The Lord of the... whatever, Book II, Chapter 4:
A Journey In The Dark
It was evening, or close to it, and the sun was nearing the
treetops, when they all trudged to a halt as if by some prearranged
signal in a small thicket of old and twisted holly. Gandalf spared
them one mere mouthful each of the margarita of Rivendell. The delay
in the mountains had forced them to ration out their food, much to the
dismay of the hobbits. When they had eaten their all too meager
dinner, Gandalf called the fellowship to gather round.
"We cannot go further today," he said, "for we still have a great
deal of loot to sort and divide while it is still light.
Nevertheless, we must proceed with clear purpose if we do not wish to
be turned back from our quest once again. What road shall we take
Boromir spoke first. "We already know that I alone did not
attract the hostile eyes of Sauron or Aruman when I travelled here.
Why can we not split into a few small companies and so enter the land
of Edoras unremarked? We could meet at the Gap in Rohan: the
horse-lords are my friends and are in charge of security there. Once
we are reunited in inhabited lands, our small party will hardly
"Of course, Boromir," said Lego-lass, her long ears twitching
in excitement, "it would be even less of a risk for you to ride to the
Gap yourself and seek aid from your friends there. The rest of us
could travel south, crossing the Jordan into Lebanon. You should be
able to arrange to meet us there with some spare horses from Edoras
without attracting any real attention, and we can ride swiftly through
southern Gondor and reach our goal in a matter of weeks."
The company quickly agreed that this plan was best, and hurried to
claim their shares of the spoils of Charadhras. Despite their haste,
the squabbles lasted far into the evening, and tempers began to run
short. "Oh, enough already!" cried Frodo. "We can finish this in the
morning; I need to sleep. Those branches creaking in the wind are
starting to drive me batty." At these words all fell into silent
Suddenly, Aragon gasped in fear. "Branches creaking! Nay! Those
are squeaks, all around us. The Reeps have come west of the
"Quickly, then, follow me," whispered Gandalf. "We will form a
circle atop this conveniently placed hill. If we can manage to remain
silent, we may yet evade their hunt." The company stealthily made its
way to the easliy defensible crown of the hill, and waited
breathlessly for the deadly Reeps to pass them by.
"I wish I'd stayed home," said Pipsqueak to Sam, quite a bit too
loudly. "Theese squeaks freeze my blood. I feel wretched." As the
entire company fixed Pipsqueak in a hateful glare, the nearby squeaks
became louder and more excited as the hunting troop homed in on his
voice. Suddenly, silence fell.
Barely visible in the darkness, a creature stepped forward. It
stood well over a foot high, and its ears were nearly as long as a
rabbit's, though wider: the creature resembled nothing so much as a
walking rat. Through the darkness, they could discern at its side a
tiny little rapier, and as the creature gazed back at them it stroked
its long, moustache-like whiskers. Other grey forms began to appear
around them in the darkness, several dozen at least, and they stood
like their leader just at the edge of the company's vision.
The rat-thing drew its sword in one fluid motion and raised it in
the air. It hung there for a minute, and then two, and then suddenly
swept down in a flash. At that signal, a high, piercing trumpet call
sounded, and with a cry from a hundred tiny throats the beasts charged
in with their sharp swords flashing before them.
The battle was swift and vicious: the well-armed rodents danced in
and out among the feet of the fellowship, jabbing with their swords.
Once his initial fear wore off, however, Giggly began to snicker, and
soon all of the companions were laughing, for despite their great
numbers the Reeps simply could not make up for their diminutive size.
Aragon and Boromir's boots dealt death to any that came in range,
while Gandalf pounded at them with his staff. Giggly's axe swept from
side to side like a scythe through grass, and Lego-lass abandoned her
knife for the greater entertainment to be had in swinging her bow
through the horde in broad, bumpy, and very satisfying strokes. The
hobbits were pressed harder, but even their small size gave them an
insurmountable advantage over their diminutive adversaries, and the
rapiers of the little beasts were useless against the longer blades
and greater strength of the defenders. Soon, every last Reep had been
slain or beaten senseless.
