The Choice

Chapter 23

When she finally awoke, the warm afternoon sun was beating down on her face through the open window. Evelyn groggily made to get out of her bed. Instantly, pain ripped through her head, causing her to yelp, and drop back into bed unceremoniously. It was instinct that made her reach for her head, but it only increased the pain as she touch the large black bruise on her temple. She slowly tried to open her eyes, but the light caused her searing pain, and she yelped again, curling into the fetal position whimpering and pulling her covers over her eyes.

The pain was slowly starting to recede when her chamber door slammed open and Legolas and Aragorn barged through. "What is wrong, we heard you scream?" Aragorn asked in bewilderment. She seemed fine, curled up under her covers. Nevertheless, he knew his ears did not deceive him. Legolas heard her too. They had been discussing their next moves when they heard her cry out more than once.

"It feels like my head is being ripped apart," She moaned from under the covers, wishing they had left her in silence, thought it did warm her heart to see they actually cared.

"May I look?" The ranger asked cautiously, stepping towards the bed.


Gingerly he pulled back the covers and sucked in a deep breath. The small bruise he noted on her face yesterday now covered much of her temple and eye, and had turned a nasty bluish black color—Evelyn had suffered a nasty concussion. He felt guilt rise up in his throat. He should have investigated the bruise farther yesterday, he might could have stopped much of her pain if he had. However, she looked relatively unharmed in the aftermath, just covered in grim.

"You have a concussion. Did you receive this from the explosion?" He could think of no other cause, than she was thrown and hit her head or was hit by debris. To his knowledge, she was spared from the uruks.

"It would be from an Uruk's fist my lord. He had a damn good back swing, the bastard." She replied dryly. She did not mean to use such foul language, however, being in pain caused her to lose some of her filters she had gained in Middle Earth.

Aragorn's eyes grew wide and Legolas had made it to her bedside in two long strides. They had all thought she had escaped meeting the creatures when they found her tending the wounded. They had all been glad of the fact. She was skilled enough with her weapons, but she was not battle hardened, and her fear was too strong. Why had she not brought it up before? They both thought, forgetting she had been unconscious for much of the time since the battle.

"How did you come to fight?" Aragorn asked concern in his eyes. She seemed to be faring much too well to have battled, but then this woman seemed to be full of surprises, her foul language being among them.

"Why did you not find safety?" The elf demanded at the same time.

Evelyn, who still kept her eyes tightly shut, pursed her lips at the elf's retort, if that had been an option she surely would have taken it, she had not been so lucky, however, she had not the chance to say as such when another voice joined.

"I believe I have those answers for you, for I have just spoken with the Lady Éowyn, and will speak of it in due time. I believe our dear Evelyn needs rest and her wound tended. She does not need to be hounded with your interrogations as good as your intentions are." Gandalf said with a smile on his face. The two nodded in agreement, they had been too caught up in their concern, and they forgot she needed tending.

Evelyn opened her eyes with a start, wishing she had not for the pain it brought on, but made herself look at the wizard, "Éowyn, how is she?" she asked, worry written clearly on her features. Preoccupied with her own pain, she had temporarily forgotten about the other woman, and felt guilty for it.

Gandalf turned a soft gaze to the woman, "She fares well, resting as you should be doing. Mayhap tomorrow you shall both fare well enough to venture out and greet one another." Evelyn nodded in agreement, sending shoot pain through her skull. "Now will one of you be so kind as to fetch a salve for that bruise and I will do what healing I can." At once, both the man and elf left the room as promptly as they came in.

When Aragorn returned with the salve, Gandalf immediately set to work. The touch of his rough fingers made her recoil but the salve did its job. Evelyn felt a tingling on the area and the pain was receding as he applied it in thick strokes, speaking in a language she did not understand. Soon Evelyn found herself in a deep sleep, dreaming of Zenith and her time in Lothlorien. It was the most restful she had since her time in the Lady's realm and the best she would have for many nights to come.

Gandalf found Aragorn and Legolas waiting for him at the base of the stairs, both impatient to have their questions answered.

"Why is she now only showing symptoms, we should have detected it sooner!" Legolas asked the wizard, who looked at the elf fondly.

"The swelling in her brain at the time only would cause her the minor symptoms—dizziness, vomiting, and so forth. It was not until during the night and morning it became severe enough to cause her pain she experience upon waking." Gandalf explained.

