The Choice

Chapter 13

The rocks dug into her backside as Evelyn leaned heavily against them, taking little notice. It was hard to focus on anything but the lifeless body of Boromir or the terrible fate of Merry and Pippin. All of it was her fault. If she had just been able to keep it together, if she had been able to properly defend herself, Boromir would still be with them and maybe the hobbits would be safe. But it was not so. The captain of Gondor had to come to her rescue and therefore left the Halflings defenseless. Her eyes burned at the thought of their terrible fate. She wanted to cry, but she had no more tears left to shed. Why had this been her fate? What had she ever done to deserve this? She did not belong here; just as they all knew.

Legolas watched her as they worked to prepare their fallen comrade for his funeral. Her fair skin was darkening to a hideous blue and purple shade where the uruk struck her, and its large hand print was left upon her neck. He was surprised at the angry thoughts it brought to his mind, thinking of the damage the creature had inflicted, luckily there was nothing life threatening. He could she her blood shot eyes staring at Boromir's body, they had not left it since she had returned from her trance. A pang of sympathy went out for her. Though his thoughts on her accompanying them had not changed, he did not feel she deserved the hand she had been dealt. This was a man's job, not a woman's, especially not for one as timid as she.

Her state had not gone unnoticed by Aragorn or Gimli either, they both where worried about her condition. How they would travel with the woman in such a state was beyond Aragorn. They needed everyone at their best for their trek ahead, for it would not be easy for even the most seasoned ranger. Knowing their best hope was Legolas, he momentarily stopped his work, receiving a grumble from the dwarf who was left to do his share alone. He walked over to the elf speaking quickly in Sindarin.

"Go speak with her." he told his friend.

Legolas gave him a sharp look, "And say what, pray tell?" he questioned. He knew it needed to be done, but he just did not want to be the one to do it. Looking at her again, he gave a reluctant sigh and Aragorn knew he would agree.

"You can see the guilt written on her face as well as we can. If we do not get her back to us, we will lose all hope of rescuing Merry and Pippin."

With a curt nod he agreed, not wanting to be chastised by his friend. He knew what he spoke was truth, she would slow them down enough as it was; they needed her all there, not lost in grief and despair. And of course he was the one she trusted most even if she clearly was not fond of him. The elf was not oblivious to the fact she avoided him when she could.

Evelyn knew he stood by her side, yet she could find not the words to speak. And was not sure she even wanted to. She could not think of a viable reason as to why the elf was here, so she just sat as if he were invisible. It was not as if he cared for her feelings at all.

"Let not Boromir's death lay heavy upon your heart. No fault is upon you." He told her, not entirely sure what to say to her. But getting straight to the point seemed the most logical option. Through when she seemed to glare at him from the corners of her eyes, he thought twice.

"Is it not?" she spat back, grief lacing her every word. His words did startle her; it was almost as if they held some empathy towards her… almost. "Had I not wallowed in my despair of letting Boromir get to Frodo, I would have known of the uruks approach and hidden from sight. Boromir then would not have needed to come to my aid and the hobbits would be safe." She paused, looking back to the readied boat for Boromir. "Had I not been weak, he would not have baited me." she said the last sentence in a whisper but the elf heard.

"Baited you? What do you mean?" He questioned her with furrowed brows. Who could she mean? The uruk? Surely not. There was no other around to bait her. When she did answer he was struck completely off guard.

"The ring. That is a voice I fear I will never forget. It was so sickly sweet and magical, I had wished to do everything that he asked." She replied softly, eyes now trained to the ground, where she drew circles in the sand. Why was she telling him this? She had not let harm come to them, no one had to know the truth.

Legolas felt his heart stop, Sauron had spoken to her through his ring. What was it he had asked of her? Did she do his bidding and doom them all? It was difficult to swallow his fear, to remain calm—he held his hands in tight fists at his sides. Though he knew he must to get the answers he sought, and to do that he needed control.

"What was asked of you?"

Evelyn this time raised her face to look at the elf still standing by her side, the pain in her eyes clear for the world to see, struck yet more fear into the elf's heart. He looked to Aragorn who was now finished with his task and willed him closer, this was something he needed to hear.

"To kill Frodo and take the ring." Evelyn told him, even though she was well aware of Aragorn's approach. She found she did not care.

