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In Aragorn's Safekeeping
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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9
Moria

The Fellowship crept down off Caradhras in defeat. It was late in the afternoon before they found a well hidden area to camp for the night. Aragorn allowed a tiny fire knowing all of them needed something warm to eat.

Sitting around the fire they discussed their next step. Returning to Rivendell was not something that Frodo was willing to consider because eventually Sauron would come for the ring. Somehow they had to find a way to move forward towards Mordor. Boromir suggested they go through the Gap of Rohan and over the White Mountains to Dol Amroth where his uncle, Prince Imrahil, would see them safely to Minas Tirith. But that route took them too close to Isengard and would take far too long.

Gandalf finally suggested they take a dark and secret way under the mountains through the Mines of Moria, the ancient home of the dwarves. Gimli brightened at the prospect of seeing the fabled mines of his people and was eager to go straight away. The others were more cautious. Aragorn was especially hesitant because he had been there before and knew something of the dangers that lurked there and he warned Gandalf that he faced peril if he entered the mines. Boromir and Legolas did not want to go that way either, but would go if the Ringbearer chose that route. Rebecca and Thomas had no say in the matter and sat quietly listening to the discussion though both agreed with Boromir and Legolas.
Finally, the decision was left with Frodo, since ultimately the quest was in his hands, and he chose to go through Moria.

The decision made, the fire was extinguished and they settled down for the night. The wind, which had not ceased blowing all day, continued howling around their small camp. As the sun set and the sky began darkening around them, Legolas suddenly leaped to his feet. “There are warg howls on the wind! They draw near!” He quickly strung his bow while the men pulled their swords.

Aragorn swiftly looked around, “We need more protection. Quickly, up that knoll. Those rocks will have to do.” Everyone scrambled up the hill. “We need a fire; darkness will not protect us now.”

The hobbits, along with Thomas and Rebecca scurried to make a fire in the middle of the ring of rocks at the top of the small hill while the others stood around the ring facing outwards watching for the wargs.

And then they waited.

Thomas paced uneasily around the hobbits, his dagger clasped firmly in his hand as his eyes searched the darkness beyond the rocks. He swore inwardly, wishing he had a sword so that he could be of some use.

Crouching next to the fire, Rebecca took deep breaths to calm her racing heart as she tried to see between the hobbits that surrounded her. Remembering the dagger she carried, she pulled it from its sheath and slowly stood to her feet. The dagger almost fell from her trembling hand, but she tightened her grip and set her jaw, saying to herself over and over, I will do this, I will do this.

Gleaming pairs of eyes soon appeared and moved slowly up
the hill from all sides. Gandalf yelled out a warning to the wargs, but it was to no avail. The leader leaped towards them and Legolas shot it out of the air and it landed in a crumpled heap at Gimli’s feet.

The pack of wargs was on them then. The wargs were twice as big as ordinary wolves and twice as tough to kill. Legolas’s bow sang loudly in the night as he fired with deadly accuracy.

Boromir stabbed one beast in the throat and then whirled around to sink his blade into the side of another approaching on this right.

Using his staff in tandem with his sword Gandalf would first stun a warg with his staff and then deal swift killing blows with his sword to all that approached him.

“Aragorn, duck!” Thomas’s voice rang out suddenly.

Aragorn dropped to his knees just as a warg sprang at him. The beast tumbled over him and sprawled in a heap just beyond him. In a flash, Aragorn was back on his feet and he quickly thrust his sword into its side and then again into its neck. He then turned back to face the wargs approaching from the other side.

One warg slipped through the rocks unseen and moved towards the six gathered near the fire. Frodo saw it first and his sharp indrawn breath and his hissed “Valar!” caused the other five to turn around. Seeing the creeping warg coming closer, Sam and Merry pushed Rebecca behind them while Thomas did the same to Pippin and Frodo. Realizing it had been seen, the warg darted forward only to be met head on by three very determined defenders. Merry and Sam used their swords to slash at its face and throat while Thomas, with only his dagger, moved to the side trying to stay out of reach of its snapping razor-sharp teeth. The beast was quick and the three were hard pressed, but they kept moving around trying to wear down the warg and always keeping themselves between it and Rebecca, Pippin, and Frodo. As it tired, they were able to land more and more blows on the warg. Thomas yelped, “Damn it!” as the creature turned and raked his left hand with its teeth. Thomas in turn plunged his knife deeply into its shoulder before backing out of range, cursing. That blow set the warg staggering and Merry and Sam dashed forward and quickly slit its throat and it dropped down gasping before dying.

