The Keeper of Realities - How it all could have-- and does-- happen
Sometimes, when a very large number of people all want the same thing, (i.e. to go from Earth to Middle Earth) there is a portal opened between the two worlds, and some may pass. Whenever that happens, it is the duty of Qualara (Laurie) to take care of the illegal portal. But this time, something was different. You see, Laurie, too, had once been a Tolkien fan, Before, that is. So when the portal was open, she did not want to just shut it down.
Laurie felt it her duty to go in herself, and see the effect others coming over to Middle Earth would have on that world, and, more importantly, the quest. The Unstable was particularly persistent, this time, and it would be difficult to stop. In any case, at first glance, Magic, Time, and Space did not seem to be reacting too badly.
Frodo walked along slowly, fingering the Ring in his pocket. Though it had only become his a few days ago, he could not bear to be without it. The hobbit's thought's rested on his cousin (first and second cousin, once removed on each side) and he spoke aloud to himself: "Oh Bilbo, I wish I could have come with you. Some day, I will follow, and see the mountains. But I guess now is not my time."
Frodo stopped, listening. He might have imagined it, but there seemed to be someone watching him. For a moment, he even fancied seeing a pair of large, emerald green eyes. Too big for a hobbit's, but barely further from the ground than his own.
"Hello?" Frodo called out, "Merry, Pippin? This isn't one of your pranks, is it?"
"No, Mr Baggins." Frodo spun around at the sound of a soft voice. It was Sweet and melodious, reverberating around him hauntingly.
Before him stood a figure, perhaps that of a young 'woman', though it was difficult to tell. Though the light of day still shown clearly through the wood, she seemed to fade into the background. Her face was shrouded in the shadows of the trees.
"Who are you? Begging your paren, I mean no offence. But though I have seen many pass this way, they are seldom alone. Are you an elf?"
"Do you not know elves? I have seldom met one of my height."
"Sorry. I know it sounds rather queer, but I cannot seem to see you clearly. Yet you know my name!"
"Few see me at all. We have met once before."
"How could I not recall that! For even now, every word you speak seems to stay, echoing in my mind."
"Do you remember, not so long ago, after yours and Mr Bilbo Baggins's birthday, the young hobbit lass you did not quite recognize, met by chance on the road?"
"That was you?! But then you know of the--"
"Yes. But it is better not to speak of such things here."
"But why are you disguised, and why--" Frodo stopped, confused. It didn't seem right to be asking her all the questions. He just knew, somehow, by looking at her that she would not answer them. "I am sorry. But may I at least know your name? For you seem to know me quite well."
"You may call me . . . Laura. I am no enemy of yours. In fact, I know Gandalf, to an extent."
"No one knows him more than that, for he is close."
"Yes. In any case, I assisted him several years back. I come today as a friend." Laurie stepped out of the shadows, and for the first time, Frodo saw her clearly. "The time has not yet come for danger, but when it will, you may call on me for assistance."
"I dare say the only thing I need help with right now is the S.-B.s! Lobelia keeps coming around!" Frodo laughed. But no visible trace of emotion passed Laurie's face. He paused, looking at her for the first time.
She was taller than him, maybe four feet tall. But more than height, Laurie seemed to radiate a strange power about her. She's definitely the kind of person you don't want to deal with. Almost like Gandalf in that way, he thought.
Laurie was beautiful. With long, tied back, deep red hair, and a light (though not deathly) complexion. She was slender, almost willowy. But if so, the willow was like that of a leopard: liquid power and grace. She moved silently, cautiously on her lightly-clad feet. Her hands had long, strong fingers that were quick and precise.
But the thing that drew Frodo more than anything else was her eyes. They were great and large, more so than normal, and of an emerald green colour. (Frodo did not know it then, but they changed colour with her emotions. In fact, the only part of her face that showed she had feelings at all. When Frodo laughed, for example, she had a spark of royal purple in her eyes.)
Laurie's eyes, when he looked closely, seemed to swallow him in their great depths. But he could not read her save to know that he could not.
Suddenly, Frodo realized that he had been staring. "Sorry, I didn't mean to stare."
"It is all right. I am used to it by now."
"I am not the first?"
