The Choice

Chapter 28

"Miss Evelyn, have we told ye about Gandalf's fireworks yet?" Pippin asked, his curly head bouncing in front of her eyes.

"No," She said, giving them a smile, "I don't believe I've heard that one yet." The hobbit were as restless as she, neither wanting to rest for fear of another attack and neither wanting to think of the battle that just occurred. Looking around her, she saw the Rohirrim now sitting huddled together, their dead in shallow graves. Quickly she averted her gaze, a sinking feeling erupting in her stomach.

"Well," Pippin began, his face becoming tranquil as he set about pulling the details of his story, "It was Bilbo's 111th birthday party,"

"He'd be Frodo's uncle," Merry chimed in, interrupting Pippin and earning himself a nice jab to the ribs.

"Any ways," he continued, "We always looked forward to Bilbo's party you see. Gandalf would always come with his whizz poppers. They are a quite wonderful thing, they are. Now not to say his weren't good this year, cause they were," He risked a quick glance at the wizard to make sure he had not overheard that statement. "But just not exciting. So we took it upon ourselves to find a good one. Once Merry tossed me into the cart, I just grab the biggest one I could find. Of course I did not know it would turn into a dragon and scare everyone gathered!" he protested at the end, "It went and dove right at us! We were all running and falling over each other thinking it was real!"

Evelyn could not help herself, she found herself laughing out right picturing stout little hobbits running and tumbling over one another. Her laugh attracted the attention of her company, for they had not heard her laugh, not truly in a long while, not that any of them had truly.

"Aye, a right fine tale master Took, but I imagine Gandalf was none too pleased wi' ye?" Gimli chuckled before taking a long drag from his pipe.

"Oh, umm, well…" they both stammered, not wanting to speak of their punishment.

"As I recall," Gandalf's voice spoke above them, "I dragged you away by the ears and made you wash all the night's dishes." He said it harshly, but looking up, Evelyn could see the small smile on his face at the memory. Merry and Pippin just peered up at him, sheepish looks on their faces, everyone knowing it did not teach them a lesson.

"Come now; let us find some rest before the dawn. We are all weary." He told them, looking hard at Evelyn.

"Miss Evelyn, will you sing a lullaby?" Merry asked, taking her aback.

"I have no great voice, but if you wish, I'll try."

They both grinned madly and settled once again into her lap, her fingers beginning to run thoughtlessly in their curly hair as she leaned against the cold rock. She thought a minute to think of a song that would be somewhat appropriate, since she knew no true lullabies. Finally, she picked one, not sure why it was her choice, but she went with it nonetheless.

'Lay downYour sweet and weary head'

She stopped suddenly, her voice was not the same one she remembered, but then she thought sarcastically to herself, 'nothing else about her stayed the same, why would her voice be any different?'Taking a deep inhale, she started over.

'Lay downYour sweet and weary headNight is fallingYou've come to journey's endSleep nowAnd dream of the ones who came beforeThey are callingFrom across the distant shore

Why do you weep?What are these tears upon your face?Soon you will seeAll of your fears will pass awaySafe in my armsYou're only sleeping

What can you seeOn the horizon?Why do the white gulls call?Across the seaA pale moon risesThe ships have come to carry you home

And all will turnTo silver glassA light on the waterAll souls pass'

A soft voice floated over the still night air, catching him by surprise. Turning, he saw the woman sitting nearby with the hobbits again gathered around her seeking comfort. Legolas had not expected her to sing. Albeit, she sang softly, and had he not been an elf he would not have heard her at all, he found her voice soothing, with an almost elflike quality to it, but there was something different about it. Something he could not place. Without meaning to, he found himself mesmerized, watching her mouth intently as she formed the words that had hooked him. It was a sad mournful song, but there was something in it that stirred something in his heart. Was it hope? He was not sure. Suddenly he found himself jostled from his trance, and he looked around for its cause. Then the penetrating silence filled him and he realized suddenly her singing had stopped. She had drifted off into slumber along with the hobbits, though she did not share their peaceful face, hers was trouble and held a pained expression.

With a sigh, he walked himself near where they slept, knowing that shortly he would be waking the woman before she woke their whole party, though he saw, not all were able to find sleep. Aragorn was in quiet conversation with Théoden, planning their next move he was sure. He did not relish going back to Rohan, though he knew that would be their ultimate course until they knew of the enemies' plan.

Once again, he let his eyes drift to Evelyn. Twice now, she had saved his life, and he was not quite sure how he felt about that. A sudden pang of guilt hit him in the pit of his stomach and he grimaced. He never once thanked her. He looked up across the horizon, the sun's rays starting to dance in the sky. Today, he would thank her today, he told himself as he went to wake her. Quite suddenly, her grimace had changed into jerking, and tears trickled down her cheeks.

