One Geek To Rule Them All

Chapter 19

Previously:

"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.

Chapter 19: The Bridge of Khazad-dûm

The Company of the Ring stood silent beside the tomb of Balin. Devin thought of her father and how The Hobbit had been one of her father's favorite books to read to her as a bedtime story when she was younger. In that dusty chamber in the mountains that was an entire world away it felt more like a thousand years ago.

"I'm sorry." She said somberly, placing a hand on the Gimli's shoulder, as Gandalf leaned down to pick up a the remains of book that was still in the clutches of one of the skeletons that they could now see were lying by the door they had just come through and the smaller one on the other side of the chamber. "We cannot linger here." Hearing her ominous words, Gandalf quickly skipped towards the end to see what had become of the rest of the Dwarves in Balin's Company, though they could all take a fair guess after seeing the abandoned orc weapons that still lay scattered about the room.

"They have taken the bridge and the second hall… the pool is up to the wall at Westgate the Watcher in the Water took Óin." Gandalf read aloud. "We have barred the gates… but cannot hold them for long. The ground shakes. Drums… drums in the deep. We cannot get out. A shadow moves in the dark. We cannot get out. They are coming. There is nothing more." The wizard paused and stood in silent thought. A sudden dread and a horror of the chamber fell on the Company.

"We cannot get out." Muttered Gimli. "It was well for us that the pool had sunk a little, and that the Watcher was sleeping down at the southern end." Gandalf raised his head and looked around.

"They seem to have made a last stand by both doors," he said; "but there were not many left by that time."

"Yes, and now we must quickly leave this place before the same happens to us." Said Devin gravely.

She hardly spoken these words, when there came a great noise: a rolling Boom that seemed to come from the depths far below, and to tremble in the stone at their feet. Her eyes widened. It was too soon! They sprang towards the door in alarm. Doom, doom it rolled again, as if huge hands were turning the very caverns of Moria into a vast drum. The there came an echoing blast: a great horn was blown in the hall, and answering horns and harsh cries were heard further off. There was a hurrying sound of many feet.

"They are coming!" cried Legolas.

"We cannot get out." Said Gimli.

"Damn it!" said Kitty.

"Trapped!" cried Gandalf. "Why did I delay? Here we are, caught, just as they were before. But I was not here then. We will see what—" Doom, doom came the drum-beat and the walls shook.

"Slam the doors and wedge them!" shouted Aragorn. "And keep your packs on as long as you can: we may get a chance to cut our way out yet."

"No!" said Devin. "We must not get shut in!"

"Keep the east door ajar!" said Gandalf. "We will go that way, if we get a chance." Another harsh horn-call and shrill cries rang out. Feet were coming down the corridor. There was a ring and clatter as the Company drew their weapons. Glamdring shone with a pale light, and Sting glinted at the edges. Boromir set his shoulder against the western door.

"Wait a moment! Do not close it yet!" said Gandalf. He sprang forward to Boromir's side and drew himself up to his full height. "Who comes hither to disturb the rest of Balin Lord of Moria?" he cried in a loud voice. There was a rush of hoarse laughter, like the fall of sliding stones into a pit; amid the clamor a deep voice was raised in command. Doom, boom, doom went the drums in the deep.With a quick movement Gandalf stepped before the narrow opening of the door and thrust forward his staff. There was a dazzling flash that lit the chamber and the passage outside. For an instant the wizard looked out. Arrows whined and whistled down the corridor as he sprang back.

"There are Orcs, very many of them." He said. "And some are large and evil: black Uruks of Mordor. For the moment they are hanging back, but there is something else there. A great cave-troll, I think, or more than one. There is no hope of escape that way."

"And no hope at all, if they come at the other door as well." Said Boromir.

"There is no sound outside here yet." Said Aragorn, who was standing by the eastern door listening.

"Great, then let's go that way!" said Kitty, ready to get the heck out of dodge.

