The Choice

Chapter 5

The visitors had been in Lòrien for a week now; she mostly avoided them, but found she enjoyed the company of the hobbits, who she had run into more than once the past few days. It was impossible to stay in a bad mood around Merry and Pippin. The other two were much more somber and solitary. Evelyn decided she did not mind the one named Frodo, yet he made her feel odd, like there just was something not right.

Tonight they were having a feast prepared for the company. Lady Galadriel wished to give them time to rest and mourn for one of their own they had lost in Moria. Normally she enjoyed the food and music; however, tonight she was nervous. It would not just be elves in attendance, but a dwarf man and two human men. Evelyn also knew she would be in close proximity to them as guest of honor; they would sit at the Lord and Lady's table.

And she was correct. They had the hobbits on her right and the elf in front of her, followed by the dwarf and the two men after them. She kept stealing glances at Haldir, remembering his words from the forest: 'How will you handled your fear? Will you run from it, or will you face it?' He gave her encouraging smile when he could, but her nerves will still waging a war inside her. Somehow, she kept it together. She had too. Not only would she embarrass herself if she ran, but she would also embarrass Lady Galadriel, Lord Celeborn, and Haldir as well. The latter reasons were the ones that kept her still.

She had been relieved when it was the elf placed in front of her until she realized he was not going to speak with her. Instead, he sat stonily in his seat, his eyes cold. He reminded her much of Haldir when they first met, when he had his cold demeanor - he had only provided company because it was asked of him. Legolas - she learned that was his name - held a still more haughty air. When she found little comfort in him, she would turn her attention to Pippin, who sat beside her. It was amazing how much food the little thing could ingest; she swore he was now on his third plate, which was piled just as high as the first. If she ever spoke with the Valar again, she would have to inform them the books did little justice on explaining their appetites.

Relief flooded through her as dinner ended, as it was time for the festivities, and she could excuse herself from the table. Many elves were already dancing to the music being played. She very rarely danced - she felt her skills were very much lacking when compared to the elves, but she did enjoy it once in a while. Even the hobbits she felt could dance better when she watched them join in. Evelyn found herself laughing at their antics, and it felt good. That was when Haldir appeared at her side.

"It is good to see you laughing," he told her, smiling.

"It is hard not to laugh at those two. They are quite amusing." Now Pippin and Merry were dancing with drinks in tow. The contents were sloshing everywhere, but the pair was trying to sing despite it.

She watched the hobbits for a bit longer with Haldir at her side, before the March Warden spoke again. "You held up well at dinner." Of course, as soon as he got the words out he wished he could retract them, because the woman beside him instantly tensed.

"I did not have much of a choice." He didn't reply right away, and she refused to look at him. She wanted to forget about her breakdown in front of him, she wanted to erase it from both their minds, but she could not.

"You could have left." He stated simply. He feared she would crawl back into herself now.

She did not answer him, for she did not know what to say. She wanted him to just leave her be, but she knew otherwise: He would be dutiful and stay. If it would not hurt his feelings, she would dismiss him from her side, but she did not want to do that to the ellon.

"Come and dance with me." Haldir asked smiling at the look she gave him. "I know you enjoy it."

With a sigh, she accepted his offer and let him lead her to the dance floor. He once told her that his sister used to love to dance; she always made Haldir dance with her at least once per festival. Evelyn, therefore, couldn't refuse.

She tried her best to be as graceful as she could, but she still felt out of place among the dancing elves. She preoccupied herself by watching the people around her as she moved across the floor. Her eyes kept searching for the men. Even with Haldir at her side, she was paranoid, and much to her displeasure, she found the company together looking at her. 'No,' she tried to tell herself, 'they were not looking at me, I just happened to move to where they had been focused.' Unfortunately for her, though, she kept an eye on them, and each time they were still focused on her.

"What is wrong?" Haldir asked as he sensed a change in her, feeling her growing fear.

"They are watching me."

He did not need to clarify who 'they' were, he already knew of whom she spoke, and he also knew why, but it was not a conversation for him start. Instead, he told her, "They are surprised to see a human in an Elven realm, I am sure. It is not a common occurrence in these times." What he also did not let her know was that he planned to tell them to stop staring so openly. He could imagine it from the men and the dwarf, but Legolas was also among them.

Evelyn knew Haldir was not telling her something as soon as he said his excuse, but she did not push the subject. She had learned early on that elves were not easily persuaded in telling information they wished to keep to themselves, and Haldir was no exception. But she knew once the dance was over, she was excusing herself from the merriment.

She did just that. She found herself not going to the flet like she had intended, but instead found herself at the stables. It is where she always ended up when something troubled her mind.

Zenith was pleased to see her, and gave a high pitched nicker as she approached. Evelyn smiled and talked to her friend, "Hey girl, let us go for a ride, how does that sound?"

The mare replied with a toss of her head as if to yes. Evelyn did not bother to bridle her; she hopped on her without tack - Zenith preferred this way. The pair walked briskly through the forest to the makeshift arena she had created. She asked the mare to quietly pick up a small trot for a warm up, and she led her through a series of figure of eights, serpentines, and spiral in's and out's. The mare had wonderful conformation, which made it much easier to warm her up than other horses. In ten minutes she was ready to go and made sure to let her rider know with a buck into the air.

"If you say so Zenith, let's go." With that, she tapped the bay's side with her heels asking her to move forward from the pressure. Instantly she felt the weight shift, and the hindquarters start propelling them forward with great power. It was like floating on air as they flew over the ground.

