It all started with something relatively mundane and innocuous, at least by hobbit standards. A discussion about genealogy (as usual) turned into a debate about the properties of pipeweed.
Pippin and Merry lost half of their audience (read: Eowyn and Arwen) midway through explaining just how much of a Brandybuck Frodo actually is. Faramir held strong until the topic turned to pipeweed, partly out of politeness and partly due to his hunger for knowledge. Which left Aragorn being the only one still following everything when the two hobbits turned to the subject of mushrooms.
“Pip, mushrooms don’t grow well in that kind of soil! Leastways not the good eating kind.” Merry was saying.
“You’re wrong, I tell you, Fatty Bolger told me this himself. The secret is in… it’s in something, but I’m telling you, Merry, they do grow! Big ones too, the size of your face!”
“Now you’re just spinning tales. If only Sam were here, he’d tell you-“
Pippin at this point waved his fist around wildly, effectively scattering the dirt clutched in it everywhere.
“Oh no, sory, my lady, I didn’t mean to do that- No, Merry, I tasted this dirt and all, it’s exactly the kind of dirt Fatty was talking about, and it tastes exactly like the dirt that grows good mushrooms!”
“You taste soil to know if they grow viable mushrooms?” Faramir asked, frowning and looking for all the world like he was about to search for parchment and quill to take down notes.
Merry sighed and held out his hand for Pippin to give him some dirt. Without ceremony, he put it in his mouth. A moment passed, in which he looked serious and pensive, then he sighed again and nodded solemnly.
“You’re right, Pip, as much as I don’t want to admit it. It’s the good mushroom-growing kind of dirt, all right.”
Faramir still looked doubtful. “That doesn’t seem like a very good way of testing, though perhaps your people has different ways. But soil is soil, is it not? Do they not all taste the same?”
“Indeed, they do not.”
As one, the two hobbits, the Steward, the Queen, and the White Lady turned to see Aragorn, silent in the conversation until now, peaceably munching on the dirt that Pippin had scattered.
He stopped and looked around. “What?” He asked slowly.
“My lord…..” Faramir seemed to be at a loss for words, as any Steward of Gondor who just saw their King eat dirt would be.
Arwen sighed deeply. “Estel,” she chided gently, “you are not a Ranger in the wild anymore.”
“Oh.” Looking sheepish, Aragorn wiped the streaks of dirt off of his tunic and face.
“You know, Merry, I’ve just had a wonderful idea.”
“Let’s hear it, Pip.”
“20 silver pennies if you can get Strider to do that in front of some high-uppity noble.”