Disclaimers: If I owned it, I'd make you pay to read it, love.
A/n: Knocking out a great many stray bunnies in one fell swoop, this fic is the product of a forced breeding (à la Isengard) between a discarded plotline for Should've Thought of That One, Bori, a very dull science lecture, and a few long-neglected fics that have been wasting away in my hard drive for months. Needless to say, it's a bit of a strange mishmash—and, as sections of this have been written for quite some time, it may even contain a recycled joke or two. Please bear with me.
This got a little lengthy while I was writing it, so I've hacked it up into sizeable chunks. Chapter 2 is mostly written, and, depending on if I have further inspiration, there may even be a Chapter 3. No longer, though—I can't write support two full-length WIPs at once:-)
"Faramir, that infernal Palantír's ringing again! Will you go and answer it, please?"
The sound of his wife's dulcet (if somewhat aggravated) tones ringing through the corridor awoke Faramir from where he sat in the library alcove, dozing away with a sizeable book of Elven lore propped in his lap, and sent him bounding away and across the hall into the drawing room, where he snatched the marbled globe between his hands, and, peering into its obsidian depths, said, "Hello?"
"Faramir, old thing!" A flickering image of Aragorn's grinning face swam into view. "Got your Seeing Stone™ fixed at last, I see?"
"Yes, finally," groaned Faramir, setting the Palantír on the table and seating himself comfortably in the chair before it. "Took me just about an Age, mind. Instruction manual absolutely no help at all."
"They never are, are they? Moneymaking scheme, I believe… they make the directions infernally obscure so that you're forced to hire one of their technicians for repairs. Clever bastards, those business types!"
"It makes things rather difficult for the rest of us," complained Faramir, "You ought to put a stop to it, Sire."
"Oh, I don't see the point in that… we're trying to encourage the free market, right? Laissez faire and whatnot? The spirit of democracy?"
"We're a monarchy, actually, Aragorn."
"Oh." The King's countenance looked mildly puzzled for a moment. "Well, never mind that—you seem to have got it rigged up all right, at any rate. Though the picture quality's a bit grainy," he added, peering at Faramir owlishly.
"We get poor reception out here in Ithilien," explained Faramir. "And there's still some odd broadcast interference out of the Morgul Vale."
"Quite." There was a moment of silence, and then the image of Aragorn's face assumed an expression of solemnity. "Faramir, believe it or not, I didn't call you up this time just to banter about our household gadgets and to complain about our wives and to trade embarrassing stories about your brother. The reason I called is one of Utter Seriousness."
"How serious is that?" asked Faramir.
Aragorn raised an eyebrow. "Utterly serious."
"As in, 'death, doom, destruction, and the-end-of-Middle-Earth-as-we-know-it' serious," added Aragorn by way of clarification.
"Oh, I see." Faramir frowned. "Are the sewers at Osgiliath stopped up again, then?"
"This matter is more serious," said the King gravely, "even than that."
The Steward gaped with palpable disbelief. "Can that be?"
"It can," said Aragorn.
"I was garrisoned there for six months. Such a horror can hardly be comprehended. I lost seven good men from the fumes alone!"
"Yes, but this even worse, I'm telling you. So bad that I've been forced to call a secret council, in fact."
"A secret council? Am I invited, pray tell?"
Aragorn rolled his eyes. "No, but I just thought I'd tell you all about it, anyway. Of course you're invited, Faramir, don't be daft."
"No need to get sarcastic, Sire," said Faramir. "I have a history of being left out of secret councils, even when I have prophetic dreams about them beforehand. Where will it be held? The Citadel?"
"Actually, we're having it at your place," said Aragorn.
"Yes. Your terrace is the nicest."
"What in Eru's name has my terrace got to do with it?"
"You simply can't have a proper council without a proper terrace. It's one of the Unspoken Laws. And Arwen has put all these horrid lawn ornaments on ours—miniature fountains and windchimes and stone animal figurines and things like that—it simply won't do."
