Chapter 1: 7. Curiosity
It was the faint smell of lilies that made Smaug open his golden eyes. It was a long day full of scaring foolish dwarves and men, burning down any structure close the mountain and just solidifying his claim to Erebor. He had been dozing off that time when he caught the scent of lilies. He pushed it off as a passing thought and maybe even a hallucination, but it didn't disappear. He gave it another moment and then pulled his head out of the pile of gold. With a tilt of his head, he contemplated on what course of action to take and if it would be worth the effort. At the same time, he was curious.
Dwarf? No. Definitely not. The dragon took another whiff, detecting the soft aroma of lilies. Elf? Nope. Elves might smell of flowers, but it would be mixed of the forest and the river… a general smell of the outside. Men? Never. He had scared them time and again that no one would be foolish enough to come close his mountain. It was also impossible for any type of lily that he knew to grow under the mountain, unless… Smaug paused for thought. Could there be an opening somewhere the side of the mountain that could let the scent in? Maybe, but he had explored the mountain and he had never seen any.
Then there was a sound. Smaug started, his head moving higher and his golden eyes squinting in focus. The sound was soft and the vibrations barely reached where he laid but he felt it. It was a small sound, short in length and a little high-pitched. He decided that this definitely needed some investigation.
Standing in all fours, he shook the gold that stuck on his scales and straightened up. The sound echoed again, a little louder and more high-pitched. The frequency of the sound was bothersome, like an inch to the side that you cannot reach but should scratch. A stray animal? He thought as he stretched his limbs awake. If so, then food or a chase would be a welcome entertainment tonight.
Smaug moved, his body changing with each careful step. His first step on the ledge leading to the hallways, his wings had gone and all that was left as evidence that he was a dragon, other than his still golden eyes, were the scales on his shoulder blades. In this form, he could pass as a Man, maybe even an Elf of Rivendell if he let his hair grow longer.
It was time to search for the cause of the sound and the sudden aroma of lilies. It was time to satiate his curiosity.
There it went again.
Weaving through hallways and stepping over debris, he followed the sound that increased in frequency. He didn't stop, using his superior sense of smell to track down the scent of lilies when the sound was absent. It was dark enough that a Man would need a torch to navigate the way. The darkness loomed over him like storm clouds threatening rain and disaster. But Smaug was a dragon and he barely cared of his circumstances. He carried on, his eyes steady looking onward.
The sound came again, louder, closer and clearer. A voice.
"Mum?" Smaug moved to the shadows when he spotted the object of his search. Ten strides ahead him, was a child. A young girl in a billowing nightgown and a head of flaxen gold. She was standing on the edge of a much brighter hallway, staring in the darkness with wide blue eyes. Her hands were fisted around her nightgown and her face was scrunched in internal argument. She was pale, so pale that she was glowing and could easily be an elf child. "Mum?"
She took a step closer to the darkness, her eyes squinted as if trying to see what was there. She was barefoot and he saw that she was careful in her step. "Is anyone there?"
The sound echoed, rejected by the walls and passed on to others until it faded. Smaug retreated, his eyes glued on her little form. He moved inside a room and tore the curtains, covering his naked form. What? Surely you didn't think he would transform clothed? He had thought that it was of little consequence when he started the search since if it was a dwarf or someone who would wish his death, he would've turned back to a dragon and burned him. He had the same plans if it was a stray animal. He never expected that it was a little girl. He quickly, but silently moved returning to his post and satisfied that the lass was still there. She was still looking at the darkness but her face was more relaxed than before, curiosity painting her pale face. He watched her carefully, wondering why a girl such as her would be in a place like this. By her nightgown, it was clear she was well taken care of and there was a family in the picture. She started looking around, picking a rock and then throwing it to the dark hallway. He could see her listening carefully and thinking hard. The emotions in her eyes racing like fire dancing.
He smothered a chuckle when she took a piece of wood and turned it on her hand. What does she think? That such small piece of wood would protect her from what laid in the darkness? Did it mean that she wanted to venture this darkness? He wondered if he would call her brave or foolish. She held the wood like a sword, her stance all wrong. She took a step closer and another, determined. Did she ever thought how long the darkness is? Foolish little girl.
He decided to cut this foolishness short, taking an abandoned torch on the wall and lighting it up with his fire breath. There was a squeal and he turned his head lazily to the girl, catching her shocked expression and her two hand grip around her sword. He grinned.
"Who are you little girl?" He raised his brow and tilted his head. "Why are you here in my lair?"
Her sword lowered and she also observed him from head to toe. "Lair? Shouldn't it be called a home?"
"My home is long gone." He waited a few beats before continuing. "You didn't answer my question girl."
She tensed and red dusted her cheeks in embarrassment. "I am sorry sir. You see I just woke up in this place and I am sure that I am dreaming this place. I am sure you are part of my dream too."
"How can you say?" He was intrigued. Him? A dream? This place? A dream to wake up to? Preposterous. But when he thought of it, who was dreaming who? Was she a dream of his then?
"Well…" She lowered her sword completely and patted her nightgown. "I have pinched myself and felt pain, but places like this are only in Mum's stories. And I have not met anyone with golden eyes like you." She took a deep breath. "If this is not a dream, then I should wake up in my bed."
How logical, Smaug mused. "You have felt pain, but still you deem this a dream. How foolish you are little girl. What could've happened if you were hurt?"
"I wouldn't. This is just a dream after all. My dream too." Stubborn. "Who are you sir?"
Well, if this was a dream then this little girl would hardly remember it when she wakes up. Or, if this was his dream, then it would be nothing but a passing thought. "Smaug. Put down that useless sword of yours, girl, and follow me. As long as you are with me, no harm will come to you."
He turned around and started walking, not caring if the girl would be scared of following him when she was sure in venturing the darkness before. He heard the clatter of wood and the whisper of moving cloth. Soon enough, he saw her catching up on his side. "Just Smaug?" Her question made him pause and look at her with a raised brow. She blinked and continued in explanation. "Well, do you not have a last name?"
"Like a title?"
She bit her lip in thought. "Could be?"
"They call me Smaug the Stupendous." He stopped and turned again, waiting as she maneuvered her way around the debris. She was such a small child, barely reaching his waist. Her blonde hair fell around her in a mess of waves. If it wasn't for her ears, he would've deemed her an elf. Maybe even one of Thranduil's. He pushed the thought since it was useless to dwell on it any longer when the child was clearly human. "Among others."
"Mr. Stupendous?" She halted, looking at him with such a sour expression that he laughed. He laughed loud and it echoed through the hallways. The red on her cheeks returned and her hands gripped her nightgown. She also looked like she was trying not to cry.
"Smaug is fine." He held out his hand. "Who are you little lass?"
She took deep breaths and sniffled a bit. When she met his gaze with her lips in a straight line, he admired her courage and stomped down the little voice that expressed the wish to see her cry. "Susan Pevensie."
"Come, Susan Pevensie. Let me show you my lair." Her hand was so small around his and it was warm. It was real, so real.
He helped her through the obstacles on the way to the treasury and when the darkness faded away, he abandoned the torch. Susan Pevensie was a quiet and observant girl, with her blue eyes jumping and taking in every detail. She was also a curious lass and what he found amusing was that she asked the right questions.
"Why do you live alone here?"
"How can you say?"
"Well, you call this place 'my lair'."
"So why do you live alone?"
"Because there's no one else."
"Are you sad?"
He thought long and hard on how to answer such query.
"Why are they dead?"
"War killed them."
"Oh." She was quiet taking and processing the information he easily gave her. "Dad told us that war is an ugly thing."
"Pete and I. Mum doesn’t like Dad telling Ed and Lu things like that yet." She smiled proud. "Mum said they aren't old enough."
He helped her jump over a ledge, and then took her in his arms so that they could easily bolt over a fallen column.
"Why aren't you finding someone to live with you?"
"Do I need someone?"
"Well, someone to take care of you."
"I can take care of myself."
"Someone to love you then." She just smiled, proud once more with her words. "Mum said we all need someone to be happy."
"There is no one to search for."
"There is no one left like me."
She tilted her head and watched his face. He could feel it like a waves splashing against the shore. They made their trek in silence after that. Her hand in his and their bare footsteps echoing faintly.
"Come, Susan Pevensie." He led her to the treasury and watched as her mouth formed an 'O'. Her eyes widened and reflected the gold that littered around them. "Here is where I stay."
"Gold?" She couldn’t believe it. It was clear on how she turned to him, on how her voice was shy a whisper and on how she gripped his hand.
"Why?" Her face was scrunched again and he found himself smiling at seeing it once more. "I can't see a bed and it doesn't look comfortable."
"Because, my dear Susan Pevensie, I am a dragon."
Why would he show her his dragon form? Simple, (and quite foolish if you ask him afterward) he wanted to see Susan's reaction. The fear that he expected was fleeting, replaced by wonder and curiosity (always curiosity). He relished the expression, something surprising and rare. Such a strange child.
"Do you not fear me? Do you not fear that I will hurt you?" He asked as he leveled his large face to where she was. He laid there like he always did, his tail moving to and fro in expression of his intrigue. Susan Pevensie just sat on a boulder watching him as he did to her. She had expressed her awe in words a few moments ago, before she quieted down enough for him to ask.
"You said that as long as I am with you, no harm will come to me." She mimicked his words simply, as if it was truth. "Why would I fear you then?"
"What if I lied back then?" His voice rumbled as he tried to break this little girl's logic.
"You're a good dragon." She shrugged, as if that statement explained everything. Him? Smaug the Destroyer, a good dragon. What would the world say if they heard such statement, from a little innocent girl nonetheless. "And this is my dream, so I wouldn't let you hurt me."
He sighed, his breath making her hair and her nightgown flutter. He held his paw(? Hand?) out to her the second time in invitation. She readily accepted, moving to sit on his palm and holding on one of his talons.
What a trusting young child Susan Pevensie was. A curious mix of logic and imagination.
He showed her toys and trinkets. He laughed when she wore the gaudy necklaces and tried to stuff her fingers full of rings. He watched as she chucked them all off because it was too heavy. He made sure to stop her when she asked if he would wear the jewels. He followed her with his gaze as she made her way carefully through the mounts of gold in exploration. Her exclamations of glee and interest was something he found entertaining. His tail was there hovering nearby whenever she was close to slipping, or when her feet buried easily through the gold. She would laugh when his tail would pull her out and place her steady again and again. She never forgot to thank him too.
She was a quiet child, but when she starts speaking, it was something interesting.
"Have you stolen princesses?" She quipped suddenly when she found a small crown that fit her head perfectly. The crown was made of sapphires and diamonds, imitating that of the waves of the sea.
"No." He helped her make her way to him with his tail, her arms full of her new discoveries. Previously, she had shown him a golden sculpture of a horse the size of her palm. With that trinket came a story of how her brother Peter almost fell off a horse in one of their trips outside of town.
"Do you know a dragon who had stolen a princess?"
"Hmm. Well that's something the stories got wrong."
Then, she told him of stories where dragons stole princesses and how knights or princes would come to rescue them. Smaug scoffed at this, telling her that never could one man defeat a dragon, especially of his size and power. Susan shrugged and told him again that maybe it was something that the stories got wrong.
"Never trust the stories Susan Pevensie."
"Maybe I won't. I have never heard a princess' side of the story."
Then she went back in exploring, his tail always hovering to assist her.
"Are you really not going to find someone?" She asked when she returned, her arms holding fewer trinkets than before.
"I already told you there are no others like me."
"Maybe not a dragon." For a young girl, she spoke and thought advanced than any child he had encountered in a while.
"People fear dragons."
"Well… that is something the stories got right." She smiled as she sorted her new findings. "I'm not scared of you though."
She looked meticulously at each trinket, as if memorizing each detail that was on it. A keen eye that he found himself interested in. Would she know that they were made by the dwarves? Would she know that this was once their dwelling? That as her stories told, dragons stealing gold was another truth?
"How about you stay here with me then?" She paused for a moment, then placed the trinket in her hand down.
"Do you want to stay here?"
"With all these toys?"
"Yes. The trinkets too."
"Really?" Doubt colored her blue eyes and turned her lips down.
He saw her sorrow and he wondered if it was because she wanted to agree to his offer but couldn't, or because she was afraid of offending him. "Why?"
"Ed would need someone to play with when Peter doesn't want to. Mum needs some help with taking care of Lucy. Dad was planning we go to the park when weekend comes. Peter will need help making bedtime stories."
"I don't want them to worry."
She was such a mature child, one that made Smaug think if her childhood way of thinking was stolen or was neglected at will. He studied the girl as she once again made another exploration and was startled when she squealed. Her face was carved with a smile as she staggered her way to him, her hands gripping tight on something. The moment she stopped, she held it out to him with all excitement.
"What is it?"
"You don't know?"
"Which is why I am asking."
She huffed and clambered on the ledge so that she could place it there. Carefully, she opened the lid and music filled the room in the next moment. Her eyes fluttered close and her excited smile softened. A music box. She found a music box and had discarded everything for this. Smaug observed her expressions and found himself taken by her childhood awe and curiosity. The way her eyes took everything in consideration and how her thoughts worked. They listened as the music carried on in signature dwarf fashion of deep tones and hollow echoes, punctuated by lovely twinkling of bells.
"Isn't it beautiful?"
"Indeed. You will make a fine treasure hunter." She chuckled at the compliment, hiding the blush on her cheeks by looking away.
It was cut short though when she suddenly looked up and listened to something he couldn't hear. It spanned a few moments before she spoke to him. "Can't you hear that?"
"No." Not even his superior senses could.
"Peter's calling me for breakfast. I should go."
She stood up and straightened her nightgown, wrinkling her nose at the dust and soot that it acquired. He, on the other hand, was confused at what she was speaking of. Clearly, it was something that was exclusive to her and that he would never hear it. So with a few moments of having Susan close her eyes, he changed once more so that he could escort her to wherever she must go. Words were few as he helped her once more up the steps and the debris, when they were past the column, she said she needed to go on alone.
"Till next time Smaug." She waved her hand.
"Dream of me when that happens." He joked, his own hand in a wave.
She turned and he witnessed when the darkness engulfed her nightgown. He was witness when Susan Pevensie disappeared in thin air. He wondered, whose dream was this?
Chapter 2: 11. Music Box
A music box is a manifestation of change, however disruptive or rhythmic it is.
Thank you so much for the kudos, reading this, and commenting. Any questions or whatever, feel free to ask.
Heads up. Even Narnia is in AU, though I think I said that already...or was it in FF.net?
Smaug had thought of Susan Pevensie for a few days every month that passed. He found himself thinking of the little girl that glowed like a star in the dark sky with how pale she was. He also heard her voice in his thoughts and her golden hair. It was certainly quite an entertainment that toppled scaring dwarves and destroying villages when he was bored. Boredom was pushed to the bay with recalling young Susan, how she spoke, how she would blush and her nonexistent fear of dragons.
It was a good dream.
Imagine his surprise when after a round about the mountain, he found her sitting on the ledge she was previously sitting on when he entered the treasury. He needed to look closer to make sure, because her hair was darker even when the scent of lilies was the same. She sat there, the music box she found in her first visit on her lap. Grown and her hair now auburn. (He had left it where it was and listened to it when he was too bored, or when he was missing her. He wouldn't speak of the latter though.)
It was a good dream. For her. Now Smaug was sure he wasn't the one dreaming. (Maybe he was hallucinating, but the magic of Middle Earth could conjure anything.)
Even with his entrance of flapping wings and echoing footsteps, she remained bowed. Her hands were gripping the music box to tight and her shoulders were hunched so low. Her tresses was a curtain to the outside world and Smaug contemplated on what action he should do. He would ask himself later why he cared about the girl's emotions when he had destroyed and burned a thousand of little girls' lives. He would wonder later, but his decision was that he was Smaug the Last Dragon of this age, and he could do what the hell he wanted. If that was to spare a lass' life, then so be it.
"Lassie." His voice rumbled and echoed before the mountain absorbed it.
"How are you no-longer-little Susan Pevensie?" He tried again and watched her with gemlike eyes.
She took a deep breath, and he saw how her shoulder shook. A few moments passed as they waited for the echoes to be swallowed. Then she looked up and he was surprised that her eyes were red rimmed but there were no tear tracks on her cheeks. He had expected her to be crying, yes, but didn't expect that she was keeping it in. The music box played unceasingly in the background. Her lower lip was chapped from being bitten. There were dark rims around her eyes due to sleepless nights.
Susan Pevensie was clearly distressed and she was doing a magnificent job of hiding it until now.
"Hello Smaug." He commended her in his mind for the steady voice, but he heard through the nonchalance that she failed to cement.
"Hello Susan Pevensie. I am glad that you dreamt of me again." His fangs showed when his dragon lips curled to a smile.
Slowly he watched as Susan Pevensie pushed her tears back and built her walls once more.
"Cheeky Smaug. I am glad that I didn't get lost in this place of yours like before."
"Where did you show up tonight?"
"Where I did last time. Thank you for having the torches lit."
He was quiet for a moment, neither denying nor agreeing to what she thanked him for. "So why did you come Susan?"
Their conversations were a careful dance with steps thought of. He found a pattern in her evasions and how she would pause to think. How her eyes would shift in the golden light as she laid her plans.
A silence that he was waiting to be broken.
"I do not know." Truth.
"Have you thought of it?"
"Would you be willing to find out?"
"…Maybe." Indecisive. Smaug nodded, moving to curl up on his stomach on the foot of the ledge. He could wait. He was patient enough to wait for the Dwarf King Thror to fall.
"Smaug?" The silence was broken by her small voice, weak but no longer tear-stained.
"Yes child?" He answered without moving anything except his mouth.
"Have you ever gone and fought a war?" He almost didn't hear it, but his hearing was superior and even if he didn't catch it, the echoes would tell him.
"Yes. I have. We may be dragons but we have ties of our own. We protect our own." Why Susan Pevensie? He wanted to ask but knew that he shouldn't. He knew that patience could lead to the answers he sought. Once again, the music box took center stage in the silence.
"Hmm?" He opened his eyes and spied her looking at him. He was relieved that her eyes were no longer red rimmed, but they were still troubled. Her body movements though, were far from the rattled ones she had when he first saw her.
"Have you ever… waited?" She faltered on the last word.
"Someone to go back from the war." He finally raised his head and met Susan's gaze.
"No. I haven't."
This time, he didn't let the conversation fade to silence.
"Who will be going to war?" Susan's eyes faltered in their contact with his, and he saw the fear she hid behind her eyes as clear as daylight. Still, she kept quiet. "Do you know that in this world, even younger men… even children had gone to war? In the days of the Dragons, I have seen and killed boys younger than you who wore armor and wielded a sword."
"Killed? Who wouldn't want you killed? Thief of kingdoms who used gold as a bed." He was taken aback by her viciousness. The fear eclipsed into bitterness, and once again he was witness to Susan Pevensie who thought far to the future than any child he had seen. "All the death just because of the whim of one man."
"Was Peter called to war?"
"No! He's too young!"
"Then tell me who? Is it a dear friend?" He knew who it would be, but he wanted to hear it from her lips. He wanted to see the emotions in her eyes more clearly.
"My father. He had been called to war a few months ago." Her voice was dead, resigned. War changed everyone.
"There is something else troubling you." He laid his head on the ledge, his snout just shy from her skirts. She seemed to be more relaxed with getting that out. "Tell me."
"What can you do? Burn all the Axis so the Allies win?" She chuckled. He couldn't help being amused at how her words deemed the world black and white.
