1. They Were Safe
The bright sun reflected off the snow of the mountains through his eyelashes to make iridescent shapes like butterfly wings. And when he closed his eyes against the brightness the sun, blue and green streaks remained on the back of his eyelids, pushing back the darkness. It had been the last beautiful thing he remembered.
After that there had been only darkness and flame. Smoke. Screams.
He had pushed Tuor back, refusing to let his Lady's husband face the threat that came before them. The unholy beast had burst from between the crags as if the mountain itself had belched out the flame.
In the shivering mountains, there had been only cold before, and now there was only heat.
"Ecthelion" he whispered. Ecthelion had been braver than he. Ecthelion had faced the foe when there was still hope of victory in Gondolin. There was no hope now, only the certainty of death, and now...well, now it was welcomed. If the city, his city, was fallen, then surely there was no hope left in Middle Earth for him.
And as he drew nearer, swirls of smoke clouded his vision. Nay, not just smoke. He could have laughed then realizing that his own tears turned to steam off his cheeks from the heat of the beast he faced, but there was no laughter left in him, only despair. This was the only acceptable death left to him, a death where you brandished your sword before the hosts of an enemy that threatened your kin. For if Gondolin, in Her shining white glory had fallen, what else in the world could withstand Morgoth's fury?
The shale slipped under his feet and cut his hands, but he still climbed. Idril. Her screams were loudest in his ears. She must not die. Earendil must not die. Not by this beast. This flame must not extinguish theirs.
"Ecthelion". The name was courage on his tongue. Ecthelion had fallen. Drowned, he hoped, but more likely lashed to pieces or boiled under the pulsing, steaming waters of the fountain where he had smote Gothmog. If Ecthelion had braved this, then Glorfindel could as well. He solidly gained his footing on the mountain's face.
In his youth, he had prayed for a courageous death, and here it stood before him, waiting. The Balrog. The fiery tongues of its whip hurtled towards him and he crouched just in time to avoid their cracking sting. "Flame of Morgoth!" he roared. Only harsh laughter replied. Lashes of fire threatened him again, but he once more ducked. Nothing was left in his vision. No sun, no mountains, no snow. The butterfly wings had become wings of flame and shadow and despair. His lips cracked with the heat. His armor, for all the good it did him now, had become a furnace. Rivulets of sweat drenched his body.
"You shall not have them!" And he struck at the monster. Deep in the creature's belly the blade sank, and The Lord felt the heat course up his arm. Blinding, charring, incinerating heat that almost stole consciousnesses away.
The world that had been so solidly under his feet only a second ago gave way. The shale had been slipping before, but now it vanished. And a hideous roar from the pits of hell filled his ears. Vanquished? Was it dead? An elation filled him and despite the smell of burning hair and the pain in his head, he felt as if he were flying with elation. But the stench and the pain overwhelmed him as he was pulled from his feet. Flying. Flying downwards to earth.
A whisper "Ecthelion"
Screams filed the air. The screams of gulls? No. the screams of eagles.
As the earth rushed up to meet him, a smile graced the cracked lips of the Lord of the House of the Golden Flower.
They were safe.