The Choice

Chapter 4

She sat quietly, brushing the dark bay mare she had claimed as her own since her arrival. She was a pistol, yet sweet when it suited her, but mostly she did what she wanted when she wanted. Most of the problems had been fixed with much time and effort, but she needed a job, something she liked doing, and because of her personality most of the elves avoided her, and her behavior just got worse and worse. Of course, she still had to worry about a bite if she turned her back for too long. That, however, is exactly what had drawn her to the horse. The dark bay steed was so much like her mare back home. Evelyn had come close to naming her after her mare but, in the end, she could not do it. No matter the resemblance, she was not the same, so she called her Zenith. A strong name for a strong horse. Zenith had been the name a of champion show horse back home, and it was fitting. If they had shows here, the duo would win, but sadly they had no such things, for horses there were made to work in fields or for travel and war, not pleasure.

Brushing the mare took less time than she realized, but she found she was not ready to head in, for the day was young yet, so she took to braiding her mane and tail, which Zenith happily obliged. She was so caught up in her task that she did not notice the ellon behind her intently watching her work.

Haldir waited until she was done before he did anything. He had never seen such done to a horse before; it was something new to him. He imagined it was a practice from her world. The ellon did not have the heart to disturb her while she worked, for once he spoke, he knew she would be startled, and it made him chuckle to himself with a sly smirk.

"You will have to teach the grooms how to do that." Haldir said, finally breaking his silence. A broader smile appeared on his face as he watched the woman spin around at the sound of his voice. Her eyes instantly lit up when she recognized him.

Evelyn found herself grinning widely as she saw her friend standing before her, instantly forgetting to be mad at the fact that someone startled her. She rushed forward about to hug him when she stopped, an irritated looked messing up her smile.

"What is it?"

"I forget you do not hug in greeting as we do back home. The shoulder touch just does not seem, I don't know…happy."

He laughed, watching the blonde put her hands on her hips in protest. "I think I can manage a hug for a friend. You have learned and are practicing our culture, so I can do the same." Then he was assaulted by arms gripping his waist, squeezing the breath out of his lungs. Gently, he gently placed his on her shoulders. He would not have believed this was the same person he had met just over a year ago. Evelyn was much different from the timid, frightened girl he first met. This woman was happy, energetic, and above all she was willing to hug him, where before she cringed away if he even took a step toward her. Haldir knew the horse behind her had done most of the healing. The horse made her get away from her room, made her have to interact with people.

"The past two months have been lonely rides while you were away." She teased letting him go from the hug.

"There are plenty of elves in the stables for you to ride with."

Just then, one of the stable hands stopped to reply to his comment before she could speak. "My lord Haldir, if any could keep up they would, however, she tends to terrify all who have attempted." He turned and gave Evelyn a smirk, who just narrowed her eyes.

"Terrify, you? Somehow I find this hard to believe."

"While you have been on patrol the past three months I constructed an area to ride in with jumps, apparently here, unless it is a log in the way, you do not jump for fun. Back home it was my life. I was an eventer and a damn good one at that."

The ellon was a bit taken aback that she had given him so much information readily and taken on a project all on her own, but he had to smile. The woman had become much like a little sister or child even to him. He still did not know why Galadriel had chosen him to watch her and work with her, but he found his hard cold demeanor became much softer with her. Maybe the healing was not just for her, but him as well. He had had a sister once, but she was lost in the attack by orcs that sent Galadriel's own daughter to the Undying lands.

Many times he found himself thinking of her in Evelyn's presence, and they often spoke of her. Haldir did not know why he found he wanted to talk of it in her presence but since he had, he felt lighter, even happier, and the call of the sea had lessened. She still never divulged information of her own, but she listened intently and never seemed to forget a word. Maybe that was why he spoke to her, because she listened, never saying much or tried to comfort. Unlike the elves, she just listened.

But he drew himself from his revere and found himself asking her to go ride and show him her creation of this arena thing, whatever it may be.

"You jump that?" He asked her incredulously, looking at the glade in front of him. Scattered all about it were tall posts all holding up beams of varying heights and widths, but none were shorter than five foot. He was sure of that. "Why would you think to do this?" It made no sense. This was not helpful in everyday situations.

Evelyn did not answer him, but instead she just took Zenith over the course with a smile on her face. The mare was willing to work, and wanted to still do more when she pulled her back. She gave a buck in protest, but then gave up her fight.

