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Journey out of Darkness
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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18
Drowning


"Where is Greenjade?" Radagast asked Sméagol as the men lifted the coffin onto the wagon to transport it to the burial ground.

"He leaved us," Sméagol replied, glancing about nervously as if he were somehow responsible for Greenjade's disappearance. "He says he have to piss hisself, but he don't come back."

"'Did not come back'," Radagast corrected him gently. "Well. I suppose he'll come back eventually. He needed to be by himself for a while, I suppose. Let's just give him his time to himself. I doubt he had enough of it."

He thought to himself that Sméagol looked very morose, and he was certain he knew why. Yes...he was going to miss the village also, particularly the Partridges. This was what came of getting attached to people. What came of being immortal, for that matter. He almost envied Sméagol at the moment. But what must be done, must be done.

He had a very good idea of what Greenjade's trouble was also.

He found himself glancing up at the sky.

"I believe it's going to rain soon," he said absently. "We had best proceed with the burial quickly."

Nell and Jem came toward the wagon to climb in, and Radagast considered asking Nell if she had seen Greenjade, when a cry startled him, and he looked over to see Jennie clutching her huge belly with one hand and Gil's arm with the other.

~*~*~

Greenjade had been mildly tipsy before, at the Quail and Pheasant, and it had been a pleasant feeling, although later he had been embarrassed at how silly he had acted later on. He had been disgusted at the behavior of other men who had gotten so drunk they had fallen over, wet their pants, vomited on the floor, sung obscene songs, or told of things that should have been kept to themselves, that Greenjade had resolved never to drink to that point. He would never make such a revolting spectacle of himself in front of Radagast, or Nell, or any of her family members.

But now he was in such pain, he was past caring what anyone thought of him, and could only think of relief. And they would be leaving tomorrow. Radagast would be understanding and forgiving, as always. He was never judgmental. Greenjade had seen him take those drunken men and gently lead them out of the tavern, or take them upstairs to sleep it off, after Tam Goodfellow threatened to toss them out on the street and Greenjade, embarrassed for Nell and her friends, was more than ready to help eject them.

It was early in the day yet, little past noon, but seeing as how there were people in the tavern already, Greenjade felt disinclined to wait. He opened the door, almost smiling to himself as he remembered seeing his reflection for the first time and thinking it another...how long ago had that been? Just two months? It seemed nearly a year.

"What is this stuff?" he croaked after the third glass of dark liquor. "It looks like something a cow spat up. Tastes like it too."

"You're that chap wot goes with the Wizard," noted a scruffy-looking man sitting at the table next to his. "Yer livin' at the Partridge place, am I right?"

"What if I am?" Greenjade slurred at him. "What's it to you?"

The scruffy man laughed. "Partridge has a right fair daughter," he said, "don't yer think? Must be nice. Bet yer gets to see plenty of 'er, if yer gets me drift." He made an attempt at a lewd wink of one eye, and ended up winking both eyes.

"Just keep your head shut about her, if you don't want my fist through it," Greenjade snarled. "She wouldn't look twice at you anyway, you scummy sea-slug."

"I bet she's looked twicet at YOU," laughed the scruffy man, then he hiccuped. What few others there were in the common room were getting interested, and some came to sit nearer. The innkeeper, whom the others called Dirk, laid down a rag with which he had been wiping the counter, and came closer.

"Shut it, Reggie," he said to the scruffy man, then he looked more closely at Greenjade, pointing a finger in his face. "You. Don't encourage him. He's naught but an old drunken sot. Just pay 'im no mind, and yer won't 'ave no trouble. I'm about this far--" he held his meaty thumb and forefinger about half an inch apart-- "--from chucking his bony arse into the street, meself. Don't make me 'ave to chuck yourn too. Wot brings yer 'ere anyways? Seems yer once thought yerself too fine fer me establishment."

"They're 'oldin' Rosa Whitflor's burial today," said another man close by. "The Quail an' Pheasant is closed on account of it."

"Aye, Bill, don't I know it," Dirk said. "That's were yer most usu'lly goes, ain't it?" he said to Greenjade. "That's where Miss Nell works, ain't it now?"

"Shut it about her," Greenjade growled, clenching a fist.

