Prolog

Moving with a grace long absent from the world she crossed the field, the lush green grass cushioning her bare feet, sandles dangeling from her hand. Three years it had taken her to find this place, once she'd determined that it might still be. Three years of folk legends and half-remembered faerie stories.

How foolish she'd been, searching the world for myths and legends, devouring text after text from every country, every ethnic heritage, ignoring the obvious truth that, in the end, lay inches from her fingertips on her cousins bookshelf.

Her gaze swept across the clearing, overlaying what she saw upon the picture she held in her mind. There were so many differences between what she remebered and what now was; familiar landmarks long since gone or, if not gone, buried beneath the accumulated growth and ravages of time.

'And how long had it been?' she wondered, trying to fathom the distance of ages as no mortal truly can. 'We've forgotten it all now, what stories remain are so warped and corrupted as to be unrecognizable.' Her heart ached thinking about it, remembering the joy and the beauty that had been, the heroism, the strength and courage, the utter absurdity, knowing she was one of the only two who could recall those things from experience or even at all.

Ireland.

It was rather obvious when you thought about it. Of all the world the most likely place to harbor living myths, or at least to harbor something of those myths.

The trees were huge, larger perhaps than could be accounted for in that country, bringing to mind pictures she'd seen of the Amazon and the Ancient Redwoods, which the smaller of the two resembled. The larger, the one that drew her here, could well have held a house in it's silver branches, yet she knew it was small for its kind and presumed age. The Witch Tree men called it, saying on warm spring nights the little people gathered around it's trunk and caroused through the dark of night, claiming on full moons the ghost of a long dead witch sat beneath it's branches and sang her lament. The smaller tree, the darker of the two, children claimed was the resting place of Merlin, saying you could hear him murmuring in his sleep of things lost. She didn't much doubt the latter was true.

Reaching the trees she set her sandals and backpack on the ground between them and kneeled down to remove something from the pack. As she did this, though she was apparently alone, her words drifted across the empty field.," You have rooted here my friend, and will someday wither and die."

There was a moment of silence, a silence of waiting, of examining. The air was filled with the feeling of surprise, as if someone who had not been address in a very long time and had not expected to be, was trying to adjust to this rather abrupt change. Something took a deep breath, rather like a gale blowing through a cavern, " HoooomBaroooom all things upon Arda do in these late days."

Taking a medium sized wraped packet from the bag she looked up at the smaller tree, whose face was now discernable somewhere near the base of his branches, meeting the large green eyes that now considered her.," Galadriel's gift remains, when all other things are lost. You remain to protect it, the first and last of your kind?"

"Yes." There was sorrow in that also, for this being and his race, oldest of all speaking races, for the forests he once walked and protected.

So very much had passed away, gone from their sight and ability to reclaim.

She opened the packet, treating it as one might some great and precious relic, gently unwrapping it and spreading it's contents on the ground. A small, unremarkable wooden box she set aside for the moment, concentrating on a pack of photos, a braid of several different colored strands of hair, the broken shaft of an arrow, and an aged piece of parchment covered in a flowing calligraphic script.," Why have we forgotten?," She murmured.," There aren't even rumors of Gondor and Anor now; what happened?"

" The war of Vigilance. HoomBarooom.," The tree murmured, his words dry and blunt for want of use.," Morgoth tried the Door Of Night and nearly broke through, drawing all of creation into battle. HoomBarooom. The Valar rode to War, bringing with them the Mia and the Elves of all the ages, rallying the men of the West. Much was destroyed. The world was cast, not in darkness, but in ignorance and fear. The firstborn departed finaly from our shores, the Halflings withdrew from the eyes of men, as likely to hunt them as befriend them, and Eraidor became no more than a few islands. The hate of Morgoth does not wane."

Picking up the pack of pictures, she opened it and began to go through them. At first the only sights that greeted her were those of her friends as they had been five years before, happy and young, their familiar smiles shone through the years lightening the ache in her heart.

