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Darkness Falls  by Kara's Aunty

Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion are owned by J.R.R. Tolkien, his family, New Line cinema, etc. I have written this for my own enjoyment.

Credit: www dot Tuckborough dot net, lotr-wiki (How cool is that? Who knew there was a wiki for LoTR? Not me!)

 

The Wrath of Light

 

Not often was it that he stirred from the black depths of his slumber. None would willingly rouse fire from the darkness, lest the angry light it spread was the last they ever glimpsed before succumbing to the mercy of death.

And mercy it would be. For his was a form that brought fear and terror to all; a form of flame and shadow, ever burning, ever shifting. Once a mere spirit of fire that was swift to do the bidding of the Valar, eager to warm the air or light the dark as They commanded.

At first, such an existence was sufficient for him, for what else did he know but the call of the Valar? The need to fulfil Their desires, to bend to Their will? He could wish for nothing more than to please his masters; to bring light to Their halls or heat to Their hearths, to kindle Their wood with gentle flame or boil the earth beneath the seas until it erupted, spitting rock and ash into the air with terrible might, that it could fall and cool in the vast waters and thus create new lands for Their new children.

But then Melkor came. It was he who showed him that the Valar had tricked him - and all his kind - into subservience; denied them shape because They feared their power. Denied them any part of the very land they moulded, shaped and laboured upon for the favoured children to come.

For the first time, he knew discontent.

Jealousy.

He became resentful of his narrow lot in life. But what could he do? He was but one servant of many masters, he existed only to do Their bidding and none but They could change that.

Or so he thought.

There was another with the power to alter his destiny. One who risked the anger of the Valar - of Ilúvatar himself - to free them from the shackles of servitude.

Melkor.

He whispered to them in secret; slowly corrupting them with dark thoughts of hatred and envy. Melkor told them how, with his aid, they could take shape and rally against their fate. Free themselves of an unjust subservience and, together with him, take rule of the world that Ilúvatar created and sought to gift to lesser beings. True, Melkor would be their master there, but one master was better than many, and he, at least, would not limit their existence to spirit-form. He would gift them with shape; allow them to use their fire as they pleased to destroy what the Valar had spent so long creating; rob the coming Children of Ilúvatar of a splendour they had been denied.

So he listened and learned while Melkor spoke. He swore allegiance to him and soon, he and his brethren began to take that which they desired above all else: shape.

And glorious was that shape to behold!

Taller they stood than any living thing, taller even than any tree in Middle Earth. The fire that had been their gift in spirit-form became the core of their terrible new form and burned with fury in their yellow eyes. The very breath they exhaled could render the fairest of landscapes into a smoking mockery of beauty. Fiery manes and vicious tails twice their height adorned the dreadful figures. Long were their arms, and in their hands they gripped whips with flaming thongs, ready to lash out in fiery fury at all who defied them.

The Balrogs were born.

Finally! Finally he had substance! And though he served a new master, that service was not an unwelcome one. Nay; for under Melkor’s rule, he and his brethren dwelled patiently in the Pits of Utumno while the fallen Vala raised an army of dark creatures to aid them in defeating their former masters. To take by force that which They had denied them of Their own free will. Spiders, fell beasts, vampires, werewolves, and innumerable bloodsucking birds and insects soon roamed the caverns and halls of a land any other would find desolate, but which he and his brethren revelled in. Cruel spirits, phantoms, wraiths and evil demons stalked the halls of Utumno, haunting the surrounding forests.

With the army finally amassed, he joined his new master time and again in war against the Valar. Their blessed realm, Almaren was laid in ruin and the Great Lamps destroyed, forcing them to flee Middle-earth for Valinor.

Victory!

With fire and blood they had hunted the servants of Ilúvatar from the very lands which those deities intended for lesser beings. No Usurper would freely enjoy that which the Balrogs and Melkor had helped create in their former lives, for ever would Master crash upon the unworthy and plague them with death and fire - and he would rejoice in the glory of such destruction!

