Synopsis: Life blindsided me, as it often does, but never did I expect to end up in one of my favorite books. I didn't expect a lot of the things that followed really. Like the horrific nightmares involving a certain Necromancer. Or the troupe of dwarves that I started to see as family. Or falling for a guy shorter than me who I knew was going to die. Possible Kili/OC/Thorin
The Hunter and the Hare
The first snow of winter fell last night while I was asleep. It was so exciting to see when I woke up. I'm nothing close to being a morning person but when I glimpsed out my window, I sprang to my feet to get a better look. Everything was covered in a thick white blanket of snow. It looked beautiful in the soft morning light. I threw on my slippers and dashed downstairs and out into the backyard. If you couldn't tell already- I loved the snow!
There was at least two feet of it. I bent down and scooped up a handful. It was the powdery type, not the wet slushy snow that soaked into your shoes and gloves. I molded it into a decent sphere shape and tossed it at the wooden fence, shaking loose the few inches of snow that sat on the top. I smirked, satisfied and rubbed my hands on my pants. Boy, was it cold! Seeing as I was standing outside in only my pajamas in twenty something degree weather, I went back into the comfort of the warm indoors.
I kicked off my furry slippers, which still had snow clinging to them and hopped onto the couch, pulling a blanket around me. I grabbed the remote and clicked on the TV, turning to the local news channel. There was dire information that I needed- something that would determine my entire day (And, actually, my whole life but I didn't know that at the time). Oh yes, have you guessed it yet?
My eyes scanned the lower half of the screen as the reporter droned on about something boring. I hated how they always squished the names of the schools in tiny little letters, only showing a few at a time. The suspense was killing me! It took forever for them to get to the 'D's where my high school would be (I had caught it in the 'T's and had to wait for the list to start over). My foot was tapping nervously as I watched the list scroll, waiting…waiting…
There were footsteps on the stairs as someone walked down slowly.
"Anything, Em?" my dad asked in his tired voice.
"No," I replied, my eyes glued to the screen.
I heard him walk into the kitchen and open and close a cabinet. Upstairs, the shower sputtered on- mom. The list went into the 'D's' and I watched intently. The coffee maker gurgled to life and its inviting smell wafted into the living room. Despite its siren call, I remained rooted to my spot on the couch. And then, bitter disappointment crept in as the 'E's rolled on… I sat through another round of scanning the school closings in the vain hope that I missed it the first time or that they suddenly added my school to the list. But alas! school was still running, for me at least. Not even a delay!
With a groan, I trudged into the kitchen, the blanket wrapped around me like a cloak. Had I not felt so bummed out, I'd have exclaimed "My body's gone!" in a British accent but not even Harry Potter references could make me smile at the moment. Grabbing a mug from the cabinet, I went to pour myself some coffee.
"School?" Dad asked.
He let out a soft 'hm' and continued reading the back of a cereal box. I glowered into my cup of caffeine and then at my chipped green nail varnish. It just wasn't fair. There's no way the buses would be running on time so that basically set me up for a tardy. Curse that damned school district!
I sighed loudly.
"It's supposed to snow later today," Dad said. "Maybe they'll let you out early."
"My school?" I snorted. "Yeah, right."
He sipped his coffee calmly. "You never know."
I twisted my lips to the side. Being optimistic just wasn't coming that easily for me then in came the epitome of optimism .
"Good morning, chickadees!" my mom grinned, walking briskly into the kitchen.
"Hey," I replied before downing my coffee.
"I still don't know how you manage to be so perky without a morning cup o' jo," Dad said, finally looking up from the cereal label.
"A good night's sleep is all you need!" Mom smiled back, dropping bread in the toaster. "Honey, did you check for school closings?"
"Yeah," I said heavily. "Still's running."
"If you hurry, I can give you a ride in," she said, glancing at me as she got out a butter knife.
"I'll go get ready."
I quickly showered and blow dried my hair which fell just below my shoulders. Before I bleached and dyed it, my hair came to about my mid back but since then it had been so dry it started breaking off. That's the price for blue hair, I guess. Oh yes, you heard me- blue! Honestly, it was supposed to be violet but something went wrong, no thanks to my amateur skills. But I liked it anyway.
I dressed in my winter uniform- a pleated navy skirt and blazer over a white blouse with black wool stockings. The typical school uniform. Instead of my ugly regulation shoes, I wore my fur rimmed snow boots. I braided my hair to the side and ran a hand through my fringe. My black and white plaid coat and matching purple scarf, gloves and hat completed the ensemble. I slung my backpack over my shoulder and headed downstairs.
