You Can't Take Me

Chapter 13

"Get the wounded bandaged up as quickly as possible. We need to get out of here before the enemy regroups!" Legolas called out, helping one of the guards extract a dead elf from beneath a pile of goblin corpses. They had found at least six dead so far.

"Legolas!" Legolas looked up at Duarthon's call. The elf was kneeling in a mud puddle about twenty yards down the path. Legolas finished putting the dead on the nearest horse before he made his way through the carnage towards Duarthon. He couldn't see what Duarthon had called him for until he was only a few yards away.

"By the Valar," he whispered, running the last few steps and falling to his knees, wiping away the blood and knotted hair that covered Dimoriel's face. She had obviously put up quite a fight. Her body was shredded in multiple places, white bone showing through the blood and torn flesh on her shoulder.

"She's still alive," Duarthon said quickly as Legolas looked her over carefully. "She needs to be treated now."

"Help me get her out of the mud," Legolas said, his anxiety growing the more he looked at her wounds. Duarthon helped him lift her carefully onto a dry patch of earth. "Get me some bandages."

As Duarthon ran off, Legolas tried futilely to wipe the rest of the blood off her face. She had multiple scars across her cheek from wolf claws that continued oozing as he put pressure on her bleeding shoulder to stem the flow there. He was amazed she was still breathing. Based on the number and extent of her wounds, she wouldn't last long if she lost any more blood.

"Don't die on me now, Dimoriel," he said softly, putting his hand on her forehead. Duarthon returned with a handful of bandages and a canteen of water. Between the two of them they cleaned and dressed the worst of her wounds.

"Prince Legolas! We have to leave. The wargs are returning from the south."

"Head north. We ride until we reach Rhosgobel. We can take care of the injured and bury the dead once we get clear of the worst of this." Those that were mounted began riding north as instructed, a handful waiting behind for Legolas and Duarthon as they finished tending Dimoriel. Duarthon picked her up carefully as Legolas mounted Caranghir, carefully handing the limp elleth to the prince. He held her to his chest, her head on his shoulder as he quickly turned and began galloping north. Duarthon paused long enough to pick up Dimoriel's discarded sword, half hidden among the dead, before mounting and following behind Legolas with the rest of the guards.

"What about the wizards?" one of the guards asked as the rode away from the fortress.

"There is nothing we can do about them," Legolas said, far more concerned about the dying elleth in his arms than the absent wizards. "If they escape Dol Guldur, they will know where to find us."

It was early the next morning, several hours before dawn, when they reached Rhosgobel. Duarthon helped as Legolas took the still unconscious Dimoriel off the horse and into the wizard's house. There were already a handful of elves being tended inside, while others had begun digging graves for their fallen comrades.

"She is failing," Legolas said, laying Dimoriel on table, his voice wracked with anxiety. "She has lost so much blood."

"I think she has broken rib," Duarthon added, noting a dark bruise that was visible through her tattered tunic. Legolas carefully cut away the shredded parts of her clothing. Despite the dire circumstances, he left part of her shirt wrapped around her chest for modesty. With the loose fabric gone, he could see her upper body was covered in dark bruises. Her shoulder was still the worst off, and he undid the wrappings around it to expose the damaged skin once more.

"See if you can find a needle and thread," Legolas said, examining the puncture wounds carefully. He took a bowl of water from one of the nearby guards and began cleaning away the blood and dirt from her body. This exposed even more cuts and bruises. He shook his head, muttering to himself as he ran his hands over the damaged areas.

"How bad is her back?" Duarthon asked, returning with more medical supplies, including a needle, which he quickly threaded and got to work sewing her shoulder back together.

"I haven't looked. There is so much damage on her front I hadn't taken the time to check."

"She must have some deep cuts, I can see blood running through the cracks of this table."

"Are you sure they aren't from her shoulder?" Legolas asked, starting to wrap up the claw marks on her right leg.

"Hard to tell, but it looks too low to be from her shoulder. Her rib might have punctured something."

"That's the last thing she needs," Legolas said, finishing the wrap on her leg and checking her ribs. She did indeed have a broken lower rib, but nothing looked or felt like it had been punctured.

"She needs a healer. I don't think we can fix this by ourselves."

"Perhaps Mithrandir or Radagast can do more, if they made it out."

"Do you want to wait?"

"No," Legolas admitted, looking up at Dimoriel's face once more. "We need to ride north as soon as possible."

"I'll wrap her shoulder, then you and some of the guards can start north. I will follow with the rest once we have buried the dead and the wounded are fit to travel."

