The Bridge of Khazad-Dum
By both doors they saw many bones, and among them were broken swords and axe-heads, and cloven shields and helms. Gandalf found the remains of a book, stained by blood and partly burned.
The book was a history of Balin's quest to resettle Moria. Gandalf read aloud. "We drove the orcs from the great gate . . . Balin is now lord of Moria . . . fell in Dimrill Dale . . . we slew the orc, but many more . . . we have barred the gates . . . horrible . . . we cannot get out . . . drums, drums in the deep . . . they are coming . . ."
"So ended the attempt to retake Moria!" said Gandalf, "Now, I fear, we must say farewell to Balin son of Fundin. Let us go!"
Gandalf had hardly spoken these words, when there came a great noise. Boom! Boom! Doom! Drums and horns were sounding in the hall, and they heard the sound of many feet approaching.
"They are coming!" cried Legolas.
"We cannot get out," said Gimli.
Boromir tried to shut the door, but a leg was forced through. To his own surprise, Frodo sprang up and stabbed at the hideous foot. It jerked back and Boromir closed the door.
Soon, though, the door crashed open. Orcs one after another leaped into the chamber. The battle was short but fierce, and soon the company turned back the orcs.
Gandalf urged them to flee through the far door. Even as they did, though, a huge orc-chieftan burst in and hurled a spear at Frodo, pinning him against the wall.
Picking up Frodo, Aragorn led the others down the stair. Gandalf soon followed. They fled through the dark corridors, pursued by the sound of throbbing drum-beats. Doom! Doom!
They went on through the dark corridors, occasionally descending a flight of stairs until they were at the level of the gates. As they proceeded the air became hot, and they could see a red flickering light. Soon they saw the source of the light. A fissure had opened across the floor of a cavernous hall. Out of it a fierce red light came, and now and again flames licked upward.
Luckily, the host of orcs were trapped on the far side of the fissure. The drums rang out. Doom! Doom! "The bridge is near. This way!" directed Gandalf.
Frodo saw before him a black chasm. It was spanned by a narrow bridge--an ancient defense of the Dwarves. Any invader would have to cross in single file.
"Lead the way, Gimli!" said Gandalf. "Pippin and Merry next. Straight on, and up the stair beyond the door!"
A few orc-arrows fell among them. Beyond the fire there seemed to be hundreds of orcs. Doom! Doom! rolled the drums. Legolas turned and set an arrow to the string.
Legolas gave a cry of dismay and fear. A great shadowy figure had appeared and leaped across the fissure. A power and terror seemed to be in it and to go before it.
"Ai, ai!" wailed Legolas. "A Balrog! A balrog is come!"
Gimli stared with wide eyes. "Durin's Bane!" he cried, and letting his axe fall he covered his face.
"A Balrog," muttered Gandalf. "Now I understand. What an evil fortune! And I am already weary."
The Dark figure streaming with fire raced towards them. "Over the bridge!" cried Gandalf. "Fly! This is a foe beyond any of you. I must hold the narrow way. Fly!"
The Balrog reached the bridge. Gandalf stood in the middle of the span, leaning on the staff in his left hand, but in his other hand Glamdring gleamed, cold and white. His enemy halted, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings. It raised its whip.
Gandalf stood firm. "You cannot pass! I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. Go back to the Shadow!"
Gandalf seemed small and altogether alone before the onset of a storm. From out of the shadow a red sword leaped flaming. Their swords clashed. The Balrog fell back. The wizard stood still. "You cannot pass!"
With a bound the Balrog leaped full upon the bridge. At that moment Gandalf lifted his staff, and crying aloud he smote the bridge before him. His staff broke asunder. The bridge cracked, and broke right at the Balrog's feet. With a terrible cry the Balrog fell forward, and its shadow plunged down and vanished.
Even as the Balrog fell, it swung its whip, and the thong curled about the wizard's knees, dragging him to the brink. He staggered and fell to the stone, and slid into the abyss. "Fly, you fools!" he cried, and was gone.
The rest of the company followed Aragorn out of the mines, weeping for their fallen leader as they ran.
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