Room of Rest, Twenty-First Hall
After a strange talk with Ariane, Lord Balin summoned Oin to come in. He whispered some unintelligible words to Oin, and then Oin took Ariane by the arm and led her back to the Room of Rest.
He let her into the room and barred the door behind him. Ariane plopped down on the bed and sighed. Confusion flooded her mind. What are they going to do to me?
She could not think clearly, though. Her thoughts were muddled. Wearily, she lay down her dark head, closed her heavy eyelids, and fell asleep.
Room of Rest, Twenty-First Hall, morning
The sound of the door being unbarred made Ariane awaken from her dreamless sleep. Lord Balin himself entered and stood proudly in the room. He pushed the door closed slowly and turned to face Ariane.
"Well, you’re much too spry to be lying down all day long, aren’t ya?"
"What do you want?" asked Ariane, sick of his mind games.
"To get to the point, I need your help. No – let me re-phrase that. I want your help." Balin puffed his chest, full of pride, and stared coldly at the Elf. "You are going to start earning your keep around here. I saved your Elvish backside, and now you will do me a favour."
Ariane rose to his challenge – literally. Pulling herself off the bed, she came close to him and towered over her captor. Looking down at him, eyes burning, she asked, "What do you want me to do?"
Opening the door, he forcefully took Ariane by the arm and led her down the Twenty-First Hall, down some torch-lit stairs, into a small room. There was nothing in the room but the four, bare rock walls, and a shaft of light coming in from the east wall, high above her head, close to the ceiling.
Closing the door behind him, he waved his arm and said, "See this room? I wanted to make it bigger, grander," He pointed to the southern wall. "I want this wall two feet deeper than it is right now. I want it to go back further. And I want you to do it."
"I beg your pardon?!" Ariane exclaimed loudly. "Are you joking? I am NOT going to do that. I can’t hew. I’m not a dwarf. I-I’ve never held an axe in my life. Even if I wanted to, which I certainly DO NOT, I don’t know how."
"Well, I suppose now is a good time as any to learn. I’ll get you an axe. Do you prefer a one-sided axe, or two?" Chuckling heartily, he turned to leave.
Ariane, burning with rage, shouted after him, "I’m not going to do it!" He did not turn around. "And I’m definitely not going to work in these ripped clothes!" Lord Balin shut the door behind him. "Ah!" Ariane shouted in exasperation.
Sitting on the floor, face in her hands, she breathed heavily, trying to drink everything in. Balin is holding me hostage, no doubt. But what can I do now? He’s making me do what he wants. And nobody can help me but myself. Looking around the room, Ariane realized that there were only two exits in the room – the shaft far above her head and the locked door. Both were virtually impossible to get out of. Unless…
Suddenly, Ariane heard sounds right outside of the door. Standing quickly, she wiped the cold sweat off her face and waited for Balin to appear in the door.
The pompous dwarf opened the door and stood in the doorway, not coming further in. He cast two things in front of her. "Here’s the axe – it’s doubled-sided – and you can wear that. It’s all I have for you. It belonged to an ancient Dwarven princess." Turning to leave, he warned her quickly, "Don’t try to run, Arvariane Estel. There’s nowhere to go." He locked and barred the door behind him.
Ariane stared at the two objects on the ground. Her eye was drawn to the clothing that he had left for her. Picking it up curiously, she unfolded it and stared in awe. It was a Dwarven princess’, all right. The sleeves and neck were made of pretty white cloth, with intricate designs at the neck, and the rest of it was tarnished silver mithril. Slowly, she took off her worn, torn, and stained cloak and dress that she had received in Lothlorien and put on the Dwarven dress. It was short on her – the hem was right above her knees, and the fluttering, slit sleeves stopped at her elbows, but at least it was not dirty and blood-stained. She cast aside her old clothes but kept her chocolate brown boots. At least those were not ruined.
Picking up the heavy axe, she looked at her task. It would not be easy, but it was the only way out. She lifted the axe above her head and struck the eastern wall, one blow after another, sending stones and chunks of rock crumbling beneath her feet.
Beside Caradhras, Misty Mountains
Elladan, Elrohir, Figwit, and the attack squad from Rivendell stood staring at the tall, glimmering peak of Caradhras, the afternoon sun glinting on its white blanket of snow. The party had stopped for a short rest. They hadn’t stopped once since they had left Rivendell, but ridden with speed towards the caves of the mountain, hoping with everything they believed in that Ariane was still alive.
