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The Choice

By Aralinn

Romance / Fantasy

Prologue

She hated coming to town. It was a nuisance. In fact, if she had not needed more feed for the horses, she would have told her friends no. She was perfectly fine, staying home on her quiet farm, working all day. However, guilt had eaten at her for being a recluse of late, and she found herself agreeing to meet them downtown for dinner. The lights of the passing cars blinded her; she swore that she almost got flattened about twenty times since she left the restaurant. She sighed, and where were her friends now? Gone, of course. She had happened on an old friend - her farrier - and had quickly excused herself to go say hello. Apparently, they took it as a cue to leave, because when she turned around maybe five minutes later, they were nowhere to be seen. He had been a gentleman and offered to walk her to her car, but she assured him it was okay; she was only a few blocks down on a little side street.

Now, however, she wished she had changed her mind and agreed. She felt so out of place, so foreign. The sound of her heels clicking on the sidewalk, and the splash of puddles were her only company. Pulling her jacket closer around her, she ducked her head and walked just a bit faster.

After what seemed like hours later, she arrived at her big red GMC truck and began fumbling around for her keys, which she should have already had out, or so they say when you're walking about the city alone. But, she also had parked in a well lit area. When she finally grabbed them out of the bottom of her pocket book, she dropped them, and cursed silently to herself. Bending down to retrieve them, she never saw the man walking up behind her.

She felt the rough hand wrap around her mouth, the other around her torso, jerking her up. There was not even time for her to scream, for it all happened so fast. She was face-to-face with a tall, black-haired man, his face mostly concealed by a ski mask, but she could see his eyes and those told her enough. She could see the evil in them, see the hunger they held. She was in trouble. She could also hear him yelling at her, though the words did not really sink in.

It took time, but her mind slowly started working, pushing down the fear that was paralyzing her. Doing nothing would get her nowhere; she had to fight, and she had to get away. Her fear and adrenaline drove her. She had a black belt in martial arts, so she could defend herself. She had to, because her life depended on it now.

She felt herself grab the man's arms with her hands, finding them shaking, but ignored it. Then she forced her weight down and forward, landing hard on her knees, but it worked. Her attacker went down. She heard him grunt from the impact. "Thank gah." She breathed a sigh of relief, only to realize there was movement behind her. With her focus on getting away, she never saw the other men leaning against the wall, watching the show. She did now. Now, she felt sheer panic flowing through her body. She hesitated, and felt a hand grab her ankle. The man on the ground was getting up, and he was not happy. Without thinking, she landed a kick square in his jaw, hearing it crack. He let go and she ran, but not before she heard him yell, "Get the bitch!"

There were feet pounding behind her. She should have run the opposite way; she should have run to the main street, but in her fear she chose the path that seemed to take her farthest from the pursuers. The only problem was that it led to a dead end. She hit the brick wall, feeling it scrape against her skin like sandpaper. She turned with her back pressed as far back as it could possibly go. What was she going to do now? She had nowhere to go, no place to run. There were also five men now standing between her and her only way out.

She took a defensive stance, because fighting was her only hope. She would not go down without a fight. She found herself screaming for help though she did not register telling her mouth to do so. It seemed to do it of its own accord, and then again, she did not feel much in control of her own body. The men began to laugh.

"Look here, she's gonna put up a fight." His voice was gruff and throaty and his eyes held the same hunger as the guy who grabbed her.

She watched as he lunged forward. He was obviously drunk, because anyone with any sense could tell by his clumsy movements. She stepped to the right, swung her right arm over, catching him behind the head, and watched proudly as he stumbled and fell head first into the brick wall. Of course it was not enough to knock him unconscious, for he was already moving to get up, cursing like a sailor.

Of course, seeing another of their own hit the ground gave the others a reason to rush forward. In a split second, doing the only thing that she could think of, she dropped to the ground, kicked her feet out, and swiped two off their feet. Then, leaping up, she took the opening and ran. She ran hard and fast, faster than she ever thought possible. She wasn't about to risk looking back, because the pounding steps behind her told her all she needed to know. If she could just make it to her truck, if she could get inside, she could get away.

The sight of the truck sitting alone under the streetlamp gave her hope; she was so close. Then she hit the ground, blinding pain radiating around her head. When she tried looking around, all she saw were stars clouding her vision. For a moment, she blacked out.

