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An Unexpected Meeting  by Bodkin

12: Epilogue – Last Words

Lothiriel rushed to greet them as quickly as her swollen belly would allow, clutching one, then another, as if unsure who to hug first.

‘Elphir was sorry not to come,’ her father told her, ‘but someone had to stay in Dol Amroth – and he offered.  He is about to become a father again and felt it would be tactless to rush to his sister’s side, when his wife is in a similar condition.’

Eomer laughed.  ‘He shows some wisdom,’ the blue-eyed king said. ‘Lothiriel was less than happy with me when I went off to Ithilien.  It took a great deal of grovelling to get her to forgive me.’

‘I did not mind your going,’ Lothiriel announced with her nose in the air.  ‘What I objected to was the length of time you stayed.  You missed your child’s first movements.’

He snaked an arm round her to pat the baby’s current home.  ‘It is not my fault that Eowyn’s child refused to arrive according to instruction.  She proved to be as recalcitrant as her mother.’

His wife smiled at him forgivingly.  ‘I am only sorry that the little one is too young to travel.  I know you would like to have your sister with you at this time.’  She sighed. ‘I, too, would not mind the presence of one who has been through this experience successfully twice now.’

‘You are not yet wed, then,’ Eomer remarked to Amrothos, ‘despite our example of domestic bliss.’

‘Not yet,’ the youngest Lord of Dol Amroth said amiably.  ‘The betrothal is now official, but we wish to wait until my little sister is able to come to the wedding.’

Erchirion grinned.  ‘This is all very well,’ he complained, ‘but where is the famed hospitality of the Rohirrim?  We have been in your house for a full hour now and as yet we have been offered no ale!  We could die of thirst here!’

‘The hospitality of the Rohirrim seems to have disappeared into the same place as the famed courtesy of the Lords of Gondor,’ Eomer retaliated.  ‘Come – let us settle you into your rooms before we begin to celebrate the expected arrival of the heir of Rohan.’

Imrahil and Lothiriel had left them to their carousing once they began to spill almost as much ale as they were drinking.

‘They will have the heads they deserve in the morning,’ she observed.

‘You disapprove?’ her father asked.

Lothiriel shrugged. ‘You cannot live in Rohan for long without becoming resigned to over-indulgence in ale,’ she said.  ‘Fortunately, most Rohirrim seem to have a fairly good idea of how much they can drink and yet still be ready to ride at dawn.  I do not believe that Erchirion and Amrothos have discovered that yet.’

Imrahil laughed.  ‘If they wish to survive the next month,’ he remarked, ‘they had better prove themselves to be swift learners.’  He sobered and looked seriously at his daughter.  ‘You are happy?’ he asked.

Her face brightened still further.  ‘Happier than I would have believed possible,’ she confirmed.  ‘Rohan is very unlike Dol Amroth, but I would not now choose to be anywhere else.’  She rested her hands on her belly.  ‘This is all I need to make my happiness complete,’ she said softly.

‘I have brought something,’ her father told her, ‘that I think will be of interest to you.’  He indicated the chest on the table before the window and Lothiriel noticed that the decoration adorning the lid was not, as she had expected, the White Tree, but, rather, a tree of gold, created using slivers of blond wood in many shades, making a tree that shimmered with apparent movement in the afternoon light.

‘Mithrellas?’ she asked.  ‘I think of her often.  Did she leave these shores at the last, in the company of Lady Galadriel?’

‘This arrived,’ he said, running his hands over the lid, ‘with the brothers of the Queen.  They came some months after the ship sailed bearing their father and grandmother and the Ringbearer away from these lands, to tell the Evenstar of their departure.  Among the final tokens they bore with them was this casket.’

‘What does it contain?’

‘Last words,’ the Prince of Dol Amroth murmured. ‘Last words.  Mithrellas wrote to thank us for giving her the chance to read Galador’s journal.  She was glad, she said, to find that he had understood in later years – after Iúliel’s death – why she had left, and, with that understanding, he had let go of his anger and remembered his mother with love.   She thought that, in return, we might like to know of the last words Imrazor had for her.  She copied out the documents brought to her by Lady Celebrían and had them bound, then included the letters from her daughter and sent them to us. She said that it seemed fitting that a record of his words should remain this side of the sea, so that the truth of the myth should be here for all to see.’

‘May I read them?’

Imrahil smiled.  ‘I brought the casket with me for no other purpose, my daughter,’ he said. 

Lothiriel opened the lid, to see, sitting on top of the remaining contents a letter with her name on it.  She looked swiftly at her father and took it out, considering it before turning to look at the seal.  ‘There is something in here,’ she commented.

‘But you will not discover what it is without opening it,’ Imrahil pointed out.

Reluctantly, Lothiriel slid her finger beneath the seal and eased it from the paper opening a letter that had been folded carefully to form a secure receptacle.  She tilted it, and into her hand slipped something of tangled mithril and pearl.  ‘It is beautiful,’ she gasped, straightening out the chain and allowing it to dangle from her fingers.  ‘Why would Mithrellas send this to me?’

‘Perhaps, if you were to read what she has written –,’ her father suggested.

Sudden tears welled in Lothiriel’s eyes as she read the few words.  ‘She says that this was a gift to her from Lady Heledh on the birth of her son,’ she said, ‘and it seems fitting to her that this heirloom should be presented to me on the birth of mine.’

Beyond the window the red glow of the sun warmed the endless expanse of rustling grass as it shifted in the gusting breeze, rippling like a golden sea up to the lofty hill where Edoras sat above the plain, while high in the blue of the late afternoon sky an eagle soared in lazy circles on thermals that carried him ever higher until he was no more than a speck beyond the easy sight of men.

Imrahil took his daughter in his arms and held her, accommodating himself to her unusual bulk. 

‘I hope she has found peace,’ Lothiriel whispered from the comfort of her father’s arms as he rested his cheek against her head. ‘Far from her home, there in the Undying Lands, where no man may find refuge and she will live loveless until the end of time.’ 

‘She will be well,’ he said. ‘Obedience to necessity brings with it some recompense.’ The Lord of Dol Amroth sighed as he stroked the lustrous dark hair and looked out over the plains of the Horse Lords.   ‘We have lived to see wondrous times, my child, and Mithrellas’s arrival in our halls was by no means the least remarkable of them.’ He clasped her, warm and alive in his arms, this daughter who had left him, but was still here in the same world, bound to the same end, and thanked the Valar that the choice of Mithrellas and Imrazor had not come to him.   ‘Come now, Queen of Rohan,’ he said softly. ‘Do not mourn what cannot be changed.  Look forward instead to the bright new world that will greet the promise you carry within you.  Remember the past and embrace what will come.’

Lothiriel hugged him fiercely.  ‘She will not be forgotten,’ she told him.

Looking into the West, where the red ball of the sun was dropping behind the mountains, he inclined his head in a respectful acknowledgement of the distant realms of Valinor.  ‘When our time is spent,’ he said with a gentle certainty, ‘fond memory is really all that any of us, of whatever kindred, can hope to receive as a gift from the future.  And it is theirs,  for their tale lives on.’ 


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