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Fic: "FOH: The Return" PG-13 (8/?) [L/R, S/J, Ororo/Legolas, others]

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  • Nadja Lee
    Hi all, Still a part of the FOH series, still a crossover to LOTR. You need to have read the earlier parts to follow this. You can read it at fanfiction.net
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 4, 2004
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      Hi all,

      Still a part of the FOH series, still a crossover to LOTR.

      You need to have read the earlier parts to follow this.
      You can read it at fanfiction.net
      [http://www.fanfiction.net/~nadjalee%5d or my own webpage
      [http://www.100megspop3.com/scottororo/fiction/FellowshipOfHeroes.htm
      l].

      Enjoy:

      Part 8:

      Princess Eowyn slowly returned to consciousness by the constant dull
      ache of pain in her battered body. For a moment she was
      disorientated. Where was she? What had happened? Then memory
      returned and with it a deeper, worse kind of pain than the one in
      her body. Her uncle, Theoden, was dead. She had witnessed it, a
      terrible sight that would haunt her forever. Her eyes focused on the
      wooden beams of the house above the bed she lay in and tears began
      to run down her cheeks; tears of relief as it became apparent from
      her peaceful state that the battle had been won and tears of grief
      at the loss she had suffered.

      "You will make a full recovery," a kind voice said next to her and
      she turned her head and saw Aragorn sitting by her bedside,
      finishing the bandage on her right arm and living up to his
      reputation as an excellent healer. She looked around and saw that
      she was in a healing house and from the coat of arms on the walls
      showing the White Tree of Gondor she knew it had to be one of Minas
      Tirith's houses. From the high standard and fine detail of the
      woodwork and the beds she guessed it was one of the finest healing
      houses in the capital.

      "Is my brother well?" She asked, trying to control her fear as she
      forced her tears and her grief for her uncle away. Aragorn nodded
      reassuringly and gently laid her right hand down beside her body as
      he was finished bandaging it. She noticed she had been washed and
      dressed in a fine and warm long white nightdress and she had had all
      her wounds bandaged. She spotted Ororo walking between the beds,
      helping with the wounded. She had her right arm in a slide as a
      testament to her injured right shoulder, which was also bandaged.
      Despite the serious and sad situation Ororo held a special glow in
      her eyes and a small smile on her lips as she on occasion cast looks
      towards Legolas who was apparently waiting for Aragorn to finish up
      and return to debating what was next for the armies who had joined
      forces against Sauron. Like her, Aragorn and Ororo had also washed
      and changed clothes and both Legolas and Aragorn were unarmed out of
      respect of the wounded in the healing house, having left their
      weapons in the small entrance hall to the house.

      "Your brother fares well," Aragorn answered her question and her
      most pressing fear dissolved.

      Assured by his words more details returned to her and she grew
      concerned again, "And how fares Merry?" She remembered him from the
      battle; brave and strong, loyal till the end…she didn't recall him
      having ever left her side.

      "Boromir found him guarding you and brought you both to safety.
      After the battle we brought you and other high ranking officials to
      this," with a hand Aragorn indicated the healing house, "the healing
      house attached to the palace. Merry is here, in the bed to your
      left." Eowyn turned her head and saw that Merry was indeed sleeping
      peacefully beside her. She smiled at seeing him well and safe. "He
      will make a full recovery within a few days."

      Assured and suddenly feeling very drained Eowyn relaxed her body
      back on the bed. "What news do the reports from the battle say?"

      Aragorn grew serious and a sad look was in his eyes as he was
      reminded of the enemy they still hadn't defeated and the losses they
      had suffered. "We suffered great losses all around. Our army is down
      to half its original size and about half of those left alive are
      injured and will be unable to fight in another battle for quite some
      time. I had to release the Oath Breakers as they had fulfilled their
      vow to me. The ghosts Boromir, Logan and Rogue brought with them
      cannot come any closer to Mordor than Minas Tirith. They tried to
      get closer but the evil of the place destroys them. Furthermore them
      taking on spiritual form drains them and thus they have by now all
      left for the Undying Lands," Aragorn explained, remembering the warm
      farewell that the Elven leader of the ghosts had gotten from them
      all, but especially from Boromir, Logan and Rogue who had come to
      know him well and had taken an instant liking to the brave Elven
      soldier. The Elven commander himself had not been sad to leave, on
      the contrary he had been eager to do so when he had found out that
      his lover had been slain in battle and was now awaiting him in the
      Undying Lands. Like his friends Aragorn had felt better about seeing
      yet another ally disappear now that he knew he was going to join a
      loved one who he had longed to be reunited with for so many years.

      "I was surprised, though happily so, that their spirits had lingered
      here and were willing to help us," Eowyn said, trying to distract
      herself from the pains and aches of her body by talking with
      Aragorn. Ever perceptive he saw the small signs of her discomfort
      and took a glass from the small bedside table that stood between her
      own and another bed wherein she could see a young man lying, his
      face turned away from her.

      "Drink this. It will help with the pain," Aragorn said softly and
      gently helped her by holding her head as he assisted her in
      drinking. As he put the glass back he answered her silent
      question. "Galadriel had seen that a dark future where their help
      would be needed could arise and an army of warriors swore that they
      would remain here until they had assisted their descendants. Now,
      they have done so and have left to claim their rightful place of
      honour in the Undying Lands."

      "I see," Eowyn mumbled and felt her eyelids grow heavy and her
      speech slurry. The drink hadn't just eased her pain but aided sleep.

      Aragorn looked sad and uncomfortable for a moment before he spoke
      again. "Of the command team we not only lost your uncle but also
      Scott."

      A wave of grief washed over her and she permitted tears to fall
      though fought to keep her dignity. She could have loved that man.
      Despite her uncle and brother's warnings then she knew…she could
      have loved him. "He was a great man and a fine leader. He will be
      missed," she said softly, fighting to get her emotions under
      control. Everyone she loved ended up dead. So many people dead…so
      much fighting. Would it ever end?

      "He will," Aragorn agreed, his own grief clear in his voice. He had
      respected Scott. He had been a good leader and a good man and shared
      hardships during battle had created a bond between them despite
      their original differences. He would indeed be missed.

