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30. Sidra Tries to Apologize
When Wynne next woke up, her head felt heavy. How long had she slept? Down in the underground there was no way to tell. The storage room was dimly lit by a lantern in an alcove, and apart from herself, it was empty. In one corner she saw the familiar bundles and bags of their packs. So, the elves were up then, and must have gone to get their belongings that had been left by the well. She hoped the horses were okay, and maybe if Legolas was all right, she could go and see to them later today. They had rode them so hard last night, and she had not had time to check their legs and feet afterwards.
Her body promptly informed her that she was ravenous and desperately needed to pee. But first things first, before doing anything else she must visit Legolas.
Still in the ruffled clothes she had worn all day and all night, Wynne opened the round door. Outside she heard a mumble of voices from the hall, and a nice smell of food wafted through the corridor, again reminding her she had not eaten anything since yesterday morning.
She did not knock on the healer’s door in case it would disturb Legolas, instead she opened a tiny slit and peeked inside. Both he and his father were lying peacefully on their bunks, eyes closed, breathing calmly. Legolas face had slightly more color today. With a sigh of relief, Wynne closed after them again. At least he was not worse.
Next, she went down the corridor to seek out the privy the healer had mentioned. If he had not pointed it out, the smell would have led her there just as easily. Inside was a stone bench with two holes, covered by lids. There was a sign in orc language above each which Wynne could not decipher, but when she warily opened them she saw one contained only urine, and the other only fecal matter. Why they would separate those she had no idea, but obediently she chose the correct one to pee in.
There was a bowl and pitcher on a small table so she could wash her hands and face afterwards, which made her feel a lot more awake.
Before joining the others, Wynne changed clothes, she had no idea who she would meet during breakfast but it probably was best to avoid looking like a ruffled tramp. She even brushed her hair.
When she got to the hall she stopped in the doorway, shyly peering at all the unfamiliar faces. Around thirty or forty uruk-hai lined the tables under the now lit chandelier, and their conversation echoed between the stone walls. A separate table was laden with food and drink, and the smell was even more heavenly this close.
Wynne promptly took a plate and began to fill it. She did not recognize any of the dishes, except for a pile of rye bread, but everything had a nice aroma. She would never had guessed orc food to be like this, but then this group seemed very different. The way they talked, laughed and ate in friendly camaraderie was clearly unusual behavior for that race. She doubted normal orcs bothered to spice their meat or even cook it, and they certainly did not eat vegetables. She could even discern pieces of potato in one of the stews.
Sidra came up to her, and took her hand.
“Glad you are up, I hope you slept well. It’s lunchtime already. Come have a seat by me and Nugu.” The woman spoke quickly and looked rather anxious, even though she obviously tried to sound casual, like nothing had happened. She apparently hoped to be forgiven, and for her betrayal to be forgotten. But was it possible to forget something as grave as that? It was hers and Nugu’s fault that Legolas was now fighting for his life, even though Nugu had stepped in and ended the troll.
Sidra tugged at her, now with a pleading look, perhaps reading Wynne’s thoughts in her face.
“Come. Let’s talk over the meal.”
Wynne slowly began to walk then, and allowed her former friend to lead her to the end of a table close to the fireplace. A fire was lit in it, with coal instead of wood, and the black smoke disappeared up through a chimney. Were they not afraid anyone would see it? But maybe the smoke was led out into a hidden cave or something.
As she walked past the crowded tables, Wynne felt the uruks’ eyes on her. So far she had seen no female orc since she met Nanna yesterday, and to be in a room full of males made her glad to have another woman by her side, even if it was such a treacherous one as Sidra.
When she was seated, Wynne was pleased to see Galion opposite to her, with his favorite orcling in his lap. Nugu sat next to him, holding the youngest. He glanced up when Wynne came and then immediately looked down, his face darkening several shades of gray. Was he blushing?
Wynne ate in silence, only replying to the others’ inquires in monosyllables. The food tasted just as nice as it smelled, and she went twice to get more. She wiped the last of the stew off her plate with a piece of bread, and leaned back in the chair, feeling a lot better.
Now that Wynne was full and contented, somehow Sidra’s and Nugu’s apologetic, sad countenances touched her a little more. Galion apparently had no more harsh feelings towards them, and perhaps it would not hurt to at least let them explain.
