With no other choice, since everyone had at least gotten their feet wet, we entered Moria. I stumbled in beside Legolas, trying to ignore the smell of death. It was horrible; the bodies looked as though they had been burned, for they were little more than blackened skeletons.
“We can rest here and warm up and then we will have to find another way,” Gandalf announced.
Just as we were preparing to settle, the creature’s tentacles rose from the water again. There was a momentary panic as everyone scrambled for the recesses of the mine. The tentacles, waving wildly in their death throes, reached in after us. They grabbed onto whatever they touched and pulled it back.
Including the ceiling.
The rock slabs that made up the roof caved in, cutting off our exit and cloaking us in darkness.
[Great,] I muttered, huddling against Legolas, who had one arm around me to be sure I was still there.
There was a bright flare of light and everyone looked over to where Gandalf had `lit’ a piece of quartz. “Well, come on, then. We cannot wait around here for something else to happen.”
It felt like we were down there for weeks. At one point we had to stop because Gandalf was not sure of the way. Still soaked, I curled up on the cold stone where I had sat down, too tired to go any further. Legolas sat beside me and took out his daggers to sharpen them. He began humming softly to himself while he worked and I, intrigued, lifted my head and rested it against his knee to hear better.
I must have fallen asleep because when I next woke, he had somehow moved without my knowing and was using my hip as a pillow. I yawned and briefly sensed out the area, but only the rest of the Fellowship (as well as Gollum, who had been following us for days) was nearby.
I had just gone back to sleep when Gandalf said, “It is this way.”
“He’s remembered!” was the happy cry from one of the hobbits.
“No,” Gandalf admitted. “But the air is fresher here. Come along!”
I began to get up and Legolas woke as well, yawning widely and stretching. We got up and trailed after the others to a huge hall. It was magnificent even in its darkly menacing appearance. A shaft of light drew my attention as it did everyone else’s and before he could be stopped, Gimli had darted into the room, which soon turned out to be a record chamber.
We gathered around the stone tomb in the center of the room and Gandalf once again read the inscriptions. “Balin, son of Fundin, Lord of Moria.”
Gimli was torn. We left him to his grief. I stood by Legolas, as had become my custom, and lowered my head in respect of Balin, though I kept my ears open for anything that might be coming our way. Gandalf found an ancient-looking book of records and opened it, reading some of the text.
“We have barred the gates . . . They have taken the Bridge and the second hall . . . We are trapped . . . Drums, drums in the deep . . . We cannot get out . . . They are coming.”
There was an uneasy silence, broken by the clatter of iron on stone as a web-covered dwarf skeleton perched on the edge of a well lost its head into the well’s depths. The body, as well as the rusted chain and wooden bucket nearby, went with it. We all looked at the culprit–Pippin.
Gandalf slammed the book shut. “Fool of a Took! Throw yourself in next time and rid us of your stupidity!”
I heard a thump. I lifted my head and my ears, looking out the door. There was another thump and this time the others heard it too.
“Drums!” I snarled.
“Orcs!” Legolas spat in reply.
I looked over at Frodo; his knife glowed blue. Whirling as Boromir went to check on the frantic pace of the drums, I strung an arrow loosely and waited. Two goblin arrows slammed into the wood door, nearly catching Boromir’s head and killing him. He and Aragorn quickly pulled the doors shut.
“They have a cave troll,” was the disbelieving and disgusted report.
They barred the doors and then joined the rest of us. Gimli climbed up onto Balin’s tomb and hefted his ax eagerly. “Let them come! There is one dwarf yet in Moria who still draws breath!”
I lifted my bow along with Legolas and Aragorn and sighted at a point that I guessed the orcs would break through first. I was about three inches too high and so I quickly corrected my aim and loosed my arrow right after Legolas. There was a double screech and a momentary retreat.
We fired arrows until they had broken the doors down, then immediately switched to close-range weapons and scattered to take on the orcs separately, though I was sure that was not such a good idea.
I dispatched orc after orc and any goblin stuck between. The blade of my sword glistened red with the blood of my enemy and still I killed, until a shout drew my attention. I whirled to look across the room at the cave troll. It had mostly left me alone, but had terrorized the others in return.
I saw the spear protruding from Frodo’s side and started to react, but the iron blade of an orc sword blazed a line of fire through my left shoulder. I looked down at the blade, momentarily bewildered, then swung my sword around and beheaded the lot before me with one fell strike.
Dashing for the cave troll, I leapt onto its shoulders with Pippin just as the brave little hobbit stabbed it in the back of its neck. I looked up and spotted Legolas attempting to aim into its mouth. The cave troll screeched horribly at Pippin’s attack and Legolas loosed the arrow he had strung; I grabbed Pippin and hopped clear as it staggered uncertainly and then finally collapsed.
All attention turned then to the deathly still Frodo . . . Had our journey come to an end so quickly?
He surprised us by being quite alive when Aragorn rolled him onto his back, just out of breath from the blow dealt by the cave troll. In explanation, he pulled his shirt open and revealed a coat of mithril.
Once sure he was all right, I reached behind myself and tugged on the blade experimentally. It hurt a great deal, so I left it alone. I could not remove it by myself. I would need someone who would not panic if they saw it, which definitely ruled out Legolas, and was familiar with a sword. Perhaps Aragorn or Boromir.
So much for not involving Legolas. I spun to continue facing him, not allowing him to get near the sword hilt.
[No, Legolas. You are not versed well enough in the ways of swords.]
“She is right, Legolas,” Aragorn put in.
