Boromir stood gazing out across the lake, watching the billowing mists rise high into the air, fed by the torrent of water flowing over the Falls. The opposite shore was shrouded in cloud. Behind him the others talked quietly.
"Instead of just sitting here waiting," grumbled Gimli, "why don't we see what kind of plan we can devise for getting into Mordor? It would pass the time, and we might even strike upon a useful idea!"
"I agree," said Legolas. "While we are together, we should plan as much as we are able. Once we separate, there will be no more opportunity to deliberate amongst ourselves."
"I have thought of little else since Gandalf was lost to us," sighed Aragorn. "I knew that one day we would have to decide how to approach Mordor and gain the slopes of Mount Doom. Alas, I feel I have little to offer. I am familiar with the lands that surround Mordor, but even so, I can think of no way to enter that land unobserved -- particularly now that the Enemy is gathering his forces around him."
"What of Boromir?" Gimli pressed. "Surely he knows something of those lands. He lives on Mordor's doorstep, after all! What say you, Boromir? Any thoughts on how to get into Mordor?"
Boromir smiled to himself. The Dwarf was impatient, but as usual, his eagerness for action pressed them forward in a way that kept despair at bay. Rather than allowing them to sit glumly, focusing only upon the loss of Frodo as Ringbearer and the possible doom of the Quest, Gimli was forcing them to keep thinking in such a way that failure seemed out of the question. It was simply a matter of coming up with the right plan....
A thought occurred to him, and Boromir's face brightened at the possibilities.
"There, you see?" Gimli exclaimed triumphantly. "He's smiling. That means he knows something. See? I was right in thinking Boromir would know of a plan. Speak, man! Tell us about it!"
"As it happens, I do have a suggestion or two that might be worth considering," Boromir said, sitting down next to Aragorn. "But before I begin, I want to be certain you all know how sorry I am for the harm I have done to Frodo and to our Fellowship..."
"Enough of that, lad!" Gimil cut him off. "You already said as much earlier, there's no need to go over it again! Besides, Frodo told us not to blame you -- so we won't!"
"When... when did he say that?" Boromir stammered.
"'Twas after we came in response to the horn call, and found Aragorn there with Frodo and Sam. You were off fetching his pack and water."
"Gimli speaks the truth," replied Legolas. "Frodo spoke very highly of you and begged us not to fault you."
"Sam also put in a good word for you," Aragorn affirmed. "You are indeed forgiven, Boromir, so let it go. I shall follow my own advice. I, too, have been guilty of looking too much behind me at my past actions and failures. Let us look forward now to the matters at hand and not allow the past to hinder our decisions."
Boromir heaved a huge sigh and let it out slowly.
"Very well!" he exclaimed, and smiled as he said it. "I do not have a plan, but I do have a few observations to share about Mordor, and I have thought of several possibilities that might prove useful. Aragorn is right; the fact that the Dark Lord is gathering his allies for battle makes any attempt to enter that land even more impossible than it already seemed. There will be a constant movement of troops to contend with and that will make it difficult to approach unobserved, even if Mordor's allies are not on their guard, lax and confident in the overpowering strength of their dark Master."
"You make it sound like there's no way!" Gimli growled. "What of these possibilities you spoke of?"
"Gondor has a secret outpost in Ithilien, nigh to the northern border of the Black Land. My brother is captain there, and leads a force of Rangers who harry the Enemy and keep track of troop movements. He who is chosen as Ringbearer and any who might accompany him will find help there, as well as the most recent news of Mordor. It will be vital to the safety of the Quest to have a place to regroup and gather news before attempting an entrance into Mordor. As for finding a way into the land itself, there might actually be a way. It will not be easy, but with strength and the will to succeed it might be doable."
"Go on!" urged Aragorn, his interest piqued.
"My first thought was of another secret outpost, located further south. The outpost is in a system of caves tunneling into the mountains that border the Black Land. It is no longer in service, due to a tragedy that took place there. During the time Gondorian Rangers were garrisoned there, it would seem that a cave in occurred, and an opening through the mountains was revealed which allowed a cave troll of Mordor entrance from the other side. The troll attacked the outpost at night, taking the garrison by surprise. All the men were slain. When we heard no word from the outpost for some time, I came with my company to investigate. We discovered the cave troll was still in residence there, so we fought and killed it. Afterwards, the passage through the mountains was sealed, as was the entrance to the outpost, in order to prevent any further passage on the part of the enemy."
Gimli sighed loudly. "I'd like to hear about that battle with the cave troll some day. I'm sure there's quite a tale to be told there! But back to the matter at hand. Are you saying this passage is a way into Mordor? Would it do for our needs?"
"That was my thought, at first," Boromir replied, but he was shaking his head. "But even as I spoke of it now to you, I realized it will not do as an option. The outpost of Fennas Haradren would be a journey of many days, for it is far to the south. Once there, it would be a major undertaking to unblock both the door to the outpost and the passageway through the mountains. It would be a lengthy and difficult task even for a large company, let alone a small group of individuals."
Gimli looked crestfallen. "So much for that possibility," he muttered.
Aragorn, who was watching Boromir's face closely, held up his hand to stay Gimil's protest. "Boromir has another suggestion, if I am not mistaken."
Boromir nodded. "I do. There is a way into Mordor that is possibly accessible, but the path can only be scaled by the strong and stouthearted -- a pass over the Mountains of Shadow. I discovered it in my youth and climbed the rugged crags far enough up and in to realize it might be a viable way into Mordor if the need ever arose. I did not consider it or mention it previously to the Fellowship when we were discussing our journey in Rivendell, because no hobbit could pass there; it is far too steep. But if another is the Ringbearer, then perhaps..."
"How far is this mountain pass you speak of?" asked Aragorn. "It sounds as if it might indeed be a viable option."
"It is also somewhat far, but closer than the southern outpost," Boromir answered. "The pass is located roughly opposite that part of Ithilien known as Emyn Arnen, where the Great River begins its bend westward toward the Sea."
Aragorn looked thoughtful. "I know the area of which you speak. You may be right! The heights of Ephel Dúath are lower there..."
Before Aragorn could complete his thought, he was interrupted by the arrival of Sam. The look on Sam's face was gravely solemn.
"Frodo is calling for you all," he announced. "He has made his decision."