"What good would that do? Did you not say that this war was started by a whim of one man?" He scrutinized her with a sneer. "Arms and legs can be replaced. Destroy the head and everything will fall."
"Unless there is someone to take over. The reasons might not be the same but the greed for power would forever be."
"Destroying the head would give you time to take away any chance of replacement."
Like what he did with Thror. Destroyed the head. Incapacitated Thrain. Prevented the chance of replacement. Distracted Thorin. Gave himself time.
"Do you understand now young one?"
"Yes. It does not change the fact that I can hardly do anything." She sighed. "We, Peter, Edmund and I, will be leaving in the morning for boarding school. I fear for my mother and Lucy, all alone in our home. I fear for my friends who are evacuating but I know nowhere is safe. Lucy and Edmund, oh they shouldn't be living in such a time as this."
She took a deep breath.
"There are planes, comparable to small dragons and made of metal, that fly through the clouds and drop explosives to houses. The sky will be so dark and the silence is always deafening. Then there will be death."
He hardly understood the terms she used, but he understood the degree of pain she was feeling, in a way. He wasn't always the destroyer. He wasn't always the Last Dragon.
"What is boarding school?"
"Oh! It's a school. A place of learning but the students would stay there because it is too far away for them to travel to and fro every day. The students can only come home during the holidays or when the term ends."
"You do not want to go there?"
"I do not want to go there. I don't want us to go there and leave Mum alone."
"Do you want to stay here?"
"I would, but this is just a dream. I will wake up and would be leaving soon. Peter did say that we could still see each other since our schools are just nearby. Edmund said that we could write to each other. Lucy, dear Lu, said that we would all see each other in the holidays. Maybe there would be a chance that Father would come home to."
He found no tear but the sorrow in her tone, the conflict in her gaze was enough. No tears.
"What is this holidays you speak of?"
She spoke of it with a smile, talking about socks and a man in red named Father Christmas. Wistfulness laced in her tone for the happy memories of before. The way she scrunched her nose when she speak of Edmund rolling on snow when it wasn't thick enough. Smaug felt a small amount of relief, feeling something light within him, that he was able to chase the darkness even to a small degree.
"Lucy would be so excited when Christmas Evening comes…" She paused in her tale, her eyes jumping to the hallway where they traveled the first time. Of course, he understood.
"Come." He held his paw out for her to step into, knowing that someone was calling her awake. With a small nod from her, she stepped in carefully and her small hands wrapped around one talon. A few moments later, he laid her down to the stairs that would soon become their place of goodbyes. "Are you sure you will be fine?"
She nodded, an impish smile and her hands clasped on her back. "It's not that scary anymore. It is your home, isn't it? I know I'm safe."
"Then till we meet again Susan Pevensie." He carefully swept her auburn locks back. He decided that the color suited her, and he found himself wishing that it grow even darker. "May you stay safe."
"You too Mr. Stupendous."
He found himself chuckling long after her footsteps faded but it didn’t reach his gaze. Seeing her mustered smiles that didn't reach her vibrant eyes, he asked himself if it was better that he let her cry.
Chapter 3: 12. To Where We Should Go
Of which there was a switch.
This time, he was sure he was the one dreaming. He stood in front of a wooden door in his human form, the clothes covering his skin reminiscent to the days when he was still surveying Erebor. The wooden door was that of a peculiar house. He knew it was a house, the dark windows were even brighter than a simple room brightened by a candle. The night was quiet, and as much as it wasn't as beautiful or as wild as Middle Earth, Smaug found himself craving, to a degree, the strange beauty that the place had.
Then there was a sound, a strange rumbling that came from above. He looked up and squinted his eyes. Fire dotted the clouds, as well as a whistling that made his lungs constrict. There were blasts and Smaug was witness to planes (Susan told him about them.) as they fired and fell. He was also witness as they dropped big metal cases. He followed one as it fell and felt honest fear when fire erupted the moment it met the ground.
Have you ever gone off to war?
Then there was a commotion inside the house. He could hear, feel, the shouts and panicked movement. He heard a cry of a little girl. The thunder of feet on wooden floor. The fear that was just a scent in the air became a choking hazard. To Smaug it was supposed to be exhilarating, but no it wasn't.
Mum! The door slammed open and Smaug saw a mother, followed by a young lass and then Susan. Susan, completely dark-haired, earth dressed, still pale, holding a light in a weird canister of metal. Two boys followed her in the same streak for survival. A blast came to close and it colored them yellow. Mum! Smaug watched as Susan went through, ignoring Edmund when he turned back and even when Peter tried to stop his brother from a bout of stupidity. He watched as the boys went back in the house as Susan herded Lucy into the shelter. Their mother screaming for her boys to come back.
Another explosion and he heard a window shattering. The planes were lower and their shadows tinted the grass. Smaller Dragons made of metal. He waited for the boys, watching their mother as she waited from the door of their underground house. He moved when the boys appeared, running beside them to get into the shelter with them. Not for his safety, how stupid for him to be hurt in such a dream, but to see what was inside. To see the reality that Susan Pevensie lived.
Why can't you think of anyone but yourself? You're so selfish! You could've got us killed!
Who he watched was Susan, his golden eyes all on her. He saw the understanding in Susan's eyes as she gazed at her brother. Watched as Edmund's gaze was glued to the illustration? Of his father. Susan, huddled with her sister and their arms around each other and Edmund in his mother's arms. Peter, golden haired and a monument of fury, stood there with his brow knit.
Why can't you just do as you're told?
He watched as Susan's face was buried in Lucy's hair. He saw her shoulders barely shaking and knew that she was curving her own feelings, her own fear, at bay. Tears weren't needed at this time, what was needed was an older sister. What was needed was clear thinking and a logical mind. Too deep in his thoughts, Smaug discovered it too late that the noises were softer and the mother's whispers were inaudible to him. All he could do was look as they huddled together and he knew that a decision was made. When they broke away from each other, it was to bed. He was there when they fluffed their pillows. He was there when their mother caressed the frame of the illustration. He was there when Peter turned his back to Edmund. He saw when Lucy caressed her toy and whispered to it. He saw with clarity Susan's face with nothing but unnerving calmness, even when her eyes were that of chilled ice.
He watched, this once young and golden-haired Susan Pevensie, changed by war into a dark haired and distant young woman.
"Smaug?" He stared at their huddled forms once more.
"Smaug?" He blinked, only realizing that someone was calling his name. The sounds became muted and the sharp edges of the objects blurred. "Smaug!"
His eyes snapped open and he found Susan's small form down his nose. Her face tilted up and her expression as calm as she did when she fell to slumber. Her clothes were the same. The curls of her hair were the same. From the shoes to the hair tie, it was all the same.
"You snore when you sleep. Do you know that?" The smile came easy on her face.
"As long as I do not disturb anyone, I can snore all I want."
She chuckled, a simple huff of air and a shake of her head. Her curls bounced, like springs that denied being easily unraveled. "Point taken."
"So why are you here Susan Pevensie?" It was a line that Smaug realized he had repeated every time she would show up in his stolen home.
"Where is the music box?" Evasion. As always. He still hoped that Susan's honesty wasn't a one-time event caused by innocence and young age.
"It is where you left it. Would you like to play it again?"
She shook her head and then started wandering.
"Will you miss me?" She never spoke of her concern face to face. Never spoke of her problems with him so close and he realized it with this one.
"What situation would come that I will be missing you?" His tail hovered close her form, ready to assist as she once again went treasure hunting.
"Well…" Her voice muffled when she bent down to pick a long sash embroidered with diamonds.
"What?" He asked. Her eyes were wide with surprise at the sash in his hand, clearly amazed with the beauty of it. Like before, she was like the moon absorbing the sun's golden rays to make it more stunning.
"We'll be sent away soon. The war is getting worse and Mum cannot take care of us while in Finchley. Father is, thankfully, alive."
"And you think that maybe because of physical distance you will stop of dreaming this place? Dreaming of me?"
"No. Clearly, this place is of a different world. Maybe like Alice, this is all in my head." He clearly had no idea who Alice was and what was inside her head. It hardly mattered though, what was important was her visits may be cut off.
"Then what will stop you from dreaming about me?"
"I don't know, but better be warned than just disappearing. That is proper courtesy, yes?" She wavered, then slipped into the pile of gold. His tail was quick to the rescue in pulling her up, and her giggles when his tail wrapped around her waist was thanks enough.
"I am a dragon. I wouldn't know what is proper for you and your kind."
She laughed and Smaug was relieved it wasn't hollow. When the laughter ended, she bent forward once more and picked up a sword. He felt a brow rose in curiosity. The sword was clearly for dwarves, with its stone handle and heavy blade, and she could hardly lift it. She was too small and too frail for a sword of that build.
"How can one achieve harmony?" Peter. Edmund. Smaug was quick to follow on what was behind her questions. "If two people are clearly light and shadow?"
"One cannot be recognized without the other."
"But one can exist without the other." She started dragging the sword to where he lounged.
He knew that Peter was light and Edmund was shadow, and he could see that as the two clashed they would find a middle ground sooner or later. He had lived long enough to see it happen so many times. "And as someone viewing this clash, what do you think would happen?"
"Like someone being stuck in a room too dark or too bright. It would take some time for the sight to return, but when that happens…everything would be fine."
She ended sitting beside his giant paw, admiring the sword she had with her and tracing it with feather light fingers. He ended up following her every move with his gaze. (Watching, surveillance, and observation was something he did every day. This was no different.) "I'm scared of leaving."
"You'll manage. You wouldn't allow yourself otherwise." He couldn't see her being irresponsible, couldn't see her not being her bossy self.
"Won't you ask me if I want to stay here?"
Her hair jerked when he huffed. "I was just getting there lassie."
"Ask away." Her smile wasn't the brightest he had seen from her, but it was bright.
"Do you want to stay?" He broke the comfortable silence.
"I am not that selfish to leave them behind." Her reply was paired with a tilted smile of wear and determination.
"Being here is leaving them behind."
"Only for a moment, while I sleep. I always return."
"Always?" She chuckled at his question, mirroring his raised brow.
"One needs to wake when dreaming. Unless you want to end up dead."
"And you wound me with making me ask."
"Oh, you're a big dragon. You can take it." She scrunched her nose, her eyes twinkling. A tease.
"Bigger objects are easier to destroy as long as you know how."
"You aren't an object."
"Tell me a story Susan Pevensie, before your sass or sarcasm kills me."
She laughed again. A mixture of amusement, relief and mocking clearly noted.
She told him of a boy named Arthur who became king because of a sword. Told him of a wizard Merlin and a beautiful woman named Guinevere. She told him of the intricate kingdom of Camelot and he listened. Her voice lured him to slumber and when he woke up, she was gone.
He didn't say goodbye and it was an itch that never faded. Maybe it was better, or maybe it wasn't.
Chapter 4: 18. Talking Dragons
This is, in a twisted way, a second meeting.
Years passed like usual and Smaug found himself waiting for Susan Pevensie to dream about him. He wanted to know if the war she spoke of was over, if her father was finally home, if her siblings were safe. He wanted to see how beautiful she had become. Sometimes he wished that he would dream of her, just like what happened last time. He started sleeping even more as there was close to nothing that took his attention anymore. Close to nothing of which to be considered entertainment. So he slept, thinking that maybe he would get a glimpse of Susan Pevensie's reality once more.
He was woken up by the swish of fabric and the stretch of string. Faint sounds that rung alarm bells in his mind. Intruder. Weapons. His ears noted the sound of breathing and the scent of a blend of flowers. He dug his talons to the gold under him, readying himself to spring to where the sound came from. There would be blood and food tonight for him, even when he was in no mood to feed. Food or entertainment? Hmmm… If they prove to be entertaining then maybe he would spare them alive, even if they were elves that smelled too feminine for his tastes.
"If you wish to keep your life, I advise that you put down that bow." His voice was bored and he kept his eyes closed. He could easily kill her, especially if he was a measly elf. Who would be stupid enough to wander inside here alone?
"If you open your eyes then you would know Sir Dragon that I wasn't drawing it against you."
Woman. Flowers. Lilies.
His eyes opened instantly and turned to where he knew she stood. There standing where Susan Pevensie always stood when she came and left, was a woman in flowing blue gown and a simple gold necklace around her neck. Strapped around her body was a quiver and in her hand was a bow. Dark hair in a braid that ended down her knees heightened her pale skin. He knew beauty and could appreciate it, and he also knew of the clothes that women of Gondor wore. He also knew that women of mortal Kingdoms did not fight.
Woman. Blue eyes. Lilies.
"Why are you here Lady Susan Pevensie? What had happened that you dream of me?" What happened to your reality to come to me clad in such finery? Who are you?
She blinked, clearly taken off guard of his apparent knowledge of who she was. She was obviously looking at him in a different light even before he opened his eyes and now that he had spoken, her eyes shifted from distant to probing.
"I have seen and met dragons, but I do not remember you among them." She tilted her head to the side, considering if he was friend or foe enough to not step back.
"And you remember each one of them?" Who was this Susan? His mind echoed.
"Of course." Disappointment curled inside his stomach, wondering the circumstances of why she would forget him.
He was the first dragon she met, wasn't he?
"We met in the past, wee lassie." He rested his head on his folded arms, lounging like a dragon can only do.
"Which past do you speak of? All the past that I can clearly remember, especially concerning dragons, was what I just spoke of." Even her way of speaking was strange to his ears. Gone was the innocent Susan, or the war torn teen, what stood before him was a stranger that spoke in tone and a way close to this world.
"Your past that I am of your dreams. Your past that is of a war your father is fighting in. A past of planes and explosives, stories of a boy that became king because of a sword."
Recognition came to her countenance and Smaug knew at least that he spoke of something right.
"What you say doth echo in me. A knowledge and a fear that curls within me. If what you say is true that you are a dragon in my dreams then you come once more in my slumber. Who are you proud dragon that I might know if you are friend or foe?"
"I do not come as I choose. I will promise you once more Susan Pevensie, that no harm would come to you as long as you are here."
"Your name Sir Dragon, so that I can thank you for such promise?"
"How would you know if I am friend or foe just by name?"
"You are the third dragon that preferred talking over eating me."
"And you have met many dragons?"
"You're name Sir?"
"Not many Smaug. Thank you for assuring my safety."
"You are quite kind from what I remember in the past Susan."
"I hope I have been kind to you and you forgive me for not remembering."
"Would you like I tell you of our memories?"
"Can I come closer to you?"
He laughed and held out his paw. If there was something that he was thankful of, it was that she still wasn't afraid of him. He told her of what she told him, of Peter and Edmund being that of light and shadow. He told her of Lucy and how the gold in his home would've helped them through the war. He felt her body, as she sat by his arm, relax with every story that he said. Unlike their previous meetings, this was the most that he had spoken.
"So tell me Susan Pevensie, how are you and your family?" He relished her slight weight on his side and the way she moved closer for warmth, even when in this place, it was as hot as it could be for mortals like her. "How did you come to such finery and speak like of a noble lady?"
She looked at her clothes for a moment and then went quiet. He could see that she was thinking on what to tell him. Something he had known ever since the beginning of their friendship. Friendship?
"I will do my best to tell you as it has been years."
"We have the time."
She chuckled and her eyes twinkled with mirth. There was a calm there that he had not seen before. He had seen more too: contentment, wisdom, understanding, mischief and the ever quick thinking he had admired.
"I now live in a country called Narnia, where animals talk and trees breathe and dance. There are nymphs and naiads, mermaids and griffins. From what the tales tell, I lived in a place called Spare Oom in the land of War Drobe." She smiled, a simple tilt of the corners of her lips that told him that she knew it wasn't just that. That she knew more. She told him what mermaids, nymphs, and whatever creature inhabited her new home. Of course, she told him briefly of the dragons. "How we come upon this land, my brothers and sister no longer remembers but I try to, was through a wardrobe in the Professor's home. We were sent off as you said, at least as I remember."
She took a deep breath and released it through her rose petal lips. The mere action, after years of not absence, was hypnotizing to the dragon.
"We fought a war of our own in Narnia. A fight to liberate the Narnians from a hundred years of winter. It was a spell that was casted by the White Witch, who called herself as the Queen." She told him briefly about Peter and Edmund learning to fight with a sword. She spoke of a man called Father Christmas, who was the one who gave her and her siblings the tools they would need in their adventure. She told him everything she could tell him, like a historian to her audience. However compelling the way she told the story, it was all facts and devoid of opinions or emotions. He needed to watch and listen closely to know how she felt about a situation. "We've lived in Narnia ever since."
Of course, he knew there was something else she was keeping.
"How long since?"
"Why did you stay?" She froze for a moment and searching his own golden eyes.
"The Narnians needed us." She answered simply.
"Rebuilding and cleaning up." He nudged her side with his snout, and showed her that he didn't believe it was just that.
"For six years? Such a long time."
"Of course. After a hundred years of winter, it's just a wink."
"What of your mother?"
"I don't know. Aslan will protect her." She had explained who Aslan was, and he couldn't comprehend why she believed in this Lion so.
"Aslan. Your father?" His questions about her home, or maybe former home, always caught her off guard. He wondered if it was because she barely remembered, while he perfectly remembered every story she told him.
"I know not what happened to him, all I know that six years ago, he was still alive."
He called off himself when her voice became sad, hating the way her eyes turned dull and her words sounding so far away. "My apologies lass."
"You? Apologizing? A dragon?" Her eyes were still sad and he did his best to ignore the guilt. (Him, usurper of kingdoms and bandit of treasures, apologizing to a young woman.)
"Never happened to you?"
She shook her head, her eyes closed and her long lashes like arcs of ink on snow. "In Peter's words, there is always a first. It makes me understand why my younger self liked you."
"You no longer like me then?"
"I find that I still do." She chuckled.
"Bow and arrows suit you."
"I do know how to use swords Smaug." She blinked and then looked at him with wide eyes. "I remember dragging a sword here," She blinked again. "And you were looking at me like my back would break if I even try lifting it."
He chuckled, both in sarcasm and relief that finally she remembered something.
"You need not laugh at me!"
"Do you remember anything else?" He asked.
She contemplated for a short while before shaking her head. "Nothing definite."
"Tell me about the dragons you have met. Have they tried stealing you away?"
"Thankfully, no. I am no Princess."
"But you are close, if not, then more."
Another surprised look from her and another chuckle from him.
"I am a dragon dear Susan Pevensie, I know how important one is with just a look."
"Is that why you spared me?"
"I cannot hurt you because this is your dream, you told me such. Oh, and that I am a good dragon." He watched her as she regarded him with walled emotions.
"You are a good dragon."
The amusement that he felt when young, little girl, Susan told him those words years before wasn't what he felt. He felt a lightness in his chest that seemed to burst to the tip of his tail. A feeling that he hadn't felt in so long that he sneered at himself. Thinking that not even one woman's words would change the world's view of him. Not one woman's words could change what and who he was.
"You do not believe me."
Her smile was a boon, an understanding that he always received from her. A boon that he couldn't understand why he was worthy of it.
"Do you want to stay?" He asked, the usual ritual.
Her smile showed that she remembered and that she missed it too.
"Do you want to stay?"
"No. I do have a family to return to."
"Why such long hair?"
"Why so many questions?"
"Because there are many answers needed."
"Because I have the chance to grow it."
"That'll be a pain in the mornings."
"I hope you would be visiting my reality next time." She stood up with a grace improved and a world so close to his own. "It makes me jealous that you do not dream of me, when I dream so much of you."
"I have seen your reality, you just didn't see me."
"I'll look harder next time."
"You wouldn't miss a dragon of my size."