“Why did you lead us to the trolls?” she asked bluntly, making both of them almost jump. “I thought you had decided never to kill again. But letting trolls do the job for you is not really much different, is it?” She cast Nugu a dark look.
“I did not mean for them to hurt anyone,” he mumbled, again blushing gray. “There was only one troll last time we were there.”
“But you knew there was one troll, and still you took us to it?”
“It was one of Saruman’s tame beasts, not very bright, and we were certain the elves would finish it easily. We just wanted you to be busy, so we could escape. But the one that hurt Legolas was a wild mountain troll, and it took us too by surprise.” He was still not looking up from the table.
“And also, we had just decided to abandon that plan anyway,” Sidra cut in. “We knew from the start we couldn’t trust Thranduil, but the more time we spent with him and you others, the more we thought it possible to persuade him to spare us – in time, at least. We were going to turn back, we really were. But we got to the troll sooner than we had thought.” She again took Wynne’s hand. “Wynne, I know you are angry, I would be too if someone I loved was hurt. I truly am sorry for that, and wish I could make amends somehow.”
Wynne felt her own cheeks burn, was it that obvious how she felt about Legolas?
“I trusted you,” she mumbled.
“But when you really think about it… if we had taken Thranduil here directly, can you imagine he would sign a peace treaty with Dad? Or even have allowed him to live?”
“No,” she admitted.
“And our babies, and Nugu… Would they be alive now?”
“I don’t know.” Wynne sighed. “All right, I get your point. You felt you had no choice.”
“I hated to deceive you. I’m so sorry.”
“I’m sorry too,” mumbled Nugu. “Especially about how Dad acted when we brought Legolas to him. That ultimatum was unfair and cruel. If I had known… well I guess I couldn’t have done anything to stop him, but… after everything, I had wanted to show you we were good and helpful. Not some cunning, scheming sort of fellows.” He vividly rubbed his eyes with one arm, glancing at the other uruk-hai nearby as if to make sure they had not noticed. Perhaps crying was considered unmanly among their lot, warriors as they were.
“I guess he too had not much choice,” Wynne admitted. “He desperately needs that treaty.” Somehow she found it easier to understand the old healer’s motives. He, at least, had been entirely honest the whole time.
Still, after hearing the orc couple’s explanation, Wynne felt a lot better about them as well. She did not like to bear a grudge, and the more she pondered about it, the more she knew they had not really had another option. In addition, she believed Sidra when she said they had decided not to go through with the plan. Wynne remembered well how the two had argued that day, presumably Sidra trying to convince her husband, and she had seen the woman’s appalled reaction when the troll attacked. Nugu had tried to make her flee with him, but she had refused.
From understanding to forgiving was still a long way, however. Maybe if Legolas got well, Wynne might, but there were still no guarantees that he would.
Nanna, the old female orc came hobbling, and took a seat at the head of the table, as close to the fireplace as possible.
“There you are, Nugie luv’. And the little ones too, bless them.” She grinned toothlessly at them and turned to Sidra. “You and the boys look much better, Dad was right to advice you some time outside. Just think of that, baby orcs needin’ sun. Who’d have thought?” She laughed, a hearty laugh to come from such a tiny body.
“Thank you, Nanna, but we missed you terribly. It’s good to be back.” Sidra kissed the orc lady’s cheek.
“Now with the elf king here, we can soon all come and go as we pleases.” Nanna placed one frail palm on Sidra’s hand and the other on Nugu’s. “It’s a blessin’, you hear me. A blessin’. This was meant to be.”
“You think so?” Nugu’s eyes were still red-rimmed from crying. “Was all this really meant to happen?”
“It was. I know it was, with every bone in my body. Sweetie, don’t you worry, it will all work out. The elf will live, Dad says so, and he can tell these things, you know. He says they heal faster than our sort.” She patted the uruk’s cheek, wiping off another stray tear. “There now, big boy, you did the right thing.”
The uruk-hai relaxed his shoulders then, almost slumping where he sat. He must have truly been worried. Wynne felt herself breathe more easily as well. Legolas would live. For the first time she was sure of it, even though she did not really know why.
What do you think, will he survive? And will there be peace?
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