The Choice

Chapter 15

He had to drag her stunned body roughly from the seen, desperately trying to explain that, although she was exhausted, they could not stay there. Before dark fall, they needed to be as far away from the open valley as they could. One orc had escaped, and where there was one party, there was bound to be another. She had been keeping rather good pace until now. Gimli had made sure to keep a firm grip on her arm as they went, and now he felt resistance. Slowing his pace, he took in his surroundings, to his relief there was a small grouping of boulders near, hopefully with enough space to hide them.

She thanked God for her adrenaline rush that kept her feet moving, unconsciously following the dwarf. However, now she felt that steam leaving. Moving was becoming more and more difficult every step she took, the ache was returning tenfold. Collapsing was a near future possibility.

"We just need to make it to those boulders lass. You must make it that far." The voice encouraged her, and she could only manage a nod in return, but it was enough. The tug on her arm pulled her forward once more.

When they finally reached the rocks, it was all she could muster to not drop unceremoniously to the ground. Using her last bit of strength, she sat in the center of the small opening, leaning gingerly back onto the cold rough surface. It was only then that she felt the pain in her side and realized the orc's knife had sliced her skin, though there was little she could do about it now. The last thing she wanted was to draw its attention to Gimli, not wanting him to think he had failed her, the thought of infection had long since left her mind. Intending to forget the wound, she let her mind wander.

Images quickly filled her mind of the orcs now frozen in their icy tombs. A shiver shot down her spine. The ice forming in her hand those many days ago on the Anduin she could easily brush off as her imagination. The Uruk that lay dead at her feet, chest wrapped in ice, that she could play as a freak of nature. She had not actually visualized it anyways. This occurrence though, this one she could not simply dust off. She had seen the blast come from her own hand.

No! A stern inner voice yelled in her mind. Quite fooling yourself, this is some horrid dream you have conjured up. Magic is not real. And oh how she wanted to agree, but once again the voice of reason spoke. If magic was not real, how was she now in Middle earth? That was different, she tried to reason. Gods had interfered, not this time. Or had they? Evelyn then remembered the voice in her head before the event. It had told her, somehow, what to do. Bingo! She knew she was not going crazy and she was still sane. She had not truly used magic, it was the intervention of the Valar once again, and they had answered her silent plea. Hadn't they? The voice of doubt though, was still there, spreading seeds of doubt. Evelyn dropped her head to her hands, rubbing her face, feeling the dried dirt fall off in sheets.

"Do ye want to talk of it?" Gimli asked her, even though he knew the answer, and was not surprised when she slowly shook her head.

She risked a quick glance at the stocky man beside her; he was watching her with a concerned eyed, though he did not bother to ask further question. She watched as he made to lay down for sleep, as night was fast upon them. Would he speak to the others of what had occurred? Surely he would, that would be a large secret indeed to keep from his friends. And once they knew, what then? Would they find it normal, they did have wizards here in Middle earth that are not persecuted as ones in her own world's history. Would they use it as another reason to distrust her and push her away? Evelyn thought that the most likely case.

Gimli's snores soon reached her ears, offering her a familiar comfort. Sleep would not find her that night she knew, even through her fatigue. And so she found herself watching the black landscape around her, her focus on nothing in particular, as she waited for the sun to rise.

The thunder of hoof beats finally broke her from the trance. Evelyn felt her heart beat start to thump louder in her chest as she realized they soon would soon be set upon.

"Gimli!" she hissed, trying to rouse the dwarf, without yelling out right. She did not wish to alert whoever was riding towards them. He did not so much as twitch.

Cursing to herself, Evelyn made to push her way to the dwarf, opting to crawl rather than stand and risk being seen. Her muscle quivered from the effort, still stiff and sore from exertion. It seemed to take many long agonizing minutes before she actually reach the sleeping figure, but finally she was in arms reach. She tentatively extended out her hand to rouse him. Evelyn had to give the stocky dwarf credit; she did not think it possible for one of his girth to move as fast as did, even if it landed her on her bottom with a loud oomph.

He already had his broad axe in hand before he realized what had awoken him. His mouth dropped to an o shape when he noticed her sprawled unceremoniously on the ground. Gingerly he moved to assist her up, when he heard the approaching horses, and he whipped his head around to face the sound. Silently, he motioned her to stay put, which she had no objection to, what worried her, was what he planned to do.

Her heart leapt to her throat when she then heard Gimli's voice ring out through the air, echoing in the light breeze. He was going to have them found out! what was he thinking? She could not breathe, heart still fluttering in the throat. A choked cry escaped her lips, eyes staring widely at the spot where the dwarf disappeared.

Pebbles tumbled from the outlook to stop at her feet as Gimli made his way back, stopping abruptly at the sight before him. Quickly he assessed the situation and knelt beside her as he spoke, "Fear not lassie, tis only the elf and Aragorn returning."

