The Choice

Chapter 30

The door slammed shut behind her, leaving her in the darkness of her cage. Scrambling on all fours, she moved to huddle in her corner, drawing her knees to her chest and she bowed her head and cried. She was not sure how she had any more tears left in her to cry, how she even had the energy. They had offered her no food, only gave her dirty water that made her sick. They gave her enough so she would not die…yet. Sleep evaded her. When sleep came, the dreams came. The dreams were of nothing but the faces of the men she had killed. The men the Easterling made her kill. No, that was not completely true. They were of the men the Easterlings wanted her to kill and she did. A completely new feeling of wretchedness enveloped her as she realized the ease in which she had performed the task. She had watched from a position outside of her own body. Something that happened more often now, but when she did, she became nothing more than their marionette, doing exactly as she was bid to avoid more pain. The sobbing turned into a wail in her self-disgust.

She had tried at first to fight them, to keep the captured soldiers alive, but as her skin became more and more raw from the whip, she lost more and more of her resolve. She could not move without feeling her skin break apart from the freshly healing wounds. Then again, who was she kidding, they had broken her the first day. She was weak. She was a ruined creature. Her friends and companions would despise her when they learned of her fall from grace. The Valar would turn their backs against her.

A crippling fear stifled her tears, 'What would happen if the Valar turned her away? Where would her soul go when she died?' For she knew it was coming, there was little else left for her now. She had wished for death, though she knew she was truly not ready to face it. If the Valar were against her, would she go to the void where they sent Morgoth? Would she just completely cease to exist?

For the rest of the night her mind wondered over many such mind-numbing thoughts, so that when the Easterlings came back for her, they found her still in her ball, rocking gently back and forth, eyes staring straight ahead, but seeing nothing.

Aragorn stood solemnly by the elf's side on the outer wall of Meduseld, starring off into the darkening sky. He could see the oppressive black clouds filling the horizon in the East. The dark lord was amassing his armies, deciding where the fate of Middle earth would be decided. He let out a shaky sigh.

Cheers erupted suddenly from under their feet, making Legolas grimace. While the Rohirrim celebrated their victory, their own company had sought their own solitude to grieve their loss. Gimli and the hobbits had found the ale and not too long ago their bedrolls. Gandalf was in the great hall with Théoden, the only one of the group able to be around the company of others. Aragorn knew that Gandalf's words and actions hurt Legolas and angered him. Moreover, they hurt him too. He wanted, without any doubt, to go after Evelyn. However, he knew they could not. They could not abandon the journey now, not when they had come so far to see the ring destroyed and the evil of Sauron gone. Aragorn could only hope Gandalf knew more than what he was letting on. He hoped that Evelyn was able to be strong enough to survive.

Abruptly, Legolas tensed beside him, eyes dilating wide with shock. The Prince reached and snatched his arm in a vice grip, his voice laced with unquenched anger and fear, "He is here!"

He did not need to say whom; He knew instantly for the overwhelming presence of malice that filling his being. Sauron.

Tearing after Legolas, they burst through the door of the bedchambers, getting slammed full force with the malevolent presence. He staggered into the room, eyes darting around the room before landing on the hobbit writhing on the floor, the palantir glowing brightly in his hands. Without thought, he carelessly dove forward, seizing the orb from Pippin.

There was an instant onslaught of pain in his mind, He could feel Sauron working to get into his mind, speak with him. Gritting his teeth, he fought the palantir with all his might. Aragorn would die, before he let slip anything the enemy. Now he mirrored Pippin twitching on the floor, struggling for control. The pain was so intense, it was almost all he could focus on, at times all he wanted was to find whatever means necessary to just make it stop, but he knew he could not and it seemed Sauron figured that out as well. The ranger heard the menacing animalistic growl in his mind before it abruptly stopped. However, Gandalf was not quick enough to prevent the image Sauron was able to force into the man's mind.

He saw her, Evelyn, Strung up in the middle of a group of Easterlings. Her clothes were in tatters, hardly anything left to cover her. She was covered in blood from head to toe. It was caked on so he could not even make out where the wounds were. Before her stood a giant of a man, holding her chin tight in his hands—he could picture the bruise that would be forming there—pointing at a group of men bound kneeling before them, silent words forming on his lips, that he could not hear, though he did not need to, Aragorn knew what they expected of her, they were making her their executioner.

Shakily he staggered to his feet, whisking past all those gathered. What he feared most right then was looking at Legolas, knowing he would see the truth in his eyes, know that he saw something in the Palantir, and he knew at the moment, with his torrent of emotions he would not be able to keep it from his longtime friend. The last thing he wished was to trouble his friend more, and he knew if the elf had seen what he just had, nothing would keep him from riding alone into the heart of the Easterling army that lay at the foot of Erebor.

