Carl's Unofficial Tolkien WebPage

Have you ever wondered what really happened to Balin and his company of dwarves
in the Mines of Moria?

Well, the following is an original story I wrote concerning that doomed mission to reclaim and restore the kingdom of Khazad-Dum. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: This story and this Website are NOT sanctioned in any way by the Tolkien Estate, they are simply a project undertaken for a University English class.

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here!

The Fall of Balin and Company in the Mines of Moria

The morning they set out from Lonely Mountain, it was damp and misty, but Balin's company seemed not to notice since they were in such high spirits. There were a few in the company, however, who thought it an ill omen for a quest which already promised its fill of peril and gloom. Floi was among them. Yet even he did not have time to ponder too long on the dangers and uncertainties that lay ahead, for the dwarves were busy girding themselves for war and loading supplies. Long had the dwarves been laboring in Erebor since Smaug had been slain, and not without profit. Dwarvish craftsmen had been busy forging daggers, war-hammers, helms, mail hauberks, spears and many other wondrous works of the smith's craft. However, not even the finest of these works could compare to those wrought from the mines of Khazad-dum. For there in all the world was to be found the most precious metal in Middle-Earth, true-silver or mithril in the Elvish tongue. This among all the treasures of the dwarves was the most prized and the dearest to their hearts. Perhaps their victory over Smaug had given them a newfound confidence, for now the dwarves longed to recover all that had been lost or stolen from them. The glory of their ancient kingdoms would rise again and the mithril would flow! Certainly this was what Balin envisioned. He would avenge the deaths of his kinsmen and bring back the fame and fortune that was once theirs. Of course his own fame and fortune figured no small part in his plans either. He dreamed of becoming King of that most ancient and wondrous kingdom, Khazad-dum. The enthusiasm and fighting spirit of his men only served to fuel the flames of his ambition. They sang songs about the ancient kingdoms as they loaded the supplies from Dale onto the wagons and pack animals.

Balin looked here and there among the bustle. The tingle of mail and the glint of finely honed weapons filled him with impatience. He was anxious to arrive in Moria and bath the halls in Orc blood. They would pay for their crimes against the folk of Durin. "Hurry up there lads!" he shouted. "I want to be on the move ere the sun breaks." As he made his way toward the front of the company, the dwarves were checking their gear and loading the last of the supplies. "Ori, you're up front with me," called Balin to his lieutenant. "And put some stout lads in the rear, we don't want any of our well-fed kinsmen lagging behind to mourn their shrinking bellies. As soon as he reached the front of the company, Balin gave the signal and cried, "To Khazad-dum and the halls of Durin!" The assembled host let out a cheer and lurched forward into the steady, determined pace of the dwarves.

The journey to Khazad-dum was for the most part uneventful. Travel was much safer since the Battle of Five Armies had cleansed the land of vermin. Still, there were unsettling rumors from passersby of dark forces mustering in the south. They made their way south along the river Running, then east along the Old Forest Road. Here Balin felt obliged to recount his adventure with Thorin and the mighty burglar Baggins, but the dark, suspicious glances the dwarves cast toward the woods made him think better of it. "I suppose they have enough to think about already, without conjuring up the perils of Mirkwood," said Ori. "Well they better get used to it if their going to stomach the darkness of Moria!" retorted Balin. When they came out of Mirkwood, they turned south along the river Anduin, following it until they reached the foothills of Azanulbizar, or Dimrill Dale in the Westron tongue. They marched westward until the sun sank behind the Misty Mountains. Balin and his lieutenants agreed that it was too risky to approach any closer to the East Doors at night. Orcs were notoriously active and deadly under the cover of darkness. The dwarves were confident, but not stupid. They were now about ten miles, or a half days march to the eastern entrance. Here they camped for the night and sent most of the wagons and ponies home. What provisions were left over could be carried. Balin didn't want to be hindered by panicked ponies and runaway wagons if they should be ambushed suddenly.

