A/N: Well, this chapter kicked my ass a little. Still, we're here now, and that's what matters!
The Shadow of Angmar
Chapter 33: Dark Memories of Elder Days Defiant
The day of battle came at long last. Months of warring and minor battles. Dozens of lost holds recaptured. Hundreds of dead Men, Dwarves and even Elves. Yet all of it would rest upon the outcome of the battle to come. If Thráin and his allies emerged victorious, all the suffering, and all of the loss endured throughout the long war would not be wasted.
If they lost, then the price that had already been paid would be little more than the sea spray on an ocean of grief.
"I still like it not," said Thorin, who stood beside Harry atop a promontory near the Stair of Barazinbar, high upon the slopes of the valley of Azanulbizar. "We know nothing of the numbers of the enemy, yet we march into the very maw of the host that surely awaits us."
"You worry too much about mere Orcs," said Dáin who stood beside him. Together, they commanded the small force which had been left with Harry. Daewen, too, was not far away. She was a little further up the mountainside, and beneath her Elvish cloak she was near impossible to find.
"We may have to face more than mere Orcs," said Harry. Perhaps it was merely his own apprehension, but as the battle had drawn closer, he had felt some unknown weight descend upon him. There was little doubt in his mind that the Balrog was awaiting his return. Every time he had travelled close to Khazad-dûm he had been able to feel the beast's unseen gaze upon him.
What concerned him most was that this time he could find no sign of it. Harry had spent every evening for the last few days reaching out carefully into the darkness. There was a fire burning somewhere out there. He could smell the smoke of it within his mind, but there was no sign of the flames. Out upon the southern plains of Rhûn the people there spoke of the Morthbrond. The hidden fire. When lightning struck the dry plains, and kindled a fire upon them which was reduced to little more than scalding embers by the strong, scouring winds. The Morthbrond would lie in wait until the winds dropped a little, and would spring suddenly into terrible life.
That thought worried him more than anything. In his previous meetings with the creature, it had been powerful beyond imagining but it did not seem that patience was something which came easily to it.
When asked, Gandalf had said very little at first. His sky-blue eyes had almost seemed to look through Harry completely, and Harry had struggled to comprehend what he'd seen in them. Kindness, yes, but edged with a pity that had kindled a flicker of resentment within him before it was quickly extinguished by Gandalf's reply.
"Who could hope to plumb the thoughts of a being such as Durin's Bane?" he'd asked. "Not I, certainly, and I am not sure I'd care to if I could. It is no dumb creature though, you must know that. Once it was surely a being of grace and wisdom as great as any Elf Lord. Greater even. It did not lose those gifts when it fell into the shadow within which it now cloaks itself. No, it merely turned them to darker purposes. I would caution you not to underestimate our foe."
Harry did not need to be reminded of that. The last time he had stepped foot into Khazad-dûm he had done so without any understanding of the world into which he walked. He was no stranger to darkness. He had lived through pain. He had experienced rage that had burned deep within his bones. He had known fear, and disgust.
None of that had prepared him for meeting the terror that stalked those subterranean Halls. Even now, years after he had borne word of it to the surface it was a horror without true name. Durin's Bane, some called it. Others, the Balrog of Moria. What name the dread had once known was long gone. Lost in the mists of history. It had not lost the malice which had been borne within it during the earliest ages of the world. Before the Sun rose for the first time, the Balrog had been old, and it had been terrible.
What rage, what fear, what disgust Harry had known had paled into insignificance before the burning gaze of that nameless being. Like a candle before an inferno, choked by the furious hunger of the greater blaze, breath stolen until it was snuffed out and consumed, his own power had been as nothing before the Balrog.
It made the memory of his preparations then seem laughable. How could he prepare for a being such as that? He had been a fool before. To think he could defeat something of the Balrog's power through meagre tricks, or skill at arms was hubris of the most unforgivable kind, and it had cost much.
And so it was that the greatest hope for the coming battle was that the Balrog would not come; that it would not step beyond the threshold of its deep, dark domain. Many times had Elf-parties taken the Pass of Caradhras, and while a few had been attacked by marauding Orcs their defenders, strengthened out of fear of what lay slumbering fitfully in the Halls of Durin, had been more than stalwart enough to see them off.
Only once since its existence had been revealed by Harry had it stood beneath the open sky, and that had been long ago, though it still remained potent in his memory.
"We have you," said Dáin, pride and youthful confidence ringing true in his words, "and we have Gandalf. The Elves too, and a greater force of Dwarves than has marched in this age of the world. What power could Durin's Bane hold that could contest the strength of two wizards."
Harry wanted to correct him, but the courage that those words brought to those nearby who were listening in was clear. What good would it do to instil within them a fear about which they could do barely more than nothing? So Harry stayed silent as he ran his hands over the smooth metal and stone of his staff, the quiet power there giving him some measure of comfort. He prayed that Dáin's faith was not misplaced.
"Look!" cried Balin, his arm outstretched and pointing down into the valley below. "The trap is baited. We must be ready for the Orcs' attack."
