Moria - Discoveries
by Meimi


Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with J.R.R. Tolkien or anyone who hold rights to Lord of the Rings. It isn't mine, I'm just playing with it.

Note #1: This story is basically Alternate Universe, though, perhaps I should say Alternate Timeline since it is still based in the same world, events just happen differently.

Note #2: Okay, so this chapter is really, really late. My apologies. I could go into a long drawn out explanation of why, but I'll spare everyone the particulars. Suffice it to say that February has been rather hellish for me.

Note #3: This is the first chapter where I needed to name an extraneous character, and as I suck at such, I latched onto the first name that mildly appealed to me. Hopefully, it doesn't sound too stupid.

Note #4: Movie canon? Book canon? Hell, I don't know anymore.


The Fellowship had scant warning before the blizzard hit the pass, only the barest of shifts in the wind alerted their elven companion in time for them to seek out shelter. Even so, the shelter that had been found left much to be desired. An old tumble of rocks, that had perhaps been there for centuries judging by their weathered state, had been the only feasible place to camp, and then only in the vaguest of sense. The stones provided two walls at best and only the barest sliver for a roof, but it protected them from the worst of the winds and so they huddled together and waited. It proved to be a long one.

Gandalf blew into his left hand as he bent forward and tapped the end of his staff upon the head sized rock wedged in between Pippin and Gimli. Before the wind had truly begun to howl and drown out their ability to communicate with each other without extreme difficulty, he had gotten them all to situate similar stones in between every huddled pair of the Fellowship. They had not questioned him about it, but they had certainly given him rather odd looks. However, after the snow had really started to fall their curiosity had been sated as the wizard infused each stone in turn with some warmth to keep the worst of the cold at bay. It had worked, so far, but the freezing temperature was proving to be quite a determined opponent. Gandalf was having to renew the heat in the stones far more frequently than he had originally thought; and the constant drain of energy was starting to wear upon him.

Gritting his teeth, the Grey Pilgrim slowly levered himself up off the ground, his joints creaking and protesting the movement. His own internal temperature was beginning to fluctuate, exhaustion lingering at the very edges of his being as he did his best to keep the others warm. They couldn't stay there much longer, not like this. He'd turn into an icicle ere long and that would leave the Fellowship in rather bad straits.

Leaning over, Gandalf tapped Aragorn lightly on the head to get the ranger's attention and pointed around towards the leeward side of the great stone that served as one of their walls. Aragorn nodded in understanding, for there could only be one reason the wizard would go out into the storm. Stealing himself, Gandalf stumped off in the general direction he had pointed. There was an elf that needed to be found before any decisions could be made pertaining to their current situation; but he doubted that Elrohir had strayed too far.

The elf had been making the rounds to gauge the fury of the blizzard and determine whether any foes lingered nearby. The cold rarely bothered the first born, though admittedly, those of the elven race could freeze to death if they were careless. Thus, Elrohir was well suited to his task and, no doubt, preferred it that way. Gandalf had noted Sam and Frodo's attempts to be friendly to the elf, and could not help but feel a strong upwell of pride over their actions. But the hard truth remained, Elrohir was far too distant now for normal means to reach him. Too many 'if only's had been passed up, too many chances lost. Gandalf still held on to some hope, but it was only a tiny spark, a lost star that had yet to be found.

The Grey Wizard leaned heavily into the wind as he left the shelter of stones, but even so, the fierce gale nearly bowled him over. Such fury could be a product of nature's seemingly random pique, but somehow he doubted that this particular storm was natural at all. The timing and the location for it raised far too many suspicious questions. But just what had caused it... now that was the interesting part. The Misty Mountains had their own powers, and those who strove for the failure of the Fellowship's quest might not be the only ones moving against them. Such a bother.

Gandalf bit out a sharp curse and stumbled as the strength of the wind abruptly fell off about a dozen or so yards away from the rock shelter. He leaned heavily upon his staff as he regained his balance and blinked owlishly at the soft snowflakes drifting lazily through the air around him. Scowling darkly, he looked back and could not even make out the stand of stones through the furious gale that tore through the pass behind him. Well, that settled it. That blasted storm wasn't anywhere near being natural, not in the least.

