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23. It Always Rains on Camping Trips
Wynne drifted off to sleep eventually, only to wake up in the small hours by heavy drops striking her face, and thunder rolling in the distance. Oh, was this not just typical? The one night she had no tent, it would begin to rain.
She hurried back to the camp in an increasing downpour, where she found a blanket in one of the packs. Pulling it over her, she went to huddle miserably by Thranduil who had the present watch. He had covered himself with a navy blue cloak that went well with his eyes.
“I see you decided to be charitable,” he remarked dryly.
“Some people actually bother about the well-being of other people,” she grumbled.
“Wasted on the likes of them. An orc does not deserve the comfort of a tent.”
“Half orc. And Sidra is human.”
He did not bother to reply, and they sat in silence for a while. The blanket soon became heavy over Wynne’s shoulders, soaked through, and not doing much to shield her from the torrents. It grew lighter despite the cloudy sky, dawn was approaching, but Wynne felt tired and bleary eyed.
Legolas soundlessly joined them, also wearing a cloak, his a nice hunter’s green.
“Why did you not wake me, Ada? My watch is well overdue.”
Thranduil hesitated before answering.
“I did not mind staying up.”
“Very well. I am here now.” Legolas sat down between them, drawing up his hood. He peered at his father curiously. “You are not leaving?”
“The thunder will only keep me awake, I might as well accompany you.”
Wynne looked at him suspiciously, that had sounded rather lame, like an excuse. And then it dawned on her. He did not want his son to be alone with her, that was why. He thought they needed a chaperone.
Her jaw set hard. She and Legolas had complied with Thranduil’s wishes all this time, and both very well knew why they could only ever be friends. There was absolutely no cause for this irrational mistrust.
“You think we need watching over,” she said, unable to hide her anger.
His eyebrows rose in surprise at her outburst, but he remained silent.
“That was uncalled for.” Legolas too looked displeased. Then he turned to Wynne. “Seeing as our tent apparently shall remain empty, you might as well get out of this bleak weather and get some more rest. My bed is the one on the left.”
Wynne nodded gratefully. She left the drenched blanket outside and crept in under the solid canvas roof. Feeling almost like she did something forbidden, she pulled the wet chemise over her head and cuddled down under Legolas’ blanket in only her underpants.
His bed was wonderfully soft, covered with a thin, white sheet of some flimsy material, silk perhaps? She buried her nose in his equally silky pillow, and inhaled deeply. It smelled slightly of soap and the elves’ hair oil, but something else as well, some undefined musky aroma that was just him . Closing her eyes, she could easier than ever picture herself in that cottage four poster bed with Legolas at her side.
Sometimes she wondered why she kept torturing herself like this, thinking about someone she could never have, and imagining something that could never be. But there was a bittersweetness to it. An equal blend of pain and pleasure that was addictive.
Now the most sweet part of her daydream gently lulled her to sleep.
When Wynne woke next she was a lot less tired. The thrumming of rain on the roof had almost ceased, but the air was still damp, with droplets of moisture forming inside the canopy. She heard voices from the outside, indicating the others were up, but she felt so warm and cosy in the nest of silky sheets that she just could not bring herself to rise. She wished she could stay here all day, wallowing in the softness and Legolas’ bewitching scent.
When at last she mustered the energy to get dressed and leave the tent, she found everybody gathered around a cooking fire, where exotic, spicy smells wafted from a kettle. Sidra was ladling thick soup into bowls and distributed them among the others. When Wynne appeared, the woman startled her by giving her a quick hug.
“I didn’t know you gave us your tent, that was really decent of you. Now I feel bad, having forced you to sleep out in the rain.”
“Don’t feel bad, you couldn’t have known it would rain. And I slept really well now in the morning.” She nodded gratefully at Legolas, and was warmed by his pleased smile. Beside him his father scowled noticeably. Wynne wickedly hoped he regretted having stayed up an extra watch in the rain, pointlessly depriving himself of sleep. If he was tired it served him just right.
Sidra’s soup tasted pleasant, but different. Lentils and wheat kernels had been boiled together with dried vegetables and herbs, chiefly carrots, parsley and peppermint, and seasoned with an unknown spice that Sidra only had a Haradrim word for, kammun .
For drinking she had made a dark tea, a lot more bitter than the mint tea Wynne liked, but somehow she felt invigorated after having a mug of it.
“How did you come by Haradrim spices and tea leaves this far north?” Bronedir asked her. Wynne remembered that his mother had come from the south, perhaps he had tasted this kind of food before.
