The shortening days, are a sure sign of the change of the season and the rapid approach of the end of the year.
We left Edoras just as the sun was rising, and we have ridden at a steady pace throughout the day, yet long before I feel the need to take a rest I can sense that Gimli is preparing to call a halt to our journey. It is scarcely late afternoon, the horses are more than capable of travelling several more leagues, yet I know my companion will insist we make camp where we are. He has already commented on the colour of the westering sun several times and how good it will be to sit and watch the sunset after we have made camp here on the Firienfeld by the banks of the Snowbourn.
Gimli may make all the excuses or denials he chooses, but I know what the real reason we will spend the night here is It is because my friend will not brave the Dimholt or pass the Warning Stone to enter the Paths of the Dead in the dark. It is a foolish prejudice, yet I will not tease him over it, irresistible though the temptation is.
After all, what is the difference of travelling through the mountain in the dark of the night and travelling the paths during the day? Deep beneath the mountain there is no light whether it is day or night, yet such logic will not sit well with Gimli Gloinson.
While he may deny it, I know that my friend is, shall we say if we are being kind, ‘concerned’ about taking this trail at all. Only the absolute need to do so persuaded him to enter the Dimholt Gate during the War of the Ring. To use this path, now that Arda is mainly at peace seems to him to be foolish. He will not admit to the fact that he is uneasy, that the encounter with the Army of the Dead, unnerved him. Most of those of mortal kind seem to be similarly affected by this uneasiness. Elves have no such concerns. I saw the shades of the army who had forsaken their oaths and were trapped here, long before the rangers or Aragorn did, but their presence did not discomfort me.
Would that experience had been similar for Gimli. It was not however. He found the need to be in close proximity to the shades under the mountain, unnerving. It took all of his considerable courage to get him to follow me through the gates into the mountain. Either that or it was his stubborn pride that would not allow him to admit to being afraid. He has never appreciated being bested in anything by a ‘pointy eared elvish princeling ’such as myself so manage it he did and I thought that would be the end of his concerns.
But recently he has been listening to the tales being circulated in Meduseld about the Paths of the Dead; there is talk of new voices being heard beneath the mountain, of strange noises and lights. Eomer King was inclined to dismiss such tales as foolishness and I have to say I agree with his assessment, but some of the more superstitious riders who have ridden this path in the last few months insist that they have heard ‘ghostly voices’ and seen strange lights wafting through the myriad tunnels that lead off the main pathway. All of that is foolishness of course,. Since Aragorn released the army of the dead from their oath, the paths have been quiet. There are no further ghosts just cases of over imagination coming into play from nervous men who have listened to too many ghost stories around the camp fires at night. Gimli is fascinated by these tales. He spent several nights in the company of the Eored led by Eothain who had but recently travelled the road from Gondor under the mountain to Rohan.
Such stories as they told, it was all I could do to prevent myself from laughing out loud at their fanciful tales, but Gimli took it all in and what is more he was less than enamoured by my scepticism and made his feelings very firmly known.
So I can guarantee he will come up with what he considers to be a perfectly acceptable excuse to put off entering the path under the mountain until morning despite every argument I might come up with to suggest otherwise, and to be honest I am reasonably content to wait until dawn before we continue our journey.
Not that I am tired you understand, no indeed, it is just that I wish to have time to plan a few surprises I have in mind for my very dear friend Gimli Gloinson. Payback is due for my recent chastisement and I know just how I am going to achieve it.
I feel it well within my rights to pay him back a little once we go beyond the gate tomorrow.
It is all I can do to prevent myself from laughing out loud as Gimli suddenly pronounces that he is tired of bobbing about on the back of Arod and that he needs to stretch his legs a little.
I help him down and listen to his grumblings as I remove our packs, then ask him if we are to make our camp here.
He graciously agrees that such an idea is a good one, and offers to build a fire pit while I go into the wood around Dimholt to pick up kindling for our fire and maybe catch a squirrel or two for supper.
