Passing through Eregion, I encountered a few of my companions from the Valar Guild, who were on a mission to remove orcs and Angmarim from the elf ruins at Echad Mirobel, particularly an ancient abandoned school and a library. I was happy to assist in this, and it was fairly uneventful so I'll spare you the details. But I should mention that Eregion is a beautiful place ... moonlight over elvish architecture is not a thing to be missed. While I was here I searched for the missing Laerdan, but with no success.
Well! What can I say about Moria, other than, "The tales are true?" Having been to Thorin's Hall many times now, I had some idea of what to expect, but even that didn't prepare me for the sheer immensity of Khazad-Dum. No offense meant to my long-bearded friends, but the simple fact is that dwarves never do something when they can over-do it, and there's no better place to see this truth than in Moria.
Did you ever feel like you were being watched? This motif of ghostly giant stone faces is everywhere in Moria, and I don't mind telling you that after a while it has begun to give me the shivers. We wardens are something of a solitary lot, and the uncanny feeling of someone looking over my shoulder everywhere I go tends to leave me a little rattled.
On the other hand, there are times when the dwarven leaning towards grandiosity can leave one speechless -- such as the first time I beheld the 1st Hall, also called Dwarrowdelf. I don't know if you can see it here, but these pillars, carved in the form of massive, twelve-story oak trees, stretch for nearly a mile into the darkness. Hobbits often feel small -- for small we are -- but seldom have I actually felt tiny before.
My missions for Brogur at one point led me to the Chamber of Mazarbul in Moria, which contains the tomb of Lord Balin. I never had the honor of meeting him, although I know he was a great friend of Mr. Bilbo's and often used to come visit him in the Shire when I was a tot. I did see him once, when my old gaffer happened to take me along on a trip to Hobbiton when Balin was visiting. I remember being fascinated by his oddly-square nose and his frizzy gray beard. As well as I can remember, that day was the first time I really understood that there was a world beyond the borders of the Shire ... little thinking that one day I'd be out in it!
Of course, not everywhere in Moria is magnificent pillars and massive statues -- some places are huge engineering projects instead. And such is the waterworks. Once enormous water wheels and grand pumps sent water flowing via aqueducts to all corners of Khazad-Dum. Unfortunately, the centuries have not been kind to the works down here, and everything is coated with strange molds and fungi. There are also the most humongous toads down here I have ever seen in my life -- they're bigger than me! And they lash at you with poisonous tongues that distort your senses and give you strange visions.
See what I mean? Strange!
Another denizen of the waterworks are these peculiar, all-but-transparent spiders. Which is worse, a giant spider you can see, or a giant spider you can't? At least these are merely spooky, rather than revolting. So I'm guessing the spider you can't see is actually preferable.
I recognized the waterworks immediately, tho, because the last time I had heard from my friend Galadhalion, he was down here somewhere. It had been so long, however, that I feared him either slain or sailed to the west. So I was very pleased when I received a letter from him! It turns out that after a bitter string of painful defeats, he had the inclination to sail west and headed for the Grey Havens, stopping at the ruins of the Refuge of Edhelion, where he had spent his youth. (His youth having been centuries ago! I shall never get used to that.) He says he haunted the ruins and lands around Edhelion for months like a ghost, wrestling with his soul and trying to resolve himself to a course of action that would allow him to be at peace with his conscience.
In the end, he says, his letters from me (which he'd been receiving and reading the whole time, without response) finally made him decide that he could not abandon the Free Peoples to the ravages of the Enemy if he still had the ability to help ... and so he returned to Rivendell to refresh his skills, see to his neglected weapons and armor, and come back to the fight. I must say, I was honored, and hope that some time my elf-friend and I may meet and while away the hours with song and smoke-rings again soon.
Hmm ... the post has arrived, and there's a note here from Lord Elrond concerning the lost ring Narchuil, so I'm going to have to finish this letter and get moving. But I did want to leave you with this last item. In my life, I never expected to see one balrog, to say nothing of two. At least this one was already dead when I encountered it! I can't even begin to describe the smell, so I won't try -- but someone of great power clearly smote this guy's ruin on the mountain. So endeth the mighty "Durin's Bane" who drove the dwarves from Moria so long ago. I can only guess who or what may have bested such a terrible foe. My first guess would be Lord Glorfindel -- I gather he's done it before -- but I should think that if it was him, he would have mentioned it. So who knows?
I shall write again when I can. Let us hope that Laerdan and Narchuil may both soon be wrested from Amarthiel's grasp.
Your friend in the Shire,
Honourary Shirriff, Maedhroc Thornhollow"