"But how came she into battle?" Aragorn questioned next.

Shaking his head slightly, he beckoned them the follow, to where the King, Eomer, and Gimli where awaiting them. He would speak about the events with everyone present. If there were anything to change Evelyn's fate here in Rohan, it would be Eowyn's tale. He was thankful the shield maiden has spoken already to Théoden; she would hold more sway than he.

He sat down at the prepared table, acknowledging those present before he began. "The tale I shall tell you, Lady Eowyn has already told the king and her brother. When the wall was breached and the caves collapsed, it allowed Evelyn to escape the dungeons with Eowyn's help. It seems the lady knew of the incident with the soldier that attempted to force Evelyn to battle." Gandalf paused, watching the king bow his head, knowing now he had made a terrible mistake, "Do not grieve over your choice, Théoden king, for had you done otherwise, many more may have otherwise perished."

"What do you mean, Gandalf? " Gimli questioned, asking what he knew all the others were thinking. How could such actions been a good thing. You cannot force someone to do something against his or her will and then punish them for the outcome.

"Because master Gimli, it was the very actions of Evelyn that Eowyn used to coax her into their own battle. You saw for yourself that the enemy gained entrance to the caves with the woman and children, for many were killed. She gave Evelyn the chance for redemption, and she took it. They stood with the last of the guard against the onslaught of the uruks bearing down upon them."

He paused again, "It is because of the actions of the two women, most of those in the caves survived." He looked now on King Théoden once more, "I hope you will reconsider your prior decision on the Lady Evelyn's fate."

Théoden rubbed his chin with a calloused hand, "I fear I see now the folly of my choice, however, it does not change the fact she committed murder. However, for her service to Rohan, I will allow her freedom on one condition. She is not to go alone through the city. She must, at all times, have a guardian with her. Those are my terms."

Gimli was opening his mouth to protest, when Aragorn's hand stayed him. "Your decision is generous; we will be honored to accept it." It was not entirely what he had wanted after hearing Gandalf's story, but it was better than the alternative. He did not believe she would survive being held prisoner. The guilt and harshness that would be shown to her would eat her alive. With his dark thoughts though came a burst of pride for the woman. Aragorn did not believe it was a woman's place to fight. However, he was proud she found it in herself to be strong not only for herself but for others who needed her strength more.

The next broke clear and bright, arousing Evelyn from her peaceful sleep. At first, she felt trapped in a dream, her mind was having trouble wrapping around any one coherent thought. Sitting up, she felt a dull ache in her head, that seemed to throb in time with her movement, but she ignored it. The pain seemed to help clear her mind from the sleep, and slowly she was able to piece together the events of the past two days. She took a deep breath trying to steady all of her emotions and thoughts.

Rising slowly to try not to disturb her head, she walked to peer out her window. Her injury barely hurt her now, she did not know what Gandalf did but she was thankful. She had concussions before, they had taken weeks to go away fully, and this was the worse one she had suffered. The view outside astounded her as her eyes finally adjusted to the brightness, she looked out over the misty mountains, a light fog clung to the valleys and the sun began peeking its Rays over the lowest peaks. It warmed her heart to see there was still beauty left after the battle.

A soft knock at the door drew her attention away from the peaceful sight. "One moment," she told whoever waited on the other side as she grabbed her robe, only realizing she had no proper clothes in the room to put on. She opened the door only wide enough to poke her head through.

She saw Eowyn on the other side and smiled warmly, opening the door completely to allow her entrance. "I'm glad to see you're okay, how are you feeling?" She asked, as she closed the door.

"I must say I have felt better, but what of you? Your companions have kept you locked away the past days." She took in Evelyn, noting the ugly bruise and swelling that marred her face thinking hers must look much the same.

"I too I have felt better," she laughed, "They have made me rest, I seem to have suffered a concussion from the Uruk. What about your jaw, it looks painful."

Eowyn gave her a smile, though it hurt to do so, "It feels about as bad as it looks I fear." She told her and gave a small laugh. "I brought you some clothes. It is an old riding habit of mine, I figure you could use it more than a dress."

"Thank you." Evelyn smiled, taking the folded clothes for the other woman. She would be much more comfortable in this attire than a dress. Evelyn was touched Eowyn would think of such for her. Then again, she saw her scars and her desire to keep them hidden. The Lady of Rohan was thoughtful, she would give her that and brave. She wished she could be as strong as she was, but she was not sure it was in her anymore. Sighing quietly to herself, she laid the clothes on the old bed.

