The Last Visit to Moria
Inspired by a scene in the movie in which a troll breaks Balin's tomb.
There is nothing in Tolkien's writings that says that Dwalin had a son; but also, there is nothing that says that he did not have a son. Therefore, I created a character of Dwalin's son for this story.
Moria = Black Chasm (in Elvish)
Thanks to Cairistiona for beta-reading. * hugs *
A year after The War of the Ring, Gimli visits Moria one last time to fulfil one important task.
After all that he had seen in Khazad-dum, he wasn't so eager to go there as was the case the first time. Back then, when he left Rivendell with Fellowship, there was still a hope that he would find Balin there. A very slim one, although he didn't want to admit it then. But it existed. Besides, he so wanted to see the greatest kingdom of his people.
The journey through it destroyed all his hopes and revealed the harsh truth. Khazad-dum no longer existed; the place had become Moria – the black chasm that was no longer a home of his people. Was it possible to reclaim it again? To make it a place of dwarvish song and light one more time? Every dwarf's heart longed for it; each one wanted to do it more than anything. But he had seen the real situation, and realized how much blood would have to be spilled for a conquest like that. Too much. Too much to be able to celebrate victory afterwards. No matter how much giving up hurt, sometimes wisdom meant you had to recognize the moment when you had to give up.
After all, they had Erebor and Iron Hills, and it was much better to deploy all resources into developing those two kingdoms – and turning them into magnificent places that would be put into glorious songs one day.
However, he would return to Khazad-dum one more time, at least just for a short while. There was something he had to do there.
He knew some help would be welcome for his mission. It would be more difficult to fulfil his plan if he was alone – when he arrived, there would be a lot of work to do. Of course, not that any dwarf ever avoided physical work – but because of potential danger it was much better to do it as quickly as possible. Dwalin, too, wanted to go – quite understandable – but he was almost 250 and his age didn't allow travelling. So his son Norin went in his stead, and also two young dwarves.
Now, a year after Sauron's defeat, most parts of Middle-earth were safer than they'd been for a long time. Their journey to Misty Mountains was quite relaxed and there was no danger at all. Yet, when they came close to the Mountains, they became much more cautious, and during the last two days they set guards during night breaks. Luckily, everything went the best way possible and they saw no orcs.
The Dimrill Gate were easy to spot. They noticed the entrance while still far away: dark, wide aperture with two massive pillars on each side and a big arch above. But the opening that he was looking for was much smaller, and invisible from where he was observing. For the Dimrill Gate couldn't lead him to the place he was looking for – The Bridge was destroyed, and there was no way to cross it. Besides, even if it was not destroyed, that way to his destination would be longer and they might meet orcs. They had to enter the other way, and actually, that other way gave them a good chance to remain unseen.
He closed his eyes and invoked images. They were alive in his mind, carved in his memory forever. The chamber. The door. Long stairs, at least half an hour of descending. The last passage, then The Bridge, and finally the way out.
He opened his eyes and observed the mountain again, watching the slopes above The Dimrill Gate. He couldn't see his target, but based on his memories of the stairs and descending, he could roughly judge how high above the Gate they should search. Tomorrow morning, he nodded decisively.
The next day the skies were clear. They rose with the first light of dawn and started to climb the mountain. As soon as they passed The Dimrill Gate, it became more difficult because there was no path any more. The slopes were quite steep in some places, and they had to look for their way through very rough terrain. More than once, they had to come back because the slopes in front of them were too hard to climb; another difficulty was the fact that he didn't know for sure where his goal was. It was small, and he still didn't spot it.
From time to time he looked back; luckily, the arch of The Dimrill Gate protruded above the slopes surrounding it and it was easily visible from almost all positions. In one moment, he thought they had gone too high so they started to come back, zigzagging – both up-and-down, and left-to-right, in order to check as big an area as possible. By noon, it became quite warm under the April sun, especially because they were heavily loaded with a lot of equipment they'd need later. But the little company continued their search, tireless and unstoppable.
And finally, some time around mid-afternoon, he spotted what he'd been looking for. A small, barely-visible opening in the slope. Had they passed only several steps lower, perhaps they wouldn't have noticed it. He stopped and looked at it. All that he had planned ever since that moment when he went out of Khazad-dum, a little more than year ago, would now become reality. He stared at the dark crevice, knowing what was inside, and his heart filled with sorrow. Never again will there be dwarvish song in Khazad-dum... but if the place had to be a tomb, at least it wouldn't be in ruins.
He turned around and looked at his companions. They, too, observed the opening in the rock. He gave them a sign and they slowly approached, and he warned them to be silent. They didn't say a word, and they walked noiselessly. He leaned towards the opening and carefully listened for a while; they had to be sure that there were no orcs inside. When after a long time he heard absolutely nothing, he concluded that the chamber was empty. Then he took rope-ladders from his backpack; they tied its ends to the rocks that looked most stable and he started to descend.
