Coralie was waiting at the riverbank for the others to arrive. A large throng of Elves had positioned themselves along the river’s edge to watch the race. The Hobbits were laying bets as to who would win.
“My money’s on Coralie,” said Pippin with confidence.
“Yeah! Just like you bet on who would get the first kiss from Coralie, Boromir or Legolas. We’re still waiting to see the outcome of that one!” said Merry crossly.
“Well, the race will be over soon enough and if I lose you will have your money quicker than you think. As far as the kiss is concerned, my money is still on Boromir.” Pippin replied.
“What makes you say that Pippin?” asked Frodo.
“For a start, it would be a fine match between the two of them. He is a prince you know. Also, to my way of thinking, Boromir works for Aragorn, who we know is the true king of Gondor…”
“Your point being?” interrupted Merry.
“Well, Aragorn has forsworn Coralie to himself as his sister, so that makes her a princess now doesn’t it? To me Boromir is the most logical choice. He is a prince, Coralie is Aragorn’s sister…..”
“But you are forgetting Legolas, Pippin. He is a prince too, you know.” Sam interrupted.
“You are just saying that, because you are quite barmy about Elves, Sam. What would an Elf like Legolas want with a mortal woman such as Coralie for goodness sake?” asked Pippin with a shrug.
Sam shook his head at him. “Probably a lot more than you’re willing to admit, Pippin. Haven’t you noticed the way he looks at her? Especially at the moment, now that she is wearing that bikini of hers. I wondered what his reaction would be, now that he has returned from the Northern Borders and can plainly see what we have been seeing all week long!” he replied.
“Yes, but Aragorn has had the same reaction too. They both want her to put her clothes back on, but Boromir is another story. Just look at him!” They all looked over at Boromir, who was standing a little ways off from where Coralie was making final preparations for her swim on the riverbank. Clearly, he was enjoying the view.
“His tongue is practically hanging out. Now that is a man who is definitely interested. I think he would be perfectly happy to see Coralie dressed permanently in that fashion from now on,” said Pippin with conviction.
Frodo shook his head. “But can’t you see Pippin, the fact that Legolas is prepared to race Coralie, so she will put her clothes back on, says a lot more about his feelings for her than Boromir’s open admiration at the moment?”
Pippin was adamant. “No, Legolas is merely lending his support to Aragorn. After all, he is a king, and Legolas probably wants to make sure that Coralie obeys him, as she should since he is now her kinsman. It is more a question of honour.”
“Yes it is a question of honour, Pippin. But not the kind you are thinking of. Legolas is more interested in Coralie’s honour than Aragorn’s, and that is because he loves her,” added Merry.
Pippin laughed. “That is the most absurd thing I have heard today. Boromir is the one for Coralie. I can feel it in my bones. Anyway, do you want to place your bets on who is going to win? I know it is going to be Coralie. Aragorn and Legolas haven’t seen her swim yet. Not really anyway. They are in for a big surprise. The football match might have been fixed a little, for Coralie’s benefit, but this is different. She is the mistress of the river, and they are about to find that out the hard way. Talagan was very crafty to have them challenge her to a swimming race. You don’t think he is interested in her as well do you?”
“Don’t be ridiculous Pippin. Why would you say such a thing?” said Frodo shaking his head at the Hobbit.
“Because, he knows she can win this race. Perhaps he doesn’t want her to put on her clothes anymore than Boromir does,” he answered.
“You could have something there, Pippin. He is always following her around everywhere she goes. Perhaps he has a little crush on the teacher, and who could blame him? I’ve seen the way you look at her too, Pippin. You are always making cow eyes at her,” laughed Frodo.
“What’s this about cow eyes?” asked a tall figure that loomed over them from behind. The Hobbits squinted up into the sun, to see Haldir standing behind them.
“Haldir!” they shouted and jumped up excitedly to greet him.
“What’s going on here?” he asked surveying the scene of Elves lining the riverbank.
“You’re just in time, Haldir. There is going to be a swimming race!” exclaimed an excited Pippin. “Want to place a bet on who is going to win?”
Haldir looked at him with a puzzled expression.
“Coralie is going to race Aragorn and Legolas up the river. Look!” Pippin pointed downstream to where Aragorn and Legolas now stood on the bank beside Coralie.