"The passage on this side plunges straight down a stair: it plainly does not lead back towards the hall. But it is no good flying blindly this way with the pursuit just behind. We cannot block the door. Its key is gone and the lock is broken, and it opens inward. We will make them fear this chamber first!" he said grimly, feeling the edge of his sword.

Heavy feet were heard in the corridor. Boromir flung himself at the door and heaved it to; then he wedged it with broken sword-blades and splinters of wood. The Company retreated to the other side of the chamber. But they had no chance to fly yet. There was a blow on the door that made it quiver; and then it began to grind slowly open, driving back the wedges. A huge arm and shoulder, with a dark skin of greenish scales, was thrust through the widening gap. Then a great, flat, toeless foot was forced through below. There was dead silence outside.To Devin's surprise it was not Boromir who attacked first, but Kitty. With a booming roar and a mad gleam in her eye, kitty, fueled by a sudden manic episode, leaped forward and hewed her elvish blade at the arm with all her might; but her sword rang, glanced aside, and fell from her shaken hand. Fortunately the blade remained un-notched.

"Ow! Holy shit, that's hard!" she exclaimed. Suddenly, and to his own surprise, Frodo felt a hot wrath blaze up in his heart.

"The Shire!" He cried, and springing beside Kitty, he stooped, and stabbed the hideous foot with Sting. There was a bellow, and the foot jerked back, nearly wrenching Sting from Frodo's arm. Black drops dripped from the blade and smoked on the floor.

"Score one for the Shire!" Kitty cheered as Boromir sprang forth and hurled himself against the door, slamming it shut again.

"The hobbit's bite is deep!" said Aragorn. "You have a good blade, Frodo son of Drogo!"

"Yes, well done! Now get back here before they bust the door down!" cried Devin anxiously. There was immediately a crash on the door, followed by crash after crash. Rams and hammers were beating against it. It cracked and staggered back, and the opening grew suddenly wide. Arrows came whistling in, but struck the northern wall, and fell harmlessly to the floor. There was a horn-blast and a rush of feet, and orcs one after another leaped into the chamber.How many there were the Company could not count. The affray was sharp, but the orcs were dismayed by the fierceness of the defense. Legolas shot two through the throat. Gimli hewed the legs from under another that had sprung up on Balin's tomb. Kitty decapitated one. Devin stabbed another that had tried to grab her through the soft underside of its chin, where its helmet gave no protection. Boromir and Aragorn slew many. When thirteen had fallen the rest fled shrieking, leaving the defenders unharmed, except for Sam who had a scratch along the scalp. A quick duck had saved him; and he had felled his first orc: a sturdy thrust with his Barrow-blade. A fire was smoldering in his brown eyes that would have made Ted Sandyman step backwards, if he had seen it.

"Hah! And my mom said watching The Walking Dead was a waste of time!" said Kitty with a grin, gratified to find her wrong and ready for more.

"Now's not the time!" Cried Gandalf. "Let us go, before the troll returns!"

But even as they retreated, and before Pippin and Merry had reached the stair outside, a huge orc-chieftain, almost man-high, clad in black mail from head to foot, leaped into the chamber; behind him his followers clustered in the doorway. His broad flat face was swart, his eyes were like coals, and his tongue was red; he wielded a great spear. With a thrust of his huge hide shield he turned Boromir's sword and bore him backwards, throwing him to the ground. Diving under Aragorn's blow with the speed of a striking snake he charged into the Company thrust his spear straight at Frodo. The blow caught him in the right side, and Frodo was hurled against the wall and pinned. Sam, with a cry, hacked at the spear-shaft, and it broke. But even as the orc flung down the truncheon and swept out his scimitar, one of Devin's small throwing knives pierced his throat, and Kitty's blade came down upon his helm. There was a flash like flame as sparks flew and the helm nearly burst asunder. The orc fell down dead. His followers fled howling, as Boromir and Aragorn sprang at them. Devin quickly retrieved her knife.

