"What's that?" cried Gandalf. He was relieved when Pippin confessed what he had done; but he was angry, and Pippin could see his eye glinting. "Fool of a Took!" he growled. "This is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking-party. Throw yourself in next time, and then you'll be no further nuisance. Now be quiet!"
Nothing more was heard for several more minutes; but then there came out of the depths faint knocks: tom-tap, tap-tom. They stopped, and when the echoes had died away, they were repeated: tap-tom, tom-tap, tap-tap, tom. They sounded disquietingly like signals of some sort; but after a while the knocking died away and was not heard again.
"That was the sound of a hammer, or I have never heard one." Said Gimli.
"Yes," said Gandalf, "and I do not like it. It may have nothing to do with Peregrin's foolish stone; but probably something has been disturbed that would have been better left quiet. Pray, do nothing of the kind again! Let us hope we shall get some rest without further trouble. You, Pippin, can go on the first watch, as a reward." He growled as he rolled himself in a blanket. Devin briefly considered telling them what she thought the knocking sounds were, but decided against it. Like Gandalf said, they didn't know whether the knocking was connected with Pippin's stone or not, and even if it was, and they had alerted the enemy to their presence, they still had at least a day before they would have to deal with the consequences. Right now what they all needed most was rest, and she doubted the others would be able to sleep so easily if she shared her worries with them now.
Chapter 18: A Song in the Dark
It was Gandalf who roused them all from sleep. After relieving Pippin he had sat and watched all alone for about six hours, and had let the others rest.
"And in the watches I have made up my mind." He said. "I do not like the feel of the middle way; and I do not like the smell of the left-hand way: there is foul air down there, or I am no guide. I shall take the right-hand passage. It is time we begin to climb up again."
For eight dark hours, not counting two brief halts, they marched on; and they met no danger, and heard nothing, and saw nothing but the faint gleam of the wizard's light, bobbing like a will-o'-the-wisp in front of them. The passage they had chosen wound steadily upwards. As far as they could judge it went in great mounting curves, and as it rose it grew loftier and wider. There were now no openings to other galleries or tunnels on either side, and the floor was level and sound, without pits or cracks. Evidently they had struck what once had been an important road; and they went forward quicker than they had done on their first march.In this way they advanced some fifteen miles, measured in a direct line east, though they must have actually walked twenty miles or more. As the road climbed upwards, Frodo's spirits rose a little; but he still felt oppressed, and at times he heard, or thought he heard, away behind the Company and beyond the fall and patter of their feet, a following footstep that was not an echo.
They had marched as far as the hobbits could endure without a rest, and all were thinking of a place where they could sleep, when suddenly the walls to right and left vanished. They seemed to have passed through some arched doorway into a black and empty space. There was a great draught of warmer air behind them, and before them the darkness was cold on their faces. They halted and crowded anxiously together. Gandalf seemed pleased.
"I chose the right way." He said. "At last we are coming to the habitable parts, and I guess that we are not far now from the eastern side. But we are high up, a good deal higher than the Dimrill Gate, unless I am mistaken. From the feeling if the air we must be in a wide hall. I will now risk a little real light." He raised his staff, and for a brief instant there was blaze like a flash of lightning. Great shadows sprang up and fled, and for a second they saw a vast roof far above their heads upheld by many mighty pillars hewn of stone. Before them and on either side stretched a huge empty black hall; its black walls, polished and smooth as glass, flashed and glittered. Three other entrances they saw, dark black arches: one straight before them eastwards, and one on either side. Then the light went out.
"That is all I shall venture on for the present." Said Gandalf. "There used to be great windows on the mountain-side, and shafts leading out to the light in the upper reaches of the Mines. I think we have reached them now, but it is night outside again, and we cannot tell until morning. If I am right, tomorrow we may actually see the morning peeping in. But in the meanwhile we had better go no further. Let us rest, if we can. Things have gone well so far, and the greater part of the dark road is over. But we are not through yet, and it is a long way down to the Gates that open on the world."
