Hot tears pooled in her eyes as she looked at her family for what she hoped was not the last time. She had helped them load the broken woman in the covered cart, hooked behind the two dapple-gray drafts, and packed with them what few healing supplies she could spare should they need them on the way. Halla scanned the area of the northern gate, many more soldiers had volunteered than she thought. At least fifty men gathered mounted just outside, awaiting their King, who was making his last march. On out stood the party of dwarves, waiting to be joined by the men of Dale. All were dressed in their finest regalia; they dressed as if it would be their last stand. It very well could be, she thought to herself.
She slowly descended the stairs to stand before her husband the king and took his hands in her own, looking past him for a moment at the reason for his departure.
"I do not think she will make the trip, her body is broken and weak, it is as if her soul has long since left."
"Aye, love, but be it whether she live or die, we will get her to her companions and Glóin to his son." He paused to gaze at his wife, a sad smile playing on his lips, "The battle of Erebor may be over, but the battle for our world is not. I will see it to its end." Brand leaned down and kissed his wife on her forehead, choosing to ignore the tears he knew streaked down her face.
"You better come back to me Brand, you come back." Halla ordered him, struggling to hold back the wails that were close to breaking her, "Now be off with you!" She turned sharply on her heels, striding away purposefully, without looking back, for she knew if she did, she would not be able to hold herself together.
He watched his woman of many years walk away from him, for what he hoped would not be the last time. However, just in case, he stood a moment, making sure to capture every curve of her body, the gray hairs that littered her golden head, and her beautifully tanned skin to his memory. Finally turning, he mounted his aging stallion and led their caravan towards the White City. Unlike his wife, he stopped once to look back, and taking a deep inhale turned to face his fate.
Time passed differently here in Valinor. Evelyn could not say exactly how long she had been in the realm, but by her reckoning, she spoke with Nienna at least twice a day. She stopped to think, 'that would put her being here'…She gulped audibly… 'Over three months.' However, that could not be, surely that could not be! 'What could her companions possibly think? Did they think she would never wake up? Were they even alive to worry about her? Did they even care?' She tossed her head, trying to shoo the nagging thoughts away. Evelyn knew they would care that she was gone, she knew that much. Evelyn knew it from the last look she saw of Legolas face. She had never been able to discern what emotions his eyes held until that moment the beast took her. For the first time she saw emotions she recognized—she saw fear and pain in his eyes. Swallowing the lump forming in her throat, she pushed away from the balcony, turning to walk through the twilight gardens of Nienna's realm.
Here a large round gazebo stood, held by four marble columns. The top was arched, made from wrought iron and glass, to let the moonlight flicker through. Thick wild ivy grew along the banister and columns, making it look like a fantasy hideaway. At each of the four entrances to the gazebo stood a waist high tower, hold a bowl of fire that seemed to never die, and never need fuel to burn. As she approached, white doves flew from their hiding spot in the ivy, glowing silver in their flight as the moon's light flooded over them. Evelyn traced a finger over the closest banister, watching the tiny trickle of ice that formed where her skin touched.
"Much troubles your mind this night, child." Nienna's voice spoke soft and low from across the gazebo.
After what she believed to be her first few days here, Evelyn quite jumping at the Valier's approach, which was often silent and only acknowledged when she spoke, usually from somewhere behind Evelyn. She turned and saw Nienna walking into the gazebo, parting the Ivy that covered the entrance, wearing much the same as always—a long flowing grey dress, embroidered with deep purple stitching that seemed to dance in the flickering light, her hair flowing in the breeze, tendrils of silver from her circlet glittering.
They had spoken of many things, in her time here, mostly concerning her creation and powers, but also of her guilt. The deaths of those men she cause still haunted her mind, she was not sure they would ever fade. Nienna had told her death was wrong, killing was wrong, but also there was mercy in her actions, pity. Had she not taking pity on the men, let the Easterlings had their way with them, they would have been tortured, however, she made them feel nothing. Still, it did not justify it completely in her eyes, but occasionally the thought comforted her in the night, when the face swam in her mind.
Nienna watched the young Kelvarwë in front of her, watched her struggle with the choices of her life. Many months now, her soul had dwelt in her halls, and much healing had occurred, but she knew that she could only offer the woman but a little more. Her hands alone could not complete her healing; there were others she needed. She was about to prompt her again, but finally the solemn woman spoke.
"Time bothers me tonight. By my reckoning, I have been in your halls for three months. For three months, I have not known my fate on Arda, the fate of my companions, the war. Have I died? Have I been found, do I still rot in the Easterlings camp?"