"I also came to bring you news that my uncle has changed your sentence."

"My sentence?" She asked, confused at the lady's meaning. Then she remembered her stay in the dungeons and said as such.

"He has granted your freedom, so long as you have a companion with you at all times. I am sorry you could not be truly free after your trials." Eowyn told her, placing a friendly hand on her arm. Evelyn looked at her with a kindly smile.

"It is more than I deserve. I'm thankful for his generosity." And it was true. The king had shown her great faith in making his choice, though she wandered what influence Gandalf had made when it came down to the wire. The wizard was quite cunning with his words.

"Come, I will help you dress and we shall find the others."

It proved slightly more difficult than either woman imagined. Evelyn had no idea how tight and sore her body was. Exasperated she flung her hands in defeat, "God! I never knew getting dressed would be such a fight. Make me feel better and tell me you had as much of a problem." She dropped back on the bed, letting her muscles stretch.

"Days of hard riding and battle will do such to you; come let us go down, the more you move the quicker you will recover." Éowyn chuckled.

Evelyn grumbled, but knew it was the truth, and so she picked herself up and took a moment to look at her new attire. The brown leggings where well hidden under the dress's skirts while she stood. The dark green dress had a small v-cut neckline, and gold lined collar. At the waist hung a brown belt and the fabric split down the middle, where lighter shades of green fabric poked through. Until she sat astride a horse, no one would know she was not in a true dress. The designers had been smart who made the habit. "Let's go them." She agreed, after a few moments.

The women received mixed greetings as they walked arm and arm through the fortress. All bowed or curtsied showing respect to their Lady. Their reaction to their faces was diverse. Most of them were able to conceal their shock, but others stared openly. A few even greeted them both with thanks and praise for their actions. Evelyn was quite taken aback by it all, not sure how to take the praise and so she graciously brushed it all to Éowyn.

It was many minutes later when they had finally made it to the great hall where they assumed the men to be gathered, and they had been right. They stood around a table talking in harsh low voices.

"There ye are lass!" a great voice boomed to Evelyn's right and she turned to see Gimli making his way to her. She smiled at his enthusiastic greeting. However, she was not expecting to be enveloped into a bear hug. The dwarf's arms wrapped tightly around her midsection, and he gave a squeeze. Once the shock lifted, she bent to return the hug, causing a slight throbbing in her temple, but she hid it from the dwarf, not wanting to dampen his spirits. "Tis good to see ye up and about." He told her, eyes twinkling with mirth as he inspected her. "Never have I seen someone pull off a black eye so well as ye do lass."

Evelyn could not help herself as she snorted in laughter, thankfully not many of the people around her heard. It was probably the best compliment she could receive as far as her looks went now. Gimli then proceeded to detach her from Éowyn and take her with him, his arm hooked tightly through hers; she turned and gave Eowyn a thankful smile, which was returned in full.

"I am glad to see you recovering." Aragorn told her offering a small smile.

"I owe that to Gandalf." She credited the wizard, who nodded in favor.

"As you are here, I will go ahead and inform you of the plans." Aragorn addressed her, "In an hour's time we ride for Isengard and to Merry and Pippin."

"The Hobbits are okay then? They are safe?" She inquired, ashamed of herself for not thinking of them more. She felt a pang of loneliness at their absence.

"Aye, they are quite alright for the time. While we do this, the people will return to Edoras."

Evelyn nodded, her excitement over seeing the hobbits again trumped all else she was feeling at the moment. Oh what joy it would bring her to hear their playful banter again and there carefree spirits. It would do her heavy heart good.

"You will ride with us to Isengard." Aragorn added, breaking her from her revere. She looked at him, her eyes filled with doubt, but she did not argue. She knew of Sauruman and his betrayal. She did not fear going, she feared what the wizard could still do. What if he saw her for what she was, what if he too wanted her for her powers like the King of Rohan had? What then, she wondered.

"Legolas, take her to the stables, she if she is fit to ride alone. Hasufel is hers now for as long as she needs him."

She dropped her mouth. No horse would replace Zenith, but she could not deny she had missed riding a horse of her own. Still she could not help a small smile from forming on her lips. For just a moment, her fears were pushed aside. She did not have time to say thank you as the elf was already stalking down the hall. Leaving her behind and she had to scramble to keep up.

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