Letters from Faramir

by Agape4Rivendell

XIII:  Balin's Tomb, as described by Peregrine Took

When we wake there is light. I don’t know if it’s sunlight or what, but I am very glad to have more than the little from Gandalf’s staff. Ack, so this is breakfast. My stomach growls and remembers Mum’s cooking. The sausages, eggs, fresh bread, jams, tarts, apples, juice, cakes – Merry hits my arm and I realize I have been talking out loud. Better to think about good Hobbit food than this everlasting darkness. These aren’t mines – these are whole countries that we have been walking through! When do they end?

Last night Gandalf was talking about the Dwarves and what they were about here in Moria. He spoke of silver and mithril and jewels, but the only things I want to see are the Shire and my family and the Prancing Pony. A heavy sigh escapes my lips; Boromir looks over at me and smiles. I think he can read my mind. Oh, Gandalf also told us about Bilbo and his adventures with the Dwarves and something about a mithril shirt. Gimli’s eyes were the size of troll’s eyes. Well, I haven’t actually seen a live troll’s eyes, thankfully, but I have seen Bilbo’s stone ones at Trollshaws.

Boromir is wondering aloud as to which way we will go. Gandalf finally decides and we are off. Only a short distance away is a smaller room. There is a beautiful beam of light shining into it and I have to blink from the darkness we have just passed out of. The dust is very thick and I try not to disturb it. I remember my promise to Gandalf. There is a large box in the room with writing on it. Gandalf says it is not a box, it is Balin’s tomb. How horrible. All alone here and covered in dust. Gimli hides his face. I wish I knew what to say to him. Boromir touches his arm. I hope that touch is as comforting to Gimli as it is to me. My eyes fill with tears and my heart aches for him. He has been so kind during this adventure. I remember the stories Bilbo told of the Dwarves and their courage and the fun they had and I wish I had known him. I think Frodo knew him. I’m sure he must have – the Dwarves came to Bag End many times. It was the talk of the Shire, every time one came.

There is a book and Gandalf reads it. It reminds me of Bilbo’s book – a history of the Dwarves here in Moria, but as he reads, I look around the room. My eyes have become accustomed to the light and I now see that there are skeletons all over the floor. We have been walking on them unawares. I want to retch. To think my toes have disturbed these poor Dwarves, friends and family of Gimli. I move closer to Merry who looks at me strangely. He hasn’t seen and I point down. He grabs my arm; his eyes open wide. We both move closer to Boromir. What has happened here? I see swords and helms on the ground. Some are like the Orc weapons at Michel Delving – the ones brought there by Bandobras Took after he defeated the Orc army in the North Farthing.

My thoughts are pulled back by Gandalf’s voice. He’s saying, ‘They cannot get out. They are coming.’ Who is coming? What did I miss? Suddenly, there is a deep booming noise – like a great drum. I can’t decide where it’s coming from. Gandalf looks up in surprise and says he has been a fool – that we can’t get out. Legolas says, ‘They are coming,’ and he is not reading from the book. Boromir goes to one of the doors, the western one, and starts to close it, but Gandalf runs over shouting, ‘Wait!’ He puts his staff through the crack in the door and it shines brightly as he yells something. There are footsteps and horrid laughter outside and arrows fly into the door, right near his head.

