Summary: Her bleeding heart really will kill her someday, Sakura muses. Non-romance.
This story was born due to the shocking lack of good crossovers between Naruto and the LotR-verse. It's been partly inspired by "Itachi: On the Importance of Communication" and "Do as the Middle-Earthlings Do"; because they are the incredible stories. If you find similarities, I blame the talent of those writers and their inspiring works.
Consider this story a flight of fancy, as most of my stories are, and take it with a pinch of salt. I'm contractually bound to be silly, but… well, LotR deserves to be treated with respect. This IS, however, written entirely on a whim.
Sakura lands somewhere north of Bree, in a pretty quaint forest too close to the Old Forest to be comfortable for anyone who isn't good ol' Tom.
Warning: I won't be overly faithful to the books or films.
Stranger in a strange land
Sakura registers pain first, above all else. Then comes the rush of sounds; the rustle of leaves, the chirping of birds and insects, the whistle of the wind in a forest. Her senses fight for balance as she breathes a lungful of dirt and air, trying to ground herself. She's lying in a forest clearing, the crushed plants, rocks and gnarled roots pressing painfully into her side. Judging from the general peace of her surroundings, there are no humans around. Secure she's safe from enemies, Sakura's inspection turns inwards. She quickly assesses her physical state, finding her ribs bruised, her leg and pelvis broken and her left shoulder a pulverized lump. There are stinging cuts and welts on her skin, but nothing deep.
Groaning, she tries to lever herself up and nearly faints when her world spins. Putting most of her weight on her right arm, she manages to scoot closer to the tree half a foot behind her. Leaning against its sturdy bulk, Sakura frees her one useful limb to do some damage control. As the world around her is frighteningly foreign, she tries to keep her healing to the minimum. A denizen of Konoha, trees are her most welcome and recognized habitat. A forest is her element. This forest, though, is as alien to her as an underwater reef. The trees look nothing like the ones she is used to, the leaves of the bushes around her are odd and large. Even the birds above her head, flying as they hunt for food, give calls she's never heard. Their coloring, black with white tipped wings, is strange. The brief flash of something that looks like a squirrel stuns her as she registers its too long ears, red tail and elongated face.
Quick, not wanting to be caught motionless and helpless, she heals her most pressing wounds. Her ribs are unbroken, only uncomfortable. The mild concussion, she heals; a head-injury, even a tiny one, can prove fatal if left unchecked. Her pelvis and leg are her next concern, as they ground her like a bird without wings. The breaks are clean and easy to heal, allowing Sakura to use her body's natural system to strengthen her bone. Her shoulder proves to be the most difficult wound, forcing Sakura to go into somewhat of a concentrated trance as she struggles to find the shards of her shattered bone and bring them together. To keep her chakra stores from getting too low, she merely pieces it back together, something a patchwork job. Her Shishou would have her head at the sloppy handiwork, but out in the field without her team and in an unknown land… perhaps Tsunade will forgive the rushed procedure. She leaves the surface cuts as they are, merely healing the lowest layer of skin to keep from bleeding and infection. Already her wounds are attracting bugs and she'll need to clean up soon.
Sakura doesn't know exactly how she got here, and her memories of the events before now are fuzzy. Standing with only a slight wince at her movements, she studies her surroundings with a clearer mind.
This forest is definitely unknown to her. The trees are tall and ancient, their girth and considerable size is astounding. Something about them gives Sakura the creeps. It's as though they have a life of their own, brimful with more energy than she's ever seen. Unlike at home, this forest seems to be more alive, almost indecently so. She shakes off the feeling of paranoia, fighting the urge to level the field around her. Fortunately, her pack is on her back and she's mission-armed. She even has her summoning scrolls and medic-jutsu scrolls on her belt. Though severely depleted by her crude healing, her chakra is a strong, steady, comforting hum beneath her skin. She focuses her attention to the forest itself, waiting. After her rise from the forest floor, the animals nearest had fallen silent; as per usual in the presence of a moving predator her size. On a wider inspection, the rest of the wildlife around her is undisturbed and active. There doesn't seem to be many people around these parts. There is a faint sense of something lying beneath the foliage, a power not unlike the wild, pervasive, yet natural chakra of a bijuu. It's as though the Kyuubi itself lies sleeping in the Earth beneath her feet. It's a disturbing feeling that has Sakura prowling forward restlessly. She needs to find a river, a place to wash her wounds in peace. A quick look upwards serves nothing but foliage, so she takes to the treetops. The break in the leaves allows for a better view if the sky. Checking, she registers the late hour by the position of the sun and orients herself.
