Riders of Rohan:Vengeance Unleashed 2005 Silver Thread Award

Pull out your pack and head on down to the Prancing Pony for some great Role Playing (try to stay in character)!

Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Fri Mar 09, 2007 2:29 pm

Rowyn held her half-braided hair in one hand while she locked the door to her room behind her with the other, slipping the key into her pocket. She’d changed into one of her simpler riding outfits, though she felt self-conscious in the breeches now and how much of her figure they showed. She grimaced a bit as she pulled her cloak more tightly about her; even though the air was probably too warm for it, she’d decided to wear it anyway to hide the bruises. Maybe it was time she went back to her riding skirts, she mused as she deftly finished off the braid, tying it off with a leather cord as she joined Déor.

If she looked the least bit uncomfortable, Déor’s expression gave her no indication. “Ready?” he asked, offering her his arm. Rowyn nodded, slipping her hand into the crook of his elbow, and they headed to the stables, neither of them speaking a word.

Wildfire nickered excitedly as she entered, and Rowyn immediately dropped Déor’s arm and hurried to the stallion’s stall. He butted her affectionately with his head, and she smiled as she stroked his soft chestnut muzzle. “Oh, it’s good to see you too!” she exclaimed, resting her forehead against the white star on his. “And this time I can take you out.” The horse snorted, as if in response, and Rowyn grinned as she went to get her saddle.

She quickly realized she hadn’t regained as much of her strength as she’d thought; it was a struggle to lift her saddle. Déor, who had nearly finished saddling up Rochmane, looked over and offered, “I can get that, if you’d like.”

Rowyn blushed, but reluctantly swallowed her pride and nodded. Thankfully, Wildfire stood still long enough for Déor to get the blanket and saddle on him, while Rowyn put his bridle on. While he was tightening the girth, Déor asked, “So where do you want to ride?”

Rowyn shrugged. “I’m not sure,” she admitted. “I was thinking maybe back to the beach.”

“Are you sure? We don’t have to go there,” Déor said. “We could go to the fields on the other side of the city instead.”

Rowyn shook her head. “I need to face it sometime,” she stated firmly. “If I don’t go there at least once before we go home, I know I’ll regret it. And besides, I think I need another good memory of that place, and the ride before…” Her voice trailed off, and she quickly turned her attention back to her horse.

Déor glanced at her admiringly, though Rowyn didn’t see it. “That’s brave of you,” he said softly. When Rowyn finally looked over at him, he smiled a bit. “Ready?” he asked. Rowyn relaxed and nodded, and once Déor went and got Rochmane, they led their horses out of the stable.

The streets were nearly deserted, with most of the city still celebrating the marriage of their beloved Princess. There were still a few guards stationed at the gate that led to the harbor, and one of them hailed them as they were leaving the city. After Déor explained to them that they had left the wedding early and only wished to go for a short ride, the guard let them go with the warning to make sure they returned to the city before dark. They both quickly agreed, then led their horses down to the firmer sand by the water to mount up. It took Rowyn two tries, but she managed to hoist herself into the saddle at last, and Déor began walking Rochmane down the beach. Rowyn nudged Wildfire, and he followed. It seemed he could somehow sense that his mistress hadn’t been well, because he didn’t try to go faster at all, which was rather unusual for him after how long it had been since he’d been ridden.

For a time, Rowyn was content to keep Wildfire to a walk, riding beside Déor silently. The afternoon sun sparkled brightly on the water, and the sound of the waves crashing nearby was surprisingly relaxing, considering all the trouble the ocean had brought to her. But finally, she looked over at Déor and asked, “I’m a little curious—what are you going to do when you get back to Rohan? If you don’t mind my asking, I mean.”

Déor looked a bit startled at the question, as if he’d been deep in thought. Then he relaxed and glanced over at her. “First thing is definitely visit my family. I’m sure my parents were beginning to wonder if I’d ever come back home. And then I suppose after that, help them out with the harvest—I’m fairly certain we’ll be back in time for that.”

“You’re a farmer?” Rowyn asked, genuinely surprised. “I wouldn’t have guessed that.”

“No?” Déor looked over and grinned at her. “What did you think I did then?”

“I don’t know,” Rowyn admitted. “I’m just so used to thinking of you as a soldier, and I wouldn’t think of a farmer being adventurous enough to go travel around Middle-earth the way you did.”

Her face reddened as she realized how insulting that must sound, but Déor laughed. "Did you know that your Captain farmed as well? He's just more military minded than I am." Rowyn’s face flushed to a deeper crimson, and Déor’s smile faded a bit. “It’s all right, Rowyn, really,” he said.

A half-smile returned to Rowyn’s face at his reassurance. “I suppose I just really don’t know much about farming. No one in my family did it while I was growing up—my mother’s parents died before I was old enough to know them, and my father’s family lived in the city so they all had other trades. During the harvest, everyone would pitch in to help, but when I was younger all I would be allowed to do was help tie the wheat bundles together and such, and I remember it being rather dull and wishing I could be with the horses that were being used to help with the harvesting instead.”

Déor laughed again. “I suppose it would have been more interesting for us boys. I was usually set to threshing and it was backbreaking work, but the other boys in our village and I would usually just have competitions to see who could get the most done. The winner usually got to get his supper first.”

Rowyn smirked. “That doesn’t surprise me. I know Ro, at least, tends to think with his stomach.”

Déor grinned and said, “I know. He’ll insist otherwise, but I know that’s how Adrial managed to capture his attention in the first place. She makes a mean beef stew.”

Rowyn burst out laughing. “And here I thought all along it was her hair, since it’s a rather unusual color for our people.”

“Well, maybe that too,” Déor admitted, smiling innocently.

They rode for awhile longer along the beach and the silence was finally broken by Déor. "To get back to your question, I will go back to my family's farm when I get back. There will be a lot to do, and I want to get some of my own land ready for farming too. It has been sitting idle for far too long."

“You have your own land?” Rowyn asked. “I’m really surprised you left it then. Were you doing anything with it before?”

"I bought the land off of an old lady whose husband passed away a few years back," Déor answered. "The land has lain dormant since then. We do have a few animals on it to keep it fairly cleared off."

"Oh," Rowyn said. "So what were you planning on doing with it then?"

"I don't know what all I will do with it," Déor replied as they turned their mounts back around. "There is a lot of land. I'm sure I will plant some wheat, corn, and other crops, but there will still be a lot left over for hay and grazing too."

Rowyn smiled at that. "You'll have to make sure you have some good horses to take care of that, then."

Déor looked at her and smiled back. "You're right. Do you know where I might be able to find any?"

"Oh, I'm sure that Haleth and I can work something out with you," Rowyn replied. "But you're not taking this one," she added, patting Wildfire's neck.

"I wouldn't dream of taking Wildfire," Déor said with a smile. "But I would gladly let your other horses use the land, and Wildfire, if he was ever around, would be welcome too."

Rowyn's smile faded a bit. "It's a generous offer--we've had trouble with finding land for the horses since the War. But with Haleth having to be in Edoras..." Her voice trailed off, and she gazed absently over the water, trying to clear her mind of her suddenly disturbed thoughts.

"What's wrong, Rowyn?" Déor asked after watching her face grow troubled.

Rowyn sighed. "Gossip spreads so quickly in the city--part of me is really dreading going back, to be honest."

Déor frowned at the sadness in Rowyn's voice. "Is there any other place that you could go other than the city?"

Rowyn shook her head. “We sold my father’s land after the War—our house had gotten burned by some orcs that attacked after we’d all gone off to fight anyway. The only relatives I have left, other than Haleth, are my father’s brother and his family. But they live in Edoras too.”

"Oh, I see," Déor said softly. "Would you move out to the Westfold if there was a place for you to stay?"

Rowyn glanced up at him, surprised at the question. “I…I never thought of that,” she stammered. “I don’t know. I mean, it would be good to see everyone more often—all of my friends except for my brother live there. But I couldn’t possibly impose on Ro and Adrial like that, not when they’re about to have a baby, and I don’t know if I’d see Haleth very much…I just don’t know.”

"I'm sure you wouldn't be imposing on Ro and Adrial, and you could always stay with Ellie and their mother," Déor suggested. "She has plenty of room, and you could bring your horses, and I'm sure Haleth will be around a lot wherever Ellie is."

"Maybe," Rowyn said slowly. "I don't know, I'll have to think about it. I just don't want to burden any of them."

"I'm sure you wouldn't be a burden at all, Rowyn," Déor replied. "But that is one option for you that doesn't include living in the city. You don't have to decide right now of course, because it will be awhile before we get there."

"I suppose. It's a lot to think about." Rowyn fell silent after that as they continued along the beach.

Déor finally broke the silence again, looking over at her to ask, “Are you up for some trotting?”

“Maybe a little,” Rowyn agreed. “I am getting a little tired though.”

Déor nodded in understanding. “If you need to slow down, let me know.”

Rowyn managed to keep Wildfire at a brisk trot all the way back to the harbor, but her legs were aching terribly by the time they reached it. She stroked Wildfire’s neck as she reined him in. “I guess I do need to get my strength back a little more before we can do the longer rides again,” she said to him. She could see Déor was already on the ground as she slowly began to ease her leg over the saddle to dismount. Suddenly, the sole of her boot, slick from the sea spray, slipped on the stirrup and she stumbled back, colliding with Déor. He instinctively wrapped his arms around her to keep her from falling. She twisted around in his arms, trying to get her feet under her again, and as she looked up, his gaze locked with hers.

For a long moment, neither of them moved. His face was only inches from hers, with the late afternoon sun casting a golden glow over his features, and Rowyn found herself holding her breath when he made no move to release her. Déor lifted his hand a bit, brushing his fingers across her temple to push back a few stray wisps of hair that had escaped from her braid, and still she stood paralyzed. She was all too aware of how closely he was holding her and how her hand, which was resting on his chest, moved slightly as he breathed. His hand lingered against her skin for just a moment, causing her pulse to speed up a bit, then suddenly he jerked it away and let her go, moving back a step. “Are you all right?” he asked, looking slightly embarrassed. “I mean, since you tripped.”

Rowyn’s face grew hot and she swallowed hard, quickly averting her gaze as she realized she was still staring at him. “Fine,” she answered, wondering what on earth had just happened and feeling oddly disappointed.

“Come on then,” Déor said, motioning towards the city gates. “I’d like to get the horses put away before it gets dark.” Rowyn nodded and grabbed Wildfire’s reins, ignoring her aching muscles and the unanswered questions in her own mind as she followed as quickly as she could.

Déor was completely silent as they walked to the stables, but Rowyn was too preoccupied herself to notice. He took Wildfire’s saddle off without being asked, then left her alone in the stall to care for Rochmane. Rowyn began the long overdue task of grooming her horse, completely focusing her attention on the repetitive motions of currying and brushing his coat. She didn’t realize that Déor had failed to return until she was halfway through combing out Wildfire’s tail; she finished quickly, checked to make sure Wildfire had sufficient feed and water for the night, then firmly closed the stall door behind her. “Déor?” she asked, looking around. When she didn’t get an answer, she headed down to Rochmane’s stall; sure enough, he was there, looking completely lost in thought as he was cleaning the sand out from around the horse’s shoes. “Hey,” she said softly, and his head jerked up.

“Are you ready?” he asked, releasing Rochmane’s foot. “I didn’t want to rush you or anything.”

Rowyn nodded. “The sun’s setting, so we should probably head out.” Déor nodded, and after one last look around Rochmane’s stall, he closed the door and escorted her out.

This time, Rowyn noticed that Déor was completely un-talkative as they walked through the quiet streets. Finally, when they had nearly reached the inn where they were staying, she stopped and asked, “Did I do something to upset you?”

“What?” Déor asked, then quickly protested, “No, you’ve done nothing wrong. I just have a lot on my mind.”

“Oh.” Rowyn fell silent as well until they reached the inn. Once they were inside and had made it up the stairs to the door of her room, she turned to him and said, “Thank you for the ride, Déor, and for rescuing me from those nobles.”

Her choice of words had the desired effect, as a hint of a wry smile crossed his face. “’Rescuing’ you?”

“That’s what it felt like,” she admitted, looking down.

Déor scowled. “I can see why you’ve been worried about this,” he said. “I’d had difficulty believing that anyone would be so cruel as to try and make you relive what happened for something as foolish as idle curiosity, but…”

“I don’t think it’s cruelty,” Rowyn interrupted. “That’s just how people are, I suppose. Things like this happen, and they want to know the story.”

“Well, it’s not right,” Déor protested.

Rowyn shrugged, and they both lapsed into an awkward silence again. Finally, Rowyn looked up again and said, “I should probably go.”

“I suppose,” Déor replied. “You need to rest, I’m sure. It’s been a long day.”

“Yes, it has,” she answered. Still, she couldn’t seem to motivate herself to open the door to her room. Finally, she turned and unlocked the door, completely annoyed with herself. “Goodnight, Déor,” she said.

“Goodnight,” he replied softly, then turned to head back down the hallway.

Rowyn stepped inside the doorway, then impulsively turned back and called, “Déor?” When he turned back to look at her, she suddenly found that she had no idea what to say to him. Finally, she blurted out, “You’ve been a really good friend, Déor. Thank you.” He smiled at her half-heartedly and nodded, then continued on his way. As she closed the door behind her, Rowyn was left to wonder if she had simply imagined the disappointment that had briefly flashed across his face at her words—and why watching him walk away had saddened her so.
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Thu Mar 15, 2007 10:20 am

“You said you would be the friend she needed,” Déor said to himself as he walked solemnly back to his room. He was mostly oblivious to the sights of sounds of the city around him. The city was a buzz of activity still at this late hour. The people of Dol Amroth were filled with excitement and joy over the marriage of their Princess to King Eomer, and all of the taverns and inns were filled to overflowing with the revelers.

Déor found one tavern to be slightly less occupied and he decided to pay it a visit. What had started out as a lovely ride with Rowyn had turned to sorrow in just a matter of moments, and he was deeply troubled. He could not hide the feelings that he had for her, but he told himself that she couldn’t possibly be looking for anything more than a friend at this point in her life. Her words seared into his mind again, “You’ve been a really good friend, Déor. Thank you.”

The incident with her almost falling out of the saddle was almost more than he could bear thinking about, as he finally found a seat at the bar and ordered an ale. He was so close to her then, and the look they had shared had pierced his heart. He couldn’t be her friend with these feelings now running amuck in his heart. How could he be a true friend when he wanted more from her?

He sat there rubbing his left temple as he tried to clear his head. He ordered another ale and was sipping on it when the realized how foolish he was acting. “I’m being selfish in all of this,” he thought to himself. “But I’ve never felt this strongly about someone in my life, except for… Stop it Déor and grow up.” He clenched his left hand into a fist and held it to his mouth and sighed in frustration. He drained his tankard and left the tavern and finished the journey to his room.

He closed the door to the darkened room and sat down on the bed and stared out the small window. The light from the moon cast somber shadows across the room, and Déor sat there deep in thought for some time. “Friend,” he mouthed quietly and shook his head slightly. He undressed and climbed into the bed and fell asleep wishing he was already home.

The next morning Déor woke to the sounds of people milling about in the hallway outside his room. Déor dressed quickly and poked his head out the door. Many of Elrosar’s eored were talking in the hallway, and Déor stepped out and asked one of them what the commotion was all about.

“Captain Elrosar sent orders this morning that we will be leaving tomorrow morning,” one of the men said excitedly. “We’re finally getting closer to going home.”