      "Aragorn, we must leave now. The others are awaiting us," Legolas
      said softly and lay a hand on Aragorn's shoulder. Looking at Legolas
      he looked better, stronger, calmer…happier than Eowyn had seen him
      in a long time and she knew then that everything was all right
      between Ororo and him. Though she wished them happiness their joy
      was painful to her when she was in mourning and she turned her head
      away from him, facing the young man in the bed beside hers instead.

      Aragorn gently touched her bandaged arm before he rose and left with
      Legolas, their footsteps fading away. For a long while she stared at
      the wall at the far end, over all the beds, her eyes blurry with
      tears. Finally she fell into an exhausted but deep sleep.

      "Boromir!" The happy cry awoke Eowyn from her sleep and she blinked
      and saw the young man in the bed beside hers try to sit up. He was a
      mess of bruises and bandages and had obviously had a much worse
      battle than she had. She expected she could be released from the
      healing house within a week's time while the young man looked like
      he would have to stay here for at least a month more; probably
      longer.

      "My sweet Faramir," Boromir said gently as he came to sit by his
      little brother's bedside, his eyes and face alight with warmth. He
      had washed and changed into regal clothes in strong and clear
      colours, looking like a King. So, this young man was Faramir,
      Boromir's beloved little brother. Interested Eowyn watched the two
      brothers as Faramir tried to sit up but lacked the strength and
      Boromir gently assisted him, rearranging pillows. There was no doubt
      that Boromir was used to looking out for his brother, his actions
      spoke of years of caring for a brother who she guessed had grown to
      be loved as deeply as if he was a son instead of a brother, holding
      within that love a sense of pride, responsibility and duty.

      "Thank you," Faramir smiled his thanks and Boromir nodded before he
      grew grim.

      "I visited you two times earlier but you were not awake yet and
      Aragorn bid me wait and let you sleep the worst of the pain away.
      However now that you have awaken you need to know what happened to
      our father."

      At the mention of him Faramir got a scared look in his eyes and
      Boromir instinctively reassured him. "You need not worry. He will do
      you no harm…he cannot, not any longer."

      Faramir smiled his thanks. "You would have protected me as always."
      It was a statement of fact and nothing else.

      "Faramir," Boromir said seriously, "our father is dead." He was
      about to admit that he had been forced to kill him but decided
      Faramir did not need to know that; it would be a burden he did not
      have to carry contra Boromir himself who was haunted by his deed,
      necessary as he had felt it had been.
      A hint of grief flashed through Faramir's eyes. "I'm saddened. He
      was an unhappy man."

      "After everything he put you through…I am amazed by your power to
      love and forgive," Boromir said softly. "I am not sure I feel as
      gracious."

      "Hate will only make you a prisoner or a slave," Faramir said and
      Boromir smiled.

      "More Elven philosophy, brother?"

      Apparently an old joke between them, Faramir simply smiled. Eowyn
      was intrigued by the easy and deeply affective relationship between
      the brothers and decided that Faramir wasn't just a handsome man but
      also a sensitive and deep one. She lay still and listened to what
      else there was being said, feeling she was getting to know these two
      men in a way no one else would. She knew that she really should let
      them have their privacy but her fascination and curiosity won over
      her sense of common courtesy.

      "You know what father's death means," Boromir grew serious again.
      Faramir nodded as he sobered.

      "You are the new steward," Faramir acknowledged. He made an attempt
      of a bow while sitting in bed to make up for the kneeling position
      tradition dictated he should take but his injuries prevented even
      this so instead he bowed his head towards his brother as he
      added, "With my life or death I shall serve you until your last
      breath. Long live the new steward of Gondor, Boromir." With the old
      vow he also promised that he, as another son of the late steward,
      would not try to claim the throne. Faramir had never wanted
      leadership and was content to let his brother rule.

      "Please…do not do that," Boromir asked and shook his head. "I know I
      ask a lot when I ask this but I ask you to take the title as steward
      when I die."

      Faramir looked shocked. "You cannot die!" he protested, the fear
      clear in his voice.

      Boromir calmed him by gently holding his right hand, careful of all
      his injures. "If all goes well the Ring will be destroyed and with
      it me. If all falls…those left alive would wish for death," he ended
      darkly, a haunted look in his eyes as memories of his torture at
      Phoenix's hands returned to him. That wasn't even half of what he
      was sure he could expect if Sauron won.

      "Noo…noo," Faramir protested to such a dark future, tears now
      appearing in his eyes. "I will not accept such options."

      "I'm afraid you have no choice," Boromir said seriously. "When I am
      gone then claim your right as steward until the time when Aragorn
      decides it is time for his official coronation. Then hand all power
      over to him. You will find him a fair and good master. He will lead
      Gondor kindly and justly."

      Faramir fought to control his grief. He felt cheated. This was so
      unfair. He couldn't lose his brother again. It wasn't fair that he
      should die for doing what was right; choosing good instead of evil.
      It simply wasn't fair! "As you wish," Faramir got out, forcing his
      tears and pain back.

      Clearly saddened by his brother's distress Boromir stroked Faramir's
      cheek as he added, "Cheer up. I am not gone yet. Who knows? Phoenix
      could have been mistaken." Even Eowyn who didn't known Boromir as
      well as his brother did could tell Boromir did not believe his own
      words and Faramir didn't either but he desperately wanted to and
      thus he took the only hope he could get.

      "Yes. Of course," Faramir forced the words out and for a while
      neither brother spoke. Finding the silence too painful Boromir
      rose. "I must return to the council chambers. We need to debate our
      next move." He looked at his brother who looked so young and
      vulnerable lying in the big bed all wrapped up in bandages and bonds
      around his broken and abused body. His eyes lingered at Merry's even
      smaller and even more fragile looking body in the big bed beside
      Eowyn. "Take care of the Little Ones," he asked softly and it was
      clear that what he hadn't said was still hanging in the air between
      them…take care of the Little Ones…when I am gone and can no longer
      do so.

