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Kindred Spirits (1/?) - fanfiction

Greetings Gentle Readers, however many of you might still be around! I finally decided to post my so-called opus. I call it my "opus" even though it isn't my longest work by far. Foster Father has that honor. But it's certainly taken the longest, given it's been years in the making. Since it might never be finished I reckon it's better to share what I have rather than to let it linger in a drawer unread for another four-five years or so. I have about 95 pages and it's 75-80 percent completed, so bear that in mind before you decide to jump in. I'll try to keep posting in a timely manner. And who knows? Maybe Le Muse will feel inspired to rouse up and finish what she started! Thanks for your patience all these years. As ever, I'm so fortunate in my readers. You're absolutely the best. Le Muse and I wish you all a Happy New Year, my precious fledglings!


Faramir, Devon and Gwinthorian join forces for an adventure and court Certain Doom.



Thank you, Kat, for being my constant companion year after year, the one I turn to for calm, sage advice and the bestest beta in all the land. I'm so fortunate in you.

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended. This story is not meant to violate the rights held by New Line, Tolkien Enterprises, nor any other licensee, nor is any disrespect intended. I don’t own Tolkien’s original characters, however, my OC’s, Gwinthorian, Garrick, Devon and several other Rangers are exclusively my own.

Kindred Spirits(1/?)
by Larrkin


We sat side by side, our legs dangling over the wall of Minas Tirith's third tier, watching the various armies form up far down below on the Pelennor Plain for the march back to their scattered homelands.

Gwinthorian sighed. "I am bored."

I swung my legs up, stood and headed back towards camp.

"Dev."

I kept walking.

"DEV!"

No turning. Keep walking, Devon. I don't know why I bothered, though. Any second now Gwin would come running up beside me telling me what inconsiderate louts humans were and doing his best to make me feel guilty for abandoning him.

Keep walking, Devon. And I did. But then I halted and looked back. Gwin just sat there, gazing off, his shoulders sagging. He looked small and alone and altogether pitiful.

I closed my eyes. No. I refused to go back there and sit down and become entangled in yet another Gwinthorian 'idea', an 'idea' that ended as they all ended, with certain doom. Aragorn's ideas had worked the same way. Aragorn was bored. Aragorn needed an adventure. Aragorn had a wonderfully brilliant idea. So who did he come looking for? Me. Devon the Easily Swayed. Admittedly, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

But now I clenched my fists, opened my eyes and made myself face the elf bent on bringing destruction down upon me. Stand fast, Dev. Prove your mettle. Walk, no, run back to camp.

And then Gwin looked over his shoulder, locking his wide eyes upon mine and casting me a forlorn gaze. I shivered. How. How, I asked myself, did he do that? How did he with one plaintive, lost-child look tug at my heart in such a way? Gwinthorian's powers to entice were unsurpassed and my inner resolve began abandoning the field as it always did. I felt myself turn and go back to him, my body moving before my brain, or rather my will to survive, caught up with it. I sat down beside him once more and sighed. Idiot, Devon. You're a soft-hearted idiot.

Oh, well.

"I'm sorry, Gwin," I said.

He leaned against me for a moment then drew back and cast me his softly indignant grin. "Humans are such inconsiderate louts."

I sniffed a laugh and said, "That we are." I gazed at his ethereal beauty, recalling what Legolas had once said of his kinsman:

"Gwin has a way of charming the good sense right out of me. ‘Ware that wee kinsman of mine, Dev. He can beguile the ugly from an orc.”

Would that I had heeded that warning.

Oh, well.

Gwin stiffened and looked over his shoulder, staring behind me down the narrow back alleyway we'd followed to find this place. Someone was coming. I sensed him now, too, but I smiled and followed Gwin's gaze. A moment later Faramir emerged from the alley and strolled our way.

Gwinthorian's early experience with Faramir had been less than amiable, but by the time the young captain was well enough to visit our encampment Gwin's jealousy and spite were long forgotten. The three of us formed a swift, close kinship. Garrick and Halbarad had viewed this with raised brows and a sudden heightened watchfulness, as did Damrod, Boromir, Aragorn and Legolas. Gwin delighted in it.

"Does it not give you a small tingle of satisfaction, Dev, knowing that they feel we need to be so closely supervised? When you think on't, 'tis positively flattering."

Gwinthorian often made outrageous observations, and he was usually right on the mark. I'd given him a feigned reproachful glare and told him I could live quite well without such flattery, thank you, making him burst into laughter.

"Liar!"
he'd cried, and I'd grinned in agreement.

"What say you, gents?" Faramir now called, flashing us his twinkling smile.

"Faramir!" Gwin and I called out in unison.

"I was looking down from three tiers up and I saw two bright golden heads shining in the morning sun," he said, "and I thought, 'two people, sitting in a place where no one ever goes, perched where no one should ever perch. Who else could it be?' So I came down to see what you were plotting. No, no," he said, watching us start to rise. "Don't get up."

"Join us," I said.

"Yes, come sit with us, Faramir," Gwin chimed in. "We have need of some solace."

"Solace?" He sat beside me and dangled his legs over the edge of the wall, then he gave us a shrewd glance, grinned and said, "Bored are we?"

Gwin released a quick laugh and said, "Stop that."

"Stop what?" Faramir grinned more.

"You know what," Gwin said. "Stop using your masterly insight on us."

Faramir chuckled. "I don't need to use my insight on you, Gwinthorian. You wear your emotions openly for all to see. I imagine you've been trying to coerce poor Dev into some kind of mischief to ease your crippling boredom."

My turn to grin. Faramir spoke in a gentle, friendly voice to soften his teasing. Gwinthorian merely smiled at him. Faramir was a special favorite of his, of both of us, really, a true kindred spirit and an ever-willing companion in perfectly harmless ventures.

The problem was the three of us hadn't been permitted to spend much time alone together, nor had we been allowed the opportunity to enter into any perfectly harmless ventures. Gwin was right. We were usually well supervised when we were together.

