23. 23. The Dismissal
When the group, Gamling included, reached the King’s throne room, chaos erupted. Eadwald began going on about a Gondorian plot to weaken Rohan’s integrity and slowly gain control. Ethelfled continued to scream at Arathea who did nothing but try to back away in shame. Elfhelm tried to intervene while Gamling attempted to keep Éomer from slicing them all to bits.
The king stood on the dais looking down at those in his court. “Stop!” he commanded. Elfhelm, Gamling, Thea and even Eadwald closed their mouths and looked to the king. Ethelfled continued her tirade and gave Thea a good shove, causing the woman to stumble back; Gamling, ever where he was needed most, caught her.
“I said STOP!” Éomer barked again.
“I want that woman banished!” Ethelfled said, coming to stand before the throne. She bowed low to the king, turning teary eyes to him, clutching her heart. “She has wronged a Lady of Rohan and worse, my lord,” she said with much drama, “she has beguiled a most trusted marshal. She has no respect for our ways and looks only for her own pleasure and gain.”
Éomer looked down at the pleading woman and snorted. “Unlike you?” he intoned, his look daring her to argue. Yet, she did.
“I have always had Rohan’s, and my dear Elfhelm’s, best interest at heart. Unlike the trollop who knew-- she knew,” the woman turned to Thea and advanced menacingly, “of the nature of my relationship with the Marshal and went to him anyway!”
She rushed at Thea, arm poised to backhand the woman. Gamling, still close, pulled her safely into his arms placing himself between the hysterical woman and his friend. Elfhelm rushed forward, catching Lady Ethelfled around the waist and moving her away. She turned to him, fat tears spilling from her eyes. “Oh my dear, I am so sorry, but I cannot help myself, she has deceived you so; deceived all of us save my nephew. Please, my lord,” she pleaded to Éomer, “listen to what Eadwald has to say. He has learned of her plot!”
Elfhelm dropped his arms from the woman and stepped away in disgust. He knew she had designs on him and the East-mark, but he could not believe that she would fabricate lies against Gondor to do it. The Marshal looked over at Thea, still held by Gamling. He should be the one holding her; protecting her!
Now that there was some order, Éomer sat on his throne. He looked at Eadwald. The king really did not want or need to hear any foolish notions but, at the moment, it seemed to be the only way appease Lady Ethelfled and get to the bottom of all this.
Eadwald cleared his throat and began, “Sire, this woman was sent hereunder false pretences. She has close personal ties to the King of Gondor, who suggested you bring her to Rohan. If she was not able to gain your favor and become queen, she was to seduce and trap one of your trusted Marshals, gaining his support. In this way, she could turn him against you. I believe the elves are also in on the plot as it seemed most odd that a simple scribe would receive an invitation to the celebration in East Lórien. My Lord, Gondor looks to assimilate Rohan, take from us our sovereignty.”
Éomer almost laughed at the absurdity of the man’s claims. But before he could address the foolish accusations, Lady Ethelfled spoke up.
“He speaks the truth, my lord. For just this morning, the dear Marshal came to me, quite unexpected, and told me he had no feelings for me, that his heart lay elsewhere. When I looked into his eyes, I could see it, the truth. She had seduced him, bewitched him into thinking he loved her. I have know the Marshal since we were children and I can assure you he would never settle for an outsider.”
“She is Gondorian trash, paid to bring ruin to Rohan.” Eadwald added with disdain.
“Mind how you speak of King Elessar’s cousin!” Eomer hissed.
Thea sagged against Gamling, her last secret out. Lady Ethelfled turned wide eyes on her, hatred shining bright.
“Of course my lord! Now it makes sense. Once she was married to you, there would be an unbreakable alliance between royal houses and Gondor would have your throne! You must send her away!” Eadwald looked about the room, confident in his conclusion.
The king advanced on the smaller man. “The problem with your whole conspiracy theory is that I knew who she was when I brought her here. Furthermore, unlike you, I do not think anyone is out to destroy Rohan. Lastly, I do not think my Marshal would be so easily deceived by a mere woman, as he saw through the deception of a wizard.” He looked to Elfhelm. “Marshal, would you please explain your feelings in this matter?”
Elfhelm stood proud before his king. “I have come to realize that, although the Lady Ethelfled is a…fine… woman, I do not love her and cannot see myself in a relationship with her. I had thought we came to an agreement earlier when we spoke privately.”
“She forced her way into your bed!” the woman shot. Éomer was a firm believer that what happened behind closed doors was no one’s business, but it seemed there was no way around it.
Elfhelm looked at Arathea, he was ever a gentleman; what transpired last night, really had nothing to do with his feelings or lack thereof for Ethelfled. What he and Thea had shared did not need to be brought out into the open. “This has nothing to do with Mistress Arathea and everything to do with us. I am sorry if my silence led you to believe there was something between us. But in truth, I do not think you truly love me but rather my rank.”
“You deny she spent the night in your bed?” the Lady challenged. She would see the wench humiliated, yet!
“I deny that I was seduced or coerced in anyway. My lord, I regret that my lack of courage in dealing with the Lady Ethelfled has brought such chaos before you and I regret that is has caused the Mistress Arathea any sort of harm.” He bowed to his king.
“Then swear it, before your King that she did not come to you last night!” Ethelfled had him now.
Elfhelm looked at Thea again and saw determination in her eyes. She straightened herself, preparing to speak of their encounter. However, the Marshal spoke first. “It is true; she did visit me last night.” Ethelfled, smiled in satisfaction. “She came to say good bye. She wished to leave immediately and planned to depart last night.” Éomer raised an eyebrow at Thea. “We talked and I was able to convince her to stay and allow an escort to guide her safely to Gondor, as you Sire had suggested, if she still wished to leave.”
The Marshal looked again towards Thea, he read her thanks in the deep green eyes and he nodded. Who knew if she would ever want to pursue a relationship with him after all this; but he was not about to tell the entire court that they had been intimate!
“See sire,” Eadwald interjected, “Even your Marshal said she was about to sneak out. One can only imaging the plot we have just foiled.”
Éomer turned tired, frustrated eyes on his young advisor. “All this stops now. Since you are so certain that King Elessar is plotting, perhaps I should send a representative of Rohan to Gondor to ensure there are no such deceptions.”
“Oh that is most wise, my king,” the man said with a bow.
“Good. You will leave in two days’ time.” The man stood up, surprise on his face. He began to sputter, but the King ignored it. You will travel to Aldburg with your aunt, gather what you *both* need and then proceed to Gondor. You will answer to Lord Guthric who is already in route as my Ambassador to Gondor.” He clapped his hands and looked at the now silent group.
Ethelfled made to argue, but thought better of it when Éomer eyed her. She knew it was over, her plans of being a Marshal’s wife and living in luxury. Then a thought came to her—perhaps there was a man of high station in Gondor. She suddenly smiled at the king and with a deep curtsy simple said, “As you command, Sire.”
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.