Strangers From a Distant Land

In Khazad-Dum His Wisdom Died

(Sarah's Point of View)

Sarah ran faster than she thought was possible, but still the orcs gained on them. They were even crawling down the pillars from the ceiling like cockroaches. She felt utterly useless. She was no good with a knife, and had lain in a corner pretending to be dead while her best friend, Maggie Rivers, got her ribs broken by a cave troll.

"Why did the Sorting Hat quiz put me in Gryffindor again?" she wondered. She resolved in her mind to do better the next time. The next time that there was a battle, Sarah Hodgson would be fighting in it.

Sarah blinked, barely stopping herself from running into Legolas. The orcs had them hemmed in a circle, there was no-where to go. The males in the group got back to back, putting Sarah and Boromir, holding Maggie, in the middle of a small ring.

A faint glow, like fire-light, appeared in an arch across the hall. It seemed to terrify the orcs. They quickly scrambled back the way that they had come.

"Balrog," muttered Sarah, so quietly that even she could barely hear it.

Legolas pointed his bow at the fleeing orcs, looking utterly mystified. Boromir looked in the direction that Sarah was facing.

"What is this new devilry?" he asked Gandalf in a whisper.

Gandalf answered him, looking old and tired. "A Balrog. A demon of the ancient world. This for is beyond any of you." He looked in the opposite direction. "Run!" He took off, following his own advice.

Sarah had thought that she was going fast before. It turned out that it was possible to go faster than that. Spurred on by pure terror, they fled.

They passed through an arch and onto the top of a staircase. The hobbits halted. Sarah, from her position in the back, saw Aragorn and Gandalf arguing. Or really, Gandalf ordering Aragorn to lead them on.

"Do as I say!" he yelled, pushing Aragorn down the steps, and in to Sarah. "Swords are no more use here."

They ran, Frodo in the lead. Sarah was extraordinarily grateful that Maggie was being carried. If she wasn't, they would have had to throw her over someone's shoulder to get her anywhere. Maggie was deathly afraid of heights, just as Grace was of water. As it was, Sarah was not too happy about the staircase either, no matter how wide it was. They soon came to a large gap.

Legolas leapt across. He beckoned with his hand as the glow reached the arch that they had just gone through not a minute before. Rocks fell. Gandalf leapt across the gap. The elf steadied him, as arrows whined and skipped off the stones, just missing the hobbits' toes.

Boromir glanced down at Maggie, and then tossed her across to Legolas as gently as he could. Legolas quickly handed her to Gandalf, and then jumped back as Boromir grabbed Merry and Sam under his arms and leapt across, just as the part of the arch that they had stood on crumbled and fell into the abyss.

Aragorn lifted Sam and threw him across to be caught by Boromir. Legolas shot more of the orc archers. He turned to Gimli, who held up a single finger.

"Nobody tosses a Dwarf." He heaved himself across the gape, teetering on the edge until Legolas caught him by his most prized possession. "Not the Beard!" he cried.

Sarah then launched herself into the air, just missing the edge. Legolas reach out and snagged her arm as she fell. She was yank up to safety just as Frodo was thrown by Aragorn.

Now it was only Aragorn and Pippin on the first half. The ground was shaking horribly. Suddenly, the section that they were standing on broke off. Aragorn flung Pippin up onto the solid part, and then scrambled up himself. They looked across the gap that they could never hope to jump to their friends on the other side. It was growing hotter by the second. More rock fell, one piece on the stair behind them. They were stuck on a pillar of rock. A pillar that was rather loose in the foundation. It started to tilt backwards and to Sarah's left. Aragorn clutched Pippin close, keeping them together, using his bow to steady them.

"Lean forward!" he commanded. Slowly the pillar began to go in the direction that he wanted it to. Legolas and Boromir reached their arms up to catch them.

"Come on! Now!" the elf shouted. It crashed into the main stair. Legolas caught Aragorn, and Boromir caught Pippin. They steadied themselves, and then they were off again. Behind them, the pillar slowly crumbled as it fell down and down and down.

They reached the narrow bridge of Khazad-Dum. Gandalf, still holding Maggie, began ushering every one across. As Aragorn passed him, he took the wounded hobbit.

"Over the Bridge! Fly!" To Gandalf it seemed as if the Fellowship was moving like slugs, Sarah passed him, holding her hand to her side to ease the stitch that was beginning.

They reached the far side of the bridge, as Gandalf stood, not quite on it, staring at the fire and the Shadow that appeared within. Now Gandalf turned and ran, but stopped in the middle of the bridge. He turned once more to face the creature of Fire and Shadow, one who was once a friend and colleague, a fellow Maia.

"You cannot pass!" he told it, as if he expected it to listen.

Frodo looked back. "Gandalf!" he yelled, panicked.

"I am the servant of the secret fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you! Flame of Udun! Go back to the Shadow!"

Sarah watched the scene that she had acted out so many times without thinking unfold. Even though she knew in her mind that she would see him again, it did not help while watching one she had come to see as a sort of grandfather/Dumbledore figure face down one of the darkest things in Arda.

"YOU! SHALL NOT! PASS!" the wizard's staff slammed onto the ancient stone. The Balrog seemed to laugh, cracking it's whip in the air. It stepped onto the bridge, and then fell!

