The Choice

Chapter 20

His heart ached; this had to all be a bad dream. He would wake up and it would be right. Only he knew in his heart it was no dream as he clutched the Evenstar in his fist and starred over the cliff. The wind whipped his hair around his face, but he saw the cliff face and the raging river below well enough. Legolas' heart sank farther; it would take an act of the Valar for anyone to survive a fall from such a height. Aragorn was an extraordinary man, but even that would not save him from such a fatal distance.

What would they do now? Aragorn had been their leader after Gandalf's fall, and now neither was here. The wizard said to look to his return, but would he come soon enough? Would the king keep them for that long? With the girl with them that was all questionable. He wanted to use her as a weapon, but neither he nor Gimli would allow such. She had been through and seen more than any young woman ought. To be another's pawn was not a fate for anyone. Legolas furrowed his brow. Since when had he become protective of this woman? Gimli had taken on a protective role over her; such was the dwarf's nature with women, but not in his. He was possessive over what was his and what he held claim to, but the woman was neither to him. Legolas told himself it had to do with nothing more than his elvish nature and sense of right and wrong. He ignored the fact that plenty of Elven Lords had quite a disturbed sense of right and wrong in the history of their kind.

The sounds of a fast approaching horse finally dew his attention and thoughts back to the present. The smell of blood and death made his nostrils flare. The carnage of battle lay littered at his feet, a sight that affected little anymore. He walked towards King Théoden, whose eyes narrowed on the approaching rider. Legolas saw it was a Rohirric soldier, but he had not been in this battle, his gear was much too clean. This piked his interest. Théoden had ordered all soldiers to fight, why had this one not? A knot grew in the pit of his stomach, something was not right.

"Where is she?" he thundered, giving the elf prince all the answers he needed. He swore under his breath. He had sent his men to fetch her, to force her to fight in his battle. The only comforting thought was that he soldier returned empty handed, Evelyn had somehow managed to evade him and thus spared from the slaughter and he was glad. However, the soldier's next words shattered his short-lived joy.

"She…she killed Cenhelm, my lord. We tried to do as you said, but she would not listen...the next I knew, everything was cold, and Cenhelm was dead!" The young soldier was rambling now, and Legolas could feel his heart trying to beat out of his chest. Surely, this was a lie. Evelyn was no killer. Then the more he thought about it, the darker his thoughts grew. She was no killer no, but she was filled with fear. Moreover, fear drove people to do many feats they never believed themselves capable of: some were great deeds, but others had been very terrible indeed. Where was Gandalf when he was needed?

Théoden quickly ordered his men to collect the wounded and make for Helm's deep. All were to go except the young frightened warrior who brought him the news and He and the dwarf. They were to leave the dead. Legolas felt his fist clench at his sides, he could not bear to leave without Aragorn's body. Gimli's touch was the only thing that stopped him. He saw his own grief mirrored there, but the dwarf shook his head. There would be no collection of Aragorn's body. By now, the river had washed it many miles downstream.

"We must help the lady; Aragorn is beyond our help now." Gimli told him, his voice hoarse from holding back his sorrow. Of course, he did not know how they would help her, they held no sway over the Rohirric King, and the horse lords were not a civilized as the people of Gondor. Murder was not taken lightly. The dwarf squeezed his eyes shut, 'what had they brought her into?' he thought to himself. Surely, fate could not be crueler to her.

They all quickly mounted their horses, following the young soldier to where his friend lay dead. When they were close enough for his elven sight to observe the scene it told Legolas all he needed to know. He saw her kneeling on the ground, her head drooped against her chest, and her hands tied tightly behind her back. It was obvious the men, in trying to carry out their king's order, had attempted to force her cooperation. Evelyn had panicked. Maybe they had been wrong in not informing King Théoden of her past, it may have avoided this entire situation. But then again the ambition of humans has very little bounds.

Upon arriving at the scene, Théoden turned his angry eyes to the elf and dwarf. "This is your doing."

Legolas narrowed his eyes at the old king. "Nay, we told you she was not your pawn for war."

"You did not tell me she would murder my men! I am trying to save my people!" he screamed, spit flying from his mouth.

"We did not think you would force a woman to battle against her will. Have humans, even kings, now stooped so low?" Legolas growled, causing the king's horse to back up a few paces.

"She will go to the dungeons until her fate is decided." The king said, giving his decree.

"NO!" Gimli sputtered, "The lady does not deserve that!"

"Tell me dwarf, do your people take murder so lightly you would just let them walk away?" To this Gimli could not reply, for the murder of a dwarf meant certain death for the offender. "I thought not."

"It is not murder, if the one accused is fighting for their life." Legolas' cool voice range out, with such chill, it made even the dwarf shudder.

"Her life was never endangered by my men."

"And did she know that? She knew you were coming to force her into a battle where she very well could lose her life."

The king was about to retort when Evelyn's soft voice hushed them, "I will go to the dungeons."

"Do not be foolish Evelyn." The elf stated, jerking his head to look at her.

"I have killed someone, it does not matter the reason, murder is murder." She spoke, never raising her head. The elf let out an exasperated sigh.

The king, looking around, gave his final order, "Take her."

The young soldier began warily inching forward to get Evelyn, but a large white horse appeared in his path, halting his movements. He looked up into the eyes of the elf Prince, there was an angry fire burning in them, sending him stumbling backwards. "She rides with me." The soldier looked to his king who just nodded in consent, his mouth turned down in an ugly frown.

Evelyn felt herself being hoisted from the ground by a pair of large hands and once again found herself nested against the hard chest of prince Legolas. She found she could not even be uncomfortable in such close proximity as her mind could focus on nothing but the dead man's face.

Evelyn had known for a while she needed to learn to control her emotions, learn to harness her anxiety. Haldir had been telling her so for many long months in Lothlorien as had the Lady Galadriel. She thought she had made progress and had stopped trying as hard to harness all her excess energy. Now it had come back and slapped her in the face. An innocent man was dead because of her, because she could not control herself or her curse.

The looming cold of the great fortress, rose before them much too soon for Evelyn. She agreed to go to the dungeons, she knew she deserved whatever punishment befell her, but she was frightened. In the dungeon, she would truly be alone for the first time since coming to Middle Earth. Her new friends would no longer be by her side. It would just be her alone with her own thoughts, and that scared her.

The people cheered as their company rode through the gates of the Hornburg, many others cried at not seeing their loved ones return. They did not stop until they reach the main hall, the doors closing shut tight behind them. Dismounting, Legolas led her close to himself as they made the descent to the dungeons. Nervous glances were cast their way as they made the trek, but no one spoke, there was nothing left to say.

It was everything Evelyn imagined it would be from stories she had read. Large wrought iron gates made the doors of the cells that were carved into the mountain stone. Icy water dripped from cracks in the ceiling. She shivered involuntarily. There were no lights here, only the torches lit by the soldiers. The barred doors groaned in protest as they turned on their rusted hinges. Inside the cell, there was nothing, but bare cold stone and puddles.

Legolas had no choice but to lead her inside and watch helplessly as the King turned to lock, shutting the woman away. There was nothing he could say to ease the pain and guilt he knew she was feeling. There were no words that would help her now, so he turned with the others and left her alone in the silent darkness.

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