Late in the afternoon the great Ladies of the courts of Gondor and Rohan went out with Ladies Ankhsarani and Nefiramonrani and their children and a few of their attendants to go through the city of Thetos and examine its markets. Lords Mablung and Bergemon and the Hobbit Captain went as guard to the ladies, striding watchfully alongside and behind as the women and children chattered and laughed, Queen Lothiriel accepting the role of translator for the adults while Lady Anidril did the same for the older children as they spoke. The Lady Arwen wore a sling of sorts in which her son lay against her breast, allowing her hands to be free, while the Lady Avrieth pushed a sort of shaded wheeled chair with a handle before her in which the small sons of the Princess Éowyn and the Queen Lothiriel rode, a belt carefully secured about each ones waist to keep them from falling.
Ankhsarani examined the chair with interest. “A clever thing,” she commented.
Lady Avrieth nodded her agreement. “Lord Gimli designed it, based on the chairs in which those who lost their legs in the war often sit so they might move freely about their homes and the city and not be confined ever to their beds. He made it somewhat lower, and wide enough for at least two children to ride in, and it folds up to be carried in a crate when we travel. It has proven handy when the Lady Arwen or other mothers of the court wish to travel through the White City to visit the markets or those in the guest houses in the Sixth Circle or the Lords' mansions lower down in the city. Now it is being copied by various craftsmen within Minas Anor and is becoming highly popular among the parents of small children.”
All examined the wares of the different stalls and booths with interest, Ankhsarani and Nefiramonrani giving the names of the fruits unfamiliar in the Northlands and encouraging their guests to try them, describing the uses of various items they saw. Amongst the whites of the clothing of civilians moved the scarlets and golds of the soldiers of Harad in their uniforms and cloaks, watching for thefts or troubles, occasionally hurrying to stop arguments which might break out.
The Lady Éowyn was drawn to a stall of fabrics with fascinating patterns stamped upon them. “They are from Far Harad,” explained the Lady Ghansaret. “The dyes are drawn from various plants and even shelled creatures that live in the streams, and are stamped upon the cloth with carved wooden forms which are dipped into the dyes. The designs on this one are of animals seen in the grasslands of the southwest.” She named the Mumakil, the Giraffil which ate leaves from the tops of trees, the gazelles and lions, and Rhinorils with their odd horns on the ends of their great muzzles. Another was stamped with waterbirds; a third with the forms of cats playing.
“Two of the cats from about the palace came to sleep with us last night,” commented Queen Lothiriel as Éowyn, advised quietly by Anidril as to what the expected price for the fabrics might be, began haggling for two bolts of the cloth, one with the animals and one with the cats. “They appeared to be very comfortable. I think that my lord husband was surprised, for he’s never had a cat sleep with him before. The cats of Edoras prefer to sleep in the stables where they can find mice and rats more easily. Although Princess Melian’s cat Glorien sleeps with her at night.”
“Are you telling them about Glorien?” the Princess asked.
“Yes, my Lady. I was telling them that she sleeps with you.”
“Yes, she usually does, although she also loves my ada.”
Lothiriel translated that. Ma’osiri asked, “Has she always lived in your palace?”
“She has for several years. Elanor Gamgee sent her to me, and Glorien’s brother lives with Master Ruvemir and Mistress Elise and their son Samwise and daughter Gwineth. They came all the way from the Shire.”
“Where’s the Shire?”
“Far to the North and the West. Ada says it is not far from the Sundering Sea and the Havens from which my anadar sailed to Tol Eressëa.
Amon’osiri asked, “What is it like in the Shire?”
“Elanor says it is very lovely, and that there are lots of fields; and hills and ridges where they dig their homes into the hillsides. Her father is a gardener as well as Mayor for the Shire, and there are lots of flowers about the Hill, and blossoms of elanor and niphredil and athelas and white lilies from Imladris and Lorien under Mr. Frodo’s window and in a circle at the top of the Hill under the oak tree that grows there. Their cat came from the Cottons’ farm in Bywater. She’s Glorien’s mother. Elanor says the father lives with the Proudfoot family.”
“Have you ever been to the Shire?”
“When I was very small we went to the Brandywine Bridge. But we Big Folk aren’t allowed to enter the Shire itself--only Master Ruvemir and those who travel with him. This is to protect all.”
“How do you know what it’s like?”
“Elanor Gamgee sends word of it in her letters, and Master Ruvemir has done pictures of it for my adar and naneth from his visits. He’s been there several times. Master Ruvemir’s son Samwise is named for Elanor’s father. Elanor sends me letters also for Rosie-Lass, who was born the same day as me.”
“Do you have a hound?”
“My ada has at home. Lord Eregiel brought it to him the last time he came. His name is Caravel. Do you have hounds?”
“Yes, coursing hounds. We will begin to learn to hunt, and the hounds will hunt with us. Lord Sherfiramun helps in their training.”
“Where do you hunt? And what kinds of beasts?”
Once the Lady Éowyn had satisfactorily completed her purchase, Nefiramonrani explained that one of the attendants would carry the fabric for her. The Lady of Ithilien graciously thanked the indicated attendant, who appeared both surprised and flattered at the notice given. They continued on through the markets, and soon found a place where an entertainer had a small monkey performing tricks for the pleasure of the crowd. The small princess Melian was enchanted, while the eyes of Elboron and Elfwine watched avidly as the small animal leapt and bowed, accepting small coins for its master. Captain Peregrin at one point turned a glare on one he apparently felt was coming too close to his charges, and surprised at the ferocity of expression from one so small the Haradri drew back. One of the Haradri guards laughed.
