10. "A Taste of your own Medicine."
Cursing loudly to set a good example to those of the boys that were still awake, Melkor kicked aside Raumo's discarded toy orcs - now looking considerably more mutated than the maker had intended - and hobbled onwards.
Through the dark he could just make out the four empty beds, their crumpled sheets pushed back and dragging on the floor, and in the corner Gomig's cot. The littlest Balrog had developed a nasty habit of rolling off his bed in the middle of the night, so Melkor had been obliged to nail a rough blank of wood across its open edge - this being the closest thing to a crib that he would allow in his stronghold.
Gomig was sprawled on his stomach, whimpering and pawing at his head with clenched fists. The Dark Lord knelt down beside the cot, and gently placed a hand on the child's back, noticing immediately the slight fretful twitches of his wings. Gomig was terribly small as yet, and Melkor was half afraid to touch him lest he accidentally snapped one of the tiny arms or tore the paper-thin wings.
Gomig whimpered more loudly and rolled over onto his back to snuggle against his guardian's hand, clenching two tiny fists around Melkor's index finger.
Smiling in spite of his efforts to look gruff, the Dark Lord picked up the child and shifted him against his shoulder. The Balrogling felt warm and cuddly from sleep, and had slumped into his body, trusting him completely to make things better.
"There, what bothers you?" Melkor muttered to himself, noting with concern that Gomig's fists were once again pawing at his head. "Is it your head?"
Gomig made a miserable squeak and stuck a fist into his mouth to chew on.
"Your head..." Melkor carried the child over to Ondo's bed and sat down, ignoring the ominous creak that resulted from such action. Setting the little bundle down in his lap, he ran two fingers lightly over the soft leathery hide. It was feverishly hot and swollen in two patches where his horns would later grow, and judging from the way the child recoiled whimpering when touched, it was a fair guess that they were sore.
"Well," Melkor beamed down at the upset child, well pleased with his development, "soon you will have horns just like Uru and Raumo!"
Gomig burrowed his face deeper into Melkor's neck and began crying. Much as horns would assist him in squabbles with his brothers, this hurt!
"Shh." Melkor whispered soothingly, rocking his tiny bundle against his shoulder. Judging from the gasps between the shrill cries of pain, Gomig was intending to begin bellowing at any moment. "Shh."
Gomig's tears broke into loud and fretful sobs, and he beat his tiny fists against the Dark Lord's chest with all the strength a very small Balrog could muster. While the onslaught was little more than a ticklish patter to Melkor, he was afraid that the child might hurt himself, and in any case he found the pleading 'why-don't-you-do-something' quality to the dark eyes rather disturbing.
Gomig replied by arching his head back and howling mournfully. Warm tears dripped from his chin and landed on Melkor's bare chest, running downwards in little streams.
Letting his breath out in a stress-relieving hiss, Melkor got to his feet and stumbled into his bathroom with his struggling bundle. He rummaged through the contents of a small wooden chest searching desperately for anything, recommended or otherwise, that would bring the littlest Balrog relief. At the moment Gomig had managed to sooth himself by gnawing gently on one of the Dark Lord's large fingers, but the effect would not last long, and Melkor had no desire to spend the next few weeks attached to Gomig's milk-fangs.
"At last!" Melkor's fingers finally made contact with the tiny leather pouch that he had been seeking. He quickly mixed a few pinches of the powder inside into a beaker of warm water. This particular concoction had never failed to sooth a sobbing child, and brought relief to the ears of the whole family.
It was an easy enough task to get the Balrogling to accept the drink, for crying was thirsty work, but once the tiny forked tongue tasted the mixture, Gomig screwed up his face and pressed his lips together in a stubborn line.
"Please, Gomig. It will stop the pain." Melkor tried to prise open the child's lips, but this only led to a large amount of terrified squeaking and frantic wing flapping, and several bite-sized tooth-marks in Melkor's fingertips.