That night, the campfires were kept low and the men were told to refrain from singing and carousing. Until they knew what they were up against, their presence in the Dale must be kept as secret as possible. Balin set guards around the camp's perimeter and called his lieutenants to council. "All seems too quiet, not what I expected at all," said Floi. "Not what I expected either," said Ori, "from the look of it, you'd think the valley was completely deserted!" "Don't be too sure of it lad, they're about or I'm a beardless elf," said Balin. "Do you suppose the East door will be guarded?" asked Loni. "Maybe, but from the lack of Orc lookouts in the Dale, I'd guess they're feeling quite safe and secure in their dominance here," said Balin. "They'll be quite surprised to find the host of Balin on their doorstep, at least for a few seconds before our axes cleave their skulls." "We'll form up the company with our backs to Mirrormere and then send a small party to the gate to gauge their defenses." "We'll wait til the sun is well in the sky before we move, that way if the attack does come, at least we'll have the sun on our side," continued Balin. "Now get some sleep if you can lads, we may have a bit of work to do in the morning." The dwarves exchanged glances of anticipation and returned to their sections of the camp. Balin lay down by the dying fire and drifted off into dreams of gold and silver.

The night passed swiftly and when the first rays of light poured into the Dale, all was peaceful and still. It seemed to many of the dwarves that reclaiming the lost kingdom would be as simple as moving their stuff in and planting their backsides in a chair. They broke camp and marched at a cautious pace until they reached the Mirrormere. There they arrayed the company in battle formation before the still, calm waters. Balin chose ten dwarves to go with Nali. They were instructed to work their way under cover toward the East Doors and find out what they could. "Don't have too much fun without us Nali!" " At the first sign of trouble, return here and we'll make a stand together." said Balin. "I understand, sire," called Nali over his shoulder. Balin's chest began to swell with pride, very soon now he would be King in Moria. He paced along the shores of Mirrormere and marvelled at its beauty. He noticed he saw no reflection of his company there, only snow-capped peaks and clouds floating aimlessly amidst shimmering stars. He mused to himself, "If only my company were as invisible to prying eyes!" He paused near a large stone standing erect near the edge of the pool. "So this is where Durin first gazed upon the wonders of Kheled-zaram," he thought.

"How fitting that I should now follow in his footsteps." Staring into the water, he imagined he saw a crown, shining with the beauty of the stars. His thoughts strayed to the legends of Khazad-dum; jeweled halls, immense pillars lovingly shaped in the form of trees, the sound of hammers ringing in the halls... Just then, he heard the approach of heavy footsteps. "The scouting party returns sire!" shouted Oin. Nali came plunging down the slope, his small party at his heels. "Well, what are you for lad?" shouted Balin excitedly. "Orcs, sire!" panted Nali, "They were lounging around the doors, rather bored from the look of it." "So they've grown soft in our absence aye?" mocked Balin. "Well lads, let's give 'em something to get excited about...

Shiznik had smelled them in the air. Without so much as raising an eyebrow, he whispered to his mate. "Hulgrat, do you smell that?" "I smell nothing but you're foul breath, you misbegotten son of an Elf wench," sneered Hulgrat. "I tell you, there are dwarves about!" returned Shiznik. "Let 'em come on then, I'd rather die in a tussle, than from the infernal boredom of this post," replied Hulgrat. "I'm serious Hulgrat, I think we should inform the Chief." "I'm going in to report," said Shiznik as he calmly walked back inside the doors. Once inside the tunnels, however, he bolted down the tunnel as fast as his gangly legs could carry him. Hulgrat remained pacing around, grumbling about the uselessness of guard duty. Not five minutes had gone by before a tremendous horn blow rang out in the Dale. Hulgrat jumped in shock and soiled his tunic. "Curse those meddling dwarves!" He ran back into the tunnel shouting, "Shiznik, you spineless dung worm!" "Come back and help me!" Just then he heard rushing feet coming up the tunnel towards him. Fifty Orcs emerged from the darkness, clad in black mail, wielding scimitars and armor-crushing maces. The Chief, a huge Orc with glistening fangs and powerful looking arms halted his men at the sight of Hulgrat. "You're lucky I didn't mistake you for one of those ugly dwarves, you lout!" shouted the Chief. "What say you dog?" "Are they storming the gate?" demanded the Chief. "Nay, but by the sound of it, there's a whole army on our doorstep!" cried Hulgrat. "You cowardly son of a pox-ridden she-troll!" shouted the Chief. He shoved Hulgrat into the ranks of Orcs. "Give this whelp a weapon!" "Now boys, let's have at 'em!" screamed the Chief. With that, the mob rushed down the tunnel and burst through the doors into the sunlight.

