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Horse Lady of Rohan  by Mimi Lind

A/N: 

This story was previously published on several other fanfic sites. I follow canon and Tolkien's lore closely, and some things -- which may not make sense at first -- will get their explanation. :)



1. An Unpleasant Assignment


Rohan, Middle-earth, Fourth Age 8

"I have decided you shall marry an elf."

Mother said the shocking words quite calmly when they were clearing the table after dinner.

"An elf ? Why?" Wynne stared at her in disbelief.

"You clearly did not inherit your grandmama's beauty, so I've realized we need elven blood at this stage. Your children will not be plain." She sounded like she was discussing which stallion to mate with which mare to produce the most desired offspring, as if Wynne was one of their horses. "In addition, I have good hopes you will catch the king, or at least the prince."

"But we don't know any elves… How–"

"Don't interrupt! I have been informed by our dear relative Aragorn, that the Elvenking of Mirkwood has decided to clear the Brown Lands of orcs during the summer, and for this quest he needs horses. He specifically inquired for Rohirric horses – and who have finer Mearas than we? Nobody has. Well, so I made your father speak with dear Aragorn, and tell him we would be happy to oblige. We have agreed to lend King Thranduil ten of our finest, and they come with a groom. Someone who can tend to the horses and help the elves with whatever they need. And that groom is you , of course."

" Me? But–"

"Will you be quiet, girl!" Mother pounded her fist on the table and Wynne stood straighter. "Your real mission will be to catch a royal elf – the king or his son – and make one of them marry you. And if that fails, pick a lesser one. They will be accompanied by three guards."

Wynne stared at Mother. Was she being sent away? A quest to chase orcs sounded terribly frightening, but trying to make an elf marry her, even more so. She was no beauty, her life had been spent on horseback so far, and her body was hard, lean, and muscled. No plump arms and soft bosom to impress them with, and her face was all tanned and freckled from the sun. Wynne was plain just like Mother had said; they would not look at her twice.

"Mother, I can't. Not this, please, I–"

A hard slap on each cheek silenced her. "You will do as told. You are no child anymore, this summer will be your twentieth. I was married by that age and already with child, and so was your grandmama. I don't understand what you are fretting about anyway! Have you even seen a male elf before? They are exceedingly handsome." Mother pulled out a chair for Wynne and sat down opposite to her daughter. "It should be easy. You will be the only woman of the company – it's you and five elf males. You will be close to them at all hours, sleeping in their camp, sharing their meals, tending to their wounds if they get any. If you play your cards well it will only be a matter of time before some – or all of them – are attracted to you! Males are weak. Show them a little skin and they won't be able to resist you. Elves are no different than stallions; a mare in heat will make them mad with desire. Trust me on this."

Looking down at her folded hands, Wynne tried to push back the disturbing images of mating horses that came unbidden before her inner eye. She had seen it happen since she was a girl; she knew exactly what the stallions did with the mares, and the thought of this happening to her made her shudder.

"You must encourage them, especially the two royal elves, King Thranduil and Prince Legolas." Mother rose and began to pace the room, speaking with increasing eagerness. "It will be the perfect alliance. Elven blood – elven royal blood at that – bred into the lines of Rohan Rohirrim! Your offspring will be half elves, long lived and beautiful. The future Lords and Ladies of Örn will be famous!"

Wynne remained silent, knowing she would only be struck again if she made more objections. Her cheeks still burned, and apparently Mother did not mind if her daughter was covered in bruises when she met the elves. She never hesitated to raise a hand against Wynne. Perhaps she beat Father too, who knew?

"Elves are not accustomed to humans, and you will use this against them," Mother continued. "Undress before them, seduce them with alcohol – I do not care what you do as long as it's successful. If you become pregnant first and marry them after, that is of no matter. Even if they refuse to marry you we will have a half elf child at least."

Wynne could not keep silent anymore. "What if they get offended and send me away? I would be all alone in the wilderness, and the orcs would kill me." Her voice sounded more childish than she liked, but she could not stop herself.

"Nonsense! They need the horses, and they know it. They will not send you away. They will just think it's the way of humans, and get used to it. And as time passes, their desire will work its course. They will not be able to resist you in the long run. Like I said; males are weak."

Wynne felt bile rise at the thought of seducing an elf, or any male. She had been living at home with her parents and grandparents all her life; she had never even talked in private to a man. They were large and burly, and, judging by the men she saw at the marketplace, they were ugly and stank. Elf males, as far as she knew, might not be any better. They were said to be handsome, but then again, other women thought human men were attractive too. Maybe Wynne was an oddity to think males ugly and vile, but she just could not imagine she would ever want one to mount her like a stallion.

"I can't do it. Please don't make me!" she begged.

"This is not up for discussion, it's decided already. You will go." Mother had a threatening frown.

"I refuse! You don't own me. I'm not a mare you can force to mate!" Wynne's outburst surprised even herself. She hardly ever talked back.

Mother's face turned white, and she gripped Wynne's arms with fingers like claws, her nails digging deep into the flesh. Then she pushed her so forcefully against the wall that her skull felt it would crack.

"You. Will. Not. Disobey me." Mother's voice was quiet, and deadly cold. "You will go to the elves, and come back with an elf husband, or at least his child in your womb. If not, you shall regret it."

That silenced Wynne. As compared to her mother's fury, even an elf in her bed was to prefer.

"When do I leave?" she whispered, defeated.

"Next week. You had better start packing."


A/N:
Next we shall meet this elf company. Feedback is super appreciated!

2. Meeting the Elvenking

Wynne spotted the group of elves from a long distance. They had built a simple camp just offshore of the Anduin river, and seemed to be waiting for her, lined up as they were in a semicircle. Almost despite herself she relaxed her seat, causing Vatna, the gray mare she was riding, to slow her pace. 

All the way here she had tried to think of ways to escape this trap. Run away somewhere and hide until the elves got tired of waiting? But she could not abandon the horses, and ten Mearas were not exactly inconspicuous. 

What if she just refused? She could ride with the elves and never reveal Mother’s plan. But then she would have to face her wrath upon return, and that was even more intimidating than marrying an elf. 

She simply had no choice. Mother had willed this, and when she willed something, it happened. One did not oppose Mother. 

Wynne must make the elves like her, somehow. She had no other option.

The river was quite shallow here, allowing her and the horses to wade over it easily. When she could now get a closer look at the elves on the other side, she was almost ashamed of her thoughts of ugly men before. They were tall, that was the only similarity between them and the men at the marketplace, but there ended all likeness. These males were indeed beautiful, strikingly handsome in a knee weakening way. 

Two of them were dark, with olive skin and raven black hair, one was ginger and two were blond. All five had flawless faces; no wrinkles, no scars, no birth marks anywhere to be seen, and their waist long hair had intricate braiding on the sides of their heads. Not a single strand of hair seemed to be misplaced, as compared to Wynne’s tousled, brown tresses. 

Even their clothes were beautiful, spotlessly clean despite having camped out of doors. Wynne looked down on her own wrinkled hose and tunic, with grass stains on the knees from making the fire yesterday, and her leather boots covered in mud and possibly some horse dung as well.

Oh well, if Mother was right, she would not need clean clothes or smooth hair, all it would take was some nudity. Thinking about undressing in front of the elves made her cringe with embarrassment, but she knew she had to at least try. Maybe she could make it seem like an accident.

“Greetings, human. I am King Thranduil of the Woodland Realm. You must be the representative of the House of Örn. I had imagined you somewhat… older. And male.” The blond elf that had spoken looked down his nose at her, which must have been hard, considering she was still on horseback.

Up this close, the elf’s grandeur was intimidating. Wynne did not know where to look, and she had to clench her fists hard to hide her trembling.

“Greetings, sire. I am Lady Wynne of Örn, at your service.” She made a slight bow, and dismounted, trying not to wobble. Her legs felt like jelly.

“I am pleased to make your acquaintance, My Lady,” said the king, and looked like he was not pleased at all. He seemed to take in her simple clothing, rough, weathered features and small stature, all in one go, and immediately dismissing her as useless.

Oh Eru, this would never work! He hated her already, her husband-to-be, if Mother had her way. 

The king turned to look at the horses, seemingly trying to find fault with them also, but this at least would not be possible. They were outstanding, as perfect as could be, even the pack animals. Wynne herself might be a disappointment to the king, but she knew she need not be ashamed of her Mearas, the famous horse breed of Rohan.

Despite this, the king did manage to find a complaint. 

“Where are the reins and saddles?” asked he, sounding accusing. “I see you have saddlebags on the pack horses, but no riding gear at all on the mounts. Why is this?” 

Wynne felt ice cold anger run through her spine, chasing away the fear. Who was this king, to question her competence as a horsewoman? Reins and saddles, indeed! Her proud animals would never have to endure the hard pull of steely bits in their soft mouths, or the chafering of saddles. It was bad enough they would have to carry strangers on their noble backs.

“You won’t need any of that. These are well trained horses.” She tried to suppress her annoyance, but the Elvenking’s disdainful gaze made it hard. 

“Is that so? You want us to ride bareback like savages.” King Thranduil somehow managed to sound even more arrogant than before. 

Wynne was almost bristling by now, and bit down a harsh answer. This was the elf she was supposed to marry? To be forced to endure his stuck up behavior every day, must be an even worse punishment than facing Mother’s anger. Handsome or not, he was a complete jerk. If he kept on annoying her like this she was not sure she could stop herself from making some really rude remarks, and then all would be ruined. 

She must compose herself and try to behave.

The king had turned his back on her now, and was conferring with the others in a foreign language. The other blond elf advanced on Wynne in the meantime, looking slightly apologetic.

“Forgive my father,” he said and stroked Vatna’s soft muzzle. “Your horses look marvellous, and I like riding bareback. I am Legolas, by the way.” 

“Pleased to meet you, sire.” Wynne bowed, knowing that this was the prince who was her second choice in marriage, according to Mother. He looked kinder than his father, however not much less proud, but she appreciated that he complimented her on her horses. 

Thranduil had finished talking with the others now, and rejoined her. 

“I have a suggestion to make, My Lady”, he said. “We will take the horses, and borrow them this spring and summer as agreed, and return them by early fall. We can tend to them ourselves, so your service will not be needed after all.” It sounded more like a command than a suggestion.

“Out of the question.” Wynne tried to remain polite, but he made it very hard. “Where my horses go, I go. Take it or leave it.” She tried to stand up tall, and look just as imperious as the blond king. Perhaps if her hair had been long and flowing like his, and her eyebrows just as intimidating, she would have succeeded. As of now, she probably just looked silly.

“The quest we will embark upon is not a children’s game, girl. We will battle vile monsters, and ride long hours. It is no place for a young woman.”

Wynne’s stomach churned. Monsters? What monsters? Did he mean orcs, or… worse? Trolls? Dragons? Her mouth went dry, but she could not let her fear show. 

“My father and the King of Gondor apparently thought differently. I was assigned this task, and I am not afraid”, she lied. Somehow the elf’s condescending behavior brought forward some unknown source of stubbornness and pride in her. “Girl” indeed! 

“Suit yourself then. Remember I have warned you. If you fall behind, or encumber us in any way, I shall send you right back and make do without those horses.”

Wynne gave a slight nod, hoping that he would not notice how she shivered. Could she really manage this? What if the first sight of a monster made her so frightened that she panicked? If she were sent home, it would be an absolute disgrace to her House. Not to mention how furious it would make Mother.

Wynne made a decision then. She would pretend. Pretend to be a strong, independent woman, a woman of the world, who was not afraid to be among males. She would guard her soft spots carefully, like she was wearing an invisible armour. She could almost picture herself dressing up in chainmail, and putting on a helmet with only a tiny slit for the eyes, like the warriors did. 

The thought made her straighten her back and lift her chin slightly. She could do this. Was she not a Lady of the Rohirrim? Was her House not one of the finest in the Mark, and her Grandmama related to the most famous of kings, Aragorn himself? Distantly, yes, but still!

She could endure a lot. Growing up in her mother’s shadow had hardened her. How scary could a bunch of monsters be, compared to that?

3. Choosing Horses

The three remaining elves joined the party by the horses, and introduced themselves. Galion, the ginger elf, was a sword fighter. He was a lot stronger looking than the others’ slim figures, with bulging biceps under his woolen tunic. On his back he had strapped a huge, double-handed sword in a leather scabbard. Unlike Wynne he had no freckles, as one would expect with that red mane of hair, but his skin did have that pale, almost translucent tone that Wynne had noticed on ginger humans.

The king carried two slender swords in ornate scabbards, but the other elves were bowmen, although they had long daggers in their belts as a backup. Nodir and Bronedir, the two dark elves, were brothers. Their heritage was southern, their mother came from an elf settlement south of Harad, which explained the tanned skin of the sons. Not that Wynne would have known, anyway, she had no idea what elves usually looked like. 

After the short presentation, the elves began to take down their tents and pack their belongings in a speedy, efficient way. When they were done it was almost impossible to see where the camp had been, so carefully did they restore everything. It was clear that the elves respected the nature, which made Wynne slightly less apprehensive of them. A creature who cared for the living things in its surrounding, could not be all that bad. 

They did not carry much, and their luggage fit well into the saddlebags Wynne had brought. The horses not chosen for riding would carry their packs, including her own bags. If need be, they could ride the pack horses alternately. They were all equally suited for riding, and alternating horses was always a good way to spare them.

Wynne let the elves pick out mounts among all the horses, except her own Vatna, watching them carefully as they did. She was curious about which ones they would choose. 

The king went first, daring the others to precede him with a stern look. Wynne had to hide a smile when he was done, the stallion he took was the most headstrong of them all. Thranduil would have a handful with that one.

Galion was next up, he seemed to have singled out a huge gelding beforehand, and Wynne nodded appreciatively. It was a good choice. Hlaupari was strong and fast, and would not tire even with such a muscled warrior on his back.

The dark elf brothers seemed to care less about what rides they got, they soon picked two similar looking bays, both mares. One was a lot more active than the other, Wynne knew, but they would notice that themselves before long. 

Legolas took his time before he made his decision. He walked slowly among the horses, stroked them, looked them in the eye and blew air on their noses. Finally he picked a slender, young mare in a pretty chestnut color. The mare had answered his blowing with a puff of air of her own, and then commenced to nuzzle his shoulder in a friendly way. It was clear they had both taken a liking to each other. 

Legolas was the only elf wishing to know what the name of his horse meant, which rose him even further in Wynne’s eyes.

“Her name is Stelpa, and it means girl in Old Rohirric,” translated Wynne.

“Stelpa. Very fitting name. I like it.” He fondled the chestnut’s forehead, following the contours of her white star.

It was time to get going, and the elves promptly mounted their horses in a varying range of difficulty, used to saddles and stirrups as they obviously were. 

Prince Legolas was an exception; with an elegant jump he straddled his mare, and she did not even flinch. Already he and Stelpa seemed connected, somehow.

“How do we make them to go the way we want?” King Thranduil managed to sound lofty and unconcerned, despite the wild capering and shaking of the head his stallion made.

Wynne then instructed them of the basic commands, both verbal and by touch of the legs, to make their steeds walk faster, slower, turn right or left, and walk backwards. She doubted they would remember half of it, but with Vatna in the lead the horses were likely to follow her anyway. Vatna had a high status in the herd.

They followed the Anduin south, heading in the direction of the Brown Lands where Thranduil said many orcs were still hiding. The Ring War ten years ago had been the death of most of Sauron’s armies, but some of them had scattered all over Arda, seeking refuge in any uninhabited areas where they could waylay unexpecting journeymen and rob them of both their belongings and their lives. Wynne could only barely remember the dark times of the War, young as she had been, but for Thranduil it seemed that hardly no time had passed.

“I have scouts out all over the Wood of Greenleaves, or Mirkwood as it was formerly named. There is less evil there now, but still not a month go by without us finding another spider’s nest or orc den.”

Wynne wondered then why the king had agreed to leave his forest to come so far south, was he not needed at home? What if something happened to him, and left his kingdom without its regent? If they all were slain they would not even have the next in line, the prince.

“We must all do our part in this, king or no king. My people are not so depending on me, they will manage. Some might say it will be an improvement without my meddling.”

Was there a hint of a smile in the corner of his mouth? Wynne was surprised. She had believed Thranduil to lack humor entirely.

They spent the better part of that day on horseback, making only a short stop for lunch. The elves managed the horses quite well, even the king despite his steed’s repeated mischief. More than once the stallion stopped mid-canter to graze a few mouthfuls of yellow grass. Thranduil miraculously managed to keep his balance, and stay seated each time.

“You are a good horseman,” Wynne complimented. The king only grunted in reply, the annoyance showing plainly in his beautiful face. But he could not really complain about the horse’s behaviour, as he had chosen it himself. Complaining would be the same as admitting that he had made an uninformed decision, and it was evident to Wynne that he would rather have the horse throw him off before that happened. He was one of those persons who would never admit to being wrong. Quite a bit like Wynne’s Mother, actually.

Nodir and Bronedir soon discovered the different speed of their bays, one being happy to join the front of the company and the other rather lazy, with a tendency to stay some distance behind the rest. Since the brothers preferred to ride in each other's company, this turned out to be a hard nut to crack, and in the end Bronedir had to change to a horse Wynne told him was the mother of Nodir’s mare. After that the journey went a lot smoother for the pair.

They camped by the Anduin late in the afternoon, and as Wynne tended to the horses the others put up the tents and started a campfire. Wynne felt over each horse carefully with her hands, searching for warm or swollen limbs, and checking their hooves for stones. Before she rejoined the elf company she gave Vatna a long hug.

“Oh my sweet girl, what am I to do?” The mare nuzzled her shoulder and huffed softly. Wynne blinked away the tears that burned in the corner of her eyes. How could Mother believe she had even the slightest chance to make anyone fall for her? Especially not stuck up, self-important fellows such as this lot.

Wynne looked back at the elves, who had lined up barefoot by the river, cleaning their arms and faces thoroughly in its cold waters. She realized this was her cue, this was her opportunity to show some skin as well.

With slow, reluctant steps she proceeded towards the five elves, starting to unbutton her tunic as she went.


A/N:
If you like this so far, I'd be super happy for feedback. <3

4. Around the Campfire

When she had removed her hose and tunic, Wynne hesitated, her hands on the linen chemise. Surely Mother did not expect her to get stark naked in front of the elves? The chemise was bad enough, it had a low neckline and reached only a bit below the knees, showing a great deal of bare ankle. Quite scandalous.

She drew a few long breaths to calm herself before joining the elves by the river shore, it did not do to appear embarrassed. Mother had told her that elves did not know very much about human customs, if she pretended this was normal woman behaviour, they would not have cause to question it.

Feeling extremely conscious about herself, Wynne advanced into the water and began washing her face. If it was red, they would hopefully think this was because the water was so cold.

“What on Arda are you doing?” Thranduil sounded more shocked than she had expected. 

“Washing of course.” She raised her head and met his bewildered stare. All of them stared, and the three light-skinned ones had become noticeably flushed. 

“But… you are almost nude!” 

“I’m in my underclothes same as you. Surely you must have seen a female in her shift before, you’re a father, aren’t you?” Wynne had no idea where that boldness came from, but she instantly knew this was the right way to go. Thranduil swallowed a few times, obviously quite at a loss what to say, and then just shrugged before he continued to clean himself. 

Wynne quickly finished washing up in the chilly water, at the same time peeking through the corner of her eye to see what the others were doing. They kept throwing glances at her, she noticed, and started to feel rather satisfied about the whole thing. This had not been as mortifying as she had anticipated. She found that she liked drawing the males’ attention. As plain as she was, that had not happened very often before.

In the evening they gathered around the campfire, sharing a nice supper of a special kind of elven bread called lembas. It was sweet and aromatic to the taste, and Wynne needed only a very small piece to become completely satisfied. 

They stayed up a while afterwards, resting and watching the stars come out. Everybody took turns entertaining the others, starting with Nodir and Bronedir. The brothers sang a duet, a slow, melancholy song about the many martyrs of the Ring War. Their dark voices were perfectly matched, and intertwined in otherworldly harmonies. Wynne was stunned, unable to tear her eyes from them. The light of the fire reflected in their brown eyes, and no words could describe the combination of their elven beauty and the exquisite, bewitching tones.  

When the song ended, Wynne was not the only one with tears in her eyes.

“I say, we need something more cheerful after this”, decided Legolas, and contributed with a series of anecdotes of his many adventures together with a dwarf named Gimli. Most of the time, it seemed, the two of them had competed about something or other, such as who could kill more orcs, or who was the greatest drinker. In Legolas’ version of the events, he always won these competitions, but Wynne had pretty strong doubts as to his truthfulness in the matter. There was an amused twinkle in his blue eyes, and a quirk to the corner of his mouth that betrayed him.

When Legolas had finished his storytelling, he turned to Wynne.

“Your turn, My Lady. Amuse us!”

Wynne’s mind turned absolutely blank at this, and she was overcome with stage fright. She had no entertaining skills, did hardly know any songs and had no funny memories to share. Her life up until now had been utterly dull, having spent most of it out in the pastures training her family’s horses.

“Maybe you can tell us something of your people’s history?” suggested Galion kindly, noticing her distress.

She nodded, that she could do. With a dry mouth she started to tell the ancient story of the king Fram, son of Frungar, who reigned early in the Third Age, and who fought and slayed the mighty dragon Scatha. Fram’s son was less fortunate, he took on the task to tame the first ever Meara horse, Felaróf, but perished in the process. His son Eorl the Young, however, succeeded where his father had not, and ever since, the Mearas belonged to the Rohirrim.

“I remember that dragon”, mused Thranduil. “However, he was not all that mighty, as I recall. Rather small, and soft-skinned. Not like Smaug. Now he was sight to be seen. Terrible, and beautiful!” He proceeded to tell the story of the dwarves, the hobbit and the bowman, who had contributed to end the terror reign of the evil reptile. 

Wynne observed the king thoughtfully while he talked. She had known elves could grow older than Men, of course, but that old? To be able to remember the beginning of the last Age, over three thousand years ago! 

He did not look old, that was for sure. His long hair was golden in the dim light, there was not a single white strand to be seen. His eyes, shaded by the formidable eyebrows, were clear and bright, full of power and vigour. And the face was as smooth as that of a young man. She would have guessed his age to be around thirty, thirty-five at the very most. 

Realizing how old he must really be, gave her a strange feeling inside, not altogether pleasant. Someone that ancient, how could she ever hope to seduce him? He must have met thousands of females in his days, each more beautiful than the other.

The night had gotten colder, and quite dark. It was time to get some rest, except for Galion who agreed to take the first watch. 

Wynne was offered a tent all to herself, while the others shared the two remaining ones, the brothers and Galion in one, and Legolas and his father in the other. They had expected Wynne to be male, she knew, and one of them would have shared with her. Because of her sex, they now had to squeeze together three people in a tent made for two. Oh well, that was their choice. Maybe in time, she could persuade one of them to join her bed as Mother demanded. 

Now that Wynne knew what the elves looked like, that prospect was slightly less frightening. She remembered how Nodir’s and Bronedir’s dark brown eyes had glittered in the firelight, and how golden the blond locks of Thranduil and his son had seemed. And Galion, with his translucent skin and fair lashes, was not far behind the others in attractiveness. 

She found that she actually looked forward to getting to know them all, and she had liked to spend the day with them a lot better than she had anticipated. The evening around the fire was enchanting, and even the proud king had proved to be somewhat more friendly. 

She did not look forward to the next step, however. Getting to know them and be friends was one thing, to couple with them quite another.

Wynne tried to picture herself together with Thranduil, naked and mating. However hard she strived, she just could not imagine it. She could not imagine him naked with anyone, actually. However had he fathered Legolas? Perhaps the younger elf was adopted.

She sighed heavily. Her secret quest was doomed. Mother would kill her, or worse.

A sweet sound dispelled her brooding thoughts. Galion had picked up a small wooden flute, and its soft tones drifted through the night. It sounded like a lullaby, but it was not one Wynne had ever heard.

Before she knew it she was fast asleep.


A/N:
All alone with a bunch of hot elves, eh... I am not at all envious of you Wynne, not at all!

I shall take this opportunity to mention that since English is not my first language, there might be some grammar errors or so along the way, and I apologize for them in advance. :)

5. The Brown Lands

The elves grumbled quite a bit over sore legs and backsides the following morning. Most of them were not used to riding bareback, and had exercised muscles they normally did not use. They breakfasted on lembas and it still tasted wonderful, but Wynne suspected she might grow weary of it in time, if this was to be their only food the entire journey. 

“Do you never eat anything else?” she asked Legolas, who was seated on a flat rock next to her.

“Of course we do! We are not poultry, that can survive on bread crumbs alone.” He laughed heartily. 

Wynne did not see what was so funny about her question. How was she to know?

“What do you eat then?” she asked, and tried to not sound annoyed.

“Same as you humans, I would expect,” said Galion, and gave Legolas a shove to silence his laughter. “Vegetables, meats, fish. It depends on if we are at home, or on a journey”.

“If we see game during a day of travel we shoot it, and prepare it in the evening,” Nodir added.

“But is there anything to eat in the Brown Lands?” asked Wynne. “I heard they were barren.” She thought about the horses, they needed a continuous supply of fresh grass. 

“Since the fall of Sauron the Brown Lands and Dead Marshes have come to life, slowly at least. Grass has begun to grow back and even some flowers. It is no flourishing garden yet, but it is getting there,” Galion said.

The elves took down the tents and packed everything just as efficiently as yesterday. When they were done, Wynne could not even see where the fireplace had been. 

The horses had wandered off during the night, as they usually did, but came back in a gallop in response to Wynne’s penetrating whistle.

“I love how well trained they are.” Legolas grinned at Stelpa, who had come straight to him,  and was buffing on his hands in search of a treat. “I have only lembas, my girl, sorry!” He cast a sideway glance at Wynne, who smiled despite herself. Perhaps he had not really meant to tease her before. 

This day they left the river, heading east. As long as they were still close to the river, the nature was similar to that of Rohan. The short grass was lush, partly covered with last year’s withering strands, and spring flowers sprouted in bright yellow groups. Wynne felt quite at home.

She was still taking the lead on Vatna, and kept a slow pace that would allow the horses to graze every now and then. Who knew what food they could find later on? Horses had to eat almost constantly, and she wanted to save the grain she had brought to when it was really necessary.

“In this rate, we will get to the orc dens somewhere around next year,” remarked Legolas dryly.

Wynne shot him a sour look, and did not bother to reply. That elf was a real nuisance, sometimes. 

When they entered the vast Brown Lands, the grass became coarser and taller, reaching almost to the horses’ stomachs. But at least it was grass, and Wynne knew they could eat this too, if need be. She saw no flowers anymore, and not many other living things either. Normally, on a plains like this, Wynne would have expected the ground to be littered with marmot and chipmunk holes and the air to be humming with insects. Here it was just the grass, extending endlessly in all directions. It felt eerie.

“Did you know there used to be lovely gardens all over this place? The entwives tended to them, but they are long lost now.” Legolas had made a habit of riding close to Wynne, for some reason.

“What are entwives?”

“Tree-herders. The males are called ents, and the females entwives. Only a few ents remain nowadays, in Fangorn Forest.”

“That‘s only a day’s ride from my home. Maybe I could go and see them.”

“You should. Fangorn is a magnificent forest.” The blond elf sighed. “I miss talking to trees,” he continued, somewhat demurely. “I have not seen a single one the entire day.”

“Maybe you can talk to the grass,” Wynne suggested.

“I did, but one was sleeping and the other did not have very much to say.”

“Try a third one then?”

“There are merely two of them, one blue grama, and one feather grass.”

“Really?” Wynne’s interest was captured. “So all of this is just two individuals?” She indicated the widespread prairie around them.

“Indeed. Dull, is it not? Those two were the only ones to survive Sauron’s poison. All their children were killed, down to the last seedling. They expanded with runners instead, covered ever more ground, abiding happier times. But now they are too old to flower.”

“That is sad.”

“It is. But younger grasses are spreading hither from Rohan. In time they will cover all of this area, I am sure.”

“I hope you are right.”

They continued in somber silence for a while, Wynne musing over the evil that had overshadowed so many parts of Middle-Earth. It was hard to grasp that one being could bring forth so much damage.

In the afternoon the elves pointed out the first sign of animal life since they had entered the Brown Lands, a herd of oliphaunts grazing in the distance. Wynne did not see anything at all, apparently elves’ senses were a lot sharper than humans’, but after another league or so she spotted them too. The oliphaunts were huge, they had majestic tusks and ears like barn doors. 

A horrible smell reached their nostrils then, and soon they saw the cause of it. They had crossed a small hill, and on the other side they discovered fifteen or so oliphaunt carcasses spread out on the ground. The tusks, hides and the best parts of the meat had been removed, leaving the rest to rot in the spring sun. Clouds of flies lifted when they came closer. 

“Who did this?” Wynne cried. It was such pointless killing, such a terrible waste.

Thranduil picked something up from the ground, a black arrow. Somehow the item radiated evil.

“Orcs,” he spat.

He had not time to say more, before a terrible howl came from behind the farthest carcasses. A warcry. 

A gang of the most hideous creatures Wynne had ever seen jumped out from their hiding place, and ran towards the startled elves. In no time the orcs were upon them.


A/N:
Some action will happen in the next chapter. What will Wynne will think of it, sheltered as she has been?

6. The First Orc Encounter

Everything seemed to happen at once. 

The elves moved so fast their limbs became blurred. They hurled themselves off the horses, and drew their slender daggers. Galion’s two handed sword met an orc’s bent blade with a metallic clang, while the others circled their enemies at speed, trying to punch their daggers in vulnerable spots. Two of the orcs backed away under Galion’s onslaught, and Legolas used the gap to run farther away, where he could draw his bow. Soon, arrow after arrow showered over the orc band.

The horses, now mostly riderless, took the opportunity and bolted. Wynne was paralyzed with shock and fear, and when Vatna fled she promptly fell off, right in the thick of the tumult. She was instantly surrounded by yelling orcs, agile elves and the ugly smell of blood. In the confusion of trampling feet and weapons, Wynne lost all sense of direction. She curled up into a ball, trying to look small and inconspicuous, but that was not a good thing to do when in the middle of a battle. An agonizing pain shoot up her leg. She got a glimpse of a gruesome face with an arrow sticking out of its cheek, and then the creature was on top of her. Blood from the arrow wound darkened its thin lips when it bared a set of crooked teeth, making ready to bite. 

Instinctively Wynne pulled away from under it and kicked the creature in its wrinkled face. A fountain of more blood sprayed her when the orc’s nose cracked with a sickening noise. The orc doggedly came back, raising its short sword as if to give her leg another jab, but Wynne kicked again, and again, and at last the orc was gone. 

It had become strangely quiet then, and Wynne looked around her, in a daze. Dead orcs littered the ground, and around them the elves calmly cleaned their daggers and swords on the dry grass. 

She could not believe it was over already. Where was the orc that had attacked her?

She soon saw it right beside her, but only its limp body. Its head had rolled away, with the arrow still sticking out. Had she kicked its head off? No, that was impossible. One of the elves must have decapitated it, without her noticing.

Galion came over and held out his hand to her, helping her stand. 

“Are you well?”

“I’m fine, thank you.” She tried to move in the direction Vatna had ran, anxious to know that the horses were well, but her legs would not carry her. A strange weakness had come over her, and she sank to her knees.

She looked at her disobeying limbs in surprise, noticing a scarlet stain on one thigh. Had the orc bit her? She fingered the sticky fabric of her hose, and found a long rift in the wool. She had been stabbed, it seemed, but not very deep. Merely a flesh wound. Why could she not stand up?

“Let me help you,” said Galion kindly. The ginger elf pulled Wynne on her feet again, and led her away from all the blood and mess, back towards the hill they had first come over. 

After only a few yards, however, she had to stop again. Bile rose in her throat and she bent over, retching heavily, without anything coming out. 

“Good thing we had not had our supper yet, eh?” It was Legolas of course. Even now, after everything, that annoying elf would come and tease her.

Wynne rose angrily, and gave him a glare that only made him laugh more.

“I had better back off, or I too will get a taste of those impressive boots of yours. You kick like a Meara, My Lady.” He made a mocking bow and wisely moved away.

Before they left the battleground, the elves piled all the orc corpses together, and burned them by aid of some lamp oil. They would not allow the orc filth to poison the lands. The oliphaunt carcasses, however, were too big to burn. They had to be left to the flies and scavengers, even though it was a sad sight. 

“Typical of orcs to ruin anything of beauty out here”, Galion remarked demurely.

They were all tired, and more than Wynne had blemishes and wounds that needed tending to, but none of them wanted to stay anywhere near the horrible stink of burning orcs and rotting oliphaunt flesh. The horses had luckily remained within hearing range, and came back as usual when Wynne whistled. 

After about half an hour’s ride, Thranduil decided it was enough, and they made camp for the night.

The elves had brought lots of healing equipment, such as bandages, medical herbs of various kinds and pain killing tinctures. Wynne had similar articles for the horses in her luggage, and in addition Mother had given her two water skins full of undiluted distilled spirits. One for medical use, but the other, as Mother had put it, was for “making the elves relaxed and easy”. 

Trying to seduce an elf was very far from the things Wynne wished to do at the moment, but she unpacked one of the spirit containers to disinfect her wound. It smarted more, now that the shock from earlier had begun to settle, and she suspected the dirty blade would cause a nasty infection unless she was careful. She picked out some sewing equipment as well, the cut was not deep, but even the short ride just now had made the gash widen considerably. She needed a few stitches to secure it close.

The elves were in various stages of undressing when Wynne came back from the pack horses, and it took some determination of mind to not avert her eyes in embarrassment. She must seem experienced and grown up, it did not do to blush like a little girl. Instead she joined them, and rolled down one of her hose to bare her thigh wound. She carefully soaked a rag in the spirits and started to clean the cut, wincing in pain when the strong alcohol stung. 

“What is that?” Nodir took the water skin and curiously sniffed it.

“It’s fire water. We make it from sugar beets, with yeast.”

“Hm, it smells like some kind of strong wine. I never heard of sugar beet wine before. And you use it to clean wounds?”

“That, and you can drink it as well. But it’s very strong. Mother mix it with apple juice from our orchard.” That was quite a happy memory. The thought of Mother’s apple cider made Wynne remember harvest time, when the kitchen was bustling for days at end and Mother, Grandmama and Wynne all worked together, cooking and baking. Finally they would gather some old neighbours and relatives, and share the bountiful feast, eating and drinking all night long. 

“Interesting.” Nodir tried the concoction on some nasty scratches, where an orc had clawed his arm. “Ouch! That burns!”

“Yes, but then you know it works. I like to think of it as the disease burning away.”

Nodir nodded and went over to his brother with the liquor.

“Here Bron, try this.” Nodir helped him clean a sword cut on one shoulder, laughing at his younger brother’s grimaces.

Wynne watched with interest, her own injury quite forgotten. Yesterday when the elves washed themselves in the river, they had worn long undershirts similar to her chemise, so she had never seen a male’s bare chest before, not even her father’s. Bronedir’s smooth, tanned torso reminded her of a horse in excellent condition. His muscles that rippled slightly when he tensed in pain, his flat stomach and broad shoulders, they were all signs of health and good physique. Wynne found that she quite liked what she saw, and something stirred deep within her, some unknown emotion.

She shifted her gaze to Thranduil, who was tending to an orc bite on his son’s hand. The king had a bandage wrapped around his waist, but the rest of his upper body was uncovered. He too had smooth looking skin, much fairer in color than Bronedir’s. Despite his baffling age, the king’s body resembled that of a young stallion in its prime. Not a hint of unnecessary fat or wrinkled skin anywhere to be seen. The odd feeling returned, and Wynne could not determine if she liked it or not. I was a weird combination of agitation and tension, like one could feel right before a competition.

The king looked up just then, noticing her stare, and Wynne hastily returned the attention to her cut. It was time to try and sew it, and she just hoped she could bring herself to it. With shaking fingers she threaded the needle, and sterilized it with the liquor-soaked cloth. 

She tried to hold the cut and position the needle, feeling sweat break out at the thought of inflicting herself more pain. 

“I can do that for you.” A bandaged hand took the needle from her trembling fingers. 

Wynne sighed in relief, and gratefully extended her leg. 

“I’d really appreciate it. Thank you.”


A/N:
My, my, who might this gentleman elf be? :)

7. Drinking With Elves

With a steady hand and nimble fingers, Legolas made three neat stitches. He did it so swiftly, that Wynne hardly had time to feel the sting of the needle. 

For once the elf was being nice, and that was a refreshing change. But as usual he could not resist making a joke.

“I hope your nausea is better soon. We get lembas for supper. Your favorite!”

“Are you ever serious?”

“It happens. Once every decade or so. I am afraid it is still a few more years to go until next time.” 

He was occupied with her wound while talking, cutting the thread short with his knife. He took a clean cloth and wiped away all blood from the area, before tying some linen rags around it. 

His hands where big, yet soft and careful. Having him touch her thigh like that felt forbidden, even though the reason was legitimate. If he moved only a little bit higher he would reach a very private part of her body. Her mouth went dry at the thought. 

Did he realize this too? Wynne peeked at him, noticing a faint reddening of his bent neck. Maybe he did. 

“There, fit to go. But I hope you brought extra clothes, those hose are a mess.” He took the soiled, ripped stocking and inspected it critically.

“Give that back.”

He held it teasingly out of her reach, then laughed and threw it in her lap, dodging a kick from her good leg.

That bothersome elf! Every time she started to think better of him, he did something childish and ruined it all.

The company gathered around a slightly bigger campfire that night, as if to make the light and warmth of it repel the distress and pain. They ate their fill of lembas, and afterwards shared an elvish cordial called miruvor. The glass bottle went from hand to hand, and each took a small sip. The warmth of the draught radiated through her body, and Wynne instantly felt wonderfully secure and brave. 

They discussed the skirmish during the meal. Thranduil said they would not usually let orcs get the better of them, at least not such a small band. The elves had been taken by surprise today, distracted and troubled by the cruelty that had befallen the poor oliphaunts. 

“This will not happen again”, he assured her. “Next time we combat orcs, you shall witness some true elf capacity.”

Wynne had to hide a smile at this. Was Thranduil embarrassed? It would seem that way. The proud king did not like that she had seen his vulnerability. He had allowed orcs to ambush him and his men, and even got hurt himself.

Maybe this was an opportunity to try her female influence on him? Now that he seemingly wished to impress her. 

Wynne still had her water skin with distilled spirit, she might as well try it on the elves. And a few drops might calm her own nerves too. The effect from the miruvor had unfortunately not lasted very long.

She held the skin to her mouth and swallowed a small amount. The fire water burned more intense than the miruvor had, but the taste was less pleasant. She passed it onto Galion by her side, who first smelled it suspiciously, then shrugged and drank. Then the other elves tried it too, they seemed not to mind the taste at all. Quite the contrary, actually. Only Galion abstained, since he was assigned the first watch that night.

The atmosphere went from gloomy to festive in hardly no time, and the water skin was soon merely half full. Bronedir and Nodir began to sing a cheerful song, and were joined by Legolas. Galion accompanied them on his flute, and Thranduil stamped a beat with one leather clad foot. 

Wynne for her part felt the opposite of jolly. However hard she struggled to enjoy herself, she kept seeing images from the battle before her inner eye. A frightful orc face with long, yellowing fangs, ready to bury themself in her flesh, and a feathered arrow protruding from its cheek. A bent sword, coming down against her. Her foot cracking the orc nose, hot blood spraying her face. A cut off head in the grass, oozing dark liquid into a puddle.

Wynne decided she had to do something to give herself other things to focus on. Something that could shake off the disturbing images. It was time to make use of the effect the liquor had had on the elves, before it was too late and they fell asleep. 

She drew a deep breath, and forced herself to go sit by Thranduil. 

The king wore his shirt and tunic again, but the bandage was visible through them. She decided to not mention it, and try flattery instead.

“I was really impressed how fast you beat those orcs.”

Thranduil had seemed surprised to see her come, but now visibly relaxed and smiled at her. 

“We did, did we not?” 

Wynne would not have thought it possible for him to look more self-satisfied than he normally did, but apparently it was. 

“Yes, the fight was over in no time. They did not stand a chance against you.”

“Our skills with weapons are uncex... unexcelled. It comes from centuries of developing battle strategies and practicing them.” 

Had he stumbled on the words? He must really be affected by the liquor then. Wynne remembered Legolas bragging yesterday about how he had beat a dwarf in a drinking contest, and how elves hardly ever became drunk. Well, obviously they did. Probably Rohirric spirits were a lot stronger than dwarven ale. 

“I wish I could fight orcs like you,” she lied. If she never saw another orc in her life, she would be happy.

“Oh, we would not want you to do that. It is the males’ duty to protect the weaker sex, and the females’ duty to brighten their days. You, My Lady, do us a greater service with your pleasant company and charm.” His foot had stopped it’s thrumming, despite the song that still went on as lively as ever in the background. She had his full attention now, and his piercing, blue gaze made her weaken at the knees. She did not hold with the content of his belittling words at all – as if women were nothing more than an amusement to men! – but despite that, she felt his charisma work on her. She could see why he had become king, and held that position for several millennia. For the first time since they had met, the royal elf frightened her a little. 

“You find me charming, sire? You did not seem happy to have me come along.” She tried to sound bold, but could not hinder the tremor in her voice.

“Nay, that I did not. However, you proved your worth today by keeping calm and defending yourself as best you could. It did not pass unnoticed on me. And I find you refreshing. You are very different from an elleth, My Lady.”

“What is an elleth?” 

“A female elf.”

“And have you known many elleth, sire?” Wynne could not manage to break eye contact with him. Like a hare in the fields, hypnotized by the stare of a fox. Would Thranduil devour her whole like a predator?

“Nay, My Lady. It was only ever the one. My wife, Legolas’ mother.” His penetrating gaze wavered slightly at that, and his blue eyes suddenly looked deeply sad. 

Wynne was finally able to look away, and could at last breathe more easy. 

She wondered how long ago the king’s wife had lived, and what had happened to her, but dared not ask. Whoever that lady had been, Wynne did not envy her. It could not have been easy, being Thranduil’s wife. 


A/N:
That Thranduil, eh... he really is medieval!

A big hug to Anonymous for your review!

8. Wynne Can Not Sleep

The singing and flute music went on for a long time, long after Wynne had excused herself and gone to bed in her lonely tent. All thought of seducing Thranduil now seemed ridiculous, cruel even. It was obvious he still mourned his wife, despite the many years that most likely had passed since he lost her. 

Even if she somehow could make him want her that way, it was not very probable he would allow anything to happen. She suspected that king Thranduil never did anything out of an impulse, his self-control was too strong. 

Besides, she did not even want to try anymore. It had been a bad plan from the beginning, a plan that had made her feel false, and wicked. 

She remembered her resolution from yesterday, that she would act like she was strong and experienced. So little time had passed since then, yet she felt like another person now. The elves were becoming her friends, even Thranduil in a way, and she did not want to pretend in front of them. 

Perhaps she should go somewhere else after this mission was finished? Mother could not punish her, if she never came back home. Wynne could just take the horses and run away to someplace remote. 

But she knew it was not so simple. A woman living alone would be easy prey for anyone passing, and there were evils other than orcs. Human men in packs could be almost as bad, if the rumours from her hometown were true.

Wynne sighed and buried her face in her blankets. There were just no way out of this. 

She moved fitfully in her bedroll, unable to sleep. Her thoughts kept alternating between Mother’s demands, and the upsetting memories of the orc fight today. It had scared her more than she had believed possible. All had went well, yet the shock refused to ease its grip on her. 

In the end she gave up sleeping, and went back outside. The fire had burned down to red embers and all was quiet, not even a snore to be heard. Elves were too beautiful to snore, probably. 

She spotted Galion, on his watch, walking about leisurely with his hands behind his back. How could he be so calm? Was he not afraid that another pack of orcs would sneak up on them?

She joined him.

“Can you not sleep?” His pale face had an almost ethereal glow in the faint light.

“No. Too much on my mind tonight.”

“Shall I play something for you?” He picked up his flute.

“I’d like that. Thank you.” Wynne sat down on the grass, and rested her face on her knees. Galion meanwhiles began a sweet little melody, that sounded vaguely familiar.

“It’s Rohirric, isn’t it?”

“Aye. An old ballad about the king and the dragon Scatha. When you told the story yesterday I was reminded of it.” He resumed his playing, and Wynne tried to relax, let the music soothe her feverish mind.

She did not think she had heard that particular song, but it was similar to many other ballads. There were musicians back home, who wandered from farm to farm. They would stay one evening and entertain the household, and in return they got supper, any old clothes the family could spare, and in wealthier homes even a few silver coins. 

Wynne must have listened to hundreds of ballads and folk melodies in her days. Considering the immense age of elves, maybe this ballad was the origin of them all. The thought made her shudder. 

When Mother first had told Wynne that she must marry an elf, she had been frightened of the thought of marrying at all. She had imagined elves to be a bit like men. When she later had met them in person, their physical appearance had eased her apprehension on that part. Now it was their immortality that awed her. It set them apart from her, made them unapproachable, beyond her reach. 

Galion’s music was sweet, but it did not lessen her worry. Had he been her father or another human she trusted, Wynne might have asked for a hug, or just talked through her troubles with him. But he was an elf. Hugging him would feel like touching a porcelain doll with dirty hands, it would only make her afraid to ruin the exquisite beauty of the piece.

She had to get away from him, he would not understand why his music only made her more distressed.

“Thank you, I love when you play, but I have to see to the horses before they walk too far. The orcs scared them so bad earlier, I need to make sure they are all right.” She made a slight bow and turned to leave him, somewhat abruptly she knew, but hoped he would not be offended. He only nodded in response, and kept playing. 

She did not have to walk long. The horses were grazing just behind the tents, and the light was still enough to make them visible as gray shadows. Wynne found Vatna and wrapped her arms around the mare’s broad neck, and pressed her nose into the soft fur. The musty smell was comforting, and finally Wynne felt her shoulders relax a little. 

She wished, not for the first time, that she could abandon the quest and just go back home. If today’s battle had scared her so, what would the next one be like, and the one after that? Wynne tried to muffle her sobs in Vatna’s fur.

“What is the matter, My Lady?” A tall figure emerged from among the horses. Wynne backed away, startled, but then she saw who it was.

“Legolas. Please, not now. I’m not in the mood for jokes.” She hid her face again.

He did not reply at first, but she heard him come closer. Maybe he still was a little drunk, elves normally made no sound at all when they moved.

Then he talked, in a low, surprisingly kind voice. 

“Everyone is afraid the first time, it will pass. You did well. Next time will be easier.” It was as if he had read her thoughts.

Wynne remained with her face burrowed into the mare’s neck, but somehow she already felt a little bit better. It was nice to know that at least one elf understood her. 

“Were you? I mean, the first time.”

“Very much so. Terrified, actually!”

“What happened?”

“I was only an elfling, and it was a giant spider. It caught me by surprise, and stung me with a sort of poison to make me sleep. I woke up, wrapped in spider web, unable to move. Had not my father and his guards come looking for me I would have become spider breakfast that morning.”

Wynne wondered how long ago it had been. She knew a little bit of history, her grandparents had taught her some of the basics. The spiders and orcs had not been in Mirkwood always, they had come with Sauron’s increasing power, before the Ring War. Legolas must be much younger than his father if there had been spiders during his childhood. 

“Thank you for cheering me up.” Wynne wiped away her tears, and looked him in the eye for the first time. 

“My pleasure. However, if you ever meet my friend Gimli, do not tell him a spider caught me unawares.” He smiled, but it was a gentle smile, not teasing. Wynne repressed an urge to give him a hug. For some reason he did not remind her of fragile porcelain dolls at all, despite his handsome features. How come she felt more at ease with Legolas, than with Galion or the others?


A/N:
Welcome new readers! Hope you like the story so far. :)

9. Being Helpful

Wynne woke early the next morning, and since nobody was up, she prepared breakfast. She was tired of lembas, and figured it was her time to provide food today. She unpacked her utensils and made sweetened oatmeal porridge and hot mint tea, and poured some round, hardtack crackers on a metal plate.

The smell of food got the elves moving, and pretty soon Wynne was joined by the whole company. Most of them looked tired and delicate, obviously hungover.

“Oi, Nodi, you had the last watch, how come you are not up?” Bronedir gave his brother a shove.

“Can you keep your voice down?” Nodir looked sour. “It was nearly morning, I figured I could rest a little.”

“This will not do, we are on a serious mission. No more drinking for now.” If Thranduil felt ill he did not show it.

“Aw, I never got a chance to try the sugar beet wine,” Galion complained.

“Trust me, you are happier without it.” Legolas had dark lines under his blue eyes, but strangely enough it did not make him any less good-looking. 

Wynne distributed the simple breakfast among the elves, they all had their own plates and mugs. Despite their condition, they ate with fairly good appetite and complimented Wynne on the pleasant variation in diet. 

“I have not had tea in ages,” said Legolas, blowing on his mug. “I traveled in company of hobbits some years ago, and early in our journey they would make it every afternoon. I do not think they used peppermint, however.”

“It’s a Rohirrim speciality. It makes your breath nice.” Wynne had missed having tea yesterday, it was such an integrated part of her morning ritual.

“If you drink fire water often, I suppose you need it.” He grinned.

“How was it to travel with the Hobbit?” asked Wynne. “What was he like?” Everybody had heard the story of that small, rare creature who had carried Sauron’s evil Ring and destroyed it in the fires of Mordor. Wynne knew that Legolas had been part of the Fellowship which escorted Frodo Baggins some of the way.

“He was brave and dutiful, and most of the time very serious. The One Ring burdened him so heavily. It tortured him.” Legolas’ beautiful face had darkened considerably, all traces of mirth gone. Wynne had never seen him this somber before. 

He was quiet a moment, then seemed to compose himself and smiled weakly. “Frodo got his reward in the end. He now lives out his days across the sea, in the Undying Lands.” He had an almost longing tone in his voice.

That day, they rode in a south-western direction. Thranduil explained that they would criss-cross forward and back from between the Anduin and one day’s ride east, until they had covered as much of the western Brown Lands as possible and cleansed it of orcs entirely. It was no use to continue further east, that far away from the river the ground was so dry it was impossible for anyone to live, even orcs.

In time they would reach Emyn Muil, the southern mountains, and repeat the procedure there. 

Meanwhile, small parties consisting of Southern Rangers and men from Gondor, were on similar missions more southward. They were tidying up Ithilien and Harondor, lands which had belonged to Gondor before, and that king Aragorn Elessar meant to unite once again. 

Thranduil’s party would probably meet up with those other groups later in the summer, in the area formerly known as the Dead Marshes. King Éomer of Rohan had had his men working there a long time, digging out trenches and canals, draining it from its foul, haunted waters. Already a large part had been turned into fertile farmlands.

“What of Mordor?” Wynne asked. Still, ten years after the War, the last home of Sauron was desolate and uninhabited. 

“I am afraid Mordor will never be entirely rid of the Dark Lord’s poison,” Thranduil said. “When Mount Doom erupted, as a consequence of the One Ring’s destruction, polluted lava and ashes spread out and covered the plains. Even orcs still hesitate to enter Mordor.” 

They kept travelling all day, without seeing anything more interesting than grass. No animals, and thankfully no orcs or other foul creatures either. The elves seemed much more comfortable on their steeds now, and even Thranduil and his head-strong stallion had seemingly come to some sort of understanding. The king allowed the Meara to walk slow and graze every hour or so, and in return the horse had ceased his bucking and sudden halts. Legolas and Stelpa for their part, were increasingly attuned. The mare seemed almost like an extension of her rider’s body, like they had become one being. It was unusual to see a non Rohirric horse-rider pair so well matched.

After a few hours Wynne’s leg wound was rather sore and tender, which annoyed her. It was located in the worst place possible, on a spot that rubbed against Vatna’s flank with every step. That stupid orc! If it must stab her, it could have chosen someplace less important, like an arm or a foot. The fright from yesterday was slowly converting into irritation.

At sunset a glittering of water in the distance told them they had come back to the river at last. Wynne was glad to be able to restock all the water skins and let the horses drink their fill. They could manage a few days with only the water they had packed, but not much more.

The elves were equally satisfied, and had not even time to set up the camp before they stood waist deep in the river, happily splashing their faces and washing their long hair.

Wynne joined them, this time with no second thoughts about seducing anyone. She was just as pleased as them, and even swam a little despite the coldness. It was lovely to get rid of all dust and grit from two days of riding in dry grass.

When she came back to the shore, Nodir had caught a huge trout to everybody’s delight. He had shot it with his bow, which certainly was a most unusual fishing technique.

It was nearly dark when they finally had erected the tents and got a fire going. They shared the fish, which Bronedir had prepared deliciously well. The skin was crisp, with just a pinch of salt, and the rosy inside juicy and savory. For vegetables Wynne had pulled up some reed roots and boiled them. They did not taste very much, but were nutritious and filling. 

Wynne volunteered to clean the dishes afterwards, lately she had started to feel she needed to do more for the company. The elves took all the nightly watches and would do all the fighting, and Wynne did not like to feel useless.

Legolas moved to follow her.

“I can manage this, no worries,” she protested.

“Just to be on the safe side,” he said. “There might be dangers lurking by.”

Wynne shuddered and made no more objections then, although she doubted there would be monsters this close to Rohan. Surely the Rohan border patrols would have taken care of that?

Legolas sat on a stone and began to braid his golden hair, now dry after the wash, while Wynne worked on the greasy plates with a bar of soap. Warm water would have made it easier, but it felt like too much trouble to heat it. 

Wynne’s hair kept falling in her face, and she cast a longing glance on Legolas newly made braids. He usually wore one small fishtail braid on each temple, and one larger that held part of his hair together on the back of his head. It looked both nice and functional. Too bad she sucked at braiding her own hair. However hard she tried, the result always was a tousled mess. 

“I wish I could make braids like that, I hate it when my hair blows into my eyes. Maybe I should just cut it real short.” 

“Nay, you must not do that.” Legolas looked shocked. “Short hair on a Lady, that is unheard of.”

“I know. It would be very practical though.”

“If… If you would not mind… um. I could plait it for you?” 

“Really? I would love that.” Wynne wondered why he looked so conscious. He had touched her bare thigh yesterday, but this was just hair. 

Elves were strange creatures.


A/N:
I hope you liked some Wynne-Legolas quality time. And more is coming! :)

10. Braided by an Elf

Wynne left the dishes to dry, and seated herself in front of Legolas. She loved to have her hair done, there was nothing more relaxing. Back home, it usually was Mother and Grandmama who did it. Mother handled her hair rather briskly, and it hurt when she pulled out knots, but Wynne still liked it. Grandmama was more careful, and made nicer hairdos too. 

Legolas’ touch was something completely different. He used a bone comb instead of a softer brush, but despite that it did not hurt at all. He worked through her hair with gentle strokes, unwinding each tangle. Wynne closed her eyes with pleasure. 

When he began gathering the hair on the sides to braid it, a tingling sensation spread through her body, a flutter she could not quite define – like she was nervous, but for no reason. Despite the growing darkness and fatigue from the long day on horseback, she felt far from sleepy. 

It was over way too soon, and Wynne stifled a sigh when she rose. She felt the sides of her head, he had made three thin fishtail braids on each side, and she wondered what it looked like. It was too dark to use the river as a mirror.

“It suits you,” said Legolas. The darkness made it impossible to see his facial expression.

“How can you tell? It’s pitch black here.”

“Elves’ eyes do not need much light to function.”

“You remind me of cats. Agile and graceful, and with night vision. Do you like to eat mice as well?” 

“My Lady, is this your way of thanking me for my effort? By mocking my race?” There was laughter in his voice now. “Besides,” he continued, “you know what we eat. It is lembas. Lembas only.”

Wynne laughed too.

“I knew you would say that.”

Except for Thranduil who took the first watch, nobody stayed up long that evening. The elves were more tired than usual from the improvised party yesterday, and Wynne was exhausted after last night’s sleeplessness. This time she had less trouble falling asleep, perhaps the hair massage had made her a little drowsy after all.

Next day, Wynne woke up well rested, and with an almost hopeful feeling for the first time since she left home. The troubles that had hovered over her seemed more possible to overcome, as if Mother’s demands did not reach this far. In addition, her resolution to cease the role-playing and be herself among the elves was hugely relieving. 

It was a warm, sunny morning, so Wynne went to the river for a refreshing swim. Her wound prickled when the water reached her thighs, and she decided to remove the bandage and examine it. It was rather sore and slightly swollen, but the stitches had held, and she saw no signs of infection. 

She swam a few paces, then went back to the tents. The elves had gathered around the campfire and a lovely smell of roast meat spread in the air. 

“Come, Legolas felled three large hares on his watch tonight.” Galion moved to the side, and motioned for Wynne to sit by him.

“Or, you can have lembas”, suggested Legolas. “Ouch!” Wynne had given him a kick with her bare foot. 

“That lembas joke has become older than Thranduil,” said Bronedir.

“Ancient,” Nodir agreed.

“Do you call me ancient?” Thranduil’s voluminous eyebrows drew together.

“Not to your face, sire.” Nodir made a mocking bow.

Wynne was still in her wet chemise, and considered changing clothes before breakfast, but decided to let the morning sun dry it instead. It was better to save her only clean shift for a day when they were farther away from the river. She needed new linen wraps for her leg too, but that could wait until she had eaten.

She sat down and gratefully accepted a filled plate from Galion. He cast a glance at her exposed knees, then hastily looked away.

“Hrm, I do not think I will ever get used to the human way of dressing. Or not dressing, rather.”

Wynne’s cheeks burned, this was not the human way at all and she hated to deceive the elves. But now that she had begun the pretense, it would be weird to suddenly become modest. Besides, it was easier this way, they lived so close together it was hard to get much privacy. 

“It’s just legs. You guys have them too.” She tried to sound casual.

“We do. But… Well. It is not quite the same.” His pale face had become bright red.

“Do not be a prude, Gale.” Nodir grinned. “Humans are very modern, you know.”

“Aye, you heard her. It is merely legs,” Bronedir agreed. “Hers are much prettier than yours, though.” They laughed. 

Wynne was rather mortified. Thranduil did not look happy either, and Legolas was frowning slightly. Maybe he prefered to be the one doing the joking? 

“Can we talk of something else? You embarrass the lady.” Thranduil gave the brothers a stern look. Of course, that comment made it much worse, and Wynne very soon after excused herself and went to get dressed in her tent. Perhaps some modesty was not so bad after all.

When she came back the elves hastily silenced and looked embarrassed; it was obvious they had been talking about her. Bronedir and Nodir rose, and bowed.

“Our apologies, My Lady,” said the elder. “You have the right to dress any way you wish, and we should not make inappropriate comments about it.”

“I am sorry I said your legs were pretty. They are , but I should not have looked so close at them,” said Bronedir, which earned him a hit over the head from his brother.

“That apology was terrible, Bron. You just made it worse.”

“All I meant was, that Lady Wynne must not think she has to hide her body whilst among us. I was wrong to make her feel the need to cover herself to avoid unwanted attention.”

They appeared to be earnest and rather remorseful, and Wynne instantly knew that they had not meant to make her uneasy before. And as for the elves looking at her, she figured it was only fair. Had she not done exactly that, when Bronedir and Thranduil had had their wounds treated after the orc fight? The memory sent a tickle down her spine. 

“There is no harm in looking,” she said and smiled. “But thank you.”

They broke camp not long afterwards, and set out towards the Brown Lands again. Wynne enjoyed how the new braids kept her hair out of the way when she rode. They had held well during the night, and with luck Legolas could help her remake them if needed later on. She almost hoped they would not hold long, just because she had loved it so well when he made them.

Around noon the elves spotted something unusual. The grass was trampled in a certain way, an indication that someone had camped here recently. They dismounted, and examined the ground closely for clues. 

“Looks like wargs”, said Galion, and picked up a few strands of coarse, gray hair.

“Wargs and their orc riders.” Bronedir uncovered what was left of a fireplace, concealed with dirt.

“Well then, this time we shall be the hunters, and hopefully take them by surprise,” said Thranduil. “Come, let us follow their trail.”

“Aye!” agreed the others in unison.

Wynne felt a twinge of apprehension. It was time to face orcs again, and she could only hope she would manage it better this time.

11. Hunting Warg Riders

They followed the orc trail until quite late in the evening. Wynne had no idea how the elves could see were the warg-riders had gone, in her eyes the ground showed no evidence at all of anyone passing, but apparently elves’ heightened senses could discern the most slight of signs.

The trail went first further east, then south, then back west, in a semicircle which would in time take them to the Anduin again. Thranduil said these orcs must be a daring bunch, to come so close to the Rohan border patrols, or perhaps desperate. But it was getting late and they did not want to apprehend them after sunset. That would only serve as an advantage to the orcs, who normally were most active in the darkness. It was better to make camp for tonight, and take up the chase again tomorrow.

Wynne offered to prepare supper, and Legolas busied himself with digging out a pit for the cookfire.

“The rest of us should use the time to practice some fencing,” Thranduil decided.

“Good idea. We must not let our muscles go all soft,” said Galion and flexed his impressive biceps. 

Wynne watched admiringly. 

“They don’t look soft at all.”

“Show-off,” Legolas muttered from the fireplace.

The others went a little bit outside camp, and soon the rings and clangs of weapons could be heard.

Wynne unpacked a bag of dried peas to make a filling soup, and some smoked meat and hardtack crackers. She still had plenty of food, they would not be starving.

“This was the last of the firewood,” said Legolas, who returned from the pack horses with an arms load. “Tomorrow it shall have to be cold fare again. Back to good old lembas.” 

“Will you ever tire of that lembas joke? It was not even funny the first time.”

“How come you smile, then?” His own grin turned into a grimace when he tried to strike a spark with the fire steel. 

“Are you hurting?” Wynne noticed a reddish stain on his bandaged hand, where an orc had bitten him the other day.

“Nay, it is nothing.”

“Let me see.”

He reluctantly put his big hand in hers, and let her uncover the wound. A putrid smell radiated from the bite, and the fleshy part of his thumb was red and swollen.

“I know this does not look good, but I am sure it will heal soon,” he said. “I treat it with ground athelas every morning.”

“Athelas, is that the herb I saw in your equipment?”

“Aye. It quickens the healing.”

“Have you tried cleaning it with fire water?”

“The liquor you shared the day before yesterday? Nay. Does it help?”

“Yes, it works wonders on infected wounds.”

Wynne brought the water skin and soaked a rag in the spirits, and then carefully dabbed the injure. Legolas flinched, and sweat broke out on his forehead.

“I’m sorry. Almost done now.” She wrapped a clean cloth over his hand, and tied it securely. “I had better repeat this daily until the swell is down.”

“Thank you.” He put his good hand on hers and gave it a light squeeze. The touch made Wynne’s chest flutter, and she realized how close they sat. She could see the individual threads of his green woolen tunic, and the white collar of his linen undershirt. When he removed his hand, after an instant too long, she wished he had not.

“I should get the fire going.” He sounded slightly breathless.

“And the supper is long overdue.”

They left very early the next morning, Thranduil was eager to catch up on their prey. Not long afterwards, they found the remains of another camp.

“We are closing in on them,” said Nodir, who had dismounted. “These are warg droppings, still fresh. They must have camped here yesterday, probably around mid day.”

That of course made the elves even more eager for speed, and Wynne reluctantly bid Vatna to maintain a ground covering canter. The horses were strong and in good condition, but it would be cruel to force them to keep up that pace for long.

Thranduil was pleased.

“This is splendid. Thanks to your Mearas we can move faster than warg-riders!” He beamed at Wynne. 

He was stating the obvious, not many creatures could beat a Meara in a running competition, but Wynne was rather satisfied nevertheless. To get any form of praise out of Thranduil was rare, and the fact that he knew to appreciate her horses’ part in the quest made her own place in it safer too. He would not so easily kick her out now.

It was almost noon when Thranduil finally made a motion for them to halt. 

“There is something near the horizon. It might be them.” He shaded his eyes with his hand.

“I see it too,” said Legolas. “They sleep on the ground, orcs and wargs together.”

“I see nothing,” grumbled Wynne, hiding her nervousness under mock annoyance.

Galion held up a finger in the air. 

“The wind is south-westerly, we should come upon them from the north to hide our scent.”

“Aye, and leave the horses some way off. We move more silently on foot.” Legolas turned to Wynne. “Will you stay with them?”

“Sure.” Wynne readily agreed, she had no wish to be close-up with orcs again.

They made a wide circle around the enemies, and dismounted when Wynne’s eyes still only perceived them as dark dots in the distance.

“See you soon.” Legolas grinned at her, his eyes bright and excited, and then he and the others were gone, sneaking away through the high grass. Shortly Wynne could neither see, nor hear them.

She sat down, waiting anxiously with the horses grazing around her. She had seldom felt so powerless. What if they failed, and were hurt, or even killed? The thought of being all alone out here scared her, but the thought of losing any of her friends was even more terrifying.

She recalled Legolas’ bright eyes just now, and shuddered. He must not die! It struck her that in almost no time, she had gone from finding the blond elf annoying, to actually liking him, bad humor and all. Had Mother demanded she made her pick of a husband right now, she knew who she would have chosen.

A cry in the distance made Wynne almost jump up in fright, and soon it was joined by other battle sounds. It had begun! She saw them now, the orcs were milling about, recoiling from arrow hits, and she heard high pitched yelps from the huge hound-like wargs. A few frightened wargs fled in various directions, others stayed their ground, seemingly trying to defend their masters. 

The confusion lasted only a moment, soon the orcs charged in the direction of their attackers, some on wargback, others on foot. There were a lot of them, at least twice as many as the elves, maybe more. The numbers were in their favour, was the surprise attack enough to outdo that advantage?