"Éowyn's no better; she's got a veritable menagerie of ceramic garden gnomes on ours. I trust that your terrace will do just as well."
"Oh, yes, and did I mention that Arwen's inherited her grandmother's birdbath also?"
Faramir paled. "Oh Valar. She's got that monstrosity on display?"
"My feelings exactly. So it would be infinitely preferable if we used your terrace, give or take the gnomes."
"I see," Faramir replied. "I will have to ask Éowyn, you understand."
Aragorn stared at him expectantly. "Well, go on then, man! I haven't got all day!"
"Give me a moment." Faramir turned away from the Palantír and called out, "Honey? Honey? Éowyn love, would it be alright if I had a few guests over?"
A pause. "What for?" came the reply.
"Er, a secret council! Oh, blast!" he added as an afterthought, glancing at the Seeing Stone™ ruefully. "Was I not supposed to tell her?"
Aragorn rolled his eyes. "It doesn't really matter."
"A secret council? When?" called Éowyn.
"Er… when is this, Aragorn?" asked Faramir.
"It's tomorrow, dear!"
"Tomorrow?" shrieked Éowyn. "Tomorrow? Are you mad, Faramir? The house is a mess! Do you have any idea how much work I'll have to do tonight? I'll have to mop and vacuum and dust and…"
"Never mind all that, we're having it out on the terrace anyway," interrupted Faramir.
"The terrace? The terrace?" was the shrill reply to this notion. "The garden is a disgrace, Faramir! Have you seen the state of the hydrangea bushes? And the ivy on the balustrades is overgrown again! And there are dead leaves all over the terrace, and mildew between the paving! And I haven't polished the garden gnomes in over a week!"
Aragorn choked noisily. Faramir ignored him. "It's no matter, dear… I don't suspect that anyone will mind…"
"No, Faramir! Absolutely not! I won't have company coming over and thinking we don't know how to keep house like civilized people!"
Faramir sighed. "Well, could you… I don't know, clean up around the terrace a bit, then?"
"Clean the terrace? Tonight? What, do you think I'm made of time?"
"Well, how about I clean the terrace? If I clean the terrace tonight, can I have a secret council tomorrow? Please, love? Please?"
A pause. "Oh, alright, I suppose."
Faramir returned his attention to the Palantír, pointedly disregarding the derisive look that his King was sending in his direction. "Well, that's all settled, then."
"Faramir," said Aragorn. "She's got you whipped."
"We all make some sacrifices for love, Mr. My-Wife-Buys-Stone-Animal-Figurines."
Aragorn grimaced. "Speak for yourself, Mr. My-Wife-Buys-Garden-Gnomes. Oh, I've got to run… I can hear that blasted mirror-birdbath-fountain contrivance trickling outside and it's making me want to piss…"
"Try living at Henneth Annûn," quipped Faramir. "And you know, as King you could conceivably order Arwen to get rid of the birdbath, if you wanted."
"We all make some sacrifices for love," replied Aragorn snidely, before switching off his Seeing Stone™ and making a mad dash for the chamber pot.
When Elessar Telcontar, Aragorn Arathornson Elfstone, King of Gondor and Lord of the Westlands, arrived in the principality of Ithilien, he could not help but notice that his Steward's arm was in a sling. When Aragorn demanded clarification, he explained that he had 'accidentally' broken all the garden gnomes while attending to the terrace, and that Éowyn, it had transpired, had been rather miffed. Aragorn clapped him on his uninjured shoulder and said, "Good man."
"Next time we have a secret council, it'll be on your terrace, birdbaths or no."
They settled out on the comfortable deck furniture with glasses of iced tea. "This terrace really is a marvel, though. The forest lighting does wonders for any patio. Er… how did you finally get rid of the mildew?"
"With a toothbrush, that's how," muttered Faramir. "We still need a grill out here, though."
"I recommend the Orodruin Deluxe. That's what we have."