Around them the battle raged on. Legolas had used all of his arrows and was now using his knife. Gimli and Boromir were part way down the slope standing back to back as they continued to hew down any wargs that came near. Aragorn was surrounded by a pile of carcasses, but he was slowly being forced back into the ring of rocks by two rather large wargs.

Suddenly Gandalf’s voice could be heard chanting and a large tree near the hill top burst into flame. The fire caused the wargs to take flight instantly and soon the only noise to be heard was the crackling from the burning tree.

Slowly those on the perimeter drew back towards the top of the knoll though all of their senses were still focused outwards. After several minutes, Aragorn was convinced that the wargs were gone and he turned to survey the others. His eyes were immediately drawn to the dead warg next to the fire. Looking the hobbits and young people over swiftly, he asked,

“Are any of you hurt?”

Thomas held up his still bleeding hand, “It’s just a scratch.”

Aragorn nodded, “I will check it in a minute. Anyone else?” He glanced sharply at Boromir, who shook his head.

“I am well.”

Aragorn raised his eyebrow questioningly, nodded and then turned back towards the fire where Thomas still stood with Rebecca and the hobbits. “So which of you killed the warg?” Aragorn looked from face to face, pausing longest on Rebecca’s which was deathly pale. She smiled wanly and he was surprised when she answered in a firm voice.

“It took three of them, Aragorn! It was so big and quick. Thomas and Sam and Merry were all so brave. Thomas only had his knife and-and he still attacked that thing.” Rebecca looked at Thomas and smiled. “Merry and Sam pushed me out of the way or I-I would have tried to help...”

“We couldn’t let you do that!” Merry cried.

“You don’t even have a sword,” Sam added.

“Well, Thomas pushed Pippin and me out of the way too,” Frodo snorted. “And I have a sword and I’m a lot older than he is.” He looked up at Thomas disapprovingly.

Thomas ducked his head in embarrassment, “I’m sorry Frodo, I-I just reacted. I forget sometimes how old you all are and that you don’t really need me to protect you. But you are the Ringbearer and...” He stopped as Frodo touched his arm and he looked to see Frodo gazing up at him with kind eyes.

“It’s all right, lad. I was teasing you. I thank you for protecting me and Pippin.” Frodo gave Thomas a slight bow and then wandered over to talk with Gandalf, dragging Pippin with him and he was closely followed by the other hobbits.

Thomas stared after Frodo frowning in puzzlement. He started when Aragorn gently grabbed his arm.

“Sit down so I can see to your hand.” Thomas sat down, joining Rebecca by the fire. “This does not look too bad. No stitches are needed. I will clean it and wrap it tightly. Are you in much pain, Thomas?” Aragorn looked at him closely, but Thomas shook his head.

“No, it’s not bad.”

“Good. You did well tonight, Thomas. And I do not mean just with killing the warg, I also mean about protecting Frodo. Even though he is older than you... and you Rebecca...” Aragorn turned his gaze on her, “he needs to be protected first if possible. You did well tonight too, Rebecca.”

“But I didn’t do anything,” she protested. “And I was so scared!”

Aragorn smiled faintly, “Did you have your dagger drawn?”

“Yes.”

“Were you prepared to fight?”

“Yes.”

“Did you watch and see what was going on around you?”

“Yes.”

“Did you faint or fall down?”

“No.”

“Even when the warg came in here?”

“No.”

“Then you did very well, Lady Rebecca. If a warg had gotten through to you, you would have done your best to fight it.” Aragorn closed his eyes briefly, “Though the thought of you having to do that pains me,” he gave her a gentle smile. “Nevertheless you would have. Being scared just means you are human. Everyone is scared during a battle, at least at first.”

“Even you?”

“Yes, even me. But I have been fighting for many years and so it is easier for me to put aside my fear and concentrate on the battle.”

Rebecca nodded, “Thank you, that makes me feel better.”

Aragorn smiled slightly and turned back to Thomas, “Make sure you clean your dagger well, otherwise the blood will cause the blade to rust.” Thomas nodded. “Now, we need to try and get some sleep tonight.”

It took over an hour before the fire in the tree burned out and during that time Legolas collected his arrows from the dead wargs and they dragged the beast by the fire out of the camp. Gandalf, Legolas, and Aragorn took the watch for the night and the others lay down to try and get some sleep in what was left of the night.

