Part 101 of the Elfwine Chronicles. The Elfwine Chronicles are a series of one-shots built around the family group of Eomer, Lothiriel and Elfwine. The total number will depend on how many ideas I get for new vignettes.

A/N: Thanks go to Tracey for her persistent nudges to keep me moving on this, despite the interference of Real Life. And there are still another two waiting in the wings. This story is 3 chapters, though the final chapter is quite a bit shorter than the other two.

You lot were so kind as to give me 10 reviews on Duet, that I won't delay starting to post this. Also, if you are following the wonderful Boromir story Champions: Out of the Past, a new chapter is up. It is actually both a LOTR and Boromir story, and quite unusual. Well worth reading.

Decisions

(Apr, 23 IV)

Chapter 1

The rain could not dampen Caffola's spirits as he rode to Edoras. Byldan had sent him off to the city for a fortnight, and he was looking forward to seeing the royal family – his family – and Tamwen. Over the past nearly three years, he had spent time with her whenever he was able to come to town. After the third such visit, in his mind, he had begun a courtship, though he had never actually put it into such words.

During that time, his dancing had improved, and he had danced with many girls on his visits. He had even spent a bit more time with one or two of them, getting to know them, but none held his attention as Tamwen did. Truly, she must be one of the finest girls he had ever known, and he was honored that she seemed to find him worthy of her notice.

He had been saving all his wages, and sold a foal from Lithemeg that had brought a handsome price. Byldan had let him begin building a home of his own on their property almost two years ago, and it was nearly finished. Now was the time – he would ask for Tamwen's hand in marriage. At last he had something substantial to offer her.

xx

Tamwen rubbed at her forehead fretfully, listening in silence to her parents' comments.

"Feladyrne is a good man, and he would well be able to provide for you, Tamwen. Why do you hesitate?" her mother questioned.

With a sigh, she tried to explain her reserve with Feladyrne. "I do not deny he has been most attentive and accommodating, Mother, but I just…do not have those kind of feelings for him. There is something about him that…." She trailed off, unsure of what she meant, much less knowing how to say it so it made any sense.

Her mother crossed her arms and frowned. "You are still hoping that other boy – Caffola – will make an offer," she accused, and Tamwen knew she could not honestly deny that.

"Caffola is–" she began, but her father interrupted.

"Caffola is not here and not reliable. Do you truly wish to go off and live on the plains in some drafty cottage with meager means? That is all that boy can offer you. Feladyrne has a good job here in town, and comes from a good family. We do not even know anything about Caffola's past."

"That is not so!" Tamwen defended. "I know a great deal of his past. He is an orphan from the Westfold, who has become like a member of the family to our king. Does that not speak well for him? And he is a hard worker. He would never let me be in want."

"Tamwen," her mother sighed, "you need to marry, and both your father and I think Feladyrne is the better prospect. It is time for you to give up this flirtation with Caffola and focus your attention on Feladyrne. I am certain he will soon make an offer. You are to tell Caffola in your next letter that your affections have turned elsewhere. It is for the best. If you continue this infatuation, Feladyrne is likely to lose interest."

For an instant, Tamwen stared at her parents in disbelief of this ultimatum, but then she dropped her eyes. It was true that Caffola had given her no indication that he ever desired to make their association something more permanent. Clearly he enjoyed her company, but in all the time she had known him he had never spoken of marriage. Perhaps she had been foolish to think he was inclined along those lines. Feladyrne was here and attentive, and likely her parents were right that it was time to be sensible and settle down.

"Very well," she murmured listlessly. The capitulation gave her no pleasure. She was very fond of Caffola….

xx

Dengel watched Feladyrne with amusement as he carefully brushed his hair. "I have never seen a man primp as you do!" he laughed. "What is the occasion?"

Feladyrne smirked at his friend over his shoulder. "When there is a young lady involved, a man must pay attention to his grooming! You might want to keep that in mind!" He turned back to check his appearance in the looking glass one final time. "I am very close to getting her right where I want her. Once I have done that, if she pleases well enough, I may enjoy sampling her delights for awhile. Otherwise, I will move on to someone else."

