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Old 04-12-2008, 09:22 PM   #54
littlemanpoet
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Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: The Edge of Faerie
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In the ruins

Rowenna picked her way through the rubble and reached out a hand to Eodwine's extended one. Just as she grabbed his hand she stumbled and landed against him. She was softer than he expected, and lighter. The smell of her hair got in his nostrils, and he did not mind it.

"I am sorry," she said a little breathlessly, righted herself, and let go of his hand. "Where?"

"Over there." He pointed.

She crouched down and extended a tentative hand to the woman's skull; but drew her hand back before she touched it. She balled her hands into fists and held them fast against her chest, staring at the skulls. Eodwine noted that she shed no tears for all the intensity of her expression.

"What happened that day," Eodwine asked, "the day the brigands came?"

She let out a shuddering sigh. "They waited until dusk when the chores were almost done and none of our neighbors were near to see. They came in the dark and quickly found my father and me. He they killed in cold blood but me they took. I think I was their goal, for we were not rich, having little silver or gold. Once they had me safely away they burned our homestead around the corpse of my father. Then they made me their plaything. I learned that it was their way, and I was one in a long line of young women, except for one thing. They had all died quickly. I guess I do not have it in me to wilt and die. I did what I had to, to survive."

Eodwine watched her and pitied her. The whole time she had not looked at him, staring still at the skulls; but her words had been painfully clear.

"How was it for you?"

Eodwine sat on a bit of stone and let out a deep sigh himself. She faced him now, the sickle moon lighting her face, wide eyed and open, and very serious.

"I had been in the War fighting for my lord and captain off in Gondor. When we had the vcitory, I celebrated with the other soldiers. It was weeks before I returned home. I was eager, more eager the closer I came to our farm. But when I came home, I found that home had left me. It was a burning heap, and my wife and son and daughter were reduced to bones in the fire that had blazed. I had lost everything, I had not the heart to stay and work that land. After burying their bones, I left and have never returned."

"You loved her."

"Yes I did. Very much."

"You never remarried, in fifteen years."

"That is so."

"Why not?"

"For fourteen years I preferred her memory to the company of some other woman. But when I was created Eorl of this small realm, everything changed. I need an heir to rule after me. 'Tis the way of things among our folk, as you know." She nodded. "So I need a wife."

"What do you -" Rowenna hesitated with her next question. She had been bent over, looking at the skulls, and had straightened only a little when she had faced him. Now she drew herself up and regarded him with more vigor. "My lord, what do you seek in a wife?"

"Why?" he smiled. "Would you play matchmaker?"

Her eyes widened in surprise. Then she shook her head. "No, lord! I would not ever do such a thing! 'Tis not in me!" She looked away at the skulls and up at him again. "I have been watching you, lord, since I came among your folk. You are unlike any man I have known, except maybe my father-"

Eodwine chuckled. "You are saying I'm the only man you've known, old enough to be your father?"

"No! No! You make light of me." She frowned. "I should not have said so much. I should leave."

She got up suddenly to go. Eodwine did not want her to leave.

"No, stay. I am sorry. Please say what you wish, I will not make light of it."

She stared at him. "Do you mean it?"

"Of course."

The intensity in her face heightened. "You are a better man, lord, than any other I have known. I would not settle for a mate who was any less than you."

Eodwine suddenly understood; or thought he did. But she was so young! He could be her father. He coughed self-consciously.

"You honor me greatly, Rowenna. Thank you. I - I hope you find such a one."

She stared at him as if stung. Then she turned away suddenly.

"I must go. Good night."

She left quickly. Eodwine watched her go back to the women's tent. He thought her very pretty, and perhaps desirable. But her way had been so direct, so clumsy. It was as if she did not know herself well. Her emotions had seemed at odds with her words at times. Most interesting. Most interesting indeed. With much shaping, he considered, perhaps she could make a good wife.

Last edited by littlemanpoet; 04-15-2008 at 02:31 PM.
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