Andreth smiled, comfortable in the warmth and security of her slumber. Dying firelight flickered through her eyelids, and slowly she opened them to survey the room.
What had woken her? All about her seemed silence.
The high arching ceiling was lost in flickering shadow. The once roaring fire in the hearth was reduced to simmering coals, and she sighed contentedly.
"Elros," she breathed, pressing back more securely into the strong arms of her husband who lay against her back, his body curled against hers beneath the luxurious blankets of their vast bed.
At the slight movement, Elros's hand, strong and warm where it rested against her belly, gently caressed the rounded curve of flesh where their son grew.
"My queen," he murmured sleepily, his voice low and warm. His body shifted as his head bent, and kissed the rounded curve of her ear. "I missed you."
"And I you," she murmured, turning her head to look up into his eyes.
Elros' grey eyes reflected the red light of the fading coals as he smiled down into her eyes. His hair, dark and shining, spilled over one shoulder.
She lifted a hand, finding the warm strength of his jaw. She smiled, letting her hand trail upward to finger the peaked tip of his ear.
He closed his eyes for a long moment, reveling in the feel of her hand against his face. "I'm sorry I had to be gone for so long," he murmured. "A whole month away from you was agony. Especially-" His eyes opened once more as his fingers traced lightly over her belly. Andreth smiled, shaking her head.
"I understand," she soothed. "Our people, settling and exploring this wonderful- Númenor of ours- the men need you," she sighed. "Still I wish you did not have to. Or at the least, that I could go with you."
"I know," he breathed. "But do not worry. I won't be leaving again, at least not until after the baby has come. And then, not until you are able to come with me. Both you and the baby."
"Our son," she sighed.
She could hear the smile in his voice. "Our son," he agreed. And then his smile grew wider.
"Perhaps I should tell you now," he murmured, "that during our journey I found our beach."
"The one from our dream?" she asked, brightening.
"Down to the last pebble, and blade of grass," he said with a nod.
A breath swelled his chest. "I long to take you there, my Tindómiel."
"And I long to go there with you," she pleaded.
"You will," he returned, his voice deepening as he moved in, claiming her mouth before, of a sudden, Elros pulled away, and leaned back, his eyes lightening with wonder.
"The baby," he murmured, his hand pressing more firmly against her belly. "He moved."
"Ah," Andreth laughed, looking down now at the small bump pressing out against Elros' hand. "The rascal. That's what woke me."
Smiling up into her husband's eyes, she lay back against her pillow, running a hand along the chiseled sinews of his arm. "It was nine months ago today-"
"I remember." He grinned. "The bank beside the sylvan pool-"
The baby seemed to have settled again, for the stirrings within her had grown still.
"What does the midwife say?" He asked softly, settling back down against her pillow. "How much more time?"
Andreth sighed and turned her back to him, leaning gratefully back into his warmth, smiling as his strong arms circled about her, his body melding to hers. "She guesses three weeks," she said, turning her head and smiling as he pressed a kiss to her brow. "He has grown more slowly than other mortal babes, but being your son, she has not worried."
Andreth sighed. "Nor have I. Being your son, I know he will be strong and well."
"And I will stay here, my Tindómiel," he breathed, pressing a kiss against her throat. "Beside you, every day for the next weeks until he-"
"Ai." A sudden aching pain seized her belly, and her body stiffened at the blazing, unlooked for pain. "Elros!"
"What?" he demanded, alarmed, pushing himself up. "What is it?"
Her hands went to her stomach to feel the flesh suddenly taut and hard.
"I- I don't know," she said, her breathing growing easier as the gripping pain slowly eased, and passed.
"Oh," she sighed, relieved. "It is nothing, I am fine, I-"
Another clenching pain cut her words off, and her breath escaped in a harsh gasp. Pain again raged through her body more intense than before, and Andreth's eyes clenched shut.
"It cannot be the baby!" Elros exclaimed, the flabbergasted look upon his face causing a smile on Andreth's lips despite her sudden pain. "The midwife. You said she said three weeks!"