She felt herself relax a little at the news but still the fear was there when she spoke, "They did not leave with horses."

"No, they did not." He paused for a moment, searching for the words he wished to use, "Another rides with them."

"Who?"

Gimli shifted on his feet, knowing he was causing her more anxiety, but better she know now than be surprised when they made it to their hideaway. "I know not lass."

She narrowed her eyes, still looking at the dwarf. He did not seem nervous about the addition to their company, but that did not mean there was no danger to be found in this unknown person. However, she would not have them find her sitting on the ground. Gingerly, she began attempting to push herself up, grunting with the effort. Soon she felt large hands grab her arms and help pull her up. She mumbled an embarrassed thank you to the dwarf, who acted as if she had not said a word, and she was thankful; He tried to leave at least some of her pride intact.

Walking out of her protecting boulders took a lot more effort than she thought; she kept her hands behind her to hide the shaking. What she found surprising was that her jelly legs were keeping her standing; should they decided to shake, there was little she could do.

The three horses were quickly approaching. A large white horse bore the newest addition to company, bareback she noted, while Aragorn sat astride a stocky chestnut, and the elf –also bareback—rode a willowy grey. Her attention remained focused on the stranger. He was clad in an odd arrangement of robes, most unfamiliar to her, and sported a long white beard. Clearly, this man had some age on him.

There was a sharp intake of breath beside her as the riders halted their mounts; Evelyn turned a sharp glance towards Gimli. "Gandalf?" he sputtered in half disbelief. So this man was not so much a stranger after all, at least to them. The old man smiled at the dwarf. Though the smile was small, it seemed genuine as she studied him. There were no traces of tension in the wrinkled face, or the rest of his body. His attention, however, quickly turned to her, and she felt more than self-conscious under his scrutiny, but she found she had trouble looking away.

"Lady Evelyn, a pleasure." He said to her, inclining his head. His voice was deep and soft. She found it had a soothing quality to it. And to her surprise, it did not sound like the voice of an old man, instead, it sounded like a voice of a man in his youth. Strange, she thought, as he spoke again. "I am Gandalf, though you may have heard of me by a different name. The elves of Lothlorien oft call me Mithrandir." He smiled as he watched the recognition of his title dawn on her.

He was one of the Istari she had read about—one of the wizards of Middle earth. She was also very aware that they were Maiar, some of the lesser Valar. One of the first books she had been instructed to read from the Valar spoke of them. Evelyn was also aware that the peoples of Middle earth did not know them to be Maiar. It had always bothered her that the Valar would have her read such knowledge, but she never questioned, mainly because they were not around to be questioned. It brought a twinge of sadness with the thought, for the book vanished as she finished it. Clearly, They had not wanted it to fall into another's hands. Did he know that she knew of him? The look in his eye told her he did, but there was something else there she saw, and was not sure what it could be. Curiosity, maybe? How much, then, did he know of her?she wondered to herself.

It was only then that she really looked at the other two, and that they were looking at her differently. Aragorn's eyes held the same curiosity of the wizard's; the elf however, was unreadable. That was nothing knew she thought to herself. Another question to plague her mind weaseled its way in—if the wizard knew of her, what had he told the others? She knew they knew more about her than before. Aragorn's gaze told her that much. Evelyn felt her protective shell slowly lose another piece, and it scared her. Her shell was protecting her, if it was gone, what would she have left?

"But how…how are you here? You fell." Gimli stammered out, eyes still round as saucers.

That's right! She thought. Galadriel had mentioned to her that the fellowship had lost a member in the mines of Moria. That person now on horseback in front of her seemed very much alive. Her eyes narrowed as she continued to stare at the Istari, jittering with nerves. What would his answer be? It had better be a good one, she thought sarcastically, trusting this old man less and less. One just doesn't come back from …damn... She thought to herself. Evelyn herself had technically done just that, even if she had a new body and a new world. She had died. These men trusted her very little as it was, what would happen if they knew? That was something she had rather not think of. First, she wanted to hear Gandalf's tale and judge their reaction from that.

"That my friend, is a story for the rode, we have many miles to travel, and the road to Rohan will not be safe at night. Many fell beast roam these hills." He answered.

"Come, Gimli, you shall ride with me. The lady Evelyn shall ride with Legolas." Aragorn informed them. Sighing mentally to herself, she knew better than to complain, it would do her no good. Only Aragorn's horse had the build to carry two persons with one having the weight the dwarf did. Gimli also looked appalled at the idea of having to get on the large beast, and the ranger's horse was calmer than the other two, who were snorting with impatience. There was no other option.

