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Section LVII-Caradhras

Cold... so cold... admittedly, not the same cold I felt in my shoulder after the Witch King... I shiver. This is cold from the outside in; that was cold from the inside out. I think I will never complain of another Shire winter, if ever I may return there to enjoy one.

We move ever onward, the snow ever deepening. I misstep and tumble down the mountainside, stopped by Aragorn who helps me to my feet again. Odd, I know instantly It is gone from round my neck, but I feel for It anyway. My eyes frantically search my bumbling path. Just as I spy my... the Ring, Boromir reaches for It, lifting It by Its chain.

His soft spoken words lost to me, as my mind fills with racing thoughts: he has It, what will he do with It, give It to me, don't touch It... I am able to voice nothing. I tense in an effort not to tremble, for fear Aragorn will feel it, as his hand rests on my shoulder.

Is the Ring whispering to Boromir? Does he hear it speak, as I have? Momentarily I remember, the Ring has a will of Its own. Aragorn's voice breaks the spell.

"... give the Ring to Frodo."

Boromir holds It out to me; it is all I can do not to snatch It from his grasp, though I fear I was not entirely successful. He ruffles my hair; I feel hurt in some way. No matter.

We forge on through the deepening snow. Storm clouds gather, boding not but ill for our journey. It is almost as though the mountain pits itself against us. We struggle forward; it pushes us back.

The winds howl high and cold, the chill cutting through our clothes. At Boromir's behest, a fire is started to warm us, but I cannot feel its warmth.

Then the battle of wills continues. I fear the mountain's is stronger, more powerful. Gandalf leads the way followed by Boromir carrying Merry and Pippin, then Aragorn carrying Sam and myself. Gimli leads Bill. Legolas, instead of slogging through the snow bank, as we must, walks atop it with ease. Oh, to be an Elf.

Legolas senses a difference in the storm. Gandalf declares it the work of Saruman. How does one fight such enemies as these? Gandalf stands forth to offer a counter spell.

A loud crack echoes across the cliff walls. I glance up to see snow collapsing over us. Instantly, Aragorn endeavors to take the brunt of it protecting Sam and I with his own body as much as he is able. It is cold and then dark and then strangely warm, and then I am pulled into the cold again as the snow covering is pushed from me. Breathe! Icy air painfully fills my lungs. I gasp for another harsh breath and then another.

I am barely aware of the ensuing debate. Which way to go? I do not care, provided it is forward, so to speak. I will not give up and return to Rivendell.

Gandalf declares the Ring-bearer must decide. Me? What wisdom is mine for such a decision? I find myself glancing at Sam, for what? An answer? Support? Something to help me make this awful decision. None of the options seem favorable. Gandalf speaks my name; I realize I cannot remain undecided, the Mines of Moria, the Gap of Rohan, or struggling forward. Forward grows impossible. As Aragorn states, the Gap of Rohan runs too close to Isengard. Though I am choosing the way through Moria, I wonder at the choice, and wish it not mine to make. But then, even if it was Gandalf's or Aragorn's, I believe I would still feel the weight of it. Though I know this Quest was brought about by the need to destroy the Ring, I still feel the members of the Fellowship are present for me not the Ring. The responsibility is mine. Perhaps this is in part because, at the council, they pledged themselves to help me. Whatever decision is made, good or ill, it is to help me. Lord Elrond refused to require bond or oath, but I felt then, as now, none was needed, for I know each member of the Fellowship would sooner break than sully the honor they hold dearer than life.

The warmth of Bag End is but a mere whisper of a memory.