MPREG, MPREG, MPREG! This story features MPREG! You might HATE this kind of story; that is certainly your right (there are types of stories out there that I'm not particularly fond of either). If that is the case, your computer comes with this handy little thing called a BACK BUTTON, which will assist you in your NOT READING this. I don't need e-mails from anyone suggesting that I need BIOLOGY LESSONS (they've been taken and I got A's, thank you). Men can't get pregnant in real life, but this ISN'T REAL LIFE (hence the name fan fiction). And since it's safe to assume that none of you are God, you don't have the information or right to judge me as IMMORAL. I'm posting this story; it's entirely YOUR DECISION whether or not you actually read it. If someone is making you read this against your will, hatch an ESCAPE PLAN; and remember that I won't be so inclined to help you out with that if you flame me.
Title: What the Future May Hold
Disclaimer: I own nothing outright except for my DVD collection, a fish, a hamster, and a kitten; and three of those things cost me money instead of making it for me. Needless to say, I don't own anything associated with The Lord of the Rings except for my copies of the books and DVD's. Heck, if you have information that says that I'm somehow a part of J.R.R. Tolkien's estate or Peter Jackson et al, let me know.
Rating: M (to be on the safe side)
Summary: Almost thirteen years have passed since the end of What Love Brought Into Being and Aragorn and Legolas' family has grown. Now their eldest child, son Eldarion, stands between his childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood that loom ahead as his thirteenth birthday draws near. When a threat from the past threatens the future, how will he respond? Will Legolas, Aragorn, and their family and friends be able to sort through the confusion and clues before it's too late?
Warnings: MPREG (if this shocks and/or disgusts you in any way, please scroll up and read that first paragraph). SLASH (of the Aragorn/Legolas variety). AU (Aragorn and Legolas are happily married and Arwen never existed). CHILD ENDANGERMENT (in later chapters). If something listed here is unacceptable to you, please do us both a favor and hit the back button now.
Feedback: I welcome positive feedback, be it praise or constructive criticism. Actually, I really enjoy getting reviews; but I promise that I won't beg for them or threaten not to post chapters until I get a certain number of them. Flames, however, are not welcome at all – I will delete them from my e-mail immediately and from my story's review history if possible. If you dislike my story so much that you don't plan on reading any more of it, that's fine; but save the energy it would take to let me know just what you're planning because, really, if you're not going to read the story I don't care what you think. I will think, though, that you're a pathetic, clueless moron.
A/N: The more familiar characters – Legolas, Aragorn, and the like – will be showing up, for the most part, in the next chapter and they'll be main characters. I just wanted to establish how much time had passed and the new relationships between the children before plunging in.
And now the saga continues with…the story!
The long branches that surrounded the young but valiant – 'no, make that most fearless ever' – warrior were, in his mind, both a curse and a blessing. They did the job of cloaking him from unfriendly eyes but also got in his way. Every time he had to move one of them out of his line of vision to assess the situation before him, their creaks and wisps echoed horribly in his pointed ears. If he was to be heard before he could carry out his mission…. He fingered the trusty sword at his side and resolutely shook his head. He would not fail; not when she was depending on him.
Moving one particularly leafy tree limb, he was able to see them once again: the beautiful maiden, her jester, and the terrible creature that was holding them captive. He silently commended the maiden for the impeccable control she had over her fear; she'd always been a brave person, of course, but he knew from personal experience that the beast in whose company she'd been so cruelly placed was more ghastly than the balrog of campfire fables and the Enemy that people still whispered about with muted fear combined. His resolve solidified even more when the creature once again showed of its instruments of torture and the maiden did her best to hide her wince. Even some the bravest warriors hadn't been able to withstand such torment; he could only hope that he would get to her before it was too late.
It didn't help matters that she was essentially alone too. The jester, who'd had so much potential to be an all-right person or even a warrior himself, had unfortunately been quite taken with the creature for as long as anyone could remember. It revolted him how that stupid jester would follow the beast around, offering it daisies and other such flowers even as it delighted in pestering the maiden and tormenting the warrior. Now, instead of remaining loyal – as he should have been – to the trapped maiden he was sitting right next to it, patting its instruments of torture as if they, well, precious babies.
