Behind Stone Doors

By The Last Evenstar

A/N: Oh my god! The last chapter! Well, I just want to say that it's been great, really fun, writing this story, and I would never have continued it for so long without the support of all the wonderful people who reviewed. Each alert in my inbox was its own little freak-out, as if to say "Oh, wow! Somebody actually reviewed MY story!" I think that out of everything I've written, this has been the most fun – and not only because it got the most reviews. But unfortunately, all good things must end.

Ai! I just reread that to myself and it sounded like a speech or something. Well, in that case, I'd like to thank:

Dictionary - I'm not angry! I was joking! Anyway, I'm glad you like - a chapter just isn't a chapter without a cliffhanger, don't you agree?

tony - And here it is.

Raquel - No cliffhanger this time! But . . *sob* . . . it's the end!

Mercury Gray - Thank you for your suggestion! I love suggestions! Unfortunatly, I had already written this chapter when I got it!

Anamaria Elentari - Woo-hoo! We all know what would happen if someone let YOU loose in the middle of a battle . . .

Emerald Phoenix2 - Your wish is my command.

mata - Girls kick ass! Cliffhangers ARE mean. So am I.

Cerridwen-Evereven - As always, you give the nicest reviews! Yes, my character Essie IS a ballerina! That's so cool that your theater did it to - it's a fantastic play!

b-witched83uk - I always thought that the parallels between Luthien and Arwen would be interesting to explore. I'm glad you liked it.

maggie black - Is this soon enough for you?

Queen Arwen - No Kleenex required! Unless it's HAPPY Kleenex, which I needed during Aragorn's coronation in RotK.

Kekelina - Wow! Thank you so much. I tried to update very quickly!

sayinjin7 - Thanks! I do my best in terms of speed!

tars - Yay! I rock! You don't know how special that makes me feel . . .

prettiest in pink - I'm glad. I loved writing it!

The Converted - Indeed they will. Congratulations on getting your license! I'm so jealous!

Gionareth - A reaction like yours is what makes a writer keep writing . . .


Chapter Nine: The Last Chapter

It was in the midst of a pivotal moment that he saw her. He was taking on two men at once – a dangerous maneuver, but nothing uncertain to a war veteran like himself. They charged him, both at once, and he'd had to dive to the ground in order to avoid decapitation. As he reached up and ran Anduril through the first heart, he saw the other foe fall, and arrow landing in his back with a firm twang. Determined to solve this mystery, he traced quickly with his eyes that path of the arrow.

A brown-haired maiden stood atop a rocky incline above the battle scene. She held a fine Elven longbow and wore a chain-mail tunic.

Even from a hundred feet away he knew his beloved.

Why is she here? Even as he reached to parry a strike, his eyes remained on Arwen. She could get hurt!

Fear propelled him like adrenaline. Man after man went down as he worked his way towards her. To his horror, a band of five Southerners had gotten there first.

He ran at top speed. But there was no way he could make it in time. He saw Arwen draw her blade and kill one of the men in a swift blow.

He cried out as one approached her from behind with an axe. He reached the edge of the incline and began to run. From the height he could see most of the battle, and the outcome was good. The combined forces had taken almost all of the enemy.

As Arwen cried out in pain, his head snapped up and he saw that he was too late.

Arwen closed her eyes and prayed. Oh, Valar, let Luthien's grace have not been in vain!

Just as the axe should have fallen on her head, she heard the scraping clash of metal on metal. She fought to open her eyes and saw Aragorn, attacking the man with a fury that distorted his handsome features almost out of recognition.

Her head throbbed and blood poured into her eyes. She wiped it away and struggled to sit up. She soon abandoned the attempt; her entire body ached from the force at which she had hit the rock. She gasped and remembered the baby she carried. Oh, let him be all right!

Through blurry vision she saw her husband strike her attacker again and again. By now the man's axe lay futilely on the ground, and Aragorn seemed discontent just to kill the man; instead, he stabbed the villain again and again in his rage.

"Stop!" she cried shrilly, her own voice sounding forced and anguished. Aragorn looked up, the relief palpable in his eyes, and kicked the wretched man aside. He ran over to her and before she knew what was happening she was in his arms, kissing him with all the passion of the trials and tribulations of the past few days.

