See here for the playthrough report.
Slowly the eyes of the Fellowship adjusted to the dim gloom of the torchlight. They lit only two, for they did not know how exactly long they might be in the Mines, though Glorfindel hoped that if their course held true they might make their way to the East-gate by the third or fourth march.
The elf-lord went on ahead up the great steps, holding his torch aloft. The wide stairway was sound and undamaged. Two hundred steps they counted, broad and shallow; and at the top they found an arched passage with a level floor leading on into the dark.
“Let us sit and rest and have something to eat, here on the landing, since we can’t find a dining-room!” said Frodo. He had begun to shake off the terror of the clutching arm, and suddenly he felt extremely hungry.
The proposal was welcomed by all; and they sat down on the upper steps, dim figures in the gloom.
“Go carefully with the water,” said Glorfindel. “Until we reach Balin, we will have to drink only what we carry with us. There are many streams and wells in the Mines, but they should not be touched for only the dwarves of this realm would be able to say which are foul and which are not. In the worst case, we may not have a chance of filling our skins and bottles till we come down into Dimrill Dale.”
After only a brief rest they started on their way again. All were eager to get the journey over as quickly as possible, and were willing, tired as they were, to go on marching still for several hours. Glorfindel walked in front as before. In his left hand he held up his burning torch, the light of which just showed the ground before his feet; in his right he held his sword Glamdring. Behind him came Gimli, his eyes glinting in the dim light as he turned his head from side to side. Behind the dwarf walked Frodo, and he had drawn the short sword, Sting. No gleam came from the blades of Sting or of Glamdring; and that was some comfort, for being the work of Elvish smiths in the Elder Days these swords shone with a cold light, if any Orcs were near at hand. Behind Frodo went Sam, and after him Elladan and Elrohir, Merry and Faramir. In the dark at the rear, grim and silent, walked Aragorn.
The passage twisted round a few turns, and then began to descend. It went steadily down for a long while before it became level once again. The air grew hot and stifling, but it was not foul, and at times they felt currents of cooler air upon their faces, issuing from half-guessed openings in the walls. There were many of these. In the oppressed light of the elf-lord’s torch, Frodo caught glimpses of stairs and arches and of other passages and tunnels, sloping up, or running steeply down, or opening blankly dark on either side. It was bewildering beyond hope of remembering.
Gimli aided Glorfindel very little, except by his stout courage. At least he was not, as were most of the others, troubled by the mere darkness in itself. Often the elf consulted him at points where the choice of way was doubtful; but it was always Glorfindel who had the final word. The Mines of Moria were vast and intricate beyond the imagination of Gimli, Glóin’s son, dwarf of the mountain-race though he was. To Glorfindel the far-off memories of a journey long before during the days of Moria’s grand splendor were now of little help, but even in the gloom and despite all windings of the road he knew whither he wished to go, and he did not falter, as long as there was a path that led towards his goal. At one opening the blades of Glamdring and Sting gave off faint glows and the company were swiftly hastened on past it.
Glorfindel let out a cry which echoed around the unseen walls of the chamber they were in, for below his feet had appeared a great fissure in the ground into which he had fallen. It was only by the quick reflexes of Faramir, who seized the elf-lord’s arm as the stonework has cracked and crumbled, that saved Glorfindel from following his dropped torch spinning down and down, seemingly into the bowels of the mountain itself. Gimli too leaned down and, lying on his belly for support, helped the Gondorian haul Glorfindel back up onto the stable ground. “My thanks to you Faramir, and to you also Gimli. My life is in your debt.”
Faramir nodded in silence, but Gimli huffed and said, “Hmm. Speak nothing of it. I don’t doubt that by the time our quest is through we shall have repaid the other a hundred times over. And something is wrong. We ought to have been met by now, by a sentry or a forward patrol or someone. Let us tred now cautiously and quietly.”