"That's what I was thinking… It will take some finagling, though. Éowyn so particular about the yard. 'And let us make a garden there; all things will grow, if the White Lady comes'—that was what I told her when I proposed, and she took it to heart. I mean, just look. Flowers everywhere." Faramir gestured around vaguely with his free arm. "The garden gnomes were the last straw, though."
Aragorn took a deep swig from his glass of tea, and then frowned. "Have you got anything stronger, by any chance?"
Faramir shook his head. "No alcohol here, Aragorn. We're strict teetotalers in this house."
The King smirked. "Éowyn again?"
Faramir rolled his eyes. "She'll be rallying a Temperance Movement in the White City any day now…"
"Well, then, it's a good thing I told Legolas to bring his Dorwinion vintage with him…"
"Legolas? Legolas is coming? Gods, Aragorn," Faramir cried, "please tell me he isn't bringing his harem with him!"
The Harem of Legolas was a rather recent and shocking development in the realm of Greenwood. A large number of young women with knee-length hair, multicolored eyes, legendary swords, animal companions, and names such as Ky'lassa, Edriólarêfaødwen, and Amethystra had arrived on the Prince's doorstep unexpectedly one morning, all claiming some form of amnesia, and had refused to leave since.
"I didn't invite them," said Aragorn, "but they may show up anyway; they seem to accompany him everywhere these days."
"It's just that somehow I doubt that my wife would approve if a horde of scantily clad warrioresses showed up on the back porch for a 'secret council'."
"No fear, Lord Steward," came a clear voice from over the rhododendrons. "I gave them the slip on the way here—we ran into a contingent of giant spiders. They'll probably kill one or two and then have a group therapy session; it'll be hours before they notice I've gone." Legolas appeared on the terrace, followed by a scowling Gimli.
" I still don't understand why he's got a harem and I haven't," grumbled the Dwarf. "Especially when he's obviously gayer than Tom Bombadil on a sugar high."
"Oh, yes, Gimli, since you are obviously such an irresistible specimen of manliness," scoffed Legolas as the pair of them sat down on lawn chairs. "The elleth can barely look at you before they scream '"Gimli" a piece of that!'"
"Ooh, low blow," remarked Aragorn.
"And that is saying a lot," added Legolas.
"Stuff it before I ram my axe up yours," snarled Gimli. "And when is this damned council getting under way, Aragorn? It seems to be taking its sweet time, given that the 'doom of Middle-earth is at hand' or whatever you said in your letter…"
"We have to wait until the others arrive. I made sure that all the peoples of Middle-earth were represented… Men, Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, peredhil…"
"Did you remember Ents?" inquired Faramir.
Aragorn groaned and smacked a palm to his forehead. "Blast! I forgot Treebeard!"
"And good thing, too, or this council might take years altogether!" another voice rang over the deck, as Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrine Took vaulted over the railing and landed in a heap near Legolas's feet. "Hello, everyone—Strider, Legolas, Gimli. Nice statue you've got back there, Faramir—it looks uncannily like Sam!"
"What? Did I miss one? Where is it?" cried Faramir wildly, leaping to his feet and dashing off behind the shrubbery.
Merry stared after him in confusion. "What was that about?"
Aragorn rolled his eyes. "Garden gnomes. Faramir has an odd phobia about them."
"The PC term is 'horticulturally inclined dwarves', actually," grunted Gimli.
There was a dull thud, a sharp cry, and the sound of shattering ceramic. Faramir stumbled back into view, clutching his foot with his uninjured hand and hopping on the spot. "(Censored)(censored)(censored)(censored)! Someone get me some ice!"
Legolas offered his glass of iced tea, and the Steward wedged his toe within gratefully.
"Did you really try to kick it? That was uncharacteristically stupid," remarked Aragorn.
"Even I have my moments of unmitigated rage," grunted Faramir, hissing as the ice burned his tender toes. "When is the rest of this Eru-forsaken council going to arrive?"
Very shortly, it transpired.
A/n: Confused? Intrigued? Disgusted? Enamored? Review and let me know... the next chapter promises to be much more action-packed!