"Indeed no. I have come almost a curse to myself by appearance. Memorable, if you will."
"Beauty, a curse!"
"When one does not want to be noticed, yes. But I was made that way . . . never mind. You mentioned the Sackville-Bagginses are bothering you?"
"Yes." Frodo shook himself, forcing his eyes into a more normal look. "Is there anything you can do?"
"Well, yes, I believe so. If you will allow me to stay by your door, the next time they come, I will discourage them from returning too soon."
"That is never," Frodo replied, "but do not hurt them!"
"Indeed! I never would. I am a creature of empathy, and will hurt only those who are my enemies: those who relish pain and suffering." Laurie stepped to his side slightly, motioning with her hand. "Gentlehobbits first."
Drawing his eyes away once more, Frodo turned to lead her to Bag End.
"Would you like a cup of tea?" Frodo asked Laurie, juggling a hot pot between two oven mits.
"Yes, thank you," she replied. Normally, the Qua (Laurie, that is) would have been more cautious about the affirmation, but she knew of the hobbit, if nothing else, and felt a strange trust in him.
Funny, she thought, how a perfect memory and a love for the books can give you trust in someone you have never met (without a greater disguise) before. But she said nothing of her thought.
"Here," Frodo handed Laurie a steaming cup of sweet-smelling tea. "Have a seat." He motioned to one of the chair around the kitchen table. Laurie lowered herself with silent grace into one of them, sitting across from Frodo.
"Have you heard any news of Gandalf? I don't mean to pry, but he did take off very suddenly." Frodo asked, anxiously.
"Little more than you. He has ridden past Bree by now, but is not quite to Rivendell. Gandalf will return, he is in no imminent danger."
"Did he send you then, or are you here by chance."
"I do not know if Gandalf has knowledge of my presence, and I will stay only a short time. I am a traveler and a healer, and in the Shire, have little work."
"A healer and traveler did you say? You are right then. But at least you know much. What is happening in the outside world."
"At present? Not much different than it has. Though wait, Mr Baggins, and you may find things can change very quickly in Middle Earth." The sound of knocking interrupted her. "Ah, here is Lobelia now. Excuse me, please."
Laurie walked to the circular door, out of view of Frodo. But he heard the exchange.
"Hello, Mrs Sackville-Baggins. How are you this fine day?"
"I have come to see Frodo. Where is he? He can't hide any longer. Frodo?!"
"I am sorry, but Mr Baggins is indisposed right now." Laurie smiled ever so slightly, making Lobelia nervous. "And unfortunately, as his healer, I have given him orders to see no one."
"Oh!" Lobelia stepped outside as the door closed. She stared at the door for some time, as if it were an enemy. That lady-- she made Lobelia nervous somehow. And her face! It was as if she wasn't quite . . . hobbit! Well, it would be better to just leave Frodo alone for a while. Maybe he would see her when the healer was gone.
"That worked well," Frodo commented as Laurie came back. "But I don't know how. Most of the time nothing will stop her. Amazing."
"Thank you. Just remind her of me, and it may work again." Laurie took a long, studying look at his face until Frodo blushed. She memorized his face her memory (she never forgot what was necessary to remember,) then contented herself with listening to the goings-on of the Shire.
----------------------* * * ----------------------
Time passed, and Laurie stayed only a very few days (by hobbit standards) in Hobbiton. Around this world and the next, clocks kept ticking away virtual seconds. Those who were once young grew up, and the old died. But Frodo did not forget the strange appearance of Laurina.
It is true that he did not often think of her, and when he did, the hobbit could not draw her face into his mind, but still some short lessons learned and stories told stayed with him. As did the Ring.
After nearly two decades, Frodo Baggins approached the sober age of 50 (still looking as he had at 33) and Gandalf came back. Yet again, only the sound of the clock ticking could be heard, and with utmost care, and near silence, Frodo and Sam packed their bags.
But Laurie had not forgotten- indeed, she could not if it pleased her- and carefully watched and waited for her time to come.
Yet she was not idle. Laurina visited many worlds only some of which we can read about in "fictional" books. But her eye was set on Middle Earth. Frodo left Hobbiton.