For many years the lands of Middle Earth existed free of the blight of the Valar. Without the light of the Great Lamps, the world was plunged into darkness, save the light of the stars.

It was at this time Master discovered the Firstborn Children of Ilúvatar. They awoke in Cuiviénen, in the far east of Middle Earth. The event, so eagerly anticipated by the Valar, had gone unnoticed by Them, for none had known where or when it would come to pass. Melkor acted swiftly: he captured many of the fair wanderers, corrupting their beauty and transforming them by torture and other foul crafts into a sea of hideous, evil orcs. But his triumph was short-lived. When the Valar discovered this, They were so enraged by his actions that They returned to Middle Earth with a wrath so terrible, it laid ruin to Utumno. Master was captured and he and his brethren were forced to scatter with the winds until he was free to call them back to his service.

Long years passed across the world. Hope flourished amidst the Usurpers as peace and prosperity settled their mantles like false veils over their eyes. But eventually, Master returned. Melkor, reborn as Morgoth, tricked Manwë into freeing him and fled from his imprisonment. With the aid of his ally, the great spider Ungoliant, Morgoth destroyed the Two Trees of Valinor and stole the Silmarils, bearing them upon his iron crown back to Middle Earth. However, the treacherous Ungoliant caught him in her web and tried to take them from him. Morgoth, in his moment of need, called out to his servants and the Balrogs freed him. Together, they journeyed back and rebuilt Angband, his second fortress, as Master’s main home. Sauron the Sorcerer, his most terrible lieutenant, returned from the caverns where he had concealed himself from the fury of the Valar and together with them, he and his brother Balrogs wrought terror and destruction amidst the Usurpers; those elves and men that had been granted the favour of the Valar over them.

Cities fell and thousands died under the furious flames of the Balrogs and their allies! Feanor, creator of the Silmarils, killed within sight of Angband while attempting to retrieve his jewels! Gondolin destroyed! Fingon, High King of the Noldor, slain! Beleriand in ruins!

It could not last. During the War of Wrath, his Master was overthrown by the Host of the Valar and many of his brother Balrogs fell. Fearful of his former masters’ wrath, he fled to the mountains west of Angband and buried himself in their deeps under the roots of the Redhorn. The Balrog, fatigued by both battle and flight, and troubled by his Master’s continued absence, was powerless to do aught but wait. And so he slept, curled up in his dark cavern, waiting for Master to call him to arms once more.

But Master never did.

For many long years the creature of fire slumbered under the three mountains of Moria; oblivious to the workings of the world outside, or the delving of the dwarves above.

Until those dwarves delved too deeply.

Awakened once more, the Balrog smote the dwarven king and preyed on his kind until even his heir was crushed beneath his burning fury. Only when the last of Aulë’s insects had been driven from their home did he slumber again. In that time, Moria became a place of darkness, crawling with evil creatures. Unbeknownst to him, dwarves returned to reclaim their halls - only to be slaughtered by Sauron’s orcs.

And still he slept.

Until now.

For something had stirred him from his slumber; a presence he perceived. Was it his much-yearned Master? Or another, perhaps? Nay, there were two! One seemed familiar, powerful, malevolent. The other, while no less powerful was … different.

Of the Light.

Hope for the first presence stirred in his breast. Was it Master calling to him? But the other presence … could it be in confrontation with Master? Here, in the Halls of Moria? Had Morgoth sought so long to find his faithful servant, only to be denied at the last moment by a servant of the Light?

Fury began to burn as hotly in his blackened chest as did his fiery core. It dissipated the mists of his sleep and fuelled his passage up, up, up through the endless caverns and tunnels of the mountain. The walls of Moria shook with the doom, doom of distant drum-beat, urging the Balrog ever forward. Each mighty step he took brought him nearer to the two presences, increasing his desire to destroy the Light that would once more rob him of Master.

But Master would not fall this day! Light would diminish in his place, in payment of its folly!