With the sounding of the battle horn, the dwarves had tightened up their ranks and Balin took up position in the center of the company. His lieutenants, Ori, Oin, Floi and Loni, took up positions to his left and right. The dwarvish host numbered two-hundred strong and many of them were veterans of the Battle of Azanulbizar, which was fought near this very spot many years ago. As the Orcs burst through the door, many cursed the light and shrank back, but the minute they laid eyes on the assembled dwarves before them, their hatred overcame any aversions they may have had for the bright sunlight. As they charged down the face of the mountain, the Orcs let out shrieks of fury. The dwarves held their positions with feet planted and grim resolve on their faces. The battle fury burned in many of them as well, but they had the discipline to control it. As the first of the Orcs reached their line, the crashing thunder of mace on shield and the ringing of blade on blade could be heard. The Orcs attacked in relentless fury, but they were quickly cut down by the grim-faced dwarves. Of all the Orcs, only one attacked with any sense of purpose, the Chief. He made straight for Balin, who he had rightly perceived as the leader. Balin, however, was unaware of his approach as he engaged an Orc deftly wielding two scimitars. Floi and one of the younger dwarves leaped in front of Balin to meet the Chieftain's charge. The Chief shield-bashed the young dwarf, knocking him to the ground. As the Chief loomed over him, raising his mace for the killing blow, he felt a sharp pain in his shoulder and swiveled his head around in time to see his arm fall to the ground. Floi's axe had severed it at the shoulder. In blind rage, the Chief whirled around, hurling his shield at Floi and lunging behind it with clawed hand reaching for Floi's throat. Floi ducked the shield and came up just in time to sink his axe into the belly of the Chief, who doubled over and slumped to the ground clutching his entrails in one hand. As Floi turned to locate Balin, an arrow pierced his chest and he cried out for his sire as he collapsed on top of the Orc-Chieftain. Balin, who had just smashed through the defense of his opponent and cloven his skull, heard Floi cry out, and as he turned, saw Floi's lifeless body prostrated over the huge body of the Orc-Chieftain. Balin let out a thunderous cry of rage and went into a berserker fury, felling Orcs with every sweep of his mighty axe. The remaining Orcs were hacked to pieces under the fury of the would-be King and his company of vengeful dwarves. Not a single Orc escaped their wrath.

