Instead I looked around the chamber of Mazarbul.
The large door through which we had entered was broken. But in the left-hand corner of the opposite wall there was another door, much smaller. On the ground around both doors broken swords and axe-heads lay scattered, rusty remnants of helms and shields. Some of the discarded weapons had an evil, black look to them.
In the walls on the left and the right were many shelves and recesses carved into the rock. There I could see many burst iron-bound chests made of wood. But all of them were obviously opened by force and plundered.
I walked along the wall to the left, feeling sick with fear. I stumbled across something on the floor. As I looked down, I swallowed hard. It was a book. Or rather it had been a book. It was torn and partly burned, and there were brown spots on the yellowing pages, which could only be blood. I picked it up and held it out to Gandalf.
"I think we should get the hell out of here," I whispered to the wizard. He raised his bushy eyebrows at me and took the book from my hands.
"What is it that you found?" Gimli asked, his voice even gruffer than usual. Together they pored over the book.
At long last Gandalf lifted his head. "It is a record of Balin's endeavours here in Moria."
"What does it say?" Frodo asked and walked up to the wizard.
I looked at the hobbit, and heard a faint whisper nagging at the back of my mind. Take it and get out of here. Take it, take it. Or you won't get out of here. I closed my eyes, the feeling of nausea increasing by the minute. A foul taste was in my mouth. White walls, I thought firmly. White walls all around me. No door. No crack. Sunshine above me. A fleeting image of Glorfindel at his desk passed through my mind, and the evil whispering died down and disappeared. When I opened my eyes, I looked right at Boromir. He stood at the large doors across the room, but he was watching Frodo, a feverish gleam in his eyes. His hands were rhythmically clenching and unclenching. Drops of sweat formed on his forehead.
The ring gets to him, I thought. We have to get out of here.
"Couldn't we get going, please?" I asked, trying in vain to keep my mounting desperation out of my voice.
Gandalf looked up from the book. His blue eyes were full of sorrow as he gazed at me. "This is grim reading," he said. "We cannot get out. The end comes. Drums, drums in the deep. The last words are 'They are coming'." He closed the book slowly, still looking at me.
"We cannot get out," Gimli repeated. "How horrible. I guess we were lucky to get in at all, with that evil creature in that pool out yonder."
Gandalf handed the book to Gimli, who put it into his backpack. "We should really get going now," the wizard said.
"Which way shall we go?" Boromir asked, looking back into the corridor we had left. "Back there or through the little door over there?" He pointed into the corner of the chamber.
"As this is the chamber of Mazarbul, the hall has to be the twenty-first of the North-end," Gandalf said slowly. "We are six levels above the gates. We go back to the hall, bear right and go downwards. We will be out of here soon. Let's go!"
As if on cue, the ground shook with a great, rolling noise, the sound of an explosion or a crash deep below our feet. Aragorn and Boromir leapt to the shattered doors, their swords drawn.
A series of deep echoing drum rolls followed the first noise. And indeed, the sound of the drums rang in my ears as doom, doom, doom.
I drew my sword, too. The thin, sharp blade of Tínu shimmered pearly white in the light coming through the narrow shaft in the ceiling of the chamber. A brassy clarion sounded from the hall, answering the rolling of the drums. I heard the sound of running iron clad feet.
"They are coming," Legolas cried, stringing his bow.
"We cannot get out," Gimli muttered, swinging the huge war-axe down from his back.
The hobbits crowded together behind Balin's tomb, their small swords drawn. Frodo's blade, Sting, blazed a deep blue. Orcs were near.
"Trapped," Gandalf said. For a moment it seemed as if he wanted to add something, but then he gave me a tired smile and drew his sword. Glamdring shone with a bright, white light. Orcs were near.
Doom, doom, doom.
The sound of the drums in the deep reverberated through stone and bone.
Doom, doom, doom.
The wizard stepped up to the door.
"Who dares to come here and disturb the rest of Balin, Lord of Moria?" he called out in a powerful, commanding voice.
A cackle of evil laughter answered him, and a black arrow hissed into the chamber, only narrowly missing Gandalf's head. For the blink of an eye Gandalf lighted the dark hall with a blinding flash of light.
