Mirkwood's Blade - Chapter Thirteen - The Mountain and the Mines

Snow blew ferociously into Novarwen's eyes. She squeezed them as tightly shut as she dared and walked on, trying to keep her balance in the winds on Caradhras. She saw the rest of the Fellowship casting envious glances at her and Legolas - as Elves, they could walk on top of the snow rather than having to forge their way through it. You may have to walk through the snow, Novarwen thought, but at least it holds you down from the wind.

Her coat whipped aside, and some snow blew onto her side. She yelped, and Legolas gripped her arm. "Shh!" he yelled at her. Even though he spoke at the top of his voice, Novarwen could barely hear him. Legolas cocked his head and listened, then called out, "There is a fell voice on the air!" Novarwen listened; she could hear it too, chanting words in a harsh voice.

"It's Saruman!" Gandalf cried as snow began to fall from the mountain's peak. Novarwen's heartbeat began to speed up. Saruman the White, known to the Elves as Curunir, was the most powerful wizard in Middle-earth. She did not like the idea of him working against them at all.

Aragorn's voice called her back to the harsh reality of their danger. "He's trying to bring down the mountain! Gandalf, we must go back!" Novarwen added her voice to his, yelling over the rush of wind, "We'll only be killed if we stay here!"

"No!" Gandalf called back. He stepped forward to the edge of the mountain and began shouting words into the snow and the wind. Novarwen watched him, her heart in her throat. Their lives depended now on this stooped, gray-clad figure yelling with all his might against an unseen and more powerful enemy. Are a few words all that stand between me and dying? Novarwen wondered, frightened. Normally an Elf did not have to think of death, but normally, Elves were not caught by Curunir on Caradhras.

Lightning flashed over her head. Novarwen looked up in time to see a hunk of snow from the very peak of Caradhras come crashing down on top of her. She yelled for everyone to get back, then grabbed the nearest hand - it happened to be Legolas' - and threw herself against the side of the mountain in an attempt to avoid the cataract of snow pouring down on them all.

It did not work. The snow caught her and forced her below it. Even with her extra layers of clothing, Novarwen was freezing. Her lungs were burning for air, but the snow piled more heavily on top of her. She kicked frantically at it. I promised Theryn that I wouldn't die, she thought grimly, and I intend to keep that promise. She tucked herself into a ball as best she could, then gritted her teeth and shoved herself upward through the snow, using her legs like a spring.

Her head burst out of the snow, and Novarwen inhaled a huge breath of air. She sat a little while, catching her breath. Legolas' hand was still held in hers. She gripped it tightly and pulled. Her brother popped up out of the snow, and Novarwen heaved a sigh of relief that he was safe. Around them, other members of the Fellowship were extracting themselves from the grip of the snow. Novarwen shook the snow out of her blond hair and set about pulling her legs free. By the time she was back on her feet, a debate was going on about what to do. Boromir was suggesting that they go to the Gap of Rohan or to Minas Tirith. One thing's for certain, Novarwen thought. I'm not going to any city of yours until the Ring is destroyed. I'm not going to run the chance that you'll take it. Aragorn was disagreeing with Boromir. Good, then I don't have to do it, Novarwen thought. Gimli, of course, had to put in a word for his Dwarvish mines.

Gandalf looked at Frodo, holding his cloak at his neck, snow coating the hood. "Let the Ringbearer decide," the wizard said.

Frodo looked absolutely terrified at having to make the decision. Novarwen was trying desperately to think of another alternative when he made up his mind. "We will go through the mines," he said.

Oh, no, Novarwen thought. Anything but the mines. That Dwarf will go on forever about how wonderful and magnificent they are. I don't know what they see in holes underground, but they see something!

"So be it," replied Gandalf, and that was decided.


"I really don't know what Dwarves see in mines," Novarwen whispered to Legolas as they skirted a murky pool underground. "They're dark, they're gloomy -"

"Rather like Mirkwood, aren't they?" Legolas interrupted.

"No! Mirkwood was grand and glorious once -"

"As were the mines of Moria," her brother cut in again. "I know Elves and Dwarves don't like each other - I can hardly believe I'm saying this - but don't be so ready to believe everything you hear about people." He turned away and walked on.

