13 · Les Sous-Profondeurs
« Yet the lies that Melkor, the mighty and accursed, Morgoth Bauglir, the Power of Terror and of Hate, sowed in the hearts of Elves and Men are a seed that does not die and cannot be destroyed ; and ever anon it sprouts anew, and will bear dark fruit unto the latest days. »
En-dessous de la Moria se cache un labyrinthe de noires cavernes, formant un monde en elles-mêmes. S’étendant vers les entrailles ardentes de la terre, cette région est appelée les « Sous-Profondeurs ». Les Nains et les Elfes croient que ces passages torturés courent bien en-dessous des Monts Brumeux et qu’ils peuvent aller aussi loin qu’aux ruines des Montagnes de Fer dans le lointain Nord d’Endor.
Des histoires terrifiantes parlent d’indicibles créatures hideuses qui hantent les Sous-Profondeurs, et c’est de cet enfer noir que vint le Balrog. L’abysse que traverse le Pont de Durin, quand on quitte le Deuxième Hall de la Première Profondeur, plonge vers le bas de ces profondeurs, comme le fait le puits vertical dans le Hall du Puits de Hwàin (dans les mines de la Septième Profondeur). Jusqu’à présent inconnues et non cartographiées, les Sous-Profondeurs ont leur propre histoire.
The Bowels of Endor
Unbeknownst to most folk, much of Middle-earth lies beneath the surface of the ground. This broad, subterranean frontier is largely unexplored. Even the greatest of the familiar caves—Moria included—are little more than foyers to these « bowels of Endor. » The Deeps merely suggest the nature and breadth of the world below.
Dwarves differentiate the Under-deeps from the Deeps for two reasons : depth and origin. First, the Under-deeps lie well below the lowest reaches of Khazad-dum. Second, the Under-deeps are exclusively volcanic in nature. Created by streams of molten rock and expanded by geothermal eruptions of super-hot gas, they are a combination of natural and supernatural forces. The hand of Melkor joined what was once a collection of countless, sundered cavern complexes.
Dwarven chroniclers speak of three distinct areas of the Under-deeps beneath Moria : the Under-gates, the Under-roads, and the Under-tombs. Together, they occupy an area larger than any single level in Khazad-dum. Given the fact that they are but a small part of a much vaster— in fact, seemingly endless—underground world, they actually dwarf the whole of Hadhodrond.
Morgoth forged the Under-deeps during the « Spring of Arda, » before the birth of the Sun and the Moon, when Endor was illuminated by the light of the Two Lamps. This maze of tunnels and chambers reached out of Utumno and extended (east-west) the length of the Iron Mountains (S. « Ered Engrin »). Principal north-south passages cut beneath the Hithaeglir in the West and the Orocarni (Q. « Red Mountains ») in the East. Additional « roads » joined these passages at major junctions, the greatest of which lay beneath the caverns at sites like Thangorodrim, Gundabad, Moria, and Aglarond.
Melkor’s greater servants used these roads to travel surreptitiously throughout Endor. The maze permitted them to avoid enemies like Orome, who roamed the wilds in the Elder Days and challenged the Black Enemy’s heinous plan to conquer and remold Middle-earth. It also served as a refuge.
Although Endor changed during the Elder Days, especially after the War ofWrath, the core of the Under-deeps survive. Morgoth’s subterranean legacy still serves dark purposes. At various points it houses lairs for foul monsters, roads for evil armies, and timeless prisons for the lost denizens of a bygone time. Now, though, travel between the ancient underground sites is difficult, if not impossible, for all but the greatest (and luckiest) explorers. Blocked or twisting away from their original course, the Under-roads seem broken. Junctions and strongholds seem forever lost. Many appear as simple caves or side passages, no longer resembling their past grandeur. Others lie hidden behind veils of rock. Nearly all are still there, though, awaiting rediscovery—as is their creator.