The only serious casualty of the attack was Sam: he found himself
faced by the leader of their attackers, and was unlucky enough to lose
his grip on his sword long enough to be disarmed. Naturally he
remained unworried: when the Reep charged in, Sam caught hold of its
long tail and began to swing the thing around in circles. At first
this went beautifully: the Reep gave a loud "cheep!" as it was caught
and lifted, and Sam managed to use it as a flail to knock several of
its followers senseless. However, it managed to twist round and give
Sam several deep jabs in the hand and arm, and he let the thing go
with a cry in mid-swing. The beast flew head first into a nearby tree
trunk and did not rise again, but Sam had received some nasty cuts and
stumbled to bed as soon as the battle was over.
Once their attackers had been for the most part stilled, Gandalf
found a dry branch, lit it on fire with his tinderbox, and strode
toward the knot of trees atop the hill. High in the air he flung the
torch, and as it rose its flame blazed while Gandalf's voice rolled
"Naur basto i narhoth!" he cried.
There was a roar and a crackle as the torch landed in the brush,
and the dry trees began to burn hot and bright. Gandalf turned to the
company, smiled, and began to roast Reeps at the fire, using their
tiny rapiers as skewers. The rest of the company gladly joined in
this welcome second (and much larger) supper, and they spent the
remainder of the night in good cheer.
Once the sun was well above the horizon, the company began to stir
again. Even Sam was up and active: a good night's rest was all he had
needed to recover from his wounds. He appeared confused, however: he
looked in vain for traces of the dead Reeps, but not a hint of the
fight remained. All he could see was a cluster of charred stumps and
a neat pile of little rapiers, all intact. "What happened to all the
bodies?" Sam asked with a note of concern in his voice. "There were
so many of them..."
"Vanished without a trace!" said Pipsqueak. "They were magic
rats." Sam's eyes grew wide, but then he shrugged, and the company
soon broke camp and followed Gandalf to the south.
For hours on end they wandered and scrambled in a barren country of
worn stones, but for all their effort they could not seem to break
free from the mountains. As the day went on, the companions began to
grumble about the lack of progress, when suddenly the fellowship
rounded a standing stone to find itself in a small pocket valley
holding a beautiful emerald lake.
"I know this place," cried Giggly, wearing a foolish grin. "It is
the back-doorstep of our beloved Moira herself; the rear gate of her
house cannot be far from here. Gandalf, is this on the way to
The wizard coughed, and looked up at the sun with confusion and
annoyance. "Yes, of course. That is, I meant to bring us here: the
Enemy is sure to expect us to take the easiest route. To avoid his
grasp, we must do just the opposite. Come, we must find the door."
The hobbits stood rooted to the ground in terror: the underground
house of Moira was a shadow of fear from their distant past, a dark
name in the ancient legends of their people. They soon recovered,
however, as they were becoming increasingly aware of the fact that
virtually every place they had ever heard of outside the Shire was a
distant shadow in hobbit legend in some way or other. While none of
the company were happy about Gandalf's change in plan, they realized
that they had to follow where he led: he was carrying all of El Rond's
maps. With heavy hearts, they descended into the valley.
They followed their guide along the thin path between the lake and
the cliff face, huddling away from the water for fear of they knew not
what. As they walked, their dread increased, until every melodious
birdcall made them jump in fear. The continued around the pool, until
the path ended against a blank and dirty wall of stone. "Where shall
we go now, Master Gandalf, sir?" asked Sam with a blend of irony and
"The Dwarves were never known for their good housekeeping," replied
Gandalf, "and not even they have passed this way in a great many
years. Dwarf-doors are made to collect a great deal of grime when
shut, but unless things are completely changed, those who know where
to look may discover the signs." With that, the wizard walked forward
to the wall and began to scrub at it with the hem of his robe. Soon,
the outline of a door took shape through the accumulated dirt of
Giggly giggled with delight as the gateway to the ancient home of
his people became visible. "Look!" he exclamed as Gandalf scrubbed
near the bottom of the door, "The Star of the House of Durin!"
"Let us hope that my Arwen never gets any ideas from that!" said
Aragon. "Hmm. It reads, Welcome to the Akblay Itpay. The key is
under the mat. Giggly, what does Akblay Itpay mean?"
