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King, Come At Red Morning

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original art by ewebean rebloggable here

The stars were beginning to shine as Dis reached the door, clutching her cloak tight against the cold. A candle flickered behind the shutters and there was the smell of broth and mushrooms. Fili must have prepared dinner for himself and his brother. With her hand on the curled, iron handle, Dis paused to close her eyes and let out a long breath.

She hadn’t seen either of her sons since they’d left first thing in the morning for their lessons. And once again, they had spent most of the day looking after themselves. It scared her most in these moments of quiet, when the challenges of the day were laid aside and her thoughts turned from great endeavours to the little tasks left behind for her children. Fili sometimes forgot to watch the stove while he was cooking, and heaven forbid he try to sharpen his swords by himself again. Kili was apt to run barefoot through rocks and forges rather than wait for her to fix a broken shoe, was too small to use the wood-axe and yet he always tried to cut the kindling himself when she wasn’t home, too excited by imagining they were orc-necks or whatever adventures he was living in today—

But the candle was lit and the food was cooked. They were safe and alive for another day. She must not dwell on woes that had not yet taken shape.

“Mama!” Fili cried as she swung open the door and stepped inside. He was ladling the stew into two little bowls on the table, and slopped it everywhere when he saw her.

“Darling. I’m sorry I’m so late.”

Kili was standing on top of the rickety shelves in the corner, arranging his toys on the windowsill. He twisted his head around guiltily at the sound of her voice.

“Kili, get down from there!” she snapped, beckoning him. He grinned and with a growl leapt into her arms. The shelves rocked but stayed standing. Dis gave a woof as she took his weight. At twelve he was too heavy to jump on top of her and demand to be carried about, especially at the end of a long day. She felt aches and pains in her joints that she did not remember from before her marriage, and her left arm shuddered with the old wound from Azanulbizar. It hurt today worse than usual, because of the cold. But she still she kissed the top of her son’s head, squeezed him and set him down gently. “Go and wash your hands, you filthy little animal.”

“Yes, Mama.” He sprinted off to the laundry, banging the back door as he went. Dis had told him to slow down and walk carefully more times than she could count; it didn’t stick.

“Let me get that, Fili my love,” she said, taking off her cloak and laying it on the back of her husband’s old rocker. It was her rocker now, really – she was the only one who ever used it, even when they had visitors. But it still felt like his, as if it had moulded to his shape when it was new and had now set hard like iron left to cool.

“I’ve got it,” Fili insisted, taking the ladle with him as he went to fetch a third bowl for her. “I made enough for us all. I figured you would be back soon.”

She had not meant to be home so late. When she left before noon she had only meant to bring a bag of surveying measurements up from the valley. But when she reached the library where Ginnar and his apprentices were beginning the designs for the new outer wall, the only members of the council present were Balin and Oin. Frerin had gone hunting, and taken half his senior advisors with him.

So Dis had stayed in the library and overseen the first designs for the project, even as the hours ticked by and she thought of her boys alone on the other side of town, running off to climb trees or beg the stables to let them ride the ponies or heading down the cliffs to the river to see if it was warm enough to swim in. Fili was sensible enough to keep them out of the worst trouble, but suppose they did not tell anyone where they were going, suppose she went home and they were missing, suppose the sun set before she could find them? The nights were cold, and there had been wolves spotted in the paddocks last month. But she could not leave the council, either.

She had been doing that a lot since Frerin had become king. Taking charge of the council, making decisions, pushing things along. And if she didn’t keep an eye on things commissions would fall behind. Jobs would go undone. Her orders would even be ignored or dismissed if she didn't press the matter. After all, she was only the sister of the king, why should anyone do as she said? She felt like a nagging wife driving her husband to market on a hot day. Frerin made her feel like that. But if she didn’t run this damn town, no one would.

“I learned about dragons today,” Kili announced as he returned to the table, dripping but slightly cleaner. She inspected his palms and nails before she let him sit down.

“What did you learn?” she asked.

“All the different types, and how to trap and kill the different ones, the battles in the north,” Kili talked with his mouthful. “Uncle Frerin came and took our history lesson. It was much more exciting than learning about all the boring names of kings. And he doesn’t tell me off for asking questions like Boric does, he likes me asking questions.”

So that’s where Frerin had been before she went to council; Balin had sent out messengers to find him without success.

