The Choice

Chapter 3

Evelyn found herself walking a path with the Lady Galadriel a few weeks after her arrival. Few words had been exchanged for she was too occupied with her surroundings to carry on any conversation. Around her stood the largest trees she had laid eyes upon. Their bark was the same pale cream of the woodwork in the buildings, and their leaves were of the brightest golden hues. Caras Galadhon, she learned, was the court and housing of Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn, her husband. Wooden bridges branched in all directions, connecting to all parts of the city. Stairs were built around the trunk, leading to the different levels. Most homes, she learned, were on the upper levels while the shops and workplaces filled the others. Everything, even the trees, seemed to glow with the Lady's light.

"This is amazing," she found herself whispering, turning in a circle to take in all that was around her yet again.

Evelyn was so enthralled with the scenery that she never noticed the glances the others elves gave to her, which were full of curiosity, for they so rarely got visitors, especially human visitors. She barely noticed when the Lady would greet another and vaguely heard Galadriel chuckle.

"Most people have this reaction the first time they lay eyes upon the city."

"I have never seen anything that compares, not even the old castles."

"There were castles in your world?" Galadriel asked, glad to see the woman beside her had divulged information regarding her home. Evelyn rarely spoke, let alone anything of her past.

"From many ages ago, but they are mostly abandoned and left to rot. Some they use for tours, but they are all of stone. There is no warmth in them, not like here. Here it is warm, welcoming." She said no more as grief filled her again with thoughts of what she no longer had.

Galadriel felt her grief, and decided it was time for her teaching to begin. She knew the girl had been reading the books sent with her, on the history of the world, but she knew nothing of the people with whom she now resided. She had to get her talking; otherwise her healing would not go far.

"What do you know of elves?" Galadriel asked, and threaded her arm through Evelyn's. The Lady watched her out of the corner of her eyes, noting her brow scrunch as she did not have answer that seemed correct.

"Little and less." Her voice was dull and her eyes downcast. All it had taken was one little memory to bring up the feelings of loss and pain. She could feel the tears welling behind her eyes, wanting desperately to escape, but she would not let that happen.

Galadriel looked in front of her again as they walked, thinking of where to begin. Most races knew of elves, even if they had not seen them before. But this mortal came from a world where only humans existed, so her belief would not come easy.

"We greatly resemble humans in general appearance."

"Not really." Evelyn found herself saying before she could stop herself. They were much different. They may have had the same basic structure, but they were much taller, some even close to seven feet tall if she could guess right. And their presence overflowed with an air of importance; they walked with a grace that no human she had ever seen could possibly master. And their beauty. Their beauty could not even be rivaled by the most riveted model on earth. No, they were very different from humans. They would be the human idea of perfection. She looked to the Queen beside her, thinking maybe she was going to be reprimanded for her bluntness, but to her surprise there was a smile on her face.

"There are minor physical differences between elves and humans yes, but that is not what truly sets us apart. It is the fact that we are immortal. That makes us different."

Evelyn found her feet had stopped moving. What had she just said? Immortal? She knew she was in a different world, but honestly, a race that was immortal? That just did not happen. Nothing was immortal, because everything died. There was that pang again that seemed to cripple her body at the thought, but she had to push it down. "Immortal? That is not possible."

"I assure you it is child. Elves do not die of natural causes like the race of man, only from war and a broken heart."

"A broken heart?" She found that harder to believe than the possibility of immortality. What happened? Did it literally break? She could see no feasible way for it. Heartbreak was only an expression for lost love. Maybe she meant an injury to the heart, like from a bullet.

"Yes. Elves feel emotions much different than humans," Galadriel stated softly. "Not only do we feel emotions much deeper than humans, but we are much more sensitive to them as well. That is way you saw me wince when you became so angry at your body."

"Oh." She could find nothing else to say, so the Lady continued. In honesty, she did not really know what to say without seeming rude.

"Elves love like no other race, and once we do it is for life. Once that chosen person is found, they will always love one another in this life and the next. No other will ever be loved like that by them. However, if that love is taken by death, the one left will fade until their soul leaves for the Halls of Mandos."

She could not wrap her head around it. She knew Lady Galadriel was trying to dumb it down to her level, but it was not enough. Living forever, dying of a broken heart. Where was the 'Halls of Mandos?' Was it their version of hell or purgatory? If they shared a similar heaven, could they not also share hell? It seemed like a viable explanation to her. But another question tugged at her then: why would the Valar put her with a different race, one that supposedly did not die? Would she not be better accepted among humans? Her head began to throb with a dull ache at all of the questions, and she wished she could just dump them from her mind.

"I will leave you now for time to clear your mind, for much must be clouding it. Soon things will become for clear for you Evelyn."

She turned to reply to the Lady, but found that she was gone. Not only was she gone, but she had also left her in a completely foreign part of the city. Where was she? She turned a few quick circles, feeling her heart beat start to increase, but then she heard the familiar sound: a horse nicker. She stopped and turned to the sound, seeing that to her right there was a stable.

