A/N: Alright, so Part Three! I'm excited, are you excited? If you aren't than you should be. Melomir continues into The Return of the King. If you're reading this note and wondering "Melomir? What the heck is a Melomir?" please stop now and read Parts One and Two before continuing. And I'd like to go ahead and give a nice hearty shout-out to JRR Tolkien and Peter Jackson and anyone else who might have been somehow involved in the making of the epicness that is Lord of the Rings and might want to sue me later. You guys are the best and none of this would be possible without you. And if you still plan on suing, knock yourselves out, I've got nothing to give you.
Summary: Everyone deserves a second chance. Sometimes it makes all the difference in the world.
Changing History: Second Chances
There were so many. Faramir found himself thrown from one battle to the next, desperately trying to hold the city of Osgiliath against the onslaught of orcs from Mordor. But their numbers were great and his men were tired. They had been fighting too long. He could feel hope fading quickly. But he kept thinking, hoping, praying, "Help will come. We must hold and help will come."
The sun rose higher in the sky, but it was weak, covered by a growing darkness that boiled out of the east. The orcs relished in the dim light and pressed on further, pushing back the Ithilien Rangers bit by bit. Faramir fought until he was overwhelmed and then retreated. He ran toward a small alcove where he hoped to funnel the orcs and force them to face him one at a time. But when he passed through the stone archway, he saw that the alcove was already occupied.
"Faramir!" Madril shouted in warning.
At the last moment, Faramir threw himself to the side. The small knot of archers made quick work of the group of orcs that were pursuing him and finally the men were given a moment to breathe and assess their situation. Faramir knew that it was grim.
"We can't hold them." Madril said, "The city is lost."
Faramir knew. He couldn't win this battle. They were too few. They were finished.
And then he heard the horn sound.
Mel's heart pounded in her chest, matching her horse's frantic gallop stride for stride as she and Boromir raced toward Osgiliath. Boromir let out three more short blasts on his horn and then drew his sword. Mel did the same. And then she realized she had absolutely no experience fighting from horseback. She felt extremely unstable on the back of her running mount. But she only had a moment to consider the fact that this might be a serious problem before they were galloping through the city streets.
Their running horses caught a few orcs by surprise and they were quickly trampled underfoot. But it only took a few moments for the others to prepare and face the new threat. Boromir leaped into the fray with abandon, hacking away at orc after orc, using the height the horse provided him as an advantage. Mel went to work, striking clumsily at any foul, black thing that came within arm's reach. At the same time she took a moment to search for any trees in the immediate vicinity that might be some kind of help. But all she found were charred remains and sickened shrubs. Her heart ached for them, but she didn't have the time or the strength to help them right now. She was too worried about keeping herself and Boromir alive.
And he was doing almost nothing to help her out. He plunged his horse deeper into the thickening troops of orcs as the pile of dead grew all around them. Mel glanced around. Where was Faramir? Where were the Ithilien Rangers? Had they waited too long? Had the men already abandoned the city? Had they just walked into a death trap?
Mel was starting to think that maybe now would be a good time to bring up the idea of retreat, when something whistled by her head. She turned in time to see an orc go down with an arrow in his eye.
"For Gondor! For the White Tower!" Someone cried.
More orcs fell around them and suddenly they were surrounded by men in armor, fighting furiously toward them. The orcs fell fast, but where one fell, two more seemed to take it's place. And Mel could see that their own side was not without casualties. The ground was littered with pieces of armor and the bodies of men. And she knew that these men were tired. They had been fighting for days, some for weeks, but she could hardly tell watching them now. They rallied around the two horses, fighting valiantly. But Mel could still see that they were just postponing the inevitable.
And then her horse went down. It was sudden. An orc caught the two front legs of her mount and cut them out from under her. The scream of the horse echoed with her own screams as she just managed to kick out of her stirrups and throw herself from the saddle before the poor creature fell. She scrambled to her feet, sword still in hand, and just missed being decapitated. She slit the throat of the attacking orc as payback and suddenly she was lost in a sea of black and silver, dark skin and metal clashing together. She could still see Boromir on his horse, but he was on the other side of the skirmish. He hadn't even noticed that she was down yet.
She took one step toward him and she had to throw up her sword and gut another orc. They were everywhere. Every step she took was a battle and the second she lifted her eyes to find Boromir again, another orc took a swing at her. She had managed three steps, when she heard a growl behind her. She whirled around, but she was too late. The orc was right behind her, sword in his hands pulled back to strike, an ugly smile on his dirty face. Mel had enough time to realize she was about to die. And then a sword came from behind the orc and took his head right off. Blood gushed everywhere, covering Mel and she didn't even care. She was just thrilled she was still breathing.
