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Section LVI-Fencing Lesson

Aragorn worries over the quiet. Far too much of it, he says. At the moment, there is nothing for it but to continue.

Another night march halts, only this time with plans to stay, for a day or two at least. We'll sleep the day away and then indulge in a hot meal, risking a little fire and then sleep a bit more. The thought of not moving on tonight drags from me a deep sigh of relief, a chance to rest and perhaps catch up on a bit of real sleep. I'm not yet accustomed to sleeping through the day and am only able to do so now because of exhaustion. Will I ever become used to it?

The opportunity of resting a little longer in this place seems to wipe away a bit of the weariness in all of us. Sam decided a bit of first breakfast was in order and asks if a small fire might be built. Wary, Gandalf and Aragorn agree, provided it be small and as smokeless as possible.

At Merry and Pippin's repeated requests, Boromir and Aragorn discussed from time to time the possibility of teaching we hobbits a bit of sword play so we might better defend ourselves. I fear Merry and Pippin do not take the lessons as seriously as Boromir or Aragorn would like.

Boromir started our lessons with various stances and parries without any contact. As we progressed he increased the difficulty. In our first bout with contact, he carefully pulled his blows, measuring our strength against his own so as to test us but not hurt us unduly. The aches I felt when first training finally subsided a few days ago.

Today, he declares it is time to demonstrate what we have learned thus far, with only his warning of which parry position to use. He offered to quickly put Sam and I through our paces, but Sam was tending the fire and breakfast and I myself feel too tired to move.

Merry and Pippin cheerfully volunteer. Boromir wonders aloud to Aragorn about how serious they are, what with Merry still working his way through an apple. Any rebuff he hoped to convey was of course completely lost on Merry who simply snatched a few more bites and then tossed the remaining bit of apple to Aragorn, who deftly caught it.

I take up a spot on an outcropping of rock to watch the fencing lesson. Pippin and Merry make a good show for themselves. Aragorn offers advice between puffs on his pipe.

Dear Sam brings me a bit of breakfast, and I find myself relaxing.

Somehow, shortly into the lesson, it appears Boromir has injured Pippin. My dear cousin dropped his sword and shakes his hand as though stung. Boromir is quick to apologize and see if he may be of some aid. Pippin swiftly retaliates, kicking Boromir in the shin. I suspect it surprised more than hurt him. I struggle to hide my smile, as Merry takes the flat of his sword and catches Boromir behind the knees causing him to topple. With battle cries, "For the Shire!" my cousins wrestle the unsuspecting Man on the ground. Boromir laughs in amusement, holding his own. Aragorn attempts to end the fray by pulling Merry and Pippin off only to find himself flat on his back as my cousins catch him about the knees.

I laugh in spite of myself. All too briefly, we are on a grand adventure, as I always dreamed, and I feel glad for the company. Just for a moment, the Ring seems forgotten, receding into my memory.

Unexpectedly, fears mount, as a black cloud approaches. The morning calm is shattered as Legolas cries the warning, "Crebain from Dunland!"

Aragorn commands me to hide. My heart races. We gather our packs and dive for cover as the screeching flock passes over head. How long we lay there I do not know. It felt like an age though I'm certain it was only moments.

My heart plummets as Gandalf announces the pass is being watched, and we must make haste pursuing the path over Caradhras.

The mountain towers over us, capped in snow.

I shiver from more than the cold.