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46. Wynne Meets a Lady Dwarf
Wynne stopped just outside the doors, fighting to compose herself and hold back her tears. She had come out onto a wide patio, with the honeysuckle she smelled before tied to a pergola over her head; a chaotic disarray of pale, odd-shaped flowers, green leaves, and twining tendrils trying to escape in all directions. She appreciated how unlike it was the well kempt flower beds and pruned bushes in the rest of the park. It was refreshing with a plant which would not follow rules. Rebelliously it refused to stay where it was supposed to be, and it would only emit its sweet fragrance at night.
Wynne wished she would not have to follow rules either. Never had the secluded cottage life with Legolas in her daydream felt more alluring.
A blond dwarf came out to join her, and Wynne nodded politely, hoping her eyes were not red. He nodded back, the golden curls of his long beard flowing over his chest. His moustache was plaited into two braids, and threaded with polished amber beads.
“Ye dinnae like crowds either?” asked the dwarf in a distinctly female voice. Wynne started in surprise. “What?” The dwarf sounded annoyed.
“Sorry! Eh no, I don’t like crowds much, Master…?”
“ Miss , and ma name’s Cheery. Ye are?”
Wynne tried not to stare rudely at the lady dwarf, despite her curiosity. Was there really no difference at all between male and female dwarves?
Gimli came out, breathing in deeply. “Ah, lovely smell. And ye are lovely as well, ma lassies!” He kissed both of their hands, and seemed not to mind the lady dwarf’s rolling her eyes.
“Always the flirt, are ye. Nae more of that with her or I shall be busy washing ma beard tonight.”
“How could a dwarf have eyes for another, when yer beauty radiates brighter than mithril?” he replied smoothly. “Besides, the human lass is already spoken for.” He winked knowingly at Wynne.
“That ne’er stopped ye before,” muttered Cheery.
“Come, let’s nae quarrel.” He held out his arm to her. “I was sent to tell ye supper’s ready.”
Wynne followed the dwarf couple back inside, feeling a little less upset. Legolas must have told his friend about her almost directly, and that warmed her heart. In addition, the fresh night air and unkempt honeysuckle had helped to calm her, and she now began to think more rationally. Legolas loved her, he would not stand silently by, watching her being unhappy. They could maybe have a summer house or something, surely even royalty must be allowed to relax from time to time?
She was seated between Thranduil and Faramir at supper, and still feeling slightly intimidated by the former, Wynne commenced to talk with their host instead. She tried to bring up the subject of Nugu and the free orc’s, but that he politely put an end to.
“Let us save the politics for after supper, and then he ought to tell his own story. Let me hear of you instead, My Lady. Tell me of your home and your horses.”
This, of course, was a subject Wynne did not at all mind engrossing herself in. Faramir was a very good listener, he was attentive and seemed genuinely interested. However, after the second course, his butler came to ask him something about the wine and he had to excuse himself.
Thranduil quickly took the opportunity to engage Wynne in conversation.
“Are you well? You went outside in such a hurry before.” There was concern in his clear eyes, and Wynne finally saw him again under his king pose.
“I’m just not really fond of all this finery… dresses, servants, luxurious suppers. Riches...” She reached out to touch the large blue stone of the ring he wore on his index finger. “That looks heavy.”
“It is not heavy.” He captured her hand to stop her fidgeting. “You look very nice in a dress. You are a lady, you cannot keep wearing men’s clothes forever.”
“I guess not.” She sighed.
“You do not wish for this kind of life, then?” His gaze was imploring, like he tried to read her mind. Her mouth went dry. Had he figured out what she had been worried about before? Now he probably thought of what an unsuitable wife she would make for his son.
“I… I could probably get used to it.”
“And be unhappy.” He pressed her hand. “Make no hasty decisions, Wynne. Think it through, thoroughly.” She did not have to ask him what he was talking about, and when she glanced in Legolas’ direction she noticed his eyes on them. He looked serious. Probably he had been listening to every word they said, and heard what a mess she made of it all.
After supper, when the servants efficiently had cleared the table and melted away into the shadows, Faramir finally declared himself ready to hear about the free orcs.
Nugu rose, looking extremely uncomfortable, and told a shorter version of how he and his friends had deserted from the army and found shelter in the hills of Emyn Muil, where they later had encountered the Elvenking and his companions.
Thranduil supplied his part, describing how the orc healer had saved his son, and that they had become friends, enough so for him to wish for peace between their races. Wynne was surprised he mentioned nothing at all about their animosity in the beginning, and from Nugu’s wide eyes it was clear he was too.
The king then summarized the contents of the peace treaty, and finished with his promise to the orc leader that he would try to make the other races of Middle-earth sign it as well.
“I believe this treaty to be beneficial to all of us. The orcs are skilled in many crafts, and wishes to establish trade with us.”
“We intend to grow,” added Nugu earnestly, looking less nervous now. “If we had peace and freedom to move outside our hidden town, we could try and locate other tribes. Maybe find orcs who never even knew Sauron, who were born free!” He seemed excited about the prospect.
Faramir had listened intently. When Nugu silenced he rose too.
“Why did you desert?” His sharp eyes were fixed on the uruk-hai, it was clear he was not satisfied with the other’s abbreviated explanation before.
“It’s a long story,” mumbled he, assuming his familiar scowl. But to his credit, he told it anyway this time, all of it, even the repulsive truth about Saruman’s uruk-hai breeding and some heartbreaking parts of his own upbringing. When he was done, the room was so silent one could have heard an elf’s footsteps.
Then Gimli stood up brusquely, his chair turning over and rattling to the floor. “Melkor’s arse! I wish I’d peeled the hide of that bangled bawbag of a wizard! To do such things to lassies… to bairns...“ His deep set eyes were brimming when he bowed deeply to the surprised uruk-hai. “The Lord of the Glittering Caves shall sign yer treaty.”
“I’m certain King Elessar will sign as well,” said Faramir, his face white. He looked about to throw up.
After hearing the uruk’s tale, the ambience around the table had become somber, and nobody seemed inclined to stay up long and talk. The host bid his guests a good night, and invited them to stay in his house for as long as they wished.
”Tomorrow we shall be merry and celebrate your successful quest in the Brown Lands, but let us now retreat for some well earned rest.”
Back in her room, Wynne had no intention to go to sleep, and as quickly as possible she dismissed the unnecessary maid. She could very well undress and combe herself, thank you.
With relief, she pulled off her uncomfortable dress, glad to be able to draw deep breaths again. Dresses really were instruments of torture. Would she ever get used to them? She found a flimsy night robe in her wardrobe to pull over her chemise, before leaving her room on tiptoes. There was an elf nearby, who needed to be cheered up.
Next chapter will be all Wynne and Legolas. :)
By the way... I named the female dwarf Cheery, after another female dwarf, who is a guard/cop in Terry Pratchett's amazing Discworld series.
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