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They peered out. Before them was another cavernous hall. It was loftier and far longer than the one in which they had slept. They were near its eastern end; westward it ran away into darkness. Down the centre stalked a double line of towering pillars. They were carved like boles of mighty trees whose boughs upheld the roof with a branching tracery of stone. Their stems were smooth and black, but a red glow was darkly mirrored in their sides. Right across the floor, close to the feet of two huge pillars a great fissure had opened.
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Out of it a fierce red light came, and now and again flames licked at the brink and curled about the bases of the columns. Wisps of dark smoke wavered in the hot air.
If we had come by the main road down from the upper halls, we should have been trapped here,' said Gandalf. `Let us hope that the fire now lies between us and pursuit. Come! There is no time to lose.'
Even as he spoke they heard again the pursuing drum-beat: _Doom, doom, doom_. Away beyond the shadows at the western end of the hall there came cries and horn-calls. _Doom, doom_: the pillars seemed to tremble and the flames to quiver.
`Now for the last race! ' said Gandalf. 'If the sun is shining outside we may still escape. After me! '
He turned left and sped across the smooth floor of the hall. The distance was greater than it had looked. As they ran they heard the beat and echo of many hurrying feet behind. A shrill yell went up: they had been seen. There was a ring and clash of steel. An arrow whistled over Frodo's head.
Boromir laughed. `They did not expect this,' he said. `The fire has cut them off. We are on the wrong side! '
`Look ahead! ' called Gandalf. `The Bridge is near. It is dangerous and narrow.'
Suddenly Frodo saw before him a black chasm. At the end of the hall the floor vanished and fell to an unknown depth. The outer door could only be reached by a slender bridge of stone, without kerb or rail, that spanned the chasm with one curving spring of fifty feet. It was an ancient defence of the Dwarves against any enemy that might capture the First Hall and the outer passages. They could only pass across it in single file. At the brink Gandalf halted and the others came up in a pack behind.
'Lead the way, Gimli! ' he said. 'Pippin and Merry next. Straight on and up the stair beyond the door! '
Arrows fell among them. One struck Frodo and sprang back. Another pierced Gandalf's hat and stuck there like a black feather. Frodo looked behind. Beyond the fire he saw swarming black figures: there seemed to be hundreds of orcs. They brandished spears and scimitars which shone red as blood in the firelight. _Doom, doom_ rolled the drum-beats, growing louder and louder, _doom, doom_.
Thank you to lbilover for the transcription and organizing the reading.