See here for the playthrough report.
It was a cold grey day near the end of December. The East Wind was streaming through the bare branches of the trees, and seething in the dark pines on the hills. Ragged clouds were hurrying overhead, dark and low. As the cheerless shadows of the early evening began to fall the Company made ready to set out. They were to start at dusk, for Elrond counselled them to journey under cover of night as often as they could, until they were far from Rivendell.
“You should fear the many eyes of the servants of Sauron,” he said. “I do not doubt that news of the discomfiture of the Riders has already reached him, and he will be filled with wrath. Soon now his spies on foot and wing will be abroad in the northern lands. Even of the sky above you must beware as you go on your way.”
The Company took little gear of war, for their hope was in secrecy not in battle. Aragorn had Andúril but no other weapon, and he went forth clad only in rusty green and brown. as a Ranger of the wilderness, save for a small green stone set on a silver necklace about his neck. Faramir had a long sword, in fashion like Andúril but of less lineage and he also bore a great tall bow. Gimli the dwarf alone wore openly a short shirt of steel-rings, for dwarves make light of burdens; and in his belt was a broad-bladed axe. Elladan bore a slender elven sword, and Elladan took two long knives in his belt. The younger hobbits wore such swords as they had taken from Bilbo’s trove in Crickhollow; but Frodo took only Sting; and his mail-coat, as Bilbo wished, remained hidden. Glorfindel bore Gandalf’s elven-sword Glamdring, the mate of Orcrist that lay now upon the breast of Thorin under the Lonely Mountain.
All were well furnished by Elrond with thick warm clothes, and they had jackets and cloaks lined with fur. Spare food and clothes and blankets and other needs were laden on a pony, none other than the loyal animal that they had brought from Bag End.
Their farewells had been said in the great hall by the fire, and they were only waiting now for Glorfindel, who had not yet come out of the house. A gleam of firelight came from the open doors, and soft lights were glowing in many windows. Bilbo huddled in a cloak stood silent on the doorstep beside Frodo. Aragorn sat with his head bowed to his knees; only Elrond knew fully what this hour meant to him. The others could be seen as grey shapes in the darkness.
At that moment Elrond came out with Glorfindel, and he called the Company to him. “This is my last word,” he said in a low voice. “The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Doom. On him alone is any charge laid: neither to cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to any servant of the Enemy nor indeed to let any handle it, save members of the Company and the Council, and only then in gravest need. The others go with him as free companions, to help him on his way. You may tarry, or come back, or turn aside into other paths, as chance allows. The further you go, the less easy will it be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid on you to go further than you will. For you do not yet know the strength of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road.”
Many others of Elrond’s household stood in the shadows and watched them go, bidding them farewell with soft voices. There was no laughter, and no song or music. At last they turned away and faded silently into the dusk. They crossed the bridge and wound slowly up the long steep paths that led out of the cloven vale of Rivendell; and they came at length to the high moor where the wind hissed through the heather. Then with one glance at the Last Homely House twinkling below them they strode away far into the night.
Glorfindel walked in front, and with him went Aragorn, who knew land south of Rivendell even in the dark. The others were in file behind, and the brothers Elladan and Elrohir whose eyes were keen was the rearguard. The first part of their journey was hard and dreary, and Frodo remembered little of it, save the wind. For many sunless days an icy blast came from the Mountains in the east, and no garment seemed able to keep out its searching fingers. Though the Company was well clad, they seldom felt warm, either moving or at rest. They slept uneasily during the middle of the day, in some hollow of the land, or hidden under the tangled thorn-bushes that grew in thickets in many places. In the late afternoon they were roused by the watch, and took their chief meal: cold and cheerless as a rule, for they could seldom risk the lighting of a fire. In the evening they went on again, always as nearly southward as they could find a way.
At first it seemed to the hobbits that although they walked and stumbled until they were weary, they were creeping forward like snails, and getting nowhere. Each day the land looked much the same as it had the day before. Yet steadily the mountains were drawing nearer. South of Rivendell they rose ever higher, and bent westwards; and about the feet of the main range there was tumbled an ever wider land of bleak hills, and deep valleys filled with turbulent waters. Paths were few and winding, and led them often only to the edge of some sheer fall, or down into treacherous swamps.
