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37. The Ballad of the Ring
The smell of heather was heavenly. Wynne sat comfortably among the violet flowers and busy bees, enjoying a lazy afternoon. Nearby Stelpa snorted, the mare had stripped a young birch of almost all its leaves and was now munching peacefully. It had been so sweet to see her and Legolas meet after the long time apart, today was the first time he had managed the steep climb from the cave to this place. It was obvious the two had grown a strong bond between them.
Wynne was humming quietly to herself, trying to recall the lyrics of a ballad. Legolas’ mentioning Moria the other day had made her curious about his adventures with the Fellowship. According to the song Moria had been one of the places they had gone to, but she could not quite remember what had happened there.
The first verse she knew well, but it did not explain very much.
”Bravely the Fellowship, departed Rivendell / Grievous were the perils, upon the Nine befell / The Dark Lord to defeat they went, the One Ring to expel.”
And then there was the refrain, repeated after every verse: “Brave, brave, brave / Brave the Hobbit!”
But what happened in verse two? Something about a mountaintop, and… storm of snow? Were there not birds involved too? And a tentacled lake monster... She wished she had a better memory for these things.That ballad was always part of the repertoire of the wandering musicians and minstrels back home, she should have known it by heart.
Dull thuds a little way off signalled that the sword exercise had begun. All the elves were participating except for Legolas, and even a few of the more daring uruk-hai. Most of their hosts would not venture outside yet, despite the treaty. What if the human kings refused to accept peace? They could not risk their hiding place to be found until they knew they were safe.
The warriors had paired up elf against uruk. They used wooden sticks instead of real swords but it still looked dangerous, the uruk-hai were so incredibly strong! Of course, the elves had their agility and much superior reflexes, and they really did seem pretty even. But it was clear from the winces when someone was hit that there would be bruises later.
A splash from the well drew her eye away from the exercise, Legolas was having his first real bath in ages and had just stepped down into the water, crutch and all.
She discreetly glanced at Thranduil. He was just dodging a powerful sweep attack and sneaked in a fast, hard lick at his partner’s exposed leg. Assured that the king’s attention was elsewhere occupied, Wynne shifted her gaze back to the more intriguing scene by the pool. Legolas had stripped the shirt this time and judging by the cheeky glances he sent her she figured it was for her benefit. Oh he was one beautiful elf! Even with the gruesome, scarring wound disfiguring that perfect torso, he looked ever so handsome.
Wynne would have loved to join him, and slowly explore that smooth, flat chest, while she turned her face up for one of those extraordinary kisses they had shared before. And then…
“Enjoying the view?” Sidra chuckled warmly right behind Wynne. She started guiltily and her eyes darted to Thranduil, but thankfully his pointed ears had not caught the woman’s words, he was still locked in intense combat.
She gave her friend a meaningful look and nodded in the king’s direction. Sidra raised her eyebrows in surprise, but said nothing. “I will explain later,” mumbled Wynne, and then in a louder voice: “So, are you still planning on following us to the Dead Marshes?”
“Yes, I’m not letting Nugu go alone to meet with hostile humans, whatever Dad and the king says.” She looked stubborn.
The healer had insisted that one of his people should be present as an emissary when the treaty was shown to the kings of Gondor and Rohan, to make sure their interest was properly accounted for and to be living proof that there really existed non violent uruk-hai. Since Nugu already knew the others of the company he was an easy choice, but that his wife and children wanted to tag along was frowned upon by both leaders.
“But isn’t it dangerous for the babies?” Wynne asked, somewhat distractedly. Legolas was rinsing his hair now, and glittering droplets trailed their way over the silky surface of his skin. Torture.
“Not in the company of five elves and an uruk-hai! Besides, my sons will be useful. They captured the hearts of you all, so I’m sure the human kings will adore them too and be easier to convince.”
“Maybe.” She was still a little wary around the orclings, somehow they seemed to always have grubby hands that they touched everything with, not to mention runny noses. And yesterday one had pulled a handful of hair from her head. But she did like the idea of not being the only female in the company.
“Lovely day!” Legolas limped up to them and sat down next to Sidra, a linen towel casually flung across his shoulders. He kept some distance to Wynne as usual, but had cleverly managed to position himself where she got a good view. That elf was growing way too confident! As if she would be affected by… oh sweet Elbereth… his gorgeous body glittering in the sun, a fall of moist, golden strands spilling over the bare shoulders and those mesmerizing eyes challenging her to not only look, but touch... Even Sidra seemed slightly uncomfortable.
