Chapter Nine

 

We began our walk to Moria, Gimli and Aragorn leading the way. By nightfall we had reached a great cliff beside a dark lagoon. The place was shadowy and foreboding, and I wondered why Gimli had been so eager to come. I saw no dwarf royalty standing at the bottom of the cliff, waiting to welcome us in. In fact, I saw no sign at all that this dark place was inhabited by anyone.

Gandalf walked to a place on the wall of rock that was flanked by two small trees. He stood, frowning and staring curiously at the cliff.

The doors, Gimli muttered, wandering about. They should be here somewhere.

Here they are, Gandalf said, as the moon came out from behind a cloud, shining it's light down onto the space between the trees. Slowly and very faintly at first, runes and images became illuminated on the wall, appearing under the moonlight. After a moment the outline of the doors became clear.

Speak, friend, and enter, Gandalf read from the doors, translating what I supposed was Elvish. I turned around and looked at the lagoon behind us, and a chill ran down my spine. A thick mist was rising off of it's surface. I noticed that Frodo was looking at the lagoon, too, frowning. Sam, meanwhile, was taking the packs down from our pony and wishing him a tearful goodbye he could not go into the mines of Moria with us.

Stay close, Boromir whispered, as Gandalf shouted some Elvish phrases at the glowing doors, trying to recall the password. I gripped Boromir's arm.

Gandalf continued to try the password, becoming more and more frustrated as he did. At last he became so fed up that he threw down his hat and pushed on the doors with his hands. He then turned, glared around at us, and sat down heavily on a rock. We all watched with growing impatience as he pulled out his pipe and lit it.

Boromir sat down on a rock with a sigh, and I sat beside him.

I was worried before, he said quietly as we waited.

I am sorry, I said. I frightened everyone, and we arrived here in the dark because of me. I feel like a fool.

You are not a fool, Boromir said. Your intentions were true.

We looked up to loud plunking sounds Merry and Pippin were throwing stones into the lagoon. Aragorn went to them instantly, and grabbed Merry's arm as he drew it back to throw another.

Do not do that, he said a hiss, and Merry shrunk.

As I was looking away from them I caught something out of the corner of my eye, and looked back. I saw Frodo staring at it, too something in the water was moving. Frodo drew his eyes away and walked to Gandalf, looking up at the doors.

Boromir, I said, shaking his arm. He turned, but the water had stopped moving when he looked.

What is wrong? he asked.

Nothing, I said, vowing to keep as quiet and unnoticeable as possible on the journey from then on.

Speak friend, and enter, Frodo said, staring up at the doors. It's a riddle. What's the elvish word for friend?

Belen, Gandalf said absently, and suddenly there was a great cracking noise. We all stood and watched as the doors slowly opened, revealing only pitch black darkness inside.

Ah, at last! Gimli said, rushing inside. Gandalf went next lighting his staff, then Boromir and I, with the rest following. The smell inside was horrible, and the darkness daunting. I had a tight grip on Boromir's arm as we walked our feet were crunching over something brittle and hard, which cracked with a grotesque sound beneath our shoes.

Boromir, I said in a shaking voice, looking down at the ground, which was dimly lit by Gandalf's staff. I saw bones lying around my feet, and stood in place, not willing to go further.

This is no mine, Boromir called, seeing the same grisly sight. It is a tomb!

Gandalf increased the brightness of his lighted staff, and we all saw at once that there were skeletons lying all about inside the mine. I swallowed a scream as the stink of the place seemed to increase.

Things after that happened very quickly. I heard Gimli screaming in anguish, and I was heartbroken for him. Boromir shouted angrily that we should not have come to Moria. Legolas bent to examine the skeletons and came up with an arrow.

Goblins, he said, and then all at once we heard a great splash and a scream. We all whirled, only to see Frodo go flying through the air, dragged from the doors by a writhing tentacle.