"Now!" she shouted as doom, doom went the drums in the deep. "Now's our last chance. Run for it!" The great voice rolled out again. Aragorn picked up Frodo where he lay by the wall and made for the stair, pushing Merry and Pippin in front of him. The others followed; but Gimli had to be dragged away by Legolas: in spite of the peril he lingered by Balin's tomb with his head bowed. Boromir hauled the eastern door to, grinding upon its hinges: it had great iron rings on either side, but could not be fastened.

"I am all right." Gasped Frodo. "I can walk. Put me down!" Aragorn nearly dropped him in his amazement.

"I thought you were dead!" he cried.

"Not yet!" said Gandalf. "But there is no time to wonder. Off you go, all of you, down the stairs! Wait a few minutes for me at the bottom, but if I do not come soon, go on! Go quickly and choose paths leading right and downwards."

"We cannot leave you to hold the door alone!" said Aragorn.

"Do as I say!" said Gandalf fiercely. "Swords are no more use here. Go!"

"Come, Aragorn!" Devin urged him. "He's the only one who can shut the door, and he must!"

The passage was lit by no shaft and was utterly dark. They groped their way down a long flight of steps, and then looked back; but they could see nothing except high above them the faint glimmer of the wizard's staff. He seemed to be still standing on guard by the closed door. Frodo breathed heavily and leaned against Sam, who put his arms about him. They stood peering up the stairs into the darkness. Frodo thought he could hear the voice of Gandalf above, muttering words that ran down the sloping roof with a sighing echo. He could not catch what was said. The walls seemed to be trembling. Every now and again the drum-beats throbbed and rolled: doom, doom.

"What are you doing?" Kitty asked when Devin began to riffle through her pack while they were stopped, quickly removing a glow-stick. "Hey, you've been holding out me!" she cried with a frown. Devin knew how much she loved playing with glow-sticks.

"I was saving it for an emergency!" said Devin a bit defensively. She had originally bought it to surprise Kitty, but had then decided to save it for this particular moment once they decided to stay in this world.

"Is that food?" asked Pippin as they all eyed the curious wrapper.Suddenly at the top of the stair there was a stab of white light. Then there was a dull rumble and a heavy thud. The drum-beats broke out wildly: doom-boom, doom-boom, and then stopped. Gandalf came flying down the steps and fell to the ground in the midst of the Company.

"Well, well! That's over!" said the wizard struggling to his feet. "I have done all that I could. But I have met my match, and have nearly been destroyed, But don't stand here! Go on! You will have to do without light for a while: I am rather shaken. Go on!"

"Wait, I have a light." Said Devin, quickly ripping open the glow-stick's wrapper and snapping it to activate it. "Boromir, please carry Gandalf for as long as you can bear. We must keep going, but he needs to recover his strength. He will need it. I will lead the way for now."

They followed after her in the neon-yellow glow of the luminous stick in her hand wondering how it worked and what had happened at the top of the stair with Gandalf. Doom, doom went the drum-beats again: they now sounded muffled and far away, but they were following. There was no other sound of pursuit, neither tramp of feet, nor any voice. Devin took no turns, right or left, for she remembered that Gandalf had not done so in the book, and the passage seemed to be going in the direction that they desired. Every now and again it descended a flight of steps, fifty or more, to a lower level.At the end of an hour they had gone a mile, or maybe a little more, and had descended many flights of stairs. There was still no sound of pursuit. Almost they began to hope that they would escape. But in the middle of the seventh flight Devin halted, for they had encountered something she had not been expecting. It was well that she had made certain Gandalf would already be rested before they reached this point and had lit the glow-stick, for there was a sizeable gap between the stairs that plunged down into the dark depths below. Devin got as close to the edge as she could and held out the glow-stick. She could see the other side, but it would be a difficult leap for her and the hobbits without help.

"I'll go first with the light." She said, securing the glow-stick between her teeth for the jump. She glanced back at Kitty, who nodded in understanding, and stepped forth, kneeling down and cupping her hands.