Already they seemed to have been tramping on, on, endlessly to the mountains’ roots. They were more than weary, and yet there seemed no comfort in the thought of halting anywhere. Frodo’s spirits had risen for a while after his escape, and after food; but now a deep uneasiness, growing to dread, crept over him again. Though he had been healed in Rivendell of the knife-stroke, that grim wound had not been without effect. His senses were sharper and more aware of things that could not be seen. One sign of change that he soon had noticed was that he could hear better and see more in the dark than any of his companions, save perhaps Glorfindel. And he was in any case the bearer of the Ring: it hung upon its chain against his breast, and at whiles it seemed a heavy weight. He felt the certainty of evil ahead and of evil following; but he said nothing. He gripped tighter on the hilt of his sword and went on doggedly. Elladan walked alongside him and whispered so no-one else could hear, “Forgive me Master Baggins, but my brother and I wondered; were we alone in hearing the drumbeat coming up from that chasm?”
Frodo paused and listened, “I could not hear it then, but now you have mentioned it I can indeed. It sounds as a great wardrum, though faint and quiet.”
“We have heard it too, and one similar before this venture, many years ago when we last ventured into a black pit near as cursed as this,” Elrohir spoke in hushed tones, and as he did Frodo saw both fury and sorrow in his eyes. “It is the heartbeat of death, and it runs all through the veins of these Misty Mountains. Count yourself fortunate indeed, Master Baggins, if you were to never hear its beating again.”
As they went on, the Company behind Frodo spoke seldom, and then only in hurried whispers. There was no sound but the sound of their own feet; the dull stump of Gimli’s dwarf-boots; the heavy tread of Faramir; the light step of the twins; the soft, scarce-heard patter of hobbit-feet; and in the rear the slow firm footfalls of Aragorn with his long stride. When they halted for a moment they heard nothing at all, unless it were occasionally a faint trickle and drip of unseen water. Yet Frodo began to hear, or to imagine that he heard, something else: like the faint fall of soft bare feet. It was never loud enough, or near enough, for him to feel certain that he heard it; but once it had started it never stopped, while the Company was moving. But it was not an echo, for when they halted it pattered on for a little all by itself, and then grew still.
It was after nightfall when they had entered the Mines. They had been going for several hours with only brief halts, when Glorfindel came to his first serious check. Before him stood a wide dark arch opening into three passages: all led in the same general direction, eastwards; but the left-hand passage plunged down, while the right-hand climbed up, and the middle way seemed to run on, smooth and level but very narrow.
“I have no memory of this place at all!” said Glorfindel, standing uncertainly under the arch. He held up his torch in the hope of finding some marks or inscription that might help his choice; but nothing of the kind was to be seen. “My mind is too clouded to decide,” he said, shaking his head. “And I expect that you are all weary. We had better halt here for a few hours and rest as best as we can.”
Merry and Sam got a small cookfire going and soon the passage smelled of bacon and fried bread. Aragorn raised an eyebrow at the smell, but did not complain for he was glad to be smelling anything other than the damp and decay that had permeated the air thus far. After they ate, Gimli unbraided his beard and combed it as he regaled them with tales of Bilbo’s own adventure passed on to him from his father. Frodo felt strangely content listening to the dwarf, as a full stomach and the repetitive movement of Gimli’s comb slowly lulled him into a sleep.
Glorfindel roused them all about six hours later. He and the twins had kept watch and let the others rest. “We shall take the middle way,” he said. “The left does not feel right, and the right has a foul air coming from it.” 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 walls of the passage illuminated by their torches. 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 still 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 they turned a corner and the walls to right and left vanished. They seemed to have passed through some arched doorway into a large empty space with a single beam of light shining in through a window high in the wall before them. 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.
Glorfindel 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.” Frodo’s eyes adjusted to the dim level of light, and slowly he could begin to see a vast roof far above the company’s heads upheld by many mighty pillars hewn of stone. Before them and on either side stretched a huge empty hall; its black walls seemed polished and smooth as glass. Three other entrances he saw, dark black arches: one straight before them eastwards, and one on either side. Gimli pointed to the wall above them where the beam of light hit struck it.
