She was in the woods, but she couldn't remember why. It was afternoon, the sun slanted through the trees warming her face even as a breeze passed through the branches and cooled her cheeks. She looked down. She was dirty, covered in dead leaves and twigs, and she couldn't remember how she'd gotten that way. She saw pieces of statue and ruins of stone buildings and bridges, all of which looked vaguely familiar, but she was sure she had never been here before. The trees surrounding her were silent. She slowly turned a full circle, trying to think through the haze in her mind. She should be doing something right now. She was supposed to be doing something.
Then one lone tree whispered, "Calenhiril…"
She whirled, trying to find the source.
It was so calm, but something was wrong. Where were the other voices?
"They are coming."
All hell broke loose in her head. The trees all started talking at once, an explosion of voices in her head.
"They just passed the west boundary!"
"They move so quickly!"
"Protect her! Protect her!"
"Keep her here! Don't let her go!"
"The man! The Son of Gondor! She's here for the man!"
"The little ones! They want the little ones!"
"The Dark Ring! Hide the Dark Ring!"
Everything was suddenly perfectly clear. Mel knew where she was. She started to run.
"No! Calenhiril come back!"
"Not that way! The dark ones go that way!"
"Let her go! She has to save the man!"
"Stop her! For Yavanna, stop her!"
The man… Save the man… Boromir… She ran faster, dodging tree limbs that reached out for her, clinging to her, grabbing at her clothes.
"NO!" she screamed and tore away. The trees weren't fast enough. They couldn't grow fast enough.
She heard metal clash on metal, the grunts of orcs, the cries of hobbits. She followed the noise, ignoring the voices in her head screaming for her to stop, trying to catch her, to protect her. She wasn't the one that needed protecting. She cleared the trees and pulled up short. The Uruk-Hai poured over the hill. Merry and Pippin fought for their lives. And Boromir stood in front of them, making the orc fighters look like practice dummies. It was all so easy for him. Three went down before Mel even blinked. But six more took their place. She needed to get down there. She reached for her sword.
Something wooden wrapped around her wrist. She gasped and tried to jerk away, but the branch held fast. Tendrils caught her other arm. She twisted and pulled, but she couldn't get out. They had her legs and her middle now. They were dragging her away, back into the forest.
"Stop it, let me go!" She screamed, struggling frantically, "Please, let me go! Save him! Save HIM!"
But the voices just repeated over and over, "Save Calenhiril, save the Lady of the Trees, save the Daughter of Yavanna, save her, save her, save her…"
"Not me! No, not me!"
She pulled and struggled, but it was no use. Lurtz was on the hill, his bow was drawn, he snarled down at Boromir, helpless to stop him.
Mel gasped and shot upright, reaching for her sword before she realized she was still on the lake shore. The sun was just starting to peek over the cliff tops to the east. She took a few gasping breaths and released her white-knuckled hold on her sword hilt, closing her eyes and making herself relive the dream as a dream, to see the unreality of it. It calmed her down.
Then she heard a snort. She opened her eyes and turned to Laurea. The horse pawed the ground and watched her patiently. Mel smiled. She had been a good horse. It would be hard to say good-bye. But she knew today was the day. And she didn't want Laurea anywhere near those ugly creatures. She got up and reached out to the mare, scratching her blaze.
"It's time, girl."
She saddled her and made sure everything was snug. Then she leaned down and whispered into her pale gold ear, "Go home, Laurea."
The mare snorted and bumped Mel's chest with her nose. Then she turned and trotted into the woods, headed north. Mel only watched for a moment, making sure she was safely on her way. Then she shouldered her bag and started off along the water's edge, heading toward the rushing sound of the waterfall.
The sun cleared the cliffs and sparkled off the water of the lake. It might have been beautiful if Mel hadn't been so distracted. Today was the day. She knew it, even if she wasn't sure of the exact date. And she had no idea how long it would take her to get to the Falls of Rauros on foot. She was sure it wouldn't be a short trip. She was just hoping she would make it before…
She concentrated on the trees. She listened to the chatter and nothing sounded unusual. It was quiet and peaceful as always. But the lingering urgency of her dream hurried her on, making it hard to keep up a steady pace. She knew she wouldn't do anybody any good if she showed up exhausted, but she couldn't remember when the Uruk-Hai attacked. All of her dreams had been in the afternoon, but what if they were just dreams, brought on by her overworked imagination and apparently insatiable need for the dramatic? What if they came earlier? What if she was already too late? The thought made her pulse rush and she forced herself to slow down again. She couldn't panic and run helter-skelter like a crazed person. She swallowed her fear and cleared her mind, listening to the trees, waiting for any sign they might give of the impending assault.
Just as the sun seemed to reach the top of the sky, Mel froze. Something was wrong. The trees had gone still. She was a little more than halfway around the lake. The falls roared in her ears, magnified by the quiet in her mind. She turned slowly, watching for anything.
