7. "Do not get Blood on the Carpet!"
"Raumo!" Nárë called out loudly with a distinct tone of irritation, regardless of the fact that his brother was sitting but a few inches away from him. Raumo looked over his shoulder with an impatient scowl, and Nárë added in a disapproving voice. "It is your turn."
Regretfully Raumo turned back to the game. By careful herding he had managed to nudge three ants onto a few scraps of hay. One simple touch would send them scurrying fearfully from the blaze.
"Raumo!" Uru gave him a shove and flicked a small wooden spinner in his direction. "Hurry up!"
Scowling, Raumo moved back to kneel in the circle and carefully took the spinner in his unlit hand. The rough ground of the courtyard was not the best part of the Dark Lord's stronghold to play this game in, for the spinner often jumped unpredictably over the tiny stones and bits of wood and straw, and it was often difficult to cheat reliably.
"Three. . ." Raumo sucked in his lower lip slightly as he looked down at the small round pebble 'body' around which the playing pieces were arranged and smiled. "Left wing!"
"Ready?" Uru asked, his hand hovering over an upturned wooden beaker - as usual the eldest Balrogling had taken charge of the game, and was enforcing the rules with great pomp and circumstance.
Raumo grunted and bent closer to the ground until his nose was nearly touching the grit and bare soil. The wings were tricky to manage, and Ondo and Nárë were sticklers for insisting that they were only counted if they came off un-scorched and whole - this being the only advantage that they could use against their older brothers. Both Uru and Raumo were apt to become quite heated with anger if things did not go their way.
"You may start." Uru announced solemnly, lifting the beaker and simultaneously turning over an hourglass. Released from captivity, a rather battered looking stag beetle ran forward frantically, its progress somewhat impeded by the three legs that had already been removed. "Go!"
The player had one minute to remove the chosen piece from the beetle. If the creature escaped or the part selected came off incomplete then the turn was forfeited. Once a player had collected six legs, two wings and the two halves of the front pinchers, then they attempted to roll a six to be allowed to attempt to pluck the head. The first person to complete the whole beetle was declared the winner.
Frowning fearsomely in a concentration, Raumo stopped the beetle with a finger placed firmly on its back and began the delicate task of prising the wings off the struggling creature.
His self-imposed tasks completed for the time being, Melkor stood at the window of his study, looking down over the dark and barren landscape with great pleasure. Here and there he could see troops of orcs making their ungainly way across the mountains and down into the depths of the earth. The charred skeletons of trees and bushes were dotted across the hills - the work of Yavanna kindly providing ample targets for his dragons to practice their exhalation of fire. And down in the thickly walled courtyard of his stronghold he could see five small shadowy figures huddled in a tight circle around some object that he could not see.
Telling himself that it was curiosity rather than a desire to spend time with his younglings that guided his feet, Melkor made his way down the winding stair to the courtyard. It was bitterly cold out here, this high in the mountains, and not being a pint-sized Spirit of Fire himself, he was quickly becoming chilled. If he were lucky one or other of his squalling infants would manage to injure themselves or begin screeching with annoyance over some perceived injustice, and he would be required to pick them up and hold them close to him. Balroglings made delightfully soft - if rather squirmy - warming stones.
"Pay!" Gomig spied the Dark Lord and tipped backwards from his kneeling position to sit on his bottom and held out his arms to be picked up. "Pay with me. With Gomig!"
Smiling indulgently, Melkor strolled over to stand towering above the boys and watched with pride as Uru nimbly plucked a pincher from the terrified beetle.
"Melkie! Melkie!" Gomig crawled over to the Dark Lord's foot and grabbed hold of Melkor's leggings to pull himself onto his feet. "Pay?"
"Well done, Uru." Melkor patted his eldest's head with one hand whilst holding up his leggings with the other, then bent down to scoop up the littlest Balrog and give him a hug. "How is my little Gomig?"
Although the tiny Balrog had managed to gather little but a single spindly leg for his playing piece, he seemed not to mind, and wriggled to rest his forehead contentedly against Melkor's cheek.
"Leg." A small hand pointed down to the ground then reached up again to gain a steadying handhold on the Dark Lord's crisply ironed collar. Not quite liking the sensation of a warm wriggling thing tickling out of his reach, Melkor shuffled his shoulders then reached back behind him to take the tiny hand in his own and transfer it to his chest.
"So it is." Melkor patted the child's back gently and brushed a stray cobweb from the child's left wing. The tiny Balrog had obviously had quite enough of this game, for his concentration and dexterity were not yet as good as his brothers and he would be quite happy being held and spoken to for the duration of the game - something that Melkor was glad to oblige him in, for a frustrated Gomig was a fretful Gomig, and a fretful Gomig made everyone unhappy.