So last week, during breakfast at our encampment, I'd been delighted to hear Aragorn order me to accompany Faramir to Osgiliath for the day. A silence fell. A fortnight earlier Boromir and Faramir had enjoyed a small adventure with some orcs in the old sewers of Osgiliath. This would be the first time since the event that Faramir was permitted to go to the city with someone other than Lieutenant Damrod at his side. Faramir and I exchanged smiles of astonishment and shot to our feet.

"Back at dusk," Aragorn had said.

Immediately Faramir squared off. "Dusk? Aragorn, can we not stay the night?"

I was surprised by Faramir's petulant-sounding question. Staying the night seemed an exorbitant notion. Garrick wouldn't have liked it. So I wasn't the least bit surprised to hear Aragorn say:

"Dusk, sir. Else I shall send several of your big brothers after you."

Faramir's cheeks went pink. He looked rebellious. Boromir began to rise, saying, "Perhaps I should --"

"No,"
Aragorn said. "I have need of you today. Devon will be a fine companion for Faramir. Sit, sir."

Boromir sat.

Now Gwinthorian jumped up, "I am going, too."

Halbarad silently grabbed the bottom of Gwin's tunic in one great fist and tugged, yanking him down into a sprawling heap, mostly over his big lieutenant's lap. Halbarad then picked Gwin up and plunked him back in place beside him. Readjusting his clothing and his elvish dignity, such as it was, Gwinthorian said, "Or perhaps not."

"Perhaps not indeed, sir!"
Boromir grumbled. "The three of you together for an entire day? Alone? The very thought makes my blood run cold."

The others chuckled, however we three remained poised. We were accustomed to hearing this kind of gentle mocking. But Faramir and I were treated to warning gazes from all those present. The combined stern looks of Damrod, Halbarad, Boromir, Legolas and Aragorn hit like a battering ram. I was moved by their faith in us. As for Garrick, his eyes carried a silent warning I'd read too many times to count: Behave yourself, little boy.

And behave we did. Faramir and I managed to spend a fruitful, enjoyable and uneventful day in Osgiliath, returning on time as had been ordered from on high. Positively silly the happy greeting we'd received.

"Merciful stars!" I'd exclaimed watching the others grinning at us as though shocked that this venture had gone so well. "Just what were you expecting us to do?"

This was met with a fresh round of chuckles and Garrick saying, "The mind reels."

Well, at least he hadn’t called me 'little boy,' in front of the others.

"How goes it with you, Faramir?" Gwin now asked him.

Faramir shrugged. "Tolerably well." He looked back over his shoulder again as he had a few times since joining us. “However, with one big brother, two more self-appointed big brothers and Damrod it’s a wonder I can move ten paces on my own. And Damrod has eyes everywhere throughout the city. I feel as though I'm under constant surveillance.”

“Frightful,” Gwin muttered, now glancing over his shoulder as well. "Simply frightful."

"Mmm." Faramir stopped craning his neck about and said, "I awoke very late to find everyone gone. No idea where they went off to. So I was about to head down to the sparing grounds to see who might be there when I caught sight of you two. Looking bored." He leaned forward and peered down, studying the height of the wall we were seated upon. "You know," he said, easing back, "’Twould go ill for us should certain others find out where we are perched."

I knew Gwin was thinking that over, as was I. Finally I said, "Perhaps we should move on."

Predictably, Gwin's feathers ruffled.

"Dev, for mercy's sake!" he said. "No one knows we are here and no one will."

"And how is it you are here?" Faramir asked. "No duties to perform in camp this morning? Halbarad and Garrick let you off the tether?"

Only one such as Faramir could say something like that to us and get away with it. Gwinthorian and I just chuckled. Kindred spirits forgive each other much.

"We've been granted some time off for good behavior," I said.

"Because we have earned neither a warning look nor a swat nor a threat of certain doom for over a week," Gwin added.

"An entire week?" Faramir exclaimed.

"Aye. Ever since the two of you came back from Osgiliath alive."

"You haven't been trying hard enough, Gwin," Faramir said. "What ails you?"

Gwinthorian sighed and shrugged listlessly. Faramir watched him for a moment, then said, "You truly are bored, aren't you?"

"Faramir!" Gwin growled. “Stop that!”

I thought over Gwin's period of self-imposed good behavior, something he'd decided to try after being denied the privilege of joining Faramir and me in Osgiliath. I'd returned that evening to a cold and distant Gwinthorian, and the next day he avoided me until I finally stormed after him into Halbarad's tent and told him that it wasn't my decision to exclude him and I'd had enough of his treating me like a diseased orc. Gwin merely glowered at me, so I left him alone to sulk and think things over, and later he came around full of regrets and apologies. Gwinthorian in a humbled state is simply more than any living creature can bear, so we decided to forget the whole thing. He was far too fond of Faramir to resent him or feel jealous. But, as 'twas highly unlikely the three of us would have been permitted to go together that day, Gwin was stung to be the one left behind.

"I know that city!" he'd muttered to me later after we'd made amends. "I have been there before helping both Boromir and Aragorn."

It was true, and I'd had no answers for him, but the next day he seemed more himself, and I wondered if Halbarad had confronted Gwin about his attitude. And thus was born his self-imposed period of good behavior, something that had strained my poor companion's endurance. He was now an elf teetering on the edge of an emotional precipice. Suddenly his choice of places to sit this morning made sense. All because of that day when Faramir and I had ridden off for Osgiliath and come back without a mishap.

Sensing something now, I turned to look at Faramir, who was watching me in that curiously alert way of his, as though listening to something unseen. I was about to echo Gwinthorian's cry of, 'Stop that!' when Faramir said, "We certainly did prove something to them that day in Osgiliath, didn't we, Dev?" I gave him a tolerant frown, but he merely grinned and said, "We built a good foundation of trust through our trip."

"Because you came back in one piece?" Gwin asked in a scornful tone, for underneath it all he was still a bit cranky about missing out on that journey with us.

"In one piece and on time," Faramir said.

Gwinthorian 'tsked.' "How dull. The two of you showed a fair lack of imagination that day."

"And we were able to sit comfortably that night," I said. "There is merit in behaving ourselves, Gwin. Faramir is right. They trust us now."