They met with a clash of steel, a little too close to where Wynne waited for her comfort. She could see them clearly now, the ugly faces of the orcs and the swift figures that were the elves. 

Her heart thrummed in her chest, and she dared not look away. Her jaws clenched together so hard it hurt. It looked like the elves managed well so far, but it would only take one tiny mistake, a wrong step, a moment’s inattention, and something dreadful could happen.

A dark figure in the corner of her eye finally drew Wynne’s attention from the battle scene, and she gulped when she saw what it was. One of the wargs who had ran off, was approaching the horses with a hungry look in its yellow eyes. 

Wynne did not think, she instinctively surged to her feet and ran towards the beast. She waved her arms and yelled at it, like she would have done with a cougar threatening the herd back home. Surprisingly, that strategy worked on wargs as well. The ragged creature started to back away, eyening her cautiously, and that gave the horses enough time to flee. The warg let out a bark-like sound, then followed in their trail. 

Wynne looked after it as it went, but was not really worried anymore, she knew it had no chance to catch up with the horses as long as they were running.

She wiped away the sweat that had formed in her forehead, and breathed out in relief. That was a close call!

She was just going to turn her gaze back to the fight, when a gnarled hand clasped over her mouth, effectively silencing her shocked scream.


A/N:
Ooof sorry about the cliffhanger... :)

Trigger warning: attempted assault. 


12. Captured by Orcs

“Shush now, darlin’.” The voice sounded like a growl, and the owner’s foul breath was hot on Wynne’s neck.

“Oo she’s one tasty bite, can I have a nibble?” A second orc came into her view. His dark face was nearly bald, and he had a bent nose that looked like it had been broken repeatedly.

“Get off, Burz! She ain’t for eatin’. She’s leverage.”

“Lever-what?”

“Dimwit! If those freakin’ elves comes after us, we can hurt her to make ‘em back off. Get me now?” 

Wynne whimpered at that, and tried to squirm out of the orc’s grip, but stopped dead when she felt the sharp prick of a knife at her throat.

“Don’t move, luv! I love a frisky gal as much as anyone, but this ain’t the time or place.” His insinuating tone made Wynne cringe.

The orcs quickly tied her hands behind her back, and the first orc flung her on his broad shoulder, were she hung like a sack of potatoes. Then they ran at speed. 

Wynne’s position made her dizzy and disoriented, and she had no idea which way they went. Her terror was mixed with anger, how could she have let the orcs surprise her like that? She knew the elves were exceptional trackers, but her captors were on foot, would they leave a visible trail now? And even if the elves somehow managed to follow, the orcs had said they would use her as a shield. She had just made the elves’ task to kill the orcs a lot harder. 

Was this not exactly what Thranduil had meant when he warned her not to come, that first day? She meant trouble. She was a burden. 

The orcs finally stopped, apparently to catch their breath, and meanwhiles they talked in another language. The speech sounded harsh and ugly, and Wynne could not even tell if they were arguing or talking friendly.

She was still hanging upside-down, and the blood that accumulated in her head made the dizziness stronger. 

She tried to look about her. Were the elves on their way? She could not see anything but tall grass.

Then they were off again, the fast pace still kept. The orc shoulder became sweaty, and the smell worsened Wynne’s nausea. Despite herself she threw up, but the orcs did not even seem to notice, they just ran on.

It was hard to measure the time under the circumstances, so Wynne had no idea how long the run lasted, but they stopped eventually and dropped her to the ground. When the blood left her face, Wynne became even more giddy and she threw up again.

“Oo, the little tidbit’s feelin’ sick, poor thing.” The dark orc sniggered.

“Yeah, and she ain’t gonna feel better later.” 

Wynne could now see the orc that had carried her clearly for the first time. He was a lot bigger than the other, had more grayish skin color and a large silver ring in his nostril. His hair was coarse and black, and made into a bunch of ruffled braids. The eyes were the only normal looking part of his face, they were pale blue and strangely human.

The big orc bent down over the side of a grassy hill, and dug away dirt with his hands until a round, wooden door was uncovered. On the inside a dark path went into the hill, and Wynne felt a musty, cellar-like smell. She shivered when she realized this was were they were going to hide. 

“Down you go, luv.” The big orc pointed. Wynne dared not refuse, they were both stronger than her, and had weapons. 

The hole was just as dark, moist and disgusting as one might have imagined. The path was only a few yards long, and so low Wynne had to crouch. It opened up into what felt like a slightly bigger cave, but it was pitch black and impossible to tell. The orcs soon joined her, they had a metal lantern that gave a weak light. Wynne could now see they were in a round room, perhaps ten yards wide and tall enough that even the bigger orc could stand upright in the middle. Boxes and sacks littered one side in an unorganized mess, and on the other side were a row of what looked like beds. The air reeked of stale food, earth and filth. This seemed to be were the orc band had lived. 

Wynne wondered what had happened to the rest of the gang, had the elves killed them? She had not seen how the battle ended, and did not even know who had won. What if the other orcs would come soon, and say that they had defeated the elves? Wynne would become orc supper then. 

“Now what?” asked the dark orc.

“Now we rest. And wait.” The big orc pushed Wynne toward the beds and thrust her down on one of them. Her arms were still tightly bound, and the pain made her whimper.

The orcs sat on each side of her. Wynne did not like the hungry look in the smaller one’s face.

“Can’t we have a teeny weeny taste? Do we really need the whole of her for that lever– leverthingy?” He licked his black lips, showing a crowded row of sharp, yellow teeth.

No , Burz, they ain’t gonna back off if she’s damaged. However...” The big orc had a calculating look in his blue eyes. 

“Yeah? What, Lug?”

“We could have fun with her in other ways.” He let one calloused finger trace up Wynne’s arm. She desperately tried to back away, but the dirt wall of the cave stopped her. 

“There ain’t nothin’ funnier than eatin’.”

“Well I have an appetite for other things too. If you’re hungry, have some dried meat.”

“Fresh meat is nicer,” Burz muttered, but he still went off to the sacks and began rummaging among them. Lug meanwhiles turned his attention back to Wynne. 

“Now, darlin’, what shall I do with you?” He hovered over her trembling body and pulled out a long knife. Wynne closed her eyes tightly, expecting a sharp pain any moment, but instead she felt him tear the front of her tunic and the chemise underneath. She did not know if that was a relief, or worse than being cut. Her eyes filled with tears.

She felt cold air on her torso when the orc uncovered it. She became strangely passive then, her limbs numb and rigid. When he roughly grasped her breast, she remained motionless.

“Ain’t you a pretty sight, eh? Now, spread those sweet legs for me.”

When Wynne did not react, he pulled them apart by force. She felt distant, like her mind had gone some way off and left her limp body on the grimy orc bed. Someone was crying, and she realized it was herself.

“Yukk! You are freakin’ bleedin’ !” The orc hastily stood up. “Dammit woman, you should of said!”

“Did you get any of it on you?” Burz asked, his mouth full of meat.

“No, luckily not.” Lug gave Wynne’s leg a kick. “You little witch thought you could curse me, eh?” He spat on the ground.

Wynne just looked back at him, baffled. Were orcs afraid of blood? How could that be? Then it dawned on her. He must be talking about her period. She had her monthly bleeding, and somehow that sort of blood scared them.

Lug went to sit by his friend, leaving Wynne alone. She breathed a little more calmly again, and the strange numbness had gone. She had been saved in the strangest way imagined. Were human and elf males this scared of period blood as well? 

She looked down, and saw that she still wore her linen underpants, stuffed with the dried grass she kept there to soak up the fluids. The big orc must have smelled the blood on her before he had removed them. It was a relief not to be entirely in the nude, but she wished she could close the front of her tunic. With her hands behind her back, she was unable to.

The most immediate danger was over, but the blood incident had only bought her a little extra time. They could still hurt her, or kill her. And what if she had to stay here for several days? Her cycle would soon be over, and then she was fair game again.

Wynne hated how weak she was. Why had she not even tried to defend herself? She had just laid there, and allowed the orc to have his way with her. Tears of shame and dismay trickled down her cheeks, and bound as she were she had no way of wiping them off.


A/N:

Thanks for reading! 

13. Legolas to the Aid

A few moments passed, and Wynne began to feel very tired. She had no idea how it could be possible in a scary and dangerous situation as this one, but somehow she felt her eyelids go heavy and even drowsed off a few times. 

A strong pounding made her wide awake, and a loud, very angry voice called out imperiously.

“Open up! Open the door this instant, or I shall break it to pieces!” 

It was Legolas! 

A flood of warmth surged through Wynne. The elves had found her! By some means they had managed to track her captors all the way here. 

The orcs jumped to their feet, uttering ugly words in their language, possibly curses. Lug pulled Wynne up, while Burz opened a door behind the sacks and crates that Wynne had not noticed before.

They dragged her through the opening and into another low passage, similar to the one they had entered through. Meanwhiles the pounding increased behind them, and loud thuds indicated that the entrance door was being worked on with something heavy, like an axe or a hammer. 

The passage ended behind another round door, very much like the first one, and outside there was open grasslands again. The orcs towed Wynne after them and hurried out a few yards, crouching as in fear of a rain of arrows. But their precaution was unnecessary, the hill was empty when they turned around to check. The elves apparently were still on the other side, unaware that there was a back door.

With a thrill Wynne noticed the horses, grazing not very far away. If she could call Vatna to her, she might be able to escape on horseback. But before she could try, she felt strong orc hands grasp her again. They did not lose any time. Lug threw Wynne on his shoulder and started to run, and she had no chance to stop him, not with her hands still tied behind her back.

She got another idea. The elves were near, and they had exceptional hearing.

“Help! HELP!” she yelled, on top of her lungs.

Lug stopped with another curse (presumably) and shook Wynne roughly.

“Quiet, woman! I shall...” But he never got to finish telling what he would do, because five elves had jumped up from behind the hill, two with swords raised and the others with bows drawn. Three metal-tipped arrows pointed straight to the orcs.

“Release her!” Thranduil’s voice was low, and frostier than ice. 

Lug and Burz quickly joined close together, and hid behind Wynne’s body like a human shield. She felt the sharp point of a blade against her neck.

“Back off , or it’s bye-bye to the gal!” growled Lug.

“Yeah, we got knives and we ain’t afraid to use ‘em,” said Burz. “Frickin’ elves,” he added, and spat.

Everything came to a standstill. Only a few yards separated Wynne from her friends, but it might as well have been a deep abyss. Neither of them could make a move, or she would be killed. 

Her plan to call to the elves for help had amounted to nothing. 

Wynne saw frustration and anger in her friends’ faces. Legolas, especially, was fuming, she had never seen him look this furious before. Galion, Nodir and Bronedir were trembling with pent up energy, and Thranduil’s dark brows were so deeply drawn together that his eyes had become almost invisible.  

What could they do? 

Nothing. That was the depressing answer. They would have to let the orcs go eventually, it was the only way. And the orcs would naturally take Wynne with them as a guarantee for their safety. This was exactly what she had feared all along. 

Unless… Her mind began to race. What if she could somehow cause a distraction, something to make them look away? Just a moment would be enough. 

The horses! They must still be there, they had been close just then. 

Wynne whistled her special signal, and immediately the flock came galloping with pounding hooves. The orcs turned around, startled, and that was all she needed to jump to the side and roll away in the grass. 

Arrows zinged and the orcs howled, and then it was quiet. 

Wynne lay with her eyes closed, panting heavily, still not really sure it was over. The she felt someone carefully cutting lose her bonds, and someone else put a blanket over her. She gratefully huddled under it, shivering like in a fever, while the elves cleared away the corpses and made camp right there on the spot.

As soon as it was up, Wynne hurried inside her tent to change clothes. She knew the elves would have questions about what had happened, but she really did not want to talk about it, or even face them. They had seen her with ripped clothes, exposed and humiliated. She had proven how useless she was, how vulnerable and easy to catch.

When she unpacked her other chemise, Wynne’s hands trembled so hard she almost dropped it, and tears poured from her eyes. She wiped them off, but new ones replaced them. It took ages to dress, and all the while she cried so much that the new clothes were almost soaked when she was done.

She sat on the bedroll, with a thick cloak tightly wrapped around her, and buried her face into her knees. She was safe now, then why did she behave like this? Another example of her disgusting weakness.

“May I come in?” Legolas’ voice was husky and full of concern. 

Wynne did not want him to see her like this, but also did not want to be alone. He had understood her fear before, that time after the first orc fight. Maybe he would understand her now as well.

“Yes.” The word came out as a pathetic squeak. 

Legolas closed the tent flap behind him and sat close to her. 

“I am so, so sorry. ” He sounded devastated, anguished even, and Wynne looked up in surprise, peering at him through swollen eyes.

You are sorry? But I…”

“We should never have left you alone. So careless! So stupid! Because of our inattention they… they... hurt you.” His eyes were dark. “I wish I could have killed those accursed scoundrels twice . Nay, thrice!”

It dawned on Wynne then. He must think they had done things to her. That Lug really had finished what he began, and forced himself on her.

“They did not hurt me.” She sniffed. “The ropes chafed a bit, but besides that I am really fine. I don’t know why I keep blubbering like this.”

“They did not?” He sounded doubtful.

“No. The big one tried, but… changed his mind.” Wynne prefered not to explain the reason for Lug’s hesitation. “And then you came.” 

Legolas visibly relaxed and without warning he hugged her tightly, almost painfully. She clung to him in return, and finally felt the trembling subside.

“I am still sorry,” he mumbled into her hair. “We put you in danger. And let the orcs scare you. You have every right to despise us.”

“You shouldn’t feel you have to protect me. Like I need a guard. I’d be a burden.” 

“Never. Your aid in this quest is invaluable. The way you manage the horses… the way you used them today to escape. It was impressive.”

He sounded sincere, and his words warmed her.

It had become quite dark, and a nice smell of stew reached Wynne’s nostrils. Her stomach rumbled.

“Are you feeling well enough to go out?” Legolas asked kindly. “If not, I can bring you supper in here. You need to eat.”

“Thank you. But I think I’d like to go out. I haven’t thanked you all for saving me.”

“No need for gratitude, you managed quite well on your own. Had we not come, you would have found a way to flee on your Vatna, I am sure. But I am glad that you did not, for it gave me the opportunity to put an arrow in each of those filths’ heads.” Legolas’ smile was grim.

Wynne did not think she would have managed to escape, she remembered all too well the strange apathy that had overcome her, but she liked that he believed it. It was flattering that he seemed to think so highly of her ability to fend for herself. 

For her part, she was sure it was only because the elves had come, that she had woken up from her frozen state. Just seeing them standing there on the hill, weapons drawn, had invigorated her. 

Then she thought of something.

“By the way, how did you find me? The orcs seemed so careful not to leave any tracks.”

“Do you really want to know?”

“Yes, of course!”

“Well… there was this trail of… hrm. Vomit.” 

His smile went very wide when he saw the face Wynne made.


A/N:

Ugh... not the nicest way to be found, I dare say. :D

14. Finding a Map

When Wynne and Legolas joined the others to a late supper, Thranduil had a piece of dirty parchment in his hands. He looked up when they came out from the tent, and nodded to them.

“Ah, there you are. I hope you are feeling better, My Lady?”

“I do, thank you. Please, after all this, call me Wynne.”

“Of course.” He turned to his son. “Legolas, come take a look at this. We found it in the orc den.” He spread out the parchment on his lap. 

Wynne meanwhiles accepted a bowl of stew from Galion.

“I took the liberty and used some of your supplies,” he said.

“Smells delicious. Thank you.” She sat down next to Legolas, who was examining Thranduil’s find with interest.

“It looks like a map. There, the arrows seem to point out the direction, and those suns could mean days,” he said.

“Aye,” Thranduil agreed. “That is what we thought also.”

Wynne looked over Legolas’ shoulder, and tried to seem interested, but she was still so wound up. She ate, but did not know how it tasted.

Every now and then the other elves sent quick glances in her direction, and she knew they too must think that the orcs had molested her. But how could she explain? Maybe she could ask Legolas to tell them nothing happened. Or, at least nothing too bad. The orcs had scared her, and Lug had ruined her clothes and touched her breast, that memory still sent chills down Wynne’s spine. But it could have been much worse.

Now was not the time for explanations, however, the elves were occupied with the map and trying to decipher it. 

“Those triangles, might they not be orc hideouts?” Nodir leaned over and pointed with a slender finger. “If this triangle is where we are right now, then that one up here could be where we were ambushed the other day, the place with the oliphaunts. See, the direction is right. And the number of suns, if they go on foot it would take that much longer.”

“That makes sense, we never found their den, but naturally there must have been one. We can investigate it on our way back.” Thranduil looked pleased. “The difficulty of our task will be greatly reduced, if this really does point to orc dwellings. We shall try and find the first triangle tomorrow, and if there are orcs, or an abandoned den, then we will be certain.”

The others nodded in agreement.

“Then, perhaps we should move on to something more cheerful,” Galion suggested. He had pulled out his flute. “Let us have an evening of merriment and music, and forget orcs for a little while!”

It really became a very nice evening, and Wynne found that she actually could push down the dark thoughts for a few hours. But when she returned to her lonely tent, the memories came back, and all of the “what ifs”. What if she had not had her period? What if the elves had not found her? What if the horses had not been there? She kept playing up scenarios in her head, events that had not happened but might have . Restlessly she turned this way and that in her bedroll.

Eventually she gave up sleep entirely, and just like that time after the first orc attack, she went out to seek comfort among her horses. She mounted Vatna and leaned back, resting her head on the Meara’s rump. Laying so, with the endless sky spread out above her, Wynne could finally relax. 

Things would work out somehow. The elves had an orc map now, things would never go so bad again. And they were nice to her, and had come after her when she went missing. They were her friends, which had seemed unlikely in the beginning of their journey. Thranduil had even agreed to skip the “my lady” and call her by name.

The night was warm, almost summer-like, and the buzzing of crickets and ruffling of the tall grass in the breeze lulled Wynne to sleep. She slept the whole night like that, stretched out on Vatna’s back, a feat she had learned in childhood when she had been spending more time on horseback than on the ground. 

The elves were eager to leave the next morning, curious to know if the map really would guide them to where the orcs lived. Wynne had made up her mind to be enthusiastic too, and not let the thought of more orcs scare her. She had to get over her fears. 

They took a southern route, having settled on the closest triangle on the map to begin with. 

Legolas nudged Stelpa to fall in step with Vatna. 

“How are you feeling today?”

“Just fine. All good. Looking forward to watch you kick some orc butt today.” Wynne tried to smile, but it was a rather shaky attempt.

“I will stay with you when the others check out the presumed nest.”

“No, don’t, I will be on horseback this time. I have thought it through. Had I only stayed on Vatna before, I would have outrun both the warg and the orcs easily.”

“The warg? What warg?” 

“There was a warg that threatened the horses, but I made it stop long enough for the flock to escape.”

“You stopped a warg?” He stared at her incredulously. “How?” 

“Well I… I guess I shooed it.” In retrospect that seemed like a rather stupid thing to have done. 

“You shooed it.” Legolas eyes went wide. “You shooed a thousand-pound beast with huge fangs, one that actually eats people like you!” He looked both surprised and annoyed.

“That sounds rather impressive,” said Bronedir, who apparently had been listening.

“What is impressive?” asked Nodir.

“Wynne scared away a warg barehanded.”

“Really? Aye, that is impressive.”

“You took a great risk, however,” said Legolas, he still did not look happy. “Please do not do such a thing again. If a warg comes at you, you must flee.”

“I disagree,” said Nodir. “The wargs hunt after anything that runs. She would have been caught easily.”

That silenced Legolas, but a little while later when the others were further away, he brought the subject up again.

“I think your plan to stay on horseback during orc encounters is wise. That way you can outrun most foes. I meant what I said before, do not try to be brave. There is no dishonour in fleeing.”

“Trust me, I like nothing better than staying far away from danger.” 

He smiled then, and looked relieved.

Around noon they reached the area marked on the map, and the elves left to search for the hideout on foot. She could see them from Vatna’s back, the open grasslands were good that way. They spread out and examined each hill closely, and it did not take long before Galion raised a hand and waved for the others to come.

Wynne tensed, and shadowed her eyes with a hand to see better. 

They circled the hillock, obviously looking for others exits, and then seemed to make ready, taking their positions. Nodir and Bronedir guarded one side, while Galion, Thranduil and Legolas began to open a door on the other. They disappeared inside one at a time, and soon Wynne heard muffled yells. The back door opened and three orcs emerged, only to be met by a storm of arrows, falling dead on the spot. 

Not much later Thranduil whistled and waved to Wynne, signalling that it was safe to come. All in all, the attack had taken less than two minutes. 

When Wynne came closer, and saw the heap of dead orcs that the elves had dragged out, she felt the thrill of victory for the first time. This was how it should be done. Fast, smooth, everything going according to plan. She saw the same excitement in the elves’ faces. 

“It worked!” Bronedir exclaimed, triumphantly raising an arm to the sky. “The map was correct!”

“They slept when we came upon them.” Legolas proudly held up five orc helmets. “I think I took most of them out before they even knew what had hit them.”

“Next time I go in first,” said Galion with mock annoyance. “Why should you have all the fun to yourself?”

“Tonight we feast,” decided Thranduil. “Do you still have any of that fire water left, Wynne?”


A/N:

A party! What do you think will happen? :)

15. Drinking with Elves (again)

“So, now that we are on first name basis, can I call you Thranny?” Wynne hiccuped, and hid her mouth in her hand.

“Absolutely not!”

“Aww why not, Galion is Gale and Nodir and Bronedir are Nodi and Bron. Thranny would be perfect for you. And you ,” she poked Legolas in the chest with her index finger, “you can be Leggy.”

“If you call me Leggy, I shall call you Lembas Lover.”

“Not funny.” Wynne scowled at him.

“I think it is hilarious.” Legolas face was absolutely straight, except for the slightly upturned corner of his mouth. 

Wynne tried to poke him again, but he caught her hand. She wanted him to keep holding it, but sadly he let go, and she could not think of a plausible excuse to touch him again. 

Then she remembered his bite wound.

“Is your hand better now?”

“Aye, this fire water really has great benefits.” He took a sip from the wooden cup.

“I didn’t clean it for you yesterday, what with the orcs kidnapping me and everything. I can do it now if you want?” 

“Aye, why not?”

“Then let’s go to the river, you should wash it first before I apply the liquor.”

After clearing out the orc den and burning the carcasses earlier that day, they had ridden back to the Anduin and made camp. Although the next triangle on the map was further east, everybody had agreed it would be nice to come back to a source of water. They had been travelling nearly a week now, and Thranduil decided they could stay there the next day too, allowing the horses to rest and themselves to wash their clothes.

Wynne followed Legolas down to the dark stream, which now had a red tint reflecting the setting sun. She noticed with some satisfaction that the elf swayed a little in his gait.

“I thought you were so unaffected by alcohol that you even beat a dwarf in a drinking competition. How come you can’t walk straight?” 

“I do walk straight. And see my hand. Steady as a rock.” He held out his good hand for her to see. She came closer, and stumbled on a tuft of grass. 

“Now look who cannot walk straight.”

“True, but I never said liquor doesn’t affect me. You shall have to support me.” Wynne took his hand, and he did not seem to mind. It felt strong and warm, and covered hers entirely. She walked extra slow the last few yards, just to make the moment last, but eventually she had to release him. 

As Legolas removed the bandage and began to wash, Wynne sat on the grassy slope just above the rough gravel of the shore. Music drifted from the campfire above, Nodir and Bronedir were singing again, accompanied by Galion’s flute. This time their bass voices were joined by a third, a baritone. With some surprise she realized it was Thranduil.

“Your father has a lovely singing voice. Do you sing as well?”

“Sometimes.” He dried his hands on a linen towel and came sit next to her.

“I’d love to hear it.”

“Maybe another time.”

“I shall take it as a promise. Now, let’s have a look at that bite.” 

The wound really looked much better today, it was not swollen and a scab had begun to form. Legolas did not even flinch when she dabbed it with a spirit soaked cloth.

“I’m glad it’s healing so well.”

“Thanks to you.” In the twilight his eyes were almost black. Wynne broke eye contact first, his gaze had made her stomach flutter.

“How about your thigh?” he asked. “Let me check those stitches.”

Wynne’s cheeks warmed at the mention of thighs.

“Sure.” Still blushing she removed the strings that held her hose up, and rolled one down a bit. She had not needed a bandage the past two days, it healed well. 

Legolas examined it thoroughly, perhaps more so than was strictly necessary. She could see a vein on his neck throbbing faster, just like her own heart did. 

“Looking good.” He had become slightly breathless. 

Then he carefully felt the three tiny knots. Too softly, Wynne squirmed and giggled. That broke the intense atmosphere.

“You are ticklish,” he noted, and seemed to store the information for later use.

Wynne then of course had to try and tickle him back, but got no reaction at all, his face could have been sculpted in marble. 

“You are no fun.” She tried a little more anyway, she loved to have a reason to touch him.

“You are wasting your time. Elves are beyond such worldly things as ticklishness.” His teasing smile made Wynne certain he did feel it, he just had high self-control. She decided to try to catch him by surprise later. 

“How is it going down there?” Thranduil called from the campfire. 

“Soon finished!” Legolas looked guilty. 

They hastily went back and retrieved their places around the fire. Thranduil regarded them thoughtfully, one eyebrow raised, but did not say anything.

“So, a day off tomorrow then,” said Wynne. “That means we can sleep in. Any fire water left?”

The elf brothers began a new song, and this one was so well known even Wynne could join in. Her soprano was not all too bad, she reckoned, and she quite liked singing. To her delight Legolas also took part. He was a bass, which was what one might expect from his speaking voice, and a good one too. She really must hold him to his promise, and have him sing to her sometime. 

When night came, Wynne was more drunk than before, and went to her tent a bit unsteadily. The drink had made her drowsy, and she could hardly keep her eyes up when she undressed. But as she lay tucked in her bedroll, she found that she still could not fall asleep. For no apparent reason, her heart beat faster and faster. Adrenaline rushed through her body, forcing her wide awake. Orc faces began to parade before her eyes, those she were kidnapped by, and the one with an arrow in its cheek. It was like a waking dream, one she could not wake up from. 

At last she sat and tried to rub away the images, almost banging her head with her fists, but it did not help. She wanted to scream in frustration. How long would this hopeless insomnia last? This awful, irrational panic. She hated it.

She had to resort to the horses again. The air was moister this close to the river, and quite chilly, but it worked anyway. Within moments of mounting Vatna she slept soundly.

Wynne woke early a few hours later, despite her talk yesterday of sleeping in, and began the day with an icy cold swim. It cleared her head nicely, and chased away the headache that had begun to form. Legolas, who had the early morning watch, came down to join her.

“Oh, hello Leggy.”

“Good morning, Lembas Lover.” His face turned serious. “I noticed you slept outside, why is that? It is not safe, even here.”

“I’m safe with the horses.”

“You have a nice tent, why not use it? All that space to your own, while I have to lay cramped in, listening to Father’s snores.”

“Thranduil snores? Really?” Wynne shook her head in disbelief. “I’d never had guessed that.”

“He does.” Legolas nodded solemnly. 

“Maybe I can sneak in sometime and listen.” She laughed at Legolas’ shocked look.

“You are evading the question. Why do you sleep on your horse?”

“I sleep better there. Dunno.” Wynne shifted uncomfortably, and dove back into the river to evade further questions.

When she emerged Legolas had finished bathing and sat braiding his hair. Wynne stood up, and tried to use the water as a mirror, but her dropping head made it difficult. She was quite sure her hair must look like the wiry end of a besom, though. The pretty braids Legolas had made a few days ago had almost disappeared under stray strands of hair. She rather forcefully undid them, losing a few tufts in the process.

“Can you braid my hair too when you are done?” She sat by him. “If it’s not too much trouble.”

“Of course. No trouble at all, I enjoy doing it.” He glanced at her bare calves and wet outfit, and averted his eyes with an embarrassed cough. Wynne was glad the chemise was wide and nontransparent. 

While Legolas finished his own braids, Wynne noticed that his undershirt was thinner than hers. The moist fabric was clinging to his chest muscles, showing the shape of his torso underneath. She wondered what he looked like without a shirt, and how his skin would feel if she touched it.

He looked up then, and smiled somewhat slyly. Wynne realized she had been staring, and quickly turned toward the river. A pair of black swans came serenely swimming down it.

“I heard those used to be Sauron’s spies,” she said.

“Aye. But they are free now.” He moved to stand on his knees behind her, and began combing. Like before, his touch sent warm tingles all through her body.

He took longer this time. The bone comb soon glided through her tresses without resistance, but yet he continued, stroking her hair almost reverently.

Finally he moved to Wynne’s side and started on the braids. He was so near, she felt air tickling her neck when he breathed. He seemed intently focused on what he was doing, and she seized the opportunity to study his beautiful face, peeking sideways rather uncomfortably so as to not turn her head in the process. His skin really was amazingly smooth, even up this close. Not a hint of facial hair, except for the slender eyebrows and long, dark lashes. His irises had an unusual shade of blue, almost gray, like the sky of a summer evening. The nose was straight and his jawline strong and masculine. He had pointed ears like all elves, but somehow his was prettier than the other’s.

Legolas had completed one set of braids and moved to her other side, while Wynne innocently turned her gaze back to the swans. One of them had buried its long neck in the rippling water and the black, webbed feet waggled in the air. 

They heard voices from above, the others were waking up. Legolas cast several nervous glances towards them, while he finished the last braids a lot faster. He was just done, when Thranduil and Galion came down to the shore. 

Wynne could tell from Thranduil’s lowered eyebrows that he was not pleased when he saw what his son had been doing. It surprised her, but also made Legolas’ behaviour more understandable. Clearly hair and braids meant something different to elves than to humans.

Legolas very soon hurried off, muttering something about dirty laundry. Before Wynne could follow, Thranduil laid a hand on her arm.

“May I have a word with you in private, My Lady?”

Uh-oh, he was back to calling her “My Lady” again. This did not bode well.


A/N:

I wish they had let Orlando Bloom keep his own eye color as Legolas… His real eyes really are rather amazing.

Oh, and for a taste of Thranduil's singing voice, google "Lee Pace singing miss Pettigrew". :)

16. Heart-to-heart with Thranduil

“Come, walk with me.” It was more of a command than a request. 

Wynne followed Thranduil downstream alongside the river. Her steps crunched on the gravel and stones, his was entirely soundless. 

She had a bad feeling about this whole thing, and a strong suspicion what Thranduil was about to say. All in all she felt very much like when she had done something forbidden, and anticipated Mother’s reaction. Just like then, her mouth had gone bone dry and her palms sweaty.

At last he stopped, and spoke.

“I have noticed lately, that you and my son are becoming close.” 

She nodded, and swallowed nervously. There was no use in denying it.

“Legolas is very young – for an elf – and yet he has fought several battles, and been participating in adventures of a magnitude few could fathom. Despite this, he has not been much exposed to the common world. Or to females. He could very easily be misled by such as yourself.”

Wynne scowled. The way Thranduil spoke, he made Legolas seem like an immature teen. The picture would have been laughable in other circumstances. 

“I am sure you mean well. You think that you love him, am I not right?” He looked at her imploringly. “I take your silence as an affirmation. However, at your age one cannot always discern between love and desire.” He paused. ”You are shaking your head, but remember that I am your senior by several millennia. Please rely on my greater knowledge and experience in these matters.”

He began to walk again, with Wynne demurely following a few steps behind. 

“Then there is the question of station. Even if your feelings were to grow into real, mutual love, Legolas is heir to my throne. My people would never accept a human woman as a queen. He would be disgraced, publicly shamed.”

That was an aspect Wynne had not considered. Mother had seemed so certain she could procure an alliance between their House and Mirkwood, but now it was obvious that her plan had been uninformed and overly optimistic. 

“My last objection to this match is the most grave. You, My Lady, are a mortal, whereas Legolas will never die a natural death. You would force him to watch as you grow old and pass away. And elves do not take grief well.” He turned to face her, and she saw the same sadness in his eyes that he had shown once before. She knew he was referring to his deceased wife. “Imagine an eternity away from your beloved. Never able to forget her, always missing her. Elves love only once.”

Tears burned in Wynne’s eyes. Thranduil was right. How could she not have thought of this herself?

It had been a foolish dream. One that could never be.

They walked back in silence, but before they separated Thranduil pressed Wynne’s shoulder soothingly.

“It is better this way. Ending it before your heart is too deeply committed.” He sounded unusually kind. 

She nodded, not trusting her voice to hold.

“Thank you, Wynne. I was certain you would understand.” He pressed her shoulder again, and left.

She did not remember much of that day, only that it was one of the worst she had known so far, in a way even worse than being kidnapped. She had escaped the orcs, but there was no happy way out of this. 

All she wanted was to lie down and cry her eyes out for the unfairness of it all, but instead she had to act normal, doing her chores among the others as if nothing had happened. 

Thranduil must have spoken to Legolas too not long after, for he also seemed very low that day. She wondered what his father had said to him, but then figured she did not really want to know. Whatever it was, it had worked. Legolas did not avoid her, but when they had to speak he evaded eye contact. It hurt, even though she know it was for the best.

At last the long day was over, and Wynne gratefully left for her tent. In the solace behind canvas walls she could finally bury her face in her pillow and allow the tears to pour. 

Why had she come on this stupid mission? All it had brought her was fear, pain and heartache. 

She was not sure if she loved Legolas, perhaps Thranduil was right and she did not yet. She had never been in love, and had no idea what that felt like. But she did know she cared about him more than anyone else she had met, and wanted to be near him at all times. Even if her feelings were not love, she was certain they would have grown into it, given time. And she believed he cared about her too. From the beginning, he had singled her out, and she suspected his braiding her hair meant something special.

But now it would have to end, almost before it had even begun. She felt empty. 

All the crying made Wynne tired, and for the first time in days she fell asleep in her own bed. She had no dreams and slept late the next morning, yet when she woke up she was heavy headed and exhausted. 

Soon after breakfast they broke camp and took off again. They rode in silence, everybody occupied with their own thoughts. 

The following weeks were spent travelling between the orc hideouts marked on the map. Some were empty, others were inhabited and cleared out as efficiently as the first. The elves found another map in one of them, slightly different, it lacked some of the triangles but had others instead. The two maps completed each other and made the quest even easier. 

Only once did they encounter orcs in the open, a large group of warg riders, but this time Wynne stayed on horseback and nothing bad happened. A few of the elves got lesser blemishes and cuts, nothing worrisome. They were grateful for Wynne’s fire water, which was now saved for medicinal use only. It helped them heal a lot faster.

Wynne’s stitches began to itch and needed removing after the second week, which she did on her own in the tent. The memory of that time with Legolas by the river made her cry again when she cut the knots and pulled out the threads. She shed many tears those first days, but only after nightfall, laying in bed or on Vatna’s back.

Things slowly grew back to normal between the rest of them. It was evident the others must have suspected in part what had happened, and had kindly given her and Legolas time and space to get over it. But after a while they resumed their friendly banter. Legolas even pulled his tired old lembas joke every now and then, but his smiles never really reached the eyes and Wynne’s laughter felt false and unnatural.

After about two months they were finally finished with the first part of their quest. Every triangle on the maps had been checked, every den cleared out.

“This was the last one.” Sweat poured down Galion’s pale face as he dragged a headless orc on top of its former comrade.

“We have done well.” Thranduil beamed at the others through the smoke from the burning carcasses. “When we first set out, I had no idea that the Brown Lands were so infested. We have made this area a great deal safer for travellers. Maybe there shall even be settlements again, I know King Éomer has wished to expand his borders to the east for a long time.” He turned to Wynne. “Whenever you return home, you must send word to him of our progress.”

She nodded.

“I’m sure he will be delighted. Breeding horses requires a great deal of land.”

“Aye, I noticed some of your extensive pastures when we last visited there.”

They had made two short trips across the Anduin into Rohan to restock their supplies. The food had never really been scarce, what with the addition of game and fish from the river (and of course the neverending lembas), but they had needed healing equipment and more fire water, and Wynne had wanted peppermint leaves for her morning tea. 

“We shall now turn south and enter the hills of Emyn Muil,” Thranduil continued. “Like in the beginning of our journey, we shall have no map. Again we walk blindly, and try to cover as much land as possible. We know not where the orcs hide, and in addition we might encounter greater dangers now, such as mountain trolls.”

Wynne shivered despite the warmth of the summer evening and the heat from the pyre. The past months had hardened her, and orcs no longer scared her like they had. But trolls were something else, they were said to be huge, with skin hard as stone. She had never seen one, and had no wish to either.

“The terrain we enter into will be difficult, but I was told that riding is the best way to travel through it. Wynne’s horses can walk over creepers and brambles easier than us.” 

She nodded. 

“They prefer the open land of course, but are sure footed. They can walk in almost any terrain.”

“Then let us rest, and begin this new part of our journey tomorrow.”

Wynne had overcome most of her fears from before, and no longer suffered from insomnia. But that night she slept badly again, with faceless trolls haunting her dreams. 

When she woke the next morning she tried to shake off her worry. She trusted the elves, they were skilled fighters and could probably defeat even trolls. 

Besides, there might not even be any trolls.


A/N:

Sorry for this very bleak chapter... but things will improve, trust me. :)

I love your reactions, so don't hesitate to comment! 

17. Daydreaming in Emyn Muil

The hills of Emyn Muil were nicer than Wynne had thought. She quite enjoyed the view from the hilltops, and the variation in nature fascinated her. On the ridges grew funnily shaped trees, twisted and crooked by the wind. The ground was indeed covered with creepers and brambles, just like Thranduil had said, but on the brambles grew sweet blackberries and raspberries which became a welcomed change in their diet. 

On the first day nothing much happened, but the day after that Nodir discovered a footprint in a muddy creek they passed.

“It is a lot bigger than an orc foot would be,” Thranduil mused. 

“Could it be human?” Wynne suggested. It looked like the prints her father’s boots had made in the muddy stableyard back home.

“Maybe. We had better follow it to make sure, though. It could be an uruk.” He explained that the uruk-hai were a taller kind of orc that Saruman had bred during the War, they were said to be human-orc hybrids, but no one knew for sure. “They move easily during daylight unlike their smaller cousins, and are a lot stronger. And more intelligent as well. We need to be very careful now.”

The mention of human-orc hybrids made Wynne feel slightly sick, and she remembered when Lug had tried to molest her. Would the resulting offspring have been an uruk-hai? The thought of giving birth to something even vaguely like an orc made her cringe.

She began to think about other hybrids instead, and wondered what a human-elf child might look like. That sent her into a pleasant daydream, one that she had come back to very often lately. 

In her daydream, Wynne and Legolas had eloped, and escaped into the wilderness with Vatna and Stelpa. The country was a bit like the Brown Lands, but more fertile, and with a sparkling clear stream running through it. They had built a pretty wooden cottage there, not unlike Wynne’s house back home. The roof was thatch, and around it they dug out a kitchen garden which they tended together and grew vegetables in. They planted an orchard too, with cherry and apple trees. In the evenings they talked, long hours of pleasant conversation in which they shared memories of their past lives. Legolas made jokes, and Wynne laughed at them.  

During the nights they would sleep in a four poster bed like Grandmama’s and Grandpapa’s. Wynne’s parents had slept in separate beds for as long as she could remember, but her grandparents were more close. Hers and Legolas’ bed would be made of wood, with carvings of leaves and branches to make him feel at home whenever he missed his forest. The bed was covered with a fluffy quilt, and underneath it they would cuddle up together every night. 

They would sleep naked. 

At first she had imagined they would keep their shifts at least, but then she had decided naked was better, even though she did not really know what a male looked like between his legs. Probably not exactly like a stallion or a bull, but she was sure there was a dangling part involved somehow. 

Wynne mostly did not think too much about those body parts in her daydreams anyway, the whole mating business was too unknown and diffuse. Instead her thoughts were occupied with the male parts she had seen. Such as the chest, she knew what Thranduil’s torso looked like and imagined Legolas’ was similar. She dreamed of how she would touch it, feel the softness of his skin against the palm of her hand. This was why they needed to be naked, she did not want an undershirt to be in the way. Skin against skin.

After caressing his chest, she would bury her nose deep into his neck, and draw in his smell. She thought he would smell a bit like her father, of horses, leather, and hard work.

Then she would turn to his face. That beautiful face, which she knew she should not look so much at, but secretly peeked at all the time. It was so tempting and she just could not help herself. Her eyes went there almost of their own. Even when she closed them she could summon every detail of his features. 

In the daydream she would follow the contours of his strong jawline with a fingertip, and tickle him just below the ear. She was certain he was ticklish there, everybody was. When he smiled, she would kiss the upturned corner of his mouth. 

She knew a little about kissing, and that lovers’ kisses were different than Grandmama’s goodnight pecks on the forehead when she was little. She had seen a maid and a farmhand kiss in that other way, once, behind the neighbour’s barn. The man had been one of those burly, ugly fellows from the marketplace, and she had not for the world understood why the girl wanted to suck her mouth against his. But if that girl had felt anything like what Wynne felt for Legolas, then she now knew exactly why.

So, she would kiss Legolas’ lips, and that would make him smile wider. His smile, rare as it was these days, could light up the most melancholy moment. Like the sun emerging from a clouded sky.

Wynne sighed, momentarily drawn out of her daydream. She wished Legolas would smile more often, and it saddened her that he had become so serious. But the reality was too bleak to think about, and as usual she very soon went back to her fantasy. 

Now she imagined what their mornings would be like. How wonderful it would be to wake up next to a warm elf, instead of alone in a chilly tent like now. Sometimes Legolas would go up first and make her breakfast, sometimes it would be the other way around. They would eat it in bed, and talk about the day ahead.

It was one happy, drawn back life they would lead in that cottage, and they hardly ever left it. Only if they needed some supplies, such things they could not grow for themselves.

As the years went by, they would probably have children. If they wanted to mate, those would be the result, and Wynne was quite certain she would want to mate if she ever found herself naked in bed with Legolas. She did not really like babies, however, the little she had seen of them they seemed to be either screaming or pooping or both. But perhaps it would be different if they were her own. Maybe she would feel for them like she did for a newborn foal.

After having the babies – and this was the part of the dream where she always tried to think of another possible ending, and failed – Wynne would grow older, while Legolas would not. Her hair would gray, her body become wrinkled like Grandmama’s, her voice get weak and her back bend. And then she would die, and Legolas would mourn her, and the children would die, and he would mourn them too, and his eternity of a life would be filled with grief and absolute misery.

She could picture him walking alone in the orchard, which now had huge, gnarled trees, covered in lichen, almost like spiderwebs. He would stroke their rough trunks and remember when he and Wynne had planted them all those hundreds years ago. His beautiful eyes would look like Thranduil’s when he talked about his late wife. Filled to the brim with a pain so deep it was impossible to grasp.

Wynne angrily shrugged off the daydream, as usual with tears prickling in the corner of her eyes. It always ended this way, making her heart ache as if it had really happened. She hated to be reminded of the outcome of any relationship with Legolas, but yet she would build that same castle in the air every day. 

At least it started out nice, the eloping and all that... If only it did not have to end!

If only, if only. Those kind of thoughts were a waste of time. 

She tried to think of something else. Fir trees. There were crooked fir trees around. She could think of them. Or brambles. Anything but immortality and its implications.


A/N:

Talking of daydreams... I "dream up" many of my stories, dialogue etc, and ever since I first watched the Lord of the Ring I thought out more adventures for the characters (I went to each premiere, always at midnight in Swedish cinemas).

Anyone else who "writes stories in their head"? :)

18. Mysterious Footsteps

For two full days the elves scanned the area where they had found the footprint, without any trace of its owner. But on the third day Galion, who had been taking the lead on his large gelding, finally spotted something. A single file of tracks, running straight over a boggy part between two hills.

“At least there seems to be only one of them,” Bronedir said. That had them all relax a bit. One uruk would not be too bad, if that was what it was. 

Galion said he thought these footprints looked fresher than the first one, but it was still very hard to tell how long ago they were made. It had not rained for several days.

They followed the tracks between the hills, and came out on a flatter expanse, covered in purple heather. The air smelled sweet, and hundreds of bees were humming. 

“This is beautiful,” Legolas exclaimed, and provided one of his rare smiles to Wynne, who had come last. Whenever they were tracking monsters she preferred to take the rear. 

“Yes it’s lovely!” She smiled back, and instantly decided there would be heather around their cottage in her next daydream. 

“Here are more prints. Two sets of them!” Galion waved to the others from a small pool under a cliff face. “This seems to be their water hole. They have come here many times.”

The others joined him and dismounted. Thranduil dipped a finger in the water and tasted it.

“Sweet and clear. Maybe we should take the opportunity to refill our waterskins.”

“I could do with a washing,” said Bronedir. “It has been a while.”

“It is not safe to linger, they might be near.” Legolas looked tense. “And we should keep our voices down.”

“I agree with Legolas.” Wynne glanced about her anxiously, imagining a huge orc jumping out from behind every thicket of brambles.

“We find the owners of the prints first, then we come back. If this is their regular watering place, then their den cannot be too far away,” Thranduil decided.

Galion had been following the cliff face a bit longer, and now came back. 

“There is a path over here.” 

Everybody drank their fill, including the horses, and then began to follow the narrow track. They rode slowly, the elves alert and wary, with Wynne tagging along a few yards behind just to be on the safe side. 

The moorland ended and the ground grew rocky and rough. The path still went close to the cliff, which now had a slight overhang. Underneath it the ground was soggy, and they found new footprints, going in both directions and partly covering each other. 

“This is odd.” Galion had lowered his voice to almost a whisper. He dismounted to take a closer look at a very small print, about the size of Wynne’s palm. “I have never seen an orc that small.”

“Could they have captured a human child?” Nodir looked aghast.

A chill seeped through Wynne. What would they find when they finally came to the orc den? Appalling images of dismembered and broken children came before her. She almost wished not to continue, but of course they had to. If there was a kidnapped child somewhere around, they must try to save it. 

They went on, Wynne even slower than before, allowing the others to gain a few extra yards still. Then the track ended abruptly with a steep wall of huge boulders, and everybody came to a halt.

The elves dismounted and spread out among the rocks, searching for an opening or cave. Wynne remained seated on Vatna as usual, ready to bolt if any orcs would attack. 

The summer air was hot and very still, the cliff overhang and boulder wall on two sides shielding the place from wind. Insects buzzed and birds chirped, and there was a sweet smell of herbs, wild rosemary perhaps, or thyme. Under different circumstances this would have been a lovely place. 

A slight movement made Wynne turn her head up to the cliff side they had been following. An immense juniper bush grew a few yards above her, had it moved? She screwed up her eyes to see better. Yes, there definitely was a movement. It trembled slightly, and there was no wind, so something else must have caused it. She went cold with trepidation, and wished she could make the elves notice somehow. But they were too far away, and if she called out to them she would draw attention to herself. If an orc was hiding behind that bush it would jump down on her before she could flee. 

Wynne very slowly made Vatna back away, all the while staring intently at the juniper. 

It moved again, and now something emerged, equally slow and silent as herself. 

It was a woman! Wynne’s eyes grew wide in surprise. A brown-skinned, black haired human woman, clad in rather ragged clothes. She had her back to the cliff and edged her way sideways, away from where the elves searched among the boulders. There seemed to be something behind her, something that she shielded with her body. 

Their eyes met. The woman instantly stopped, looking frightened. She held her palms out to show she had no weapons, and then put a finger to her mouth. Her dark eyes had a pleading look. It was obvious she did not want to be found by the elves. But why? If she had been captured by orcs, the elves could help her. Did she think they were dangerous too? That Wynne was their prisoner?

“It’s okay, we don’t mean you any harm,” Wynne said in a low voice, and tried to look as friendly as possible. Just like the woman had done, she held her palms up.

The other shook her head vigorously and again motioned for Wynne to be silent, but the elves with their exceptional ears had already heard her and soon noticed whom she had talked with.

“There, it is a woman!” called Galion.

They quickly spread out in a semi circle around the cliff. 

“Do not be afraid, we come in peace.” Thranduil had put down his two swords in their scabbards again, and the others had lowered their bows.

“Leave me alone.” The woman’s voice was dark and heavily accented. 

“Of course, we are not after you. Have you seen an orc around here? A big one, human sized or larger.”

“No.” 

“No? We have seen tracks, footprints just here. Are you sure–”

“I said no. Now go.” The woman scowled, and Wynne noticed her eyebrows were almost up to Thranduil standard. Impressive. 

Thranduil seemed rather perplexed at her fierce reaction, but then shrugged, and was just beginning to turn away when a thin wail instantly caught everyone’s attention. It had come from behind the woman.

“What was that? What are you concealing?” There was an edge to the king’s voice now, and his body had tensed.

“Nothing.” She began to tremble.

“Move away.” His voice was cold as ice, and Legolas, Nodir and Bronedir had drawn their bows. 

The woman must have realized she had no option but to obey, and very slowly took a step to the side, tears glittering in her eyes.

“Please don’t hurt them.”

There was a collective gasp when they saw what she had been hiding. Two tiny orcs stood there, hand in hand, thumbs in their mouths. They were barely more than toddlers.


A/N:

Toddler orcs eh, who would have thought? What do you think they are?

19. Finding Tiny Orcs

“What on Arda…!” Bronedir sounded shocked. 

“Orclings? You kept orclings? Whatever for?” Thranduil’s eyes almost popped out of their sockets.

“They are my sons.” The woman crossed her arms defiantly.

“An abomination!” Thranduil looked absolutely horrified.

Wynne shuddered, and the familiar sickness came over her. Just the other day she had thought about this, what would have happened if the orcs had raped her that time. And here this woman had experienced exactly that! Twice, too. But why ever had she kept the monster’s spawn?

The elves had had their bows pointed at the woman, now they shifted them to the orclings. 

“No!” The woman made a quick movement to stand in front of them again. “Please don’t hurt my children,” she repeated her appeal.

“Stand aside,” Thranduil demanded. “We cannot allow such vile beings to live.”

“They are only babies, they won’t harm anyone. They never will. We teach them right and wrong.” The woman’s dark voice broke into a sob. “Please.”

“We?”

“My husband and me.”

“And where is your husband?”

“Away hunting, I expected him back any moment. But… With you here… He’ll probably stay away.”

Wynne got a horrible suspicion then, and apparently the elves did as well. 

“Your ‘husband’... Am I to presume he is, in fact, an orc? The sire of the orclings?”

“Yes.” The defiant look was back in the woman’s stance.

“Excuse me if I repeat myself, but just to make this absolutely clear… You are married to an orc, and have given birth to his offspring?”

“I have.”

“And you did this voluntarily?”

“Yes. I love him. We love each other. He’s not like other orcs.”

“Astounding. I never heard of anything like it.” Thranduil turned to the others, looking rather bewildered. “We have to get rid of them anyway.” But he did not seem altogether sure, there almost was a question in his voice.

“Aye,” the others agreed, but they too sounded hesitant.

“If you do, you have to kill me first.” New tears dripped from the woman’s eyes.

Wynne was quite as confused as the elf king. To be in love with an orc, and to mate with it of free will… Again she thought of Lug. Having to kiss those black lips, with the clutter of deformed teeth, and his gnarled hands touching her breast… Ugh! It was impossible to understand. But yet… Who was she to judge another woman for her feelings? 

One of the orclings was peeking out from behind its mother’s leg now, thumb still in its mouth. The skin was grayish and the big ears pointed, but the soft curly hair and brown eyes struck Wynne as very human. It had chubby cheeks and a pink button of a nose. As babies went, this was actually rather cute.

She tried to picture the elves shooting it, and instantly felt that to be wrong. It was so small and helpless.

“Must you really kill them?” 

“They will grow up to be dangerous half orcs like the uruk-hai. We set out to rid these lands of all monsters. Just because they are orclings we cannot exempt them.”

“But she said she teaches them to be good. Maybe they’ll never be dangerous.”

“That’s right!” exclaimed the woman. “They will be good, I promise.”

“That might actually be a possible outcome”, Legolas mused. “All other orcs were raised by Sauron, and some by Saruman after he turned to evil. These orclings however, could be brought up differently.”

“Yes they will! We love them. We do anything for our sons.”

“Orcs are evil by nature, it has nothing to do with upbringing,” Thranduil objected.

“How would you know?”

“Well…” He hesitated. “I guess I could not know that, but–”

“Not all are evil. Nugu is good,” the woman cut in. “And he isn’t the only one. When Saruman was in power, my husband and his friends were slaves, but they are free now. And they decided they wanted nothing more of that kind of life.”

“I wish to speak with your husband,” said Thranduil. “Call him here.”

“You will kill him.” 

“I will decide that after I have spoken with him. Now, tell him to come.”

“I can’t risk it.” The woman’s lower lip trembled.

“Would you rather we kill the orclings instead? Call him.”

“That’s not fair. You can’t make me choose between them like that,” she sobbed.

“I’m here.” A deep voice from behind made them turn around in surprise. A tall orc stood there, unarmed, and just like his wife he had his palms upturned. 

“Run Sidra! Now !” he suddenly bellowed.

When the startled elves turned back again, the woman had grabbed one orcling under each arm and bolted, but Wynne knew the elves could easily hit her at distance.

“Don’t shoot,” she cried, and grabbed Legolas’ arm.

“I shall not.” He turned to Nordir and Bronedir. “Hold your arrows.”

“It is not your place to give orders,” scowled Thranduil. 

“Father, we can easily catch the woman later, if need be. Let us interrogate the orc first.”

“Very well, then.”

The orc still stood before them, seemingly unafraid. He had a proud bearing, head held high and met their stares with an impassive gaze. 

“You are an uruk-hai,” Thranduil stated.

“They call us that.” His accent was stronger than that of the woman. When he spoke, Wynne could see the pointed fangs so typical of his race, but apart from them he had a normal set of teeth. On the whole, he looked much more human than pure orcs, although some of that difference might be accounted to the fact that his face and hands were clean, his long, raven hair properly combed and the worn clothes without all those strange pieces of metal, random bones and scraps of rotten fur that orcs normally seemed so fond of. He lacked their disgusting odour entirely. But apart from that, there were other, more subtle differences. He just did not behave like an orc. For one thing, a such would have bared its teeth at them and tried to bite their throats as soon as it set eyes on them.

“How come you wed a human?” Thranduil asked.

“We met. We made friends. And then we just felt like it, I guess.” He shrugged. 

This no longer appeared so strange to Wynne. There was nothing threatening or ugly in his appearance, except for a few battle scars that likely had been there since he was part of Saruman’s army.  

“The woman said that you abandoned your earlier life.”

“Yes.”

“Well, and did you?” 

“Yes.” 

“Why?” Thranduil drew his eyebrows together, obviously annoyed by the short, uncommunicative answers. 

“Because I hated it. And I hated Saruman.” When he said the name it sounded like a snarl. Wynne wondered what the wizard had done to make the uruk despise him so much.

“I see you kept one weapon at least.” Thranduil nodded at a scabbard in the half orc’s belt.

“A hunting dagger. Since I left Isengard, I’ve never used it on anything but game.” He paused. “Actually, I did use it once, when an orc threatened my wife. I had to scare him, but I didn’t kill him. I will never kill again.” 

This was the longest sentence he had spoken so far, and he sounded earnest. There was a certain look in his dark eyes when he mentioned killing, a look of disgust, self loathing even.

“Hm. So you say.” Thranduil still seemed suspicious. 

“We should discuss this among ourselves before making a decision,” said Legolas. 

Thranduil nodded agreement, and they drew back a few yards, still with their bows aiming at the uruk. The latter stood straight, the muscular arms crossed over his chest, calmly awaiting the king’s judgement. 


A/N:

The backstory of the woman and orc is interesting, and might make it into a separate fic some day. :) But you will get some of it here too soon!

20. Persuading an Uruk-hai

“At least don’t kill the little ones,” pleaded Wynne, and pressed Thranduil’s arm. She had no idea why she felt so strongly about that, she did not even like children, but somehow the woman’s desperation had touched her. She had been willing to sacrifice her own life for her babies.

Then it occurred to Wynne that the father had done the same, in a way. The tall uruk had given himself up, even though he must be fully aware that his own death might be the outcome of it, and he had done it so that his wife and children could escape. That, if any, was proof that he could not be altogether evil.

“If they shall be allowed to live, they must be closely monitored,” said Thranduil. “We cannot leave them, and be without the means to control the outcome of this experiment.”

“You mean to take them with us, then?” Legolas looked surprised. “Surely our mission is no place for baby orcs. And who would tend to them?”

“Nay, this is why it would be complicated to save them,” his father said. “Besides, bereaving a mother of her young, would hardly be less cruel than slaying them.”

“What about the uruk-hai?” asked Galion. 

“I do not trust him. I could never trust an orc.” Thranduil sounded definite.

“I do,” said Wynne. “He gave himself up for his family to live.”

Thranduil shook his head. “He may be less amiable toward outsiders, we cannot risk that. We must either kill him, or take him prisoner.” 

“The woman mentioned other uruks. His friends,” Nodir broke in. “Maybe he can lead us to them.”

“How would you persuade him to do that? I do not hold with torture.”

“If we let him and the orclings live – for now – he might do it in return for sparing them,” suggested Legolas. ”In addition, it would give us time to observe him, and decide whether he really has good intentions.”

“I like that idea,” said Wynne. 

“It has some merits,” Thranduil cautiously agreed. “One needs more than a first impression to read someone’s character.”

“Yes, otherwise you would still have thought me useless.” Wynne grinned at him, and to her surprise he smiled back. 

“Indeed, I would.” He turned to Nodir and Bronedir. “You fetch the human, she cannot have gotten far.” 

They rode off, bringing an extra horse for the woman, and Thranduil approached the uruk-hai again.

“You shall live, you and your family, if – and I stress this point – if you obey my commands and prove to me that your ways are not evil.”

Wynne noticed Thranduil had not mentioned they might still be killed later, even if they did obey. He certainly was a sly elf.

The half orc bowed his head in compliance, obviously knowing that he had not many other options.

Thranduil continued: “This is only a precaution, as I am sure you understand. Galion, bind him.”

The uruk held out his hands, silently allowing the elf to tie them tightly together.

It did not take many minutes for the brothers to return with the woman, demurely riding in the front. The elves carried one wailing orcling each, and looked extremely uncomfortable about it.

When she saw her bound husband, the woman’s shoulders sagged even lower.

“Please, let me have my babies back,” she begged. “I will not run away again. I promise.”

Thranduil nodded to the dark elves. The tiny orcs were placed before their mother on the horse, where they soon silenced.

“Now that you are both here, you shall know what your task is. If you accede, we shall spare your lives.” Again Thranduil omitted that this was still not decided. “You must take us to your friends, the other uruk-hai you mentioned. If they truly have turned to the good, they have nothing to fear from us. Will you do this?”

“You would have us betray our friends.” A deep scowl had formed on the uruk’s forehead.

“It would not be betrayal, I only wish to speak with them. We mean them no harm.”

“You think we believe that?” the woman said. “We’re not stupid. You will use us to find them, and then you’re gonna kill us all.” She shivered noticeably where she sat, making the horse prance nervously and the babies whimper.

“I cannot promise to spare everybody, but I will promise you this: If they prove themselves to be honest, and if you prove your honesty as well, you shall live. Whereas, if you refuse, you most certainly shall not.” Thranduil bore his icy stare into her.

“Using threats to force people to submit.” The uruk-hai spat contemptuously on the ground. “Don’t bother, Sidra, he’s like Saruman. He’ll do anything to get his way.”

Thranduil looked outraged at the comparison, but only coldly repeated his question from before. 

“Will you do it?”

The uruk-hai and his wife locked eyes, and seemed to come to some sort of silent agreement.

“All right.” The woman’s glare at Thranduil was fierce. 

Wynne was sorry for her, she could very well understand how she must feel. To put her children’s and husband’s lives in the hands of strangers, and now having to risk her friends’ lives too. All for a very slight chance of survival.

As for herself, Wynne felt caught in the middle of something very unpleasant. The uruk was right, Thranduil’s methods weren’t really fair. But they must have been aware this might happen, when they decided to marry and have children. The fact that they had been hiding here, in this inaccessible, barren landscape, proved that they had known.

The uruk’s dagger was removed from him, and Galion felt through his clothes for any other hidden weapons. The woman too must be searched, and the lot to do it fell on a very dismal Wynne.

“Sorry,” she mumbled when she ran her hands over the worn fabric. Standing so close, she felt the other’s pleasant, spicy scent. She was still trembling, and Wynne’s heart went out to her. 

Neither the orc nor the woman carried anything more dangerous than a small knife each, obviously for eating and preparing food with, both of which were confiscated.

“Can we get our belongings before we go?” She had turned to Wynne with her question, maybe she thought a fellow human would be kinder than the elves. 

Thranduil replied in Wynne’s stead: “We shall gather them for you, if you tell us where they are.”

“Behind there is a cave.” She pointed up to the juniper bush where Wynne had first seen her.

Galion and the brothers went to check it, while Thranduil led the rest of them back to the water hole. 

“We rest before we leave,” he declared.

The orc family was shown a place to sit by the cliff wall, where they could be easily seen in case they tried anything. The woman and orclings were still not bound, Thranduil obviously figured them not to be so much of a threat as the uruk.

The little ones soon began to totter about in the purple heather, plucking stones from the ground and showing them to the parents.

Wynne, who still felt bad, sat down next to the couple.

“I’m Lady Wynne of Örn, a Rohirrim house,” she introduced herself. “I’m very sorry things have to be this way.”

“Sidra of Tariq, from Harad.” The woman bowed with a hand placed over her heart. “And this is Nugu.” She stroked the uruk’s arm. “I understand why you can’t trust us so easily.”

“I will do all I can to make them spare you,” Wynne said earnestly, and was rewarded with a slight smile.

“Thank you.”

Wynne observed the woman with unveiled curiosity, this was the first Haradrim she had met. She had seen paintings and tapestries about the War, of course, but in those the Haradrim warriors had their faces covered and looked very mysterious. Sidra, however, was clad in ordinary woolen clothes, much like Wynne’s own. She had tanned skin as Wynne had observed from the beginning, and the eyes were a dark brown, much like those of Nodir and Bronedir. The hair was black with a mahogany hue, and fell in a wavy cascade down her back. She was pretty – with a straighter nose and less plump face she would have been beautiful, even.

“What’s it like in Harad?” Wynne asked. “Isn’t that where the oliphaunts first came from?”

“That’s right, my uncle even used to breed them, the mûmakil , as we call them. We use them for everything, to work in the forests, to carry stuff, for travelling, for war. They are really helpful when trained right.”

“Almost like our horses then.” 

“Those horses are from Rohan, aren’t they?” the woman asked and nodded at the grazing animals. “They really are extraordinary. We have horses in Harad too, you know. But bigger and heavier. War horses, more.” The woman had relaxed a little, and seemed to try her best to be friendly. Perhaps she knew she had not much time to make her captors like her. “Harad is a lot warmer and more humid than here,” she continued. “In my part of the country there were grass plains, and huge forests full of birds and other animals. I used to live in a bamboo house on the edge of such a forest.” Her face had got a longing expression. “Bamboo is a kind of thick grass,” she added, noticing Wynne’s confused look.

“Wow. A house made of grass.” Wynne thought of the thatched cottage from her daydream.

“But then Saruman snatched your mother to the breeding dens, and that was the end of that.” The uruk cut in. Again he almost snarled when pronouncing the wizard’s name. “And my mother. And everyone else’s mother down there.” 

Wynne stared at him, realization dawning on her. So that was how Saruman had bred his uruk-hai army.


A/N:

Saruman... ugh. ;(

21. Thranduil Needs a Pedicure

The woman’s face had clouded considerably, but in a melancholy way rather than angry.

“Saruman did much evil,” she said, her voice heavy with sadness.

“I know I promised myself I wouldn’t kill again, but if I ever meet that load of excrement, I will cut his throat.” Nugu seemed to have forgotten Wynne was even there.

“No you won’t.” She laid her hand on his bound wrists, rubbing them soothingly. 

“Probably not.” He grimaced. “I’d certainly feel tempted, though. The tree people were much too soft on him.”

“Papa. Thtone.” A tiny, grey hand held a pebble under the uruk’s nose.

“Thank you Muzadi.” He tried to ruffle the boy’s hair with tied-up hands.

Wynne discreetly moved away, giving them some privacy. She was shocked of what she had learned about the origin of uruk hai.

Legolas came up to her, looking unusually morose.

“I overheard your conversation,” he said. “Horrendous. If Gandalf had known this, I am sure he would never have allowed that fell wizard to live.”

“What happened with him?” 

“You remember the ents? The tree-herders I spoke of some time ago.” When Wynne nodded, he told how the ents defeated Saruman by flooding the entire vale of Isengard. The water had poured down into the myriad of caves underneath the wizard’s tower, effectively drowning all the orcs and uruk hai he had kept there. 

Saruman himself and his associate Gríma were left to themselves in the locked tower. But after a few months, the ent in charge had released them. Gandalf had come across the sad pair some time later, and he also took pity of them and let them run.

“They should have examined the caves after they dried out,” said Legolas. “If he kept women slaves there, their remains might have been discovered.”

Wynne began to tremble, overcome by that same fright which had rendered her sleepless so many nights after her own kidnapping. 

“Forgive me, I should have realized–” He put his arm tightly around her shoulder. 

“No it’s alright, I just… sometimes I just think of what could… if the orcs that time–” She broke off, and swallowed.

“I know.” 

It was comforting to have him so close. Wynne often felt he was the only one who truly understood her. But too soon Thranduil was looking their way, and Legolas hastily let his arm drop.

They stayed a few hours by the water hole, and made good use of it. First they refilled the water skins, and then took turns dipping themselves in the chilly pool, which was only big enough for two at once.

Thranduil went in with Wynne.