"Time here, as I am sure you are somewhat aware, is different than on Arda. A day on Middle earth could be a lifetime here. When you are immortal, time means little. It is a concept hard to grasp for one who began life in a mortal body.
Four months have come and gone in my halls since you have been here, though only a mere few days have passed for your companions. Remember child, the fate of your flesh body means little. Whether it lives or dies, changes nothing, your soul cannot be killed. You live on just as I do.
Come, follow me."
Evelyn forced the tears away, she knew what she was told was true. She would not die, not truly anymore. She would always exists as she was now, though the truth in was still hard to grasp. She followed Nienna to a part of the halls she had never been to before. She was in a clearing, the full moon shining bright directly above them, spilling its light into what looked like to her, a large and very ornate glass birdbath.
"I will show you what you wish to see, and when I do you will have a choice you have to make."
Evelyn, puzzled at the Lady's words, narrowed her eyes and peered suspiciously at the shimmering water. "What do you mean?"
"Your choice is this, do you stay here in Valinor or do you return to your body in Middle-Earth."
Evelyn opened her mouth to speak, but was silenced by Nienna's hand.
"No judgement will be cast on you. Your Choice is your own. See what you will in the water, and then you will decide. However, remember, here you do not have to take physical form so your powers are free. The body you hold on Arda, can only support so much energy and power. Use too much and your vessel will perish."
Some invisible force pulled her in front of the bath. The water was still as stone, and where there should have been the reflection of the moon, there was nothing but its smooth black surface and then everything change. It was as if she was pulled straight in, but did not get wet and saw her friends below. 'Below?' she thought, 'How is that possible?' Looking around, slightly panicking, she realized she was floating. 'Great,' she thought, 'just great. I've been pushed into a magical bird bath and now I'm floating in a field above my companions.' Though she quickly, hushed her mind, realizing with a pang, how much she missed them now that she saw them. She wanted to run to them, hug them, anything the make sure they were real and there with her, and most of all alive. Nevertheless, she could not. All she could do was watch from her perch above them in the air.
The men stood gathered at the broken gates of Minas Tirith. Their makeshift camp of white tents blended against the white was stone of the city, while they stood in stark contrast to the black ground in front of them where bodies were once littered. Gandalf and Aragorn had decided to stay outside the city walls until the fate of the battle to come was decided. They would keep the king of Gondor secret but from those who needed to know. He went in the walls only to offer the Healing Hands of the King to those touched by the nazgul. Now they stood in attention with Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth awaiting the caravan they could see on the horizon approaching the city. They knew not if it was friend or foe.
"Let us ride out and see who rides to our doorstep." Prince Imrahil stated, acting as steward in the wake of Faramir's sickness.
"Aye," Gimli agreed, "Better to meet our enemies away from the city, or greet our friends with welcome."
They all seemed to agree and mounted their waiting steeds, kicking them into a gallop. Dust rose around them from the dry ground as the horse's hooves thundered over and thick waves of smoke assaulted their nostrils with strong fumes of death from the pyres that still smoldered. No one spoke, they were all too tense with anticipation until Legolas' elf eyes could make out who rode to Minas Tirith Lord Elrond's twins had rode with them since meeting them in Rohan, though Elladan was injured and unable to fight. His brother stayed by his side for this encounter. Luckily, they did not have to wait long.
"Riders from Dale and Erebor, a group no larger than one hundred, and traveling slow." He told them, relief weighing heavy on him. He was weary of battle and loss.
The group slowed to a rolling canter to meet their allies. Their numbers were not enough to make a large impact on the next battle, but any help they got they would take without question. Aragorn silently praised the Valar for sending more aid.
Soon enough they came in speaking distance and the traveling parties from Erebor hailed them, "Hail riders of Gondor, we ride to you in peace, offering what services we can. Tell me, to whom do I speak?"
It was Gandalf who replied. "I am Gandalf the White, with me are Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth and acting Steward of Gondor, Prince Legolas of Mirkwood, Lord Aragorn son of Arathorn, and Gimli son of Glóin."
"GIMLI, my lad!" A booming voice echoed over the vastly empty plains. A stout old dwarf, with streaks of white in his hair and beard, jumped down from his mount as Gimli did the same. The others watched the reunion with happy hearts, even Legolas found a small smile on his lips.
"I am King Brand of Dale and with me, King Dain of Erebor and his kin Lord Glóin." He spoke in return, a smile also on his face.