A hush descended on them
"Morning is upon us, and if thou art a heroine of a land I need to return you to your people."
"You wouldn't steal me away? Keep me captive in this home of yours?"
"As you said, you are no Princess."
"You are still a dragon."
"A good dragon, you said."
"Do good dragons escort ladies home?"
"Maybe I will be the first?"
"Then escort away?"
Chapter 5: 22. Talk of Suitors
It would seem like nonsense talking.
Susan was shooting arrows at a dwarven-carved wooden chair in one of the great halls of Erebor. Smaug had heard her frustrated breathing and the continuous twang of arrows being drawn. The sounds woke him and made him curious. He knew it was Susan of course, few would dare enter the mountain not knowing the ways. Susan was the only one who was ever lost in the mountain, if there was another… then it would be easy work.
"What sin had the chair done to incur your wrath Susan Pevensie?" He approached her with booming footsteps but her concentration didn't falter. Arrow after arrow, she drew and released without pause. Her back was straight and her stance could rival that of the elves. Everything about her could rival the elves and overthrow the mortal women, from her long hair and beauty to her reserved speech and gentle actions. He watched and waited for her quiver to empty, wondering what had pushed her to such activity. Was it because she was lost that she did this to call his attention? Why did she not call instead? Mentally, he counted the minutes and found that her quiver wasn't emptied. It wasn't until the chair's back was filled with red fletched arrows did she stop.
"A magicked quiver, never to empty. Your Father Christmas is someone I would like to meet."
She was quiet and strode to the chair, intent of picking each one of her arrows and stuffing them back her quiver with measured movements.
"What sin had the chair done to you Susan?" She loved evading his questions or maybe loved making him repeat himself. Why didn't he stop with repeating? He needed the answers, because she gave him honesty or at least a degree of it.
"Being there when I needed it."
"A target practice." Her cheeks were red from exertion and sweat dotted her brow. She was wearing green this time and it hugged her figure like a glove. Whoever sewed her dresses knew how to accentuate her beauty even more.
"Whose head were you seeing?" He folded his arms and set his head on it. He let her once again resume her stance and string her bow to shoot.
"A lord's son who thought that butchering poetry and verse would earn me my hand in marriage."
Smaug raised his head and considered her. He shouldn't be surprised (he wasn't) that she would earn suitors. He really should've expected it especially with beauty, wisdom and youth rolled into one. He should've known that she would grow and would seek companions, would've a family of her own. That he, Smaug the Stupendous, was only her dream dragon.
"And how many is your tally of suitors?"
"A good number." Twang.
"Can you give me a definite one?" For all the dreams she had shared with him, he thought that she would at least give her answers easily.
His head raised higher. Three more arrows were released. "Since you have come of age?"
"Some even before."
"And how old are you?"
"I came of age a few days after our last meeting. I was eighteen. I am now twenty-two."
"Your beauty must've been well known. Do you have Kings and Princes as your suitors?"
"Kings, princes, lords, noblemen, merchants, whoever you can think of."
"And you have not found anyone to be your husband? Among Kings and Princes that could and would give you everything?"
"I have everything they could give me. What I want are things they haven't even thought of. Or are capable of, for that matter."
"And that is?"
"Love, but that is too presumptuous for someone like me." She chuckled, once again pulling her arrows off the chair. "A quick mind and an understanding heart would be one… I think. Someone who knows the darkness and knows that I walk among it."
"For a heroine, you have your work cut out for you. You set high standards for men, dear child. For women's beauty as well."
"I am not most beautiful. There is Queen Swanwhite, which the books call the most beautiful. When she look on a lake's surface, her reflection would stay there for a year or so."
"And you believe it?"
"The centaurs remember her beauty and the fauns still speak of her with reverence. Who am I to not believe?"
"A beautiful woman of her own kind, incomparable."
She laughed at his words. "Charming aren't you so suddenly, Smaug?"
"Surely Peter protects you?" He settled once again, her words still echoing in his ears. Charming? Of course he could be.
"Yes, and Edmund. Lucy too. I can fend for myself just fine."
"How fare they? Your brothers and sister?"
She approached him this time, wiping her forehead with her arm and a relaxed smile on her face.
"Life is good to us." She perched on his side like clockwork, echo of all their previous meetings. A comfortable silence that couldn't be thwarted. "Peter was given place in the military. Edmund spends his time in Narnian court. Lucy was granted an opportunity to excel in healing."
"What of Light and Shadow?"
She studied him, which was nothing new since they've been doing that ever since day one, and another relieved chuckle came. "Thank Aslan and Narnia, they exist and maybe even breathe abreast each other. They're a power to behold when they work together. It doesn't mean that they no longer fight, when they do it would be hard to pinpoint unless you know the signs. Peter would be easy, he's open with his emotions, he actually runs with it. Edmund, is indeed like shadow, he would keep his emotions in a little box for as long as he could and his mind would be the one you would see raging."
"You bear weapons, do you join Peter in being a warrior?"
"No. I work with him in some matters, but fighting is rarely one of them. I work more closely with Ed and Lu. I look after the Narnians and make sure that they gain as much allies as they could."
Smaug hummed in approval at the carefully scattered fields that they hold responsibility in. "So this is where the suitors come in?"
She huffed and scrunched her nose in irritation once more. His rumble of a chuckle resonated in the hall.
"What is it Lady Pevensie?" She was once again on her feet, looking up to the high ceiling and down to the columns that were ever remarkable from their simple sheer size to their workmanship.
"Can you tell me of stories of this place? Who lived here and what they did? Why this kingdom you stole?"
He told her the answers she sought. Of why gold was always the reason and that no one could covet on it as much as he would, and that he proved it with King Thror. He told her of how he had walked the streets of Dale observing and waiting for the right time. He told her how gold and treasure were a dwarf's life. He told her of the good things too. Of the feasts the King would give to everyone, may it be dwarf or a citizen of Dale. He told her of the trading affiliation of the city and the kingdom. He spoke of peace and plenty.
"And you came as their downfall." Susan whispered when silence was given a chance to reign.
He told her of the gold sickness and spoke of how he could feel it from miles away. How he, as a dragon, was stricken of it too, but not in a madness that could destroy. (Susan chuckled at this, sarcastic and wounding.) Told her about the Princeling and his defeat. He painted their horrified faces with his words and he felt within him a delight so twisted.
"Narnia too has dwarves. They too are great craftsmen. They too are proud of their craft. They are Narnian though, so they are not a separate entity or kingdom so they still answer to Narnian laws. There are many similarities between them and the previous tenants of this place. I am not so sure about the gold sickness though."
"A full grown male dwarf, especially if he is on the taller side, would be your height."
That made her catch her breath.
"Are Narnian dwarves different?"
"The tallest I've met or seen is up to my waist."
"Another notable difference then."
"Do you ever get bored in this place, all alone? I think all you do is sleep and wander around."
"Close, but you also come and go as the wind to entertain me."
"An honor." She rolled her eyes at that and he was sure she would even give him a mocking curtsy if she allowed herself.
"I also fly out and set terror on some unfortunate place when I am bored."
She laughed. "A bringer of death you become because of gold and boredom. What a motivation."
"Do you fear me then? As you fear Death?"
"We do not fear Death, nor do we seek his coming, If it is time for us to meet him, then we meet him as an old friend."
"A perspective worthy of admiration, if only there are more like you in this world."
He asked her many things about her Narnia and she provided him answers easily. In return, he let her ask questions of Middle Earth. He painted her the world that was outside the mountain. He showed her through words of the dangers and the vileness. Told her a little history of how there was no Aslan or any equivalent in this place. Whoever made this world had abandoned them. She would laugh and smile, but never did he saw her shed any tear. Sometimes her laughter sounded warped and he relished the sound, delighted to the truth that she too was sinister and that she knew it.
"Would there be anything else you wish to ask?" Because the silence would mean that the time of goodbyes were coming. He had realized that he wanted her hear, that his question of her staying was no longer a jest or a speculation.
"I am saving up for next time."
"Do you wish to stay?"
"And die of boredom? I am no dragon."
"You can help me find ways to alleviate it." If he was in his human form, which thankfully he was not, his smile would be too suggestive and roguish. In his dragon form it was all threatening and fangs.
"Visit my reality next time, I'll gladly show you how we have fun."
"Would I earn something in return?"
"Depends on the price." A game. It's been a long time since he felt the anticipation of being challenged and here was Susan weaving a game of her own conscious. Oh, she knew she was setting the game up. "Let me see you in Narnia first, then we'll decide."
"Such a challenge." He purred.
"I hope you victory."
He would make her pay the price.
Chapter 6: 24. Fragments of a Whole
Cheetahs and their wit.
Women and their games.
Dragons and their greed.
Smaug tried and what he saw were mere fragments that he could barely start to understand. He didn't even know if those fragments were hallucinations, for being too bent on winning the game (of seeing her).
Peter! The first was a simple flash of colors and her voice as well as another woman's. He was thrown awake by the surprise of it all that it was too late to realize that if he had stayed asleep for a few more moments then maybe he had achieved his goal. There were other instances. A long hallway filled with paintings and a half man, half goat… a faun… walking beside Susan and who he could conclude as Lucy. There was a balcony and he was standing there frozen, with a view of a marvelous sea and the sound of the harp playing behind him. Another was of laughter, cold and snow, the sounds and sensations so strong but the blurred forms frustrated him.
Every time he woke up from such dream fragment, he was cross enough to destroy some room in the mountain kingdom. When he dreamt of nothing but a lion's roar, he flew out the mountain the moment he woke up, intent on destroying something big. He knew that someone, or something, was stopping him and whatever push he made was returned by a glimpse. Susan made it look so easy, how can he not do it as she did? Well, he decided, until he wins the game destruction would befall those he deem worthy of it. He has so few criteria anyway.
It was a frustrating few months, so to speak. Smaug's roars of fury could be heard all the way to Laketown and even beyond.
What could he be doing wrong, you ask? I have no idea. Though, I am sure it would be suffice to say that he did succeed with time, practice, and permission. You see, when he dreamed or wished to dream of dear Susan Pevensie, it was like fighting through a wall. A wall that would always be there and even his human, yet stronger than mortal, form couldn't destroy. It was annoying.
This was how success came and Smaug didn't know if he would kill someone when he wake or not.
It was dreaming of the mountain, or rather touring the mountain that signified his success. He found himself in Erebor's vast and untouched library, hearing the sound of music and merriment that shouldn't be there. (Of course he knew he was dreaming.) He moved in a speed that was a manifest of his dragon blood, using his sensitive hearing to track it down. He weaved his way through the mountain, even seeing rooms that he hadn't seen before but cared less about. He had pushed debris and jumped over obstacles just to reach what he sought. All the while, preparing ways to exact his wrath when once again this was a hoax for him.
He pulled a heavy set of curtains too soon to even back up when he found himself in a large and bright room full of… creatures. His hand still gripping the curtain, he turned around to see that he came from a balcony that looked over a garden. A ballroom behind him and a garden in front. The realization made him grin so wide, barely contained when he turned to the gathering. There was a dizzying array of colors and sizes, creatures that he could identify just because Susan described them with such detail. Centaurs and fauns, animals - Talking Animals -, dryads and nymphs filled the room and outnumber the humans by a great percentage. The chatter was hushed and electrified with excitement. The humans, some who were dark skinned and wore such strange clothing, were anxiously looking at the grand double doors. The lighter skinned ones, of which he plan to identify with but to stir clear from, were chatting amiably with the Narnians. Every kingdom could be distinguished by clothing and looking at his own ensemble of black and gold, Smaug thought that he could pass not as a Narnian, but as one of their similarly light skinned allies.
There was a sudden bump at his side that made him look down. A cheetah (another description from Susan, so few of the Animals in the ballroom could he distinguish) was looking at him through ink-rimmed eyes. Two pairs of golden gazes, guarded and careful, measured up each other.
"You are someone I've not seen." The Cheetah (he remembered the way Susan said it, clearly distinct) purred without turning away from their eye contact. It was an easy challenge to understand his words, dragons and Cats seem to talk in similar ways.
"So are you, Sir Cheetah." He mimicked Susan's way of speech with a smoothness that would never betray his amusement or his apprehension.
"You did not come with the Archenland delegation then." He was the one to turn away to give the ballroom a sweep of calculated look.
"No. I came just now."
"Then I advise you take as much joy as you could."
"I am not much of a social person."
There was a twinkle in the Cheetah's eyes as he looked at him again.
"Few Cats are." Cat ears flicked this way and that, before coming still. The Cheetah then turned to the double doors which Smaug did so too, but only with his gaze.
"Announcing," Who would've thought that a faun has such a loud voice? Smaug thought, since the fauns in Susan's stories were quite gentle mannered creatures unless provoked. "The Kings and Queens of Narnia, and Prince Rabadash of Calormen."
There was a huff on his side and he gave the Cheetah a questioning glimpse. "Their Majesties do not like pompous entrances, especially if they could get away with it. Most of the time, they will even avoid the double doors."
"Isn't that a little childish?"
"Their Majesties were crowned young and it became so close to a tradition that all of us understood. Except the foreigners of course, so sometimes these things must happen."
The last words faded especially when Smaug saw who came out of those double doors. Faces he had seen in what seemed a lifetime ago, now matured and no longer stained with fear and anxiety. Peter, Lucy, Edmund, no longer children in body or in their souls. Peter was the sky. In one look, Smaug saw his sweeping look and his love for the people shining from his blue eyes. Peter reminded him of the Great Kings a long time ago (rare were they in this time of his), full of virtues and values. A man of light that was trying his very best to defeat his flaws and darkness.
"You are peculiar for an Archenlander." He blinked.
"Everyone had bowed, yet you were standing there stock still. I would've understand if you were Calormene,"
"This is the first that I have seen the Narnian Monarchs." At least, three of them. "Forgive my imprudence."
"Forgiven. I doubt the High King would even take offense."
"High King Peter, the Magnificent."
Magnificent. Fitting, Smaug thought with a nod.
Edmund, became the man Smaug had imagined him to be when he saw the lad back then. The recklessness was gone from him, and it was replaced by a wisdom that could par even the greatest strategists of Gondor. The young king cloaked himself of darkness, accepting his role as a shadow and relishing it. Unlike Peter, to approach Edmund was to enter a game with set rules but only one party would know it. A game of wits that Smaug wanted to participate in. Smaug knew of his burden of being a traitor, also knew of his deliverance. He could see it a constant weight on Edmund's shoulders. A burden that the king would rather keep than give to anyone else.
"Haven't you heard of them?"
"I have, but to have them before me is a different matter. Stories do get jumbled at times."
"Humans have fickle memories. If you need an accurate story, ask the Badgers or the centaurs."
"When I get the chance, I will."
"King Edmund the Just. I believe he would like meeting you,"
"If I be given the honor, I'd like to meet him too." The grin on his face was a little too feral, but no comment was given about it.
Lucy, who stood between her brothers, was blinding. She was a walking sun, bright in her happiness and good heart. Susan's description of her sister was too spot on for Smaug to even form his own opinions. Lucy was a woman who would and could hold on her virtues and beliefs even when the world around her was crumbling. She saw Narnia first, believed in Father Christmas first, and followed Aslan first. She will always do. She was flame, alight and ever moving. Free. This was the crying girl in Susan's arms the last time, and now seeing her again, Smaug doubted that Lucy would keep her tears for anyone undeserving. Little yellow flowers braided on her hair, the crying girl in the past faded in memory and was replaced by a woman of light that not even Smaug's fire could overpower.
"Lucy. Queen Lucy is a warrior, yes?" No one can keep her from it, Smaug can see it. Aslan could, he knew or maybe if her siblings work together to stop her.
"She lives by her title on being valiant. All four of them are warriors, but between the Queens, Queen Lucy is one to go forth alone or with her brothers to fight."
"Queen Lucy the Valiant. I couldn't see her otherwise."
Smaug was glad with how good fate had been to the children of long ago.
"Ah. Here she is, and the Calormen prince." Smaug detected sarcasm at how the Cheetah regarded the prince.
"You do not approve?"
"Look, and you will know why."
Smaug wasn't looking indeed, he was too focused on Peter, Edmund and Lucy as well as his Cheetah companion to even look past the three monarchs. When he looked past the three, he noted by then that the silence was deafening and filled with awe, and he understood.
Smaug did, and he wanted to laugh.
He had seen Susan in gowns but compared to what she was wearing at this moment, those were nothing. The Susan before him was worlds different from the Lady Susan Pevensie that visited him. Compared to Lucy who wore bright colors, Susan was wearing dark purple that made her pale skin shine like that of the stars. Her dark hair (still unbearably long) was filled with flowers like Lucy's. Hers were large white flowers fashioned as a crown that gentled the darkness of her clothing, making it soft and nonthreatening. Smart. He looked at her face and found the familiar features. He found her eyes (ice blue) gentle and her lips stretched in a small smile. There was even a blush on her cheeks.
"Queen Susan the Gentle, most beautiful woman. One of the most powerful women of this age too, the other being Queen Lucy."
Smaug shook his head. "Whoever crowned them,"
"Made the wisest decision to crown her Gentle."
Smaug could see blood on her hands, so clear and bright. He could see murder in her eyes. He could see her beauty wielded like a dagger; discrete, precise, and dangerous. Gentle? She was far from it, but so close too. She was as secretive as a mouse, expert enough to weave tales imbued with what looked like little lies. Whatever her plan was and for whom, Smaug knew she would succeed. He turned his gaze to the man escorting her, the so called Prince of Calormen, and found him lacking for a woman such as Susan. The closest to her par, worthy of her was Edmund, but he was her brother and Smaug knew that they do not follow such tradition.
"You see what I see?" Smaug asked.
"Of course, she is after all our Queen."
"And you call her Gentle."
"Because she is."
"Tell me of the ways of this celebration, for I want to meet the Monarchs."
"Get the next dance, and to Queen Susan." The Cheetah bobbed his head and then slinked away.
The first dance was between Susan and Rabadash, which was good but far from beautiful as the dance was constrained. The music was far from what he imagined Susan or Lucy would dance to. This dance, well, was only a farce of large game. Wasn't politics always a lovely game? The moment the music slowed down, he started moving to the center of the room following their movements with his gaze. His mind racing with calculations on how to interfere and how to take Susan from the prince. Then the music faded to a close and applause rang in the air.
"May I?" Smaug was already there with his hand held out.
Rabadash' smile was fierce and Smaug needed to change his view of him for a moment. Maybe the prince wasn't as dumb as he thought. "I have not seen you."
"I just arrived. I do apologize I wasn't with the Archenland delegation."
"Is it you old friend?" Susan's face was bright with happiness, a far cry from the subdued gentle expression she was wearing a few moments ago.
"As promised, I come to see your reality." He made another fancy bow, taking her hand and placing it against his lips. This close, the scent of lilies came stronger and he took a deep whiff of it. "May I steal you away?"
"Stealing doesn't entail asking." Rabadash intruded their little moment, which annoyed Smaug.
"Well then," He took Susan in his arms and whisked her away, leaving Rabadash standing there. Pompous ass.
"You did it." Her astonishment made him smile as he swept her to a dance of which the steps were random but smooth. She easily followed his lead to a dance that was not clearly Narnian or anything else.
"I promised, did I not?"
"You didn't exactly promise." He touched one of the flowers and smiled.
"You didn't tell that you are a Queen."
"A little lie."
"How many lies have you weaved in the stories you told me, Susan who is Queen?"
"You grew so wonderfully. All of you." He looked up and pinpointed where her siblings were, all three of them dancing with someone but their burning gazes trained at him.
