You Can't Take Me

Chapter 16

Luckily for Dimoriel, Lendis had not done any harm to her shoulder, despite the pain. The day after riding south with Legolas, Dimoriel found herself being examined by Nestantiel, who was carefully determining if freedom was going to be harmful to her current charge.

"Please tell me I can go," Dimoriel begged as Nestantiel examined the teeth marks on the back of her shoulder. "I am the last one still in here and I can't take the silence anymore."

"You are healing nicely," Nestantiel relented, standing upright as Dimoriel slid her sleeve back up to cover her shoulder. "As long as you promise to refrain from heavy lifting or more fighting in the next week, I will consent to let you leave."

"Thank you," Dimoriel said, letting out a sigh of relief before jumping up and starting to change into her tunic and leggings with enthusiasm. Nestantiel left, shutting the door behind her as Dimoriel dressed and packed to leave.

"I hear you have been given your freedom, my lady."

Dimoriel looked around to see Legolas in her doorway as she made to put her last book in her leather bag.

"I have indeed. I shall be departing as soon as I finish packing," her eyes and hands returning to their task.

"I wish you wouldn't," he said softly, making Dimoriel look up again. The way he said it gave her pause, almost pleading with her to stay.

"I am not going to stay in the infirmary any longer," she said in response, standing upright as he walked towards her. "I have been released from my prison and I intend to make the most of it."

She was surprised when Legolas took her hands gently, looking into her eyes. There was something in that look that Dimoriel could not explain. The intensity made her want to look away, pulling her hands free of his grip, but she was unable to do so, completely mesmerized by his stare.

"There is a guest room near our private wing that you could stay in instead," he said, eyes not leaving hers. "There is a storm coming. You know I would worry about you, alone in the forest. Just stay until the storm ends."

Dimoriel found it hard to breath under his intense gaze. She really wanted nothing more than to go home and enjoy the solitude, but his pleading and the gently way he asked, showing that all he wanted was to make sure she was safe, made her break down.

"Alright," she said softly, the word barely a whisper. After she said it, realizing what she had agreed to, she quickly found herself again, pulling her hands from his and looking away nervously.

"Excellent," Legolas said, a happy smile on his face. "As soon as you finish packing I will take you there."

Dimoriel followed the prince through the palace, nervously looking around at everything she passed. She still could not comprehend what had happened, making her agree to stay in the palace for a few days until the snowstorm passed. She was certain she had faced worse in the mountains; she could take care of herself fine on her own. It was troubling to think that one look from Legolas was all it took for her to give in to his request.

"Here we are," he said, opening a door and holding it open so Dimoriel could enter first. She slowly walked in, looking around at a small sitting room, a door off to the side that undoubtedly led to the bedroom and bathroom beyond. It was a cozy space, not at all like the grand room she had pictured when Legolas said there was a guest room in the palace. It was not particularly regal, just comfortable and welcoming.

"I thought perhaps you would be more comfortable here than in a larger room closer to the main halls," Legolas said, watching her observe the room quietly. "My quarters are just down the hall. Though I confess I am rarely there, you may come and see me if you need anything." Dimoriel turned to look at him, opening her mouth to say something, but closed it after she was unable to find the words to express her thoughts. Legolas smiled walking up to her taking her hands in his once more. "I am glad you are staying," he whispered the same look in his eyes as before. "I must go, but I will return this evening. If you would like, I will bring dinner here so you will not have to eat in the dining hall."

"I would like that," she said quietly. She felt the strange feeling in her chest once more as Legolas leaned forward, kissing her temple softly before backing away, disappearing into the hall. Dimoriel quickly found a chair and sat in it heavily. She could still feel the warm touch of his lips and it made her heart beat faster. Normally her nerves would be set on edge by uncomfortable interactions with people, but it had been months since she felt such anxiety around Legolas. One look and the innocent gesture of affection he had bestowed upon her had brought all that back.

Getting up again, Dimoriel gave up her musings. She had spent centuries acting aloof and indifferent. She could do it again. She was not going to let Legolas affect her this way. She was stronger than that.

Despite her internal assurances, there was little effort put into distancing herself from Legolas. The snowstorm hit as expected, forcing Dimoriel to stay inside for the next few days. Since Legolas was also confined to the palace, she would frequently sit with him in his study while he worked, enjoying the companionable silence as she read. He even went so far as to ask for her opinion on matters of state. Generally when this happened, Dimoriel would politely say that she was not knowledgeable about how to govern a kingdom. If pressed, she would provide a hesitant answer, but always deferred to his judgment on these matters.

When the storm let up for a few days, Lithiril came to visit her friend in the palace, bringing more clothes and comforts from home. Dimoriel was delighted at her visitor, welcoming the elleth into her sitting room happily.