Suddenly, Laurie jerked into alertness. There was evil near! She stood very still, quieting her breath until her sharp senses could distinguish the sudden surge of cruelty she had felt. But it was gone.
Laurina gazed out over the Harnen river on the skirts of Harondor Southern Gondor, from which she had just come. (What better to do than explore the land if you come early?) Laurie shook her head sadly. About 1000 miles to Rivendell.
It should take Frodo until 20th October to reach Rivendell. That was 17 days from now. She could travel quickly, extraordinarily so. Seventeen days. So be it, she thought, let us see if I am really in as good a shape as I think I am.
Frodo crawled to the edge of the road and watched the black rider, until he dwindled into the distance. He couldn't be quite sure, but it seemed to him that suddenly, before it passed out of view, the horse turned to the right and went into the trees.
On Frodo traveled, as did Laurina. This part of the story you know (For Mr Baggins) and I will not reiterate it. Laurie ran without obstacle- or indeed confrontation.
"Where is Mr Frodo?" Laurie asked of Elrond, who was standing near the borders of his land, gazing out North. He looked up in surprise at the small, slender figure standing next to him, looking up with large, emerald eyes and barely a speck of light green to betray her fatigue.
"Frodo Baggins? He has not come yet. I have sent elves out to search for him." He frowned, "Who are you?"
"Thank you," Laurina said, and turned quickly, ignoring Elrond's question. Whistling to a horse she had kept wandering about Rivendell for some time; she jumped on gracefully on its back and was off.
She tucked her head low against the horse's bare mane, whispering quietly to it: "Faster Flila or Mr Frodo will be in greater trouble yet." On Flila, the horse, ran. He needed no more than a word from Laurie to be off with more vigor than he had ever before run with. Or perhaps it was the energy she pumped into him.
After several long minutes, Laurie stopped her riding to witness a scene few watched. Away from her, not fifty yards, stood a white horse. On top of it, rode Frodo. He had his sword draw; and was facing nine riders in black across the river from him.
"By Elbereth and Luthien the Fair," Frodo said, lifting his sword with a last effort, "you shall have neither the Ring nor me!"
The leader of the Nazgul stopped halfway across the Ford, and stood up in his stirrups, menacing. He raised his hand. Frodo's sword broke in his shaking hand and fell to the ground. The elf-horse reared and snorted. The leader of the Black Riders had nearly reached the shore.
At that moment there came a roar and a rushing: a noise of loud waters rolling many stones. In great torrents came water from the mountains, riding as horses do in the bright sunlight; tearing down the Black Riders and their screaming horses.
But Frodo fell from his horse, on top of the broken sword.
As if coming out of a dream, Laurie rushed forward to him; pulling him from the harm of the water to drier land. The white elf-horse followed, and went to stand with Flila.
Laurie noticed Glorfindel and Aragorn on the far side of the river, keeping the Black Riders from escaping. They paid her no heed, thinking she was an elf-child.
Laurie laid her hand on Frodo's shoulder gently, suppressing a shiver. The very feel of evil that had so long tormented her crept unforgivingly through every limb of her body, with a sickening, freezing feel. She pushed the sorry reminder of things not-so-long-passed away, concentrating her mind.
Looking through eyes keen enough to see magic, Laurie watched as Frodo faded still. She leaned forward and froze the motion of the wraith's power, draining her own.
Then, standing, she raised one arm slowly, in a waving gesture toward Glorfindel and Aragorn, then indicated that she was taking the hobbit. They nodded, and shouted something in response that was all but drowned out by the water: "Hurry, take him to Elrond while the water settles!"
Gently, and to Sam's relief, Laurie picked up his master in strong arms, and sprang with him upon her horse. "Ride more swiftly now, Flila, for the time has nearly come." But Glorfindel's white horse stayed, to wait for its master.
And Flila ran, as if the Black Riders were after him, instead of washed down the river.
The time passed quickly, and presently Laurie came to the edge of Rivendell where Gandalf had joined Elrond, presumably at the later's request. As she approached, he looked up, recognizing her slowly. "Qualara!" And then, remembering himself, "Follow me!"
With quickness of pace that would seem unusual for such a man, Gandalf led the way followed closely by Elrond and Laurie to the very room in which Frodo woke, four days later.
