You Can't Take Me

Chapter 15

Despite Legolas's assurances, he did not get to visit Dimoriel very often over the next few days. Thranduil had him knee-deep in the harvest, which the kingdom was anxiously trying to finish before the first snows came. Multiple times, he was sent out to meet shipments and ensure they were properly transported and documented, necessitating extended periods of time away from the palace. Legolas was only able to visit Dimoriel late at night, when everything had slowed down for the day, and he was exhausted from the effort.

Legolas didn't mind being sent away from the palace, enjoying the crisp autumn air. But once his father started sending him on missions that had nothing to do with the harvest, Legolas grew suspicious.

"When you are finished in the cellars, I would like you to ride south. There have been complaints of a downed tree on one of the main paths north that needs to be moved."

"A downed tree?" Legolas asked skeptically. "Wouldn't you rather have me here working on harvest reports?"

"Shipments come first, then you can worry about the full reports," Thranduil said, not looking up from his desk where he was reviewing letters arriving from various parts of the kingdom.

"This isn't about the shipments, is it?" Legolas asked, eyes narrowed as he watched his father carefully. "You don't want me in the palace."

"Why wouldn't I want you here?" Thranduil asked evenly, still not looking up.

"Before the attack on Dol Guldur, you were giving me all manner of work in the palace to keep me busy. Now, you are assigning me tasks anywhere but in the palace. Is this about Lady Dimoriel?"

"What do you mean?" Thranduil said casually, ignoring the glare from his son.

"You are trying to keep me away from her, aren't you?" Legolas said accusingly. Thranduil finally looked up, his face calm as he looked into the angry eyes of the prince.

"I didn't realize it mattered to you so much," Thranduil said slowly, watching Legolas's reaction carefully. "Is there anything you would like to tell me?"

"No," Legolas said, sensing a trap. "But I did promise to check up on her, since she is uncomfortable staying here. I haven't had much of a chance since I have been away so much."

"Hmm, well if you get everything done quickly you can go visit her later," Thranduil said, his eyes returning to his desk.

"Very well," Legolas said with a sigh, leaving his father's study. Instead of heading straight to the cellars, he made a detour to the infirmary, where he found Dimoriel pacing nervously, muttering to herself.

"Feeling better then?" he asked as he stood in the doorway, smiling at her. She looked up, a pained look on her face.

"My wounds are better, but I can't take another day stuck in this dull, empty room. Please, let me leave."

"What did Nestantiel say?"

"She says I am not going anywhere unless someone watches me to make sure I don't strain anything," she said, sitting down on the bed in a pout. However, Legolas saw this as an opportunity.

"If you need someone to watch you, I think I can arrange that."

"I don't want a babysitter," Dimoriel said sourly, folding her arms across her chest. "I just need to get out of here."

"How about if I take you south this afternoon on a short ride? My father is sending me to deal with a tree that has blocked a major thoroughfare north, and I would be glad of your company."

"Yes!" Dimoriel said, leaping to her feet. "Anything to get out of this place."

"I have work to do in the cellars until about noon, but I will return after that and we can leave. Do you have any other clothes?" he asked, noticing she was still in a light gown given to her by the healers.

"Lithiril stopped by yesterday and brought me some things. I think there is a tunic in there somewhere," she said, going over to her leather bag and starting to dig through it. "Ah, here it is."

"Excellent. I will be back later to get you."

"Thank you," Dimoriel said, immense relief in her voice. Legolas just shook his head and left the room, smile still on his face as he made for the cellars.

When he came back to collect her, Legolas found Nestantiel standing outside her door, arms folded.

"Is something wrong?" Legolas asked, confused by the healer's apparent irritation.

"I am not sure you should be letting Lady Dimoriel leave quite yet," Nestantiel said firmly. "I told her she could leave her room under supervision, not leave the palace."

"I will keep her from hurting herself," Legolas assured the elleth calmly. "I think you will have more problems if you don't let her leave. I will keep a close eye on her, don't worry."

"Where are you going?"

"Only about an hour ride south to remove a tree that has blocked the path," Legolas said patiently.

"She is not to do any riding by herself. That's how she tore her shoulder last time. And she is not to help you, just observe."

"Of course, my lady," Legolas said, bowing his head. "I will be sure she behaves."