Then that soft, calm voice whispered in her mind's ear.
She started. The voice, the voice from her dream…
Mel turned and started running, running along the shoreline, along the edge of the forest.
She didn't stop, but the voice followed her. She wouldn't be able to get away.
"They are coming."
And just like in her dream, the forest erupted into a cacophony of voices, all screeching to be heard above the others. Cries of warnings, of position, and cries for her. Her feet pounded on the rocks as she ran, trying to ignore the sounds. But she couldn't. They were in her head and she would never be rid of them. She could feel despair closing in. She couldn't be stopped now.
And she wouldn't be. She felt something build in her, filling up her chest. She skittered to a halt and faced the forest. She was chosen by Yavanna. She didn't know why, but she was chosen for something. That gave her power.
She threw her hand into the air, the one that wore the Yavannacor, and shouted, out loud and in her mind.
A green light pulsed from her hand and rippled out into the forest around her. The trees went quiet. And then the soft voice spoke again, tentative and awed.
"The voice of Yavanna…"
Mel tried not to let that intimidate her. She kept talking, in her mind now, letting her thoughts fill the emptiness that the absence of tree-voices had left behind.
"I have come for a reason," She said, "I have made a choice. And for good or ill, I will not be turned from this path."
The words sounded strange coming from her, but they felt like the right thing to say, so she kept talking.
"I have come for only one thing."
"The man…" The soft voice whispered, "You have come for the man, the Son of Gondor. You have come to save his life."
Mel dropped her hand and tried to hide her surprise.
"Yes. Will you help me?"
For a moment there was no answer. Mel heard nothing at all. Then a rustle, like a strong wind rushed through the forest and she braced herself for its impact. But no wind came. Mel watched in amazement as the limbs of the trees rattled and moved like a wave from tree to tree, traveling out and then finding its winding way back to her. The trees in front of her shook.
"Come, Calenhiril! He is this way!"
Mel didn't hesitate. She plunged into the trees, following spoken directions and nudges of limbs, running as fast as she could. She couldn't be late. She couldn't miss this.
"Left, Calenhiril, left!"
"Follow this path, Calenhiril!"
"No, no, right again, right!"
"Just keep going, Calenhiril, keep going! You're almost there!
"He is with the little one! Hurry, Calenhiril, hurry!"
The little one… Frodo, he was with Frodo. Mel kept running, adrenaline pumping through her.
"Where are the Uruk-Hai?" She asked.
She felt a deep tremor in the consciousness of the forest.
"The dark ones, the dark ones are behind you. They are faster than you are, Calenhiril. They are coming soon."
Faster than she was. She should have known that. But there was nothing she could do. She could feel her lungs starting to burn. She had to slow down or she wouldn't be prepared.
"He's here, Calenhiril! The Son of Gondor! He is in the clearing! He has the little one! The Dark Ring, he's trying to get the Dark Ring!"
Mel burst through the trees just as Boromir caught Frodo by the ankle.
"Give it to me!" he snarled.
"No!" Frodo shouted, trying to crawl away.
"Give me the Ring!"
Boromir's crazed eyes raged as he scrambled in the dirt and the leaves, trying to hold the squirming hobbit still. Mel felt her resolve harden. This was not the man she knew. She wanted Boromir back.
"Stay out of this," She ordered the trees, as she drew her sword, "No matter what happens, stay out of it!"
And just as Frodo managed to slip the Ring on his finger, Mel kicked Boromir off of him as hard as she could. She was sure the only reason it worked was because he was blinded by his own greed and caught off guard. But he didn't stay that way. He rolled to his feet and his sword materialized in his hand. His eyes smoldered with an evil light, like a man possessed.
"Run, Frodo." Mel murmured as she readjusted her grip on her sword hilt, her eyes carefully locked on Boromir.
For a moment, nothing moved.
"Run!" she yelled.
Finally, dry leaves rustled and she heard the whisper of rushing footfalls. But her eyes never left Boromir's hard glare.
"You!" he spat, "Why have you come? Have you come to destroy us all, the little hope we have left?"
He started to circle her and she followed. She was too busy concentrating on his movements to respond to his jab. The last time she had fought him she had won, but she was sure that wouldn't happen again. This time it wasn't just a game. She was still trying to catch her breath from her run through the woods, but she couldn't let him see that. If he noticed he would immediately take advantage of it.
But he only ranted on, apparently oblivious to her condition.
"I see your mind now! You and all the others! The men and women of Gondor mean nothing to you! Nothing! We are just meaningless pawns in this damned war, this fairy tale that you've created! I mean nothing to you!"
