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59. A Fond Farewell
“You look dull. What’s wrong?” Sidra joined Wynne at the breakfast table.
“It’s a long story,” mumbled Wynne, stirring listlessly in her porrige.
“Well, here’s what will cheer you up. Join me in a hot bath with the ladies!”
“I’m not really in the mood. But thanks.” Wynne tried to smile, but her head hurt and smiling made it worse. She had not slept much last night, and was not anywhere near finding a solution to hers and Legolas’ problems. Thranduil’s surprised and annoyed stare at her this morning had not helped either, and she hoped Legolas would take on the unpleasant task of explaining to him why Wynne was still there.
“No, I insist. And then you can tell me everything.” Sidra wrapped an arm around her. Her spicy scent was comforting, and Wynne leaned into the hug. Maybe it would be a good idea to talk to someone else.
The wide pool in the ladies’ part of the bathhouse was circular and made of smooth stone, with a stair leading down into the hot water. Sconces on the walls gave the room a dim light. To Wynne’s surprise all the ladies she knew were there; Sidra, Lady Éowyn, Cheery and even Queen Arwen.
Wynne was very conscious about her nude body when she stepped down, but it felt good too. The deep water was warm and relaxing.
“This is lovely,” sighed Sidra.
“Aye, we are very proud of our baths,” agreed Arwen. The acoustics in the room made her musical voice even more beautiful.
Wynne peeked at the queen under half closed eyelids. She was curious, having never seen another female’s body. Through the clear water, she could see that Arwen was equally beautiful naked. Her waist was thin, despite having carried a child, and her small breasts shapely. She seemed to have no hair at all on her body, even between her legs.
Again Wynne felt that treacherous flutter in her chest, and she quickly moved her gaze to Éowyn. The Rohirrim was more muscular, she had a warrior's body which was attractive in its own way. Without clothes, her new pregnancy was more pronounced.
Next to Éowyn, Sidra leaned back with closed eyes, resting her head on the wall. Sidra was Sidra, ample and motherly, but Wynne was fairly sure males loved that kind of figure. Beside her, Cheery fought to hold her nose above the deep water. It was very hard to not stare at the dwarf’s body; it was so very female with those large breasts and wide hips, but also so very hairy .
“Well, Wynne,” said Sidra, her eyes still closed. “Are you going to explain why you have shadows darker than Mordor under your eyes, and hardly touched your breakfast?”
Wynne tore her eyes from Cheery to glare at her friend. Did she expect her to talk about such personal topics in front of the queen?
“I’ll tell you later.”
“You do look cast down.” Arwen’s lilting voice was filled with concern.
“Is it about the bonny elf?” asked Cheery.
“What elf?” Arwen’s interest clearly was caught. She peered at Wynne, and then reached forward to examine the three braids on her temple. “Legolas did those, did he not?” When Wynne still did not reply, she smiled dreamily. “Aww, I am so happy for you both. I knew something good had befallen him.”
“You did?” Wynne was surprised, she had not noticed Legolas talk much with Arwen.
“Aye. You see, after Estel’s coronation and our marriage, Legolas stayed here for several weeks, and during that time he changed. He became sad and brooding, and my husband and I worried about him. He promised to return and visit soon, but he never did.”
“He did not visit us either,” said Éowyn.
“Or Gimli,” Cheery added.
“As soon as I saw him arrive the other day, I noticed he seemed more like he was when I first met him,” Arwen continued. “And yesterday Estel hinted there was a lady involved, although he would not say who.”
“I’m surprised you hadn’t heard the rumours,” Wynne muttered. “I thought everybody knew.”
“I do not listen to gossip.”
“But why are you sad?” Éowyn cut in. “You seemed so happy together in Osgiliath.”
“It’s just impossible,” mumbled Wynne. And then everything poured out of her, Mother’s interference, Thranduil’s resistance and most importantly, all the complications of human-elf relationships, such as Legolas’ dying and mourning forever in the afterlife.
“I fail to see why it is a problem that he would pass away when you did,” said Arwen. “Surely, all the happy years before your demise will make it worth it.”
“But it sounds so horrible. First his soul would die, and when he is reborn, he will be alone in Aman. It’s different for you , Your Majesty; Thranduil told me you chose mortality.”
“Hm. Aye, it is a bit different, but still... “ She looked thoughtful. “I know of a case… My father’s grandfather had a similar problem.”
“Right!” Éowyn exclaimed. “Tuor managed to solve it.”
“Aye. What he did might not work a second time, though, and he had performed some real heroic deeds. Perhaps best not get her hopes up.” Arwen turned back to Wynne, who had no idea who the two were talking of, although she recognized his name vaguely. “Wynne, I think you must allow Legolas to make his own decisions. It is his life to give, after all.”