Sam was screaming furiously as we ran out to help. He chopped at the monster's tentacles, but it did not release Frodo. Boromir and Aragorn soon joined in, their swords flying, and Legolas furiously shot arrows at the beast. Everywhere there was frantic splashing, what seemed like hundreds of slimy tentacles flying through the air. And Frodo's frightened cries chilled my bones more than the dwarf graveyard inside the mine had.

My sword felt suddenly very heavy on my back. I thought of using it, then remembered the fiasco earlier on the mountain. I decided to leave it to the others, though the sight of Frodo's plight made me want to rip the sword from my back and fly madly into combat. Instead I shrunk back against the wall of the cliff with Merry and Pippin, the three of us huddling together in fear.

Finally, Aragorn managed to cut the tentacle that held Frodo, and Frodo fell from the monster's grasp, into Boromir's arms. As soon as he had him, Boromir ran back toward the mine, and the others followed.

Inside! Gandalf was screaming, Quickly! I grabbed Merry and Pippin's hands and the three of us ran back into the darkness as Aragorn and Legolas tried to hold the monster back. But it managed to rip apart the doors to the mine as we flew inside, blocking our exit.

In the darkness, Merry and Pippin now clinging to my cape, we all stood for a moment in silence, breathing hard.

We now have but one choice, Gandalf said gravely, lighting his staff. It is a four day journey to the other side of the mountain, he told us, turning into the gaping dark of the mine. We followed behind him, slowly and cautiously. Merry and Pippin dashed over to comfort poor Frodo, and I found Boromir's hand in the darkness. He was wet and out of breath, but unharmed, as far as I could see.

You did well, Boromir said we walked.

But I didn't do anything, I said, frowning.

And for that I am thankful, he said. I dropped his hand then, annoyed. It was bad enough that I had been relegated to the cowering company of Merry and Pippin. He did not need to praise me for my weakness, extending my embarrassment.

We walked for a long time in silence, trying to be as quiet as we could. Gandalf had warned us that we should get through as quickly and silently as possible, so as not to disturb some vague danger he alluded to. My sword continued to grow heavier as we walked, and I felt almost glad that we were in the mines of the Moria, though I couldn't understand why. I felt, bizarrely, that someone was calling me forward as we walked.

We came to a three way pass, which looked down onto three dark and apparently identical paths. Gandalf stopped walking.

I have no memory of this place, he muttered. He stood for awhile, staring, then sat down on a nearby rock.

Shall we take a rest, then? an exhausted Pippin asked eagerly.

Gandalf sighed heavily. I suppose we shall have to, he said.

We set up a modest camp, then, making a small fire and cooking a meal of tomatoes and pork, brought from Rivendell. I sat near the fire, no longer perturbed by the heat, now that my body wasn't trying to make up for a great chill with unnatural warmth.

I wasn't very hungry after seeing the grave site we had walked in on, and I quickly retired to our blankets. It was uncomfortable, sleeping on the rock in the damp darkness of the mines. I felt better when Boromir finished his watch and came to lie beside me. I laid against his back, though I was still angry with him for his comment before. His clothes were still a little damp from the fight with the monster in the lagoon.

I fell into a shallow, dreamless sleep, and it wasn't long before Boromir was waking me. As I looked up into his face, lit only slightly by light from Gandalf's staff, I saw circles under his blue eyes. He was tired. I was, too, and I wavered a little as I took his hand and pulled myself up.

Gandalf led us ahead, through a path that he had determined was correct because of the smell of the air.

When in doubt, follow your nose, he was telling Frodo, and the little hobbit managed a smile at this.

How much longer, after we leave these mines, until we reach Minas Tirith? I asked.

At least a week, Boromir answered. Probably longer. Why do you ask? Are you eager to end this journey?

Partly, I answered. But I also dread returning. When we do, you will leave again. I will be left alone.

Boromir did not answer, and when I looked over at him he was smiling a bit. Something about his smile chilled me, and I frowned. He turned to me.

We shall see about that, little wife, he whispered, his lips close to my ear.