“That is good news,” Déor agreed as he slipped back into his room to wash up a bit. After that he went off in search of breakfast. He passed Haleth and Elwing who were walking hand-in-hand back toward the inn where the eored was staying. “Good morning Déor. Have you seen Rowyn this morning?” Haleth asked after Déor exchanged greetings with them.

“No I haven’t,” Déor answered. “Is something wrong?”

“I wouldn’t think so, but she wasn’t in her room earlier and we thought she might be with you,” Haleth said.

“I haven’t seen her since yesterday,” Déor said. He wondered where Rowyn might be, and for a moment he thought about looking for her but decided against it. “If I see her I will let her know you’re looking for her.”

“Are you alright Déor?” Elwing asked. She could tell something was troubling her cousin, but she had no idea what it could be.

“I’m fine,” Déor said with a half smile. “I’m just ready to get home.”

“Well take heart my friend your eored is leaving tomorrow,” Haleth said while patting Déor on the shoulder. “You’ll be home soon.” Déor smiled a little broader and told them that he had better find something to eat before it was all gone. They said their goodbyes and Haleth and Elwing watched Déor walk away. “I wonder what’s troubling him?” Haleth asked.

“I don’t know,” Elwing answered. “I’ve never seen him this way. That I can remember at least.”

Déor picked up his breakfast and ate it quietly by himself in the dining hall. He decided to get his belongings packed and ready for their departure the next day. It suddenly struck him that he didn’t know if they would be riding back to Minas Tirith or taking another ship. His mind went to Adrial and her pregnancy. He didn’t think that she would be able to withstand a ride of that length, but he wondered if they might try a wagon. He also thought of Rowyn, and her emotional battle with the ship ride back to Dol Amroth. He wondered what she would do as well.

After he ate he went off in search of Elrosar and Adrial and he found them in their room at the inn. Elrosar let him in and Déor noticed that Adrial was lying on the bed looking rather exhausted. “How are you feeling Adrial?” Déor asked as he sat down on the edge of the bed.

Adrial smiled and sat up and gave Déor a hug. “I’m just really tired, and I have little energy anymore it seems,” she replied.

“I heard that we are leaving tomorrow,” Déor said to Elrosar. “Are we riding or going by boat?”

“As much I don’t want to, we’ll be going by boat,” Elrosar replied. “At least Adrial and I will be along with some of the eored. I’m sending most back via land though, so you can choose whatever you want.”

“But we would like you to come with us,” Adrial said as she placed her hand on one of Déor’s. “We’ll understand if you don’t want to, but we would really like you to be with us.”

Déor smiled warmly at Adrial and squeezed her hand in return. “How could I say no to you Adrial?”

“Oh I’m sure you could if something or someone more important needed your attention,” Adrial said with a wink.

Déor managed a half smile as he stood up. “Well, I’ll go with you two for sure, because there doesn’t seem to be anything else that needs my attention right now, and I don’t know if anyone else does or not.”

Déor said his goodbye to them and told them that he would see them in the morning. He headed back to his room to pack up his remaining belongings. As he walked he wondered if Rowyn would be going by land or on the ship. He knew she would want to go by land, but he didn’t know if she would be able to or not. He passed by her room and he stopped in spite of himself. He brought his hand up to knock on the door, but his hand never struck the wood. He sighed and then headed back to his room to pack.
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Mon Mar 19, 2007 12:23 pm

Rowyn stood by the edge of the water, allowing the waves to lick at her feet and soak the hems of her riding skirt and cloak. She had risen early that morning, unable to sleep again and feeling like the walls of her room at the inn were closing in on her, and so she had left long before the others were awake. She’d had no clear idea of where she was going, and had been a little surprised to find herself on the beach once more. But it was oddly fitting, she thought, that her last hours in Dol Amroth should be spent at the place where her life had forever altered so drastically. She was far enough from the harbor that the noises of the sailors beginning their day’s labors were drowned out by the waves, and the hypnotic rhythm of the water was interrupted only by the occasional cries of sea-birds.

She was on the side of the city that faced more towards the west, so she watched alone as the sky slowly changed color, the sea shifting from a dull grey to varying shades of grey and blue as the sun rose over the other side of the city. The emptiness of the beach felt both oddly comforting and lonely to Rowyn, but she could not bring herself to leave her isolation and return to the city. It was too busy, too crowded, and too loud. And if she let her mind drift a little, she could almost imagine that the waves were the ripples that the wind made as it blew across the tall grasses of the plains, and that the gulls that wheeled overhead and dove into the water were the more familiar hawks and falcons that inhabited the skies above Rohan, diving in search of coneys or field mice instead of the fish that the gulls searched for.

As much as she feared trying to return to a normal life among her people—or what passed for normal for her, anyway—she realized that she longed to return home, more than even after the War. Talking with Déor the day before had brought it out even more sharply, as she’d listened to him speak of working the fields and raising horses. She missed riding over the plains and seeing the wheat and barley growing tall and green, as it did this time of year. She missed the clean scent of the wind off the mountains, free of the salt that was ever-present here by the sea, and the gentle but soaking rains that made the crops and grasses grow. She knew that as soon as she set foot on the boat that was to take her to Minas Tirith, she would greatly miss the solidity of the earth under her feet, but she also knew she had no choice but to travel by water one more time. As reluctant as she was to admit it, the ride the day before had shown her that she wasn’t ready to travel by land yet; the muscles in her legs were still protesting. Perhaps in a few days—if they were to return home before Adrial had her baby, they would have to take the pace slow for her. Rowyn had not seen Adrial much since their arrival in Dol Amroth, since Adrial was staying in the palace under the care of Gwenare, but she strongly doubted from what she’d heard that Adrial would be up to covering more than a few miles at a stretch. Perhaps, if they were staying in Dol Amroth for a few more days, she could take Wildfire out again and build her own endurance back up. If nothing else, surely she could do the same upon reaching Minas Tirith.

That time with Déor yesterday had made her realize something else besides her homesickness—returning home and trying to rebuild her life wasn’t what frightened her so much as doing it alone. She knew her friends cared about her, but she could already feel a greater distance between herself and them that wasn’t only due to the events of the last few weeks. With Ro and Adrial expecting, she knew that once their child was born they would have little time for anything else, at least for awhile. And though she didn’t doubt her brother’s love for her, she had seen him and Elwing together. It seemed that the time that she’d been separated from them had brought the two of them much closer together. Though she was happy for him, she knew in her heart that something had shifted in her absence and she was no longer his greatest concern—still a high priority, but not the greatest. Out of those closest to her, that left Déor. She cared for him deeply, she knew, but the previous day’s events had left her greatly unsettled about him.

Without realizing it, she had come nearly to the same spot that they’d stopped before re-entering the city. When she’d slipped, everything had happened so fast that she wasn’t entirely sure how she’d ended up so firmly in his arms. She hadn’t been thinking too clearly at the time, and so it had taken her several sleepless hours during the night to even admit to herself that she hadn’t wanted him to let go. As she thought back on it now, she remembered clearly the feel of his hand brushing against her cheek, and the gentle look in his eyes as he’d looked down at her. He could have tried to kiss her then—she was almost certain now that he nearly did, and she knew now that if he had, she would not have resisted him at all. Despite her conviction that they could only be friends, the possibility of more no longer frightened her the way it had, even just those few short days ago on the way to Dol Amroth. But now she just couldn’t stop thinking about it, and wondering why he had been so quick to pull away from her.

With these thoughts, as well as the darker memories of what her time in Dol Amroth had led her to, whirling through her mind, hours passed without her even realizing it. Somewhere along the line as the sun grew warmer against her back, she’d removed her boots and moved to the edge of the sea; lost in thought, she didn’t even feel the cold after the first few waves washed over her feet.

The waves muffled the sound of the approaching horse, and so she didn’t hear her brother until he called out, “So this is where you’ve been hiding?” She turned around and Haleth grinned back at her. “Too bad I didn’t know you’d chosen a new thinking spot before I’d already checked every stable in Dol Amroth!”

“Sorry,” she apologized, moving away from the water. The wet cloth of her skirt clung to her ankles as she moved and sat down next to her boots, trying to brush off the sand that had already accumulated so she could put them back on. “Were you looking for me long?”

“A little while, yes,” he said, moving his bay horse closer. “No one could find you back at the inn, and since nearly all of us are off today, I told your Captain that I’d find you so you would hear the news too.”

“What’s that?” she asked, tightening the laces on the first boot.

“Your eored is leaving for Minas Tirith tomorrow.” Rowyn blinked and twisted her head around to look at him. “Most of them are traveling by land, but Elrosar said he needs to know as soon as possible if you’ll be going by horseback or taking the ship with himself and Adrial.”

Rowyn looked down. “I wish I could ride, but I don’t think I’m ready yet, Hal. I hate the thought of another ship though.”

“I know.” He dismounted and sat down next to her, still holding the reins loosely in one hand.

She looked up at him. “What about you? Are you coming?”

“Not this time, Wyn.” Haleth gave her a half-smile and said, “I’m back with the King’s Riders now, and we’re not going to Minas Tirith for a few more days, so we can go back with the King and Queen.” He smirked and added, “Not that any of us think we’ll be seeing much of said royal couple.”

Rowyn shrugged. “Well, they waited a lot longer than they thought they’d have to before getting married, so I can hardly blame them. But I wish you were coming with us.”

“So do I, but your friends will be there to look after you. You’ll be all right.” He squeezed her hand reassuringly and added, “If nothing else, I’m sure I can convince Déor to keep an eye on you again without too much trouble.” Haleth grinned, but there was something in his tone of voice that told Rowyn there might be more to his words than mere teasing. But she made no reply, concentrating instead on brushing grains of sand off the hem of her skirt, and Haleth eyed her thoughtfully. He’d had a growing suspicion ever since Umbar that his friend’s feelings towards his sister were becoming a little more than friendly, and though Rowyn was still not quite back to the way she had been before the kidnapping, she seemed to be improving quicker than he’d anticipated after such trauma. He’d thought it was due to Déor, since the two of them had been spending a great deal of time together, but after seeing his odd behavior that morning and her silence now, he was beginning to wonder if something had gone wrong. “Rowyn?” he asked. “Did something happen with you and Déor?”

Rowyn looked up, and though she smiled at him, her eyes were troubled. “No,” she answered, “at least, I don’t think so. He was acting oddly when we parted last night, but I had been asking him about his plans when we get home. I think it bothered him.”

“Well, whatever it was is still bothering him, apparently. He still seemed rather out of sorts when Elwing and I saw him this morning.” Haleth pushed his hair back out of his face as the wind blew it into his eyes.

“Oh.” Rowyn looked down, not knowing why she felt so guilty at that. “I hope he’s all right.”

“So do I,” Haleth said. Perhaps, if there was time, he’d have to try to get a straight answer out of Déor before he left. Oddly, the possibility that it had to do with Rowyn didn’t trouble him—after all, Déor had more than proven himself to Haleth, especially during Rowyn’s rescue. But he pushed that thought aside for the moment and smiled at Rowyn. “Right now, though, we should probably get back to the city so you can pack your things.”

“I suppose so,” Rowyn said, pushing herself to her feet. Haleth hoisted himself back up into his saddle, and Rowyn noticed he was still favoring his left arm slightly. “How’s the shoulder?” she asked.

“It’s healing well, and I can move it almost normally now. I just have to get on Léoma a little more one-handed for now to keep the weight off it. But I think it will be just fine by the time we head back to Rohan.” Haleth grinned, then reached down with his right hand to help her up behind him. As she was settling herself into the saddle, pulling the wet edge of her cloak out from under her, he twisted around and said more seriously, “We’ll be coming along a few days after you, and I’m sure the King will want to get home as soon as possible. So we’ll be back home before you know it.”

Rowyn smiled at him, but didn’t answer as he turned around and signaled to Léoma to begin walking. Then she sighed quietly to herself, wondering how she could even begin to explain her doubts about returning to Edoras to her brother. The thought of Déor’s offer about moving to the Westfold came to mind, but how could she take him up on that? And then there was still the question about whether to even stay in the eored... Rowyn turned back and looked at the beach one last time as they reached the path that led to the city gates, wondering if she would ever have any clarity on what path to take again.
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Wed Mar 28, 2007 5:54 am

The next morning dawned cool and bright on the city of Dol Amroth. An inland breeze was blowing mistily through the city, and the sun turned from orange to a bright yellow swiftly with the dawn. The inn where Elrosar and his eored were staying in was a bustle of activity. The men and women laid their gear outside the inn waiting for the wagons to ferry them to the stables and the docks.

Elrosar gathered up his and Adrial’s belongings and gave them to one of Imrahil’s servants to carry them out of the palace. Adrial was looking out over the city from their room window, and Elrosar could see that she was getting anxious. He walked over to her and slipped his arms around her and kissed her softly on the head.

“I’m glad we’re leaving,” Adrial said softly.

“But you’re worried about the journey aren’t you?” Elrosar finished for her.

"Yes I am," Adrial replied. "Do you think the..." Adrial stopped closing her eyes. She placed her hands firmly on her abdomen which was growing bigger. She felt as if she would explode at any moment.

Elrosar squeezed her hands and said softly, "I believe we all will be alright on the way home." He glanced down toward the harbor. The fishing vessels filled the harbor as they began their daily trek out to sea. “The ship’s Captain informed us that he would hold closer to land with his vessel. It is a smaller one than we have been on, and the voyage will be much better once we reach the Great River.”

“I hope it goes swiftly so we can go on home from there,” Adrial stated as Elrosar released her and held her cloak for her to put on.

Elrosar took her hand and led her to the door and out into the hallway and toward the palace gates. “Adrial, I want you to be prepared for the possibility that you might have to give birth in Minas Tirith.”

“That is something I was wondering about myself,” Adrial said as they exited the palace and made their way to the awaiting wagon that would carry them to their ship. “I know I will be very close by that time, but I was still hoping to be able to go home.”

“As am I,” Elrosar said, as he helped her onto the wagon. “But you have family there, and we can send word to our family back home. They may come to us if we can’t go home right away.”

“I wouldn’t ask them to do that,” Adrial said. “We’ll just have to wait I suppose.”

Elrosar wrapped his one arm around her shoulders and held her comfortingly. “Which will make our homecoming that much more enjoyable.”

Their journey through the city seemed to pass quickly to them, and they saw only a few people along the main road. The wagon pulled to a stop at the stables where the Rohirrim were assembling. Adrial stayed in the wagon while Elrosar disembarked to talk to Gram and the others. Gram would lead the majority of the eored via land to the White City, while Elrosar and the rest traveled via ship.

After passing greetings Elrosar quickly addressed the eored and informed them that they would not be long in Minas Tirith. “We will await the arrival of King Eomer, and then we will accompany him back to the Riddermark when he departs the White City. I know this journey has taken on more than we could have foreseen or even imagined, but we are on the final stage of it. We shall soon return to our land and families and raise a toast in honor of our fallen brothers.”

Elrosar then pulled Gram aside and handed him a leather satchel. The two men spoke quietly for a few moments before parting. Adrial watched as Elrosar came back to her, and she easily saw the grave look in his eyes. Guthrum, Éongol, Thorosen, and Beornhelm clambered up into the wagon behind Elrosar and Adrial, and the wagon was soon making its way back along the street to the docks.

A few hours later Elrosar was standing alone on the deck looking out at the city as the anchors were pulled and the ship was pushed free of its slip. A small crowd had gathered to see the vessel off, and Elrosar noticed several young children lined up at the very edge of the pier. They were waving their hands frantically at the sailors, but none of the crew took notice of them. As the ship passed a young girl, no more than seven or eight years old, caught Elrosar’s eyes, and she lifted her small hand and waved at him.