“There would have been a mirror there once,” the dwarf said. “A great polished mirror of silver that would have bounced the light to others around the room until the whole chamber would have been as bright as the plains in the mid-day sun. It must be morning then, or else the sun would be shining from a similar shaft up there above the door opposite.” Gimli motioned with his axe as he pointed to where the mirrors would have been. “I fear now for my cousin. That he would allow a hall as beautiful as this might be to remain in darkness and neglect would be grievous to him, for unless I am mistaken this was once the great city of Dwarrowdelf. But I cannot deny my heart rises as we are here. I can now say I have looked on the splendor of this realm and beheld its wonder, even in its fall and ruin.” He fell silent and began to hum to himself a slow and deep song that Frodo seemed to half-remember, though he knew not from where.
“In that case,” said Glorfindel, “by my reckoning we are above and to the north of the Great Gates; and it may not 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 the light comes only down deep shafts.” Frodo looked and saw there was indeed a faint glow coming from the northern doorway that he had not noticed before.
Following Glorfindel’s 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 upon 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. Glorfindel and Gimli came quickly to his side. On the slab runes were deeply graven:
“These are Daeron’s Runes, such as were used of old in Moria,” said Glorfindel. “Here is written in the tongues of Men and Dwarves: ‘Balin son of Fundin, Lord of Moria.’”
“He is dead then,” said Frodo. “I feared it was so.”
Gimli cast his hood over his face and wept silently.
The Company of the Ring stood silent beside the tomb of Balin. Frodo thought of Bilbo and his long friendship with the dwarf, and of Balin’s visit to the Shire long ago. In that dusty chamber in the mountains it seemed a thousand years ago and on the other side of the world.
At length they stirred and looked up, and began to search for anything that would give them tidings of Balin’s fate, or show what had become of his folk. There was another smaller door on the other side of the chamber, under the shaft. By both the doors they could now see that many bones were lying, and among them were broken swords and axe-heads, and cloven shields and helms. Some of the swords were crooked: orc-scimitars with blackened blades.
There were many recesses cut in the rock of the walls, and in them were large iron-bound chests of wood. All had been broken and plundered; but beside the shattered lid of one there lay the remains of a book. It had been slashed and stabbed and partly burned, and it was so stained with black and other dark marks like old blood that little of it could be read. Aragorn lifted it carefully, but the leaves crackled and broke as he laid it on the slab. He pored over it for some time without speaking. Frodo and Gimli standing at his side could see, as he gingerly turned the leaves, that they were written by many different hands, in runes, both of Moria and of Dale, and here and there in Elvish script.
At last Aragorn looked up. “It seems to be a record of the fortunes of Balin’s folk,” he said. “I would guess that it began with their coming to Dimrill Dale nigh on thirty years ago: the pages seem to have numbers referring to the years after their arrival. The top page is marked one – three, so at least two are missing from the beginning. But let’s see here toward the end, ah there is something here. But it makes for is grim reading, I fear their end was cruel. Listen! We cannot get out. We cannot get out. They have taken the Bridge and second hall. Frár and Lóni and Náli fell there. Then there are four lines smeared so that I can only read went 5 days ago. The last lines run the pool is up to the wall at Westgate. The Watcher in the Water took Óin. We cannot get out. The end comes, and then drums, drums in the deep. I wonder what that means. The last thing written is in a trailing scrawl of elf-letters: they are coming. There is nothing more.”
Aragorn had hardly spoken these words, when there came a great noise: a rolling Doom that seemed to come from depths far below, and to tremble in the stone at their feet. 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. Then 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.
“It is the drums,” cried Elladan.
“We cannot get out,” said Gimli.
“Trapped!” cursed Aragorn. “Why did we delay? Here we are, caught, just as they —-”
Doom, doom came the drum-beat and the walls shook.
“Slam the west doors and wedge them!” shouted Aragorn. “Keep the east door ajar! 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 swords. Glamdring shone with a pale light, and Sting glinted at the edges. Faramir set his shoulder against the western door, flinching as arrows thudded into it.
“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. They have a 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 Elrohir.
Heavy feet were heard in the corridor. Faramir flung himself against 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 a dead silence outside.
There was 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 defence. Faramir shot two even as they kept into the room. Gimli hewed the legs from under another that had sprung up on Balin’s tomb. Glorfindel 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 orc: a sturdy thrust with his Blade of the Westernesse. A fire was smouldering in his brown eyes that would have made Ted Sandyman step backwards, if he had seen it.
