29. Terror Released
"And where is Grandfather?" asked Thráin of his father Náin, having found the elder Dwarf at his breakfast.
"He is down in the lowest gallery where they follow the newest vein of mithril," Náin answered, then greeted his son's wife. "Welcome, my dear one. There are sweet melons upon the side table for you—a gift from the new Lady of the Galadhrim."
Thráin frowned. "Tharkûn warned against following that vein, Father."
Náin shrugged, his own expression going grim at the sound of the Wizard's name. "Since when do the children of Mahal care for the advice of outsiders?" he grunted.
"It is far too hot in that gallery, and the atmosphere is oppressive. We should avoid it. Just to go by it causes me to shudder."
"But if that vein should widen out more…."
"What matters it should it widen out if we awaken some horror by following it? I tell you, Father, that the lowest gallery of the mines is not a safe place to be. The dreams I have had of it have ever been dark and filled with foreboding."
Náin shook his head, fixing a suspicious eye on his son. "Are you one of the cursèd Elves, to be guided by the images of mere dreams? This is the one vein we are certain will not soon dwindle to mere threads of ore, and we would be fools to break off just as it is widening out."
"And if we do find the horror down there Tharkûn and my dreams warn of, will we not rue it?"
The argument was interrupted by the sudden clanging of alarm bells, and cries that appeared to be spreading from a distant point. Both father and son rose to head to the doors of the King's mansion to look out into the great hall of the Dwarrowdelf, hoping to see someone who could explain the outcry.
"Fire in the lowest gallery!" they heard. "…A terrible heat!" "Dúrin is no more—he was consumed by flame!"
That last rumor caused both Náin and Thráin to go still with shock. "But there was nothing to indicate that there was a pocket of gas apt to fire in that gallery!" Náin said in disbelief. "They have checked and rechecked it, and Father assured me that they would not go any deeper than a span into the vein at most. I myself oversaw the construction of the vents and fans!"
Both were out into the hall immediately. A number of miners were entering from the western entrance, and most were concentrated into three groups, each supporting a single individual.
Those who thronged the great hall made way for Náin and Thráin, although they jostled one another the more as they followed Dúrin's son and grandson to meet the oncoming miners. All met where three of the light shafts directed the sunlight from the outer world at a spot near the center of the hall. Those who supported the miners brought out of the lowest gallery brought them forward to be questioned by Náin and Thráin. Thráin recognized Dornar, the foreman for the miners who worked the veins of mithril and one of his grandfather's most trusted counselors, as one of those about whom others clustered. Healers were approaching from the Hall of Recovery, and considering the apparent charred skin on the left side of Dornar's face and the manner in which he clutched his blackened hands, it appeared that he would require their services. Someone, perhaps his own wife, had brought out a great goblet of water for him to drink, although she had to hold it for him as he apparently could not grasp it himself.
Náin's face was pale behind his grey-brown beard as he asked, "What happened?"
Dornar's mouth worked before he could answer. "You know how the vein of mithril ran through a layer of white, as if it were a silver tree caught within a wall of purest alabaster. And—and how warm that—that wall of white was to the touch." His voice was uncharacteristically rough, and now he stopped and coughed—coughed until he could barely catch his breath. "My throat!" he whispered with difficulty, and accepted another sip offered to him by the woman. "We—we were surrounded by an acrid smoke!"
"From whence?" Náin demanded.
"Your father," one of the others said as once again Dornar was doubled over coughing, "he sought to remove the vein of the mithril whole, in that tree-like shape. He was entranced by it!" His son pushed his way through the crowd to bring a great stein of ale, holding it so his own father could sip from it. This Dwarf's eyebrows and beard were singed away, the skin of his nose melted into a strange shape, reddened and weeping fluid. "He was carving the alabaster away, working deeper and deeper, seeking to remove the tree whole."
"He had said he would carve no more than a hand's span deep!" Náin objected.
