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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 party! What do you think will happen? :)
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