The Company, for the most part, were taking full advantage of Gandalf’s deliberation regarding which way they were to go next. Most of them were napping or lost deep in thought, whilst they rested against the rock walls of the small alcove they waited in. Legolas was reading Coralie’s little book of English poetry. He turned to a poem by John Keats, attracted by the title.
Bright Star, Would I were Steadfast as Thou Art
Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art–
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors–
No–yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever–or else swoon to death.
He gazed tenderly at the head that had fallen softly, unawares onto his shoulder as she slept, and wondered what she may be dreaming. Watching the gentle rhythm of the rise and fall of her breast, he knew her to be deeply lost between the slumber of the steadfast stars of night and day. Legolas sighed briefly and returned to reading the poem again.
Frodo and Gandalf were in deep conversation. The look on Frodo’s face was quite anxious, yet Gandalf appeared to be trying to comfort him in some way. The company could not pick up all the words spoken, but every now and then, they could hear the word ‘Gollum’ amid the hushed tones of the conspirators. Coralie awoke with a start.
“What is it Lady?” asked Legolas peering anxiously at her through the gloom. One moment she had been resting soundly, the next she was wide-awake with a worried expression on her face.
“I thought I heard something,”
“What did you hear?” asked Legolas in return.
“I thought I heard someone say Gollum.”Her brows were knit together. “Or at least I thought I did.”
Yes, you most likely did. For I have heard him also. You know of this creature, Gollum?” he asked wondering how she could possibly have heard of him.
“He’s…well, he…”Coralie stammered. “Legolas, pinch me!” she demanded.
“Pinch you?” he asked in surprise.
“Yes, pinch me Legolas. I can’t remember, and it’s driving me round the twist!” She was frustrated now. “All I can remember is something about Gollum, but I can’t remember anymore! What use am I?”
Legolas smiled grimly at her. “Lady, you are here for a reason. Sooner or later, we will find out what that reason is. In the meantime, we can only do what we can with the time that is given us.”
Suddenly, Gandalf stood up and picked up his staff and hat, placing the latter on his head.
“Ah! It’s that way!” he said.
“He’s remembered!” cried Merry, pleased to be moving along at last.
Gandalf patted him on the shoulder at the entrance to one of the tunnels.
“No. But the air doesn’t smell so foul down here. When in doubt, Meriadoc, always follow your nose.”
The company followed him down the tunnel he had chosen. They had only travelled a little way when suddenly, it seemed as if the walls to the left and right had vanished as they could feel warmer air as a great draught behind them, and faced colder air ahead.
Gandalf walked a little ahead with his staff raised.
“Let me risk a little more light!” The receding shadows vanished in a blaze of light as a great chambered hall with many pillars of hewn stone suddenly revealed itself. Vast beyond their immediate sight, the ceiling far above their heads, was not reflected in the polished stone floor they stood upon. The dim reaches of this hall were flung beyond the faint radiance of the meagre light that Gandalf displayed in his outstretched hand.
“Behold! The great realm of the dwarf city of Dwarrowdelf!”
They gasped in awe as their eyes strained to find the corners of this colossal hall without success.
“Now, there’s an eye opener, and no mistake,” ventured Sam as they made their way through.
“Gandalf, do you think it would be alright if I took a picture?” asked Coralie turning to him.
“I don’t think that it will do any harm,” he responded smiling. “Of course you may!”
Coralie fumbled around in her pack for her Clie camera and stood looking through the viewfinder. Suddenly there was a flash, which made the hobbits jump.
“Good thing we know what that is now Coralie. That flash took me by surprise!”
Coralie clipped the Camera onto the wristwatch on her left wrist. She still held her ski pole in her right hand.
“Sorry about that lads. I should have reminded you about the flash before I took the piccie.”
The Company began their long march out of the Mines again following Gandalf’s lead, walking in awe through the now silent hall, filled with the empty echoes of dwarven arts. A faint glimmer of light outlined an archway and smaller chamber to their right. Suddenly, Gimli gasped and ran through the door falling to his knees in front of a stone slab in the center of the room. The others followed him, blinking in the new light from a small window high above their heads. After the dark of Moria, it was like stepping into the bright sunlight again. A small shaft of light from above, fell directly onto the slab below. Gimli’s head was bowed before the slab and he was weeping. The room was littered with ruins of battle. Gandalf came over for a closer look at the runes that were graven there.