"You sound like a father."
"I wish not. All I am is an admirer from a far." He twirled her around and watched as her skirts fluttered. "A dragon, only wishing to acquire more treasures. To be mine and mine alone."
There was no blush on her cheeks but the way she smiled told him that she knew what he meant.
"Who said that this treasure is yours?"
"I've stolen it away, remember?"
Her laughter echoed and as much as he remembered, this was the first time he heard it so free.
"Dear brothers and sister, I introduce a dear old friend of mine." Her hold on his arm never ceased, nor did he wish to let her go lest that horrid prince bore her once more. "Smaug of Northern Archenland."
"You have never mentioned of a dear Archenland friend, other than Peridan and who we know that is." Edmund's stare was challenging, a quiet threat saying that he would know whatever secret he kept.
"Of course Susan wouldn't tell you. You would think he would be another suitor of hers." Lucy stepped forward and gave her brothers a smirk. "It's an honor to finally meet you Sir Smaug, my sister told me a lot about you."
How many lies have your sister weaved about me? Does it even compare to the lies she told me about you?
"Of course, if Susan did make a pact that she will tell nothing but the truth." Edmund echoed and Peter chuckled.
"Indeed Lu. Did Susan do such pact?"
"Do you not trust me with this matter brothers?" Susan's tone was lyrical and like a whisper of the deep. The whisper of gold to him.
"Shall we see how many lies she said?" Smaug grinned. "Maybe my words will ring more truth than hers."
And so, Susan and Smaug weaved a tale of Smaug of Northern Archenland. As they do, Lucy's gaze was alight with understanding and Smaug knew that Middle Earth Kings need to meet these sisters. As to see the true power that women can behold.
"What happened with the Prince?" Smaug asked once the dancing continued after Peter's short speech.
"As of the moment, planning your demise." Edmund smiled. "But surely you know that."
"Of course, His Highness seemed to be an easy man to bait. Jealousy is quite a drive."
"For you or for him?" Edmund approached Susan, whispering to her ear and then whisking her to the dance floor.
The moon and the stars doing their own dance.
"Sir Smaug, would you like to dance?"
Another round of dancing, this time with Lucy who chattered away about his life. His eyes often strayed to Susan and Edmund who were smiling and chatting, body movements a code of their own.
"They know you're watching them." Lucy quipped that made him blink. "And Susan wants you to be kind and talk to me at least. Edmund, well he's amused."
He watched Susan as her hands moved and then he heard Lucy chuckle. "What does she say now?"
"That I don’t tell you that I know."
"That you are her dragon."
"Her dream dragon."
"You seem fine with the idea."
"I like you Lucy Pevensie."
"But you like Susan better. Which I am more than happy for. Peter doesn't show it but he favors you more than the prince."
"Susan is a great storyteller and between us and you, who had been manipulated?"
We know. His forehead scrunched together with confusion.
"You should ask her."
With a twirl, he found Susan in his arms rather than Lucy.
"They know?" was the first thing he could say.
"You've been a part of bedtime stories when we were younger."
"And they believe that I am the Smaug of your stories?"
"Lucy is a good judge of character." She sneaked a glance to Peter, who was dancing with the same woman the High king had been dancing with two songs ago. "And do you know that Smaug the Dragon and Cats do purr when they speak?"
"You are far from Gentle, Susan Pevensie." He purred.
Her eyes were ice blue and shone with murder concealed perfectly except from him.
A few dances later, she asked him. "Shouldn't you be waking up?"
They were standing on a balcony, the same one he saw when he came. The same one that laid behind him when he chatted with the Cheetah. "I need to ensure something first."
"I honor our bargain Smaug, tell me what it is that you wish and as long as it is within my power, I will provide it to you."
"That is good to hear."
"Would you wish your reward now?"
"No, not yet."
"Move along Susan Pevensie, and dream of me."
She smiled, rose petal lips and ice eyes. After placing a kiss on the corner of his lips, she turned and disappeared.
He woke up sprawled on his gold bed and feeling more content than he'd ever been.
Chapter 7: 25. To the North.
We see what wasn't written. Even if it is just a bit.
Undeniably, Smaug was determined to visit Narnia again. Like Susan when she visited Erebor, he was craving for the beauty and diversity that laid outside Cair Paravel's walls. He wanted to paint in his memory the wide forests and the apple garden he saw from that balcony. He tried, by the Valar, he did to the point that all he did was to sleep. There was no news of the dragon under the mountain nor of the gold that he stole. Nothing.
There was no visit from Susan either, and that made Smaug anxious and bored. All he knew was that he should have asked that she visit, well he did ask that she dream of him, knowing her though, she could play with his words to make any excuse. What if there was danger? A queen is as important, nay, even more important than the king. (Only if Middle Earth would allow the women to rule to their full capabilities, not as gems that are prizes to be flaunted and protected...even worse, to give away.) Was she already married to that pompous ass Rabadash? Or was there another suitor that was fighting for her hand? How was Peter? Did he find a wife and spawned an heir? Maybe he married that woman he was dancing with nonstop when he visited. How are Lucy and Edmund? That Cheetah, he didn't even got the chance to ask his name, or to talk to the centaurs, or meet those Narnians that Susan told him of.
(More than anything, he wanted to feel it again. The joy of being among beings that didn't scorn him. The acceptance and glee of social interaction. The suspicion of being a stranger. Being believed as 'a good dragon' just for the word of one person. To use his wits and charm to another, and to feel his mind race with thoughts and strategies to overcome a challenge.)
Imagine his surprise when he woke up from a fitful slumber by choking...drowning. Being doused with water was almost an impossible thing unless it is by rain and storm. Also, dragons of his kind do not just go swimming unless it is direly needed. To be surrounded by blue made him panic and struggle to break to the surface. He observed three things. One, he was a dragon. Two, he was sure that he was in Narnia. Three, there was a shadow of a ship and it was sailing too fast for leisure.
Air. Air. Air. He broke to the surface with a splash, the water going to all directions as he flapped his wings and took deep breaths. Air. Air. Air. Warmth. Warmth. Fire. His core, a fire, that defines him as dragon born was burning low. He roared, summoning flames and smoke in his wake.
"Dragon! Dragon! To arms! To arms!" Voices clamored with hurried footsteps against wood combining with the grate of steel against leather and metal. He felt the poke of an arrow on his wing, useless but recognized. He turned his attention to the ship. (A swan head as a prow and a magnificent red sail of a lion. The Lion.) He paused his retaliation when a man came marching out of the main cabin, eyes dark and death clinging to his every pore. Anger and Edmund are a rare pair that he considered a privilege to see. "Your Majesty!"
One look was all it took. Golden eyes and dark brown and recognition was all it took. (Analysis and deduction, Edmund would tell him later.) The king raised a hand, earning confused gazes from his subjects. One faun, came forward to his side, alarm clearly written on his face and hands twisting a red scarf. Edmund sheathed his sword and put down his hand, a wordless order to back down. Tension racked the air and everyone waited in bated breath.
"My sister spoke of a dragon who preferred talking than devouring her. Are you him?" Smaug couldn't help but raise a brow. What is this king playing? The anger and death that a few moments ago, suddenly gone.
"A long time since last, King Edmund."
"I request that you change to your human form old friend, we wouldn't want any beacon signaling our escape."
Confusion. He wasn't surprised though. Susan and Edmund were almost twins in a sense. "A towel or a robe for modesty."
"It will be done." A look to the faun and he was off to deliver his king's wishes.
(Susan would tell him later that his transformation was one of many amazing things Edmund had seen. She would tell him too, that she was envious that he never saw it.)
(He would tell her years later that it was because of modesty and that even dragons have a sense of propriety.)
Well, what a way to change a day for Narnians. The already tensed atmosphere was now close to erupting, if not for the relief that painted Edmund's face, he would be dead just by gazes. He was herded to the inner cabins of the ship as soon as he could stand without swaying. The faun was full of suspicion, but let his king handle the situation, sensitive as it already was.
"I think we have some of Peter's clothes that will fit you for the time being. I am glad that you came to visit, as poor as your timing is."
As soon as the door to the Kings' quarters shut, the grim atmosphere returned with a vengeance.
"Who are you fleeing from?"
There was no answer, but a tensing of the Faun who assisted Edmund in the search for suitable clothes. He leveled his stare to the Faun, thinking that he was the weaker one and that answers would come easier if he breaks first.
"I do not know you."
"You do not know anyone other than the four of us and a certain prince." Edmund intervened before Tumnus could make a reply.
"My point exactly."
"One of our advisers, Mr. Tumnus."
It took Smaug a few moments to process the statement and the picture in his head. "The Mr. Tumnus?"
"The one and only."
His piercing eyes turned to assess Mr. Tumnus once more. This time around it wasn't with a simple curiosity and just wanting answers, but of amusement and a hint of respect. "It is a pleasure to finally meet you. Susan speak of you with such fondness and love that only now do I understand."
"I must apologize for as much flattery you give me... I do not know you enough to return the sentiment.'
"I'm sorry Tumnus, Smaug came while you were in that damned place. A visit."
"I understand Your Majesty, but where, by the Mane did Queen Susan meet a... Dragon? One who shows up from the bellies of the ocean and transforms to a human?"
Edmund collected the belt and breeches from Tumnus before placing it on the chair beside Smaug. He was by then completely dry. His inner fire enough to warm him. The Dragon nodded in thanks, gathering the garments and following Edmund's motion to the dressing screen on the corner of the small room. Edmund then sat on his bed with a sigh.
"My question is yet to be answered." Smaug mentioned before he disappeared behind the screen, the robe he was wrapped in falling to the floor with a swish. "I asked the question first didn't I? Let's have that answered before I answer Mr. Tumnus'."
Silence stretched longer as he dressed himself. He wondered if what he would receive was the truth, cold and harsh, or a toned down version, diluted like wine and water. He didn't worry though. He would know the whole truth sooner or later. Peter's clothes were a little snug, but thankfully they weren't itchy. The scales that stayed on his back and shoulder blades made no complaint with the soft cloth. "Susan spoke of you as a silver tongue Edmund, is this a matter of trust?"
"No. Not in whole."
"Tell me what I need to know to be of assistance Edmund Pevensie, or I would be forced to do so in more unsavory ways. Knowing that I am here, it would only mean it concerns Susan." He stepped out of the screen and placed the robe on the back of the closest chair.
Edmund heaved a heavy sigh, sneaking a glance to the faun's direction.
"I believe you have an idea of what Susan was planning to the Calormen Prince the first time you were here. Not a concrete idea, but at least something. Didn't you?" Edmund stayed seated, his hands clasped together and his elbows on his knees. Smaug chose to stand by the chair where he left the towel. Tumnus was still where he was, confusion clearly coloring his face. For a close adviser, Smaug was surprised that it would seem he had no idea of what Edmund was talking about.
"I have. A political game of bait. That much I can discern. How long since then?" He had expected that Susan would either have married the prince or dumped him immediately.
"A year." Edmund contained the grimace, but it leaked through just a bit. "Everything went perfectly as planned."
"Edmund, is this... Is this what Susan was talking about..?" Tumnus was confused, clear as day, and the broken strings that seem to lack the time to be connected when the destruction came forth now manifested. And it would seem that the middle of it all, the one who knew all, was Susan. Edmund's questioning gaze was enough a demand for the faun to talk. "She...said that she never planned to stay. Never planned to accept the proposal. She never told me why, but Edmund you could've prevented or at least cautioned her."
"There is no clarity in what you speak, and if you want my help, I really need it." Smaug commented with a slight roll of his eyes. "Or should I just ask her?"
He could smell the scent of lilies, and he was sure that he could follow it with minor difficulties, even with the salt in the air. The grave look that passed between the two irritated him. "Speak plainly or lead me to her. I prefer the latter, since it is clear that she's the only one who knows the whole circle of what there is."
"Spider." Edmund scoffed, pain and anger twisting his face. Smaug didn't understand the relation of the creature to Susan, not to the slightest. "If you can make her talk more than we both ever did, report to me."
"You aren't my king. I follow no kings."
He sneered at the boy. The stare that Edmund gave him was tired and serious. This was no laughing matter, nor would it be one to play with longer than it should've been.
"I do not order it as king, but as a brother who only wants to protect his kin."
"I will only tell what she wants me to."
Edmund nodded. "I can make do of that."
"Are you sure?" Tumnus intruded. He was wary for good reason, as Susan was someone he considered as his daughter. "I believe this wouldn't be a good time to make her talk sire. I... You do not know how she was before we left. She... She."
"She broke. Not in the way you saw her, dancing me around in tears when I thought of the escape plan. It was worlds different and it was horrifying to see."
"That would be understandable. I would fear for her more if she didn't. With what she experienced..." Edmund shuddered, fury once again coloring his countenance. A few moments of silence and he stood. "Come. I hope she wouldn't be stubborn with seeing you here."
"At last. Some notable progress." Smaug drawled, masking the worry that weighed heavy in his belly.
Every step closer to her room made it more prominent that something was horribly wrong. Given, it was just a short trip, but the atmosphere itself was suffocating. His ears pounded and there was nothing in the air to him, but the scent of lilies, grief and pain, with a hint of murder. How did this one year treat Susan? One year of which his companionship might be needed. One year of which Erebor's desolate halls might have helped. What could've happened in a year in Narnia? Smaug asked himself if he was ready, remembering that Susan, in some way, prepared him of what to expect. Except now, when the one who would be preparing him was the one he was to expect. Not that Edmund couldn't do the same, but there was the advantage of familiarity.
"Susan?" Edmund's hesitation was clear. Tumnus' straighter stance was tensed. Another bout of silence. A period of which anger, hate, guilt and fierce love rolled like waves on Edmund's every twitch. The echo of movement in the cabin continued and it wasn't until the second batch of knocking that it paused.
"Come in Ed." A collective sigh of relief was heard but would never be addressed.
Smaug tensed at the smell of blood that assaulted him, and the sight of hair scattered on the wooden floor. He wasn't the only one. Tumnus was quick to go to her side, eyes wide in worry. Edmund was like him in reaction, just with the addition of his hand gripping his sword as a lifeline...a promise...a curse.
"Susan! What are you...?" Susan sat on a chair, hand holding a dagger with ease and with every intent of chopping her waist long hair even shorter. She clearly didn't want it cut in desired length in one go. There was the explanation on why hair scattered, with it the scent of lilies. The blood was from a small wound on her palm, a miscalculation she told them with a smile. Nothing amiss, except for the very activity she was doing at the moment.
"Leave us." Smaug was taken aback with the sound of his own voice. Susan blinked, only then recognizing his presence. Surer, he repeated. "Leave us."
He held her gaze until the door clicked close and til she looked away, to carry on with chopping her hair shorter. He watched her, straight back and not an action misplaced and for some reason, he had an idea of what Tumnus meant when Susan broke.
"How are you, Smaug, dragon of Erebor?" Her voice was teasing, steady, and as curious as any question she asked him through the years. The smile on her face was a hint insane, and Smaug knew this. (Thror had the same smile as he watched from afar.)
And Smaug realized that history would never know that Susan Pevensie was breaking until she was irreparable. Never.
The world would only know her wrath, and it would still be for her gentleness. She would always be the gracious Queen, until the world see her claim the murders she did. (Narnia would know, always. The land would know all the sacrifices for her. All tears and blood shed would fall to the ground and would be known.)
"I am fine. Other than wishing that I came here through better ways than drowning." He stayed where he stood, watching her with keen eyes and taking inventory of information to prepare him of what to do next. Patience was a virtue dragons were born to live with. "Do you not have scissors? Or a lady that can cut your hair for you? I know Queens should have at least one."
"Scissors?" Her hand was steady when she paused. The other, running through the tresses and taming her waves. "I don't have one, and I do not want to ask."
He merely raised his brow, indication that he was waiting for the rest of his answers. Susan rolled her eyes and carried on cutting. "My ladies are all back home, if the reports I received were accurate. I sent them both away for trips before I went to Tashbaan."
He took a step forward and watched her reaction carefully. Not a twitch out of place. "I always thought your hair was too long. Must be quite a nuance in the morning."
"You must agree though that it was beautiful." He watched the descent of a luscious lock to the floor. He took note that by now, her hair was just above her knees, especially if his calculations were correct. He wondered how far Susan was willing to cut. It would seem that every inch off was a sign of how distressed she was with what just happened and how she was keeping it.
Almost unnecessarily in his opinion. He was sure Edmund would be more than willing to listen. Anger though can make people reckless. Pondering, Smaug realized that Susan would know best. He just need to be here to know the whole situation, and help the best he could.
A dragon? Helping someone?
You're a good dragon.
He moved closer, watching her reactions carefully. If Susan Pevensie would enforce her walls even against him, he would push and destroy. It was his specialty. Her hands froze for a few moments when he was an arm span away from her. With it. Came suspicion leaking from her gaze. Suspicion for him. Of him. An emotion he always imagined she wear, but was swept off his feet to see it. It was cold, swift and sudden. He couldn't stop himself from wondering how she would look with rage and hatred. Of seeing her with the murder she tucked between her ribs, unleashed. He wondered how he would feel if it was directed at him. He softened his expression, adding a small smile for effect. He preferred her curiosity over suspicion. "Yes. It was beautiful. Why are you cutting it now if you liked it?"
"All things must come to an end." Another inch.
"Your liking?" A pause and a smirk from petal lips.
"The use." She shrugged. "And the liking, yes."
He moved closer once more, and she gave him a small flinch. He faltered. "What's the use? Using it as a rope to escape out a window? Or maybe to sneak someone in?"
A twitch and her expression became seeking, grasping a memory that was just beyond her grasp. (Smaug would ask of it later, but the answer would only come far in the future.)
"Why would you send them away?" A step forward, his hands still on his back and his face a mirror of hers. Calm. So damn calm that you wouldn't even know something was wrong unless you looked closer. That if they weren't speaking, no one would even know that he was asking her answers she didn't want to give. He would rather have the knowledge of her safety, even if that means that he needed to prod and push unnecessarily. He took comfort though, that she wasn't closing herself to him and being unresponsive. Susan being quiet, being distant, was beginning of the end, especially with how Smaug knew the woman.
Susan was a quiet child, but when she speak, it was always interesting.
"To protect them." She shrugged. "Also with how close they are to me, I am sure that they would be more distractions than help."
"Distractions because they will protect you?"
"Distractions because I need to protect Narnia." She pointed out, nonchalant.
"By putting yourself in danger."
"I am always in danger."
"Doesn't mean that you should push it even more." He could feel anger curling in his belly, but he made every effort to make it stay that way. He didn't have any right to be angry at her. He wasn't her keeper. He was just her dream dragon. Just.
"I am alive, am I not?" With a sigh, she paused on her hair cutting. "What is done, is done. To speak of it now wishing it happened differently would do nothing." Then she carried on cutting closing the topic that he wasn't prepared to leave. "I do not need any more chastisements especially one who has no clue what happened."
"Isn't it why I am asking?"
Her hands dropped to her lap and she glared at him. "I am wasting my breath then, with the questions you asked."
How dare she? Did she not know that I can easily kill her and all the inhabitants of this ship? Were his first thoughts the moment anger flared and lit his face. He knew she saw it, yet she glared on and stood her ground. She knew, that she just offended him and she was unrepentant. To fight this much, especially against him and even her family, to hide an event and information would only mean that it is important. Incredibly important. He took a breath, curving the anger back in. He held out his hand and softened the expression of his face. "Let me cut your hair, please."