Then he quickly jumped back into the chamber, avoiding a score of arrows by a hair's breadth. "Many Orcs are out there, and some are large and evil; black Uruks out of Mordor, and something huge at the back, a cave-troll, maybe more than one. We cannot hope to get out of here through the hall now."
"If we can make them back away, if we can somehow wedge the small door shut behind us, we might yet escape," Aragorn said. "We will have to make them fear the Chamber of Mazarbul." And as he raised his sword, Andúril, there was a grim light in his eyes.
Boromir closed the shattered doors of the chamber, grunting with the effort. But as he wedged it with broken swords and axe-heads, the right part of the door was already being shoved open again, painfully slow against the great bodily strength of the Gondorian warrior, but inexorably. Suddenly a large, scaly green foot was shoved into the room. It had no toes, but one great claw at its tip.
"Help me," Boromir gasped.
Without hesitation, Frodo leapt up to him and, putting the weight of his body on it, shoved Sting into the back of the foot. There was an inhuman yowl of pain, and Frodo was almost torn out through the door. He staggered back, his sword still clutched in both hands, covered in black, stinking troll blood.
Outside, the silence was ringing.
Aragorn jumped to Boromir's aid and together the men wedged the door shut tightly.
Gandalf shoved Frodo and me behind the tomb, taking up fighting position with Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas and Gimli in front of it.
With a crashing sound a ram was run against the door. The already broken doors heaved.
Another mighty blow against them, and the doors shattered completely. A flood of black bodies, black swords and scimitars, yellow claws and red, evil eyes burst into the chamber.
And then I was lunging, slashing, parrying for all I was worth. There was no thinking about stance or style. This was about staying alive, and the rush of adrenaline in my blood left no room for thought or fear.
Doom, doom, doom, the great drums of the trolls gave the rhythm to this dance of death.
A huge black orc-chieftain jumped into the middle of the fighters, aiming his spear directly at Frodo. The orc fell, his head neatly cloven in two, but not before he had hurled his spear at Frodo. But the other orcs, seeing their captain fall, drew back, screaming in anguish and rage.
Doom, doom, doom, the drums echoed through the darkness of the hall.
"Now," gasped Gandalf. "Now or never!"
Aragorn picked up Frodo, who lay where he had fallen without moving, and we ran into the narrow tunnel behind the small door. But the lock was broken and it opened to the other side. There was no way to wedge the door closed to keep the orcs from following us.
"Let me down," Frodo groaned, coming out of the daze resulting from being hit by the spear.
"I am alright."
"You should be dead," Aragorn exclaimed. Completely astonished, Aragorn put the hobbit to the ground, but there was no time to marvel at this miracle. Already we could hear the footsteps of our enemies coming closer in the hall beyond.
"I have to shut the door by magic," Gandalf said. "I will catch up with you. I hope. Aragorn, lead them down the stairs, choose paths leading to the right and down. Wait not more than a few minutes for me." Aragorn wanted to object, but even as I snatched at his arm to draw him away, Gandalf said with a fierce voice, which allowed no further argument. "Do as I say! Run!"
And we ran. Down into the darkness, more stumbling than running down many, many narrow stairs. The walls were shaking all around us with the beat of the drums: doom, doom, doom.
At the end of the stairs we halted, and Aragorn looked back to the top of the stairs, where the light of Gandalf's staff wavered and failed. An enormous crash came from above us and echoed through the mountain, the ground shaking so hard that I was thrown to my knees.
Suddenly everything was silent.
Boromir helped me on my feet again, and I kept clutching at his hand, shaking with fright.
A few seconds later Gandalf came running down the stairs. He looked utterly exhausted, his face grey and lined deeply with fatigue. "Run," he rasped out at us. "We have no time to lose! I am sorry, but I am not up to any light for a bit. Run!"
He sprang away into the dimly lit darkness. Boromir followed him immediately, keeping a firm hold on my hand; the others were close behind us.
As we ran down the next flight of stairs, the drums picked up their beat again.
Doom, doom, doom, they called after us ominously.
