16. Perfume and Pondweed
Author: Linda Hoyland
Title: Pondweed and Perfume
Theme: Fanon Busters
Elements: eyes, believe, round,
Author's Notes: (Optional) A kind of sequel to the story I wrote last month and inspired by Rhymer23's comment on that story. I dedicate the story to her with my thanks and also to my friend, Julia on the occasion of her birthday.
Summary: Aragorn and Faramir have an unfortunate accident.
Word Count: 2692
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 my LJ friends for all their help.
The strawberry scones were to blame for the accident, or so Aragorn and Faramir were to tell their wives later.
One moment they were sitting contently in Faramir's little boat eating scones, lovingly made by Aragorn's cook to a recipe given him by Sam, then the next they were in the water, gasping and spluttering.
Or maybe it was the wasps to blame rather than the scones? All would have surely been well, had not the wasps shared the King and Steward's partiality for the strawberry jam which smothered the scones and swarmed around the two friends when they were enjoying their treat. Their frantic attempts to drive off the hungry swarm caused the boat to capsize, depositing both its passengers and the scones in the depths of the Anduin.
Most unfortunate of all, the two had been feeding the ducks crumbs of scone in a weed- infested inlet. Once Aragorn and Faramir had righted the boat, retrieved the oars and clambered back into it most of the water weed had transferred itself to their persons, clothes and hair. Not only were they wet, but they were also covered in stinking green slime.
"If only we had taken our clothes off to go swimming!" lamented Faramir. He ruefully pulled off his boots and emptied out the water together with some small fish, water snails and seemingly endless green tendrils.
"Most likely our clothes would still have been in the boat, though," said Aragorn.
"I would not have duckweed clinging to my back, though," said Faramir. "Ah well, at least the wasps have gone."
"Together with our picnic!" Aragorn said grimly. "The sooner we get home and change into clean, dry clothes the better."
"I thought you were used to being wet from your Ranger days?" said Faramir. "I believe it rains more in the North than in Ithilien."
"I am, but I am not accustomed to being covered in stinking weed!" said the King. "I had my fill of that when I hunted for Gollum."
The two fell silent as they rowed towards where they had left their horses grazing. The noble beasts neighed in protest at the smelly and slimy condition of their riders. At least the summer breeze and their exertions had removed most of the water from the King and Steward. The drying mud, which clung to their skins was even more uncomfortable than dripping garments.
"I hope no one sees us," Faramir fretted as they approached the City gates. He pulled his cloak more closely round his face.
"Our reputations will remain intact," said Aragorn. "No one will recognise us looking like this! I just hope we can sneak back inside the Citadel unnoticed. I do not even wish Arwen to see me until I have bathed and changed my clothes. I will never hear the last of our mishap!"
"Everyone will smell us coming for leagues around!" Faramir said grimly.
"I wish you peasants would wash before coming to the City," grumbled the guard at the gate.
Aragorn rewarded the man with a glare that made him visibly cringe under the King's steely gaze. The guard muttered an apology.
Aragorn simply grunted as they were waved through. Under the mud, Faramir flushed scarlet. His discomfort increased as they rode through the First Circle. Passers-by laughed at them while several children shouted rude comments,
"Don't you wash?" shouted one child.
"My grandpa's pigs are much cleaner than you two!" cried another.
"That the King should be treated thus!" groaned Faramir in a tone so low only Aragorn could hear.
"Peace! This is nothing new to me, mellon nîn," said Aragorn ruefully. "The Breelanders often treated us thus. It is far from easy to keep clean in the Wilds, much as I would have liked to do so. Then there was the time that Butterbur offered me and Halbarad a free meal and bed for the night if we mucked out his stables. One of the horses reared and knocked Halbarad over. The stench was so bad that we never did get our free meal and lodging!"
"The innkeeper should have provided a bath!" Faramir exclaimed indignantly. "Yet, I have heard your foster- brothers remark on your liking to be covered in mud."
Aragorn snorted. "Nonsense! They simply would tease me, because when I arrived back at Rivendell after months in the wild, I was usually in dire need of a bath, but yearning for one too! One of the nicest things about being King is being able to have as many baths as I wish. I do not mind a little mud, but nothing feels better than a hot bath afterwards!"
"There were many strange tales told about you when you first came to Gondor. Who knows how many are believed still?" said Faramir.
"I most clearly recall a mistaken belief that I despised Men in favour of Elves," said Aragorn. "Though why I should seek to rule Gondor were that the case, I have no idea!"
"I believe that came about when you toured the City with Legolas to discuss plans for the rebuilding," said Faramir. "I admit that even I believed that Legolas was your closest friend, being an Elf, as I knew you were brought up amongst Elves."
