Stories of Arda Home Page
About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search

An Unexpected Adventure  by KathyG

Summary: In the spring of 2012, four American children find themselves thrust into an unfamiliar fantasy world and part of an unexpected adventure.  This story is AU, and blends Lord of the Rings book-verse and movie-verse.  This story also contains a lot of spiritual and religious content as a part of the AU elements.  (Co-written by KathyG and Dreamflower.)

Disclaimer: The world of Middle-earth and all its peoples belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien; the three films of The Lord of the Rings belongs to New Line Cinema and to Peter Jackson.  This story is not for profit, but is a gift for the enjoyment of those who read it.

Citations: In most chapters, there will be some quotations directly from both the books and/or the movies.  Quotations from the books are in italics, and quotations from the movies are underlined. Occasional quotations from other sources as well as silent dialogue, words spoken in emphasis, and passages from the Bible will also be in italics, and those citations will be footnoted at the end of each chapter in which they occur.  We will also footnote research sources and credit the ideas of other people.

Thanks: To our beta, Linda Hoyland, who has been of great help with this story.  Linda is a well known and respected writer in the LotR fandom, who also posts on this site.

Chapter 18: Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?

Bilbo and Kaylee were having a pleasant early morning on the wide veranda in front of the Last Homely House.  First breakfast was over, and Kaylee had been showing him her book of children’s stories and explaining the stories in it, as she showed off the illustrations.  They came to the end of it, and Kaylee gave a great sigh.

Bilbo smiled at Kaylee.  “Why don’t I tell you another story?”

“Oh, yes!  Please, please, Mr. Baggins!”  Kaylee bounced with excitement.

Chuckling, Bilbo leaned back.  “All right. Let me see.” For a moment, he did some thinking, and then his face lit up.  “I think I will tell you another story about myself.” Clearing his throat, he shifted his position to face the little girl and leaned forward.  In his best storyteller voice, he began: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.  Not a nasty, dirty wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.  It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle…”

Kaylee was engrossed in the story, and Bilbo in the telling, and the story had progressed as far as the troll incident when they were both quite startled to hear a loud growl from Bilbo's expansive middle.

"Why, bless my buttons!  It's nearly time for second breakfast!  Would you care to join me, Miss Kaylee?"

She giggled, and said, "Yes, if you’ll keep telling me the story while we eat!"

The old hobbit stood up and offered Kaylee his arm, and she took it, as they made their way to the kitchens.

-oo000oo-

Kevin sighed.  The journey back down the mountain had not only been exhausting, but discouraging.  After all that effort to climb up, it seemed awful to have to turn around and go back the way they'd come.  He felt listless and useless. He leaned back against one of the trees in the clearing. He was barely listening to the discussion among the others as to which way they would go now, until Gandalf asked Frodo to decide.

"I do not wish to go,” he said; “but neither do I wish to refuse the advice of Gandalf.  I beg that there should be no vote, until we have slept on it. Gandalf will get votes easier in the light of the morning than in this cold gloom.  How the wind howls!”

Kevin realized that the wind was very loud, whistling and howling.  It sounded like a hurricane, or at least like the way one sounded in the movies.  Scary! he thought.  I sure hope it won’t become a gale!

Aragorn jumped up suddenly. “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.  “It is as I said. The hunt is up! Even if we live to see the dawn, who now will wish to journey south by night with the wild wolves on his trail?”

“How far is Moria?” asked Boromir.

“There was a door south-west of Caradhras, some fifteen miles as the crow flies, and maybe twenty as the wolf runs,” answered Gandalf grimly.

“Then let us start as soon as it is light tomorrow, if we can,” said Boromir.  “The wolf that one hears is worse than the orc that one fears.”

“True!” said Aragorn, loosening his sword in its sheath.  “But where the warg howls, there also the orc prowls.”

Kevin's heart dropped.  Wolves? He saw Sam and Pippin muttering across the fire.  They looked as scared as he felt.

Aragorn gave orders to go uphill.  The hilltop was covered with boulders and large twisted trees.  Gimli built a large fire, using the well-seasoned fallen wood that lay about on the crown of the hill.

"The fire will be a good protection against the Wargs," the Ranger said.

"I thought they were wolves," said Jennifer.

"They are a type of wolf that were long ago changed and bred by the Enemy to be stronger, more clever, and crueler than normal wolves.  But they fear fire." Aragorn drew his sword. "Hobbits! Draw near the fire on one side. Sam, Merry, and Pippin, surround Frodo. All of you draw your weapons!  Gimli, guard the children on the other side of the fire. Kevin, draw your sword. Jennifer and Joey, make sure that you can easily draw your own weapons in case the Wargs break through.  Face outward from the fire so that you can see into the darkness."

While Aragorn gave orders, Legolas secured Bill to a tree near the fire, then strung his bow.  Biting his lower lip, Joey took a deep, shuddering breath, his body trembling. Kevin put his left arm around his little brother’s shoulders as he clutched his sword with his right. “It’s going to be all right, Joey,” he said softly.  “We’re all scared, but we’re going to be all right. Those wolves aren’t gonna get us. Right now, we’ve got to be very brave, and be ready to fight.” Joey shook his head up and down quite rapidly. Jennifer also nodded, her lips set in determination, poised to whip out her knives.

Watching the two of them, and the hobbits, Joey looked up at his brother.  "Um...is this one of those times I should draw my knife?"

Jennifer was going to say "no", but Kevin nodded.  "This is exactly one of those times." He looked at Jennifer.  “He’s got to, Jen.” Sighing, Jennifer nodded.

