You Can't Take Me

Chapter 11

Neither Lithiril nor Duarthon was surprised to hear that Legolas began spending several evenings a week at Dimoriel's house. What did surprise them was that the King didn't appear to be doing anything about it. Everyone in the palace knew Legolas was going off into the woods every couple days, though most assumed it was to get away from the craziness in Thranduil's halls that was keeping everyone busy with the harvest. Duarthon was fairly certain Thranduil knew exactly what his son was doing when he rode out into the woods.

As usual, Dimoriel would come over once a week for dinner with her friends. Over the next few weeks, she was almost always joined by Legolas, who only missed once because his father had him riding out to intercept a shipment coming in from the south. The couple noticed the difference in Dimoriel's mood between when she was there alone and when she came with Legolas. When Legolas was with her, her face was softer, she smiled more, and her voice was merrier. When he was not with her, her face would fall back into shadow, becoming sharper as her voice lost its cheer. She did not digress back to how she was when she first returned from the mountains, but there was a distinct difference between her bearing when the prince was with her and when he was not.

Dimoriel herself just enjoyed spending time with Legolas. It was different than with Maenthor. Whereas the latter had asked about trivial matters, she had real discussions with Legolas. They never talked about her past unless she brought something up, in which case he would listen patiently as she voiced her fears and doubts. He would inevitably say something when she was finished that would make her heart lighter. She had always sat inside pouring over books and charts with Maenthor, but with Legolas she could go riding, go on walks, or just sit out on her balcony talking for hours.

After several weeks of their companionship, Dimoriel found herself face to face with reality. She woke up in a cold sweat, screaming, her whole body shaking from the images she had just felt, so real and vivid. She couldn't explain what had happened, but her nightmares had returned, stronger than ever. But it wasn't until the second time she woke like this, several days after the first time, that she realized it was not just a fluke.

"I am frightened, Lithiril. I don't know what is making this happen."

"Nothing has triggered any episodes or caused you any anxiety?"

"No, nothing," Dimoriel said, running her fingers through her hair. "This has never happened before."

"Have you told Legolas?"

"No," Dimoriel said with a sigh. "I don't want him worrying about me and insisting on staying to make sure I don't have nightmares. He can't sit and watch me sleep every night, and since I don't know what is triggering them, I can't predict when they'll happen."

"I understand your reasoning, but I think he would want to know."

Despite Lithiril's advice, Dimoriel did not tell Legolas about the nightmares. But after two weeks of restless sleep, he noticed a change in her behavior.

"What is wrong?" he asked, watching as she stood by the stove, wearily stirring her stew.

"I am fine. Just a little tired," she said smiling in a futile attempt to convince him. He stood up from the table and walked over to her, gently cupping her cheeks with his hands to turn her face towards his. His eyes were full of concern as he looked into hers, searching for answers.

"You aren't tired, you're exhausted," he said, his concern growing as he noticed the dark circles below her eyes. "Have you not been sleeping?"

"I'm fine, really," Dimoriel said, pulling away from him and pouring herself another cup of tea. "I was just up late last night reading."

"I know full well you can go at least forty-eight hours without sleeping and still be able to function fully," Legolas said, not believing her for a moment. "What is wrong?"

"Nothing," she said more firmly. Legolas noticed the hostility starting to creep into her tone. He had not heard it in over a month, and it only caused him more concern.

"Why won't you tell me what is wrong, mellonamin?" he asked, watching her closely as she stood with her back to him. She didn't look at him, and just stirred the stew in silence for a long time.

"I don't want you to worry about me," she said softly, her eyes focused on the pot in front of her.

"Dimoriel, I'm going to worry about you even if you don't tell me." She sighed, turning to look at him finally.

"The nightmares are back," she said, her eyes meeting his briefly before she looked down at his boots. "I don't know why. I don't have them every night, but for the last couple weeks, they have kept me up, whether I fall asleep and they wake me up or I can't sleep worrying about whether I will have them again."

"You should have told me," he said, reaching out and tucking her hair behind her ear, making her look up at him. "I would have helped."

"I don't want you coming out here every night just to see if I sleep or not. You have a lot of work to worry about without worrying about me too."