His words cut her so deeply that she almost missed his attack. The only thing that saved her was his madness. It made him wild as he charged at her. She managed to block him and spin away, but he kept coming. Her sword didn't even faze him. She kept moving, trying to put him off balance, but he was fast, faster than she would have thought possible. And he was strong, so much stronger than her. Her arms were already starting to tire just trying to keep deflect the blade of his sword. If there was a hole in his defenses she didn't have time to find it. She was too busy trying to stay alive. And all the time that crazy look in his eyes tore at her heart. The Ring was gone now. Frodo had run away. Why was the madness continuing?
Her sword grew heavy as she fought on, ducking and turning to keep up with his insane pace. But suddenly she felt her legs being swept out from under her and she hit the ground hard, the breath knocked out of her. Before she could roll to her feet, she felt a point of cold metal touch her throat. She froze, trying not to breathe too hard.
"Why did you come?" He hissed. He didn't even sound winded.
Mel squeezed her eyes shut and tried to catch her breath as a sob bubbled up her throat. Two tears trickled down her cheeks and she felt them make tracks through the dirt on her skin.
"Please," she choked, "Please, I don't want you to die."
There was a pause. The tip of the sword quivered and Mel waited for it to cut through her skin, to feel the blood pour from her neck, for the pain to start.
But nothing happened.
Then the point of the sword dropped away and Mel took a shuddering breath, waiting for it to plunge into her chest. But that didn't happen either.
Boromir's voice was suddenly soft, nearly inaudible. He sounded… horrified. Mel slowly opened her eyes. His face was slack. His sword hung limply at his side. And his eyes… his eyes were clear again.
"What did you say?" he whispered, his voice trembling.
Mel tried to make her throat work, "I… I don't…"
But two small voices interrupted her.
"Hey! Hey you!"
Mel and Boromir both turned toward the sound.
"Hey! Over here!"
Mel strained her ears. She could hear clashing metal. The Uruk-Hai were here.
Boromir's grip on his sword tightened, "Merry, Pippin…"
Then he shot off through the woods, following the voices.
"Boromir!" Mel yelled after him, rolling to her feet and grabbing her sword, sprinting after him through the trees, "Boromir, wait!"
Either he didn't hear her or he was ignoring her, but Mel couldn't waste breath trying to call out to him again. She needed it all just to keep up. She tried to keep his blue tunic in sight, flashing glimpses between tree trunks, the sounds of clashing metal and hobbit voices echoing around her.
And then she heard him shout and suddenly they both burst out of the trees and straight into the middle of the oncoming Uruk-Hai. Mel didn't have time to think, only react, pulling her sword up and fighting her way through the mass of black bodies, stabbing and slicing through any that got in her way. There was no time to consider where she was, or which direction she was going. She could only focus on killing as many orcs as she could before they realized that she was among them and had no idea what she was doing.
Someone bumped into her and she whirled. Boromir was at her back, fighting just as desperately as she was.
"What do you think you're doing?" he shouted, "You shouldn't be here!"
But his voice wasn't cruel. It was concerned. And even as she kept fighting for her life with no breath left in her body to answer him, her heart warmed. Boromir was back.
Back to back they fought, all tension and anger forgotten in the frantic struggle. Boromir seemed to anticipate her every move, never leaving her side for a second, both of them guarding the hobbits lobbing rocks at the oncoming horde with uncanny precision. Mel spun and stabbed another orc, and as he gurgled to the ground, the leader of the Uruk-Hai stalked into view.
Mel's halting breath stopped in her throat and her heart beat so fast she thought it might explode out of her chest. The ugly creature looked down the hill, surveying the battle. His eyes locked on hers and held there. Mel's blood ran cold. Lurtz snarled.
Then he turned to the black mass of bodies that followed him, pointed right at her, and roared something in what Mel could only assumed was Black Speech.
After that she had no time for thought. Her sword swung wildly as a group of black, twisted creatures descended on her. Her arms screamed as she tried to keep fighting. She was so tired, but she couldn't stop. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the trees start to shudder around them, branches growing and reaching out. There was a screaming mess in her head as the trees sensed her panic. But they couldn't grow fast enough.
And suddenly she realized she had been separated from Boromir. She had no time to look for him. She barely had time to register his absence. How could there be so many? She swung and fought with everything in her, but that was quickly running out. She heard Boromir call her name and she looked up, trying to find him. She had to save him. She had to…
Something cracked her on the back of the head and the light of the afternoon sun seemed to explode in the sky. She felt herself falling. She heard a man yelling. Boromir… The orcs cackled and snarled.
As the blinding light faded and Mel tumbled into darkness, two words repeated over and over.
I failed, I failed, I failed…
A/N: And so ends Part One. Please, do not hate me and PLEASE READ CHAPTER ONE OF PART TWO! Just trust me, you're going to like it. The name is Changing History: Consequences. Thank you very much for all the support over the years and I hope I can continue to entertain you for many years to come! :)