The elf was tense; she could see it in his rigid posture and the prancing of the stallion. Evelyn waited only a short moment before walking to the horse's head, offering his a quick rub on his nose, and spoke softly in his ear. Momentarily she had forgotten about her wound, but now the throbbing was starting to make itself known, though she was almost positive the bleeding had stopped. Getting up would clearly reopen the wound, which she did not need, and the elf made no movement to help her, so she was left with her own devices.

"Muinín dom, mo chara." (trust me, my friend) She whispered again in her native language to the horse, whose ears flickered towards her in interest. Moving to his shoulder, she ran a hand down his long leg, asking him to pick it up, which he did as he swung his head around to look at her. Then she gently pulled it back, helping the stalling to the human equivalent of kneeling. It was then just about all she could do not to laugh, as the prince had to grab hold of the dark mane quickly to keep steady, taken off guard.

"Are you almost done with your games? You heard Gandalf, we must be off." He snapped, looking at her with an uninterested stare.

"Well she said," trying to keep her voice level as she slide her leg over the horses narrow back, "Had I been offered help mounting, we would already be off."

Legolas could only glare at her in response, knowing she had been right, though he would not admit it. "Hold on," he barked as he nudged the horse up from the ground and onward. He noted she had sat herself far enough back to ensure they did not touch. Good, he thought to himself, she can be as uncomfortable as I.

He did not trust her; he barely knew her, and now after Gandalf's reveal of her identity, he trusted her even less. He had never heard of an elemental, none had ever been mentioned in the history books, nor spoken of the older elves. What he would not admit was that she made him nervous. If what the wizard said was true, she had the potential to be dangerous, deadly even, and she did not even know it, making all that much worse. Trying to push the thoughts from his mind, Legolas attempted to focus on Gandalf's story, one he had already heard.

As interested in the as she was, the smoothness of his voice and the gentle rocking of the horses movement were lulling Evelyn into sleep, more than once she felt herself begin to relax and slump forward. The only thing keeping her in a state of semi consciousness was the tense elf in front of her. If she fell asleep she would fall right onto his back, which was the last thing she wanted, and she knew he would probably like it even less.

Evelyn was only half-aware of what occurred next. She felt something snake its way under her arms lifting her roughly from Arod's back. What truly woke her was the sharp pain in her side, causing a weak whimper to escape her lips. That is when she realized she was looking at two grey ears and a flowing mane, not blonde hair. Tense muscle rippled behind her back. Just great, she thought, could this get any more awkward. It did. For then an arm rested lightly across her stomach, holding her in place. She became as tense as the elf holding her.

"Relax and go to sleep. I tire of having you jerk awake." The voice spoke above her head, causing her to jump. Legolas was silently cursing himself. He had not wanted to shift their positions, but he knew if things stayed as they were, she was bound to end up on the ground from falling asleep astride Arod.

Relax? He honestly thought she would be able to relax? Maybe if he was not also strung tight as a bow. All it did was augment to her uneasiness, and she had enough of that own her own. Her back was straight as a board, scared to touch the body behind it.

"Relax!" he hissed into her ear, jerking her against him, leaving her little choice in the matter. Another soft whimper emerged from her throat, his arm pressing tightly to the wound unknowingly.

Just close your eyes and think pleasant thoughts she told herself. She imagined herself back in Lothlorien. The smells of the forest still fresh in her mind, with the vast array of greens that covered the trees and underbrush. Zenith was there, and she felt a pang of sadness wash through her. She missed her friend deeply, and she wondered when, if ever, she would see her again.

It was near sunset when he felt the woman's muscle completely relax. He knew she was asleep as her head rolled to rest on his shoulder. Luckily, they would not travel much farther, the nights were dark, even to his elven eyes, and following the correct path without light was risky. With the uruks and orcs patrolling the area, they could risk little light. Legolas risked a quick glance at her sleeping form; Her hair was coming loose of its intricate braid, framing her face in wispy waves. The paleness of her skin made the bruises stick out strikingly in the dimming light. Too be short, her weight was heavy on his chest. He would have thought she would be feather light. Apparently, she held her weight well. He stopped himself. Was he truly examining her? Shaking his head, he looked ahead to where the others were stopping.

His movement woke her with a start. By the time she realized what was occurring, the elf had already dismounted, but she noted he was staring at something on his arm with great intensity. With his back half turned, she could not make out what it was. Suddenly, he turned fixing her with narrowed eyes, but he was not looking at her face. What was he looking at? Then she saw his arm, and what it was he had been so fixated on…blood. She looked at her side to see a matching blotch of red down her side.

"Oh." it was all she could manage to spit out.

"Aragorn!" he called, his tone drawing the attention of the others. "The woman is hurt." He spoke in Sindarin, clearly irritated at the fact. It was not as if she had asked to be wounded.