Several miles south saw a break in the forest and the possibility of a village. It's at least half a day's travel from where she stands. She can't see a river, so she assumes that a place with people would be her best bet. Sighing, she drops down a few feet to land among the heavier, sturdier bottom branches of the tree. It groans, like a living thing, and spooks Sakura almost out of her skin. Deciding this forest is too horribly alive for her peace of mind, she takes to running toward the safety of the tree-less venture down south. If possible, humans mean a place to clean up, rest and orientation. Perhaps even a map and an explanation.
She runs past sunset, using the shadows to remain concealed among the boughs. There's almost nothing around her except wildlife, but her stealth training is a precaution Kakashi had beaten into her during her genin years. In a foreign land, among oddly moving trees, Sakura's guard is in overdrive. Her energy is waning, and Sakura considers hunting for food. She doesn't trust the fruits or leaves around her, but hunting would require a fire to cook her meal. In this forest, a fire doesn't seem to bright an idea. The niggling feeling that one of the trees wouldn't take kindly to her using its branches as kindling is a fantasy she's rather not confirm.
Suddenly, among the darkness of the forest, she spots a break in the trees. A break outlined by the bright, red light of a campfire. Sakura slows down, keeping her steps light and silent as she slows to inspect this strange occurrence. She can detect the presence of something that could be human, so she drops down to a lower level of the thicker, winder branches closer to ground-level. She circles the clearing, inspecting it from different angles before drawing closer. Her wariness is rewarded by the presence of one human male, sitting close to his smokeless fire, gently cooking something that could be either a cat or a hare. She takes the time to observe him, inspecting his weapons, his large pack, long black cloak, and dark features. He looks tall, rakish-like, similar to Kakashi's build. His shoulders are broad, well-muscled, and there's a look of a warrior about him. If she had to guess his age, she would place him between mid to late thirties. His dark hair is long, hanging around his gaunt face in thin strands. Though he appears to be relaxing, she can see the wariness and alertness of his features. From the way he constantly inspects his surroundings, he's either picked up on her presence or naturally on guard.
In an unhappy forest like this one, one would have to be a fool to relax.
Sakura decides to observe him. He should be falling asleep soon and if he leaves any of that hare, she quietly muses stealing it. Perhaps searching his pack would at least present field rations or a map of some kind. The large sword at his side gives her pause and she muses that perhaps she ought to move on. A lone warrior isn't something she ought to be messing with, especially in her current state. A gust of wind could knock her down; a stranger like this could pose a real threat. Still, as civilization is probably a ways away and she's losing energy fast… vandalizing a warrior's pack sounds much better than a continuing trek through this ungodly forest in the dark of night. Darkness is a shinobi's greatest friend, but she's not sure she can brave it alone in her state.
Perhaps, should worst come to pass, she could approach him as a friendly party and kindly request directions. He doesn't seem the friendly type, but there's something about this man that makes her want to trust him. Sakura blames Naruto for making her so gullible to strangers. If she dies here, she'll haunt him. Chains and all.