Grumbling sulfurously under his breath, the wizard swung back around, raking his gaze out across the pristine landscape. Upon first glance there was naught but white on white on yet more white, but a more thorough examination of the area located a dark smudge standing off to the right in the distance. Elrohir. Well, that hadn't been too hard, but there still remained the task of getting the elf back to the Fellowship. Hopefully, that wouldn't prove to be too difficult. Sighing, Gandalf shook his head at his own reservations and began stumping his way through the snow towards the solitary figure up ahead. The sooner he got there, the sooner he could speak with Elrohir -whether said conversation turned out to be another confrontation or not- and return to the others.

The elf, for his part, paid the wizard scant heed as Gandalf slogged towards him through the thigh-deep snow. His attention was instead focused upon the thick clouds. His head cocked ever so slightly, as if he were listening intently for something faint, something elusive that only he could hear. Gandalf didn't even want to guess at what it could possibly be that would garner such sharp scrutiny from Elrohir, but whatever it was could not be good. The elf was far too tense for it to be otherwise.

Grimacing as he finally drew up alongside Elrohir, Gandalf peered up at the elf and baldly asked, "What is it? What is it that you harken to with those elven ears of yours?"

"There is something there," Elrohir murmured absently, his eyes scanning the clouds above as he listened for the faint whispers he had heard before, whispers that were even now returning in strength as he had expected them to. "There is a foul voice upon the wind. One that speak of doom," he glanced down at the wizard then, his face devoid of expression, "Our doom."

Gandalf hissed out an aggravated breath, he really ought to have expected this. Optimism only worked so well in reality, and even less so in such dire circumstances as this quest. "What language does it speak in?" he asked after a moment's time. If the threat could be defined, even just the tiniest bit, then he might be able to figure out just what he needed to look out for.

Elrohir shrugged at the query, "It has many tongues, so far I have heard the languages of my people, both Quenya and Sindarin. And I have also heard the languages of man, Westron in particular. It also laughs in Khuzdul and mocks in the Black Speech of Mordor, and it speaks in others as well, some that I do not recognize at all."

The wizard swore then, his choice of curses barbed and vicious, for the elf's answer told him much and yet still left him with nothing that he could use. Oh, it did weed out the lesser beings that may have been enticed to move against the Fellowship, but the major powers, the deadliest by far, still remained.

Elrohir arched an eyebrow at Mithrandir's muted theatrics as he crouched down to the wizard's eye level. "Is it Saruman?" he asked, vaguely curious. He knew well that the Istari had abilities above and beyond even those of his own kin, but he had not realized that they could reach quite so far with it.

"It is a distinct possibility," Gandalf conceded with a scowl. "But it could also be one of Sauron's loathsome minions. And... we cannot rule out Caradhras itself," the wizard admitted sourly and turned his gaze upon the forbidding crags that rose above them. "The fetid darkness nursed by that mountain has existed there for far longer than either you or I have tread upon the lands of Arda."

Elrohir nodded silently in understanding. Even back when he had been but an elfling he had heard tales of the evil that welled up from the heart of the Redhorn. Gimli had not been far off the mark in his pleas to avoid the mountain at all costs, though perhaps the dwarf had been lax in illustrating the extent of the threat posed by Caradhras. It had been sheer folly to attempt the pass in winter when the mountain's fury was at its worst. Really, it was no surprise that they were now paying for their impudence.

Gandalf shook his head at the situation as he laboriously turned himself around in the snow. "We should return to the others now," he announced crisply, mentally sighing with relief at Elrohir's quick nod of assent. "We cannot stay in this place any longer, we must strike out and move forward..." he trailed off, his squelching steps halted as it dawned on him that Elrohir was not, in fact, following after him. Hauling himself back around, he looked up at the elf again in pure exasperation, "What is it now?"

But this time Elrohir truly was not paying any heed at all to the wizard. He ignored his companion and the snow, the wind and even the not so vague sensation of foulness writhing about the mountain peak. For he had heard something buried beneath the voice that still whispered of doom upon the wind, another sound that had been almost drowned out by it all. One that was far more important than anything else.

"'Tis the sound of an avalanche further up the pass, distant but unmistakable," Elrohir explained after a time for Mithrandir's benefit. After another moment spent listening, he shook himself imperceptibly and absently glanced down at the wizard, "Return to the others, I will go scout it out and join you shortly with what news I can gather, though I can tell you now that it will not be good."

