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To Embrace the Untouchable

Aralyn gaily laughed as Edoras came into view. Astaldo broke into a full gallop, sensing her desire to reach the city as soon as possible.

"Open the gate!" she called upon nearing the entrance. "I am Aralyn of Gondor. Open the gate!"

She was admitted directly after mentioning her name. As the woman dismounted and handed Astaldo's reigns to one of the soldiers, she addressed the one who seemed to be their leader.

"I must speak to your king immediately."

"I'm sorry, my lady," the Man replied, "but King Éomer left two weeks ago to make his yearly rounds of the land."

"Please," she begged, "tell me, where would he be by now?"

"Miss, there is no way to tell for sure…"

"At least a guess, an idea, anything!"

"Alright…if he hasn't had any holdups, then he would most likely be at the eastern-most village beside the Great River, but…"

"That's enough, thank you," the ranger quickly said, once again mounting and charging out the gate to the north-east.

Several hours later, the town could be seen on the horizon. Hoof prints were scattered everywhere about the entrance, but the only signs of life were the few village women sweeping the dust from their doorsteps and children playing tag in the square. A Man, seemingly of importance, stopped in front of Aralyn as she dismounted.

"Who are you, stranger," he addressed her.

"I am Aralyn, daughter of Arathorn, sister of the King of Gondor."

"Then you are more than welcome here, my lady."

"Is King Éomer here?"

"I'm sorry, but he left yesterday. Supposedly, this was the last place he was visiting, but one of the soldiers said something about honoring the dead of Helm's Deep."

"Thank you. Your help will not be forgotten, good man."

"Ride safe, my lady."

Again, the woman mounted Astaldo, who stampeded out of the village back to the west. Unfortunately for her tightly strained nerves, Aralyn was forced to stop at the Entwash to water her horse and let him graze. Finally, the horsemen's tracks led to Helm's Deep after hours of racing along their trail. It appeared that the Men had just arrived as the gate made a loud boom as it shut. Dropping down to the ground, the ranger had no need to hold onto Astaldo's reigns as he simply followed her up the stairs beside the great gap in the wall. Apparently, no one had tried repairing the damage down to the structure quite yet. The bloodstains of the long-removed fallen still marked the stones as the girl knelt down beside one spot in particular, though hardly any mark was left there.

"Sor air shaesi Haldir rair, Astaldo (This was where Haldir died, Astaldo)," she whispered to the steed, which nuzzled the back of her neck with his hand-size muzzle. "Ci tasti thys ti eil shar por ci kaer ail vaeres? Paer (He came for me and what did he get in return? Death)." The horse seemed to understand as he allowed the girl to bury her face in his mane, though she did not cry. Simply the fact that there was someone…or something there to comfort her gave her courage.

"Well, well, well, what do we have here?" the voice of a Man asked himself before he rounded the corner which was Astaldo. He hadn't yet seen Aralyn's face as she was still resting her head against the creature with her hair over her face. "A great stallion and a maiden of travel…are you perhaps a messenger of some kind? Your horse is black, so perhaps some remnant loyalist of the Enemy?" As soon as those words were out of the Man's mouth, Astaldo reared up, knocking the Man over. Just as the horse was about to crush the newcomer with his giant hooves, Aralyn cried out,

"Bai! Ci air ei thol! (No! He is a friend!)"

"Falathiel?" Éomer queried from his place still on the ground.

"My lady to you, Éomer. You're lucky I like you enough to have stopped Astaldo from ending your life."

"Astaldo? Elvish for valiant…he is definitely protective of you."

"And of his own honor," the girl finished, helping the King of Rohan stand.

The Man and woman stood staring at each other for over a minute.

"So…have you found anyone to win the pieces of your heart, yet?"

-This is going to be fun-

"Yes, my true love."

"Oh…who is the lucky one?"

"He's standing right in front of me."

After gasping with joy, Éomer picked the girl up bride style and twirled her around.

