8. The Flower Seller
“Of course I will, child.” I reach up from where I sit and pat Meril on the hand. “How foolish you are being! I have sold flowers in this city for many a day, and I am not so old yet that I cannot still manage perfectly well with my walking stick. Go along, now, or that new husband of yours will wonder where his supper is.”
My granddaughter looks at me worriedly. “I told him I needed to help you at the fair today and that he would have to fend for himself. Are you quite sure I should go?”
“Yes, I am. You have done enough, for you gathered most of these blooms for me. Go, dear.”
“Very well, Gran.”
She walks away and leaves me sitting next to the fountain where I usually station myself each day to sell my flowers. I close my eyes and let the late afternoon sun warm my old and aching bones, thankful the weather is not as chill and damp as it often is during the spring fair. The sunshine is so very right today, now that Gondor has been saved from Mordor’s hoards. The past weeks already seem like a bad dream, when I huddled in my small house and prayed I would not see my children and grandchildren put to the sword or marched off as slaves.
“Please, granddame, do you have any bluebells today?”
I blink as the voice rouses me from dozing. My sight is blurry now and it takes me a few seconds to focus on the small figure standing in front of me. The boy’s brown curls are all tangled and in bad need of a good combing, and the mischievous gleam in his eyes makes me think his father must punish him regularly.
“I’m sorry, child, I was napping a bit in the sun. What would you like?”
The boy laughs. “I’m not a child—I’m a hobbit, and all grown up according to my folk. But I forgive you, for I realize not everyone in Minas Tirith knows of me.”
“That’s right, Master Brandybuck. You ought not to be an egoist and think your fame has traveled to every corner of the city,” says another voice. Its owner walks up to the strange creature’s side, and I gasp when I recognize the tall man in Ranger gear.
“My Lord Faramir! You do me much honour, stopping here.” I begin to climb to my feet, ignoring my painful joints, but he holds me down with a firm hand on my arm.
“You need not stand for me, my kind goodwife. Your age deserves its rest.” He cocks his head and studies me, while the little person who calls himself a hobbit watches curiously. “Do I not know you? I think you are the flower seller that used to sell nosegays to my mother outside the Steward’s House, long ago.”
“Yes, my lord, that was indeed me in my younger days—I am Almie. I am glad to know you remember me, for I have never forgotten your mother. Minas Tirith has not been the same since the Lady Finduilas left us. Her beauty and goodness were a blessing to all who knew her.”
“You are quite right, Mistress Almie, life is emptier without her.” He looks sad for a moment, but then he brightens up as a blond woman joins both him and the hobbit. “Eowyn! I wondered where you were tarrying.”
“Nowhere, merely taking my time since I am rather tired. Are you buying flowers?” she asks Faramir.
“No,” says the hobbit, “I am—I want to buy you a bunch of bluebells with the money I earned singing.”
“That is sweet of you, as always, but are you quite certain you want to spend your new-found coin so quickly?”
“And you forget, Merry, that I might desire to do the same.” Lord Faramir’s tone is teasing. “Or should I be worried you have decided to become my competition for Eowyn now?”
The hobbit laughs again, sounding like a bubbling brook. “Only if Eowyn wishes it! Maybe she does—after all, you will be even more attentive to her if you think you might lose her . . .”
As Lord Faramir and his hobbit friend bicker good-naturedly, the woman chuckles softly and turns her attention to my flowers, giving me a chance to really look at her for the first time. With her fair colouring, I am sure she is of Rohan, though I do not know if she came to the city to nurse or to fight. I saw two shieldmaidens years ago, and while they were handsome, as most Rohirrim are, the woman Eowyn is far prettier than they were. Her features are delicate and her carriage graceful, so she must be a lady of high birth. But what I note most is the air of gravity she carries; it reminds me a little of the Lady Finduilas, who always seemed to be hiding some secret sorrow.
She bends over a tub of lilies and irises, breathing in their rich scent, and then strokes the velvety petals of the violets nearby. “How beautiful your flowers are! Do you grow all of these, or pick some in the woods and fields outside the city?”
“Both, my lady. I have a tiny greenhouse next to my house, and I somehow kept all my precious plants alive during the siege; it was a miracle, truly! But blooms like those violets are picked by my granddaughter—she is a good girl, helping me the way she does.”
As Lady Eowyn continues to quiz me, it slowly dawns on me who she is acting like; of all the highborn ladies I have spoken with, the Lady Finduilas was the only one who ever asked personal questions, who wanted to know if I had a family or if I was able to earn enough money to survive. I glance at Lord Faramir, and catch him looking at Lady Eowyn even as he keeps up his comic verbal duel with his friend. He is indeed a wise man, to see that this strange foreign woman has the same kind of heart as his mother’s. I hope she is as fond of Faramir as he is of her, for she will love him in a way that none of the spoiled brats here in Minas Tirith can do.
I suddenly realize that the hobbit is standing in front of me again, Faramir shaking his head behind him. “Here!” he says. “I’ve finally won this skirmish. I want this bunch of bluebells along with two of the violets. How much do I owe you?”
“Three mirians are more than enough, my dear little master.”
He pulls the coins from his purse, presses them into my palm, and folds my fingers over them. He offers the flowers to Lady Eowyn with a courtly bow that makes me smile.
“Carry them for me, Merry dear—wait a minute, though—” She plucks a few bluebells from the bunch he holds and tucks them between her breasts. “There, now we can go, for it does grow late. Thank you, and may good fortune visit your house.”
“Oh, it will,” says Merry. “Goodbye, granddame, with my thanks!”
“A good morrow to you, Mistress Almie, and I thank you for speaking of my mother. It brings me joy to know her memory is still evergreen for you.” He bows.
As they leave me, I am startled to see my granddaughter hurrying down the street towards me. “Meril! Why are you not home?”
“I wanted to fetch you a cooling drink first.” I take the dewy glass she holds out with my empty hand as she stares after the strolling trio. “Who is that queer little creature with that man and woman, Gran?”
“A hobbit, dear.” I sip the sweetened rosewater and open my hand, delighted at the contents. “And they are a generous race, indeed! Look, he gave me gold along with the mirians.” I finish my drink and smile up at Meril. “Help me pack up my flowers and come with me to the butcher’s, for tonight we shall all feast on good meat at last. How lucky that you did not go home yet after all!”
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.