When Harry followed Balin's gaze, he saw that, indeed, the first move of the battle had been made. A relatively small force, the banners of the Dwarven Lords, Kings and Captains flying proudly over them, had come apart from the main force. To any who looked, it would seem wholly unintentional.
The battle line had been drawn up to give every appearance that the Dwarves sought to meet the denizens of Moria in open battle. Thick, grey winter clouds hung motionless in the sky overhead, clouding the three peaks of Zirakzigil, Bundushathûr, and Barazinbar. Only weak, ill favoured sunlight made it through the thick cover it provided.
The Dwarves had spread their line from the Mirrormere to the steep scree-slopes of Barazinbar's lower reaches. Only by circling the lake and crossing the Kibil-nâla further down the valley could an enemy hope to encircle the combined forces. Yet, in their march, it seemed as if the command contingent, which anchored the southern end of the line had been left out in the open. Just to their north, the ground became marshy and hard to traverse, and a breach had opened up.
It would be an irresistible opportunity for the Orcs who were surely watching from the shadowed overlooks, concealed within the crags of the mountainside by ancient Dwarvish craft.
So it was that a great clamour and cry went up from the mountain, and filled the valley from end to end. Then, seconds later, the wide open gates of Moria spilled forth the pit's foul inhabitants in numbers beyond anything Harry had before seen.
Great beasts— wolves as tall as a man —led the charge, and they ran across the rough ground with a speed that would challenge even the steeds of the Riddermark. They were distant, and yet Harry fancied he could see the cruel teeth which filled their open maws. No wolf's howl was it that escaped them as they rushed the Dwarvish line with reckless fury, but wailing that sounded like laughter, and filled with ruthless joy at the prospect of tasting the blood of their enemies. Wargs.
Behind them came the numberless hordes of Orcs and Goblins which had infested the halls of Khazad-dûm. Like a black tide they issued from the gates, and from a dozen smaller posterns hidden against the mountainside. They had taken the bait, and they had taken it with a ferocity that left even Harry surprised. Their numbers were greater than he had imagined. Had so many of the Goblins of the Misty Mountains been able to flee to Moria?
"By my beard, how many are they?" Balin asked. It was surely the question on the minds of all those who were with Harry.
"It matters not how many they are," said Dáin firmly. "So long as the line holds them, they cannot hope to win. Once they are engaged, their fate will be sealed."
The group that had become separated began retreating in good order back to their own lines, though it was obvious that they would not be able to make it to that relative safety as the Wargs came in, swift as a winter wind. Just when it seemed that they might be overrun, a bright light, pure and white, shone out from the Dwarvish lines. Then, Elvish arrows tore through the Wargs which were at the forefront of the charge, sowing further discord among them.
The Wargs, surprised and dazzled by the sudden brilliance, faltered in their charge, and many of them started milling about on the scrubby ground not far from the Dwarves' defensive position. Those who were able to continue their pursuit were soon felled by accurate volleys of Elvish arrows. Harry could see Celeborn upon that flank, surrounded by half his warriors, resplendent in his armour, like an image of Ages long past. Another volley hit home, and Wargs died by the dozen.
"Now?" Thorin asked.
He looked to Harry expectantly, but Harry's gaze was fixed on the battle below. In his hand he held a small phial of similar decoction to the ones he'd used in a couple of their previous battles. Soon would come the moment to break it, but as he watched the second line of Orcish attackers near the first, he saw an opportunity ready to present itself.
"Not yet," he muttered, more to himself than the Dwarves around him. "Just a little closer…"
Just as it seemed the confused Wargs were about to regain their charge, the following Orcs caught up with them, and Harry tore the stopper from the phial. In an instant, the mixture within went up in a blaze of fire and smoke. At that same instant, a large part of the battlefield below exploded into a conflagration of such heat and fury that Harry fancied he could feel it even from so far up the 'Azanulzeleg.
At its simplest, it combined the effects of the connected light concoction, and the fiery oil that had proven so effective in the battle at Gundabad. It had not been an easy task, for the ingredients he used for both of those potions did not mix gladly, but the results of his efforts were clear to see. Hundreds of Orcs and Wargs were burned up in moments, and the small group of Dwarves that had baited the enemy into their charge was given the cover needed to make it back to the safety of their lines.
Because of the distance, it was a strange sight to see. The flames exploded in near silence, and by the time the tumultuous sound reached them, shaking the mountainside and sending stones and scree down into the valley below, the worst of the explosion was already past. Then came the distant cries of panic and rage from the gathered Orcs, but despite the many that had just died, more still flooded from the Great Gates.
Soon, the lines clashed, and the true battle began in earnest.
It was a strange thing, Harry thought, to be watching a battle, and yet to be so far from it. In the months of the War he had seen countless battles, and he had always been where the fighting was thickest. Now, it felt like he was little more than a spectator. He could not deny that it rankled him.
Yet it had been the only answer to the possible problem of the Balrog. Harry had argued long that he should be able to stand with Gandalf and Celeborn and Thráin, that his powers would be best used to shore up any unexpected breaches in the line of battle. While Thráin had been quick to support him, his contributions to the earlier battles in the war had after all been undeniable, Celeborn and Gandalf had been the ones to prevail with their arguments.
