32. Valanya Market
On the seventh day of every week, which is called Valanya, the Great Market was held in the second circle of Minas Tirith. Everything was sold - vegetables from the golden fields of Lebennin, fish from the Bay of Belfalas, spices from Umbar, fine embroidered cloth from Pinnath Gelin - everything, from every region of Gondor and beyond. All the city would descend onto the second circle on Valanya, everyone squeezing in between stalls and shops and spilling into alleyways. The market began at dawn and lasted until midday, so that by afternoon, it was finished, only the piles of abandoned rubbish indicating its recent dissolution. For those unaccustomed to the city, the market proved an exhilarating, confusing chaos of sounds, smells, sights. Pickpockets thrived here, targeting the bumbling country boy as easily as a hawk may spy a hare, nearly a mile away. Everyone came - from the rich nobles of the fifth circle, to the soldiers and the Guard, to the tradesmen from the fourth and third circles, and finally even the poorer folk from the bottom. But not just from Minas Tirith - they came from every realm. And now, with the War finished, that diversity was only emphasized. Haradrim mingled with elves squeezing between Rangers from the North. Lingering Rohirrim, sailors from Dol Amroth, giggling courtesans. Everyone, every swollen lip and almond eye and leaf-shaped ear and inky face and ginger beard, every feature was on display. And everyone looked on each other's strangeness with mingled shock, amusement, impassivity. And the noise - the noise – Valar, it was chaotic! Chickens clucking, parrots screeching, pigs snorting. Horses neighing, guards bustling, Men haggling. Vendors bellowing out their prices, competing with each other, striving to out-shout each other. Mothers chiding, children squealing, noise, noise, noise. It was a veritable cacophony - and often had the Citadel heard complaints from the second circle dwellers that they would be awoken nigh the sun's rise to this swelling symphony of buying and selling. How can one rest with this roaring noise? It is impossible! Today, it was a warm day. By noon, the tang of sweat mingled with everything else, and the tiny taverns tucked away in each niche and corner were filled with patrons hoping to douse the heat with a pint of ale. There was no work on Valanya, and the construction of these lower circles was left half-finished - for wooden beams covered certain sections of wall, and scaffolding clothed the taller buildings. Tomorrow, the Men would return and continue rebuilding the wall, the tower, the windows, the street. Thankfully, the blood had been scrubbed away long ago - leaving pale, white patches of stone, glinting in the noon sun. That was always the first task. To scrub the gore off the doorway. “They came in through there.” Faramir and Dínendal strolled along the walkway leading up to the second circle's edge. The chaotic sounds of the market faded as they walked up this curved parapet. Finally they could speak without yelling. As they climbed higher, passing benches where elderly sat or children played, passing newly potted flowers, they could see the first circle clearly, rising into view. The Great Gate, the high walls, the Old Guesthouse. Faramir indicated the Gate. “They struck down the Gate, overtook the first circle,” he turned slowly, tracing the route with his index finger, “by this time, they also came in from ladders, climbing up over the walls, into the Lampwrights’ Street... And there,” he pointed to the narrow archway connecting the first and second circles, “there we held them for some time - I do not know, several hours - until our lines were broke and they did spill, continuing there,” he pointed to where the alleyway widened into the second circle's main street, “and up through there.” He pointed to where the surging market now pulsed. Dínendal was silent. He leaned over the rampart’s edge, looking down onto the buildings of the first circle. He let his eye wander over the rooftops, down into the maze of dark alleyways, out towards the main square - the Great Gate - the main street - and then up, up, up - just as Faramir described. He followed the path of Mordor's armies up, up, up, halting at the second gate - half-covered in wooden planks, still in reconstruction - until continuing into the market. A breeze passed, cooling them slightly. Dínendal did not feel the heat, though he noted a trail of sweat trickling down his guide's brow. Faramir was gazing down into the market behind them, where all was movement, talking, yelling, laughing. A gang of children went chasing after a ball, disrupting the slow march of a company of Guardsmen. Someone threw a huge, slippery fish with