Evelyn heard them as they began to unlock her door, and instantly she retreated to her safe zone—the dark recess of her mind, where she could be numb to whatever they did to now. It seemed to her they came quicker this time than the times before. Then again, she was no judge of time. She could have been in the cage a few hours or years, she would not have known the difference, time meant nothing in her darkness.

Something was different this time. Normally in her trance, she would always just close her eyes to block out the scene—though the faces still seemed to be seared into her memory—this time, however, she found it harder. Flashes of the mob of Easterlings lines her vision and then came the prisoners: two men and two dwarves.

'NO!' She screamed in her mind, as everything came slamming into her full force. Whatever she had seen was enough to rip her back into reality. Her mind was with her body and it screamed in pain, and she did too, startling the guards who carried her. The last few times they had gathered her she made no sound, no movement.

She was dropped to the ground, a plum of dust rising to choke her as it filled her nostrils and mouth. Evelyn coughed and sputtered, but found she could do little else.

A deep growling voice spoke over her, "So…" it drawled, "You decided to come back to the land of the living after all. I will make you regret it." He picked her up at the base of her neck, a wad of her hair tight in his grip. He laughed maniacally. "It seems our prisoners are truly worth something."

He tossed her back down, the breath shooting from her lungs at the impact. Evelyn rolled to her back, trying to ease the work of breathing, but it felt as if there was a mûmakil on her chest, and bouncing at that, making her gasp for air. Evelyn heard the leader start barking orders in his harsh grating language. It hurt Evelyn's ears even to hear it.

'Why where these men different?' she asked herself. Part of her just wanted to run and retreat in her mind where she was safe, but her curiosity won. There indeed were two men and two dwarves, all bound and gagged, pushed to their knees in submission with a guard behind them, a dagger to the small of their back.

Slowly, she raised her head off the ground. These new prisoners were very different from the ones she had been placed before previously. They were bloodied and weary from battle, but that was not what made them stand out, it was their dress. Whoever these men were, they were of much higher rank. Their clothes, those stained and tattered, were of very high quality material and make, with golden jewelry adorning their hand. Men of Dale, he mind faintly registered. One was much older than the other was, and kept shooting longing side-glances at the younger man to his right. 'Father and son?' she wondered, it had to be. For though the elder sport a thick grey beard and mess of hair, their eyes were the same. The dirt and grim that covered them could not hide their eyes, which were filled with sorrow and pain. Could she be looking at the Lords of Dale? If they perished, what would become of their people? What would that mean for the war?

Then the movement from the dwarf caught her attention. He too was older, for a dwarf. His hair was white and his face bore plenty of scares from previous battles. His clothing, too, was richly made, his armor infused with mithril. She had to squint her eyes as the sun glistened off its threads. His beard was long, decorated with bands of gold. When her head turned to the last of the prisoners her heart quite suddenly stopped beating. Though the thick red beard and hair where streaked with white, she saw a face she would not soon forget. Her heart lurched, "GIMLI!" she croaked, her voice to hoarse to make much sound but the old dwarf heard her, his head snapping up, his dark pain filled eyes boring into hers. She could not look away.

Sudden pain ripped up her side, and she crumpled into a ball as tears streamed down her face.

"What are you waiting for?!" The face spat at her, Margöz—the Easterling leader—had his face inches from hers. "Kill them filth, and we will make short work of you." He sneered.

"No." she forced herself to say.

His dark face stared at her for a moment before contorting in hate and anger. Margöz snatched her up by the arm, dragging her to the rack as she squirmed to get away. She cried out as her hands were tied above her head and she was hauled off her feet to dangle in the air. The tattooed face was once again leering at her. He grabbed her chin roughly, making sure she would pay attention.

"You will kill them wench." The crowd that had gathered had drawn even closer, their jeers more raucous and exuberant than ever before. This was to be their victory.

The lashes were beyond anything she had felt before. She could feel each stroke pull away her skin, feel her blood pool down her back to puddle around her toes. It took all her will power not to just leave, but she wanted to so bad. It would be so much easier if she just gave in, there would be no more pain or suffering. Then a soft voice echoed in her mind, 'Remember child, we are with you. We have not forsaken you.' A sob escaped her lips. For the first time in many days, it was a sob of joy. Since the day the beast took her and she heard the Valar, she had not heard them since, knowing for sure she was beyond their good graces, beyond their help. However, they had not left her; they were still with her. These men meant something, their voices appearing told her as much. They needed these men to survive. Evelyn set her resolve; they would not die by her hand.