"The others? Is Aragorn with them still?"
"Yes, and Glorfindel. They are quite safe now. All except Frodo." Laurie replied, laying him upon the bed. "Do you wish me to go back to them?"
"No, but leave us alone for a little."
"Perhaps I might offer assistance?"
"No," replied Elrond, without looking at Gandalf, "you have done enough."
"Perhaps," countered Gandalf, for he better knew Laurie; and of her powers in healing. "We shall call." Elrond looked at Gandalf surprised. She was only a- well, either a very short elf, or a strange-looking hobbit. Or something he had never heard of. (The last one was closest.) But he did not want to trust her. In any case, Laurie left them to tend to Frodo alone.
"Why do you say so?" Elrond asked Gandalf when she had gone, "She is little more than a child!"
"If a child," Gandalf answered grimly, "then a powerful one. She can heal; we may need her to. She has much experience in dark wounds, more, perhaps, then I."
"Who is she? Qualara, did you say?"
"Yes, and no. Call her Laurie, if anything."
"A simple name, if she has the power you speak of!"
"That is why she picked it, I believe." Elrond did not reply to this, but directed his attention to the wounded hobbit. Curiously, Frodo did not seem to be getting any worse. Elrond wondered if it was because of this Laurie . . .
Elrond leaned back in his chair, three days later, resting. There had been no success with the knife, and Frodo had finally begun to get progressively worse again. Elrond closed his eyes, letting his mind wander for a moment after a long search through it for a cure. Frodo would soon be lost.
The door opened, and he straightened, but it was only Sam.
"Excuse me, Mr. Elrond, sir," he said.
"Yes, Sam?" Elrond answered, wearily, "What is it?"
"Begging your pardon, but there is someone here who wants to see Mr. Frodo. I thought it would be best to ask you, first."
"Let him in. And could you find Gandalf? He should be back by now." Sam shrugged in reply, and opened the door a little wider, so a figure could enter. Sam ran off to find the wizard.
Before Elrond stood a small figure, hooded and cloaked all in forest green. He stood up, but the figure, removed her hood. It was Laurie.
"I thought you weren't going to come back unless I called!" Elrond said, surprised.
"And let Mr Baggins die? No. With your permission, I will see what I can do to assist." Laurie answered in a low, melodious voice that filled the room.
"You have it," Elrond answered, grimly, "and I wish you luck, for neither I nor Gandalf have had success."
Laurie glided silently forward. She sat on the bed, leaning over Frodo. Elrond could not tell what she did next, but his keen elf-ears picked up part of a song:
"Come from the depths of the Nazgul's sleep
See the light of day once more,
Remember the truth that runs so deep,
In every vein, in every pore.
"You are the One who is chosen to go,
May the blade of the wicked melt,
Through wind, and shine, and sleet and snow,
The power of the Qua is at your call."
Then she was silent for a time, before motioning to Elrond to come near. What he saw was the tip of the Nazgul's blade, in an open wound which Laurie was holding.
"I cannot touch the thing," she said softly, "or any of its like. Remove the blade." He did. Frodo shifted slightly in his sleep, for the song- and something else?- had torn him from the spirit world.
"I was never here," Laurie added, "I congratulate you on removing the knife." Elrond nodded mutely. Somehow he had already known that her visit was for his eyes alone, but more so because of some connection she had to the hobbit... ?
"Even if you will not come as part of the Fellowship, will you not accompany us in part- as a healer?"
"You know I will not, Gandalf. It would change the course of events as they are meant to be."
It was only a few hours after the meeting of Elrond. Laurie sat small but upright on a small stood, in front of the pacing Gandalf. She gazed up at him with an air of quiet expectancy and large, emerald eyes. Her position told Gandalf nothing, for she always was straight, hidden. More so even than he.
Gandalf had the strangest feeling. He felt as if the young woman who sat before him knew not only what would happen, but also his very thoughts and memories. It was slightly disconcerting, though not as much so as if he had been human, or unused to the Qua's presence.
And now the way she was watching him. It was soft, withdrawn, but at the same time with a startling intensity. Gandalf had met Laurie before on several occasions, and often was uncomfortable. But this, perhaps, out-ruled those times.