Shuddering, Joey carefully took it out and held it the way Boromir had shown him. Somehow it did make him feel a little safer, though he hoped he still wouldn't have to use it.

They waited uneasily.  Poor Bill the pony trembled and sweated where he stood.  The howls of the wolves grew louder and louder, slowly growing nearer.  Soon they could see the glow of yellow eyes, some slowly advancing almost to the ring of stones where they had camped.  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.

Kevin froze, as the memory of a previous growl slammed into his memory.  I remember that growl! he thought.  That’s the very same growl we heard outside the cave, when we first arrived in Middle-earth!  He exchanged a horrified glance with Jennifer, and then with Joey.  It was evident from the expressions on their faces that they recognized that growl, too.

Gandalf stood up and strode forward, holding his staff aloft.  “Listen, Hound of Sauron!” he cried. “Gandalf is here. Fly, if you value your foul skin!  I will shrivel you from tail to snout, if you come within this ring.”

Kevin felt almost sick, as he watched the wolf attack with a snarl, but a sudden "twang", and the leader of the pack fell dead in mid-air with an Elven arrow in its throat.

The rest of the wolves disappeared, and suddenly the night grew quiet.

"Are they gone?" Kevin asked.

"For now," replied Aragorn.  “But they will be back.”

Boromir nodded.  "I think they will probably wait now until the moon sets.  We may relax our guard for a short while."

"I agree.  We must get what rest we can ere they come back," added Gandalf.  "Legolas and Boromir, stand watch. The rest of us may sit down, but do not face the fire.  Sleep if you can."

The children all sat down together, with Joey between his older siblings, and Kevin mentioned his suspicions about that menacing growl.

Joey shivered.  “I remember that growl!”  He leaned against Kevin, who wrapped an arm around his shoulders.  “Remember, Kevin? Remember, Jennifer?”

“I remember,” Kevin said grimly.  “We heard it just outside the cave at Rivendell.  When we first arrived here. Remember how it sounded kind of like a cross between a wolf and a bear, or maybe a cougar?  It must have been a Warg!”

“Yeah!” Jennifer agreed.  “Good thing we ran in the other direction as soon as we heard it, or it could have eaten us!”

Dropping both arms in his lap, Kevin sat with his sword on the ground in front of his knees, unable to relax enough to sleep, although Joey leaned against Jen, and both seemed to be drowsing uneasily.

The moon had set, and Kevin became even more uneasy.  Suddenly, he heard Frodo give a wordless shout.

"Fling fuel on the fire!" cried Gandalf.  "Draw your blades, and stand back to back!"

Kevin and Gimli flung some of the wood on the fire.  In the leaping light, as the fresh wood blazed up and the wolves charged them, Aragorn's sword stabbed one, and Boromir’s sword, another.  Legolas was firing arrow after arrow, and Gimli's axe was soon embedded in a wolf's skull.  Kevin waved his sword in front of him, when he heard Jennifer give a scream. She had drawn her knives and knocked Joey to the ground, but her strokes in the beast's direction were merely making it angry.  Suddenly, Kevin felt calm as he remembered his training. Please, God! he silently prayed.

He struck at the Warg and landed a blow; though it did not kill it, it was incapacitated, as it lurched back awkwardly, a deep cut in its front leg.  Immediately afterward, Legolas' arrow was quickly embedded in its eye; its huge body went limp.  Kevin gave Legolas a look of thanks.

“Stay down, Joey,” he ordered his little brother.  “Keep your knife ready, but don’t get back up until we tell you to.”  Clutching his knife, Joey nodded, and Kevin turned around.

In the wavering firelight Gandalf seemed suddenly to grow: he rose up, a great menacing shape like the monument of some ancient king of stone set upon a hill.  Stooping like a cloud, he lifted a burning branch and strode to meet the wolves. They gave back before him. High in the air he tossed the blazing brand. It flared with a sudden white radiance like lightning; and his voice rolled like thunder.

“Naur an edraith ammen!  Naur dan i ngaurhoth!” he cried.

There was a roar and a crackle, and the tree above him burst into a leaf and bloom of blinding flame.  The fire leapt from tree-top to tree-top. The whole hill was crowned with dazzling light. The swords and knives of the defenders shone and flickered.  The last arrow of Legolas kindled in the air as it flew, and plunged burning 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.

Kevin could hear the others celebrating, and let out a whoop, but suddenly he turned: Joey was throwing up, and Jennifer was crying.  Suddenly he no longer felt like cheering. He had killed an animal. True, he had gone on deer-hunting trips with his father in recent years and had helped to bring back venison, but this felt different somehow.

Gandalf said that the Wargs would not return, and said they should rest for what was left of the night.

Merry brought over one of the waterskins to Joey, as Kevin tried to comfort their sister.

"Take a sip and spit it out," Merry said to Joey.  "Do you think you are finished?"

The boy nodded his head.  "I think so," he said after he spit.  He took another sip, and swallowed it.  "I was scared.” He shivered. “I wasn't any use at all," he added sadly.  "I might as well not have a knife.”

"You did what you should have—you obeyed your brother.  And you were ready to fight if the beast had come too close to you."  Merry patted the child on his back. "I was scared, too, Joey."

“We all were, Joey,” Kevin added.  “But we’re safe from those wargs now.”

