Disclaimer: I own nothing.

28. Eternally Bound

Frodo slowly cracked his weak eyes open and his gaze met by unexpected bright light of the sun outside. He had forgotten the warmth of sunlight, and its light kiss which promised better days and happier tidings. He had not seen the sun since the Shire, yet knew he was not home yet.

He remembered the cold, harsh lands of Mordor. The rocky slopes that had hurt to step across, the shadows that had all but overtaken his heart as he and Sam had hid from their foes. He remembered Shelob's lair, the light of Eärendil, the pain of the great spider's stinger, his imprisonment and Gollum's madness within the heat of Mount Doom. How close he himself had come to giving it all up. If it had not been for Sam... Frodo could not bear to finish the thought.

Instead, Frodo focused upon his surroundings. This place was warm, the air held a faint scent of roses and he was relieved to be rid of the smell of sulphur constantly around him. The burning rocks by the fires of Mount Doom were exchanged for a warm, comfortable bed. He was reminded of the serenity of Rivendell, yet felt a different sensation here. He did not feel serenity, but rather a woken clarity. He sat up in bed to gaze about the chamber, and his eyes landed upon a most unexpected sight. Gandalf.

The Wizard wore white robes and his beard was touched by frost. Still, Gandalf looked younger and less grumpy than Frodo had ever seen him. Frodo could still not get past his surprise. Gandalf had fallen in Moria, dragged down to the bottomless pits by the balrog. A warm smiled spread across the old man's face.

To verify that this was reality and not a deceitful dream, Frodo tested his voice, "Gandalf...?"

Gandalf's eyes twinkled with a familiar air, and the man nodded. The realization overwhelmed Frodo's simple mind, and all his concerns washed away. For the first time in a very long while, Frodo laughed. This was indeed great news. Perhaps there was hope for the world even after the destruction of the Ring, after all.

At that moment, the large door swung open and Merry and Pippin ran in. They jumped onto Frodo's bed to regale him with tales of their adventures during their long days separated. Merry and Pippin were soon followed by the rest of the fellowship who stepped inside. All of their faces shone with life and joy, and most importantly peace. Frodo felt overcome with joy that they were all there with him. He felt a heavy weight fade from his chest, and found he could relax in their presence.

They all gazed at him with warmth and gratitude. The Ring was destroyed. Frodo knew he - a small, insignificant hobbit - had completed the daunting task he had accepted long ago in Rivendell. War was over. Sauron was dead. The World could once more rebuild into an era of peace.

Frodo's eyes searched out Sam's in the small crowd and their gazes spoke of all that they had encountered and conquered together. Sam, his constant companion and guiding light. Frodo and Sam shared a smile. Yes, all was finally well with the world.

Only days later, when Minas Tirith had had a chance to breathe and settle after all the hardships it had endured, the sun brightly shone down upon the courtyard before the citadel at the uppermost level of the White City.

All of the citizens had gathered there, spreading out across the rock surface that jutted outward, ending in a narrow peak. They were all present, along with emissaries of all the different people of Middle Earth, to witness the historic event. The King had returned to his throne, and this was his coronation. All their hearts were filled with hope for tomorrow, for they all knew that Aragorn was a capable man and leader, and that he would lead them into this new era of friendship and peace. So much had been lost and many tears spilled during the years of war, but that was all in the past now. Today they all looked ahead, towards times of healing and the growth of all nations.

On the grand steps to the palace stood Gandalf, facing the crowd. Aragorn knelt upon the stairs before the wizard. Aragorn wore fabrics of the deepest red, with an embroidered tree upon its chest. A dark robe, lined with fur and golden trims, hung from his shoulder and traced behind him. Andúril hung secure at his hips and a large, gilded coronation necklace hung across his shoulders.