"So he had planned," Dornar rasped, having managed to contain the cough at last. "But the tree-shape of the vein of mithril—it went deeper into the whiteness than he had thought it to run, so he kept seeking to carve deeper so as to come behind it. Deeper and deeper, trying—trying to get behind it to remove it whole—until—until his chisel punched through—through into a chamber behind the wall! And there was a glow within the chamber, a dull glow!"
The other took up the thread, having at last pulled away from the vessel his son had held to his damaged lips. "We looked through the gap, amazed by the glow. Flame and shadow both filled that chamber, and then the glow stretched and brightened as air reached it, as if a creature wrought of very flame, its blood as if it were liquid crystals beneath its skin, arose from a huddled heap and stretched to fill the chamber beyond. And the white stone suddenly began to melt away, and the mithril began to bleed as it was reduced to liquid with the heat! And through the widening gap a great hand reached, grasping at Dúrin, wrapping itself about his head, and he----" He swallowed audibly, his eyes wide with the terror of the memory. He sank to his knees and gasped out, "Dúrin—he burst into flame!" His horrified eyes met those of Dúrin's son. "Your father—the flame and the shadow took him—and we fled!"
Dornar was nodding uncontrollably. "We triggered the roof-fall as we fled past it, but the others never made it out in time. The smoke—it overcame those closest to your father, and having—having reduced your father to ash, the hand of flame was grasping at those closest to the growing gap! I saw Dori's look of terror as he fell to his knee and the flame of that hand licked at him, and his shirt began to blaze about him! And as the liquefied mithril touched him, Torchar began to scream with agony!"
"We could not save them!" grieved the third Dwarf. "We triggered the roof-fall to seal the gallery, and we knew we could not save the others!" And he burst into wails of grief and horror. "My brother Bombori—he was already afire when I looked back, the flame and shadow already taking him just before the roof fell!"
All felt the horror of his words, and Thráin felt himself shuddering.
Celeborn and Galadriel were walking back from Cerin Amroth to Caras Galadhon when they felt a sudden twist in the warp of the world, a discord in the song of the lands about them, and Galadriel stopped, almost stumbling sideways, her face white with shock. "Fire and shadow!" she whispered intently. "I sense fire and shadow—and death!" She turned to stare with a hopeless gaze back in the direction of Caradhras and the doors to Khazad-dûm. "Dúrin is dead!" she said. "A great evil has been awakened, one that ought never to have been disturbed!"
"What is its nature?" he demanded.
She shook her head. "I am not certain. It is ancient, and almost I can put a name to it. I know only that I have felt it before, but from far further off."
"I shall alert the border wardens, then."
"No, it does not threaten us, or not as of this time. But it does threaten Dúrin's people. They would do well to evacuate their women and children."
"We must not allow our people to use the Dimrill Stair at this time."
"I agree. Evil shall draw more evil to itself, I fear. Celebrían—the children—when they come to visit us, they must either come over the High Pass or around through Calenhardorn and Anórien. I will let Elrond know this. But it is best that they not come now. And I shall send word to Náin that we shall stand ready to aid his people as we can."
He indicated the wisdom of this advice, and the two of them hurried back to the city to warn their people and to send messengers to the East Gate of the Dwarven realm.
Gandalf awaited them when they returned to Caras Galadhon, and they were stricken by the news of the deaths of Amroth and Nimrodel. "So many pursued them?" Celeborn said, shaken by the Wizard's report.
"The whole population of orcs of the Ered Nimrais appear to have been mobilized and set to watch for Nimrodel's party," Gandalf told them. "And there were others as well, Men both from Rhudaur and Rhûn."
Galadriel bowed her head in grief. "She knew that it was likely she would not come to Edhellond yet alive," she murmured. "But to hear how it was that Amroth also perished—it will be a great grief to all of us." She looked up to meet Gandalf's eyes. "Our people will be stricken, Mithrandir. I fear that many now shall desire to leave Middle Earth, with so many tales of evil and woe from so many sides."
