6. Chapter 5 - December 1419
“That was good, Éowyn,” Aerlyn said calmly. She knelt on the floor between Éowyn’s knees. Merry was seated a few feet away on the bed, trying not to feel like an intruder.
He’d been shocked when Éowyn had informed him some days ago that he was expected to be present at the birth. In the Shire, fathers paced the hallway. But in Rohan, the father was expected to be there for the birth, both to support the mother and to officially claim the child as his own. He’d tried to refuse. He didn’t think it was proper for him to be there. He wasn’t her husband.
“You were there at the beginning, you can be there at the end!” Éowyn had snapped at him. She’d been especially achy and irritable that day. There was no way he’d win this argument. He’d just sighed and promised to be there. Faramir had only given him a sympathetic shrug. He had to be there, too, and Merry suspected Faramir was glad he wouldn’t have to be the only male in the room.
So now here he was, watching Éowyn struggle through another push. He was so glad he wasn't a lass.
“I can see the baby’s head, now,” Aerlyn said. “Not much longer, melui nîn.”
Merry’s eyes widened. She could see the baby! He felt a bit faint.
“Are you all right?” a gentle voice asked. He let out the breath he'd been holding. He looked up at a young elf lass. Aerlyn's niece. She was here to help her aunt. He couldn’t remember her name.
“Fine,” he said. Éowyn grunted and pushed again. He gripped the mattress. He hated seeing her in pain. Especially this pain, because it was his fault.
The girl nodded and touched his shoulder, then went to stand next to Aerlyn.
“One more, Éowyn,” Aerlyn said. Éowyn took a deep, gasping breath and then pushed with all her might. She cried out, nearly a shout, then fell back into Faramir’s arms, sobbing. Merry frowned, wondering what was wrong.
“Here we are,” crooned Aerlyn. “A beautiful little girl.”
It took Merry a moment to register what she’d said. It wasn’t until a high-pitched cry filled the room that it hit him. It was over. The baby was here. It was a girl. He had a daughter.
Aerlyn was crooning in Sindarin as she worked, her attention on the floor between Éowyn legs. Then she handed a bundle wrapped in a green blanket up to her niece. Aerlyn turned her attention back to Éowyn. “A few more pushes, Éowyn, and it will be done,” she said.
Éowyn was still crying, but she nodded and Faramir helped her sit upright again. Merry was confused. What did she have to push for? Éowyn moved her leg and he caught a glimpse of the cord hanging between her legs. He cringed. Right. The afterbirth. He quickly turned his attention to the elf across the room.
He thought that maybe he should get up, to cross the room and see the baby. But he couldn’t get his legs to move, his knees were shaking so badly. So he sat and listened to the healthy wails of his daughter. His daughter!
The elf turned to them, the baby wrapped in a white blanket now. She said something to Aerlyn in Sindarin. Aerlyn responded to her in Sindarin, a little harshly, and continued cleaning up Éowyn.
The elf maid turned towards him and he felt his heart leap. She was bringing him the baby! But then she frowned and placed the bundle gently on the floor. She stepped away.
“You have to claim her, Merry.” Éowyn’s voice was shaky and a bit breathless.
He looked at Éowyn. She was sweaty and her eyes were puffy and red. And she looked... sad.
Merry looked back at the bundle. Éowyn had explained the laws of Rohan. If he didn’t claim the baby, he would no longer be her father. He would have no responsibility towards her. He could go home to the Shire and pretend this never happened.
But he would never, ever consider it.
He pushed himself up from the bed, willing his knees to stay steady. He took the few steps across the room and stood over the wailing baby. He squatted down and scooped her up.
He stood up, staring in awe at the screaming red face within the blanket. “I, Meriadoc Brandybuck, claim this child as my own daughter,” he said in a slightly shaky voice, trying to be loud enough to be heard over the wails. He didn’t know if anyone had heard him. He didn’t really care. He was too enthralled with the little girl in his arms.
She was tiny. Not as tiny as a hobbit baby, but he knew she was very small for the Big Folk. She flailed her fists as she wailed, grabbing at her slightly pointed ears. At least he knew her lungs were healthy!
He brushed a finger over her brow, over the damp hair that was plastered there. He wondered if it would be curly or straight.
He touched one of her fists, at the base of her palm. She grasped onto his finger and her wails died down. He smiled and blinked the tears from his eyes.
