King Thranduil was lounging in his antler decorated throne as usual, and Tauriel approached him. Legolas was lingering behind her, his face haughty. The two of them had just returned from the Lake Town; and were thankfully allowed in, despite all the security measures that had been taken in Mirkwood.
"I see the two of you found your way back," the Elvenking said in his habitual lazy drawl; and Tauriel threw a quick look at Legolas. Surely, he was better equipped to deal with the Sinda - especially, in the light of the decanter being empty on the table by the King's elbow.
"We have discovered that an army of Orcs is moving toward our lands," Legolas finally stopped impersonating the statue of himself. There were plenty of those around the Halls; there was no need to add another. "They are bringing Wargs and bats with them."
"What of the dragon then? Will it join them?" the King asked; and Legolas and Tauriel exchanged awkward indecisive looks. Tauriel still thought it would be better coming out of his son's mouth.
"The dragon… Nothing has been heard of Smaug, but… we saw smoke coming from the main gates of the Lonely Mountain. So, we went to investigate..." Legolas paused. While travelling back from the Mountain the two of them had discussed what was the best way to deliver the news to the King - but they arrived to no decision.
"Well, and?" The King flipped his unnaturally smooth blond locks behind his shoulder flamboyantly.
"There was a dragon there, and it was not Smaug. It was…" Legolas apparently decided blurting it out in one go was the wisest, and he breathed out, "...helping the Dwarves to fix the gate."
The King's leg in a high shiny boot stopped its dangling; and he slowly lowered his goblet, forgetting to un-pucker his lips. The black fuzzy caterpillars of his eyebrows started a slow ascend.
"It was a smaller dragon, of bright orange colouring. It was hauling large boulders, reinforcing the gate. It seemed quite… amicable towards Oakenshield and his men."
Tauriel was glad that her kind didn't suffer from heart afflictions. The Elvenking gained a strange red tinge, and his eyes boggled.
Legolas threw Tauriel a discreet look; and she gestured a courtier to bring more wine. The King was in dire need of it, it seemed.
"My lady," Thorin called to the dragon. There was rustling noise in the Northern corner of the Thror's Chamber, the golden dunes moved and shifted, and the horned head dove out of the gold a few feet away from him.
"Morning," the dragon greeted him. She smiled, showing most of her enormous teeth, and puffed a cloud of warm, spicy smelling smoke.
"My lady, I came to inform you that the ravens had been sent to my kin in the Iron Hills and the Blue Mountains, as we have discussed. As promised, I will ensure that you and your child are not disturbed; and you, in return, will lend me the Arkenstone, in the indefinite lease to my line, until decided otherwise, and…"
"Aye, aye, I remember what we discussed," the dragon interrupted impatiently and yawned. Thorin still felt quite discomforted in such proximity to the worm. "So, have you started the renovations already?"
"We've encountered a problem," Thorin admitted grudgingly. The dragon that was clawing at the Erebor riches while stomping in a small circle - again, the semblance to a cat was uncanny - paused, and look at him. "We cannot relight the forges."
The dragon sighed theatrically. "And that is where I come in, I reckon."
Thorin hated asking for aid - and asking the dragon twice so. In the past few days they had to turn to the worm for favours with moving fallen columns, fixing the leaves of the Erebor Gates; opening passages that had crumbled in the last hundred and seventy years; and clearing out the water pipes.
"It is quite an inconvenient moment, I have to say. I was planning to go for a snack this morning," the dragon drew out, and pouted. Thorin clenched his teeth, swallowing disgruntled remarks.
"We shall patiently wait for your return, my lady. After all, it is not an urgent matter," he gritted through his teeth. The dragon lifted its slanted eyes from its tail crest it was patting and brushing.
"You could be quite fussy tenants sometimes," she muttered, and sighed again. "Well, alright. Where are your forges?"
"No, no, my lady. You should seek substanance first," Thorin answered in a forced polite tone.
The dragon blinked and studied him.
"Sometimes I just couldn't quite understand your moods, Master Dwarf." It gave an exasperated shake of its massive head, and then dug down, almost fully disappearing in the gold.
"Here is Mommy, my darling," Thorin heard it coo somewhere in the depth. It was clearly talking to its egg. "Common, let's wrap you up warm, and we shall go for a bit of sheep picking. Who's a lovely egg? Yes, yes, Mirabella is a lovely egg." The voice of the cursed beast was nothing but a purr now.
The dragon resurfaced again, with the egg, wrapped in some precious Erebor tapestry, under its front paw.
"Well, we will be off then," she said politely. "Shall I see you in the evening?"
"Indeed," Thorin answered. He'd rather never see the slug again, but life was never fair.
Dain galloped into the Erebor valley. The wind was fresh, and played pleasantly in his tusk decorated beard. The day was grand - though, a wee bit too peaceful to his taste. The astonishing news from his cousin had come with an Erebor raven - of Thorin and his company reclaiming the Mountain; and the worm residing there and willing to cohabitate with the Khazad; and now Ironfoot was bringing the first army of his men.
And then the skies grew dark, from the immense cloud of monstrous bats; and the ground shook from stomping of thousands of Orcs and Wargs. Dain exhaled in relief. He had been worried no blood shed was in the books for them. Thank Mahal, a foe and a significantly more numerous than his army! The odds of winning or even surviving were slim, just as Dain loved them!