a loud cry - the wriggling mass flashed silver between stalls, catching the sun - before being caught by another fisherman. Somewhere further off: the sound of a blade cutting through meat, slamming against wood. “Unfortunately, I could not aid my countrymen in the city's defense - not in those moments, anyway,” Faramir continued after several minutes, leaning against the warm marble, watching the market's flurry of activity. “Nay... I was wounded in Osgiliath, and did not recover 'til King Elessar himself released me from the Black Breath.” Dínendal had heard rumors - a tale of fire, and oil, and madness - but he did not press for more details. “And now,” Faramir turned, flashed a small smile, “I know how susceptible the elves are to heat and cold - perhaps we can evade this infernal noonday sun and find a meal in one of the local taverns?” Dínendal laughed. “Aye, let us make for the shade. And quickly too.” Faramir grinned, nodded. He was squinting in the sun, his face flushed. With a slight loosening of his doublet's collar, he nodded and they set forth - back down the walkway - back into the jostling mass. They weaved between stalls, hearing the cries of vendors, the laughing children. They weaved through this shaking, rattling mass - pushing through the crowd - while those who recognized Faramir bowed low and hastened to let him pass. He smiled at the people, nodded kindly, and Dínendal was impressed with the warm respect he commanded - with the blushing maidens and smiling soldiers - aye, it seemed Faramir was well-loved here. But whatever love Faramir commanded, his brother commanded, as always, the attention. For a laughing cry went up in another part of the market, and soon there were scattered whoops and cheers, as well as shouted directions and the loud clopping of a horse approaching. And then, bursting through the crowd, sending a crate of chickens tumbling, feathers flying, Boromir appeared - jerking the reigns of his horse back - causing laughs and exclamations and buzzing excitement. Beneath him, the obese vendor bustled over his fallen crates full of nervous, screeching chickens. “Ho! I find you at last!” Boromir swung his leg over, dismounted, handed the reigns to the nearest stable hand, and strode towards Faramir and Dínendal with a wide grin. He was breathing hard, sweating slightly. Dínendal caught how he kept his left arm lower then the right, moving it stiffly. “Well met, brother,” Faramir nodded. Boromir clopped his heels. “My lord.” Faramir rolled his eyes. “And Master Elf Dínendal,” Boromir smiled. “Mae govannen, mellon nín,” Dínendal nodded. “Ah... Nay, please, nay, my knowledge of the elfish tongues is superficial at best.” Boromir smiled. “Though I know it pleases you to speak them." “Aye, after so long, it does indeed.” “Will you join us, brother?” Faramir asked. “We were just going in search of shade and a meal.” “In truth? Well, if it is shade and a meal, I know a good place. Come, I will guide you,” Boromir grinned. “For I know every tavern and pub in this circle as if I had been reared here - come, come. ‘Tis too crowded on the main road anyway, and this is a small, comely place.” And so they squeezed out of the market and the main road, and slipped into one of the many thin alleyways. They walked in silence; long, fast strides. Enjoying the cool mustiness of these hidden streets. Dínendal noticed Faramir looking wide-eyed at the passing windows - all cracked and stained - at the lines of drying clothes overhead - at the rubble amassed in every corner. In this maze, noise faded, and soon their footsteps grew loud. They could hear the occasional mewling cat, or the elderly woman calling down from her window. They passed a few beggars sleeping, a mangy dog, a woman sweeping. The sun spilled in, dazzling, between the taller buildings. Shafts of bright white sunlight, illuminating the dark, grubby doors. They turned a corner, another one, a third. Left, right, left. Straight ahead. They passed a small square with a well. Some children were leaning over the stony edge, dropping pieces of rubble in. Listening for the noise. Plop. “Ho!” Boromir called. “Ho! Rascals!” The children scattered. Boromir laughed. They continued past this square, into another alley, where all was shadow. By this point, Dínendal had already made a mental map of the second circle - for they had ventured deep into its bosom, deep into its heart. The poor quarter. The modest homes. The hidden lanes and lopsided buildings. Finally, Boromir stopped. There was a thin opening between buildings, narrow enough for one person to walk through at a time. On the main alley, there was no sign or mark indicating the name of this byway. But Boromir seemed well informed, for he slipped