Ring All the Bells
The knight left. A swan knight, from Dol Amroth. She remembered when she had still been very young and her parents still alive that they had gone along the river to the sea to bring her sister to her new husband. It had been the most wonderful place she had ever seen, all beautiful spires and the ocean-spray. The knight, in his clinking armor, he reminded her of that first glimpse of the warm, summery city.
Hathlafel, who had come with other knights, who was from a noble house of the city, who was going to die here or out in the field with all of the other soldiers.
Alduial sighed and sipped at her wine. It was a great shame, he had a strong jaw and a good sense of humor. She wondered if he would actually come to see her at the houses of healing. Perhaps, but who knew really? There was no sense in everything being gloomy and miserable.
“Who was that fellow?” Asked a man in a low cap and clean if simple clothing. He dropped down into the seat recently vacated by the knight and dropped a cup down on the table. It was empty and Alduial poured out a measure of wine into it.
“One of the future casualties of the end of all things.”
“You’ve been listening to that man on the green too much. Of course he thinks it’s the end of things. He’s properly mad, you know. Been shouting all that since I was a boy.”
“Oh yes? And how is business then?”
The man grinned, he had straight teeth but they had a brownish tinge to them, one near the back was visibly missing. “Never been better. And speaking of which…” He extracted two small vials of liquid and set them down. “Silphium and Ferula root, brewed down of course. I’m surprised you still need them.”
“I might not, but you never know and I like to be certain.” She picked one up and opened it, very gently she dabbed the smallest portion onto her pinky finger and pressed it to her tongue. She frowned. “It’s mostly silphium.”
“Silphium is stronger anyway, I’m not charging you for the extra strength of course.”
She rolled her eyes and the man scoffed.
“You’re lucky it had as much Ferula as it did for so long. You know they grow it down south. What am I supposed to do? Sign up with the army and march on down there so you can keep barren?”
“Someone is defensive,” she responded dryly and tucked the vials away. Pure silphium was unpleasant, it made her sick. But here they were, it was better than being pregnant. “Especially for being late to our meeting.”
“I wasn’t late, I was waiting for your new casualty to bugger off. He’s pretty handsome, not like that last fellow. Funny sort of face he had.”
“Hm,” she answered and set down a silver piece on the table. “Do you have the other thing we discussed then?”
Another vial came out onto the table, this one filled with a fine white powder. “Now, this is the real business this days. No one’s wasting time worrying about babies that won’t grow up anymore. Never thought I’d sell this much. Used to just be depressed wives looking to take care of mistresses but I’m selling to all comers now.”
She held the vial up to the low light of the tavern, turning it over in her hand, ignoring the man’s discussion of traditional Minas Tirith poisonings. “How fast does it work?”
“Tell you what. You take the whole vial with a glass of wine when they start knocking at the Players’ Gate.”
“By the time they make it up to the Houses of Healing you’ll be sailing over the cold sea. No telling what they’ll do with the body though, still think you’ll be better off jumping.”
“No… too painful. This is not so bad?”
“Bit of a stomachache, I understand, then you fall asleep and sail right away.” She set down another silver piece which the man eagerly scooped away. He drained his wine. “Always a pleasure doing business with you.”
“Yes, and you. If you can lay hands on any in the city I will pay extra for the Ferula root.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Ta ta!” He stood, this strange man with his many poisons and, bowing low, left the tavern just as he’d come. She followed suit after a few minutes. As she traversed the avenues toward the Houses of Healing she paused at the Players’ Gate and looked at it. Sturdy doors and a steady ramp, they would not be able to break through it so easily. She toyed with the vial in her bag, playing it over her fingers. They would though, in the end. Gates weren’t so good at stopping the end of all things.