It was getting late in the evening and the prince of the Mark was led to his rooms in the Hornburg. They were not as big as he was used to at home, but comfortable and even cosy. There were some tapestries and paintings on the wall that referred to the history of the Hornburg and of the noble families of the Westfold. Elfwine found himself studying them for a while and smiled. Then he put himself to the task of removing his sword from his belt and putting his bow and quiver at the wall as well.
A servant knocked on the door and entered, asking him if he wished anything, to which he replied a nice warm bath would be all. After the servant had disappeared, Elfwine retreated back into the dressing room and started to remove the layers of armour from his body. It was no easy task, as the armour was very heavy. A smile appeared on his fair face as he remembered the day he had first worn his armour. What a struggle it had been to walk upright. But eventually he had mastered it and now it was the most natural thing in the world for him, even if the removing issue was still a struggle. He always took very long in removing it when he was alone at the task.
And thus he was very occupied. Too occupied even to notice a soft knock on the door and to hear the door being opened. It was only until he heard a soft giggle, that Elfwine looked up. He suppressed a growl in his throat and could just control himself in rolling with his eyes. There, in the doorway of his dressing room, stood Heruwyn, with a towel around her arms. She could not hide her amusement in seeing the prince struggle with his armour.
"It seems the prince has a lot of trouble with removing his armour."
Elfwine shot an angered look at her and replied. "If you're here to make stupid comments on me, then youd better leave this room immediately, Lady."
The young lady of the Hornburg lay the towels at a table and shook her head, giggling. "On the contrary, m'lord." She then looked into the direction of the door and ordered the members of the household to fill the bathtub with water. It remained silent as the servants were doing so, and all Elfwine and Heruwyn did was exchanging glances. As soon as the servants were finished, Heruwyn ordered them to leave them alone.
She walked over to Elfwine and started to help him with removing his armour. "It seems you need help with removing your armour, oh prince of the Mark. And since I am the only one in this room with you, I'll help you." She giggled again, knowing her tone annoyed the young prince. Yet he did nothing to refrain her from helping him. "I'm not in the mood for any of your tricks and games, Heruwyn. I thought you would have grown up about now."
Heruwyn tugged at the cuirass and removed it, sneering. "Have you?"
Elfwine straightened his shoulders and stared firmly into the front of him. "I'm 26 years old, Heruwyn, and a Marshal of the Mark. I became a grown man a long time ago." He helped her getting him out of the mailshirt. Then he saw her coming to stand in front of him, with her hands on her hips and having her chin raised slightly into the air. "And you are saying I have not?"
He lowered himself on a chair, and started pulling off his boots, as if nothing had happened. Erkenbrand's youngest child still stood in front of him, cocking an eyebrow and then crossing her arms in front of her chest. "Well?" The dark haired young man chuckled. "No, you have not. You are still trying to get me down with sneering about my Gondorian heritage. Which is very childish and thus far from grown up." She shot menacing glances at him, threatening glances and turned away from him. "Fine! Then I'm not grown up."
He continued removing his clothing, and before he pulled his tunic off his body, he looked at the young Rohirric Lady. "Would you mind leaving my room now? I want to take a bath." Quickly he stepped out of his breeches as well and slipped into the hot water. All the while he kept his eyes on Heruwyn's back as she had turned her back to him. She didn't move. When he sat comfortably in the water, he saw how she braided her hair and threw a glance over her shoulder. "Sorry, m'lord. But I was asked to tend you at your bath. My nanny says it is the duty of the lady of the house to make their guests be as comfortable as they are at home." She knelt at the side of the bathtub and started washing the dark haired prince. The tension in the air was like you could cut it with a knife, but after a while, Elfwine relaxed and his eyes closed as he felt Heruwyn washing him.
"Why did you want to replace your brother in showing me around the Westfold?"
It took a while before Heruwyn answered." He's got a lot of duties here. He can't be missed, even if my father thinks so. As for me I basically just take care of the people who have fled here and sometimes help out the healers. But I'm bored and I can show you around as well." "I thought it was another one of your tricks with the intention of bringing me down with that sharp tongue of yours." Suddenly he felt a wave of warm water coming over his face. "What was that for?" he shouted harshly.
"I'm not like that always and its not why I wanted to join you!!!"
She left the piece of cloth she was washing him with in the water of the tub and walked towards the wall, leaning against it. Her shoulders hung low and she looked down at her feet. Elfwine was stunned and surprised and jumped up out of the water. But that was harder than he thought. The minute he stood on his feet, he slipped and fell back onto his behind in the wooden tub. A set of Rohirric and Gondorian curses followed shortly.
Heruwyn burst out in laughter as soon as she had noticed what had happened. She tried her best not to laugh so loudly, but she failed. The look on the princes face was just so incredibly funny as he sat there in the tub, frowning and looking annoyed. Quickly the young lady of the Hornburg grabbed a towel off the chair and walked to the tub again. A wide grin was on her face. "It seems the prince of Rohan can't even get out of his bath by himself." "It's not funny, Heruwyn." "Oh, but it is to me. You should look at yourself now." The dark haired young man sighed and rolled with his eyes.
With Heruwyn's help Elfwine got out of the bathtub and he started drying himself, while she made sure new clothes were prepared in his room. While drying, he asked: "What other reason would you have to join me then?"
She stopped with what she was doing and turned around to look at him. He was fair a bit taller than she was, even if she was a Rohirrim, and so she had to look up to look him straight into his eyes. "Those are my people out there, Elfwine. Their homes are being destroyed, their horses are being slaughtered or taken away, the men are being killed, children and women get hurt and raped. I want see what was done, I want to find out who is responsible for all that and I want to make sure they do not get away with it. Do you understand that?"
He nodded and looked down at her. "I do, I don't want anything else but to see those attackers pay for their deeds. But you shouldn't go out there. It could be dangerous and your father wouldn't want anything bad happen to you."
"I don't care! I'm not a child anymore! And I'm not afraid of danger. The entire world is dangerous. Everyone, everything, is dangerous in their own fashion. And that will not stop me from doing whatever." Her voice trembled with anger when she spoke. Her eyes were blazing with fury. She had made fists of her hands. As sudden as her anger had arisen, as quickly it faded. She stood in front of him, her eyes pleading like a small child and she came to stand closer to him.
"Please, Elfwine, please let me come with you. Please."
The young prince remained silent for a moment, not moving and not saying anything. All he did was look at the young woman in front of him. Suddenly he turned away from her and shook his head. "No, Heruwyn. Your father would kill me if I gave you permission to come with me. And I will not risk your safety either, as would he."
Heruwyn's eyes starting glowing like small fires again and she bared her white teeth. "Fine. Suit it yourself." With big steps she left the room and slammed the door closed behind her, leaving Elfwine, draped in his towel, behind as he shook his head.