The world moved around him. Faces, colors swirled before his eyes, the sound of voices rising and falling like waves. A blur of sound and motion. There was a flash of black, an Elven face. Avar, he thought in some far off, unmolested corner of his mind. A bell chimed, high and far and free. He blinked.
He was weary in every limb, his arms heavy, so heavy. He lowered his long, curved sword, gazing about, blinking his eyes as the sun–at last!–broke through the clouds. Beneath the Mountain of Fire was a wasteland now more than ever, its rock and dirt and dust littered now with corpses. Elves, men, and orcs, hundreds and thousands and more.
The sun was welcome on his cold face, warming the weave of his armor. He ripped off his helmet, emblazoned with the arms of the Last Alliance, letting the rays hit his face. The orcs near him were slain or fled, the Elves and Men remaining still wandering slightly dazed among the dead. It was quiet.
“Adar!” he called out, taking first one step, then another. “Father!” He jogged a little downhill, looking through the Men and Elves still standing. He had promised to stay by his father’s side but the last charge of the orcs had separated them. He looked frantically for Lord Elrond’s banner–Gil-galad had fallen, to Sauron himself. His father Elros would be with him, with his raven hair and golden eyes and proud smile.
He saw Elrond’s banner, up the slope of the Mountain, surrounded by Elven archers. With a sudden though weary surge of hope he labored up slowly, wending his way back and forth the face of the Mountain as he climbed. Halfway there, a feeble movement to the side caught his eye, dashing his hopes against rocks as hard and sharp as the sides of the Mountain, and no less real.
He found his father there, lying amidst a slew of orcs, his blade still clenched in his hand and black with their blood. If not for the sweat and dirt of battle he could almost have been asleep, basking in the new-formed sunshine. But his eyes were open, staring unblinking at the sun.
He stepped forward, reaching his hand out… to what? Another corpse on the field of battle? But shockingly, amazingly, the eyes moved, the hand fluttered. He ran to his father, holding him close, knowing it was already too late.
Dark eyes met golden. The Grey Elf smiled, a wan, fading thing. “Avar,” he managed, the only word he ever spoke. Then he was silent forever. Avar vowed to be silent with him, but then there were two Avars, one holding his father and one standing above him, turning…
Eodred closed his eyes with a groan. Wake, wake a voice was calling, galad mé mornië. No, he said, no I don’t want to wake, to see as you saw… or did he say it? The voices murmured insistently, refusing him rest, and behind them was laughter, dark laughter, and a form, a Shadow…
He snapped his eyes open, crying out in relief at the sky, blue sky, free and pure, at his sight, Eodred’s sight, not Aragorn’s or Eomer’s or Avar’s, or anyone else’s, but his own. Someone was saying something to him, in a voice like muted bells ringing over the plains, but it was another Voice he heard, one within him.
It was not the demon. He knew the Voice; it reminded him of flowers and forests and open vales, and the wind among the trees; it was the Voice he had heard standing there, with Guthmer’s horsehead in his hand, beside the pool, that told him listen.
He fumbled with his fingers, seizing upon the little golden trinket, still broken, that was strung about his neck, and the Voice said not yet, you do not see.
He closed his eyes, and opened them, and Greenleaf was there, looking down at him, concern etched on his face, his voice of chimes ringing. A bell tingled. No, Eodred thought in fear, letting the horsehead drop…
He dashed forward with all the speed his Elven abilities granted, glad he was one of that swift kindred. Before and behind him the Company stretched out, and they too ran, ran for the hope of daylight and wind and cool grass, ran for the hope of deliverance. They drew near to the Bridge, that span that crossed the abyss below. It was thin and narrow, but he did not fear; was he not an Elf? Still Gandalf halted them upon its brink, gathering them into a pack. Fear and determination played upon his face, but he only pushed the company over the Bridge. “Lead the way, Gimli!” he called to the stout dwarf. “Pippin and Merry next.” The others stepped out onto the Bridge after the two hobbits. Gandalf called to them from behind. “Straight on, and up the stair beyond the door!”
The stone was thin but strong beneath his shoes, yet it quivered with the beating of the drums. Boom they rang, <boom! From the darkness under the pillars arrows flew, scattering among them. He turned, raising his bow and setting an arrow as he looked out over the teeming mass of ors behind, as they yelled and brandished cruel blades. It was a long shot, he knew, before he even turned, but some answer had to be given.
Yet as he looked out a great darkness rose, greater than that which clouds the sight of Men, and he let the arrow fall. Terror came then, swift and fell and terrible, and he cried out in dismay. The orcs were stirring, and trolls were among them, but he did not see them. The terror grew, a dark blanket of noxious emotion and of fear that smothered the Company beneath its wings, and from that terror rose a distant laughter in his mind.
The Terror, this Demon, took shape; if it was a man than it was greater and larger and more powerful than any that had or did or ever could walk the earth beneath the stars. It leapt the gap of fire, and the fire roared in greeting, and charging toward them on it came. He stepped back, unable to wrench his eyes from it, from its sword of flame, from the whip that curled about one deadly hand. The cry came from the depths of the Immortality in which Elves take some part.
“Ai! Ai! A Balrog! A Balrog is come!8”
Eodred blinked, staring up into those clear eyes before him. “Legolas?” he said in wonder, but all wonder fled at the thought of what he had seen. The Balrog of Moria. But why? Then suddenly it struck him, as clear and clean and sudden like lightning out of a clear sky. “What a fool,” he said, and it exploded out of him. “Fool!” the mountain echoed back tauntingly. The mountain!
He jerked upright, scrambled to his feet, pushing the Elf out of his way. The Dale was empty. “Where are they?” he shot out, spinning, looking. “Where are they all? The men?” Oh please no oh please not there please… In his mind the Demon laughed. No, he told himself. The Balrog laughed.
He knew where they were. In the mountain. Beneath the earth. In the hands of Death. Like Elros, like Guthmer. “No!” he yelled, not waiting for an answer, and threw himself towards the great entrance to Moria, across a hall broken with sunlight, through a long echoing passage, down a broken flight of stairs. The men and Elves and Dwarves, what remained, were gathered below, on this side of the Bridge. The archers were exchanging arrows across the gap with a multitude of orcs, who jeered back, swarming the far side and populating the darkness beneath the pillars. That was all Eodred saw; he could not see Him, but he knew He was there.
A party of Elves ventured onto the Bridge, raising their shorter bows to return fire. The orcs leapt forward to greet them; blades flashed, and orcs fell screaming into the abyss. The Elves retreated, all save one, standing defiantly on the Bridge. The orc host fell back, away from their side of the Bridge, and the drums rolled in the deep.
Noooooooooooooooo Eodred screamed, or maybe it was only in his mind, as he leapt down the stairs, through the scattered host of Free Folk, and ran onto the Bridge, the thin and narrow span. Eadil heard him, maybe, or by some freak of chance turned and ran back to him; but the drums fell silent.
Eodred turned back to the darkness beneath the Pillars, caught upon the center of the Bridge without hope of escape, and the Darkness grew.