"She guessed three weeks," Andreth countered. "Being a child with elven blood and mortal, she could only guess."
"But it's- it's too early," Elros gasped.
"Nonsense," Andreth seethed. "Babies can come a little early, or late, and still be hale-
"Elros!" she wailed as she felt sudden wetness beneath her upon the bed sheets. She seized Elros' arm, his face wincing with the pain of her grip. "My- my- waters have broken. Go get her! Get the midwife, now, in the maid servant's quarters! Her name is Freidel."
Elros nodded, fear replacing the pain upon his face as he tore his arm from her grasp, and scrambled out of bed. He snatched up his sleeping breeches where they had been haphazardly discarded beside the bed, and scrambled into them.
Still shirtless, Elros darted to the door, flung it open, and quickly disappeared, the door banging against the wall and recoiling with a quiver as the footsteps of his bare feet faded.
"You!" his voice shouted. He must have been addressing a guard. "Freidel, the midwife. Where is she?"
The man must have answered something though Andreth could not hear.
"Well, take me to her!" Elros' voice answered, and two sets of footsteps faded.
Closing her eyes, Andreth hugged the coverlet close, struggling to breath against the gripping pain, her jaw clenched so tightly that the sinews burned.
"Hurry, Elros," she pleaded as if Elros' mere presence would dispel the tearing agony that had claimed her body.
"Firiel," she pleaded through clenched teeth. "I wish you were here. And Mama-"
We are, my dear one,
Andreth's eyes flew open. The words were so clear, she half expected to see her old friend beside her. But she could see nothing aside from the fire lit walls of her bedchamber.
We are always with you.
The pain eased as the words whispered through her mind, and Andreth's breath deepened. She knew it was only a brief reprieve from the pain, but she accepted it gladly, settling back against her pillow with a long breath.
"And I am with you, my little one," she murmured, rubbing her hand against her belly. As if in answer to her words, she felt a kick against her hand. "This is the first time either of us have endured this. Let us both be brave, yes?"
A faint kick answered her, and even as another pain seized her, Andreth managed a smile.
"Please, my lord," Freidel, the grey haired midwife said over her shoulder from her place at the end of the birthing cot where Andreth lay a pace away from the bed. "Your worrying will do you no good, nor will it your wife. She is young and strong, and the babe is well enough, if a bit earlier than expected. It is the middle of the night. Go rest!"
Elros, pacing back and forth at the foot of the cot, his hair in his hands, paused, and shot a scathing look at the midwife's back before turning his eyes toward Andreth, his expression melting as his eyes met hers. Despite the pain that gripped her, Andreth smiled at his adorably rumpled appearance, at his still shirtless, and wonderfully sculpted torso, at his sleeping breeches loose about his hips, and his bare feet.
"She's right," Andreth gasped. "You should rest, my king. I will be fine. You have duties in the morning."
She flinched at a new pain and shifted her weight, catching a glimpse of Lila, the midwife's young apprentice, a girl who could not have been much older than fifteen. The maiden, though turned half away, busying herself with a small bed that would be used to shelter the babe in the first moments after its birth, was also casting a furtive glance at Elros in secretive, but obvious admiration.
Andreth rolled her eyes. The child, perhaps, had never seen a man without his shirt before, least of all an elven one, but even so! She lifted a hand to brush a sweat dampened lock of hair away from her face,
"Oh. Please my lady, let me," murmured the girl, pulling her eyes away from the shirtless king, and turning toward Andreth, seemingly remembering her duty. The girl moved to Andreth's side, a cool, damp cloth in her hand.
"No, let me," Elros insisted, striding forward and snatching the cloth from the young woman. Startled, the girl retreated as Elros moved in, taking the cloth from her hand. He moved near, swabbing Andreth's head with the welcome coolness.
"I'll not rest when my queen cannot," he murmured, his voice softening as his eyes delved into hers. "Or my child."
Andreth smiled up into his eyes before another pain gripped her, and she clenched her eyes shut.