Elrosar looked at the girl closely for a long moment before he raised his hand and returned her wave. A broad smile broke out on her face, and she grabbed the arms of the children nearest her. Soon all of the children were focused on Elrosar and were waving exuberantly at him. He continued to wave at them, and in spite of the dark journey he smiled back at them.

As the children were lost to his sight by another ship Elrosar dropped his hand to his side. He suddenly was aware of shouting coming from the pier, and he looked up to see the children running as fast as they could to the end so they could see the ship once more. Elrosar couldn’t contain the laugh that escaped his mouth, and he waved back at the children.

At that moment the ship turned along the edge of the pier to make its way into the harbor, and Elrosar’s side of the ship passed close by to where the children had stopped their chase. Elrosar’s laugh suddenly stopped when he heard the little girl calling out to him. “Thank you,” she said in a clear voice. Elrosar grew stern, but managed to smile at her and give her a small wave in reply. “You’re welcome,” he mouthed, as the ship unfurled its sail. Elrosar watched as the children faded in the distance, and as he turned and made his way back to Adrial he suddenly realized that there had been a reason for this journey after all.
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Fri Mar 30, 2007 6:43 am

Rowyn stood by the railing of the ship, watching the landscape of Gondor slip by. It was a relief to know that, even though she was on the water, she could always see the land, and the gentler movements of the ship as it made its way up the Anduin didn’t trouble her nearly as much as they had on the open sea. She just hoped that Wildfire would be brought to the city quickly once they arrived in Minas Tirith; though she knew the separation was temporary this time—at least, she hoped so—she was more than ready to get herself prepared for travel by horseback again.

She was alone for the moment—Elrosar and Adrial had been basically inseparable for the entire journey, so she figured they were off in their cabin, and she had no idea where Elwing was. She briefly wondered what Déor was doing; she had barely seen him at all since their ride, and those few times she had, it seemed he always had something to do and couldn’t really talk to her. She was beginning to miss his company a great deal, and also to worry about him—he still seemed out of sorts to her.

While she was thinking these things, she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye and turned to see him walking across the deck towards the door that led to the cabins below. Their eyes met, and she smiled at him. Though he smiled back, it didn’t quite reach his eyes, but he moved towards her regardless. “Good day, Rowyn,” he said politely. “I take it you’re feeling all right now?”

“I’ll feel much better once I’m done with these ships for good,” Rowyn replied. “But I don’t feel sick any more, at least.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Déor answered, smiling faintly.

Rowyn’s brow furrowed slightly; he still seemed rather pensive, and he hadn’t quite met her eyes while talking to her once. “I heard some of the crew say we should reach Osgiliath early tomorrow afternoon,” she said, hoping the conversation would pick up. “I hope the horses aren’t too far behind; I’m getting quite anxious to ride again.”

“They’ll probably be another day or so,” Déor answered, looking out absently over the hills. “That should give you some time to rest first.”

“Oh, I’m tired of resting. That’s all I’ve done since Umbar,” Rowyn grumbled good-naturedly. “I’m so ready to just take Wildfire out and let him gallop all over the fields there.” When her response failed to elicit a smile from him, her own smile faded and she asked, “Are you all right?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” Déor replied with a non-committal shrug. “I was just heading back to my cabin. I’ve got a bit of a headache, so I was going to rest a bit.”

“Oh,” Rowyn answered, hiding her disappointment as best as she could. “I hope you feel better soon, then.”

“Thanks,” he said, stepping away from the railing. “I’ll see you later, Rowyn.” With that, he continued on his way slowly, never once stopping to look back towards her. Rowyn watched him go, then sighed quietly to herself and turned her gaze back to the landscape.

“Hello, Rowyn,” a feminine voice called out, interrupting her thoughts. She looked over to see Adrial walking towards her, supported by Elrosar, who had his arm firmly around her waist. Both of them had seen the brief exchange between Rowyn and Déor, and Adrial had been unable to miss the frustration in Déor’s countenance as he walked away from her, or the longing expression that had briefly flashed across Rowyn’s face as she’d watched him go. Elrosar echoed the greeting, and Adrial asked her, “How are you doing this morning?”

“I’m fine,” Rowyn answered. “Just getting bored. What about you? How are you feeling?”

“Mostly good,” Adrial replied, resting her hand lightly on her abdomen. “It’s just tiring, carrying this child sometimes.”

“I suppose it would be,” Rowyn said, not really sure how else to respond; after all, she had no experience with such things.

Adrial smiled, easing her discomfort a bit. “Well, if you’re bored, perhaps you could sit and talk to me for a bit. It’s been awhile since we’ve really talked.”

“I guess it has been,” Rowyn said, mentally calculating in her head. The last time she’d really sat down with Adrial, they’d both been on Cali’s ship. Maybe it would be good to talk to her, Rowyn mused. Perhaps, since she’d known him longer, Adrial could help her make sense of Déor’s strange behavior, and it would be nice to speak with another woman about it. Normally she’d have sought Haleth out, since the two of them were friends, but he wasn’t there. Plus she feared her brother’s reaction, especially if he suspected she had developed feelings for Déor; the memory of his constant picking on Natan was too fresh in her mind.

“Why don’t you come to our cabin with us, Rowyn?” Elrosar offered. “That way you can both sit comfortably, and I’ll need to go get Adrial some food anyway.” Rowyn nodded assent, and followed the couple down into the cooler, darker part of the ship where the cabins were. Elrosar kept his arm firmly around Adrial as they walked, and something about it filled Rowyn with a sense of longing. She quickly shoved it to the furthest recesses of her mind and kept walking.

Once they reached the cabin and Ro opened the door, Rowyn said, “Ro, there’s something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about as well.” He nodded, turning towards her, and she continued, “When we get back to Rohan, I…I’ll be leaving the eored. I just wanted to let you know.”

Elrosar sighed heavily. “I was afraid it would come to this,” he replied quietly before meeting her eyes again. “Rowyn, you know I would never ask you to step down.”

“I know, and I appreciate that,” she answered. “But that doesn’t change the fact that my presence in the eored put us all in danger. I can’t ignore that, and I don’t think it would be right for me to continue as an officer, either way. And after everything that happened…” She looked down and her voice trailed off.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up again, and Elrosar said, “If you don’t want to be an officer anymore, I understand, though I hate to lose you. But I would ask you to at least reconsider leaving altogether, Rowyn.” Rowyn opened her mouth to answer, but he continued, “I’m not going to force you to do anything, but why don’t you just take some time off to think about it. If, once you’ve had some more time to recover from this, you decide you still don’t want to come back, we’ll talk about it more then.” Rowyn nodded her consent, and he smiled faintly and said, “Well, I’ll leave you two ladies to talk, then.” He patted Rowyn’s shoulder, then added more quietly to Adrial, “I’ll be back to check on you later, all right?” With that, he rested his hand tenderly against her cheek, then kissed her lips briefly. Then he grinned and winked at Rowyn and left the two of them alone in the cabin.

As Adrial made herself comfortable on the bed, she smiled over at Rowyn. “Oh well,” she said. “Just a few more weeks, and perhaps I’ll be able to sit normally again.”

“Either that, or you’ll be so busy with the baby that you won’t have time to sit at all,” Rowyn retorted, grinning weakly. Then she sighed a bit and sat down in a nearby chair. “You’re really lucky to have him, Adrial.”

“I know,” Adrial answered, then reached over and rested her hand on Rowyn’s. “You’ll have that someday too, I just know it.”

“Oh, I doubt that,” Rowyn said with a laugh. “I would hardly expect you to share.”

Adrial smiled, then a mischievous sparkle lit up her eyes. “He does have a rather handsome cousin, you know.” Rowyn could feel her face suddenly flush a bright crimson at Adrial’s words; the other woman noticed, and added, “I’m sorry, Rowyn. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“No, you’re fine,” Rowyn protested, shaking her head. “It’s just…do you know why he’s avoiding me?”

Adrial studied Rowyn carefully as she stated, “I saw you two talking just now. What makes you think he’s avoiding you?”

“He was rather quick to make his excuses to leave,” Rowyn replied, twisting the hem of her tunic around in her hands idly.

“That’s odd,” Adrial said. “That doesn’t sound like him at all. And it seemed like he was spending a great deal of his time with you.” She leaned forward a bit and asked, “When did he start acting differently?”

“Just a few days ago,” Rowyn answered, “just after…oh!” Her voice suddenly broke off in a gasp, and her head dropped into her hands. “Oh no…I’m so stupid. I’ve ruined everything.”

“What happened?” Adrial asked.

Rowyn lifted her head slightly, and her face was bright crimson. “The day of the King’s wedding. I ran into some trouble with some overly curious nobles, and Déor helped me fend them off. Then I didn’t want to stay, so we went riding on the beach. But when we were done I slipped dismounting, and…”

“And?” Adrial prompted.

Rowyn felt her face burning even hotter, and admitted, “Well, he caught me. And then I thought for sure he…he… I mean, the way he was looking at me…”

She was looking down at her hands, still nervously fidgeting with her tunic, and missed the knowing smile that crossed Adrial’s face. “Did he try to kiss you?” the other woman asked quietly.

“No, of course not,” Rowyn said quickly. “He’d never do anything like that. I must have just misread him, that’s all.”

Adrial looked thoughtful for a moment. Then she cautiously asked, “You love him, don’t you?” Rowyn let the now badly-wrinkled cloth drop from her hands, staring into nothing for a long while. Then she slowly nodded, still not meeting Adrial’s eyes. “You look as if this were a bad thing,” Adrial observed.

“Isn’t it?” Rowyn blurted out, her head jerking up and pain in her blue-grey eyes. “I fought so hard against it, because I knew something like this would happen. I’m not very good at hiding things, Adrial, you know that. He must have seen it on my face, and it drove him away.”

“You don’t know that,” Adrial soothed.

“What else could it be?” Tears pricked her eyes, and she angrily blinked them away. “He’s made it quite clear that he doesn’t want to be within ten paces of me now, let alone still be friends with me.”

Adrial replied, "That is not the Déor I know. I've seen the way he's watched over you since you were rescued, and he wouldn’t do that if he didn’t care about you. He definitely considers you a friend…” She paused, watching Rowyn’s reaction carefully as she added, “...and perhaps more. It’s hard to miss the way he looks at you, Rowyn.”

“Really?” Rowyn asked, her eyes briefly filled with hope. Then her expression gave way to frustration once more, and her hand briefly went to her throat before she remembered she still hadn’t put her necklace back on. So she resorted to fidgeting with the hem of her tunic once more as she complained, “Well, if he cared about me, he wouldn’t be ignoring me now.”

“Have you tried talking to him about it?” Adrial asked cautiously.

A horrified look crossed Rowyn’s face as it flushed bright red. “Of course not!” she exclaimed. “How could I even bring something like that up, when he can barely even stand to look at me?” Her head dropped and she swallowed hard. “It’s probably best if I don’t anyway. It’s easier than actually hearing him say he doesn’t care for me. I…I don’t think…” Her voice trailed off; she hadn’t realized until then how badly she wished that things could be different between them, or how difficult it would be to hear him tell her that he didn’t want that.

“Would you wish for me or Ro to talk to him?” Adrial asked gently.

“No!” Rowyn quickly protested, unable to keep a note of alarm out of her voice. “I mean, this is just something I need to deal with myself. I’ll get over it, I just need time.”

Adrial looked at her long and hard. “Do you really want to get over it?”

Rowyn purposely turned her face away so Adrial couldn’t see it, strands of loose hair blocking her peripheral vision. “Does it matter? Wishing isn’t going to change anything, and if he truly doesn’t want me around, I have no desire to burden him with my presence.” She sighed, then added, “I’m sorry, Adrial. I’m not being very good company.”

“You’re fine,” she said, “but if you don’t wish to talk about it anymore, I understand.”

“I don’t,” she said, a little too quickly. Adrial nodded, and Rowyn said her farewell to her shortly after, silently determining as she headed back to her cabin that she would conquer this weakness. She wouldn’t let herself be fooled by thinking that there was something there that really wasn’t, not a second time.
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Mon Apr 02, 2007 10:18 am

Elrosar left Adrial and Rowyn alone and made his way down the corridor to the bunk area he knew Déor was staying in. The ship they were on was much smaller than any ship they had been on yet, and the ship’s Captain had informed them that it was built more for river use than it was for the sea. Their voyage from Dol Amroth to the Anduin had been very peaceful, and Elrosar had noticed that the ship had stayed nearer to the land on their southerly track. Elrosar had grown accustomed to the rolling of the sea, and he was amazed at the smoothness of the river voyage.

Elrosar knew there were several rowers below this deck helping the ship along at this time, as they fought against the river’s strong current in this area. To Elrosar the sea was beautiful to look upon, but it paled in comparison to grassy lands of Rohan. His and Adrial’s home came to his mind then, and the knowledge there would soon be a baby there filled him with wonder and glee.

Elrosar peered into the bunk area where Déor was and saw his cousin lying on one of the bunks flat on his back. His hands were behind his head, and his knees were in the air. Déor’s eyes were closed and he did not notice Elrosar until Elrosar was standing over him next to his bunk. “It is a beautiful day outside Déor,” Elrosar said. “What are you doing in here?”

Déor was startled and opened his eyes wide and looked at Elrosar. Elrosar raised one of his legs and gave Déor a light kick under his knee. “Get up lazy bones,” Elrosar added with a grin.

Déor smacked at Elrosar’s foot before sitting up in the bunk. “I wasn’t feeling well if you want to know.”

“Well, you can’t be seasick,” Elrosar said while folding his arms across his chest. “We’re no longer on the sea, and haven’t been for over a day now.”

“I know that,” Déor said in an agitated voice, as he stood up next to his cousin. “Its just…I don’t know. I just don’t feel well.”

“What seems to be bothering you?” Elrosar asked. “Do you need me to get Adrial’s vial?”

“No, that won’t help,” Déor said, as he turned to leave the room.

Elrosar couldn’t suppress the smile that came to him then, as he thought he understood what was wrong with Déor. Elrosar followed him out into the hall and up onto the deck of the ship. “Have you talked to Rowyn today?” Elrosar asked when the two of them stopped at the railing of the ship. They were passing by a small town with several fishing vessels in their ports, and they received several waves from the residents on the docks as they passed.

“Yes, I talked to her why?” Déor asked while not looking at Elrosar.

“She just seemed to be upset about something,” Elrosar replied. “I thought I saw you talking to her and I was just wondering if she had said anything to you.”

“No, she didn’t say anything to me,” Déor continued. “She didn’t seem to be upset when I saw her.”

Elrosar was silent for a moment as he leaned on the railing of the ship. “That’s interesting, because I left her with Adrial a while ago, and I’ve known her long to know when something is bothering her.”

Déor’s heart suddenly ached as he thought of Rowyn being upset, but he couldn’t grasp or understand what could be bothering her. “I don’t know Ro.”

“Did she tell you she is stepping down from her position?” Elrosar asked, and Déor suddenly looked over at him in alarm and shook his head. “And she even said that she may quit all together.”

“Quit?” Déor said in a hoarse whisper. “Why? She hasn’t said anything to me about that.”

“She just told me a moment ago,” Elrosar replied. “That’s why I asked you if she had said anything to you.”

“No, no she didn’t,” Déor said with a slight quiver to his voice. His eyes drifted out over the landscape again, as he tried to understand her decision.

Elrosar watched Déor for a few moments, and Elrosar remembered how he had agonized over Adrial like this before he finally told her how he felt about her. What a relief it had been when he shared that first kiss with her that one day by the river. “You really love her don’t you?”