Legolas looked betrayed. I patted his chest reassuringly. [I will be all right. It is not dangerous.]
“Give me a hand, Boromir.”
Aragorn pulled the sword while Boromir pushed with equal pressure against my back. I clung to Legolas’ arms, my fingers tightening with each fresh burst of pain. Finally, the sword came out and I choked back a scream, burying my face in his shoulder. No point in summoning more orcs.
Boromir examined the wound. “We do not have time to wrap it.”
“It is all right,” I replied. “I can manage. Let us escape.”
So we headed out into the hall again to search for the exit. It was not long before we were surrounded by cackling orcs. I gave serious consideration to bolting, but it was a veritable sea of them and there was no sure escape. I stood shoulder to shoulder with Legolas and Merry, who was half huddled against my leg, and prepared for a desperate attack.
Then there was an earth-shaking thud, a deep growl, and a far stairway lit orange. The orcs scattered back into the crevasses they had crawled from and the rest of us turned to the staircase. I could feel the heat already and it scorched my wound; I immediately began backing up and Legolas stepped in front of me, arrow strung.
It appeared finally–a black demon with a mane and aura of flame.
“Balrog!” I shouted. I shoved past Legolas and Gandalf, enduring the encroaching heat. “The rest of you run! I will be able to distract it for a moment!”
They obeyed, though Legolas almost had to be dragged away. I arched back a little, my arms held out from my sides a bit, my palms facing forward and my hands slack. I lifted my arms to form a loose circle over my head, despite the pain in my shoulder. [I call upon the power of Water.] I closed my eyes as the Balrog neared, concentrating on what I was doing instead. Then I turned to the side, dropping my right arm to its first position and pointing with my left hand at the demon. [Strike this beast with your fury!]
A wave of water crashed over me and lunged for the Balrog. The demon was cooled in a deafening hiss of steam, but I knew it would only last so long. Without a constant supply of water to keep it cool, it would break through easily and resume terrorizing us.
I whirled and raced for the doorway, allowing Gandalf to usher me through after the others. I found them at a break in the stairs that led farther down; Legolas had already hopped across the space and was catching the others as they could be convinced to jump.
Gandalf went across immediately, and those who could not be convinced before took courage from his success. Soon I was left with Frodo and Aragorn, both of whom would not go without being sure the others were safe. The section of stairs we were on rocked dangerously and I barely caught an arrow that would have pierced Aragorn’s skull. Annoyed, I snarled, “Jump!”
They jumped and the stairs began to fall into the darkness below.
[Kyshri!] Legolas cried after me, as though I was planning to die there.
I ran to the `top’ of the stairs, which had at one time been the side, and used it to leap off of. I nearly landed on Legolas, but he stepped out of the way in time. We ran to the bridge of Khazad-dum and crossed single file, Gandalf once again being the very last.
He stopped and turned as the Balrog dropped onto the flat beside the bridge, lifting his staff and sword. “You shall not pass!”
That was all I bothered to hear, for I was too busy shooting down orcs to be able to concentrate on anything else. I absently noted the flare of the Balrog’s sword on Gandalf’s Glamdring and then the crack of the Balrog’s whip.
“You shall not pass!”
The bridge split at the contact point of Gandalf’s staff and collapsed under the Balrog. It fell into the darkness and seemed to be harmless, but Gandalf turned his back too soon. The whip was re-slung and wrapped around Gandalf’s ankle, pulling him down into the depths of the darkness.
His last words were of order to the rest of us as he grasped at the stone to stay up. ” Fly, you fools!”
Then he was gone.
There was a great commotion as Frodo was forcefully picked up by Boromir and carried out of the mine. Everyone else followed and I, having already picked a good vantage point, stayed behind and shot orcs until I had nearly no arrows left. I might have stayed until they were all gone, but when I took an arrow in the calf I realized I had been there far too long. I pulled the arrow and tossed it aside, then darted for the exit.
I burst into the outside world and found myself ready to take a flight off a cliff. I looked around, but there was only a tiny walkway following the curve of the cliff face. With the orcs and goblins behind me I had no choice. I began inching my way along the crumbling trail, being cautious of where I placed my feet. Suddenly, the trail ended . . . hundreds of feet over nothing.
I looked across the pit–about ninety feet away and twenty feet down were the others, trooping over the rocks. “How did you get over there?” I called.
They ran to the edge of their side and the hobbits cried in relief, “You’re alive!”
“What, you thought I was dead?” I sighed. “. . . You took the left passage, did you not?” They nodded. “All right, fine. I will simply have to—“
There was a loud cackle behind me.
“Jump!” Legolas commanded.
“Catch me?” I replied.
“I will do whatever you want!” he snapped. “Just jump!”
I glanced back the way I had come. The trail was far too narrow to give me a good running start. I would have to risk a stand-still jump. The wind was pretty strong; I had a sixty-forty chance of making it if I was very careful. But there was little time for caution. I leapt about fifty feet across and then fell. I pulled the wind around me to form a support, then dispersed it a second later. I could not hold it long or else it would throw me, but it was enough.
I missed the edge of the cliff, landing instead on Legolas. In the most spectacular show of how grace can be lost on an elf, he tipped over onto his back, me on top of him. We stared at each other for several moments, both of us startled.
I quickly smiled. “Well hello, Legolas. Thanks for—!”
(Ah, yes, the obligatory drop-you-right-at-the-most-interesting-point cliff-hanger. Depending on how soon this Tale gets posted will determine how soon the next does because I can’t risk Tale 7 being posted before Tale 6. That would take all the fun out of it! Sorry . . .)