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31. Peace Treaty in the Making
The following days Legolas steadily got better. The bandages were changed regularly, and the bleeding subsided ever so slowly until finally the healer said it was time to sew him up entirely. He was still given seed of the poppy to ease the pain, but in a much smaller dosis that mostly made him sleepy, and soon he needed only willow bark tea, a much less potent painkiller. His friends took turns sitting with him, singing, playing music or just talking, and every night Thranduil slept there in the other bed.
When not keeping Legolas company, Wynne and the elves were outdoors as much as possible, hunting, bathing in the small pool and looking after the horses who still roamed about on the heather moor. Neither of them liked to be in the tunnels. Every time Wynne came out in the sunlight she felt relieved, like the heavy rock of the hill had been weighing her down, and she was very sorry for Legolas who had no choice but to stay. She could well understand that Sidra and the babies had had to leave the place, it was somehow dark and sinister in there, despite the white painted walls, many oil lanterns and candles. She longed for the day they could finally get out of there for good.
Wynne slept well in the store room, even though it was underground. It was admittedly a bit uncomfortable to be sharing it with three males, but they had arranged a shelf between them so she could have some privacy.
During the meals in the hall she usually sat with Sidra’s family, still rather shy around the tall and dangerous looking uruk-hai. Galion, Nodir and Bronedir seemed to make many new friends, however, each day moving to a new table, while Thranduil for his part spent most of the time bickering with Dad.
The peace treaty was at last coming to its completion, after Dad and Thranduil had spent many long hours arguing about the contents. The king had agreed to speak with the human kings, like he had said, and furthermore bidding them to speak with the dwarves – a compromise they both could accept. As for other elf realms, Thranduil would ask Lord Celeborn to make it known among all elfkind that the Free Orcs of Emyn Muil were to be left in peace.
Then there had been the question of the ents. The uruk-hai were wary about the tree-herders, several of them having very narrowly escaped Fangorn forest with their lives after the defeat of Helm’s Deep, but to ask ents to be friendly to orcs when that race had killed so many trees would be a hard task. Even the Elvenking, with his love of trees and knowledge of them, could not guarantee they would listen.
“We shall try, at least, on that you have my word. Lord Celeborn is powerful and might convince them.”
With this, the old orc healer had to make do.
As for the orcs’ obligations, that list was equally long and detailed. They could of course not steal or kill, that was obvious and easily agreed upon, but the matter of hunting was more complicated. In the end, it was decided that they were allowed to hunt, but only in their own vicinity, or with the permission of a landowner if they wished to do it elsewhere. The same went for farming, or the harvesting of any herb, fruit or berry in the land.
Another issue was the remaining orc bandits in the area. Dad had admitted there were several groups scattered here that he knew of, just as had been the case in the Brown Lands. Thranduil wanted it put down that he should be allowed to kill them, but Dad was determined that if this was to be his people’s lands, they should be the ones responsible for keeping them safe.
“How can I trust you to slay your own kind?” asked Thranduil suspiciously.
“If need be, they shall be executed, on that you have my word. But I wish to pursue a gentler way. There are prisons here, deep in the caves under us. I would like to try to make them see reason. As we have.”
“Weakness,” the king sneered contemptuously.
“Maybe. Or compassion?”
In the end Thranduil agreed, but with the addition that if Dad failed, and these roaming orcs did any damage outside the hills, that too would be considered a breach of the treaty.
After many more such clausules were established, King Thranduil of the Woodland Realm and Goltur of the First Free Orctown in Emyn Muil could shake hands a second time, and rather solemnly sign the stack of parchment, witnessed by all the inhabitants of the cave. The cheer that erupted almost threatened to crumble the rock into pieces and make the ceiling crash down upon them.
They were free at last.
A huge feast ensued after this grand event, one that Wynne much rather was without. As soon as she could she excused herself, and went to bring Legolas his usual bleak dinner. He was still not allowed anything solid, only soup, gruel and tea, because the poppy medicine could make him constipated, not a good idea when one was wounded in close vicinity to the bowels.
