For the second time in two days, Legolas woke to find Dimoriel missing. This time, however, Sulinte was gone too.
Standing abruptly, he started packing quickly, intent on finding her.
"What's wrong?" Duarthon asked, sitting up groggily.
"Dimoriel's missing again."
"Let her be," Duarthon said with a sigh, massaging his eyes. "We are back in your father's realm and she is not going to go very far anyway. Calm down."
"She shouldn't be riding," Legolas insisted, continuing his packing. Duarthon looked around, apparently not expecting her to have taken Sulinte.
"Be happy she is feeling well enough to ride on her own," Duarthon said, standing up and stretching. "I still don't think she will have gone very far. She will meet up with us as soon as we depart, I am sure."
"Fine," Legolas said grudgingly, stopping his frantic and sloppy packing.
Sure enough, Dimoriel rode into camp just before they made to head out.
"Where did you ride off to?" Legolas asked, trying not to sound irritated.
"I wanted to see if riding would bother me at all. It isn't too bad. I can feel my rib and my shoulder is stiff, but that isn't just because of the riding."
"I am glad you are feeling better," Legolas said with a smile, though he seemed a little disappointed that she was healing so fast.
"As am I," Dimoriel said, watching him mount Caranghir.
They rode most of the day, stopping briefly for lunch. Everyone was eager to get home, so they agreed to continue on without another stop.
They were about an hour ride away from the palace when Dimoriel paused. While the rest of the guards kept riding, some of them looking at her curiously, Legolas turned Caranghir to look at her questioningly.
"I think I will just head home from here. I don't need to go all the way back to the palace just to come back this way." She started heading north, but Legolas galloped forward, placing Caranghir in her way on the path.
"I don't think so," he said firmly, his face set in a stubborn scowl. "You will do no such thing. You are going to the palace to have your injuries examined."
"But I am fine now, really," Dimoriel insisted, her eyes meeting his. "There is no need for me to bother the healers with my minor cuts and bruises."
"They are healers. That is what they are for. And your injuries are anything but minor. I will order you to return to the palace if I have to."
"But I am fine!" Dimoriel insisted, pulling her cloak tighter around herself, her face falling into a scowl just as stubborn as Legolas's.
"I will drag you there if I have to. You are not going home until someone looks at your injuries. Mithrandir said that your rib would need proper tending before it could heal normally."
Dimoriel continued scowling but turned her horse to follow the guards. Legolas rode behind her, making sure she didn't try and flee when he wasn't looking. As they came within sight of the palace shortly before nightfall, he rode up beside her, watching her eyes look up at the doors, fear evident in them.
"It will be alright," he said softly, dismounting and looking up at her. "I won't leave your side."
Dimoriel took a deep breath and dismounted, leaving one of the servants to take her horse to the stables for care. Legolas noticed her bite her lip against the pain as she moved abruptly, and he took her arm gently, making sure she didn't stumble.
"Come, we will get you patched up." Nodding, Dimoriel let him lead her inside. She gripped his arm tightly, her nervousness at being in the palace growing with every step she took. Gently, Legolas steered her to a side hall, taking the long way to the infirmary in order to avoid the most traffic. In reality, Legolas was most concerned that he would run into the King. The quickest way took them past the King's study, and he knew that running into Thranduil would be terrible for Dimoriel's nerves.
They reached the infirmary after passing through several deserted hallways. Legolas approached the nearest healer, Dimoriel still clinging to his arm.
"Prince Legolas, what can I do for you?"
"Lady Dimoriel has suffered some major injuries during our mission in the south, I am afraid," Legolas said, looking at the lady to his left. "She has a broken rib and a severely damaged shoulder, to name a few."
"Let me take a look," the healer said, leading them to a tiny room where she told Dimoriel to take off her cloak and have a seat. Hesitantly, Dimoriel slowly removed her cloak, with some help from Legolas. As soon as it was off, he gave a sharp intake of breath.
"I thought you said you were fine," he said, irritation mixed with worry as he looked at the bloody bandages around her shoulder. "You popped some of your stitches riding, didn't you?"
