“She has only been here a short time.” Arwen stated confidingly while fanning her face from the heat of the midday sun.
“A short time, you say? Yet she has the grace of a thousand elves.” The man standing opposite mused. Ervinai. He couldn’t think of a more appropriate name. Her dark brown eyes weren’t an unusual sight, but their warmth was. Peeking out from almond lids and standing out against smooth, olive skin, surely they proved a temptation for any man, Elf or mortal. Her unruly dark curls were a welcome contrast against the blond mass of Lòrien elves. Aye, she was a hard one to miss.
“Why don’t you go introduce yourself to her?” Arwen prodded gently. That was all the encouragement he needed. Casting a short, puzzled glance at his female companion, he bowed his head distractedly in her general direction, eyes never leaving the object of his attentions for very long. Resolved, the man walked toward Ervinai, stopping a few paces away to study her before she became aware of his presence.
The silvery fabric of her dress fell easily from shoulder to toe, only catching slightly on her hips. Though it was anything but conforming, he couldn’t help admiring her figure. Deciding he’d lost his nerve after all, the man was just about to back up and admit defeat when she, sensing his presence, turned to face him. Their eyes locked in a single, breathless moment before a small, puzzled smile pulled up the corners of her delicious mouth as she contemplated him. He wondered what was wrong with his tongue. Yet, she didn’t push for an introduction, just smiled her wonderful smile at him, warm eyes glowing and eyebrows bent inquisitively. Finally regaining his senses, he made a short bow, which further served to jar him back to the present. “My lady,” he stumbled over the words, “I am Éomer.”
Ervinai hid an amused smile with a curtsy and a duck of her head. When she looked back up and met his eyes she answered smoothly, her voice like the chiming of bells to his ears, “And I am Ervinai, my lord.” He was handsome, there was no denying that. His almost rugged appearance suggested that he was never unsure of himself, yet his hesitant attitude toward her showed signs of utmost nervousness.
All that day and the days following Éomer could not put the lovely Ervinai from his mind. He found himself watching her every movement. The gentle pat on an elflet’s head who stumbled across her path, the way she clapped her hands together whenever anything delighted her, the lazy, contended look in her eye as they lay on the grass after a meal, watching the clouds play together above the treetops. She took his breath away and caused his heart to skip beats like crazy. She fascinated and intrigued him, so that he thought of nothing else except how her nose crinkled when she laughed or how fluid her fingers were while tucking a stray curl behind an ear. His heart swelled and constricted whenever a thought of her crossed his mind.
He found himself dreading the day he must return to the West and, unconsciously, he searched for a reason to stay. Éomer had never been in love before, but when he imagined it he’d always thought it’d be a slow process in which he’d be able to think it through rationally before throwing all caution to the winds. Whatever he felt for Ervinai, however, was anything but a slow process and he’d long ago given into impulse. A small part of him rebelled against becoming so restraint-free in his feelings for someone so soon, but, it was a very small part of him. She never sought him out and never paid him more attention than anyone else, so he had no reason to think she cared for him in a similar manner, but that did nothing to dampen Éomer’s hope, only served to offer a challenge to his competitive spirit.
The opening week of the festivities passed like a dream to Ervinai. She found it hard to think of the days as individuals, but rather, they seemed inclined to be regarded of as a whole. She wasn’t sure if it was due to their sameness or the elvish magic in the air. However, one particular night, as the party goers were melting away back to their talans for the night, the sameness was broken. Ervinai looked up at Elrohir with a question spread across her starlit features as he led her a little ways away from the others. But before Elrohir could get a word out, Éomer’s voice cut in, rather loudly, saying,
“Ervinai?” then, clearing his throat, he realized miserably he couldn’t just stop after so rudely interrupting Elrohir, so he went on uncertainly, “I, uh, was wondering if you would, um, allow me to e-escort you back to your flet?” Cringing inwardly, Éomer braced himself for the inevitable refusal to come. Yet, though Ervinai’s eyes widened in confusion, she managed a gracious reply, though equally uncertain.
Elrohir just shook his head and grinned, saying in mock pain while beating a hand against his breast dramatically, “He’s beaten me again!” Éomer’s gaze melded with Elrohir’s over the lady’s head. The latter lifted a lazy eyebrow before nodding his approval with a devilish grin. It was only then that Éomer caught on to his comrade’s crooked scheme of tricking him into asking Ervinai. Yet, he couldn’t help but send a victorious grin back, to which Elrohir responded shrewdly.
Ervinai frantically wracked her brain for a subject of conversation that would not make her sound stupid. Little did she know, her escort was doing the same. “Did you see the sparring match that took place between my brother, Runando, and the marchwarden, Haldir, my lord?” she finally asked. As she spoke she glanced up at Éomer, who, though he was a shorter race than her own, was nevertheless a full head taller than her. Éomer replied that, yes indeed, he had, and it was a glorious match if he ever saw one.
