The Great Balrog Conspiracy

by Erestor

Disclaimer: I own nothing pertaining to The Lord of the Rings. This story was written for entertainment purposes only.

My name is Erestor. You may have heard of me. I was the poor naïve Elf who 'challenged the system' a few years back, with my book Wings: The Great Balrog Conspiracy. My life went downhill from there. You see, people are told 'It's good to challenge the system! You will revolutionize it and everyone will love you and be happy!'. This is entirely false. The system never likes being challenged, and it tends to fight back.

You may be wondering what exactly the system was. It was a group of Elves and Istari, and they called themselves the Wise. (Clever title, that. No one wants to contradict people universally known to be Wise.) And what made these people wise? They were wise because they knew things that other people did not know, not until I started doing all my idiotic system-challenging.

I suppose I should begin at the beginning. My woeful tale starts in Rivendell, with the 348th Annual Wings Debate.

I don't know who introduced the idea of having an Annual Wings Debate, which is lucky for whomever it was, because if I knew, I'd strangle him. The first ten or twenty annual debates were stimulating and interesting, but after a couple hundred years, no new evidence was being brought up, and we were all discussing the same ancient arguments and 'proofs' over and over again.

We debated wings. Balrog's wings, to be precise. Do balrogs have wings or not? Does it matter? Personally, I've never cared. And, I would wonder, as I suffered through debate after debate (and the first few debates were fairly heated), why we bothered to debate that subject. Didn't we have Lord Glorfindel among us? Hadn't he been killed by a balrog? Couldn't he answer our questions and save us all the pain and anxiety? (And it was painful, for some, because when these debates would become really heated, people tended to get stabbed with quill pens, or given horrific paper cuts. Not I. I stayed out of the way.)

Anyway, it was during the 348th Annual Wings Debate that the thought occurred to me.

What if balrogs don't even exist?

What proof is there that balrogs have ever existed?

We are told that they existed, and that they were terrible and dangerous creatures, but there's no proof. It's nearly all hearsay. Glorfindel could tell us, perhaps, but he won't. He doesn't talk about it. Says the memories are too 'painful' for him.

Yet he sits through the Annual Wings Debates with a smirk on his face and watches poor harassed historians, who have devoted their lives to the preservation of truth, threatening each other with paper clips and other office supplies. 'Painful'. Hah. I bet not. I bet it was he who thought up the Annual Wings Debate. As revenge on all of us.

I was young and innocent. Brainless, in fact. I had attended three hundred and forty-eight debates. I had a new opinion, and I voiced it. I said, "I don't think balrogs exist."

For a split second, even a Dwarf could have heard a pin drop. It was that quiet. Then everyone turned on me and they all said the same thing, all at the same time.


I don't like having two hundred fellow Elves glaring at me in shock and disbelief, so I cringed pathetically in my chair, ruing the moment I had so stupidly opened my mouth. Then Glorfindel, that belovable Elf, saved me from being rent limb from limb.

"I think this debate has been a bit much for this poor advisor," he said, his tone dripping condescension, and he volunteered to escort me from the hall. Lord Elrond, who had been staring at me with something like unhappy bewilderment, nodded reluctantly and Glorfindel led me out of the hall, looking noble and self-sacrificing. Who other than Lord Glorfindel would have been good enough to miss the Debate for the sake of a lowly advisor?

Have I mentioned how much I hate Glorfindel?

I wish he had stayed dead. That would have been cause for celebration. But no, the Valar had to be kind and send him back. Maybe it's because he's going to get to die even more painfully this time around. I can only hope.

"So," Glorfindel said to me, as we walked down the hall. I was trying to ignore him, but it's hard, because Glorfindel's very presence seems to demand attention. "What's your name?"

"Erestor," I replied, shortly.

Glorfindel stopped walking, and looked me seriously in the eyes. "What makes you think balrogs don't exist, Erestor?"

I know I've mentioned I hate this Elf, but have I mentioned that Glorfindel is one of the Wise? Well, he is. I have learned that when he is serious, I am in big trouble.

"There's no proof," I said.

"I was killed by a balrog," said Glorfindel, still serious.

"Can you prove it?" I asked. Stupid, stupid me.

"There were witnesses."

"They have all sailed. Or died."

"Fëanor was killed by balrogs."

