52. Son and Heir
'Pardon, Sir,' the deferential voice held an undercurrent of excitement that caught his attention.
'Yes?' Merry said. 'Is it the babe?'
The servant's face broke out in a wide smile. 'Aye,' he said. 'The Mistress says today is the day.'
Merry exchanged grins with Berilac, who clapped him on the shoulder. 'I'll be waiting for news,' the latter said.
'We'll let you know,' the Master answered, and his long strides carried him out of the study.
The early excitement wore off, but the midwife assured them that first births often took longer, and that Estella and the babe were doing well. They walked from room to room of the Master's quarters, stopping to let Estella lean against the wall to breathe through a contraction.
The midwife remained relentlessly cheerful as the hours dragged on. She encouraged Estella to rest when she could, had her soak in a warm tub in the Master's private bath room, had her sit in a chair while Merry rubbed her feet or back... and still the time dragged on.
Three days Estella laboured. The midwife and her assistant spelled each other. Merry rested only at his mother's insistence; she was able to sway him with the argument that he needed to remain strong and alert for his wife's sake. Estella, of course, had no rest. Merry remained calm for his wife's sake, but panic built within him. Ossilan turned up at some point, Merry was never sure afterwards quite when, the hours blurred together in an endless ordeal.
Estella was pleading softly as Merry held her, when he heard the midwife say suddenly, 'O no!' The healer was there in an instant, and for the first time in his life, Merry heard Ossilan swear. Then suddenly hands were pulling him away from Estella, the healer said, 'Get them out of here, we need room to work...' and he was pushed from the room before he could gather his wits to resist.
Esmeralda held him back when he would have gone back to Estella. 'No, Son. We'd only be in the way.'
'What is it, Mother?'
Before she could answer, the door opened and an assistant rushed out. Before the door closed again, he heard the healer saying, '...might lose them both at this rate...'
Things had gone badly wrong. The Master fretted under the grip of the helplessness he felt, the fear for his wife and child.
'Meriadoc, lad...' his mother tried to comfort him.
He turned haunted eyes to hers. 'You nearly died birthing me,' he spoke his dread. 'What if...?'
She folded him to herself. 'Oh, my sweet lad,' she crooned. 'It is the "what ifs" in this life that will bring you down to an early grave.' He allowed her to hold him, stroking his hair, for a long moment, then straightened again.
Going to the window, he put his hand to his breast, feeling the paper, now yellowing, in its carefully preserved folds. He could almost hear Frodo's voice.
'You just keep walking in the light, Merry, no matter what happens. Promise? Keep walking in the light.'
'That's a promise, Frodo,' he muttered.
'What was that, Son?' his mother turned to him.
Just then the door opened and the smiling midwife appeared. 'You have a fine son, Master, for all he decided to come out feet first, jumping rope!' she beamed. 'Brandy Hall has a new heir!'
'She is strong and well. She did a champion job, just champion. They're waiting to see you now,' she smiled.
His mother gave him a little push. 'Go on!' she urged. He needed no more encouragement, but stepped softly into the room. Estella lay there, damp curls framing her beaming face. In her arms was a wee bundle and as Merry bent close she pulled aside the blanket enough to show the tiny face, fist in mouth, eyes closed.
'I do good work,' she murmured as Merry tenderly kissed the top of her head.
'Indeed you do. He's the best picture you have ever made, I think,' Merry whispered.
His mother's voice sounded behind him, rippling with joy. 'What will his name be, then?'
'Saradoc,' Merry and Estella said in the same breath, and laughed. The baby opened enormous eyes at the sound, blinking sleepily at his father.
'Welcome to the world, little one,' Merry said.
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.