"What troubles me," the Wizard said, "is that there are so very many orcs yet on the move. Thousands were slain in Arnor, yet it seems there is no end to them still. And among the orcs of the White Mountains that pursued Nimrodel were still others, some from the lower Misty Mountains, some plainly from Dol Guldur, and at least three great Uruks from Mordor wearing the symbols of Minas Morgul. And one of these brought a cursed knife and used it on one of the ellith taken prisoner. The blade was brittle, and it broke off in her shoulder. The shard moved, my friends—it worked its way inward toward her heart. And as it did so she began to change—became wraith-like. At last one of the warriors who accompanied me southward gave her the mercy stroke, hoping it would break whatever spell it brought upon her. She railed as he prepared to do so, but her fëawas relieved as it fled her body, and blessed him ere it answered the call of the Doomsman. We buried her at Edhellond."
"What shape is the haven there in?" asked Celeborn.
"There was much damage to those ships at anchor in the harbor, but the one being built in the shipyard was not injured in any way. Indeed, it is nearly ready to be launched. It is larger than the one on which Amroth's people sailed, and has been under construction for some five years at least. The sheets and lines for it are nearly ready as well. Those few who remain in the Havens intend to leave upon it, save for a few who spoke of removing to Mithlond to join Círdan's folk.
"Now," he added, "the change I sensed here as I arrived—what is it that has happened within Khazad-dûm?"
Galadriel's clear gaze pierced him. "You felt it as we did?" At his nod she continued, "Something has happened there, something involving shadow and flame, something that has robbed the Dwarves of their King."
Gandalf went utterly still. "A dragon?" he hazarded. "Could they have been invaded by a dragon?"
"No such thing has been seen by our wardens or scouts approaching the mountains," Celeborn said.
His wife added, "No, whatever this danger is, it came not by way of invasion, but from the depths of the mountain's roots. An ancient evil, I deem it."
The Wizard lowered his eyes thoughtfully. "Many evil creatures fled into darkness at the end of the War of Wrath, or were imprisoned there by the Valar. They had allied themselves with the darkness, and so found their refuge in the midst of it. Some of the sires of dragons hid themselves in this manner, and none can say what became of them or where they might have slumbered all these centuries."
"Perhaps," Galadriel sighed. "I will search later to see if I can discern this more clearly, although as it appears to be a creature that revels in darkness its reflection may not be discerned by the means available to me. But for now, we had planned to send word to Náin that we will aid him as we can to bring the women and children of his realm away to safety. Too few of those are there to be risked at this time."
"But where would you send them?" Gandalf asked.
"There are suitable caverns for them in the Iron Hills, and some to the north in the Hithaeglir."
"Perhaps. Would you have me serve as your messenger?"
The guards at the east gate to Khazad-dûm examined the Wizard with suspicion. "And what do you know, Tharkûn, of the woes of the Dwarves?" one asked.
"Do you think that the awakening of the terror at the roots of the mountains did not go unremarked by those nearby?" Gandalf found his own temper rising at the attitude with which he was met. "I came to tell you that whatever assistance can be offered to your people is offered freely by those of the Golden Wood and by myself. If I might see Náin?"
Náin, it proved, was almost as surly as were those who manned his gates, although his temper, the Wizard noted, was much fueled by his grief for his father. "And what aid can Elves offer to the Children of Mahal?" he demanded.
"They would offer to assist in the guard offered those of your women and children you might choose to send elsewhere for their protection," Gandalf said with as much patience and compassion as he could muster. "The new Lady of the Galadhrim would not see them endangered, knowing how precious they are to you. They wish to offer you what food you might have need of, and anything else they might have that your people might need. All within Laurelindórenan grieve that your father is taken from you untimely."
Náin closed his eyes and passed the back of his hand across them, and Gandalf realized that he wore upon it the Ring of Khazad-dûm. Ah, but there was another element that could be fueling Náin's temper! Although this was the one of the Dwarven Rings given the lords of the Khazad by Celebrimbor himself, still Sauron had a part in its making and had infused his own distrust of others into it, even as was true of the other Dwarven Rings.