The children lay down, with Kevin on their left, closest to the others.  As he lay there, trying to go to sleep, he overheard Gandalf saying to the others in a low voice, “You remember when Glorfindel searched for those wargs that the children heard upon their arrival.  He told us that they had traveled south. It must have been these same wargs that attacked us tonight.”

Kevin shivered.  Thank goodness they’re dead now!

The rest of the night passed fitfully. Gandalf and Legolas took the watch, but the others only drowsed off and on, as they caught what uneasy sleep they could.

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 Legolas lying on the hill-top. All were undamaged save one of which only the point was left.

“It is as I feared,” said Gandalf.  “These were no ordinary wolves hunting for food in the wilderness.  Let us eat quickly and go!”

The weather was much nicer than the day before.  It was a change to be walking by daylight. The sky was blue and uncloudy, and though the air was crisp and cool, it wasn't miserably so.  It was a vast improvement over Caradhras! Kevin thought the temperature might be in the upper forties or low fifties, though of course there was no way to be sure, though it was obviously above freezing, as the snow and ice had begun to thaw.*  Where’s the Weather Channel when you need it? he thought ruefully.

“Well, Kevin,” Jennifer said as she marched at his side, practicing with her stick, “I take back what I said about Caradhras being a great place for a ski resort.”

Kevin smiled wryly.  “I’m afraid you’re right.  The risk of avalanches would be too great, for one thing.”

Jennifer soon stopped practicing and started leaning on her stick.  The whole Company were weary from their encounter the night before, and the lack of good sleep, so there was no singing and very little conversation as they trod along. They stopped only briefly to eat and drink, however.  Tired as they were, all were eager to leave the Wargs far behind them.

As Gimli and Gandalf led the Company, they started back towards the mountains south of Caradhras.  Kevin noticed they were following the course of a small stream; there was barely a trickle of water flowing alongside the rough path.  He could tell it had once probably been a road, for they kept having to scramble over broken pavers. For many miles, the Company followed the little stream by walking down that path; Boromir eventually picked Joey up and nestled the little boy in his arms.  Joey soon drifted off to sleep.

As the sun set, they eventually came to a dark still lake.  Neither sky nor sunset was reflected on its sullen surface.  The stream had been dammed and had filled all the valley.  Beyond the ominous water were reared vast cliffs, which loomed pale over them in the fading light.  Gandalf had indicated that the opening to this Moria place would be there, but Kevin could not see any sign of any kind of crack or entrance anywhere.

The Company climbed up the mountain slopes by the main path; the stars were twinkling overhead when they all reached the side of the lake.  At last, they came to a narrow area between the murky lake and the tall cliffs; Kevin thought it was barely a dozen yards between the water and the stoneface.  There at the edge of the water were the rotten stumps of some trees that must have once lined the side of the road. Then, right under the cliff, Kevin saw two of the biggest holly trees he had ever seen.  They were huge and cast great shadows, and loomed at least twenty feet overhead. The Company halted and Boromir set a now-awake Joey on his feet.

"Well, here we are at last!" said Gandalf.  "Here the Elven-way from Hollin ended. Holly was the token of the people of that land, and they planted it here to mark the end of their domain; for the West-door was made chiefly for their use in their traffic with the Lords of Moria.  Those were happier days, when there was still close friendship at times between folk of different races, even between Dwarves and Elves."

"It was not the fault of the Dwarves that the friendship waned," said Gimli.

"I have not heard it was the fault of the Elves," said Legolas.

"Oh, please!" Jennifer burst out, without meaning to.  "Please don't start arguing now!" She was so tired of their bickering!  It wasn't as bad as it had been when they had first started on their journey, thankfully, but still, it was very annoying.  She laid her tree branch against the side of the mountain.

Gandalf smiled at her, as both Elf and Dwarf blushed.  "I must agree with Lady Jennifer. I beg you two, Legolas and Gimli, at least to be friends, and to help me.  I need you both. The doors are shut and hidden, and the sooner we find them the better.  Night is at hand!"

He turned to the others, asking them to divide up their remaining supplies, since Bill would not be able to go into the mines.  At this announcement, both Sam and Joey grew angry. Sam protested mightily, and Joey kept yelling, "NO! I won't let you!" He moved in front of the pony, as if to keep the others away.

"Joseph McCloud!" Kevin said sharply.  "Behave yourself!"

Joey clenched his fists and glared at his older brother, who had sounded remarkably like their father just then, but he stopped yelling.

Sam and Gandalf were still arguing, though.  Sam was beginning to realize that they really did not have a choice.  Still he made one last try: "He'd follow Mr. Frodo into a dragon's den, if I led him.  It'd be nothing short of murder to turn him loose with all those wolves about!"

Frodo had moved up and placed a gentle hand on Sam's shoulder, and Gandalf bent down.  "It will be short of murder, I hope."  The wizard stood and laid his hand upon the pony's head, and said softly, "Go with words of guard and guiding on you.  You are a wise beast, and have learned much in Rivendell.  Make your ways to places where you can find grass, and so come in time to Elrond's house, or wherever you wish to go."  Looking at Sam, he said, "There, Sam!  He will have quite as much chance of escaping wolves and getting home as we have."

Sam was quiet, and still scowling as everyone set to the task of taking off Bill's burdens and dividing them up.  The hobbit was openly weeping as he pulled Bill's tack loose. Joey was fiercely wiping away furious tears of anger, and turned with a glare when Kevin put a hand on his shoulder, and leaned over to whisper in his younger brother's ear.  "You know, Joey, there is also something you can do to help protect Bill before we set him free. Can you think of what that is?"