“I’m sure he does,” Dis smiled at him. Frerin had always had a soft spot for her youngest. Dis knew Kili reminded Frerin of himself, who as a child was always chided for being too loud or too eager or too rough. She glanced at Fili. “Did you learn anything new today, Fili?”

“A bit,” Fili mumbled, pushing lumps around his bowl with his spoon. “I messed up my sword forms again. I’m never going to get better.”

“You are getting better,” Dis frowned, touching his arm. She wished she had the time to teach him herself, with more patience and encouragement than his elderly tutors had, but there was so much to do, and every day her time was eaten up faster than she could gather it. She turned back to finish her stew. She hadn’t realised how hungry she was until she found her bowl was nearly empty and her stomach was still rumbling. She was loathe to ask Frerin for some of the meat from his hunt, if he’d even been successful, but she could mention how skinny Kili was and he’d likely offer it. She pushed her bowl aside. “I’m going to get my pipe while you two get yourselves to bed. If you’re quick about it, shall I tell you a story?”

“Yes! What story?” Kili raised his head, licking juice from his upper lip. He’d missed most of it; Dis leaned across to wiped his mouth. She sucked her thumb clean as she got up to clear the table.

“I want a story about Thorin,” Fili said quietly. “The one they call the Abiding King.”

Dis paused with her back to the table, leaning down to put the bowls into the bucket that served as their sink. She forced a smile to her face as she turned back to Fili. “Have you been learning about him, then?”

“Nori’s papa was talking about him,” Fili mumbled, scraping the last of his stew together at the bottom of his bowl. “He’s our uncle, right?”

“He was your uncle,” Dis said.

“Nori’s papa says he’s still alive.”

“People say a lot of things,” Dis took his bowl and spoon before he even had time to put them down. “They’re just stories. Don’t call Thorin a king in front of your uncle, think how rude it is.”

“I want to hear the story,” Fili stared her down.

“Fine,” Dis picked up the bucket. The clatter of the dishes inside was much louder than she had meant it to be. She headed for the water-barrel outside the back door. “Go and get ready for bed, and I’ll tell you about Thorin.”

By the time the dishes were set to dry on the bench and she’d packed her pipe, the boys were in their nightgowns and under the blankets of the bed the two of them shared. It was little more than a pallet with a mattress in the small loft built into the corner of the house, but at least it was warm up there near the ceiling. Gripping the stem of her pipe between her teeth, Dis climbed the steps to sit at the top and lean against the ceiling beams. She struck a match and sucked the flame into the bowl of the pipe while Kili wriggled around trying to get comfortable and Fili pulled the blankets up to his chin.

“I was very little when the dragon came,” she began, resting her arm on her knees.

“How little?” Fili demanded.

“About Kili’s age,” said Dis, breathing out a long plume of smoke. “But Frerin was older than you. He and I used to go running around the hills outside the mountain whenever we could get away from our lessons, chasing rabbits, looking for trouble,” she didn’t need to tell them what mountain she was talking about. They had listened to this history since the cradle. It was in their air and their water and their bones. “That’s where we were that day – up on the slopes, in the golden grasses, exploring the cliffs and the rocky gullies.”

They had not been alone, of course. Some older cousin or maid was always sent to watch the young prince and princess. But they had felt as free as highwaymen.

“Frerin and I were very close in those days,” Dis smiled around her pipe. “We were just like you two, always getting up to mischief and then lying to protect each other even when we’d done nothing wrong ourselves. But our older brother Thorin had been stern and well-behaved from the moment he was born, my grandmother swore it. He was the captain of the king’s guard already. Frerin and I always thought he was made of a different alloy from us – the metal of kings, Frerin said. But we adored him all the same. He was defending the door when the dragon broke into the mountain, but there was nothing he or anyone could have done. Smaug was as long from nose to tail-tip as the road that runs outside our house, and lithe as a mountain lion, with scales as hard as mithril.”

She had not seen the dragon herself, except as a dark shape in the distance above the smoke of Dale’s burning towers. As he had soared towards Erebor, Frerin had pulled her down into a ravine and they had hidden there until they were sure he would not pass overhead. Her impressions of Smaug were a mismatch of stories from her elders, and from the nightmares that had taken years to fade.