They had been a fortnight on the way when the weather changed. The wind suddenly fell and then veered round to the south. The swift-flowing clouds lifted and melted away, and the sun came out, pale and bright. There came a cold clear dawn at the end of a long stumbling night-march. The travellers reached a low ridge crowned with ancient holly-trees whose grey-green trunks seemed to have been built out of the very stone of the hills.
Away in the south Frodo could see the dim shapes of lofty mountains that seemed now to stand across the path that the Company was taking. At the left of this high range rose three peaks; the tallest and nearest stood up like a tooth tipped with snow; its great, bare, northern precipice was still largely in the shadow, but where the sunlight slanted upon it, it glowed red.
Gimli stood at Frodo’s side and looked out under his hand. “We have done well. There is the land where our fathers worked of old, and we have wrought the image of those mountains into many works of metal and of stone, and into many songs and tales. They stand tall in our dreams: Baraz, Zirak, Shathûr. Only once before have I seen them from afar in waking life, but I know them and their names, for under them lies Khazad-dûm, the Dwarrowdelf, that is now called the Black Pit, Moria in the Elvish tongue. Yonder stands Barazinbar, the Redhorn, cruel Caradhras; and beyond him are Silvertine and Cloudyhead: Celebdil the White, and Fanuidhol the Grey, that we call Zirak-zigil and Bundushathûr. There the Misty Mountains divide, and between their arms lies the deep-shadowed valley which we cannot forget: Azanulbizar, the Dimrill Dale, which the Elves call Nanduhirion.
“It is for the Dimrill Dale that we are making,” said Aragorn. “If we climb the pass that is called the Redhorn Gate, under the far side of Caradhras, we shall come down by the Dimrill Stair into the deep vale of the Dwarves. We must go down the Silverlode into the secret woods, and so to the Great River, and then -‘ He paused.
“Yes, and where then?” asked Merry.
“To the end of the journey – in the end – wherever that may be for us,” said Aragorn. “We cannot look too far ahead. Let us be glad that the first stage is safely over. I think we will rest here, not only today but tonight as well.”
That morning they lit a fire in a deep hollow shrouded by great bushes of holly, and their supper-breakfast was merrier than it had been since they set out. They did not hurry to bed afterwards, for they expected to have all the night to sleep in, and they did not mean to go on again until the evening of the next day.
At dusk the following day, the Company set out, and turning now half east they steered their course towards Caradhras, which far away still glowed faintly red in the last light of the vanished Sun. One by one white stars sprang forth as the sky faded.
Guided by Aragorn they struck a good path. It looked to Frodo like the remains of an ancient road, that had once been broad and well planned, from Hollin to the mountain-pass. The Moon, now at the full, rose over the mountains, and cast a pale light in which the shadows of stones were black. Many of them looked to have been worked by hands, though now they lay tumbled and ruinous in a bleak, barren land.
It was the cold chill hour before the first stir of dawn, and the moon was low. Frodo looked up at the sky. Suddenly he saw or felt a shadow pass over the high stars, as if for a moment they faded and then flashed out again. He shivered.
“Did you see anything pass over?” he whispered to Gimli, who was just ahead.
“No, but I felt it, whatever it was,” he answered. “It may be nothing, only a wisp of thin cloud.”
“It was moving fast then,” muttered Aragorn, “and not with the wind. We should keep to night marches for now.”
Nothing further happened that night. The next morning dawned even brighter than before. But the air was chill again; already the wind was turning back towards the east. For two more nights they marched on, climbing steadily but ever more slowly as their road wound up into the hills, and the mountains towered up, nearer and nearer. On the third morning Caradhras rose before them, a mighty peak, tipped with snow like silver, but with sheer naked sides, dull red as if stained with blood.
There was a black look in the sky, and the sun was wan. The wind had gone now round to the north-east. Glorfindel sniffed the air and looked back.
“Winter deepens behind us,” he said quietly to Aragorn. “The heights away north are whiter than they were; snow is lying far down their shoulders. Tonight we shall be on our way high up towards the Redhorn Gate.”