"Keep yer 'air on," Dirk said calmly. "I've plenty of respect fer Miss Nell. She's a nice wench. She--"

"Don't call her a wench," Greenjade said, attempting to stand, then plopping back into his chair. "That's not a polite word to use of a...a maiden."

"Strike me purple," Bill said, "he's rare stuck on 'er, 'e is. Hark at 'im!"

Reggie belched.

"Ah, I see it all now," Dirk said with a lift of one bushy eyebrow. "Jem's mum has finally gone to 'er rest, and now he and Miss Nell can wed, that's it. And yer gots a thing fer 'er now, and 'as come 'ere to drownd yer sorrows. I see it all now. Well. Yer can sit 'ere as long as yer will and get sloshed, and then me an' me lad will haul yer upstairs and pour yer inter bed when yer've 'ad yer fill. So long as yer be'ave yerself, that is. Yer picks a fight, and yer does it outside, got that?"

A boy of about fifteen came in just then. Dirk turned at the sound of his footsteps.

"'Ere you, Addy," he said, taking the boy by the sleeve and drawing him over to a corner of the room. He proceeded to speak to him in a low tone of voice, glancing Greenjade's way a time or two. Addy nodded, also looking Greenjade's way, removed the apron he wore, then went out the back door from whence he had entered.

"That's me lad, Addison," he said as he came back over to Greenjade. "'E's me youngest. 'E's got two sisters, both of 'em's wed, and I'm right proud of 'em. I wouldn't let no one speak of 'em with disrespect neither. So yer may be sure I wouldn't speak disrespectful of Miss Nell. She's a fine lass, she is. So. 'Ow much longer yer goin' to be in town?"

Greenjade looked up at him in bleary distaste. This fellow was being nosy, and was likely trying to pry some information out of him that was none of his business. Well, Greenjade wasn't telling him anything.

Dirk picked up a bottle from the counter and poured more of the contents into Greenjade's glass.

"Don't feel like talkin' 'bout it, eh?" he said. "Well then. 'Ave it yer way, and 'ave yer a drink. But that's all there is. When that's gone, yer ain't gettin' no more."

Greenjade stared mutely at the brown liquid in the glass. His stomach lurched a bit, and he vaguely remembered the first day he had come here, when he had tossed his luncheon all over the grass, and Nell coming with a pitcher of ginger-water.... He looked up, numbly, at Reggie, or was it Bill, who was looking at him with concern, or was it idle curiosity, and he turned his eyes back to his glass, and took a deep swallow. He was about to call out to Dirk to stop rocking his chair, when he realized no one was close by any more, even Reggie had moved on. The windows were dancing, and the room seemed full of water, sea water, the sun making a wavering light at the top. Fish were swimming about, small ones and large ones, and squid, and octopi, and whales, far away; he could hear their strange cries, so far, far away...and then he saw his children, looking at him blankly through a window. Two lads, two lasses.

Thundercloud...Hailstorm...Brightspear...Rainbow.

He called to them. Their faces did not change. Their faces were closed, dead, distant.

Father, you've dirtied the waters, he heard one of them say. Now we must go.

Then Dirk's voice: Go 'ome to yer mum now, yer pesky brats. Am I runnin' a sweetshop 'ere? Take yer snotty noses off me clean winder and point 'em in the direction yer came, go on now.

The faces disappeared behind a red curtain.

"Young varmits," Dirk muttered. "Don't know what their fascination with drunkards is. Yer'd think they'd be at the burial."

Thundercloud...Hailstorm...Brightspear...and Rainbow.

"Aye, looks like we may get us some thunder, at that," Dirk's voice was saying. "But hail? I misdoubt me that."

"Those are my children's names," Greenjade said, and his voice seemed to go no further than his teeth.

"Yer don't say?" Dirk sat down at the table across from him.

"They're dead, all dead," Greenjade whispered. "I killed them. I killed their mother. I killed my mother, and my father, and my brothers and my sisters. All dead. All gone to the Dark Prison. They had no boxes. No roses carved upon them. All dead. Drowned."

Dirk spoke again, but his words were no more intelligible than the voices of the whales.

