A/N: My internet isn’t always working properly and school just started last week, so my submissions for both this and "Elizabeth in Lorien" will probably take some time to get published. In the meantime, however, I will put as much time as I can manage into both stories.
The desert silence was broken only by the crackle of a radio, whose static almost seemed to blend with the wind. "Sierra One, this is Alpha. What is your location?"
Lieutenant Samantha Jackson jumped at the sudden sound. Next to her, her teammate Captain Terry Roland shifted uneasily; they were out on a recon mission and they had no idea if any enemies were near their location.
"About two clicks north northeast of the Iranian boarder," Lieutenant Colonel Jacobs rasped, which wasn’t surprising, as they hadn’t spoken for hours and were also trying to preserve their water supply.
"Got it, Colonel. Keep us posted," replied the Alpha Base tech.
"Yep." Jacobs turned his radio off and turned to speak to his team. Sam looked up nervously; she had that sickening feeling in the pit of her stomach that something bad would happen. "Okay, guys…and girls," he began. "That would be the conversation General Roberts told us to use as signal to head to the border. Now, we don’t know where…or even if the enemy is near, so I want you guys to be extra alert."
"Yes, sir," came the quiet chorus from the five suboordinates.
"Good. I’ll take the point; Kelly, watch our six."
Captain Sue Kelly quickly stood up. "Yes, Sir," she said hoarsely.
The rest of the team stood up stiffly and began walking southwest toward the border. Sam was in the center with Sergeant Harrison, while Leiutenant Thompson watched the left side and Captain Roland on the right.
Just sitting around in the desert, waiting for enemy fire to suddenly rain down on them had made the team paranoid. They jumped at the hiss of sand every time the wind would pick up again, and little mini sand tornados took on the illusion of someone running to fire at them.
After about thirty minutes the heat and lack of water began to catch up to them, and even Jacobs began to lag. "Okay…fifteen minute break," he panted. Sam dropped down into the sand gratefully. The rest sat down a little more slowly.
"First recons suck, don’t they?" Roland smirked, turning toward her.
"And the second, and the third, and the fourth, and–," put in Harrison.
"Shut it Harrison," Kelly growled.
Sam smiled and nodded. She took as sip from her canteen and turned to glance at Jacobs, who had suddenly stood up.
"Sir, what’s–" began Roland, but she quickly stopped upon seeing the glare Jacobs was giving her.
It was then that everyone else heard it. It was like a distant, shrill whistle, progressively getting closer.
"Oh, crap!" Sam heard Kelly say, and glanced in the direction Kelly was looking. Her heart leapt into her throat. ‘Well,’ she thought, ‘we don’t have to worry about enemies surrounding us any more.’ What appeared to be a missile was heading in their general direction. When it landed, it would be close enough that the team would be killed in the aftershock.
"Why the hell are they targeting the six of us!" shouted Jacobs angrily. "Why not aim for a bigger, better target! Scatter, spread out!"
"Sir, it’s useless," Thompson pointed out despairingly.
"That’s an order *Lieutenant*! We will *not* go down watching that missile come to us while we stand frozen in terror!" shouted Jacobs, spit flying from his mouth.
Everyone reluctantly obeyed. Sam frantically scrambled up a dune as the shrill whistling, now more of a roar, got closer. She stopped and turned. None of her teammates were now visible from this half of the dune but the missile was disturbingly close. She stood ramrod still, and stared Death straight in the face. "I’m sorry, Sir," she whispered, "but I will not die running from Death."
The missile struck somewhere in front of her. As the shockwave hit her, she screamed as she felt herself being torn apart but her scream was drowned out by the tremendous roar from the wave.
Sam gasped and woke up. She felt like she had been pummeled extremely roughly; everywhere was sore. She blearily opened her eyes but quickly shut them in an attempt to darken the incredibly bright sun. It also took her a moment to realize that she was lying on her back, on her survival pack, which was very uncomfortable.
She rolled onto her side and gasped at the pain that wracked her body in waves. ‘Nothing feels broken,’ she thought, ‘just severely beat up.’
When she opened her eyes again, the sun wasn’t as bright, so she began to observe her surroundings. ‘Okay…this isn’t Heaven…or Hell,’ she observed in confusion. Her first clue was that she was in a mountainous region and no gates (from either place) were anywhere. Her second clue was that she hadn’t walked any tunnels with bright lights at the end.
She tried to stand up, but pain lanced through her legs and shoulders. Determined, she took her pack off and then tried standing. It wasn’t as unbearable without her bag. Now she tried walking, first slowly, then quicker as she became more confient that her legs wouldn’t give out. Triumphantly, she walked over to her pack and grabbed her canteen and blanket. She took a drink from her canteen and put it back before wrapping herself in the blanket and managing to put her pack over one shoulder.