He drew her into an embrace and squeezed her so tightly she had to gasp for breath. "I'm never letting you out of my sight again," he whispered fiercely in her ear. "You're just as bad as Éowyn."

She laughed, hysterical out of pure relief. "Oh, meltha, I was so scared for you!" She felt tears on her cheeks as he kissed her again. "You have no idea what's happened in the course of two days."

He held her softly. "You scared me, Arwen. I had no idea what fear was until I saw that man attack you." His arms tightened around her. "I would rather face again all the armies of Mordor than see you in danger, meleth nin."

The attacker in question groaned wretchedly. His body was a mangled mess, and it hurt Arwen to look at it. "Kill him," she ordered Aragorn.

He glared at the man with unquestionable venom. "I would rather see him suffer." She opened her mouth, but he shook his head. "If he ever had a family, Arwen, they would have disowned him long ago. What kind of evil man attacks a woman –"

"Aragorn!" she interrupted. "I was killing his people." She looked downcast at the thought. "Don't you see? The Ring was destroyed, but in the hearts of these men remained the insatiable greed for its power."

Aragorn shrugged and drew a dagger from his belt. He threw it squarely onto the man's chest. Arwen shuddered and buried her face in his blood-soaked tunic. "There are so many horrors in this world."

Aragorn kissed her softly on the forehead. "Don't think of them, then. Think of beauty, of life –"

"That's right!" Arwen felt tears of joy stream from her eyes. "I forgot!" She smiled up at her husband, laughing happily at the irony of the situation. "You're going to be a father," she said softly.

He looked confused. "I know. Someday." All at once realization registered in his eyes. "You're –"

She nodded happily. "I'm –"

He cut her off with a kiss, throwing his arms around her in a fit of joy.

The return of the Gondorians was a triumphant one. They rode into Minas Tirith amid shouts of happiness and praise.

The King rode at the front of the procession on the mare called Nimrodel. Beside him rode the Queen, bloody and disheveled but smiling with an unequaled radiance.

The Prince of Ithilien and his wife followed behind then. Éowyn had broken an arm and was seated disgruntledly on her husband's horse. Right in stride rode the King of Rohan, every now and then shooting venomous looks at the gulping Steward.

Legolas and Gimli rode proudly behind them, bearing the white banner that had survived so many battles. And behind them, the heroes of the war marched, their heads held high.

The King stopped to address his people. "A battle," he said, "can be won in any number of ways. Brute force, sheer perseverance, all of these can amount to victory. But a great battle, a true triumph, will only occur when there is great loss at stake. Countries will do battle against each other, but a great battle will be done only against evil. Forces will come together against those that seek power and destruction. The only way to win a truly great battle is with the aid of our friends." He smiled briefly at Eomer, who nodded and returned to glaring at Faramir. "Yesterday a great battle was fought. Not because there was antagonism, or because there was thirst. But because there was danger, the men of Gondor and Rohan fought to protect us, and in doing so secured the last step in reaching our goal: worldwide peace."

The congregation went up in cheers. People surrounded the soldiers, welcoming them with fervent relief.

The King and Queen strayed off, and watched their people from a distance. "It is over," murmured Aragorn. "The last battle." He turned to smile at his wife. "And now that you are safe behind the stone doors of Minas Tirith, I'll be posting a full-time guard to make sure you stay there."

She laughed musically. "I doubt you'll need it."

He smiled down at her, happiness radiating from his handsome features. "I love you, Evenstar," he whispered. "I'm glad you're safe."

She rubbed her stomach. "So am I."

He gazed at it affectionately. "I'm really going to be a father, then?"

She grinned. "And I'll be a mother. I hope I'm ready."

He raised his eyebrows. "Arwen, meleth nin, you'll be a PERFECT mother. Our son will be the lucked boy in the world." In a decisive action, he swept her off her feet and into his arms. "And you'll need plenty of rest. No use getting tired."

She shrieked with laughter. "Put me down, you fool!"

He only began to walk into the hall. She sighed in resignation and lay her head against his chest as the stone doors closed behind them.