"What are you—?" Boromir began to ask when Devin stepped into Kitty's waiting hands, startled when the small girl was launched into the air. Legolas and Gimli stared in wonder as she flew through the air, tucked herself into a flip, and landed on the other side with perfect balance. Neither of them had ever seen a human soar like a bird before. Devin removed the glow-stick from her mouth and held it up, illuminating the stairs beneath her feet so the rest of them could see where they needed to land.

"Who's next?" she asked. The Elf leaped forward without hesitation, landing gracefully beside her. It was good that he had done so, because Kitty was right on his heels.

"Geronimo!" She cried as she flung herself over the gap, nearly tripping and sending herself tumbling down the stairs. Fortunately, Legolas caught her in time and helped her regain her balance.

"Gandalf!" said Legolas, waiting for the wizard with open arms. Gandalf jumped, glad the Elf was there to catch him, for he had almost gone the say way Kitty had. Next came Boromir, carrying Merry and Pippin. He managed to make it across with both hobbits, but the stair he had leaped from crumbled behind him, widening the gap.

"Wow, that sucks!" cried Kitty, wondering how the others were supposed to get across now.

"Sam!" said Aragorn, deciding to start with him. Sam braced himself as with a might heave Aragorn tossed him clear over to the other side, where he was caught by Legolas and Boromir. Next Came Frodo. Aragorn reached for Gimli, but the dwarf held up a hand to stop him.

"Nobody tosses a Dwarf." Said Gimli proudly. He gave a great yell as he leaped across, using all the strength that he could muster. His feet landed on the edge, but he began to fall backwards. Legolas quickly reached out and grabbed him by the beard to stop his fall. "Not the beard!" cried Gimli as he was pulled back to safety. Once the Dwarf was safely out of the way, Aragorn made a great leap across the extra-large gap. And with that everyone had made it safely across, and the Company was ready to push on.

"It is getting hot!" said Boromir.

"Oh, my bad. Did you want me to leave?" Kitty asked, earning several strange looks. "Goddammit, I'm gettin' real tired of nobody getting my jokes!" she grumbled crossly. "That was funny, right, Devin?"

"Yeah, so funny I forgot to laugh." answered Devin. She had other things to think about at the moment, like what was about to come next.

"We ought to be down at least to the level of the Gates now." Said Gandalf. "Soon I think we should look for a left-hand turn to take us east. I hope it is not far."

"I think there is a light up ahead." Gimli said before long, He had keen eyes in the dark and could see farther beyond the light of the glow-stick than the rest. "But it is not daylight. It is red. What can it be?"

"Ghâsh!" muttered Gandalf, recalling how he had heard the orcs in the chamber yelling about fire as he sealed them in. "I wonder if that is what they meant: that the lower levels are on fire? Still, we can only go on."

"Yes, there is no other way. But we must take care! I fear soon we shall be out of the frying pan and into the fire." said Devin grimly.

"Literally." Added Kitty.

Soon the light became unmistakable, and could be seen by all. It was flickering and glowing on the walls away down the passage before them. They no longer needed the glow-stick to see their way: in front the road sloped down swiftly, and some way ahead there stood an archway; through it the growing light came. The air became very hot.When they came to the arch Gandalf went through, signing to them to wait. As he stood just beyond the opening they saw his face lit by a red glow. Quickly he stepped back.

"There is some new devilry here," he said, "devised for our welcome, no doubt. But I know now where we are: we have reached the First Deep, the level immediately below the Gates. This is the Second Hall of Old Moria and the Gates are near: away beyond the eastern end, on the left, not more than a quarter mile. Across the Bridge, up a broad stair, along a wide road, through the First Hall, and out! But come and look!"

They peered out. Before them was another cavernous hall. It was loftier and far longer than the one in which they had slept. They were near its eastward end; westward it ran away into darkness. Down the center stalked a double line of towering pillars. They were carved like boles of mighty trees whose boughs upheld the roof with a branching tracery of stone. Their stems were smooth and black, but a red glow was darkly mirrored in their sides. Right across the floor, close to the feet of two huge pillars a great fissure had opened. Out of it a fierce light came, and now and again flames licked at the brink and curled about the bases of the columns. Wisps od dark smoke wavered in the hot air.