"So they say."

"There are the tabloids, of course," said Glorfindel, but his mouth twitched like he was trying not to smile. Not that this indicated I was out of trouble yet.

"Are you referring to the 'Secrets of Moria' article?" I asked him.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Gondorian tabloids, I shall explain. The 'Secrets of the Deep' article featured a full page photograph of a (winged) balrog eating a Dwarf. Charming, I must say. The tabloid claimed to have sent reporters into the depths of Moria to recover film from Dwarven cameras. And of course, some poor deceased Dwarf had photographed the balrog, presumably as he was fleeing for his life (this was before he was deceased).

Apart from the fact that the balrog looked like a goat someone had imaginatively but clumsily 'enhanced' on a computer, cameras hadn't been invented in 1980 T.A. An Elf tried to use the tabloid as proof in the 232nd Annual Wings Debate, but we mocked him shamelessly. Hence Glorfindel's dry amusement.

"I think you had better not say anything else on this subject," said Glorfindel.

He might have persuaded me in some other way, but I don't like being told not to do something. I gave the horrid Elf a severe look. "Why shouldn't I?" I asked.

"Some people may become distressed," said Glorfindel. "You know how much they love the Annual Wing Debates."

I snorted, considering asking him 'are you that deluded?', but fortunately for me, my brain started working again, and I said nothing else.

"It might not make you popular if you ruined their fun," said Glorfindel, who was back to being serious.

"Are you threatening me?" I asked him icily.

"Yes," said Glorfindel, which is enough to take the wind out of anyone's sails. People aren't supposed to readily admit that they're threatening others. They're supposed to be shocked at the suggestion. Glorfindel must have missed that particular memo.

I must have been gaping at Glorfindel in astonishment, because he gave me a very bright smile and took me to the infirmary. He told the healer there that I was unwell and needed to be confined to bed.

I spent the next few days in the infirmary bed, researching things. I managed to find an Elfling who would sneak in the books I needed, and Glorfindel never caught him once, though he lurked around the infirmary threateningly, and tried to keep people from talking to me. This was because I was delirious, apparently.

By the time I was 'well' enough to get out of the infirmary, I was sure that my theory was correct. All accounts of balrogs contradicted each other. No survivor could get his story straight. Perhaps all the shadows and flames had been obscuring their vision. Or perhaps they were all just lying their heads off.

Balrogs are supposed to be spirits that Morgoth corrupted. He kept them in Utumno. But no one saw them when they were there. The first time the Elves 'saw' the balrogs was when Fëanor got killed by them.

Here is my theory: Fëanor died in a really pathetic way, quite unbecoming for a hero, and his sons cooked up a plot. They would blame balrogs! What are balrogs? Spirits with whips of fire, made of shadow and flame. Special servants of Morgoth. Very bad. Poor Fëanor met his match, and he fought off lots of them, but eventually they killed him. It's tragic. Curse the evil balrogs!

Then the other Elves caught on. Something bad happens –they don't put up a spectacular enough fight, someone falls into a fountain with his heavy armor on and drowns, a whole city gets destroyed– and they blame the balrogs! Obviously no one can disprove them. No one can defeat a balrog. Let that be a lesson to you too. Don't mess with shadow and flame.

The Dwarves got in on this as well. I think that there was a big gas explosion or something in Moria. One of those mining disasters. They had to flee. They blamed a balrog. So did half of Lothlorien.

As for Gandalf, we're all very proud of him, aren't we? Like everyone else, the balrog killed him eventually, but he came back to life! The Valar must love him too!

I think he was pushed.

Aragorn was all for leading the Fellowship himself, and Boromir was an irrational mortal. Either one of them could have knocked the old guy over the edge. And then they browbeat the Fellowship – all those poor, impressionable hobbits– into saying that a balrog had killed him. Noble death, and all that. How convenient.

They didn't expect to have to deal with a resurrected Gandalf, but, in the end, they didn't have to deal with him. He came back to Middle-earth, found out that he'd been given a hero's death, and decided not to contradict anyone. I mean, how would you prefer to be remembered? As the old geezer who got pushed off a bridge, or the powerful wizard who killed a balrog to save the Fellowship?

Yes, he felt the same the way.

