Of Wargs and Dwarf Gates
They finally made it down the mountain, taking advantage of the strong shoulders of Aragorn and Boromir to help them dig their way out. As Maggie said, "Men, they make the best natural shovels."
After stumbling down the mountainside, they made camp for the night in the shadow of a small hill. There were thousands of stars over head, and a bird gave a sleepy chirrup in a nearby tree. Then the still night air was rent by a loud howl.
They all looked up, and Aragorn sprang to his feet. "It is wolf voices! The Wargs have come west of the Mountains!"
Boromir jumped up beside him, his hand on the hilt of his sword. "How far is Moria?" he asked.
"There was a door south-west of Caradhras when I was last here, fifteen miles as the crow flies, and maybe twenty as the wolf runs." It was Gandalf who answered him, his voice grim.
"Then let us start at first light tomorrow, if it is possible," suggested Boromir. "The wolf that one hears is worse than the orc that one fears, or so we say in Gondor," he added.
"True," Aragorn agreed, "But where the warg howls, there also the orc prowls."
"I'm so glad that I read the book," Sarah muttered to Maggie. "Otherwise I would be scared out of my wits."
The Company climbed to the top of the hill. It was ringed with old, gnarled trees and broken, jagged boulders, like some grotesque parody of a monk's tonsured head.
Using some of the branches of the trees they built a large fire, no longer trusting to the dark to keep them safe. They set a guard, though none of them could even consider sleep. At last, despite herself, Sarah nodded into an uneasy, restless sleep.
It was broken by a shuddering howl. The Fellowship all sprang to their feet, drawing their various weapons. Gandalf raised his staff; Aragorn drew Anduril, and Boromir his long sword. The four Shirelings whipped out their barrow-blades and Sting, and Maggie plunged her hand into her pouch full of sling-stones. Gimli hefted his axe, Legolas bent his bow, and Sarah fumbled for her knife, tucked away in her boot. She had a moment of panic before her hand closed around it.
Gandalf raised his voice and cried aloud. "Listen, Hound of Sauron! Gandalf is here! Fly, if you value your foul skin! I will shrivel you from tail to snout, if you come within this ring!"
The black shape on the edge of the firelight sprang forward with a sudden bound. There was a twang next to Sarah's ear, and with a horrible yell, the beast rolled away out of sight. Before she could blink, another arrow was fitted to Legolas's bow.
All around the hill, the many pinpricks of light went out. The two men and the dwarf took torches and search, but they could find no sign of the wolves, though they did find Legolas's arrow. Just the arrow, no Warg attached. The hill was deserted and bare except for them.
Slowly they lowered their weapons and lay down, except for Gimli and Maggie, who were on watch.
A few hours later Sarah awoke sleepily to Gimli's bearded face above her.
"Come on lass, wake up," he said, shaking her gently. She struggled to her feet, wrapping herself tightly with her blanket. Gimli was spreading his when without warning a storm of howls broke out all around them; the others sprang to their feet once more.
"Fling fuel on the fire!" Gandalf commanded the hobbits and Sarah. "Draw your blades and stand back to back!"
Sarah drew her knife as the flames leapt higher. The hobbits looked terrified as they pulled out their swords, and Maggie's left hand clutched the Ring as she began to whirl the sling with her right. Sarah took a step away. A hobbit whirling a sling above hobbit heads was a hobbit whirling a sling at about shoulder height for her.
The large grey shapes leapt over the boulders and through the trees. With a buzz, a sling-stone hit one smack between the eyes, and they all came at them. It was all a blur to Sarah. She ducked to avoid a flying warg, only to be hit by another one. It already had one of Legolas's arrows in it, but it was still stirring. She thrust her knife into the side of its head, and it lay still, inconveniently on top of her. As she let out an 'ooph!' a sudden light like lightening blazed in the clearing, and Gandalf's voice rolled out like thunder.
"Naur an edraith ammen! Naur dan i ngaurhoth!" Through the warg's thick hair Sarah could see the entire hill catch fire. The monk's tonsure was now a dazzling white. Slowly the light died down, and then voices started calling.
"Sarah! Where are you?"
"Over here," she called faintly. All ten gathered around and stared down at her. "I feel like Gimli," she groaned. "At least it's only one."
Maggie snickered, and Gimli looked very confused. Legolas, Aragorn, and Boromir pushed the carcass off of Sarah and kicked it out of the dying circle of flames. She let out a huge breath.
Finally, finally, they reached Moria. They stood on one side of a lake, a great expanse of wall on the other.
Gimli's voice held indescribable awe as he spoke, telling them what they had all guessed themselves. "The walls of Moria!"
The Fellowship made their way around the edge, Sarah and Maggie being particularly careful not to touch the water, knowing exactly what was in there.
"Dwarf doors are invisible when closed," Gimli told them, tapping the walls with his axe, listening for an echo.
"Yes, Gimli," agreed Gandalf. "Even their own masters cannot find them if their secrets are forgotten."
Legolas, walking behind, looked up at the stars. "Why doesn't that surprise me?" he murmured, just loud enough to be heard by Gimli. The dwarf growled.