“Now is the time!” cried Aragorn. “Let us go, before the troll returns!”
But even as they retreated, and before Merry and Sam reached the stair outside the west door, a great cave troll, easily the height of a man and a half, smashed through the remnants of the door. Ignoring an arrow in the shoulder from Faramir, the troll bouldered toward Frodo, and 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. The terrified hobbit ran from the troll to the far side of the room, but it followed closely, putting itself between Frodo and the Company.
Then several things happened in the same instant. Unseen by most of the Company, Frodo flashed out of sight for the briefest of seconds, leaving the troll confused and off guard. Seized by some deep courage, or perhaps madness, Merry ran forward, plunging his blade into the back of the troll’s knee, and Gimli leapt on top of Balin’s tomb, and from toward the troll’s head, bringing his axe down on it with a cry. “Khazad! Kazad ai-menu!” The great cave-troll fell with cloven head. His followers fled howling, as Elladan and Elrohir sprang at them.
Doom, doom went the drums in the deep. The great voice rolled out again.
“Now!” shouted Glorfindel. “Now is the last chance. Run for it!”
“It is a powerful tool, is it not?” said Gimli under his breath to Frodo as they ran together to the stairs. “The Ring of Thror was mighty, though not near as much as our charge. Imagine what might be done with it, should it fall into the wrong hands. Or the right ones.” Frodo said nothing, but followed the Fellowship down the stairs, with Glorfindel coming down last after them.
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 glow of the room behind. The walls seemed to be trembling. Every now and again the drum-beats throbbed and rolled: doom, doom.
Then there was a dull rumble and a heavy thud. The drum-beats broke out wildly: doom-boom, doom-boom, and then stopped. An arid, burnt smell reached Frodo and Glorfindel muttered something in Quenyan, Frodo caught the word “Gondolin”, but before he could question the elf-lord, Glorfindel moved to the forefront of the group, calling on them to follow him and make haste. They stumbled after him wondering what had happened. 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. Glorfindel took no turns, right or left, for the passage seemed to be going in the direction that he desired. Every now and again it descended a flight of steps, fifty or more, to a lower level. At the moment that was their chief danger; for in the dark they could not see a descent, until they came on it, and put their feet out into emptiness.
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. Only once had they come across an enemy, a lone goblin coming the other way. Aragorn easily parried its clumsy sword thrust and struck it down before pressing onward down the dark stairs. At the bottom of the seventh flight Glorfindel halted.
“It is getting hot!” he gasped. “We ought to be down at least to the level of the Gates now. Soon I think we should look for a left-hand turn to take us east. I hope it is not far.”
“There was more than a troll up there, or I’m not a son of Durin,” said Gimli. “What was that Glorfindel? Have you any knowledge of what pursues us?”
“I do not know for certain, and so shall not venture to guess for fear my suspicion is correct,” answered the elf-lord. “But there is something familiar here, like a memory of a smell in a dream, only one cannot quite recall it.”
They waited there for a few moments, regaining their breath, before continuing down the stairs. Before long Gimli spoke. He had keen eyes in the dark. “I think,” he said, “that there is a light ahead. But it is not daylight. It is red. What can it be?”
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 could now see their way: in front the road sloped down swiftly, and some way ahead there stood a low archway; through it the glowing light came. The air became very hot.
When they came to the arch Aragorn 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 for we have reached the easternmost point of my previous venture into these halls: 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 of a 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 eastern end; westward it ran away into darkness. Down the centre 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 red light came, and now and again flames licked at the brink and curled about the bases of the columns. Wisps of dark smoke wavered in the hot air. “See there,” whispered Aragorn, “they are waiting for us.” The company strained, and there between the columns was a group of Orcs small and great, and some held chains keeping another enormous cave-troll in place. “We have no choice,” the ranger said. “The light from the fire would surely illuminate us if we tried sneaking past them. We must slay them before we can continue on, or have them dog us all the way of of the East-gate, or further.”
