Disclaimer: I only own Danielle. Middle Earth and everything else in it belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien.
A/N: Welcome to my story. Thank you for letting me share my daydreams with you!
When Danielle woke up the first thing she felt was nausea; a powerful, incapacitating urge that started in her gut and climbed upward, threatening to break out. It came coupled with a headache that, rather than originating from inside her head seemed to be the result of hitting it on something. It could have been the ground, which felt hard and unforgiving. She wondered if she had fallen, and if that was why she couldn't remember getting there. Although it was also possible that this was a hangover, a forceful reminder from her body telling her that she couldn't drink anymore like she used to when she was in college.
Her back and legs were sore, and when she pushed off the ground she found little cuts scattered across her palms. She could feel their stinging presence, but she couldn't see them. Wherever she was, it must be night. She couldn't see anything.
Danielle felt a surge of panic that made her hands tremble. Where was she? She took a few deep breaths and tried to put together the information she had. The ground was hard and dirty. Either she was at someone's house who hadn't swept their floor in a year, or she was on a large, rocky surface outside somewhere. She knew she would have to start moving if she was to find her way, so she rose her arms in front of her and shuffled her feet along. Even so, a fear of tripping and falling down a flight of stairs prickled in the back of her mind. If she was lucky, she would find a wall first.
For two full minutes, she shuffled around, but alone in the dark those minutes stretched on. As she continued, her heartbeat grew increasingly loud and more forceful, until her whole body seemed to jolt with each pump. Just as the overwhelmingly lonely feeling crept in that she was absolutely nowhere, her hand grazed against a rough surface. A rock wall, maybe? She ran her hands across it, trying to learn more. It went all the way to the ground, and rose up higher than she could reach.
Danielle wasn't sure what to do next. She contemplated staying where she was and hoping that she was out in the open. She might be able to see where she was once the sun rose, but she was doubtful. When she looked up, she couldn't see the moon or the stars. She considered that it was cloudy that night, but if she couldn't see the stars in the pitch dark it was also possible that she was in a cave. That possibility fit better with what she had found in her surroundings. She was suddenly scared that there might be bats around, but she hadn't heard any wings or other creature noises. Everything was silent. No, her bigger issue was finding a way out if she couldn't see. She had no way of knowing how much of a maze this cave was, or whether there were any sudden drops.
Her hand stayed anchored to the wall as she recalled something a friend told her when she was younger. She knew that if she walked through a maze following one wall the whole time, she would find a way out eventually-so long as the wall didn't stand alone, at least. Without any better plans, Danielle proceeded forward, shuffling along cautiously.
She didn't make it far before her body protested against her efforts. Her head pounded and the nausea was growing stronger. She crouched down to the ground to heave out the contents of her stomach, and found that she immediately felt better. It also made her situation that more dire. Danielle knew she might not be able to replace the food and hydration she'd just lost any time soon.
Hours stretched on. Occasionally she would start shaking, although she couldn't be sure if it was due to nerves or the damp coldness about her. She was finding, however, that the ground was fairly stable. That was encouraging. She had also found a staircase leading upwards. This cave must have been partially made by man, which meant that there had to be a way out somehow. Plus, going up felt like progress. Surely that was the way out of any cave.
Danielle felt no hunger. She was entirely focused on finding an exit. She couldn't afford to focus on anything other than escape. Although she stopped to rest a couple of times, she mostly continued on.
Eventually, Danielle came to a place where the wall gave way. She was terrified to lose her wall, which had been her only sense of security since she had woken up. She moved her foot around in front of herself, and found that the ground, too, came to an end. She knew she couldn't stop here, and so she got down on her hands and knees. This way, she could feel along the edge of this cliff and look for a path she could continue along.
About twenty yards down, she felt the ground extend further out. Feeling around with her hands, she found this to be the beginning of a bridge. It was narrow enough for her arms to easily reach across the entire width. She paused. She had no way of knowing how stable the bridge was. If it was old, it might have eroded to the point where it wouldn't hold her weight, but Danielle wasn't about to turn around and go back. Instead, she started her crawl across the bridge, trying to keep her wits about her and forget her fears of the bridge collapsing. If it was going to collapse there was nothing she could do about it. She might as well get across and be done with it.
Danielle sighed, relieved, when she came to the end of the bridge. Even better, after another twenty yards along the cliff on this side, she came back in contact with the wall again. She was so glad to find it, it was as though she had been reconnected with a dear friend. Again, she was optimistic. There was some sort of symmetry to the layout of that bridge, so she was certain that someone had planned the cave out carefully.
Danielle sat against the wall and rested once again, wondering if she was getting any closer to finding a way out or if she was going deeper into its depths. She had to force herself to stop worrying about that. The fear was paralyzing, and she couldn't afford that. She had to keep going.
She was about to get back on her feet when she heard what sounded like a drum beat.
The sound bounced off the walls and then the cave fell silent. The sound had come from somewhere below her. What was that?