Legolas nodded, but was interrupted as the door opened, the two wizards entering the house.

"What happened?" Legolas asked, standing upright to address Radagast and Mithrandir.

"We faced the Necromancer," Mithrandir said, obviously weary from the experience. "I do believe he has fled Dol Guldur."

"I see things did not go so well for you," Radagast said, coming over to look down at Dimoriel. "Dear me, she is torn to shreds!"

"But still alive," Legolas said, standing at the wizard's side. "Can either of you do anything for her?"

"She is lucky to be breathing," Mithrandir said, his hands hovering about an inch over her side. "This rib could have punctured her lung. It's amazing you got her here without making it worse."

"Can you do anything?" Legolas repeated in earnest, watching the grey wizard.

"I will try," Mithrandir said seriously as he started examining her numerous injuries. "It is best if you leave her to me. Go help your comrades. I will let you know when I am finished."

Reluctantly, Legolas turned away from Dimoriel as the wizard started muttering to himself, Radagast carefully examining the shoulder Duarthon had recently sewed back together.

"Mithrandir will make sure she stays alive until we get her proper treatment," Duarthon assured him, leading him outside. "She has lasted this long, after all."

Legolas nodded, but he only felt his anxiety grow. Now that he was not focused on healing her, he felt the full weight of her injuries hit him. It was amazing she was alive when they found her, and nothing short of miraculous that she had made it all the way to Rhosgobel. Her wounds were beyond anything he had seen before in a still-living creature. Some of the dead elves, laid out on sheets as they waited for their proper burial, didn't even look as bad as Dimoriel did, lying there on the wizard's kitchen table. He suddenly felt weak at the knees, and sat heavily on the root of a nearby tree. Duarthon, sensing his friend's need to be alone, gave the prince's shoulder a comforting squeeze before he made for the group of elves still digging grave sites out on the edge of the forest.

Sitting there by himself, Legolas watched his companions slowly digging in the earth, their faces solemn after the horrors they had seen the day before. The light of the morning sun was just starting to peak over the treetops, illuminating the river off in the distance. It was all too much for Legolas. He felt tears silently fall from his eyes, and he buried his face in his hands, letting the sorrow consume him.

Legolas woke suddenly, the afternoon sun on his face. He looked around and saw Mithrandir standing patiently next to him, waiting for him to wake. Legolas stood abruptly, eager to hear the news.

"She should be fine," Mithrandir said softly, smiling at the elf. "She is still unconscious as her body heals itself, but she should wake in a few days. I believe it is safe to move her, as long as you do not ride too hard. Her rib will take some time to heal and you don't want it doing more damage."

"Thank you, Mithrandir," Legolas said, his voice full of relief. He quickly walked past the wizard and reentered the house, his eyes immediately finding the elleth, now lying on the bed in a clean tunic, a blanket pulled up to her chest. Legolas sat on the edge of the bed, taking Dimoriel's hand in his, not caring about the elves whispering quietly behind him.

"We will have you home soon," he said softly, kissing her fingers and gently rubbing his thumb in a circle on the back of her hand. "I promise, I will make sure nothing bad happens to you again. No more nightmares, no more wars. Just peace and quiet."

The elves departed Rhosgobel the next morning, heading north along the edge of the forest until they reached the forest path north of the mountains. They did not want to risk running into more wargs before they got the injured home. It had been a sad burial of their friends the previous night, the six fallen elves carefully laid to rest outside Rhosgobel.

It was slow going, with so many injured. Most had started healing quickly and were able to ride, but couldn't ride for more than a few hours without severe pain. Others were too injured to ride, and were carried in makeshift stretchers between pairs of horses. Legolas refused to let Dimoriel be carried this way, insisting on having her ride with him, despite the fact that she remained unconscious. When Duarthon pointed out that this might only cause more injury, he ignored the other elf's logic, stating that she would get more jostled riding between horses than on a horse.

When they were only a couple days' ride away from the palace, they settled down for the night, glad that they would soon be home. Legolas had not slept much since they left Rhosgobel, watching Dimoriel like a hawk, making sure she did not get worse as time went on, dutifully changing her bandages regularly. Duarthon thought he was acting a bit obsessive, especially when he refused Duarthon's offer to watch her so he could sleep. But as the relief of being so close to home washed over him, he finally drifted off to sleep, still sitting propped up next to Dimoriel as she lay on the ground next to the fire.

When he woke, the first thing he did was check on Dimoriel. The second thing he did was start panicking, as she was nowhere in sight.