“Here lies Balin, son of Fundin. Lord of Moria. So he is dead then,” his voice was grave with sorrow and regret. Boromir placed a comforting hand on Gimli’s shoulder. The others stood silent before the tomb of Balin. Frodo remembered that Balin was his Uncle Bilbo’s friend and fellow adventurer to Smaug’s lair in the Lonely Mountain. How long ago that seemed. How far away now, the carefree days of the Shire were from that grim, dusty room. Presently, Gandalf roused himself from his mournful meditation and began to search around for anything that would provide a clue to Balin’s fate. Stooping near the slab, he picked up a dusty tome from the skeletal hands of a bloodless sentry, still on ghostly watch by his master’s grave. The leaves of the book crackled and fell away as he did so. Gandalf turned the pages gingerly as he found the final entry.
“Twould seem that this is a record of the last days of Balin’s folk,” he paused as he silently read its contents.
“I fear that he had ill tidings to record in a fair hand,” said Gandalf at last. “Their end was cruel. Listen! `We cannot get out. They have taken the Bridge and second hall. We have barred the gates, but cannot hold them for long. The ground shakes. Drums, drums in the deep. We cannot get out. A shadow moves in the dark. We cannot get out….. They are coming’….”
While Gandalf was reading, Pippin began to back away with dread, as the wizard revealed the doom of Balin’s folk. He was holding Gandalf’s hat and staff, which he gripped all the more tighter as he retreated. A bleak weight had gripped the corners of his heart, and the ominous strain was almost more than he could bear. Turning, he found himself face to face with a cadaverous soldier, sitting on the edge of an empty well. A black, feathered arrow protruded from what remained of his armour. With vacant fascination, Pippin reached out to touch it. To his horror, the skeletal remains toppled over backwards into the well. A bucket and iron chain that had been sitting beside the corpse were dragged over the precipice also. There was a terrible clatter of metal against stone. The Company whirled as one, overtaken by the sudden onset of the reverberations emanating from the deep. Down, down fell the metallic remnants of the embattled ghoul. Pippin’s face reflected every crash and clatter as he faced Gandalf’s ire.
“Fool of a Took! Throw yourself in next time and rid us of your stupidity!” Gandalf grabbed his hat and staff from the hapless hobbit.
He had barely spoken these words when a great booming noise came out of the depths. The stones trembled where they stood. Harsh cries and running feet could be heard as the drums rolled, coming closer with each boom. Boromir ran for the entranceway and peered out. Several arrows met his brash employment, finding their mark in the wooden door near his head.
“Orcs!” cried Legolas.
The hobbits drew their swords. Frodo’s shone blue in the grey light.
Boromir and Aragorn barred the door as Legolas threw great axes for them to secure it with.
“They have a cave troll!” said Boromir to Aragorn as they held the door.
“Get Back! Stay with Gandalf!” cried Aragorn over his shoulder to the hobbits and Coralie.
Gandalf gathered them together as they all turned to face the onslaught, weapons in hand. Coralie grasped her ski pole with both hands.
“Strewth! What am I doing here? This has got to be some ghastly nightmare! I did hit my head on a tree! Wake up! Wake UP!” she thought desperately.
The Orcs were hacking at the door from the other side. The door quivered. Aragorn, Boromir and Legolas stood armed vigil before its failing timber. The door staggered from the relentless beating and a hole started to form. Legolas let an arrow fly. The scream from the other side told that it had made its mark.
“Let them come!” shouted Gimli from atop of Balin’s tomb. “There is but one dwarf left in Moria who still draws breath!”
As if to answer his challenge the Orcs broke through. Legolas felled two almost immediately with arrows. Aragorn and Boromir assailed the invaders with their swords whilst Gandalf and the hobbits advanced with blades drawn shouting “For the Shire!”
Coralie had backed up about as far as she could in the chamber.
“Cripes! I’m not going to wake up am I?”
Without bothering to stoop, a giant cave troll suddenly came lurching into the room, crashing through the lintel, stone club in hand. He swung at Sam, near his feet. Sam gave a mighty yell and dove between the brute’s legs. The troll seemed puzzled that he had missed his target and looked around for another. He spotted Coralie shrinking up against the back wall and raised his club. She cowered against the wall looking for a place to run. Suddenly as if by a stroke of genius, she took his picture! There was a blinding flash. Coralie ran for cover. The troll rubbed at his eyes and Legolas took full advantage of his temporary blindness by shooting an arrow at him. It glanced off his stony hide. Coralie then ran over to Sam who was swatting at Orcs with a fry pan. An Orc had advanced on him without his knowledge from behind. She aimed her camera at him. The Orc howled in pain and Sam now alerted to the danger turned and brought his pan down crashing upon its skull.