Settling down among the higher branches hidden in shadows, Sakura keeps her attention dispersed. Something tells her that, should she focus solely on the man below, he'll notice her regard. As the nights deepens, the warrior finishes his dinner and hunkers down to rest. He's irritatingly alert and Sakura wishes he were more incompetent. Remembering herself, she takes off her pack and fishes around. Almost exclaiming in joy, she finds several week's worth of field rations. She nearly hits herself for not checking the contents of her own things; she would have checked the stranger's pack before her own if he had fallen asleep earlier. As it is, she quietly open a protein bar and crunches into it in silence. Noticing the warrior has finally drifted off to sleep, she hovers uncertainly. Should she go down? Now that her appetite is settled, she's starting to feel sleepy herself. The concussion's lingering effects have made her drowsy after settling down and she finds herself hard-pressed to remain awake. Sleeping in a tree has never been her favorite practice when camping out in the field, but going down to the ground is out of the question. Having inspected her surroundings, the man clearly traveled on the ground and no living being Sakura's size wandered around the treetops. If anything, the moss on all of the branches is insultingly undisturbed. A Konoha forest is not a forest if its branches aren't well traveled by the ninjas going about their business. The people of these parts clearly prefer to travel exclusively on foot on the ground; much like Sand or Mist ninja, who couldn't be bothered to hop along the branches like the Leaf or Rock ninja did.
Being somewhat cautious, Sakura decides against tying herself to the tree. Though she would normally do this to avoid a nasty spill, she's too wary of her surroundings to risk an extra second of stillness in exchange for safety from a fall. If she's caught unawares, she needs to move fast. So she simply settles down with her pack against her lower back, keeping somewhat out of sight from the warrior beneath.
Sakura next awakens with a jolt to the aggressive sound of an arrowhead sinking into tree bark too close for comfort. She sits upright, hastening to find an escape route. With a sick feeling, she realizes that last night… the tree limb she'd been sitting on had been facing north-west. She'd still had the strange warrior in view. Now, she's facing completely north as the sky breaks with dawn, completely hidden and unable to see the warrior. The shaking arrow is entirely on the other side of the tree instead of in her skull.
That's one heck of a warning shot.
Wondering how the tree had twisted, probably saving her life, Sakura hesitantly stands. The wide shape of the tree keeps her mostly hidden, but an icy voice below barks a command. Sakura can't quite catch what the warrior said, but it didn't sound friendly. Kicking herself internally for her folly in failing to notice he'd woken up, she makes up her mind. Perhaps if she shows herself as harmlessly as possible, he'll let her off the hook. In the hands of a fellow shinobi, there would have been no warning shot. A kunai to the jugular would have been her only alarm, so Sakura decides to trust that oddly lenient warning shot as her chance that perhaps she can walk away alive from this.
Hands cautiously raised, Sakura peers around the tree trunk.
Whatever had been watching him since last night clearly hadn't been interested in theft or threat. The sense of being watched had put Aragorn on edge, and he'd half-slept to keep from being attacked entirely unawares. As dawn began to break and light filtered through the clearing, Aragorn decided it best to draw the creature out. He wanted no spies of Sauron on his tail with his plans to meet the ring bearer, so it was best to cut to the chase. Trusting his instincts, despite the fact he couldn't see the creature, he shot at a tree in the north side of the clearing. As the arrow buries deep into the bark, there is a soft rustle among the leaves.
"Show yourself!" he orders in a growl, another arrow already firmly pointed at the direction of the noise. He'd missed by aiming too low, but it's as good a warning shot as any.
It's astonishing when a human hand appears, pale in the morning gloom. It's followed by a pink head, the wildly colorful hair framing a pale face with wide green eyes. For a moment, Aragorn wonders if he's awoken a forest fairy, spirit or God. It's feminine features are uncommonly pretty, an almost elven face made up of colors that would put a spring field of flowers to shame. It peers out at him from behind a tree, holding up both hands as if to plead for mercy. Still, he's never heard of a God with hair as pink as a cosmos, or with eyes as green as leaves. It shocks him even more when, as he gestures for it to come down from its perch, the creature vaults down from the forest gloom to land before him. Instead of breaking a leg from such a high jump, it lands poised like a cat, standing gracefully before him.