It was the Balrog that consumed their thoughts. Though the battle may go good or ill without Harry's involvement, there could scarce be any doubt that if both Harry and Gandalf were adrift upon the tide of battle, perhaps left exhausted or injured in the melee of combat, and the Balrog came forth to join the fray, it would surely be a disaster.
So it was that Harry came to be hidden upon the winding and narrow staircase that overlooked the battle. At a crucial moment of the battle they could sweep down from the high slopes to strike the Orcs from behind, and cut off their retreat into endless warrens of Khazad-dûm.
What was unspoken was the reason why Harry had been selected for that task. Should the Balrog choose to come forth, it would be down to Harry to distract it from the greater battle. After all, it had shown more than a passing animosity for Harry, for whatever reason. If there was one person present who might draw the beast's gaze more than any other, surely it was Harry. Only once the battle had been won, and the greatest captains of the combined army could focus their attention on the beast without fear of Orc counter-attack, could they hope to defeat it without grievous casualties.
That, perhaps, went some way to explaining the nervous energy in the young Dwarves who accompanied him. Dáin, Thorin and Balin led some of their most experienced and fearless fighters. It was an auspicious tasking, they all knew, and the cost of failure would be high indeed.
Below, the battle had joined at last. The sudden flames had delayed the Orcs for a short time, but soon the press of bodies, and the rising blood-lust drove them to meet the Dwarvish battle-lines.
Once again, Harry was struck by the strangeness of the scene. From so far above it seemed a wholly more civilised affair than it surely was at ground level. The neat, orderly ranks of Dwarves met their foes with typical Dwarvish steadfastness. The Orcs, little more than ugly black insects crawling across the earth of the valley were met with an immovable wall of Dwarvish steel, and it seemed that that was the end of it.
The shouts of command, the cries of the wounded and dying, the clash of steel upon steel, the thunder of feet upon stone, the stench of filth in the air, the taste of blood on the wind. All of that was absent. It made it hard to imagine the life and death struggle that was being played out on the plain below. It felt wrong. Like he was sending them to die, while he awaited the conclusion, watching from on high.
"They're pushing the centre back!" called Thorin. He pointed to where the sheer press of Orcish bodies was driving the centre of the line backwards step by painful step.
"They will find that avails them little," said Harry. With an outstretched arm he directed Thorin's gaze to the force of Elvish archers who supported the northern flank under the command of the sons of Elrond. With the centre pushed so far back, the Elladan, Elrohir and their small force were able to fire into the side and rear of the Orcs who were engaged there.
Soon, silvery arrows flashed from the mountainside into the Orcs, and hundreds fell before them. The Dwarvish centre stopped its slow retreat, and the southern and northern flanks fell back slowly to support them.
Yet as they retreated, the fires which had covered much of the southern section of the lines flared up once more. From out of the open Gates of Khazad-dûm came a wind, and it smelled of sulphur and fume. As it reached the lingering fires, which had been slowly dying down, it spurred them to new heights of life and fury. In moments, the great wind was driving the flames before it, straight towards the Dwarvish lines.
Cries of horror went up from many of the Dwarves arrayed around Harry. It was clear what power had claimed mastery of those flames.
Durin's Bane had joined the fight. Not in body, not yet, but its power was already being felt. Its slumber was at an end.
Harry's eyes sought for the creature, but they found nothing. From the retreating line of Dwarves a new wind blew up, rising seemingly out of nowhere to push back at the fires which threatened them. Gandalf, once again, Harry realised. While Gandalf's power was able to slow the flames, it could not stop them, and it continued its advance.
"It must be hiding away in the safety of the gate," said Dáin, glaring down at the fires. "What do we do?"
All eyes turned to Harry, and he knew he had to make a choice. The problem was that he did not see a good option. They could not hope to assault the Balrog so close to its place of power. They would be stranded behind the Orc lines, and would surely be overwhelmed. The Orcs were still far too numerous for Harry's relatively small force to hold out.
But if they just sat and waited, hundreds of Dwarves would surely die to the flames, and the breach it would open in the lines would give the Orcs the weakness they needed to turn the tide of the battle.
Seconds stretched out into an eternity, but there was little he could do. He shifted his hand on the staff at his side. Was there some magic he could use that would turn the flames aside? Could he lend strength to Gandalf somehow?
He glanced over at the staff, as if he expected it to hold the answer to Dáin's impossible question. When he did, something else caught his eye. His wand. He'd almost allowed himself to forget it. There was something about the way it seemed to delight in battle which had caused him to shy away from it except in dire need.
Surely this counted as dire need?
When his fingertips brushed the still-rugged wood, he knew there was no other real option. He slid it from its nook in the staff, and rolled it between his fingers thoughtfully. As he did, he stared down at the battle below. The flames' advance was accelerating. He needed to act quickly.
He raised his wand over his head, and released his mind and power into the sky above him. He felt the ponderous, surly clouds hanging overhead. They clung to the mountains with a stubborn obstinacy, unmoved by the winds that often whipped around the high peaks. They shared something of the mountains' cruelty, but it was a more distant, thoughtless malice than had grown within Zirakzigil over the years.
