Unto us a child is born
Unto us a child is born – The Bible. Isaiah. 9.6
These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.
With thanks to Raksha and Virtuella.
Súlion and his passengers soon flew within sight of Emyn Arnen. A grim faced Arwen remained tight lipped and clung tightly to her husband, her eyes closed. Her fair skin soon developed a greenish tinge as the journey progressed. Aragorn told the dragon where to fly and made polite conversation with him.
The King debated inwardly whether it was better to land in the paddock, which would surely frighten Éowyn's brood mares, or the field where the cows were, and risk drying up the milk of those which the dragon did not fancy for his next meal; or in the garden and ruin Éowyn's cherished herbs. The King decided the latter would cause the least damage. "Land on the grass by the plants," he instructed Súlion.
The great beast landed smoothly as a bird. Their approach had not gone unnoticed as several servants screamed and ran hither. Of the Lady of Ithilien, there was no sign.
"Silence!" Aragorn cried in his most commanding tone. "This is a tame dragon. He will not hurt you."
A small figure emerged from the side of the house pursued by a frightened looking nursemaid. Eldarion flung himself into his father's arms. "Ada!" he cried. "I have missed you so much and you've brought T'ien Li as well as Naneth!"
Arwen was already running into the house. "What shall we do, my lady?" a frightened serving maid greeted her. "There is a dragon on the lawn!"
"Never mind about that!" Arwen replied. "Where is Lady Éowyn?"
"In her chamber, my lady."
Arwen hastened to Éowyn's bedchamber on the first floor. It was a large airy room overlooking the paddocks rather than the gardens. Éowyn was pacing the floor, moaning softly. Mistress Elwen stood by the bed wringing her hands while a scared looking Elbeth was trying to coax Éowyn to swallow some herbal tea.
"Aunt Arwen you have come! Aunt Éowyn is having the baby I think!" Elbeth cried. She was the first to notice that the Queen had entered the room.
"I cannot be having the baby!" Éowyn protested. "Arwen, praise Bema you are here!"
Arwen quickly took in the situation." Mistress Elwen, I need some hot water," she said. "Elbeth, go and tell Uncle Aragorn that I need some Lady's Slipper, Fenugreek, Chamomile and Valerian."
As soon as they had gone, Arwen put her arm around Éowyn's shoulders. "Come on, let me see what is happening", she said.
"I cannot be in labour!" Éowyn repeated.
"Why ever not? You are almost at full term and none should know better than you what the signs of labour are."
"I don't want to die while I am on such ill terms with Faramir!" Éowyn confessed then burst into tears.
"You are not going to die. Faramir is on his way even as we speak. Aragorn came with me, should we need him, but I am certain we will not." Arwen hugged her friend reassuringly. She rummaged in the bag she had with her and brought out a plain gown. Swiftly, she shed her travelling garments and changed into it. Then she helped Éowyn undress and don a loose wrap-around robe.
"How is Farawyn?" Éowyn enquired, beginning to calm a little now that Arwen was with her.
"She is fully recovered. Faramir is bringing her to me here."
Just then, Mistress Elwen returned with a bowl of hot water and placed it on the washstand.
"Thank you, Mistress," said Arwen. "Now could you bring me a good supply of clean towels and sheets?"
Arwen started to wash her hands as the woman bustled away. "Now let me see what is happening."
Éowyn bit back a cry as a contraction seized her. "Very well," she conceded. "I fear the baby is coming."
"Everything is going just as it should," Arwen pronounced a few minutes later after carefully examining Éowyn. "I sense the child's life force is strong and it is eager to enter the world. The head is in the right position and you should give birth within the next hour or two."
"It hurts!" cried Éowyn. "The other two did not hurt so much!"
"You need to relax," Arwen advised. "Breathe deeply and I will massage you with lavender oil."
Éowyn nodded, unable to speak as another contraction seized her. When it subsided, Arwen's skilled hands started to work their magic. Éowyn was soon breathing deeply and much less troubled by the pain. The Queen sang a sweet melody in a soft tone as she worked. Elbeth brought her aunt some raspberry tea, which Éowyn sipped gratefully.
"It will not be long now," said Arwen when she examined her friend again. "I can see the baby's head. Soon you will be holding your child in your arms."
Eldarion was a happy boy. His beloved father was here and not only his father, but the dragon as well!
Súlion preened delightedly as the little boy admired him and asked him questions. He was more than happy to lower his wings and unfurl them so that the child could stroke them and admire their markings.
"I will take you flying if you wish," said Súlion.
"Oh, ada, may I? That would be such fun!" Eldarion pleaded.
"I think we should ask your naneth first," Aragorn cautioned. We shall have to see. And I must stay here at the moment while your Aunt Éowyn has her baby."
Eldarion pulled a face.
"You can look at my beautiful wings," said Súlion. "I will fly very low." He soared into the air and circled the gardens. Eldarion watched in wonder.
