15. 15. The Truth Comes Out
Evening found the men of Rohan preparing for the feast. Although, it was not required, they chose to wear their uniforms. They were proud of who and what they were; furthermore, they chose what they were most comfortable in--the maille had been polished, and ceremonial daggers replaced broad swords and bow. Even the Marshal wore his dress uniform. As he fastened his dark green cloak to his shoulders, his thoughts drifted to Arathea. She had looked so beautiful that morning that he could not imagine her radiance this evening. He combed through his sable hair till it hung like strands of dark silk before joining his men. He steeled himself against the inevitable. He was certain that Arathea was going to be sought by many this evening and there was nothing he could do about it. She did not return his feelings beyond friendship and he would have to accept that.
The feast was magnificent. Peoples from all the realms were present. Elfhelm was pleased to see Rohan’s most steadfast esquire, Meriadoc present with Samwise (who brought the lovely Rosie Cotton with him) and Pippin, wearing the colors of Gondor. Gimli came with a small group of skeptical dwarves and of course, as Thea had predicted, Faramir and Éowyn represented Gondor.
Elfhelm caught himself looking for the woman who held his heart. He was not surprised to see her seated at a table with a number of Elves. One was a jovial elf with bright blue eyes filled with merriment, whom the Marshal assumed was Lord Gildor. He was a far cry from the more reserved elves present. Elfhelm stole a glance at the Dúnadan lady. Her long dark hair was unbound and fell in soft waves about her shoulders and back. Her dress was a rich, forest green, with gold trim and sash. The colors of Rohan the Marshal noted. She seemed happy though subdued. Their eyes met. She smiled by way of greeting. He returned the smile and gave an approving nod. Perhaps after the meal he would be able to steal away to speak with her; just to make sure she was well.
“I have not known you to pick at your food Marshal,” Éowyn teased. “What could possible distract you from so fine a meal?” Elfhelm had not seen the Lady approach.
“My lady.” He made to stand but she placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Stay as you are. I only came to say hello and see how things truly fair with you and my dear brother.” She took a seat recently vacated by a young Rohirrim who accepted an offer to dance.
“I am well, as is the King.” Éowyn looked at the man and he added; “Though he misses your company and counsel. The Lady Arathea,” he looked again in Thea’s direction, “has been a great help to him.” Éowyn wiggled her eyebrows suggestively and Elfhelm chuckled. “Not you, too. Although I agree she could be good match …”
“You hope for you?” Éowyn interjected with a grin. Elfhelm was stunned. Éowyn laughed. “Fear not Marshal, it is not too obvious. We women are just in tune with such things. Though I wonder why you are here and she all the way over there.”
“Because that is how we were placed,” he said curtly. He watched the subject of their discussion leave the clearing with the beautiful blonde elf-lord. His eyes followed them up some stairs to a small landing overlooking the festivities.
Éowyn leaned close to his ear. “She is a better match for you than she is for my brother, anyway, and better for you than Ethelfled.” With that, the former Shield Maiden of Rohan left the Marshal to his thoughts. The man found himself leaving the safety of his table and maneuvering so as to keep his eyes on Arathea. It was not that he was spying, but something inside of him was restless. The elf lord and Arathea were in deep conversation. Suddenly the elf handed the woman what appeared to be a letter and a small pouch.
~~on the landing~~
The Elda had argued, begged and pleaded with Erestor to contact Arathea himself before he sailed. However, the most Gildor could get was a letter to the girl and a small token. The golden elf lord did not know what the letter contained but hoped it was the truth—all of it. With a kiss to her forehead, Gildor left Arathea with the letter and small package. The tall elf was aware the Marshal watched them and it gave him comfort. He hoped the man would come to offer Arathea support. Descending the stairs, Gildor moved passed the Marshal, a knowing look in his eyes. Elfhelm eyed the Lord before returning his gaze to the lady on the landing. She held the letter open, a melancholy smile on her lips and the shimmer of tears in her eyes. Elfhelm waited no more and climbed the steps. Seeing the woman shiver in the cool night breeze, the gentleman removed his dress cloak and laid it over her shoulders. Thea looked behind her in surprise and smiled sadly at the Marshal.
“Have you ever wanted to know the answer to something so badly that you would do almost anything? Only to discover that the answer does not make everything better?” She faced back to the night.
Elfhelm stepped closer, standing so close behind her that he could smell vanilla and feel his cloak brush his armored chest. “I fear I do not understand, my lady,” a formal tone to his voice.
She turned sad eyes to him. “Must it be this way? Must you address me so? What happened to just Mistress or, better yet, call me by my given name.”