Awake before dawn the Fellowship ate a hurried breakfast before setting out. It was a long trek to Moria and they had to be there by nightfall lest the wargs came back in greater strength. Gandalf and Gimli led the way, Gandalf because he knew the way and Gimli because of his eagerness to see the mines. Aragorn and Legolas disappeared for long periods of time during the day as they scouted around on all sides of the company making sure they were safe.

Walking in front of Boromir, Rebecca thought back to her conversation with Aragorn on the mountain. She truly had not meant anything other than to tease Thomas. This world was so strange and she couldn’t imagine anyone fighting for her honor, she wasn’t anyone special. Lost in her thoughts she started when Thomas’s voice sounded next to her.

“Penny for your thoughts.”

“Thomas! Don’t scare me like that! Sneaking up on me.”

“Sneaking?” Thomas looked at her in surprise. “I’ve been walking next to you for five minutes. But I’m sorry if I scared you.”

Rebecca shook her head, “It’s okay, I was just startled. What did you ask me?”

“I wondered what you were thinking about.”

“Oh. Well... I was...”

Thomas interrupted her, “You don’t have to tell me.”

“No, it’s all right; I just don’t know how to put it in to words, I guess. It’s about...” her voice dropped even further and she looked back to see where Boromir was, but he just nodded and smiled at her, “...yesterday and me teasing you. And then Aragorn getting mad at me...” her voice trailed off and she looked at Thomas with a puzzled frown.

“That was... interesting.”

“When Aragorn explained it to me I could understand it and I am sorry, Thomas.”

Thomas nodded. “I know. I was annoyed yesterday...” he grinned, “I knew you were joking. But everyone’s reactions shocked me. Boromir talked to me about how they treat women here and honor and things like that.”

“That’s the part I don’t get, Thomas! Aragorn said they would fight for my honor! It’s strange...” her voice trailed off. “Thomas, have you ever known any men like these?”

“No, never.”

“Me, either. They are so tough and rugged and dangerous, but you turn around and they are kind and caring and gentle.”

“Not too gentle!” Thomas chuckled.

“Well, maybe not to you,” Rebecca smiled. “But they make me feel safe somehow. Aragorn was so very angry with me yesterday, but once we talked his anger disappeared. It wasn’t like that at home,” she whispered.

Thomas took her hand in his and squeezed it gently. “I’m sorry,” he said softly.

“My uncle...” Rebecca shook her head. “Anyway it just wasn’t like it is here...” she stared blankly off into the distance.

Thomas continued to hold her hand as they walked along. He didn’t know what to say so he just remained quiet and occasionally squeezed her hand as he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. It was the stop for lunch that finally broke Rebecca out of her thoughts. Hearing Gandalf’s voice she looked around, noticing Thomas’s hand holding hers and she smiled up at him.

“Thanks, Thomas. I needed a friend.”

“You’re welcome... are you going to be all right?”

“I think so, at least for now,” she smiled at him again.

“Then let’s eat some lunch, I’m starving!” He smiled, but there was a concerned look in his eyes as he gazed at Rebecca.

--

It was late in the afternoon when the Fellowship reached sheer rock walls that towered hundreds of feet above them. They carefully descended steps carved into the rocks and walked along the shore of a dark, dirty lake.

“That water was not here before,” Gandalf commented, “something has blocked the stream.”

Continuing, they eventually reached two large holly trees growing near the wall.

“The entrance is here.” Gandalf glanced up at the setting sun, “But we must wait a bit for the moon to rise.”

“How do we get in?”

“We read the directions on the door, Pippin. Now use this time to unload Bill and get rid of things we will not need. It will be warmer on the other side of the mountain. I am afraid Bill will have to be left here.”

“No! There are wargs here!”

“I am sorry, Sam, but he will not enter the mines. He will make his way back to Rivendell safely.” Gandalf spoke gently.

Sam burst into tears, but began unloading the pony. Rebecca put her hand on his shoulder and squeezed it softly. “I’m so sorry, Sam,” she whispered before moving away. Sam nodded shortly and continued working.

The moon came out early and lit up the door. Reading the door was easy for Gandalf, but finding the password was not. He tried hundreds of elvish and dwarvish words in different combinations while everyone else sat talking quietly or just stared into the night. Seemingly bored by the wait, Boromir sat throwing rocks into the water until Aragorn asked him to stop. Boromir gave him an irritated glare, but complied, stopping the sound of the rocks hitting the water which had given off an eerie sound.

