Caleb shivered and bent his head under the wind. He liked snow, especially when school was canceled because of it, but there is a limit to everything. Except, apparently, Caradhras’ supply of snow. He walked behind his sister and that provided some shelter, but not much. The wind seemed to come from all directions, seeking out any warmth provided by his clothes. He walked with his shoulder pressed into the cliff side. They were going to die. That was all there was to it.
“I don’t like this at all,” panted Sam. “Snow’s all right on a fine morning, but I like to be in bed while its falling. I wish this lot would go off to Hobbiton, folk might welcome it there.”
Colleen shook the snow off her hood and shoulders feeling glad she had put on an extra shirt the day before. All the same she had not felt so cold since she had ridden with Gandalf on Shadowfax on the way to Rivendell. She heartily agreed with Sam, she wished that this lot would go off to Hobbiton.
Gandalf halted. Snow was ankle deep around his big black boots and thick on his hood and shoulders.
“This is what I feared,” he said. “What say you now Aragorn?”
“That I feared it too, but less than other things,” Aragorn replied. “I knew the risk of snow, though it seldom falls heavily so far south, save high up in the mountains, but we are not high yet; we are still far down, where the paths are usually open all the winter.”
“I wonder if this is a contrivance of the Enemy,” said Boromir. “They say in my land that he can govern the storms in the Mountains of Shadow that stand upon the borders of Mordor. He has strange powers and many allies.”
“His arm has grown long indeed,” said Gimli, “if he can draw snow down from the North to trouble us here three hundred leagues away.”
“His arm has grown long.” Said Gandalf.
They halted for a short rest and while they were resting the wind halted and the snow slackened until it almost ceased. Colleen sighed with relief. Her cloak was freezing around her collar bones, her breeches around her calves and her sleeve cuffs around her wrists. She carefully broke the ice off her cuffs, sucked on the ice on her cloak and broke the ice off of the leather around her pants cuffs and the tops of her boots.
Caleb came over to his sister and she wrapped her arms around him. He shivered and pressed close. “Cold?” she asked him
“I’ll be okay. Colleen, how long has it been since we left home? I can’t remember, but it feels like years.”
“Let’s see, about three months, if you don’t count the time it took us to reach Rivendell.”
“Do you think that time is passing the same way at home?”
” I don’t know. I hope not. I hope that time is passing like it does in Narnia, but I don’t know. When we get home, we may find that no time has passed, or we may find that three hundred years have gone by and we are in the twenty third century with the Vulcans and Captain Kirk. Or maybe the same amount of time has passed. I can’t tell you Caleb. I don’t even know if we can get home.”
They began to trudge on again and for a while they made good progress. Then the wind started up again with fresh fury and forced them to stop under a cliff wall. Colleen, Caleb and the Hobbits clustered together, sitting on the ground trying to keep warm.
“We cannot go further tonight,” said Boromir. “Let those call it wind who will; there are fell voices on the air; and those stones are aimed at us.”
“I do call it the wind,” said Aragorn. “But that does not make what you say untrue. There are many evil and unfriendly things in the world that have little love for those that go on two legs, and yet are not in league with Souron, but have purposes of their own. Some have been in the world longer than he.”
Colleen’s awareness of the men’s voices faded out. She was thinking of home, wherever that was. Of hot tea, bullion and cocoa. Warm cookies and pie. Watching Lord of the Rings and Star Trek with Dad, Mom, and Caleb with little Olivia sleeping on Mom’s lap, all of them cuddled under fleece blankets and Mom dozing off on Dads shoulder. Colleen and Caleb sharing the love seat and Caleb kicking Colleen every time she started to quote one of the characters or carry on conversations with them. Buttered popcorn.
“Pass the popcorn Caleb.” Colleen gasped and woke painfully as Aragorn hoisted her out of a pile of snow where she had been dozing.
Boromir was doing the same for Frodo. “This will be the death of the little ones, Gandalf,” he said. “It is useless to sit here until the snow goes over our heads! We must do something to save ourselves.”
“Give them this,” said Gandalf sifting through his pack. “Just one mouthful each- for all of us. It is miruvor the cordial of Imladris. It is very precious, Elrond gave it to me as a gift at our parting.”
Colleen swallowed the warm liquor. It warmed her right through and lifted the heavy drowsiness left her limbs and she felt new strength. They all did, but the snow did not relent. It kept on with relentless fury.
“What about fire?” Said Boromir suddenly. “The choice now seems to be near now to fire and death to, Gandalf. Doubtless we shall be hidden from all unfriendly eyes when the snow covers us but that will not help us.”
