Novarwen had no idea how long they’d been walking in darkness, lit only by the faint glow from Gandalf’s staff, but she knew it was a long time. The hobbits were getting weary: Frodo’s face looked more drawn and tight every time she looked at him. Even Merry and Pippin’s normally high spirits were being lowered by the unending journey in the dark. Boromir was tired too, although she could tell he tried not to show it. Still, it came out in every step he took. She herself was tired, but as an Elf, it was harder to see it in her.
But the clincher came when Gandalf stopped walking, looked about him, and murmured, “I have no memory of this place.” At the words, Novarwen’s last shred of spirit gave in to weariness, and she lay down on a boulder and closed her eyes. Just as she was dropping off to sleep, she felt Legolas sit beside her and ease her head onto his lap. She smiled sleepily at him and fell asleep.
In her dream, she was walking across a narrow stone bridge. The rest of the Fellowship was with her, and for some reason, so was Theryn. “Are you part of us now?” she asked him.
He shook his head. “I am going to leave you soon.”
Novarwen put that out of her mind and finished crossing the bridge. She turned around and saw Gandalf in the middle of the bridge, shouting at a creature she couldn’t see. The bridge cracked off, and the creature plummeted, but Gandalf fell with it into a dark abyss. Novarwen screamed his name and had to be restrained from running out on the broken bridge and trying to catch him and pull him back. Then she turned around and there was an Orc, or something like an Orc, shooting an arrow into Theryn’s back, and she was screaming Theryn’s name now, and tears were running down her face –
She woke with a start and gasped. Her face was wet, and she looked up at Legolas. Her brother was hugging her, and she reached out and hugged him back blindly. “Shh,” he soothed, just like he had when they were children in Mirkwood and she was scared or having a bad dream. “It was just a nightmare, don’t worry, it’s not real.”
“They were dead, Legolas, they were dead!” Novarwen whispered, wiping the tears from her face.
“Only in the dream. I promise you, it won’t happen in real life.” Novarwen closed her eyes and held tight to her brother, hoping he was right.
Then Gandalf let out a small exclamation. “It’s that way!” he said, and he stood up to keep walking. Legolas helped Novarwen to her feet.
“He’s remembered!” cried Merry.
“No,” Gandalf replied, putting his hat on, “but the air doesn’t smell so foul. When in doubt, Meriadoc,” he added, leading them into a narrow passage, “always follow your nose.”
The passage opened out into what seemed to be a huge open space. Novarwen strained her eyes to see beyond Gandalf’s staff. “Let me risk a little more light,” the wizard murmured. He passed his hand over his staff, and the light grew brighter. He swept the staff in an arc before them. “Behold,” he cried as his light revealed tall columns and pillars, “the great Dwarf city of Dwarrowdelf!”
Novarwen stared. Dwarves built these? she thought, amazed. They were magnificent, reaching from the ground to the very roof of the chamber they were in. Gimli was standing by her, and without thinking about her words, Novarwen whispered to him, “This is beautiful.” He beamed proudly.
Then suddenly his eye was caught by a gleam of light. Gimli gasped and ran toward it, heedless of Gandalf’s warning shout. The rest of the Fellowship ran after him. By the time they had entered the chamber Gimli had run into, the Dwarf was kneeling in disbelief before a stone platform with an inscription on it, gasping, “No…no!” Gandalf stepped to one side of Gimli and read the inscription out loud. “Here lies Balin, son of Fundin.” With a chill, Novarwen remembered that Balin was the cousin Gimli had spoken of, who he had assured them all would welcome them royally. Dwarf or not, her heart went out to Gimli in his albeit loud and noisy grief, and she put a hand on his shoulder.
Gandalf handed Pippin his hat and staff and brushed aside a skeletal Dwarf claw to pick up a book lying beneath it. He opened it, and a shower of dust and creaking of pages accompanied its opening. The wizard paged through carefully, then began reading near the end. ” `They have taken the Bridge and the second hall,'” he read aloud. Novarwen felt another chill as she realized that the book was a chronicle of the fate of the Dwarves who had died here. She felt odd, hearing their tale in their own words while surrounded by their bodies. ” `We have barred the doors, but cannot hold for long. Drums, drums in the deep.” The wizard turned the page. Novarwen caught a glimpse of the new page – the words on it were wavery, and there were red spots on the page. ” `We cannot get out. A shadow draws near. We cannot get out.'” Novarwen closed her eyes against the miserable pity for the desperate, doomed Dwarves. Gandalf looked up at them as he uttered the last sentence in the book: ” `They are coming.'”
