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25. Thranduil Is a Horse
The lovely aroma of roasting fish woke Wynne the next morning. Sidra and the children were already up, she could hear the little ones giggling and running about outside. It was sunny and warm, the clouds finally gone, and Wynne decided to wash up a bit before breakfast. Perhaps she should even take the time to clean her spare clothes, they always smelled odd after being worn in the rain.
By the creek, Nugu was busy smearing elf hair oil into his black, waist length strands under the watchful eye of Galion. That product really was becoming popular. The uruk-hai was temporarily free of his bonds again, and Wynne dismally noticed how swollen and red his wrists had become.
After what she had overheard yesterday, her curiosity about the uruk-hai had increased considerably. She had mostly spent time with Sidra, not really paying much attention to her husband. Now she discreetly observed him while soaking her laundry.
The uruk wore only underpants when he bathed, unlike the elves’ habit of keeping their shirts on, and was unabashedly exposing his massive legs and broad chest. The thin, welt like scars on his back drew Wynne’s eye again. He must have been suffering a severe whipping some time in the past, and that further added to the compassion she had begun to feel for him.
“I suppose a shave is out of the question?” He looked quizzically at his guard.
“I am afraid it is. We cannot let you have a knife.”
Having been around elves so much lately, Wynne was not used to body hair, and on Nugu there really was a lot of it. His chin sported stubble long enough to be almost considered a beard, and the legs, arms and chest were covered with black bristles. It suited him, somehow it went well with that gray skin tone, but Wynne had a hard time grasping that he was almost her age. The facial hair especially, made him look older than he was.
Sidra came sauntering by.
“I found the perfect babysitter for Muzadi and Rohi.” She nodded behind her. Wynne looked and almost dropped the laundry in surprise. Thranduil sat on a stone with an orcling on each knee, bouncing them up and down while he mimicked a horse. He even made clip-clop sounds, but it was hard to hear over the boys’ happy laughter.
“If I had not seen this with my own eyes, I would not have believed it possible.” Galion shook his head in amazement. “Thranduil hates orcs.”
“Perhaps he’s beginning to understand not all orcs are the same,” said Wynne, thinking of her own conclusion last night.
“About time,” muttered Nugu, but Wynne had seen his pleased smile before he hid it under the usual scowl.
“Mmm, you smell lovely.” Sidra had stepped close to her husband and hid her nose in the nape of his neck, while softly stroking his bare back.
“I borrowed some oil from the elves. For the hair.” Still unbound, he was free to put his arms around her, and did so.
“I must get the recipe.” She grabbed his elvish looking ears and pulled him down to an intimate kiss. That woman certainly was not shy.
Galion went cherry pink and did not seem to know where to look, but Wynne was getting used to her friend’s openness. It was rather refreshing, really. Why should she not show the world how much she loved her husband? It did make Wynne a bit jealous though, that they could be together despite the race difference.
At breakfast Thranduil observed the half orc thoughtfully, almost as if he saw him for the first time. Nodir must have been passing on the information he had learned last night.
When the king spoke his tone was conversational, unusually nice to be him.
“We always believed Saruman’s remaining orcs and uruk-hai were drowned during the destruction of Isengard. How did you and your friends manage to survive?”
“We had already left by then. Deserted if you will.” The uruk’s frown was deeper than ever, making his forehead protrude in a not so attractive way. He really should smile more, but then, Wynne figured, being Thranduil’s captive and anticipating the death of your friends probably did not offer much reason to.
“Hm. How many of you are there?”
The uruk did not reply.
“I guess I shall soon find out.” The king’s voice had become a degree colder. After a short silence, he tried another question: “How did Saruman manage to procure the orc’s allegiance in the first place?”
“How should I know? Maybe he tricked them with dark magic, maybe they were just damn bloody fools.”
“Nugu! Watch your mouth.” Sidra demonstratively clapped her hands over the eldest boy’s big ears.
“Sorry.” He looked a bit sheepish.
Thranduil paid no attention to the interruption.
“And then he started breeding his elite troops – you. How did the other orcs take it?”
“They hated us. And feared us.” He paused. “Come to think of it, they probably hated us because they feared us.”
“Gave you them reason to?”
Again there was no reply, only sullen silence. Thranduil stared at him, clearly beginning to lose his patience.
“Ahem. Everybody finished yet? Maybe we should get going.” Galion seemed anxious to break the tense mood.
When they were on their way again some time later, Sidra and her husband took the lead, riding so close together their legs brushed against each other’s horses. They were discussing something earnestly, Sidra gesticulating and Nugu’s jaw set hard in apparent annoyance, but the voices were low. What were they arguing about?
Wynne nudged Vatna to fall in step with Legolas mount.
“Can your elven ears make out what they say?” she asked, feeling cunning.
“Afraid not, they speak Orkish. Rude. That would be like us speaking Sindarin to cut you out.”
“You did that. When we had just met.” She smirked.
“We did? How impolite. But then, we treated you very unkindly in the beginning.” He smiled apologetically.
“ You were never unkind.”
“If so, it was probably because I was impressed with how you handled–” He broke off, and looked meaningfully in the direction of Thranduil. In a group of elves, everything one said could be heard by the others, but by omitting the name he avoided drawing his father’s attention to their conversation.
“It was all pretence. I doubt if I would have dared to be that bold now ,” Wynne admitted. “But I knew so little then.” She sighed. She had been so young, and yet it was not long ago. Much had happened since.
“You would. You are not afraid of anybody.”
“I’m afraid of orcs.”
“They do not count, everybody fears them.” He smiled wryly. ”You heard Nugu, even orcs fear orcs.”
“Do you?” Wynne peered at him curiously, thinking of what Nodir had said last night.
“Aye,” he murmured, studying his hands. “I am dreading the day they win. Every fight there is a risk, a possibility that one of us is killed.” He toyed with a strand of Stelpa’s mane. “I am afraid to lose a friend, or my father... or–” He glanced at her. “...someone else I care about.”
“I fear that too. I hated every time you found a new orc nest.”
“Death is so final. I wish nobody would die.” He sighed heavily, then he looked directly at her. There was such sadness in his eyes, and Wynne felt a lump in her throat.
Before she could reply, they were interrupted.
“ Troll ! Troll ahead!” Galion bellowed.
Legolas was instantly gone, lithely swinging off the horse and running ahead, bow in hand and an arrow ready. But Wynne had seen the change his eyes went through. Just before he left, they had filled with fear.
Whaaat, is Legolas not the fearless fighting-machine the movies made him out to be? Can an elf actually be scared of danger?
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