Well, that was unexpected! Novarwen thought, annoyed. She shook her head to get rid of Legolas' words, but they crept back in, nagging at her mind. After all, you believed what they said about Theryn, even though you knew he'd never have left you. Maybe Legolas has a point.

I'll think about it, she compromised with her conscience. Right now, there were other things to think about, such as the enormous doors, their inscription lit by moonlight. Gandalf read it aloud, his staff tapping each Elvish word as he spoke it. " `The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Speak, friend, and enter.' "

"What do you suppose that means?" Merry asked.

"It's quite simple," Gandalf replied. "If you are a friend, you speak the password, and the doors will open." He stepped back and cried some words in a loud voice. Novarwen waited for something to happen.

Nothing did. The doors remained tightly shut.

Gandalf's eyebrows shot up into his forehead, and he tried again, with different words. And again. And again. And again.

Novarwen sat down on a rock beside the water. She propped her head up on her hand and watched Gandalf trying various spells and passwords to open the door, none of which were working. Boromir came to sit beside her, and Novarwen automatically scooted over, away from him. The memory of how he had acted at the Council was still fresh, and another memory shot into her mind as he sat down...

She was tired, but she could hardly lie down and rest in the snow on Caradhras. Besides, the others were still going strong, and she was a Captain of the Taurroch of Mirkwood. She of all people should keep going.

In front of her, Frodo caught his foot on a rock and tumbled to the snowy ground. She and Aragorn were there in an instant, helping Frodo to his feet. The moment the hobbit was standing, he felt at his neck for the Ring, which he had taken to wearing on a chain around his neck. His face went white, and Novarwen bit back a gasp as she realized that the Ring was gone. She and Frodo began casting about for it, when Aragorn called out a name that froze Novarwen's blood. "Boromir."

She looked up, and there was the Steward's son, the chain of the Ring in his hand, the gold circle dangling in front of his face, dancing in the sunlight... "Stop that!" she growled furiously at it under her breath. "Don't ever try that with me again!"

Boromir was murmuring under his breath. Novarwen couldn't hear what he said, but the mesmerized look on his face sent shivers down her back. "Boromir!" Aragorn said again, more sharply.

Boromir looked up. "Give the Ring to Frodo," Aragorn ordered, his voice almost shaky. Was he as scared as she was about Boromir holding the Ring? Novarwen wondered.

Shaking his head, moving slowly, Boromir came toward Frodo. He was still holding the Ring dangling from its chain. Frodo reached out and pulled it from the Man's hand. Boromir laughed, "As you wish. I care not." He tousled Frodo's hair and walked on. Was she the only one who had seen Aragorn's hand release his sword hilt - after Boromir had given Frodo the Ring?

"Novarwen?" Boromir's voice jolted her back to the present. She looked up at him, her face still bearing the fright of her memory, and his eyes softened. She quickly looked away again, her legs shaking. She had seen that look in other people's eyes. It was in Arwen's when she had spoken of Aragorn. No, she thought frantically. No, I don't want this to happen! How could he be in love with her? She detested the very sight of him. "Novarwen, what's wrong?" He put his hand over hers where it lay on the rock.

She jerked her hand away. "Nothing," she replied, avoiding his eyes. She couldn't bear to tell him that she could never in all the millennia she would live return his feelings. But it's his own stupid fault if he's fallen in love with me! she cried silently. He saw Theryn with me the day we left Rivendell, he knows I'm pledged. But guilty feelings crept up in her, and would not go away. Somehow, something she had done had made Boromir fall in love with her, and she wished with all her heart that it had never happened.

Then a clear voice broke through her befuddled mind. "It's a riddle." Frodo was standing before the Doors of Durin, his eyes shining with sudden understanding. " `Speak friend, and enter.' Gandalf" - he turned to the seated wizard sitting by the doors - "what's the Elvish word for friend?"

Novarwen leaped to her feet, wondering why she hadn't thought of that before, as Gandalf said, "Mellon." Immediately the Doors of Durin began to creak open. Novarwen grabbed her pack and gave Frodo a pat on the back as she followed him into Moria. He turned and smiled at her.

