4. "For the patience of Ilúvatar."
Melkor froze as he heard the anguished cry, counting the seconds before the wail resumed to determine the severity of the affliction that had befallen his littlest Balrog. Barely a second of tense silence passed before the second howl started, and his face becoming shadowed with anxiety, the Dark Lord turned and headed towards home with all the speed a corrupted Vala could manage.
"Gomig? Come here, Gomig." Sauron called in a coaxing voice, kneeling down on the tiled stonework to look into the cupboard. Through the spilled lentils and grain and shards of glass he could make out the Balrogling pressed firmly against the back wall, and apparently trying to break the remaining jars through the sheer power of his lungs. "Gomig? Here Gomi. . . Gomi, Gomi, Gomi?"
Biting his lip anxiously, Raumo peered out from behind the apprentice Dark- lord's knees at the cupboard. "Only Melkor is allowed to call him tha..."
Swearing loudly, Sauron recoiled from the cupboard doorway, clutching his right eye. Despite his young age, Gomig had undeniably good aim when spitting, and the lingering fire of the pepper had added extra sting.
Raumo darted quickly to the side to avoid being stepped on by the Maia, and gave the cupboard another worried look. He had not known that Gomig could scream quite so loudly, and now Sauron was sure to tell Melkor. . .
Grimacing in pain as he desperately splashed cool water from the basin into his eye, Sauron did not bother to reply.
"S... Sauron?" Raumo's voice shuddered slightly as he hopped up and down to get the other's attention. The Dark Lord had a nasty temper at the best of times, and his punishments were always deliciously inventive.
Admirably resisting the desire to give the culprit of the kerfuffle a good kick in his podgy little stomach, Sauron stuck his entire head underwater - thus drowning out the elder Balrogling's pleas.
Raumo's leathery brow furrowed into a sea of wrinkles, and he clenched his fists in frustration. Surely Sauron would see sense, and they had been so nice to him. . .
"Sauron!" Raumo bellowed as loudly as he could, tugging hard on his watcher's leggings and tunic. "Saurooooon!"
There was no response. Frowning with worry, Raumo looked towards the door, then turned back to the Maia. Although watching the hated sitter splutter and wince as he tried to wash his face would normally be an exceedingly good joke, the thought of the prospects had made the amusement pale slightly. Gomig was in so much distress that he was even beginning to feel a little guilty. Surely Sauron would agree that it was in no way his fault?
Raumo lowered his head and butted his horns hard into the Maia's midriff.
"Eru Almighty!" Sauron's head shot up in a flurry of flying water droplets and dripping locks of hair. Clutching his hands protectively around the injured area he glared at Raumo with watering eyes. "Bratling of the House of Manwë!"
Eyes widening at this cruel and uncalled for insult, Raumo wisely backed off a few steps.
"I did not mean to hurt Gomig, Sauron. It was not my fault." Raumo nodded earnestly as he considered this, then added, "It was all his!"
It probably had been too. He bet that his little brother had eaten the pepper on purpose, just to get him into trouble.
The Maia's black eyes narrowed into slits, and the long fingers were flexed ominously.
Raumo retreated a few more steps, but accidentally tripped over the crumpled rug as he did so. The Balrogling plopped down onto the ground, his small wings flapping uselessly in an attempt to slow his fall. At first he attempted to struggle to his feet, but as Sauron advanced with a menacing glint in his eyes, he shuffled backwards on his bottom in an attempt to escape the Maia's wrath.
"You will not tell Melkor, will you Sauron?" Raumo said persuasively, baring his fangs in his best - and rather rusty - smile. "You will tell him that it was not my fault?"
Sauron let out a low growl.
Raumo gulped, edging towards the door as he bared his teeth threateningly at this sitter.
There was a sound of running footsteps, and Melkor burst in through the door, nearly stumbling over Raumo's quivering form. Scowling, he resumed his footing and looked dubiously at the pair - both shaking, one with rage and the other with fear.
Raumo and Sauron eyed each other nervously, and very carefully said nothing.
"Gomig, come here." Melkor knelt down on the kitchen floor and fumbled inside for the little Balrog, momentarily cursing the fact that he was too large to actually stick his head inside instead. "I am here."