As we sit around that fire I watch Gimli as he watches the dark forest that leads to the warning stone and the doorway to the path. He seems content enough, puffing on his pipe but I know better than to accept his assurances that he is at ease, for any stray noise has him reaching for his throwing axe.
I decide to tease him a little by pretending to hear something myself, when Gimli demands to know what I reply, “well I am a little unsure of how to describe it,” I begin, “it is a little like the sound of sobbing and wailing.” I see his eyes widen at this and he sucks in air making himself cough and splutter. “I expect it is just the wind, whistling through the trees.” I conclude.
“Ye are sure laddie?”
“What else could it be my friend, there is no one else here but ourselves after all.”
“Aye, but …”
“You surely do not give credence to those foolish stories that Eothain’s men told us in Edoras.” I scoff.
He immediately denies such folly so I add “they were tales meant to frighten children; nothing more don’t you agree?” I do not wait for him to reply instead I leap to my feet and stare intently into the dark wood for a moment then shrug and drop back down to sit by the fire as if nothing is amiss.
“What is it lad, what did you see?”
I shrug, “oh nothing, I thought for a moment I saw a figure, but I am sure I must have been mistaken. It was just the mist floating through the trees. Shall I take first watch?”
I can see him staring out into the darkness his grip on his axe tightening as he strains to see what I am talking about.
“There is nothing there Gimli,” I smile reassuringly at him. “We are safe and all alone.” He remains silent, watchful and I have to hide a grin as I repeat my question about taking the first watch.
“Eh? Aye, you do that.” He agrees, and comes back to the fire, wrapping himself in his blankets, one hand still clutching his axe. He closes his eyes but I know it is a long time before he sleeps and we have not even taken the Dimholt Road as of yet. I am going to have a great deal of amusement at my friends expense over the next few days I decide as his sonorous snores finally fill the quiet of the night and I lift my eyes to the dark sky and watch the stars dancing above us and Eärendil on Vingilot makes his nightly journey through the heavens.
I light my pipe and take a deep drag, trying to calm my jangled nerves. Tomorrow morning we take the Dimholt road and while I am not exactly afraid, I will admit our last encounter in that place was somewhat unnerving. Dwarves are known for their courage and there is little that I am afraid of. I have been to the Black Gate itself and come into contact with any number of dark creatures without having any qualms about it. But there was something unsettling about being in close proximity to the Army of the Dead, not knowing if they were friend or foe made it even more so. I am accustomed to dealing with creatures of a more substantial nature. Anything I cannot split open with my axe seems to me to be unnatural and frankly just wrong; The very thought of it is enough to send a shiver down my spine. I would almost rather take on an army of trolls than to deal with such creatures as spectres or shades or whatever you want to call them. At least with the trolls you know what to expect and what you are taking on.
From where we sit here around the fire, the warning stone and the doorway to the Path are clearly visible. I am watching it, wondering what might be beyond when Legolas suddenly leaps to his feet almost causing my heart to stop! I do not know what it is that has my flighty companion so jumpy tonight but if he keeps doing that he’s going to send me to an early grave. He has been acting as nervous as a canary in a cathouse since we stopped to make camp, and it seems to be contagious for my own nerves are completely on edge. He has never been known to be afraid of ghosts before, so I cannot imagine why he is acting so concerned, even given all the stories we have heard from Eothain’s men of recent unexplainable activity on the Path under the mountain. He made it plain enough that he thought it was all nonsense yesterday when we were listening to their tales.
