Disclaimer: I don't own LOTR, You could try to sue me, but since I'm not making money off this…neither will you. LOL! On with the story.
She stood smoothly from the slightly damp, dew strewn grass and took her first breath. Around her creatures of the night buzzed and hummed. She blinked and turned in a slow circle. This place…
"Where am I?" she whispered and then started at the sound of her own voice. It wasn't her voice. She'd never sounded so…
'Musical, beautiful, melodic? Her internal voice supplied. She looked down at herself and scowled as frustration filled her.
"What the hell?! Who put me in this dress? And Where am I?" She glared out at the innocently swaying trees and rustling leaves of the night. It was difficult to fight away the sense of peacefulness that settled over her at the beautiful scene. She held up her hands. They glowed in the very low light of the moon. 'Am I dreaming?'
Warily she glanced upward, her thoughts swirling slowly in her head. Once she caught sight of the stars she pulled in an involuntary breath. They were so close... While she'd always appreciated celestial beauty, there was something… spiritual about looking up at this sky, filled as it was with countless stars. The moon appeared so close, she thought if she reached out she could grab ahold and throw it like a boomerang across the night sky. As she dropped her eyes reluctantly to the forest, she noted again that she could see details and vibrant color on each leaf and frond that she would never have been able to notice in this gloom before. In the light breeze something rustled against her legs. She jumped and then looked down at herself, noticing for the first time the snowy fabric of the dress that flowed with just the slightest breath of air, she pinched a flowing sleeve between her fingers and rubbed it together. Silk, she realized with a girlish smile.
"Definitely dreaming." She muttered to herself and let out a deep breath with a smile. I might as well enjoy this. Usually these dreams are nonsensical and irritatingly random. With that last thought, she strode barefoot and silent into the underbrush between the wuthering trees.
After a few hours of examining her surroundings, and ambling slowly forward while stealing an occasional glimpse at the sky… Well, she never seemed able to just glance. She was entranced by the sight and had to force her gaze elsewhere. Once she started examining the bright points of light she couldn't seem to think of anything else. Slowly, like a creeping fog, a sense of unease crept upon her. This was a highly unusual dream. She didn't feel weary as she should have after so long walking. Instead, she felt a strange lightness as if she could dance, run a race, and then do her old tumbling routine from high school with a couple of extra new moves. Plus, by this time in a dream she generally began attempting to find a bathroom so she could pee. This was because she needed to actually wake up to pee, but her mind would, in traditional Nicole fashion, invent all sorts of obstacles to her making her way to said bathroom. First, there would be no doors on any of the bathroom stalls, then all sorts of people would walk by her stall as soon as she had decided to sit on the toilet and peek in to watch. Finally, when she did get to pee, she would sit on the toilet for 5 minutes straight and not feel relief. With a shock she would wake up and freak out that she had wet the bed, only to find she just really had to go. Then she would make her way to the bathroom for real.
Even without the vivid strangeness of her surroundings, she felt real. She felt like she was actually in this place. The texture of the leaves and grass beneath her feet and the cool clean air spoke to that. Plus she noted for the 5th time or so in irritation, her sleeves kept snagging on underbrush and twigs. She sighed and pulled the darned thing free. "Piece of shit" she muttered moodily" at the cloth, and then sighed. 'I should really stop swearing like that. It's such a bad habit.'
She continued forward. Panicking won't help. 'What else could this be but a dream? Why I was just…'
She frowned and slowed to a stop. 'I was just…at home? Or was I out. She reached for a memory, but was coming up with nothing. She swallowed thickly. I live at, what was my address again, my phone number? My name? Ha! It's Nicole. I knew that.' Happy with her success, she strode forward once more.
After about 20 minutes or so she began to feel a different sort of unease. The forest seemed so inviting at first, but now. It was silent. The way it gets when a predator is nearby. Nicole shivered and looked about her into the dark. She could see clearly there were no creepy red eyes or drooling sharp fangs out there. Still, she felt the hair on the back of her neck rise and began moving faster.
