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33. Laundry Day in a Cave
A polite knock on the door made Wynne jump up and quickly swap to the other bed. When Nodir entered she smiled innocently.
“Good evening. Thranduil sent me to relieve you.” His eyes narrowed slightly as he looked from one to the other. “Why do you two smile like that?”
“Legolas was telling something funny,” Wynne said quickly. “About lembas.”
“Aye, I said how much I enjoy it. One might say I am a Lembas Lover.”
Still chuckling, Wynne went to the door, feeling Nodir’s eyes on her. She wondered what Legolas would say to him, if he would tell their secret. She doubted the elven guards could be trusted not to inform their king and hoped he would stay silent for now.
Passing through the corridor, Wynne was almost dancing her way ahead, alive with pent up energy like a horse before a jump. Legolas found her beautiful! And liked her legs. And she had kissed him thrice!
Outside the hall she forced the smile off her face with some effort. The fact that Thranduil gave her a stern look did help a lot. Luckily he said nothing, she did not think she could face him just yet.
The party was still going on, and now Wynne’s appetite was back. She filled another plate and went back to Sidra and Nugu, who sat with Nanna and the orc healer. Galion was there too, bouncing an orcling in time with the beat of the music.
Orc music was very different from human or elvish music, she noted. They had several different-sized drums and long horn instruments that emitted deep hoots. The current piece was sung without words, one uruk intoned the melody and several others held single, continuous tones, making up deep and vibrant chords. The uptempo rhythm fitted well with Wynne’s present agitated mood.
“Well. You look cheerful,” Sidra noted instantly when Wynne seated herself. There was no fooling that woman.
“Legolas was feeling so much better,” she said, sticking with part of the truth.
“You were gone quite a while.” Her eyes were piercing but the hint of a mischievous smile touched her lips.
“I kept him company during his meal.” Wynne said innocently, and to evade further questions resolutely turned to the healer. “When can he eat normal food? He is off the poppy now, right? And go for walks, when can he do that? He is very confined in there you know, only ever walking to the privy.”
“Yes, I think he could start trying his legs a little more tomorrow, a short tour only, mind you. As for food, nothing too solid yet, the poppy effect can linger for some days.”
Wynne nodded and smiled at the old orc. How could she ever have thought orcs ugly and scary? A huge wave of regard and gratitude unexpectedly surged through her, eyes burning like she would cry.
“Thank you so, so much for healing him, Goltur.” She reached out and pressed the others’ small hand.
“It’s what I do,” he said simply, but there was a very knowing look in the sharp, amber eyes.
Next morning Wynne expectantly met up with the healer, Thranduil and the rest of the elves to follow Legolas on his first walk. He would be going to the hall and take his breakfast there. Goltur had provided his patient with a wooden crutch and Legolas leaned heavily on it, as well as on his father’s arm, when he tentatively lurched through the corridor, wincing slightly with every step but making no sound, the jaw stubbornly set.
It was a bit unsettling to see how exhausted the short stretch made him, but Wynne was still very glad to see him up, wearing normal clothes and getting something else to look at than the small healer’s room and adjoining lavatory.
It took a while, but finally Legolas was seated at one of the tables, curiously gazing around at the many amiably chatting uruk-hai. The air in the big room was cheerful, everyone presumably still excited about the treaty. No alcoholic beverages had been served the evening before, so there was none of that bleary eyed peevishness Wynne associated with the morning after a party.
It was nice to sit together, all of their company gathered for the first time in almost a week. Legolas was quiet at first, perhaps dismayed to realize how weak he still was, but soon he opened up and talked and laughed almost like his normal self, while finishing his sorry bowl of gruel. On more than one occasion Wynne managed to catch his eye and get a tiny smile in reward, filling her with sweet warmth. The happiness from yesterday still lingered pleasantly, and she could not wait until she would be able to snatch another moment alone with him. Perhaps even get a fourth kiss?
Unfortunately she was not so lucky. If from suspicion or just bad luck, Thranduil was around his son almost the entire day, and the few times he was away someone else was sure to take his place.
Wynne stayed in the sickroom as long as she could, but at last the king began to eye her suspiciously.
Feeling bored and restless, Wynne seeked out Sidra. The woman and her family lived in another corridor, where they had their own apartment and even a separate kitchen and bathroom. The water had to be brought from the public well, which was an underground stream, but there was an abundance of coal available for everyone so they could easily heat their stone tub whenever they wanted a warm bath. Wynne had made use of it that morning, wishing to be clean and pleasant smelling in case there would be any more kisses to be had. Unfortunately there were not, at least today, thanks to Legolas’ guarding dragon of a father.