into it, so that Faramir and Dínendal followed in single file. As they walked, the building on their left fell away, becoming a low wall just above their heads. And as they walked down this small, hidden street, they could hear glasses clinking, murmured conversations, soft laughter, smoke, all coming from the invisible courtyard to their left. They reached a wooden door left wide open. Boromir stepped inside, Faramir and Dínendal followed. The doorway was low – Dínendal ducked his head. A small tavern. Dark. It was a quiet place. A few elderly Men sat, lazy smoke curling from their pipes. A single barmaid stood behind the counter, scrubbing it clean. A thick aroma – pipe smoke, ale, roses – heady, intoxicating. Dínendal smiled inadvertently. And he caught a modest inscription over the door: The Rose Garden. The elderly patrons gave no sign of having noticed the group of three enter, but the barmaid perked up. She was young, thinner than was considered fashionable, with fair hair and laughing eyes. “My lord!” she called. She squinted. “Oh, your nose! My, ye have two black eyes!” Boromir cracked a smile. “Ah, young Ana, don’t ask…” They walked to the counter. Boromir leaned against the counter lazily, pushing his knuckles against the wood. Ana smiled, smoothed down her apron. “Outside or inside today?” she asked. “Outside, love,” Boromir smiled, leaned towards her. “In the shade, if it is possible.” “Oh, ‘tis not very crowded today,” the girl returned his smile. “Everyone’s still at the Market! Whatever table suits you, sirs.” She indicated the door leading out into the courtyard. Boromir flashed a small smile at Faramir and Dínendal, and then led them outside. And as they went outside, Dínendal’s senses were thrilled. A garden, spanning across, with large, wooden tables, and a low, stone wall encompassing it. Dínendal noted how the stone wall – all crumbling, uneven – divided this pleasant, enclosed courtyard from the alleyway they had just come from. Above their heads, wooden beams had been erected, a makeshift roof of crisscrossing planks, held up by six columns. For when it rained, they could put a canvas sheet on it. But today, in the gleaming sun, Dínendal saw with a smile how The Rose Garden obtained its name – for thorny rose bushes, arranged like vines, were strewn about the wooden columns and beams, covering the courtyard, surrounding everything, so that the sun spilled in through this swirling, entangled painting of red and oak and thorns. The smell was divine. They took a table by the wall, where Boromir preferred, and he took the seat with his back to the stone, while Faramir and Dínendal took similar positions, for they too delighted in the view of this courtyard. And so they all sat on one side of the table, inhaling the scent. There were few others outside – another pair of elderly Men in beaten clothes, engaged in a slow game of chess; a group of younger lads, surely veterans of the War for their expressions were serious and their voices soft, yet they were not older than twenty; a solitary ginger-haired Rohirrim who seemed to be waiting for someone, for he jostled his leg nervously. Ana arrived within moments. She smiled at them. “Always against the wall with you, ‘tis your favorite seat,” she chuckled. Boromir looked away, almost abashed, “Better to know what is behind me…” She did not press the jest further, but rather turned quickly to Faramir and Dínendal. “Well, good sirs, I have not seen your faces here before. And, by your dress, I see you are not of the lower circles at all. From the Citadel, like the good lord Boromir?” “Indeed,” Faramir said softly, politely. “You have stolen the introductions from my brother – I am Faramir, brother to the good lord Boromir,” he smiled, “and this is our friend Dínendal of the Woodland Realm.” Ana’s eyes widened. “Faramir? Ai me, my lord, forgive me! For – for thou art the Lord Steward!” And she nearly bowed, but Boromir laughed and Faramir quickly intervened. “Nay, nay, my lady,” Faramir urged. “Please, there is no need for formalities. Speak naturally, and as you would, and treat me as simply as you treat all your patrons.” She blushed furiously, nodded quickly with a nervous smile. And when she straightened, she looked at Dínendal, already her gaze becoming curious. “And my lord, you are of the Woodland Realm?” “I am.” “Forgive me, for I am ignorant, but that lies outside the lands of Gondor?” “Indeed. It is in what was called Mirkwood, and is now called Eryn Lasgalen. It lies past the River Anduin, to the northeast.” “Eryn Lasgalen? Ha!” Ana laughed. “’Tis a good and proper elfish name, aye.” Dínendal felt his own smile grow. “Indeed, for it is an elven realm.” Ana’s laughter faded, and she raised a skeptical