"We shall very likely need you." Gandalf argued, knowing he would not persuade her. No one could.
"Yes, you will. But so do many others, yet I do not go to them. Sometimes it is for the better to go through troubles. There is almost always some evil that comes from good, however well it is hidden." Laurie stopped for a moment, and only continued when Gandalf remained silent.
"I shall be there in your greatest hour of need, Gandalf."
"In my time of need! It is Frodo who shall need you more!"
"Yes. But I cannot enter Mordor; you know that. The very air burns me and I would be unable to help in that place. I will be at the battlefield, helping all the others who need me." Laurie looked at him a little sadly. "However, you shall see me. And, perhaps, I can assist Frodo without accompanying him. Take Merry and Pippin with you!"
Gandalf nodded, and said, wearily: "Merry and Pippin? How can they assist?"
"Take them, trust me, Gandalf."
"So be it. But you make me curious, Qua, for you seem to know what this need of mine is before it has come about! Could you not stop it?"
"Could you not halt the orcs of Mordor with a single word?" Gandalf stayed silent. "Until I see you next, Mithrandir. May any kind luck that still exists bless you; for I fear that you shall need it. Farewell."
"Farewell," Laurie turned to go, "Qualara?" Laurie seemed almost pulled back by the name he called her, and stopped her graceful movement sharply.
"Watch Frodo, take care of him."
"I will not promise that. For something may occur which I do not foresee." But Gandalf saw upon the face of Laurie an almost imperceptible smile; and he felt safer for the young hobbit who very soon would start toward Mordor.
Several weeks- and chapters- later, the Fellowship of the Ring arrives at the entrance of Moria.
Everything has happened as it did in the book. Yet it was not mentioned that Smeagol was not the only one save orcs, trolls, and dark fire-demons in Moria at that time. There was one other, whose name you know.
In accordance with the promise she did not make to Gandalf, Laurie was indeed watching out for Frodo- but there was something further on her mind. The other in Moria whom Frodo did not meet yet. Gollum.
"We wants it my Precious. He took it from uss. Thief! Bagginsess!"
"Smèagol," came a gentle call in the long dark of Moria, heard by two sets of ears only. "Smèagol, come here!"
"Who is it? Iss it another thief? Like the Bagginss?"
"No, Smèagol. It is I, Laurie."
"A sstrange name, yess Precious. It is Laurie. Iss Laurie a thief? Iss sshe a Bagginsess?"
"No Smèagol, I am a friend."
"A friend? Smèagol doesn't have any friends. Do I Precious? Gollum, gollum!"
"But I am a friend, Smèagol. Come sit by me." Laurie smiled slightly, widening her eyes and tilting her chin down until she looked for a moment like one of the pretty halfling lasses on the river of Gollum's once-home.
Intrigued, and almost remembering his old self, Gollum did come nearer, though he still stood a little way off. Laurie half turned on her "charm", sitting down gracefully before Gollum on the rock ground, legs bend beneath her. She looked up a Gollum with kind, now bluish, eyes that radiated curiosity.
Gollum's reaction to this was unusual, and almost wholly unexpected. He bent down, and seated himself. He looked for a moment like a very old hobbit remembering his youth, and half falling into it.
"Tell me about yourself." Something came over Gollum then, and he did speak to Laurie, with very little hissing, we's or Precious's.
Smèagol told her stories of his youth, as if Laurie were a gasping hobbit-child at Bilbo's birthday. Laurie listened. She was a wonderful listener- the kind that never interrupted or pressed him, or asked questions unless he wanted to answer them.
With such an audience, Smèagol found himself saying very much indeed . . .
Smèagol slowly rowed the boat into the middle of the river. Peony, a close friend of his, sat in the back of the boat, lounging.
"Dive in, Smèagol, you said you had found something- what was it, a cave?" Peony laughed cheerfully. "Come on. You promised."
Smèagol smiled in pride. "Of course, Peony. Come with me and we will swim together."
"No! You'll just dunk me! Show me the cave from here!" Smèagol gave Peony a slightly evil grin. Peony had a sudden flash of intuition . . . "Smèagol!" But it was too late.
