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Fic: A Minstrel of Gondor, Envoi
The final piece of this tale, many years later…

Legolas is returned from the coronation of the King Elessar, having evidently acquitted himself with grace and unexpected diplomatic skill.  Thranduil considers the effort to send him a decent gown and necessary jewelry well spent, particularly given the messages he has brought back from Elrond and from Elessar himself, and he hosts a welcome feast without complaint. The people of the Woodland Realm have suffered their own losses in these wars, and it was hard fighting in Dol Guldur; they deserve the distraction, and to remember that this is still victory.  A far better one, too, than the one that brought him to his throne.

When the formalities end, and the informalities are still coming together, he retreats to his rooms and sets aside his crown of silver flowers, then dismisses everyone except his son.  Legolas dutifully plays the page, pouring them each wine, and visibly braces himself for yet more questions. Thranduil turns his cup in his hand.

“Well, King Elessar has sent us fair words in plenty.”

Legolas lifts an eyebrow. “You know Aragorn perfectly well. You know he’ll do what he promises.”

“I do.” Thranduil drains half his cup, and pours it full again. He offers the pitcher to his son, but Legolas shakes his head.

“He deserves it, as none other.”

“And, failing that, he has Arwen Undómiel at his side. Has Elrond reconciled himself to that at last?”

“More than I would have deemed possible.”

“Which does not say so very much.”

Legolas shrugs. Somewhere he has managed to discard his overgown, and stands now in tunic and trousers and soft high boots, his hair braided back but unbound by any coronet, as though he were ready to go hunting rather than to a dance.  It is an old battle, and one Thranduil knows he will not win, and he is grateful enough that his son has no choice in his fate that he will not press it. “He will go into the West, I think, and soon.”

“And so begins the Age of Men.” Thranduil has not meant to sound bitter, but the note is there, and Legolas gives him a sharp look.

“You have not always disliked Men.”

“I do not dislike them. But I am king in Eryn Lasgalen.”

“No one doubts it.” Legolas pauses. “They sing Arthen of Gondor’s songs in Minas Tirith still. I danced to them at Aragorn’s wedding.”

Thranduil freezes for an instant, caught by sudden memory: the sun-browned, fox-haired minstrel who’d stayed a winter in the Woodland Realm, and then departed. A handsome man, by the canon of Men; ardent, clever-handed, a harpist who’d rivaled the best of his hall. There had been a moment at the rise of spring when he could have stayed — when Thranduil had chosen to reveal a few of his secrets, to beckon him a little deeper into his trust — but the pull of Gondor and the world of men had been too strong.

If you would to the Greenwood go,” he says, in passable Westron, “beware of elf, beware of bow. Beware of king on carven throne, who steals men’s hearts and rules alone.”

“That is not how it ends,” Legolas says, after a moment.

“No.” Thranduil allows himself one deep breath. “If I could in the Greenwood wake, for very joy my heart would break.”

“You were fond of him,” Legolas says, as though it still surprises him, and Thranduil smiles.

“I am fond of all of them.” And that is true, nor does he forget any of his lovers — but he is glad to hear those songs remain.
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(Deleted comment)
Thank you! (Dignity neatly preserved. :-)

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