A hand touched his shoulder. Pippin was standing next to him. Merry looked around the room. While he’d been admiring his daughter, they’d gotten Éowyn into bed and cleaned up the room. The young elf was gone. She must have sent Pippin in.
“Oh, she’s beautiful, Merry!” Pippin whispered.
Merry was inclined to agree. He thought he could stand here and look at her forever, until he heard a sob from the bed.
Faramir had Éowyn wrapped in his arms as she wept. “I’m going to lose her,” she sobbed. “I’m never going to see her again.”
Merry’s heart broke on hearing her words. He would get to hold his little girl every day and watch her grow up, but her mother was going to miss it all.
“Here, Éowyn,” he said. He walked over to the bed to pass his daughter to her mother, but Éowyn turned away, burying herself in Faramir’s embrace.
“No,” she sobbed. “It hurts too much to see her.” Merry exchanged worried looks with Faramir.
It was Aerlyn who came to their rescue. “Éowyn,” she said, laying her palm on Éowyn’s back. “You have to take the child. You are going to need to nurse her this week, to get her strength up for her journey.”
Éowyn nodded into Faramir's chest, then sat up. She took a deep breath and wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her chemise. Merry offered her the baby again and she took her.
“Oh!” She brought the baby up to kiss the tiny brow. She cuddled her daughter against her breast and wept.
Merry bit his lip. He wondered if Éowyn would change her mind, if she’d take the baby after all.
“You can try to nurse her now,” said Aerlyn, brushing her fingers soothingly through Éowyn's hair. “I know human babies sometimes like to nurse right away.”
“Hobbits, too.” Merry said.
Éowyn looked up at him and actually gave a teary smile. “That doesn’t surprise me!”
They all laughed, the mood in the room growing a little lighter. Aerlyn helped Éowyn get settled with the baby to nurse, but it wasn’t very long before both Éowyn and the baby were drifting to sleep. Merry turned to Faramir. “We’ll be going now,” he said. “So Éowyn can rest.” He touched his daughter’s head again and he and Pippin left.
Once back in their room, Merry collapsed on his bed, his emotional day catching up with him.
“I’m a father, Pippin!” he said incredulously.
Faramir came to breakfast with the baby in his arms, looking like he’d been up all night. He passed her to Merry and slumped down in a chair.
“You look terrible,” said Pippin.
“You’ll get your turn,” said Faramir. “She was up four times last night to eat. She’s definitely a hobbit!”
“How’s Éowyn?” Merry asked, smiling down at his sleeping daughter.
“Sleeping. It’s been a rough night. She would cry every time she held the baby.”
Merry sighed. It pained him to say it, but... “Maybe it isn’t a good idea for me to take her.”
Faramir shook his head. “No. Even with as much as it hurts Éowyn.” He reached over to brush the baby’s light blond curls. “It hurts me as well, now that I see her. But we know it’s for the best, for all the reasons we have talked about.”
Aerlyn came in holding a glass bottle topped by a bit of leather shaped like a teat.
“Since Éowyn needs some rest, I will show you how to feed her, Merry.” She handed him the bottle. Merry inspected the clear liquid inside.
“Just water?” he asked.
“It has a mixture of herbs in it. It will be a substitute on your travels when you cannot get milk.”
The baby startled awake and she started to whine a little. She turned her head toward her father's chest, rooting for her breakfast.
"Rub the teat against her lips," Aerlyn said.
Merry put the teat to the baby's lips, brushing softly against her tiny mouth, and she quickly latched on. In no time, the bottle was nearly empty and she was drifting to sleep again.
“You will need to burp her,” said Aerlyn. “They swallow more air when they drink from bottles.” She showed Merry how to prop the baby on his shoulder and pat her back until a belch emerged.
“She sounds like you, Pippin!” he said. He patted her bottom. The cloth was damp. “I think she needs a change, too.” he said.
“I will show you what to do,” said Aerlyn.
“I already know how to do that,” said Merry, standing up and moving the baby to the crook of his arm.
“When have you ever changed a diaper?” snorted Pippin.
“I used to help Aunt Eglantine change yours!” he said.
Pippin turned a bright shade of red and Faramir laughed. Merry grinned at Pippin, then followed Aerlyn out the door.
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.