Dimoriel looked around her new home, feeling a range of emotions as she studied the new furnishings and the unfamiliar layout. She had gotten rid of most of the chairs, keeping desks and tables which stood empty around the main room. It just did not feel right. The desks should be covered in books and papers and other odds-and-ends she had picked up on her travels. Now, only one of the six tables surrounding her had anything on it. Her wooden chest looked sad and lonely in the middle of the road oak table. Not wanting to look at her dismal main room any longer, she picked up the chest and climbed the narrow staircase to her bedchamber.
Even this room was depressing to observe, despite the beautiful cherry bed frame and the deep blue sheets covering the mattress. Dimoriel was so used to sleeping in a cluttered mess, the few personal belongs she had scattered across the bed seemed out of place instead of homey. Carefully sliding the chest under the bed for the moment, Dimoriel made her way up to the top floor and out onto her balcony, where she had hung her hammock.
Settling back in the rocking hammock, Dimoriel pondered what she had to do now. She certainly needed to buy a lot of plants and books to fill her home. She would quickly grow to resent the new space if it was not filled with her normal décor. At some point she should probably buy more clothes and blankets for the winter. Sewing was one of her skills, but not one she enjoyed. With the cold weather on its way, she would rather be getting food collected from the forest than sitting inside making a new tunic. She was loath to go into the marketplace to get fitted though, and growled quietly as she thought about the torture she must soon endure.
"Hello? My lady? Are you home?"
Dimoriel sat up and looked down from her balcony. She was not happy that she had somehow managed not to hear the newcomer approaching, especially when it was someone who she did not recognize. Standing at her door with his hands behind his back was a dark haired elf in crimson and dark orange robes. He looked nervous as he stood on the doorstep, apparently unaware that she was looking down at him. Feeling that the intruder deserved a fright for calling on her unannounced, Dimoriel quietly climbed down along the outside of her house, dropping next to him lightly. She felt extremely pleased with herself when he started violently, almost dropping the book he held tightly in his left hand.
"Lady Dimoriel?" he asked, trying to regain his composure.
"What do you want?" she said roughly, making it clear she wasn't going to follow protocol and address him formally. He was clearly a member of the King's court, in his high-quality fabrics and excessive adornments. He cleared his throat before continuing.
"I apologize for showing up unannounced, my lady, but I heard you had just moved in and was eager to meet you."
"Meet me?" she said in surprise, not believing anyone, especially from court, would have any interest in associating with her. "Why?"
"Forgive me, I haven't introduced myself. I am Maenthol, advisor to the King and unofficial librarian for the royal collection. As a scholar, I am fascinated by your choice to live alone in the mountains. You must have a remarkable tale to tell."
Dimoriel frowned, examining Maenthol closely. Who did he think he was, coming here and trying to invade her privacy like this? He had some nerve, asking her about such things. She could feel her heart rate rising, and took a deep breath to steady herself.
"I am sorry, my lord," she said, not sounding the least bit sorry. "But I do not wish to have my life meticulously documented and analyzed by a librarian. If you'll excuse me." She quickly opened her door, stepping inside before shutting it in Maenthol's face. Ignoring his protestations from the other side of the door, she climbed up to her study and sat down with a sigh, resting her head on her desk as she closed her eyes. She sincerely hoped that no more curious elves would come bothering her in the days to come.
What Dimoriel did not expect was for Maenthol to return the following day. And the day after. She stopped answering her door when he arrived, feeling her irritation reach a dangerous point after the first week. Normally she would have admired such persistence, but not when it was used to pester her.
At dinner with Lithiril and Duarthon a week after his visits started, Dimoriel explained her problem to her friends.
"Why is he so determined?" she asked, her frustration evident. Duarthon smiled across the table at her, his eyes expressing both sympathy and mild amusement.
"He does not get to leave the palace very often. And you are certainly a novelty he has never had the chance to study before."
"I'm not a bird or a butterfly for him to examine. Does he not know what I am capable of?"
"It is unlikely, to be honest," Duarthon said softly. "The King informed his advisors of your presence, but not why you are here in the first place, especially all the way out here, on the edge of the kingdom."
