You Can't Take Me

Chapter 7

Lithiril was sitting in Dimoriel's living room when the two elleths heard a knock on the door.

"Were you expecting someone?" Lithiril asked in surprise. Dimoriel shook her head, putting down her teacup and walking over to the door. She opened it curiously, but immediately scowled when she saw who it was.

"What are you doing here?"

"I am sorry, my lady, but I offered to bring your saddle to you when Himmen told me he was going to deliver it this week. I had to talk to you again."

"What is going on?" Lithiril said, noticing the hostility that was radiating from Dimoriel. She stood up and came to the door, where Lord Maenthol stood, a pleading look on his face as he held out a beautiful black leather saddle.

"Lord Maenthol was just leaving," Dimoriel said, taking the saddle from him and putting it down on the nearest table. "Thank you for delivering my saddle."

She tried to shut the door on him, but he stuck his foot in the doorway to hold it open.

"Please, just give me five minutes to make my case. If you want me to go away after that, I will leave you in peace."

"You have five minutes," Dimoriel said, eager to be rid of the annoying elf. She did not bother to offer him a seat, instead leaving him to stand awkwardly in the middle of the room while she and Lithiril returned to their seats.

"As you know," Maenthol said quickly, determined to say his piece before Dimoriel threw him out. "I am a scholar and a librarian. I have written over a hundred books on a plethora of subjects, from flora and fauna of Middle Earth to the dwarf wars. Lately, I find myself lacking inspiration for a new book. Then the king informed me that you had come down from the mountains. You have some rare and valuable knowledge, Lady Dimoriel. I understand that you may not want to talk about some of this knowledge, but if you let me I would like to begin writing about some other things that will be acceptable to you. For example, you must have a great deal of knowledge regarding the southern half of Mirkwood and the mountains, which I would love the chance to write about, perhaps writing a report for the King to use as the spread of evil continues northward. Or perhaps you would allow me to write about your experience living in solitude. Or about your knowledge of the kingdoms of Men..."

Dimoriel let Maenthol ramble for a while, spouting ideas of things he could write about with her help. He mentioned a handful of things that she most certainly would not agree to being published, but some things he brought up were not so sensitive. She could certainly explain the current status of the southern wild, and she could explain in simple terms the systems of government within the world of Men. She was even willing to explain the political situation before and after the wars in Gondor.

When Maenthol finished his speech, Dimoriel sat in silence for several minutes, staring over her teacup at a point on the floor to Maenthol's left. Lithiril watched her silently, unsure what to expect.

"I will only agree to help you on one condition, Lord Maenthol," she said finally, looking up at him. "No details of my personal life will be published. If you have any knowledge of my past, you are not to publish it. Not one word. Understood?"

"Oh yes!" Maenthol said excitedly, his face lighting up eagerly. "I swear I shall keep anything directly about you out of print. Thank you very much, my lady."

"Also know this: I am not going to the palace for any reason, you are allowed to come by in the afternoons every other day, and you are not to use this as a way for the king to keep an eye on me."

"Of course not," Maenthol said, looking horrified at the idea. "After Prince Legolas told me to leave you alone, the king requested I follow his advice. He does not know I am here."

"If he finds out about this project of yours, then I expect you to keep your word and not use this as an excuse to spy on me. Now if you don't mind, I would like to enjoy the rest of my tea in peace."

"Certainly, certainly. I will see you tomorrow afternoon then, Lady Dimoriel. Lady Lithiril." Lord Maenthol bowed low before retreating back out the door, leaving Dimoriel and Lithiril to themselves once more.

"I am surprised at you Dimoriel. You could have been rid of him for good if you just said no."

"I highly doubt Lord Maenthol would have actually refrained from pestering me, despite his word. He also told Prince Legolas that he would leave me alone, and yet he came here once more. As long as he does not begin prying into my life, I suppose sharing my knowledge will not be so terrible."

"Yes, but you are now going to have to spend many weeks with Lord Maenthol grilling you about dull and boring topics for his books. I have read some of them. They are very dry." Dimoriel gave a half smile, her emotionless eyes meeting Lithiril's.

"I suppose that's a good thing. If he does print something that I do not like, there is little chance of someone actually reading it."