Instantly she tried to bolt away, but he was ready for her and held her tightly in place, until she focused and calmed herself. It took less time than he imagined, maybe thirty seconds and her felt her body relax and her breathing return to normal. Her heart rate remained fast, however.

"Do you wish to speak of it?" he asked her.

Her breath hitched as she heard his voice, maybe a few inches from her face. Involuntarily she leaned slightly back, only to have the rock behind her dig into her back. 'Relax;' she scolded herself, though she found it quite hard—not only from the vivid images still flashing through her mind, but from the very close proximity of the Elf Prince. She could feel his breath on her face and smell his earthly aroma much more than she cared to. It also did not help her case, that when she finally managed to focus her vision she was staring straight at his mouth, which, she must confess, she had not really noticed before—probably because he usually just scowled at her. He did have nice lips. 'Damn it! Pull it together! You are not a college student pinning over the football star, especially when that star is an Elf Prince!'

"Not particularly." She forced out, her voice much weaker than she would have cared for it to be. Evelyn forced herself to bring her gaze up to his eyes. They were unreadable to her as always. So many deep emotions and thoughts seemed to be swirling in their depths.

"Well, it will do you know good to sit and dwell on them."

She gave a defeated sigh. She did not want to tell him because what she saw was him dead, Pierced through the heart with a spear. The dark skinned man looming over him grinning. "I saw yo…" she stopped herself, "I saw everyone dead." Which technically was not a lie, afterwards she saw a sort of panoramic view. A large battlefield littered with the dead, but those of her comrades stuck out to her. Their bodies mangled and heaped carelessly upon the ground and the enemy stood cheering. They were dark men covered in black tattoos and gold piercing, wearing strange garments for the time. They must be men from the south—Easterlings and Haradrim. The backdrop was Minis Tirith burning. "Sauron's men killed everyone. They burned Minis Tirith, tore it down."

This caught Legolas off guard. 'She dreamed of the White City. But why?' She had never been there, though he knew she had to know of it, but it struck him as odd. 'Did she know Sauron had the Easterlings and Haradrim under his control?' He did not image so. Surely, it was just her imagination.

"We are all still alive." he assured her. But to himself he thought, 'for now.' There was no guarantee they would all survive this war, and he knew she knew that well enough so he kept it unspoken between them.

Evelyn could only manage a small smile, for she knew the unspoken words that were left silent between them.

Legolas felt his eyes travel from her tired eyes to her mouth as she forced the smile upon them. Closing his eyes quickly, he took a deep breath and stood up, leaving Evelyn slightly taken aback from his abrupt departure. "You should wake the hobbits soon, once the sun is risen, we will not linger long."

She watched him walk away, his movements graceful, but it was clear he was tense. Evelyn sighed, it was best not to worry her mind over it. Quietly she began waking the hobbits, who she found were much harder to wake than she anticipated. She would shake them and call their names, to get no more than a grunt before they would nuzzle back down to sleep.

"Gimli, a little help here? They sleep harder than a rock!" she exclaimed as she saw the dwarf rising nearby. With a chuckle, he made his way over to assess the situation.

"Aye, I believe I have just the solution." He told her as he turned around to his pack. He looked back adding, "Ye best weasel yer way out first lass."

Evelyn gave him a quizzical glance, but decided she best do as he said and somehow she mange to remove herself from the hobbit's clutches, though she found it a right hard struggle. All her muscle were exhausted and on fire still, and it did not help that Merry and Pippin would continually readjust themselves to her every time she moved. She watched as the muttered in their slumber and curled up in a vain attempt for more sleep. Gimli, at this point, had return, a mischievous gleam in his eye. Walking to stand between them, he took his canteen and dribbled cold water all down their faces and neck.

"Agghh!"

Evelyn stifled a giggle at them. They both were scrambling around trying to figure out what happened, surprise written clearly over both of their faces.

"Time ye woke up ladies. It will not be long now till we are on our way." Gimli told them gruffly, barely suppressing his laughter. It earned him a nice scowl from the two, and Evelyn was sure payback would come swiftly.

Turning then, to go find her own pack, she saw Aragorn standing alone fingering the necklace he wore. Without thinking, she walked over to join him.

"You miss her."

The ranger did not turn to look at her, but gave a long sigh. "I do."

"There is a chance she has not sailed yet" She told him, trying to offer comfort. Aragorn was strong and kind. A born leader, but his heart was breaking, that was plain to see, and it hurt her to know it. She only knew him a few months, and many of the first were filled with mistrust, but he was now part of the only family she had.

"And If she stays, what will await her? Should our quest fail, she will die. Should we be victorious she would still come to death."

"Aragorn, if we fail, we shall all die. You offer her more than death." Evelyn replied, her voice soft, barely above a whisper.