Joey looked at Kevin in surprise, and then suddenly realized what Kevin meant.  His angry expression was replaced by a thoughtful and grave one as he silently helped with the task.  As they finished up dividing the supplies and setting aside what they did not need, Joey drew Sam aside.  "Sam, do you think it would be okay with you if we, uh, said a prayer for Bill before he has to go?"

Sam stared at him speechlessly, but Frodo smiled and nodded.  "I think that is a very good idea, Joey."

Joey smiled back, even though he was still crying a little himself.  He blushed, and then, as Gandalf had done, he put one hand on Bill's head, closed his eyes and bent his head.  "Um, God, it's me, Joey. Could you please take good care of Bill and not let any wolves eat him? He's a good pony and he works hard, and we all love him very much.  In Jesus' name, amen." He wrapped his arms around Bill’s neck, and the pony nuzzled his scalp.

He looked up and saw Kevin and Jennifer looking at him proudly.

"Master Joey," said Sam, "thank you!  I feel a lot better now." Joey hugged him.

Kevin beckoned to Joey, who joined him and Jennifer off to the side.  “Good job, Joey!” Kevin hugged his little brother to his side with his right arm.  To both of them, he added in a low voice, “We’d better be getting our flashlights out of our backpacks and putting them in our jacket pockets.  We won’t be able to keep them turned on the whole time we’re in the mines—the batteries won’t last that long—but there may be times when they’ll be needed.”

“How are we gonna be able to see where we’re going without them?” Jennifer asked.  “It’s gonna be pitch-black in those mines—as dark as a cave.”

“I don’t know.  Torches, maybe.”  Kevin shrugged. “But there may be times when the flashlights will help, so let’s get them out now.”  He paused. “Remember the summer we all spent in New Mexico two years ago? We went to Carlsbad Caverns once that summer.”

“Yeah, I remember.  Kaylee was only three years old then, and Megan was just a baby.  Remember how dark it got when they turned all the lights off?”

“How can I forget?!”  Kevin groaned. “It wasn’t just dark in there—it was pitch-black, just like you said!  I couldn’t even see my own nose, it was so dark. It’s gonna be just as dark in those mines unless we have a light of some kind.”  Jennifer grimaced at the thought. “Good thing the batteries in our flashlights still work.”

“And that we’ve got a few spares, should they go out,” Jennifer added.  “But you’re right. If we try to keep them on the whole time we’re in Moria, not even the replacement batteries will hold out.  So we’d better hope that Gandalf and Aragorn have some way of making light while we’re in there!”

And one that won’t use up our air,” Kevin added.

The three children slid their backpacks off of their backs and unzipped them.  They pulled their flashlights out of their packs and slipped them into their deep right jacket pockets, and then they rezipped their backpacks and once again slipped them over their backs.  Jennifer removed her digital camera from her left jacket pocket and took a picture of their surroundings. “Good thing we brought our walkie-talkies,” she muttered, as she slipped the camera back into her pocket.  Wait till Mom and Dad see this! she thought, glancing down at her camera.

For a while, everyone stood around watching Gandalf as he stared at the face of the cliff, as though his gaze would bore a hole in it.  Still nothing was happening, and the night was dark and chill. The children and the hobbits were both growing bored; Joey was fidgeting, and Pippin was kicking a pebble with his toes.  Kevin sighed loudly, and Jennifer rolled her eyes at him. Even Frodo had pursed his lips in distaste. Gimli was wandering about, tapping the stone here and there with his axe.  Legolas was pressed against the rock, as if listening.  It seemed they'd been standing about for hours.  Perhaps they had.

“Good thing Kaylee stayed behind in Rivendell, huh?” Jennifer asked Aragorn at one point, in a low voice.  “She never would have been able to keep up.”

Aragorn nodded agreement.  “No, she would not have been able to, Jennifer; her legs are too short,” he answered in an equally low voice.  “Either one of us would have had to carry her the whole way, or she would have had to ride Bill—possibly both. And now that we must leave Bill behind, she would not have the option of riding him.”  They said no more, but turned their attention back to Gandalf.

-oo000oo-

All day, Kaylee had been feeling worried.  Her brothers and sister had been gone so long, and there was no way to call them or talk to them, or even to get a letter, an email, or a text from them.  Their walkie-talkies did not work from that far away, wherever they were now, and even if they did, her own walkie-talkie was back home in her backpack. She missed her parents, too, and badly wanted her mommy, but she was not worried about them.  Kevin and Jennifer and Joey were out in the wild places of the world, and from the stories that Bilbo had been telling her about his adventure years before, she knew that there were dangers here that her own country did not have. There were goblins and scary wolves and trolls and—and giant spiders!  Kaylee shivered at the thought.  And all kinds of other scary things.  Plus her brothers and sister were out in the freezing cold weather, and Kaylee knew they didn't have any tents or anything.  She'd been listening to Mr. Baggins's stories about his adventure, and too much of it hadn’t been any fun.

She told herself that Gandalf was an angel and that he was watching over them, but she also remembered him saying he was not as powerful as he used to be before he had come here.  She tried not to show how worried and scared she was; she wanted to be brave, but it was really hard.

Kaylee slipped off and went to her room right after supper.  She knew Mairen would be looking for her, but she just wanted to be by herself for just a little while.  She curled up on her bed, and let herself cry for a little while, and then she started to pray. "Please, Jesus, look after Kevin and Jennifer and Joey.  I couldn't stand it if anything happens to them. I don't want to be alone here forever." She glanced down at the puppy, who had followed her into her room.  “Even with Lucy.” She paused. “Amen.”