“After the dragon entered the mountain, Frerin and I ran back to the road above the main gate,” Dis continued, looking down at the hearth that burned below. “The air smelled of smoke, and many people were fleeing along the road. We climbed down the hill and found Thorin carrying our father out of the mountain. Grandfather was close behind. Papa was wounded, Grandfather raving and confused, and our grandmother still missing. Everyone was looking for someone – a brother, a wife, an old friend – and most of them were never found. Thorin knew many dwarves were still trapped inside. He tried to…”

Dis frowned, wondering how much of her memory was true and how much she had dreamed in the many years since that day. “Thorin entrusted Frerin and I with our father’s care. He kissed my brow and said he would come back soon, and then he took a dozen of his bravest warriors and went back in to look for more survivors. I never saw him again.”

“What happened to him?”Kili whispered. He was snuggled under Fili’s arm now, his hands balled against his chin and his eyes wide. Fili’s hand was combing idly through his brother’s hair.

“Several of the warriors returned alone,” Dis said, waving her pipe. “Burned and terrified, and each with a different tale about what happened in that mountain. They were all afraid to follow Thorin all the way. He went alone towards Smaug, his sword unsheathed and his shoulders straight. Some say the dragon killed him with its gaze, like a lightning strike. Some say he hypnotised Thorin and forced the prince to turn his sword on his own belly,” she regretted her words when Kili gave a tiny flinch, but she could not bear to leave anything out. No one knew the truth, so it was not fair to exclude any part of the telling. “But some of them said only that the dragon’s eye stunned Thorin like a blow, and left him stupefied upon those hallowed floors. For a long time that was the end of it, but after the wars for Moria, after our grandfather was slain and Papa vanished and Frerin took the crown so young…” she took a breath. “People started to talk about Thorin again as if he was alive. They began to call him the Abiding King. They say that he is still under the dragon’s spell, and sleeps in the depths of Erebor upon a nest of gold and mithril threads, with gems upon his brow and a sword in his hand. Perhaps he is waiting for when his people need him most. And then Mahal will awaken him and he will come like a storm over the Misty Mountains and save us.”

Kili pressed close against Fili’s side and squeaked. “It it true? Is Thorin sleeping in Erebor?”

“No, darling,” Dis smiled. “It’s a fairytale, like ‘Jor and the Trolls’, or ‘The Little Dam Who Frightened the Sea Away’.”

“How do you know?” Fili asked.

“Because if Thorin was coming to save us,” said Dis. “He’d have done it by now.”

She sucked deep on her pipe, looking away with a dark rage boiling in her heart. Why had her brother gone back into the mountain that day? There had been no hope. It had been a stupid act of brash defiance. The dwarves outside had needed him. Dis had needed him.

“I’ll be king one day, won’t I?” Fili asked, watching his mother’s pipe flare in the darkness.

Dis looked up at him. “Maybe, my love, if Frerin does not have sons of his own. But not for a very, very long time. Your uncle is young and hale.”

“I want to be king,” Fili yawned. “I want to be brave and strong like Thorin was.”

“You will be all that and more,” Dis shuffled forward and leaned in to kiss them both. She couldn’t bring herself to say anything else. She could not selfishly lay her wishes on her son, her hope that he would never be a shield against the catastrophes that Thror and Thorin took on, that he would never be faced with the choices her brother had faced. She hoped that his life would be slow and simple until, when he was grown and hardened into a wise dwarf, when he had married and raised sons of his own, then perhaps the mantle of the king would pass to him. When he was ready.




65 years later


Bilbo ran, tripping and catching himself on his hands, seeking out any stairway and passage not strewn with the treacherous coins that would reveal his invisible feet. Smaug must be able to hear him. The dragon was tormenting him, letting him think he was on the verge of escape. At any moment his teeth would clamp around Bilbo’s middle and tear him apart. The dwarves had failed to warn him that Smaug was no wild beast, but an intelligent predator who took joy in the hunt itself. Bilbo should have known, he should have realised why they would not go in themselves, why they had taken such pains to bring him along on this quest like a heavy piece of luggage whose purpose had been veiled and unspoken until now. He was the last resort against a foe they knew they could not possibly face themselves. And at any moment, he was going to feel the heat of Smaug's breath on his heels, hear the snap of his teeth or be pierced on the tip of one long claw like a wriggling worm on a fish-hook.

Bilbo ran.

