After leaving Rivendell, the Company turned south and followed the line of the foothills of the Misty Mountains. At first, they passed through a green land of grassy slopes and evergreens, but gradually the terrain became barren, stonier, and more desolate, and the going was difficult. In spite of this, they made good speed, as both Gandalf and Aragorn knew all the paths in this lonely country, and they chose the best path for small feet. The weather was colder than the temperate land of Rivendell, and the wind cut deeply when they walked on the heights. Though Boromir was grateful for his fur-cloak, he relished the biting wind. It reminded him of the cool air of the White Mountains of his homeland.
They intended to hold this course west of the Mountains for many miles and days. At some point, they would have to turn east; though there had been much discussion about the way they should take, Gandalf was as yet undecided.
Boromir held his peace for the time being; he knew it was unwise to push Gandalf, but he was hopeful that they would take the quickest route possible to reach Minas Tirith, for the safety of the Fellowship and of the Ringbearer, and for the comfort of his people.
Merry and Pippin often walked with Boromir. They had to run sometimes to keep up with his long strides, and he tried to adjust accordingly when they were nearby. They had an endless list of questions which they were eager to discuss with him. The majority of their queries seemed to have something to do with fighting and battle and swordsmanship; he made a mental note to give these two a few lessons when he could. They would likely see fighting at some point during this quest, and he wanted to see them ready and able to defend themselves.
They had been a fortnight on their way, passing through the land of Hollin, when they came to a high and tumbled ridge that crossed their path. They camped among the rocks and shrubs on a high slope of the ridge. Gandalf had decided he needed some time to contemplate their route after this point.
"So, my hobbits," said Boromir, after he had partaken of the meal that Sam had prepared. "Who will be first for a lesson in swordsmanship?"
"Not me," stated Sam, "I'm still eatin'."
"Frodo? Merry and Pippin?"
"I'll just watch this time," said Frodo, shaking his head.
"We're game," said Merry, "right, Pippin?"
"This should be good!" exclaimed Aragorn from the rock where he sat, puffing on his pipe.
Sam turned back to the fire to get another helping as Frodo settled himself on a nearby boulder. Merry and Pippin got out their swords and stood ready, waiting for instructions.
"Right," began Boromir. "Do you remember what I told you about the different parrying positions? Tell me then, what are the first five?"
Pippin thought for a moment.
"Parry one guards the left side of the face and parry two is low, knuckles to the outside, sword point low."
"Parry three defends a horizontal strike to the torso, parry four protects the chest from a thrust or cut."
"Very good!" exclaimed Boromir, pleased. "And parry five?"
The two hobbits looked at him with blank faces.
"Come now, have we not been practicing for days? Parry five is the position that covers the head from a vertical attack."
"Oh, right!" said Pippin. "I was just going to say that."
"Of course you were! All right, then," said Boromir, stepping back and holding up his own sword, "I will call out the moves and then I will attack, and you respond with the proper defensive position. We will concentrate on positions one, two and five. Are you ready?"
"Ready!" cried Pippin.
"Ready!" cried Merry, around a mouthful of something.
Boromir gave Merry an exasperated look.
"Do you expect to be able to defend yourself properly with an apple in one hand?" he asked impatiently.
"Oh, sorry, half a moment!"
Merry took a few quick bites and tossed the apple to Aragorn, as Boromir began the lesson.
"Two, one, five!" called Boromir. Pippin deflected each thrust with the appropriate parry. "Good! Very good!"
Boromir swung his sword in his hand, and then went at it again with Pippin. Aragorn was watching carefully and threw out advice at intervals.
"Move your feet!" he said to Pippin.
"That's good, Pippin," exclaimed Merry, still chewing his bite of apple.
"Thanks!" replied Pippin, proud of his successful defense.
Boromir turned to Merry, who quickly put up his sword.
"Faster!" he instructed, as Merry parried his blows. "Faster!"
Frodo and Sam were enjoying the show, Frodo in particular. He smiled and laughed at the swordplay as Boromir continued to shout instructions, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. Merry and Pippin took turns defending against his strikes. Boromir was pleased at their progress. They were working hard and doing a good job of parrying his blows. Out of the corner of his eye, Boromir could see that Legolas, ever watchful with his long sight, was paying close attention to something on the southern horizon.
"Come on!" Boromir continued. "Good!"
Suddenly Pippin cried out and dropped his sword. Boromir stepped back; what had happened? Had he cut Pippin? No, impossible! He had tried to be so careful with them. His last blow must have jarred Pippin's hand, he couldn't have cut him. He started forward in consternation as he saw Pippin shaking his hand in pain.
"Sorry!" he cried, as he approached.
Pippin grimaced and kicked out, his foot meeting Boromir's shin solidly. Boromir, surprised at how much it hurt to be kicked by a shoeless foot, doubled over, but his knees suddenly buckled as Merry whacked at the back of his legs with the flat of his sword. He sat down hard on the ground as Pippin grappled with him.
"Get him! Merry!" called out Pippin, as Merry leaped into the fray.
They wrestled Boromir to the ground, a task made all the easier because he was laughing too hard to defend himself. Aragorn grinned with amusement at the sight of the tall warrior brought down by two hobbits. Cries of "For the Shire!" and "Hold him, hold him down!" and "He's got my arm!" rang out and echoed on the mountainside. Boromir finally managed to get a firm hold on each of the two hobbits and scramble to his feet.
He was in time to see that the others were staring southwards at something in the sky, close to the horizon.
"What's that?" asked Sam, looking worried.
"It's nothing," answered Gimli confidently, "just a wisp of cloud."
Boromir was not so sure. He straightened and gently pushed the hobbits to one side as he walked forward to Aragorn's side.
"It's moving fast," Boromir observed. "Against the wind!"
"Crebain from Dunland!" Legolas shouted suddenly, and leaped down from the rock where he had been gazing intently into the sky.
Boromir and Aragorn were momentarily frozen in place, but Aragorn quickly recovered.
"Hide!" he shouted. "Frodo!"
"Merry!" called out Boromir, concerned for his little friends. "Pippin!"
Aragorn called out to Sam and Frodo to take cover. They all immediately scrambled this way and that, putting out the fire, grabbing cloaks and packs, and taking cover under rock outcroppings or in the bushes. Boromir scooped up his sword and a blanket and dived into a dense thicket, just before a flock of large black crow-like birds flew overhead.
The crebain swooped down low over the hillside as if they were searching for something or someone. From his hiding place, Boromir looked out on the dense flock of birds, wheeling and calling to one another, casting a dark shadow on the ground below. As suddenly as they had come, they flew up high into the sky, and flew off again south.
The Company slowly crawled out into the open and stood gazing southward at the retreating black cloud. Gandalf struck his staff against the ground in irritation.
"Spies of Saruman!" he snapped. "The passage south is being watched! We cannot go that way, it is too dangerous. We must instead brave the pass of Caradhras!"
Boromir followed Gandalf's pointing finger with his eyes. Off in the distance to the East a snow-covered peak rose up sharply. Born and raised near mountains though he was, Boromir regarded the peak with dismay. He wondered how the hobbits would manage it. He looked down at Merry and Pippin, Frodo and Sam, and saw that they were wondering the same thing.
"Do not fear!" he said to the hobbits, in an attempt to encourage them. "Gandalf will not lead us astray, and I have often travelled in the snowy mountains of my country. I will help you as I can."
The hobbits looked only slightly comforted.
"Gather your things," said Gandalf. "We must make haste. It will be a march of several days to reach the pass."