6. 6. The Archives
When Arathea opened the door the next morning, she was surprised to see Marshal Elfhelm and not a servant.
“I thought to see you to the Library,” he said with a small bow and a genuine smile. His dark eyes twinkled. Thea returned the smile, pulling the door closed behind her. Elfhelm lead the woman down the hall. She intrigued him. She said little, although her eyes spoke volumes to any who cared to look. There was an air of joy and mischief about her; she celebrated life. Her smile was infectious and she carried herself with grace. She was not what she seemed for her dark forest green eyes held far too much knowledge for the age she appeared. Éomer had given his court little information about her other than she came highly recommended by the King of Gondor. The court was already alive with rumors that she was sent by King Elessar to become Éomer’s Queen, thus solidifying Rohan’s loyalty to the Crown of the United Kingdoms. Elfhelm did not think that was the case. Arathea did not seem like a woman who did anything she did not want to do. If she were here for Éomer it was by her design, not Elessar’s. However, both had made it clear that there was nothing but friendship between them. He could feel her presence a step behind and her eyes upon his back.
The Marshal was a husky man, not overly tall, standing only a half head taller than Thea. Yet he had such a presence about him, an aura of strength that astounded her. She felt her insides flutter. It had been a long time since a man had caught her interest; the last one took care of any and all desire for a relationship as it had ended badly. Lately she contented herself to innocent flirting. However, something about this man made her feel warm. ‘It is simply his charisma,’ she told herself, ‘remember he is charmer.’ She smiled at her fanciful musings.
The two came to an ornately carved door. Elfhelm opened it and allowed the woman to step though. As she passed, the soft aroma of spiced vanilla lingered in the air and he felt a sudden desire arise. He breathed deep as he followed her into the room, shaking sense back into his head.
Arathea stepped into the small library at Edoras. It was tiny compared to the libraries of Imladris and Gondor. Still, she immediately felt at home amid the smell of ink and parchment and leather. She gingerly reached out and touched a book, a soft smile on her lips.
Elfhelm cleared his throat. “This way Mistress,” he said, leading her toward the back. They entered another well-lit room and Thea could not stop the gasp.
“By the stats!” she exclaimed as she saw the floor and tables littered with parchment and broken books.
An elderly man emerged from an ante-chamber hearing their voices. He wiped off his hand on his apron. “Ah, Marshal Elfhelm, to what do I owe the pleasure?” he asked with a bow.
Elfhelm gave a nod and smiled as he presented Arathea to the old scholar. “Éomer brought you a gift all the way from Gondor,” he said with smirk. Arathea stepped forward.
“Master Aldhere, my name is Arathea and I have come to help repair the damaged manuscripts.” The old man’s eyes lit up.
“Your help is most welcome, child. Thank you, thank you marshal, I will take it from here.” The little man began to guide the woman about the organized mess and explain what was what. Elfhelm watched for a moment. When Thea looked back at him, the Marshal have her a warm smile, his eyes soft. She responded with a shy nod before turning her attention back to the task at hand. Elfhelm left the library, an odd feeling in his gut.
Arathea quickly immersed herself in copying and the days and weeks began to glide by. She worked meticulously, making each repaired page look exactly like the original. It was a time consuming task but Lord Erestor has stressed that when repairing volumes, the idea was to make it look as though it had never been damaged in the first place. That meant no personalized writing styles, additions or even corrections. Everything had to be exactly as it was. Master Aldhere was quite impressed with her work and he soon gave her his most important repairs. She took on every task she was given without complaint. She asked questions when she was unsure of a process or translation and responded well to his corrections. Thea, for her part, respected the ways of Rohan and, although some of their methods were crude and could have been done differently, she said nothing. There would be time to offer suggestions later; she had to remember she was only a guest here.
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