"Aralyn, daughter of Arathorn, will you marry me?...with Astaldo's permission, of course?"

"Not just because I'm the sister of the king of Gondor?"

"No, because I love you. You're my dream come true."

"Well, in that case…yes, Éomer, son of Éomund…yes!"

--

(sixty-two years later)

"Mother!" Elfwine called to the woman with pointed ears packing a weathered bag. She had golden hair with three inch-wide highlights of grey, although her face barely showed any age. "Mother," the middle-aged man insisted, "do you have to go? Father just died and I was just crowned a year ago. I don't know what I'll do without you."

"My son," Aralyn replied, stopping her work to touch Elfwine's cheek, "during the year I have watched you rule since your father's death, you have become a great leader. If the weight of responsibility seems too great, you always have those two old hobbits here to cheer you up. Even at their age, Merry and Pippin are still pulling pranks. You know that you have my eyes?"

"It still won't be the same without you here to advise me."

"For that, you will have your new fiancé from Dol Amroth, who is, by the way, the most beautiful and kind girl I have seen…other than Arwen, my aging brother's wife, of course."

"Mother!"

"Well, it's the truth! Now, can you have the stable boy saddle Astaldo?"

"I still don't understand why you have to leave on such short notice."

"Sam said that he was leaving a month from the time he sent that letter if I did not come. That was two weeks ago. Elfwine, my time has come."

"What about me? What about King Aragorn? Are you just going to leave us?"

"Elfwine, listen to me. I know that I have not told you enough of my life before coming here, but here is something that should help." At that, the woman presented a green-covered book from her bedside table and proceeded to walk towards the door with her bag. "My son, the only advice I can give you is to always treat your people fairly and plan for the future." With no further comment, she walked out the door and straight to the stables. Like herself, the black stallion had grey streaks through his hair, though he looked no different other than that. Aralyn had discovered through the years that Astaldo was somehow related to Shadowfax, therefore possessing long life. Hiking up her ankle-length, grey skirt, the Queen of Rohan mounted her loyal steed and galloped out of the city, gaining many cries of alarm from the townspeople.

Three days later, Aralyn arrived in Hobbiton. Happily, nothing had changed since her last visit.

"Drifter?" a rather fragile and somewhat hesitant voice queried as an elderly hobbit emerged from the hole she had stopped in front of.

"Samwise Gamgee," the woman began, "and here I was thinking that I looked a bit older. You look as if my horse ran you over."

"Gained a little sarcasm, I see…finally. I brought cookware. Did you happen to bring the food?"

"I'm not that old! I can hunt down a couple rabbits even easier since last I saw you."

"Do mind helping me?"

"Of course, Sam."

After helping the halfling onto Astaldo in front of her and his bag in the saddlebags, Aralyn simply pulled on the reigns ever so slightly, sending the horse on a soft trot towards the Grey Havens.

Two days later, upon seeing the dock and the last ship, the woman slowed Astaldo, dismounted with Sam, and unsaddled the horse.

"You are free, my friend. Go wherever you choose." Nuzzling his mistress, the magnificent animal trotted away into the forest.

"You have to admit, Drifter, that the Fellowship is broken."

"No, no, however distance may separate us, we will always be a Fellowship."

Minutes later, they were sailing into the sunset. After an hour of the boat slicing through the cool breeze, a warm glow enveloped the travelers.

"Father? Gandalf? Haldir? Boromir? Mother? Frodo?"

They were all there, standing on a bright, sandy beach with nothing but endless deep green forests, lush fields, peaceful brooks, and simple homes stretching on for miles behind them. It was a paradise. It was the Undying Lands. It was home.

Thanks for reading and please review! I hope that you have enjoyed this story as much as I have. Without your support and advice, it would have never come this far. My next story will be Star Wars, which brings to mind…thank you to those who voted on my poll. By the way, some of you may have noticed that some details of the original story were changed in this chapter, but know that it was done on purpose.