8. 8. Back to Work
Erkenbrand had not seen much of Éalwyn during the past three weeks, as she had not yet returned to work. He had stopped several times to check on her recovery. He was beginning to really miss the woman—and not just for her efficiency. She had a calming effect on him; could make him smile at some of the more trying aspects of his job. She knew his men by name and although they nicknamed her 'Colmáse' she held their respect and her presence staved off some of their bawdier behavior.
He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He breathed in deeply and imagined he could still smell her lemongrass bath oil and hear her humming at her desk. Opening his eyes, he sighed at the mass of papers before him. He not only hated paperwork but he was terrible at it, and it seemed his second was no better, for they had spent the better part of the morning trying to master the month's supply requisitions and payroll. As if his thoughts alone had willed it to be so, he heard a quiet gasp at the door.
"Oh my," was all she said.
"Colmáse! You are back; oh thank Béma!" Erkenbrand's second leapt from his chair and enfolded the woman in a bear hug. At her sharp intake of breath, he quickly released her with an apology.
She smiled shyly, "That is for the Captain to decide." Seeing the look in his captain's face, the young man took his leave. When they were alone, Éalwyn glanced, again, about his office.
"Paperwork really is not your strong suite, is it sir?" she asked. Her eyes held no judgment, for Grimbold had been the same, as had her father before him. That is how she came by her trade; she had done it for them.
Erkenbrand stood and came around the desk. Sitting back on the edge, he took in her appearance. The bruises on her face were mere shadows now, her wrist was still bandaged but, overall, she looked well. The captain then noticed the change in attire. In place of men's trousers was a lovely dark blue skirt. Also gone was the ill-fitting shirt and vest, replaced by a light blue shirt, belted at the waist. Éalwyn blushed under his scrutiny.
Catching himself, he smiled reassuringly, "Are you sure you are ready to come back?"
"If you still want me," she stared at the floor wondering if this was such a good idea. She could only imagine what the men thought of her now; how could they respect someone who let herself be beaten.
"Éalwyn," he began softly, lifting her chin with his fingers, "If I had known…if you…"
She blinked away the tears that stung her eyes, pulling away from his touch. It was still so fresh in her mind. The captain sensed her discomfort and attempted to divert her thoughts. "You are certainly welcome back; I have missed you-- everyone has missed you," he quickly added. "How soon are you willing to return?"
She was grateful for his understanding and if Fréarid's reaction was any indication, perhaps everything would be all right. "I fear if I do not return to work immediately, Lady Cynwen will insist I join her at court tea or, worse, at her sewing circle," the woman replied, scrunching her nose at the thought.
Erkenbrand's rich laughter filled the room. "We certainly cannot let that happen! Though I fear I have made a mess of things." He moved back behind his desk, dropping to his chair.
His adjutant advanced and snorted, looking at the scattered piles. She moved to his side and gave a little nudge. "Move," she said firmly. The Captain looked at her with a raised eyebrow but quickly vacated his chair. "Close the door on your way out."
Erkenbrand chuckled as he left her to her work. He smiled as the sent of lemongrass reached him; it was good to have his Colmáse back.
"Threw you out?" his second said with a chuckle as Erkenbrand entered the training grounds. The captain responded by picking up a sword and challenging the sniggering Rider to a match.
Éalwyn spent the remainder of the day, and most of the evening, sifting through the papers. When Erkenbrand finally decided to brave his office, he found her with a soft smile on her lips and a wistful look in her eye. He watched her for a moment; she looked content.
When she realized he had entered, she quickly stood. "I have the requisitions sorted out and most of the pay. Tomorrow I will see to the inventory. But I fear I must get going as I promised Lady Cynwen I would not over do it."
"I will see you home," the tall Rider stated.
"That is not necessary, sir: I am sure you have other things to which to attend."
"Actually, I do not," he answered, closing the door behind them. "Anyway, I missed your company."
Éalwyn looked up at him and blushed. He offered her his elbow, which she took after a moment's hesitation. She felt her stomach flutter as she walked silently beside the handsome captain. When they reached the Marshal's quarters, Erkenbrand caught her arm before she opened the door. She looked up startled.
"Forgive me, but I was wondering--when I came back to the office this evening, you had such a distant look on your face. May I ask of what you thought?"
Looking into his warm hazel eyes, she graced him with a stunning smile that, for once, truly reached her sparkling eyes. "I was remembering my father's office, the first time he brought me there to 'help'. You reminded me of him, sitting amid the scattering of papers."
"Your father was a lucky man and captain, as am I, to have such wonderful help. Good night, my lady," he said with a bow.
"Good night, "she replied, entering the Marshal's personal apartments.
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.