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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!”
“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?
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