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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 Tolkien's 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 19: In the Darkness

"Do you like mushrooms, Kaylee?" Bilbo asked her.  The two of them had been taking a ramble through the grounds around the Last Homely House.  The winter weather had been unseasonably mild for the last few days, even for Rivendell.

When Kaylee had first come to Rivendell, she would have made a face and probably said, "Eew!" at such a question, but she had begun to learn that was rude, so instead she said, "I never had any.  I think I don't like them."  She made a face at the thought.

Bilbo grinned at her.  "Well, I would wager you'd like them, the way hobbits make them.  You certainly like everything I make when you come to tea with me!"

"Maybe," she answered, scrunching her face.  About mushrooms, she wasn’t so sure!

"Well, here is the first step—" and he pointed over to a spot next to a shady oak, where quite a few mushrooms were growing, almost hidden in the heavy, leafy loam.  He took off his jacket, and went over and laid it upon the ground next to them, and then he began picking the mushrooms and putting them on his jacket.  She watched, fascinated by how carefully he picked them and made sure to leave a few of them untouched.  When he had all he wanted, he gathered his jacket up.

"Do you know how to make soup?" he asked her.

Kaylee shook her head.  "Mommy won't let me use the stove.  But she opens a can and pours it in a pot, and puts water in."

He blinked.  "Your mother won't let you use the stove?"  He sounded sort of surprised.

"No, she says I'm too little, and I might get burned."

Bilbo made a face, and then smiled.  "Well, I daresay you might be too little in your mother's kitchen, but you wouldn't be too little in mine!  Come along!"  He turned and headed back towards the house, and Kaylee darted along to catch up to him.

First they went to the big main kitchen, where Bilbo was well known.  He greeted everyone there with a cheery "Hullo!" and a wave of the free hand which was not occupied in holding the jacket and its precious mushrooms.

The head cook, Haldanar,* grinned at the elderly hobbit.  "Bilbo!  Have you come to pilfer our stores again?"

"Of course!" was the jovial reply.  "Miss Kaylee and I found a bounty of mushrooms!  And I have discovered an appalling thing, Haldanar—she does not yet know how to cook!"

The Elf chuckled, and winked at Kaylee.  "Why, how dreadful!  And I suppose you plan to remedy that?"

"Yes, indeed."   He placed the jacket upon the table.  "May I do a bit of shopping from your larder?"

Haldanar gestured to one of the other cooks, and he fetched two baskets, which he put on the table.  Bilbo opened up his jacket and transferred the mushrooms into one of them.  “Will you send word to Lady Arwen that Miss Kaylee will be taking tea with me?” he asked Haldanar, who nodded and spoke to one of the kitchen servants, who left.

Then Bilbo took the other basket upon his arm, and with Kaylee following, he made his way into the spacious pantry.  At the end of it, some stairs went down into a cold stone room lined with shelves filled with all sorts of things.

Brrr!!  It’s cold!  Shivering, Kaylee wrapped her arms around her chest.

Bilbo chuckled.  “I know it’s cold in here, but we won’t be down here long.”  He patted her shoulder.  "Now, Kaylee, we need some butter."  He went to a crock on one of the lower shelves, and opened it.  There were little cloth bundles in it, and he took one out.  "I think one knob of butter will be enough."   Kaylee watched him in fascination; she had always thought that butter either came in long sticks, or in a plastic tub.  Then Bilbo found an empty jar, a small one with a stopper.  He took a piece of cloth from the top of a pitcher, and poured some cream into it.  Kaylee knew it was cream, because it was thicker than milk.  From another shelf, he took an entire glass jar of some kind of yellow liquid, and added it to the basket.  Then they went back up the steps.  Kaylee wondered what he was going to make with the mushrooms.

From a basket on the floor, Bilbo picked up an onion.  Then he stood and muttered too quietly for Kaylee to hear, before saying aloud, "I think I have everything else we need in my kitchen."  He looked at her.  "Let's go and get those mushrooms now."

The mushrooms had all been placed in the other basket, and Bilbo asked her to carry the mushrooms as they made their way back to his cozy little chambers.

Kaylee had been to Bilbo's rooms on a number of occasions by then, but she had never been into his kitchen, and she was very curious.

