Child of Mordor - Eight
The bridge was ahead. Khazad-dum. They would reach it in time if somehow the Balrog, and more importantly Neoresh, could be stopped. But not even all their strengths put together could stop the daughter of Sauron and a balrog of Morgoth.
"Swords are no more use here!" Legolas heard Gandalf cry. He looked up and saw the old wizard push Aragorn to their head and stay behind. Aragorn looked bewildered, but lead the way without hesitation. Legolas dashed onward, until they reached a stair that had been broken halfway down. All the others stopped, and Legolas saw fear grow on the faces of the hobbits. But to him, the leap over the chasm was nothing. He glanced at the distance to gauge it, and then sprang with agility. It was an easy leap for an Elf.
"Gandalf," he called. For the wizard was their only defense against Neoresh, and he had to be safe and calm so that he could work his spells. The wizard jumped the cleft with a cry and landed hard on his old knees. But he was safe.
An Orc arrow struck the stone at Legolas's feet. As of they didn't have enough to worry. But Legolas hardly paused before drawing his bow and firing. His arrow found its mark in an Orc skull. But there was only one of him, and a good many of them, even if they did have poor aim. He could not hold them for long.
A roar from the balrog brought his thought jerking away from the Orcs. A great stone crashed down and separated the stairs from both section of which two of their party were still standing from all the rest. Legolas nearly cried when he saw who was left. Aragorn...and Frodo.
Then the island of stair slid.
Frodo was calm, as if he too was preparing himself for death as Legolas had done only minutes ago. But Aragorn seemed ready to fight till the end. He leaned first to the right, then to the left, and at last, his precarious weight brought the fulcrum of the unstable stone to balance in the center. But the leap was more than 15 feet now, and not even Aragorn could do it, let alone Frodo. The ranger said something to Frodo and the rock island tipped forward. Legolas realized what Aragorn had in mind and tensed his whole body to catch the bigger man. He was the only one with the strength to do it.
So when the rock knocked straight into the stair where his feet were he was prepared. He grabbed Aragorn around the shoulders and pulled his friend to safety. Frodo had scampered over already. The Fellowship was safe and they could continue on their way.
Neoresh screamed. They had destroyed the stairs. They had not stopped her, but they certainly had a sufficient head start. Maybe even enough to get them out before the slow and stupid balrog caught up. But the creature had a surprise in store. Eager to please in its pitiful way, it twisted its back and chest into a series of contortions the like of which Neoresh had never seen. It seemed as if wraiths of black wings were billowing forth from its fiery back like smoke. But Neoresh mastered her surprise and kept screeching at the balrog in its own tongue to "Go and have revenge." The creature did not understand revenge, but go was a simple enough command for him. So he followed it, and flew over the great gaps in the stairs, taking Neoresh with him. Those flights were full of smoke and fire, and Neoresh knew she would not have survived them if her father had not cured her of her human weakness to fire.
After the last landing she caught sight of them and laughed. Only two figures turned their heads, and Neoresh knew who they were. She urged the balrog on and slid gracefully into Gandalf's mind. She was too weak after her transportation and her control of the balrog to attack him, so she had to revert to wilier tactics.
Remember me, old man? she asked him in his mind. Yes, of course you do. But I expect I will be one of your last memories. Because, good wizard, you are going to die here. I don't care what happens to you after death, but I know you are going to die. So prepare yourself, and make a final stand if you wish. Your quest will fail, but perhaps you will be sung of for a little while. Before there is no one left in all Middle-earth to sing.
And then she sent up a wall of fire behind Gandalf, between him and the balrog. The wizard followed the others onto the bridge, but then he stopped and turned slowly to face to fire. He drew his sword and his staff began to glow.
"I am a servant of the secret fire, wielder of the flame of Arnor," he said quietly, but there was intensity in every word. "Dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun!"
His staff filled with fire and the sword, which Neoresh now recognized as Glamdring, rose high above his head. A globe of brilliant light surrounded the wizard, and Neoresh knew that in her weakened state the most she could do was fight him herself. Even her power at its strongest could not destroy Glamdring. So she slid of the back of the balrog and reached for her own weapon. She carried her sword on a sheath on her back and now she withdrew it from its casing of black leather. The blade was of tempered steel that seemed to have flames dancing underneath a veil of metal. But the hilt was black iron and made up for most of the weight of the great blade. The sword was Dûranar, dark fire. It had been made by an Elf, a great swordsmaster, but he had ruined the blade by showing it to Sauron before using it, and it had turned against him and killed him. Now it belonged to Neoresh and did her murderous bidding happily.
She turned now to face Gandalf, sword raised. "Let me by old man!" she screamed. "Your time is past!"
But Gandalf's will was equal to hers. "You Shall Not Pass!" he bellowed and ran his sword at her.
But Neoresh was ready. She was a good swordswoman, and whatever she lacked to sword she carried made up for. She blocked quickly, and thrust back at the wizard. To her, he was a blaze of blinding light and hard to follow, but she knew that she was dancing shadow to him, and hard to find. They were well matched opponents.
Vaguely she heard screams in the background as the hobbits called for Gandalf, and she laughed. "It is over, Maia! You will fall and where will they be without you?"
Gandalf bellowed and lunged at her again, beginning to fight in earnest.
She blocked again, and thrust her blade at his staff but he leapt clear of the blow by a hair. Neoresh's miles of black hair came undone when she whipped her head around to catch his sword again, and Gandalf yelled in frustration as the darkness about her deepened. The roar of the balrog's fire screamed in their ears, deafening them to all but the sound of their singing blades.
Gandalf swung again, wildly, and Neoresh recognized the feint just in time. She swung her sword to her chest and blocked the deadly blow, then smiled. She and Gandalf had both forgotten something.
"You can't kill me, wizard! Only when I have been ripped away from the fire of my father will I die! You fight a losing battle! Give yourself up now and perhaps the rest will run fast enough to get away while I slaughter you!"
Gandalf shook visibly at the change in the stakes, but his sword was still steady. "Go back to the shadow, and quench your fire!" he roared and charged again.
And Neoresh was taken by surprise. She hadn't really expected him to fight back after he realized he was going to die. But the blow he sent at her was meant to kill, and she realized that he was truly dangerous only after his sword pierced her stomach and ran through her spine out of her back. Impaled by the bright sword and the fearsome gaze of the wizard, she sank to the ground.
But the balrog roared out in defiance. Neoresh was still in his mind, and her death would kill him. The stupid creature didn't understand that she wasn't going to die, it just understood that something was hurting it, and probably came from the Painful Light that was on the bridge. So reaching down, it ripped the black sword out of the thing it was stuck in and raised to strike at the Light. He raised his own branch of brightness, and knocked the dark sword from the creature's hand. It screamed in rage, and drew a strand of the thin shadow from the head of the dark woman, and raised it into a fiery whip.
But it had barely a moment more to fight before the bridge under it collapsed. Screaming and tumbling it and the whip fell into the unending dark.
And then a roar of rage ripped through its mind. The woman thing back up there was screaming at it, but it was through. So she jerked with a hysterical scream from the dying things mind, and lashed the whip up herself.
And the balrog could not forgive for brining back the Painful Light. But there it was, and they were both falling.
Neoresh, back up on the edge of the bridge, gasped and sobbed as she watched the Fellowship run out of Moria. Her wound was closing up, but the painful release of the balrog's mind, the use of her last ounce of power to lash the whip up, and the deadly wound were overcoming her. In a few hours she would awaken fully healed, if slightly weak, but now, dark shadows clouded her vision and she sank willingly into dark and fiery dreams.