After a while, Kaylee began to feel calmer, and she remembered one of the Bible verses that she, Joey, Jennifer, and Kevin had all memorized before her brothers and sister had left on the quest: "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."  A supernatural peace settled on her heart.  She soon slipped into slumber, and did not even notice when Mairen found her, and changed her clothes for her nightgown, and tucked her under her blankets.

-oo000oo-

Merry finally ventured to ask where the doors were, and Gimli's answer was disheartening.  If the doors were not meant to be found when shut, why had they bothered to come that way at all?

Gandalf's response was somewhat more encouraging, and indeed, right after he had done so, the Moon began to peer his way above the mountains.  Then slowly on the surface, where the wizard's hands had passed, faint lines appeared, like slender veins of silver running in the stone.  The children gasped.  So far, in spite of being in a fantasy world where they knew magic existed, they had seen very little of it.  Gandalf making fire on Caradhras and also during the Wolf attack the night before had been it until now, but this was quite different.

They all stared at the silver tracery that glimmered in the moonlight, graceful lines that at once marked them as Elvish in origin.  It outlined a large double door, graven with the images of an anvil and a hammer, a crown, silver stars, and a large graceful tree, but in the very middle was a large eight-pointed star.  And above all were the beautiful Elvish letters that the children could not read.

"There are the emblems of Dúrin!" cried Gimli.

"And there is the Tree of the High Elves!" said Legolas.

"And the star of the House of Fëanor," said Gandalf.  He went on to explain that the ithildin that was used to write the letters, and the pictures would only reflect starlight and moonlight.

"What does the writing say?" Frodo asked.

"'The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria.  Speak, Friend, and Enter. I, Narvi made them.  Celebrimbor of Hollin drew these signs,'" was Gandalf's answer.

"What does it mean by 'speak, friend, and enter'?" asked Merry.

“That is plain enough,” said Gimli.  “If you are a friend, speak the password, and the doors will open, and you can enter.”

“Yes,” said Gandalf, “these doors are probably governed by words.  Some dwarf-gates will open only at special times, or for particular persons; and some have locks and keys that are still needed when all necessary times and words are known.  These doors have no key. In the days of Durin they were not secret. They usually stood open and doorwards sat here. But if they were shut, any who knew the opening word could speak it and pass in.  At least so it is recorded, is it not, Gimli?”

“It is,” said the dwarf.  “But what the word was is not remembered.  Narvi and his craft and all his kindred have vanished from the earth.”

“But do not you know the word, Gandalf?” asked Boromir in surprise.

“No!” said the wizard.

The others looked dismayed; only Aragorn, who knew Gandalf well, remained silent and unmoved.

“Then what was the use of bringing us to this accursed spot?” cried Boromir, glancing back with a shudder at the dark water.  “You told us that you had once passed through the Mines. How could that be, if you did not know how to enter?”

“The answer to your first question, Boromir,” said the wizard, “is that I do not know the word—yet.  But we shall soon see. And,” he added, with a glint in his eyes under their bristling brows, “you may ask what is the use of my deeds when they are proved useless.  As for your other question: do you doubt my tale? Or have you no wits left? I did not enter this way. I came from the East.

“If you wish to know, I will tell you that these doors open outwards.  From the inside you may thrust them open with your hands. From the outside nothing will move them save the spell of command.  They cannot be forced inwards.'

“What are you going to do then?” asked Pippin, undaunted by the wizard's bristling brows.

“Knock on the doors with your head, Peregrin Took,” said Gandalf.  “But if that does not shatter them, and I am allowed a little peace from foolish questions, I will seek for the opening words.

“I once knew every spell in all the tongues of Elves or Men or Orcs that was ever used for such a purpose.  I can still remember ten score of them without searching in my mind. But only a few trials, I think, will be needed; and I shall not have to call on Gimli for words of the secret dwarf-tongue that they teach to none.  The opening words were Elvish, like the writing on the arch: that seems certain.”

He stepped up to the rock again, and lightly touched with his staff the silver star in the middle beneath the sign of the anvil.

Now it seemed that they had still more waiting about to do, as the wizard tried spell after fruitless spell.  Everyone grew more and more frustrated, and the children sat down dejectedly next to the hobbits. They had been prepared to enter right after the door appeared, but now it seemed they might never get in.  Would they have to turn back again?

Boromir angrily threw a stone into the stagnant pool that stood before the Door, where it sank slowly with a soft glop.  Frodo reproved him crossly, and it seemed everyone was nearly at the end of what patience they had left. The hobbits and Joey complained.  "I wish we could get away!" said Merry.

"Me, too!" added Joey.  "I don't like this place!"

"Why doesn't Gandalf do something quick?" said Pippin.

"He's doing the best he can," said Jennifer half-heartedly.  Truthfully, she felt the same as the others, but she didn't think that being disrespectful of Gandalf would help matters.  Joey pouted.

Suddenly, Gandalf jumped up and, laughing, he went to stand before the door.  "Mellon!"

Soon enough, wherever the Moon had shone his light, the outline of a door could be seen.  The door began to open, and they moved towards the door, as Gandalf explained how he had finally figured it out.  "It was Merry's remark that set me on the right track!"  

But no sooner had he begun to lead them into the darkness, than Frodo cried out.  They could hear a neigh of fear as, outside, poor Bill bolted into the wild. All was chaos!  Jennifer turned, and screamed herself, clutching Joey closely to her; Kevin wrapped his arms protectively around them both.  A hideous creature like something from a horror movie had Frodo in its tentacled grasp. Sam was first to reach it, where Frodo struggled, and began to hack away.

