To Market, to Market
“We’re to get what?”
Legolas looked down at his friend and smiled. “Sandals for our new companions, and fabrics for appropriate clothing.”
“Now, what am I, as a Dwarf, going to know about fabrics? And why did he send us?”
Legolas chose to answer the second question. “I believe he felt that, as close as it is now to the time for closing the shops and stalls, fewer would be likely to close them in our faces than in the faces of his Men.”
“I suppose this is true, but I don’t even speak enough Haradri to make myself understood.”
“Oh, I think you will make yourself understood in spite of your poor command of Haradri.” They’d entered the market area and were looking about for such stalls as they needed. “There, Gimli--there’s one who sells sandals. I will go and search for the fabrics.”
“If you are certain....” But Legolas had already disappeared further into the maze of lanes between the structures, tents, and open pavilions that marked each merchant’s space. Muttering something under his breath about the lack of help displayed by some Elves, Gimli pushed his way into the open area where the seller of sandals sold his merchandise. The merchant had just been ready to pull closed the wooden flaps that covered the cart from which he sold his wares, from which many pairs of sandals hung for display, when Gimli arrived and with a wave indicated he wished the merchant to leave them be. Surprised and somewhat intimidated, the merchant stepped back, wondering just what this strange customer desired, and whether he intended to pay for them.
It was fairly easy to find sandals fit for the girl, and very good ones at that. But finding ones which would fit that giant of a man--he wasn’t as tall as Aragorn, but was broader, and his feet were enormous.
Then he found them--the sandalmaker had made a pair strictly for demonstration’s sake, to show what was possible, and they hung from one end. They were very finely made and well finished. Gimli checked the quick tracing Aragorn had done and laid it against the sandal--yes, a good fit indeed, and they were even rich looking.
The sandalmaker looked with amazement at the tracing this odd, bearded customer held against his display pair and saw the fit they made, and felt a bit faint. This odd dwarfling or dwarf had a need for sandals that large? What kind of giant was in his charge? When the Dwarf indicated he wanted the display pair as well as the one for a woman with small feet the merchant tried to protest, then gave it up as a bad job. No, if he wanted those sandals, he’d sell them to him. He named an exorbitant price, and held up his fingers to show it. The Dwarf raised his brows and gave a great snort, apparently of astonishment and disgust, held up considerably fewer fingers in return. Suddenly heartened, for here was a stranger who yet appeared to know the delights of bargaining, the merchant began to haggle.
They were still at it when Legolas returned. They’d begun to cast insults at one another now as they happily argued the proper price for the two pairs of sandals.
“Why, you son of five dogs and a frog!” the merchant declared. “I’ll take no less than eight silver ring coins for them.” He held up both hands with the thumbs folded in.
“You’ll accept five and like it, you impatient gnat of a Man,” Gimli grunted, holding up a single hand of fingers.
They finally settled at six, and with a great show of grumbling Gimli drew out the cord of ring coins Aragorn had given him and counted them out.
“You are certain he wants silver coins?” Legolas asked.
“First words of Haradri I learned, after all, were those for silver, gold, brass, bronze, and copper,” Gimli said distractedly. “Here, you greedy son of a camel, take them then.” He handed them with almost convincing reluctance to the other, then added another of copper. “It was a pleasure bargaining with you.” He looked to Legolas for a second. “Tell him that.”
Legolas laughed and translated the last comment, and the sandalmaker looked surprised, and then immensely flattered. He unfastened the desired pairs and presented them, then held up a hand for them to wait, rummaged through a small casket and handed Gimli two extra pairs of laces. Now both smiling, Man and Dwarf bowed to one another, and taking his purchases and the extras Gimli turned to accompany Legolas back to the palace.
Arwen took possession of the bolts of fabric brought her by Legolas with pleasure, and Aragorn had his daughter take the sandals to their intended recipients. There were several rooms intended for slaves and servants along the corridor closer to the main wing of the palace, and Lord Amonrabi had instructed the housekeeper to prepare two of these for the Queen’s acquisitions, with instructions one was to be fitted with a proper headrest while the other should be left with none. Mollified that at least one of the new servants used a proper rest while sleeping, and that these were finally obtaining servants in keeping with their stations, the housekeeper did as instructed.
Benai had dried himself with the provided towel, and now with small clothes and a white robe lent him by the King Elessar upon him he left the bathing chamber and followed the waiting slave to the room provided him. It wasn’t commodious, but was comfortable. He examined the room with interest, nodded his appreciation to the slave, and entered in to take his possession of it. Then, as soon as the footsteps of the slave disappeared down the corridor there was a knock at the door, and a small face framed with dark gold hair peeped in. In soft Adunaic she said, “Master Benai? Ada asked me to bring you some shoes.” At his nod she came in and held the sandals out to him.
“Thank you,” he said solemnly as he bent to accept them. He sat on the bed, lifted one foot to fasten one of the sandals to it, then the other. Finally he stood, and smiled. “You may tell your lord father that they are a good fit and are comfortable.”