      "I will," Faramir promised. Caught up in emotions too strong to
      express Boromir turned to leave. "Brother?" Faramir soft plea
      brought him to a hold and Boromir turned to look at him. The look of
      fear, love and pain in Faramir's eyes broke him and he returned to
      Faramir's bedside in two large strikes. "Take care, my brother,"
      Faramir asked and reached up his arms as his big brother willingly
      let himself be embraced. They hung to each other as for dear life;
      both thinking this could be their final farewell. Finally,
      reluctantly Boromir drew back. With a gentle hand on each side of
      Faramir's face he said, "You lived in my heart from the day you were
      born and will do so to the day I die. Having you for a brother made
      my life worthwhile."

      Faramir blushed and looked down before his eyes again found his
      brother's. "You always were and always will remain my brother and my
      hero. You will live in my heart always." Words were poor to convey
      all they felt. Growing up it had been them against the world and
      even now that bond still held. Boromir drew back and clasped
      Faramir's arm in a warrior's greeting, careful not to press too hard
      on his brother's wounded and bandaged flesh. "Goodbye, my brother.
      Find happiness," Boromir wished and Faramir forced a smile through
      the lump in his throat.

      "Peace, my brother." It was the one thing that had always seemed to
      escape him and the one wish that said more than any other word.
      Boromir nodded and their hands fell apart as Boromir walked away.
      Walking out of the healing house he stopped at Merry's bedside and
      softly kissed the sleeping Hobbit's forehead as a father would a
      child and stroked his hair before he left the building, never
      looking back yet somehow aware that his brother's eyes were
      following him all the way, desperate to see as much of him as he
      possible could.

      Exhausted and pained Faramir fell back against the pillows. For a
      while he stared up into the ceiling, his thoughts blank. Then tears
      began to fall and he turn on his side…coming face to face with
      Eowyn's open and sympathetic face. Unashamed by his tears their eyes
      met and Eowyn smiled reassuringly. Wordlessly she stretched out her
      own bandaged hand towards him and he caught it and held it in his
      own bandaged one. They smiled at each other, finding comfort in the
      simple touch and each other in the middle of their grief. A feeling
      of peace and acceptance settled over them both as Faramir finally
      felt like he had found a woman who would respect and understand him
      for being who he was, a man, a poet, a writer, a scholar and only
      ever a warrior if he had no other choice while Eowyn felt like she
      had finally found someone who would respect her and treat her like
      an equal. A man who was not afraid to feel, not afraid to show he
      had weaknesses or to ask for help when needed. Tired beyond words
      they fell asleep, their hands still linked and a small smile around
      their lips; bringing hope of a light in the darkness to the young
      mortals.

      * * *

      "We have to think this through," Eomer warned from where he was
      sitting at the large table in the banquet hall of Minas Tirith's
      palace. Almost all the members of the command team had gathered to
      discuss their next move and ideas and tempers were running high.

      "If Frodo fails then this victory would have been meaningless,"
      Gandalf warned.

      "Of that we can all agree," Boromir injected in a respectful tone to
      the old wizard who sat beside him. Though he knew the destruction of
      the Ring most likely would mean his own destruction as well Boromir
      was fighting to archive that goal, pushing his own fears to the back
      of his mind and instead focussing on his brother, the Little Ones,
      Gondor itself who would be ruined if Sauron would emerge the victor.
      Still, at times it was hard to keep his thoughts from wandering and
      he did, like any other man, fear death. However it was a weakness he
      refused to think about, refused to let control his actions. Faramir
      had once told him that a poet had written that courage was not the
      absence of fear but doing the right thing despite being afraid. Back
      then he hadn't believed those words, so used to his father and
      everyone else expecting him to show no fear at all but Boromir chose
      now to believe those words and no longer saw his fear as a weakness.

      Besides Eomer, Gandalf and Boromir the command team gathered counted
      Haldir, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Logan and Rogue. The other members
      were either in sickbay or had been slain in battle and the sight of
      empty chairs for Scott and Theoden clouded the meeting in sorrow.

      "We need to act NOW!" Logan insisted hotly and slammed his fist onto
      the table for good measure. Though they had been far apart in
      temperament Scott had become a friend; a comrade he had trusted and
      his death fuelled Logan's rage. Rogue placed a calming gloved hand
      on Logan's hand, squeezing his fingers and smiling encouragingly to
      him. Without Scott to balance out Logan's hot temper she was all
      that held him back from jumping into any situation head first,
      asking questions later. She had cried for Scott in Logan's embrace
      and his death had placed a sad and haunting look on her face. She
      had never lost anyone before. Unlike Logan who had been a soldier,
      who remembered bits and pieces of people, memories and things that
      had been taken from him she had never felt any great loss. Somehow
      she had just thought that her friends could not die. X-men just
      didn't die. Yet Scott had died and the realisation of her own
      mortality as well as her friends' mortality added shock to her grief.

      "Phoenix is on the loose and very powerful. We have to take her into
      consideration," Rogue warned, flinching slightly as she spoke. She
      didn't like to speak of Jean in such a fashion but Phoenix was not
      Jean. Jean would never have killed Scott; obviously Phoenix had not
      had the same restrictions.

      "The army…" Legolas began but was interrupted when two guards opened
      the large, heavy wooden door and admitted Ororo. Her footsteps
      echoed in the large room as she walked towards the table, having
      changed clothes from the battle and was now wearing a dress that
      held a band just below her breasts, showing off her growing stomach.
      The guards closed the door behind her with a loud noise as they
      returned to keeping watch. She looked around at the gathered people
      and saw that like her they had all washed up and changed clothes
      which especially the Elves seemed happy to have stolen the time to
      do as they hated being dirty. They reminded her in many ways of
      Earth's cats, graceful, independent and hating being dirty and
      feeling miserable when it was raining. Despite Aragorn's many Elven
      traits he had not taken their almost fanatic need for being clean to
      heart though he did change clothes and cleaned up, as he had now,
      when he felt he could afford to do so.

