Caleb almost swallowed his tongue in speechless surprise. His eyes grew as round as half dollars. The dwarf smiled.
“So you know of me. You thought me dead? Good. That most of what has kept me alive all these years. The orcs thought I was dead and didn’t search for me. That coupled with all the stealth I can manage has allowed me to begin to avenge my folk.”
Caleb swallowed hard and cleared his throat finding his voice at last, “Did you hear the company passing through? Have you been following us?”
“No and no. I wasn’t aware of your presence until your little skirmish with the goblins this morning. I came out here to see if I could find anything worth saving and heard you calling. I wasn’t sure who or what you were, but I didn’t think you were an orc or I would have left you to die.”
Caleb gave him a wry smile, “Thanks.” He looked down and realized that his leg was still pinned by what he now saw to be a large piece of the roof. “Would you mind helping me get my leg loose? I hope it isn’t broken.”
“You’d feel it if it were. Here Alcarin, Sit up and put your hands here.” The dwarf took the boy’s dirty hands in his and noticed the bloody stump for the first time. His eyes went wide. “Did the orcs do that to you?” The boy nodded. “Can you use your hand?”
“I’m not sure, I think so.”
“Good, here brace your arms against this corner and push when I tell you to, on the count of three. One, two, three push!” They pushed and with their combined strength the stone rolled off of Caleb’s leg.
He immediately reached down and began to probe it for injuries with his good hand and massage the life back into it with the other. As he did so the blood began to flow again, Ori grimaced.
“We had better take care of that hand lad. Do you have anything that might be useful in that pack of yours?”
Caleb’s eyes went wide, he had forgotten all about that pack. He did have something that would help. Medical tape, gauze, a bottle of water and gold bond anti-septic cream were swiftly produced and applied. The dwarf was fascinated by the medical tape, never having seen or used anything like it before.
As a boy Caleb was always getting cuts and scrapes. He had gotten them infected too often and had learned to keep such things on his person at all times. He had never gotten his finger cut off, but he was sure he would get used to it before long. Besides he had nine more.
Caleb got unsteadily to his feet and brushed himself off. “So can you show me a way out of here? I have to find my friends.”
“I could. But it won’t be easy Gandalf broke the only bridge that leads out of the lower passages.”
“I have a rope and grappling hook Aragorn gave me to carry. As long as you know how to use it, because I sure don’t, we should have no trouble getting out.”
Ori smiled, “Follow me.”
Caleb grimaced feeling his way as best he could , the dwarf had no need for torches or light of any kind and having little experience with humans and their short comings he assumed that Caleb could see in a tunnel as well as he could.
“Keep up boy, or the orcs will find us, I had no idea you men were night blind!”
“I can’t help that! Slow down! I had no idea you dwarves could move like that! You should enter the Olympics!”
“Be quiet! Do you want them to hear you? We’re nearly there.”
They had reached the foot of the stairs and were on the edge of the wide chamber that the company had crossed a few hours ago. Caleb looked around as well as he could, all he could see were a few dead orcs and scattered derbies from previous battles in Moria.
He shuddered; even though he had been in four battles since coming to Arda he still hated the sight of dead things. Before he had come here his dream, or one of them, had been to move to Australia and succeed where others had failed and domesticate the Dingo.
They crossed the chamber picking their way through the bones, rusty weapons and occasional body. Once Caleb tripped on an orc scimitar and narrowly missed losing a toe to match his finger. Before long they made it to the bridge of Khazad-dum or at least the place it used to be.
“Now’s the time for that hook and rope lad” Said Ori with a grim smile, “I hope it’s long enough.”
“Not really, but I have more than one. How well can you tie a knot?”
“Well enough give them here. I’ll fasten them together and you put them on the hook.”
It was about half an hour’s work to put them together, but when they were done even Ori had to admire their work.
They gathered the equipment up and walked to the brink. Caleb looked over the edge of the chasm and gulped.
“We’re going to climb over that on a hook and some over grown string?” He was beginning to feel sick.
“Not over grown string, a rope a good solid rope. What’s the matter boy? You’re starting to turn green.”
Caleb felt his stomach kick into reverse and knelt on the floor while he threw up the little that was in his stomach. When he got his breath back he got to his feet.
“Let’s just say that I don’t like heights. I make Bilbo Baggins look like a champion free climber.”
“Well it’s cross the chasm this way or stay here for the rest of your life, alone, because I’m leaving. There is nothing more I can do to avenge my folk and I am going to return to the Lonely Mountain.”
“I’ll come, but if I don’t survive and you meet my sister, tell her that I loved her very much and it was me who put a rubber spider in Grandma’s birthday cake. And tell Legolas I’m sorry I dyed his hair green. And tell Aragorn it was me who put used chewing tobacco in his water. And Gimli it was me who tied his beard to his boots while he was asleep and…”
“I will lad, you’ll be fine. Come along and help me fasten this rope to that pillar over there.”
They got the rope hitched around the pillar and walked to the edge of the chasm. Caleb was careful not to look down, but across. Ori took the rope in his worn hands and measured the distance carefully. He took a deep breath and began to swing the rope over his head and gave a mighty heave. The hook sailed cleanly across the chasm and wrapped itself neatly around a pillar on the other side.
Ori gave a nod of satisfaction and turned to Caleb, “I’ll go first, go to that pillar over there and hold the rope steady.”
Caleb nodded and did as he was told dumbly. He was trying not to think about that awful dizzying plunge.
Ori move over to the chasm, knelt on the ground for a moment and rubbed his hands in the dirt and took a hold of the rope and swung himself down. He wrapped his hand around it tightly and wrapped his legs around it.
Caleb held the rope tightly and watched the dwarf carefully. He moved along, pulling himself with his hands and gripping with his legs. It looked easy enough and perfectly safe….
Before he knew it Ori was on the other side. He walked to the chasm and rubbed his hands in the dirt being careful of his injured hand and took a hold of the rope.