Frodo has Sting out and it is shining – it’s Orcs. Boromir pushes the door closed and shoves wood and broken sword blades into it to keep it shut. Strider says there is no one outside his door, the eastern dorn. Suddenly, a horrible scaly-looking arm pushes its way in the western door. Boromir hacks at it with his sword, but his sword is flung to the ground. It has a notch where it hit this thing – it’s a troll. Frodo yells and stabs Sting into its foot and it screams and pulls back. ‘One for the Shire,’ shouts Strider. The western door is now being pushed upon from the outside. It sounds like hammers are beating on it. Finally, there is a huge opening and Orcs are pouring through. Merry yells and starts forward with his sword flying and so do the rest of the Company. Sam has killed an Orc! We have only been able to slow them down, but Sam has actually killed one. Ted Sandyman – you better watch out now! You are no match for Samwise the Brave! The Orcs are surprised by us and pull back after many of their number are killed. We are about to fly out of the eastern door, when, suddenly, another band of Orcs enters the room. Their leader charges towards us. It is huge and just pushes Boromir with its shield and throws him to the ground. As Strider charges it, the Orc takes his spear and thrusts it towards our little band. He shoves the spear into Frodo and pushes him against the wall. Sam hacks at the blade and it breaks in two, but he is no match for this thing. As it raises its sword, Strider cleaves its head in two. The other Orcs run away. Sam is yelling Frodo’s name but Gandalf is pushing us all out of the door. Strider stoops, picks up Frodo’s body and runs. Legolas is shouting at Gimli to follow us and I am crying. Frodo is dead. Boromir is slamming the great door shut and we fly towards the stairs. Frodo is not dead!!! He is telling Strider to put him down. Strider looks at him as if he is a ghost and Sam jumps on him and hugs him. Gandalf yells at us to run but stays behind himself. Strider and Boromir want to stay with him, but he pushes them through the door.

We stop part way down the steps. Merry and I are in tears. Frodo is leaning heavily against Sam and Sam is trying to hold him up all the while sobbing. It is so dark. All I can see is a faint light above us. It must be Gandalf’s staff. How will we ever be able to go on? There is a bright light and a thud from above. Gandalf is thrown down the stairs and lands right in front of us. He looks so old, so very tired. Boromir rushes to help him stand. He says we must continue in the dark – that he has no strength left for light. What does he mean? Where does the light come from? We run down flight after flight of very narrow stairs. I am most afraid. What if we fall off? Gandalf is using his staff to feel where we should go. The end of the stairs come up quickly. I know we are going to fall. We’ve been traveling at least an hour and all I can hear is the quick breath of our Company. Frodo is near as we run and I am concerned. He moans softly and seems to be having trouble breathing. Do I tell Gandalf? There is no sound of anything following us. Can we be free? Might we be able to escape?

Gandalf stops and starts to sit down. Gimli helps him to the step and asks what happened above. I am learning so much more about Gandalf. At one time, I thought he was only good for fireworks and smoke rings and jokes, but there is more to him than meets the eye, as he would say. He says he put a spell on the door, but that something much more powerful than anything he had ever felt before opposed him. The thud we heard was the collapse of the ceiling over the hall as they fought. Chills run up my arms. What are we fighting against? It is definitely more than Orcs. Gandalf turns towards Frodo and asks him how he is. I am so grateful. I didn’t know what to do about him. But Frodo says he is all right. Strider is funny. I’m surprised. He says he would have spoken softer in Bree if he knew Hobbits were so tough.

It is getting hotter as we go and Gimli says he thinks he can see a light, but it is red. Oh dear, Gandalf thinks the lower hall might be on fire! Where can we go – we can’t go back up? We can’t go to the Hollin Gate, it’s been destroyed by that horrible creature. And now, it seems, we can’t get to the Great Gates either. What are we going to do? We come to a great hall, so very much larger than the one where we camped. Was that only last night? Gandalf says the Gate is near. We have only to run a short way through this hall, then over a bridge, then up some stairs, along a wide road, through another hall and then to the Gate. This doesn’t sound short to me! I hope he’s all right. The further we go, the more tired he seems, and, almost, afraid. I’ve been good this day, haven’t made any mistakes or said anything to disturb him. I hope it has helped.

We run into the hall and it is very hot. Boromir laughs and that lifts my spirits. Maybe we will escape. He loves this kind of adventure, I think. The Orcs are trapped on the other side of a rift in the floor. I can see the bridge to our left. It is very narrow. There is a horrible, black chasm that it crosses over. I will not throw a stone down this one!

Gimli leads the way to the bridge, but I stop. Arrows are flying all around us. One just misses Frodo and another sticks in Gandalf’s hat. I would laugh at the sight, but for the terror all around us. The Orcs are bringing large stone slabs to put over the rift. They will be on us shortly. Legolas, as always, has his bow out and ready to shoot at them, when suddenly he cries out in fear and drops the arrow. His cry is the most frightening sound I have ever heard. When has anyone ever heard an elf cry out in fear?

