The Son of Gondor

by Linaewen

Chapter 32

Boromir and the others stared at Gandalf in dismay. Only Aragorn remained silent and unmoved.

"I do not understand!" cried Boromir. "Why did you lead us here if you do not know the words to open the doors?"

"I do not know the words -- yet!" corrected Gandalf, with a glint in his eye. "Do not be so hasty in assuming that the doors will remain shut!"

"What are you going to do, then?" asked Pippin, undaunted.

"Knock on the doors with your head, Peregrin Took," replied Gandalf. "But if that does not shatter them, and I am allowed a little peace to think, I will seek for the opening words. I am certain of this much: the words were Elvish, like the writing on the arch. Only a few trials, I think, will be needed."

He stepped up to the rock-face and touched his staff to the star design in the middle.

"Annon edhellen, edro hi ammen!" he said in a commanding voice.

The Company waited expectantly, but nothing happened. The rock-wall was unchanged and the doors remained shut.

*******************

Boromir sat quietly on a large holly root, arms on knees, hands clasped in front of him, shield at his side. Gimli sat nearby, smoking his pipe; Merry and Pippin were sitting on large stones by the lake, looking bored and ill at ease. Behind Boromir, Gandalf still stood before the cliff-wall, trying one spell after another, as Legolas watched silently. Many times Gandalf repeated the words he had spoken at first, sometimes in a different order, or with varying words. He spoke now faster and louder, now soft and slow. He tried many single words of command in Elvish speech, but nothing happened.

Boromir looked over to where Aragorn and Sam were unloading the Company's gear from the pony Bill. He sighed inwardly as he remembered the anguish in Sam's eyes when he had been told that the pony could not be taken into the mines. Sam had been angry and distressed at the thought of turning Bill loose in a wilderness full of ravening wolves. He was only slightly comforted when Gandalf had laid his hand on the pony's head and spoken words of guard and guiding over him. Sam was speaking quietly to Bill now, close by his ear, and Boromir looked away respectfully; it was a private moment between the two of them.

Boromir glanced to his left to where Frodo was sitting on another tree root, facing Gandalf and with his back to the dark water. The still, sullen surface of the lake was frightening to look upon, but Boromir felt he would rather face it than turn his back on it. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end as he gazed out over the blackness. Wolves howled mournfully on the wind.

A sudden splashing startled him; Merry and Pippin were throwing stones into the water. Boromir stood to stop them, but Aragorn was quicker. He grabbed Pippin before he could throw another.

"Do not disturb the water!" he said gravely.

Boromir came up behind Aragorn and looked over his shoulder at the water. He did not know what he was looking for, but he felt a strong sense of disquiet as he looked out over the lake. The stones had vanished with a slap and a splash, but there was a disturbance out on the lake beyond where the stones had fallen. Great rippling rings formed on the surface and moved slowly towards the foot of the cliff. Behind him Boromir heard Gandalf make an exclamation of disgust and discouragement, as he gave up his attempts at the door.

"It's a riddle!"

Boromir turned away from the water to see Frodo standing before the rock, an eager expression on his face.

"Speak 'friend' and enter!" exclaimed Frodo, turning to Gandalf. "What's the Elvish word for friend?"

"Mellon," said Gandalf, and as he spoke the word, with a grinding and a groaning, the doors opened. Darkness and warm, stale air flowed out of the doorway, and with it a strange odor.

The Company quickly gathered their things to enter the mines. Boromir turned away from the lake, not without one last hard look at the still rippling surface, and catching up his shield, he strode forward to the entrance of the cave.

"Come, Pippin!" he said, ushering the hobbit in before him. "We must not tarry."

He gave one last glance back at the water as Aragorn came up beside him. He could see that Aragorn, too, would be glad to put some distance between them and the lake.

It took Boromir a few moments to adjust to the sudden dimness. The Company was milling about just inside the entrance, trying to get their bearings. It was very dark, and the odor was stronger than ever. Boromir felt a sense of the walls closing in on him, coming down on him like a weight; the smell was familiar...

"Soon, Master Elf, you will enjoy the fabled hospitality of the Dwarves!" announced Gimli proudly, as he strode forward into the darkness. Gandalf was trying to coax light from his staff as Gimli continued.

"Roaring fires...malt beer...red meat off the bone...This my friend, is the home of my cousin Balin! And they call it a mine!" Gimli snorted derisively. "A mine!"

Even as he finished speaking, the light in the cavern grew, and his voice trailed off. At the same moment, Boromir recognized with a shock as strong as a blow, that the odor he was smelling was the smell of death and decay and dried blood. He looked down at his feet and saw in the deep dust bones and dessicated bodies littering the floor.

"This is no mine!" he exclaimed, his voice strained. "It is a tomb!"

Gimli cried out in anguish, and running forward, knelt beside one of the bodies. He moaned as he realized the truth: these were the skeletal remains of Dwarves, his kin. Legolas stooped quickly and pulled at an arrow protruding from one of the bodies. He looked at it closely in the dim light.

"Goblins!" he exclaimed with disgust, and threw the arrow down.

Boromir and Aragorn drew their swords as one, and Legolas put arrow to bowstring. Boromir felt the fear rise in his throat. A trap! he thought angrily. I knew it would come to this!

"We make for the Gap of Rohan," he said desperately. "We should never have come here! Now get out!" His voice rang out in the darkness. "Get out!"