After two hours of trying Gandalf threw down his staff with a curse and sat down heavily upon a rock. Most of the group stared at him in surprise; only Aragorn and Legolas remained unmoved, but then, they had known Gandalf for many long years.

The silence was suddenly broken by two things – the howl of distant wargs and Gandalf’s voice.

“How simple! I should have seen it right away!”

“Seen what Gandalf?”

“It is a riddle young Peregrin.”

“What’s the answer?”

“Mellon!”

The wall creaked slowly open and they quickly gathered their bags, anxious to get inside before the wargs arrived. Hurrying into the mine no one saw the tentacles that were creeping up behind them until it was too late. One of the octopus-like arms seized Frodo around the ankle and started dragging him toward the water.

“Aragorn!” Frodo screamed in terror as he clutched helplessly at the rocky ground unable to stop the relentless pull of the monster.

Reaching Frodo first was Sam and he hacked at the creature and cut off the tentacle, dragging his master to his feet. As Aragorn and the others arrived they grabbed both hobbits and rushed back into the mine slashing and stabbing any of the wildly waving tentacles that came near. Just as they entered the mine the creature lifted itself from the water and grabbed the doors of the mine slamming them shut. The Fellowship moved farther inside and stood frozen as they heard the trees being ripped from the ground and rocks piled against the entrance.

They stood in utter darkness.

Around him, Thomas could hear the deep gasping breaths of the others as he himself tried to recover from his panic. Suddenly a tiny glimmer of light broke the darkness and he looked up to see that Gandalf’s staff was emitting a soft glow from the top. Gazing around he saw that all ten of his companions were safely inside and looked to be unhurt. He sighed softly.

“Is anyone hurt? Frodo?” Aragorn asked quietly.

The only response was a shaking of heads and a quiet murmur of “No’s.”

“Well, then, I suggest we move on. It should take us three or four days to get to the other side.” Gandalf turned to lead the way.

“Did he say three or four days?” Thomas whispered to Legolas.

“Yes, why?”

Thomas shivered slightly, “Umm, oh I just wasn’t sure I heard him right.”

Legolas’s gaze bore right through him, “I do not like being in this dark mine either, Thomas,” he said quietly. “Elves are made for starlight and open spaces, not darkness like this. I will however do this for honor and friendship. Though I am glad I do not walk this path alone,” he smiled as he laid his hand briefly on Thomas’s shoulder before walking off to join Aragorn.

Thomas stared after Legolas in shock, wondering how he could possibly know what he was feeling. He followed along after the hobbits as they climbed a set of stairs going further into Moria, but all of his thoughts were focused on how Legolas knew what he was thinking. He finally decided that it was some kind of ability elves had, but it scared him to think that Legolas could read him like that.

--

They traveled for several hours before stopping for the night. A small room off the main passageway served their purpose quite well except for a large hole in the floor.

Thomas was just settling down to sleep when he heard a ‘plink’ from somewhere behind him. Rolling over he watched as Pippin nervously backed away from the hole and Gandalf jumped to his feet. Gandalf scolded Pippin for throwing a rock into the old well and made Pippin stand watch.

“What happened?” Rebecca asked sleepily, peering up at Thomas from where she was lying next to him on the cold rock floor.

Thomas quickly whispered what Pippin had done. Shaking his head he added, “Gandalf and Aragorn are really worried about this. I mean this whole mine thing and Pippin just made it worse. Even Legolas doesn’t like being here.”

“I know. Only Gimli seems to be glad to be here. What are they afraid of?” Her voice was so quiet Thomas barely heard her and he leaned in closer as she added, “It makes me nervous to see them scared.”

“Me too. They’re the bravest men I’ve ever met.” Rebecca looked up, startled, when she heard his voice so close to her ear. Seeing her nervous expression, Thomas moved back slightly with a small grin, “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t hear you.”

“Oh, that’s all right, Thomas. Well, we should probably get some sleep, huh?”

“Uh, huh, we’ll just have to face whatever comes our way. Good-night, Rebecca.”

“Night, Thomas.”

--

Morning dawned bright and clear... Thomas blinked as Boromir nudged him awake, and he realized he had only been dreaming about the dawn and he was still surrounded by darkness. He shuddered slightly as he looked around. Pulling himself up, Thomas collected the bags he had to carry now that they no longer had the pony and he stood yawning next to Boromir and the hobbits trying to focus on them instead of the surrounding darkness.

