They reached Amon-Din just as the sun was setting. Their reception at the beacon was predictable. The Wardens had been graced by the presence of Vanion and his escort, regaled with terrifying tales of the woman who commanded the trees, tales that seemed to grow in the telling. If it kept up, by the time Mel reached Minas Tirith she'd be ten feet tall and green, with eyes of fire and smoke coming out of her ears. But the men were willing to listen to Boromir's reassurances, while Mel sat on her horse and tried to look as harmless as possible. They were led to camp and fed, and when Boromir suggested that they go to bed early Mel was so tired she didn't think twice about it.
But once she was safely in her cabin and crawling under the blankets, it finally dawned on her where they were and what it meant. Amon-Din was the last beacon before Minas Tirith. Only they weren't going to Minas Tirith. They were going to Osgiliath. They hadn't spoken of it since they'd fought almost three days ago, but Mel knew nothing had changed. Reports of the outnumbered troops trying to hold the border had upset Boromir. And she knew he was thinking of his brother. If it had been her, that's what she would have been thinking.
The idea of going into the besieged city, watching as it was overrun, made Mel sick to her stomach, but she would go because she had to keep Boromir safe… and because the thought of waiting for him in Minas Tirith made her feel even worse. She could not face that city alone. She would rather face all the orcs in Mordor. At least she could fight the orcs. How did one fight a rumor? Mel had no idea what she was up against. Word of her existence, of what she could do, would reach the Tower of Ecthelion long before she set foot there and she suspected that the report would be less than stellar. Fear preceded her like a tidal wave, but even worse was the suspicion that she had more to worry about than just the gossip of Gondorian citizens. Denethor loomed in the back of her mind, a shadowy uncertainty. The Steward of Gondor had a reputation for being nearly as desperate for power as Saruman. His motives were completely different, but the end result was similar. Mel wasn't sure what that meant for her. She shuddered.
That wasn't even the only rumor that bothered her. Word had spread quickly that Boromir was alive, not dead as everyone seemed to have believed, but something about that still bothered Mel. Why would they have thought he was dead in the first place? There was nothing to suggest that he wasn't alive, but someone had started the rumor anyway. Who would do that? And why?
On top of all that, Minas Tirith was like a different world entirely, full of rules and expectations she'd never had before. The social anxiety alone was enough to keep her mind racing, even if she weren't worried about gossip and rumors. Not to mention the siege that was coming, events she could no longer predict. There were so many variables. Everything had changed.
Once Mel's thoughts started running, processing idea after idea, worry after worry, she couldn't get them to stop. She tossed and turned, forcing her eyes closed, but her brain even worked behind her eyelids, conjuring scenarios for her entrance into Minas Tirith, for her introduction to Denethor, some good, some horrible, until they all ran together and Mel couldn't tell if she was dreaming or imagining. Her only indication that she had fallen asleep was being woken with a start by a soft tap on the door. She shot up in bed and listened carefully. Maybe she had imagined it, or dreamed it. But there it was again, three soft taps. She pulled on her boots and strapped on her sword (just in case), then slowly opened the door a crack.
Boromir stood on the other side, almost completely engulfed in the deep darkness that comes just before dawn. His eyes gleamed.
"I'm sorry to wake you." he said.
She sighed and ran a hand through her hair.
"It's okay, I wasn't sleeping very well anyway. Is everything alright?"
He nodded and held out his hand to her.
"I want to show you something. Come with me."
She didn't even question it. She took his hand and followed him outside. The camp was deserted. Even the fire had burned down to only one or two embers. Everyone was asleep or on watch somewhere in the trees. Mel could hear the forest rustling around her, but their voices were strangely still, as if the trees were waiting for the sun to rise and wake them.
They passed out of the camp and headed into the forest. Before long, Mel realized that they were going up, winding steadily through the thinning trees and over rock formations. They were noticeably climbing now and Mel had to work to keep up with Boromir's long, confident strides. He had clearly made this trek before. He kept a firm grip on her hand as he led her even higher onto the mountain. A brisk wind blew and Mel began to wish she had grabbed her cloak before they'd gone.
She didn't know how long they climbed, but the horizon was just beginning to show color when they made one final turn and Mel could see the beacon of Amon-Din. It burned brightly even in the fading darkness, flames licking toward the sky, sending up the desperate cry for help. They were still quite a distance away so it was only a bright flickering spot at the top of the mountain, but Boromir stopped on a ledge that faced away south.
"I want you to see something." he said, her hand still held in his.
They waited. Mel had gotten a thin sheen of sweat from the climb and when a gust of wind blew past she involuntarily shivered. Boromir glanced at her, then without saying a word, pulled her to his chest and wrapped his fur-lined cloak around her. She sighed and settled back into the warmth, letting his arms fold her up. It felt safe, a feeling that was in short supply these days. His breath next to her ear made her heart stutter.
"I'm sorry. I should have had you bring your cloak. I forget how cold it can be on the mountain."
She shook her head, "It's alright. I'm fine."
She felt him rest his cheek on top of her head. She was more than fine. She was perfect.
"I wanted you to see this," he murmured, "It's the perfect place. Watch there."