Bilbo led her up a low step and through a rounded arch that led into a tiny kitchen.  Kaylee clapped her hands and let out a squeal of delight at the little kitchen that looked like it might belong in a playhouse.  To one side was a fireplace with a cheery fire blazing away, with a built-in stone oven on one side.  On the other side of the fireplace, the wall next to it was hung with miniature cast iron pots and tools: skillets and pans and what her mommy called a Dutch oven; also hanging there were all kinds of lids and utensils, long-handled spoons and forks and other things she didn't know a name for.  Everything hanging there was easily within her reach (and Bilbo's).  The wall above was painted with a beautiful scene of hills and trees and fields.  The hills had little round windows and doors painted in them, and Kaylee knew from the stories Bilbo told her that those were supposed to be hobbit-holes, or "smials", as he called them.  Kaylee wished she could visit there one day.

The brick oven built into the chimney on the far side was also easily within her reach.  Below it was a little opening filled with firewood.  Next to it, there were shelves filled with copper kettles and saucepans and pots, and tin bake pans in the upper shelves and pottery cooking dishes on the lower shelves.  As on the other side, no shelves went higher than halfway up the wall.  The painting on this side of the fireplace showed a table covered with all sorts of food, like for a party.  The candles glowed like they were real, and there were bowls of fruit and plates of bread and cheese and different kinds of meat that appeared to be steaming hot.  A pitcher looked like it had little drops of water on the outside of it.  Everything in the painting looked very real and yummy enough to eat.

At the end of the little kitchen was a china cabinet with lots of dishes in it.  There was a large butcher block island in the center, and Kaylee saw some food on it, some apples and bread and a bowl of eggs, and a small vase with a bunch of plants in it, and on the side of the room opposite the fireplace was a stone sink set into a stand, above which perched a copper pump.  On either side of it were two cupboards.  Kaylee hopped up and down as she scanned the kitchen, smiling broadly.

"Welcome to my kitchen, Kaylee," said Bilbo, smiling at her excited face.  "While I take many of my meals in the big dining hall with others, sometimes I love to potter about in here, and I usually have first breakfast and teatime here.”  He placed his basket of items upon the table, and gestured for Kaylee to place the basket of mushrooms she was carrying upon the table next to it.

"Now, first things first, dear."  He reached over to the little pump and made the handle go up and down.  It took a couple of minutes, but then a little stream of water came out.  "Shall we wash our hands?"

The water was cold, but Kaylee had gotten used to that during the weeks she'd been there, so she obediently rubbed her hands together in the water with a sliver of soap, and then dried them on a little dish towel that Bilbo handed her.  Then he opened one of the cupboards, and took out two white aprons for them to use.  He tied his on first, and then helped her to put hers on and tied it for her in the back where she couldn't reach.  Since their arrival in Middle-earth, she had learned to tie a bow, but not without looking yet!

"Now, let's get the fire ready, shall we?"  Bilbo went over to the fireplace, where the fire was burning low.  He stirred it up with the poker, and added on another piece of wood from the little stack below the stone oven.  "Always use the right tool when you are cooking, Kaylee, especially around the hearth.  See how the fireplace tools all have very long handles?"  Kaylee nodded.  Bilbo wrapped a dish towel around his hand, and took up another fireplace tool that looked like a little rake.  He carefully pushed it beneath the grate, and pulled some of the red-hot coals out onto the flat part of the hearth.  Then he handed her the dish towel, showing her how to hold the rake handle with it.  Holding his hand over hers, he helped her to rake more of the coals out.  Together they made a little pile of the coals.

Then Bilbo stood up and took down one of the cast-iron pots.  It had little legs on the bottom.  Using a long-handled hook, he placed it over the fiery coals.  "Now we will let it get hot while we prepare our ingredients," he said.

He gave her another dish towel, this one wet, and got one for himself, and then he spread another clean, dry one on the butcher block table.  "Let's clean our mushrooms.  You must be very gentle with them as you carefully wipe off any dirt that clings to them."  Kaylee nodded, and he picked one out of the basket and showed her what to do, as he placed the clean one onto the dry dish towel.  "Now you do one."

Kaylee was a little nervous, but she concentrated on her task, with her tongue sticking out slightly between her teeth.  As she cleaned each mushroom that she took, she glanced over at Bilbo for his nod of approval.  He smiled and nodded at her, and then they continued.  Between the two of them, they soon had the whole basketful clean.

