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56. An Unfair Ultimatum
There were kids everywhere, or at least it felt so. Baby Rohi climbed up in Wynne’s lap, where he smudged her tunic with his grubby hands. Meanwhiles, his brother straddled Galion’s broad shoulders, while Elboron and Eldarion fought each other with wooden swords. She had forgotten who was who, but both were unbearably loud.
“Elboron, Eldarion… Elfwine… Why do they have to name their kids the same?” she grumbled. It was hard enough to tell the orclings apart, who had different names.
“Maybe they like elves” suggested Galion, smiling. “Who is Elfwine, anyway?”
“The Rohan prince. Thankfully King Éomer left him at home.”
Galion only chuckled at her sour comment, dodging his young rider’s kicking leg.
Wynne had endlessly prefered to be alone, but in her room her mother could easily find her, so she had come back to Aragorn's lawn as soon as she had composed herself after the catastrophic talk with Thranduil.
She did not want to think about that.
Sidra and Nugu had been unusually quiet after the council, and when they recounted how it had gone, Wynne well understood why. Apparently her mother had been worst of their enemies there. Why was she not surprised?
She sighed. She felt worn, exhausted by today's work of tending children and emotionally spent after confessing to Thranduil.
She did not want to think of it.
Instead she wondered why she had agreed to babysit, terrible with children as she were. But Sidra had claimed Galion needed help, and that Nodir and Bronedir were busy. Yeah, right… Busy in the bathhouse until noon, and the rest of the day relaxing in the shade under the white tree together with two young Gondorian ladies.
Wynne wished she could relax in the shade as well, but her head was too full; a swarm of thoughts and emotions had been tumbling around in her mind all day. Her private audience with Legolas’s father had only added to the cacophony.
How different Legolas was from him! Legolas had readily forgiven everything, and seemed not the least upset to learn the truth about Wynne’s mission. It had been almost too easy. What if he believed she had only chosen him because her mother told her to? That would hurt. She wanted to go to him and explain how it really was, but in the same time she did not want to talk to him, because then she would also have to tell him about her tete-a-tete with Thranduil. Legolas would, of course, find out about it anyway, probably have it from the source – but at least then she would not have to describe her own pathetic performance.
With a ragged sigh Wynne realized her thoughts were on it once again, she kept returning there, kept bringing back the humiliation and shame. Stupid, stupid . Why had she blurted everything out in the least flattering way? But he had frightened her, more than he ever had before, and her mouth had worked on its own. And of course, after hearing her confession, he had grown madder still and that had effectively stopped her from trying to explain or excuse herself. At one time she was certain he would hit her, but instead he had calmed down and said he was not angry with her. She was not sure that had been true, and when she had left his room it had been with a lingering sense of upcoming disaster.
”Wynne! There you are, finally!”
Wynne groaned. She had been right; here came the disaster.
Mother strode up to her with billowing skirts, her face ghostly pale except for her flaming red cheeks and neck. When she spotted the orcling in Wynne’s lap, her face twisted into a disgusted grimace.
“Remove that thing and then come with me.” She lowered her voice to a hiss. “And you are not to be near those monsters ever again!”
“Silence. Now come.”
Wynne was too used to obey to refuse, and as she walked behind her furious mother she suspected she knew the reason for that anger. Thranduil had said no. She had feared it ever since she left him, but fearing was not the same as knowing. Now her stomach plummeted. Without his father’s blessing, could she and Legolas ever be happy together?
Mother confirmed Wynne's suspicion as soon as she had slammed the door behind them. What made her mother even more upset was that Thranduil had claimed she was the reason.
“He had the nerve to say that he did not want the shades of Greenwood to be polluted by my presence. That he found my meddling insufferable. Such rudeness! He really took delight in vexing me!” She paced around, clenching and unclenching her hands. Then she threw herself down on a chair. “This will be the end of me.”
Wynne sat on the bed, not knowing what to say, disconcerted by her mother’s air of defeat. Mother never lost a battle of wills. But perhaps in Thranduil, she had found a worthy opponent for the first time.
“I am quite worn out,” she sighed now. “First that horrible meeting with those disgusting orcs, and now this.”
“They are my friends,” Wynne protested meekly. “And Sidra is human.”
“One who voluntarily lies with an orc is not much different herself.” There was venom in Mother’s voice. Then she looked like a thought had struck her. Her countenance changed; the exasperation disappeared and was replaced with shrewdness.
“How long is it since you had your last period?”
“Just answer the question.”
“A week or so, I don’t remember. But why–” Wynne stopped, understanding. “No. No Mother!”
“Perfect! We shall be several days here, I dare say, and it is just the right time.”
“Legolas will never shame me so.”
“Nonsense, you will not be shamed. Thranduil will accept the union to avoid such disgrace. If you marry soon after, nobody will know you were with child before the ceremony.”
“I won’t do it, we won’t do it! Not when his father is against it. Thranduil will hate us if we force him to agree.” Wynne rose hastily and made as to leave.
“You stay here,” Mother snapped. “Sit.”
As Wynne reluctantly obeyed, Mother regarded her thoughtfully.
“You say the orcs are your friends.” The shrewd expression was back. “You want this peace with them, I dare say?”
Wynne could only stare, baffled. Was Mother giving her an ultimatum?
“We were going to vote against it, of course. It would be horrible to let orcs spread their filth in the human realms again, where they have already done so much evil; killed, robbed, raped. Yes, they claim to have changed, but I find that hard to believe.” Mother’s voice had grown passionate, but then the tone changed and became sly. “Even so… I cannot help thinking that if I would find my House allied to the Wood-elves… Well, then I might feel more secure, even with orcs nearby. Yes, I think I would, actually.” She rose from the chair to loom over Wynne. “Let me put this plainly. Beginning tonight, you will sleep with Legolas, and repeat the action every night for the duration of our stay. If you do this, I promise I will persuade the other Houses to accept the peace treaty.”