Danielle dug her fingernails into her palms as she realized that she was not alone in the cave. That had sounded like a drum, not something falling. It was man-made. This should have been comforting, and yet when the drum beat resumed she felt no relief. A chill ran through her, and she felt the urge to run. It sounded primal. Like a call to battle.
She got back up and continued on her way with new fervor, hoping beyond hope that she was putting distance between herself and the drums. On she went, tripping over rocks in her path a couple of times, and yet she never found anyone.
The drums kept her motivated, and yet it wasn't long before she grew tired and her pace slowed. As she moved forward, she searched for a boulder or an alcove that she could use to hide herself for a while in hopes that the danger would pass. Unfortunately, the wall continued steadily on.
Suddenly, she heard something new. She heard feet slamming into the ground paired with yells.
"Over the bridge!" someone said. "Fly!"
It was coming from somewhere ahead, not far away. With increase caution, Danielle continued forward. As she kept her hand along the wall, she found her path turning a corner.
For the first time since Danielle had woken up, she could see. Straight ahead the ground gave way to a vast chasm. She could not tell how deep it was. The bottom was further down than she could see. Beyond the gaping hole there was another bridge, much like the one she had crossed earlier. A group of people were running across it, and among them a few held lit torches or a staff that emitted a perfect white glow. There was another source of light that came from what she could only call a demon. It was monstrously large and engulfed in flames, and yet despite the light she could not properly see its body in the darkness.
Had Danielle not been paralyzed by her fear, she might have screamed. She might have wondered where she was, if something like that could walk among other living creatures. Instead, she couldn't put together a single coherent thought. Run? Hide? Her body's response seemed to be leaning dangerously towards fainting as a defense mechanism. She felt dizzy and unstable on her feet. Meanwhile, the only discernible thought that played through her mind was a chorus of 'Holy shit's.
A man clad in grey, the one with the staff, turned around and stopped to face the creature while the others continued until they reached the other side safely.
"You cannot pass!"
The others were crying out to this man. "Gandalf!"
The man in grey did not falter. "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun!"
Danielle regained her senses and crouched down, hoping to remain unseen as the creature stood up tall and in a menacing gesture spread out its wings, showing its full size. Her lungs seemed to forget how to draw in breath as she watched. She had never before felt like such a small, shaking, helpless creature. She wished she could call out to the man. How could anyone hope to take on this demon? She could not find her voice, though, and the will to survive ingrained within her would have prevented her from doing something so stupid.
"Go back to the shadow!"
Then, the demon lashed out, but the man deflected the attack with a sword.
"You shall not pass!" he cried, and he slammed his staff into the bridge in front of him. There was a blinding light and the bridge in front of him collapsed, impossibly leaving the ground beneath him intact. The demon fell with the bridge, and Danielle let out the breath she'd been holding.
Before Danielle's relief-for herself and for the man-settled in, the falling creature's fiery whip curled around the man's leg and dragged him off the edge of the bridge. He grasped on for a few seconds while his company watched in horror. A few of them struggled, trying to reach him, but seemed to be held back. And then the man's struggles ceased.
"Fly, you fools!" he said and then let go, falling into the depths of the abyss.
"Gandalf!" The company struggled with their loss, but ultimately turned to run off. Only one remained on the bridge, looking into the gaping hole where the man had fallen.
"Aragorn!" someone yelled, and then he, too, turned to join the others.
Thoughts ran through Danielle's mind. Anyone who could defeat a monster like that had to be better than the monster itself. She had no way of knowing if she would find anyone else to lead her out of the cave, and even if she could find her way out on her own, how was she then to find someplace with food? Or shelter? These people may not be the key to her survival, but she certainly would not have a chance if she didn't go with them, and so she ran after them.
The company was close enough ahead of Danielle that she could still see the ground beneath her feet. She had started on a different path from them, and so when she came to a fork in the road she had to guess which route would lead her to them. They were also faster than her. Raw panic rose in her gut as the light around her started to dim, just as she came across another fork. The light did not reach into the depths of either tunnel, but she didn't have time to figure out the correct one. Danielle blindly picked one and ran on, her fingers gliding against the walls to make sure she didn't lose where she was. Her hopes sunk as she continued on. Maybe she had gone the wrong way.
Just as she feared that she had lost the group, as well as her chance of living long enough to see light again, she saw a glow at the end. Now that she could see where she was heading again, she ran at a full sprint through the tunnel. Then, just ahead she saw it! The way out! And sunlight!
Danielle was so excited to have found the way out that she burst through the exit without thinking about those that she had followed or how much it would hurt adjusting to light so quickly. She came to a stop and shielded her face against the light, even shutting her eyes for a moment. When she opened them again she found eight sets of eyes, scattered around the rocks outside the exit, staring at her.
AN: I hope you like my first chapter! The story will pick up from here pretty quickly. I've already written 65,000 words (needs a tad bit of editing) so I will be updating regularly. Reviews are greatly appreciated :)
Should you want to read it, I wrote a brief explanation for this story in my profile.