"Next we slice them up."  He went over and got a sharp knife from a wooden block.  "Since you've not done this before, I will hold your hand as you do the cutting.”  He looked at her intently.  “Knives are very sharp, and should be treated with respect.  Never use a knife without a grown-up present, even once you know how to cut by yourself without someone holding your hand!  You could cut yourself all too easily if you try to use a knife by yourself, Kaylee, so until you’re older, always wait until a grown-up is with you.  Do you understand?"

Wide-eyed, she nodded solemnly.  She sure didn’t want to cut herself!  At that point, Bilbo showed her how to place her hand over the knife handle, and then, as he had done with the coal rake, he covered it with his own, and they slowly sliced each mushroom.  After that, he showed her how to cut up the onion as well.  That was not as pleasant a task, as it made her eyes sting and tear up.  But it made Bilbo do the same thing, so they laughed about it, and then they washed their hands again and wiped their eyes with another damp clean cloth.  “Unfortunately, onions will insist on having that effect, Kaylee,” he said, chuckling.

Kaylee smiled wryly.  The little basket below the table was sure filling up with used towels!  At home, she thought, we'd just use paper towels and throw them away!

"Now we are almost ready to start cooking our mushroom soup.  This next part, I will do myself, but you watch carefully, all right?"   With a nod, she squatted down by the fireplace as he took the butter (he called it a "knob" of butter) from its cloth wrapper and tossed it into the pot they had placed upon the coals.  It sizzled and melted quickly; the butter smelled good.  Next, as Kaylee continued to watch intently, he threw in the onions and stirred it with a wooden spoon that had a very long handle.  In another minute, he told her, "Hand me the mushrooms now, please!"

Kaylee grabbed up the wooden bowl into which they had placed the sliced mushrooms and handed it to him.  Bilbo also tossed those in and stirred them.  "Kaylee, do you see the vase of herbs on the table?"

She nodded.  "Yes, Mr. Baggins," she answered.

"Bring that over."

She took it from the table.  "Let me show you what these are."  He pulled out a sprig with very tiny leaves.  "This one is called 'thyme'.  Smell it!"

She sniffed obediently, and smiled.  "That smells good, Mr. Baggins!  It smells kind of like the woods in the summertime."

He smiled at her.  "I quite agree, my dear!  And thyme always goes well with mushrooms!  This is how you put it in."  He held the tiny branch over the pot in one hand, and with the other, he ran his thumb and finger down it, stripping the little leaves into the sizzling mushrooms and onion.  Then he used the big long-handled hook to pull it forward a bit.  "This way, it won't get too hot and scorch while we do the next part."  Kaylee nodded.

Bilbo paused.  "But first I will put the kettle on, so we can have a cup of tea."  He filled the copper kettle from the pump, and hung it over the hook that stuck out over the fireplace above the fire.

"Now that's done.  All right, Kaylee, we need some flour and salt.  The salt box is on that shelf.  You get that…"  He pointed.  "...and I'll get the flour," he added, as he reached down a pottery canister, and at the same time got a pottery bowl.  Then he went to the cabinet at the end of the kitchen and took from the drawer a silver spoon.

He opened the canister, and handed the spoon to Kaylee.  "I know you can count, for I've heard you do it for your sister.  Please put six spoonfuls of flour into the bowl."

Kaylee carefully scooped up the flour, and counted aloud, "...four, five, six!  That's all, Mr. Baggins!"

"Now."  He held the salt box out to her.  "Two little pinches of salt."  She did the honors, smiling proudly.

"I'll do this part," he said.  As Kaylee watched, he took up the jar of broth, and poured it into the bowl.  Then he took a little wooden whisk and began to stir the ingredients together until they were smooth, and then he poured it into the little pot and stirred it well with the wooden spoon.  Then he very slowly poured the rest of the broth in, and moved the pot back onto the hotter part of the coals.  Kaylee stood next to him and continued to watch.  When it began to boil, Bilbo pulled it back again, and added the cream.  Then the tea kettle began to whistle.  Using a dish towel, he took it down.

He carried it over to the table.  "Which tea do you wish?  Mint or chamomile?"

"Mint, please," she said.

Soon they were sipping their tea (sweetened with a bit of honey), and Bilbo was explaining the other herbs in the vase to Kaylee.  She recognized mint from its smell right away; chamomile smelled kind of flowery; rosemary smelled almost like a Christmas tree.  But some of the others were more difficult.

After a little while, he sniffed.  "I do think that soup is ready, dear!"  He used the hook to pull the pot away from the hearth.  "Go and fetch a couple of bowls and spoons from the sideboard, Kaylee, please."  She nodded, and did as she was told.

