I opened my eyes to an unknown landscape of peaks and valleys. I had just enough wits to wonder where my bedroom ceiling was, and then the landscape resolved itself into Nesta’s face. She was peering at me as healers do.
“Follow my finger with your eyes,” she ordered. I did so as she waved her hand slowly, back and forth. Suddenly she moved her hand away altogether and I followed that too. It was a mistake. I grew dizzy, and the next thing I knew, I turned my head to one side and emptied the contents of my stomach onto the floor.
“Drinking wine again?” Nesta said with no sympathy. “Well you will feel better without it. No wonder you fell.”
Then everything came back to me. I remembered yesterday’s peaceful sunset and the loud interruption of Nath. I recalled going to meet my Dwarvish customer, so ancient and strange, and the excitement that gripped me when Gimli said, “My friend is an Elf.” That is, to be honest, it was not excitement that I had felt. It was disbelief; it was apprehension. It was fear.
No longer shaky or sick, but with a pounding heart, I jumped from my bed. I had to know if it were true. “Where is Master Gimli?”
“Waiting for you downstairs. While you have laid up in bed, your shop has been busy. Your customer’s ship from Ithilien arrived early this morning and is now at the quays. Nath has been there all morning, helping to rig the sails. They are beautiful as usual, and so is the ship.”
“Please tell Gimli I am coming,” I said. When Nesta was gone I cleaned away my mess and washed myself. Opening my shutters, I let in the warm, close air and saw storm clouds gathering seaward. Being as superstitious as any of the sea folk, I threw on some of my brightest clothes as a talisman. They made me feel better at once
Sky blue is for good luck, I assured my misgivings silently, and that was when the air in the chamber changed from storm-warm to cold as a crypt. I gasped; my exhaled breath came out smoking. A frigid kind of fog seemed to wrap tendrils around me like an embrace and then I felt fingers indeed, creeping over my shoulders.
“ Aiiii, what is it?” I shrieked, tearing around like a mad woman.
“Mistress?” It was Stitch, coming up the stairs at a run. We collided just outside my door, and for the second time in a few hours I went tumbling, all the way to the landing. Stitch watched from above; the Dwarf gazed up at me from the bottom of the stairs.
“You are, ah, well this morning?” said he.
I straightened up hastily. I allowed that I was well, and that I was pleased to see him. “I stepped on a mouse,” I explained. “Fetch the cat, Stitch.” Stitch stared at me wide-eyed. We had no cat.
Putting the odd experience away for future contemplation, I asked Gimli if he wished to go to the quays.
“I do,” he replied. So we went outside, heading west on the boardwalk toward Berendil’s tavern and the quays beyond. Every eye noted our passing. We would be the talk of the waterfront from the shipyards to the ropewalk.
“You will want to meet my friend, of course, and he wishes to meet the sail maker,” Gimli continued. “But I must tell you something. This Elf means more to me than my own clan.”
“They say opposites attract. How strong the forges of friendship –“
“So if you do not wish for death at my hands, do not trouble him.”
I stopped walking; I could not believe my ears. He stopped too, as soft and yielding as any stone. He looked me over appraisingly, judging my character and maybe finding it no better than it should be. To be sure, I thought, this day holds surprises.
I found my voice. “Well – Master Gimli, I do not doubt you were once a fearsome warrior. But you need not threaten. I would never –“
“I make no jest about it. I will kill you. He is troubled. Do not add to his cares.”
Just as I was about to reply – what, I don’t know - a voice called, “Hoy, Gimli!”
I had never heard the voice before in my life, or any other voice like it.
Suddenly the name of Gimli meant somewhat more to me. I knew my history very well, and I knew exactly whose voice called, even before Gimli returned the greeting.
“Legolas!” he was shouting. “Legolas!