Thinking of that reminds me that the change in the elfling’s mood since this morning is nothing short of astonishing for when we set out on this journey, he was still very put out with me over the events of yesterday evening. He threw me enough dark looks and ignored my attempts at conversation to the point that I finally asked what he in such a strop about. It seems he was still angry about having been taken to task over his part in the conversation with men who had so recently returned to Rohan by way of the Dimholt road. He claimed that it was unfair for me to have called him to account just because he didn’t believe the stories those men told. I reminded him that he knew very well that that was not the reason, and suggested that if he was still uncertain as to what the true reason was then I would be happy to explain it one more time. He wisely decided against that idea and we spent the next several hours riding in silence, but by the time we made it to just outside the door to the path, he was as cheerful and sweet tempered as ever. I’ll never figure out what goes on between those pointy ears if I live to be a million years old.
Legolas startles me again when he flinches at the sounds of ‘wailing and sobbing’ and it takes smoking another bowl of pipeweed to get my heart back into its normal rhythm. What has gotten into that child, I do not know unless he is thinking of the tales we heard around the fire last night, though he did not seem to be the least bit concerned at the time. He brushed them all off as rubbish borne of overactive imaginings. I, on the other hand, was not so easily convinced of that.
I am not one to give much heed to tall tales told around fires, often after a few rounds of ale. I know men as well as dwarves tend to exaggerate at the very least, especially when talking to a large audience and with a few beers under their belt. I am hardly naive or easily taken in by such accounts, but the stories told last night were not in that category.
Twenty-three men had recently returned from the Dimholt road and every one of them swore to hearing voices and unusual sounds. Over half of them saw vaporous images that took human form and all twenty-three witnessed unexplainable lights in places that should have been in total darkness. None of them carried the expression of men who were jesting, or telling a tale just for the reaction of the crowd. On the contrary, they all had a harrowed look, as if they had just returned from a traumatic ordeal. I cannot say if what they witnessed were truly ghosts, but I can say that they certainly believed that is what they saw. This was not something they were making up for the entertainment of the crowd.
I could see Legolas did not believe one word of what they were saying, but just passed it off as the over active imaginations of mortals. After all the curse had been lifted so the Paths were now quiet. It was a simple as that. Instead of saying that, though, he played on the fears of those men to tease them a bit. He declared that shades rarely stayed in one spot, and could very likely make their way into the city. I elbowed him to warn him to knock it off, but instead of having the desired result of keeping him quiet, it only made him move out of my reach and keep telling tales. It would not have been so bad, but in that city of men it is commonly believed that elves have some kind of special insight about such things and it was easy to see that they believed every word he said in spite of my protests to the contrary. When I overheard him telling one wide-eyed young Rohirrim that some ghosts could hitch a ride on a person’s belongings and follow him home, I decided it was enough. When he saw my face, he quickly admitted to the Lad that he was only jesting, but it was too late to prevent a very in depth discussion when we returned to our quarters on why it is unkind to play on another persons fears for your own amusement. This is what led to the bad mood of this morning and his accusing me of being unfair. He seems perfectly content now, though, except for his uncharacteristic jumpiness.
I admit to being a little suspicious that he could be doing this to pull my strings and increase my fears, though I dismiss the idea as unlikely. Surely he wouldn’t have the nerve to do such a thing after having just been in hot water for that very issue. No it is wrong of me suspect him of such a childish prank. When he offers to take the first watch, I feel a twinge of guilt at having had such thoughts. There is no reason to believe his motives are not good.
I take my blanket and try to sleep, but still find it difficult to do so in this place that has so many disconcerting memories, and alarming rumours associated with it. When I finally do drift off my dreams are a disturbing mix of ghostly faces and eerie memories of the Dead Army. I wake up just before dawn feeling just as uneasy as when I went to sleep the night before in spite of the fact that I have slept for many hours. As is typical, Legolas did not wake me up during the night to exchange the watch, but took both shifts himself. Since I did not remember to insist that he wake me, I do not bother to mention it now. He can get by on little sleep, and one night taking both watches will not do any harm.
He appears to be just as merry as he did last night and more than ready to continue our journey. After taking a few minutes to break our fast we get to work striking camp. Legolas hums cheerfully as we pack up with none of his nervousness from last night still evident. I wish I could say the same for myself. My own apprehension grows as we inch closer and closer to the door to Dimholt Road. My mouth becomes dry and my heart rate increases as we move closer to the Path and I begin to think once again, that it would be easier to go around.