"It's not fair," Wynne mumbled, hearing the defeat in her voice. She could not refuse, not if the wellbeing of her friends depended on it. Sidra, Nugu, Goltur... the orclings. She could not let them die.
“Come. Change into that dress you wore to supper yesterday, and I shall follow you there.”
Wynne felt oddly like an animal being led to slaughter as Mother escorted her down the corridor.
“Here we are then. You stay the entire night, understood?”
“I will notice if you leave beforehand.” Meaning, she would be back here tomorrow to witness Wynne come out through that door again. Could it be more humiliating?
Hating herself for doing this to him, Wynne knocked. When Legolas opened, she hurried inside and closed the door before he could spot Mother’s triumphant face outside.
“Wynne!” He seemed surprised, but pleased. Her gut flipped when she thought of how to explain what they would have to do, and why.
“I must talk to you.”
He noticed her distress and looked concerned. “What is wrong?”
“We– We must do it. You know. Mate.” Wynne’s face was burning and she could not hold back her tears.
He silently pulled her into an embrace, stroked her back and allowed her to calm down enough to continue.
“Mother says she will stop the peace treaty, unless you get me with ch-child. To force Thranduil to allow our marriage. B-because he said no to it when she asked him today.”
“He said no?” Legolas tensed, and there was surprise in his voice.
“I t-told him. About Mother’s plan,” she sobbed. “He suspected it and was so very angry. So I d-did not dare otherwise.”
Legolas held her a little way from him, looking her over. He frowned nearly as deep as Thranduil when he noticed her swollen cheek. “Did he do that?”
“No! He did not hurt me.”
“So where does this come from then?” Legolas eyes had grown hard and flinty.
“It was...” she began, but broke off. She had meant to say it was an accident, but she would not lie to him, however humiliating the truth was. “Mother punished me.” Her gaze dropped to her hands.
“That woman!” His hands clenched into fists as he began to pace the room, looking almost like his father. “Did she beat you before?” When Wynne did not answer, he scowled even more, taking her silence as an affirmation. “It is not right! And to come up with such an ultimatum too. This is not how I wanted our first time to be.”
“And I do not like to go behind Father’s back.”
“I know. I’m so sorry…”
“Nay. Nay Wynne. Do not apologize for what she did.” Again he reacted uncannily like Thranduil. ”She is clever, she knows we cannot refuse.” He pulled her close to him. She could feel his tension, hear the rapid beat of his heart. “If I must…” He hesitated. “I would lie if I said I had not longed to… be intimate with you. We can make a child, if it is the only way, and if you want it too,” he mumbled, his arms tightening slightly around her.
“Thranduil will kill us,” mumbled Wynne, breathing faster. He was really considering it. Be intimate. Despite herself, she felt her body react.
“Nay. He… I think he would be more hurt than angry, and cease speaking with me. Like… when I went with the Fellowship.”
“You have just become close to him. I don’t want to ruin that between you.” Wynne pulled back.
“What else can we do?” He looked exasperated.
“I don’t know. I can’t think.” She was crying again, she could not help it, everything was such a mess. “Even if we do what Mother wants, it will be horrible. She says she will come visit us often, and have the children come over to her often too.”
“I would never allow a child of mine to be alone with that woman, and risk her beating it.” Legolas’ scowl deepened, and he began to stride back and forth again.
“I wish we could run away, just you and me, and live in a cottage where Mother would never find us.” Wynne sighed, and thought of her old daydream.
He stopped his pacing, and stared at her. “That is actually a good idea.”
“Your father would be heartbroken. And there would be no treaty.”
“Not if… wait, let me think this through…” His forehead screwed up as he pondered for a while. The he brightened considerably. “I got it! Something that will overturn your mother’s plots.”
”First, we pretend we did what she wants. You sleep here, but we will not do it, because my father would know if I had. For an elf, such things shows. But your mother would be fooled, would she not?”
“I think so, unless she comes in here with us.” Wynne shuddered at that horrible thought. “But I can’t see how…”
“Wait, hear me out. As soon as the Rohan lords have signed the treaty, you and I elope and hide in the wilderness. Then I send word to Father and tell him we wish to marry with his blessing. I cannot see him refusing that, not when your mother is out of the picture. We marry and stay hidden until it is safe to return, perhaps when your mother dies. Maybe Father lets us live far away in the Woodland realm somewhere, we can work out the details later. The most important thing is that we would be together. And my father and I would still...” He broke off, and some of the excitement left his features. “You would lose your father. And your grandparents.”
Wynne considered it carefully. To never see her father again… and Grandmama, and Grandpapa… that would hurt, a lot. But if the choice was between Legolas and them, she would always choose him.
And this plan might actually work. She thought she could fool Mother; it took many weeks until a pregnancy showed, and before then the treaty would be signed. Thranduil had seemed on the verge to accept their relationship before Mother came – if they eloped to avoid her ultimatum, that would probably sit well with him. Yes, it could work, and even if not, this was a lot better than any of the alternatives.
“Let’s do it.”
They hugged, hard and long, feeling both scared and relieved. If this worked, they would set things in motion that could not be undone.
“So, no baby-making tonight then,” Legolas said after a while, eyes twinkling slyly. “Almost a shame. That plan had some merits...”
“I’m sure there are other things we could do.” Wynne’s hands slid under his tunic.
“There are.” His gaze was on her very low neckline. “I forgot to say how much I love your dress… At least when only I get to see you in it.”
Hmm... will their plan really work? What do you think?
If you liked Thranduil's point of view in last chapter, I can reveal there might be another one ahead. And also, there is my story about him, Thranduil's Shadow!
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