He couldn't remember which direction he'd come from or which of the interlinking stairways led back to the tunnel and up to the secret door. He ran only to get away, to put as much distance between himself and the dragon as he could. When an enclosed corridor beckoned to one side, he took it, his lungs aching as he sprinted between the tall, black pillars that lined the way, glancing left and right in search of a side passage that might afford him further protection. But the walls between the black pillars were pale, featureless marble. The only doorway was a wide arch at the end of the corridor through which Bilbo could see solid darkness. Its lintel bore no runes or relief-scene, only an interlocking carving of braided thorn-bushes. Without any choice except onwards, Bilbo fled inside.

Almost immediately he ran into a wall. Not a metaphorical wall, but a literal wall of smooth, black stone that stood only a few feet inside the darkened room. With a gasp, he felt along the surface of it, terrified that he had just trapped himself in a small storage cupboard. But he quickly discovered that the wall was merely a shield against the light of the corridor, opened on either side. Around the edge of it he tumbled into the room beyond. He could see nothing at first, and the lack of echoes suggested the room was not large, yet the air tasted the same as outside in the great caverns where Smaug had lain asleep. Bilbo staggered forward, arms outstretched, and soon smashed his knee into what turned out to be the broad leg of a large, stone table, set just above the height of a hobbit's elbows. He swore and then clapped his hand over his mouth. Slowly, bruised and panting for breath, he felt his way around the corner of the table. He hands brushed against layers of cool, musty fabric that had been left crumpled on the slab.

Bilbo's eyes were adjusting quickly, but soon he realised he could see his hands far too clearly for comfort. A light was growing in the room. He turned where he stood, seeing no source until, with a fresh judder of his heart, he craned his neck back and realised the room had no roof. Smaug was approaching, and the glow of fire in his belly was racing ahead of him. Bilbo sat in a lidless hole waiting to be scooped out.

In his panic he ran forward, not back, and too late saw that there was no passage that way. The pale, marble walls were turning rosy with the false dawn of Smaug’s arrival. There was no furniture nor features except for more square, black columns in each corner. Bilbo pressed himself between the crook of the nearest pillar and the wall and slid the ring onto his finger just as the dragon swung into view above him.

“There you are.”

The voice poured down into the room, reverberating in Bilbo’s breastbone. For one horrible moment he suffered the thought that the dragon was speaking to him, that he had sniffed him out. And then that long, spiny head snaked down towards the table in the centre of the room and Smaug breathed in deep through his flared nostrils.

“That stinking thief has been here, my gem, but he hasn’t touched you,” he rumbled, and Bilbo’s terror slumped as he realised the dragon wasn’t speaking to him.

In fact, quite the opposite, he didn’t seem to realise Bilbo was there at all. What ‘gem’ was he rambling to? Bilbo’s hand flew to the Arkenstone in his coat, but it remained heavy in hiding. What could be so precious to the dragon, in this huge hoard, that he would keep it hidden away up here on this shadowy altar?

At least Smaug seemed distracted. Maybe he could prove himself a true hobbit and creep away without a sound. With infinite care and silence Bilbo slid to his feet, pressing his back against the corner. As he did so, the surface of the table came into view for the first time, bathed in the red-gold light of the dragon’s belly. And there lay the last thing Bilbo had expected to see; the body of a dwarf lying on his back, nestled in a makeshift bed of rotting blankets and ancient cloaks, his feet resting at Bilbo’s end of the slab. He looked as if he was on display, as if in state for a wake, motionless but for his long hair which shivered as the dragon’s breath washed over him.

For a horrible moment, Bilbo thought it must be one of his friends who had come down the tunnel to find him and been overcome by terror or the dragon’s smoke. But though he couldn’t see much of the dwarf’s face from where he stood, he didn’t recognise the heavy boots at all. So it was some other poor traveller – or a thief most likely, having found a way into the mountain and been caught stealing from the dragon. Bilbo felt a swell of pity at what could have been his own fate lying before him.

Smaug opened his mouth and Bilbo flinched as he saw those wicked teeth again. He supposed that he was about to watch the dragon eat the dead dwarf. He’d evidently wandered into Smaug’s larder. How perfect, how typical of him, stupid Bilbo. He could not believe he had ever let Frerin talk him into his venture. But there was no snap and gulp and wet splatter of congealed blood. Instead, Smaug’s thick, cracked tongue stretched out between his teeth and licked the side of the dwarf’s face, completely covering it with only the flattened tip. Strings of luminous saliva stretched from his tongue. Bilbo shuddered, mouth twisting and hands balling into fists.

