2. Spring Rites - by Gwynnyd
When Imrahil objected, Éowyn described the outing as little more than a formalized remnant of an old ritual honoring Oromë, whom the Rohirrim called Béma, and Lothíriel argued that Éowyn was certainly chaperone enough.
As the fire died down, the music throbbed in a more primal mode than Lothíriel expected, and the six dancers who stepped out were stripped to the waist, their faces masked by horse headdresses and exotic paint. Sleek, oiled skin caught the flickering firelight and Lothíriel found her attention drawn to the dancer flaunting a black horse-tail. Neither the most flamboyant, nor the most muscular, of the dancers, he moved with a fluid, controlled power that entranced her as they reenacted the stallions' battles. One by one, five dancers dropped out, defeated or exhausted. Lothíriel found herself cheering enthusiastically for her favorite, and delighted when he claimed the victory.
Black horse-tail led the dancers in a final triumphant circuit around the sinking fire. Stopping in front of them, he offered Lothíriel his hand. He was very attractive, but what would accepting commit her to? Uncertain, she shot an anguished glance towards Éowyn.
Éowyn leaned over to her. "They choose maidens to jump the fire with them to ensure fertile mares and abundant crops. It's an honor. Go."
Lothíriel stood, and tentatively touched his hand.
"Do not be frightened."
The voice was familiar and, looking closer, she recognized the eyes gleaming behind the mask.
Laughing, she gladly let him lead her through the fire.
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