Something very large and black and very frightening is coming up from between the Orcs. They fall away in front of it. This is what made Legolas cry out in fear. I can hardly move. A terror flows from it, whatever it is. Legolas gives it a name. It is a Balrog. ‘Durin’s Bane,’ says Gimli. My mind cannot understand this. Isn’t a Balrog from long ages past? How can one be here – now? It leaps across the rift and is coming right for us. The Orcs are coming over the rift too. There is no hope. Gandalf says he is weary. What are we to do? Boromir winds his great horn. I am so very glad to hear that noise echoing through this great hall. The Orcs and the Balrog stop. Are we to be saved? No, the echoes of the great horn stop and the enemy starts forward again.

‘Over the bridge,’ Gandalf yells, ‘Fly, Fly,’ but Strider and Boromir stand side by side at the far end of the bridge. They will not leave him. We are across the bridge and at the hall. And we stop. We can’t leave Gandalf alone. What are we do to? The Balrog has reached the bridge and Gandalf stops his flight in the middle of the great span. Strider and Bormir wait at this end. I can faintly hear Gandalf. He is yelling that the Balrog cannot pass. What can he do to stop him? He looks so small and alone against this great and horrible creature. Everything is suddenly silent, even the Orcs have stopped their screaming. Again, Gandalf yells that the Balrog cannot pass and some other words that I can’t understand. The Balrog moves onto the bridge. ‘Someone help him,’ I cry out, but no one hears me in their terror. The creature holds out a great red sword and Gandalf’s sword gleams white. It has struck Gandalf, but no, Gandalf’s sword repels it, gleaming white and beautiful. The Balrog is falling backwards and its sword has melted. I can’t believe my eyes. What magic is this that Gandalf has done? ‘You cannot pass,’ he yells again. And I feel hope. He has stopped this creature, perhaps he can do it again. Perhaps we will make it outside. Gandalf had said the Gate is very close. The Balrog leaps forward. It has a whip in its hand. Strider screams, ‘He cannot stand alone,’ and rushes onto the bridge. He shouts other things, but I can hear his last line, ‘I am with you, Gandalf!’ ‘Gondor!’ cries Boromir and leaps after him. My heart is in my throat but I am so proud, so grateful to have these two men with us. Such courage in the face of certain death. I don’t remember ever hearing tales of Balrog’s being beaten. Gandalf lifts his staff and hits it against the bridge. No, it breaks and falls from his hand. A bright light nearly blinds me, but the bridge collapses in front of him and the Balrog falls! We are saved….nooooo….its whip circles about Gandalf’s knees and drags him along the bridge. Gandalf tries to hold on, but he cannot. As he falls, I hear him cry, ‘Fly, you fools!’ He is gone. He is gone.

We all stand in silence. Then Strider and Boromir fly back across the part of the bridge left standing, but it crumbles as they reach this side. Strider cries for us to follow him. I try to run, but can hardly see for the tears in my eyes. Gandalf has fallen. Boromir follows us as he cries for us to run. The drums have started up again. What will we find in the Hall, at the Gates? Orcs – they are waiting for us as we pass through the Hall, but Strider slays their captain and the rest of the Orcs run in fear. Finally, we pass through the Gate without any further harm…but the harm to our hearts. We continue to run past the Gate and into the open air. I want to shout, to breath the fresh air, but my throat is closed for the tears welling up into it…We have reached the Dimrill Dale. The sun is shining and there are brilliant clouds in the sky, but I only see darkness and despair. I can still hear the drums and it seems as though they are crying, ‘Doom, doom.’ Yes, that is how I feel now. Doom is upon us and Gandalf is lost. I fall to the ground and sob bitter tears. A horrible thought comes to me. Is it my fault? Did the stone I drop in that well cause of all this? Did it wake the Orcs and the Balrog? Is it my fault that Gandalf is dead? My crying turns into loud wails and Merry kneels by my side, holds me close, and his tears join mine. I have never felt so alone, my heart has never felt a wound like this before, never have such shame and guilt flooded my mind.