      "Sorry for the disturbance," she apologized and her eyes and face
      brightened at seeing Legolas. He smiled a bit more reserved but just
      as warmly at her and gracefully indicated the empty chair beside
      him. She nodded her thanks as she seated herself. Unable to help
      herself she took hold of Legolas's hand and held on tight. Scott's
      death had pained her deeply as they had been good friends and the
      realization that Jean, a friend who had been like a sister, had been
      his killer had shocked her to her core. She had cried for him, even
      cried for Jean as she now saw that her other friend was also gone
      but her tears hadn't ended her pain. On top of her grief she had had
      to fight against the pain she had felt when some of the Elves had
      died. Luckily they hadn't lost as many Elves in this battle as they
      had at Helm's Deep thanks to their ghostly allies but that pain was
      still there, added on top of everything else. She had worked in
      sickbay to try and save those she could but had lost patients there
      as well. There had been so much death and blood these last three
      days since the battle had ended that she had felt her spirits dying.
      Only Legolas and the love they shared kept her going. Aragorn saw
      their joined hands on the table and frowned in concern but didn't
      speak. For now Legolas was safe and thus he would wait to worry more
      about this till after the final battle against Sauron. He forced his
      mind off Legolas's health and the string of longing for Arwen seeing
      their love brought to his heart, knowing the battle talks demanded
      his full attention.

      "As I was saying then the army is in a bad shape as you all know.
      Even our uninjured soldiers are tired and weary," Legolas ended, a
      light in his eyes and a small smile staying on his lips despite his
      serious tone and mood, a reminder of the joy Ororo brought to his
      life.

      "Ideally we should let the soldiers rest for at least a month,"
      Ororo added to Legolas's statement.

      "Ideally we should not be at war," Boromir said softly, his thoughts
      grim and filled with images of fallen friends as well as the
      injuries his brother and his Little Ones had sustained. They should
      never have had been forced to fight; all three had had such innocent
      souls which had now been destroyed forever as they had been forced
      to kill to save themselves and others.

      In situations like these Aragorn felt the burden of his inheritance
      dragging him down more than ever and his face and voice was grim as
      he spoke. "We have all suffered great losses in the cause of this
      war yet we cannot linger now. We must aid Frodo any way we can. I
      concur with the plan Haldir and Boromir suggested earlier," Aragorn
      nodded to each in turn who gave a respectful nod back. "We must get
      Sauron's attention off Frodo and to do so we must muster an attack
      on the Black Gates of Mordor."

      "Our army will not have a chance against the forces of Mordor. They
      will all be killed," Eomer warned, his expression grim as his mind's
      eye supplied him with images of dying and dead comrades and friends,
      the image of his uncle's body and his sister's injuries foremost on
      his mind.

      "I'll be the last to volunteer to a suicide mission but we need to
      kill these bastards! Since we're outnumbered we might not be able to
      win but we can sure as hell give them a run for their money," Logan
      said, his anger sparkling cold in his eyes.

      "I agree with Logan," Gimli got in and pain appeared in his eyes at
      the memory of lost comrades danced before his mind's eye. "We have a
      lot of friends to avenge."

      Aragorn nodded seriously. "Indeed we do." For a few seconds there
      was silence around the table as everyone remembered friends and
      family members who was now lost to them. "Very well," Aragorn said,
      having made up his mind. "If everyone agrees then prepare the
      armies. We leave for Mordor the day after tomorrow at daybreak."

      There was a mumble of `Eye' and `Agreed' before the meeting broke up
      as people got busy trying to make the tired and shrinking army ready
      for battle.

      "Asking you to stay in the city would do me no good, would it?"
      Logan asked, his tone poorly disguising his worry for Rogue as he
      addressed her. Logan had a strong and secure arm around Rogue's
      waist and she was leaning into him as they walked out of the banquet
      hall. They parted reluctantly from Ororo as the remaining X-men now
      felt overprotective of each other but had to part as they had been
      given different assignments. Logan and Rogue walked towards the
      buildings in the city where the officers from Rohan's army had taken
      residence. They had been assigned to try and get the Rohan division
      of the combined army ready for battle. This meant they had to send
      out runners to count how many troops would be able to participate in
      the battle, how many they had in the hospital and then count their
      supply of food, weapons, clothes and armor. It would be hectic in
      the next few days in Minas Tirith as all the different armies from
      Gondor's to Rivendell's Elves prepared for battle.

      Rogue leaned against him, enjoying his nearness but her tone was
      serious as she lifted her head and looked up at him. "No, it
      wouldn't." She still felt guilty for what she had almost done to
      Logan and there was no way she would let him or her other friends,
      new and old, down again. She forced a smile and put a gloved hand on
      his mouth and then kissed her gloved hand, the way she gave him
      kisses when they didn't have a shawl or a similar small piece of
      clothing she could kiss through. "Don't worry so much, lov. We'll do
      this together," she said as she had withdrawn her hand.

      Logan smiled softly at her, his heart filled with love,
      protectiveness and warmth. "Together," he agreed and kissed the top
      of her head.

      Elsewhere, walking towards the palace's healing house, Legolas and
      Ororo were having a similar debate. "I beg you to reconsider, my
      wife. For the sake of our own unborn child," Legolas asked again as
      they had come to a halt in front of the healing house, facing each
      other as they spoke.

      Ororo shook her head. "I worry about our child too," she said and
      instinctively put a protective hand over her growing stomach. "But I
      am a great asset to this army and if we do not win this battle
      against Sauron then everything will be lost." Legolas looked
      miserably at her and she smiled softly as she put a hand against his
      cheek. "I will not make promises I cannot keep," she said
      softly. "But I will promise I will try and be as careful as
      possible."

      Legolas nodded his thanks as he covered her hand on his cheek with
      his own before he took her hand and softly kissed the back of her
      hand. "Thank you," he said seriously and his eyes echoed the love he
      didn't say. She blushed and smiled as she withdrew her hand. For a
      moment they stood opposite each other, she unsure of what to do.
      Everything had happened so fast that she had yet to fully learn all
      the rules of Elven society but one thing she had learnt was that the
      Elves were a very graceful but private people and public displays of
      affection in anything but words were rare.

      As if he could read her mind Legolas said softly, lovingly. "You are
      my heart and my life. Your joy is my own; your pain my own. Do not
      hesitate to call for me to assist you in any way. It is not only my
      duty to help you through our life together but it is also my
      pleasure and privilege to do so." His words and eyes were as warm
      and burning as a caress yet he hadn't even attempted to touch her.
      Though she was normally a reserved person herself she saw no need to
      be so now. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him
      passionately, pulling him close. As if her fire ignited his own, his
      arms closed around her and he deepened the kiss. The kiss lasted for
      a lifetime, holding a desperate intensity that neither could voice.
      Reluctantly she drew back from him and with eyes filled with love
      and fondness she caressed his cheek.