"Did you?" Legolas asked with his voice tight with unspoken emotion. If she had done this, they all would be doomed. He wished to look to his friend but could not remove his eyes from the woman. She seemed so calm. Had she truly done the dark lord's bidding, did she now have the ring? Was this the reason for the guilt in her eyes and not Boromir's death?

"No!" she practically screamed, looking at the elf's accusing eyes in disbelief. Did he think her capable of such? Of course he did she thought in answer, his dislike for her was clear enough. But there was nothing to be done about that now.

"But for a moment there I wanted to." She could not look to either with the admission. Taking a deep breath, she felt lighter with the heavy burden of what had occurred coming into the open.

"He must have offered you much in return." Aragorn's gentle voice spoke when Legolas remained silent. At first he had been worried to speak. She had not seemed nervous in his presence thus far, but he feared speaking to her would shut her down, but above all he wanted to comfort her. The pains of the events were not being easy on her and his friend was not being as sensitive as he has wished him to be. The slight smile that formed on her lips was one that spoke volumes, showed all the sorrows of her soul. And her eyes regarded him with deep regret. To Aragorn it seemed she held more emotion than any human possibly could—it was the same look he received from the Lady Arwen upon the fellowship's departure, and it shook him.

"He offered me my greatest desire; he offered me the chance to be free of my fear." Her own voice, still foreign to her, seemed to echo in the silence. Her confession shocked even herself, but her mind and body were too tired to care, and so she continued. "It was an offer too good to be true. I am not sure when I realized his words were poison. But I did know one truth he did not; no one is free from fear, not even him. Fear is but one force that drives us along our chosen paths. It is how you deal with the fear that sets you free." She spoke, remembering the words of Haldir when the fellowship had entered Lòrien. If the greatest of powers in Middle earth felt fear, no mere mortal, or even elves, would be without their own.

Aragorn wished to place a comforting hand on her shoulder but stopped himself. She was handling his presence better than he could have hoped for, he did not want to ruin that and reverse all the progress that had been made. Still, however, she made no movement to stir and he could see the frustration clearly written on the elf's face.

It was made even more apparent when he next spoke, his voice once again carrying its haughty tone that was missing when he first approached. "You said Boromir's death was your fault for wallowing in despair, yet you sit here and continue, all the while letting Merry and Pippin travel farther from us. Do not let their deaths be another guilt on your shoulders." And with that, he turned on his heels and stalked off to where the dwarf was also impatiently waiting.

Evelyn could only stare at his retreating form wide-eyed and mouth agape. Anger boiled inside her, not because he had hurt her with his words, but because she knew he was right and there was nothing she could say.

"Do not listen to him, he has not had many dealings with women, he is…" He paused a moment, thinking of the words he wished to use, "Not gentle." Aragorn told her. He too knew that the words spoken were truth, but there were better ways to say them to a grieving woman than the way the elf had.

"No, he is not. But sometimes I believe the ugly truth needs to be spoken, and it is not in a gentle person's nature to do so. Prince Legolas is correct."

Aragorn kneeled in silence. This woman had surprised him yet again with her words. Her world must be harsh indeed for one so young to speak so. Her voice broke him from his thoughts.

"And you do?" she asked him, "Have knowledge of dealing with women?" She was thinking to lighten the mood. However, that hope was dashed when she saw the grief that filled his features.

"Aye, I do." His voice was soft as he spoke, looking to the earth.

"I brought you pain, I am sorry."

He looked at her with his storm grey eyes and stood from his kneeling position, "Let me fetch you something to clean up."

It was not long before he returned with a small pail and rag which he sat in front of her. And she thanked him, wetting the rag in the cold water before beginning to scrub her face.

"She is sailing to the west with her kin."

Evelyn looked up at him, pausing the scrubbing of her face, taken aback that he was sharing such information with her. She was not sure what she had done to gain such trust for him to speak of the matters of his heart, but she did not question it. When Haldir had done such she sat and listened to him speak of his sister and it seemed to bring him comfort, and so she could only assume it would do the same for the ranger who was before her.

"She is of elf kind then?" she asked. She had not expected any of the men to have a love, let alone one of two races. Though that is probably why they had the old saying back home about assuming anything—it makes an ass of you and me. He answered her with a brief nod. "Why did she choose to sail?"

