8. "Play Fair!"
At the moment they appeared fully occupied. The two eldest Balrogs were organising complex ambushes with their toy orcs, chuckling as they estimated the death count. Nárë and Ondo were racing pieces of coal in burning - a game that Nárë was sure to win, for Ondo had not yet realised that taking his lump of coal out for examination every other minute would slow down its rate of consumption. Gomig was building cities and towers out of wooden blocks for the sheer pleasure of running through them, laughing rather frighteningly as he smashed them to smithereens. All was at peace, but it would not be long before. . .
"Melkor?" Ondo had apparently lost the game, and he came running over to the Dark Lord's side, leaving sooty finger marks on everything he touched. "Can we play Boulder Roll?"
Boulder Roll was a quite delightful game of Melkor's invention, in which large, round pieces of rock would be rolled towards wooden models of elves. The other Balroglings looked up with noises of agreement. Boulder Roll was a favourite game of theirs, and always led to much hilarity.
"Why not." Melkor put his papers down - carefully out of Gomig's reach - and got to his feet to retrieve the large box containing the boulders and model elves. The playing pieces had been kept out of reach during the day ever since Uru and Raumo had been struck with the wonderful idea of boulder rolling at various other objects including the crockery and each other.
The four older Balrogs set to preparing the game as Melkor returned to his papers. As the others busied themselves, Gomig crawled among the playing pieces, knocking down the models that Nárë had so laboriously arranged, chewing on the markers and generally being a nuisance.
"Go away, Gomig!" Uru removed the rolling line markers from Gomig's mouth and ears and gave his little brother a shove. "Shoo!"
Gomig stuck his tongue out at Uru and scrambled over to sit on the boulders that Raumo had just counted out.
"Go away, stupid!" Raumo yanked Gomig from the boulders by one skinny arm and flung him to the ground. "Nuisance!"
Gomig's chin began to quiver and the black eyes filled with tears.
"Me?" A plaintive voice queried.
"No!" Four voices spoke at once.
"You spoil it!" Ondo added.
"You cannot count to score." Nárë sighed.
"You do not even aim right." Raumo said scornfully.
"And anyway," Uru put his hands on his hips, "you are too small to pick up a boulder."
Gomig stared at them then put his thumb into his mouth for a few sucks.
"Me pay!" He stood up and toddled over to the boulders again, straining in vain to pick one up. "Me go."
"No!" Raumo yelled, as he saw his newly tidied pile being pushed about any old how. "Stop it!"
"Melkor!" Nárë called loudly, ignoring the fact that his guardian was only a few feet away. "Gomig is spoiling our game."
"Me!" Gomig shouted loudly, tears of frustration already beginning to spill down his cheeks. He might not be able to pick up a boulder yet, but he was always left out, and this game looked like so much fun.
"Gomig." Melkor said sternly, and the littlest Balrog slunk miserably across the room to stand at his feet.
"Me pay!" Gomig tried desperately to make the Dark Lord understand what it was that he wanted, pointing at the boulders and jumping up and down crossly. "Pay!"
Hot tears began to streak down his cheeks and he clenched his hands into fists.
"You are too little, Gomig." Melkor set down his papers again and tried to pick up the tiny Balrog, who was quite stiff with anger. His devious plotting of evil plans would have to be put on hold for this evening. "Why do you not sit here with me, and I shall read you the hundred ways to kill an elf poem."
Gomig was not mollified by even this tempting offer. The book may be lavishly decorated in quite extraordinary numbers of different shades of red, but it did not compare with actually being able to roll boulders at the elves yourself.
"Me pay!" Gomig screeched elbowing Melkor hard in his struggle to escape his grasp and join in the fun. Melkor doubled over, releasing his grip on the tiny Balrog and Gomig leapt from his lap. Landing on hands and knees on the hearth rug was all very well, but to tumble among your previously discarded blocks was slightly more painful, and soon Gomig was in tears.
"Melkie." Gomig sniffed pitifully and held out his arms to the Dark Lord, begging to be picked up and comforted.
Melkor, however, was in no mood to comfort anyone, especially the young bratling that had caused him pain. He glared furiously at the tiny Balrog and paid no attention to the high-pitched whimpering.
The four older Balroglings looked at each other dubiously, and began working rapidly in silence to set up their game. It was not wise to catch Melkor's attention when he was in such a mood.