"Stay away from the horses!" Aragorn shouted after the dragon. He had no desire to face an angry Éowyn should any ill befall her beloved horses. The last few weeks had taught the King that he would far rather face a whole army of armed and furious warriors than one enraged woman.
When Súlion executed a perfect landing a few minutes later, the little boy whooped with delight. "A most interesting place," said Súlion when he landed again beside them. "You have some nice plump cows here. They look very tasty. But why do you grow false violets in a garden where this little child is playing?"
"I'm not little!" Eldarion protested. "I'm almost grown up!"
"False violets are deadly at any age," the dragon replied gravely. "They are the most feared of poisons in my land. If they are eaten, or sometimes even touched, the victim falls into a deathly sleep from which they will never again awaken. The Emperor allows those of the nobility who have committed crimes to be executed by ingesting one as a merciful form of death."
"Do you use them to kill your enemies, ada?" Eldarion enquired with a ghoulish interest.
"I have never heard of such a plant, ion nîn." A sudden chilling thought struck Aragorn.
"Tell me, where did you espy this deadly plant?" he asked the dragon.
"In the vegetable garden," Súlion replied.
"Stay with Súlion," Aragorn told his son. He sprinted off in the direction of Éowyn's vegetable plot and looked for a freshly tilled patch where onions had been planted. Éowyn always left patches of ground unweeded between the seedbeds as a refuge for wild creatures. It was here that Aragorn looked. Sure enough, there was a patch of small purple flowers of a variety he had not seen before. It seemed that the mystery of Farawyn's illness was explained. His baby daughter shared Arwen's love of violets and had often been given sugared ones to eat as a treat. He hurried back to where Eldarion was waiting with the dragon. The two of them were chatting like old friends.
"How deadly would false violets be to a child?" he asked Súlion.
"No grown man could live after eating them, never mind a child," the dragon said gravely.
Aragorn shuddered inwardly. It seemed that only through the grace of the One was his beloved little girl alive and well.
"Lady Éowyn is a silly woman to grow such things!" said the dragon.
"I am certain she would not have known," Aragorn replied. It is a mystery how such a plant came to grow here."
"False violets are harmless to birds. In fact they love the seeds," Súlion explained. "Maybe a migrating albatross or sandpiper dropped the seeds."
Aragorn shouted to a passing gardener. "I want you to don gloves and pull up all the purple flowers growing near the onions and burn them!" he ordered. "I have just learned they are a deadly poison. Lady Éowyn would not put her children at risk. Do not fear the dragon, he is quite tame and will not hurt you. "
"Of course, sire." If the gardener was surprised, he did not show it.
"Is Farawyn better now, ada?" Eldarion enquired somewhat belatedly.
"Yes, she is her old self again, ion nîn," Aragorn assured his son. "She is coming with Uncle Faramir and you will be able to play together later today."
Eldarion frowned. "I hope she does not remember I said she could play with Smaug when she was ill. She threw him in a puddle last time I let her hold him!"
"I am certain your sister prefers her dolls," Aragorn assured him.
"Huh girls!" Eldarion stuck out his tongue. "Still she's not as bad as Elestelle with her ribbons and not wanting to get her dress dirty. Do the girls like stupid dresses where you come from?" Eldarion asked Súlion.
"Female children of high birth wear embroidered silk robes in my land," said the dragon.
"That sounds really silly!" Eldarion exclaimed.
"But male children wear the most elaborate robes."
Eldarion looked horrified. He pointed to his tunic, which was a rich shade of blue that his mother had embroidered with white motifs of the seven stars and White Tree of Gondor. "More decorated than this?" he asked.
"Far more," said Súlion. "Scarlet and gold are the preferred colours for a prince in my land.
Eldarion pulled a face and was about to express his disgust when he recalled his father and mother had told him that he must always be polite to visitors and never say anything rude about their clothes or customs.
"They dress like the gaudy fire dragons," Súlion explained. "No one tries to imitate me, as how could anyone copy my magnificence?"
"Quite impossible," Aragorn agreed and then suddenly had to clear his throat loudly and repeatedly.
"Are you quite well?" Súlion enquired.
"I think I might have swallowed a fly," said Aragorn not very convincingly.
"What did it taste like, ada?" asked Eldarion.
Before Aragorn could elaborate on this deception, a little girl emerged from the house and skipped on to the lawn, followed by a nursemaid. She caught sight of the dragon and stopped in her tracks as if frozen in stunned silence. The nursemaid started to scream.
"Silence!" cried Aragorn in his most commanding tone. "Would you disturb Lady Éowyn?"
"But it's a dragon!" wailed the young woman. "It will surely eat us all!"
"Why should I want to eat you?" Súlion demanded irately. "I am a T'ien Luang, ancestor of the Emperor. I eat cows, not humans, and you do not even look as if you would taste nice."
