Legolas watched Dimoriel riding in front of him, silently wondering what her story was. She had taken the lead as soon as they had picked up Sulinte from a sheltered outcropping where he grazed. Since then, she hadn't spoken a word. As he studied her, he noticed that the feathers in her hair were actually attached to strips of leather that blended in with the dark brown of her hair. He also noticed that the hawk he had come to associate with her, who had probably donated the feathers in her hair, was nowhere to be found.
"Where is your hawk?" he asked after the silence became deafening. There was no echo as he spoke, the thick undergrowth swallowing all noise.
"She flew on to see if Radagast is home," Dimoriel said without turning. "No sense riding all the way to Rhosgobel if he isn't there."
Silence fell on the companions again, broken only by the rattling of arrows in quivers or the crunch of a branch under a hoof. It was unnerving. Now that they were on the southern side of the mountains, Legolas could feel the dark magic against his skin, seeping through the trees on all sides. He could tell Duarthon felt it too, as the other elf looked around warily, peering into the darkness between the trees. Dimoriel acted as indifferent as ever, keeping her eyes forward as they rode.
Trying to stave off the gloom, Legolas tried to engage in conversation again.
"How has Sulinte been?"
"As good as his father. I see you managed to get a brother."
"Yes. I had to wait several years, but I am glad I did. Caranghir is incredibly smart. I see why you are so attached to his lineage." He paused for a moment before continuing. "Are they descended from the Mearas? Turechion suggested they were." Dimoriel was silent for awhile, Legolas watching her curiously.
"Distantly, yes. Many, many generations. From before my time in Gondor."
"Gondor?" Duarthon asked, interested. "What did you do in Gondor?"
But that was all Dimoriel would say on the subject. Legolas saw her jaw clench, and he looked back at his friend, silently telling him not to press the issue. He wasn't sure why she was so reluctant to talk about her life, but he didn't want to alienate her when they still had a mission to accomplish.
Eventually it started getting dark, and Legolas could feel the darkness pressing in on him ever tighter.
"Lady Dimoriel," he called. "Should we not stop to make camp?" Looking around at him for the first time since they started, Dimoriel and Sulinte paused.
"Do you need to rest?" she asked as if this was unexpected.
"Our horses do," Legolas said, patting Caranghir's neck. "We have been riding for several days."
"Very well," Dimoriel said, dismounting where she was. "We shall camp here."
"Right here?" Legolas said, looking around.
"You won't find a better spot than this," Dimoriel assured him. "We have water and you can make a fire here," she said, pointing at an open space. "We'll need one. It will help keep the wargs away."
"Are there many wargs in this area?" Duarthon asked, looking around as if he expected yellow eyes to be watching him from the shadows.
"Most are further south, but they travel far looking for food. Best be on the safe side if you intend to sleep on the ground."
"Won't you sleep?"
"I will sleep up there," she said, pointing at a large tree next to the clearing where Legolas was now unpacking to set up camp. "It's safer there, despite the spiders. I'll keep first watch." With that, she reached out and grabbed a low branch and pulled herself into the tree, disappearing amongst the foliage.
Legolas and Duarthon exchanged a look, before continuing to unpack. They would have discussed their unusual guide, but despite being out of sight, she was still within earshot. Instead, they just lay out their gear and started a fire in silence. When they lay down, they began talking about nothing in particular, though the conversation natural shifted to the darkness that they could feel pressing in on them, despite the fire.
"I just don't like how quiet it is," Duarthon said, looking around into the trees. "It is unnerving."
"It is a powerful dark magic," Legolas said in agreement. "I hope that Radagast will be able to shed some light on the source."
"Provided we can find him," Duarthon said before starting in alarm as Dimoriel dropped out of the tree beside him. She had her hawk on her arm as she looked at Legolas.
"Radagast isn't at Rhosgobel. However, our best chance is to keep heading that way. Lendis will try and find him and let him know we are looking for him."
"Excellent," Legolas said, not sure what else to say.