After a moment she stepped suddenly into a clearing. The sound of ragged breathing reached her ears. In alarm she jumped back behind the last tree she'd passed. It wasn't just ragged, she decided. On each exhale there was a grunting and on each inhale a whistling of a partially occluded nostril. "Mouth breather" she muttered to herself.
She could hear a grating sound, a voice, she realized. 'Someone's a smoker' she thought to herself in distaste. Then the meaning of the words filtered through.
"-Went this way," it hissed, "smells like a tasty innocent one."
"Eww" she muttered to herself. "I hope the psycho is joking" After that horrifying sentence she did her best to tune out the hair raising speech. She already felt like this must be some random dream turned nightmare. She would wake up soon and hopefully forget this come morning. Kinda like the one where she'd dreamt she was trying to sell cocaine, or the one where Josh left her for a man, or the one where-
A twig snapping made her forget both the creep on the other side of the clearing and her musings. A look behind her tree revealed a hulking figure that was currently leering and slobbering over its crooked pointy teeth. She could smell its rancid breath even though she was several feet away. Seriously, dying people smelled better than this thing.
Eyes as wide as they could go in her head, she slowly angled her body towards it. Her heart's pace picked up. She could feel it squeezing harder in her chest with each beat. "What do you want?" she choked out between shaky breaths.
Its answer was to pull a long curved knife from its belt with a black clawed hand. It chuckled. Nicole's mouth twisted at the disturbing sound.
At this point she knew viscerally that its intentions were very, very bad. With a lightning fast movement she pivoted sideways, hiked up her skirt, and side kicked it right between the eyes. Fear and adrenaline gave her more strength than she expected and its head snapped backward with a crack. It crumpled to the ground. Not having time to contemplate its twisted unnatural form, she kicked its knife into the underbrush and turned away to focus on the other one. This one was already looking towards her hiding spot. He couldn't have missed the cracking noise, as loud as it had been. Should she hide and wait for it or reveal her hiding spot and entice it to approach her? Her eyes darted around quickly. Where there more of these… these whatever they were? She listened hard for a few heartbeats, but detected nothing. They were loud, so it was unlikely she had overlooked any nearby. After a few moments of indecision the thing slowly moved forward.
Nicole made a face. Is it sniffing? She couldn't remember the last time she'd put on deodorant, but surely it couldn't smell her. She took a calming breath. Her chances were better out in the open. It was more similar to where she was used to training. She stepped out into the clearing and stood waiting for it to notice her. This one proved to be the more talkative of the two. It was smaller than the first, but just as ugly.
"Oh, is the sweet thing hurt?" it rattled. As it advanced, it pulled a knife free in an exaggerated movement meant to frighten her, much like the first had. "If it behaves we won't play too much with our food before we eats it."
If Nicole hadn't been so angry and afraid, she would have rolled her eyes at the monster's moronic statement. She let a very real tremor of fear and anger quake through her 'You sick fuck,' she thought. She took in a shaky breath, 'Breathe Nicole, and think.'
'I've got to play this right' She cleared her throat noisily, "Please… Mr. monster Sir. Don't hurt me. I don't have any weapons." The emotions she fought to control made her voice tremulous. 'Hope he buys it. I'm a terrible actress.'
The thing's face twisted in glee at her words. It chuckled a wheezing breath. "You're a stupid bitch aren't you?" It must have seen something behind her just then, because its eyes widened in a snarl and it leapt forward swinging its knife out in a wide arc.
For once Nicole recalled her years of training with perfect clarity and entered in towards its knife hand. She made light contact with its forearm using the knife edge of her right hand, ducked underneath the swing and came up behind it. Grasping the wrist (its left) with her left hand she used its sudden wild backward thrash to pull it off balance and wrapped the underside of her right arm around its neck. The result was its knife arm stretched out with the elbow at the breaking point against the left side of her torso. Its body was bent backward with its neck in an air tight lock in her armpit. She sucked in a deep breath and leaned her upper body backward.
'Crack' She felt its neck give way with a sickening snap. She dropped it as if burned and heard a grunting whoosh of air leave it when it hit the ground. She stumbled back, her anger fading into horror. She'd never used it like that. She'd never hurt someone. She stared down at the body. 'What now?' she thought. Were the police going to come after her? Would she have to defend herself in front of a court? She backed away shaking her head. She didn't even like stepping on bugs because it made her feel guilty. This didn't even compare. She squeezed her eyes shut, 'now would be a great time to wake up.'