Harry reached out to it, to bring it to his aid as he had brought the winds to him in the Battle of the Cliff. This time, though, they did not answer him. In truth, he had not expected them to answer. That was why he was using his wand, and not his staff.
Instead of shepherding the clouds with concerted thoughts in chorus with his own native power, he instead reached out with his magic to command them. He felt them fight him, but the power within them was nothing compared to his own. Scatha's strength was lent to him fully, then. The dead dragon's love of power and domination brought it to his aid like never before.
The clouds overhead started to turn. Slowly at first, but the speed soon increased at Harry's urging until a maelstrom spun about the highest reaches of Zirakzigil. A bolt of lightning lanced down to smite the ground, the furious rage of the new storm struck at its tormentor. The Dwarves by Harry jumped at the deafening crack, and turned their eyes became wide as they looked skywards.
Then Harry tore his wand back down through the air, and sent the great storm in the direction of the battle.
The storm descended from the high peak like a black avalanche. If fell over the rocks and crags of the mountain in an irresistible tide of wind, and rain, and lightning. From its vast black bulk, thunderbolts reached out from the rapidly descending clouds, and where they touched a great explosion rocked the valley. Harry watched as one hit a tall conifer, which had long grown on the slopes of the mountain, protected from the worst of the elements by the sides of the small gully in which it grew. When the bolt of refulgent power struck it, it was blasted apart in its entirety, and little more than a ruined, splintered trunk was left.
In seconds it fell upon the flames, and smothered them. Paler tendrils mixed into the dark cloud as the fires were drowned, and the ground doused by the heavy cloud. Even as that happened, spidery patterns, nearly blinding in their intensity, flashed across its surface, and it was lit from within by more of the same.
Yet when Harry turned his mind to the dark creature which had been commanding the flames, he found not the impotent rage he had expected, but an amused relish. At that moment, one of the stabbing forks of lightning reached out from the great cloud in the direction of the Dwarvish battle lines.
A flash that for a moment far outshone the weak and hidden sun lit up the valley with such a brilliance that Harry was left blinking the after-images from his eyes. When he was able to see again properly, he was able to pick out the tiny, distant figure of Gandalf, with his own staff held aloft.
Then another bolt struck at another part of the Dwarvish line, but it too was sent back by Gandalf's power. Harry tried to regain his control over the cloud, to bring it back under his will, but it resisted much more strongly this time. He could feel the deep anger, but it was far greater than he'd ever expected.
So great, in fact, that it reminded him of something else. The Balrog.
Another lance of electric fire searched out, even brighter than those that had come before. This time, it struck at Gandalf himself, and a deep, earth-shaking boom shook the valley, and sent ripples over the usually smooth surface of the Mirrormere.
"What in Durin's name was that?" cried Thorin, but Harry couldn't afford to respond.
Every thought, every sense, every muscle was needed to battle the fell power of the Balrog as its rage commanded Harry's own storm against him. Where before the wand's power had been an aid, now it was a shackle. So strong was its desire for domination that it refused to relinquish the power Harry had exerted over the storm cloud.
In a last-ditch effort to break that control, Harry forced new thoughts into the magic. Where before he was commanding through use of anger, fear, and pride, now he brought forth those thoughts that were anathema to those dark emotions.
Happiness, contentment, and friendship. He'd felt the resistance of the wand to those feelings from the moment he'd taken it up, but such was his joy then that he hadn't cared. Now, though, he channelled all the same emotions which were needed for a Patronus into the magic he'd used to harness the storm to his purpose. Almost instantly, he felt the effects.
The fury of the storm almost immediately began to wane. Like the late autumn rainstorms that blew in over Imladris as the leaves turned from lush green to warm, burnished copper and red, which became little more than light showers under the influence of the powers that safeguarded Imladris. Whether it had been a quality of the Elves who had lived there, or if perhaps it had been what drew the Elves there in the first place, Harry knew not. There was little that he remembered as being so peaceful as a walk through the changing woods as a gentle rain beat out soothing music upon the auburn leaves.
Lightening, which had once sought to ruin, now merely crackled across the storm, bringing light, and wonder to all who gazed upon it. It was akin to the rare summer storms which would roll in off those the sea to settle over the Havens of Mithlond. Thin, brilliant tracery flashed across the faces of those storms, and heavy rains thrummed down upon the cozy houses of Círdan's people and Harry remembered the feeling of easy satisfaction he'd felt, staring out at the warm rains are they gave life to the trees and plants which were commonplace all across Lindon.
Finally, the cloud melted away into nothing, until little was left behind but a memory, and a rapidly fading scent of rain.
"What happened?" asked Thorin. "Why did the storm strike at our armies?"
Harry pulled his mind and power back into himself, and looked over at the worried looks shared by all of the Dwarves in his small company.
"The Balrog." He realised his breathing was heavy, and more than a little strained. "It tried to take control of the storm from me. I had to end the spell. It fought, though." He shook his head, trying to clear it of all the foreign sensations and emotions.
"Has it come forth?" Balin asked, peering down at the Great Gates and finding nothing.
