Caleb huddled next to his sister as Gandalf passed around the miruvor again. Then they passed around the food. Mostly dried fruit and more sausage. He used to like sausage, but after living on practically nothing else for a week or more he was beginning to think that he would kill for a huge plate a lasagna. And dried fruit wasn’t very entertaining either. He sighed and didn’t complain. He was the one who insisted on coming along on this crazy quest. Dried fruit and sausage were better than starving, but not by much.
When everyone had eaten a council was called. Gandalf spoke first, “We cannot, of course, go on again tonight. Our attempt on the Redhorn Gate has tired us out, and we must rest here for a while.”
“And then where are we to go?” asked Frodo.
“We still have out journey and our errand before us. We have no choice to go on or to go back to Rivendell.”
Caleb felt his heart lift at the idea of heading back to Rivendell, but he also knew that if they went back, it would be the end of everything. Literally.
Frodo looked troubled and who could blame him, “I wish I was back there,” he said. “But how can I return without shame- unless there is no other way, and we are already defeated?”
“You are right, Frodo,” said Gandalf. “To go back is to admit defeat, and to face worse defeat to come. If we go back now the Ring must remain there: we shall not be able to set out again. Then sooner or later Rivendell will be besieged and after a brief and bitter time it will be destroyed.”
“Then we must go on, if there is a way,” Frodo sighed.
“There is a way that we may attempt,” said Gandalf. “But it is not a pleasant way.”
“If it is a worse road than the Redhorn Gate then it must be evil indeed,” said Merry. “But you had better tell us about it and let us know the worst at once.” Caleb nodded in agreement.
“The road I speak of leads to the Mines of Moria,” said Gandalf. Gimli looked up, the look in his dark brown eyes was unidentifiable. Caleb swallowed. Something in the name made him feel like he had just watched a chasm open under his feet.
“The road may lead to Moria,” said Aragorn, “but how can we hope that it will lead through Moria?”
“It is a name of ill omen,” said Boromir. “Nor do I see the need to go there. To enter Moria would be to walk into a trap! Hardly better than to go knocking at the gates of the Dark Tower itself! Moria is a black name.”
Colleen decided to lighten the atmosphere with a joke, “Sure it’s a black name, doesn’t Moria mean `the black pit’?”
Boromir glared at her and Colleen gave him a small grin. Gandalf ignored her, “You speak of what you do not know, when you liken Moria to the stronghold of Sauron,” said Gandalf. “I alone of all of you have been in the dungeons of the Dark Lord, and only in his older and lesser dwelling in Dol Guldur. Those who pass the gates of Barad Dur do not return. But I would not lead you into Moria if there was no hope of coming out again. If there are Orcs there it may prove ill for us, that is true, but there is even a chance that Dwarves are there.”
Caleb leaned towards Colleen and said softly,” Yeah, with their dry bones all scattered in the dust.” Colleen shuddered.
Gandalf continued, apparently he hadn’t heard the comment, ” In some deep hall of his fathers Balin son of Fundin may be found. However it may prove, one must tread the path that need chooses!”
“I will tread the path with you Gandalf!” said Gimli enthusiastically. ” I will go and look on the halls of Durin, whatever may wait there- if you can find the doors that are shut.”
“Good Gimli, you encourage me. We will seek the hidden doors together. And we will come through. In the ruins of the Dwarves and dwarf’s head will be less easy to bewilder than Elves of Men or Hobbits. Yet it will not be the first time I have been through Moria. I sought there long for Thrain son of Thror after he was lost. I passed through, and I came out again alive!”
“I too once passed the Dimrill Gate,” said Aragorn quietly; ” but though I too came out alive again the memory is very evil. I do not wish to enter it a second time.”
“And I don’t wish to enter it, even once!” said Pippin.
“Nor me!” said Sam and Caleb together.
“Of course not! Who would?” said Gandalf
“Gimli.” said Colleen quietly.
Gandalf gave her a sharp glance and went on, “But the question is: who will follow me if I lead you there?”
“I will!” said Gimli eagerly.
“I will,” said Aragorn heavily, ” I will follow you if this last warning does not move you, it is not of us others, or of the Ring that I am thinking, but of you Gandalf and I say to you if you pass the doors of Moria beware!”
“I will not go,” said Boromir, ” Unless the vote of the whole Company is against me. What do Legolas and the little folk say? The Ring Bearer’s voice surely should be heard?”
Legolas shuddered, “I do not wish to enter Moria.”