“Wake up, Thomas.” Boromir handed him some dried meat and cram.

“I’m awake, Boromir. What are we waiting for?”

“Gandalf is trying to decide which door to take.”

“Oh, I thought he had been here before.”

Boromir shrugged. “Good morning, Lady Rebecca.”

“What’s good about it? How do you even know its morning?” Rebecca growled.

“Lady Rebecca, I am beginning to believe that you do not like mornings.”

Irritated by the amusement in his voice, Rebecca responded sourly, “No, Boromir, what I don’t like is sleeping on hard rock, being prodded awake by irritating men after a few hours of sleep, eating dried meat and bread again, and having to walk through a dark horrible mine. Otherwise I just love mornings!”

Boromir, Thomas, and the hobbits just stared at her for a moment and then looked away to hide the smiles and grins that were appearing on their faces.

Clearing his throat, Boromir was saved from responding by Gandalf deciding which passageway to take. Instead he leaned over and murmured in Thomas’s ear, “We were fortunate, there is nothing I could have said that she would not have taken the wrong way.” Thomas nodded and gave Boromir a small grin.

Gandalf led them through the door he had selected which started out as a wide sloping path and soon turned into a broad stairway. The stairs here were in much better condition than those they had climbed closer to the entrance, these were almost entirely intact. In a departure from their usual pattern, Aragorn brought up the rear while Boromir and Legolas walked in the middle of the group. Aragorn wanted to space the warriors to increase their ability to protect the others if they were attacked.

After a time the stairs they were on turned back into a smooth wide roadway that curved gently upwards in long sweeping strokes. For hour after hour they walked on this road taking only a break to eat lunch.

Sitting near Rebecca eating lunch, Thomas was surprised when Legolas sank gracefully down next to him. “Lady Rebecca, Thomas, how do you fare in this dark place?” He glanced at Rebecca, but then fixed his intense blue eyes on Thomas.

Sighing, Rebecca answered first, “Well, now that I’m awake I’m fine.” She paused and looked at him with narrowed eyes, “You heard me this morning, didn’t you?”

Legolas laughed lightly, “Of course, Lady Rebecca... with my hearing I could not help it.”

Rebecca sighed again. “I suppose I owe Boromir an apology,” she frowned thoughtfully. “I may as well do it now, excuse me.” She got to her feet and walked over to where Boromir was sitting with the hobbits.

Legolas turned his gaze back to Thomas who was staring blankly down at his hands.

“And, how do you fare?”

Thomas shifted uncomfortably before looking up to meet Legolas’s steady gaze. “I’m doing all right. I-I try not to think about it and to focus on Gandalf’s light. It helps what you said yesterday – to think about friends.”

Legolas nodded slightly, “Good, remember you can talk to me if you need to mellon nín... it means ‘my friend’ in my language,” he explained.

“I will, Legolas, thanks.” Deciding a change of subject was in order he asked, “Do you think once we leave here you might have time to teach me archery? My shoulder is healed.”

“If we have time I will. Though you are doing quite well with a sword and if you only have time to practice one you should work on that.”

“All right, but at home I really enjoyed archery so I thought it might be fun to try it here.”

Legolas grasped his shoulder firmly, “I will teach you how to use a bow, Thomas, but always remember it is a weapon. A skill to be used for killing, be it animals for food or enemies – orcs, wargs, or men.” Legolas stared hard at Thomas.

“Of course, Legolas. I didn’t really forget that... I just sort of thought I might be good at it because I’ve done it before, not like the sword.” Thomas swallowed. “Though I’m not sure I’ll ever totally get used to it here.”

“In time, Thomas, you will be able to accept your life here, even if it is so different from your past one. But you have been here a very short time and you have been caught up in things that most mortals in Middle-earth do not have to deal with. If Frodo succeeds it will not be like this anymore. There will be peace and rest and a home for you.” Legolas spoke softly and kindly as he smiled reassuringly at Thomas.

Nodding, Thomas tried to smile back but it was a rather pathetic attempt. He wanted to believe Legolas, but he wasn’t sure that he could. Even if Frodo succeeded Middle-earth was so different than home he wasn’t sure that adjusting would be that easy.

As if sensing his doubt, Legolas spoke again, “Thomas, the choice will be yours. To accept your life here or not.” Legolas shrugged gracefully as he studied Thomas. “None know why the Valar have sent you and Rebecca, we may never know. But I do know that if you do not come to accept your life here, you will live in misery – longing for what you cannot have. Now, come, it is time to move on again.” Legolas stood and pulled Thomas up with him before smiling faintly and walking off.