As soon as she handed them to Bilbo, he dished up two bowls full, and placed them upon the table.  Then he fetched a loaf of bread from a cabinet.  It was a round loaf, and he tore two big chunks off it for them to dunk in their soup.

Kaylee had to admit that the soup smelled delicious, and now that she had helped so much in the making of it, she was eager to taste it.  She took up a spoonful, and blew on it gently to cool it, before sipping it from the spoon.  Her face lit up.  "Mr. Baggins, this is REALLY GOOD!"  She grinned.  "And I helped!"  She giggled.

"Indeed you did, Kaylee!  Well done!"  Bilbo smiled proudly at her.

Kaylee took another bite.  Wait till Mommy sees what I can do!  She smiled broadly.

It was the first of Kaylee's lessons in Bilbo's little kitchen, but it was certainly not the last!   

-oo000oo-

The Company had gone nearly fifteen miles into the mines.  They had marched as far as the hobbits and the children, especially Joey, could endure without a rest, and all were thinking of a place where they could sleep, when suddenly the walls to right and left vanished.  They seemed to have passed through some arched doorway into a black and empty space.  There was a great draught of warmer air behind them, and before them the darkness was cold on their faces.  They halted and crowded anxiously together.

The company stared about them; they were in a huge cavernous area.  Gandalf began to explain about the place where they now stood, giving them their bearings.

Sam stared at the place.  The columns with their carvings, the high arches, but it was as gloomy and dim as the parts they had already been through.  “There must have been a mighty crowd of dwarves here at one time and every one of them busier than badgers for five hundred years to make all this, and most in hard rock too!  What did they do it all for?  They didn't live in these darksome holes surely?”

“These are not holes,” said Gimli.  “This is the great realm and city of the Dwarrowdelf.  And of old it was not darksome, but full of light and splendour, as is still remembered in our songs.”  He rose, and standing in the dark he began to chant in a deep voice, while the echoes ran away into the room.   

“The world was young, the mountains green,

No stain yet on the Moon was seen,

No words were laid on stream or stone

When Durin woke and walked alone.

He named the nameless hills and dells;

He drank from yet untasted wells;

He stooped and looked in Mirrormere,

And saw a crown of stars appear,

As gems upon a silver thread,

Above the shadow of his head.

“The world was fair, the mountains tall…”

Sam listened in fascination to the lengthy song as Gimli continued chanting it; under the spell of the Dwarf's words, he could almost see the lights and beauty that he spoke of with such feeling.  “Well, there's an eye-opener and no mistake!” he said, thinking that perhaps he could get Mr. Gimli to teach him that song.

Joey stepped next to the gardener, his eyes open wide.  “Wow,” he breathed.  Kevin, who was standing next to his little brother, put his hand on Joey's shoulder.

“You said it, kid!  Wow!”

Jennifer had been moving around, trying to take some pictures with her phone.  “Hey, look!” she said.  “There's light over that way!”

Gandalf nodded.  “Well spotted, Lady Jennifer.  That is the direction in which we need to go.”  He started forward, holding his staff high.  The others fell in behind him, their hopes rising at the thought of light.  They passed into a new passage, and saw another glimmer of light coming from a large room; a door stood half open, letting the light fall into the corridor.

Suddenly Gimli pushed ahead of Gandalf, his expression tense.  He hurried forward, ignoring Gandalf's call of his name.

Gimli rushed into the vast empty chamber.  It was lit with a narrow shaft of sunlight beaming in from a small hole near the roof.  The others followed him more slowly, their eyes wide as they took in the scene: skeletons of Dwarves and Orcs were scattered about the room.  There was a well in one corner.

Pippin's eyes grew wide, and he took Jennifer's arm and steered her to the opposite side of the room.  Jennifer winced at the sight.  Boromir took Joey's arm.

“Stay back, lad,” he said.

A shaft of sunlight fell upon a large stone vault covered with a marble slab.  Stricken, Gimli fell to his knees before it.

“These are Daeron's Runes, such as were used of old in Moria,” said Gandalf.  “Here is written in the tongues of Men and Dwarves:

                        “BALIN SON OF FUNDIN

                        LORD OF MORIA.”

“He is dead then,” said Frodo.  “I feared it was so.”  Gimli cast his hood over his face, and began to chant in Khuzdûl:

“Kilmin malur ni zaram kalil ra narag.

