Two years later...
Will paced in the gardens of the Houses of Healing. The full moon shone down on him, casting him and everything in a silver glow. Jack the monkey, in his skeletal form, sat on a stone bench watching the man. The monkey had given up trying to understand men. If grapes could not placate them, then what could?
"Whelp, you're makin' me dizzy," complained Jack, taking a drink from his bottle.
"Oh, for goodness sakes, Jack," snapped Will. "Just shut it, will you?"
"It always takes a long time," said Aragorn, trying to comfort his Admiral. "When Arwen had Eldarion—"
"You were even worse," said Legolas. "At least Will isn't attempting to charge into the birthing chamber." As soon as the words left his lips, the elf regretted having ever mentioned the idea. Will headed straight for the birthing chamber, and only Barbossa's quick actions stopped him from actually going there and bashing down the door.
"Mrs. Turner's in the hands o' the best healers," said the old pirate. "She be tougher than she looks."
"Yeah," said Jack. "So why don't you just relax and have a drink, eh?"
"Jack, do you even know how it feels to be so helpless while your wife is going through the pains of childbirth?" demanded Balian.
"Of course I don't," said Jack. "I don't have a wife, yet."
"And if ya don't take a bath within the next three days, you won't ever have one," said Anna-Maria.
"It isn't fair to judge a man by his level of hygiene," protested Jack.
They were about to launch into a loud debate about the importance of personal hygiene when Andromache rushed out. "Will! Come—" She didn't even get to finish her sentence. Will sped past her, almost colliding into pillars and walls in his desperate race to get to his wife.
"Boy or girl?" demanded Paris.
"It be strong?" asked Barbossa
"You were about to tell us good news, weren't you?" said Balian.
"What's Whelplet number two's name?" asked Jack.
"Where did you put your brain, Jack Sparrow?" demanded Anna-Maria.
"Me brain? I dunno, luv. Must've dropped it somewhere."
"Not all at once!" protested Andromache. "I can only answer one question at a time. Yes, Balian, it is good news. Will and Elizabeth have a new baby girl. Yes, Captain Barbossa, she is strong. She doesn't have a name, Captain Sparrow, and she won't be named after you."
"Pity," said Jack. "I think Jack Sparrow is a beautiful name."
"For a girl?" said Anna-Maria, rolling her eyes. Sometimes, she did wonder what she wonder what she saw in that fool of a pirate.
Will could not stop looking at his baby daughter. To him, she was one of the most perfect beings which he had ever beheld, the other two being Elizabeth and Willie. "She's beautiful, Elizabeth, just lovely, like you."
"You mean she's inherited my charm and sweet temper?" said Elizabeth. The birth had tired her, but it had been easier than when she'd given birth to Willie.
"Yes, my lovely wife," said Will, bending down to kiss her. The baby, blissfully unaware of everything that was going on, slept on in her father's arms.
"I think we should call Willie in now," said Elizabeth. "He should see his new sister."
"But won't he be asleep by now? It is past midnight."
"I'm sure he won't mind if someone woke him up, provided it isn't Jack."
"Why? What's wrong with Jack?"
"Setting off fireworks indoors is not a good way to wake someone up."
The newest member of the Turner family was christened Jane Margaret Turner, after her two grandmothers. Willie was rather disappointed in his baby sister. The only thing she did was sleep, eat, cry, wet the bed, and generally take up his parents' attention. "Now, now, be a good man," said Barbossa. "She'll grow up to be just as lovely as yer mother."
"She don't look nothin' like Mama," said Willie. "She's little and wrinkly and red, and she doesn't have much hair. Anyway, her hair's brown, like Papa's and mine."
"Well, she be Will Turner's daughter," said Barbossa.
Little Jane Turner had an abnormal number of surrogate uncles and aunts who doted on her. Balian and Will had built her cot, and Legolas sang her songs while Paris tried reading poetry to her. He swore that she understood him; Helen told him that he would be better off reading poetry to Jack the monkey instead. Cassandra and Bahram sent gifts all the way from Harad, including little silk outfits which would be wasted on a baby who often regurgitated milk. Anna-Maria helped Elizabeth to look after Little Jane, and Elizabeth once caught Jack making faces at her baby to try and make the tiny Turner laugh.