"It is an ancient Elvish term, meaning 'Sparkling Lamps'. The
Elves who crafted these signs loved our lanterns dearly when they
visited Moira's halls. It was one of Balin's hopes in returning here
to rediscover the secret of those lamps: the Lonely Mountain could
really use a good product to export, and it would be a great boon to
tourism as well." As Giggly spoke, Lego-lass stifled a laugh, and
Aragon and Boromir fought valiantly not to grin. Gandalf, who had
just given up scrubbing away grime at the edges of the door, pretended
not to notice and instead stared at the tiny keyhole that he had
uncovered on its right hand side.
The hobbits were not paying attention: Frodo and Sam were staring
at the lake, watching for the slightest ripple, while Pipsqueak
scanned the sky for unknown dangers. "Gandalf," queried Morrie with
nervous urgency, "what does it mean, The key is under the mat?"
"It seems to be some sort of riddle, which we must solve if we hope
to pass through Moira's halls," the wizard replied. "But its answer
is lost in the mists of time, and I must now search my memory to find
its secret. While I think, the rest of you must prepare for the
journey: we must now abandon our ass and share his burdens as best we
"But we can't abandon poor Gates!" whined Sam. "I've become fond
of him despite his problems, and that's a fact. Anyway, he's almost
one of us: he's practically as smart as Pipsqueak already, and he
would have been smarter if Pip had stayed drinking those margaritas
for another couple of weeks. We can't just leave him to die in the
Gandalf turned from the door to avert the crisis. He walked up to
Gates, laid his hands on his head, and began to chant in a low voice:
"Go now with our blessing upon you, to avoid wolves and bears, cliffs
and crevices, and all the myriad dangers that await your kind in the
wild. May you find your way in time to safety, wherever that may be,
and may your life be long and fruitful." When he had finished,
Gandalf raised his head. "There, Sam. Now that he is protected by my
spell, he's sure to live a long and happy life. He'll probably find
his way to live on a vet's farm outside of some town, and rest there
happily into fat old age."
"Thanks," said Sam trustingly. "I'll miss ol' Gates, but it's a
relief to know that he'll be okay." He and the others then began to
rearrange their packs, adding what they could of the donkey's burden
to their own loads. They worked hastily, for the nervousness that
gripped the hobbits had spread to the whole company: evening was
coming on, and the hoots of distant owls began to chill their blood as
Gandalf, meanwhile, turned back to the door, and soon began
spouting all manner of incantations. As one after another failed to
open the path into the Dwerrow-realm, he became increasingly
desperate, until he simply began pounding his staff against the rock
and yelling "Open, damn you!" in every language he knew. Finally, he
threw himself to the ground in dispair and began to dig his hands into
the ancient doormat in consternation.
"Ugh!" groaned Boromir. "Some dreadful thing is approaching
us, I can feel it. How I hate this foul pool!" He picked up a large
rock near the edge of the lake and hurled it far out into the water.
The stone vanished with a loud splash, and great rippling rings
formed where it had fallen and began to approach the foot of the
cliff. Frodo and Sam screamed in terror as the waves drew swiftly
nearer, and the whole company dashed away from the water, over to
Gandalf at the door. Just at that moment, Gandalf cried "Aha!" as his
groping right hand found the hidden key. He leapt to his feet,
unlocked the door, and quick as lightening they all piled inside. As
the ripples reached the shore, Gandalf shoved the key back under the
mat, and Sam had just enough time to shout "Run, Gates!" before
Gandalf yanked the door closed behind them. It swung to with a loud
"click", and moments later they heard something hit the outer wall
with a thump. The company fled into the darkness.
When they finally stopped, exhausted from their terror and their
flight, Gandalf said, "Well, the passage is locked behind us now, and
there is only one way out: the far side. I fear from the sounds that
some horrible snake creature has emerged from the lake and is even now
piling boulders against the door to prevent all escape: certain death
surely awaits any who visit this valley now." In the dim light of his
wand, Gandalf noticed Sam's pained expression, and added, "Don't
worry, Sam: with my spell of protection on him, Gates surely escaped
The fellowship marched on through the Dwarven tunnels, but soon it
became apparent that they would need to stop somewhere for the night.