The Dwarf was doing his best to control his emotions, and in his voice could be detected the pain he felt. "I ought not to have come to this office for another century at the soonest," he said softly. "And you are right—we would do well to send our women and children elsewhere while our warriors deal with this danger. But where might we send them? So many of our lesser halls in the Misty Mountains have been destroyed by enemies and dragons!"
"Galadriel has noted there are caverns in the Iron Hills, north and east from here across the Anduin, that would be suitable to their habitation. And there are others to the north and west in the Blue Mountains, beyond the Hobbits' Shire. You might also find shelter in the mountains beyond Fornost, where those Dwarves who allied themselves with Arvedui have begun to delve homes for themselves."
Náin snorted. "We, the children of Dúrin the Deathless, live among lesser Dwarves? How little you know us, Tharkûn. But if the caverns in the Iron Hills are as you say, perhaps we should look to send our precious ones there." He stood abruptly. "We will think on this and take counsel with the others."
"What of this creature that your father awoke in the roots of the mountain?" Gandalf asked.
The Dwarf waved his hand dismissively. "It is contained, or at least for now," he answered. "Dornar and the other two who escaped brought down the roof of the gallery to keep it from entering our halls. It cannot escape further."
Gandalf shook his head. "I only pray you are correct, my Lord Náin. But creatures of evil are not so easily subdued as we would wish them to be. I had hoped that after the victory against Angmar that there would be fewer orcs to trouble those who live in the shadow of the Misty Mountains, but still the Lady Nimrodel and her party were harried all along the way to Edhellond, and none came there in the end. Most are dead, and a few still missing. As for the Lady herself, she was hounded over a cliff, and fell into a pool at the foot of a waterfall, and I am assured she is indeed dead as well."
He sighed and rose slowly to his feet as well. "Remember the promise of aid offered by Lord Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel. They will see your women and children to a safe haven at the hazard of their own people. They remember always the aid given them by your ancestor when Celebrimbor's land was laid waste by Sauron's creatures, and they would repay it as they can."
Náin's response was guarded, and all that the Wizard could hope was that the new King of Dúrin's people would hearken to reason in the end.
Gandalf went next to Mirkwood to speak with Thranduil, and was invited to repeat his report to the Council the King called. In the end a sizable party of Elves that was formed primarily of families with children indicated they wished to leave Middle Earth, and that they would seek passage on the ship now being readied in Edhellond. It had been much the same in the Golden Wood, with those families with young children announcing that they wished to see their children grow up far from the threat of such creatures as the Necromancer and whatever terror now raged in the lower depths of Dúrin's realm, which some were now beginning to call Moria, the Black Pit. He was troubled as he headed north to take counsel with Elrond and most likely Círdan as well. Too many of the Elf-kind were fleeing the griefs foreseen in the Mortal Lands as this Age of the Sun wended its way toward its close.
Azog sat upon his seat of black stone, listening to the message sent from Dol Guldur. "It is a rich place, filled with treasure and fine furnishings," the messenger said. "You could become the greatest lord ever among our kind."
Azog snarled, "Many times have our people sought to take Khazad-dûm, and always we have been defeated, slain and driven into even meaner holes in the hills. Why should we wish to attack them again?"
The Uruk who faced him smiled evilly. "Because this time my Dark Lord has an ally, now awake and eager to exact vengeance on what has been done to him, imprisoned in the lowest reaches of the place. You have only to breach his prison to find yourself backed by power so great no mortal can stand before it. Already it has slain he who was King of Khazad-dûm, and it wishes to slay all Dwarves, for they taunted it with the promise of freedom but then took that promise away. Give it the terror of the Dwarves and their lives and bodies to feed upon, and it will aid you to become rich and powerful beyond your imagination."
"And why do you not wish this place for your own?" questioned Azog.