Aragorn let his gaze momentarily travel up to Gandalf, who officiated the coronation service, and speaking noble words that echoed across the open court yard and beyond. Aragorn then snuck a glance at Arwen, who stood a few paces behind Gandalf, beside Gimli, Frodo and Boromir. The three men wore the finest fabrics for this day, a far cry from the battle armors or torn shirts they had worn only days before. Arwen stood the most noble of them all, with her tall stature and graceful posture. Arwen wore her long hair down, with only a few white flowers to adorn the long locks that fell around her graceful frame. She was dressed in a burgundy gown, with golden trims and belt, and with wide, white sleeves, that combined the beauty of the elvish and the Gondorian fashions. Arwen met Aragorn's gaze and beamed down at him with nothing but pride in her sparkling eyes. Aragorn returned the grin.

Frodo then stepped forward, a grand crown in his tender grasp. He handed the royal crown to Gandalf, before he smiled at Aragorn and once more stepped back to the others. Gandalf held the crown up for the crowd to see.

"Now come the days of the King," Gandalf spoke with a strong voice as he placed the crown atop Aragorn's head. More gently, he said, "May they be blessed."

Aragorn closed his eyes. He did feel the heavy weight of the crown, and all it represented for him now. The responsibilities he carried upon his shoulders. The days ahead would not all be simple, there would be trials that he would have to navigate himself and his people through. He would not always be strong, nor always right, but he vowed that he would always act according to his own heart, and to the best of his abilities. Aragorn exhaled slowly, letting the negativity leave his body and leave room for hope. On strong legs, King Aragorn II, son of Arathorn, arose and turned to face his loyal subjects.

"This day those not belong to one man, but to all," Aragorn proclaimed. "Let us together rebuild this world that we may share in the days of peace."

Everyone started to cheer and thousands and thousands of bright, yellow flower petals danced through the air and floated in the wind across the sea of people. Aragorn bowed his head and as the people quietened, he sang to them the old words of Elendil:

"Et Earello Endorenna


Sinome maruvan

ar Hildinyar

tenn' Anbar-metta."

Aragorn finished the old song and turned towards Arwen. He held out a calloused hand, that was much accustomed to fighting and little accustomed to leading, towards her. With a flowing curtsy, Arwen stepped forward and accepted it. With her warm, soft hand within his own, Aragorn felt rejuvenated. They smiled at each other and Aragorn knew all would be well.

As the royal couple, the king and his soon-to-be bride, face the crowd once more, the people in the courtyard once more applauded and cheered for them. Aragorn heard Arwen draw a sharp breath and he squeezed her hand fondly. This, they would do together. They would not be wed for another fortnight, not until Elladan and Elrohir returned from Rivendell with lord Elrond. When at last Arwen's father was by her side, Aragorn could have his wife and queen.

With a final squeeze, Aragorn and Arwen descended the stairs, still hand in hand, to meet the people and to greet all those who had helped them reach this moment in time.

The coronation day continued as festively as it had begun, with large festivities throughout the city that began by sunset. The whole of Minas Tirith was abuzz with laughter and songs, singing of their new king and of the destruction of all the evils from Middle Earth. Wine and food flowed in abundance and all throughout the seven levels of the city, people celebrated together.

Atop the seventh level, deep within the citadel and the house of the King, the halls were decorated for the event in question. All the noblemen, soldiers and the fellowship of the Ring were invited and the conversations were pleasant and happy, the murmur loud with ease. The spirits were high even within the white halls as several cheers were made for the king. Merry and Pippin even entertained with their songs of Hobbiton, and one they had written themselves about Aragorn. Everyone applauded as their verses ended, laughter ringing out in the crowd.

Arwen stood beside a pillar as she gazed at all the happy faces that surrounded her in the halls. For this feast, she wore a deep-blue gown with gilded trims and details, a gold coronet in her locks, a cup of wine in her hands. Her eyes found Legolas and Gimli in the crowd. The two were drinking amiably together and there was peace between them. She knew the two of them had already made plans to travel the words together, side by side. Now. they both raised their cups to her from across the room and Arwen bowed her head and shared in the toast.