After the battle, the few dwarves who had been slain were buried under a grassy hill near Mirrormere. Balin thought it an appropriately peaceful place for their long rest until the remaking of the world. "Farewell my good lad," Balin whispered over Floi's grave. "I promise your death will not have been in vain." "Khazad-dum will shine again and your name will be honored long years in the memory of its people." He wiped a tear from his face and marched down the hill. He shook off the thought that even these few lives seemed too high a price to pay for the promise of glory. "Nali, you're in charge of Floi's lads now." called Balin. "Oin, Ori, Loni, form up the company, we're movin' out!" called Balin as he strode toward the gates. The dwarves moved out at a steady pace until they reached the gate and halted before it. Balin was the first to enter, a hint of the fire still burning in his eyes. "Nali, bring me a torch!" he called. Nali entered with the torch and the two of them peered around at what the light revealed. All was deadly silent in the tunnels except for the faintest plink of water dripping somewhere deep within the caverns. The walls seemed sound enough, albeit covered with years of filth and lichen. The air was cool but had a musty smell as if the air itself had aged within the dark recesses of Moria. Suddenly Balin grabbed the torch and boomed at the top of his lungs, "I, Balin son of Fundin have come to claim these halls as my own!" "Come out you cowardly dogs and feel the bite of Dwarvish steel!" Nali shrank back as if expecting to see a hundred more Orcs barreling down upon them. "Is that such a good idea sire?" he whispered. "Why not?" returned Balin. "If we're going to fight, we might as well get it all over with, right here and now." "I've grown weary of the losses already and I do not wish to suffer them in the days ahead!" mourned Balin. "At least here we still have the option of retreat." "For I tell you Nali, once I enter these halls and claim them as my own, I'll never relinquish our beloved kingdom to these vermin again!" declared Balin. He then went back to the doors and called to his company, "Break out the torches lads, we're going in!" "Ori!" shouted Balin, "Keep twenty lads here and guard the doors, we don't want any little nasties following us or blocking our retreat if the need should arise." Although Balin was now confident in their success, the realization came to him that he was now a King and that meant shouldering the responsibility for the safety of his people. Thus did Balin retake Khazad-dum. The dwarves decided to settle in the twenty-first Hall of the North end. Nothing could have prepared them for what they saw there. The majesty of the hall and its sublime craftsmenship swept away any doubts or fears they may have had. The pride that only a dwarf can feel for his craft welled up in all of them. Many of them had scarcely imagined that such beauty existed in all the world. Some of the older and more nostalgic dwarves wept openly. "Welcome home lads!" shouted Balin into the vastness of the hall.

A cheer went up and the dwarves began singing as they set about the restoration of their ancient home...

In ages past, under three mountains tall,
The silver did yield to hammer fall.

In Khazad-dum where Durin dwelt,
furnaces burned and mithril melt.

Long they labored there and lovingly wrought,
works of wonder the world has sought.

Hammers ringing in dwarvish song,
the music of Aule returns ere long.

And so many songs were sung and the halls and tunnels of Moria were silent no longer. Balin set up his throne room in the Chamber of Mazarbul, just off the Royal Audience Hall, as they now called the twenty-first Hall. There Balin kept a record of his new kingdom in a huge leather bound book. He immediately recorded in it the battle of the Dale and the fall of Floi. In the days ahead, he would write all the details of their great undertaking and the fortuitous discoveries they made: the gold vein his men found where a fissure had opened in the floor of the Second Hall, the shaft they had constructed to descend into its depths and mine the gold, the melting of the gold and the regilding of the Halls, the recovery of Durin's axe and Thror's helm, the flow of truesilver from the old mines, and the rediscovered art of forging mithril weapons and armor, the treasure recovered in some of the Orc hoards of the Third Deep, and the opening of the West Gate. Many things were recounted in that book over the years, so that those who came after would remember the labors and triumphs of the new King and his people. It was after five long years of labor and slow results that Balin became too ambitious and made a fatal mistake...

"Sire, I caution thee about treading those forgotten ways," pleaded Oin. "Oin, I understand your fear lad," said Balin, "but we've lived here for many years now and there has been no sign of the terror that once plagued these halls or anything else for that matter," said Balin. "In order to restore Moria to its full glory, we must reclaim the treasures which have been plundered from these halls by the accursed Orcs!" exclaimed Balin. "With that kind of wealth back in our hands, we may be able to convince more of our folk to return here." "I certainly didn't come here to rule over empty halls!" Balin said with a note of finality. "Very well, sire." said Oin reluctantly. "We'll form the search party in the morning and scour the lower levels." Balin watched Oin as he turned and left the Chamber. Balin knew what he was about to do was risky, but he had no choice. Without sufficient wealth and resources, Khazad-dum would founder in oblivion and all that they had achieved thus far would be for naught. "As for you Frar, I want you to take some provisions and a few hardy lads and go to reestablish the trade routes to Hollin," said Balin. "We must rekindle the friendship between our two peoples if we are to insure the prosperity of our kingdom." "Yes sire," said Frar as he left to gather his party, and his thoughts, together.