eyebrow. But then she leaned forward a little, and Dínendal obligingly tilted his head, so that she saw his ear and nearly gasped, exclaiming: “Oh! Oh, my lord! An elf, indeed!” Boromir was laughing now, a rumbling chuckle coming from her other side. “Next time I shall bring the dwarf and the halflings, my dear Ana,” Boromir grinned. “Your expression is priceless.” “Ana…” Dínendal began, feeling himself relax in her friendly, casual company. “Is that your given name?” “Oh, nay, my lord. ‘Tis simple, and short, and easier to say. Nay, my given name is Anaranë. Ah, and now I am embarrassed, kind sirs, for my mother did tell me it was an elfi – an elven name.” “It is! It is indeed!” Dínendal said. “Aye,” Faramir agreed. “It is e’en familiar to me – perhaps a tale I read as a boy – there was such a name in it.” His brow furrowed. “Would that I could recall its meaning…” “Well, my Lord Steward, as you think, I shall take the orders,” Ana replied, obviously wishing to draw the attention away from herself. “And what will the good sirs be having this afternoon?” Dínendal, Faramir and Boromir cast each other looks – waiting for who to begin – until Boromir raised his chin, “It shall be the usual for me, Ana.” “In truth, I know not what to order,” Dínendal glanced around at his companions. “They have a fine ale here,” Boromir shrugged. “They say it goes back to the days of Eärnur.” “Then that shall suffice,” Dínendal nodded, “and perhaps whatever meal is ready.” “Aye, the same for me, my lady,” Faramir said. “Cold meats, perhaps some fruit. Whatever is chilled, for the day is hot.” “Very good, my lords,” Ana nodded with a smile, and, when Faramir’s back was turned, Dínendal saw Ana mouth an amused My lady? to Boromir, so that he too chuckled. Once she was gone, Faramir unbuttoned his doublet, aired it out. Auburn locks clung stubbornly to his temples with sweat. The corners of Boromir’s mouth twitched. “Brother, you have e’er suffered the heat,” he said. “Indeed,” Faramir said, blowing his breath out. “The summer is by far my least favorite season.” He looked about the courtyard. “Nevertheless, ‘tis a comely place indeed. Where did you find it?” “Young Beregond knew of it,” Boromir grunted, looked away. His voice dropped. “’Tis the only place where they do not call me Mad…” Faramir gave Boromir a pitying look, and there passed an uncomfortable silence. “’Tis a welcome respite from the market,” Dínendal interjected quickly. “For that was a veritable chaos.” “Aye, indeed,” Faramir nodded. “And we have oft heard complaints for it – the poor fellows who live on the main street say they can get no sleep, nor rest, nor quiet for one full day every week.” Boromir snorted with laughter, and Dínendal smiled. They fell into companionable silence. The sun glinted between the wooden beams and curled roses. After some time, Ana returned with a loaded tray. Three tall steins were placed heavily on the table, as well as plates of cold meats, cheeses, fresh vegetables and bread. She tipped her head modestly at their thanks and then disappeared back into the tavern. They ate. Dínendal watched Boromir pick at his food, managing only bread. The Man’s eyes traveled habitually to the tavern, and, when Dínendal followed his line of sight, he saw that Boromir was watching Ana work. The young woman bent behind the countertop, retrieved a rag, began cleaning. Occasionally, she would catch Boromir’s eye and smile. And Dínendal noted how Boromir would lower his eyes with his own crooked grin. They spoke idly of the city’s reconstruction, of the summer days growing warmer, of Eryn Lasgalen’s recovery from the War. Faramir was ever curious to hear of the elven kingdom, and so Dínendal confirmed Prince Legolas’s stories and histories of the place, particularly when it was still called Greenwood. Boromir fell somewhat quiet, mostly drinking his ale or glancing around the courtyard. Dínendal kept an eye on him, gauging his mood, and was pleased to see that his friend was in somewhat lighter spirits than the night before. Only once, when Dínendal was telling Faramir of the attacks from Dol Guldur, and the great losses Mirkwood had suffered, did Boromir’s hands begin to shake noticeably. He was placing his stein on the table when Dínendal mentioned the elves who had been taken into the prisons of Dol Guldur – we overthrew the fortress in the end of April, but we found none alive – and suddenly the stein was trembling in Boromir’s hand, audibly, so that it knocked against the table, jittering loud, and some ale splashed out. He placed it unevenly down, almost frantic, and was about to withdraw his hands, hide them, when Ana arrived suddenly – purposefully or not, Dínendal did not know – and quickly grabbed Boromir’s