The Choice

Chapter 22

Legolas watched the smug dwarf sitting on the orc carcass smoking his pipe in apparent leisure. Walking purposefully over, he smirked at the dwarf, running his hands along his bow.

"Final count…42."

"42?" Gimli repeated, nodding his head, seemingly impressed, "Not bad for a pointy eared elvish princeling. I myself am sitting pretty at 43." He smiled, taking a long drag of his pipe. He was quite pleased with himself at beating the pompous elf. He mirth was quickly cut short when he heard the thump of an arrow land near his leg and looked to see it jutting out of the orc's hide, mere inches from thigh. He looked up wide-eyed, the elf just shot at him!

"43." The elf retorted, crossing his arms across his chest. There was no possible way he would let the dwarf best him, even by one. It was unheard of, a dwarf beating an elf, and he certainly would not allow it to be him that was bested.

"He was already dead!" Gimli choked out in disbelief as well as from the pipe smoke he deeply inhale din his shock.

"He was twitching" Legolas replied nonchalantly, clearly pleased with himself.

Gimli's eyes shot daggers toward the elf as he sputtered, "He was twitching, because he's got my axe embedded in his nervous system!" and as if to emphasize he gave a good tug on the axe causing the body to convulse. Their banter, however, was cut short when a new voice joined them.

"I do hate to interrupt, but we are to start collecting the wounded and get them to the caves to be treated." Aragorn spoke, walking up behind his two companions, clearly entertained with their jabs at one another.

Legolas found himself sobered immediately following Aragorn's words. They had won the battle, yes, but at what cost to Rohan's people? He looked around him and saw mainly the bodies of uruks and orcs, thanks to the swift arrival of Gandalf with Éomer and his men, but he knew that inside the walls of the Hornburg it was a completely different situation. The Hornburg had been breached, by some new devilry, and many had been killed. Many young boys killed, who should not even know the word war, let alone fight in one. It caused a deep pain in the elf's heart. And so gathering their weapons, they began joining the others in the melancholy work.

They had not been working long when the sound of a frantic young solider broke through the silent and somber work of gathering the wounded. The dead would be burned. There was no time to bury the corpses, and they had to prevent the festering of infection. It was the best they could offer the fallen. A feast and remembrance would be held for the fallen upon their return to Edoras.

"My Lord! My Lord!" he screamed, still running as fast as his exhausted body could carry him. King Théoden looked up from his work, his brows furrowed in question. "The caves, Sire, they were breached. The uruks…they got inside."

"Those caves were secured!" The king bellowed. Thoughts of his niece filled his already troubled mind. He sent her there to keep her safe; the caves had to have stayed they had been breached, then the battle was for naught, their woman and children will have been slaughtered.

"The explosion…My…My Lord…it collapsed the walls and floors…it left everything undefended." The young boy stuttered. Legolas had now walked to the scene with the others, wondering what had caused such hysteria in the boy. "So many dead My Lord."

Legolas felt his heart stop at that moment with a fleeting thought…Evelyn. She was in the dungeons directly below the caves where the women were sent, if the floors and walls collapsed, she might have been crushed, or worse, killed by the orcs that got inside. His gaze quickly jerked to Aragorn who was now joining the slowly growing group with the wizard, forgetting he did not yet know Evelyn's fate.

Aragorn caught his friend's gaze, confused by the grief he saw there, "My friend, what is the matter?"

It seemed at that time that Gimli also caught on, as a hoarse sob slipped from his mouth, "Evelyn."

Legolas dashed off, Gimli following as quickly as he could behind, leaving the others to follow behind them. Aragorn and Gandalf quickly caught up with the dwarf, questioning him over their distress as they ran

"King Théoden," he panted, trying to keep up his speed, "Tried to force…the Lady Evelyn to fight." Gimli had to pause here again, "She was ruff-housed and…fought back…a soldier died."

Gimli was able to catch his breath slightly, as both men were muttering curses under their breath, taking in the information. "What became of her?!" Aragorn bellowed, before Gandalf had the chance. They both had looks on their face that could kill. Gimli made himself a mental reminder to not make them mad at him.

The panting dwarf risked a look at the Dúnedain before he replied in a dark tone, "The dungeons." As soon as he said the words, both men looked to one another and sprinted off, leaving him to bring up the rear.

When he did catch up with them, he found the group deadly still and staring at a wall of rubble. Their approach to the caves, and to Evelyn, was blocked. The supporting walls had collapsed around them. Gimli sank his head in woe, only then did he notice the bodies of dead women and children, hacked in merciless cruelty. He had seen death many times over, more than he would care to admit, but the sight before him churned his innards. What could Evelyn's fate possible be against such malice?