"I am afraid what I may do if he keeps this up. I keep trying to ignore him, but he will not cease his prodding."
"I'll see what I can do," Duarthon offered, setting down his fork. "I will seek him out in the morning."
"Thank you, Duarthon," Dimoriel said, glad that she at least had someone who did not look at her as a sideshow freak.
The following day, Dimoriel did not see Maenthol. She had no visitors at all, and she was thrilled about it. She was in such a pleasant mood that she decided to brave the marketplace the day afterwards to start buying her sorely-needed décor.
She spent most of the morning buying plants, but also bought an axe and some hand tools so she could begin building shelves. Most of her new purchases were to be delivered to her house, but she decided to keep the ax. She was starting to feel uncomfortable around all these people again, and the blade was a small measure of comfort. It was probably not something she should be carrying around in a public area, in case she had a fit, but she hoped the comforting weight would ease her anxiety.
As she wandered the main street, ax slung across her back, she glanced in a shop window, pausing as she caught sight of books and scrolls stacked on the window ledge. There appeared to be no one inside, so she backtracked, opening the door as a bell jingled merrily. She made for the nearest bookshelf, examining the leather spines. She reached up to pull down a book calledHistory of the Northern Wyrms, but paused as an elleth entered the room.
"Good afternoon, my lady. Can I help you with anything?"
"No, I am just looking, thank you."
"Well if you need anything do not hesitate to ask. We have books on everything you can imagine here, from dwarf history to agriculture to children's stories. There is also a large collection of maps over by the window if you are interested in that sort of thing."
"Thank you," Dimoriel repeated, carefully removing the Wyrms book from the shelf and leafing through the pages. It did not take long for Dimoriel to accumulate a large collection of books she intended to purchase, which she stacked on the nearest table.
"If you would like," the elleth behind the counter said, looking up from her paperwork. "You can bring those books over her and I can set them aside for you." Dimoriel nodded, carefully picking up her stack and carrying it over to the counter. "You are new in the area, aren't you?"
"Yes," Dimoriel said softly, dreading the moment when the shopkeeper asked about her past.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, my lady. I am Nedulmir. My husband and I run this shop. It is wonderful to see someone as addicted to the written word as we are."
"I am Dimoriel," she responded with a small smile. "What sort of maps do you have?"
"All sorts," Nedulmir said happily, coming around the counter. "What are you looking for?"
"Maps of Mirkwood, mostly, though I am curious what else you may have."
"We certainly have a large selection of maps of Mirkwood, many of them made by my husband and son. Let me show you."
Dimoriel poured over the maps for well over an hour, examining every detail. Nedulmir left her to her own devices after awhile, disappearing into the back room once more. She was so engrossed in her examination, Dimoriel failed to notice Maenthol until he entered the shop, setting the bell jingling again.
"Lady Dimoriel, I am glad to have caught you out and about," he said, smiling widely as he positioned himself between her and the exit, preventing an easy escape. "I would dearly love to talk to you if you have a few minutes."
"I am actually quite busy shopping at the moment," Lady Dimoriel said, turning back to the maps, taking a deep breath to steady herself.
"Lord Maenthol, how are you?"
"Fairly well, Nedulmir. How are you today?"
"Quite happy. As you can see, Lady Dimoriel is quickly becoming my favorite patron," she said, gesturing at the books in front of her. "Are you two acquainted?"
"Yes, we met the other day. I was actually hoping to chat with the lady if she has a moment."
"As I said, I am busy."
"Just hear me out," Maenthol said, taking a step closer, making Dimoriel look up at him in annoyance. "I don't think you understand how valuable your knowledge is."
"Nedulmir, I think that will be all for today," Dimoriel said, picking up a short stack of maps and carrying them to the desk, carefully avoiding Lord Maenthol. "I will take the History of the Northern Wyrms to read now, but I would appreciate if the rest could be sent to my house."
"Of course. I will have my son drop them off tomorrow morning," Nedulmir said, going through the books Dimoriel had stacked up, adding up the overall cost.