shaking hand, kissed it, feigning as if this were only a display of her usual, friendly affection and not a rescue. “My lords! My lords!” she sighed musically, theatrically. “You three have near emptied our pantry. Whatever shall I do when all the Men return from the Market with empty stomachs, demanding to be fed?” Faramir, who had finished his plate of food entirely, and had been chewing on some bread as Dínendal was speaking, looked up with full mouth. He swallowed the piece hastily. “In truth, my lady?” She laughed genuinely, releasing Boromir’s hand. “Nay, I jest,” she said. “My, we would be a sorry tavern if only a few hungry gentlemen could finish off our pantry!” “As you can tell, brother,” Boromir said dryly, “Ana enjoys teasing.” Faramir flushed slightly, laughing. And just as the barmaid bent low to begin gathering up the empty plates, Boromir pulled her towards him. “But come, love, do not tease…” Boromir brought his hand up, grabbed her chin and pulled her into a somewhat aggressive kiss, so that Dínendal worried again for the ale, and the rumors, and the scars, and the shaking hands, and all of it. But Ana did not seem overly fazed, for when she straightened, she said nothing but loaded another plate onto her tray and left, silent and hiding a smile. Once she was gone, Faramir stifled a belch and looked pointedly at his brother. “Boromir, do not tell me you and she…?” he began. “’Tis not your matter, little brother,” Boromir growled. Faramir shrugged slightly, let his eyes drift over the sunny courtyard. “Well, I only say to keep in mind that – ” “There is no need,” Boromir snapped suddenly, “for any forewarnings, my Lord Steward. I know all too clearly that I am not yet disgraced enough to choose any wife I please.” He slouched, muttered gruffly: “Nonetheless, it matters not, for she means nothing to me.” Dínendal winced, for Ana returned in that instant to gather up the steins. Yet she gave no indication of having heard and instead removed the steins in silence, Boromir’s heavy-hooded gaze fixed on her. She ignored him, straightened, smiled at Faramir and Dínendal. “Anything else, my lords?” “Nay, thank you kindly,” Faramir said. “How much…?” “Oh, ‘tis gratis, my lords,” she smiled. “’Tis rare we have the honor of serving the Lord Steward or an elf lord. Please, accept it as a modest gift on behalf of the house.” “Very well,” Faramir nodded graciously. “You are very generous.” “Aye,” Dínendal agreed. “Thank you.” She smiled at them, cast one rapid glance at Boromir, who quickly averted his eyes, shameful, and disappeared back into the tavern. They left a few coins on the table anyway, and soon enough they were back in the alleyway, walking away, back towards the main street, to where the Market had all but disappeared, piles of rubbish blowing in the warm breeze. Boromir walked with them to the main street, but there he bade them farewell, inventing an excuse to return back into the alley.
“Ana…” “Nay, my lord, nay. Do not think you can return here so easily. Not after what I did overhear.” “Ana, I was jesting.” “Well, I’ve tired of your jests, my lord. I’ll not be teased. Perhaps you should return to your Citadel and find a nice, prim courtesan to jest with.” “You are cruel today.” “I am honest, my lord.” “Have you forgotten my name?” “I wish I had.” “Ana, come now…” “Nay! Stop. I’ve heard the rumors, you know.” “Come, do not…” “Is it true? That you spat before the King himself? That you struck one of the periann? I do not want to believe it - ” “Then don’t believe it.” “They say that is why you’ve not been made Steward, as was your right. And I did hear you were brawling with some wretched soul in the fourth circle, not two nights past!” “And what of it? Ai me, Ana, how you badger!” “Well? Is it true? All that I’ve heard? Is it true you lie with other women?” “Eru! Plague take you, woman, I am not here to confess my every crime! You imprison me with words!” “Then why did you come back? I certainly did not seek you out!” “So be it! I’ll to the Citadel, out of this contemptible place and away from such a lowly wench! Will that make you happy?” “Lowly wench? Foul cur! I have been e’er kind with you! But I see it is true then – what they say – that Boromir has become as mad as his father, and Barad-dûr did make a villain of him!” “Silence your tongue!” “Ai!” “Ai, Ana, Ana, no, Ana. Nay, forgive me. Come, I did not mean to. Forgive me. Come now, what? Nay, please. Still your tears.” “Do not touch me.” “Ana, please, I am sorry. Please.” “Stop. Leave.” “Ana, do not do this. Come. You know I did not mean to – did I hurt you? Forgive me, I did not mean to. Shhh, shhh. Dear Ana, love, I did not - ” “Leave!”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.