Thomas stared after Legolas for a moment and then shook himself, gathered his things and followed him, pondering the things they had discussed.

--

The rest of the afternoon and the following day they marched along their chosen path. There were no sounds except that which was created from their passing and they encountered no intersections to take them off in a different direction. So they went ever deeper and higher into Moria. The evening of the third day the walls around them seemed to disappear and they felt the movement of air. Stopping abruptly the Fellowship waited as Gandalf’s staff gave off a little more light and all could see that they were in a gigantic room.

“It is well, I know where we are,” Gandalf sounded relieved. “We have come a little higher than we need to be, but once we cross this hall it is only five levels down to the eastern gate. Let us rest here and in the morning we might actually see some light. If I remember right, this hall has deep shafts down from the outside.”

Moving to a corner of the room, the Fellowship ate another cold supper while conversing quietly before settling into their bedrolls for the night.

Lying there, Rebecca listened to the soft snores of the sleeping ‘men’ and the whispered conversation between Gandalf and Frodo. She had gotten so used to the nightly sounds of animals it was hard to sleep and for some reason she felt restless. Maybe it’s just this dark dreary place, or something bad is going to happen, she thought as chills suddenly ran up and down her spine, making her shiver. Turning on her side Rebecca wrapped the blanket more tightly around herself, though she wasn’t really cold. It just made her feel safer.

Trying to think of something else, Rebecca eavesdropped on Gandalf’s and Frodo’s conversation. It wasn’t particularly interesting, but she was surprised at how gentle and kind Gandalf was with Frodo. She wondered if maybe she had been wrong about the wizard since none of the hobbits were scared of him. Rolling onto her back, Rebecca sighed softly as she stared up towards the high ceiling, wishing she had a good book to read… and a light to read it with. She grew increasingly frustrated as she wondered why she couldn’t sleep when she was so tired. She heard Frodo tell Gandalf good-night and then rustling noises that told her he must have lain down.

The night dragged on. Hearing low voices Rebecca turned her head and saw Aragorn relieve Gandalf on watch. She smiled as he immediately pulled out his pipe, filled, and lit it, maybe the smell of it will relax me enough so I can sleep, she thought with desperation. Sighing, she rolled back over and pulled the blanket over her head, hoping that might help. But she couldn’t breathe very well so she jerked the blanket back off her face.

Frustrated, Rebecca sat up and buried her head in her hands. Maybe a drink of water is what I need, she thought. Looking around she spied a waterskin next to the bags of food. Quietly, so as not to wake anyone, Rebecca crawled over to the water and took a drink. Once again sighing she leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes, thinking that maybe she could sleep sitting up.

“Rebecca.” Aragorn’s voice called softly from where he sat watching her.

Startled, Rebecca jumped and looked wildly around her as she had forgotten Aragorn was even there.

Aragorn walked over and crouched down beside her, “Are you all right? Does your wrist hurt? Why are you awake now?” His eyes and voice were full of concern as he reached out and briefly touched her forehead checking for fever as he wondered if she was sick.

“I’m all right, Aragorn. I just can’t sleep for some reason. I’ve been tossing and turning all night... I thought a drink might help which is why I got up.” She shrugged, “But I don’t know if it will help or not.”

“Are you not tired?”

“Totally and completely exhausted, Aragorn. Which is why this is so frustrating. I know I need to relax because the more I think about it the worse it gets.” She smiled faintly, “I was even hoping the smell of your pipe would relax me. Maybe you should tell me a bedtime story. My mother told me those when I was little and it always put me to sleep!” she laughed quietly.

Aragorn laughed along with her, “I thought we had settled this mother thing, Rebecca.” He laughed again as Rebecca blushed in embarrassment. “In any case, I do not know any of what you would call a bedtime story. However, I am willing to tell you a story and maybe that will relax you enough to sleep.”

“At this point I’m willing to try anything, but you must promise that if I do fall asleep in the middle of the story you will finish it sometime!” Rebecca grinned as she crawled back into her blanket.

Aragorn smiled, “Of course.” He thought for a moment “Now this is the very old tale of Lúthien, the elf maiden who gave her love to Beren, a mortal man...”

Rebecca fell asleep with the sound of Aragorn’s soothing voice in her ears and the knowledge that elves and humans did not normally marry for if they did the elf was doomed to die.

