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

The market place beyond the walls of Minas Tirith hummed with activity and life in the early afternoon sunlight. Hundreds of people bustled to and fro, carrying heavy sacks of seeding, bundles of fruits and cheeses, and roll upon roll of rich velvets and silks. Voices carried over the smells of cooking meat and spices, and the occasional pickpocket managed to swipe a tiny apple when a merchant's eye was turned. The open air market was truly a sight to behold, but more impressive then the endless lines of carts and stalls was the small entourage slowly weaving between lanes and dealers.

Gaze after gaze fell upon the imposing soldiers of Gondor as they escorted the Queen through the market. While it was not uncommon for the Queen to venture beyond the walls of the Palace, it was a rare occurrence when she journeyed with such a small escort. Merchants bartering with potential clients stopped their bargaining and watched the Queen pass by in awe. Those in the way of her walk moved reverently to one side, bowing as she passed. Children stared at the tall lady, many for the first time seeing an Elf. Several merchants found themselves speechless when Arwen stopped at their carts to look at their goods curiously. Walking along, Arwen hid her amusement at the reactions of her husband's subjects. In passing, one stall in particular caught her eye. Upon reaching the small wooden stand she bent to inspect a small carving etched into the side of a small grey stone.

A small child of no more then 9 stood by the stand, unsure of how to address the beautiful woman before her. There was something different about the Queen, something ethereal. The girl could not understand why she suspected something about this lady, but there was something to the way she carried herself that seemed to make her more then just a Queen. She looked the Queen over, taking in the darkness of her hair and the bright blue of her robes against the dusty market air. Arwen, sensing the child watching her, raised her eyes from the girl's products and smiled kindly, a sparkle illuminating her cerulean eyes. The little girl met the gaze of the Queen before quickly averting her eyes and bending into a badly executed curtsey. She winced, certain she had made a fool of herself in front of the King's wife.

Standing straight once more, the girl clasped her hands in front of her and spoke to the Queen in a stuttering voice.

"My Lady, it is an honor that you would bless my measly stall with your graceful presence. Surely there are others more worthy of your attention, and I thank you for your interest."

She raised her head a bit, eager to see the Queen's face once more. Finding the girl charming, Arwen knelt down on the ground to better see the child. At such a sight, the captain leading her escort gasped.

"My Lady, you are the Queen. You do not bow to anyone of lesser station."

Arwen continued to look at the girl directly in the eyes, and spoke to the captain in answer: "I am simply getting to know my husband's people better, Lord Captain. I think it is proper for me to do so, and as I am Queen, I may lower myself to any standard I so choose. This includes kneeling in the dirt to look upon the face of a child."

The little girl grinned softly, a twinkle in her hazel eyes. "You'll get your dress dirty."

Arwen smiled in return. "I have more dresses."

The girl laughed happily, and Arwen watched her chubby cheeks turn pink with merriment. She asked gently, "What is your names, child?" The little girl smiled as she answered in a proud voice, "I am Doedwyn, daughter of Londgrun of Annuminas." Arwen extended her pale hand to the child, to greet Doedwyn properly, but a look of reluctance appeared on the girl's face. Unsure whether or not to take the lady's perfect hand in her own smaller, dirtier hand, the little girl shook her head before looking back at the Queen. "I don't want to dirty your hands, Lady. My own are rough from work and unfit for the grace of a Queen."

Arwen exhaled gently, a look of understanding in her eyes. She would not press the child if she were truly uncomfortable with causing the Queen insult. Instead, she nodded towards the stall and it's contained goods.

"What do you sell, little one? Anything that might be of interest to your Queen?"

The little girl eagerly turned back to her stall, motioning to the small stones on it's top. "These are stones from the river Anduin. My mother takes them from it's shores and craves symbols of luck upon their surface. This one", she pointed to a small red stone with an intricate leave carved into it's surface, "is a good luck rock for a safe journey." She pushed through small piles of rocks, indicating certain ones and holding them up for the Queen to see. Laughing, Arwen accepted each rock, and soon found herself with an arm full of tiny stones. Doedwyn took a side glance at the Queen, and dropped the rock in her hand at the sight before her.

Fearful she had caused the girl an upset, Arwen quickly placed the stones of the surface of the stall. Anxiously, Arwen looked around for a cause to the girl's disbelief, but could find none. "What is wrong, child?"

Doedwyn pointed at the Queen, and out of the corner of her eye Arwen saw the Palace guards edge closer should the Queen need protection. Various merchants and sellers looked around, questioning the child's actions in the presence of royalty.

"Your ears! Your ears are pointy!" Doedwyn pointed a finger at the Queen's head, staring in shock at the tips of Arwen's ears, following the point with her eyes.

Arwen exhaled sharply, and surprising the surrounding throng, began to laugh at the child's reaction. Her laughter rang clearly through the air, and the guards lowered their weapons in both amusement and consternation. Doedwyn paused, her finger still directed at the Queen and cocked her head questioningly. "What is so funny? To have such a deformation would be the cause of strife, not amusement."