Gandalf scowled darkly, but nodded reluctantly in agreement before resuming his trek back to the Fellowship's shelter of stones. His countenance grew even darker as he drew near, the concentrated blizzard that had trapped them there was swiftly beginning to die down. That did not bode well, for if there was no more need of it then that meant that its purpose had been achieved. The avalanche then? Gandalf humphed to himself. Bad business all around, as Samwise would say.

The wizard blinked curiously as he rounded the last set of stones separating him from the rest of the Fellowship. Aragorn was not where he had left him. Nay, the ranger was now bent over Sam and Frodo, rifling through the packs piled securely upon the hobbits' chosen backrest, Bill. What ever was he doing?

"Aha!" Aragorn crowed in success as he dragged what appeared to be a small wine bottle out of one of the packs and proudly displayed it to all and sundry. "I knew I had stuck one of them in that pack."

The others looked less than impressed but Gandalf instantly recognized the bottle for what it was. "Miruvor! Splendid idea, I think we could all use a bit of warming up!"

Aragorn grinned broadly at the wizard's offhand praise, but frowned an instant later when he noted that Gandalf had returned to them alone. "Where's Elrohir?" he asked, though it bordered on being a demand, and narrowed his eyes suspiciously. He was starting to get rather tired of the wizard's attempts to push his brother into interacting with the Fellowship and the lingering animosity that resulted from said attempts. He knew that Gandalf had the best of intentions in trying to chip through the walls Elrohir had erected around himself, but Aragorn just didn't think that the way the wizard was going about it would do any good. In fact, it may even do more harm.

Gandalf blinked again under Aragorn's distrustful gaze and frowned. Well, that was new, though perhaps not unexpected. The ranger had always had a rather strong sense of devotion in regards to his family, and it tended to translate into a rather deep seated streak of overprotectiveness where they were concerned. Apparently, and unsurprising, that streak now appeared to encompass Elrohir as well. Oh dear, he'd best watch his step around them both then. He really didn't need Aragorn plotting out his untimely demise alongside that blasted elf. There were just only so many things he could watch his own back for.

"Erm," Gandalf coughed lightly and resisted the urge to squirm, "He's gone further up the pass to check out what may have possibly been an avalanche. He will return soon."

"An avalanche you say?" Boromir muttered cynically, shooting the wizard a rather blatant 'you were warned about this' look, "In the Redhorn Pass? I have heard that such things tend to block the way until at least mid-spring."

"Aye," Gimli agreed despondently, "If what Gandalf says is true, then we will not be able to get through. And it will be far too treacherous to attempt to scale the mountains. We will have to turn back."

"Where will we go then?" Frodo asked hesitantly, giving voice to the question that they were all silently asking themselves. "You said that it was too dangerous to try for the Gap of Rohan. What is left to us then if we cannot take the Redhorn Pass?"

Gandalf sighed wearily as he crouched down and grasped Frodo's shoulder reassuringly. "Fear not, there is one way left to us if all others fails. The West-gate of Moria lies not far from here. If we cannot cross the mountains from above, then we must brave the darkness from below."

"We will journey through Moria." And may none of us come to regret this decision.


Arwen was happy. This made Elladan very, very nervous. It wasn't that he begrudged her any of her good cheer. No matter how morose he may have become, he would never want to see his little sister become the same. So it really wasn't the fact that she was happy that was making him nervous, it was the reason why she was happy that was making him want to twitch. The day had started out as any other on their journey. They had roused at first light, had a bit of breakfast, broken camp and continued on their way. However, after about an hour or so on horseback they had run across a field of winter blooming flowers, little white, delicate things. Arwen had taken one look at them and had instantly brought the whole group to a halt whilst she gathered up an armful of the cursed things. The rest of the morning had then been spent listening to her hum contentedly to herself while she wove the flowers into something or other, which, no doubt, was meant for him. Sisters could be such a nuisance.

"Stop giving me that look," Arwen stated blandly as she wrapped a slender flower stem intricately around another.

"What look?" Elladan asked cautiously while he eyed her suspiciously. There was never really any way to gauge which way Arwen's mood might swing when she felt like being whimsical. It was one of her charms, and at the same time, one of his family's most dire banes. She could either be a darling lady, a pure hellion or anything and everything in between depending on how stubborn she felt like being. And in the end, no matter how resistant he was to her overtures and badgering, she would get her way. She always got her way. Her and her damned pout always won out in the end.

"That look, Elladan," Arwen grumbled good-naturedly, arching an eyebrow as she gave him a pointed look of her own. "I don't understand why you're being so paranoid, I'm not going to do anything unpleasant to you."