Though it wears a heavy black cloak, the creature still holds its hands up. Due to this, the cloak parts enough to he can study it with greater detail. It's dressed entirely in black, with armor covering its chest and protective gauntlets over its forearms and wrists. It wears a pair of sturdy boots and, to his surprise, appears to have a feminine figure. It's slim, almost frail, with heavy lashes around almond-shaped eyes. Despite all his travels, he's never quite seen anything like it. It's watching him warily, and he wonders if it's a warrior or mercenary of some sort. Clearly, it's human, but there was nothing human about it's colorful hair or it's ability to jump from high places. How had it gotten into the trees anyway? However, it's disheveled state is what draws his curiosity even more. There are a series of cuts littering the little visible skin, and worse, he can see how she clearly favors her left leg and curls in slightly as if her ribcage is in pain. There's a bruise on it's exposed forehead as well, marring the pale skin like an ugly brand.
"Who are you? Who sent you?" he asks in a demanding tone. The creature's brows come down in what appears to be puzzlement. "Where did you come from? Why are you spying on me?"
Looking more and more confused, the creature shakes its head, then rubs its ears. Aragorn wonders if perhaps it does not speak in Common. He tries the same questions in different languages, even making a poor attempt at Dwarven. It shakes its head again, its expression growing horrified.
It then speaks to him, in a high, female voice. He'd expected a singing voice, perhaps a seduction technique. Instead, its voice is human, simply speaking in an arrangement of sounds he'd never heard before. Even the accent is foreign to him, and he realizes its repeating the same sounds over and over. Perhaps it's a chant or spell? He tightens his hold on his bow, aiming squarely at her chest. At this threatening gesture, the creature instantly grows silent. It's staring intently at his chest and Aragorn recognizes a fighter's attempt to gauge and preempt his attacks. His grip on the bow is taut, and just before he lets the arrow loose, the creature's head snaps to his left over his shoulder. Hissing something in a low voice, it suddenly jumps away, back up onto a tree limb above. In his surprise, Aragorn shoots and stares in disbelief when the creature catches the shaft between two fingers mere inches from its face. It glances down at him with an eyebrow raised almost challengingly. Then, to his surprise, his previous arrow embedded in the tree falls suddenly. The arrow in the creature's hand flips and it sends it back, the tip burying itself in the ground between his feet. In a whirl of leaves, the creature is gone.
Sakura stares at the strange man as he snaps at her. He's made a variety of sounds, which she supposes must be different dialects or languages, but she doesn't understand him. Distressed, she tries to talk herself.
"Who are you? What is this place?" she repeats various times, hoping perhaps that his vast knowledge of languages would include hers. The five Nations had all one common tongue, so Sakura had never been versed in any languages apart from her own. When he suddenly grows more hostile, she instantly stops talking, staring warily at his chest. At this distance, her reaction time may not be enough to dodge or catch the arrow before it hits her. Worse, as he's aiming toward her torso, it's likely that, even if she dodges, she'll get struck by the bolt.
The wind carries a hint of unwashed human somewhere south and the hushed sound of voices. Her gaze snaps to look for this advancing threat as her senses register the presence of more people. Something tells her that she wouldn't like being caught between the warrior and more people, especially since she can't even communicate properly with him!
Deciding it best to turn tail (and get some distance from those damn arrows), Sakura jumps back onto her tree. The sound of the bow snapping gives her enough time to snatch the missile, giving the warrior a cold look. He might have had the upper hand with that weapon at a closer distance, but being so far made it more or less pointless against her. Points for trying, though. In thanks for the trees protection of her, Sakura gently heals the wound made by the previous arrow. As the bark grows, it pushes the weapon out, leaving only an unblemished surface. To prove her point in the uselessness of his weapon now, she tosses his arrow right back at his feet. The warrior stares at the discarded arrow at his feet in surprise before looking back up.