      "I love you," she said simply, happy to finally be able to say those
      words to him. Again he caught her hand and kissed it, this time
      inside her palm. He kept holding her hand in his, drawing circles
      and small figures on the soft skin of her palm. "And I you," he said
      simply. She smiled and the moment seemed to last forever before
      Legolas reluctantly let go of her hand. "Come to me at nightfall. I
      will be at the palace assisting Aragorn with the Gondoran army,"
      Legolas explained and she nodded.

      "I will," she promised and with one last look at her Legolas walked
      back to the palace, having only left it to follow her to the healing
      house. Her work at the House was not only with the patients but also
      trying to record the patients names and what army they were from so
      their families would know where they were and so the armies would
      know as well. She watched Legolas disappear into the evening mist
      that had gathered on the streets of Minas Tirith which was probably
      for the better as they were still cleaning up after the battle, the
      sickly sweet stench of the burning bodies of dead Orcs that burned
      just outside town testified to this as did the mass graveyard they
      were building, also outside of town which they tried to separate
      into 3 pieces, one for fallen Gondorian, Rohan and Elven soldiers.
      She forced her thoughts away from death, forced her loss for Scott
      to the back of her mind as she entered the healing house, determined
      to do a good job before she would fall into an exhausted sleep
      within Legolas's strong embrace.

      * * *

      Sauron was going to pay for her loss. Slowly, painfully…she would
      rip him apart and cast him into the flames of hell itself if
      possible. Filled with pain and rage Phoenix flew across Mordor. She
      had killed a lot of Sauron's men but had tired of killing minions
      when Sauron himself was the one she wanted. With green eyes burning
      with fury she flew straight to Sauron's hideout. The nightmarish
      wasteland gave way to Sauron's mansion and she flew to his tower.
      She hovered above the ground and was face to face with the red
      glowing eye that was the spirit being called Sauron. She stopped at
      a distance of 20 meters from him.

      "You killed Cyclops!" she yelled furiously at him, forming a fist
      with her right hand as she called her powers to her. She felt the
      very energy of the universe itself pulsing within her but kept
      surging up even more power as she reached her right hand towards the
      heavens.

      `I did not. You did,' came Sauron's dark, mental voice, hammering
      against her mental shields. He could easily pick up her turmoil
      emotions and had seen the events that had happened between her and
      Scott in her mind as the memory and emotions were tightly connected
      and under very loose control.

      "You lie!" she raged and threw all the energy she had gathered
      towards him, using her right hand to aim her energy at him. She was
      sure there would be nothing left of him; she had never used that
      much energy before. Stunned she watched her telepathic and
      telekinetic attack glance off him as water on a goose. "It…it cannot
      be," she mumbled. Sauron didn't even seem to have been injured; the
      eye glimmered as evilly as always.

      `Silly woman,' the dark mental voice scolded. `Do you really think I
      would have brought you here, would have boosted your powers if not I
      knew I could always defeat you?'

      "You are wrong. No one can defeat me," Phoenix denied and gathered
      more energy around herself, again using her right hand as a focus
      point, reaching it up towards the heavens. "I am Phoenix. I am fire
      and life incarnate. I get my powers from the universe itself. I
      cannot be defeated!" With those words she threw another mental bolt
      of energy towards him, using all her powers, all her energy.
      Breathing heavily, weary from the strain she watched stunned as
      again Sauron didn't even seem to blink…so to speak.

      `You cannot defeat me. You may get your powers from the universe but
      I get mine from the One Ring, an instrument of pure evil. The
      universe in itself is neutral. Drawing energy from it you draw the
      potential for good as well as evil. You have to supply the evil
      yourself from the energy you harvest and that strains you. I do not
      have to do so. The energy from the Ring is already pure evil. You
      cannot defeat me' Sauron's mental voice was dark and taunting,
      arrogant and sure. Weakened Phoenix began to feel her mental
      barriers give way as Sauron hammered into them, trying to force his
      way into her mind. She instinctively put her hands to her forehead
      in an old age gesture of self protection from an inner attack she
      knew she could not fight on the outside.

      "You will not defeat me!" Phoenix hissed through clashed teeth,
      fighting with all she had to keep him out of her mind but she knew
      it was only a matter of time before she would lose.

      `I already have,' he sent simply.

      Phoenix looked straight at him, an evil smile playing over her lips.
      She knew what she had to do and she realized the decision wasn't
      hard. Phoenix would not be brought to her knees; she would win, no
      mater what. She would win! "Defeat this!" She yelled as she used her
      last energy to fly high up into the sky.

      `What are you doing? You cannot outrun me,' Sauron reminded her, his
      voice confident but she could feel his puzzlement. She didn't reply
      as she again gathered energy around her, all she could muster. She
      pointed both her hands downwards, ready to take aim. `You cannot
      kill me,' Sauron said again, a string of evil laughter forcing its
      way through her failing mental barriers.

      "I cannot but I know someone else who can," Phoenix said evenly, her
      thoughts on the Hobbits whose journey she had tried to disrupt since
      she had gotten here. All that had changed. Their success now fitted
      into her plans. She pointed her hands towards Sauron's large army
      where it was moving towards the Black Gates, ready to match on
      Gondor.

      `What are you doing?' Sauron demanded to know, a hint of alarm in
      his voice.

      "This is for you, Scott. I could never love you but I know…Jean
      did," Phoenix whispered, the most fleeting of pains at his death
      washing over her but as before it was quickly replaced by rage and
      anger. Her thirst for revenge was now greater than her thirst for
      power. With a heart filled with thoughts of revenge she flew faster
      and faster downwards, building up more and more energy as she flew
      towards the part of Sauron's Orc army that was closest to where she
      was which turned out to be the end of the army. The Orc army was
      slowly marching towards the Black Gates and Gondor and did not
      notice her as she flew towards them.

      `NOOO!' Sauron yelled and intensified his attack on her mind. She
      fought back the pain that was becoming agony. She had to make it.
      She would not be beaten.