The smile upon the messenger's face grew more evil yet. "I have been promised the land of the Wood Elf's kingdom as my own. I have no desire to dwell here, so far from my Lord's presence. Once my Lord's ally has conquered the Dwarves he is to be turned loose upon the hidden land to the east of Dúrin's gates and then will march at the side of my Lord as he takes Mirkwood for his own. And I am to be his lieutenant there, ordering the work of his new slaves."
Both orcs laughed at the thought of it, and Azog began to plan how to summon sufficient of his people to enter Khazad-dûm and to subdue the Dwarves of Dúrin's lineage.
"Where is Dornar?" Náin demanded of Thráin. "I have called for him several times since the women and children left, but he has failed to present himself. Is he yet angry that his own wife and son were sent away?"
"None has seen him since they left, Father," Thráin answered. "He accompanied the column as far as Kheled-zâram as did many, and stayed to watch after it once it was well down the valley and the guard of Elves joined it. But there is no report that he returned inside through the East Gate."
Náin sighed. Dornar's son was yet quite young, and the father was heartbroken to have the child and his mother taken from his side. "Perhaps he decided to go with them after all," he said. "Although he ought to have gained my permission to do so."
"Will you send after to demand his return?"
Náin slipped his Ring off his finger and into the stone coffer in which his father had kept it. "No, let him go. Do we not grieve that your own son is gone from us as well?"
The Dwarf they'd captured outside the East Gate of Khazad-dûm had proved most fortuitous, Azog realized. He hated having to admit that the Nazgûl had been instrumental in pointing him out and insisting that this was the one they should take prisoner. It had taken quite some time to break him, true; but it had proved worthwhile in the end. Who would have guessed that they would have managed to take prisoner the chief engineer of the curst stone-delvers' mines?
He'd been able to advise them that the creature that the Dark Lord wished freed had been trapped in only slightly larger quarters than it had known before, the roof of the gallery from which its prison had been breached purposely collapsed by those Dwarves who'd managed to escape its grasp. But there was another gallery that paralleled the one that must be reopened, one whose veins of mithril had been played out years earlier. And he knew of one of the old orc delvings that ran near to it, and where on the mountainside of Silvertine that tunnel had once opened.
The Dwarves were not patrolling the mountains' flanks as they once had done, not with so many of their kind sent off, far too heavily guarded for Azog's orcs to attack. So it was that a group of goblins was able to approach the area indicated by the Dwarf and begin to shift rocks and dig without being detected. It took several days to actually get past the blockage into the caverns that had once housed Azog's own kind, and now that they were open Azog led them gladly into their new home, one actually returned to them by one of those curst Dwarves who'd driven them forth before.
Now that they were inside the mountain, word was sent forth to call others to their aid, and so orcs, Uruks, and goblins came from all directions—from those who'd survived the war between Arnor and Angmar, from the lower Misty Mountains, from the White Mountains, from the walls of Mordor, and from Dol Guldur itself. It was not easy to keep them all in order, and Azog had to break a few heads before they all learned to fear him more than they hated one another. But the work began on digging into that other disused gallery, one no Dwarf entered at this time. And once they finally managed to break into it, then it was merely a matter of delving between this gallery and the other one, thus freeing the creature that the Necromancer wished freed….
Most of the orcs (save for the dullest and stupidest of them) hated the work of delving from the first gallery into the second one. Certainly Azog himself shuddered just to come within a short distance of the tunnel the snagashad been digging. It was far too warm for comfort, and the mere scent of it was more than most of them could bear. For Azog himself, that combination of heat and scent brought back memories he'd not considered for more time than he'd been able to remember for at least two Ages.
It was the day that the Sun had first appeared. Azog and his fellows had been bringing up buckets and barrows loaded with frozen earth and bleak stone from the depths beneath First Master's fortress, creating still another passageway lined with cells in which to hold those intended to be broken fully to First Master's will. Azog believed that this was how those who had given birth to him had become servants to First Master, through such breaking. He doubted he had ever seen the one whose coupling with his mother had given him into First Master's service—not, of course, that such things even mattered that much. As for his mother—there had been a way she stood that was not in keeping with her status, and in time First Master had ordered Azog to slay her, which Azog had done swiftly. She was but a female, after all, and had failed to provide him with much in the way of sport or entertainment as he remembered it. If anything, she had appeared to be grateful to him when he drew his knife across her throat….