"Relax, Legolas," Durathon said, coming over and pushing the prince back down as he tried to stand up. "She is fine. She woke during the night and went for a walk. She has been unconscious for nearly six days, you can't blame her for wanting to move around a little."

"Where did she go?" Legolas asked, with every intention of going after her.

"She is just a little ways ahead of us. Eat some breakfast. She will be back when she is ready."

Reluctantly, Legolas ate the bread and cheese Duarthon handed him. He kept his eyes on the path, waiting for Dimoriel to return. When she finally appeared, her cloak wrapped tightly around her as she slowly made her way towards the rest of the elves, Legolas sprang to his feet, hastily walking over to meet her.

"Are you alright?" he asked earnestly, refraining from pulling her into a hug in case such an action burst any of her stitches.

"I am fine," she said, looking up at him with a smile, though she looked tired. "Surprised I am alive, from what Duarthon told me."

"You don't remember anything?" Legolas asked, leading her over to the edge of the camp and carefully helping her to sit down. She accepted his assistance without complaint, her face screwed up in pain as she slowly eased onto the ground.

"I remember bits and pieces," she said, pulling her cloak tighter once more. "I remember the warg grabbing me by the shoulder and hurling me against the tree. I remember watching the last goblin suffer after I cut open his stomach, and then cutting off his head."

The nonchalant way she said this last part took Legolas by surprise, but he chose to ignore it, focusing instead on the warg part.

"The warg is what nearly got you. Between the blood loss and your broken rib, you could easily have died if not for Mithrandir."

"Where is he? I had hoped to thank him."

"He said he had business to the west," Legolas explained, watching Dimoriel closely. "Do you need anything? Food? Water? Rest?"

"I think I've rested enough," she said with a smile. Her face looked gaunt and still bore the scars of her recent brush with death, but he was glad to see that some of the softness had returned to her eyes.

"Well if you are ready, we can head out. You are riding with me, and I will hear no arguments."

"Duarthon told me I was not going to have a choice in the matter," Dimoriel said, watching him stand up again. The rest of the camp began packing up as well, getting ready to depart. "I assure you, I can ride."

"Your rib and shoulder say otherwise," Legolas said, taking care of his gear as Dimoriel waited to move. "I am not taking any chances."

"I don't suppose there is anything I can say to change your mind."

"Not a thing," Legolas said, finishing with his gear and returning for Dimoriel. "Come on, I promise I will make this as painless as possible."

For the rest of the day, even when they stopped to rest, Legolas refused to let Dimoriel get more than a few feet away from him. He hovered around her, anxiously making sure she wasn't in too much pain, or that she didn't need anything else to make her more comfortable. For her part, Dimoriel was surprisingly calm about the whole thing, patiently reassuring Legolas that she was fine every few minutes. Duarthon busied himself helping the other injured elves, knowing that the doting she was getting from Legolas was probably all Dimoriel could take. If it had been anyone else, he was sure she would have tried punching them, ripping her shoulder open again in the process.

When they stopped for the night, Legolas again refused to sleep, propping himself up next to Dimoriel instead. They talked for a little while before the elleth finally drifted off. Legolas watched her sleep for a long time before he eventually passed out a little after midnight. It wasn't until after he had fallen asleep that one of the elves approached Duarthon, who was sitting on the edge of the camp on watch for the next few hours.

"Lord Duarthon," the elf asked softly, sitting next to him. "I know it is not my business, but what is the relationship between Prince Legolas and Lady Dimoriel? I was watching her fight those wargs, and I have heard rumors about her that worry me."

"Don't believe everything you hear," Duarthon said with an encouraging smile at the young elf. "Prince Legolas feels responsible for Dimoriel after he convinced her to return from the mountains. As for those rumors, I am not sure what exactly you've heard, but it would be best not to bring it up in front of either Prince Legolas or Lady Dimoriel, particularly if it relates to her past. It is a sensitive topic and you would do well not to concern yourself with such things. Go to sleep. If we leave shortly after dawn we can make it to the palace before dark."

"Yes, my lord," the elf said, standing and returning to his place around one of the campfires. Duarthon sighed as his eyes returned to the darkness around him. Despite his reassurances, he was not at all certain about Legolas and Dimoriel. He too was worried about their relationship. Her brush with death had only seemed to make Legolas more determined to be a part of her life. He wasn't sure what was going to happen when they got back to the palace, but he had a feeling it wasn't going to be easy for the two of them.

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