At the bottom of the seventh flight of steep stairs Gandalf halted suddenly. The air was hot and stuffy down here. "I have to rest for a bit, and if all the orcs of hell are behind us." The wizard was shaking with the effort of remaining on his feet. Gimli helped Gandalf to sit down on the stair. I turned away, closing my eyes.
Everything will be alright. Everything will be alright. But I felt like crying nevertheless.
"What happened at the door?" the dwarf asked. "Did you meet the beater of those drums?"
"No. But I was faced by a dark force of such power as I have never met before. The orcs themselves were afraid; I could hear it in their voices. But they gave no name, all they said was 'ghâsh', fire. Whatever it was, it perceived my spell and nearly broke me."
Balrog, I thought. A demon of the old world.
As I looked up, I noticed that Aragorn was watching me again. Would he understand that I could not have said anything? I turned and looked at the wizard, sitting on the stair in the darkness, looking like a frail old man, clothed in rags. My throat constricted.
After twenty minutes of respite, we started down the next flight of stairs. At the bottom of the stairs, the ground became level again. We hurried on through the darkness, now and again stumbling over the uneven ground of the tunnel. After a while, Gimli called out: "There's light ahead, but it's not daylight!"
Soon even I could see a red glow growing brighter in front of us.
We reached a low archway. On the other side seemed to be a large hall, filled with a sickly red light. Carefully Gandalf looked out into the hall around the corner of the archway. "We have reached the Second Hall of Old Moria. Escape is close at hand: we have only to get across the bridge, up the Broad Stairs and along a last few yards of a wide road, through the first hall and we're out. Follow me, quickly – I don't know what new devilry they have waiting for us out there."
This devilry had not much to do with us; it was a volcanic chasm, which had opened in the middle of the Second Hall. The glow we had seen came from the lava flowing at the bottom of the fissure. Black smoke rose above the chasm, swirling up around the large pillars of shining black stone, which supported the vaulted ceiling of the hall. The columns were carved to resemble trees, and they glowed strange and yet very beautiful in the red light of the subterranean fire.
"If we had come down through the hall," Gandalf said, "we would have been trapped." If I had insisted on leaving the chamber of Mazarbul at once, we would have been trapped on the other side of the chasm! My stomach lurched sickly. That had been a close shave indeed!
"Now for the last race. Run!" And the wizard turned left and raced across the smooth floor of the hall. Boromir caught hold of my hand and dragged me along behind him, forcing me to speed up well beyond my limit of speed.
Doom, doom, doom, the drums called out behind us, and there were horn calls and raucous cries coming closer fast. Arrows whistled past our heads, in the distance I heard the clanging noise of weapons smashed against shields in time to the rhythm of the drums.
"The bridge is near," Gandalf gasped.
Suddenly Boromir stopped dead in his tracks, grasping my shoulders and drawing me back. A few feet in front of us, the ground dropped away into a dark, fathomless abyss.
Perhaps a yard away a narrow bridge spanned this mighty chasm. While we were running for the bridge, my knees were getting weak with fear. Watching the movies I had always thought that I would never make it across a bridge like that. Now I was here, and I still felt the same.
The bridge was built in a single slender arc, but it was not as long as it was in the movies, probably less than twenty metres, around fifty feet. It had no kerb or rail, and you had to cross it one by one, so narrow was it. It was probably only a metre wide, a little more than three feet.
"Gimli, you go first," Gandalf cried. Gimli nodded and sped out onto the bridge and across it without looking left or right. "Now you, Lothíriel."
I turned to look at the old wizard, for a moment unable to move. The enemy would be upon us any second, and all I could think of was, if I would ever see the old wizard again.
Gandalf reached out to me and clasped my shoulder tightly. "Go!" There were tears in my eyes as I looked at Gandalf. His gaze was piercingly sharp. "Go!"
"Remember to look straight ahead," Boromir whispered in my ear. "Go quickly and DON'T LOOK DOWN."
He took my arm and led me to the bridge. He gave me a slight shove, and I was above the abyss. I tried to see Gimli on the other side. An arrow hissed past me. I started walking, always looking at Gimli. Then I broke into a run, my knees feeling like jelly. Behind me I heard the firm, comforting sound of Boromir's footsteps. Suddenly I was across the bridge and collapsed to the ground. I did not want to look back, but when I heard Legolas wail out in anguish, I raised my head, oblivious of the tears running down my cheeks.
