1. Smoke gets in your Eyes
Even in the depths of winter, the gardens at Rivendell were fair. As the day of departure for the mission, which would either see his dreams realised, or shatter all hope forever, Aragorn spent increasing amounts of time there when his duties allowed. He would wander the paths lost in thought, usually puffing at his pipe as he paced.
One windy December day, he wandered down to the waterfall and lit his pipe. He drew in lungfuls of smoke as he inwardly debated how he could best protect Frodo in the weeks ahead.
A fit of coughing behind him interrupted his train of thought; he spun around and found Arwen beside him. "It gladdens my heart to see you, beloved," he said.
Arwen wrinkled her beautiful nose and coughed again as the wind blew smoke in her face. "I love everything about you, Estel, save one thing, your pipe," she said.
Aragorn knocked out the pipe against a rock. "You never chide the Hobbits for smoking," he said.
"They are our guests. You are soon to be my husband," said Arwen.
"Your faith inspires me," said Aragorn.
"I cannot see why you feel a need to add nearly choking and risking setting yourself alight to the hazards you already face in the wild," said Arwen. "It is a marvel indeed that the foul smell of pipeweed does not alert every Orc in the vicinity to your presence! What is it about this foul smelling weed that has such a hold over a man such as you?"
"It is comforting," said Aragorn. He tucked the pipe in his pocket.
"I shall be your comfort," said Arwen.
"You are my comfort, my love, my inspiration, my very soul!" said Aragorn. He drew her close in his arms and kissed her. She returned his kisses, but her nose still wrinkled at the lingering scent of pipeweed.
In the months that followed, Aragorn almost forgot the conversation as he battled against the minions of the Dark Lord. Against all the odds, the Forces of the West prevailed, thanks to the courage of two brave Hobbits; Frodo, and Sam. Strider the Ranger was now King Elessar Telcontar and free to wed his beloved Arwen.
Aragorn's first days after his coronation were filled with the business of kingship when all manner of folk vied for his attention. The nights, though, were a very different matter. Never had Aragorn felt so alone as he did then, not even in the wilderness. It was then that his spirit became troubled as he pondered over all that Arwen would be sacrificing to become his Queen. He would gain all he had ever wanted, while she would forever be parted from her family and the life of the Eldar. She would be his Queen, but such titles meant little to the Lady of Rivendell. How could he ever show her how deeply he loved her? Aragorn pondered long over the problem, but found no answer to it.
Two weeks after he was crowned, Aragorn sat in the King's living room. He was puffing at his pipe after the evening meal when a servant announced that his Steward wished to speak to him.
"Let him come in," said Aragorn.
"I am sorry to trouble you, sire," said Faramir, bowing low. "I have just had word that an embassy from Khand arrives on the morrow and I wanted to know if we should offer to release all the prisoners we took during the war." The Steward coughed.
"I cannot see why not," said Aragorn. "Sit down, Faramir, and partake of a glass of wine with me while we discuss the terms of the treaty. We will send the prisoners home provided they swear oaths not to bear arms against us in future."
"A wise decision, my lord," said Faramir. "I think that…" He was unable to finish the sentence before another fit of coughing seized him. He coughed until his whole body shook and his eyes were red rimmed.
"Are you unwell, Faramir?" Aragorn asked, full of concern. "You sound as if you have lung fever!" He reached out to lay a hand on Faramir's brow.
"I am well, thank you, sire," Faramir answered between coughs. "I think it must be the smoke that has afflicted me."
Aragorn rose and went over to the window and threw it open. He put out his pipe. "Take a few deep breaths of fresh air," he advised his Steward.
Faramir did as he was bidden and his coughing gradually abated.
"I thought you would be accustomed to Mithrandir smoking?" said Aragorn.
"He only smoked in the gardens as my father forbade pipe smoke within doors," said Faramir. "Of course, it is for you to decide as you wish now, sire," he added hastily.
"It is not my wish to torment you, Faramir," Aragorn said dryly. "We shall open the window in future when I am smoking my pipe. Now drink your wine and let us decide if we should receive the embassy in the Court of the Fountain or within doors.
The discussion passed without further incident, but Aragorn noted that Faramir's eyes were still red when they parted an hour or so later. A sudden dreadful thought struck him. These were the rooms he would occupy with Arwen, should his hopes be realised; rooms far less airy and far more confined than the airy halls of Rivendell. Would his beautiful and beloved lady not only be doomed to be mortal, but to spend her days red eyed and racked with coughing? He could not put the image from his mind as he prepared for bed. When he finally slept, his dreams were filled with images of Arwen coughing and spluttering, before finally dissolving into a puff of smoke.
When Aragorn awoke just after dawn the next day, his heart knew what he must do, though his head protested against it.
He arose and dressed, then slipped out into the gardens and lit his pipe, pacing back and forth along the pathways as he blew rings of smoke from his pipe.
Arwen was giving up the life of the Eldar, her kindred and her home by pledging herself to him in marriage. Surely, the very least he could do for her was to give up pipeweed? No doubt, it would also please his Steward and most of his subjects in Gondor too! It was so small a sacrifice to make for love.
Yet his pipe had been his constant companion and comfort through all his long travels. A meal would not taste so good without a pipe to follow it. He was not even certain that Arwen would come. He had received no message from Rivendell since Sauron's defeat. There was no need to abandon his pipe; he could take a walk in the gardens if he wished to smoke. But would not Arwen be his companion and comfort in the future and a far better one than a pipe?