"After spending one day without mishap whilst in each other’s company." Gwin scoffed. "Do not fool yourself, Dev. If they knew the three of us were here together, alone, even though we are but sitting and talking, I assure you, we would not be talking alone together much longer. Halbarad or Garrick or Damrod or Aragorn or Legolas --" He shot Faramir a look. "-- or your big brother, the Steward, would either join us or break us apart." He paused to scoff again. "Utterly absurd! They treat us like elflings! Remember that morning the two of you went to Osgiliath? That business 'round the fire? Ridiculous!" A third small scoff.

Someone was in a scoffing mood today.

"Well, we're here alone now," I said, hoping to quiet Gwin's building temper. “So what say we make the most of it and --"

"You have an idea, Dev?" Gwinthorian cried, bursting with sudden enthusiasm.

"An idea?" I asked, though I knew full well what he meant. Something daring. Something wayward. Something fun. I'd actually been about to suggest an ale at the closest tavern, the tameness of which would certainly not suit Gwinthorian who was clearly craving excitement or danger or, better still, both.

I considered how long it had been since my last spanking . . . not all that long. Of course, it never seemed to be long enough between Garrick's spankings. So, no. I wasn't interested in satisfying Gwin's hunger for amusement, and I was about to tell him so when Faramir quietly ventured:

"I do.”

Gwin and I whipped our heads around to look at him.

Faramir wore a perfectly innocent, perfectly mischievous little smile. “I have an idea."

Gwin was so thrilled he near fell off the ledge. He sucked a short gasp. "You do? You have an idea, Faramir?"

I said nothing, but every nerve in my body tingled. I told myself that I was merely curious, but I suppose Gwin wasn't the only one feeling bored.

"I came up with this plan after you and I went to Osgiliath, Dev," he said. "It might sound hazardous to some, but I've thought it through and I'm certain we three can pull it off. I can't stop turning it over in my mind."

'Hazardous to some.' And we all knew who those 'some' were. Oh, this sounded just grand. I saw certain doom looming like a promise on my all-too-near horizon. Gwin, however, was practically crawling over my lap to get closer to Faramir, wise rescuer of pitiable elflings adrift in the boredom of existence.

Gwinthorian's spankings, and mine as well, were usually prompted by behavior we knew to be unacceptable, and our Rangers ever saw to our disobedience in a timely and thorough manner. When we were both involved in the same unacceptable behavior it was just more of the same on perhaps a grander scale, even though Gwin and I were often simply not to blame for the slight misfortunes that seemed to plague us whilst we were in each others company. We'd never been able to convince certain heavy-handed personages of that strange truth, though.

"But we didn't meeean to, Garrick!"

"I understand, little boy. You never do. So let us discuss what it was you meant to do, shall we?"


Alas, that never went well.

So now Faramir had a plan, did he? The Captain of The Ithilien Guard had devised something that 'might' sound hazardous to some. Wonderful. I was not interested and wholly intrigued. Gwin wasn't torn, though. He was absolutely beside his small elvish self. Tired of him trying to swim his way across my lap I scooted out from under him and shoved him over next to Faramir. Now he could gaze fervently into the captain's eyes and ask his impatient questions.

"A plan for all three of us?"

"Aye, of course, Gwin."

"Is it terribly dangerous?"

"Well, I don't know about 'terribly'--"

"Something fun? Something daring?"

"I certainly think --"

"Something to do with Osgiliath?"

"Well --"

"Not something to do with Osgiliath?"

"You see --"

"You would know how to strategize brilliantly!"

"Why, thank you, Gw--"

"What about --"

I suppose I could've been more patient. "Gwinthorian!" I snapped. "Will you let the man speak?"

Gwin turned and peered at me as though he'd forgotten I was there. "Oh," he said. "Oh. Yes. Yes, of course."

"Get a tighter rein on your horses, sir, else we shall never hear what Faramir proposes."

Gwin knotted his hands together, placed them in his lap and said, "You are right, Dev. I am calm now. Beg pardon."

Faramir grinned at him fondly, then he jumped up, saying, "I articulate better on my feet."

Gwin and I spun around to sit cross-legged and attentive, and Faramir began pacing a short path back and forth before us, gesturing as he spoke:

"I heard that when Aragorn took the Grey Company to meet my Ithilien Rangers the two troops gathered in a clearing we call the Eastern Glade, a place large enough for both groups of men. You didn't go as far as Henneth Annûn , did you?"

"No. We did not," Gwinthorian replied.

"Henneth Annûn," I said. "The name is Sindarin?"

"Window on the West," Gwin said.

A flash of warmth entered Faramir's gaze. "Aye, Henneth Annûn. It's my base of operations, one of the last refuges of the men of the West during the dark time, home to my Ithilien Rangers. Sauron couldn't see us there because its vast caves are hidden behind an enormous waterfall, a window-curtain. Gentlemen, there is simply nothing so breathtaking as watching the sun set from behind those falls. Thousands of rainbows light up the water, glittering and dancing and turning the caves within into a sparkling wonder. You stand there, bathed in an iridescent light, a color that seems to enter your body and caress your soul, and . . . ."

Ahh, Faramir's golden tongue. Gwin and I sat motionless and enthralled, listening to his quiet, melodious descriptions. He went on for some time, weaving his tapestry of images and sharing what it was like to live there with his brave Rangers, striking out against evil from that place of safety. I closed my eyes and tried to see it, the window-curtain of falls at sunset, the moonlight over the forests and hills of Ithilien, the Forbidden Pool where Gollum had gone fishing . . ..

How I wished Aragorn had let us spend more time there! Had we ridden just a little further we could have seen this magical place Faramir spoke of so lovingly. I felt how much he missed it and his longing to go back there, and when I opened my eyes again it was because I realized that it was suddenly quiet. Faramir stood gazing off, arms wrapped 'round his waist. He swayed slightly, as though he had traveled to this place in a dreamy trance. Glancing at Gwin I saw that his eyes were yet closed, a soft look of serenity on his perfect face.

It's instinctive, reaching out to sense another's feelings, slipping into their very thoughts . . . . Terrible intrusion, really. I can stop as soon as I'm aware of it – and if I want to. But I found myself staring at Faramir's transfixed gaze, and I drifted with him, listening to his . . ..