She's already gone. Three feet to the south and moving, she grins and she munches down on the remains of his dinner. It's cold, but Sakura takes all the protein she can get. Spitting out the hare bones, she continues her trek toward her previous goal. As her meeting with the warrior had proved useful, she hadn't taken his pack as well as his breakfast. Her ignorance of the local language would prove a problem, and worse, it showed exactly how far from home she was.
Growling under her breath, she wonders what the hell happened to bring her here.
Aragorn stares blandly at the spot once occupied by the creature. Clearly, it had to have been a spirit or a fairy, nothing he'd ever seen moved that fast. Sensing he is alone once more, unable to hear it moving about, he simply sets to picking up his belongings and set off. With mild surprise, he realizes the hare he'd left to eat for breakfast is gone. Deciding perhaps a fox or wolf got to it during the night, he simply packs up and disguises all trappings of a human encampment. Should anyone stumble onto this place, they'd never find the remains of his stay. As he recovers his pack, he thinks over his encounter with the creature with greater care. Something didn't quite sit right with him when it had spoken, and he belatedly realizes what it is. When he'd spoken, everything he had said had been a question. And when it had responded, despite the foreign words, he could have sworn that before it paused and started anew, the last word held a slight intonation. A lower, then higher note, if you will, one he commonly recognized across all the languages he had ever learnt.
The creature had been asking him a question.
As he walks south towards Bree, his brows knit in confusion. Whatever it had been saying, it had not been a chant as he had first assumed. Like himself, it had been asking him a question; repeating it over and over… perhaps in hope he'd know what it was trying to say. In his experience, spirits and fairies didn't bother with most mortals. Engrossed in his thoughts, it takes Aragorn a while to notice something strange in the forest. This deep, apart from the clearing behind him, the trees should be crowding around him like hostile sardines. Instead, as if pushed by an invisible hand, the trees toward the south seemed to be gone. His path to Bree is near clear-cut, as though one of the Gods had gently pushed the foliage aside. Senses going into high alert, he reaches subtly for his sword, glancing about. There are no tracks besides those of the forest, but this sudden space is making him uneasy. He'd crossed this path before between the Shire and Bree, and the forest had always been densely populated by old, somewhat belligerent trees and shrubs. He'd heard many a tale of the Old Forest simply swallowing travelers, and in this small outcropping of trees, the sentient magic of those ancient woods had grown in influence. He keeps his blade sheathed, to keep the looming behemoths appeased, but something is amiss. As he walks with deliberate slowness, he begins to hear the murmur of voices. His head snaps in that direction and he's alarmed to note that… the creature had done the same earlier. It had looked over his shoulder, southward. The creature had noticed, and so fled, that they were not alone in the forest. Wanting to kick himself for not noticing sooner, Aragorn flees to the nearest copse of trees. To his bewilderment, the trees don't get any closer the further he walks. Alarmed, Aragorn stops dead in his tracks.
Just as three scavengers walk around the bend ahead, all of them spotting him as he spots them. Their mouths open into ungainly smiles, delighted at the prospect of a lonesome traveler. Suspecting that the woods may have lead the men here, he curses softly under his breath. He shouldn't have shot the tree back in the clearing… Deciding to stall for time, he calls to the scavengers. As long as they don't draw any weapons, Aragorn prefers to use words. He knows that his skills would far outmatch them, but he's never liked fighting against Men.
"Ho, there, travelers. Could you kindly direct me to Bree?" The men laugh raucously, as Aragorn stands with his right hand outstretched. Behind him, his left hand gently loosens his sword in its sheath. "I've not much money and I could use a place to rest."
