, and she wore the plain clothes of simple folk. Gimli guessed her to be about fifty years old.

Then suddenly an statement of recognition spread across the woman's face and her lips broke into a large smile. Putting the stack of papers from her lap hastily aside, she jumped up with surprising agility.

"Master Elf!" she exclaimed, her brown eyes shining. "Yallume! Nae saian luume'!" *At last! It has been too long!* Shiara added in the elven language, smiling. "Elen sila lumenn omentilmo!" *A star shall shine upon the hour of our meeting!*

Legolas gave a surprised gasp at this, then bowed his head, smiling broadly as well. "Aye," he replied. "Cormamin lindua ele lle." *My heart sings to see you.*

Gimli had spent enough time with his elven friend in the last decade or so to get at least a basic grasp of Sindarin, especially of the traditional, formal greetings of the elves, so he understood most of their conversation. But still he was grateful when the two switched to common Westron again.

"I see you learned Sindarin. I'm truly impressed, netharwenamin," Legolas said.

"Yes, I have traveled far in my life, seen and learned many things, especially about elves as it was my wish when I was but a young girl. But I'm forgetting my good manners." She turned to Gimli and bowed her head. "Greetings to you, too, Master Dwarf. I'm delighted to see you again."

Gimli inclined his head as well, smiling. "So am I, Lady Shiara. It has been long since I last saw you."

"The years have been very kind with you, I see," Shiara commented.

The dwarf shrugged. "Not as kind as with my friend here, I fear." He stroked across the silver lines in his long beard and thought about the spots on the back of his head that had been covered with a considerably larger amount of hair a few years ago.

"Aye, such is the way of the Eldars," the woman agreed.

"You speak like somebody who knows a lot about the elven ways, netharwenamin," Legolas noted.

"Aye, indeed, Master Elf. I daresay I do know a lot about elves and their ways for a human at least," Shiara said. "I know many stories and legends about elves and also about other magical creatures and I have begun writing those tales down for the generations that are to come after all elves have vanished from Middle Earth and have gone into the West." There was a short pause at these sad words. They all knew it was true, the time for elves on Middle Earth was coming to an end. More and more of the Eldars went into the West. The time of humans had come and it wouldn't be long before elves were nothing but creatures of legend and myth, in stories to be told to children.

As much as this upset Gimli, there was nothing he could do about if. Times had changed, and few elves remained in Middle Earth now. He knew that Legolas also had been longing to go for some time. The only thing that kept the elven Prince tied to this place were his mortal friends and Gimli feared what would happen if those ties proved to be too weak one day. Would his friend leave them all behind to follow his heart's call?

A melancholy mood had settled over the three of them and darkened their thoughts on this joyous occasion. However, Shiara spoke up, breaking the sadness in the air.

"But will you still insist on calling me a `young lady', Master Elf? The days when I was young and a child have long since passed." Her tone was light, and it didn't fail in its intent to lighten the mood.

"That may be true for humans, netharwenamin, but for me you are still a young one and a true lady, as you have always been. So, yes, I will insist on calling you a young lady," the elven Prince replied with a grin, all heavy thoughts far from his mind once more.

The old woman sighed dramatically, but one could tell from the smirk that glittered in her eyes that it was nothing but a false despondency and that she secretly enjoyed her elven title.

"So, will you at least tell me why you came here, Master Elf? True, I am delighted to see you again, but what I don't understand is why you came?" she asked finally, getting back to a more serious matter.

At this Gimli snorted loudly into his beard. "I already asked him that question today. Took me a while to get at least a sort of response out of the elf..." he mumbled to himself.

Sharp ears picking up his shorter friend's words, Legolas couldn't help but grin. The way his dwarven friend could grumble about everything never failed to amuse him.

Then he turned to answer Shiara's question. "Well, netharwenamin, a long time ago I gave promise to a young friend. And as you might have learned on journeys, elves have the habit to keep their promises. So now I'm here, my friend."

The old woman looked down. "I had already begun to believe you had forgotten the both of us, the promise and me," she said in a quiet voice. "After all it's been a long time and I was nothing but a child that you encountered on your long, legendary journey."

Legolas stepped forward and gently raised Shiara's chin. Softly he stroked her lined face and a supernatural glimmer seemed to pass from him onto her.

"Never would I forget a friend," he told her firmly, looking deep into her brown eyes. "We elves may have all the time in the world for great deeds and creating legends, but it is the gift of true friendship that makes our lives worth something."

Shiara blinked back tears. This she had not expected. As a child she had sometimes dreamt of this day, but never had she imagined to be gifted with such a friendship that sprang out of a chance meeting.

Gimli, too, was fighting down a lump in his throat. Dwarven custom taught that too many emotional shows of affection were to be avoided since they diverted the attention from more important matters. But regardless of custom, Gimli felt deeply moved by his friend's words. It showed how much the elf really appreciated friendship, and Gimli was proud to have the honor of such a friendship with Legolas.

"Thank you, mellonamin," Shiara whispered. "Thank you for your friendship."

Legolas nodded and smiled. "You're more than welcome," he said, before changing the topic. "But let's go inside now. I hope it's alright with you because I already promised Gimli a warm, comfortable bed for the night and I fear what he'll do if I have to break that promise."

The dwarf grumbled something unclear in affirmation, more for show than for anything else after all he had an image to maintain!

"And then I'd like to see those tales about elves that you have collected, netharwenamin. After all I have to examine what the future generations will hear about my folk and how much of it is nothing but exaggerated superstition!" Legolas added.

Shiara laughed goodheartedly. "Of course you're welcome in my house. You shall sleep this night in warm beds and you shall see what I've written so far. I sincerely hope it finds your approval, Master Elf," she said.

With that she opened the door and led the two of them inside, to an evening full of laughter and stories of old adventures.

And outside on the bench in front of the house lay the momentarily forgotten pack of parchment, in which Shiara had written her stories. The last golden-red rays of sunlight that shone over the hills illuminated the leather bound cover of the pack, causing the imprinted letters of the title to glow softly; the title of a collection that was to be read in hundreds of generations to come, brining them joy and happy hours: "Elven and Fairy Tales"


The End

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