Where History Has Been Fixed
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Shadow of Himself: 2. II
He was wearing them when we found him in the river.
For an eternal moment, Legolas could not draw breath as his mind reeled. What she was saying was not possible. It could not be.
He was wearing them when we found him in the river.
Imriel glanced from one to the other, and hope gleamed in her eyes for an instant. “So -- you are not sent from his wife to bring him home?”
Legolas forcibly pulled his attention back to the woman. “No,” he said, his voice shaking almost imperceptibly, “if what you say is true, if your --- husband is the man I think he may be, he has left behind no wife.”
Gimli managed to speak. “Why do you think he has abandoned a wife?”
Imriel pressed her lips together tightly, and stared at her clasped hands, which rested in her lap, seeming to struggle with some decision. At length, she spoke, as if she were betraying a great confidence.
“Some nights, while he dreams, he speaks of a ring,” she was studying a plain ring of silver metal on her own hand, and did not see the way Gimli and Legolas both blanched, “and when he wakes, his mood is not light and merry, as is his wont, but dark and brooding.”
She glanced up, expression fearful. “I will give you this cloak and brooch, if they are dear to you,” she suited words to action as she fumbled with the clasp of the Elven brooch, “and I will tell Randîr that they were stolen from me. He will be angry, but his anger is quick to pass. Only, please -- do not disturb him.“
Gimli was immediately suspicious. “Why are you so eager to rid yourself of these things?” he demanded, glowering at Imriel. “If they are, as you say, ‘wedding gifts from your husband’, how can you part with them so easily?”
Her eyes widened at Gimli‘s accusatory scowl, but she did not shrink away from him . “I could not part with them ‘easily’,” Imriel corrected a bit tartly, pulling the cloak tight around her in a gesture that was surely unconscious, “for, other than my children, they are the dearest gifts my husband has given me. But --” she stopped, and when she continued, her tone contained a hint of steel.
“I do not know who you are. You could be the King’s men, sent to clap him in irons and throw him in a dungeon for the rest of his days - for what offense, I know not, but I know his past is not pristine, for no sailor's past is. You could be brigands who only mean him harm, or you could be sent by a wife, and are merely lying to me so that I will take you to him. If by giving you this cloak and brooch -- “ her hand stole to the leaf at her neck, “-- you will leave, then I will do it. I do not want my life disrupted if I can prevent it with so small a sacrifice.” She sighed. “I do not want Randîr disrupted. He has had trials enough for three men.”
“I am afraid we cannot oblige you, lady,” Legolas said, leaning forward slightly. “I cannot lie and tell you we are not the King’s to command, for we are. But we are not those who would take a man from his home unwillingly.” But if this man is who I suspect him to be, Legolas said to himself, we will certainly try to convince him to come with us. He indicated his own cloak. “As you have already marked, the garments we wear are identical to that which your husband gave you, down to the very curve of this brooch. Is this not proof enough that we do know him -- or did, once?”
Imriel seemed to consider this for a moment as she studied them. “It is true,” she said at length, “that were you here to take Randir to gaol on the King’s orders, you would be wearing the King’s colours. And I have heard naught of such a strange team hunting men for bounty.”
Gimli blinked at that, and Legolas could see his Dwarven friend was mildly amused by the notion.
Imriel shook her head. “As I have said, I do not want Randîr disturbed. He has had enough troubles, since we fished him from the water, and he does not need his wife bringing more to his doorstep.”
“We must insist on meeting your husband,” Legolas said, standing so that he towered over Imriel, determination written in every line of his body. “We will not leave Pelargir without doing so, and if you seek to thwart us, let me assure you that the next person who appears on your doorstep wishing to see your husband will be wearing the King’s colours, and perhaps his crown as well.”
Legolas could be frighteningly regal and imposing, if the occasion warranted, and Gimli was not surprised to see Imriel pale under the Elf’s intimidating gaze.
Gimli was surprised, however, when in the next moment, Imriel stood and met Legolas’ eyes unflinchingly, her own shoulders stiff with resolve.