The Company spent that night in the great cavernous hall, huddled close together in a corner to escape the draught: there seemed to be a steady inflow of chill air through the eastern archway. All about them as they lay hung the darkness, hollow and immense, and they were oppressed by the loneliness and vastness of the dolven halls and endlessly branching stairs and passages. The wildest imaginings that dark rumor had suggested to the hobbits fell altogether short of the actual dread and wonder of Moria. The only who was not bothered was Kitty who promptly rolled over, wrapped herself in her blanket, and fell into a deep sleep.
"How care-free. I sometimes find myself envious of that strange girl." remarked Boromir. For though they were all tired, sleep did not come so easily to the rest of the Company in such a dark and strange place, where sense of vague danger lurked in every black corner.
"It's not that Kitty is unaware of the danger; she simply doesn't care." Said Devin.
"Then she is both brave and foolish." Said Boromir.
"There must have been a mighty crowd of dwarves here at one time," said Sam in an attempt to change the subject before an argument began; "and every one of them busier than badgers for five hundred years to make this, and most in hard rock too! What did they do it all for? They didn't live in these darksome holes surely?"
"These are not holes." Said Gimli. "This is the great city of the Dwarrowdelf. And of old it was not darksome, but full of light and splendor, as is still remembered in our songs." He rose and standing in the dark he began to chant in a deep voice, while the echoes ran away into the roof.
The world was young, the mountains green,No stain yet on the Moon was seen,No words were laid on stream or stone,When Durin woke and walked alone.He named the nameless hills and dells;He drank from yet untasted wells;He stooped and looked in Mirrormere,And saw a crown of stars appear,As gems upon a silver thread,Above the shadows of his head.
The world was fair, the mountains tall,In Elder Days before the fallOf mighty kings in NargothrondAnd Gondolin, who now beyondThe Western Seas have passed away:The world was fair in Durin's Day.
A king he was on carven throneIn many-pillared halls of stoneWith golden roof and silver floor,And runes of power upon the door.The light of sun and star and moonIn shining lamps of crystal hewnUndimmed by cloud or shade of nightThere shone for ever fair and bright.
There hammer on the anvil smote,There chisel clove, and graver wrote;There forged was blade, and bound was hilt;The delver mined, the mason built.There beryl, pearl, and opal pale,And metal wrought like fishes' mail,Buckler and corslet, axe and sword,And shining spears were laid in hoard.
Unwearied then were Durin's folk;Beneath the mountains music woke:The harpers harped, the minstrels sang,And at the gates the trumpets rang.
The world is grey, the mountains old,The forge's fire is ashen-cold;No harp is wrung, no hammer falls:The darkness dwells in Durin's halls;The shadow lies upon his tombIn Moria, in Khazad-dûm.But still the sunken stars appearIn dark and windless Mirrormere;There lies his crown in water deep,Till Durin wakes again from sleep.
"I like that!" said Sam. "I should like to learn it. In Moria, in Khazad-dûm! But it makes the darkness seem heavier, thinking of all those lamps. Are there piles of jewels and gold lying about here still?" Gimli was silent. Having sung his song he would say no more.
"Piles of jewels?" said Gandalf. "No the Orcs have often plundered Moria; there is nothing left in the upper halls. And since the dwarves fled, no one dares to seek the shafts and treasuries down in the deep places: they are drowned in water—or in a shadow of fear." Gimli looked away as the wizard spoke and was surprised to catch the gleam of tears on Devin's cheeks in the dim.
"What's wrong, lass?" He asked with such concern that rest of the Company immediately turned to look at her.
"You are crying…" said Legolas, taken aback. No matter what dangers or hardships they faced, she had never once complained or shed a tear. It was astonishing to see her do so now over a song.
"Huh?" Devin said, taken aback, as she touched her wet cheek to see what they were talking about. She had not even been aware that she was doing it. "Ah, I'm sorry… It's just my father also knew that song and used to sing it to me, and Gimli sounded so much like him that I… I supposed I was a little shocked." She explained with a wan smile.
