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Horse Lady of Rohan  by Mimi Lind

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. 

That Thranduil, eh... he really is medieval!

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