"Your definition of unpleasant and my definition of unpleasant are entirely two different thing," Elladan sighed melodramatically. It was a familiar, if old argument and one that held no rancor. When she was an elfling and they with barely a century of time to them it would have been accompanied by hair-pulling, poking, or giggling -and sometimes even all three-, but they were far from that time now. Not that that ever really stopped her... "Whatever you have in store for that, I am not wearing it."

"What makes you think that it is meant for you?" Arwen countered irritably as she turned her attention back down to the flowers threaded through her fingers.

"Because you are not so cruel as to inflict it upon the others," Elladan said snidely, smirking just a tad with the knowledge that he had the upper hand, for the moment.

"Cruel?" Arwen blinked in confusion, then shot him a mystified look. Now where was he getting that from. "What does cruelty have to do with it?"

"It is simple, Arwen," Elladan explained, his tone offhand but laced with a touch of superiority, "You won't force it upon any of your escort, because it is their duty to accompany you whether they wish it or not. And while I'm sure that none of them have anything against you, and may, in fact, like you, though the Valar know why, I doubt they'll jump in joy at the prospect of being bedecked in flowers by you. As for Rumil, in particular, I know those aren't meant for him because he does not need the added stress of being your chosen victim on top of everything else."

Arwen hmmphed in annoyance, but surprisingly, did not respond. Instead she focused a thoughtful gaze upon Rumil, who was riding further ahead and thus was not privy to their sibling tit for tat. She absently wove a few more flowers together before she spoke again. "So you noticed that as well then?"

"Aye, it's actually quite difficult to miss," Elladan chuckled ruefully and shook his head, "I'm afraid poor Rumil is quite transparent in this case."

"Mhmm," Arwen agreed readily as she continued her work with the flowers. "He and Orophin have looked up to their brother a bit too much over the centuries, I'm afraid, and now they're all far too serious for their own good."

Elladan snorted and shook his head. "Having Haldir for a role model is sure to turn anyone into anxiety personified. I don't think you can find an elf left in Middle-earth who is as stern and strict as he. And he could never take a joke either, at all, even Thranduil laughed at our antics every now and then. Not so, Haldir. I don't think he's even laughed once in his entire life. How dull."

Arwen bit her bottom lip to stifle the laughter welling up. The twins had never gotten along very well with Haldir, but that really hadn't been much of a surprise. Their personalities had been like oil and water back then, just not a good combination. "He's not that bad," she chided gently, "You just brought out the worst in him, and nearly everyone else as well. And it wasn't much of a surprise either, you were always such brats with those pranks of yours. It's a wonder that father didn't forcibly ship you off to Valinor to give Middle-earth some peace."

"We weren't that bad," Elladan scoffed, "And it would have been cruel of father to do so. We would have easily driven all those who have gone before insane in our usual ways to pass the time while waiting for you all to arrive. So really, all in all, it was for the best. Though," he paused hesitantly for a moment then, a dark frown marring his face, "Perhaps not. Perhaps it would have been best if we had accompanied mother to Valinor. So much pain might have been avoided that way."

Arwen sighed heavily at the return of Elladan's black mood. She supposed it had just been wishful thinking on her part to hope that their light-hearted banter would have lasted longer, but still. She hated seeing him like this. "None of us are ever meant to truly know our future, Elladan," she said softly, "Do not hold yourself at fault for something you could not control."

"I know this." He smiled sadly when she gave him a look of pure skepticism at those words. "Truly, I do. But knowing it does not assuage the guilt nor does it erase the sense that there should have been something more that I could have done."

"We have all felt that way, Elladan," Arwen said soothingly and sighed again, "You are not as alone as you think." She smiled bitterly at his quiet nod of acknowledgement. He knew, but it didn't change how he felt. She could not fault him for that, for she too had a few irrational feelings of guilt over the events of their past. It seemed to be something of a family trait. They had always been remarkably adept at piling guilt, warranted or not, upon their own shoulders, though their father seemed somewhat immune to it. Or perhaps Elrond was simply old enough to have learned better, or at the very least, old enough to have learned how to hide it better. They did know better, but knowledge could only stretch so far when emotions were concerned.