"My lady, if you please-" Maenthol tried again, following Dimoriel over to the counter. He was cut off as Dimoriel began pulling out gold coins to pay Nedulmir, addressing the shopkeeper pleasantly, still determined to ignore the elf harassing her. After she paid, she quickly dodged around the irritating elf and made for the door, disappearing out onto the street. Maenthol, however, followed closely, still trying to explain his point of view. Dimoriel could feel her patience slipping further and further away as he continued pleading. She could feel the anger bubbling dangerously close to the surface. Her forced calm was starting to break.
Legolas strolled through the market, wondering if he really wanted to spend the money to get a new pair of boots. He did not need to come out the market, as the cobbler would be more than happy to pay him a visit in the palace, but he had been stuck inside writing up reports for the last four days, and was determined to get outside for a while.
It was a warm, sunny day, and he did not feel any need to hurry. It was perhaps a good thing, too, because if he had hurried, he would not have been able to come to Dimoriel's rescue.
"Please, Lady Dimoriel, you don't understand."
Upon hearing the lady's name, Legolas turned to see Lady Dimoriel, striding rapidly through the street, an ax strapped to her back as Lord Maenthol, his father's advisor, followed behind her closely. He immediately changed course to intercept the pair, noticing instantly the angry fire burning in Dimoriel's eyes. Her usually calm mask was rapidly deteriorating, her knuckles white as she clenched her leather-bound book in one hand, the fingers on her other hand twitching, looking as though she was fighting hard not to grab the ax behind her. He could see her jaw, clenched tight as she tried to ignore her shadow, but Legolas knew that Lord Maenthol would not be deterred by silence.
"Lady Dimoriel, Lord Maenthol. How are you both this afternoon?" Legolas asked, appearing out of the crowd in front of them.
"I have been better," Dimoriel hissed through clenched teeth. He knew she was very close to snapping.
"Prince Legolas, good to see you. I am quite well, thank you. I am just trying to explain to Lady Dimoriel how useful her knowledge could be, and how I would like the chance to write it down for the royal library."
"Though I appreciate your intention, Lord Maenthol, I suggest you abandon your mission now. It would be most imprudent to continue bothering Lady Dimoriel. I thought Lord Duarthon spoke to you about this matter."
"Yes, he did, but when I saw her in the bookshop window, I thought I could try and convince her to listen to me."
"Lady Dimoriel is far too polite to say anything, but I believe you are becoming a nuisance," Legolas said bluntly. "Besides, I would like a word with her. I would request that you leave her be from now on."
"Yes, Prince Legolas," Lord Maenthol said in defeat, bowing before disappearing into the throng of shoppers.
"He should leave you alone now," Legolas said, turning to Dimoriel. "He would not dare go against my request."
"Thank you, Prince Legolas," Dimoriel said, taking a deep, steadying breath. She could feel her fingers relaxing around the book in her hand. "I was under the impression Duarthon had spoken to him and he knew better than to come near me."
"Lord Maenthol is a very enthusiastic scholar. Once he gets an idea in his head, he will not let it go. I am sorry you had to deal with that. Are you alright?"
"I am afraid I was very close to an episode," she replied evenly, looking up at him with her normal, emotionless face. "I have done the majority of my shopping for the moment and should not have to bother normal folks again for awhile."
"I was not concerned about the shoppers. I was concerned what would happen to you if you killed Lord Maenthol, even if he may have deserved it."
"All the same, I think I shall return home now."
"If you do not mind, I would be happy to accompany you."
"There is no need for you to interrupt your shopping on my account. I will be away from everyone shortly."
"I am not in desperate need of anything at the moment," Legolas replied with a smile. "And as I said, I am not concerned about the shoppers. I said I would check on you to see how you were doing, and I would like to see how you are adjusting to the new house."
"Very well," Dimoriel said, starting towards the end of the market street where she had left Sulinte. She did not seem overly thrilled at the thought of his company, but he was the prince. She may not have much respect for the king's advisors, but she would maintain her respect for the royal family.