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58. Plans Undone
The day’s meeting took a lot less time than the one yesterday had, and Wynne later learned that somehow all the Rohan lords apparently had changed opinion overnight, to be suddenly very positive to the idea of peace with the Emyn Muil orcs.
The extent of Mother’s influence was intimidating, and somewhat surprising too. How had she come to be that powerful? Their House was no more famous than any of the others.
In the evening Aragorn threw a grand feast, and the atmosphere in the huge room was merry. Wynne was happy for her friends, and tried to laugh and celebrate with Sidra and Nugu, but it was hard when she was so worried about her impending elopement with Legolas. When it was time to be seated for supper, she was almost thankful to be placed with her family at another table.
Mother enjoyed herself immensely. Her fit of temper that morning had long since passed, and now she was busily planning the wedding, albeit only with Wynne and Father; thankfully she had not yet attempted to speak with Thranduil. The Elvenking’s features were neutral where he sat next to Aragorn and Éomer, but the glares he sometimes sent their way talked for themselves.
“How come the other lords do what you say?” Wynne interrupted in the middle of Mother’s oration about the immense guest list she would make.
“Wynne, dear… it’s easy, really.” Mother smiled, and this time it reached her eyes. She had had several glasses of wine, and was in an unusual friendly and talkative mood. “Men use their fists to get their way, women use their brain. Why fight when you can negotiate? All one needs is the proper leverage.” She took another sip. “What you do, is you find out their weaknesses. Everybody has something they need, or wish to hide, or something they fear.”
“Morwen has gathered information about the other Houses for years,” said Father, a tint of pride in his voice. It was rare that he joined in a conversation, and Wynne blinked at him in surprise. Perhaps he had had a little too much wine as well.
“I have,” Mother agreed. “And you must also not forget the little favours we bestow upon them every now and then. A gift here, a discount there, a word in favour of someone – that works wonders to secure their continued friendship.”
After supper Wynne slowly walked past Legolas and nodded in the direction of the statue where they had talked last time. He readily followed her there. When he arrived, he seemed cheerful in a somewhat disconcerting way.
“So, this is great, is it not, the peace treaty signed already. And we elope tonight.” His cheeks were flushed, but he did not seem drunk. Something was clearly wrong.
“What happened… after I left? Was Thranduil very angry?” Stupid question. Of course he was angry.
A shadow flickered across Legolas’ eyes and his smile wavered. “Aye.” He did not elaborate further, and this was not really a good place to talk.
“Mother was too. Because we didn’t… you know.”
“That was just about the only thing my father was happy about.” Legolas’ weak smile returned. Then he took her hand and pulled her closer. “I have been talking with Aragorn, and explained the situation,” he whispered urgently. “He is on our side in this, but he cannot help us openly unless he would risk his good relations with Rohan and the Woodland Realm. He has commanded the city guards to allow us out without questions, and if anyone asks later they will say they slept on their post. Can you meet me by the Great Gate at midnight?” This close, Wynne could feel how nervous he was.
“I will meet you there. But is everything really alright?” she whispered back. She tried to catch his eyes, but he had averted his gaze.
“See you later, then. Good luck.” And he was gone.
Wynne’s stomach behaved oddly the rest of the evening, churning and flipping whenever she thought of their eloping, and she worried a lot about Legolas’ strange mood. Everything was not quite right, something must have gone wrong, at least in part. But there was nothing she could do about it, he was staying close to his father the rest of the evening and Wynne dared not approach him there.
The feast would last until past midnight, so Wynne excused herself early and left her parents on the dance floor. Before she went, she looked at them one last time. Mother, so beautiful and elegant, happy for once in Father’s company, and he too seemingly enjoying himself even though he was no great dancer. It was odd to know she would never see them again, and Wynne felt a pang of guilt about leaving without saying goodbye. Her chest grew tight and she had to turn away to hide her tears.
Back in her room, she changed into her usual outfit of tunic and hose and began to pack. It was difficult because her fingers shook so badly, and her tears made everything damp, but she just could not stop crying.
There was a knock, and Wynne froze. Who could that be? The feast was not over yet, she could still hear the music. It must be Legolas then. Perhaps something had gone wrong? She hurried to open.
When she saw who was outside, Wynne’s heart nearly stopped. She had escaped the goblin only to be caught by the wolf.
“May I come in?” Thranduil’s voice was calm, and he did not look angry. But that meant nothing, he was very good at hiding his emotions.
Wynne silently backed away from the door, allowing him to pass and seat himself in her chair. She sat opposite to him on her bed – or flopped down rather, feeling weak like a newborn colt.