“We made a journey to my home a couple of years ago. I brought back a large supply, seeing as I’m not likely to return.” Sidra looked wistful, a deep longing in her eyes.
“We should trade more with Harad.” Bronedir sipped his tea appreciatively.
“Maybe now that King Elessar is having Ithilien restored, we will,” said Thranduil.
When it was time to break camp, the rain had increased again, making everything damp or outright wet. It was the worst kind of travelling weather. Down in the Brown Lands the air had been drier, and Wynne could count the rainy days they had had on the fingers of one hand. Here in the highland the climate was more humid.
As usual everything was loaded onto the horses with speedy efficiency. Wynne saw how Legolas briefly held his pillow to his face before stuffing it in the rolled up bed. He must have tried to pick out her scent, just like she had done with his. It both warmed her heart and saddened it.
As they rode on, Wynne conversated pleasantly with Sidra, mostly about Rohan and her life there.
“They are very different, and I have often wondered what brought them to marry each other.” Wynne had been telling the history of the Örn House, and had now come to her mother and father. “I suspect maybe Mother’s relatives arranged it with Grandmama and Grandpapa, my father’s parents. She did not grow up with her own parents, you see.”
“No? Why not?” Sidra was a good listener, and showed genuine interest.
“Not sure, really. Mother never talks much about it.”
“It must have been sad.”
“Perhaps.” Wynne could not really picture her mother being sad.
“What’s your family like?”
“Mother is clever. When she plans things, they happen. Before they married, Father was rather poor, ’with nothing but his good name to show’, as she puts it – but she made him wealthy. Everybody respects her. Whenever we are trading horses or supplies, she handles it, Father knows she always gets the best deal.” Wynne felt a pang of longing after Mother, she had never been apart from her this long before. When things were going her way, Mother was a charming person. One just had to be careful never to oppose her. ”As for Father, he’s… I don’t know. Quiet. He likes to be with the horses, same as me. He knows them. Like, which to keep and which to sell. And which ones to mate to get the finest foals. I think I inherited much from him, actually.” Wynne smiled fondly to herself. “I even look like him.”
“He must look nice then.” Galion was riding behind them, again with Sidra’s eldest son in front of him.
“You’re eavesdropping.” Wynne frowned at him. It was sweet of him to give her a compliment, but it made the suspicion from yesterday stronger.
“It is not possible to close one’s ears. I am an elf, remember?”
Wynne looked around her and realized she had been the only one talking, which meant everyone had been listening. Oh well, she was telling no secrets anyway.
“I don’t think Father’s considered good looking,” she said, still in Galion’s direction. “At least Mother says him and I are both very plain, that we got the Örn looks rather than Grandmama’s Dúnedain traits.”
“What are Dúnedain?” Sidra wondered.
“Descendants of Elendil, he was the first high king of Gondor. They are often tall, handsome and long-lived. My Grandmama was a beauty when she was young, Mother says.” Then she added, rather proudly: “King Aragorn is Dúnedain, and we are related. Distantly.”
“I think your mother is too harsh on you. I love those curls you got.” Sidra pulled at one of Wynne’s brown tresses. “Besides, who cares about the outside anyway. What matters is how the heart looks.” She sent the uruk-hai a loving glance, which made him smile. He had a surprisingly gentle smile.
“According to Mother looks are everything, she worries I shall never be married. So far the only one who asked for my hand is our widower neighbour, and he must be like fifty at least.” Wynne laughed mirthlessly. “Thankfully I was allowed to turn him down.”
“Allowed to,” repeated Sidra, her forehead creasing. “You mean you may not be able to pick a spouse for yourself?”
“Not likely, no. Unless I choose somebody my parents find suitable.” She shifted uncomfortably on Vatna’s back, this was getting too close to unsafe grounds. Mother’s plan to have her daughter married to an elf must never be exposed, she did not even want to think of Thranduil’s reaction if he found out.
Wynne hurriedly changed topic, and the rest of the morning she and Sidra discussed methods of horse- and oliphaunt training.
When they stopped for lunch Legolas sidled up to Wynne.
“I strongly disagree with your mother,” he whispered. “You are in no way plain.”
If you wonder about the Haradrim language, I had to make it up because Tolkien never wrote it down, except for the word mûmak. Since he apparently based the Haradrim on people of southern origin, I decided to use Arabic names and words.
Similarly, I have used Icelandic words for Wynne's "Old Rohirric", such as in her family name and the names of the horses, since he based the Rohirrim culture and language on the Anglo-Saxons, and used Old English for many of their words.
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