A/N: I had to post this alternate ending, for ever since I posted Chapter 25 I have been the recipient of many complaints, about how the ending was so bitter and sad. Well, I hate to disappoint my fans, so here is a much sweeter ending for all of you who believe in true love and like Thranduil and Tauriel as a paring! Again, thanks a lot for reading and reviewing and supporting me all along. See you in the next stories!
Chapter 25 – Alternate ending
For three whole days and three long nights he mourned her. His weeping would not cease, and his heart would not be put to rest. But Tauriel's voice was heard in the wind, and she spoke to him with soothing words, wishing to take away his pain.
But how could she? How was this pain that tore his whole being apart ever to be soothed? He cared not that his spirit was mended now; he cared not that the stain of Morgoth, inflicted upon him so long ago, was now removed. He would trade it all for her life. He would have gladly died in her place. If only his accursed blade had not found its mark! If only he had turned it against himself, and not her!
"Valar!" he cried to the wind, holding her limp and lifeless body in his arms. "How can you be so cruel? Have I not paid enough in this life? Why should you allow this to happen? I knew you for just and fair, but I was wrong. No one before has endured what I have, and I have endured it all for love. Darkness robbed me of my Lothrin, but I lived on for my son, broken and tainted as I was. And when a second chance was given to me, and Tauriel brought light into my life again, darkness struck once more, and had me drive my sword into her heart. Oh, the injustice of the world! Hear me, Valar, I beseech you! I offer my life for hers. I have lived long, too long indeed upon this Middle Earth. But she was young, an elleth full of life and hope and dreams. Her only mistake was that she loved me. She dared to love one, who was cursed by evil, and she dared stand against the darkness, unflinching and unafraid. For she always trusted to hope, and to love. All her life she had lived for love, and her death has been for love as well. But I did not deserve that sacrifice. I was unworthy of the magnitude of her love. Please, Valar, bestow your light upon me, if only for once in my long and accursed life, and hear me. I lay down my own life for hers, so that she may live again".
He glanced around. The place was deserted; in the distance loomed the broken, grey towers of Dol Guldur, and all around him the ground was barren and sown with thorns and bare rocks. No sign of life was anywhere. A light wind blew every now and then, swirling up the dead leaves and the dust.
A deep bitterness was born in his heart then, and he fell to his knees. Her head he held tenderly, her skin pale now and lifeless. Hot tears blurred his vision. "How can one so fair be gifted to death?" he lamented, and his fingers traced her temple. "Valar, you have forsaken me!" he cried to the skies, and his bitterness turned to resentment.
But then the darkness of the sky was broken, and a bright light, like that of a distant star, appeared. Thranduil held Tauriel's body tightly against his, as he beheld the extraordinary phenomenon. The light grew brighter still, and soon it eclipsed all else around it. There was no Dol Guldur, no towers, no bridges, no thorns, nothing. Even the gloomy trees of his kingdom faded, as the light engulfed it all.
"Elbereth!" he cried in awe.
"Rise, oh Elvenking", called to him the sweetest female voice he had ever heard. "For we are not cruel, and we acknowledge your pain and her sacrifice. No child of Iluvatar should ever suffer so".
"Elbereth Gilthoniel, is that you?" he whispered in reverence.
The clouds parted then and a female face took shape, brilliant and beautiful like the morning dew. He thought that she smiled at him, and tears of humility and regret streamed down his face unbeknownst to him.
"We offer you a chance to be joined with your beloved in the Undying Lands. Will you take it? Will you forsake this world forever?" she asked.
He could scarcely believe his ears. "Is this a dream? Elbereth, am I dreaming awake?"
"It is not a dream".
It was Elbereth indeed, and she was offering him a chance to be with Tauriel forever. She called to him to let go of the mortal world and all he knew, and join her in Valinor, where there were no sorrows and no death. His thoughts turned to his son. Legolas… will you forgive me, if I leave you? Will you resent me for choosing to be with her? Will you feel alone and abandoned, my only child, child of my heart?
"Father", Legolas' soft voice was heard then.
Thranduil turned to behold him, and the young ellon was smiling. "Legolas", he whispered.
"I know what it is you wish for. Take this chance, for there will not be another, I fear. You deserve to be free of pain, at last. I know how you mourned my mother for endless eons, and I know how much you came to love Tauriel. I could never begrudge you your love. And fear not for me. I am not a child anymore. I have my own path to discover. But you have reached the end of your own road. It is time you found peace, at last", he spoke soothingly.
