The Choice

Chapter 17

She sat astride Arod, her back pressing against the elf's muscular form, much to her distaste. She tried to sit forward to refrain from touching him but it never worked, his arm would delicately rub unnervingly close to her bosom. Therefore, she found herself stuck leaning back onto his chest. The ride had been in awkward silence since the morning, no one had really spoken to her, but they all gave her strange looks, darting their eyes quickly away when she would catch them. The only one who seemed unchanged was the wizard, which had answered her previous question of his knowing. He knew everything. She felt, now, even more out of place, as if it was not enough before. At least before, she was spared the curious and wary glances. She feared what she could do. Adding their fear of her was almost too much to bear. Had she the strength, she would have run. However, the knowledge she would not make it far in the barren landscape around her kept her still. Her previous days of running had shown her that.

The company had never fully trusted her, now she knew they might never accept her. She felt a stab of sadness at the realization. She had not really realized she wanted to be accepted until just then. In Lothlorien, she had a few acquaintances, but only one friend, but it had been enough. Now, she was not even sure she had that. Her appearance, of course, did not help matters. When she had finally quite crying into Legolas' chest she had seen her reflection in his eyes, seen the pale icy eyes that were now her own and her white hair that continued to fall free of Galadriel's braid. Was it not enough for her to be some ancient race, newly embodied, did they have to make her look different to. Then a picture of her father came to mind with his fiery red hair and bright golden eyes. She had never noticed growing up how startling and unnatural both features were. That was until now.

Perhaps she thought, when they reached Edoras, she could steal away in the night upon one of the fabled horses they bred there. Of course, she would feel bad for stealing, but being alone would maybe be better than the ridicule she faced now along with what she would come to face in the man's village. With resignation, she made up her mind. Evelyn was not sure what the Valar had in mind, but she was going to forge her own path now, she would leave once the opportunity presented itself.

Her revere was broken when she felt the elf's chest reverberate behind her as he spoke, "What does…aingeal…mean?" he struggled with the pronunciation of the term. Legolas found he was growing tired of the unnerving silence between the group and decided to at least try for a civilized conversation.

Evelyn jumped slightly as he spoke, she warily glanced at him from the corner of her eye, and he was watching the landscape ahead, paying her little attention. With a sigh, she decided she might as well answer him, talking maybe would be better than the deafening silence around her. "It roughly translates to angel in westron."

"What is an angel?" it was something he had never heard of before in his long life. Though he spoken Westron fluently, he knew there were still terms he did not know from there never being a need to use them. Angel was obviously one of them.

She paused, think how best to describe the term to him. "It is like an ethereal being, very spiritual—beautiful, pure, kind, much how you would describe the Valar—where I am from angels are considered much the same. They are the messengers of God. Why do you ask?" she could almost swear she felt the elf smiling behind her, what was so amusing about the description of an angel?

"I was just curious as to why you spoke the word to me."

She choked. Her, call him an angel? Was he out of his mind? Clearly, he had to be, "I beg your pardon, but I don't recall ever calling you that."

"T'was just the other day when you fainted of weariness and I had the pleasure of retrieving you." Legolas replied smugly, a sneer across his face. He knew he should not bait the woman, but he found he could not help himself. Legolas knew most mortal women were drawn to the beauty of elves, knowing she was no different only fed his ego. So easy were mortals to figure out, he chuckled to himself.

Evelyn then faintly recalled the night in question and vaguely remembered being lifted from the ground by what, at the time, seemed an angel to carry her away from her burdens. Only now, did she realize it was the elf just taking her closer to them. "Damn," she muttered. She was mortified, but also she felt her anger rising at his jest. He was no doubt gorgeous, anyone with eyes could see that, but he was definitely no angel.

"Don't flatter yourself; I was clearly in a state of exhaustion and hallucinating. I was, after all, under the impression I was dying. It would make sense I thought an angel came to retrieve my soul." Evelyn stated matter of factly, and it was mostly true, she had not known at the time it was elf. "It's quite obvious I was NOT in my right state of mind…My Lord."