“But his father–”
“He would lose Legolas either way. Without you, I think he would go back to being the way he was after the War.”
“He says he would sail west,” Wynne admitted.
“See! Thranduil will just have to accept this. Though, according to my father, he always was an obstinate fellow.” She smiled.
“But her mother will create trouble for them,” said Éowyn. “She is infamous for her meddling. I spoke with my brother, because I was so surprised the Rohan lords were opposed to the peace treaty. And it turns out Lady Morwen was behind that.”
“They could live with me and Nugu,” suggested Sidra. “I’m sure that woman would never want to visit an orc town.”
“That could be risky,” Éowyn objected. “She might claim the orcs had kidnapped her daughter and violated the peace treaty.” She turned to Wynne. “I think you just have to stand up to her. Demand she leaves you two alone.”
“This from the woman who dressed like a man to be able to do what she wanted,” teased Sidra.
“Well I did stand up to my uncle first… he just didn’t listen.” Éowyn shrugged.
“I stood up to my father about my love for Estel, and it worked,” said Arwen proudly.
“Mother won’t listen to me. She doesn’t even listen to Thranduil.”
Nobody said anything for a while. Arwen chewed thoughtfully on her lower lip, and Éowyn’s forehead was furrowed. Wynne looked at them in wonder; they were really engaging themselves in this. Their support and kindness warmed her heart.
The dwarf broke the silence first, her voice slow and calculating. “Yer mum wants ye to marry a prince, and carry his bairns… But what if he abdicated his crown?”
“Mother would disown me, she would be so mad!”
“There ye go, then.” Cheery shrugged.
They stared at the dwarf. Slow smiles formed on their faces as realization dawned, and then Arwen began to laugh, the melodious sound echoing between the stone walls. Soon the others had joined in.
“Perfect,” hissed Sidra between the paroxysms. “Just perfect.”
“Thranduil would forbid it,” said Wynne, the only one not laughing.
“Then donnae tell him first.” Cheery smirked under her beard. “The bonny lad can announce it publicly to his people.”
They kept talking a long while after that, honing the plan, trying to foresee what could go wrong and how to counteract that. When Wynne finally left the bathhouse to find Legolas, her fingers were wrinkled and she was clean as a newborn baby. She also felt slightly hopeful for the first time in days.
To Wynne’s surprise, Legolas was just back from an informal meeting with Aragorn and Gimli, concerning the exact same issue. Moreover, they had come to a similar conclusion as Cheery.
“So you want to do it then? I mean… you would lose everything.”
“I never wanted the crown, never wanted to rule. I can only see advantages in this.”
“I’m not sure it will work...” Wynne sighed.
“Pessimist.” He looked around to make sure nobody was nearby, and gave her a quick kiss.
“Overconfident optimist,” she countered, kissing him back.
Then they had to part, Legolas had postponed speaking with his father, but now it had do be done. He would tell him that Wynne had stayed because they had another plan, and that he would reveal it when they came home.
“Will he accept that?”
“Nay, he hates surprises. He will keep prying. Only, this time he will not succeed.”
“Good luck.” Wynne had not meant for it to sound so ironic, but she really did doubt Legolas would be able to resist in the long run. Thranduil knew too well how to control his son. But hopefully he would not put a stop to the plan when he found out, he must understand that this was the only way to keep Legolas in Middle-earth.
When she was alone, Wynne began to pack her bag again, this time for good. They were leaving Minas Tirith tomorrow. The elves and the orc couple would take the new river route back to Emyn Muil, together with some emissaries of the King of Gondor, and bring the new peace treaty to Master Goltur. After that, the elves would continue north, to the elvish realms of Lothlórien and former Mirkwood.
Meanwhiles, Wynne and her family were riding with King Éomer back to Edoras, before turning northeast to Wynne’s home. There, Mother thought they would prepare for the wedding, and travel to Mirkwood for a formal betrothal ceremony, but instead, Wynne would leave alone. She would go to the arranged meeting place and hopefully find Legolas there. That was, if he succeeded with his part. And if Wynne was not prevented by her mother to leave.
She was not being pessimistic; there were many things that could go wrong, still many obstacles to overcome. Much depended of if Wynne and Legolas managed to oppose their parents, herself in particular; if she left without Mother’s accepting it, the woman could yet stir up much political trouble.
After what had happened last time, Wynne and Legolas dared not spend the night or even the evening together. A few kisses in a dark corner of the guest house corridor was all they could share.
“Next time we meet, there will be more than kisses,” Legolas promised, his eyes shining with excitement.
“You’re enjoying all this,” Wynne accused. “Like it’s some sort of adventure.”
