She walks the world for a time, and sees all the places where the stars are strange. In Khand, she searches out the elves who live on those windswept plains—they teach her to ride their bristle-maned ponies, and she tells them her stories of Finwe and Gil-galad, Silmarils and ships. In Far Harad she finds Kili’s distant kin, dwarves who wear diamonds cut to glitter as starlight, and have bred small dragons to sit peaceably at their shoulders. When she calls them Durin’s folk, they laugh--We are Monomotapa’s people, they inform her. And what should Monomotapa’s people care for some northern warlord?
One night in Rhun, the moon is so close to the earth, she feels she can catch it on her fingertips; she goes so far north into Forodwaith that the earth goes cold and hard beneath her boots, and the stars take on a painful-sharp brightness. I wish you were here, she whispers, drinking in the light of it. I wish—oh, if only you could see!
But she returns, inexorably, to Mirkwood. Eryn Galen-Fuin-Lasgalen—whatever name it bears, it is always hers. She takes up her post again, a little graver, a little less head-strong. She has known sorrow now, and joy too; there is a stillness that accompanies such a knowledge. Legolas comes to her before he departs for the Grey Havens, and even he wears the intervening years in the fine lines at the corners of his eyes. I cannot persuade you to sail with us? Gimli and I would enjoy the company.
My place is here, Tauriel says, and is a little surprised to find it true.
And when you have no more guards to captain, no more of Oropher’s children to protect?
Tauriel laughs. Oh, my prince. Did you think I was protecting you?
Legolas Greenleaf smiles, and kisses her cheek in farewell. Then he is gone.
She stays. And she is there, she is always there, until Varda snuffs out her stars, one by one, and Arien comes to rest at last in Tilion’s arms. The ending of the world finds Tauriel—her spine curved as a bow, her flame-bright hair gone silver—beneath the leaves she loved.
(when she wakes, there is a dwarf squattered down beside her in a great and sweeping field. Are you ready, amralime? Kili asks, grinning.
I am ready, Tauriel says. There is wind, and the susurration of the grass, and above them is a sky awash in stars. I am ready.)