Gimli nodded resolutely, bringing his axe off his belt. “We are with you, lead on.” Elladan and Elrohir unsheathed their blades and Faramir nocked an arrow onto his bow. Aragorn looked at each of the Fellowship in turn, and seeing no sign of dissent or trepidation, for even Sam held a determined look on his face with his sword drawn, he stepped out into the hall.
Even as he moved 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! We shall need all our speed, even if we cut down these before us,” said Aragorn. “If the sun is shining outside we may still escape. After me!”
He turned left 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 and a shrill yell went up from the Orcs before them: they had been seen. There was a ring and clash of steel. An unfriendly arrow whistled over Frodo’s head.
Faramir laughed. “They did not expect this,” he said. “We have caught them off-guard.” He paused for a brief moment to loose an arrow at the Orcs ahead of them.
With a cry of “Elendil!”, Aragorn plunged into the Orcs, scattering them in panic. Elladan and Elrohir set about them with their blades while Gimli hewed the neck of one that had tripped in their fright. Faramir stayed back, shooting a well-placed arrow into any that looked like it might flee the melee. Merry stayed near the ranger, while Frodo and Sam followed close behind Gimli. Frodo ducked under the swing of an Uruk, thrusting Sting’s glowing blade into its stomach. Crying in pain, it fell and was finished by a stroke from Sam’s own sword.
Glorfindel drew Gandalf’s sword Glamdring, and began trading blows with their chieftain. “He wields the Foe-hammer, the Beater,” the massive Uruk howled in the Common Speech to his fellows as his eyes narrowed against the glow of the ancient blade. “Curse him, and accursed are all those from that ruined city!” Glorfindel’s eyes flashed in anger and, moving quicker than the Uruk’s eyes could follow, he struck the chieftain’s head from his shoulders.
The others quailed at the sight of Glorfindel cutting down their captain, and as Aragorn slew one and then another, they turned as though to flee but the drums sounded doom doom and they threw themselves back into the fray. The cave-troll was loosened from its restraints and it bellowed with rage as it lumbered toward Gimli, nostrils flaring and eyes narrowed. Frodo tripped as he fell backward from dodging an Uruk’s sword swing. Sam threw himself over his master to shield him, but he need not have done for the great cave-troll was so enraged at its captivity and torment that with a mighty swing of its fist the Uruk was sent sprawling onto the floor and did not move again. Seeing an opportunity, Elladan leapt onto the distracted troll’s back and stabbed down with his twin knives into the base of its neck. With a bellow the great beast fell forward, crashing down beside Frodo and Sam in its ruin.
Seeing now not only their chieftain but the troll slain also, the remaining orcs turned and fled toward the sounds of the Fellowship’s pursuers. Gimli shouted in triumph as they fled, his dwarven taunts echoing and magnified in the halls of his people pursued them until they reached their comdres.
“We may yet survive this,” Faramir said. “This will be a tale to tell our children, will it not Aragorn?”
Aragorn said nothing, but rather stared at the fiery hall behind them. The drumbeat that had continued throughout their fight now stopped, and the flames burned lower. Even the orc-calls and shrieks were still, and the only sound in that hall was the crackling of flames as they fell lower and lower. Frodo wanted with all his heart to turn and flee, to be out in the open air and under the sky again, but found he could not move. It was as though he was spellbound by the silence, and if any of them broke it they would surely perish.
Doom. Doom. Doom.
The drums broke the spell they were under. “Run!” cried Glorfindel, and the Fellowship fled the renewed flames as fast as they could. “Look ahead!” called Aragorn. “The Bridge is near. There is someone of the other side!”
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 an ancient defence 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, and coming toward them across it was a figure Frodo had not seen since Weathertop.
“Hail and well met, Gildor of Finrod’s House!” Frodo called ahead as they ran. “We did not expect to see you here of all places!”
“Hail indeed, Frodo son of Drogo,” Gildor embraced the hobbit as he drew up to him. “The Lord Celeborn awaits you in the Dimrill Dale just outside to East-gate. I have been sent in with a detachment to hold The Bridge in anticipation of your arrival.”
“But how did you know we would come this way?” asked Glorfindel. “We did not know ourselves until we were forced to enter.”
