Before the Island: Renato

“That woman tried to throw her own baby off that bridge?!” screamed Aurora. She tried to stand up in the wagon, but the motion only made her do an angry waddle in her seat. “Why would she do such a thing? How could she have brought herself to do it? What-“

“Sometimes women are left with no choice,” Lucio interrupted. He sat opposite her in the wagon. “This little one was probably carried by its mother in secret. Sometimes, the world isn’t a very welcoming place to new mothers. But I’m a firm believer that every newborn child has a right to live. I’m so glad we saw the opportunity to save it.” He held the baby close in a protective embrace. Aurora relaxed and looked at the night sky. She could see the forest on the horizon. They should be back home a few hours before sunrise.

“Well, then what do you suggest we do?” she said. “Is it a boy or a girl? Is it even alive? It hasn’t made a single sound all night!”

Lucio undid the rest of the wrappings and examined the baby. It was a newborn boy, and looked like it came into the world less than a few hours ago.

“I can’t hear him breathing,” said Lucio. “But he’s still warm. There might be a chance to save him, but I can’t do it here. Lothlorien, get us home as fast as you can!”

“With pleasure,” said the Guardian. Her trot turned into a smooth gallop that hardly jostled the wagon.

They arrived back at Lucio’s cottage in the beautiful clearing. Everything seemed just as they left it. Guardians were grazing everywhere, and the Orbs of Feor covered the trees and dotted the grassy meadow. They pulled up behind the cottage so they wouldn’t have to cross the stream running in front of it, and Lucio quickly undid the illusion spells he cast on Lothlorien and the wagon.

“I need to examine him further and see what I can do,” he said as he jumped out of the wagon. “But I need to do this alone.” He walked with the child in his arms to the front of the cottage without saying another word. Any Guardians nearby bowed their heads to him as he passed. Aurora heard his front door open and close, and she sat in the back of the wagon for a moment looking stupefied.

“Aurora? Are you alright?” said Lothlorien. The girl shook herself awake to find that Lothlorien was still hitched up to the wagon. The Guardian was turned around as much as she could with a quizzical look on her face.

“Yes! Sorry,” she scurried out of the wagon and unhitched her.

“Ah! That’s much better!” Lothlorien stretched her legs and did a high trot in a circle. Her long white mane rippled and bounced every which way as she danced.

“Beautiful!” Aurora giggled. Lothlorien whinnied and tossed her head to flick a piece of hair out of her face. The girl unpacked their possessions from the wagon and placed them near the front door of the cottage. She saw flashes of light come from the windows as she passed. There didn’t seem to be any place for the wagon to be stored, so she left it where it was. She wasn’t sure of what else to do, so she found Lothlorien grazing in the meadow on the other side of the stream. The Guardian laid down on her side when Aurora approached.

“Come, you should lay down with me,” said Lothlorien. “You need some sleep.” Aurora didn’t object, and laid down on the soft grass propped up against Lothlorien’s immaculate white side. Her coat felt like velvet against her skin. She could see more flashes of light through the cottage windows.

“What do you think he’s doing in there?” asked Aurora.

“It’s hard to say,” said Lothlorien. “But I’m sure he’s doing his absolute best. Saving this child is very important to him.”

“Understandably so,” said Aurora. They didn’t say anything else after that, and Aurora felt her eyelids droop.

“I’ve saved them Christopher!” she thought. “I’m so glad I got to meet them! I only hope that you know they are safe, and I still love you more than anything. Please, make contact with me soon!” She let herself drift off to a dreamless sleep while the Orbs floated around them.

***

Lothlorien saw Lucio emerge from the cottage a while later, and she shook Aurora awake. The Magician walked across the meadow to them while Aurora yawned and stretched. He was still carrying the small bundle in his arms, and his face looked bleak. He stood before them for a moment completely silent.

“A stillborn,” he said at last. “I could see that he had a normal birth, and his mother didn’t do him any harm. He was just born without a soul to enter his body.” He stroked the baby’s face while he spoke. Aurora couldn’t tell if he was about to cry or explode in anger.

“You tried your best,” Lothlorien said as she got up. She nuzzled the side of his head, and he wrapped his arm around her head without looking up from the baby.

“It’s true,” said Aurora. She got up and touched the baby’s face. “At least he had one person that truly cared about him. Lucio looked up at her and smiled.

“No, he had three people,” he said. He took his free arm from Lothlorien and drew her in an embrace while Lothlorien rested her head on Lucio’s shoulder.

“He deserves a funeral,” said Aurora. “And a name. What should we call him?”

“I wanted to name him Renato, meaning reborn,” said Lucio. “But it’s not very fitting now.”