“Going somewhere?” He nodded at her half-packed bag.
“With my son, I presume.”
“I got the impression it was not to happen for many days yet. Clever. He fooled me,” Thranduil mused. Then he turned his gaze back to Wynne. “Legolas told me of your plan to elope and hide. And I will say the same to you, as I did to him. I will not allow it.” His voice was firm. “I will never let my son, the Prince of Lasgalen, creep around in the woods like a lawless criminal. For him to give up his home, his status, all of it, because of the trickery of a shrewd human woman? Never. It cannot be. It shall not be. I would rather agree to your mother’s schemes then. You would marry properly after a year’s betrothal, and then live in my realm.” He leaned closer to Wynne, but she knew he was not trying to frighten her, not this time. There was real concern in his eyes and his voice sounded more tired than anything else. “I tried hard to make my son understand this. Not much good it did, I never knew he could be so stubborn.” He sighed.
“My mother would ruin everything if we married properly,” mumbled Wynne.
“I know. And there is something… I have arranged something else. But before I go into that, I need you to understand. To really understand.” His gaze was intent. “I told you before about the immortality of elves, and how marrying a mortal would affect Legolas. You would die, and he would feel the loss of you for the rest of his life. But that is not all. When an elf loses–” He hesitated, and swallowed, suddenly looking very vulnerable. “When you lose your loved one – as an elf, you die. Waste away... the grief eating you from within, until there is nothing left of your soul, and your body is naught but a hollow skin.” He swallowed again, and Wynne realized he talked from experience. This was about him and Legolas’ mother. “Sometimes, though… there is another you could love, such as– such as your son…” He broke eye contact, his gaze moving to the window. “I had nearly given up,” he murmured. “I would not even look at him, after he was born. Pregnancies… so many things can go wrong. It is a dangerous process, even for elves. His mother... did not make it.” His eyes were blank. ”I nearly died from grief, until one of the healers forced me to hold the baby. And when I saw him… my Legolas...” A single tear trailed down his smooth cheek. “Then I… I fell in love with him, so to say. And I decided to stay in Arda, for his sake.” Thranduil turned his gaze back to Wynne, pain written all over his countenance. His open sadness was almost more frightening than his rage this morning. “Here is what you need to understand, and what I am suspecting Legolas has conveniently deemed unnecessary to tell you; if you have children, they will not be immortal.”
“They will not?” Wynne could only stare at him, a lump forming in her throat. “But Arwen…”
“Arwen is of Idril’s and Tuor’s bloodline. Only their descendants are allowed to choose immortality, because the Valar accepted Tuor as an elf when he travelled to them. Arwen’s father chose to be immortal, but Arwen chose a mortal life when she wedded Aragorn. In the other very few instances in history where elves have married humans, their offspring have been mortal. And this means that if Legolas survives to lose you – which is not at all certain, even if he has children – he will also have to mourn their deaths. Sooner or later, it would lead to his premature demise.” Then he added, almost as an afterthought. “And that, of course, would be the end of me as well. Not that it matters much, now.”
“It would kill him… I would cause his death,” Wynne murmured. She could not believe he had never told her elves actually died of grief. And why had he said their children would be immortal? How could he lie to her about something so important?
“I am sorry if I upset you,” he said softly. “I wanted to be sure you knew the alternative, before I make my suggestion. There is something you could do, that will hopefully save the life of Legolas, and make your own life better as well.” Thranduil’s cheeks were still moist, but he had regained his composure. “I will not try to compel you, and I admit that Legolas is completely against it. But I have a feeling you are the wiser one, and I know you will at least consider it.”
She nodded mutely. Her mind was in such a turmoil of emotions she did not trust her voice.
“I want you to run away and hide, not with Legolas, but alone.” He took her hand and pressed it. “It would not be so bad as it sounds; I have spoken with Prince Faramir, and he and his wife offered to let you live with them. They will help you. The first nights you stay in a public guest house in the city, I have made arrangements with the owner. Then you disguise yourself as one of Eówyn’s servants and follow her home. This way, you will be removed from that toxic mother of yours, and be free of her tyranny and cruelty. And as for Legolas… he will know that you are safe, although I will not tell him exactly where you live. When I spoke with him about this plan earlier today, I did not mention Faramir’s name.” Again Thranduil pressed her hand. “I want to be honest with you. His losing you will not be painless, his heart is too committed now. Legolas will hurt, but he will survive, and he will get over the worst of it eventually. It would be for the better.”
