Out of the Deep
From the moment his foot had touched the foul water, Frodo felt uneasy.
He tried to put it off to weariness; he and his companions had come a
long day of walking which had followed hard on a near-sleepless night
and been punctuated by an attack by Wargs. His feet were so sore and
tender from the long march that he would have thought that the touch of
cool water would have been soothing.
Frodo was far from being comforted. Not only could he still feel the
oily water like slime on his foot, but he now became very anxious of
how near and dark the water appeared. He could not keep his eyes from
it, though he stumbled often on the slippery rocks along the narrow
strip of land between the pool and the sheer rock wall. Why did the
stars not reflect in the inky water, and what had happened to dam the
stream from the gate?
When Gandalf found where the secret doors were located, Frodo felt a
moment of relief at the idea of getting away from the water, even into
the dangerous darkness of the Mines of Moria. Fear of the unknown was
preferable to him than the wordless dread that was growing in his
heart. While they were stopped, waiting for Gandalf to discover the
opening words, Frodo sat down on a stone and carefully wiped his foot
clean with the hem of his cloak.
His eyes were drawn again to the water, the utter stillness of the
surface, the twisted branches of dead trees that reached upward like
bleached bones. Strange how even they cast no reflection on the water. It must truly be very dark, Frodo thought.
But, came his answering thought, how is it then that I can see?
This question served to increase Frodo's unease, so that he huddled
beneath his cloak as if struck with chill. He tore his eyes from the
water to look at Sam, who was arguing with Gandalf about the pony.
Frodo felt sorry for his friend, and he searched his mind for something
to say that might ease this bitter parting, but again the dark water
caught his attention, pulling his thoughts down to drown in despair.
The mountain that rose at Frodo's back seemed to cast a shadow darker
than the Abyss before his feet. Vast things created before the birth of
the sun moved slowly in the places where light was rumour and stars
mythical. If terror had colour and texture, Frodo was sure that it
would look and feel like the waters pooling before the hidden gates.
At Gandalf's delighted outcry, Frodo turned and saw the silvery
tracings upon the stone, spelling out the ancient inscription above the
Door of Durin. His breath caught with the beauty of the drawings that
appeared on the stone, and his curiosity was peaked by the words that
flowed and glimmered beneath the grudging moonlight. The shapes of the
letters he could recognize, from his days of study with his uncle, but
they spelled no words that he had ever learned. Gandalf read the words
to him, and hearing them Frodo was baffled by the riddle that they
The doubt of Boromir and Peregrin, and the Wizard's angry frustration
at their interruptions drove Frodo back a few paces, back to the stone
and his eyes to the pool, lurking ominously as if to bar his escape.
From the depth-less darkness beyond the waters came to the ears of the
Companions the howl of wolves. Frodo drew a long breath and held it.
Had the Wargs found their trail?
Suddenly there was a splash! and many ripples leapt outward from it,
lapping toward the uneven shore in a series of smooth rings. They slid
over the oily water steadily, growing and breaking on the pebbles at
Frodo's feet. He jumped back from the touch of the water, not wishing
to feel its evil coldness again. He turned toward Boromir, who had
thrown a stone in his own frustration and anger, far out into the water.
"Why did you do that, Boromir? I hate this place too, and I am afraid.
I don't know of what: not of wolves, or the dark behind the doors, but
of something else. I am afraid of the pool. Don't disturb it!"
The man looked at him, and Frodo realized that Boromir was also afraid:
cornered between a rock and foul waters, with wolves following and
darkness all around. Even seeing this written on the man's face Frodo
did not think him weak, but understood that bravery and strength did
not exist separately from fear and weakness. They grew the one from the
other, when a person did not allow his fear or weakness to defeat him.
Frodo turned away from the pool, turned his back on his fear. Gandalf
was exclaiming happily, and with a firm voice spoke a single word that
made the silver lines shine forth brightly.
The lines of shining light faded and a seam could be seen, opening
slowly outward to show the tall wide doors that had lain sleeping
beneath the illusion of solid stone. The Companions were forced to step
backward as the wide leaves swung out. They stood before the yawning
black mouth, most pausing in fear, Gimli trembling with joy, Sam
mournfully stroking Bill's muzzle as he whispered good-bye.
Frodo heard the yip of the wolves, sounding louder now as it carried
across the broken surface of the lake. Bill took a start and dashed
away from Sam's hands, bolting along the edge of the pool. The hobbit
cried out and ran after him.
No! Frodo thought. But before he could call out to Sam to come back,
he felt something seize his foot. His call turned to a cry as he fell
down hard on the slick ground. Panic bubbled up in his throat and he
grabbed desperately at the stones and loose pebbles as he was drawn
backward toward the filthy lake.
Time seemed to freeze as if the stars themselves held their breath in
horror. Frodo saw his companions standing as if they had become figures
of stone, staring at the water that had risen to claim the Ring Bearer.
He cried out again, and suddenly Sam was there. He might have been
shouting or crying; Frodo couldn't tell, for his own fear was coming
out of him, and he clutched at Sam's hand.
Sam bent down and slashed with his knife, and Frodo felt himself
quickly released. He scrambled up the slope of the shore, gasping. He
cast a look back and saw the wounded ropey tentacle writhing on the
ground, and beyond the water seethed as if with hundreds of snakes. Sam
grabbed his arm and together they turned and ran toward the now
inviting darkness of Moria. Gandalf was shouting something and pushing
the others to go inside; his voice served to release them from their
spell of immobility.
Immediately inside the doorway there appeared a stair, and just as
Frodo and Sam took the first step upward into the unyielding darkness,
the host of tentacles rose from the reeking waters. The doors were
seized and slammed shut with a deafening boom. All light was lost, and
Frodo felt Sam catch his arm in terror. Dimly they could hear rending
and crashing beyond the fractured doors. The echo of the crash pounded
their ears and was swallowed by the dark throat of the stairwell above
Sam collapsed on the step, weeping. Frodo sank down beside him, his
hands over Sam's where he gripped Frodo's arm still in a tight grasp.
"Poor old Bill," Sam choked, "Wolves and snakes! But the snakes were
too much for him. I had to choose, Mr Frodo. I had to come with you."
"I'm glad, Sam," Frodo breathed, but he wasn't sure if it was loud
enough to hear. His ears still rang from the crashing rock, and his
heart yet leaped in panic. Even with the doors closed on that thing in
the water, Frodo's fear did not leave him. Indeed, it seemed to
increase, and not even the light of Gandalf's staff could cause that
darkness to retreat.