“I’m sure we’ll think of something,” said Lothlorien. The humans nodded, and they silently started to head back to the cottage. An ache began to form in Aurora’s chest, and before she knew it, tears were streaming down her face.

“What is it, my dear?” said Lucio. They stopped to look at her.

“I don’t know,” said Aurora. “I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what we would do if the baby was saved, and I didn’t want to think about it. There is already so much to deal with now. But now that we know he didn’t live, I feel terrible about thinking that way! Death seems to follow me everywhere! I should have done something! I must have some sort of curse put upon me! How long will it be before both of you are gone too?”

She broke down into loud sobs while Lucio and Lothlorien reached out to comfort her. They were about to say something when a large gust of wind blew in their faces. The Orbs of Feor flew in the gust and swirled into a big ball of light in the center of the meadow. It separated into two smaller balls of light, and formed the outlines of a human and a Guardian. Details began to form within the profiles, to reveal MoonStone and Christopher just as they were before they died, but they radiated a beautiful golden light.

“MoonStone?” whispered Lothlorien. The golden Guardian nodded and smiled. Lothlorien gasped and chuckled a little as she slowly walked toward him. “I can’t believe it’s you.”

“Christopher,” breathed Aurora. He smiled and nodded.

“Yes, it’s me” he said. She tore off through the meadow toward him, but a sharp yell from him made her and Lothlorien come to a screeching halt.

“Please, don’t touch us. Now now, or we’ll fade away.” Aurora composed herself and stood next to Lothlorien. “We have been waiting for the right time, and it has finally come.” He looked at MoonStone, who nodded in agreement. “We came to say goodbye, and we are sorry that we left you alone in this world. Know that I will always be watching you from the tree branches, and I am so, so proud and thankful for you! I can sense that my family is safe, and they are happy. And that is a debt I can never repay to the three of you.”

“What do you mean ‘I’?” said Lothlorien. “Won’t you be watching us too, MoonStone?”

“That’s another reason why we’re here,” he replied. “Being in the realm of The Orbs is nice, but it’s very lonely. I’m the only Guardian there. I want to be in a place where I’m not the only one.”

“Where would that be?” Aurora blurted out.

“I want to try to enter that child’s body,” said MoonStone. “I may not be a Guardian anymore, but I know I won’t be lonely.”

“That’s never been done before!” exclaimed Lucio. “We don’t know what would happen, or if it would even work! But if one of you must, there’s a higher chance if Christopher enters the body.”

“There’s no harm in MoonStone trying,” said Christopher. “Besides, I’d rather watch our child grow, than become our child. How do feel about becoming a mother, Aurora?”

The poor girl didn’t know what to say. Her head was being stuffed with too much information at once.

“I…I’ve always wanted to be a mother,” she whispered. “But only with you as my husband! I can’t possibly do it on my own!”

“You won’t have to do it on your own,” said Lucio as he walked up next to her. “Your child will be loved by so many.”

Christopher kissed his first to fingers, and an Orb flew from his hand and landed on the baby’s forehead.

“He will be strong, just like his mother,” said Christopher. “You will do well with him, I know you will.”

“I’m only strong when I’m with you!” shouted Aurora. “Please stay with me!”

“Have courage,” said MoonStone. He turned to Lothlorien. “Please, remember me for what I was. I will always love you.”

“And I you,” said Lothlorien. “No matter what form you take.”

“Don’t go!” Aurora shouted. “I can’t do this without you!”

“You are stronger than anyone I know,” said Christopher. “And the most caring. That’s why I fell in love with you. But now we must leave, our time is growing short.”

“No! Don’t leave me again!” She ran across the clearing and embraced Christopher with one final kiss. He slowly disintegrated back into hundreds of Orbs, until she was left with nothing. She turned and ran back to Lothlorien and Lucio, who was still holding the baby. Another Orb floated up to the baby and settled itself next to the one still perched on his forehead, and a bright light burst through the meadow. When everyone had regained their eyesight, there was only one Orb left. It floated up to Aurora’s face and paused for a moment before rising to join the other Orbs among the trees. The trio looked at each other in shock. The baby didn’t move.

“D-did it work?” asked Aurora. Lucio and Lothlorien didn’t answer. She worked the baby from Lucio’s arms and held him close to her face.

“Hello? Are you awake little one? Can you hear my voice?” Nothing happened for a moment or two, but the baby’s eyes opened and he began to stretch and move his limbs. Everyone gasped and heaved a sigh of relief. Aurora looked at Lucio and Lothlorien, her whole body shaking.

“It worked,” she whispered. “I-I think we can call him Renato now,” she stammered.

“Yes, said Lothlorien. “A very appropriate name.”

“Hello Renato,” said Lucio. The child let out a loud cry at the sound of his name.

“Hush little one,” whispered Aurora. “Don’t cry. Don’t….cry.”

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