When she came around, it was not more than a few seconds after hitting the ground. She tried to move, but soon found herself struggling, due to a heavy weight pinning her to the ground. She thrashed harder, feeling the asphalt under her rip at her exposed skin and clothing. Around her was the sound of laughter. Somehow, she managed to get her feet under the person's weight and shove them backward, but it did no good. Another man grabbed her hair from behind, jerking her back as soon as she tried to sit up.

"You shouldn't have done that." The voice laughed.

She watched the man circle her, though she still struggled. Then, she caught the glint of metal twirling in his hands, and it felt as if her heart stopped. Oh God no, she thought. The fear she now felt was indescribable. Her senses were heightened. She could hear everything; smell their breath, their sweat. Everything her eyes saw she saw in perfect clarity, even the dust hanging around them. Still she tried to fight, until the hand closed around her throat, and the knife stopped right in front of her eyes. She felt the tears flowing, heard herself screaming and pleading for help and to be let go.

She kicked out at them, some landing on their mark while others missed. Then, there was a pressure in her side. She was so shocked she could not even scream. There was so much adrenaline still pumping, she hardly felt any pain, but she knew the knife had been stabbed into her. She could smell the iron. It was the strong scent of death.

"Come now boys, don't play with your prey." The voice belonged to the man who had first grabbed her.

She did not want to give up. She wanted to keep fighting, but she felt pressure points now all over her torso and arms. Her head was clouded; she felt dizzy and lightheaded. All of the clarity she had seconds before was leaving her. Then the pain started, and it flooded her system. There was no energy left for her to scream, to move, or to do anything. Her vision was slowly going black; she could see the men around her, all wiping their knives, leaving her there on the alley to bleed to death.

Then it was all black, she saw nothing, she smelled nothing, she heard nothing. All there was was a calming peace, and she smiled. So this is death, she thought and remembered no more.


When her eyes opened, she expected to feel pain, to feel drowsy, to feel something. She expected to see a hospital room around her. But she did not. She felt nothing. When she looked down, she noticed that she was in a plain white gown, much like what she would normally see in a hospital. Instead, she was in a field, surrounded by the most beautiful forest she had ever laid eyes upon. Rose bushes grew under the trees in the clearing, where a fountain bubbled in its center. She did a double take.

There were people as well. Maybe people is not the best word, she thought to herself. They were glowing, and they were beautiful, both man and woman alike. All were in very simple, but sparkling, white robes, yet somehow they were the most elegant dresses she had ever seen. They had the form of people, looked human, but it was something she felt in her very soul. There was more to them, they were powerful and they were important, and very not human.

"Where am I?" She asked as her voice trembled, revealing just how shaken she was.

The beings, which is what she decided to call them since human did not seem fitting, stayed where they were, all giving her sympathetic smiles.

"Here has many names, has many realms. To you, it may be considered a part of heaven, but to where you are going it is part of Valinor." A man spoke, his voice as strong and as clear as a crisp autumn day, a voice she could listen to all day, but one she knew she did not dare disobey.

"So that makes you…" she paused.

"Angels we are often called on Earth. But, like this place, we have many names. To others, we are the Valar. Every religion has its differences, but we are one in the same." This time it was a woman that spoke. She had the same voice as the man, only much softer and more feminine.

"I'm dead then." She spoke, but it was more of a statement than a question. Nevertheless, the angels or Valar, whoever they were, answered anyway.

"Your earth body is dead, yes, but your soul, Evelyn Kenward, is strong and is very much alive. Your task is not complete; you have much left to accomplish."

"I'm sorry, but I don't think I understand." How could she have task to complete and things to accomplish if she was dead? Dead people couldn't do anything. What were they talking about?

The man and woman smiled at her and walked forward while the others stayed by the fountain, seemingly unaware of the happenings around them. "You are strong, born of a strong line, but you were never meant to die. However, some things are out of even our control." It was the woman who had spoken, and her face was now sad as she cupped Evelyn's cheek. "We are giving you a second life."

"You mean I can go back?" She looked up, hope filling her.

"I am afraid you cannot go back to Earth. That vessel is no longer open to you." The man told her.

She stood in utter confusion; there was so much to wrap her head around, though they had barely spoken. She felt that if she was anywhere but this perfect land, her head would be throbbing. Her brows were furrowed and she found herself staring at the ground under her bare feet. Her confusion must have been apparent, for they spoke again before she could.

"I know there is much to take in, but in the place where you are going, though it may be hard to believe, you will have much to offer. Earth's fate is sealed in stone. However, where you will go, it is not. Middle-Earth wages in a war against good and evil. You have been given a chance to change the fate of many that you will meet. But, it will not be easy."

