Timeframe: During Book VI, Chapter 5 of "The Return of the King," and Chapter 7 of my "Snowdrops & Bluebells."
Disclaimer: The estate of J.R.R. Tolkien owns all the characters in this story and no copyright infringement or profit is intended by its writing & circulation.
Foreword: This is a completely unexpected offshoot from the seventh chapter of my story "Snowdrops & Bluebells." Rather like what Faramir himself did to Tolkien, some of the characters at that fair I dreamed up appeared out of nowhere and demanded some more attention. So, what follows is a series of short vignettes of the merchants at the fair, showing both their perceptions of the unlikely trio of Faramir, Eowyn, and Merry, and their feelings about the War of the Ring—the ordinary man's view of great events.
1. The Glovemaker
I carefully arrange more stock on the table in front of me, blessing the fine weather we are having today; it means I can put out my very best gloves without fearing that a sudden downpour will ruin them. The embroidered long pair to the front, flaunting dozens of blue and cream flowers on the white leather, is very fine indeed. They took me more than a month to finish, and I intend to charge accordingly. I can only hope a lady of the court, recognizing their quality, will walk by and decide to buy them without quibbling about the price.
Of course, I doubt any lady here in Minas Tirith knows how bad a winter we ordinary folk, the craftsmen and farmers in the neighboring towns, have suffered through. Last autumn's harvest was scanty, and we have contended with random raids by the Hill-men, and even orcs, all winter. Little help the city could give us, for it was under equal threat, and I do not begrudge the withholding of protection. Without Minas Tirith, the rest of Gondor could hardly be defended against the armies of Mordor. But it was so hard to cling to what little we possessed, my family and I. At least it was winter and I was home. I only travel in the summer, and spend each winter curing the skins from my small herd of cattle and goats, and then crafting my gloves. Happy my wife was, to have me snug and safe in our cottage instead of braving the dangers around us.
Since I did not dare venture even the short distance to Minas Tirith this winter to sell a few pairs, though, our monies have dwindled to practically nothing. I worked feverishly the past two months, hoping against hope that the annual spring fair in the city would be held despite the war. I really did not believe it would go forward, but a week ago a miracle took place. The One Ring, I have been told, was destroyed by one of the little people, the Periannath of the North. How this occurred is something I cannot picture, but it means Gondor and its allies claimed victory. I am friendly with an apothecary here, and he quickly sent me word by another traveler that the fair was planned after all and that I should hurry to the city.
I look up after laying down the last pair and recall my mind to the present. This woolgathering will not make me money. I catch sight of a fair-haired young woman approaching me as the man and boy with her go to another booth. I smile and straighten my shoulders, determined to sell her something.
She returns my smile as she arrives and begins to inspect my offerings. I study her covertly, intrigued by her appearance. She is very pretty, with pale skin and blue eyes, and her blond hair flows freely down her back. She wears a simple white dress with a gold belt, and her equally simple necklace is also made of gold. The more I look at her, the more sure I am that she is from the North, most likely from Rohan. Her bearing is that of the highborn, but no highborn woman from Gondor would dress so plainly, or appear in public with unbound hair.
Her fingers brush the white leather gloves in front, glide over a perfumed blue set, and then stray back to the whites. She picks them up, admiring the embroidery, caressing the flowers. I try not to look too eager as she holds my most expensive pair.
"You did this work yourself?" Her voice is low and pleasing.
I nod deferentially. "Yes I did, my lady. I prepare my own leather and do all of my own stitching, including the embroidery." I trace the gloves' pattern with my fingertip, anxious to show it off to good advantage. "A most suitable design for spring, with bluebells and snowdrops intertwined with leaves and vines. I use extra strong silks, which means you can wear them for a hunting party if you wish, as long as you are not carrying hawks. They would flatter your coloring marvelously, my lady, if I may say so."
She chuckles softly. "You may, for they suit me for more than that reason," she murmurs, lost in thought.
"These flowers have a special significance for you, my lady?"
"They do," she says, barely audible. A pack of boys race by, raising a racket; the noise snaps her reverie and she is all briskness again. She hands me the gloves with a polite expression. "Can you give me a few moments to decide?"
"Of course, my lady."
She looks at the rest of my stock minutely, a small frown of concentration on her brow as she ponders her choice. Finally, she lifts her head and smiles widely. "I would like the white ones, please. They are definitely the best."
I name a figure that is far greater than my usual prices, but I believe it fair. She reaches into her belt purse and gives me the coins without a murmur. Gratified, I bow to her; this one sale alone will make my trip profitable. "Shall I wrap them for you, my lady? You do not want them to become grubby or stained, for a certainty."
"Thank you, that would be kind." I begin wrapping them in parchment, and she suddenly says, "Could you please leave a small opening at the bottom, so I can show them to my friends?"
"I am happy to," I reply. I tie up the package with string, the requested gap at one end, and present it to her. "May my gloves grace your beauty and serve you well, my lady."
"I am sure they will. Thank you very much." Her full smile is quite dazzling.
I contentedly watch as she rejoins her two companions, who are eating the little half-moon pies that are so popular—the boy is getting quite a lot of the filling on his face and hands. She leans over the boy and shows him the gloves, pulling just enough of them through the opening to display the floral work, while careful not to let him touch them. I am too far away to hear them, but I can see his grin of delight when he turns his face up to the woman. They seem to be laughing together; I am glad they take such joy in her purchase.
The three of them start to walk further along the street. As they do, I glance down at the boy's feet when the crowd in front of him thins. A wave of shock passes through me. Large and hairy, they resemble nothing that I have ever seen. I remember the stories I heard recently, and I realize in utter surprise that I have just spotted one of the Periannath! My mouth drops open in amazement. I immediately resolve to go to the apothecary's booth when I have time and ask him if he knows the names of both the woman and the perian. But even if I do not learn who they are, this will be a fine tale for my wife and babes!