Summary: This is the story that happens when one types “what year did Aragorn start searching for g” into Google, and it suggests “goldfish,” instead of Gollum.
Disclaimer: I am not making any money from this; everything belongs to the Tolkien estate.
A small hand tugged at Elessar’s sleeve.
“Yes, Eldarion?” murmured Elessar as he looked through his dispatches.
“Ada, Heletheg is sleeping in his bowl. He won’t swim.”
Elessar set down his pen. Eldarion’s lip was just beginning to quiver.
“Can you heal him, Ada?”
Elessar suspected that all the athelas in the healing hands of many kings would not prevent Heletheg from waking up in the house of Uinen.
“Faramir, please clear my calendar,” he asked, giving his Steward a knowing glance. If he hurried, he could just get to the pet store in the third level before it closed.
Stopping by his bedchamber to grab his trusty ranger’s cloak, Elessar slipped out a side entrance of the palace. Now was not the time to be waylaid by well-wishing subjects or to have his ears bent by their concerns. Descending through the twists and turns of the level gates, he glanced up at the sun. It was slipping down; he needed to hurry.
In his inattention, he bumped into a woman carrying a basket back from the market.
“Careful!” she cried, as some apples fell.
“Goheno nin,” he murmured, holding up his hands to placate the woman.
He stooped to pick up the fallen apples and carefully placed them back on top of the basket. As he straightened up, his hood fell partway back on his head. The woman squinted, startled.
“You!” she exclaimed.
Elessar took off.
He quickly weaved in and out of the crowds returning from their shopping, trying to look very official and filled with unbotherable purpose, as if he were on some important mission for the king. There were enough of his kinsfolk in the city that the sight of a Dúnedain from the North was more commonplace than it used to be.
Panting, he finally made his way to the gate to the third level. It was lucky people were only stopped going up, and not down!
Was it this street? Or that alley? He whipped his head around, beginning to feel panicked. His instincts said to take the street on his left. The Valar were with him, because after another moment’s jog, he saw a signboard of a fish over a shop. He looked at the door; the hours said he had a quarter-water-mark left. Despite this, the shopkeeper had just rolled up the awning and was going back inside.
“Wait! IJustNeedAFishAndI’llGoAway!” he blurted out, reaching for the man.
The shopkeeper froze, astonished to see a deranged madman screaming and lunging for him. He was even more astonished when he realized that the deranged madman was none other than Aragorn II, Elessar Telcontar, heir of Isildur, and King of Gondor and Arnor.
“Your, your… Majesty,” stuttered the shopkeeper as he made a deep bow, breaking protocol by not lowering his gaze in the king’s presence. The shopkeeper was keeping his eyes on this one. When one’s life was in danger, it made sense to break protocol.
Elessar stopped and took a deep breath. He brushed his hair out of his face. He realized what a spectacle he must be making. Discretion and time were of the essence, if he were to help Eldarion.
“Good Sir, I am looking for a goldfish. You sold me a fancy one last year, an orange one with a fluffy tail. The Prince was very pleased with it. Regretfully, I find myself in need of another one.”
The already-flustered shopkeeper turned very pale. “Your Majesty, those were a special purchase from the jungles of southern Harad.”
Elessar looked the shopkeeper in the eye, equally horrified. “What can I do?”
Thinking quickly, the shopkeeper motioned him inside. “Your Majesty, if I may?” He led the anixious father to a table with an array of glass bowls. “If I remember correctly, young Master Eldarion selected a ‘fancy goldfish,’ one of our finest. We do have some similar breeds. Do you think he would like any of these?”
Elessar paced back and forth between the bowls. He rubbed his elbows in fear; what if he selected the wrong one? Which one looked like Heletheg? Could he find a close enough replacement that Eldarion wouldn’t notice?
“That one!” He pointed at a bowl containing a fish that was at least the right shade of orange, even if it had spots, unlike the lamented Heletheg, and the tail wasn’t quite right.
“A ‘shubunkin?’ An excellent choice, your Majesty.” The shopkeeper bustled off to find a plain glazeware pot to carry the fish in. Scooping the new fish out with a net, he placed it into the pot, sealing it with waxed paper and string.
It was all Elessar could do to grab the jar out of his hands. “Please send the bill to my Steward,” he gasped.
“Would your lady Queen be interested in a bird?” the shopkeeper interjected hopefully. “We have some lovely parakeets from Near H-”
“No! I mean, another time, perhaps,” Elessar finished, by this time almost hopping with worry. He had to get back to the palace before Eldarion’s Nurse brought him back to his rooms. “Good sir, I will make sure you get a Royal Warrant if you please just don’t tell anyone about this purchase.”
The shopkeeper stepped back, blinking. “Yes, your, your Majesty,” he stammered.
Elessar thanked the shopkeeper and tugged his hood back over his face. He grabbed the pot from the shopkeeper so hastily that it could almost have been considered rude. Tucking the sealed pot carefully in the crook of his arm, he hurried back up the hill. Going up was much harder than going down! He really needed to get back to his daily regime of climbing up and down mountains, he thought. When one was King, one was expected to ride on horseback, or the dreaded palanquin of which his wife was so fond.
Luckily, being the King, he knew all the passwords for each level gate. He slipped back in the side entrance unnoticed. He had only a few minutes to spare. He rushed through the kitchens and up the servants’ staircase, startling a housemaid and a footman flirting on a landing. He made it into the playroom otherwise unnoticed. There was poor Heletheg in his bowl, truly beyond help from even the best House of Healing. Falastur sat in the rocking chair opposite, watching with a speculative gaze. Elessar narrowed his eyes. Falastur swished his black and white tail.
Elessar swallowed hard and reached into the bowl to grab out poor Heletheg. He dumped the water out the nearest window, and gently poured the contents of the new pot into the bowl, with the new goldfish. Heletheg II swam around the bowl- a good sign, he thought.
Falastur hopped down from the chair and stretched. He tripped lightly over to Elessar’s legs, rubbing against them.
“You may get fish some days, Falastur, but today is not that day,” scolded the King. “Show some respect, you evil beast.” His eyes were beginning to water, and the cat was getting black hairs on his third-best pair of court leggings. He gently wrapped Heletheg I into his handkerchief. Holding the pinched corners out in front of him, he looked around, trying to find a proper solution.
He heard footsteps in the hall, and the laughter of a child. He ran for the water closet. His valet would scold him about the lost handkerchief, but there had to be some benefit to being a King, after all.
Shaking the water off his hands after washing them, he walked back into the playroom just as Eldarion came in with his Nurse. Arwen stood behind them, peering around the doorsill. Elessar crouched down to give his son a big hug. He took his hand and guided him to the bowl on the shelf.
“Look, Eldarion! I restored Heletheg!” he said, with all the sincerity he could muster. Arwen and the Nurse both flicked their eyes at the bowl, then raised their eyebrows at the King.
“How did Heletheg get spots, Ada?” asked Eldarion, confused. “And his tail isn’t fluffy any more. Did he have chicken pox?”