Only just it time, evidently. When he had asked his assistant to prepare his progeny for their midday meal, he had not anticipated that Sauron might misconceive that a sharp twist to the neck was a far better preparation for the meal than nagging the child to wash his hands. However the two were now standing sulkily behind him, arms folded tightly and noses held high, and he had far more pressing matters to deal with. His littlest Balrog was obviously mortally offended at whatever treatment had been dealt to him. Gothmog was such a sensitive little soul.
There was a small noise from the depths of the cupboard, and Gomig crawled forward and pressed himself against Melkor's palm.
"Now what is wrong?" Gomig was drawn out into the reddish light of the kitchens, and the Dark Lord checked him over for injuries. While his skin was still rather soft, and would probably have been pierced by the shards of glass, this did not appear to be the source of the child's distress. There were no broken bones, and his wings were still fully attached to his shaking body. It was unlike his boys to show any hint of distress at destruction of his possessions, and there were no obvious bruises. Frowning slightly, Melkor turned to the two rather shamefaced onlookers. "What happened?"
"He..." Sauron turned quite red and prodded Raumo hard in the chest.
"I didn't do it!" Raumo's voice rose in indignation and he gnashed his teeth at the Maia's finger, fortunately missing as it was pulled back rather hurriedly. "He's lying!"
"I am not..."
"Meeeelkor, he's being mean to me!" Raumo howled, attempting to sink his teeth into Sauron's armour-plated thigh. Fortunately the apprentice dark- lord had had some experience on the dress code when Balrog-sitting.
Sighing loudly, the Dark Lord turned his back on the squabbling pair and resumed his inspection of the baby of the family. Gomig was scrubbing his eyes rather more vigorously than expected for his tantrums, and his tiny forked tongue was flapping desperately in the air.
"Oh, bother!" The Dark Lord slapped a hand against his forehead, and then uncurled Gomig's clenched fists, revealing a small green stem and confirming his worst fears. "Raumo!"
"It wasn't me! He ate it all by himself!" Raumo protested, dancing around his guardian's ankles as Melkor carried Gomig through to the icehouse to fetch a beaker of near-frozen water. "Didn't you Gomig? I didn't do anything!"
Gomig responded by shrieking in his brother's ear at a pitch sufficient to make everyone in the vicinity wince.
"For the love of Eru!" Melkor took one hand from Gomig to clip Raumo soundly around the ear. The Balrogling stumbled to the floor, clutching his throbbing ear and blinking his strangely bright eyes. "What in Mandos possessed... Gomig!"
The Dark Lord's rose to a bellow as the littlest Balrog escaped from his grasp and flung himself at the piles of sawdust-covered ice, crawling away from the others at great speed and in a manner more reminiscent of a spider than Melkor would have liked.
"Come here, Gomig..." Melkor called, holding out a hand towards the rapidly retreating form of the littlest Balrog. The great piles of ice were too unstable to hold his weight, but judging from the enthusiasm that Gomig was chewing and swallowing lumps of ice, he would have to coax his youngest down soon lest he manage to lower his temperature enough to extinguish his inner fire. "Gomig!"
"Neee!" Gomig squealed and shifted back further to sit against the wall, sucking on a block of ice and glaring reproachfully at his guardian.
"Gomig." Melkor called again, and was rewarded with a handful of sawdust in the eye. To his concern the ice underneath the baby Balrog was now barely melting and the child had began to shiver rather than quiver with rage.
"Melkor..." Raumo tugged a little hesitantly on the tail of his guardian's shirt and smiled a little nervously, eager to make up for his misdemeanour. "Melkor..."
"What?" Melkor bellowed so loudly that the child leapt backwards in surprise.
"I... I could crawl up and get Gomig." Raumo pointed at the tiny cracks and footholds amidst the ice and damp sawdust. "I am light enough."
Melkor paused, weighing up the possible risk of losing two of his Balrogs against the imminent loss of his youngest. He had placed quite an investment of time into the creatures, and it would be frustrating to see that lost.
"Very well." He lifted the child as high as he could reach, surreptitiously giving him a last hug as he did so. "But if I call for you, you must come."