Arwen shook her head at her own thoughts. If she continued down that path she would only end up dwelling upon the dismal past. She couldn't allow herself to do that. Elladan needed her, though perhaps he would argue otherwise. If she did not draw him out of his own personal hell, then who would? Their Galadhrim escort wouldn't have been able to do anything. Elladan's dark mood unsettled them, and perhaps even frightened them a little. They did not know how to interact with someone so hopelessly withdrawn, and certainly not in a beneficial way, nor should they. Elves were not meant for such darkness of the soul. They had little to no experience with such in their own kin, Galadriel had seen to that. The Lady of Light had protected her realm, and all within it, well from anything that might cause such heartache, perhaps too well. But Arwen had seen it, had witnessed the despair that had driven her mother across the sea. Then, she had not known what to do, how to act or what to say, and instead she had been silent when words would have served better. She had always felt that she had failed her mother in that. And while she was sure that her family would deny that there had been any wrongdoing or a lack of empathy on her part, she still felt guilty for it. She would not fail her brother, she would keep the shadows that haunted him at bay for as long as she could... until the end.

"Hmm, is that not Arcanen up ahead?" Elladan asked abruptly, startling Arwen out of her dejected rumination.

"Arcanen?" Arwen blinked blankly for a moment, then followed his gaze to the figure cantering towards them in the distance. "So it is, did he not have scouting duties today?"

"Aye, he did," Elladan responded, his brows drawing together thoughtfully as Rumil broke from the group and went to join their elven scout. "He returns early... and he does not look pleased to be doing so."

"Oh dear," Arwen murmured softly as Elladan urged Brego to join Rumil and gently directed Roheryn to follow in her brother's wake. Arcanen and Rumil had already joined up, the latter beginning to look a bit distressed at the information Arcanen was quietly relaying to him. A feeling of unease washed over her as she caught the soft whisper of orcs passing between the two.

"What is it?" Elladan asked brusquely, staring pointedly at Arcanen as he drew up alongside Rumil, Arwen taking the marchwarden's other side.

Rumil grimaced sourly, but nodded encouragingly at Arcanen's questioning look. The young Galadhrim scout gulped silently, but quickly spoke up, "There are fresh remnants of orc encampments about a league to the west, my lord. They are a day old at best and their tracks lead towards the southwest."

"Orcs," Elladan hissed hatefully. There was nothing he despised more than those abominable creatures. Too much had they stolen from him, too many that he had held precious were gone because of them. The very thought that some of those miserable things were nearby was enough to make his blood start to boil. But no, he needed to be calm, there was something of importance niggling at him. "Did you come across any signs of rangers? They have a few outposts in these lands." He frowned at their confused looks, and explained further, "Mithrandir requested that they keep watch over the Shire and protect the hobbits from any marauders."

Arcanen shook his head negatively. "There were a few burnt out cabins to the north, but no sign of any of the Dunedain."

"If the orcs are heading to the southwest then they will surely run straight into the Shire," Arwen deduced with mounting alarm, "If there are no rangers about, then who will protect the little ones?"

Her three companions glanced helplessly at each other. The Galadhrim had a duty to protect the Lady Arwen upon her journey, to hunt down these orcs would certainly be a detriment to that. And Elladan did not want to drag his sister into a dangerous situation, regardless of how much he would enjoy ridding Arda of the odious creatures. On the other hand, it went against the very nature of all present to do nothing when innocents were at risk.

Rumil bowed his head and chewed nervously on his bottom lip. Surely there was a way to exterminate those foul things and keep his charge safe. What was it?


The plop-plop of splashing water echoed eerily off of the high cliffs now surrounding the Fellowship. Pippin gave a little start and winced at the dreadfully loud reverberations. He sighed heavily and glanced behind him and twitched slightly under the disapproving glare Gandalf was giving him. Well, what did the wizard expect? They'd been waiting there for over an hour while Gandalf tried to figure out the words that would open up the West-gate of Moria. Pippin was bored. There was nothing else to do. He couldn't even eat. Any attempts to approach good old Bill and abscond with something or other to munch on was met with an equally fearsome glare from Sam. And so Pippin was stuck with skipping stones across the lake to pass the time.

"Have a care, Pippin," Boromir warned cautiously, squeezing the hobbit's shoulder softly to belie any possible signs of true disapproval on his part. Merry and Pippin were jovial and eager company, but sometimes they read more into his statements than he might actually mean, not unlike his brother, Faramir. "I like not the look of that lake. Best to leave it be."