The girl opened her mouth to scream again only to be silenced by a look from Aragorn that petrified her even more than the prospect of being a dragon's dinner.
"He talks!" Elestelle cried in delight. Her fear forgotten, she ran towards Súlion, her arms outstretched.
"Why, of course I can talk! I could talk as soon as I was hatched, much like you, I suppose," said Súlion.
"I had to learn," said Elestelle, reaching out a small dainty hand to pet the dragon's nose, which was lowered towards her. "Eldarion had to learn too and naneth and ada and even Uncle Aragorn."
"Come away from that monster, Lady Elestelle," the nursemaid pleaded vainly.
"Go and see if Lady Éowyn's attendants need any help," Aragorn commanded her. "I will look after the children."
"T'ien Li is my friend," said Eldarion. "I can say his name in his own language."
"Eldarion brought me a present," Súlion told the little girl, then moved his massive head towards Eldarion.
Feeling rejected, Elestelle turned to Aragorn. "Naneth is having a new brother or sister for me," she confided. "I hope it's a sister. I don't like boys."
"I don't like girls," Eldarion retorted. "I'd rather have a brother to play with."
"I did not have any brothers or sisters to play with," Aragorn told them.
"That must have been lonely," Elestelle sympathised, her disagreement with Eldarion quickly forgotten.
"My naneth and the Elves did their best to make sure I wasn't lonely," said Aragorn.
Éowyn tried to find a more comfortable position as the contractions increased in frequency. Arwen sat beside her, massaging her shoulders and singing softly.
"Bear down and push!" Arwen paused in her singing to instruct Éowyn.
"I am doing!" Éowyn retorted. She cried out as another contraction seized her.
Elbeth dipped a cloth in a bowl of herb-scented water and wiped her aunt's brow.
"I can see the head now," said Arwen. "Take deep breaths and push hard. Mistress Elwen, support Lady Éowyn's shoulders. I will deliver the child."
Elbeth almost dropped the bowl in excitement now the birth was imminent, but managed to collect herself.
Arwen resumed singing softly in her high sweet voice.
Éowyn pushed hard as a powerful contraction seized her. The baby slid out into Arwen's waiting arms.
"You have a son," said Arwen as she studied the infant. "A fine healthy boy." She smiled her face alight with joy.
As if to emphasise her words, the infant started to wail and wave his small chubby arms.
"He is so beautiful!" Éowyn studied her son for the first time and was well pleased with what she beheld. He had a shock of black hair and seemed to her to be the fairest creature on Arda at that moment.
Arwen swiftly dried him then laid him against his mother's skin. She tucked a blanket around mother and baby to keep them warm while they waited for the afterbirth.
"Why, Lady Éowyn, the master will be right pleased with another fine son," exclaimed Mistress Elwen. And how like the master he is!"
"This is even more special than seeing kittens or foals born," said Elbeth.
"Mistress Elwen, will you tell the servants that Lady Éowyn has a son," said Arwen. "Elbeth, Estel will be in the gardens waiting for news, perhaps you would let him know the baby is here safely.
As soon as they had gone, Arwen retreated to the corner of the chamber where she could discreetly observe that all was well with Éowyn and the new born. Éowyn was lost in blissful contemplation of her infant and hardly seemed aware of her presence. At last, she roused herself and said, "I promised the children that they should be the first to see the baby, though I do wish they and Faramir could meet him together."
"I am certain Faramir will be here soon," Arwen said.
As soon as the afterbirth was delivered and the cord cut and tied, Arwen and Elbeth helped Éowyn wash and don a comfortable nightgown. Then while Elbeth brushed her aunt's hair, Arwen bathed and dressed the infant. He was contentedly suckling when Mistress Elwen brought Elestelle and Elboron to see the baby. Elestelle looked excited, while a sleepy Elboron roused from a nap, sucked his thumb.
"Meet your new brother," said Éowyn, proudly pulling the shawl away from his dark head."
Elestelle regarded the infant in silence for a few moments. "He has nice hair," she said at last. "I wanted a sister, though!"
"I want a brother!" said Elboron. He resumed sucking his thumb and appeared somewhat overwhelmed.
"Maybe next time you will have a sister, Elestelle," said Éowyn, smiling. "He is lucky to have a big sister and brother to help take care of him." The baby's hunger sated, she turned him round that her older children might see him better.
"Why is his face so red and squashed?" Elestelle asked.
"Because he has only just been born," said Éowyn. "You looked much the same when you were less than an hour old."
Oh," said Elestelle doubtfully. She studied her mother and the new baby for a few minutes dutifully and then said "Thank you for letting me see him, naneth. May I go back to play with the dragon now?"
"That is kind of Eldarion to let you play with his favourite toy," said Éowyn.
"Why not go outside and play now?" Arwen interrupted hastily.
"Oh, I didn't mean Eldarion's silly toy. I mean the real dragon," Elestelle revealed innocently, ignoring the Queen's interruption.