Then the man who had saved her caught her eye. Sharp nose, shoulder length dark hair, stone gray eyes... Familiar stone gray eyes...
It was Faramir.
Mel knew it was Faramir the way she knew that the earth was round. She just knew. The eyes were the biggest tell. They were Boromir's eyes set in a different face. Different, yet slightly the same as only siblings can be. For a fraction of a second they just stared at each other, Faramir looking as shocked to see her as she felt to see him. And then Boromir called her name.
"Melody!" He sounded panicked. Mel glanced over her shoulder and saw him frantically searching the courtyard. The group of orcs had been chased out, probably on their way to get reinforcements. She turned back to Faramir and smiled.
"Thanks!" she said, before running after Boromir.
He saw her coming and jumped from his horse to meet her, grabbing her arms, "I told you to stay with me! What part of that was unclear?"
"Well, I'm sorry, next time an orc goes to cut my horse's legs out from under me, I'll make sure he has your permission first."
Boromir took a deep breath and let go of her arms, "I don't have time for this. We're going to use the southern and eastern exits to drive the orcs out of the city. We need to mobilize our forces so we can strike with precision. I need to find Faramir."
At first, Mel couldn't quite believe what she was hearing. It didn't make sense. What was he talking about, drive out the orcs? The orcs were embedded in this city like a really bad case of termites. And when she looked around her, the men she saw were exhausted. Sure their eyes were bright with adrenaline, but they were all fixing to crash hard. And Boromir was talking about fighting?
"Boromir," she said, gently, quietly, so no one else would hear, "I told you, the city's gone. You can't save it. Let's just get these guys..."
But Boromir whirled on her and his eyes flashed, "I have saved this city from the forces of Mordor many times before. I will not allow it to fall now!"
"Brother," They both turned. Faramir had come up behind them and neither had noticed, "Can you not see the men are weary? We have fought for many days and nights to keep this city. Perhaps we should pull back while we have strength left and use our men to defend Minas Tirith."
"If we hold Osgiliath, we hold the road to Minas Tirith. There will be no need to defend the White Tower if no enemy is able to cross the river and reach it's gates!"
"But, Boromir," Mel tried again, but he cut her off with a burning glare.
"I will not abandon this city! We will hold!" Then Boromir stormed off. Mel had seen that look before and it frightened her. There was no talking Boromir out of it. He was determined. Mel turned to Faramir.
"You can sound the retreat." she said, an edge of desperation creeping into her voice.
Faramir shook his head, "Boromir is the Captain of the White Tower, the men listen to him."
"Faramir, these are YOUR men, they'll listen to you! You're the one who's been fighting with them all this time, you're the one who knows how tired they are, you're the one they've shared stories with around campfires. They know you. All you have to do is give the order."
Faramir glanced up at Boromir's retreating back, "He will never forgive me."
Mel rolled her eyes, "He's forgiven me for worse and I'm not even family."
Faramir turned and stared at her, "Who are you?"
Mel smiled, "I'll tell you once we're safe and sound behind the gates of Minas Tirith." she put a hand on his arm, "Please, Faramir, I know you don't know me, but I can't lose him again."
Suddenly there was a loud screech above them and Mel felt a cold, dripping dread cover her whole body. It was like nothing she'd ever felt before. Slowly, she pulled her eyes skyward. A giant creature, like a cross between a dragon and an eel, flapped it's wings and rose above them, turning and swooping down toward the courtyard. Everything had stopped at the sound of that horrible screech, but as the thing lurched toward them, all the men scattered. Faramir grabbed Mel's arm and dragged her with him behind a column just as the thing made a grab for the floor. Several men were caught in it's claws and tossed aside like rag dolls to lie crumpled on the stones. Mel's mind worked it's way around her paralyzing terror toward her first coherent thought of the last five minutes.
The winged Nazgul took to the sky and slowly curved around, coming back for a second pass. Faramir yanked her from behind the pillar and started dragging her behind him, yelling as he went.
"Fall back! Fall back to Minas Tirith! Retreat!"
Like a rock dropped in a still pond, men heard the call and echoed it out to their friends, who in turn called it out to their friends until the calls of retreat filled the air around them. Everyone came out of hiding and ran for the gates of the city. Mel finally pulled her mind out of the fear and tried to yank her arm out of Faramir's grip.
"I have to find Boromir!" she said.
"He will be with us. Trust me, my brother is stubborn and overconfident, but even he is not so foolish as to take on the Nazgul alone." Faramir said.
