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45. Legolas Meets an Old Friend
“Drop it.” Thranduil’s voice was commanding, but the guard held his position, unwavering. Nugu said nothing. His arms hung loose and his eyes were closed as if he expected the killing blow to be dealt at any moment.
“You would die before your sword fell.” Legolas had notched an arrow, and then Nodir and Bronedir did as well.
Captain Beregond glanced over his shoulder, saw the three slender metal tips aimed directly at him and hesitated, but then finally lowered his weapon. “I would not believe this of you, Your Highness.” His glare at Legolas was filled with hurt and resentment.
Sidra’s youngest took this opportunity to start wailing, possibly feeling his mother’s tension. The orclings had been riding with her and Galion as usual, they looked enough like humans to make it unnecessary to hide them when people would only see them at a distance. Now everybody’s attention was turned in that direction, and Sidra protectively pressed her son to her chest.
“A baby…” Éowyn moved as to walk down the steps, but her husband caught her arm.
“Don’t.” She shrugged him off and continued to the Haradrim, where she reached out a tentative hand toward the child. “May I?”
Sidra nodded curtly.
The blond woman turned the small face up. “Hello, little one,” she cooed. “Let me see you, then.”
The wailing stopped. The baby had caught sight of Éowyn’s son who still rested on her hip. The other peered back with curiosity.
“Mama, he’s gray.”
“Shush, Elboron, don’t be rude.”
“Yes he is.” Sidra smiled at the boy. “His daddy is a half orc, that’s why.” She boldly met Éowyn’s gaze, head held high.
“That half orc?” asked she, nodding in Nugu’s direction.
“My husband, yes. Nugu, why won’t you introduce yourself? Properly, if you will.”
Nugu looked less than pleased with the suggestion, but obeyed. Wynne had always marvelled at the power his wife held over him. She certainly was not stronger, but maybe it was an age thing? She was the older of the two.
“I am Nugu, son of Staurz, but I’d rather forget his name. Originally from Isengard, now the Free Orc Town in Emyn Muil.” He bowed stiffly.
“I feel some explanations are due here. Free Orc Town?” Faramir frowned. Beside his beautiful wife the man was easy to forget, but now Wynne turned to observe him. He seemed kind, and somehow reminded her of her father – but wearing finer clothes. As for colors, he had the typical Gondorian complexion with brown hair and silver gray eyes.
“All shall be explained, but this is hardly the place,” said Thranduil. “I take full responsibility for the uruk-hai. You have nothing to fear from him.”
“Then you had better come in,” said Faramir.
“Are you really inviting an orc under your roof, Your Highness?” Beregond still seemed upset, and Wynne noticed he had not sheathed his sword.
“Yes I am, Captain.” He turned to the others. “Sorry about this… intermezzo. I want you to feel welcome under my roof. Allow my grooms to care for your horses, while you are shown to your rooms. I’m sure you will want to refresh yourself before supper.”
As they went inside, Legolas peered at his dwarven friend. “Have you grown taller?”
“What? Nay...” Gimli’s face became beet red under the ginger beard. “I’ll leave ye to find yer room, see ye later then.” He made as to go, but the elf blocked his path and bent to curiously examine the other’s stout, iron capped boots.
“Why are the soles so thick?”
“Umm, well, er…” The dwarf tried to hide his feet. “‘Tis the latest fashion from our Shoemaker’s Guild,” he murmured.
“It has become fashionable for dwarves to walk on… stilts?” Legolas’ grin turned into a chuckle.
“Naething funny ’bout it,” scowled Gimli. “Quite the rage in the city. Everybody who’s anybody wears ‘em. And I gotta try the merchandise, ye ken. As a leader one must encourage–” But his voice was drowned in Legolas’ laughter.
“Gotta go,” the dwarf growled and stomped off.
“You mean stilt walk,” Legolas called after his retreating back.
“I thought they were taller than I had heard,” said Wynne, smiling too. It was so good to hear Legolas laugh, even if it was at the expense of his friend.
Actually, high soled boots was not so bad an idea. She would not have minded adding some extra inches to her own height. Maybe she should have a word with that shoemaker...
The guest rooms were located in one of the wings of the mansion, and there seemed to be a ridiculous amount of them. They walked through long, carpeted corridors with rows of doors on either side. How many visitors did they usually have, this prince and his lady?
Wynne paid careful attention when her friends were assigned rooms. There was one elf she particularly wished to speak privately with, and she stifled a giggle at the thought of knocking on Thranduil’s door by mistake. Somehow she figured he would not find that funny at all!
Her own room was airy and luxurious, with a window overlooking a neat, walled in park. The bed was amazingly soft and bouncy.
A dark haired girl of sixteen or seventeen came in with Wynne’s pack, and curtsied. “I’m Sadoreth, M’Lady, your personal maid during your stay. Anything you need? Maybe a bath before the evening meal? And I shall unpack the bag for you.”
“Oh. No, I’m all good, thank you.” Wynne dismissed the girl as politely as possible. A personal maid, why ever would she need a such? Well, except maybe for pouring a bath, but she already had one yesterday at the inn.
She unpacked the bag herself instead, and was for the first time glad of the two dresses Mother had insisted she take. Until now they had only been extra weight on the pack horses. They were rather too revealing for Wynne’s taste, but of course that had been part of Mother’s plan. Show skin, catch an elf.
