Legolas was walking through the market on a cool morning in late October when he saw him. The most beautiful horse he had ever laid eyes on. He couldn't explain why, but he was immediately drawn to the remarkable creature. Its colorings were not unusual, as it had a dark red coat with a black mane and tail. He walked towards it, unaware of his friend Duarthon calling out his name.
As he approached, the elf and the horse stared at each other. Upon reaching the corral where the horse stood, he unconsciously reached out his hand to scratch the creature's nose.
"Ah, Prince Legolas, what brings you to my stables this morning?"
"Good morning, Turechion. This is a remarkable looking horse."
"He is indeed. His sire is supposedly a descendant of the Mearas. Though I cannot confirm that claim, he and his ancestors have been known to live remarkably long lives and tend to have an unusually high intelligence. This one is called Sulinte, and he is a handful but a fine horse all the same."
"Is he for sale?" Legolas asked, looking around as Duarthon finally caught up to him.
"I am sorry, my lord, but he was bred specifically for someone else. I am afraid you would have to take up the issue with her."
"Who is this lady and where can I find her? Will she be coming to get him today?"
"I don't think she will be coming today, for she usually comes down early in the morning, before most elves are out and about. The lady you must speak with is Dimoriel, the lady of the mountains."
"You mean the lady who lives in solitude to the south?" Duarthon asked, his brow furrowed at the news.
"The very same. She will likely come north next weekend and be here shortly after dawn to fetch him."
"Do you think she will be willing to sell him?" Legolas asked, looking up at the horse in front of him.
"I think you have a better chance of having autumn revert back into summer," Turechion said flatly. "But it is worth trying if you are interested, my lord. If she will sell him, be prepared to pay a hefty price."
The following weekend, Legolas and Duarthon sat huddled in their cloaks as a cold rain drizzled down on them. Duarthon was not happy.
"She better come this weekend. I do not want to sit here in the rain for nothing."
"I am sure she'll come," Turechion said appearing from the barn behind them. "She'll be happy of the rain. Less people will be in the market." He paused looking at the two elves sitting on the fence.
"Do you want to come into the barn where it's dry?" Turechion asked, gesturing behind him.
"Yes!" Duarthon said enthusiastically, hopping off the fence. But as Legolas made to follow, he noticed a cloaked figure riding towards them at a gallop.
"Good morning, Dimoriel!" Turechion said cheerfully, looking up at the elleth before him. Her hood was up and she was turned away from him, so Legolas could not see her face.
"I am here for Sulinte," she said, ignoring pleasantries. "How is he looking?"
"He will be a fine stallion, like his father," Turechion said, looking at Dimoriel's horse, who was the same deep red, but also with a red mane.
"Excellent," Dimoriel said, ignoring Legolas and Duarthon. "I will take him now then."
"Excuse me," Legolas said, interjecting quickly. "I was wondering if I could perhaps convince you to sell this horse to me." He indicated Sulinte as Turechion brought him out. Dimoriel turned to look at him. Her face was emotionless, from her thin lips to her grey-green eyes.
"If I sell him to you, I will not have a horse to ride," Dimoriel said, turning away again. Turechion was leading the young horse out of the corral, as Dimoriel whispered a soft word to her mount, which trotted into the corral.
"Is there nothing I can offer you in exchange? Perhaps you can get a different horse. I can give you three for this one if it would please you."
"It would not," Dimoriel said, patting her new mount's neck. "I have no need for three horses, and I have waited several years for this one. His mother kept producing fillies."
Legolas opened his mouth to provide another offer, but he saw a shadow moving towards him rapidly, and he shrunk away, his warrior instinct kicking in as his hand went to his knife. He was astonished as a large hawk alighted on Dimoriel's shoulder and shook the rain off its feathers. Dimoriel made no acknowledgement it was there. Turechion, however, smiled.
"Ah, there is Lendis. How has she been?"
"Well enough. She nested last spring, which was unexpected. Nice young hawks though."
