It's finished! I've written and rewritten and proofed it three times now. Plus made a banner and done the code to add it to our website... (Which is still barely started! Sigh.)
Marilyn mistressmarilyn finally got a chance to read it over, too, and caught a few mistakes for me.
If anyone happens to read and notice any others, I'd be delighted to make more changes...
Warning: If you don't like Mpregs and aren't into slash fics, then pass by, please.
This is very mild slash, admittedly. But the mpreg is a major fixture of the fic.
Anyway, for those interested, here it is!
Title: "A Tale Told by Rob Applelore of Bree-land" 1/1
E-mail address: email@example.com
Date: June 15, 2004
Archive: Sure, contact me first, please [template must stay with fic]
Category: Mpreg (slash)
Disclaimer: Don't own them and mean no infringement or disrespect. No money made, it's merely for fun. (I'm currently in love with Tolkien's work and have no intention of claiming a single dotted i or crossed t as my own...)
Summary: One of the Tall Folk of Bree-land encounters a visitor in his home...
Warnings: Mpreg. References to slash. If you're not into male/male pairings, this wouldn't be a fic you'd want to read. If you dislike mpreg, this will bug.
Beta: Thanks as always to Mistress Marilyn for her wonderful help. Any mistakes are my own, as she's always guarding my fic to avoid putting any mistakes off on readers...
Dedication: To all my friends who love both LOTR and Mpregs!
Mine is a strange tale for telling and there will be those who think not to believe it. Some will say these are the ramblings of a man too much taken with drink.
But they are wrong, my friends. I lift a mug of cheer now and again with neighbors (as who among you does not?). But I've seen too many men sprawled in muddles of their own making to wish to become one of them. I am a man with a trade and a wife and a home and I do as well as any others in this part.
In the telling of this tale I must ask for your patience, for to understand this story you must know something of the teller.
My good wife and I live in Bree-land and are of the Big Folk there. (Hobbits live among us, too, as you know -- and these we call the Little Folk.)
We are all friendly enough, Big and Little Folk, each minding his own business. (As is right and proper.) Many a traveller still comes our way, though not as was in days long past.
Indeed, there was a time when we saw much of the Hobbits of the Shire, but this is no longer so. Yet some adventurous Hobbits still come our way, from time to time. These, and many a wandering dwarf.
I am losing my way here in the telling of my tale. Please forgive a man who tries to set the words for his young son.
Some of these things I share the gentle reader may know. Yet in some distant future time, others well may not. So I weigh my thoughts and rememberings and try to find what to leave and what to add.
And for my part, I am more long-spoken than many. (And will offer a friendly nod even to those I do not know.) As I have said, we still see travellers here -- mostly dwarves -- who pass this way as they head back and forth between the mountains.
Our inn is the gathering place for such travellers -- as it is for many among us who enjoy good beer and a spot of news from Outside. I am a talkative man, as I've said, and of an evening enjoy the company of other men.
Many of us like to hear a story when it comes our way. Or we like to hear a singer sing a song -- and join in the singing when he sings it round a second time.
For stories it is often the Rangers who bring us the news of far away -- and tell the tales so strange and long forgotten here.
Such Rangers are few now, but they say that once there were many of them. They are tall, dark men, who are said to have strange powers of sight and of hearing. I know not if these things be true. But there is something about these men that has always brought wonder to my heart.
Rangers do not fear to wander wherever as they will -- even in those wild lands far beyond the Bree.
Yet while many of us enjoy their stories told round the fire, but we do not count these Rangers among our friends. They are mysterious lot, and none of us know their origin. (How can you truly trust a man who will not say from whence he hails?)
Now I am not a man of letters, nor is my wife. But our son is different -- and it is he who scribes this tale for me. He is quite young -- only three months and seven years -- to know the ways of writing, but his mind is indeed a marvelous thing.
The boy blushes as he pens these words, but I have told him to set down my tale ever as I tell it, word for word. He is a boy who does not know the way of lies. (A good thing, I am thinking. May it long and forever be true!)
My tale may seem wooly to you at times, but my mind is drifting as I speak. Much of what I wish to share is remembering -- and sometimes it seems wiser to let such remembering fall away and remain undisclosed.
Life here in Bree-land is good. Our stout walls are closed at nightfall and we are snug enough against the unsavory happenings of Outside.
My name is Rob Applelore and my wife is Dora. She and I are makers of cloaks, which is a fine and prosperous field no matter where one might dwell.
Our home of stone is above the road, where most Tall Folk dwell in Bree. It looks out on grasses and trees, and wild flowers spring up in every nook and cranny. Not a bad place for raising up a son, say I.