A familiar tuft of hair came into her line of view and Arwen called out to her small friend, "Sam!"

The small hobbit turned and as he caught sight of her, smiled. He made his way over to her through the crowed. He bowed, somewhat uncomfortably, in the stiff fabrics of the new fine clothes he had been given for the celebration. He smoothed a wrinkle in his green tunic before he stood tall and once more smiled up at her.

"Arwen, you shine like the stars this evening."

"Thank you, dear friend," Arwen smiled. She saw his smile falter slightly, like a mask hanging crookedly. She sensed unease mingle with peace in his heart. "How are you faring, Samwise?"

"Me?" Sam asked and seemed surprised she should ask. "I am... fine. Truly. I must admit that it feels almost strange, being back here now after everything. Not having to worry or be afraid of the never-ending darkness each and every day. Not to have our dark mission to fulfill. The Ring is gone and all is well."

"It is," Arwen nodded. She pondered the moment briefly, before she opened her heart to him. "You have heard it from many mouths already, Sam, and you'll hear it from many more, but... I could not be prouder of you and Frodo. Your heroism went far beyond what anyone expected... and yet none of us ever doubted you. And as for you in particular, dear Samwise, I am truly inspired how you managed to hold true to your words to the very end."

Sam frowned and it was plain he had not understood her. "Milady...?"

"Do you remember our conversation before we all were parted at Amon Hen?" Arwen asked.

Sam inclined his head. "I remember."

"Then you may also recall the promise you made when you were most distressed?" Arwen asked and the frown disappeared on Sam's face, replaced by an air of understanding. "You vowed never to let Frodo go alone and you truly did not. You followed him to the end, Sam, and you did everything you could for him. Out of all of us, you were the one who never faltered."

"Thank you," Sam said as a faint blush crept up his cheeks. He shifted awkwardly in his place as his gaze fell to the ground. "... But I fear your words are entirely misdirected. It is Frodo who deserves your kind words. He was the Ring bearer."

"He was," Arwen agreed and tilted her her to the side as her smile widened. "But he did not do this alone. You are both as heroic, Sam... Though I know not all the details and am certain I never will, I know that to be true. Had it not been for you, Frodo would not have been able to complete his task."

"Thank you, Arwen," Sam bowed his head and seemed genuinely touched by her words. He locked gazes with her, and continued, "I am told you deserve similar praise for your involvement in this war. How you helped protect Pippin and Merry, how you were willing to sacrifice everything for Strid-King Aragorn. It takes unimaginable strength to withstand Sauron himself. And may I say, that I know you and Strider will stand together, protecting each other through any storm you may face. You will be a gentle queen and will rule with kindness for many long years to come. I am most happy for the two of you. The happiness of the world is yours, at last."

Arwen felt her own smile widen as his words warmed her heart. "Tell me, Samwise, what do you intend to do now when the war is over?"

Sam shrugged and seemed perplexed by the idea of an 'after'. "I'll go back home, I suppose... With my friends. I want to sow some of the seeds Lady Galadriel gave me and watch the plants grow as my life returns to normal."

Sam opened his mouth to continue when a large hand landed on his shoulder and Gandalf stepped up next to him. The wizard smiled down at Sam with a twinkle in his eyes before he turned his attention to Arwen.

"I did not mean to interrupt. I wish to steal Sam for a moment, if I may. You are not the only one who wants to pay their respects, milady," Gandalf began, his old voice filled with life and humor. "And, I believe your aid is needed elsewhere, lady Undómiel. It appears the King himself has yet to make an appearance to his own celebration."

"Then I shall leave and find him," Arwen curtsied.