"An assurance that you wouldn't shave it all off." She scoffed and rolled her eyes, but she did pass him the blade. She gave him a small smile, her calm now back. In the few precious moments when she smiled then turned her back to him, he saw more than evasion. Fear screamed for freedom in her shaking hands. Anger in the slope of her shoulders. Relief in the sigh that she released. Fear. He ran his fingers through her hair and realized that it was the first time he touched it with. Yes, they did dance and she did kiss his cheek, but this. This was something much more important. Something much more reverent. The blade met dark locks and for a few moments, silence reigned.
"Did something go wrong when you stole the mountain? Even one tiny thing?" It was a whisper, but in the silence, it echoed. He needed to pause when he ran his fingers through her hair, intent on getting any stray lock to straighten his next cut. He gave the back of her head a look of relief and carried on.
"Letting them live is a willing mistake." Cut. "I knew that they would want their inheritance back, and it's bad. I do crave their coming though. I want to disappoint them of thinking that they could do it."
"If you planned it and willed it, why would you call it a mistake?" He finished cutting her hair when it reached her waist, and stepped back to admire his handiwork.
"Because it will cost me in the future, even more than what it cost when I took Erebor." He left the blade on the nearest table and then took hold of a comb, to run through her tresses. "A small snowball down the hill."
Silence. He couldn't do anything else when her hair shimmered like stars in midnight, but to stop combing and tell her that it's done. "I would hide the blade if you intend to cut it shorter. I love it this way, just perfect. Practical yet beautiful."
"Who are you to order me?" No anger this time, only irritation. "I do not plan to cut it shorter anyway."
"How much can a man love?" She asked so sudden when he thought the silence stretched too long already.
He was so surprised he blurted out the first thought that came to his mind. "I am not a man, Susan."
She turned to face him just as quickly with an irritated pout and a raised brow. She was clearly not amused with his answer. "How much can someone love then? Have you ever loved Smaug?"
"Gold is on the list." Her face scrunched and he watched, raptured, at the expressions that finally blessed her placid mask. "There are different kinds of love, child."
"That's obsession. You labeled it yourself as a sickness."
"For the dwarves." Lie.
"Well you aren't so different then. Gold. Your greatest love is a prize, taken and stolen. A never ending cycle of wanting more and letting everyone know. If that is your love, then it's certainly is forever." She gave him a deadly smile to come with her innocent, sweet voice. She blinked, "Unless Middle Earth's gold suddenly runs out of stock, you will definitely have your happily ever after."
"Is this what you are fleeing from? Love? Too afraid to face what you are feeling to go through?" He sneered, baring fangs and even going so far to hissing. "Is this Prince Rabadash, not fit for the most beautiful queen? I'm surprised you realized it just now, little one."
She rolled her eyes. "I see now why you fit being the destroyer than a ruler. You wouldn't know a thing about politics."
"I find no need of it." He moved around the room. Anger demanding retribution and giving energy he didn't know how to release. He dropped down on a seat opposite hers and rested his chin on his knuckles. "Though I've seen a thousand of royal and arranged marriages. Let me see…"
Susan might've expected that he would allow her anger to destroy him. Oh, of course he knew. She would destroy and destroy and then remake. He followed no monarchy. "Thinking of finally settling down and have kids. Rabadash is one you can tolerate so you picked him. He got the face and the physique, and a little brain. What of him did you not like to come scurrying home? Snoring too loud?" He chuckled. "Did you expect someone so much better, because you are the most beautiful?"
The tone of his voice was enough to wipe every emotion on her face.
"Calormen had been planning on invading Narnia for four years." The chill in her tone, in return, was enough to paint a moment of shock in his features before they slipped back to arrogance. "They've been planning on turning the whole continent into their very own empire ever since the White Witch fell."
"I've been monitoring their movements and plans as close as I could. They are one big country, bigger than Narnia and even more ruthless." Not once did the mask of nothingness wavered. It was one of the history lessons that she gave him back in Erebor, when she was introducing Narnia to him. This, was worse. It was better to read a book than listen to her. "Of course, what better way than a possibility of an alliance? That would save them the time of going to war just to get some of the benefits of Narnia."
"Then why flee?"
"Because I don't want an alliance." His back tensed and his brows furrowed. He knew that Susan was capable of evil, the murder in her eyes back then was manifestation enough. He even saw and knew about the blood in her hands, but he thought it was for necessary and unavoidable causes, such as defending her country. He put her in an ideal pedestal only to realize that she was no statue, or portrait to be admired. "An alliance would only give them a chance to backstab us. They are determined to make an empire. Better now than when they are more prepared. It was helpful that the Prince was so passionate and obsessive. To have the Barbarian Queen as the ultimate trophy and bargaining chip."
Susan was practically screaming to him that she had waged war without actually saying it. She even went so far as to tell him, "Of course, Narnia is not one to openly start a war."
Vicious. He exhaled, imagining that with it was the shock of this new knowledge coming out like smoke or flame. "And what does this have to do with love?"
"You want to know what happened right?" She chuckled, as if seeing this experience as not hers. As if it was someone else and she was merely a storyteller. "It's a sad tale. He's too in love with the thought of glory and too afraid of the thought of losing that locked me up and threatened to kill my companions…my brother's head in a platter."
"How did you escape?"
"Tumnus thought of preparing for a celebration and thus let us gain access of the ship to escape."
"At what price did you reach this small victory?" His voice steady, yet his hands were clenched. He finally understood why Edmund was so angry. The contemplation was a cover to the crack that started on the mask. The mask he wanted to wrench away. Are you prepared of what is behind it?
"Edmund didn't tell you?" Another crack. Her hands resumed in shaking.
"I do not think it is his story to tell." Her emotions are fluctuating. A clear sign of distress, and the mask was changing to suit her needs to protect it. "Tell me Susan. Did he touch you?"
"Oh, of course." She blinked. Evasion. "He did try to do more though."
She wouldn't break. She's an actress. She would act her part perfectly, right on queue and undeniably believable.
And now, she's the strong Queen that would emerge victorious in the end of this arc.
"How far did he try?"
"Not that far."
A knock on the door and a young man's voice disturbed whatever demand Smaug was about to say. (He would never know of the bruises that marred her arms and waist, thighs. Never know that she forced herself to throw up any taste of the Calormen Prince in her mouth. Never, ever know of the bite marks on her shoulder and collarbone.)
"Susan." Corin's voice made her smile. "Archenland is in the horizon, may I invite you to the deck? May I come in? I am sure it would brighten your spirits!"
(Smaug would never know that she was already half naked and screaming when she was able to hit Rabadash with a small marble statue on the arm. That it was only a few moments after that Edmund came barging in after subduing the guards outside the door.)
(He would never know.)
"This isn't your fight, Smaug the Stupendous. I advise that you return to your mountain as soon as you could." She said before she stood to pass by him. She was stopped by a hand around her arm and talons barely digging on her skin. Shocked, she looked down to see his hand. A hand encased in scales and instead of nails, were the black talons that she was so familiar with. He was seething, taking in deep breaths and looking onward with fury clearly written on his face. Fury for Rabadash? Or for Susan and her evasion? Turning to the door, she lightened her tone. "Give me a few minutes Corin, I have a visitor. I will follow you up the deck."
"Oh, as you wish Your Majesty." She waited until the steps faded.
"I will live Smaug. No need to fuss. I have an army at my disposal enough to exact any vengeance." Which she would never do, never tell. Her sacrifices would never be written in full detail and she preferred it that way.
Five minutes before the scales and talons disappeared. Another minute before Smaug let go of her arm. A few seconds after for Susan to leave the room up the deck. Fifteen minutes after did he went up the deck and be introduced to more people than he cared about.
(He would never know. Not from her.)
Chapter 8: 25. Secrets to the Grave
Deeper the ocean, the darker it goes.
The harder it is to breathe.
The harder to get away,
rather let go.
They never spoke of it. He never spoke to her and she to him. Their gazes would meet and clash, blue and gold. A challenge would ring into the air, his demanding and hers nonchalant. He was trying to break through her walls, and she was not even taking the challenge. She was literally being the Queen in her own pedestal, looking down at him with a smirk. He hated her for this, an emotion he never thought he would feel for her. Hated how she would hide behind scales like mithril, impenetrable unless allowed. He hated her because he saw himself in her. The high and mighty aura of knowing more and being more than anyone. Smaug hated this vulnerability and obsession of the mere lass.
I will not yield. Smaug decided when Susan passed by him while calling for Corin to come with her. The Queen sending Tumnus a smile and whispering a few words that made him fail faking a smile.
Tumnus was trying his best to figure out what he must do to ease the tension. This time, the tension of being chased was far from anyone's mind. They were in Narnian waters and mermaids guided them home. The tension was choking, but no one was brave enough to address it openly for fear of seeing the wrath of Edmund, Susan or the dragon Smaug. Edmund who was poison well kept and quick, with his anger and guilt. Smaug who was fire with his hidden rage. Susan, dear Susan, was ice like the White Witch's winter, in her cold civility and almost snow colored eyes. Sometimes, Tumnus wished that one of them would just snap, but knowing Susan, he knew she would never be the first.
"Gentle things aren't easy to break Tumnus." Susan, hollowed eyes and shaking hands. Susan, steady voiced and straight backed. Susan, spring and winter rolled into one. Susan, calm, steady and searing as the summer sun. Susan, who looked at her shaking hands as if they weren't hers. Susan, gleaming white amid the golden sands of Tashbaan. Out of place, so out of place.
Susan who had the ability to put herself in a glass cage and let everyone see that nothing was, (is, and will) affecting her. "No one would know of my sacrifices, dear friend. I prefer it that way. For Narnia, no one would know how deep in the muck I am willing to go."
"You need not do so. We are here. We pledged to protect you and you need not put yourself in such danger." Tumnus begged. "We will find a way out of this, and everything will be alright."
"Of course." Susan, whose voice was like that of a breeze. Susan, whose burdens no one can see the full weight of. Susan, two hours before she agreed to be locked away in a room for the safety of her Narnian party. A few hours after Rabadash vowed to every one of them, that her refusal would mean each of their heads on a platter. "This is just a miscalculation, there is no need to fuss."
"If you never planned to agree with his proposal, why come here? Why risk this?" He whispered, knowing even in this desolate garden that ears were everywhere. He didn't understand why. Never understood why she would take too much and keep it hers. Why she would keep her lips sealed even when her siblings were there to help. Why she chose the path of being the martyr.
"Because if it is for the good of Narnia, then I am hers to order. A Queen is for her people, and among all others, this is for each of them that I vowed that they will live their lives happily, peacefully and in prosperity."
(Tumnus would only know the answers to his 'whys', when he got a chance to watch as Susan Pevensie first swiped the blood red lipstick on her lips. Answers will come when her hair would bounce in tight curls as she prepares for another party. Answers when she would smile to a young soldier, bright and real.
Answers with every "You will come home, never the same, but you will come home." to a soldier scared of leaving his family and just putting a brave face. Susan would know, she could read without any word being exchanged. With every "War is an ugly thing, a necessity that was bred by greed." to an official who would ask what her view was. With every secret that she would seal under her skin. With every lie that she would tell to her siblings. "Narnia is but a game Lucy, time to grow up." because this would be their reality and it was darker, grimier and needs more light than Narnia would. "Time to look onward." because Narnia had moved forward without them.
Susan's sacrifices would never be sung, but one way or another it would be known. Tumnus, in the future that would come, will make sure of that.)
"Because war would come one way or another, and better sooner and less prepared than the other option." Susan's last words before she went to Rabadash to give her answer to his demand. Her last words before she was locked into a room that spat her out bared. A release in more ways than one.
"Master Tumnus!" He snapped out of his reverie to look at the captain of the ship. A red haired, blue eyed man who lived his life with the sea. Captain Dannis of the Splendor Hyaline and an Admiral of Narnia, pointed to the sky before passing the helm to his first mate. Immediately, Tumnus turned his gaze to the sky and listened as Dannis' footsteps echoed closer to where he was. He also knew that the whole crew had paused in whatever they were doing to see what their Captain was about. "Do you see it?" Dannis said once he was standing beside the faun.
An Albatross. Tumnus hurried to welcome it and to know what was happening for him to come. An Albatross who came all this way when they were still two days away from the dock of the Cair. He saw in the corner of his gaze, Dannis disappearing below the deck to call on the monarchs. He also took note of Smaug approaching, but put it off the moment the Albatross landed.
"Greetings... Tumnus, great..." The Albatross heaved.
"Deep breaths good cousin. Deep breaths." Tumnus interrupted, knowing that Albatrosses, being the Great Birds of the Sea, were formal with their interactions and it was better that the monarchs were with them when the news was delivered. "The captain already summoned Their Majesties. Take your time for you have travelled far. Please."
What reigned after was heavy breathing before hurried footsteps. Susan's voice came shortly, steady and welcome. "Greetings good cousin, why come to us in this time? Is something afoot in your home that you seek our assistance? Or something far worse?"
"I am Kot, brother to Fadik, who is of your employ. I bring news Your Majesty. Your Royal Sister, Queen Lucy, received news from the borders of Narnia. War is upon us my Queen and King. Calormene troops march to Anvard intent of taking the capital. After doing so, they plan to take Narnia." Alarm tinted his voice and fatigue pushed on his wings. Tumnus watched Susan and found no surprise but relief. "Rabadash leads the troops and King Lune ask for assistance. Her Majesty, Queen Lucy, prepares for war as we speak."
"Did our sister speak of anything else?" Edmund continued, his racing mind clear in his burning gaze.
"She will wait for you to arrive before marching off to Anvard. She also asks that you send her a letter of what happened in Tashbaan. One from you exclusively Queen Susan." Susan nodded, a small smile on her lips. "That is all, Your Majesties."
"Thank you Kot, for your valiance and for your strength." Edmund knelt before the Albatross, Susan following suit. "You've done well and we are forever in your debt."
Susan and Edmund bowed in unison, and when they looked up, their faces were sculpted for battle. "Please rest as much as you can. We apologize for pushing you too much but we will need you to make flight in an hour's time. We will have the letter prepared as soon as possible and Tumnus will take care of your sustenance and rest. Thank you so much."
"We'll see the Swan fly, my Queen." Dannis replied and Susan nodded with a gracious smile. Then they were gone, off to their own to plan before bringing doom to where they must.
As Peter and Lucy were fire and storm, Susan and Edmund were tsunamis and whirlpools. One rages then passes, the other takes then keeps. Tumnus remembered the names the Narnians gave the Four. Harbingers, guardians, leaders and prophets.
Barbarians, echoed in his mind. Catching Susan's ice colored eyes and Edmund's grim smile before they disappeared from sight, Tumnus wondered if the voice inside his head was right.
"What happened to her?" That was the third time Edmund didn't answer Smaug's question ever since he entered the room. The King was in the middle of drawing plans and formulating questions for the battle he will plunge himself to the moment he steps on land, and Smaug felt Edmund was doing it on purpose. "On your end of the story. That much you can tell me."
Susan's chilled scream rang like a battle cry in Edmund's head. (It was one.) He dare not turn as memories flashed like that of a picture book, too fast to comprehend but too painful to see. Ocean eyes bleeding tears and keeping blood. A tensed jaw. White fists. Shaking limbs. Fear. Anger. Death. Edmund knew that as much as Susan was afraid back then for being overpowered, it was more of her will than by pure battle of strength.
Susan would never bow to anyone unworthy of her unless it is for something bigger. She could've killed Rabadash while half naked and without caring. His sisters were warrior women who had shed blood in their own ways and no one in Narnia would know just how much Susan did. Sometimes not even him, Edmund the Just. Susan the Secretive was a more suitable title.
"We are characters of a story. A hero of our own and a villain to another's. This is our tale of survival. Our tale of adaptation. Some are meant to be told like the sun shining bright in the blue sky, or the lovely moon and the twinkling stars. Some kept for others to discover, for history is written by the victors, never the survivors." Words that ran around like a chant, the memory attached to it one of unimagined coldness to someone hailed Kind. A memory of cruelty and heartlessness for one crowned Gentle. "Cruelty to whom Edmund? You're place is to see both sides. It's not mine. Mine is to make sure that we will go onward."
Edmund and his balance. Peter and his shield. Lucy and her beacon. Susan and her masks.
No one would know of Susan's sacrifice. A twisted vow that the Four kept.
"Boy." Edmund blinked, only recognizing the pain on his shoulder from digging fingers and the burning gaze on his own. He blinked, looking up to see blazing gold eyes and a threat that could burn him...literally. "Answer me."
"Your ears are smoking." He smirked belatedly when he realized the automatic lie. The grip tightened and he kept his face calm, even when his mind was racing with the disadvantages in the battlefield this would result to. No worries, diluted drop of the fire-flower can help. He was sure Susan would notice however he kept the pain. She always noticed and always kept, always played, always riddled.
"Answer. Me. Boy."
He scoffed, not even believing that this Dragon would be so stupid not to realize. He wanted to laugh, a rare emotion these days, and maybe poke those eyes to see if they would still bleed red. Murderous thoughts were more of Susan's area than his. Quite dangerous if he was being infected by her murder mood. "What do you think happens when a raving man obsessed with the possibility of a trophy wife, locks said trophy wife under the threat of putting her companions' heads on platters? What do you think a man would do to stake his claim? How far one would go to keep? To own?"
Edmund watched as broken thoughts met in those golden eyes. Watched as confusion reigned for a few moments and clarity the next, then horror a moment after, followed by a torrent of intensity. He gave the Dragon a wry smile. "I didn't believe when Susan said you weren't that princess kidnapping dragon. Your reaction's proof enough."
Smaug stepped away and stood stock still.
Edmund honestly expected that he would turn dragon or roar his fury at him, maybe burn him to crisp.
"Now that you got what you seek, please, I've wasted precious moments of the hour."
The door wasn't slammed as he expected, and when he turned back to his writing and felt pain on his shoulder, he thanked Aslan that Susan decided they all practice to be ambidextrous. It came easier with them who chose that blades on both hands are better than a sword and a shield. That a good offense is a good defense. That freedom is essential.
Edmund understood the darkness that Susan played in. It didn't mean that he liked it.
Smaug found Susan in a similar pose as Edmund when he barged into her quarters. Her head bent and blowing air to the drying seal of a rolled up parchment. Letter to Lucy. She ignored him. The only sign of acknowledgement was the slight tilt of her head when the door clicked close. There was no address, no welcome or greeting of any kind.
"Don’t you think that to carry on with this façade is childish Susan Pevensie?" He was rooted in that spot by the door, not knowing whether he had permission to go deeper to the room or if it was to have a quick getaway when he found himself needing one.
There was a chuckle, almost inaudible except for the slight shake of her shoulders. "You lost. And here I thought you would win this game you set."
"You thought that this is a game?" He was glad that the anger that sparked didn't bled into his words. 'This silence? What is this? Who stays quiet the longest?"
"Who would want to talk to you with all the glares that you send the moment someone steps to your direction? You never approached me for the last three days and well... two can play such game." She didn't turn to face him, just commenting then returning to drying her seal. Her calm made him bristle, especially the dark thoughts that he came to conclude the moment Edmund spilled as much as he was able.
"Edmund told me." She straightened, a moment of tension before she was back to her own graceful skin, and then turned to him. Finally.
"Really?" He wanted to tear her skin apart and find where the child he met so long ago was. Wanted to ask if she was happy with her decisions and if this was a choice. She didn't believe him, or at least she didn't believe that he would know everything from Edmund. "What did he say?"