What is your meaning? I whispered back.

We shall see if I have to ride to war again, once I return to Minas Tirith, he said, and there was a wickedness in his voice that frightened me. I opened my mouth to ask again what he meant, but Aragorn turned back to us before I could.

Enough, he hissed. Heed Gandalf's advice and keep quiet.

I glared at him, but obeyed his command. I hoped he had not heard us talking, though I wasn't sure why. What did we have to hide from the heir to Gondor's throne?

We walked into a corridor that seemed to be more open than the paths we had taken, and I looked around us. There was a giant pillar to my left, and another to my right.

I think we can allow a little more light, here, Gandalf said, a hint of whimsy in his voice. The tip of his staff then grew brighter, and all of us had our breath taken by the sight we then beheld. We were in a massive hall, filled with row after row of impressive stone pillars that reached up into the darkness of the roof of the dwarf city. Gimli let out a sad and nostalgic breath as we walked through the pillars.

Suddenly Gimli began to run toward something an open door that spilled light from inside a small chamber. The sight of daylight heartened me, and I followed Gimli into the room with the others.

No, Gimli said when we were inside. No!

This room, too, was filled with the skeletal remains of dwares. In the center of it there was a stone tomb, on which some runes were carved. The shaft of light was coming from above the tomb, from a hole that was very high up. My hopes fell as I realized this was not a premature exit from the mines. Gimli fell onto his knees in sorrow before the tomb.

We should not linger here, Aragorn muttered, as Gandalf picked up a dusty book and began examining the pages.

I looked to Boromir and noticed that he was staring intently at Frodo, who stood, shoulders slumped, beside Sam.

Suddenly there was a great crash, and we all looked to the corner of the room that it came from, and saw Pippin watching in horror as a dwarf skeleton tumbled with great noise down a well he stood before. It crashed and banged all the way down the long well, and Pippin stood frozen, listening with the rest of us, his shoulders bent in guilt.

Fool of a Took! Gandalf shouted, slamming the book he held shut when the noise from the skeleton's fall finally ceased. Next time throw yourself in! Pippin bent his head, ashamed. I felt for him, but the sounds that I heard next made Gandalf's furious sentiment seem more appropriate.

At first it was just a far away tapping. It was almost hypnotic, the sound, rhythmic and slow. Then it became faster, and my heart began to beat along with it, fast and frightened.

Orcs! Legolas said, and my breath caught. Aragorn and Boromir rushed to the door of the chamber and closed it, securing it with weapons that they found in the hands of the skeletons spears and swords were slid through the handles. As they were pressing it shut an arrow soared past Boromir's ear. Without thinking, I ripped the Ruby Blade from it's sheath, and the heaviness that had been growing disappeared when I held it. When Boromir turned from the doors I was afraid he would scold me, so I slipped behind Gandalf.

They have a cave troll, Boromir informed us dryly, jogging back and readying his sword and shield.

I hope that you have chosen the right moment to draw that blade, Gandalf said, glancing back over his shoulder at me. I did not answer, as the orcs were smashing through the wooden doors with axes.

The orcs burst through with a frightening force, and my confidence suddenly waned. I drew back with the hobbits as Boromir slashed them with his sword and Aragorn and Legolas shot them with arrows. The creatures were more fearsome than I had ever dared to imagine, but they were no where near as frightening as what smashed its way in next.

The cave troll. It was ugly and furious, and it swung a club that looked to be bigger than the hobbits and I all put together. It screamed as Legolas shot it with many arrows, but still moved unphased through the chamber, swinging its club wildly.

The troll approached us, cornering Sam, who cowered in terror, his small blade frozen in his hand. But Aragorn and Boromir managed to pull it away from him, yanking on the chain that was around its neck. The troll whirled around in fury, and as he did Boromir was knocked to the ground. The troll roared at Boromir, and reared back its club to strike. I looked to Aragorn, but he was overcome with a swarm of orcs.