She turned and left Gandalf and Sam to their own amiable conversation, in the sea of people around them. As Arwen let her keen eyes search the corridors for her intended, she allowed her mind to revel in the moment. Sam's words had inspired her hope and love to grow even further. It was only a matter of weeks now, after all their waiting, until she would wed the love of her life. Still, even after all these years of waiting, she was impatient now. She did not wish to wait any longer.

Arwen gazed about the white, stone walls and the tall, elegant arches. Minas Tirith. This beautiful city was to be her home now; this white, blinding city of Man. Here she would make a life and future for herself and her children that would come after. It was very different from Rivendell and Loríen, yet she did not feel like a foreigner here. The thought of building a home for herself here was one she looked forward to. The thought alone brought back the smile upon her lips.

Arwen let her spirit guide her towards its twin soul and she climbed up a grand staircase and stopped upon a smaller landing. On the second landing above her she saw the great king himself, gazing out through a window facing East. A small smile played across Aragorn's lips and his distant eyes were filled with life. Arwen sensed that he, too, was occupied with thoughts of their bright future.

Arwen allowed herself a moment to appreciate his fine figure. Aragorn was clad in fine materials, with a royal blue robe with silver details that adorned his shoulders and hung to his feet. The clothes made him stand tall and proud, filled with virtue and confidence. A true king. Atop his dark brow rested the silver crown of his forefathers and it seemed to gleam with their forlorn wisdom.

"Lle tyava quel, mela en' coiamin?" Arwen asked. (Are you well, love of my life?)

"No," Aragorn said, but did not turn his gaze from the view outside. If he was surprised to see she had found him, he did not show it. "An ngell nîn, á tulë sinomë." (Yes. Please, come here.)

Arwen raised the hem of her flowing skirt and moved up the steps to join his side.

She smiled up at him as he placed an arm around her waist and pulled her close. He returned the grin and something akin to wonder flashed through his pale eyes as he looked down upon her. Arwen raised one of her hands and traced his cheek as he closed his eyes in bliss. Her fingers traced a few wrinkles by his eyes and mouth that had not been there long. She knew what had created them. The crown atop his head made him look both royal and full of strength and it was a far cry from the young ranger he had been.

"So you have noticed them, too," Aragorn grinned as he seemed to read her thoughts. With a deep, passionate voice, he cooed, "Are they unpleasing, my lady?"

"Not entirely," Arwen joked and Aragorn snorted. Arwen then raised her slender hand and touched the crown. Gently, she whispered, "My king."

"Your husband," Aragorn softly corrected, his voice filled with happiness, as he beckoned her to meet his gaze once more.

"Not yet," Arwen said. Aragorn laughed at her cheekiness and pressed a kiss to the Ring of Barahir upon her slender hand. Arwen smiled up at the happy wrinkles that embraced his eyes. Though he had aged, he was still the youngling she had met and fallen in love with all those years ago. "You do know how proud I am, do you not?"

"Yes," Aragorn responded, and his voice was a mere whisper. His eyes danced with love as they searched hers. "I am aware."

"Good," Arwen said and kissed him briefly. She leaned her forehead against his and felt him relax beside her. "What are you still doing up here, Estel? Why are you not celebrating with the others?"

"I am contemplating," Aragorn offered and shrugged his shoulders. "Contemplating you. Us and our future life. Contemplating my own luck at having you still beside me. I lost you back there if even for a second, and you would have been lost forever if Frodo had not destroyed the Ring. I never want to come as close to losing you again."

"If the Ring had not been destroyed, we would all have been lost," the elegant maiden pointed out. "I have been thinking, Estel," Arwen said then, as her mind focused upon another topic close at hand. "Now that my choice is that of Luthien before me, and I will remain by your side, there is a vacant seat upon the ships that will sail to the Grey Havens. I have looked into Frodo's heart and there seen much pain. Pain he cannot be free of, pain he will carry with him 'til the end of his days."

"I have sensed it, too," Aragorn agreed. "Gandalf tells me there is nothing we can do to help Frodo, but to give him space and time to heal."

