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Lie Down in the Darkness, Rise up from the Ash: 2. Bridge Into Darkness

The Song of the World is a melody so complex, so perfectly entwined within its own harmony, that even a single new note may change it; and yet at the same time, because it is so integrally itself, the course of its Music does not shift, even in the face of severe dissonance. Not all things change, though all the rest of a stave may shift about them.

So it was that the Company's journey south, ordained by the Song, was made still, but under the new shadow it led them through new verses… and yet they were destined still to pass the long leagues of Eriador. Caradhras loomed still large in the Music born of the disharmony; the snows still beat them from the mountains slopes, and the Watcher remained still to drive them into the depths of Moria.

And their hearts were heavy, for though none but Gandalf could hear the changing of the Notes, all sensed it, though they knew not that there was any "change" to speak of. The Song simply was, and they existed in its midst, ignorant of its manifold possibilities… and of the fact that they stood now on a path bound into the Soundlessness of the Void….

Frodo trudged wearily along, following Gandalf in the darkness, and he felt his burden heavy. Moria passed all about him, seemingly endless, concealed in a cloak of tragedy and fear that pressed close on all sides. Nothing seemed to go right on this journey: the disastrous attempt to pass the Redhorn Gate had only seemed to strengthen the fearful mood that had hovered over their departure from Rivendell. Then the birds, the wolves, and the Watcher had further sapped the spirits of the Company, and now they wandered the long-deserted halls of the Black Pit of Khazad-dûm. Yet they continued, and so he hoped still that he might find a way to the fulfillment of the quest.

Gandalf paused suddenly ahead of him, and Frodo would have collided with him had his stride been any longer; as it was, his momentum carried him right up to the hem of the wizard's cloak, as Gandalf stood examining the empty space before them. Behind them, there came the sound of feet shuffling awkwardly to a halt, as everyone stumbled a bit at the unexpected pause.

Glancing back, Frodo saw the dim outlines of his companions: Merry and Pippin, standing close for comfort, and Sam, looking ill at ease but determined. Beyond them was Gimli, and some distance further away stood Legolas the Elf, whom Frodo recognized instantly in the darkness by the faint glitter that seemed to emanate from him – a hint, perhaps, of the inner fire that dwelt in the elvish race. And between Elf and Dwarf, as always, lurked the tall, broad shadow of Boromir.

Poor Boromir, Frodo thought, feeling a ghost of a smile rise in him. I think he is not best pleased to be ever pinned between those two! For the Man of Gondor served more often than not as a physical barrier between Elf and Dwarf, neither of whom were willing to come any closer to each other than necessity required. The hobbit guessed that if Boromir had not come with them on this journey, they would have made Aragorn their wall. Indeed, it seemed to him that the only reason Strider was spared that difficult position was a prior friendship with Legolas, which the Elf was unwilling to hazard in this almost childish animosity.

"Gimli," Gandalf spoke then, striding forward, and the Dwarf grunted and followed. The two went and stood together before the looming maw of a great door, and to either side by the light of Gandalf's staff showed dimly the lintels of another door, leading off into still more darkness. Behind him, a sigh gusted softly, and Frodo guessed that was Boromir, either enjoying the respite or else annoyed at the delay, or both together.

After some moments, Gandalf spoke again, "Well, I do not remember this place at all!" He paused, holding aloft his staff for some moments, and then he said, with a shake of his head, "And Gimli can give me no insight, either. Better that we take what rest we can for the remainder of the night, I think, for I expect all now are as weary as I am, or more."

The tension eased a bit, as everyone brightened at the thought of rest. Merry and Pippin, eagerly seeking a place to lie in seeming safety, were quick to discover a little space beyond a half-closed door. But as they made quickly to open it and enter, the wizard forestalled them.

"Steady!" Gandalf said sharply, restraining the young hobbits with the snap of his voice. "Let me go first, and see what may lie before us, for you know not what may be within."

The Company crowded close in behind Gandalf nonetheless, but the wizard had gone only a few paces when the light from his staff revealed a hole in the ground: the remains of a well, it seemed. From behind and above Frodo came Aragorn's mildly reproving voice, which nevertheless held a note of amusement for the younger hobbits' familiar antics:

"One of you might have fallen in and still be wondering when he would strike the bottom. Let the guide go first while you have one!" Though softly spoken, Aragorn's words reverberated chillingly off the walls of the hall, filling the air with mocking, whispering echos: …while you have one… have one… while you have one… one…ne….

After that, even the silence was welcome.

A stone pitched in the dark. Signals in the depths. In the night beneath the mountains, drums were readied – as ever they would have been. Yet Notes were turning, Silence was falling fast. Was there yet a way to miss the Void that the absence of one bent and tinny note had made? One silence makes another and – even if ever foreordained, which is perhaps uncertain – lends it power, which uneasy hearts may glimpse...

Some hours and one foolish stone's throw and worrisome report later, Frodo lay exhausted in the little nook that he had claimed to sleep in, but sleep toyed gently with him without ever descending. He closed his eyes and willed himself to sleep, but to no avail. Memory of those hammer strokes from deep in the well haunted him, riding on the current of his unease. What had Pippin wakened? And when would it show itself?

Of a sudden, in the darkness at his back, he heard the rustle of clothes and then soft footsteps as someone rose and moved. His ears pricked up, curious but also fearful, wondering if one of the others had heard something new to alarm him. But then Gandalf's voice sounded, greeting one unseen in a soft voice:

"Well, it is later indeed, my friend." And to Frodo's surprise, the wizard spoke not Westron, nor even Sindarin, but Quenya, which Frodo could understand only generally. In spite of the dread that welled up within him – for he guessed that Gandalf did not wish this conversation to be understood by any save the one to whom he spoke (and Frodo knew now whom the other must be) – he eavesdropped, translating frantically. And what he heard filled his heart with foreboding….

