Epilogue

The Legend

734 F.A., Ithilien

The oak stood for many a year, growing tall, sturdy and full of life. Birds nested among the many branches, singing and flitting among the leaves. Squirrels played on its limbs, chasing one another in a dance around the great trunk and among the roots peeking up through the ground. And an acorn's throw away, a small girl stooped and peered into the unusual remains of a hollowed tree.

"Idril!" a woman's voice called frantically in the distance. "IDRIL? Where are you?"

"Here, Nana!" The girl called before crawling into the tree, giggling.

"Arathorn! I found her! She's over here! Idril? Keep talking, love. I'm coming to you."

The girl continued to call, poking her head out then retreating to her hiding place. And all the while the oak stood tall not far away, its branches rustling with excitement at the sounds of others moving through the bracken.

Finally, someone had come. The oak could hear them, feel them, and sense the connection as they drew closer.

A woman broke through from the underbrush into a clearing, followed by a man. Both of them paused, looking in awe at the ruin before them. The stone structure stood on top of a rise, its walls overgrown with ivy.

"What is this place?" Finduilas asked, her eyes scanning the building for some sign of her daughter.

"The King's Lodge," Arathorn murmured, his voice full of awe. "I thought it was a myth."

"Naneth?"

The woman turned in the direction of her daughter's voice, to peer down what once must have been a path, but was now terribly overgrown.

"Nana? Come see!"

Finduilas huffed and lifted her skirts, preparing to rush after her child. Arathorn surprised her by taking her elbow in his hand. "Slow down, love. She'll be fine."

"Ha! You don't know how much trouble that child can get into!"

He grinned and led her to the path, if it could be called a path. They did not walk far when the came upon another strange structure.

A stone wall surrounded several low buildings. Steps led to a bridge over the wall and up to an unusual structure that appeared to be a hollow tree trunk, chopped off, with a platform and a dilapidated wooden building atop it. Finduilas glanced at her husband at a loss as to what she was seeing.

"A kennel, and falconry perhaps," Arathorn noted, pointing to the remains of some other small buildings. "Quite an unusual set up." He brushed back a lock of dark hair that had fallen over his forehead. "But I suppose it worked." Flashing her a grin, he took a few quick strides to the wall and bounded over it.

"Arathorn! What are you up to?"

"I'm just looking around. This place is in remarkable condition, considering its age! It could be easily restored and put back into use."

"You want a hunting lodge?"

He leaned against the wall, and nodded. "But not just any hunting lodge. Do you not know what this place is, love? Who it belonged to?"

Finduilas shook her head. She had never been one to study up on lore or history. That was the love of her husband. She looked at the structure as objectively as she could, trying to judge the age of the buildings and running in her mind over what she know of Ithilien's history. "Could it have belonged to Elboron II, do you think?"

Arathorn shook his head. "Older." His eyes shone with a rare light. "Much older."

She gasped. "Surely you don't mean…"

He nodded again, the light growing in his gaze. "I do. It's Dorombar." He looked over at the strange tree building. From the hollowed bottom, a small face peered out at him, grinning then disappearing back into the darkness with a giggle. "And that is the old oak."

Finduilas had no idea what he was talking about. But it might be nice for her husband to have a lodge in the wood – a lovely if remote place to retreat from Minas Anor with the duties of king became overwhelming. Seeing her daughter was safe (or so she hoped as she eyed the dilapidated building over the hollow), Finduilas walked around the stone wall and looked up at a huge oak nearby. One thick branch would be perfect for hanging a swing.

She glanced again at Idril, who had crawled out of the tree and now played with some leaves and stones; then Finduilas placed a hand on the slight swell of her belly. She looked back at her husband, but he had moved to wander the kennel yard.

She smiled. Let him restore the place. He loved history so. Finally, he would get a chance to preserve a piece of his ancestor's past.

She glanced back in the direction of the lodge. I wonder how many rooms it has… Picking a green oak leaf from a nearby branch, she twirled it between her fingers and smiled. A single acorn dropped to her feet, and she stooped and picked it up, placing it in the pocket of her walking dress.

Above her the branches of the mighty oak swayed, the leaves rustling almost as in song. And Finduilas gasped as she realized not a breath of wind stirred the forest around her.

end