The prince was crying as if the world was ending, a miserable hiccuping sob. The young page pushed open the door to the Queen’s bed chamber. He tentatively peeked around the corner. The Queen was with the prince so he shouldn’t be crying. Blair was usually happy, grinning a toothless smile that begged everyone to join in.
A tiny fist appeared over the top of the crib, waving angrily. Galvanised, Laird Jamie darted forward. He peeked over the edge of the crib and then recoiled, tears brimming in his eyes.
“Goddess, the stench!” He coughed miserably. The smell was beyond belief.
Nose pinched, he peeked back into the cradle. Blair was red with anger, his legs working ten times to the dozen. His face was clenched like a fist and his mouth was wide open as he wailed.
Jamie was about the call for the Queen when he realised that she was curled up in a ball on her royal four poster bed. She was deeply and totally asleep, the sleep of the truly exhausted.
The demands of a new born prince and a difficult pregnancy had taken all of her vigour, she had been a pale, washed out version of the Queen for many months. If she was sleeping through this racket, she was indeed wearied.
“Sssssh, you’ll wake your mother.”
Blair was not placated.
Gingerly, Jamie reached into the crib, then backed off. He couldn’t pick up such a wee soul. The prince might break. Blair wriggled angrily and something which was a strange yellowish colour oozed from the edge of his nappy. Jamie retreated to the edge of the room.
The wails increased dramatically.
Jamie darted back to the crib. “Shush; your mama.”
Unenthusiastically, the young laird reached into the crib. Blair hiccuped miserably as he touched his chest. Hating every moment but reluctant to leave the bairn in such woe, Jamie lifted the prince from the crib. The baby’s head wobbled alarmingly and Jamie clutched him, nappy and all, against his chest. Blair gummed the heavy brocade sable escutcheon on Jamie’s tunic.
At least he had stopped crying. Realising that he had to do something about the stench, Jamie walked extremely carefully -- placing one foot in front of the other with great deliberation -- to the en suite bathing room. He had never cleaned such a scrap before. The laird had helped his little brother a few times, but Stephen could talk and move without wobbling.
Blair had no answer, he just drooled down Jamie’s neat tunic.
Remembering the appallingly wobbly neck, he laid the prince on the bottom of the ceramic bath very carefully. Blair reacted to the change in situation with a new, louder wail and began to slip down the bath.
Frustrated, Jamie grabbed a towel and set in on the base of the bath. Before Blair could bang his fists against the sides, he snaked the towel under the tiny body. The whinging prince seemed moderately enchanted by the change. He stopped crying and seemed to scrunch up into a tight little ball. He held the pose and then relaxed; a beatific smile on his face.
“Oh, Goddess.” Jamie reeled away from the bath, gagging.
There was a flannel beside the washing bowl and water urn. He grabbed it and drenched it in the water from the urn. Plastering the wet cloth over his face he found some relief from the appalling stench.
Loath, he peeked back over the side of the bath. Blair gazed back at him, his long eyelashes wet and spiked together. He sniffled.
Keeping one hand over his mouth and nose, Jamie – one handed – released the catches and fastenings on Blair’s tiny night robe. He half closed his eyes as he released the pin holding the nappy, it fell away but the laird was unable to finish using only one hand.
Taking a deep breath, he manhandled Blair’s chubby limbs out of the night robe and then slipped the smelly nappy out from under his hips. The laird didn’t even pause, just launched them out of the window and down into the court garden. Out of sight and out of mind and most importantly out of reach.
Jamie retched, there was yucky yellow matter caking the prince’s bottom and legs. It still smelled awful. Zinging through the fire warming spell faster than ever before – his teacher would be proud – he warmed the water in the urn beside the bath.
“How?” he demanded. “How, by The Sentinel, am I supposed to do this?”
He set the urn at the prince’s feet and just as he reached to pick him up, Jamie realised that his tunic was contaminated too.
The tunic joined the nappy and the night robe in the garden.
Breathing deeply out the window, he took the time to roll up the sleeves of his under shirt. Then girding himself, he ducked back into the room. Blair’s temper had improved and he was watching the world around him.
“You’re going to be good aren’t you?” Jamie asked
Blair just blew a spit bubble.
Carefully, Jamie gripped Blair under his arms and lifted. The head wobbled and Jamie uncomfortably leaned into the bath angling his hand to support the prince’s neck and head. Blair worked his feet against the towel, he seemed content to put up with the manhandling.
“Ready?” Jamie asked.
Blair just laughed.
“I call upon thee to do my bidding at thy discretion,” Jamie intoned and nodded at the urn. He was supposed to gesture but his hands were full.
A little see-through hand gripped the rim of the urn, and then a tiny water elemental climbed out of the vessel. It was about a foot high and garbed in a gown of ripples and streams. The being cocked its pointy head in question.
“Can you help me wash Blair?” he pleaded. “I can’t do it on my own.”
Blair made a tiny little noise, a delighted gurgle, entranced by the figure.
The water elemental laughed and jumped down from its perch on the rim. Warm water sloshed out of the urn behind the being in a tiny wave that moved up the bath to tickle Blair’s feet.
The baby chortled.
Water ran this way and that, climbing up Blair’s knees and legs and running back down. Where the water touched, clean, pink skin was revealed. The elemental pointed imperiously to the plug hole and the mucky water coursed away. More water flowed out of the urn, it took a mad dash up the side of the bath and ran over the top of the soap before launching itself onto Blair’s tummy. Blair’s eyes widened in shock.
“It’s fine,” Jamie grinned at his charge and was rewarded with a toothless, gummy smile.
Blair batted his hands in the direction of the wriggling soap bubbles. Following the water elemental’s directions, they too ran away down the drain. Yet more water flowed from the urn, this rinsed up and down and over the prince. Jamie felt it wash the soap from his own fingers before disappearing down the plug hole.
The water elemental pirouetted, bowed and then dove after its friend.
“Thank you,” Jamie called.
Twisting, he lifted Blair out of the bath and set him on the floor on another fluffy towel. Gently, tongue caught between his teeth he carefully dried the baby. He leaned over to check that the prince was completely dry, sniffing to make sure he was clean, and Blair grabbed his border braid.
“No,” Jamie whimpered. He caught the tiny hand clenched around his plaited hair. The prince’s small fingers were interwoven with the strands. Blair gave a strong yank.
“Let go,” Jamie pleaded as he gently tugged at the fingers.
Blair laughed and released him, but he eyed the neat braid with a speculative gleam in his eye.
“Ah, a, ah!” Jamie tucked the braid under his collar.
Grumbling, the laird finished drying off the prince and dusted his skin with cornstarch as he had seen the Queen do. There were no baby clothes in the bathroom so he swaddled the prince in another towel.
Holding the prince against his chest he rose. Blair nuzzled his collarbone, sighing contentedly. Half way out of the bathroom he heard a querulous voice waft up through the open window from the gardens.
“What have I just stepped in!”
The Queen lay curled on her side feigning sleep. She had woken as the page had carried her son to the bathroom. Lord Ellison’s grandson had been so focused on his prince that he had been oblivious to her watching. It had certainly been an innovative way to bathe a baby. Jamie carefully laid the prince in his cradle and cooed. Queen Naomi smiled into her pillow; it had indeed been a bonding moment.