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61. Coming Home to Rohan
Her room smelled odd; dusty and empty, uninhabited. It was dark, the only light coming from a very small window high up under the ceiling. Wynne put down her bags beside her bed, too tired to unpack them. The long journey back home had been toiling; she had had to endure Mother’s endless ramblings about the wedding and their married life in the Elvenking’s palace.
It felt strange to have been separated for so long from Legolas, like some part of herself was missing. She longed to see him, touch him, talk with him.
Soon, she told herself.
The time had come to stand up against Mother, and explain that none of her schemes would come to pass. Only, now when she must do it, Wynne felt weak, frightened. She hated loud voices and arguing, and she knew those would be the result of her opening her mouth.
“Do you need help with your bags, dear?” Grandmama entered her room, and with a pang of sadness Wynne looked at her. It would probably take a long while before they would meet again, maybe never if Mother was angry enough to disown Wynne entirely.
Her grandmother was tall, and her hair nearly black, without a single strand of white despite her age. She looked like Wynne imagined Aragorn would have done, if he were female. Father and Wynne had not inherited much of her looks, they took after Grandpapa.
“I’ll unpack later. But thank you.”
Grandmama sat down on the bed.
“I have missed you around the house, child. This place is so cheerless with only us old folks.”
“Sorry.” Wynne sat next to her, realizing Grandmama would soon be alone again. Grandpapa was nearly blind and spent most of his days just sitting in his chair, while Grandmama made him company with her embroidery or poetry books.
It must be so boring, Wynne realized. Did all married ladies have to endure such lives? No wonder Éowyn had wanted to be a warrior so badly she dressed up as a man.
“Don’t be sorry, child. I was happy for you to go, and to be on your own. See some of the world. How did you like Minas Tirith?”
“It was wonderful. So beautiful.”
“Yes, it’s striking. I went there once with Grandpapa, to fetch our son’s bride. Your mother.” Her face clouded slightly. Did she regret their choice?
Wynne wondered how things would have been, if her father had been allowed to choose a wife for himself. They would have been poor, probably. Poor but happy.
“Grandmama, I met someone.”
“I know dear, Morwen has talked of little else.” She smiled. “I’m happy you chose one you like.”
“I-I… I’m going to do something Mother will hate. We… We will not be royalty.” She wondered if Legolas had abdicated already, and how his father had reacted.
Grandmama looked surprised. “No? Why?”
When Wynne explained, her grandmother listened in silence, nodding a few times.
“I see. Dear me, yes she will be angry.” An almost invisible smile hinted in the corner of the old woman’s mouth. “Good luck child.”
When Grandmama left, with her long skirts rustling and the familiar scent of lavender lingering behind, Wynne tried to muster willpower for her upcoming task. Her grandmother had not seemed angry, that was something at least. She would not oppose Mother openly, nobody did, but she seemed to support the plan. And moral support was better than none at all.
With slow steps, Wynne went to the sitting room where Mother was busily writing a long list. Betrothal feast dishes, it looked like. Father just came in from the stables, and Grandmama had returned to her favorite chair next to her husband. This was an opportune moment, with the whole family gathered together for a change.
“Mother, I have something to say.”
They all looked at her, perceiving her serious expression.
“Yes? Make it quick.” Mother’s goose pen hovered over the piece of parchment.
“Legolas has resigned his crown.” At least she hoped he had. “Therefore, we will not live with his father, or have a grand wedding. Éowyn and Faramir has offered Legolas a position as forester in Ithilien, and we will move there.”
Mother only stared at her in disbelief, her face slowly paling. Red spots began to form on her cheeks.
“He is no prince anymore.”
“ What? ” Mother slowly rose, and Wynne took a step backwards, wetting her lips.
“I heard you. What is the meaning of this? He can’t do that.”
“He can and he did.”
“I don’t believe you.” Mother gripped her arm, shaking her roughly. “ I don’t believe you. Tell me you are lying.”
“I-I’m not l-lying.” Wynne’s teeth rattled from the shaking, but she did not try to resist, knowing it would only make Mother angrier.
“Thranduil would never allow it. He is too proud!”
“L-legolas w-will not ask p-permission first.”
“So he has not done it yet?” Mother abruptly let go of Wynne, who nearly lost her balance. The room was spinning around her.
“He will when he gets home. If he came home sooner than us, he has done it. If not, he will do it shortly.”
Wynne was not prepared for the slap, and this time she fell, painfully tumbling into a chair.
“How could you? After everything, how could you?” Mother pulled her on her feet, and hit her again, and again.
“Morwen, easy now.” Wynne heard Father vaguely through the ringing in her ear, and to her surprise she saw him catch his wife’s arm, stopping her in the action.
“She think she is clever. Outsmarting her own mother. But I will not allow it, I will not have my daughter marry some common ranger .” Mother shrugged herself free of Father, but did not hit Wynne again. She seemed to slowly compose herself. Then she smiled coldly. “Well, seeing as the terms of betrothal have changed, I now oppose this marriage.”
