Two by Two

Chapter Five: Bathtime

by Jay of Lasgalen

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Tasarian watched approvingly from the window as Elrond and Celebrían passed by on the path below her, and smiled as first one, then the other glanced upwards.  “They are doing very well,” she commented to Firienë.  “The first leaving is always the hardest.  They know their little ones are not going anywhere, and will be well cared for, but it is still a wrench to abandon them – for that is how they see it. It will get easier.”

Moving away from the window, she looked at Firienë.  The girl was hovering nervously over the drawer the twins slept in.  “Do relax, child!  They will not sleep any better for having you watch them.  Sit down.”

Firienë obeyed, but sat perched on the edge of her seat, still watching the elflings.  “They are so small,” she explained.  “And Lord Elrond’s sons.  Twins, too – the Lady did not mention that!  I am afraid – what if something were to happen to them while I am looking after them?  What if they stop breathing?  What if …”

“Hush!  Of course they are small, just because they are twins.  They are bound to be smaller than other babes.  And they will not suddenly stop breathing, any more than you or I will.  And remember, it will be a long time before you will have sole charge of them.  You are here to learn and to help.”  Tasarian’s tone softened, and she added, “You will soon learn confidence.  You love elflings, and that is the most important thing.  But if you are nervous, they will sense it, and that will unsettle them.”

Firienë sighed.  “You know so much, you are so calm and sure with them.  How?  You have no elflings of your own.”

“No.  No elflings.  I learned, just as you will.”  Tasarian smiled sadly.  She and her husband, who had been one of Celebrimbor’s artisans, had lived in Ost-in-Edhil in Eregion.  He had been killed when Eregion was attacked and overwhelmed.  Devastated by the loss, she had been equally distraught at the knowledge that she would never now have children of her own.  When Elrond led the survivors north and founded the refuge of Imladris, she had rebuilt her life there, dedicating it to caring for the children of others.  In the peace and tranquillity of the valley, her life had been more full than she could ever have imagined in those dark days following the sack of Eregion.

“That was a long time ago now,” she concluded, as she finished telling Firienë her tale.  “And a great many elflings ago, too.  Now Elrond has asked me to look after his own sons – I was one of the few who knew that they were to be twins.”  She started at the sound of a faint wail that rose very quickly in volume and intensity.  “Someone is awake, I think.”

Firienë bent down and picked up the screaming, red-faced elfling.  “Ai!  No wonder he cries!”

“Give him to me,” Tasarian instructed placidly.  “A bath, I think,” she decided, wrinkling her nose.  “Go and fill the basin for me, child, then undress him.  Not too hot, mind!”

“I know!” Firienë responded, smiling.  By now the other twin was also awake and crying, and she picked him up, cooing.  “You as well, little one?  Perhaps we should bathe you both, yes?”  She passed the second child to Tasarian, and went into the bathing room to draw warm water to fill the basin.

Meanwhile Tasarian set them both on a rug by the hearth, still crying.  She bent over them, talking in the sing-song voice common to all who care for younglings everywhere.  “You are smelly little elflings, yes you are!  Shall we give you a bath?  Yes?  Then wait here while I get some fresh clothes and swaddling from the cupboard.”

Firienë returned and collected a baby, stripping off the soiled clothes.  Tasarian watched carefully as she checked the temperature of the water, then tested it herself to be sure.  “Just right,” she praised.  “Well done.”  She slid the elfling into the warm water, while Firienë undressed the second twin and added him to the basin.  The crying stopped immediately. 

“They like it,” Firienë commented.  “Lady Celebrían told me they did.”  The two nursemaids set to work, washing them clean and splashing them gently, laughing as both twins kicked and waved their hands contentedly.  Once clean, Tasarian let them splash for a moment,  then picked up a clean towel, removed her elfling from the bath and wrapped him swiftly and warmly.  She carried him through to the bedroom and placed him back on a blanket on the hearthrug as Firienë appeared with her charge.

“You go back and put everything away,” Tasarian instructed her apprentice,  “while I dress them.”  She had just dried and dressed one baby when there was another wail – but this time, not from either of the twins. 

It was Firienë, and she sounded utterly dismayed. “Oh no!  Oh no, oh no, oh no!  Oh, what have I done!”

Puzzled, Tasarian turned to look, wondering what disaster had befallen the girl.  “Well?  What have you done?”

Firienë appeared in the doorway, her face tragic.  Numbly, she held out her hand towards Tasarian.  She held two small silvery bracelets.  “I took them off when I undressed them,” she whispered.  “I took them off.”

Tasarian looked from the bracelets to the twins, content and clean-smelling, laying  side by side on the blanket, and she dropped her head into her hands.  “You took their bracelets off?” she repeated, wanting to be absolutely sure of the magnitude of this calamity.

Firienë nodded miserably.  “Yes. And now – Tasarian, which is which?”

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