"I only want what is best for her. I think of her often after battles, thinking how close they bring me to losing her through my own death, and then I remember I already have." Aragorn replied, taking in a deep breath. He was surprised to find himself speaking of his fears with her. He understood now what Haldir had meant when he was telling him about the strange woman that would accompany them. There was just something about her that made it easy to open up—there was no judgement in her voice, she would just listen, say what she needed to and that was that.

"Only she can decide what is best for her, no matter how good your intentions. Besides, the Evenstar still shines, take your hope from that." She smiled as he looked at her for the first time since their talk began. He eyes were a mirror into his own soul; he saw his pain and doubts reflected in them. She knew what it was to lose hope.

"And where do you get yours from, your hope?" he asked and watched as she slowly looked away.

Evelyn was caught off guard by his question. She had meant to offer him comfort, not have it flipped back on her. Breaking his gaze, she looked ahead noticing Legolas walking in their direction and her breath hitched.

"I haven't found it yet." She finally replied before making her leave, feeling rather unsettled. She grabbed her pack and continued on to wherever her feet took her.

"Where are you going?" Legolas asked as she walked passed him, barely noticing his presence. He stopped as he saw her leaving Aragorn's side. They both seemed to have much on their minds. Though he noticed the ranger's face looked lighter and hers darker.

"To wash up." She replied briskly. She had too many things in her mind swirling around to have the elf prince muddle them around, and she was sure he would somehow. Even in just normal conversations, it happened. Moreover, she really did need to wash a little; she was covered in blood and dirt.

"We will be leaving soon. We make for Edoras." He informed her as he matched her stride. 'Yes," he thought, as he looked at her, 'Her thoughts are much darker.'

"All the more reason for me to hurry," she stated, hurrying her pace. She hoped he would get the message and go on about his business. It did not work.

"Come then, I will take you to the trees."

"I can manage on my own." she retorted, causing Legolas to snort in reply. Evelyn glared at him.

"And if more orcs show up?" he asked her calmly. He was starting to relax a bit; their old style of conversation eased his tension. There had been plenty of tension between them the last few days, different from their normal standoffish type, and it made him uneasy.

She opened her mouth, ready to give him some smart-ass reply but found she could not. He hit home, and he knew it the bastard. What frustrated her even more was that he was correct. "Very-well My Lord, lead on."

He grimaced slightly at her tone, "You do not have to call me that, you know. I have never been very fond of it."

Eyeing him skeptically Evelyn asked, "What am I to call you then, your highness?" She asked it with an edge to her voice, wary of where this conversation may head.

"My name would suffice." He stated simply, but stopped himself there before he could say more. 'What am I doing?' he thought. 'Of course she should use his title, it would be proper.' But he knew deep down that he did not wish her to. He had not noticed that they had stopped walking or that they were already into the trees. He found himself intently watching her as she regarded him with a strange look. 'What was it she was thinking about? What had her and Aragorn spoken of that left him bathed in light and her in darkness?' he wondered as he stared at her for a bit longer. Those icy eyes, which unnerved him, he found were now intriguing him. More than just her past haunted her now. The fear he once saw plain as day, was hidden in a deep recess, now there was something else, something he could not place. He involuntarily took a step forward, but stopped himself suddenly, taken by surprise that she stood her ground. It snapped him out of his daze.

"As you wish," she replied softly. She felt her pulse and breath quicken as he stepped forward. She was not even sure he knew he took the step; he was focused intently on something about her, making her very unsettled. Then as quickly as it started it was over, she saw his eyes unfocused from her own, though it did not calm her down in the least. Luckily, for her Legolas was able to quickly recover and take on his normal stoic countenance.

"I'll keep watch her, go around the tree."

She did as he bid and began to gingerly peel away the outer layers of her clothing. The outermost tunic was beyond repair and to her dismay, the blood had seeped through to the second. If she had taken the time to change earlier, it may have been salvageable. However, she had not the time for that now. Evelyn just tossed them aside. The other layers had remained mostly intact. The air felt like heaven against her bare skin. With a sigh though, she made to wash off her arms and torso quickly. There was no luxury to be had in enjoying the air this day. The binding she put on her chest was getting dirty, but there was nothing to be done about it now. She gave a sharp hiss as she pulled the white linen undershirt over her head, the muscle in her shoulder pulling against her.

Legolas heard her hiss of alarm and spun without thinking to attack whatever it was that startled her, only to find her struggle to pull her tunic back on. He froze, staring at her back, which was painted in a bright array of colors, just as the maids had said. It was a strange sight indeed, but he found the image beautiful it its own way—the bird bursting through the storm clouds, letting the sun's rays through. Then the shirt covered it and broke the spell. Legolas, quickly turned around, face blushed a deep crimson at the situation, and just how inappropriate it was. What in the world, would his father say if he knew? He shook his head, not wanting to think any more about it.

"Alright, I'm done." She informed him, walking around the tree braiding her hair as she went. She did not wait for the elf, knowing he would follow.