Finally the Dark Lord sighed in exasperation, tucked Gomig under one arms, grabbed the glass with his other hand, and made his aggravated way downstairs as quietly as he could manage. The last thing he needed at this point were four sleepy little pairs of eyes watching him reproachfully.
A rapid and rather messy rummage through the pantry shelves provided not only an apple to gag Gomig's howls, but also a small earthenware pot of honey. Melkor sat Gomig down on the tabletop, and spooned this liberally into the drink until it had a consistency more similar to syrup than water.
Mixing it briskly, he again offered it to the little Balrog, supporting the base of the beaker with one hand in case the tiny fingers were too sleepy to hold the container.
Gomig gave the concoction a doubtful look, dipped the surface with the tip of a pink tongue, and pushed the beaker away with stiff hands.
Melkor hissed in frustration and wiped at the large quantities of sticky liquid that had slopped down his chest with a towel.
The anger in his tone only made the tiny Balrog stiffen with fear and screw up both his eyes and lips.
Clenching one fist in frustration, Melkor struggled to control his temper. He could hurt Gomig so easily - kill him without meaning to, even.
Moving quickly he gently pinched the tiny nose, and ignored the desperate scratching and kicking as he waited for the inevitable. Eventually Gomig opened his mouth, gasping for breath. In a flash Melkor poured most of the contents into the dark cavern of the tiny Balrog's mouth and ignoring the stickiness of the tiny face, clamped his hand over the child's mouth and nose.
Gomig struggled, waving legs and arms around viciously and scratching at anything that looked like part of the Dark Lord, but eventually swallowed.
Sighing with relief, Melkor released the child and wiped his hands. Gomig scuttled away over the kitchen table, gasping painfully and sobbing pitifully. The sobs soon turned to low mournful howls and anguished moans, clearly designed for and extremely effective at making Melkor feel exceedingly guilty.
"Come here, Gomig." Melkor sounded honestly regretful and tried to dry off some of the sticky substance from the tiny body.
Gomig made a screeching sound and shot across the table so fast that he forgot to stop at the edge, and fell to the floor with a pitiful noise somewhere between a squish and a thud.
"Gomig!" Melkor called with some alarm, vaulting across the table to kneel at the child's side. Gomig was shaking, too shocked to even cry as yet. Melkor picked him up and cradled him against his chest. At first the child was unresponsive, as if fighting an inner battle over whether to show his displeasure over the previous treatment, or submit to the comfort he so badly needed. Eventually the desire to be cuddled won over, and he leant into Melkor's body, each sob shaking his entire body.
It took a while to calm the little Balrog, by which time Gomig was getting increasingly sleepy, his lashless lids drooping. Deciding to leave the clearing of the kitchen to the morning, and preferably someone else, Melkor settled the Balrogling into his arms and began making his way upstairs.
Five minutes later the Dark Lord was lying in bed, two small bodies snuggled up in each outstretched arm, and a small, sticky baby Balrog slumbering on his stomach. Melkor glanced left and right to ensure that his four elder sons were sleeping soundly, smiled at Gomig's peaceful little face - his thumb in his half open mouth - and lay back down. Soon he drifted into a dreamless sleep, well contented with himself. Others had made him what he was, and he would never disappoint them.
The brothers stood silhouetted against the walls of Angband, black against the distant stars. The night was filled with screeches and the clang of swords, but it had been long since one had spoken.
"They call him Spirit of Fire." Nárë commented softly, looking down at the distant battle with a note of scorn.
Orcs were falling at the swords of the Noldor, and the bright banners of Fëanor were fluttering long in the breeze. Filled with deep foreboding, the four captains of the Balrogs looked down at the progress of the host of Fëanor towards Thangorodrim.
Only one remained still, laughing dryly to himself.
"That can be arranged." Gothmog, Lord of the Balrogs, cracked his whip in a whirling streak of flame. "Let us begin."
The five turned and as a wall of flame and shadow, marched shoulder-to- shoulder from the gates of Angband.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.