“Thanks. I think I’m getting the hang of this,” said Sam to Coralie as he bashed another one. Aragorn, Gandalf and Boromir were at the forefront of the battle trying to stem the tide of Orc’s pouring in through the open door. Aragorn beheaded one whilst Boromir drove his sword through another’s ribs. Striking at others with both his sword and staff, Gandalf was a formidable opponent.
Pippin ducked as an Orc swung wide with his sword and drove his blade into the creature’s chest. Merry stabbed him from behind. Another advanced upon the pair, crying as he raised his sword. Coralie fumbled with her camera, but could not position it correctly. There was no time! Instead she grabbed her laser light at her neck and shone it directly in his eyes as she jumped in front of him. The Orc dropped his weapon and howled with pain. Cruel nails dug into her shoulders as he shook her with rage. Legolas flung a knife at the Orc that held her, striking between the shoulder blades with deadly precision. Another grabbed her from behind and swung her around away from the direction of the previous blade hoping to use her as a shield. Legolas raised his bow. His arrow flew into the Orc’s eye as Merry and Pippin dug their knive’s in his back. The Orc fell dead at their feet. Before they had time to congratulate themselves more Orcs fell upon them. The hobbits slashed at them whilst Coralie held up her ski pole as a spear. Boromir jumped to their defense and clove the skull of one who was advancing on them with upraised sword. She nodded her thanks as he swung around, shield and sword flashing amid the din.
Legolas had drawn his long knives and was carving his way through a group of Orcs on a low wall. The troll swung the end of the chain around his neck at Legolas who had dispatched the Orcs. He ducked out of the way easily, anticipating the troll’s awkward flailing with lightning speed. The great chain became entangled around one of the stone pillars. Legolas placed his foot on the links and ran directly up the taut chain as the troll pulled back on it. Standing on top of his head he fired an arrow into the troll’s skull. The troll screamed and swatted at Legolas who jumped out of reach of his hulking arms.
Coralie was now wrestling with another that had broken through Aragorn’s and Boromir’s line of defense. He had one hand around her neck and all his weight was bent upon her as he brought his blade up to strike. She aimed her laser light with her left hand, the Orc’s blow fell wide and she followed by driving her ski pole through its neck as he stumbled forward. He fell to the ground gasping for breath. Aragorn arrived to her defense as the Orc fell. He nodded quickly with a wry smile before leaping into the fray of the battle again. The chamber was filled with the havoc of blood, cries and death as the Company fought with fierce determination against the odds.
Still defiant, Gimli stood atop Balin’s tomb, cleaving the heads from the shoulders of Orcs who attacked him with his great ax. The troll swiped his club at Gimli, but his arc swung wide and missed him by mere inches. He raised his club a second time. Legolas seeing the danger, fired two arrows in an effort to save Gimli. He was spared, but two Orcs had met their doom at the troll’s hands instead. The troll pushed on relentless, sniffing this way and that as a bloodhound on the scent of some trail. Cowering behind a pillar, the hobbits had gathered together trying to hide from the troll. It seemed to be singling out Frodo who had tried desperately to hide, but could not escape this obdurate foe. Suddenly he was discovered. He swung upside down in the troll’s indomitable grasp as it drew him out from behind the pillar.
“Aragorn!” cried Frodo. He desperately clawed at the rocks in an effort to escape.
Aragorn, besieged by a number of Orcs, turned quickly seeing Frodo’s danger.
“Frodo!” he shouted, fighting his way out of the melee.
Suddenly amidst the confusion, Frodo’s chain carrying the ring slipped off his neck and fell to the ground as the troll swung him around. Frodo stabbed at the brute’s great arm with his blade Sting. The troll screamed with pain and dropped him momentarily. Aragorn, sword in hand fought his way to Frodo’s defense. The others were desperately trying to aid Frodo as well, but were caught up in the fray.
The fallen chain had not escaped the attention of one of the Orc’s though. He ran straight to the very spot where it lay as the others engaged the troll and slipped it over his head. From behind there came a sudden crunch. Coralie had noted the fallen chain as well.
“Up the Rabbitohs!” she cried, and made her best rugby tackle at the Orc.
The Orc tumbled over and rolled with Coralie still wrapped around his legs. He dragged her to her feet and head butted her as he held her by the shoulders. She grabbed at him in a daze and suddenly shifted her balance. As she fell backwards, she dug a foot in his stomach and flung him over her head. She tried to stand up beyond his reach, but staggered from the blow on her forehead. A great black arm shot around her neck and pulled her backwards. They both fell to the ground. Coralie drove her elbow into her assailant’s ribs as they fell together. She tried to struggle out of his grasp whilst he was still winded from her well-aimed blow, but he grabbed her and threw her over the top of him. The Orc rolled with her as they struggled. Together, they both tumbled into the well.