"How is it that you come to our aide?" Aragorn asked. For though he was glad of the help, and his heart lightened, he knew that Erebor fought its own battles, he could not help but wonder how it was the Kings were able to travel all this way with so many soldiers. He watched King Bard's smile falter at the question and a sudden dread filled his heart, though before either had time to speak again another voice broke through. It was Legolas.
"Zenith?" his voice cracked in disbelief. At the sound of her name, the horse that had hung back by the covered cage, lifted her weary head, her eyes dull but searching for the source of her name. Her ear perked forward at the sight of the others, the first familiar faces since she found Evelyn, and she gave a soft wicker, but she did not budge from her spot. "How did you come by this horse?" he demanded, and watched the men and dwarves before him shift nervously on their feet.
"Aye," Gimli added with a heavy heart as he broke his embrace with his father, "That horse belonged to a companion of ours."
"Then it is true then, what the lassie said, Gimli rode to Gondor and to war?" Lord Glóin asked, turning to the lords of Gondor.
"The battle for Pelenor fields has been fought and hard won, the battle for Middle-earth still looms over us all. Then you have seen Evelyn? Where is she? And how come you by her horse?" Gandalf questioned, his own worry increasing as the minutes passed.
"I will answer all your questions in time; first how we met the Lady should best be left when we can hold private audience. Second, the horse found us while we were in the company of the lady. And as to where she is, she is in the covered cart."
Instantly, before he could say more, all her companions instantly lurched forward, rushing towards the wagon.
The voice commanded, luckily halting their movements. They looked at him with confused expressions, dread creeping into their eyes, all thinking the same thoughts. 'Why had she not come out and was she dead. Were they returning her dead body?'
Brand finally spoke, his voice spoke and full of sorrow as he saw the loyalty and commitment these men had for the woman. "She is not awake. My wife is Dale's most skilled healer, and she did everything she could for the woman, but the Easterlings had her for longer that I know, and they did their best to her. She may not be the same woman you remember. Too be honest, I am astounded she has survived this long."
Once he finished speaking, Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas were all at the wagon, jerking the curtains back revealing the broken body inside. The sharp intake of breath was deafening the silence around them. Gimli ever so slowly reached out and grabbed her cold hand in his own, tears clinging to his beard, his father coming up silently behind him, laying a rough hand on his shoulder. Gandalf and Aragorn each laid a hand on the others shoulder as they stared at Evelyn. Then there was Legolas.
'Oh, Legolas.' Evelyn thought to herself, looking down at the elf below her. His face, the grief and the pain, and the anger—that she knew he placed on himself—broke her heart. He shed no tears, His face held no emotion, but his eyes; oh his eyes said it all. She reached out, wanting to lay her hand on his cheek, tell him she was alive and fine, but her reach was too short, and she had to turn away from him, she could not bear to watch. 'I am sorry.' Then the vision went black and switched.
They had all gathered in the spacious throne room of Minas Tirith, a large oak table was set up at the base of the throne chairs. Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, Imrahil, Dain, Glóin, Brand, and Éomer all stood around it, looking at an old map they had weighted down on its center. A dark haired elf she had not seen before was walking into the room from the back right corner behind the thrones.
"Ah, Elrohir, there you are, how is Elladan?" Aragorn asked, looking up from the map.
"Better, as he is pouting like a baby for not being able to attend today." He replied, taking his spot beside his adoptive brother.
'So that is one of Lord Elrond's sons, part of Aragorn's family.' She spoke to herself as she took in the handsome dark hair elf. His demeanor was all business, ready for whatever may come, but in his eyes, she could see the glint of mischief she had heard so much about in her stay in Lòrien.
"Frodo has passed beyond my sight." Gandalf stated, drawing all attention to him as he folded his arms behind his back and paced the room. "The darkness is deepening."
"If Sauron had the ring we would know it." Aragorn countered, arms crossed against his chest, facing away from the group.
"It is only a matter of time. He suffered a defeat yes, but, behind the walls of Mordor our enemy is regrouping."
"Let him stay there, let him rot. Why should we care?" Gimli countered, as he took a long drag from his pipe, earning himself a sharp glare from Gandalf that could have killed.
"Because," Gandalf retorted, rounding on the dwarf, "ten thousands orcs now stand between Frodo and Mount Doom." Gimli almost choked on the pipe smoke as the truth sunk in. "I've sent him to his death." He finally whispered out in despair.
"No," Aragorn stated, turning now to face the others again. "There is still hope for Frodo. He needs time and safe passage across the plains of Gorgoroth. We can give him that."