Finally the camp is struck and we are ready to resume our journey. This morning we will walk the Dimholt Road, leading the horses, Arod is an exceptionally well-trained animal but he does not take well to the dark of the path into the mountain and I do not wish to see him galloping off down to the Snowbourn as he did during the quest. As for the pack animal, well he seems an amiable beast and not the type that is spooked easily, but since he carries important letters and documents from Eomer King to Elessar we would do well to make sure he remains firmly attached to the leading rein that Gimli is currently holding.
I am not sure which of the trio following me is the least happy about beginning our day’s travel. Gimli slept soundly during the night and I did not have the heart to wake him to take his turn on watch. It was not that I needed the rest myself I can go for many days without sleep and I enjoy watching the stars. And if I am being completely honest with myself the fact that he took such a long time to find rest leaves me feeling a little guilty for it was my foolishness that unsettled him.
I know very well how hard he finds entering the Paths of the Dead and yet I also know that his courage is such that he would never allow fear to prevent him doing what was needful. What is worse as if to pay me back for my poor behaviour towards my friend I found myself growing uneasy as the night wore on. I am not so foolish as to tell Gimli this but I begin to think that the tales the men told of ‘ghosts’ under the mountain were not as farfetched as I first believed, even from this distance I could hear faint noises emanating from the caverns. My interest is piqued and I intend to keep both a sharp look out and listen very closely when we pass through the door into the paths, perhaps a few of the dead linger there still and if that is the case Aragorn and Eomer will need to be told.
For now I lead our motley group past the Warning Stone and then wait as Gimli brings out two lanterns that we will use to help light our way. They are safety lanterns, better than open torches and less prone to being blown out by sudden gusts of air, but they give off less light than a torch would do so we will have to step carefully.
When I ask Gimli if he is ready he grunts and nods so I take this as permission to enter through the Dark Door and lead Arod inside. Our journey should take us two days, no more if we do not have to stop to rest more than once probably when we reach the Stone of Erech where Aragorn called the dead to him.
As the little light that enters from the Dark Door recedes and we move deeper under the mountain I feel the claustrophobia that always assails me when I go underground but it is not that which concerns me most at the present. I can feel Gimli’s growing tension so I begin to sing only softly of course but sufficiently loud enough for him to hear and to hopefully offer him comfort. When he asks me why I am singing I tell him it is to calm the two horses and he seems contented with my reply although I suspect he really knows what I am about.
We take a short break at what I assume is midday, it is impossible to tell this deep under the mountain and my recent new found sympathy for Gimli undergoes a change of view as he prevents me going off to explore a side tunnel where there seems to me to be some kind of soft glow.
“You are going nowhere without me laddie” he growls at me, and when I dare to dispute this order he gives me one of his most intimidating glares, which I can sense even though there is little light to see it b. Even so I mutter.
“I only wish to see what is causing the glow.”
“You may say that but we both know you will end up in mischief or worse yet, trouble,” he counters “What is more you know well that certain lichens give off their own light, and if it isn’t that well better we don’t disturb whatever it is. Tis an unnatural place full of shadows and ill omen, who knows what may still lurk here waiting to prey on the unwary.” He shudders then points a forceful finger at me. “ Ye are not to leave my side while we are traversing this accursed road, Child.”
That is such a ridiculous restriction I am tempted to get up and go off just to spite the dwarf, but I think better of it when he informs me that he is quite ready to attach a leading rein to the back of my belt and keep me tethered to him if necessary.
So, I acquiesce, reluctantly I admit but as the day continues my frustration with my friend grows and I decide that I have been too forgiving, he twitches at every sound and keeps turning round to see if we are being followed by the dead and his disquiet begins to affect me as well.