No! A jolt shot through me. I flinched. No! He couldn't. He could not, simply could not be thinking what he was thinking.

Faramir had pulled from his daze and was watching me, his gaze locked on mine. "And just what am I thinking, Dev?" he murmured.

And I remembered that Faramir was a gifted Seer, a Dúnedain through and through with gifts that were likely far greater than my own.

I scrambled up, affronted by his mental probing and embarrassed to be caught in the same act. "You can't be thinking of doing this!" I turned to Gwin. He had roused from his stupor and was watching me with foggy confusion.

"Do you know what he wants to do?" I asked him. "What his so-called 'idea' is?"

"Why, no," Gwin replied. "How could I? He has yet to tell us." Then he paused, and with the poise of one accustomed to life among the Dúnedain, he said, "What is his idea, Dev?"

"He wants to take us to this place he's been talking about. In Ithilien. By ourselves. No armed escort."

Instantly alert, Gwin shot to his feet, and in true Gwinthorian fashion, cried, "When do we leave?"

Faramir laughed. "Wouldn't you like some details first?"

Gwin waved his hand. "You will have worked those out, Captain. I stand ready!"

I fumed at Gwin and said the only thing that popped into my head. “You’re an idiot.”

“Devon!” he cried.

"You’re an idiot, Gwin. You did hear me say that he wants to do this alone. With no guard and no others along. Only the three of us."

Too excited to waste time being insulted, Gwinthorian grinned at me, eyes glittering. "Come now, Dev. I am certain the captain remembers his way."

So much for Gwin. There would be no arguing with him. His mind was made up. I'm usually ready for a little adventure, but this went outside the bounds of even my audacity. And life with Aragorn had led me into some right wild audaciousness.

But Gwin was, as he'd declared himself to be, bored, and when Gwinthorian was bored he lost all sense of proportion, especially when it came to dangerous behavior. This notion of Faramir's was exactly the kind of thing Gwin craved right now, and nothing I said would dissuade him. But perhaps Faramir could be reasoned with. Perhaps my flat out refusal would carry some weight. I turned to him. He looked as though he knew my every thought. I wondered why I bothered voicing them.

“You said,” I began, flustered. “What was it you just said? 'It might sound hazardous to some?' Might? Might you say? Well, count me as one of those who thinks it sounds hazardous. There is no 'might,' though."

Faramir gave me a patient look. "No, Dev, it really won't be --"

"Why not ask Aragorn's permission to go to Henneth Annûn?" I interrupted. "Tell him you'd like to show it to Gwin and me. I feel certain he'll permit it, and he'll send us with enough warriors to make the journey safe --"

"Along with a big brother or two?" Faramir began pacing again. "No! No, thank you very much. I've been coddled enough. I grow weary of it. I long for a bit of freedom away from watchful eyes and too much attention paid. I long for an adventure! Don’t you?" He halted suddenly and frowned at me in a fierce manner. "'Ask permission?'" he said as though it left a bad taste in his mouth. "You surprise me, Devon."

"And me," Gwin joined in, now growing impatient. "Dev, how dull! What is wrong with you? You are being very wearisome."

Was I? I studied Gwin who watched me with that cross little look on his face. Was I being overly cautious? Why, in fact, was I being cautious at all? It was unlike me. I turned back to Faramir.

"What of the danger then?" I said. "We traveled safely there and back, but 'tis unlikely we would have been attacked given we were an entire company of Rangers and well able to defend ourselves."

"Fighting isn't always the answer," Faramir replied in a calm, reasonable voice. "I know Ithilien. I know every cave, every copse, every safe hiding place."

"Some of which might be occupied by unsavory types who would be only too happy to kill or capture us," I said.

"I would like to see them try," Gwin said, now back to scoffing.

"You're formidable in battle, Gwinthorian, but you are not invincible," I told him. "We're all seasoned warriors, and if need be we would give a good account of ourselves. But, Gwin, even you can hold off only so many at once, as can I. Faramir would do his best, but he is still on the mend."

Faramir straightened and raised his chin. "I'm perfectly able to --"

"Hold your own? As you did a fortnight ago during that skirmish you and your brother were engaged in with the sewer orcs?" I said. "I have no doubt you fought well, but I heard it was over almost as soon as it began. Hardly surprising given the number of warriors Damrod mustered to rescue you."

Faramir flushed and shifted around, muttering, "It wasn't over all that fast."

"Aragorn told Halbarad and Garrick that, according to Damrod, it would be a while before you were back in full battle-ready shape and able to sustain your strength for more than a five-minute skirmish with some seriously outnumbered orcs."

"It might have been short, but it was a pitched fight," Faramir replied with amazing tolerance. "I can draw my bow and wield my sword just as ably as I used to."

"But for how long?" I said. "How long could you continue to draw your bow again and again and again? How swiftly could you fire your arrows? Could you wield your sword in a battle that might go on for some time? Be honest with yourself, Faramir. Have you the strength and stamina for that? Would you be willing to stake your life, and ours, upon it?"

Faramir went still. Clearly stung, but too honest to argue further, he studied me for a long moment with his penetrating gaze, as though puzzling something out. I refused to let him burrow around in my thoughts, although I sensed him trying to do so. Meanwhile Gwinthorian stared at me, plainly baffled by my objections.

In truth, I was baffling myself. Since when had I become the voice of reason? Why wasn't I leaping at this chance? I honestly couldn't say. But this adventure of Faramir's, it . . . well, I felt strangely anxious about it, unlike my two companions, who were thinking only in terms of the thrill.

Faramir then tilted his head slightly to one side, gazing at me in an appealing manner, and politely asked, "What's really bothering you, Dev?" I was happy to tell him.

"To begin with, we could find ourselves outnumbered in a fight we couldn't win, and then, well, wouldn't a group of orcs or savage wild men just love to capture the three of us? They might be merciful and kill us on the spot, but they could drag out our captivity, hold us for ransom perhaps, torture us, maybe even use us for sport while waiting to sell us back. Can you imagine that?"

Unfortunately, I could. I halted, a flashing dreadful image slamming into me of the three of us in chains, being . . . used. And Faramir an innocent. I felt certain of it. I gave my head a shake and blinked, trying to clear the scene.

