Thea was led to the hall for supper; she was pleased to see that it was a relatively small gathering. Several long tables were set and various men and ladies of the court sat in comfortable conversation. As she was lead to the head table, she could hear the whispers and felt every eye on her, weighing her merit, judging her qualities. It was most discomforting; however, Arathea smiled politely and kept her chin up. She was relieved to see she was not seated at Éomer’s side, instead she sat next to the man at his left. He was a tall man and his clear blue eyes met her green ones with warmth. He stood, pulling back her chair. She smiled shyly and sat. Marshal Elfhelm and Captain Gamling both sat on the other side, to the right of the king. Soon the rest took their seats.
Before supper began, Éomer stood and addressed those assembled. “My Lords and Ladies of the Court, on my visit to Minis Tirith, I was most fortunate to become acquainted with someone highly skilled in all manners of language. She graciously has agreed to return to Rohan in order to help in the repair of our histories, which the fell beast all but destroyed.” He raised his glass and turned to Thea. “Welcome to Rohan, Mistress Arathea.”
Those assembled also raised their glasses in greeting. Thea graciously accepted the king’s kind welcome with a smile and nod, her glass raised in response before taking a very small sip. As a rule Thea did not drink, save tea or water, however she would not insult the king or his people. Éomer sat and dinner was served.
“My lady, we have not been introduced,” the tall blond man to her right said, “I am Grimbold, Marshal of the West-Mark. Beside you is Hesneth, a member of the king’s council and beside him is Erkenbrand my soon to be Captain. We are grateful for your assistance,” at this the advisor gave a rather indigent ‘uhm’ which the Marshal chose to ignore. “I fear it is quite the undertaking and poor Master Aldhere is beside himself.”
“The fool makes too much work for himself. He should just piece together whatever is left and be done with it,” the advisor said coolly. “There is no need to bring in an outsider.” He took a long drink from his glass.
Grimbold made to respond when Arathea beat him too it. “I understand my lord, that having an outsider rifling through your most treasured volumes can be quite unsettling; however, I have been trained for just such a purpose. I assure you I will treat your volumes with the utmost respect.”
“Trained? You are a scribe and we have plenty of those,” the man growled. Thea swallowed the insult with a dignity that did not go unnoticed by Grimbold. This was no simple scribe; knowledge and wisdom beyond her years was reflected in her eyes. She carried herself with all the grace of a Lady. No, she was not just a displaced casualty of the war looking for a new life.
As the meal progressed, the Marshal tried to engage the woman in conversation, however when asked about herself, her answers were short and vague and she was quick to change the subject. By the end of the meal, Thea had learned that Grimbold had a wife and two sons, most of Éomer’s advisors had served Théoden and liked things the way they were, and the Master Archivist had been in that position since before Théoden became king.
When dinner was over, musicians began to play and the mood lightened. Councilor Hesneth rose abruptly and without a word moved to join what appeared to be the rest of the King’s council. Spotting the vacant seat, Elfhelm moved to occupy it.
“Ah my lady, I do hope the good Marshal here has not been boring you with tales of his exaggerated accolades.”
Thea smiled as Grimbold sat up straight, towering over them both. “I have saved the lady from enduring your overt advances.”
“You wound me old friend,” Elfhelm said, placing a hand to his heart.
“Come, let me fill your cup to make amends.” The blond refilled Elfhelm’s goblet.
“Is the wine not to your liking?” Éomer asked, leaning toward the trio.
“The wine is lovely, my lord; however, I fear I have no tolerance for it,” Arathea replied softly. While Thea enjoyed the easy banter, she felt a bit uncomfortable being at the center of their attention.
As things began to break up, Arathea excused herself. It had been a long day and she hoped to meet Master Aldhere in the morning; she was anxious to begin work. Éomer told her that her new rooms were ready and all her things had been moved. He had also arranged for the seamstress to arrive first thing in the morning. Thea was to order everything she required. After breakfast, someone would take her to the library. The King kissed her hand as he bid her good night.
Elfhelm did the same, adding, “If you need someone to show you to your new quarters…”
“…This young lady will be happy to do so,” Gamling finished as he approached, a young maiden at his elbow.
The girl curtsied, “If milady would follow me.” Thea smiled at the girl and bid the men a final good night before leaving the hall.
“She would make a fine wife,” Grimbold said as they watched her go.
Éomer shook his head. “Perhaps, though not for me,” he said, a hint of melancholy in his voice.
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.