As much as she tried to believe him, Mel had seen Boromir do too many stubborn, overconfident and stupid things to just take his word for it, even if it was his brother. She desperately searched the faces of the retreating soldiers, trying to catch a glimpse of Boromir in the pandemonium that surged around her. But there was no sign of him. They reached the gates of the city and Faramir grabbed the reins of a horse and handed them to her.
"I'm not leaving without him." Mel said as she took the reins.
"Neither am I." Faramir said, "If he hasn't reached the gates in five minutes, we'll both go back for him, I promise." Then he turned away from her and began directing his men to horses, making sure everyone had a way to escape the city, and overseeing the opening of the gates.
Mel mounted up and continued to search for Boromir. He still had his horse so if he was coming, he should be easy to spot. Where was he? She was just about to go back when Faramir pulled his horse up beside her. The men were mounted and beginning the mad dash toward Minas Tirith.
"Have you seen him?" He asked.
Mel shook her head. There was another screech and Mel could hear the slow beating of leathery wings. She shivered and drew her sword. She didn't know what she would do with it, but she felt a little better with it in her hand. She shouldn't have left him. She should have stayed with him. Where was he? If they survived this, she was gonna kill him!
"Ride with the others," Faramir said, drawing his own sword, "I'm going back."
"Oh no you're not!" Mel said, "You ride with the others and I'll go back!"
Faramir looked at her like she had two heads, "My lady, I cannot allow..."
But Mel was ignoring him. The second he'd started the 'My lady' crap, she'd tuned him out. And she could have sworn she heard galloping hooves coming toward them. She turned back to the courtyard. Finally, Boromir burst into view, riding as fast as he could toward the gates. Mel's heart leaped.
"Run!" Boromir yelled.
Mel and Faramir wheeled their horses and the three of them flew out of the gates of Osgiliath and raced across the open fields west for Minas Tirith. Mel heard more blood curdling screeches behind them, but she didn't even look up. She didn't need to see what was chasing them, she already knew. Nazgul, three of them, hurtled toward them across the blackening sky. Mel kept her eyes in front of her, her heart pounding in her chest, waiting for one of those creatures to drop from the sky, scoop her up, and let her fall to her death. Her whole body was numb with terror. All she could think about was reaching that gleaming bit of white in the distance. But it seemed so far away.
Then the first Nazgul attacked in front of them. The creature tore through the men fleeing in front of them, scattering them in all directions. The men cried out in terror and the horses screamed in pain as claws ripped through them all. Another Nazgul flew so close over their heads that Mel ducked. The creature grabbed two horses and then let them plunge to the earth to lie crumpled and lifeless. Mel rode on, trying not to see the bodies of the men that lay in the field, trying not to lose it. The Nazgul dropped from the sky again, more screams, more broken bodies. And still they rode on, helpless against the attack.
And suddenly, Mel had another coherent thought. Gandalf, where are you?
As if in answer, a bright white light cut across the sky and struck the Nazgul like a physical blow. The black creatures reeled back from the light, squealing as if in pain, flapping their giant wings in retreat. Mel turned and saw a speck of white riding toward them. She grinned.
"Gandalf!" she yelled, so happy to see him that she didn't even consider that he couldn't possibly hear her. Both Boromir and Faramir glanced at her, but she barely even noticed. She kicked her horse and rode hard to try to catch up with the others. The brothers followed in her wake.
With the immediate fear of being chased now gone, the other men had slowed their retreat down to a brisk canter and the three who lagged behind soon caught up to the rest. Mel tried to maneuver her way to the front, but that proved more difficult than she would have thought. She had barely managed to reach the middle of the pack when she looked up and momentarily forgot what she was doing.
Minas Tirith was quite a bit bigger than she had originally anticipated and much more formidable. The circular walls that made up the many levels of the city seemed carved out of the very mountainside, the city itself jutting out into the surrounding fields with all the authority of a king staking claim to his kingdom. Mel could hear tree life in her head, gentle murmurings, intelligent and sophisticated, much like the trees in Rivendell and Lothlorien. This was a place of knowledge and wisdom. Or at least it had been once. War changed everything.
Mel found herself craning her neck to take in everything she saw, even as she passed within the gates of the city and the men congregated in the courtyard of the first level. It was Boromir's voice that pulled her back to the present.
"Why didn't you tell me about the Nazgul?" he demanded.
She glared at him, "What difference would it have made?"
"It might have made all the difference!"
"You're the one who didn't stick to the plan!" Mel shot back, "We were supposed to get in, look around, and get out, not stick around and try to play heroes!"
"I could have saved that city. I just needed more time!"
"In case you hadn't noticed, time was not something we had a lot of. I told you going there was a bad idea!"
"When did you become an expert in military strategy?"
