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I meant to post this yesterday, but did not get the chance! So here's a belated Mother's Day Gift, a new chapter of "A Mother's Work"!
Rating: G Summary: Even in Gondor, a mother's work is never done.
[Author's Notes: Robin is two (about 13-14 months old in "Man-years"; Elanor is twenty-one (about 13 ½ in "Man-years). Rose is feeling every bit of her age.
Part of this story is based on my ficlet "A: Like an Antagonistic Arwen"-Lady Haleth is a young woman of fifteen.
The visit to Minas Tirith in S.R. 1442 is canon. Elanor accompanied her parents, though it is not said the others did, and Tolman Gamgee appears to have been born there. That Robin might have also gone is a guess on my part.]
A Mother's Work: Rose
"Good morning, Liniel. Thank you!" Rosie availed herself of the warm wash water, lightly scented with lavender, and watched out of the corner of one eye as the woman took one of the loose frocks Rose had taken to wearing as she neared the end of this pregnancy, out of the wardrobe for her. It still made her uncomfortable to be waited on hand and foot by servants, but that was the way of things when visiting with Kings and Queens, as Sam had been to some pains to make her understand, and Minas Tirith was far more formal than Annuminas. She suffered Liniel to help her into the frock and asked, "Where are Sam and Robin?"
"Lord Samwise is with the King. Your son is in the garden with Nerwen," she said. Nerwen was the other maidservant assigned to them. "He is not happy."
Once dressed, Rosie left the bedroom and passed through the attached sitting room. Unlike the bedroom, the furniture was a mixture of both "big" and "small" furniture. The double glass doors that led out to the garden were well over twice the size of hobbit doors, and rectangular as well. But the doorknobs were small and set low in the doors.
"Do you wish your breakfast brought to you in the garden, Mistress Rose?"
"Yes, thank you, Liniel!" Rosie answered as she opened the door to let herself out. No sooner did it crack open than she could hear a shrill little voice:
Rosie shook her head in amusement and called: " 'Morning, Robin-a-bobbin!"
Both maidservant and baby looked over and smiled, Nerwen in relief, and little Robin in delight. Robin wriggled down from Nerwen's lap and began rapidly crawling in his mother's direction.
Rosie scooped him up and bestowed a kiss on top of his head. But she drew back as his little fingers headed straight to her bodice. "No, Robby!"
"No, Robby," she repeated. She glanced over where Nerwen watched sympathetically, and went over to her to sit beside her on the bench. Just then Liniel came out carrying a tray. Rosie was really very hungry, and was delighted to see that in addition to the big bowl of frumenty, there was a plate of cut up fruits and another of sliced bread and butter. Little Robby was soon distracted by slices of oranges and peaches, leaving his mother the chance to eat her breakfast in peace.
Soon enough, the baby, sated and sticky, was curled beneath her feet. She knew his wish to nurse had not been hunger, but a longing for that particular closeness between them. She sighed. Usually by the time she was weaning a child, her milk was beginning to dry up anyway, but with the new little one coming any time now, it would be a comfort for herself as well. Still, it had to be done; she needed to be able to feed the new babe, after all, and Robby needed to learn to share his mama.
While the baby slept, Rosie had a nice chat with the two maidservants about their families. Liniel had two little ones of her own and a husband in the Tower Guard; Nerwen was betrothed to a journeyman woodwright and deep in plans for her wedding. This led to a discussion of weddings in the Shire, and questions about Rosie's family. Such personal informality would have been unthinkable when the Gamgees had first arrived, but Rosie's warmth had overcome the maidservants' propriety and now they could enjoy such conversation.
Rosie recounted the tale of a small disaster caused by Merry-lad and Pippin-lad. The two had been listening to Sam's tale of their adventure with Tom Bombadil, and decided to surprise their mother by honouring her the way Tom did Goldberry. They'd managed to cull some water lilies from the Bywater pool. Then they'd filled an old washtub from the kitchen pump. However, they'd failed to take into account how difficult it would be for two small lads to carry a tub filled with water from the kitchen to the parlour, where Rose sat, unsuspectingly doing some mending. Struggling with the tub, half carrying, half dragging it, they had only come halfway to their goal when the inevitable happened, and the whole thing tipped, spilling a river on the flagstone hallway. Merry-lad had wrenched his wrist trying to hold on, and the edge of the tub had landed on Pippin-lad's foot. But their tears had been because their surprise for their mother had been spoiled.
"Merry-lad kept saying 'It seemed like a good idea', and it was all Sam and I could do to keep stern faces. It took forever to mop up the mess!"
