By care of Lady Eruviel Artistuion,
To Master Dorsett of Bree-town,
Greetings! I hope this letter finds you well and in good health. Before anything I would like to beg your forgiveness on the part of my negligence. I had been in Bree-land for a few short days only a couple of months back and it did not occur to me to pay you a cordial visit till after I had departed back south for home.
The reason for my writing is that, after all you had said about your own collection of book back when we talked in the library, you stuck out in my mind as someone who might have answers for me. My inquiry is a strange one, but I was wondering if you have any literature on mermaids. I am looking for anything concerning habits, diets, and things that attract them. Holding no assumption that you have read anything on the subject I still dearly hope that you have. While I am searching the books within my grasp here you are far more the scholar than I.
Emeleth bless you and keep you.
Feira, servant of House Colagar
“Good afternoon, Miss Feira!”
Feira smiled sweetly as she surrendered her letter to the postmaster. “Good afternoon, Master Cenor!”
The elderly man gave a warm chuckle. “Good to see you back! And sendin’ a letter. I shouldn’t be surprised — Ulmo! Who do you know all the way up there?”
“Oh, lots of people,” she reasoned as she pulled her loose hair over one shoulder.
“That’s what you get for travelin’. Meetin’ people. Reckon this one will write you back?” Cenor asked as he stamped the envelope and filed it away in the proper mail bag.
Feira blushed a little as she offered a curtsy, and swept towards the exit of the street-side office with a flutter of her long indigo skirts. “Let us hope so!”
A sea breeze caught her as she flitted out into the street, and she smiled happily, letting it escort her down the busy way (the two of them were going in the same direction). The young woman breathed deeply, savoring the smells of home. It was hardly a block till the sounds of the city fully enveloped her. The great court was filled with vendors, overflowing with sunlight and a generally merry atmosphere. A bubble of emotion swelled in her chest. How she had missed home.
She had changed up everything that week, even if some sad little part of her wondered if it mattered or not. Feira haunted a different corner of the library each day, took different paths to her destinations, and she could not have been more glad of it. Her basket heavy on her arm carried several new books from a shop she had not noticed before, and a little bag of sample muffins from a lovely woman’s bakery she had somehow failed to notice in all of her years in the city. There was also a noosegay the maid had picked for herself from a last second shortcut through a public garden because she had gotten spooked by a shadow, and (hidden beneath it all) what she assumed to be a discarded love note that had been trampled on and abandoned in a puddle. So much adventure while on her errands and there was still plenty of daylight left.
Weaving through the bustling crowd after placing a few orders, she ground to a halt when a stall stacked with old, worn books caught her eye. Feira licked her lips and brushed a few stray golden locks behind one ear before approaching the table.
“G’day, Miss!” called the haggard man standing behind the piles of tomes. “I can see ye’re already interested. What can I help ye find?”
“Good day, sir!” Feira chimed with a winning smile. “I think I have already found it — but… oh, I don’t know,” she murmured, trailing off as she turned her head and leaned a little to read the faded titles.
The man cleared his throat and lifted a work-worn hand to comb through his greying hair. “Got a few histories, some cookbooks and eh… original works if ye’re inta that sorta thing.”
Feira had spotted exactly what she wanted but hardly gave the tomes sandwiched in the middle of a stack another glance as she looked over the rest. “Do you have anything fanciful? Perhaps folklore or sailor stories?”
Studying her bright, amber eyes the man nodded slowly. “I think I have somethin’… Here, how’s this un?” He pulled out a tome the girl was well acquainted with.
“Tales of Ulmo’s Bride? Oh, I have read this one before. Thank you, though. The ending is so sad, don’t you think?”
The merchant blinked before quickly nodding. “Sure is. Tragic, that one.” He had clearly never read it. Clearing his throat a bit more loudly than before, he shifted several stacks aside before pulling out one of the two tomes she had spotted. It was the nicest one in the entire collection. “How ’bout “Sun in the West: Forgotten Tales of Gondorian Folklore.“?” he asked, holding it out for her to see.
“Oh, that is very nice,” she admitted with a noncommittal nod of her head. “How much is that one?”
“For ye, missy? One silver.”
Outrageous. “A whole silver for that…?” Feira gave him a dubious frown. “May I inspect it first?”
He gave her a long, suspicious look, but the innocent young woman seemed to be the type that wouldn’t hurt a fly. Relenting, he surrendered the tome over. “Careful with that un. Ain’t gonna find it many places,” he cautioned.
Handling the book like a precious jewel she inspected it from spine to edge. It was clear that she knew how to handle books, and she went so far as to inspect the note of the scribe and the painting of Ithillien that decorated the centerfold. “Hmm… I could not pay a whole silver for this, no,” she replied with a disappointed sigh.
“What is wrong with it, if ye don’ mind me askin’?”
With an air that would make a librarian proud, Feira turned a little so the man could better see. “There is water damage up the bottom of the spine. The outside may look decent, but the stitching is about to crumble away. That alone degrades it’s value. Then there is the scribe’s signature. I have seen this name before and he always signed his name on the upper corner of the opposite page. And you don’t want me to get started on the poor state of the painting. I think I am just better off borrowing the library’s copy.”
It was another test the man failed to pass as he sniffed and offered a lower price. “Seventy copper.”
It took every bit of Feira’s self-control not to grin. She knew for a fact that the library did not have this book on it’s shelves. “Seventy? For this sad excuse of old parchment? I will give you ten.”
The man’s eyes narrowed at her as he accepted the book back. “Fifty.” He clearly just wanted to be rid of it, and it made her wonder just how long the poor tome had been sitting alone on a shelf.
“Fifty, and no less.”
“I will do no higher than ten.”
“Then I will offer five?”
“Pit, you will! Sixty!”
“Deal!” The word spouted from the man’s lips before he could stop himself and he stared at the sweet young woman in surprise. “Hey, now, ye can’ –“
Feira smiled sagely, and shook her head. “You already agreed to it. Give me that little copy of the “Mariner’s Daughter” and I will give you twenty.”
Grunting, the man seemed none too pleased about being bested. Studying her in a new light, he yanked out the little faded blue dustcover from the stack. “I s’pose ye want ’em wrapped, too.”
Feira, though not unkindly, afforded herself a little triumphant smile. “I would be grateful if you did.
She waited patiently, the wicker handle of her basket held in both hands as she observed the thin merchant wrap the two books in brown paper. “Don’t got any bows ‘n all that shite t’ tie ’em with.”
“Like this is just fine, thank you.” Counting out her coin, Feira pulled a chocolate muffin out of the bag in her basket, and set it down with the copper.
“… Wha’s this?”
Feira tucked the wrapped books into her basket and smiled brightly at the man. “A thank-you. Do enjoy the rest of your day, sir!” Turning at that, Feira left the man at his stall, staring at her with a bewildered expression as her golden head disappeared into the crowd.