"I am surprised to see you, I will admit," Dimoriel said, indicating for Lithiril to take a seat at her table. "But it is good to see you again."

"I have missed your visits," Lithiril replied, taking a seat with a smile. "But I was the one who was surprised. When Duarthon informed me you had agreed to stay in the palace past your recovery date, I was tempted to go check your house for myself."

"Legolas was worried I would have problems with my shoulder and would be unable to get help during the storm," Dimoriel said, fetching tea and handing a cup to her friend.

"Not long ago you would never have agreed to such a thing. You have changed a great deal in the last few months, my dear."

"I know," Dimoriel said, taking a seat. "I feel myself reverting to the way I was before the wars. I can feel the internal conflict between the old and the new me."

"Why is there such conflict? You have been so happy lately."

"It is complicated," Dimoriel said, looking into her teacup.

"Is it because of Legolas?"

Dimoriel looked up at the question, not liking the soft, understanding way she said it.

"What do you mean?" Dimoriel asked, her guard up now.

"If anyone else had asked you to stay here, you would have immediately said no and left for home. I consider you a close friend, Dimoriel, but I could not even get you to have tea with my friends. Now you are in the one place you swore you would never go, with nothing holding you here, except the concerns of the prince."

"He had a valid point," Dimoriel said, determined to defend her actions. "I could easily have damaged my shoulder again and been unable to do anything about it during the storm."

"You were in here two days and were willing to risk damage to your shoulder if it meant you could get out," Lithiril pointed out, not buying Dimoriel's defense. "And the storm ended last night. You could have left this morning."

"It is only a brief respite," Dimoriel countered. "It will begin again sometime in the early hours of the morning."

"Your shoulder should be mostly healed by now. Surely you could return home without worry."

Dimoriel was silent. She could return home. She could go now, before the snows picked up, and hide away again, away from prying eyes and curious questions. "You don't want to, do you?"

"I don't want to go back to living alone, wallowing in my misery," Dimoriel admitted softly. "I miss having friends."

"We will always be your friends, Dimoriel," Lithiril said, taking the other elleth's hand to comfort her. "But I think there is more to it than that. You do not stay here just to be with friends. You could come live with Duarthon and me again if that were the case."

"Every time I contemplate such a life, I remind myself how it can never be," Dimoriel said, a deep depression in her voice. "I suppose I stay here because I feel safe, close to friends but hidden away at the same time."

"You feel very comfortable with Prince Legolas," Lithiril stated, no question in her voice. "He is kind and keeps you safe from those that might impose upon you."

"It is true. He has been very generous to offer me this space away from the multitudes here at the palace."

"Indeed. And so close to his own quarters."

"It is convenient," Dimoriel said simply, though Lithiril noticed the tips of her ears turn a pale pink. Lithiril had never seen her friend blush before, but it was unmistakable.

"If I may, I do wonder what your intentions are for your relationship with him."

"What do you mean?" Dimoriel said, eyes meeting Lithiril's as she looked up. The pink of her ears was also darkening her cheeks.

"The closeness between you is unusual," Lithiril said, deciding to take a roundabout way to get to her point. "Up until a few months ago, your friends were limited to a hawk and a horse. Prince Legolas has no female friends that are not already married, as far as I am aware. Duarthon and I were quite surprised to see how well you got along after the Harvest Festival incident, considering your rather strained relationship before that. Though, Duarthon tells me that Legolas had been particularly moody for the month prior to that event. He has attributed it to your rejection of his friendship, as he became quite pleasant afterwards."

Dimoriel didn't know what to say to this revelation, so she remained silent, trying to suppress the emotions that were currently causing her face to warm uncomfortably.

"I know you have not had an easy past, Dimoriel, but I do wish you would consider the future for a moment," Lithiril continued. "It is obvious that your relationship with Legolas is one of the best things that has happened to you in a very long time. Do not give that up so easily. I think that very soon you will have to decide whether you want to live in the past or in the future."

"I am not sure I understand," Dimoriel said slowly, pondering the warning she had been given.

"Prince Legolas is as much my friend as you are, my dear, but I am concerned that he may do something that will irreparably damage your relationship. Or that perhaps you will let your past take hold of you again and do him harm."

"Legolas has proven that he can handle himself if I have a fit."

"I do not mean physical harm, my dear. I fear that you are both primed for emotional pain if you do not proceed with caution."

"He is my closest friend. I would never do him such injury, nor do I believe he would do so to me."

"Not intentionally, no. But tread lightly. I am certain neither of you yet grasps the full gravity of what is going on."

"Then why do you not tell me so I can be prepared?" Dimoriel asked, tired of Lithiril's confusing riddles.

