Authors note – a random idea that wouldn't get out of my head. I know it's been done before, and to be perfectly honest I don't really like reading these sorts of fics – but hey, writing can be cathartic, and this is a rather shameless Mary-Sue!

Might be continued, not sure yet – depends if the plot bunnies let me go or keep gnawing at my brain!

Summary – Nicola, a girl from our world, falls into Middle Earth, landing in the middle of Rohan. Instead of joining Gandalf as he escapes Isengard and travels to Rivendell, she remains in Rohan – how can she find a place in a society that is so very different to her own, especially with trouble looming on every border?

And how can she give her love, knowing that her fierce protector is destined for another?


Prologue

Allow me, your loyal narrator, to introduce our protagonist – her name is Nicola, and she is a nineteen year old English student at university, currently home for the summer. She is also the Queen of part time work. She's done it all – bartending, waitressing, café-work, baby sitting, even cleaning – so no, she didn't have some convenient skill or super job that was going to help her out in Middle Earth, like a doctor or a karate instructor.

Probably the only thing she had going for her was the fact that she was a Tolkien fan, and so she knew the stories pretty well.

Now we've read these sorts of stories before – an unwitting heroine is flung back in time or even into a whole other world, and she conveniently brings with her several small and seemingly insignificant items that somehow become highly important to the plot or even enable her to save the day.

This is a narrative device. Let me tell you, it doesn't happen that way.

When Nicky arrived Middle Earth all she had were the clothes that she stood in – no hair pins to pick locks, no examples of modern technology to prove that she was from another time, no compact mirror that could be used to flash a signal and not even a change of underwear.

She wasn't even wearing sensible shoes.

No, she fell flat on her arse onto the plains of Rohan dressed in a pretty skimpy playsuit, nude tights and six inch heels.

All in all, not the best end to a night out in London.


On the fateful night that Nicola ended up in Middle Earth she had been out with some friends. They were 'celebrating' the end of her relationship – her boyfriend of six months had broken up with her the night before, so she was being taken out to get smashed with the girls, go dancing and get hit on in order to regain her confidence.

At least, that was the plan.

Instead Nicola's step-mother had lectured her when she had seen what she was wearing (which was pretty modest actually, compared to most girls out there) and then gave Nicola the silent treatment when she had refused to change.

Her friends had quickly been snapped up by guys while she was in the bathroom, so she went to the bar alone where she had a drink spilt on her. When she went to look for her friends on the dance floor she found that she was always the third wheel, since they were dancing with random blokes. A few guys sidled up to her, trying to get her to dance, but she waved them away. One of them tried to grab her and pull her against him, but she elbowed him in the stomach.

Dispirited and bored of the whole clubbing scene, Nicola headed back to the bar to get herself another drink, intending to get solidly drunk in order to forget her troubles. She did a shot, and then stared into the empty glass.

"I wish someone would take me away from all this," she muttered, and then gestured to the barman for another drink.

Giving up on the whole endeavour, she sent a generic text to her friends telling them that she was heading home. It was only a five minute walk to the house from the club, and it wasn't all that late so she wasn't too worried.

She rubbed her bare arms to warm them once she was outside the club; it was mid-September, and the air was beginning to show the first tell-tale signs of winter. In only one week she would be back at university for the autumn term.

Nicola wobbled slightly as she headed down the road, partly due to the heels and partly due to the alcohol she had consumed. She sighed, thinking about what her dad would say when she got home. He had recently remarried after her mother had walked out on them; he and her new step mother were trying for a baby, and she got the impression that they preferred it when she was away at university, so he didn't have to worry about the daughter who looked so much like his ex-wife.

The heel of her stiletto wedged itself into a crack in the pavement – unbalanced, she wind-milled her arms unsuccessfully to stop herself falling – she felt a sudden, chill wind all around her and her head felt light as she toppled towards the ground.

But instead of skinning she palms on the dirty pavement of London, she fell into soft, cool grass.


Gandalf the Grey sat alone on the pinnacle of Orthanc, huddled against one of its four spires against the bitter cold as he brooded on the treachery of Saruman and the journey of the Nine into the Shire. His staff had been confiscated by his captor and he could only work small magic without it – he considered a spell to keep him warm, but decided against it, choosing to conserve his energy for an escape attempt.

