Colleen sat under a bush and shivered. The sky was the cold, unfriendly color of raw iron and the tempeture was dropping rapidly. The men had decided that the fire must be put out and not lit again and that they would remain hidden until darkness fell.
She shivered again and gave in to her body. She pulled a spare shirt out of her pack and removed her jacket and tunic, pulled the spare shirt over the first one and then put her tunic and back on. Then she curled up under her cloak and tried to get some sleep. Rest was something she was
learning to take whenever it became available. Luckily she could sleep just about anywhere as long as she had something to cover up with.
The hours oozed by like dripping molasses drop by slow painful drop and Colleen dozed uneasily plagued by the feeling that something was hanging over her head.
Colleen woke and her feet, hands and face were numb and to her delight the Sun was setting. She rubbed her hands together and wiggled her toes as best she could trying to restore the warmth to her feet. Her hand gradually regained feeling and she rubbed them over her cheeks, chin and nose. Then she rolled onto her stomach to watch the sunset. It smeared the gray sky with purple and hints of yellow and red. The clouds looked ominously like snow clouds.
In about fifteen minutes the had sunk below the horizon and the stars were piercing through the small gaps in the cloud cover. Then she heard Aragorn stir near by and heard his deep voice telling them to move on.
And so they did. Colleen discovered one thing quickly, she disliked traveling by night, but there seemed little choice. She was continually tripping over plants, roots and rocks.
They walked on with little incident until the hour before the first stir of dawn. Colleen was almost asleep on her feet when she saw, by the dim light, Frodo shiver and look up. Then she felt it too, a cold shadow passing over the high stars.
“Did you see anything pass?” He asked Gandalf.
“No, but I felt it, whatever it was,” he replied. ” It may have been nothing, only a wisp of cloud.”
Colleen couldn’t help but think that the `wisp of cloud’ that they had seen earlier that day. She sincerely hoped Gandalf was right.
Nothing further happened for the next three days. The mountains towered up and Colleen felt her old, long buried, much denied fear of hights and enormous things like that beginning to serface. She gave a violent shudder and concentrated on the path before her. On the leather boots she was wearing, on Gimli’s ax haft in his belt. Anything but those terrible mountains.
Colleen felt something cold and gentle brush her cheek and looked up. It was snowing. She swallowed. At least the snow would prevent her seeing down those cliffs once they got up on them. She pulled her hood over her head carefully and shivered.
After some time she heard as if from a great distance the voices of Aragorn and Gandalf.
“Winter deepens behind us,” Gandalf said to Aragorn. “The heights away north are whiter than they were; snow is lying far down on their shoulders. Tonight we shall be on our way high up towards the Redhorn Gate. We may well be seen by watchers on that narrow path, and waylaid by some evil; but the weather may prove a more deadly enemy than any. What do you think of our course now Aragorn?”
“I think no good of our course from beginning to end, as you know well Gandalf,” Aragorn replied. ” And perils known and unknown will grow as we go on. But we must go on, it is no
good delaying the passage of the mountains. Futher south there are no passes until one comes to the Gap of Rohan. And who knows now what side Theoden and the Horse Marshals now serve since your news of Sarumans treachery?”
“Who knows indeed! But there is another way, and not by the pass of Caradhras: the dark and secret way we have spoken of.”
“But let us not speak of it again! Not yet! Say nothing to the others, I beg, not until it is plain there is no other way.”
“We must decide before we go further,” answered Gandalf.
“Then let us weigh the matter in our minds, while the others rest.”
Late that afternoon they were having what would normally be called breakfast. Legolas was the only one who seemed untroubled by the increasing cold. Colleen grinned into her cold hunk of venison sausage and admired the new green tint of the wood elf’s hair. It was fortunate for Caleb that he couldn’t decide which of the regular practical jokers had done it to him, or the Company might have been short one member.
She was getting used to the irregular sleep patterns, infrequent meals and constant moving about, but she was worried about Caleb. She still couldn’t quite believe Elrond had let him go. He was only ten. Nearly eleven, but still. Her own birthday was coming up. She decided against mentioning it, unless she needed to keep from being left out of the battles. They might leave a fourteen year old, but a fifteen year old had a little more bargaining power. Not much perhaps, but hey, every little bit helps.
She glanced up, hearing Gandalf’s voice. She just gathered that they were going to make an attempt on the Redhorn Gate. That was all she needed to know. She turned her attention back to breakfast. Food first. She had discovered an appetite she had not know she possessed before coming to Middle Earth.