Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. I just play in their world.

The sounds of drinking and laughter echoed loudly throughout the expansive courtyard. The white tree of Gondor, the symbol of Kings of old, stood gleaming in the night air, bright against the dark hue of the sky. Large ornate lanterns were mounted to the walls and hung overhead, curved and lightly swaying in the soft breeze, light spilling down over the guests in honeyed hues. Noted families throughout the city had been invited to the farewell banquet for the young Hobbits. Tomorrow they would leave Minas Tirith and return to the Shire, a home they had not seen in far too long. Tonight however, Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and Merry seemed content to feast and be joyous with friends they had not seen in far too long. They sat upon a dais on the Palace platform with Gandalf the white, laughing and toasting and watching the occasional drunkard stagger by.

Aragorn, freshly crowned King of Gondor and Arnor, stood watching the festivities with amused eyes from his position beside the Hobbit's table. A full mug of ale occupied his hand, and beside him stood two men he had come to respect and admire over the course of the last few weeks. Eomer, rider from Rohan, drank heartily from his own mug and licked his lips in appreciation. For his part, Faramir, Prince of Ithilian and Steward of Gondor to the King, clapped along to the lively beat court musicians were banging out on weathered drums.

Eomer emptied the contents of his stein quickly and slammed it upon the table with a solid hand. Wiping his mouth on the back of his hand, He smacked his lips and smiled at Aragorn, who wore a look of amused interest. Expanding his arms, Eomer laughed at the King's expression and exclaimed loudly: "Let it be said that no finer ale is brewed anywhere other then Gondor's fine taverns! My Lord, when I myself am owner to such a title as King, I shall be inclined to restore trade with Gondor simply so that I may part you from such fine mead."

Aragorn laughed in appreciation, slapping the horseman on the back and signaling for another ale. A serving maid quickly appeared with another full mug, which Eomer quickly accepted and set about emptying.

"Ay Eomer, son of Eomund. Perhaps I can be so generous as to have this fine mead sent regularly to the fine halls of Edoras, as a gift from one king to another." Aragorn laughed as Eomer belched loudly, causing a few noble ladies nearby to gasp and crinkle their pert little noses in disgust. Eomer winced at his errant folly and looked at his friend, who placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Or perhaps I would do better to send you goods that shan't cause the women of Rohan to turn away from their men."

"Give it time, my friend. Soon your Elf bride will see what ungodly manners you rangers possess and find solace in the arms of this handsome......" and stretching his neck loud enough to project his voice to the retreating maids finished, "and CHARMING rider!"

At this, Faramir guffawed outright at Eomer's claim, coming to join in the discussion and saying, "Lady Arwen tolerates all of Aragorn's faults, I am sure. She has the famed patience of Elves, but that does not extend to children. I'm sorry Eomer, but I do believe you'll have to make due with some mortal wench, and leave the Elf to the 'mannerless ranger'." King and Steward roared in laughter at Faramir's light hearted insult. Eomer grinned widely and wrapped an arm around his brother-in-law.

"Keep speaking thus and you shall fit in grandly at our tables, Westman. My sister will have to introduce you to the lion's den that is Meduseld. Many a jest are lost on men without wit enough to bite back." Faramir smirked, and drifted away about from the heavy reek of drink wafting from Eomer. "I think, brother, that I shall handle myself with dignity and ability the likes of which you are unaccustomed", he said with a nod. The two men shook hands, and clinked the rims of their steins together in merriment before downing huge gulps.

Turning to the table and it's inhabitants, Aragorn smiled as Pippin animatedly detailed a story about crop stealing from a fellow Hobbit farmer. Gandalf looked over the head of the excited Halfling and winked at Aragorn before looking back down at his companion. The King noticed Frodo, seated at the far end of the table, watching the scene before him with silent interest. The former ranger moved from his spot and came to stand beside Frodo. Failing to notice the arrival of the King, Frodo lifted his own glass to his lips and tentatively tasted the contents inside. Pursing his lips at the bitter taste, he started when a loud voice beside him assaulted his ears.

"Is our ale too dark for your tastes, master Hobbit? Perhaps I can find you a juice of sort, or perhaps some water to dilute it's effects?" Frodo looked up at the man he knew as Strider, and smiled a small grin. "It is more bitter then I am used to, but our own ale in Hobbiton is also very sweet in comparison. It is not an unpleasant change, just one that requires a bit of experimentation with." Aragorn smiled, and placed a large hand upon the small shoulders of the Halfling. "I'm am pleased to see the four of you enjoying yourselves. It does my heart well to see such bonds of fellowship lasting after duty has been fulfilled. Friendships such as these are rare. I am glad that we could be together for such events."

