With Friends Like These

Chapter Nineteen: A Balrog is Coming!

by Jay of Lasgalen

Stories > First > Previous > Next

t was very late when Legolas finally went to bed.  A combination of the long journey, the lateness of the hour, the richness of the food, the wine he had drunk - more than he was normally permitted at home - and the soothing, soporific atmosphere in the Hall of Fire, sent him to sleep very quickly.  He was restless, though, his mind still full of all he had seen and heard that day, and the enchanting stories he had heard.. 

After the minstrel’s song had ended, Glorfindel had continued the story, filling in with lurid detail what had been left out, and correcting other parts.  “He was not there,”  Glorfindel explained simply, when Legolas asked why the minstrel had got it wrong.

Those thoughts slipped into his subconscious, and he began to dream.  With the usual vividness of elven dreams, it was as if he was there, watching in horror as Gondolin burned around him.  He witnessed the terrible battle between Ecthelion and the Balrog Gothmog.  He could smell the smoke and stench of burning, could feel the heat of the flames, and watched the rest of the citizens as they fled, panic-stricken, escaping the ruin of their city.

Legolas turned, restlessly, still trapped in the dream.  Around him, all was confusion as the refugees made their way, agonisingly slowly, down the secret way that led to possible freedom.  Smoke from the burning city combined with steam from the many fountains incinerated by the dragons’ fiery breath, and part of their path was obscured by thick mist and smog, which inadvertently screened them from unfriendly eyes.

He shivered through the exhaustion and bitter cold of the long trek over the mountains, and then – there came the ultimate horror.  Just as they thought that the end of their long flight was at last in sight, the fugitives were ambushed..  A host of orcs appeared on the slopes of the mountain, and swept towards them through the narrow pass, led by a terrible creature, one they recognized all too well, winged in flame and darkness.  Legolas echoed the cries of the terrified refugees.  “Ai!  Ai!  A Balrog!  A Balrog is coming!”

Valiant  and steadfast, Glorfindel stepped forward to meet it.  He looked both beautiful and terrible, proud and resolute.  The arrows he fired at the monster kindled in the air before they ever reached it, falling uselessly to the ground, so he drew his sword, moving closer. 

“You cannot pass.”  Glorfindel’s voice rang clear and fearless. They fought long, locked in combat together. Glorfindel’s sword hacked and stabbed at the Balrog, while its blade and whip cut and burned him.  His golden hair was burned and scorched, his clothes smouldered, but still Glorfindel fought tirelessly.  He was so brave, so strong. 

Legolas felt he was trapped in a curious blend of  past and present.  In the past he watched the epic battle as if for the first time, wondering desperately what would happen, if they would ever escape, if they had any hope.  In the present he knew, hopelessly, helplessly, what the outcome would be, but found himself hoping despairingly that somehow, in some way, that this time it would be different. 

As he watched, the Balrog flicked its whip, cutting a livid red weal across Glorfindel’s face, but the warrior did not flinch, seeming oblivious to the pain.  The whip flicked again, wrapping itself around his chest.  To Legolas’s horror, Glorfindel did not struggle; did not fight,  still seeming oblivious to what was happening.  Instead, he allowed it to pull him closer, then at the last moment raised his sword, plunging it deep into the creature’s chest. Mortally wounded, the Balrog gave a roar of fury and defiance, and wrapped its fiery wings around Glorfindel, enveloping him in a deadly embrace. 

Together they plunged from the mountainside to their deaths.

Gripped by horror, Legolas screamed out Glorfindel’s name, and struggled to wake, aware that he was dreaming, but powerless to stop it.  In his dream, he peered over the precipice trying to see what had become of Glorfindel, while in the waking world he could see a flame drawing nearer and nearer.  The two images combined, and the Balrog, still consumed by fire, rose up out of the abyss and confronted him.

He drew back in terror, one arm raised to shield his eyes from the flames.  “The Balrog!”  he cried.  “Begone, you foul fiend!”

A soft voice drew him out of nightmare.  “A Balrog?  I have been called many things before, but never that!”

With a gulp, he blinked and finally returned to awareness.  Celebrían stood before him, a candle in one hand, as she stood over him in concern.

Legolas gaped at her.  His face burned with shame.  “Lady Celebrían!  I’m sorry, I thought - I thought -”

“You thought I was a Balrog.  Yes, I know.  Forgive me, I did not mean to startle you.  I was passing, and you seemed - disturbed.  Glorfindel has been telling you his story, I take it?”  Her voice was gentle and soothing.

“Yes.  I had not heard it before - well, not all of it.  Not like that.”

“Legolas, I am sorry!  Please, you must forgive him.  Glorfindel has nightmares, terrible nightmares.  He finds it helps him,  that it soothes them, to talk of it.  But he forgets how terrifying the tale is to others.  I remember the time he told Elladan and Elrohir.  And last year he told Arwen one of his bedtime stories.  She woke up screaming.”