Raumo nodded, shivering slightly, then began making his precarious path over the ice.
"Nooo!" Gomig kicked out feebly as his brother approached, throwing a block of ice at him with weakening arms.
Not wasting time on small talk, Raumo sank his nails into his the Balrogling's icy skin, and set to dragging his unwilling brother to safety.
A few anxious seconds later Melkor had the two shivering Balrogs in his arms. Raumo was still faintly warm to the touch, but Gomig was almost painfully cold, and seemed rather sleepy. Cradling the pair to his chest, Melkor hurried through the narrow doorway into the warmth of the kitchens.
Now that both were safe in his arms, the thought of hypothermic little Balrogs amused him. Briefly he wondered if they would tickle his brother's sense of humour, but then dismissed the thought. He was a good brother - never forgetting the other's birthday - but his straight-laced brother was never the most appreciative of his gifts. He had never received a thank you note for the pair of wingless eagles that he had sent last year, in any case.
Trust Manwë not to appreciate irony.
Soon the pair of shivering Balroglings were warming up nicely in the fire, their protests at having to sit still diminished by the addition of some 'finger-salts' to the flames. Raumo was busy painting himself a green beard and moustache with copper sulphate, and as usual Gomig had grabbed the lithium salts and was painting his nose bright red. Sighing inwardly in both relief at the children's safety and annoyance at the situation they were in, Melkor set off to find the others leaving a bad-tempered Sauron in charge.
Nárë was easy enough to find, and came willingly when a large hand was stuck through a gap in the bookshelves.
"Sauron said that we could." He explained as Melkor raised his eyebrows questioningly and brushed the dust and cobwebs from the child's horns. "We knew that it was wrong, but you said to do everything that Sauron said."
"Indeed." Melkor said dryly.
"Uru will be in your wardrobe again." Nárë slipped his hand around the Dark Lord's thumb and trotted along by his side. "He always hides there."
Five minutes later all the favourite hiding places and even Uru and Nárë's most wild suggestions had been searched, all without any sign of Ondo.
"Have you no idea where he may have gone?" Melkor sighed, as he strode back to the kitchens, the two Balroglings scurrying anxiously at his heels.
Uru and Nárë spoke simultaneously, illustrating their expressions of innocence with large wide-open eyes.
Melkor's tone of elaborate patience made his protégée cringe slightly. "I have not yet seached the cellars..."
Sighing deeply, Melkor herded the two Balroglings into the roaring rainbow- tinged flames of the fire to join the others - who had turned a rather bright shade of lilac, and bad-temperedly made his way down the steps into the store cellars.
The cellars were huge and, at this time of year, well stocked with all types of foodstuffs and drinks. Crates and boxes were stacked up to the rafters, from which heads of garlic and smoked meats were hung. Small, scaly fanged creatures scampered around the straw-littered floor chasing and dismembering any mice or rats that were foolish enough to enter the fortress. Had it not been for an eerie echoing chuckle, Melkor would have had no idea where to look.
The Dark Lord turned sharply, neatly pivoting on one foot, and watched the stack of barrels in one corner, muscles primed, ready to pounce.
The gurgling chuckle rang out again, sounding even sillier from a closer vantage point.
His brow furrowing in thought, Melkor walked smartly over to the barrel and rapped sternly on the curved wood. To his surprise there did not seem to be any cracks or peep holes that would allow the Balrogling to see out, and there was precious little amusing to be seen from the small crack for air that had been left when putting the lid down. "Ondo, are you in here?"
The only response was a burbling laugh, so Melkor lifted the lid to reveal the Balrogling sitting in a rather damp barrel. A damp barrel, he remembered, that only yesterday had had several tankards full left in it. Judging by the way that the child was sniggering as he sucked his toes, he had already developed a discriminating taste in ales.
"Mekkor." Ondo smiled broadly at him and finished licking between his smallest toes before holding his arms out to be picked up. "I win."
Melkor snorted in exasperation, and reached down into the barrel to rescue the merry and rather unsteady Balrogling. Groaning as Ondo giggled at him and pulled a silly face, the Dark Lord returned to the kitchen, muttering under his breath, "For the patience of Ilúvatar."
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.