Before the echoes of his shout had died, there was a sudden commotion and shouts of "Frodo!" behind him. Boromir whipped around to see Frodo being dragged out of the open door towards the lake by a wet and glistening tentacle. He was stunned into immobility, his mind still reeling from the shock of the grisly discovery in the mine.

"Strider!" called Sam wildly, and Aragorn leapt into action, Boromir and Legolas close behind.

They hesitated at the step; for a brief instant it seemed that Frodo was free, that the hobbits had managed to cut him loose from the tentacle. Suddenly, dozens of snakelike arms boiled up out of the water; the hobbits were knocked back by the fingered tentacles as one of them wrapped around Frodo's ankle and dragged him away. He shouted in terror as he was pulled along the ground and then suddenly up into the air.

Boromir ran out of the mine on Aragorn's heels. Legolas drew and shot an arrow at the tentacle that had Frodo by the leg; it loosened its grip, but another grasped Frodo in its place. Boromir dropped his shield, and gripping his sword in both hands, strode into the water up to his knees. Aragorn was there too, swinging mightily with his sword. The air was filled with flailing tentacles and a strange chittering noise.

Boromir looked up towards Frodo as he dangled upside down above him, then ducked down and back as a large serpentine arm splashed up out of the water in front of him. He brought his sword up as he straightened and struck at the tentacle. Aragorn stabbed and sliced at the grasping arms. The water boiled again, and a huge monstrous head came up out of the water. Frodo screamed and struggled, but the monster had him securely by the ankle and wrist. The creature roared and opened wide its jaws. As Frodo was drawn down towards the gaping maw, Boromir gave a wordless shout and swung his sword two-handed; a sliced tentacle went flying, and Frodo's arm was free. Boromir crouched down almost into the water to avoid the blows from the other tentacles. He braced himself under Frodo as Aragorn swung and sliced the other tentacle that held the hobbit. Frodo fell into the waiting arms of Boromir.

Frodo's falling weight bore him down almost into the water, but Boromir managed to keep his sword away from the hobbit's face as he caught him. Frodo gripped him with desperate relief as Boromir turned and staggered towards the shore. Aragorn was behind him, a hand on his shoulder to give him support and a push if he needed it.

"Legolas!" Boromir shouted, even as angry tentacles reached out to grasp them. Legolas responded quickly. It was a difficult shot, but Legolas' eye was keen and his aim was true; the arrow passed neatly between Boromir and Aragorn and plunged into the monster's eye. With a roar, the creature drew back.

As they gained the shore, Boromir set Frodo down with one hand as he swung his sword back-handed to parry another reaching tentacle. Legolas leapt forward and helped Frodo into the mine. The others had already run inside on the orders of Gandalf.

Aragorn called out urgently for them to run further in, as Boromir hung back to keep the waving arms at bay; at the last moment he dashed forward into the mine, snatching up his shield from where it lay on the threshold. Right behind him came the creature, crawling up like a giant spider onto dry land to the very entrance; many coiling arms seized the doors on either side, and with horrible strength swung them round. With a shattering echo they slammed, and they were plunged into darkness. Rocks fell all around; the Company ran and stumbled to get away from the avalanche. A noise of rending and crashing came dully through the ponderous stone where the entrance had once been.

Then there was silence, except for gasping and panting in the darkness. Boromir drew a deep breath and took stock of himself while he waited in the dark. He was wet, but unhurt. What a battle that had been, and what a creature! he thought. How odd that the creature had been so intent upon Frodo. Was there any significance to that? I wonder...

He heard a shuddering intake of breath from somewhere nearby, and the sound of Sam speaking in a low voice. Sheathing his sword, he groped his way forward towards the sound.

"Frodo?" he said softly.

"I am here," said Frodo, but his voice was faint, and he sounded as though he was struggling for breath.

"Are you all right?" asked Boromir. Kneeling, he put out his hand, and found Frodo's shoulder in the dark. Even through his glove he could feel him trembling uncontrollably. "Have you taken any hurt?" he asked sharply, suddenly concerned.

"I'm...I'm all right," Frodo stammered. "I'm just out of breath. I'll be fine, just...give me a moment."

Boromir squeezed Frodo's shoulder reassuringly.

"Take your time, Mr. Frodo," said Sam soothingly. "We'll all wait for you while you catch your breath and get over that fright."

Gandalf spoke, and his voice echoed strangely in the black emptiness.

"We now have but one choice," he said; his staff flared suddenly and there was light again. "We must face the long dark of Moria."

The light shone on Frodo's face, and Boromir saw that he was drawn and pale, but his breath was coming more regularly now. Aragorn knelt down beside him as well, and laid a hand on his arm. Frodo smiled up at the two of them.

"Really, I am all right," he said, and struggled to get up. Sam jumped to help him, and Boromir put a hand under his arm to raise him up to his feet.

Gandalf was ready to move on. The Company fell into line behind him as he picked his way forward through the debris in the passageway.

"Be on your guard!" Gandalf cautioned. "There are older and fouler things than orcs in the deep places of the world."

In the deep places of the world! repeated Boromir to himself, as he drew his sword again. And we are here against my wish! Will even Gandalf be able to lead us in this deadly dark?

As if reading his thoughts, Aragorn looked back at him. We can be depended upon to be on our guard, his look seemed to say, and Boromir gave a slight nod to show that he understood. Though they were here against his will, they were here nonetheless, and there was now no way out but to go forward. Boromir gripped his sword and his shield and followed after Aragorn.