She wanted to scream and cry, pitch a fit, to do anything at all. Anything but stand there like a statue. Somehow, she held it in. She was twenty seven years old. She would suck up her anger and frustration, and she would not act like a child, especially in front of angels. But she was deeply saddened, because what would happen to her farm and her animals? She did not have any family still close to her alive, which was one thing she was happy for. At least she would not be causing them any grief. Because now, she was being thrown into another world that she knew nothing about.

"We shall not send you empty handed, my child." The woman spoke, as if reading her thoughts.

Evelyn jumped; she had almost forgotten their presence in her deep thought.

"You come from a world of wickedness, ruled by man. Middle-Earth has many races - men included. They are easily corrupted, but there are many who are good and pure. Much evil you had to endure by the hands of men, and not lightly are those evils forgiven, for it can never be forgotten. Time must be given to you to heal, so you will be sent to Lothlorien, home of the lady Galadriel, and an Elven sanctuary. The elves, though very similar to men, are very different. They are pure and good beings. Safety, comfort, and healing you will find there - for evil is against their very nature."

"Come, we will let you collect any belongings from this world before your new journey begins." The man spoke.

As they walked, she learned their names from her new world. The man was called Manwë, and the woman, who was also his wife, was Varda. They followed under the guide and command of Eru, or God, as her religion called him. The scenery around them was a blur; she could not make out any specific details, until they arrived at her homestead. She had to choke back a sob. This would be her last time looking at her log house, big red barn, and rolling pasture land. After this point she would no longer find comfort and solitude with her horses. What would happen to them? Who would take care of them if not her?

"Worry not about your animals, for they will be looked after. We shall see to it, for they mean much to you. Now, however, collect anything you wish to take with you, for we cannot linger long."

"Thank you." She said meekly, gathering the courage to walk into her home. Tears silently rolled down her cheek at the familiar creek of the old oak door, and the settling of the house's foundations. She wanted so badly to walk around, soak it all in, go to sleep on her bed, but she remembered their words. There was not much time. Though part of her wished she was just dreaming, she knew it to not be true, for her memories of the past events were still clear in her mind.

In the end, she grabbed an old leather backpack, stuffed in her grandmother's jewelry, her favorite pictures, and first aid equipment. There was nothing else that was not alive and breathing that she cherished enough to take with her. She made it to the front door before she fell to her knees and broke down, crying. The sobs wracked her body, and she could feel herself heaving. The nails in the wood poked at her knees, but she cared not. Evelyn paid little attention to the approach of the Valar; actually, she did not hear them at all, or feel when they touched her shoulder. She did not remember traveling back to Valinor or heaven, whichever it was.

How long she cried for, she had no idea. When she was finally able to stop and pull herself together, her eyes were so red and swollen that she feared she would not be able to see. Miraculously, she could, though everything held a glassy hue. She saw the Valar sitting patiently in chairs by her side, and she felt suddenly ashamed and very much like a child.

"Do not feel ashamed Evelyn, for you have suffered much." Varda told her, once again placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. Evelyn made herself nod, though now she was certain they could read her mind and thoughts, and it was confirmed when they both chuckled. "We have found a vessel for you; it is soon time for you to depart our lands."

"Will I look the same?" She knew it was vain, but she had to know. Plus, she wanted to be prepared for the next time she looked into the mirror, to see if she would be a completely different person.

"No my child, you will take on the form of the vessel, though the scars of your soul will show through, your physical features shall not."

"I am going to have a dead person's body!?" She squeaked out, horrified.

"Of course not!" Manwë stated firmly, shocked at the thought of it. "This vessel has never harbored a soul before. She was created many an age ago, but we felt the people were not ready for another race. Now she has a purpose."

"So I will be a different race?" Her mind was spinning.

"So to speak, but it is still your soul inside. That will never change. You will always be Evelyn Kenward. We shall send with you books to help understand everything, but I am afraid your time here is up. If you linger, you will be a permanent fixture here, and never be able to leave."

She nodded dumbly, her mind still spinning. Then she realized it was not her mind at all, but the actual world was spinning around her. She tried desperately to hold on to anything that she could, but she found that she grasped pure air. Then it stopped. She felt something hard under her feet, and fell to the ground with a thump. She could hear noises around her, but she was so tired, and so dizzy. She opened her eyes and saw faces above her, but memories of the attack came flooding back. With her heart in her throat and her mind racing, she felt fear grip her once more, then watched the world go black.

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