Kheled-zâram …

Balin tazlifi.”

Gandalf carefully lifted the rotting remains of a book from the white stone slab.  It had been slashed and stabbed, and appeared to have been splashed with dried blood.  The pages cracked and broke as he opened it.

Kevin and Aragorn had been moving across the room.  Gandalf turned and handed his staff to the boy to hold as he tried to get a better look at the book.  He began to read:  “They have taken the Bridge and the second hall: we have barred the gates…but cannot hold them for long…the ground shakes…drums, drums in the deep…we cannot get out.  A shadow moves in the dark.  Will no one save us?  They are coming!”

Kevin backed up nervously, and reached a hand out to steady himself.  But Aragorn grabbed his elbow and moved him away from the well.  Kevin looked, and gave a shocked gasp as he saw the skeleton of a Dwarf warrior perched precariously upon the stone wall of the well.  He had just narrowly missed bumping into it, and his eyes widened as he looked at Aragorn, who nodded.  It would have made a horrible racket if it had toppled into the well!  Kevin shuddered.

Just then, they began to hear an ominous rolling sound, like approaching thunder.  Then there was a loud BOOM, followed by the harsh sound of a horn.

Sam glanced at Frodo’s belt, and drew in a breath of shock.  “Mr. Frodo!”

Frodo looked down.  A cold blue glow was emanating from Sting's scabbard.  Frodo drew the sword, staring at its glowing blade.

Legolas saw it at the same time, and knew what that meant.  "Orcs!" he exclaimed.

Aragorn turned swiftly to the hobbits.  "Get back!  Stay close to Gandalf.“  He scanned the children’s faces.  ”Children, stay close together, and ready your weapons!  Jennifer and Joey, stay close to Kevin; be ready to fight, but do not do so except as a last resort.”

Swallowing hard, Jennifer nodded, and then exchanged a glance with Joey and another with Kevin.  She took a deep breath.  “Please, God!” she whispered.  Kevin exchanged a second glance with her and nodded.

Aragorn and Boromir slammed and wedged the doors.  Boromir caught sight of something in the passage beyond as he pulled the door to, and placed an axe into the door handle to bar the way.

"They have a cave troll!"  The warrior sounded more exasperated than worried.

Gimli snatched up two rusty Dwarf axes as he leapt upon the tomb.  "Let them come!” he growled.  “There is one Dwarf yet in Moria who still draws breath!"

“I’m scared,” Joey whimpered, as he leaned against his older sister and, with his right hand, clutched his knife’s handle in a tight grip.  His left hand trembled.

Taking a deep breath, Kevin, on his other side, squeezed his shoulder.  “We all are, Joey,” he whispered.  “We’ll just have to do the best we can.”

“We need angels, don’t we?” Joey answered.

Jennifer nodded agreement.  “We sure do,” she whispered.  Glancing up at the ceiling, she whispered, “Please, God, send some angels to save us!”  She paused.  “All of us.  In Jesus’ name, amen.”  We really need some angels who have all of their angelic powers! she thought, looking at Gandalf.  Please, God, send us some!  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Suddenly the door burst open in a shower of wood fragments, and goblins began charging into the tomb.  

Gandalf pushed the hobbits and the children behind him, as he drew Glamdring, which glowed for him much like Sting did in Frodo's hands.  Merry and Pippin moved to stand in front of Frodo, and Sam was by his side.  They held their Barrow-blades out.  Kevin was standing in front of his brother and sister, a look of grim determination on his face.  "You might want to take out your own weapons!" he exclaimed, half-turning to glance at his siblings.  Pressing her lips together in determination, Jennifer nodded and exchanged a glance with Joey.

“All right, Joey, this is a time to be ready to use your knife to defend yourself.  But don’t fight unless you have to.  Except as a last resort,” she told her little brother.  “Stay close to Kevin and me, OK?”

“OK.”  Taking a deep breath, Joey pulled out his knife. Jennifer put her left arm around his shoulder, and hesitantly drew out one of her own knives.  She poured all her fear into a wordless prayer.  Surely the Lord would know what she needed, because she most certainly did not.

Everywhere around her, people were fighting.  The hobbits had already pulled out their swords and joined the fight.  Kevin had his own sword out, holding it at the ready, as he had been taught.  All was confusion and chaos.  And then a horror beyond Jennifer's imagination: a huge, ungainly figure, what they had called a cave troll.