Through the Second Hall the Balrog tore, long tail swishing angrily in his wake. Smoke billowed from his nostrils and flame scorched pillars and walls as he climbed ever upwards. The marble and stone magnificence of the dwarven city meant no more to him than a barrier placed to keep him from his goal. Yet barriers may fall and crumble beneath the might of a crushing blow and so Khazad-dûm fell away around him, its very walls trembling with the force of his fury. Soon, the frenzied sound of goblin voices raised in battle reached his ears, and he knew that his target could not be far. His own roars of outrage echoed off the onyx walls, mingling with the distant cries far ahead, and there came a moment of utter stillness - so abrupt that it rang louder in his ears than all the commotion that had passed before it.

He could taste at first the confusion, then the fear, as it rolled in waves down the hall.

The goblins had acknowledged his malevolent presence!

Terrible shrieks rent the stale air inside the mountain and the Balrog knew that when he reached his destination, their owners would have fled.

But the Light would remain.

He could feel both presences growing as he neared them; both malevolence and Light. But what had at first seemed to him the promise of reunion with Morgoth now seemed different. Evil it was, yes, but not his true Master. Perhaps one close to him? Another with the power to contend with the Light?

The Light …

He felt its confusion at the orcs' retreat, wondering at their flight. But it need not wonder long! Nor would its futile attempt to escape the inevitability of their meeting find success ...

With a dreadful roar, he dismissed his musings over the malevolent entity to concentrate on the enemy of Light instead. If there was an ally battling a common foe, then he would no doubt encounter him when he arrived. As for the Light, it did not know these halls as well as the goblins and, as the Balrog thundered into the large chamber on the seventh level, he could feel its mind. Tantalisingly close. But where?

There! At the other side of the east door, attempting to deny him passage with the use of a shutting spell.

Enraged, the Balrog threw himself into a battle of wills with the one that would elude him. The purity of White struggled against the fury of Red as the creature of darkness fought to break the barricade which separated them. Such was the might of their battle that the walls trembled until they could no longer support the chamber’s roof, and with a deep rumbling and cracking, it came crashing down upon Morgoth’s servant. Yet it could not hold him. He had been so near to his goal, so very close, that neither rock nor stone would deny him victory now!

So he rose from the wreck of the chamber, and, wielding his deadly sword, relentlessly pursed the flicker of Light down several flights of stone stairs. A horde of goblins flowed in his wake like a great, black cloak of malice. Too fixed upon the Light to pay them heed, the Balrog sped across the Second Hall until he came to a fissure deep in the floor by two of the tall pillars which supported the roof. Out of it a fierce red light came, and flames licked at the brink and curled at the columns. Wisps of dark smoke wavered in the air, wrapping themselves lovingly around his terrible form, greeting him like an ardent suitor.

It was there, from amidst the flame and smoke, that he saw him a short distance ahead. On the bridge, an old man in grey raced after a small band of companions as they fled over the narrow ledge that led to the First Hall, then freedom.

With a thunderous roar of triumph, the Balrog leapt across the fissure. The fire beneath seemed to leap up in welcome as he sailed through the air, his streaming mane kindling behind him, smoke wreathed about him, a terror as dreadful in flight as on solid ground. The floor shook beneath him as he landed and raced towards the bridge.

Suddenly, a loud horn blew in challenge, ringing and bellowing like the shout of many throats under the cavernous roof. Such was its might that it gave the Balrog pause. Orcs quailed in fear around him as the shadowy form halted. But when the echoes died as suddenly as flame blown out by a dark wind, he advanced towards the bridge once more.

Where the old man waited …

Dark, malicious glee raced through his veins. The wizened figure before him may appear as feeble as an ancient of Men, but the Balrog already knew him for what he truly was. He had sensed it during their battle of wills before the collapse of the dwarven chamber, and he saw it now in the ageless wisdom of his opponent’s eyes.

Maia!