"My son, my beloved child", cried the Elvenking, and, after carefully laying Tauriel's body down, he extended his arms towards him. Legolas walked into his father's embrace, and wept. "My kingdom is yours now, my crown is yours to bear. The duties are many, and the responsibility is heavy; but I know you will be a far better King than I was", he murmured lovingly.
Legolas smiled. "I doubt that, for a better King than you I have known not". He stood then and retreated. "Farewell, father. We shall meet again one day, when the time is right, and when all battles on Middle Earth have been fought and won".
"Farewell, my beloved child. If only we had not lost so many years to bitterness and estrangement…" he sighed.
"All is forgiven and forgotten. Go now; do not miss this chance".
Legolas was gone, and Thranduil looked to the skies again. There was the smiling face of Elbereth. "Are you ready now, Elvenking? Are you ready to depart?"
The intensity of her light grew blinding then, and soon he could see nothing but a boundless, unending white. How much time passed before he was able to see again he could not tell, and he was not sure time had meaning anymore either. He opened his eyes to find himself upon grass on a shore. In his arms was Tauriel, her body still, but her cheeks seemed rosy, and her chest rose and fell with breath. "She lives!" he gasped in astonishment.
His voice roused her, and her eyelids fluttered open. "Thranduil?" she asked hoarsely, as if from slumber, when she saw his face hovering above hers. "How long have I been sleeping?"
She made to sit up then, and he let her, supporting her back gently. "Tauriel, Tauriel, my beloved…" he whispered. "You are back! You have come back to me!"
She lifted and eyebrow and gave him a strange look. "When was I gone?"
She does not remember. We are in Valinor, and all dreadful memories are cured. But how can it be that I remember everything?
"It is the choice of the Valar", Elbereth's voice spoke in his thoughts. "So that you may never forget our gift to you, and cherish this chance you have been given".
He closed his eyes and inwardly accepted their decision. He had Tauriel again. The burden of his memories was a small price to pay.
Her impatience brought him out of his reverie. "We are in Valinor, beloved. Look around you", he prompted her.
She stood to her feet. Before her was the great sea, its luminous foamy waves caressing the white shores of the land. Above them the sky was blue and cloudless, and the sun shone brightly. To the west were the green pastures of Aman, and tall, golden trees rose in the distance. "Are these mellyrn?" she wondered. Thranduil nodded. "But they are huge! The mellyrn of Lorien were shorter…"
"I am glad you have retained your fond memories, meleth nin. Yes, the golden trees are larger here, and more magnificent. Is this not a wonderful place to live?" he asked her.
She smiled and looked at him, but then her face became more serious. "But since we are here, does it mean we have died? I do not remember sailing…"
He sighed, and drew her into his arms. "The sorrows of the past have no place here. We are granted a life together, and for that I am grateful."
Tauriel then gently touched his cheek. "I do not care if I died a thousand deaths, since I am now here with you, in this blessed land".
He took her hands in his then, and slowly bent and kissed her lips. How much he had missed kissing her lips! His heart fluttered when she kissed him back, and their arms twined in a warm embrace.
When a while later they broke the kiss to gaze into each other's eyes, Tauriel spoke. "Well then, where are we to live on this grand island?"
"We will go where our hearts desire", Thranduil replied.
And he took her by the hand and led her north, until they found the stone-paved path. "We can go to Alqualonde, where the Teleri live, or even to Valmar. We will see the houses of the Valar, and even the Hall of Mandos…" he said.
"Is not Lothrin there, in the Halls of Mandos?"
He paused then in his step. "Yes…"
"We should go there, Thranduil. You may have a chance to see her", Tauriel said. He looked deep into her emerald eyes, and though his heart was afraid, he assented.
For three days and three nights they journeyed, until at last they reached the Halls of Mandos in the grand forest that surrounded them. Tall pillars of veined marble were around them, and the entrance was not barred by doors. As Thranduil and Tauriel walked beneath the great arches, they noticed that absolute silence reigned. The air was still, and only at times the distant weeping of Nienna would pierce the veil of silence. The domes of the Halls were many, and all were open, so that light might enter. Nowhere was darkness to be encountered, and the place, though still and silent, was not gloomy or foreboding. It inspired a sense of sanctity and reverence.
"We tread on hallowed grounds…" murmured Tauriel in awe.
And then the great Mandos appeared before them, clad in long, dark robes, and his face was solemn and majestic. "Whom do you seek?" he asked, and his voice echoed in the vast Halls.
The elves bowed deeply before him. "I seek Lothrin, my wife in life, oh great Mandos", replied the Elvenking.