“Keep talking with the captives like you did before. Make them open up and reveal the truth about themselves.” He rubbed soap and an aromatic oil into his hair and leaned back, allowing the water to cleanse it. The golden mass fanned out behind him in a huge halo. 

“Sure,” she replied, and leaned back like him. She had begun to use the elves’ hair oil as well, and it did wonders for her obnoxious curls. As usual water leaked into her ears, and she wondered if that ever happened to Thranduil. Perhaps he was above such human troubles.

“I imagine it is easier for someone like you to gain their confidence,” Thranduil continued. “There is a deep-rooted mistrust between orcs and my kind. And I have noticed many humans have a hard time warming to me also.”

“I can’t think of why,” Wynne muttered, but the irony was lost on the elf. 

“Nay, neither can I.” He went ashore, and began to dry his hair on a linen cloth. With smug satisfaction Wynne noticed he shook his head down a few times. He had gotten water in the ear.

She dived down to the bottom of the pool, where the water was even colder than above. It stung her face almost painfully, but when she popped to the surface again she felt refreshed.

Meanwhile, Thranduil had taken out a small knife and begun cutting his toenails. Despite their months of travelling together, this was the first time Wynne had seen an elf attend to his personal hygiene, except for bathing. Since they did not need to shave, she had not thought their nails would not grow either.

Seeing him in his wet undershirt, the face screwed up in concentration and a pale foot in his lap, almost made her burst out laughing. That everyday situation just did not fit with her image of Thranduil at all. 

After her bath Wynne walked among the heather. She could understand why the orc couple had chosen this place to live. It was simply delightful. She picked a few branches of heather to keep as a memory, even though she knew they would wilter.

Before leaving, they all shared a simple meal of dried meat, Rohirric horse milk cheese and hardtack crackers. Sidra had offered them the use of hers and Nugu’s supplies, which had been brought from the cave where the couple had lived, but Thranduil rejected the offer. Possibly out of suspicion.

While Sidra nursed the youngest boy, the elder was fed a thick gruel. As the father was still constrained, Galion volunteered to do it. The ginger elf apparently was one of those naturals with children. In no time he had the orcling on his lap, where it giggled and toyed with the strings of his tunic and very quickly emptied the gruel bowl. 

Wynne watched, rather fascinated, but not at all jealous. Had she tried to feed the little one, he would likely have ran away, or wailed, or both.

“Orc babies are rather adorable, are they not?” Galion asked and smiled at Wynne.

“Technically they are only one quarter of an orc,” Legolas objected, and tried to save his bow from a sticky little hand. He seemed to share Wynne’s uneasiness around children.

“Aww, would you just look at those baby tooth canines,” Galion cooed.

The uruk chuckled slightly from where he sat, but when everybody looked his way he immediately resumed his sullen scowl. In a way he reminded Wynne of Thranduil. They certainly had their pride in common.

Then they took off, with the captives leading the way. Sidra was the only of the two who seemed used to riding, Nugu for his part gripped the horse’s mane so hard his knuckles whitened. The youngest orcling was seated in front of its mother, and Galion took care of the other, seeing as the uruk hai was busy enough just trying not to fall off.

Wynne let Vatna fall in step with Sidra’s gelding, as per Thranduil’s wish. She tried to think of something to talk about, but all she could come up with was the horrible destiny of the woman’s mother, and that seemed way too personal.

Instead the other broke the silence.

“Who are these elves? That one is the leader, I can tell.” She nodded in Thranduil’s direction.

“They should have introduced themselves,” Wynne replied. “But I guess they had other things on their mind when we met you.” 

“I can see how half orc babies could surprise someone who had never seen one before,” Sidra agreed.They both grinned. 

“That one is King Thranduil of Mirkwood. He is indeed the leader of our team. And riding the chestnut there, is his son, Prince Legolas.”

“Royalty.” Sidra whistled. “Of all people to discover us, we had the misfortune to be caught by a king. No wonder he seems so distrustful.” 

“The others are Galion, and Nodir and Bronedir who are brothers,” Wynne continued. “They are soldiers of Thranduil’s elven guard.”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance.” Galion, who was nearest to them, bowed politely.

“The pleasure is all mine.” The woman placed her hand over her chest just like before.

Wynne had to hide a laugh at the comical in the situation. The woman was a prisoner, and Galion one of her captors, and here they acted like they were attending a social mingle. But she was glad they seemed to get along so well. They really had to, if the woman wanted her family to survive.

It struck Wynne that this was the second time today she had felt like laughing, and not once had she escaped into her daydream. Maybe it was the lovely heather meadow, or Legolas’ smile, or just the fact that there was a fellow woman in the company now – but somehow she was beginning to feel happier. 


A/N:

I dunno why, but I loved writing this chapter. Especially the part where Thranduil is bathing. :D

22. Watching Stripping Elves

The afternoon became exceedingly hot, one of those high summer days when the air was absolutely still and the heat almost choking. Sweat poured down Wynne’s face and back, and an armada of the annoying flies which accompany horses in the warm season kept attacking her. They passed a couple of very old, gnarled oaks, where she picked a few low hanging leaves to fan herself with, but without much success as they soon went soft and floppy.

Finally Thranduil decided it was time to stay for the night, unusually early. It was no ideal spot, the area was open and there were very few trees, one or two crooked pines and some junipers only. The ground was hard, bedrock covered in a thin layer of white, crisp lichen.

“No shade,” Wynne grumbled, and wiped her forehead for the umphteenth time.

The elves’ clothes had wet stains same as Wynne’s, and their perfect faces were flustered. As soon as the campsite was ready, they shed their moist tunics and shirts, spreading them out on the ground to dry. Then they toppled down in the slight shade of the few trees and the tents, wearing only underpants and hose. 

Wynne tried to get a discrete peek at Legolas, and her heartbeat increased considerably when she caught a glimpse of his chest. His body looked even nicer than she had imagined. It was smooth and solid, and the droplets of perspiration that still covered it was no disadvantage at all. Again she wondered what it would feel like to touch him, and wished that she was allowed to. 

Nugu tried to follow the elves’ example, but his clothes got stuck on the bound hands. Galion took pity and freed him long enough to remove them, before tying him up again. The uruk’s many battle scars became visible, some of them long and thin, possibly made by a whip. He was incredibly muscular, and Wynne was secretly grateful that Galion had restrained him again. Even though he had not done anything to harm them, he looked like he easily could.

Wynne had hesitated to undress in front of a stranger at first, but soon could not stand the heat. She decided to remove the tunic and hose at least, like she had done many times around the elves. Sidra’s eyes widened slightly when she saw it, but then she shrugged and followed the example. Her Haradrim chemise looked different than Wynne’s, it was slightly longer and had a higher neckline, but was more figure hugging. She had an ample body, with wide hips and large breasts that Wynne rather envied. 

Then the woman stripped her sons, leaving them to bounce about happily wearing nothing at all. Wynne observed them with great curiosity. So this was how males looked like in the nude. There was a dangling part just as she had thought, but looking rather different from a horse’s counterpart. Adult men obviously had larger ones, as the rest of them was larger too, but on the whole it did not look too scary.

Clad only in linen, Wynne soon felt a lot better. She went about with the orclings, pretending to help them gather sweet bilberries that grew in patches on the lichen floor, but secretly gobbling most of them herself. Her hands and the tiny boys’ gray bodies became blotched with purple stains. 

Galion joined them after a while, and having him so close while wearing so little, made Wynne rather shy. Since he was a swordsman he was a lot stronger than the other elves, and his arm muscles bulged when he moved. It drew her eyes, and she found it very hard to look away. Although she really liked Legolas’ slimmer built better, the ginger elf stirred a strange, fluttery sensation in her. Her mouth went dry, and not only because of the weather.

Then she realized his eyes were on her body as well, and instantly the flutter faded, replaced with a growing suspicion. Galion must not think of her that way, he was no less an elf than Legolas, and he too would be hurt by a relationship with a mortal. Besides, she did not want a relationship with him, even if that was not an issue. The strange reaction his body provoked in her was nothing in comparison to how she felt about Legolas. 

Thinking of Legolas made her look his way. He was scowling deeply at Galion, clearly suspecting the same thing and not liking it at all.

Wynne left the berries and went to sit beside Thranduil. She was certain the king could have been entirely nude, and she would still not feel anything. She would not dare to, he was too majestic. 

Her new position brought Wynne closer to Legolas, and that seemed to please him. The scowl dissolved and he gave her a slight smile, which she cautiously returned. Nothing wrong with smiling at a good friend. Or glancing at him now and then. Quite harmless. She could handle it.

Wynne’s daydream sucked her in, and now she had some fresh details to add when it came to hers and Legolas nights together. 

When evening began to fall, some clouds had built up in the sky but it was no less hot. The increased humidity rather worsened it. Nobody felt much like eating supper, so they made it simple and had lembas with water. The water was lukewarm but they drank as much as they could, knowing well the importance of avoiding dehydration.

The sun set and the air finally cooled slightly. The elves began to prepare for the night, but then it occurred to Wynne that the half orc family had no tent.

“Where shall they sleep?” she asked Thranduil, and nodded in Sidra’s direction. The woman was huddling close to her husband, and they cradled one drowsy orcling each.

“Up to them, as long as they do not stray. Not that they will have the opportunity to, we take turns keeping watch as usual.” The blond king went down on his knees to open the tent he shared with his son. 

“No, I meant, should they not get to use one of the tents? With the babies and all...”

Thranduil looked up at her in surprise.

“Well. You are free to offer them yours.” He disappeared under the canvas flap.

Wynne looked between her cosy, inviting tent and the sorry little family, and sighed. At least she had her horse, they had only the hard, lichen-covered ground. She beckoned for them to come.

“Here, you can sleep in there.” 

The woman nodded and went inside, followed by the uruk-hai. Wynne morosely looked on when he carefully fastened the flap behind them. Not even a “thank you”. Of course, they would not know she had given up her own bed to them. She considered telling them, but decided that would be rather ridiculous.

“How altruistic of you.”

She turned to see Legolas’ grinning teasingly behind her. He was still only wearing his hose, and blood surged to Wynne’s face.

“Watch it, or I shall take your bed instead,” she bit back, hoping he would not notice the effect his appearance had on her.

“I wish.” His smile was gone, replaced with a mix of frustration and longing that Wynne well understood. After all, she felt it almost constantly herself.

She did not know what to reply, and it became uncomfortably silent. Since Thranduil had his little talk with them all those weeks ago, neither of them had put words to their crushed hopes. Seeing the yearning in Legolas’ eyes now, Wynne knew nothing had changed. For her part, it almost seemed that the more forbidden he was, the more she craved him.

A polite cough made Wynne almost jump. 

“You should get some rest before it is your watch, Legolas.” Nodir was leaning leisurely against a pine, but there was an edge to his voice. Like he had sensed the tension between the pair, and purposely broken it. 

“Yes. Of course. Good night, then.” Legolas hastily departed into his tent.

Nodir looked after him, the dark eyes filled with pity.

“I am sorry for you. Truly.” He let his hand rest momentarily on Wynne’s shoulder. The simple gesture of compassion almost filled her eyes to the brim, and she angrily rubbed her face. She was beyond crying over this, it had been weeks since she last had.

Later, laying on Vatna’s comforting back, Wynne gazed up at the somber sky, the blue-grey clouds crawling sluggishly across it. She could not sleep. So much had happened today, so many different emotions succeeding each other. Meeting new people, learning about Saruman’s appalling dealings with Haradrim women, being among half dressed elves and now, lastly, realizing that the feelings between her and Legolas were still the same. Would she ever be able to forget him? 


A/N:

Oh the lucky bugger who is allowed to be among a bunch of stripping elves...  Or what do you say? ;)

Nah, you don't have to tell. I know you want to, I can feel your dirty thoughts all the way here to Sweden. :D

23. It Always Rains on Camping Trips

Wynne drifted off to sleep eventually, only to wake up in the small hours by heavy drops striking her face, and thunder rolling in the distance. Oh, was this not just typical? The one night she had no tent, it would begin to rain. 

She hurried back to the camp in an increasing downpour, where she found a blanket in one of the packs. Pulling it over her, she went to huddle miserably by Thranduil who had the present watch. He had covered himself with a navy blue cloak that went well with his eyes.

“I see you decided to be charitable,” he remarked dryly. 

“Some people actually bother about the well-being of other people,” she grumbled.

“Wasted on the likes of them. An orc does not deserve the comfort of a tent.”

“Half orc. And Sidra is human.”

He did not bother to reply, and they sat in silence for a while. The blanket soon became heavy over Wynne’s shoulders, soaked through, and not doing much to shield her from the torrents. It grew lighter despite the cloudy sky, dawn was approaching, but Wynne felt tired and bleary eyed. 

Legolas soundlessly joined them, also wearing a cloak, his a nice hunter’s green.

“Why did you not wake me, Ada? My watch is well overdue.”

Thranduil hesitated before answering.

“I did not mind staying up.”

“Very well. I am here now.” Legolas sat down between them, drawing up his hood. He peered at his father curiously. “You are not leaving?”

“The thunder will only keep me awake, I might as well accompany you.”

Wynne looked at him suspiciously, that had sounded rather lame, like an excuse. And then it dawned on her. He did not want his son to be alone with her, that was why. He thought they needed a chaperone. 

Her jaw set hard. She and Legolas had complied with Thranduil’s wishes all this time, and both very well knew why they could only ever be friends. There was absolutely no cause for this irrational mistrust. 

“You think we need watching over,” she said, unable to hide her anger.

His eyebrows rose in surprise at her outburst, but he remained silent. 

“That was uncalled for.” Legolas too looked displeased. Then he turned to Wynne. “Seeing as our tent apparently shall remain empty, you might as well get out of this bleak weather and get some more rest. My bed is the one on the left.”

Wynne nodded gratefully. She left the drenched blanket outside and crept in under the solid canvas roof. Feeling almost like she did something forbidden, she pulled the wet chemise over her head and cuddled down under Legolas’ blanket in only her underpants. 

His bed was wonderfully soft, covered with a thin, white sheet of some flimsy material, silk perhaps? She buried her nose in his equally silky pillow, and inhaled deeply. It smelled slightly of soap and the elves’ hair oil, but something else as well, some undefined musky aroma that was just him . Closing her eyes, she could easier than ever picture herself in that cottage four poster bed with Legolas at her side.

Sometimes she wondered why she kept torturing herself like this, thinking about someone she could never have, and imagining something that could never be. But there was a bittersweetness to it. An equal blend of pain and pleasure that was addictive.

Now the most sweet part of her daydream gently lulled her to sleep.

When Wynne woke next she was a lot less tired. The thrumming of rain on the roof had almost ceased, but the air was still damp, with droplets of moisture forming inside the canopy. She heard voices from the outside, indicating the others were up, but she felt so warm and cosy in the nest of silky sheets that she just could not bring herself to rise. She wished she could stay here all day, wallowing in the softness and Legolas’ bewitching scent.

When at last she mustered the energy to get dressed and leave the tent, she found everybody gathered around a cooking fire, where exotic, spicy smells wafted from a kettle. Sidra was ladling thick soup into bowls and distributed them among the others. When Wynne appeared, the woman startled her by giving her a quick hug.

“I didn’t know you gave us your tent, that was really decent of you. Now I feel bad, having forced you to sleep out in the rain.”

“Don’t feel bad, you couldn’t have known it would rain. And I slept really well now in the morning.” She nodded gratefully at Legolas, and was warmed by his pleased smile. Beside him his father scowled noticeably. Wynne wickedly hoped he regretted having stayed up an extra watch in the rain, pointlessly depriving himself of sleep. If he was tired it served him just right.

Sidra’s soup tasted pleasant, but different. Lentils and wheat kernels had been boiled together with dried vegetables and herbs, chiefly carrots, parsley and peppermint, and seasoned with an unknown spice that Sidra only had a Haradrim word for, kammun

For drinking she had made a dark tea, a lot more bitter than the mint tea Wynne liked, but somehow she felt invigorated after having a mug of it.

“How did you come by Haradrim spices and tea leaves this far north?” Bronedir asked her. Wynne remembered that his mother had come from the south, perhaps he had tasted this kind of food before.

“We made a journey to my home a couple of years ago. I brought back a large supply, seeing as I’m not likely to return.” Sidra looked wistful, a deep longing in her eyes.

“We should trade more with Harad.” Bronedir sipped his tea appreciatively. 

“Maybe now that King Elessar is having Ithilien restored, we will,” said Thranduil.

When it was time to break camp, the rain had increased again, making everything damp or outright wet. It was the worst kind of travelling weather. Down in the Brown Lands the air had been drier, and Wynne could count the rainy days they had had on the fingers of one hand. Here in the highland the climate was more humid.

As usual everything was loaded onto the horses with speedy efficiency. Wynne saw how Legolas briefly held his pillow to his face before stuffing it in the rolled up bed. He must have tried to pick out her scent, just like she had done with his. It both warmed her heart and saddened it.

As they rode on, Wynne conversated pleasantly with Sidra, mostly about Rohan and her life there.

“They are very different, and I have often wondered what brought them to marry each other.” Wynne had been telling the history of the Örn House, and had now come to her mother and father. “I suspect maybe Mother’s relatives arranged it with Grandmama and Grandpapa, my father’s parents. She did not grow up with her own parents, you see.”

“No? Why not?” Sidra was a good listener, and showed genuine interest.

“Not sure, really. Mother never talks much about it.” 

“It must have been sad.”

“Perhaps.” Wynne could not really picture her mother being sad. 

“What’s your family like?”

“Mother is clever. When she plans things, they happen. Before they married, Father was rather poor, ’with nothing but his good name to show’, as she puts it – but she made him wealthy. Everybody respects her. Whenever we are trading horses or supplies, she handles it, Father knows she always gets the best deal.” Wynne felt a pang of longing after Mother, she had never been apart from her this long before. When things were going her way, Mother was a charming person. One just had to be careful never to oppose her. ”As for Father, he’s… I don’t know. Quiet. He likes to be with the horses, same as me. He knows them. Like, which to keep and which to sell. And which ones to mate to get the finest foals. I think I inherited much from him, actually.” Wynne smiled fondly to herself. “I even look like him.”

“He must look nice then.” Galion was riding behind them, again with Sidra’s eldest son in front of him. 

“You’re eavesdropping.” Wynne frowned at him. It was sweet of him to give her a compliment, but it made the suspicion from yesterday stronger. 

“It is not possible to close one’s ears. I am an elf, remember?” 

Wynne looked around her and realized she had been the only one talking, which meant everyone had been listening. Oh well, she was telling no secrets anyway. 

“I don’t think Father’s considered good looking,” she said, still in Galion’s direction. “At least Mother says him and I are both very plain, that we got the Örn looks rather than Grandmama’s Dúnedain traits.”

“What are Dúnedain?” Sidra wondered.

“Descendants of Elendil, he was the first high king of Gondor. They are often tall, handsome and long-lived. My Grandmama was a beauty when she was young, Mother says.” Then she added, rather proudly: “King Aragorn is Dúnedain, and we are related. Distantly.”

“I think your mother is too harsh on you. I love those curls you got.” Sidra pulled at one of Wynne’s brown tresses. “Besides, who cares about the outside anyway. What matters is how the heart looks.” She sent the uruk-hai a loving glance, which made him smile. He had a surprisingly gentle smile.

“According to Mother looks are everything, she worries I shall never be married. So far the only one who asked for my hand is our widower neighbour, and he must be like fifty at least.” Wynne laughed mirthlessly. “Thankfully I was allowed to turn him down.”

“Allowed to,” repeated Sidra, her forehead creasing. “You mean you may not be able to pick a spouse for yourself?”

“Not likely, no. Unless I choose somebody my parents find suitable.” She shifted uncomfortably on Vatna’s back, this was getting too close to unsafe grounds. Mother’s plan to have her daughter married to an elf must never be exposed, she did not even want to think of Thranduil’s reaction if he found out. 

Wynne hurriedly changed topic, and the rest of the morning she and Sidra discussed methods of horse- and oliphaunt training.

When they stopped for lunch Legolas sidled up to Wynne.

“I strongly disagree with your mother,” he whispered. “You are in no way plain.”


A/N:

If you wonder about the Haradrim language, I had to make it up because Tolkien never wrote it down, except for the word mûmak. Since he apparently based the Haradrim on people of southern origin, I decided to use Arabic names and words.

Similarly, I have used Icelandic words for Wynne's "Old Rohirric", such as in her family name and the names of the horses, since he based the Rohirrim culture and language on the Anglo-Saxons, and used Old English for many of their words.

24. An Uruk-hai's Childhood

During the afternoon the rain finally subsided, allowing their clothes and packs to dry. The sky was still overcast, however, and the pregnant clouds looked like they might release the rest of their contents any time.

Wynne rode in silence, purposely staying last in line to avoid having to talk with anyone. The conversation with Sidra about her mother and marriages had painfully reminded Wynne of her predicament. Somehow she had managed to forget about the whole thing for quite some time, but now the worry from before returned. What would Mother do when she returned without an elf husband? 

After everything that had happened, Wynne found that she actually did not fear Mother’s anger so badly any longer. What was the worst the woman could do? She would pierce her with those ice cold eyes, and scold her with hurtful remarks. Perhaps punish her physically. But Wynne had been face to face with orcs now, stabbed by one and kidnapped by two. She could handle pain, and as for piercing stares nobody could compete with Thranduil in that department.

No, she did not really fear her mother anymore, but instead she had new concerns. Mother would marry Wynne off to somebody, if not their branch of the Örn House was to die out. And the prospect of being matched with a random Lord was disturbing. How could she endure a loveless marriage of convenience, now that she knew how it felt to really like someone?

The horses trudged on patiently and the surroundings became even more barren. Almost nothing grew here, the ground was mostly bedrock with rough gravel and patches of lichen. 

They began to follow a stream, and made short breaks every now and then to catch some of the sleek, spotted trouts that swam downstream, possibly on their way to the Anduin. Apparently most water that formed in these hills either ended up there, or in the Dead Marshes down south.

“How long until we reach your friends?” Thranduil asked Nugu during one such stop.

“Not much longer. But it’s hard to estimate when we ride.” The uruk did not meet the king’s eye. He was observing Nodir and Bronedir who stood on each side of the brook, armed with sharpened sticks, ready to spear any unsuspecting fish passing by.

“Yes, not long,” Sidra agreed. She toyed with a loose thread on the hem of her tunic.

Thranduil’s sharp eyes did not miss anything.

“You seem nervous,” he remarked.

“No I’m not,” she replied, a little too fast.

“What did you expect,” growled her husband. “We’re bringing death to our friends.” 

“I told you we shall not harm them. Unless they are hostile, of course.” 

“I know the likes of you. Whatever they do, you will deem as hostility.” Nugu finally looked straight at the king, his dark eyes flashing. “But don’t worry. We shall take you to my friends .”

He emphasized the last two words in a way that Wynne did not like. What did he mean? Where there no friendly orcs, had Sidra made that up? If so, that could explain why she seemed so uncomfortable. But no, why should they lie about something like that, it would serve them no good at all. The elves would soon realize they were not going anywhere and kill them. 

It probably was as the uruk-hai had said. They were about to expose their friends’ hiding place. That was enough to make anyone feel anxious. 

In the evening the clouds made good on their threat and discharged their wet load in a persistent, heavy rain. At least it was still warm, not like the day before, but tolerably. 

They ate supper on the go, still on horseback, as nobody cared much for sitting on the wet ground. The trouts could wait until morning.  

“This lembas food is not bad,” Sidra said to Wynne. “But I think I would get tired of it in the long run. I prefer a little more… oumph.”

“I agree. But elves are very fond of it.” Wynne bit her lip to avoid laughing, and met Legolas’ eye. He failed to hide his smirk.

“Did I say something funny?” Sidra curiously looked from one to the other. Before they could answer, she smiled knowingly. “Never mind.” 

Not long after, they found a spot for their camp, in a copse of short evergreen trees Wynne did not know the name of. They hastened to put up the tents in the steady rain.

“We can’t take your tent again.” Sidra had donned a long, gray coat with wide arms. The surface was blank, coated with some sort of grease or oil, and it seemed to work well to keep her dry. 

“But you have children,” Wynne objected. 

“You ladies share it,” said Nugu, who wore a similar coat as his wife. “I’m a soldier, I can sleep anywhere.” The hood covered his eyes, and with his towering height and powerful built it gave him an almost menacing look. Wynne could easily picture the uruk-hai on the battlefield, and hoped he would never be her enemy.

”All right then. But I will feel lonely without you.” Sidra stood on her toes and gave her husband a long kiss. Wynne looked away in embarrassment first, but then curiosity kicked in and she stole a peek, memorizing the procedure for future use in her daydream. 

Sharing tent with Sidra was snug and cosy, despite the childrens’ limbs sprawling all over the place and Sidra almost immediately beginning to snore. It felt good to have company. 

Wynne was almost drowsing off too, when she heard two voices just outside. She strained her ears and realized it was Nugu and Nodir. The latter was taking the first watch, so it made sense. 

They were talking about the rain, discussing if the shape of the clouds was a sign it was diminishing, or not. Then they were quiet again.

“You are a silent one, are you not,” Nodir said after a while.

“Don’t have much to say.” A few moments later, he added: “I was taught chit-chat to be a waste of time.”

“By whom? Saruman?”

“No, not Saruman, he would never stoop to bother about kids. Not until we were big enough to fight for him.” He paused again. “I was brought up by orcs.”

“I do not envy you.”

“It wasn’t all bad. Some of them were decent.”

“Were you a warrior for a long time?” Nodir seemed intrigued by what the uruk shared. Wynne was equally interested, she hardly dared to breathe in case she missed something.

“No. I think I was twelve when Saruman sent me out on my first mission. And about a year later he was defeated. So… yes, one year.”

“Twelve! You were a mere child.” The elf sounded shocked.

“I was tall for my age. And the War drew near, Saruman was in a hurry to get his army ready. Most were older when enrolled, but if you had matured early… well, age was just not important to them, I guess.”

“Were you not scared?”

“Not really. They gave us potions to make us feel brave. And angry.”

“Where you in the Battle of Helm’s Deep?” 

“Yes.” 

“You were lucky to survive then. Prince Legolas fought there too, he has told many stories about it.”

“I’d rather forget.”

“I guess being on the winning side is more glamorous.”

“There is no glamour in war. None,” growled the uruk. 

Wynne’s throat thickened. She could picture him, only a young boy, having to experience such frightful things as she now also knew about, severed bodies, shrill shrieks of pain, the ground a mass of blood and entrails. That sickening smell of hurt and death. And he would have been in the middle of it, carried a sword himself and being forced to push it into living bodies. For her own part, the elves had shielded her from the worst, making sure she was not coming closer until they had cleared away the corpses. No wonder he had sworn never to kill again.

The War of the Ring had ended ten years ago, that meant Nugu was still only twenty-three. Only three years older than herself. The realization made her feel slightly sick. 

“Don’t look at me like that. I was hardly the first boy in history to be sent to war, was I?” the uruk-hai muttered sourly. Nodir must have displayed similar emotions as Wynne felt. “Your lot killed scores of us. You didn’t show pity then.”  

Neither of them spoke for a while, but then Nodir broke the silence a final time.

“I agree with you. War… It is an appalling business. I fought in the Battle of the Five Armies some years back. I hated it. And our mission now… Let me just say, I am glad it shall be over soon.”

Nodir’s confession surprised Wynne. She had thought the elves took at least some pleasure in killing orcs, but apparently the dark elf thought different. Maybe all of them did, deep down? 

It went quiet again, and Wynne had got a lot to think about. If Nugu was telling the truth, he and the other uruk-hai had never had a choice. They had been brought up to be warriors, drugged, and pushed into battle. 

Everybody said orcs were evil monsters. But were they really? Under such circumstances, was it even possible to make “good” choices? 

The thought was disturbing. What if this whole quest was wrong, and the elves were the ones who did evil? They had hunted orcs all spring, unprovokedly ambushing them when they slept in their lairs.

But no, the elves had not attacked first. Orcs from the Brown Lands had been waylaying wanderers and raided homesteads for years, and the assault near the oliphaunts were certainly not forced upon those orcs. They were free of Sauron and Saruman since a long time, but still preferred to kill, rape, steal and maim when they could have lived peacefully out there in the wilderness. Those orcs clearly had been bad, and deserved what they got.

Still, the orc race must be more complex than anybody had thought. They were obviously not automatically evil.


A/N:

A note about Saruman's uruk-hai breeding... being a biologist I never really liked Peter Jackson's idea that they were somehow grown out of mud. :) Of course he paired humans and orcs, in the natural way. As for their age, Saruman had – according to the book – been breeding uruk-hai a long time. Probably some were older, veteran warriors, others young.

The use of children in war, sadly happens in our world as well. They are kidnapped when very small (4-5 or so), brainwashed and pumped full of drugs to make them dependant on their captors – and fearless.

25. Thranduil Is a Horse

The lovely aroma of roasting fish woke Wynne the next morning. Sidra and the children were already up, she could hear the little ones giggling and running about outside. It was sunny and warm, the clouds finally gone, and Wynne decided to wash up a bit before breakfast. Perhaps she should even take the time to clean her spare clothes, they always smelled odd after being worn in the rain. 

By the creek, Nugu was busy smearing elf hair oil into his black, waist length strands under the watchful eye of Galion. That product really was becoming popular. The uruk-hai was temporarily free of his bonds again, and Wynne dismally noticed how swollen and red his wrists had become. 

After what she had overheard yesterday, her curiosity about the uruk-hai had increased considerably. She had mostly spent time with Sidra, not really paying much attention to her husband. Now she discreetly observed him while soaking her laundry.

The uruk wore only underpants when he bathed, unlike the elves’ habit of keeping their shirts on, and was unabashedly exposing his massive legs and broad chest. The thin, welt like scars on his back drew Wynne’s eye again. He must have been suffering a severe whipping some time in the past, and that further added to the compassion she had begun to feel for him.

“I suppose a shave is out of the question?” He looked quizzically at his guard.

“I am afraid it is. We cannot let you have a knife.”

Having been around elves so much lately, Wynne was not used to body hair, and on Nugu there really was a lot of it. His chin sported stubble long enough to be almost considered a beard, and the legs, arms and chest were covered with black bristles. It suited him, somehow it went well with that gray skin tone, but Wynne had a hard time grasping that he was almost her age. The facial hair especially, made him look older than he was.

Sidra came sauntering by.

“I found the perfect babysitter for Muzadi and Rohi.” She nodded behind her. Wynne looked and almost dropped the laundry in surprise. Thranduil sat on a stone with an orcling on each knee, bouncing them up and down while he mimicked a horse. He even made clip-clop sounds, but it was hard to hear over the boys’ happy laughter.

“If I had not seen this with my own eyes, I would not have believed it possible.” Galion shook his head in amazement. “Thranduil hates orcs.”

“Perhaps he’s beginning to understand not all orcs are the same,” said Wynne, thinking of her own conclusion last night.

“About time,” muttered Nugu, but Wynne had seen his pleased smile before he hid it under the usual scowl. 

“Mmm, you smell lovely.” Sidra had stepped close to her husband and hid her nose in the nape of his neck, while softly stroking his bare back.

“I borrowed some oil from the elves. For the hair.” Still unbound, he was free to put his arms around her, and did so.

“I must get the recipe.” She grabbed his elvish looking ears and pulled him down to an intimate kiss. That woman certainly was not shy. 

Galion went cherry pink and did not seem to know where to look, but Wynne was getting used to her friend’s openness. It was rather refreshing, really. Why should she not show the world how much she loved her husband? It did make Wynne a bit jealous though, that they could be together despite the race difference. 

At breakfast Thranduil observed the half orc thoughtfully, almost as if he saw him for the first time. Nodir must have been passing on the information he had learned last night.

When the king spoke his tone was conversational, unusually nice to be him. 

“We always believed Saruman’s remaining orcs and uruk-hai were drowned during the destruction of Isengard. How did you and your friends manage to survive?” 

“We had already left by then. Deserted if you will.” The uruk’s frown was deeper than ever, making his forehead protrude in a not so attractive way. He really should smile more, but then, Wynne figured, being Thranduil’s captive and anticipating the death of your friends probably did not offer much reason to.

“Hm. How many of you are there?”

The uruk did not reply.

“I guess I shall soon find out.” The king’s voice had become a degree colder. After a short silence, he tried another question: “How did Saruman manage to procure the orc’s allegiance in the first place?”

“How should I know? Maybe he tricked them with dark magic, maybe they were just damn bloody fools.”

“Nugu! Watch your mouth.” Sidra demonstratively clapped her hands over the eldest boy’s big ears.

“Sorry.” He looked a bit sheepish. 

Thranduil paid no attention to the interruption. 

“And then he started breeding his elite troops – you. How did the other orcs take it?” 

“They hated us. And feared us.” He paused. “Come to think of it, they probably hated us because they feared us.”

“Gave you them reason to?”

Again there was no reply, only sullen silence. Thranduil stared at him, clearly beginning to lose his patience.

“Ahem. Everybody finished yet? Maybe we should get going.” Galion seemed anxious to break the tense mood.

When they were on their way again some time later, Sidra and her husband took the lead, riding so close together their legs brushed against each other’s horses. They were discussing something earnestly, Sidra gesticulating and Nugu’s jaw set hard in apparent annoyance, but the voices were low. What were they arguing about?

Wynne nudged Vatna to fall in step with Legolas mount.

“Can your elven ears make out what they say?” she asked, feeling cunning.

“Afraid not, they speak Orkish. Rude. That would be like us speaking Sindarin to cut you out.”

“You did that. When we had just met.” She smirked.

“We did? How impolite. But then, we treated you very unkindly in the beginning.” He smiled apologetically. 

You were never unkind.” 

“If so, it was probably because I was impressed with how you handled–” He broke off, and looked meaningfully in the direction of Thranduil. In a group of elves, everything one said could be heard by the others, but by omitting the name he avoided drawing his father’s attention to their conversation.

“It was all pretence. I doubt if I would have dared to be that bold now ,” Wynne admitted. “But I knew so little then.” She sighed. She had been so young, and yet it was not long ago. Much had happened since.

“You would. You are not afraid of anybody.”

“I’m afraid of orcs.” 

“They do not count, everybody fears them.” He smiled wryly. ”You heard Nugu, even orcs fear orcs.”

“Do you?” Wynne peered at him curiously, thinking of what Nodir had said last night. 

“Aye,” he murmured, studying his hands. “I am dreading the day they win. Every fight there is a risk, a possibility that one of us is killed.” He toyed with a strand of Stelpa’s mane. “I am afraid to lose a friend, or my father... or–” He glanced at her. “...someone else I care about.”

“I fear that too. I hated every time you found a new orc nest.” 

“Death is so final. I wish nobody would die.” He sighed heavily, then he looked directly at her. There was such sadness in his eyes, and Wynne felt a lump in her throat.

Before she could reply, they were interrupted.

Troll ! Troll ahead!” Galion bellowed. 

Legolas was instantly gone, lithely swinging off the horse and running ahead, bow in hand and an arrow ready. But Wynne had seen the change his eyes went through. Just before he left, they had filled with fear.


A/N:

Whaaat, is Legolas not the fearless fighting-machine the movies made him out to be? Can an elf actually be scared of danger?

Trigger warning: Graphic battle scenes.


26. Battling a Troll

As usual during a battle, Wynne staid on Vatna and called the other horses back to her. The elves were lining up, the bowmen a bit behind and the swordsmen in the front, preparing to meet the approaching brute. Soon the zinging of arrows made the air hum.

The troll was huge, at least twice the height of the elves, with arms like tree trunks and sharp, protruding tusks. Its roar when it spotted them made the horses go almost mad with fright, and both Nugu, Sidra and the children fell off their rearing steeds. Wynne reluctantly dismounted. She had to let the animals run away alone this time, she just could not leave the uruk-hai family. 

The children cried in pain and fright, but there was no time to check on them now.

“We must back away!” Wynne tried to pull Sidra to her, but the woman would not bulge. She was staring at the approaching troll with wide open eyes, her face a mask of dread. 

“We were too late,” she whispered.

Galion, Thranduil and the troll came together almost soundlessly. It had no armour, and its only weapon was a sharpened, spearlike stick, but yet the elves’ swords met with its skin seemingly without affecting it in the least. The monster did not even twitch when Galion stabbed at the thick belly and Thranduil’s twin swords flicked thin cuts over its drooling snout. Arrow after arrow buried themselves deep in the rough hide, making it vaguely resemble a pin cushion.

“They will manage. They will beat it.” Nugu’s petrified face mirrored that of his wife. He had picked up the youngest boy in his arms, while the elder clung to his mother’s legs. “Let’s go.”

“Yes, we can’t stay here!” Wynne agreed, but it was like talking to a wall. Why would she not come? 

The troll was too close, its howls deafening. With the fight only yards away, this was no safe place.

“See how fast they are, Thranduil is a whirlwind with his swords. Come, we must leave.” Sidra’s husband tried to drag her away. 

“Wait.” She brushed his hand off.

Black blood trickled down the beast’s sides, and its roars changed pitch, like it had begun to feel pain. Was it going down? It was so impossibly big and strong. But yes! It was actually moving backwards! The elves followed it, winning ever more ground. 

The troll came under a slight overhang, on top of which grew a twisted oak. Behind it was a passage of sorts, maybe it was trying to crawl back into its hole?

The monster was swaying now, and an arrow had taken one eye out. It waved the crude spear aimlessly on its blind side, spraying black droplets on the rocky ground.

“See? They will win. It’s all right,” Nugu pleaded.

“This is wrong. This is so wrong.” Sidra’s voice was distorted. 

Wynne teared her eyes from the battle scene to look quizzically at the woman. What was she talking about? She acted like this was her fault.

Then Wynne suddenly understood. It really was Sidra’s fault. This was a trap! The uruk-hai and his woman must have led the elves to an area they knew had a mountain troll, under the pretense of taking them to their friends!

Bitter disappointment filled Wynne’s chest, and she looked away in disgust. She had thought Sidra was her friend, shared things about her family and everything. How could the woman have been so false? 

Another hooting roar drew her eyes back to the troll. It was on its knees now, bleeding from the thick lips. Legolas made a swift jump up onto the ridge, peppering it with arrows from above. 

Wynne began to breathe out, it surely did look like they would make it. They were seasoned warriors, of course they would.

Then something moved behind Legolas. Another troll! Where had that come from? It pounced on the elf, its fist sending him reeling forcefully against the oak. 

Wynne cried out with shock.

The blond elf struggled to get to his feet again, turning to face this new danger. The bow was not a melee weapon, he tossed it to the side and pulled out a dagger, still with his back to the oak. The blade looked like a toy, tiny against the massive opponent. 

The creature towered over him and he jabbed desperately, but it easily blocked his feeble attempts with its spear.

Nodir and Bronedir had discovered the new foe and turned to fire arrows at it, but the two swordsmen were still locked in combat with the first troll, unaware of what happened on the ridge above them. 

“He will not make it. Nugu . He will not make it!” Sidra’s sounded urgent.

“Cut me loose,” Nugu barked, holding up his hands in Wynne’s face, blocking the sight of the troll sweeping Legolas’ dagger away with another thrust of the spear. “Now!” he added, when Wynne stared at him uncomprehendingly. 

Her mind snapped back. Of course. The uruk-hai could help, he was strong as an ox.

With trembling hands she fumbled after her knife, and managed to unsheath it. In a frenzy she sawed at the rope. Why was it so thick? 

While working, she cast nervous glances at the fight. Where was Legolas? Then she saw him, on his feet again! Still alive, but under heavy assault, the troll oblivious of the multitude of arrows sticking out of it.

Finally the rope was off, and the uruk-hai covered the few yards between him and the beast in huge strides. He climbed right up on top of the troll’s gnarled back, grabbing the massive head with both hands and trying to twist it. The troll reeled and growled, scrabbling at the annoying burden, but the uruk locked his legs around its throat. Again he began to twist, muscles bulging. He grunted with effort.

“Yes! Do it! Come on Nugu!” Sidra cheered.

With a sickening noise of breaking bones, the huge head was wrought around. The eyes bulged and from the mouth poured a fountain of obsidian liquid. A deep shudder went through the body and then it toppled over. 

Wynne started running before it hit the ground.

“Legolas,” she murmured.

The king was faster, he had jumped onto the ridge in a single step. There he stopped dead, staring at his son.

Legolas had his back against the oak, swaying slightly. He was clasping both hands over his stomach, the eyes wide and confused. 

“No...” Thranduil whispered, his face ashen.

Then Wynne saw it too. Legolas had been impaled, nailed against the tree by the troll’s crude spear. With a gurgling noise he slid off it, tumbling head first into the ground.

Thranduil wailed in agony. He fell on his knees and tried to lift the limp body.

Wynne could not move, only stare at the sobbing king and his son. A crimson stain expanded over Legolas’ green tunic. 

Around her began a flurry of activity. Elves ran to and fro, someone was trying to stop the bleeding, another went after medical equipment. Wynne shook herself out of the paralyze and hurried to get the fire water, but she felt numb, disconnected from her body.

He would die. She loved him and he would die.

Back at the ridge, Thranduil was sobbing like a child, quite uselessly holding his son’s head while Galion and Nodir were working on the wound. 

“Stay with me. Please stay.” 

Legolas was awake and talking, cheerful even, but from the glossy eyes and flushed cheeks it was obvious he was deep in shock. It was disconcerting.

“I will Ada. Of course I will. This is not so bad.” 

Bronedir made Legolas gulp down a mouthful of miruvor, their elvish reviving cordial, and meanwhile Galion poured a generous amount of Wynne’s fire water directly over the perforated skin. Legolas grunted, his face briefly contorted with pain, but then the strange cheerfulness was back.

“Do not cry.” He stroked his father’s wet cheek. “I will be fine.”

Wynne forced herself to look at the wound, and calmly assess the damage. The spear had pierced him about a hand’s width to the right of the navel. Were there any important organs in that area? The heart was higher up at least, but down there must be something too. Intestines? 

Then she felt a surge when the blood drained from her face, and everything around her became hazy. As from a distance she heard Nugu’s calm voice.

“Bow your head down. Keep it low.” 

Soft hands guided her to bend down, squatting with the head between her knees. It helped, the blood returned and the nausea subsided.

When she slowly rose again, cold sweat forming on her forehead, Sidra was there, embracing her. For now, Wynne let herself be held. She could think about the woman’s betrayal later.

“He needs a healer.” Galion’s voice was tense. He had covered the wound now, dressed it with absorbing material soaked in strong spirits and the elves’ healing herb paste, and then secured it with several layers of linen wraps.

“Damn it!” Nodir growled. “Minas Tirith must be the closest city from here, and that takes days to reach, even by boat.”

“We have to try or we shall certainly lose him.”


A/N:

Ouch ouch ouch... poor Legolas. :'(

27. Finding a Healer

“There is a healer closer than that.” 

Everyone turned to the uruk-hai. His eyes were red and the lower lip trembled. For the first time he looked his age.

“With your friends?” Galion asked, brightening up.

“Yes. But… it’s… this way.” He indicated the direction they had come from.

“Back? But…” The ginger elf’s face became stiff. “You were never leading us there,” he concluded.

The uruk only nodded, tears brimming in his eyes.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” Sidra croaked. Her eyes were dry, but matted with sadness and guilt. “We were going to tell you. We were discussing… about when. When it happened. We were too late.”

“There is no time for this, we can settle it later,” said Nodir urgently. “We must go there directly.”

“I hope we can get him on a horse,” said Galion, and went back to where Thranduil was still hovering over his son. The king obediently went to the side when asked to. It was as if all energy had drained from the normally so proud elf, his shoulders were sagging and there was a listless sluggishness to his movements.

Galion and Nodir tried to help Legolas rise, but he only slumped back with a groan, the shock apparently beginning to subside and pain following in its wake. He was clearly unable to walk, and certainly not ride. 

“We need to make a stretcher.” Galion looked about him eagerly. “The oak is too big. For Sauron’s sake, why are there no damn trees here?” 

Wynne stared at him, it was unsettling to hear an elf use strong language.

“We can take the spears!” Nodir began to pull on the one embedded in the oak, still red and slick with Legolas’ blood. Wynne felt sick, knowing that he would be carried by the item that had hurt him so.

The two elves worked fast and efficiently, tying a bed sheet securely around the spears. Then Nugu and Galion, who were strongest, lifted Legolas onto it. He cried out in distress, a drawn out moan that was heartbreaking to hear. 

Wynne hurriedly brought two of the pack horses to the litter. Using rope they were able to fasten it between their harnesses, but they would have to move very synchronised to make it work. There was no help for it, this once the horses had to be reined, and with nimble fingers Wynne tied a simple rope halter for each of them. 

“Lead the way,” Galion instructed the uruk-hai. Since Thranduil seemed to have entered an almost catatonic state, the ginger elf had taken command.

Wynne took on the task of handling the two carrier horses. She steered Vatna next to the stretcher, and with the halters she could make the two pack animals move in unison. When she got into the rhythm of it, she increased the speed from a walk to a trot, and later a canter. The elves had tied Legolas to the bed, or it would never have worked, but it was still a bumpy ride. Every sob, every whimper from the stricken elf made her almost cry, but what else was there to do? They needed the healer fast .

On Legolas’ other side rode Thranduil, he held his son’s hand, managing his stallion to maintain the exact speed of the litter carriers, again proving his skill as a horseman. He was mumbling continually, soothing wordless sounds mostly, and now and then something in Sindarin. He seemed to be slowly coming out of the strange numb state, perhaps beginning to realize his son might survive after all.

Afterwards Wynne could only remember that nightmarish ride in flashes. Legolas pale, moist face and sounds of distress, the horses’ heavy panting and necks covered in foamy white sweat, Thranduil’s unceasing murmurs. It took so long, and she was so tired, and so desperately worried.

They kept the same merciless speed all through the night, wringing every last ounce of energy out of the Mearas. The distance that had taken a day and a half to cover in their normal travel pace, was now traversed in less than a third of that time. 

When a red hue to the west announced the sunrise was near, they were finally back at the heather moor. Here Nugu stopped by the steep cliffside, just beside the pool where Wynne and Thranduil had bathed an eternity ago. 

The horses hung the heads low, their flanks heaving and the steaming bodies trembling in exhaustion. 

“We must climb up here. There is a cave entrance on the other side.”

How ironic. They were back where they had started, the uruk having only brought them farther away from his friends.

“We shall have to carry the stretcher by hand then, the horses can’t climb this,” said Wynne.

They set the animals free, finally allowing them to drink their fill and get a well-earned rest, and then left the packs by the well. 

Galion and Nugu began to crawl sideways with the stretcher between them, step by step up the hillside. Thranduil and Nodir assisted them, steadying the litter and making sure Legolas would not fall off. The blond elf’s eyes were tightly shut and the cheeks feverishly flushed. He had ceased his moaning now, but pain was etched into his features, his forehead creased and the teeth clenched together.

When at last they had ascended the sharp slope, there was an equal hard course down. Legolas was breathing faster now, if from pain or something else they did not know. 

Below they entered a narrow pass between naked cliffs, sparsely covered with pine trees on the steep sides. A bit further ahead a massive rock had fallen down, and behind it they finally saw a black, jagged opening. 

Inside was a small cave, that looked unused. A few gnawed clean old bones in the corner indicated it might be the home of a hibernating bear during the winter, but apart from that it was empty.

“Over here.” Nugu put Legolas down and went to the middle of the cave, where he felt around above him. With a faint click, a round piece of the ceiling came down on hinges, like a big hatch. It was made of wood, but painted underneath to look like rock. 

“I have to warn them we are coming. Be right back.”

He pulled down a ladder, climbed it swiftly and was gone, leaving the others to wait anxiously. Galion checked on Legolas again, uncovering the bandage. It had a big, ugly stain, a rusty shade of brown.

“It needs changing.” Then he pressed his palm against the sweaty forehead. ”No fever, at least. Yet.”

Wynne felt oddly disclosed. She wanted to be near to Legolas as well, try to comfort him, hold his hand and stroke his face. But how could she? He was not hers. They were not lovers, and she had no right to do anything but stay in the background. A silent bystander. Seldom had she felt more powerless. 

“We can bring him up now.” Nugu’s voice from the hole sounded hollow and echoed between the cave walls. Thankfully he had not been gone long.

It took some effort to haul Legolas through the opening, but with the elves pushing the stretcher from below and the uruk-hai steadily pulling from above they finally made it. Then the rest of them followed suit. Nugu closed the hatch after them, cutting out all light in the process.

“This way.” 

Wynne froze, afraid to stumble or fall in the darkness. The elves were less concerned, having their keen eyesight, and she heard them start walking. 

“Here, take my hand. I know the way in the dark.” Sidra’s alto next to Wynne was comforting, and she gratefully obeyed, feeling the other’s warm palm envelope her clammy fingers. The woman was a lying traitor, but right now there was no time to be angry.

Wynne shuffled ahead, one hand on the wall to the left and leaning heavily on Sidra to the right. The air was cold and damp, smelling a lot like the farm cellar back home. She could hear the children tag along a behind their mother, the youngest whining quietly, probably feeling rather neglected and tired. 

Gradually Wynne’s sight came back, and she let go of the other’s hand. They were walking down a rough, narrow tunnel, that forced the tall elves and the uruk-hai to crouch. It was not pitch dark, there was a light ahead, and when she came closer Wynne saw an oil lamp in an alcove outside a round, wooden door, a lot similar to the ones they had seen in many orc nests before.

The door opened, and one of the most ancient orcs Wynne ever had seen peeked out. It had runny eyes in a sickly, greenish hue and a thin mouth with only a few yellow fangs left. The body was bent and wiry, with lead gray, deeply creased skin and white tufts of hair in a halo-like fringe. 

“Hallo my boy, Dad went to prepare a bed.” The orc was speaking the common tongue with a heavy accent, and to Wynne’s surprise the thin voice was distinctly female. So there were orc ladies? She had not known, and judging by the puzzled looks on the elves, it was news to them as well.

“Nanna!” The uruk-hai bent down to kiss her wrinkled cheek, still holding the stretcher behind him.

“There now Nugie, no cryin’, you ain’t no babe anymore.” Nanna wiped his face with a bony thumb. “Dad shall fix your elf up good, don’t you worry.” She took the lamp, beckoned for the others to follow and began to hobble away, supported by a rather nice wooden walking stick.

The elves hesitated, their hands warily hovering over daggers and swords. Wynne shared their apprehension, it did not feel safe to enter an unknown orc abode. If there were hostile inhabitants they would be stronger on their own ground. 

“Well now, don’t drag your feet! Come along.” The orc lady had a no-nonsense tone of voice that somehow was hard to disobey. 

They looked at each other, and then Thranduil shrugged. Desperate times called for desperate measures. Nugu had said they had a healer there, and Legolas would not survive without one. There was no helping it, they had to take the risk. 

When they all were inside, Nugu closed and bolted the door behind them.


A/N:

Can orcs really be trusted? What do you think?

28. Orc Medicine

On the other side of the door was a huge, airy room, a lot different from the pathway with its murky rocks and damp cellar smell. Here the walls were smooth and neatly whitewashed, making the place a lot brighter. White pillars reached a vaulted ceiling several yards up, and between them stood long tables covered in linen tablecloths. An enormous chandelier hung on a chain in the center, and in the farthest end was an unlit fireplace. It rather reminded Wynne of a Rohirric lord’s great hall.

Nanna limped into a corridor on one side. In passing, Wynne noticed there were many such corridors branching out from the hall. The place seemed dark and deserted, and still the only source of light was the oil lamp the orc lady carried. 

She stopped before another round door, which had an oval sign made of a thin slice of birch, and some sort of runes burnt into it.

“Black Speech. The foul language of Sauron.” Thranduil frowned at the runes.

“That’s how we talk, and no need to be rude ‘bout it,” Nanna scolded him. “We were taught none other.” 

Inside the door was a small, well lit chamber. A bedside table stood between two stone bunks, with thick mattresses on top. Legolas was put down on one of them, stretcher and all.

Another elderly orc joined them, this one male, judging by the long, white beard. 

“Welcome, strangers. Nugu tells me you need a healer. What happened?” His voice was accented like all orc’s, but unusually refined. 

“He was pierced by a spear, through the stomach and out on the back,” said Galion.

“Can you heal him?” asked Thranduil eagerly. 

“Maybe. But not for free.”

Dad !” exclaimed Nugu from the door. “Don’t do this.”

“Sorry lad, but this is the chance we’ve waited for. We have to take it. You brought them here. You exposed us.”

“What do you want? Treasure? I can assure you, your help shall be rewarded handsomely. If you succeed.” The king’s cold voice was full of contempt. His majestic air had come back, and Wynne felt relieved by it, calmed even. His odd confusion before had been unnerving.

“We don’t hoard shiny trinkets like bloody dwarves.” The orc narrowed his amber eyes. “What use have we for that sort of thing, shut out from the world as we are down here? No, Mister king, what we want is something far more important. Don’t look surprised,” he added.  “Nugu told me who you are.”

“Spill it out. We have no time for this!” 

“We want freedom. Freedom to go outside without being hunted down by the first man or elf to lay eyes on us. Freedom to grow things and not fear that the crops would give us away. We want peace.” 

“It is not fair,” Thranduil almost growled. “You cannot expect me to promise this, when I have not even met the rest of you. And I cannot speak for the human kings, or presume to tell them what to do.”

“You can promise us peace with you , and you can plead our case with the humans. They listen to the Elvenking.”

“To use a father’s desperation–” Thranduil clenched his fists and his ice blue eyes had a furious glint. ”Cruel. Unscrupulously so, to demand this of someone in need.” 

”Well? What’s your answer?” The orc seemed completely unaffected by the king’s intimidating stare.

A short silence followed, the air thick with tension. 

“You know I cannot refuse,” Thranduil said at last. He sounded tired, the anger gone and replaced with resignation. “If my son lives, you have my word I shall not harm you or your people, neither shall any elf under my command. Furthermore, I will speak with King Elessar of Gondor and King Éomer of Rohan, bidding them to do the same.” He pulled himself up straighter, and added with a little more sharpness: “Should you, however, commit any act of unprovoked violence against elves, men, dwarves, hobbits or other creatures of the light, I shall consider the treaty broken, and there will be retribution.”

“Agreed. But I shall need this in writing afterwards.” The orc spitted in his wrinkled hand, and held it out. With a look of disgust, the king took it.

“That’s all sorted then. Time to check on this poor lad.” The healer rubbed his hands in a businesslike manner. “I take over now, you can wait outside.” 

“Absolutely not. I shall stay by my son’s side.” 

“Suit yourself then. But I warn you, it will probably be messy, and not very pleasant for the patient to have an audience to witness everything. And I don’t work well in a crowd, either.”

Thranduil blanched at that, but said nothing. The three other elves, however, went to leave.

“We stand guard outside,” said Galion. “Just call if you need us.” 

“Me and Nugu shall be off too,” said Sidra, still in the doorway. “The little ones need to sleep, and Nugu must explain your presence to the others when they wake up. We come back later to see how you do.” 

Wynne mutely pressed her back to the wall, hoping nobody would take notice of her and tell her to leave. She had to stay, she just had to. When the door closed behind the others she sighed out in relief.

“Let’s have a look at the wound, shall we?” The healer uncovered Legolas’ blood-stained bandages and pulled out a small, very sharp looking knife from a leather bag.

“Put that down!” Thranduil’s voice was intimidating, and he had one hand on his sword. 

“Easy now, Mister king, easy! You want me to fix him, don’t you?” The orc bore his amber eyes into him.

“Aye.” He reluctantly removed his hand.

”No more interruptions then.” The orc returned his attention to the bandages and swiftly cut them off. When he carefully peeled them open, Legolas made a sharp intake of breath between clenched teeth. New blood welled out of the hole, and Wynne had to avert her eyes, feeling the faintness return. 

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” the orc answered, even though none of them had said anything. 

He put the bandages back and rummaged through his bag again, fishing out two glass bottles, one very small, the other bigger.

“Seeing as you are a suspicious one, I shall explain what I do.” He had turned to Thranduil. ”This is ’seed of the poppy’. It’s a tincture to take away pain.” He measured out half a spoonful of a brownish liquid from the smaller bottle. “Open up, elf.” 

Legolas obeyed, swallowing the stuff with a grimace.  

“Good, good. You will feel dizzy and probably a bit strange, but the pain will go as well.” He took the other flask. “Now, this here is only used for its smell. I need to know if the bowels are intact.” When he uncorked it, a foul odor spread through the small room. He helped Legolas drink several mouthfuls, which made the elf almost gag from the taste, and then allowed him to wash it down with water. 

Wynne hoped the orc would not say what was in it. Judging by the stench, it must be something very nasty indeed.

“Now we wait for the poppy effect to kick in, and the smelly stuff to go down.” The orc nodded at Wynne. “You should sit, miss. You look pale.” 

Thranduil turned to her in surprise, only now noticing she was still there. He seemed on the verge to turn her out, and she half prepared to beg him not to, when Legolas talked for the first time.

“Please stay... Wynne.” His voice was faint, but there was a stubborn set to his jaw, and he was looking at his father, not her. She could have kissed him right there.

“I’m not going anywhere.” She sat on the other bunk, sinking down in the fluffy mattress. It felt springy, stuffed with some dried plant. Heather?

A few minutes went by in silence. The healer busied himself with arranging needles, thread, hot water and bandages on the table. 

Thranduil sat by his son’s head, stroking the blond hair. Legolas’ eyes were glossy again, with dilated pupils that made them look almost black, and his pallid skin was moist with sweat. It looked like he was getting worse. Why would the healer not do anything, sew him up at least? What if he lost all blood he had? Wynne fiddled with the mattress, rolling the fabric between her fingers, and wished she could help. To just idly sit there was torture.

“You must not leave me, promise you shall not.” Thranduil took his son’s hand in his. ”My heart would not survive the loss of another loved one.”

 “You can… control many things, Ada… but not death.” He smiled weakly.

Wynne bit her lip to stop herself from sobbing, but the tears pouring from her eyes were harder to check.

“There, now,” soothed the healer. “You still live, and I shall do my best to keep it that way.” He sat next to Legolas and uncovered the wound again, gingerly feeling around the edges. Then he bent over and sniffed the injury thoroughly with his large, burly nose. With a pleased grin, showing off a sparse amount of canines, he sat up. “Good news, I can’t smell the stink potion. Lucky bugger, you.”

“What does that mean?” asked Thranduil.

“It means his bowels are whole. With a broken gut, his chances to survive would be slight at best. Stuff would leak out and his belly would fill with pus and nastiness.”

“And now?” The king’s voice was hoarse, as if he dared not hope.

“Now the outlook is a lot better.”

Wynne let out a long, ragged breath. She had not even noticed she was holding it in. Could the orc really be right? But Legolas looked so bad. His eyes were glazed and saliva trickled from the corner of his mouth.

The healer went to work with the needle, pushing Legolas to lie on his side. The elf hardly even flinched when the back wound was sewn together in a row of neat knots. 

“The poppy seems to work well,” the orc noted. 

“I feel great,” slurred Legolas. 

“I’m sure you do.” The orc made a wheezing sound, possibly a laugh. He cleaned the area around the stitches, and reached after the bandages when Wynne interrupted.

“We have a potion to stop infection. And the elves have a herb salve. Perhaps we should put it on?” 

“Oh? Let me see.” 

“I’ll get Galion, he brought the healing bag with him when we left the packs.” Wynne jumped to the door, glad to finally be of use. Galion followed her back with the requested items.

The old healer smelled the fire water and tasted a drop. 

“Brandy?” He spat it out. “We brewed that back in Isengard, nasty stuff. Makes people stupid. Stupid and violent.” 

“You can use it on the wound. So it heals easier.” 

“Interesting. I had no idea. And this salve?”

“That is made with Athelas . Some call it kingsfoil. It is a flower,” explained Galion. 

“Another time, I would like to discuss these things with you. And I shall show you how we prepare our seed of the poppy.”

“Poppy seeds?” Galion peered closer at Legolas’ eyes. “Is that what you have given him? He looks like he ate a hobbit mushroom.”

“Oh, hello Gale. My fingers look funny. See?” Legolas held out his hand and regarded it with great interest.

“Hobbit mushrooms, never heard of those,” said the orc. “We really must have that talk. But not now. Time to dress the wounds.”

Galion gave the orc a spirit soaked cloth, which he dabbed on the stitches before smearing herb paste on the area and covering it up with clean linen. Then he did the same with the stomach wound.

”There, Mister prince. All patched up for today.”

“Not sewing the front?” asked Galion.

“No, it will keep bleeding inside for a few days at least, and that blood must have a way out. It’s best to leave it open for now, and change bandages often.”

“How do you know all this?”

“I was Saruman’s chief healer. I can’t count the number of times I have treated patients with spear wounds or deep sword cuts.”

“He is in good hands then. Thank you.” Galion pressed the old orc’s hand.

“No need to thank me.” He looked at Thranduil. “All I ask is that you are true to your word.”


A/N:

Oh dear, looks like poor Legolas is in for the trip of his life... Seed of the poppy is also called Laudanum, or opium. Powerful painkiller, strong drug... Don't try that at home, kids! You will see in next chapter it's not all fun and flower power.

As for the mention of hobbit mushrooms, I made those up, but with hobbit's love of mushrooms I'm sure they must have discovered the "magic" variety. ;)

29. Legolas Tripping on Poppy

The healer covered Legolas up to his neck with a thick bear pelt. He dimmed one of the oil lanterns that had illuminated the room, and turned the other two off. 

“He needs to rest, but I’ll come back and check on him regularly.” He beckoned for Thranduil to come. “I want the peace treaty written and signed as soon as possible.”

“I cannot leave my son.” Thranduil laid a protective hand on Legolas’ shoulder.

“I will stay with him,” said Galion. “If he gets worse, I shall send word to you immediately.”

“Well. Perhaps then I might… If you promise to summon me directly. But it shall have to be a very brief withdrawal.” He said the last part rather sternly, resuming his cold stare at the old orc. When the other took no notice, he reluctantly followed him out into the corridor. 

As soon as the door closed behind them Wynne jumped to her feet and took the free place by Legolas’ head. She wished she could stroke his hair like his father had done, but she had no right to touch him. 

“How do you feel?” she asked instead.

“Great!” He smiled dreamily at her. “Pain all gone. Did you know your head shines?”

“It does?” Wynne gingerly touched her hair, which felt tangled, but normal.

“Nay it does not,” Galion assured her. “I think the poppy medicine is affecting him.”

Legolas was back to examining his hand. “I have never noticed before, how interesting these lines are. See the magnisc… magnifschiz... the pretty pattern they form.”

Wynne obediently looked, and swallowed hard not to sob. His strange behavior scared her.

“You should try to rest now, Legolas” said Galion. “Shall I play something?”

“Please do,” answered Wynne in his stead.

Galion sat on the other bed, leaning back against the white wall, and began a soothing lullaby on his flute. The melody was so sad, it almost felt like a funeral hymn. Wynne discreetly wiped away a few tears, hoping Legolas would not see and be concerned. 

He did not see, his fascination with the hand was still all-consuming. 

Galion paused his playing.

“Wynne, it has been a long night, you should try to sleep also. We cannot do more for him now anyway.” He drew his knees up, making space for her in the foot of the bed. 

“I don’t know…” She looked again at Legolas’ pale face and odd eyes with irises shrunk back into thin rings.

“We can take turns watching over him. I begin, and then you step in. Thranduil will come back soon too, and Nodi and Bron are probably still waiting outside. We can help him better if we are well rested.”

“All right then. But promise to wake me if anything changes.” She curled into a ball by Galion’s feet. He resumed the music and she drowsed off almost immediately, exhausted as she was.

Not long after, however, she woke up to the sound of Legolas crying. Wild-eyed and groggy by lack of sleep, she immediately went to his side, closely followed by Galion. 

Legolas was still staring at his hand, but now he looked absolutely terrified by it and tears welled from his eyes.

“Take it off. Please take it off!”

“What’s wrong?” Wynne tried to take his hand, but he was waving it around frantically.

“The spider. The spider is back. Please take it off. Please!” 

“Get the healer,” said Galion tensely. “I stay with him.”

Wynne was on her feet and running before he finished speaking. Outside Nodir and Bronedir sat on the floor, leaning against each other’s backs and resting in that sort of half sleep elves practiced. She was just going to rouse them and ask where the healer had gone to, when she heard Thranduil’s angry voice from the hall where they had first come in. 

“I never said anything about talking to dwarves! I mentioned Elessar and Éomer, and that was it. I shall certainly not –” He broke off when Wynne dashed into the room, and rose to his feet in such a hurry the pile of parchment he had been bent over swooped away. “What happened? Is he worse?”

“He says he sees a spider. He’s so scared, and I don’t know what to do!”

“Oh dear, I must have been a little bit too heavy on the seed of the poppy then,” said the healer calmly. “It’s always hard to tell with a new patient. No worries, it will subside. I shall talk to him, you just wait here.”

Thranduil did not even respond, he was off to the healer’s room in tall strides, with Wynne running not far behind. 

Inside, Galion was holding down a struggling Legolas.

“I had to constrain him, he tried to hurt himself,” he said, panting with the effort.

“Legolas!” Thranduil kneeled by the head of the bed and took his son’s face between his hands. “What ails you?”

“Ada! The spider has come back,” sobbed Legolas. “Help me!” 

“There is no spider. You are imagining it.”

“Nay, it is right there! Do not lie to me, you must not lie to your only son.”

The healer entered the room then, carrying a bottle and a glass cup.

“Have him drink some more water, it will wash the medicine out of his system.” He gave Thranduil’s shoulder a friendly squeeze. “Don’t worry, it’s not dangerous, just frightening. It will pass. Just don’t argue with what he think he sees, it’s very real to him.” 

Legolas was still being held down by Galion, and Thranduil tried to coax him into drinking the water.

“Will the spider go if I drink?” 