This was what had awakened him from slumber. This was what he recognised in the deep caverns of the mountain - he recognised himself as he used to be.

And it filled him with hatred.

The Maia called out for his companions to flee to safety and the Balrog pursued them to the bridge. The fools! Many had tried such a course before; elves, men and dwarves alike. But none could or would escape the relentless storm of his flame. He would burn them! Smite them! Crush them all in the name of Morgoth! He would chase them to the ends of the world and lay ruin to their sanctuaries, their homes, their kin! None would escape his tender ministrations: not the Firstborn, nor the Secondborn, nor the Children of Aulë. Or the strange half-creatures, which eyed him in horror from the other side of the bridge …

What was this? He had not seen their likeness before! Small they were in size; smaller still than the goblins which cowered in the shadows, showering the trespassers with black darts from the safety of Moria’s mighty pillars. Yet, there was something about them. Or rather, something about one of them. Innocence and fear shone on its face, though evil pulsed from its breast, calling out to him, entreating him for aid …

The Maia stood in the middle of the bridge, staff of power in one hand and cold white sword in the other. The Balrog halted, the shadow reaching out around it like two vast wings. He raised his whip and lashed out with it as fire streamed from his nostrils. But the Maia angered him by standing firm.

“You cannot pass,” bellowed the lonely figure.

A dead silence fell in the chamber. The cries of the trespassers stilled, the angry yells of the orcs dissipated, and all eyes focussed on the two figures on the bridge: one tall, Dark and hot with tongues of fire and hate; the other small, Grey and weary with age.

“I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass.”

It gave the Balrog pause, but for only a moment.

He reined in his fire, but smoke wreathed his form in its place, enveloping him, then spreading as he slowly stepped forward. The Light would need more than the threat of Creation or the Sun itself to hinder him! For had he not helped to create this world which he now sought to lay in ruins? Did not the warmth of the Sun kiss his form with fire - the same fire that burned in his very core? What had he to fear from these?

Naught!

Conviction lent him strength. The Balrog drew himself up to a great height, the smoke it belched spread from wall to wall like two mighty wings, and still the Maia stood in defiance before him, seeming small, grey and bent. Dark glee filled the creature of darkness: this Maia was no threat to him! He would cleave him in two with one swipe of his dreadful sword, before he stole the lives of his feeble companions.

Except the strange half-creature. That one would reveal the secrets of the darkness he harboured, before he enjoyed the mercy of his own death …

In one great stroke, the Balrog brought his flaming sword crashing down upon his first opponent. But, what was this? A stab of white fire answered his thrust as the sword clashed against his enemy’s. With a cry of rage, the creature stumbled backwards and fell, watching in fury as his fiery blade was shattered in a hail of molten fragments.

“You cannot pass!” repeated the Maia with a righteous cry.

In a single bound, the Balrog leaped full upon the bridge, unleashing his whip and cracking it angrily at his opponent. A few of the Maia’s companions began to yell and charge towards the duellers on the bridge, but at that moment, the old man raised his staff and smote the bridge between him and his foe.

It was as if the world had stilled.

The Balrog looked to its feet and saw that the hardy stonework was being rent asunder. Cracks had blossomed across the bridge, spreading from edge to edge, until the only place left to go was down into the body of the bridge itself. Soon, rock which had endured the span of an Age was no longer able to endure the span of fifty feet from the Second Hall to the First. With a sharp crack, and a final shiver of protest, it crumbled beneath his feet, hurling him down into the chasm below.

A terrible cry of shock and rage ripped from the throat of Morgoth’s servant as the bridge gave way beneath him and he plunged into the abyss. Such was his fury that he lashed out with his whip one last time. A short distance above him the burning thongs found purchase and he rejoiced as the Maia’s form appeared over the edge of the shattered bridge, crying out as it fell.

So! If he were doomed to break upon the deepest rocks of the world, he would at least not meet his fate alone. For Light would fade with him!