Gandalf soon reached a spot of wall between to gigantic holly trees. He passed a hand over the stone. As he did so, the moon came out from behind a cloud. "Well, let's see. Ithildin. It mirrors only starlight and moonlight." He seemed rather pleased with himself. At the urging of an impatient Gimli, he read the elf-runes aloud. "It says 'Ennyn Durin Aran Moria. Pedo Mellon a Minno. Im Narvi hain echant. Celebrimbor o Eregion teithant i thiw hin.' In the common tongue it reads 'The doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Speak, friend, and enter. I, Narvi, made them. Celebrimbor of Hollin drew these signs."
"Should it not say 'Say friend, and enter?'" Maggie asked. Sarah was starting to get seriously worried how flippant Maggie seemed about changing the time-line.
Gandalf looked unconvinced, narrowing his eyes at the wall. "No, it is most defiantly speak. The two words are completely different." He then turned to answer the question that Merry had asked.
Maggie ignored him and turned to Sarah. "Well, it was worth a try."
Sarah glared at her. "The inscription's probably slightly different than in the book, but that doesn't matter. What if it had worked? What if the Watcher in the Water doesn't attack. If we go into that mine even a little earlier, we may escape the Balrog, so Gandalf will not fall, the Balrog will not die, Gandalf will be there when the Fellowship breaks, he will not be able to defeat Saruman if he is not the white wizard, and Middle-earth will be doomed, us along with it. I for one do not want Grace living in a dark Middle-earth."
Maggie blinked, nonplussed. "Alright, Sarah." She frowned, taking a closer look at her friend. "Are you alright? You look more tired than usual, well, more than the rest of us do.
Sarah sighed. "I guess I'm just stressed out," she said finally. "There is so much to worry about."
"If you want my advice," Maggie told her, "leave it to Strider, Gandalf, and the rest. You're not responsible for the whole Fellowship, just yourself."
"I guess. Come on, that Watcher's going to attack soon, so we'd better gather what we want to take."
The two began sorting through the packs, slipping theirs', which they had let drop, back onto their backs. No sooner had they finished, before they were startled out of their thoughts by a loud splash, then another. Aragorn then did a good job of being ominous. He grabbed Pippin's arm (he had been the one throwing the rocks) and whispered in a low tone.
"Do not disturb the water."
If Gandalf was a toddler, then he would have stomped his foot. "Oh, it is useless!" he exclaimed, throwing up his hands and plopping down onto a rock.
Frodo, who had been rather quiet to this point, looked at the door. "It is a riddle, Gandalf," he said. "Speak 'friend' and enter. What is the elvish word for friend?"
Gandalf looked up, a slow smile beginning to form on his face. "Mellon," he pronounced. With a scrapping of stone on stone, the great West-gate of Moria began to open for the first time in hundreds of years.
Gimli began bragging to Legolas as they walked in. "Soon, master elf, you will enjoy the fabled hospitality of the Dwarves! Roaring fires, malt beer, ripe meat off the bone!"
"I'd rather prefer to not to have ripe meat," Sarah whispered to Maggie, but the cave echoed her words. Gimli glared at her, and then continued.
"This, my friend, is the home of my cousin Balin. And they call it a mine. A mine!" he laughed at the absurdity of it.
"This is no mine. It is a tomb!" Boromir noticed the fact that Sarah and Maggie already knew, and were desperately trying to ignore. All of the many bones underfoot.
"I think I'm going to be sick," Maggie whispered.
Gimli started to wail. "No! No!"
"Goblins!" Legolas plucked an arrow from the skull of one of Gimli's unfortunate kinsmen and examined the tip.
"We make for the Gap of Rohan!" Boromir shouted. "We should never have come here. Now get out of here! Get out!" He began to hurry the girls and Pippin out of the door.
Suddenly, tentacles sprang out of the water and grabbed Sarah and Boromir's ankles, hoisting them in the air.
Maggie screamed. "Sarah!"
"Strider!" Pippin yelled.
The octopus-thing swung Boromir close to Sarah, bringing them within reach. Boromir abandoned trying to reach his sword and grabbed the girl with both his arms, keeping them together as they struggled. Aragorn and Gandalf were in the water, swinging Anduril and Glamdring at the tentacles. The one holding Sarah was cut loose, leaving her clinging to Boromir. Just then, the head rose out of the water. Legolas shot an arrow into it as it opened its mouth. It made a sound like a wounded, dying elephant (or Oliphant). Gandalf's next stroke hit the arm holding Boromir and Sarah. Down they fell, landing hard on the surface of the water. Aragorn was there in an instant, helping them to their feet as Legolas shot arrow after arrow, until the Watcher was peppered with them.
"Into the caves! Quick!" Aragorn yelled, echoing what Gandalf had told the hobbits moments earlier. As they ran back into the mountain, the Watcher pulled itself up onto the shore and began to tear down the entrance. They sped to the other side of the gate-room, barely making it in time. As the last stone fell into place, utterly black darkness fell with it.
Slowly, Gandalf kindled a light on the end of his staff. "We now have but one choice," he declared solemnly. "We must face the long dark of Moria." He started to lead the way up the steps and into the first passage way. His voice echoed strangly as he spoke. "Be on your guard. There are older and fouler things than orcs in the deep places of the world.
They walked on in silence, until Merry tripped, and kicked a stone into the wall. The noise was unnaturally loud in the stillness.
"Quietly now," Gandalf cautioned, following his own advice. "It is a four day journey to the other side. Let us hope that our presence here may go unnoticed."