He pointed toward a chunk of white stone sticking out of the mountain to the south of them. Mel watched and waited.
Then the sun finally peeked over the horizon, flooding the world with its light, and that spot of white rock lit up with a brilliant flash. Mel caught her breath. It sparkled and shone, bright gold against the brilliant white, dazzling her eyes. And suddenly, Mel knew what she was looking at.
"Minas Tirith," Boromir whispered, "Home."
Mel let her eyes drink it in, straining against the distance, trying to see everything. She hadn't realized how big the city was. It was like a spike of mountain all to itself. And the way it glittered in the morning sun made it seem almost magical.
"Oh, Boromir," she whispered reverently, "It's so beautiful."
His arms tightened around her and they stood there for another moment, just watching the sun light up the mountainside.
"I'm so scared." Mel said suddenly.
"I know," Boromir said, "But as soon as my business in Osgiliath is finished I will find you. You can wait for me by the gates if you like-"
Mel felt him tense.
"I'm not leaving you alone."
"Melody, I'll be surrounded by men and my brother will be there, you said so yourself."
"They have to take care of each other. You aren't supposed to be there. Who's going to take care of you?"
She could hear the smile in his words.
"Melody, I took very good care of myself long before I met you."
"Says the man who's supposed to be dead."
Mel turned her head so she could meet his eyes. He was staring hard at her, clearly trying to form a reply and failing.
"The rules change when you're out of sync with the rest of the world, Boromir," Mel said, "My predictions are going to be sketchy at best from now on. There are just too many unknowns."
"Then can't you see why I want you as far away from there as possible?" he asked, a slightly desperate undertone in his voice that Mel ignored.
"I want you there even less than you want me there and that doesn't seem to be stopping you. Why should it stop me?"
"Boromir, you've tried to leave me behind twice now, in Rivendell and in Lothlorien. How has that worked out for you so far?"
That brought him up short. He stared down at her for a long time, considering every inch of her face. She decided to give him one more kick in the right direction.
"I can't go into Minas Tirith alone. I just can't. I need you there with me and this is the best way to make sure that happens."
He set his face, like a man making the best of a bad situation.
"You'll have to fight. It will be dangerous, like Moria."
"Worse, but as least we won't be underground."
"You cannot leave my side, not for a moment, do you understand?"
"Well I'm not planning to shop for souvenirs."
She said it just a few seconds before she realized that he probably had no idea what she was talking about.
"I have no intention of going anywhere else. I'll watch your back, you watch mine, okay?"
He was still searching her face.
"I don't like this, Melody."
"Neither do I, but you seem pretty determined so I guess we don't have much of a choice."
That was the end of it. Boromir sighed like a man defeated and pulled her against his chest again, resting his cheek in her hair.
"You stubborn, foolish woman," he muttered fondly, "Whatever was Yavanna thinking bringing you here?"
Mel grinned, "Trust me, I've asked the same question."
There was a pause.
"Would you go back? Knowing what you know now, the consequences of your actions, would you go back?"
Mel didn't even have to think about it.
"Not a chance."
March 10th, 3019
Just before dawn...
Faramir stared into the dark, his gray eyes searching the black waters of the Anduin. Something felt strange, he could taste it in the air. Something wasn't right. But his eyes found nothing but empty night. He kept looking.
Madril came to stand beside him as if he could read the thoughts of his commander.
"It's been very quiet across the river. The orcs are lying low. The garrison may have moved out. We've sent scouts to Cair Andros. If the orcs attack from the north we'll have some warning."
Faramir knew that Madril was trying to reassure him, but he still felt that twist of doubt in his stomach. Something was wrong. He searched the dark again, wondering what could be making him feel this way.
Suddenly, he wished for his brother. Boromir would have slapped him on the shoulder and told him to stop worrying like an old woman. Boromir would have said that whatever came they would fight it and they would win and he would have believed it. Because Boromir did not lose. That's why it was so difficult to believe the strange news of his death. It didn't make sense. Boromir did not lose.
The last he'd heard of his brother from the two Halflings had done little to ease his mind. Madness didn't fit Boromir either. How could it be that he could resist the pull of the Ring and Boromir could not? Boromir, who was always the stronger of them, who could win any fight, who could rally men to him like moths to a candle flame, was not one to give in so easily.
Most of Gondor was in mourning for the eldest son of the Steward, but Faramir refused. Because in his heart he didn't feel that his brother was dead. And until it was proven otherwise, he would continue to wait for his return.
Faramir finally turned from the river and started to make his way down from the open balcony. Perhaps if he stood on the bank he would see more. But as he reached the bottom of the steps, a muffled thud pulled him up short. A soldier, one of his men, laid on the ground before him, crumpled, dead, an arrow in his chest. And everything came sharply into focus.
"They aren't coming from the north."
He rushed forward, gathering his men as quietly as he could, pulling them all toward the silent waters.
"To the river! Quick, quick!"
And as they stood in the early morning quiet and waited, Faramir's heart uttered a single, silent prayer.
Boromir… if you're still out there… please come… come quickly…
End of Part Two
Stay tuned for Part Three- Changing History: Second Chances