“Do you spar, my lady?” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. Positive by the bemused glance Ervinai threw his way that she was secretly laughing at him, he was surprised when she answered in the most genuine of tones. “What?!” he cried incredulously, “You’ve never sparred?” Her laugh forced his stomach into his toes. “Tell you what.” Éomer said suddenly, stopping and spinning to face her. His mask of shyness dropped away to reveal a boy-like enthusiastic face behind, “Why don’t we meet tomorrow morning before the festivities begin, and I’ll give you a lesson from an expert?” He realized, a little late, that he had assumed she wanted to learn, but, there was nothing for it now.
Ervinai laughed out delightedly, clapping her hands together as she gazed up into Éomer’s face. “I’d like that!” Éomer could not believe his luck! First she’d accepted his offer as an escort, which she really shouldn’t have, then she’d been almost overly enthusiastic when he suggested they spend more time together. It appeared he’d been mistaken: she had feelings for him after all.
“So, how is the Festival going?” Envinyanta asked Ervinai that night as the two girls settled in for a night of comfortable chatting on the tree limb they’d named their own. It was the only tree in their dreamscape forest’s clearing and the trunk stretched out almost parallel to the smooth surface of water beneath. Out onto this precarious perch the two girls shimmied every night, often lying at length, chins propped on elbow-boosted palms, or sitting upright with lower limbs getting pruny in the pond. As Envinyanta posed her question she sat straddling the tree’s trunk and as Ervinai responded the latter pulled both legs up before her, hugging night gowned-knees to her chest.
“It’s going great! It’s so much fun!” Ervinai replied. Then her smile disappeared, slim brows puckering together in a frown as she remembered her confused thoughts of Éomer.
“Uh-oh, what’s wrong, Ervi?” concern laced her friend’s voice.
“Well, Éomer asked to escort me back to my talan tonight…then he offered to give me a sparring lesson tomorrow morning before the festivities start.” Ervinai moaned as she leaned forward, attempting to hide a perplexed blush while trailing her fingers through the water, mere inches beneath their perch.
“Ooo, Éomer! How exciting!” Envinyanta gushed. “He’s so ruggedly handsome.” she said, emphasizing by waving her hands around her face in a circular motion. “I wish that he would have shown interest in me!”
“Oh, stop it, you silly goose!” Ervinai laughed, embarrassed, as she scooped up a handful of water and flung it her companion’s direction. Envinyanta shrieked and ducked, but lost her balance and went flailing into the tarn. Ervinai hooted and wiped her eyes as Envinyanta came up, sputtering and drenched. “Oh-ho! You look so funny when you’re wet!”
“Oh yeah? Well, how about I just tip you over into this pond?” Envinyanta hollered revengefully while Ervinai screamed and frantically fought to stay on the branch. Despite her best efforts she too soon went tumbling off their perch with a decidedly un-ladylike “splash”.
“You goof!” gasped Ervinai as she broke through the water’s surface, dragging air into lungs deprived. “Do you realize that we’ve fallen in at least three other times before now? And we’re supposed to be graceful!”
“Well, I don’t know about you,” Envinyanta snorted indignantly while turning up her nose, “but I’ve been trying a more `human’ look lately.”
Next morning Ervinai awoke with mixed feelings about the thought of learning to handle a blade. Meeting with the Lord in the mornings had become a habit of the second nature to Ervinai, today she prayed especially long and hard for her sparring lessons. After meeting with her Savior, Ervinai considered clothing. I don’t want to wear a gown, that would be ridiculous…yet, what else do I have?
Pushing back still damp ringlets from her face she remembered something Envinyanta told her last night as they were stretching their imaginations by trying to imagine how the sparring lesson with Éomer would unfold. Kneeling before the engraved clothing chest at the foot of her bed Ervinai pulled out enough of the gossamer gowns so she could clearly see the varnished floor of the trunk. On the left side of the chest’s bottom she pushed lightly and pulled away. The whole left half popped open and she carefully lifted out the section, finding beneath it a secret compartment. Setting the wooden piece aside she reached into the few inches of secrecy and withdrew the first thing fingers encountered. Ervinai slowly extracted a garment so light it was almost weightless, and unfolded it with care. It was a thigh-length, earth-colored tunic, which exuded a long confined smell: the aroma of battle.
Envinyanta told her the tunic belonged to her mother, their mother, and she’d worn it to spar in and to battle. Envinyanta had also worn it a time or two, but quickly put it away after her parents’ passing, thinking to never use it again. Last night, however, when she shared the location of the secret compartment, Envinyanta expressed her desire for Ervinai to put the tunic and leggings to use once more. So, it was reverently donned. Worn overtop a tight undergarment for the torso, the tunic was tied round the waist with another strip of fabric. Nice. Ervinai thought. My arms aren’t confined by foolishly-designed sleeves and, with all of the openness, it’s got to be really cool. Next came the brown leggings and the little, soft boots which covered her ankles. There, all set. Lord, please help me to learn fast.
Ervinai arrived in the sparring fields right on time, yet discovered Éomer already there: sitting with his back against one of the mellyrn surrounding the clearing. She knew he hadn’t yet heard her approach, so she tiptoed up behind him to ask drolly, “I don’t suppose we’ll get much done with you asleep next to the tree now, shall we?”