“By Eru! What is all this about?” exclaimed Haldir.
“Aragorn challenged Coralie to a swimming race so she would put her clothes back on. Mind you, she does have some clothing on. Don’t misunderstand me, she’s not actually running around naked or anything, though she might as well be….”
Frodo interrupted him. “What Pippin means to say, is that Coralie is wearing what she calls a bikini or swimming costume, and Aragorn is unhappy about her wearing it with so many males about.”
Haldir smiled. “I have seen this swimming costume as you call it before.”
“You have?” They all looked up at him with surprise.
“Yes I was her escort, remember? But how did it come to this? Why on Middle Earth would Aragorn challenge her to a race in order to have her get dressed, and what are all these Elves doing here?” asked Haldir.
`Talagan tricked him into challenging Coralie to a swimming race. You see they were shouting at each other,” said Merry
“Shouting at each other?” Haldir seemed genuinely concerned.
“They weren’t really shouting so much. But Coralie was defying Aragorn. You should have seen her stand up to him. Quite a sight it was,” corrected Frodo.
“Yes, I can imagine. But you still haven’t told me what all these Elves are doing here?” Haldir asked.
“We were playing football, and these are Elves that Coralie made friends with. You see she has sort of become their teacher, while you have been away. She has quite a following you know,” added Sam.
“Their teacher? What could a mortal woman possibly teach these Elves, that they don’t already know?” asked the Elf with a puzzled expression.
“All sorts of things, Haldir,” said Pippin.
“Please enlighten me,” answered the elf with an amused smile.
“Well, she has taught them that the trees give us oxygen to breathe, that they even have feelings, that the Earth as she calls our planet, revolves on its own axis around the sun, that there are nine planets in the solar system, that it would take light years to reach other solar systems in other galaxies, that our solar system is part of the Milky Way Galaxy and that is just for starters,” said Pippin triumphantly.
“Oh Pippin! You are a good student after all!” exclaimed Frodo.
“Not really. I just had to do an awful lot of extra homework this past week,” grimmaced Pippin in response.
“How could she possibly know all of that?” puzzled Haldir.
“You mean it’s all true?” Pippin was incredulous.
“Of course it is,” said Haldir in reply. “But how a mortal woman could know such things is beyond me.”
“Coralie is the most unusual woman I have ever met,” added Frodo. “She even taught us a funny song about the Galaxy. Would you like to hear it while we wait for the race to start?” Haldir laughed and nodded his head.
The Hobbits all joined together in song. Presently, fair Elven voices from all sides, joined them as well.
WHENEVER LIFE GETS YOU DOWN,
MRS. BROWN, AND THINGS SEEM
HARD OR TOUGH, AND PEOPLE ARE
STUPID, OBNOXIOUS OR DAFT AND
YOU FEEL THAT YOU’VE HAD QUITE
Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned,
A sun that is the source of all our power.
The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
Of the galaxy we call the ‘Milky Way’.
Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
It’s a hundred thousand light years side to side.
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
But out by us, it’s just three thousand light years wide.
We’re thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
We go ’round every two hundred million years,
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe.
The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whiz
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute, and that’s the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space,
`Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth.
“What are they singing?” asked Legolas in surprise as he stood beside Aragorn on the river-bank, as they prepared to race Coralie. She looked up and laughed.
“That’s `The Galaxy Song’! I taught it to them,” she said gaily.
“Someday I would like to ask you, how you came by this knowledge that is normally the sole province of the Elves,” he questioned.
“It is common knowledge where I come from Cave Elf!” laughed Coralie in return.
“She is still calling you that,” chortled Aragorn to Legolas.
“Yes, and I wish she would stop,” said Legolas with some exasperation.
Aragorn clapped him on the shoulder. “She also said you were beautiful, in almost the same breath remember? Would you have her stop calling you that as well?”
“But, why does she persist in calling me a `Cave Elf’?”
“Believe me, Legolas. She is actually paying you a backhanded compliment of sorts. Do not take it as an insult. You should actually count yourself lucky.”
Seeing the uncomprehending look on the Elf’s face, Aragorn went on. “Do not even try to understand her Legolas. No man or Elf, for that matter can possibly fully understand what goes on in a female’s head. They are a mystery, even to the wisest among us. Is this not so, even with female Elves?”
“Aye, it is.”