It took a moment for Déor to comprehend Elrosar’s question, and he looked at his cousin and sighed after rubbing his face with his hands. “Yes I do Ro. I can’t help it, but I do.”

“Have you told her this?” Elrosar asked.

“No, no I haven’t,” Déor replied quickly.

“Don’t you think you should?” Elrosar pressed slightly. He could tell that this was indeed what was troubling Déor, and now with the knowledge that Rowyn might be leaving, he could tell Déor was beginning to crack.

“Why should I?” Déor asked. “She just wants to me to be a friend.”

“She told you that?” Elrosar wondered what Adrial and Rowyn were talking about now, but as he looked at his cousin his instincts told him that Déor was the center of their conversation.

“Yes she did,” Déor answered. “Back in Dol Amroth before we left.”

“And you want to be more than her friend don’t you?” Elrosar questioned as he turned to face the same direction as Déor.

Déor nodded and let out a deep sigh. “That’s wrong of me isn’t it?”

“I don’t think so at all,” Elrosar replied. “Why do you think that?”

“She’s been through so much Ro,” Déor said. “She’s not looking for a relationship. She just wants a friend.”

“How do you know she’s not looking for a relationship with a man?” Elrosar asked. “And let me ask you another question. Who is my best friend?”

Déor narrowed his eyes at Elrosar. “Adrial’s your best friend.”

“Precisely,” Elrosar said after letting Déor’s answer sink in. “Perhaps that is what Rowyn is looking for too.”

“How would I know that?” Déor said while shaking his head in frustration.

“You’ll never know until you ask,” Elrosar said, as he patted Déor on the back and then left his cousin alone.
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:25 pm

She’d only been in Minas Tirith a few hours, but Rowyn was already feeling at a loss for what to do with herself. After they’d taken their things to the inn where they were staying, she’d eaten lunch with Elrosar and Adrial, Elwing, and Déor. Déor still seemed unwilling to talk to her; in fact, he’d barely glanced her way the entire meal. The strange tension between the two of them hadn’t gone unnoticed; Elwing had quietly pulled her aside at the end of the meal and asked her if something had gone amiss between her and Déor. Not that Rowyn had known what to tell her, so she had simply shrugged it off. She knew she wouldn’t be able to avoid that conversation forever, though, since Elwing had that look on her face that clearly said that she wasn’t going to let the matter rest for very long. As confused as she felt over the whole situation, Rowyn wasn’t looking forward to that talk at all.

But, meanwhile, Elwing was spending the afternoon with Adrial and, she presumed, Elrosar. And Déor had quickly made his excuses and left after the meal, which left Rowyn alone. She still had several hours to kill before supper, and so she’d made her way down to the first circle with the small hope that maybe Wildfire and the other horses had arrived at the city earlier than planned, and she could work out some of her pent-up frustration over Déor in getting him back in shape. But their horses weren’t there, as she’d strongly suspected they would not be. She had been about to head back up to the inn when she’d noticed some of the training grounds for the Gondorian soldiers were empty, save a few guards. They’d laughed at her at first when she’d asked if she might be allowed to use one of the practice swords for a little while, until one of them had curiously asked for her name. Apparently word of her deeds—or misfortunes, as they seemed more to her at the moment—had made its way through the Gondorian ranks as well, and he’d apologized and allowed her to pass.

It was more of a pavilion than a room, with wooden fences separating it from the stableyard next door and partially walled in by the same whitish stone that dominated the rest of the city. Rowyn eyed the selection of wooden practice swords; she could tell just by looking that the majority of them, styled like the Gondorian broadswords, would be too long and heavy for her. But there were a couple of smaller ones—probably child-sized, she reasoned—that were far more similar to the Rohirric swords she was familiar with in weight and length. She picked one of these up and tested the weight in her hand; the balance seemed a little different than what she was used to, but she reasoned it had been weeks since she’d touched her sword, and though she had regained some of her strength since her rescue, she knew she still had quite a ways to go. Maybe this would be good for her, she thought, and if nothing else, it might help her to decide whether the possibility of eventually returning to the eored was a viable one. So she experimentally slashed at the air a few times, getting used to the weight of the weapon in her hand again, then began practicing a few parries and thrusts.

She was so intent on what she was doing that she didn’t notice Elrosar and Déor come in.
Déor, who had been practically dragged down to the first circle by his cousin, stopped short as he saw Rowyn already in there, a look of deep concentration on her face as she moved and spun with the sword in her hands. For a long moment, he just stared at her; he’d seen her fight before, of course, but had never had the opportunity to really watch her. It looked almost like a dance to him; though it was obvious that she was a little out of practice, there was still a gracefulness to her movements that almost belied the deadly force to the blows that he had witnessed in battle before. She still had not noticed them, and he watched, entranced, as she sparred with her imaginary partner, her golden-red braid whipping around her head like a trail of fire. Then he shook himself out of his reverie and glared at his cousin. “You planned this, didn’t you?” he accused.

“I didn’t know she was here,” Elrosar answered innocently, then called out, “Rowyn!”

Startled, she whirled around, the sword falling to the ground with a clatter. Her eyes darted over to Déor and she could feel her face grow hot, but she quickly forced herself to look away and complained, “You shouldn’t sneak up on me like that, Ro!”

“Sorry,” Ro apologized. “And it looks like you’re doing well with it. I was just thinking your practice might go a little smoother if you had a sparring partner.”

“Why, are you offering?” she asked, still avoiding Déor’s gaze.

“Maybe,” he said. “Though it might be better for my health if I can convince Déor to trade spots with me now and then to protect me from you. You look as if your temper matches your hair again,” he teased.

“Oh, please,” Rowyn replied, smirking at him. “I’m rusty and you know it. I think you’re perfectly safe.”

She dared a glance over at Déor then; he was fingering one of the practice swords and avoiding her eyes. “There’s only one more sword here, Ro,” Déor said. “The rest of them are those oversized knives these Southerners insist on using.”

“Hmm,” Elrosar said, looking as if he were deep in thought for a moment. Then he grinned. “I have the perfect idea,” he said. “Déor, why don’t you go ahead and spar with her now, and I’ll look around the other practice yards and see if I can find another sword. I’ll be back later.” With that, he quickly took off.

“Ro, wait a moment,” Rowyn called after him, but her Captain was already out of earshot, it seemed. For a long, awkward moment, she and Déor stood there, neither of them quite willing to take the initiative to say anything. Finally, Rowyn sighed and picked her practice sword up out of the dirt. “Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked, flipping her braid back over her shoulder and trying to sound nonchalant. “You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to.”

Déor looked around the area for a moment, as if he were hoping Elrosar was already back or someone else was available. He then looked at Rowyn and slowly picked up the practice sword. "No, I'll help you. I don't mind at all."

"Really?" Rowyn asked, unable to keep a hint of sarcasm out of her voice as she experimentally moved the sword in a slow arc. "As excited as you sound about it, I'm sure you have much better things to do with your time than teach me how to fight again."

Déor couldn't help but notice the hard tone in Rowyn's voice, and it wasn't a sound he liked hearing at all. "I really don't have anything else to do, and I could use the exercise myself."

"All right then," Rowyn said, moving into position. The moment Déor lifted his sword, she swung at his opposite side, and he had to quickly jump back to avoid the wooden blade striking him in the ribs.

Déor looked at Rowyn's eyes as he jumped back just in time, and she was intensely staring back at him. "By that move, I don't know if you need to practice."

"So go back to avoiding me then," she snapped. "That's what you want anyway, isn't it?"

"What do you mean?" Déor asked as the two circled around with their wooden swords pointed at each other. "I don't want to avoid you."

Rowyn immediately regretted the harsh words, and warily waited for him to make his move as she asked in a softer voice, "Then why have you been?"

Déor detected the softer tone in her voice as they circled. "I don't know. I've just had a lot on my mind lately," Déor finished and brought his sword around toward her side.

Rowyn blocked his blade, the two wooden swords making a harsh cracking noise as they clashed together. "I've noticed," she said, freeing her sword with a quick twist of her arm and poking him lightly in his side.

Déor winced slightly as the wooden blade nicked his side. He had been careless and he knew why: he was watching only her eyes and not all of her. "I'm sorry, Rowyn, but I don't know what to say." He feigned another of the same move, but instead brought his sword down from above her.

Rowyn jumped back and raised her arm to block him, but not quite quickly enough, and the sword hit her forearm. She stepped back and rubbed at it for a moment as she said, "I guess whatever it is wasn't important enough to talk to me about," trying to keep the hurt out of her voice. She tightened her grip on the hilt and spun off to the side, beginning to bring her blade down on the shoulder of his sword-arm as she added, "I guess that's something you'd only do with your friends though."

Déor caught her blade on his and pushed her back easily. "You are my friend, Rowyn. I'm sorry I haven't talked to you about it, but it...it’s not that easy. I want..." Déor stopped talking as he lunged forward, bringing his sword down on her from right to left.

Rowyn dove off to the side, hitting the ground and rolling out of the reach of his sword. As she scrambled back to her feet, she made a swipe at his unprotected stomach. "If you're my friend, why is it that you can barely stand to be around me for more than a few moments anymore?"

Déor jumped back, barely avoiding her slash. "It’s not like that, Rowyn. I want to be around you, but I don't know if you really wanted me around in the same way." Déor was slightly frustrated with having to try and think about fighting and talking at the same time, and he lunged forward again, harder than he had really planned to, and brought his sword down on Rowyn as she gathered herself from her roll.

The blade hit Rowyn hard in the chest, and she fell to the ground with the wind knocked out of her. As she tried to catch her breath, she looked up at him. "Seems that you don't really want me around at all," she gasped.

Déor’s eyes widened in shock at what he had done. "Rowyn, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that."

"I know." She moved into a crouch as if she were going to push herself back to her feet, then abruptly swung her leg out, catching Déor behind the ankles with her foot and knocking him flat on his back. "Now we're even," she added.

Déor rubbed his head as he moved to a sitting position close to where Rowyn was. "I believe I deserved that, didn't I?

"Probably not," she said, looking down; her face grew red as she suddenly realized how close she was sitting. "I'm not good at fighting fair, but that's the only thing that's kept me alive in this eored so far."

"I don't doubt that a bit, and it has indeed served you well," Déor said as he stood to his feet. "Shall we continue, or have you had enough?”

Rowyn likewise pushed herself to her feet. "I've survived worse. I can survive you. And besides," she added, picking up her sword again, "you never answered my question."

Déor chuckled slightly at Rowyn's boasting and he leveled his sword at her again. "I told you I was sorry for doing that. I thought that you didn't really want me around." Déor took his sword and stabbed at her, but she blocked it with her sword. He then spun her sword around trying to dislodge it from her grip.

Rowyn tightened her grip on the hilt and whirled away, bringing the sword with her, then quickly circled around him and aimed for his other side. "Why would you think that?" she asked.

Déor spun with Rowyn and their swords crashed together again. "I told you I would be the friend you needed, and I meant that, but I was..." Rowyn slashed at Déor before he realized, and her sword struck him hard on his right shoulder.

Before he could quite recover from the blow, Rowyn swung at him again; this time he managed to block it just before she hit him in the stomach. "If you really meant that, then why would you turn away from me so quickly?" she asked, frustration and hurt mingled in her voice as she shoved against his blade with all her might. "I guess you never really learned to stop running from your problems, did you?"

Déor stepped back from the fury of her blows. His shoulder was aching and he knew there would be a heavy bruise there. Her words about him running stung his heart, but he knew she was right. He gripped his sword tightly and blocked her next blow and then he began to rain several blows down upon her. "I believe you're right about that. I suppose it’s my first instinct."

Rowyn was forced backwards as she had to move quickly to block his sword. She glanced behind her to see that if she didn't think fast, she would get backed into a wall. Suddenly, she spun off to the side as he was lunging at her, causing him to overbalance a bit and stumble forward. As he turned around to face her once more, she asked, "So when did I become one of your problems? Was it when I forgot to ask you to leave my cabin before I stupidly dozed off? Was it having to rescue me at the King's wedding? Or does it go all the way back to my allowing myself to get captured?"

Déor held his sword tightly in his hand as he looked at Rowyn. "It was none of those things," he said firmly as he advanced on her. “I'm the problem."

This time, as he swiped at her left side, she easily blocked it. "And yet you take it out on me," she retorted.

"I said I'm the problem," Déor said again. "Do you have any idea what that really means?" He swung at her again, harder this time.

The force of the blow made her lose her balance, and as she awkwardly hopped to one side to stay on her feet, she replied, "Apparently I'm missing something. Care to enlighten me?"

"I'm the problem, because I told you I would be your friend," Déor said firmly. "I can't do that though, that's why I've been avoiding you." His sword crashed against hers once more sending a loud crack around the room.

Rowyn's heart sank at his words, and for a moment she faltered, allowing his blade to slide almost all the way up to the hilt of hers. Then, filled with a sudden anger, she shoved him back and swung hard at his leg. As she did, she cried out, "I suppose I should be grateful you finally mustered up the courage to actually tell me this. But I never had many friends, Déor. I'd like to know what I did to lose you as one."

Déor blocked her blow and reached out and grabbed her sword arm at the wrist before she could draw it back. "You told me I was a true friend, and that's what I thought I wanted, but Rowyn, that's not what I want." His eyes held her sternly as she tried to free her hand. "I can't just be your friend, because I'm in love with you."

Rowyn's eyes widened and she nearly dropped her sword. Then, to Déor’s dismay, an incredulous laugh escaped and she shook her head. "So long I've wanted to hear those words," she murmured under her breath, "and all this time I thought you couldn't even stand to be in the same room as me."

Déor released her arm and stepped back. His eyes were filled with amazement as he looked at her. "You've wanted to hear those words? I thought you just wanted me as a friend."

"Is that what this is all about?" Rowyn asked in disbelief. "You've been avoiding me because I called you my friend?" She let her sword fall to the ground and raised her hand to cover her mouth, a sound halfway between a laugh and a sob escaping her lips. "Yes, I want you as a friend, Déor. But that doesn't mean that's all I want."

Déor looked longingly at her before throwing his sword across the room. "I'm sorry, Rowyn. I'm such a fool. I just thought you only wanted me as a friend," he repeated.

"No," she said, shaking her head. "If all you wanted was to be my friend, I was willing to try and be content with that. But I couldn't dare to hope that you...that we..." Her voice trailed off.

Déor took a step closer to her but did not touch her. "Rowyn, I must confess that I have loved you since the day I met you. I know that may be wrong of me, but it is true, and I am sorry for not telling you sooner. I was just afraid."

"Afraid of what?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

"Afraid that if I told you I loved you too soon or you didn't feel the same, that I would lose you and your friendship," Déor replied, as he inched closer to her. "I couldn't bear the thought of completely losing you."

"And you think I could?" she asked. "It's been so hard to just stand here and watch you pulling away from me more every day. And this after just getting you back—do you have any idea how it felt, thinking that you'd died during that attack and that I'd lost you forever?"

"I didn't know you were thinking that while we were looking for you," Déor replied. His hands suddenly found hers and he held them both gently but firmly. "I didn't know you felt that way about me, or I would have told you sooner, but there was the issue with..."

"...Natan," Rowyn finished with a sigh. "Honestly, I don't know if I would have been ready to hear it much sooner—I knew I was falling in love with you, and I was certain it had to be wrong of me, so soon after breaking things off with him."

"That was my fear too," Déor said. "And I suppose I waited too long to tell you. When we found you, and I saw you lying there covered in blood, I just knew you would never know how I felt. But then you woke up, and I couldn't bring myself to tell you."