"They will not die by my hand." She spat at Margöz, watching with satisfaction at his face twisting in rage. The back of his hand, the one that held a small blade attached to it, struck her hard. Her neck snapped sharply to the side. Evelyn felt the cool slice of the blade, before she ever felt the pain. Burning pain shot through the side of her face. She was surprised she did not have any teeth knocking out from the impact, though she imagined plenty were loose. She tried not to think about the gash that she knew she would were the rest of her life.

The Easterling cut her down, letting her fall to the ground. All she could do was whimper through the pain as the sand filled her wounds. If these evil men did not kill her, infection would. A strong grip hauled her upright until her back hit a wooden post, sending multiple splinters into her already splayed back.

"You will kill the Lords of Erebor and Dale." Her eyes drifted to the rulers captured in front of her, they had already accepted their defeat and death, it was written on their faces. All hope for them was gone. "For if you do so, your friends will die quickly." Her eyes jerked back to his in questioning horror, her mouth falling open. "Oh yes, I know of the company you traveled with. If you fail to kill these men, I will personally keep you alive long enough to watch them all put through a torturous death. I will take a particularly long time with that elf of yours."

Her heart, she was sure, truly did stop this time. She could not breathe. Repeatedly she saw the image before her. The men were scattered around her in utter carnage and Margöz stood their looming over them laughing in her face. This could not be happening, they could not possibly get to them, and they were much too far away. However, she could not stop the image. It was the same as the image she saw the eve before she was taken; only now she had a face to the name and she knew he spoke truly. Whatever he had to do to catch them just for her, he would. He hated her, despised her, and he wanted her to suffer. Of course, she found she felt the exact same way both of herself for her deeds and towards the man that put the choices before her.

From somewhere she heard familiar voice speak.

"Kill them, her time is up. We have bigger prizes to catch."

"NO!" she screamed, "NO, NO, WAIT!" She struggled to rise on her own, stricken with fear. She could not let these men kill the leaders and go on for her friends. Evelyn watched, sick to the core and Margöz turned around, a sickening grin spreading across his face. He stood between her and the prisoners making an elaborate bow, gesturing her on as if it were nothing more than a comedy show. It made her want to puke, and she did, as she staggered forward.

She collapsed on her knees, feet before the mighty lords brought before her. She looked up pleadingly at them, "I'm sorry." She spoke, voice flat, "I'm sorry it took me so long."

With a deep sigh of resignation, she knew what her plan was; she knew what she must do. Focusing, she felt down deep in her soul for the fragments she knew where their hiding. The power leapt up to greet her as she called it forth. It was eager and ready much like a child after being cooped in the house for a storm. It wished to be free, to stretch it legs and run. 'Not yet,' she soothed, 'Not yet.'

Looking up, she watched dark rolling clouds fill the sky above them and the wind began whipping around them, almost knocking the weaker down. The Easterlings gathered, for the first time, finally began to look truly frightened and began backing away slowly. Margöz, however, seemed to think it a grand show and was pumping his fist into the air, howling in delight.

Evelyn felt her anger boil over, felt herself almost let the power slip from her grasp. 'Steady,' she hummed to herself. Soon the wind was filled with flakes of snow and pellets of ice, swirling around those gathered. She realized the mass was trying to disperse, focusing her mind she set the wind around the clearing, no one would get past it, they were, all of them, stuck. She heard their screams of protest and fear, and felt herself smile in satisfaction.

Then she felt the power tipping over and she knew it was time. She pictured her friends' faces in her mind, fearing she would not see them again. At last, she saw Legolas and she smiled. Focusing only on his face, she let it go. The element raced out of her at the speed of light, creating its own small sonic boom. Evelyn did not feel herself being tossed backwards from her spot or hitting the ground some yards away. She saw only black and felt a calming peace.

"Lass! Lass! Wake up! Can ye hear me?"

The voice was not familiar, but the accent was. She could not feel her body; she could feel nothing and had no control over her body. About the only thing she could do was open her eyes.

It was red haired dwarf. She smiled. "Gimli." She croaked.

"Nay, Glóin be my name. Gimli is my wee lad. Do ye know where he be per chance?" He watched her face shift into a look of confusion.

She nodded, "Gondor." Evelyn did not know how or why she knew this information, but she just did and she knew in her heart it to be true. "He rides to Gondor, and war." Her eyes closed then and she knew know more than a faint voice whispering in her ear, 'Come to us child.'

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