Barbossa was looking forward to the day when he would be able to teach Jane Turner the tricks of his trade. Surely, with two such spectacular pirates for parents, the girl would turn out to be a pirate herself. After all, Willie was already accomplished in the art of piracy, and even the two younger boys, Barisian and Astyanax, were starting to learn. Of course, with Barbossa teaching them, how could they not learn?
Balian stood on the balcony, letting the cool night breeze from the Anduin stroke his face like a lover's hand. It brought with it the smell of the sea, not that the sea held particularly significant memories for him. However, if not for the numerous shipwrecks, he would not have been where he was now. It was silent. Barisian was sleeping in a little cot against the wall.
After so many years of war, Middle Earth was slowly beginning to recover. Both Gondor and Rohan had established trade with Harad. After some experimentation, Bahram had discovered that while his country was not so good for growing crops, there were certain spices which he could grow.
Imad was delighted with the new spice trade. Middle Earth was a lovely place, but the food lacked flavour, or so he felt. He had missed the curries which had made his mouth burn as if it had been set on fire. Now, he had his curries again.
The man on the balcony smiled wistfully. It had been almost eight years since he had left France to go to the Holy Land. Eight years since he had lost Jocelyn. He had never thought he would miss
grey dreary France, but here he was, thinking of home. 'Barisian is the son of a French blacksmith and a princess of French blood, but he does not even know of his own roots,' he thought. What about the graves of his mother and his foster father? Had they been forgotten? Was the village still there or had it been razed to the ground by some attacking army?
Barisian's whimpers dragged him out of his reverie. Balian hurried to comfort his son. The little boy clutched the front of his father's shirt as Balian murmured soothing words and rocked him back and forth.
"It's all right, mon petit," he said. "Papa's here."
"You're not going to go away?" said Barisian.
"Papa is definitely not going anywhere without you," said Balian.
"There was lots of blood," said the little boy, sniffing. "You were lying on the floor and you wouldn't get up even when I pulled your hand and you were bleeding and..."
"Hush, hush," said Balian, holding his son even tighter. He kissed the top of his son's head. "It's just a bad dream. Everything's all right."
"But then there was a balrog, and lots and lots of orcs with big sharp teeth, and they were going to eat me."
"Has Uncle Legolas and Uncle Gimli been telling you bedtime stories again?" said Balian.
Barisian shook his head. "Uncle Merry and Uncle Pippin told me about it. Were you scared, Papa?"
"Oh yes," said Balian, resolving to talk to Merry and Pippin about what they should not tell a four year old. It was true they did not come to Minas Tirith often, but he saw them more than he saw Sam and the Took and the Brandybuck tended to make their presence known to all. "I was very scared."
"Will you take me to the sea? I want to be a sailor."
"I don't see why not..." began Balian. Then he stopped. What if there was another shipwreck? He pushed the thought aside. He could not let the fear of shipwrecks keep him from enjoying perfectly normal aspects of life. Besides, what could happen if he just sailed close the shore? He could borrow a little fishing boat and perhaps even teach Barisian something about fishing. Besides, if God wanted to place him somewhere else, he would not be able to do anything about it.
"Can we go tomorrow?" said Barisian.
Against the splashing of the surf, the high pitched giggles of a little boy could be heard. Barisian loved the unsteady feeling of being in a boat. It felt strange, but it was fun. Balian was glad to hear his son's laughter. Out of the three older boys, he had always been the quietest.
"Can she go faster, Papa? Can she?" asked Barisian.
"I don't know, Barisian. Perhaps it isn't..."
"Please?" Barisian gazed at his father with wide brown eyes. It was an expression which Balian was not very good at resisting, and the boy knew it.
"I'm not a very good sailor, mon petit bonhomme," said Balian, wishing that his son would stop trying to manipulate him with sweet facial expressions to which he was not immune.
"But Uncle Will and Uncle Jack-Jack and Uncle Cappin can make their boats go really really really fast."
"You do know that Barbossa's name isn't Captain, right, Bari? Anyway, Will, Jack and Barbossa are sailors. I am not a sailor."
"What are you then, Papa?"