At dawn the next day, Oin's and Frar's parties set out to accomplish their respective missions. They descended many miles before they came to the West junction. Here the passage from the West Gate forked into three other passages. The right passage, from which they had just descended, ran up to the Royal Audience Hall. The middle passage ran straight on and had not been explored much at all. The left passage descended down to the deepest levels of Moria. It was there that the folk of Durin had uncovered the Terror and brought destruction upon themselves. It was into these depths that Oin was now obliged to go. Frar's group said their farewells and continued west toward the great Gates. Oin's group halted and the men stalled for what seemed like an eternity, fidgeting with their weapons and packs. All the dwarves were afraid and Oin could do little to calm the fears that he himself was struggling to master. "Some of you stay here and hold the junction, if anything happens, I don't want to be trapped in the lower levels." said Oin. Because of the overwhelming number of volunteers, Oin chose six of the youngest dwarves to serve as the rear guard. The remaining dwarves descended into the passage in silence, anticipating at every turn to be waylaid by Orcs and Trolls and every other manner of wicked thing they could imagine. When they finally reached the bottom of the central passage, they split into teams of four and set out in different directions. Oin instructed them to report back to the central passage every hour to report anything that they had seen or heard. The heat down on these levels was stifling and there was an odor of corruption and decay. The dwarves pressed on uneasily, never noticing the eyes that watched them from beyond the light of their torches.

In some dark pit, beyond even the knowledge of the dwarves, there sat the being known to the dwarves as Durin's Bane, brooding in his malice, shrouded by the darkness welling forth from his blackened spirit. Long had he endured the presence of the usurper on the orders of the Nameless One. He had been commanded to marshal his forces in secret until the One had been recovered. Only then were his forces to strike against the Children of Illuvitar and Aule. Yet now, this upstart had grown unexpectedly bold and was sending spies into the depths of his realm. Orders or no orders, he could no longer contain the rage he felt for the intruders. As the terrified Orc-Chieftain stood before him, he bent his mind to the domination of the lesser being and without speaking, burned his commands into the heart and mind of his Captain. Drizdar had been staring into that burning shadow when suddenly he perceived in his mind a plan to crush the dwarves. All the other concerns and private plans he may have had faded from his mind and the destruction of the dwarves became his only desire and purpose. He rushed out of that hellish pit and screamed for an immediate assembly of the clans.

Balin was walking along the shores of the Mirrormere trying to assuage the fears he had for his kinsmen who walked below in the forgotten tunnels of Moria. "Have I made a grave mistake?" he asked himself. "Surely there was no hope for it!" he thought stubbornly. " The treasury must be refilled if we are to have the extra hands and resources needed to restore the kingdom." Balin started as he caught the faint sounds of running feet. His hand immediately went to the axe of Durin at his side. "There is mischief in the air," he said aloud. He started making his way back to the East doors, but before he had taken a dozen steps, an arrow whistled from behind a rock and sank into his back. As he fell forward and the world turned black, he saw in his mind's eye a vision of shimmering stars shaped like a crown. His axe fell from his hand and clattered among the rocks. As Balin lay there breathing his last, an Orc stepped out from his hiding place and cast a glance toward the East doors. The dwarves who had been guarding the East door had been muttering to each other about the horrors of the lower levels when they heard they heard the ring of steel on stone. "What was that?" said a guard in surprise. "I don't know, but the King is down there and we better check it out, its not like a dwarf to let his axe fall without reason!" said the Captain. With that, they all burst out of the East doors and to their utter disbelief saw the body of their King lying far below in a pool of blood. As they cast incredulous looks upon the body, one of them caught sight of an Orcish archer scurrying back towards Mirrormere. "Bring me that mongrels head!" shouted the Captain. As the last man rushed past him, the Captain grabbed his arm and said, "Not you lad, go back to the Hall and tell them what has happened here." The dwarf hesitated and cast a sideways glance toward the body of the King and the fleeing Orc. "Go!" screamed the Captain. As soon as the dwarf was out of sight, the Captain clenched his axe tightly and ran after his comrades in the Dale screaming battle cries as descended. He had not gone very far when he heard snarls and blood-curdling screams far down in the valley.