Her trust to him could never hold a candle to her trust to Edmund, or any of her siblings. That much he knew. (He would know in the future that she could and would doubt Aslan, but she could and would never doubt Edmund, Lucy and Peter.) "Enough for me to jump to a conclusion. I come for clarification."
"Of which I would never give."
"Why Susan Pevensie? Scared?" Smaug was getting desperate and if desperation is the way to get his answer, then he would shove to get it. "Or are you surprised that one miscalculation can result to so much?"
She flinched. Satisfaction purred in his belly. "Some events are better left unknown."
"About your failure?" He let his back rest on the door, smirking as she stood up and completely face him.
"I didn't fail, especially if we talk of my criteria of success."
"Then if it is a part of your success, then why not boast it?"
"The history books saying that we escaped from Tashbaan, that we won this war, would be enough."
"What did you escape?" Another flinch.
"Why turn down the marriage?" He continued. Her hands clenched into fists.
"Did he not suffice in your criteria of a perfect bedmate?" He grinned wide. "Or is he just another tally to your list, Queen Heartbreaker?"
The next moment, his head was snapped back to the right and his cheek was burning. Susan's quick breathing echoed the room and the sound of the slap was missed when it happened. Smaug did hear a trace of it in his head.
"How. Dare. You." She held the hand that hurt him to her breasts and glared at him, tears barely holding on the edges of her eyes. "How. Dare. You."
He watched her in silence, waiting and expecting that what he did was enough to crack that perfectly crafted mask of hers.
"No." He tensed, anger replying to her own. Her hand raised for another slap and he stopped her with a steady grip. A drop of tear ran down her left cheek. He pulled her closer, encasing her in his arms. "No."
"Let me go." She pushed at his chest and didn't meet his eyes. He didn't dare seek it after that.
"No." He buried his face to her hair and tightened his hold enough to make the point. "I want to know. I want to know about what pain you went through. I want to know it so much to keep the voices in my head quiet and for the images in my eyes stop making worse to worst and even situations I couldn’t imagine happening came before me."
She whimpered, pushing him away again.
He felt breathless and hoarse, a roar he wanted to release but cannot. "You don’t need to tell me. I don’t understand why you wouldn't want to, but I will try. Just... please Susan. Break while we are here. Break while we can catch and help you get up. Break while we can do our best to piece you back."
She shook her head and tightened her hold to his clothes.
"Please." In the back of his min, he wondered why he was going so far for her. Going so far as to beg and let desperation dictate his actions. "You cannot handle all this alone. Let go."
A big breath from her. Another shake of head.
"I won't let you out this room. I won't let you go. You can hate me after but I wouldn't let you go on like this." He could take her hate, if it would mean she would smile and it would reach her eyes.
"We want to kill him." He tightened his hold on her, a sign that he heard. He didn't know if he was shaking on his own or because she was shaking. "We want to see him dead and choking in his own blood. We want to castrate him and shove it in his throat. We want to burn him out of existence."
"We can kill him. We know we can, it was so easy to a reckless man as him." He swallowed the questions before they reached his tongue. He gently slid themselves to the floor, his back to the door and moving her to settle more comfortably between his outstretched legs. Her head rested on his chest, her whispers as if it was to his heart. Her grip to his clothes still as tight. "Why didn't we? We can't, because then we would never escape. Edmund and Tumnus would be dead. The plan would be ruined."
("What plan Queen Susan?")
Tears ran freely now, but it was as if it was from another. He combed her tussled hair away from her face with his fingers. Her eyes were glazed, a sign enough for him that she was faraway. "We cannot do that. Right?" She looked at him in askance. "The big fat Tisroc would kill Ed and Mr. Tumnus and the others. Pete would cry. Lu would cry. I promised Mum that we would go home together. They would put the Beavers to sticks and fry them. They would break Oreius to pieces. I cannot kill him..."
"We did good right?" Smaug felt ice in his belly as he tried his best to give her a decent smile.
"I don't know little one." He forced out. Her smile (it reached her eyes) was clearly disconnected to her tears, or her desperate grip.
"We are alive. I think it's good." She chuckled. "It was boring inside that room. It wasn't like the mountain since you weren't there. I was scared, but I was fine. All we could do was wait. They didn't even have books in that room, or paper. Just tons and tons of beautiful dresses. Ouishaa was really kind with helping us dress and bringing us food. She looks at us with those sad eyes, but it's alright. We understand. Are you listening?"
Smaug looked down from his view of the ceiling to her face. His imaginings that everything was fine, that this was just his young Susan talking broke to reality. He cleared his clamped throat and gave another wince. "Yes. Would you like to continue, little one?"
She let her head fall back to his chest and hummed in satisfaction. "Every night, he would come and ask his usual question. He would tell me his usual threats. Tell me that 'my time was running out'. That last night, there was no moon and the desert was so beautiful in the dark...do you know that? Anyway, that last night, he came barging in like you did...but different."
Smaug blinked when he recognized pain and turned to his hand to see talons digging on skin. "D-do you think him and me-"
"No. Never!" Susan shook her head and her hair moved with its ferocity. "Not at all."
He was relieved, there was no mistake at that.
"Anyway, he came in all wild, like an animal...not Talking Animal. And it was like darkness and fire was engulfing him. He had this glint in his eyes... a bit too bright and he was muttering." She faltered. "He..."
Silence. Smaug searched her face only to see her blinking too fast for his liking and her jaw tense enough that he could hear her teeth grinding. Her shaking returned and she held her arms together using white knuckled grips. "He..."
Alarmed, he turned her body to face him just in time to hear her start to hyperventilate. "H...he.."
Dragons don't go to panic attacks. Dragons that he knew. He cradled her face in his hands and watched as her eyes fleeted to every direction. "Susan."
Her eyes snapped to him, the blue pushed to the edges. "He's not here. Do you understand me? He's not here."
He could see her struggle for control and the guilt that she slipped. He saw her on the edge and fighting to stay there. "He's not here. He wouldn't get you."
I will make sure he would never and I will burn him to ashes to do so. "I wouldn't let him."
"He's not here."
Only her breathing and his whispered chanting reigned. He only let his hold on her face loose to hug her, when her breathing slowed and hitched into sobs.
Smaug was the one to give the letter to Edmund to tie the letter to Kot's neck. He disappeared back below before anyone could turn and stop him.
When Edmund picked the lock to Susan's room open, he was greeted with a sight of Susan curled to her side and Smaug sitting on the floor with his head and arms resting on the bed.
She cried. He made her cry. Edmund let himself a sigh of relief. He broke the wall to let the dam out, and now they could rebuild.
He did note, once he closed the door a curious thing.
Chapter 9: Fire and Stars
There are different types of nightmares.
This chapter has been in my phone for so long. I apologize for not uploading it. (I really should reupload this on FF.net as well.)
I will do my best to get back into writing this.
Red. Red. Red. Red. Smaug roared as he tensed every muscle in his body and hoped that every emotion he held was gone after that roar. Only disappointment welcomed him after, as he still felt the fear and the anger of being unable to do anything. The anger of being put through this again and again. The hate of being so involved and being unable to severe any ties.
How dare he? He cursed whoever god can hear him, be it the Lion or the Illuvatar. How can they do this?
"Isn't it an irony that you speak of such things when you know nothing of us humans, or Narnia, with such a dragon's mindset to rely on?" Susan's last scathing words as she slammed the door to his face. Last words that he couldn't accept. Last words before she went to her own little mission that she can only do herself. Last words of which no one gave him clearance.
"It is their Majesty's network business." Tumnus could only tell him. "She'll summon her own faction of Narnia. As Edmund's are the strategists, Susan's are those of the assas--"
Assassins! He roared again, spitting fire and clawing the gold he called bed. To take him away when she was to sacrifice her safety? To take him away when her eyes held that insanity!? Another roar, a desperate attempt in erasing the mirage that presented itself amid the heat and the gold.
Susan's screams were the first to follow him when he returned to his mountain halls. Then, her angry words filled with scorn and venom. It was a week before images came along to torment him.
Susan's corpse after a failed war. Susan's mourning figure when dead siblings returned. Susan. Susan. Susan and her tears. Susan and her fury. Susan and her apathy.
Susan. It was after a month when he was proven wrong to the fact that his mind could conjure even worse. Susan's shoulders' marked by teeth. Fingers running through her dark hair. Her skin marked with impressions of fingers, both harsh and soft. Her wrists bound by trinkets of gems and strings. Her lips bruised from meeting with another. Her pale hands running on someone's back.
Her cries. Oh, it was her damned cries that he wanted to erase in his head, more than anything else. He dreaded each moment that it sounded of pleasure rather than pain. When she called that name in a breathless moment instead of spitting it in hatred. There was nothing he hated even more at that moment than to wring someone's neck with his own…human hands. He roared and thrashed almost every room of Erebor that by the time he was done, he was spent of energy.
He questioned if this was the price for this mountain and gold. For every turn to be haunted, not by whispers of revenge by a likeminded kin, but of winter eyes that softened like raindrops. To hear hatred from rose petal lips. To feel anger radiate from ivory. None of which, even an inch similar to gold that he so craved. He had never seen Susan in gold, whether it be her crown or her clothes. Never did she shine as gold to him, stirring his greed to take and own. Close, but never on point.
But by Eru, he wanted to keep.
Today, he had burned all the tapestries in the Great Hall, and watched it with growing disdain. The dreams were getting worse, and he had stayed awake instead of hoping that he would find Narnia again.
"What ill had the tapestries done to rise your ire?" A chuckle echoed to his left, the voice clear as day and echoing. He shuddered. The dreams wouldn't leave him, and now he's hallucinating. "The whole mountain reeks of smoke."
Someone coughed, and coughed, and coughed. The sounds so ragged and sickly that it irritated him. He turned to burn the image away only to halt, when he saw Susan, Susan Pevensie, huddled to a column coughing her lungs out. He didn't think. He moved. He didn't care of his nakedness when he transitioned. Didn't care when he swept her off her feet. Only cared on getting her out of this place where she wasn't meant to be. That she should get her fresh air and have her breath. The whole mountain did reek of smoke. She only stopped coughing when they were at the front balcony of the mountain, overlooking the front door of Erebor and the ruined city of Dale.
"You can put me down now." She whispered. She was so small. Gone was the woman that danced with Kings, and led armies with winter calm. In his arms was the teen that he had almost forgotten, with awkward limbs and chubby cheeks. "Please."
She didn't blush, nor did her eyes move away from his when he put her down. He knew that all that changed with her was appearance and an ache tore in his belly with the wide eyes that regarded him. "Stay." He pleaded. "I will make myself decent. Don't disappear."
"Please." He waited until she nodded, before rushing to the first room with curtains still intact to make himself decent by men's standards. She was looking out the view when he returned. At that moment, all thoughts and words that he wanted to say were lost. He stood there confused and relieved, hurt and happy, that she was alive and before him.
"Your land sings a sad song." Her voice was barely audible. He wondered what she saw with her human eyes. He could see past Dale and could still figure the shapes of Laketown. It was a moonless night and the stars surely weren't enough for her to appreciate what he saw. "I never really pictured such desolate ground."
"Few listen to the song. Few are blessed to hear it in the first place."
"Who would hear, better yet, who would listen?"
He moved to her side, watching as the wind raked fingers through her hair. Echoes of the older body remained in younger limbs, but it all came out awkward. He leaned to the stone and stared out, straining to the song she heard.
"The elves, for one."
"They seem to be the epitome of goodness here."
"There are no epitomes of goodness in this land. I have seen elves fall and wander with guilt while hoping that they could die."
She whispered something he could barely hear. Maybe it was his imagination.
"The Ents too. They would listen and would still remember."
At her inquisitive glance, young lashes and lids over old eyes, he continued.
"Living and breathing and moving trees. Not like your dryads of which their souls can manifest to move. The Ents are Trees. Moving forests. They also take everything slow, that your brother Peter would get a tick waiting for an answer to a question."
"To be a witness of everything changing and the old world fading."
"To be given such gift, would often be paired with a curse."
"What do you hear?" Her eyes were on him, but like that horrid time, she was seeing through him. "What do you listen to?"
"Gold." Clashed with blue. "Treasure."
The slight curl of her lips was of fatigue and politeness.
"Because there's nothing else calling."
"I still hear them." Her voice cracked. "I still see them both in my sleep and waking hours."
He closed his eyes. The pain in her voice was enough to make him fist his hands and tighten his jaw. Even with her younger body, she was still the same queen he argued with. Her tone doing its best to not betray the emotions struggling to come out. It only made the pain worse.
"I asked that we go no further. That we leave the hunting another day. They are my family though, and…"
He opened his eyes and saw her white knuckled fists. He expected another disconnected emotion like before, where her face was blank but her hands were shaking. This wasn't one of them. Her face showed everything. "Wherefore by my counsel we shall lightly return to our horses and follow this White Stag no further."
She shook her head.
"I should've insisted. I should've begged that we stop. Let them think me a coward or spoilsport for doing so. Now, we're back in England and in bodies too small."
He turned his back to the scenery and took her cold hand in his own. How could his pain compare to hers? He was selfish and all he had to care in Narnia was Susan. From her stemmed her siblings, and that was all. He wouldn't be crippled with grief with the others' absence. "How long?"
"Fifteen years." Goose bumps decorated her pale skin. "I wake up frozen by the mere thought of how they are faring. How long Phillip waited for us only to know that there's no return. How Tumnus would bear the guilt that he shouldn't even. Would they ask if they did something wrong to have us taken? Or, would they think that we did a grave sin to be led back?"
He encased her hand in his until they warmed, then took the other to give the same treatment. She gritted her teeth to keep them in control.
"Tell me." He prompted before he thought that she would shut herself down.
The struggle was clear.
"Lucy said that Aslan would take care of them. It is Aslan's will that we returned. I know them enough that they are suffering and I do not want to add with these worries. Oh, I do my best to believe in her words, in Him, but I cannot leave it at that."
He stopped her fists from clenching by lacing their fingers. It gave her a pause, made her look at him. Another shaky breath. "Faith can only do so much." She whimpered.
What could he say, dragon that only cared for riches, to a mother of a nation?
"Sometimes Susan, it's the only thing we can do."
He saw the retaliation flaring and he relished it. He didn't know though which he wanted more. The fire or the softness that followed?
"I often forget that you are so much older than I am."
He puffed his chest, folded his arms and stared down at her. "I am fire. I am death. I am the Greatest Dragon of this age."
Susan chuckled. "And you act like a child. I thought no one can overthrow Peter in reciting titles."
He raised a brow. "Oh? And how does he do it?"
Her face went to an impression of her brother's. "High King Peter the Magnificent, Emperor of the Lone Islands, Lord of Cair Paravel, and Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Lion." Then she broke to soft laughter as if the very introduction was taxing to her. "We asked him once how he could recite it with such a calm and serious face. How he could be so kingly in listing such details when the heralds would do the same."
"And his answer?"
"He feels superior." She wiped tears on the corners of her eyes. "I doubt it was it though. I think he just liked messing with us."
"I still think I win."
"I didn’t say it was competition."
"Have you ever seen me doing that in dragon form?"
She shook her head, more of exasperation than answer. "I can imagine."
She went back to looking out and he followed her with his eyes. She settled beside him. He turned around and leaned back. This way, she looked out the land and he looked into the mountain. "It would be far from the real thing though."
"I think not."
"You would just puff out your chest. Give your wings a shake. Look down at me like I am a mouse." She shrugged. "And be all grinning."
It was his turn to chuckle. "Spot on. You are quite hard to impress."
Their eyes met. Hers of memory and his, a challenge. "I don't remember it that way."
He rolled his eyes. "Believe me. After your first visit, it's the truth. It wasn't even me that impressed you, but the trinkets and toys the dwarves made. That music box in particular."
"Who wouldn't be impressed with a dragon?" She scrunched her nose. "I would prefer a dragon over an ass."
He stared at her. She stared at the desolate land. He waited. If there was anything he knew of Susan, it was that she would always give what was needed, especially to those who were important to her. Would that mean that he considered himself important to her? Wasn't it that she's the only one to decide? He definitely would want to think himself as an important person—being—in her life. Doubt curled in his belly. What had happened when he left her in Narnia? What happened to her whenever she left him? Did she even wonder how he was when she leaves? Did she consider him important to her as he did her?
What was she to him? How important was Susan Pevensie? That thought made him pause.
"That's what happened to him."
It didn't sink in as quick as he wanted, but when it did, he felt the scales on his back bristle and cover more skin. His fingers changed to talons and the tips of his ears hardened to scales. He gritted his teeth together as the images that tormented him came flooding back. He could feel his hair getting tangled when his horns started growing.
"I think you should know at least." Another pause. He wondered if she could feel his distress with how close they were. Surely she wouldn't miss it. Would it be too much to want that she say something for him? He started when he felt her chilled hand on his bare arm. She chilled so easily. She was looking at him with worry and he felt relief in it. Strange a reaction it might be. "Are you well?"
"Tell me." He wanted peace. "Then, I will be fine."
There was no shiver when she pulled back. Smaug couldn't help but think that she was suited in the cold. She seemed to like it more, adapted to it more. Narnia called her most beautiful and he believed that the unspoken untouchable part was truth.
"During the march to Anvard, there was someone that informed Lune of the approaching army. I believe you knew of this. Kot came bearing the message. The boy that came was the missing crown prince of Archenland and Corin's older twin."
"Rabadash?" That was all he wanted to know. All he wanted to know was that he was dead.
"The warning gave them time to prepare. However, they were still overwhelmed. Anvard could fight them, but it would be a long battle if Edmund and Lucy didn't come. They cut off the Calormene's rear and closed any chance of escape."
Now a new question came up to him. "And your assassins?"
She smiled at that. Small secret smiles that women always seemed to perfect. "They killed anyone that was brave enough to make a chance of escape. I wasn't in the field. There would and should always be a monarch in the Cair. More often than not, it would be me."
The image of her corpse slowly weakened and he was able to push it to the back of his head.
"Rabadash was pinned to a wall by an arrow through his collar." His growl of disapproval wasn't quiet enough. "It is done Smaug. I am just telling you what happened. Disappointment wouldn't serve you now."
"I am free to feel it."
She sighed at that. "Aslan came. Before their eyes, he changed Rabadash into an ass. He would only turn back to his human form when he arrive at his land's great temple during the solstice. If he wants to stay as such, he wouldn't go far from said temple."
"It would've been better if he was dead."
"King Lune would be the one to decide that if Aslan didn't show up. I am...content with his fate. I would've preferred the peace over the war that would come if there is a new Tisroc."
He pushed himself off the wall and turned to her. "So, how old are you now?"
Her mouth opened, then closed. He let her decide that for herself. Instead, he offered a hand and a charming, ineffective, smile. "Come dearest. The smoke would've dissipated by now."
In the darkness of the night and the mountain, she looked like a ghost. It was a peculiar sight. Here she was young as she had been before Narnia but older as well. Old eyes. When he looked at her eyes, he could clearly see the older Queen's visage. Stuck in between and only three could ever understand her. "Aren't you still Susan Pevensie?"
Something clicked in her gaze and the smile that touched her lips this time was of amusement. She reached out to take his hand. "I am."
There was no falter and to Smaug, that was good news.
Somehow, they've walked through the halls of the mountain in darkness. Given, he was leading and he made sure that they went through those that he cleaned up, but it was an epiphany. She trusted him. It took him a long time to have it sink in, but when it did it was horrifying and joyful. She trusted him enough to tell her these troubles and--
"Do you tell me these just because I have nothing else to do but listen? I am the most advantageous outlet and storage." He made sure to make it sound like a jest, but by her expression, she detected something that he didn't even know what. Aside from craving, anger, boredom and glee, it was a slight difficulty for him to name other emotions. Even with his age, there was a lack of instances where he felt emotions outside the regular spectrum. Jealousy? No. That was when he wanted to kill the ass and kill him again. Disappointment? No.