--

Faint sunlight did dimly light the room around them as they awoke. Eager to be off, breakfast was eaten standing and then they quickly followed Gandalf toward the eastern side of the hall. As they approached the far side two doorways appeared and, uncertain, Gandalf chose the one to the north.

Near the doorway was a second door that led to what was once a small guardroom. As they passed it, they looked in and saw a small tomb. Crying out in horror Gimli lurched inside with the others following closely behind. The room had a second door leading down stairs to the east and numerous broken shelves and scattered debris from past battles.

While Gimli and Gandalf were reading the inscription on the tomb and looking through a journal of the last days of Balin, Aragorn and Boromir pulled Thomas aside and were looking through the broken and discarded weapons on the floor.

“We might be able to find you something here, Thomas.” Aragorn poked carefully through a pile of broken swords and orc scimitars with his boot.

“I’ve never used a curved blade like that!” Thomas protested.

“It will be better than the dagger you now carry and is used much the same as our swords.”

Thomas nodded at Boromir, “At least I can keep them farther away from me,” he smiled grimly.

“Here!” Aragorn reached down and carefully pulled out an intact scimitar from the pile. “Unfortunately there are no sheaths here... you will just have to carry it openly for now. Be careful, Thomas. I know you are not used to this. I am going to sharpen it a bit.” Aragorn took out his whetstone, spit on it and began to sharpen the blade.

As Aragorn handed the sword to Thomas a strange noise reached their ears. Distantly they could hear the sounds of drums or hammers striking, but closer were the distinct sounds of booted feet rapidly approaching the guardroom from across the great hall.

“Quick, close the door!” Aragorn yelled.

They pulled their swords as the door slammed shut and Frodo’s and Gandalf’s swords glowed bright blue in the dim light.

“Orcs!” Legolas yelled seeing the shimmering swords.
Glancing around, Aragorn checked on the others noting that the hobbits were clustered together between and a little behind Gandalf and Boromir. Thomas was next to Boromir and Gimli was standing on top of the tomb. Aragorn finally saw Rebecca standing behind Boromir with her dagger drawn, grim determination on her pale face that matched the look on Thomas’s. Catching her eye and then Thomas’s briefly, he nodded slightly and turned back to the door once again focused on the upcoming battle.

Loud guttural speech and the shaking of the door as the orcs crashed into it announced the arrival of the foul creatures. Parts of the wooden door splintered, but it held as the orcs continued throwing their bodies against it. The Fellowship knew it wouldn’t hold for long. With a resounding crash the door fell to the ground taking four or five orcs tumbling down on top of it. Another dozen orcs scrambled over the door and fallen orcs and were met by the arrows of Legolas.

It was a fierce, hard-fought battle. The orcs rushed straight forward relying on brute strength to try and overwhelm their opponents. But Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas, and Gimli were peerless warriors who were not intimidated by such tactics and they moved forward swiftly to engage the orcs, trying to keep them away from the hobbits and Rebecca.

As orcs slipped past the first line of defenders, Thomas swallowed hard, gripped his sword tightly and rushed forward with the hobbits to fight the creatures. His mind went blank as he stared at the sneering, ugly man-shaped orc swinging a sword at him. At the last possible moment he raised his sword to block the blow that would have taken off his head and everything snapped back into focus. Thomas used his sword to push the orc’s blade away and then tried to thrust his back at the orc’s heart, but the creature was quick and he blocked it.

After that it was a blur to Thomas of swinging and blocking as he tried to remember all that Aragorn and Boromir had taught him. The orc got through for one glancing slice across his left forearm, but at that same moment, Thomas was able to drive his sword into the creature’s sword arm which caused it to drop the blade. Thomas quickly pulled out his sword and slit the orcs throat and it fell gurgling to the ground in a heap.

Sensing something behind him, Thomas ducked down and panicked as a sword narrowly missed his head. He tried to spin around, but got tangled in the body of the orc he had just killed. Looking up he saw a leering orc reaching down for him with one hand while the sword in its other hand was poised to strike. Suddenly the orc let out a yelp of pain and looked behind him. Taking full advantage of its loss of concentration, Thomas scrambled to his feet and stabbed the beast in the side piercing its heart. As it fell to the ground, Thomas saw Rebecca standing there holding her dagger which was dripping with black orc blood. She was staring down at the orc and then looked up at him with wide, frightened eyes. Glancing around and seeing no more living orcs, Thomas leaped over the orc bodies between them.