As we pass a niche in the wall where piles of skulls leer at us through their empty eye sockets as our lanterns glow catch them at a certain angle we both start and the horses sidle and snort and I hear Gimli mumble a plea to Aûle to keep us safe.
I offer a short prayer of my own then I laugh nervously to myself telling myself that Gimli’s uneasiness must be catching.
Yet although all is quiet something prickles at the back of my consciousness, a feeling that we are being watched. Shadows press upon us, shades dancing along the narrow confines of the passage walls.
I have to school myself strongly to prevent my turning round as we go deeper into the mountain. There is no need for me to do so after all for Gimli may as well be walking backwards. He spins around often, walking axe coming to hand, as some soft sound assails his ears.This is getting to be ridiculous I have become infected by the dwarf’s paranoia; enough is enough! Tonight when we have set up camp I am going to prove to Gimli once and for all that there is nothing here to fear save what we bring with us.
I will no doubt come to regret my scheming but a sore rear will be worth it after a day of starting at shadows and being told to take care all the time. I doubt not that if it was possible to walk two abreast he would insist on holding my hand so convinced does he seem that I am incapable of looking out for myself.
The moment we step through the door leading the horses behind us, I know we have made a big mistake. I am normally one to make choices based on solid facts, not hunches, or whims, but it is difficult to ignore the hair that stands up on the back of my neck as we make our way deeper into the mountain. I am not afraid of the dark, for whatever is in the dark is also in the light and I have spent the better part of my life under the ground. But this place is different. There is something uncanny and unnatural here even though I can see nothing out of the ordinary by the dim light of our safety lanterns. Even Legolas seems anxious as we walk along the path, so much so that when he begins to sing, I wonder if it is for my sake or to settle his own frazzled nerves. When I ask him, he claims it is to calm the horses, though I expect that may not be entirely true. Either way it helps, for his voice is pleasant to listen to and it lets me know that he is still nearby, for I am having to fight the desire to take his hand and make him stay by my side.
I know it is foolish, but ever since the lad was placed in my charge I have a strong inclination to shelter him from danger even though he is well equipped to care for himself, though in my defence he has been known to fall into scrapes out of recklessness or lack of forethought so my fears are not entirely unfounded. Already I have three times swallowed back warnings to be careful and it is all I can do to prevent myself from ordering him to trade me places and let me lead. It would help my anxiety if he would slow down and pay heed to where he is stepping for the path is dim and neither of us is familiar with this place. I know it will not sit well with my friend if I speak out and warn him against carelessness, and I have no desire to argue with him, but my jaws are beginning to ache with the effort to keep the words from escaping.
As we make our way deeper inside the mountain my apprehension only intensifies. I have noticed eerie light coming from several offshoots of the main road and am only thankful that Legolas has been in too much of a hurry to notice them or he would likely insist on finding their source. There are reasonable explanations for such phenomenon but I am not certain if the answer is natural or supernatural. There is only one way to be certain and truthfully I am not that curious. It is far better to make our way out of here without being sidetracked by the curious or unusual. If whatever is causing the light is not something easily explainable then we are better off leaving it undisturbed. My goal is to get through the next two days as uneventfully as possible and any added exploring will only hinder my plan.
Sometime around midday we stop for a rest and Legolas discovers one of the lights glowing inside one of the side tunnels. As I knew he would when he noticed, he starts to go to inspect where it is coming from but I am prepared for it and grab a handful of the back of his cloak.
“You are going nowhere without me, Laddie,” I inform him in my sternest tone.
I cannot see his face, but I can tell he is rolling his eyes by the exasperation in his voice.
“I only wish to see what is causing the glow,” he mutters.
Ha! If only I had a silver coin for every time trouble came from a sentence that started like that one! ‘I only wish to___,” fill in the blank! I’ve heard that seemingly innocent phrase time and again and rarely has it not led to trouble and sorrow so we will not be entertaining that idea today. He does not care for my comment about this, but at the moment I really don’t care. My nerves are too strained to worry over offending his sensibilities anymore, so I say the words that he always hates to hear, maybe more than any others for he does not wish to be protected or as he would say treated like a child, but if I am going to be able to make the rest of this journey without my heart giving out, we have to establish some ground rules.