Dengel's eyes narrowed in puzzlement. "You are only looking for a bit of pleasure with this girl? I thought surely your efforts must be leading to marriage."

"Marriage? Me? I am not the marrying kind, my friend. There are far too many women to enjoy for me to settle down with just one. Once I am tired of this one, I will move on to greener pastures."

Dengel frowned and shook his head. "I will not deny I have enjoyed the company of a woman or two before this, but I could not use someone so callously as you do. It is not right."

Feladryne was satisfied with his appearance and laid down the brush. "It is not a matter of what is right or wrong. I will make sure she enjoys the experience – while it lasts. I can be most pleasing and accommodating when I choose. Then she can go off and marry someone else, all the wiser for having known me." With a wink, he moved to the door and was gone.

Dengel sighed after he left, and shook his head again. Regardless of what Feladyrne said, he could not think well of this behavior. He hoped the young lady would not be too hurt by his friend's actions.

xxxxx

Having gotten a late start, Caffola did not reach Edoras until well into the evening. He had had a busy day of work prior to his departure, so after a quick bite of food and brief greetings with the royal family, he was more than ready to turn in for the night. Though he was eager to see Tamwen, he did not want their reunion to be rushed if he was going to ask for her hand.

The next day dawned bright and sunny, and the light rain that had been falling had ended during the night. Caffola quickly washed and dressed, then set out for the Golden Hall, to eat and seek his beloved. The former was easily accomplished, but when he inquired after Tamwen, he was told she had the day off and was away from Meduseld. Sighing with disappointment, he focused on his meal.

Elfwine came to join him a short time later and they chatted briefly. Then as they fell silent, Elfwine studied him for a few moments. They had not had much opportunity to talk the previous night but now, looking more closely at his friend, he could tell there was something on Caffola's mind.

"Do you wish to speak of it?" Elfwine asked quietly.

Caffola's eyes came up to gaze questioningly at him, but found Elfwine merely eyeing him expectantly. With a grin, Caffola told him, "It is truly annoying that you know me so well!"

Elfwine chuckled and raised an eyebrow as he replied, "You are not difficult to read, Caffola. I have never known anyone more open and straight-forward than you." Once Caffola joined in his laughter, Elfwine prompted, "So?"

Caffola shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant, then admitted, "I hope to…have Tamwen accept my suit." He looked cautiously at his friend, awaiting a reaction to this news.

Elfwine ducked his head as he grinned, then looked up and snickered, "It is about time!"

Caffola flushed red, but defended, "I did not want to speak of it until I had something to offer her." He jutted his jaw and teased, "Not all of us are born royal and may marry whomever we wish! A woman knows you can provide for her, but the likes of me must prove it!"

Elfwine rose from his seat, but paused to look down and sincerely answer, "Perhaps, but you will do fine. She could not ask for a better husband, and certainly not one who loves her more."

Caffola again blushed as Elfwine added, "I must be going. I will see you at the dance tonight."

For the remainder of the day, Caffola was somewhat at loose ends. Normally he brought horses with him when he visited Edoras, but that was not the case this time, so he had none that needed his attention other than his own mount. He spent some time with the royal family, and Lothiriel selected more books for him. Once their lessons were done, later that afternoon, Theodwyn wanted him to spar with her, and Theomund agreed to come watch though he was not terribly interested in participating himself.

Finally, tired and sweaty, they called it quits and returned to Meduseld to wash, and prepare for the festivities that evening. As the time drew closer when he would see Tamwen, Caffola became more nervous. He had not seen her since the previous fall, though they had written regularly. He very much hoped he was not mistaken about her regard for him, and that his proposal would be well received. Likely, he should have given her some indication before this of his feelings, but he had never quite known how to go about it, and so it had been easier to hope she understood from his actions.