Before long, they reached a three way fork in the corridor, and off to
the side was a small abandoned guardroom. It was empty, save for the
crumbling fragments of a stone well-lid long since broken. The empty
mouth of the well loomed wide at the center of the room, and as they
settled down for the night, they all stayed as far from it as
All, that is, save Pipsqueak. Driven by curiosity, he picked up a
fair-sized rock and dropped it into the depths. After a few long
heartbeats of silence, a distant flop echoed up the shaft. Gandalf
and the others leapt up in fear, and were little comforted when
Pipsqueak admitted what he had done. Gandalf stood tall and menacing
over the diminutive hobbit, and he growled, "Fool of a Took! You
could have brought any number of horrors upon us from the depths with
that stone. This is a serious, dangerous journey, and if you aren't
more careful, you'll get us all killed."
He took a breath to go on, but suddenly Pipsqueak gave a cry and
tumbled into the depths of the well. As his long scream faded into
the distance, Morrie straightened his jacket and stared down after
him, until a distant splat marked the end of Pipsqueak's yell.
The fellowship stared at Morrie in horror. "He was a liability,"
explained the Mobster without the slightest hint of emotion. "The
weak link had to go. Now, get some sleep and we'll be on our way in
the morning." Not daring to disagree, the others all quickly
retreated to their bedding, but for several hours only Morrie and Sam
were able to overcome their shock and sleep.
As the fellowship slept deep within the halls of Moira, a shapely
form made its way through the night around the edge of the lake. As
she approached the door, she realized that a beast was in her way: a
large but sad looking donkey was standing there staring at the closed
portal, and from the marks it looked as if the poor animal had
repeatedly thrown itself against the wall in at attempt to get in.
Arwen's efforts to lead it away from the door were entirely
unsuccessful, and after several attempts, she leaned down to the ass
and said in a fierce whisper, "You're far too big for me push around,
so get out of my way or I'll slice you in two." At that, Gates fled
north around the lake, and disappeared into the night.
With the donkey gone, Arwen was able to make out the writing on the
door by starlight, and she quickly reached down and found the key.
She unlocked the door, only to find someone waiting for her on the
other side: standing before her was a short, geriatric fellow with big
eyes and a complexion as light as a computer science grad student.
"Damn!" the ancient hobbit said, "Greatest opportunity of my life, and
I haven't a chance in the world of making you mine, my precious. No
more than I would have been able to seduce that square-chinned elven
lass in the guardroom. Ah well... I'll be on my way. Thanks for
opening that door, missy."
Arwen's mind leapt to a conclusion, and she acted at once. "Oh, I
wouldn't be so sure," she said, stroking Gulible's arm. "I've always
wanted to spend some time with an older man. I've got a headache
right now, but maybe if you showed me to that guardroom you mentioned
I'd be more in the mood. Sound good to you?" Gulible's delighted, if
lecherous, smile was answer enough, and as soon as Arwen had replaced
the key under the mat the two of them crept stealthily into the
All too soon, the fellowship awoke and walked back out to the
passage. Gandalf stared at the two roads for some time, and consulted
with Giggly about the route, but eventually he said, "I do not like
the smell of the middle way, and I do not like the taste of the
left-hand way: there have been foul feet down there, or I am no
guide." Frodo was quietly sick, while Gandalf went on. "I shall take
the right hand passage. It is time we began to climb up near the
surface: with luck, we will find a window that can give us a hint as
to where the eastern gate lies." He started down the passage, and the
others followed, passing one by one under a glowing "EXIT" sign as
They walked for miles, on and on into the heart of the mountain.
Occasionally, Frodo thought that he heard footsteps in the distance
behind them that were not echoes and the occasional clink of metal,
but as he could see nothing following he did not alert the others.
After a long march, they finally reached a large hall, with many doors
and passageways leading off from it. Before they had the chance to
worry about their route, however, Lego-lass gave a glad cry, for she
saw sunlight filtering into the darkness from a small room off to the
side. Just as the company started to run toward it, however, they
heard a noise coming from that room: taptaptap. tom, tom, tom.
taptaptap. They stopped where they stood, and after a little
while the knocking repeated itself.
The company was quite hesitant to approach the odd noise, but too
excited by the sunlight to flee far, so they simply settled down in
the great hall for a meal. As they ate, Lego-lass gazed happily at
the sunlight, and said "You know, once some daylight creeps in here,
it's not nearly so bad. What kind of animals could live in this dark,
dreary place on lamplight alone?"