"I wondered... if I might offer him this gift: to take my place and sail to the Undying lands when and if he so desires. What say you to this gift?"

"I think it a most noble gesture, and a choice Frodo deserved after all his perils," Aragorn said and then his gaze softened. "Arwen, your strength inspires. Your beauty illuminates, but it is your heart I treasure most of all. If you had not believed in us, in me... I would never be standing here."

"I fell in love with the ranger, the strong man within your heart," Arwen smiled back. "And I will love this king - my king - 'til my dying breath."

"Arwen…" Aragorn breathed and seemed at a loss for words. His adoring eyes traveled across her face as if he had never seen something so delicate. He inhaled slowly as he shook his head. At length, he said, "I have something for you."

Arwen felt her heart dance to a merry tune indeed as she smiled up at him. His pale, loving gaze sparkled in the pale moon light. "Am man theled?" (Why?)

"Think of it as a wedding gift," Aragorn said cryptically and took a step back to hold her hands in his. Arwen was reminded of that day in Rivendell when he had tried to give back the Evenstar pendant, but knew he would not now. Much had changed since then, much fear had been overcome and trials put to rest. Besides, the pendant could not be returned, for it had broken when she had died.

Because she knew this, Arwen was taken completely by surprise as he took out a glittering, silver chain from his pocket and placed it in her hand. The silver chain consisted of small niphredil-flowers and the center piece was the White Tree of Gondor. In the very heart of the silver Tree shone a white, elven stone.

"When the Evenstar broke, I thought I had lost you forever. A fate worse than death," Aragorn said, his voice raw with emotion as he held her gaze. "But you came back to me. And the pendant, along with your life, was not entirely destroyed. I kept the centerpiece of the Evenstar pendant. I could not let it go to waste."

"It is beautiful. Hannon le, Aragorn," Arwen beamed and Aragorn helped put on the necklace around her slender neck. The white tree landed perfectly in the clavicle between her collarbones.

"It shines almost as bright as its bearer. What say you, Arwen... Shall we join our most honored guests downstairs?" Aragorn asked. The king offered his arm and Arwen took it without hesitation. Together they walked down the stairs, through the beautiful corridors and at last entered the grand hall side by side.

The first one to greet them, just inside the entrance, was Boromir who bowed and smiled widely up at his king. Aragorn had convinced the nobleman to assume the title of Steward and work as his right hand, an honor Boromir had most welcomed in this new dawn.

The two men greeted each other with a warm embrace and Boromir kissed Arwen's cheek as he pressed her hand in his. No words of gratitude and friendship needed to be spoken, they were all family now. He bowed one last time before he walked over to join Faramir, Éomer and Éowyn in a drinking game. Upon a table nearby, Merry and Pippin were dancing away tirelessly and sang a new tune about the fall or Mordor with many verses that had the crowd around the table roaring with laughter.

"Ah! King Aragorn," a voice suddenly spoke and both Arwen and Aragorn turned as Gandalf walked up to them with an amused grin. "You join us at last."

"Where is Sam?" Arwen asked and gazed about.

"I believe he and Frodo are having a quiet drink outside in the gardens to try and figure out where to go from here. They have been through much on their journey and now they must find their way back to an ordinary life. It will not be easy, and I fear Frodo might not be able to adjust. Sam, I am confident, will return to his old life in no time," Gandalf responded and then turned his attention towards Aragorn. "Now, my king, much has happened in your absence. You will find many new guests have arrived..."

"Is that so?" Aragorn asked with a confused frown. He glanced down at Arwen, who shared his confusion.

Arwen felt a presence then, one who had always been her home, and she spun around.

"Ada!" Arwen cried out as a figure stepped up to join Gandalf's side. Elrond wore his finest clothes, and a silver coronet in his hair, as he gazed down at Arwen with pride and happiness. Overcome with joy, Arwen threw her arms around her father's neck and held him close.