Suddenly something fell into the well in the chamber. Novarwen jumped, then saw that Pippin had obviously touched the cobwebbed Dwarf skeleton sitting on the lip of the well. The head had fallen in. Then the body followed it, and then, to the Fellowship’s horror, the heavy metal thing it was attached to. It crashed off the walls of the well as it plummeted. Now their presence was announced to anyone who had ears.
Gandalf snatched back his hat and staff. “Fool of a Took!” he growled. “Throw yourself in the next time and rid us of your stupidity!” Pippin looked utterly miserable.
Then Novarwen froze. She trembled, hoping that she had not just heard what she thought she had. Her eyes flashed to Legolas’, and one shared look between them confirmed her fears. It came again, and this time the others heard it: a low, ominous drumbeat coming from the depths of the well. The drumbeats grew louder and faster, until they could all hear a high screeching from outside the chamber. Aragorn and Boromir rushed to the door. Boromir got there first, and barely missed dying on an Orc arrow. He jerked back as the missile thudded into the wood of the door, then whirled around and said briefly, in a voice dripping with sarcasm, “They have a cave troll.”
“Get back!” Novarwen ordered the hobbits. She quickly strung her bow, checked her quiver to make sure it was full, and grabbed a spear. “Legolas!” she called, tossing the spear to him. “Bar the doors!” Aragorn and Boromir caught on, and soon the door was barred with spears lying around on the floor. We have barred the doors, but cannot hold for long. The words from the Dwarves’ book flew into Novarwen’s mind, and she forced off another shiver. Will we join the skeletons, lying dead in this chamber in Moria? she wondered, then forced the thought away. She would have to fight for her life now, harder than she had ever fought before. She pulled out an arrow and fitted it to her bow.
Chopping sounds came from outside the door. Moria Orcs, she thought, holding her arrow ready to shoot. They chopped away enough to make a peephole in the old wood, but they had not reckoned with her brother. Novarwen smiled with pride as Legolas loosed an arrow straight into the center of the hole. An unearthly shriek came from the hole, and her smile, which was quickly taking on something of the predator, grew wider.
Then enough of the door gave way for Orcs to scramble into the chamber. Novarwen set to work. Her arrows found their marks one after another. She and Legolas managed to hold off the Orcs for a short while, but then the door was smashed in. An enormous cave troll, towering over them all, burst into the chamber, and Novarwen tossed her bow into a recess in the chamber and pulled out her long knife. It was time for close work. She gripped the knife and attacked an Orc.
“Novarwen! Behind you!” Aragorn yelled. She plunged her knife into her opponent and whirled just in time to catch a heavy Orc-blade on her knife. She shoved it off and swept the foul thing’s head off quickly. “Thanks!” she yelled back to Aragorn.
Then the cave troll barreled toward her. Novarwen stepped quickly out of its path, then realized with horror what the troll was really going for – the hobbits. She had just happened to be in the way. She ran at the troll. “Legolas! I need help!” she called over her shoulder. Her brother disentangled himself from the two Orcs attacking him and ran toward her and the troll. He threw himself onto its back, clinging to the collar around its neck. Novarwen yelled at the hobbits to find a hiding place, then retrieved her bow and stepped back to get a clear shot on the troll. She sighted for his stomach and loosed the moment he held still. Her arrow thudded into him, and he roared in pain. Novarwen yanked another arrow out of her quiver, but before she could fit it to her bow, an Orc leaped at her. Novarwen ducked the downswing of the Orc’s blade, rolled away, and came up with her knife in her hand and her bow slipped back into the recess. He hacked at her with his heavy sword. She ducked again, came up under his arm, and shoved her knife into his chest. The Orc-sword caught her leather outer tunic and dragged down her back as he fell.
Novarwen yelled in pain. She could feel herself bleeding, and she knew her tunic was ripped all the way down the back. Cursing the wasted time she could be fighting, the dead Orc’s sword, and the loss of a good leather tunic, Novarwen pulled off the torn tunic, relying on the second one she wore to protect her and to stay in one piece. She was just standing up again and about to start killing more Orcs when she heard Sam’s panicked voice yelling, “Strider!” Novarwen whirled around in the direction Sam’s voice had come from and saw the troll looming over Frodo. The hobbit was standing against the wall, and a spear was protruding from his stomach. Heedless of her wound and the danger, Novarwen rushed toward him.