Wynne did not know what to say. To leave Legolas… The thought alone made her heart ache. But if her staying killed him? She had been so sure a baby would solve everything, but now she realized it might even make things worse.
“When the two of you are apart, you will find it is easier to forget each other. Distance works that way.” He smiled wistfully. “Wynne, you are such a sweet girl. Your life is short, it should not be spent in misery. You can love again, I have seen it happen many times. A human who loses their spouse can remarry. There will be scores of handsome young men in Osgiliath who would notice you, and in time, maybe one of them can make you happy.”
“I doubt it.” Wynne’s lips trembled, and she was unable to hold back her tears. “I never was very much to look at.” She tried to smile, but it probably came out as a grimace. “But y-you are right, this is for the better. I will do it.” She hid her face in her arms.
“Oh Wynne… Thank you. You do the right thing, the right thing for both of you.” He stroked her hair softly. “I am sorry it has to be this way. I truly am.”
“J-just tell me, where to g-go.”
“The guest house is called ‘The Homely House’, it is in the third circle, just to the right when you come down from the second level. A white, two story building. And… if Legolas expects you to run away with him tonight, it is best you go there directly, before he comes looking for you.”
“I’ll just finish packing,” she mumbled, still into her arms.
“Do not linger.” He pressed a kiss on the top of her head. “Goodbye, Wynne. I am going to miss you very much.” His voice was strained.
When she was alone, Wynne felt numb. She would miss Thranduil too. In the rare occasions he had shown his real self, he had seemed more like a parent to her than either her father or mother. But now she would lose both him, her family and her lover, all in one go.
She wished she could at least say goodbye to Legolas. To leave him without notice was such a cruel thing to do, but she knew he would stop her if she went to him first. He would say that he did not mind giving up his life – she knew him well enough by now to know as much. But that was wrong , and she could not allow it. The lives of him and his father were at stake, and from the way Thranduil had spoken of it, she was certain that kind of death was horrible. Wasting away… their souls dying. She shuddered. No, Thranduil was right. She liked Éowyn despite being slightly jealous of her, perhaps she could get a job as her stable hand or something, or maybe move to Sidra in the orc town. She could survive without Legolas, and he would survive without her too. He still had his father, and his friends Gimli and Aragorn, and he would be busy doing whatever princes do.
But maybe she should at least write him a letter, and explain. Yes, that was a better option than just disappearing.
Wynne found a small piece of parchment and a quill on the table beside the chair, and sat down to write. How would she begin? How do you convey in just a few words that you have to leave someone you love, and never see them again?
Maybe she should just tell him to ask Thranduil about the details? That would save her explaining, but it was also rather cowardly.
Dear Legolas, she began. I love you. She wiped her eyes to avoid tears dripping on the ink and make a blotch. I am sorry to cause you pain. Oh this was terrible, her words were so empty. Cause him pain? He would be miserable, just like she would. And angry. He would feel betrayed.
I know you are angry, she wrote. Well, she was angry too, actually. He had deceived her into believing a child would make their relationship work, but there was no space to complain about that here. ...but this is really for the better. I could not let you die of grief when I die. Great, now she had wrote ’die’ twice in the sentence.
She had still not decided what to write next, when her door was forcefully thrown open and her intended recipient himself burst in, slamming it behind him. His face was thunderous.
“Why did you not come?”
It must be long past midnight, she had spent too long mulling over the letter! Wynne tried to hide it behind her back, but Legolas had already seen what she was doing and now he tore the scrap from her. His eyes were dark and stormy as he read what she had written, his brow furrowing deeply.
“You were just going to leave,” he accused. “After letting me wait in vain, you would leave me with only a note?”
“You are sorry.” His voice was cold, but his neck flushed hotly. “Well, that is a huge comfort.”
“Why did you lie to me about our children’s immortality?” Wynne countered, her face heating as well. “Had you told me earlier, I would never had agreed to that stupid secret relationship.”
“Stupid? You seemed to enjoy it,” he growled. “And I did not lie, I just did not know. How could you even think I would lie about such a thing? After all this time.” Now he looked hurt, and Wynne felt slightly ashamed. Yet, he must have found out when he met Aragorn, and still he had not told her.
“Why did you not set me right as soon as you knew, then?”
“I… I was going to. I was. But I figured it was not important.”
“Not important? They would die, and so would you, and I can’t believe you did not tell me of that at least.” Now she was sobbing, and she wiped her face angrily.
“We do not have to have children. And I would rather live a few decades with you and then die, than be alone and die immediately.”
“Why would you die immediately?” She squinted at him through her tears.