Gandalf sighed, leaning on his staff, and then turned to walk away. The whip came up, curled around his ankle, and pulled him to the abyss. He scrabbled for a finger hold.

"NO!" shouted Boromir. "No!"

"Gandaaalf!" screamed Frodo, fighting against Boromir, who held him from running on to the bridge.

Gandalf looked straight into his eyes. "Fly, you fools!" he said, and then was gone.

Multiple people, including Sarah and Maggie, called out along with Frodo.

"Nooooooo!"

Arrows skipped off the stones as the remainder of the Fellowship fled, Frodo being bodily carried out by Boromir.

They walked into the pale sun shine, and then collapsed, stricken with grief. Sarah took Maggie from Aragorn, lowering her to the ground.

Maggie looked at Sarah through her pain and tears. "Why? I know why, but why, Sarah?"

"I don't know. I don't know."

They hugged each other, gently for the sake of Maggie's ribs. They had barely sat there a moment before they heard Aragorn's voice.

"Legolas, get them up."

The elf nodded, and then walked towards where Merry and Pippin were sitting/lying.

Boromir looked at Aragorn, incredulous. "Give them a moment for pity's sake!"

Aragorn looked at him with understanding, but also with urgency. "By night fall these hills will be swarming with orcs! We must reach the Woods of Lothlorien. Come Boromir. Legolas. Gimli, get them up."

Sarah looked at Maggie. "Do you think you could do piggy back?" she asked doubtfully.

Maggie looked equally dubious. "I can give it a try. Not sure how long I can manage it, but we can try."

In short order, Maggie was as comfortable as she could be on Sarah's back.

They continued like this for a while, but just as they were reaching a stream that they both guessed to be Nimrodel, Maggie gasped in Sarah's ear-

"I can't…go on…like this."

Sarah stopped, and called to Aragorn.

"Aragorn! It's Maggie."

He froze, then ran back a ways, looking like he wanted to face-palm.

"Maggie! I am sorry; I completely forgot that you were injured, and Frodo and Sam, too!"

He called a halt at the banks of the stream. He brought the three injured hobbits together, and had Frodo and Maggie remove their shirts (Sam's was a scratch on the head). Maggie balked at this.

"Err…Aragorn? Um, well, err."

Aragorn smiled gently. "I am a healer," he told her. "You have no need for embarrassment. If it would help, the others could turn their backs?"

Maggie nodded vigorously. All who had been listening (everyone) turned their backs to her, facing the stream. Sarah helped her unbutton her shirt.

Aragorn quickly examined her, his fingers gentle on her torso. He asked her several questions, then felt some more. At last he looked up.

"Your ribs appear to be bruised, and possibly cracked. You need to rest a bit before we can go on." He helped her button up her shirt. He then turned to Frodo.

"Most of the damage seems to have been deflected by your shirt," he told him. "You are only slightly bruised when you should have been killed." The amazement was still clear in Aragorn's voice.

Sam was last; all he needed was a fresh bandage on the scratch. "You did well," Aragorn said. "Many get much worse in return for killing their first orc."

The remainder of the original eleven members sat beside the trickling stream.

Legolas looked up suddenly. Contrary to popular belief, elves cannot go through Moria with perfect hair. He was just as dirty as the rest of them.

"I shall sing you a song of the maiden Nimrodel," he said. "It was she whom this stream was named after, for she dwelt beside it long ago.

They all looked up in vague interest. Legolas began.

"An Elven-maid there was of old,
A shining star by day:
Her mantle white was hemmed with gold,
Her shoes of silver-grey.

A star was bound upon her brows,
A light was on her hair
As sun upon the golden boughs
In Lórien the fair.

Her hair was long, her limbs were white,
And fair she was and free;
And in the wind she went as light
As leaf of linden-tree.

Beside the falls of Nimrodel,
By water clear and cool,
Her voice as falling silver fell
Into the shining pool.

Where now she wanders none can tell,
In sunlight or in shade;
For lost of yore was Nimrodel
And in the mountains strayed.

The elven-ship in haven grey
Beneath the mountain-lee
Awaited her for many a day
Beside the roaring sea.

A wind by night in Northern lands
Arose, and loud it cried,
And drove the ship from elven-strands
Across the streaming tide.

When dawn came dim the land was lost,
The mountains sinking grey
Beyond the heaving waves that tossed
Their plumes of blinding spray.

Amroth beheld the fading shore
Now low beyond the swell,
And cursed the faithless ship that bore
Him far from Nimrodel.

Of old he was an Elven-king,
A lord of tree and glen,
When golden were the boughs in spring
In fair Lothlórien.

From helm to sea they saw him leap,
As arrow from the string,
And dive into water deep,
As mew upon the wing.

The wind was in his flowing hair,
The foam about him shone;
Afar they saw him strong and fair
Go riding like a swan.

But from the West has come no word,
And on the Hither Shore
No tidings Elven-folk have heard
Of Amroth evermore."

His voice trailed off. "I cannot remember anymore," he muttered, his cheeks taking on a slight pink tinge.

Sarah smiled sadly. It had been one of her favorite songs, before she found that Middle-earth was real, and before she was flung into the middle of the War of the Ring. She had even memorized it.

"Come," Aragorn said, reminding them that they could not be here when the sun set. Already the shadows were long. They stood up, stretched, and started towards the Golden Wood.


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