Dimoriel sat out on her porch the next day as she waited for Lord Maenthol to arrive. She had no doubts he would arrive shortly after noon, considering she had not given him a specific time to arrive and he would want to maximize his time interviewing her. She was not disappointed.

"Good afternoon, my lady!" Maenthol said cheerfully as he rode towards her. "How are you today?"

"Fine," she replied, standing up and watching as he dismounted his horse. "What do you want to know first?"

"I thought I would let you decide. I am open to whatever you would like to talk about."

"Since it is the most pressing issue, I can tell you more about the south of Mirkwood. I have some maps inside."

"Excellent," Maenthol said enthusiastically, following her inside.

Dimoriel fished through the maps and charts she had on her desk, ignoring whatever Maenthol was saying, his cheerful and enthusiastic tone starting to grate already. Instead she focused on finding the proper maps. She had edited several of the copies she had purchased from Nedulmir at the book shop, updating them with her own information collected from centuries of living in the southern half of the wood. Pulling these out, she interrupted Lord Maenthol, who had somehow gotten himself on the topic of dwarf architecture.

"Here, this is my most detailed map of the south. I have marked Dol Guldur and Rhosgobel, as well as the minor paths that were not included on the map before. Here," she said, pointing to a spot just north of Dol Guldur, "is where the largest concentration of spiders are located. I have seen them travel as far north as the Old Forest Road."

"Dear me, that far north?" Maenthol said, eyes wide as he looked at the map. "Rhosgobel is awfully close to Dol Guldur, is it not?"

"Radagast has lived there since long before the dark magic moved into the fortress, and will continue to do so long after it is gone."

"What is this?" he asked, pointing to a smudged symbol to the east of the fortress.

"That is where the wargs largely gather. They roam most of the forest south of the mountains, but they meet at this point. Different packs tend to stay relatively close to these areas…"

Dimoriel spent several hours explaining her various maps to Maenthol. He poured over them eagerly as she pointed out the terrain and locations of important features. Maenthol scribbled notes on a scrap of parchment, noting every detail she shared. Dimoriel was mildly impressed with his enthusiasm. She had assumed he was there mostly for the sensational stories of her own past, but he seemed genuinely interested in the locations of deer paths and seasonal creeks. By the end of the day, Dimoriel was actually starting to like the elf.

"This is all very fascinating," Maenthol said as he picked up his assorted notes and the maps Dimoriel was letting him borrow for the next few days. "I look forward to my next visit. It is a good thing you agreed to every other day. I will be busy all day tomorrow organizing this information. You don't know how much I appreciate the help."

"Yes, well, I am not sure what else I can tell you about the south. Do you really think it is necessary for you to return?"

"Absolutely! Once I get the details organized, I will undoubtedly have questions. If you are willing, I would like to get started on a situation report next time that I can present to the king in the event we need to send elves south. I've been told that Mithrandir will be coming sometime soon to lead an expedition to Dol Guldur. I am sure the King will be pleased to have some information before he sends the Home Guard down there. And then there are all the other topics that I would love to get your input on."

"I am sure," Dimoriel said evenly, following Maenthol to the door. "I suppose I can offer my assistance."

"Fabulous!" Maenthol said, turning to look at her as he stood on her doorstep. "I will see you in a couple days then!"

"Goodbye, my Lord," Dimoriel said, shutting the door behind him as he practically skipped down her steps to his horse, arms full of parchment.

Sitting down at her table, Dimoriel sighed. Maenthol's excitement and enthusiasm were exhausting. Leaving the mess, preferring the look of clutter to a nice orderly desk, she stood up again and started making dinner and tea. She only hoped she would get used to Lord Maenthol's personality. It was going to be a long few weeks if she had to recover after every visit.

"How did your first interview go?" Duarthon asked as he sat across from Dimoriel. She was visiting her friends for her weekly dinner with them. She looked up from her meal at the elf.

"Exhausting, but not as bad as I had expected," Dimoriel said honestly. "Is Lord Maenthol perpetually cheerful and overly excited?"

"Generally, yes, at least from my limited experience with him. He loves to write and spend time in his books, but cannot get enough of stories from people who actually go out into the world. I feel like he would rather live vicariously than have experiences of his own."

"I am not sure I will get use to that."

