14. 14. Homecoming
The winter snows covered the land longer than usual, drawing the season out. Things in East Lórien had gone well and the group from Rohan now only waited for a thaw to make travel more pleasant. Erkenbrand, however, was in a hurry; with Gamling to be married in the later part of the Spring he wanted some time in the West-mark to catch up on everything before leaving again. As his mare galloped through the snow covered plains, he finally admitted that he was anxious to return to Éalwyn as well; he had thought of her, and his feelings for her, over the long winter months. He only hoped he might still have a chance to win her affection.
He arrived home well past moonrise with none there to greet him; he was not expected. He rose early the next morning and met Grimbold for breakfast in the Marshal's chambers to discuss his trip. The Captain was surprised to learn that Éalwyn had been given a small apartment of her own in the Hornburg, at least until repairs could be done on her father's cottage. Erkenbrand tried to hide his disappointment; he knew that as long as Mouse lived with the Marshal and was under the close supervision of Lady Cynwen, no man would be able to get too close to the young woman. However, now that she had a place of her own, she could come and go as she pleased and entertain whom ever she desired. As the Captain headed to his office, he hoped his fears were unfounded. Therefore, he was surprised to find Hesgar sitting at her desk, idly looking at a map. Éalwyn was nowhere to be seen.
"Where is she?" he all but growled.
The younger Rider nearly toppled the chair from the unexpected sound. "Cap'n," he stammered, quickly standing.
"Where is Colmáse?" the tall man asked again.
"She, um, she is with Grimric at the training arena…Sir." Erkenbrand raised an eyebrow. Hesgar recovered from the initial shock and, given the other man's reaction, decided to give Erkenbrand a little shove in the right direction. "Fréarid thought it wise she learn some defense techniques. Several of the éorod were more than willing to help her." He watched as jealousy flickered in his captain's eyes; he smirked. "Anyway, as her spirits seem to be low these days; we thought it might offer a distraction."
This last remark caught Erkenbrand off guard and he backed off a bit, concern coloring his words. "What do you mean 'low'? What had happened?" A sudden protectiveness swelled in the man.
"You left and I think she has begun to really miss you."
Erkenbrand looked at the man disbelievingly. "You yourself said many are interested in 'helping' her; certainly she is not lacking for company."
The guard shook his head and gave a cattish grin; he could read Erkenbrand's feelings clearly and knew what to do to get the captain to act. "Tell me Captain, do you still have feelings for her?"
Erkenbrand bristled at the younger man audacity. "I do not see how that would be any of your concern."
"She and I have become close…" he watched the jealousy flair again and fought to keep from smiling, "friends and I would not see her hurt."
"Nor would I." The men now stood face to face, the captain towering over the slighter guard.
"You know, she has feelings for you—strong ones." Hesgar let his words sink in and watched the captain shrink back a bit.
"She told you this?"
The Rider leaned back against the desk. "Not directly…but," he added quickly, "I over heard her at her father's grave. Unfortunately, she thinks little of herself and does not feel worthy of your affection." Erkenbrand stared in disbelief. Hesgar continued, "She does not think she can compete with the other women who vie for your attention; said something about their beauty and level of experience…" He let his words die off. He watched as the captain put all the pieces together then hurry from the office. Oh, he did not wish to miss this so, after giving the other man a head start, Hesgar followed.
Erkenbrand burst into the arena and marched onto the training field. A young, rather handsome, Rider stood behind Éalwyn—pressed closer than the Captain thought necessary, guiding her movements as she held a long knife. Fréarid sat on the railing calling out instructions.
"Captain! You are back early," Fréarid called, hopping from the rail. Erkenbrand ignored the man and focused on the now surprised pair in the ring. His second made to move but a hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"Let him be," Hesgar whispered.
The young man scrambled away from Éalwyn as the glowering man approached. The long knife fell from the woman's hand as she took an involuntary step back. She was glad to see Erkenbrand but wondered at his apparent displeasure. He came to a stop mere inches from her and though she was, for the first time, slightly frightened of the powerful man in front her, she refused to look away; she would never cower from a man again! She lifted her chin and locked eyes with him, prepared for whatever he doled out.
Erkenbrand looked down at her, searching those beautiful green eyes. They were bright and honest, he read in them a hint of fear and much determination, and…there, that is what he sought…desire! His demeanor softened and his eyes grew warm. Hesitantly he raised a hand and smiled when Éalwyn did not flinch. Softly he stroked her cheek and saw hope flicker in her bright eyes. Slowly he bent and brought his lips to hers in a soft kiss. He carefully placed his other hand on her waist, making sure she could break contact if she wanted; he never wanted her to feel trapped again.
Éalwyn melted at the sensation and slid her arms up the strong chest and around his neck, threading them into his golden hair, pulling herself closer to his body. He responded by cupping the back of her head and wrapping his arm more firmly about her waist. The kiss was chaste but fanned their desire.
Cheers erupted from at least two of the men watching.
"It's about time, Cap'n!" Fréarid called out.
"A lucky man," Hesgar added. The men whooped and clapped.
Éalwyn broke off the kiss and rested her forehead against the Captain's chest with a nervous chuckle. Her cheeks were stained red and her neck tired. Heavens he was tall!
"Perhaps we should find her stool," Hesgar joked. The men laughed.
"You will find yourselves mucking stalls through the hot summer if you do not find somewhere else to be!" the Captain said over his shoulder. In a heartbeat the arena doors slammed, leaving Erkenbrand alone with *his* Colmáse.
"I missed you," she whispered, before stretching up to kiss him again.
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.