Changing History: Consequences
The river Anduin rushed and gurgled over its rocky bed, swirling and churning over the same winding path southward as it had for thousands of years, before it plunged with an inevitable roar into the abyss at the feet of Rauros, hundreds of feet below.
The river was steady, the river was sure, the river was unchanging.
Boromir wondered why he could not be more like the river.
He stood on the shore and waited for the three remaining members of the Fellowship to come to a decision. His was already made. He clutched the small pack tighter in his hand. It was a woman's pack, specifically crafted and carefully filled with everything she might have needed. Someone had been looking out for her.
It should have been him. He had given his word, to the elf and to himself, that he would look after her, that no harm would come to her. Where had he lost his focus? When had he become so blinded?
His eyes drifted to the east. The Emyn Muil loomed on the far shore and beyond that, black clouds billowed over the borders of the Dark Lord's domain. His eyes narrowed. Frodo and Sam would be well into the cliffs by now, doomed to wander the endless labyrinth blindly. But Boromir knew he couldn't help them now. The others might choose that path, but it was as impossible to him as it would be to swim up the waterfall. He knew what madness lay that way.
It infuriated him! He was a soldier, a leader, a commander of the Men of Gondor! He had led armies into victorious battle against Sauron's finest warriors and taken back cities all had thought to be lost forever. But when faced with this seemingly insignificant tool of the Enemy, a force that should have paled in comparison, he was rendered helpless.
He glared into the black clouds of the east and silently cursed the Dark Lord even as he cursed himself. No soldier of Gondor should be so weak. No Steward of Gondor…
The gentle voice of the elf broke his concentration. He turned his eyes from Mordor.
"Come," Legolas said, "We will track the orcs with you. Frodo must follow his own path."
He saw the wary look in the elf's eyes and self-loathing boiled up inside him. For he deserved every caution. How could the others trust him when he could not even trust himself?
He nodded, but as the elf turned away, Boromir reached out and gripped his shoulder.
The elf turned back.
"I must seek your forgiveness," Boromir said, quickly before he lost his nerve, "You were right. I am a fool."
Legolas smiled and gripped the man's shoulder in return.
"No fool knows himself to be a fool, Boromir. You were a fool. Now you are a wiser man because of it."
He squeezed his shoulder and Boromir felt friendliness in the gesture.
"Come, we will track while there is still daylight."
"And when the daylight fades we will track still more!" Gimli barked, slinging his axe across his shoulder.
"Though not as swiftly," Aragorn murmured, "Daylight suits my eyes best."
"And every moment we stand here the orcs travel on," Boromir added, "I can follow a trail in daylight as well as any."
And so he shouldered the small pack, Melody's pack, and followed after her.
By bits and pieces Mel felt herself being jolted into consciousness. Her head was pounding, but she couldn't tell if the pain was internal or external. Her sides and stomach were sore and her arms felt stretched. Her arms and legs were tied up. And she was bouncing. That was what had woken her up. Slowly, she managed to pry open her eyes.
The world was topsy-turvy and flying by at an impossible speed. At first she wondered if she was swinging off the back of a pickup truck. But an iron bar seemed to be holding her in place and she saw big, black legs running underneath her.
That was when she screamed. She flew into a full-blown panic, her arms and legs flailing, twisting her body in ways she would never have thought possible. It was by pure luck that she kicked the immovable Uruk-Hai in the face. He roared and his arm loosened its grip. She rolled off his shoulder and landed hard on her back. She tried to scramble up, to crawl away, any form of forward motion, but she was just too damn slow! Just as she got on her stomach and started to slither through the grass, what felt like two boulders came crashing down on her. They flattened her in the grass and pressed all the air out of her lungs. She was sure she heard a sickening crunch. Her first conscious thought was, Jesus, I broke a rib! There was a roar that sounded like language. Her head was getting light. She couldn't take a breath.
The roar switched to a scratchy Common.
"Get off, you lugs! We need 'er alive!"
The pressure eased off and she sucked in cool, twilight air, ignoring the pain on her left side. But the steel fingers of orc hands still held her arms and legs, so she kept very still. She tried to control her fluttering heart. She felt steps like thunder resonate through the ground as they stomped toward her head. Then creaks like leather bending and suddenly there was a hand tangled in her long, brown hair. She tried to brace herself, but nothing could have prepared her for the mighty jerk that brought her face up from the ground or the mind-blowing pain that shot through her head. She screamed and struggled without thinking, trying to free her hands.
"Quiet, tree-witch!" the scratchy voice hissed, "Or I'll start choppin' off fingers!"
Mel bit her lip to stop her scream, but she couldn't stop the tears that streamed from the corners of her eyes.
"Now that was a right stupid trick you pulled and we'll have no more of it. Understand?"
She nodded as best she could. Her eyes were still squeezed shut. She couldn't see who spoke. She didn't want to see. She didn't care. He flung her head back into the grass and she just laid there, her chest heaving painfully.
"One finger for every other escape you try to make. Get 'er up!"
She was yanked to her feet and tossed over an orc shoulder like no more than a sack of potatoes. She felt a sharp stab of pain in her side and she was sure that at least one rib was cracked. But what could she do? The Uruk-Hai could care less about the comfort of her travel. So as they bounced along she tried to squirm into a position on her right side. The orc carrying her paid her no more attention than if she had turned in her sleep.
After that her mind started to work. They were out of the forest, on the plains. The trees were noticeably absent. She was with a mixed group of Uruk-Hai and orcs. They had kept her alive and were taking her somewhere. Mel had only two guesses and neither was very enticing.
Where were Merry and Pippin? She tried to sit up, but her current position wasn't conducive to that sort of behavior. She could barely see the midsections of the orcs running behind her. She let her head droop again. Regardless, she knew they were here. And scared to death. And there was nothing she could do for them. History had to run its course, as best it could. She knew that they wouldn't understand, but all of this was going to shape them into what they needed to become. Some things just had to…
Boromir's face flashed in front of her. He was smiling, almost laughing. His gray eyes danced. She closed her eyes, but the vision stayed with her, wavering in the darkness behind her eyelids.
"Oh god, Boromir," she whispered, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."