And Gandalf's one of the Wise, like Glorfindel. Other Wise-guys are Lord Elrond, Lord Celeborn, Lady Galadriel, and Saruman. I wouldn't trust any of them as far as I can throw a sack of bricks.

The general premise of my book was this: YOU HAVE BEEN DECEIVED! BALROGS ARE NONEXISTENT!

I was sure my book (Wings: The Great Balrog Conspiracy) would be a bestseller. Unfortunately, people don't like being told they have been deceived. My book was not a bestseller. I sold three or four copies. That would have made me fairly happy, except I'd heard one purchaser complaining the day before that he had run out of firewood.

In desperation, I did a book signing. Two people showed up. One was Glorfindel. The other was someone who had printed my book off the Internet (how had it gotten there?). At first I was going to insist that he buy the book I signed for him, but eventually I decided that I should be grateful anyone wanted my signature, so I signed his pile of printer paper.

I sat at my desk, with my pot of ink and my quill pen, feeling very dejected. Glorfindel came over and stood by the desk and looked down at me thoughtfully. Then he said, "The Wise are not pleased by your lack of cooperation."

Which sounds rather pretentious, as I write it down later, but it sounded very scary at the time. Especially when I glanced up at Glorfindel and saw that he was wearing black robes and sunglasses, and frowning seriously at me. When Glorfindel comes to intimidate someone into silence, he does it properly garbed.

This is the sort of thing that happens to people who challenge the system.

"Your book is everywhere," said Glorfindel, taking off his sunglasses and folding them away threateningly. "Everyone is reading it!" He sounded panicky, for some reason.

"I have sold four copies of my book," I said, staring sadly at all the copies of Wings that sat in high, high stacks beside my desk. "And I think someone was burning them."

"They should be burned!" cried Glorfindel. "They are full of propaganda! Anti-Wise propaganda! Anti-Noldor propaganda!"

"Nonsense," I said.

"You implied that I had clumsily toppled off a cliff!" said Glorfindel, hysterically (for Glorfindel).

"Didn't you?" I asked, mildly.

Glorfindel flushed slightly. "No," he snapped. "And you said that Gandalf had been murdered!" he continued. He was clearly overwrought.

"Wasn't he?" I asked. The more Glorfindel went on about it, the more sure I was of the truth of my theory.

"No!" snarled Glorfindel. "You said terrible things about the Noldor! Ecthelion has been everyone's hero for hundreds of years, for example. His name strikes fear into the black hearts of Orcs! And now you're saying that he fell into his fountain and drowned because of his heavy armor!"

I nodded. There was no point in denying it.

"People may not have been buying your books!" said Glorfindel, "but it's all over the Internet where they can read it for free! Everyone's talking about your paranoid conspiracy theories!"

"Oh," I said, startled, and becoming more cheery.

Glorfindel made a few more rather disturbing threats (which I shall not record here), and then dragged me out of the book signing room and took me back to the infirmary. Where I stayed for two weeks. I think. I don't know for sure, because I was unconscious most of the time. (I'm certain they slipped a soporific into my tea.)

When I was conscious again and could speak coherently, I asked what had happened to my books. They had all been publically burned by Glorfindel, the healer told me. Elrond had said it was necessary. The Internet had crashed two weeks ago, and it seemed unlikely it would be repaired within the next millennium.

It was the Wise! They were the ones keeping it all a secret. They didn't want the Elves to realize that the Elf-Banes were fictitious! They wanted us to continue to live in fear!

Or perhaps...

I thought to myself that perhaps all they wanted was to keep the Annual Wings Debate. They couldn't debate over balrogs' wings if no one believed in balrogs anymore. But why would they want us to be debating wings? Did it amuse them in some twisted way?

Glorfindel came and visited me while I was in the infirmary. He brought me balloons and a get-well-soon card.

I think Glorfindel has an evil sense of humor.

Glorfindel told me that Lord Elrond would forgive me for my 'criminal act' (writing a book). However, if I said anything else about balrogs being nonexistent, the Wise would punish me most severely.

It is my humble opinion that everyone takes this balrog stuff too seriously.

"Why do you care?" I asked.

Glorfindel sat down on the chair next to my bed and gave me a very long lecture. About balrogs. About how everyone needs a myth, a fairy tale, a legend, to keep them happy. About how people need heroes. It was rather touching.

