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36. Childish Puppy Love
On the way back, Wynne tried to reconcile herself with eating insects. She had done it the whole week, after all, and never thought the food tasted strange. And how else could they get enough to eat down here? If they went out to hunt they would risk being discovered – which was exactly what had happened to Nugu and Sidra.
The thought of Nugu made her look appraisingly at the young uruk-hai, who was tagging along to the hall.
“You look a lot like my friend’s husband,” she said.
“You mean Nugu? He’s my brother.” Dvago’s face darkened. He had looked cheerful before, something Nugu rarely did, now when he was scowling the likeness was almost uncanny.
“Brother? Really? But how–”
“I’d rather not talk about him,” he interrupted and stomped ahead in tall strides.
Goltur had heard the exchange. “The lad is still upset from learning about his mother. How she was kept, what Saruman did to her... Not that he and Nugu knew her, they were taken away directly after birth.”
“How cruel. Why?”
“Saruman wanted the women ready to have another child as soon as possible, so he would not allow them to nurse the babies. Nanna brought them up, all the uruk-hai, bottle feeding them goat milk and oatmeal.” He paused and hesitated, but then apparently decided to go on. “Did you know Dva-go means twenty in our language? And Nugu means nine. The breeder males usually had naming systems like that to keep track of their offspring. You can figure the rest out yourself.”
She stared at him, abhorred, bile rising in her throat. Twenty! The cold-blooded evil of the wizard was unfathomable. To be forcing women to mate again and again, and to go through so many pregnancies only to have each baby torn from them. Even the worst horse breeder would never treat a mare so ill.
“I protested against Saruman’s plans when he first told me of them, not that it did any good, I was as much a slave to him as anybody there. In punishment for my insolence he removed me of my post as chief healer and made me handle the book keeping. I had to register all the… pairings, and the resulting babies, their development, everything. He liked things neat and organized. And also… the women, giving birth… some where so young, and it did not always go well. I saved them if I could.” His voice was heavy with pain and self-loathing. “When the orclings grew up I tutored them, taught them to read, battle tactics, such things. I should have… I really should have refused, allowing Saruman to torture and kill me rather than helping him, but… I knew it was pointless, he would have gone through with it anyway. This way, at least, the uruk-hai met with some kindness. A little bit of father’s love.”
Wynne only nodded. What would she had done, in that situation? If the alternative was torture and death, she probably would have done the same thing.
“Let’s speak no more of this.” The orc shook himself, as if he tried to shrug off the appalling memories. “I hope your elf friend had a good time out.”
“Hm. Hopefully.” With Thranduil there, probably not so much. Then she remembered. “Oh, I was going to ask… can Legolas move to us now? That room is so small and there is plenty of space left in the storage.”
“Of course, if he wants to. Won’t he rest better alone though?”
“He doesn’t like it in there. Can’t you tell his father you need the healer’s room for other purposes?”
“I could.” The orc chuckled knowingly.
It was too early for supper when they reached the hall again and Thranduil and Legolas were still out, so Wynne commenced to move their belongings directly. Goltur promised to explain it to the king when he came back.
She decided to put Legolas’ bed next to Galion’s, quite close to her own, with just that shelf in between. Thranduil’s mattress she dragged to the opposite part of the room near the door. Pleased with herself, she lay down to rest a little.
Maybe in a few nights Legolas would be well enough to secretly come to her bed. Thinking of what they might do then, she pressed her body against the pillow and pretended it was him. Her pleasant daydream lasted well until suppertime.
In the hall she caught sight of Thranduil and Legolas at their usual table, both looking a bit more composed. The king glanced up at her when she joined them and even furnished a thin smile.
“Did you have a pleasant tour?”
“It was all right.” Then she caught sight of what was on his plate. “How’s the meat stew?”
She heard Bronedir snicker from the next table, and tried to smooth out her own smirk.
Thranduil raised an eyebrow. “Yes?”
“Nothing.” She occupied herself with the fish soup she had wisely chosen, glad that Legolas also had to stick with fluid foods.