The last of Oin's dwarves were filing into the central passage to rendezvous with the others when the tunnels suddenly exploded with the sound of horn-calls. Axes flashed red in the torchlight. "What in Thror's name is that?" called one of the dwarves. "I don't know, but I don't think its a welcoming committee!" said Oin. "Back to the Guard room lads, we can hold them in the West junction if necessary!" With a surprising burst of speed, the dwarves dropped their torches and fled up the passage without so much as a glance backward. The dwarves at the junction started at the sound of heavy footsteps running up the tunnel. They planted their feet and looked at each other nervously as they raised their axes in greeting. They were tremendously relieved when they saw the wagging beards of their kinsmen burst from the darkness. "Oin!" shouted one of the younger dwarves. "What in Durin's name is going on?" "We're not sure lad, but I think we've brought unwanted attention upon ourselves!" replied Oin. "Curse Balin and his treasure hunting!" "Have you seen or heard anything up this way lads?" asked Oin. "Well sir, one o' the lads said he heard tapping noises coming from the well in the Guard room yonder, but we thought it most likely to be you and your men rummaging around down there. "Believe me lad, it wasn't us, we were as quiet as Elves in a meadow," said Nali. Well, I'm going back to the Hall to report these matters to the King!" said Oin. "You young pups come with me, the rest o' you hold the junction 'til I get back." "I'll send what help I can," called Oin over his shoulder. As he ran with the younger dwarves back to the Royal Audience Hall, he thought to himself how futile that promise probably sounded. Despair was already starting to take hold of his heart. When they arrived in the Audience Hall, there was already great confusion going on there.

Mail-clad dwarves were running to and fro cursing and yelling, gathering weapons and shields. Others were donning their armor and sharpening their axes. Oin stopped short, and his heart sank in his chest. There lying in the middle of the Hall was the lifeless body of Balin, King of Moria. Rage welled up in Oin, though he wasn't sure who or what was to blame. He was as angry at the murderous Orcs as he was of the stupidity of the dwarves. "How could they have been so blind?" he thought. "How could we have thought to succeed where the whole Kingdom of Durin could not?" "Aule preserve us!" When the dwarves caught sight of Oin, they told him to join the War council in the Chamber of Mazarbul. There it was that the lieutenants of Balin met to discuss all that had happened and what should be done about it. The Captain of the East Door Guard related to the council how he and his men had found Balin's body lying in the Dale and how they slew the Orc and many of his companions, but many more came pouring into the Dale. "Some came down Dimrill Stair, while others poured in from the east along the Silverlode and there were so many of them, that we were obliged to retreat back into the tunnels and bar the doors," explained the Captain. Frar reported that they had found Orcs gathered outside the West Gate as well. "And what's more, a group o' them were stopping up the gate-stream for some fell purpose." Oin then told them of the horns in the lower levels and how he had left some lads to guard the junction. "So what were you planning to do?" asked Oin. "I see everyone outside is making ready for battle." "There are too many in the Dale now, the East is closed to us," explained Ori as he scribbled something in the Book of Records. "We're going to break through the West Gates and be free of this trap before it is sprung!" "Do you mean to say we're giving up all hope here?" asked Loni. "What do you propose we do Loni?" retorted Ori. "Wait around to share the fate of Floi and Balin?" "I tell all of you, that this place is accursed and all who dwell here find only death and darkness!" shouted Ori. "If we're going to make a move, we had better do it soon, before the West is closed to us as well." said Oin. "We should leave about fifty lads at the West junction until we're sure we can clear the West Gate." continued Oin "If they hold the West Gate against us and we allow them to ascend from the lower levels, we'll be trapped in the West passage with no hope of escape." "This way if everything goes against us, we can retreat back the bridge and the Second Hall to make our last stand." The others agreed with Oin's plan and were about to jump to the preparations when Loni halted them all. "Aren't we forgetting something lads?" he said. "The King of Moria has fallen this day and I think he should receive the burial rites befitting a king." The other dwarves were ashamed that they had overlooked the care of the dead in their fear and panic. "You're right Loni," said Oin "We should erect a tomb in his honor and lay the King to rest with a treasure worthy of his greatness." Thus did the folk of Balin build a tomb in the center of the twenty-first Hall and lay Balin to rest. They adorned his body with a mithril hauberk and buried him with many precious objects of gold and silver, including Durin's axe and the helmet of Thror. Great sadness and despair ran through the company during the funeral, but once the great white slab was moved into its final resting-place, the dwarves threw themselves into the preparations for war and their hearts and minds turned to revenge and the freedom lying beyond the gates.