      "Defeat this, you sick son of a bitch!" she yelled as she let loose
      all the energy she had gathered when she was only a few meters from
      the army. The energy built up was too much for her to handle and
      before she had time to think another thought the energy vaporized
      her together with all of Sauron's army and most of Mordor. Her last
      action was an arrogant smile and a simple triumphant whisper.

      "I win!" she got out, the words hanging in the air as the smoke from
      the burnt out army began to drift away.

      `Noooo!' Sauron yelled, enraged. A woman had defeated his army…One
      woman? This could not be. How could this have happened? Phoenix
      wasn't supposed to be willing to give her life for anything, not
      even revenge. She was supposed to be too power hungry for that. What
      could have changed that? Love. It was the only emotion powerful
      enough to break through darkness and evil, even for just a few
      seconds. Sauron cursed everything and anyone he could think of. Now
      all he could hope was that Gollum, a creature under his control,
      would bring the Ring to him. Without an army the Ring was his only
      hope. Gollum surely would have no such weakness as Phoenix had had
      when Jean's love had resurfaced and briefly touched her mind,
      sending her off on a blind mission of revenge. He could only hope
      that the Hobbit who carried the Ring was lost and without hope and
      without love as well…For then his plan could never fail! Dismissing
      Phoenix's attack as a minor setback Sauron would have smiled
      arrogantly if he had had a body; yes, the Hobbit and Gollum would
      not fail him. There was no love or hope left for any of them. He
      could and would still win this war and Phoenix's last minute
      sacrifice would have been for nothing just like the sacrifice of
      that stupid fool of her lover who had given his life to see that
      small light in her return, had been for nothing.

      * * *

      The army had been gathered and had been ready for a battle they
      could not win, standing outside the Black Gates. The Gates had
      opened and an army of Orcs had stood opposite them. It was evident
      to all that this battle they could not win. Nevertheless not one
      soldier deserted his post, knowing that this battle had to be fought
      or all of Middle Earth would be lost. However, as Aragorn was about
      to give the signal to attack a blinding white light fell from the
      sky and hit the back of the Orc army, sending a shock wave of
      destruction through the ranks of Orcs. Aragorn, Boromir, Haldir,
      Eomer, Legolas, Ororo, Rogue and Logan had quickly yelled that
      everyone should draw back. They had managed to only loose 290 people
      in the blast that had destroyed the Orc army, leaving 420 people
      wounded. Thanks to their greater speed and vitality no Elves had
      been wounded or killed in the blast. Ororo had flown up to scan the
      area and had confirmed that the entire Orc army had been killed. The
      anti climatic ending had taken some time for them to accept when
      they had just moments before all tried to come to terms with the
      knowledge that they were all about to die.

      They had moved back to the city, tending to the wounded and dead but
      had stayed on alert. When hours had passed without any attack they
      had summarized that Phoenix must have died, maybe in the attack on
      the Orcs. Gandalf had told them that the attack had not been magical
      so it was logical to suspect Phoenix had done it, though why she
      would choose to commit an act that would take her own life as well
      remained a mystery to them.

      Again the council had gathered and debated options. Some wanted to
      seek out Frodo and Sam and offer their assistance but they feared
      that if they did so they would only draw Sauron's attention to the
      Hobbits. So they had been left to agonizing and restless waiting.
      Boromir had spent most of his time with Faramir or his Little Ones,
      happy to be given the opportunity to say a proper farewell to the
      Hobbits. Having said his farewell to Faramir he never said farewell
      again. He did however use some time to talk with Faramir and Eowyn
      and when alone he let his brother know that whatever his heart chose
      then he would approve of that choice. Too early to think of that
      Faramir was still happy to have Boromir's blessing when the time
      came.

      It was a difficult time for everyone, knowing that if the Hobbits
      failed so would all of Middle Earth. The time was hardest for
      Boromir's friends. Boromir himself had come to terms with his
      pending death but his brother and his friends had not. Afraid to
      find him suddenly gone everyone tried to speak with him often and
      frequently but everyone also felt uncomfortable, not knowing how to
      react when in his presence which in turn made Boromir feel
      uncomfortable. Boromir spent some time talking with Rogue who, to
      his pleasure and relief, was able to talk more normally with him as
      she had tried something similar when she had watched her grandmother
      pass away some years earlier, knowing she was about to die but
      unable to prevent it. The episode had happened when Rogue had been a
      young girl but talking to her grandmother had given her a sense of
      closure and that had taken a lot of the pain and grief away. Time
      and the wonder of the forgetfulness of anything painful of the young
      mind had ensured that the memory of her grandmother was remembered
      fondly and without pain. Rogue had told Boromir about her own
      temptation by the Ring and she ended up being able to let go of some
      of her guilt over the episode when Boromir had talked about his own
      temptation. He spoke with Ororo about Legolas and what little he
      knew of Elven culture, suggesting she asked his brother who knew
      practically everything about the culture he admired so much. He
      would debate Scott and his death with Ororo as well, and they would
      talk about life, death and mourning. Ororo was one of the few of his
      friends who were able to relax in his company. She saw life as a
      circle and had long ago accepted death as a natural part of life.
      She was connected to nature in a different way than the Elves
      because she was also connected to nature's frailty and mortality. He
      spent some time with Eomer, Haldir and Logan but ended up mostly
      debating Middle Earth's future and battle strategies, as none of
      these men were good at debating emotions. He spoke with Legolas
      about what might lie ahead for him after his death and he admitted
      to his fear that Eru, his God, might not forgive him his error about
      the Ring. Legolas's reply had comforted him. The Elven Prince had
      simply said, "If your God is a God worthy of prayer, your God will
      always forgive, always understand…always love…Never punish, never
      hate, never condemn." And Boromir knew Legolas was right and that he
      had nothing to fear. A deeper sense of serenity had settled over him
      then.

      It was on the second day after the battle that had never come to
      pass at the Black Gates when it happened. Boromir had just come back
      to the palace after visiting his Little Ones and his brother. He had
      gone to meet Aragorn and they had been debating Gondor's future. The
      two of them now had an easy report and their hopes and dreams for
      Gondor as a safe and free nation without hate and injustice burned
      bright in them both. They had been seated in the library, their
      chairs facing each other in front of the fireplace when suddenly a
      white light appeared from above, its warm rays reaching Boromir.