“You may make a fire, if you can,” said Gandalf. “If there are any watchers that can endure this storm, then they can see us, fire or no.”
They had plenty of wood and kindling, which they had brought along at Boromir’s advice. Fat lot of good it did, it surpassed the skill of Elf or even Dwarf to kindle the wood in the howling wind.
“We should’ve brought a flame thrower,” Colleen murmured to Caleb behind her hand and he shivered and nodded in agreement..
Legolas looked up curiously, “Flame thrower?” Colleen pretended not to hear. The wind was a big enough problem without a curious Elf on her tail.
Sighing as if he expected to regret his actions, Gandalf came over to the pile of wood that was supposed to be a fire. He picked up a faggot of wood and held it up for a moment and then with a word of command, naur an edraith ammen, thrust his staff into the midst of it. It promptly burst into green and blue flames.
Caleb leaned over to his sister as Gandalf set the burning faggot onto the pile, “We did bring a flame thrower. What do you call Gandalf?”
“A wizard of many talents.”
“If there are any to see, then at least I am revealed to them. I have written Gandalf is here in signs that all can read from Rivendell to the mouths of Anduin.”
No one was listening, they were all too glad of the fire which burned merrily. They all warmed their hands and a warm red glow bathed their faces.
But the wood was burning fast and the snow still fell.
The fire was burning low, and the last faggot was thrown on.
“The night is growing old,” said Aragorn. “Dawn is not far off.”
“If any dawn can pierce these clouds,” said Gimli.
Boromir stepped out of the circle and peered into the darkness. ” The snow is growing less and the wind is quieter.”
Colleen felt her eyelids drooping and Caleb’s head nodded and came to rest on her shoulder. She listened carefully, the wind was quieter and the snow flakes were larger and were falling more slowly than before. A dim light crept over the eastern sky and the snow stopped all together. Colleen felt her heart rise with the sun. A ridiculous grin spread over her face. She had begun to wonder if the sun had been a dream in the distant past.
Below their refuge were white humps and dome and shapeless deeps beneath which the path that they had trodden was altogether lost. The sky was partially shrouded in clouds heavy with the threat of more snow.
Gimli shook his shaggy head, “Caradhras has not forgiven us, he had more snow yet to fling at us if we go on. The sooner we go back and down the better.”
“That might well prove impossible, Gimli,” said Colleen. “I don’t see anyway down from here.”
“If Gandalf would go before with a bright flame he might melt a path for you.” Said the ever cheerful Legolas. The snow didn’t bother him in the slightest and he alone of the Company remained in high spirits.
“If Elves could fly over mountains they might fetch the Sun to save us!” Replied Gandalf sarcastically. “But I must have something to work on. I cannot burn snow.”
“Well,” said Boromir, ” when heads are at a loss bodies must serve, as we say in my country. The strongest of us must seek a way. See! Though all is snow-clad, our path, as we came up, turned about at that shoulder of rock down yonder. It was there that the snow first began to burden us. If we could reach that point it might prove easier beyond. It is no more than a furlong off I guess.”
“Then let us force a path thither, you and I.” Said Aragorn.
Colleen noticed as if for the first time that Aragorn was the tallest of the Company. She guessed he was about six foot seven. Boromir was the next tallest at about an inch shorter and he was heavier and broader than Aragorn. Strider had an almost elvish look about his build, while Boromir was about as human a man as you could find, after Dr. McCoy.
Legolas was watching the men toiling with a smile on his lips and in his emerald eyes. He turned to the others. ” The strongest must seek a way, say you? But I say: let a ploughmen plough, but choose an otter for swimming, and for running light over grass and leaf- an Elf.”
With that he sprang forth nimbly and called back, “Farewell! I go to seek the Sun!”
“Crazy Elf,” muttered Gimli. “He goes to fall off of the cliff most likely. The cold has got into that pretty head of his.”
Colleen just grinned to herself and wished she could go with him. The sight of an Elf running lightly over the snow made her want to run as well. She reached into her tunic and felt the pendant inside of her shirt. She swallowed and thought that even if she ever made it home she would not be the same. She was deeply wounded and aged by several years. Colleen had always been old for her age. At twelve she had been told she could have passed for fifteen. But her run in with the Witch King, two encounters so close together. And the Battle at the Gates of Summer had made her feel at least fifty.
And yet there was still a part of her that was the quiet, book loving trekkie that dreamed of a Star Fleet career that she could never have. She wondered if the difference would be visible, like a scar on her face. She sighed and pulled up her hood glancing at the clouds. They needed to get the Hades off of this mountain.