Evelyn looked around a few more times and, on seeing no one around, she walked to barn. The familiar scent of hay and oats filled her nostrils as she closed her eyes, relishing at the sweet aroma. It made her think of home and of her own barn and horses. The joy she had felt everyday going out there to do the chores and ride made her think of all the memories she had made. Yet, she was surprised she also felt a slight bit of peace with those thoughts. It was not her barn, they were not her horses, but here there was familiarity which she had not felt since her arrival. Here she knew what to do; back in the city she was lost.

Walking the aisle of the stable, she found herself peering over the stall door of a particularly beautiful bay mare. She was tall, at least seventeen hands, but it was difficult to tell without a tape to measure. What Evelyn could tell was that she was average for the horses kept here. The elves of course, probably needed horses as tall as they were. This mare kept her tail to the stall, barely turning her neck to eye Evelyn.

"If you wish a horse, there are better candidates."

Evelyn gave a shriek as she jumped around. The bay mare behind her spookied slightly at the action. She had not heard the man walk into the barn, let alone stop just a few feet behind her. She began looking in all directions for any sort of weapon, and eyed a pitchfork a few arms length away.

The Ellon quickly caught on to her fear and raised his arms as he took a few steps back. "Forgive me, my lady, I did not intend to startle you."

It took a few minutes for her to take him in before she spoke. He was tall, like most of the others, with long silver blonde hair that hung to his mid-back. Part of it was pulled back into small, delicate braids that kept it from his face - which was gorgeous. She shook her head at the thought. Looks meant nothing. His features were angular, but only seemed to make him more attractive. He was also very welled muscled, so if he wanted to attack, she would have a hard time getting away. She would need that pitch fork.

"The Lady of the Wood sent me; she believed you would like to ride. However, if you wish, I shall leave you be."

Voices seemed to echo in her head, and the voices were from when she was with the Valor. 'For evil is against their very nature.'

Surely Galadriel would not have sent someone to hurt her. What if he was lying, or what if he came on his own accord, believing her to be easy prey? He seemed innocent enough standing before her, he looked nervous if she was to be exact, but it could all have been a lie. There was the possibility of it being a ruse just to get her guard down. She looked at the pitchfork again.

"You can take it with you if it will make you more comfortable." He said before adding, "The pitchfork, I mean." The queen had not told him what the young mortal experienced, just that her past was dark and she needed to learn to trust again. He had not wanted to do this, in fact, he would much rather be out in the woods searching their borders, but he was on rotation to the city for a few days. If the mortal was so frightened of him, why had the Lady chosen him? But, he could not deny the wish of his queen.

Still she did not answer. Galadriel was adamant that he get her to at least be near him, so he tried another approach. "I will stay on foot as you ride to show you the paths. You'll be much more able to flee, if you so wish."

"Who are you?" She finally was able to say.

"Haldir, the March Warden of Lòrien." He answered, glad she seemed to have found her voice. He also had to admit that her voice came out much stronger than he had expected. He expected her to be shaking and timid; instead, she looked ready to fight no matter what.

"I'll just stay here," she told him. How she wanted to ride, to be with the horses, but she just could not do it, not yet. She was here, alone with a man she had never met, and that never ended well at home. But you are not home, a voice seemed to echo in her mind.

"If you change your mind, just ask for me." He nodded to her and turned to leave. As he did, he stepped through a small side door and later emerged with a leather pack. "There is grooming equipment here if you wish it." Then he was gone, just as silently and quickly as Lady Galadriel. And Evelyn found herself alone again with too many thoughts in her mind.

And so it was, three weeks later, that she found herself in the stables like she did every morning since her arrival. Today, however, she did not feel the same peace she normally did. Today, she was anxious as she groomed the bay mare, who was gradually coming to accept her. The mare pranced and fidgeted while she worked, feeding off of her energy.

Evelyn knew what she was feeling: she wanted to ride. The need had been building since it was first offered to her and she refused. On Earth, she had gone out riding for hours a day, seven days a week, but now it had been almost two months since she had felt a horse under her. Two months since she had felt the muscles ripple with power as they flew across the ground.

One thing had kept her from doing so. Haldir. She did not know the area to ride safely, nor she did not know where they kept their tack. She didn't even know if she were allowed. In order to do so, she had to find the Ellon named Haldir. She sighed, then found herself asking the first elf she ran into for Haldir. She received a strange look, which she tried to ignore. While she stood, she shifted her weight from side to side, trying to ignore the nerves rising into her chest.

Haldir had arrived much quicker than she had planned. She had planned to have time to calm her nerves, to get herself under control, but she could not do either. The tightness she felt in her chest only increased the closer he got. She had to do this, she had to face him. It hit her then why she had been sent to the elves, who were of pure heart and good creatures - if she could not even face their men without a panic attack, how was she to face men of the same race that had caused the fear?

"You asked for me, my Lady?" He asked when he got closer to her. Though, he stopped a good twenty feet from her, already seeing the panic on her face. He watched silently as she struggled to compose herself, and as she took many deep breaths with a hand over her heart. A smile found his lips when she asked him to ride.

He watched her mount, not caring that they did not use saddles. He watched as she gently landed on the bay mare's back and as she almost silently asked her to go forward. But the best part was watching her smile for the first time since her arrival as they galloped through an open field. For the first time in many weeks, she was happy.

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