Where History Has Been Fixed
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Shadow of Himself: 1. I
Legolas’ tone was oddly strained, and the Dwarf turned toward his friend, concerned.
The Elf's face was ashen. “Do you see her?” he asked, without so much as glancing at Gimli. “Tell me if my eyes see truly…..”
Only one who knew Legolas well would have been able to detect the anger stirring beneath the surface, and Gimli’s unease grew as he followed Legolas’ unwavering gaze.
“Which ‘she’?” he asked, apprehension making his voice sharp. “It is a market, Legolas -- there are countless women….”
“That one.” Legolas cut him off brusquely, pointing. “Talking with the fishmonger.”
Gimli looked again, and saw a middle-aged woman with curling brown hair, neither short nor tall, neither beautiful nor plain, much like any other.
But he had no doubt that she was the woman Legolas meant.
For a long moment, the Dwarf was struck dumb, then fury rose within him, and he spat a Dwarvish curse. “She wears the cloak of Lórien,” he hissed, making no attempt to speak quietly.
“And the brooch as well,” Leoglas pointed out, and now his anger was apparent, so much so that a passing well-muscled dockworker was careful to give them a wide berth.
“She shall not be allowed to keep those tokens,” Gimli vowed through clenched teeth. He took a step toward the woman, but Legolas laid a restraining hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Why do you stop me?” Gimli demanded with a glare which would have sent anyone else scurrying for safety. “Think you that she came by the Lady’s gifts honestly? ”
“No,” Legolas admitted, eyes flashing with indignation. “No, she cannot have done so. But were we in Minas Tirith rather than Pelargir, I would still be loathe to accuse a strange woman of robbing the dead.”
Gimli reluctantly admitted to the wisdom of these words, but his offense did not lessen. “Then I suggest you confront her as to why she wears these items,” the Dwarf said tersely, “for I do not trust myself to speak kindly.”
“Come,” Legolas bade, and now his face was cold and unreadable, even to his friend of many years. “But keep your harsh words at hand. We may have need of them.”
The two made their way toward the unsuspecting woman, so intent on their purpose that neither noticed that the milling crowd parted to let them pass, as if daunted by their fearsome expressions.
The woman was still speaking with the fishmonger when they reached her. Legolas took a deep breath, willing his temper to cool. “Lady, might I have a word with you?”
She turned, and the polite smile froze on her pleasant face as she saw who had spoken to her.
“Imriel?” The fishmonger asked, frowning. “Is all well?”
She did not respond for a moment as she took in the strange pair who stood before her, gaze moving from their faces to the cloaks they wore, which were the brothers of the one on her very back.
At length, she became aware that the merchant had spoken. “Yes,” Imriel said in a voice that was almost steady, “All is well. But I must speak to these --- customers,” Gimli suspected she had been about to say “men” before she caught herself, “so I shall thank you for your time, and return when you’ve oysters on hand.”
The fishmonger did not look convinced. “Greet Randîr for me,” he bade, eyeing Elf and Dwarf suspiciously.
Imriel nodded her assent, and turned her attention back to Legolas. “If it please you,” she requested, gesturing that they follow her to a set of benches tucked between two shops a short distance away.
They did so, and Imriel sat on one of the benches, visibly attempting to compose herself. “You’ve --- you’ve come to take him back.” Her quiet words were thick with despair.
Legolas and Gimli exchanged a puzzled glance. “Come to take who back?” Legolas asked gently.
She looked to the Elf, and he was taken aback by the bleakness in her eyes. “My husband,” she replied, and Legolas saw that her hands, clasped tightly in her lap, were trembling. “I have always known someone would come for him -- are you in the employ of his wife?”
Gimli was growing steadily more confused, and from Legolas’ expression, he was not alone in this. “We are not here to bring back anyone’s husband,” Gimli said in a manner that was meant to be comforting, but instead came out exasperated. “We only wish to know how you came by that cloak and brooch.”
Without warning, Imriel burst into tears. “Do not take him from me,” she begged, looking wildly from Dwarf to Elf. “It will do her no good -- he does not remember her -- please -- do not part my children from their father….” Her words were drowned in her heartbroken sobbing.
Legolas stared at the woman in astonishment, for a moment utterly lost as to what the proper course of action might be. But he could not watch such sorrow without feeling compassion.
“We are not here to take anyone,” he reassured Imriel, laying one light hand on her shoulder as he sat next to her on the bench. “My companion says truly -- all we wish to know is how you come to be wearing this garment.”
She did not look up. “Both were a wedding gift from my husband,” Imriel answered, still weeping, “he was wearing them when we found him in the river.”
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