1. All You Need is a Catchphrase
The young merchant could remember his father back in Dol Amroth reminiscing on all the luck he had had in his visits to Gondor's capital. "Just need a catchy saying, and they'll come flocking for miles. Why, I think I must have sold to the Steward himself on my last visit. I was all but out of stock, even with buying a trinket or two here and there from other merchants to sell later. I tell you, son, just set up a cart outside the gates and the people will come flocking. Always fond of a good buy, those folk in Minas Tirith are," he would say, leaning back against his chair, buffing his fingernails against his fine vest, a size too small from the same type of sausages that now filled the younger merchant's cart, and seemed to refuse to be sold.
Standing in a summer-sweltering corner in a nook of the first gate, the luckless salesman kicked his stand, full of his mother's homemade sausages and what knickknacks he had hastily bought up in a fit of optimism before his coming. "Bloody useless! I'd have more luck throttling myself and throwing the remains in the river!" he let his pent up frustrations steam out like heat of his wares.
"Bah, I'd do it myself if you keep this nonsense up. You've been at it all day." A fellow merchant, outfitted and tattooed like a southern pirate growled from a nearby booth. The dumpy-looking woman who had been examining his collection of light, flowing, brightly colored fabrics moved on hastily to another stall. "You're scaring away my customers."
"You're one to complain. At least you've gotten customers." The redhead petulantly ignored the fact that the dark haired Umbarian appeared to have twice his physique. His father had always spoken highly of the Gondorian peacekeeping force, but then, things seemed much different here than they had been in his father's day.
The corsair appeared amused by this admission of weakness. "Here, boy. Let me do you a favor. Sell me one of those sausages you keep going on about, and in return I'll give you this book." He picked up a thin, leather-bound tome and waved it in the boy's direction.
It sounded like an excellent deal to the youthful Dol Amrothi, but he'd been warned about this sort of fleecing. A con artist would offer a treasure, and you were expected to give him one sooner or later in return, but his would turn out to be some sort of fraud. "What else do you want?" he leaned suspiciously over his cart.
"Where are you from, boy?" the elder merchant inquired. He had set the book back down and locked up his more expensive-looking goods.
"Dol Amroth. Why do you ask?" The redhead stared at him as the tattooed man crossed the space between their stalls.
"You have a place you can stay tonight?" Now the man was beginning to scare him.
He shook his head. "I don't want to leave the cart."
"Afraid of thieves and pirates?" the corsair asked ironically. The young man nodded unwillingly. The other's smile grew, revealing capped teeth. "Even a Dol Amrothi!" he laughed suddenly, banging a fist upon the rickety cart. "Boy, I grew up here, on the east side of the first gate. The tattoos are merely to raise the customers' interest, although no one else need hear of this fact. What you need is a little advice, and that's what this slender little volume is for." He pointed a thumb towards the book resting upon his stall. An occasional sneer in his locked-up stall's direction was enough for the self-declared Gondorian to ward off the petty thieves whom the young sausage-seller feared might take his own cart for easy prey.
"My father gave me plenty of advice. He was a great merchant in his time here." He did not know why he was being forced to defend his techniques to this busybody.
"I'm sure he was," the man the younger merchant couldn't help thinking of as a pirate said condescendingly. "What's your name, boy?" The redhead was definitely nervous now. He stuttered worriedly for a minute, but the other interrupted. "Never mind, it's not important. What is important is your image. Why would anyone buy a hot meal in the middle of the summer from some idiot boy? A character mad enough to sell such things at giveaway prices they might just buy from, though. What was that bit of inspired lunacy you shouted out when you were scaring away my customers, again?"
"I'd be better off throttling myself and throwing the remains in the river?" he reiterated sheepishly.
"Perfect. Repeat that often enough whilst you're haggling, and you could sell dirt to a dwarf and pay elves with elm leaves." The black-haired man casually picked up the book and placed it before him on the sausage cart. "Go home, read this a few times over, and study what I've told you, River-merchant. I don't do this entirely out of the good of my heart, you understand, but out of a desire for some peace and quiet."
The young Dol Amrothi addressed as "River-merchant" was having second thoughts. "Are you sure this can help me?" He leafed randomly though the book.
"If Nedra can't help you, no one can, boy." The corsair gave the younger man a rough smile. "His wisdom's never failed me." With a mix of unprofessional eagerness and distrust, the redhead considered his new acquirement more carefully. The Wisdom of Nedra, the title read. No author was given, but it seemed well read, not shabby, but fully giving off that scent possessed by an old, frequently thumbed novel. A few stray marks were jotted in the margins.
If all else fails, it'll bring in a decent price back home, he decided at last. "Thank you," he told the older merchant, holding out a hand. Strong, tattooed fingers gripped his.
"Now, I believe you owe me a sausage." With that, "Throttle-Me-and-Throw-Me-in" the River-Merchant made the first sale of his long and infamous career. And if anyone asked him the reason for his success, there was a story concerning a magical book and a burly pirate, but the part about kicking his cart was wisely left out of the tale.
Check me if something seems rather out of line for Minas Tirith during Turgon's rule. While not technically a crossover, this fic also pays homage to Terry Prachett and David Eddings, so you might miss a joke or two if you haven't glanced at the "Rivan Codex" or familiarized yourself with the methods of C.M.O.T. Dibbler. (Now, that was a shameless plug. I highly recommend those authors.)
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.