"Legolas is a good friend, but no dearer to me than the other members of the Fellowship," said Aragorn. "I had met him a few times before the Quest when Elves from Mirkwood visited Rivendell, but we were merely acquaintances. I shared a glass of Dorwinion with Legolas and his sire when I placed Gollum in the care of the Elves, but I was treated no differently than any other guest from Master Elrond's house. I was most grateful for the use of their bathhouse to wash off the mud that clung to my person, though."
"Before or after you were offered the wine?" asked Faramir.
"Before, of course! No King or Prince would drink with a muddy traveller."
"This Prince would!" said Faramir. "And it seems the King will ride alongside a muddy companion!"
The two had distracted themselves so well with their banter that they failed to notice a familiar figure approaching until he was almost upon them.
"Honoured friends, whatever has happened to you!" exclaimed Ambassador Tahir, his brown eyes full of concern.
"Our boat capsized and we fell in the river," said Faramir. "I fear we cannot stop to talk. We need to return to the Citadel to bathe and change our clothes."
"You must come to my residence," said Tahir. "It is much nearer."
Aragorn and Faramir looked at each other. On the one hand, they had no desire for the Ambassador and his household to see them like this, on the other hand Tahir already had done. Then there was the problem of dripping mud onto Arwen's favourite carpet. She would be far from pleased. Éowyn was in thankfully in Ithilien, but Arwen would be certain to tell her.
"We would accept your kind offer," said Aragorn. "We need hot water to wash in though, rather than the steam of your hamam."
"My servants will fill the pool in the so?ukluk with hot water for you, honoured friends," said Tahir.
"You are very kind, but we could not put you to so much trouble, my friend," said Faramir.
"You would honour me greatly by coming to my humble abode," said Tahir. "Many times you have done great service, both to me and to my family. Please let me be of some assistance to you, honoured friends."
"Thank you, we will come," said Aragorn.
Tahir turned to the servant who accompanied him and said something in his own tongue. The man scurried off.
"The bath will await you by the time you reach my residence," said the Ambassador. "Better you should be bathed and wearing fresh clothes before your fair blossoms behold you."
"Indeed," said Aragorn drily, envisioning Arwen's face if she saw him covered in pondweed.
The three soon arrived at Tahir's spacious residence in the sixth circle. To Aragorn and Faramir's relief, once their horses were handed to the care of a groom, the Ambassador took them through a side entrance, which led directly to the hamam. To Tahir's great credit, he managed not to wrinkle his nose at the stench of pondweed emanating from his guests.
To Aragorn and Faramir's delight the round, deep bathing pool was filled with steaming water, which was perfumed with fragrant spices. Cooler water flowed from the fountain in the centre of the pool. The Undying Lands could not have presented a fairer prospect to the two bedraggled friends.
Tahir gestured towards the edge of the pool. "Here are towels and soaps, fragrant oils, sponges and scrubbing brushes," he said. "I have given orders you will not be disturbed. I will return when you have refreshed yourselves, honoured friends," he said. The Ambassador bowed low and left Aragorn and Faramir to their ablutions.
As soon as he had left, Aragorn and Faramir thankfully peeled off their stinking sodden clothes. Beneath them they found that mud and pondweed was clinging to almost every inch of their anatomy, even their toes. They plunged into the bath and swiftly scrubbed themselves clean.
"Tahir has thought of everything," said Faramir, as he scrubbed mud from his arms with one of the brushes. "We will not need fragrant oils, though; there is sufficient in the water to remove the stench of weed."
"We might," Aragorn said grimly, as he pulled a length of slimy vegetation from his hair. "Little though I wish my hair to smell of perfume, I imagine Arwen would prefer it to pondweed!"
At last, after much scrubbing and soaping, the two friends felt clean again and scrambled from the pool and swathed themselves in the towels Tahir had left for them. They regarded their discarded clothes ruefully. The garments had left muddy puddles on the pristine marble floor.
"We can hardly put these on again," said Aragorn. "They smell even worse than we did!"
"Apart from our cloaks, they are fit only for the fire," said Faramir. He laughed ruefully. "How spoiled we have become in these days of peace. As Rangers, we would somehow have washed them clean! But what do we do now? We can hardly return home clad only in towels."
"We should have thought of that before accepting Tahir's invitation," said Aragorn. "I so wanted to bathe swiftly, though."
Just then, Tahir poked his head around the door.
"Come in," said Faramir. "Thank you for the use of your pool. We greatly enjoyed our bath."