The single hatch in the stone opened and Saruman appeared from the steps below, his black staff in hand. He pierced him with his dark eyes, taking in his shrunken form and the moisture that dripped off the brim of his hat.

"Have you had time to reconsider your position, my old friend?" Saruman said in his melodious voice.

"I rather hoped that you had reconsidered yours," Gandalf replied. "If you are in the enemies counsel then there is much you can do to aid us. Come back to the path of wisdom, old friend," he finished, mocking Sarumans endearment.

"Perhaps you need more incentive," he said, and the milky crystal set into his staff began to glow.

Wondering if Saruman would resort to torture, Gandalf wrapped his cloak closer around himself. The White Wizard advanced on him, his staff ablaze "Tell me, friend, if you could see the future, the end of this conflict and the rewards that follow for those who aid Sauron, would you not agree that this is wisdom?"

"Not even the Elves can see the future clearly," Gandalf replied uneasily, looking into the burning crystal.

Saruman smiled manically, his face taking on a twisted appearance. "You are wrong."

He turned and raised both his staff and hand to the sky, chanting in the Old Tongue words of great power - he was reaching into the Void, an area where time and space didn't exist. This sort of magic hadn't been attempted since the Valar had cast Morgoth into his everlasting prison, and with good reason – Saruman could easily tear a hole in the universe itself.

"Cease this madness," Gandalf cried, lunging for Sarumans staff – but the Wizard simply cast him to one side and continued chanting.

A cold wind gathered around the pinnacle of Orthanc, coalescing into a swirling vortex of white light. At the centre, Gandalf thought he could see a figure materialising.

Gathering his energy, he sent out a desperate pulse of magic, disrupting Sarumans spell – the wind whipped up and the light was born quickly away over the horizon, far off towards the plains of Rohan. Gandalf collapsed, panting in exertion. The magic it had taken to divert the other Wizards spell without a staff had exhausted him. The two Wizards watched in silence as the dimming light flared suddenly brighter, before vanishing altogether.

"You fool," Saruman spat, rounding on Gandalf and kicking him hard in the stomach as he lay on the floor. "Do you know what you have done?"

"That magic was dangerous, experimental," he gasped, winded. "You have no way of knowing who you were bringing into our world."

"They have the necessary knowledge, that's all I need," Saruman said stubbornly, turning to the stairwell. "And I will find them."


Eomer Eomund's son, Third Marshal of the Riddermark, was enjoying a hearty dinner at his holding of Aldburg with his fellow soldiers, having just returned that day from a routine patrol of the Mark. The Hall was loud with laughter and merrymaking, the ale flowing as he and his men ate their fill.

Adhelm, his young squire, hurried down the table towards him.

"My Lord Marshal," he said, sounding slightly out of breath, "something's happened."

"Well out with it lad, what is it?" he demanded, making half the table go quiet.

"The Watchers told me to fetch you, they said something about flashes of light in the sky over the Eastfold," Adhelm explained.

Fengel chuckled. "They were spooked by lightening, no doubt."

Eomer frowned. "The skies were clear when we returned to Aldburg." He sighed and rose to his feet, abandoning his half eaten meal. "I shall go talk to the Watchers, be prepared to ride out if necessary."

Several of the men grumbled, but all set about fastening on their weapons as their Captain strode out of the Hall. Climbing the wall of the fortress, he joined a group of Watches on the balustrade.

"What did you see?" he asked directly.

Ceorl pointed out towards the dark horizon. "Faint white light, travelling at speed, before flaring brightly and coming to a stop over there," he said, mimicking the trajectory of the lights movement with his hand and indicating a spot a few leagues from Aldburg. The other Watchers nodded, agreeing with his description.

Eomer's scowl deepened. "Which direction did it come from?"

"West, my Lord," Ceorl said, his voice betraying his dissatisfaction with this fact.

"Isengard then," said Eomer rhetorically. "What new devilry is this, I wonder?" He paused, and then addressed one of the younger Watchers. "Folca, muster two dozen men, they should be preparing already. We ride out as soon as possible."


Nicola looked down at her hands, noticing faint grass stains from where she had fallen. She then reached forward, still on her knees, and felt around her, half thinking she would feel the pavement under her hands, but instead there was only thick, long grass.

She glanced around, but everything was dark – it was never dark in London, there was always light of some sort.

Don't panic, she thought. Maybe someone slipped something into my drink.