"Is that all?" Faramir said.

"ALL?"

"Devon," he said in a commander's firm tone, "calm down. Don't worry. That won't happen to us. I assure you, we'll be perfectly safe."

I flinched. Perfectly safe. How many times had Aragorn said that to me? His plans often featured that treacherous little phrase: "We won't be gone long, Dev. It will be perfectly safe." "It's not that dangerous, Dev. Trust me. It is perfectly safe." "'Tis only one troll, Dev. You can make that shot. It will be perfectly safe." "There cannot be that many wargs, Dev. We shall be perfectly safe." ". . . perfectly safe . . . perfectly safe."

I’d always chosen to believe Aragorn, fool that I was, especially when I feared that, had I declined to go with him, my impetuous captain might try to go without me. If it turned out to be less than ‘perfectly safe’ I'd wanted to be at his side.

"Faramir, there’s no way you can assure us that we'll be safe," I told him. "You cannot be certain of it."

"Yes, I can,” he said with a grin so appeasing it made me clench my teeth. "Trust me, Dev. I really do know every inch of that country, every winding trail and hidden escape route, and I can elude any band of dim-witted orcs or clumsy, slow wild men. I can weave us around, confusing and frustrating them until they give up the chase."

And suddenly the detail that had been nagging at me surfaced. "Wait," I said, my stomach clenching. "'Weave us around?' We’re making this journey on foot?"

"Of course," Faramir said, as though this was an understood. "We'll be taking the shortcuts through the hinterland and forests, ancient routes my Rangers and I have ever followed. Those pathways can only be traveled on foot. Horses can't access those trails."

This kept getting better by the minute. "A journey on foot will take us two days, at best," I said. "Two days of solid walking. Are you prepared for that physical challenge?"

He gave me a serene look and a nod, unwilling to take offense even though I'd questioned his competency yet again. I glanced at a strangely silent Gwin. He simply watched me with his bewildered frown.

"Have you nothing to say about this?" I asked him, instantly regretting my question. Gwinthorian opened his mouth and I held my palm up to him. "No. No. Sorry I asked. I know what you have to say." Gwin fumed, but he held his tongue, oddly compliant. I turned back to Faramir.

"And at night? What then? We stopped for the night on our way back, since we'd left late in the day. But we were a troop of heavily armed Rangers. Where could the three of us safely rest?"

"Why, in the trees, of course."

"Of course!" Gwin exclaimed. "Perfect!"

Crackbrained Mirkwood tree elf.

"Don't look at me like that, Dev," Faramir said. "It isn't a foolish choice. Ithilien is an ancient forest. Many of its trees are hundreds of years old. They have massive branches heavy with foliage that intersects to form areas so dense that when you look down you can't see the ground. And none below can look up and see you. You don't have to be a tree elf to enjoy a good night's sleep in the branches. The leaves form thick layers, deep and wide and solid enough to walk upon. I've slept in trees many times."

I could scarce imagine Lieutenant Damrod stomaching that, but I let it go. I wished I could relax my fears. I was struggling to do so. Goodness knows some of the things Gwin and I had done sounded ludicrous when we thought them up. Unfortunately they had often been proven to be just that.

"It'll be easy," Faramir said.

"Easy?"

"I'll ask Aragorn's permission to go to Osgiliath again, you and I, and with that foundation of trust we've built, surely none will object. We'll plan to arrive early in the morning. Gwin can join us there. I trust our friend can manage to slip away from Halbarad. We'll have a whole day's start before they even realize we've gone."

"No, not a whole day," I said. "Aragorn will likely request we return at dusk, as he did last time."

"'Till dusk then," he said.

I felt Faramir was suffering from a staggering excess of wishful thinking. But he was so earnest that I felt him starting to affect me the way Gwinthorian did when he wanted me to do something outrageous. Usually I loved this kind of exploit. With Aragorn I adoringly followed him into the peril, along with the occasional murmured mention of my concerns beforehand. And if Aragorn came to me tomorrow with another wild scheme I'd accompany him anywhere.

Gwin, however, depending on the absurdity of what he wanted to do, sometimes needed to convince me, and he did so by enticing that 'yes!' within me to come join him in a little harmless mischief. Faramir was now trying to calm that raging 'nooo!' roaring around inside me by offering various assurances. It wasn't working.

"It's preposterous," I said. "No. And there's an end to it."

"Dev," Gwin now said, his voice soft and beseeching. "Please, Dev. Stop thinking like Garrick."

Was that what I was doing? Perhaps it was. Tedious of me. I turned to Gwin and he came close, touched my arm and looked directly at me. It was hard for me to deny Gwinthorian anything, and I felt that familiar warm pull in my chest, that powerful desire to join him, to please him, however --

"I'm doing this for both of us," I told him. "I'm keeping you alive. Think, Gwin. Think what Halbarad will say, what he'll do to you, how your disappearance will fill him with concern."

Asking Gwinthorian to stop and think when he's this stirred up is an exercise in futility. He gazed at me with his most winsome expression, and softly said, "Ah, but, Dev, if I thought of what Halbarad would say or do to me every time you and I did something unsuitable, then you and I would never do anything unsuitable."

He was utterly shameless. It was one of the things I loved about him. But at the moment I was too agitated to be moved by even Gwinthorian's persuasive talents.

"Nonsense," I told him, although what he'd said was absolutely true. And he knew it, confounded elf. Even though he understood full well what his Ranger would say and do Gwin always did just as he pleased. As did I. So it was a waste of effort trying to appeal to Gwinthorian's better nature when he was already traveling with Faramir through the Ithilien woods.

Turning back to Faramir I said, "Forgive my astonishment, but I cannot fathom what you're thinking."

Leveling an indulgent grin my way, he said, "What I'm thinking, Dev, in fact what I know to be true, is that I can keep us safe. I've traveled Ithilien's pathways so often I can walk them blindfolded, and if you're willing to join me I'd like nothing more than to show you my splendid world. You won't regret it."

I was already regretting it. He was beginning to make sense. This was bad. I was losing my way in Faramir's gentle voice and his compelling manner and quiet, sadly-soft beseeching gaze. I felt enfolded in his yearning and a spark ignited within me, just as it ever did when Aragorn approached me with his roguish grin and his murmured, "Dev. Walk with me." Why bother arguing?

