12. The Morning After
Éalwyn stirred sometime during the early morning hours, aware of a warm strength surrounding her. She could smell cedar and knew that her Captain lay spooned behind her. She smiled. Although she was certain he was there purely out of concern for her well being, for a few hours, she imagined it was something more. He had looked so handsome when she arrived at the stable the night before, so relaxed. The cares of his station left in the office for the night. His blond hair hung loose in soft waves, he wore no uniform, no maille, no jerkin; only a soft linen shirt, open at the collar and tucked into snug black pants. His sword was strapped to his saddle and the only other weapon he carried was a hunting knife in his boot. He greeted her with that boyish grin that just made her heart flutter. Éalwyn sighed at the memory and pressed back into the strong body sleeping behind her. Her action resulted in the arm draped over her waist, tightening its grip, pulling her tight. With a sigh, she drifted back to sleep.
Erkenbrand awoke feeling the dew clinging to him. He was aware of the warm body in his arms. He lay spooned behind Éalwyn, the woman still deep in sleep in the early morning light. The captain propped himself on his elbow and noticed the layer of swirling mist that surrounded them. He looked down as Éalwyn shifted in her sleep, seeking the missing warmth. She rolled over onto her back, snuggling against his body, her head nestled against his shoulder. He felt her breath and it sent tremors through his body. She looked beautiful and Erkenbrand felt a desire rise that had long lay dormant. He brushed a stray lock of hair from her face and hesitated. The gentle scent of lemon balm reaching his nose; he loved that scent. Her lips were a soft red and so close and inviting; he wanted to taste them, to kiss her awake and then kiss her again and again. He felt his body began to awaken. His heart thumped as his mind and heart warred. She had been a prisoner of fear for so long, never free to explore life and he did not want her to feel trapped again, but he wanted her to be his. He was aroused and flushed when sleepy green eyes regarded him.
"Good morning," Éalwyn greeted.
The large man swallowed and tried to calm his raging desire. "Good morning, to you," he replied.
Without thought, she reached up and pushed his hair behind his shoulders. Instinctively, Erkenbrand leaned closer then caught himself. "I guess we fell asleep," she said with a shy smile.
"So we did," he answered, reluctantly moving away so he no longer hovered over her. The woman quickly averted her eyes lest he see the disappointment in them. The dream was over, now it was back to the waking world.
Éalwyn sat up and looked to the still sleeping encampment. "I fear you will get much teasing for this."
Erkenbrand smiled at her and winked, "Not if they know what is good for them."
Éalwyn smiled back. She could not remember ever sleeping so well. As her heart fluttered, she silently scolded herself. She had to get control of this sudden infatuation! He was the Captain for Béma's sake.
"Stay, come back with the others. It would be good for you to spend the day with your peers."
She hid her disappointment well as he mounted his mare and rode off into the dawning sun. Hesgar watched them, his tracker eyes missing nothing. At the moment, he wanted to strangle his Captain; was he truly that blind—that ignorant? Could he not see the admiration shining in her eyes? The young Rider would give his sword arm for her to look at him in that way! He could approach her, in her state of disappointment she might be receptive to another suitor. However, he did not want to be a replacement or to play her own emotions against her; if nothing else, he was an honorable young man. He approached Éalwyn. "If you do not wish to stay, I will take you home whenever you desire." He did his best to school his features, not wanting her to know about his attraction, wanting her to feel comfortable with him.
"That is very kind but not necessary. I will stay for a while and then walk back. It really is not that far and the day is pleasant."
"Please, let me escort you. The Captain will be cross with us if you arrive home alone." She gave him a doubtful look but nodded just the same.
Captain Erkenbrand watched from the wall as Hesgar escorted Éalwyn back to the Keep. They appeared to be conversing comfortable as they walked alongside the Rider's horse. The captain wondered why they walked; then he jealously understood. Walking afforded them more time together. He turned away, knowing that despite his attraction to the young woman, the younger warrior was a better match; less intimidating and closer to her age. Suddenly the memories of the night before and the subsequent feeling the morning after pained him; Erkenbrand's mood darkened.
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.