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This was not written by me, but by one of my betas. With my permission. dame passed away shortly after writing this – yet another victim of dementia.

Title: The Power in That Tiny Hand

Author: Dame Niamh

Rating:G

This story is posted with the permission of Zee, who also provided beta services. It is dedicated to Zee, in honour of her epic “The Vessel.” The characters you recognize are creations of JRR Tolkien; Bronwyn is Zee’s entirely. Blessed be!

The Power in That Tiny Hand

It wasn’t as if he wasn’t familiar with children. He was; he remembered clearly his brothers first as infants, then as toddlers, and for what was a very long time, as irritating little prats.

He was a child himself when they were born, and they were his playmates as all of them grew. They sat together in study classes, learned to ride and shoot and fight together, got their table manners swatted into them by their father’s steward. Then, one day, they looked at each other, and they were adults.

Children were rare and precious in Lothlorién; not only there, but in all of Iluvatar’s Kingdoms in which the Elves dwelled the arrival of a child was a momentous event. Immortal Elves did not have the need to ‘replace’ their line the way Men did; they lived forever. But there came a time when Elves were slaughtered, when there were fewer and fewer as they fought the encroaching evil. There were fewer and fewer males to sire children; many of the females died in battle as well.

Those who were left treasured the newborns as they treasured life itself. It was common to see a tall, muscular Elf carrying a tiny baby snuggled into his shoulder, or sitting under a tree cradling an infant in battle-hardened hands. Haldir himself had held these wee morsels of life, marvelling at the sweet smell of the fuzzy head, the long eyelashes lying on peach-perfect cheeks, the absolute trust of the small, frail body in his hands. When a child was born, the entire community held out its hands for the honour of carrying the new soul, and they passed it from one to the other. Majestic kings with crowned heads nestled infants on their shoulders or carried them in the crook of a royal robe-garbed arm. Hardened warriors lay their armour aside to perch little toddlers on their shoulders, playing ‘Mearas’ for the children.

Male and female Elves alike sat at the feet of a nursing mother, singing to her, reading poetry or making light-hearted conversation, playing harps and whistles for her amusement. Or they sat still, feasting their eyes on the miracle of nurture. Many pairs of hands reached out to burp the baby, or to hold it whilst the mother rearranged her garments.

Lord Elrond was particularly fond of new infants. He had delivered so many of them over the millennia! When his first children, his twins, were born, the noble Elf was often seen sitting in the garden of his palace, a baby in either arm, talking to them earnestly, telling them tales of great deeds. He seemed to know when a little soul was about to make water: in one smooth movement he would sweep aside the robe covering the tiny bottom, lift the baby away from his lap and hold it to one side until it was finished. Then he would wrap the child up securely again, smiling. He himself bathed, changed and fed his children (and any other child in the vicinity) with gentle affection.

Haldir knew all of this; he knew that if such an august person as Lord Elrond was devoted to the children and was quite capable of caring for them, he, Haldir, should be able to do the same! He stopped and slumped down on a bench. His first child, his son, had been born but four hours ago, giving his mother a great deal of pain in the process. Haldir was beside himself; he could not bear to witness his Baraer’s* suffering. Then, Elrond arrived, and in his gentle, businesslike way, he gave everyone something useful to do, calmed Bronwyn and delivered the tiny red-haired, foul-tempered, pointed-eared Elfling, which Haldir had sired.

Haldir spent half an hour holding Bronwyn’s hand, kissing her, whispering to her, marvelling at the imp suckling greedily at her breast. His breast. Finally, after a one-breast burp followed by more nursing at his mother’s other breast, the child was sated. His eyes were open, glowing; his little hands were relaxed, halfway open. “Take him, Haldir,” Bronwyn murmured. “He’s so full; he’s going to have a nice, long sleep.” She handed the snugly swaddled bundle to her husband as casually as if she were passing him a loaf of bread.

Haldir received his son in his hands, where he fit snugly. He held him up to his shoulder, and felt the baby snuggle into the hollow of his neck. Bronwyn smiled sleepily, and he smiled back. This was not very difficult, he thought. He thought he felt the baby tense, and brought him back to his lap. What was happening? The tiny face was beet-red; the little fists were clenched. Beckett emitted a grunt like a new piglet, and drew up his little knees under his swaddling robe.

Terror struck Haldir’s heart. “What is he doing? He is sick!” He shouted over his shoulder, “Get Lord Elrond! My son is ailing!” He looked at Bronwyn. “What should we do?” Beckett grunted again and squirmed. Bronwyn buried her face in her hands. Oh, no, she was weeping! She looked up. She was emphatically not weeping; she was laughing.

Laughing! Haldir’s heart pounded double time, his spine felt like ice. He looked down at the child in his hands. Thankfully, his face was no longer red. As his terrified father watched, the baby yawned hugely, smacked his lips, managed to get one tiny thumb into his mouth and fell fast asleep. Haldir looked at Bronwyn in bewilderment.

Lord Elrond swept into the room and stalked to Haldir’s side. As he did so, Haldir’s nose wrinkled. Lord Elrond’s sensitive nose twitched and his sapphire blue eyes crinkled at the corners. He put his arm around Haldir’s shoulder. “He is not sick, mellon nin. It is normal that he does this after he has fed.”

Haldir’s blue eyes popped wide open. “He – he – “

“Yes, he has, and you must change him so his little bottom does not become sore.” Elrond clapped Haldir on the back. “I have brought you some mild oil to clean him with. I am sure you will become an expert at bottom cleaning,” he smirked at Haldir, “as I did when my children were small.” He bent over Bronwyn, kissed her forehead, and they exchanged a few words, ending in laughter. Then he left the room.

Bronwyn was lying on her side facing the wall, her shoulders shaking. The corners of Haldir’s mouth turned down. His son, reeking like a chamber pot, slept peacefully in his hands. Haldir cast his eyes up to Heaven. “Iluvatar’s balls,” he thought. Aloud he said, “I have done worse,” and carried his son over to the bed, where he proceeded to take off his clothes, clean his tiny butt and wrap him in fresh clothing. A servant disappeared with the mess.

Bronwyn turned over. “You did beautifully, Cormmin**,” she smiled. “I threw up the first time I had to change a dirty bottom.”

“I threw up enough for you when you were carrying him,” grated Haldir. “My son and I are going out of doors. It smells in here.” He bent and kissed her tenderly. “Rest. We will return when the Elfling hungers.” He lifted the tiny form to his shoulder. Beckett snuggled in, and clenched his fists securely in Haldir’s heavy hair. He murmured to himself softly in his sleep. “Ada,” said the new father approvingly. “You may call me Ada.”

*Baraer – Fiery One
** Cormmin – My heart