"No' much money, 'e says." One of the scavengers mocks, grinning widely. The others chuckle maliciously, and Aragorn resists the urge to unsheathe his sword threateningly. They converge on him, knives drawn, and he falls back. As the first of them lunges, Aragorn swiftly dodges and brings out his sword in one clean move. The men hesitate at the sight of an elven blade, but the price of such a treasure incites them to attack even more ferociously. Aragorn parries the second man's knife and kicks the third in the knee, spinning to keep all three of them in his line of sight. The men are used to fighting as a team and they constantly move about as they attack, making Aragorn rely heavily on his footwork to avoid a surprise. When an opening presents itself, he manages to duck into the first scavenger's defenses, burying his blade hilt-deep even as he grimaces apologetically. The feeling of movement behind him makes him turn, already drawing his blade out of the body in one clean swipe.
But for naught.
Behind him stands the forest spirit, cloaked and holding the two remaining scavengers as though they are dolls. One of the men lays on the floor, his neck savaged, his head kept aloft by the creature's hand it his hair. The other hangs almost a foot in the air, wriggling wildly in its hold. The spirit looks back at him, green eyes vivid and fierce. There seems to be a question in them as it presents him with the third and only living scavenger. Like a cat presenting its owner with a near-dead bird or mouse, asking for permission to kill it. Aragorn nods, then wonders if a nod means the same thing to the creature as it does to him. He starts and stares when the spirit simply uses one finger to the side of the man's head to tilt and casually break his neck.
It then seems to sigh and drops both men. It turns fully to him, with Aragorn wondering if it will now kill him too. The trees around him seem to gather, as though gleefully expecting his demise. Instead, the creature claps its hands together, as though saying "that's that!" and simply vanishes in a swirl of leaves. The Ranger stares about, startled and confused, but decides it would perhaps be best to get out of these woods. The trees seem particularly bloodthirsty this time, and if that creature lives here, he'd rather not remain about like a sitting duck. He's a week early to when Gandalf told him he'd arrive at the Prancing Pony with the hobbits, but making due haste wouldn't hurt anyone. So, Aragorn beats a hasty retreat from the haunted woods and their frightening Battle God.
Sakura watches from her hiding spot in the canopy above. Since that morning, the woods around her seemed to have taken an odd liking to her. After all, her sleeping tree had taken an arrow for her. Perhaps because when she moved about their branches, she was polite, avoiding thin branches, bee hives, bird's nests and butterfly cocoons. The trees sentience still bothers her, considering she had actually witnessed them actively corner the warrior below. Worse, she can feel the branches and boughs bend, as though hiding her from the stranger's prying eyes. Her forests were her home, but this is a little beyond her limitations of understanding. She is glad they'd grown fond of her. She hates to think what they would do to her if she angered them like the dark warrior now running at a loping pace. Choosing to keep him in her sights, Sakura touches each near branch in thanks, and scuttles off before she thinks too hard about it.
It seems there's civilization ahead, and perhaps she can find answers there.
To be Continued…
As I said, I wrote this entirely on a whim, so don't expect an epic tale. I've just been so absorbed in CRUMBLING that I felt I needed something a little calmer to pace myself from the angst and future romance of that little adventure in writing.
So you get this! Hurrah? You know how LotR goes, I know how it goes… so let's just have funsies and let live. (Yes, depending on the question, a person's intonation rises and/or falls. In most languages, the intonation tends to fall, then rise; Cambridge Dictionary call it a Fall-Rise Intonation.)
Aragorn and Sakura as listed as main characters because they are the narrators, nothing more. My OTP in LotR is Arwen/Aragorn. (My sister and I still boo at that smarmy princess of the horse-pony people when she tries to pull them maiden-moves on our Ranger; both in the movies and the books, because we're cultured like that. P.S. I know her name, I know her people's name, I just love pulling her hair whenever I can, OK?) User It's-Kraggie had to go and make me a fan of Sakura/Aragorn as sworn siblings, so go blame her for that.
In most of the stories I've found, people gloss over the differences in language. Only two stories have paid more attention to it, being The Grim Traveler and Itachi: On the importance of communication. As it's a juicy way to stir the plot-pot, I wanted the language barrier nice and present. So, you have Sakura speaking Japanese to Aragorn's English. HARHAR.
I, uh, wrote this in about an hour, hour and a half. It shows, I think.