We had only just managed to get across the bridge when the Balrog attacked. I had followed Boromir across the chasm of Khazad-dûm, but like him, I attempted to head back and aid Gandalf once the halflings were safely across. Had someone told me that fire could be dark, I would have laughed at the absurdity, but here, fire seemed enfolded in darkness. The shadow had come. As terrible a form as it was, there was also a sense of awe to it. It seemed size-less, shapeless, the darkness rising and falling away like the tide.
Fear gripped me. I was rooted to the spot despite Gandalf having already ordered our retreat. He had called it a foe beyond any of us. We could not just leave him, and yet we moved not. We were witnessing a battle that would go down in song and legend, should any of us live to tell of it, and yet all we could do was look on, spectators of shadow and flame. I call the form of the Balrog terrible, so mighty was the servant of Morgoth. It’s striking blows, the thunder of its steps and the ferocity of its assault. Yet there, contrasted to the shadow, was a single light who had lit up Middle-earth for an age despite most not knowing from whence it came.
A single, worn and weathered figure with his sword and staff at hand. Gandalf. Gandalf the Grey, known by many for stories and fireworks was here, facing down a creature from legend itself. I almost pitied the Balrog, for as every bit terrible as it was, Gandalf was equally wonderful. His voice thundered amidst the roars of the creature and the crackles of flame, defiant and authoritative. He ordered it back to the shadow which seemed only to rouse it more.
One might think Gandalf would have been swallowed up by the darkness, but you do not know him as I do. You did not see him smite the bridge and the Balrog attempt one last time to accost the old man. It fell with a thunderous roar and we had hoped beyond hope that we were delivered. Alas, the skill of the Balrog with its whip was too much. As Gandalf turned and faced us, weary and victorious, the whip smote about his legs. They buckled beneath him. Desperately Boromir, Aragorn, and myself moved to help him, but it was too late. ‘Fly, you fools’, rang out as he fell. All at once both the shadow and light fell to the dark places of the Earth, with only the echoes of thunderous roars, Gandalf’s last order, and a ruined bridge to tell anyone they were ever there.
Tolkien explorer and creative writer, Vanitas Nuin-Giliath.