A summary of Endor’s principal Under-deeps follows :
Table : Les principales routes des Sous-Profondeurs
|Iron Road||East-West||Uax, Utumno, Thangorodrim|
|Oldest Road||North-South||Cam Dum, Gundabad, Moria, Aglarond|
|Red Road||North-South||Uax, Sammath Helcar|
|Black Road||East-West||Moria, Dol Guldur, Barad-dur|
|White Road||East-West||Aglarond, Dunharrow|
|Grey Road||East-West||Gundabad, Sammath Maeglom|
|Gold Road||North-South||Olbamarl, Laurafelya|
|Yellow Road||East-West||Sammath Fhul, Sambi Mornya|
The Oldest Road
While probably younger than the Iron Road, the Oldest Road is relatively unsundered. Morgoth’s original route suffered dearly in the cataclysm at the end of the First Age, so the Under-deeps beneath the Hithaeglir are the eldest of the routes still « in use. » Beginning at Carn Dum in the North and ending at Aglarond in the South, the Oldest Road remains a key source of danger and mischief for the Free Peoples of northwest Endor.
Dwarves say that Mahal chose Khazad-dum as point of confrontation. There, he contested Morgoth’s dormnance over the roots of the Misty Mountains, a range created by the Black Enemy. Whether or not the Maker hosted these thoughts, Hadhodrond lies directly in line with the junction of the Oldest Road and the Black Road, two of Melkor’s greatest Under-deeps. Thus, it serves as a natural battlefield.
The central portion of the Oldest Road winds beneath Caradhras and Celebdil. It parallels a molten river known as the « Fire Vein, » a continuous magma stream that flows through a 300’ deep cleft. Portions of the road run along a 12’ wide ledge that skirts the canyon, and actually crosses the Fire Vein on six occasions. Other parts of the route pass through a 12’ wide, 36’ tall tunnel overlooking the cleft. Windows and overlooks permit travellers to gaze into the chasm. Basalt bridges cross the wells of boiling mud and rock that often block the way. The wells act as natural traps, and are especially dangerous in places where the steam-covered bridges are slick with slime. (The spans are Extremely Hard, –30, to negotiate.)
Periodic eruptions of smoke, steam, and « Burning Sleet » also threaten sojourners along the Oldest Road. Thick, acidic smoke and powerful steam pour through the windows and vents that line the passage, and searing clouds rise from the Fire Vein inundating the adjoining ledge-way with hot, fetid fumes. Even worse, explorers face the infamous Burning Sleet—molten droplets that rain through occasional openings in the ceiling of the road. Unlike the scalding, choking clouds that normally confront travellers, these sprays defy description. Orclore implies that they erupt like the bellows of hell.
Thirty-six miles north of Moria, directly below Caradhras, the Oldest Road passes by a great lava-chamber named « Tombs Rising. » Dwarven chroniclers call the hellish hall the Under-tombs. It is here that the Balrog reposed, trapped beneath Endor, until T.A. 1980. 720’ tall, 1800’ wide, and three miles long, it is one of the largest rooms in all the Under-deeps. As in the Under-roads, the only illumination comes from the reddish glow of liquid stone.
The Under-tombs contain countless marvels. They are too many to document here. In the context of this work, then, its two most notable features are the Balroe’s Tomb and the Hanging Claim.
The Balrog’s Tomb
The Balrog’s Tomb lies at the center of the northern end of the chamber, atop a nearly sheer spire of fused glass (black laen). Surrounded by a 300’ deep, 1200’ wide canyon filled with a lake of molten rock, it needs no walls. The spire rises 600’ from the lake’s fiery surface—300’ above the main floor of the Under-tombs—and its surface is as hot as boiling lead. Roaring magma from the unbridged lake (which is actually on the Fire Vein) laps at the base of the pinnacle, making the refuge virtually inaccessible.
The Balrog’s flat repose sits on the 120’ diameter summit. A raised slab of warm red laen serves as the Demon’s bed. It is surrounded by a curving, translucent wall hewn from the same material. A 12’ deep, 36’ diameter dry, blue laen cistern acts as his storehold.
