“Outer,” said Legolas. “We came Outer. Did you see?”
Indeed I had seen. I was seeing it still, and now at least I knew where he got his ship craft. He could travel in time on the Path of Dreams; he could see beyond if the Valar allowed it! The vivid visions left me trembling. Never in my life had I dreamed of the minds of Elves. Nor had I seen a forest. But the Mortal girl...that was another basket of fish. Yes, indeed. Could I know her? Not likely, I tried to tell myself. If she indeed were a contemporary of Legolas in his youth, then she would be dead some three thousand years.
But this was just a poor attempt to fool myself. I knew her, despite all my determination to deny it, and while I was worrying it, Legolas spoke.
“Perhaps you would tell me something of your own lore,” he said politely. “My people like songs. Can you sing me a song, Sea-song?”
I can never remember things when people ask me without warning. Then I looked at him and recalled my perfect day.
“I will sing you a Remembrance song that I composed,” I said. “On Midsummer morn we sing such songs for those we lost at sea.” Boasting a little: “Everyone likes my song. Some folks change my words and sing it for their fathers but I first wrote it for my mother.”
Legolas turned to me sharply. Would that Gimli had been there to warn me, rather than resting his bones at the tavern.
♪ “Full fathom five my mother lies.
Of her bones are coral made.
Those are pearls that were her eyes.
Nothing of her that doth fade –“ ♪
Did I say it was a day of surprises? Here was another. When I spoke “fade” I became as light as air! I floated a foot off the deck! At the same time, my ability to breathe became restricted. Then I saw that a hand was wrapped around my throat – the hand of Legolas. I had no thought of what was happening and like a fool I used the last air in my chest to gasp the remaining words.
“ - But doth suffer a sea-change, into something rich and strange.”
He held his face close to mine. How could I have thought his eyes were clear? They were filled with a thick blue that was to the earlier color as cream is to whey. His lips, whose ends I had thought turned up like a bow, were curled with fury, and I was dying for lack of air.
He shook me like a rag toy, and I heard my heart pounding, feet pounding, voices shouting: “Legolas! Release her! Aerlinn! Aerlinn!”
Any other day this would seem strange, I thought dreamily, that two customers would wish to kill me within the space of an hour.
He let go. I was in no condition to follow what was happening but Nath’s strong arms gathered me up, and folk were walking me to the tavern. They put a cool cloth around my neck and offered me water. I knocked it away and whispered for wine, which they brought and I drank greedily.
After a while I heard, “I hope your affairs are well-ordered, Sail Maker. You have sewed your last sail.” It was Gimli.
I may say that his exasperation with me was complete. He was so angry he was hopping. I was reminded of the tale about the Dwarf who actually split himself in two from aggravation. I began to worry about his old heart.
“Peace, Gimli,” I whispered, testing my voice. “It was some accident of word or song, I do not know how I roused his anger. Besides, I am the injured party.”
“Tell me what you said to him, just before he seized you. If it was indeed an accident, then maybe I will spare you. But speak quickly.”
So I sang the Remembrance song for him.
“You are unlucky,” he said when I was done, adding, free of charge, “and perhaps weak. But good-hearted. Not cruel. You cannot have known how to pour salt into every open wound in his heart – with a song! ‘Mother,’ ‘fading,’ ‘sea-change.’ I see I must tell you a story, after which you will guard your tongue better. Not that he will speak to you again, save to ask your pardon. Which you will give.“
Outside we saw Legolas pacing on his ship.
“Tell me nothing,” I whispered, but Gimli did not hear me. The fear I had felt when he first came to my shop, the dread that claimed me in my room this morning, came back upon me like a bucket of cold rain. With senses heightened by the Path of Dreams and closeness to death, I knew it for premonition, and the third time is a spell.
“Then tell it,” I said, shivering.
“It is a story of Legolas long ago,” he began.
“I know. I know.”