You Can't Take Me

Chapter 18

Dimoriel sighed. She had managed to board up her windows against the storm raging outside, though the wind still whistled through cracks despite all her efforts to seal them up. She had gone through some of her damaged belongs, taking the time to organize what was still at least partially whole. It was going to be a very long winter, and she had a great deal of work to do if she was going to survive the season.

Picking up a book off the floor, she ran her fingers down the claw marks along the cover. She angrily hoped that the male warg she had battled so ferociously had been the one to do this. It gave her great satisfaction thinking she had spilled his blood in revenge. Pulling her thick robes tighter around her shoulders, she started down the stairs, examining the extent of the book's damage, intending to including it in her pile of books that were at least marginally whole.

"My lady." She looked up quickly, pausing in her descent to see Legolas standing in front of her door, looking up at her with his sad but loving eyes.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, looking away from him and continuing her work, doing her best to remain emotionless and aloof. She had been so good at it once, but if she met his eyes she knew she could not maintain the façade.

"I think you owe me an explanation," he said, coming up behind her and putting a hand on her arm. She roughly yanked her arm free and walked further away, still avoiding eye contact.

"Dimoriel," he said softly, following her again. "Please. If you care for me at all, just tell me what is wrong."

"What is wrong?" Dimoriel said, glaring up at him, breaking her resolve to ignore his presence. "Everything is wrong."

"I do not understand, melamin." Dimoriel closed her eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath. Her heart had skipped hearing him call her his love. She could not let her heart win over her head again.

"You cannot love me," Dimoriel said flatly, finally meeting his eyes, willing herself to be strong. "It is impossible."

"It is not impossible, because I most certainly do love you," Legolas said, stepping forward once more. "I do not think I have been more certain of anything before."

"Whatever your feelings may be, you cannot love me."

"I don't understand," he said again, his brow furrowed as he looked down into her dull, emotionless eyes.

"I am broken, Legolas. I am incapable of love and affection."

"That is not true," Legolas said, putting his hands on her arms gently. "For weeks now you have proven you have love in your heart. You love your friends, Duarthon and Lithiril, and I felt the love you have for me as well. You cannot hide it."

Dimoriel cursed herself for letting her heart rule her, even for such a brief moment. Now that Legolas had hope that she could love, it would be so much harder to do what she had to.

"Brief moments of weakness," she said icily, making Legolas frown. "I let my fantasies cloud reality."

"Enough of this," Legolas said, not liking her reaction to love in the slightest. "Forget your misguided thoughts of damage and brokenness. That is behind you. Just come back with me and we shall forget any such worries."

"All you are doing is putting off the inevitable," Dimoriel said, scowling back at him. "By ignoring the truth it will only be worse once it breaks free."

"The truth? The truth is that I love you and I know that you love me. It is plain as day. Why do you fight so hard against that truth?"

"Because I know the darker truth about my heart. It goes deeper than any love and blackens my soul with its poison. You cannot love me. I cannot even love myself, knowing what festers under my skin. If you knew the truth, you would recoil in disgust. Leave and be free of me."

"I refuse to depart from your side until you give me a proper reason to do so," Legolas said, distressed by her quickly worsening self-characterizations. "You have given me no reason to believe such a darkness exists in your heart."

"Is that all you require? Proof of the evil inside me?" Dimoriel stalked away from him, climbing the stairs quickly towards her bedroom. Legolas hesitated, wondering if he should go after her, but she soon returned. He was surprised to see the familiar wooden chest in her hands, which she dropped onto the table with a loud thud.

"What is this?" Legolas asked, looking between her and the locked chest.

"Your proof," she said darkly, carefully removing a chain from around her neck. A key dangled from the end as she pulled it from inside her robes. Taking the key in her thin fingers, she slid it into the keyhole, turning it as the lock clicked. Legolas felt his curiosity peak as she placed a hand on the lid and opened it.

"What is this?" he asked again, looking up at her sharply, unable to look at the contents for more than a few seconds. She looked at him with her emotionless eyes, her face set as she held the lid open.

"This is the darkness that lies in my heart," she said, her words sending a chill up his spine. He fought against his rising disgust, trying to keep his love for her at the forefront of his thoughts. But it was not Dimoriel who looked at him with such haunted eyes. He found himself face to face instead with the demons inside her.