But then, that was Aragorn, my captain, whom I'd have followed straight to the heart of Mt. Doom, and while I was terribly fond of Faramir I was having no trouble refusing his mad plan. This was a stand worth taking, so I hit him with my other big concern.

"And when we do finally face our sorely displeased warriors again? What then?"

He smiled thoughtfully and said, "I've no idea, Dev. But perhaps, just perhaps, we'll be forgiven since we managed the trip without mishap."

It was by far his most nonsensical argument. He had to know how ridiculous his words sounded. I wondered why he bothered to voice such a thought. Faramir was, I sensed, growing desperate. Watching him in disbelief, I muttered in an I-cannot-believe-you-just-said-that tone, " . . . we’ll be forgiven since we managed the trip without mishap."

Gwin now voiced an exclamation he’d learned from the wee Took: "For pity's sake!” he cried. “Why ask Faramir what will happen to us, Dev? You and I both know what will happen. If we do this we are accepting the inevitable. We are accepting certain doom! And since when has that ever stopped us?"

Irksome dose of truth from the ever-tactful elf. And that fate sounded just as bad when spoken aloud as when I'd just imagined it.

"Perhaps your 'certain doom' awaits us," Faramir said. "Perhaps not. All I know is that we shall have to wait to find out what will happen."

Faramir the diplomat.

"And that's good enough for you?" I asked him.

"Isn't it usually good enough for you, Devon?" he asked with a knowing smile.

"It is good enough for me," Gwinthorian ventured in a small voice.

I darted him a look. "Gwin, you're bored. You've tried good behavior and you found it dull. So having made the good effort and failed you now feel justified in doing whatsoever you like. Had Faramir not happened along with his plan I vow you would have suggested we go down into town and clean out a few of Minas Tirith's more disreputable taverns."

Gwin stared at me in that vague way he did when he'd decided not to listen. I groaned, spun on my heel and began aimlessly wandering, shaking my head with small, furious shakes muttering, "No. No. Absolutely not. We are not doing this, Gwin. No!"

"We?" Gwinthorian growled his you've-pushed-me-too-far growl.

I turned to him. He stood there, flushed with sudden fury, arms locked and straight at his sides, fists clenched, body rigid. I braced myself for a long overdue elvish eruption.

"You're keeping me alive? We are not doing this?" he snapped. "Speak for yourself, Devon! And stop telling me what I can and cannot do! You are not my guardian! I survived for over a thousand years without you watching over me! If you don't want to go, that's your decision! Stay here! Run back to Garrick! Faramir and I shall go without you."

"No," I said. “You won't.”

“And why not?” he said.

"Because I shall tell."

They gazed at me in mute shock, all of us aware that I was breaking a cardinal rule among those given to occasional misbehavior: if you're not joining in, keep quiet.

"You would not," Gwin said with hushed horror. "Dev. You would not tell!"

"Indeed I shall," I said. "I'll tell them your plans before you have a chance to go. Try slipping away from Halbarad then." I looked at Faramir. "And if you think Damrod's watchers are everywhere now, imagine what he'll do when he learns of this. You'll find yourself in the company of either one of your big brothers or several of Minas Tirith's elite guardsman well into the next age. You know that."

Faramir nodded his head ever so slightly, studying me with a blank expression. I felt like I'd betrayed them both. And I felt I'd had no choice but to do so. They'd be furious with me for a while, But we'd all be alive.

Turning my back on them, I stomped over to the wall and plopped down again, showing them that I was finished with this business. That was the last arrow in my quiver and it had best hit the mark. Faramir had gone quiet within, but I felt Gwin's astonishment flowing over me, his outrage and fury mixed with hurt feelings and a shocked sense of confusion. He was battered by emotions.

I didn't care. I couldn't condone this. I couldn't allow my friends to blunder into either their deaths or something torturous and lingering and worse than death. Perhaps Faramir did know what he was doing and we would be safe as he seemed certain we would be. I might well be ruining a pleasant adventure for the three of us, an adventure Gwinthorian and I sorely needed.

But not this adventure. No. Not this one.

So I sat there, rigid, resolute and resented. Outcast. That's what I was now. Threatening to inform on them. How lowly could I be? No kindred spirit would consider committing so disgraceful an act. So much for having companions henceforth. I felt Gwin readying a verbal assault against me, always an impressive show when he was this provoked.

But before Gwin even opened his mouth I heard Faramir's calm, patient voice: "No, Gwinthorian. Let Dev be. He cares for you, and that isn't a terrible thing. And no, we can't go alone, you and I. We all three go together or we don't go at all. I don’t say that because I fear Dev's threat of exposing us." He paused, then softly said, "We need him, Gwin. I need him."

That startled me. Why, for mercy's sake, would Faramir 'need' me? No. He 'wanted ' me to go. In fact, I suddenly realized how desperately he wanted the three of us to make this journey, not just him and Gwinthorian alone. And, to my surprise, a moment later the two of them came and silently sat down with me, Faramir beside me and Gwin beside Faramir. I'd expected more of a fight, or at the very least a cold and ugly exclusion. I wondered what was going on here. It seemed they were being far too tolerant of a contemptible informer.

But I was still too shaken to make much sense, even to myself. Something deep inside me roared in protest. In part I longed to fling my concerns to the winds and begin firming up plans for our journey. After all, I'd survived a small army of wargs alongside Aragorn! I'd survived two trolls! Where was this cowardly hesitation coming from? What on earth had gotten into me? I loathed being the voice of reason. Caution aside, just why was I standing in the way of this small adventure?

Yes, Garrick would be beyond irate should I agree to this. I shuddered to think what would happen when he got his huge hands on me after our 'Ithilien Quest.' Was that behind my fear? No. I didn't fear Garrick. I'd endured some scorching spankings from my giant Ranger in the past and lived to err again. Why then was I ruining this for my two friends?

A surge of guilt washed over me. Dev, you idiot! Wake up! Was I really so frightened of this journey? I felt bewildered and inwardly bruised, distanced from myself and from what was in my nature to do. And I felt manipulated in some way I had yet to fathom.