Liniel and Nerwen were struggling to keep their laughter down, so as not to wake the sleeping Robin, when they were interrupted by a page.
"Lady Rose," the boy bowed, which made Rosie blush, "the Queen would like you to attend her now. She said to tell you it is quite important."
Rose stood as quickly as she could, and accepted the page's arm to escort her, all the while wondering what the Queen wanted. But she did not ask the child, knowing he would not answer.
He led her to the Queen's solarium and announced her, then bowed and left the room closing the door.
Rosie's heart sank. Only the Queen and Elanor were there, the Queen comforting Elanor, whose eyes and nose were red with weeping. Disregarding all protocol, Rose swept into the room and Elanor darted into her embrace with a sob. "Oh Rose-mum!"
Rosie patted her on the back with, "There, there, dearling!" while looking over her daughter's shoulder with an enquiring look at the Queen. To her surprise, Arwen's expression was one of shame.
"I am sorry, Rose. I have only just discovered that another of my handmaidens, Lady Haleth, has been tormenting Elanor for days. I overheard her unkind remarks this morning." She sighed. "Elanor had said nothing about it. I failed you and Sam."
Elanor turned suddenly, wiping her tears with the back of her hand, and looked at the Queen with surprise. "Failed?"
"I should have known," said Arwen.
Rosie shook her head. "You couldn't know if Elanor did not speak up." She looked her daughter in the eye, and though she already suspected the answer, asked, "Why didn't you tell the Queen, or your dad, or me?"
"I didn't want to worry you. It was just silly things; nothing important..."
"Oh, lass!" Rosie smoothed Elanor's hair, "of course it was important if it made you unhappy!"
"At first I thought she was just jesting with me, and I was hoping we'd be friends and then when I saw she really did not like me..."
"Lady Haleth will be dealt with," Arwen said firmly. "I will not have a bully attending me."
"Oh!" Elanor said, stricken. "You won't send her away, will you?"
Rosie and the Queen exchanged a look, and Rosie led Elanor over to a nearby footstool, for really, she needed to sit down. There was plenty of room to pull her daughter down next to her.
"Elanor, don't you want her to be punished? She will never learn better if this is allowed to pass."
"But...it seems to me as if I oughtn't to want anything bad to happen to her. Sending her away would be a dreadful disgrace for her."
"Doesn't she deserve to be sent away?"
"Maybe; but well, I keep thinking of how Uncle Frodo was in the tales. He didn't send Gollum away and Gollum deserved it."
Rosie embraced her child fiercely. "You are quite right, sweetheart. Your Uncle Frodo was like that. He forgave a lot of people what didn't deserve it." She drew back and looked her in the eye. "But when you forgive someone, you have to mean it. And even if you forgive her, it's not up to you what happens. That's the Queen's decision. I agree with her about bullies—she can't have that sort of thing around." Rosie schooled her expression to mild sternness. "Can you forgive her and really mean it?"
Elanor looked down at her toes. "I think so."
"Well, I think you need to be more certain. You go wash your face, and comb your hair and think about it a little, and when you decide, you tell the Queen. And then you let the Queen decide what to do about it all. Can you do that?"
Elanor nodded, and Rose embraced her daughter once more. "There's a good lass! Now off with you to wash those tears from your pretty face." She kissed her daughter, and shooed her away, and Elanor turned to go the chamber assigned to her. She turned to see Arwen staring at her, and she blushed under the Queen's regard.
"You are such a wise mother," Arwen said. "I hope I shall do half so well as you when I have children."
Rosie smiled. "I am quite sure..." she broke off at a certain feeling that she knew all too well. "Ooh!"
"My lady, I think my time is coming..."
Arwen nodded. "I think you are right." She stood, and before Rosie knew what was happening she found herself swept up in the Queen's surprisingly strong arms like a faunt. Arwen went to the door and passed through, telling the page: "Run and fetch the King and Lord Samwise. Tell them Lady Rose is about to give birth."
In the end, it was the easiest birth Rosie had save for Primrose (who had slipped out quite suddenly with almost no warning at all) and a few hours later, she introduced little Tolman to his father, sister and brother.
Little Robby looked quite confused to see his mother feeding this interloper, but Sam distracted him with a rusk of honey-bread. "You are a big brother now, Robin-a-bobbin!"
Elanor leaned down and kissed her mother on the brow. "I decided I can and mean it, Rose-mum. I'll tell the Queen." She stood up and grinned. "And I'll write a letter home and tell them all about our new brother!"
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