Evelyn then asked her to do a series of shoulder in and shoulder outs down the long sides, before moving on to the piaffe. Zenith stayed almost completely on spot as she trotted in place, huge action in both her hindquarters and her forehand. If she did not know what she was doing, Evelyn was sure to have fallen off with all the force the mare put into to movement. Moving out of the movement she asked for the passage while she still kept the elevated movement from the piaffe, but started moving slowly forward.

Evelyn laughed as she watched the mare's ear twitch back and forth like antenna each time she applied a different pressure to the horse's sides. After a few completed half-passes, she urged Zenith forward into a canter, which she happily obliged; she could feel her muscles quivering in anticipation. She started simple doing a series of lead changes every stride across the diagonal before moving on to the pirouettes. She relished in the feel of the mare so collected under her, listening to every cue, and in doing this, her mind was at peace.

She did not know how long they had been at it, but not only was she out of breath but Zenith was also lathered in sweat. Looking to the east, she saw faint streaks of light peeking through the trees - they had been going at it for hours. Evelyn apologized to the mare, hating how she worked her so hard without even realizing it. She had just been caught up in having her mind occupied.

It was not until they began walking from the arena that she noticed the person standing at the entrance. If it had not been for Zenith pricking her ears forward, she might not have noticed him at all until right on him. She felt her heart contract a little until she saw his long golden hair. It was an elf. But it was not Haldir, for the hair was the wrong shade and the stance all wrong. This elf stood against a tree, arms folded tightly across his chest. It was Legolas.

She watched him intently and he never took his eyes from her. She became self-conscious under his scrutinizing glare. Her mind was screaming at her to just kick Zenith into a run past him, but she knew she could not do that. She did not want to show him that he intimidated her and that she was bothered by him.

As she passed she inclined her head slightly to him and addressed him as 'My Lord' and kept going. Unfortunately, she saw him decide to follow her back to the stables, and she did everything she could to ignore his presence.

She grabbed a bucket from against the wooden wall, walked outside to the well, and started to pump out water to wash off the bay mare. Of course, if she had not been so distracted she would have not filled it up all the way, but now she had to haul back a full bucket. Sighing she grabbed it with her left hand, wincing at the weight of it, and began walking slowly back, sloshing water all the way. She set it down at the mare's feet, spilling water as she did, which caused Zenith to snort in displeasure. She paid her no heed and went to wet the sponge until she noticed Zenith's black ears were plastered back against her head; she was clearly not happy, "What has you so pissy?' she asked the mare, not expecting a reply. When a voice sounded behind her, she nearly jumped out of her skin, having forgotten the elf that followed her.

"That is not very lady-like speech." He stated arms still folded across his chest.

She did not have the chance to answer, for Zenith lurched toward the ellon and placed herself between her rider and him, feeding off Evelyn's fear. Evelyn watched with slight satisfaction as her friend made the ellon step back.

Legolas had no choice but to take an involuntary step back as the horse lunged at him, clearly not happy with his presence, and much to his displeasure he saw a small smile flicker on the woman's face. He mentally slapped himself for agreeing to find her for the Lady Galadriel, but one did not easily say no to her requests. He held up a hand and spoke in Sindarin to the horse, trying to calm it down. The mare did stop, but she remained between him and the Lady Evelyn.

"What did you tell her?" she asked. He had spoken fast, and though she could now fluently speak the elvish language, his accent was different from those of Lòrien, and some of the words did not register.

"I simply told her I meant no harm. I had assumed you spoke the language." He stated coolly. He had surely thought that the woman would have spoken the language as she had been living here, but clearly he gave her too much credit. Evelyn was about to protest his assumption but was not given the chance. "I came to inform you Lady Galadriel asked for your presence at the earliest convenience."

Evelyn looked to him, nodded her head briefly and then went to work on cleaning her horse. She would go after she took care of her - the Lady would understand - and obviously it was not an emergent thing as the elf had not interrupted her ride.

"Did you not hear me?" he asked, tired of standing there waiting, as the irritation was clear in his voice.

Evelyn huffed and walked into his line of sight, a hand on her hip. "I will first take care of my horse. I know my way to her chambers, and no one asked you stay." Then she went right back to work. She did not hear him leave, but when she got done, she noted he was no longer in the stables, and for that she was grateful.

She wondered what Galadriel had to tell her so early in the morning; surely she had not even slept herself. The celebrations lasted late into the night and dawn was just arriving. If she was ever needed, she was usually called midday, but never in the morning. Her anxiety only increased the closer she got.

She knocked softly on the white oak door, waiting for a reply. She stepped back when the door opened and Celeborn stood in the threshold.

"My Lord," she stated with a slight bow.

"Come in dear Evelyn, the Lady awaits you in the solar." He turned, opening his arm, and beckoned her to walk in.

Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel's chambers were like their own mini castle in itself. All the rooms were richly furnished and of the highest quality, and the colors of autumn leaves decorated the rooms. In the solar, she saw the Queen sitting in a high backed chair facing the whole of the city it looked out upon.

"My lady, you wished to speak with me?" she asked, going to stand in front of the silver haired elleth.

"Yes my dear, I did." she paused and looked thoughtfully at the woman in front of her, thinking on how much she had grown since her arrival. Now, however, a difficult decision was before her, knowing Evelyn could heal no more with her people. "Child, I fear it is time you left Lòrien."

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