I think the bottom line of this was 'everyone would be devastated if they found out that I had fallen off a cliff instead of saving the people of Gondolin from a terrible fate'. I only think that was the bottom line, because he never said anything about himself. It was all about the poor people. The poor people and their little balrog fantasy. Which I had so carelessly trampled underfoot.

He actually managed to make me feel guilty. But not for very long. When Glorfindel was gone, I had a good idea. I would telephone Prince Legolas of Mirkwood.

Though if anyone calls the place 'Mirkwood' anymore, they get in huge trouble. 'Mirkwood' is the term the mortals gave that forest, and it implies that the forest is murky. Which it is not. We have to call things by their genuine Elvish names now.

So, I telephoned Prince Legolas of Eryn Lasgalen.

When I gave my name to his secretary, I was told that he was out playing golf, and he would be back later. I sat in my infirmary bed and wondered how on earth they had managed to make a golf course in Eryn Lasgalen. Wouldn't all the trees get in the way?

As I pondered this, I suddenly realized that perhaps the secretary was misinformed (i.e. lying), and that Legolas was not golfing, he just didn't want to talk to me. That was a depressing thought. I needed to talk to Legolas! Legolas had been with the Fellowship, and he was an Elf, and not so easily browbeaten.

He would know whether balrogs existed or not. He was the perfect witness!

While I waited for Legolas to finish with his 'golfing', I telephoned Frodo, who currently resides in his sprawling beach house in Valinor.I hoped thatin Valinor no one would have heard of the Infamous Erestor yet.

"Frodo Baggins speaking," said a harassed voice. Yes, Frodo definitely had a harassed voice. I've never heard one before.

"Master Baggins," I said, "this is very important."

"You want to know if balrogs have wings or not, don't you?" asked Frodo, sounding even more harassed, if such a thing were possible. "Well, I don't know! It was dark and gloomy, and I couldn't see very clearly! Does that satisfy you?"

I shook my head, realized I was on the telephone and said, "No, I want to know if balrogs exist."

There was a clattering noise and a brief silence. I think he had dropped the telephone. I began to wonder if Frodo had suffered from a heart attack, because that sort of thing is common with mortals. Then a new, more cheerful voice said, "I'm sorry, sir, but Mr. Frodo isn't feeling well. Goodbye."

That was the end of my conversation with the Ringbearer. I should have asked for his autograph instead, I thought. I might have been more successful.

I telephoned Legolas again, and this time I said my name was Glorfindel, I was the editor of a magazine for teenage girls and I was wondering if I could have an interview with Legolas (and maybe get some photographs too). I think Legolas must have tackled his poor secretary to get at the telephone as fast as he did.

"Hello!" said Legolas.

"How was your golfing?" I asked him innocently.

There was a sound of confusion on the other side of the line. I smirked to myself. Then I said, "My name is actually Erestor, and I really need to ask you a question."

"Yes?" asked Legolas warily, sounding a lot less cheerful. At least he hadn't faked a heart attack.

"Was there a balrog in Moria?" I asked.

"I don't give interviews for free," said Legolas.

I am only a poor advisor. At this statement, I was the one who fell silent. Then I asked, "Have you ever been abducted by aliens, your highness?"

"Yes!" said Legolas excitedly. "No one believes me when I tell them, but you're the Elf with the conspir– I mean, yes, I have been abducted by aliens, once or twice."

"What was it like?" I asked.

"Terrible," said Legolas succinctly.

"Why?" I asked, curious in spite of myself.

"There's all these beautiful maidens swooning at my feet," said Legolas. "I think in the alien culture, I'm rather a celebrity."

Which means he's a celebrity everywhere. It's not fair. I wish some beautiful maidens would swoon at the sight of me. I'd be grateful if even one maiden swooned at my feet. But the only way I'm going to get a maiden unconscious is if I bash her over the head with a book.

"Interesting. What is the alien culture like?" I asked, once I was done fuming quietly.

"A lot like ours, actually," said Legolas, and then he went off on this long, long monologue about the alien culture. Which did sound a lot like ours. The telephone bill for the infirmary is going to be astronomical.

When he was done, I tentatively asked him, "Was there a balrog in Moria?"

And he said, "No."

I took a deep breath, but it was a little shaky when I exhaled, so I took another breath. Now was not a good time to become overexcited, I reminded myself.