"I'm a blacksmith."
"Auntie Ando said you were a 'knight'. What's that?"
"A 'knight' means someone who fights."
"But you said fighting was bad."
"I fight bad people and stop them from hurting others."
"I hit Astyanax when he was being nasty and you made me miss dessert."
"That's different. You are friends, and friends do not hit each other."
"Why does Uncle Imad call me 'prince'?"
"Um...I don't know."
"I asked him once, and he said I made a mistake, but I know he called me 'little prince'."
"Maybe it's just like the way I call you mon petit bonhomme."
Balian was so engrossed in his little conversation with his son that he failed to notice that the boat had drifted off course. He swore when he did see they were far from land. Normally, it would not have taken long to steer the boat back to shore, but the sky was darkening, the sea was getting rougher. 'Why, God?' he wondered. 'Why is it that every time I sail in a ship, a boat or a leaky piece of junk, I get shipwrecked?'
He pulled Barisian close to him. "Hold on," he muttered to his son. "If we fall into the water, I don't want you to be scared; just hold on to me. I'm going to try and get back to land." He doubted that he would be able to get back to land, but it was much better to say that than to tell a four year old that they were going to be sucked under the water and then suddenly arrive somewhere totally unfamiliar.
Lightning flashed in the sky. Barisian hung onto his father for dear life. His Papa was so strong, and he was sure that nothing bad was going to happen, but he was still scared. Balian employed every trick which Will, Jack and Barbossa had taught him, but it was no use. This was divine will, and men could not fight it. Their little fishing boat capsized. Water closed over their heads. Balian's instincts made him struggle to reach the surface, but it was no use. Some unearthly force was sucking him downwards.
Then they surfaced again, or rather, they were lying in very shallow water which was not deep enough to submerge them. The water, however, was much colder than that of the sea which they had just been shipwrecked in.
Balian slowly sat up. Barisian was still holding onto him. "It's all right," he told his son. "We're safe. Papa's got you. We're safe." The boy opened his eyes.
"Where are we, Papa?" he asked. "Why are we in a forest? Why is it night time? Is this snow?"
Balian glanced around. The rocky streambed which he was sitting on was not very comfortable. He scooped up Barisian and got out of the stream, trying to use his own body heat to keep the boy warm. The bare trees were covered in a dusting of white powder. It was dark, save for the light of the moon, which only made the trees look like the white bones of beings long dead.
"I don't know, mon petit," he said through chattering teeth. Their wet clothes did nothing to keep them warm. The place was somewhat familiar, but he couldn't place it. The cold numbed all thoughts. The only thing he was actually able to think about was finding shelter and some way of making a fire.
"I'm cold, Papa," mumbled Barisian. The boy sounded as if he was falling asleep. That was not good.
"No, no," said Balian. "Come on, Barisian. Don't fall asleep. Come on! Wake up!" This was bad. He needed to find shelter, and he needed to find it quickly. He stumbled through the forest, letting his feet lead him. The trees began to grow sparser, until the forest gave way to open fields, covered in snow and stubble from the last harvest and separated into long lots. In the distance, Balian could see the light, and light mean a settlement. "Thank God," he whispered, summoning all the energy which his half-frozen body possessed. He was glad that he was strong, and used to harsh conditions. The man half-staggered and half-ran towards the settlement. The distance seemed to be unbearably great.
At the edge of the fields, there was a slope, leading up to a dark, seemingly unused cottage. There was a garden next to the cottage, although it was abandoned. Why else would the plants be growing so haphazardly that they hid the path?
It wasn't until Balian went inside the cottage that he realized why this entire place seemed familiar. He had been born here.
A/N: Thanks to everyone who've stuck with me through this. I couldn't have done it without your support, and special thanks to those of you who have pointed out any stupid mistakes which I've made (and I've made quite a few of them). You saved me from further embarrassment. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the epilogue, and indeed, the story and the entire series. I'll see you next weekend when I present Chance Encounter: Legacy of the Third Age. By the way, if you're interested in getting a sneak preview of the story, read the epilogue of Prelude to Heaven (which was written a long time ago). The fourth instalment is also a sequel to that story and I will mention some bits of it in the next fic.