"I still could come out and at least give you a few nights of peace. You know I will not be able to go back tonight until I am sure you get a full night's sleep."

"No, you have to. You have that shipment coming in tomorrow. You need sleep more than I do."

"Nonsense. I will be fine. I am staying, and there is nothing you can do to stop me."

"Thank you, Legolas," she said after a short pause, smiling softly up at him.

"You know I would do anything for you," he said, pulling her into a tight hug, stroking her hair as she laid her head on his chest.

Dimoriel sat on her bed, leaning against the headboard. Legolas sat on the end, leaning against one of the bed posts as he speculated about what caused these new waves of nightmares.

"So you haven't had any problems with anxiety lately?"

"No, nothing. I haven't really gone anywhere except out on rides and to visit Lithiril and Duarthon."

"It isn't the anniversary of any major battle is it?"

"Not that I recall," Dimoriel said, thinking about it. "I suppose it could be, but that doesn't explain why it is happening now. I went many years without an attack or nightmares while I was up in the mountains."

"You don't think the new environment is causing it, do you?"

"I doubt it. I went through a number of moves before I ended up in the mountains, and never had a problem like this."

Legolas sat in silence, arms folded as he thought about all the potential causes of this new dilemma. After several minutes of silence, he finally voiced the one concern he actually saw as plausible.

"Could it be because the darkness in the south is spreading?"

"Do you think it is affecting me all the way up here?"

"I don't know, but what I do know is that there are elves further south that are starting to feel the effects. There have even been reports of wargs north of the mountains in the last few weeks. Perhaps you are just more sensitive to the changes because you have had trauma in the past."

Dimoriel pondered this in silence. He could very well be right. She had been feeling something pressing on her mind in the last few weeks, though she assumed that was a difference in air pressure as the weather started to get colder as winter grew closer. But maybe it was the dark magic seeping up from the south.

"Has there been any news from Radagast or Mithrandir?"

"No, not yet. I hope Radagast is alright."

"I am sure he is fine. As odd as he may be, he is an extremely capable wizard."

"I do wish that Mithrandir would get here soon though," Legolas said heavily. "My father is getting worried that we won't be able to stop the spreading darkness if we don't do something soon. We may have to go to Dol Guldur without the wizard."

"If you do go, I would like to go as well," Dimoriel said with determination. "You may have read my report, but I still know the south better than anyone."

"I am not sure I will be able to convince my father of that," Legolas said seriously, meeting her eyes. "It is quite likely he will say you are a liability."

"Well then I will have to ride south by myself and happen upon your group," Dimoriel said defiantly, making Legolas smile. He had no doubts she would do just that if given the chance.

"Either way, I will let you know when he arrives," Legolas replied. "You should probably go to bed now."

"If I can manage to drift off," Dimoriel said, sliding down into her bed as Legolas slid off the end. "Are you sure you'll be alright sleeping on the floor?"

"I will manage just fine," he said, sitting down so his back was to the wall, looking up at her as she watched him from the bed. "Goodnight, Dimoriel."

"Goodnight Legolas," she said softly before turning off the oil lamp beside her bed. Legolas shifted slightly, getting as comfortable as possible on the hard floor. Dimoriel had given him blankets and pillows, but he was going to make sure she was sleeping peacefully before he lied down. As he leaned back, his eyes fell on the wooden chest sitting in the corner. Repressing his curiosity, he instead started singing, hoping his voice would help her drift off sooner. It wasn't long before her breathing slowed, indicating she had fallen into a peaceful sleep. Legolas kept singing for a while, until he was sure she was sleeping peacefully. With one last look at the elleth on the bed, he curled up under the blanket on the floor, falling into his own peaceful sleep.

Legolas woke before dawn, glancing up to see Dimoriel still asleep before quietly folding the blanket and stacking the pillows. He crept downstairs, grabbing his gear and quickly exiting the house. He had to get back to the palace before his father woke or he would be in trouble.

"Don't forget about dinner tomorrow night," Dimoriel called down to him just as he swung himself up onto Caranghir. Smiling up at her as she stood on the balcony, he turned Caranghir towards the path east.