"Thank the Valar," Dimoriel said, whipping her door open. She was dressed in a brown riding outfit, which looked slightly lopsided thanks to all the bandages she wore under her tunic.

"You are going to hurt your shoulder again if you keep that up," Nestantiel said in a stern motherly tone. "Stop moving it so aggressively."

"Yes, Nestantiel," Dimoriel sighed, stepping out of the room slowly and shutting the door behind her.

"As I was telling Prince Legolas, you are not to do any riding on your own. I would prefer you didn't do any riding, but I think that is impractical so I shall relent as long as you promise not to put any stress on that shoulder."

"I promise," Dimoriel said anxiously. "Can we go now?"

"I mean it," Nestantiel said as she followed Legolas out the door. "I will know if you do!"

"You are going to let me ride Sulinte, right?" Dimoriel asked as they made their way out to the stables. Legolas was surprised that she did not even seem to care about the dozens of elves they passed on the way. Her desire to escape apparently outweighed her anxiety of being around people.

"Absolutely not," he said casually, strolling into the stables towards Caranghir's stall. "I am under orders."

"You are a prince," Dimoriel scoffed. "Nestantiel can't order you around."

"Be that as it may, she is the healer, not me, so I will follow her advice. And seeing as I am a prince," he said, turning towards Dimoriel as he reached Caranghir. "I will take the opportunity to order you to behave yourself and follow her orders." Dimoriel scowled darkly as she watch Legolas take the red stallion out of his stall, already saddled and bridled.

"That is not fair," she said, her grey-green eyes burning as she glared at him.

"Life is rarely fair," Legolas said calmly, walking around Caranghir towards her. "Are you going to complain the whole way? Because I can change my mind and leave you here."

"Fine," Dimoriel said in defeat. "But I am still not happy about this."

"I am sure," Legolas replied. Before she could argue further, he picked her up by the waist and put her on Caranghir's back, climbing up behind her as she swung her right leg over to straddle the horse's back comfortably. She tried to take the reins, but Legolas quickly reached around her to remove them from her hands, making her scowl again.

"Stop being difficult," he scolded. "This is going to be much more painful if you fight me the whole way."

"Alright, alright," she sighed, slouching in the saddle as Legolas urged the stallion forward. She didn't talk to him for several minutes, choosing to sit in moody silence. Legolas let her brood. Despite her apparent determination to complain, she gave it up after they reached the woods, leaving the palace and the hustle and bustle around it behind.

"So why exactly is your father making you go move a tree?" she asked finally, breaking the silence.

"I have several theories," Legolas said, though he was pretty sure he knew which one was accurate. "For now, I am just glad I am not stuck in the cellars counting barrels anymore. Be glad your prison is temporary. I have to do this sort of thing multiple times a year, every year."

"Another reason to be a hermit," she said matter-of-factly. "No responsibility for the affairs of others."

"That didn't stop you helping us scout in the south, or attack Dol Guldur," Legolas pointed out.

"That was by choice. I didn't feel any obligation to help. You would have wandered for weeks looking for Radagast without my help, and I had selfish reasons to want the Necromancer out of Dol Guldur."

"I don't understand you sometimes, Dimoriel," Legolas said softly. "One minute you want nothing to do with people, the next you just want to be a part of something."

"I am not sure I can explain it either," Dimoriel confessed after a moment's pause. "I think it is just the old me and the new me fighting for dominance. I use to be involved in the world, wanting to be a part of something bigger. That's why I went to Gondor in the first place. But after the wars, I just didn't fit anywhere. I am just an extra puzzle piece, I guess. I can fit in a number of places for a time, but eventually I will be forced out when the right piece is found."

"Maybe you just haven't found the right place yet," Legolas said, glancing at her as they continued riding.

"Maybe," she said cryptically before falling silent again.

Upon reaching the downed tree, Legolas slid off Caranghir, taking in the situation.

"What do you think you're doing?" he asked, holding up his hand to stop Dimoriel as she started dismounting.

"Getting down?" she asked, confused by his question.

"I think you should stay there. It will keep you from being tempted to do anything you shouldn't."

"Really?" Dimoriel asked, raising her eyebrow at him. "You think I should stay on a horse, by myself, giving me the opportunity to ride off wherever I want, leaving you here?" Legolas was silent, realizing what she was saying, before sighing, holding out his hands to help her down.

"Very well. But you are going to go sit down and behave."

