When did Aragorn start smoking? Whom did he learn it from? Had he always smoked openly? What were the reactions of the people around him on his new habit?
Notes: I am using some of my original characters here, and also some of my interpretations about things.
“What is it, Gandalf?” ten-year-old Estel asked, pointing at the thing on Gandalf’s lap.
“A pipe, little one, for smoking,” the old Wizard answered mildly. He was contemplating about something far away from the glade they were ensconced in. The said pipe was twisted around by its stem between two of his right-hand fingers, while his left-hand ones were knocking at the head of his ever-present staff rhythmically.
“Smoking? Like when one lights a fire with damp wood?” the child queried, puzzled. He scooted closer across the grassy dirt, bringing his pet tortoise with him, and scrutinised the pipe with interest.
“Yes and no, little one.” the Wizard shook his head. He looked down and gazed at the pipe for a while, then turn to stare at the boy. “Do you want me to show you?” When Estel nodded, he continued in a half-warning and half-conspiratorial tone, “Do not tell anyone that I show you.” The boy giggled, but he dipped his head enough convincingly.
But before the Wizard could light the pipe, someone came into the glade. It was a youthful-looking woman, and she was frowning disapprovingly at the two males, her hands on her hips.
“Hi, Nana Dila!” Estel called out cheerily, innocently. The woman glared at him. Gandalf blushed and quickly stuffed the pipe and the package of weed into one of the pockets of his grey robe.
“Where is Nana Dila?” twenty-five-year-old Aragorn asked promptly as he was striding into the camp. Gandalf choked on the pipe he was smoking. The culprit himself was grinning without no trace of guilt in his noble visage.
“Why do you ask me? I am not her minder,” the Wizard grumbled irritatedly after his fit of coughing had subsided.
Aragorn’s grin widened and became mischievous. He crouched down opposite the small fire, safe from any physical retaliation from the older man. “You always go together, as far as I know—“
“—Yes, boy, as far as you know—“ Gandalf growled.
“—And I know that you go in a pair not only because of duty or moral support,” Aragorn continued undauntedly, finishing his thought. Gandalf glowered threateningly at him. The Wizard neither confirmed his suspicion nor denied it.
All the same, when Aragorn offered to be taught to smoke in exchange for his sealed lips about the secret, he complied.
“Why do you want to learn to smoke? What benefit will you get from it? The Elves generally do not approve of it, and many of your childhood heroes do not approve of it either,” Gandalf queried when the young man was drowned in a fit of coughing for the umpteenth time. His tone of voice was a mixture of curiosity and smugness.
“My people – the Dúnedain of Arnor – smoke pipe. I always felt left out when they were smoking together,” Aragorn stated when he had managed to control himself.
“Surely not the women and children also?” Gandalf chuckled. Aragorn growled at him, falling into another fit of coughing right afterwards.
He nodded his thanks as Gandalf proffered him a skin of water. When he was calm once more, he demanded to the Wizard, “Don’t tell anyone in Imladris about this, please. I have no desire of being flayed alive now. I have a promising future to pursue still.”
Gandalf let out a gaily, raucous laugh. The younger man laughed alongside him, albeit with less intensity, soon after.
“What are you doing there, Estel? Come out. We will be having dinner in a few minutes.” Someone emerged out of the thick undergrowth to the side of the tiny clearing. Eighty-year-old Aragorn choked and coughed, but he managed to dous his pipe and hide it before the unexpected intruder came into view.
“Nana Ana,” he greeted her – a little too cheerily – when her sightless warm-brown eyes landed on him. He was always unnerved at how those supposedly-blind eyes always managed to find his and delf into them. Now was not different; it was made worse by what he had just done.
Ana glared at him. Despite everything, she looked identical to Dila, her twin, right then. “You were smoking, were you not? Why do you still continue the habit?” she chid him. Aragorn blushed and stammered under her sharp regard, yet he could find no excuse to save himself. As a last resort, he begged her not to tell her twin and Arwen.
Ana ignored him for the moment. “Smoking can shorten your life and bring disease,” she lectured him. Aragorn forced himself not to pout and roll his eyes as he was wont to do when he had been younger. He hoped Ana would soon end her tirade, and better, if she would give up trying to convince him in every occasion possible, so he could continue smoking his pipe again in peace.
He was jerked back from his reverie on her last words. “…And who taught you, by the way? That irresponsible person is going to answer to us.”
He winced inwardly. The image of the scowling Gandalf flashed before his mind eyes.
“Umm… I… perfected the skill myself,” he stuttered. It was not a lie, at least, only a half truth.
Then Arwen walked into the clearing, talking amiably with Dila and the Grey Wizard. It was more than Aragorn could bear. He fled his hideout by way of the trees opposite where the small group had just come. He was thankful that Legolas, the Silvan Elf he had befriended some twenty years ago, had taught him some tricks useful in a forest. He just hoped the Elf would not find out that he smoked pipe, at least not in the near future… Curse his curiosity seventy years ago, and curse Gandalf for complying to his wish to know.