9. Part of the Song
"Well, the boys have right fine voices, but if that one wretched note offends you, I hate to tell you that it's supposed to be like that." Thurimen shrugged and took a sip of ale.
"That screech?" asked I.
Thurimen nodded. "Yep; it's part of the song."
Well, the more I got to thinkin' 'bout it, I decided that screech fits right well in that one part where they go on 'bout the lad catchin' his lass playin' him for a fool. I reckon I'd yowl like a wet cat, too, if ever I found my Anira with another man. Not that she'd ever go and do anythin' like that—I took as faithful a wife as they come. I did right well marryin' that one!
Now, I'd hoped they'd refrain from singin' that particular song that winter that Elessar was with us. We local folk might find it entertainin', but I reckon the King is accustomed to minstrels with a might more sophistication than what we have in these parts. But there they went, seranadin' the royal party with their tale 'bout the lovesick lad and his no-good lass. Sure 'nough, they hit that sour note, and the King cringed. Couldn't miss it; I stood right across from where the man sat by the hearth, so I had a clear view of his face.
As I walked over to stoke the fire, I leaned down toward Elessar and whispered—so as not to disturb the singin', if you want to call it that—"That note's supposed to be like that; it's part of the song."
The King nodded and grinned. He's a right good-natured man, so long as you don't go upsettin' him. He motioned me to crouch beside the fire so that he could whisper back.
"Reminds me of my wife's tapestries. Oh, they are fair, to be sure. Exquisite, in fact, for my lady wife is quite skilled with needle and yarn. But the first time I caught sight of the underside of one of her creations, I could scarcely believe that the front could be so beautiful. She must have noted my scowl because she said, 'Not to worry. It is all part of the creation, my love.'"
"She sounds like a right charmin' lady, Sire. Well, of course she is, bein' the queen and all." Then, "You must miss her."
Elessar took a puff of pipeweed, lettin' his words roll out with the smoke. "Aye, Master Innkeeper, I do. You are fortunate indeed to pass this winter with your wife."
"Well, Sire, I'm not sure that Anira would agree with that; she itches to get out to her gardens, and sometimes, I reckon it's as much to get away from me as to tend to her flowers." I shrugged.
The King chuckled. "Yes, time apart serves well, but my Queen and I have spent too much time apart in the past not to appreciate togetherness now," addin' to himself, "Especially when she paid such a dear price to buy our short time together."
I didn't ask what he meant. I'm nosy, but I at least have the good sense to realize when a man speaks for no ears but his own.
Turns out, Elessar offered an explanation all on his own: "Do you know that my wife descends from the Elves?"
"Why yes, Sire, I'd heard that."
"No longer. She sacrificed immortality for me, and her love binds her to death, breaking the hearts of those she holds dear. Never again will she look upon the face of her father, her mother."
Not much I could say to that, 'cept, "Well, Sire, I reckon she thinks you're worth it."
"I certainly hope I am, Master Innkeeper." The King smiled. "We husbands owe much to our wives, do we not?"
"Aye, Sire. That we do. In fact, if you'll be excusin' me, I'd best be checkin' on my bride."
Elessar chuckled. "An excellent idea, Master Innkeeper."
I stood and walked to where my lady stood across the hall, clearin' some goblets from a wine-splashed table. I helped Anira wipe down the benches and stack goblets on a tray, but I said naught; all the while, my mind swirled with thoughts of the Queen and her tapestries. Couldn't imagine why I couldn't let that image go, not bein' much of a tapestry man. Then it occurred to me, that thought that'd been formin' in the back of my mind, so I rushed back to Elessar.
"Sire, just one more thing, if you don't mind."
The King raised his brows in inquisition.
"About your wife's sacrifice and all—I reckon it's a bit like those tapestries of hers; doesn't look so good from the back, but all those knots and tangles sure hold somethin' beautiful together." I smiled and stood a bit straighter, right proud of myself for that one. Thought it sounded right courtly and all.
Elessar broke into one of his crooked grins and closed his eyes for just a moment ere sayin', "Yes, Master Innkeeper. Once again, you are correct. I suppose it is all part of the song."