Very subtly, Celebrían had turned Legolas’ embarrassment at waking like this into concern and sympathy for another.  To relive the worst memory of one’s life – lives – like that, over and over again …  He shuddered.  “Poor Glorfindel.  I never thought of it like that.  It must have been a dreadful thing.  No wonder he has nightmares.”

“I am glad you understand.  Thank you.  But I will talk to him again in the morning – he must remember not to terrify his audience!”  With a smile, Celebrían turned to leave.  “Goodnight, my dear.”

“Goodnight, Lady Celebrían.”

When he was quite sure the door had closed behind her, Legolas leaned back against the headboard with a groan combined of despair and disbelief.  Had he really just called the lady of Imladris a Balrog?   He could not believe it.  She would never forgive him.  Elrond would never forgive him.  He just hoped fervently that Elladan and Elrohir did not find out, or they would never allow him to forget about it either.

His mind was still full of images from his dream.  Realising he would not be able to sleep for a while, Legolas crossed to the window and sat on the low sill, looking out across the valley.  As always, the murmur of the trees soothed him, and a cool night breeze carried scents from the high moor.  The air here was subtly different to Lasgalen.  It was warmer, moister, and held a faint tang of pine and resin. On the far side of the valley the land rose again, and high overhead the stars shone brightly.  The trees and the starlight calmed him, and eventually he went back to bed, and slept – dreamlessly this time – until dawn when the chatter and twittering of the birds roused him.

When he went down for breakfast Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen were all there before him.   They greeted him cheerfully, and waved him over to a seat next to Elladan. 

“Did you sleep well?”  Elrohir asked courteously.

“Yes.  Fairly well, thank you.”

The twins exchanged knowing glances.  “Only fairly well?  You were talking to Glorfindel last night, weren’t you?”

“Yes, I was.”  Legolas was cautious.  “Why?”

“Well, I remember when he told us about his battle with the Balrog.  It scared me to death!”  Elladan remembered. 

“I did have a bit of a bad dream.”  Legolas admitted.

“I know when he told us, we both had terrible nightmares,”  Elrohir said.  “In fact -”  he hesitated, looking at Elladan, clearly unsure whether or not to continue.

“Go on,”  Legolas prompted.

Elrohir sighed.  “I ended up sleeping in El’s bed,”  he admitted.  “Or it could have been the other way around.  I don’t quite remember.”

“And we haven’t done that since we were very little!”  Elladan added.

Legolas smiled.  He did not feel quite so bad about his own nightmare now.  “Well, now that you mention it …”

“What?”  all three chorused.

“I did have a nightmare; about Gondolin, about the battle, about the Balrog.  I must have called out.  Your mother heard me.  She came in, with a candle.”

“She always comes in at night to us.”  Arwen explained.

“Well, I was dreaming about the Balrog, when I saw her candle.  And then I …”  he stopped, still embarrassed.  “I thought she was one.”

Elrohir stared at him in disbelief.  “You thought my mother was a Balrog?”  He gave a snort of laughter.

“It was the flame!”  Legolas explained defensively.

“It was Glorfindel’s fault!”  stated Elladan authoritatively.  “He keeps telling us these stories!  He should remember that we are sensitive, impressionable elflings and take more care!”

From the way Elrohir and Arwen joined him in reciting the description, it was obviously a much-used quote.  From Legolas’ point of view, a less accurate description of the three would be hard to find.

“Who, in all of Arda, calls any of you that?”  he demanded.

“Mother, of course!  She seems to think Glorfindel is a bad influence on us,” explained Elladan.

“And is he?”

Arwen defended Glorfindel stoutly.  “He’s wonderful!  He tells me bedtime stories, takes us all hunting orcs and wolves, showed us where we can jump off the cliff into the river, and he helps me play tricks on the twins when they’re horrible to me!”

“In other words, yes, he is a bad influence,”  added Elrohir.

“You’d get on well with him,” said Elladan slyly.

Legolas tried to imagine the noble, heroic Balrog slayer behaving in such an irresponsible manner.  Then he remembered the way Glorfindel had seemed to lurk beneath the tapestry, and given him such a start.  “You could be right,” he admitted.

Elrohir decided it was time to change the subject.  “What would you like to do today, Legolas?”  he asked.  “The Council doesn’t start until tomorrow, and the Games start the day after, but for now there is nothing planned.  If you like,  we could show you the valley, or you might want to do something else, on your own?”

“I don’t have any plans.  And my father wants to see your father’s library as soon as possible.  He’ll be there all day at least.  So yes, I’d love to see your home!  When can we leave?”

“I’ll tell my parents what we’re going to do, and ask the kitchens if they can make us a picnic lunch.  In about an hour?”

Legolas agreed readily.  As he left to find Thranduil and tell him what was happening, he wondered about the ‘Games’ Elrohir had mentioned.  His father had told him about races, and archery contests, and other competitions.  He wondered if he stood any chance against the novice warriors of Imladris and Lasgalen, or the likes of Elladan and Elrohir.    But he would worry about that later.  For now, there was the prospect of a most interesting day out.

Stories > First > Previous > Next