Down, down, down they hurtled through the never-ending darkness of Moria; down towards a fate that none could tell or belay now even if it were known to them. The only light that fell in this blackest pit of the earth was that lent from the orange-red flames which licked the Maia’s form when the foul entity roared its hot fury at him. The old man burned but, unlike him, he could not bear the heat. His screams rent the stale air of the underworld, reaching a pitch which exceeded even the Balrog’s roars, and the creature relished each and every one of them. They lent buoyancy to his evil mind as he fell, if not his evil form.

All too soon the cries faded, for the floor of the world rushed up to meet them …

Yet it was not rock that broke their bodies: instead, water - deeper and colder than any in all of Arda - cushioned the Balrog in its embrace, preserving his life, offering him the chance to rally once more against his foe.

But what had lent aid to him, offered it also to the Maia, and the fire was extinguished from the old man’s robes.

Fire was also extinguished from him. This he discovered when he finally pulled himself from the murky depths of the fetid pool. His core was yet hot, but no flames could he produce, no matter how long he endeavoured towards this end.

The realisation shook him. In dismay, he surveyed his surroundings, looking for a chink of light that might lend him the kiss of Sun's rays and thus rekindle his flame. But there was none to be had so deep in the beginnings of the earth. There was naught but vast, towering foundations of stone with their dark crevices and rocky ledges. No window was there cut into a wall, no faint beam of yellow to give him succour, or lend him hope.

He was now no more than a thing of slime.

And then his opponent rose from the waters, with his sword still intact and the fires of wrath burning in his eyes.

“Seek not the spark to your flame in this chasm of the world, flame of Udûn! It will not avail you here!” cried the Maia. “Yet if you crave the comfort of light, let me lend it to you with the stroke of my blade!”

With that, he brandished his sword high and it blazed into life. A white fire streamed from it and suddenly the chamber was thrown into sharp relief. Their shadows played across the far walls: one towering and looming, the other smaller, yet defiant.

Raising his whip, the Balrog brought it crashing down upon the man, though his opponent eluded the blow. Anger surged through him and he lashed out with his tail. It struck an outcropping of ancient rock, shattering it on contact. This, at least, pleased him, for though his fire was quenched, it did remind him that he was not without an advantage. Brute strength would prevail where flame could not. Might of arms would see him vanquish his weaker foe. Terrible height would see him loom over the Maia before he crushed him with one, mighty stamp of his foot!

Victory would yet be his!

And so it was that he launched himself anew at the enemy. Though his shadow was now no more than a dark shape across the chamber walls, his form was still a fearful thing to behold, and he used it to wreak his rage upon his opponent.

Again and again the Balrog clutched at his foe, ever striking, ever lashing. But his enemy was not content to remain in one place and be defeated. Nay, the Maia was as elusive as the smoke which used to wreath the Balrog’s form. The old man weaved and dodged each and every blow, parried and thrust in answer to each lash of his whip or strike of his arm. Minutes and hours passed as the deadly dance took them from one end of the vast chamber to the next. Some of the enemy’s blows met with resistance, hewing into his arms, his legs, his side. Pain - once a foreign concept to him - became an intimate friend with each successful blow, and his fury grew with the familiarity of it.

He did not know how long they fought in the bowels of Arda. Days may well have passed. Time had lost its meaning. All that mattered was his enemy’s destruction. His furious roars mingled with the man’s screams of defiance and bounced off ancient rock as they thrashed and struggled against each other. But the Maia’s destruction was proving a harder task than he could ever have imagined, and the Balrog knew the beginnings of desperation.

Would the Valar’s pawn never fall? Surely even he must be tiring, cloaked in the form of an old man as he was? What foul Light lent him the strength to endure thus?

Whatever it was, it showed no sign of waning. As the cold white blade of the man nicked his shin yet again, Morgoth’s serpent gave one final bellow of pain and fled into the nearest tunnel.