Theodwyn appeared at his door, knocking energetically, and he went to open it with a grin. He could always tell it was her by the way she knocked. "Come!" she exclaimed, as soon as she saw him. "You must promise me the first dance!" She caught his arm and began tugging him toward the main hall.

With a laugh, he followed along. "Very well, but I cannot imagine why you would not wish to give that honor to one of your brothers – say, Theomund?"

She snorted at the suggestion and they both laughed. Theomund had already developed the reputation of being a careless dancer, and Theodwyn did not care to have her toes trod on, though she would sometimes risk it when desperate for a partner. "You are one of my brothers – and both taller and a better dancer than Theomund! Stop trying to get out of it!" she declared, and they laughed again, though he was touched by her sentiment. Theodwyn was not often open with her feelings about others, but he was pleased she thought so well of him.

Already the hall was beginning to fill, and the small crowd was milling around in eager anticipation. The dance tonight was part of the Spring Festival that would run throughout the week in Edoras. Everyone was relieved that the rain had disappeared and they could have a dry celebration, since much of it would take place outdoors.

By the time the gathering was being seated for the meal, Caffola was beginning to be on edge. This waiting expectantly to see Tamwen was wearing on his nerves, though he tried to conceal his agitation. Even so, he caught Elfwine watching him with a knowing smile several times as they ate.

He had not yet spotted Tamwen, and was uncertain if she was working tonight or not. If so, he had not seen her in the main hall, though his eyes kept scanning the room for her. Not until the tables were being pushed back for dancing did he locate her, though not where he expected, and not alone.

To his surprise, she had been seated at the far end of the hall, with a young man that Caffola knew only by name. As he watched them, it was evident that they were at the festivities together. While he had not mentioned to her that he would be here, wanting to surprise her, he had not expected this and it left him off his guard, and wondering how to proceed.

Without realizing it, he had been moving closer to where the couple stood, and suddenly the crowd parted enough that, just as she looked up, he was in her eye line. She appeared to pale slightly at the sight of him, then recovered somewhat and said something to her companion, who moved away as she slowly walked toward him, looking very nervous.

"Caffola," she said, then stopped, clearly ill at ease. "I…did not expect to see you here." That was much more of an understatement than he knew, for though she had reconciled herself to doing what her parents demanded, she had preferred to break things off with Caffola in a letter rather than face to face.

Uncertainly, he stood staring at her, then glanced to where Feladyrne had gone and back at her. Finally, she dredged up her courage and told him, "I…I think it best that…Feladyrne and I have been spending considerable time together and…." Her courage failed her, and she didn't manage to speak a coherent sentence of explanation, but it was evident by the expression on his face that he had taken her meaning.

"Do…do you have an understanding with Feladyrne?" he asked softly, reluctant to know but unable to stop the question.

"Not yet…but I think it will likely happen soon," she murmured.

Just then, Feladyrne returned with the wine Tamwen had requested he fetch. Looking dismissively at Caffola, he nodded curtly and said, "Caffola." Then catching Tamwen by the elbow, he began to steer her away, throwing back over his shoulder, "Please excuse us."

Tamwen's face flamed at this rude treatment of Caffola, but she was too embarrassed to act and allowed herself to be guided away from him. He stood staring after her until the movement of couples around him awakened him to the fact that he was blocking part of the dance area.

Dejectedly, Caffola turned away and moved toward one of the side exits from the hall. He did not notice that Theodwyn had been standing nearby, having come to claim him for their dance, nor did he realize she had witnessed the full exchange with Tamwen and Feladyrne. Scowling in resentment of the way he had been treated, she spun on her heel and charged through the crowd in search of Elfwine.

Elfwine had just gotten Dariel seated comfortably in a chair where she could watch the proceedings. She was in her seventh month of pregnancy and not always at ease, but she participated in activities as long as she could before she was forced to retire for the evening. Just as Elfwine straightened, Theodwyn charged up and caught him by the arm to drag him away for a private conversation. Dariel shook her head in amusement, by now quite used to Theodwyn's blunt manner.