"How?" Gimli asked, setting his pipe aside, leaning in towards Aragorn.
"Draw out Sauron's army, empty his lands and we gather our full strength and march on the Black Gates." Gimli actually did choke on his pipe this time with Aragorn's conviction. He knew the future King of Gondor meant what he said, and he knew what it meant for all of them that would follow him, even to death.
"We cannot achieve victory through strength of arms." Éomer said, stepping forth from the column he was leaning against next to Legolas.
Aragorn looked at his friends, a deep grief filling his soul. He was asking them all to ride to what would surely be their death, in the hopes to save their world, "Not for us, but we can give Frodo his chance if we keep Sauron's eye fixed upon us." He finished and looked to Gandalf. "Keep him blind to all else that moves."
"A diversion." Legolas spoke up. The eyes in the room slowly fell on him. It was the first he had spoken in hours, and he had spoken very little since they found Evelyn. The elf grieved, as they all did, but he took it harder than the others, for reasons unknown to them, except the one in the room who knew him better than most.
Gimli smoked his pipe again and then gave his input, "Certainty of death, small chance of success, what are we waiting for?" he questioned with a smile. "I for one would like a piece of the filth that has our lady's life hanging in the balance!" he added with a strong emphasis.
Gandalf rounded on Aragorn, "Sauron will suspect a trap. He will not take the bait."
However, Aragorn just offered him a small knowing smile, "Oh, I think he will."
The vision went black again, and this time when the images refocused, she saw herself lying in a bed of white linen, her white hair spread across the pillow under her head. Her body lay perfectly still; every inch was covered in bandages soiled in dark red blood, her face though, held a quiet and serene expression. Then again, she technically was not in it to give it life and expressions.
Voices broken her concentration, and she was silently glad, it was a bit unnerving, looking a yourself from outside your body. She had to wonder if this is what it was like for those people that stated they had out of body experiences when they came close to death. Evelyn imagined that it was.
She heard Aragorn's voice, speaking with a dark haired elf in the room with them. He stepped away from the elf, and at first, she believed it was the same she saw in the last, 'what was his name?' she thought, 'Elrohir.' But no, she saw he was in the white healing robes just as she had been, this was Elladan, the brother that was being left behind. In addition, she could see from his expression, he was none too happy about it.
Aragorn leaning over her body, placing a soft kiss to her forehead as he squeezed her hand as he whispered in her ear, "Get well Evelyn. Get well and see our world restored."
As he got back to the door, he placed a hand on Elladan's shoulder, "I know you wish to travel with us, but I have a job for you since you cannot. Watch over her please brother; do what you can to heal her please."
Elladan gave his adoptive brother a strange look, and then looked at the strange woman on the bed. She had made a strong impact on the entire fellowship, and he sensed, somehow, she yet had a role to play if she should survive. "Aye, brother, you have my word. I am not as skilled as my father, but I will do what is in my power to do."
"Thank you." Aragorn replied as he walked out the door, Elladan walking out behind him.
What happened next, took Evelyn by surprise. She watched as Legolas walked into her room, his face full of pain and sorrow. Here alone in the room, thinking no one saw, he kept no mask in place. Earlier when she could not take the pain in his eyes, it was nothing to the expression she saw now. It was greater by tenfold, and she heard herself call out to him, though he could not hear. Tears poured from her eyes, evaporating in the air around her. He leaning over her and spoke words that sent an arrow through her heart, and stopped her breath. He spoke so softly she almost did not hear him, but they were words she knew she would never forget so long as she lived, which would be forever according to the Valar. "Come back to me." and with that he placed his lips ever so softly on hers, his salty tears trailing down her lips.
At the touch of his lips on hers, the shock of it sent her reeling back to Nienna's halls, where she tripped backwards on her bottom, her breaths coming in short rapid gasps and she looked into the Valar's sad face. She only gave her a small sad smile awaiting her answer. She did not remember telling herself to answer or forming the words the spoke, but she did. "I've made my choice."
Well guys this is the end of the first part of this story. I went back and changed the name, it just seemed like it fit so much better. This was not where I had originally intended to end this 1st part, but as I was writing it, it just seemed appropriate so I went with it. I really hope you have all enjoyed this story. Please be on the lookout for the 2nd part coming shortly called The Road Home. Please review/inbox me let me know your thoughts, areas for improvement, plot ideas, etc! I love hearing from all my readers. Thanks again so much for sticking with me throughout this story!