"Tell me of your first foray into midwifery," said Éowyn. They had walked about the clearing for well over three hours, and it was quite dark; it had also grown much colder, and a thick white mist lay upon the earth. Legolas had built up the fire again, and it roared and crackled merrily in Himbaláth's fire-pit; he had also refilled the helms with fresh water and set them to heat upon the stones. After each hour he made Éowyn to recline again and after washing them both would check her progress; she discovered to her surprise it grew less distasteful each time he did it, and smiling concluded to herself that one could grow used to anything were it repeated often enough, and in desperate enough conditions. In the course of their circuits they had discussed many things, from battle-strategies to political conundrums, and at last wearying of such weighty topics they agreed to seek other modes of conversation with which to occupy their time. Legolas had generously allowed her to choose their new topic first, and she decided to ease her mind by learning more of Legolas' familiarity with husbandry, though she feared he would not want to discuss it with her, entrenched as they both were in the selfsame difficulty. But Legolas chuckled, and taking her round about past the large twisted oak that was becoming hatefully familiar to Éowyn said:
"Well it is not much of a tale; I was naught but an appendage at first; 'twas my Lady Mother did the bulk of the work, and I but watched and learned."
"How came you then to accompany your mother on such a task?" asked Éowyn.
"Well it was many years ago," said Legolas. "And 'twas neither my Lady Mother's nor my own wish that I should have been so involved; I had no interest in leech-work. But we were alone with the poor woman, who was in great difficulties, and as my Lady Mother had none beside me to call for aid I was conscripted to be her helper." They turned round the campsite together, arm in arm, and Legolas told Éowyn the tale, to which she attended with growing interest, forgetting her discomfort in the progression of his story. But suddenly she sank to her knees with a rending groan, for she had been so struck by unexpected and violent pain she could hardly stand. "My lady!" Legolas exclaimed. "Do you not forget to bre – "
He was cut off by her cry of agony; taking her up into his arms he carried her writhing back to the blanket before the fire, upon which he set her; she had doubled over, her face contorted with distress; it seemed to them both the contraction took far longer than had the others. When at last Éowyn was able to once again open her eyes she saw Legolas moving by the fire, washing his hands. She groaned.
"And must you once more lift my skirts, O Lord of Dol Galenehtar?" she asked weakly. "For one who claims his virginity is sacred you are becoming far too adept at this."
"If you can yet jest with me you are not so bad yet," said Legolas smiling.
"How can you say that? The last pain was far greater than all the others I have had!"
"You have passed into a new stage of your labor," said Legolas washing her gently. "Let me see." Éowyn held her breath until she felt Legolas withdraw. "Yes, you are coming quite close. Should all go well I would guess we have only a few hours of this left."
"Will this new stage inflict such awful pains upon me as the one I have just experienced?" asked Éowyn anxiously.
"Yes, I fear so," said Legolas, his fair face suffused with sympathy. "It is ever so. But be glad it is! For you may not achieve your goal lest you have passed this stage; at the last birth I officiated the labor stalled and the babe did not come forth."
"What did you then?" asked Éowyn going very pale.
Legolas fixed her with a thoughtful look. "Well, I might tell you," he said slowly, "later. But certainly not now. Let me say this though; both mother and child lived, though it was a close thing."
"So long as you were able to preserve their lives I care not," sighed Éowyn with relief. "After all – " Another pain wracked her and she balled up, clutching at her belly; through the haze of pain she felt Legolas' long arms slip about her holding her 'til it had passed. She lay in his embrace panting from her exertions while he soothingly stroked her hair; at last the frustration of the continued pain overcame her and she began to cry.
"Hush, hush!" murmured Legolas quietly. "I know; the pain is very great. But you are doing quite well you know; I have rarely seen a woman with so great a resilience as you, who accepts the pain of labor so stoically."
"I do not feel stoic!" she cried, trying to pull from his arms. "I hurt, I am in pain! Make the pain stop!"
"O my lady, you know of a certainty I should, were it possible," said Legolas calmly. "But I have not the proper herbs, and they do not grow hereabouts; all I have seen is a plant that shall loosen your bowels, and I do not think that would help you. Have you any medicine in your baggage suited for quelling pain?"