"What do you want in exchange for Sulinte?" Legolas asked, growing anxious as Dimoriel mounted once more. She paused, looking down at him.
"Even you, Prince Legolas, can offer me nothing that would make me give up this horse. Perhaps you can wait a few years and get another from the same parents, now that Turechion has both. Good day." She swiftly rode away, leaving Legolas with a frown and Duarthon with a scowl.
"So we did wait in the rain for nothing. She even knew who you were and ignored you."
"Can you breed another horse?" Legolas asked Turechion, who was leading the red stallion inside.
"Of course. Though the mother tends to drop fillies, so you may end up with a mare."
"It is worth a try," Legolas said. He was frustrated that he had lost the beautiful horse. He hoped his luck would present him with another.
It took several years, but Legolas's patience was rewarded when Turechion informed him that another red stallion had been born. It was not quite as beautiful as the first, having the same red mane and tail as his sire, and a white star patch on his forehead, but Legolas was happy, and named him Caranghir.
It was about the time Caranghir turned four that a dark shadow began to fall on Greenwood the Great. Worried, King Thranduil called his son to him to discuss the problem.
"There are whispers in the trees that evil is spreading up from the south," Thranduil said, looking across his desk at Legolas. The latter could see the worry in his father's eyes. "Some dark magic is killing the plants and animals. Take Duarthon and head south. See if you can uncover anything. Talk to the forest people. Radagast must know something. And perhaps Lady Dimoriel will have news as well."
Legolas was surprised when his father brought up the lady. He remembered her mannerisms from when they had met briefly. He wasn't sure she would be willing to do anything to help.
"I think Lady Dimoriel may not be very cooperative," he said honestly.
"It is worth a try. She has lived on her own in those mountains long enough, she must know more about the southern wild than any of us here in the north. At least ask if she has any information that may be useful."
"Yes, sir," Legolas said, standing to leave.
"Good luck," Thranduil said, watching as his son departed on this grim task.
"She must live around here somewhere," Duarthon said, standing up. He had just been examining an ancient path near the base of the mountains, and noticed hoof prints that were only a few days old.
"I suppose we should follow this path into the mountains," Legolas said, riding forward as Duarthon mounted. The elves followed the thin trail as it wound upward, moving out of the leafy trees into hearty pines that grew out of rocky crevices. More than once, they had to jump over fast moving streams that plummeted off the mountainside mere feet away in steep waterfalls.
"I can see why she lives here," Duarthon said as they left behind a particularly large waterfall, which had carved out a cave behind it large enough for the horses to pass through. "It is breathtaking, isn't it?" Legolas merely nodded as they continued through a mountain pass.
They had climbed over a thousand feet up the mountain before they saw real evidence of the lady's passing. Rocky ledges stuck out in natural terraces, which had evidence of cultivation, with all sorts of wild plants growing together. Fruit trees which would never have grown so high up were flourishing along the sides of the path as it widened and flattened out, moving along the side of the mountain instead of continuing upward.
"Do you hear that?" Legolas said, stopping suddenly. Duarthon paused, listen closely.
"Probably just the wind," he said, catching the faint sound.
"Sounds like a flute," Legolas said, continuing forward. As they rounded a corner and began heading into a ravine, the sound grew. It was definitely a flute. Shortly, the two elves passed below a natural stone arch that opened into a flat, filled with wild plant life growing in every direction.
On a cut tree trunk sat Dimoriel, her eyes shut as she played a reed flute, her legs stretched out in front of her. Her brown hair hung down in wild curls, feathers sticking out at odd intervals. She wore a sleeveless brown tunic and leggings, without any shoes on her feet. She did wear finger-less leather gloves that went up to her elbow, allowing her to play the flute without trouble.
She did not acknowledge Legolas and Duarthon approaching until they had dismounted and stood ten meters from her. Opening her eyes, she looked up at them disinterestedly, playing the last few notes of the song before putting down her flute.
"Can I help you, my lords?" she said, not making any indication of getting up.