One night some six years past, I went off as I often do to sit in the inn and savor a pint of good beer while sharing the news that might come my way.
When finally I returned home, night was thick around me. The stars were burning brightly, though, and there was a full moon gleaming in the sky over my head. My tread was jaunty from drink and fellowship, and I was humming a song as I came up the path of my home.
The door opened before I could quite put my hand to it and my wife took hold my shirt and pulled me quickly inside. She shut out the night quite swiftly, and I recall that my head began to clear in a most unpleasant fashion.
"What is it, wife?" I asked her, quite annoyed to be hurried toward soberness.
"We have company," said she, her voice stern.
Though she is still most comely to this day (her blond tresses falling in waves to her waist when unbound), Dora is a bit stout. She stood aside with a grand sweeping of her skirts and revealed a man seated in my own chair (the best in our house, mind) in front of the fire.
The fire had not died to ember, so I knew then that Dora had continued to build it to blaze in honor of our visitor.
A flagon of wine was set to hand for the man, but I could see it was untouched. The firelight sparkled and shimmered on the surface of the purple liquid, which Dora had filled close to brimming over.
As my eyes grew big with the sight of our visitor, Dora pressed past me with a pitcher in her hands. She set down a wooden mug and poured forth fresh milk. I could see the sheen of butter on the surface as the milk splashed into the cup.
To my surprise, the man before me was clearly a Ranger. He was tall and dark and dressed well and warmly for the road. His cloak had been dropped from his shoulders and draped the back of the chair. He wore his hair long and shaggy round his face and his beard was dark (and needed a bit of a trim).
But most astonishingly of all, he held a babe, cradled in his arms!
"Drink, then," my wife commanded him, in the way women do when in their own homes before their own hearths. "You have need for it."
I was frozen in place as I watched the Ranger nod at her. There was the trace of a smile around his lips as he raised the mug with his right hand, while neatly balancing the baby in his left arm.
"You are kind," he said. His voice was deep and his accent strange to my ears. But it was familiar, too. And then I recalled that I'd seen this man before when he'd visited and stayed at The Prancing Pony, the inn I mentioned earlier.
I did not know his true name, but he was called by Strider. He was always seen to be moving quickly here and there, with many a long-legged stride.
I had heard him spin his tales many times by the fire in that same strange voice...
"Why are you here?" I blurted out, unable to remember the civil tones of a host.
He turned his head to me, but did not speak. But he stopped drinking and lowered the mug. There was milk clinging to his mustache as he stared over at me.
"Good husband, you forget yourself!" my wife scolded me. She came to my side and shoved me down on an uncomfortable straight chair across from Strider. I did not resist her, but can you blame me? No man is truly master in a home where a woman resides...
Dora bustled to Strider's side and leaned over to coo at the child. It was then that I realized why she had invited a stranger into our dwelling. It was, of course, the babe that caught her eye.
Sad to say, we had not been blessed with a child of our own. And this was not for want of wishing, I tell you. So every babe in the four villages would draw Dora's attention and admiration. (Even the ugliest child was proclaimed a beauty by my longing wife.)
It was, in fact, only more than a week since we'd lost another child. This one had been close to term, and Dora's heart was heavy with her loss. (As was my own.)
The Ranger turned his eyes to Dora and there was gratitude there. He set the mug down beside the flagon and murmured some quiet thanks to my wife.
Then he looked my way and spoke. "Perhaps it is best I move on. I would not think to intrude in a man's house."
Dora swung around and glared at me, as well she might.
"You are most welcome here," I said, my hearty tone quite forced. "Let my wife and I bring you food and find you a place to sleep."
Strider bowed his head most graciously and I felt ashamed.
"I have recalled your face, friend," I said, this time with more warmth. "We would be glad of your company here."
"The child is weary and fretting," he answered, dropping his eyes to the babe in his arms. "And the night is chill. I had only thought to bring him safely inside."
"Of course, then!" Dora cried, moving back to his side to lean toward the child. "Of course. It must be hard without your wife to tend him."
I saw a fleeting pain cross the Ranger's face at my wife's words. "I have no wife, good mistress," he answered. "And this child has no mother," he added. There was something odd in his words, I thought.
"Poor thing," she said. "Poor babe."
"He will be wanting to eat and sleep," I said, addressing my wife and gesturing at the Ranger. She turned with reluctance from him and the baby and moved from the room, while I scooted my chair closer to Strider's long legs.
"You have many questions, I would guess," said he. "But you fear as a host to offend me."