Gimli looked up at the dark clouds above. “We may well be seen by watchers on that narrow path, and waylaid by some evil; but the weather may prove a more deadly enemy than any. What do you think of your course now, Aragorn?”
Frodo overheard these words, and understood that Gimli and Aragorn were continuing some debate that had begun long before. He listened anxiously.
“I think no good of our course from beginning to end, as you know well, Gimli,” answered Aragorn. “And perils known and unknown will grow as we go on. But we must go on; and it is no good our delaying the passage of the mountains. Further south there are no passes, till one comes to the Gap of Rohan. I do not trust that way since your news of Saruman. Who knows which side now the marshals of the Horse-lords serve?”
“Who indeed can say.” said Gimli. “But there is another way, and not by the pass of Caradhras: the dark and secret way that we have spoken of.”
“But let us not speak of it again! Not yet. Say nothing to the others I beg, not until it is plain that there is no other way.”
“We must decide before we go further,” said Glorfindel.
“Then let us weigh the matter in our minds, while the others rest and sleep,” said Aragorn.
In the late afternoon, while the others were finishing their breakfast, Glorfindel, Gimli and Aragorn went aside together and stood looking at Caradhras. Its sides were now dark and sullen, and its head was in grey cloud, dimmed by the setting winter sun. Frodo watched them, wondering which way the debate would go. When they returned to the Company Glorfindel spoke, and then he knew that it had been decided to avoid the weather and the high pass. He was quietly concerned. He could not guess what was the other dark and secret way, but the very mention of it had seemed to fill Aragorn with dismay, but Frodo also trusted to the judgement of Gimli and the great elf-lord.
“From signs that we have seen lately,” said Glorfindel, “I fear that the Redhorn Gate may be watched; and also I have doubts of the weather that is coming up behind, if we become trapped on those high passes as winter comes, we shall all of us meet with a frozen death. Therefore I counsel we should take the road through Moria, where Gimli’s cousin Balin now rules.”
Gimli’s eyes held a smouldering fire in them, but for the others a dread fell at the mention of that name. “The road may lead to Moria, but how can we hope that it will lead through Moria?” said Aragorn darkly.
“It is a name of ill omen,” said Boromir. “Even in the White City, the name of Moria is spoken in whispers. But if the Fellowship will go through Moria I will go with them.”
“The halls of Khazad-Dum are not as they were. My cousin Balin, whom Bilbo has a great friendship with, had cleansed much of that realm of the orcish infestation at his last report, and only a small number of the lower halls were yet to be reclaimed.”
“I have once passed the Dimrill Gate,” said Aragorn quietly; “but though I also came out again, the memory is very evil. I do not wish to enter Moria a second time.”
“And I don’t wish to enter it even once,” said Merry.
“Of course not!” said Glorfindel. “Who would? But the question is: who will follow me, if I lead you there?”
“I will,” said Gimli eagerly.
“I will,” said Aragorn heavily. “But only if this last warning does not move you. It is not of the Ring, nor of us others that I am thinking now, but of you, Gimli. And I say to you: if you pass the doors of Moria, beware!”
“I will not go,” said Elrohir, speaking for the first time; “not unless the vote of the whole company is against me. What do you say brother, and what do the little folk say? The Ring-bearer’s voice surely should be heard?”
“I do not wish to go to Moria,” said Elladan.
The hobbits said nothing. Sam looked at Frodo. At last Frodo spoke. “I do not wish to go,” he said; “but neither do I wish to refuse the advice of Glorfindel. I beg that there should be no vote, until we have slept on it this night. Glorfindel will get votes easier in the light of the morning than in this cold gloom. How the wind howls!”
Suddenly Aragorn leapt to his feet. “How the wind howls!” he cried. “It is howling with wolf-voices. The Wargs have come west of the Mountains!”
“Need we wait until morning then?” said Gandalf. “The hunt is up! Even if we live to see the dawn, who of you would wish to journey south by night with the wild wolves on his trail?”
“How far is Moria?” asked Faramir.
“There was a door south-west of Caradhras, some fifteen miles as the crow flies, and maybe twenty as the wolf runs,” answered Glorfindel grimly.