As soon as all the dwarves were armed and ready, they made their way to the West junction. When they arrived there, Nali told them how the horns had suddenly stopped and that all had been quiet after that. "Well, I suppose that's somewhat comforting." said Oin. He briefed Nali and the other guards on all that had transpired in their absence. "That is grievous news kinsman," Nali said sadly. "Alas for poor Balin and for all of us!" "The fight isn't over yet my dear Nali!" said Loni. He among them was closest to Balin and he was loath to give up the vision that Balin had given his life for. "All right, I want fifty of you to stay here with Nali, the rest of you move on." commanded Ori. When the dwarves reached the West Gate, they found a small guard of Orcs whom they promptly dispatched. Their victory gave them little to be happy about however, when they realized what the Orcs had already accomplished there. The sky overhead was dark and foreboding and the rain poured heavily into the valley as they looked out into it.. Lighting ripped the sky and thunder boomed, shaking the walls of the valley. The entire floor of the valley had now become a reservoir of putrid black water, increasing in volume with every passing moment. "What in the name of the Lady is this?" cried Oin. "Some foul art is at work here lads," returned Frar. "They mean to block off this entire side of the valley with this fell water." "No matter, there's still enough dry land left to skirt the sides of the mountains and come around it to the other side," said Oin "I'll take some lads to clear the way, while you go back and muster the others." "All right, but I'll wait at least a bit before I turn back to see how you fare beyond these walls," replied Ori. Oin chose twenty of the stoutest dwarves and they moved out into the valley along the edges of the cliffs. No one was to be seen anywhere and nothing could be heard over the wind and thunder. They had gone about a hundred yards along the cliff, when suddenly a shower of rocks and small boulders came showering down upon them. Many fell dead before they ever knew what hit them. "Look out!!" screamed Ori from the cover of the West Gate. The dwarves turned about raising their shields for cover, and ran as fast as they could among the rubble-strewn ground. Of the twenty-one that ventured into the valley, only nine returned, and half of them had broken shield arms and bruised bodies. Oin himself had taken a glancing blow to the head, but appeared to be unharmed, though he was upset that one of the horns on his helmet had been sheered off. "Better to lose a horn than you're head, my grand-daddy used to say!" called Loni. "Those cursed Orcs!" shouted Ori. "They'll keep us pinned down this way in order to buy the time needed to completely flood the valley." "Well," said Ori, "there's nothing for it!" "If we persist in coming this way, there won't be much of a company left to return to reach the other side!" "Perhaps we could manage to sneak a lad or two out under cover of darkness," suggested Loni. "I suppose that's all we can hope for," said Oin, "that at least one person can make it out and bring back more of our kinsmen to aid us in our hour of need." "All right," said Ori, "we'll leave three swift, young lads here, and under cover of darkness they'll make for Lonely Mountain to bring back a rescue party." So they chose three of the youngest and swiftest (for dwarves) lads to wait by the West gate until nightfall and then make the attempt to break free of the valley. The rest of the dwarves went back to the West junction to decide what to do while they waited for help to arrive.