A bead of sweat trickled down one side of the warrior's face as he pushed aside the rest of the branches in his way as stealthily as he could while remaining in a position that still kept him almost completely hidden. He fought the urge to wipe it away. 'If you move now, it'll make a big, huge noise and they'll see you,' he reminded himself sternly. 'You're a warrior and you can handle this.'
Still, he wished with all of his might that the event that led to his current predicament hadn't happened that day. It was incredibly hot that summer, one of the hottest even according to the longest of memories, and that day was the hottest of them yet. The closeness of the air in his hiding place made it all the more worse for the warrior – there was not a part of him that was dry. His sweaty hair stuck to the side of his face, tickling it at the worst of times, and his clothing was so wet that it clung to his slight ('but bulging with muscles soon enough') frame. The humidity that hung in the air made the heat sticky and even more unbearable – a fitting state of things, the warrior mused, if he was correct about what would happen after that event taking place not too far off was over.
The warrior shook his head and ordered himself to concentrate. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, that he could do to advert the catastrophes that were bound to happen; because of that. Such a power had never been in his control; he could only hope that he would be strong enough to endure the years ahead of him of minimizing the damage. It was better for him to focus on the task at hand – something that he could most definitely make right – and worry about the future when it became the present. He knew from stories and lessons that too many that had come before him had never learned that lesson; it had led them to ruin but the warrior knew better than to repeat their mistakes.
There! He grinned to himself as the horrible beast, captive maiden, and besotted jester switched positions. Now the creature was in a much more vulnerable position. 'Probably thinks that it's safe,' he thought smugly. 'That I'm all tied up with my other boring duties and not able to stop this fiendish plot.' The jester was still dangerously close to the line of fire but the warrior didn't care all that much; perhaps what was about to happen would finally knock some sense into him. Best of all, the maiden was in a position to fully witness the heroics of the warrior – maybe it would be enough to impress her in a way that had proved elusive until then. 'This is going to be easy and victory will be so sweet.'
Ever so carefully, the warrior crept out of the brush and, keeping as close to the ground as possible, crawled over the lush carpet of grass to where the trio sat. Dimly, he wondered if the creator of the majestic garden knew that when he placed that bench among the gorgeous trees and colorful flowers that something so awful would be happening on it. None of that mattered right then, though; he could ask questions later, once he'd put en end to the beast's terrible reign. He wasn't going to be a better opportunity than this: but some miracle of Elbereth and the rest of the Valar, the creature appeared to be so preoccupied with smiling annoyingly at the maiden and bossing the jester around that the warrior was going completely unnoticed. This was his chance and he was going to take it.
Pausing only to draw his sword he made it to right behind the bench in question. Thank Elbereth that the backs of the beast and the traitorous jester were still to him! Raising himself up into a squat, he positioned the sword in his hands. Then, as the tension and anticipation that had been swelling within him since the mission began came to a boiling point, he sprang to his feet with his fine weapon raised above his head in a two-handed fighting stance. "I smite thee, beast of Minas Tirith!" he shouted importantly before bringing the sword down to connect with the creature's head.
Many things happened at once in response to this declaration. The beast let loose and unearthly – and rather girly – shriek and threw itself to one side before the warrior had the chance to strike it. The creature happened to move in the same direction that the jester sat. The boy, however, had been moving toward his supposed beloved in an attempt to pull it out of harm's way. They collided and stumbled clumsily to the ground; with the instruments of torture scattering around then, the jester pinned and filthy, and the beast's dress twisted up around its thighs revealing its bare feet.
In the midst of all of the confusion, the beautiful captive maiden looked at the warrior and their eyes locked. His breath caught in his throat at the fiery look he perceived there. Was she finally going to profess her undying devotion to him? Her mouth opened and he leaned forward in anticipation of finally hearing the words that he'd been waiting for…
"Eldarion Telcontar! What in the name of the Valar to do you think you're doing?"