"Well, it is later indeed, my friend," Gandalf said as Aragorn wandered over. The Ranger braced his back against the stony doorframe and then slid easily to the floor, sitting with his legs crossed and his hands in his lap. But if his posture betrayed no worry, his grey eyes, lit in their depths with an eerie red by Gandalf's dim flame, were troubled. The wizard quirked a brow, and demanded, "For do I not guess correctly that you would speak to me upon those matter which we discussed in Imladris?"

"I would. Later still might be more… apt… but I fear there may be no other time, Gandalf. For the dread I conceived before Caradhras has not abated, and I see now in your every step a last one," Aragorn replied, gazing with concern through the curling tendrils of smoke at the fire-lit, seamed face of the wizard. The cares of a millenium rested there, in that aged visage, and Aragorn frowned. In all the years that he had known Gandalf, he had never thought of him as old. Ancient, in the timeless manner of Elves, yes, but old? Physically bowed by the unbearable pressure of too many centuries of struggle, even as a mortal creature?

Never that! But tonight, as the Ranger stared at the wizard, it seemed to him that for the first time, Gandalf looked his age and he feared what that might mean. So much rides upon him, he thought, and yet beyond Moria, I can see him no more among us. My heart tells me that death comes soon to you, Gandalf my friend, and what I would not give to be proven wrong! It gave him chills to think further down that path, to a world without Gandalf, but he steeled himself out of habit and prepared to follow that grim trail still further if he could. For one must forget how to flinch if one would meddle in a wizard's affairs.

"That is as may be. It is not given me to know my end; 'tis a blind spot for us all, perhaps," the wizard replied, and wondered at himself for that oblique warning. Aragorn seemed not to notice it, though, which was perhaps good. Or else, he might have taken the remark to mean no more than it said. "What shall I say?" he finally asked. "The darkness grows, as we knew it would, and it veils the land. And in the end, it matters not, for we are committed. Even were the domination of Sauron now upon us, insurmountable save by means the Valar alone know, we would still be bound to do that which is right, accepting the consequences as they came."

"True," said the Dúnadan, "and I do not seek to know that safety lies ahead, for any of us. I would, though, know what hope you have, for I think you were not wholly frank with me in Imladris. This matter of Gollum troubles you still, and more deeply than you would admit to any."

"I fear I can say little more on that matter than what I have already disclosed," Gandalf replied, inhaling deeply the sweet-scented smoke. "Those who have borne the Ring are marked by it, and about them does our fate revolve. Even one so small and filled with malice as Sméagol has great significance, and his death, too, will mark this age. Is that enough for you?"

"Even were it not, I think you would say no more," Aragorn replied heavily, and glanced about at the sleeping bodies. "Have you decided which gate to take?"

"My mind is made up. But we are all in need of rest," said Gandalf, stressing the last word slightly as he scowled in Aragorn's direction. For his part, the Ranger only smiled and held up his hands in acquiescence.

"I go, I go! Trust me to have some sense!" And Aragorn rose and went silently back to his corner, where he wrapped himself in his cloak and lay down. The veteran of many a lonely and wary journey, he had no trouble falling instantly asleep in spite of fear…

… but Frodo son of Drogo remained awake, and felt his heart pounding in his breast at what he had overheard. He trusted Strider's judgment implicitly, as he had ever since they had left Bree in spite of Sam's misgivings; if he were worried, that was cause enough for alarm. But if Gandalf himself found cause for concern in Gollum's death – and oh, how Frodo's own words in the Shire came back to haunt him now! – then the situation must be grave indeed.

They are trying to protect me, he thought. Gandalf and Aragorn, and all of the others, from everything that they can foresee, but no one can save me from myself. Have I a hope? I know not! Elbereth Gilthoniel, why should this age of the world suffer so? 

To that, Frodo knew there could be no answer, and he hardened his heart against his own fears:

Gandalf speaks rightly: it matters not what may happen; what matters is that I do what is right. I must take the Ring to the Fire. I must try, and let nothing I hear or feel stop me!

Resolution came not too soon, for at the edge of the Silence there loomed still the Bridge of Khazad-dûm – its span the last tendril that would bear the Company into the rift of the growing Disharmony. Resolution made a new Note, a welcome one, and yet grief sounds the more loudly for never having been voiced, and foreboding makes loss more bitter than poison.

Beneath Gandalf's staff broke the bridge of Khazad-dûm – one Silence joined another, and drew worse lament for the terrible wisdom that entered the world then. Child of knowledge or of grief, none could have said, save One, but all recourse out of the Void failed irrevocably when fell Olórin of Valinor.

Author's Note: Thanks to a German Benedictine nun named Hildegaard von Bingen for the idea that the Devil cannot sing.

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In Playlists

Playlist Overview

Last Update: 10 Mar 12
Stories: 8
Type: Reader List
Created By: Aiwendiel

Of course there are thousands of stories out there, and I have only read a fraction of them. NOT intended to be a scientific survey! My picks of stories that I feel are particularly well written, stylistically interesting, lyrical... Regardless of era, topic or character.

Why This Story?

Dwimordene's phenomenal dark AU is an example of lyrical writing style that weaves the fantastic and the poetic with the real. And it's just flat out a really good story.


Story Information

Author: Dwimordene

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 09/01/10

Original Post: 06/06/02

Go to Lie Down in the Darkness, Rise up from the Ash overview

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