Sidra opened directly to Wynne’s knock, a huge basket of soiled linen in her arms.
“Oh hello! I am doing laundry today, sorry about the smell. Baby Rohi’s diapers.”
“I need to wash my things too. Is there some public laundry place?”
“You can use my tub, no worries.”
Wynne gratefully walked back to their packs, glad to have something to do. She decided to wash for the others’ as well and had soon gathered an armload from Nodir, Bronedir and Galion. In the healer’s room Thranduil collected some more garments from himself and his son. When he picked up the blood soaked tunic and shirt Legolas had worn when he was speared by the troll, both elves paled visibly.
“They are ruined. Throw them away,” said Legolas dismally.
“No, I can mend them,” Wynne insisted. “I like that tunic, it suits you so well.”
“I cannot imagine ever wanting to wear it again. But if you wish to take the trouble, you are welcome to it.” He looked gloomy.
It took a great while to get the stains out. One hour of soaking them in salty, cold water was followed by an hour in nearly boiling temperature and lots of vigorously rubbing with plenty of soap, before they finally looked spotless again. Wynne was not quite sure why she so dearly wanted to restore his clothes. Perhaps it was a way for her to handle the memory of his hurt and broken body. As if she could make him whole again too, in the process of mending his tunic.
The laundry drying area was shared by the community, and was located near the public privy and baths in Wynne’s corridor. It was a huge, empty room with a big fireplace and thin rope crisscrossing all over the ceiling. Sidra filled several yards of rope with identical white diapers while Wynne hung up her company’s garments.
“So, I take it things go well between you and Legolas?” Sidra said conversationally.
Wynne froze and almost dropped Galion’s hose.
“Last night you left the party looking tired and dull like an overloaded oliphaunt, and then you came back nearly bouncing, all rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes. I can add up the numbers, you know.” Sidra smiled smugly. “Did he kiss you?”
“It’s a secret,” Wynne mumbled. “You can’t tell anyone! Especially not Thranduil.”
“Of course not.” She abandoned the diapers to give Wynne a warm hug. “I’m happy for you. I noticed the sparks between you two from the start.” She pulled back, grinning conspiratorially. “Now, tell me everything about that kiss...”
Next day Wynne brought the now dry clothes into Legolas’ room to mend them, the good lightning a suitable excuse to be there. He had taken his breakfast in the hall again, but it was obvious he still felt his injury badly when he walked. Now he was listlessly stretched out on top of his bed, looking unusually morose.
Like yesterday, Thranduil kept his son company, this time occupied with a book on healing that Goltur had lent him. He too claimed he needed the better light in there to read. Wynne had begun to strongly suspect he was chaperoning them again, and now when he actually had reason to, she guessed it was only fair. But she could be cunning too. He had to go eventually, if only to the privy, and she did not need many minutes to kiss the sad look off Legolas’ beautiful face.
She had just finished sewing up the last hole when Goltur came in to check on Legolas’ stitches and bring him his willow bark tea. It was nearly time for lunch.
“Want to try another walk, Legolas?” he asked.
“Of course he wants to, he needs to get his strength back.” Thranduil put down his book.
“I guess I had better.” The blond elf muttered, sounding both frustrated and annoyed at the same time.
During the meal, soup for Legolas and a fish stew for the rest of them, Goltur invited Thranduil to take a tour around the cave with him that afternoon.
“I would like to show you our workshops. I’m thinking we might have some items and contraptions we could tempt you or the humans with. For trading deals.”
“One of us is very good with machines. He built one that can be powered by oil and steam, and perform hard work such as driving a grindstone.”
“Interesting. Perhaps nothing for us elves, but I am certain the humans and the dwarves would like such a device. Let us all go and see it. Except you of course, my son, you should get some rest.” He gave Legolas a comforting smile which was met with sullen silence and a rather deep frown.
Wynne was scowling too, she did not want to look at machines, she wanted to be alone with her elf. Which the shrewd king obviously had anticipated.
They followed Legolas back to his room, another slow struggle with the crutch, but this time he refused his father’s aid. With another dark look he almost slammed the door after him.
Wynne felt a pang of sympathy and promised herself she would try her best to sneak away from the tour at first opportunity. Legolas needed a cheer-up, and she was the right woman to provide it.
Legolas is pissed off, it would seem. Next chapter will not be entirely flattering for that poor elf... I guess we all have those days. :)
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