Legolas continued to stare at the wall in defeat, it would take many men hours to clear the rubble away to fit through, and even then, it would be longer still until they would be able to pass the wounded through. He closed his eyes tightly shut, would she even be among the wounded, he wondered. He placed is hand upon the blockade and bowed his head. He sent a prayer up to the Valar that she lived. Looking up from his revere, the elf stepped back, "We must start demolishing this wall." He was not answered in words, but by Gimli stepping forward and climbing to the top, where he began working away at the fallen stone. Not for the first time, though he was loathe to admitting it, he was glad of the dwarf's presence, if there was anyone who could do the task, it would be a dwarf. Legolas hoped they were not opening a tomb.

Evelyn felt her body being shaken, sending ripples of pain down her heavy limbs. Now that she was awake she realized how bad it burned her throat to breath, and her coughing was agony to her lungs. She groaned in protest.

"Evelyn! You must get up." A frantic voice spoke above her, as the shaking continued. Why was it so important that she get up? Could the voice just not let her sleep, all she wanted was to sleep, she felt so exhausted. Then she remembered. She remembered the dungeons, the attack of the uruks and the bomb that destroyed the lower levels of the Hornburg. Evelyn remembered standing with Éowyn to the end, then blackness. Her eyes shot open, her limbs flailing wildly. "Oh thank goodness!" The voice sighed, as arms encircled her tightly. She now recognized the voice of Éowyn as the fog started clearing from her mind.

"Is it over?" She spoke into the other woman's hair.

Éowyn pulled back, and looked around her, "For now. You are alright?" she looked at her sharply, "You have been unconscious for many good moments." Éowyn, looked at the other woman's face, where a large bruise was forming on her temple where the uruk struck her. it was no wonder the woman was unconscious and even woke up at all. But she praised the Valar she did.

"Yeah, I think so." She replied before noticing the slightly confused look Éowyn gave her, and quickly just replied with a simple yes. She still often slipped up and used phrases the people here found odd.

"The walls have collapsed; we are stuck here until help arrives to bring it down. We need to tend to the wounded."

Evelyn looked around her, but saw only the corpses of the uruks and the soldiers and innocent women and children long since passed. "Forgive me, My Lady, but what wounded?" she asked in misery, seeing the carnage that surrounded her. However, she quickly regretted the words at the dark shadow that passed over Éowyn's face. However, Éowyn composed herself hastily.

"The wounded soldiers were being brought down to the caves with the women before they fell, many would not have been able to leave, and many are trapped in the rubble." She replied, helping Evelyn to her feet. Taking one last quick glance around her, Evelyn followed behind the Lady of Rohan, searching for any signs of life. Her mind was sharp and alert, but her body was still weak, and her quick movements gave her dizzy spells. Not to mention she had the worst headache she could ever remember having. Éowyn returned to her side, placing an arm through hers for support and offered her a slight smile.

When they came into the main caves, there were many more people than she thought stumbling to help those who could not help themselves, but they all stopped when they entered.

"My Lady!" many cheered, heartened to see their shield maiden alive and still able to fight for them, while others gave Evelyn cautious looks, which did not go unnoticed by Éowyn, and she quickly put an end to them.

"The Lady Evelyn fights for us. Had she not, countless more would have died today. She shall be treated like the war hero she is."

"I am not a…" she tried to protest, before earning a warning glare from Éowyn. She did not try to protest anymore. Evelyn did not feel like a hero. She was not proud that she had killed even such grotesque creatures, and she could not forget the innocent soldier she killed on the plains. Was his family here? Did they know the fate of their son? She hoped not.

Soon after, Eowyn had organized the people into groups. Each station was assigned their own roles. Those unhurt were sent to gather the wounded and triage them appropriately, while others treated them as best as they could; Which is how Evelyn found herself among a group of injured soldiers, all who exhibited nasty wounds. She did not have much knowledge on wound care, but she knew enough from her horse's injuries to know how to clean and dress them, and so she set to work. It surprised her that she found her mind clear for the first time in many days; she was able to forget everything but the task before her.

It seemed like hours she worked, moving mechanically from man to man, removing dirt and debris from the wounds and wrapping them tightly with the cleanest fabric she had on hand. Her work was methodical, putting her into a trance. One man down, ten more to go that is how it felt. She had not realized just how many were injured. She tried not to think of the ones who died. Five had already died before she could tend to their needs, try as she might not to keep count, she could not help herself. One more death was one more failure. Finally, she reached the last man in her group. She sighed and dropped her head into her hands, not caring the blood she spread across her skin. She was now covered head to toe in both red and black blood alike.