Just a few minutes before the prince of Gondor's mean (but admittedly amusing) sneak attack, Findowyn, the seventeen-year-old daughter of the Steward Faramir and Lady Eowyn, was trying desperately to keep her mind on whatever it was that five-year-old Laurelin was prattling on about this time. Oh, how she wished that her mother hadn't stuck her with this baby-sitting duty! She'd tried to appeal to that part of Eowyn who was still the young woman who'd rather sneak into battle than hide in the relative safety of her uncle's palace, but Eowyn had only shaken her head knowingly. 'There are times when the situation is so dire that one must put aside mundane duties in order to do what's right,' she'd told her daughter. 'This is not one of those times. If I find out you've abandoned those children you'll see all too clearly just how much of the Witchking slayer I still am.'
Not that Findowyn would ever even consider doing such a thing; it would be horrible enough if something had happened to a child in her care – when one of those children just happened to be the young princess of Gondor it was only natural that one would be extra cautious. Still, that didn't mean that she had to enjoy it. It wasn't that she didn't find little Laurelin adorable – it was just that there was only so much adorable that she could take in one day without getting nauseous and she'd had her fill quite a while ago. To make matters worse all the girl seemed interested in talking about were her baby dolls. That was one topic that Findowyn had never found particularly interesting even when she was a five-year-old herself.
"I call this one Oropher," Laurelin was informing her, nodding to the doll cradled in the crook of her left arm. "And the other one is called Elrond. They're twins."
"Is that right?" asked Findowyn with as much enthusiasm as she could muster. By the Valar, why did it have to be so hot? She was having a hard enough time keeping from drifting off to sleep as it was.
"Yes," replied Laurelin solemnly. "It's important to get that right. It would be very, very bad if we spent the rest of their lives switching their names all around. Wouldn't it be awful to spend your whole life not knowing what your real name is?"
Findowyn had a passing curiosity about how, or if, the girl could know which one was which but decided not to ask. The last thing she needed was to do anything that might draw out this mind-numbing conversation. "Yes, it would be," she agreed.
A look of guilt came to Laurelin's face. "I'm a bad mommy," she confessed. "I'd already named them Elrond and Elros because those are the names of my grandsire and his twin brother but I had to change it. Ada and Papa have been going on about how important it is to honor both sides of the family and I didn't do that! So I changed Elros' name to Oropher, after Daerada's ada. Do you think my poor babies are going to be mad at me?"
"Never," piped up four-year-old Theomir emphatically. He gazed lovingly at Gondor's princess. "No one could ever be mad at you, 'specially since you did the right thing."
This would have comforted Laurelin if she was old enough to understand that if anyone could sympathize with a parent's burden to pay due homage to both of their child's heritage as well as understand how that affect the child it was Theomir. Like his older sister, Findowyn, his name was a hybrid meant to honor both the late King Theoden of Rohan and the fallen Lord Boromir of Gondor. The name's creation had resulted from a compromise between Faramir, who loved his realm and its people with his whole being and wanted his son to have a name that would fit in among the Gondorians, and Eowyn, who was ever mindful that her children not forget that they were half Rohirric even as their lives took place primarily in Gondor. In trying to find something that satisfied them both they'd managed to find the perfect name that didn't fully belong to either culture. While the relationship between Gondor and Rohan was so good that having a parent from each realm wasn't as unthinkable as it had been in the past, it still left Theomir feeling somewhat torn.
Findowyn could relate to that. 'And so can she,' thought the young woman, impulsively ruffling Laurelin's hair. She chuckled inwardly as the little girl let out an indignant cry, unceremoniously dropped her dolls to the ground, and attempted to straighten out her disheveled locks. Once she'd combed it with her fingers as best she could, the affronted princess tucked her hair firmly behind her ears, revealing the delicate points to the world.
'At least Theomir and I come from two different groups of the same race,' mused Findowyn. 'I can't imagine the extra confusion that she and her brother must feel being part elf on top of all that; and poor Legolas has to do more than even Mother does to make sure that his children don't forget all of what they are.'
"You messed up my hair!" accused Laurelin, obviously unaware of what was going through Findowyn's mind. "And look what you made me do to my poor dollies! Why'd you do that, Findowyn?"