“Aye, aye it will. I shall kill it. Just like I did that time when you were an elfling, do you remember?”

“Of course I do.” Legolas emptied the cup, and sank back on the pillow. “I wish you had killed it better, so it would not come back.”

“I shall slay it again and again, as many times it takes.” 

“Thank you, Ada. I love you.”

“And I love you. More than anything.” Thranduil kissed his son’s forehead. A glitter in the corner of his eyes revealed the tears he had not managed to hold back. 

Legolas was finally beginning to relax, if from the water or his father’s presence Wynne did not know. Within moments, he closed his eyes and his breath slowed.

“The treaty can wait,” said the old orc, again touching Thranduil’s shoulder. “Lie down on that other bed, and sleep here with your son. I can see you are exhausted.” He looked at Wynne and Galion. “I know you must be very tired too. Come, I shall take you to a spare room.”

Wynne had much rather stayed, but with Thranduil present she felt like the third wheel. And she really was tired, drained of all energy after everything that had happened.

Outside Nodir and Bronedir waited.

“You do not have to guard here anymore,” said Galion. “I am certain we have nothing to fear in this place.” 

“That pleases me a great deal to hear you say.” The orc beamed at him, the first genuine smile Wynne had seen on that wrinkled, gray face. “I’m Goltur, by the way, but everyone here calls me Dad.”

“I am Galion, and this here is Nodir, and his brother Bronedir. And the lady is Wynne of Rohan.” They all bowed eloquently, and Wynne made her best curtsey. 

“How do you do. How do you do.” He bowed to each of them in return. “When you have rested, I shall be happy to get to know you better. And we still have that medicinal herb talk to look forward to, Galion.”

“Indeed.”

“I thought you were Nugu’s father,” said Wynne when they walked down the corridor.

“Well, in a way I guess I am. I helped raise most of the young uruk-hai, together with Nanna. But as for being his sire, no, Saruman didn’t deem me superior enough for that. Thankfully,” he added. He frowned almost as deep as Nugu when the evil wizard’s name was mentioned. “That breeding program of his was a revolting business, and I’d rather not talk about it. Oh, here we are, this is where you sleep, and if you need the privy it’s in the end of the corridor.” He pointed it out.

Their room was close to the healer’s, only two round doors further down the corridor. It looked like some sort of storage, with grain sacks in one corner and shelves full of baskets, earthenware jugs and crocks. It had a dusty, floury smell, a bit like the inside of a mill. 

Someone had made the room ready for them, there were a stack of blankets and several mattresses, similar to the ones in the healer’s quarters. Wynne gratefully threw herself down onto the first one, not even bothering to take off her boots. Almost as soon as she closed her eyes, she drifted off into a heavy, dreamless sleep.


A/N:

I researched this and the previous chapter quite a bit, even read medical reports about impaled people and how they are treated (today). The ajoined pictures on those reports I would rather forget, ugh... O.o

I also read that the Vikings used the "smelly potion" trick, but with onion soup. Not sure if it's true, but it was too good not to use in the story haha.

And then of course I had to read up on opiates and their effects, and what hallucinations can be like. I have never used any drug whatsoever and after this I don't feel any more inclined...

30. Sidra Tries to Apologize

When Wynne next woke up, her head felt heavy. How long had she slept? Down in the underground there was no way to tell. The storage room was dimly lit by a lantern in an alcove, and apart from herself, it was empty. In one corner she saw the familiar bundles and bags of their packs. So, the elves were up then, and must have gone to get their belongings that had been left by the well. She hoped the horses were okay, and maybe if Legolas was all right, she could go and see to them later today. They had rode them so hard last night, and she had not had time to check their legs and feet afterwards.

Her body promptly informed her that she was ravenous and desperately needed to pee. But first things first, before doing anything else she must visit Legolas. 

Still in the ruffled clothes she had worn all day and all night, Wynne opened the round door. Outside she heard a mumble of voices from the hall, and a nice smell of food wafted through the corridor, again reminding her she had not eaten anything since yesterday morning.

She did not knock on the healer’s door in case it would disturb Legolas, instead she opened a tiny slit and peeked inside. Both he and his father were lying peacefully on their bunks, eyes closed, breathing calmly. Legolas face had slightly more color today. With a sigh of relief, Wynne closed after them again. At least he was not worse.

Next, she went down the corridor to seek out the privy the healer had mentioned. If he had not pointed it out, the smell would have led her there just as easily. Inside was a stone bench with two holes, covered by lids. There was a sign in orc language above each which Wynne could not decipher, but when she warily opened them she saw one contained only urine, and the other only fecal matter. Why they would separate those she had no idea, but obediently she chose the correct one to pee in.

There was a bowl and pitcher on a small table so she could wash her hands and face afterwards, which made her feel a lot more awake. 

Before joining the others, Wynne changed clothes, she had no idea who she would meet during breakfast but it probably was best to avoid looking like a ruffled tramp. She even brushed her hair.

When she got to the hall she stopped in the doorway, shyly peering at all the unfamiliar faces. Around thirty or forty uruk-hai lined the tables under the now lit chandelier, and their conversation echoed between the stone walls. A separate table was laden with food and drink, and the smell was even more heavenly this close.

Wynne promptly took a plate and began to fill it. She did not recognize any of the dishes, except for a pile of rye bread, but everything had a nice aroma. She would never had guessed orc food to be like this, but then this group seemed very different. The way they talked, laughed and ate in friendly camaraderie was clearly unusual behavior for that race. She doubted normal orcs bothered to spice their meat or even cook it, and they certainly did not eat vegetables. She could even discern pieces of potato in one of the stews.

Sidra came up to her, and took her hand.

“Glad you are up, I hope you slept well. It’s lunchtime already. Come have a seat by me and Nugu.” The woman spoke quickly and looked rather anxious, even though she obviously tried to sound casual, like nothing had happened. She apparently hoped to be forgiven, and for her betrayal to be forgotten. But was it possible to forget something as grave as that? It was hers and Nugu’s fault that Legolas was now fighting for his life, even though Nugu had stepped in and ended the troll. 

Sidra tugged at her, now with a pleading look, perhaps reading Wynne’s thoughts in her face.

“Come. Let’s talk over the meal.”

Wynne slowly began to walk then, and allowed her former friend to lead her to the end of a table close to the fireplace. A fire was lit in it, with coal instead of wood, and the black smoke disappeared up through a chimney. Were they not afraid anyone would see it? But maybe the smoke was led out into a hidden cave or something.

As she walked past the crowded tables, Wynne felt the uruks’ eyes on her. So far she had seen no female orc since she met Nanna yesterday, and to be in a room full of males made her glad to have another woman by her side, even if it was such a treacherous one as Sidra.

When she was seated, Wynne was pleased to see Galion opposite to her, with his favorite orcling in his lap. Nugu sat next to him, holding the youngest. He glanced up when Wynne came and then immediately looked down, his face darkening several shades of gray. Was he blushing?

Wynne ate in silence, only replying to the others’ inquires in monosyllables. The food tasted just as nice as it smelled, and she went twice to get more. She wiped the last of the stew off her plate with a piece of bread, and leaned back in the chair, feeling a lot better. 

Now that Wynne was full and contented, somehow Sidra’s and Nugu’s apologetic, sad countenances touched her a little more. Galion apparently had no more harsh feelings towards them, and perhaps it would not hurt to at least let them explain. 

“Why did you lead us to the trolls?” she asked bluntly, making both of them almost jump. “I thought you had decided never to kill again. But letting trolls do the job for you is not really much different, is it?” She cast Nugu a dark look.

“I did not mean for them to hurt anyone,” he mumbled, again blushing gray. “There was only one troll last time we were there.”

“But you knew there was one troll, and still you took us to it?”

“It was one of Saruman’s tame beasts, not very bright, and we were certain the elves would finish it easily. We just wanted you to be busy, so we could escape. But the one that hurt Legolas was a wild mountain troll, and it took us too by surprise.” He was still not looking up from the table.

“And also, we had just decided to abandon that plan anyway,” Sidra cut in. “We knew from the start we couldn’t trust Thranduil, but the more time we spent with him and you others, the more we thought it possible to persuade him to spare us – in time, at least. We were going to turn back, we really were. But we got to the troll sooner than we had thought.” She again took Wynne’s hand. “Wynne, I know you are angry, I would be too if someone I loved was hurt. I truly am sorry for that, and wish I could make amends somehow.”

Wynne felt her own cheeks burn, was it that obvious how she felt about Legolas? 

“I trusted you,” she mumbled. 

“But when you really think about it… if we had taken Thranduil here directly, can you imagine he would sign a peace treaty with Dad? Or even have allowed him to live?”

“No,” she admitted. 

“And our babies, and Nugu… Would they be alive now?”

“I don’t know.” Wynne sighed. “All right, I get your point. You felt you had no choice.”

“I hated to deceive you. I’m so sorry.”

“I’m sorry too,” mumbled Nugu. “Especially about how Dad acted when we brought Legolas to him. That ultimatum was unfair and cruel. If I had known… well I guess I couldn’t have done anything to stop him, but… after everything, I had wanted to show you we were good and helpful. Not some cunning, scheming sort of fellows.” He vividly rubbed his eyes with one arm, glancing at the other uruk-hai nearby as if to make sure they had not noticed. Perhaps crying was considered unmanly among their lot, warriors as they were.

“I guess he too had not much choice,” Wynne admitted. “He desperately needs that treaty.” Somehow she found it easier to understand the old healer’s motives. He, at least, had been entirely honest the whole time. 

Still, after hearing the orc couple’s explanation, Wynne felt a lot better about them as well. She did not like to bear a grudge, and the more she pondered about it, the more she knew they had not really had another option. In addition, she believed Sidra when she said they had decided not to go through with the plan. Wynne remembered well how the two had argued that day, presumably Sidra trying to convince her husband, and she had seen the woman’s appalled reaction when the troll attacked. Nugu had tried to make her flee with him, but she had refused. 

From understanding to forgiving was still a long way, however. Maybe if Legolas got well, Wynne might, but there were still no guarantees that he would.

Nanna, the old female orc came hobbling, and took a seat at the head of the table, as close to the fireplace as possible.

“There you are, Nugie luv’. And the little ones too, bless them.” She grinned toothlessly at them and turned to Sidra. “You and the boys look much better, Dad was right to advice you some time outside. Just think of that, baby orcs needin’ sun. Who’d have thought?” She laughed, a hearty laugh to come from such a tiny body. 

“Thank you, Nanna, but we missed you terribly. It’s good to be back.” Sidra kissed the orc lady’s cheek.

“Now with the elf king here, we can soon all come and go as we pleases.” Nanna placed one frail palm on Sidra’s hand and the other on Nugu’s. “It’s a blessin’, you hear me. A blessin’. This was meant to be.”

“You think so?” Nugu’s eyes were still red-rimmed from crying. “Was all this really meant to happen?”

“It was. I know it was, with every bone in my body. Sweetie, don’t you worry, it will all work out. The elf will live, Dad says so, and he can tell these things, you know. He says they heal faster than our sort.” She patted the uruk’s cheek, wiping off another stray tear. “There now, big boy, you did the right thing.”

The uruk-hai relaxed his shoulders then, almost slumping where he sat. He must have truly been worried. Wynne felt herself breathe more easily as well. Legolas would live. For the first time she was sure of it, even though she did not really know why.


A/N:

What do you think, will he survive? And will there be peace?

31. Peace Treaty in the Making

The following days Legolas steadily got better. The bandages were changed regularly, and the bleeding subsided ever so slowly until finally the healer said it was time to sew him up entirely. He was still given seed of the poppy to ease the pain, but in a much smaller dosis that mostly made him sleepy, and soon he needed only willow bark tea, a much less potent painkiller. His friends took turns sitting with him, singing, playing music or just talking, and every night Thranduil slept there in the other bed. 

When not keeping Legolas company, Wynne and the elves were outdoors as much as possible, hunting, bathing in the small pool and looking after the horses who still roamed about on the heather moor. Neither of them liked to be in the tunnels. Every time Wynne came out in the sunlight she felt relieved, like the heavy rock of the hill had been weighing her down, and she was very sorry for Legolas who had no choice but to stay. She could well understand that Sidra and the babies had had to leave the place, it was somehow dark and sinister in there, despite the white painted walls, many oil lanterns and candles. She longed for the day they could finally get out of there for good. 

Wynne slept well in the store room, even though it was underground. It was admittedly a bit uncomfortable to be sharing it with three males, but they had arranged a shelf between them so she could have some privacy. 

During the meals in the hall she usually sat with Sidra’s family, still rather shy around the tall and dangerous looking uruk-hai. Galion, Nodir and Bronedir seemed to make many new friends, however, each day moving to a new table, while Thranduil for his part spent most of the time bickering with Dad. 

The peace treaty was at last coming to its completion, after Dad and Thranduil had spent many long hours arguing about the contents. The king had agreed to speak with the human kings, like he had said, and furthermore bidding them to speak with the dwarves – a compromise they both could accept. As for other elf realms, Thranduil would ask Lord Celeborn to make it known among all elfkind that the Free Orcs of Emyn Muil were to be left in peace. 

Then there had been the question of the ents. The uruk-hai were wary about the tree-herders, several of them having very narrowly escaped Fangorn forest with their lives after the defeat of Helm’s Deep, but to ask ents to be friendly to orcs when that race had killed so many trees would be a hard task. Even the Elvenking, with his love of trees and knowledge of them, could not guarantee they would listen.

“We shall try, at least, on that you have my word. Lord Celeborn is powerful and might convince them.”

With this, the old orc healer had to make do.

As for the orcs’ obligations, that list was equally long and detailed. They could of course not steal or kill, that was obvious and easily agreed upon, but the matter of hunting was more complicated. In the end, it was decided that they were allowed to hunt, but only in their own vicinity, or with the permission of a landowner if they wished to do it elsewhere. The same went for farming, or the harvesting of any herb, fruit or berry in the land.

Another issue was the remaining orc bandits in the area. Dad had admitted there were several groups scattered here that he knew of, just as had been the case in the Brown Lands. Thranduil wanted it put down that he should be allowed to kill them, but Dad was determined that if this was to be his people’s lands, they should be the ones responsible for keeping them safe. 

“How can I trust you to slay your own kind?” asked Thranduil suspiciously.

“If need be, they shall be executed, on that you have my word. But I wish to pursue a gentler way. There are prisons here, deep in the caves under us. I would like to try to make them see reason. As we have.”

“Weakness,” the king sneered contemptuously.

“Maybe. Or compassion?”

In the end Thranduil agreed, but with the addition that if Dad failed, and these roaming orcs did any damage outside the hills, that too would be considered a breach of the treaty.

After many more such clausules were established, King Thranduil of the Woodland Realm and Goltur of the First Free Orctown in Emyn Muil could shake hands a second time, and rather solemnly sign the stack of parchment, witnessed by all the inhabitants of the cave. The cheer that erupted almost threatened to crumble the rock into pieces and make the ceiling crash down upon them.

They were free at last.

A huge feast ensued after this grand event, one that Wynne much rather was without. As soon as she could she excused herself, and went to bring Legolas his usual bleak dinner. He was still not allowed anything solid, only soup, gruel and tea, because the poppy medicine could make him constipated, not a good idea when one was wounded in close vicinity to the bowels. 

For once, Legolas was alone in the small room, which suited Wynne very well. It was ages since they had a chance to talk just the two of them. 

When he saw her he brightened up.

“Finally, I thought I would be alone all night. Such party-lovers, you. I take it the peace treaty was signed to their liking?” 

“It was.” She maneuvered the tray with one hand and closed the door, cutting out the sound of singing and happy chatting from the hall. 

“Soup again? I had hoped for lembas.” Legolas grinned impishly at her. He really must be a lot better if he threw his favorite joke at her, and she felt warm and happy with relief. 

“You look good,” she noticed, and sat down beside him. “Feeling better?” 

“I am flattered! You think I look good, my fair lady?” He winked at her.

He had winked . And called her fair. Was he flirting? 

“You know I do.” Wynne busied herself with the tray to hide her face, she did not dare to meet his eye. Surely he remembered why he could not talk that way, why he should not do it. They were past this, were they not?

“My apologies, Wynne, I did not mean to make you uncomfortable.” He sounded serious again, and took her hand. His touch gave her butterflies, and the feelings she had tried so hard to suppress returned in full power.

“Legolas… don’t do this. I can’t…” She broke off, chest burning painfully.

“Wait… please. Just hear me out. I have been thinking… I have had a lot of time to think lately.” He swallowed. “I wished to talk to you for a while now, but there were always others around.” Wynne glanced at him, she noticed his flustered face and realized how nervous he was. “I know my father spoke with you too that time, about why… why I could not, er, pursue you.” He swallowed again. “Ada intends me to find myself some fine elf lady, who is, in his words, ‘queen material’.” He made a perfect impersonation of Thranduil’s voice, and Wynne’s lips quirked up despite her embarrassment. “He can be quite stubborn, as you know, and slow to change his ideas and opinions. And it takes a long time for him to warm up to others. But I was thinking… if we were subtle about it. Well. In time, he might… I think he would understand.”

Wynne silently puzzled together his somewhat incoherent sentence. 

“You mean for us to be seeing each other… secretly?” she breathed, her heartbeat increasing.

“Aye. If... you agree to it?” His hand that still enclosed hers trembled slightly.

Oh how she wanted to say yes. She pictured that secluded cottage in her daydream. But what of her mortality? Had Thranduil not talked with Legolas about that? Surely he must understand it would not work in the long run. She hesitated to bring it up, however, this was too early to discuss a long lasting relationship, was it not? Maybe he only meant for it to be something flighty. 

She settled for a hint.

“But you’re an elf and I’m human… we’re different. There will be… problems.” 

“My friend Aragorn married an elf.” Legolas sounded unconcerned, like that was no problem at all. Had he not thought about the implications of that marriage? Had Aragorn and Arwen not thought of it? 

“What will Queen Arwen do after her husband’s demise?”

“Oh… you mean, will she mourn him forever, and be miserable for the rest of her immortal life?” 

“Yes.” The word came out almost like a sigh.

“So this was what Ada told you. I had wondered about that.” To her surprise he brought her hand to his lips. The kiss was light as a feather, making her skin tingle. “Your consideration about my feelings makes me think even higher of you.”

“Does it not worry you, then?”

“Nay. Did you know Aragorn has a son now? And another child on its way. When he is gone, Arwen will have them to remember him by. Half elf children must be immortal too.”

“You don’t even like children.” Wynne tried to smile, but her lips quivered. Could this really work? Could she allow herself to hope again?

“True.” He laughed. “However, I have yet to meet my own child, and if it bears any resemblance with you I am sure I shall adore it.” 

Her eyes locked with his, the shyness finally draining away. He seemed so earnest, like he really had meant everything he said. He even wanted to have children with her, that was not something one would say lightly.

His large, expressive eyes spoke clearly of his feelings. Losing herself in the deep blue wells, Wynne’s apprehensions melted away into nothingness. 

“Then… in that case… I say yes.” 

Speaking those words was one of the most terrifying and at the same time the most wonderful things Wynne had ever done.


A/N:

This was fun to write. :D Next chapter will be... fluffy. But safe for work, no worries, this is the Medieval era after all. ;)

32. A Secret Relationship

Legolas had never looked happier, and Wynne knew he could see that same silly, ear-to-ear smile plastered on her own face. She felt giddy, like she had downed a full skin of firewater. 

“I wish I could plait you again. Show everyone you are mine.” He softly combed through her hair with his fingers, giving her goosebumps all over.

“So that’s what it means. And you did it without explaining, you sly elf.” She giggled. 

“You liked it, did you not?” His eyes sparkled with mischief.

“Loved it. I’m terrible at braiding or I could redo yours.” She stroked a tousled remain of a fishtail braid on the side of his head. Confirmed mostly within the healer’s room for several days, he had only had access to the small washing bowl in the lavatory. Despite that, the golden strands were incredibly soft and silky. 

She moved his hair behind the ear and touched its curiously pointed tip, letting a finger follow it down to the earlobe. Then she noticed his gaze had become intense, the pupils wide and dark, almost like before when he had had too much poppy seed. His lips were slightly parted and she could not take her eyes from them. She loved how even when he was serious their corners had a tiny upturn, like an ever-present hint of a smile. 

How would it feel to be kissed by those lips? He made no such move unfortunately, but he surely looked like he wanted it. 

Inspired of Sidra’s bold exhibitions of fondness for Nugu, Wynne took the matter in her own hands. She leaned over and let her lips brush against his. When he did not object, she repeated the action, kissed him closer, even tasting the bitter remains of the willow bark tea he had taken.

That brought her back to her senses.

“Sorry. You are still healing, I shouldn’t–”

“Do it again,” he rasped. His hands had remained in her hair, and now he pulled her to him for a third kiss, a longer one, more eager. The intensity of it sent spears of heat down through her body, as if he had touched her inappropriately. She half wished he would, but that was not right, not here, not now.

With reluctance she moved back, trying to be responsible.

“Someone could come in. And you should eat before your soup gets cold.” Was that her voice, sounding so out of breath?

“Aye, Madam, your wish is my command.” Legolas was breathless too. He sat up straighter, and obediently took the bowl. 

“There’s a good boy.” 

“I am no boy.” 

“There’s a good elf then.” They chuckled.

It was true Legolas was no boy, or elfling for that matter. He was adult, for sure, but he did not act as if he had lived thousands of years like his father. She considered asking about his age, but was it even important? Elves neither aged, nor matured like humans did. He looked youthful, he behaved youthful, that made him young in every way that mattered, did it not?

“How old are you?” Curiosity had won.

“Too old for you.” He winked. “Nay, I am joking. Elves are mere children until we turn fifty, and I am not yet two hundred. To my kind I am very young.”

Maybe they were not so different then, agewise. If he was such a young elf, that might explain his teasing and sometimes annoying behaviour when they had first met. In retrospect, he reminded her of a stallion colt prancing and trying to show off. The thought had her almost laugh out loud. 

“What about you?” he asked.

“I’m almost twenty. An elf my age would be just a baby, then?” 

“Indeed. Like the eldest of those two orclings, perhaps.”

“Well I am no child.”

“Certainly not!” He gave her a meaningful look, which made her want to kiss him again, but she stoically abstained.

“Thranduil must have waited a long time to have you,” she said instead. 

“He met my mother late in life. But that is of no consequence, once an elf reaches adulthood he stays that way infinitely, and can sire elflings if he wishes to.” He thoughtfully emptied the last of the soup. “I think perhaps that is the main difference between our races. As far as my knowledge of mortals go, you age in stages, bodily I mean. First you are young, then middle aged, then old and finally ancient. But mentally humans are almost the same person that entire time, are you not? The only real difference between an old elf and an old human is physical.”

“So, you shall be young and handsome always, and me soon a crooked old crone like Nanna.” It was no pleasant thought.

“Nay, I did not mean that! You will always be beautiful to me.” He again took her hand and pressed it earnestly. 

“I don’t understand how you could think so.” To find her beautiful, he who had grown up in a court full of elven ladies? Wynne must be nothing compared to them. She was plain, unless her mirror back home lied to her. 

Was he lying? A white lie, to avoid making her unhappy? She traced the lines of his palm with a thumb, feeling the callouses from the bowstring. Her hand was small and chubby compared to his. 

“I am not good with words,” he muttered. “How can I explain…?” He paused uneasily and his lips moved, like he was forming the sentences in his head before saying them out loud. It was rather endearing how earnest he looked, and Wynne knew then he had been truthful. 

“I never really pay much attention to outer appearances,” he finally began. “Honestly I think it is the same with most elves. I know mortals find our kind pleasing to the eye. However, for us, that is what we see every day, in every elf. It is… ordinary.” Again he seemed to ponder over his words, before he continued. “When I look at you I see you , the inner Wynne… brave and kind. If you know what I mean?”

“I think I do... but I’m not brave, I have no idea how you got that notion.” She smiled weakly anyway, pleased of the compliment. 

“Oh you are. You even entered a staring contest with my father the very first time you met him. If that is not bravery, I do not know what is.” He grinned.

“Well you are brave too, and so sweet with the horses. And...” She glanced at him, remembering the hot day when he had been shirtless. Pleasing to the eye? A huge understatement. “And actually, I rather like to look at your outside also. But then I am a mere mortal.”

“Well of course I do not only see the inside,” Legolas blurted out. “I did not mean–” He absent-mindedly scratched his head, making the dishevelled braids even more messed up. “With ellith I do not look twice, they all appear alike to me,” he said after another moment of unsettling silence. “Their faces are like porcelain, blank, unreadable. Beautiful, yes, in a distant way. But you... you are different. Something about you draws the eye, I cannot really say what it is.” He seemed so uncomfortable Wynne almost felt sorry for him, but she was glad he had tried to explain. She recalled now how she had thought almost exactly the same about elves and porcelain early in their journey. Be it Galion’s ethereal paleness, or Nodir’s and Bronedir’s stunning darkness, they were still too perfect, too flawless. Somehow Legolas was not. It was odd though, because his physical features were definitely no less perfect than other elves’. But he felt more real, more open, his face expressed emotions in a way theirs did not. 

“I understand what you mean, it’s the same with you.” Now it was her turn to be shy when he looked inquiringly at her. “I mean... when I see you next to another elf… They can’t compete,” she mumbled, her face heating up terribly. ”If anyone draws one’s eye, it’s you.”

“I have indeed felt your gaze on me from time to time,” he admitted rather smugly. “There was, for instance, that very warm afternoon, if you recall…” 

“Ha, you should talk. Whenever we bath you blush,” she countered quickly. Had he really noticed her checking him out that day? How mortifying.

“Hrm. I might, at times, have observed–” 

“Yes?” she prompted. 

“Well… you do have very nice legs.” He was blushing again, but there was a playful glint to his eyes and a rather cheeky smile. 

“Why, Legolas, you speak boldly to a lady!” she scolded him mockingly, relieved that the awkward conversation had taken a more light-hearted turn. 

“Pardon me, Madam, indeed I did. You shall have to punish my insolence.”

“I will. Your penalty shall be… hm.” She pondered. “Oh, I know. You shall sing to me!”

“With pleasure.” 

He began a soft ballad, one that she had heard Nodir and Bronedir sing before. It was rather sad, and beautiful, and his voice was just as lovely as she remembered. She curled up with her head in his lap, closing her eyes and allowed the silky tones to wash over her. 

She knew of course that there would be second thoughts and concerns about this relationship coming later, like how they would tackle Thranduil, and Mother, and the other elves of the Woodland Realm. But right now she was content to just lay close to him, listen to his song and know that he really liked her. In time they would have to cross that bridge, but they could think of how to do it when they got there.


A/N:

This was so sweet to write I got a tooth-ache. :D

33. Laundry Day in a Cave

A polite knock on the door made Wynne jump up and quickly swap to the other bed. When Nodir entered she smiled innocently.

“Hello Nodi!”

“Good evening. Thranduil sent me to relieve you.” His eyes narrowed slightly as he looked from one to the other. “Why do you two smile like that?”

“Legolas was telling something funny,” Wynne said quickly. “About lembas.”

“Aye, I said how much I enjoy it. One might say I am a Lembas Lover.”

Still chuckling, Wynne went to the door, feeling Nodir’s eyes on her. She wondered what Legolas would say to him, if he would tell their secret. She doubted the elven guards could be trusted not to inform their king and hoped he would stay silent for now.

Passing through the corridor, Wynne was almost dancing her way ahead, alive with pent up energy like a horse before a jump. Legolas found her beautiful! And liked her legs. And she had kissed him thrice! 

Outside the hall she forced the smile off her face with some effort. The fact that Thranduil gave her a stern look did help a lot. Luckily he said nothing, she did not think she could face him just yet. 

The party was still going on, and now Wynne’s appetite was back. She filled another plate and went back to Sidra and Nugu, who sat with Nanna and the orc healer. Galion was there too, bouncing an orcling in time with the beat of the music. 

Orc music was very different from human or elvish music, she noted. They had several different-sized drums and long horn instruments that emitted deep hoots. The current piece was sung without words, one uruk intoned the melody and several others held single, continuous tones, making up deep and vibrant chords. The uptempo rhythm fitted well with Wynne’s present agitated mood.

“Well. You look cheerful,” Sidra noted instantly when Wynne seated herself. There was no fooling that woman.

“Legolas was feeling so much better,” she said, sticking with part of the truth.

“You were gone quite a while.” Her eyes were piercing but the hint of a mischievous smile touched her lips.

“I kept him company during his meal.” Wynne said innocently, and to evade further questions resolutely turned to the healer. “When can he eat normal food? He is off the poppy now, right? And go for walks, when can he do that? He is very confined in there you know, only ever walking to the privy.”

“Yes, I think he could start trying his legs a little more tomorrow, a short tour only, mind you. As for food, nothing too solid yet, the poppy effect can linger for some days.”

Wynne nodded and smiled at the old orc. How could she ever have thought orcs ugly and scary? A huge wave of regard and gratitude unexpectedly surged through her, eyes burning like she would cry. 

“Thank you so, so much for healing him, Goltur.” She reached out and pressed the others’ small hand.

“It’s what I do,” he said simply, but there was a very knowing look in the sharp, amber eyes. 

Next morning Wynne expectantly met up with the healer, Thranduil and the rest of the elves to follow Legolas on his first walk. He would be going to the hall and take his breakfast there. Goltur had provided his patient with a wooden crutch and Legolas leaned heavily on it, as well as on his father’s arm, when he tentatively lurched through the corridor, wincing slightly with every step but making no sound, the jaw stubbornly set. 

It was a bit unsettling to see how exhausted the short stretch made him, but Wynne was still very glad to see him up, wearing normal clothes and getting something else to look at than the small healer’s room and adjoining lavatory.

It took a while, but finally Legolas was seated at one of the tables, curiously gazing around at the many amiably chatting uruk-hai. The air in the big room was cheerful, everyone presumably still excited about the treaty. No alcoholic beverages had been served the evening before, so there was none of that bleary eyed peevishness Wynne associated with the morning after a party.

It was nice to sit together, all of their company gathered for the first time in almost a week. Legolas was quiet at first, perhaps dismayed to realize how weak he still was, but soon he opened up and talked and laughed almost like his normal self, while finishing his sorry bowl of gruel. On more than one occasion Wynne managed to catch his eye and get a tiny smile in reward, filling her with sweet warmth. The happiness from yesterday still lingered pleasantly, and she could not wait until she would be able to snatch another moment alone with him. Perhaps even get a fourth kiss? 

Unfortunately she was not so lucky. If from suspicion or just bad luck, Thranduil was around his son almost the entire day, and the few times he was away someone else was sure to take his place.

Wynne stayed in the sickroom as long as she could, but at last the king began to eye her suspiciously. 

Feeling bored and restless, Wynne seeked out Sidra. The woman and her family lived in another corridor, where they had their own apartment and even a separate kitchen and bathroom. The water had to be brought from the public well, which was an underground stream, but there was an abundance of coal available for everyone so they could easily heat their stone tub whenever they wanted a warm bath. Wynne had made use of it that morning, wishing to be clean and pleasant smelling in case there would be any more kisses to be had. Unfortunately there were not, at least today, thanks to Legolas’ guarding dragon of a father. 

Sidra opened directly to Wynne’s knock, a huge basket of soiled linen in her arms.

“Oh hello! I am doing laundry today, sorry about the smell. Baby Rohi’s diapers.”

“I need to wash my things too. Is there some public laundry place?”

“You can use my tub, no worries.”

Wynne gratefully walked back to their packs, glad to have something to do. She decided to wash for the others’ as well and had soon gathered an armload from Nodir, Bronedir and Galion. In the healer’s room Thranduil collected some more garments from himself and his son. When he picked up the blood soaked tunic and shirt Legolas had worn when he was speared by the troll, both elves paled visibly.

“They are ruined. Throw them away,” said Legolas dismally.

“No, I can mend them,” Wynne insisted. “I like that tunic, it suits you so well.”

“I cannot imagine ever wanting to wear it again. But if you wish to take the trouble, you are welcome to it.” He looked gloomy. 

It took a great while to get the stains out. One hour of soaking them in salty, cold water was followed by an hour in nearly boiling temperature and lots of vigorously rubbing with plenty of soap, before they finally looked spotless again. Wynne was not quite sure why she so dearly wanted to restore his clothes. Perhaps it was a way for her to handle the memory of his hurt and broken body. As if she could make him whole again too, in the process of mending his tunic. 

The laundry drying area was shared by the community, and was located near the public privy and baths in Wynne’s corridor. It was a huge, empty room with a big fireplace and thin rope crisscrossing all over the ceiling. Sidra filled several yards of rope with identical white diapers while Wynne hung up her company’s garments.

“So, I take it things go well between you and Legolas?” Sidra said conversationally.

Wynne froze and almost dropped Galion’s hose.

“W-what?”

“Last night you left the party looking tired and dull like an overloaded oliphaunt, and then you came back nearly bouncing, all rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes. I can add up the numbers, you know.” Sidra smiled smugly. “Did he kiss you?”

“It’s a secret,” Wynne mumbled. “You can’t tell anyone! Especially not Thranduil.”

“Of course not.” She abandoned the diapers to give Wynne a warm hug. “I’m happy for you. I noticed the sparks between you two from the start.” She pulled back, grinning conspiratorially. “Now, tell me everything about that kiss...”

Next day Wynne brought the now dry clothes into Legolas’ room to mend them, the good lightning a suitable excuse to be there. He had taken his breakfast in the hall again, but it was obvious he still felt his injury badly when he walked. Now he was listlessly stretched out on top of his bed, looking unusually morose. 

Like yesterday, Thranduil kept his son company, this time occupied with a book on healing that Goltur had lent him. He too claimed he needed the better light in there to read. Wynne had begun to strongly suspect he was chaperoning them again, and now when he actually had reason to, she guessed it was only fair. But she could be cunning too. He had to go eventually, if only to the privy, and she did not need many minutes to kiss the sad look off Legolas’ beautiful face.

She had just finished sewing up the last hole when Goltur came in to check on Legolas’ stitches and bring him his willow bark tea. It was nearly time for lunch.

“Want to try another walk, Legolas?” he asked.

“Of course he wants to, he needs to get his strength back.” Thranduil put down his book.

“I guess I had better.” The blond elf muttered, sounding both frustrated and annoyed at the same time.

During the meal, soup for Legolas and a fish stew for the rest of them, Goltur invited Thranduil to take a tour around the cave with him that afternoon. 

“I would like to show you our workshops. I’m thinking we might have some items and contraptions we could tempt you or the humans with. For trading deals.”

“What items?” 

“One of us is very good with machines. He built one that can be powered by oil and steam, and perform hard work such as driving a grindstone.”

“Interesting. Perhaps nothing for us elves, but I am certain the humans and the dwarves would like such a device. Let us all go and see it. Except you of course, my son, you should get some rest.” He gave Legolas a comforting smile which was met with sullen silence and a rather deep frown.

Wynne was scowling too, she did not want to look at machines, she wanted to be alone with her elf. Which the shrewd king obviously had anticipated.

They followed Legolas back to his room, another slow struggle with the crutch, but this time he refused his father’s aid. With another dark look he almost slammed the door after him. 

Wynne felt a pang of sympathy and promised herself she would try her best to sneak away from the tour at first opportunity. Legolas needed a cheer-up, and she was the right woman to provide it.


A/N:

Legolas is pissed off, it would seem. Next chapter will not be entirely flattering for that poor elf... I guess we all have those days. :)

34. Legolas Behaves Badly

Legolas was alone, after another of those awkward, painful walks. As usual, he had been forced to lean heavily on the hateful crutch, his legs hardly bearing up his weight and everyone looking at him with badly hidden pity. He felt weak and miserable. 

He wanted away from this awful rock, and this claustrophobic room that might as well be a cell, out where there were trees, and sunlight, and fresh air. He missed his horse, and weapon practice, eating real food and bathing. His hair was a disaster. 

A treacherous tear trickled down the cheek, and he angrily wiped it away.

Ada had told him to rest, like he was an elfling who needed a nap. He did not want to sleep, he wanted Wynne. He had not been alone with her anything at all the whole day yesterday, and she would not dare come in now when Thranduil so clearly had told her to go with them on their tour. He missed her badly, and the bubbling happiness he had felt when she accepted him had turned to glum misery. 

How had he thought it possible to have a secret relationship under his father’s hawk eyes? It would all turn to nothing. Even if they could be alone now and then, it would be far to seldom to his liking, he knew it.

Rest, indeed! He was not tired, he was annoyed, and restless, and he wanted to be his normal, strong self. Sleep was the last thing on his mind right now. He needed a cheer-up, and he would give himself one. With everybody off looking at that stupid machine he knew he would be alone long enough, and not disturbed. Good. 

He kicked the crutch into a corner, then pulled off his tunic and threw it in a messy heap on the floor, almost hearing his father’s grating voice in his head. “This place look like a swinesty. You need to take better care of your belongings, son.” Well, Ada was not here, and if he did not like garments littering the floor he could tidy them away himself. Legolas rolled down his hose and rebelliously tossed them on Thranduil’s bed.

Only in his undershirt, he sank back and made himself comfortable on the fluffy mattress, drawing a few calming breaths, willing himself to press down the anger and frustration. He pulled the quilt up to the neck. Protected by it – not that anyone would come in, but just in case – he slipped a hand down between his legs.

He closed his eyes and picked among his memories, choosing a very recent one. Wynne, when she kissed him. He remembered her sweet, soft lips, how they had felt and tasted, and the way his body had responded. And when she had paused, how her cheeks were all flushed and the eyes bright and he had known she was just as excited as he. 

Next he pictured her when she had bathed, the wet chemise revealing her fit body. Those broad hips and buttocks that he very much wished to caress, as well as the legs which indeed were very nice, what with all the riding and exercise – and higher up, the breasts. They were probably just the right size to cup with his palm. He pictured himself doing so, and then tracing the rounded shape to touch a pink nipple. He had to suppress a rather strong sense of guilt when he thought of her breasts, he only knew what they looked like because the orcs had cut her clothes that time, and to be using such a memory for his own pleasure was so shameful he would never, ever admit it to anyone.

But he did use it, and he deeply despised himself for it, but that image brought him to climax. 

Afterwards he felt a little calmer, but no less unhappy. As always these forbidden thoughts and actions made him feel dirty and cheap. While his breath and heartbeat slowed down, he stared up at the stone ceiling, which he now knew every crack of by heart. He blinked away another few bitter tears.

Before he met Wynne, Legolas had not cared very much about females, although he admittedly had turned his eyes after one or two in the past, despite what he had told her. But that had been it, he had not thought more of them and he had certainly never wished to see an elleth without her clothes. 

Well, except for that time in his forties when he and another elfling had climbed a tree and peered into the ellith’s bathing area through the window. But it did not really count, those had been old ladies, and he had only caught a glimpse of the backside of one before he and his partner in crime had been discovered. That was the only time he could remember his father having punished him physically. He probably deserved the severe hiding he got too, although he naturally had been rather mortified at the time. It had at least thoroughly cured him of any wish to sneak peak on naked females again.

But then Wynne had crashed into his life one spring day, and captured both his heart and his desire. The urge to look at her – with or without clothes – had overpowered him, and the past weeks in her company had ignited a need in him. Now that part of his body craved his attention in a way it never had before. It was disconcerting.

It had become especially bad after his injury, when he had been locked down here for ages with nothing to do but thinking. Maybe when they finally could leave this horrible hole and continue their journey, he would be more like himself. But he healed ever so slow . Terribly, disgustingly slow.

His restlessness was returning, and he nearly grinded his teeth in despair. He felt trapped, like a bird in a cage, the walls pressing down on him. 

There was a knock on the door and he all but jumped. Who could that be, surely the tour was not over yet? 

Then sunshine flooded into his room as Wynne, his lovely, wonderful Wynne sneaked through, a sly smile on her face.

“Sidra saved me!” Her smile widened. “Why, someone has been moping. And here I brought lembas and everything.”

Legolas did not reply, his throat thick with emotion. He pulled her to him and had her crash down on top of him, gladly ignoring the painful protests from his wound. Her lips met his, sweeter and softer than ever, and it was so nice, it felt so good. 

Like the flipping of a coin, his world went from absolute darkness to the brightness of an early summer morning, he could almost hear the trees rustle and birds chirping merrily. Wynne belonged to him and Ada would surely come to terms with it in time, he would soon be strong again and everything was going to work out for the better. 

She ended the kiss rather too fast, he figured, but it was all right anyway. When she sat on his bedside he could look at her, admire the fluffy, curly hair and those cute freckles. Did she have them elsewhere on her body too? He would check that out sometime. 

“This place is a mess.” She observed his discarded clothes critically. 

“Aye. Can you get me out of here? I hate it,” he begged earnestly. 

“I was actually thinking of asking the healer if you could move to us now. Don’t they need this for other patients? You are so much better.” 

“I would not mind sharing a room with you.”

A glint in her gray eyes told him she too thought of the possibilities of sleeping in the same place.

He imagined himself secretly snuggling down beside her in the dead of the night, pressing his body tight against hers while sliding a hand in under the chemise, exploring her legs, the breasts... Another pang of guilt over what he had done just before she came in pushed the pleasant picture out of his head. Thank Varda she had not come a little earlier.

“Did you know your ears turn pink when you blush?” 

That of course very likely made him redden more, which obviously was just what she had intended, the little vixen. Her look was far too knowing for his liking.

A well aimed tickle-attack wiped the smug smile off her face, and soon he had her rolling next to him, giggling and panting for breath.

“All right, all right, you win! Stop!”

“Not before you grant me a boon.”

“I shall. Haha I shall!”

He stopped and wrapped his arms around her, burrowing his nose in her hair and inhaling her lovely, sweet scent that he remembered from when she had slept on his pillow.

“Well, what would you have me do?” she murmured against his collarbone, her breath tickling his skin pleasantly.

“Help me go outside.” 

“What, now?”

“Yes! I shall waste away if I stay in here another minute. I need air.” He kissed her unruly curls.

“Fine, I will. But if Thranduil kills me, it’s your fault. Just so you know.”

She helped him rise and stayed close, embracing him while he tried to gain his balance. The wound smarted badly, the stitches pulling on his skin and the damaged abdominal muscles throbbing. He found himself leaning heavier on Wynne than he liked.

He was the warrior, he should be the stronger one. Yet here he was, displaying this humiliating weakness. She had seen his father fussing over him, seen his tears, she had even witnessed the embarrassing poppy seed hallucinations he had. It was a miracle she still wanted to be with him.

“I hate this,” he muttered darkly. 

“I know. But it will soon pass.” She turned her face up to him and he met her gaze, expecting to see pity, but instead the eyes were dark and intense. He felt her hands tentatively begin to explore his back and shoulders over the thin undershirt. She desired him. 

Again the bleak thoughts disappeared, spirited away by this amazing woman who wanted him and desired even this broken body. He was truly a lucky elf. She was much too good for him, not that he would let that stop him from selfishly keeping her. 

Standing up, Wynne barely reached his shoulder and he appreciated being so much taller. This at least, the injury had not taken from him. He bent down and captured her lips with his own, feeling himself respond to her bewitching, caressing hands, one of which had found its way to his ear just like last time. Had she any idea how sensitive he was there? More importantly, almost undressed as he was, would she notice the effect it had on him? With her pressing herself so closely against his body, he was unable to hide the telltale hardness. Hopefully she did not know what it was.

“Maybe I should put something more on,” he mumbled into her lips.

“I like this outfit,” she replied. Cheeky. He loved it.

“Unfair. You wear a lot more,” he countered.

“I can change that.”

“Temptress.” 

“Yes.” She pinched his earlobe and he let out an involuntary groan. By the Valar, if she kept doing that he would bond with her here and now. With great reluctance he decided to be the wiser one for a change.

“I really should get dressed. You are taking me out, remember?”

“Oh all right then. Spoilsport.”


A/N:

Look at that, a change of perspective for the first time. :) 

This story really is Wynne's, but for this chapter I wanted to capture the feelings of an injured, sexually frustrated warrior elf, confined underground. And also show that nobody is perfect, even if they look the part (e.g is a ridiculously hot elf!). 

35. The Orc Farm

As usual walking went slow for Legolas, but now with just the two of them he seemed less frustrated by it, and Wynne for her part did not mind at all. It was pleasant to have his arm around her, feel his warm body and draw in his scent. And she liked to be able to support him, she felt useful and strong.

Her only regret was that he had wanted to go out at all, she had much rather stayed in his room and continued that very interesting kiss. She had still not quite regained her composure, and his close vicinity did not help in the least. 

Wynne well remembered how wary she had been of the prospect of mating, when her mother told her she must marry, but now… she wanted to do it now. She had pressed herself against Legolas and the sensation was overwhelming. And then she had felt him , his part, curiously pushing into her stomach and she had imagined feeling it farther down. She had wished she was taller.

They must wait, of course, and be properly wed first, but hopefully that would not be too far in the future. Somehow she must convince Thranduil to allow it. 

As if thinking of the Elvenking had conjured him up, he and the rest of the tour entered the hall just when they had opened the exit door. Legolas stiffened beside her.

“Legolas! I thought you were resting.” Thranduil's eyebrows became a single, thick line. “And you, Wynne, were you not helping Sidra with the orclings?”

“I had to go outdoors. Get some air,” stated Legolas curtly. “Wynne agreed to help me.”

“I already finished at Sidra’s,” she added lamely.

“Then allow me to take over,” said Thranduil, and without waiting for a reply he firmly took her place by his son’s side. “Since you are not otherwise occupied, Wynne, you can visit the farm in my stead. I am sure my absence is acceptable, Master Goltur?”

“I can show it to you another time, sire.” After the peace treaty was signed, the healer had become a lot more polite when addressing the king. He turned to Legolas. “Take it slow and pause often. I am not sure the climb down the ladder is entirely a good idea, but maybe you are right and the air would do you good.” 

Legolas only gave a short nod in reply, but Wynne saw the scorching glare he gave his father. It was hard to tell who of them were the most angry, and their outing would likely be no cheerful event. 

“Follow me then,” said Goltur and beckoned to Wynne and the others. She sighed and obeyed, casting a longing glance at Legolas’ and Thranduil’s retreating backs.

Galion fell in step with her. “What was that all about?” 

She peered up at his fair face, pondering what she could tell him. If he knew the truth, that would save her the trouble of explaining she was not interested in him. It was not long ago she had caught him gazing at her just a bit too intensely for comfort. But what if he passed the information on to Thranduil?

Wynne clenched her jaws, who was she trying to fool? Of course Thranduil knew, or at least strongly suspected. And if he did not before, well, now he most certainly did.

“Thranduil doesn’t want his son to be alone with me,” she said, keeping her voice down. That was a meaningless precaution, she could see by the change in their stances that Nodir and Bronedir heard her too, their pointy ears pricking up almost visibly. Darn eavesdropping elves. Only the orc ambled on like nothing had happened.

“Why not?”

“Because he would rather not have me as a daughter-in-law.” 

“So you are back together then.” He sounded disappointed. 

“Yes.” She looked at her feet. 

“I thought… Well, I mean, lately…” He demurely broke off.

“Thranduil talked us out of it first but it was not so easy to just… stop.”

They walked on in silence. The path spiralled upwards, and for the first time Wynne felt an ounce of curiosity about the orc farm. They had said they did not dare to leave the cave, how could they produce vegetables then? And where did the meat and fish come from?

“Thranduil will come around,” said Galion eventually. “He never refuses his son anything he truly wants, at least not in the long run.” 

“You think so?” She felt a flutter of hope.

“Legolas was so spoiled as an elfling.” He snorted, then turned serious again. “After his mother’s demise the king had only him.”

Wynne wondered how and when she had died, but did not want to ask. That was for Legolas to tell.

“So, did you like the machine?” Wynne changed topic, hoping to evade any more embarrassing questions of her love life.

“Nay. I dare say it could have its uses, this steam power, but it emitted such foul smelling fumes. That is something I have found hard to accustom myself to here – the black smoke from the coal fires and oil lanterns.”

“I agree, wood fires are so much nicer.”

“Here we are now,” the healer said. ”I have to wait outside, it’s too bright for me there.”

They curiously went through a doorway into a vast cave, with rows upon rows of growing vegetables. A dazzling light came from the ceiling, it was so sharp Wynne had to avert her eyes.

“How?” Nodir smiled widely and walked along a line of young potato sprouts, stroking them in passing. “It is almost like sunshine in here.”

“Dvago will explain,” came the orc’s voice from the doorway. ”He’s our chief farmer.”

A young uruk-hai who had been binding up beanstalks came to meet them, wiping his hands on a linen cloth. He was literally a copy of Nugu, but much younger, with only a shadow of thin whiskers on his upper lip and none on the chin. He was slimmer built too, but equally tall, almost the same height as an elf. Were the two related?

“This is right under the top of the hill – the rocky part above the cave entrance, you know?” They nodded. “When the sun shines on the cliff, we lead it in here through channels, silver channels. Like mirrors you know. To make it even lighter.”

“Clever! But cannot the openings be discovered on the outside?” asked Bronedir.

“They are just cracks really. You could walk on top of them and hardly see a thing,” the uruk explained proudly.

“Young Dvago designed it himself,” said Goltur from the door.

“It was not hard once I got the idea.” He beamed almost like the ceiling.

Wynne strolled among the vegetable beds. They even grew rye and oats here, and and some sort of beet she did not recognize. Then she came to an adjoining area where a pungent smell hinted this was where the privies were emptied. 

“Oh I see you noticed the dung room.” Dvago had followed her. “We store the poo there for several months, and then we put it on the soil and everything grows like shit!” He giggled when he realized what he had said. “Like shit haha.”

Wynne smiled politely.

“Anyway, the pee is used directly, just mix it with water and it’s perfect. That’s why we separate it in the loos.”

“I see, yes I wondered about that.”

“It was my idea, because when we mixed all together it got sloppy and strong and nothing grew in it.”

“Very interesting. So, how old are you then?” Wynne tried to steer the conversation away from excrement.

“Thirteen. But tall for my age, in case you thought I looked older?”

She did not, and smiled noncommittally. 

“So, maybe you want to see the animals now?” he asked.

“Oh you have those too?”

“Sure! After me.” He led Wynne and the elves into a third room, one almost tropically hot. Something in there was chirping in a familiar way, but Wynne could not quite pinpoint where she had heard it before. 

Dvago showed them a large pool in the floor with an abundance of dark shapes silently moving about. 

“Here is the fish farm. They eat scraps from the crops so it’s very easy to grow them, and the dirty water is good for fertilizing too.”

“Very well thought up,” said Nodir approvingly.

“Yes it is, isn’t it? And now here is where we get the meat.” The gangly uruk indicated a huge stack of hamper boxes behind the pool. He opened one to show its contents, and Wynne was not the only one to shrink back, shocked to learn what they had been eating all this time as “meat”.

“Um… crickets?” she asked. Now she recognized the sound.

“Yup! And over here are the maggots, I can get–”

“That will not be necessary, thank you,” said Galion smoothly. 

“All right. We should be heading back now anyway,” said the uruk. “Almost time for supper!”

“I think I just lost my appetite,” mumbled Nodir.


A/N:

Clever orcs, way ahead of their time, and not only by inventing the steam engine haha (I agree with Galion it's probably a bad idea, but I guess they will find that out in a few centuries or so). Scientists believe that in the future we're all going to eat more bugs and less cows, to save the climate.

36. Childish Puppy Love

On the way back, Wynne tried to reconcile herself with eating insects. She had done it the whole week, after all, and never thought the food tasted strange. And how else could they get enough to eat down here? If they went out to hunt they would risk being discovered – which was exactly what had happened to Nugu and Sidra.

The thought of Nugu made her look appraisingly at the young uruk-hai, who was tagging along to the hall.

“You look a lot like my friend’s husband,” she said.

“You mean Nugu? He’s my brother.” Dvago’s face darkened. He had looked cheerful before, something Nugu rarely did, now when he was scowling the likeness was almost uncanny. 

“Brother? Really? But how–”

“I’d rather not talk about him,” he interrupted and stomped ahead in tall strides.

Goltur had heard the exchange. “The lad is still upset from learning about his mother. How she was kept, what Saruman did to her... Not that he and Nugu knew her, they were taken away directly after birth.” 

“How cruel. Why?”

“Saruman wanted the women ready to have another child as soon as possible, so he would not allow them to nurse the babies. Nanna brought them up, all the uruk-hai, bottle feeding them goat milk and oatmeal.” He paused and hesitated, but then apparently decided to go on. “Did you know Dva-go means twenty in our language? And Nugu means nine. The breeder males usually had naming systems like that to keep track of their offspring. You can figure the rest out yourself.” 

She stared at him, abhorred, bile rising in her throat. Twenty! The cold-blooded evil of the wizard was unfathomable. To be forcing women to mate again and again, and to go through so many pregnancies only to have each baby torn from them. Even the worst horse breeder would never treat a mare so ill.

“I protested against Saruman’s plans when he first told me of them, not that it did any good, I was as much a slave to him as anybody there. In punishment for my insolence he removed me of my post as chief healer and made me handle the book keeping. I had to register all the… pairings, and the resulting babies, their development, everything. He liked things neat and organized. And also… the women, giving birth… some where so young, and it did not always go well. I saved them if I could.” His voice was heavy with pain and self-loathing. “When the orclings grew up I tutored them, taught them to read, battle tactics, such things. I should have… I really should have refused, allowing Saruman to torture and kill me rather than helping him, but… I knew it was pointless, he would have gone through with it anyway. This way, at least, the uruk-hai met with some kindness. A little bit of father’s love.” 

Wynne only nodded. What would she had done, in that situation? If the alternative was torture and death, she probably would have done the same thing. 

“Let’s speak no more of this.” The orc shook himself, as if he tried to shrug off the appalling memories. “I hope your elf friend had a good time out.”

“Hm. Hopefully.” With Thranduil there, probably not so much. Then she remembered. “Oh, I was going to ask… can Legolas move to us now? That room is so small and there is plenty of space left in the storage.”

“Of course, if he wants to. Won’t he rest better alone though?”

“He doesn’t like it in there. Can’t you tell his father you need the healer’s room for other purposes?”

“I could.” The orc chuckled knowingly.

It was too early for supper when they reached the hall again and Thranduil and Legolas were still out, so Wynne commenced to move their belongings directly. Goltur promised to explain it to the king when he came back. 

She decided to put Legolas’ bed next to Galion’s, quite close to her own, with just that shelf in between. Thranduil’s mattress she dragged to the opposite part of the room near the door. Pleased with herself, she lay down to rest a little. 

Maybe in a few nights Legolas would be well enough to secretly come to her bed. Thinking of what they might do then, she pressed her body against the pillow and pretended it was him. Her pleasant daydream lasted well until suppertime. 

In the hall she caught sight of Thranduil and Legolas at their usual table, both looking a bit more composed. The king glanced up at her when she joined them and even furnished a thin smile. 

“Did you have a pleasant tour?”

“It was all right.” Then she caught sight of what was on his plate. “How’s the meat stew?”

“Delicious.” 

She heard Bronedir snicker from the next table, and tried to smooth out her own smirk. 

Thranduil raised an eyebrow. “Yes?”

“Nothing.” She occupied herself with the fish soup she had wisely chosen, glad that Legolas also had to stick with fluid foods.

When they had eaten, Thranduil daintily wiped his mouth on a linen napkin. Wherever had he found that? Nobody else had one. 

“Are you both finished?” he asked. “Good. Wynne, help my son walk back to the room. It was you who brought him out, after all.”

She stared at him incomprehensibly. He who had so firmly tried to separate her from Legolas, here he was all but pushing them together. Could it be… had he agreed to allow their relationship? She felt her heart jump at the thought, but would not quite believe it. If that were the case, why did Legolas look like he had swallowed a double dose of stink potion?

Legolas leaned heavily on her as they went, probably tired after climbing the ladder before. 

“It's in here now, you have moved.” 

“Oh, aye, the healer mentioned it.” He lowered his voice. “Your doing?”

She nodded. “You were gone a long time. What did Thranduil say?”

“That I must end things with you.” 

“What?” She stopped dead.

“I shall explain inside.” 

Wynne mutely took him to his new bed, heart pounding in anticipation. He sank back on it and lay down with a heavy sigh, eyes fixed on the ceiling.

“So, he knows about us then.” She seated herself next to him.

“Aye. I cannot lie to him, Wynne, I never could. He reads me like a young sapling. When he asked if I still have feelings for you, I told him I do.”

She nodded sadly. Was it really over then?

“He provided me with that speech again,” Legolas continued. ”Droned on at length about my duties and obligations to our people, and how a prince cannot always follow his own whims. How I am too young to tell the difference between love and desire.” His face was stormy, eyes flashing. “Like he would know, he who has no heart!”

That was unfair, and she could not let it pass. 

”That’s not true, he loves you more than anything. If you could have seen him when you were injured... He was so miserable, absolutely torn to pieces.” Wynne struggled to breathe, her chest suddenly painfully tight. Thranduil’s reaction that time had scared her almost as much as Legolas’ horrible wound.

”I know. I know he does,” he mumbled, blushing. ”It’s just… I just wish he would trust me enough to let me make my own choices.”

“What are we going to do? I don’t want to end anything,” said Wynne glumly. 

”Me neither.”

After a thoughtful silence Legolas sat up, grimacing slightly with the pain. “My father bade me to forward a message.” For some reason his lips had quirked up in a decidedly mischievous manner. So he had a plan then. 

”I can’t wait to hear it.” She tried not to sound too ironic.

He took her hand, harkled theatrically and began. “Dear children, you must remember that a mortal’s years are but a short-lived spark – the blink of an eye – in the long life of an elf.” Again his voice carried that uncanny likeness with Thranduil’s, he even mimicked the king’s haughty, impassive stare. “These countless centuries you would fill with misery and grief. And for what? A mere moment of pleasure, of childish puppy love.”

“Tell me he did not say that!” Wynne’s jaw set. Children? Puppy love ? Really! 

“He did.” Legolas nodded solemnly. “And now I have told you, just like I promised I would. Never said I would act upon it, though.” There was suppressed mirth in his voice.

“And I have listened.” She fought to keep her face straight. “If he asks, you can tell him I considered it carefully, and then replied I would never make you unhappy over puppy love.”

“Good.” He was grinning, but soon the smile waned. “We will not be alone much longer, and when he comes you must look sad.”

“He’s going to be more suspicious than ever. It will be difficult to keep up the act.”

“Aye.” He sighed. “A while yet we must pretend, but I still think I can persuade him in the end. When we meet with Aragorn he will notice for himself that this kind of relationship can work.”

“I’m glad to see you more hopeful.” She kissed the palm of his hand, regretting that there probably would be no more of that other sort of kissing for some time now. 

“Well, despite my father’s scolding and preaching I very much enjoyed going out. It strengthened me a great deal, I think. Elves are not meant to be locked down in small spaces between stone walls. I shall tell you of Moria sometime and you will understand.” 

“What about this room then? Better?”

He looked around and then grinned slyly. “Very much better. Which one is your bed?”


A/N:

Will they really manage to out-smart Thranduil? And is it more than puppy love?

Let me know your thoughts about it!

37. The Ballad of the Ring

The smell of heather was heavenly. Wynne sat comfortably among the violet flowers and busy bees, enjoying a lazy afternoon. Nearby Stelpa snorted, the mare had stripped a young birch of almost all its leaves and was now munching peacefully. It had been so sweet to see her and Legolas meet after the long time apart, today was the first time he had managed the steep climb from the cave to this place. It was obvious the two had grown a strong bond between them. 

Wynne was humming quietly to herself, trying to recall the lyrics of a ballad. Legolas’ mentioning Moria the other day had made her curious about his adventures with the Fellowship. According to the song Moria had been one of the places they had gone to, but she could not quite remember what had happened there.

The first verse she knew well, but it did not explain very much.

”Bravely the Fellowship, departed Rivendell / Grievous were the perils, upon the Nine befell / The Dark Lord to defeat they went, the One Ring to expel.” 

And then there was the refrain, repeated after every verse: “Brave, brave, brave / Brave the Hobbit!”

But what happened in verse two? Something about a mountaintop, and… storm of snow? Were there not birds involved too? And a tentacled lake monster... She wished she had a better memory for these things.That ballad was always part of the repertoire of the wandering musicians and minstrels back home, she should have known it by heart. 

Dull thuds a little way off signalled that the sword exercise had begun. All the elves were participating except for Legolas, and even a few of the more daring uruk-hai. Most of their hosts would not venture outside yet, despite the treaty. What if the human kings refused to accept peace? They could not risk their hiding place to be found until they knew they were safe.

The warriors had paired up elf against uruk. They used wooden sticks instead of real swords but it still looked dangerous, the uruk-hai were so incredibly strong! Of course, the elves had their agility and much superior reflexes, and they really did seem pretty even. But it was clear from the winces when someone was hit that there would be bruises later. 

A splash from the well drew her eye away from the exercise, Legolas was having his first real bath in ages and had just stepped down into the water, crutch and all. 

She discreetly glanced at Thranduil. He was just dodging a powerful sweep attack and sneaked in a fast, hard lick at his partner’s exposed leg. Assured that the king’s attention was elsewhere occupied, Wynne shifted her gaze back to the more intriguing scene by the pool. Legolas had stripped the shirt this time and judging by the cheeky glances he sent her she figured it was for her benefit. Oh he was one beautiful elf! Even with the gruesome, scarring wound disfiguring that perfect torso, he looked ever so handsome. 

Wynne would have loved to join him, and slowly explore that smooth, flat chest, while she turned her face up for one of those extraordinary kisses they had shared before. And then… 

“Enjoying the view?” Sidra chuckled warmly right behind Wynne. She started guiltily and her eyes darted to Thranduil, but thankfully his pointed ears had not caught the woman’s words, he was still locked in intense combat.

She gave her friend a meaningful look and nodded in the king’s direction. Sidra raised her eyebrows in surprise, but said nothing. “I will explain later,” mumbled Wynne, and then in a louder voice: “So, are you still planning on following us to the Dead Marshes?”

“Yes, I’m not letting Nugu go alone to meet with hostile humans, whatever Dad and the king says.” She looked stubborn. 

The healer had insisted that one of his people should be present as an emissary when the treaty was shown to the kings of Gondor and Rohan, to make sure their interest was properly accounted for and to be living proof that there really existed non violent uruk-hai. Since Nugu already knew the others of the company he was an easy choice, but that his wife and children wanted to tag along was frowned upon by both leaders. 

“But isn’t it dangerous for the babies?” Wynne asked, somewhat distractedly. Legolas was rinsing his hair now, and glittering droplets trailed their way over the silky surface of his skin. Torture.

“Not in the company of five elves and an uruk-hai! Besides, my sons will be useful. They captured the hearts of you all, so I’m sure the human kings will adore them too and be easier to convince.”

“Maybe.” She was still a little wary around the orclings, somehow they seemed to always have grubby hands that they touched everything with, not to mention runny noses. And yesterday one had pulled a handful of hair from her head. But she did like the idea of not being the only female in the company. 

“Lovely day!” Legolas limped up to them and sat down next to Sidra, a linen towel casually flung across his shoulders. He kept some distance to Wynne as usual, but had cleverly managed to position himself where she got a good view. That elf was growing way too confident! As if she would be affected by… oh sweet Elbereth… his gorgeous body glittering in the sun, a fall of moist, golden strands spilling over the bare shoulders and those mesmerizing eyes challenging her to not only look, but touch... Even Sidra seemed slightly uncomfortable.

“You should get dressed,” muttered Wynne.

“I will, I will, just need to dry.” He smiled cheekily.

“You could dry somewhere away from my wife,” Nugu suggested archly, but his smile took the edge of his words. The uruk lay outstretched in the heather with two sleeping orclings curled up beside him. When he smiled it was his turn to be an uncanny lookalike with Dvago.

“I met your brother the other day,” said Wynne. She was certainly not looking when Legolas pulled on his shirt and began to redo his braids.  

“Dvago. Yes.” She had anticipated the uruk-hai to scowl, but instead there was sadness in his brown eyes. “He doesn’t want much to do with me anymore.”

“Why?” 

“He blames me for our mother’s death.”

“Unfairly so,” added Sidra. 

“I don’t know,” said Nugu. He was gazing up into the cornflower summer sky. “Maybe he is right. But it’s a long story.”

“I’m not going anywhere.” 

“I’m not a storyteller.”

“No you aren’t. But I can tell it,” offered Sidra. 

The uruk curtly nodded his permission. His wife squared her shoulders and drew a breath, like she needed extra strength to proceed. 

“It was after Helm’s Deep that my husband and a couple of his friends finally had the opportunity to desert from the army. It was chaotic after they lost that battle, I understand. But instead of just leaving, they sneaked back to Isengard for Dad and Nanna. That’s how they met me, on the way there. So I joined them, and we went down into the caves while Saruman had his attention elsewhere.” Sidra was speaking rather fast, eyes distant, and Wynne suspected there really was a lot more to it. One does not simply walk into a wizard’s abode. It must have been both dangerous and frightening. ”Dad and Nanna naturally insisted we take all the young children too, and we did,” she continued. ”But the women, you see, they were a lot further down, and well guarded so not any random orc could get to them and… cross Saruman’s breeding plans. So we had to leave them behind.” Her dark voice faltered, sounding strained as she finished: “Then came the ents and destroyed the dam, and the entire vale was flooded and all the women and the rest of the orcs were drowned.”

Wynne suddenly remembered that Sidra’s mother had been one of Saruman’s captives. In all the recent, stressful events she had managed to forget it, and for that she felt deeply ashamed now. The abducted women had been given a face, Sidra’s face, and somehow that made the knowledge of their suffering a lot harder to bear. Her stomach churned.

“You wanted to save them,” said Nugu softly. “And I stopped you.”

“You were right to. All of us would be dead if we had.” She drew a deep breath. “There was nothing more we could have done, it really wasn’t.”