The opening was pretty narrow – barely passable for a dwarf. Despite the seriousness of the moment, while passing down he remembered the legendary Bombur and smiled, thinking that it was a good luck that none of four of them was like that huge old dwarf. Yet, although narrow, the opening was quite shallow, and he passed through very quickly. A few more steps down the ladders, and he was on chamber's floor.
Once down, he looked around. Everything was exactly as he remembered – not one single detail was different – which meant that the orcs hadn't entered in the meantime. And why would they, after all, he thought. There was nothing more here that would interest them.
Enough daylight came through the small shaft and he could see all the carved reliefs on the walls and pillars. Here and there some were destroyed – some in the battle several years ago, fought by Balin and his company, and others a year ago, in the battle against orcs fought by Fellowship. He almost didn't notice his companions who joined him in the chamber, he was too overwhelmed with feelings and memories. Biggest, most beautiful realm... and so much death and sorrow.
Then he turned to the middle of the chamber. The big carved tomb was partially destroyed – broken by troll's bludgeon in the last battle. Then the Fellowship was forced to run away – they had to save their lives from hundreds of orcs and the fiery Morgoth's monster that went after them. Back then, he couldn't do anything. But as they went out and started to descend the mountain, as they started their way towards Lothlorien, he stopped for a moment and looked back. And even then, in that very moment, he knew what he'd do one day when everything was over.
And now he was here, ready to fulfil the promise to himself. Dwalin's son – Balin's nephew – and other two dwarves looked at him seriously, waiting for his sign. He nodded, and they started to work.
After checking if the big Twenty-first Hall was empty – and luckily it was, and their coming was unnoticed – they took all the skeletons of the orcs and the big skeleton of the troll out of the chamber and left them on the other side. Then they started to build a wall where once had been the door, so that no one could ever enter Mazarbul Chamber again. There were more than enough stones around for the job.
By the time they finished the wall, night came. Although they wanted to work more – the importance of their mission gave them strength even after a long day filled first with long climbing and then hard work – he decided not to light torches and continue working. Night was the time of the orcs. Orc patrols could be roaming around mountain slopes during the night, and in that case they might notice light from this chamber. So his little company used the last rays of light for their evening meal and then they crawled into their sleeping bags.
Despite being tired, he couldn't fall asleep immediately. It wasn't that the nature of the chamber made him feel uncomfortable – because it was a tomb, after all – but he thought for a long time about the history of his people, of ancient First Age cities in the Blue Mountains, of the beauties his ancestors created, of the most famous days of Khazad-dum. He wished he could travel trough time and visit all those places in times of their greatest glory. But it wasn't possible, and he sadly wondered if his people would ever again achieve even a part of their former greatness. Finally, he fell asleep.
The night passed peacefully. He was sure that that there were many orcs in deep passages, but obviously they didn't come to this part of Khazad-dum these days; from the Twenty-first Hall, behind the newly built wall, not a single sound came, and he was grateful for that.
After breakfast they continued their work. Slowly and carefully they renewed Balin's tomb: they re-built the sarcophagus, and he carved the emblem of Durin's house. Norin suggested that Balin's name should be written, just like it once was, but he just smiled. He had another plan.
Then they cleared the rest of the rocks and put them in one corner, and then, with great care and respect, they collected dwarvish skeletons and put them in the middle of the room. He didn't know who they were; he didn't know their names; he didn't know their stories. But not for a single moment did he see them just as mere skeletons – as dead bodies. For him, they were persons; they were his people, they were brave and devoted, and behind each there was a life story, full of fighting and love for dwarvish heritage. While they worked, his eyes filled with tears several times, and although they tried to hide it, it seemed the others also wiped their eyes from time to time.
They built another big tomb and laid all the other dwarves together. On the top of their sarcophagus he also carved Durin's emblem. It wasn't of slightest importance if they were direct descendants of Durin or not; they were Durin's folk, and that was enough.
When they finished, it was late afternoon. He looked around, enveloping the whole chamber in his gaze. Yes, there were damaged pillars and decorations, but he knew he couldn't renew everything. But at least it was tidy now, there was no more rubble around, and his people had a worthy resting place. He nodded, just for himself. Then they climbed.
There was just one more thing left to do. There was still enough day light, and he started to work. The others didn't know what he had in mind – he didn't reveal this part of his plan in advance. But as soon as he started, he noticed realization on their faces, and they hurried to his aid. They put rocks around the edges of the crevice and built a tombstone above it. And on top, using dwarvish runes, he carefully carved
Here lies Balin son of Fundin
Lord of Khazad-dum
And his company of brave dwarves
Lord of Khazad-dum
And his company of brave dwarves
They stood in front of a small rocky mound and looked at it, their heads bent down. Thus ends the story of Khazad-dum, he thought dolefully. But besides sorrow, for which he knew would never vanish, now he felt peace too. The thought of destroyed tomb of Balin and scattered bones of his people would haunt him no more.
He could go home now.