The Choice

Chapter 8

A hot bath, Evelyn had decided, had never felt as good as the one she was in now. She could feel her muscle slowly starting to relax in the warmth, releasing their tension. The large black and purple bruise spreading along her rib cage even felt les tender. If the water would not get cold, she imagined she could lie here the rest of day and be perfectly content; however, that was not a possibility. But she would drag out the inevitable for as long as she could.

The water turned to an icy chill much too soon for her, causing her give a groan of frustration, but she reluctantly pulled herself from the copper tub. Once she was out, she found one of her handmaidens, Camaenil, in wait for her. She readily accepted her help in wrapping her side. Wincing slightly as Camaenil pulled the bandage tight around her midsection, she dared not say a word, and once the bandage was in place, she felt much better with the support it offered. Next came her clothes, her handmaid chose a simple green gown with long silk sleeves and a high neck line that buttoned up to her throat. It's only design was gold elvish designs on a black background that ran up the middle of the dress from the belt around her waist to her neck. Galadriel had her clothes special made to make sure they covered her scars, and she was very grateful. Although the gowns of the elves were beyond beautiful, their scooped necklines and flowing sleeves offered little coverage where she wished there to be some.

Now came the fun part. Trying to stretch was going to be hard; however, if she did not, moving the next day would be most impossible. She was more than right about the stretching she soon found out. Even the simplest stretches brought tears to her eyes, but she had to finish. Then a knock on her door forced her to stop. She was silently thanking the person outside the door for the relief.

She was surprised to see Merry and Pippin standing at her door. She had spent a good amount of time with them, but they had not come in search for her before.

"Master Merry, Master Pippin, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company." She greeted them, happy to see it bring a smile to their faces.

"We were wondering if you would walk with us." Pippin said with much enthusiasm. She wanted to decline, really all she wanted to do was rest, but his eyes were so full of joy she could not find it in her. This is how she found herself with a handful of food from the kitchens walking the worn paths through the forest.

In no time at all, she found herself laughing uncontrollable at one of their stories. The two seemed to always find mischief wherever they went. Maybe her journey with them would not be all bad with the hobbits there to cheer her up, which they did without even trying.

"It is beautiful here." Merry stated as they came upon a small stream running through the thicket of trees. The sun was sparkling on its surface, and fallen leaves flowed like boats down its length. The sound of it trickling over the pebbles on the bottom was mesmerizing. She could sit here all day she mused. Maybe she could bring Zenith here one day soon.

"Yes, Merry, it is beautiful. It reminds me of home." She had not realized until she spoke the words that it made her think of Ireland. She felt a pang of home sickness hit her.

Sitting down she removed her shoes, feeling the crispness of the water rush over her skin, it was refreshing. She closed her eyes smiling, listening to the hobbits argue about how she should not put her bare feet in such cold water, she would catch a chill. But to her the water did not feel all that cold. It was not warm by any means, but it was nowhere near as cold as they made it out to be. Soon though, they lapsed into a peaceful silence. That was until Pippin's curiosity got the better of him.

"Do you miss it?" Pippin's voice piped up, "Your home?" This got him a sharp nudge from Merry, though it did little good. He was probably immune to it by now she thought with a smile.

Looking at the younger hobbit, she gave him a small, sad smile, but replied, "Aye, I miss it"

"Where is it you are from? You are not an elf, yet you are living here among them." He asked.

"Pippin!" Merry exclaimed, "Don't interrogate her." he tried to reprimand his friend.

"It is quite alright." She informed Merry, placing a hand on his shoulder. "I come from a place very far from here, called Ireland."

"Are they much the same Ireland and Lothlorien?"

She mused for a second, thinking on how to answer the hobbit. "Yes and no. Our technology and culture is much different, yet the land is similar and the evils. Evil still exists where I'm from, in a different form, but there is evil yet." She was not sure if she answered correctly, she did not want to give away she was not from Middle Earth at all, but she could not refuse to answer so simple a question. Though for her, it truly was not so simple. She was glad that seemed to please the hobbit and he focused not the fact she said the culture was different above all else.

"You seem to act like an elf he me," he told her sincerely, eliciting a hearty laugh from her.

She answered once she composed herself, "That my friend, is because I learned their culture once I arrived."

Legolas sat quietly in the trees, enjoying the sun that was warming him. He was letting his mind wander. He was trouble about the occurrence this morning during Evelyn's training. After she had left, he spoke with Aragorn, who repeatedly reprimanded him for going so hard on her. He tried vehemently to argue his case. She wanted him to train her, to not go soft on her, to prepare her for what was out there, and that is what he did. Of course the ranger had a retort ready saying, "That does not mean you injure her! We are supposed to protect her!"

They did not need another member with them that needed protection, they already had the hobbits. Besides, none truly wanted her to go. She was pleasant enough for a mortal, albeit a little strange. He noted how she seemed to shrink into the shadows around the others, yet would speak with him, wanted to train with him. He shook the thoughts from his mind. She still had no business going with them.

However, he did feel guilt for causing her injury. Until her handmaidens had turned their anger on him, he had had no inclination she was hurt. She hid it well for him to not take notice or either he was not truly paying close attention. Maybe it was a mixture of both, for he knew his heart was not in the training and therefore neither was his undivided attention. Then there was today's injury.