“I do,” he admitted. “I am happy all this awful waiting will be over soon.”
“It might not be.” Wynne bit her lip, feeling like crying when thinking of all the what-ifs.
“If your mother makes a fuss, I shall come for you.”
“Yeah because that would not make her set all of Rohan against you and your Realm? You can’t help me with this, and you know it.”
His smile waned. “Aye, but there is no point in imagining the worst.”
Wynne disagreed, but kept it to herself this time. She did not want to fight with him, not now when they were together for the last time in weeks.
“I’ll miss you so much,” she said instead, with a pang of apprehension. She had seen him every day for several months, what would it be like to be apart? What if he would feel less for her, even forget her? She knew she was being silly, but could not push away the bleak thoughts entirely.
“I will miss you too.” He kissed her again, an earnest, deep kiss that temporarily chased away her fears and left her breathless.
Wynne slept badly again that night. After breakfast, which she tasted nothing of, she gathered with the others on the courtyard in the city’s sixth level. The stable hands had brought out all the horses, making the area crowded and slightly chaotic. Wynne’s ten Meara mixed-breeds, and those Mother and Father had been riding, pranced nervously beside Éowyn’s and Faramir’s steeds, and Gimli’s and his girlfriend’s ponies. Further away were the many horses belonging to King Éomer’s entourage. Mother had put a side-saddle on her mare, Wynne noticed, frowning. Father always rode bareback just like Wynne.
The elves and Sidra and Nugu had come to say their goodbyes; they would leave by boat later today.
“Can you believe I shall be going up in that boat lift,” Sidra said with a shudder. “Wish me luck.”
“You will be fine,” comforted Éowyn and hugged her. “I hope we shall meet again soon!”
“Can’t you come visit us, and see our mountain town? The children get along so well.”
“Sure, why not?” Éowyn looked at Faramir, who nodded.
“We don’t have much planned for the autumn,” he said.
“You are more than welcome.” Sidra smiled broadly, and her eyes became moist. “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Sidra’s and Wynne’s farewell was more sad, there was no way of knowing if they would ever meet again. If the plan worked, they might, but Wynne still dared not be too sure it would.
“Don’t worry, Wynne. Just be strong. I know you can be.” Sidra kissed her loudly on each wet cheek.
Then followed a long series of more goodbyes; Nodir and Bronedir, Galion, Cheery, Gimli, Arwen and Aragorn, Éowyn and Faramir. When Wynne at last had come to Legolas and his father, her heart felt empty and she had run out of tears.
Thranduil surprised her by pulling her into a hug. His fine travel coat was smooth against her face. “Can you not tell me what this ‘grand plan’ of yours is about?” he murmured before pulling back.
She met his gaze, and shook her head.
“Why do I have a feeling I will not like it?” Despite his words, his eyes were soft.
“I will miss you,” she said, feeling a lump in her throat. Apparently she still had some tears left.
“We will meet again,” he replied.
“Yes of course you will, Your Grace, and soon too!” Mother had joined them, and Wynne winced as she perceived the instant change in Thranduil’s features. “We will travel to you as soon as possible.” She turned to Legolas. “And then you shall finally have your lovely bride, Your Highness.”
Legolas’ only answer was a very curt bow.
“Well, I shall leave you two lovebirds to say your sweet farewells, then.”
Wynne frowned after her retreating back.
“Come here, lovely bride, and let me bid you farewell,” said Legolas, smiling wryly. Then his gaze became serious. “But can I say goodbye to Stelpa first?”
He hugged the mare a long while, stroking her neck and back, allowing her to nibble his shoulder. When he finally let go, with a soft kiss on her muzzle, his eyes were almost as wet as Wynne’s.
“I think you will miss Stelpa more than me.” She smiled. Legolas’ affection for horses had been one of the reasons she had fallen for him.
“If so, it is because I shall meet you again, but not her.” He smiled too, but his voice was sad. Parting from the horse really pained him, she realized.
“Come here.” She drew him to her. Their hug was more intimate than was appropriate in public, but for once, Wynne could not care less.
“Great, now I am blubbering all over your hair,” he sniffed, laughing through his tears. Then he pulled back to cup her face in his hands, his gaze intent. “I will see you soon. I am not giving up on you. Ever.”
She nodded, not trusting her voice.
“The Anduin. Where we first met.”
She nodded again. “The Anduin.”
“Oh, I almost forgot.” His smile changed from serious to playful. “I have a gift for you. For your journey.”
“What?” She wiped her eyes, and curiously accepted the small package. It was wrapped in green leaves.
Lembas. Of course.
Do you think the plan will work? Wynne really is rather pessimistic... Personally, I am the worst kind of optimist, which tends to annoy people. :D
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