1. An Unpleasant Assignment
Anduin River, Fourth Age 8
Wynne spotted the group of elves from a long distance. They had built a simple camp just offshore of the Anduin river, and seemed to be waiting for her, lined up as they were in a semicircle. Almost despite herself she relaxed her seat, causing Vatna, the gray mare she was riding, to slow her pace.
She did not want to come. She did not want to join their quest, she did not want to let them ride her fine horses, and least of all did she want to marry one of them.
All the way here she had tried to think of ways to escape this trap. Run away somewhere and hide until the elves got tired of waiting? But she could not abandon the horses, and ten Mearas were not exactly inconspicuous. But what if she just refused? She could ride with the elves and never reveal Mother’s plan. But then she would have to face her mother’s wrath upon return, and that was even more intimidating than marrying an elf.
She simply had no choice. Mother had willed this, and when she did, it would be so.
Mother had planned it a long time probably, and then conspired with Grandmama and Grandpapa to make it happen. Father had complied, as he always did, and made a deal with their distant relative, the King of Gondor. One did not oppose Mother.
The deal was very generous. Ten of their horses were to be leant to the Elvenking of Mirkwood for at least six months. In addition, there would be a groom accompanying them, someone to tend to the horses and help the elves out with whatever they needed.
That the groom would be Wynne, and that her real mission was to catch a royal elf and allure him to marry her, was naturally not mentioned.
It had been an offer Aragorn could not turn down, of course. King Thranduil had specifically inquired after Rohirric horses for a quest he was embarking on, to clear the land south of Mirkwood of stray orcs. Wynne’s mother had got word of this, and persuaded her husband to make the offer at exactly the right time.
Her mother’s plan was simple. Wynne would be the only woman of the company, it would be her and five elf males. She would be close to them at all hours, sleeping in their camp, sharing their meals, tending to their wounds if they got any. If she played her cards well, it would only be a matter of time before some – or all of them – were attracted to her.
She must encourage them, especially the two royal elves, the prince Legolas and his father Thranduil. In marrying her daughter to one of them, Mother would finally get the alliance she had dreamed of for such a long time. Elven blood, elven royal blood at that, bred into the lines of Rohan Rohirrim. Her successors would be half elves, long lived and beautiful. The future Lords and Ladies of Örn would be famous.
Wynne must not fail. If the royal elves turned her down she had to settle for the lesser ones, but an elf she must marry.
She shuddered at the thought, causing Vatna to prance nervously. The roan mare was sensitive to the mood of her rider.
It had been only a few days since Mother told Wynne of her assignment. She had been shocked to learn about the plan, and scared to be sent away alone for the first time in her life. The elves’ quest sounded dangerous, and how could she ever manage to make them love her? She was no beauty, her life had been spent on horseback so far, and her body was hard, lean, and muscled. No plump arms and soft bosom to impress them with, and her face was all tanned and freckled from the sun. Elven females were gorgeous, Wynne was plain, they would not look at her twice.
She had tried to protest and explain her doubts, but Mother had not even let her finish speaking. A hard slap on each cheek had silenced her.
“You will do as told. You are no child anymore, this summer will be your twentieth. I was married by that age and already with child, and so was your Grandmama. I know you are no beauty, the women of the Örn family never are, and this is why we need the elven blood so badly. Your children will not be plain.”
She had felt like one of their horses then, just as when Father planned which stallion to mate with which mare to produce the most desired offspring, but she remained silent, knowing she would only be hit again. Her cheeks still burned, and apparently Mother did not mind if Wynne was covered in bruises when she met the elves. She never hesitated to raise hands to her child. Perhaps she beat Father too, who knew?
“Elves are not very accustomed to humans, and you will use this against them,” Mother had continued. “Show them some skin, seduce them with alcohol, I do not care what you do as long as it is successful. If you become pregnant first, and marry them after, that is of no matter. Even if they refuse to marry you we will have the half elf child at least.”
Her daughter could not keep silent anymore.
“What if they get offended and send me away? I would be all alone in the wilderness, and the orcs would kill me.” Her voice sounded more childish than she liked, but she could not stop herself.
“Nonsense! They need the horses, and they know it. They will not send you away. They will just think it’s the way of humans, and get used to it. And as time passes, their hormones will do its work on them, they will not be able to resist you in the long run. Males are weak.”
Wynne felt the bile rise at the thought of seducing an elf, or any male. She had seen horses mate since she was a girl, she knew exactly what the stallions did with the mares and the thought of this happening to her made her shudder. She was a lone child and had been living at home with her parents and grandparents, she had never even talked in private to a man. They were large and burly, and, judging by the men she saw at the marketplace, they were ugly and stank.
Elf males, as far as Wynne knew, might not be any better. They were said to be handsome, but then again, other women thought men were attractive too. Maybe Wynne was an oddity to think males ugly and vile, but she just could not imagine she would ever want one to mount her like a stallion.
“I can’t do it. Please don’t make me!” she begged.
“This is not up for discussion, it’s decided already. You will go tomorrow morning.” Mother had a threatening frown.
“I refuse! You don’t own me. I’m not a mare you can force to mate!” Wynne’s outburst surprised even herself. She never talked back to Mother.
Mother’s face turned white, and she gripped Wynne’s arms with fingers like claws, the nails digging deep into the flesh. Then she pushed her daughter so forcefully against the wall that her skull felt like it would crack.
“You will not disobey me.” Her voice was quiet, and deadly cold. “You will go to the elves, and come back with an elf husband, or at least his child in your womb. If you do not, you shall regret it.”
That had silenced Wynne’s objections, and not long after she was on her way. As compared to her mother’s fury, even an elf in her bed was to prefer.
Wynne made Vatna move a little faster again. She had almost reached the elven camp now, and must try to think happier thoughts. She must make them like her, somehow. She had no other option.
I try to make this story follow Tolkien’s lore as closely as possible. The events take place in the early fourth age, after the War of the Ring is over.
I do not own or profit from Tolkien’s world or characters.