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Son of Gondor

by Lineawen

Chapter 35

The Company stood silent before the tomb of Balin as Gimli wept and lamented in his own tongue. Gandalf stepped forward, and handing his hat and staff to Pippin, he stooped to retrieve a book from the skeletal hands that gripped it. It had been slashed and stabbed and partly burned. Gandalf lifted it carefully, but leaves crackled and fell from it as he opened the book and blew the dust from the pages. He looked through it for a moment before speaking.

"This seems to be a record of the fortunes of Balin's folk," he said. "Perhaps we may discover how they came to this fearful end."

As he turned to the end of the book and began to read, Boromir stepped forward and laid his hand on Gimli's shoulder. There was not much he could do to console his companion, but at least he could show him that he understood his sorrow. Boromir had seen many of his own men die horribly at the hands of Sauron's minions, and he had mourned each one even as Gimli now mourned his kin.

Behind him Boromir heard Legolas speaking quietly. He was cautioning Aragorn that they ought to move on, and not linger. Boromir sighed inwardly. Of course Legolas is right, it is dangerous here, he thought, but Gimli must be allowed some time to grieve. These are his people, his kin, whom he hoped to see again, and now they are lost to him.

"They have taken the bridge and the second hall," read Gandalf aloud. "We have barred the gates, but cannot hold them for long...the ground shakes...Drums, drums in the deep..." He slowly turned a page. "We cannot get out..."

Boromir felt uncomfortable suddenly, as if something was creeping up behind him. He glanced worriedly back at the doorway through which they had entered.

"A shadow moves in the dark," continued Gandalf. "We cannot get out...They are coming."

Gandalf raised his eyes and looked solemnly at the rest of the Company. Suddenly, the silence was broken by a loud rattle and clatter. Gandalf swung around, and the others looked about wildly to discover the source of the disturbance. None of them had noticed Pippin approaching a skeleton propped precariously on the edge of a well beyond the tomb of Balin. Even as Pippin had stretched out his hand to touch the arrow that protruded from the skeleton, it had teetered and fallen into the well, dragging the chains and the bucket with it. The well must have been deep, for the crashing clatter seemed to go on and on, magnified over and over again as it echoed loudly in the hollow shaft.

Boromir stared in horror at Pippin, who himself was terrified at what he had done. The flash of irritation that Boromir felt was quickly forgotten at the sight of the dismay on Pippin's face; his heart ached suddenly with pity. No one made a sound as they awaited any sign or sound that would indicate they had been discovered.

The echoes receded into the distance, and silence returned. The Company breathed again, and cast pointed looks in Pippin's direction. Boromir's sigh of relief was audible.

Gandalf's eyebrows bristled as he frowned fiercely and slammed the book shut.

"Fool of a Took!" he growled angrily, setting down the book with a thump. He stepped forward and grabbed back his hat and staff. "This is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking-party! Throw yourself in next time, and then you will be no further nuisance!"

Pippin winced and looked at the floor in shame. Gandalf turned away, but before he could make another move, there came a great noise: a rolling boom that seemed to come from the depths far below, and to tremble in the stone at their feet. Doom, doom it rolled again; the heavy sound of beating drums came up from the well. Gandalf swung around and stared at the well in dismay. The drumming grew louder, and with it, faint but unmistakable, came harsh cries, shrieks, and the clatter of sword on shield. Boromir turned his head, looking and listening, trying to pinpoint from which direction the cries were coming.

"Mr. Frodo!" exclaimed Sam in dismay.

They all looked in Frodo's direction as he pulled his sword from its sheath. It was glowing bright blue.

"Orcs!" cried Legolas.

Boromir turned quickly and dashed back to the open doorway behind them, to peer out cautiously into the hallway beyond. He jerked suddenly back, in the nick of time, as several arrows shot past his face and slammed into the door. As Boromir stared at the arrows in dismay, he heard a roar echoing through the outer hall, and his heart sank. Drawing in a deep breath, he stepped out into the passageway.

His eyes widened at the sight of a horde of orcs of all sizes approaching at a run: orcs, and something else. He uttered a vexed curse, and whipping round, darted back through the open doorway. Aragorn ran to his side, and together they tugged desperately at the doors, heaving them to. Boromir set his shoulder against the door and grimaced in annoyance.

"They have a cave troll!" he exclaimed in disgust, and Aragorn groaned.

Turning sharply, Boromir caught the axe Legolas flung to him; he passed it quickly to Aragorn, who wedged it across the doors as a barrier. Boromir caught another axe and wedged it tightly above the first. Aragorn was already pulling out his bow as he ran back away from the doorway to take up a defensive stance before Balin's tomb; Boromir followed close behind. He unfastened his cloak as he ran, and let it drop to the floor. It would only hamper him in a fight at close quarters. Shield in hand, he chose his position and drew his sword. Beside him, Legolas and Aragorn stood firm with their bows notched and aimed at the doors. Behind him, Gimli leapt up onto the tomb with a fierce battle cry.

"Let them come! There is one Dwarf yet in Moria who still draws breath!"

As if in response to his summons, there was a loud beating at the doors, and they shook on their hinges. Boromir held his breath, but the improvised locks held. Not for long, he thought. He swung his sword in his hand to get a better grip, and shifted his stance. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Legolas and Aragorn standing steady, ready to release an arrow at the instant a target presented itself.

The doors shook again as the orcs outside beat upon them; now they were hacking at them with their axes. Splinters of wood flew as they began to break through. Though the hole in the door was small, Legolas loosed his arrow and the shot was true to the mark; Aragorn's arrow followed, and the orcs fell back.

But only for a moment. The attack was renewed and the doors shuddered and shook under repeated blows. Suddenly they gave way, and the gruesome horde streamed in. Arrows flew from the bows of Aragorn and Legolas, but it did little to stem the tide.

I wonder what the little ones are feeling now? Boromir thought fleetingly. Their first sight of orcs...I hope they are ready...

Then the exhilaration of battle was upon him. He was a warrior and a leader of men, and bound by long training and experience to protect his companions. He could do nothing less than his best to ensure their safety. As the horde swarmed around them he stepped in front of the others: it was his place as Captain to meet the enemy first, and he took on the role naturally. With a fierce cry he lept forward to the attack.