January of S.R. 1419
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For two weeks the Company of the Ring, having left Rivendell on the twenty-fifth of December, struggles southward beneath a chilly grey sky which blows cold off the peaks of the Misty Mountains to the east. To avoid attention they journey chiefly at night and sleep as best they can through the middle of the day. Aragorn leads them as they pass through the desolate lands between the Bruinen and Mountians.
The Company of the Ring approaches Hollin, where Elves dwelt in ancient times. Warm winds from the south meet them and bring clear sky and sunlight, driving away the cold grey clouds under which they have labored for the entire fortnight since their departure from Rivendell. They again rest during the day and march during the night to discourage observation by servants of either Isengard or Mordor.
The Company of the Ring reaches the land of Hollin, where stood the Elven-city of Eregion through almost a thousand years of the Second Age — now so long ago that Legolas detects Elven-sympathy only in the worked stones strewn among the grass and holly-trees. In the clear air they descry the Mountains of Moria, those three peaks which lie above Khazad-dûm, those most ancient delvings of the dwarves. Gimli is elevated almost to rapture when Gandalf announces that the Company will now cross the mountains and descend the Dimrill stair, passing the sacred Mirrormere.
Most of the Company are asleep by morning, when great flocks of Saruman's crows pass over the Company — which Aragorn recognizes as native to the forests near Isengard; a single croak from the flock probably indicates the moment at which the Company is spotted. In the evening the crows return southwards with their tidings. The Company abandons plans to rest tonight and Aragorn leads the Company along an ancient road toward the Redhorn Pass.
The Company of the Ring spent last night marching along the ancient road that leads from the desolate ruins of Eregion, an ancient Elven-city, toward the Redhorn Pass to the south. At dawn they stop and try to spend the day asleep, and in hiding, in case the great flocks of birds return that yesterday may have spotted their camp. As the early winter winter evening brings the safety of darkness, they resume their journey toward the Pass. Aragorn hopes to bring them quickly over the mountains and into the safety of Lórien before their position is discovered and they are intercepted.
The Company of the Ring continues to march overnight, and to sleep, hidden, during the daytime, because of the flock of birds that spotted them in the ruins of Eregion the day before yesterday. The march they make before dawn brings them past the halfway point of their journey from Eregion to the Redhorn pass, and when they start again at nightfall they grow near to the feet of the mountains themselves — the first time the Hobbits have actually drawn this close to the Misty Mountains that they heard about as children in Bilbo's tales.
After marching through the night,
the Company of the Ring reaches the foot of Caradhras.
Frodo overhears Gandalf and Aragorn debating;
the wizard fears they will be observed
if they attempt the barren Redhorn pass,
and perhaps trapped by severe weather,
but Aragorn resists the ‘
In the long hours before dawn, heavy snow traps the Company of the Ring as they attempt to scale the path up the side of Caradhras and cross the Misty Mountains there by the pass known as the Redhorn Gate. When the Hobbits fall and become drowsy with cold, Gandalf gives them draughts of miruvor brought from Rivendell. When attempts to light a fire with flint fail in the swirling wet cold, he abandons secrecy and lights their fire with a word of Command.
The first hours of daylight are spent forcing passage through the snow, and they spend the rest of the day climbing back down to the lower slopes of the mountain. They halt in the evening, and Gandalf argues that they should now attempt to pass under the mountains, through the dark Mines of Moria, where he hopes that there remain friendly Dwarves. Several of the Company are against the idea, and foresight comes upon Aragorn as he warns Gandalf, ‘if you pass the doors of Moria, beware!’ But the Company is quickly persuaded of Gandalf's wisdom when they hear wolves howling about them in the dark and prepare for their camp to be attacked.
The Company of the Ring spends the night atop a small hill near the feet of Caradhras, after their failure yesterday to climb the Redhorn pass. Powerful wolves that Aragorn calls Wargs attack them in the hours before dawn. Gandalf calls the first Warg to appear a ‘Hound of Sauron’, though it seems more likely that they were dispatched from Isengard after the Company was spotted by the flocks of crows five days ago. After hours of slinking through the darkness just beyond the edge of the firelight, the Wargs finally attack, but are driven back as Gandalf calls down fire and ignites the ring of trees around their hilltop.