"Since there's no longer any hope for our escape," said Loni, "I think we should abandon this position and concentrate our defense in the First and Second Halls." "There lies the best natural defense in all of Moria." "I agree," said Ori. Oin looked skeptical, but said nothing. He thought to himself that one place was as good as the next to die. Once they reached total agreement, the dwarves marched back up the far right tunnel to the First and Second Halls. The bridge there afforded a natural defense and would allow the dwarves to retreat to either Hall with the guarantee that at least one of three fronts could be easily defended. There they waited for five long days, before the silence of the halls was broken. During those long despairing hours, Ori had recorded much of their situation in the Book of Records. He wrote of the plan to hold the Bridge and the two Halls against attack, he recalled the horrible silence the dwarves endured, knowing that somewhere out there, the Orcs were poised to attack. It was just as Ori was recording his final entry for the day, when the shrill calls of horns ripped through the air. As if this wasn't to daunt the hopeless defenders, there came a new sound even more terrifying, the pounding of deep, rolling drums.

They boomed and echoed in the tunnels and caverns and shook the very ground. Doom-boom, Ba-doom, Doom-doom. The dwarves had no idea what to make of that ominous rhythm, all they could do was sit and wait, with white knuckles clutching axe and shield, for whatever was coming for them. Smoke and flames began to rise up from the great fissure in the Second Hall, and the air became hot and heavy. An eerie red glow began to emanate from the bowels of the earth and steam and vapors rose from the chasm beneath the bridge. Suddenly, there was a hideous roar and the drumbeat quickened, rivaling the pounding of the frightened dwarves' hearts. As if this had been some sort of signal, there came answering shrieks and hundreds of Orcs simultaneously launched attacks on all the passages leading into the Halls. The dwarves, however, were ready and they hacked and slashed with mindless fury to hold the various entrances. The strokes of their axes were swift and deadly, while their shields and mithril coats turned all but the most cunning counterattacks. The fight seemed to be going in favor of the dwarves, when the Orcs attacking the east passage of the First Hall gave way. Just as the dwarves let out a cheer, half a dozen cave trolls lumbered towards them. Like juggernauts they came on, their green scales turning the blows of the dwarves and their powerful arms crushing or flinging aside anything that stood in their way. Recognizing the futility of defending the First Hall any longer, Ori called for a general retreat over the bridge to the Second Hall. Many of the dwarves were cut down from behind as they ran, and those that turned to fight were no better off as they were trampled or hacked to pieces by the Orcs rushing into the Hall. Many older, battle-hardened dwarves valiantly gave their lives for the safety of their younger kinsmen. The Orcs paid for every inch they gained with many of their own lives as well. As the last few dwarves made it across the bridge, Ori commanded Nali and Loni to take charge of the bridge defense. Ori gathered up the remaining dwarves and sent them to reinforce the two other entrances. He himself was marching toward the west entrance when the earth suddenly trembled and the sound of rending earth and stone filled the cavern.

The great fissure in the hall widened and spread across the cavern like the gaping maw of some elemental beast. The dwarves on the other side of the cavern cried out in dismay, when they realized they were now completely cut off from the rest of their kinsmen. Ori saw Frar on the other side, his axe glinting red in the light of the flames. The bodies of many Orcs were strewn about the floor about him and still they came on. "Is there no hope for us?" Ori thought to himself. Ori watched in horror as the dwarves on the other side of the fissure were pushed back against it. Many were pushed back so far that their bodies were scorched by flames or they teetered on the brink and fell backwards into the abyss. As Frar made his last stand, a shadow began to rise from the depths behind him. Many of the Orcs who were pressing the dwarves stepped back in fear and the defenders marveled at this turn of fortune. Then, they themselves perceived a dark and terrible power, and turned toward that nameless force rising from the bowels of the earth. Its true form was wreathed in the darkest shadow, but amidst the tongues of flame bending in and around the darkness, many of the dwarves made out the almost imperceptible image of a great winged beast. Amidst the tumult of battle, sharp thunderous cracks were heard and tongues of flame leaped out from the darkness, enveloping the dwarves like fiery tentacles, dragging them into the flaming pit. Frar let out a thunderous battle cry and charged the great shadow, leaping into the air towards the shadow hovering over the pit. As he hurtled through the air, axe soaring above his head, a flaming sword screamed through the air to meet his axe as it fell toward the heart of the shadow. There was a tremendous explosion as the weapons collided, and Frar was hurled back against the far wall, his body charred and broken.

To be continued...

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