2. The Apothecary
“And what do you think of her?” I ask, reminding myself not to be impatient with gossip. These women, however light-minded they may be, represent my life’s blood. Compared with most of the other merchants here at the fair today, like my friend the glovemaker, I have not struggled to keep food on the table this winter. Between my medicines for the Houses of Healing and the luxuries I concoct for the court, I kept my coffers full. It will not do to give unnecessary offence to a frequent buyer. So I steel myself for a round of fresh cattiness.
“She is fair enough, and her temper has improved since her arm healed, but I cannot imagine what Lord Faramir is thinking of!” A twitter of laughter rises from the others. “Lady Eowyn is a shieldmaiden, after all, and I suspect she keeps her sword under her pillow. My Lord Steward might find himself skewered if he goes to her chamber at night!” Her green eyes radiate jealousy as she speaks.
I am sorely tempted to point out that Beruthiel’s red hair and rabbity chin hardly would charm Lord Faramir even if there were no Lady Eowyn. I restrict myself to a tight smile and a neutral comment. “Perhaps he enjoys a challenge, Beruthiel. Just watch your tongue—there are ears everywhere. Here are your things.” I give her the small quilted bag.
With a careless wave, she and her squadron of friends move on. Silly fools, I think, gritting my teeth. Do they not understand we have been at war? I am all too aware of that now, since the Warden hired me three weeks ago to provide extra medicines to the Houses. Such are the numbers of wounded that the healers have no time to brew the complex tinctures they desperately need.
The work earns me much, but I value it more for the opportunity it gives me to gather news of the war. I speak to Ioreth often when I make my deliveries, and she has told me no one paid a higher price for their battlefield valor than the Lady Eowyn and her halfling squire. Ioreth is a trustworthy source, so I therefore respect the Lady without having seen her. That wench Beruthiel should have a better bridle on her tongue, indeed.
My attention fastens on a young woman standing nearby who keeps turning around to look at my goods. The man and boy with her busily argue about what pastries to eat, and pay her no heed. I get a good view of her, and am struck by her pale beauty, like that of a lily kissed by spring’s first sun. Her hair, a cornsilk waterfall, requires no additional artistry, but old habit asserts itself when I see her bare face. I mentally paint her features—a whisper of black kohl on the lashes, dark rose paste to enhance the full lips, and a lighter rose pink rubbed on the cheekbones . . .
As if drawn by my thoughts, she bolts towards me just as the boy distracts his sparring partner by stuffing a fritter in his mouth. I glimpse the man’s face and recognize Lord Faramir, and the whole puzzle falls into place. The beautiful woman is undoubtedly Lady Eowyn, and the “boy” is no boy, but the halfling who fought with her—Meriadoc, I think Ioreth said his name was.
Lady Eowyn fidgets for a second, and then speaks hesitantly. “I wish to purchase some perfumes and paints, but have no knowledge. What would you recommend?”
I seize my chance to both do Lady Eowyn a good turn and put an end to Beruthiel’s pretensions. “Over here, my Lady Eowyn, are my rarest perfumes, distilled to absolute purity.” Her startlement tells me she did not expect me to call her by name. “Light floral waters would be best if you are not used to scent, like these violet and bluebell ones—they’re quite delicate—”
“Bluebell water?” she says wryly. “Another sign?”
I ignore her random comment and plunge on. “If you desire something stronger, here is a special blend of rose attar with musk, very rich but not cloying.” She sniffs the flagons cautiously as I pull a tray from under the table. “And here are my finest paints, ground with the purest pigments and gentle on the skin.”
“How are they applied, Master Apothecary?’ Lady Eowyn flicks an uneasy glance at Lord Faramir’s back, and I divine she does not want him to see her buying such fripperies, especially ones that imply such a clear interest in courtship.
I rush through my standard tutorial on painting the face flatteringly; she nods and asks few questions while listening closely. I help pick out a clutch of pastel colors, good on her fair complexion, and I quickly wrap them up, fixing Lord Faramir with a wary eye as he strolls farther down the twisting street, past the two of us.
“May I have a flask of the rose perfume, and two of the bluebell water?” She smiles as though savoring a private joke. “I do believe in signs, after all.”
I tuck the flasks and some small squirrel-hair brushes for the paints into another quilted bag, and quote her a far lower price than I normally charge. We exchange bag and coins; Lady Eowyn no sooner has her things in hand but that the halfling appears at her elbow.
“What did you get, Eowyn, can I see?” Afire with mischief, he tries to snatch the bag. She jerks it away and puts a finger to her lips.
“Hush, Merry! I’ll tell you later.” She turns back to me, a becoming flush on her cheeks. “Thank you for your time, my good master. I hope my experiment works—I shall inform you later.”
“I am honored, Lady Eowyn, and look forward to seeing you again.”
She gives Merry a little push, and they hasten to join Lord Faramir, deep in conversation with a neighboring bookseller. I silently congratulate myself. It will not be my fault if an improved Lady Eowyn fails to permanently capture Lord Faramir’s heart.
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.