Kevin took a step forward, and towards the front of Jennifer and Joey.  He reached back slightly with his left hand and pushed them behind.  Merry and Pippin had done the same with Frodo.  

Sam stood frozen in front of the entrance, staring up at the cave troll as it entered.  Aragorn also stared at it, as did the children and hobbits.  Legolas fired an arrow at it, but it did not fell the troll.

It approached Sam and swung its huge spiked club at the hobbit, but with a yell, Sam darted beneath its legs, dropping down on his hands and legs as he reached the other side.  The club landed on the very spot where Sam had stood just seconds before.

Lifting its club, the troll turned toward Sam, who had crawled away from the troll and rolled over onto his back, and was now propped on his elbows, awaiting his imminent death.  Before it could swing its club at the frightened hobbit again, however, Aragorn and Boromir, who saw the danger that Sam was in, grabbed hold of its chain and began pulling on it, yanking it away from Sam.  Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey watched the whole thing in horrified fascination.

Soon, the troll was fighting other members of the Company, and Jennifer noticed that Sam had sheathed his sword, and was now waving a large iron skillet instead.  Gandalf was in front of them all, and was wielding Glamdring in one hand and his staff in the other, while in the middle of the fray, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli were already in the thick of the fray.

Out of the corner of her eye, Jennifer thought she saw Sam hit one of the creatures with his skillet.  She felt like laughing hysterically, but swallowed it down.  “I think I’m getting the hang of this!” she heard him say.

The cave troll lunged forward, thrusting at Frodo's chest with his spear.  The creature's lunge pushed him between the hobbits and the children.  As it tried to shove its short spear at them, Merry and Pippin were forced to leap to one side, and Frodo to the other.  Jennifer could barely see the Ringbearer.

"Aragorn!  Aragorn!" he shouted, but the troll lunged at him again, catching him with the spear this time.

"Mr. Frodo!" Sam screamed.

Frodo was lifted off his feet by the spear tip and slammed against the wall.  Jennifer and Joey both screamed in horror.

Aragorn fought his way towards Frodo, calling his name.  For an instant, it almost seemed to Jennifer that everything froze, and all were staring at Frodo's limp form.  But the illusion did not last, and once more the battle was renewed.

The hobbits suddenly went into a furious frenzy.  Sam slashed at the cave troll's knee, bringing him down briefly.  With a yell of pure fury, Merry and Pippin leapt upon the beast's back, hacking at the thick hide to little avail.  Suddenly, as the troll tried to fling the hobbits off, Legolas found an opening to fire an arrow into the roof of his mouth, and the cave troll toppled dead, flinging Merry and Pippin to the floor.  As the troll was defeated, the surviving goblins suddenly fled.

Jennifer grabbed Joey, who was sobbing, and they dropped to their knees, holding one another and weeping, certain that Frodo was dead.  Fighting back his own tears, Kevin wrapped his arms around his brother and sister.

Suddenly, they heard the sound of coughing and looked over to see Aragorn cradling Frodo in his arms, as Frodo struggled to take a deep breath.

Sam's face was lit up with astonished joy.  "He's alive!"

"I'm all right.  I'm not hurt."  Frodo struggled to sit up in Aragorn's arms.

"You should be dead.  That spear would have skewered a wild boar," said Aragorn, stunned amazement etching his face.  “Well, I can only say that hobbits are made of a stuff so tough that I have never met the like of it.  Had I known, I would have spoken softer in the Inn at Bree!”

“Well, that spear did not skewer me, I am glad to say,” said Frodo, “though I feel as if I had been caught between a hammer and an anvil.”  He said no more.  It was clear to Jennifer that he found breathing painful.

Gandalf leaned wearily upon his staff, an expression of relief upon his face.  “You take after Bilbo, Frodo,” he said.  To the others, he added,  "I think there’s more to this Hobbit than meets the eye."

Frodo pulled up his shirt.  To everyone's amazement, there was the sparkle of pure mithril.  It was Bilbo's old vest, that he had given to Frodo.  There were smiles of joy all around.

Gimli shook his head in amazement.  "Mithril!  You are full of surprises, Master Baggins."

Aragorn laughed.  “Here’s a pretty hobbit-skin to wrap an elven-princeling in!”  He shook his head.  “If it were known that hobbits had such skins, all the hunters of Middle-earth would be riding to the Shire.”

