“How I long to see Arwen and Eldarion again!” Aragorn exclaimed to Faramir as the two men rode abreast through the lower levels of the City. They had been away from Minas Tirith for several days touring the outlying fiefdoms. After what had seemed endless sessions of attending feasts in their honour and judging petty grievances, they were glad to be home again.
“I can hardly wait to see Éowyn, Elestelle and Elbeth,” Faramir said longingly, wishing it had been possible to ride through the City unrecognised, but knowing it was impossible when followed by their guards. He paused to smilingly accept a bunch of flowers offered by an old woman. Meanwhile, a man lifted up a child to see Aragorn and receive the King’s blessing.
They had reached the market, which was even more crowded than the rest of the City with citizens milling around the varied array of stalls.
“It is good to see the market flourishing,” Faramir said in a tone loud enough for the surrounding people to hear, knowing some comment was expected of him.
Aragorn forced himself to smile at his subjects, ardently wishing it were not a market day so that they could travel at a faster pace. A sudden thought struck him. He had returned without suitable gifts for his wife and child! King and Steward had been showered with hand woven blankets, baskets and gifts of delicacies, but none of those would delight either Arwen or Eldarion.
His eye was caught by a stall a few paces ahead, which sold colourful jewellery and trinkets.
“I need to buy a gift for Arwen. Maybe this stall will have something she might like?” Aragorn remarked to his Steward.
“I bought new saddles for Éowyn and Elbeth in Lamedon and a doll for Elestelle,” Faramir said rather smugly, dismounting together with his King. “It was while you were healing a child with a fever.”
“My Lord King and my Lord Steward!” The stallholder bowed low, his eyes alight with awe and joy. “This is a great honour indeed, that you should visit my humble stall. What may I show you? I have amethyst and topaz, tourmaline and tiger’s eye, agate and amber, rose quartz and...”
“I will take this, please.” Aragorn gestured towards a pretty necklace of roughly polished amethysts. Arwen had fairer jewels by far, but he felt she would like these simple, colourful stones that many of the common folk of Gondor wore. His keen eyes scanned the stall for a gift for Eldarion. He spotted some carvings of horses in an onyx type mineral. ”I should also like one of the model horses.”
“They are yours,” smiled the stallholder. “They are far from my best pieces, though. I keep those under the counter in case of thieves.
Before Aragorn could say anything, the man had dived under the stall and started rummaging in some boxes.
“See, I have some river pearl necklaces,” said the merchant placing them on the stall. He disappeared under it again. “And silver bracelets.”
“They are very nice but I just..” The trader had vanished under his stall again before Aragorn could finish his sentence. The King struggled to hide his impatience, not wanting to hurt the man’s feelings. Beside him, Faramir tapped his foot.
“I have some silver brooches carved, I believe, by Dwarves here somewhere,” said the man. “If you would just wait one moment.” He pulled out another box and looked inside.
“Not today, thank you, good merchant,” Aragorn said in desperation as about forty brooches of dubious workmanship were presented for his inspection. ”How much do I owe you for the necklace and the horse?”
“They are a gift, my Lord King,” said the trader. “I require no payment. They are but trinkets!”
Aragorn knew to refuse would be an insult.
“Thank you,” he smiled. ”I will take this too.” He selected the nearest brooch, wanting to give the man some money for his wares. His shabby clothing suggested he did not earn a great deal selling his simple jewellery. The wealthy people of Minas Tirith had somewhat more elaborate tastes.
“But my, lord, that one is far from being the fairest! “ the merchant protested. “How about this brooch set with a sapphire, or this one inlaid with pearl?”
“I will take the pearl one,” Aragorn said firmly.
“You have not yet seen my finest necklaces,” the trader said eagerly. “I have some designs inspired by Elven-craft.”
“I am sure they are beautiful,” Aragorn said tactfully. He espied a tiger’s eye pendant that he was certain would appeal to Elbeth. “I will have that pendant and that is all.” His patience exhausted, he finally resorted to the tone of command he used as Chieftain and King.
“Yes, my lord!” The man looked startled.
Aragorn softened his words with a smile as he handed the man a handful of coins, far more than the purchases were worth. With a sigh of relief he remounted his horse.
A little while later, having stabled their horses, King and Steward were finally on the way to their apartments.
“At last I shall see Arwen and Eldarion!” Aragorn said joyfully.
“I feared you would never escape that merchant,” Faramir said dryly.
“So did I,” the King replied. “Greetings, Lady Morwen!” He smiled at Arwen’s lady in waiting as she passed him, her head dipped in a respectful curtsy.
“Greetings, my lord.”
“How fare my wife and son?” the King asked.
“They are well, sire,” the woman replied. “ The Queen has just left to visit the market together with the Lady Éowyn and the children. She has given me the rest of the day off as she expects to be gone for several hours.” She hurried on her way, oblivious to the dismayed expressions of the two impatient husbands and fathers.
Alas, all their haste had been in vain.