"I'm glad you waited," she admitted. "I don't know how I would have taken it, coming at such an inopportune time. I...I just wish you hadn't waited so long." She looked down and added, "If I'd only known, I never would have said that about you being my friend. I never meant to hurt you by it, Déor."

“It’s all my fault, Rowyn," Déor said as he looked down at her. He moved one of his hands and lifted her chin up. "I'm sorry for being such a fool."

"We both were," she said, reaching up and resting her free hand against his cheek. "I could have said something sooner too, but I was too afraid myself."

The touch of her hand on his cheek was the most sensual feeling Déor had ever experienced. He impulsively stepped closer and let his free hand touch the small of her waist. "I hope you're not afraid anymore," he said as he lowered his head towards her slightly. He saw her eyes looking deeply into his as he closed the distance between them and his lips met hers tenderly.

His lips brushed hers once, then a second time, leaving Rowyn feeling warm all over. He began to pull back then, but Rowyn hastily moved her hand around to the back of his neck to hold him there, unwilling to let him go so soon as she returned the kiss—shyly at first, then with quickly-growing confidence. Déor released Rowyn's other hand as she returned the kiss, and he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer to him, as he kissed her more fully now. How he had wanted to do this for so long, and now he could hardly believe it was happening. Rowyn didn't even try to resist him as he held her closer to him, resting her arms lightly on his shoulders. His kiss grew more fervent, and Rowyn couldn't help smiling to herself as she remembered all those dreams she'd had about this very thing since her rescue. The real thing was far better, she decided. Finally, breathlessly, she pulled back slightly and whispered, "No, I'm not afraid anymore."

Déor smiled broadly at her as they looked deeply into each other’s eyes. "Neither am I," he said as a tear formed in his eye and rolled down his cheek. He smiled again and pulled her into his chest and held her tightly. "I love you, Rowyn."

She reached up and brushed the tear away. "I love you too, Déor," she relied, contentedly resting her head against his chest. Then she lifted it slightly and grinned up at him, adding, "And sorry about knocking you off your feet like that earlier."

"Think nothing of it," Déor said with a smile. "I know I deserved it.”

"Maybe so," Rowyn admitted with a laugh as she moved her hands back up to his shoulders. "But I have no doubt you'll make it up to me." With that, she stood on her toes and brushed her lips against his lightly.

Déor chuckled slightly as he pulled Rowyn closer again. "I will do my best to," he said as he kissed her once more.
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Tue May 01, 2007 8:34 am

Elrosar circled back around to the street that ran away from the practice facility, and casually made his way back to the entrance. He had waited a few moments after leaving Rowyn and Déor alone to see if they would even talk. He did hear some muffled conversation, but he left when he heard the sound of wooden swords cracking together. He knew at least they were doing something together.

As he stepped through the open double doors he realized that he didn’t hear the swords any more, or anyone talking for that matter. Elrosar wondered if they had already left, but he decided to check on them any way. Hopefully they hadn’t knocked each other out with the practice swords. He knew all about Rowyn’s temper, but he also knew that Déor was not one who backed down very easily.

Elrosar peered around the corner of the short hallway to find that Rowyn and Déor hadn’t left, nor had they pummeled each other into submission. What he found was that the two of them were locked in a close embrace, and they were exchanging a very full kiss. Elrosar was tempted to clear his throat loudly, but he knew what the two of them had been through over the last months, so he decided to do that another time. He watched as the kissed came to an end, and Déor pulled Rowyn close to him and held her for some time.

Elrosar stepped back and waited to see if they would leave shortly, but he finally heard them talking again. His curiousity got the better of him, but he refrained from moving closer. He could hear Rowyn wondering where she would live when they returned to Rohan, and Déor suggested that she could find a place in his village to stay. Elrosar began to wonder where in their village Rowyn could stay. He knew a few older homes were empty, but they would need some work on them.

Elrosar heard Déor ask Rowyn if they could discuss it further over a meal, so Elrosar quickly walked back out onto the street and away from the practice facility. He stopped at a bakery and purchased some fresh bread. As he was about to leave he spotted Déor and Rowyn walking arm and arm pass the small store. Neither of them saw him, so they didn’t see the smile that was on his face as he watched them.

He stood there as they disappeared from his view before setting out on his way back to the Citadel and his wife. He was extremely happy for Rowyn and Déor. He knew that they would be good for each other, and that the thought of Rowyn being related to him amused him. He knew things with Haleth and Elwing seemed to be on a firm stance, and he knew Haleth would be a good husband to his sister. Though the idea of her getting married made him feel slightly odd, he knew it was evitable.

How quickly things were changing around him and to him he thought, as he continued his ascent to the Citadel. His king has just married, his sister probably soon would be, his first officer might be leaving him, and most importantly he was about to be a father. The last one excited him greatly, but also raised his awareness that things would be different for him and Adrial for the rest of their lives.

No longer would she be riding off on patrol with him, because she would be home with their child. He knew her parents and sister would be there to watch over her and the baby, but the thoughts of leaving them for a lengthy period of time troubled him greatly. The thoughts of seeking a release from his duties crossed his mind only briefly as he walked, but he quickly drove them away. He knew that his duty was to his family, king, and land, and stepping down from his position was not part of it.

Elrosar was cleared through the Citadel gate, and then made his way to where he and Adrial were staying. He found Adrial walking slowly around their living quarters. “How are you feeling?” Elrosar asked, as he walked in and sat the bread down on a table.

“I’m sore and tired,” she answered. “I hope we don’t have to go anywhere for a while, especially by ship or wagon. I don’t think I can handle any of that right now.”

“We are not going any where for a while I believe,” Elrosar said reassuringly. How was your family visit?”

“It was good to see them,” Adrial replied, as Elrosar cut off a slice of the hot bread and handed it to her. “They were excited to see me of course, and they kept wanting to touch my belly.”

“I can imagine,” Elrosar said as he pulled off his boots and tossed them in the corner of the room. “Did you tell them any of what happened?”

“No, I didn’t,” Adrial said as she nibbled on her piece of bread. Elrosar poured her a glass of water, as they sat down on a small bench against the wall. “I didn’t want to alarm them, or have to go through the whole story with them now. Maybe some day, but not now.”

“That was not a story I wish to relive any time soon,” Elrosar said with a sigh, as he placed one arm on Adrial’s shoulders and stroked her hair softly.

“I don’t ever want to relive it,” Adrial stated, but then she looked up at him and smiled slightly. “Except this,” she added and drew his attention to her abdomen where the outline of a foot could be seen underneath her dress.

Elrosar laughed and placed his hand on the small foot and rested his head against Adrial’s. “I believe this will be what will help us keep our minds off the last months for quite some time.”
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Fri May 04, 2007 7:19 am

Déor led Rowyn to a small but well-lit and cozy tavern on the fifth circle of the city; he said it was one he had often visited during his stay in Minas Tirith, once he had been well enough to move around more. Once they were seated across from each other at a small table and had ordered some food, Déor looked at Rowyn and asked, “Are you still worried about going home?”

“A little,” Rowyn admitted. “I still can’t help thinking that people are going to look at me and see nothing but what happened to me.” Her hand automatically went to her neck, though the pendant she’d used to wear still sat without a cord in her pocket, and she fingered the still-healing cut from her own dagger self-consciously.

Déor frowned and ran his hand through his hair as he thought of Rowyn being in Edoras. "Maybe word of what happened will not be spread."

"I highly doubt that the events of the last months will go unchecked for more than a few days," Rowyn said. "You know how the taverns in Edoras can be. The whole story will be all over the city in a matter of weeks or even days." She sighed and looked down. "If nothing else," she added, "the King was only supposed to be away for a few weeks, and it's already been a few months. And there's several men of our people who will not be going home at all. It can't stay a secret, especially from those who lost their loved ones in Umbar."

"You are right," Déor agreed. "Too many were lost, and there will be a public memorial made for them, so the story will be told. Our own eored members will probably be sharing it just as much as anyone else," he added as their food was brought along with some ale.

Rowyn reached for the ale first and took a large swallow, then looked down into the cup. “That may be true. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m the one who brought them all there.”

"Not all of them," Déor corrected, as he took a long drink of his ale as well. "You have to remember that several Rohirrim died in Umbar when the city was attacked."

Rowyn glanced up, a pained look in her eyes. "But perhaps they would not have had to take it all the way to Umbar if I hadn't been captured."

Déor reached across the table and placed one hand on hers. "Don't say that," he said softly. "With the attack on the city, we might have sailed to Umbar anyway. You know that Eomer would have supported King Elessar in whatever way he could have."

"I know," Rowyn replied. "But I..." She looked down at the table again and blinked hard. "I still can't help feeling responsible for this. Maybe everyone was right about women serving in the army after all."

"Everyone isn't right either," Déor said, as he squeezed her hand gently. "Just look at all of the good that has come from you and the others that have served in the last years. I don't think this gives any man the right to tell you that you don't belong."

"I left, Déor," she blurted out, unable to quite look him in the eyes. "At least, I'm not an officer anymore. I already told Ro. I just don't know if I can go back even as a soldier, not after all this."

"Ro told me that you stepped down," Déor said as he looked intently at her. His heart was broken because she had suffered so much, and he vowed to do whatever he could to help mend it. "Is going back as a soldier something you need to decide now?”

"I don't know," Rowyn answered softly.

"May I make a suggestion?" Déor asked, and Rowyn nodded her head slightly. "Why don't you just take a leave for awhile. I'm sure Ro will grant you that."

Rowyn sipped at her ale again; she still hadn't touched her food. "I just don't know what I'll do with myself if I don't go back."

Déor took a few bites of his food then as he watched her. "Tell me something that you would like to do that you can't while you're a soldier."

Rowyn traced around the edge of her mug with a finger of her free hand and gave him a half-smile. "The only thing I can think of is it leaves more time for riding."

“Well then, I would say take some time off and enjoy riding as much as you want," Déor said. "Is there any thing else that you want to do?"

Rowyn shrugged. "Pretty much all I did before I joined your cousin's eored--well, other than make a fool of myself pretending to be a boy so I could join the army--was help my father with the horses and do things like cook the meals for him and my brother."

"Well, taking a leave would allow you the time to maybe learn something new," Déor said. "I know you can cook, but I could teach you how to grow some things. That is, if you are living near me," he added quickly.

Rowyn blushed a bit, but gave him an amused smile. "How do you know I can cook?" she asked. "All we've done since I met you was eat in taverns."

"Hal told me you were a good cook," Déor said with a smile. "I would like to find out for myself though, so I could be my own judge."

Her blush grew deeper as she answered, a bit shyly, "Maybe I could make you dinner sometime once we get back to Rohan then." She paused, then asked, "Do you really think it would work, me moving away from Edoras?"
"I think so, but that is your decision, not mine," Déor answered.

"I never really liked living in the city," Rowyn admitted. "There was just nowhere else to go."

"I understand," Déor said. "I don't like cities much either. I do believe we can find you a place to stay in our village, if you decide that is what you want to do."

"It's tempting," Rowyn replied. "But where? I couldn't possibly impose on Ro and Adrial, not when they'll be getting adjusted to having a baby. And who knows where Elwing will end up." She lowered her voice, blushing furiously as she added, "And I can't live with you."

"Why is your face so red?" Déor teased. "And you could live in my family's home."

Rowyn looked down again, silently willing some of the heat to leave her cheeks. "Where would you live?" she asked.

Déor couldn't hide the smile that crossed his lips as he looked at Rowyn. "There are a couple of abandoned farm houses fairly near our farm. I was looking at buying one of them anyway. You could live in it if you wish, but the one closest to our farm will need lots of repairs."

Rowyn thought about this for a moment, absently pushing the food around on her plate. "Would it be safe?" she finally asked quietly.

"I suppose so," Déor replied. "Our village is fairly safe, but I understand your apprehension about living alone. The option is there for you to live with my parents though. You'll be safe there for sure."

Rowyn looked down. "But isn't that where you live? I don't want to push you out of your home."

"You wouldn't be pushing me out of my home," Déor corrected. "I should have bought one of those farmhouses a long time ago. If I had I'd be ready to move in already."

Rowyn smiled a bit. "That would be hard to do while you were traveling."

Déor took a long drink of his ale, and then pushed his now empty plate away. "I should have been home," he said quietly.

Rowyn idly stabbed at her still-untouched food with her knife. "But then I wouldn't have met you," she replied.

"Aye that would definitely not have been good," Déor said. "But I believe you were in my village while I was away, so we might have met sooner if I had been there."

"I did visit there several times," Rowyn agreed. "But would it have mattered, if I was involved with someone else?"

Déor sat quietly in thought for a moment, as he contemplated her question. Perhaps it had been for the best that he hadn't met Rowyn any sooner, but he couldn't change that now. "I don't know if it would have or not, but I don't think we should dwell on that right now," he said as he placed his hand on hers again and smiled.

"I suppose not," Rowyn replied, shyly smiling back at him.

"You don't have to make a decision right now," Déor said. "I'll be here until Elrosar and Adrial decide or are able to go home."

Rowyn finally picked up a forkful of food, eating it thoughtfully. Then she set the fork down and looked up at him and said, "I...I think I'd like to try it, if I can. I don't want to live far away from you."

"And I don't want to be far away from you either," Déor said. "I'll send word home to my parents regarding the situation, so they will be ready for you."

A worried look crossed her face. "Do you think they'd be all right with it?" she asked.

"Oh I'm certain of it, especially when they find out you're Haleth's sister," Déor said. "They know of him, and have wanted to meet him for some time."

Rowyn grinned. "Well, if I know my brother at all, I can easily guess that it won't be long before they're stuck with him for a nephew."

"Aye, it looks that way," Déor said with a laugh. "My parents treat Ellie like one of their own anyway, so he and you will be no different, I think."

Rowyn's smile faded a little bit. "So you don't think it'll matter that I'm...that I was, I mean..." She paused, trying to figure out how to phrase her thoughts.

"That you were what?" Déor asked.

“A woman who apparently doesn't know her place," Rowyn finished.

"They have accepted the fact that Adrial and Elle ride with the Rohirrim, so they won't think any less of you," Déor reassured her.

Rowyn sighed and looked down. “I hope not. I’d hate to cause you problems with your family when you return home.”

“You won't be causing me any problems at all," Déor said as he looked at Rowyn's mostly untouched plate of food. "As I said, I'll send them a letter in advance to let them know what we are thinking about, but I have no doubt that they’ll be fine with it." Rowyn nodded, but made no further reply as she poked at her food. "Is your food not good?" Déor asked, although he was pretty sure that it wasn't the food that was bothering Rowyn.

"Oh, it's fine," she quickly said. "I just haven't really gotten much of an appetite back yet."

"I see," he said quietly. "Take as long as you need. I'm in no hurry, and the place doesn't look to be too busy."

After forcing herself to eat a few more bites of her food, Rowyn glanced up at Déor, the faintest hint of a shy smile back on her face. "It's nice to be able to talk to you again," she said softly.

Déor returned her smile and leaned forward and placed his elbows on the table. "It is indeed very nice just being with you."

"I...I missed you on the ship," she confessed, taking another sip of her ale.

"I missed you as well," he answered. "The fault was all mine though, and it is one I don't ever intend to make again."

Rowyn finally lifted her eyes to fully meet his again. "I don't think it was entirely your fault, Déor. I could have asked you what was going on, but I was too afraid that you would turn me away."

"Let's not think of that now, Rowyn," Déor said, as he held her gaze. "I want you to know thought, that I will never turn you away. I promise."

She smiled more fully then. "You'd better not. If you did, I'd have to challenge you to another duel for breaking your word, and that might not go so well for me."

"I sort of liked our little duel earlier," Déor said with a mischievous smile. "I hope to have many more of those in the future."