“Then let us start as soon as it is light tomorrow, if we can,” said Faramir. “The wolf that one hears is worse than the orc that one fears.”
“True enough Gondorian!” said Elrohir, loosening his knives in their sheaths. “But where the warg howls, there also the orc prowls.”
“I wish I had taken Elrond’s advice,” muttered Merry to Sam. “I am no good after all, these howls freeze my blood. I don’t ever remember feeling so wretched.”
“My heart’s right down in my toes, Mr. Merry,” said Sam. “But we aren’t etten yet, and there are some stout folk here with us. Whatever may be in store for that Glorfindel, I’ll wager it isn’t a wolf’s belly.”
For their defence in the night the Company climbed to the top of the small hill under which they had been sheltering. it was crowned with a knot of old and twisted trees, about which lay a broken circle of boulder stones. In the midst of this they lit a fire, for there was no hope that darkness and silence would keep their trail from discovery by the hunting packs. Faramir climbed one of the trees with his bow to gain a better vantage of the hill.
Round the fire they sat, and those that were not on guard dozed uneasily. Poor Bill the pony trembled and sweated where he stood. The howling of the wolves was now all round them, sometimes nearer and sometimes further off. In the dead of the night many shining eyes were seen peering over the brow of the hill. Some advanced almost to the ring of stones. At a gap in the circle a great dark wolf-shape could be seen halted, gazing at them. A shuddering howl broke from him, as if he were a captain summoning his pack to the assault.
Gimli stood up and strode forward, holding his axe stretched out to his side. “Listen to me, you mangy Hound of Sauron!” he cried. “Gimli, son of Gloin is here. Fly, if you value your foul skin! I will filliet you from tail to snout, if you come within this ring.’
The wolf snarled and sprang towards them with a great leap. At that moment there was a sharp twang. Faramir had loosed his bow. There was a hideous yell, and the leaping shape thudded to the ground; the arrow had pierced its throat. The watching eyes were suddenly extinguished. Gimli and Aragorn strode forward, but the hill was deserted; the hunting packs had fled. All about them the darkness grew silent, and no cry came on the sighing wind.
The night was old, and westward the waning moon was setting. gleaming fitfully through the breaking clouds. Suddenly Frodo started from sleep. He looked about him and saw Faramir still in his tree, though now with eyes closed and head bowed. The twins stood watch at the north and south brows of the hill and Glorfindel was busying himself with something at the foot of one of the trees. Without warning a storm of howls broke out fierce and wild all about the camp. A great host of Wargs had gathered silently and was now attacking them from every side at once.
“Fling fuel on the fire!” cried Aragorn to the hobbits. “Draw your blades, and stand back to back!”
In the leaping light, as the fresh wood blazed up, Frodo saw many grey shapes spring over the ring of stones. More and more followed. Through the throat of one huge leader Aragorn passed his sword with a thrust; with a great sweep Elladan hewed the head off another. Beside them Gimli stood with his stout legs apart, wielding his dwarf-axe. The bow of Faramir was singing.
Glorfindel seized a torch from the fire and, with an agility Frodo had not thought possible, wove his way through the melee, thrusting his brand into the clump of dry sticks and kindling he had placed at the base of each tree atop the hill save Faramir’s. Before long, the entire hill seemed wreathed in flame. The swords and knives of the defenders shone and flickered. The last arrow of Faramir kindled in the air as it passed through the branches of a burning tree, and plunged ablaze into the heart of a great wolf-chieftain. All the others fled.
Slowly the fire died till nothing was left but falling ash and sparks; a bitter smoke curled above the burned tree-stumps, and blew darkly from the hill, as the first light of dawn came dimly in the sky. Their enemies were routed and did not return.
“What did I tell you, Mr. Pippin?” said Sam, sheathing his sword. “Wolves won’t get him. That was an eye-opener, and no mistake! Nearly singed the hair off my head!”
When the full light of the morning came no signs of the wolves were to be found, and they looked in vain for the bodies of the dead. No trace of the fight remained but the charred trees and the arrows of Faramir lying on the hill-top. All were undamaged save one of which only the point was left.