"It cowers still," said Dáin, pride laid thick over his words. "It will not face us!"
His words hung in the air for little more than a moment before they were made a lie. A shade gathered and deepened within the distant darkness of the Gate, and malevolent fires burned deep within it. The Balrog had come.
Where it went, the Orcs fled before it. Shadows seemed to cling to the ground about its feet, and fires smouldered upon dead earth wherever it stepped. It paid not a moment's heed to the battle before the gates, and instead its gaze was fixed upon Harry. There was no doubt it knew of him, no matter how carefully Harry and his company had worked to conceal themselves. Even at the great distance, Harry could feel the creature's cruel scrutiny.
More Orcs surged from the gates at the Balrog's back, and charged up the hill towards Harry and his small company. It seemed as if there was no end to Moria's foul denizens.
Realising what was to come, Harry drew his sword, and turned to those who stood with him. "Ready yourselves."
"Bows!" Thorin called to the small company. "Do not let them gain the slopes."
Seconds later, the air was alive with the sounds of arrows whistling through the air down towards the attackers. Dwarves were not known for the ability with the bow, for they tended to be of little use in a subterranean battle. Yet the artifice of their people was not limited to axes and swords alone. Their bows had not the sleek refinement of those of Elvish make, and they tended to be shorter to accommodate the Dwarves' shorter stature, but as a people Dwarves were both strong and stalwart. They had easily enough strength to pull a bowstring, and after the loss of so many of their great Halls, many of them had spread out into the wilds and learned the way of the wilderman.
They would never have the same mastery of that weapon as was enjoyed by many Elves, but in war, accuracy is seldom needed. There was a Dwarvish expression for it: "'Azafr ishrêd abjubruk mahadrulni thukathuk." Like swinging a pick in a mine. You were almost guaranteed to hit something.
Hit the arrows did. The narrow stairs which climbed high up into the Pass could not admit so many, unless they came in single file. The slopes to either side of the Stair was covered in loose scree which made every step both difficult and dangerous. Those who were at the front of the slow charge sent boulders the size of a man's fist, or larger, tumbling down upon those below them. Arrows rained down upon them, so even those lucky enough to be upon the path were able to make scant progress.
Many of them were hit by arrows, and even if the Dwarvish marksmanship was not enough to see them killed outright, more often than not it caused them to lose their footing, and tumble back down the slope over the rough stone. Each felled Orc took perhaps two or three more down as it fell. When they eventually reached the bottom of the slope, few indeed stood back up.
Throughout it all, though, the Balrog advanced with a slow inevitability. It eschewed the Stairs completely, and advanced straight up the slope while all around it, Orcs slid and scrambled over the loose stone. The Balrog's footing, though, was as sure as any Elf's, yet its grace was terrible to behold.
It was clad in armour of flame and darkness, and those arrows which did find their mark simply bounced off without causing the creature so much as a moment's pause. Then one found its mark upon the creature's midnight breastplate and spidery lines of frost spread out from the wound.
A few of Daewen's shafts had been treated with another potion of Harry's creation. It had been difficult to brew, more difficult even than the explosive draught, and he'd only been able to make up a small batch of it, but it was a concentrated and empowered version of the potion which had given the Balrog a momentary pause when Harry had fought it in the dark beneath the mountain.
Yet, even those arrows achieved little. Perhaps the creature's stride broke for half a moment, but in that time the shaft ignited, and the frost evaporated like it had never been there. The slow advance continued.
Then another cry went up, and Harry turned to find more Orcs issuing from a fissure in the stone of the mountain. They were black of skin, and far taller than the Moria Orcs thronging the Valley below. Black Uruks of Mordor. They were not as great in number as those below, but they were perhaps a greater threat.
Their war cries in the foul Black Speech made the air heavy with revulsion as Harry remembered that foul speech from years long past.
"Balin, Thorin!" Harry called out immediately as he shook off those dark memories. "You both must take what warriors you can to stop those Orcs. Protect the archers!"
The two Dwarves did not hesitate. They both drew their weapons, and set to the no doubt bloody task to which Harry had set them.
Harry turned back to his own company, now greatly reduced. "Keep it up!" he cried before he looked down the mountain to see the Balrog had paused, and was looking out of the battle below. He couldn't allow it to intervene.
He looked at Dáin, who had a grim look upon his face. He knew what was needed as well as Harry did. "Do not attempt to fight the beast. You must keep the other Orcs off me."
Before the young Dwarf could object, a sudden stillness fell over the valley, and with it dread settled into the pit of Harry's stomach. The Balrog turned back to him then, and dark amusement burned within the baleful twin fires of the creature's eyes. Then it smote the ground with its firsts, and the entire mountain shook violently.
On the far side of the valley, the Dwarves were being pressed hard, but their formation was holding strong. They'd given a small amount of ground to the endless droves of Orcs, but it was clear that Thráin and his captains were still able to keep good order.
All that was about to change.
The tremors loosed a huge landslide from high upon the flanks of Barazinbar. It hurtled down the steep slopes towards the Dwarvish lines, ready to consume the army whole. Like the storm that Harry had summoned, it swooped down the mountainside, and it scoured every bush and every skeletal tree from the bare rock with its passing.