Aragorn finished his pipe then held it lovingly for a moment. How could he bear to cast it away, his faithful companion in the wilds? But did he love Arwen more than he loved a stick of wood with a curved bowl? A foolish question indeed! Maybe there was no need to throw away his old friend? He could keep the pipe while forsaking the pipeweed.
His mind made up, he asked a servant to hang a hook on the wall of his study. He lovingly cleaned and polished his pipe, faithful friend throughout so many years, and hung it upon the wall.
He then went to where the many gifts presented to him at his coronation were stored. There was a fair quantity of pipeweed amongst them, most of it finest Longbottom Leaf and Old Tobey. The King regarded it wistfully, and then called for a servant to pack it into boxes.
It was still not yet breakfast time when the King, followed by two guards laden with packages, made his way to the house in the sixth circle where the surviving members of the Fellowship were staying. The servant who answered the door informed him that only Legolas and Pippin were abroad yet. "Shall I rouse the rest of the household, my lord?" she enquired.
"There is no need," said Aragorn. "Just give this to Mithrandir, Lord Gimli, and the Hobbits."
"Hello, Strider," said Pippin, appearing in the doorway with Legolas. "You're up early this morning."
"I have been given more pipeweed than I could smoke in a dozen lifetimes since I became king," said Aragorn. "I thought that you might make good use of it." He nodded to the guards who laid the packages by the door.
"What a lovely gift!" Pippin exclaimed, hugging the King. "Thank you, Strider. But are you sure you don't want it?"
"Quite certain," said Aragorn. "I ask only that you think of me when you smoke it."
"As if there were not enough of that foul smelling weed in this house already!" Legolas grumbled.
"I deliberately asked the Steward to find a house with a large garden for you, mellon nîn," Aragorn replied mildly. "Now I must be on my way."
"Won't you at least stay and have breakfast with us?" Pippin pleaded.
Aragorn hesitated, desiring to spend time with his friends. They would be certain to light their pipes after the meal, though and his resolution might waver. Also, they might question him as to why he was giving finest Longbottom Leaf away. Only Gandalf knew of his heart's desire, and until he was certain that Arwen would come, he had no wish to speak of his hopes.
A sudden wave of grief washed over him as he thought of Halbarad, the only other save the wizard, in whom he had confided his heart's deepest desires. How he wished that his kinsman were at his side now! Halbarad, alas, had fallen, fighting at his side and bearing Arwen's standard, the token of her love and faith she had entrusted. Halbarad had died for love of his lord and to help him achieve his dream, a dream that he owed to Halbarad to cherish all the more.
"I cannot stay now, but hope you will all join me for a meal tomorrow," he said. "Farewell for a little while." He turned and walked away before Legolas and the young hobbit could see the tears that had welled up in his eyes.
In the days that followed, Aragorn felt like a bear with a sore head. He craved for pipeweed, even more than he craved for Arwen, if such a thing were possible. Every waking moment, he thought of his pipe and the comfort it had afforded him. His hands twitched with no pipe to hold and he struggled to contain his temper, especially with his advisers who had had the gall to suggest that he should consider marriage and even produced a list of candidates they considered suitable. He felt like tearing the list to shreds and thrusting the scraps of parchment down the throats of the impertinent counsellors. They must have noticed the furious gleam in his eyes as they hastily backed away.
Then one fine May night, everything changed when Gandalf took him up to a hidden hallow on Mount Mindolluin. There they discovered a scion of Nimloth. His heart soared at the sight of the sapling. His forefather, Isildur had risked his life to rescue a fruit of the White Tree and against all odds the tree and its descendants had flourished for centuries, as had Isildur's line. The line of Nimloth would continue to flourish and so too would the line of kings. It was a sign. Arwen would come. He thought less about pipeweed with every day that passed.
Still he hesitated to voice his hopes to his friends. He had cherished them secretly in his heart for too long. He did, though, confide in Faramir, entrusting the young Steward to make all ready for his bride and trusting in his discretion.
At Midsummer, she came, and they were at last united as man and wife. In the first heady days of matrimony, he forgot all about his pipe.
One evening, as they walked hand in hand through the gardens, he noticed his beloved stealing puzzled glances at him.
"What is it, my love?" he asked when they returned within doors.
"I have not seen you smoking your pipe since I arrived," Arwen replied. "Always you would smoke when we walked in the gardens of my father's house."
"Come with me," said Aragorn. He took her arm and led her to his study. "Here is my pipe," he said, gesturing to where it hung on the wall. "There it will stay, as I have sworn never again to smoke pipeweed."
"But why, beloved. I thought you loved the vile smelling stuff!"
"I love you far more."
"You gave it up for me?" Arwen's voice was unsteady.
"You have forsaken so much for me."
"I freely chose the sacrifice. I desire to be forever at your side, Estel."
"I want to make you happy, vanimelda. I would do anything to be worthy of your love."
"You are more than worthy." Her lips met his in a passionate kiss.
"My beloved, my Evenstar, my bride!" He drew her close; fire surging through his blood at her intoxicating nearness, her perfume had never smelt so sweet before. Abandoning pipeweed certainly had its consolations!
Arm in arm, Aragorn and Arwen retired to their chamber for the night.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.