Tag Archives: The Lady of Shalott

The Lady of Khazad-dûm

Someone on a website I frequent mentioned that she often gets the urge to cross The Lady of Shallot with the story of Gandalf battling the Balrog in the Mines of Moria.

I confess, I had never found myself prone to that urge. Until she mentioned it, at which point it ate my brain.

The result:

Beneath the mountains, white with snow,
The orcs about their business go
Their orders to maintain below,
In the depths of Khazad-dûm,
A sleeping evil, left to lie
Until required by the Eye.
They care for it and ask not why
They toil in the gloom.

But one who labours in its lair
Has found the Balrog in his care
To be – to orcish senses – fair.
Fires burn in Khazad-dûm
And warm the darkness of the deeps
While he his tender vigil keeps.
His charge, protected, deeply sleeps
Inside its rocky tomb.

The other orcs, freed from its side,
Have different tasks, their might applied
To warlike training, side on side.
Underneath deep Khazad-dûm
The caverns echo with their song
While artificers labour long
To forge them armour, thick and strong,
For when the wars resume.

The flames beneath Caradhras burn
While up above, the seasons turn
Until, in time, the dwarves return.
Plundering rich Khazad-dûm.
At first they linger at the top
Above the yawning chasm’s drop
But then they dig, and do not stop
And thereby seal their doom.

They fill their halls with men and elves
And carve great rooms to please themselves
While underneath, a miner delves
Far too deep in Khazad-dûm.
The orc at practice stops his blow
As pickaxe noises grow and grow.
And then to muster-points they go
Lest dwarves their charge exhume.

The beaters start to pound their drums
So from the deeps the great sound comes
And in each chest, the breastbone thrums
Roaring out, “O Khazad-dûm!”
They rush into the glaring light
And, overwhelming with their might
The feasting dwarves, restore the night,
And then their work resume.

The battle in the past belongs:
Another chapter in their songs
Of dwarven deaths and ancient wrongs.
Deep in shadowed Khazad-dûm
The Balrog shifts its mighty frame
At dreams of swords, and fear, and flame.
Its keeper strokes it, rasps its name,
And turns to leave its room.

But then, a sound. A single stone
Comes clattering from where it’s thrown
Into a well, and this alone
Rouses all of Khazad-dûm.
And as the drummers beat and pound
The battle-rhythm shakes the ground.
The orcs come swarming all around
To Balin’s stony tomb.

Then, in its room, the sleeper wakes
And with one blow, its prison breaks.
So from the depths, its coming shakes
All the stones of Khazad-dûm.
It sees the fleeing figures hide
And casts its shadows far and wide
Like wings unfurled from either side
To smother them in gloom.

And then he comes, as from its dreams:
A bearded figure whose sword gleams
With silver light. Its lancing beams
Bringing day to Khazad-dûm.
The Balrog roars with blinded eyes.
The grey-robed form its way denies:
“You shall not pass,” the wizard cries.
And still the drumbeats boom.

They struggle then, the swordsman small
Against his foe, but brave withal.
He strikes the Balrog, and they fall
Into deepest Khazad-dûm.
The fighters plunging, dark and bright,
Leave eight companions, put to flight,
To scramble upward, to the light
And, grieved, their quest resume.

Behind them, howling hordes surround
The broken bridge, while all around
From depths to heights the battles sound
Echoing through Khazad-dûm.
They clash their blades and stamp their feet
And roar defiance and defeat
At enemies they cannot meet,
Then silence fills the gloom.

But one orc gives a keening call:
He somehow sees the Balrog’s fall.
And terror comes upon them all
Standing massed in Khazad-dûm.
The wizard is of no concern,
But should the Dark Lord come to learn
Their charge is dead, then they will burn.
The Eye will be their doom.

And so the orcs depart the mines.
At night, when only moonlight shines
They march away in scattered lines
Fleeing from black Khazad-dûm.
While in the lonely, lightless deeps
The Balrog-keeper howls and weeps
Then in the depthless chasm leaps
In empty Khazad-dûm.

For my next trick, I will harness the twin engines of Tolkien and Tennyson spinning in their graves and provide unlimited power for the world.