The Company are now convinced that they need to flee through Moria, where their pursuers will not be able to follow. The pale winter sun rises into a clear sky that offers little concealment as the wizard leads them south toward the Sirannon, the Gate-stream, whose bed they find parched and dry. The ancient road beside it leads them to the Walls of Moria, where a dam across the Sirannon has formed a wide lake. They detour safely around its northern edge in the gathering dark, and reach the Gate of Moria during the night.
An hour or two after midnight, the waning moon rides high enough above the Misty Mountains to illuminate the Gate of Moria in the rock face in front of which the Company of the Ring are gathered. Just as Gandalf opens the Moria Gate, a monster grasps at them from the dark shallows where Boromir in frustration had just thrown a stone. They free Frodo from its tentacles — the monster singles out the Ring-bearer for attention, as will happen again when trolls attack them in the Mines in three days — and the Company escapes into Moria.
The monster closes the doors behind them and blocks them with debris, uprooting the pair of holly-trees that have stood beside the Gate for more than six thousand years. (The trees were gifts from the Elves of Eregion to the Dwarves of Moria, before that Elven city was destroyed in the Second Age, and the Dwarves driven from the mines in the Third.) The Company begins their march through the Mines, lacking much of their luggage, and without any source of light save Gandalf's staff.
Since entering the Mines meant abandoning Bill the pony, who has carried their luggage since his purchase in Bree more than three months ago, Gandalf placed words of guard upon him before opening the Gate. These apparently work quite well, for not only does Bill escape from the monster in the waters, but after weeks of wandering in the Wild will eventually return safely to Rivendell.
Several hours after midnight the Company ends their first march through Moria, when they reach an intersection at which Gandalf's guidance falters. They choose a nearby chamber in which to sleep, where Pippin drops a stone down a deep shaft — and is answered by hammers tapping some signal in the depths. The Company sleeps while the wizard smokes and ponders, then marches through the rest of the day and into the night before reaching a great pillared hall. There they sleep, expecting that dawn will bring sunlight through the windows and shafts by which Dwarves lighted their dwellings.
During these early marches Frodo sees unusually well in the dark, a hint of the slight transparency he bears from the Morgul-wound that he suffered on distant Weathertop more than three months ago. He also begins to hear the padding footfalls of Gollum behind them, and while on watch in the hall he once glimpses green eyes in the distance. Gollum has already wandered through Moria nearly to the West-gate when the Company entered the mines, and, though nearly famished, is now energized again by the close presence of the Ring.
The Company wakes in Moria when daylight touches a side chamber where they find both Balin's tomb and the tattered chronicle of his Dwarven settlement. Gandalf reads selections from which they deduce that they slept in Hall twenty-one of Moria's North-end and are standing in the Chamber of Mazarbul; they also learn that the lake and tentacled monster by the West-gate were contrived to trap the Dwarven settlers. Barely a minute after Gandalf reads the final words — `Drums, drums in the deep — they are coming' — they hear great drum-beats pound up from the depths below.
But the Dwarves who perished in the Chamber twenty-five years before had fought assault from both directions, while the hasty attack now brought against the Company threatens only the Chamber's western door; after brief battle in which Frodo survives a terrible spear-thrust, the Company escapes through the east door and down a narrow stair. Gandalf remains behind to lock the door, and is nearly destroyed when his spell is challenged from some presence on the other side; the door shatters and the Chamber collapses under the strain.
After an hour of fleeing southward down dark corridors — for Gandalf now lacks the strength to light his staff — they reach the Second Hall and the narrow Bridge of Khazad-dûm. Behind them in the hall, leading orcs in pursuit, strides a Balrog: the power that opposed the locking-spell, and the terror to which the vast Dwarven city succumbed. Gandalf orders the Company to flee without him — though the valor of Aragorn and Boromir constrains them from obeying — and turns back toward the pursuit.