“Dvago was mad as– heck when he found out a while ago.” Nugu muttered. “Said we could at least have tried to get them, that we were cowards.” His unshaved jaw set. 

“You are absolutely no coward. It took courage to desert the army when you had obeyed those masters your entire life. And then to go back and free your Nanna and Dad...” Sidra bent down and kissed him, a tender, comforting kiss. Her fingers smoothed out the furrows on the uruk’s forehead. “It’s Saruman he’s angry with, really, but he takes it out on you. He doesn’t understand.”

“Yes, he doesn’t understand,” agreed Nugu darkly. “I knew what the guards at the breeding dens were like. One of them was my own sword master, for ... heck’s sake. To stay away from him was bloody basic survival instinct!”

“Nugu! Not the b-word, please! But yes, I agree. You must remember, though, that Dvago is young and naive, and he grew up in freedom.” She turned to Wynne and Legolas. “He was no older than Muzadi when we rescued him.” She indicated her sleeping son.

“Yes, naive. He has no idea what it’s like to be a slave, to be lashed for not obeying. A few strokes and you learn to do what they say. Always. To fear them.” His expression went stony and he turned away, pulling the babies closer. Sidra silently lay down against his back and put an arm around his broad chest, enveloping him with her body. 

Wynne met Legolas grave gaze, wishing they could be that close too. She really needed a hug right now. He edged a few inches in her direction and stretched out his hand for her. Hidden from spying fathers’ eyes by the heather, their fingers intertwined.


A/N:

In case anybody wondered about Wynne's ballad... here is the melody: youtube.com/watch?v=vyvmSgX8s_s (Spamalot part 11 (Brave Sir Robin))

*snicker* Sorry I just love Monty Python! :D

The next chapter will be from Legolas point of view again. He told me he has more to say!

38. Thranduil on a Cricket Diet

With Wynne’s hand still in his, Legolas leaned back in the heather, pulling her with him. They had too keep that annoying distance, of course, but it felt good to have her within an arm’s length at least. He stroked her fingers with his thumb, loving how small her hand was compared to his. 

Relaxed and unusually happy, Legolas tuned into all that was alive around him. He listened to the heather, which he always thought of as tiny trees, heard the whispering murmurs from neighbour to neighbour of the joy of blooming and attracting bees, about seeds to come and the future of the saplings. In patches between the heather, old tufts of grass sighed in languid voices about the relentless draught, their tiredness and how they looked forward to let their wizened strands droop and allow a new generation to take over. A young birch nearby lamented the loss of its leaves, and worried of the cost to grow new ones. Stelpa, his lovely girl, was the culprit he knew. The tree would become stronger from the effort though, and he told it so, trying to comfort it. 

It had been so good to see Stelpa today, to renew their connection and brush out her chestnut coat. She reminded him of Arod, the horse Éomer had given him a long time ago. The stallion’s death still pained him, even though he knew the old fellow had lived a full life. The two horses did not look alike of course, Arod had been white, but they had that same friendly, trusting character and graceful gait.

”Tell me of the Fellowship.” A gray eye peered at Legolas through the purple blossoms that hid the rest of Wynne’s face.

”What about it?”

”Everything. Moria, Mordor, all of it.” 

Legolas realized he had involuntarily stiffened, and willed his thumb to resume its caressing. Everything? He did not even want to remember everything, let alone talk of it. He broke eye contact. 

”That is such a long story, we would be here well into the night! ”He tried to sound aloft and unconcerned. “I shall tell it another time.”

“All right.” She seemed disappointed, but he really could not bring himself to dwell on those memories, not now, not in this beautiful place and his first real day out since the troll fight. He just could not. 

Fortunately she did not press the matter. Instead they remained in companionable silence, basking in the pleasant sun, enjoying the afternoon and each other’s vicinity. Not until Legolas’ ears picked up the sounds of the elves and uruk-hai returning from weapon exercise, he reluctantly let go of Wynne’s hand and eased himself a little further away.

At supper, Legolas shared a table with Nanna, Goltur and Thranduil, that ever-present shadow. He was rather tired after the long climb back, and his side smarted. 

“When will you take out my stitches?” he asked the healer, scratching the scar. That, of course, only made the itch worse.

“I’d say… maybe in four or five days.” The orc was chewing meat stew rather messily. Perhaps it was difficult to uphold good table manners with those pointy tusks of his getting in the way.

Legolas did not look forward to enduring another four days with prickling stitches, but at least he was on the mend for real now. He walked so much better, and to be finally able to have a bath had made wonders for his mood as well. 

He took another bite of the boiled fish, abiding Wynne’s advice to stay clear of the meat. But maybe he would try the crickets too some time, they smelled quite nice. Either way, it was a huge relief to be able to eat solid foods again.

“Stew tasting good?” he asked his father.

“Very.”

“Do you know what’s in it?” asked Wynne innocently from the next table. 

“Of course, I never eat anything I have not identified. I asked Goltur the first day.”

“What?” Wynne gaped at him incredulously. “You knew we were eating bugs and you never told us?” 

Legolas could not hold back a chuckle at the bewildered face she made. She had obviously underestimated his father.

“If you were curious, you could have asked as well.” Thranduil shrugged nonchalantly, face smooth, but Legolas knew his adar. This expression was decidedly smug. 

Wynne glared darkly at the king, grumbling something incoherently. She was so cute when she was annoyed! But he could not look to much at her with Ada seated next to him.

On the way back to their room afterwards, Legolas slyly dropped his crutch in Wynne’s direction. When she picked it up for him, he whispered:

“Want company tonight?”

Her sour face instantly disappeared and she nodded, smiling in that sweet, a bit shy way she had, cheeks coloring. He wanted to kiss her right there and then, but managed to constrain himself. 

That night Legolas waited a long time in the darkness while the others drifted off to sleep one by one. At last he heard his father begin to snore softly – or breathe heavily as Thranduil always claimed he did, refusing to admit to being a snorer. Legolas counted to five hundred before soundlessly slipping out from under his blanket. On hands and knees he rounded the shelf, homing in on his target in the dim light, knowing she could neither see nor hear him.  

He paused to just admire Wynne’s sleepy face. It was relaxed, eyes partially closed and the lovely brown curls spread out over the pillow. From her breathing he could tell that she was awake, and he hoped she was impatient for him to come. The fire in her eyes today when he bathed had been beyond exciting. Somehow he needed her to need him, especially now in his physical weakness. 

Was it true then, what Ada had said? Were these feelings only their bodies’ hunger? 

No. He knew that was only part of it. As much as he desired the union of their bodies, he desired the union of their souls more. That intimacy which comes from long years together. He wanted to learn everything there was to know about her, even the bad sides which she was bound to have – although he had yet to see them. He wanted to be her friend and soulmate, forever at her side.

He knew what this meant.

Feeling his chest burn with emotion, Legolas closed the distance between them and placed a hand on hers to not startle her. She turned her unseeing eyes in his direction, an expectant smile on the soft lips. He would kiss them, soon, but he first reached out and stroked the smooth cheek and amazingly silky baby curls that framed her forehead. He admired the ear’s symmetry, round and even, like a rose petal. 

If there ever had been any doubts of the strength of his regard for her, those were gone tonight. His heart knew the truth with crystal clarity. It frightened him, and not only a little, although of course understanding his emotions did not really change anything. His feelings would have been the same regardless if he had become aware of them or not. And he would live – or die – with the consequences.

Wynne moved to the side, lifting her blanket invitingly and he slid in beside her, reaching out to take her hands. With his mouth close to her ear he whispered, clothing in words the extraordinary feelings that soared through his heart and mind.

“I love you.” 

She released one hand and cupped his cheek. ”I love you too.” The whisper was shaky, but in her eyes he read it was the truth. She felt the same. 

And then he kissed her. 

This kiss was unlike any they had shared before. A slow and tender caress, brimming with love. All the other things Legolas had planned to do could wait until another time. Instead he just held her in his arms, feeling her warm body relax and the breathing become even. 

Well into the night he stayed, holding his sleeping love, savouring the moment and adding it to one of the happiest memories of his life.


A/N:

So they openly declared their true feelings, at last. :) After a boring day of social distancing an arm’s length apart (I’m sure Legolas hates it as much as we do!), they finally got to be close.

But who would have thought Thranduil knew about the cricket and bug diet! He even surprised me haha. I had imagined Wynne would tell him and he be shocked, but the sneaky elf outsmarted us all. :(

39. Finding a Lake to Swim in

“I’m glad they decided to let you come.” Wynne nodded to the woman who rode beside her with an orcling in front.

“I can be stubborn,” Sidra smirked.

“Yes,” agreed Nugu with emphasis.

Wynne chuckled. It was great to be finally on the road again, she had forgotten how good it felt to have the open sky above, the sound of birds and crickets around her and the smell of earth and growing plants in her nostrils. And of course Vatna’s smooth movements underneath. She would feel the loss of Sidra’s bathtub though, and nice meals at a real table, but that was a small price to pay.

Nevertheless, the farewell had been a sad occasion, their kind orcen hosts would be dearly missed. The elves, Nodir and Bronedir in particular, had made real friends with several of the uruk-hai and on both sides there were quite a few discretely wiped off tears when they parted. They had lived many weeks in the uruk’s abode, sharing meals, exercising together, enjoying pleasant evenings of music, games and conversation. 

Wynne had naturally found the last days of their stay the most enjoyable. Legolas had come to her every night since that first one, and during the subsequent times they had done more than just chaste kissing, albeit a lot less than Wynne – and Legolas too, she knew – wanted. It was simply too risky with everybody so close, and the elves’ hearing was uncanny. 

Yesterday, however, Wynne had gone a little further and pulled Legolas shirt up to slide her hand in underneath. The skin of his bare chest had been softer than a foal’s muzzle. Her fantasies had not made the feeling justice at all, not even close. Everything would have been perfect, had not Legolas copied her action, his palm finding its way to her breast. Wynne had involuntary started at that, causing him to hastily retreat with a whispered “sorry”. 

Her cheeks heated up just thinking about it, she was so angry with herself. Somehow his touch had evoked the memory of her kidnapping, and it was stupid because this was nothing like that! She wanted Legolas to feel her breasts, and every other part he wished to explore as well. But she had not been able to explain, not when they must be silent, so she had kissed him again and hoped he was not too put off by her reaction. It did not seem so, he kissed her back with the same fervour as usual. 

Next time, she would lead his hand back to her breast, showing him it was all right while also teaching herself to associate the feeling with him instead of a long-dead orc. She wondered when the next time might be, though. It would be a lot harder to find moments alone now that he would be sharing tent with his father again.

But maybe tonight, when it was his watch...

“Do you think the humans will sign the treaty?” asked Nugu unexpectedly. “You know them right, the Gondor king is your relative?”

“Yes, but only distantly. I never met him.”

“Oh.” He seemed disappointed. “It’s just… I worry.”

“Why so? I’m sure the kings will listen to Thranduil. Elves are highly respected by humans.”

“What if… what if he tells them how the treaty came to be… The way… the way Dad gave him an ultimatum.” Nugu’s gaze was downcast.

“He will not mention that.” Galion rode nearby, carrying the little uruk as usual. The boy happily waved a wooden sword the elf had made him, accidentally hitting Hlaupari’s neck now and then. Wynne frowned at the orcling, who stuck out a tiny pink tongue at her.

“He might,” insisted Nugu.

“Nay, he wants the treaty too,” said Galion. “He likes Goltur.”

“He does?” The uruk looked incredulous. 

“Aye. I know my king well after the tenfold centuries I served him. Trust me, he holds the healer in high regard, and not only for saving his son.” Then he began to chuckle. “Actually… have you forgotten how Thranduil tried to bend your will in a similar way, not long ago? He threatened to kill your children unless you led us to your friends.”

Nugu stared at him, a wide grin slowly forming. “He did , didn’t he. Guess it was only fair, then.” He looked a lot less apprehensive afterwards.

That first day the company went westwards across the hills, toward the Anduin. There they would follow the river down to the Dead Marshes and try to find King Éomer’s men. The weather was overcast but warm and Wynne thoroughly enjoyed the ride. 

At lunchtime they came by a mountain lake and Thranduil decided they would make an early camp there. He claimed the reason was that it seemed a good spot, near water and fresh grass for the horses, but Wynne suspected it really was for Legolas sake. He still used the crutch when walking longer distances and riding was probably painful too.

The orc town had provided them with plenty of travel food and soon Sidra had a meat stew going.

“Is there lembas left?” mumbled Wynne to Legolas.

The afternoon was peaceful. The elves engaged in weapon practice and Legolas did his daily exercises. He still had not fully regained the strength and flexibility in his abdomen and back, which was crucial for successful archery.

“When is your watch tonight?” asked Wynne, who looked on, confident that Thranduil was too busy to notice.

“Second watch,” he panted, holding his stance stoically, the tall body stretched rigid on forearms and toes.

“We are still short on tents,” she mused innocently. “I’m thinking, I should sleep outside on Vatna tonight and let Sidra and Nugu use mine again.”

He looked up, noticing her sly grin and smiled.

“Well… that sounds… good.” A few drops of perspiration trickled down his forehead.

Later Wynne told her friend of the plan.

“Oh Wynne, you are too kind. But what if it rains again?” Sidra peered up into the cloudy sky. “It’s unfortunate Dad had no tents we could borrow.”

“Those looks nothing like rain clouds, don’t worry. I want to sleep outside tonight.” She gave a meaningful glance in Legolas’ direction.

“Oh.” Sidra grinned wide. “I see. Of course!” Then she bent forward, and whispered: “But you really should talk with his father instead of all this secrecy. I know he’s a caring person underneath that icy surface.”

“We will. After Minas Tirith, when he has met King Aragorn and Queen Arwen. He needs to see this can work.”

After supper they stayed seated around the glowing embers of the dying cooking fire. Galion, Nodir and Bronedir entertained with flute music and song, and then Sidra shared old tales from Harad. Those particularly captured the elves’ interest, they had heard almost every story before but Sidra’s were new even to them. There were an abundance of lightly clad princes and princesses in palaces of marble and gold, with jewelled fountains and lovely night gardens where peacocks cried out their forlorn moans and the colorful flowers never withered. In the menageries roamed horses with necks taller than the height of a grown man, warg-sized cats and wingless birds large enough to carry a rider. 

Sidra had a way with words, when she spoke Wynne felt like she had been transferred to those exotic places and seen the amazing sights with her own eyes.

When his wife had finished, Nugu surprised everybody with an extensive collection of riddles. The otherwise so quiet uruk apparently had an amazing memory for them, and several had even the elves puzzled.

“With ten heads and ten tails, forty feet, fourscore nails. What am I?”

“A flock of horses?” suggested Nodir.

“Horses have no nails,” Wynne protested.

“A pouch with ten coins and… six hundred-and-forty spikes. Hm. No, that makes no sense.” Galion screwed up his face in thought.

“A sow with nine piglets.” Thranduil smiled smugly.

“Ai, you heard it before,” accused Legolas.

“I did.”

“Correct,” said Nugu. “Try this one then: ‘I become pregnant without conceiving, fat without eating. When my brood is born, growth follows. Who am I?’”

“The moon?” 

”A fruit?”

”A pouch of coins?”

”You and your coins, Galion.”

”Wrong, wrong and wrong. Shall I say?”

”Aye.”

”Yes!”

”A rain cloud.”

”Makes sense. Brood – the rain. And then growth follows. Good one.”

Later, when everybody had gone to bed, Wynne kept herself awake. She lay in her usual position with her head on Vatna’s rump, knees bent and the feet resting on the mare’s shoulders. She quite enjoyed the prospect of sleeping under the open sky after many weeks in a dark storage. But not until later, first things first.

It was hard to measure time at night, but Wynne knew the elves used the movements of the moon and stars somehow, and that the watches were roughly two hours each. They took turns in a rotating schedule, one sleeping undisturbed and the other four sharing the watches between them. Nugu did not partake, a night guard who refused to use weapons was not much use.

Finally Wynne noticed Bronedir moving away, a silent shadow in the dim summer twilight. When she was certain he had gone to bed, Wynne slid off her horse and tiptoed to where she had spotted the silhouette of Legolas, sitting on a stone by the lake.

Long before she was close, he turned toward her. There was no sneaking up on an elf.

“Hi.” She sat on his lap.

“Good evening, my beloved,” he murmured and put his arms around her.

After some very enjoyable kisses, Wynne rose, pulling him with her.

“Let’s swim!” she whispered.

“I cannot... Some guard I would be then.” There was mirth in his whisper, however, and he let himself be hauled to the lakeshore where he removed boots and hose, but kept the tunic with his dagger belt. Wynne wore the light chemise she normally slept in. 

Hand in hand they strode out into the cool water. When it reached Legolas’ thighs and Wynne’s waist, she leaned back to float. 

“Someday we will do this with no clothes,” she suggested.

He bent over to kiss her. “You are such a teasing little imp,” he breathed against her mouth. She stood up then and hugged him close, not minding his tunic getting soaked, and the kiss deepened. His tongue tentatively touched her lips and she opened them. 

Had an oliphaunt army come upon them right then, they probably would not have noticed.

Wynne broke the kiss and swimmed out further, trying to lure the elf to follow.

“You are still too dry.” 

She did not hear his reply, however. Something hard and lithe had wrapped itself around her leg, quickly pulling her down into the deep, murky waters.


A/N:

Oops! Maybe she should have stayed in the shallow end of the pool... O.o

Anyone else who would not mind watching Legolas doing planks, by the way...?

40. Battling a Lake Monster

Wynne pounded and thrashed, trying to get whatever it was to loosen its grip on her leg, but the more she fought the tighter it clenched until she felt like her calf might snap. 

Ever down they went, where the water was piercing cold and the darkness impenetrable. Chilled to the bone and beginning to panic, Wynne pulled frantically on the thing, but its outside was smooth and slippery, impossible to get a grip on with her numbing fingers.  

The downward movement stopped and Wynne hit a body of sorts, big and firm. Bracing herself against that, she kicked with her free foot at the thing trapping her leg, employing all the force she could muster. Pain surged through her other foot then, the surface underneath apparently had sharp edges (teeth?). There was no helping it, she kicked again and again, but the thing would not budge. 

Her lungs burned, she desperately needed air, and soon!

She tried to drag the stuck leg against the sharpness below, feeling her skin break and hoping it would hurt the thing as well. This seemed to do the trick, it finally loosened a little, enough for Wynne to slip away and with a last kick, push off and surge upwards. 

High above was faint lightness, but so far away, too far. She swam and swam, all the time expecting the thing to catch her again. Her heartbeat pounded and bright flashes sparkled in the edges of her vision. She could not hold her breath much longer. 

Exerting every last ounce of strength, Wynne covered the final yard and broke the surface, gasping for air. 

The sky had cleared and the moon was out. Now for the first time she could see the thing – or things, rather – that had caught her, vague shadows against the moonlight. What was this? 

It was huge, with one central body and many snake-like tentacles which waved in the air and stirred the water, like they were searching, maybe trying to find her again. In the centre was a round mouth, and the sharp parts indeed seemed to be teeth, a clutter of them, silvery and pointed like a basket of knives. 

There was someone else in the lake too, struggling with the creature, fighting it. 

Legolas ! He was injured, he should not wrestle a lake monster! But she had no time to see how he fared, because a tentacle came straight toward her, its many suction cups open and ready to attach themselves. No wonder it had been hard to get off those! 

Wynne threw herself backwards until she hit rock. The shore was steep here and she scrabbled in vain across the slick surface, unable to climb it. 

But there! A darkness beside her, a crack in the stone wall. She followed the cliff until she reached the hollow part and crawled in, kicking at the tentacle which brushed against her foot. She found herself in a tiny cave, partly submerged in water up to her waist. Further inside was a ledge above the surface. She scrambled onto it and turned to face the monster. The tentacle had followed her in, and now another joined it. They were aiming right at her, as if they had eyes of their own. 

The floor underneath Wynne was rough and she felt a loose stone against her palm. She picked it up and hacked fervidly at the groping limbs, but they were so fast and she began to tire. Before she knew it, one had sucked itself to her foot, immediately beginning to pull her out. 

She slid along the uneven ground, casting aside the makeshift weapon and flailing wildly to catch something to hold on to. Her fingers connected with a protruding part of the wall, and by stretching her body she managed to get a weak hold and drag herself closer. She wrapped both arms and her free leg around it, clinging to the crag with all her might, like a cold and stony embrace.

The lithe appendage still tugged mercilessly. Wynne tried to scrape it against the wall, while simultaneously fending off the other one which hovered dangerously close to her head. It made a thrusting attack in her direction, hitting the outcrop in the process. The stone crumbled with a loud rumble that echoed between the cave walls. Then loose rocks and gravel began to pour down, taking Wynne with them. 

Black water engulfed her. The rockfall must be covering the entrance, because now all light was gone. Her foot had been released, thankfully, and Wynne pushed away, bouncing to the surface. Again she mounted the rock shelf in the farthest end of the hole, shivering and huddling, anxiously peering through the darkness. 

Was she trapped in here now?

At least the tentacle seemed to be gone. Perhaps destroyed by falling stones?

But then she felt it again, that sickening, probing abomination searching through the water, finding her hiding place. Apparently the opening was not entirely shut, a hole big enough for one tentacle remained and the creature would not give her any respite. Only, now it did not get as far inside as before. It could not reach her here in the deepest part of the cave.

With her back pressed flat against the wall, Wynne stood, balancing unsteadily on the thin ledge. The air shifted whenever the sweeping organ passed by, and the water clucked and splashed as it writhed around in the confined space. 

Where was Legolas? Had the monster devoured him whole with that huge, toothy mouth? Hot tears burned on Wynne’s cheeks. She was stuck here, forever caught in this black hole and she would surely die just as he likely had. Her situation was entirely hopeless.

In the absolute darkness there was no way to measure time, and thus minutes or hours went by. Wynne trembled badly from a combination of cold and agitation. Her legs were on fire, aching with the effort to keep out of the tentacle’s reach, she dared not stir even slightly. The bruised leg was beginning to hurt too, throbbing dully where she had scraped it on the thing’s teeth. 

Then she felt a change in the air. The tentacle, it had stopped moving! And the water was still as well. Had it gone? 

Another unmeasurable amount of time passed. Wynne strained her hearing, willing herself to breathe calmer and her heartbeat to slow down. It really was quieter now. 

And then! A faint voice, muted by the rock wall: “Wynne!”

Legolas! It was Legolas’ voice, she would have recognized it anywhere. He was alive, outside in the lake and looking for her! This meant the monster must be defeated.

But how would she get out?

Tentatively Wynne slipped down from the ledge, landing on something soft and squishy. Letting out an involuntary yelp of shock, she had nearly climbed back up again when she realized the thing was perfectly still. It was dead.

“Wynne!” The voice was closer now, maybe he had heard her cry out.

“Legolas! I’m here!”

She waded ahead to the rockfall and tried to feel if there was anything left of the opening. It must be, because the tentacle had come inside. 

With a deep breath she crouched below the surface, examining the rugged stone with her fingers. The way out was submerged in water but it was bigger than she had thought, perhaps half a yard in diameter. Unless it got tighter farther out she should be able to get through it. 

She was out of air and ascended. 

“Where? Where are you?” Legolas voice again. 

“Stay there. I’m coming out!” Drawing another few breaths Wynne braced herself, mustering courage to proceed. Then she dove down, swam with steady strokes through the narrow tunnel, using the limp tentacle as a guide out. More rocks tumbled down as she brushed under them, and with a flash of panic she wriggled free, propelling herself like a corc from a bottle. 

With force she bumped into something right outside. It was a body, but not soft or slimy. This was no monster, it was Legolas! Breaking the surface, she threw herself around his neck.

They hugged close and hard, neither of them finding any words. And then the others were there, Thranduil, Galion, Nugu – all of them coming together in a joint embrace. 

“Are you hurt?” Thranduil’s voice sounded uncharacteristically concerned.

“Not too bad. I think I cut my leg.”

“Come, let us get out of here.” 

Legolas took Wynne’s hand and led her ashore, where Sidra met her with another rough hug.

“I’m glad you are all right. When I saw the elves battle that thing I thought you were gone forever.” The woman’s voice was thick with emotion.

Someone lit a lantern and another started a fire. Wynne sat down close to it, hoping to get her body heat up again. 

She gingerly felt the lower leg. There were round, swollen bumps where the monster’s tentacles had attached themselves, but the cut did not seem too deep.

“Allow me.” Thranduil had sat down beside her. He carefully cleaned the wound and smeared Athelas -salve on it. “It has stopped bleeding already, I think we can leave it open to dry,” he said, mostly to Galion who held the healing equipment. 

“Aye. And those swellings should hopefully go down fairly soon. There will probably be bruises, though.” He stroked one of the bumps.

“What about you, are you hurt, Legolas?” Wynne asked anxiously, remembering seeing how he had been fighting the thing one-handedly.

“Nay. I have encountered a creature of that ilk before, outside Moria. I knew of its weak points.”

“Nevertheless, you should have called us out sooner,” scolded his father.

“There was no time. I could not let it take her!”

“How come you were in the lake in the first place?” Thranduil had turned to Wynne, and even in this slight lamplight that intimidating, knowing gaze penetrated her. Her mouth went dry.

“She slipped,” said Legolas, saving her a lame attempt at lying. “On the wet stones.”

“She slipped,” repeated Thranduil. It was clear he did not believe that, but thankfully Galion interrupted before he could ask more.

“Come, we are all cold and soaked through, let us change into dry clothes and get back to sleep.” He helped Wynne rise.

“You go with me,” decided Sidra, and turned to her husband: “Honey, is it alright if you sleep outside the rest of the night?”

“Of course.” 

Wynne was promptly ushered into the tent then, where Sidra dried and undressed her in a no-nonsense way. It was comforting, like she was a little girl again and just had been bathed by Grandmama. 

When she at last lay in her bed, dry and feeling the warmth return, she heard Thranduil’s dry voice from his and Legolas’ tent:

“It's interesting. She slipped so suddenly and you still had time to remove your hose and your boots.”


A/N:

Swimming in lakes always freaks me out, I’m certainly more of a sea person (I even live on an island heh). I’m afraid I will catch leeches or be bitten by an old pike, the water is so dark and who knows what evil hides in the deep? This fear might have influenced this chapter. ;)

41. Legolas tells of the Fellowship

“... and then I took the other eye out, blinding it entirely. By this time Galion had joined me and he dealt the death stroke, piercing it straight through its foul maw.” Legolas made a thrusting motion.

“Good thing you had fought one before,” said Galion. “I would not have known where to find the mouth.”

“In Moria.” Wynne looked thoughtful. 

She was taking the whole thing surprisingly well, Legolas figured. Earlier she had described how she kicked herself free of the monster and hid in a cave until it was dead, and then dived out through a narrow hole. All this from the woman who claimed not to be brave! 

He had expected her to at least have troubled sleep afterwards, bad dreams and such, but no. Perhaps that would come later. 

He , for his part, had not slept well at all. Time and again he had seen her disappear under the surface, and although it had not happened, he kept picture her being swallowed by the monster, mashed to pulp by its many teeth. 

They had left shortly after sunrise, everybody eager to get away from that godforsaken lake. Legolas’ fitful slumber was beginning to take its toll now, however, he felt bleary eyed and tired. As if that was not enough, his waist was sore again after yesterday’s exertions, and riding did not help at all.

“You promised to tell me about Moria and your adventures with the Fellowship,” said Wynne. “Can’t you do it now? I need something else to think about.”

“Oh please do, I’d love to hear it too,” said Sidra.

A tingle ran down Legolas’ spine, like always when that subject was broached. So Wynne would not let him off the hook, then. He had purposely forestalled this, but after her frightening experience yesterday he probably ought to oblige her with the tale. 

It was just that he really did not want to.

In the other’s expectant silence, he pondered how to begin, and then finally decided to adopt a storyteller style, brushing over the events lightly as if they had not much affected the participants.

He harkled, and begun:

”After the Council of Elrond the Fellowship was formed, a brotherhood among the free peoples, with a single task: to undo the One Ring. A somber midwinter night it was, when the Nine Walkers departed Rivendell...”

Had he and Wynne been alone, Legolas might have told more than just the basic facts, such as his apprehension to join the Fellowship without his father’s leave. He had been so nervous when they left Rivendell – about the same time as a messenger brought his letter to Mirkwood. Even now, he dared not look at Thranduil, who was sure to listen with everybody else.

Maybe to Wynne, he would have described the dreadful chill he had felt at Caradhras. Not from the snowstorm, but from Saruman’s ghastly voice, commanding the very winds and clouds, bending them to his will. Not until then had Legolas fully comprehended the immense power of those who were against them on the mission. What dangers they would encounter. He had been so very young and naive!

He might also have described Moria more in detail, that waking nightmare. Pitch-black darkness had surrounded them, too thick to penetrate even for his keen eyes – he had not been used to that, outside he could always see at least a little – and the overwhelming pressure of stone, cutting him off from everything alive. Boromir had been correct to call the mines a tomb. Despite the proximity of the other eight of the fellowship, Legolas had never in his life felt lonelier than in Moria.

And it had become worse. That sickening anticipation he felt after Pippin accidentally awakened something in the abyss, and how he had expected unknown fiends to come crawling through the well at any moment. And then the drums, the drums in the deep. They had been trapped in a tomb with orcs and a cave-troll coming at them and he would never forget the first sight of that troll, its huge, stony body which even Boromir’s brute strength and sharp sword could not damage. 

Legolas had feared trolls ever since, and his most recent encounter had certainly not remedied this. 

He did admit to the audience that the balrog had frightened them, but even to Wynne alone, he doubted he could have brought himself to elaborate on the extent. The demon’s ancient evil had seeped through his being, into his very soul, paralyzing him with boundless terror.

He still had nightmares about the balrog.

And then Gandalf had fallen and Legolas felt his heart shatter. They were the Nine, they were not supposed to lose anybody. But they had, first Gandalf and then Boromir, and the grief had sat heavy on his shoulders in the many days before he encountered Gandalf again. 

He missed that meddling old wizard dearly, even now, after he sailed west with Frodo eight years ago. 

The passing of Gandalf affected part of the audience too.

“What? Noo!” exclaimed Sidra, who apparently had not heard the story before.

“Aye. He sacrificed himself to save us.” 

“He survived,” spoiled Wynne.

The rest was easier to tell, their respite in Lórien, chasing the uruk-hai and reuniting with Gandalf. He spoke at length of his horse Arod and all that befell in Edoras, knowing it would interest Wynne. 

The Battle of Helm’s Deep he would normally have recounted with detail, this part of the story was one that other warriors often asked him about and he had told it frequently. Now, with Nugu listening, he skimmed over it rather quickly, knowing he had been on the losing side. The Battle of the Pelennor Fields, however, interested both the uruk and his wife. Her countrymen had fought there with their oliphaunts, and of course everybody wanted to hear how Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn overcame the Corsairs with an army of ghosts. 

Sidra was thrilled to learn that the one who finally turned the tide of the battle by slaying the Witch-king of Angmar, Lord of the mighty nazgûl, had been Éowyn – a woman.

“I wish I could meet her sometime, she must be awesome!”

“You might,” said Thranduil. “Her husband is overseeing the restoration of the former Dead Marshes together with Éomer and his wife, and we are passing through there soon.”

”Really? Wonderful news!” 

Wynne too seemed excited about the prospect. “Ever since I first heard the Ballad of the Ring, she has been my hero.”

Legolas then came to the end of his story, the Battle of the Black Gate and the destruction of the One Ring. 

Some fighters Legolas had met, claimed they were afraid of nothing. Most of them probably lied, but a few had been truthful. They were gone now. Fearless warriors were careless, and carelessness in combat was deadly. Some apprehension before an encounter was normal and necessary. 

The fear of the Host of the West before this battle had been something else. 

They had been outnumbered tenfold – a suicide mission. Filled with the despair which only comes from knowing this is your last day to live, they had stood their ground.

Legolas told this truthfully, even admitting how scared he himself had been at death’s door. He did not mention, however, that his last thought before the enemy hoard came upon them had been of his father. When he died, Thranduil surely would too, for how could his father survive losing two loved ones? Most elves would not even have prevailed the first time, but the Elvenking had managed it, for the sake of his young son. 

“So what happened? How was it even possible to come out of it alive? You obviously did.” Sidra’s eyes were glued to Legolas.

“Frodo and Sam managed to climb Mount Doom when Sauron’s attention was captured by us, just as Gandalf had predicted. The Ring fell into the molten lava and dissolved.” Legolas again omitted certain parts, such as Frodo’s hesitation and Gollum’s role. “The undoing if the One Ring caused an earth-shattering eruption, which destroyed both Sauron and his stronghold. Rendered without their leader, his forces became confused and scattered. We beat them easily.” 

“Hooray!” cheered Sidra, even clapping her hands.

“The Eagles then went for Frodo and Sam, carrying them to safety,” Legolas continued. “Victorious at last, everybody returned to Minas Tirith. And there was much rejoicing. Thus ends the Tale of the Fellowship of the Ring.” 

After finishing the story, Legolas felt dead tired. The disturbing memories threatened to overpower him. In particular, he lingered over his choice to join the Fellowship and how it had influenced his relation with his father. 

Legolas would never forget his return home afterwards. That cold, formal welcome he had received, not by his father but by the King of the Woodland Realm. Thranduil had been frosty and emotionless like only he could. 

They had never talked of the quest again, not once.

He had lost his father's trust, this was the consequence of his thoughtless action. And that had been especially evident recently, although it concerned matters of the heart instead of his seeking adventure. 

And was Ada not right to distrust him? Even now, was he not deceiving him, lying straight to his face?

Suddenly Legolas felt deeply ashamed. This was not right. He could not wait until Minas Tirith, he must speak with his adar directly. 

He motioned Stelpa to move up to Thranduil’s stallion.

“Can I speak with you privately?”

“Of course.”

They rode ahead, leaving the others out of hearing’s range.

“Ada… I love her,” he blurted out, too weary to wrap it up. “You must not keep us apart.”

“Go on.” The king’s face betrayed no emotion.

“Well, I know this is not what you had wanted… you worry about our people, and her mortality, but I think it will work out. A child… a child can be a reason to live on, after one loses one's wife… is this not so?” He looked his father boldly in the eye. 

Thranduil’s calm mask wavered, the gaze becoming soft.

“Aye. It is so.”

“As for our people, I think they will accept her. She is a Lady, she is not entirely unused to court life. And she mentioned she is Dúnedain of heritage, and that her mother came from Minas Tirith. She is no commoner.” 

Thranduil was silent for a while, looking thoughtful. Then came his reply: 

”I hear what you say. And I will think about it, I can promise you as much. It is correct, that Wynne is a Lady, but she has grown up in the country. She is a woman of the lands. Out here, she has been in her true element, with the horses, the nature. What will she be like in a palace’s halls? Among other ladies of the court? What will she occupy herself with, when she cannot be wild and free, like now? Neither of us know this, even she can have no idea.”

Legolas nodded, he had not thought that far.

“We shall soon be in Minas Tirith, in King Elessar’s Citadel. This will be an introduction for her, a debut into finer society. I shall observe how she fares. She is adaptive, maybe she will manage it charmingly. Or maybe it will be a disaster? Time shall tell.” Again his countenance softened and he touched Legolas’ shoulder. ”Regarding love, you are well aware of my sentiments on that matter. You have known her for – how many weeks? Even in your short life it is hardly any time at all. Love does not just magically come, whatever you young people believe. Love is something you build, work to establish. It is a joint creation.”

Legolas did not reply to this, hoping to avoid another quarrel now that his father finally seemed to at least consider the idea.

“Son, I need you to be patient. If your feelings really are true and deep, they will endure delaying a little further. You must cease courting her now.” He emphasized the last part and his penetrating gaze was stern. Legolas looked down on his hands, feeling like a naughty elfling caught in the act. His father was a master in the art of inducing that kind of emotion.

“You are a loyal son, Legolas. Even… Even that quest with the Fellowship, it was an act of loyalty – to the good cause, to Elrond’s wisdom. I do not think I ever told you this, but I am proud of your achievements then. Even though… I could not really see it at the time.”

Their eyes met, and a flood of warmth surged through Legolas. His father was not one to apologize for past actions, and he knew this was Thranduil’s way of saying sorry. Bending over the gap between their horses they hugged, a short, half hug, both trying to hide their emotion and regain composure.


A/N:

It's not easy for poor Legolas to balance his feelings for Wynne with his loyalty to his father. 

42. The Falls of Rauros

Wynne’s vision was cut to a minimum by her hood, which she had pulled up as far as possible. Incessant rain poured down for the third day in a row and on top of that, it was cold and windy, despite it now being past Mid-Year. Mid-Year’s Day had been yesterday, a supposedly festive occasion, but in this weather nobody had felt like throwing parties. Instead it had passed rather unnoticed, with the only remarkable event being their reaching the Gates of Argonath.   

She had been looking forward to see the famous Pillars for the first time, but even this had been a slight disappointment. The low-hanging clouds covered Isildur’s and Anárion’s heads, giving the kings of old a decapitated look. The monument was impressive anyway, of course, and it was hard to fathom that humans were once able to build something so enormous. The statues’ bases were carved out of the very rock itself, and in a seamless transition they grew up to reach at least fifty yards above the top of the mountain. 

When Wynne peered through the fog over her shoulder, she could still see their contours, as if the kings were following her on the journey. It was not the Argonath she had turned after, however, it was a certain golden-haired elf. Legolas gave her a slight smile in return and then looked away.

What was he up to? It had been several days since the misfortune in the lake, and it almost seemed like he was avoiding her. But why? Was he angry because she insisted on his telling about the Fellowship? But surely he was not one to hold a grudge like that.

She had almost instantly regretted asking him, noticing how uncomfortable it made him. It had really been a bad time and place for that sort of personal talk, with everybody else listening. In consequence, she was fairly certain Legolas had omitted a great deal of the story, probably the parts that were the cause of his unease. 

This was another reason to have a heart-to-heart, so she could ask him to elaborate. Somehow she had a notion he needed that.

Wynne remembered well how she herself had felt, after each time she encountered danger. The sleeplessness that had followed, fear overcoming her at night. How her heart would pound every time she was reminded of the incident. Talking with Legolas afterwards had helped every time. 

Who had Legolas talked with, after his frightening experiences? Nobody, she suspected.

She hoped to get an opportunity to speak with him soon, and until then she just had to be patient. It was not easy in this bleak weather, though! Heavy rain whipped her face, hurting her eyes, and beside her Sidra’s youngest wailed pitifully. A tiring, enervating moan that had gone on for hours at end. 

Wynne understood why her friend had brought the child, but right now she badly regretted the necessity. Unfortunately she would need to have at least one such herself. She looked forward to making it, but not having to endure its noise. 

In the afternoon, an increasing, rumbling sound told them they neared the Falls of Rauros, another famous sight. The rain was finally subsiding, and Thranduil informed them they would make camp above the falls. Hopefully Wynne would get the chance to see at least one of the attractions of the Anduin clearly.

The river widened considerably here, with a barren island in its middle, but since their last unfortunate lake experience nobody wanted to make camp close by it. Instead they found a good spot on a rounded hilltop with a view both over the lake and the spectacular falls. It had stopped raining entirely now, but above the waterfall was a perpetual mist, reflecting the afternoon light in rainbow colors.

The Falls were huge. The sheer drop was a hundred yards or more, and the water cascaded down it with intimidating force. The rumbling escalated to a deafening roar as they came close.

Below, the Anduin continued its route to Minas Tirith, which lay somewhere beyond the southern horizon. The river grew increasingly wide along the way, fed by a delta of many smaller tributaries from Rohan in the west. A vast area stretched out to the east, where the part closest to the river must be the Marsh of Nindalf and further east the Dead Marshes – but they looked nothing like wetlands anymore. 

Wynne almost gaped, awestruck at the unfolding sight. 

All across the plains, straight channels had been dug in a checkered pattern, leading away the excess water and creating acre upon acre of dry, fertile fields and neat orchards. The area was busy; everywhere she looked, ant-sized people, horses and carts scurried about on unknown errands. As if this was not enough, an enormous wooden structure had been built beside the Falls, and in it, Wynne saw a large boat being elevated by means of an intricate web of ropes and pulleys. 

“This certainly has changed since me and Nugu last passed through here!” Sidra had to bellow to be heard over the sound of the cascading water.

“Do you know why they are lifting the boat?” Wynne asked Thranduil.

He bent forward to speak close to hear ear. “King Elessar wishes to establish a shipping trade route to Rohan and the Elvish realms. I assume this is how he plans to travel against the current.”

She looked back, now the boat was almost up. The lifting contraption ended by the lake, close to their vantage point.

“Go and talk to them,” Thranduil ordered Galion. “Ask if King Éomer is down there, and prepare them for our arrival tomorrow. Mention there will be an uruk-hai coming, and that he is not to be touched.” 

The guard nodded curtly and had his gelding canter down to the shore.

Wynne looked back at the farmlands, still hardly believing all this possible. She had thought the Argonath statues were an impressive example of the ingenuity of man, but this achievement almost surpassed those. Only to think, all of this had been built, irrigated and planted in just a few years! Her king had certainly kept his subjects busy.

Watching the miniature people down there, Wynne again thought of ants. It was a good simile. She loved watching the antill behind the stables back home, the busy workers carrying their heavy burdens, effortlessly balancing pine needles several times longer than themselves. Sometimes she would drop a breadcrumb or a dead bug nearby, just to see them pick it up and quickly hide it away inside their mysterious tunnels.

Galion came back.

“They are testing the lift, they said this was the first time they carried a loaded ship up here, and it held. Fascinating! They are hoisting it back down now.”

“What about the Rohan king, is he there?” asked Thranduil impatiently.

“Nay, but I bid them send word to him immediately that we have arrived. His foreman in charge will meet with us tomorrow.”

“Unfortunate, but expected I guess. Not every regent can afford to stay absent from his court for such a prolonged time.” Thranduil looked smug. 

Wynne wondered who handled the Woodland realm in his absence. Come to think of it, it was rather strange Thranduil had not let Legolas rule in his stead, since he was the crown prince. Or he could have sent his son alone on the quest, with another guard perhaps, while he stayed behind. Did he not trust Legolas?

After they raised the tents, everybody helped make a fire and prepare supper. Since it was the first clear evening for several days, they had a real, cooked meal. Nodir and Bronedir went fishing and brought back a pike and a basketful of striped perch. Wynne dug up cattail roots and some young shoots, while Sidra baked flat cakes with the last of the meal they had brought from the orc town. There was no need to save their rations any longer, tomorrow they would be back in civilized parts with homesteads and hostels along the way.

It became quite a feast, one of the nicer suppers they had had the entire journey. Even the orclings were happy, especially when Thranduil obliged them with some knee-riding before bedtime.

“He really likes children,” Wynne observed to Legolas.

“They are rare among elves,” replied he. “Those who marry have two elflings, maybe three at the most, and it can take centuries between their births. When I grew up there were none other than me in the Realm.”

He turned away to speak with Nugu then, leaving Wynne with unspoken questions. Why did they have so few children, and, more importantly, how ? Did they just stop doing… it? 

But surely… to be wed for perhaps thousands of years, and never… 

No, that could not be the case! Or…? 

Wynne was rather sure she would like to do such things more than two or three times. 

“Who wants fire water?” she asked to get something else to think about. It was Mid-Year after all. Everybody happily accepted except for Nugu who claimed he already had been forced to drink strong spirits to last for a lifetime. 

“Finally I get to try the sugar beet wine!” Galion poured a generous amount into his cup.

“Careful,” said Thranduil, giving him a stern look. The warrior blushed all the way to the tip of his ears.

At Wynne’s questioning look, Legolas grinned impishly.

“Why Galion, I believe our Wynne has not heard of your… misfortune that time!”

Galion became even redder and mumbled something inarticulate that sounded vaguely like “not necessary”.

Legolas, of course, could not resist telling all about it. Apparently, some years back, the Elvenking had taken a company of dwarves prisoner. Galion, who was then Thranduil’s butler, had gone down to the wine cellar together with another elf and got himself so drunk he fell asleep. The dwarves used this to sneak out and escape in the empty wine barrels, and later caused great havoc by releasing the dragon Smaug. This in turn lead to the Battle of the Five Armies. Afterwards, Galion had been sacked and assigned the lowest possible position in the Woodland Guard.

“So now you see, Wynne, why we try to keep him away from anything stronger than fruit juice,” said Bronedir.

“We want these peaceful times to last,” agreed Nodir.

“Aye, could not risk another war.” Legolas nodded solemnly.

“I was a terrible butler anyway.” Galion smiled good-naturedly, having overcome most of the embarrassment. “And you have to admit I did well in the Guard. Working my way up to captain, and everything.”

“I have still not forgiven you,” said Thranduil, his face void of emotion except for the tiniest quirk of the lips.

Wynne could not resist. “You have .” She playfully elbowed him in the ribs, feeling bold from the half cup of fire water she had sipped during the elves’ recounting. 

The quirk turned into a real, warm smile then. “I have.”

“You old softie you.”

Softie ?” His smile vanished.

“But you are. You’re not fooling me.”

Thranduil then did something Wynne almost thought she had imagined when she later recalled it. He laid an arm around her shoulders and hugged her close.

“You are a sweet girl.”


A/N:

He is a softie. *heart eyes* 

So, we are nearing civilization. How will Wynne manage that?

43. Galion Knows About Wine

The inside of the tent was too moist for comfort. Wynne slept badly, and woke before sunrise. She pulled on some clothes and crawled out, trying to not wake her tentmates. 

The past few days she had shared her tent with Sidra and the kids, while Nugu had been invited to share with Thranduil and Legolas, much to everybody’s surprise. The Elvenking sleeping next to an orc! But there was a first time for everything, Wynne figured. 

The air outside was humid too, with white swirls of mist covering the fields below. 

Wynne spotted a silent figure ahead, tall as a young tree, lithe and strong, standing beside the Falls like an Argonath. He was regarding the flowing water with a faraway look on his beautiful face. 

“Wynne,” he acknowledged. As usual, Legolas knew who it was without turning around. 

“Legolas… is something wrong?”

“This is where we sent him. Down the waterfall.” 

“Boromir?” Wynne remembered from his tale that the Gondor warrior had died near the Anduin.

“Aye.”

“Do you miss him?”

“Aye. Despite... “ He did not finish the sentence.

“Want to talk about it?”

He shook his head. Wynne did not press him, that kind of conversation was better suited somewhere more private. Here, the others could wake up at any time.

“Are you avoiding me?” she asked instead.

“Maybe. A little.” He finally tore his eyes from the waterfall and met her gaze, smiling slightly. “Father knows. Again. There is no hiding things from him.”

Wynne sighed. “What shall we do?”

“We wait a little more… until Minas Tirith.”

“I don’t want to wait.” She took a step closer and nestled an arm around him. 

“I know.” He looked down at her upturned face, still with that forlorn expression etched on his features. Wynne knew his thoughts remained with his lost friend, and the Fellowship. She stroked his cheek, her heart aching with sympathy.

His eyebrows drew together. “Do not pity me.”

“I’m sad when you are sad.” She smoothed his crested forehead with her fingertip.

He bent down and kissed her then, a feather-light touch on her lips. “Others are waking. I hear them.” He kissed her cheek, and the other. “You must go. Please.”

Wynne nodded and turned away, chest burning, the feeling of his lips lingering like scorch marks on her skin. Never mind Thranduil, she would get him alone for a heart-to-heart as soon as possible. 

When they broke camp later that morning, everybody was unusually clean and neat, in their finer tunics and well-brushed hair. For the first time in weeks they would meet other people. 

They rode eastward along the ridge to find a less steep way down. According to the men Galion had spoken to yesterday, there would be a road somewhere ahead. Soon they found it, a dirt path ambling down in wide serpentines over a series of terraces. When they came near, they realized the terraces were man-made and cultivated with rows of green, climbing plants.

“This is a vineyard!” exclaimed Thranduil with some surprise, examining the trellises and growing tendrils where small, golden grapes hung in thin clusters. “By the look of it, none too impressive.”

“The vines are young yet, I am sure they will improve in years to come.” Galion plucked an unripe grape, crushed it in his hand and smelled it expertly. “Thaun Môr – hard to grow, but will make a lovely red if prepared well.”

“Trust Galion to know about wine,” snickered Bronedir.

Further down the road, they met the first human, an old man with a donkey cart full of grapevine plants. He stopped dead when they passed by, eyes bulging. 

“Good day.” Thranduil gave a slight nod.

“G-g-good day sir!” The man bowed so deep he dropped his straw hat, his wrinkled face beet red. Wynne could feel him stare after them a long time afterwards.

“Well, that went alright I guess,” said Sidra. “At least he didn’t point a pitchfork at my husband.”

“He was probably too struck by the elves’ beauty to even notice.” Wynne winked at Legolas, who smiled briefly in return, before regaining his somber face. He was obviously still sad, brooding over dark memories.

“That is likely,” Thranduil agreed. “Our kind often appear intimidating to mortals.”

“And conceited,” murmured Sidra in Wynne’s ear.

“I heard that.”

The closer they came to the former Marshes, the more people they met; groups of workers, more carts and even the odd horseback rider. It was clear most of them had been forewarned about the company, but still they ogled them rudely, with raised eyebrows, mouths open, whispering their astonishment to each other. 

No wonder, too. Here came five impressingly tall and handsome elvish warriors – on Meara horses, no less – their finely sculpted chins held high, and long hair flowing. As if this was not enough to cause wonder, they were followed by a dark-skinned Haradrim woman, a huge uruk-hai and two half orc children. Wynne was the only remotely normal person of their group.

The vineyards ended below the hill, superseded by vast orchards. Lemon, orange and apple trees grew in neat rows, still young, yet promising a bountiful harvest when autumn came.

“When I get my own home, I’m having lemon trees,” decided Wynne and breathed in the lovely, fresh scent of the white blossoms and tiny, unripe fruits. “Every guest will be served homemade lemonade.” 

“We shall visit you often, then,” said Sidra warmly. “I love lemonade.”

Wynne stifled a sigh. Would she ever have a home of her own, though? Where would she even live? If Thranduil finally accepted her as his son’s bride, customs bid she would move to his palace. There would probably be no orchards there, and no heather meadows either. 

A group of riders came cantering up to them, giving Wynne other things to think about. The horses were of a sturdy, common breed, but she still recognized them as Rohirric. A dark brown gelding detached from the others and made halt before Thranduil. The rider looked somewhat official. He was thin, his hands on the reins slender, almost lady-like. The man’s clothes were of good quality, but worn; a black leather vest, rough breeches and knee-high boots, and over his shoulders a folded hood with its tip trailing almost down to the horse’s rump.

“Greetings, King Thranduil. Prince Legolas.” The man bowed to the royals, obviously recognizing them from description, and then to Wynne and Sidra. “My Ladies.”

“Greetings.” Thranduil nodded curtly. “Master…?” 

“How impolite of me, my apologies! I am Lyndon, foreman of the Green Valley, as we call these lands nowadays.”

“Ah, King Éomer’s man. Well met, master Lyndon.”

“We have already sent word to the king of your arrival, as per your wish – however, I was instructed earlier that if you came by here, I was to send you onwards to Osgiliath and Prince Faramir’s city residence.”

“Will the king meet us there?”

“He did not see fit to inform me of his plans, but I am sure the prince will know. Oh! This reminds me… I bring word from another of the prince’s guests. A message to you, Prince Legolas.”

Legolas had been regarding the nearby fruit trees dispassionately, and started at the mention of his name. “To me?” 

“Yes, sire, from the Lord of the Glittering Caves.”

“Gimli!” His face brightened considerably.

“The Lord Gimli says, wait…” Lyndon fumbled in a leather bag attached to his belt, and pulled out a piece of parchment. He harkled and began: “Tell the laddie to hurry and get his pretty–” He paused, blushing furiously. “Eh, I think you better read the rest for yourself.” The man practically tossed the message to Legolas like it was burning his fingers. 

Legolas read silently, his grin growing wider.

“Well, are you not going to let us hear it?” Thranduil tried to peek over his son’s shoulder, but Legolas quickly folded the letter and stowed it away under his tunic.

“He just says to come and meet him in Osgiliath, and he wants to show a bridge and a gate he built. And that he misses me.” Legolas smile waned. “Seeing as you would not allow him to visit me back home, it has been a while.”

“You know I have bad experience with dwarves in my realm.” The king frowned. 

“Do you wish to know a little of what we accomplished here?” asked the foreman, smoothly breaking the tense atmosphere.

“It would be my pleasure.” Thranduil smiled politely. Soon Lyndon was giving them detailed descriptions about the fields, crops, previous harvests and all the work they had done.

The road became wider and ever more busy the closer to the Anduin they got. There were several big wooden wheels by the river, spinning rapidly with water flowing through them.

“These are our mills and saws. Water powers them, see? And you already saw the Lift of Rauros, as we call this.” He pointed at the huge tower where the boat had been elevated yesterday.

“This is impressive work,” admitted Thranduil.

“Thank you, sire.” Lyndon beamed like it was he alone who achieved it all. “Now, here starts the Osgiliath Road, which is all new too. You will find that it follows the Anduin for the greater part, and there are several good hostels along the way. It should take you four days or so on horseback.”

They thanked the foreman and bid him farewell. Soon they were on their way, making good speed, the fresh gravel of the road crunching under the horses’ hooves. 

Legolas still gazed distractedly at the surroundings, but now a thin smile played on his lips, warming Wynne’s heart. This Gimli was clearly a good friend, and meeting him was probably just what Legolas needed after his bleak mood the past days.


A/N:

Soon our favorite dwarf will enter the story!

44. Reaching Osgiliath

Travelling along a well-kept, large road proved a lot faster than riding in the Brown Lands or the rough terrain of the Emyn Muil. Normally they could cover ten or eleven leagues at the most, but here they would make closer to sixteen or seventeen a day, which Wynne easily measured by counting the big, square leaguestones along the way. 

The scenery was varied and interesting. To the east she mainly saw farmlands at first, but soon they encountered expansive animal pastures with cows, sheep and even horses grazing in large herds. No Mearas, of course, those would hardly have consented to stay behind fences.

To the west, the Anduin became so wide they could not see the other shore. According to the map, however, the land of Anórien was situated there, a northern region of Gondor nowadays. 

They stayed in roadside inns during the three nights spent on the Osgiliath Road. Since no innkeeper was likely to accomodate an uruk-hai under his roof, Nugu wore his hood up to cover his face and carried the kids tucked in under his cloak every time they checked in at these establishments. But he almost did not need the disguise – with the elves around, all eyes were continuously drawn to them. Still, just in case, Thranduil made sure nobody was allowed to enter Nugu’s and Sidra’s room, even servants. 

With time, hopefully the peace treaty would be signed, and maybe it would ensure that orcs could move freely in the world of men. But it would probably take a long time before the prejudices against that race were entirely gone – if ever.

Wynne slept luxuriously well in the hostels, in her own room, no less! It was a blessing to finally have a real bed, nice meals, even a hot bath for a few extra coins that Thranduil generously provided. Meanwhiles, the horses were fed strong, nourishing fodder and groomed by able stablehands. 

The last inn they visited was located near Cair Andros, a wood-clad island in the middle of the river, which Legolas told them had played a part in the War of the Ring. Here an army of orcs had hindered the Rohan riders who came to aid Gondor. But the clever Rohirrim, led by the mighty King Théoden, had taken an old, secret path through the mountains and thus made it in time to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

When they neared Osgiliath, the traffic in the road grew, and the bypasser’s stares really began to grate on everybody’s nerves. They increased their pace even more, eager to finally be among people who knew who they were and why they had come.

There were more buildings here, and Wynne watched them with curiosity. She saw farmsteads, two-storey houses, finer villas with pretty gardens, workshops and stalls where peddlars tried to sell their goods. Wynne was used to the open plains of northeastern Rohan, and the closest to a city she had been in before, was the local marketplace. 

Word of their arrival must have preceded them. Before they had reached the outer wall of Osgiliath, a group of city guards came to escort them the rest of the way. The men were elegantly dressed in tabards with a pattern of white stars evenly scattered over the blue fabric, and in their scabbards hung long, straight swords.

A tall, black-haired man with a neat beard, bowed eloquently to the Elvenking. “Welcome to Osgiliath, Your Majesty. I am Beregond, Captain of the White Company. Prince Faramir awaits your arrival, and has prepared rooms for you in his residence.”

Legolas, who had been riding last in line, slid off his horse and came forward, a hand across his heart in greeting. 

“Beregond! It is very good to see you.”

“Prince Legolas!” He bowed again, a wide recognizing smile on his lips. 

“You look well, Captain. Tell me, how are your wife and sons?”

“All good, all good. Bergil is serving down south, in the prince’s country estate in Emyn Arnen, but Borlas still lives home with us. He’s talking of becoming a guard like his brother and I, but we’ll see. His mother thinks he should take up trade. But here I babble away, let us get going. There will be a grand feast waiting for you when we arrive!” 

With the guards walking on foot, the last part of the journey took over an hour, but Wynne did not really mind; the sights, smells and sounds of the city fascinated her. Vatna’s hooves clattered loudly on the paved street, the echo amplifying between the walls. Most of the buildings were constructed in stone, save a few wooden ones painted in light colors. The houses were high enough to shadow the streets in an almost eerie way, forcing Wynne to crane her neck to see the roofs with their multitude of pointed turrets and pinnacles. Everything was clean and fresh, it looked brand new. 

Wynne realized then, it really was brand new. Osgiliath had been wiped to the ground by Sauron’s forces not eleven years ago. It seemed near impossible that all this had been rebuilt so soon!

She marvelled at all the people too, there were so many of them, more than she had met in her life before – gathered here, in one place. It was a bit intimidating and made her feel small and insignificant. It did not help that they too, like the people on the road, only had eyes for the elves. 

The crowd consisted of humans for the most part, but farther into the city they encountered more and more dwarves. 

Wynne had imagined dwarves to be very short, like children, but this proved not to be the case. These looked to be her own height, some even taller. And with their broad shoulders, strong hands, big feet and rough features they appeared larger still. Every one of them had a beard, and not just any whiskers either, their facial hair was impressive. Long and wide, intricately braided and richly decorated with jewels. Their clothes were a sight as well, made of expensive materials and trimmed with fur and gems. Some dwarves were obviously warriors or guards, carrying armour and big axes, but most toiled in various workshops along the street.

“The Lord Gimli’s people have been exceedingly helpful to rebuild our city,” said the Captain, noticing Wynne’s curious looks. “Those you see in this street are blacksmiths and tool craftsmen, but in other parts of the city there are carpenters, masons, painters, furniture builders, tailors and even toymakers.”

Thranduil snorted rather rudely at that, and his icy glares told clearly of his contempt for the race in question. This feeling was obviously reciprocated, judging by the dwarves’ badly hidden hostility as they watched the elves ride by.

Prince Faramir’s residence turned out to be a white, elaborately crafted mansion with pointed windows, pillared arcades and a semicircular set of stairs leading up to double oak gates. It was located in the central part of the city, surrounded by an open plaza with a fountain. A statue stood on a dais in the clear water, carved to the likeness of two handsome men. One was straddling a prancing warhorse, a sword in one hand and a horn in the other. Beneath him, the other grasped his leg in a comradely gesture and held a rod of office in his free hand.

“Boromir.” Legolas gazed up at the rider, his face melancholy again. 

“Indeed.” Captain Beregond had followed him. “The prince’s beloved brother, and beside him, his father.”

“I cannot see why he would elevate Denethor thus.” Legolas frowned at the other sculpture. Then he turned to the captain with a smile. “Thanks to you, he survived that man’s madness. It should be you up there.”

The captain laughed and shook his head. “No, Your Highness, the steward was a good ruler until he lost his mind, he deserves his son’s love and remembrance. And I did only what any loyal guard would.”

Before Legolas could answer, a roar made them turn back to the mansion. Down the stairs came a dwarf running, two steps at a time despite his short stature. Legolas, for his part, jumped off Stelpa and covered the ground between them in easy strides. They met just below the stairs in an embrace that had Legolas’ feet lift off the ground, and he seemed dangerously close to getting his ribcage cracked.

“Laddie!” The dwarf put the elf down and held him at an arm’s length, observing his fair face. “Ah, ‘tis good to see ye! Still a strapping fella, ain’t ye. Nae aged one bit.” 

Legolas for his part, seemed so engrossed with emotion he was unable to speak. He just stood there, smiling, eyes blank, while he listened to the warm, rumbling voice of his friend.

“I missed ye, ma lad. Been far too long.” Gimli kissed Legolas soundly on both cheeks and ruffled his hair, disarraying the neat braids. “Glad ye came ere I left, I’ll be going back to ma home in a few weeks. Ye remember the Glittering Caves, ‘m sure, I knew ye liked ‘em too.” The dwarf then turned to Thranduil, who still wore the scornful sneer he had kept the entire way through the city. “So, this must be yer pa, then. Aye, I can see where ye get yer good looks from.” 

“Master Gimli.” The king indicated his head so slightly it was barely noticeable.

The dwarf’s hearty countenance instantly turned frosty and his chest swelled in indignation. “Ah, but to ye, ‘tis Lord Gimli,” he huffed.

Their interaction roused Legolas.

“Father, Gimli, please. Both of you. None of this.”

The dwarf and the elf looked like they each fought an internal battle, until finally Thranduil yielded.

“My Lord Gimli, it is a pleasure to meet my son’s friend.” Somehow he even managed a thin smile.

“The pleasure’s all mine, sire.” The dwarf bowed. Stiffly, but properly.

The double doors of the mansion opened again, this time to let out a middle-aged man and a gorgeous woman of thirty or so. The woman's golden curls cascaded down to her shapely bottom, and on her arm a little boy shyly hid his face in the ample bosom.

“Welcome! Do come in,” invited the woman in a melodious voice. Even her smile was lovely, the lips full and pink. Wynne could almost feel her face turn green with jealousy. 

“Prince Faramir. Lady Éowyn.” Legolas bowed.

Wynne’s jaw dropped. So this stunning apparition was her childhood hero! Slayer of the Witch-King, Shieldmaiden of Rohan. She certainly did not look anything like Wynne had imagined. 

“She is beautiful !” There was awe in Sidra’s whisper. ”And such a sweet child. Do you think he and Muzadi can be friends?” 

”Yes…” Nugu’s brown eyes were fixed on Lady Éowyn too, his mouth slightly open. 

”Stop that,” his wife snapped, giving him an annoyed shove. He started guiltily, his hood falling back. 

The captain gasped, eyes widening in recognition. In less than a second his sword was drawn, tip pointing straight at the uruk’s throat.

”How dare you bring an orc here!” Beregond’s voice was contorted with anger. 


A/N:

I think there is a word for women who are both beautiful, kind and badass fighters, such as Éowyn. ;) I bet Tolkien didn't know that, though.

45. Legolas Meets an Old Friend

“Drop it.” Thranduil’s voice was commanding, but the guard held his position, unwavering. Nugu said nothing. His arms hung loose and his eyes were closed as if he expected the killing blow to be dealt at any moment.

“You would die before your sword fell.” Legolas had notched an arrow, and then Nodir and Bronedir did as well. 

Captain Beregond glanced over his shoulder, saw the three slender metal tips aimed directly at him and hesitated, but then finally lowered his weapon. “I would not believe this of you, Your Highness.” His glare at Legolas was filled with hurt and resentment.

Sidra’s youngest took this opportunity to start wailing, possibly feeling his mother’s tension. The orclings had been riding with her and Galion as usual, they looked enough like humans to make it unnecessary to hide them when people would only see them at a distance. Now everybody’s attention was turned in that direction, and Sidra protectively pressed her son to her chest.

“A baby…” Éowyn moved as to walk down the steps, but her husband caught her arm.

“Careful!”

“Don’t.” She shrugged him off and continued to the Haradrim, where she reached out a tentative hand toward the child. “May I?”

Sidra nodded curtly.

The blond woman turned the small face up. “Hello, little one,” she cooed. “Let me see you, then.”

The wailing stopped. The baby had caught sight of Éowyn’s son who still rested on her hip. The other peered back with curiosity.

“Mama, he’s gray.”

“Shush, Elboron, don’t be rude.”

“Yes he is.” Sidra smiled at the boy. “His daddy is a half orc, that’s why.” She boldly met Éowyn’s gaze, head held high. 

“That half orc?” asked she, nodding in Nugu’s direction.

“My husband, yes. Nugu, why won’t you introduce yourself? Properly, if you will.”

Nugu looked less than pleased with the suggestion, but obeyed. Wynne had always marvelled at the power his wife held over him. She certainly was not stronger, but maybe it was an age thing? She was the older of the two.

“I am Nugu, son of Staurz, but I’d rather forget his name. Originally from Isengard, now the Free Orc Town in Emyn Muil.” He bowed stiffly.

“I feel some explanations are due here. Free Orc Town?” Faramir frowned. Beside his beautiful wife the man was easy to forget, but now Wynne turned to observe him. He seemed kind, and somehow reminded her of her father – but wearing finer clothes. As for colors, he had the typical Gondorian complexion with brown hair and silver gray eyes.

“All shall be explained, but this is hardly the place,” said Thranduil. “I take full responsibility for the uruk-hai. You have nothing to fear from him.”

“Then you had better come in,” said Faramir. 

“Are you really inviting an orc under your roof, Your Highness?” Beregond still seemed upset, and Wynne noticed he had not sheathed his sword.

“Yes I am, Captain.” He turned to the others. “Sorry about this… intermezzo. I want you to feel welcome under my roof. Allow my grooms to care for your horses, while you are shown to your rooms. I’m sure you will want to refresh yourself before supper.”

As they went inside, Legolas peered at his dwarven friend. “Have you grown taller?” 

