Tree and Stone
Chapter 27, The Doors That Are Hidden
"No, I haven't forgotten about you, my dear Dwarf," Gandalf said
softly, as the Hobbits split up to watch at each point of the circle,
peering through cracks between the broken teeth of stone. "If you are
not yet weary beyond movement, help me gather as much fuelwood as we
can find, to have ready if needed. In this place and at this time, fire
is truly our friend."
"Aye, Gandalf," Gimli said. "Not a few times have my people been faced
with Wargs. Fire and steel will dissuade them. But we must be wary;
they will not give up their hunt like normal wolves."
"I agree, and that is why we must be ready. Stack the wood next to the
fire here, and then see if you can rest for a few hours." Gandalf then
moved away, picking up the dry limbs that were laying beneath the trees.
"I'll rest when the dark stone of Moria is my bier and blanket," Gimli
muttered. Since Gandalf didn't turn, Gimli assumed that the old wizard
had not heard him.
Frodo stood near the gap in the stones, staring out into the night. The
light from the waning moon silvered the hills and cast vague figures
that tricked the eyes. The mountains were an invisible black mass that
blotted out the stars until they were nigh directly overhead. A few
clouds straggled toward the west, lighting up when they crossed the
path of the moon and then fading to grey veils that made the stars look
fuzzy and indistinct.
Frodo shivered; the wind was slowly returning, bringing a memory of the
coldness of the Redhorn pass to the weary hobbit. After a time his eyes
adjusted more to the lightlessness, and he could make out dimly the
features of the land, as though the moon had become brighter somehow.
He could clearly see that there were no wolves nearby, at least on his
side of the hill.
Legolas sat nearby and for once his eyes were closed as he rested, his
head back against the stone. His bow was still in his hand and planted
in the earth like a weird flower was the arrow-shaft that Boromir had
fetched back to him.
Frodo glanced at the Elf and felt a measure of his anxiety move away
from him. At the barest word from him, Frodo knew that Legolas would be
alert and at his side. It pleased him that he could watch for a while
so that the brave warriors could rest; Boromir and Aragorn had laboured
hard to bring them down the mountain and must surely be exhausted. He
had never seen Legolas (or any Elf) so weary that they could sleep
against a sharp rock.
Frodo returned his gaze to the hills, occasionally checking the blade
of Sting for any glimmer of warning. When the Wargs had come before, it
had shone with a whitish light. Bilbo had told him that it shone blue
when orcs and gobblins were near, and he remembered the stories that
his uncle had told of battling the spiders in Mirkwood.
At the thought of Mirkwood, Frodo turned and looked at Legolas again,
remembering that that Forest was his home. He started when he realized
that the Elf had opened his eyes and was watching him.
Legolas spoke softly, "I can tell by the way you stand that all is well
for the now. It is difficult to rest so, but I feel the need of it
Frodo gave a short bow to the Elf. "All is quiet, for the moment. I see
nothing among the hills nearby, nor along the ridge from where we came
down from the mountain. Perhaps the wolves will not return tonight."
Legolas lifted an eyebrow, reminding Frodo of Lord Elrond for a second.
"Can you see that far? Even in the moonlight I could barely make out
that distance. The eyes of halflings are sharp indeed!"
Frodo smiled a little, wanting to feel flattered but in fact he was
uneasy. He thought it strange that he could see even as well as an Elf.
He said nothing of it, turning his face toward the darkness to hide his
The hours passed slowly. Gandalf roused the warriors halfway toward
morning, letting the halfings gather back around the fire, where they
fell asleep almost at once. Gimli nodded nearby, keeping on eye on the
fire so that it did not burn too low. The wizard lay down as well, his
eyes glittering darkly in half-lidded sleep, his hand upon his staff.
The sky had only just begin to hint at the possibility of morning when
the attack came. Howls broke out all around the company, jerking
Gandalf and the hobbits from sleep. Aragorn, Boromir, and Legolas had
all withdrawn into the circle, for in their hearts they believed that
the Wargs had not abandoned the hunt, and they were ready.
The wolves spilled over the circle of stones like grey water. The
companions were entirely surrounded, and they formed a tight knot
around the halflings, the fire blazing up in the centre. Some of these
brute wolves were large enough to carry off one of the hobbits, should
they get close enough to close their teeth upon them. Legolas drew and
released, accounting a wolf for every shot fired. He ducked under one
leaping beast and threw it into the heart of the fire, scattering
embers. The creature screamed and ran away into the night, its fur
flaming and leaving a trail of burning grasses.