At this moment, Glorfindel snatched the telephone out of my hand, and yanked it off its telephone cord. At the sight of the unfortunate telephone being so cruelly and carelessly dismembered, I became worried for my personally safety.

"What have you been doing?" asked Glorfindel, holding the telephone cord in one hand and the handset in the other.

At that point, I wasn't quite capable of replying to that question, so Glorfindel had to wait for me to stop hyperventilating. He was very patient about this. I think he rather enjoyed watching me stare at him with huge eyes and a panicked expression andgasp for breath. When I was done, Glorfindel repeated himself.

Now, after nearly passing out when caught at making telephone calls, one can't very well say that one was doing 'nothing' and act innocent. So I said, "I was talking to Prince Legolas."

"About what?" asked Glorfindel, looking at the telephone cord with interest, as if he'd only recently realized that he had ripped it out of the infirmary wall. Glorfindel really scares me sometimes.

"About how he was abducted by aliens," I said. And then I went off in a long, long monologue about alien culture. I was only an eighthof the way through it when Glorfindel got bored, which is impressive, because I thought he'd have stopped me after the first couple sentences.

"Going to write a book about that too?" he asked.

I wondered if this was a trick question, so I was very noncommital in my reply.

"Lord Elrond says that you can leave the infirmary now," said Glorfindel.

Here is my theory about the Wise: Glorfindel is in charge. He glides around Imladris, being the cheerful, friendly, upbeat Elf that everyone loves, and he secretly has all these plots and plans in action. No one suspects him, except for me.

Once I had figured this out, my life became an even more nerve-wracking thing to live. I stayed in my room most of the time.

Oh, and I think I should mention that the telephone lines went down that afternoon, and it is unlikely that they'll be fixed within the next millennium. So I was cut off from the outside world. But that was the whole point of it, I suppose.

Two days later, Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel arrived in Rivendell on their private jet. Then Gandalf showed up. He'd come all the way from Valinor. I locked the door to my bedroom and hid in my closet for most of the time. Perhaps you think I was being paranoid. I think I was being practical.

The Wise must have decided that I was too dangerous to be let run around Rivendell causing havoc, because they sent the Three to get me.

Those of you who have never heard of the Three, you are very lucky people.

There are the Wise: Celeborn, Galadriel, Elrond, Glorfindel, Gandalf and Saruman (though he got knocked off their members list recently). Who does the Wise's dirty work when Glorfindel won't suffice? The Three.

Their names are Haldir, Rúmil, and Orophin.

Apparently after the War, these three brothers decided that they were sick of being happy-go-lucky Wood-Elves, and that they would prefer being assassins. There you have it. It was that simple.

The Three broke into my room the day after the Wise had congregated.

I hear that Lindir has written a song about what followed. Apparently it's called The Defenestration of Erestor and it's a smash hit in Rivendell. I know that there's one little detail Lindir probably got wrong. The Three did not throw me out of the window. I jumped out of the window myself. (This was my cunning escape plan.)

Because it was my cunning escape plan, I had already managed to throw my mattress out the window, and I didn't have far to fall. I landed on the mattress, got up, and ran for my life.

That is nearly the end of my story.

I suppose I should tell you that the Wise changed their name to the Wyze after some discussion. Rivendell Weekly interviewed Galadriel, and she said that they had decided to make their title 'more modern'. Ah, it's progressive times we live in.

The Three retired after my defenestration. Glorfindel was angry that they had let me get away. I have heard rumors that Glorfindel ishunting me down, that there's a price on my head, and other cheering bits of news. I may have to leave my little cave someday and find a new place to live.

I hear the weather in Harad is quite nice all year around, if one doesn't mind sandstorms and things. I'm considering moving there, to live among the mûmakil.

I am sorry that I don't have more answers to give you. I do not know if Legolas was really abducted by aliens. I do not know how my book got on the Internet. I do not know why the Wyze were so intent on preserving their Annual Wings Debate. I suspect that it amuses Glorfindel to watch people argue about balrogs' wings as though it's a matter of life or death, when he knows that balrogs don't even exist.

But it may all be part of a deeper plot. The question of balrogs' wings was something created to distract us from the truth. We shall see what the Wyze are really plotting soon enough.

All we need to do is wait.