For once, Legolas was alone in the small room, which suited Wynne very well. It was ages since they had a chance to talk just the two of them.
When he saw her he brightened up.
“Finally, I thought I would be alone all night. Such party-lovers, you. I take it the peace treaty was signed to their liking?”
“It was.” She maneuvered the tray with one hand and closed the door, cutting out the sound of singing and happy chatting from the hall.
“Soup again? I had hoped for lembas.” Legolas grinned impishly at her. He really must be a lot better if he threw his favorite joke at her, and she felt warm and happy with relief.
“You look good,” she noticed, and sat down beside him. “Feeling better?”
“I am flattered! You think I look good, my fair lady?” He winked at her.
He had winked . And called her fair. Was he flirting?
“You know I do.” Wynne busied herself with the tray to hide her face, she did not dare to meet his eye. Surely he remembered why he could not talk that way, why he should not do it. They were past this, were they not?
“My apologies, Wynne, I did not mean to make you uncomfortable.” He sounded serious again, and took her hand. His touch gave her butterflies, and the feelings she had tried so hard to suppress returned in full power.
“Legolas… don’t do this. I can’t…” She broke off, chest burning painfully.
“Wait… please. Just hear me out. I have been thinking… I have had a lot of time to think lately.” He swallowed. “I wished to talk to you for a while now, but there were always others around.” Wynne glanced at him, she noticed his flustered face and realized how nervous he was. “I know my father spoke with you too that time, about why… why I could not, er, pursue you.” He swallowed again. “Ada intends me to find myself some fine elf lady, who is, in his words, ‘queen material’.” He made a perfect impersonation of Thranduil’s voice, and Wynne’s lips quirked up despite her embarrassment. “He can be quite stubborn, as you know, and slow to change his ideas and opinions. And it takes a long time for him to warm up to others. But I was thinking… if we were subtle about it. Well. In time, he might… I think he would understand.”
Wynne silently puzzled together his somewhat incoherent sentence.
“You mean for us to be seeing each other… secretly?” she breathed, her heartbeat increasing.
“Aye. If... you agree to it?” His hand that still enclosed hers trembled slightly.
Oh how she wanted to say yes. She pictured that secluded cottage in her daydream. But what of her mortality? Had Thranduil not talked with Legolas about that? Surely he must understand it would not work in the long run. She hesitated to bring it up, however, this was too early to discuss a long lasting relationship, was it not? Maybe he only meant for it to be something flighty.
She settled for a hint.
“But you’re an elf and I’m human… we’re different. There will be… problems.”
“My friend Aragorn married an elf.” Legolas sounded unconcerned, like that was no problem at all. Had he not thought about the implications of that marriage? Had Aragorn and Arwen not thought of it?
“What will Queen Arwen do after her husband’s demise?”
“Oh… you mean, will she mourn him forever, and be miserable for the rest of her immortal life?”
“Yes.” The word came out almost like a sigh.
“So this was what Ada told you. I had wondered about that.” To her surprise he brought her hand to his lips. The kiss was light as a feather, making her skin tingle. “Your consideration about my feelings makes me think even higher of you.”
“Does it not worry you, then?”
“Nay. Did you know Aragorn has a son now? And another child on its way. When he is gone, Arwen will have them to remember him by. Half elf children must be immortal too.”
“You don’t even like children.” Wynne tried to smile, but her lips quivered. Could this really work? Could she allow herself to hope again?
“True.” He laughed. “However, I have yet to meet my own child, and if it bears any resemblance with you I am sure I shall adore it.”
Her eyes locked with his, the shyness finally draining away. He seemed so earnest, like he really had meant everything he said. He even wanted to have children with her, that was not something one would say lightly.
His large, expressive eyes spoke clearly of his feelings. Losing herself in the deep blue wells, Wynne’s apprehensions melted away into nothingness.
“Then… in that case… I say yes.”
Speaking those words was one of the most terrifying and at the same time the most wonderful things Wynne had ever done.
This was fun to write. :D Next chapter will be... fluffy. But safe for work, no worries, this is the Medieval era after all. ;)
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