A queasy feeling began forming in her stomach; quickly she got to her feet. She could not get sick, not now. She looked for something to do, anything to keep her mind occupied. If she was busy, she could not think of all the death around her. She could not worry for her friends and question their fate. Quickly she found Éowyn, and mustered what energy she had to make her way to her new friend, and to help her with yet another batch of injured Rohirrim. Éowyn, seeing her arrive asked no questions, just handed her more supplies.

They were working together, Éowyn and herself, on a terribly injured man. He had lost the lower half of his arm from an axe blow; it took Éowyn and two other soldiers to hold him still as Evelyn cauterized it. They had no way to build a fire in the caves, but cold can burn just as easy as heat, and so Evelyn used her power to freeze the bleeding vessels. It worked, but there was no guarantee he would still survive the blood loss and potential infection. They looked at each other and nodded, knowing there was nothing else they could do for him. When they stood to move on, a booming voice echoed through the hall, stopping their movement.


All the heads turned in the direction of the sound. A group stood in the old entryway. Evelyn recognized the king, but not the man beside him. Éowyn, however, ran to him and he enveloped her small frame into a bear hug, the king smiling beside them. They were of kin she knew, they had too many similar features not to be: the same golden hair and facial structure.

Then she saw the faces of the men she had been trying not to think of this long day. All the worry of their safety was gone with a deep relieving sigh. Even Gandalf had returned to them unharmed. The wizard and Aragorn gave her a small smile, Gimli had a smile that stretched from ear to ear for her, and the elf was as unreadable as ever. His face held so many deep emotions, but none that she could understand. Then again, she was not sure she wanted him to be an open book.

All of her being wanted to walk to them, hug them, but her body just could not manage it, she seemed frozen in place. Evelyn was scared that if she moved, she would collapse, there was no energy left in her to pull from. She just stared at them and sat on the rock behind her.

Before she could blink an eye, they were all around her talking, asking questions, and her mind began to spin. The wave of sickness she pushed down before was coming back in full force, and this time she had not the will to stop it.

"I'm going to be sick." She mumbled before vomiting at their feet and passing out.

She was awaken with a start, her breathing heavy and coming in gasps, her sheets were wet from her sweat and clinging to her limbs, though she could not remember what caused her to have such a fright. Slowly, her breathing came back down to normal and she turned to take in her surroundings. The room was small, made of cold stone, with tapestries hung to the walls. A small open window was letting in the filtered moonlight to cascade around the room. Slowly her memories became clearer. She remembered the dungeons, the explosion, fighting with Éowyn, and then the aftermath. She shut her eyes tightly attempting to force the face of the dead from her mind, but she could not

Giving a frustrated sigh, she climbed from bed, her feet hitting the cold stone floor without a sound. That is when she noticed she was in a long cotton shift. Looking down, she realized she had been cleaned up, but she held no memory of such events. Her cheeks flushed in embarrassment. she quickly pushed the thoughts from her mind. She was obviously unconscious, someone had to do the task.

Peering out the window, she looked for the moon, unable to spot it from the window. She could not say why she wanted to look at the moon so badly; Evelyn just knew she wanted to see it. Grabbing the robe she found draped over the lone chair, she wrapped up and slid noiselessly from the room.

The outer wall was stained with blood, but she was oblivious to what her bare feet trod on, she saw only the moon that was shining fully before her, as silent tears rolled down her cheeks. He dream was lost to her, but the pain of all the death that surrounded her, was finally able to hit full force. She saw the faces of the dead men and boys, and even some women. They were images that would haunt her mind for many years to come.

For a time Legolas watched her from the shadows. He had heard her leaving her room beside his own and decided to follow her. She had been standing still as a statue for an hour now in the crisp night air, just starring out into the night. What ever she thought about, kept her transfixed. However, the glistening tears on her cheeks told him it was not pleasant. Legolas finally decided to break her revere.

"What is it you are doing up here?" he asked, stepping from the shadows to position himself directly beside her.

Stifling a scream, she spun towards the voice, locking eyes with the elf's. She left small ice crystals stuck to the balcony railing where her hands once lay. Annoyed he startled her once again, she looked back over the land. Why could elves not mkae more noise, she was tired of the Princeling always startling her.

"I could not sleep."

"Neither could I, shall I keep you company?" he asked, following her gaze. He leaned forward lazily, resting his forearms across the cold stone.

She opened her mouth to point out that he was lying; she knew elves did not sleep as much as did other races, but quickly shut her mouth again. He was trying to be pleasant; she decided not to spoil it as she had in times past. She eyed him from the corner of her eyes, wishing she could understand him just the slightest bit. Finally she answered. "If you want."