“It is as I feared,” said Glorfindel. “These were no ordinary wolves hunting for food in the wilderness. Let us eat quickly and go!”
That day the weather changed again, almost as if it was at the command of some power that had no longer any use for snow, since they had retreated from the pass, a power that wished now to have a clear light in which things that moved in the wild could be seen from far away. The wind had been turning through north to north-west during the night, and now it failed. The clouds vanished southwards and the sky was opened, high and blue. As they stood upon the hill-side, ready to depart, a pale sunlight gleamed over the mountain-tops.
“Come my friends, we must reach the doors before sunset,” said Glorfindel, “else I fear we shall not reach them at all. It is not far, but our path may be winding, for here Aragorn cannot guide us; he has seldom walked in this country, and only once have I been under the west wall of Moria, and that was long ago when Ost-in-Edhil and Khazad-dum traded openly and freely.
“There it lies,” he said, pointing away south-eastwards to where the mountains’ sides fell sheer into the shadows at their feet. In the distance could be dimly seen a line of bare cliffs, and in their midst, taller than the rest, one great grey wall.
“I do not know which to hope,” said Elrohir grimly: “that Glorfindel will find what he seeks, or that coming to the cliff we shall find the gates lost forever. All choices seem evil, but to be caught between wolves and the wall the likeliest chance. Lead on!”
Gimli now walked ahead by the elf-lord’s side, so eager was he to come to Moria. Together they led the Company back towards the mountains. The only road of old to Moria from the west had lain along the course of a stream, the Sirannon, that ran out from the feet of the cliffs near where the doors had stood. But either Glorfindel was astray, or else the land had changed in recent years; for he did not strike the stream where he looked to find it, only a few miles southwards from their start.
The morning was passing towards noon, and still the Company wandered and scrambled in a barren country of red stones. Nowhere could they see any gleam of water or hear any sound of it. All was bleak and dry. Their hearts sank. They saw no living thing, and not a bird was in the sky; but what the night would bring, if it caught them in that lost land, none of them cared to think.
Suddenly Gimli, who had pressed on ahead, called back to them. He was standing on a knoll and pointing to the right. Hurrying up they saw below them a deep and narrow channel. It was empty and silent, and hardly a trickle of water flowed among the brown and red-stained stones of its bed; but on the near side there was a path, much broken and decayed, that wound its way among the ruined walls and paving-stones of an ancient highroad.
“Ah! Here it is at last!“ said Glorfindel. “This is where the stream ran: Sirannon, the Gate-stream, they used to call it in the days of Eregion. But what has happened to the water, I cannot guess; it used to be swift and noisy. Come now! We must make haste for we are late.”
The Company were footsore and tired; but they trudged doggedly along the rough and winding track for many miles. The sun turned from the noon and began to go west. After a brief halt and a hasty meal they went on again. Before them the mountains frowned, but their path lay in a deep trough of land and they could see only the higher shoulders and the far eastward peaks.
At length they came to a sharp bend. There the road, which had been veering southwards between the brink of the channel and a steep fall of the land to the left, turned and went due east again. Rounding the corner they saw before them a low cliff, some five fathoms high, with a broken and jagged top. Over it a trickling water dripped, through a wide cleft that seemed to have been carved out by a fall that had once been strong and full.
“It would seem that things have indeed changed!” said Glorfindel. “But there is no mistaking the place. There is all that remains of the Stair Falls. If I remember right, there was a flight of steps cut in the rock at their side, but the main road wound away left and climbed with several loops up to the level ground at the top. There used to be a shallow valley beyond the falls right up to the Walls of Moria, and the Sirannon flowed through it with the road beside it. Let us go and see what things are like now!”
They found the stone steps without difficulty, and Gimli sprang swiftly up them, followed by Aragorn, then Glorfindel and Frodo. When they reached the top they saw that they could go no further that way, and the reason for the drying up of the Gate-stream was revealed. Behind them the sinking Sun filled the cool western sky with glimmering gold. Before them stretched a dark still lake. Neither sky nor sunset was reflected on its sullen surface. The Sirannon had been dammed and had filled all the valley. Beyond the ominous water were reared vast cliffs, their stern faces pallid in the fading light: final and impassable. No sign of gate or entrance, not a fissure or crack could Frodo see in the frowning stone.