‘Shoot,’ she thought, ‘Where do I go?’ If the others were here, then they may have been out as long as she was…however long that had been. "Colonel!" she cried. "Captains Kelly, Roland! James! Harrison, I’m over here!" The only response she got was startled blackbirds taking off. "Someone?!" she called, begining to despair.
The wind was beginning to cut through her blanket and the cold that seeped into her bones caused her to realize she had just been in a desert when a missile supposedly killed her, and now she was on a mountain…a very *cold* mountain.
She quickly turned as she heard what sounded like…hoofbeats? It also then occured to her that she was on a stone road. Out of instinct, she hurtled herself closer to the side of the mountain, causing more waves of pain. She gave a sharp gasp as a group of about five people rounded the corner and stared at them dumbly. At the head was a long-haired, blonde man, who instantly dismounted on seeing her on the ground.
"Are you the one who shouted?" he demanded sharply.
Sam found her voice. "I-I…my team…the enemy fired a missle at us and it landed. I’m trying to find my team. If I’m a-alive th-then they have to be…to be too," she rambled.
The man looked at her with a slightly concerned look on his face. "And who fired the…missile?" he asked doubtfully.
"The I-Iranians. Please…I have to find the rest of my team." She looked at him pleadingly. It never occured to her that she might not be speaking to a friend, but she was so desperate to prove that this was some nightmare the night before her recon mission even started.
The man turned and said something to one of his comrades in a strange language she couldn’t place and picked her up. She gasped and began to protest. "I’m prefectly capable of walking by myself." He ignored her and put her behind his saddle and swung up in front of her.
"Hey! Where the hell are you taking me?!" she cried.
"Quiet," hissed the man, "lest you alert any enemies to our whereabouts." The party walked on again.
"Well, then, you can tell me whether you’re good guys or bad," Sam demanded in a quieter tone. Regardless of who’s side these people were on, she didn’t want to be killed in any crossfires *she* had caused.
The man took a second to answer, which made Sam instantly suspicious. "We are not servants of the Dark Lord, if that is what you mean," he finally answered.
"Dark Lord?" Sam said incredulously. Now she was sure this was a dream, or some twisted torture that the Iranians had concocted. Then a thought occured to her: he obviously figured that she didn’t serve this *Dark Lord* so she was willing to build a minimum amout of trust.
"Yes!" he hissed impatiently.
‘Well so-rry,’ she thought sarcastically. "So do you think I work for this-this Dark Lord?" she asked.
"I would have more than likely slain you on spot if I had. You are obviously not an orc, nor do you bear any major similarities to one of the Haradrim. You closer resemble a person of Gondor, but I have yet to see a woman fight for the Gondorian army, and wear something such as you are," he replied.
‘Oh, sexist are we,’ thought Sam. "Uh huh. And you are?" she heard some shifting behind her, but she was beginning to get a migrane, as her eyes were still sun-sensitive, and she didn’t want to partially turn and strain her eyes anymore.
"I am Prince Legolas of Mirkwood," the man–Legolas–replied.
‘*Prince* Legolas? That doesn’t sound Iranian to me, and besides that, he’s speaking fluent English. Well, if we’re using titles…’ "I’m Lieutenant Samantha Jackson," she returned. "But I’m usually called Sam."
"That isn’t a name from any place here that I know of. Where are you from?"
"I’m American." When he didn’t answer and it became slightly tense, she continued, "Um, and if my geography is right, America is west of here." The tension eased up somewhat.
After an awkaward silence, Sam asked, "Wh-what time is it?" The numbers on her watch were blinking and the time read "0:23:42" and didn’t change no matter how much time lapsed between the times she checked it.
"It is almost midday," replied Legolas, sounding mildly amused.
"Oh," Sam said. "I don’t want to lower your food supplies any, but do you guys have anything more appetizing than an MRE?"
"MRE?" asked Legolas.
"Meal Ready to Eat. And they’re that crappiest thing someone could want for food, even versus the Mess food," replied Sam, more to herself toward the end. ‘Man, I must have a concussion or something,’ she thought. ‘I’m not usually quite like this.’
Legolas took a minute to mull over her words. "Er, yes, we do have something that is better than your…M-R-E’s" he replied slowly.
Even though it was almost noon, they didn’t stop for lunch, which was fine with Sam; being blown up had an impact on her appetite for some odd reason.
Legolas muttered something to one of his companions, who trotted their horse ahead. "Uh, exactly where are…we going?" asked Sam.