She bumped into a solid warmth and let out a yelp of surprise. Instinctively she clasped one fist inside the other, pivoted sideways, and drove her elbow backwards towards where she would expect its face to be. She met air. The momentum of her missed strike spun her the rest of the way around.
"Easy my lady." said a voice. The sound of it startled her. When compared to the voice of the creature that spoke before, this one sounded like an angel.
She was met with the sight of a man backing off a few paces, holding his hands up in supplication. Behind him four more, equally wholesome appearing males stood. Nicole stared. Mouth agape. Beautiful. She rarely used the word to describe men, because they found offence at the adjective, but really there was no other that was accurate. Besides that they were all lithe, and beardless with long hair. The one closest to her had locks as dark as the night sky. Strands of it glistened silver where the light of the stars shone upon it. Her shocked gaze was caught by two of the richest blue eyes she had ever seen. Their vividness was such that she felt that she'd never seen the color before this moment. Somewhere out in the forest a twig snapped. As if just remembering that she was in a bad situation and she should be at least slightly panicked, she broke their shared stare and her eyes darted among them. They all had identical expressions of wariness and compassion that she herself had used when dealing with confused patients in the hospital.
"Hello" blue eyes echoed back with a small smile. "Are you alright?"
Nicole felt the hammering of her heart slow a bit at his tone. She looked down at herself. Her sleeve was a bit dirty from wrapping her arm around the thing's neck. Unbidden she turned her head to look back at the beast. Its open clouded eyes and the crooked angle of its neck made bile rise in her throat. She stepped away from it quickly. Holding her hand to her mouth in a reflex to stop the rising nausea. She shut her eyes against the sight and swallowed the saliva suddenly pooling under her tongue.
The barest rustling of a leaf alerted her to his movement. Her eyes snapped open as he took the step forward. It was then that she noticed how his group all had their hands casually draped over the hilts of their weapons.
"Stay back!" she slid backwards in alarm, angling her body once more. Their beauty did not necessarily equal good intentions.
He held up his hands in supplication. "We will not harm you" he said in a soothing voice. "Where are the rest of your party?"
At her blank look he continued, "You cannot stay out here alone after what has happened."
With a small tremor in her voice, Nicole waved her hand in the direction of the bodies. "I had to do it. They had knives and they were saying really horrible things."
His eyebrows creased in confusion as he glanced briefly at the dead creature and then back at her. "We understand, my lady, you were merely defending yourself."
"Rather well, I'd say" one of the others spoke with a smirk.
Blue eyes cut a deadpan look over his shoulder. The man in question dropped his smile immediately and turned his attention to the trees. The leader looked back to Nicole with a small smile, He took a tentative step forward holding out his hand for her to take.
"It's alright. Just come with us...and we will-"
"Do I have a choice?" She interrupted, forcing steel into her voice.
The man gave her an exasperated look. "Between staying out here alone and unarmed or accompanying a seasoned group of warriors to Imladris?"
Heat flooded Nicole's cheeks. Damn... He was right.
"I do too have arms," she muttered to cover her embarrassment. "They're attached to my body." To her surprise all of the men present had excellent hearing and burst into laughter. She was torn between embarrassment and awe at the beautiful sound.
"Come now My Lady" Blue eyes held out his hand again, eyes twinkling. "Now is not the time to be out in the wilderness jesting."
She sighed. If her face got any redder it would pop. They were not supposed to be listening.
"Well, when you put it that way… It does sound unreasonable." She tentatively reached out and took his hand. It was warm, strong and slightly callused. She fought the urge to jerk hers back. The intimacy of holding hands with a stranger made her uncomfortable, especially a man as handsome as this one. She followed behind him across the clearing back into the trees.
"I didn't catch your name…" she said a tad breathlessly.
He looked over his shoulder at her with a tiny smirk. "That would be because I didn't tell you."
Annoyed, Nicole stopped dead, forcing him to turn and look at her in order to keep ahold of her hand. She tugged it away as soon as he was facing her.
