3. 3. Inside Information
The captain had now been at the Hornburg for a moon’s cycle and quickly assimilated. Erkenbrand and his second leaned against the rail, watching the mornings practice. He had developed a strong friendship with the younger man. Already Fréarid eagerly absorbed everything his Captain was willing to teach him. The Rohirrim of the West-mark readily accepted Erkenbrand’s command and unlike poor Gamling back in Edoras, Erkenbrand only had to sign off on duty rosters and monthly pay allowances and therefore was free to oversee the new recruit training or even partake in instructing. Without taking his eyes off the trainees, he questioned the man next to him.
“What is Éalwyn’s story? I mean, I know her father was the captain under Théodred, before Grimbold. But what is her connection with Advisor Ordwulf?”
His companion shrugged. “I know only what I have been told by Grimbold and what comes to me through gossip. Éalwyn grew up in these parts, I remember seeing her around as a child; she is a bit older than I am. Grimbold said her mother died of a sickness when she was maybe five or six and after that her father moved into what are now the ‘Captain’s quarters.’ The whispers say he never set foot in his cottage again; it still stands, just beyond the outer although it is much overgrown. Anyway, he died when she was just sixteen. Grimbold told me once the advisor had graciously offered to take her in until she came of age, out of compassion for the girl’s plight. Darker stories say he has desired her since she was quite young. He keeps her close and she rarely attends anything without him.”
“Perhaps it is an arranged marriage.”
“A dying man will do many things to protect a child, but I do not think he would force her into a loveless bond. It was not as if she would have lacked suitors. When she began to blossom, there were many who sought her favor. Even I fancied her before I met my wife, Ceothryn. I remember a few years back, a young recruit sought her affections; they dallied a bit, but the advisor found out. The guard was re-assigned to the East-mark. I was still new to the éored then and did not dare to ask about it. I think Grimbold was pressured to make the transfer. Anyway, after that, Mouse, well, she started to change.”
Erkenbrand turned to the other man. “How so?”
“She withdrew from all social events, would not accept or even acknowledge a suitor, even started dressing like a man; rumors started that she preferred the fairer sex—never bought in to that, myself. She focused on work and was pleasant but said little and, well, something seemed off. Now, that all began a year or two after her father passed so it might have been grief. Actually, she is still mourning; it will be seven years this winter.”
The captain had met the advisor on several brief occasions and to be honest, did not like him much; he got the feeling the dislike was mutual. Still, he tried to be polite and social, for Éalwyn’s sake. “She is not un-attractive and well past her majority. I would think every Rohirrim would desire her; how often do you find a woman who truly understands a soldier’s life? I wonder what makes her stay with him. ”
“Gratitude? Misplaced loyalty? Who knows.” The shorter man looked at his Captain slyly, “What is all this interest in Colmáse, anyway?”
Erkenbrand cleared his throat and kept his gaze forward. “Just interested in my staff,” he answered stiffly.
Fréarid just smiled. Perhaps his wife was right. Perhaps the Captain was interested in the woman. He eyed the man next to him and smirked; yes, definitely interested. The young man hoped it did not turn out like before; he liked Erkenbrand, both as a Captain and a man.
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