Smèagol dove out of the boat and swam under, tipping Peony out. They splashed each other, laughing. The rest of the day, the two friends fished, and explored the river bottom. All was peaceful.
Aragorn went to wake up the rest of the Fellowship. They stretched and talked among themselves.
Gollum jumped out of his story-telling dream and hissed, jumping away from Laurie in fright, then running. "She betrayed us, Precious, the nasstiess nearly got uss!"
Some days passed. Laurie watched and waited, unwilling and unable to stop the surety of providence. Presently, however, her time to step fourth came.
Having felled his orc, Sam looked around him for Frodo, a hot fire blazing in his eyes. Sam cried out, seeing another orc running up behind his master. Running toward Frodo, Sam stopped suddenly, as the orc fell, a knife in his back.
A small, dark, cloaked figure stepped up silently, pulling the long dagger from the back of the orc. The figure looked up, seeming to stare into Sam's eyes for a moment- and Sam saw it was a female face- and then, with one swift movement, drew back the knife and threw it with deadly accuracy, killing an orc Sam had neglected to see in his astonishment.
The figure waved cheerfully at Sam, and then disappeared around a column. Sam blinked, but was soon distracted by Gandalf: "Now is the time! Let us go, before the troll returns!"
But even as they retreated, and before Pippin and Merry had reached the stair outside, a huge orc-chieftain, almost man-high, clad in black mail from head to foot, leaped into the chamber; behind him his followers clustered in the doorway. His broad flat face was swart, his eyes were like coals, and his tongue was red; he wielded a great spear. With a thrust of his huge hide shield he turned Boromir's sword and bore him backwards, throwing him to the ground. Diving under Aragorn's blow with the speed of a striking snake he charged into the Company and thrust with his spear straight at Frodo. The blow caught him on the right side, and Frodo was hurled against the wall and pinned. Sam, with a cry, hacked at the spear-shaft, and it broke. But even as the orc flung down the truncheon and swept out his scimitar, Andúril came down upon his helm. There was a flash like flame and the helm burst asunder. The orc fell with cloven head. His followers fled howling, as Boromir and Aragorn sprang at them.
Doom, doom went the drums of the deep. The great voice rolled ut again.
"Now!" shouted Gandalf. "Now is the last chance. Run for it!"
Aragorn picked up Frodo and carried him, pushing Merry and Pippin ahead. The others followed, but Boromir could not fasten the door.
"I am all right," gasped Frodo. "I can walk. Put me down!"
Aragorn nearly dropped him in his amazement. "I thought you were dead!" he cried.
"Not yet!" said Gandalf. "But there is no time for wonder. Off you go, all of you, down the stairs! Wait a few minutes for me at the bottom, but if I do not come soon, go on! go quickly and choose paths leading right and downwards!"
"We cannot leave you to hold the door alone!" said Aragorn.
"Do as I say!" said Gandalf fiercely. "Swords are no more use here. Go!"
On they ran, through a passageway utterly dark. Frodo breathed heavily, weak from the orc chieftain's spear; but Sam put his arms around him; and let Frodo lean against him.
Gandalf returned, weary. He and Gimli led the way down the straight passageway, and down stairs. The drums started again: Doom, doom.
For perhaps an hour they traveled, passing little more than a mile by. At the bottom of the seventh flight Gandalf halted.
"It is getting hot!" he gasped. "We ought to be down at least to the level of the Gates now. Soon I think we should look for a left-hand turn to take us east. I hope it is not far. I am very weary. . . . I do not know what I met at the door, but I found myself suddenly faced by something that I have not met before . . . All I caught was ghâsh: that is `fire.' . . . but now what about you, Frodo? There was not time to say so, but I have never been more delighted in my life than when you spoke. I feared that it was a brave but dead hobbit that Aragorn was carrying."
"What about me?" said Frodo. "I am alive, and whole I think. I am bruised and in pain, but it is not too bad."
"Well," said Aragorn, "I can only say that hobbits are made of a stuff so tough that I have never me the like of it . . . That spear- thrust would have skewered a wild boar!"
"Well, it did not skewer me, I am glad to say," said Frodo; "though I feel as if I had been caught between a hammer and an anvil." He said no more. He found breathing painful.