Gimli immediately began extolling the praises of Dwarvish feasts and hospitality. "Soon, Master Elf," he said to Legolas as loudly as he could, "you shall enjoy the fabled hospitality of the Dwarves! Roaring fires, red meat off the bone..." Novarwen's first reaction was to roll her eyes and ignore him, but Legolas' words flew back into her mind, and she allowed herself to admit that Gimli was right, a fire and roasted meat would be just the thing to get her body working again. Food had been scanty for a while, and she even missed the maggoty, unbreakable hardtack of the Taurroch.

Her hopes were shattered when Boromir cut into Gimli's monologue, saying, "This is no mine; it's a tomb!"

Novarwen jumped and looked around. The light on Gandalf's staff swept the chamber they were in to reveal myriad Dwarf skeletons. Once she had mastered her horror enough to approach the cobwebby bodies, she knelt by one and pulled an arrow from where it stuck in the skeleton's armor. One glance was enough. "Goblins!" she cried, pulling out an arrow of her own and fixing it to her bow.

"Make for the Gap of Rohan," came Boromir's low, quiet voice. "We should never have come here." For once, Novarwen agreed with the Man. She began to back out of the mines, but a scream made her stop dead in her tracks. She whirled around and voiced a cry of her own as she saw a tentacle-like thing lash around Frodo's ankle and drag him into the pool. She raced toward it and loosed the arrow she had fitted to her bow. It struck the tentacle squarely. Then she dropped the bow as another tentacle whipped out and twined itself around her waist.

Novarwen yelled as the creature in the pool dragged her toward the dark water. She saw Legolas whirl around at her cry, and she heard him shout, "Novarwen!" before the tentacle threw her into the air. Her head whirled, and she would have thrown up if her stomach hadn't been empty. Frodo, also being tossed about in midair, was screaming and white-faced, struggling against the tentacle that held him. Then she remembered - her knives! Her long knives! She still had them, they were sheathed securely at her waist. If the tentacle's flailing around hadn't dislodged the sheaths, she had some hope left.

Novarwen clung to the tentacle with one hand and felt at her waist with the other. One knife was gone, lost in the pool, but the other was pinioned to her side by the tentacle. She wrenched it free and was pulling back her hand to stab it when the monster rose out of the water. It looked like a spider and a squid all in one. Novarwen almost dropped the knife in fright.

Then an arrow whipped by her head, and she remembered to hold on to her knife. She pulled her hand back again and stabbed the tentacle. The monster roared in pain, and Novarwen stabbed it again and again, hoping it would let her go.

Suddenly the tentacle went slack, and she tumbled from the air to the rocky ground of the pool, skinning her knees at the impact. The tentacle that held her had been severed through, and Boromir, his sword black with the monster's blood, offered her a hand and pulled her to her feet. Novarwen flashed him a quick smile of gratitude and ran to where she had dropped her bow. She fitted another arrow to it, took aim, and fired. Her missile struck the thing in one of its eyes, and Aragorn took advantage of the monster's howl of pain to sever the tentacle clutching Frodo, catch the Ringbearer as he fell, and race back to the ground. The others followed his lead, retreating before the anger of the injured monster in the pool. Its tentacles lashed out at them and tore rocks loose from the walls. Novarwen, feeling the ground quiver as a boulder struck it just behind her, threw herself headlong into the dark passageway to the mines, and a shower of boulders, rocks, and dust accompanied the rest of the Fellowship as they followed her into the mines. The opening made by the Doors of Durin was blocked, and Novarwen realized with a sinking feeling that they would have to go through Moria to get to the other side - they could not go back.

"We now have but one choice," came Gandalf's voice from somewhere in the dark. His staff's light blinked into life, and Novarwen got to her feet and followed it eagerly. "We must make our way through the long dark of Moria." He began to lead the others into the mines. "Let us hope that our presence may go unnoticed."

Author's Note - Just so you know, I am not a Boromir hater! That's Novarwen's opinion of him, not mine.

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