"If we had come by the main road from the upper halls, we should have been trapped here." Said Gandalf. "Let us hope that the fire now lies between us and pursuit. Come! There is no time to lose." Even as he spoke they heard again the pursuing drum-beat: Doom, doom, doom. Away beyond the shadows at the western end of the hall there came cries and horn-calls. Doom, doom: the pillars seemed to tremble and the flames to quiver. "Now for the last race!" said Gandalf. "If the sun is shining outside, we may still escapes. After me!"

He turned and sped across the smooth floor of the hall. The distance was greater than it had looked. As they ran they heard the beat and echo of many hurrying feet behind. A shrill yell went up: they had been seen. There was a ring and a clash of steel. An arrow whistled over Frodo's head. Boromir laughed.

"They did not expect this." He said. "The fire has cut them off. We are on the wrong side!"

"It's too soon to relax!" said Devin grimly. "Those flames were made by something much worse than orcs."

"Look ahead!" called Gandalf. "The bridge is near. It is dangerous and narrow."

Suddenly Frodo saw before him a black chasm. At the end of the hall the floor vanished and fell to an unknown depth. The outer door could only be reached by a slender bridge of stone, without kerb or rail, that spanned the chasm with one curving spring of fifty feet. It was and ancient defense of the Dwarves against any enemy that might capture the First Hall and the outer passages. They could only pass across it in single file. At the brink Gandalf halted and the others came up in a pack behind.

"Lead the way, Gimli!" he said. "Pippin and Merry next. Straight on, and up the stair beyond the door!"

Arrows fell among them. One struck Frodo and Sprang back. Another flew over Devin's head and would have hit Kitty if she hadn't ducked. Another pierced Gandalf's hat and stuck there like a black feather. Frodo looked behind. Beyond the fire he saw swarming black figures: there seemed to be hundreds of orcs. They brandished spears and scimitars which shone red as blood in the firelight. Doom, doom rolled the drum-beats, growing louder and louder, doom, doom.Legolas turned and set an arrow to the strung, though it was a long shot for his small bow. He drew, but his hand fell, and the arrow slipped to the ground. He gave a cry of dismay and fear. Two great trolls had appeared; they bore great slabs of stone, and flung them down to serve as gangways over the fire. But it was not the trolls that had filled the elf with terror. The ranks of the orcs had opened, and they crowded away, as if they themselves were afraid. Something was coming up behind them. What it was could not be seen: it was like a great shadow, in the middle was a dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater; and the power of terror seemed to be in it and to go before it.

"What fresh hell is this?" cried Kitty.

"Keep moving!" Devin urged them.

It came to the edge of the fire and the light faded as if a cloud had bent over it. then with a rush it leaped across the fissure. The flames roared up to greet it, and wreathed about it; and a black smoke swirled in the air. Its streaming mane kindled, and blazed behind it. In its right hand was a blade like a stabbing tongue of fire; in its left it held a whip of many thongs.

"Ai! Ai!" wailed Legolas. "A Balrog! A Balrog is come!" Gimli stared with wide eyes.

"Durin's Bane!" he cried, and letting his axe fall he covered his face.

"A Balrog." Muttered Gandalf. "Now I understand." He faltered and leaned heavily on his staff. "What an evil fortune! And I am already weary."

The dark figure streaming with fire raced towards them. The orcs yelled and poured over the stone gangways. Then Boromir raised his horn and blew. Loud the challenge rang and bellowed, like the shout of many throats under the cavernous roof. For a moment the orcs quailed and the fiery shadow halted. Then the echoes died as suddenly as a flame blown out by a dark wind, and the enemy advanced again.

"Over the bridge!" yelled Devin.