“Radagast the Brown has many eyes and ears, my friend,” Gildor said. “His agents saw you enter the Doors of Durin, trapped by the beast that guards its passage. We have been awaiting you ever since we received word from him yesterday. But come now, I fear you have outstayed your welcome here.”
“I don’t think we had much of that to begin with,” mumbled Sam.
At the brink of the Bridge, Gildor halted and the others came up in a pack behind.
“Lead the way, Glorfindel” he said. “Sam and Merry next. Straight on and up the stair beyond the door!”
They were nearly all across the bridge, with Glorfindel then Frodo coming to the end, and Gimli and Gildor coming last about the halfway point when arrows fell among them. One struck Frodo and sprang back. Another struck Gimli’s helm, but did no harm. 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.
Faramir turned and set an arrow to the string, though it was a long shot even for his longbow. He drew, but his hand fell, and the arrow slipped to the ground. He gave a cry of dismay and fear. Two great trolls 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 ranger 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 of which was a dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater; and a power and terror seemed to be in it and to go before it.
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 Elladan. “A Balrog! A Balrog is come!”
Gimli stared with wide eyes, brimming with anger and tears. “Durin’s Bane!” he cried, and letting his axe fall he covered his face.
“A Balrog,” muttered Glorfindel. “Now I understand.” He bowed his head, as though overwhelmed with a sudden weariness.
The dark figure streaming with fire raced towards them. The orcs yelled and poured over the stone gangways.
“Come Gimli, Gildor run! Get behind me Frodo!” Glorfindel regained his strength. “This is a foe beyond you both! I shall hold the narrow way, get behind me! The rest of you, run now!” The others turned to flee but did not go far, as they felt unable to abandon their friends in the face of such a foe. Gimli knelt down before Frodo, “I beseech you Frodo, give me the Ring. Give it to me and I shall slay this demon and cast it back into the void from whence it came.” Frodo could only look at Gimli, eyes wide in fright. “I swear to you that you shall have returned as soon as the need has passed, but I need the Ring now!” Gimli’s whispers became hoarser and more choked strained as he plead. “If you refuse me we shall all perish, curse you.”
The Balrog reached the Bridge and with a sudden flick of its hand, the fiery whip it carried wrapped itself around Gildor’s legs. The elf fell heavily onto the stone bridge, reaching for Gimli’s hand, but it was too late. The Balrog pulled and the screaming elf flew past him into the mass of orcs following the ancient demon.
“Ish kakhfe ai-‘d-dur-rugnul!” roared Gimli as he turned to face the Balrog, rising to his feet, his beard wet with tears. “Imne Gimli yan Gloinul!” Standing to his full height, Gimli brought the great axe of his fathers down upon the narrowest part of the Bridge. “Imne yan Durinul!” Again his axe struck the stonework. “Imne yan Mahul!” Again the Moria-forged metal crashed against the Great Bridge, sending splinters of metal and chips of stonework flying. “Mem nor Balin!”
The Balrog raised his whip and sent a lash hurtling toward Gimli’s legs, coiling itself round his right foot. “Du bekar!” Frodo slashed at the whip with Sting as Durin’s Bane pulled, cutting through its darkness with the ancient weapon of Gondolin. “Khayamu!” Roaring in anger, the Balrog stepped onto the Bridge, its great sword of flame intensifying so Frodo could feel the heat of it from across the chasm. “Barak Khazad!” Gimli’s great beard began to smoke and singe. “Khazad ai-menu!” Glorfindel seized the back of Frodo’s jacket and hurled the hobbit behind him, stepping forward with his eyes glowing. “Khazad! Khazad!” A crack echoed throughout the great hall, the chasm below amplifying the sound as a hairline fracture appeared in the stone below Gimli’s axe. “Khazad abod amuriz!” Gnashing his teeth as his eyebrows smouldered and his beard shriveled into embers, Gimli’s skin began to peel and blister in the heat of the approaching demon.
“Gimli! Get behind me!” cried Glorfindel. “Please my friend!” The elf placed his hand on the dwarf’s shoulder, instantly recoiling however from the heat of Gimli’s pauldron. The dwarf yelled a wordless scream as he brought down his axe yet again onto the bridge, finally shattering its head into countless splinters biting into his face and Glorfindel’s outstretched hand. “Khayam Balin thane,” he spat through his teeth, reaching behind him for his hand axe. “Khayam Mahul,” he whispered, falling to his knees and pounding the stonework with his axe, summoning every reserve of strength he had.