They'd been so innocent then.

Soon enough the visages changed, she'd only taken five pictures before that day, to ancient wild landscapes, strange lyrical architecture, and then to the reasons she still cried at dawn and dusk, if only for a moment. The first picture was of an impossibly beautiful man, young until you looked at his blue eyes, with long silver blonde hair tucked behind his pointed ears. He was wearing simple gray trews and a matching leather jerkin, had a bow and quiver peeking over his shoulder, and a curiously surprised look in his face. He was in a clearing, that much could be seen, behind him rose gigantic silver trees.

Haldir.

A tear slipped down her cheek and she brushed it irritably aside.

In the next picture another impossibly beautiful person sat by a waterfall reading, her black head tilted toward the pages of her book.

Arwen.

The girl bit her lip, refusing to cry yet again over that which was beyound her ability to alter

. Next two child sized men, neither of them wearing shoes on their oversized hairy feet, as they crept around a corner , the smallest of the two straining to reach the bag of vegetables just beyond his reach before the Elvin cook turned and noticed him.

Merry.

Pippin.

A large man lifting the broken blade of Narsil from it's resting place.

Boromir.

Nine people, an old man dressed in gray holding a staff and wearing a pointy hat, GANDALF, a middle-aged man wearing purple so deep it looked black, drawing the eye as he always did, ARAGORN, the man who'd lifted Narsil, another, half the size of the men, clothed in fine armor and carrying a heavy battle ax, GIMLI, another of the beautiful people, blonde haired, a bow slung over his shoulder, LEGOLAS, four of the child sized people, the two from the kitchen, a round little one who looked nervous and determined, SAM, holding the lead of a pony that seemed to be carrying nothing but rope, BILL, and another who had the look of one who's seen the worst and knows it won't get better, but who had made the decision not to turn back. FRODO.

The Fellowship of the Ring.

This picture she set aside.

The next picture was that of Aragorn and Arwen shortly after their wedding, sitting in the courtyard near the seedling of the white tree, Arwen playing the lap-harp she held, Aragorn singing. They looked so amazingly happy, lost in one another, though both still grieved, and always would, for the bitterness between them and Lord Elrond at his passing.

She remembered the day she'd taken this picture, how she happened upon the King and Queen by chance and being so struck by the visible force of their love she'd quietly snapped a picture lest she ever forget the scene, and then, just as quietly, left them undisturbed.

She smiled at the picture beneath that, one of two smiling children, a girl and a boy, toddlers with huge grins spread across their endearing faces as they made their wobbly (though not unsure) way through the grand Audience Chamber of Minas Tirith to their Father's glad and waiting arms.

Eldraion and Elbreth. First born of Arwen and Aragorn.

Another of the children, though several years later, where Elbreth was eagerly learning archery from Legolas and Eldraion enthusiastically battling Gimili in the background. To the right, cheering them on, were three more children, all girls, ranging in age from seven to four, all with the same dark coloring and slightly elfish features of the twins. Lagrious. Gilraen. Morgase.

Arwen and Aragron's daughters.

When she saw the next picture her heart clenched and she nearly doubled over in her silent pain.

Two male Elves, both of dark hair and feature, both with gray eyes, stood facing one another on what she knew to be a balcony in Imladris. Twins, though easily recognizable on their own as their separate personalities showed vividly on their features, they wore clothing far less artistic than their fellows and seemingly more serviceable, nearly identical to Aragorn's in the picture of the Fellowship. Each carried a sword, a bow and quiver, a dagger, and at least two throwing knives secreted about their person, and even seeing them through a picture one got the impression they were familiar with these weapons, familar indeed. Contrary to the fashions of their Kindred neither wore their hair long, having long ago sheared it as a sign of grieving for their mother, a style that at once highlighted their pointed ears and made them seem youthful and more human. Born of the greatest houses of the Firstborn it was hard to see in them the power of their ancestors unless they willed it, though they were no less than their Father or Grandmother and indeed matched or surpassed their strengths in many ways. The younger looking of the two, by far the more reckless, stood with his arms crossed lightly, weight on one hip, eyebrow quirked, a half smile on his lips, and an I-Dare-You gleam in his eye. His brother, looking exasperated though amused, right hand resting on the hilt of his sword, left hand raised , index finger pointed squarely at his brother's face. It looked like an argument, which it was, yet humor shone in both participants' eyes and you could see the second was fighting the urge to smile, attempting to look stern.