“You should get dressed,” muttered Wynne.
“I will, I will, just need to dry.” He smiled cheekily.
“You could dry somewhere away from my wife,” Nugu suggested archly, but his smile took the edge of his words. The uruk lay outstretched in the heather with two sleeping orclings curled up beside him. When he smiled it was his turn to be an uncanny lookalike with Dvago.
“I met your brother the other day,” said Wynne. She was certainly not looking when Legolas pulled on his shirt and began to redo his braids.
“Dvago. Yes.” She had anticipated the uruk-hai to scowl, but instead there was sadness in his brown eyes. “He doesn’t want much to do with me anymore.”
“He blames me for our mother’s death.”
“Unfairly so,” added Sidra.
“I don’t know,” said Nugu. He was gazing up into the cornflower summer sky. “Maybe he is right. But it’s a long story.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“I’m not a storyteller.”
“No you aren’t. But I can tell it,” offered Sidra.
The uruk curtly nodded his permission. His wife squared her shoulders and drew a breath, like she needed extra strength to proceed.
“It was after Helm’s Deep that my husband and a couple of his friends finally had the opportunity to desert from the army. It was chaotic after they lost that battle, I understand. But instead of just leaving, they sneaked back to Isengard for Dad and Nanna. That’s how they met me, on the way there. So I joined them, and we went down into the caves while Saruman had his attention elsewhere.” Sidra was speaking rather fast, eyes distant, and Wynne suspected there really was a lot more to it. One does not simply walk into a wizard’s abode. It must have been both dangerous and frightening. ”Dad and Nanna naturally insisted we take all the young children too, and we did,” she continued. ”But the women, you see, they were a lot further down, and well guarded so not any random orc could get to them and… cross Saruman’s breeding plans. So we had to leave them behind.” Her dark voice faltered, sounding strained as she finished: “Then came the ents and destroyed the dam, and the entire vale was flooded and all the women and the rest of the orcs were drowned.”
Wynne suddenly remembered that Sidra’s mother had been one of Saruman’s captives. In all the recent, stressful events she had managed to forget it, and for that she felt deeply ashamed now. The abducted women had been given a face, Sidra’s face, and somehow that made the knowledge of their suffering a lot harder to bear. Her stomach churned.
“You wanted to save them,” said Nugu softly. “And I stopped you.”
“You were right to. All of us would be dead if we had.” She drew a deep breath. “There was nothing more we could have done, it really wasn’t.”
“Dvago was mad as– heck when he found out a while ago.” Nugu muttered. “Said we could at least have tried to get them, that we were cowards.” His unshaved jaw set.
“You are absolutely no coward. It took courage to desert the army when you had obeyed those masters your entire life. And then to go back and free your Nanna and Dad...” Sidra bent down and kissed him, a tender, comforting kiss. Her fingers smoothed out the furrows on the uruk’s forehead. “It’s Saruman he’s angry with, really, but he takes it out on you. He doesn’t understand.”
“Yes, he doesn’t understand,” agreed Nugu darkly. “I knew what the guards at the breeding dens were like. One of them was my own sword master, for ... heck’s sake. To stay away from him was bloody basic survival instinct!”
“Nugu! Not the b-word, please! But yes, I agree. You must remember, though, that Dvago is young and naive, and he grew up in freedom.” She turned to Wynne and Legolas. “He was no older than Muzadi when we rescued him.” She indicated her sleeping son.
“Yes, naive. He has no idea what it’s like to be a slave, to be lashed for not obeying. A few strokes and you learn to do what they say. Always. To fear them.” His expression went stony and he turned away, pulling the babies closer. Sidra silently lay down against his back and put an arm around his broad chest, enveloping him with her body.
Wynne met Legolas grave gaze, wishing they could be that close too. She really needed a hug right now. He edged a few inches in her direction and stretched out his hand for her. Hidden from spying fathers’ eyes by the heather, their fingers intertwined.
In case anybody wondered about Wynne's ballad... here is the melody: youtube.com/watch?v=vyvmSgX8s_s (Spamalot part 11 (Brave Sir Robin))
*snicker* Sorry I just love Monty Python! :D
The next chapter will be from Legolas point of view again. He told me he has more to say!
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