The Choice

Chapter 7

She had to learn to fight. Was it not bad enough that she had to spend time with them, but now they were to train her as well? Of course, she knew it was a necessary task. There were foul things in the wild outside Lothlorien's borders, and the members of the Fellowship could not always be around to protect her should they run into trouble, nor did she want to have to depend on them.

To top off her frustration, Haldir could not be the one to train her, as his time for patrol was due. This is why she was now stalking to find the elf prince. Evelyn knew he was the only option, even if he made her feel insecure. The two men were crossed off without a moment's hesitation, and the dwarf closely followed. The hobbits were never even on the list. She tried to make herself believe it was like when she first took martial arts as a teenager. She was nervous, but she got over it, and they were not easy on her. More days than not she went home and could hardly move. With all the thoughts running through her head, she about did not notice she was walking right past the elf she was looking for.

If he noticed her stop and look to him, he did not show it, for he keep walking at a brisk pace in the opposite direction, causing Evelyn to give a little huff of frustration. But she ran after him, knowing full well he heard her approach.

"My lord," she called out, trying to catch her breath. She secretly was cursing herself for not taking up running again. Evelyn watched as he stopped and turned, only to give her a skeptical look. He offered her no greeting. Ignoring that annoying fact she continued, "I need to ask you a favor."

Legolas raised an eyebrow at the woman in front of him. She had chased him down to ask a favor? He could not fathom what sort of favor a mortal woman could ask of him, let alone one he would actually agree to. However, he decided he would humor himself and let her ask her request.

"I need you to train me to fight." She informed him, pleased with the flash of surprise that flickered across his face before he hid it behind his mask.

Train her to fight? Was she serious? Unfortunately, she looked very serious about it. He had not known what to expect to come from her mouth, but that was not even it. The thought almost made him laugh. She was relatively petite for a mortal woman, definitely not the build a woman would need to be able to fight. He had not realized he was still staring at her in silence until he heard an impatient 'well?' come from her, which jostled him back enough to formulate a response, "There are others better suited, go ask them." He turned then to walk away.

"I am asking you," Evelyn replied just as curtly as he had. She was not willing to lose.

"What makes you think I would agree or want to?" He retorted. She was a persistent little thing, he gave her that, but that did not change the fact that he had no desire to attempt to teach her anything, for it would only be a waste of time. He would have to find a way to dissuade her without being too harsh; he did not wish to displease the Lady of the Wood, who seemed to hold a special liking to the girl.

"First of all, I don't care if you want to. It is not as if I wish it either. Secondly, I may not know of all the dangers of the world, but I know enough to know I won't be safe. If I am not trained I will only be a burden, with everyone always having to look over their shoulder after me. I am not okay with that, with being a burden..." She was interrupted abruptly then.

"You will a burden even with training." He supplied, hoping to end the conversation.

His comment was a slap in the face, but she knew it mostly to be true, and the truth was not always pleasant and she expected little pleasantries from him. That being said, she continued, "I'll give you that. However, I would prefer to have some chance of survival on my own. Of course, if I die, I will let you be the one to tell The Lord and Lady you..." She stopped herself here before she became angrier, it would get her nowhere. Taking a deep breath, she began again. "I asked you because out of all the Fellowship, you and the Lord Boromir showed the most contempt of my going, and I figured it would give you all the more reason to want to train me so you would not have to think twice of me. Plus, I knew you would not go easy on me if you agreed. I can see I was wrong, as my fate means little in the big scheme of things anyway. Good day, My Lord." She gave a small bow and walked away from him.

'So much for that,' she thought to herself. She had had the whole speech planned out in her head, but it did not even come remotely close to what had actually panned out. At least she had kept her anger mostly to herself; it would not have been good to call the Prince of Mirkwood a pompous arrogant ass. At least not to his face. 'I will just have to somehow train herself,' she told herself, as she definitely did not want to die again anytime soon. The thought brought all new chills and disturbing thoughts to her mind. She knew of orcs, and now she pictured them stabbing her to death rather than a group of men. 'No,' she told herself, 'I can't keep thinking those thoughts.' At dawn, she would find a clearing and she would start training that was the end of it. Now she had to find Zenith and get away.

Legolas was not sure what made him go in search of the strange woman that was to accompany them on their journey. He did not want to see her die - he wished that on no living creature of good - but that is what this journey would lead to for her. Even if he could train her, which he could not, it would never be enough, and giving her any type of false hope would be cruel. This is why he kept asking himself what he was doing. No answer ever came to him.

