Forcing a Path

by Linaewen


This tale is derived from several of my previous inklings that touched on Boromir, Faramir and the dream they shared. It seemed fitting to rework this story, on the eve of Faramir Day, and in light of the imminent release of the Extended Edition of TTT featuring the brothers and the Quest that is given them.

In light of my exercise today wrestling with wet, heavy snow and a woefully inadequate shovel, here is a wee gap-filler I wrote as a companion piece to one of my favorite parts of FotR -- the passage through the snow on Caradhras. My inspiration comes from Boromir, of course, in the following comment:

"...happily your Caradhras has forgotten that you have Men with you. And doughty Men too, if I may say it; though lesser men with spades might have served you better. Still, we have thrust a lane through the drift; and for that all here may be grateful who cannot run as light as Elves."


Forcing a Path

As light grew in the sky, the snow continued to lessen until finally it stopped. The Company looked out on a changed world; all was silent and shrouded in white. The path they had taken from below was lost now, buried in snow that in places was almost man height. The path ahead was completely blocked by fallen debris and drifted snow; and the sky was heavy with the threat of more severe weather. They had no choice but to turn back, but the retreat would be difficult, if not impossible.

"Perhaps Gandalf should go before us with a bright flame, to melt a path!" said Legolas light-heartedly.

The others smiled at the thought, but Gandalf was not impressed with the suggestion.

"If Elves could fly over mountains, they might fetch the Sun to save us," he retorted. "But I must have something to work on, I cannot burn snow!"

"Well," responded Boromir, "when heads are at a loss, bodies must serve, as we say in my country. The strongest of us must seek a way."

He considered the buried path for a moment, then pointed off into the distance.

"See? Though all is now snow-clad, our path as we came up turned sharply upwards there at that shoulder of rock further down. If I remember rightly, some way below the turn we ought to come to a flat space at the top of a long steep slope. If we could reach that point, we might be able to get some idea of how the snow lies further down. Perhaps it will prove easier beyond. It is worth a try, at least."

"Come then!" said Aragorn, rising. "Let us force a path together!"

Boromir led the way, and Aragorn followed. It was slow going, and it was not long before they were both toiling heavily. The snow was breast-high in places, and Boromir felt more like he was swimming than walking. He thrust the snow aside as he went, and tramped it down underfoot; Aragorn, following, did the same.

Boromir caught movement out of the corner of his eye, and looked up to see Legolas run past on top of the snow. He waved at the two men as he passed.

"I go to find the Sun!" he called, and speeding into the distance, he vanished around the rocky turn.

Boromir sighed and momentarily wished for the ability to run atop the snow.

On they toiled, slowly forcing their way through drifts, ice and snow to a broader way below the precarious path they had been traveling when the blizzard had struck. The going was somewhat easier there, for a time, as the expanse of snow had been partially swept clear by the strong winds. But the way soon became difficult again, as they approached the shoulder of rock that marked for them the bottom of the steep path.

When Boromir and Aragorn reached the spot, they stopped, dismayed. The protruding shoulder of rock had caused the wind to drop its load of snow in a great drift that blocked their path. The drift was flung like a sheer wall across the path, its crest high and sharp as if shaped by knives.

Boromir drew in a deep breath, then exhaled slowly.

"Well, there is no other way except forward," he said, turning to Aragorn. "At least it is only snow here, with no debris or fallen rock to be removed."

"Only snow!" exclaimed Aragorn. "Heavy snow, no doubt; heavy and wet! We shall be buried!"

"Mayhap dry snow would be less burdensome for us to make a passage through, but more difficult in the end for those who follow, particularly the small ones," said Boromir, gazing upwards as he tried to judge the height of the drift. It was more than twice his height, and he was a tall man. "Wet snow will at least stay where we put it. Though the difference is of little consequence now. This amount of snow will prove heavy whether it be dry or wet!"

"We do not know how wide the snow wall is here," went on Aragorn. "Do we attempt to tunnel through, or ought we try to beat a path over the top?"

Boromir considered the drift again.

"Over the top, I think," he said at last. "Though I fear the chance of being buried is perhaps just as great."

"Lead on, then! I shall follow further back, to dig you out when the mountain falls on you!"

Boromir pushed forward. Slowly, surely, they beat a passage forward and up through the middle of the drift. Arms and legs became heavy, and breath painful in the thin air as they labored to make a path. They were no more than a third of the way up, when their fears were realized. An avalanche of snow cascaded down from atop the high drift.

Aragorn shouted, but Boromir had no time to do more than draw in a quick breath and duck his head before he was buried. His face was pushed down and his mouth filled with snow, though he strove to keep it tightly closed. He struggled and kicked to free himself, but the snow weighed heavily upon him.

He was trapped.

In spite of the cold fear in his heart at being buried and the rising panic that made him want to lash out desperately, Boromir forced himself to lie still. He would only make matters worse by struggling. He had to trust that Aragorn could come to his aid, that he had not been buried as well.

He waited, and tried to remain calm.

Sounds were muffled by the heavy snow, but at last he could hear Aragorn digging above him. Suddenly the weight of snow was removed, and he felt Aragorn's grip upon his cloak. He gasped and choked as he was pulled up and out into the air.

"A near thing!" said Aragorn, slapping Boromir on the back.

"Indeed!" agreed Boromir, brushing himself down. "It was well for me that I was not alone, and that you were not buried with me!"

A small spray of snow from the top tumbled down and they both looked up, afraid it was coming down again. Legolas was silouetted against the sky. He leapt lightly down and stood before them.

"Do not despair!" he announced. "I have been on the other side. The Sun is not to be found, but this I can tell you for your comfort: the drift is little wider than a wall, and beyond, the snow is considerably less. Deep enough, but no deeper than on our way up the mountain."

"Well then!" said Aragorn. "That is hopeful, though we still must make a path there."

"We had best do so, then; and quickly, before I grow too weary," said Boromir, climbing to his feet.

"This time, I shall lead," said Aragorn.

*****

Author's note: Some statements included are direct quotes or rephrased passages from The Fellowship of the Ring, the chapter entitled "The Ring Goes South."