"Really, it isn't that bad," Dimoriel said, wincing as he gently touched her shoulder.
"I hope your rib didn't do any more damage either," he said, checking her side for signs of more blood. There didn't appear to be any, but there were a number of layers of linen that covered up the cuts and bruises."
"I will take care of her, Prince Legolas," the healer said softly, taking his arm and steering him towards the exit. "Unless you need care, I am afraid I must ask you to leave."
Legolas gave Dimoriel a look, apologizing silently for leaving her alone. Dimoriel smiled, letting him know that she would be alright for the moment. As the healer shut the door, he turned to leave. His father would be expecting a report and would not be happy to wait.
"What news?" King Thranduil asked as soon as Legolas entered his study, bowing his head respectfully.
"Dol Guldur has been freed from the Necromancer's dark magic," Legolas said firmly, eyes meeting his father's. "Mithrandir and Radagast entered the fortress as we fought off the hoards of dark servants that protected their master."
"The Necromancer?" Thranduil said, voice full of concern. "And they are sure he is defeated?"
"No, not defeated. He fled from them, according to Mithrandir. I believe the wizard thinks he will return. But for now, we have thinned the ranks of our foes to the south and the dark magic should be held at bay."
"How many lost?" Thranduil asked, turning towards his window and staring out over the treetops.
"Six. Many more are being treated by the healers. Those that fell were buried outside Rhosgobel."
"I am glad more were not lost. Will you and Duarthon inform the families?"
"Yes sir," Legolas said heavily. He hated this part of being in charge. Seeing the misery in the faces of family members when they are told their loved ones were not coming back broke his heart every time. He left quietly to complete his grim task.
"I would like a detailed report when you are done," Thranduil said, not turning around.
"Yes sir," Legolas repeated before the door shut behind him.
As soon as he was done with his sad task, Legolas went to check on Dimoriel. He had not been gone for long, but he was surprised at what he found.
"Prince Legolas, I am glad you're here. We've been having some trouble…"
"Is Dimoriel alright?" he asked in concern, worried she might have regressed after her blood loss that afternoon.
"That is a matter of opinion, I think," the healer said, her brow furrowed. "Come with me."
She led Legolas into the room where he had left Dimoriel, and found her brandishing a hot poker, backed into a corner by several healers.
"What do you think you're doing?" Legolas asked, horrified to see Dimoriel clutching a bloody cloth to her shoulder, the same one that was currently holding up the poker like a sword.
"Let me go home," she said angrily, aiming the poker at him as he came closer to her. "I will heal myself."
"We were trying to reset her rib, my lord," one of the healers said, fear creeping into her voice as the poker swung over towards her.
"Where did she get the poker?" he asked, not taking his eyes of the red hot end.
"We were going to cauterize her shoulder after setting her rib." Legolas sighed. He knew he shouldn't have left her here on her own.
"Dimoriel," he said slowly, getting ready to grab the poker from her if he got the chance. "You need proper healing. Calm down and let them fix your injuries."
"I don't need fixing. You shouldn't have brought me here."
"I shouldn't have left you alone, but you need to be here." One of the healers moved to Dimoriel's left, and her eyes quickly flickered away from Legolas, giving him the opening he needed to lunge forward, grabbing the middle of the poker. Dimoriel's eyes returned to him instantly as she tried to spin free, but as she moved, she let out a gasp of pain, letting go of the poker as her other hand gripped her shoulder tighter.
Legolas quickly caught her as she fell forward, hissing in pain, squeezing her eyes shut.
"Do you believe me now?" Legolas asked, taking her elbow and helping her stand back up as he handed the poker to one of the healers. He led her over to the bed, forcing her gently to sit down as the healers moved around the room, preparing for the extensive work they had ahead of them.
"I've been through worse," Dimoriel said, though she didn't fight back as Legolas picked up her ankles and swung her legs onto the bed.
"I certainly hope not," he said, putting his hand on her good shoulder and forcing her back onto the bed. "Any worse than this, and you'd have been dead. You never should have made it this far." Legolas moved out of the way as one of the healers came up to the bed, moving the light shirt Dimoriel wore out of the way so she could see the damaged rib. It was not glaringly evident, but Legolas could tell that it was not in the right spot.