The creature let go of Frodo and Sam pulled him, calling for help as many more tentacles came boiling out of the water.  Aragorn and Boromir came back, and hacked more at the remaining arms as they reached out, and then everyone rushed inside, with Gandalf calling urgently, "Into the gateway!  Up the stairs! Quick!"  Snatching her branch, Jennifer rushed after her brothers toward the entrance.  They were all barely inside and on the first few steps when the tentacles reached in and grasped the Doors!

With a horrid shattering crash, the Doors crumbled into rubble.  They could hear more crashing on the other side, and found themselves in utter darkness.

Sam, clinging to Frodo’s arm, collapsed on a step in the black darkness.  “Poor old Bill! Wolves and snakes! But the snakes were too much for him.  I had to choose, Mr. Frodo. I had to come with you.”

“That was no snake!  That was a monster!” Joey gasped, shaking, as Gandalf went back down the steps to try the doors.  “A real monster!  It was gonna eat us!  It was scary!”

Dropping her branch, Jennifer wrapped her arms around her trembling little brother.  “It sure was!” she agreed, as she made a valiant effort to stop shaking herself. “Much scarier than any monsters we’ve seen on TV.”  She laid a hand on Frodo’s arm. “You OK?”

Frodo nodded.  “Y—yes.”

“I was scared!”  Joey squeezed his eyes shut and burrowed his face into his sister’s chest.  “Are there actually monsters here?”

“Apparently, there are, Joey, and you weren’t the only one who was scared,” Kevin said, his voice unsteady.  “We’re gonna have to be careful while we’re here. Real careful.”

Taking a deep breath, Joey leaned back from Jennifer and scanned the mines.  Pitch blackness surrounded him. “It sure is dark,” he whispered.

“It sure is, isn’t it?  We need some light.” Kevin removed his flashlight from his jacket pocket and switched it on.  Jennifer did the same, and the two teenagers scanned the mine tunnel surrounding them with the soft beams of light from their flashlights.  At that moment, there was a quiver in the stone and the stairs trembled, but the doors did not open.

Aragorn approached the two older children.  “Kevin, Jennifer, turn your flashlights off,” he said in a low voice.  “Gandalf will give us the light we need, and if I understand what you have told us about these devices, you will need to save your batteries.  Those flashlights should be saved for a true emergency.”

“Yes, my staff will provide us with light.”  Gandalf, who had just rejoined them, cupped his hand around the top of his staff, and a faint light emitted from it.  “Save your flashlights for when we really need them.”

Kevin and Jennifer exchanged glances.  “Yes, sir,” said Kevin. He and Jennifer switched off their flashlights and thrust them back into their jacket pockets.  

“I thought monsters only existed in stories and monster movies,” Joey whispered.

“We thought elves and wizards and dragons only existed in stories and movies, too,” Kevin whispered back.  “And they do exist only in stories where we come from, and so do hobbits. We’ll have to be prepared for more fantasy creatures while we’re here, Joey, and not all of them will be good, I’m afraid.”

Following a short discussion about what had just happened and what they faced, Boromir muttered under his breath, but the echoing passage magnified the sound to a hoarse whisper that all could hear: “In the deep places of the world!  And thither we are going against…”  Glancing at the McCloud children, he broke off.  He continued, “Who will lead us now in this…”  Glancing again at Joey and then at Kevin and Jennifer, Boromir paused.  “…this dark?”

“I will,” said Gandalf, “and Gimli shall walk with me.  Follow my staff!”  He turned to Jennifer.  “You will have to wait until we are out of Moria before you can practice your marching routine once more.”

Jennifer nodded acquiescence.  Actually, it hadn't even crossed her mind; it didn't seem like a good place for it.  It would only be a few days before she could practice again; surely, she wouldn’t lose her skills within that time.  Scanning the children’s faces, Gandalf added, “And since there may be other creatures in Moria, all of us must keep our voices down while we are here, so there can be no more singing or playing your harmonica until we are out of Moria.”  He looked at Joey. “Or playing.”

As the wizard passed on ahead up the great steps, he held his staff aloft, and from its tip there came a faint radiance.  Jennifer picked up her walking stick and began to follow the hobbits.  They all wearily followed the faint glow of Gandalf's staff up the cold stone stairway, up and up and up.  The wide stairway was fortunately sound and undamaged.  At one point during the climb, Boromir offered an exhausted Joey a piggyback ride, and the little boy gratefully accepted.  Jennifer had been trying to count the steps, but lost count somewhere at around a hundred-and-fifty. Still, when they reached the top of the stairs, she was pretty sure they had gone up at least two hundred steps.  They found an actual passage with a level floor leading on into the dark.  Joey let go of Boromir’s neck and landed with a thud on the stone floor; Jennifer laid her walking stick against the wall of the mine and slumped against the stone wall.

"Let us sit and rest and have something to eat, here on the landing, since we can't find a dining room!" said Frodo.

Everyone was pleased at this suggestion, and they all sank down upon the top few steps.  Sam got out some of the little packets they had put up for eating as they travelled when they could not stop to camp: little linen bags filled with fruit, nuts, sweetened grain, and small journeycakes.  The children thought those were more like hard crackers than bread.