"I see why the others avoided your rides." He laughed, but had to admit, his heart constricted every time the horse's hooves left the ground. The nagging thought that she was going to hit the poles and they would both come toppling down lingered in his mind, but thank the Valar that did not happen.

"They did not have to try it," she protested. The adrenaline was still pumping feverishly through her veins, for the thrill of it never got old. The freedom it offered, the partnership, it was all exhilarating.

"Come, I wish to show you the borders of the city, I think you will find it beautiful this time of year." Anything to make the thought leave.

With that, they both walked their horses at a leisurely pace. The bright afternoon sun warmed her face and made a beautiful pattern of shadows beneath the canopy of trees. Lòrien was amazing.

They had been traveling in comfortable silence for a few hours when all of sudden Haldir reined his gelding to a halt and looked up to the trees.

"What is it?" She asked, feeling her heart start to speed up. Haldir sensed something, so he didn't say anything. "Haldir?" She called louder to her friend who seemed to be in a trance.

When he did finally turn to her, what she saw bothered her more than if it had been fear. There was sorrow on his features. If it was not something to fear, what could it be?

"Lòrien has visitors. I must intercept them with the patrol that is near. I fear you must accompany me; I have not the time to escort you back to Caras Galadhon." He told her, voice solemn.

"What is so wrong with visitors? You do welcome them don't you?" Zenith started to prance under her, feeling the tension building in her rider's body, and was ready to bolt at any given moment. She just needed one slight cue and she would be off.

"Aye, we do. This company is different. One is an elf, four hobbits a dwarf, and…" he paused here before he continued, "and two men." Haldir kept his voice calm. He did not know her past, but he knew enough from her reactions to tell that whatever caused her fear came from man, and now he was going to have to take her straight to that fear.

She sucked in a hollow breath, her lungs not wanting to accept the extra air, and her chest flared up in pain. Her eyes grew large and she found she could only stare at the elf in front of her. One word just kept repeating itself over and over again in her mind. Man. There were men coming to Lòrien, to where she was staying. She could not run for she did not know her way back. She could not get away, so what was she to do? Panic started to seize her, but when she felt hands grip her shoulders tightly, the panic faded into sheer terror.


Somehow she managed to turn towards her name, and she saw the concerned blue eyes of Haldir in front of her. She saw him there, but someone was grabbing her, someone was going to hurt her. It was the men. They were coming, coming for her, so she had to get away! She tried to kick Zenith on, but found the mare turning in sharp circles instead, whinnying loudly. Why was she not moving forward? This was it. She was going to die again.

"Look at me!" A voice commanded and everything that had once been spinning around her seemed to halt. "Breathe Evelyn."

She did, but it was hard at first. Once she let out the first breath, a rush of relief surged through her, and she felt her heart start to go back to normal while her mind started to clear. The men were not here, they were just going to meet them and escort them into the city. It was Haldir who had hold of her shoulders, not the men, so she was safe. If it were dangerous she would not be allowed to go, right? Surely Haldir would not put her in harm's way. No, she told herself, he would not.

She felt her face start to turn hot and looked to the ground. Had she really just had a panic attack in front of the Marchwarden of Lòrien, a seasoned warrior and guardian? She had. He must think her so weak; she cannot even bear the thought of man. He told her once she reminded him much of his sister. Evelyn was painfully aware of the thought that his sister would not have balked at just the mention of man. She had to buck up, as they called it back home. She did not want to disgrace the memory of his sister.

"I am sorry," she mumbled, hardly audibly, but she knew he heard. She shrugged off his hands from her shoulders.

Haldir knew she was embarrassed and upset, because he could feel it radiating off her in waves. Her fear had gotten the better of her and she had frozen, unable to control it.

"Sometimes," he started, making sure he had her attention, "it helps to imagine your fear in your mind. Imagine the concept of it, and put it in a box, to lock it away."

"My fear is real, not some imaginary concept I can wish away at will Haldir." She spat in a fit of annoyance, her anger stemming from her emotions welling up inside.

"Fear does not make you weak. Fear drives us all at times, and it is how you deal with the fear that makes you. So how will you handle yours Evelyn? Will you face it or will you run from it?" His words were hard, quite unlike the soft soothing voice he usually spoke to her with. No, this was the voice of a leader reprimanding his student for self pity.

Evelyn held her tongue, shocked at the harshness in his voice, but more upset with the truth that seemed to slap her in the face. She had been sent here to heal, to start a new beginning, but she had been running the whole time, trying to forget the past rather than face it. And if she could not face the past, she could not accept it, and if she could not accept it, how could she move on? I can't, she answered for herself.