“There are the Walls of Moria,” said Glorfindel, pointing across the water. “And there the Gate stood once upon a time, the Elven Door at the end of the road from Hollin by which we have come. But this way is blocked. None of the Company, I guess, will wish to swim this gloomy water at the end of the day. It has an unwholesome look.”
“We must find a way round the northern edge,” said Gimli. “The first thing for the Company to do is to climb up by the main path and see where that will lead us. Even if there were no lake, we could not get our baggage-pony up this stair.”
“But in any case we would not be able to take the poor beast into the Mines,” said Glorfindel. “The road under the mountains is a dark road, and there are places narrow and steep which he cannot tread, even if we can.”
The day was drawing to its end, and cold stars were glinting in the sky high above the sunset, when the Company, with all the speed they could, climbed up the slopes and reached the side of the lake. In breadth it looked to be no more than two or three furlongs at the widest point. How far it stretched away southward they could not see in the failing light; but its northern end was no more than half a mile from where they stood, and between the stony ridges that enclosed the valley and the water’s edge there was a rim of open ground. They hurried forward, for they had still a mile or two to go before they could reach the point on the far shore that Glorfindel was making for; and then he had still to find the doors.
When they came to the northernmost corner of the lake they found a narrow creek that barred their way. It was green and stagnant, thrust out like a slimy arm towards the enclosing hills. Gimli strode forward undeterred, and found that the water was shallow, no more than ankle-deep at the edge. Behind him they walked in file, threading their way with care, for under the weedy pools were sliding and greasy stones, and footing was treacherous. Frodo shuddered with disgust at the touch of the dark unclean water on his feet.
As Sam, the last of the Company, led Bill up on to the dry ground on the far side, there came a soft sound: a swish, followed by a plop, as if a fish had disturbed the still surface of the water. Turning quickly they saw ripples, black-edged with shadow in the waning light: great rings were widening outwards from a point far out in the lake. There was a bubbling noise, and then silence. The dusk deepened, and the last gleams of the sunset were veiled in cloud.
At that moment several things happened. A savage howl tore through the air from the valley they had just left. Frodo felt something seize him by the ankle, and he fell with a cry. Bill the pony gave a wild neigh of fear, and turned tail and dashed away along the lakeside into the darkness. Sam leaped after him, and then hearing Frodo’s cry he ran back again, weeping and cursing. The others swung round and saw the waters of the lake seething, as if a host of snakes were swimming up from the southern end.
Out from the water a long sinuous tentacle had crawled; it was pale-green and luminous and wet. Its fingered end had hold of Frodo’s foot and was dragging him into the water. Sam on his knees was now slashing at it with a knife.
The arm let go of Frodo, and Sam pulled him away, crying out for help. Twenty others arms came rippling out. The dark water boiled, and there was a hideous stench.
“Onto the gateway! Quick!” shouted Glorfindel leaping forward. Rousing them from the horror that seemed to have rooted all but Sam to the ground where they stood, he drove them forward.
Glorfindel now pressed on at a great pace, and the others followed as quickly as they could. They reached the strip of dry land between the lake and the cliffs: it was narrow, often hardly a dozen yards across, and encumbered with fallen rock and stones; but they found a way, hugging the cliff, and keeping off the tentacles as best as they could, slashing at any that came too close. Glorfindel went first followed by Gimli, while Aragorn took up the rearguard.
“Where is this gateway Glorfindel,” cried Elladan. “Or have you led us all to our dooms.”
“Hold your peace,” snarled Gimli as he severed a groping arm reaching for his foot. “These doors are hidden until we’re right on top of them.”
“And what could be the possible use of that, other than to exasperate those seeking it?” returned Elrohir, using his twin blades to slice another tentacle in two.
“Exactly that!” the dwarf yelled. “To keep unwelcome guests out!”
