It is a pleasure to hear from you. Thank you! Here are Parts 3 and 4 of Tell This Mortal. Please be warned that the story turns dark and strange after Part 4.
Part 3 - Gwael Reviad - The Sail Maker’s Shop
The view of the boardwalk from my shop is good. We have a large front window. On either side is a pole with hooks, for displaying our small wares. From one pole we hung that vital instrument of sail sewing, the sailor’s palm; both the seaming and roping varieties. We did not make them on site; my original apprentice’s family made them to my specifications back on their farm where leather is readily available. We also had a line of shipboard toolkits containing triangular sail needles, sail twine, beeswax, rounded-back sheath knives with wedge-ground blades, steel sailhooks, two sizes of fids, and oaken seam rubbers. Sailors loved them.
The pole at the other end showed merchandise smaller than our sails but equal in quality and reputation. Sailors’ ditty bags were my test of every prospective apprentice. I took the youngsters on for a week, gave them the materials, tools, and instructions, and let them do what they could. At the end of the week I always knew who was a true sail maker. My present second apprentice had been – there is no other word for it – amazing. They say she has pure Numenorean blood. She could take a lanyard and splice it into a cringle as if by magic, and her ability to size the cringle itself, so that subsequent shrinkage will hold the inserted thimble in place, was nothing short of otherworldly. But these are mere details and technique. All my apprentices made ditty bags if they were not making sails, and sea faring folk as far away as Mithlond used bags that bore my trademark, two gulls flying above a ship - ت .
Whenever the shop was open we secured the tool kits and ditty bags with wire, for they were worth their weight in silver and would have walked off otherwise. But the sun had set and I saw that my second apprentice had already put the shutters in place, preparing to close up. Gimli could view our small wares another time.
I opened the door for him and showed him into the darkening shop.
“Meet Stitch,” I said proudly. “She makes the best ditty bags in the world, and sews Rhûn canvas as if it were silk. Light us a candle or two, Stitch. Then fetch the special order. This is Master Gimli.”
Stitch, whose mouth had been open since the Dwarf walked through the door, lit the candles, bowed – not to me, I noticed with amusement - and went to the storeroom. I seated myself at the customers’ table and gestured for him to sit as well. He struggled to hoist himself onto the chair and once there his boots dangled. I hoped the cushion was easy on his bony old rump.
“You said your friend was building a ship. I know all the folk at all the shipyards. Indeed I tested your sails on a rig at the Meren-sûl. Is your friend with them?”
“He is not. He has already built the ship himself, with the help of some dozens of friends, in Ithilien. He will arrive with it tomorrow.”
“?! Ithilien !? But, but … your friend must be mad. Why would he not come to Sea Fair? We are, after all, near the sea. And we are known for our shipwrights.”
“As for that, my friend knows a shipwright that puts Mortals to shame,” he replied, “and he himself is descended from a tribe of mariners taught by the Valar themselves. But he stayed in Ithilien as long as he possibly could, for his remaining kin and friends are mostly in that part of the world.”
“You say, Valar? Mortals?” My voice went as thin as his, for astonishment. “Your friend is – immortal?”
“My friend is an Elf -”
Here I toppled over backward in my chair. I crashed to the floor, hit my head sharply, and everything went black for a while.
Part 4 - Make No Jest about It
I opened my eyes to an unknown landscape of peaks and valleys. I had just enough wits to wonder where my bedroom ceiling was, and then the landscape resolved itself into Nesta’s face. She was peering at me as healers do.
“Follow my finger with your eyes,” she ordered. I did so as she waved her hand slowly, back and forth. Suddenly she moved her hand away altogether and I followed that too. It was a mistake. I grew dizzy, and the next thing I knew, I turned my head to one side and emptied the contents of my stomach onto the floor.
“Drinking wine again?” Nesta said with no sympathy. “Well you will feel better without it. No wonder you fell.”
Then everything came back to me. I remembered yesterday’s peaceful sunset and the loud interruption of Nath. I recalled going to meet my Dwarvish customer, so ancient and strange, and the excitement that gripped me when Gimli said, “My friend is an Elf.” That is, to be honest, it was not excitement that I had felt. It was disbelief; it was apprehension. It was fear.
No longer shaky or sick, but with a pounding heart, I jumped from my bed. I had to know if it were true. “Where is Master Gimli?”
“Waiting for you downstairs. While you have laid up in bed, your shop has been busy. Your customer’s ship from Ithilien arrived early this morning and is now at the quays. Nath has been there all morning, helping to rig the sails. They are beautiful as usual, and so is the ship.”
“Please tell Gimli I am coming,” I said. When Nesta was gone I cleaned away my mess and washed myself. Opening my shutters, I let in the warm, close air and saw storm clouds gathering seaward. Being as superstitious as any of the sea folk, I threw on some of my brightest clothes as a talisman. They made me feel better at once
Sky blue is for good luck, I assured my misgivings silently, and that is when the air in the chamber changed from storm-warm to cold as a crypt. I gasped; my exhaled breath came out smoking. A frigid kind of fog seemed to wrap tendrils around me like an embrace and then I felt fingers indeed, creeping over my shoulders.
“Aiiii, what is it?” I shrieked, tearing around like a mad woman.
“Mistress?” It was Stitch, coming up the stairs at a run. We collided just outside my door, and for the second time in a few hours I went tumbling, all the way to the landing. Stitch watched from above; the Dwarf gazed up at me from the bottom of the stairs.
“You are, ah, well this morning?” said he.
I straightened up hastily. I allowed that I was well, and that I was pleased to see him. “I stepped on a mouse,” I explained. “Fetch the cat, Stitch.” Stitch stared at me wide-eyed. We had no cat.
Putting the odd experience away for future contemplation, I asked Gimli if he wished to go to the quays.
“I do,” he replied. So we went outside, heading west on the boardwalk toward Berendil’s tavern and the quays beyond. Every eye noted our passing. We would be the talk of the waterfront from the shipyards to the ropewalk.
“You will want to meet my friend, of course, and he wishes to meet the sail maker,” Gimli continued. “But I must tell you something. This Elf means more to me than my own clan.”
“They say opposites attract. How strong the forges of friendship –“
“So if you do not wish for death at my hands, do not trouble him.”
I stopped walking; I could not believe my ears. He stopped too, as soft and yielding as any stone. He looked me over appraisingly, judging my character and maybe finding it no better than it should be. To be sure, I thought, this day holds surprises.
I found my voice. “Well – Master Gimli, I do not doubt you were once a fearsome warrior. But you need not threaten. I would never –“
“I make no jest about it. I will kill you. He is troubled. Do not add to his cares.”
Just as I was about to reply – what, I don’t know - a voice called, “Hoy, Gimli!”
I had never heard the voice before in my life, or any other voice like it.
Suddenly the name of Gimli meant somewhat more to me. I knew my history very well, and I knew exactly whose voice called, even before Gimli returned the greeting.
“Legolas!” he was shouting. “Legolas!”