And so they stood there in silence, both lost to their own thoughts for a time, before Evelyn's gave her body a chill. Legolas, taking notice, spoke, "It is a cold night. Do you wish to retire inside?"

Inclining her eyes to his, she gave a rueful smile. "I no longer feel the cold." She told him, raising her hand and inspecting it as if she thought she would find some malformation, instead only a few small snowflakes erupted above her hand, taking the elf aback. "I miss it sometimes, feeling the cold; I used to find it refreshing when I needed to clear my mind, now I don't have that luxury."

Legolas stared at her a moment, taken by surprise she had spoken such. Other than when she spilled her secrets to him, it was the most insightful comment she had made to anyone, especially while she was in a calm state. He waited a moment, thinking he would see her close herself off as she had done so often in the past when personal thoughts would slip, but he caught no such sign. He found he did not have a response he could give her. What would it be like he wondered, to be put in her situation. She came from a land very different from Middle Earth, with different customs, and was thrown into a life she never wanted.

"I believe I shall retire to the fire, look for warmer thoughts than those I find here. Will you accompany me? The hall is deserted." He asked her.

She did not want to leave her post, though she could not find it in herself to refuse the Prince. And as such, she told him to lead the way and found herself seated by a large fire in the forlorn great hall of Helms Deep. The walls on the far end were destroyed, but the greatness of the fortress remained. The stone walls were decorated with tapestries of their horses and land, giving the barren fortress some warmth.

Evelyn was perplexed by the elf's behavior. She could not understand how he could go from acting completely indifferent to her to trying to cheer her mood. He spent his time with her in silence on the outer wall, when she knew he probably wished to be doing anything else. Now he was nowhere in sight after it was his choice to come to the fire. A sigh escaped her lips.

Then he appeared before the fire, startling her once again, she still was not used to his silent movements. He tossed her a blanket without a word and knelt by the fire, hiding from her what he was undertaking. She stared at his muscular back in confusion. After several minutes, he stood and strode to her seat in one swift movement.

"Here." He said, as he thrust the old mug in his hand to her and went again to the fire, leaning against the mantle, reminding Evelyn of some sort of model doing an ad for a historical magazine. She almost smiled at the thought, and quickly had to stop herself. She sure as heck did not want to try to explain to the Elf Prince what had made her smile. Instead, she looked at the hot liquid he had given her.

"What is it?" she questioned, bring the mug under her nose for a quick sniff.

"Tea. Did you not tell Merry that is what you drank at home many nights?"

Now it was her turn to stare at the elf in surprise. She had not expected that he had been listening to what she had to say, so many days ago, let alone take the pains to remember it, and she almost said so but stopped herself. "I did, yes. Thank you." Evelyn whispered instead. Legolas gave a nod of his head in reply. She stared at his form a little longer, still mystified. it frustrated her how he acted, it made her want to discover all his different layers, find out what made him tick. however, Evelyn knew that was something she wold never accomplish. The Mirkwood elf, did not like her enough to be so open with her, and she was not sure she even and the courage to ask such questions of him. So shaking her head, she shifted her thoughts to the tea he had prepared.

Legolas, from the corner of his eyes watched the woman study him, and could almost see her mind spinning questions around that she dared not ask. it found it amusing. As stoic as she could sometimes be, her face, like most mortals, betrayed most of her thoughts to him. It was then he decided to speak. if she had been so willing to speak earlier he may get some of his own questions answered."Tell me," he asked, "What do you miss most about your home?"

Caught off guard, it took her a moment to collect her thoughts before she could respond. "Right now," she thought and smiled, "plumbing."

Legolas furrowed his brows, "What is plumbing?"

"We use pipes—long hollow tubes—that run through your home and pump water to where ever you need it. Hot water too. I am sorely missing a hot shower right about now." She smiled at the memory.

He looked even more confused at the mention of a shower, which is how Evelyn found herself for the next few hours trying to explain how the water was hot and what exactly a shower was. From there the conversation turned to transportation and on to customs—here the elf was in complete disbelief at the clothing described and habits people had. Evelyn laughed aloud at his reaction, probably the first true laugh she had since leaving Lothlorien and it stopped even Legolas' protest as he listened.

"What?" she asked, still giggling like a schoolgirl.

He shook his head and said, "nothing, please continue." though much to his chagrin, he found he wanted to hear her laugh again.

And so she did until sleep finally overcame her and she fell sound asleep on the couch beside the elf, who scooped her up to return her to her chambers as the sun was starting to rise over the dreary horizon. She only spoke one more word before he laid her on the old rickety bed, "Aingeal."

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