1. The Scent of Spice - by Dwimordene
The scent of it was the very smell of desire—so it was said, and the
Greening Festival was aptly dedicated to the ripening of springtide.
The air was heavy with the scent of spice—not the heavy, savoury scent
of most kitchens in Umbar, but the sharp-sweet scent of more exotic
spices, and not a few young men and women in their bloom milled about,
eyeing the merchants' wares and each other under the watchful eyes of
Aragorn was naturally curious, but he had not so much coin to spare
that he could afford to indulge curiosity. The swiftest way out of
Umbar was by ship, and he ought to have just enough…
"You!" a threatening voice boomed out, very nearly in his ear, and
Aragorn tensed, habit sending one hand to the knife tucked up one
sleeve. Not now! Not after all he had been through in his
southern journeying, and when he had but a few streets between him and
the docks, and the journey home at last…!
But then the weeping began, and he realized he was not the one
accused. Not this time. He was about to continue on his way, but
something about the sound of those tears made him turn. A little ways
away, an irate spice merchant had a girl by the wrist. And girl she
was—surely no more than nine or ten, and the dusty, tattered brown
robe she wore suggested one of the denizens of Tilnum Alley, one of
the poorer streets in Umbar that lay nearby.
"Thought you'd steal from me, eh?" the merchant was growling, and the
girl seemed to shrink into herself. "We'll just see about that. Brat!
The magistrates ought to be pleased to be rid of you…" At which the
girl's sobs became wails of sheer terror, and Aragorn, who had seen
enough of the magistrates and their men to credit her fears, sighed
softly. And then he stepped forward.
"Oh for—! I promised, did I not, that we would come here in good time?
I have matters to attend to first, Phani'im," he said, adopting an air
of exasperated patience, even as he reached for the first girl's name
that came to mind. Pray that our merchant does not know her name
already, he thought, as he shook his head and cupped a hand under
the girl's chin, forcing her to look at him. "Did I not promise? Must
you defy me every time and go your own way?" The girl was staring at
him now with wide eyes, but fortunately she caught on swiftly.
"Sorry. Just that I wanted a taste…" she muttered.
"Well, and now you'll get it perforce, but we'll not come again next
year," he warned. Then turning to the merchant, who was watching him
with narrowed eyes, he bowed, and said, as graciously as he knew how,
"You have my apologies, honored sir. My sister is ill and her husband
away—my niece is unruly without them, and I fear I have no one to
teach me the ways of small girls. What did she take?"
"Put her fingers in my spice box, she did," the merchant replied,
still eyeing him with some suspicion, even as he indicated an elegant
little chest filled with a rich, brown powder. Aragorn weighed the
coins in his purse and stifled a groan.
"How much for the box?" he asked, resignedly, as all the long leagues
of Harad stretched out before his mind's eye. It seems I shall be
going home the long way…
Lithe, Lórien, 2980
"What is it?" Arwen asked curiously, running her hands over the
ornately carved box, Beren's ring winking upon her finger in the
evening's light. She opened it and Aragorn watched her eyes light with
pleasure as the heady, sweet scent of cinnamon wafted upwards. He
thought of the waif in Umbar, clutching the cinnamon sticks the
merchant had insisted he buy in addition to the chest, and smiled. It
had cost him a long walk home, but it was worth it, and so he answered:
"That, as they say, is the very scent of love."
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.