"I'm not saying I'm an expert."
A new voice broke into their argument, "I believe I am an expert."
They both turned and stared at Faramir. He looked exhausted, more than Mel had noticed before.
"I may not have your skill with weapons, or be a master of men, Boromir, but I am most certainly an expert in strategy. The lady is right. The city was lost before you even arrived, Nazgul or no. If it had been more than just the two of you riding to our rescue we might have stood a chance, but look around you. These men are exhausted. You would have led them all to their deaths."
Maybe he just needed to hear it from his brother, but Boromir's face softened and he sighed, rubbing his face, "You are right, Faramir. You are the strategist. I have always deferred to your wisdom in such situations. I am too rash, I suppose. I see hope where clearly hope has failed."
"Not all hope has failed." Faramir said, suddenly grinning, "You are alive. Father will be overjoyed to hear it."
Suddenly, they were interrupted by a small voice, calling out over the noise of the soldiers.
Mel turned her head and searched the crowd. She'd know that voice anywhere. Finally, she spotted a bright white horse making it's way toward them and two little hands waving frantically in the air. Mel smiled and pushed her way toward Gandalf and Pippin.
The hobbit was practically bouncing with excitement, "Mel, I knew you'd be here, I just knew it! Everyone was worried sick about you, but I told them that as soon as we got here I knew you'd turn up and here you are too! I'm awfully glad to see you, Mel, really I am, to tell you the truth I was a little worried myself, but it's alright now isn't it?"
Mel reached out and ruffled his hair, "I told you everything would be alright, Pip. Doesn't anyone ever listen to me?"
"So, Melody Calenhiril, still alive I see."
Mel looked up and smiled at the wizard, "I'm glad to see you too, Gandalf. You have no idea how glad."
Gandalf smiled at her and Mel realized something odd. He looked younger. Despite the white hair and beard, there was an energy around him that he hadn't had as Gandalf the Grey. He seemed less like an old man and more like an ageless entity.
"I like your new look. White's your color." she said.
Gandalf glanced behind her and his face melted into a carefully guarded expression, "So you have truly rewritten the song." he murmured.
Mel looked behind her and she saw Boromir and Faramir making their way toward them. She looked back at Gandalf, "I was given a choice. I chose life."
Gandalf nodded, but his eyes stayed on Boromir, "I know of your choices. But life is not always an option." He finally looked at her again and something in his eyes told her that he knew everything. He knew about Mandos and the ultimatum, a life for a life. He knew that she was going to have to let someone die.
"Mithrandir!" Faramir's voice rang out across the courtyard, "They broke our defenses. They've taken the bridge and the west bank. Battalions of orcs are crossing the river."
"It is as Lord Denethor predicted!" A voice cried out, "Long has he foreseen this doom."
Gandalf glared, "Foreseen and done nothing!"
He turned his horse to better face Faramir, revealing Pippin to him for the first time. Mel watched as Faramir's eyes widened in surprise. But Pip only had eyes for his brother.
"Boromir!" he cried.
Boromir grinned and ruffled his hair, "Hello there, Master Peregrin, what are you doing in my city? And where is your faithful companion, Meriadoc? Getting into trouble I imagine, the two of you will bring Minas Tirith tumbling down from the inside if left to your own devices for long."
Pippin's face fell, "Merry... We left Merry with the others in Rohan."
"Rohan, you say! Why you've been quite the traveler of late haven't you?"
Gandalf's eyes were fixed on Faramir, "This is not the first halfling to have crossed your path." he said.
Boromir turned and stared at Faramir. The younger brother glanced at him and then dropped his eyes, as if he were embarrassed.
"Faramir?" Boromir said. Then he looked at Mel, his eyes asking her the question he obviously wanted to ask his brother.
Pippin spoke up first, his face shining, "You've seen Frodo and Sam!" he exclaimed.
Faramir nodded, once again glancing at his brother. Boromir just sat in shock, staring at him.
"Where? When?" Gandalf asked, his face awash with relief.
"In Ithilien, not two days ago." Faramir met the wizard's eyes, "Gandalf, they were taking the road to the Morgul Vale."
Gandalf's face fell, "And then the pass of Cirith Ungol."
Mel felt eyes burning into her. She looked up and Boromir was staring at her. He was angry. But he also looked hurt. Mel stared back at him, trying to ask him with her eyes what was wrong.
"Faramir," Gandalf said, an edge of panic in his voice, "Tell me everything."
A/N: Yay! Chapter One was super long! I'm so happy with this thing so far, it's going to be epic! Make sure you review and tell me what you think. Did I get Faramir right? I think I did, but I'd like to know if you think I could do better. Thanks and stay tuned!