"You keep talking to me like I'm an infant," she said, putting her hands on his shoulders and letting him help her down. "I am capable of sitting still for more than half a minute, you know."

"I will believe it when I see it," Legolas said, leading her over to a rock next to the road. "Sit."

Dimoriel rolled her eyes, but sat down, folding her arms across her chest as Legolas got started.

It wasn't a particularly big tree, but it had many branches strewn across the path. Legolas brought out an ax and began chopping them off one by one, throwing the severed limbs in a pile on the side of the road.

He was just about to take another swing at a branch when he heard a loud hiss. Looking around, he saw Dimoriel bent double, still sitting on the rock, but her eyes were closed in pain. It was quickly evident what had happened.

"I think she missed you," Legolas said, watching Lendis land on a nearby branch, since she had quickly been denied her usual position on Dimoriel's shoulder. "Are you alright?"

"I'd think the bandages would have helped, but that was decidedly unpleasant," she said, holding her shoulder. "I guess it will be a while before she can do that again."

"She didn't break skin, did she?" Legolas asked, putting down the ax and coming over to Dimoriel, worried to see Dimoriel still wincing in pain.

"No, but her talon hit the sensitive skin around the wound," Dimoriel said, taking a deep breath. "I'll be fine."

"Are you sure?" Legolas asked, his blue eyes full of concern as he crouched down in front of Dimoriel, his hand on her good shoulder.

"I am sure," she said, giving him a small smile as her eyes met his. After searching her eyes to make sure she was being honest with him, he stood, returning to his work.

Dimoriel just watched in silence as he finished cutting off the branches from the tree. She didn't know why, but she felt calm and happy just watching his rhythmic movement and listening to the pounding of the axe into the wood. Even watching him hook up Caranghir to the log, his thin fingers deftly tying the leather straps around the silver buckles on the saddle, seemed fascinating. As the horse pulled and the prince pushed the log off to the side of the path, she felt a fluttering in her chest. The strange feeling broke her trance and she quickly looked down at her shoes. She was unsure what that sudden stirring in her chest had meant, but she didn't like it.

"Dimoriel?" Legolas asked, noticing her intense concentration on her shoes as he stood, the tree successfully removed from the path.

"Hmm?" she asked, looking up at him as if startled out of deep thoughts.

"Are you okay?" he asked, noticing the odd look on her face.

"Sorry, I was just thinking."

"About what?" Legolas asked as he started unhooking Caranghir from the tree.

"Having to go back to the infirmary and getting a lecture from Nestantiel," she lied easily.

"I don't think any of us could have predicted Lendis would try to alight on your shoulder," Legolas said with a smile, his eyes on a silver buckle. "It isn't your fault."

"She will try and make it my fault though," Dimoriel said, standing up to help untie the leather straps. That at least she could do.

"I'll be sure to let her know the truth," Legolas said, glancing over the stallion's back at Dimoriel. "We can't have you getting into trouble without actually deserving it."

"That is rude," Dimoriel said, scowling up at him as he smiled pleasantly back. "I never deserve it." This made Legolas laugh as he came around Caranghir to undo the last strap, standing next to Dimoriel as she finished the one she was working on.

"I think you almost always deserve it. I honestly am impressed to have seen you sit so quietly for the last hour while I worked on this."

"It would have taken a lot less time if I could have helped," she said, watching him pick up the straps and put them in a saddlebag.

"I never would have let you do that, even if I wasn't under Nestantiel's orders. You would have made your shoulder worse again, necessitating even longer time in the infirmary."

"Do you know how maddening it is to be this useless?" Dimoriel asked, crossing her arms angrily. She let out a gasp of surprise as Legolas once again picked her up by the waist, putting her on Caranghir's back before climbing up. She felt the strange tug at her heart again as she felt him settle into the saddle behind her, his arms wrapping around her waist as he took the reins.

"I understand your frustration, but it has not even been a week yet. Take the time to relax and be glad you aren't busy with the harvest."

"I am use to being self-sufficient, Legolas," she said tartly, trying to hide her odd emotional turmoil that only seemed to be increasing the more she fought it. "I don't take time to relax. I have work to do every day. A few hours of music or reading, perhaps, but not days and days of nothingness."

"Soon enough you will be free. Nestantiel may let you go tomorrow evening if she thinks you are doing well enough."

"I look forward to it immensely."

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