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Horse Lady of Rohan  by Mimi Lind

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?





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