"It isn't everyday that Hobbits get to attend the wedding of a King, Aragorn. I suspect tomorrow we shall be grateful for your invitation." The King looked across the green to a congregation of Elves and , his bride Arwen engrossed in deep conversation with an attendant. "Master Hobbit, it was not an invitation. I expect to have my closest friends by my side on the day I wed, just as I suspect to attend the weddings and births of your future Hobbit children." Frodo laughed and twisted his head to gaze at his friends. Looking back to Aragorn, the Halfling smirked and raised his glass. "Ay, my Lord. I would have nothing less."

The two exchanged warm glances, and Aragorn walked from the dais and down the stairs to immerse himself in the crowds. As he walked, heads bowed out of respect, and mugs were raised in toasts and pledges. His eyes searched through the enormous crowd, scanning the faces of those around him, looking to reach the gathered Elves of Rivendell. Finally he caught sight of a familiar face, and a pathway cleared in front of him as he approached the beautiful daughter of Elrond Half-Elven.

She shone like a beacon in the dewy glow of the lanterns. Her pale pink gown, made of soft Elven silks, clung to her body whenever a slight breeze graced the courtyard. Her dark hair was gathered in a long plait down her back, entwined with pearls and small silver gems, a thin circlet of mithril wrapped through her hair, long tendrils of silver braid dangling down to grace her elegant shoulders. The tips of her pointed ears peeked through her curls, teasing Aragorn with their simple beauty. She was barefoot, like most of the Elves, choosing to feel the ebb and flow of the grass and nature beneath her feet as she walked. This was new territory, and she wished to acquaint herself with her new home.

Her companion, a silvery blond with eyes that held ageless wisdom, smiled at Aragorn's approach, whispering into the ear of her Lady before walking away. Arwen turned to face the man she would tomorrow take as her husband, and blushed as he moved closer. She averted her eyes and curtsied as he came to stand in front of her, murmuring softly "My Lord. How fares thee this night?" Aragorn bowed in return and held out a hand for her to take. Eagerly, Arwen took his hand and looked into his eyes, grateful for his nearness simply because his gaze had the ability to weaken her knees such. Leaning into him, she placed a heated kiss on his lips, not caring who watched or felt such displays inappropriate. The King returned the kiss and wrapped his arms around the Elf, drawing her closer and relishing the kiss.

The sounds of cheering and shouting came from the front of the yard, as Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, and the Hobbits raised a toast to the King and his intended.

Legolas cleared his throat, and a hush fell over the courtyard as people turned to listen to his address. "By the Valar, no two were ever more perfect for each other. Long years and promise have separated Aragorn King and the Evenstar of the Elves. Tonight we revel in celebration for four admirable Hobbits, but let us take a moment to salute our King and his bride!" The crowd acquiesced and cheered for the royal couple, and Aragorn raised a hand in appreciation and recognition.

But before Aragorn could open his mouth in reply, a shrill voice rang through the din. "Let the King chose a mortal wife, and forsake his Elven whore! She seeks to seplant another race on the throne of man! Death to the Elf-witch!"

Aragorn quickly turned furious eyes on the crowd, as a herd of Elvish guardians surrounded a red faced Arwen should she need protection. Elrond stood from his seat beside the White tree, and glared at those around him. Gandalf stood as well, his arms crossed across his chest, eyes watching the crowd with intense suspicion.

Elrond strode purposefully through the crowd, entering the protective circle around Arwen. Wrapping his arms around his daughter, he shouted angrily: "Who dares to speak thus of my daughter?! Who has the audacity to insult their future queen? Speak now I say!"

Quiet had spread through the crowd like disease, and eyes stood fixed on the ground as no one dared to answer. Aragorn growled in his throat, and spoke quietly to Faramir and Eomer, who had come to the defense of the queen. Inside the circle, Arwen clung to her father, her gaze focused at her lover's back.

"I want this crowd searched. I wish to speak to the man who so openly challenges decisions of his King. Let it be known that anyone protecting his identity faces a charge of treason. I'll not have my bride threatened in such a way."

Guards were dispersed throughout the gathered Gondorians. Turning back to the angered Elves, Aragorn took Arwen's hand, and nodding to her father escorted the two of them back towards the palace. Arwen kept her head down, not daring to look into the faces of her husband's people, fearful that she would see nothing but resentment and hatred for a Queen they considered unworthy. Moving past the banquet table, the three were joined by the rest of the fellowship and a slew of guards. Aragorn walked quickly through the halls, until finally he had reached a private drawing room. Opening the door, he motioned for Arwen to enter, and followed her in along with the rest of their companions.

