****18 years later
Gamling tucked his dark blue linen shirt into the brown pants and reached for his jerkin. He sighed; long seasons had passed since he first encountered the Blacksmith and his daughter. He tied the soft suede closed and looked at his reflection. Much had happened these many years. He had lost his wife, his captain and friend, and a king. Now he commanded the new King’s guard, Eomer’s guard, and much of the darkness that had spilled into their land was purged; life could begin anew. At this, his thoughts drifted again to the gentlewoman who ran the best blacksmith forge in Edoras. He always had a special place in his heart for her though he could not put his finger on why. However, in the years since his wife died, that part seemed to grow and he found himself desiring her company more and more. He would find any excuse to go to the forge. He attended every function at which she might be present. She was often on his mind as he drifted to sleep during patrol rotations.
He gave his reflection a sardonic smile; in all that time she never indicated any interest in him beyond friendship, and actually, she always kept herself a bit apart from him. Still, he told himself as he straightened his jerking and attached the ceremonial dagger, a man can dream.
“You look well tonight, father.” Gamling’s son said as he approached the older man. They clasped hands as warriors, followed by a quick hug.
Gamling bent to kiss his daughter-in-law’s cheek before reaching his hand to her belly.
He hesitated, waiting for permission. The young woman smiled, “Of course you may but be warned you might be kicked for your efforts.” The three laughed when, sure enough, Gamling’s hand felt the unexpected thrust from her womb.
“I am so happy for you,” he said, feeling his eyes sting with overwhelming pride. Blinking away the tears, he reached for the door with a smile. “Come, let us join the festivities.” The Captain held the door to the great hall. His son stepped through, however the young wife lingered a moment. With compassion-filled eyes, she looked to the man who was as a father to her.
“Tonight, perhaps? We both would see you happy and she is a fine woman.” With a knowing wink, she passed through the door. Gamling looked after her but for a moment, sending a prayer of thanks to Béma for so wonderful a family.
He watched her, as he always did. She looked lovely this evening, her simple dress clung to her frame in the most flattering manner and the dusty purple suited her perfectly. Nut-brown hair was tied back at the sides with silver clips while the rest hung in soft waves to the mid of her back. She danced with several partners, but never for more than a dance or two. She laughed with the soldiers and conversed with advisors and the ladies of the court. She was well liked and respected. It amazed Gamling that she had no suitor, no husband.
“You should ask her to dance,” Eomer said, nudging his captain.
“To what end?” the Captain countered, a touch of melancholy coloring his voice.
Eomer gave a cheeky grin, “Perhaps a romp in the hay.” The young king knew that would raise Gamling’s ire for he was well aware of the older man’s attraction to the woman. The glare he received caused him to raise his hands and placate the warrior with a chuckle. “Peace my friend. I jest. She is an honorable woman. However, as she remains unattached, I do not understand why you hesitate.”
Gamling watched the subject of their discussion leave the great hall for the balcony. She leaned on the low wall, turning her head to the sky. The King’s captain thought she was the most beautiful woman in Rohan. But he was no fool. While she had survived tragedy and hardship, this daughter of a blacksmith had passed through the years gently, hardly a wrinkle upon her sun kissed face. He, on the other hand, as was true for many of the soldiers, showed his age, his face worn by wind and war. There was of course also the fact that he was nearly ten years her senior.
“Go to her, Captain,” his king coaxed. “A lady should not venture out unattended.” He smiled and gave the reluctant man a little shove.