"You take after Bilbo," said Gandalf. "There is more about you than meets the eye, as I said of him long ago." Frodo wondered if the remark meant more than it said.
A strange red light lit the hall, though none of the company knew it; they ran.
Suddenly Frodo saw before him a black chasm. At the end of the hall the floor vanished and fell to an unknown depth. The outer door could only be reached by a slender bridge of stone, without curb or rail, that spanned the chasm with one curving spring of fifty feet. It was an ancient defense of the Dwarves against any enemy that might capture the First Hall and the outer passages. They could only pass across it in single file. At the brink Gandalf halted and others came up in a pack behind.
At Gandalf's bidding, Gimli, followed by the rest of the company ran across the bridge of Khazad-dûm. Orc arrows flew, and the drumbeats drew louder, but then crowded away, as if in fear. Something was coming up behind them. What it was could not be seen: it was like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater; and a power and terror seemed to be in it and to go before it.
It came to the edge of the fire and the light faded as if a cloud had bent over it. Then with a rush it leaped across the fissure. The flames roared up the great it, and wreathed about it; and a black smoke swirled in the air. Its streaming mane kindled and blazed behind it. In its right hand was a blade like a stabbing tongue of fire; in its left it held a whip of many thongs.
"Ai, ai!" wailed Legolas. "A Balrog! A Balrog is come!"
"Gimli stared with wide eyes. "Durin's Bane!" he cried, and letting his axe fall he covered his face.
"A Balrog," muttered Gandalf. "Now I understand." He Faltered and leaned heavily on his staff. "What an evil fortune! And I am already weary."
The dark figure streaming with fire raced towards them. "Over the bridge!" cried Gandalf, recalling his strength. "Fly! This is a foe beyond any of you. I must hold the narrow way. Fly!"
The Balrog reached the bridge. Gandalf stood in the middle of the span, leaning on the staff in his left hand, but in his other hand Glamdring gleamed, cold and white. His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings. It raised the whip, and the thongs whined and cracked. Fire came from its nostrils. But Gandalf stood firm.
"You cannot pass," he said. "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Unûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass."
With a bound the Balrog leaped full upon the bridge. Its whip whirled and hissed. At that moment Gandalf lifted his staff, and crying aloud he smote the bridge before him. the staff broke asunder and fell from his hand. A blinding sheet of whit flame sprang up. The bridge cracked. Right at the Balrog's feet it broke, and the stone upon which it stood crashed into the gulf, while the rest remained, poised, quivering like a tongue of rock thrust ut into emptiness.
With a terrible cry the Balrog fell forward, and its shadow plunged down and vanished. But even as it fell it swung its whip, and the thongs lashed and curled about the wizard's knees, draggin him to the brink. He staggered, and fell, grasping vainly at the stone, and slid into the abyss. "Fly, you fools!" he cried, and was gone.
The fires went out, and blank darkness fell. The Company stood rooted with horror staring into the pit. Frodo may have imagined it, but he saw from the other side of the bridge a dark figure dive into the chasm after Gandalf and the Balrog.
Laurie fell, her small body in a streamline position. Quickly, she caught up to the wizard Gandalf, grabbing on to his arm. He looked at her in surprise, almost shaking her off.
"Qualara! why are you here?"
"I said I would come," Laurie answered, grimly, "and here I am."
"But what can you do against a foe so great?"
"Help you," she answered, closing her eyes. Gandalf slowly felt all his weariness drain away to be replaced by a great strength and hope. He looked at the healer in astonishment. But even then they fell, and Laurie was pulled more quickly than he.
Too quickly now, Laurie fell, into the very fires of the Balrog. She was burned, badly so. But in that short time, Laurie attempted to drain the Balrog's energy- though it did the same to her.
Now, though, Laurie passed even it, diving into the deep waters at the bottom of Khazad-dûm, long before either wizard or Balrog. Slowly, ever so slowly, she climbed the almost impossibly steep chasm wall. Laurie passed the Balrog- who again burned her- and then Gandalf who, knowing her presence, gazed at her in astonishment. Yet his fate in this chasm was not to stop so soon, and he fell still.