Éowyn stared at him, eyes glazed with tears; then rolling away from him wept into her hands. Legolas once more wrapped his arms about her, holding her as she wept; when the next contraction took her she cried out angrily and began thrashing her arms, seeking to strike him. "Make it stop!" she cried. "Make it stop!"
"Quiet!" thundered Legolas, and even through her agony Éowyn froze with surprise and fear. His face was dark and angry, and he held her firmly by her wrists. "Do not cast about so; you will harm your baby. I know you hurt; I am sorry you hurt; I would do anything to make it stop hurting. But I cannot; you must endure it if you want your child to be born." Seeing she had quieted he released her, then with tenderness that soothed his harsh words helped her to sit up against the bolster Meivel had fabricated for her. At last the pain abated and Éowyn sat, knees drawn up, her face in her hands.
"Legolas, I am sorry," she said through her fingers; she heard the Elf chuckle softly.
"My lady, I blame you not for your outburst; it is often thus when the woman experiences this point of her endeavor," he said gently, pulling her hands from her face and wiping the tears from her cheeks. "The pain bleeds your reason from you; your fatigue causes you to say things you regret later. It is all right, my lady; you have not hurt me. But you must not thrash about so – I am uneasy enough for you are coming far too early; the baby will be very delicate, and though his passage may be easy I fear for his health afterwards. You must preserve it as best you can, while he is in you."
"He?" asked Éowyn, looking keenly at him.
Legolas shrugged. "I say 'he' only because I know not whether your child is a boy or a girl," he said, "and it sounds better than to say 'it.'" Then another wave of pain overtook Éowyn, and she could not hear him for a while.
"They are very fast and hard now."
"Yes, you are coming close."
"How glad I am the horrible pain stopped! Why is it we must pass through that phase, Legolas?"
"I know not. When I go to Valinor I shall inquire of Yavanna. I am sure she had something to do with it."
Éowyn sighed and paced the perimeter of the clearing once more. Her contractions were not so painful, but coming very quickly together; she felt light-headed and tired, and the sky had grown pale, illuminating the mists to pearlescence, and making the fire, so lately a bright hot thing, seem wan and weak. "I am growing very weary of that oak," she said, panting through a sudden pain. "It so – closely resembles – a fat man – with warts – and I have seen it – too often!" The contraction ended and she sighed.
"Do not speak so of the sigil of my house," chided Legolas with a smile. "Besides the oak cannot help how she looks; she was afflicted at some time with a disease, and though many trees about her withered and died she overcame it and became strong and hale, though deformed somewhat. Her strength lends unto her a beauty unseen by mortal eyes." He paused by the maligned oak, laying one white hand upon it. "She is strong and tender and lovely, like an old mother," he said quietly, his eyes thoughtful. "Do you not perceive how she holds within her bosom the hunting owl and the creeping fox? Though hollow and bent she has many years in her yet."
Éowyn stared at him. "You are very strange!" said she, shaking her head. "Almost you make me feel as though I ought to apologize to the tree. But I am so befuddled with weariness it is not so odd a thing to me."
"Elves beget befuddlement, or so Gimli's father has told me," laughed Legolas, leading her back onto their well-worn path through the fallen leaves, which glistened with frost. "Poor Glóin! To be forced to accept the friendship of the Elves of Eryn Lasgalen, after all those many years of dislike and mistrust. The Fourth Age is become strange as well."
"Strangest to me is that I walk arm in arm with you about this clearing as though we paced Arwen's gardens in Minas Tirith," said Éowyn. "How far away from everything we are, and how quiet it is!" They fell silent then, listening to the faint sleepy trilling of birds and the rustling of the bare icy branches above them. Then suddenly Éowyn halted, a strange expression on her face.
"What is it?" asked Legolas. "Is it another pain?"
"No," said Éowyn slowly; "I feel rather as though I – well – you have not let me eat nor drink these past hours and yet – " She colored deeply, and Legolas smiled.
"You feel as though you need to move your bowels?" he said carefully, and Éowyn in embarrassment looked away.
"Yes," she murmured.
"Good!" said Legolas, and led her back to the blankets. "Sit you down; I shall build up the fire and heat more water and then we shall begin."
"Begin? Begin what?" asked Éowyn, and then she turned very pale. "Is it time?"