Had he let his emotions get in the way like Aragorn had suggested? When she had disarmed him with a move he had never quite seen before he would never admit it aloud, but he had been embarrassed in front of the others. So was his counter attack aimed to hurt her? No, he did not think so, but he could not deny it may have been retaliation. He felt his guilt build again. He would give her a few days off, she would heal, then they would start back and he would have his whole mind focused on the task, he would not let in his emotions again, he was far too old and schooled for such things to slip.

Legolas was about to maneuver himself from the tree branch to send a messenger to her, when he heard her approach with the hobbits in the distance. He should have left, he was not sure why he did not, and why instead he stayed in place listening to them.

He heard her laughing at a story Pippin was telling. Her laugh was loud and rich, much different from the quiet and delicate laugh of most Elven females. They all sat by the bank of the stream. It took him by surprise when she removed her boots and placed her feet in the water. As the hobbits were pointing out, the water this time of year would be very cold to a human, though its temperature seemed to bother her little. It was just another strange trait she possessed.

Then the talk changed subject after a brief moment of silence. He was intrigued to hear her speak of her homeland to the hobbits. He had gone in search of Haldir soon after the announcement of her joining the fellowship in hopes of learning more about her. Surprisingly, though they seemed close, the Marchwarden knew little and less of her, though it was obvious he was fond of her. He did gather enough to know she did not readily spare information about herself.

She answered easily enough, and seemed happy to do so until Pippin asked when she would return home. He guess the hobbit assumed she would leave once the journey was done, if she survived that was, and to him it seemed a reasonable assumption, however he watched to woman immediately go rigid. He could practically bathe in the tension she was emitting. The hobbits immediately looked to the ground, sensing the abrupt change in her demeanor.

When she finally answered her voice was strained, though he heard it as if she spoke right by his ear, and her answer shocked even him. "I will never return to Ireland."

Never return? He liked to travel, and found adventures to be enjoyable, but to never return to Mirkwood? That he could not fathom. What would keep her from her homeland?

Merry then quickly jabbed Pippin in the ribs, shaking his head at his cousin. He knew the curious hobbit was about to ask her why, and he stopped him. Part of him wished he had not stopped him so he could hear the answer, but then she probably would not have answered him. That seemed to be the end of the conversation, for they all left together, with Merry attempting to change to a lighter subject for Evelyn's sake. He, however, chose to remain in the tree for a while longer, his mind focusing on what he had just witnessed.

They continued their walk after stopping at the stream. Merry was back to telling stories of their childhood, and she knew it was mainly to lighten the mood. She tried hard to act like she was better, tried to put it behind her, yet it was hard. The thought she would never be back in Ireland or back at her farm troubled her. Lothlorien was beautiful and the elves had welcomed her generously into their home. But she did not fit it, did she fit in anywhere? Of that she was unsure. However, journeying with the fellowship, she may not live long enough to have to worry about fitting in. She held back a shudder at the thought.

The daylight was beginning to fade when they finally decided it was time to head back. Evelyn kept quiet, but was secretly glad. Her side had begun to throb with all the walking she had done with the hobbits. It was good to be out of her flet and with company, but now she was ready for a long stay in her fluffy bed, and anyways, she didn't know how much longer she would get to enjoy such a luxury.

That is when they ran into The Lord Aragon and Lord Legolas on the path. She stopped dead in her tracks, breath catching in her throat. All the pain in her side was quickly forgotten. Here she was face to face with a man and no one to watch out for her, the hobbits could not protect her and she knew the elf would be sided with his friend should he want to hurt her. 'No.' She scolded herself, 'Galadriel would not send you with men who meant you harm.' The panic was still there, but this time she held it under control, she had to. No weaknesses, she had promised herself.

Legolas stood stoic as always, but she watched nervously as Aragorn tipped his head in respect saying, "Lady Evelyn," then acknowledge Merry and Pippin. She held her hands tightly together behind her back, so no one would see them shake, and did her best to keep her voice steady as she replied in a respectful manner.

"Merry, Pippin, the Lady of the Wood has requested us for dinner. You had better run along and get ready." His voice sounded stern, but here was humor behind it, it shown in his eyes. The hobbits looked eagerly at each other for the opportunity to see the lady again; they started to take off but stopped to turn back.

"What about the Lady Evelyn?" Pippin asked.

She tried to smile as she replied, "Worry not, I can find my way back Pippin."

Aragorn spoke up then, it seemed wrong to let a woman travel alone with darkness falling, even in the protection of Lothlorien. "We can escort you My Lady, it would be of no trouble."

Then she felt the panic reach the border of her control, she looked all around her for a route of escape, only to find no divisions from the path near. She could feel their questioning gazes upon her, waiting for a reply she could not yet voice. She kept telling herself she had to get it together. She had to get over this irrational fear. She was safe. After a few involuntary steps backwards and managed to swallow the bile in her throat and reply. Her voice sound like a mouse, but she spoke none the less, "I must decline My Lord, I know the way, but I thank you." Giving a quick bow of her head she turned on her heels, walking as quickly as she could in the opposite direction.

"I do not think she likes you Aragorn." Pippin stated matter if factly. Merry growled at him under his breath, while Legolas held back a snicker. Aragorn could only stare at the hobbit, noting what seemed to be the truth in his words.

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