"Arwen, "Elrond exhaled in relief and Arwen could tell he, too, was overcome with exaltation upon finding her alive and well. They had not seen or spoken to each other for a long time, and this was one reunion Arwen had looked forward to more than any other.

Aragorn warmly greeted Elladan and Elrohir who walked over to join their little circle and congratulate the king for his crown. Arwen stepped back from her father's loving embrace and he dried her tears with a soothing touch.

"We were not expecting you for at least another week," Arwen said.

Elrond smiled and cupped his daughter's cheek. "You thought I could wait that long? I rode out to meet your brothers. I could not wait to see you-" he turned his gaze to Aragorn and continued, "-either of you. Sweetest child, I am most happy to have you in my arms again."

"As am I, Ada," Arwen smiled as she stepped back.

Elrond then turned to Aragorn. The latter bowed, but Elrond placed his hands upon the man's shoulders to stop him. Tears once more sprang to Elrond's eyes as he embraced Aragorn. Aragorn smiled into Elrond's shoulder, accepting the love, before he stepped back.

"Aragorn, though you know it without speaking, I will still say how proud I am of you," Elrond spoke. "I could not have asked for a better son to marry my daughter. The hour is late tonight, but tomorrow is Midsummer's Eve and the two of you shall be wed, with my blessing, at last. The wait will not be long, though I am sure it will feel like a lifetime to you."

Aragorn laughed and pulled Arwen into his arms without a second of thought. Arwen shared his joy and could not find the words to explain these blissful news. She could feel the happiness that her father, brothers and Gandalf exuded upon seeing Aragorn and hers pure and untamed happiness at standing upon the threshold of their future. Aragorn kissed her, and Arwen returned the kiss with soft attention.

Ten years later...

Arwen stood leaned against one of the pillars and remained in the shadows as she gazed out at her husband on the balcony. Aragorn was walking to and fro while gently rocking the small bundle in his arms that was making small noises of excitement every other second. As he walked, the king spoke of the great adventures of Frodo and the fellowship and now and again turned to the rising sun on the horizon to gaze northwards.

"Our son is not yet one year old," Arwen said at last as she stepped into the light on the balcony. "He won't understand your story for awhile yet."

Aragorn turned in surprise upon having been caught, but his face soon radiated with soft warmth. The wrinkles around his eyes were more pronounced now than but years ago and both his hair and thick beard were flecked with grey strands. Despite this, Aragorn looked no elder than the day of his coronation. "Did we wake you?"

Arwen stepped closer and leaned against the balustrade beside her husband. She gazed down at the small boy wrapped in a blanket in his father's arms. "You merely think your father is amusing whenever he uses different voices to impersonate the others of the fellowship, do you not?"

"You underestimate Eldarion, my love," Aragorn said and his voice danced with laughter.

"I think perhaps I underestimated your influence on our son," Arwen offered with a playful wink, looking up at Aragorn from beneath heavy lashes. "For I did not think you would creep from our bed in the middle of the night to bring him out here so that you could share stories of days past. I thought even less that Eldarion would adore how abruptly his father awoke him, but he seems beyond content to spend some private time with you."

Aragorn grinned and kissed his wife's cheek. "I believe that is rather our son's influence on me, and not the other way around. Nonetheless, I understand what you mean. Our son needs his rest and look; his energy is waning even as the sun rises. There's no need to yawn, Eldarion, I'll take you back to bed."

The young child let out a bubbly laughter as Aragorn swung him around in the air before he walked inside.

Arwen laughed at the men in her life, the blissful harmony swelling inside her chest. She turned to watch the warm sunrise before her. A gentle breeze cooled her in the morning and she felt the chill creep along her bare arms. She was mortal now, and one of the differences this had brought for her was that the changes of weather and nature affected her more now. Only a few minutes later, Arwen felt the warmth of a pair of strong arms wrap around her waist and she leaned back against Aragorn's chest. He pressed a kiss to the nape of her neck as Arwen sighed contently.