After what seemed an eternity the Prince gave in and finally asked a passing elf if they knew of her whereabouts. Of course they did not, which is how he found himself at the stables. The Ellon said that she most often could be found there most days. And on this day, of all days, she was not there, making his frustration grow. It was time to go back to the clearing with the rest of the Fellowship. Aragorn was always willing to help those in need, maybe he would see something in the prospect of teaching her that he did not. That is when movement to his left caught his eye. It was her mare, the very finicky and irritable mare. Making a wide berth around her, he went to investigate the area. It did not take long to find a small clearing nearby. 'What in the world was she doing?' He thought to himself and took to watching her from the shadows of the mallorn trees.

It felt good to stretch again. Although she was tight, she found this body easily took to new activities. It was much like her riding abilities: once she did it the first time, her muscle seemed to click into gear as if saying, "Oh yeah, I remember that." It was a perk she was very glad of. At first, the yoga stretches pulled her stiff muscles terribly, but soon she found herself limber, maybe more so than she used to be. She was by no means advanced, but she was competent. Starting with her neck, she worked down her body, hitting every muscle, not missing even the smallest one, as it would only delay her in training. After a good hour or so, Evelyn figured she was ready to practice a few of the more basic moves she knew, just to test the waters.

It was hard to practice by herself. She tried to picture an opponent opposite her, however, it just did not work - she could not imagine a person that was not there. Frustrated, she gave a high kick, only to feel pain shoot up her leg and, had she not held good form, she would have found herself flat on her back from the force.

"You have a strange way of training, though you seem to have some strength." A smooth voice spoke to her, jarring her quickly from her confusion.

It was Prince Legolas. "What are you doing here?" She asked, surprised to see him before remembering her manners, "My lord," and proceeded with a slight incline of her head. In reality, she truly did not wish to be polite, but the culture she now lived in expected it of her, and she did not wish them to think of her more ignorant that they probably already did.

"You need training," he said simply with a shrug of his shoulders. He still was not sure what he was doing, or why he was agreeing to train her. He tried to tell himself it was just because she made a good point - if she had a basic knowledge, none of them would have to always look over, or at least not as much. They would never willingly let a woman be harmed. He did not have to like it, the task was much below him, but it helped him in the long run, so he would look past it as best he could.

Opening her mouth to retort, she quickly closed it again, reassessing the situation. Obviously, she was not happy how this was unfolding, but was she not getting what she asked for? He was here to train her, she assumed at least, and she knew she could not refuse. So she swallowed her smart remark, saying instead, "My thanks my lord, where should we begin?"

And this was how she found herself for the next week, being unable to move her limbs without extreme pain and effort. She had thought she was in shape, but she had never been more wrong. There were aches in places she did not know she could ache, and she had more bruises than she could count - much to the dismay of her handmaidens. It became their nightly routine to have hot baths prepared with ointments waiting to be applied. Then she would fall asleep until the dawn broke the next morning for it to start again. She knew she had never been more right about the Prince of Mirkwood not taking it easy on her. And much to her chagrin, the other members of the Fellowship, more often than not, came to watch. At least she did not completely suck.

Now Evelyn stood in the clearing, the same one she had found a week prior to work in, dressed in brown breeches and a white undershirt. The wind was chilly and nipped at her skin, but once she started working she would burn up. Technically, it was not proper attire, but she found she did not mind for she was still completely covered and the others never said a word. She was lost in those random thoughts when a noise behind her cause her to spin around, stance ready to attack.

It was a good thing too, for it was Legolas, wooden sword in hand, coming at her. This was a new tactic started yesterday, him sneaking up behind her to attack. He was not prepared for her to be overly paranoid and ready for him, though she still lost quickly after. To her it was still a small victory.

'Damn' she thought, 'where the hell did I put that sword?' For it was nowhere to be found and she knew she brought it. However, she knew she was costing herself by searching for it; she would just have to improvise. That is when it dawned on her: he hid it, on purpose. It was another one of his training methods. Perfect. She wanted to curse him, but knew better. Nothing she faced out in the wild would be fair, and she very well could be facing an enemy without a weapon.

Her only main advantage was that her martial arts style of fighting was completely unheard of in Middle Earth. Though he was still, by far, a much more advanced fighter, she could hold her own for a while. She had managed to obtain a branch of good weight and strength to match his practice sword. It was not doing her much good though, but she tried to remember what Legolas told her on their second day, to think of the sword as an extension of her arm. She had good form and technique, albeit different from his own, but still the sword felt awkward.

Finally, she saw an opportunity to use a move she had not yet practiced. Planting her left foot, Evelyn pivoted her body, swinging her right leg around full circle and gave a small triumphant smile when she felt her foot come in contact with his wrist and knew his wooden sword was no longer in his grasp. The mumbles of the rest of the Fellowship were not audible to her, but the hoots from Merry and Pippin were quite loud enough, and she tried hard to suppress a giggle but could not. It was, though, short lived. In her moment of glory, her guard was dropped and he somehow managed to take her own makeshift sword from her. Trying to recover, her right side was left open and he took his opportunity. She saw it coming and moved to block, but she had not the speed. She felt her muscles protest in her strain before the pain.

