"It isn’t too late--not quite yet. I could take you back, you know."
The Dwarf grunted. "So, you’re tired of my grumbling, are you?"
Legolas laughed. "Tired? No, my friend, but I thought you might be. It will be easier once we reach the Straight Path."
"But how do you even know where it is? How does anyone find something that leads from Arda to--to a place not properly in Arda any longer?"
The Elf shook his head, and thought how to try to explain. Finally he thought of an example Gimli might understand. "When you first see a glint of ore, how do you know which direction it will follow through the rock in which it is found?"
"What does the Straight Path have to do with ore?"
"Just think on it, my friend."
The Dwarf shrugged. "The stone will tell you, if you pay enough attention."
"It might tell you, but it is unlikely to tell me. It’s similar to Sam Gamgee and his plants--he could simply touch a plant and tell you exactly how it felt about the situation in which it found itself. Or perhaps Bilbo creating a poem, knowing automatically which words would best go together both to sound pleasing and to convey meaning most effectively. The wind and waves tell me where I am to go. It is simply that I know because it is right."
The Dwarf continued to grumble, but did so with sufficient quiet that Legolas could ignore it.
For the first time in several months the Elf felt free--free of grief, free of the stress of knowing he must go soon, go now. For he had finally set upon his way, and as a young bird knowing it is time to seek lands it has never seen at the changing of the season, he knew now he was doing what was proper for him. He was not going alone as he’d feared he would. He was grateful Gimli had been given this grace to come with him, that the Lockbearer was given the chance to overcome the great differences that usually divided the Firstborn from the Children of Aüle. Long he had tarried in Middle Earth, unwilling to leave while Aragorn was still alive; but that time was now over. Aragorn had accepted the Gift of Ilúvatar, and he had left his body behind, risen up shining from it, and been drawn to the Uttermost West more surely than the arrow flies from the bowstring. Now Legolas, too, was going West--not as far West as his friend had, or as this friend would go one day, but West enough for his own kind. As he held the tiller and watched the sails, he sang, sang the wind, sang the waves, sang the clear air and the slap of water on carefully shaped and set wood. He smiled.
He had felt great grief at the passing of Aragorn Elessar, for together they had done much, known much that generations before and after could not share. He looked on his friend’s son and saw that he, too, would be an extraordinary man, an extraordinary leader, an extraordinary father to fine children; but he could not share with the son what he’d known with the father.
They were the last of the Fellowship to have lingered in Middle Earth, he and Gimli; and now they were going to meet with the one who was oldest and who would remain longest after. And the song of Olórin the Maia crept into the music he’d been singing already.
Then a new set of notes intruded--notes he’d certainly not intended, the notes of Arwen Undómiel. She was lost to his people, but her offspring offered hope to the world of Men who now took lordship over Middle Earth, now that the Firstborn were almost all gone from it. But when Aragorn Elessar died, he’d carried the Light of her spirit with him, and her joy had fled. He’d not seen such a fading ever in his long life, and it had shocked him even more than the loss of his friend had done. He’d felt helpless, for he could not give her any aid, not since she’d embraced mortality. Why should he sing of her now, as bereft of Light as she’d become?
Suddenly he felt the small ship he’d built find it--the Straight Path, and a thrill passed through him; and looking at Gimli he saw that the Dwarf, too, had noted the change, was lifting his head. Suddenly Gimli rose, turned to the stern, peered intently behind them.
"What is it, my friend? Seeking a last sight of Middle Earth? You will see nothing of it, I fear."
But Gimli held up his hand. "Listen, Elf!" he said. "Can’t you hear it overtaking us?"
Legolas was shocked, for since when were the ears of a Dwarf more sensitive than those of an Elf? But he did as he was bade, and listened, looked behind...looked up in amazement. He could hear it clearly now, and was amazed he’d not heard it before. He’d never heard this song in all of Arda! A quick glance at Gimli showed the ancient Dwarf was smiling with recognition and delight. "He’s done it!" Gimli whispered. "He’s done it--restored her Light! Hear the Joy of it?"
Then he could hear it, hear it clearly and fully; and its joy filled him with awe and wonder. He saw the Shining overtaking them, saw above them his Friend and his Beloved and two others together heading for the Uttermost West, sheer delight on their faces, expressions confident and joyful and full of anticipation--and fulfilled!
"Well, if that isn’t just like a pair of Hobbits!" Gimli exclaimed. "Give their remains the honor of lying by the King, and they take it seriously!"
Legolas looked at Gimli with question, but Gimli had turned to follow the song of completion, the shining forms as they sped Westward. The Dwarf, Legolas realized, was weeping, weeping with joy. "You be there, Lad, be there to greet me when I come, you hear?" he was saying. "Not," he continued, now speaking to his companion, "that I’m planning on going immediately or anything like that. But I must follow fairly soon. I am grateful, however, to know I will see my Lady before I must follow, see her and be certain she is in bliss." He wiped his eyes with his sleeve. "But his Lady, she has been able to join him. She’s fading no more. And those two rascals are there to honor the both of them!" And Gimli started to sing.
Legolas was amazed, for all other songs he’d heard from his friend had been very--earthy. But this song was one of emotion, one of triumph, one of longing and joy. Analyzing the song of his friend, the Elf began to create a harmony for it, a descant that celebrated friendship and love and fulfillment. His hand, with no direction from his conscious mind, kept the small ship upon the Straight Path.
On the morning of the New Year a daughter was born to the King of Gondor and Arnor and his beloved Queen Loreth; and once the babe was cleaned and diapered and wrapped in a soft, warm blanket, her brother was allowed to carry her out of his mother’s room to the solar where many were gathered to see the royal daughter for the first time. Followed by his aunts, he walked straight and tall, as dignified as only a boy of thirteen can be, carrying his own sister, smiling down into her eyes, open and blue and peering curiously up at him.
His father had delivered the child, but once it was come and he was assured his wife and daughter were both safe and healthy, he’d given over to the demands of the womenfolk that he get on with him, and he now sat in the solar, surrounded by those who must see first--the Steward Barahir and the Northern Steward Eregil, Hirgion of the Keys, and representatives of Rohan, Umbar, Rhûn, and Harad, the Prince of Dol Amroth, Faramir Took, Lord Glorfindel of Imladris, Elrohir and Elladan....
Eldarion watched his son with pride, smiling at the youth’s delight and dignity, and held out his arms to receive the precious burden the boy carried. "Welcome, my daughter," he said. "Welcome, Celebrían of Gondor and Arnor. Let the world rejoice to receive you as we do." And, as he held the tiny form close, he murmured into her ear, "Your grandmother named you, little one, named your for her own naneth. And today she must be overjoyed to know you are with us at last, in our arms as you have been in our hearts for so long."
Words about Frodo Baggins he’d read years before from the green book written by Samwise Gamgee filled his heart. "Mr. Frodo Baggins is one of the ones who is born in the world, I think, to teach us beauty. And almost everyone who knows him loves him. But I’ve seen that there’s all too often a terrible cost for us to have such among us." Sam had seen the King's father as being another of the same kind, two with the same light within them, shining side by side. Sam had held that as much as possible Frodo had always tried to pay the price for himself, while many had paid the price for the light of the one known as Aragorn, the King Elessar, to shine in Middle Earth.
What is the cost of love? the King wondered. He answered his own question: The probability of loss. Then he asked himself, Is it worth it? Looking into his new daughter’s eyes, he knew this answer, too: Yes, well worth it at twice the price. Afar off his parents, standing in the Joy of the Presence, surrounded by the Lights of many others, including that of the one who had been Frodo Baggins, agreed with him.