“What? Nay...” Gimli’s face became beet red under the ginger beard. “I’ll leave ye to find yer room, see ye later then.” He made as to go, but the elf blocked his path and bent to curiously examine the other’s stout, iron capped boots. 

“Why are the soles so thick?”

“Umm, well, er…” The dwarf tried to hide his feet. “‘Tis the latest fashion from our Shoemaker’s Guild,” he murmured. 

“It has become fashionable for dwarves to walk on… stilts?” Legolas’ grin turned into a chuckle.

“Naething funny ’bout it,” scowled Gimli. “Quite the rage in the city. Everybody who’s anybody wears ‘em. And I gotta try the merchandise, ye ken. As a leader one must encourage–” But his voice was drowned in Legolas’ laughter.

“Gotta go,” the dwarf growled and stomped off.

“You mean stilt walk,” Legolas called after his retreating back.

“I thought they were taller than I had heard,” said Wynne, smiling too. It was so good to hear Legolas laugh, even if it was at the expense of his friend.

Actually, high soled boots was not so bad an idea. She would not have minded adding some extra inches to her own height. Maybe she should have a word with that shoemaker...

The guest rooms were located in one of the wings of the mansion, and there seemed to be a ridiculous amount of them. They walked through long, carpeted corridors with rows of doors on either side. How many visitors did they usually have, this prince and his lady? 

Wynne paid careful attention when her friends were assigned rooms. There was one elf she particularly wished to speak privately with, and she stifled a giggle at the thought of knocking on Thranduil’s door by mistake. Somehow she figured he would not find that funny at all!

Her own room was airy and luxurious, with a window overlooking a neat, walled in park. The bed was amazingly soft and bouncy. 

A dark haired girl of sixteen or seventeen came in with Wynne’s pack, and curtsied. “I’m Sadoreth, M’Lady, your personal maid during your stay. Anything you need? Maybe a bath before the evening meal? And I shall unpack the bag for you.”

“Oh. No, I’m all good, thank you.” Wynne dismissed the girl as politely as possible. A personal maid, why ever would she need a such? Well, except maybe for pouring a bath, but she already had one yesterday at the inn. 

She unpacked the bag herself instead, and was for the first time glad of the two dresses Mother had insisted she take. Until now they had only been extra weight on the pack horses. They were rather too revealing for Wynne’s taste, but of course that had been part of Mother’s plan. Show skin, catch an elf. 

How silly all that seemed now! Cringing in embarrassment, Wynne recalled her pathetic attempts at flirting with Thranduil. No wonder he thought she could not discern between love and desire, after witnessing that display! 

While Wynne put one of the dresses on, it struck her that in a way, her mother’s plan would be fulfilled if she married Legolas. She had designated him to be Wynne’s second choice, because he was a prince. 

She shuddered. Thranduil could never know that, and actually it was best if Legolas was kept oblivious as well, even though she did not like to keep secrets from him. 

Thank Varda, she had not tried any seduction schemes with Legolas. That, at least, would not taint their relationship. When she began to have feelings for him she had long since abandoned Mother’s plan, and her actions toward him had never been anything but honest. 

There was a full-figure mirror in the room and Wynne went to stand in front of it. What a mess her hair was! Wearing the fine dress, it became even more obvious she was not very ladylike. Her hands were rough, a few nails broken, the face much too tanned and she had more freckles than ever after a summer outdoors. Why did Éowyn have to be so lovely? 

It was time to go, and trying to smooth out her scowl and straighten her back, Wynne left for supper.

When she arrived, she stopped to admire the beautiful dining room. It had many large, arched windows overlooking the same park as did her guest room, and in the middle a set of double doors were partly opened to let in the mild evening air, taking with it the sweet scent of honeysuckle. The long table was covered with a white cloth and silver cutlery. Two chandeliers in the ceiling and several sconces on the walls spread a warm light, and on the inner walls hung tapestries which Wynne would like to look closer at later. One seemed to picture a battle scene, maybe even from the War of the Ring? Now that Legolas had told her of those famous battles, she was for the first time interested to learn more about them. 

The host and hostess stood with their little boy to welcome the guests. There were a few unfamiliar faces, but mostly it was only their own company, for which Wynne was grateful. She did not like big crowds.

“You must be the Lady of Örn,” said Éowyn when they curtseyed to each other, she very elegantly and Wynne less so. “I have heard much good about your House. My uncle would always speak warmly of your amazing horse breed, and now that I have seen them for myself I can well understand why!”

Wynne instantly regretted her petty jealousy before, this woman seemed like a nice person. 

“Thank you, My Lady, and I heard so much about you too,” she blurted out, for now it struck her she was in fact standing in front of the Shieldmaiden herself, and she was quite at loss what to say.

Luckily, Sidra came in just then, and unaware of such things as etiquette she took the lady’s hand and shook it heartily.

“I heard of what you did in the War and everything. Legolas told us just the other day, and it’s frankly amazing! I’m so impressed. Are you still a warrior? Or maybe your son takes up too much of your time.” She tried to tousle the boy’s hair where he stood beside his mother, but Elboron quickly evaded her and hid behind Éowyn’s beautiful, white dress. 

The lady laughed, but looked rather pleased too. “Sadly there is not much time for sparring these days, and now that we have peace, there really is no need for it either. But I train to become a healer.” She grinned. “I never was one for sitting quietly indoors with my embroidery.”

“Nothing wrong with a lady’s undertaking needlework.” Thranduil had joined the hall, last of them all – probably to make a grand entrance, Wynne suspected. If that were the case, he certainly succeeded; all heads turned his way. He wore a stunning robe, woven of pure silver (how was that even possible?) with a matching mithril circlet resting lightly atop his silky hair. On his elegant fingers were several large rings.

Had all that finery been stowed away in his bags this entire time? No wonder the elves had needed so many pack horses, and only had room for three tents!

Despite her slight annoyance at this, Wynne was awestruck at the sight of Thranduil in his role as king. He had never looked more majestic in all the time she had known him, and like earlier in their acquaintance, he frightened her. This was not the same elf who would snore at night in their shared storage bedroom and say she was a sweet girl, or whom she could playfully buff in the chest and call Thranny. 

This was the Elvenking. This elf could send prisoners to their death with just a nod.

“King Thranduil.” Éowyn also appeared intimidated, and her curtsy was deeper than before. “I am honored to invite you to our table.”

“As am I, Your Majesty.” Prince Faramir bowed.

“The honour is mine. Your house is beautiful.” The king looked about him admiringly.

“We have Lord Gimli to thank for that, his amazing workers readied it in just over two years!” 

“Indeed? That is rather impressing.” 

Faramir and Thranduil commenced to discuss architecture and dwarven craftsmanship then, while Wynne turned to find Legolas, hoping he would be his normal self. She did not think she could handle it if he was as grandiose as his father. 

She spotted him standing by his friend Gimli, looking happier than he had in days. He wore a pale robe, less impressive than Thranduil’s but still fine, and he too had a circlet on his head. It looked a bit uncomfortable, and probably was too; Wynne noticed him scratch under it one or two times.

He was less grandiose, yes, but this still was another side of Legolas than Wynne had seen before. He looked like a prince. 

Why must he be a prince? 

She fervently wished they were back on the road, him in his hunter’s green and worn hose, she in her comfortable tunic. She was not a dress person. If they wed, would she have to wear them all the time? Would he be princely all the time? 

She knew the answer to both questions. Yes, and yes. This was what married life with Legolas was like: Éowyn’s and Faramir’s life. Dining in a fine hall, wearing uncomfortable outfits, entertaining a multitude of guests and having servants around to continually ask if one needed anything.

The room began to simmer and Wynne hurried toward the double doors, escaping out in the park with burning eyes.

She could not do this.


A/N:

Is Wynne having second thoughts? One does not simply marry a prince without accepting the consequences… or? 

46. Wynne Meets a Lady Dwarf

Wynne stopped just outside the doors, fighting to compose herself and hold back her tears. She had come out onto a wide patio, with the honeysuckle she smelled before tied to a pergola over her head; a chaotic disarray of pale, odd-shaped flowers, green leaves, and twining tendrils trying to escape in all directions. She appreciated how unlike it was the well kempt flower beds and pruned bushes in the rest of the park. It was refreshing with a plant which would not follow rules. Rebelliously it refused to stay where it was supposed to be, and it would only emit its sweet fragrance at night. 

Wynne wished she would not have to follow rules either. Never had the secluded cottage life with Legolas in her daydream felt more alluring.

A blond dwarf came out to join her, and Wynne nodded politely, hoping her eyes were not red. He nodded back, the golden curls of his long beard flowing over his chest. His moustache was plaited into two braids, and threaded with polished amber beads.

“Ye dinnae like crowds either?” asked the dwarf in a distinctly female voice. Wynne started in surprise.  “What?” The dwarf sounded annoyed.

“Sorry! Eh no, I don’t like crowds much, Master…?” 

Miss , and ma name’s Cheery. Ye are?”

“I’m Wynne.”

Wynne tried not to stare rudely at the lady dwarf, despite her curiosity. Was there really no difference at all between male and female dwarves?

Gimli came out, breathing in deeply. “Ah, lovely smell. And ye are lovely as well, ma lassies!” He kissed both of their hands, and seemed not to mind the lady dwarf’s rolling her eyes.

“Always the flirt, are ye. Nae more of that with her or I shall be busy washing ma beard tonight.”

“How could a dwarf have eyes for another, when yer beauty radiates brighter than mithril?” he replied smoothly. “Besides, the human lass is already spoken for.” He winked knowingly at Wynne.

“That ne’er stopped ye before,” muttered Cheery.

“Come, let’s nae quarrel.” He held out his arm to her. “I was sent to tell ye supper’s ready.” 

Wynne followed the dwarf couple back inside, feeling a little less upset. Legolas must have told his friend about her almost directly, and that warmed her heart. In addition, the fresh night air and unkempt honeysuckle had helped to calm her, and she now began to think more rationally. Legolas loved her, he would not stand silently by, watching her being unhappy. They could maybe have a summer house or something, surely even royalty must be allowed to relax from time to time?

She was seated between Thranduil and Faramir at supper, and still feeling slightly intimidated by the former, Wynne commenced to talk with their host instead. She tried to bring up the subject of Nugu and the free orc’s, but that he politely put an end to.

“Let us save the politics for after supper, and then he ought to tell his own story. Let me hear of you instead, My Lady. Tell me of your home and your horses.”

This, of course, was a subject Wynne did not at all mind engrossing herself in. Faramir was a very good listener, he was attentive and seemed genuinely interested. However, after the second course, his butler came to ask him something about the wine and he had to excuse himself. 

Thranduil quickly took the opportunity to engage Wynne in conversation.

“Are you well? You went outside in such a hurry before.” There was concern in his clear eyes, and Wynne finally saw him again under his king pose. 

“I’m just not really fond of all this finery… dresses, servants, luxurious suppers. Riches...” She reached out to touch the large blue stone of the ring he wore on his index finger. “That looks heavy.”

“It is not heavy.” He captured her hand to stop her fidgeting. “You look very nice in a dress. You are a lady, you cannot keep wearing men’s clothes forever.”

“I guess not.” She sighed. 

“You do not wish for this kind of life, then?” His gaze was imploring, like he tried to read her mind. Her mouth went dry. Had he figured out what she had been worried about before? Now he probably thought of what an unsuitable wife she would make for his son.

“I… I could probably get used to it.”

“And be unhappy.” He pressed her hand. “Make no hasty decisions, Wynne. Think it through, thoroughly.” She did not have to ask him what he was talking about, and when she glanced in Legolas’ direction she noticed his eyes on them. He looked serious. Probably he had been listening to every word they said, and heard what a mess she made of it all.

After supper, when the servants efficiently had cleared the table and melted away into the shadows, Faramir finally declared himself ready to hear about the free orcs. 

Nugu rose, looking extremely uncomfortable, and told a shorter version of how he and his friends had deserted from the army and found shelter in the hills of Emyn Muil, where they later had encountered the Elvenking and his companions. 

Thranduil supplied his part, describing how the orc healer had saved his son, and that they had become friends, enough so for him to wish for peace between their races. Wynne was surprised he mentioned nothing at all about their animosity in the beginning, and from Nugu’s wide eyes it was clear he was too. 

The king then summarized the contents of the peace treaty, and finished with his promise to the orc leader that he would try to make the other races of Middle-earth sign it as well.

“I believe this treaty to be beneficial to all of us. The orcs are skilled in many crafts, and wishes to establish trade with us.” 

“We intend to grow,” added Nugu earnestly, looking less nervous now. “If we had peace and freedom to move outside our hidden town, we could try and locate other tribes. Maybe find orcs who never even knew Sauron, who were born free!” He seemed excited about the prospect.

Faramir had listened intently. When Nugu silenced he rose too.

“Why did you desert?” His sharp eyes were fixed on the uruk-hai, it was clear he was not satisfied with the other’s abbreviated explanation before. 

“It’s a long story,” mumbled he, assuming his familiar scowl. But to his credit, he told it anyway this time, all of it, even the repulsive truth about Saruman’s uruk-hai breeding and some heartbreaking parts of his own upbringing. When he was done, the room was so silent one could have heard an elf’s footsteps. 

Then Gimli stood up brusquely, his chair turning over and rattling to the floor. “Melkor’s arse! I wish I’d peeled the hide of that bangled bawbag of a wizard! To do such things to lassies… to bairns...“ His deep set eyes were brimming when he bowed deeply to the surprised uruk-hai. “The Lord of the Glittering Caves shall sign yer treaty.”

“I’m certain King Elessar will sign as well,” said Faramir, his face white. He looked about to throw up.

After hearing the uruk’s tale, the ambience around the table had become somber, and nobody seemed inclined to stay up long and talk. The host bid his guests a good night, and invited them to stay in his house for as long as they wished. 

”Tomorrow we shall be merry and celebrate your successful quest in the Brown Lands, but let us now retreat for some well earned rest.”

Back in her room, Wynne had no intention to go to sleep, and as quickly as possible she dismissed the unnecessary maid. She could very well undress and combe herself, thank you. 

With relief, she pulled off her uncomfortable dress, glad to be able to draw deep breaths again. Dresses really were instruments of torture. Would she ever get used to them?  She found a flimsy night robe in her wardrobe to pull over her chemise, before leaving her room on tiptoes. There was an elf nearby, who needed to be cheered up.


A/N:

Next chapter will be all Wynne and Legolas. :)

By the way... I named the female dwarf Cheery, after another female dwarf, who is a guard/cop in Terry Pratchett's amazing Discworld series. 

47. Legolas Gets Therapy

Stealthily Wynne hurried through the corridor, until she found the right door. She knocked once and hoped that Thranduil, whose room was nearby, would not hear too. There was a slight shuffle, and then Legolas opened. He was clad in a night robe as well, his was darker and of a more masculine cut.

He looked tired.

“Can I come in?” Without waiting for an answer, she dived under his arm, which still held the door handle, and went to sit on his bed. His room was almost a copy of hers, sharing the same view over the park.

“You should not,” he murmured, but instead of turning her out, he closed the door and sat beside her, drawing his knees up to rest his chin on them. The posture made him look younger than ever. It was clear he was unhappy.

Wynne moved close and snuck an arm around his waist. “I made a fool of myself tonight, didn’t I?” she muttered. “Running out like that… in front of everyone.” With everyone , she meant Thranduil.

“I understand why, I heard what you said to Ada.” He sighed. “I do not want that life for you, with dresses and finery you never asked for.” He stared at his bare toes, peeking out from under the robe.  “Valar! I don’t even want that for myself,” he exclaimed bitterly. ”These past months on the road, and before that, during my time with the Fellowship… that kind of life is me. I’m not cut up to be a leader, to give orders and manage a kingdom...” He wiped his eyes. “And I hate living in a cave. My father’s palace is underground, did you know that? When I was little, I’d sneak out all the time to roam the forest. And Ada would have his guards bring me back, and I’d be locked up in my rooms for days.” The words came tumbling out, quite unlike his normal refined way of speaking. ”I knew I’d be caught and punished, but as soon as I was released, I sneaked out again.” He sniffed. Wynne hugged him and leaned her head against his trembling shoulder. “My father had to give in, eventually, and allow me to go out when I needed to. He’d send Galion along to babysit me, usually.” He laughed mirthlessly. “Poor Galion. But I never liked stone. I never liked cities.”

“I agree, they should put some trees in them. And flowers. I can have a word with Prince Faramir, it would be just what Osgiliath wants.” 

“Trees and flowers growing in a city, whoever heard of such a notion?” He smiled weakly, fighting to regain his composure. 

“I think it’s a great idea.” Wynne pulled on his shoulder until he yielded and laid back on the bed. She stretched out beside him. “I would love to roam a forest with you.” She grinned naughtily. “Without Galion, preferably. I can think of many things to discover, just the two of us.”

His eyes were still blank from crying when he returned her gaze. “I would love that too.” Then he pulled her in to a hard kiss. She felt his longing, his need for her, and her body burned with the same emotions. The kiss grew intense and hungry. Their bare legs touched and intertwined, skin against skin. When lying down, their height difference was no hinder, and Wynne pressed herself tight against him, feeling his response through the thin fabric of their underpants. The sensation was unlike anything she experienced before. Her body was on fire, and she wished there were no clothes at all between them. 

As she had in the orc cave, Wynne slid her hand in under his shirt. Her fingers travelled across his silky chest, exploring the unfamiliar landscape. Legolas hesitated to follow her example, and she remembered her stupid reaction before. Taking his hand, she guided him there.

“Touch me.”

He obeyed, again moving his hand upwards. This time Wynne was prepared, and this time she did not flinch when he cupped her breast. Instead, his touch increased her need for him, and when his thumb softly rubbed her nipple she almost stopped breathing. All she could think of was how good it felt, and how her body responded.

“You are so beautiful. I am so happy I met you.” His voice was husky. “However bad I feel, just being near you makes it better.”

Wynne then remembered why she had come, and much as she loved doing this, it was not her reason for coming to his room tonight. She regretted ruining the moment, but knew she had to. Kissing and touching would not take away his sadness. It might make him forget for a little while, but soon it would return. That was not good enough. 

She reluctantly pulled back, trying to calm herself and breathe slower. Legolas retreated as well, his palm leaving a chilly emptiness on her breast. 

“Tell me about your quest with the Fellowship,” she said, when finally her heartbeat had slowed down to a more normal pace.

“Again?” 

“You didn’t tell everything last time.”

“Nay, I did not.” He leaned back, gazing up at the ceiling. 

“I want to hear it.” 

“I… do not like to talk of it.”

“Do you remember when you had freed me from the orcs, and then you came into my tent?” 

“Aye.”

“And I told you about what had happened.” A little at least, she had not told everything. Perhaps she would, sometime, but not now. 

”I remember.”

“Afterwards, I felt so much better. Like the bad memories got sort of less bad, when someone else knew about them. I think… If you would talk about your bad memories, maybe they would hurt less.” When he did not reply, she pulled his face toward her. His eyes were stormy, full of pain. “I know you’re hurting.” She kissed his cheek, and then his lips. “And I know you don’t want me to pity you, but truly, it won’t matter, because I love you.”

She could see the emotions flicker across Legolas’ fair features as he pondered this. Then he sighed in resignation. 

“If you wish it, I will tell you everything,” he mumbled, leaning in to bury his face in her neck. She wrapped her arms around him.

His voice was low and unsteady when he began, starting with his decision to join the Fellowship without telling his father. He and Thranduil had always been different, and he felt like his father had never really understood him. So, just like when he was an elfling, he had run away. This time, though, he did not go on a harmless walk in the forest, climbing trees and practicing with his bow. This journey was dangerous, and had changed him irrevocably. 

”Ada’s heart would have broken, had I not come back. He already lost so many loved ones… his parents… his wife.”

”What happened to your mother?” 

”I killed her… when she gave birth to me. Aye, I know it was not my fault,” he added before she could protest. 

Wynne’s heart ached for Thranduil. No wonder he found it hard to let go of his son. He had nobody else left. 

As Legolas’ story unfolded, Wynne could not hold back her tears. She had never really thought about how the members of the Fellowship must have felt during their adventures. Her own experiences this summer had been dangerous and frightening many times, but that was nothing in comparison. Legolas had been through countless terrifying situations, and seen so much death and pain close up. 

Then he described what it had felt like to kill. Not orcs, for at that time Legolas had thought them little more than animals, but humans, such as the Corsairs and the Haradrim. He had heard their shrill cries in pain when his weapons cut them up and spilled their blood, felt their fear, and watched the light fade in their eyes as they died. He had so many lives on his conscience.

Wynne felt almost physically ill. The loving and kind elf beside her, whose tears were wetting her chemise, was also a killer. It did not fit into the picture; as if that puzzle piece belonged to someone else. But killing was what warriors did

“I see their faces sometimes at night, like they have come back to judge me,” he whispered, self-loathing tinting his voice. “And I hear them. ’Was it really necessary to shoot me?’ they ask. And I think of what I have done. Children orphaned, women made widows, all because of me. Most of the enemies probably just obeyed orders, they had no choice.” He silenced, drawing a ragged breath.

“You had no choice either,” replied Wynne, knowing it to be true. “It had to be done, or we would all have been doomed.” 

”Aye. I know...” He sighed. ”I know.” 

When Legolas had finished, it was late. They lay close together in the now dark room, he still hiding his face in the nape of her neck, and Wynne softly combing through his hair with her fingers. First now, she could begin to fathom the enormous sacrifice they had made to save Middle-earth; the Fellowship, the soldiers, everybody involved. 

She wondered if the others she had met also suffered. Did Gimli, Faramir and Éowyn lay awake at night, reliving the horrors, seeing ghosts from the past?

“Do you think less of me?” It was barely more than a whisper.

“Of course not.”

“But I’m weak.”

“Weak? You?” She huffed. “You forget all the times I’ve seen you battle orcs and lake monsters and trolls and…”

“The troll fight went well, aye,” he said bitterly.

“You never once hesitated to attack, and you didn’t run even when it hurt you.”

”But I feared it.”

”It’s not weakness to be afraid! Don’t you think Aragorn and Gimli were scared during your quest?”

“They probably were,” he admitted after a moment’s silence. 

“I think it’s brave to be afraid, and still go out and do what you have to do.”

“Oh Wynne, I love you so much.” His voice was distorted. “Thank you for comforting me.” 

“When you’re sad, I’m sad, remember?” She hugged him close, like she could shield him from all the bad memories. 

Her fingers resumed they caress of his hair, and after a while she felt his body relax and his breathing become even.

“You were right, it does feel better,” he murmured drowsily. “Please, stay with me.”

“I will never leave you,” she breathed into his hair. 

But of course she had to, this was not out in the wilderness, there would be servants talking if they found a lady in the prince’s bed. She waited until she heard he was asleep, and then silently untangled herself from his warm body.

When she left the room, Wynne nearly bumped into someone, a stout figure coming out of the opposite door.

“Gimli!” she whispered, surprised. His own room was in another corridor.

The dwarf started, looking guilty. Then he saw where she had come from and his expression changed into a knowing grin.

“I dinnae ken ye were that close already,” he snickered. “I thought elves were all proper about… these things.”

“We have done nothing wrong,” she retorted, feeling slightly annoyed by his insinuation. “As I am sure you haven't either.”

“Me? Ehm.” He coughed. “I’d better be off. Getting a wee late! G’night, lassie!” The dwarf hastened away, his embroidered night robe flowing behind him.


A/N:

I'm no fan of wars, which you probably figured out by now...

I hope I didn’t ruin Gimli for you dwarf fans by the way… ;)

48. Preparing for a Party

“I knew they would be friends! Look how cute Elboron is, lending his little wood horse to Muzadi. Nugu!” Sidra elbowed her husband, whose eyes again had drifted to the brown-haired boy’s mother. “Would you quit that!” she hissed.

“Um what?” The uruk’s face turned a darker shade of gray.

“They are all doing it,” murmured Wynne, observing the company on the patio, where chairs had been set out for the guests to enjoy the midday sun. Nodir and Bronedir were seated on either side of the Shieldmaiden, engaging her in conversation, and a bit further away even Thranduil threw glances in her direction. 

Well not all , actually. Galion was more interested in playing with the children, and Legolas did his stomach-strengthening exercises on the lawn. He looked unusually contented today, and if he gazed at anyone, Wynne smugly noticed it was mostly her .

Gimli came out to join them, his girlfriend in tow.

“Ach, lovely morning!” 

“Try noon,” remarked Thranduil dryly. 

Éowyn abandoned the elven brothers and moved her chair to Wynne’s and Sidra’s. 

“Your sons are adorable, Madam,” she said with a smile. Dimples? She even had dimples ! When Eru dealt out graces to his creations he must somehow have slipped and given an extra share to this woman.

The Haradrim beamed at the praise. “Please, call me Sidra. And your boy is lovely as well. Is he going to be a big brother soon?” She indicated Éowyn’s waist, which, now that Sidra pointed it out, actually seemed slightly swollen.

“Yes!” Éowyn laughed happily. “This autumn. You must advice me, how to best break it to Elboron. Your boys seem to get along so well!” The two women commenced to speak about siblings and childbirths then, and Wynne’s attention drifted back to the blond elf who just finished his last sit up. He wiped his face on a towel and came to sit cross legged by her feet, ignoring his father’s frown.

“What a fine day! And tonight a feast too. Will there be dancing?” he asked Éowyn.

“We could have dancing if you like,” the woman dimpled. “My husband has engaged a group of musicians for tonight, I’m sure they can play anything we ask of them.”

“Donnae serve strong drinks to the laddie, mind ye.” snickered Gimli, pulling a chair to sit next to Sidra. “Has Master Elf told ye of our drinking contest?” 

“Not much,” said Wynne, smirking. She knew he had not been honest that time!

“Let’s talk about something else,” Legolas suggested, blushing. “My Lady, I must praise you on this park. The honeysuckle is amazing, and those cute linden saplings over there too.”

“Thank you. Faramir and I have actually been meaning to talk to you and your father about trees.”

“Oh? I love talking about trees.” His face lit up, despite Gimli’s rumbling laughter and sly comment about elves and their trees .

“The forests around our estate in Emyn Arnen are a sad sight after all the wars,” explained Éowyn. “We have been meaning to employ some of your wood-elves to restore the entire Ithilien if we can. Faramir can probably give you the details about payment and such, when he’s back from today’s meetings downtown.”

“I am sure my father would freely supply saplings and workers, for such a noble cause.” He seeked out Thranduil’s gaze.

“Of course, My Lady, it would be my pleasure to help.” The king drew his chair nearer. The three of them then got into an engaged conversation about Éowyn’s visions for her country, with the two elves supplying ideas about suitable tree species, and how to provide the human inhabitants with firewood and building materials without disturbing the forests. Wynne listened, not without interest, she loved the idea of a country where humans lived in harmony with nature. Perhaps with horses grazing under the trees?

As evening approached, Wynne became a bit nervous about the impending party. If there would be dancing and everything, should she not at least try to look a little finer than a peasant girl? She decided to accept Sadoreth’s offer of a bath, and then had to stand by, while an army of servants bustled in with buckets and towels. 

“Do you need help bathing, M’Lady?” asked the girl, when the tub finally was filled. 

“No thank you.” Wynne shuddered. Did fine folk even have servants washing their naked bodies for them? Had they really no sense of privacy at all?

When finally alone, Wynne sank down in the tub. She leaned back with closed eyes, enjoying the warmth. 

Was Legolas having a bath as well right now? It was very likely, he probably bathed every day if he could. What would he do if she sneaked into his room, and joined him? She grinned at the thought. Would he be shocked? Or happy? 

If they were married, he would certainly be happy. She could picture him stretching out his arms for her, pulling her down in the water to sit on his lap. The feelings from yesterday returned at the thought, everything they had done in his bed had felt so great. Tentatively, Wynne moved her hand to touch her nipple, like he had, but it did not feel the same to do it herself. Her fingers travelled downward instead, to where she had felt him. She imagined her hand and fingers were his body. That actually did feel a little like when she had pressed herself against Legolas, even better, because there were no clothes in the way. Why had she never thought of trying this before? Of course, she normally never bathed alone, back home she would be in the laundry room with Mother or Grandmama nearby. But in bed at night? 

Well, she certainly could begin now. Might not be a bad idea to practice a little beforehand, she figured.

When the bathwater had gone quite cold, Wynne got up to dress, feeling unusually relaxed. She chose her other dress this time. It was a rusty red color, with a ridiculously low cut that had her breasts almost fall out. Maybe Legolas would like it though? He certainly seemed to enjoy them. 

Her hair was obstinate as usual. She combed through it as well as she could, but without the elvish hair oil, it surrounded her head like a brown, fluffy sheep. If only… She got an idea.

Again on her tiptoes, she walked down the corridor and knocked at the now familiar door, secretly hoping its inhabitant would open wearing very little.

“Wynne! You cannot keep coming here…” Legolas hustled her inside, quickly shutting the door. He did indeed not wear much, only his shift, with the night robe hastily thrown over it. He smelled lovely, his long hair still moist and unbraided. 

“I love your dress.” His eyes were glued to her cleavage.

“Can you do my hair?”

“I really should not…” But he was already moving to her side. With a pleased grin, Wynne sat on his bed while he commenced to plait her like he had twice before. It felt like ages ago, however. That time Wynne had still been shy even to look at him. Now she kissed him after he had finished, caressing his bare back under his shirt, while he fondled the visible parts of her cleavage.

Then Legolas broke the kiss and with Wynne as a happy onlooker, he dressed himself in almost black hose and a tunic with embroidered green leaves.

“My name,” he said, indicating a leaf. “Legolas means green leaves in our language.”

Then he sat beside her to plait his own hair, and to her surprise Wynne noticed it was a different pattern than his usual. He made three fishtail braids on each side of his head, just like he had done on her. 

“My father will explode when he sees this,” he said, smiling rather nervously.

“Because you made the same braids on you?”

“Aye. It means we are courting.” He hesitated. “Father distinctly forbade me to court you until we come to Minas Tirith, so he can observe how you fare in finer society. His words.” He gave her a featherlight kiss on her cheek. “But I shall not obey. Not this time.” He repeated the action on her other cheek, sending chills down her spine. “I am an adult. He has no power over me.”

“I don’t want to stand between you.”

“You will not. He likes you.”

But Wynne was not so sure, and she felt a twinge of misapprehension. She did believe Thranduil cared for her, he was not one to feign such emotions. But she was also certain he would not hesitate to take any measures to protect his son. If he thought she was bad for Legolas, he would find a way to get rid of her. 

“Should we really?” Wynne anxiously fingered her braids, quite forgetting it was she who had asked for them. 

Legolas took her hand and kissed her palm. 

“Aye. I am tired of the pretense.” He fetched the circlet he had worn yesterday and placed it on his head. “I hate this thing,” he grumbled. Then he held out his arm to Wynne. “Shall we?”

With her stomach full of butterflies, Wynne obeyed, placing a small hand on his arm. They left his room together, walking side by side toward the dining room.

Then a voice full of surprise and displeasure came from behind them.

“Legolas! And… Wynne!”


A/N:

Uh-oh... Who do you think it is?

49. The Elvenking Is Not Happy

“Father,” Legolas acknowledged, straightening his back. 

Thranduil looked more regal than ever, wearing a spectacular gray tunic inlaid with tiny diamonds, creating a dazzling brilliance together with his mithril crown. 

“What on Arda do you think you are doing?” His sharp, piercing eyes impaled them like they were his twin swords. 

“Courting.” Legolas voice was steady, but Wynne felt his tension.

His father did not reply. He did not have to, that silent fury was more frightening than any words he could say.

“Ada… Please...” Legolas swallowed, all feigned calmness gone. “I-uh figured, if you want to observe her, you could as well do it while we are courting.” His forehead creased in defiance. “It is not like courtship is irrevocable.”

“I thought we had an agreement.” Thranduil’s voice could have frozen Mount Doom. 

“Come.” Legolas pulled on Wynne’s arm, turning to walk away. Flee, more like it.

“Wait…” She let go of him and went up to the king, secretly wondering if she was sane. He towered over her, equally tall as his son, and his cool gaze sent tremors through her. There was not even a hint of friendliness in his eyes. 

She reached out to take his hand, knowing that he would feel how much her own quivered. His many rings dug into her palm uncomfortably.

“We love each other. Why can’t you see it?” she asked earnestly. “And if my behavior somehow displeases you, then teach me. I’m not stupid, I can learn.” She hesitated, hoping to discern a softness, a sign of resignation, but there was none. His clear eyes did not even blink. 

Suddenly Wynne felt annoyed with this cold-hearted statue of a king, who thought he could command other people’s feelings. She hated quarreling, she hated when others were angry, and she was sick and tired of having to constantly weigh her words and actions to keep someone placant. Living in her mother’s house had felt like cohabiting with a sleeping dragon. And now here Thranduil was behaving exactly the same way, except he did not stoop to act out on his rage physically. 

Wynne glanced at Legolas, taking in his sullen resentment; jaw set and cheeks pale with anger, or maybe fear. A flood of emotion overtook her, and she heard her mouth speak heartfelt words without asking her brain permission. 

“I make your son happy, whereas you only drive him away!” 

Then she realized what she had said, and let go of the king’s hand. “Sorry… that was… I didn’t really mean that. You love him, I know you do.” She took a step backwards. “I just don’t think it’s right to frighten and threat others to get your way. Your own son too. That’s not what a father ought to do. A father should be where one goes to be comforted, not the cause of discomfort…” Her words tumbled over each other. Why could she not just shut up?

Thranduil remained silent, and she hardly dared look at him after her outburst, but then she did anyway. His eyes were still fixed on her, but the coldness was gone, replaced by shock. As if he had been hit over the head, hard.

“Sorry,” Wynne mumbled again. A hand caught hers, Legolas had come to stand by her side. 

The king’s features smoothed out and became an expressionless mask. “Do as you please.” He swept past them, striding toward the dining room without another word.

“Sorry.” This time she said it to Legolas. 

“I guess… that could have gone worse?” He smiled somewhat shakily and bent down to kiss her cheek. His lips were cold. “And no need to apologize,” he added. “You only said the truth.”

The dining room was almost full when they got there. Three musicians on a dais in the corner played a merry beat, and the guests were spread out in small groups, talking and laughing. Wynne seeked out Thranduil, who was easy to spot with those brilliant clothes. When she and Legolas came inside, he did not acknowledge them with even a look. So, it was going to be the silent treatment, then. 

Despite the Elvenking's frosty behavior, Wynne found herself enjoying the feast immensely. Legolas discretely arranged with the butler to be seated by her, and he treated her most attentively during the meal. Around them were Galion, Sidra, Gimli and Éowyn, and they soon found that the five of them got along really well. 

When the musicians, by popular request, sang the Ballad of the Ring, they all joined in the chorus: “Brave, brave, brave / Brave the Hobbit!”

Sidra was on her third glass of wine, and more talkative than ever. When the song had finished and the applause and cheering died out, she leaned somewhat unsteadily across Gimli to nudge Éowyn in the shoulder. 

“I’m so impressed with your part in the ballad. You must be an amazing swordswoman!” 

“Thank you.” Éowyn smiled amiably enough, but Wynne noticed a shadow flicker over her fair face. So, it was not only Legolas who had bad memories from their adventures.

“I’m curious about one thing though,” Sidra continued. “When you went to war with an army of men… how did you manage to hide that you’re a woman? I mean, didn’t you need to pee?”

That had them all laugh, Gimli loudest of them all. Seated between Sidra and Éowyn, and opposite to Wynne, the dwarf seemed pleased like a Meara in a cornfield. However, his lady dwarf a few chairs away looked not so happy. Quite the opposite, actually.

“Well, I crouched behind bushes so often, my comrades probably thought I had the worst case of upset stomach.” Éowyn giggled. “But I was grateful to have Merry with me, he at least knew about me. He helped smooth out many little difficulties along the way.” Her grin widened. “But… you would not believe the way men talk, when they think there are no women around! It was… educational.”

“I can imagine,” sniggered Sidra. “I travelled with a group of uruks, remember? They didn’t care much about my sensitive ears.”

“What did they say? Donnae be shy, tell us!” Gimli moved closer to the Haradrim and lowered his voice. “Ye can whisper if ye wanna!”

There was a shuffle when Cheery, the lady dwarf, rose somewhat hastily. “I shall be in ma room, washing ma beard !” And with that, she stomped away in her high soled boots.

Gimli did not seem to mind, and remained calmly seated. “Well, talking about soldier’s slur… we had some fine battles in that war, dinnae we?” he said, looking nostalgic. “Both in Gondor and Rohan.“ He gave Legolas a sly look. “Do ye remember our wee competition at Helm’s Deep, Master Elf? I got forty-two kills. How many did ye get, again?” 

Legolas pretended not to have heard, and downed the contents of his glass, wincing slightly at the taste. “The wine down here is none too great,” he remarked.

“Forty- one , was nae it?”

“Have I told you of when Gimli was caught by the Lothlórien elves?” Legolas refilled his glass from a crystal decanter, and swallowed half of it. “It was right after he had told us how great his eyes and ears were, or something of that ilk. Then he almost walked straight into Haldir’s arrow.” 

After everyone had laughed at that, Gimli retaliated with describing the drinking-contest he and Legolas had had in Edoras.

“I did not have to be carried out of there,” protested the elf. “I could walk perfectly well.”

“Really?” Éowyn cut in. “Because I remember having to ask a servant to help you to bed.”

“Ach, he is not a strong elf, when it comes to the drink, ye ken.” Gimli took a deep draught from his ale tankard, that the hosts kindly had provided for their dwarven guests. “Poor wee laddie! We ought to give him fruit juice instead of wine.” 

“Maybe that was why he was so affected by the poppy medicine,” suggested Galion, happy to get his revenge after Legolas exposed his misfortune with the Elvenking’s wine barrels the other day.

“Poppies? Tell me all about it!” grinned Gimli.

Legolas gulped down his third glass, his face redder than a Thaun Môr grape. “Would you like to take a walk outside, Wynne?” He rose unsteadily. “It is rather hot in here.”

“I’d love to.” 

They left the other’s laughters behind and went toward the patio, passing Thranduil on their way out. 

The Elvenking stood alone, wearing an indecipherable expression, distractedly swirling the wine around in his untouched glass.


A/N:

Will Thranduil come around, or has Wynne ruined things forever with her rude behavior? One does not simply talk back to a king. Or?

50. Love and Desire

Waking up next to a warm, sleeping elf was literally a dream come true for Wynne. Despite the slight urgency to get up before her maid would come in, she remained in bed, revelling in the memories of yesterday night. 

Thranduil had left the feast early, and with him gone, Wynne and Legolas felt free, unchecked by his constant disapproval. They had stolen several kisses under the honeysuckle, talked, danced, and enjoyed much amusing banter with their friends. In the small hours Legolas had followed her to her room, more than a little drunk. 

“This is not my room,” he had observed, his gaze somewhat unsteady, when she pushed him down on her bed.

“No it’s mine.”

“Oh. This smells nice.” He sniffed her pillow, drawing in her scent just like that time when she borrowed his tent. 

You smell nice.” She rubbed her nose against his collarbone, feeling the enchanting aroma of him , mingled with a tint of wine. When they kissed she tasted it as well, sweet and fruity on his mouth and tongue. 

Their kisses that night had been the most intense they had yet shared; neither of them stopping to think, just allowing instinct to take over. Legolas had brushed over her neck with his lips, trailing light pecks down to her decolletage and buried his face in the cleft between her breasts. Then she had nibbled on his earlobe until he begged her to stop.

“If you keep doing that, I shall pull up your dress and take you here and now,” he threatened. 

She let go of his ear. He would not really do it, though… would he? Warmth surged through her body when she pictured it. 

“Naughty elf… Speaking so daringly to a lady!” She loved it.  

“Well, if you were a gentleman, there would be no risk of that happening, so...” 

Those words had them both in a fit of laughing, breaking the tension. Shortly after, they fell asleep, tired from all the wine and laughter. That was probably for the better. Every time they were together like this, it became harder to hold back. 

Now it was before sunrise, judging by the pale light. Wynne stretched herself, a little stiff after sleeping in her uncomfortable dress. Maybe she ought to wake Legolas up, but she could not quite bring herself to disturb him. Instead she admired his relaxed, sleeping face. He looked so innocent, his long, dark lashes resting peacefully on his cheeks and his lips slightly parted. She could not resist touching the upturned corners of his mouth. 

His lashes fluttered open. ”Good morning,” he mumbled. 

”Morning.”

Then for a long time they just lay there, gazing at one another in silence. 

“Your eyes are so beautiful,” Wynne said at last.

“Your braids are messed up.” He pulled out a curl.

“Here I was being romantic, and all you can think of is haircare.” She shoved him playfully in the chest. 

“I can redo them,” he offered, but did not move.

Then Wynne remembered something she had wished to do for a long time. Her fingers darted out. This time she caught him by surprise, despite his elvish reflexes and warrior training, and she had the huge satisfaction of seeing him laugh and trying to roll away.

“I knew you were ticklish!” She sat on his chest, locking his arms with her legs. “Pinned you!” 

But now he was prepared, and he did not even twitch when she tried to tickle him again. A smug smile settled on his lips. Damn that elf’s self-control! 

He tried to push her off, but to no avail. She was a horsewoman after all, and only squeezed her strong legs harder around him. “Pinned you again!” she whispered and bent down to kiss him, gradually releasing her hold and sinking down, feeling his hands move to rest on her thighs.

“You have impressive legs,” he murmured, moving his fingers slowly upwards.

There was a polite knock. “M’Lady? Are you up?” The maid’s voice was blunted by the closed door.

Wynne jumped up, brushing out the wrinkles of her dress. “Yes, but I don’t need you today, Sadoreth. Thank you.”

“Are you sure, M’Lady? I was coming for the chamber pot…” 

“Not now! You can come later. Thanks!”

“Uh, all right…” 

Wynne fell back on the bed, trying to hold in her giggles. “Has she gone?” she whispered, knowing that Legolas could hear the footsteps better than she could.

“Aye. But I probably ought to sneak back to my own room now...”

“Sadly, yes.”

Wynne peered carefully through the door before allowing him out. When he passed her, he leaned down for a last kiss.

“I need one more to keep me through the day,” he murmured. “Who knows how we will sleep in Minas Tirith. Maybe, Valar forbid, Aragorn will have me share with my snoring father.”

Just then Gimli came tiptoeing into the corridor, carrying his boots and tunic in one hand. When he caught sight of them, he grinned widely.

“Laddie! Slept well tonight?”

“Very.” Legolas blushed, but looked rather satisfied as well. He hurried away on soundless feet.

“I’m happy for ye and the laddie,” said Gimli when he had gone. The dwarf had to turn up his head to meet her gaze, now that he was not wearing his high-soled boots, but instead his eyes stayed to rest on her cleavage. Mother knew what she did, when she packed that dress for her daughter.

You look like you didn’t sleep much at all,” Wynne remarked, taking in the dwarf’s half-dressed state and worn features.

“Nay.” He chuckled. “My lassie donnae tire so soon.”

“You really do… that kind of things with her?” Wynne’s eyes grew wide.

He shrugged noncommittally.

“But… what if she gets with child? It would be a scandal.”

“Ach, lassie, ye are so young. There are methods to hinder that, but ye’d blush if I told ye how.” He snickered. 

“If you’re so intimate with her, why do you flirt with everyone else? Don’t you love her?” Wynne pointedly crossed her arms over her breasts to cover them, while secretly wishing he would tell more about those methods .

Gimli’s eyes went flinty, his jovial air gone. 

“That’s nae yer business, is it?” 

“Sorry.” But she was not, not really. He had treated his dwarven friend badly, and someone ought to tell him. 

“Cheery kens what she gets with me, take it or leave it. I cannae love her – or anyone.” He hesitated, then shrugged again. “Ma heart belongs to someone else.” 

Wynne suspected she knew who, but said nothing. He was right, it was not her business.

The dwarf’s rough features softened. “Donnae ken why I show ye this, but…” He pulled out a chain from under his shirt, uncovering a golden pendant inlaid with white diamonds. Behind the glass was a tuft of blond hair. “She ne’er belonged to me… another’s wife, she was. And I shannae see her again; she left Middle-earth.” Gimli stroked the pendant’s surface with a rough thumb, his deep set eyes becoming blank. ”I guess we’ve got that in common. Both fancying an elf, eh.” He grinned at her, but his rumbling voice was tainted with bitterness. Before Wynne could answer, he had gone into his room and shut the door behind him. 

Wynne went back, feeling ambivalent. So, he had loved Galadriel… That was not really a surprise, even the ballad hinted at it, and she was sorry for his unrequited love, she really was. Still… she could not see why he needed to trifle with everyone wearing a skirt, just because of that. It sounded like a bad excuse in her ears. Then again, if Cheery knew about it and had entered into the relationship with open eyes, it was really up to her. She was a grown dwarf and could probably take care of herself. 

While she packed her things, Wynne remained thoughtful. The fact that Gimli could love one female, and desire another, was disturbing somehow. Was Thranduil right when he claimed those to be separate things? She knew she loved Legolas, but what if he only desired her? But no… the way he always cared for her wellbeing, and how he had confided in her, trusted her with his worst memories; those were proofs it was more than physical attraction. She just had to convince his father to see what she saw.

After lunch, it was time to fetch the horses and get going. It was only a short trip, a few hours at the most would it take to Minas Tirith. Wynne met Éowyn in the large and well kept stables, where she was assigning horses to her own family.

“Oh, you’re coming too?” 

“Yes, my husband wants to be there when the peace treaty is presented. We have a feeling this will be important. Something to tell the grandchildren.” She smiled. “And for my part, I want to spend more time with my new friend Sidra and her darling sons!”

Wynne felt a twinge of jealousy at that. Sidra was her friend first… She realized it was natural of course; after all Sidra and Éowyn were almost the same age, and both mothers. But still...

Then Éowyn asked about Wynne's family and their horse breeding, and she forgot her jealousy in the interesting conversation that followed, and which lasted well until they were all gathered in the plaza outside the mansion, ready to mount and be on their way.

Wynne looked forward to seeing Minas Tirith, the white city, home of her relative and his elvish wife. Only to think, she would be exploring Arda’s most famous city with the elf she loved. And then there was the prospect of peace too, freedom at last for the orcs of Emyn Muil. If only Thranduil could cease his silent treatment, all would be perfect...


A/N:

My family must wonder what I was doing, with that silly smile plastered on my face for like an hour straight, while writing the first scenes of this chapter! :D

Who else has fancying elves in common with Gimli, by the way? ;)

51. To Minas Tirith

“Ain’t she a beauty? Look at ‘em pillars.” Gimli beamed proudly at the new Bridge of Osgiliath. 

“Aye. Well done, Master Dwarf! And your workers, of course.” Legolas grinned at his friend’s enthusiasm. It was so good to be together again, he had missed the dwarf immensely.

They dismounted and crossed the beautiful stone structure on foot, guided by Gimli.

“Over here is yer plaque, Legolas. We all got one.”

The plaque was a rectangular bronze sign on one of the railing posts. It had Legolas name engraved, under the header ”Fellowship Hero”, and a crude drawing of a bow. It actually felt rather good to have a plaque. Hero. That had a nice ring to it.

“Mine’s bigger than yers,” said Gimli smugly. His was on the next post, similar, except for an axe-drawing instead. And yes, his actually looked slightly larger.

“You did not…!” Legolas tried to hold back his laughter, not sure if he was annoyed or amused. Then he straightened himself a little extra, standing close to the dwarf to emphasize their height difference. “I guess it is only fair that your sign should be big, when you are so little,” he sniggered.

“Hrmpf. Must be cold and windy for yer head up there,” the dwarf muttered, and stomped off on his high-soled boots.

“This is beautiful.” Thranduil stroked the decorative edgings of the white top rail. Legolas turned in surprise. His father had not spoken one word to him since they parted in the corridor yesterday.

“Aye,” he agreed, trying to think of something else to say. As usual, he failed. Instead he lingered, hoping the other might break the silence. They were alone, their friends already some way ahead. 

“Legolas.”

“Ada?” He met his father’s eyes, and nearly gasped. They were open , that was the only way he could describe what he saw, Thranduil’s guard was completely down. His features were matted with pain and sadness, and it wrenched Legolas’ heart. “What is wrong?” He tentatively reached out to touch his father’s cheek. 

“Am I really driving you away?” 

Legolas hand dropped, a chill travelling down his spine. Those had been Wynne’s words. Had his father taken them so much to heart, as to be this hurt by them? He tried to come up with a good answer, something to smooth things out, but his mind was at blank. He settled for the truth.

“Not… not as such. But it is like…. as if you shut me out. You never show what you think. Or feel...”

Thranduil nodded, averting his eyes. “I wanted to be a better father than my own was,” he mumbled, looking out over the calm surface of the Anduin, while his fingers nervously rubbed Legolas’ plaque. 

“You never talk of Oropher.”

“No.”

“So… he was not a nice person?”

“I-uh… I think he was held in high esteem by many.” Thranduil drew a deep breath and turned to meet his son’s gaze again. “Do you know that I love you, Legolas?” He did not have to say it, this time it was written clearly in his eyes.

“Aye. I always knew you loved me,” he replied earnestly. 

“Good. Good. That is something, at least.” He smiled briefly, clearly relieved. “And… I never intended to shut you out. That is just… who I am – who I became. And I cannot... ” He paused, apparently to think of how to continue. 

It was unsettling to witness his father search for words, Thranduil always seemed to know what to say, and in an eloquent way too.

“Ye coming, or?” Gimli bellowed from the other side of the river.

“Aye, aye, we are coming,” Legolas called back, turning toward his father. “We can talk more later, maybe?” There was so much he wanted to ask. About his grandfather, about his mother, all those things his father never had wanted to tell him.

“Aye.” Thranduil’s face lit up. “And Legolas…” He pulled his son into a hug, a real one, not one of those half-hugs they normally shared. “Forgive me,” he mumbled, barely audibly.

Legolas knees were weak when he remounted Stelpa. His father had apologized! When had that ever happened? And they would talk more. Perhaps Ada would finally give his blessings to his and Wynne’s relationship? Much as he loved her, he did not want to lose his adar. 

“Mee-ah!” The clear cry made the two elves turn their heads. A large bird had landed on the railing, almost where they had stood before. It looked right at them, its white head tilted like it was listening to something. It called a second time, the sound eerily resembling a word: “Mine!” Then it raised a pair of gray wings and soared to the sky, soon to become no more than a thin speck.

Legolas met his father’s gaze. So, now he had felt it too. The pull of the sea… 

How long would his father stay in Middle-earth after this? When he went, he would be reunited with his wife. Legolas too wished to meet her, a mother he had never known. He had wanted to sail west ever since the War, when he heard seagulls for the first time. Now, since he met Wynne, his urge to go was much less overpowering.

After the bridge, they passed through the open gates of the perimeter wall surrounding the Pelennor Fields. Legolas moved his horse to ride next to Wynne. She gave him a questioning look, probably wondering what had passed between him and his father, but he did not want the others to overhear. He would find an opportunity to tell her later.

There were farms, orchards and fertile fields on both sides of the road. It was hard to picture this as it had been ten years ago; the fields swarming with orcs, trolls and oliphaunts. Legolas wondered how often the farmers plowed up pieces of weaponry or arrowheads. Or bones… 

Soon they beheld the city ahead, and most of the company reacted the way people always did at the first sight of it; with awe. 

“Ooh!” sighed Sidra.

“Ahh…” murmured Wynne.

“Sweet Elbereth!” breathed Galion.

“It is beautiful!” gasped Nodir.

“I second that,” his brother agreed.

“Impressive,” stated Thranduil.

And it was. Despite having seen it before, Legolas found the sight breathtaking. The city’s seven levels climbed the mountainside, one circle smaller than the other in a cone-like shape. The walls joined the mountain on each side so seamlessly that the city almost appeared to have grown out of it, rather than being constructed by man. On the uppermost wall, the tower of Ecthelion rose to the sky; a glimmering spike of pearl and silver. 

Éowyn decided this was a good spot for a break, and soon her servants had unpacked and laid out a very elegant luncheon on the lush grass beside the road. Legolas sat close to Wynne, enjoying her relaxed and happy mood now that they were out of the city. She wore her tunic and hose again, and much as Legolas had enjoyed her bosom in those dresses, he found that this was the Wynne he preferred; natural and unkempt. Like a tree growing wild in the forest, rather than in a garden.

Thranduil came to sit by them, his features again fully composed, holding a silver goblet in his hand. 

“I miss my wine cellar,” he sighed, breathing in the aroma of the dark red liquid before taking a small sip. He frowned slightly when he swallowed. 

“So do I,” agreed Galion. His goblet was almost empty, however, so apparently he figured the inferior Gondorian variety to be better than nothing.

Wynne had stiffened visibly when Thranduil came, and now he reached out to touch her hand soothingly. “I thought about what you said. And… you were right.” 

Wynne’s eyebrows flew up, and she seemed quite lost for words. Understandably. 

Legolas wondered how much it had cost his father to admit something like that. A few weeks ago the would probably never even had considered it, but this journey had changed him. For so many millennia, Thranduil had locked himself inside his palace, almost like he were hiding. Now, after finally travelling through Arda again, he was opening up.

Come to think of it, those changes had actually begun earlier, during the Ring War. His father had helped Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn to conquer the fortress Dol Guldur in southern Mirkwood, and kill all Sauron’s minions there. Then, after Celeborn’s wife sailed west a few years ago, he had begun to visit Thranduil more and more frequently. It was when the king finally returned those visits and travelled to Lothlórien, that he had agreed to embark upon this quest.

And now, Lord Celeborn managed Thranduil’s kingdom while he was away, which spoke volumes of how much he had begun to trust his friend. In addition, Celeborn had assigned some of his subjects to rebuild Amon Lanc, the former capital of the Woodland Realm. Legolas’ grandfather had ruled from there, but when the forest turned dark and infested with spiders, Oropher, Thranduil and their people had been driven further east. And then Sauron had constructed his infamous fortress in the area. 

Celeborn had asked Thranduil to move back, now that the fortress was demolished and the old city would be rebuilt, but he had declined. But maybe after this journey he would reconsider? If so, it would be a huge relief to leave their underground halls.

When everybody had rested and eaten their fill, they continued the last part of their trip. Soon they stood in the shadow of the city’s first wall, which towered up at least a hundred feet.

“Behold the Great Gate of Minas Tirith!” bellowed Gimli, again looking extremely proud. And he should be, the mithril- and steel structure was a wonder of beauty and clever mechanics, which the dwarf told them all about. He demonstrated thoroughly how smoothly it opened and closed, sliding on tracks in the street pavement, and how the controls worked.

He was just having the guards close the gate a fifth time, when a commotion drew the audience’s attention. King Aragorn II Elessar, with his queen and young prince in tow, came riding down the main street.

Love welled up inside Legolas when he galloped to meet his old friend. They dismounted almost simultaneously, and caught each other in a hard hug.

“Dear friend, am I glad to see you!” The king had spoken Sindarin Elvish to Legolas, as was his habit.

“I really missed you,” replied Legolas in the same language, taking a step back to regard the other. He looked just the same as when they had parted; becoming a king and a father seemed not to have changed the man at all. 

”This is my son Eldarion.” The king had turned to a dark-haired toddler, who rode a fat, black- and white pony. 

Legolas started with shock, his stomach churning when he saw the child and perceived his spirit. 

The boy was mortal.


A/N:

Darn, it would seem that half-elf children are not immortal after all! There goes that plan down the drain. :(

52. An Unexpected Meeting

The king of Gondor had been informed by Faramir of their arrival, and rooms were prepared for them in the city’s finer guest houses, near the Citadel. Wynne knew this was a great honor in itself, and in addition they were being escorted there personally by him and his family. To think Aragorn would be leading an orc and a Haradrim into the very heart of the Guarded City! Who could have imagined that, ten year back when they had done all they could to keep those out? She noticed, however, that the uruk again had pulled up his hood, probably not wanting to make a scene or scare anybody.

Next to the king rode Queen Arwen Undómiel in an ornate side saddle, the train of her dazzling dress spilling out behind her to cover the gorgeous young stallion’s back. Arwen was the first female elf Wynne had ever seen, and she had still not fully regained her composure. The male elves had intimidated her the first time she met them, but that was nothing compared to the reaction the queen invoked. Her exquisite beauty was ethereal, like she were lit from within by a multitude of stars. Her skin was pale, with only a hint of rose on her cheeks and full lips. Her bright eyes were framed by long, dark lashes and crowned by a pair of elegantly arched eyebrows. 

Wynne had never imagined she could be attracted to another female, but now she realized she were, and she glanced at Legolas almost guiltily. 

After a while, the sight of the city enabled Wynne to tear her gaze away from the stunning vision, and she looked about her with interest. The main street meandered to and fro from one level to the next, each time passing through a new gate. Again Gimli pointed out structures his workers had created; a house here, a segment of wall there. He had also designed most of the gates, although none were as impressive as the Great Gate, of course.

Legolas rode next to her, silent and lost in thought. Perhaps he regretted being inside a city of stone again? As far as Wynne knew, only one tree grew here, the famous white one that symbolised Gondor. Or maybe it was something his father had said to him on the bridge? But he had seemed happy after that conversation, like they had come to some sort of understanding. After Thranduil spoke to her during lunch, Wynne had begun to hope he might finally allow their courtship. 

The stables were located in the sixth level of the city, and here it was time to part with the horses for a while. Wynne always felt bad about leaving them, but these stables were really magnificent, big and airy, and the fodder the horses were provided with was of the finest quality. 

They entered the last level on foot, and Aragorn led them out on a ledge that extended over the city like the prow of a ship. The view was breathtaking; clusters of stone houses with conical roofs and pinnacles were wedged in between the seven walls, and further out expanded the farms, pastures and orchards of the Pelennor Fields, lush green and thriving. The chequered pattern strongly reminded Wynne of the view from the Falls of Rauros.

They admired the white tree as well, its many blossoms just beginning to fall off and mature into fruit. Legolas patted its slender trunk lovingly. 

“This has become a strapping young tree since last I saw it,” he said to Aragorn.

The king smiled and replied something in a language Wynne did not understand. She was so used to the elves speaking Westron, the Common Speech, that she had almost forgotten this was not their mother’s tongue. Now she felt left out, and it bothered her.

Before they went to freshen themselves up in their rooms, they were invited to supper in the king’s private house.

“I prefer a more informal first meeting,” he explained. “Tomorrow, King Éomer and his suite are expected, and then we will begin the official peace discussions.”

A very properly uniformed manservant showed them to the guest house. The place looked quite a lot like Éowyn’s and Faramir’s guestrooms back in Osgiliath, but larger and more luxurious. Instead of a wooden tub in the room, they had access to a whole bathhouse with one part for males and one for females, to which water from a mountain lake was brought through channels and lead pipes. The servant explained that all the city’s wells and public baths were supplied with water via those channels, and the richer inhabitants even had pipes leading into their houses. By opening a tap, they could get fresh water anytime they liked! 

In addition to this luxurity, there was a grand lavatory building with many booths. The openings in the benches lead down to a channel with running water, which the servant called a sewer . Through the sewer, the waste was flushed down to the plains, where the farmers made good use of it.

When alone in her room, Wynne washed her face and hands in a bowl on a stand, and changed into a dress again. Not the red, very daring one, she would see a king after all, and hoped to make a good first impression. 

Aragorn’s house was rather cosy, not at all like the elegant Citadel – or Faramir’s residence for that matter. It was situated right underneath the mountain onto which the city leaned, and was a white stone building with an orange, tiled roof, surrounded by a small square of well mowed grass. Inside, the dining room was no larger than the one in Wynne’s home, and the furniture was rather ordinary. Wooden tables and chairs, and under the windows long benches with leather seats. 

The carpet drew Sidra’s attention.

“Is this Haradrim?” She stroked its red-and-gold pattern. “Silk, right?”

“Yes, it was a gift from the new king of Near Harad, when we negotiated a trading agreement last year.” Aragorn smiled. He had such a kind smile. The king reminded Wynne rather much of her father; both his physical features and his gentle manner. 

“You must be Sidra of Harad, the uruk-hai’s spouse?” he asked now, graciously ignoring that she had addressed him without an introduction.

“That’s right.” She beamed at him. “This is him, Nugu of Emyn Muil.” She indicated her husband, as if it was not evident he was the uruk-hai. “And our sons are Muzadi and Rohi.”

The boys had already disappeared with Elboron and Prince Eldarion into an adjoining room; the prince’s nursery, judging by the unmistakable clatter of building blocks rolling on floor tiles.

More introductions followed. When it was Wynne’s turn, Aragorn greeted her very politely. “I am enchanted to finally meet my relative. You must be my…?”

“Third cousin’s granddaughter,” she supplied proudly. “My Grandmama’s mother was your grandfather Arador’s cousin.”

“Right. It had slipped my mind.”

Beside Wynne, Gimli sniggered, and she scowled at him. “What’s funny?”

“Naething.”

Next, the two kings met. Aragorn said something, again in that foreign, lilting language Wynne did not understand.

“What did you say?” asked Sidra, never one to be shy about these things.

“Speak Westron, love,” said the queen. Her voice was melodious and soft as a silver bell.

“My apologies. I said that am honored to have the Elvenking as my guest,” repeated Aragorn. ”I heard much about your remarkable success with restoring the Wood of Greenleaves to its former glory.”

“Thank you. I dare say, though, that not all you heard of my kingdom was flattering.” Thranduil smiled wryly. 

“I do not pay much attention to slander.”

“That honours you.” Thranduil bowed. Wynne had never seen him behave so agreeably to someone he did not know well. “I was profoundly impressed with what you and King Éomer have achieved in the Marshes,” he continued. “I had not seen that place since the Battle of Dagorlad, and I could hardly recognize it.”

Before they sat down to supper, Aragorn wished to hear everything about the orc town and peace treaty, apparently intent on being well informed before tomorrow’s more formal council.  

Nugu had grown really good at telling his story by now, and it had effect; the king and queen both looked horrified after he was done. When Thranduil recounted the details of the peace treaty, Aragorn nodded thoughtfully.

“It seems like a well drawn agreement. Still, we humans would need our own treaty, and it has to be supported by the nobles of Gondor and Rohan, and then signed in person by the orc leader.” He turned to Nugu. “It is unfortunate he could not be present. This means that, even if the council agrees to peace, we shall have to wait until I can meet him.”

The uruk nodded. “He doesn’t dare go out, but I could lead your emissary to him. Or yourself, if you wish.”

“We will discuss that tomorrow. Now, I am sure you must be hungry!”

Wynne enjoyed the supper; the food was tasty but nothing extraordinary, and there were only a few servants around. The conversation, however, was rather dull in her opinion. At the head of the table, Aragorn, Thranduil and Faramir talked of finances. Faramir had told Aragorn of his plans to restore southern Ithilien and build a city in the hills of Emyn Arnen, where his summer estate was located, and asked if the king could help funding this project. Building up Osgiliath had more or less emptied his coffers.

“I shall see what I can do.” Aragorn sighed. “Transforming the Marshes and building the Lift of Rauros has nearly drained my treasury as well. Although I am sure the increase in trade and taxes will make it pay off eventually, I am yet to see that happen.”

“You should establish a trade route to my realm,” suggested Thranduil. He swirled the contents of his glass. “I could export Dorwinion wine down the Anduin.”

Meanwhiles, Queen Arwen was talking with Sidra and Éowyn about children, something concerning potty training by the sound of it. Hearing an otherworldly beauty such as Arwen speak of poop and diapers was disconcerting, and besides, the topic bored Wynne almost as much as economy. She asked Nugu to tell some of his riddles instead, and soon she was agreeably occupied at guessing them together with Legolas, Gimli, Galion, Nodir and Bronedir.

Later, when they left Aragorn’s house, Legolas moved to walk close to Wynne. “Do not come to my room tonight,” he mumbled in her ear. “And I know you planned to, do not lie.” He smirked at the face she made. “My father wishes to speak more with me, and I think I shall finally be able to persuade him.”

Wynne had no objections against that, of course. She did not really mind anyway; she was rather tired and could use having an early night for a change.

Breakfast the next morning was served in an airy room in the guest house’s second floor. The many windows faced the city below, and the view was magnificent.

“King Elessar knows how to impress his guests,” remarked Thranduil when he entered together with Legolas. The Elvenking looked unusually relaxed and lighthearted, and the same went for his son. Wynne felt a twinge of happiness. Whatever they had talked of yesterday had clearly changed something in their relationship. 

She tried to ask Legolas about it after their hearty meal of bread, cheese, hams and sausages.

“I shall tell you later. My father and I must go greet King Éomer, we got word he just arrived.” 

Wynne nodded. “I will go with you. He is my king, after all, not yours.” She grinned. 

Legolas gave her a quick peck on the cheek, which made her smile grow wider. He had kissed her in front of his father! That must be a good sign.

When they came out, the king of Rohan was just walking up from the stables, surrounded by a group of lords and vassals. Éomer wore no crown, and his clothes was rather ordinary, but Wynne recognized him easily. She had met him once before, several years ago in Edoras, when she was twelve. Her mother had had an errand there, and decided it would be good for Wynne to come along and hopefully catch the eye of the king. This was before Mother had come up with the elf-marriage plan, when she still would have been satisfied with having her daughter become queen of Rohan. 

It had not worked, of course, the young king had still been overcome with grief after his uncle’s demise, and besides, he was more than twice Wynne’s age. He had barely even noticed she was there, and only focused on the horses he wished to buy. Not long after, news of Éomer’s impending marriage with a princess reached them and Mother had been furious, because that meant there were no royal bachelors left in Rohan or Gondor. The following years she had researched kings and princes of other countries, making lists and grand plans, until finally came the opportunity to send her daughter on a journey with both a king and a prince.

Soon, Mother’s scheme to marry her daughter off advantageously might prove successful. Wynne could only hope her intended and his father would never find out about it.