"My name is Nicole." She said evenly, meeting his eyes with an eyebrow raised in challenge. She crossed her arms and did her best to stare him down. It was difficult though. He had to be at least 6 ft. tall. She was no small woman. At 5'9" she'd considered herself comfortably tall.
"Legolas" he replied, attempting not to smile at her pose.
Nicole scoffed in disbelief, "Legolas, as in prince Legolas, son of King Thranduil"
"Yes" Now he was smirking wider.
It was a true force of will that kept her from rolling her eyes in irritation. What games was this guy playing? Her eyes traveled over his ears…and then kept looking. Eyes growing wide. Her eyes darted around at all his companions who were watching her with matching smiles, and matching ears.
Tentatively she reached out in fascination and brushed her fingers over the tip of his right ear. "I can't believe it." came her breathy whisper. Then she suddenly realized what she was doing and jerked her hand back. "Sorry… I…um, wasn't expecting.." Nicole looked down and fought the urge to cover her face with her hands.
The prince was unnaturally still, watching her with an unreadable look, lips slightly parted.
"Elves" she whispered. "Where am I?" a sensation of dizziness swept over her, making her vision gray at the edges. A hand wrapped around her upper arm. "My lady?" The concern in his voice pulled her eyes to his.
"I'm dreaming" she said to herself. Then something occurred to her "Im-la-dris" she said slowly, drawing out the syllables of the word. She hadn't caught on because his accent made the word sound different than how it'd been pronounced in the movies. "Rivendell…Shit."
"You are awake." His voice washed over her. And she realized he now had a hold of both her arms. His face was not 12 inches from her own. She sucked in a breath and leaned back, nearly tipping over. The prince's brows furrowed. "I think you are a bit disoriented. We should be moving." Before she knew what was happening he'd swept her up into his arms as if she weighed nothing.
"Eeep!...that's not necessary. I can walk." She pushed on his chest and tried to straighten her legs so she could stand. But it was like he didn't even notice her halfhearted struggling. 'Is this really happening? I haven't been carried since I was a child.'
She saw one of his companions slow to walk behind, while the other two were on his right and left. She and the prince were now inside a protective ring of soldiers. Red-faced, she met glances with the one in her line of sight.
"I am Echon" said the elf, smiling kindly down at her. Nicole met his summer blue eyes and awkwardly smiled. "Nice to meet you… I wish it was at a party or something and not out here…in the woods." Laughter filled his eyes, but he simply nodded and looked forward again.
"Relax, You are safe with us." Came a voice from her other side. This elf had hair in a rich shade of chocolate brown. His eyes were gray, more like a cloudy sky than anything else she could think of.
Unable to find any more words she simply nodded.
It seemed like they walked through the trees for upwards of 15 minutes before they came to a narrow and meandering road raised slightly from the surrounding forest. She heard and smelled horses snuffling the grass and and stamping hooves lightly on the ground. Nicole swallowed nervously. She never much cared for the beasts. Besides being really, really, huge with legs that could kick your head in, and mouths that could bite off a finger, she was positive she was allergic to them. Plus they smelled like horse shit...literally.
Legolas slowed and looked down at Nicole. She glanced up shyly. "Can you walk?" he asked.
Her eyebrows raised, "I could walk before, but that didn't stop you."
"Alright then" He gently let her feet down and crossed the path to his horse.
She stepped out onto the road, instinctively looking both ways. 'always a good habit,' she told herself. The others passed by her and headed to their respective mounts. Still feeling uncertain, she trailed forward slowly until she stood beside Legolas and his mount. She sniffed tentatively and found the smell wasn't as unpleasant as she remembered. These animals were a far cry from the depressing beasts she had seen pulling carriages in central park. They were even bigger, their coats were shining with health. The muscles under their glossy coats rippled with natural power. Slowly reaching out, she stroked its flank. She startled back its huge head swung around to look at her. "He, Hello" she stuttered lamely. It blinked large, strangely intelligent liquid brown eyes at her. It was undoubtedly a handsome animal with a midnight black coat except for three white socks on its legs and a white 4 pointed star on its forehead.