How silly all that seemed now! Cringing in embarrassment, Wynne recalled her pathetic attempts at flirting with Thranduil. No wonder he thought she could not discern between love and desire, after witnessing that display!
While Wynne put one of the dresses on, it struck her that in a way, her mother’s plan would be fulfilled if she married Legolas. She had designated him to be Wynne’s second choice, because he was a prince.
She shuddered. Thranduil could never know that, and actually it was best if Legolas was kept oblivious as well, even though she did not like to keep secrets from him.
Thank Varda, she had not tried any seduction schemes with Legolas. That, at least, would not taint their relationship. When she began to have feelings for him she had long since abandoned Mother’s plan, and her actions toward him had never been anything but honest.
There was a full-figure mirror in the room and Wynne went to stand in front of it. What a mess her hair was! Wearing the fine dress, it became even more obvious she was not very ladylike. Her hands were rough, a few nails broken, the face much too tanned and she had more freckles than ever after a summer outdoors. Why did Éowyn have to be so lovely?
It was time to go, and trying to smooth out her scowl and straighten her back, Wynne left for supper.
When she arrived, she stopped to admire the beautiful dining room. It had many large, arched windows overlooking the same park as did her guest room, and in the middle a set of double doors were partly opened to let in the mild evening air, taking with it the sweet scent of honeysuckle. The long table was covered with a white cloth and silver cutlery. Two chandeliers in the ceiling and several sconces on the walls spread a warm light, and on the inner walls hung tapestries which Wynne would like to look closer at later. One seemed to picture a battle scene, maybe even from the War of the Ring? Now that Legolas had told her of those famous battles, she was for the first time interested to learn more about them.
The host and hostess stood with their little boy to welcome the guests. There were a few unfamiliar faces, but mostly it was only their own company, for which Wynne was grateful. She did not like big crowds.
“You must be the Lady of Örn,” said Éowyn when they curtseyed to each other, she very elegantly and Wynne less so. “I have heard much good about your House. My uncle would always speak warmly of your amazing horse breed, and now that I have seen them for myself I can well understand why!”
Wynne instantly regretted her petty jealousy before, this woman seemed like a nice person.
“Thank you, My Lady, and I heard so much about you too,” she blurted out, for now it struck her she was in fact standing in front of the Shieldmaiden herself, and she was quite at loss what to say.
Luckily, Sidra came in just then, and unaware of such things as etiquette she took the lady’s hand and shook it heartily.
“I heard of what you did in the War and everything. Legolas told us just the other day, and it’s frankly amazing! I’m so impressed. Are you still a warrior? Or maybe your son takes up too much of your time.” She tried to tousle the boy’s hair where he stood beside his mother, but Elboron quickly evaded her and hid behind Éowyn’s beautiful, white dress.
The lady laughed, but looked rather pleased too. “Sadly there is not much time for sparring these days, and now that we have peace, there really is no need for it either. But I train to become a healer.” She grinned. “I never was one for sitting quietly indoors with my embroidery.”
“Nothing wrong with a lady’s undertaking needlework.” Thranduil had joined the hall, last of them all – probably to make a grand entrance, Wynne suspected. If that were the case, he certainly succeeded; all heads turned his way. He wore a stunning robe, woven of pure silver (how was that even possible?) with a matching mithril circlet resting lightly atop his silky hair. On his elegant fingers were several large rings.
Had all that finery been stowed away in his bags this entire time? No wonder the elves had needed so many pack horses, and only had room for three tents!
Despite her slight annoyance at this, Wynne was awestruck at the sight of Thranduil in his role as king. He had never looked more majestic in all the time she had known him, and like earlier in their acquaintance, he frightened her. This was not the same elf who would snore at night in their shared storage bedroom and say she was a sweet girl, or whom she could playfully buff in the chest and call Thranny.
This was the Elvenking. This elf could send prisoners to their death with just a nod.
“King Thranduil.” Éowyn also appeared intimidated, and her curtsy was deeper than before. “I am honored to invite you to our table.”
“As am I, Your Majesty.” Prince Faramir bowed.
“The honour is mine. Your house is beautiful.” The king looked about him admiringly.
“We have Lord Gimli to thank for that, his amazing workers readied it in just over two years!”
“Indeed? That is rather impressing.”
Faramir and Thranduil commenced to discuss architecture and dwarven craftsmanship then, while Wynne turned to find Legolas, hoping he would be his normal self. She did not think she could handle it if he was as grandiose as his father.
She spotted him standing by his friend Gimli, looking happier than he had in days. He wore a pale robe, less impressive than Thranduil’s but still fine, and he too had a circlet on his head. It looked a bit uncomfortable, and probably was too; Wynne noticed him scratch under it one or two times.
He was less grandiose, yes, but this still was another side of Legolas than Wynne had seen before. He looked like a prince.
Why must he be a prince?
She fervently wished they were back on the road, him in his hunter’s green and worn hose, she in her comfortable tunic. She was not a dress person. If they wed, would she have to wear them all the time? Would he be princely all the time?
She knew the answer to both questions. Yes, and yes. This was what married life with Legolas was like: Éowyn’s and Faramir’s life. Dining in a fine hall, wearing uncomfortable outfits, entertaining a multitude of guests and having servants around to continually ask if one needed anything.
The room began to simmer and Wynne hurried toward the double doors, escaping out in the park with burning eyes.
She could not do this.
Is Wynne having second thoughts? One does not simply marry a prince without accepting the consequences… or?
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