The sneer left his face when the dwarf beside him grunted with suppressed laughter, clearly listening to the two speaking. He was not sure if he should smile at her outburst or feel insulted. He was leaning more towards being insulted and thought it may have been better if he had not spoken at all as the woman muttered under her breath in her strange language.

"Edoras!" Gandalf's voice resounded around them as he spoke from the top of the hill, "Home of the horse lords. Do not look for welcome here."

Just perfect, Evelyn thought to herself. That is just the type of town she wanted to go to. Even more reason for her to bolt tonight. As they topped the hill, she got her first glimpse of the city. On a far hill, she could see the great hall, or Meduseld, as she knew it to be called, and scattered around it down the hillside were what seemed to be many houses and stables. To be the capital of Rohan, it was small; maybe a thousand people at best lived here. Other than the great hall, which bore a large green roof, the other structures sported only thatched roofs. The only means of protection for the city was a singlewide wall of wood sitting on a base of stone. The main gate was small, maybe wide enough for three horses abreast to pass through, with tall guard towers on either side, both sporting lookouts. They clearly either did not need much protection here or did not have the means to obtain and from her earlier readings, she thought it was the latter.

Evelyn wanted to depart the city as soon as they entered it. Gimli was most correct with his muttered comment of there being more cheer in a graveyard. No children ran around, only peeked out from behind the wooden doors to their homes, mothers quickly pulling them inside. The few people who were outside, stood and stared at them, no emotions reading on their faces, though they looked long and hard at each of them. There was no joy here, only sadness and despair; it lay thick in the air ready to suffocate any happiness where it may spring. Yes, the sooner she was gone from here, the better.

She drew farther into Legolas' chest, wanting to hide from their stares and accusing glances. The elf shifted from her change in weight, but said nothing, for which she was grateful. They continued to follow single file behind the wizard, making their way up the hill to face the King of Rohan.

Meduseld was a large rectangular building sitting on the highest hill in Edoras. Its foundation was made of the same stone as the wall that surrounded them. The rest was made of wood. The entrance was made of three arches, each carved and painted with golden designs that reminded her a lot of old Celtic work. In addition, horse heads reared out about the arches, casting shadows upon their feet. It was truly amazing work for a city if its size. Upon its highest points, bird perched watching them with keen interest. As they reached the top of the stairs a voice hailed them.

"Halt! I cannot let you before the king so heavily armed by order of…Grima Wormtongue." The man paused before the name. Clearly, he held some disdain for the man in question, though with a name such as that she could imagine what type of person this Grima would be. The guard was average stature for a man, built stocky with wavy red hair and a bushy beard to match it. Reluctantly they all consented with a nod from Gandalf of encouragement. They seemed surprised as Evelyn also handed over a sword; they obviously had not expected a woman to carry a weapon. Then their eyes took in her appearance and they jerked back, Evelyn could only look at her feet, she did not want to see the expressions on their faces.

She became very over attentive as they walked into the hall. There was little light filtering through the high cut out windows, but she could see men moving stealthily in the shadows, they were not dressed as guards of Rohan, but dressed in all black rags. They had a look that sent chills down her spine, reminding her of the men that had killed her once before. Closing her eyes, Evelyn unconsciously moved in closer to Legolas and Gimli. She had to keep it together, somehow. She could not lose it in this unreceptive city of man.

With her mind still focused solely on the men that had now surround them in the shadows, she was oblivious to the doings in front of her until she heard a man scream, "His staff! I TOLD you to take the wizard's staff!"

The man was hunched, dressed also in black, with greasy black hair, he reminded her of a rat. Then she saw the king, who he hovered behind menacingly. He was older looking than she thought he would look. His hair was white and sparse, lacking any luster, and his face was wrinkled and spotted with age. Fragile is the term she would have used to describe him.

However, that was her last thought as swift movements caught her eye. At the rat's exclamation, the shadow men rushed their party. Adrenaline surged her system, her body shaking with fear and anticipation. Luckily, her body reacted on instinct as her mind was seeing only flashes of the past. A tall dirty man with brown hair rushed her and without hesitation, she high kicked him in the chest, knocking him to the ground. It normally would have been an easily blocked move but he was not expecting her to fight. She had a small surge of delight as he lay on the floor, unable to catch a breath.