Evelyn waited patiently for the hobbits to get ready as one would ride with her and one with Gandalf. Thankfully, Merry showed up at her side shortly after ready for help up, which was given by Legolas. With her sore muscles, there was no way she could have helped.

"What is wrong with Legolas? He seems troubled?" Merry asked, and she smiled.

Legolas turned to eyeball the hobbit, a wary glance was cast Evelyn's way. His heart sank as he watched the wicked smile spread across her face.

"Oh not too worry, he just learned what a tattoo was, he will be fine."

So she knew he had seen her, and practically told the hobbit. His heart gave a flutter, and he felt the blush rising back into his cheeks. Quickly turning away, all he could think was, 'Valor help me.'

"What is a tattoo?"

"I'll explain later." She laughed, watching the elf walk away most uncomfortably. She was not sure why she made it known to him she knew he had turned around and caught her changing. She knew he had thought her in trouble and was coming to help, but she found she could not help herself. It was not often she saw the elf discontented, but he certainly was now. Evelyn thought how inappropriate it must have felt to him, and held back a giggle. If only men in her world had been like him.

They had not been riding long when a strange feeling crept into her mind. With an involuntary shudder, she looked around but saw nothing out of the ordinary. She was uneasy; something was amiss but she just did not know what. Giving Hasufel a gentle nudge, she picked up her pace to catch up to Aragorn who was the closest of the group to her.

"Aragorn, something isn't right." She spoke to him in elvish, not wanting the others to overhear her. "It is as if every nerve in my body is on edge."

"Aye, I feel it to." He replied in Sindarin. His face was grim.

"The enemy…" She never got to finish her sentence as a piercing scream rang out through the air.

Instinctively she slapped her hands to cover her ears, face contorting in pain. All the others followed suit. A second screech echoed through her ears as the largest beast she had ever seen descended upon them. It had to be a dragon of some sort, some demon creature of Sauron. It large body was a mess a grey scarred scales. It had no front arm, but rather to large leathery wings and strong back legs. Upon its back sat a rider, cloaked in black, which felt like death itself. It seemed to suck the life right out of her. It controlled the creature with some sort of bridle that fit between its numerous large teeth, and it directed its beady black eye on her.

Hasufel reared as the beast cut them off from the rest of the group and sent Merry tumbling to the ground. She wanted to scream, call for help, but she had no voice, the fear stealing it away. Then Hasufel fled as fast as his legs could carry them. Evelyn tried in earnest to get the stallions attention, and yanked hard on the rein. Her heart lurched as she felt it snap from his resistance. He would not listen to her leg. Survival was all he thought about, only he was running away from their best chance.

She could hear the screams of the men behind her and was afraid to look back, afraid of what she would see. However, a larger fear of the winged beast won out and she risked a glance behind. The men were engaged with the beast trying to bring it down, but she could see one horse away from the other. A grey horse was chasing after her, and her heart leaped to her throat. 'Legolas.'

She turned her face around a new determination to turn Hasufel ignited. She leaned as far forward as she could after the one rein that was still attached. She almost had it in her grasp when the stallion slid to a stop, neighing loudly in alarm as the beast landing in their path. Caught completely off guard, she felt herself tossed forward from the saddle, pitched onto the stallion's neck, the pommel of the saddle catching her stomach and knocking the breath from her lungs. The horse spun on his hind legs, taking off in the opposite direction. With no time to recover herself, Evelyn found herself flung off the side, hitting the ground on her back.

She could not breathe her muscles being in a state of shock. She had forgotten how much falling off hurts. Then she thought of the creature, and made to scramble hastily to her feet. Her vision was spinning but she made it to her knees, when the piercing scream rang above her head. Slowly, she looked above her, the dragon like creature, towered above her, its rider hissing in some language she did not understand. Pain shot through her head, causing her to clutch her forehead, grimacing through the pain.

'Run,' she thought, 'I have to run.' And she tried, her feet only taking her a few steps when she felt a vice grip on her midsection. It took her only an instant to realize the beast had her in its grasp, its talons digging into her flesh. She let out an ear piercing scream as she struggle in vain to release herself from it grasps.

She looked up, seeing Legolas, desperately trying to catch up, but the beast was in the air and gaining ground, he was getting smaller and smaller but the second.

She screamed out his name in desperation, feeling the talons dig deeper into her body. Her vision was blurring and she knew soon she would lose consciousness, but not before she heard him scream her own name, still racing after them. There was a note of fear in his voice she had not heard before. Her vision was almost gone, and at this point, she had stopped struggling, her mind was leaving. She had one last thought before she passed out, "Where do you find yours, your hope?" she briefly woke after that thought and heard a soothing voice in her mind, one she had heard before, 'We are with you child, be strong now.' Then she only knew blackness.

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