“I might,” he muttered, but he did not seem to really believe that.
“You just made that up! Why can’t you be honest?”
“I am honest, but you… writing a note and just leave! How could you be so cruel? You have let my father turn you against me! Do not deny it, I know it must be he who set you up to this. He wants to hide you Eru knows where, conveniently stowed away so he will not have to deal with your mother. He is afraid of her.”
“Now you’re unfair. Thranduil wants me to be happy. And he wants you to survive, and I should not think that’s very strange!”
“He wants you to be happy, you say. But would you really be?”
The question hung between them, unanswered.
His gaze softened slightly. “I know I would be unhappy. And I would search for you everywhere, and never give up. And if I still did not find you, I might not die, but… I am not sure I would stay here. I might sail to Aman – Valinor, as some call it. Frodo went there. I could join him.”
Wynne had heard of Aman, the island in the far west to which only elves could go.
“So you would just abandon your father? And you accuse me of cruelty.”
“He could come with me, and be reunited with my mother.” Legolas shrugged. “Death is not so final for us. Unless we do not want to, we are reborn to live in Aman.” He sat in the chair Thranduil had left a while ago, and Wynne again sat on the bed. He seemed calmer now, but still angry.
“So, what you’re saying is, if I hide like Thranduil wants me to, you will sail away and take him with you. Which would be almost the same as dying?”
“Sounds like an ultimatum to me.”
“Yes. You’re acting just like Mother.” Wynne frowned at him.
“Nay Wynne.” He frowned back at her. “Be sensible now. We could live together, and when your time is up, I sail west. If Father wants, he can come too. But the point is, we would have many happy years first. Can you not see this is a much better plan?”
“What about the children, would you leave them behind? Because in most marriages you get those, you know. Or maybe you don’t want to bed me.”
“Of course I do.” His lip quirked up slightly. “Very much, actually, in case you had not noticed.”
Wynne smiled despite herself. “Well, yes, maybe I have.”
Legolas moved to sit beside her on the bed. “We do not have to have children. I am not sure how it works with humans, but I know I can control my part of it. How else did you think elves could live for centuries and only have a handful of elflings, at the most?”
“Well I… I thought maybe they stopped doing… you know.”
Legolas grinned. “Sounds boring.”
“Yes. But… how?” Wynne was curious, she had wondered this before.
“Well… I have… hm. Sort of… seeds, you know? That can fertilize a female’s egg.” Legolas was blushing.
“I know.” She was not stupid, she had seen animals mate.
“Well, elvish females can choose when to release an egg, and us males can choose whether to release the seeds during… uh… the act.” He was cute when he was embarrassed.
“My eggs will come monthly whether I want it or not.” Wynne felt rather jealous of female elves.
“But without a seed to fertilize it, there would be no child.”
Wynne nodded thoughtfully. So, they could actually be together, not having children, and then he would sail. But if it was this easy, why had Thranduil been so emotional? He had talked of wasting away, of the soul dying… She narrowed her eyes. She had a feeling Legolas was still hiding things.
“So, these ships you sail with… are they just there, waiting for elves who wish to go to Aman, or?”
“Nay, I would have to build one first.”
“And this you would do, still in mourning, heartbroken… Do you even know how to build a ship?”
“Legolas, you’re doing it again, evading the problems. You can’t just postpone thinking of them.”
“You are making this needlessly complicated.” He tried to kiss her, but she dodged his lips.
“I don’t want you to waste from grief. I don’t want your soul to die! If I make it complicated, it’s because it is complicated!”
“Fine, be like that then.” He rose angrily.
“Someone has to be sensible!” She stood in front of him, their eyes locking in an unintentional reprise of this morning’s fight between their parents.
“Sensible? Try pessimistic!”
“I prefer realistic.”
“Call it what you want.”
They stared at each other for another minute, until Wynne began to feel a bit silly, and she could tell from the quiver in the corner of Legolas’ mouth that he did too. That of course had her own lip quirk as well, and before they knew it, they were both laughing.
She took a step closer and wrapped her arms around him. He hugged her back so hard she almost lost her breath.
“I love you so much, Wynne. Do not run away without me. Please,” he murmured into her hair.
“I won’t… And... sorry about the letter.”
“Sorry for hiding things.”
“This still doesn't solve anything though.”
“I know. We can sleep on it, and maybe we think of something tomorrow.”
“I love you too.”
Hmm… what can they do? Things are getting complicated.
By the way, I have a blog dedicated to my fanfics. The address is mimilind.com if anyone is interested. :)
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