“Ye are not to leave my side while we are traversing this accursed road, Child,” I order, glaring in his direction. As I expected he does not wish to hear this and he begins to sputter in outrage at such a demand, but before he can make it to a full blown tantrum, I let him know that I am fully prepared to tether him to me with a leading reign if he would rather go that route. He continues to mutter under his breath, but I choose not to hear what he says since he gives up the idea of investigating the tunnel. I only require compliance; a good attitude is optional.
Nothing improves as we move forward along the path. Unintelligible whisperings assault my ears and I cannot shake the feeling that we are not alone here. Footsteps seem to be coming from behind us, but when I turn to inspect them nothing is there. We turn around a bend in the road and find ourselves facing a gruesome mountain of skulls, which causes the two of us to nearly leap out of our skin. It is a long time before my heart beats normally again.
After that Legolas picks up the pace of our march, seemingly ready to make our way out of here as soon as possible. I do not blame him in the least, for I will be more than happy to leave this place, yet I still feel we need to tread carefully here lest we fall into trouble. What malevolence lies here I do not know, but I have no desire to accidentally awaken some unknown evil. I continue to follow the elfling, twice reminding him to be cautious, a suggestion that only makes him grumble and slow down for ten seconds. Moments later we are back to speeding along the darkened path, and I have to point out several more times that we need to take it slowly. My heart jumps into my throat as he leaps off the ledge of a small drop off, without shining the lantern into the bottom to see how deep it is. It is only a couple of steps down but that is hardly the point!
Between the unnatural eeriness of this wretched path and trying to keep a watch on my capricious charge, I have had just about all I can take. That blind leap was the final straw.
“Trade me places, Elfling,” I command, causing him to stop and turn toward me.
“What…Why?” he demands to know.
“Ye’re entirely too heedless of the dangers of this place, so I will lead us,” I explain. “Trade. Now!” I snap my fingers and point with my thumb to indicate that he is to walk behind me. Not surprisingly he isn’t thrilled with this turn of events.
“Gimli don’t be ridiculous. I didn’t do anything that could be construed to be even slightly dangerous,” he begins, but I am in no mood to hear what he has to say. My nerves are shot and my patience has completely run out. We should never have come to this place to begin with as far as I am concerned. Now that we have come this far we must continue, but from this moment on we will do it my way. I can deal with hurt feelings or ruffled feathers when we are safely on the other side. For now I only wonder why he is standing there gaping at me instead of trading me places like I just asked.
“Damn it, Lad, if you do not move immediately to do as I say, you will regret it bitterly in about twenty seconds,” I threaten between clenched teeth.
“All right Gimli, I’m going. No need to burst a vein!” He walks past me, handing me Arod’s rein since there isn’t room here to trade the animals’ places. I’m certain it must grate that I am now leading his beloved horse and he is leading the pack beast, but it cannot be helped. Though I know it will irritate him further I point a warning finger toward him before moving on.
“Do not, under any circumstances move beyond arms length of this beast,” I order. “If I turn to look at you, you had best be able to give Arod a nice pat.”
Even I can see this is a harsh restriction, but I cannot stand the thought of what might happen if he decides to go off and explore one of the numerous side paths and we end up getting separated. My heart quails at the thought, even as I feel a little sorry for being so hard on him. I know he is seething but I will just have to make it up to him when we get out of here and my heart is no longer permanently lodged in my throat. For now he’ll just have to live with it.
The look on my face must be startling, for he does not even bother to comment, let alone argue. Instead he only nods his understanding and we move on, this time with me leading us. We walk along in watchful silence for the next few hours, until we come to the Stone of Erech, a place we both recognize as being a halfway point. As much as I would rather continue on until we can get out of this shadow-infested place, I realize we must stop for the night. The horses must be rested and the stress of the day has us in need of respite as well. It would not do to give out before we reach the end of the path.