The littlest Balrog held out his wilting arms for a few minutes more, then realising that a cuddle was not forthcoming gulped back his sobs and crawled over to Melkor's feet. If Melkie would not come to him, then he would have to go to Melkie.
At first the Dark Lord was able to ignore the small dollop sitting at his feet, but once Gomig began nuzzling his warm little head against his legs, Melkor began to feel his resolve breaking.
"Oh, very well." The Dark Lord said with great aggravation and reached down to lift the child into his lap. Gomig smiled in satisfaction and rubbed his cheek against the smooth silk of Melkor's shirt.
Melkor looked down at the child and could not help but smile. The Balrogling was practically purring, greatly satisfied with the way things had turned out. As usual for this late in the evening his cheeks had flushed a shade darker with sleepiness and he was especially warm and cuddly.
"Melkor," Nárë's voice rose in a query, "will you play with us?"
Melkor paused for a moment, considering the offer, secretly rather pleased by the hopeful and eager looks that his progeny directed towards him. He would get no peace anyway if he were to look after his youngest.
"I do not see why not." The Dark Lord shifted Gomig onto his hip and moved to sit cross-legged on the floor between Ondo and Nárë, who both promptly leant against his bulk. "Who shall go first?"
"Oh well done, Nárë!" Melkor grinned with admiration at the tiny Balrog. "The young and wounded, ten points."
Nárë grinned at him, and retrieved the boulder for Ondo to take a turn. He was surprisingly good at this game, perhaps because he stopped to think rather than using brute force to blast the figurines aside, and was currently leading by quite a wide margin.
Ondo took the boulder in both hands and knelt down beside the line and turned to the playing field with an expression of fearsome concentration. Taking a breath so deep that it made his cheeks bulge out sufficiently far to make Melkor fear that the child would burst, he frowned and rolled his boulder forwards.
"Oooh!" Uru bit his lip anxiously and crossed his fingers that his brother should fail. If Ondo scored these points then he had no chance of catching up, and although it was quite acceptable to come second or third, he would not stand coming last.
"I think that..." Nárë trailed off into silence as he tried to judge the angle at which the boulder would rebound. If Ondo managed to get this, then next go the field would be clear for aiming at the innocents, and while they were not worth as many points as the soldiers, when one fell more were prone to follow.
"Nearly..." Raumo held his breath. If Ondo managed to make the elf fall then there was no chance that Uru could beat him, and while it would mean that he himself would be beaten, anything was worth a victory over his elder brother.
"Yes!" Ondo bounced excitedly into the air and skipped nimbly among the fallen corpses to collect the boulder. "The High King! Look, Melkor! The High King all squished!"
Melkor grinned at the little Balrog, and gently took Gomig's hands in his and clapped them together. "Well done, fifty points!"
"Squishy-deaded!" Gomig squealed in excitement, squirming in Melkor's arms in his eagerness to take part. "Me go! Gomig go!"
"Yes," Melkor agreed, accepting the boulder from Ondo and moving onto his knees, "It is our turn."
Barely able to contain his glee, Gomig scrambled forwards to sit leaning against the Dark Lord's knees. "That way!"
Melkor sighed inwardly as Gomig pointed towards an elf that while very colourful carried only five points, ignoring the open access to a female with child, but put aside his reservations to please his youngest. Gomig was but two years old, and had not yet learnt of the importance of choosing his target.
"Ready?" Melkor held the boulder ready as Gomig put his feet against the roughly hewn rock and pushed with all his might. "Go!"
Adding a little extra push of his own, Melkor whisked the littlest Balrog to his feet and stood him in his lap, allowing Gomig to see the slow progress of his boulder towards the elf - which predictably stumbled and fell - prompting the emission of several high-pitched squeals of triumph and irritated groans from the others.
As they continued playing, Melkor became aware that the tiny bundle that he held had become increasingly still, and had slumped down his chest to curl up in his lap, sucking on a small thumb. Now that he was not wriggling, the littlest Balrog felt pleasantly warm and soft - not unlike those tasty snackettes that his brother had skip around pastures in their fluffy little packets. Taking his eyes from the game for a few seconds, the Dark Lord gently brushed a finger against a warm cheek then, as he was passed the boulder, placed a large hand across the child's chest, holding his youngest warm and steady as he took a turn.
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.