"I suppose so," Pippin agreed grouchily and toed the stones at his feet experimentally. Sam's shoes had been nice up in the frigid snow, but he much preferred his feet free of constraints, as a proper hobbit should. Not that he had ever been much of a proper hobbit, but it was the thought that counted. Right?

Boromir smiled gently and gave Pippin's shoulder one more companionable squeeze before he turned his attention back to the frustrated looking wizard. He had swiftly come to understand that though wise the Grey Wizard might be, there was much he did not seem to know, and frequently said lack of knowledge tended to land those traveling with Gandalf smack-dab in the middle of one irritating situation after another. The day he could leave all of this madness behind and return home would truly be the best day of his life.

Aragorn stood across from the wizard, his arms crossed and a reproving frown upon his face. "Do you think it was a good idea to let him go off on his own again when we were this close to the gate?" the ranger asked pointedly.

"Do not fear for Elrohir," Gandalf replied absently as he tapped a thoughtful finger against his nose, "He is more than capable of handling a pack of wargs on his own."

"That's beside the point," Aragorn said sharply and leaned heavily against the cliffs behind him. He wasn't sure why, but he just didn't feel comfortable letting anyone be alone in this place, much less Elrohir. It didn't feel right.

"Is it?" Gandalf murmured quietly, turning a piercing, knowing gaze upon the ranger, causing Aragorn to squirm just the tiniest bit. "Do not worry so, your brother will return to us. I have not managed to drive him off just yet."

Aragorn snorted sharply, but left it at that. There was little he could do about it now. He could only wait and hope that his sense of unease proved to be unwarranted.

"Begging your pardon for the interruption, Mister Gandalf," Sam interjected, doing his best to keep an unhappy scowl off of his face, but only succeeding somewhat, "Even if Sir Elrohir kills all of those wargs I don't see why we have to leave Bill behind."

Aragorn stifled a chuckle at the hobbit's choice of titles for the elf in question. Apparently sometime during their aborted climb up the Redhorn Pass Elrohir had expressed his desire for Sam to just call him by his name. Unfortunately, the little gardener couldn't quite let go of his polite, proper upbringing and had started referring to him as Sir Elrohir instead of Mister Elrohir. It made him sound like something of a knight, which really, wasn't that far off the mark if one took the meaning of his name into consideration. But it was still quite amusing nonetheless.

"Sam, you know why we cannot take him," Gandalf chided the hobbit compassionately, "It would be cruel to subject him to the darkness of Moria and we would still have to abandon him at some point, for surely there will be places within the mines where we must either climb up or climb down to continue. Nay, it is best to send him off now when we know that he will be safe."

"But how can we know that he'll be safe?" Sam argued vehemently, "He'll be out in the wilds on his own without any protection. He'll get lost or eaten or he might even starve to death. It is winter, you know."

"Ah, but that is where you're wrong, dear Samwise," Gandalf asserted cheerfully with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, "Bill has my own special homemade bit of protection. You need not worry about him. The predators will not be able to find him and he won't get lost. In fact, he'll be safe back in Rivendell sooner than you think, and far safer than he would be if we dragged him into Moria with us."

Sam sighed dispiritedly but grudgingly relented. If the old wizard had placed some magical protection on old Bill then he'd put his faith in it. Mister Gandalf might be a bit on the odd side -and possibly senile at times-, but he'd never let them down before. Sam would believe in him, what else could he do?

"Aha, and our errant knight doth return," Gandalf announced jauntily and waved his hand out at the northern edge of the stagnant lake.

Aragorn's head shot up, his eyes eagerly seeking out and finding his brother. Elrohir was swiftly jogging towards them, skirting the edge of the lake, but giving the still waters a rather suspicious look. It seemed like Aragorn wasn't the only one who felt uneasy in this place. He wasn't sure whether that was comforting or alarming.

"How fare the wargs?" Gandalf asked conversationally when Elrohir drew within earshot. Well, to be fair, Elrohir had been within hearing range of them even before the wizard knew of his presence; but Gandalf had waited to speak up until the elf was close enough for the others to hear any possible reply.

Elrohir shook his head but did not respond until he came to a halt next to the wizard. "What wargs?" he asked aloofly in return.

"I see," Gandalf grumbled in annoyance and resisted the very appealing urge to whap the elf on the head with his staff. Instead he turned his attention back to Sam. "It will be safe to release Bill now and it would probably be best to do so while we figure out how to get these doors open."