Rowyn laughed. "What, you liked it when I tripped you?"

Déor smiled broadly at her. "No, I liked the rewards at the end."

Rowyn’s face reddened again, but her eyes were shining. “Me too,” she said before giving him a playful grin. “So what would happen when I beat you?”

"I would hope more of the same," Déor said in a serious tone, but the unmistakable hint of mischief was easily noted by Rowyn.
"Oh, I don't know," she said slowly. "After all, I think it would hardly be fair for you to be rewarded if I'm the victor."

"That is something to think about," Déor said. "So what might be something to reward you with, should you win our duels?"

Rowyn pondered this for a moment, then grinned wickedly. "You could always muck out Wildfire's stall for me."

Déor laughed heartily at Rowyn's reply. "Aye, I could do that indeed. I believe we'll be doing that a lot together anyway."

"Oh, how romantic," she replied, rolling her eyes. Then she grinned again. "What if you win?"

"Oh I'm sure I'll think of something," Déor said with his grin. "I don't think I want to just commit to one certain thing you know."

"Uh oh," Rowyn replied. "So in other words, make the punishment fit the crime? Sounds like I'm in for it."

"Who knows, you might win every time," Déor said, as he smiled at her. It was good to see her laughing again, and for that he was grateful.

“Oh, I doubt that,” Rowyn answered good-naturedly. “After all, you knocked me down first. Now, on a horse, things might be different.”

Déor laughed, as he remembered seeing Rowyn in the horse race here in Minas Tirith before they left for Dol Amroth. He knew how good of a rider she was, and he guessed that she indeed would best him most times. "Most likely so," Déor said, as he continued to chuckle.

Rowyn smiled innocently as she pushed her plate away. "I think I'm done here," she stated. "Should we go?"

Rowyn took his hand, and after paying the two of them headed out into the cooler evening air. Once they were outside, Déor intertwined his fingers with Rowyn’s as they began the walk back up towards the Citadel, since they were both staying near Elrosar and Adrial. But they hadn’t gotten very far when a familiar voice said behind them, “Looks like I missed a good deal while I was gone.” Rowyn and Déor both turned and saw Lark a few paces behind them, smiling at the sight of the two of them holding hands. “When did this happen?” Lark continued, giving Rowyn a knowing grin.

“Lark!” Rowyn cried out, hurrying over to embrace her friend. “How’s your leg? You seem to be walking all right.”

“Mostly,” Lark replied. “I still have to take it slow, but it’s healing well. What about you?” she asked “I’d heard there was some trouble with Haradrim and pirates down in Dol Amroth, but we didn’t get many details up here.” Neither Rowyn or Déor replied right away, and she held Rowyn at arm’s length then and studied her with a critical eye. “You look thinner,” she finally said. “And what happened to your neck? Are those bruises?”

A shadow passed over Rowyn’s face as she answered, “It’s a long story, Lark.”

“And not one that should be told out in the open like this,” Déor interjected.

Rowyn forced a half-smile then and added, “You should come with us; I’m sure that Elrosar and especially Adrial will want to see how you’re doing. And then we can tell you what happened.” Lark nodded and fell into step with them and the three of them headed towards the Citadel.
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Postby lark » Sat May 05, 2007 11:01 am

Lark had walked no more then two paces before she suddenly stopped. “Oh wait! I almost forgot!” She exclaimed, looking somewhat embarrassed. “Ranthim, over here! Look who I found!”

Ranthim appeared from the shop where the two of them had been before Lark had spotted Rowyn and Deor from within and ran out to catch up with them. He smiled broadly upon recognizing Rowyn and joined the three of them with quick paces. “Ah, Rowyn, how good to see you again.” He said taking her hand warmly. As he did so his keen elvish eyes scrutinized the scars and bruises that were visible on her.

Sensing this, Rowyn looked down flushing a little. “It’s good to see you again too, Ranthim. I didn’t know you were here with Lark.”

“Before you all left, Adrial was good enough to ask the elf, Gwenare to see that Ranthim received word that I was here and had broken my leg.” Lark explained, then noticing Deor’s curious expression, she remembered that the two men had not yet been introduced. “Oh, forgive me! Deor, this is my husband, Ranthim Faroth.” Then turning to Ranthim, “This is Elrosar and Elwing’s cousin, Deor.”

“And Rowyn’s friend as well, I see.” He said with a sly smile as he shook Deor’s hand. Deor gave him a half smile and Lark nudged him with her elbow.

Lark then smiled at the two of them, not quite sure what she could say that wouldn’t make them feel self conscious. It seemed obvious to her that their relationship was still very new, and they weren’t yet comfortable talking about it. Instead, she addressed Ranthim again, “Rowyn was just about to take us to see Adrial and Elrosar so we can all have a chance to get caught up.”

“Yes, it isn’t far from here.” Rowyn added, and the four of them made their way through the city streets to the citadel where the Captain and his wife were housed. Outside the door to their living quarters Lark found it hard to contain her excitement. Rowyn knocked on the door and a masculine voice from within inquired who was there. “It’s me Ro. I’ve brought someone to see you.” She said, smiling at Lark.

Barely had the door begun to open before Lark burst through it excitedly and embraced a very surprised Elrosar around the neck, nearly knocking him backwards. “Lark!” He started, but already she had released him and was headed for Adrial who was just getting to her feet. Lark threw her arms around her and kissed her cheek. Pulling back to look her in the face she quickly hugged and kissed her again.

Ranthim glanced over at Deor as they observed this. “In the Elvish Guard, we don’t usually greet our commanding officers in such a fashion.” Ranthim smirked.

Lark ignored him and focused all her attention on her friends. “I’ve missed you all so much and I was so worried! Rumors have been trickling in for weeks about attacks and battles with the Haradrim. You must tell me everything!” She said, but then stopped herself as she caught the look on Adrial’s face. The happy expression she had had when Lark first came in had disappeared and been replaced with one of pain and sadness. “Oh, Adrial…it was far worse then I was told, wasn’t it. I can see it in your face.” She said, her eyes beginning to fill with tears. “I should have been with you! What happened?”

“We’ll get to all that.” Elrosar said calmly. “First sit down and tell us how you’ve been. I see Ranthim found you.”

Lark mastered her emotions and sat down next to Adrial with one arm still around her. She looked from her face to her round belly and back again smiling at her. The others also found places to sit around them. “yes, Ranthim found me.” She said once she was settled. “And it only took him two months to get around to coming here.” she added with mock anger.

“I got here as quickly as I could.” Ranthim retorted.

“I know you did dear.” Lark quickly soothed. “Honestly, I was just glad he came at all. If you’ll remember, he was escorting his mother to the Gray Havens. I know it was his mother’s hope that once he saw the sea and heard the sound of the gulls he would be compelled to go with her, but Ranthim has too much of his father in him.” She beamed. “He was already on his way here when he got the message from Gwenare.”

“And since my mother has finally left Middle Earth, I have inherited her vast fortune.” Ranthim said proudly.

Lark rolled her eyes. “There was no vast fortune, but we did receive enough to acquire a house here in the city. It seemed the practical thing to do since we didn’t know how long we’d be staying here. It’s far from being luxurious, but it’s quite spacious. We’d be honored if you would all come and stay with us until it’s time to return to Rohan.” She added, “But we can discuss all that later.” She said becoming quite serious again. “Please now…you must tell me everything that’s happened .” She took Adrial’s hand in hers and pressed it as she looked back and forth from Rowyn to Elrosar, almost afraid to hear what they had to say or to learn who may not have come back with them.
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Tue May 08, 2007 10:48 am

Elrosar took a deep breath and then walked over to the window and leaned against the wall. “Where to begin?” Elrosar asked, as the full tale of the journey played out in his mind once more. “After leaving you Lark and Minas Tirith, we sailed down the Anduin and out onto the open sea, which was adventure in agony for most of us,” Elrosar said with a groan.

“After being at sea for a short time our ship, which seemed to be the fastest of the convoy, out distanced the others,” Elrosar continued. “We were then surprised and attacked by two Corsair ships, which was only the beginning of our encounters with them,” Elrosar said. Lark stifled a gasp, but Ranthim remained stoic as they listened to the tale.

From there Elrosar told them of the rest of the voyage, their arrival and recovery in Dol Amroth, and then the fateful night and morning where Adrial, Rowyn, and Elwing were abducted and the city besieged by the Corsairs. Lark’s eyes went immediately went from Adrial’s to Rowyn’s, but Adrial’s were closed and Rowyn’s were focused on the floor of the room. Lark could only imagine what they had gone through, as she remembered seeing the bruises on Rowyn.

Elrosar then told of the frantic search in the city for his wife and the others, and Lark easily noticed the pain that was still etched in his face and voice. Lark then grew angry as Elrosar told of Captain Calimahir’s involvement in the tale. “I knew there was something about him I didn’t like or trust,” Lark said in a huff.

“Just wait it gets better,” Elrosar said as the tale drew on.

The return of Elwing with the note from Calimahir, and the subsequent sea voyage to meet the Corsair Captain made Lark even angrier. She grew calmer though as Elrosar told of the deadly storm at sea, and how Adrial was rescued, but the storm prevented them from rescuing Rowyn as well.

“Some how we survived the shipwreck,” Elrosar said, but then quite until Lark asked if he wanted to finish the tale another time. “No,” he finally answered. “I want to finish it, as it will be the last time I tell it for some time.”

Elrosar’s recounting the crash landing on the island, their stay, and subsequent attack on the pirate base had Lark’s full attention, and Déor couldn’t help but notice that Ranthim seemed to be very taken in with the story now. “You were that close to rescuing her,” Ranthim said under his breath, as Elrosar told them of Calimahir escaping with Rowyn before they arrived.

“Yes, we were that close,” Elrosar said. “Much pain and death would have been avoided if we had been just an hour earlier.”

Déor looked down at the ground now, a guilty look on his face, and Rowyn quietly interjected, “It was my fault we had to leave; the other Corsairs were attacking because of me.” Lark and Ranthim looked at her, obviously confused, and Rowyn quickly explained about how she’d been forced to run away and how Calimahir had found her trapped on the cliff.

Elrosar began to speak again and the tale flowed on, as the voyage to Umbar and their search for Rowyn was told in full. When it became clear that Rowyn wasn’t going to speak for herself, Déor in turn interjected a very basic explanation of how she’d ended up in Jadim’s palace, though he left out most of the details she’d told him of her treatment there. Elrosar took over the story again then and told of how they’d found Calimahir and Jahira within the palace and broken into the harem. Elrosar paused, closing his eyes briefly and shaking his head. “When we found out where Rowyn was, we’d feared the worst, of course. But it was still a shock to see her lying there like that. There was blood everywhere and she wasn’t even breathing, so…”

“I wasn’t?” Rowyn interrupted, her head jerking up.

“No,” Elrosar answered. “That’s when Haleth was wounded, trying to get the chieftain away from you, and then Déor had to get you breathing again before we could…” His voice trailed off as he glanced over at his cousin, who was very pointedly looking at the floor. “You didn’t know?” he asked, looking at Rowyn, who shook her head with her eyes fixed on Déor and an unreadable expression on her face. “Anyway,” Elrosar quickly continued, “We got Rowyn out of there, as well as the other women that were imprisoned there, and headed back to the ship.” From there, he told of the Haradrim attack on their ship, what he knew of the kings’ battle to retake Umbar, and Calimahir’s and Jahira’s trial. “And then we went back to Dol Amroth, the King got married, and now we’re here,” he finished.

Both Lark and Ranthim were silent for a long moment, then Lark shook her head sadly. “I should have been there with you to help,” she said.

“Be glad you weren’t,” Rowyn stated flatly without looking up.

Lark stood up then and walked towards them, giving Adrial and then Rowyn each a fierce hug. “I’m glad you made it back,” she said.

The six friends talked for a while longer, then decided it was time to go their separate ways for the night. Though Elrosar thought it best that he and Adrial stay in the Citadel so that Gwenare could keep an eye on her, it was agreed that Déor and Rowyn would move their things to Lark and Ranthim’s house in the morning, as well as Elwing if she wished it. Rowyn, who was sharing a room with Elwing again in the inn that she and Déor were staying at, promised she’d speak with her about it. Then they left Adrial and Elrosar in their room, and upon reaching the street, Lark and Ranthim took their leave of Rowyn and Déor.

Rowyn was very quiet as they walked towards the inn, and Déor didn’t want to press her at first; he knew that retelling the story had been hard on her. But he finally asked, “Are you all right?”

Rowyn looked up, startled, then relaxed. “I just have a lot on my mind,” she replied.

“Understandable,” Déor answered, squeezing her hand lightly. Then he paused and said, “About what Ro said, what happened in Umbar….”

She turned towards him and asked, “What did happen, Déor?”

Déor ran his free hand through his hair as they continued walking. “It’s pretty much what Ro said—when we found you, the chieftain was still choking you, and Haleth pulled him away. He was fighting with him, so I got to you first, and I found that you weren’t breathing, so I, um, had to…” He stopped, a bit embarrassed and not quite sure how to word it.

When Rowyn spoke again, he was surprised to see a bit of a teasing smile on her face. “It hardly seems fair, that you’d have to kiss me and I wasn’t even awake to know,” she joked weakly.

Déor chuckled nervously. “I wouldn’t exactly call it a kiss,” he said. “And any of the others would have done the same, I’m sure—I just got there first.”

The unreadable look was back in her eyes as they reached the inn and went inside. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Déor pulled her past the entrance to the common room and towards the quiet hallway where Rowyn’s room was. Then he let go of her hand and turned to face her. “I couldn’t, Rowyn,” he replied. “After you broke things off with Natan, Haleth had told me a bit of how things were between you two, like the night before the Pelennor and after you were wounded. I know you’ve been through a lot lately, and I didn’t want to put you into that sort of situation again so I thought it would be better to stay quiet. Besides,” he added, looking down, “I guess I wanted to know that if you did come to care for me, it wasn’t out of any sense of obligation.”

“Why would it be an obligation?” Rowyn asked.

“Oh, you know, I helped to rescue you and such.” Déor shook his head a bit and continued, “I just knew that if it came up, I’d have to tell you how much I care about you and why I couldn’t just stand by and let you die, if there was still a chance to save you, and I didn’t want to scare you aw…” He was abruptly cut off as Rowyn pulled his head down and pressed her lips against his; he was startled at first by the fervor in her kiss, but quickly recovered and kissed her back. He had no idea how long they had stayed like that when she pulled back; it felt both like it had lasted forever and like hardly any time had passed at all. “What was that?” Déor asked breathlessly.

A blush colored Rowyn’s cheeks, but the way her eyes were shining as she looked at him belied the teasing hint in her voice. “Well, it seems that you saved my life, Déor. I only wished to show my gratitude.”

“Maybe I should save your life more often,” Déor said seriously. Then a mischievous twinkle lit his eyes. “That’s not how you thanked the sea captain when he pulled you off that cliff, is it?” Rowyn’s face quickly twisted into a grimace of disgust, and Déor laughed as she swatted his arm. “All right! You’re right, bad joke,” he continued. “So does that mean that if I’d told you sooner, you would have thanked me like that?”

“Maybe,” she replied with a grin. “But then, I might have scared you away.”

“Never,” Déor answered, pulling her closer and brushing his lips against hers once, then pressing a kiss against her forehead. “See you in the morning?” he asked, and Rowyn nodded as she smiled up at him. He kissed her lips again, then whispered, “Good night, Rowyn.”

“Good night,” she said, just before he kissed her again. A few moments later she pushed him away and laughed. “We can’t stay out here like this all night, you know.”

“Can’t we?” he asked petulantly.