"There she is, resting eternally, and free of sorrow", the Vala said, and pointed towards the sill of a window beneath an arch. And then he was gone from their eyes.
The pair walked there, and the white lady was perched atop the sill, her hair flowing like a waterfall down her back, and she was crowned with little red flowers. When she sensed them approaching, she turned her deep blue eyes to them, and when she saw her husband, tears rolled down her cheeks. "Thranduil, my heart…" she whispered. "You have found peace, at last. You have found love, as I have prayed for you for so long".
Her voice was mellow and rich with emotion. The Elvenking fell to his knees before her and made to take her hands in his and kiss her, but it was only thin air he clutched. Confused, he raised his eyes to her. "Lothrin? I do not understand…"
She smiled. "I am weak, so weak… I am but a shade, a sliver of what I once was… And much of my light I sacrificed to lead Tauriel towards you, when she was in her deep slumber. Mandos keeps me here protected, all that is left of me. But I cannot leave his Halls, and neither can I touch anyone. I am but a shadow, Thranduil…"
Tears streamed down his cheeks once more. "You fate has been cruel, my dearest Lothrin… To find you, and never to have you…"
But she smiled again. "Weep not, beloved. We have shared a lifetime, and for that my heart will forever be grateful. And we have birthed a beautiful son, who is far better than we are, and destined for great things".
"Legolas… He loves you so much".
"And I love him. As I love you. All I ever wished for was your happiness. And she is standing behind you. Tauriel, come forth. At last I meet you not in dream, but in life", Lothrin said smoothly.
Tauriel walked to her with a measure of reluctance. This was Thranduil's wife, the white lady of her dreams, and she felt small and awed before her. "My lady… I owe you my gratitude".
She shook her head. "I know that you love Thranduil truly. You have my blessing to share this love, for I know he has so much love to give. And here in Valinor you may share this love forever, undisturbed from the sorrows and pains of the world".
"But my lady… Are you not saddened that you have been robbed of this love?" Tauriel dared ask.
Lothrin sighed. "It is the nature of this place to take away one's sorrows. My heart is content to know that my husband is loved truly, as truly as I loved him. I have since long accepted my fate, and there is no sorrow in my heart".
"My lady…" Tauriel knelt before her, feeling humbled. She knew she could never be as magnanimous as her, and she felt eternally grateful for her blessing.
"Go now", she urged them. "This place is not for those of body and soul, but only for us shades of those who once were. But if ever you wish to visit me again, I shall be here and wait for you with gladness".
"Lothrin", cried Thranduil. "I love you. I always will".
"I know, my heart, I know. But it is time to give your love to the elleth beside you, who yearns for you. Remember me with fondness, and cherish this chance you are given here by the wise and benevolent Valar", she told him, and then turned her eyes to the window again. There was a white tree in the distance, and its read flowers swayed with the wind.
Thranduil found it extremely difficult to turn from her, and Tauriel had to take his hand and lead him away from the Halls of Mandos. He was sorrowful for a time, for the love for his wife would never die in his heart. But soon Tauriel's love healed his heart, and light returned to his life. For in her he found all he had lost, and after a time there was no place for sorrow in his heart, but only joy. For Valinor was a land of peace and eternity, and sadness did not linger.
They settled in Alqualonde, for they both found that they loved the view of the ocean and the sound of the waves, and the cries of the white gulls in the morning. And often they would go for long strolls on the shore, holding hands and sharing their love.
"I wish we have had the chance to have a child", Tauriel told Thranduil one day.
"I would have liked that too. But I do not think such things are possible here. It seems as though life is still here, in a sense. There is a constant harmony, but nothing moves forward… You cannot grow old, you cannot die… But you cannot marry or have children either. It is as if you enter a certain state and live in it forever in bliss", he mused.
"Yes… Well, I do not mind that bliss. In fact, I have never felt so peaceful in all my life", she confessed.
"I understand… It is the same for me".
He bent then and kissed her lips, and the light ocean breeze ruffled their hair as they embraced, and the afternoon sun shone upon them and warmed their skin and their hearts. He drew her close and she clung to him, and they never wished to be parted. And they never had to be parted, for in Valinor love reigned and persevered.
"I love you, Thranduil. I love you with all my heart", she whispered to him, and her eyes glowed.
"And I love you for all eternity, Tauriel, and beyond", he told her, and kissed her again.
And so passed the days of Thranduil and Tauriel, and so would they pass for time untold, until the grand day of Dagor Dagorath would at last come, when all would awaken to join in one last battle against evil, and then Arda would be shaped anew, without sorrow or pain woven into its fate.