"Theodwyn, what is it?" Elfwine asked, freeing his arm from her grasp.

Pacing angrily in front of him, she animatedly relayed what had taken place, then demanded, "What are we to do?"

Older and wiser, Elfwine better understood the situation and told her firmly, "Nothing." As she began to protest, he stopped her with a raised hand. "Theodwyn, this is not something you can fix. I will go talk to Caffola, but anything you might do to try and help would only make things worse. Please, just be his friend, but do not interfere." He reached out and stroked her head soothingly at the frustrated look in her eyes. "I know it is difficult, and I want to help Caffola, too, but we must tread lightly. Love is not something outsiders should meddle in."

"But he–" she began to protest, only to be interrupted.

"No 'buts', Theodwyn." He pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Trust me on this. Although it is difficult to see Caffola be hurt, there is only so much we can do without hurting him more."

Reluctantly, she backed down, crossing her arms in annoyance at the injustice of it all. "Do not fret, dearest," Elfwine reassured. "I will go do what I can."

With a sigh, he moved toward the exit she had indicated Caffola had used, and followed the other young man out into the darkness. It was not difficult to locate his friend, for he had not gone far and was sitting on a bench, staring out into the night.

Elfwine took a seat beside Caffola, remaining silent for awhile. At length, he asked, "Will you not fight for her?"

"She has made her choice," Caffola answered dully. "Of course she would want someone with more to offer than I ever could."

"Stop it!" Elfwine snapped and Caffola looked up, blinking in surprise at his tone.

"I will not allow you to sit here and wallow in self-pity. You are a good man, you have an honorable occupation, you are a hard worker and have a pleasing disposition. Feladyrne can offer her nothing more or better than you can." He paused a moment and then added, "And I am not convinced he offers her as much as you do."

"What do you mean?" Caffola asked hesitantly.

"I do not think he loves her. I think…I have seen men like him before. I think he toys with her for his own pleasure, and will ill use her, then cast her aside. If you truly love her, you would not let her suffer such a fate."

"Have you learned something?" Caffola questioned, demandingly. "If so, I would hear it!"

"No," Elfwine sighed, "nothing has been said to raise my suspicions. It is just a feeling I have – the way he carries himself, and the way I have seen him act with other women."

Caffola shook his head disbelievingly. "You are my friend, and you think you see things that are not there because you want me to be happy. Everyone speaks well of Feladyrne, and even with my own eyes I can find no complaint with his behavior."

Elfwine let out a growl of frustration with his friend's stubbornness, and rose. "I am not wrong. I am sure he will prove his true colors all too soon. And Tamwen will be the one to suffer for your blindness." He turned and strode quickly into Meduseld, his irritation evident in his movements.

Caffola dropped his head into his hands. For just an instant, he entertained the notion Elfwine had planted in his mind, but then he forced it aside. It was wishful thinking that Feladyrne had evil designs on Tamwen. She would not accept his attentions if he were a bad person.

He sat on the bench long into the night, his mind awhirl with many thoughts, but nothing to offer him hope. He would have to plan a future without Tamwen at his side.

TBC

Leofwine – "agreeable friend" (Durucwen's husband; Tamwen's father)

Feladyrne – "many secrets"

Halmeth - "fortunate maiden" (Byldan's wife)

E 52, L 44, Elfwine 22 (married; Arawine born in June); Theodwyn 15, Theomund 13, Morwen 9, Theodred 0 (born in Feb)

Caffola 22, Tamwen 23; Feladyrne 26

End note: It is best that you read the Elfwine Chronicles in the order they were written. The more of them that I wrote, the more likely I was to make reference to one of the previous ones and something that happened there. If you want to read them in order, go to the top of this page and click on my name (Deandra). That will take you to my profile page. Scroll down and you will find all the stories I have written. The Elfwine Chronicles are in order from bottom to top since ffn shows them in the order they were posted. A few were posted out of number order (#15 came after #17, I think), but you can read them in posting order or number order since those few won't be affected in the story content.