Then suddenly she spotted something in Éomer’s entourage... Two very familiar faces.

“Father,” she breathed. “And… Mother!”


A/N:

So, here she is at last, the woman you and I have feared ever since chapter one… This was bound to happen eventually, I guess.

While I’ve been wrapping this story up up, I’ve also found myself wonder ever so much about Thranduil, his early life, his wife, and his father Oropher. Whatever gave him the idea that it’s so difficult to feel the difference between love and desire? Something he knows from experience, perhaps…? So, I found myself starting one, just to see if anyone else wants me to write that story. :) It's called Thranduil's Shadow and is posted on this site as well. :)

53. Mother Knows Best

Wynne tried to hide her shock and surprise. Why was Mother here? The plan was for Wynne to return home with the horses and an elf fiancé as soon as they finished their quest, Mother had not mentioned any intentions to meet them on the way. How had she even known they would be here? Through King Éomer?  

“Oh my darling, how I missed you!” Mother caught Wynne in a hard hug, and then held her at an arm’s length as if to memorize her features. “You look so well, so healthy, only a little tanned but that is only natural I guess!” Despite the warm greeting, Mother’s smile did not reach her eyes. Her penetrating gaze scoured Wynne from head to toe, maybe she was trying to discern symptoms of pregnancy?

Father was waiting patiently behind his wife, and when she at last finished scrutinizing her daughter, he stepped forward to catch Wynne in a hug of his own. The familiar smell of tobacco, horses and leather reached her nostrils, and her chest grew tight with emotion. 

“I missed you,” she murmured against the wool of his tunic. As usual he did not reply, but his strong arms around her spoke clear enough, and when he pulled back after a while his green eyes were moist.

“How are Grandmama and Grandpapa?”

“Oh they are very well, my dear, don’t you worry about them now.” Mother took Wynne’s arm and herded her toward the guest house. “Let’s have you change into something nicer.”

King Éomer and his lords would stay down another corridor in the same house as Wynne. She noticed none of the other lords had brought their wives. 

Mother looked about her with satisfaction. She and Father had been assigned a suite; two rooms joined by a door in the middle, the latter completely unnecessary as it would probably never be opened if Wynne knew her parents. 

“Lovely place. Finally I shall sleep somewhere decent!” 

Mother explained they had initially planned to arrive yesterday evening, but then the king’s horse had come down with a limp and they had been obliged to sleep another night on the road, with Minas Tirith less than a league ahead. “It was horrible, I tell you. But what would I not do for my dear daughter?”

Two servants came in, heavily ladened with bags and a chest. 

“Oh, here is my luggage, wonderful!” Mother picked out a large bag. “I brought more clothes for you, darling. I can only imagine what state your old ones must be in by now.”

Her friendly smile disappeared as soon as the door closed behind the servants. “Now, how did it go? Have you succeeded with the elf king?” 

“No.”

“No? NO?” She sighed dramatically. “Oh Eru, how could you fail something so simple! Did you not show skin?”

“Yes, I did.” Wynne found her gaze had wandered to her feet. How come Mother always could make her feel this small and weak?

“And serve them fire water?”

“Yes!”

“Well no wonder it did not work if this is how you have been looking! What on Arda happened to that dress?” Without asking permission, she briskly pulled it over her daughter’s head. She tut-tutted over the chemise too, and removed that as well. 

Wynne hugged her naked chest, feeling exposed and slightly ill, while Mother rummaged in the bag. “Here, put this on. But what have you done with your hair? Wynne, Wynne... have I taught you nothing at all? With that round face of yours, you must wear your hair up.” She rather forcefully untangled the braids Legolas had plaited. Wynne bit her lips to hold back her tears.

When Mother was finally satisfied, Wynne found herself in a dark gown with a wide skirt and very low decolletage, painfully tight around the waist. Her hair was combed back and confined in a pearl hairnet, and between her breasts rested a heart shaped diamond pendant on a silver chain, one Wynne recognized as belonging to her Grandmama. It was a dreadful, heavy thing.

Mother eyed her critically. 

“It will have to do, I guess. Now, during the meeting today you must introduce me to King Thranduil, and I shall see what I can do. There is probably something he needs that I can supply, in exchange for his taking you as bride. A large dowry, jewels, horses… there is always something, and now that he already knows you it will be easier to persuade him. You have made friends with him, at least?”

“Yes.” Wynne’s stomach sank, this would be a disaster. Should she tell Mother of her feelings for Legolas and end this circus? But she was still not sure Thranduil had agreed to their courtship, and the minute Mother realized Legolas liked her daughter, she would be on Thranduil’s back, making plans and demands. Something which might very well have him change his mind. 

No, it was best to keep silent for now.

The first meeting with the uruk-hai would be held in Merethrond – the Great Hall of Feasts in the Common Speech – which was larger than the throne room. To this event all the more notable citizens of Minas Tirith were invited; Aragorn had decided during yesterday’s informal supper that it would be beneficial if as many as possible could hear Nugu’s story. Gossip would spread through the city, and if the uruk later was spotted by someone they would not sound the alarm. Later, the kings and lords would council alone and discuss the peace treaty.

The Hall was indeed great, it was the most grandiose room Wynne had ever been in. White stone pillars held up a far distant roof, and the curved windows were more than twice a grown man’s height, with stained glass panes assembled into pictures of queens, kings, animals and dragons. A rosette window above a platform on one side was largest of them all, a midnight blue circle with the white tree in its center and seven stars around its branches. 

The Hall was almost full of finely dressed guests. On long tables along the walls were bowls and platters with fruit, nuts and cheeses, from which they helped themselves while waiting for the king to arrive and open the meeting.

“Don’t eat anything, it makes you seem immoderate,” instructed Mother.

Wynne had no appetite anyway, and instead she silently observed the people. It was easy to spot the Rohirrim among the Gondorians; they were plainer dressed and had blond hair and beards, as compared to the others’ dark brown or black nyances. Her parents were exceptions; Father had inherited his dark colors from Grandmama, who was Dúnedain like Aragorn, and Mother was born in Gondor.

In a corner Wynne spotted her friends; the elves, Gimli, Sidra and her husband – still with his hood up. Both Thranduil and Legolas were looking at Wynne and her parents, probably curious about who they were. She wished she could tell them to look away; if Mother perceived it she might understand the truth.

Luckily a herald sounded his trumpet just then, and the massive double doors from the throne room opened to let in the King of Gondor, his queen and the young prince. The people parted, bowing and curtseying deeply, as the royalty walked through the Hall to stand on the raised floor under the window with the white tree. 

The king began with a short speech introducing the topic, and because of the acoustic design of the walls, his voice carried through easily.

“Strange news have reached me; news of a new colony, whose inhabitants wishes to establish peace with the free races of Arda. Long have they been our enemies, but now they humbly come before us, seeking to overcome past grievances.” 

The room buzzed when the guests murmured to one another, probably guessing who those enemies were, and very likely guessing wrong.

“If you would come forward, Nugu son of Staurz.” Aragorn’s clear voice suppressed the commotion.

The uruk obeyed, and soon stood next to the king. Even from this distance, Wynne noticed he was trembling. Then he folded back his hood, producing a collective gasp from the audience, and shrill squeals from some of the finer ladies.

Mother screamed too, as soon as she perceived the other ladies’ reaction.

“An orc! My dear, hold me or I shall swoon!” She leaned heavily on Father’s shoulder, fanning herself.

Then the Hall became silent, as Nugu commenced to tell his story. He spoke well, but his nervousness shone through and made it sometimes hard to hear. When he came to the part where he had met Sidra, she joined him on the stage with the orclings, again generating gasps of surprise, and in many cases, disgust.

“She wedded that… thing? I feel sick. Races should not mix! It’s unnatural!” Mother’s whispers were less than discrete, and Wynne’s jaw set. So, mixing races was unnatural, was it? Well, she should not try to make her daughter marry an elf then. 

The elf in question and his son just then went to stand by the uruk’s family. Thranduil elaborately described how well he had been treated in the orc town, and how his son had been healed. Legolas filled in some details of the graveness of his injury, and how he would not have survived without Goltur’s skill. Since he was a Fellowship hero, this argument probably weighed heavily with the citizens.

“They are beautiful! So tall, so muscular! And that blond hair, too.” breathed Mother, clearly not listening to what the elves said. She nudged her daughter. “The son is almost as handsome as the father.”

Wynne bit her lip to hold back a sharp answer, she did not like Mother drooling over Legolas like that. 

When Aragorn at last ended the meeting, the Hall again was filled with a roar of voices, as the people discussed what they had learned. Wynne left her parents and walked around, discreetly listening, curious about how the Gondorians had taken the news. She found that most seemed not altogether negative to the idea of friendly orcs, although there were of course many who were opposed to it as well. There was also many excited whispers about Saruman’s evil deeds in the breeding dens, especially among the ladies, surprisingly.

Wynne had just come to the other side of the room, when she almost bumped into Gimli. The dwarf was talking with King Éomer and his sister, and she remembered they had rode to battle together during the War.

“Lady Wynne, meet my brother,” said Éowyn when she caught sight of her. 

Wynne curtseyed as deep as she could without losing her balance, awed to be in front of her fierce warrior king for the second time in her life. Just like last time though, he barely noticed her, except for a slight inclination of his head.

“How do you think it went?” continued Éowyn. “I do hope this will work, for Sidra’s sake. I don’t want her children to grow up in a cave, it’s not healthy.”

“The people seem mostly positive,” said Wynne, and recounted a little of what she had heard.

“When they ken the mighty Dwarf Lord of the Glittering Caves has signed the treaty, they’ll agree to it,” said Gimli firmly.

“I am not so certain.” Éomer frowned. “I cannot trust an uruk-hai so easily, and neither can my vassals, I dare say. Helm’s Deep is still fresh in our memories, as well as other ill deeds done by those atrocities.”

“Ach, ye will come around when ye talk with the laddie. He’s a bit shy, but there’s a good heart in him. And his wee bairns are lovely.”

“They are!” Galion cut in. He and the other elves had joined them, and Wynne’s heart twinged with happiness when Legolas came to stand next to her. Again he was clad in his pale blue prince outfit, and although Wynne was getting more used to seeing him look fine, she still prefered him in his hunter’s green. Thranduil wore an impossibly wide, red velvet robe with a white leaf pattern. How many luxurious garments had that elf brought?

“I like your dress,” whispered Legolas. “But what happened to your braids?” He seemed disappointed, but before Wynne could explain, Mother had caught up with her.

“Wynne my darling! I looked everywhere for you!” She kissed the air an inch beside her daughter’s cheek. “Well? Are you not going to introduce me to your friends?”


A/N:

Will Mother behave, or will she embarrass Wynne in front of Thranduil? 

54. Truths Revealed

“I’m charmed. A pleasure to meet you. Thank you, yes a very pleasant trip. Thank you, it belonged to my mother-in-law. Indeed, the quality were something else back in the day! Yes indeed. Yes. Yes. And I must compliment Your Grace on your marvellous robe, it goes really well with your fair complexion. Oh, Your Grace is too modest! Quite unpretentious!” Mother’s sharp voice drowned all nearby conversations as she monopolized the Elvenking. “Oh they are, are they not, I’m so glad you were pleased with them! Yes, Sire, we bred them for generations. Outstanding. Finest Meara breed!”

“Meara breed?” interrupted King Éomer. “Who claims to breed Mearas?”

“We do,” said Wynne, surprised the king would not remember, as he had even bought some of them before. 

“Mearas cannot be bred like any simple horses. And even if they could, they would only allow a Rohirric king ride them.” Éomer frowned at her. He was quite intimidating when he was annoyed, every inch a warrior, and not at all looking like a king. 

Wynne flinched and took a step backwards. “But I thought–”

“Well, I never said they were only Mearas.” Mother’s cheeks were slightly pink.

“Yes, you did. That’s exactly what you said!” Wynne gaped at her, feeling the world as she knew it shatter to pieces. Her Vatna, and Stelpa and the others… not Mearas! She had deluded her friends all this time. How mortifying! Her face burned, and she did not know where to look.

“Well there is a large… well moderately large part of Meara in them. And they are very fine. Even you said so, Your Grace.” She turned back to the Elvenking, all simpers and smiles again. His features were neutral as usual, but there was a certain quirk to his eyebrows that made Wynne certain he did not take such deception lightly.

“Yes, they are very fine,” he acknowledged, and then instantly turned away to speak with Éowyn, leaving Mother to open and close her mouth a few times in surprise.

“Well!” 

“Mother, shall we go and explore the city with Father?” Wynne took her arm. “You can show me where you used to live.” She needed to get her mother away from here as soon as possible, before things got even worse, and she wanted herself out as well. She could not endure this embarrassing situation a minute longer.

“Oh. Well I guess…” 

Wynne felt Legolas’ eyes on her as they left, and hoped he was not too disappointed. She would speak with him later and explain. Surely he and his father must realize she had not known about it?

Sightseeing in Minas Tirith proved to be a lot nicer than Wynne had anticipated. Mother was in a good mood, and talked incessantly of how agreeable King Thranduil had been, and how handsome he was, and his son too. She also knew a lot about the city and spoke of its history, and how it had looked when she was young. The new gates built by the dwarves were not quite to her liking, however. 

“The old ones were more genuine, you know, I don’t hold with these modern designs.”

Mother’s old home was located in a back street in the city’s first level, but she refused to go near, she just pointed it out somewhat vaguely. 

“One of those doors, I’m not even sure which anymore. This is no nice part of the city. Let’s go back. I will show you the fountain outside the Old Guesthouse.”

After the tour, Mother was tired and wanted to rest before supper. Meanwhiles, Wynne and her father went to the stables to check on the horses.

“They are in good shape.” Father scratched Vatna between her ears. “You have groomed them well.”

“Father, why didn’t you tell me? I’ve always thought they were real Mearas.”

He did not reply, just silently moved on to the next loose box, where Hlaupari calmly munched on a tuft of hay. Her father often did that; avoided an uncomfortable question or situation by walking away from it. It was rather frustrating. Would her life up till now have been different, if her father had stood up against her mother? Taking her side, supporting her against Mother’s whims? Would she have been spared the mortification of being sent against her will on a mission to seduce an elf king?

Well, now in retrospect, she did not regret that part of Mother’s scheming. Being sent away had been good for her, she had needed leaving home, she had just not been aware of it at the time.

Before supper, Mother again had Wynne change clothes, this time into a blue dress that looked like it came straight from a brothel. What would her friends think of her? But as usual, Mother waved away all complaints. 

“Males are weak, showing a little skin will always do the trick”.

As they entered the Great Hall of Feasts, she gave Wynne some last minute instructions. “You must be careful how you look when you eat. Take small, slow bites. Anything you can do to draw attention to your mouth is good.”

But Mother had not needed bother, the royal elves would not see Wynne take small bites. They were seated according to rank, and her family were placed far down from the head table. It had Mother almost throw a fit.

“Outrageous! Has Aragorn forgotten we are related? And I helped him with horses to his quest and everything.” 

Luckily she had said it in an angry hiss, and Wynne did not think anyone else heard. Well, Galion, Nodir and Bronedir might have, their table was nearby, but if so, they politely pretended not to.

After they had eaten, there was music, and the guests began to mingle. Mother took the opportunity to reestablish their House’s importance, and with a reluctant husband and daughter in tow, she approached the Gondor king.

“Dear cousin, we are enchanted to finally meet you in person!” Her curtsey was very elegant. Wynne tried not to wince at the informal approach, but Aragorn inclined his head slightly in reply, wearing his ever-present, polite smile. 

“We heard you and king Éomer have been working hard in the former Marshes and Ithilien, doing much good work restoring them. My daughter here described how beautiful Osgiliath has become.” 

“Thank you.”

“You may not know this, but my mother-in-law – that’s your cousin Arbes…”

Third cousin,” Wynne corrected.

“...used to live in Arnor with the rangers, before she married Lord Örn. She speaks very warmly of her homeland, and laments what has become of it. Our House can help finance the restoration of Fornost.”

Aragorn’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “I have considered rebuilding Fornost,” he admitted.

“Yes I know.” Mother smiled. How did she find out about these things? Had she planted spies in the court? “And if you need more horses, we are always happy to oblige.”

A movement caught Wynne’s attention. Legolas was walking by, seemingly innocently, but when he saw she had noticed him he beckoned his head in a follow-me gesture.

Wynne glanced at her mother, who was still discussing city rebuilding with Aragorn, and silently sneaked after the elf. He led her to a far corner of the Hall, where they were partly hidden by a statue of a swordsman. 

“Finally,” he said, and looked around him before planting a small peck on her cheek. 

“Aren’t you angry with me for deceiving you?” Wynne could not meet his eyes.

“What?”

“About the horses!”

“Oh, I knew that. I met a Meara once, Shadowfax, the one Gandalf rode. There is really no comparison.”

“You knew? Why didn’t you say?” Wynne gasped.

“I figured it did not matter. They were good horses, and if my father had thought you were trying to deceive him he would have refused to let you come. And then we would have no rides, and it would take forever to scout the Brown Lands.” He grinned. “At least, that was what I told myself at the time.” He stole another quick kiss. “In retrospect, I think I was quite taken with you already, and just wanted you to join us.”

A pang of guilt hit Wynne. She had deceived them – just not about the horses. In that instant she knew she had to tell him about Mother’s plan. No more secrets, no more lies.

“Legolas, about that… My mother… the reason she sent me along...“ She hesitated, clenching her moist hands, her heartbeat increasing. This was it. The moment of truth. “Mother wished me to… attract…” But she could not continue. It felt even cheaper, more shameful when she said it out loud.

“A husband?” suggested Legolas. Surprisingly, he sounded quite neutral. Wynne met his gaze. He did not look angry, or disappointed.

“Yes… I should have said before. I’m so sorry, I–”

“Nay… Nay, Wynne, no need to be sorry.” He pressed her hand earnestly. “If she wants you to marry one of our company, is that not good news? I had been worried your family might object to the match, even if my father agrees.”

Wynne was speechless. She wished she could fall into his arms, hug him hard and kiss him, really kiss him, but of course that was impossible in a room full of the king’s guests. How could he not be furious with her after learning the truth?

“Was it she who took out your braids?” He touched her pearl hairnet. 

“Yes.”

“And she selected the dresses you have worn today? Much as I enjoy seeing you in them, the way they make the men here look at you... Hm. I do not like it.”

“Sorry.”

"It is not your fault. But... if she still wants you to attract that kind of attention, it must mean you have not yet told her of us?"

“No… I couldn’t, she would ruin everything with her meddling. Run to Thranduil and start plan the wedding directly.”

“Father can handle a human woman, I am sure.”

“What if he refuses?”

“I do not think he will, he is beginning to understand my feelings for you. Yesterday night, he told about my mother for the first time. They had a bad relationship in the beginning, because they married hastily, without love. Father did not tell any details, only that they loved each other eventually, but that was why it took so long until I was born.”

“This explains a lot, actually.”

“Aye. But I am not him, I know my heart, and it definitely belongs to you.” 

“And mine to you.” 

They probably looked very silly, just gazing into one another’s eyes for quite some time.

“You think I should tell Mother then?” Wynne said at last.

“Aye. I long to be allowed to court you officially.”

“Me too.”

Mother was overjoyed when her daughter told of her attachment to the prince. Wynne firmly pressed the fact that Thranduil was yet to agree to it, and that Mother must not do anything hasty.

“Of course not, I will act quite according to protocol in this matter. Your father and I shall approach the king with a formal request, and offer a suitable dowry, naturally.” She was almost dancing around the room with excitement. “Oh, this will be wonderful, Wynne, you shall have such beautiful children. I shall be forever coming over to your palace and see the little darlings, and of course they shall spend every summer with their Grandmama – that will be me, you know – and I shall often have my daughter and her new family over for visits as well. How charming it shall be, elves in my house, oh the parties we shall have! Our neighbours will be green of jealousy when they are introduced to the elf king himself! My relative!”

“Mother! He will never agree to that. It’s bad enough that I’m neither royalty, nor an elf, and he would certainly not want his subjects to know about my family.”

“Unheard of! He can’t deny his son’s mother-in-law to see her daughter and grandchildren, or have them come visit her.”

“But he will. You should be happy if he accepts me coming there!” Wynne’s stomach churned. This was exactly what she had been afraid of, that Mother would let her plans run away with her too far, too soon.

“Well, if he refuses, I shall bring it up with my king. You know how influential our House is, he will listen to our complaints. I’m sure King Thranduil would not want bad relations with Rohan. It could even cause a war, if worse came to worse.”

A war? No, that could not be possible… King Éomer would surely never go to war over a noblewoman’s claim to her grandchildren. Or would he? Was Wynne’s family really that powerful? Either way, it must not happen. If Thranduil felt forced to comply, he would hate it, and that would be a horrible way to start a life as his daughter-in-law. 

Again it struck Wynne how cheap and ugly all this scheming was. Mother only wished to take advantage of the situation, she did not care if her daughter was happy or not, and as for wishing to see her future grandchildren, Wynne knew that was an excuse as well. For the first time, Mother’s behavior angered her. It was not right to use the elves like this. They were her friends!

If King Thranduil agrees to the marriage, Legolas and I shall live with him. We will not visit you often, and you will not visit us often. This is my life, my marriage – not yours.” Wynne tried to speak calmly, resolutely, and control her upwelling annoyance.

Mother stared at her daughter in surprise, and two telltale crimson spots appeared on her cheeks. Her hand darted out to strike, hard. Wynne could not hold back a cry when the side of her head exploded in pain.

“How dare you! I willed this, I made this journey possible. You will not oppose me!” She talked between clenched teeth, her voice distorted with rage. 

Wynne straightened her back and looked Mother squarely in the eyes, conveying all her resentment and indignation into that stare. For the first time, her mother’s white-hot fury did not make her knees weak and her fingers tremble. For the first time, the pain did not intimidate her. Instead she felt her own anger grow.

Without a word, Wynne  turned on the spot and stormed out, almost colliding with someone in the corridor.

“You come back here right now, or–” Mother abruptly broke off, and changed to a completely different voice. “Why, good evening, Your Grace! And goodnight Wynne, dear, sleep well and we shall talk more about this tomorrow.” She quickly shut the door.

Thranduil looked baffled, but then his eyes filled with concern. He reached out to touch Wynne’s throbbing cheek. “What happened?”

“I accidentally walked into the door. It’s nothing.” Wynne tried to smile, and calm the raging storm inside her. 

“I see.” It was clear he did not believe that, and she felt him looking after her when she hurried back to her room. How much of her argument with Mother had he heard?

Oh, what a disaster! Mother would ruin it all. And if Thranduil against all odds agreed to the courtship, she would keep meddling, corrupt Wynne’s marriage and use her future grandchildren as hostages. It would never work.

Wynne could not hold back her tears as she flopped down on her bed.


A/N:

Things never go quite as planned, do they...

55. Pride and Vanity

Today’s meeting was held in King Elessar’s throne room, and Thranduil looked about him with appreciation. It was a large room, with high pillars similar to the ones in the feast hall Merethrond. The floor was tiled stone, smooth after centuries of feet walking on it, and the walls had several large tapestries between the arched windows. Before the throne, chairs were set out in a semicircle, and Elessar already sat on one. So typical of that man, to sit among his inferiors like an equal rather than use his throne. Thranduil had to hold back a smile at the thought of himself doing something similar back home.

While waiting for the meeting to begin, Thranduil slowly walked from one tapestry to the other, admiring the colors and materials and trying to figure out which part of history they pictured. This one was easy, the Battle of the Pelennor Fields – the oliphaunts were a telltale clue. They had made his son a lot taller than he really was, he noticed. And had he killed an oliphaunt single-handedly like that? He certainly had not mentioned it when he recounted his adventures. Probably artistic license.

It was time to begin the meeting, and Thranduil took his place next to Nugu and Sidra, curiously eyening the others. There, was the Rohirric king, Thranduil had changed a few words with him yesterday and he had seemed rather rough and uncouth. Then, beside him, Elessar and Queen Arwen, and on his other side Prince Faramir, Lady Éowyn, Legolas and his dwarf friend. Then followed a row of Gondorian lords, and a similar row of Rohirric lords, including that horrible woman who was Wynne’s mother. 

Everybody stared at the uruk couple next to Thranduil, and he could tell from Nugu’s nervous fingering the hem of his tunic, that it unsettled him. No wonder, too, Thranduil was thankful to not be in the other’s situation.

As the council began, it very soon turned into a heated argument. The Gondorians seemed mostly positive to the suggested peace treaty, and the Rohirrim not at all. Wynne’s mother was clearly the most averse of the lot. Even though Nugu sat right before her, she unabashedly compared the uruk-hai to a horse, and described how a stallion with bad traits would pass them on to all his offspring. Many of the other nobles seemed to take her side, but Thranduil could not discern if it was because they shared her opinion, or if they just did not dare oppose her.

As the discussion droned on at length without really getting anywhere, Thranduil found his thoughts begin to drift. 

That woman . Why did he feel a slight chill everytime she opened her mouth – which was often – and every time he looked at her? She was beautiful for a human, with well shaped, regular features and dark hair in an intricate updo, she dressed elegantly and moved gracefully. Her manners were polite of sorts, albeit unrefined, but that went for most of the other Rohirric nobility he had spoken to. Was it her pride and ambition that made him uneasy? But those were not necessarily faults; he himself would not have become king without them, and the same went for his father.

His father, that was the reason. There was a certain ruthlessness and cruelty about Wynne’s mother that reminded him of Oropher. A complete lack of regard for others’ feelings. She had beaten her daughter yesterday, and that had not been the first time. Wynne’s lie had come too naturally – he should know, having fabricated the same falsehoods so many times over the years. 

To have this woman as his son’s mother-in-law would mean he must accept her into his own life. He could imagine her in his court, conspiring and plotting, perhaps even scheming to turn his subjects against him if it could increase her influence. It would either work, or make his people laugh at him, Thranduil knew not which was worse. 

His temples were beginning to throb. Why had his son drawn him into this mess? 

The meeting lasted well into the afternoon, with only short breaks for refreshments and luncheon in Merethrond. When Elessar finally decided they would continue tomorrow, Thranduil’s throbbing temples had matured into a splintering headache, and he longed to remove his circlet. Not wishing to speak to anyone, he just made to leave when Wynne’s father and that woman came up to him, asking to exchange a few words in private, if they may?

Thranduil could not think of an excuse to refuse, and soon found himself listening to an elaborate oration – by the father, surprisingly – about the benefits of accepting his daughter as wife to his son. He brought up future connections with Rohan, trade deals, a dowry – jewels, pearls, horses, anything could be arranged, it would seem. The man spoke like he held a well rehearsed speech, and it was not hard to guess who had written it.

How did this couple know so much about Thranduil’s circumstances, his kingdom – and about Legolas’ and their daughter’s attachment? Before this meeting, they had only been in the city one day. He had a growing suspicion, which, if it was true, annoyed him more than a little. Yet, he said nothing until the father had done.

He let them wait for a minute, while he restrained his emotions and gathered his thoughts. He could not refuse, not yet – he needed more information.

“I shall consider your offer, and return my answer as soon as I have done so.” He bowed curtly, and left to talk with Wynne. He would get the truth out of her. 

Thranduil found the girl on the lawn outside the King of Gondor's private house, where she had been babysitting his and Faramir’s sons and the orclings, together with Galion. She seemed almost as tired as he felt. 

“May I have a word in private?”

She nodded, looking almost terrified, and he realized he must have been frowning rather deeply. Well, let her sweat.

He took her to his rooms in the guest house and bid her to sit in one of the chairs. He had been provided with a comfortable apartment; a large sitting room, a bedroom, and a private bathroom with a copper tub and running water, which he had made good use of so far. He longed to take a nice, scalding hot bath before supper, but first things first.

Thranduil removed his circlet and placed it on a sideboard, before seating himself opposite to Wynne. As usual, he said nothing for a while. It was a very good way to make someone anxious to talk, he had found, and of course it provided time to think of what he would say himself.

The poor girl looked very small in his chair, and was pulling at a loose thread in her hose. She was back in one of the simple tunics she had worn during their journey, and had her hair loose, without the pretty little hairnet. Such a shame. 

“Your parents came to see me,” he said at last, noticing her cheeks blanch. “They offered your hand in marriage to Legolas.” 

Wynne did not look up, or seem surprised. She knew about it, then.

“W-what did you answer?” Her lower lip trembled. She thought he had refused.

“I said I needed to think.” 

Now, she met his gaze, a tendril of hope in her gray eyes. She was nearly as easy to read as Legolas. 

“And then I thought.” He paused to give impact to his words, and to construct the next sentence in his head. “I thought of how you, unasked for, came along with the Mearas .” He emphasized the word, sending the message that he had not forgotten he had been tricked about the horses, as well. Her gaze immediately dropped, and the pallor in her face was replaced with a blush. “And I remembered a certain time… more than once, actually – when your behavior had seemed rather flirtatious.” 

She was crimson now, guilt written plainly in her countenance. Thranduil’s anger flared, and although he held it back he could not ban it entirely from his voice. 

“Tell me the truth, Wynne.” 

To his surprise, she promptly did, without hesitation or even trying to defend herself. In a trembling voice, she confessed that her mission had been to catch either himself or Legolas and make them marry her. She also said how very sorry she was. Well, she should be! 

Even though this was exactly what Thranduil had suspected, it was all he could do to remain calm. The nerve of this girl! He recalled the way she had been in the beginning, so innocent and yet tempting. There was one instant when he almost had been affected by it himself, despite everything, and only the thought of his wife had sobered him up. 

How dared she! Cold fury ran through his veins. He wanted to shake her until her teeth rattled, this devious, false girl, and then yell at her to leave and never show her face to him or his son again. 

She was crying silently, and he could tell she expected him to do exactly this. Oropher would have, without doubt, but Thranduil was – thank the Valar – not his father. Instead he remained impassive, willing his heart to cease its frantic pacing, forbidding his features to betray the storm within. He had learned the hard way never to act rashly, never to make decisions in a rage. 

As his breath finally slowed, he noticed the slight swelling on Wynne’s cheek, where her mother had struck her. He saw her red eyes and runny nose, how her slight body shook uncontrollably. He did not like it when females cried. 

Thranduil rose and turned his back on the sobbing child. It helped. A little. 

She really was a child, though. Nothing of this had been her idea. What had he expected her to do? Come clean to him that first day by the Anduin, and expose her mother’s schemes, say sorry, and leave the horses? Of course she could not have done that, it did not take much imagination to picture what would have happened to her when she came home. 

Wynne was not to blame for doing what her mother had forced her to, no more than Nugu was to blame for Saruman’s evil. They had both been slaves, bent under the strong will of someone else. Thranduil knew well how hard it was to break free of that kind of shackles.

He realized he had been unconsciously pacing back and forward, and stopped. 

What about her alleged feelings for Legolas, were those a lie too? No, that was a ridiculous notion. He was not blind, the tension between the kids was almost palpable. It might not be real love yet, but they certainly were attracted to one another, and there was a great deal of fondness too. 

Legolas claimed his heart was already committed, and the more Thranduil had seen them together lately, the more he believed it might be true. If so, giving up Wynne meant his son could never love someone else. 

Whatever decision Thranduil made, would have a bad outcome. If he accepted, Legolas could only be married a few short years anyway, until Wynne died like all mortals did. Meanwhiles he would have that deceitful dragon for a mother-in-law. She would probably come between them and ruin what they had, unless Wynne broke with her entirely – and that was not likely, given how intimidating the woman was. Even Thranduil had felt it. 

If he refused the match, on the other hand, Legolas would be miserable, and possibly alone for the rest of his life – but was that not better than being in a very short and unhappy marriage? And as for Wynne… if she survived the certain fit of temper her mother was bound to have, she would be back on square one, under her mother’s shadow. She deserved better.

At least he ought to ease some of her pain. He returned to his chair and placed his hand over Wynne’s small one. Hers was dead cold, and she flinched at the touch like a beaten dog.

“I am not angry with you.” He tried to make his voice soft. 

She met his gaze with red rimmed eyes, clearly not believing him.

“I am, however, livid with that vain woman you had the misfortune to be born by.”

“Sorry.” She sniffed.

“Do not apologize for her actions.” He carefully turned her face to expose her swollen cheek. There was a faint reddening near the ear where the skin had almost broke. 

Her jaw set stubbornly, she did not like that he had seen it. He knew that feeling. The shame.

Thranduil’s chest grew tight. He might be able to make her life a little easier, at least. He could talk with Elessar, see if there was something to be done. An invitation to stay in his court, perhaps? 

For, the more he thought of it, the more certain he became. He would have to refuse her mother’s offer.


A/N:

How will poor Wynne and Legolas solve this complicated mess of plots and plans? 

56. An Unfair Ultimatum

There were kids everywhere, or at least it felt so. Baby Rohi climbed up in Wynne’s lap, where he smudged her tunic with his grubby hands. Meanwhiles, his brother straddled Galion’s broad shoulders, while Elboron and Eldarion fought each other with wooden swords. She had forgotten who was who, but both were unbearably loud.

“Elboron, Eldarion… Elfwine… Why do they have to name their kids the same?” she grumbled. It was hard enough to tell the orclings apart, who had different names.

“Maybe they like elves” suggested Galion, smiling. “Who is Elfwine, anyway?”

“The Rohan prince. Thankfully King Éomer left him at home.” 

Galion only chuckled at her sour comment, dodging his young rider’s kicking leg.

Wynne had endlessly prefered to be alone, but in her room her mother could easily find her, so she had come back to Aragorn's lawn as soon as she had composed herself after the catastrophic talk with Thranduil.

She did not want to think about that. 

Sidra and Nugu had been unusually quiet after the council, and when they recounted how it had gone, Wynne well understood why. Apparently her mother had been worst of their enemies there. Why was she not surprised?

She sighed. She felt worn, exhausted by today's work of tending children and emotionally spent after confessing to Thranduil. 

She did not want to think of it.

Instead she wondered why she had agreed to babysit, terrible with children as she were. But Sidra had claimed Galion needed help, and that Nodir and Bronedir were busy. Yeah, right… Busy in the bathhouse until noon, and the rest of the day relaxing in the shade under the white tree together with two young Gondorian ladies. 

Wynne wished she could relax in the shade as well, but her head was too full; a swarm of thoughts and emotions had been tumbling around in her mind all day. Her private audience with Legolas’s father had only added to the cacophony.

How different Legolas was from him! Legolas had readily forgiven everything, and seemed not the least upset to learn the truth about Wynne’s mission. It had been almost too easy. What if he believed she had only chosen him because her mother told her to? That would hurt. She wanted to go to him and explain how it really was, but in the same time she did not want to talk to him, because then she would also have to tell him about her tete-a-tete with Thranduil. Legolas would, of course, find out about it anyway, probably have it from the source – but at least then she would not have to describe her own pathetic performance. 

With a ragged sigh Wynne realized her thoughts were on it once again, she kept returning there, kept bringing back the humiliation and shame. Stupid, stupid . Why had she blurted everything out in the least flattering way? But he had frightened her, more than he ever had before, and her mouth had worked on its own. And of course, after hearing her confession, he had grown madder still and that had effectively stopped her from trying to explain or excuse herself. At one time she was certain he would hit her, but instead he had calmed down and said he was not angry with her. She was not sure that had been true, and when she had left his room it had been with a lingering sense of upcoming disaster.

”Wynne! There you are, finally!”

Wynne groaned. She had been right; here came the disaster.

Mother strode up to her with billowing skirts, her face ghostly pale except for her flaming red cheeks and neck. When she spotted the orcling in Wynne’s lap, her face twisted into a disgusted grimace.

“Remove that thing and then come with me.” She lowered her voice to a hiss. “And you are not to be near those monsters ever again!”

“But Mother…”

“Silence. Now come.” 

Wynne was too used to obey to refuse, and as she walked behind her furious mother she suspected she knew the reason for that anger. Thranduil had said no. She had feared it ever since she left him, but fearing was not the same as knowing. Now her stomach plummeted. Without his father’s blessing, could she and Legolas ever be happy together? 

Mother confirmed Wynne's suspicion as soon as she had slammed the door behind them. What made her mother even more upset was that Thranduil had claimed she was the reason.

“He had the nerve to say that he did not want the shades of Greenwood to be polluted by my presence. That he found my meddling insufferable. Such rudeness! He really took delight in vexing me!” She paced around, clenching and unclenching her hands. Then she threw herself down on a chair. “This will be the end of me.” 

Wynne sat on the bed, not knowing what to say, disconcerted by her mother’s air of defeat. Mother never lost a battle of wills. But perhaps in Thranduil, she had found a worthy opponent for the first time.

“I am quite worn out,” she sighed now. “First that horrible meeting with those disgusting orcs, and now this.”

“They are my friends,” Wynne protested meekly. “And Sidra is human.”

“One who voluntarily lies with an orc is not much different herself.” There was venom in Mother’s voice. Then she looked like a thought had struck her. Her countenance changed; the exasperation disappeared and was replaced with shrewdness.

“How long is it since you had your last period?”

“What?” 

“Just answer the question.”

“A week or so, I don’t remember. But why–” Wynne stopped, understanding. “No. No Mother!”

“Perfect! We shall be several days here, I dare say, and it is just the right time.”

“Legolas will never shame me so.”

“Nonsense, you will not be shamed. Thranduil will accept the union to avoid such disgrace. If you marry soon after, nobody will know you were with child before the ceremony.”

“I won’t do it, we won’t do it! Not when his father is against it. Thranduil will hate us if we force him to agree.” Wynne rose hastily and made as to leave.

“You stay here,” Mother snapped. “Sit.”

As Wynne reluctantly obeyed, Mother regarded her thoughtfully. 

“You say the orcs are your friends.” The shrewd expression was back. “You want this peace with them, I dare say?”

Wynne could only stare, baffled. Was Mother giving her an ultimatum?

“We were going to vote against it, of course. It would be horrible to let orcs spread their filth in the human realms again, where they have already done so much evil; killed, robbed, raped. Yes, they claim to have changed, but I find that hard to believe.” Mother’s voice had grown passionate, but then the tone changed and became sly. “Even so… I cannot help thinking that if I would find my House allied to the Wood-elves… Well, then I might feel more secure, even with orcs nearby. Yes, I think I would, actually.” She rose from the chair to loom over Wynne. “Let me put this plainly. Beginning tonight, you will sleep with Legolas, and repeat the action every night for the duration of our stay. If you do this, I promise I will persuade the other Houses to accept the peace treaty.”

"It's not fair," Wynne mumbled, hearing the defeat in her voice. She could not refuse, not if the wellbeing of her friends depended on it. Sidra, Nugu, Goltur... the orclings. She could not let them die.

“Come. Change into that dress you wore to supper yesterday, and I shall follow you there.”

Wynne felt oddly like an animal being led to slaughter as Mother escorted her down the corridor.

“Here we are then. You stay the entire night, understood?”

“Yes.”

“I will notice if you leave beforehand.” Meaning, she would be back here tomorrow to witness Wynne come out through that door again. Could it be more humiliating?

Hating herself for doing this to him, Wynne knocked. When Legolas opened, she hurried inside and closed the door before he could spot Mother’s triumphant face outside.

“Wynne!” He seemed surprised, but pleased. Her gut flipped when she thought of how to explain what they would have to do, and why.

“I must talk to you.”

He noticed her distress and looked concerned. “What is wrong?” 

“We– We must do it. You know. Mate.” Wynne’s face was burning and she could not hold back her tears.

He silently pulled her into an embrace, stroked her back and allowed her to calm down enough to continue. 

“Mother says she will stop the peace treaty, unless you get me with ch-child. To force Thranduil to allow our marriage. B-because he said no to it when she asked him today.”

“He said no?” Legolas tensed, and there was surprise in his voice.

“I t-told him. About Mother’s plan,” she sobbed. “He suspected it and was so very angry. So I d-did not dare otherwise.”  

Legolas held her a little way from him, looking her over. He frowned nearly as deep as Thranduil when he noticed her swollen cheek. “Did he do that?” 

“No! He did not hurt me.”

“So where does this come from then?” Legolas eyes had grown hard and flinty. 

“It was...” she began, but broke off. She had meant to say it was an accident, but she would not lie to him, however humiliating the truth was. “Mother punished me.” Her gaze dropped to her hands. 

“That woman!” His hands clenched into fists as he began to pace the room, looking almost like his father. “Did she beat you before?” When Wynne did not answer, he scowled even more, taking her silence as an affirmation. “It is not right! And to come up with such an ultimatum too. This is not how I wanted our first time to be.”

“Me neither.”

“And I do not like to go behind Father’s back.” 

“I know. I’m so sorry…”

“Nay. Nay Wynne. Do not apologize for what she did.” Again he reacted uncannily like Thranduil. ”She is clever, she knows we cannot refuse.” He pulled her close to him. She could feel his tension, hear the rapid beat of his heart. “If I must…” He hesitated. “I would lie if I said I had not longed to… be intimate with you. We can make a child, if it is the only way, and if you want it too,” he mumbled, his arms tightening slightly around her. 

“Thranduil will kill us,” mumbled Wynne, breathing faster. He was really considering it. Be intimate. Despite herself, she felt her body react.

“Nay. He… I think he would be more hurt than angry, and cease speaking with me. Like… when I went with the Fellowship.”

“You have just become close to him. I don’t want to ruin that between you.” Wynne pulled back. 

“What else can we do?” He looked exasperated. 

“I don’t know. I can’t think.” She was crying again, she could not help it, everything was such a mess. “Even if we do what Mother wants, it will be horrible. She says she will come visit us often, and have the children come over to her often too.”

“I would never allow a child of mine to be alone with that woman, and risk her beating it.” Legolas’ scowl deepened, and he began to stride back and forth again.

“I wish we could run away, just you and me, and live in a cottage where Mother would never find us.” Wynne sighed, and thought of her old daydream.

He stopped his pacing, and stared at her. “That is actually a good idea.”

“Your father would be heartbroken. And there would be no treaty.”

“Not if… wait, let me think this through…” His forehead screwed up as he pondered for a while. The he brightened considerably. “I got it! Something that will overturn your mother’s plots.” 

”Really?”

”First, we pretend we did what she wants. You sleep here, but we will not do it, because my father would know if I had. For an elf, such things shows. But your mother would be fooled, would she not?”

“I think so, unless she comes in here with us.” Wynne shuddered at that horrible thought. “But I can’t see how…”

“Wait, hear me out. As soon as the Rohan lords have signed the treaty, you and I elope and hide in the wilderness. Then I send word to Father and tell him we wish to marry with his blessing. I cannot see him refusing that, not when your mother is out of the picture. We marry and stay hidden until it is safe to return, perhaps when your mother dies. Maybe Father lets us live far away in the Woodland realm somewhere, we can work out the details later. The most important thing is that we would be together. And my father and I would still...” He broke off, and some of the excitement left his features. “You would lose your father. And your grandparents.” 

Wynne considered it carefully. To never see her father again… and Grandmama, and Grandpapa… that would hurt, a lot. But if the choice was between Legolas and them, she would always choose him. 

And this plan might actually work. She thought she could fool Mother; it took many weeks until a pregnancy showed, and before then the treaty would be signed. Thranduil had seemed on the verge to accept their relationship before Mother came – if they eloped to avoid her ultimatum, that would probably sit well with him. Yes, it could work, and even if not, this was a lot better than any of the alternatives.

“Let’s do it.”

They hugged, hard and long, feeling both scared and relieved. If this worked, they would set things in motion that could not be undone.

“So, no baby-making tonight then,” Legolas said after a while, eyes twinkling slyly. “Almost a shame. That plan had some merits...”

“I’m sure there are other things we could do.” Wynne’s hands slid under his tunic.

“There are.” His gaze was on her very low neckline. “I forgot to say how much I love your dress… At least when only I get to see you in it.” 


A/N:

Hmm... will their plan really work? What do you think?

If you liked Thranduil's point of view in last chapter, I can reveal there might be another one ahead. And also, there is my story about him, Thranduil's Shadow!

57. Battle of the Titans

Wynne could get used to this. Legolas was softer and warmer than ever when he slept, and lying in the cradle of his arms, she felt safe and loved. They had been up long last night, mostly just talking, enjoying each other's company. She had made sure he knew how she had come to fall in love with him, that Mother’s by then abandoned plan had had nothing to do with it. Surprisingly he had already suspected as much, claiming her starry-eyed ogling had given her feelings away. Really! 

Before they finally drifted off to sleep, he had plaited her again, and himself too, renewing the sign of courtship. Next time Mother tried to take her braids out, Wynne was determined to refuse. She could always say it made him more inclined to impregnate her. She had to stifle a nervous giggle at that. Today she would have to face Mother, and try to persuade her that things had happened tonight which had not. 

Legolas’ breathing changed, and Wynne knew he was awake. 

“Soon time to face the dragon,” she mumbled.

“Good luck.” He yawned. “Want me to come with you?”

“That’s not necessary.”

“I could protect you if she tries to strike you again.” He was frowning, and Wynne’s heart warmed at his concern.

“She won’t, not when she’s happy.” A thought struck her. “Doesn’t Thranduil beat you?”

“Nay.”

“Not even when you were little? But you were probably a well-behaved, angelic elfling who did not need it.” 

“I already told you I was a handful. I ran away all the time.” He smiled wistfully. “Father would give me one of his looks and say something ironic, usually. Or just say nothing, which works surprisingly well with him.”

“It’s a bit odd though. With his temper, I would have guessed him to lash out at times.”

“His own father was rather violent, I think, he has hinted as much when we talked recently. He has tried not to be like him.” Then he smiled rather wryly. “Actually, there was this once… he did beat me then. But never again. And afterwards I saw his eyes, and realized he had been crying too.”

“If even he cried, he must have hit you bad,” she said sympathetically.

“Aye. He lashed me with his belt until I could hardly sit.”

“Ouch.” Wynne winced. “I hate the belt.”

His eyes narrowed. “I am glad you soon shall be free of your mother. And never be beaten again.”

“What had you done to make your father whip you?” 

He blushed rather interestingly and averted his gaze. “Nothing.”

“Come on. Tell me.” 

“Nay,” he said flatly.

“It must have been something horrible. I know I shall enjoy hearing it.” She tried to tickle him, but he caught her hand. “You’re too strong, it’s unfair. Anyway, I told you my secrets.”

He reluctantly obeyed then. “If you must know, I climbed a tree with another elfling and watched some females bathe.” His face had turned crimson.

She clasped her hand over her mouth to not laugh out loud. “You didn’t…”

“Aye. I said I was a handful,” he mumbled.

“I thought there were no other elflings when you grew up?”

“He was from Lórien, only come on a short visit. Father made sure he was never invited again.” 

“Now I try to picture you in that tree, spying on nude ladies.” Wynne sniggered.

“Let us not speak of this subject again,” he decided, and silenced her with a long kiss. 

Sunrise came, and it was time to go. They had slept in their underwear, and now Wynne pulled her dress back on while Legolas chose a clean tunic and hose. Getting ready for the day together, was another pleasant thing to do with the one you loved.

Mother waited for them outside, which Wynne had expected as she had hinted yesterday she would, but her reaction took them entirely by surprise.

“Alas! Wynne, what have you done!” Mother’s voice was piercing, her eyes almost bulging with feigned shock. “And you , you scoundrel, to take advantage of her thus!” She pointed at Legolas, who looked like he had been struck by lightning. “Oh, I am fainting. The humiliation. The disgrace. My daughter’s virtue, ruined!” She began to sob loudly and theatrically.

Others came out from the nearby rooms, their drowsy faces expressing a wide range of emotions; amusement, annoyance, surprise, and in the case of Thranduil; arctic cold rage.

“To my room.” It was directed at Legolas, but as he moved to go, Wynne’s mother grasped her arm and followed.

“Why?” Wynne whispered to her, feeling sick. But the only answer she got was a smug smile.

The Elvenking shut the door behind them almost delicately, his motions measured and deceptively calm. Then he firmly grasped Legolas shoulders. The younger elf flinched at the touch, his gaze full of apprehension before he averted it.  

“Look at me.” Thranduil’s voice was icy, and dangerously low. With apparent effort Legolas obeyed, and their eyes locked. 

Thranduil’s shoulders relaxed. “That’s a relief, at least,” he muttered, sounding more like himself.

“Well,” said Wynne’s mother. “What shall be done with this wayward son of yours? You should punish him for his insolence. And then they must be wed, of course.”

“I thought I made myself clear on that matter yesterday.” He let go of Legolas and turned his sharp eyes to her. “The answer is no. And now get out, so I can have a word with my ‘wayward’ son.”

“Oh, but yesterday, he had not ruined my daughter.”

“He has not today either.” Thranduil’s lips quirked into a cold smile, which did not reach his eyes. “If he had, it would show.”

“It will show when my daughter’s belly begins to swell!”

“It is apparent you do not know much about elves,” he sneered. “Trust me, your daughter’s virtue is intact, as well as is my son’s.”

“I shall trust no such thing.” Mother’s voice had lost some of the certainty, and the look she threw at Wynne was murderous. Then she straightened herself. “I dare say the many witnesses will not trust it either. You , Your Grace, obviously don’t know much of humans. Being alone together a night is enough that people will talk , and if the prince here refuses to marry the victim of his desire, well – it would not look good for you, I can say as much.”

Wynne stared in horror. Mother had outsmarted them again; this obviously had been her plan all along. One night was all it took, Mother was correct about that; the other lords would consider her tainted, her virginity spent. Nobody would care about what had actually happened in that room, even if there was a way to know.

Thranduil stiffened. He seemed to have come to the same conclusion, and the blistering chill was back in his blue eyes. He took a step toward Wynne’s mother, towering over her. She did not budge, and her smug, victorious smile never left her lips as she boldly met his stare. They stood in silence a while, engaged in a combat of wills, neither of them moving or looking away.

“You would force me to align my realm to someone like you ?” Thranduil said at last. “To such a repulsively vain woman as yourself? Plotting, cruel, disgustingly ambitious. Utterly devoid of any real taste, newly rich with a simple upbringing.”

Mother’s gaze grew hard and her face pale, except for her flaming cheeks. “How dare you insult me?” She lifted her hand to slap him, but he caught it easily. 

“Using violence to get your way? Pathetic,” he spat. 

She tried to pull herself free, but he only tightened his grip, his nails digging into her white flesh. 

“Let. Go. Of. Me.” Her voice was deadly. Surprisingly Thranduil obeyed; he dropped her arm like it had burned him, and even retreated a step. 

Mother rubbed her wrist, a bruise beginning to form. “Now, who uses violence?” she hissed. “Oh, I know your kind.” Her voice was teeming with contempt now. “You try to be so intimidating, using your height and strength to make people afraid of you. But males don’t frighten me anymore. There is nothing you can do to me, that someone else hasn’t already done!” 

Thranduil did not answer, and there was a flicker of insecurity in his eyes. That was all his opponent needed to continue.

“You may think me vain and newly rich. But you know what? I don’t care what you or anyone else think. So, you were the son of a king, and inherited a throne, a crown, a kingdom. Does that make you better than me? Does that make you entitled to look down your nose at me? Is the blood in your veins any different from mine, to allow you to be proud, when I cannot?”

Wynne felt Legolas take her hand, and she squeezed his in return. He was trembling almost as badly as herself. This was a completely new and unexpected side of her mother; it was like a complete stranger had entered the Elvenking’s suite. Gone was the simpering air she would normally put on among royalty, replaced by something passionate and fiery and entirely honest.

“Nothing of what I have, was given to me; I worked for it. I endured pain, humiliation, fear… all of it. I earned it.” She took another step toward him, and again he backed. “I had nothing , and yet here I stand, with the power to undo this orc peace you desire, and to ruin your son’s reputation.” 

Another tense silence ensued. When Thranduil finally replied, his eyes had an oddly bitter look. “I am sorry I hurt you.”

That apparently caught Mother off guard, and again she rubbed her arm, almost absentmindedly. Then her gaze regained its sharpness. 

“I don’t need your apologies. I want an affirmative answer.”

The king turned his back to look out through the window, but he stood less straight, less rigid than before. 

“You shall have it. But then I expect this peace treaty to be agreed upon and signed today. By all the Rohirric lords.” His back was still turned, his voice emotionless.

“Naturally.” Mother had regained her composure, and was beginning to look like her normal self, only a little more businesslike.

“Then please leave me and my son alone.”

Wynne’s legs were so weak she wondered if she would stumble. Before she left, she met Legolas’ gaze. He smiled shakily. If the treaty would be signed today, they could escape tonight, this had not really changed anything as far as their plan went. At least she hoped so. They would have to discuss it later.

Outside in the corridor, many were still lingering, and the way they silenced when Wynne and her mother walked past, made it clear what they had talked about. Gossip would spread, and soon everyone would know. To get her way, Mother had sacrificed her own daughter’s reputation too.

Mother brought Wynne to her rooms. As soon as they were alone, her furious expression returned. She had just won against Thranduil, why was she still angry?

“Again, you defy me!” She shook Wynne violently. “Are you stupid or what? It’s not that hard. Clothes off and spread your legs. Or was the elf unable to find his way?”

“Stop it.” Wynne tore herself free. “You got what you wanted. We will marry, we shall do that then.”

Mother raised her hand again, but Wynne evaded her slap. “If you hit me, I will tell Thranduil.” 

”You…” Mother’s scowl deepened and she seemed ready to kill someone. Wynne decided a hasty retreat was a very good option. As the door closed, she heard the unmistakable sounds of furniture breaking.

With everybody busy preparing to attend the final day of council, Wynne found herself alone. She had not seen Sidra today, so there would thankfully be no babysitting. Instead, she went to the stables. The stable hands had already exercised the horses but she stayed a while anyway, stroking and cuddling Vatna, allowing the mare's calming presence to undo the knot of apprehension she had felt since the fight. Everything will work out, when we run away. She kept repeating that as a mantra, fervently hoping it would be true.

She was just coming back to the citadel when she spotted a familiar shape. Cheery, the female dwarf, sat under the White Tree and smoked a long, curved pipe.

“Hallo, Miss.” The dwarf grinned at her in a very cheeky way. Ugh. Gossip had begin to spread…

“Good day, Miss Cheery.” She sat down next to the other, glad to have something to do, and someone to talk with.

“So, ye had a good time, then, with yer bonny lad?” The dwarf probably knew everything about spending nights with males.

“Yes. But we didn’t do it. Not that anyone believes that...” 

“Nae? Why?”

“We wanted his father’s blessing first… well, at least we hoped for it, but now… it’s rather a disaster. Thranduil is livid.” She sighed.

“Ach, that’s males for yer. Nasty buggers, the lot of ‘em.” Cheery held out her pipe. “Want some?”

“No thank you.”

Neither of them said anything for a while. Wynne watched the smoke ascend in lazy swirls, listened to the rustle of the silvery leaves above and tried to savour this moment of peace. Soon enough there would be many things happening. Packing, sneaking out of the guest house, convincing the night guards to let them out of the city… So many things could go wrong.

Then the dwarf chuckled silently. “‘Tis a shame, really… Since e’eryone kens ye did it anyway, ye might as well have bedded the laddie and got the pleasure of it too.”

“I’m sure it’s worth waiting for.”

“Aye. It is.” The dwarf’s deep set eyes were dreamy as she returned her gaze to the view of the city below. A small smile hinted under the soft curls of her beard, as if she had remembered something funny.


A/N:

It is worth waiting for. :)

58. Plans Undone

The day’s meeting took a lot less time than the one yesterday had, and Wynne later learned that somehow all the Rohan lords apparently had changed opinion overnight, to be suddenly very positive to the idea of peace with the Emyn Muil orcs. 

The extent of Mother’s influence was intimidating, and somewhat surprising too. How had she come to be that powerful? Their House was no more famous than any of the others.

In the evening Aragorn threw a grand feast, and the atmosphere in the huge room was merry. Wynne was happy for her friends, and tried to laugh and celebrate with Sidra and Nugu, but it was hard when she was so worried about her impending elopement with Legolas. When it was time to be seated for supper, she was almost thankful to be placed with her family at another table. 

Mother enjoyed herself immensely. Her fit of temper that morning had long since passed, and now she was busily planning the wedding, albeit only with Wynne and Father; thankfully she had not yet attempted to speak with Thranduil. The Elvenking’s features were neutral where he sat next to Aragorn and Éomer, but the glares he sometimes sent their way talked for themselves. 

“How come the other lords do what you say?” Wynne interrupted in the middle of Mother’s oration about the immense guest list she would make. 

“Wynne, dear… it’s easy, really.” Mother smiled, and this time it reached her eyes. She had had several glasses of wine, and was in an unusual friendly and talkative mood. “Men use their fists to get their way, women use their brain. Why fight when you can negotiate? All one needs is the proper leverage.” She took another sip. “What you do, is you find out their weaknesses. Everybody has something they need, or wish to hide, or something they fear.”

“Morwen has gathered information about the other Houses for years,” said Father, a tint of pride in his voice. It was rare that he joined in a conversation, and Wynne blinked at him in surprise. Perhaps he had had a little too much wine as well. 

“I have,” Mother agreed. “And you must also not forget the little favours we bestow upon them every now and then. A gift here, a discount there, a word in favour of someone – that works wonders to secure their continued friendship.”

After supper Wynne slowly walked past Legolas and nodded in the direction of the statue where they had talked last time. He readily followed her there. When he arrived, he seemed cheerful in a somewhat disconcerting way.

“So, this is great, is it not, the peace treaty signed already. And we elope tonight.” His cheeks were flushed, but he did not seem drunk. Something was clearly wrong.

“What happened… after I left? Was Thranduil very angry?” Stupid question. Of course he was angry. 

A shadow flickered across Legolas’ eyes and his smile wavered. “Aye.” He did not elaborate further, and this was not really a good place to talk. 

“Mother was too. Because we didn’t… you know.”

“That was just about the only thing my father was happy about.” Legolas’ weak smile returned. Then he took her hand and pulled her closer. “I have been talking with Aragorn, and explained the situation,” he whispered urgently. “He is on our side in this, but he cannot help us openly unless he would risk his good relations with Rohan and the Woodland Realm. He has commanded the city guards to allow us out without questions, and if anyone asks later they will say they slept on their post. Can you meet me by the Great Gate at midnight?” This close, Wynne could feel how nervous he was.

“I will meet you there. But is everything really alright?” she whispered back. She tried to catch his eyes, but he had averted his gaze.

“See you later, then. Good luck.” And he was gone.

Wynne’s stomach behaved oddly the rest of the evening, churning and flipping whenever she thought of their eloping, and she worried a lot about Legolas’ strange mood. Everything was not quite right, something must have gone wrong, at least in part. But there was nothing she could do about it, he was staying close to his father the rest of the evening and Wynne dared not approach him there. 

The feast would last until past midnight, so Wynne excused herself early and left her parents on the dance floor. Before she went, she looked at them one last time. Mother, so beautiful and elegant, happy for once in Father’s company, and he too seemingly enjoying himself even though he was no great dancer. It was odd to know she would never see them again, and Wynne felt a pang of guilt about leaving without saying goodbye. Her chest grew tight and she had to turn away to hide her tears.

Back in her room, she changed into her usual outfit of tunic and hose and began to pack. It was difficult because her fingers shook so badly, and her tears made everything damp, but she just could not stop crying. 

There was a knock, and Wynne froze. Who could that be? The feast was not over yet, she could still hear the music. It must be Legolas then. Perhaps something had gone wrong? She hurried to open.

When she saw who was outside, Wynne’s heart nearly stopped. She had escaped the goblin only to be caught by the wolf.

“May I come in?” Thranduil’s voice was calm, and he did not look angry. But that meant nothing, he was very good at hiding his emotions.

Wynne silently backed away from the door, allowing him to pass and seat himself in her chair. She sat opposite to him on her bed – or flopped down rather, feeling weak like a newborn colt.

“Going somewhere?” He nodded at her half-packed bag.

“Yes.”

“With my son, I presume.”

“Yes.”

“I got the impression it was not to happen for many days yet. Clever. He fooled me,” Thranduil mused. Then he turned his gaze back to Wynne. “Legolas told me of your plan to elope and hide. And I will say the same to you, as I did to him. I will not allow it.” His voice was firm. “I will never let my son, the Prince of Lasgalen, creep around in the woods like a lawless criminal. For him to give up his home, his status, all of it, because of the trickery of a shrewd human woman? Never. It cannot be. It shall not be. I would rather agree to your mother’s schemes then. You would marry properly after a year’s betrothal, and then live in my realm.” He leaned closer to Wynne, but she knew he was not trying to frighten her, not this time. There was real concern in his eyes and his voice sounded more tired than anything else. “I tried hard to make my son understand this. Not much good it did, I never knew he could be so stubborn.” He sighed.

“My mother would ruin everything if we married properly,” mumbled Wynne. 

“I know. And there is something… I have arranged something else. But before I go into that, I need you to understand. To really understand.” His gaze was intent. “I told you before about the immortality of elves, and how marrying a mortal would affect Legolas. You would die, and he would feel the loss of you for the rest of his life. But that is not all. When an elf loses–” He hesitated, and swallowed, suddenly looking very vulnerable. “When you lose your loved one – as an elf, you die. Waste away... the grief eating you from within, until there is nothing left of your soul, and your body is naught but a hollow skin.” He swallowed again, and Wynne realized he talked from experience. This was about him and Legolas’ mother. “Sometimes, though… there is another you could love, such as– such as your son…” He broke eye contact, his gaze moving to the window. “I had nearly given up,” he murmured. “I would not even look at him, after he was born. Pregnancies… so many things can go wrong. It is a dangerous process, even for elves. His mother... did not make it.” His eyes were blank. ”I nearly died from grief, until one of the healers forced me to hold the baby. And when I saw him… my Legolas...” A single tear trailed down his smooth cheek. “Then I… I fell in love with him, so to say. And I decided to stay in Arda, for his sake.” Thranduil turned his gaze back to Wynne, pain written all over his countenance. His open sadness was almost more frightening than his rage this morning. “Here is what you need to understand, and what I am suspecting Legolas has conveniently deemed unnecessary to tell you; if you have children, they will not be immortal.”

“They will not?” Wynne could only stare at him, a lump forming in her throat. “But Arwen…” 

“Arwen is of Idril’s and Tuor’s bloodline. Only their descendants are allowed to choose immortality, because the Valar accepted Tuor as an elf when he travelled to them. Arwen’s father chose to be immortal, but Arwen chose a mortal life when she wedded Aragorn. In the other very few instances in history where elves have married humans, their offspring have been mortal. And this means that if Legolas survives to lose you – which is not at all certain, even if he has children – he will also have to mourn their deaths. Sooner or later, it would lead to his premature demise.” Then he added, almost as an afterthought. “And that, of course, would be the end of me as well. Not that it matters much, now.”

“It would kill him… I would cause his death,” Wynne murmured. She could not believe he had never told her elves actually died of grief. And why had he said their children would be immortal? How could he lie to her about something so important?

“I am sorry if I upset you,” he said softly. “I wanted to be sure you knew the alternative, before I make my suggestion. There is something you could do, that will hopefully save the life of Legolas, and make your own life better as well.” Thranduil’s cheeks were still moist, but he had regained his composure. “I will not try to compel you, and I admit that Legolas is completely against it. But I have a feeling you are the wiser one, and I know you will at least consider it.”

She nodded mutely. Her mind was in such a turmoil of emotions she did not trust her voice.

“I want you to run away and hide, not with Legolas, but alone.” He took her hand and pressed it. “It would not be so bad as it sounds; I have spoken with Prince Faramir, and he and his wife offered to let you live with them. They will help you. The first nights you stay in a public guest house in the city, I have made arrangements with the owner. Then you disguise yourself as one of Eówyn’s servants and follow her home. This way, you will be removed from that toxic mother of yours, and be free of her tyranny and cruelty. And as for Legolas… he will know that you are safe, although I will not tell him exactly where you live. When I spoke with him about this plan earlier today, I did not mention Faramir’s name.” Again Thranduil pressed her hand. “I want to be honest with you. His losing you will not be painless, his heart is too committed now. Legolas will hurt, but he will survive, and he will get over the worst of it eventually. It would be for the better.”

Wynne did not know what to say. To leave Legolas… The thought alone made her heart ache. But if her staying killed him? She had been so sure a baby would solve everything, but now she realized it might even make things worse. 

“When the two of you are apart, you will find it is easier to forget each other. Distance works that way.” He smiled wistfully. “Wynne, you are such a sweet girl. Your life is short, it should not be spent in misery. You can love again, I have seen it happen many times. A human who loses their spouse can remarry. There will be scores of handsome young men in Osgiliath who would notice you, and in time, maybe one of them can make you happy.”

“I doubt it.” Wynne’s lips trembled, and she was unable to hold back her tears. “I never was very much to look at.” She tried to smile, but it probably came out as a grimace. “But y-you are right, this is for the better. I will do it.” She hid her face in her arms.

“Oh Wynne… Thank you. You do the right thing, the right thing for both of you.” He stroked her hair softly. “I am sorry it has to be this way. I truly am.” 

“J-just tell me, where to g-go.”

“The guest house is called ‘The Homely House’, it is in the third circle, just to the right when you come down from the second level. A white, two story building. And… if Legolas expects you to run away with him tonight, it is best you go there directly, before he comes looking for you.”

“I’ll just finish packing,” she mumbled, still into her arms.

“Do not linger.” He pressed a kiss on the top of her head. “Goodbye, Wynne. I am going to miss you very much.” His voice was strained.

When she was alone, Wynne felt numb. She would miss Thranduil too. In the rare occasions he had shown his real self, he had seemed more like a parent to her than either her father or mother. But now she would lose both him, her family and her lover, all in one go.

