Though she had often stood on a terrace of the city and looked over the Pelennor, the view had changed since the war. If Calendes carefully followed the lines of the roads, she could almost make out the ruins of the house she had grown up in. She mumbled curses at her ancestors for leaving the land in fee tail, and her father for dying after her brothers, but the oft-repeated invective lacked strength. The ruling was final; the land her cousin's and she left with only the house on the fourth level that came from her mother's family. Calendes would rather starve than accept the insulting offer from her cousin of a life of unpaid drudgery on the manor in exchange for the deed to the house. She would starve quickly in grandeur, or sell the house to Borion and, with the way prices had risen this summer, starve slowly in squalor, but at least she would starve on her own terms.
Calendes heard the limping step - long stride, short stride - of Borion coming up behind her, but did not bother to turn. He stopped stiffly beside her and stood hip-thrust to take the weight off his bad leg.
"The price is fair. Will you sell?" Borion asked.
It was a fair price, more than fair, if not enough, even judiciously invested, to support her for life. Calendes turned to him. "There are many properties vacant you could buy much cheaper. Why do you want my house?"
He shrugged. "Undamaged. Clear title." A dull red blush climbed his neck. "You need a dowry."
"Dowry," she repeated bitterly. She was not young and her mirror had always told her she was not pretty. "With every fair maid in Gondor flocking to the city, who would look twice at me?"
Borion looked over the wall. "I've a good business, getting better. Too much to live over the shop. The King and the new Steward want a Council from the city. I've ideas, but..." He shifted uncomfortably and the dull red had spread up to his cheeks. "No contacts at court. Keep the money from the house. Best you have your own assets."
Calendes blinked and shook her head in surprise. She felt her mouth drop open and she turned to face the man next to her. He stared straight ahead over the parapet, not meeting her eyes. He was compact and muscular, though his nose had been flattened and his mouth mostly gap-toothed. She knew he had stayed to defend the city and a wall had collapsed on him. His clothes were well tailored. In happier days, her mother had hired him to redo the fa?ade and the terraces of the townhouse.
"Are you asking me to marry you?" she blurted out.
He nodded. "You've contacts at court. I would like a son, but that is ... up to you,"
She wondered what other ideas he had.
"If I say no, will you buy the house?"
He nodded curtly. "I said I would buy it."
It had to be better than starving or being her cousin's unpaid drudge. "I would like a son as well, by and by."
"Agreed." And he thrust out his hand to clasp hers and seal the bargain.