"That was really mean," added Theomir with as much ferocity as a four-year-old boy could muster. He turned to the fuming little girl and gave her such a compassionate look that one would have thought that the children she'd dropped were real. It was all Findowyn could do to not burst out laughing. "It's not your fault, Laurelin, and I'm sure your babies know that. They're not even hurt too badly. Here, I'll help you take care of them."
Poor, poor Theomir; Findowyn shook her head slightly as her little brother scooped the dolls off of the ground with the same reverence that one might handle a priceless jewel or vital message and took great care in brushing all of the dirt off of them. This behavior was nothing new, nor was the reason behind it: he'd adored the princess practically since the day that he was born. In fact, she could still vividly remember how hard she'd laughed when, after weeks of encouragement from both her and her parents came to no avail, one-year-old Theomir took his first steps to follow the two-year-old tornado that Laurelin had been at the time. As they grew older, it was painfully obvious that the boy was far more attached to the princess than she was to him. Everyone could see who was in control in that relationship and it wasn't young Theomir.
This had an upside, though; Findowyn took it as a sign that perhaps there was hope for Laurelin yet. Yes, just a couple more years of dolls and such other play and she could be ready to put all of that nonsense aside and become a young woman not unlike Findowyn and her mother. The reluctant baby-sitter supposed that she could be patient until then and decided to focus on not alienating the little girl who might one day need her guidance. "I'm sorry, Laurelin," she apologized and was a little surprised at how sincere she truly was. "I never meant for anything to happen to your dolls."
"Don't believe her," whispered Theomir loudly, meeting his sister's pointed stare with a disgusted one of his own. "She hates dolls! I've seen what she used to do with hers and it's scary."
A few dolls end up headless while in your care and you're branded for life. "Yes, but those were my dolls," argued Findowyn. "I would never do anything to damage something that belongs to you, Laurelin."
"You messed up my hair. You meant to do it, too."
She'd forgotten how easy it was for a child to hold onto the injustices done against them; luckily for her, children also forgave fairly easily if the apology was done right. "That was a mean thing for me to do," replied Findowyn, smiling and gritting her teeth. Humbleness and patience weren't really her strengths and the heat definitely wasn't helping matters. Still, she had years of court-training behind her and knew what steps she'd have to take to atone for her behavior. "What can I do to make it up to you?"
Laurelin's entire face brightened. "Oh, will you brush it for me?" she asked with hopeful excitement. "And do it up all pretty, just like Aunt Eowyn had hers done at Ada and Papa's last anniversary party? I've never seen anything so beautiful as that."
"I'll do my best," promised Findowyn. "But if you liked the hairstyle so much, why have you never asked anyone else to do it for you?"
"Those servants who usually take care of that stuff are so boring," Laurelin complained. "They say it's not app-apro- not right for a girl my age. I can't ask Ada to do it either; whenever he does my hair I always end up looking like some warrior elf. I think that's the only style he knows how to do. And I can't really ask Papa either, because, well, you know."
There was no further need for elaboration on that point, for Aragorn's pre-coronation skills (or rather lack thereof) with a hairbrush and other grooming supplies were legendary among their extended 'family'. Just the idea of Gondor's king doing anything that resembled styling to his daughter's hair would be enough to send a chill down even the most seasoned warrior's spine.
"You'll do it, right?" pressed the princess. Desperation was now lacing the edges of her hopefulness. "It'll be so much fun; just us girls, and both of us being family instead of one being a servant."
"It sounds like a lot of fun and I'll be happy to do it," lied Findowyn convincingly. Truth be told, usually she'd rather chew solid steel rather than spend the afternoon primping but there was something so…lonely in Laurelin's tone that broke her heart. It must be so hard for her to be the only girl in the family; having to deal with her parents recent preoccupation undoubtedly magnified those emotions.
Theomir reached out and placed a caring hand on Laurelin's arm, drawing her attention away from the older girl and back on him where he thought it should have been. "You're going to look even more pretty, if that can happen," he told her, his eyes shining as he imagined what an even more beautiful Laurelin would look like. "And I'll be right there to make sure that she doesn't mess it up in any way. Is there anything else you need for me to do for you?"
"That depends," answered Laurelin. She turned her expectant eyes on Findowyn. "Can we do it right now?"
Better to get it over with now. "I don't see why not."
