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49. The Elvenking Is Not Happy
“Father,” Legolas acknowledged, straightening his back.
Thranduil looked more regal than ever, wearing a spectacular gray tunic inlaid with tiny diamonds, creating a dazzling brilliance together with his mithril crown.
“What on Arda do you think you are doing?” His sharp, piercing eyes impaled them like they were his twin swords.
“Courting.” Legolas voice was steady, but Wynne felt his tension.
His father did not reply. He did not have to, that silent fury was more frightening than any words he could say.
“Ada… Please...” Legolas swallowed, all feigned calmness gone. “I-uh figured, if you want to observe her, you could as well do it while we are courting.” His forehead creased in defiance. “It is not like courtship is irrevocable.”
“I thought we had an agreement.” Thranduil’s voice could have frozen Mount Doom.
“Come.” Legolas pulled on Wynne’s arm, turning to walk away. Flee, more like it.
“Wait…” She let go of him and went up to the king, secretly wondering if she was sane. He towered over her, equally tall as his son, and his cool gaze sent tremors through her. There was not even a hint of friendliness in his eyes.
She reached out to take his hand, knowing that he would feel how much her own quivered. His many rings dug into her palm uncomfortably.
“We love each other. Why can’t you see it?” she asked earnestly. “And if my behavior somehow displeases you, then teach me. I’m not stupid, I can learn.” She hesitated, hoping to discern a softness, a sign of resignation, but there was none. His clear eyes did not even blink.
Suddenly Wynne felt annoyed with this cold-hearted statue of a king, who thought he could command other people’s feelings. She hated quarreling, she hated when others were angry, and she was sick and tired of having to constantly weigh her words and actions to keep someone placant. Living in her mother’s house had felt like cohabiting with a sleeping dragon. And now here Thranduil was behaving exactly the same way, except he did not stoop to act out on his rage physically.
Wynne glanced at Legolas, taking in his sullen resentment; jaw set and cheeks pale with anger, or maybe fear. A flood of emotion overtook her, and she heard her mouth speak heartfelt words without asking her brain permission.
“I make your son happy, whereas you only drive him away!”
Then she realized what she had said, and let go of the king’s hand. “Sorry… that was… I didn’t really mean that. You love him, I know you do.” She took a step backwards. “I just don’t think it’s right to frighten and threat others to get your way. Your own son too. That’s not what a father ought to do. A father should be where one goes to be comforted, not the cause of discomfort…” Her words tumbled over each other. Why could she not just shut up?
Thranduil remained silent, and she hardly dared look at him after her outburst, but then she did anyway. His eyes were still fixed on her, but the coldness was gone, replaced by shock. As if he had been hit over the head, hard.
“Sorry,” Wynne mumbled again. A hand caught hers, Legolas had come to stand by her side.
The king’s features smoothed out and became an expressionless mask. “Do as you please.” He swept past them, striding toward the dining room without another word.
“Sorry.” This time she said it to Legolas.
“I guess… that could have gone worse?” He smiled somewhat shakily and bent down to kiss her cheek. His lips were cold. “And no need to apologize,” he added. “You only said the truth.”
The dining room was almost full when they got there. Three musicians on a dais in the corner played a merry beat, and the guests were spread out in small groups, talking and laughing. Wynne seeked out Thranduil, who was easy to spot with those brilliant clothes. When she and Legolas came inside, he did not acknowledge them with even a look. So, it was going to be the silent treatment, then.
Despite the Elvenking's frosty behavior, Wynne found herself enjoying the feast immensely. Legolas discretely arranged with the butler to be seated by her, and he treated her most attentively during the meal. Around them were Galion, Sidra, Gimli and Éowyn, and they soon found that the five of them got along really well.
When the musicians, by popular request, sang the Ballad of the Ring, they all joined in the chorus: “Brave, brave, brave / Brave the Hobbit!”
Sidra was on her third glass of wine, and more talkative than ever. When the song had finished and the applause and cheering died out, she leaned somewhat unsteadily across Gimli to nudge Éowyn in the shoulder.
“I’m so impressed with your part in the ballad. You must be an amazing swordswoman!”
“Thank you.” Éowyn smiled amiably enough, but Wynne noticed a shadow flicker over her fair face. So, it was not only Legolas who had bad memories from their adventures.
“I’m curious about one thing though,” Sidra continued. “When you went to war with an army of men… how did you manage to hide that you’re a woman? I mean, didn’t you need to pee?”
That had them all laugh, Gimli loudest of them all. Seated between Sidra and Éowyn, and opposite to Wynne, the dwarf seemed pleased like a Meara in a cornfield. However, his lady dwarf a few chairs away looked not so happy. Quite the opposite, actually.
“Well, I crouched behind bushes so often, my comrades probably thought I had the worst case of upset stomach.” Éowyn giggled. “But I was grateful to have Merry with me, he at least knew about me. He helped smooth out many little difficulties along the way.” Her grin widened. “But… you would not believe the way men talk, when they think there are no women around! It was… educational.”
“I can imagine,” sniggered Sidra. “I travelled with a group of uruks, remember? They didn’t care much about my sensitive ears.”
“What did they say? Donnae be shy, tell us!” Gimli moved closer to the Haradrim and lowered his voice. “Ye can whisper if ye wanna!”
There was a shuffle when Cheery, the lady dwarf, rose somewhat hastily. “I shall be in ma room, washing ma beard !” And with that, she stomped away in her high soled boots.
Gimli did not seem to mind, and remained calmly seated. “Well, talking about soldier’s slur… we had some fine battles in that war, dinnae we?” he said, looking nostalgic. “Both in Gondor and Rohan.“ He gave Legolas a sly look. “Do ye remember our wee competition at Helm’s Deep, Master Elf? I got forty-two kills. How many did ye get, again?”
Legolas pretended not to have heard, and downed the contents of his glass, wincing slightly at the taste. “The wine down here is none too great,” he remarked.
“Forty- one , was nae it?”
“Have I told you of when Gimli was caught by the Lothlórien elves?” Legolas refilled his glass from a crystal decanter, and swallowed half of it. “It was right after he had told us how great his eyes and ears were, or something of that ilk. Then he almost walked straight into Haldir’s arrow.”
After everyone had laughed at that, Gimli retaliated with describing the drinking-contest he and Legolas had had in Edoras.
“I did not have to be carried out of there,” protested the elf. “I could walk perfectly well.”
“Really?” Éowyn cut in. “Because I remember having to ask a servant to help you to bed.”
“Ach, he is not a strong elf, when it comes to the drink, ye ken.” Gimli took a deep draught from his ale tankard, that the hosts kindly had provided for their dwarven guests. “Poor wee laddie! We ought to give him fruit juice instead of wine.”
“Maybe that was why he was so affected by the poppy medicine,” suggested Galion, happy to get his revenge after Legolas exposed his misfortune with the Elvenking’s wine barrels the other day.
“Poppies? Tell me all about it!” grinned Gimli.
Legolas gulped down his third glass, his face redder than a Thaun Môr grape. “Would you like to take a walk outside, Wynne?” He rose unsteadily. “It is rather hot in here.”
“I’d love to.”
They left the other’s laughters behind and went toward the patio, passing Thranduil on their way out.
The Elvenking stood alone, wearing an indecipherable expression, distractedly swirling the wine around in his untouched glass.
Will Thranduil come around, or has Wynne ruined things forever with her rude behavior? One does not simply talk back to a king. Or?
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