"Not to alarm you, but there are also wargs about fifteen miles to the southeast. With luck, they will not travel this way. But if they do, or if they stay put, we will have a confrontation sometime tonight or tomorrow."
"How long until they might be here?"
"Hard to say. If they were running straight towards us, within the hour. But Lendis tells me they are stationary for now, so they may stay there."
"That's comforting," Duarthon said sarcastically. "I don't think I'll be able to sleep now."
"Do you not trust me?" Dimoriel said, looking down at him. "I will have Lendis on watch for a few hours to see if they move. I suggest you get some sleep though, in case something does happen." She apparently had said enough, however, as Lendis took flight and Dimoriel pulled herself back up into the tree.
"We best do as she said," Legolas said. "Who knows when we'll be able to sleep again. The further south we go, the more dark creatures we are likely to run into."
"I love how cheerful this conversation has been," Duarthon mumbled before he stretched out between two tree roots and fell silent. Despite his grumbling, he fell asleep quickly. Legolas took considerably longer before he was able to fall asleep. He worried what the growing darkness meant for his people. If it spread north of the mountains, some might be forced to abandon their homes and take refuge underground. He then thought about Dimoriel, who lived closest to the problem. She may be safe for a while in the mountains, but they certainly wouldn't protect her forever. Not when she lived alone. Again he wondered what her story was, and why she chose to live so far away from the rest of the elves. If only he could remember, he felt he could understand her better.
Legolas woke shortly after midnight and stretched. He had been sleeping on a particularly lumpy root, which had given him dreams of been stabbed in the back with a knife. Sitting up, he looked into the treetops for Dimoriel.
"Lady Dimoriel," he called quietly, certain she would hear him. She dropped down in front of him moments later. "I can stand watch now."
"I am quite awake, Prince Legolas. I do not need to sleep tonight."
"We may all be awake for the next few nights. Sleep while you can."
"Very well. You are on your own then. Lendis is going to sleep now as well. Goodnight, my lord," she said, bowing before retreating back up into her tree. Legolas grabbed his bow and moved over to the southwest corner of the clearing, sitting just within the firelight. Nothing moved in the darkness, but he knew that wargs could be on them in an instant. They only had a few hours before morning, but it was going to be a long time sitting still, watching the darkness.
They continued riding south in the morning. They were lucky. There were no wargs on their path that day. Dimoriel informed them that they had traveled further southwest during the night. So the party continued towards Rhosgobel in silence.
It was mid afternoon when Legolas finally couldn't stand the quiet anymore. Duarthon had been twitching for a good hour, feeling the silence and the dark getting to him. He envied Dimoriel's calm disinterest, but seeing her so uncaring about the dark magic that made the hair on his neck stand up made him even more curious as to what her story was.
"I don't mean to pry, Lady Dimoriel…" he began slowly, watching her.
"Then don't," she said without looking back. Legolas fell silent, wondering if he should push his luck and finish his question. However, Dimoriel cut into his thinking before he could decide.
"I am assuming you want to know why I chose to live alone in the mountains," she said tartly. When he didn't reply, she continued. "Surely you've heard the stories?"
"Nothing to explain why you live by yourself," Legolas said, once again wishing he remembered what he had heard.
"I live by myself because I nearly killed someone almost two centuries ago while I was still living among our people." Legolas was surprised at how bluntly she said this and waited to hear more. He could tell Duarthon was listening intently at this point as well. "I fought in the wars between Gondor and the Wainriders. I was a bloodthirsty child, and I wanted my adventure. I fought off and on for nearly fifty years. But during that time, I saw so much death and destruction, that I never really recovered. My physical wounds healed, but my family told me I had changed. My mind wasn't always my own. If provoked, I could become fierce and violent.
"One time it happened, no one could stop me. Ignoring the pain inflicted on myself, I attacked a man and nearly killed him. While I had been fighting in Gondor, there was one fight that stuck with me. One of the Wainrider chiefs would collect the skulls of those he killed and decorate his chariot with their bleached bones. This poor man I attacked looked enough like the chief that it set me off. The only reason I didn't kill him was that my brother was nearby and knew of my tendencies. He pulled me off of the man and tied me up until I was myself again. But I knew that I couldn't let that happen again. So I went into exile. For everyone's safety."