Smaug withdrew, his tongue vanishing again as he lifted his head out of the chamber. “I’ll find him, my treasure, never you fear,” he hissed and turned away into the mountain. In a few thuds of his huge footsteps he was gone, and the light with him. Bilbo was left in the black chamber with the smell of brimstone and hot, noxious breath.

He dragged the ring off his finger and staggered forward, heading for the sliver of light that marked the exit behind the dividing wall. But he’d gone only a few steps before he stopped, panting, his racing heart beginning to slow. Curiosity fought with fear and both reminded him that he had to make a decision at once before the dragon came back. He turned towards the table and fumbled for the edge of it in the dark. His eyes were beginning to adjust again and he could see the shape of the dwarf lying in front of him.

He had to know who the dead dwarf was. He felt a kinship for him, a fellow thief, a martyr to the trade of which Bilbo was still a novice. He gripped the lip of the slab and heaved himself up onto it. He thought perhaps he could find some crest or motif on the dwarf’s clothes, maybe a ring or locket with the name of a sweetheart. He didn’t hold out hope for a handkerchief with embroidered initials, but it was certainly on his mind. Even if he couldn't take anything with him other than the memory of a few runes, he could describe them to Balin and Oin later. The old dwarves would surely know which tribe or guild the dwarf had come from.

Bilbo crawled across the disintegrating blankets until he could see the pale shape of the dwarf’s face, a peek of skin above his collar and the glint of silver on his tunic. His beard was cut oddly short, and his nose was long and straight.

A familiar nose.

No, a familial nose. Frerin’s nose, and Fili’s nose.

Bilbo gasped. It wasn’t possible. But the shape of the dwarf’s face, the cut of his cheeks, his mouth, they were all recognisable... no, it wasn’t possible, Bilbo was letting horror stories get a hold of his good sense! But he had studied those same features on Frerin’s face many times (far more than he cared to admit even to himself). He knew them well. He couldn't believe it. The Abiding King was a myth! He had to get a closer look. Leaning forward too far to keep his balance, Bilbo’s hand darted out to prop himself up and inadvertently landed on the dead dwarf’s upturned palm.

He made a choking noise deep in his throat and snatched his hand back, lunging away so quickly he almost fell off the table.

The dwarf’s skin was warm.

Bilbo took a couple of deep breaths and shuffled forward again, carefully placing his hand between the body’s arm and its chest. He couldn’t leave this chamber now without being sure. Slowly, arms shaking with the slowness of his movements and exhaustion after the long day, he leaned down until he could place his ear against the dwarf’s chest. He held his breath. For a moment there was nothing, and he could convince himself he was touching only a stone statue covered in storage cloth. And then he felt, unmistakably, the laborious rise and fall of the dwarf’s chest and the distant beat of a slow heart.

Bilbo straightened upright again, shaking his head. The dwarf was alive. There was a dwarf sleeping peacefully in Smaug’s lair who looked like he could be King Frerin’s brother (at least in this dim light, to a frightened hobbit’s imagination). For a moment Bilbo wondered if he could be in some strange, dreaming funk, brought on by the toxic fumes that belched from Smaug’s belly. It might be easy to imagine heartbeats and family resemblances when you were inebriated by poisons. But his eyes and mind seemed clear, and he was not dizzy.

Abiding King or not, Bilbo could not take the risk that the poor fellow was dead. He reached out and shook the body’s shoulder. “Excuse me, Master Dwarf?” he whispered. “Hello?”

The body was heavy and rocked limply beneath Bilbo’s hand as he shook him harder. “Mr Abiding King!” Bilbo hissed. “Wake up! You must get up!”

There was no response. Bilbo grimaced and leaned down to half-shout in his ear, looking around as if expecting Smaug to be sneaking up behind him, “Thorin! Son of Thrain! Get out of bed!


Bilbo raised his hand and slapped the dwarf's face as hard as he could. The clap echoed around the chamber and Bilbo flinched. But the dwarf did not even stir. Bilbo’s hand came away sticky and stinking, and he realised he’d touched the cheek that Smaug had licked. Disgusted and furious at his own helplessness, Bilbo tugged his sleeve up over his hand and scrubbed at the dwarf’s face to clean him as best he could. He could not bear to leave him here with the dragon’s spittle all over him.