“You will not cow me with your implications of high connections,” she informed him sharply, “for it is my duty to protect my husband and my family, and I will do what I have to keep them safe. But I think that I shall not stop you from meeting Randîr, though I dearly wish you had never come to Pelargir. It will not matter if you knew him in the past, as your faces seem to say. It can do no harm, for he has found no memories of his life before we found him. He will not remember you, and then you will go and leave us in peace.” Her hazel eyes were snapping with anger, and despite himself, Legolas was approving that he had not managed to frighten the woman into relenting.
“Thank you, lady,” he said, relaxing his posture a bit, “I am sorry if I seem overly demanding, but this is of utmost importance to us.”
Gimli spoke up. “If you please, lady -- what do you mean when you say you ‘found him on the river’? And why is it he does not remember anything before that?” Gimli’s uncharacteristic hesitancy startled Legolas.
Imriel turned to the Dwarf, expression now rather cool. “Just that,” she said, “I was on the riverbank, fetching water for the laundry, and I found Randîr in the shallows, among the reeds. At first glance, I thought him dead, for his clothing was heavy with blood, and he bore a dire wound on his head; upon looking more closely, I realized that he was clinging to life. I brought my father, we took Randîr to a healer, and he began his recovery.”
Gimli and Legolas listened avidly to her recitation, and when she paused, Legolas spoke. “He was not borne in a boat?” he asked, puzzlement creasing his forehead. “Was there nothing else with him? No…gear?”
Although he strove not to show it, doubt was beginning to creep into Legolas’ mind. Was the conclusion both he and Gimli had come to realistic, or simply something they wanted to be true? Was it even possible?
Imriel shook her head, “Broken pieces of some strange wood washed up with him, but those pieces were too small to have formed any sort of vessel. We found no gear in the water. He was dressed in rather fine clothing, but it was cut away by the healers, and the mail he wore was sold, for sailors have no use of mail.”
She seemed to be amused at the very idea, though Gimli and Legolas were startled by the word sailor.
“And as to your second question, “ she continued, “the healers do not know why he has no memory. Some say it is due to the wound on his head, some say he has the memory, but does not wish to remember. All I can tell you is that he did not remember so much as his name, although he remembers things such as how to read and write, and how to handle a sword or knife.”
“Randîr,” Legolas mused, wondering.
“Yes,” Imriel nodded, absently brushing a lock of chestnut hair from her face, “that is the name my father gave him, and he has never cared to change it.”
Gimli was deeply troubled by all that Imriel had revealed. “And -- he has been here, in Pelargir, these past 20 years?” he asked, disturbed at the possibility.
“Once he had healed fully, Randîr took to the sea,” Imriel corrected, “and he sailed both far and wide for ten years before deciding that he would prefer to stay with his wife and child, rather than roaming the seas and seeing us only rarely.” Her smile was tender, her eyes faraway as her fingers traced the surface of the silver-and-green leaf of Lórien. “We have been married 15 years, and are blessed with a fine strong boy, and a young daughter is the jewel of her father‘s heart.” Imriel came out of her memory. “And never in all that time has he recalled anything of his life prior to waking up in my father’s house,” she said, expression oddly triumphant, “and I do not think that seeing either of you will cause him to do so now.”
Legolas and Gimli stood silent for a moment, and an understanding passed between them. “If you will allow us a moment, lady?” Legolas requested.
“Do not linger,” she replied flatly. “It is nearing the evening meal, and I have delayed long enough already. I wish to see you gone as soon as possible. ”
The two companions moved away so that Imriel might not hear their conversation.
“I do not think she is lying, Legolas,” Gimli said without preamble, “but I do not understand how she could be telling the truth.”
“I do not understand this either,” Legolas admitted, more distressed than Gimli had ever seen him, “he was not living when we laid him in the boat, that I will swear. He was far too grievously wounded. And I do not understand how any vessel that small, even made by the Elves of Lórien, could make it over the Falls undamaged only to wash ashore here.”
Gimli stole a glance at Imriel, who was ignoring them. She looked honest enough, he thought. But he was not fool enough to believe that honest looks meant honest intentions.
“We must meet this Randîr,” the Dwarf said, “no matter how impossible her story seems, we must know for certain.”
Legolas’ smile was a thin, unnatural thing. “That, my friend, was never in question.”
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