Colleen helped Legolas pull Gimli away from the tomb of his fallen kinsman and ran to the door soon they were all on the other side. Boromir pulled the door shut by the great iron rings. But there was no way to fasten it.
Suddenly Frodo came to and gasped, ” I’m all right, I can walk, put me down! I’m all right.”
Everyone jumped and Aragorn nearly dropped him. “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 passage! Wait for a few minutes at the bottom and if I don’t come go on. Go quickly and choose paths leading to the right and downwards.”
“We cannot leave you to hold the door alone!”
“Do as I say! Swords are no more use here! Go!”
And so they went on down. It was a long hard climb, even down hill. There was no light. Colleen felt her way blindly along the walls.
Suddenly there was a flash of white light above them and a deep doom, boom, boom doom. A cry and suddenly something came flying down the stairs. Gandalf landed on the steps a little above them and struggled to his feet. Colleen went over to him and helped him up. She felt his hands trembling with, what? Fatigue? Fear? Shock? All three? He gave her shoulder a grateful squeeze and addressed the company.
“Well, well that is over! I have done all that I could. But I have met my match and nearly been destroyed. But we cannot stay here! Go on! Quickly! You will have to do without light for a little, I am rather shaken. Go on! Go on! Where are you Gimli? Come ahead with me. Keep close all of you.”
Colleen kept close lending him a hand now and again. She was sad. She could not forget the way he had saved her life without knowing the least detail of her past. Now he was going to his doom and she could do nothing to stop it. She knew he’d be back, but still it would painful.
Suddenly when they came to the bottom of the seventh flight of stairs Gandalf halted.
“It is getting hot!” he gasped. “We ought to be down to at least the level of the gates now. I am weary. We must stop here even if all the orcs ever spawned are after us.
Gimli and Colleen each took one of his arms and helped him to a seat on one of the stone steps.
“What happened to you away up there? Did you meet the beater of drums?” Gimli asked.
“I do not know, but I suddenly found myself confronted by something I have not met before. I could think of nothing to do but to put a shutting spell on the door. I know many, but to do something of that kind rightly requires time and even then the door can be broken by strength.
“I heard the orcs on the other side of the door, speaking in their own hideous tongue, I only caught one word ghash, that is fire in their speech. Then something came into the chamber and the orcs were afraid and fell silent. It laid hold of the iron ring and then it perceived me and my spell.
“What it was I cannot guess, but the counter spell was terrible. It nearly broke me. The door burst in pieces. Something as dark as cloud was blocking out all the light inside, and I was thrown down the passage. All the wall gave way and the roof of the chamber as well I think.
“I am afraid that Balin is buried deep and something else is buried there too, perhaps. At least the passage behind us was completely blocked.”
Suddenly Colleen looked around. She tried to surprises the growing panic. “Caleb?” No answer. “CALEB!”
She leapt past Gandalf in her grief and alarm, “CALEB!!!” She took the steps three at a time headless of the danger. She now realized that she hadn’t seen to spoken to her brother since the troll had come. The elder children must care for the younger. She didn’t care a straw about orcs or Balrogs, her brother, he was trapped in that awful chamber, buried in the rock. Maybe he was still alive! she had to get to him!
Aragorn darted up the stairs after the girl. She was half mad with grief. Surely she realized her brother was dead. No one could have lived through that avalanche of stone. In a few moments he over took her and held her firmly.
“Colleen, he is dead! He must be! You cannot help him now!” She struggled and then turned on him kicking and writhing with surprising strength.
“No! He’s not! I know he’s not! Let go of me.” Aragorn gadged her weight. He could carry her out of the mines if he had to but not struggling the way she was, the risk of dropping her or of falling down the stairs with her was too great.
“I am sorry my friend, but I have to get you out of these Mines.” He struck a strategic blow in the neck and she went limp in his grasp. He slung her gently over one shoulder and hauled her back down to the others.
Merry and Pippin were standing in the dim light of the Wizard’s staff, tears rolled down Merry’s face, Pippin wiped his nose on his sleeve and Gimli had cast his hood over his face again. They had all heard Colleen and Aragorn’s voices at the top of the stairs and none of them were surprised to find Aragorn carrying the teenager.
They moved on again without a word.
Before long Gimli spoke, “I think there is a light ahead, but it is not daylight, it is red. What can it be?”
“Ghash!” Muttered Gandalf, ” I wonder if that is what they meant, that the lower levels are on fire, still, we can only go on.”
At that moment Colleen groaned and Aragorn set her gently on the ground, she rubbed her neck ruefully and Aragorn noted that there was, surprisingly no bruise where he had struck her, only a red spot on the side of her neck. Aragorn had never struck a woman or child in his life, and he regretted the necessity greatly, but he had had to get her back down.
“Are you all right,” he asked her laying a hand on her shoulder. She nodded and gave him a wan half smile. Then she got to her feet, pulled up her hood and began to clean her sword.
Aragorn, still feeling guilty about the way he had struck her hovered around her as they went on, but it soon became evident that she was all right. As they went on Colleen went over various plans to slip away from the group and get back to her brother, but none of them seemed workable, particularly with Aragorn hovering beside her as if he thought she were going to topple at any moment. She bore him no ill will, she had been hit plenty during sparring matches in her Hapkido class. None had left her head throbbing and her neck aching quite this badly, but she could handle it.
What she could not handle was the fact that her baby brother was dead. She had to hang on, soon there would be a place for her to be alone and then she could cry. She refused to weep in front of these Men.