From the forefront of the Company, Glorfindel called out, “Do you see them now, sons of Elrond? Behold, the Doors of Durin!” There on the wall of the cliff, as high as Glorfindel could reach, was an arch of interlacing letters in an Elvish character. Below, though the threads were in places blurred or broken, the outline could be seen of an anvil and a hammer surmounted by a crown with seven stars. Beneath these again were two trees, each bearing crescent moons. More clearly than all else there shone forth in the middle of the door a single star with many rays.
“There are the emblems of Durin!” cried Gimli, sparing a glance as he parried another tentacle aimed for Frodo.
“And there is the Tree of the High Elves!” said Elladan.
“And the Star of the House of Fëanor,” called Glorfindel. “They are wrought of ithildin that mirrors only starlight and moonlight, and sleeps until it is touched by one who speaks words now long forgotten in Middle-earth, save by a few. But now, we must enter or be overwhelmed!”
As he said this, a fresh wave of howls rolled over the lake toward them for cresting the hill they had just summited strode a large and fearsome warg, with a dozen of his kind following at his heels. “The wolves of the Enemy are returned!” called Aragorn. “Glorfindel, fly now!”
Glorfindel turned his back on the wreathing mass of tentacles, trusting in Gimli to protect him. He slowed his breathing, placed the palm of his hand on the silver door and spoke in a loud, clear voice “Mellon.” The star shone out briefly and faded again. Then silently a great doorway was outlined, though not a crack or joint had been visible before. Slowly it divided in the middle and swung outwards inch by inch, until both doors lay back against the wall. Through the opening a shadowy stair could be seen climbing steeply up; but beyond the lower steps the darkness was deeper than the night.
“Into the gateway! Up the stairs! Quick!” shouted Glorfindel leaping back. Sam sobbed as he followed Elladan and Elrohir into the dark, for the scream of Bill reached them as the wolves set about him. Faramir loosed one final arrow at the approaching wargs before he too passed the doors with Merry. Following them, Frodo was about to put his foot on the first step when another tentacle wrapped around his ankle, sending him sprawling on the stone stairs. The sudden motion must have snapped the chain upon which he carried The Ring about his neck, for with a noise that bellied its small size it rang as it bounced down the steps and rolled toward the water’s edge. Gimli brought his axe down on the limb and helped Frodo up, using his foot to halt The Ring’s progress. He stooped to pick up the Ring, hesitating for the briefest of moments before handing it back to Frodo. “It is a strange this is it not, Frodo my friend,” said Gimli as he parried another tentacle, “that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing.”
Frodo said nothing, but clutched The Ring to his breast and stared at Gimli, as a small bird stares at a cat, before turning into the darkness behind him. As he did, a squall of squaks and caws broke out from the cliff-face above them and a monstrous regiment of large, dark birds took flight from it, silhouetted against the bright moon as they passed out of the valley. Aragorn turned from the encroaching wargs and sprinted past Gimli through the door, pulling the dwarf in with him.
They were just in time. Frodo and Aragorn were only a few steps up, and Gimli had just begun to climb, when a fresh assault of the groping tentacles writhed across the narrow shore and fingered the cliff-wall and the doors. One came wriggling over the threshold, glistening in the starlight. Gimli turned and paused. If he was considering what word would close the gate again from within, there was no need. Many coiling arms seized the doors on either side, and with horrible strength, swung them round. With a shattering echo they slammed, and all light was lost. A noise of rending and crashing came dully through the ponderous stone.
Frodo, clinging to Aragorn’s arm, collapsed on a step in the black darkness. They heard Gimli go back down the steps and put his shoulder against the doors. “Well, well!” said the dwarf. “The way is blocked behind us now and there is only one way out – on the other side of the mountains. I fear from the sounds that boulders have been piled up, and trees uprooted and thrown across the gate.”
“I felt that something horrible was near from the moment that my foot first touched the water,” said Frodo. “What was the thing, or were there many of them?”
“I do not know,” answered Glorfindel, coming down the stairs behind them, “but the arms were all guided by one purpose. Something has crept, or has been driven out of dark waters under the mountains. I now fear what else there may be in this place. There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.” Frodo blinked as Faramir struck a flint and held up a freshly burning brand. “We have now but one choice, good or ill,” said the elf-lord. “We must face the long dark of Moria.”