"My lady," Freidel said, her voice grown taut, "It is time now. You must begin to push. Lila come help me."
"Yes, mistress," Lila said, and moved to the midwife's side.
"My king, Freidel said, "forgive me, but I must insist that you-"
Elros turned toward the midwife, his face silent, but fiercely determined.
"I will stay," Elros said through clenched teeth, "beside my wife."
Freidel heaved a deep sigh, shrugging her acquiescence as she took her place.
The pain was growing more intense, and Andreth crushed her eyes shut.
"Push now, your highness," the midwife commanded, and Andreth did as she was told, feeling Elros' strong hand grip hers as she clenched her teeth and bore down.
A soft gasp from the midwife's apprentice caused Andreth's eyes to shoot open. The girl's eyes had brightened.
The young woman's eyes shot up. "The baby is coming," she said. "I can see the head."
Freidel's eyes were more serious, though she did manage an encouraging smile. "One more time, my queen," she ordered.
Andreth looked up into Elros' eyes, and offered him a fleeting smile through her pain.
"I love you," he choked.
"And I love you," she gasped just as the pain struck her again.
Crushing her teeth together, Andreth bore down as she clutched at Elros' hand.
A moment later, a sudden burst of release flowed through her like a wave. Gasps of delight from the midwife and her apprentice were followed a moment later by a soft, almost timid chirp.
"Is that him?" she demanded, pushing herself up on her elbows. "Is that my son?"
The word upon her lips gripped her heart as tightly as her hand clutched Elros'.
The midwife lifted weary but smiling eyes to her as her apprentice turned away toward the small cradle with something in her arms that Andreth did not quite see.
"Please-" Her voice shook.
As if in response to Andreth's plea, a soft choke echoed through the air, followed by a sound that to Andreth, was the most beautiful she had ever heard in her life.
A high pitched pleading wail.
"I think he wants his mother," Lila laughed, turning back, a squirming bundle in her arms.
"Please, may I take him?" Elros begged, stepping away from Andreth's side.
"Very well," Lila agreed. "His father is just as well."
Beaming, the young woman handed the bundle into Elros' arms, and Andreth watched as her husband's face gazed over a little blanketed bundle cradled against his chest. A glow came into his eyes that filled her with pleasure.
"May I see him too?" she breathed.
"Here," Elros murmured, coming near and bending down, offering her the bundle.
And at last, she saw him. Her breath stopped. The little face was the most beautiful child she had ever seen, tiny hands curled against plump cheeks, his eyes closed, his ears tipped, like his father, though the point did not appear so sharp as Elros' ears. The soft, warm weight of him settling in her arms, the most welcome burden she had ever held.
"He's a beautiful child," Freidel said, a deep breath escaping her.
"He's perfect," Lila agreed.
Andreth looked up into the bright faces of the midwife and her young apprentice. "Then he is fine? Nothing wrong with him?"
"I've never seen a more healthy child," Freidel said. "Of course, he will be hungry. Shall I fetch a wet nurse?"
"No," Andreth said quickly. "I will feed him."
"But you're the queen, and-" Lila began.
"And his mother," Andreth countered gently. "My chiefest duty is to him, now."
Elros added, "Might we spend a few minutes with him, alone?"
Freidel smiled softly at this, and nodded her head. "Of course, my king."
And with a nod of her head to Lila, the two women moved out of the room, the great door closing softly behind them.
"Oh, my Tindómiel," Elros breathed, dropping to his knees beside her and the baby. "Our child. Our son. He's- he's beautiful."
"He is," she choked, seeking her husband through eyes blurred now with tears.
She reached out, finding Elros' face, strong and warm against her palm.
"Our most precious jewel," she breathed.
Elros drew in a breath, his arms going around both Andreth and their son.
"Vardamir," he murmured.
She smiled at the name. "Lofty Jewel," she translated. "I love it."
Elros grinned before he bent his head and kissed her.
I hope you all enjoyed this little story! If you like my writing, I hope you'll check out my own stories on Amazon. My most recent work is titled The Shores of Bountiful.