She pulled them to a stop. They stood there in the dark hallway close the gaping door. There was significance in it that Smaug would realize late, but that point was a transition. One among many, but important all the same. "I tell you because you do not judge me as I've experienced people would."
She took a quick breath. "And because in some way you understand. If you didn't, you try your hardest to do so. I just hope that you know when to accept defeat to things that will never be understood. I'm sorry for every inconvenience."
He grinned at this, pulling her out of the dark hallway and into the familiar hue of the still untouched royal library. "Nonsense. It's the most fun I've had in a long time. I cannot deny that I am craving your companionship. You gave me a taste of an adventure that's new and exciting."
And of course the mere fact that Susan was brave enough to still stay even after all the stories of his villainy against Middle Earth. He wouldn't say that though. Too sappy.
"I wanted to come. We've been out of home for a month now and I was close to breaking. You were the only one that I could speak to without repercussions of stilted interaction after." It was a marvel, for the lack of a better term, to see the Queen and the lass overlapping. Her tone showed the old age that she had, but the free release of emotions made her wring her hands. The latter being a signal that she wasn't really given much of a chance to be a teen. "Also, I must, and want to, apologize. The last time wasn't the best of partings and it troubled me so on how you would've thought of me after snapping at you. I cannot stop thinking of the possibility that you will hate me and push me away."
He halted her tirade with a raised hand. Their arms still intertwined, he was thankful that she was still sensitive enough of the nuances. "I don't think I can hate you. I can push you away, but I don't think I can hate you."
It took a few moments to sink in, even to him.
"I'm sorry all the same."
"I accept your apology."
There was an almost visual lifting with how her shoulders rested easier. It was very minimal and he thought it was only the fact that she was so much younger. It took some of the mask into rest.
"Did you realize that that might've been our first angry argument?"
"Really? I didn't notice. Didn't we argue of the advantages of dragons in a community when I was twelve?"
"And we had a row about the other music box."
"And there's the golden-"
He paused midstep and glared at her. She merely raised her brow at that, paired with a slight curl of her lips. If he was a lesser being, he would've taken it as insult, instead he smirked. "You, my dear, are infuriating."
The library, was as mentioned, untouched by fire or any further destruction after Erebor's fall. Smaug often visited to read through the records and literature there. It was an extensive library, ranging from the royal family records, accounting of mined treasures, to an unfinished journal of a travelling dwarf lady scribe. The last one took his utmost interest because it reminded him so much of Susan. Too many secrets along so plain lines.
"This is new." She took the seat closest to the windows without stopping her eyes from roaming. The shelves were carved from the mountain, as well as some of the large tables. The seats though, were wood and cloth for comfort. There were some paintings here and there, but it was too dark to see, especially with the lack of moonlight. Smaug wondered what she saw. Would it be her people or the dwarves that once thrived here? Or would it be him, perusing the tomes, that she saw? Was it really that hard to ask? He thought not, but the question stayed stuck.
He didn't want to turn his back from her, but he blew fire to the long abandoned fireplace. Warmth erupted and shadows danced, making a peculiar show that none could really decipher. He stood and turned to her, shrouding her form in shadows. His imposing form would've struck fear to men and women of great renown, but Susan was looking at him with curiosity and honest kindness. He took a greedy few moments to imprint this in his mind. He needed something to get him through the next months, and this was it.
"What do you plan now?" He sat on the chair across her and observed how the firelight fought away the darkness with kisses.
"Do what I can." Her back didn't touch the chair and her hands were folded on her lap. Her legs were closed with ankles crossed. A familiar stance, but stiff and lacking something he couldn't find the label to. "Do what I should."
"Detail me the differences." He had folded his legs and leaned back with his elbows on the armrests.
"Be a good daughter to my parents. Be a sister to my siblings. Be an Englishwoman." She seemed lost as to how she would live to be such. "Woman."
"How does one act as a lass?" Her shoulders sagged and her forehead scrunched.
"My childhood is all but clear. It's been, I believe, centuries." He was mirroring her expression when he said it. "Why do you need to act as someone you're not?"
"Because people will talk. They will think us queer already with how Peter and Lucy will be. Edmund will be able to go for a middle ground. My mother will rack her mind on what exactly happened in the country that we changed so drastically. She's waiting for us to be what she expected. The children that needed her caring still."
"You do need caring."
"But we already lived a lifetime."
"You misunderstand. Let me finish." She sat straighter, grace gripping her bones and her body reverting to old norms. When he was sure she was listening, he continued. "Your birth world is a place you barely know, spending only a tender twelve to thirteen years. You may have lived in Narnia but whatever you learned there will be translated differently to another place. The cores are always similar, but the delivery is always different. And so you need guidance and caring still."
"To learn the lessons of Earth?"
"Yes. To see the differences in delivery so you know how to translate what was learned from one world to another."
A fierceness came to her face and lit her eyes aflame. The smile that paired it was demure, dangerous, and very familiar. It was a strange mix of vengeance and understanding. It made him wonder what the Lion would say about it, not that he ever met said Great Cat.
"You reminded me of my own principles that I forgot in my grief."
"I am glad."
She blinked. "You wouldn't ask what they are?"
"What will we talk next time then?"
"What if this is the last time?"
He could feel the distaste crawl on his face as his heart dropped. Way to turn the topic around. "Definitely not."
"We were taken out of Narnia without explanation or preamble. There's no saying our situation is any different."
"We met before Narnia."
"We were prophesied before our births."
"You're family isn't the only one to have two lads and two lassies."
"And Middle Earth hails different gods than your own Lion."
"You don't understand."
"And as first of many, I don't want to." He growled.
"Isn't it better?" The pain was clear. "To expect that this would all end and we won't see each other again at some point of time. We can both prepare for what is to come! I don't want to hurt you because I have no power in this."
"STOP IT." He roared, pushing himself off the chair. The poor wood cracked with the force and turned over. "You don't want to hurt yourself. Stop talking about this thinking that you know how I feel. Do you think you're the only one who lost everything so suddenly? Do you think you're saving me with your martyrdom? Do you think I am innocent to such pains?"
He wanted to do something. If he was in his dragon form, he would've flown out the mountain and destroyed something. He couldn't. Not with the pain clawing at his chest and the pain held back in her eyes. He wanted to shake her to reason and to hold her in his arms for comfort. Not knowing which of which, he paced with his hands flying through gestures.
"I am the last, Susan. I am. I have gone through time with only memories to keep me and a hope that somehow I did my ancestors justice." He laughed and it echoed across the room. "Gold and desolation. That's all I could substitute to a glory I barely remember."
A deep breath.
"So do not think that I know what such words would hatch. You are one of the very few good things I was ever blessed and I will be damned if I just sit around to let you—this—go."
"If I will fall, then I will do so gladly." He stopped and turned to her, wanting with every fiber of his being that she understand what he was speaking. "But do not give me distance with the words you just uttered. I've lived long enough to know the vicious cycle."
He trembled, which was a first in a very long time. This intense pain was crippling compared to any fight he won. "I will lose this kingdom and all these gold, but--"
"I don't want to lose you too." Her whisper crashed like a wave.
(Someday in the future, Smaug would know of what transpired within that month 'out of home'. Tears and panic when the shock wore off. How Susan was the first to come to and tumbled as she stood and reached for the wardrobe, because everything was too weak and too short. Edmund's realization followed when he moved to prevent Susan from falling but failed. Almost immediately was his softly uttered 'no'. He scrambled to pull his famous calm together. Lucy shrieked and wailed. Small hands came to a chubby face contorted with grief. Peter, High King and eldest, was looking onward to where the Professor stood. His expression that of his world crumbling and he wasn't even given a chance to watch it.
It was almost instinct that they went back to the wardrobe almost every night, staring at the wooden back and wondering how much time passed. How long they all have been waiting. For something to happen. They sat together, sometimes alone, praying and asking.
"I pray that Philip stop waiting." Edmund whispered to her when it was their turn to sit side by side inside the wardrobe.
This was only one of many.)
That crashing wave was a wake up call for understanding. Smaug may be old and wise, but he was stubborn and impulsive. The demand for understanding always came when something snapped.
What was he supposed to say to that?
And so the sound of crackling fire and hurried breaths reigned.
"Would you stay, Susan?" Amid his hurricane of thoughts, the line emerged victorious.
"No." Her countenance showed her surprise and quick decision. He took a step toward her.
"Do you want to stay, Susan?"
"No." No falter.
"Do you want to come back here, Susan?"
Her face showed her surprise in being asked of such question. The clear 'do you really have to ask' swiftly understood.
"Do you want to come back here?"
"Will you come back?"
He stood before her now and Susan was as regal as she was when they danced. He could easily recall the smell of lilies on her hair.
"For me?" He breathed out. "To me?"
"Yes. I will." Her everything at that moment declared such words law.
Smaug knelt then, his mind racing for traditions where dragons made promises. However, dragons and promises never mixed.
"Then I'll be here to welcome you." He took her hands in his. "And when the time comes that can turns to cannot, I will come to you."
A thousand questions passed through her eyes then, doubt taking precedence.
"I promise you."
Chapter 10: Surrounded and Alone
The year in between.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The silence in the mountain could be overwhelming sometimes, even for a dragon. With this silence Smaug found himself in a dilemma of two parts.
The first: He's dependent.
The second: He just realized it now.
We all know to whom it is, of course.
It was quite a late realization if one would think of it. However, we could all agree that when one is isolated to the world as a dragon is, either by own choice or by design, kindness goes a long way. Said way would either be good or bad, but it's a long way. The realization demanded a lot of questions to be answered, but not all questions were needed to be answered. Especially those that he would rather forget before they were recognized.
Inside the mountain, reality was far enough to not touch him. He could lounge around and wait for Susan to come. At the same time, he could do amounts of research in world travel magic. Surely the dwarves would have books about such magic. Another was to force the wall so he could be the one travelling.
He was dependent, yes. He only realized it now, definitely. It's the truth. Was there any need to do anything about such realizations? Not really.
It was the Great Hall this time and it wasn't a dream. The transition was, for the lack of better word, almost scenic. From the library, he walked in the middle of the Great Hall when he started hearing voices and light permeated from the very walls. They started to fade and he had to squint to adjust to the sudden brightness. Green plains and dark stone buildings came to view. Some were painted with cream but had long darkened because of time. Benches and young women walked past and through him with blurred faces. Red jackets, striped ties, gray skirts and blurred faces. Blurred faces. So much blurred faces, smell of stagnant dust and leftover smoke. So much disconnection.
That was until he saw the first face and, of course, it was her. He wouldn't have preferred anyone else's, to be quite honest. It was hypocrisy to even want to see the others. To be here was to be with her, as simple as that.
She was alone amid all activity and it was clear that she was in another place. He wasn't surprised. Even before and even with her ability to gather crowds with a bat of her eyelashes, she was a solitary creature. She chose so few to be so precious, yet considers everyone with the same regard. Her mystery was with how she built her walls so beautifully, while showing everyone that they were still that, walls.
Her birth land had its own curiosities. He still remembered the metal dragons of his first visit, as well as many others. He was still curious and it showed with how he kept looking around as he sat beside her. Lush green gardens and forests in the far distance graced his view. Paved roads that only great cities of his world could boast.
His lips quirked. Her birth land was an in between.
"Oreius. Tumnus. Mr. Beaver. Mrs. Beaver." His head snapped back to her face, bent to her book with her lips moving without pause. "Peridan. Swallowtail. Tommen. Isla. Corin. Cor. Lune. Garrett."
Could he consider this a prayer?
"Padriac. Sigvir. Battalion." Her forehead scrunched. "Eo. Eodel? No. Eo. Eo. Eo. Eoghan. Eoghan."
A sigh of relief.
"Shadow. Cara. Ava. Tamara. Lilia. Venin." The names turned to quiet murmurs. A list of names he couldn't recognize except for a few.
How long was it since he made the same desperate attempt to hold on to individuals he would outlive?
"Susan!?" A woman wearing a similar uniform approached. "Lunchtime will be over soon. A few minutes. Miss Peregrine wouldn't want anyone late."
Susan smiled and gathered her things. "Thank you Lotte. How many times is it now?"
"Thrice this week." Smaug could only appreciate Lotte's fire hair. Her face was too blurred to even look at. Susan stood and he followed suit. The magic thrummed quietly and he hoped that it would give him more time to observe than before. "Lucy didn't come today?"
"No. She said she was going to have lunch with her friends."
"I needed to do some thinking."
"A new story?"
Lotte nodded in understanding. "Lucy did put you as a forefront to tell stories but I'm glad that you didn't think it an obligation of sorts."
"Lucy and Edmund are the better storytellers in our family."
"I doubt that."
They made a sharp turn and maneuvered through the crowd with ease. Smaug on the other hand just walked backwards before them so he could observe.
"What do you mean, Lotte?"
"Everyone has a different way of seeing the world and portraying it. It's the same with you four. I like yours the best though."
Susan gave a sheepish smile. "Why?"
"You lure without giving yourself ever away. You make us think that you've given so much when in reality, you gave close to nothing."
"I... I don't know what to say to that."
"You don't have to say anything. As I said, I like it. It makes my mind work."
Apparently, this was what Susan called a boarding school and it was immensely boring. Smaug had taken to walking between the seats and looking close to what they've written on the green board. They call it a blackboard when it's green. He didn't try to comprehend. Newton. Galileo. Aristotle. Sophocles. Names that meant nothing to him. Susan kept her gaze onward as her hand moved unceasingly to take notes. The teacher kept droning on and on about laws that doesn't involve crime or has any political importance.
Smaug followed Susan to every room she went to. Roamed them and listened for a bit before he tuned out. The longest he tuned in was about the economic state of the country and the impact of the war to it. Susan was quite sharp-eyed during the particular lesson that he needed to tune in. Lotte went a separate way after three classes and with a 'see you soon' to Susan.
Was this how it was for Susan? Repetitive cycles of learning and living would indeed be a chore to someone as learned as she. However, he stood firm with his words the last time. Susan's world was confined to this set of buildings and a shadow of a lifetime lived. There was so much more past this and Susan would find her footing to move onward.
"What wins a war?" Smaug snapped out of his musings to realize that the waiting was over. The teacher came in and just announced the question. She was a tall and slender lady with a gait of purpose. Her fading golden hair was left in a neat braid which matched the clean cut suit she wore. Unlike most of the other teachers, her voice was challenge and excitement. He could easily imagine a wicked grin. The class of, what Smaug assumed as, home-bred and good girls, was taken aback at the gravity and timing of such topic. "Well?"
Disappointment leaked from the teacher before it was halted by a raised hand. "Yes! Miss Hollander?"
An uneasy girl took a few more moments to gather her thoughts. "Resources, Miss Parker."
"Thank you. And?"
"Um. Well. Strength. Numbers. The larger the army the greater their chances of winning the war."
"Why do you think so?"
The girl carried on before Miss Parker moved to another student till the whole room was buzzing with opinions.
Susan was wide eyed and frozen. Her pallor dangerous with how pale she was naturally. She was also gripping the edge of her seat hard. In the background he heard mentions of power and geographical positioning.
"Miss Pevensie." One. "Miss Pevensie!" Two. The whole class quieted. Miss Parker made a move to close in.
"Susan." He dared.
Susan snapped out and she sighed, old bones rattling.
"I'm... I'm sorry. I wasn't focusing." She wiped a bead of sweat away.
"Are you fine? You are pale. If the subject made you uneasy, I can send word to the clinic and excuse you for today."
"No!" A shake of the head and a few blinks. "I'm sorry. I'm fine. Just surprised. I want to be here."
"Are you certain?"
"Yes." The topic was closed after that.
"Well then!" Miss Parker went back to her place. "Tell us what you think wins a war, Miss Pevensie."
Susan met her eye to eye. Tumbling locks and an exquisite gown could easily be imagined. A crown as well, but one Smaug was sure was far from how hers was like. All he knew was she was golden-crowned. The one he saw was a more elaborate tiara than Galadriel wore. In his head, branches twined and lilies adorned her. Then tiny diamonds winking as they played hide and seek in her hair. Too grand maybe, but queenly for sure.
"A reliable, extensive and perfectly managed intelligence network." Now that was new and Miss Parker was holding on to it with quite the interest. Susan didn't disappoint.
"One can win a war with limited resources or people with the right management and planning. Only if one has the right cards to play. War at the front are all the fighting of the battlefield, yes. However, what lies beyond dictates the rise and fall of empires. Information is key and getting it more so. We play the strings without even looking like it. We show the world the villains they need to abhor and the heroes they should rely on. We show the world the united cause they need to fight for. The heart that they need to believe in. One line that will push their hope into action. If we have every information needed, whether it be false or true, using it wisely can end or spark a war and managing it even through gameturners would reveal the victor. We trigger."
We. Smaug was sure of the Narnia connotations. He was surer that the 'We' didn't even mean the Four Monarchs. It was a front. We was Edmund and Susan. We was the spider web they created within the shadows spanning the whole continent.
"You make me think that you are part of one, Miss Pevensie."
Susan's eyes faltered, but the smile she bounced back with was perfect. "No, but to have two brothers and a sister is a perfect ingredient for mock warfare."
"And who are you to be then?"
And for that one moment, that room felt like an echo of Narnia.
"Magnificent!" Miss Parker grinned wide and clapped her hands. Susan flinched at the word. "That was wonderful. This reminds me of a good lesson. It's still related to our history of course. I won't stray, don't look at me like that Miss Williams."
Susan bowed her head and took deep breaths. She then reached out for her pen and started twirling it between two fingers until her hands stopped shaking.
In the end, they discussed about a Peshwa Bajirao who never lost a battle because of his intelligence network. Smaug doubted if it was part of the teaching plan but he was never 'schooled' to really have a say.
"Susan! You better come quickly!" Lotte came rushing to them after two more classes. Without any question, Susan did. It wasn't hard to catch up with his long legs, but the coldness on her face had him decide to keep in stride. Out the buildings they went and on to a grand gate. On the other side was what he could only assume as another school. On the road between them were a group of fighting boys. He phased through the crowd, waiting for Susan and Lotte to squeeze their way through.
When the ladies got to his side, the gatekeeper had come to break the fight. He started pulling a boy off the pile one by one until in the middle were two huddled bodies. Alive, Smaug assumed.
"Peter! Edmund!" A quick look to his left showed Lucy, gripping the gate bars tight and her face, clear as day, as close as the hindrance would allow. That seemed to have woken the boys to look around them. Students of the neighboring school were crowding the same way.
"You again!" The gatekeeper howled. He was a really bulky man that reminded Smaug of a dwarf. "Pevensies! You brothers should be stopping the other when they get in trouble, not joining! Thrice this week!"
"What is it this time?" Susan said so softly that Smaug had to turn to her to confirm his hearing was still superior. She was clearly irritated but there was a crease of worry there as well. The question was echoed by the gatekeeper. Peter turned ramrod straight and Edmund had his grim face.
"He was talking lewd things about my sister." There was no question on which sister. Peter growled and Edmund twitched. "Too lewd to even grace him the right to do to any woman."
"And so you went for the face?"
"Would've went for the nuts to be honest and however unhonourable, Sir." Edmund this time. "But no, we asked them to stop first."
