The Scent of Home by Linda Hoyland
Disclaimer - These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.
With grateful thanks to Deandra
It was a chill autumn evening, and growing late, but the King and Steward were in no hurry to retire for the night. They were both missing their beloved ladies. Arwen was spending a few days in Ithilien helping Éowyn care for an ailing Elboron. Forced by their duties to remain in Minas Tirith, Aragorn and Faramir were relaxing by the fireside enjoying a glass of wine after a long day filled with dealing with difficult officials.
Over their shared meal, Aragorn had been entertaining the younger man with tales of his travels. Faramir had listened eagerly to his lord's many adventures. The King was a gifted storyteller and Faramir was ever eager for new knowledge.
"What was the greatest difference between all the places you have dwelt in?" Faramir asked. "The people?"
Aragorn shook his head. "No, mellon nîn. Folk are much the same wherever they dwell. You find both good and the bad, kind and the cruel folk in every land. It was the smell of each place that was so different. Rivendell, where I grew up, was always filled with the pleasing odour of sweet blossoms.
"It must have seemed cold and bleak to you to live in the wilds when you left Rivendell," said Faramir.
"It was, but in truth, I found the villages far harder to become accustomed to than the wilds," Aragorn replied. "The Northern lands have a wonderfully fresh aroma. It often rains and the pungent tang of wet earth was all around me. I loved the scent of the pine trees in the forest and the spring blossoms. In winter, there was the scent of wood smoke as we strove to keep warm and the clean aroma of fresh snowy mornings. I had ridden out with the sons of Elrond since my teenage years and was accustomed to the wilderness. I admit, though, I found the villages in the Angle cramped and rather smelly when I first lived there. I was unaccustomed to being so close to animals and folk who lacked proper bathing chambers. That was the main reason I soon came to share Gandalf's love of pipeweed. It disguised less pleasant odours."
Faramir remained silent. He thought he would much prefer the smell of unwashed folk, a stable or even a pigsty to the malodourous pipeweed!
"The villages in Rohan, when I travelled there to serve Thengel King, were much like those in the Angle," Aragorn continued. "Edoras, though, felt vast compared to villages I was accustomed to. The barracks took some getting used to with their overwhelming reek of sweat and beer. I was more grateful than ever to have my trusty pipe; that was until I ran out of pipeweed. It was then I perceived that the true scent of Rohan was horses and fresh grass."
Faramir laughed. "You should tell Éowyn that. An apt description of her homeland!"
"I actually missed the scent of horse when I first came to Gondor," Aragorn continued. "I know Gondor has many fine horses, but they are few in number compared to those of the Riddermark."
"What scent did you notice most in Gondor?" Faramir enquired.
Aragorn took a sip of his wine and gazed thoughtfully into the fire for a few moments. "To begin with, wet stone," he said. "As I was a captain by then, I had my own private lodgings a short walk from the barracks. It rained a lot the first year I lived here and I will never forget the smell of damp stone."
"That is not the only scent in our fair land!" Faramir protested.
Aragorn laughed. "I know, ion nîn," he replied. "Well I recall when your grandsire invited me to a dance as part of the Mettarë celebrations. The perfumes the ladies wore were quite overwhelming! I spent most of the evening sneezing!"
It was Faramir's turn to laugh. " I remember my first ball well too for much the same reason!" he said. "I danced with a lady from Lossarnach who reeked of a perfume that made my head ache! Small wonder I married a maiden from Rohan. Éowyn always smells of sweet spring blossoms or the lavender grown in our herb gardens."
"Arwen uses light fresh perfumes too," said Aragorn. "I often wonder how the husbands of the heavily perfumed ladies fare. Do they sneeze all night long?"
"What of the distant lands you travelled to?" Faramir asked after a few moments contemplating such an unpleasant prospect.
"I shall never forget the foul reek of Mordor when I travelled to the Black Gate," Aragorn replied.
"Is it like the smell of Orc?" Faramir asked.
"A hundredfold worse," Aragorn wrinkled his nose at the recollection. "Imagine the reek of sulphur and decaying filth and burning all combined; that is Mordor. Frodo and Sam endured a great deal to destroy the Ring."
Both men fell silent, thinking of how much they owed to the valiant Hobbits.
Faramir eventually broke the silence, which threatened to become melancholy. "What of Harad?" he asked. "Did that land smell foul too?"
"Only when sacrifices were being offered to Sauron," Aragorn replied. "Those were dark days indeed. Most of the time an aroma of dust and camels and above all, spices, hung in the air. It was exotic rather than unpleasant. I was homesick there, though for the familiar scents of grass and fresh leaves after the rain has fallen."
He yawned. "It grows late and we have a meeting with a trade delegation early in the morning. I will speak more of my travels tomorrow."
"Shall we get a breath of air ere we retire for the night?" Faramir suggested.
"An excellent idea," said Aragorn. "Fresh air promotes sound sleep. Let us walk to the court of the Fountain."
The two men called for their cloaks and walked briskly to where the White Tree flourished. The leaves were starting to fall, but those that remained gleamed gold in the moonlight.
Aragorn and Faramir paused by the tree savouring its beauty. The air felt fresh and clear with just a hint of frost. A faint aroma of freshly baked bread hung in the air combined with the scent of autumn leaves.
Familiar everyday scents, the scents of home.
A/N Written for the Teitho "Smells" challenge where it was placed 3rd.