“And all the arrows of all the hunters in the world would be in vain,” said Gimli, gazing at the mail in wonder.  “It is a mithril-coat.  Mithril!  I have never seen or heard tell of one so fair.  Is this the coat that you spoke of, Gandalf?”  The Wizard nodded.  Gimli turned back to Frodo.  “Then Bilbo undervalued it.  But it was well given!”

“I have often wondered what you and Bilbo were doing, so close in his little room,” said Merry.  “Bless the old hobbit!  I love him more than ever.  I hope we get a chance of telling him about it!”

BOOM.  BOOM.  BOOM.  Suddenly, the sound of the drums rang out again.  Gandalf turned to the others.  "To the bridge of Khazad-Dûm!" he ordered, as the company was once more roused to their danger.

Gandalf led them all back through the antechamber, toward a distant door.  Jennifer was hauling a stumbling Joey, when Kevin snatched him from her.  Their little brother did not even object to being carried, and buried his face in Kevin's shoulder.  They all ran and ran and ran some more, as the goblins pursued them once more.  And then, a scuttling sound terrified Jennifer!  It sounded like hundreds and hundreds of cockroaches.  More goblins were pouring down from the ceiling and the pillars.  They were surrounded.

Slowly, Kevin lowered Joey to the floor and drew his sword again.  He took a deep breath and locked eyes with Jennifer.  "I'm sorry," he said.

Jennifer closed her eyes for an instant.  "Thy will be done," she prayed, lowering her head.  Joey huddled against his older sister, squeezing his eyes shut, trembling, and taking shallow, rapid breaths.  Jennifer put an arm around him.

“I’m scared,” whimpered Joey.

“We all are, Joey,” whispered Kevin.  “But it’s going to be all right.  We’re going to get out of this.  'The One who is in you—us—is greater than the one who is in the world,'* he quoted.  Jennifer and Joey nodded.

Suddenly, a deafening roar filled the air!  A fiery light danced down the hallway, the pillars casting eerie shadows.  The goblins froze.  They backed fearfully away from the approaching beast and then skittered away into the darkness.

"What is this new devilry?" asked Boromir.

Red flames surrounded a huge shadow, immense, with what appeared to be fiery wings.

Gandalf placed a weary hand across his face.  "A Balrog…a demon of the ancient world!  This foe is beyond any of you!"  He looked up with determination.  "Run!   Quickly!"

Once more the race was on to escape the blackness of Moria.  They ran again, fear and loathing lending wings to even Joey's short legs.  The hobbits, too, were running faster than they ever had before.  Gandalf was at the very rear, and Aragorn was leading from the front with Boromir at his side.  The Ranger urged them on.  Jennifer thought her heart would burst, and her breath was burning in her lungs, but on she ran.  They came around a curve in the tunnel, strewn with broken stone, and just beyond was a steep stairway, and below it, the Bridge of Khazad-dûm spanning a seemingly-bottomless abyss.  Beyond was a faint hint of light—real daylight!

Then, just as they had nearly reached it, there was a massive roar behind.  None of them could help but look.  It was a vast shadow, and within it, a human-like form, though immense.  There was a dreadful sense of power and horror, and dread seemed to precede it.  Like a dark cloud, it leaped over the flames; the flames roared up, and smoke filled the air around it.  It seemed to have a mane of fire; in its right hand was a sword of flame, and in its left, a horrible whip.

Aragorn led them down the stairs.  Gandalf followed, leaning heavily on his staff.

“Lead them on, Aragorn!  The bridge is near,” Gandalf called.  When Aragorn hesitated, he shouted, "Do as I say!  Swords are no more use here!"

On they raced, hoping that the end was near and that they would soon be out of Moria.  Jennifer noticed Kevin had picked Joey up again, and she slightly stumbled.  Merry and Pippin each grabbed one of her hands and pulled her on.  Across the bridge, they hurried.  She kept her eyes straight ahead and tried not to look at the sides of the bridge, which had no rails or anything to keep them from falling into the abyss.  What was it Aragorn said about falling and not knowing when you were gonna hit the bottom? she wondered silently, shuddering at the prospect of falling off that narrow bridge.  Why couldn’t the dwarves have built railings on this bridge?

As they reached the other side of the bridge, they paused briefly to catch their breath, and Jennifer saw a look of horror on Frodo's face, as he had turned back to face the bridge.  She turned, too, and saw Gandalf standing in the middle of the span.  What would Jesus do if He was here, facing that demon? she asked herself.  He cast out demons, but He never faced one like this!  Not while He was on earth, anyway.  But He would have conquered it; I know He would have!  But how, and what would Jesus have us do now?  Come on, Jen, think!  She slapped her forehead and took a deep breath.  Please, God, protect Gandalf!

