It was evening, and the grey light was again waning fast, when they halted for the night. They were very weary. The mountains were veiled in deepening dusk, and the wind was cold. Gandalf spared them one more mouthful each of the miruvor of Rivendell. When they had eaten some food he called a council.
'We cannot, of course, go on again tonight,' he said. 'The attack on the Redhorn Gate has tired us out, and we must rest here for a while.'
'And then where are we to go? ' asked Frodo.
'We still have our journey and our errand before us,' answered Gandalf. 'We have no choice but to go on, or to return to Rivendell.'
Pippin's face brightened visibly at the mere mention of return to Rivendell; Merry and Sam looked up hopefully. But Aragorn and Boromir made no sign. Frodo looked troubled.
'I wish I was back there,' he said. 'But how can I return without shame . unless there is indeed no other way, and we are already defeated? '
'You are right, Frodo,' said Gandalf: 'to go back is to admit defeat and face worse defeat to come. If we go back now, then the Ring must remain there: we shall not be able to set out again. Then sooner or later Rivendell will be besieged, and after a brief and bitter time it will be destroyed. The Ringwraiths are deadly enemies, but they are only shadows yet of the power and terror they would possess if the Ruling Ring was on their master's hand again.'
'Then we must go on, if there is a way,' said Frodo with a sigh. Sam sank back into gloom.
'There is a way that we may attempt,' said Gandalf. 'I thought from the beginning, when first I considered this journey, that we should try it. But it is not a pleasant way, and I have not spoken of it to the Company before. Aragorn was against it, until the pass over the mountains had at least been tried.'
'If it is a worse road than the Redhorn Gate, then it must be evil indeed,' said Merry. 'But you had better tell us about it, and let us know the worst at once.'
'The road that I speak of leads to the Mines of Moria,' said Gandalf. Only Gimli lifted up his head; a smouldering fire was in his eyes. On all the others a dread fell at the mention of that name. Even to the hobbits it was a legend of vague fear:
'The road may lead to Moria, but how can we hope that it will lead through Moria? ' said Aragorn darkly.
'It is a name of ill omen,' said Boromir. 'Nor do I see the need to go there. If we cannot cross the mountains, let us journey southwards, until we come to the Gap of Rohan, where men are friendly to my people, taking the road that I followed on my way hither. Or we might pass by and cross the Isen into Langstrand and Lebennin, and so come to Gondor from the regions nigh to the sea.'
'Things have changed since you came north, Boromir,' answered Gandalf. 'Did you not hear what I told you of Saruman? With him I may have business of my own ere all is over. But the Ring must not come near Isengard, if that can by any means be prevented. The Gap of Rohan is closed to us while we go with the Bearer.