"There is no need for you to apologize." Said Aragorn.
"That's right, we all get homesick from time to time." Said Merry.
"I often wish I was back at home." Added Pippin. Frodo silently seconded this thought.
"You must miss your family terribly." Legolas said sympathetically. Not only were the girls the youngest of their Company, but they were also the farthest away from home.
"Yes…" said Devin sadly, though she would say no more on the matter. She didn't want to speak of their deaths while surrounded by such heavy darkness.
"Well, Sam, didn't you want to hear more about the Mines? You looked like you were just about to ask a question." Said Aragorn, who along with the hobbits had already heard briefly of their passing from Kitty, was able to guess Devin's thoughts and endeavored to change the subject for her.
"Oh, all right then… Then what do the dwarves want to come back for?" asked Sam, taking the obvious hint that they should talk about something else.
"For mithril." Answered Gandalf. "The wealth of Moria was not in gold and jewels, the toys of the Dwarves; nor in iron, their servant. Such things they found here, it is true, especially iron; but they did not need to delve for them: all things that they desired they could obtain in traffic. For here alone in the world was found Moria-silver, or true-silver as some have called it: mithril is the Elvish name. The Dwarves have a name which they do not tell. Its worth was ten times that of gold, and now it is beyond price; for little is left above ground, and even the Orcs dare not delve here for it. The lodes lead away north towards Caradhras, and down to darkness. The Dwarves tell no tale; but even as mithril was the foundation of their wealth, so also it was their destruction: they delved too greedily and too deep, and disturbed that from which they fled, Durin's Bane. Of what they brought to light the Orcs have gathered nearly all, and given it in tribute to Sauron, who covets it."Mithril! All folk desired it. It could be beaten like copper, and polished like glass; and the Dwarves could make of it a metal, light and yet harder than tempered steel. Its beauty was like to that of common silver, but the beauty of mithril did not tarnish or grow dim. The Elves dearly loved it, and among many uses they made of it ithildin, starmoon, which you saw upon the doors. Bilbo had a corslet of mithril-rings that Thorin gave him. I wonder what has become of it? Still gathering dust in the Michel Delving Museum, I suppose."
"Oh, that was a kingly gift!" said Gimli.
"Yes." said Gandalf. "I never told him, but its worth was greater than the value of the whole Shire and everything in it." Frodo said nothing, but he put his hand under his tunic and touched the rings of his mail-shirt. He felt staggered to think that he had been walking about with the price of the Shire under his jacket. Had Bilbo known? He felt no doubt that Bilbo knew quite well. It was indeed a kingly gift. But now his thoughts had been carried away from the dark Mines, to Rivendell, to Bilbo, and to Bag End in the days while Bilbo was still there. He wished with all his heart that he was back there, and in those days, mowing the lawn, or pottering among the flowers, and that he had never heard of Moria, or mithril— or the Ring.
A deep silence fell. One by one the others fell asleep. Frodo was on guard. As if it were a breath that came in through unseen doors out of deep places, dread came over him. His hands were cold and his brow damp. He listened. All his mind was given to listening and nothing else for two slow hours; but he heard no sound, not even the imagined echo of a footfall.His watch was nearly over, when, far off where he guessed that the western archway stood, he fancied he could see two pale points of light, almost like luminous eyes. He started. His head had nodded. 'I must have nearly fallen asleep on guard,' he thought. 'I was on the edge of a dream.' He stood up and rubbed his eyes, and remained standing, peering into the dark, until he was relieved by Legolas.When he lay down, Frodo quickly went to sleep, but it seemed to him that the dream went on: he heard whispers, and saw the two pale points of light approaching slowly. He woke and found that the others were speaking softly near him, and that a dim light was falling on his face. High up above the eastern archway through a shaft of light near the roof came a long pale gleam; and across the hall through the northern arch light also glimmered faint and distantly.Frodo sat up.