Boromir struck the head off of one wolf, then brought his sword back
around to impale another. A third leapt in and closed its teeth on his
arm, but was foiled by the tough leather bracers that the Gondorian
warrior wore. The stubborn beast did not let go, and Boromir swung it
around and hurled it against a large stone. There came a horrid
cracking noise that was the beast's back breaking. The wolf slumped to
Anduril caught the firelight like a brand, passing smoothly through one
wolf that was trying to attack the hobbits. Pippin and Frodo were
standing back to back, their swords out and held upright before their
faces. Sam and Merry was throwing wood on the fire, but suddenly Bill
let out a wild neigh as two wolves came bristling and growling toward
him. Sam tried to run to help him, but Merry caught his arm and held
It was well, because Bill did not need Sam's help at that moment.
Backing up against a large stone, the pony flattened its ears and
lowered its head. One of the wolves snapped at Bill while the other
circled around to the side. Bill lashed out with a hoof and crushed the
skull of the first wolf, then plunged into a buck and slammed both rear
hooves into the second, sending it flying over the circle of stones and
out into the darkness.
Gandalf walked out to meet the wolves, and he seemed to grow and become
awesome and frightening. Words came from his lips that were strange,
and the ears of Legolas burned with the incantation. Naur an edraith
ammen! Naur dan i ngaurhoth! He picked up a burning brand from the fire
and his hand was not scorched, but he tossed the torch into the air and
it burst into brilliant light, igniting the treetops that crowned the
hill. The air seemed to catch fire, and the wolves fled in panic, their
hides smoking and buring as they ran. The wolf-chief snarled and
howled, trying to rally the pack again to attack. Legolas aimed his
last arrow and released it. It kindled in midair and plunged into the
Smoke from the fire then blinded the companions, and the bitter fumes
make their eyes blink and water. When the fires had died out and the
smoke cleared, they found that morning had occured, and the wolves were
gone. All that was to be found on the singed hillside were the arrows
of Legolas, lying in the grass undamaged; save for one that was burned
entirely away except for the point.
Gandalf spoke earnestly, "We must reach the doors before sunset, or I fear we shall not reach them at all."
Boromir picked up the arrowhead and handed it to Legolas. "I do not
know which to hope," the Man said grimly, "that Gandalf will find what
he seeks, or that coming to the cliff we shall find the gates lost for
ever. All choices seem ill, and to be caught between wolves and the
wall the likeliest chance. Lead on!" In a low voice that was meant only
for Legolas to hear, he added, "Perhaps then will my counsel be
regarded with less contempt!"
Legolas took the arrow-tip and closed his fingers around it. He said nothing, but turned his head as Aragorn approached them.
The Ranger placed a hand on Boromir's shoulder. "Do not think that your
counsel is not regarded, Boromir. For you we have nothing but respect,
but the wolves have contempt for us all. Trust in the guidance of
Gandalf. He would not lead us there if he had no hope of our coming
Boromir nodded once, sharply. He shouldered his pack and joined the
Wizard and the hobbits who were already pacing down the hill. Aragorn
clapped Legolas on the arm, offering him a dark smile. "Very good
shooting, my friend!"
Legolas regarded the arrow-tip Boromir had returned to him, displaying
it to the Ranger on his palm. "What manner of beasts disappear with the
sunlight, leaving behind the arrows that should have slain them? My
years in Middle-earth can be measured long, yet never have I heard of
such a thing. The Wargs such as I have fought in Mirkwood remain dead
when they are killed and do not fade like mist in the morning!"
Aragorn motioned for Legolas to walk beside him. They fell in at the
end of the column, following after the grey wizard. "Have you heard
tales in your forest home of the one they called Gaurhoth?"
Legolas looked askance at Aragorn, a frown darkening his fair face. "I
have heard no such tale, though I shudder at the sound of the name you
speak. What does it mean?"
"That is the name by which Sauron was known, back in the First Age of
the Sun. He was known as the Lord of Werewoves, and he himself took
shape of a wolf when he slew Lord Finrod of Nargothrond as he sought to
aid Beren in his quest."
"You do not comfort me with this tale, Aragorn," said Legolas, "though
I am sure that was not your intent. Why do you tell me this now?"
Aragorn shook his head a little, causing his dark hair to fall into his
eyes. He pushed it back, and Legolas saw that his hands were stained
with the dark blood of the wolves. It covered his sword which he
carried naked at his side; he would not sheath it when it was fouled
with evil blood.
"I am not sure why I speak of it now, except that the tale is forward
in my mind. Perhaps you might take some comfort in knowing that, even
though Felegund fell in Tol-in-Gaurhoth, Beren eventually prevailed
and, with the aid of Lúthien succeeded in capturing one of the
jewels from Morgoth's crown. Sauron was but a lieutenant to the Enemy
then, and he was at that time bested by the mighty hound Huan."