Now she had a choice before her. Did she turn and run or did she follow Haldir - did she face the fear and face the men? Closing her eyes she took in a deep breath and felt a fair voice echo ever so softly in her mind: 'Follow, child.' She opened her eyes with new resolve. She would do this. She would not disgrace the memory of Haldir's sister, she would not disappoint Haldir, and she would not disappoint herself, for if she ran she knew she would regret it for as long as she lived. Gently, she nudged Zenith forward to catch up. When she did, all Haldir did was look her way. No words were spoken. She never saw the smile of triumph on his face.

She watched from a safe distance as the elves surrounded the traveling company, stopping them with arrows. Her heart was still pounding in her chest, but she did everything she could to keep herself calm on the outside. It's no different from riding a horse, she told herself, even if you are scared to death you have to hide it because they know and they react. To her surprise, she found comfort in the thought, because it brought something familiar to her; it was something she knew.

Haldir approached them on his horse, addressing the dark haired man who seemed to be their leader. From their interaction it seemed they also knew one another. She also did not miss the look he threw to the dwarf. When she was beginning to learn about her new world, she read that there was a mutual resentment between the two races, but never bothered to question the elves on it. Even if she did, she was sure the stories would differ drastically from the other race, and the truth probably would never really be known.

The hobbits are what captured her attention. They were all short, and she guessed they were anywhere between three and four feet tall. She had read about them and their Shire. She was surprised to see them venturing away from their home for they were a peaceful race, but not ones for adventure, and by the look of them they had had their share of adventures. She might not have the insight that elves did, but it was plain to see they were exhausted and in pain. Maybe not physically, but emotionally. That kind of pain she knew, which is what she saw on their faces.

Evelyn did not know what had transpired between them, but she knew Haldir did not look pleased, yet she knew better than to ask him. Zenith walked toward the group as they moved off, and she took the time to take in the group from a distance. The man Haldir had first addressed was tall, ruggedly handsome, and possessed a very lordly air about him, but he dressed in common clothes. The man behind him was different; he was stockier, with dirty blond hair. His dress was much more formal, and she recognized the sigil of the white tree of Gondor on his tunic. He dressed like a lord, but was not as handsome was the dark man. An elf was next, but he was like most - golden haired and fair. He was tall, like most, and lithe. She did not know from which other realm he hailed, but there was something about him. Evelyn found herself staring when her eyes locked with his grey ones. She was caught. Normally, she would have looked away, embarrassed, but she didn't. Instead, she took in his angled features and sharp lines before turning to the dwarf, who was taller than the hobbits, but still much shorter than the others. He was very thick, yet not fat, for she was sure he was fast enough, and just as deadly with his large silver axe he carried, as the others. It was not a theory she wished to test anyway.

"You may travel ahead if you wish; I will send a rider with you." Haldir told her when their steeds came even with one another.

"I fear they would not keep up, and I would bore." She smiled, not really wanting to leave. Her nerves were on edge, and the fear was still there, but she wanted to get a better feel of these new arrivals.

"We will not make the trip in one day. The hobbits are tired and are slowing our pace." He was not pleased with the action of spending a night on the borders of their lands with the party.

"I can fix that." She said, asking the mare to turn around. Zenith trotted down the line of people, causing Haldir to follow closely, completely confused. What was the woman doing?

"My friends, you look weary from travel. Would you like to ride? Get off your travel worn feet for a while. Zenith will take care of you."

The two taller, but smaller framed hobbits eagerly agreed, fervently nodding their heads. She learned them to be Merry, short for Meriadoc, and Pippin, short for Peregrin. With little effort, she slid from the horses back and landed lightly on the ground. By this time, all the company had stopped to watch the transaction. She whispered softly in the fuzzy black ear, "Take care of them or else." She received a snort in reply, and took that as an agreement. Evelyn tapped lightly on her front left leg and watched the mare bow to the ground. Helping the two eager hobbits on her back, she beckoned to the other two shyer ones. They were more cautious, but soon agreed and went to get on. Sam was the first, and Frodo, the weariest of the four, was last. She put her hands on his waist and hoisted him up like the others, but a strange feeling went through her. Something evil was stirring; something evil rested around him. Quickly she let her hands drop and asked Zenith to stand.

"Problem solved." Shooting Haldir a smile, she began walking around him, making for the head of the line. Haldir just shook his head and lead the company back to Caras Galadhon.

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