Never in all his days had he been forced into such a course of action! To flee from one who should be dead! If his master could see him now, the hunter becoming the hunted, racing through passages so old and deep that they had fallen from all memory, he would not know him for his faithful servant!

Even as he raced ahead, the creature of slime could feel his enemy reaching out towards him with his mind, tracking him with his thoughts. Often, a cold blade would come close enough to slice at his calves. A whip of his lash rang out in reply - occasionally it met its intended target and a cry of pain would echo up and down the tunnel. Such moments heartened Morgoth’s faithful one, though he did not stop to contend with his foe at those times, for the tunnels were not broad enough to allow him the freedom of movement that such a course would demand. If only he could reach the light of day! There he could move more freely and rejuvenate his flame once more and then he would end this impasse! He would once again become the hunter and his enemy would quail with fear before him! Beg for the mercy of a swift demise!

But the mighty servant of Morgoth would not show such a kindness to one who had attempted to humiliate him thus! Nay, he would see him burn once more with the fire of his breath - and this time, there would be no convenient pool to quench his wrath!

As if in answer to his dark plea, the tunnel began to slope upwards and the rocky walls lost some of the moisture inherent to the deeper levels of the abyss. He began to recognise some of the curves and bends as he climbed farther up and, with his foe snapping at his heels, a plan began to form.

With a malevolent leer he rushed ever upwards, favouring some tunnels over others, veering left instead of right, until, finally, he saw it.

The Endless Stair.

At last! Hope was in sight! And only he understood this, for no other had dwelled long enough under the mountains to realise it led to the very roof of Silvertine!

To the very embrace of the Sun!

Careful to control his glee lest his enemy guess at his intent, he leapt upon the first step and began the relentless climb towards its peak.

Towards victory.

Soon he would flare again! Soon his slumbering core would roar back into life, lending him the means to quash whichever force lent the Maia his unnatural fortitude. He would vanquish his enemy this very day and know the thrill of victory once more!

Up, up, up he rushed, always with the stab of a blade at his heels. But the Balrog ignored them now as best he could.

Further and further he toiled up the Endless Stair, driven by the need to feel the lick of heat he had gone so long without, to turn and smite at the one who pursued him so relentlessly. His core burned in anticipation of the Sun’s rays, knowing that the darkness which enveloped it would soon fall away when the pinnacle came into sight. But it seemed an age before his yearning was fulfilled: the Stair continued to twist and turn endlessly through the blackness, passing through level after level of unforgiving rock until, at last, a dim light glowed in the distance. Spurred on to greater efforts by the sight of it, the Balrog dove towards the lofty heights of Silvertine’s roof.

His enemy hacked more furiously at his heels in an effort to thwart him, having now realised what his intent had been. But it was too late for the Maia’s desperate efforts.

Too late.

For the light was dim no more; fresh, clean air flowed through the stone archway ahead and he welcomed the light that passed through it as it gently bathed his foul skin. The Balrog crouched and sprang through the opening into the tower beyond. A solitary window in the tower wall looked out over the dizzy heights of the world, but the splendour of his location was of no interest. Only the shaft of sunlight that bathed the narrow eyrie beyond it could command that. With one final spring, he sailed through the window and landed on the precipice.

A mighty roar of triumph rang from the summit of the mountain as the Balrog’s core reacted to the golden light. Even as the Maia leapt through into the tower, fire burst from his skin. Smoke wreathed his form once more. Victorious, he turned on the pale form of his enemy and bellowed his scorn.

Victory was assured him now! For none could withstand the fire of wrath on his breath, least of all his failing enemy. The fool had chosen his form most unwisely, for it was bent with the combined efforts of combat, prolonged hunt and climbing.

But the Balrog’s energy was replenished! He knew vigour renewed, where his foe knew only fatigue. He had strength to conquer, where his foe had none to spare.

Cracking his now-fiery whip in challenge, the servant of Darkness sprang back through the window to face his challenger, assured of his invincibility.

And the battle began anew.