"I am afraid that is not possible. You must find out in your own time."

After Lithiril left, Dimoriel felt claustrophobic, the pressure of Lithiril's words bearing down on her as she sat in the small sitting room. She put on a cloak and boots, intent to go wander the gardens in the snow for a while, hoping the cold air would help her forget the warning. It had unsettled her deeply. The way Lithiril had spoken, it felt almost like a prophecy. Either she would hurt Legolas, or he would hurt her. Was there no other path?

So engrossed was she in her thoughts that she almost ran into someone heading in the opposite direction.

"I am sorry," she said, looking up and freezing as her eyes met those of Lord Maenthol.

"Lady Dimoriel," he said in surprise, before his face broke into a smile. "I am surprised to see you, but what good fortune. I was just thinking about how I needed to return to see you. I would very much like to continue our work now that the harvest is over."

"I will think about it," Dimoriel said, eager to get away from him. "But I am rather busy right now."

"Of course, of course," Maenthol said, still smiling broadly. "Do send me a letter if you wish to continue." Dimoriel nodded in response, hurrying past him as quickly as possible. As if her day had not already been stressful enough. She felt an immense sense of relief as she stepped out into the gardens, the thick snowfall crunching softly beneath her feet.

Walking slowly through the gardens, Dimoriel thought about her current situation. The Dimoriel of a few months ago would not recognize her today. She was walking in the palace gardens, her long hair missing any trace of feathers, or even the occasional leaf. She had no weapons but a short knife in her boot. Any personal relationships seemed outrageous and out of the question at the beginning of summer. Now she felt like she could not live without them. Especially Legolas.

Her thoughts about the prince were confusing ones. She had wondered at her own actions towards him over the last month, so against everything she had taught herself since the wars. Her body had betrayed her when her mind had told her to stay away. She had let him into her heart while her mind was frayed and worn from her fit the night of the Harvest Festival. There had been no stopping her decent to docility after that.

Then there was the problem with her emotions over the last few days. Ever since he had given her that look, the one that made her forget herself completely and stay despite her overwhelming need for freedom, she had found it hard to be in his company without feeling a wave of emotions crash over her. She was frustrated and angry that she had been so easily manipulated. Terrified that her heart had so much more power than her head. Sad that she was so damaged that she had to hide herself away, even in the palace. Content to sit in silence in Legolas's company for no reason at all. Delighted to see him whenever she was bored or restless. Pleased to know that he wanted her company as well, despite all he knew about her and her past.

As if he knew her thoughts were on him, Legolas appeared next to her suddenly, startling her out of her thoughts.

"What troubles you this evening, my lady?" Legolas asked, taking her hand and putting it in the crook of his elbow, leading her slowly through the gardens. She felt the wave of emotions she had just been analyzing sweep over her once more, bringing only further confusion.

"I ran into Lord Maenthol earlier," she said honestly, though that was far from her largest concern at the moment. Legolas did not respond, but she felt the muscles in his arm tighten at the mention of the name. "He asked if I was willing to continue meeting with him now that the harvest is over."

"And what did you tell him?" Legolas asked in a rather strained voice.

"I told him I would think about it."

"Do you have any desire to continue your work?"

Dimoriel was unsure how to answer the question. She had felt useful when she worked with Maenthol, but his unintentional betrayal of her trust, which it was obvious he still had no knowledge of conducting, troubled her.

"I do not think so," she said finally, looking down at the soft snow in front of her. "I do not think I can talk to him openly any more. I shall have to find other ways to make myself useful."

"We shall find something for you to do if that is what you wish, mellonamin," Legolas said, the tension leaving him as he smiled down at her. "Though I do not know what would make you happiest."

"I do not know either," Dimoriel confessed, eyes still on the ground. "I use to think I only wanted to be left alone, tending to my own needs. But I have become quite content here. Perhaps I may be capable of something more."

"I will do my best to find you something to do for as long as you remain here. I am glad you have chosen to stay, despite the storm passing."

"I do not look forward to being trapped in my own house for days after the next storm hits," Dimoriel said with a smile, finally looking up at him. "I have a feeling it would be hard enough to open my door after this snowfall alone."

"You know you are welcome to stay here as long as you wish," Legolas said. "Provided you continue to keep me company when I am forced to do paperwork for hours on end."

"Of course, my lord. I would never think to make you face such an awful task alone." She felt her warring personalities fighting for dominance at that moment. The soft, caring her from long ago was fluttering happily, content to be so close to her friend. The battle-hardened side of her was telling her to run, to get away while she could. Her instincts told her that she was in danger, reminding her of the conversation she had not so long ago with Lithiril. But it was the old her that won, letting Legolas lead her back to her quarters for a quiet dinner together.

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