Arwen giggled as she answered. "My dear, I am an Elf. It is normal for Elves to have such "deformations". Have you never seen an Elf before?"

Doedwyn shook her head, her blond curls catching the sunlight. "No. My father told me all the Elves sailed away. He said they disliked mortals and wanted to leave Middle-Earth."

Arwen placed a hand on the girl's shoulder. Doedwyn noted a hint of sadness in the Queen's blue eyes and wondered if she had said something to make her sad, but before she could ask her Queen's state, Arwen spoke.

"Your father speaks the truth to a point, Doedwyn. The Elves did sail away, returning to the West and our homeland. But it was not because they hated Mankind. The Elves realized Man's time had come, and that your kind no longer needed assistance from my people. It was simply their time to leave. Now they are gone and shall not return to grace this world."

"Well, then why didn't you leave? Don't you miss your family?"

Arwen smiled introspectively, eyes searching the horizon as tears momentarily gathered in their blue depths. "Ay, my dear. I do miss them, more then words can say. I stayed because I could not bare to leave that which I had found here."

"And what was that, my Queen?"

"Love. I stayed for love." Arwen stood now, running a hand through Doedwyn's curls before brushing the dust from the hem of her gown. Doedwyn took her hand and smiled up at the Queen, no longer intimidated by her beauty or position, but rather compelled by her honesty and open heart.

"In that case, I hope the King realizes the great gift he has had bestowed upon him. May your love ever be true, my Lady." The girl placed a small purple stone in the Queen's palm. Arwen looked down at the smooth surface. Two intricate hearts intertwined themselves around the stone, joining together. Arwen ran her fingertip along the deep carving, marveling at it's craft work.

"What does it mean?", she asked softly, her face displaying the awe at the item.

"It is meant to connect your heart with another's. To show them that your love is as everlasting at the Earth itself. I wish you could have given it to your kin, but perhaps there is another worthy of such devotion."

Arwen smiled, and dropped to her knees to hug the child. "Thank you, my friend. I trust I shall see your kind face again soon, here in this market?"

Doedwyn shrugged as she smiled. "I hope so, your Majesty. I shall be here. It is up to you to show up."

The Queen smiled as she turned to leave the market place, waving at the small girl as her guards fell into place and they began the walk back to the Palace.

Later that night, Aragorn found his wife sitting before the fireplace, staring at the flames as it's amber light filled her face with a golden glow. He joined her on the floor, and Awen leaned against him as he wrapped an arm around her waist. He kissed the crown of her head, and sighed as her lilac scent filled his senses.

"I trust your day was good?" He asked as she turned her face into his neck and placed a soft kiss there.

Arwen snuggled closer against him, enjoying his nearness and the warmth of the fire. She raised her eyes to meet his, and smiled. "Yes, Estel. I made a friend. A very smart little girl."

Aragorn raised an eyebrow, grinning and tightening his grip around Arwen's waist. "And where did you meet this very smart little girl? Was she the daughter of one of your attendants?"

"No. I met her in the market."

"I didn't know you had plans to go to the market. You should have sought me out. It would have provided me with an excuse to leave the endless briefings these so called 'advisors' give."

Arwen laughed. "I should have. It would have been nice." Aragorn noticed the faraway look crossing his wife's face, one that was only there when she thought of her kin. Fearful that this child had upset his wife, Aragorn shook her. "Meleth-nin? You seem distracted? What exactly did this little girl say to you?"

"She reminded me of my family."

Ahh, he has suspected as much. Worried that his wife was melancholy, the King took her chin in his hand and gently lifted her face to his. "Undomiel-"

Before he could finish, Arwen silenced him with a delicate fingertip. "She also reminded me how much I love you." Brushing a hand across his forehead to push back any errant strands of hair, the Queen placed a kiss on the tip of his nose.

Aragorn kissed her in return, and raised himself from the fur rug on which they sat. Offering Arwen a hand, she accepted and allowed him to lift her off the floor. They hugged as they walked to a large bay window overlooking the citadel. Arwen took Aragorn's hand and placed a small stone in it, and Aragorn looked down at the rock questioningly. Turning it over in his hand, he looked at the heart design.

"Doedwyn, the little girl in the market, gave it to me. She said she wished I could have given it to my family, because it is a charm that forever binds my love to the recipient's."

Aragorn raised his eyes, confusion clouding the grey depths.

Arwen closed his fingers over the smooth pebble raising his hand to her lips and placing a kiss upon his knuckles.. "I still would have given it to you."

"So no regrets? Indonya, I do not want to give me this simply to pacify me. I can understand your loss and sadness."

"No Etsel. I have no regrets. I would have made the same choice were I given another chance. I love you above all else in this world or any other."

Aragorn drew her against him and kissed her deeply. Drawing away, Aragorn whispered in her ear, "Arwen, the next time you go to the market, I should like to go with you. To meet this Doedwyn. Perhaps she can tell me something that will cause your heart to flutter with love, as you have done this night to mine." Arwen giggled quietly, and wrapped her arms around her husband's neck.

"I should like that very much."