I didn't sense this was coming from Faramir. He'd fallen into brooding. No, this confusion was coming from two warring sides of myself, both well versed in the art of persuasion. Garrick never failed to see through my attempts to influence him, just as Halbarad never failed to see through Gwin's, not that it stopped either of us from repeatedly trying. And, of course, Gwin and I manipulated each other often and with success. Gwin could inspire me to ruinous deeds and I could do the same to him.

But beneath all that there lived within us both an underlying desire to be led astray. We chose to be manipulated, and when we did Gwin and I fed off each other's needs. We felt that urge to err within each other, and it made Gwinthorian and I brothers in a fundamental way, a bond we cherished.

Our overly-protective companions didn't quite cherish our bond as much as we did. In fact, they looked upon it with a profound degree of disquiet. But, although Halbarad and Garrick were aware of how close Gwin and I had become, they only forbade us access to each other for short periods of time after we'd done something particularly ill-advised.

Gwin and I were faithful companions, understanding each other well and enjoying a camaraderie that was different from what we shared with Halbarad and Garrick. Gwin had led me down the path to certain doom many times over the years, and I'd returned the favor. It was a wonder Gwin and I had backsides left at all.

"Will you never learn, little boy?" Garrick had once muttered whilst spanking me into an endless wailing state.

Learn? Of course not. What kind of a question was that? No question at all, of course. Garrick understood me. He knew my nature. Just as Halbarad knew Gwinthorian's and Legolas knew Aragorn's and vice versa. There was simply within some of us a mysterious yearning unlike any other, and oftimes it urged us to find companions who were like-minded and willing to share in certain kinds of dubious behaviors, the way Aragorn used to seek me out when the urge to misbehave struck him.

I sighed and stared down at the toes of my boots, my thoughts wandering to the young captain sitting so still and grave beside me. Hoping Faramir was beyond feeling my intrusion, I reached towards him . . . listening.

And a shock ripped through me.

Isolation. Solitude. Regret. Remorse. Faramir felt profound loneliness, a separateness from Gwin and me. No matter how welcome we made him feel, he sensed that he was ever doomed to be the outsider. We had just proven it. The weight of that bitter seclusion sliced through him, and consequently through me.

This was something I'd never had to face. I'd always had companions in mischief, Aragorn and Gwinthorian. But who shared that bond with Faramir? Yes, he had those who were devoted to him and watching out for him. Boromir he dearly loved, as he did all his steadfast guardians. And Faramir seemed to have no problem inviting certain doom on his own. But he had no companion in mischief.

Of course there was the recent sewer incident with Boromir, but that was an isolated event. Boromir was a protective big brother in every sense to Faramir, even though I knew from the first time I met Boromir that he, too, was a kindred spirit. I simply knew, the way one of us knows another. That, and the fact that, like Gwinthorian, Boromir wore his emotions rather openly and close to the surface, no challenge whatsoever for a curious Dúnedain such as myself. I further sensed that not only did Aragorn discipline the Steward, but Legolas and Damrod did as well. Valar forfend these two brothers settle for just one authoritarian figure. Faramir, with his winsome gaze and his sweet sad eyes had invited the guardianship of no less than three big brothers and an attentive lieutenant Ranger. Four disciplinarians. Four! I could scarce fathom it. No, I could fathom it. Merciful Middle Earth!

But Faramir invited those attentions alone. Both brothers did. So, did they never feel the need to join with another in a little risky venture? I pondered that. Well, it wasn't unheard of. Legolas functioned within his own disciplinary sphere and for reasons that were uniquely his own. And I earned retribution just fine on my own at times, my quick temper and my refusal to stop and think things through being my downfall.

But, what choice did Faramir have? Did he even desire a partner in misbehavior? Of course he did. He'd just invited it, hadn't he? I thought again of how much Faramir longed to join forces with Gwin and me, how he ached to share in an adventure with us, regardless of the certainty of facing some mighty vexed warriors at journey's end, if not before.

Unlike Faramir, I had no misconceptions about what would happen to us should we trek to his beloved Henneth Annûn. Certain doom would descend with a fury I hadn't felt since The Troll Incident, when Garrick couldn't even make it outside the perimeters of camp before hauling me over his knee and spanking me within full view of the suitably vexed Grey Company. Well. I had provoked my Ranger a bit. But, "Warg angry, little boy," was never something I wanted to hear from my Garrick. Oh, yes, I knew what would happen to us. We'd be destroyed. Utterly and thoroughly destroyed by our loving, livid warriors. Garrick would likely turn me over his knee and never let me up again. Spankings every other night for the rest of my life.

I noticed with a start where my thoughts had been going. No. No. Nooo! This was unthinkable. I knew Faramir was disappointed. I felt his forlornness. I grieved for his sorrow. But I couldn't. No. I simply could not.

And suddenly I turned and looked at him and found him staring directly back at me as he had been earlier. I watched his feathery locks lift in the wind and dance across his face, his vague, wistful gaze making me want to relent just to please him, just to see that eager sparkle return to his eyes.

I thought about his solitude and his yearning for like-minded companionship. "I need him," he'd murmured to Gwin. I thought about him feeling lonely, ever doomed to be the outsider. I thought back on how he studied Gwin and me, how he clearly loved being with us, even though we were oft under one watchful eye or another. I thought of his quick wit and of how he made Gwin and I laugh, of how well he blended with us, and of how his bright smile burst forth when we called to him. And I felt deep within my chest a desperate, twisting, hurtful ache. Faramir was heartbreaking.

I turned from him and thought of Garrick, of how furious my Ranger would be, how shocked to think I would do something like this. But I could focus on nothing now save the gentle soul sitting next to me, longing for something he felt he would never have, something I could give him. I could think only of what I so longed to do. I looked out over the vast, distant plain, abandoned all common sense, and, barely able to form the words, I said, "Let's hear the details of your plan, then."

A sharp intake of breath from Faramir, a long pause, then: "Don't worry, Dev," he murmured, a smile in his voice. "It'll be perfectly safe."

Perfectly safe. I sighed. Hello, certain doom.

Onward to Chapter Two.