Legolas pondered Aragorns words as they walked. Indeed, it was good to
know that even a mighty being like Sauron could be bested by a dog,
even though it was an unusual and special dog indeed.
They moved as quickly as they could, ignoring weariness in their desire
to find sanctuary from the dangerous night. Gandalf nearly despaired
finding the path until Gimli pointed out the old riverbed, now nearly
dry and choked with growth of weed and briar. This depressing sight
nevertheless quickened their journey, for beside the rivercourse that
had been the Sirannon could be seen the crumbling remains of an ancient
highway, leading toward their goal. They took their midday meal on
their legs, pausing only briefly, then went on their way again. The sun
was past zenith and the day was getting on.
Finally they found the stairs, climbing quickly up the cliff beside the
broken remains of the aquaduct that had once served water to the
Sirannon. Gimli climbed swiftly up the steps, his heart beating with
thunderous delight to be walking where his ancestors once tread.
Gandalf and Frodo followed, and so they three witnessed how the river
had been dammed and the noxious lake created to bar the path.
Now their route was dictated to the longer way, around the winding road
and up to the walls of Moria, to walk the thin strip of earth between
the towering stone and the noisome, oily black water. Though they
hurried on, the day faded and the stars came glimmering forth,
reflecting flatly in the unfriendly water. The moon was caught up on a
net of clouds, but gave some illumnation to the company as they
searched for signs of the secret door.
Gimli's enthusiasm was undaunted. He walked ahead with Gandalf, pausing
every few feet to caress the stone with his hands, knowing he could be
touching the Door itself and never know. The Dwarven smiths of old were
masters, able to conceal their works with a skill that seemed magical.
He felt in his bones that they were getting close, and not even the
doubt that weighed down the spirits of the others in the fellowship
could burden his delight.
Legolas walked behind the Dwarf, for Aragorn had directed him to remain
within the heart of the company, should his bow become useful either
forward or behind. The Ranger followed all the companions save Sam, who
trailed behind with Bill in tow. As they reached the turn that took
them all along the high wall around the edge of the pool, something
disturbed the still water, sending ripples out from the center of the
lake to lap softly along the narrow shore. Legolas pulled an arrow from
his quiver and notched it, peering out at the lake for a sign of
movement. The last rays of the sunset faded behind the clouds, foiling
Gimli turned to look at the Elf, then returned to his investigation of
the stone face. "Surely we will find the western door soon, my Elven
friend. Dwarf doors are invisible when closed, but I have faith that
Gandalf can find them."
Legolas said nothing, but followed the Dwarf with his eyes still on the
water. The sound of merriment in Gimli's voice did not lighten his
heart. They had come to a place in the water where twisted shapes of
drowned trees reached up to claw the star-filled sky. They had been a
fine grove at one time, and their pales shapes drifting in the water
were to Legolas like bleaching bones scattered in the wasted liquid.
How had this happened? Why had the Dwarves dammed the river, causing
this unnatural pond? Only a few years had these trees been rotting in
the water. Had this Balin of which Gimli so often spoke ordered their
deaths? In his heart, Legolas felt again cold resentment toward the
Dwarves. They had such disregard for such things as trees, to be hewn
down and burned to fuel their forges, or even foundered and cut off
from the sun and life. Legolas kept his face turned from the wall of
They arrived at last at a place where Gandalf called a halt. He stood
before a stretch of stone braced between two ancient holly trees, his
face showing his satisfaction; he had found the place where the gate
should be. "Well, here we are at last," he said. "Here are Elven-way
from Hollin ended. Holly was the token of the people of that land, and
they planted it here to mark the end of their domain; for the West-door
was made chiefly for their use in their traffic with the Lords of
Moria. Those were happier days, when there was still close friendship
at times between folk of different race, even between Dwarves and
"It as not the fault of the Dwarves that the friendship waned," said Gimli defensively.
"I have not heard that it as the fault of the Elves," answered Legolas cooly.
"I have heard both," said Gandalf; "and I will not give judgement now.
But I beg you two, Legolas and Gimli, at least to be friends, and to
help me. I need you both. The doors are shut and hidden, and the sooner
we find them the better. Night is at hand!"
Gimli and Legolas looked at each other. Their gaze touched and slid
away, Legolas to the mighty trees that pillared the cliff-face, Gimli
to the stone itself. As much trust as they both placed in Gandalf, it
seemed to them that at this time he asked a very great deal. But the
night was indeed upon them, and any moment down the sound of
wolf-voices might ring out through the darkness. Both swallowed their
greivance and examined the riddle of the gate; Gandalf was right: the
fellowship could not afford them time for an argument now.