“You did well to warn that one away, small Captain,” he commented. “I suspect he’d intended to slip a necklace from the neck of one of the ladies in the press while they watched the monkey. Such are a constant danger here in the market areas.”
Once the Queen translated the quiet warning, Captain Peregrin looked up, his eyebrows lifted expressively. “Things like that don’t happen in our markets, but then we usually know our neighbors well. But I’ve seen some try it in Minas Anor, although they generally don’t get much chance to get very good at it. Our Lord King frowns on things like that.” He looked at the crowd. “One tried it once on Frodo during our stay, and was rather surprised to find Merry’s sword and mine at his middle, while Sam had caught up a stone to use if it were necessary. I can’t remember what punishment he got....” He smiled. “Of course, had he tried anything on any of our royal ladies he’d have been terribly surprised. Lady Lothiriel and Lady Éowyn, having lived in Rohan, are both capable of defending themselves; and after the wounding of their mother by orcs years ago our Lady Arwen’s brothers saw to it she was trained in the use of sword and knife as well. She doesn’t use them often, but our Queen is fully skilled with both. I’ve sparred with her only once, but it was enough to be certain she knows full well what she is doing.”
Nefiramonrani looked at Arwen with shock. “You know how to use a sword?”
“Oh, yes, my brothers were adamant I learn. I traveled a good deal between Imladris and Lothlorien, and they didn’t wish me to be helpless if my guards were hurt. And I believe even Lady Avrieth is capable of handling a long knife. It was much in Eriador as it was in Rohan--the knowledge that those who do not wield swords can more easily die on them.”
“Actually,” Lady Avrieth said quietly, “my father and brother saw me trained with a bow--they didn’t wish for enemies to make it close enough to possibly touch me.”
“Have you had to defend yourself?” a scandalized Lady Ankhsarani asked.
Lady Avrieth nodded solemnly. “Twice--once from those of Angmar and once against Orcs. I saved my brother’s life that time.”
They found themselves at a stall which sold carved alabaster jars and bowls, and they stopped to admire them.
Eventually they found themselves in a portion of the market few ladies of quality within Harad tended to enter; when a string of nearly naked slaves were led past them the Hobbit guard stopped still, his mouth opening in shock and horror. Most were typical Haradri with darker skin than the Northerners; but some were from Far Harad with darker skin still. Two caught the attention of the Lady Arwen, however--one a delicate girl from Near Harad in her early teens who looked to be in shock, her eyes searching the crowd examining her with entreaty; and the other a tall Man of skin so dark as to appear almost black, broad chested and muscular, his face defiant, a scarred pattern of a star on his chest. The Queen of Gondor and Arnor looked into his eyes, and stopped. Looking between the two of them, she announced in a low, determined voice, “I will have those two. Now.”
“But, my Lady,” Mablung said quietly, “slavery is not allowed in our lands.”
“I know it. But I will not see these sold now into hands who will abuse them.”
A nod, and Mablung went forward to speak to the vendor of human chattel, accompanied by Lady Ghansaret. The auction was to begin soon, and the slaver was not willing to allow two such desirable slaves to be withdrawn from it; but suddenly recognizing the signs that the Haradri guards were from the Farozi’s own palace, he had a change of heart. “Of course,” he said, “if it is for the foreign visitors....”
He signed to his helpers, and these two were freed from their bonds and given into the guard of those who surrounded the two princesses of Harad and the Northern noblewomen. The Queen signed to Mablung, who carried her purse of money for her in accordance with Haradri custom. She turned at last to the slave merchant and addressed him personally. “I wish to know the particulars of these two, how they came into your hands,” she said with a note of authority he could not ignore.
“Of course, great Lady,” he said obsequiously. He indicated the great Man. “He is from the far South and West, beyond even Far Harad. His people were conquered by another tribe, and those who survived were enslaved and sold North and West; and he eventually came to us. As for her--” he nodded dismissively to the girl, “--her father died recently leaving great debts. She was sold into slavery to recover them. All within the house fell into the hands of those to whom her father owed money.”
“Has she brothers, sisters, or a mother?”
“No, she was the only member of her family left. The servants were dismissed--they held but one slave of their own.”
“I will require a bill of sale for each.”
“But of course, my Lady.”
The Queen waited with the steadfastness of stone until the bills of sale were written and examined, then finally indicated they might leave. She looked into the eyes of the tall Man and gave him a long, appraising look, then a slight nod of the head as she turned to the girl. This one she reached out a gentle hand to, lifted her face, and said softly, “You need weep no more, youngling. Only come and all will be well for you.” She indicated to her companions she wished to return to the palace.
As they passed back through the markets, however, they passed a stall that handled second-hand goods, and the face of the girl looked stricken as she saw some items she obviously recognized. The Lady Arwen stopped, and again examined the face of the girl, who as yet had not spoken. Her eyes softened, then she turned to the items in the stall. Six things she indicated--a hanging of obvious value, a figure of Neryet carved of alabaster, an inlaid game table and pieces, a flagon set of glass enamelled with lotus blossoms, a set of jars in a leather case intended for cosmetics, and a worn doll. She offered the Man a price for all six items, and he agreed readily, saw to it they were pulled out of the jumble and readied for the others to carry. Gently the Queen herself took up the doll and the case of cosmetics and handed them to the girl with a reassuring smile--she looked at them amazed and with a look of gladness that lit her features. With various of the attendants carrying the remaining items, Mablung lifting the game table under his arm, they turned back to the palace of the Farozi with their purchases in hand.