"We come seeking news," Legolas said, adopting the role of diplomat. "Word has reached us that dark forces are spreading from the south. We came to inquire as to whether you have further information regarding these dark forces, or where we may seek out a source of this dark power?"
"Dol Guldur is the epicenter of the evil you speak of. I rarely travel that far south." She spoke as if the entire idea bored her greatly. "Be careful if you travel that way. The giant spiders are spreading and wargs hunt whatever moves."
As she finished her warning, she pulled a piece of bloody meat from a pouch on her belt and threw it in the air, her eyes still on Legolas and Duarthon. Legolas's eyes followed the meat, and he was startled when a hawk flew out of nowhere and snatched it from the air before landing in a nearby pine to consume the treat.
"Is there no other news you can share with us, my lady?" Legolas asked when he regained his composure.
"None. Radagast is the one you need to speak with about that sort of thing. It is a wizard's business, not mine." Dimoriel stood and turned, showing her intention to end the conversation there.
"Perhaps you could guide us to find the wizard?" Duarthon asked hurriedly before she could disappear.
"Why do you need my help?"
"We are not as familiar with the southern half of the forest as you are, my lady," Duarthon said, eager to get her to guide them. "Surely you will be able to lead us to the wizard quicker than if we were to seek him out on our own."
"I don't see what help I would be. You should be able to find Rhosgobel fairly easily."
"What if the wizard is not home?" Duarthon inquired.
"Do you need me to show you how to defeat the evil power as well?" Dimoriel snapped, showing the first sign of emotion since they had rode up. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before she continued. "I can tell you how to get through the mountains so you don't have to go around, but then you're on your own."
"That would be greatly appreciated," Legolas said, sending Duarthon a look as Dimoriel turned and beckoned for them to follow.
The elves wound their way through the dense growth until they unexpectedly came upon a tall cedar growing between the cracks in the mountain. A staircase had been chiseled out of the wall and led towards the upper branches, where a wooden home had been constructed, braced between the mountainside and the cedar. Dimoriel began up the staircase, and the other elves followed quickly.
It was obvious once they got inside that Dimoriel had never entertained anyone before. Plants grew through the windows and walls, various projects such as carvings and drawings were strewn haphazardly around the room, and there was barely space for Legolas and Duarthon to squeeze in.
"Here," Dimoriel said, pulling a scroll off a wooden shelf and clearing a space on a table by pushing everything to one side. "This is my map of the south. Rhosgobel is here," she said, pointing to a tiny image of a house with a tree growing through it near the bottom of the page. "If you take this path down the mountain," she said, trailing her finger down the image of the path. "You can follow this stream south when you reach it. When it intersects with this path," she said, pointing again. "Turn right and follow it until you reach Rhosgobel."
"Thank you, my lady," Legolas said, committing the map to memory, hoping that it would be as easy as Dimoriel made it sound. "Your assistance is appreciated."
"Just don't make a habit of it," she said in response as Legolas and Duarthon squeezed their way back out the door.
"I have never met an elf that could stand to live in such a cluttered mess," Duarthon said as soon as they had mounted and were riding down the southern side of the mountain. "I see why she and the wizard get along."
"I'm sure she has her reasons," Legolas said, his own memory trying to uncover a story that was told to him about the lady. She was slightly infamous in the halls of his father, but he could not remember why. "At least she could have given us food and other supplies," Duarthon muttered to himself. "She did have quite the garden." Suddenly, an apple flew out of the trees in front of them and smacked Duarthon in the head. Rubbing the spot, he looked around for the source.
"The garden is how I survive in the winter," Dimoriel said, dropping out of the tree in front of them. "It is far too early to harvest anyway."
"So are you coming?" Legolas asked, noticing her change of clothes and the bow strapped to her back. She was now dressed in a green tunic with a leather jerkin over it, with boots and her gloves completing the outfit. "What made you change your mind?"
"You're right," she said simply. "You can't find Radagast without me."