The Hanging Claim
Note Given their size and nature, it takes agroup of no less than four Men or Dwarves to operate these devices, which are even then Extremely Hard (-30) to operate.
The Balrog’s treasure—the « Hanging Claim »—recalls the Hoards of Utumno, for it is stored in huge, six-ton iron chests suspended from the Under-tombs’ ceiling. A priceless collection of jewels, gems, coins, and weapons hangs within the sixty-six chests, which swing about 650’ above the glowing lava pools that punctuate chamber’s black floor. Most of the wealth was once the foundation of Durin’s Fortune. Trolls carried the booty out of Khazad-dum soon after T.A. 1980.
Although unguarded, the Hanging Claim is exceedingly difficult to reach. Each chest dangles from a single, 72’ long iron chain. The great chains wrap over a series of hooks, cross the ceiling and then enter portals in the adjoining wall. These 6’ diameter portals guide the chains to the secluded Winch-hall, where sixty-six Olog-hai stand watch. Besides serving as the Balrog’s personal guard, the Tereg operate the 12’ tall winches that raise and lower the chests.
Sites of note
The following sites are but a small sampling of the chambers and passages in the upper Under-deeps near Moria.
Note During the period T.A. 1980 through FA. 7, the Underwell lies uncapped. Shattered by the Balrog, the capstone rests in shards around the opening.
62 — Under-well (Hwain’s Well) * : Hwain’s Well lies directly below the circular « Whispering-halls » and connects the Deeps with the Under-deeps. The lowest portion, an 1800’ shaft that opens through the ceiling of Yellow Maw, is called the « Under-well. » Capped by a peryphry lid, it originally served as a great cistern. Now it serves as an opening to the bowels of Middle-earth.
63 — Under-gates *: A large, steam-filled cavern complex, the Under-gates comprise six caves :
(a) Felyashono’s Maw: The easternmost chamber, it stretches beneath the Unending Well, a 42’ wide abyss that joins the Maw to Moria’s Hall of Trees
Chapitre 12 – Lieux notables
(b) Umagaur’s Maw: This conical chamber has greenish walls. It opens onto the Halls of Umagaur (cf. 65).
(c) Geyser Maw: The geyser-filled north ernmost chamber, serves as the gateway to the northern section of the Oldest Road—the way to Tombs Rising (cf. Tombs Rising).
(d) Yellow Maw: This steam-filled chamber stands beneath Hwain’s Well. Relatively inviting, it is divided by a boiling stream. Mists shroud the floor, where Maw’s golden laen walls seem to glow.
(e) Low Maw: This, the southwestern chamber, serves as the gateway to the southern section of the Oldest Road.
(f) Thunder Maw: Here, in the southern most chamber, an opening in the southeastern wall serves as the western gate of the Black Road of the Underdeeps. As well as serving as a gate to other passages in the Under-deeps, each cave connects (at least indirectly) with the Oldest Road.
64 — Durin’s Chimney *: Durin’s Chimney reaches far into the Under-deeps. Legends say it is a bottomless shaft. (cf. Chapitre 12 – Lieux notables — 37), Chapitre 12 – Lieux notables — 57 et Chapitre 12 – Lieux notables — 61).
65 — Halls of Umagaur *: Umagaur the Pale makes his home in the caves near Umagaur’s Maw. This obsidian-walled complex includes three very different chambers :
(a) Troll-king’s Throne-room: Panes of blood-red glass line the arching 900’ tall walls. Set in an iron frame and illuminated from behind by glowing lava, the facade creates a startling effect—as if a pair of huge, curved windows leaned together to form a pointed vault. A simple but massive, red obsidian bench dominates the center of the room. Surrounded by bubbling mud-pots and sulfur-laced springs, the 12’ wide seat serves as the Toroko Mahalma (Q. “Troll Throne”).
(b) Great-hall: Here, the servants of the Pale One muster.
(c) Umagaur’s Rest: Here the Troll-king makes his repose.
66 — Under-tombs (Tombs Rising) *: (cf. Chapitre 13 – Les Sous-Profondeurs).
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