"I know not," said Legolas, throwing more faggots upon the flames. "I shall have to check first."
Slowly Éowyn lowered herself to the blankets, heart hammering against her chest. She wondered if she were frightened, then concluded all the evidence pointed in that direction. "And if it is indeed time?" she asked, her voice wavering.
Legolas looked over his shoulder at her; his long flaxen hair shifted and floated down to touch his hands as they held the helm full of hot water. He smiled and said, "If it is time, then you and I shall urge your babe forth." Seeing her face tighten with fear he asked, masking his voice with studied indifference: "Have you and Faramir discussed names?"
"I – no, we have – we have not," gasped Éowyn as another contraction broke over her. "Legolas – I must – I cannot stop – "
"You want to push? Well, wait but a moment and I will let you know if you may. If you begin to push ere the opening is prepared you shall tear, and as you do not have any embroidery implements in your luggage I do not know how I would put you back together again."
This was sufficient enough threat to keep Éowyn occupied; when he had tied back his hair, washed his hands and brought the rag to wash her, she urgently pulled up her skirts to show herself to him, so inured to the indignity she scarcely noticed. "Ah!" said Legolas with satisfaction after he laved her; "you are ready; I can see that the head is ready to come down. Now when you feel the pain begin you push; when it stops so do you. Do you understand, my lady?"
"Yes," said Éowyn, trembling; she watched Legolas place several cloths in front of her, then he shucked his jerkin and doublet and rolled up the sleeves of his linen shirt. Such businesslike preparation unnerved her, but when she felt the first clench of pain she pushed, only somewhat surprised to hear herself say something she had oftimes heard Éomer utter when he thought she wasn't listening. When the contraction subsided and she stopped, feeling very full and uncomfortable, she was aggravated to hear Legolas laugh long and merrily.
"O that Faramir could have heard you!" he exclaimed, his eyes bright with mirth. "You ride like a man, you fight like a man, and now I see you curse like a man as well!"
"I suppose," panted Éowyn angrily, "you are going to now say, 'Why my lady, you are almost as good as a man!' "
"Nay!" said Legolas, still laughing. "What man can bring forth a child, or endure the pain attendant without demanding some payment for his labors? You are far better than a man, my lady!" And still chuckling he crouched before her; finally he said, "Yes, I think we are making progress; I cannot see the head yet but it is further down the passage than it was before. At your next contraction push hard!"
This went on for longer than Éowyn had expected; she had thought to push but three or four times to complete her labor but when an hour had passed she began to grow weary and frightened, even though Legolas did not seem alarmed or even much surprised. Then a particularly strong contraction gripped her and in the midst of her pain and fear she cried: "O Legolas! I cannot do this!"
He looked up at her, eyebrows raised. "I beg your pardon, my lady?"
"I cannot!" she panted; "I cannot have this baby!"
Legolas sat back upon his heels and smiled. "Well then!" he said. "You had best explain to the babe that it must needs remain within your womb the rest of its life if you cannot bring it forth; for it is certain that I cannot do it for you."
Éowyn drew in her breath in a sob, but changed her mind midway and began to laugh weakly. "Of course you cannot – would you not already have done so for me, my champion, were it possible for you? I apologize, Legolas; I am being foolish. Wait – I am feeling another – "
"There," said Legolas with satisfaction; "yes – push but a little harder and I might grasp the head – "
"Yes, my lady?"
"Cease with the 'my ladies' and call me Éowyn! You have lifted my skirts enough times; I think you have earned the right to that privilege. What was that I felt, the head is out?"
"Not yet but I can see it. Is that another one? Push hard – "
Éowyn cried out; the pain in her loins was great, but she could feel it moving down her passage, and knew she was close. When the contraction stopped she panted with the effort, and pulling her knees apart demanded: "Well?"
"The head is out," said Legolas; his hands were very busy. "Before your next contraction I want to clean out the fluids from his nose and mouth so that I might make him breathe the clearer. Ah, here you are – " Éowyn pushed again, light-headed and feeling as though she were swelling to bursting-point; then with a sensation of release she felt something slip out, and Legolas burst out laughing again.
"What is it?" she gasped, tears rolling down her cheeks from her pain and efforts.
"It is a girl," said Legolas, and then Éowyn began to cry in earnest.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.