At this, Giggly flashed Lego-lass a dark look. "We were perfectly
happy living here with shining lamps and not a single window," he
said, "until you price-fixing monopolist Elves raised the price of oil
so terribly high and we were forced to improvise. Yes indeed, things
were better for Dwarves back then." He began a singsong chant:
The world was young, the mountains tall,
No blemish touched the moon at all,
No deeds gave rights to stream or tree
When Durin woke alone and free.
He claimed the unclaimed hills and dells;
He said he owned untasted wells;
He stopped and gazed on Prismstone,
And saw a star appear alone,
Compared to it, all jewels were dim,
That stone, he said, belonged to him.
The world was fair, the mountains black,
The kids those days did not talk back,
The weather then was nice and mild,
Good fruit and grain grew in the wild.
The laws were good, the Cubs could play:
The world was fair in Durin's Day.
The king he was of all there is
And everything, he said, was his
From gold and gems beneath the earth
To every child upon its birth.
On light of sun and star and moon
All paid a tax, lest they be hewn.
'Cause he was first, he got to say
How lesser beings spent their day.
They hammer on the anvil smote,
They chiseled, 'graved, and tended goat,
They hunted game, they cut down trees,
And for the privelege they paid fees.
Each ruby dug, each pearl found
With all these was great Durin crowned.
Police and army did his will,
And dissidents did Durin kill.
Unwearied then were Durin's folk,
For they of work did not a stroke,
but profited from Durin's claim
to own each thing that had a name.
The world is grey, the mountains cold;
Though Durin's claims on paper hold,
The Elves go West, the Men grow rich,
But Durin's folk are forced to stitch,
And dig, and build, and spend our gold;
No rest is there for young or old.
But though our history be unknown,
We gaze upon the Prismstone;
There lies our star in crystal deep,
No matter who its deed does keep.
When Giggly finished, Boromir was quite appreciative. "Bravo!"
he cried. "We know many classic tales about the Dwarfs in Gondor.
A happy people oft-mentioned in our legends, ever cheerful and prone
to great labours and song."
"We... dwarfs... have heard about your so-called 'legends',"
Giggly replied, quietly and with unusual venom, "and I've got to tell
you: they make me want to retch."
At last, the company finished their luncheon, and they steeled
themselves to face the strange noise, which they continued to hear
occasionally as they approached: taptaptap. tom, tom, tom. taptaptap.
The light grew brighter, and they passed through the stone door into a
large square chamber. The floor was littered with a great many
brightly colored objects, but their eyes had not yet adjusted to the
sunlight and they could not at first make out their shapes. The
light from the window fell directly onto a large table in the
center of the room: a single rectangular block about two feet
high, upon which was laid a great, irregular slab of grey stone.
"It looks like a tomb," said Frodo, as he struggled to decipher the
markings before him. On the slab, crude runes were deeply gouged.
"These are Dwarvish runes, but in the debased mode of Mordor," said
Gandalf. "Here is written, in the tongues of Dwarves and Orcs,
BALIN SON OF FUNYUN
'LORD' OF MOIRA
"He is dead, then," said Frodo. "I feared it was so." Giggly
bowed his head and covered his face. As if the very stones shared
their grief and dispair, a final, faint noise welled up from beneath
the slab: tap tap tap. tom. tom. tom. tap tap tap.
Deep beneath the mountain, Pipsqueak trudged up and up, leaving a
trail of dripping ooze behind him. Although he knew that the enormous
bloom of algae and cave kelp beneath the shaft had broken his fall and
undoubtedly saved his life, he still wished that he could have landed
in something that didn't smell so loathsome. As it was, he was simply
doing his best to follow the occasional "EXIT" signs in the halls
while not stumbling into another well.
Suddenly, as he turned a corner, Pipsqueak came face to face with a
patrol of goblins. In despair at his horrid luck, he gave a low moan
and stumbled toward them. Had he not been covered in slime from a
subterranean fen, things may have gone quite badly for Pipsqueak, but
faced with a foul-smelling beast from the uncharted depths of the
mines the goblins screamed and fled back the way they had come.
Pipsqueak knew that he only had a few minutes before they returned
with reinforcements, so he took off running toward a distant "EXIT"
sign to get what little lead on the pursuit he could.
This chapter of this epic work is presented through the courtesy of
Steuard Jensen <sbjensen-aaaaaaat-midway-dawt-uchicago.edu>.
Copyright © 2000 by the author. All rights reserved. Some variance between this
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is to be preferred.
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