"Fly!" cried Gandalf, recalling his strength. "This is a foe beyond any of you. I must hold the narrow way. Fly!" Aragorn and Boromir did not heed the command, but still held their ground, side by side, behind Gandalf at the far end if the bridge. The others halted just within the doorway at the hall's end, and turned, unable to leave their leader to face the enemy alone.The Balrog reached the bridge. Gandalf stood in the middle of the span, leaning on the staff in his left hand, but in his other hand Glamdring gleamed, cold and white. His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings. It raised the whip, and the thongs whined and crack. Fire came from its nostrils. But Gandalf stood firm.

"You cannot pass." He said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. "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."

The Balrog made no answer. The fire in it seemed to die, but the darkness grew. It stepped forward slowly on to the bridge, and suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall; but still Gandalf could be seen, glimmering in the gloom; he seemed small, and altogether alone: grey and bent, like a wizened tree before the onset of a storm. Devin felt like her heart was in her throat as she watched.From out of the shadow a red sword leaped flaming.Glamdring glittered white in answer.There was a ringing clash and a stab of white fire. The Balrog fell back and its sword flew up in molten fragments. The wizard stayed on the bridge, stepped back a pace, and then again stood still.

"You shall not pass!" he said. With a bound the Balrog leaped full upon the bridge. Its whip whirled and hissed.

"He cannot stand alone!" cried Aragorn suddenly and ran back along the bridge. "Elendil!" he shouted. "I am with you, Gandalf!"

"Gondor!" cried Boromir and leaped after him.

At that moment Gandalf lifted his staff, and crying aloud he smote the bridge before him. The staff broke asunder and fell from his hand. A blinding sheet of white flame sprang up. The bridge cracked. Right at the Balrog's feet it broke, and the stone upon which it stood crashed into the gulf, while rest remained, poised, quivering like a tongue of rock thrust out into emptiness.With a terrible cry the Balrog fell forward, and its shadow plunged down and vanished. But even as it fell, Devin knew the danger had only grown. "Look out!" she screamed as it swung its whip, but her warning was not enough; the thongs lashed and curled about the wizard's knees before he could react, dragging him to the brink. He staggered, and fell, grasped vainly at the stone, and slid into the abyss. "Fly, you fools!" he cried, and was gone.

The fires went out, and blank darkness fell, broken only by the pale light of the glow-stick. The Company stood rooted with horror staring into the pit. Even as Aragorn and Boromir came flying back, the rest of the bridge cracked and fell. With a cry Aragorn roused them.

"Come! I will lead you now!" he called. "We must obey his last command. Follow me!"

They stumbled wildly up the great stairs beyond the door. Aragorn leading with the glow-stick, Boromir at the rear. At the top was a wide echoing passage. Along this they fled. Frodo heard Sam at his side weeping, and then found that he himself was weeping as he ran. Doom, doom, doom the drum-beats rolled behind, mournful now and slow; doom!They ran on. The light grew before them; great shafts pierced the roof. They ran swifter. They passed into a hall, bright with daylight from its high windows in the east. They fled across it. Through its huge broken doors they passed, and suddenly before them the Great Gates opened, an arching blaze of light.There was a guard of orcs crouching in the shadows behind the great door-posts towering on either side, but the gates were shattered and cast down. Aragorn smote to the ground the captain that stood in his path, and the rest fled in terror of his wrath. The Company swept past them and took no heed of them. Out of the Gates they ran and sprang down the huge and age-worn steps, the threshold of Moria.Thus, at last, they came beyond hope under the sky and felt the wind on their faces. They did not halt until they were out of bowshot from the walls. Dimrill Dale lay about them. The shadow of the Misty Mountains lay upon it, but eastwards there was a golden light on the land. It was but one hour after noon. The sun was shining; the clouds were white and high.They looked back. Dark yawned the archway of the Gates under the mountain-shadow. Faint and far beneath the earth rolled the slow beat of drums: doom. A thin black smoke trailed out. Nothing else was to be seen; the dale all around was empty. Doom. Devin found herself falling to her knees with hot tears streaming down her face. Grief at last wholly overcame them all, and they wept long: some standing and silent, some cast upon the ground. Doom, doom. The drum-beats faded.

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