Harry could do little but watch in horror as an immeasurable weight of earth and wickedly shattered stone descended upon his allies, but as he did, he took his gaze from the Balrog which had resumed its slow advance up the slope. With a great crack of furious sound, a great whip of flame came forth from the beast's dark talons and wrapped around Harry's wand hand.
It burned like liquid fire upon his skin, and when the beast pulled upon it, the strength was impossible to resist. Harry nearly lost his footing when he was pulled from the weathered stairs and onto the same loose scree which had so effectively waylaid the Orcs. He brought his sword up in an attempt to cut the fiery scourge but when it met the dripping fire which was already biting deep into Harry's hand, it was stopped dead.
At that moment, another great explosion of sound washed over him, and despite himself he could not help but glance down into the valley from whence the sound emerged. A sheet of orange fire, brilliant and powerful, had erupted between the landslide and Thráin's army. In the scant seconds Harry had to take in the scene, he saw the lone figure of Gandalf, clothed in flame, with his arms outstretched as if to halt the torrent of stone. His staff was gone, but it was clear his power remained.
The Balrog's attention too had been taken by that display of power. The flame whip loosened about Harry's arm, and he was able to yank it free with a cry of pain. It had burned easily through the cloth of his robe, and the tough leather beneath, leaving the skin of his wrist black and blistered.
In a desperate need to capitalise on the Balrog's brief distraction, Harry flicked his wand and tore a dozen or more heavy boulders from the mountainside. He then sent them towards the fiery creature with enough speed and power to shatter the bones of any mortal Man. Yet, even as they flew, they slowed. Harry felt the grasping power of his magic slip over them, suddenly unable to find purchase as a malign, dark power spread across them. All but one of the stones was pushed aside by the Balrog's power, and the one that did hit it shattered against the blade, wreathed in dark flames, which materialised from the shadows which followed the being.
"You cannot win here!" Harry shouted at the creature, which stared up at him, eyes burning with naked hatred.
It did not respond with words, but instead the fiery whip snaked out once more. This time Harry was able to turn it away, and a near blinding flash of light announced the meeting of their two magics.
The Balrog's eyes, ever terrible, ever inscrutable, narrowed. Then, in less than the blink of an eye, it was upon him. It flew over the broken ground with a haste even Elves could not have hoped to match, and it was only thanks to his many hours spent training with Glorfindel that Harry was able to turn aside the Balrog's strike.
The strength of the attack sent Harry back two steps, but through some miracle he was able to keep his footing. When another attack came, close upon the heels of the first, and a third followed that with barely a pause, Harry began to regret that he had trained with Daewen and Glorfindel only sporadically, and seldom indeed in recent years. It had simply seemed unnecessary when the greatest threat he faced on his travels could be easily dealt with through the simplest of magics.
Another heavy blow descended, and sent waves of pain up Harry's sword arm as he turned it aside. With his other hand, Harry brandished his wand, and threw the stone beneath the Balrog's feet down the mountain with a shout. Perhaps his counter attack was unexpected, for the creature was taken by surprise, and hurled down the mountainside until it came to rest near the bottom.
It was not dead, though. If anything, its visage grew more terrible. Features curved and contorted such that its face was barely recognisable as humanlike any more. All that was really recognisable were the burning eyes, and even at a distance, Harry could feel the heat of them upon him.
Then the valley was filled with the sound of horns, and Harry looked up to see a line of cavalry under the white stag banner of Haleth bearing down upon the Balrog. At the forefront of the charge was Haleth himself, and with him was most of what remained of his mounted household guard. They were bloodied, and their horses were slick with sweat and covered in blood and mud, but their battlecry was strong and fearless.
Behind them, it was clear that the battle was starting to turn in favour of the Dwarves and their allies. The failed attempt to collapse much of the mountainside upon the allied army had left the Orcish forces uncertain. Where they had expected to meet a battered foe, with most of their army crushed beneath falling rubble, they instead were fighting a well practiced army.
That had been all Haleth's riders had needed to be able to punch through the enemy's lines, but Harry knew it would aid them little in battle with the ancient evil of the Balrog. Durin's Bane had, alone, brought low one of the greatest cities Middle-earth had ever seen.
Harry started charging down the hill towards the Balrog. What he would do when he reached it, he was not sure, but he knew he could not allow Haleth and his riders to face the beast alone. More than once, the loose rocky scree shifted beneath his feet and he nearly lost his footing as the stones tumbled down the slope ahead of him. Behind him, he heard Dáin and many other Dwarves joining the charge despite his earlier orders.
The few Orcs that were still trying to gain the mountainside stood little chance as Harry and the Dwarves descended upon them. Sword and axe cleaved through armour and bone with ease, and those who survived were bowled over by the unstoppable momentum.
Even with the frantic pace Harry set, it was not fast enough. Haleth's charge was met by the sword and lash of the Balrog, and the result was terrible to behold. The whip snaked out and became wrapped around the forelegs of one of the horses. The horse's cry of fear and pain was short lived as it was then yanked to the side, toppling end over end as it did so. As it fell, it brought down the horse next to it, and another two which were riding close behind.
