11. The Glade
They arrived at the glade just about sunset. Éalwyn made to slide from the horse but found her way barred by Erkenbrand's arm. He dismounted first and reached up for her. She accepted his help, placing her hands on his shoulders as she slid from the mare. As her feet reached the ground she realized just *how* tall the captain was as her nose came to the center of his chest! Before she could say more than a thank you, Ceothryth came rushing forward.
"I told them you would come! Good evening Captain," she said, her face beaming.
"M'lady," Erkenbrand replied with a smile and nod.
Éalwyn found herself pulled over to a group of about seven other women, most she recognized but a few, who she noticed were admiring the handsome captain, she did not. "Dérwen just got betrothed and was telling us the story, come on." Éalwyn glanced over her shoulder at Erkenbrand who gave her an encouraging nod.
Erkenbrand removed their packs and unsaddled his mare. His second came to greet him. Erkenbrand watched as several young men followed Éalwyn with hungry eyes; he would need to keep an eye on them. While none would intentionally hurt her, Erkenbrand wanted this to be a good experience for her.
"Do not worry, they know she is *protected*," Fréarid said quietly. Erkinbrand looked at him oddly. "Several of the men were glad to hear her she might come, especially Hesgar…until they learned she would arrive with you."
"What does my bringing her have to do with anything?"
The man laughed. "Captain," he said, "no one would challenge you for her attention and as she chose to arrive with you, it is clear she prefers your company to any other." Erkenbrand looked at his second in disbelief; he and Mouse were close but not in that way…not that he would object to a more personal relationship. He stole a look at the group of women sitting around a small fire of their own.
"Can see it in your eyes and hers," Fréarid said softly. "Perhaps this little adventure will make the two of you see it also." He led his captain to the 'men's' fire. Again Erkenbrand looked over and this time he caught Ealwyn's eye; she smiled shyly before looking away.
The rest of the evening was spent in pleasant conversation. The two groups began to meld into one as the woman came to join the men. As the moon climbed higher, couples began to drift away, seeking secluded spots for more private encounters. Erkenbrand was glad to see Ealwyn socializing with the other women. She spent far too much time with the men and needed to become comfortable with the fairer sex…and she was fair…his mind strayed for a moment as he looked across the fire at her. Her mahogany hair shone with wine highlights in the fire light, her face a golden glow. She seemed content though he noticed a bit of a distant look in her eyes; her mind was elsewhere and he wondered what she thought about.
Quietly the night wound down and most of Éalwyn's companions sought out their bedrolls or companions. As she sat listening to Ceothryth and another girl rattle on about this and that, she looked to the sky. The women were all very nice and trying hard to include her, however the Adjutant of the West-mark really wanted to talk with the men. She understood them; shared their interests. A star went slicing across the sky. She smiled and continued to watch. Another one shot across, visible though the scattered branches. Silently she rose and walked beyond the shelter of the trees. She stood in the glade, face to the sky, watching the stars. Her movement did not go unnoticed. From his place across the fire, Earkenbrand watched her leave. He made no move but studied her, watching her body language for signs of melancholy or distress. He swallowed as he watched her, the gentle night wind rustling though her hair and skirt. The woman wrapped her arms around herself to keep the chilly autumn air at bay. The captain, however, was not the only one who watched her with mounting desire.
"If you do not," Hesgar said quietly, "I will." There was no real challenge in his voice, only a spoken fact, for he had come to admire the woman. Erkenbrand understood his meaning and giving a small nod rose from the fire. He grabbed the bedrolls and his cloak and moved into the clearing.
"You will hurt your neck if you stand like that much longer," he said, spreading his cloak across her shoulders.
"The stars are restless."
Erkenbrand spread their bedrolls on the soft grass and dropped down, cushioning his head on his arm. He reached for her hand, giving a very gentle tug. "Make yourself comfortable and we will watch them together." She smiled and stretched out next to him on the blanket, arms folded across her stomach.
"It has been a long time since I have watched the stars," she said softly. "It is something I used to do with my father when I was a little girl."
"It is how I spent many a night on patrol. Somehow they gave me hope that we could overcome the shadow that had crept into our land."
They lay there well into the night, comfortable with each other's company, speaking softly as the restless stars streaked across the midnight sky.
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.