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35. The Orc Farm
As usual walking went slow for Legolas, but now with just the two of them he seemed less frustrated by it, and Wynne for her part did not mind at all. It was pleasant to have his arm around her, feel his warm body and draw in his scent. And she liked to be able to support him, she felt useful and strong.
Her only regret was that he had wanted to go out at all, she had much rather stayed in his room and continued that very interesting kiss. She had still not quite regained her composure, and his close vicinity did not help in the least.
Wynne well remembered how wary she had been of the prospect of mating, when her mother told her she must marry, but now… she wanted to do it now. She had pressed herself against Legolas and the sensation was overwhelming. And then she had felt him , his part, curiously pushing into her stomach and she had imagined feeling it farther down. She had wished she was taller.
They must wait, of course, and be properly wed first, but hopefully that would not be too far in the future. Somehow she must convince Thranduil to allow it.
As if thinking of the Elvenking had conjured him up, he and the rest of the tour entered the hall just when they had opened the exit door. Legolas stiffened beside her.
“Legolas! I thought you were resting.” Thranduil's eyebrows became a single, thick line. “And you, Wynne, were you not helping Sidra with the orclings?”
“I had to go outdoors. Get some air,” stated Legolas curtly. “Wynne agreed to help me.”
“I already finished at Sidra’s,” she added lamely.
“Then allow me to take over,” said Thranduil, and without waiting for a reply he firmly took her place by his son’s side. “Since you are not otherwise occupied, Wynne, you can visit the farm in my stead. I am sure my absence is acceptable, Master Goltur?”
“I can show it to you another time, sire.” After the peace treaty was signed, the healer had become a lot more polite when addressing the king. He turned to Legolas. “Take it slow and pause often. I am not sure the climb down the ladder is entirely a good idea, but maybe you are right and the air would do you good.”
Legolas only gave a short nod in reply, but Wynne saw the scorching glare he gave his father. It was hard to tell who of them were the most angry, and their outing would likely be no cheerful event.
“Follow me then,” said Goltur and beckoned to Wynne and the others. She sighed and obeyed, casting a longing glance at Legolas’ and Thranduil’s retreating backs.
Galion fell in step with her. “What was that all about?”
She peered up at his fair face, pondering what she could tell him. If he knew the truth, that would save her the trouble of explaining she was not interested in him. It was not long ago she had caught him gazing at her just a bit too intensely for comfort. But what if he passed the information on to Thranduil?
Wynne clenched her jaws, who was she trying to fool? Of course Thranduil knew, or at least strongly suspected. And if he did not before, well, now he most certainly did.
“Thranduil doesn’t want his son to be alone with me,” she said, keeping her voice down. That was a meaningless precaution, she could see by the change in their stances that Nodir and Bronedir heard her too, their pointy ears pricking up almost visibly. Darn eavesdropping elves. Only the orc ambled on like nothing had happened.
“Because he would rather not have me as a daughter-in-law.”
“So you are back together then.” He sounded disappointed.
“Yes.” She looked at her feet.
“I thought… Well, I mean, lately…” He demurely broke off.
“Thranduil talked us out of it first but it was not so easy to just… stop.”
They walked on in silence. The path spiralled upwards, and for the first time Wynne felt an ounce of curiosity about the orc farm. They had said they did not dare to leave the cave, how could they produce vegetables then? And where did the meat and fish come from?
“Thranduil will come around,” said Galion eventually. “He never refuses his son anything he truly wants, at least not in the long run.”
“You think so?” She felt a flutter of hope.
“Legolas was so spoiled as an elfling.” He snorted, then turned serious again. “After his mother’s demise the king had only him.”
Wynne wondered how and when she had died, but did not want to ask. That was for Legolas to tell.
“So, did you like the machine?” Wynne changed topic, hoping to evade any more embarrassing questions of her love life.
“Nay. I dare say it could have its uses, this steam power, but it emitted such foul smelling fumes. That is something I have found hard to accustom myself to here – the black smoke from the coal fires and oil lanterns.”
“I agree, wood fires are so much nicer.”
“Here we are now,” the healer said. ”I have to wait outside, it’s too bright for me there.”
They curiously went through a doorway into a vast cave, with rows upon rows of growing vegetables. A dazzling light came from the ceiling, it was so sharp Wynne had to avert her eyes.
“How?” Nodir smiled widely and walked along a line of young potato sprouts, stroking them in passing. “It is almost like sunshine in here.”
“Dvago will explain,” came the orc’s voice from the doorway. ”He’s our chief farmer.”
A young uruk-hai who had been binding up beanstalks came to meet them, wiping his hands on a linen cloth. He was literally a copy of Nugu, but much younger, with only a shadow of thin whiskers on his upper lip and none on the chin. He was slimmer built too, but equally tall, almost the same height as an elf. Were the two related?
“This is right under the top of the hill – the rocky part above the cave entrance, you know?” They nodded. “When the sun shines on the cliff, we lead it in here through channels, silver channels. Like mirrors you know. To make it even lighter.”
“Clever! But cannot the openings be discovered on the outside?” asked Bronedir.
“They are just cracks really. You could walk on top of them and hardly see a thing,” the uruk explained proudly.
“Young Dvago designed it himself,” said Goltur from the door.
“It was not hard once I got the idea.” He beamed almost like the ceiling.
Wynne strolled among the vegetable beds. They even grew rye and oats here, and and some sort of beet she did not recognize. Then she came to an adjoining area where a pungent smell hinted this was where the privies were emptied.
“Oh I see you noticed the dung room.” Dvago had followed her. “We store the poo there for several months, and then we put it on the soil and everything grows like shit!” He giggled when he realized what he had said. “Like shit haha.”
Wynne smiled politely.
“Anyway, the pee is used directly, just mix it with water and it’s perfect. That’s why we separate it in the loos.”
“I see, yes I wondered about that.”
“It was my idea, because when we mixed all together it got sloppy and strong and nothing grew in it.”
“Very interesting. So, how old are you then?” Wynne tried to steer the conversation away from excrement.
“Thirteen. But tall for my age, in case you thought I looked older?”
She did not, and smiled noncommittally.
“So, maybe you want to see the animals now?” he asked.
“Oh you have those too?”
“Sure! After me.” He led Wynne and the elves into a third room, one almost tropically hot. Something in there was chirping in a familiar way, but Wynne could not quite pinpoint where she had heard it before.
Dvago showed them a large pool in the floor with an abundance of dark shapes silently moving about.
“Here is the fish farm. They eat scraps from the crops so it’s very easy to grow them, and the dirty water is good for fertilizing too.”
“Very well thought up,” said Nodir approvingly.
“Yes it is, isn’t it? And now here is where we get the meat.” The gangly uruk indicated a huge stack of hamper boxes behind the pool. He opened one to show its contents, and Wynne was not the only one to shrink back, shocked to learn what they had been eating all this time as “meat”.
“Um… crickets?” she asked. Now she recognized the sound.
“Yup! And over here are the maggots, I can get–”
“That will not be necessary, thank you,” said Galion smoothly.
“All right. We should be heading back now anyway,” said the uruk. “Almost time for supper!”
“I think I just lost my appetite,” mumbled Nodir.
Clever orcs, way ahead of their time, and not only by inventing the steam engine haha (I agree with Galion it's probably a bad idea, but I guess they will find that out in a few centuries or so). Scientists believe that in the future we're all going to eat more bugs and less cows, to save the climate.
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