Tahir's body followed his head into the room. Aragorn and Faramir could see now that he was carrying a large bundle. "Would my honoured friends condescend to don some of my humble garments?" he asked. "I have brought you some of my best robes."
"We are honoured to accept," said Faramir. Even as he took the robes from Tahir, though, he wondered how the folk of Gondor who had lost loved ones to the scimitars of Harad would feel at the sight of their King and Steward walking through the streets dressed in the garb of their former enemies. He glanced towards Aragorn and guessed that his friend's thoughts were of a similar nature.
"I must ask a further favour of you, Ambassador," said Aragorn. "Please could I beg quill and parchment of you to write a note to my lady?"
"Of course, esteemed friend," said Tahir. "I will leave you to dress then you must share some sherbet tea with me while you write your letter."
Aragorn and Faramir swiftly donned the blue robes adorned with gold embroidery that Tahir had brought. They were worn over baggy breeches which were usually secured around the waist and ankles. They were, unfortunately too short for such tall men as Aragorn and Faramir and reached only to their mid calves, as did the robes. They were decent enough, though to leave the so?ukluk and venture into the rest of Tahir's mansion. If the servants they passed were amused by their appearance, they were too well mannered to say anything.
Tahir appeared and beckoned them into the spacious hall that he used to receive guests. Aragorn and Faramir settled themselves on the large cushions that were scattered around the floor. Almost at once, a servant appeared and served them refreshing sherbet tea and small cakes flavoured with rose petals. Another servant brought writing materials for Aragorn.
While Aragorn penned his missive, asking Arwen to see that two sets of clothes be despatched to Tahir's residence, Faramir enquired after the Ambassador's wife, Adiva, and his family.
"My fair blossom is out riding," said Tahir. "My small blossoms are all flourishing and Fikri is doing well with his studies. I have hopes he might become a scholar or teacher."
"Those are good tidings indeed," said Faramir.
The three chatted contentedly until one of Aragorn's servants arrived, bearing two sets of Aragorn's clothes, one for him, and one for Faramir, who was much the same size, albeit a trifle shorter.
"What would you have done with your other garments?" asked Tahir.
"Burn them apart from the cloaks, which are dear to us," said the King. "The coins in our purses, please give to your servants to compensate them for all the trouble we have put them to. As for you, my friend, my lady and I would like you to dine with us on the morrow."
"You have rendered much service to me and to my family, honoured friends," said the Ambassador. "It pleases me greatly I could for once be of some service to you both."
Once Aragorn and Faramir again resembled their usual neatly dressed selves they took their leave, mounted their now perfectly groomed horses and hastened back to the Citadel.
Aragorn, though, was in an uneasy mood. The scent of the perfumed oil seemed to grow stronger with every pace that Roheryn took. Faramir would fare well enough. He was needed in the City for several days to attend Council meetings and by the time he was reunited with Éowyn the perfume would have disappeared. What would Arwen make of it, though? Would she think him less than manly, or horror of horrors, fear he had been enjoying the unchaste embraces of another?
Faramir went straight to his chamber to change out of Aragorn's clothes while the King went in search of his wife. He found Arwen seated at her embroidery in the solar.
"Estel, where ever have you been?" she exclaimed. "And why did you ask me to send clothes to Ambassador Tahir's?"
"The boat capsized and we fell in the river," Aragorn said ruefully.
"How could that happen? You and Faramir are experienced oarsmen both."
"I suppose the strawberry scones were to blame."
"Strawberry scones?" Arwen sounded incredulous. "I know the Secondborn are prone to gaining weight, but surely a few scones could not make you so heavy that your boat capsized?"
"It is a long story," said Aragorn. "I will tell it to you while I eat. I am tired and hungry."
"My poor Estel!" Arwen put her needlework aside and rose to her feet. She kissed her husband tenderly and ran her fingers through his unruly mop of grey-streaked dark hair.
Arwen sniffed his hair curiously. "Your hair smells different!" she said.
"Tahir gave us some oil to remove the stench of pondweed," Aragorn replied sheepishly. "It should soon wear off."
"But it is delightful! You must use it again."
"I fear perfume would make me appear less than manly, my love," Aragorn said hastily. "Besides, I do not know what the fragrance is."
"But who would object when we are alone together," said Arwen, nuzzling her face in his hair. "I shall ask Adiva for a supply of the perfume for you.
Aragorn shook his head in bewilderment. He and Arwen could sense each other's thoughts and were as close as any couple could be, yet she still had the capacity to surprise him. He kissed her tenderly, the frustrations of the afternoon's misadventures rapidly fading like a half forgotten dream.
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.