Comments

(Anonymous)

Thank you!

Just so happened that I was revisiting some of your other works and managed to stumble across this new gem!! I have to say I’ve always been particularly struck by the Garrick/Devon relationship and I’m ecstatic to see where the new story is leading. Poor Dev and his never ending struggle. I truly hope that you do finish this one seeing as I’m already completely captivated.

Happy Holidays to you!

Stucky

(Anonymous)

AHHHHH!

Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, you actually updated!!! My heart stopped when I saw you had posted this! I love this story so much, it’s such a great beginning! Even though I reeealllyyy want to hear what happens to our three favorite miscreants, I’m so grateful for this brilliant start!
Are you posting the other story soon?
Can’t wait!
Thanks so much, Larrkin!!! :)

(Anonymous)

A-Mazing!!!!

Aww, Larrkin, this is awesome!!!! I can't wait to see what comes next!! Please post the next part soon! I wonder if any of the responsible ones will sense anything going on with them? I hope they actually do end up getting away, at least, and maybe even all the way there! YAY!!!

Hope RL is going alright, and that maybe you will have a chance to finish this. :) Hope Le Muse comes out of hiding too!

Merry Christmas to you both, and here are some Holiday treats: Cheesy potatoes, cheesecake, Reeses' cups, peach rings, mandarin oranges, ice cream, homemade cinnamon rolls, peanut M&M's, and sparkling cider.

As always, Le Muse, share. Your longsuffering host deserves it. :)

Happy New Year!

(Anonymous)

Re: A-Mazing!!!!

~Eliza

(Anonymous)

GOSH I got so happy when i saw that you posted! i already can tell that this one will be my favourite. thank you for writing such an amazing story, and i look forward to reading more! here’s chocolate for you and Le Muse!

- Teddy

(Anonymous)

Thank you!

Happy New Year, Larrk, and thank you so much! This is a wonderful beginning and I’m so excited to see where you go with this! I was actually wondering what would happen if these three got together whilst indulging in your work over Christmas, and just like that you post a story with some Faramir-Devon-Gwin mischief-making and make me a very happy nestling! Can you use Dúnedain insight from the other side of the internet with someone you don’t know, I wonder? If so, perhaps you have Númenorean ancestry ;-)

Poor Dev in this chapter, he fights so, so hard, he remembers what Garrick has taught him, he tries to learn from experience but is undone by his compassion in the end and accepts what he knows will be his fate. Hello certain doom! You write his inner voice so convincingly. Loving the idea of ‘kindred spirits’ and wondering if we’re going to see a similar bond between the disciplinarians, too, I find your musings on different natures fascinating and insightful; ‘The Comfort Of Consequences’ was sublime for that.

Sending you and LM lots of Christmassy chocolates and some of my freshly-baked ginger cake (who needs New Year’s Resolutions anyway!) Looking forward to the next instalment!

~Jen (the anon who recently requested a disciplinarian Thranduil story, by the way, just realised I didn’t leave a name)

(Anonymous)

RE: Thank you!

Oh, and about that plot bunny, by the way, I realise I said ‘elfling’ Legolas but actually I think an slightly older Legolas and Thranduil would be fascinating- I do realise you don’t tend to write your characters as children, after all. One idea I had is that after his century of false adulthood brought spectacularly to an end by the ELFlyer Incident, Legolas goes back to Mirkwood and worries that he’s lost his Ada’s continued disciplinary attentions by his pretensions to adulthood, does something to test this theory, and Thranduil proves magnificently that he’ll provide for Legolas’ needs however old he is. I think the reason I’d love to read this is that in fanfic Thranduil seems to always be portrayed as either Evil!Thranduil who is abusive, or Good!Thranduil who is saccharine. You are a master at writing characters who can be powerful, strong and stern yet loving and compassionate at the same time, so I would be thrilled to see what Thranduil becomes in your hands.

Sorry about the splurge, and of course hopefully LM will be occupied with finishing this current story for a while yet, but I just thought I’d expand on my inarticulate ‘PLEEEEEEEASE’ so you know what was behind the bunny. And quite honestly, I will lap up anything you write so don’t feel any pressure! Thank you for being so generous and attentive to your nestlings :-)

(Anonymous)

Best start of the new year ever!

Lovely Larrkin,

There I was, very early morning on January 1st, still in bed, dark outside, comfy cuddling under the blankets when I decide to read one of your stories and find some comfort in The Nest. Those red letters just made me so very happy!!! Thank you for starting to share your epos with us, I love the dynamic of our three wonderfull troublemakers and can't believe nobody ever asked for this bunny (afaik)!

Thank you for sharing your wonderful story and I'll be waiting patiently for the next installment. I hope life finds you well and that you have a great new year with lots of love, warmth, health and happiness.

With love, hugs and lots of late Christmas chocolates,

'bliss"
Another masterpiece to add to your collection! I love seeing insightful Devon. All of your original characters are well written, but this gives so much more depth to Devon than we have seen in the past. I’ve said this before, but I have never cared for original characters. However, yours continue to be the exception to that rule. They are exceptionally written and are able to stand next to Tolkien’s own characters and still find a way to shine all on their own.

I am so glad to be able to read new story from you and am excitedly waiting for your next update. Thank you for a great start to the new year!

~geebaby757

(Anonymous)

I'm very excited for this story!!!! I discovered your works around 6 months ago, and I have to say they are splendid. I reread one at LEAST once a week. I have have never found a group of fanfics that I enjoy more than yours. Thank you so much for sharing what you write, and I am so happy to see a new story

(Anonymous)

AHHHHH so excited!!! That was amazing, Larkin!!! I can’t wait to see what Certain Doom these three bring to themselves, and for Faramir to finally have a companion in mischief!! This was so well written and I love the dynamic they have already!!

It’s so good to hear from you! Here’s to hoping Le Muse is inspired to finish! <3

New story!

I just want to say yaaaay about a new story, this is the best possible gift for a new year, a new year that unfortunately have not been very good so far, it's been absolutely horrible in fact, but a new story from you is definitely helping in lifting my spirits, thank you, and I'm really excited to read the continuation of this and see where it goes, again, thank you, it's wonderful!
tink

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