The Balrog stepped forward and swung his sword. The last Frodo saw of Gimli, son of Gloin, was his smoking body tumbling into the blackness.
Aragorn ran back toward the span, while Faramir turned from the Bridge, ushering Merry and Sam toward the door. Swords and arrows were of no use against such a foe, they could only flee. Aragorn threw Frodo over his shoulder, who had been slumped on the ground with tears streaming down his face. The Dunedain handed Frodo to Elrohir and took out his bow. He might now be able to stand against the Balrog, but if he slowed it down enough, even with his death, it would be worth it so the Ringbearer might escape.
Aragorn beheld the might and fury of the Balrog, its flame and shadow, and his heart quailed within him. But then he saw Glorfindel there before it, and the shadows did not seem to touch him, and it was as though the elf was glowing. “You shall not pass!” cried Glorfindel. The Balrog took another step forward and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings. It raised its whip, and the thongs whined and cracked, freshly renewed in their flame. Fire came from its nostrils. But Glorfindel stood firm, the white sword of Glamdring held out to his side. As he spoke his voice grew and gained in strength and power, resonating in the cavernous expanse until Frodo began to hear the elf-lord’s words with his mind as much as his ears. “I am Glorfindel of the Host of Turgon, Lord of the House of The Golden Flower! I am a servant of the Valar of Aman, and you shall not pass. Dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to the Shadow! You shall not 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 of shadow were spread from wall to wall; but still Glorfindel could be seen, glimmering in the gloom. 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 elf swayed on the bridge, stepped back a pace, and then again stood still.
“You will not pass!” he said.
With a roar and a bound the Balrog leaped full upon the bridge. Glorfindel took a step back at the sudden heat radiating from it, and a flash of doubt appeared in his eyes. But he need not have feared, for while the dwarves are skilled at the crafting and construction of stonework, so too do they know how to unmake their craft again, and it was at the apex of the bridge’s arc, at the keystone thereof that Gimli had struck, weakening the strength of it. And as the feet of the Balrog landed on the bridge, it cracked. Right at the Balrog’s feet it broke, and the stone upon which it stood crashed into the gulf, while the 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. And even as it fell it swung its whip, but Glamdring proved too quick and the strands of fire were severed. Glorfindel did not stay to watch the fire fall down into the foundations of the mountain, where it would doubtless face the nameless things of the depths, but turned and staggered off of The Great Bridge, collapsing into Aragorn’s arms. The Dunedain put the elf’s weight on his back and turned to the door where Frodo waited with the rest of the Fellowship.
They stumbled wildly up the great stairs beyond the door. Aragorn leading, Faramir at the rear while the sons of Elrond supported Glorfindel’s weight. At the top was a wide echoing passage. Along this they fled. Frodo heard Sam at his side weeping, and then he 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 arch of blazing light.
As they neared it, they heard a shriek call out from behind them. “They follow still!” called forward Faramir. Frodo looked round and saw a large gang of Orcs running after them, lead by a tall Uruk carrying a great shield and a spear.
Aragorn shouted to ignore them and to keep running and Frodo soon saw the reason. There, crouching in the shadows behind the great doorposts towering on either side of the gate, was a guard of elves carrying great bows. The Company swept past them and took no heed of them but heard the snap of bow-strings and the yelling of Orcs. 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. As they stopped, a tall elf with golden hair wearing grey approached them, although they had not seen him as they ran. “I am Celeborn, Lord of Caras Galadhon. Hail, and well met, Frodo Elf-friend.”
Frodo looked back toward the East-gate. Dark yawned the archway of the Gates under the mountain-shadow. Faint and far beneath the earth rolled the slow drum-beats: doom. A thin black smoke trailed out. Nothing else was to be seen; the dale all around was empty. Doom. Grief at last wholly overcame the Company, and they wept long: some standing and silent, some cast upon the ground. Doom, doom. The drum-beats faded.