7. 7. Citizen of Rohan
Three weeks had passed and Éomer has seen little of Arathea. Master Aldhere could not stop singing her praise. She was gifted beyond any he had seen yet, when asked about her schooling, she said nothing. Those who encountered the new scribe always spoke of her fondly. She was friendly, bright, and helpful. It seemed Arathea was finding her place in Rohan. The King did find it amusing that the Master Archivist, as well others, called her child given she was much older than any now living in Rohan. Éomer was glad she was getting along so well, but it pained him that she hid who she truly was. She was not just some scribe, a refugee from the war. She was a scholar, a Dúnadan, King Elessar’s cousin.
When Arathea failed to attend any meal in the main hall since her first few days in Rohan, Éomer began to ask her whereabouts.
“The kitchen said she comes to ask a small meal at dawn; she is at the library before I, sire. She takes a small mid-day meal with me on the balcony some days, other days she eats at a desk in the library. When I leave for the evening, she assures me she is only staying a bit longer. I should keep better track my lord, my apologies. I fear she stays and works well into the night. She is most dedicated. However, I am concerned for she takes so little time for herself; she gets along with everyone but is never seen in hall enjoying time with friends. It is not good for one so young and full of life. Ah, she reminds me of your sister, Sire; though more interested in books.”
Éomer chuckled with the old man. He was right. Arathea was very like Éowyn in spirit, though his sister was too interested in swords and battles to care much for books and music. While he was certain Thea knew much on such subjects and loved to revel in her freedom, she had the wisdom to keep it all in balance…or so he thought. The Lady was working too hard-- intentionally hiding from the world outside. Aldhere was right. Thea needed to take breaks, get to know her new homeland, make friends. Furthermore, he wanted her to be more active in his council; Elessar had said that Master Erestor instructed her in all diplomatic fields. He very much could use her insight and support. First things first, though. He needed to get Thea to relax and stop hiding.
She waited outside the King’s Hall. She wondered why Éomer had sent for her. When the guard opened the door, she entered, swallowing down the anxiety she felt. She feared she had somehow displease him and he would send her away. She looked at the others in the room as she approached the King. Both Marshals were present as well as Gamling, captain of the King's guard. A small group of advisers were also present. She recognized Councilor Hesneth, who regarded her coolly. Near him stood a younger man, perhaps Éomer’s age. He looked down his nose at her with great disdain. Thea wondered what she had done to merit such dislike; she could not remember ever meeting the man.
“Your majesty,” she said with a low bow, her hand to her heart in an elvin manner. She remained bowed, “you sent for me?”
“Master Aldhere has spoken highly of your skill and I am most grateful for your generous help.” Éomer said; his words held a formal tone. Thea stood and looked at the king, a humble smile on her lips.
“I am glad to help.”
“However, it has been brought to my attention that you seldom take time from your work. I myself have noticed you do not attend meals in the hall with the others. Although delighted with your dedication, I am told you work every day from dawn well into the night.”
“My lord I assure you. I do eat and rest sufficiently; there is just so much to do…” The rest died on her lips when she saw the King’s eyebrow raise, a stern expression on his face. She quickly bowed her head; she had to remember her place. She saw the look in the King’s eyes; he knew she hid behind her work, fearful of really living.
Éomer stepped off the dais and moved to stand before her. Gentle fingers lifted her chin; their eyes met. “You are not some common maid; you have to stop hiding behind the books,” he said softly. She could read in his eyes everything he did not voice aloud. “That is why,” he said turning from her and returning to his seat, “I expect you to join *my* table for at least one meal a day in the main hall. While you continue to aid Master Aldhere, you will attend council meetings at my discretion,” he added quickly when the younger adviser made to speak, “and you will take two days a week for yourself. If you are going to stay in Rohan you should become more familiar with it and its people. You are free to come and go as you choose, though I ask you to let me know if you wish to travel beyond the safety of the walls.” Standing he continued loudly, “I hereby afford you all the rights of a citizen of Rohan and bestow on you a title of Mistress of Lore.”
Thea stood in wide-eyed speechlessness, much as the king’s own advisers. Her brain quickly processed everything and she quickly dropped to her knee. “As I said in Gondor, I gladly pledge fealty to you, Éomer King and your land of Rohan.”
“And I accept.” Éomer said with a smile. “Now, it is time for the meal, come Mistress, join us.” Arathea’s bowed head shot up, a look of shock on her face causing Éomer to laugh. “You just agreed.”
The woman blushed and looked at her hands, “If I may clean up a bit first, my lord.” Éomer nodded and moved to the table that had been set with a light lunch. Thea moved quickly from the hall, finding a washbasin at the hall entrance she quickly cleaned her hands and face before returning to join the men for lunch.