"I have a name!" she spat in the same tongue, causing Aragorn and Legolas both to stare at her wide-eyed. She was angry. She knew the elf was mad about her joining, but not to the point of such disrespect. From a mortal she would have expected it, but elves she had thought were better learned. Apparently, she had been wrong.

"You speak the elvish tongue?" the man asked in disbelief, shooting a questioning look at the elf before adding, "You told me she did not speak the language!"

"I did not believe she did! She did not understand my speech in Lothlorien." he retorted before turning his attention back on Evelyn. He rounded on her, finger pointing deadly close to her face, but in her anger, she did not think to be scared. "You lied to me." he accused.

She swatted his finger out of her face. "No, my lord I did not. In Lothlorien, I could not understand your accent; you speak Sindarin differently than what I was accustomed to. You decided to walk away before I could answer you. As such, I felt no need wasting my time running after you to explain something you clearly did not wish to know." Her voice was low, a menacing quality she had not heard it take on in some time, not since before she came to Middle earth.

Legolas made to reply, but was interrupted by a calm voice of reason. "I believe this is a discussion better spoken of later, the wound will need to be bandaged." Gandalf said, watching the scene intently. Thranduil's attitude had more effect on his son in the last decades than he had realized. He looked to Aragorn, letting the next decision be his as he walked towards the camp.

It took only a moment before the man got over the revelation and looked at the elf, giving him a pointed look. "Gather what you need and tend to the wound." His tone left no room for argument. If Evelyn thought she had gotten ill looks from the elf before, it was nothing compared to the one she was receiving now, and it was then that she realized how close they actually were. She could smell the scent of wood from him and feel his breath hot on her face. On a side thought, she was glad it did not smell bad. Involuntarily, she took a step and it seemed to dissipate some of the building tension.

Grabbing her arm, he yanked her to a nearby rock on the outside of the camp area, where there would be some privacy. She could hear him snatching items from one of his bags, and that is when her nerves kicked into gear, the realization of what had to happen for the cut to be mended sinking in. he would have to see her scars.

Evelyn had not realized in her panicked state Legolas had returned until she heard him drop the items by her side. She did not look at him; he was intent on his duty and nothing else, all the better she thought bitterly. If she were lucky, he would not even notice. She knew she had no choice of getting it cleaned or not, if the wound stayed as it was, it would become infected.

From the corner of her eye she could see him lay out strips of cloth, some liquid she knew was probably a form of alcohol to act as cleanser, a clean shirt—it had to be one of his own, as she was out— and a small dagger. He did not stop his methodical movements until he reached for the shirt she was wearing and it seemed to dawn on him what had to happen next. His hand paused in midair, and he did not dare to look at her face.

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, her pulse beating rapidly beneath her skin. She knew what had to be done. "I am covered. I would rather be mortified from indecency than die of an infection. Get on with it." Evelyn told him, voice low. She held her gaze straight ahead, but she thought she caught a glimpse of his mouth twitch at her comment.

The ripping fabric grated at her ears as he cut off her double layer of shirts. All that was covering her top was the banded material around her breast, and the cool night air left her skin covered in gooseflesh. There was no warning when the cold liquid hit her skin, and a hiss came through her clenched teeth. It was alcohol all right. Where was her modern medicine when she needed it? A nice dose of local anesthetic would have been greatly appreciated. Scrubbing away the dried blood and dirt came next, at least he was attempting to be gentle about it, but she could still feel fresh blood oozing down her side as he continued to clean.

Now that he had gotten started, his mind was focused solely on the task and nothing else. Every movement was done with purpose and intent. He had tried very hard not to look at her. The woman was nervous enough as it was, he could hear her heart beating from his position beside her, and he knew she was highly embarrassed. Not that it was any less awkward for him. The wound had not been terrible. It was long, but relatively shallow and he saw no sign of impending infection. For the most part, he thought the process going very well; he stayed focused completely on the wound, until he moved to wrap the now clean slice.

Of course he noticed that she was well muscled, especially for a woman close to thirty he guessed, he could easily trace the well-honed muscle should he wish. But that is not what had stopped him. No, what had halted his movements where the jagged white scars covering her abdomen. He found he could not stop himself when his hand reached out, lightly tracing the nearest one.

Evelyn Jumped at his feather light touch. No one had touched the scars, not even herself since she had gotten them. She was surprised to find, she could not feel them at all, and she was expecting them to hurt her body as they still did her mind. It was not until she heard a muffled apology that she realized the elf had jerked away at her movement and had quickly gone back to wrapping her side.

She felt her anger finally ebb completely and sighed. "Don't worry, they don't hurt." Her voice was quiet as a whisper, but she knew he heard her because she watched his head move to look at her face. Her eyes stayed on the dark horizon.

It was the first time he had looked at her since he started the business of tending to the wound, and he watched the silent tears roll down her cheeks. And he knew then the source of her nightmares.

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