"Good morning!" said Gandalf. "For morning it is again at last. I was right, you see. We are high up on the east side of Moria. Before today is over we ought to find the Great Gates and see the waters of Mirrormere lying in the Dimrill Dale before us."
"I shall be glad." Said Gimli. "I have looked on Moria, and it is very great, but it has become dark and dreadful; and we have found no sign of my kindred. I doubt now that Balin ever came here."
"… I'm afraid he did." Said Devin slowly. "And you must brace yourself, Gimli, for what we may find before we reach the Gates." She hoped in telling him now that it might lessen the shock he would receive later on, if not the grief.
"You speak in riddles, much like a wizard." Said Gimli. "Can you not speak more plainly?"
"I'm sure she would if she could. But you must not pressure her to speak of what does not she feel safe to give freely. Ignorance can be better sometimes than to have too much knowledge with not enough wisdom." Said Gandalf. "Which reminds me, someone really should wake Kitty. That girl has slept long enough. There's a puddle of drool on the floor!"
"We've tried everything short of screaming in her ear, but nothing is working." Said Pippin.
"Don't worry, I know how to get her up." Devin said. Without her alarm or ice only one thing could get Kitty up when she was like this. She reached over, and used one hand to pinch Kitty's nose shut and the other to cover her mouth. After a few seconds Kitty finally stirred, startled awake by the sudden realization that she couldn't breathe. Devin quickly removed her hands, and Kitty bolted upright, gasping for air as if she hadn't breathed in years.
"Holy crap!" Kitty cried. "How many times do I have to tell you not to do that! Do you have any idea how scary it is to wake up to the feeling of being murdered?"
"Don't be such a drama queen. You know I'd never really kill you." Devin reminded her with a frown.
"Though some might be tempted." Boromir muttered under his breath. Unfortunately, Kitty heard him.
"Why don't you do everyone a favor and go see what it smells like underwater?" She growled, narrowing her eyes dangerously at him.
"Okay, time out." Devin said, stepping in before it escalated to violence. "I'm sure we're all just cranky because we're hungry, so let's not draw any blood until we've at least had some breakfast."
After they had breakfasted Gandalf decided to go on again at once.
"We are tired, but we shall rest better when we are outside." He said. "I think that none of us will wish to spend another night in Moria."
"No indeed!" said Boromir. "Which way shall we take? Yonder eastward arch?"
"Maybe." Said Gandalf. "But I do not know yet exactly where we are. Unless I am quite astray, I guess that we are above and north of the Great Gates; and it may nit be easy to find the right road down to them. The eastern arch will probably prove to be the way that we must take; but before we make up our minds we ought to look about us. Let us go towards that light in the north door. If we could find a window it would help, but I fear that light comes only down deep shafts."
"Following his lead the Company passed under the northern arch. They found themselves in a wide corridor. As they went along it the glimmer grew stronger, and they saw that it came through a doorway on their right. It was high and flat topped, and the stone door was still upon its hinges, standing half open. Beyond it was a large square chamber. It was dimly lit, but to their eyes, after so long a time in the dark, it seemed dazzlingly bright, and they blinked as they entered.Their feet disturbed a deep dust on the floor, and stumbled among things lying in the doorway whose shapes they could not at first make out. The chamber was lit by a wide shaft high in the further eastern wall; it slanted upwards and, far above, a small square patch of blue sky could be seen. The light of the shaft fell directly on a table in the middle of the room: a single oblong block, about two feet high, upon which was laid a great slab of white stone.
"It looks like a tomb." Muttered Frodo, and bent forwards with a curious sense of foreboding, to look more closely at it. Gandalf came quickly to his side to read the runes deeply engraved on the slab.
"These are Daeron's Runes, such as were used of old in Moria." Said Gandalf. "Here is written in the tongues of Men and Dwarves:
BALIN SON OF FUNDINLORD OF MORIA."
"He is dead then." Said Frodo. "I feared it was so." Gimli cast his hood over his face.