Looming above the members of the fellowship still on the other side of the bridge was a thing made of fire and shadow; it carried a flaming whip and a great, red sword. Its eyes were black holes; its mane was made of smoke.
"DURIN'S BANE," Gimli called out beside me, his axe falling to the ground with a clatter.
On the other side of the chasm, Aragorn herded the hobbits one by one onto the bridge, Legolas hard on their heels, again and again shooting arrows at the gathered orcs, bringing many to fall, even as he ran.
Gandalf was left on the other side of the abyss alone.
When the hobbits, the elf and Aragorn were across, the wizard stepped onto the bridge and slowly made for its centre. There he stood and turned to face the Balrog.
The Balrog spread the shadow clinging around him like giant wings, shutting away the glow from the lava behind him. His fiery whip cracked through the air.
Gandalf had planted his staff before him.
Glamdring blazed with a white fire in his right hand.
Gandalf did not move.
"You cannot pass," the wizard called out to the demon. "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass!"
His words were the words from the books, the words from the movies.
The Balrog did not answer, but as his fire dimmed, his shadow grew. With the growing darkness, the air became heavier, making it almost impossible to draw breath.
The demon loomed almost to the ceiling far above.
Gandalf, standing alone on the bridge, seemed to be only an old man, grey and bent, in torn and ragged clothes, nothing but an old, run-down tramp.
White sword and red sword met with a clash that seemed to shake the mountain all around us.
Gandalf drew back a couple of steps, but soon stood firm again.
"YOU CANNOT PASS!" he yelled at the Balrog, and his voice had a power which made the assembled orcs on the other side of the chasm tremble with fear.
But the Balrog snarled at him and leapt lightly onto the bridge, his whips whirling through the air, trailing bright red sparks in its wake.
The name of Elendil as a war-cry on his lips, Aragorn ran back onto the bridge, Boromir hard on his heels, crying 'For Gondor'.
Gandalf raised his staff above his head and smote it down onto the bridge with all his strength. For a moment time seemed to stand still. Then Gandalf's staff shattered and an invisible wave of power threw all of us to the ground. Aragorn and Boromir were almost swept into the abyss.
A white flash of lightning struck the bridge in front of Gandalf, and it broke.
With a cry so loud and terrible that we had to stop our ears, the Balrog toppled forwards and fell, plunging down into the darkness. I watched his flaming whip mesmerized.
The whip was flung out one last time and curled tightly around the knees of the wizard.
He did not have the time to cry out.
He was gone in the blink of an eye.
I watched in the strangely crystal vision of shock, how Aragorn and Boromir managed to get back to firm ground only seconds before the remainder of the bridge broke away.
Then I felt Boromir drag me to my feet, and I was swept away. Without any sense of myself or the danger we were still in, I was running along, barely feeling the ground under my feet. I felt as if I was running in a dream, a dark, dark dream that would not end.
Doom, doom, doom, the drums echoed behind us.
We reached a hall which was bright with sunlight from high windows. We passed through huge metal doors which were completely torn asunder.
Then we were in front of the Great Gates, facing fifteen orcs, the guards of the gates.
I killed one and did not even notice, I just kept running.
Boromir and Aragorn killed three each, Gimli five, Legolas four.
I was barely aware of the bright sunshine, which greeted us as we left Moria, racing past the Great Gates and down the worn and cracked steps of the threshold of Moria.
We only halted when the Dimrill Dale lay before us in the sunlight.
Out here it was but an hour after noon, and spring had come.
The sun was bright; the sky was blue and the clouds white and fluffy.
I looked back at the mountain behind us, feeling dizzy with shock and exhaustion. The gates of Moria were black, gaping holes in the side of the mountains. Nothing moved in their shadow. From somewhere, far, far below a last, slow drum beat sounded: Doom.
A yard above the gates a thin wisp of black smoke indicated one of the light shafts.
Then it was blown away by the soft breeze.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.