Arwen sat down on the windowsill, her gaze falling on the sights of the city below, alive with light and movement. Her father stood by her side, a hand on her shoulder and a hard look etched upon his furrowed brow. Legolas leaned against a white stone pillar, amusedly watching as Gimli attempted to sit in a chair a little too tall for his stout body to reach. Gandalf stood behind the Hobbits, and Aragorn paced the room, hands clasped behind his back, saying nothing.

Finally Arwen spoke, her voice low and soft in the darkness of the room.

"They hate me. It was plain as day in the voice of that man. They think me an unworthy choice for wife. They think I intend to bend your will to my own purpose, that I wish to put an Elf on the throne of Gondor and take the power from their mortal Kings of old and place it in my kin. They do not trust me, Estel."

She looked up at her betrothed, her blue eyes filled with unshed tears and her full lips quivering. Aragorn knelt by her side, taking her hands in his and raising them to his lips, placing a gently kiss on the silky skin.

"Love, let them say what they will. One cannot harness the will of the people and make all see the truth. All that matters is that you and I know the truth."

Elrond cleared his throat and spoke. "The people are weary of such a Queen. They do not see the love you feel for each other; instead they see a mortal man forsaking his own kind for another. They do not see the goodness in Arwen's heart. They see her as a weakness the King cannot sake. They fear she will bring about the undoing of the line of Kings so long restricted to mankind."

Gandalf shuffled closer to The Elf Lord, looking down at the anguish on Arwen's face as tears fell unheeded down her ivory cheeks. "Do not fret so, Lady Arwen. In time the truth will catch like fire to kindling. They will see your devotion to Aragorn, and when the knowledge of your own mortality is revealed, they will understand that any children resulting from your union will be more Man then Elf." He placed a comforting hand on her cheek, and Arwen closed her eyes and leaned into his palm. He stroked her skin and smiled gently. "Do not shed any more tears this night. Justice will be served for those who doubt you. I am sure Aragorn will not allow your virtue to go undefended."

"Nay, Mithrandir. I shall see her honor restored before the rising of tomorrow's sun. Tomorrow I take to wife Arwen Undomiel, most beautiful of her people and most beloved of her father. I shall not have her heart rendered with such sadness and doubt." Aragorn smiled at Arwen, and she stood to wrap her arms around his waist. He held her tightly, and buried his face in her hair, inhaling her delicate fragrance. He could feel the tension in her slender frame, and his heart constricted with rage for those who had dared to hurt his wife.

He kissed the tip of her ear, and looked over her shoulder to greet her father's gaze. Elrond's eyes were hard and cold, reveling his feelings for Aragorn's subjects. Arwen withdrew from her beloved's arms, and turned to her father.

"I grow weary from all the excitement of this evening. Ada, I shall take leave now and retire for the night, so that I might find some rest before tomorrow. I should not like to be drained of energy on the day I wed. If you'll excuse me, I will say my farewells." The men in the room all nodded and bowed their heads, as Aragorn escorted Arwen to the doors. Opening them, he motioned for a guard to come forward, and ordered the man to venture with the Elf to her quarters and make sure she arrived safely and was well cared for.

Before she left, Arwen placed a kiss on Aragorn's lips, and brushed the back of her hand down his cheek. He kissed her fingers and flicked the lobe of her ear before smiling and kissing her more deeply. Uncaring for the watching eyes, the lovers remained in each other's arms until a muffled cough broke the two apart. Amused, they turned smiling faces back upon the residents of the drawing room, all smiling and happy for their friends.

Aragorn smiled and nodded to his intended, saying softly for only her ears, "Then to bed with you, Meleth-nin. I will not have an exhausted wife come tomorrow night!" He winked and delighted in the rosy stain that melted across her cheeks. She turned and glided down the hall, the train of her Elvish gown dragging effortlessly like water over stone.

Turning to enter the room once more, he sighed and rested his gaze on the floor.

"I'm entrusting her protection and happiness to you, Estel. Do not fail me. I will not harbor the thought of an unhappy daughter." Elrond admonished the King softly. "Show the people that she means well. I will not have them be distrustful of her when her heart is as pure as the morning sky."

"I shall abide such thoughts either Lord Elrond. I will see to her contentment from this day forth, you have my word."

Pippin spoke up then, drawing the watchful eyes of his Hobbit counterparts. "Lady Arwen will win them over. Everyone who encounters her falls in love. Look at Eomer! He just met her, and already he loves her!" The faces of all broke into wide smiles. Aragorn nodded his head wistfully.

"From your mouth to the ears of the people, my small friend. In time they shall come to see what my heart has always known."

With that, the King of Gondor sighed, and looked out from the window and prayed silently that such words would have effect.