Rowyn smiled. “I’ll see you in the morning, all right?” Déor nodded, quickly kissing her once more before grabbing her hand and kissing it lightly. She opened the door to her room and flashed a bright smile at him before closing it softly, and Déor couldn’t keep a grin off of his own face as he headed towards his room with a lighter heart than he’d had in a long time.
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Postby Gwenare » Fri May 11, 2007 5:57 am

Adrial awoke early in the morning even before the sun rose. Her back was hurting her tremendously. She must have been lying in an awkward position for it to hurt this badly. She turned to her still sleeping husband. I don't think I'll wake him. It's just my back. It's not as if the baby is coming.

She quietly got up and began to walk around the room. She desired to soak in a hot bath hoping that would relax her muscles, but the Citadel was still asleep. She was content to sit by the fire and rub her back.

Adrial must have fallen asleep there because Elrosar was kneeling by her trying to rouse her up. "Adrial, are you alright?" She opened up her eyes and looked at him. He had a strange expression on his face which concerned her. Had something happened? "I'm fine Ro, I just woke up and couldn't go back to sleep, so I came here to sit."

"Are you sure?" he asked. He was not convinced. When he awoke he noticed she was not in the bed. He immediately scanned the room to find her in a chair by the fireplace with a pained look on her face. He took her hands in his and said, "Adrial, I'm worried about you."

"I know you are, but I'm fine." She took a hand and stroked his bearded cheek. "I'm fine." She hoped those words were a comfort to him, but she wasn't sure. He still wore a worried expression upon his face.

He kissed her and asked, "Would you tell me, honestly tell me if something was wrong?" She grinned at him and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Yes, I would honestly tell you." She kissed him. "My back has been hurting some, but nothing for you to worry about."

He furrowed his brows at her. "Are you sure?" He placed a hand on her swollen abdomen. She put her hand on his and gently moved to one side, the side where the baby was kicking at now. She saw the frown upon his face turn in to the biggest grin. "See, I told you I was fine." Elrosar was content with that.

Adrial didn't feel up to going to the main hall to eat. She felt like staying in her room. Her back was still hurting her, and she felt strangely tired. Elrosar had said he would go get her something and that he did. They ate in silence, Elrosar keeping a close eye on her. She looked so tired and uncomfortable, but she assured him she was fine.

Elrosar decided to let her rest that day and made sure she wouldn't be disturbed by anyone, not anyone. He knew there were several who wanted to see her, especially Elwing, Lark, and Rowyn, but he had talked to Gwenare and they agreed that Adrial needed rest and not to be disturbed by anyone, not even family.

Gwenare promised Elrosar she would keep an eye on Adrial while he went to talk to members of his eored. And she kept that promise. She visited Adrial on several occasions that morning. Sometimes Adrial was resting and others she was sitting in the chair by the fireplace or looking out their window.

This time, Gwenare went in to see her and talk to her about what had been going on today. She knocked on the door, but no one said anything. Gwenare knocked once more and when there was no response, she quietly walked in.

Adrial was sitting on the edge of the bed. Gwenare knew she was tense and in pain from the rigid look of her body. She walked over to her and sat down beside her. “Adrial,” she said as she put her arm around her. Gwenare knew immediately what was wrong. “Adrial, I think you should lie down alright.”

Adrial didn’t argue as she lied down on the bed. She had been crying because the pain was so bad now. Not only was it her back, but her abdomen was hurting severely. She knew in her heart that she was having birthing pains. This terrified her. She knew Gwenare was with her and would care for her, but she wanted and needed Elrosar.

“When did they start?” Gwenare asked her as she placed her hands gently upon her swollen abdomen. “I’m not really sure, but I have been feeling them for a long time. Maybe two hours.”

Gwenare’s face showed no emotion as she closed her eyes and felt the baby. She knew Adrial still had several hours ahead of her. She slowly rose from the bed and walked towards the table where she poured some water into a basin. She brought it and placed it next to the bed and poured some of the Elven medicine from Adrial’s necklace in it. She dipped a rag in the water, wrung it out, and placed it on Adrial’s’ forehead. “I’m going to send for some of the servants to stay here with us.”

“I just want Ro,” was all Adrial said as she turned her head. The pain was coming again and she gripped the bed sheets tightly. Gwenare told her to breathe slow and steadily during each pain. Adrial tried, but they hurt so badly and she needed Ro that she was having difficulty thinking.

Gwenare walked to the door, opened it, and summoned one of the serving girls. Adrial could not hear what she had said to her. She hoped Gwenare had sent for Elrosar, but she was afraid she hadn’t. It was not customary for the husband to be with his wife during the birth. Adrial didn’t care; she needed him and wanted him there!

Gwenare sat with Adrial for the next several hours. Adrial’s anxiety worsened as her pains did. She noticed there were other women in the room with her, but she didn’t pay attention to them. The Queen had even come by to see her and talk with Gwenare. Adrial remembered nothing from that time other than Arwen’s presence in the room.

Adrial still desired to have her husband by her side, but she never said anything. All she could do was breathe and moan. Gwenare stayed with her placing the rag on her forehead frequently. She also rubbed her back trying to ease the continuing pain Adrial experienced there.

Several hours had passed with Adrial’s pain increasing. Her time was coming to an end and Gwenare was busy preparing for the birth. The serving girls had everything ready for the upcoming delivery. Gwenare had helped make Adrial as comfortable as possible in the bed. She gave her instructions on what she needed to do, but when the time came, Adrial didn’t do anything but cry and call out for Elrosar.

“Adrial, I need you to listen to me and do as I say,” Gwenare said. She was beginning to get very concerned for Adrial because she needed to deliver, but was not willing to help. “I want Elrosar!” Adrial screamed out.

After trying numerous times, Gwenare knew there was nothing else to do, but send for him. She told one of the serving girls to go get him. “But my lady, it isn’t proper for him to be here,” the girl said. Gwenare looked at her with a serious expression, “It doesn’t matter. Adrial will not do what is needed until he is here. He has to be here.” The girl understood from Gwenare’s voice and facial expressions that she must do this and bring him back quickly.

Gwenare placed the rag on her forehead once more and quietly said, “I’ve sent for him Adrial.” Gwenare held her hand as she cried out over and over for Elrosar. Gwenare knew that the time was nigh, and the sooner Elrosar came, the sooner Adrial’s pain would be gone.

The door opened and she looked over to see her cousin Arwen come in. “I saw one of the serving girls running from the room and I was concerned.” She came and sat on the other side of the bed. Adrial was still calling out for Elrosar and had no idea that someone else was in the room. Gwenare told Arwen what was happening and that she had sent for Elrosar. Arwen nodded and took Adrial’s other hand. She spoke softly to Adrial in her native tongue trying to soothe her, but nothing seemed to help.

The door flung open and a much frazzled Elrosar came running in. He went straight to Adrial’s side. “What is wrong?” he asked. Gwenare quickly told him what had happened while she prepared for the birth. He took Adrial’s hand and spoke softly to her. Adrial began to calm almost immediately. “I can’t do this without you, Ro.”

“I’m here sweetheart,” he said while he kissed her on the forehead. Arwen handed him the rag that she had just wet and he placed it on her forehead. She took Adrial’s hand once more as Gwenare gave Adrial instructions on what she must do now.

Elrosar held Adrial’s hand and brushed the hair from her face. She was perspiring greatly and screaming with each pain. He had never been around or even near a woman that was delivering. He hated seeing her in so much pain, but he knew she needed him there.

Adrial grabbed a hold of Elrosar’s arm and squeezed it tightly. She let out a loud scream and then lay back onto the bed breathing heavily. Gwenare looked at them both and said as she took the baby and handed it to one of the serving girls, “It’s a boy.”

Elrosar bent down to kiss her. “Is he alright?” she whispered. He wiped her brow once more and said, “Yes, he is fine. It’s almost over sweetheart.” Adrial opened her eyes to look at him. She had a tear slide down her cheek which he quickly wiped away. “I’m so tired Ro. I don’t think I can do it.” He bent down to kiss her once more. Yes, you can my love. I’m here with you.”

Adrial started to grimace in pain as Gwenare began to gently press on her abdomen. Adrial knew what she was doing, but it hurt her so badly. She gripped Elrosar’s arm once more and squeezed with every pain. He kept wiping her brow and brushing back her hair from her face. They both could hear their son crying.

In only a matter of minutes, the pains started back and Adrial was ready once again for the hard work that lay ahead of her. Gwenare didn’t need to tell her what to do because she had just done it, but she was so physically exhausted from delivering her son, that she feared she wouldn’t make it. This child came much quicker for which she was most grateful.

Gwenare handed this one to the other serving girl while she told them, “It’s a girl.” Adrial leaned her head towards Elrosar and tried for the first time in many hours to relax. She could hear one of the girls mention something about the girl being extremely small. She looked up at Elrosar with concern on her face. “It’s alright, sweetheart. They are both fine. They both are crying as they should be.”

“He is right, Adrial,” Arwen said. “They are both fine.” She squeezed her hand and gave her a smile. She looked at Elrosar and asked, “Would you like me to get word to your family?”

“We would be most grateful if you would,” he said. He hadn’t had the time to inform them of what was happening when he finally figured out that Adrial was truly going to deliver. Of course, they didn’t know there would be two babies either. That is a secret that they and Gwenare had kept from everyone for Adrial’s own benefit. Arwen nodded and headed for the door when Elrosar stopped her, “My lady.” She turned and he said, “Please don’t tell them there are two, not yet.” He looked at Adrial and then towards Gwenare. “We had kept that a secret and Adrial and I would like to be the ones to tell them.”

“As you wish,” she said and left the room to send word to Elwing and the others that Adrial had delivered.
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Postby whereismysam » Fri May 11, 2007 2:07 pm

“Now, please, promise me that you won’t be too hard on him…” said Elwing in a pleading tone as she looked up at Haleth. “You know very well that he did no such thing to you when he found out you had serious feelings for me. Or Ro for that matter.”

She could see from the look in his eyes that to admit that she was right wasn’t something he wanted to do. The budding relationship between Déor and Rowyn had not gone unnoticed by those closest to them in their eored, and Haleth had just admitted to having a hard time coming to accept that knowledge.

“You know full well that he would be the perfect gentleman, and besides…” and here she wrapped her arms tighter around his waist, “he could very nearly say the same thing about us.” She leaned in and softly kissed him as she finished, and she felt his arms tighten around her, and she knew she had won.

“All right then, I will speak to him about this,” Haleth said with a small smile when he finally pulled away from Elwing.

“And when will you…?” she started to ask, her eyebrows raised furtively.

“Well, I’d go now, but I’m kind of busy at the moment, so kiss me,” he retorted back with a grin.

“And why should I, when empty words are nothing but empty breath, and that itself is noisome?” she shot back, breaking into laughter at the end, but giving in and kissing him again, this time with more passion.

When the two again broke apart, they continued walking arm in arm back towards the barracks in silence, each enjoying the other’s company. The King and his company had arrived back in Minis Tirith a number of days after Elrosar’s eored had, for which Elwing had been extremely thankful. She had missed him more than she had imagined she would while they were apart.

It wasn’t that she didn’t have things to do; she still had her duties to follow, and she had the other members of her eored to keep her company, but things just weren’t the same anymore. Because Adrial was with child, and expecting soon, she generally didn’t feel up to having long conversations and so Elwing had only spent time with her occasionally. And she knew her brother would be occupied with leading the eored and with Adrial, and she had expected no less from her. She had tried to spend some time with Rowyn, and had, but she knew that what Rowyn had gone through on their trip had left its mark on her, a mark that would take time to heal. And so Elwing generally left Rowyn alone. She still spent time with her and had done her best to let Rowyn know that she was there for her and would be willing to listen if she ever needed to talk. Rowyn had seemed appreciative, telling her that she would let her know when that might be, and Elwing was content to leave it at that. She had also spent some time with Déor during those days prior to Haleth’s arrival, but as each of them, herself included, had so many things occupying her mind, she found herself alone for a good part of it. Since Haleth’s arrival, the two had spent almost every moment together that they could, apart from Haleth’s duty with the King’s Riders, and what she had to do when called for.

“I’m glad you’re still here with me,” she said softly to him as she laid her head on his shoulder while the two continued walking. She heard a quiet intake of breath as Haleth returned, “Yes, I am too.” King Eomer and his entourage had left a while ago, and Elwing had been afraid that Haleth would have to leave with him, but when she had asked him if he had been leaving with them, he had replied that the king had given him permission to stay behind and return with Elrosar’s eored, as he still had some business to attend to in Minis Tirith.

He hadn’t said what that business was supposed to have been, and when she had asked him about it, he averted her questions by changing the subject, and so she had left it alone. In the end, she figured it wouldn’t matter to make a big deal about whatever it had been anyway, assuming that it had something to do with what had happened to Rowyn. Haleth had seemed to appreciate an end to the questions, and promised her that when he was able to talk about, he would let her know.

The two had almost made their way back to the barracks when they saw a young girl approaching them. The girl picked up speed when she saw who it was, and said breathlessly when she finally made her way to where Elwing and Haleth had been walking, “M’lady Elwing, your presence is requested back at the barracks.”

Elwing gave the young girl a confused look, not understanding what was going on. “My lady, the Queen Arwen has requested your presence.” Elwing turned to Haleth, realization dawning on her as she opened her mouth wide in amazement. “Is everything all right?” she asked quickly of the child, taking a hesitant step forward towards her.

“The Queen told me to assure you that everything is fine, she just needs to see you for a moment. She also assured me that your friend could come too.” Here she pointed towards Haleth.

Haleth nodded in appreciation and the two quickly followed the young girl back towards their barracks. They were even more surprised when they saw that Queen Arwen had indeed shown up, and to see that she was not alone – Rowyn, Déor, Lark and Ranthim were there as well.

Elwing let go of Haleth’s hand as they approached and bowed her head respectfully towards the Queen when they reached the circle of their friends. “You wished to see me, Queen Arwen?”

“Yes,” she said softly, her voice strong and full of grace. “Your brother has asked me to send word to you and those he is closest to that Adrial has delivered, and is currently resting. He is with her right now, and wanted me to ask you to wait for him here at the barracks. He will find you all shortly to give you all a better idea of how things went.”

Elwing said nothing in return, but the worry must have shown on her face, for Queen Arwen reached down to squeeze her hand and said with a smile, “Do not worry. Your sister is well.”

Elwing breathed a sigh of joyous relief as the rest of their friends broke out into smiles, saying aloud as she did so, “Thank you, Queen Arwen!”

“Now, I must get back to your sister and the Lady Gwenare. Your brother will find you all soon.” She nodded to each of them, and turned, leaving the six friends to rejoice in this good news.

Elwing turned back to Haleth, a giant grin on her face. “I can’t believe it! The baby is finally here!” she said joyously as they all made their way into one of the sitting areas in the barracks. “I wonder if it’s a boy or a girl,” she continued as she sat down on one of the nearby stools, Haleth standing close next to her.

“My bet is that it’s a boy,” she heard Ranthim call out from across the other side of the room. Elwing only laughed as she heard Lark say in reply, “Well, I think it’s a girl, so I’ll take that bet.”

All that was left for her to do was wait, and seeing as she had Haleth by her side, and those she knew and loved nearby, safe and out of harm’s way, she knew of nothing better to do than smile as she realized just how blessed she had become.
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Mon May 14, 2007 1:47 pm

Elrosar dipped his cupped hands in the water and splashed his face. As he reached for the towel to dry off he looked at his wife holding both of their newborn children. He remembered the day in Dol Amroth that Gwenare told him and Adrial that Adrial was carrying twins. They had then understood while Adrial had such a difficult time, but as Elrosar’s eyes met his wife’s he knew that the pain had been well worth it.