Then, when the first of the riders reached the Balrog, it stepped past their spears with an inhuman agility, and the blade of dark fire in its hand cleaved through flesh, sinew and bone with abhorrent ease. The stench of burned meat filled the air, and more of Haleth's men were felled. With every death, it seemed as if the fire within the Balrog's eyes grew stronger, and the shadows which followed it became deeper until it was walking in a pool of darkness.
At last, Harry fell upon his enemy. He leapt high, and swung his black blade with all the ferocity he could muster. Even as he was in the air, the Balrog turned, and raised its own sword to block Harry's attack. The power of the sweeping block sent Harry tumbling over the rough ground.
Before Harry was able to regain his feet, his body bruised and bleeding, Durin's Bane was upon him again. Just as another blow was about to fall, the creature let out a deafening roar. Haleth, King of the Riddermark, his armour covered in black blood and one arm hanging useless at his side, had thrust his sword, Herugrim, into the flank of the Balrog.
The Balrog's furious backhand surely killed the King instantly, and sent his broken body flying through the air like little more than a broken doll. Then it pulled the sword from its side. The blade was already beginning to melt, and when it was dropped to the ground it was glowing white hot, and the grip was aflame.
Harry did not let the opening go unused. Anguirel cut a deep furrow in the Balrog's leg, yet the beast did not fall. Bright, orange blood, like liquid fire dripped from the wound and sizzled upon the ground, but the creature cared not for the wound. Rage burned strong in its eyes, as it grasped Harry's sword in one talon-like hand, and tore it from his grip.
Just as it was about to plunge Harry's own sword into his chest, it was turned aside. With a familiar Dwarvish warcry, Dáin had arrived. His desperate block turned the blade aside, but Harry saw Anguirel bite deep into the blade of Dáin's axe.
Despite Dáin's courage and strength, he stood little chance against the ancient evil of the Balrog. Even before Harry had regained his feet Dáin had been cut down, his axe shattered, and his helm cleft in two.
All around them, other Dwarves joined battle with newly arrived Goblins, who had been pursuing Haleth's riders after they broke the lines. They were meagre things, compared to the Orcs of Moria, or the Great Orcs which had been laying in ambush upon the Pass. They were some of the thousands which had fled before the wrath of the allied army. Though they were numerous, they were mastered by fear, and left a broad empty space around both Harry and the Balrog.
A surge of raw magic, empowered by Harry's own fury, should have ended it there, and yet it seemed to only strengthen the Balrog further. It seemed to grow taller, move faster, and the shadows which followed it became deeper still, until it walked atop starless midnight. Harry retreated before it, and a low rumbling sound issued from the creature.
"Fira, alastaldo," it said as it slashed once more at Harry, only to miss by the narrowest of margins when Harry threw himself backwards.
Then Thorin stood between Harry and the creature, and a grim look was upon his brow. He swung at the Balrog's legs, now hidden completely in shadow and only betrayed by the fire that occasionally played across them. His strike was blocked with ease, and his axe was hewn asunder, but he did not falter. A throwing axe came into his hand, and he cast it at the greatest enemy of his ancestors where it struck true upon the beast's breast.
His imagined victory lasted less than a heartbeat, for the Balrog did not so much as pause as more fiery blood leaked from its newest wound. It brought its blade down once more, and that surely would have been the end of it had Harry not intervened.
For a moment the darkness which leaked off the Balrog was driven back as the starlight stag erupted from the tip of Harry's wand, and Harry felt hope bloom for the first time since he had felt the Balrog's regard.
Yet it was too soon snuffed out.
A deep sound, as unsettling as a warped melody issued from the creature as the darkness around it deepened once more. Then the Balrog spoke again: "Nain unqualë huinyë. Nain oiumbar. Á hehta estelya laistila. Effírië lá aistëa cali, ammátas sa."
The words, had they been spoken by the tongue of an Elf, would surely have been of surpassing beauty, and yet from the Balrog they were fearsome. So warped, by the creature's foul nature were they, that Harry could scarce imagine them to be of a tongue which was spoken by the Eldar, but still he recognised the sound of it, if not the words. Quenya, yet twisted to such foulness and hatred by the mind that spoke it so that what once could have been beautiful was abhorrent.
And with a broad sweep of its blackfire sword, the Balrog banished Harry's guttering patronus, and with it the flickering embers of Harry's hope for victory died too.
Yet even as his hope dwindled, Daewen joined the fray. Her twin short blades were leaping quicksilver in her hands, their speed so great as she struck at their foe that Harry could barely follow them. She succeeded in driving the Balrog back another step, and more than once her blades cut at the creature until it was bleeding from a dozen small wounds, its fiery blood sizzling upon the sparse grass.
In his mind's eye, she shone bright against the darkness, but Harry knew she alone could not defeat it. Despite the protestation of his battered body, he drew himself up, and summoned his Anguirel back into his hand. He then raced across the scarred and scorched ground to join Daewen in her attack.