"I told her too. It was as her father and I wished." He answered. Though his eyes betrayed his words, he did not want her to sail, he let her go to save her, but he would suffer for it and so would she Evelyn imagined.

"From what I have read, the love of the eldar never wanes. Is this true?" In every tale of love between the elves, they love deep and they loved true. It was a love hard for many mortals to comprehend. It was a type of love she would love to find, one only found in mortals fairy tales. Evelyn pulled her mind back to the man before her when he spoke.

"Yes it is truth."

"Should she sail, she would face an eternity alone that is a fate not many would choose. I would not lose hope yet that your last parting will be your final, love is a strange thing I hear." She smiled at the scruffy ranger.

Aragorn looked at her for a long moment before he nodded. His heart for some reason felt lighter than it had been. Could Arwen have stayed behind? It was a fool's hope to hold onto such notions, but was not their whole journey based on such? The thought of one day seeing her face again brought a smile to his face, renewing his strength. The pain of living his life without her was a torment to his soul, now his hope was rekindled. His thoughts continued to revolve around Arwen until a sharp intake of breath brought him back to the present and he saw Evelyn wince as she hit the large bruise on her face and neck with the rag.

"If there was time, I would make you a salve to help with the bruising, but I fear we have not the ingredients nor the time." He informed her.

"I have had worse; I will live with a few bruises."

Aragorn just nodded his head, wondering what she meant with her last words, but chose not to ask. She offered very little information and he doubted she would take well to prying.

Left alone then, Evelyn endeavored to keep her mind from the images before her, though she knew it was a fruitless battle. What was it that Haldir had told her to do with her fear? Pondering long and hard, she finally remembered…put it in a box. That is what she would with the events of today she told herself. There would be time to grieve, but it was not now. Now she had to pull herself together as Legolas' words rang through her mind, 'Do not let Merry and Pippin be another guilt on your shoulders.'

Sighing, she stood up, taking the bucket of water to empty as she went. Looking at her reflection in the river she cringed. Though her face was clean, her hair was matted with dried blood and her over tunic was ruined. Flashes of the Uruk spotted her vision. As quickly as she could she quickly removed the ruined article of clothing, tossing it aside to rot. Her pants to, were ruined, but they unfortunately could not be taken off as her tunic had been. So Evelyn opted instead to undo her hair and wash it quickly in the Anduin. She would look as presentable as possible for Boromir's funeral.

The men looked up at her approach, their eyes all landing on her face. She could feel their scrutiny eating away at her. her frustration finally gave way, "Yes I know my face must look absolutely captivating, there is no need to stare." She barked at them, sarcasm lacing her words.

Gimli gave a grunted bout of laughter, "I think I may grow to like this one." He added when he caught his breath and she smiled slightly at his approval.

"I do not know if that is the word I would have chosen for a description." Came Legolas' brisk reply, she saw now he was not even looking remotely in her direction. She came close to yelling at him about what sarcasm was, but she thought better of it. They had seen her at her worst enough at this point, she did not want to add another to the list, so instead she just acted like she heard nothing and went to the shore line as they readied to send of their fallen comrade.

The boat sailed gently on the river's surface, sending rippling waves to the shoreline. Her heart ached at the loss. No one deserved such a death. Aragorn's deep voice reached her ears as he began Boromir's lament. It was a soothing sound, his voice, but the words stung her heart. Gondor would never see their captain again. She found her comfort in the most unlikely source, Legolas' voice. It was strange that his soft calm voice floating on the breeze should be the one to bring the numbing calmness to her. it is his elvish blood and natural singing ability she told herself, making herself believe that it was true and she did a rather respectable job of it.

The feeling, however, was shattered when she turned around and saw the body of the dead orc off to the side. It was not the fact that was dead, oh no, that part she was glade about, it was his appearance that stopped her dead. His chest, arms, and neck were all frozen solid. He was not killed by her multiple stabbings, no, he was killed from suffocation. The circumferential ice was inches thick, making it impossible for his lungs to expand. All Evelyn could think was how was this possible?

It did not take the others long to notice what had preoccupied the woman, they had all seen it to, and they all had the same question and doubts. However, now they had no time for finding answers.

"Let us hunt some orc! We travel light and we travel fast."

Gimli gave a loud hurrah and they all took off, Evelyn keeping to the rear.

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