Elfhelm brushed a lock of her hair behind her shoulder. “If that is your wish. But please, if you count me as a friend, share with me what has you so melancholy. Tonight should be filled with happiness--especially for one as beautiful as you,” he added, still fingering a lock of her hair. He could not help himself, he knew he was pushing, opening himself to her rejection, but he could not help it. Here, in this place, the world beyond the wood seemed to vanish.
She looked at the letter in her hand and began, “I have always known that the man I called father was not my birth father, but no one could or would tell my who really sired me. When my mother passed, I thought the truth passed with her. Then, this whole ring thing took precedence, and I pushed the questions from my mind as I studied at Rivendell and traveled with Lord Gildor. When Aragorn became king and his life finally came to pass as it should, I found myself adrift. I came to Rohan hoping to start fresh, to leave behind the past, the questions about legitimacy and birth. Judging by your reaction at the border, Éomer kept his knowledge of my lineage even from his most trusted friends and for that, I will be eternally grateful. Then this came about,” she gestured to the celebration below, “and I was summoned here at Lord Gildor’s request.”
Elfhelm let her speak without interruption. It was clear that she needed to get it all out. Therefore, he held the questions he had as she continued.
“It seems that he knew the answer to my question but swore to say nothing. Finally he beseeched my birth father to tell me, at the very least to pen me a letter as I had a right to know the truth. Lord Gildor can be very persuasive and, as the time of the elves diminishes and many prepare to sail,” Thea gave a little chuckled, “he gave this to me tonight.” She handed the Marshal the letter. Elfhelm hesitated before taking it and reading. Thea leaned back against the rail and pulled the marshal’s cloak tight. She inhaled deeply. It smelled of him and it brought her comfort. She felt his power charge the air about her. She wanted nothing more than to feel his arms around her making it all go away; she imagined how it would feel! But she was just torturing herself for it would not happen.
Elfhelm folded the letter and looked at her in disbelief. “You are half-elvin,” he said in shock.
Moist green eyes looked up at him. “Who would have imagined that the reason stoic Master Erestor was so gentle and patient with me was because I was his daughter. All those years I studied with him and never did he speak of it! If he had not looked after me so well, I would think he was ashamed to have fathered a half breed. However, as I grew up, he made sure the other youngling did not tease me, made sure I had whatever I needed, was a confidant to talk to when I struggled with life’s choices. The twins called me his favorite pet and I never understood why he would give me a hug but no other.” A tear slipped down her cheek and she drew in a deep breath. “Now he has sailed, and is gone from this world forever and I can never say ‘thank you’ or call him adar. All I have from him is this,” she held up a pendant on a delicate chain. It was a raven with a black jewel for an eye. “It is the symbol of his house; he wore it always.”
The Marshal did not know what to say so he pulled her into his embrace and he felt her sag against him. He kissed the crown of her head. She continued to speak, feeling his protection surround her. “Gildor said that I am not really a peredhil because there was no love, no bond between my mother and Master Erestor; theirs was a single night of passion. Therefore Ilúvatar gave me the spirit of my mother’s race.” She sighed. “So now I have all the pieces to the puzzle that is me.” She pulled away from Elfhelm and looked up at him with a half-smile on her face. “I am the bastard child of Aphrazel, sister of Arathorn, and Master Erestor of the Noldor. You can understand why I did not wish to bring all this baggage to Aragorn’s house!”
Elfhelm could not help but smile at her; what a strong woman. He caught the relation she shared with the King of Gondor but said nothing. He wiped the remnants of tears from her cheek. “You are a lady of the highest quality,” he said softly, “and any man would be honored to call you a member of his house.”
Thea gave the marshal a warm smile, raising her hand to finger a lock of his soft sable hair and looking into his eyes. ‘If only there was not a Lady waiting in Rohan’ she thought.
“My lord-” Elfhelm turned suddenly, frustrated with the interruption. “Lord Celeborn has asked you join him and King Thranduil.” The guard looked uncomfortable. Elfhelm turned back to his enchanting companion, a look of hesitation on his face.
“Go on,” Thea said with a smile, “I am well.” He looked at her doubtfully. “Really, I am. Thank you. I am sure I will see you a bit later.” Elfhelm, as he always did, took her hand and kissed it. Then he followed his guard to the forest floor. Thea watched him go, a great burden lifted; Éomer had said the truth always came out and she felt all the better for it. Wrapping herself in the Marshal’s cloak, she sent a prayer to the vast beyond. “I understand, ada,” she whispered into the night.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.