"It should get easier, do not worry. He will probably maintain the same level of enthusiasm, but I am sure you will become accustom to it. You adapted to living here fairly quickly, after all."

"Perhaps, but neither of you have such strong personalities," Dimoriel said with a sigh. "I guess I should be grateful he hasn't started prying into my life. His interest in the prevalence of squirrels to the south was somewhat surprising."

"Like I said, he cannot help himself. It is how he gets his thrills. I suppose that is why King Thranduil keeps him in his inner circle. He knows almost everything that has been written down in the past thousand years, and can remember obscure facts from something he read centuries ago. I do not understand how he does it, but I am sure it is a useful skill."

"I'm just glad you are getting along at all," Lithiril said with a smile. "Personally, I wasn't impressed by his speech the other day."

"You did say you wanted me to interact more, and this is the easiest way," Dimoriel said with a shrug. "I don't have to leave my own house and I can talk about nonsense instead of my personal life."

"When you put it like that, it seems like a very good arrangement indeed," Lithiril said with a laugh. "I wish you luck tomorrow writing that report for the King.

Legolas lounged on a couch as he read a financial report that had recently arrived from traders to the south. It was incredibly dull reading, and he found himself drifting off as he read yet another list of goods being shipped north the following week along the River Running. He started violently when he felt something move in front of him.

"What is this?" he asked, looking up at his father before his eyes fell on the report that had just been placed on his lap.

"I want you to study this carefully. Mithrandir could arrive any day now, and I want to be prepared. You will be traveling south with him when he gets here, leading a host of elves, so I expect you to have all the details memorized."

"What is this?" Legolas repeated, eyes scanning the cover. In scrawling tengwar were the words Situational Report on the Current Status of Southern Mirkwood. "Where did you get this?"

"Lord Maenthol gave this to me this morning. Apparently he went against your advice and has been working closely with Lady Dimoriel over the last couple weeks. The two of them wrote this report."

Legolas stared at the document. Surely his father was kidding. The last time Lady Dimoriel and Lord Maenthol had interacted, the latter had almost found himself on the sharp end of an ax. Not only had he gone against Legolas's request, but he had somehow coerced the elleth to assist him in his work.

After the initial shock dissipated, Legolas began to feel the same resentful feeling he had experienced the last time he spoke to Dimoriel return. She had accused him of spying for his father, but now she was working closely with one of his father's most trusted advisors? She was infuriating in her double-standards and mood swings. He was about to get up and go confront her about it when he remembered his father was standing there, watching him closely.

"Are you alright?" he asked the younger elf, his brow furrowed.

"Sorry, yes, I am fine," Legolas said, regaining his composure. "I was just surprised. I did not think Lady Dimoriel would agree to talking to Lord Maenthol, let alone work with him repeatedly on something like this."

"Yes, well, the important thing is that they did. I want you to read this over very carefully. If there are any issues, talk to Lord Maenthol. I know you are not particularly fond of him, but he is in good standing with Lady Dimoriel and is a useful resource to connect us with her."

"I thought you did not want her around," Legolas said, restraining himself from using a harsher tone with his father.

"She is proving useful, and has of yet not caused any trouble," Thranduil said dismissively. "We will see if that continues to be the case."

Legolas was feeling particularly irate at that moment, and chose to excuse himself instead of getting into an argument with the king. He wasn't sure who he was more irritated with, the king for his last comment about Lady Dimoriel, or the lady herself for causing him so much frustration. He had never cared for Lord Maenthol, but the fact that the elf was getting the chance to piece together Lady Dimoriel's mystery before him was particularly maddening. He glanced down at the report in his hand as he made his way towards his own quarters to read in solitude. Legolas felt a small measure of satisfaction as he thought briefly about Dimoriel going into one of her fits and attacking Maenthol. It would serve the nosey elf right. Legolas should be the one working beside Dimoriel, not the useless academic. What did Maenthol and Dimoriel have in common? Absolutely nothing.

As he reached his rooms, he walked quickly to his balcony window and looked out over the forest. A light breeze cooled his anger. Autumn was coming. With the autumn came the harvest, and with the harvest came endless piles of paperwork for the king's advisors. Feeling slightly better, knowing that soon Maenthol would be forced to abandon his work with Dimoriel, Legolas turned to his desk, sitting down to begin reading the report.

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