Caleb closed his eyes as he swung himself down into the chasm. It was a long dark fall and he didn’t care to think about what would happen if his grip slipped or the rope broke.
They were in the hollow and Aragorn was washing Frodo and Sam’s wounds. Colleen had covered her face with her hood and cried until she could cry no more. Now she lay on the ground exhausted and emtionally spent. So she lay on the ground in a sodden heap trying not to think of Gandalf or her brother. Gandalf would be back, but Caleb was just a little human boy, not an Istari. He would not be back. Her shoulders began to shake
He thought instead of the pleasant times he had had in his short life, playing Risk while watching Star Trek with Colleen and his younger brother Austin. Playing with their youngest sister Laura Rose and listening to her first babbling attempts to talk. Twirling his sister Olivia around and watching her stagger around, watching the Lord of the Rings with Colleen and their dad.
He pulled himself along carefully, making slow but steady progress. The rope began to sway, he would have yelled at Ori to hold it steady but he was short of breath from the physical exertion and the fear.
Ori watched the boy cross he was making good progress, though he didn’t need to keep his eyes shut quite so tight, he was going to bump his head into the edge of the chasm. The started to sway so Ori went over to it and held it in his hands. The boy was much heavier than he had looked in the tunnel.
A sudden ominous creaking caught the dwarf’s attention. It just figured, the rope was fraying on a sharp corner. Ori looked at the boy hanging over the chasm; he was about half way over.
“Hold on tight lad! Don’t move! The rope’s breaking!”
“That just figures! I’m the one whose afraid of heights so whose stuck dangling above a bottomless chasm on a flimsy rope?”
“I know lad, save your breath! Don’t try to climb until I tell you to!”
“You bet I won’t!”
Ori gathered his strength and pulled up all the slack he could in the rope.
“Climb lad! Get across before it breaks the rest of the way!”
Caleb gulped and began to climb faster than he had before, panic lent him extra strength. Even so his muscles ached and burned as he made his way across the rope. Suddenly he bumped his head on the stone edge of the chasm.
“All right lad, turn around and catch hold of the edge!”
“Easier said than done! I can barely hang onto this darn rope!”
“Take hold of my hand lad and I’ll pull you up.”
It was not necessary Caleb made one colossal effort and swung himself around and onto the ledge. There he stood panting with the effort.
“Well, that was impressive,” said Ori letting go of the rope, “Now we only need to get to the lower gate and we will be free from Khazad-dum.”
Colleen lay on the ground in a heap not wanting to move or think. Every time she did either she was wracked with horrible pain both physical and emotional. She wanted to cry but couldn’t, all her tears were spent. She wanted to run all the way back to Moria but couldn’t, either one of the men or the pain in her head would stop her.
So she lay on the ground in a sodden heap trying not to think of Gandalf or her brother. Gandalf would be back, but Caleb was just a little human boy, not an Istari. He would not be back. Her shoulders began to shake.
Legolas watched her sadly. It was a shame, the merry young boy and the grey Pilgrim both lost to the bottomless deep of Moria. He knew how close Caleb had been to his sister. He went over to her and gently lifted her off the ground.
There was no resistance as he gently lifted her face and wiped it clean as best he could on a corner of his cloak. He took his water skin and wetted it and washed her face as if she were a very small child.
Colleen gave a shuddering sigh and let the elf fix her hair and clean her face.
“Your brother was strong in life,” said Legolas, “His spirit will find its way to the halls of your ancestors. You should not grieve over much, he died well.”
Colleen didn’t respond. What kind of response was there for a statement like that? Her brother dead buried in a mine without a funeral or last rites. She pulled her hood down over her pale face and put her head in her hands. All that this place had given her was grief and more grief, it had given her a family and taken it away, it had given her skills she never thought she would ever possess and then taken her brother, as if in payment. All she wanted was to have her little brother back and to go home. But that was impossible.
Legolas let her go and walked over to Aragorn. “Aragorn, our loss in the Mines was great, all the more so because the boy was so young, younger even than Pippin. The girl is also. Do you wish to have her meet a similar fate, or a worse one? I believe she should remain behind in Lothlorien.”
Colleen heard this and picked her head up off the ground.
“I agree,” said Boromir. “This is no journey for children, no matter how brave.”
At this Colleen sat up, they were not going to talk about her as if she were asleep or not there!
“She will not stay willingly,” said Gimli “If she is anything like her brother.”
“You got that right buster!” Colleen thundered at them, “What authority do any of you have over me? What do any of you know about me? None and nothing!!! I am going on with this Quest until either its over or I am!”
They all stared at her. They had rarely heard her raise her voice let alone yell.
“We shall decided when we get to the Golden Wood,” said Aragorn.