Evelyn soon found herself ducking multiple blows from the men around her, all growing angrier that a woman should best them, she could not take on so many at one time. The thought threatened to freeze her, but she made herself suppress it. It did not matter; she would fight, no matter the outcome. She did not plan to die again willingly. One man lunged and she skirted around him ready to elbow him in the back, when another roughly grabbed her by the arm. He swung her hard against his chest, his other arm snaked around her throat. She felt the pain shooting through the arm he had pinned at her back; it was bending farther than it was able. Then her heart seemed to stop. Evelyn saw the brown haired man from before pushing himself from the ground and start to run towards Legolas, knife in hand. The elf had no idea he was coming, being preoccupied with another assailant.

"Legolas!" She screamed, not for herself, but hoping himself, that he would turn in time. The last half of his name ended in a hiss as the grip on her throat tightened. The elf started to turn towards the sound of his name, but he would never turn in time she saw with despair, the man was almost upon him. A thought passed through her mind, and it only took a split second as she extended her free arm and watched the ground between them turn to ice. The man, hitting the ice, fell, knife sliding from his grasp skidding through the jumble of feet around just as Legolas turned around, startled and wide eyed at the man who almost had ended his life. Then his eyes found hers.

Evelyn saw some emotion cloud the elf's eyes, unsure of what it was, but she did not have long to think of it, for she was quickly going to lose blood supply to her brain and faint if she did not get away from the man. Jerking her head back, she felt her skull collide with a rather large nose; the crunch that followed told her it broke and she felt his warm blood trickle down her neck. The man cried in agony and his grip loosened, then she dropped all her weight forward, causing him to lose his balance, and tucking into a ball she sent him rolling over her, free at last.

Then she was snatched by another arm and was about to pull the same stunt when a familiar voice hissed in her ear, "Do not even think to try it." It was Legolas. She gave a sigh of relief, relaxing as he pulled her against himself and walked her back to the group where Gimli had Grima under his large boot, the man wriggling with no hope to escape.

Her attention then drawn back to the old king as she heard Gandalf exclaim, "Breathe the free air again my friend." Evelyn gasped. The scene could only be described as magical. She watched the old man as a middle-aged man, vibrant with life, replaced him. The white sparse hair was replaced with golden, thick, shoulder length locks. The age spots disappeared revealing smooth tanned skin. The dark cloud that seemed to hang like a heavy mist on the city evaporated, the hall itself seemed to lighten considerably. The spell had been broken.

Evelyn was unaware that Legolas still had her pinned to his chest until King Théoden walked from his throne, a woman, she had not noticed before, with long golden hair followed close behind him, striding toward Grima, making them part. When she went to move, she found she could not and looked to see a large forearm draped tightly across her shoulder and breast. She felt her face flush red. With a light 'ahem' she started to wiggle free and felt his arm instantly release her, letting her stumble forward a few steps. Turning, she barely caught the elf's eye and saw the same strange look in them as before, still unable to pinpoint just what it was. Quickly brushing herself off and readjusting the ill-fitting shirt Evelyn quickly jogged to catch the others, leaving the elf to bring up the rear.

With a great thrust, the king tossed the rat man down the steps to Meduseld, parting the crowd as he did so. He advanced slowing, Grima cowering on the ground, sword in hand. Did he mean to kill him? The idea brought bile rising to her throat; she had seen a man die once in battle, but never at the hand of another man. Clearly here, they did not use a court system to trail traitors or another wrong doer. Did he not deserve to die for what he had done? A part of her thought so, and yet for it to occur as it was about to did not sit well with her.

Aragorn rushed forward, stopping the downward motion of the sword just in time to stop it from beheading the pain. She let out the breath she had been holding. "Enough blood has been spilt on his account." The winded voice told the king, who eyed him with a strange look. Then he stood tall and began looking frantically around those gathered, while Aragorn tried to help Grima stand. As payment for saving his life, Grima spat into the ranger's hand, and he turned and fled the city on a large black horse he took from citizen gathered in the crowd. Maybe he did not deserve life, but who was it to decide, she thought, watching the horse grow smaller in the distance.

"Théodred, where is he? Where is my son?" The strangled voice of the king spoke put above the mass, silencing them all.

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