Melkor retired to sit on a large bolder in the shelter of one of the misshapen towers of his home, and allowed the tiny Balrog to cuddle close to him as they watched the older Balroglings play. Once he had wriggled into a comfortable position against the Dark Lord's side, Gomig was quite happy to sit quietly and listen to the familiar tale of Melkor's first orc.
"And then, rather deviously, I must admit," Melkor glanced up from Gomig's wide eyes to check on the game, where Nárë seemed to be on the point of winning, then smiled back down at the little one, "I took the coal tongs from the fire, and do you know what I did with them?"
Gomig beamed gleefully as Melkor widened his eyes and adopted a surprised expression, and excitedly gurgled. "You pull the eyes! Pull the eyes!"
"Yes, yes I did!" Grinning down at the tiny Balrog, Melkor wriggled his fingers along the child's bony ribs until Gomig was howling with breathless giggles. "And they screamed even louder than you are now!"
Unable to speak in the short time he had to gasp for breath between the bouts of childish laughter, Gomig did not respond, merely wriggling like a beached fish as Melkor pounced his hand on his stomach and tickled the Balrogling's chubby tummy. Gomig shrieked and howled with laughter until a sharp scratch of five razor sharp claws being dug into his arm indicated to Melkor that the littlest Balrog was ready to continue the story, and he lifted the tiny child into a sitting position again, making a mental note to trim the child's finger and toenails that evening.
"Now, one year your Uncle Manwë gave me a most delightful silver dinner set," Melkor said with a broad and wicked grin, "And I feared that he would feel slighted if I did not put it to good use."
Gomig squealed in anticipation of the next part of the story, which was his very favourite of all the tales that Melkor ever told, but the Dark Lord's attention had drifted somewhat from the task in hand. The older Balroglings had finished their game by now, and were running busily around the courtyard fetching a variety of objects, and Nárë and Ondo were struggling with a spear quite three times their height.
"I cut them with the knifes. . . and prodded them with the forks. . . and then. . ." Melkor faulted in his triumphant tale as he watched the spear crash to the ground, missing Uru's neck by a hair's breadth, "then I got the spoons and scooped out. . ."
"Not right! Not right, Melkie!" Gomig protested crossly, bouncing on the Dark Lord's lap in an attempt to regain his full attention. Melkor had left out the bit about oozing blood and seasoning infected wounds, and had not even licked his lips and lengthened his 'ooh' sound properly when he had described the scooping bit. "Melkie, again!"
"In a minute, Gomig." Melkor snapped, his eyes still on the spear, which now had four pulling and tugging Balroglings attached. As he watched the point lurched forwards, only just giving Raumo time to skip aside in time to avoid being speared through the chest, and finally giving in to temptation he bellowed at the top of his voice, "Be careful, Raumo! You'll have your eye out on that!"
The four Balroglings halted instantly, but to Melkor's chagrin merely looked at him for a moment, waved at him in a condescending manner and continued their previous actions, clearly thinking his rightful worries naught but fussing. Sighing in frustration, Melkor turned back to the rather aggrieved looking Gomig, and tried to make himself sound as enthusiastic as possible. "Of course, no dinner set is complete without a set of fish knifes. . ."
There was a loud shriek of triumph, and Raumo fell from one of the high walls to the ground, his hands clenched around some small object. Wincing slightly at the thump with which the small horned head hit the dirt, Melkor was admittedly more worried by the assortment of grins and smirks on his progeny's faces.
"Raumo, what have you there?" The Dark Lord queried sternly, barely giving the Balrogling time to regain his footing before beckoning the child over to his side. "Over here, now!"
"I found a hatchling, Melkor!" Raumo said proudly, carrying the chirping chick over in carefully cupped hands. "It is still alive, look!"
Melkor dutifully peered inside the dark shadowy crack that Raumo opened up for him to admire the panic-stricken little creature, then looked around at the little gathering of Balrogs that had come up to stand behind their brother. All were armed to the teeth with daggers and whips and something that looked worryingly like a spice grater, and had clearly pilfered his sock and glove drawer for what protection they felt they needed. The foursome all were grinning in delight, but their eyes held a small glimmer of doubt that their minder would interrupt their games.
"We shall make an orc-bird." Nárë said with a rather dangerous tone, his dark eyes daring the Dark Lord to try and stop them.
"Run along with you," unwilling to cause a scene by refusing to allow the boys to improve their torture techniques, Melkor waved the Balroglings vaguely aside with an indulgent smile. As long as the children were productively occupied, he had little care over how they spent their time. Although, as they joyfully scampered off towards the doorway, gabbling to each other in excited high-pitched squawks, Melkor was unable to prevent himself bellowing after them, "For the love of all things great and good, do not get blood on the carpet!"
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.