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Section LXIII-Balin’s Tomb

Through the dark heart of the mountain, our journey continues in this place of forever night. We step through an archway and descend several steps into what feels to be an enormous space. Gandalf increases the light shining from his staff to reveal the Dwarf city Dwarrowdelf. Sam’s right, it is indeed an eye opener. Rows upon rows of pillars march away out of sight, into the vast cavern. I endeavor to imagine what it once must have been like, filled with Dwarves living out their lives here. What remarkable craftsmanship reveals itself in the stonework. Nothing at all like it exists anywhere in the Shire.

The immenseness grows in my mind, as we cross the floor and are still unable to see the far wall. Abruptly, Gimli exclaims and breaks for a nearby doorway. Though Gandalf calls to him, he stays his course and disappears through the open door. What choice is there but to follow?

I enter the chamber behind Gandalf, Pippin, and Sam. Gimli is kneeling at a... What is it? A tomb. His cousin Balin is dead. My thoughts fly to Bilbo in Rivendell. He does not know his old friend has fallen. It will be sad news for him, if ever I may relay it.

Gandalf finds an old weathered book he dusts and lifts from the bony fingers of its long-dead keeper. Several pages fall to the floor. He gingerly opens the leather cover and blows more dust away. I heard Legolas warn Aragorn we should not linger, yet we all seem rooted to our spots, eyes fixed on Gandalf, even Gimli, whose head, bowed in mourning, slowly raises. Boromir rests his hand on the Dwarf’s shoulder, I am sure in an effort to ease the grief.

The words Gandalf translates from the aged pages chill my heart, such utter hopelessness. Some corner of my mind whispers: more than orcs live here. There is something else, for surely Dwarves could defend themselves from goblins in a stronghold such as this... couldn’t they? I feel a shiver course through me as the final words are pronounced, “We cannot get out.”

My eyes dart to Pippin standing by a low stone wall, where is perched the body of an armored skeleton whose head is now missing. Even now, it is gradually collapsing into the well behind, followed by a too-long chain and a bucket. I hold my breath as the sound of its fall echoes on and on and on. It seems an eternity passes, and yet I know it was only a moment. Time slips by so slowly, in the way it does when everything is going wrong and nothing can be done to stop it. All is quiet again, but for Gandalf scolding Pippin. For the first time since entering Moria, I relax in relief because it is silent.

Doom. Doom. Doom.

Terror races through me and my eyes sweep over the other members of the Fellowship. They hear it too, a mixture of fear and dread on their faces.

I hear Sam murmur, “Frodo.” He is looking at Sting. I begin to withdraw the sword from its scabbard. All the company may see the blade’s bright blue glow.

I feel Legolas’ loathing in his single word, “Orcs!”

Boromir runs back to the doorway we just entered and pauses, scouting the outer room. Two arrows slam into the wooden door, narrowly missing him.

Aragorn commands, “Get back, and stay close to Gandalf!”

Where else is there to go? Gandalf gathers us close together behind him. Aragorn drops the torch to the floor and runs to help Boromir close the battered doors.

Boromir wryly declares, “They have a cave troll.”

I do not know about cave trolls, but I know enough from Bilbo’s stories of his trolls to know Boromir’s resignation to what now is does not sit well with him; for from his tone, I know, our bad situation just got worse.

Legolas tosses pikes and spears and a long-handled axe to help bar the already badly worn doors to the chamber. It will buy us a little time only.

Gandalf unsheathes Glamdring, and we hobbits draw our swords as well. What good we may do with no experience and only a little training, I do not know, but we will stand and fight.

The orcs beat against the door as Gimli stands on Balin’s tomb and avows, “Let them come! There is one Dwarf yet in Moria who still draws breath.” But for how much longer?