She wished she could at least say goodbye to Legolas. To leave him without notice was such a cruel thing to do, but she knew he would stop her if she went to him first. He would say that he did not mind giving up his life – she knew him well enough by now to know as much. But that was wrong , and she could not allow it. The lives of him and his father were at stake, and from the way Thranduil had spoken of it, she was certain that kind of death was horrible. Wasting away… their souls dying. She shuddered. No, Thranduil was right. She liked Éowyn despite being slightly jealous of her, perhaps she could get a job as her stable hand or something, or maybe move to Sidra in the orc town. She could survive without Legolas, and he would survive without her too. He still had his father, and his friends Gimli and Aragorn, and he would be busy doing whatever princes do.

But maybe she should at least write him a letter, and explain. Yes, that was a better option than just disappearing. 

Wynne found a small piece of parchment and a quill on the table beside the chair, and sat down to write. How would she begin? How do you convey in just a few words that you have to leave someone you love, and never see them again? 

Maybe she should just tell him to ask Thranduil about the details? That would save her explaining, but it was also rather cowardly. 

Dear Legolas, she began. I love you. She wiped her eyes to avoid tears dripping on the ink and make a blotch. I am sorry to cause you pain. Oh this was terrible, her words were so empty. Cause him pain? He would be miserable, just like she would. And angry. He would feel betrayed. 

I know you are angry, she wrote. Well, she was angry too, actually. He had deceived her into believing a child would make their relationship work, but there was no space to complain about that here. ...but this is really for the better. I could not let you die of grief when I die. Great, now she had wrote ’die’ twice in the sentence. 

She had still not decided what to write next, when her door was forcefully thrown open and her intended recipient himself burst in, slamming it behind him. His face was thunderous.

“Why did you not come?”

It must be long past midnight, she had spent too long mulling over the letter! Wynne tried to hide it behind her back, but Legolas had already seen what she was doing and now he tore the scrap from her. His eyes were dark and stormy as he read what she had written, his brow furrowing deeply. 

“You were just going to leave,” he accused. “After letting me wait in vain, you would leave me with only a note?” 

“I-I’m sorry…”

“You are sorry.” His voice was cold, but his neck flushed hotly. “Well, that is a huge comfort.”

“Why did you lie to me about our children’s immortality?” Wynne countered, her face heating as well. “Had you told me earlier, I would never had agreed to that stupid secret relationship.”

“Stupid? You seemed to enjoy it,” he growled. “And I did not lie, I just did not know. How could you even think I would lie about such a thing? After all this time.” Now he looked hurt, and Wynne felt slightly ashamed. Yet, he must have found out when he met Aragorn, and still he had not told her.

“Why did you not set me right as soon as you knew, then?”

“I… I was going to. I was. But I figured it was not important.”

“Not important? They would die, and so would you, and I can’t believe you did not tell me of that at least.” Now she was sobbing, and she wiped her face angrily.

“We do not have to have children. And I would rather live a few decades with you and then die, than be alone and die immediately.”

“Why would you die immediately?” She squinted at him through her tears. 

“I might,” he muttered, but he did not seem to really believe that. 

“You just made that up! Why can’t you be honest?” 

“I am honest, but you… writing a note and just leave! How could you be so cruel? You have let my father turn you against me! Do not deny it, I know it must be he who set you up to this. He wants to hide you Eru knows where, conveniently stowed away so he will not have to deal with your mother. He is afraid of her.”

“Now you’re unfair. Thranduil wants me to be happy. And he wants you to survive, and I should not think that’s very strange!”

“He wants you to be happy, you say. But would you really be?” 

The question hung between them, unanswered. 

His gaze softened slightly. “I know I would be unhappy. And I would search for you everywhere, and never give up. And if I still did not find you, I might not die, but… I am not sure I would stay here. I might sail to Aman – Valinor, as some call it. Frodo went there. I could join him.”

Wynne had heard of Aman, the island in the far west to which only elves could go. 

“So you would just abandon your father? And you accuse me of cruelty.”

“He could come with me, and be reunited with my mother.” Legolas shrugged. “Death is not so final for us. Unless we do not want to, we are reborn to live in Aman.” He sat in the chair Thranduil had left a while ago, and Wynne again sat on the bed. He seemed calmer now, but still angry.

“So, what you’re saying is, if I hide like Thranduil wants me to, you will sail away and take him with you. Which would be almost the same as dying?”

“Aye.” 

“Sounds like an ultimatum to me.” 

“No!”

“Yes. You’re acting just like Mother.” Wynne frowned at him.

“Nay Wynne.” He frowned back at her. “Be sensible now. We could live together, and when your time is up, I sail west. If Father wants, he can come too. But the point is, we would have many happy years first. Can you not see this is a much better plan?”

“What about the children, would you leave them behind? Because in most marriages you get those, you know. Or maybe you don’t want to bed me.” 

“Of course I do.” His lip quirked up slightly. “Very much, actually, in case you had not noticed.”

Wynne smiled despite herself. “Well, yes, maybe I have.”

Legolas moved to sit beside her on the bed. “We do not have to have children. I am not sure how it works with humans, but I know I can control my part of it. How else did you think elves could live for centuries and only have a handful of elflings, at the most?”

“Well I… I thought maybe they stopped doing… you know.”

Legolas grinned. “Sounds boring.” 

“Yes. But… how?” Wynne was curious, she had wondered this before. 

“Well… I have… hm. Sort of… seeds, you know? That can fertilize a female’s egg.” Legolas was blushing. 

“I know.” She was not stupid, she had seen animals mate.

“Well, elvish females can choose when to release an egg, and us males can choose whether to release the seeds during… uh… the act.” He was cute when he was embarrassed. 

“My eggs will come monthly whether I want it or not.” Wynne felt rather jealous of female elves.

“But without a seed to fertilize it, there would be no child.”

Wynne nodded thoughtfully. So, they could actually be together, not having children, and then he would sail. But if it was this easy, why had Thranduil been so emotional? He had talked of wasting away, of the soul dying… She narrowed her eyes. She had a feeling Legolas was still hiding things. 

“So, these ships you sail with… are they just there, waiting for elves who wish to go to Aman, or?”

“Nay, I would have to build one first.”

“And this you would do, still in mourning, heartbroken… Do you even know how to build a ship?”

“Well, I…”

“Legolas, you’re doing it again, evading the problems. You can’t just postpone thinking of them.”

You are making this needlessly complicated.” He tried to kiss her, but she dodged his lips. 

“I don’t want you to waste from grief. I don’t want your soul to die! If I make it complicated, it’s because it is complicated!” 

“Fine, be like that then.” He rose angrily.

“Someone has to be sensible!” She stood in front of him, their eyes locking in an unintentional reprise of this morning’s fight between their parents.

“Sensible? Try pessimistic!”

“I prefer realistic.”

“Call it what you want.”

“I will.”

“Fine.”

They stared at each other for another minute, until Wynne began to feel a bit silly, and she could tell from the quiver in the corner of Legolas’ mouth that he did too. That of course had her own lip quirk as well, and before they knew it, they were both laughing. 

She took a step closer and wrapped her arms around him. He hugged her back so hard she almost lost her breath.

“I love you so much, Wynne. Do not run away without me. Please,” he murmured into her hair.

“I won’t… And... sorry about the letter.”

“Sorry for hiding things.”

“This still doesn't solve anything though.”

“I know. We can sleep on it, and maybe we think of something tomorrow.”

“Mm. Legolas?”

“Aye?”

“I love you too.”


A/N:

Hmm… what can they do? Things are getting complicated.

By the way, I have a blog dedicated to my fanfics. The address is mimilind.com if anyone is interested. :)

59. A Fond Farewell

“You look dull. What’s wrong?” Sidra joined Wynne at the breakfast table. 

“It’s a long story,” mumbled Wynne, stirring listlessly in her porrige. 

“Well, here’s what will cheer you up. Join me in a hot bath with the ladies!”

“I’m not really in the mood. But thanks.” Wynne tried to smile, but her head hurt and smiling made it worse. She had not slept much last night, and was not anywhere near finding a solution to hers and Legolas’ problems. Thranduil’s surprised and annoyed stare at her this morning had not helped either, and she hoped Legolas would take on the unpleasant task of explaining to him why Wynne was still there.

“No, I insist. And then you can tell me everything.” Sidra wrapped an arm around her. Her spicy scent was comforting, and Wynne leaned into the hug. Maybe it would be a good idea to talk to someone else.

“All right.”

The wide pool in the ladies’ part of the bathhouse was circular and made of smooth stone, with a stair leading down into the hot water. Sconces on the walls gave the room a dim light. To Wynne’s surprise all the ladies she knew were there; Sidra, Lady Éowyn, Cheery and even Queen Arwen. 

Wynne was very conscious about her nude body when she stepped down, but it felt good too. The deep water was warm and relaxing. 

“This is lovely,” sighed Sidra. 

“Aye, we are very proud of our baths,” agreed Arwen. The acoustics in the room made her musical voice even more beautiful.

Wynne peeked at the queen under half closed eyelids. She was curious, having never seen another female’s body. Through the clear water, she could see that Arwen was equally beautiful naked. Her waist was thin, despite having carried a child, and her small breasts shapely. She seemed to have no hair at all on her body, even between her legs. 

Again Wynne felt that treacherous flutter in her chest, and she quickly moved her gaze to Éowyn. The Rohirrim was more muscular, she had a warrior's body which was attractive in its own way. Without clothes, her new pregnancy was more pronounced. 

Next to Éowyn, Sidra leaned back with closed eyes, resting her head on the wall. Sidra was Sidra, ample and motherly, but Wynne was fairly sure males loved that kind of figure. Beside her, Cheery fought to hold her nose above the deep water. It was very hard to not stare at the dwarf’s body; it was so very female with those large breasts and wide hips, but also so very hairy

“Well, Wynne,” said Sidra, her eyes still closed. “Are you going to explain why you have shadows darker than Mordor under your eyes, and hardly touched your breakfast?”

Wynne tore her eyes from Cheery to glare at her friend. Did she expect her to talk about such personal topics in front of the queen?

“I’ll tell you later.”

“You do look cast down.” Arwen’s lilting voice was filled with concern. 

“Is it about the bonny elf?” asked Cheery.

“What elf?” Arwen’s interest clearly was caught. She peered at Wynne, and then reached forward to examine the three braids on her temple. “Legolas did those, did he not?” When Wynne still did not reply, she smiled dreamily. “Aww, I am so happy for you both. I knew something good had befallen him.”

“You did?” Wynne was surprised, she had not noticed Legolas talk much with Arwen.

“Aye. You see, after Estel’s coronation and our marriage, Legolas stayed here for several weeks, and during that time he changed. He became sad and brooding, and my husband and I worried about him. He promised to return and visit soon, but he never did.”

“He did not visit us either,” said Éowyn.

“Or Gimli,” Cheery added.

“As soon as I saw him arrive the other day, I noticed he seemed more like he was when I first met him,” Arwen continued. “And yesterday Estel hinted there was a lady involved, although he would not say who.”

“I’m surprised you hadn’t heard the rumours,” Wynne muttered. “I thought everybody knew.”

“I do not listen to gossip.”

“But why are you sad?” Éowyn cut in. “You seemed so happy together in Osgiliath.”

“It’s just impossible,” mumbled Wynne. And then everything poured out of her, Mother’s interference, Thranduil’s resistance and most importantly, all the complications of human-elf relationships, such as Legolas’ dying and mourning forever in the afterlife.

“I fail to see why it is a problem that he would pass away when you did,” said Arwen. “Surely, all the happy years before your demise will make it worth it.”

“But it sounds so horrible. First his soul would die, and when he is reborn, he will be alone in Aman. It’s different for you , Your Majesty; Thranduil told me you chose mortality.”

“Hm. Aye, it is a bit different, but still... “ She looked thoughtful. “I know of a case… My father’s grandfather had a similar problem.”

“Right!” Éowyn exclaimed. “Tuor managed to solve it.”

“Aye. What he did might not work a second time, though, and he had performed some real heroic deeds. Perhaps best not get her hopes up.” Arwen turned back to Wynne, who had no idea who the two were talking of, although she recognized his name vaguely. “Wynne, I think you must allow Legolas to make his own decisions. It is his life to give, after all.”

“But his father–”

“He would lose Legolas either way. Without you, I think he would go back to being the way he was after the War.”

“He says he would sail west,” Wynne admitted.

“See! Thranduil will just have to accept this. Though, according to my father, he always was an obstinate fellow.” She smiled. 

“But her mother will create trouble for them,” said Éowyn. “She is infamous for her meddling. I spoke with my brother, because I was so surprised the Rohan lords were opposed to the peace treaty. And it turns out Lady Morwen was behind that.”

“They could live with me and Nugu,” suggested Sidra. “I’m sure that woman would never want to visit an orc town.”

“That could be risky,” Éowyn objected. “She might claim the orcs had kidnapped her daughter and violated the peace treaty.” She turned to Wynne. “I think you just have to stand up to her. Demand she leaves you two alone.”

“This from the woman who dressed like a man to be able to do what she wanted,” teased Sidra.

“Well I did stand up to my uncle first… he just didn’t listen.” Éowyn shrugged.

“I stood up to my father about my love for Estel, and it worked,” said Arwen proudly.

“Mother won’t listen to me. She doesn’t even listen to Thranduil.”

“Oh.”

Nobody said anything for a while. Arwen chewed thoughtfully on her lower lip, and Éowyn’s forehead was furrowed. Wynne looked at them in wonder; they were really engaging themselves in this. Their support and kindness warmed her heart.

The dwarf broke the silence first, her voice slow and calculating. “Yer mum wants ye to marry a prince, and carry his bairns… But what if he abdicated his crown?”

“Mother would disown me, she would be so mad!”

“There ye go, then.” Cheery shrugged.

They stared at the dwarf. Slow smiles formed on their faces as realization dawned, and then Arwen began to laugh, the melodious sound echoing between the stone walls. Soon the others had joined in.

“Perfect,” hissed Sidra between the paroxysms. “Just perfect.”

“Thranduil would forbid it,” said Wynne, the only one not laughing.

“Then donnae tell him first.” Cheery smirked under her beard. “The bonny lad can announce it publicly to his people.”

They kept talking a long while after that, honing the plan, trying to foresee what could go wrong and how to counteract that. When Wynne finally left the bathhouse to find Legolas, her fingers were wrinkled and she was clean as a newborn baby. She also felt slightly hopeful for the first time in days.

To Wynne’s surprise, Legolas was just back from an informal meeting with Aragorn and Gimli, concerning the exact same issue. Moreover, they had come to a similar conclusion as Cheery.

“Really?”

“Really.”

“So you want to do it then? I mean… you would lose everything.”

“I never wanted the crown, never wanted to rule. I can only see advantages in this.”

“I’m not sure it will work...” Wynne sighed. 

“Pessimist.” He looked around to make sure nobody was nearby, and gave her a quick kiss.

“Overconfident optimist,” she countered, kissing him back.

Then they had to part, Legolas had postponed speaking with his father, but now it had do be done. He would tell him that Wynne had stayed because they had another plan, and that he would reveal it when they came home.

“Will he accept that?”

“Nay, he hates surprises. He will keep prying. Only, this time he will not succeed.” 

“Good luck.” Wynne had not meant for it to sound so ironic, but she really did doubt Legolas would be able to resist in the long run. Thranduil knew too well how to control his son. But hopefully he would not put a stop to the plan when he found out, he must understand that this was the only way to keep Legolas in Middle-earth.

When she was alone, Wynne began to pack her bag again, this time for good. They were leaving Minas Tirith tomorrow. The elves and the orc couple would take the new river route back to Emyn Muil, together with some emissaries of the King of Gondor, and bring the new peace treaty to Master Goltur. After that, the elves would continue north, to the elvish realms of Lothlórien and former Mirkwood.

Meanwhiles, Wynne and her family were riding with King Éomer back to Edoras, before turning northeast to Wynne’s home. There, Mother thought they would prepare for the wedding, and travel to Mirkwood for a formal betrothal ceremony, but instead, Wynne would leave alone. She would go to the arranged meeting place and hopefully find Legolas there. That was, if he succeeded with his part. And if Wynne was not prevented by her mother to leave. 

She was not being pessimistic; there were many things that could go wrong, still many obstacles to overcome. Much depended of if Wynne and Legolas managed to oppose their parents, herself in particular; if she left without Mother’s accepting it, the woman could yet stir up much political trouble.

After what had happened last time, Wynne and Legolas dared not spend the night or even the evening together. A few kisses in a dark corner of the guest house corridor was all they could share.

“Next time we meet, there will be more than kisses,” Legolas promised, his eyes shining with excitement. 

“You’re enjoying all this,” Wynne accused. “Like it’s some sort of adventure.”

“I do,” he admitted. “I am happy all this awful waiting will be over soon.”

“It might not be.” Wynne bit her lip, feeling like crying when thinking of all the what-ifs.

“If your mother makes a fuss, I shall come for you.”

“Yeah because that would not make her set all of Rohan against you and your Realm? You can’t help me with this, and you know it.”

His smile waned. “Aye, but there is no point in imagining the worst.”

Wynne disagreed, but kept it to herself this time. She did not want to fight with him, not now when they were together for the last time in weeks. 

“I’ll miss you so much,” she said instead, with a pang of apprehension. She had seen him every day for several months, what would it be like to be apart? What if he would feel less for her, even forget her? She knew she was being silly, but could not push away the bleak thoughts entirely.

“I will miss you too.” He kissed her again, an earnest, deep kiss that temporarily chased away her fears and left her breathless.

Wynne slept badly again that night. After breakfast, which she tasted nothing of, she gathered with the others on the courtyard in the city’s sixth level. The stable hands had brought out all the horses, making the area crowded and slightly chaotic. Wynne’s ten Meara mixed-breeds, and those Mother and Father had been riding, pranced nervously beside Éowyn’s and Faramir’s steeds, and Gimli’s and his girlfriend’s ponies. Further away were the many horses belonging to King Éomer’s entourage. Mother had put a side-saddle on her mare, Wynne noticed, frowning. Father always rode bareback just like Wynne.

The elves and Sidra and Nugu had come to say their goodbyes; they would leave by boat later today. 

“Can you believe I shall be going up in that boat lift,” Sidra said with a shudder. “Wish me luck.” 

“You will be fine,” comforted Éowyn and hugged her. “I hope we shall meet again soon!”

“Can’t you come visit us, and see our mountain town? The children get along so well.” 

“Sure, why not?” Éowyn looked at Faramir, who nodded. 

“We don’t have much planned for the autumn,” he said.

“You are more than welcome.” Sidra smiled broadly, and her eyes became moist. “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Sidra’s and Wynne’s farewell was more sad, there was no way of knowing if they would ever meet again. If the plan worked, they might, but Wynne still dared not be too sure it would.

“Don’t worry, Wynne. Just be strong. I know you can be.” Sidra kissed her loudly on each wet cheek.

Then followed a long series of more goodbyes; Nodir and Bronedir, Galion, Cheery, Gimli, Arwen and Aragorn, Éowyn and Faramir. When Wynne at last had come to Legolas and his father, her heart felt empty and she had run out of tears.

Thranduil surprised her by pulling her into a hug. His fine travel coat was smooth against her face. “Can you not tell me what this ‘grand plan’ of yours is about?” he murmured before pulling back.

She met his gaze, and shook her head. 

“Why do I have a feeling I will not like it?” Despite his words, his eyes were soft.

“I will miss you,” she said, feeling a lump in her throat. Apparently she still had some tears left.

“We will meet again,” he replied. 

“Yes of course you will, Your Grace, and soon too!” Mother had joined them, and Wynne winced as she perceived the instant change in Thranduil’s features. “We will travel to you as soon as possible.” She turned to Legolas. “And then you shall finally have your lovely bride, Your Highness.” 

Legolas’ only answer was a very curt bow.

“Well, I shall leave you two lovebirds to say your sweet farewells, then.” 

Wynne frowned after her retreating back.

“Come here, lovely bride, and let me bid you farewell,” said Legolas, smiling wryly. Then his gaze became serious. “But can I say goodbye to Stelpa first?”

“Of course.”

He hugged the mare a long while, stroking her neck and back, allowing her to nibble his shoulder. When he finally let go, with a soft kiss on her muzzle, his eyes were almost as wet as Wynne’s. 

“I think you will miss Stelpa more than me.” She smiled. Legolas’ affection for horses had been one of the reasons she had fallen for him.

“If so, it is because I shall meet you again, but not her.” He smiled too, but his voice was sad. Parting from the horse really pained him, she realized.

“Come here.” She drew him to her. Their hug was more intimate than was appropriate in public, but for once, Wynne could not care less. 

“Great, now I am blubbering all over your hair,” he sniffed, laughing through his tears. Then he pulled back to cup her face in his hands, his gaze intent. “I will see you soon. I am not giving up on you. Ever.” 

She nodded, not trusting her voice. 

“The Anduin. Where we first met.”

She nodded again. “The Anduin.”

“Oh, I almost forgot.” His smile changed from serious to playful. “I have a gift for you. For your journey.”

“What?” She wiped her eyes, and curiously accepted the small package. It was wrapped in green leaves. 

Lembas. Of course.


A/N:

Do you think the plan will work? Wynne really is rather pessimistic... Personally, I am the worst kind of optimist, which tends to annoy people. :D

60. Returning to Eryn Lasgalen

Travelling by boat was comfortable and Thranduil liked it a lot better than riding, even though his shoulder had got rather sore in the beginning from all the paddling. It was Galion’s turn to manage the paddle now, and Thranduil lazily let his hand slip into the river on the side, feeling the cool water caress his fingers. Soon they would reach their next destination, the tree city Caras Galadhon. They had left the Anduin a couple of hours ago and were now travelling up the smaller tributary Celebrant. 

Nearby, Legolas steered his boat clear of Nodir’s and Bronedir’s, and Thranduil felt his brow furrow. That stubborn elf! No amount of coaxing had loosened his son’s tongue about his secret, and the closer to home they got, the more disturbing it became. How could Thranduil plan his counteractions, if he did not know what Legolas had in mind?

For several weeks now, Thranduil had tried to figure it out, and he had some guesses but was yet to find out which one was correct. That it was something Legolas thought Thranduil would oppose was clear, both from his silence on the matter, and from the faint anxiety he radiated whenever the subject was brought up. 

Thranduil had already ruled out the more obvious ideas; such as that initial elopement plan – it made no sense in splitting up and going separate ways from Minas Tirith if they would run away together. Neither could it be the mother’s idea of an official betrothal and wedding, where she would poison his halls and their marriage with her constant presence. 

That left the more unconventional schemes. They could have planned to marry officially like the mother wanted, but then move to live with her in Rohan. Well there, Legolas could protect Wynne from the woman’s violence, and they could also try to counteract her meddling in politics. Maybe expose some of her secrets, gradually weakening her. And when she died, which should happen fairly soon for a middle aged human woman, they would return to Legolas’ home, bringing all their inherited wealth with them. It was a dangerous plan, if this was it; the mother was sly and could easily outsmart such naive, young ones as them. Thranduil did not want his son to live with her – he did not even want Wynne to live with her. And although riches were always welcome – he did live in style after all, which was not cheap – he still hoped that was not what they had in mind.

Another idea could be for Legolas to renounce his birthright, and move somewhere remote to live a secluded life as a commoner. The mother might lose interest in them if they were not royalty. That one was a horrible plan, and he fervently hoped it was not it.

The last idea he had thought of, was to let the mother come with Wynne to the palace, and when she got there somehow frame her into committing a crime. Then Thranduil would imprison her in his dungeons, which meant she could do no harm in his Realm while in the same time unable to rally the Rohan lords against him. That was actually a rather good plan, and he hoped it was the one. He had even tried to talk with Legolas about it, but he had just walked away, giving him the cold shoulder. The nerve of it!

All in all, the last part of their journey had been rather trying, and all Thranduil wanted now was to be home , to be in the stillness of his rooms, sleep in his own bed, have access to his wardrobe, his bathroom, and his wine cellar.

Soon, he told himself. Just one more stop on the way – and a very pleasant location to visit, at that; Lothlórien was a stunningly beautiful forest. And it would be good to see his friend again.

Celeborn came to meet them personally when they dragged their vessels ashore. He was easy to discern among the accompanying elves; standing half a head taller than anyone else. He even beat Thranduil by a few inches, of which he was slightly jealous, but never would admit to anyone.

The Lord of Lothlórien greeted them formally and welcomed them into his city. They were served a tasty supper – along with real wine, thank the Valar! – during which Thranduil recounted most of what had happened on their quest. He also told them about the Emyn Muil orcs and the peace treaty. The Lórien elves took those news better than he had expected – after what orcs had done to Celeborn’s daughter in the past, he would have thought him unwilling to forgive that race. But perhaps he too realized it was time to put aside centuries old grudges.

After their meal, Celeborn turned to Thranduil. “Come, my friend and walk with me; for I much desire to speak with you.” The Lórien lord was even worse than himself when it came to eloquent speaking. Only in public, though, in private he took on a much more informal approach. 

“You look well, Tharan!” he said when they were alone, putting his arm around Thranduil’s shoulder to give him a half-hug. “I told you travelling would do you good.”

“Thank you. How did my kingdom fare in my absence?”

“Splendidly, but let us not talk of work now. It is such a fine evening.”

They had come to Galadriel’s garden, and sat on one of the stone benches. Thranduil regarded the smooth, silvery trunks of the surrounding mellyrn, admiring their exquisite beauty and elegance. The air was calm, with only a faint breeze to rustle the leaves above. A small, black bat fluttered between the trees, restlessly darting this way and that in its hunt for moths.

Thranduil removed his circlet and leaned back. The thing chafed rather badly, even worse than his crown back home. Something he also never would admit.

“I was hoping your son would have benefited from the journey as well, but I noticed you two still are not speaking much.” There was concern i Cel’s voice.

“Oh, he did benefit from it, and we are more close now, than we have ever been. But lately we had a… disagreement.“ He twirled the circlet between his fingers.

“Elaborate.”

Thranduil did not reply immediately. Should he tell his friend everything? Celeborn was very wise, his advice could be helpful, but lately he had become somewhat meddlesome. Not with a hidden agenda like Wynne’s horrible mother; Cel did it out of affection, but nevertheless.

He chose to answer with a question of his own, one that had nagged on his mind for a while. “Cel, why did you insist I went on this mission? Anyone could have cleared those lands of orcs. Why me?”

“Because you needed it.” He looked grave. “Ever since you lost your wife, you have been troubled. Shutting yourself up in your dwelling, brooding over the past. It took me ever so long to coax you even to come here.”

Thranduil found it hard to meet the other’s gaze. Instead, he regarded the empty stone basin Galadriel had used as a mirror. “Are you angry with her? For leaving you.” 

“Aye.” 

Thranduil turned back to him, a little surprised he admitted it so readily.

“You are not the only ellon who did not always get along with their spouse.” Celeborn smiled weakly. “Galadriel and I lived apart for long periods, as you know. But she always returned to me, eventually. At least, she would, before she sailed to Aman with the other ring-bearers.”

“Maybe she thought she had to.”

“She did. And I disagreed.”

“Are you going to follow her?” Thranduil remembered the white seagull he had seen on the road to Minas Tirith, and thought of the sea. He had not seen it for many millennia, but it was a sight one did not easily forget. 

“Aye, I could never fight with her for long. But I have not quite finished my work in Arda.”

“You have an Elvenking you think needs saving.” Thranduil felt himself smile.

“Indeed. And now, would you tell me what is on your mind? Without changing topic again, if you will.”

Thranduil laughed. “Am I that obvious?”

The other nodded solemnly.

“I hardly know where to begin.” He sighed. “The short story is; my son fell in love with a mortal.” He shook his head. ”With his looks, he could have had anyone, but no, he chooses a homely Rohirric girl who dresses like a man.” He smiled despite himself, seeing her before his inner eye.

“You like her.”

“Maybe. But that is beside the point. She has a horrible mother.” He described the woman at length.

“Hm. Intrigant, meddling, proud, violent… that puts me in mind of someone.”

Thranduil nodded, a chill trickling down his spine. “She is my father reborn.”

“But he must be in Aman, or perhaps lingering in the Halls of Mandos. Surely he would never agree to be reborn as a human?”

“Of course not, I did not mean it literally. But she is so much like him, and frankly it scares me that… I mean, for my son to have a mother-in-law like that? To have her visit my Realm?” 

Then he told his friend about the plan his son apparently had thought up, but refused to tell him of, and how he feared it would be something really bad. And that lead him on to how Legolas had refused to listen to his council ever since he met the girl, and even entered a secret relationship with her – strictly against his father’s wish. How he kept going behind Thranduil’s back. “I feel so powerless,” he finished. “He is quite out of hand.”

“Listen to yourself. You speak of Legolas like he was an elfling,” said Celeborn sternly. “You have no power over him, because he is an adult. You are not supposed to order him about.”

Thranduil frowned, a surge of hot anger rushing through him. Celeborn had no right to tell him how to be a parent. He was on the verge to reply something ugly, but managed to desist and control his temper. 

“He is still my subject,” he said, keeping his voice calm. “I am his king.”

“That kind of reasoning is what drove him away in the first place – and that is also why I insisted he follow you on the quest. To give you an opportunity to be just a father, probably for the first time.” 

The nerve… Thranduil’s jaw hurt from clenching his teeth. 

Cel again put his arm around his shoulders, ignoring the stiffness. “It is getting late. Think of what I said, and we can talk more of it in the morrow. Good night, Tharan.”

Thranduil did not return the greeting.

When the other had gone, he paced up and down the garden, drawing deep breaths and telling himself it would not do to assault the Lord of Lórien in his own home. 

As his blood slowly cooled, he began to ponder over what the other had said. Did he really think of Legolas as an elfling?

He did, in a way, he had to admit. Had he subconsciously been trying to prevent his son from growing up? 

Maybe. Yes. He had confined Legolas, making decisions for him, holding him back just like when he was little and ran away all the time, scaring his father to no end. 

Scared. He was afraid to lose his son, like he had lost so many others; his childhood friends, his parents, his wife. It hurt , it tore his heart apart, each time worse than before, each time leaving him lonelier and emptier. That was why, that had always been why. 

Thranduil sank back onto the bench, wiping his eyes. All of his reasoning against Legolas’ choice of wife had been excuses; he had tried to convince both himself and his son it could be stopped. Implicating that Legolas did not know his heart. Of course he did! He clearly had loved the girl almost from the beginning, and it was nothing like how Thranduil’s own marriage had begun. 

Excuses… 

And the mother issue, too. Aye, she was an appalling harridan, but he was a king, for Eru’s sake, he could handle her if he really put his mind to it.

Afraid… Afraid to let go. He rested his face in his hands, rubbed his pounding temples.

Legolas would leave him, it all came back to that. He would lose his only son, and he had known it, feared it ever since the Fellowship. When Legolas finally returned, Thranduil had read sea-longing in his eyes, and realized he would leave. He had reacted as he always did; with anger. Stupid, stupid. He had not learned anything from his many past mistakes. 

Cel was right, as usual. Even Wynne had told him he drove his son away, it had apparently been obvious to everyone but himself. 

He had to let go. 

As terrifying as that was, he had to let go. 

“Father? Are you all right?” 

Thranduil nearly jumped. He had been so engrossed in his thoughts, that he had not heard his son coming. He turned away, trying to hide his tears.

“What is wrong?” Legolas’ voice was concerned, and Thranduil felt a cautious hand touch his back.

“I have been thinking,” he mumbled. Then he decided to quit hiding and turned toward his son, knowing he probably looked a terrible mess with red eyes and a runny nose. “I have been so stupid.”

Legolas frowned. “Will you tell me what happened? Was it something Lord Celeborn said?” 

“He only said truths I needed to hear.” He pulled out a handkerchief and dabbed his eyes with it. “Legolas, I am sorry for not trusting your judgement. Whatever your plan regarding Wynne is, I approve of it.”

Legolas eyes widened slightly, and then narrowed again. “If this is some trick to make me reveal the plan, I–”

“Do not be ridiculous,” Thranduil snapped. “You think I could pretend this?” He indicated his dishevelled appearance. Suddenly he found himself laughing despite everything.

“Nay.” Legolas grinned rather foolishly.

“However, if you want to tell me about your plan, I would not mind hearing it.”

“Father.” 

“Sorry. I just thought I should ask.” He pulled his son into an embrace. “I love you, Legolas. I hate surprises and you are cruel but I still love you.”

“I love you too. It is not a bad plan. It will work out, trust me.”

“I trust you.”

 

-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Some days later...

Even the comforting feeling of the full glass of fine Dorwinion he was holding, could not stop Thranduil from cringing on his throne. Valar, what was Legolas doing? He leaned his face into his free hand, trying not to wince a second and a third time. I trust you . His words came back to mock him. Sauron’s eye!   

“... and therefore I hereby resign my claim to the throne of the Woodland Realm. I shall be leaving for my new position in Ithilien shortly. But have courage, wood-elves! My father, despite his immense age, is still in his prime and has no need for an heir. Together with Lord Celeborn he shall continue the work to restore Eryn Lasgalen to its former glory.”

 

-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Some hours later...

“Shall I get someone to clean up in here?” Legolas gingerly stepped over the shards of broken glass on Thranduil’s sitting room floor. He looked a bit like that hobbit probably had, when approaching the dragon Smaug.

“Don’t bother.” Thranduil felt numb. “Legolas, why?”

“It is what I want to do. Planting trees, living close to nature. Politics is not for me, it never was.” Legolas had that stubborn set to his jaw, which he had honed to perfection on the boat journey from Minas Tirith. 

Let him go.  

“Why such a hurry? You could be betrothed a year first, and–”

“I do not want to wait a year. We do not have much time, you know.”

Thranduil’s chest constricted painfully. Legolas would die. Or sail. So soon... too soon. But he would be happy before that, and he was right, he did not belong in an underground palace. 

He sighed and slumped down into his soft armchair, pouring himself a new glass of wine. “It is not right. The Wood of Greenleaves would be without my green leaf, my Legolas.”

“We will visit you often, and you can visit us too. It will not be so bad,” he reasoned. “Besides, you said you approved,” he added, and had the nerve to sound accusing.

“I had temporarily lost my mind.” 

“I cannot bear to lose you, Ada. Do not make me choose between the two persons I love most.”

Thranduil put down his glass to give his son a long, hard hug. He wished he would never have to release him from it. 

“You do not have to choose. Of course not, Legolas. I will never abandon you. Never. I am your father and will always be, nothing can change that.”

Legolas pulled back to meet his gaze with blank eyes. Then he kissed him on both cheeks. “Thank you,” he said simply. 

Not long after, he was gone.

“Right,” Thranduil said to his glass, tilting it with shaking fingers. “I guess it’s just you and I, now.” He slowly swirled its ruby content, before downing it in one gulp. “Cheers, then.” 


A/N:

Never drink alone, or when you're sad. Thranduil is not setting a good example... ;)

This story is nearing its end. Thanks a lot to all who read and commented.

61. Coming Home to Rohan

Her room smelled odd; dusty and empty, uninhabited. It was dark, the only light coming from a very small window high up under the ceiling. Wynne put down her bags beside her bed, too tired to unpack them. The long journey back home had been toiling; she had had to endure Mother’s endless ramblings about the wedding and their married life in the Elvenking’s palace.

It felt strange to have been separated for so long from Legolas, like some part of herself was missing. She longed to see him, touch him, talk with him. 

Soon, she told herself.

The time had come to stand up against Mother, and explain that none of her schemes would come to pass. Only, now when she must do it, Wynne felt weak, frightened. She hated loud voices and arguing, and she knew those would be the result of her opening her mouth.

“Do you need help with your bags, dear?” Grandmama entered her room, and with a pang of sadness Wynne looked at her. It would probably take a long while before they would meet again, maybe never if Mother was angry enough to disown Wynne entirely. 

Her grandmother was tall, and her hair nearly black, without a single strand of white despite her age. She looked like Wynne imagined Aragorn would have done, if he were female. Father and Wynne had not inherited much of her looks, they took after Grandpapa.

“I’ll unpack later. But thank you.” 

Grandmama sat down on the bed. 

“I have missed you around the house, child. This place is so cheerless with only us old folks.”

“Sorry.” Wynne sat next to her, realizing Grandmama would soon be alone again. Grandpapa was nearly blind and spent most of his days just sitting in his chair, while Grandmama made him company with her embroidery or poetry books. 

It must be so boring, Wynne realized. Did all married ladies have to endure such lives? No wonder Éowyn had wanted to be a warrior so badly she dressed up as a man.

“Don’t be sorry, child. I was happy for you to go, and to be on your own. See some of the world. How did you like Minas Tirith?”

“It was wonderful. So beautiful.”

“Yes, it’s striking. I went there once with Grandpapa, to fetch our son’s bride. Your mother.” Her face clouded slightly. Did she regret their choice? 

Wynne wondered how things would have been, if her father had been allowed to choose a wife for himself. They would have been poor, probably. Poor but happy.

“Grandmama, I met someone.”

“I know dear, Morwen has talked of little else.” She smiled. “I’m happy you chose one you like.”

“I-I… I’m going to do something Mother will hate. We… We will not be royalty.” She wondered if Legolas had abdicated already, and how his father had reacted. 

Grandmama looked surprised. “No? Why?”

When Wynne explained, her grandmother listened in silence, nodding a few times. 

“I see. Dear me, yes she will be angry.” An almost invisible smile hinted in the corner of the old woman’s mouth. “Good luck child.”

When Grandmama left, with her long skirts rustling and the familiar scent of lavender lingering behind, Wynne tried to muster willpower for her upcoming task. Her grandmother had not seemed angry, that was something at least. She would not oppose Mother openly, nobody did, but she seemed to support the plan. And moral support was better than none at all. 

With slow steps, Wynne went to the sitting room where Mother was busily writing a long list. Betrothal feast dishes, it looked like. Father just came in from the stables, and Grandmama had returned to her favorite chair next to her husband. This was an opportune moment, with the whole family gathered together for a change.

“Mother, I have something to say.”

They all looked at her, perceiving her serious expression.

“Yes? Make it quick.” Mother’s goose pen hovered over the piece of parchment.

“Legolas has resigned his crown.” At least she hoped he had. “Therefore, we will not live with his father, or have a grand wedding. Éowyn and Faramir has offered Legolas a position as forester in Ithilien, and we will move there.”

Mother only stared at her in disbelief, her face slowly paling. Red spots began to form on her cheeks.

“What?”

“He is no prince anymore.”

What? ” Mother slowly rose, and Wynne took a step backwards, wetting her lips.

“He is–”

“I heard you. What is the meaning of this? He can’t do that.”

“He can and he did.”

“I don’t believe you.” Mother gripped her arm, shaking her roughly. “ I don’t believe you. Tell me you are lying.”

“I-I’m not l-lying.” Wynne’s teeth rattled from the shaking, but she did not try to resist, knowing it would only make Mother angrier.

“Thranduil would never allow it. He is too proud!”

“L-legolas w-will not ask p-permission first.”

“So he has not done it yet?” Mother abruptly let go of Wynne, who nearly lost her balance. The room was spinning around her.

“He will when he gets home. If he came home sooner than us, he has done it. If not, he will do it shortly.”

Wynne was not prepared for the slap, and this time she fell, painfully tumbling into a chair.

“How could you? After everything, how could you?” Mother pulled her on her feet, and hit her again, and again. 

“Morwen, easy now.” Wynne heard Father vaguely through the ringing in her ear, and to her surprise she saw him catch his wife’s arm, stopping her in the action. 

“She think she is clever. Outsmarting her own mother. But I will not allow it, I will not have my daughter marry some common ranger .” Mother shrugged herself free of Father, but did not hit Wynne again. She seemed to slowly compose herself. Then she smiled coldly. “Well, seeing as the terms of betrothal have changed, I now oppose this marriage.”

“No!”

“Yes. I have turned down Lord Gammal’s offer for your hand several times, mostly because of his age. But I see no other option but to accept now, and at least increase our lands and wealth by the match. I believe he was handsome in his youth; with luck, your children will inherit his traits.”

“I will marry Legolas.” Wynne tried to give mother her best Thranduil-stare imitation.

“Well dear, unfortunately you are in no position to refuse. You’re a single woman, under our roof, and we decide what’s best for you. Now, go to your room.”

Wynne had to obey, but her mind was racing. They had planned everything so carefully, she and the ladies, but nobody had thought of this possibility; that Mother would withdraw her approval of the match! 

She had to run away. But could she manage it? It was far to her meeting place with Legolas, with open grassland all the way. Mother would send out riders after her, and they would find her easily and bring her back. And then she would probably be locked up until the wedding with that old fellow was due.

Why was she a woman? It was so unfair. A man could never be forced like this, but Wynne could. Mother had the law on her side.

She began to unpack her bag, just to have something to do. The shock and adrenaline of the fight was slowly leaving her system, and in its wake came despair. 

Had Legolas abdicated in vain? If he came searching for her, he would find her trapped in a marriage to someone else. She knew her mother, she would act fast. And Legolas would leave Middle-earth then, unless his soul died first; something as horrible as that could probably be enough to kill an elf.

Soft green fabric touched her hand when she came to the bottom of her bag. She pulled out the garment, pressing it to her nose. Legolas’ tunic, the one he had wore during the troll fight, and that she later had washed and mended for him. She had forgot to return it. 

Now her tears began to pour, and she hugged his tunic to her. It smelled of soap now, not of him, but its color and cut brought forward the memory of him. 

Something fell out of its folds; a rustling dry sprig. Most of the tiny blossoms remained, but they had lost their purple color. Heather. There would be no cottage now, no heather, no garden, no Legolas. She had failed.

No. No! She would not give up without a fight. She would run away, she could steal one of the fastest horses and ride it hard. Mother must not win! Not this time. She would not allow it.

Resolutely Wynne returned the garments to her bag. She would leave tonight, protected by darkness.

A rustle of skirts and the smell of lavender told her Grandmama was back, and she quickly hid the bag behind her. 

“Come, child, your father has something to say.”

“What?” Father never had anything to say. 

“Just come.” Again that hint of a smile played on her lips.

When Wynne returned to the sitting room, Mother had calmed down a little, and was back at her writing table. This time it looked like she wrote a letter. To their neighbour lord, presumably.

Father stood in the doorway, together with his chief stable hand. He harkled, which failed to cause any reaction from his wife. 

He spoke anyway, his voice unusually firm. “I have decided to allow and bless the marriage between my daughter Wynne and Legolas, the former Prince of the Woodland Realm. This is my right, as her father and legal guardian.”

That certainly got him his wife’s attention.

You…” Mother rose angrily, but with a glance at the stable hand and her mother-in-law, she held back. Even if she probably was violent to Wynne’s father behind closed doors, she clearly did not want anyone to witness it. No surprise, at that, if they knew that she beat her husband it would effectively ruin her power over the other lords of Rohan. And gossip had a tendency to spread fast.

“Pack your bags, Wynne, and say your goodbyes to your Mother and grandparents," Father continued. "I am sure you are anxious to travel to your intended.”

Wynne did not hesitate, she nearly danced away to her room. She could hardly believe what had happened. Her father had spoken so authoritatively, he who was always silent, who would rather leave the room when Mother fought with her than talk back. It was like magic.

Father would be paying for this later, she was fairly certain of that, but she could not feel bad for him, not now. 

She was free! 

She had her father’s official blessing, spoken in front of witnesses. Mother could not do anything about it, because she was a woman too. Father was Mother’s legal guardian, just as he was Wynne’s – until she married Legolas, who would then take over the role.

When Wynne came to say farewell, Mother had shut herself in her room, and judging by the sounds she was trying her best to demolish it. Wynne gave Grandpapa and Grandmama long hugs, trying not to cry too much. She had only just come home, and now she would leave the old couple to lead their silent, lonely lives again. 

“Did you set Father up to this?” she asked Grandmama, but the other only smiled secretively. 

“Bring your husband and visit soon,” she said.

Father was in the courtyard when Wynne came out, brushing Vatna’s fair coat.

“Take her with you,” he said, smiling sadly.

Wynne’s breath caught. “Thank you,” she whispered. It was an extraordinary gift, Vatna was one of their finest mares. Then a thought struck her. “Can I… can I take one more horse?”

“Yes. Anything. I owe you much.” 

She hugged her father, drawing in that comforting scent of leather and horses one last time. Then she jumped on Vatna’s back in a smooth motion. The other horse followed them, as they took off to the northeast in a gallop. She did not look behind her.


A/N:

Only one chapter and the Epilogue left now... wee! 

62. An Elvish Wedding

Wynne spotted Legolas from a long distance. He seemed to be waiting for her, impatiently walking back and forth along the shore of the Anduin river. This was where they had first met, so many months ago. That time she had been unwilling to come, today there was no reluctance in her pace whatsoever, even though she had the exact same mission; to marry an elf. 

She urged Vatna to increase her pace, and the mare nearly flied over the shallow part of the river.

Legolas ran toward her, and then past her to the other horse, throwing his arms around its chestnut neck. 

“Stelpa!” His voice was muted by her soft fur.

“I knew you would miss the horse more than me!” Her grin nearly cut her face in halves. Oh how she loved him! She had almost forgot how handsome he was.

With a happy laugh he came to her, taking her in his arms and twirling her around until she got dizzy.

“Let me down,” she giggled. Thankfully her bruised ribs had stopped hurting during her journey here, or his hard hug would have been painful.

He obeyed, and she clung to him, pulling his head down for a passionate kiss. He smelled so good, and his lips tasted so good, and she never wanted to be separated from him again.

At last they had to part and catch their breaths.

“How did your father take it?” she panted.

“Better than I had expected. The only casualties were a few wine glasses.”

They kissed again. She stroked his back and shoulders and slid her hand under his tunic and undershirt, delighting in the feel of his flat chest under her palm. 

He fondled her hair, combing through it with his fingers. The touch sent shivers of pleasure down her spine. 

“Let me plait you.” His voice was husky.

Wynne nodded her consent. Before she met Legolas, she would never have thought a request to do someone’s hair could sound so sensual. 

He made one braid on each of her temples, a lot more intricate than those he had plaited before. While he was busy, she scrutinized every inch of his beautiful face, still finding it hard to believe she had made it. They had made it.

When finished, Legolas did his own hair in the same pattern. “There. This means we are betrothed. I should have given you a ring too, but… with all the hurry...” 

“So… what happens next?”

“We marry?” He looked hopeful.

“Here? Now? There are no witnesses or anything.”

“I prefer to have no witnesses.” He grinned, rather naughtily, and it struck Wynne she had no idea how elves wed.

“What is an elf wedding like? How is it done?”

“You want me to tell you?” His grin was wider now, and there definitely was a mischievous glint to his eyes. Wynne began to have certain suspicions.

“Please, do tell.”

“Well you see… when an elf really loves a woman–” 

“I get it,” Wynne interrupted with a giggle. “You just mate. Like horses.”

He feigned a shocked expression. “Not like horses, I shall hope.” 

The thought of finally being intimate had Wynne feel an expectant throb deep inside. She moved to kiss him again, but then she hesitated. ”We can’t make a baby. Mother would ruin everything.”

”I know. I will not let it happen.” He grinned. ”Like you once said, I do not even like children.”

”Me neither, glad we’re not having any. We can have foals instead.”

“And saplings?”

“Yes, Legolas, we can have saplings too.”

“Good. I would choose a tree over a baby every time.” 

-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Wynne’s and Legolas’ wedding proved to be a lot like most such occasions are, actually, despite the simplicity of it. Slightly nervous, even awkward at times, but also fun and loving. And as is probably the case with every such ceremony, things did not go quite as planned.

They had just said their vows and invoked Eru Ilúvatar, the creator – it had to be repeated several times because Wynne could not pronounce the foreign words correctly – and Legolas had placed his green cloak on the ground for them to lay on, when a thought struck her.

“I don’t really know how this is done,” she admitted, feeling her cheeks heat up.

“Neither do I. I am sure we will figure it out.” He smiled at her embarrassment. “I have the basic idea, anyway. There was this Haradrim book in my father’s library, with illustrations. Very informative.” He covered her neck in light pecks and started to unbutton the front of her tunic. 

“That sounds like an interesting book. Do you think he would let us borrow it?” She helped him pull off his shirt, taking in that amazing chest. He was no less beautiful with his faint spear scar, and she reached out to touch it. 

“Never. He hates lending his books. Says people return them with dog-ears.” Legolas had finished the last button of her tunic and pulled it off, and then did the same with her chemise. “Finally!” He breathed, as his eyes hungrily devoured her topless body. 

“Argh!” she yelled. “Ants!” 

She was on her feet in a second, jumping around, frantically swapping at the angry insects. “Don’t laugh! I hate ants.” She quickly pulled down her hose and threw them away, and before stopping to think, she removed her underpants as well. His quick intake of breath made her realize what she had done.

“Valar!” He closed the distance between them in one step and pulled her to him, giving her an intense kiss as his hands found their way to her naked hips. 

“Are the ants gone?” she murmured against his lips. 

“I can help you check.” He grinned cheekily, and then he held her at an arm’s length, his eyes slowly trailing over her from head to toe. She knew she must be blushing, but having him observe her naked body with such obvious desire was also extremely arousing. 

“I cannot see any, but I am not entirely sure… l need to look at your backside, too.”

“This is unfair.” Her heartbeat pounded loudly in her ears, as she slowly twirled before him. “You wear more.” 

“I shall remedy that.” Still with his gaze locked to her body, he rather clumsily peeled off his remaining garments. Wynne’s eyes were drawn to the most curious part of him, and she almost stopped breathing. He was so beautiful, every inch of his body was, even that part and now she wanted to have him close, touch him, feel him inside her.

Legolas found a new spot for his cloak and gently pushed her down on it, partly covering her body with his.  

“I want you, Wynne. I have wanted to do this for so long,” he murmured, his eyes burning with desire. They probably matched her own, because she was on fire too.

“So take me,” she challenged, pressing herself against him, skin against skin. The feeling was indescribable.

He replied with another kiss, his tongue tickling her lip until she opened her mouth to let it in. Then he froze in the action, his eyes growing wide as he caught sight of something beside her.

“Ai!” He flinched and rolled off her. 

“What?” She turned to see a small spider walking beside her head. “That scared you?” She laughed at his foolish look.

“Donlikespiders,” he mumbled. 

“But that’s tiny.”

“It looked bigger up close,” he pouted.

They moved Legolas’ cloak to a third spot, then to a fourth.

“Any ants?” Spiders? Pine needles? Sharp stones?” Wynne asked tiredly when they tried a fifth location.

“No, no, no and no.”

“Oh I miss beds,” she lamented. “Now, where were we?”

“I was going to take you.”

This time there were no interruptions, and as he finally came into her, Wynne felt complete, like she had received a missing part of herself she had not even known she lacked. This was meant to be, they were meant to be.

“I love you so much,” she breathed.

He answered something inarticulate, and soon she lost all coherent thought too. Her focus went inward, her world narrowing down to what has happening between them; their bodies moving in unison, his hand caressing her breast, her fingers in his hair, their desire, their love.

When it was over a short while later, Legolas eyes were large and filled with wonder. “That was… I cannot even describe it.” Then he looked slightly worried. “Did you like it? Was I good?”

“Like it? I loved every second. And you are better than good, you are perfect .”

“Oh Wynne, you are an amazing woman,” he burst out. “Is it even possible to love someone this much? My heart hurts.” 

Wynne’s heart hurt too, and her eyes stung like she was going to cry. She kissed him, tenderly and slow, and stroked his tousled hair and messed up braids back from his temples. 

“I am so happy,” she breathed.

Then she rested her head on his chest, still slightly moist with perspiration, smelling his familiar scent and hearing his heartbeat slow down to its normal, steady pace. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close, while the sun set and the sky turned pink. 

Wynne had never felt more loved, never more calm and safe.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-

“Legolas?”

“Aye?”

“Maybe we should do it twice, you know, just for good measure.” 

“I think you are right. One cannot be careless with important occasions such as weddings. They must be performed thoroughly.” He turned to look at her, a spark of excitement returning to his eyes. “Just let me catch my breath, will you?”

“Don’t be too long at it.” She nestled herself closer. “What, aren’t you a warrior? You should not tire so easily.” She stroked his strong arm admiringly.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-

On the morrow, they decided the four times last night maybe was not quite enough after all, and repeated the procedure. And then again, later that day, when they were riding south and took a lunch break. 

In the evening Wynne suspected they might have missed some details still, and Legolas heartily agreed. 

And so they went, slowly but steadily proceeding south along the Anduin.


A/N:

So, finally they got each other. :) This was by far the fluffiest scene I ever wrote. Hope you enjoyed it! 

Epilogue

Anduin River, Fourth Age 8   

Wynne stretched her stiff limbs, blinking in the glaring morning sun. A crow’s beady eye observed her from a nearby branch.

You . You woke me up.” She scowled at it. Then she sat, rubbing sleep out of her eyes, it had been a late night. Legolas’ fault, he had kept her busy until the sky got rose-tinted with the rising sun. Well, not only his fault, she had initiated it after all. 

The blankets were soaked with dew, and were those earwigs under her pillow? Ew! Why had she not thought of bringing a tent? Sleeping outdoors was horrible. And cold. She had to stay fully dressed, despite the blanket.

A splash from the river drew her attention. Legolas was up early as usual, washing his hair in the middle of the stream. In the morning light it shone like molten gold. Her husband was so beautiful it hurt. 

Her husband. Her. Husband. She still had to remind herself he was finally hers.

But why was he wearing his shirt? Nobody would see him out here in the wilderness, except for that crow perhaps, or the occasional black swan. Somebody ought to remedy that. And with somebody she meant herself , of course. 

With slow, willing steps she proceeded toward the elf, starting to unbutton her tunic as she went. “Good morning, Leggy!”

He looked up, smiling. “I told you not to call me that.”

“So what then… Legs perhaps?”

“No way. I am more than just a pair of good looking legs.” He smirked.

“Indeed you are. I like many of the parts above your legs!” She had hoped for a blush, but there was none. Instead his smile waned and his gaze grew intense.

“How about… Lego?” She pulled off her tunic and threw it in a messy heap on the river beach. “I like the sound of that. The fierce Lego Warrior!”

“No.” He approached her slowly, wading through the waist deep water. She rolled down her hose and stepped out of them.

“I could call you Laddie, like Gimli does.” In a smooth movement she slid off her chemise and tossed it behind her.

“Absolutely not.” 

“Now you sounded almost exactly like your father.” She removed her underpants and walked into the silky water, whimpering playfully at the coldness.

“I am probably related to him somehow.”

“Possibly. No lake monsters around?”

“This is a river.”

“True! Let me get that for you.” She gripped the hem of his shirt and helped him shrug out of it. He pulled off his linen underpants and hurled both garments ashore. His shirt fell partly in the water, but neither of them cared.

Wynne stepped into his arms. While he trailed kisses down her neck, she caressed his muscular back and arms. Then she let her fingers travel up to the shoulder, and further, tracing his jawline to the ears. She pinched and massaged his earlobe, and enjoyed the resulting hoarse grunt. 

“Valar, Wynne, wherever did you learn that trick?”

“I just have a knack for this, I guess.”

He lifted her up, balancing her with one hand under her bottom and the other cupping her breast, softly rubbing her nipple with his thumb. Then he bent down and circled it with his tongue.

“Where did you learn that trick then?” Wynne panted. She buried her fingers in the wet, golden strands of his hair.

“Trial and error. You seemed to like it yesterday? Besides, it was in that book.”

“It sure is fun to learn new things.”

“Very.”

He carried her out deeper and she leant back to float on the water, her hands in his with her legs wrapped around his waist. 

“This was a new one,” he remarked. “I like your legs around me. Makes me feel like a Meara.”

Wynne did not reply, only tightened the grip, willing him to come closer. As close as it was possible for two people to be. 

And that he did.

For some reason, their journey to Ithilien took several weeks longer than usual. 

 

-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Emyn Arnen, Ithilien, Fourth Age 13

“Les! Les! Have you seen the feather duster?” Wynne stumbled over the pile of dirty laundry as she came up to the big four poster bed. Legolas sprawled lazily on the tangled sheets, eyes half closed, stretching out his naked body. She paused to admire it, and found herself promptly being caught and pulled on top of the bed, pinned down by a playful elf. 

“Let us cuddle,” he suggested, kissing her nose. “He will not be here for hours yet. There is plenty of time.”

“I would love to, only…”

“Only…?” His brow furrowed.

“It’s that time of the month again.”

“Again? Really? ” He flopped down onto his back, arms flung out in exasperation. “Why do humans have to bleed all the time?”

“Not all the time… Just a few days now and then.”

“Those days are the only ones I wish you were an elf,” he grumbled.

“Anyway, we should tidy up in here, and it will probably take hours.” Wynne glanced around the bedroom; the dust in the corners, some dirty plates from yesterday’s late night snack, tufts of long fur. “Oh, I found the duster. Lembas has it.” She wrought the item from the tabby cat, and was rewarded with an icy glare and angry wave of its tail. “I swear, that cat looks just like your father.”

When their guest arrived a few hours later, the cottage almost looked clean. Just as long as one did not look under the bed or tried to open any of the wardrobes.

“Ada!” 

”Legolas!” 

The elves caught each other in a long hug. 

Now that Thranduil had moved to Amon Lanc, the new capital of Eryn Lasgalen, his journey down the Anduin was a lot speedier and he visited them fairly often. It was only a few months since he had last come, but the way he reacted, it might as well have been a decade. 

A hundred years is a mere blink in the life of an elf , he had once said. Yeah, right... Apparently not when his son was concerned.

“Come in, lunch is soon ready.” It was not, but that sounded like the right thing to say. As she and Legolas returned to the kitchen, trying frantically to scramble together something eatable, Thranduil walked along their bookshelf studying the titles. He reached out a finger and retrieved it, coated with dust. 

Wynne winced; she always forgot to clean the bookcase. Then she remembered. “Legolas,” she hissed.

“Aye?”

“The book! Did you hide it?”

“Valar, I forgot!”

“Maybe he won’t notice it… or think we have one just like his.”

When they were finally seated around the table, Thranduil hauled out a terracotta amphora from his bag and poured wine into their glasses.

“Dorwinion red! Lovely. It will go well with the cheese.” Legolas sniffed his glass.

“I take it, Elessar still had no success with his vineyards?”

“Sadly, no.”

“Talking of growing things, some elves from my Realm are planning to move here and help you with the forest. They will bring more saplings too.”

“Perfect, just what I needed. It has been rather slow work so far. I will show you tomorrow.”

Then there was another knock on the door and Wynne went to open, leaving the others to their forest conversation. She was frankly rather tired of trees; Legolas talked about them nearly every day.

Outside stood a furious Sidra. 

“Your horses are in our kitchen garden again! Get. Them. Out,” she growled.

“Oh dear, I’m so sorry. They still hate the fence… must have broken it again. We’ll fix it as soon as possible.”

“Right.”

“I’ll call for them now.” Wynne whistled a sharp signal. Soon she heard the pounding of hooves, and then the flock was back, the youngest foals in the rear. Vatna’s twin colts were covered with mud up to their bellies, and one had a carrot dangling out of its mouth.

Meanwhiles, Sidra was sniffing appreciatively in the air. “Is that Dorwinion red?” She promptly went inside and greeted Thranduil with a loud kiss on his cheek, which he accepted graciously.

“Madam Ambassador, you look well. Pregnancy suits you. This must be…” Thranduil pondered. “Your fifth?”

“Sixth actually, with the twins, remember?” The Haradrim smiled warmly. “By the way, young Aisha still talks of your last visit, she loved playing pony on your knee! If you are not too busy, do come over one day of your stay. Nugu would be so glad, too.”

“Certainly. And I have arranged for your favorite babysitter to move here.” 

“You mean… Galion ?” 

“Aye, Galion and his wife.”

“He has a wife? That’s wonderful news.” 

Wynne too was happy for him, she had always had a little bad conscience for causing the ginger elf to be attracted to her early in their journey. 

”Lord Goltur seems to do well in expanding his Realm,” said Thranduil. “When I came through there on my journey the other day, I noticed they are building a new town near the river, with a port.”

"Yes, it's for trading, the dwarves and the Rohirrim have shown interest in the engines we make. And we need the extra space, too; more and more orcs move to Emyn Muil. Only last month, our scouts found another colony. They were very aggressive, but Dad’s working to win the leader over."

After lunch, they took a walk in the garden. Thranduil regarded his son’s frame critically. “You have put on weight, son. You should exercise more.”

Legolas frowned at him. “I have actually been very busy, you have no idea how much time foresting takes.”

“Work is not an excuse for neglecting one’s health.”

“Here, come look at our wall!” Wynne quickly steered Thranduil away. “It’s brand new, Gimli just finished it the other week.”

“Lovely.” The king stroked the smooth stone structure encompassing the garden. A couple of young lemon trees leaned over it, and on a large trellis grew a bushy honeysuckle. Behind the garden, over a rocky part of the ground, a thick carpet of heather was just coming into to bloom.

Thranduil bent over one of the garden beds. “Are those dandelions? Why are you growing weeds?”

“They are for the horses,” Wynne explained. She had hoped that would keep them on the right side of the fence, but apparently their neighbours’ carrots were tastier.

“They will spread everywhere, you know.”

“We noticed that, thank you.”

“Unheard of. Growing dandelions in a kitchen garden.”

As they went back inside, Thranduil asked Wynne how her family was, knowing she and Legolas had recently come back from a visit to Rohan.

“Oh, it went alright. Les spent most of the time with Father and the horses as usual, and I had to endure another lot of Mother’s fertility potions.”

Thranduil smirked at that. “She still has not given up on half-elven grandchildren, it would seem. I wonder if she ever will realize why you are not getting any.” Then he shrugged. “You will soon be rid of her, anyway. How old is she now, fifty? Humans do not last forever.” Then he halted, probably realizing what he had said. “I did not mean–”

“No worries.” Wynne smiled. “Legolas doesn’t mind, and I have learned not to mind either. We are happy for whatever time we will have together.” 

Later that night, Wynne firmly closed the bedroom door behind her and latched it. 

“Good thing the guestroom is in the other side of the building.” She pulled off her clothes and tossed them on the floor, were they landed on her husband’s tunic, and snuggled down beside him. Her fingers found their way to his silky chest. 

“Oh. But I thought…”

“Kissing and touching can be enjoyed any time of the month, you know.”

 

-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Belegaer Ocean, Fourth Age 120 

Legolas strained his eyes to see better, was there not a hint of land? That purple line on the horizon. 

“I see it!” he exclaimed, jubilantly.

“I shall trust your word for it.” His wife cuddled under his arm. She did not even try to look where he pointed, having never been able to compete with elven eyesight. “What if they won’t let me ashore?” A hint of worry was in her voice.

“You know Círdan would not have helped us build the ship if he thought they would refuse you. And he is friends with the Vala of the seas, so he should know. Besides, I am a Fellowship Hero, remember? There must be some perks to be had, for all the heroic deeds I performed!” He grinned.

“Well, you did get a plaque… a small one, but still.”

Legolas laughed and hugged her, appreciating how wiry and hale her body was even after over a hundred years. Probably because of that Dúnedain heritage of hers, or maybe it was all the horseback riding? 

Looking back at their time together so far, Legolas felt blessed. They had accomplished so much in Ithilien; seen it grow from a desolate war-marred land to an attractive country of vast, lush forests and orchards, famous for its breed of beautiful and intelligent horses. 

Even the cities were green with an abundance of parks and hanging gardens. Over the years, Osgiliath had become almost a second capital of Gondor, very different from the ancient Minas Tirith with her beautiful architecture and renown university, which attracted scholars and students from all over Arda. Osgiliath was young and cocky, a commercial city bustling with energy, a hub for young, talented people of all races. Here humans, dwarves, hobbits, orcs and uruk-hai worked together, joined by their ambition to prosper and grow, but always in harmony with the surrounding nature.

Living close to nature had been what Legolas needed, what had made him grow and become the ellon he was today. Thranduil had once called Wynne a woman of the lands, but what he had failed to see then was that his son was an elf of the lands. Whenever they had visited Thranduil, that had been obvious; Legolas and his wife could endure fine clothes, elegant suppers and civil manners for a few days, but it was always a relief to come back home afterwards.

Somehow their living apart had benefited his father too. He had become more outgoing, taking an interest in his surroundings and nurturing his friendship with the Lórien elves; their lord in particular. 

Yes, Legolas figured he could not have chosen a better life, nor a better wife. He smiled down at her small frame, admiring her now almost white curls that surrounded her face in an unruly halo. He bent to kiss her wrinkled cheek, and then those lovely lips, the taste of which he could never get enough of. She responded eagerly; it had been a long journey and not much privacy aboard their vessel. 

“Get a room, ye two.” Gimli’s braided hair and beard were iron gray, but apart from that the stout dwarf had hardly changed at all during the many decades Legolas had known him.

“Soon we shall feast with the Valar, Master Dwarf, and walk in their halls. That will be something to beat those glittering caves of yours.”

“Let’s hope they donnae serve ye anything stronger than fruit juice then.” His laugh rumbled as heartily as ever. 

There was excitement in the dwarf’s features; he would get to see Galadriel again, the love of his life, if only to admire at a distance. Legolas was glad he had brought him with them. 

He was happy for himself too; he would meet his mother for the first time, and he really looked forward to introduce Wynne to her. His father would come shortly after; he and Celeborn probably were on their way by now, aboard Círdan’s last ship. 

They would all be together. Like a family.

“Did anyone mention a feast? I love parties!” A hobbit had joined the company in the prow. Wisps of white, curly hair framed his broad, honest face. ”What do you think we shall get to eat?”

“Well, Master Sam, I think I know the answer to that.” Legolas winked at his wife. 

“Lembas.” Wynne nodded solemnly. “There shall be lembas. Elves eat nothing else.” 

 

The End


A/N:

Yes, the end is here! And what a journey it has been. I have never enjoyed writing anything as much as I did this. :)

Maybe we shall meet again, in another story. Until then, farewell, and I end with one last quote, by Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night's Dream):

Good night unto you all. / Give me your hands, if we be friends. 





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