With flame and whip at hand, Morgoth’s creature engaged the Valar’s servant once more.

And violent was their battle.

Sword crashed against sword, will crashed against will as they struggled against each other. Fire melted snow and spell broke stone as the tower around them fell into dust. Again and again he struck at the Light, but though he had the advantage of strength and height, his opponent did not falter.

Hatred exploded from his lips in screams of endless rage as the hours passed and his enemy showed no sign of waning. Steam from melting snows billowed from the mountain top, surrounding them in mist as they duelled from ledge to dizzy ledge. Thunder boomed as day passed into night and angry lightning tore through the sky shortly afterwards. Huge lumps of rock were torn from the mountain, both as a result of Nature’s fury and the deadly fight hosted by the Silvertine. But naught could still the struggle of Dark against Light. Not the heavenly protests of the sky, or the tremble of treacherous ground underfoot.

On the third day of battle, when the wind was at its peak and ice fell like rain around them - when even the Balrog felt fatigue begin to gnaw at his limbs - there, on the highest pinnacle of the mountain, his enemy ceased his assault. At first, the Balrog thought the man was conceding the battle, but nay! The Maia dropped his sword arm and drew back to glare at him. Seconds later, the old man began to chant words of magic. Thunder rocked the skies. Then, as suddenly as he had started, the old man stopped, looked deep into the Balrog's yellow orbs, and issued him a bold warning.

“Back! Back with thee, flame of Udûn. Your time has come to an end,” cried his assailant. “Return to the void of eternal terror from whence you were summoned, and let you there know ever the torment your kind have wrought upon innocents. No more evil shall you wreak in Arda as long as I yet breathe!”

And the Balrog hissed a scornful reply.

“Thy breath I shall steal from thee ere the Sun sinks again, fool! The masters thee serve will lament thy fall this very eve!”

Morgoth’s acolyte cracked his whip in support of the threat, but the sharpness of it was lost amidst another crack of thunder. He took a step towards his enemy and they glowered at each other on very edge of Silvertine.

“But know this, Maia: thy suffering will not end when thee succumb to death at my stroke. Nay, for I shall seek out thy companions. I shall seek out he who bears the scent of darkness on his breast, and I shall take it from him before he dies by my hand! With this, I shall resurrect my master and, together, we shall lay waste to the lands thee have failed to protect. Middle Earth will fall!”

The Maia’s eyes flashed in anger.

“The power to resurrect your master is beyond such a one as you,” he barked. “The master you speak of is beyond aid of all but the Valar themselves - and they will never release him!”

Fury raced through his body. “Lies! Thy words are naught more than phantoms created to stir doubt and cloud conviction. But long have I dwelled with phantoms more terrible than any thee could imagine or create. Thy feeble attempts at artifice cannot hope to dispel the faith of a true heart. None may still the might or wrath of Morgoth!”

To his surprise - and shock - the Maia threw back his head and laughed.

He laughed!

The sound of it drove the Balrog’s ire to new heights and he bellowed a furious warning at his enemy.

“Forgive me, my friend,” gasped the Maia ironically. “I never thought to find a moment of humour in such a battle of wills. Long have you awaited the return of your foul master. An Age has come and gone, and another draws to its final conclusion, and you have slumbered through them both, patiently awaiting his return.”

The old man took a step forward, and he read the mockery in the depths of his eyes.

“But Morgoth the Dissenter will never return to you. He has been banished to the Endless Void beyond the bounds of Arda. No evil arts that you possess, nor any you may think to gain, will ever alter that. The seeds of your hope remain now as they ever shall: shrivelled and fruitless.”

The hateful words resonated through the air, carrying with them the dreadful ring of truth.

Master was banished beyond Arda itself.

Vanquished beyond the hope of recovery.

And all these years, the thought of Morgoth’s glorious return had been the only thing to give him strength while he slumbered at the roots of the Redhorn, hiding away like a fretful child that awaited the return of his father to chase away the demons of the night.