Éomer leapt up immediately, spinning round to face her, his dark brown eyes wide. Yet, underneath his shock, there was still a drowsiness, as was evident from his slightly drooping eyelids and the boyish look of confusion on his face. Ervinai chuckled at his startled appearance then found herself wondering what it would be like to catch him looking like this everyday. Shaking herself mentally, she chastised her mind for its betrayal. Averting her eyes from his all-too-cute expression, Ervinai noticed he clutched two blades. Sensing her perusal, Éomer held one knife forward for her to accept. After she took it from his hand Éomer turned toward the field and murmured defensively,
“I wasn’t sleeping, simply waiting for you to show.”
“Mmhmm…waiting all night, it looks like.” She returned with a teasing twinkle as she followed him into the clearing. Éomer glanced backward over his shoulder at her, his eyes admiring the clearly cut figure the tunic and leggings revealed, and wondered if she knew how near the truth she was.
“Well, first you get the feel of your blade,” Éomer said a little later after they had warmed up and stretched out. Balance it on your fingers, just on the blade-side of the hilt, toss it and catch it a couple of times, swipe it through the air… Here, one of the most basic moves.” Éomer stepped forward with one foot and swung his short sword through the air, first to one side, then swooping down, and up again to the opposite side, all in one smooth motion. Ervinai watched his demonstration in amazement at how easy it looked, and how comfortable he was with his weapon. As if reading her thoughts, he said, “One’s blade must become an extension of one’s body. It is just a long arm, become familiar with it. If you advance even slightly in your skills, your sword can save you from grave peril.”
After becoming as familiar with her borrowed blade as ten minutes would allow, doing the basic swipes and steps that Éomer taught her, he asked her if she’d like to spar a bit. Nodding affirmative, she watched as Éomer instructed her on where to stand, how to begin a match, and the system of rules involved.
A match was played to the best out of three. You won a round if your opponent faced certain death or a crippling injury. Some of the rules the explained as they went along. Éomer easily won the first round as Ervinai’s blade went flying through the air to land on the far side of the arena. With a stroke of luck, Ervinai managed to cripple Éomer in the second round, winning her a grin from her opponent — as well as the round.
Neither noticed the attentions of other early morning festival-goers they were gathering.
The third round began and a few blocks and advances on her part was all that she needed to become familiar with the limit to her enemy’s strength, and a few test swipes and jabs soon discovered his weaknesses. Ervinai wasn’t sure what was happening, or why she seemed to see all of the blows and plays before they hit, but she was grateful when Éomer picked up the pace and the blows started coming faster. Alarmingly, a thought speared her brain. What if she already “knew” sword fighting just as she’d already “known” Elvish when first transported here? The absurd thought quickly vanished however, when a prick on her finger and the slipping of the blade from her hand brought her back to the present.
Gasping in surprise, she quickly ducked to miss the blow aimed at her head and scooped up her weapon in with smarting appendages. She quickly scrambled and rolled away from the astonished adversary and came to her feet just in time to clash blades with Éomer. With a slow, satisfied smile forming on her lips she managed to ask her rival, in-between blows, whether he thought she learned fast enough for his liking.
“You’re sure you’ve never handled a blade before?” he asked, astounded.
“Positive.” she answered back gleefully as she swung around to avoid a blow aimed at her right shoulder. This time she picked up the pace, sending her blade singing through the air. The clash of metal upon metal was irregular and loud to her ears, yet, she found that it was enjoyable in its own way. Both opponents were spinning, lunging, pulling back, sidestepping each other, ducking blows, and trying to gain the upper hand in the combat, yet neither were outdoing the other. Éomer was astonished that his pupil could so soon pick up on his game. If he hadn’t known better he would have said she was a very experienced swordsman. Yet, how could she be?
He pushed her even harder, no longer afraid that he would do any harm: clearly, she could fend for herself. The hits were picking up speed at an amazingly fast pace, yet still, she kept up perfectly with him, matching his blows for one, sometimes two, of her own. Éomer’s muscles burned and he realized despairingly he wouldn’t be able to keep up this grueling pace for much longer. It angered him that Ervinai didn’t even appear to be breathing heavily yet, though, he noticed with satisfaction, a thin band of perspiration gathering on her lip.
Suddenly, Ervinai noticed the audience they had accumulated. They were standing at the fence, blithely cheering them on. In that semi-brief instant, Éomer dealt a blow to her side of her head with the flat of his blade, momentarily stunning her.
As he bent over Ervinai’s still form he prayed for conciousness. “Never pay attention to the crowd.” he mumbled bleakly under his breath. Her eyes jolted open and she sprang to action. Twisting her body, she slammed one leg into the back of Éomer’s knees. His feet were knocked out from under him and as he fell Ervinai leapt up, with the deftness of an elf, to stand over his shocked person. She pointed her sword to his throat elatedly while a devilish grin smeared with the dirt across her face. The audience behind them erupted into cheers and hoots of laughter, some calling out that Éomer had better start taking lessons from the elleth.
Ignoring the spectators, Ervinai spoke confidingly to Éomer. “I believe you forgot to mention that small detail, milord.”