      "It is time," Boromir said softly to Aragorn and from the surprise,
      shock and sadness on his face Boromir knew his friend could not see
      the light. He fought not to let his nervousness show but it was
      impossible for him not to be nervous about an unsure fate and also
      impossible not to mourn the life he was leaving half done. Despite
      having come to terms with his own demise when it was time it still
      felt too soon. "Take care of my brother, the Hobbits and Gondor. All
      what is precious to me I now place in your hands. Keep them safe,"
      he asked as he rose to stand in front of his chair. Unsure of what
      to do Aragorn stood as well, sorrow at seeing his friend leave
      evident in his face but as he realised this meant the Hobbits had
      won joy was also present.

      "I will," he swore. Boromir smiled in gratitude and stretched out
      his hand. Aragorn took it and shook it like warriors do, hand around
      the wrist. Their hands fell apart and time seemed to stop.

      "I could have wished for no better steward of my Kingdom…and no
      better friend," Aragorn said sincerely. Boromir was his closest
      human friend and also one of the few humans he had close contact to.
      A bond had formed between them, Boromir had after his resurrection
      shown understanding and tolerance towards a human King raised as an
      Elf, something few humans had and Aragorn was saddened to see him
      go, even though he had known this would come along.

      Again Boromir nodded his thanks. "Happiness and long life," Boromir
      wished as he felt himself begin to fade away, moving towards the
      warm and embracing light. In the presence of such warmth and love as
      what he could feel from the light that carried him away Boromir's
      nervousness and regrets melted away. The light embraced him and
      carried him away on a wave of light and love and Boromir's last
      thought was that everything would be all right, for him and for the
      ones he left behind. He had faith in the goodness of his own final
      destiny and faith in the abilities of the ones he was leaving
      behind.

      To Aragorn it seemed as if Boromir was about to fade from existence
      and he had to restrain himself from not trying to make a grab for
      him to bind him to this life a little longer.

      "You shall never be forgotten," Aragorn promised. Before more words
      could be spoken Boromir was gone, faded from existence and Aragorn
      comforted himself with the fact that Boromir had seemed at peace
      when he had faded from his vision. "Farewell…my friend," Aragorn
      whispered softly to the empty air. For a few minutes he simply stood
      still, staring at the spot where Boromir had stood just moments
      before. Then he called Gandalf and Ororo to him and asked them to
      search for Frodo and Sam, telling them about Boromir's death. As
      they left, their hearts heavy, Aragorn went to bring the sad news to
      Faramir and the two Hobbits. As Aragorn walked to the healing house
      he knew this would be one of the hardest and saddest news he had
      never had to break to anyone.

      * * *

      It was now or never; it was time to end it all. Sam had fought his
      way back to Frodo and had saved him from giant spiders and Orcs
      alike, cruel beings that would forever haunt his dreams. Now as they
      were at Mt. Doom what should have been an easy decision was suddenly
      not. Sam had watched with dismay as his friend fell deeper and
      deeper under the Ring's evil spell, growing weaker and weaker by the
      hour. They had seen a bright flash of light over Mordor not long ago
      but unsure of what it was they had simply fought to move faster
      towards their destination.

      Sam and Frodo had finally reached the top of Mt. Doom and had gone
      inside the natural cave at the top which showed a rocky bridge with
      melted lava all around. Frodo was now holding the Ring out over the
      edge of the small rocky passage in the chain he had carried it in.
      He was holding it over the pit of melted lava below while Sam stood
      a few feet away, near the entrance to the cave, watching his friend
      with a worried expression on his face.

      "I could own the world. I could have everything!" Frodo mumbled, his
      eyes taking on a mad and power hungry look.

      "Frodo, please. Throw it in!" Sam begged, afraid something might
      happen at this, the last trial, to prevent Frodo from destroying the
      Ring. Frodo turned towards him, grinning evilly.

      "Why should I? I have everything. I can be everything!"

      Sam had known how hard Frodo was fighting the temptation of the Ring
      but he had never imagined it would come to this. He knew this person
      in front of him had little left of his friend but he would not
      abandon him now. He stepped closer to Frodo, so close he could touch
      him if he should so choose.

      "Mine!" Frodo insisted, pulling the Ring away from Sam's reach but
      otherwise remained where he was. The fate of the world, of the
      Shire, everything faded when Sam looked into the tortured, mad eyes
      of the friend who he would die for.

      "My dearest friend," Sam began softly, heartfelt. "If I thought the
      possession of the Ring would ease the agony I've seen grow in you
      since we departed Rivendell I would never ask you to give it up but
      the Ring is not the answer."

      "You know nothing!" Frodo insisted, unconsciously stroking the Ring
      in his hand as if it was a lover.

      "The Ring beckons to me as well," Sam admitted. "But I know of
      something which is of much more worth to me than any object of
      metal."

      A part of Frodo shined through as he was intrigued in spite of
      himself. "And what is that?"

      "You," Sam said simply, honestly. The one thing, only thing, that
      could push the evil whispers of the Ring back; love. Love and the
      lack of desire for power and material things. Sam was a simple man
      with a simple outlook on life and simple dreams. Life to him had
      never been complicated. He loved living in the Shire, quiet and far
      from change as it was. He loved his friend who was also his master
      and he loved life's simple pleasures of food, wine and fun games to
      pass the time.

      Frodo seemed to hesitate for a moment in the face of Sam's honest
      and warm statement. No one had ever cared for him as deeply as Sam
      had…after all he had done to Sam, thrown him away then taken him
      back when Gollum had left him….after it all Sam still thought the
      world of him. A warm feeling of caring and love fought to push the
      darkness of the Ring's influence back.

      "Sam, I…" He began not sure what else he wanted to say but he never
      got the chance when Gollum suddenly appeared, having followed the
      Hobbits, and jumped on him, trying to tear the Ring away from him.

      "Mine! It's mine! My precious!" Gollum yelled fanatically and the
      two of them fought. Caught up in the rage and anger of a fight Frodo
      forgot the warm emotions that had just began to develop and instead
      fought to get the Ring for himself. Gollum had jumped up on his back
      and they were moving further inside the cave. Sam watched worried,
      trying to find an opening to help Frodo but was afraid that if he
      mingled they would all fall into the pit of melted lava.