Legolas and Duarthon were silent, neither of them remember any of the stories about Dimoriel that said this about her.
"Is your curiosity satisfied now?" Dimoriel said in the same flat voice. "I am a danger to myself and others. So I live in the mountains."
"I am sorry, my lady," Legolas said softly. "I can't imagine what that is like."
"It's not your fault, and I don't want your pity," she said, slightly testily. She took a deep breath before she continued. "I don't mind my life in the mountains. It is peaceful. My family traveled to the Grey Havens years ago, so I don't have any reason to see other elves anymore."
"Isn't it lonely?" Duarthon asked.
"That's why I have Sulinte and Lendis. That's enough for me."
Just then, Lendis appeared below the canopy, flying towards Dimoriel. The hawk landed on the lady's outstretched arm and shook out its feathers.
"Radagast is coming," Dimoriel said, looking to her right. Wondering how she knew that, the other elves looked in that direction as well, waiting. It took about thirty seconds before they heard the sounds of crunching foliage and twigs. Moments later, Radagast appeared, riding his sled pulled by abnormally large rabbits.
"Oh my, Dimoriel, was that your hawk that attacked me?"
"She was just trying to get your attention, Radagast," she said with a smile, hopping off of Sulinte. Legolas was fairly certain that it was the first time he had seen her smile. He had been thinking she didn't know how.
"Well what was she doing that for?" he said, looking back at the Legolas and Duarthon before shifting his eyes back to Dimoriel.
"Prince Legolas would like a word with you," she said, gesturing behind her. Legolas dismounted and walked up to the wizard.
"Good afternoon, Radagast. My father King Thranduil requests your help in determining what evil is spreading in this forest. We can feel the tendrils of dark magic even up in the north."
"Evil? Dark magic? Oh! Oh yes!" Radagast said as if he had just remembered what that meant. "Very dark magic is in this part of the forest. It stirs from Dol Guldur. You mustn't go there. Spiders and wargs are everywhere!"
"Do you know what it is that draws the spiders and wargs there?"
"No, no, but it is a powerful dark force. I sent word to Gandalf. Perhaps the gray wizard will help."
"Gandalf will be able to sort this out," Dimoriel said, looking back at Legolas. "It is best to wait until he arrives before we try to do anything further. If Radagast won't go near the fortress, it is folly for us to try."
"I don't like the idea of retreating without knowing more," Legolas said with a frown. "How long will it be before Mithrandir comes?"
"It is anyone's guess," Radagast said, his eyes shifting nervously back and forth. "Could be days, could be months."
"There isn't anything we can do but wait, Legolas," Duarthon said, his desire to leave evident. "We should go back until we hear from Mithrandir."
"Radagast, will you send word to me when you hear from Gandalf?" Dimoriel requested, her eyes on the wizard.
"Oh, oh yes! I shall. Do be careful, Dimoriel. I feel particularly uneasy today."
"I will," the elleth replied, mounting Sulinte again. "And do be careful yourself. "Your magic may not be enough to fend off the darkness if it continues growing."
The wizard disappeared quickly back into the forest, leaving the elves alone to retrace their steps north. Legolas watched Dimoriel pass him in order to take the lead once more.
He couldn't figure out how she worked. She had seemed distant, uninterested, and angry up until the wizard had arrived. He had been quite surprised to see the compassion and respect she shown Radagast. His first impression of her had been of a stagnant character with little interest in society. His second impression had been of a slightly more dynamic character with an interesting if simple lifestyle. After hearing her history, she seemed like a normal elleth that had just let her history turn her into a recluse. She still had seemed to only have a small range of emotion. But after seeing her smile, and her apparent concern for the wizard, he could see that there were some other parts to her yet to be examined. Her complexity was growing with every interaction. Following the elleth now, he found himself pondering how many other sides there were to Lady Dimoriel.