Before I knew what was happening, my blade was clumsily striking the troll's leg. It screamed and turned to me, abandoning Boromir, who hopped up. I stared up at the thing, and it howled down at me, its breath nearly enough to fell me on its own.

I ran my hand along my blade, not understanding the motion until I came away with a flicker of fire in my palm. When I held it I tossed it up into the troll's face. It was dazed for a moment, but not blinded I had missed my target and only scared it. I took the opportunity to run quickly away. I ran into Sam, who was bashing orcs with a frying pan.

I think I'm getting the hang of this, he called, smashing another over the head. I teamed up with him for a moment when he knocked them unconscious I pierced their backs with my sword.

Mr. Frodo! Sam screamed suddenly, and we both looked up to see the troll cornering Frodo toward the back of the chamber. I looked around Aragorn had fallen down, and was fighting his way up from the ground, still swarmed by orcs. Boromir was still near the door with Legolas, the two of them fighting a bank of orcs there.

Just as Sam and I began to run to Frodo's aide, the troll pierced him savagely with a spear.

Nooooo! Sam screamed, flying to Frodo's side. I stopped in my place, my heart sinking. I could not linger in sorrow for long though out of the corner of my eye I spotted an orc approaching. I was able to duck in time to save my neck from the blow of his blade, but it sliced my shoulder as it went past. I cried out in pain and wrenched the Ruby Blade up into my enemy's face. The blade sliced him cleanly from the neck up, a flame at its tip cauterizing the wound as it went. The orc fell dead to the ground.

When I looked up, Merry and Pippin had jumped onto the troll's shoulders and were trying to beat it with their fists. The troll turned wildly in confusion, finally throwing them off. I ran to Pippin, who lied crumpled and still, while behind me Gandalf and Aragorn tended to Frodo. Legolas shot the troll between it's squinty eyes, and at last it fell. When I reached Pippin he grunted a little and sat up.

Frodo, he said in a teary voice. I turned to the group that had surrounded Frodo, and saw Sam smiling and hugging his shoulders. Confused, I helped Pippin up, and we walked with Merry and Legolas to find out what was going on. When we reached Frodo he looked scared and was wincing with pain, but he was alive, and sitting up. He held up his shirt at our gaping looks, and beneath it there was a pearly coat of thin armor.

Mythril! Gimli said with wonder. Aragorn laughed in relief.

Our joy at Frodo's miraculous survival did not last long, however, as we then heard more orcs approaching.

Quickly! Gandalf said, heading out of another exit in the chamber. To the bridge of Kazan-dun!

Boromir caught up to me as we ran out of the chamber.

You are hurt, he said, and only at his words did my nerves stop pulsing with adrenaline long enough for me to realize that I was bleeding from the place on my shoulder where the orc had slashed me. I looked down, and felt the sting of pain as my eyes fell on the ugly gash.

It is nothing, I said as we ran back into the hall with the great stone pillars. I was still holding the blade as we ran.

Forgive me, he said as we stopped in the middle of the hall, seeing orcs swarming in around us from all sides even down from the ceiling they crawled, like insects.

For what? I asked breathlessly, backing up into a tight circle with the rest of the group. Boromir was at my side, looking out at the orcs that approached. There were thousands of them. I realized with a slow certainty that we were all going to die.

I was wrong, Boromir said. You saved my life.

Not for long, it would seem, I said, and we looked at each other. The orcs closed in, hissing and snarling at us, their weapons raised.

Then, suddenly, a noise came from far away, down the hall and many pillars away from us. The orcs froze as if terrified, and then began to run. They flew back to where they had come from, shrieking as they went. All of us looked at each other, dumbfounded. Except for Gandalf. He was staring intently in the direction from which the noise had come.

What is this new devilry? Boromir asked, his sword still raised. An orange light could be seen far down the long corridor. I felt strangely warm just looking at it. I had an odd inclination to walk toward it, away from my friends.