"Whose are these?" he asked hoarsely, needing to know the answer even though he dreaded to hear her response.

"Wainrights mostly," she said, no remorse in her voice, only bitterness. "But some are from men of Gondor."

Legolas shuddered, forcing himself to look into the chest once more. It was a frightening sight. The chest was lined with black velvet, which contrasted sharply with the bleached white bones that filled the chest. There were bones from fingers and jaws, sharp fragments from shattered arms or legs, and a few broken ribs. Dimoriel refused to shut the chest, letting him take in the full extent of her words.

"These are what remains of all the men I killed during my last battle in Gondor," she explained in the same bitter voice. "After the carrion birds picked the flesh off their corpses, I took a bone from each of them."

"Why?" Legolas asked, meeting her gaze, horrified that she would collect such ghoulish keepsakes.

"To remind me of what I am capable of," she said simply. "That was when I realized my full descent into madness. I did not have control of my own body. I remember the faces of those I killed, both the enemy soldiers and those I had fought beside for years. My sword sliced through whatever flesh came near me. The bloodlust you saw at Dol Guldur was but a taste of what I experienced during that last fight. More than 200 men were slain by my hand in the few hours our armies clashed. Nearly a quarter of those men were of Gondor. Their deaths, and the grisly deaths I gave to the wainrights, are the reason I am truly broken. I feel them haunting me day after day, the weight of their lives pressing down on me."

"Get rid of this, then," Legolas said, gesturing at the bones before him. "This is why you are still haunted. You cannot move on while you hold such a reminder."

"I need this reminder," Dimoriel said firmly. "So I do not do such terrible things again."

"No, you don't," he said, forcefully shutting the lid, unable to look at the bones anymore. "Bury it. Let these demons that haunt you rest in peace. Don't cling to them. Free yourself from these chains."

"You will never understand," she said sullenly, the darkness still in her face. "Whether I get rid of them or not is of no consequence when the real darkness is in my very soul. Why do you think I did not travel west when my family left long ago? I am tainted and vile. I do not belong among the purity of the elves in Valinor. I cannot even permit myself to die and let my soul go to the Halls of Mandos. I do not deserve such an easy fate. I am meant to suffer until Middle Earth crumbles and the stars fall from the heavens."

"No one has given you such a fate but yourself," Legolas said angrily. "The light of the elves has not left you completely. I have seen it glow within you."

"You see only what you wish to see," Dimoriel said, turning away from him. "I have no light left to give."

"Please," Legolas said, grabbing her arm and turning her back to face him. "Stop this foolishness. You bring lightness to my heart whenever I see you smile. Your laughter is pure light. I have never seen more splendor in all my years."

"What you see is but a memory of what could have been," she said, weary depression entering her voice. "Not even you can reverse what has been done. Return to your life, Prince Legolas. Be amongst your people where you belong and forget about me."

"You know I cannot do that," he said, gently putting a finger under her chin and forcing her eyes to meet his. "Love is not easily given among our people, nor is it easily taken away."

"Then I am afraid I have failed," she said, fighting back against the feelings in her chest as she looked into his eyes. "I had hoped to spare you the suffering that I am cursed with, but it seems I shall be cause for your suffering nonetheless. I will not return north with you, my lord. If you will not move passed your feelings for me, than you shall have to suffer alone."

It was with a deeply troubled heart that Legolas departed the mountains two days later. After her speech, she had retired to her room, neither asking Legolas to stay nor to leave. He chose to wait out the storm in the safety of the mountain pass, though each hour that passed was more painful than the last. Dimoriel would offer no further conversation, ignoring his presence except to make a point of avoiding him as much as she was able. He busied himself with helping fix her home and collecting what had survived of her garden for her to eat.

As he went to go, he had assured her he would return with more food and supplies so she could last through the winter months, to which she offered no reply. Legolas swung up onto Caranghir's back, giving her one last look as she cut up splintered wood for a fire, Lendis perched beside her on the fallen tree. He failed to notice Dimoriel look up at his retreating back, and the flash of emotion that disturbed the tranquil indifference that had overtaken her features.

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