When they had eaten, they felt somewhat better, and Gandalf passed around the bottle of miruvor so each could have a single sip.  It was the third time they had been given some on the journey.  The first time, Jennifer had been hesitant, because she could smell a faint scent of alcohol, but Gandalf had explained that it was more like medicine than a drink.  So now the children took a sip with no problems. It helped that there was no taste of alcohol in spite of the smell. In fact, it was quite delicious, and made them feel much better.

Gandalf reminded them they did not have much of it left.  He also reminded them to go easy on the water, since any they found in the mines might not be wholesome to drink. Frodo asked how far they had to go, and Gandalf told them that it would probably take three or four marches. Jennifer knew by now that a "march" took up most of a day.  She shuddered at the thought that they would be in this dark, scary place for three or four days.

Turning his head, Joey saw a two-foot-wide ledge on the wall to his left.  Scrambling to his feet, he approached it and climbed onto the ledge. Turning around, he waved his arms. “Hey, look at me, look at me!”

The others looked at him in amusement; exchanging a glance, Kevin and Jennifer rolled their eyes.  Shaking his head, Aragorn approached the little boy, placed his hands under Joey’s armpits, and set him onto the stone floor.  “A mine is not a place for play, Joey,” he told the child. “Wait until we are safely out of here, and until we have a chance to rest.”

“That is right,” Gandalf agreed.

Jennifer took Joey's hand a bit more firmly than necessary, and pulled him to her side.  "Don't you know how dangerous it is in here?"  She would have scolded more, but Kevin intervened.  He knelt down to Joey's level and spoke softly. Gandalf had told them they needed to be very quiet.

"Joey, I know that monster scared you, and now you have a lot of energy.”  He laid a hand on Joey’s shoulder. “But Jennifer’s right; it is dangerous in here.  You’re going to have to act a lot more grown-up than you really are."

Joey nodded, abashed.  He really was full of energy, and he still felt scared.  Horsing around was a way to forget about all the scary things that might be around.  They couldn't really pass the time in here with songs or stories, because Gandalf had said there might be other creatures in here.  "I'm sorry," he said, looking down at his feet and scuffing a toe. Her face softening, Jennifer hugged Joey to her side.

Ruffling his little brother’s hair, Kevin turned and approached Aragorn.  “I wish there was some way to drain that pond,” he said in a low voice. “If someone could do that, it’d be a lot easier to kill that monster.  It must be some kind of water creature; if it is, it can’t survive on dry land.”

Aragorn nodded agreement.  “It would be indeed, Kevin, but there is no way for us to do that now.  Right now, we have a quest to finish.”

Nodding, Kevin shrugged.  “Maybe, when all this is over, we can come back and figure out a way to drain it.”  He bit his lower lip. “We need an engineer with us.” Suddenly he swallowed a feeling of panic—when all this was over, he hoped to be home!  Why was he thinking of something to do here after the quest was over?  He gave a shudder.

When the members of the Company had finished their rest, they walked along silently for a long while, Kevin and Jennifer staying on either side of Joey, ready to take their little brother by the hand again, if necessary.  Jennifer’s walking stick dangled from her hand. She was glad they had Gandalf. They didn't have any way to make torches, and if they had to use their flashlights the whole time, the batteries would soon run out.  They'd also had to leave a lot of stuff behind when they let Bill go.  At least they'd had their packs on. There were so many paths and tunnels to choose from, as well as all sorts of of crevices and holes, so Gandalf's staff came in really handy.

There were fissures and chasms in the walls and floor, and every now and then a crack would open right before their feet.  The widest was more than seven feet across, and it was long before Pippin could summon enough courage to leap over the dreadful gap.  Joey blanched at the thought of having to jump over such a wide hole; Legolas gave him a piggyback ride and leaped across the chasm with the little boy. Jennifer could not bring herself to watch, and only opened her eyes when she heard them land safely.

Jennifer gulped.  It was her turn. Taking a deep breath, she tried to throw her walking stick over the chasm, but it fell short, and was lost in the darkness below.  She didn't even hear it hit bottom. She felt like crying at her loss, but held it back. She still had to leap the chasm.

“Please, God!” Jennifer whispered, as she hurtled toward the chasm.  As she jumped, she kept her gaze fixed on those who had already jumped across the gap; to her relief, she landed safely on the other side, as Aragorn and Legolas each grabbed an arm to keep her steady.  Kevin was able to leap across the gap on his own. All the while, the noise of churning water came up from far below, as if some great mill-wheel was turning in the depths.

“Rope!” muttered Sam.  “I knew I’d want it, if I hadn’t got it!”

Jennifer glanced at him.  I wish we did have a rope! she thought ruefully.  What if one of us falls into one of these holes?  She shivered at the thought.

As these dangers became more frequent their march became slower.  Already they seemed to have been tramping on, on, endlessly to the mountains’ roots.  They were more than weary, and yet there seemed to be no comfort in the thought of halting anywhere.  Jennifer trudged alongside Frodo, and more than once, Boromir picked up an exhausted Joey and carried him in his arms for a while.

They had been walking and walking for hours on end, it seemed, with only brief halts, when Gandalf 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 Gandalf, standing uncertainly under the arch.  He held up his staff in the hope of finding some marks or inscription that might help his choice; but nothing of the kind was to be seen.  “I am too weary to decide,” he said, shaking his head. “And I expect that you are all as weary as I am, or wearier. We had better halt here for what is left of the night.  You know what I mean! In here it is ever dark; but outside the late Moon is riding westward and the middle-night has passed.”

“Poor old Bill!” said Sam.  “I wonder where he is. I hope those wolves haven't got him yet.”