The last month and a half Elrosar had gone from seeing Rowyn and Déor together to seeing Elwing’s reunion with Haleth, and spending many hours with Lark and Ranthim. The days had passed swiftly for the most part, but watching King Eomer’s banners fade into the distance had been hard for Elrosar. He had hoped to be home by now, but Adrial had been too far along to make the journey. He had quickly resigned himself to the fact that after the twins were born they would be spending another two months or so in the White City. He hoped it would pass swiftly as well.

Elrosar poured Adrial a glass of water and sat down on the bed next to her. He took their son in his one hand and handed Adrial the glass of water. “I believe they both look like you my love,” Elrosar said.

“Almiel maybe,” Adrial said after taking a sip of water. “But Elmund looks more like you. His feet and hands are just like yours.”

“Our little Champion and Shieldmaiden,” Elrosar said with a broad smile.

“I hope Almiel doesn’t follow me in that respect,” Adrial said, as she kissed Almiel’s small forehead.

“I hope there is no need for her to follow that path,” Elrosar said in agreement. They held the children for some time before Elmund began to grow hungry. Elrosar passed Elmund back to Adrial so she could nurse him. Adrial placed Almiel next to her on the bed and took Elmund in her arms. “When should we tell the others?” Elrosar asked, as he watched his wife.

“As soon as I finish with him, I’ll need to feed Almiel,” Adrial said. “You can go to them while I feed her. I should be done by the time you get back.”

Elrosar waited until Elmund had finished and was asleep before he left Adrial and made his way to where Elwing and the others were waiting. As soon as Elrosar entered the room where they were gathered Elwing and Lark immediately began asking, “Was it a boy or girl? How much did it weigh? Does it look like you or Adrial? I hope Adrial!” And other such questions to which Elrosar just scratched his head and laughed at them.

“Settle down, settle down,” Elrosar said. “To answer one of your questions he does look like me.”

“I told you it was a boy,” Ranthim said. “I have never been wrong.”

Elrosar made as if he didn’t hear Ranthim, “But she looks like Adrial.”

The room grew instantly silent, as the six friends exchanged glances at each other and then looked back at Elrosar. “What did you say?” Elwing asked.

“I said, he looks like me, but she looks like Adrial,” Elrosar answered with a straight face.

“How is that possib…” Déor began to ask.

“Twins!” Rowyn, Elwing, and Lark shouted in unison. “I can hardly believe it,” Elwing said. “Twins don’t run in our family to my knowledge.”

“It is hard to say how or why this happened,” Elrosar said. “But there are most definitely two of them,” he added with a sly smile on his face.

“What are their names?” Rowyn asked.

“Elmund is the boy, and Almiel is the girl,” Elrosar answered proudly.

“When can we see them?” Elwing asked excitedly.

“You can come now,” Elrosar said. “They may be asleep, so be quite, and that means you too Ranthim.”

Ranthim contorted his face as if Elrosar’s words hurt him. “I am an elf,” he said as he crossed his arms over his chest. “We are always quiet.”

“You’re part dwarf too,” Elrosar added with a wink, as he motioned for the group to follow him. Once in the room, Adrial began to cry as Elwing, Lark, and Rowyn sat down on the bed beside her and each gave her a hug. Elwing took Almiel in her arms, while Lark held Elmund for a few moments before handing him to Rowyn.

Elrosar couldn’t help but notice the looks on the faces of the three women as they held his children. He then noticed that Ranthim, Déor, and Haleth were watching the scene very intently. “Gentlemen I don’t believe Almiel and Elmund will be the last children to come forth from this group.”
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Postby whereismysam » Thu Jun 14, 2007 2:08 pm

Haleth raised his hand nervously and quietly knocked on the door to Elrosar and Adrial’s bedroom. He knew that Adrial and Elrosar had been extremely busy of late with the Almiel and Elmund, who were growing faster than anyone had thought possible, and on the off chance that any one of the four of them might be sleeping, he didn’t want to wake any of them up.

He’d left Elwing with Rowyn and Déor. The three of them were doing some last minute exploring, as they’d all been informed the day before that they were, finally, after what had seemed like an eternity, going to be headed home by the end of the week. They still had a few days before the major preparations for their impending journey would require their attention, and so they planned to enjoy them to their fullest extent. Elwing had been curious as to know why he’d declined, but when he made no mention of it, Elwing hadn’t pressed the issue. In the end, Haleth had said something about needing to talk to Elrosar about matters of the eored, and while he couldn’t be sure if Elwing had believed him, at least she seemed satisfied with his explanation.

It had torn his heart to leave them, Elwing in particular. His few duties in the months since they’d come to the city and the birth of the twins had left him with a rather large amount of free time, which he mostly spent in the company of Elwing, and on occasion, Déor and Rowyn as well. And so to be away from her, for even short stretches, left him feeling empty inside. But, as he knocked on the door again, a little louder the second time, he knew what he had to do in order to change that. He just couldn’t help feeling nervous about it.

It had been foremost in his mind for some weeks now. Even Rowyn didn’t know what he was about to do, and despite his nervousness, he couldn’t help but grin if his twin knew what he was planning on doing.

He heard a rustle coming from behind the closed door, and within moments, Elrosar had opened it a few inches, obviously trying to make sure that the occupants sleeping wouldn’t be disturbed. When he saw that it was Haleth outside his door, he gave him a smile as he opened it fully, stepped outside and then closed it quietly behind him.

“What is it, my friend?” he asked in a quiet voice.

Haleth’s mouth went dry; now that it was time, he found himself at a loss for words. He was saved, however, when Elrosar continued, “Let’s head away from the door; the twins and their mother are sleeping right now. Haleth nodded, thankful for the opportunity to try and formulate best what he wanted to say to Ro.

They made their way outside, after finding the main area filled with various Rohirrim resting and relaxing, and started walking down the street. To cover for his nervousness and fill in the silence, Haleth asked, “So, what do we leave for home?”

Elrosar stated, “Well, if all goes as planned, we should be leaving within two days. There are just a few more things to wrap up, and then we can be on our way.” When Haleth didn’t answer, Elrosar continued in a knowing voice, “But I don’t think that’s what you wanted to ask me, is it?”

Haleth sighed; there was no point in beating around the bush now. “No, that wasn’t it.” And without thinking twice, he turned directly to Elrosar and said, “What I really wanted to ask you was for your permission to marry Elwing.”
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Tue Jun 19, 2007 2:06 pm

Elrosar regarded Haleth closely to the point that Haleth began to shift his one foot nervously. Finally a small smile broke across Elrosar’s face, and he placed a hand on Haleth’s shoulder. “I’ve been wondering when you would ask that.”

“It has been on my mind for some time now,” Haleth answered.

“It is the biggest decision that you will make in your entire life my friend,” Elrosar said, as the two men began to slowly walk down the hallway. “It is not to be taken lightly or without considerable thinking on the matter. Have you done those things?”

“I have indeed sir,” Haleth replied quickly. “I am surer of this decision then any other one before.”

Elrosar stopped and his face grew stern. “Do you love her Haleth?”

Haleth stood tall, and returned Elrosar’s stern look with one of his own, “I love her with all my heart.”

Elrosar could see the truth in the young Rohirrim’s eyes, and he nodded his head at Haleth. “Then you have my permission. Though you didn’t need it; she is old enough to make her own decisions.”

“I know, but…” Haleth started.

“You would have asked our father,” Elrosar finished for him. “I know you would have if he was still alive. I couldn’t ask for a better man to marry my sister, and my family will be honored to have you as part of us.”

“Thank you Captain…” Haleth began, but Elrosar held up a hand to silence him.

“You may call me Captain still during times of war, meetings, and such,” Elrosar said. “But away from those please call me Elrosar. You will be my brother soon, so no need to always be so formal.”

Haleth smiled at Elrosar and breathed a little easier. “That will take some time to get used to.”

“You will get used to it,” Elrosar said with his smile. “Now when do you plan on asking her?”

Haleth’s mouth suddenly grew dry as he heard Elrosar’s question. “Uh, I’m not for sure on that yet,” he answered. “Maybe on the trip home.”

“We’ll be leaving at the end of the week,” Elrosar answered. “So you will have some time to think it over. Now I must get back to my family. Farewell Haleth.” Elrosar left Haleth alone in the hall and returned to his room.

The rest of the week passed by rapidly, as the remaining Rohirrim in the White City made their last preparations to leave. It was a clear morning when Elrosar, sitting at the driver’s seat of a wagon loaded with Adrial and the twins gave the order to ride forth. The slow procession made their way through the city gates to a chorus of cheers from the gathered inhabitants.

The company then passed slowly through the Rammas, and then onto the road west toward home. Elrosar took a moment to look once more on the White City, and he wondered if he would ever see it again. He caught Adrial’s eye and smiled at her as she comforted their two children. “We’re going home my love,” Elrosar said, and Adrial smiled broadly back at him. Elrosar took a deep breath of joy as he turned his eyes toward home.
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Thu Aug 09, 2007 5:29 am

Rowyn stood alone atop a grass-covered bluff, the wind whipping strands of her damp hair about her face and causing her cloak to billow out around her feet. She could see for leagues from there, far enough to judge that they were perhaps two days’ ride from Edoras--three at the most. The hilltop city was in sight, but partially obscured by misting lines of rain from the thunderstorm that had recently passed over them, forcing them to take shelter at a nearby rock outcropping before continuing on its westward path.

It was late enough in the day that Elrosar had decided they would just make camp for the night and continue on their way tomorrow. The tents had already been set up, and since Rowyn hadn’t had anything else to do at the moment, she had slipped away for a few moments alone.

The King’s party had camped not too far from this place on their way to Minas Tirith, she remembered; she recognized the rock formations and the mountain view. It seemed so long ago, and everything had changed since then. Out of the hundred or so riders that had started in their eored, only eight were returning now; the rest of the survivors had left weeks ago with Eomer and Lothiriel. And out of the new recruits that Rowyn had been involved with, none were now in the eored. Robin and Fram had both left for Rohan in the King’s party, but both had resigned their positions before departing. Rowyn hadn’t heard any more about Leofwine’s fate, other than conflicting rumors—some that he had succumbed to his wounds a few days after the ships had departed, and some that he had simply left once he’d recovered enough to continue his late cousin’s quest to find out what had become of Aldric’s father. Mara had gone back to Rohan as well; she was still in the eored, but Rowyn suspected that she was nursing a bit of a broken heart over how things had played out with Fram. For a moment, she regretted not paying a bit more attention, but admittedly she’d been a bit wrapped up in her own pain those few weeks before the majority of the Riders had left to go home.

Even within their own little group, everything had changed. When she turned to look back towards the camp, she could see Elrosar sitting outside his tent, keeping one of the twins entertained while Adrial fed the other inside. Lark and Elwing were working on supper, while Ranthim and Haleth were talking nearby. When Rowyn left, the half-Elf had been regaling Haleth with horror stories of married life—her twin had finally asked Elwing to marry him, and of course she had accepted. Unfortunately for Haleth, he didn’t know Ranthim as well as those in Elrosar’s eored, and couldn’t tell that he was being entirely unserious. Rowyn suspected that Ranthim was tormenting the King’s Rider more to amuse his wife and Elwing than anything else, and had briefly thought about rescuing her twin before she had left. But then, Haleth’s delay in proposing had made her lose her bet with Déor on when he would finally work up the courage to do so, and so she had decided to let Ranthim have his fun without interference.

She couldn’t help feeling like the biggest change had been in herself. By this time, the marks on her neck had faded completely, and even the dagger wound had healed nicely; perhaps by some trick of the Elven blade that had made it, it appeared that there wouldn’t even be a scar. If only the memories could fade as easily, she thought, a shadow as dark as the distant storm clouds casting itself over her mind as she fingered her necklace. She’d begun wearing it again, now on a slender silver chain that Déor had given her just before they’d left Minas Tirith; it was so lightweight that she couldn’t feel it against her skin, and had to check on occasion to ensure it was still fastened around her neck. Even so, she was still having trouble banishing the thought that this one tangible reminder of her mother had nearly been the cause of her death, and still fighting the temptation to just take it off and hide it away for good.

Rowyn closed her eyes, struggling against the memories of this journey that had taken so much from her. For a long moment she stayed like that, then she slowly became aware that she was being watched. When she turned to look behind her, she saw Déor standing several paces away. “What is it?” she asked.

“Just admiring the view,” Déor replied innocently.

“You can see it better from up here,” Rowyn answered. “Edoras is a little hard to distinguish, but you can see really far across the plains. Though, it wasn’t nearly as dark the last time I saw this.”

Déor moved to stand next to her, slipping his arm around her shoulders. “I wasn’t talking about the landscape,” he said quietly. Rowyn’s face grew warm, but she smiled. “As for the rest of it…” he continued, gazing out over the fields. “The storm will pass, and things will look all the brighter for it,” he finally finished.

Rowyn understood that he wasn’t just talking about the weather, and considered this for a moment. It was true, she thought—though there had been a lot of pain and heartache, a lot of good had come out of this journey as well. Their time together on the ship had closely bonded her with Adrial, who was almost like a sister to her now, and of course the babies were a blessing. She really was gaining a sister in Elwing, once she married her brother, and that was likely to happen before winter fell. And then there was Déor. It was still a strange thought to her, that she’d been considering marrying when she had gone to Gondor and was coming home completely in love with a different man. But, more than anything else that had happened to her recently, she knew that had worked out for the best. Déor was everything she hadn’t realized she’d been missing, and his unconditional support and acceptance of her, flaws and everything, had been exactly what she’d spent her life longing for. Rowyn suddenly realized she could now honestly think about what had happened with Natan without bitterness towards him—after all, he wasn’t a bad man, they just hadn’t been right for each other.

As for what had happened in Umbar…that would be more difficult to forgive, and even harder to forget. But she could take comfort in knowing that Jadim was dead, and would never again try to destroy her people. And, she finally realized, he hadn’t broken her after all. As if in agreement with both her thought and Déor’s last statement, the clouds closer to them began to break, and golden light shone down through the cracks onto the fields and the city that stood above them. If she looked really hard, she could almost see a golden gleam where she knew Meduseld stood. Rowyn looked up at Déor and smiled. “It’s good to be home,” she said softly.

“Yes, it is,” he replied, his voice sounding distant for a moment. Then a mischievous twinkle lit up his eyes and he added, “I’m not sure what I’m looking forward to more—seeing my family again, or that wonderful supper you have to cook for me.”

Rowyn groaned. “You just have to keep rubbing that in, don’t you? And I still say you didn’t win either—you said Hal would wait until we were in Rohan to ask her, and technically, we were still in Gondor!”

“Maybe so,” Déor retorted, “but you said before we left Minas Tirith, while Elrosar was too distracted with learning how to be a father to notice. So clearly, you couldn’t have won.”

“I still say Elrosar’s judgment was biased,” Rowyn argued good-naturedly. “After all, you’re his cousin.”

“You know,” Déor said with a sly grin, “if you’re so sure of that, we could always settle it with some sparring.”

Rowyn laughed. “Somehow, I don’t think swordplay is exactly what you have in mind, is it?”

“Well, maybe at first,” he replied, smiling innocently. Rowyn laughed again and swatted him playfully on the arm. He simply kissed the top of her head in response, then asked, “Speaking of supper, are you ready to come back?”

She brought her eyes up to meet his and smiled. “I’m ready.” Déor smiled back, then took her hand and the two of them headed back down the hill to where their friends were waiting for them.
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