I nodded and realized I was smiling. Strider smiled back, wiping the dampness from his mouth with the back of his free hand.
"I will tell what I may when I have rested a spell," he added. I could see heavy circles under his eyes and there was weariness in his voice.
"Let me help Dora to bring the meal. I am Rob Applelore and Dora is my wife of these eight years."
"And I am known here as Strider," he replied. "But when it comes time, I will tell you my true name."
I rose and drew away and I now recall that I found Dora busily preparing food. There was only new cheese, but it would do. She had put the pot of soup back over the fire and was stirring at it briskly.
I found a crusty loaf of bread and began to slice thick slabs. Then I took the tub of butter and spread it heavily on each slice. The man had a look of gauntness about him that was worrisome. It would do to put some food in that spare belly.
Dora had placed the platter of meat from our own supper on the table and began to cut away at it. I smiled when I realized she was making the pieces small enough for a bite. It was as if she were preparing a plate for an infant, rather than a man grown.
"Have we any tarts left?" I asked her, looking to the shelf where she sets her pies to cool.
"You ate the last," she replied in an accusing tone. "I have some apples I'll set to baking," she added, moving to a basket of rosy pippins.
While my wife set to peeling, I stacked the plate of food on a tray and added a mug of dark ale. Then I moved back toward the hearth, my mind finally more at ease.
Until, that is, I caught site of Strider in the firelight!
He had opened his clothes above the waist and exposed the left side of his chest. But more odd than this, he was pressing the babe to his breast, as if to nurse.
I suppose I gasped, because Strider quickly pulled the edge of his cloak over himself and the child, shooting a dark glance my way.
My heart was beating right hard as I stepped forward to place the tray on a table. "You must eat," I managed to gasp out. I don't know what made me add these words. "For both of you, so it seems."
The wary expression left Strider's face, and he dropped the cloak, turning his gaze back to the babe.
"He is your son?" I asked, a sound of wonderment in my voice.
"It's a long tale, Rob Applelore," he replied. "But, yes. This is my child. A child of my own body. There are many fantastic things that men do not know, Master Applelore. Things we cannot truly understand."
"Indeed, that's true," I answered. I moved from the table to inspect the child, my curiosity peaked.
The boy was no different, really, than a dozen other babes I'd bounced in my arms in days past. But he seemed quite pale a child for a man as dark as Strider. The babe's hair was fair to almost whiteness and downy soft, shining in the light of lamp and fire. His skin was smoothly perfect, and his small eyes shined brightly blue.
Then I noticed something odd. His ears seemed to somewhat resemble those of an Elf. There was a point to them that I had not noticed before.
"He's of the Fair Folk," I said, marveling.
Strider's finger caressed the side of the babe's face for one brief moment. "He's finished now. He wasn't really hungry. I think he just wanted to go off to sleep."
I had no answer for that. It's enough to listen to women speaking of such things, but more than I wanted to hear from a bearded man with a sword on his belt.
Strider placed the drowsing babe in his lap and pulled his clothes to right, just as my wife came into the room. In her left hand she carried a small bowl filled with baked apples, swimming in sweet cream. And in her free hand she held the pitcher of milk that she'd refilled from the bucket in the kitchen.
"Why, you haven't even started to eat!" she chided Strider. "You must let me hold the babe while you sup," she added, eagerness in her tone.
I saw something flash across Strider's face, but he was quick to cover it. "I would be grateful to you," he managed to say, though there was clear reluctance in the way he handed Dora the baby.
"My arms feel empty," he murmured softly. I doubt that Dora heard him. It was clear he hadn't meant to speak the words out loud.
"Eat, my man," said I, gently slapping one of his thin shoulders. "Eat. Put meat on those ribs of yours."
Strider nodded, his eyes bolted to the baby cuddled in Dora's arms.
"Where are you headed?" I started, by way of making conversation. "If you don't mind the askin', that is."
A cloud crossed Strider's features. He was a handsome enough man, I must say, though his dark looks were somewhat fearsome to me.
"Let him eat, my man," Dora whispered. "And keep quiet. The babe is nearly asleep, poor dear."
I could hear Dora humming under her breath. It was a happy sound.
"I must be off soon. But the child-" He broke off and his face paled.
"The child needs a mother," Dora offered, glancing quickly into Strider's face.
We were all silent for several long seconds as Dora stared into Strider's eyes and he into hers.
It was a word hard managed, I'll tell you that. There was so much pain inside that one little word...
Dora sat down then, the babe on her hip and her back to us. I could see her opening her blouse and remembered that her breasts were still full of the milk that should have been for our own dead babe.
