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Horse Lady of Rohan  by Mimi Lind

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.

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