It is a balrog, Gandalf said darkly, staring at the light. I saw him give me a sideways glance, then he quickly looked away.

This foe is beyond any of you, he said. Run!

At Gandalf's command we took off, flying down the hall. I felt myself drift intentionally back to the end of our line as we ran, until I reached Gandalf.

Step quickly, girl! he shouted, as if he sensed some sort of betrayal in me. I felt guilty, and ran ahead to Boromir, who was looking back to me.

We passed through a doorway to a crumbling stone staircase. Aragorn and Boromir hesitated there, looking back at Gandalf.

Go, go you fools! he cried. Swords are no more use here!

We ran down the narrow stairway, jumping over chasms and dodging arrows as we did. At the bottom of the treacherous stairs we came to a thin stone bridge. Across it I could see more stairs, and down from them fell light from outside.

After we crossed the bridge we looked back at Gandalf, who had fallen behind. He was standing on the center of the bridge when it arrived: the Balrog.

I have no memory of the events that followed. Later, in Lothlorien, Boromir would tell me about my behavior, and the others would talk about it throughout the journey. I came to learn of what happened this way otherwise it would have been lost to me, as I went completely out of myself as soon as I laid eyes on the Balrog.

I flew from Boromir and the others and ran back toward Gandalf on the bridge. Gandalf yelled for me to get back, but I did not hear him or care. Aragorn ran to me and grabbed me, but dropped me as soon as he touched me. It took Boromir to wrestle me down and drag me back to the stairs. He carried me up the staircase, my skin burning him through my clothes, his gloves and tunic melting away as he held me.

I came to when we were out of the mines. I was lying on the ground and Boromir and Aragorn were leaning over me, staring at me as if I was a stranger. I heard crying. I blinked in the light it burned my eyes.

What happened? I asked, sitting up instantly. I was not drained of strength in fact I felt rejuvenated. I looked around at the fellowship and saw that the hobbits were weeping. Frodo was staring into space, dejected. Even Legolas and Gimli looked like they might cry.

Gandalf is gone, Aragorn said. The balrog took him. Just the word balrog sent a shiver through me, now that I had seen one. I would never remember what it looked like, though.

What? I said, looking at Boromir. Where was I? I asked, touching my forehead. My whole face was covered in sweat.

You went mad, Aragorn said, frowning at me. You do not remember? I shook my head.

Look, Aragorn said, pointing to Boromir. Look at the burns your husband suffered just by touching you.

Boromir's hands were red and chapped, and his gloves burned away, as if they had been shoved into a fire. The insides of his mighty arms were burned in the same manner, and his tunic had melted away to reveal his shirt underneath, which was singed. I gasped and reached for him, and he stepped away from me. It brought tears to my eyes.

Forgive me, I cried.

It is nothing, Boromir said, still not approaching me. Mourn for the loss of Gandalf these wounds deserve no sympathy in the wake of his fall.

I nodded, and collapsed into tears on the rocks. I was extremely confused Gandalf had died? Why couldn't I remember? What did Aragorn mean how had I gone mad? Why had I burned Boromir? Before I fully understand what had happened, I feared that I had purposefully wielded some fire and thrust it at him.

I am the downfall of my people, I thought, lying in a heap on the rocks as Aragorn made a quick ointment for Boromir's burns. When he had finished, he handed the medicine to Boromir and turned to Legolas.

Get them up, he called, meaning the hobbits.

Give them a moment to grieve, Boromir said, glancing at me. For pity's sake.

There is no time, Aragorn snapped. By nightfall these hills will be swarming with orcs. We must go.

When he had roused all of the hobbits he turned to me.

Lydia, he said. Get up. No one can offer you a hand.

I nodded, choking away tears, and stood on my own. Boromir was standing some distance from me, sliding on an extra pair of gloves. He looked away when I met his eyes. I followed behind everyone else as we walked away from Moria. I was ashamed to be alive. I wished that I had died instead of Gandalf. I was only a hindrance to the quest, and without him we were lost.