(PLEASE NOTE: This story is not about the "movie avalanche" created by Saruman, but one of those unexpected cascades of snow that periodically occurs on high mountains, especially Caradhras the Cruel.)

This is a different type of story for me, so please let me know if I should continue. (If so, future chapters will definitely be longer than this one!)

DISCLAIMER: Of course. The characters don't belong to me, I just get to think about them day and night.



Chapter 1 --- To the Edge

The Company had been climbing for three days, three weary days along what Gandalf had the nerve to call a path, the air more bitter cold each day they marched. The hobbits were so tired of pulling their legs out of the snow and struggling on, and up, that they had ceased to sing, or joke, or even speak much. There was just climbing, and being cold, and wishing they would reach the top so they could start down.

In the late afternoon of the third day Aragorn called a halt at a fairly wide ledge, partially protected by an overhang of rock. The ledge was wide enough so even Bill could move about somewhat, and was blessedly free of snow.

Frodo dropped his pack where he stood and closed his eyes for a moment, bright lights sparkling and dancing inside his eyelids after so many hours of staring down at sun-lit snow and ice. He pulled his cloak tighter about him, grateful for the hundredth time for the warm jackets and cloaks Elrond had provided each of them. He hadn't known it was possible to be this tired and this cold. Even with the warm garments, however, he and Pippin seemed to be suffering more from the cold than any of the others.

Before helping the others unpack and begin to prepare supper (another night without a fire, Frodo thought with a sigh), he walked some distance away from the sheltered part of the ledge and looked down. Below them the side of the mountain sloped down for maybe 30 feet, ending abruptly in a clifftop strewn with boulders and scraggly trees poking out above the snow. Just beyond the largest boulder was a sheer drop, how far down Frodo didn't even want to think about. He pulled his eyes away from the fairly frightening sight below him to look up, then further up.

We're much more than halfway, he mused. Another couple of days.. He turned to smile at Pippin, who had walked over to join him at the edge.

"We should help," murmured Pippin, "But I'm so tired I can hardly move."

"Me too," sighed Frodo. "Come on, though, we really should.." He frowned as his ears caught a strange, faint rumbling sound. Legolas had also frozen in place, as had the other hobbits. All listened intently.

"What do you hear?" asked Aragorn.

"It's like a roaring," said Sam. He looked around, alarmed. "It's getting closer."

At that moment Aragorn heard it too, and he and Boromir exchanged a swift look and instinctively looked up. Unfortunately, from where they stood under the overhanging rock their vision was blocked from any view of the top of the mountain.

"Frodo, Pippin, come back!" yelled Boromir. "Now!" He started toward them in a panic.

Frodo and Pippin only had time to turn and face Boromir before they were hit by a solid mass of snow from above. They were both pushed violently backwards off the ledge and found themselves tumbling down, over and over, engulfed in snow. It had happened so fast that Frodo only had time to realize that he and Pippin were falling to their deaths before everything went black.

An instant before the avalanche hit the ledge, Aragorn had grabbed Sam and Merry, thrusting the hobbits between Bill and the side of the cliff. Boromir had made it to within a few feet of Pippin when at the last second he had to throw himself to the side to avoid being swept away by the wall of snow thundering past. As the cascade slowed and then halted, he shakily rose to his feet, staring in disbelief at the empty ledge where Frodo and Pippin had been standing only moments before.

The silence was almost as deafening as the roaring had been. Sam raised his head and looked around frantically for Frodo, then leaped to his feet as he heard Boromir calling.

"Frodo! Pippin! Can you hear me?"

"Boromir," Aragorn came swiftly to his side. "Yelling might bring down more snow." He and Boromir made their way through the fresh piles of snow to the very edge and looked down in dismay. They saw nothing but snow, a fresh, white expanse all the way down the slope, punctuated only by the tops of the largest boulders and the highest trees at the edge of the cliff. Frodo and Pippin were nowhere to be seen.

Suddenly Sam and Merry raced up, and the Men had to nearly snatch the hobbits out of mid-air to keep them from throwing themselves down the slope.

"Strider," gasped Merry, "Where are they?"

Sam felt panic swelling within him, and he fell to his knees, his legs suddenly unable to hold him up. It couldn't be, no. No no no no.... "Frodo!" he screamed.

There was no answer.

** TBC **