Kevin laid a hand on his shoulder.  “I’m sure he’s safe, Sam,” he said softly.

To the left of the great arch they found a stone door: it was half closed, but swung back easily to a gentle thrust.  Beyond there seemed to lie a wide chamber cut in the rock.

“Steady!  Steady!” cried Gandalf, as Merry and Pippin pushed forward, glad to find a place where they could rest with at least more feeling of shelter than in the open passage. “Steady! You do not know what is inside yet. I will go first.”

He went in cautiously, and the others filed behind.  “There!” he said, pointing with his staff to the middle of the floor.  Before his feet they saw a large round hole like the mouth of a well. Broken and rusty chains lay at the edge and trailed down into the black pit.  Fragments of stone lay near.

Kevin paled, and Jennifer let out a gasp.  With a gulp, Joey reached up and took both their hands of his own accord.  Drawing close to him, Kevin turned his hand loose and put his arm around the little boy’s shoulder; Jennifer continued to cling to his other hand.

“One of you might have fallen in and still be wondering when you were going to strike the bottom,” said Aragorn to Merry, whom he had grabbed by the shoulder.  “Let the guide go first while you have one.”

Gimli began to explain that it was probably a guardroom when the Dwarves had still been the rulers of Moria, and that the well was probably for the guards to have water when they were on watch.

Joey noticed that Pippin was edging closer to the well, but not quickly.  The hobbit moved to it cautiously, and stood staring into it. Joey felt curious as well, but he was mindful of his brother and sister's hands on his shoulder and his hand, and did not move any closer.  He turned and followed them as they moved around the perimeter of the room and began to make a place where they could spread out their bedrolls. No one was talking; everyone just knew what they were supposed to do, so all of them jumped when they heard a loud "plunk!"  All eyes turned to Pippin.

Joey winced as Gandalf began to scold Pippin harshly.  He'd hate it if the wizard ever called him a fool!  Soon after, they began to hear a faint, ominous, and frightening tapping sound coming from the bottom of the well, but after a few tense minutes, it faded away.  Once again, Gandalf gave Pippin a harsh scolding, and ordered him to take the first watch.

Joey winced again.  Gandalf was sure mad at Pippin; that was clear.  He had scolded him twice in the last several minutes.  I would have hated that! he thought, shuddering.  And for the hobbit to have to sit on watch in the pitch black as punishment?  He shuddered again.

Apparently, his sister agreed.  "Poor Pippin!" she murmured.

Once the bedrolls were set out and everyone was settled except for Pippin, who was huddled by the door, Gandalf extinguished his staff.  Pitch-blackness immediately settled over the room. But Joey was too wound up to fall asleep right away. He was still listening when Gandalf finally went over and sort of apologized to Pippin, and took over the watch. Shortly after that, Joey was finally able to drop off to sleep.

It seemed like no time that the younger members of the Company were being awakened.  Gandalf had watched the whole time, as he thought about the way they needed to go. Amid grumbles from the hobbits over not having more than trail rations and Joey's reluctance to roll out of his bedroll, nevertheless they were soon ready to start walking once more.

Gandalf had decided to take the right-hand passage.  While he still did not remember this particular cross-tunnel, he knew that the air felt fresher to the right.  They arranged themselves for walking, two by two. Gimli walked with Gandalf in the very front. Joey and Frodo were in the middle, with Jennifer and Pippin right in front of them, and Sam and Merry behind.  Kevin was next to Boromir behind Sam and Merry, and Aragorn and Legolas took the rear guard, in case of any pursuit. They had not forgotten about those ominous tapping sounds from the well the night before.

Kevin looked at Boromir as they set off.  "Why can't I walk by my sister and brother?" he asked.  He felt responsible for them; how could he guard them this way?

The warrior looked at him.  "Think about your question for a moment, Lord Kevin.  Why did we decide on this order?"

"Well, Frodo's the Ring-bearer, and Joey's just a kid.  I guess they need more protection."

"Very good.  Gimli is of help to Gandalf because he is a Dwarf and used to these sorts of mines, if not this one in particular.  Also, they are both mighty warriors in spite of Gandalf's age and Gimli’s size, so if we are attacked from the front, we have those most vulnerable in the middle.  Even though Lady Jennifer and Master Joey have swords and knives, and Legolas and I have been giving them lessons, we do not want either of them to fight except as a last resort.  Pippin, however, has learned well, and will do his best to protect Lady Jennifer, as well as Frodo and Joey behind him. Merry is an even better pupil than Pippin, and he and Sam will fight fiercely.  You are still learning, and my pupil, but as attack is more likely from the rear, that is where the strongest warriors walk."

“So that’s why Aragorn and Legolas are in the back?” Kevin asked.

Boromir nodded.  "Nothing can easily sneak up behind an Elf, and Aragorn's hearing is almost as keen."

Kevin had this to think about.  They kept on walking for nearly eight hours before they were allowed to stop for any longer than it took to take a small sip of water from their waterskins (or canteens, in the case of the children), and to pass around more of the cold trail rations.

I wonder what Kaylee’s doing right now, Kevin thought.  I’m sure glad she’s not with us right now in this horrible, dangerous place.  He grimaced, and then sighed.  At least his little sister was safe.

-oo000oo-

*A/N: As Kevin is American, he is estimating the temperature in Fahrenheit: 50⁰ F would be about 10⁰ Celcius.






<< Back

Next >>

Leave Review
Home     Search     Chapter List