Story by Zhie
Betaed by Charlie
Art by Mark Medved & Color by Zhie
"Lieutenant?" Thandronnen didn't bother looking
up as he nodded. "There's a swan boat out of dock, floating in the
Celebrant." Another nod. "Would you like one of us to retrieve it?"
Thandronnen shook his head. "She might bite you," warned the officer, looking now over the trees toward the river, shading his eyes from the sun. "She might look easy to deal with, but she's a mean one if you corner her. How's the wind?"
The guard shook his head. "No wind down there, sir," he answered. “Shall I tell her parents?”
“Just her father, thank you,” he said. The scout gave a nod and headed back through the forest to the city proper.
- - -
“I’m all alone, there’s just me. Nobody cares, a-bout me.” A forlorn little voice sang to herself, knees drawn up to her chest as the boat she was in floated down the river. Sighing, she pushed down the hood of her cloak to get a better view of what was going on around her. Water lapped gently against the side of the vessel. Birds flew overhead and sang to each other. Near the edge of the water, a family of deer was drinking.
“Hey, you!” she called out, addressing the fawn. When he looked up and focused his big brown eyes on her, she said, “You better watch out. As soon as you start growing up and they decide they want a different baby, they’ll forget all about you!”
The fawn flicked his eyes and bent his head to drink again.
“Fine! Don’t believe me! But it’s true!” Leaning back again, Celebrian continued to sulk. “Nana wants a boy ‘cause I wasn’t born the right way. Ada wants another baby because I’m not cute and little anymore.” A swallow landed on the edge of the boat and chirped at her. “What am I going to do? I’m running away, that’s what I’m going to do! They don’t care, and they’ll never miss me,” she told the bird.
He chirped again. “Well, I’ll sail away west, of course,” she replied. “And then they’ll be sorry that they didn’t love me,” she pouted. Another chirp. “No, they don’t. If they did, they wouldn’t need another baby. They have me.”
The bird twittered his farewell and fly off. Celebrian heaved a sigh and rested her chin on her knees.
On the shore, the sparrow flew to the elf hidden behind the trees, and landed upon his shoulder. Celeborn listened to the message the tiny bird gave him before it flew away. The tall elf kept watch on the boat that carried his little daughter downstream a little longer.
- - -
“No one loves me, no one cares. I’ll run away and eat dragon hairs.” The silly songs were making Celebrian feel a little better about things, but overall she felt terrible. Peeking a look behind her, she frowned to see nothing but water and trees at either side. The telltale signs of the city were hidden from her view, and the sky was darkening. A noise near the shore alerted her, and she turned in fright to see someone moving in the twilight through the water toward the boat.
“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear,” she whispered to herself, trying to pull the paddle off of the side so that she could move the boat away. The latch was locked, and she struggled with it to loosen the locked oar. As she worked on this, she neglected to watch the elf who approached, no longer wading, but now swimming through the water.
Two large, wet hands were placed over hers, and she shrieked. She stopped when she looked up. “Ada?”
Celeborn lifted her hands from the boat. He was still treading the water, keeping afloat at the side as he unlocked the latches and placed Celebrian’s hands back on the paddle. “Hold that or it will float away,” he instructed as he climbed into the boat.
As soon as he was inside, he leaned over the opposite edge and loosened the other oar, then took hold of both of them and began pulling them through the water in long, even strokes. “Shall we stop home before we go to Valinor?” he asked.
“You were heading west, but it is a long journey,” he explained. “We should let your nana know where we are off to.”
Celeborn continued to paddle the boat, moving them in the direction of the shores of Lothlorien. “If that’s where you want to go, then I’ll go with you.”
“Why?” she asked softly.
“Because I love you. It makes me sad that you want to run away, but if you want to, then I’m coming with you.”
Celebrian was silent for a few minutes, then practically pounced her father, and was wrapped immediately in his arms as soon as he pulled the paddles into the boat. “I don’t really want to run away,” she said tearfully, “I just want you to love me.”
“I do. And so does your mother. Very, very much, and we always will.”
“And I don’t want another baby around,” she added.
Chuckling softly, Celeborn said, “That is a more difficult matter. It isn’t that we love you any less, it is that we have so much love that we want to share it with another child, too. Did you know, as much love as we all have for each other, there will be even more if there is another baby?” Celebrian sniffled, determined not to cry, and shook her head. “Well,” continued Celeborn, “not only will we love you still the same as we do now, but we will love the baby, and in turn, he or she would love all of us. Won’t that be nice?”
“Do I get to keep my room?” asked Celebrian.
“If you like,” Celeborn said, cuddling his daughter.
“And my toys. I want to keep all of my toys.”
Suppressing his laughter, Celeborn nodded. “I’m sure that can be arranged.”
“I still don’t know if I like the idea,” she said as they neared the dock.
“Let me tell you a story,” said Celeborn, “about a little elfling who didn’t have any brothers or sisters who told his parents he didn’t want any. He was very adamant, and he said he would even sell the baby if he could when it arrived. And when the time came, he looked into the crib and decided, when the baby smiled up at him, that maybe it wasn’t so bad to have a little brother, and he decided to keep him.”
“Were you the elfling?” asked Celebrian.
“No,” said Celeborn with a smile. “I was the baby.”
“And your brother almost sold you!?”
“For some shiny rocks and a toy sword, from the story I was told,” Celeborn answered.
Celebrian sat up a little as the boat came to rest against its dock. “I’m glad you weren’t sold.”
“Me, too,” agreed Celeborn as they climbed out of the boat. Pausing on the dock to look back out over the river, he added, “I think I’m worth a bit more than a few rocks and a sword. A whole bag of rocks maybe,” he mused.
“A whole barrel,” said Celebrian. “No, a boat full,” she corrected, spreading her arms out wide.
“The boat would sink,” said Celeborn as they walked back to the Great Mallorn.
“A carriage full?” Celebrian giggled. “You’re worth a carriage full of rocks.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” winked Celeborn.
They walked in silence until Celebrian asked, “You and nana are still going to have another baby, aren’t you?”
“I think it’s quite possible,” Celeborn answered. “Promise me you won’t sell him?”
“I promise,” she said, but Celeborn interrupted for, “Unless you can get at least a whole carriage full of rocks.” He picked up his giggling daughter and perched her up on his shoulder for the walk home.