"This is going to hurt," the healer said, looking up at Dimoriel, who closed her eyes, gripping the bed sheets. Kneeling next to the bed, Legolas took one of her hands and held it in his. As the healer pushed on the rib, Dimoriel arched her back, letting out a high-pitched scream. It was over in a moment, and Dimoriel opened her eyes, gasping in pain as she squeezed Legolas's hand tightly.
"It's alright, she's done," Legolas said, looking down at the rib, now in the right spot as the healer covered her side once more.
"That hurts more than it did getting picked up and thrown against the tree in the first place," Dimoriel said, wincing. Legolas smiled.
"I'm sure it does. I didn't get to see the worst of it, but you had the bloodlust. I am sure that's the only way you lasted as long as you did with these wounds."
"I need to cauterize your shoulder now, my lady," the healer said hesitantly, looking down at Dimoriel. Dimoriel looked up at her, then at Legolas. Carefully, she sat up and pulled her shoulder out of her shirt, exposing the reopened wound. The healer held out a small strip of wood.
"Bite this. I know your rib hurt, but this is going to be worse. It is going to take a bit longer to cauterize the whole thing."
Dimoriel took the piece of wood hesitantly before she put it in her mouth, gritting it between her teeth.
"Prince Legolas, if you would hold her down please." Legolas let go of Dimoriel's hand, reaching across her chest to hold down her other arm, pinning her uninjured shoulder to the bed. He met her eyes as she looked up at him fearfully.
"It will be over soon," he said softly, looking up at the healer as she grabbed the poker out of the bed of coals where it had been placed. Bracing himself for a fight, Legolas watched the hot poker as it made contact with Dimoriel's skin. She let out another scream, muffled slightly by the strip of wood in her mouth. She writhed in pain as the healer moved onto another patch of skin, which sizzled as the poker made contact. Dimoriel kept screaming and writhing in pain as the healer continued.
Legolas bit his own lip, fighting to keep the elleth still as the healer cauterized the warg bite. She was almost done when Dimoriel finally passed out from the pain, going limp beneath Legolas's grip. He let go as the healer finished, turning away to go fetch bandages for the shoulder. Legolas took the piece of wood out of Dimoriel's mouth and brushed her sweaty hair from her forehead as he continued kneeling beside her bed.
"You'll be alright now," he said softly, brushing his knuckles against the scars on her cheek. Before he could think better of it, he kissed her forehead and stood, looking up as the healer reentered the room with her arms full of clean bandages.
"I think I can handle the rest now, Prince Legolas," she said with a soft smile. "She will be out for a while, but you are welcome to come back later tonight and check on her."
"Thank you," Legolas said, looking down at Dimoriel once more before walking towards the exit. He still hadn't been back to his quarters to change since coming home. A bath and some clean clothes, and he would be ready to face the lengthy interrogation from his father over dinner.
"Hopefully this means the warg sightings will cease as they crawl back into the depths of the south," Thranduil said with a sigh. "I am glad it is over, but I am worried about what Mithrandir said."
"It may be many centuries before his return," Legolas said, picking up his goblet and taking a sip of wine. "We must keep a watchful eye on the fortress for new activity, though."
"I agree," Thranduil said, resting his elbows on the table and folding his fingers under his chin. "It will be necessary to make regular visits south. I will discuss this more with you later. I am sure you both are tired." He looked around at Duarthon who had not said much during dinner. "You have had a long week."
"We are glad to be back," Duarthon said with a polite smile. He and Legolas began standing, thinking they were dismissed, but Thranduil wasn't done.
"What of Lady Dimoriel? You failed to mention her part in the journey."
"She scouted ahead most of the way down," Legolas said, returning to his seat, wary of his father's curiosity. "And she fought ferociously in the battle outside Dol Guldur. Only with the wizards' healing was she able to survive the trip here to be tended by healers."
"Yes, I heard about the incident earlier," Thranduil said, watching his son carefully. "She could have injured those healers."