"They were the first to throw the punch." Now, Peter quirked a smile. "We can't just let it pass."
"And how did you provoke them, then?"
"The truth, Sir."
"And you Devon? Spill."
"Liars." Someone spoke and spat blood to the ground. Face too blurry to really make the impact. "How dare you say that I was provoked with truth. You weaklings won't event know the truth to use."
"I WAS THE ONE TELLING THE TRUTH." Rage, but the petulant and annoying kind. "Their sister is nothing but a spoiled tight knickered girl boasting a beautiful face but without any grace to match. Do you know how dare she raise her nose at us? Us? Oh, prim and proper. Think she's too good for us. Once broken she'll be spreading her thighs to anyone cause she's a bitch, always had been."
Peter had turned to an alarming shade of red with eyes flashing wide. Edmund went the other way. He turned white as a sheet with eyes dark as the night. What couldn't be denied was the murder held back in varied degrees. There won't even be any need for swords. If this was Narnia, it wouldn't matter if they weren't kings. Devon would be dead.
Someone phased through him and he snapped quickly to catch Susan's back as she passed a stunned Lucy. In a few moments she was out the gate and marching to where her brothers were.
"I swear she won't be so good and behaved once she had a taste of something like this." Devon jerked his hips. "No woman could-"
The crack of teeth meeting echoed to cut the tirade off. Susan stood there, fist high to the air and seething. Devon was sprawled to the ground looking up at her in shock. His mouth was bleeding, probably from biting his tongue. He might not speak for a while with that uppercut.
Smaug thought that the satisfaction was over, Susan wasn't.
"This is where your eyes meet mine." She stared him down until courage fled him, which wasn't that long. Then, she gave her brothers a meaningful glance before walking back.
They gave her way.
Her hand was bleeding. Peter and Edmund were giving each other smirks. Lucy recovered from her shock and moved in to step astride Susan.
They gave her way.
This is another chapter that stayed in my files for the past two years. I am getting through writing the next chapter and trying my best to remember what it was exactly that I aimed for when I first wrote this. There will be changes, for sure, since I barely remember the details. What I do remember are the key scenes for the development of their relationship.
Again, thank you for your time and interest.
"You have a habit of interrupting." Susan's breath smelled of chocolate when her whisper landed on the corner of his lips. He smelled roses from her hair whenever she moved close. Amid it all, he could still detect lilies."I'm contemplating on whether it was genuinely for wanting my company, or all the attention you are getting."
"And what have you decided?"
"I'll fool myself in thinking both." She was smiling and it was a beauty he hadn't seen in years. "And I will flatter myself and hold on to the former."
"Why aren't you celebrating?"
That earned him confusion.
He had found himself in a ballroom darker than Cair Paravel's, but in a celebration that was almost wilder and louder. What reason was there to celebrate? Smaug hardly thought of it, because he had found the people he cared for the most. Lucy was easiest to spot with the fauns and the Griffins. Edmund was with a small group centaurs and men. Peter was talking to a dryad. Susan was dancing. In the happiness and revelry, there was the sheen of darkness that kept everything muted. However, these four were pillars of color and brightness. They stood out even without meaning to. Lucy's laughter infected them in waves. Peter looked over each one with a lightness on his shoulders. So much relief and love for those he hadn't even met. Edmund, Smaug chuckled at this, was still as sarcastic as ever. The spark in his dark gaze forever shifting. Time surely had passed, but there were things that remained the same.
Susan's laughter broke his reverie. She was teaching a young man a dance and he was learning it. Smaug observed, not wanting to reveal his presence like the last time. What he was seeing was something precious. Their joy was a sunrise that broke the long darkness. The rays pushing through in tendrils before exploding, taking greedily what the darkness hid.
The man laughed, shy and embarrassed, when Susan fixed his arm position. She said something which earned another chuckle, but the man had determination coloring it. Around them, Narnians danced however the music dictated them to. When she decided they've spent so much time practicing on the spot, they danced. It wasn't the best, but there was fluidity and undeniable grace. On Susan's end, the wildness that Smaug had known the last time was still there. Tamed, but there. The man on the other, had a grace that spelled years of practice and discipline. His movements were measured and concise. To see them move together made Smaug realize something.
A transition from an old age to a new.
He cut in when the dance was about to come to a close. The young man twirled her away from him and Smaug took her free hand to pull her to him. They were making transitions didn't they? There was a pause, sharp turns, then a loud and ecstatic laugh.
"It's alright, Caspian. Let me go." Caspian's eyes widened, but he did as told. Susan twirled to Smaug and without any thought, he helped her twirl a few more times, skirts flaring to a myriad of colors. Grabbing her waist, he let her hands free. Arms stretched before her and her hair whipped to her face. Her form that of a swan. He hoisted her up for a moment before setting her down. He would've ended it there, but Susan leaned back so smoothly that he could only support her.
It was how they ended up like this, swaying side to side and no longer the center of attention.
"Not celebrating?" She pulled back to meet his eyes. "What kind of celebration is this then?"
"Freedom and of a new age." He would've said then that he knew her a bit better than anyone else in the room. To a degree, even better than her siblings. He was never as open as she was though, especially to emotions past pride and wanting. "What of your homecoming?"
"It still is, but this is no longer our Narnia. This is home, but so much has changed." A breath. "She sings a different song and needs a new accompaniment."
"Can you still find your happiness here?"
"Of course. This is home. I'll always find happiness here." Contemplation colored her face. "I'm scared of losing the chance."
"Don't you want to stay?"
"I hardly have a say."
"You have a choice to stay with me." He whispered, more to the top of her head than to her face. "Would you like to stay with me?"
In the distance, he saw Caspian with the other Pevensies dancing with fauns and dryads. Some other women, probably of Caspian's same descent, were being invited to join as well. There was a gap, but Lucy easily bridged it. There was also a dour-faced dwarf in red who would've preferred a drink than a dance.
"Middle Earth is no longer as vibrant as your Narnia, even after war and desolation, but there are havens that I would like to show you." He didn't say that his land would've learned a lot from her. How the kings would've respected her power and women would find the initiative to let loose their courage. He didn't say how he thought that maybe even the revered Lady Galadriel would be impressed of the trials and tribulations the Gentle Queen succeeded through. "And I am sure that you will appreciate it."
Contemplation that rarely passed her face at these moments, came. Smaug, in all honesty, hoped that she was going to say yes, even when they've been through this so many times. Was it wrong to hope?
"I wouldn't take the choice."
"You can bring the others with you. I know we need Lucy's light, Peter's chivalry, and Edmund's mercy."
"I will come to you." She glided closer, their bodies swaying in sync. "I will come to you as long as you welcome me."
She's afraid. He lamented the fact that this Susan never was careless or joyful whenever they were together. Something would always be pulling her back from being the happy child that he first met her as.
So he did nothing but accept her answer and reassure her that he would be there to welcome her always.
"Su." Lucy's chipper voice broke whatever moment they were having. "May you introduce us to your friend?"
Beside her stood Caspian, who looked embarrassed in contrast of the Valiant. He looked uneasy as well. Smaug thought that it might be the fact he stole Susan from him. Another was how he acted close in comparison to other humans.
"It'll always be Susan who befriends the rarest ones." Lucy filled in while Susan slowed her movements, her eyes trained on the intruders. "I believe this one's a half dryad. The height and the lankyness, no offense, gives it away."
"Enough of that Caspian. You are crowned king. No honorifics among family."
"I apologize for stepping in your dance and stealing."
"Ah! N-no. That is alright."
"I wouldn't be trialed for stealing a national treasure." Smaug mused out loud. "Are you sure?"
The new king straightened, wit in his dark eyes, "Queen Susan isn't an object to use in such context," He looked at her with a smoldering gaze. Smaug detected affection and admiration. "But she is a treasure to us all."
He admires Susan. No. It wasn't just that. Caspian adores Susan. Who wouldn't? Who wouldn't when graced by the woman hailed most beautiful of the most beautiful age?
"I appreciate the sentiment, Caspian." Honest emotion swam in her gaze. Smaug would've preferred to keep holding her, but she was Queen and he was just a lowly stranger. He stepped back, as he always did. "This is Smaug. He became a dear friend of mine."
In the end, Susan clung to his arm and dragged him anywhere she was needed. He met eyes with Peter and Edmund, some Telmarine lords, dryads who were sure he was of mixed descent but with no idea of what, and centaurs. The kings treated him with veiled surprise but with quick acceptance. Edmund called him 'old friend' which was sign enough.
Poor Caspian was clueless to the why of such dynamic.
"I'm sorry." Said for another time, this time uncounted. They've crossed ways with another dryad who confirmed the speculation of his heritage. Something new was when he was asked if his blood was more green than red. Susan had gripped his arm so hard and shook with restrained laughter. He had the grace to say that he hadn't really taken it to such account and whisked the Queen away. They weren't even far enough when she giggled and not that long when it became full blown laughter. "I'm sorry. I couldn't help but expect that you were going to say your blood is gold!"
"It's not." He finally said once she didn't look like she was going to laugh again. "Their blood is really green?"
"Yes." A giggle slipped and he thought she was going to another fit. Thankfully, she continued, "What color is your blood?"
"Dark." He seldom shed blood, especially in his dragon form, but the few times he did he remembered quite clearly. "The color of your dried blood is mine fresh. Dark."
She just nodded.
Her eyes wandered and he caught sight of Peter approaching. It wasn't that hard to reconcile the bearded High King of old with his younger counterpart. Physical differences aside, Peter had the same gait, angle of shoulders and searing gaze. Susan slipped out of his hold and wrapped her arms around Peter which was returned.
"Take care of him." And there was no clarity on whether it was for him or her brother.
"Smaug." An easy smile passed his countenance. "I hope you understand my envy. I've never had the chance to talk to you in length."
"I don't know what we could talk about."
Peter chuckled with a shake of head. "I disagree. We have a ton to talk about."
Of course. "Susan."
"I owe you a lot of thanks. What's it like?"
"What do you mean?"
"There are things that anyone would hide from their siblings. With Susan, I believe she keeps as much as she gives."
"She's still her." Smaug answered after a considerable silence. "She keeps but gives something she deemed equal. Did you know that she never told me that you were kings and queens?"
"Ah! I thought of that when you visited us. And also that we know you."
"What's more surprising is the fact that you believe her."
"Lucy told me." Peter grinned.
"You wouldn't notice it back then. You were quite enamored with that lass you've been dancing with for... Three? Four songs."
Peter didn't blush but there was a small tilt in his smile that meant all the difference.
"It seems so long ago." Smaug commented softly. They were facing the ballroom and all the dancing felt removed. The rest of the royals were dancing with the fauns and dryads. It was a strange dance of twisting and continuous switching of partners. "You grew into people that I never expected but wouldn't regret to see."
"Thank you, Father."
Smaug hissed. Peter barked a laugh.
"It's hard. It's only been a year back in England and I remember how I swiftly forgot things." A deep breath in and a slow exhale. "But then, when we transitioned here everything came rushing in and it felt so fresh. It still does."
Lucy dragged the dwarf dressed in red (again) to the dancing while Caspian escorted a... Badger. There was whistling and jesting.
"I thought the feeling of being in between will be over as soon as we're back here. I was wrong."
"How long had it been?"
"A thousand and three hundred years."
Smaug froze and snapped a look at Peter to see if he was jesting. Of course, he wasn't. "A year in exchange to a thousand!"
Smaug missed the sight of Lucy being twirled in the air by Caspian as Susan and Edmund moved under the dryads' raised arms. The dwarf furiously refusing to be lifted. The Badger grinning as he sneaked away. In their little corner, a long silence spanned.
"I cannot relate, but I understand. You never saw the end of your age. All you saw was the aftermath and the things you need to know are long lost." What he caught was Susan's gaze and the way her face became teasing. "Susan grieved and worried for those you left behind."
"It's haunting," From the corner of his gaze, Peter's shoulders sagged for a moment. "To realize how many what if and what could've been situations had crossed my mind, and hoping for the best didn't do anything."
"You can only do so much."
"Would that be your lesson for me?"
Smaug blinked in confusion at that. Peter chuckled in return.
"Your lesson in translations."
It took a few moments before realization came, but it did. Huff of amazement and a puffing of chest in pride to hide the relief.
"Do you really seek a lesson from me?" Disbelief in tone and a smirk on the lips. "You are determined to make me feel like your father, aren't you?"
Laughter erupted in the grand hall and everyone who heard paused. The dancers too, awkward positions just to look at where it came from. Reason? It was loud. It came from the deepest parts of one being so rarely let out.
Smaug was laughing and Peter was laughing with him. It wasn't a sudden burst of laughter even, but long. When they quieted down, everything continued with higher spirits. After centuries of sadness, tension and war, such was sought and welcomed.
"Here is what I leave you then," Smaug grinned. "When you cannot understand, try. If that doesn't work, then trust."
That silenced Peter enough to contemplate what he meant. Obviously though, Smaug left it at that.
"Peter!" Lucy rushed to their direction, arms wide open and smile just as so. "It's been so long!"
"It's not like I've soured up Lu."
"Oh, you've had." Lucy laughed. "Ed, tell him how sour he got ever since we came."
"Chuckled? Yes. The weird strangled sound of anxiety and false security? Definitely." Edmund shook his head. "Laughed? Just now."
"Why is it even important?"
"Because you are a giant stick in the mud with a larger stick shoved up your arse."
"Susan!" Peter's horror only resulted to more laughter.
"Oh come on, Pete." Susan rolled her eyes. "Caspian could attest to that."
The prince, much to Smaug's entertainment, was grasping at straws for something neutral.
"It was a tense time for all of us. I am sure freeing Narnia is enough reason."
A look passed between the four. "Modest."
"Give me a few years, I am sure to learn much with exposure to such majesty."
Smaug saw the dimming of Susan's eyes and without any hesitation reached out to hold her hand. A squeeze was enough a recognition and thanks.
"If he can just, even just a bit, stop being so formal all the time."
"Do tell that to Susan, Lu."
"But that's only during strict formal functions and during official court. Even then, Susan needed to be the responsible one when you boys play that game of yours. Isn't that right, Su?"
When their gazes turned to them, Smaug instinctively pulled his hand back. He would've succeeded, if Susan hadn't laced their fingers and, if it was even possible, tightened her hold. So he didn't let go, not that he wanted to.
"Truth." Her smile was radiant and she even chuckled. "Someone had to keep things in check."
Amid laughter and agreements, Caspian was looking at their linked hands.
"And speaking of manners, may we be excused?"
Peter's smile was easy, Edmund's calculated curiosity and Lucy's? Plain excitement.
"Of course, sister Queen. Do not let us hold you."
"I second our sister's words. The night is still young."
Susan was clearly keeping in her amusement at being the center of conversation. "My High King?"
Peter approached and engulfed her in his arms, awkward as it was that she was holding Smaug's hand. A kiss to the forehead and some whispered words. When he stepped away, the words that followed were clear.
"Take care of my sister."
Smaug bowed. He would've mocked and smirked, but these children had seen so much and such words should never be taken lightly. He had seen them grow and it would be a disgrace to even dare so. "I will do my best."
"May Narnia prosper in this new age, King Caspian." The surprise on Caspian's face was remembered but it wouldn't last that long to the forefront.
Susan led him out the ballroom, diffusing any chance of outside conversation with the set of her shoulders. They weaved through the castle hallways. With what he saw, he concluded that he liked the sharpness and even the cruelty, but not the sorrow. Even the celebration couldn't hide it. No words were exchanged even when there was a tension that demanded it. He knew, the timing wasn't right.
Twists, turns, and stairs, he counted and tried to remember. Whatever happened and however long it went, it had an impact to the woman that held his hand. He had no idea where they were going and he would've asked if he wasn't too curious as to the why. Even to that curiosity he was quiet about, taken by the sight of her against the gray failed to be forced bright by the festivities of the new age.
"Cliffs?" Amid all the questions he had, this slipped when she pulled him out a balcony and the first thing he did was look down. "Unless they have another way to escape an attack would be—"
"Smaug." He turned to be welcomed by her smile and calm blue eyes that danced with amusement. He looked down when she squeezed his hand. Her other hand came up and pushed away the hair that fell on his face. "Listen."
He heard her chuckle and slip away from him. Instinct dictated that he grasp the hand that slipped away from his hold. Grasp it tighter. His hand was already halfway there when she motioned to what was around them.
Darkness welcomed him with an exhale and the sounds magnified not only in volume, but in detail. He was first bombarded with the sounds of the celebrations and how the ground vibrated with its strength. It took him a few minutes to block it out and let his hearing reach past. Merriment received him still. The celebration extended to the city around them, reminding him of the old days of Dale. He muted that easier and grasped for something beyond that. He pushed, farther and farther, searching for that song that she wanted him to hear.
He was never blessed to hear Arda's song even when he tried to listen, rare as the attempts were. He found himself wishing that Narnia would give him a chance, even for a bit, the same way its inhabitants did. Given that he hadn't heard his own land's song, he didn't know what exactly he was listening for.
Frustration danced along the seams of his searching journey, the tune they're dancing to unheard. He heard the rustle of leaves and the movements of the wind. He heard the whisper of the deep chasm that surrounded the castle. He heard so many things that were hardly what he would consider a song. Amid it all, he could hear the tinkling tunes of treasure, gold and gems. Their beckoning crystal clear. How quick he figured out where it came from. How easy it was to do. How instinctive. A part of his mind was already breaking down the worth of conquering and thievery. His frustration mounted with every thought that followed that train.
One word snapped his thoughts to silence. Everything to silence.
He felt her chilly hands wrap around his own, pulling them upwards. It was a great temptation to look, but he could feel her eyes on him. It was a surprise his eyes didn't fly open when she set his hands on her neck. He jerked back. She kept him in place. The contact threw a new train of thought, unraveling and overlapping to reach answers. Why?
Her pulse thrummed underneath warming skin as it moved through motions of her breathing. He listened to it, deep and even.
How easy it was to tighten his hold and to hear it stutter.
Even, like the gaze she had on him. Observation.
How easy it was to twist then watch that ever existing curiosity break. What emotion would follow? Surprise? Disappointment? Betrayal?
His fingers twitched, every muscle ready.
Her hands disappeared. Panic pulled at his nerves with a grin. His throat clamped control. Hold still. Fear kept his eyes closed. Don't look. Greed called it as nature. Nature called it nurture too. Her hands reappeared. On his chest. Over his heart.
"I trust you."
You're a good dragon.
What could he say to that? His disbelief and sarcasm was nowhere to be found. Whatever amusement he used to find about her attachment to him was long gone. Emotions and actions that he realized were walls he built, now absent. Two questions were left.
Afraid of the answers, he kept his lips sealed and instead pulled her closer. Carefully. Slowly. Carefully slow. Her hands moved from his chest to his waist, then around his back. She settled against him, her head tucked under his chin.
He couldn't hear Arda's song. He couldn't hear Narnia's. He wasn't sure if he was already blessed to hear their songs and he just wasn't listening. What he was sure he could hear and was definitely listening to, was Susan. Her breathing. Her pulse. Her heartbeat.
He wrapped his arms around her and pressed his lips to the crown of her head.
Peace and wonder. Maybe this was Narnia's song.
Maybe it was Susan's.
He wished it was Susan's.
Chapters after this one are gonna be made from scratch, so it might take longer. I'll do my best to still update regularly, but I admit that I do not have much time. I juggle a full time job + another fanfic + worldbuilding an original work that I wish to turn to a webcomic. Wish me luck. Here's to hoping it doesn't take me years.
I would love to hear what you guys think of what's happening so far.