“There you have it. Females can be the most delightful but also the most aggravating creatures, you will ever have the pleasure of knowing, Legolas.” They both looked over to where she stood talking in hushed tones to Támurile.
“And our Coralie here can be counted as both one of the most delightful and aggravating we will ever encounter from amongst her sex. But you know… Apart from her clothing, or lack thereof, I wouldn’t change her for all of Middle Earth,” said Aragorn with a laugh.
“Neither would I,” replied Legolas. “And I am in total agreement with you about the way she is currently dressed.”
Aragorn smiled at Legolas. “Come! Let us win this race, as ridiculous as it may seem, for her sake.”
“Now Támurile tell me what is my fastest time over this distance for I gave you my watch in order to time me?” asked Coralie bending down to the Elven child with her hand on her shoulder.
“23:07, Princess,” she answered.
Coralie whistled in reply. “Wow! That is a world-class time! If I keep this up, I could possibly compete for Australia!” She stopped for a moment and looked a little wistful. “But I’m not in Australia anymore, am I Tamurile? I’m stuck here in Middle Earth with a bunch of Neanderthals, who want to boss me around!” Coralie said the last part of this sentence just loud enough for Aragorn and Legolas’ hearing.
“Are you sad, Princess to be here in Middle Earth and not back home?” asked the Elven child.
Coralie smiled down at her. “I just miss the beach, Love. I wouldn’t miss being here and meeting you for all the tea in China!” Coralie gave her a little squeeze. “Now Tammy, when you see I’m about 200 metres from the finish, I want you and Séretur to start shouting out the Australian war chant I taught you, loud enough for me to hear it, right? Then I shall know to give my final kick. I intend to win this race. I’m pretty upset at the way they fixed that football match. That was totally unfair. It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. I don’t mind losing, but I hate it when I’m not given an even playing field.”
Artapel joined the competitors on the beach. “I suppose I am expected to referee this race as well as the match. Well, you had better get in the water then.”
“Surely you two are not going to try and race me with all that gear on are you?” asked Coralie.
“Would you have us strip down to almost nothing as yourself, Lady?” responded Aragorn.
“I’m just trying to give you a fairer chance than you all gave me previously. At least take your shirts off, since you are that shy,” she countered.
Aragorn and Legolas hesitated for a moment. “How badly do you want to win?” she raised her eyebrows at them. Quickly they responded and disrobed down to their breeches, and waded into the water.
“Ah! The name `Cave Elf’ suits you after all Legolas. So that’s what you’ve been hiding underneath that lovely Elven ensemble of yours!” she grinned.
“Titheniel, you just called me Cave Elf and Legolas in the same breath, so perhaps you have forgiven me after all,” he said with a slight wink to Aragorn.
“That doesn’t mean I won’t try and beat you though. You both deserve a solid thrashing!”
“Are you ready?” cried Artapel to the three swimmers, who by now were treading water in the middle of the river.
“Actually, Artapel. I’m going to give them a head start,” shouted Coralie.
Legolas and Aragorn turned towards her. “You can’t do that Lady, that wouldn’t be fair!” said Aragorn.
“Wouldn’t it?” she asked in turn. “You both gave me an advantage on the football field, it is only right that I repay the favour here. You shall each have a three stroke lead. Then I shall follow.”
“She does have a point Aragorn,” said Boromir from the riverbank where he stood with Artapel.
“Aye, I suppose you do, Lady. Though I must admit, I don’t like it much at all. I would prefer that we all started together,” said Aragorn.
“You don’t know what you are up against Aragorn. I’m an Australian. I might as well have been born with fins. If this were a sword fight, you would give me some advantage wouldn’t you?” she asked in turn.
“I can’t imagine any reason that I would allow you to even pick up a sword, let alone face you with one. Come, now you are being absurd. We shall all start together.”
“Alright, Gentlemen. Don’t say I didn’t give you fair warning though,” nodded Coralie in agreement.
“Are you ready now?” cried Artapel again. They nodded in response. “Fine. I’m going to count to three and then say Go, agreed?” Again the three of them nodded. Artapel pointed at Coralie. “And Princess, if you don’t start with Aragorn and Legolas I shall disqualify you. Do you understand?” Coralie responded by rolling her eyes at him. “One, two, three go!” he cried.