15. 15. Time Passes
Weeks passed and Spring had finally come to the land of the Riddermark. The rest of the delegation returned from East Lórien bringing with them thirty guardians and their families. They would live and train out of Edoras. Life in the West-mark settled back into its easy routine.
Erkenbrand could not believe the depth of feelings he had for the Éalwyn. While he had had his share of relationships and dalliances, none had touched his soul as did his little Colmáse. She had grown and blossomed into a strong, independent woman of Rohan and the fear and terror of the previous year seemed but a distant nightmare. Still, the Captain made certain she never felt trapped or controlled. He kept their new relationship light and chaste. He wanted their friendship and trust to grow before they became more intimate. It was a difficult task for him as they worked so closely together, he often found himself lost in thoughts of her-- and they were not always proper! He sighed at his desk. He wanted her, desired her intimately but she gave no indication that she was ready for such a relationship. He knew that she and the young rider who had died had been lovers briefly, however he did not know if there had been any others since then. He did not wish to speak to his companions about it for they were all far too willing to interfere and that could destroy his delicate relationship with Éalwyn. He looked out his office door at the sweet young woman who had stolen his heart. He needed advice. In a moment's decision, he stood and strode from the room.
"I will be back in a while," he said as he left.
Éalwyn looked up from the weapon's manifest and smiled. "Alright," she replied. Here at work, their relationship remained the same…platonic. It was during off hours that their personal relationship grew. The woman watched the stately Captain disappear down the corridor. Her heart swelled with affection and she thought it would burst. Unfortunately, so did her desire for physical contact and Erkenbrand did not seem to be interested in *that* way.
She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes, fighting back the sting of tears. It was frustrating and disappointing and she had doubts. They got along well enough but he remained a gentleman and kept their contact chaste. The poor woman wondered if perhaps he just did not see her as sexually desirable. Although they were often seen together, she knew that several maidens still flirted with the Captain. Although he never openly encouraged them, she wondered if perhaps they piqued his sexual interest. Perhaps her lack of experience left him cold. Perhaps…she wiped at her eyes and shook her mind clear. She was being ridiculous; Erkenbrand was simply letting their relationship grow! He cared for her deeply and wanted her to be comfortable; ever the gentleman! Perhaps if she told herself that often enough she would believe it. She dropped her face into her hand and rubbed her temples. She really needed someone to talk to about this—someone with experience, someone who would not take it upon themselves to meddle or worse, gossip! Éalwyn drew a deep breath; she knew just who to seek out and she would do so later today. She needed to do something or she feared Erkenbrand would give up on them.
Éalwyn busies herself as best she could and tried to keep the shadows of doubt at bay. When Erkenbrand returned, she eyed the man; he looked a bit more relaxed, like a weight had been lifted. He was smiling as if he knew a little secret. It worried her. She had heard of men who sought pleasure from women then returned home to wife and children a happier man. Had Erkenbrand just had his needs…no! She had to stop thinking like that.
"Did I miss anything?" he asked, leaning against the wall. He noticed that she still worked on the manifest; odd for she usually completed it quickly.
"No," she answered quietly. She returned to her work briefly before speaking again. "May I leave when the manifest is complete? I need to take care of something." She did not look up.
The captain regarded her for a moment. Although it was not a problem for her to leave early, it was unusual for her. Erkenbrand usually had to push her out the door. "Is everything alright?" he asked, a sudden ill feeling growing inside him.
"Yes, I just need…well, it's a personal thing," she said, trying to keep her voice calm.
"Alright," the Captain replied. He wondered about her lack of eye contact and the shaking of her hands. It was not like her to be evasive. He wanted to ask her plans, where she was going and with whom, but he knew could not. If it was something important she would tell him…would she not? Doubt assailed him; had he taken things too slowly? Did she seek the company of another? Where could she be going that she would not tell him? He pushed himself away from the wall and moved to his office, dropping into his chair behind his desk. He had work do and Éalwyn was entitled to her privacy.
Éalwyn knew her request was unusual and that her ambiguity bothered Erkenbrand, but what was she to say? She certainly could not tell him she was seeking out relationship advice!