Together, they pushed it back further. Working in tandem, long battlefield experience allowed each to know the other's next move by instinct alone. Harry blocked a strike which would have cleaved Daewen's head from her shoulders, and she stopped another which would have cut through Harry's arm as he over-extended on his own attempted strike. Step by painful step, the Balrog retreated before them, but never did their swords strike true in the creature's shadowy flesh.
Then, Harry's foot twisted beneath him as his footing went awry on the rough, broken soil and stone. He felt something tear within his ankle, and pain bloomed as he fell to his knee. The Balrog's next attack flew clear over his head, and cut deep into Daewen's flesh, opening a wide, bloody gash in her side.
It was only the fact that she had started turning to Harry as he fell which saved her from an instant death, but it was not by much. She fell to the ground clutching at her wounded side, and dropped her twin knives upon the earth and her blood quickly began to seep into the thin soil.
There would be no respite from their enemy, and another blow trailed right behind the last, but with a desperate cry of wordless courage, Thorin jumped forward to meet it. Somehow, incredibly, the steel of whatever Dwarvish sword he'd been able to salvage stood up to the blow, though it drove Thorin to his knees. The Balrog's other hand darted out and gripped Thorin's neck in wicked talons. Then, there came upon its features a look of comprehension, and twisted pleasure.
"Durinion." The smile grew wider as Thorin struggled helplessly against the iron grip. "Fira!"
Harry pushed himself back to his feet, but before he could make any kind of attack, The Balrog snapped Thorin's neck like it was little more than a twig, and threw the Dwarf Prince's body straight at Harry, bowling him over to land next to Daewen.
Before he could escape from beneath Thorin's weight, the Balrog was upon them again, moving with supernatural speed. The terrible blade cut a path of black fire through the air as it descended towards Harry but it was turned aside when Harry conjured a desperate shield of purest white light, borne not of hope, but instead Harry's own desperate need to protect, and which painted their contest in stark shades. A high, keening sound filled Harry's ears as the Balrog pressed harder and harder into the protections, and the dark, fiery edge of its sword slowly started to push through the rapidly wavering shield.
Then, Harry's light was joined by another. Gandalf was there, and beside him was Celeborn of the Golden Wood. Gandalf's robes were torn and blackened, his staff was gone. He was covered in blood and cuts, and though his gaze was steadfast, there was an unseen weight which lay heavy upon his shoulders.
Celeborn also was showing the trials of the battle. His armour was dented and muddied, his helm had been lost, and his silver hair was caked with blood. Black Orcish blood dripped from the blade of his sword, and fouled the earth where it fell.
The Balrog was cast backwards, and Harry felt the crushing presence release him, and allowed his shield to flicker and die. As Gandalf and Celeborn, supported by many more Dwarves, Men and Elves, pursued the Balrog, Harry scrambled across the ground to where Daewen lay, unmoving.
He took her limp body into his lap, and grasped her hand with his own. It was as cold as the touch of winter, and yet he could feel that she was not yet wholly gone. Even in the coldest depths of winter, life yet lingered, clinging to meagre, frozen earth. A ripple of hope cut through his numbness, and he met her eyes. Life was still in them, and they looked up at him in desperate pain.
She was not dead, and she would not die. Harry would not permit it.
A/N: Ooft. This took a little longer than I'd have liked, but then it's also actually a little longer than I planned, so I guess that's a wash? Also, family illness meant my drive to write was somewhat reduced this month. It's not life threatening, but hopefully things will be a little better going forward. There are a few little bits of lore- and language-bits to cover.
'Azanulzeleg = Dimrill Stair
Nain unqualë huinyë. Nain oiumbar. Á hehta estelya laistila. Effírië lá aistëa cali, ammátas sa. = I am torment, and darkness. I am doom, everlasting. Abandon your foolish hope. Death does not fear the light, it consumes it.
Quenya is fairly complex, and I'm no expert in it, but the construction is as follows:
na = to be → Nain = I am
unqualë = agony/death
huinë = Darkness, shadow + -yë = and
umbar = doom/fate + oi- = everlasting
hehta = to abandon → Á hehta = Abandon (command)
estel = hope + -ya = your hope
laistila = ignorant
effírië = Death
aista = to dread → lá aistëa = does not dread
cala = light - cali = the light
ammat = to devour → ammátas = it devours
sa = it.
As before, I have elected to use Quenya for the Balrog as the options are Quenya, Valarin, 'Melkian', or pure thought-speech. Valarin is tricky as not only are there only maybe 20 attested words (or word fragments) to work with, it's also literally a language spoken by beings with a very different experience of the world to humans. I'd have to invent pretty much wholesale to make it usable, and I don't think I'd be able to do it justice. Melkian is even worse off. Not only is it a largely abandoned idea, but it has no words to work from, and was based on Valarin. Black Speech is a later invention by Sauron, but Melkian was effectively Melkor's Black Speech. In the end Tolkien decided against it, I think because Melkor was a master of tongues anyway already. Thought speech is just tricky to work with at the best of times, and making it work from the mind of an immortal fallen maiar was a tall order. So Quenya it was.
I also want to thank everyone for their lovely reviews, and ongoing support. You're all awesome.