Legolas stepped up to her side, took the reins and stroked the horses muzzle comfortably. "His name is Gilon." he smiled over his shoulder at her and she couldn't help but return the expression.
"Hello Gilon." She reached forward to stroke his nose. Once her fingers touched she blinked in surprise. 'So soft!' she mused to herself as she trailed her fingers over it's snout and ears. Her smile grew. "You will be kind to me yes?" To her surprise and delight, the horse bobbed its head up and down in a nodding motion. Her eyes darted back to Legolas who'd seen the whole exchange. He was silent but laughter sparkled in the depths of his eyes.
'Come on Nicole refocus.' "OK...so what now." She looked up at the horse's huge flank. For a moment she considered just going for it and jumping up there, but then an image of her face planting on the other side made her snort in order to suppress a laugh. Better not to completely embarrass myself.
She furtively glanced around only to see everyone else had already mounted and were waiting on her. Plus, they appeared to be riding bareback.
"Uhmm, excuse me, but I don't know how to say this, but..."
"You've never ridden a horse," he finished for her.
Nicole blinked in confusion and nodded.
"You have the look of a chil-," he cleared his throat. "Of one who is not used to being near horses." He smiled pleasantly and moved, she thought, to go around her. She turned so her back was to the horse so she could see where he was going. "Just remember to hold onto his mane when you mount.
"Yes but how- Eeep!" she yelped when his hands circled her waist and lifted her easily up. In her startlement she grasped his leather clad forearms. She could feel a flush rising from where the warmth of his hands seeped through the thin material of her gown. The sensation rose all the way to the tips of her ears. Then just as suddenly as he'd lifted her, she was sitting side saddle on the powerful animal and his invading hands released her. She had such a death grip on his forearms at this point that she had to consciously tell herself to let go.
Still reeling from change in position and the sensation of his hands upon her, she took a steadying breath. Irritation sparked suddenly and she glowered down at him. This was a problem.
"You need to stop doing that." she said firmly.
He fixed her with an innocent look. "Stop what, My Lady?"
"Grabbing me without asking" she replied. Somewhere behind her she heard a snort that was highly suspicious for a smothered laugh.
His midnight eyebrows shot up. "I did not 'grab' you my lady. I assisted you onto the horse."
Nicole sniffed and waved away his comment. "You didn't ask my permission."
"Would you have given it?"
The question caught her off guard. "…Maybe" Nicole hedged.
"I apologize" He flashed a smile at her. "but, sometimes forgiveness is easier than permission."
"A man after my own heart" Nicole retorted, rolling her eyes. Gilon chose this moment to shift beneath her. Nicole let out an undignified yelp and nearly tipped backwards over the horse. A hand around her ankle stopped her momentum.
"Take hold of his mane." He said calmly.
Wordlessly, she twisted her fingers into the dark silky hair at the horse's nape.
In a single movement, Legolas was sitting behind her. He wasn't pressed flush against her side, but out of necessity, his left arm held the reins one handed at her back and her right shoulder was pressed lightly against his chest. He had no armor, just a shirt made of a light fabric in a deep shade of leaf green and an over tunic made of a soft leather in a moss green shade.
She sat stiffly, trying to minimize contact as the horse started forward and simultaneously trying not to fall off. She was sure her face was splotchy red. She wasn't one that could blush prettily. People always thought she was going to pass out when she was embarrassed. She kept her eyes turned forward as they began moving. The closeness of their bodies meant he was impossible to ignore completely, but she could try to keep her mind on their surroundings as much as possible. She watched the trees pass by, every muscle tense. 'Josh can never find out about this dream. I feel guilty my mind even invented these images and sensations.'
Eventually the swaying motion of the animal beneath her, the warmth of her riding partner, and the smell of sea-grape trees calmed her nerves. She finally relaxed, allowing her head to rest against Legolas' chest. 'Might as well enjoy it' she thought as she let out a slow breath and closed her eyes.
What do you think? I have more written and a basic idea of where this is going. Can't make it too easy for Nicole, now can I? Let me know of grammatical errors please. I read through it several times, but its too easy to miss things.
For thoughts I use single quotes('), for dialogue double quotes(")