“Very good,” she said, sounding very like her father at the moment.
“Is there ought else I can do for you, my lady Melian?”
She shook her head, but still lingered. Finally she said, “Ada says you are another of our people. I didn’t know the Dúnedain could have dark skin as you do. I am glad, though.” Her voice was high as one would expect of a child, and quite sweet. “I think you look very handsome.”
He felt touched by this speech, and bowed deeply to her. “I thank you deeply, princess,” he said. “You are yourself beautiful beyond telling.”
“Not as beautiful as Nana,” she said with a sigh.
“Ah, but you are as beautiful indeed. Not more so, but as beautiful.”
Her eyes shone with the compliment. “Thank you,” she said. “Ada says that when you wish you may come to him in the sitting room. We will go soon to eat with the Farozi, although Nana says she supposes the Haradrim shall wish you and Hasturnerini to eat separately. Well, as Hildigor is on guard this evening, he must eat separately, too, so he will probably eat beforehand with you.”
“Melian?” A woman’s voice down the hall called the child, and she looked away, then back.
“Lady Avrieth is calling me.” She smiled, then disappeared.
A few moments later Benai walked down to the great room where he’d been brought first. The King stood there with other Men and three women about himself, all of them talking quietly. The King turned at his entrance and smiled his welcome. “Gentlemen, my ladies,” he said in Adunaic, “may I present Benai of the true Southern Dúnedain. He has agreed to enter our service as Arwen’s personal guard for a time.” He then translated what he’d just said to Rohirric for Éomer, Éowyn, and those of the King of Rohan’s escort.
“Welcome,” the other tall Man who wore the symbol of a star on his robes said. “I am Faramir, Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithilien. It is a pleasure to find more kinsmen here so far from our homes.”
“It is an honor for myself as well, Lord Prince.”
He was quickly introduced to the rest, all of whom treated him with respect and honor. King and Queen of Rohan; Prince and Princess of Ithilien; envoys from the courts of Rohan and Arnor; ambassadors from Gondor to Harad, husband and wife; escorts, all lords and captains; Captain Peregrin and Master Isumbard Took from the Shire, both Hobbits; Master Ruvemir and his apprentice from Gondor, sculptors; Dwarf and Elf. He looked at them with interest, then bowed with respect to them. “It is my honor,” he repeated quietly.
Lady Avrieth came with young Elfwine in her arms to deliver him to his father, whose eyes lit with pride as he reached to accept him. Melian followed behind with Hasturnerini on one side and Elboron on the other. The Haradri girl certainly looked different now, her hair carefully washed and brushed, her slender feet in new, elegant sandals, a new gown about her of which was sufficiently similar to Haradri styles to make her feel comfortable, but sufficiently different to make it plain she was no longer under Haradri protocol. Aragorn was amused to recognize that one of his daughter’s looser night gowns had been carefully and swiftly redesigned for the use of the girl. Yes, Arwen was making it plain this was not just another slave to be counted among those of the palace, to be bullied and given the lowest errands. All inclined their heads courteously to her, and Melian demonstrated to her how she ought to curtsey in return. Once she’d managed to copy the smaller girl, she accepted the smiles of all before they turned back to their own discussions of how they would deal with the situation for the moment.
Finally Lady Anidril said, “I’ll take her in hand for the next two days, until the day of the festival. She will need instruction on protocol for all three courts, and on what it means to be indentured. My maid Aldarieth will be able to help her as well.” At the King’s nod of agreement, she turned to the girl and began to explain in Haradri.
“So, I will be alongside you for two days?” Hastunerini asked.
“Yes, for two days, starting tomorrow. We will see you more properly prepared for the remainder of our time here in the Farozi’s palace. The folk of the palace will find it hard to understand your new status, for they will not understand the differences between guild indentures and slavery. Nor do they fully understand as yet how our protocol differs from theirs. You will need to learn much in two days that you might attend on our Queen as your mistress in a manner they will accept, but which reinforces that you are not a slave in the manner in which their slaves are.”
Meals had been sent for Benai, Hasturnerini, Avrieth, the two small boys, and those Arwen had indicated earlier in the day to Amonrabi would stand as guards of honor during the meal. They were allowed to sit at a table on the far side of the room to eat together. Benai was able to use a Haradri eating knife and spoon well enough, and watched in fascination as the Northerners dealt with forks. He ended up shaking his head with disbelief. Hasturnerini found sitting up to eat a matter over which to giggle, but accepted it well enough. When the meal was over she returned to her room for the night, and looked about it with interest, gratefully running her hands over her restored family possessions, finally undressing carefully and lying down happily with her doll. She was too old to sleep with dolls, really; but it was reassuring to have this part of her childhood restored, to know she was among those who wished her well. She stroked the doll’s wooden head for comfort as she slipped into a deep and restful sleep.