"Then you can help me, Theomir, by helping me get my other doll," ordered the young princess, jumping to her feet. With a quick twitch of her head she led the boy around Findowyn to the other side of the bench, where yet another baby doll was 'taking a nap.' Findowyn slid to the place they'd just vacated to make sure that they'd have enough room. "I can hold him just fine once I actually have him, but I also have to take care of Elrond and Oropher and I can't lift anyone else."
"I'll be happy too," replied Theomir importantly, picking up the doll and handing it to her after she'd settled down comfortably on the bench.
"He's a nice doll," commented Findowyn kindly but awkwardly. "Very, um, handsome."
"Thank you," smiled the little girl, polite and pleased. "I named him Gloin, after Grandpa Gimli's father."
Without warning, a figure that had gone unnoticed until then leapt up behind the two small children. In his hand was a wooden sword that Findowyn recognized almost as readily as she did the person who was wielding it. "I smite you, beast of Minas Tirith!" Prince Eldarion of Gondor declared dramatically as he moved to hit his little sister in the head with the toy weapon.
This was not the first time that something like this had happened to Laurelin but that fact didn't make the prospect of getting hit over the head any more appealing. "Leave me alone, you stupid boy!" she shrieked, startled and angry in equal parts.
Her reflexes – built up after enduring years of Eldarion's sneak attacks – didn't fail her; she ducked and managed to avoid the sword. However, the sudden movement made her slam into Theomir head-on as the devoted little boy was gallantly, if unnecessarily, attempting to come to her rescue. Their limbs got tangled and they fell together, Theomir trapped beneath her, her dirty feet exposed for all to see, and dolls scattered all about them.
After quickly checking to see if they were hurt in an immediately obvious way, Findowyn glared furiously at the attacker. "Eldarion Telcontar," she scolded, her anger not at all dissipating as he stared back at her in the same adoring way that her little brother looked at his little sister, "what in the name of the Valar do you think you're doing?"
"Rescuing you, fair lady," replied Eldarion with an exaggerated chivalrous bow that matched his tone perfectly.
"From a four-year-old and five-year-old," she scoffed. "I'm impressed. Laurelin, Theomir, are you two all right?"
Eldarion didn't bother to disguise his hurt as the older girl brushed past him to examine the children in her care more thoroughly. That wasn't the right response! Usually Findowyn tolerated – even encouraged – his games of make-believe. He didn't like this sudden shift in her behavior, especially not on a day when too many things were changing in his life as it was.
"Don't give me that look, Eldarion," said Findowyn warningly, not appreciating the scowl and pout that were clouding his features. "You're going to be thirteen in a few months – much too old to be going around attacking your little sister. Is that how you're going to act at your birthday party?"
"No," he responded defensively.
"What are you doing here, anyway?" she continued on as if she hadn't heard him. "Mother told me that you were going to be with the advisors' council, listening to them instruct you on, well, on how to not act like this in formal settings."
"I escaped," sulked Eldarion. He dug a hole in the ground with his toe, feeling ashamed of his behavior all of the sudden. After all, it wasn't as if Laurelin tried to be so obnoxious all the time. "It was so boring –"
His voice cut off when something smacked him in the knee. "You meanie," roared (as much as a child her age could roar) Laurelin. She swung her unfortunate doll – little Gloin – by the leg numerous times, punctuating each word she spoke with a blow to her brother's body. "Look what you did to my dolls and my dress! I'm telling Ada and Papa! And Daerada Thranduil and Grandpa Gimli! I'm even going to tell Uncle Elrohir and Uncle Elladan! And write about this to the Shire!"
Eldarion groaned as he tried to stop her from hitting him in a way that wouldn't make Findowyn even angrier with him. He'd decided long ago that this growing up stuff was overrated; not only did he have to spend more time with the dull advisors' council and less time with Findowyn but now it also meant that he had to let Laurelin get away with things like what she was doing right then. Little sisters were such pains! He couldn't understand why his Ada and Papa had wanted to create any more of them.
'Or,' thought the boy in resignation as he looked in the direction that the Houses of Healing lay, 'why Ada has to go and bring not one but two of them into the world today.'
To be continued…