We quickly care for the horses and take care of what little there is to setting up camp. Supper is a dismal affair, for we cannot risk a fire in this cramped area so instead we eat dried foods from our packs by the light of the lanterns and then decide to call it a night.
This time, I insist on taking first watch for I know Legolas will not sleep at all if I do not. He does not bother to argue; in fact he barely speaks to me at all, but just wraps a blanket around his shoulders and attempts to sleep. I cannot be certain if he manages it or not, but after several hours of quietly guarding his rest, I stroke his cheek with one finger to wake him. Without comment he takes over the watch, while I try to sleep. I am nearly certain I will not be able to, but before long I feel myself drifting off.
I sit brooding, alternatively watching Gimli and then turning my attention to our strange surroundings, here in the centre of the mountain is what was the City of the Dead. The remains of the structures that housed the army of the dead are still here; stretching high up into the mountain, empty window and doorways, pillars of stone, broken brick and old decaying banners still move fitfully in the air. Fortunately the thousands of skulls that were released when the dead were summoned have all disappeared else I do not think Gimli would rest here at all although he is finding it difficult enough to sleep even now. I am beginning to despair of being able to do what I wish. I blow out a frustrated breath and when I look back at Gimli again he has finally stepped onto the path of dreams.
I was becoming so irritated that I had even thought of knocking him over the head with his be-damned safety lantern to get him to close his eyes so that I can start on my plans. I no longer have any doubts about what I am about to do. Gimli has driven me close to distraction this day and I am determined to get my revenge.
I have been planning this since he made me exchange places with him, and walk behind like an elfling in disgrace. I do wonder at the sense of what I am about to do, for to leave a companion sleeping alone when I should be on watch , goes against all I have been taught, but …
Well, I am sorry, but he deserves this after all the aggravation he has put me through and I will not be any great distance from him after all. I merely have to retrace my steps a little and retrieve the thing I want and return. He will never know of my absence. I set off swiftly, not bothering with a lantern, since my natural soft glow is sufficient for me to find my way.
While I am walking I once again get the strange sensation of being watched and by unfriendly eyes, but whenever I stop and listen there are only the natural sounds concomitant with underground life. I shrug off my disquiet find what I want and return to our camp where Gimli sleeps.
It does not take me long to set up my prank. I place a skull near to Gimli’s head and slip the safety lantern inside so that it glows eerily. I look forward to seeing the look on his face when he awakes to find himself staring straight into the eye sockets of this long dead mortal.
My elders would soundly scold me for such childishness and for my abuse of this relic but I see no harm in using it. It is merely the remains of someone long gone, and since they have no apparent need of their bones after death takes them, I feel sure they will not object to my making use of them as I have.
I sit back quite contented to wait for Gimli to awake naturally and find myself slipping into reverie only to be woken by the shifting of the horses.
I wake with a start wondering what has caused them to be so unsettled and cross over to offer them reassurance only for me to see out of the corner of my eye a shadow flitting across the bottom of a side tunnel which adjoins the main cavern where we are camped. Even with my eyesight I am unable to make out what it is, and would not have seen it at all save for the phosphorescent light emanating from the lichen covered walls further down the tunnel.
I strain my ears and eyes, my hand going automatically for my knives, as another wraith like figure slips across the bottom of the tunnel. As I watch the shape seems to dissipate and all that is left is a soft sibilant whisper on the air it is as if whatever it is, is calling to me.
Part of me wishes very much to follow, but I hesitate, knowing I should really wake Gimli and tell him what I have seen, but that would spoil my prank and I am reluctant to do that. Instead I pick up my bow and slip off down the tunnel following the shady figures, for I am beginning to feel that something is very much amiss beneath this mountain.