But no fretful child was he! Nay. He was the demon. He was the one the Children of the Valar feared in the night - and he would wreak vengeance upon those favoured Children in Master’s stead.

Thus, with a dreadful cry of wrath, he bore down upon the embodiment of all that he despised with his mighty arm, intent on crushing the Maia from existence. But in his folly, he opened himself up for a final, desperate attack from his foe. The man twisted away from him, then turned back to thrust his gleaming weapon high into the air. It drove deep into the Balrog’s chest, slicing through flesh and muscle.

Agony such as he never knew before rent through him. His fire dimmed significantly as mithril from the very mountains he slumbered beneath pierced his lung. The Balrog sprang back, clutching his wound, and staggered clumsily, dangerously close to the precipice. Coldness invaded the torn flesh, but it was the remnant anger of the Maia’s weapon, not the merciless elements that whirled about him. He gasped for breath, and it seemed to draw the poison of the Light further into his body. Furious, the Balrog raised his arm to fend off another assault from the Maia, but the heat that had ever lain at the heart of him was ebbing away, weakening him.

The enemy continued his relentless assault, stabbing and striking at the flailing creature. The Balrog struck out blindly with his whip, but he could not see through the haze of pain and fear that clouded his vision, nor through the icy rain and mists that whipped into a frenzy around both combatants. He stumbled backwards, away from his foe - and ever closer to the edge of the Silvertine …

How had this happened? How could he have allowed a servant of the Valar he hated to trick him into lowering his defences so easily? Was he really so foolish as to allow naught but words to bring his doom? Had he valiantly fought his enemy for days on end, brought him to the very summit of the world to destroy him, only to be felled by a moment of idiocy?

Thunder boomed closer than ever before. The Balrog tried to steady himself, but the ground underfoot was slick with ice and he could gain little traction.

Nay. This was not his end! He was a servant of flame and shadow! His kind had aided in the creation of the very mountains he stood upon. What was this moment to him but a lesson for the future? A warning to strike swiftly at his foes! To bring death to the Usurpers and their Valar-forsaken protectors in all haste; not to waste time bandying words that would allow them to gain the higher ground!

It was enough to make him rally his strength. Enough to still his momentum towards the mountain edge. A new surge of energy washed through him, stilling the cold fire in his veins, lessening the pain of his wound, allowing him to draw a defiant breath.

And bring his enemy to a halt.

Surprise was etched in the Maia’s wizened face as, instead of slipping backwards, the Balrog began to edge forwards. Satisfaction raced through his wounded body at the sight of his enemy’s dismay, and the malevolent being raised his whip to lash out once more …

Suddenly, light arced across the sky, illuminating the enemy‘s form - and terrible it was to behold! One that had seemed as weak and frail as the ancients of men not seconds before suddenly seemed to grow, to shoot upwards, as if fired by the wrath of all the Children of Ilúvatar. He knew a moment of fear when the Maia began to chant more words of magic. Fear which exploded when the old man raised his sword high ...

The weapon caught an arc of lightning and dazzled briefly with the glow of a thousand moons. Such an act should have felled his opponent but, Maia that he was, his magic protected him. And when his foe brought his sword back down, it was not to strike upon him …

It was to strike at the few metres of ground which separated them.

With the power of the elements behind that final blow, and another flash of lightning at his back, the precipice on which the Balrog stood crumbled beneath him, just as the bridge inside Moria had done so many days ago. His whip was lost to the wind and he clutched fervently at the remnants of smoking rock, desperately trying to gain hold of land that no longer existed. Once again he gave a terrible cry of terror. Once again the Maia’s face was lost from sight as he plunged down, down, down.

And this time, there was no convenient pool to break his fall …

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Author’s Note: Some text and dialogue lifted from LoTR, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter 5: The Bridge of Khazad-dûm, and LoTR, The Two Towers, Book Three, Chapter 5: The White Rider.

M :)





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