"I cannot believe my fortune," Arwen murmured.

"You?" Aragorn asked and his voice had a hint of irony in it. "You married an exiled ranger while I married the daughter of a high-born lord. Certainly, my choice must have been better than yours."

"No," Arwen shook her head and turned around in her husband's arms. Slowly, she snaked her own around his neck and leaned her forehead against his. "You've brought me true and honest love, made me a queen and given me a son - and more children are sure to follow."

Aragorn pretended to ponder her words before he said, "When you put it like that, we are even, after all."

With a widening smile, Arwen reached out and traced her husband's face with gentle fingers. His features softened beneath his touch. "Much time has passed since we set foot on our path that started with the Fellowship and even longer still than our first meeting... I have spent many days thinking about it. Your path from ranger to king, Sauron's hold of my mind, Frodo's burden as the Ringbearer and, of course, the friendships we made for life."

For a couple of minutes, the couple allowed themselves moments to simply listen to the sounds of morning, before their duties would pull them from this peace. They watched as the sun's beams reached the white city walls and slowly crept further up. The white stone glowed beneath the warm rays. A few early birds awoke with the sun and their singing came from the mountain behind them. Far down below, the King and Queen of Gondor and Arnor saw that some of the citizens had awoken and set off to perform their early duties. They heard the guards of the citadel share a good laughter with one of the healers, while dog barked far below.

At last, Aragorn lowered his gaze from the view and turned towards his wife. He watched her serene profile for a few seconds and Arwen felt his love for her flow between them. Soon, Aragorn said, "Sometimes, I admit, there were times I did not believe we would ever live to see this day. The odds were stacked against us, and yet somehow we prevailed. Somehow we reached the one day that mattered most to me. The day that required much courage upon the path towards it, and that held all the reward at the end."

Arwen turned to him and smiled. "Which day are you referring to?"

"Our wedding day, my queen," Aragorn grinned.

Arwen kissed his cheek and then moved to stand before him again, wrapping his arms safely around her once more. She leaned back against his chest as she gazed out at the hopeful sun climbing up from the horizon. "I shared those concerns once, as you well remember... And yet, when I look back at our path and at what brought us here, I find it is clear things could not have happened any other way. You and I were always meant to be here together."

"How can you be so certain, my love?"

"Because, Aragorn, we are eternally bound."


A/N: At one point in time, this story had 2-3 planned deaths (that would have differed from canon), but in the end I decided I needed something more cheerful. Perhaps not an end that suits everyone. Perhaps some even grew bored early on by some repetitive scenes that barely differed from the movie-verse (I've worked on those a lot with this final edit). But I think the serious message still comes across in this version of the story, too. There is still hardship and strife on their journeys. This story is, above all, a story about love. A selfless kind of love between two lovers, but also between family and friends. I wanted that to take centerstage. Love.

It's also a story about wanting a woman to have the same possibilities as the men who took centerstage in Tolkien's story. Women are equally capable. We're fallible and flawed, of course, as any man. But especially growing up, I wanted to see more women take action and control of their own destinies. 'My' Arwen in this story perhaps deviates far from the books and comes closer to the Arwen the moviemakers first intended for Liv Tyler to play (but later scrapped). I never tried to rewrite her into something she was not. Arwen's greatest strength, in book and movie, was always her ability to hope. It's the same here. Also, I've always liked all three women we see in LOTR (Galadriel, Arwen and Éowyn). Writing this I knew I wanted more of them, since they are so few among all the three-dimensional men of the books/movies. I wanted to see myself represented. I wanted fallible characters; strong women, weak women, struggling women, women in love, fighting women. Women. That's why I started writing this story in 2007. And why I still come back to it even years later. It's not my best work, far from it. But I still like its message. If you only dare to hope, you can achieve anything a man can. And then some.

Now, this is the last goodbye.

Thank you all for reading!