They'd come up to the surface with their buckets and barrows, and were pouring the contents out upon the ground, when suddenly the brilliance had sprung up from the West, and all had turned that way in terror, for none of them had ever seen such light. The dark earth had sparkled beneath it, and the stone had shone with color! Such color was unseemly, of course. All was best seen in the uncertain light of torches and cookfires, that was clear enough. Azog and his fellows had quailed, and had sought to flee back down into the tunnels from which they'd emerged to hide from what the unexpected light revealed to—and about—them. But First Master had forbade it, and the fiery lashes held by his two lieutenants assured that the orcs did not flee away.
They'd held that intense heat, that odd scent—those two lieutenants, one who became Second Master and who was able to shift—then, at least—into any of a number of shapes, but for whom thatshape seemed so natural, and the other, the one who after Gondolin was no more. Two of that number had fallen, there in Gondolin, and never returned to trouble Azog and the other orcs of Middle Earth.
If the supposed ally to the Necromancer was one of them, did Azog truly wish to see it released and perhaps suffer under its lash? He considered whether he should order the snagasto quit the work upon the tunnel between the two galleries—keep it prisoner in the area that held it now.
But then a patrol of Dwarves surprised them, and there was a terrible fight that cost Azog close to two score slaves and the Dwarves but two of their own. Nay, it would indeed be best if they had such a terror in their debt, and swiftly! Azog ordered three more tunnelers to aid those involved in the delving. Soon enough, he hoped, they'd have the horror free, and hopefully not at such a cost in goblins that he would have to summon still more of the helpless beasts. He only hoped, however, that the creature appreciated that they were striving to free it, and was willing to not only spare his laborers but to turn its ire toward the Dwarves and such Men and Elves as might come that way! Azog wanted to survive to plunder the mansions of the Dwarrowdelf, after all!
"I couldn't believe how many of the horrors there are down there, in the lower reaches of the mines!" the head of the patrol told Náin. "We killed almost twenty orcs, and lost Borin and Nifur. I can't understand how they got into the mines themselves undetected!"
"It's not natural for such creatures to be after the ore themselves," Thráin grumbled. "Orcs can't do anything but the most rudimentary of smelting, and prefer to steal metal ingots from us, after all."
Náin played with one of the golden beads inlaid with mithril wire that held the braids into which his beard had been plaited. "Nor do they usually hide so deep under the mountains," he said thoughtfully. "Nay, they seek after something. But what?"
"Could it be the creature of flame and shadow?" Thráin asked his father, his voice deliberately low.
His father shuddered, but then after pondering the question for a time shook his head. "Wouldn't they be as wary of it as are we?" he asked, his eyes searching those of his son.
Thráin pulled at the lobe of his ear. "One would think so. But, if they believe that it could be convinced to aid them, perhaps they seek to free it in order to help in assaulting our people. They have long wished to slay us and to plunder our treasures, after all."
Náin straightened, shaking his head more strongly in denial. "And how could they hope to communicate with the monster? As for controlling it----" He shuddered more strongly. "Nay, my son, I cannot see that freeing it would give them any advantage over us."
But Thráin was not convinced by his father's arguments, and that night met with many of his friends, and gave quiet orders that as many as could be convinced of the danger these invaders to the lowest galleries might pose should lay things in readiness to possibly flee at a moment's notice. And after that all he could do was to wait and see what mischief was intended by those orcs who now infested the depths of their ancient realm.