"I won't," he said cheerfully before galloping off. Dimoriel watched him leave before reentering her house to go make breakfast.

If Thranduil noticed his son's absence, he did not say anything. Legolas was put to work shortly after he returned to the palace, directing a handful of harvesting activities at once. He did his job enthusiastically, determined not to give his father a reason to suggest he stop visiting Dimoriel again.

Despite this, when Legolas was summoned to his father's office several days later, he was worried about what his father wanted. Upon opening the door, he realized his fears were unfounded.

"Good evening, Prince Legolas," Mithrandir said with a smile, looking at Legolas from where he stood beside the King's desk. Legolas smiled, bowing his head respectfully to the wizard.

"I am assuming you are here to help us with the issue of Dol Guldur?" Legolas asked, approaching his father and the wizard.

"I am. I apologize it took so long to arrive. I had business to the south."

"As I was saying, Mithrandir," the King said, standing so he could address his companions eye to eye. "I am prepared to send a host of elves down to the fortress with you. Legolas has already studied our situation and has chosen who will be joining you."

"I would appreciate the assistance. How soon can your guards be ready?"

"As soon as you need them, though I suggest you wait until morning, as I expect some heavy rains this evening."

"We shall depart at dawn, then," Mithrandir said. "Now if you will excuse me, I think I will head to dinner."

"I will join you," King Thranduil said, making his way towards the exit.

"I do have one request before we leave," Legolas said, making his father pause and look around, his hand on the door. "Lady Dimoriel has offered her assistance, as she is still the most knowledgeable about the region. Since she is not a member of the Guard, I felt I should ask your permission first."

"Do you think that is wise?" King Thranduil said, giving his son a hard look. "Her instability could prove dangerous in this situation."

"Be that as it may, her familiarity with the area may prove a valuable resource."

"If I may," Mithrandir said, interjecting with a smile. "Lady Dimoriel may be more useful than you realize, not just as a guide."

"Very well, you may send word to her that she is to be here at dawn."

"Thank you, sir," Legolas said, bowing to his father as he and Mithrandir left. Legolas had no intention of sending a message to Dimoriel. He quickly went to the stables and saddled Caranghir, riding out to tell the lady of the plan himself.

Legolas was unsurprised when Dimoriel did not arrive at the palace at dawn. Mithrandir rode up to him as they were about to depart, inquiring about her whereabouts.

"She will most likely meet up with us somewhere to the south. She steadfastly refuses to come within a league of the palace."

"Ah," Mithrandir said, smiling in understanding. "I should have known."

Legolas led the two dozen elves south from the palace, Mithrandir riding beside him. It was rough going for a while, as the rain from the previous night had turned all the paths into mud.

They traveled for over an hour before they came upon Dimoriel. She was perched atop Sulinte, dressed in her normal tunic and leggings, her bow, quiver, and sword strapped to her back. Her soft demeanor was gone.

"I took the liberty of scouting ahead," she explained, falling into formation beside Legolas. "While there are no wargs nearby, I did find tracks about a league to the southwest. They were several days old. I sent Lendis out to determine if we are going to run into any hostiles today."

"Excellent. Is the path any easier ahead?"

"About two leagues south the path becomes narrower. The mud should be less deep at that point."

"Thank you Dimoriel. Would you be willing to lead a scouting party ahead? We will need a place to rest the horses at midday, and a safe place to stay for the night."

"A tributary of the River Running cuts through the forest to the southeast. You should get there shortly after midday. I can lead a scouting party to the south at that time to determine the best location to camp."

"Very well. After we stop I will send you out with two guards."

"Yes my lord," she said, bowing her head before galloping back to fall into line beside Duarthon. It felt weird, such formalities, after how close the two of them had become recently. But this was official business, and the success or failure of the mission was on his head. He was grateful for Dimoriel's cooperation. She had agreed the night before to follow his authority, though she had made a point of saying she was not going to spend the entire time riding with group. He agreed to let her scout ahead, provided she did not disappear for days on end. It was a long journey south to Dol Guldur, and she would certainly get antsy and restless the closer they got to the fortress.

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