But as he drew away, his thumb brushed against the dwarf’s lower lip. Suddenly there was a twitch of life, a shiver of eyes and mouth as if a bad dream had risen suddenly to the surface. Bilbo froze, staring down at the dwarf.

“Thorin?” he said. Nothing. Bilbo thought back to what Dwalin had said that night in Laketown, about the mocking promise Smaug had made in the burning remains of Erebor: that he would free the hypnotised prince if someone was only brave enough to kiss him. Bilbo had no time to think twice, no time to be ashamed, and anyway… if he was right they would all be glad, and if he was wrong, no one would ever know. He grabbed the sleeping dwarf’s face and kissed his mouth, not chastely but full and deep. For a moment it was sickeningly like kissing a corpse, and then there was movement beneath him and the dwarf was kissing him back, opening his mouth to Bilbo. One shaking arm rose and clutched Bilbo’s elbow, and in shock Bilbo drew away, dislodging the dwarf’s grip.

His eyes were open. They rolled in his head, unfocused. He heaved for breath through his mouth, turning his head this way and that as if seeking fresh air. He rolled onto his side with a groan from the effort, curling into himself as if to nurse an agonising pain deep inside him, eyes squeezed closed again.

“Thorin!” Bilbo grabbed his shoulder. “Mr Thorin, oh dear, oh goodness, can you hear me?”

The dwarf let out a dry rattle from his throat but did not answer.

Somewhere in the distance, Bilbo heard someone calling his name. On the second shout he recognised Frerin’s voice echoing down the corridor. Bilbo looked over his shoulder and shook the woken dwarf roughly. He tried to slide his hands under the dwarf’s body, but he was as heavy as a pony. “Thorin, you must sit up!”

The dwarf did not even seem to hear him. Perhaps he wasn’t Thorin at all. Perhaps he was, but had lost his mind to the dragon. Perhaps he was just falling asleep again. Bilbo turned towards Frerin’s voice, which was getting louder, and started to climb off the table. At once, the dwarf reached out and snatched his arm. Bilbo pulled himself free but held onto the dwarf's hand, squeezing it between both his palms.

“You have to let me go, Thorin. I’m going to get help. I can’t carry you on my own, you’re too heavy. Wait for me here and I promise I’ll come back.”

After a moment the hand relaxed, and Bilbo backed away until he reached the divider, and then he turned and scurried into the corridor.

This time, with his mind clearer than before, he found the stairway back to the tunnel with relative ease. He was clambering up it as fast as he could when he saw Frerin emerge from the doorway above him. The king stopped in his tracks, his jaw hanging slack as he stared about him at the great hall of his grandfather. Bilbo put on an extra burst of speed to reach him.

“I thought you were dead!” Frerin cried, surging towards him.

“Very nearly,” Bilbo panted.

“Did you find him?”

“Who? Smaug? Of course I—” Bilbo stopped. His brow tensed, holding Frerin’s gaze. His friend’s eyes were wide and pleading, but there was a fierce spark behind them that Bilbo could not name.

“Did you find my brother?” Frerin asked breathlessly.

Bilbo swallowed. He decided he would tell Balin and Dwalin first what he had found in the chamber. Yes, that’s what he’d do. He needed at least three pairs of hands, anyway, unless the dwarf he’d left behind had found his strength on his own. He shook his head and said. “No, of course not. We need to go. The dragon’s coming.”

He strode towards the doorway, and found his way blocked by a sword.


Bilbo stepped away, and the point of the sword was suddenly against his breastbone.


He looked into Frerin’s eyes and for a moment he forgot the dragon altogether.

Frerin knew he was lying.

Frerin knew what he’d found.

But he did not need to worry long, because through the cavern there came the crunch and clatter of monstrous, clawed feet among the miles of gold. Bilbo’s gaze flicked over Frerin’s left shoulder and the king’s expression cleared. He turned his head and then his sword. A gasp left him. Down the corridor came the hollering and yelping of the rest of the company arriving, barrelling out onto the landing.

When they saw the dragon, it didn’t take long for every single one of them to turn tail and run. Behind them, Smaug filled the air with his roar.