Two more tears slipped down her cheeks.

Elladan.

Elrohir.

Knowing she would break if she saw anymore, the girl quickly searched the remaining photos until she found what she was looking for.

Another group photo, this one taken in the gardens of the Kings holdings at Lake Evidem, it showed the Hero's and leaders of the age in a rare moment of repose during one of the few occasions when they'd all been able to gather in one place. There were the remaining members of the Fellowship, lacking, of course, Frodo who'd sailed west, Eomar King of Rohan and his wife and son, Faramir and Eowyn and their children, The wives (respectively) of Sam and Pippin, Pippin's one son Faramir, and five of the 13 children Sam and Rose would eventually have, Arwen and the five children of the Royal family, Elladan and Elrohir, and lastly Haldir (because she'd dragged him along). The children, of various age and race, ran about the background in glee, heady with the joy of having SO MANY partners in crime, while the adults lounged together on a blanket spread upon the ground, laughing and recounting the years. The day had been perfect, eclipsing all days before or since, the perfumes of the gardens heady, the sun warm as it shone down upon them, and most of all it had been a happy time. And you could see it in the faces of the adults, each of them having see far more than their share of grief, as they sat amongst their friends, their family, and gloried in one another's company.

Aragorn, who tended to revert to Strider on such rare occasions, had summed it up best when he'd later declared, "Today was a good day".

She rather felt she'd be hard pressed to see another day so good.

She took that photo, and the photo of the Fellowship, the braid, and, rising, went to the taller tree, the Malloren. Feeling it's cool bark beneath her hand she murmured ancient words foreign to mortal ear and forgotten in mortal lands, and placed first the picture of the fellowship, then the later picture of the Reunion side by side against the bark, the braid between them. The bark inched up, growing, holding, and framing these items. A thin membrane grew, crawling across the photos and the braid, and settling became transparent.

Thanking the tree she turned back to the second tree, the Ent, and sat beneath his branches," This was Hobbington once, long ago. On this very spot Bilbo Baggins gave his farewell speech the night the Ring came to Frodo. Sam and Rose's children chased lightening bugs in this clearing, Gildilocks and Farmir were married here. And now all that remains of them are contorted myths of Leprechauns and a mystical people who live in holes in the ground, called the Tuatha De Dannu. Gondor and Rivendell have sunk beneath the sea and of them not even myths remain. How Treebeard?"

"Among those the Shadow hated most were numbered Thingol and Melane, their daughter Luthien, Beren, Huor and Hurin, and Turgon King of Gondolin. In the veins of the Lords of Rivendell and Gondor did the blood of all those Nobel ones flow. Who, yet living upon Arda, should he hate more?" Her mind conjured the memory of the Nazgual, his filthy words echoing in her ears, Such as you will never escape the Wrath of our Master, Manwe and his precious fools have only delayed the inevitable. The reckoning is coming...Oh yes the Reckoning is coming... At the time she'd assumed the creature was talking to her, a logical enough assumption given the circumstances, only later realizing the Twins were standing behind her. Feeling she was almost certain of the answer she asked," And of Elladan and Elrohir?"

"HoomBaroom. 'Twas their sacrifice, and that of the last King that saved us all." Unsurprised she nodded. And because in the five years since her return she hadn't done so, not really, she closed her eyes and let herself remember. Immediately the images were there, sharp and real as the moment she'd lived them in.

Some memories never fade.