“Yes. I have turned down Lord Gammal’s offer for your hand several times, mostly because of his age. But I see no other option but to accept now, and at least increase our lands and wealth by the match. I believe he was handsome in his youth; with luck, your children will inherit his traits.”
“I will marry Legolas.” Wynne tried to give mother her best Thranduil-stare imitation.
“Well dear, unfortunately you are in no position to refuse. You’re a single woman, under our roof, and we decide what’s best for you. Now, go to your room.”
Wynne had to obey, but her mind was racing. They had planned everything so carefully, she and the ladies, but nobody had thought of this possibility; that Mother would withdraw her approval of the match!
She had to run away. But could she manage it? It was far to her meeting place with Legolas, with open grassland all the way. Mother would send out riders after her, and they would find her easily and bring her back. And then she would probably be locked up until the wedding with that old fellow was due.
Why was she a woman? It was so unfair. A man could never be forced like this, but Wynne could. Mother had the law on her side.
She began to unpack her bag, just to have something to do. The shock and adrenaline of the fight was slowly leaving her system, and in its wake came despair.
Had Legolas abdicated in vain? If he came searching for her, he would find her trapped in a marriage to someone else. She knew her mother, she would act fast. And Legolas would leave Middle-earth then, unless his soul died first; something as horrible as that could probably be enough to kill an elf.
Soft green fabric touched her hand when she came to the bottom of her bag. She pulled out the garment, pressing it to her nose. Legolas’ tunic, the one he had wore during the troll fight, and that she later had washed and mended for him. She had forgot to return it.
Now her tears began to pour, and she hugged his tunic to her. It smelled of soap now, not of him, but its color and cut brought forward the memory of him.
Something fell out of its folds; a rustling dry sprig. Most of the tiny blossoms remained, but they had lost their purple color. Heather. There would be no cottage now, no heather, no garden, no Legolas. She had failed.
No. No! She would not give up without a fight. She would run away, she could steal one of the fastest horses and ride it hard. Mother must not win! Not this time. She would not allow it.
Resolutely Wynne returned the garments to her bag. She would leave tonight, protected by darkness.
A rustle of skirts and the smell of lavender told her Grandmama was back, and she quickly hid the bag behind her.
“Come, child, your father has something to say.”
“What?” Father never had anything to say.
“Just come.” Again that hint of a smile played on her lips.
When Wynne returned to the sitting room, Mother had calmed down a little, and was back at her writing table. This time it looked like she wrote a letter. To their neighbour lord, presumably.
Father stood in the doorway, together with his chief stable hand. He harkled, which failed to cause any reaction from his wife.
He spoke anyway, his voice unusually firm. “I have decided to allow and bless the marriage between my daughter Wynne and Legolas, the former Prince of the Woodland Realm. This is my right, as her father and legal guardian.”
That certainly got him his wife’s attention.
“You…” Mother rose angrily, but with a glance at the stable hand and her mother-in-law, she held back. Even if she probably was violent to Wynne’s father behind closed doors, she clearly did not want anyone to witness it. No surprise, at that, if they knew that she beat her husband it would effectively ruin her power over the other lords of Rohan. And gossip had a tendency to spread fast.
“Pack your bags, Wynne, and say your goodbyes to your Mother and grandparents," Father continued. "I am sure you are anxious to travel to your intended.”
Wynne did not hesitate, she nearly danced away to her room. She could hardly believe what had happened. Her father had spoken so authoritatively, he who was always silent, who would rather leave the room when Mother fought with her than talk back. It was like magic.
Father would be paying for this later, she was fairly certain of that, but she could not feel bad for him, not now.
She was free!
She had her father’s official blessing, spoken in front of witnesses. Mother could not do anything about it, because she was a woman too. Father was Mother’s legal guardian, just as he was Wynne’s – until she married Legolas, who would then take over the role.
When Wynne came to say farewell, Mother had shut herself in her room, and judging by the sounds she was trying her best to demolish it. Wynne gave Grandpapa and Grandmama long hugs, trying not to cry too much. She had only just come home, and now she would leave the old couple to lead their silent, lonely lives again.
“Did you set Father up to this?” she asked Grandmama, but the other only smiled secretively.
“Bring your husband and visit soon,” she said.
Father was in the courtyard when Wynne came out, brushing Vatna’s fair coat.
“Take her with you,” he said, smiling sadly.
Wynne’s breath caught. “Thank you,” she whispered. It was an extraordinary gift, Vatna was one of their finest mares. Then a thought struck her. “Can I… can I take one more horse?”
“Yes. Anything. I owe you much.”
She hugged her father, drawing in that comforting scent of leather and horses one last time. Then she jumped on Vatna’s back in a smooth motion. The other horse followed them, as they took off to the northeast in a gallop. She did not look behind her.
Only one chapter and the Epilogue left now... wee!
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