Mom was waiting by the door. She grinned at me. "Let's roll, dumpling."
I cracked a smile.
"Watch out for black ice," Dad called.
The car ride was enjoyable. Mom listened to a news station on the radio and I stared out the window, watching the snow covered landscape. Our house was just on the outskirts of town, separated by a small forest and a pumpkin farm- free pumpkins for Halloween every year! There were a few others houses near ours but the majority chose to live in the bustle of town. I didn't mind the quiet but I normally preferred city life- more to do and so on.
We arrived at school sooner than I'd have liked and I reluctantly got out. "Take care, sweetie!"
"See ya, mom," I said and walked up to the front of the school. They already managed to shovel a pathway, I mused. Huh.
Alright, I'll spare you the boredom of what happened at school. It was totally normal, aside from one kid nearly passing out during Bio (it was dissection day). I laughed with friends, stared at Ben Disher during Algebra (cutest thing you'll ever see), gagged down lunch and (probably) failed a pop quiz in History. Totally normal, right?
The bell rang and I lugged my heavy backpack onto my shoulder. I groaned as Jen, one of my closest friends, approached me. "Three textbooks!" I exclaimed, "My back's gonna be killin' me!"
She smiled as we headed towards the exit. "Suck it up, Emmie! It's not even that heavy." Jen lifted my backpack by the handle and let it thud against my back.
"Let's see you walk to my house with a thirty ton bag and see how you do!"
Jen's smile dropped as we stepped outside. "Woah. It's like a blizzard out here," she frowned. "No one's picking you up?"
"Nah but its okay," I said. I really didn't care. I was just whining before.
"My brother could give you a ride," she offered but I immediately shook my head. They lived in town and I didn't want to be a bother.
"That's alright. I'll be fine."
Jen gave me a look. "Are you sure…?"
I nodded. "Yeppers! Besides it looks awesome out. I'll be in a winter wonderland!"
She shrugged and my distraction of false merriness worked. "If you insist," Jen replied.
It had started snowing again but only mildly. Jen spotted her brother's car and looked at me, silently questioning my decision. I had a twinge in my gut but I ignored it.
I was an idiot.
"I'll see ya around," I grinned, readjusting my shoulder strap.
"Call me after you thaw out," she smiled and got into the car.
I was soon passing the end of town and entering into the quasi country side. It was really quiet and peaceful- so quiet I could hear snow landing. The tire tracks on the road were the only sign of life aside from the occasional flutter of wings and squawking. I considered stopping by Mr. Colgate's farm- he was really friendly and made a mean pumpkin soup- but the cold started to set in and all I wanted to do was snuggle into a blanket by the heater.
I veered left off the road and into the forest. It was the quickest way to my house and promised hot chocolate in about twenty minutes. Tall evergreens stood above me, dusted with snow. The forest wasn't dense at all so I could easily avoid walking under the trees- I was worried about the snow on the branches falling on me. For awhile, I tried making up games like attempting to walk on top of the snow like an Elf- I failed miserably. Leggykins made it looks so easy too! Soon, my winter wonderland began to lose my interest and I could only concentrate on the chilly air.
My toes were very cold and numb and when I moved them inside my boots, they hurt. I grabbed the ear flaps on my hat and pulled them down further then pulled my scarf up to cover my nose. Only my brown eyes and bright blue fringe peeked out. Gloves did nothing for my hands and I shoved them in my pockets. My warm breath slightly defrosted my nose which, sadly, made it feel like it was going to run. Awful feeling. My backpack was digging into my shoulder and I mentally groaned.
After a few more moments of walking, I stopped to readjust my pack. I switched shoulders and kept going. The steady crunching of my boots on the snow kept me in pace and focused.
Crunch, crunch, crunch.
Crunch, crunch, crunch.
Crunch, crunch, cr-Crunch!
I turned around quickly and immediately found the source. A man was walking nearby, just off to my right. I didn't know him. He saw me and gave a wave. "Hello, there," he said in a friendly tone. "Almost didn't see you there."
He was in his thirties or forties. Dark hair, average height, slight tan. The guy had on a red plaid coat and jeans but what drew my attention was the rifle slung across his back.
"I thought all the schools were closed today," he said.
Two white rabbits hung by ropes on his belt. Dead. He was a hunter then. What hunter wears red during winter? Hunting was actually illegal in these woods but I didn't think to mention it.
"Not all of them," I said finally.
I paused. "Yeah."