After giving the horses something to eat, Elladan gave instructions. "I want three members to stay here and look after the horses. I will leave the horn of Rivendell with you – call if you need help. The rest of you – I believe that since the passage that we entered to get to the foul tunnels caved in, we should enter though the Mines of Moria – the West-gate." Some of the Elves looked confused, almost afraid to go through that way. Reading the looks on their faces, Elladan quickly said, "It’s the only way."
Figwit stood off from the party in a corner, gently holding a vial of Niphredil in his soft palms, praying to the gods that Ariane would still be alive so he could give her it. A voice suddenly penetrated his thoughts.
"Are you coming?" Elrohir said softly to Figwit.
"Yes, my friend. I just cannot wait to give this to her." He showed Elrohir the vial.
Elrohir smiled grimly and put a hand on Figwit’s shoulder. "Yes, nor can I. Let us go and end this mess."
The West-gate, Mines of Moria
The attack squad had come around to the West-gate, and the Elves who had stayed with the horses were not too far behind them.
In front of the West-gate, to their absolute surprise, sat two plump Dwarves, both holding double-sided axes and posted on either side of the gate. When they saw the party of Elves, they stood quickly, just as surprised as the Elves.
Immediately the Dwarves put on their gruff faces. The Dwarf on the left shouted, "Halt! Who are you, and where do you come from? And why have you come here?"
Elrohir, having dealt with the likes of stubborn Dwarves before, answered, "Please, sirs, we mean no harm. I am Elrohir, Elrond’s son. I come with a party from Rivendell, and we wish to find a friend of ours who was lost in these caves of yours." Suddenly Elrohir’s curiosity got the better of him. "And what are you Dwarves doing here? There have not been Dwarves in Moria for quite sometime!"
"I’ll ask the questions around here, Master Elf," said the Dwarf indignantly. "And I cannot let you and your little Elf friends traipse around these halls unsupervised. I don’t even know if you can come in. But I will get the Lord of Moria – he will know what to do with you."
The Dwarf stood in front of the doors and said a word – mellon, it seemed to the Elves – and walked in. The doors closed behind him and the Dwarf on the right stood in front of the doors.
The West-gate, Mines of Moria
After what seemed like an eternity, the doors opened and the Dwarf returned. Behind him was an older, wiser looking Dwarf with a long grey beard, who was wearing royal blue robes. The sentry Dwarves took their places again, while the older Dwarf stood staring at the company of Elves.
Before the Elves could say anything, the Dwarf said, " I am the Lord of Moria. Why have y’all come here?" Although clearly in his heart he knew the answer.
"We have come for our friend, Arvariane Estel," said Elladan very matter-of-factly. "She was badly wounded by Orcs when we found her, and we could not bring her back to Rivendell with us for fear of her life, as well as our own. Have you seen her?"
Lord Balin pretended to think. "Oh, ya mean Ariane."
The whole company of Elves let out a collective sigh of relief. "So you know where she is?" Elrohir asked anxiously.
"Of course. I know everything there is about Moria, which includes who enters it." said Lord Balin coyly.
"Is she okay?"
"She’s fine. She’s just doin’ me a favour right now." Another sighed of relief escaped from the party of Elves.
"Well, we’ve come for her. Can we see her?"
"Uh – let me think -no."
"Why ever not? You cannot keep her in there like that! You cannot hold her hostage!" Elrohir yelled.
"Calm down, brother." said Elladan soothingly. "Now why can’t we?" he asked Balin harshly.
"I can give y’all Ariane in a trade."
"Alright, go on…" said Elladan hastily.
"Ya know the King o’ Mirkwood – King Thranduil?"
"Yes of course I do."
"Good. Now listen carefully. Long ago, he kept me and my companions locked up, although we didn’t do nothin’ wrong. He never apologized for such harsh behaviour, and that’s what I want. Bring me King Thranduil in person, along with a compensation paid in mithril, about 20 pounds, and we’ll call it even."
"And you’ll give us Ariane?" asked Elrohir.
"Oh, yes, I’ll give ya Ariane." Lord Balin turned to leave.
"Wait!" exclaimed Figwit, who had remained quiet during the whole conversation. "Please, please, just give her this and tell her to drink it." Figwit held out the vial of Niphredil extract.
Balin took it from his hand. "She has already been healed, ya know."
"Just give it to her anyway."
"You Elves always think that you’re above us, don’t ya?"
"I did not say that," said Figwit quietly.
Lord Balin turned towards the door and walked away.
"Can we not see her, even for a minute?" Elrohir interjected, pleading for the second time.
Lord Balin turned again. "You want to see Ariane again? Show me the mithril.
With that, he walked into the doorway. The doors shut behind him, leaving the Elves standing in the cold, stupefied.
To be continued…
Note: mellon=friend in Elvish
Again, thanks for reading. Any comments are welcome! 🙂