Three of the major ways into the deepest delvings were deliberately caved in to try to keep the orcs out. But those few Dwarves who'd begun to look for the entrance by which they'd gotten inside the mountains under which Khazad-dûm had been carved did not return after their patrols, which was sufficient in itself to let Náin and his counselors know that this party had a strong and unusually intelligent leader, and was most likely intent on conquest of their kingdom. Patrols of the entrances to the mine delvings in that quarter of the realm were increased both in size and in frequency. More than once Thráin found himself wishing that Dornar had not decided to go willful-missing as he had, for he knew more of the secret ways of the deepest portions of Dúrin's realm than any other living Dwarf.
Then two from one patrol came with word that the wreck of a Dwarf had been found cowering in a narrow crack said to lead to Dúrin's Stair. No one knew for certain if indeed that legendary structure existed at all, much less if that passage could have led to it. It was choked with cracked stone from a rock fall some generations back, and none had sought to remove the rubble to test if there was perhaps truth behind the stories told. Several hours later six more came with a litter upon which they carried the broken Dwarf, and Thráin was horrified to recognize the missing Master of the miners and engineers. His hands had been crushed, and most of his toes removed, and most horribly by the look of his feet and legs. One ear was missing, and the corresponding eye as well. Had he been a Man rather than a Dwarf, most likely he would not have survived the tortures he'd endured, Thráin judged.
"What happened to you?" he demanded once Dornar was settled on a couch in his own quarters and a healer was seeing to him. "We thought you had decided to leave with your wife and son!"
Dornar gave but a slight negative shake to his head. "I was captured, there by Kheled-zâram, where I stood near Dúrin's stone, watching after my wife and son. Orcs took me there, and in full daylight! I—was made to—to help them free the horror of fire and shadow, the one that took Dúrin. They intend to free Dúrin's Bane, and once it is free, they will loose it—loose it at us! I was made to draw up plans, plans of the lowest galleries. Show them where it was found, other galleries that might—might run near to it, where the walls were narrowest. I had to be able to draw, so at first they did not injure my hands. I had to be able to see, so they did not blind me, not completely. I had to be able to talk, so they did not take my tongue. They took my toes, but not my feet.
"I escaped two days ago, and have so come to you, to warn you. All must flee!"
There were cries of woe and exclamations of negation from those who had crowded into the far corners of the room.
Thráin stood stricken. "We will be forced to fight for our home and our lives!" he said. "I must go and so advise my father!"
The invasion started three days later. Miners and engineers had sought to close off the lowest galleries, but they were too late. Already the delver orcs had cut passages into higher galleries, and crude ladders had been rigged with which to climb up and out of the lowest ways. Fiercely those Dwarves who defended the ways into the living halls fought, but it was never enough. Too many orcs had gathered, orcs who had borne memories of hundreds of defeats of their kind that they now wished to avenge. And wherever it came, Dúrin's Bane burned all who had the misfortune to look upon it, and many who'd merely sought to flee as well.
Clouds of smoke poured from the East Gate of Moria, and there was no sight of Dúrin's Crown of Stars to be seen from his stone, so dark was the stain against the sky.
On the fourth day after the battles had begun Thráin did as his father ordered and led a retreat of the younger warriors out into the Dimrill Dale, Thráin bearing hence the Ring of Dúrin in its small stone casket. Náin hoped to be able to flee via one of the bolt holes from the King's Mansion itself, but in the end was foiled of this plan when he found a large number of orcs coming down it, and he must fight for his life. He was driven back into the main hall of the Dwarrowdelf, and there he and his household warriors were stricken down.
Two hours later Azog himself sat upon Dúrin's throne, Dúrin's terrestrial crown upon his head. "We have done it!" he exulted. "We have slain Dúrin's heir, and are now in control of his kingdom! The wealth of Dúrin himself is now ours!"
Outside of the mountains that had housed them for over two Ages of the Sun, Thráin's people cowered and wept, and Thráin himself vowed he should be avenged upon the ones who had slain so many of their people, including his father as Dúrin's heir and the King of Khazad-dûm. Dornar died there, and they buried him neath a cairn of stone, and three days later they headed up the valley of the Anduin, seeking passage over the great river to those lands rumored to exist beyond them where they might make for themselves a new home.
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.