I turned and kept walking. There was crunching behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw him following behind. He smiled and caught up with me.
"Name's David," he said. "Just visiting the fam for the holidays. You know the Morrisens?"
I shook my head. I've never heard of them. "No."
"You sure? They live right around here."
That twinge in my gut returned. No one named Morrisen lived around here- I was certain. I shook my head again. "Sorry, no."
But he was persistent. "Really? Sophie Morrisen, no? If you saw her, you'd know her. Her house is just a bit from here."
"I'm kind of running late," I lied. "My parents are probably looking for me."
He nodded. "Ah. Parents, I understand. Pretty lame, huh?"
I didn't respond and picked up my pace. I felt really uncomfortable. This David guy was giving me the creeps.
"Hey, you never told me your name."
"Sarah," I lied.
"No way!" he exclaimed. "My sister's name is Sarah!"
Sure. And if I told you my real name, you'd have a sister named Emily, no doubt.
The hunter laughed. "That is awesome," he grinned, still beside me. It sounded weird, him trying to talk like someone from a younger generation. It seemed like he was trying to impress me, to make me like him. But he was making me scared. My stomach was in knots.
"Hey, why don't you meet her? She lives just over that way." He pointed off to the left. I knew there were no houses that way for miles. "She makes great hot cocoa."
"I don't think that's a good idea," I muttered.
"My parents are expecting me home soon."
David scoffed, if that was even his name. "Do you always do what they tell you? C'mon, it'll be fun."
I shook my head. "I can't, sorry. Uh, I'm getting a call," I lied again, reaching into my pocket.
"Oh, alright," he said, sounding put off, and fell back. "Bye, Sarah."
I put my cell to my ear and pretended to talk to someone. I should have dialed home or Jen or anyone but I didn't. I just kept walking and talking and listening to the blood pound in my ears.
I was an idiot.
"Hey, mom. On my way home, sorry I'm late…"
Crunch, crunch, cr- Crunch!
"Yeah, I'm in the woods. I should be home in no time…"
Crunch, crunch, cr- Crunch!
"You don't have to meet me halfway… Dad's coming too? Okay… Stay on the line till I see you…"
Cr- Crunch! Cr-Crunch!
I was shaking and couldn't feel the cold anymore. My hands were trembling badly; it's a wonder I managed to keep my phone from slipping out of my gloves. I turned and saw him watching me. I started walking faster. Another ten more minutes or so and I'd be home.
Cr- Crunch! Cr-Crunch!
My heart leapt into my throat as I looked back. I stumbled for a moment at the shock of seeing him, no more than a few feet away. Neither of us moved. David wasn't smiling anymore. His friendly façade was gone and I was scared beyond belief. He was watching me like a wolf, calculating and calm. I kept looking at those two dead rabbits swinging from his belt. Those poor dead rabbits.
My eyes reached his and we both knew what was going to happen. We both knew each other was lying. No one was coming to meet me in the woods and he didn't have a sister named Sarah. In fact, we both knew his intentions were much more sinister than treating me to a cup of hot chocolate. There was no use hiding my fear and he didn't bother hiding his unfeeling eyes.
And so did he.
The trees flew past me as blurs of brown and green and the vast sea of white was disorienting. I could hear the pounding of his heavy boots behind me, so close I swear he was an arm's reach away. Or perhaps it was my thundering heart. I didn't dare look back for fear of confirming the former. I don't recall breathing or blinking or even running. It was as if my body was operating on its own as my mind tried to process what was happening.
A shot rang out and part of a tree trunk splintered just ahead of me. I yelped and dove out of the way. Glancing back, I saw him cocking the rifle, ready to aim. I scrambled to my feet and ran blindly, no longer knowing which way my house was. He fired again, the shot so close it made my ears ring.
One misplaced step and I found myself falling forward and down a steep hill. I tumbled every which way and despite my best efforts, couldn't slow my descent. The snow did little to soften the fall as every stone and twig beneath it seemed to find me. In fact, all the snow managed to do was soak through my clothing and chill me to the bone. And to think I had been excited about it hours earlier! I rolled and toppled head over heel until I didn't know which way was up. It was probably only a few seconds but it felt like forever and when I stopped spinning, my vision didn't. I let my head plop onto the cold ground and stared blankly as the world spiraled and spun and swirled. All I recall is the pine trees circling around me like vultures and the pure white snow covering everything in a blindingly bright oblivion.
AN: I really want to know what you think so far. I know its the first chapter but any and all feedback is very much appreciated. Cheers!