I Can Walk this Path

by Linaewen

Boromir was glad to be on the move again, after a cold, restless night spent high up in the trees upon a wooden platform. He had not slept well, less so because of the cold than because of his grave misgivings about the road they now traveled through the Golden Wood and his concern over the Orcs that followed them from Moria. Still, it had indeed been cold, and he had missed the heavy familiar comfort and warmth of his fur-lined cloak in the cool night air. The cloak had been left behind in Moria, where he had let it fall so it would not hinder him in battle; there would have been time to retrieve it had he remembered, but he had not thought of it again until just last night, when the breeze blew cool through the strange golden trees and he lay awake listening for sounds of pursuing Orcs.

The morning was still young and cold, but warming quickly as the Company made its way through the wood, guided by the Elf Haldir and his brother Rúmil. Gazing ahead through the trees, Boromir saw that they had returned to the path they had trod the evening before, that followed along the west bank of the Silverlode. Taking this path, they passed along it in single file for some distance southward. There were prints of Orc feet in the earth but no sign of any enemy. After a time, Haldir turned aside into the trees and halted on the bank of the river.

Boromir gazed at the steep banks and the rushing, eddying water of the river and wondered how they would cross. He glanced at Haldir, and was surprised to see the Elf looking at him, as if guessing the question that was in Boromir's mind. Haldir smiled faintly, and turning to the Company, gestured towards the opposite bank.

"There is one of my people yonder across the stream," he said, "though you may not see him."

Haldir gave a low whistling call like that of a bird, and a grey-clad Elf appeared out of a thicket of trees upon the opposite bank. Boromir watched curiously as Haldir hefted a coil of grey rope in his hand, then cast it out over the stream. The Elf on the other side caught it neatly and bound the end about a tree near the bank.

"The Silverlode is already a strong stream here," said Haldir, "and it runs both swift and deep; and it is very cold. We do not set foot in it so far north, unless we must. But in these days of watchfulness we do not make bridges. This is how we cross! Follow me!"

He made his end of the rope fast about another tree, and then ran lightly along it, over the river and back again, as if he were on a road.

"I can walk this path," said Legolas; "but the others have not this skill. Must they swim?"

"No!" said Haldir. "We have two more ropes. We will fasten them above the other, one shoulder-high, and another half-high, and holding these the strangers should be able to cross with care."

Boromir was silently grateful to Legolas for expressing the misgiving that had no doubt been in all their minds. The thought of crossing on such a slender bridge with no other support was little to Boromir's liking, but he knew he could manage it, with a rope to hand as well as under his foot. The hobbits were not so certain, however; he could hear Sam mumbling fearfully at the prospect of the crossing.

When all was made ready, the Company passed over the rope bridge, some cautiously and slowly, others with greater ease. Boromir was pleased to see Pippin walk forward with quick confidence, holding on with only one hand.

Boromir waited until the others had crossed before he set foot on the slender bridge. He tested the spring of the rope gingerly with his foot; he had not liked how the rope had sagged when Aragorn had crossed, and his doubt had increased when it had stretched even more under Gimli's weight.

"Do not fear," said one of the Elves who waited with him. "The rope will bear your weight."

"I do not fear the crossing!" replied Boromir shortly. "Though I do doubt your rope, for I am no lightweight and my gear is heavy. You say this rope will bear my weight -- I say, perhaps! But it remains to be seen if it will bear me up out of the cold river to avoid a dowsing! I have no desire to discover just how deep or how cold the stream runs, if your rope should fail the test."

"You are indeed a Man strong and tall," said the Elf, inclining his head respectfully. "Yet I am confident that you will not wet your feet as you cross; the rope will bear you up."

"Very well, then," replied Boromir with a resigned shrug.

He settled his shield more firmly upon his back, then turned and walked quickly across, holding on firmly with one hand as he held his sword close to his body with the other, to keep if from interfering with his passage. Though the rope stretched and sagged down almost to the water at midpoint, he did not hesitate or look down at the water.

I, too, can walk this path, he thought to himself. And thankful I am that the Elf was right and I have gained the opposite bank without a wetting. But it was a near thing, for all his assurances!

As Boromir stepped onto the eastern bank and released the rope, Pippin ran to him, a happy smile upon his face.

"Boromir!" he cried. "I thought for sure you'd be in the river, that rope stretched down so far!"

"I wondered myself for a time, little one!" Boromir chuckled. "It would have been a sad thing to have ended up floundering in the cold water -- a sore wound to my pride. But the rope did not fail me in spite of my misgivings, and we are now all dry on the other side. Safe, too, let us hope."

He laid a hand on Pippin's shoulder and smiled down at him.

"You did well in your own crossing," he said. "Will you walk with me now as we continue our journey, and tell me how such a young hobbit became so sure-footed?"

Pippin laughed.

"With pleasure, Boromir! As for being sure-footed, I've had lots of practice..."