24. 24. Centenial
**Oct. 3020, Third Age**
Arathea, Mistress of Lore, looked across the dining hall at those gathered. She had resided in Edoras for a little over a year and she had finally achieved much of her heart’s desire. She had a place and a people to call her own. Her past was but a distant memory. The people of Rohan cared little for her background for they judged a person by their merit—not their linage. Éomer had insisted on a celebration for her one hundredth birthday—just a small one--but once Aglaril and Cynwen, Marshal Grimbold’s wife, learned of the king’s idea, they took charge and the whole of Edoras joined in.
Thea now sat at the King’s table surrounded by those she held dear, including her cousin Aragorn. Her mind flitted briefly to those not present, her parents, her Adar and Gildor; they were gone but the memories did not bring her pain. She was happy. She looked to the ceiling, willing the tears of joy back into her eyes. Glancing down the table, she saw Grimbold’s captain, Erkenbrand, give her a knowing wink and she smiled back; she had been caught.
“You are not crying again are you?” Elfhelm whispered elbowing her side. They had become close friends since that passionate night. However, there had not been any other intimacy between them. Elfhelm, as Marshal of the East-Mark had returned to his duties before the snows fell last year. Therefore, with a lingering kiss to her hand and a promise to write often, he galloped off over the horizon.
The dismissal of Lady Ethelfled and her nephew had shaken things up in Aldburg as many assumed Ethelfled was to be the Marshal’s wife. If Thea hoped to have a relationship with the man, she needed to earn the respect of his people, first. She had gone to visit him this past spring, staying several weeks. It had been a good experience; however, Elfhelm remained a gentleman. They shared strolls after private suppers, morning rides, and long conversations; yet a kiss to the hand or chastely on her lips was as intimate as it got. Thea knew he was being cautious. His people needed to get to know her, as he did. She planned to speak to both the King and the Marshal about spending the up coming winter in the East-Mark.
Realizing she had in fact been caught, not just crying but miles away from the festivities she responded, rather childishly, “No I am not!” She defiantly blinked back the tears. Elfhelm’s rich laugh filled the air and she playfully smacked him. “You are infuriating!” she jested. Servants moved tables back to make room for dancing as the musicians took their places. Aragorn stood and reached for her hand.
“Come dance with me.”
With a smile, she rose and followed him. Elfhelm watched, his heart pounding in his chest. His desire for her company had not diminished during their months apart. He had had conversations with both Éomer and Elessar earlier in the week; now he just needed to talk to her. He scowled as a gutsy young man cut in, sending King Elessar back to his seat. Thea, laughed as the man twirled her about the floor.
“Tis a good thing looks cannot kill, Marshal, or I fear Rohan would have a shortage of men. I hear she is quite sought after,” Elessar said casually. Elfhelm got the message.
Taking a swig of ale, he stood and strode purposefully over to where Thea and her dance partner now stood conversing with Erkenbrand and Éalwyn.
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.