“Thank you,” he said fervently, hugging her. “You saved my life.”

Nodding in acknowledgement, Rebecca stared down at the dagger. “It felt so strange to... jab it into a living thing.” She shuddered as she looked up at Thomas. “Thomas! You’re bleeding! Is it bad?”

“No, it’s not bad,” Thomas briefly showed her the cut. “Though I’m sure Aragorn will want me to wear bandages for days,” he said lightly, trying to ease the tension.

Rebecca smiled and looked around. “Frodo! What happened to Frodo?”

They rushed over to find Aragorn picking up the limp, seemingly dead body of Frodo.

“What happened?”

“A spear.” Aragorn answered shortly as he took in Thomas’s and Rebecca’s appearance. “Rebecca, clean your dagger. Thomas, I will tend yours and Sam’s wounds later. Now come, we must leave.”

They could still hear the distant drums and somewhere close by more orcs were approaching. As they rushed to the eastern door, Boromir came alongside Rebecca, grasping her arm briefly to let her know he was there. Rebecca cast him a grateful look and kept sprinting toward the door.

As they closed the door behind them and headed down the stairs, orcs and something else entered the guardroom. Gandalf hastened them down the stairs while he worked to put a spell on the door.

At the bottom of the first set of stairs, Frodo stirred in Aragorn’s arms. “Put me down, I can walk!”

“I thought you were dead!”

“Well, I’m not, so put me down.”

Aragorn frowned for a moment and then gently set Frodo on his feet making sure he was in fact steady and able to walk. Satisfied, Aragorn led them on down the stairs. When Gandalf caught up he was strangely tired and told Aragorn that some dark evil presence on the other side of the door had almost broken his spell.

Down, down, down the stairs led them until finally they came to another great hall. Peering around the corner with Gandalf, Aragorn could see, about a hundred yards away, the narrow bridge that would lead them out of Moria. On the far side of the room were huge streams of fire that blocked off anyone on that end from reaching the bridge. Hundreds of orcs were clustered on that end of the room. The Fellowship should be able to reach the bridge in relative safety except for the possibility of arrows.

Glancing at Gandalf, Aragorn nodded and cautiously led the group out into the room. They hadn’t gone more than twenty paces when the orcs spotted them and started howling. At that point, since all hope of secrecy was gone, Aragorn started running towards the bridge. He glanced at the orcs to see them laying something across the fire and he quickened his pace though he was mindful of the hobbit’s shorter legs.

Farther back, running with the hobbits and Boromir, Rebecca looked between the bridge and the orcs praying they would reach the bridge in time. She desperately wanted to get out of this mine and away from these creatures and this darkness. Boromir grabbed her arm to hold her up as she almost tripped over Merry who had come to a sudden stop in front of her.

Looking to see what had caused everyone to stop, Rebecca was horrified to see a huge being that seemed to be made of fire appear among the orcs. She heard Legolas whisper “A balrog” in a voice that actually sounded frightened and then she took off running again as Gandalf yelled at them to make for the bridge for this foe was beyond any of them. She shook her head, trying to make sense of that statement, wondering if Gandalf could somehow deal with it.

Rebecca shuddered and tried not to look down when they reached the bridge, it was so narrow and had no handrails, and she tried not to panic. Taking a deep breath, she quickly followed the hobbits across, keeping her eyes fixed on Merry and trying to ignore the incredible chasm beneath her, the screaming orcs, the occasional arrow and the balrog. Her heart were racing in fear as she ran and all that kept running through her mind was wondering why she was there and what plan these ‘Valar’ had for her.

Rebecca reached the other side and Legolas pulled her out of arrow range joining the hobbits and Gimli standing behind him. Thomas quickly joined them; grabbing Rebecca’s hand and they watched breathlessly as Gandalf stood in the middle of the bridge and confronted the balrog. Aragorn and Boromir stood on the edge of the bridge ready to rush out and help Gandalf if they were needed. Using his sword and staff, Gandalf tried to drive the demon back and keep him off the bridge. Finally though, the balrog stepped onto the bridge and it collapsed under him and the fiery monster fell into the chasm. Gandalf turned to join Aragorn and Boromir, but as he did so, the balrog’s whip snaked up, wrapped around his ankle and jerked Gandalf over the edge of the bridge. Gandalf just barely had time to yell to the Fellowship to flee.

And then he fell.

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