Of Field and Mill - Part 2: The Trader and His Family

To the residents of Langhold, Aiken Foxglove was also known as the Man from Bree. Earlier in his life he had been a travelling trader, hauling goods from his home in Bree to as far away as Rohan by way of the Lone Lands, the Trollshaws, Eregion, Enedwaith, and Dunland. From mid-spring to mid-fall, his train of well-guarded wagons would make the round trip, carrying a rich assortment of ever changing items; over time he had learned what would be sought at each destination, and what could be gotten in trade to satisfy those down the road and back. For several years, his business prospered, growing to the point where he could comfortably accommodate his wife and daughters on the journey, should they choose, and one year they did. Both he and his wife, Marketa, thought the girls, Phyllis and Rose, might benefit from glimpsing some of the world outside the Bree-lands.

Unbeknownst to Aiken, that same year the pestering of Eastern raiders had abruptly begun again in Rohan after nearly a decade of peace. It was not until his wagons had entered the Westfold that Aiken heard of their nuisance, but confident in the skills of his guards and their knowledge of the terrain, he decided to continue. However, just as the towered banners of Langhold became visible, a band of Easterling raiders attacked the train. The guards accounted well for themselves, but although they drove off the raiding party, most of the defenders died, and most of the rest were wounded. Aiken was also seriously hurt, but his wife and daughters escaped harm. He would mostly recover, but his wagons were nearly all set ablaze, their contents lost, and the now destitute family limped with their remaining guards and meager wares and belongings into Langhold.

Utred, the young Thane of Langhold, directed the villagers to take them in, as he knew Aiken, from experience, to be a fair and honest tradesman. As Aiken began his long recovery, his wife and daughters set themselves to tending him and being useful in the village. They soon established themselves as provisioners of sorts and started a bakery. Aiken was never to recovery well enough to travel, and so the little family was resolved to make Langhold their home. The daughters grew towards womanhood, but Marketa passed away while giving birth to Aiken’s only son, who also perished with his mother. Again, the residents of Langhold wrapped themselves around the Foxgloves as their own, sharing their grief and offering them comfort.

Phyllis and Rose grew to be different young women. Although they were joined in tending to their father, their interests were otherwise diverged. Phyllis, full bodied and shrewd, threw herself into the business, become most adept at focusing fairness and profit together for the benefit of both the family and the village. Her baked goods were the best in all the North Wold, and this was what most attracted interest to their shop. Even the Reeve in Harwick would occasionally send for her breads and cakes. Rose, a red-headed wisp quick to laughter, was not as interested in the workings of the shop and would squeeze out every possible minute to visit the nearby stables and pens, fascinated with the tending of animals, especially horses. This difference between the sisters, although a point of some contention, was not overcome by their mutual devotion to Aiken’s well-being, and in that love, they were inseparably bound.

One mid-summer day, Eodard walked into their shop. He had been an occasional but dependable customer for all the time the Foxgloves had resided here, but today was quite different. This morning, he had obviously tried to make himself most presentable, having bathed, washed his hair, trimmed his beard, all of which were still damp, revealing some urgency in his visit. He had carefully chosen his least worn clothes, scraped his boots clean, and in his rough powerful hand, carried a bouquet of wildflowers that grew on the path from his farm to Langhold. His heavy footsteps upon entering the shop caused all to look his way, take in his countenance, and freeze in place. Everyone seemed to know what he was going to say before he spoke. He cleared his throat.

‘Aiken Foxglove, I am Eodard’ he began, unnecessarily introducing himself, his posture drawn up and his diction deliberately slow and clear. ‘I am owner of the …. vast farm to the east. I ask your permission to court your daughters.’ He winced as soon as he finished, realizing the unintended implication of his words. He did not mean to say he wanted them both, only one, but as romance was not in his blood, he did not really care which, as either, in his mind, would be a fine and honorable wife.

Aiken, ever the trader, chuckled to ease Eodard’s discomfort and smooth out the moment.

Phyllis, with folded arms, examined the farmer shrewdly.

Rose openly blushed.