She felt the branch hit her ribs, thankfully she did not hear a crack and she hoped that meant they were not broken, but she saw stars in her vision none the less. She hit the ground, the air leaving her lungs in one swift movement, and she felt herself roll a good few feet. Then there was silence.

'Get up,' she scolded herself through the pain. She was not going to let them know just how bad that blow had hurt. Gritting her teeth as hard as she was able, she forced herself into a sitting position. More pain coursed through her body, and she could easily remember a time when she felt pain as bad. That night that changed everything, and she could almost feel the metal blades again while bile was rising in her throat along with the panic. She choked it down, seeing a hand resting in front of her face.

"You are improving." His voice was smooth, but cold and indifferent as always.

Resisting the urge to laugh in his face, she thought, 'You are improving?' That was all he could find to say after knocking the life out of her because he was embarrassed she knocked his sword from him. It was her one good move so far. She would have been happier if he had said nothing at all. As it was, he had spoken and she was thus obliged to reply.

"My thanks, my lord." But she did not say it pleasantly, and she did not accept his hand, though when she pushed herself up she wished she had. Somehow, she managed to conceal it other than the escape of a small grunt. She watched as he went to the others to speak, and Evelyn stiffly walked to her small stack of things, looking for her skin of water.

"Miss Evelyn? Would you like some water?" A small voice asked behind her. It was Pippin.

She smiled at the young hobbit and accepted his offer, taking the water skin he offered her and drank generously. For the first time, she noticed the sweat pouring off her body, and she felt nasty, but she knew her day was far from over. What she wanted more was to tape her side, but that would also have to wait, just like her hot bath.

"Thank you Pippin."

The hobbits sat with her on a nearby bench that was recently placed there since the training started. She was not used to the elf giving her breaks, but then again usually he did not speak with Aragorn for so long either. She tried to ignore them.

"Wonder what they are talking 'bout?" Pippin asked Merry, and probably her, but she did not answer. They spoke in elvish, which the hobbits knew not, but she was close enough to hear, she knew what they spoke of her. Aragorn thought he was being too rough with her, and he may have been slightly right. While Legolas argued that if he went easy on her, she would not be ready for what was to come. There was more, but she decided she had heard enough. She sighed and stood, leaving the hobbit to their own conversation.

Upon hearing her approach, Legolas ended his conversation with the ranger and looked to her, eyes cold and calculating. It seemed he was sizing her up, seeing if he could find a weakness, anything. She dropped her gaze, feeling once again, insecure around him.

"We shall move on to archery." Legolas informed her reaching for the equipment.

She was slightly relieved at the change in schedule, not sure she could handle more sword practice even if she wanted, of which she did not. Though, she was pretty sure he only made the choice to half please Aragorn. Evelyn decided she was okay with that.

That is how she found herself holding the bow and arrow trying to aim at the target. The pain in her side was tremendous, spreading to her arm and down to her hip. It was almost impossible to hold the bow steady, let alone to try and concentrate on the bull's-eye. She wanted so much to just throw it down and quit, but she could not. Legolas was just waiting for her to break, to have had enough, to prove himself right that she would always be a burden. She had to prove him wrong, she would prove him wrong.

He came up behind her scrutinizing her form. "Your form is weak." He placed a hand on her stomach, "Stay strong here." He moved to her side. She knew what was coming, but could not stop it. He was going to give to same speech as yesterday, the same movement of his hands at her sides telling her to bring the breath up and into the movement. As soon as his hand landed roughly on her side, his patience waning, the pain shot through her and with a loud gasp, she collapsed forward, thoroughly catching him off guard.

With her eyes squinted tightly shut, she bit back the string of curse words wanting to find their way out her mouth. Instead, she just took a few deep breaths trying to compose herself as she sat on the ground. From somewhere she heard the familiar voices of her handmaidens. She made herself open her eyes. Legolas was still there, just staring at her with an unreadable expression, and at her two handmaidens.

"What are you doing here?" She asked them, her brows furrowed.

"We were on our way to the stable, as your blanket for Zenith had been finished, and we thought we would surprise you." The closer of the two answered.

"Yes, yes, but why are you here?" She asked again.

"Well my lady, we were slightly curious as to your adventures during the day." Then she turned a sharp eye on Legolas, who seemed to shrink back from the elleth, "I see now where she is getting all her injuries from. I guess we can no longer blame the horse." She spat, clearly not happy with the ellon in front of her. Evenly, however, was not pleased they had mentioned her bruises, because now Legolas was turning a sharp eye to her. So much for not looking weak.

But before she could respond, Aragorn had approached, send she instinctively tensed. "That is enough for today. Legolas a word." The elf nodded and walked with the man, giving her one last glance as she dropped her torso to the ground, now only thinking of her hot bath to come.

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