      "It's mine!" Frodo proclaimed as he managed to get the Ring off the
      chain he had had it in and slid it onto his finger.

      "NOO!" Sam screamed in shock and frustration. Sauron would be able
      to find them now and from the evil look on Frodo's face he was also
      able to influence the Ringbearer to a much greater length now that
      Frodo wore the Ring on his flesh.

      "MINE! MINE! MINE!" Gollum screamed fanatically and tried to twist
      the Ring off Frodo's finger. Seeing he wasn't succeeding Gollum
      simply bit Frodo's finger clean off, making the Hobbit scream in
      pain.

      "Frodo!" Sam yelled worried and moved towards him. Gollum looked
      triumphantly at the Ring and in his fascination of it forgot to have
      a proper grip on Frodo who stretched and threw Gollum backwards and
      off him, into the pit of melted lava. Frodo sank to his knees,
      holding his bleeding finger, not even sparing Gollum a glance. As
      Sam ran to Frodo he looked over the edge at Gollum who was smiling
      as he was falling, holding the Ring tightly in his hands.

      "My precious. It's finally mine. My precious," he said satisfied,
      lovingly before the lava took him and he was no more.

      "I am free…the pull, the pain, has faded to nothing but a constant
      echo…a phantom forever in my mind," Frodo whispered in wonder and
      pain as he felt Sauron's influence fade away.

      "I cannot die! I cannot lose! I cannot!" Frodo heard Sauron yell but
      to no avail. He faded from existence and Frodo was free, the pain
      now reduced to a more bearable level and he knew some pain would
      always remain as a constant reminder of what he had endured and what
      he had done here today; the betrayal he had almost committed.

      Sam knelt beside his friend, his face filled with sympathy. He put
      an arm around Frodo's back and helped him stand, wincing with him
      when the pain made Frodo grimace. The entire mountain shook and the
      cave began to give in.

      "We must go now," Sam said unnecessarily as he aided Frodo back out
      of the cave. Supporting his friend they moved as quickly down the
      mountain as possible but Frodo's injuries were slowing them down.

      "Just leave me," Frodo groaned, pain clear in his face.

      "Never!" Sam vowed. They reached a small plateau and had to rest
      there when suddenly the mountain exploded and lava moved towards
      them. Sam couldn't help but smile at the irony that they should die
      now, after the almost impossibly dangerous task had been completed.

      "Leave," Frodo got out and tried weakly to push Sam way from him.

      "I am not leaving," Sam insisted. He let Frodo lie down, his head
      resting in Sam's lap. "I am right where I want to be," he said
      softly, eyeing the coming doom of melted lava out of the corner of
      his eye. So, this was the end. It didn't feel that bad now that he
      knew that Middle Earth was safe. He was saddened that he didn't get
      to see the Shire again or know for sure that Merry and Pippin were
      all right but he was still content. The journey had ended and after
      months of hardship and none or very uneasy sleep he would have peace.

      "You are a very stubborn man, Samwise Gamgee," Frodo whispered
      affectionately, trying to fight the pain so that he didn't lose
      consciousness. He didn't want Sam to face the end alone. The least
      he could do was stay with him till it happened.

      "That I am, Mister Frodo. That I am," Sam said softly and stroked
      Frodo's forehead, growing alarmed when he felt it was burning hot
      with fever. Then he remembered that they were about to die so a
      fever wasn't their greatest problems. Frodo's hand found his and he
      squeezed it hard, both trying to gain comfort from the simple touch.

      Sam eyed the lava as it moved closer and closer and as it was to
      engulf Frodo and him he instinctively leaned protectively over his
      friend though he knew his body would not be enough to shield him.
      Suddenly a wave of cold air hit him and turning he saw that the
      nearing deadly wave of lava had frozen to ice. Relieved beyond words
      but puzzled as to who could be his powerful saviour Sam looked up
      and spotted Ororo, an obviously pregnant Ororo. She smiled down at
      them but her eyes reflected a deep sadness and sorrow Sam did not
      understand.

      "We are relieved to see you are both well," she said as she landed
      next to them.

      "Come. Let's take you home," another voice said, filled with concern
      and love. Sam turned and saw Gandalf hovering a little over the
      ground on the back of a giant bird and he too had eyes that showed
      sadness. Sam silently reminded himself to ask them what had brought
      it on at a later time.

      "Gandalf," Frodo said and smiled at him. The pain and the excitement
      finally caught up with him and his hand went limp in Sam's as he
      lost consciousness.

      "Home," Sam whispered happily and let Ororo use her power over the
      wind to lift them up to Gandalf. They flew back to Gondor; Ororo
      helping Gandalf keep the Hobbits safe on the back of the bird. Sam
      stayed at Frodo's side until he was safety put in a bed in one of
      the bedrooms of the palace of Minas Tirith. First then did Sam
      permit himself to relax and he promptly fainted from strain, fatigue
      and all the minor pains and aches which had grown and was now making
      themselves known. Gandalf and Ororo were not in doubt that Sam
      should be placed in the bedroom next to Frodo's. In the midst of
      remembering all the losses and pain this victory had brought with
      them, Frodo and Sam's endurance, love and loyalty to each other made
      Gandalf and Ororo also remember all the victories…all the soldiers
      still left standing.

      It had been a bloody war with much destruction and much pain but
      this had been a war they had been unable to avoid. Even the
      pacifistic Elves and Hobbits had been drawn into it and they all
      knew that it would take ages before the wounds and scars of this war
      would fade away. However as always in the face of grief there was
      only one way to go…and that was forward…forward and create something
      better than yesteryear to prevent a war, a grief like this from ever
      coming to pass again.


      Author's notes:

      Oh, my God I'm getting tired from all this writing. *grins*

      Random trivia: Did you know that this chapter is 24 pages long? I
      guess you're also getting tired of reading so long chapters all the
      time. *smiles*

      Well, chin up, people. Only one more chapter to go before I throw
      the towel in the ring. ;)

      I hope you've enjoyed the story so far.

      Feedback and comments are always welcome as long as you use a kind
      and polite tone.

      Thanks again to everyone who has send me kind words of
      encouragement. Your words have kept me writing.

      Special thanks to Jonas for the beta.

      Love

      Nadja
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