4. Getting Settled
As they entered the main hall--the King’s Hall--Thea marveled at the fine craftmanship. She looked at the tapestries and up to the high ceiling and turned around with childlike wonder. Her eyes were wide and a soft smile graced her fair face. Éomer chuckled while Elfhelm smiled at her charming behavior. Surely the woman came here as Éomer’s intended. She seemed young enough and she had a certain grace about her. A part of Elfhelm was disappointed for he found her rather attractive. He dismissed the thought quickly. He had enough lady problems; he did not need any more!
“What do you think, my Lady?” Éomer asked. “Not quite as grand as the halls to which you are used.”
“No,” she replied softly, “better.” She came to a halt before him, still wearing an expression of awe.
Éomer chuckled, “I am not sure about that.” Arathea made to reply but he cut her off. “It has been a long journey and I am sure you wish to rest on something other than rocks. As I did not expect company, I fear a suitable suite may not be ready. But you may use Éowyn’s room to rest in for now. ”
“You are most kind, Sire.” She bent to pick up her travel pack.
“I will have your things taken there for now; we will move them once your permanent rooms are ready.” Éomer looked at her oddly. “You do have things do you not?” He could not recall more than one extra packhorse.
“What little I had with me for the wedding is on the little mule. As I had not intended to stay in Gondor, my things are still in…” she hesitated.
“Ah, of course.” Éomer let her comment die. He called for a servant and instructed the woman to lead Thea to his sister’s rooms. “See that a warm bath is also prepared and a light meal,” he told the woman before addressing Thea again, “Take time to rest. I will check in on you a bit later.”
“Your Majesty.” Thea bowed to the king and gave a nod to the others before following the servant from the hall.
Several men who had stood to the side during all this now came forward. “Welcome home, Sire,” an elderly man said as he approached. “I take it your trip to Gondor was fruitful?” His meaning was clear.
“Arathea is here to help Master Aldhere with the damaged histories.”
“Of course, one would expect a learned woman. And she quite pretty.”
Éomer pinched the bridge of his nose. “I will say this once and I wish no more speculation. She is not my intended. She is here to start a new life and not as my queen! Do I make myself clear? If I hear so much as a whisper to the contrary I will throw the miscreant into the stockade.” Éomer dropped into his chair.
The men about stood in stunned silence for a moment before Gamling spoke. “My lord, which chambers shall the Lady have?”
“Give her a suite on the West side, one with a bath and a balcony.” Gamling bowed and left the hall. Éomer stood. “I need to clean up. Elfhelm, I would speak with you while I soak. The rest of you,” he addressed his advisers, “I will meet with before supper.” They bowed as their king left the throne room, The Marshal of the East-Mark in tow.
The servant led Arathea to Éowyn’s rooms. Thea felt a bit uncomfortable invading such a private space. The servant pulled back the curtains to let the late afternoon sun brighten the room.
“I will have water for your bath brought immediately. Is there anything else you require?”
Thea smiled at the woman. “Only a cup of tea if it is no trouble,” she said as she rummaged through her pack, retrieving her bath oil.
“Of course, my lady.” The servant bowed.
“Oh, and just one more thing,” Thea said, catching the woman at the door. “I hold no title here. I have come to help with the damaged manuscripts.”
The woman gave her a rather blank look before leaving to fetch water and tea. Thea sighed.
Soon Arathea was relaxing in the hot tub, sipping some kind of wonderful tea. After days of travel, it felt heavenly to just sit and soak the dirt and weariness from her body. She closed her eyes and began to process all that had transpired. She thought of Marshal Elfhelm and her stomach fluttered. She found him most handsome. He had such an aura of physical strength about him. A charmer, Éomer has warned. Well, he did well in charming Thea. She giggled. How ridiculous she was being. He was not a young man and most likely married and certainly would have no interest in the likes of her. That is why he could be so charming; he did not have to worry that it could be misconstrued; Captain Gamling was like that. A knock interrupted her musings.
“Come,” she called. A different servant poked her head through the bathroom door.
“Forgive the disruption, my lady, but there are refreshments on the table. King Éomer also bid me see if there are any personal matters for which I might be of assistance. I would be happy to tend to your hair or lay out your dress for dinner.”
A dress for dinner! Thea never thought of that. The only two dresses she had were both Elvin made. They would not be much help in maintaining the simple profile of an archivist. She wondered if it were all that inappropriate to wear leggings to supper. She had a fine velvet embroidered coat to go over them. Curses! She sighed, tension creeping back into her body. The servant waited for instruction.
“I can manage,” Thea said kindly, “and you need not treat me as a Lady of the Court; I am just a simple scholar.”
“As you wish.” The servant left. It seemed that everyone expected Éomer would just pick a wife as if he were picking out a shirt. It was sad really, for his new station was difficult enough without the pressure of choosing a wife and, of course, providing heirs. She looked at her hands; they were starting to prune. Best get out and start working on her hair. It would take some time to untangle. A while later, Thea sat dozing on a lounger with her feet curled under her. She could not bring herself to lie in Éowyn’s bed. A knock at the door roused her.
“Come,” she called, too comfortable to move.
The door opened slowly and a familiar voice questioned, “Are you decent?”
Never looking at Éomer as he entered, Thea stretched and replied, teasingly, “Do you wish me to be?” An unexpected chuckle alerted her that the king had not come alone! She moved from the chaise, spinning to face the grinning faces of both king and marshal.
“My, lords,” she bowed, her cheeks a flame. “Sire, I beg…”
“Peace,” Éomer said as he entered the room, keeping the door safely ajar. “There is no harm in jesting with friends. I do not mean to disturb you; I only wonder if there is anything you need?”
Thea hesitated. She would have preferred to speak with Éomer alone, however in the grand scheme of things it was probably best they not be alone together…especially in a bedroom.
“At the moment, no, Sire. However, I will need the services of a seamstress before long. I took so little to Gondor.”
“You came here to seek a new life. If you find Rohan to your liking, we will send for the rest of your belonging. Until then, I will have the seamstress brought to you in the morning. If you are set, please excuse us--I still need to see my advisors. I will send someone to fetch you for dinner.” Éomer left with a small bow, followed by Elfhelm. She closed the door behind them and noticed the faint smell of sandalwood.
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.