“Assuming that `the little folk’ include Caleb and I, I don’t want to go into Moria, but I don’t see that we have any other choice. Saurman will be watching the road through the Gap of Rohan and it would take at least a year to cross the Isen into Langstrand and Lebennin. Besides, we’d have to go through many empty countries and Sauron will be watching those.”
Frodo spoke, ” I do not wish to go,” he said. “But I agree with Colleen and I do not wish to refuse the advice of Gandalf. I beg that there be no vote until after we have slept on it. Gandalf will get votes in the light of morning than in this cold gloom. How the wind howls!”
Colleen’s skin crawled when she recognized the sound of Wolf voices. Her blood ran cold, and for an instant her mind flashed back to Gondlin and the last battle. She reached inside her shirt and clutched the pendant.
Aragorn leapt to his feet, How the wind howls!” he cried, “It is howling with wolf voices. The Wargs have come west of the Mountains!”
“Need we wait until morning then?” said Gandalf. ” The hunt is up! Even if we live to see the dawn, who will wish to travel south by night with the wild wolves on his trail?”
“How far is Moria?” asked Boromir
“There was a door south-west of Caradhras, some fifteen miles as the crow flies, some twenty as the wolf runs.”
“Then let us start as soon as it is light,” said Boromir. “The wolf that one hears is worse than the orc one fears.”
“True,” said Aragorn. “But where the warg howls, there the orc prowls.”
“Both true,” said Colleen, ” But reciting maxims is not going to keep out skin whole. Lets get up to that ring of rocks there, darkness and silence will be no protection against hunting packs.”
Colleen was half asleep when she heard Gandalf shout, “Listen, Hound of Sauron! Gandalf is here. Fly if you value your foul skin! I will shrivel you from tail to snout if you come within this ring!”
A great gray wolf, most likely the captain leapt towards them with a snarl. Legolas loosed his bow. There was hideous yell and the leaping shape thudded to the ground. Colleen pulled herself to her feet, quickly strung her bow and drew three arrows. She knew she could do more good with a bow than a sword in a situation like this.
For a while all was quiet, much of the Company relaxed on the ground but Colleen could not sleep. She paced with Legolas around the ring keeping watch for a return of the wargs. Legolas came over to her.
“You must be ready fall from weariness. I can keep watch. You should try to get some rest.”
Colleen shook her head, “I can’t sleep. There’s something uncanny about these wolve, I feel as if I have seen them before.”
“Have you encountered Wargs before?” he asked sympathetically
Colleen nodded, “Once. Once was more than enough.”
“Perhaps they are the same ones. Wargs live at least as long as humans. They are not like the normal wolves. Where did you encounter them? Did they attack you village?”
Colleen hid a smile at the thought of wargs running down their street. They looked terribly out of place. “No, we don’t have wolves like these where we come from, mostly just coyotes.”
“Are they dangerous?”
“No really. They’re afraid of Humans. They do kill pets, small dogs and cats from time to time, but only a rabid coyote would attack a human.”
At that moment a storm of howls broke out around them and the rest of the Company leapt to their feet drawing their swords. Colleen nocked an arrow and Legolas did the same.
“Fling fuel onto the fire,” shouted Gandalf. “Draw your blades and stand back to back.”
Colleen stood with her back to Legolas’ and they both waited. In the leaping light she saw many gray shapes loom up around the ring. Through the throat of one huge leader Aragorn passed his sword. Boromir lopped the head off of another.
Colleen and Legolas were busy stringing and loosing arrows as fast as they could. Colleen took more time to aim than Legolas, but her aim was true and all the lessons and practice in Rivendell were paying off, though she was still better with the blade than the bow.
In the wavering firelight Gandalf seemed to grow: he rose up and the wargs backed away from him. He shone white, like a great star fallen to earth. Stooping and lifting a burning branch he strode towards the wargs. He tossed the blazing brand high in the air and in a great rolling voice he cried aloud.
“Naur an edraith ammen! Naur dan i ngaurhoth!”
There was a great roar above them and the tree above them burst into leaf and bloom of blinding flame. The fire leaped from tree to tree untill the whole hill was ablaze with dazzling light.
The last arrow of Legolas burst into flame as it flew and plunged into the throat of a great wolf-chieftain. All the others fled. Slowly the fire died and dwindled down to smoldering ash.
“What did I tell you Mr. Pippin?” said Sam, sheathing his sword. “Wolves won’t get old Gandalf! That was an eye opener and no mistake! Nearly singed the hair off my head!”