"Garland," Greenjade said, as her face loomed above him. He lifted his eyes to her and saw her hair floating as a silver cloud on high water, on a high mountain, floating, her face as ice, her mouth a blue flower of pain. It made the shape of his name, his other name, his drowned name, that his dead father had bestowed on him, the name he had left behind in the Black Prison, the name that had become his spear and his shroud. Darkfin.

Thundercloud...Hailstorm...Brightspear...and Rainbow.

The glass fell from his hand and spilled its remaining contents into his lap, and his head flopped forward onto the tabletop, then sideways until it met with the floor and the empty glass.

~*~*~

Greenjade. Greenjade. Greenjade.

He groaned, bringing his fingers to his eyelids. Agh, such pain...he shut his eyes tightly and pressed his hands to his face.

"Greenjade, drink this. It will help you." Radagast's voice. Something hot against his lips. A gentle hand lifting his head, hot liquid entering his mouth, bitter to the taste. He gagged, hearing another voice he did not recognize. "Here, just drink it all down now. The pain will be gone soon. Then you can sleep it off."

Why did him get drunk? Nasty. Sméagol's voice.

Because he was in pain, Radagast's voice spoke. And he's in pain yet, but I dare say it was worse before. There are a good many in pain today. Jem has buried his mother. And Jennie is bearing her child. And Nell...

"Nell," Greenjade's lips formed the name. Then opened his eyes. He was in the room he shared with Sméagol, in his own bed, and Radagast stood beside him with the pewter cup in his hand. Sméagol stood close by, with Nilde at his feet. The room was dim, the curtains drawn. Greenjade heard a sound outside as of rain. He shut his eyes once more.

"Here, Greenjade," the Wizard's voice spoke soothing tones, "drink the rest of this. It will ease your pain and help you sleep. There--yes. Drink it all down. That's the way. Nell is at Gil's, keeping the children for Jennie. She won't be back until tomorrow."

Greenjade felt a cool damp cloth laid on his forehead, as Radagast's hand brushed the hair away from his face.

"I'll go out and let you sleep now," the Wizard said. "Just rest and sleep it off."

"How...did you find me," Greenjade whispered.

Thundercloud...Hailstorm...Brightspear...and Rainbow....

"The son of the innkeeper came and told us," Radagast said. "His father knew Mrs. Whitflor was being buried today, and sent his son to bring me to you. Gil's wife Jennie has gone into labor and is with her mother and Granny, the midwife, but I must go to her now as well. They want me there. I will leave you with Mr. Partridge and Sméagol for a while and come back as soon as I can be spared."

"I...need...to...."

"Use the privy? Your chamber pot is underneath your bed. Here, I'll get it--there you are. I must go now. Sméagol will bring you more tea if you need it. Just try to sleep as best as you can."

After using the pot, Greenjade lay back down and shut his eyes, but he seemed to see Sméagol's accusing face looking down at him as through a black mist of ashes.

And then he heard Radagast's voice once more.

"By the way, that was a beautiful rose you carved on the coffin lid," the Wizard said. "Very beautiful. I did not know you could do such."

~*~*~

It was morning before the Wizard returned. Greenjade awoke without pain in his head, but his body felt at once heavy and hollow as an empty coffin.

"She had a little lad," Radagast said as he brought another draught into the room for the man. "They called him 'Samwise'. How about that?"

"Wonderful," Greenjade said unenthusiastically. "So...when are we leaving?"

""The little one was born sooner than he was supposed to be, and is not quite out of the woods yet," the Wizard said. "So we'll be staying a couple more days, until I'm sure the child will be all right. Nell is there too, but Miss Carrie will be about. Speaking of Samwise, I must send him his book back. You have it with you still, have you not?"

"Aye, I have," Greenjade said feeling a strange stirring within...he had supposed all feeling dead in him. "You go and attend to the babe. I will take the book and send it back for you."

"That's good of you," Radagast said with a gentle smile, patting Greenjade's knee through the bedcovers.

And later in the evening, Greenjade took the book, put on his cloak, and went out, telling Mr. Partridge he was going to the postmaster's.

But he did not go.

And late that night, he took a light, went to the stable loft, and pulled the book out from beneath the pile of straw where he had hidden it, unwrapped it from the old piece of saddle blanket in which he had wrapped it, opened it and began to read.





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