"You and your wife are the ones I've sought, my friend," Strider said. "It was as if my dreams guided me here to you."
I nodded. Such things are not unknown, after all. And Strider was a Ranger. Ranger's had a way of sensing things, as all men in Bree-land know...
"We would gladly raise him," I said. There was no need to force excitement or determination. This was the child we'd long desired.
"My name is Aragorn. This babe is flesh of my flesh and blood of my blood. He is a child of passion, but there was love there, too. The man who sired him is an Elf."
"It would not matter to us who sired the child," my wife said. "But who is the mother, if it please you? And you do not look an Elf to me, good sir."
"Mistress, I am not his sire. It is a strange thing to understand, but I am he who has carried the child."
Dora had not meant to expose her breasts, I am certain, but in her surprise she swung around on the stool, naked bosom hanging out of her blouse. The baby was clearly not sucking, even though she was holding him with his face pressed to her.
The child alone was not caught up in our small drama, but slept as soundly as any baby might sleep.
"Such things-" I tried to say, but faltered.
"There is much mystery in this world," my wife said in an awed voice.
"Would you keep him for me?" Aragorn's voice was thick with emotion. "I can offer you little assurance that I will ever be able to return for him."
"We would have him and raise him as our own," Dora replied. There were tears running down her cheeks, but she wore a large smile of joy. "But we would tell him of his father, never fear. It would be our honor to protect him."
"He will not want," I added, then. "We are prosperous and have put by for rainy days."
Aragorn managed to nod before dropping his face and turning to face the fire. His back was to us, but I could see a shudder run through him.
"I will write a word to tell of his begetting and his line," Aragorn was saying as I moved to Dora's side and placed a hand on her shoulder. She looked up at me and beamed as never before that day, and I say that truthfully.
We could not convince him to linger -- even to finish his meal -- when he'd finished writing out what words he would.
He made us swear to keep the parchment in a small box that he provided. It is finely carved with strange beasts and other such things and made of a dark wood with metal bindings. We hide it beneath a floorboard in a corner of the room, under a hand-loomed rug.
As Dora and I do not read, we have never opened the box to this day.
He did not tell us more, this Aragorn, but it was enough. I believe that one day he may come back this way again.
When that day may come, he will find the boy Aster grown tall and strong. Our son is but seven, yet he can read and write and make up a song in his head that is a thing wondrous to hear.
His hair is still fair, though more like honey now than pale wheat. It is thick and unruly and somehow reminds me of the hair of Aragorn-known-as-Strider.
Dora makes quite a fuss when Aster forgets to keep his ears covered under the tangle of hair. I don't believe our neighbors have ever given thought to him being other than our own son...
Aragorn left little behind for his boy, besides the name he'd given him on the day of his birth. But there was a fine bow among the few belongings, and Aster is quite good with it. (He can hunt better than many a man full grown and is often adding hares to the stew pot.)
Aster's fingers are nimble and his mind is quick. He is kind-hearted -- and true to his friends. I could not wish for a better son in all the world. It matters not to me (nor to my wife) that he is the true son of a man and an Elf. What difference?
Yes, Aster knows this truth about himself, yet honors us no less than any other child of Bree-land honors his parents...
Things have gone well, of late. I will get him a pony of his own to ride. He is a good lad.
If some day when the boy is grown he wishes to find his two fathers, then so be it. We will be grateful for these years spent with him.
That's my tale, then. Set to paper by Aster, son of Aragorn, as told to him by his foster father, Rob Applelore, a maker of cloaks in Bree.
I'm quite proud of myself, really! I wrote the fic, made the banner, did the code and uploaded it to our website, got out almost all our lawn furniture and set it up, cleaned up the living room and tidied up the kitchen and bathroom today.
Marilyn's former boss Dick came by just past five tonight and stayed until 7:30. It was nice to visit with him again. (And I felt proud to host him on the deck in our very lovely backyard! It might not be perfect, but the lawn really does look nice and we've got all our flowers planted and doing really well already.)
Pretty good for people still in the middle of Rose Festival!
Marilyn finished up the editing of the parade today, so she'll be back in the office a full day earlier than usual. Amazing!
I think we'll try to finish watching the second LOTR movie tonight. After many (many) viewings of the first LOTR film, it's fun to be watching this one. (We also finally bought the third film and plan to watch it soon, too.)
Oh, by the way, if anyone wants to read the fic I shared here at our website, the link is here: A Tale Told by Rob Applelore of Bree-land
That's it for now!