10. An Invitation
"Æ, Colmáse," Fréarid said, entering the outer office. Éalwyn turned in her chair and smiled in greeting. "A group of us are going to the glade for some comradery and swimming; why do you not come with us?"
The adjutant turned back to her work. "I have much to finish here; I have had too much time off already."
The young Rohirrim approached her and leaned against her desk. "That was not time off. I know the Captain 'll give you the time; it is only for the afternoon and tomorrow--anyway, I invited him as well. Please? Ceothryth really would like you to come and she will be quite cross with me if I cannot convince you."
Éalwyn shook her head. She appreciated the offer and a part of her wished she could go but she was not sure it was the kind of outing for her. She had heard of these trips and in most cases, those who went were couples and those seeking a partner. She did not really fit into either category and watching all the beautiful young women vie for Erkenbrand's attention was not something she cared to witness; it would hurt. "Fréarid, I…" she looked into his pleading eyes; again they all meant well but…
"If she decides to go she can ride out with me," a soft baritone said from the door. Fréarid grinned; that was the best offer yet.
"You are going?" the woman asked.
"Not really made up my mind; but if you would like to I would be happy to see you there safely. I, too, have some matters to attend to before I am free."
"Come on Mouse; it will be fun," coaxed Fréarid. Green eyes looked from one man to the other. "You know you want to."
The captain saw the warring emotions in his adjutant eyes. "Let her be," he said quietly. "If she chooses to go I will bring her." His tone made it clear that the discussion was over. The other man took the hint and left.
When they were alone, Erkenbrand leaned against the doorframe to his office. "What do you say? Shall we go on an outing?" Éalwyn loved the idea of being with the captain; however, she still was not sure. "We can leave any time if you wish; we do not have to stay the night or, if you do not wish to spend the day there, you can return with me in the morning as I wish to be back before the next patrol returns." He gave her a warm smile; he had wanted to get to know the charming woman outside their work and this was a perfect opportunity. "I will be at the stables after supper if you should decide to join me." He was not going to force the issue.
She could not believe she was going along with this. Erkenbrand had looked so welcoming in his offer and she did enjoy his company, and knowing he would be there made her feel more comfortable, but still! It was so…impulsive! Lady Cynwen had been overjoyed to hear about the invitation and immediately set to work helping her pick out suitable clothing. Éalwyn finished stuffing things in her pack, grabbed her cloak, and headed into the main room. Both Grimbold and Cynwen were waiting. She looked at the man and his wife; they had become surrogate parents and she loved them dearly. She took a deep breath and smiled.
"I am ready," she said cheerfully although her eyes held some trepidation.
"You look beautiful, my dear," Cynwen said, coming over to kiss her brow.
"Thank you, but I would rather ride in pants."
The Marshal approached and looked deep in her eyes. "You have any problems or need to return, you let Erkenbrand know. He is a good man and will keep you safe." The young woman blushed at the captain's name.
Cynwen slapped her husband's arm. "She is going to the glade with friends—not into battle! Do not worry; you will have fun and trust me, you will not be lacking for attention." She winked and Éalwyn's blush deepened.
"So where is the captain?" Grimbold asked.
"I am meeting him at the stables." The older man humphed. "He had a few things to finish up and then needed to gather his gear. I think he did not want to pressure me in case I changed my mind."
"Well, best not keep the man waiting."
Éalwyn entered the stables, greeting the groom pleasantly. The captain was just leading Nihthelm from her stall. The young woman felt the blush on her cheeks as she looked at him in the dim light. His dark blond hair hung loose in soft waves over his broad shoulders, his eyes twinkled and he had a boyish smile. He wore a tan shirt that had ties at the chest, snug black pants and boots. He strode towards her.
"I was beginning to think you changed your mind," he said with a grin.
"Sorry. Lady Cynwen needed to 'help' so to speak." She suddenly found the stable floor most interesting.
"No problem. I told Fréarid if we joined them it would be just before dusk." She fell into step beside the tall man feeling the butterflies again. It happened every time she was with him outside of work!
Stepping into the open, Erkenbrand got a good look at his riding partner and he could not hide his admiration. The shadow of sorrow was lifted-- her bright green eyes sparkled; skin and hair regained their luster and her choice in clothing…much improved. He would have to keep a close eye on her; she would capture the attention of many men…himself included.
He quickly attached both their packs to the saddle. Éalwyn waited for the Captain to mount and offer her a hand up. She was more than a little surprised when his large hands caught her about the waist and easily lifted her on to the saddle. He gracefully swung up behind her.
"I thought this more appropriate given your skirt," he said when she looked at him questioningly.
"I had preferred to wear pants for the ride, but Lady Cynwen would not hear of it and insisted. I am sorry for the inconvenience," she replied.
"It is no inconvenience I assure you. I will have to thank the Lady for her insistence. You look lovely," he said softly into her ear as he wrapped his arm about her waist and urged his horse forward. The horse's sudden movement pressed her into the captain's muscular chest and she involuntarily relaxed into him; she smiled, he always smelled of cedar.
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.