Ervinai awoke to a dismally grey dawn. Mist hung round her balcony’s pillars in eerie shreds. Once glance at the sky ensured it was going to be a dreary day. She slipped into a silken azure outfit, then pushed her arms through the sleeves of a downy black cloak. As she dressed she prayed. She prayed for herself and for Éomer, and for his trip home, which was scheduled for this day. Her heart panged remorsefully in her breast as she thought of him leaving, but she ignored it. Ervinai reminded herself of Gandalf’s philosophy that love is not a strong enough foundation to build a lasting relationship upon. She also remembered her own conversation with Éomer in the forest, and his refusal to admit that he needed God.
She wouldn’t commit to someone who didn’t have the same God as she, it would destroy her. Ervinai took staccato steps down the hallway from her room, praying not to run across anyone. No one awaited her in the breakfast nook, so she poured herself a cup of hot tea and fled to the courtyard where she plopped down on a bench and let the steam rising from her cup clear her senses. The obsidian bench was hard, hard and cold; so cold it raised the flesh along her lean body. Wrapping the cloak tighter around herself, Ervinai ignored the spattering of rain droplets that hit the surface of the marble fountain a few arms’ lengths off. But when the heavens opened and released their burden she hurried back to the safety of the palace.
Ervinai shivered by the small fireplace in the breakfast nook. She felt sorry for these little flames which diligently sought to drive back the gloom. The sudden tempest slowed to a quiet drizzle and she noticed a massive cloud had rolled in and enveloped the city. The warmth from the fire was tingling Ervinai’s nose even as she finished sipping her tea. The palace was quiet, too quiet. As she listened she heard soft feet hurrying down a hallway to the alcove where she stood. Turning toward the sound, Ervinai reminded herself of her resolve to bid Éomer goodbye in a “friends-only” manner.
A small handmaiden of the queen’s entered and curtsied. The girl’s starched white apparel made Ervinai blink. She was a young girl, certainly no more than twelve years of age, Ervinai thought with sympathy. She knew that most of the queen’s handmaidens started out as young girls barely old enough to leave their father’s household, and most of them came from middle class families, but this one’s stature made her look like a starved waif of about eight. The girl brought her back to the present when she spoke in a small, yet strangely confident voice,
“My lady, the queen begs your presence in the citadel.”
“Of course.” she consented readily to the petite child.
Ervinai trailed the little girl outside to the fog-covered world devoid of color. The ground underfoot splashed and the scent of fresh rain hung heavily in the air. She took a deep breath and her heart began to revive a little, despite the dreariness of the world around her. Near the center of the citadel, where the road began for the descent downward, a single, stark canopy was waiting. Under it stood the king, queen, and Éomer.
Éomer turned to look at her, his eyes taking in the black cloak which shrouded her figure, and the way her dark curls were wildly reacting to the humidity. Her brown eyes, however, were frosty with resolve. His own brown eyes pleaded, asking for what she refused to give.
“May I have a word?” he asked when she drew near. He led her to the opposite wall of the citadel where they had a measure of privacy, but were still visible to the others through the thickening mist.
“What is it?” Ervinai asked almost shortly. She backed up so there were a couple of arms’ length of distance between them. He swallowed his hurt at her removal from him, but went doggedly on.
“Don’t you care for me at all?”
Her eyes snapped open and she searched his face, but, sensing it was just an innocent question, she lowered her eyes and breathed out, “Please don’t ask me that.”
But her frantic reaction to the question on his heart had given him hope.
“You do care, don’t you?” he exclaimed in a low voice. He hastened to gather her in his arms. She protested, pushing her palms against his chest, but his limbs were steel.
“Please, Éomer, please let me go.” she sobbed, now clinging fiercely to his leather jerkin. His arms loosened considerably, but he still did not release her.
“How can I let you go when I love you with all my heart and soul?” he breathed, his eyes traveling her upturned face with affection.
“That’s why. Because your heart and soul should belong to God, not me.” Ervinai cried against his chest.
“This is about your religion?!” he hissed. “You won’t come to me because of your god?” his arms loosened abruptly and Ervinai fell against him, but he pushed her away, repulsed. He flinched when he heard her grunt as she collided with the balustrade, but hardened his heart, justifying his action in his mind. How could she refuse him?
“As long as your heart is not God’s I cannot come to you, Éomer.” Ervinai replied in a mournful tone from where she now leaned against the wall, cradling her throbbing elbow. She noticed that more fog had rolled in, she could no longer see the others, or hear them. She was alone in the world with Éomer. Nay, she had God too. God. She started to cry softly again. He was the cause for all her joy, must he inflict sorrow too?
The sound of Ervinai softly sobbing roused Éomer. Fear crept into his heart as he realized what he had done; he may have lost her to himself already. Guilt smote him and he slowly advanced toward her where she leaned against the wall, but she held out a shaking hand to stop him from cradling her to his breast once more. He spread his arms wide with his palms toward her, to show he wasn’t going to harm her, but her trust had already been shattered. What reason had he to believe she’d so soon trust him again? She wavered, however, and when her arm dropped, defeated, back to her side, he asked in a low voice,
“Does your god love you the way I do, Ervi?” his voice caressed her name. “Can he arouse or fulfill you the way I could?”
She slowly shook her bowed head back and forth, tears he couldn’t see streaming down her pale cheeks.
“Then why won’t you come to me?”
“I cannot.” she whispered, just loud enough for him to hear. Her voice was torn. Éomer stared in disbelief, not knowing quite what to think, then something inside of him exploded and his passions took over.
“Curse it all, Ervi, I love you! I want you.” he added more quietly. “I want to make you happy and live with you all the days of my life! And still you deny me?” Éomer cupped her cheek with his roughened hand. “I’ll worship you, my love. You’ll be my goddess.”
“That would be no life worth living, my love, it’d be hell.” She saw she’d angered him. His eyes blazed.
His whole body yearned for hers, or couldn’t she see that?
“You’re wrong, it’d be heaven. You’d want for nothing.”
“There is no heaven apart from God, Éomer.” she searched his eyes fearlessly.
“No heaven apart from God?” he sneered. Thrusting one hand into her curls he drew her face upward even as he lowered his own to set his mouth against hers, hard. She gasped and fought, then clung to him again. He loosed all his pent up passion to her quivering lips until there was nothing left to give. Looking down into her face, though, and seeing the acute look of anguish that gripped her features, he released her. Once again she fell against him, but this time he did not push her away. Her fists, which had gathered little fistfuls of his jerkin slowly relaxed, and eventually she stumbled away to lean against the parapet once more. Her eyes did not rise to meet his, yet he saw how she trembled.
Her body yearned for his too, but she knew it was not right. Her mind was in anguish, and her flesh treacherous. Oh God! her broken heart cried out. Save me! But what right had she to ask for a miracle when her Savior had endured worse for her. He had pleaded for the Father to take the cup from his lips too, but the Father had not. Please help me be strong.
“Oh what have I done?” Éomer moaned. He longed to reach out and comfort her, but dared not for fear of what he might do next. “Forgive me, Ervi.” was all he could say before stumbling away into the mist as a man intoxicated.
Hey guys, I realize this chapter’s shorter than my usual ones, but I felt it was necessary. Please tell me what you think of it. Thanks so much to all my readers, and e-hugs to those who comment, you all make my day! God bless you all!