"All right," Sam muttered forlornly, "But I still don't like it." He gave Elrohir a quick, sad smile of welcome before trudging off to say goodbye to his dear pony.

Elrohir thoughtfully watched Sam go before turning a curious look upon the irritable wizard. "You do not know how to open the West-gate."

It was more of a statement than a question, but Gandalf grumpily replied anyway, "No, I don't. The blasted doors don't seem to like any of the logical commands I've tried."

Elrohir's lips quirked slightly in amusement at the wizard's apparent bad mood. Truly, it was no less than he expected from the Grey Pilgrim. Mithrandir always bit off more than he could chew. Smothering a chuckle that would only invite the wizard's ire if he gave it voice, Elrohir turned his attention upon Frodo and Gimli. The hobbit and dwarf had plopped down directly in front of the gleaming doors at some point during the long wait and were now quietly muttering absently to each other over what could possibly open them.

"You do not know how to open them, Gimli?" Elrohir asked curiously as he gazed down at the pair.

"Nay," Gimli grimaced, "As loathe as I am to admit it, such knowledge passed from the hands of my kinsman long ago."

"I see," Elrohir murmured and nodded in understanding. Things had a tendency to change or get lost as time inexorably moved forward and mortality only aided in the forgetting. Often one generation did not know what the generation that had come before had known. Such change and loss had been the reason his father had kept a close watch on Isildur's line, in hopes that the past would not be repeated.

"It is a riddle," Frodo piped up excitedly, "I am sure of it, but I cannot figure it out. If only Uncle Bilbo were here, he would know what the answer is."

"Hmm, a riddle you say." Elrohir frowned mildly as he looked up at the writing glimmering in the moonlight. He cocked his head as he read off the words written upon the stone. "Ennyn Durin Aran Moria: pedo mellon a minno..." he trailed off at the last and took a quick step back as Frodo and Gimli hastily scurried out of the way. The cliff had begun to groan upon the utterance of mellon and a crack had swiftly appeared in the center of the doors.

Elrohir glanced back at Mithrandir, who was cursing rather colorfully, as the West-gate of Moria opened before them. "You did not think to speak it aloud, did you?"

"I did speak it aloud," Gandalf shot back sharply and glared darkly at the elf standing rather proudly in their midst.

"But you did not speak it in its own tongue," Elrohir pointed out unnecessarily and grinned smugly as the wizard's glare turned positively frosty.

Gandalf growled under his breath and whipped around, waving his staff somewhat menacingly at the rest of the Fellowship. "All right, the thrice-damned doors are open now. But before we can continued on our journey we need to divide the remains of Bill's packs equally amongst ourselves. The food also needs to be rationed out before entering the mines." He ignored the expected groans from the hobbits but still explained the reasoning behind the rationing for their benefit, "Nothing edible grows down there and there certainly won't be any animals to hunt so what we've got now will have to last us the entire way. So no snacking." The hobbits groaned again at his strict instructions, but nodded in grudging acceptance.

Aragorn tuned them out as he stepped up beside his brother and eyed Elrohir critically. The elf looked fine, if a little dusty and windswept. It wasn't surprising really, Elrohir was always fine when he returned to them, but Aragorn just couldn't seem to shake off that uncomfortable sense of unease that he had been feeling. Something just wasn't right. "You are well?" he asked softly, his words too quiet for the others to hear but elven ears would not miss them.

Elrohir glanced at the ranger, his brows drawing together in some confusion. Surely Aragorn could tell that he was fine. Physically, at least. He was about to brush off his little brother's concerns with a simple, non-expressive 'yes', but stopped himself for once. Why tell a half-truth? What was the point? Shrugging indecisively, he turned his gaze out over the still, silent lake. There was something there, a dark presence, but he couldn't quite pinpoint what it was.

"No," he admitted finally and crossed his arms, "I am not. I do not like this place."

Aragorn blinked in shock. He had not been expecting an answer after Elrohir's shrug, had, in fact, thought the gesture would be the only acknowledgement he would receive for his trouble. The admission was a surprise, but he couldn't say that it was a completely unpleasant one. It was... kinda nice to know that Elrohir hadn't completely pushed him away just yet. Maybe there was some hope after all.

Shaking his head, Aragorn brushed those thoughts to the side for the moment and joined his brother in eyeing the lake suspiciously. He could think about all of that later, this was more immediate. "I do not like it either," he muttered bleakly in agreement, "Something just isn't right here."