"She was not having a fit, ada. Her rib was broken and her shoulder was badly torn by a warg bite. She was uncomfortable being in the palace in the first place, and the pressure and pain of healing made her nervous."
"Very well. You may go." Legolas stood once more, Duarthon following suit. "Not you, Duarthon, I would like a word."
Puzzled, Duarthon settled back into his seat, glancing at Legolas before the other elf disappeared into the hallway, leaving Duarthon alone with the king.
Duarthon sat quietly, waiting for the king to say something. Thranduil stared at his goblet for a while, looking like he had forgotten Duarthon was there.
"My lord?" he asked hesitantly after a minute of silence.
"What is the relationship between my son and Lady Dimoriel?" the king asked finally, looking up at Duarthon with his piercing blue eyes. Not entirely sure how to answer this question, Duarthon shifted uncomfortably in his seat for a moment, thinking about how to respond.
"I think they have become quite close in the past month," Duarthon said evasively.
"Legolas seems to have very strong feelings for the lady."
"I don't think Prince Legolas knows what he feels for Dimoriel," Duarthon replied honestly.
"Be frank with me, Duarthon," Thranduil said, his eyes boring into Duarthon's. "Do you think he loves her?"
"I think," Duarthon said slowly, "it is only a matter of time before Prince Legolas comes to that conclusion."
At that moment, Legolas was checking up on Dimoriel, who had woken up from her most recent trauma.
"Are you feeling any better?" he asked, sitting next to her on the bed as she sat upright, eating a small pasty he had brought up for her, along with some tea and an apple.
"I feel like my entire arm is numb, and my rib is still throbbing," she said with a sigh, looking down at her many bandages. "When will I finally be allowed to go home?"
"I would get comfortable if I were you," Legolas said with a smile. "Nestantiel says you will be confined to bed for at least another four days while your rib and shoulder mend."
"Four days?!" she said incredulously. "I will not stay bedridden for four days. I was unconscious for almost six. That is enough rest for me."
"Complain all you want, but you are not going anywhere until those wounds heal properly. You made them worse by riding around, so now they will take longer to heal."
"You can't keep me here," she said, scowling up at him.
"Oh yes I can. I will assign guards to watch you if you start causing trouble. You will never make it out of the palace without getting caught."
"I think that's a challenge," Dimoriel said fiercely, a wicked smirk on her face. "I will get out of here."
"I will be sure to let the healers know of your intentions then," Legolas said, smiling pleasantly back at her. "They will lock you in here except when someone comes to check on you or change your bandages."
"So I'm a prisoner?"
"If you are going to try to escape, yes. You are a prisoner until you heal. It is only four days. If you do not strain yourself and actually improve in that time, you may get to go home. If you fight and make it worse, you will only make yourself have to stay longer."
"This is ridiculous," Dimoriel said, looking at her teacup like she wanted to throw it. "I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself."
"And yet you are acting like a child who has not gotten her way," Legolas pointed out. "You will survive. I will come visit you when I can over the next few days."
"To keep me out of trouble," Dimoriel said huffily.
"We are not going through this again, are we?" Legolas said, giving her a scolding look. "Now try and get some sleep. You look tired."
He stood to go, but he looked back at Dimoriel as she grabbed his hand.
"Will you stay?" she said softly, her frustration from a moment ago gone. "At least until I fall asleep?"
"If you would like me to," he said, sitting back down with a smile. "If it will help, I will sing for you as well."
"I would like that," Dimoriel said softly, settling back against her pillows. His hand still in Dimoriel's, Legolas began to sing softly, watching Dimoriel as she started drifting off. More than anything, he was glad she was healing properly, safe in the palace. For the next few days at least, he would be able to visit her regularly, perhaps taking a meal or two in the infirmary. He hadn't really known her that long, but he wasn't sure what he would have done if she had died of her wounds. All he knew for sure was that feeling her hand warm in his and watching her chest rise and fall as she breathed slowly in her sleep, he felt at peace. Despite everything she had put him through, he was glad she was there with him.