"Rivendell. I was called to attend the Council of Elrond," replied Legolas.
The scout came back and reported in the strange language.
"Hanon le," replied Legolas. "Tolo!" he cried and spurred his horse into a run. Sam gasped and flung her arms around Legolas’s waist to prevent herself from falling off. Though she had often ridden horses, she wasn’t as familiar with doubling, and the back of the horse was even bumpier to ride on than actually being on his back.
They rounded a bend and Sam gasped again, this time in awe and amazement. Before her was a valley with the most beautiful city she had ever seen built right into it.
"That is the city of Rivendell!" Legolas shouted. As they entered the city, Legolas slowed his horse down and the others followed suit. He then dismounted and offered his hand to her. Sam took it and grasped the horse’s mane with the other. "Thanks," she muttered as she slid off.
She turned around and jumped back. Legolas’s wind-blown hair was completely behind his shoulders, but what startled Sam was the fact that he had *pointed* ears. "What the hell?" she gasped.
Legolas looked at her, plainly confused. "Your ears…th-they’re pointed!" ‘Either that or I have a really bad concussion.’
His expression changed from confused to incredulous. "You have never seen an Elf before?" he asked.
"Hell no! Okay, who are you working for? Bin Laden? Some new, deranged Muslim that Bush doesn’t know about yet?! What kind of mental torture are you tring to pull?" This was the last straw. She was entirely convinced that this was no longer a dream, but was now some crazy POW torture.
Legolas stared at her with an annoying calm look. "I do not know bin la den, muss limb, or Bush, nor am I, er, trying to pull any mental torture."
"Great! So, what… I have a concussion?"
"I do not understand your reason of panic–"
"Just…please, be quiet for a minute!" pleaded Sam, rubbing her temples. This was *not* helping her migrane, which had yet to ease up. ‘Okay,’ she thought. ‘This guy doesn’t act like he’s intentionally trying to do anything except help me. But, saying that he’s an Elf?’ She sighed. ‘Fine. I’ll play along, but the minute he thries *anything*, I swear he will pay.’
"Okay, fine," she said.
"You are obviously unwell. I think, perhaps, Lord Elrond should make sure that you are not plagued by anything serious," said Legolas, in a tone that booked no room for arguement.
"Wait," she said, planting her feet as he began to drag her off. "What about my team?"
"We saw no one before you. I am sorry," he said, avoiding her eyes.
‘They can’t be dead. They’re still probably near the border, while I’m…here,’ she thought doubtfully. Tears began to form but she put on the steel military mask and followed Legolas, while his comrades followed them.
Sam barely noticed where she was walking as grief tried to overwhelm her. Her first recon and her team was already gone. She knew that something would happen; her gut had never let her down before. Then again, what would she have said to Colonel Jacobs: "Excuse me, um, Sir? I usually get a bad feeling in my stomach before something… bad happens. I don’t think we should go on the mission today." He would have sent her straight to the base psychologist, who needed a shrink himself.
Sam jumped. Legolas was looking at her in concern. "We’re at a suitable room for you."
She simply nodded and walked in. The room smelled faintly of apple cinamon. It had a white four-poster bed on the left side and a balcony across from the door. On the right was a dresser. Next to the bed was a small, elaborate nightstand. On the floor were two down-soft pale cream rugs; one on the right of the bed and one at the foot of the bed. The color, though white, did ease her headache slightly.
"Samatha," Legolas called from the door. "In his message, Lord Elrond said a feast would be held tonight. You should attend, for there will more than likely be space at the table."
"Okay," she said softly. Legolas shut the door and apparently walked away, though Sam didn’t hear him, not that she was paying attention anyway.
She sat down on the bed. There was no way her team could have survived the impact and aftershock of the missile. It was therefore logical to assume that she too was dead, but this was a strange life-after-death kind of deal.
There was a soft knock at the door.
"Come in," called Sam. A beautiful, raven-haired…She-elf entered the room.
The elf smiled reassuringly. "Prince Legolas tells my father that he found you on the road."
Sam nodded. "He also said that you were looking for some of your people. I wish I could tell you that some people clad in your uniform arrived here within the day, but none have."
"I kinda figured that," Sam said, closing her eyes.
"I am Arwen. Could you please tell me what happened?" asked Arwen.
"My name’s Sam, by the way, and I’d rather not discuss it."
"If you do not speak of what happened now, while it is recent, time will make your story harder to tell. The grief will fester for years to come and may eventually explode, much as Orodruin has every few centuries."
Well, if she put it that way…
Sam opened her mouth and began to recall what happened, starting with the Alpha Base’s last message.