She reached for her bag, which had been slung over her shoulder, intending to ring her father, her friends, anyone really – but it wasn't there.

She swore under her breath. Her bag had everything in it – her phone, her keys, her ipod, her makeup – even the tiny alarm her father made her carry in case she was attacked.

Her eyes were beginning to adjust to the darkness and she could see a little way around her. As far as she could tell she was in a field somewhere, but how was beyond her. A cricket chirped near her feet, making her jump. For a girl who never went out of the city except for school trips and holidays, this was a little too much nature to handle.

She pinched herself hard on the arm and, when nothing happened, she slapped herself. Not a dream then.

"Hello?" she called, feeling stupid. "Is anyone there?"

There was no reply. She couldn't see any hint of a building in the darkness. Even the cricket wasn't chirping anymore.

She rubbed her bare arms, feeling the chill of the wind. Not knowing what to do, she sat down on the grass – half trying to figure out what had happened, half hoping help would come.

Laying down on her back she looked up at the sky. Instead of the burnt orange of the London skyline, the vast space above her was inky black, uninterrupted by skyscrapers and scattered with stars.

I've never seen so many stars before, she thought. It looks like someone has spilt glitter on the sky.

She lay and stared upwards for a long time, trying to see if she could spot any aeroplanes, but nothing moved. Eventually, she thought she heard a faint, continuous thudding, which slowly got louder – she wasn't imagining it!

Sitting up, she listened intently as the noise got closer – it sounded almost like … hoof-beats.

Scrambling to her feet, she looked in the direction the noise was coming from. Briefly, she wondered if she should hide, but discarded the idea – there was no where really to hide in this open plain.

Someone shouted something in a strange language, and suddenly there were horses everywhere – Horses! She had only ever seen one up close once, when she had gone on a school trip to a farm, and now she was surrounded.

Belatedly, she realised hiding might have been a good idea.

Pivoting in a circle, she tried to see the riders faces, but they were all wearing strange helmets, almost medieval looking.

And they all had weapons, pointing right at her.

She gulped, and half raised her hands in the air.

One rider pushed his horse forward and said something in a foreign language – a demand, of some sort.

"I'm sorry, but I don't understand," she said nervously, eying the sword he held in one hand. She still couldn't see his face in the darkness.

"A woman!" the man said in a lilting accent, half lowering his weapon. Beside him the other men shifted slightly. "What is your name?"

"Nicola," she said cautiously, relieved that he was now speaking English at least. "Who are you?"

"I am Eomer, Eomund's son, Third Marshal of the Riddermark," he said in a lilting accent. "What is your business in the Mark and why are you out at night alone?"

"Come again?" she stuttered – surely she had misheard him …

"What is your business in the Riddermark," he repeated impatiently, still not having lowered his weapon completely.

"Riddermark as in … Rohan?" she said hesitantly, still not believing what she was hearing.

"Of course," Eomer said, the scowl evident in his voice.

"Rohan as in … Middle Earth?" Nicola said in a voice that was barely more than a squeak.

"Are you a simpleton?" he demanded rudely.

She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. "This can't be happening, this can't be happening. This is a dream, or a hallucination. Just wake up, wake up -"

"Bind her hands," Eomer's voice interrupted her. "We'll take her to Aldburg and question her there."

"What?" she said, her eyes flashing open indigently – by which time a man had already dismounted and, with brutal efficiency, grabbed her wrists to tie them.

"Hey!" she yelled, trying to jerk away from him, but he held her fast. "Let me go right now -"

"A gag as well, I think," the Marshal's voice said mildly from one side.

"Don't you dare – umph!" Nicola yelped as a cloth was shoved into her mouth and then tied off. She struggled, but couldn't shift the ropes at all.

Suddenly, she was lifted bodily off the ground and tossed over a mans knees – the ground was frighteningly far away, and she was practically upside down – not the best position to be in after having had several drinks that night. The horse shifted with her extra weight. She squirmed, trying to get down, half thinking she was going to be sick, and then stopped as she felt cold steel against her neck – a knife.

"I wouldn't struggle if I were you," Eomer's voice said from above her.

She forced herself to lay still, and the Marshal gave the men the order to return to a place called Aldburg. She felt Eomer rest one hand on her back, pinning her too his knees so she didn't fall. The horse was suddenly moving underneath her – she closed her eyes and just concentrated on trying to control her stomach.