Balrog? Bilbo never spoke of such a creature in any of his tales. What is a Balrog? From Gandalf’s tone of voice and description, my heart plummets, perhaps in truth, I do not want to know. I cannot help but ask myself, is it hunting us simply because we dare to pass through its domain, or is it drawn to the Ring?
Without thought, I obey Gandalf’s command: Run!
I try to push away the realization that the company could move much faster if not for the hobbits. Though we race as quickly as our legs will carry us, the other members must be careful to slow their pace so as to not outdistance us. Still, it matters not, we are in this together regardless.
Following Legolas, I rush through an arch and down some stairs and almost stumble to a halt. I feel Merry at my shoulder. On the steps before me, sits Legolas with his arms securely around Boromir. The torch is absent from Boromir’s hand. Before them is a vast open space where stairs should have been. It takes little imagination to comprehend that in our headlong flight, Boromir almost toppled into oblivion but for Legolas grasping him and hauling him back from the precarious edge.
Another minute passes as we regroup and begin again to flee down another flight of steps, Boromir in the lead. We turn on a landing and I pause a moment as Legolas and Gimli jump down easily from the stairs above. We hurry on, ever downward, until we are impeded by a gaping break in our path.
Without hesitation, Legolas effortlessly vaults the expanse and turns to encourage Gandalf to follow. Gandalf quickly traverses the gap as well.
Spears and arrows begin to rain down on us from high up and far away cliff ledges, sometimes striking the stone at our feet. Aragorn and Legolas answer with arrows of their own, striking true.
I hear Boromir call Merry and Pippin and then see him leap forward, with a hobbit tucked under each arm. He could not choose. No doubt, he chose wisely, for the stone beneath his feet and theirs crumbles away and the aperture grows wider. More arrows are exchanged.
Aragorn calls Sam to him and swiftly tosses him across the chasm, and he is caught by Boromir on the other side. There was no time to wonder what would happen. I step forward, knowing my turn is coming after Gimli, who flatly refuses to be tossed. He almost does not make it but for Legolas catching him by the beard, as Aragorn lets another arrow fly.
The rock is crumbling beneath us. I begin to back away and feel Aragorn forcefully cast me farther up the steps, lunging after me. I crawl a little further to solid ground and reach my hand back to help him, and then realize how little I can do.
The chasm dividing us from the rest of the Fellowship now is impassable.
As the powerful roar of the Balrog grows closer, the walls of the mine shake and collapse in places. One giant block of stone drops across the path behind us severing the bridge that held our stairs steady. We stand now on a massive pedestal rising from an unseen floor, and slowly, it begins to sway. We struggle to keep our feet.
“Hold on!” Aragorn commands.
To what? I wonder. I feel him grasp first my pack, and then his fingers dig securely into my shoulder, holding me fast against him.
Does my face reflect the same concern as Sam’s?
I endeavor to obey Aragorn’s command to lean forward. The pillar tilts toward the company and carries us across the span, throwing us forward, and crashing into the stairs. Boromir deftly catches me, wrapping his arms round me, and sets me on my feet as the towering slab of rock teeters and falls away.
Our escape continues, down, down, down, into the depths of the mine.