When they had eaten, Thranduil daintily wiped his mouth on a linen napkin. Wherever had he found that? Nobody else had one.
“Are you both finished?” he asked. “Good. Wynne, help my son walk back to the room. It was you who brought him out, after all.”
She stared at him incomprehensibly. He who had so firmly tried to separate her from Legolas, here he was all but pushing them together. Could it be… had he agreed to allow their relationship? She felt her heart jump at the thought, but would not quite believe it. If that were the case, why did Legolas look like he had swallowed a double dose of stink potion?
Legolas leaned heavily on her as they went, probably tired after climbing the ladder before.
“It's in here now, you have moved.”
“Oh, aye, the healer mentioned it.” He lowered his voice. “Your doing?”
She nodded. “You were gone a long time. What did Thranduil say?”
“That I must end things with you.”
“What?” She stopped dead.
“I shall explain inside.”
Wynne mutely took him to his new bed, heart pounding in anticipation. He sank back on it and lay down with a heavy sigh, eyes fixed on the ceiling.
“So, he knows about us then.” She seated herself next to him.
“Aye. I cannot lie to him, Wynne, I never could. He reads me like a young sapling. When he asked if I still have feelings for you, I told him I do.”
She nodded sadly. Was it really over then?
“He provided me with that speech again,” Legolas continued. ”Droned on at length about my duties and obligations to our people, and how a prince cannot always follow his own whims. How I am too young to tell the difference between love and desire.” His face was stormy, eyes flashing. “Like he would know, he who has no heart!”
That was unfair, and she could not let it pass.
”That’s not true, he loves you more than anything. If you could have seen him when you were injured... He was so miserable, absolutely torn to pieces.” Wynne struggled to breathe, her chest suddenly painfully tight. Thranduil’s reaction that time had scared her almost as much as Legolas’ horrible wound.
”I know. I know he does,” he mumbled, blushing. ”It’s just… I just wish he would trust me enough to let me make my own choices.”
“What are we going to do? I don’t want to end anything,” said Wynne glumly.
After a thoughtful silence Legolas sat up, grimacing slightly with the pain. “My father bade me to forward a message.” For some reason his lips had quirked up in a decidedly mischievous manner. So he had a plan then.
”I can’t wait to hear it.” She tried not to sound too ironic.
He took her hand, harkled theatrically and began. “Dear children, you must remember that a mortal’s years are but a short-lived spark – the blink of an eye – in the long life of an elf.” Again his voice carried that uncanny likeness with Thranduil’s, he even mimicked the king’s haughty, impassive stare. “These countless centuries you would fill with misery and grief. And for what? A mere moment of pleasure, of childish puppy love.”
“Tell me he did not say that!” Wynne’s jaw set. Children? Puppy love ? Really!
“He did.” Legolas nodded solemnly. “And now I have told you, just like I promised I would. Never said I would act upon it, though.” There was suppressed mirth in his voice.
“And I have listened.” She fought to keep her face straight. “If he asks, you can tell him I considered it carefully, and then replied I would never make you unhappy over puppy love.”
“Good.” He was grinning, but soon the smile waned. “We will not be alone much longer, and when he comes you must look sad.”
“He’s going to be more suspicious than ever. It will be difficult to keep up the act.”
“Aye.” He sighed. “A while yet we must pretend, but I still think I can persuade him in the end. When we meet with Aragorn he will notice for himself that this kind of relationship can work.”
“I’m glad to see you more hopeful.” She kissed the palm of his hand, regretting that there probably would be no more of that other sort of kissing for some time now.
“Well, despite my father’s scolding and preaching I very much enjoyed going out. It strengthened me a great deal, I think. Elves are not meant to be locked down in small spaces between stone walls. I shall tell you of Moria sometime and you will understand.”
“What about this room then? Better?”
He looked around and then grinned slyly. “Very much better. Which one is your bed?”
Will they really manage to out-smart Thranduil? And is it more than puppy love?
Let me know your thoughts about it!
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