The Balrog reached the bridge.  Gandalf stood in the middle of the span, leaning on the staff in his left hand, but in his other hand Glamdring gleamed, cold and white.  His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings.  It raised the whip, and the thongs whined and cracked.  Fire came from its nostrils.  But Gandalf stood firm.

“You cannot pass,” he said.  The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell.

“Gandalf!” Frodo cried, horrified.

“I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor,” Gandalf warned.  “You cannot pass.  The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn.  Go back to the Shadow!  You cannot pass.”

The Balrog made no answer.  The fire in it seemed to die, but the darkness grew.  It stepped forward slowly on to the bridge, and suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall; but still Gandalf could be seen, glimmering in the gloom; he seemed small, and altogether alone: grey and bent, like a wizened tree before the onset of a storm.

From out of the shadow a red sword leaped flaming.

Glamdring glittered white in answer.

There was a ringing clash and a stab of white fire.  The Balrog fell back and its sword flew up in molten fragments.  The wizard swayed on the bridge, stepped back a pace, and then again stood still.

“You cannot pass!” he said again.

With a bound the Balrog leaped full upon the bridge.  Its whip whirled and hissed.

“He cannot stand alone!” cried Aragorn suddenly and ran back along the bridge.  “Elendil!” he shouted.  “I am with you, Gandalf!”  

“Gondor!” cried Boromir and leaped after him.

At that moment Gandalf lifted his staff and his sword.  “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!” he shouted in a booming voice, and crying aloud he smote the bridge before him with his staff and sword.  The staff broke asunder and fell from his hand, but Glamdring stayed intact.  A blinding sheet of white flame sprang up.  The bridge cracked.  Right at the Balrog's feet it broke, and the stone upon which it stood crashed into the gulf, while the rest remained, poised, quivering like a tongue of rock thrust out into emptiness.

With a terrible cry the Balrog fell forward, and its shadow plunged down and vanished.  But even as it fell it swung its whip, and the thongs lashed and curled about the wizard's knees, dragging him to the brink.  He staggered and fell, grasped vainly at the stone, and slid into the abyss.  “Fly, you fools!” he cried, and was gone.

Even as Aragorn and Boromir came flying back, the rest of the bridge cracked and fell.  With a cry Aragorn roused them.

“Come!  I will lead you now!” he called.  “We must obey his last command.  Follow me!”

Frodo cried out in anguish, "Gandalf!  NO!"  Frodo struggled, but Boromir scooped him up and carried him away.

Jennifer realized she, too, was screaming in grief.  How could it be Gandalf?  How could he have fallen?  She paid no attention to the tears running down her face, as the remaining eleven members of the company raced through a stone archway into the cold daylight.

As they came out into the nearly blinding light upon the snowfield before them, she fell to her knees and collapsed, sobbing, into sorrow and grief.  She scarcely noticed the others as they wept.

Aragorn called out sternly, "Legolas, get them up."

Boromir objected, "Give them a moment, for pity's sake!"

The Ranger shook his head regretfully.  There was no time for grief here and now.  "By nightfall, these hills will be swarming with Orcs!  We must reach the woods of Lothlórien.  Come, Boromir, Legolas, Gimli, get them up.  On your feet, Sam.  Kevin!  You must see to your brother and sister."

Sniffling, Kevin dragged himself to his feet and bent to pick up Joey, who was curled up into a little ball of sorrow and tears.  "Jen?"

Jennifer looked up at him, and forced herself to nod.  As she slowly stood up, she felt a weariness she had never felt before.  She looked around at the others as they, too, tried to pull themselves together.  Where was Frodo?  She looked around…there he was, walking away, as if in a daze.

Aragorn called him, "Frodo?  Frodo!"

Frodo slowly turned, a look of numb shock on his devastated face.  Without a word, he slowly trudged toward the others; Sam joined him.  The Company marched on, down the snowy slopes.

-oo000oo-

A/N: Haldaran is an OC belonging to pandemonium213.  He's the head cook at Rivendell, and can be found found in her story, "Abundance," at Many Paths to Tread.

*The Bible verse quoted by Kevin is 1 John 4:4, New International Version.





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