There upon the bridge Gandalf challenges the Balrog, his ancient peer, another Ainur who dwelt in the halls of Iluvatar before the world's beginning. Though the demon towers in fresh strength above the wizard weary with heavy labors and the mortal flesh he has assumed, the strength of the Grey Wizard and the Ring he bears proves the greater; the Balrog's sword shatters and the Bridge falls from beneath it. But with a final lash of its whip it entangles the wizard and both fall into the dark beneath Moria.
The remaining members of the Company pass out of Moria and on to the Dimrill Stair beneath the sky. Gimli takes Frodo and Sam aside to look in the Mirrormere whose waters reveal Durin's crown shining behind the blue sky above them; and when wounds are tended the Company discovers that Frodo survived the spear-thrust because he wears the mail-shirt made of mithril that Bilbo gave him on the eve of his depature from Rivendell more than three weeks ago. They march to the falls of Nimrodel under the eaves of Lórien where they receive cautious welcome from the Elves, whom the Sons of Elrond warned of the Ring's journey two months ago.
Gandalf and the Balrog finally plunge into water, quenching the Balrog's fire; and in the dark Gandalf clutches his fleeing opponent as his only hope of escape from the deeps. Only after eleven days of weary battle will the two die.
The Company wakes from sleep beside the falls of Nimrodel, upon the high flets where the Elves guarding Lórien offered them shelter last night. The Orcs that pursued them from Moria passed beneath them before dawn, lured away by the Elves; but Gollum, who has also followed the Company from Moria, was not distracted, and began climbing Frodo's tree before the approach of Elves forced his retreat into the dark.
The Company are lead across the river Celebrant (on the rope bridge that proves so daunting to the Hobbits) and into the interior of Lórien, where Gimli must be blindfolded before proceeding; the others submit to this humiliation for his sake. They march through the day, and fall asleep still blindfolded.
Gollum flees from the Elves who fill the woods in pursuit of the orcs, and follows the Silverlode south. He will lurk along Lórien's southern borders by the Great River until the Company emerges next month.
The Company wake in Lórien, still blindfolded, and are escorted further inward towards the Elven-city at the heart of the wood. When they reach Cerin Amroth at noon their blindfolds are finally removed, and Gimli becomes the first Dwarf to see the trees of Lórien in more than a thousand years. Frodo and Sam themselves are shown, from atop a high flet, the heights of Dol Guldur — from which the assault against Lórien that the servants of the Sauron have been preparing will finally be launched, in less than eight weeks. Aragorn stands upon Cerin Amroth one last time, wrapped in the memory of the vows he and Arwen exchanged there almost thirty-nine years ago.
A final evening march brings the Company to the woodland city of Caras Galadhon itself, where they are welcomed by Celeborn and Galadriel, the Lord and Lady of Lórien, who are dismayed by the news of Gandalf's fall. The Elves furnish a pavilion — since Hobbits, in particular, prefer sleeping at ground level — and the travellers are able to sleep without fear for the first time since leaving Rivendell almost four weeks ago.
On the second evening that the Company rests in Caras Galadon, Legolas does not return to their pavilion in the evening; for the rest of their stay in Lórien he spends most of his time among his fellow Elves, often taking Gimli with him as he explores the golden wood and its people.
Gandalf's weary pursuit of the Balrog finally concludes, as they emerge from the top of the fabled Endless Stair and out on to the dizzy summit of Zirak-zigil. The Balrog bursts again into flame, and the two begin their final combat.
Gandalf continues for a second day to fight the Balrog of Moria upon the highest ledges of Zirak-zigil. The fires and lightnings melt its cap of snow, leaving the rock bare and scorched.
Death of Gandalf the Grey. Ten days after falling from the bridge of Khazad-dûm, and after two days of combat upon the peak of Zirak-zigil, Gandalf finally concludes his struggle with the Balrog of Moria. His opponent falls and is destroyed against the mountainside; Gandalf himself collapses and dies.
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