And then an army of Elves appeared, spoiling all the fun! The pointy eared wimps were dressed in their usual shiny nut shells, and were swinging the toothpicks that they had for swords. There was some small group of poorly dressed, frightened looking, and altogether pitiful Long Ones as well, but Dain ignored them. They were no danger to his craic. They could hardly contribute into this battle.
And then Azog the Defiler, the Pale Orc rode ahead, on his White Warg. Dain grinned. Thorin was given a chance to slay his mortal enemy, or die trying. Dain felt joy fill his heart for his cousin! What a glorious way to spend an afternoon!
And then there was a gust of wind, and a loud, yet polite roar filled the valley.
"Excuse me, what is going on?"
Dain almost toppled over from his steed. It was the dragon! Dain had quite forgotten about it.
It had flown in, landed between the armies, and was now tapping its hind paw, giving Azog a strict glare. The Orc was already pale by definition, so only his jaw dropping down signalled his shock.
"I have asked you the question, young man," the dragon continued. "What are you doing in my yard, and where did the bats come from? I don't like bats. They are creepy."
Dain carefully spurred his nag, and approached to listen in.
"Um… I am here to… kill the Erebor scum," the Orc mumbled, giving the dragon a dark look from under his brow.
"Well, that is just not going to happen," the dragon scoffed. "If you have any particular complains, you can be invited for a cup of tea and a chat; but if it's some sort of a blood feud, or some other nonsense of the sort, I suggest you take your associates..." It gestured over the army, while the Orcs exchanged confused looks. "And head home."
The Orcs didn't listen to the command, of course - but it didn't escape Dain's attention that the Elves and the Men did. A short murmur ran through their ranks; and soon the shiny, beetle like Elves, and the ragged Men were disappearing towards the Lake.
Suddenly one Orc lost his bottle, and rushed ahead with a scream. It sounded quite ridiculous, since the rest just stared at him in bewilderment. It ran up to the dragon and swung its jagged blade at its ankle. The dragon emitted some loud coarse sound - which upon attentive listening turned out to be a giggle.
"Oh, that's ticklish. Please, stop!" Since the Orc continued its hacking efforts, the dragon carefully bent down and picked the Orc between the claws of its thumb and the middle finger. "What a pest you are, Master Orc!" The tone of the rumble like voice was good-natured.
And then the dragon deposited the poor sod on the nearest tree.
"Come to your sense, you ridiculous creature," the dragon tut-tutted, and then turned to Dain.
"Hello. Jorenna at your service."
"I came to face Oakenshield in the mortal combat!" Azog hollered behind her, apparently not wishing to be ignored.
The dragon gave out a long, mournful sigh, and continued addressing Dain, "You see, I wouldn't of course interfere. To each one's own; and if Thorin and this gentleman here have some grievances, they can solve them in a mortal combat. But not in my yard. They will wake up the baby." And the dragon gently patted the top of an egg it held under its arm.
"Dain Ironfoot at yours, my lady," Dain answered, and bowed as much as being in a saddle and all his armour allowed. "But you see, my kind lady, we all came here for a war."
"No, no, no wars. I'm not naive, you see..." It shook its head. "I know some find them pleasurable, even necessary; but there is a tenant agreement, you see. I will have none of this misdemeanour on my property. If it's a question of honour, I can allow one on one fight, but none of mass murder."
"But perhaps just one battle?.." Dain started; and Azog's Warg trotted closer.
"Aye, just one battle," the Pale Orc chimed in, his muzzle polite, and tone groveling. "Please?"
"No, no, sorry. I have to be firm here. Among other things, I've grown quite attached to my guests..." The dragon pointed behind it with the thumb. "Bilbo, and the company. You can fight Thorin if he consents," the dragon said to Azog, "But no one else. They are too precious."
Dain chuckled into his beard, wondering what his cousin managed to do to fall off the dragon's grace.
"So, no fighting, alright?" the dragon shook its index finger at Azog and then Dain, and headed to the Mountain. "I'll go ask Thorin if he wants to come out."
An awkward pause followed. The two armies stood, avoiding looking at each other. From time to time, a Dwarf would start to whistle nonchalantly, but soon the sound would die out.
In a few minutes Thorin's head appeared at the top of the battlement.
"Defiler! I'm prepared to face you!" Thorin shouted, and Dain nodded approvingly. A pointed dragon cough could be heard, and Thorin added in an irked tone, "The rest can go. Dain, we will open the gates for you, but no Orcs are allowed."
The following movements were even more awkward - the Dwarves had to walk around the Orcs to head towards the gates. The dragon's head was now visible above the battlement, and they were being observed from under a raised eyebrow. No one dared to start a fight, and after a few instants one could even hear 'sorry's' and 'excuse me's.'
Dain rode at the head of his army; and once the gates closed behind them, he dismounted and rushed up. On the battlement he found the twelve Dwarves from his cousin's company and a Halfling. They all leaned over the railing and watched Thorin and Azog start circling each other in the middle of empty spot the Orcs left for them.
"So, how is he doing?" the dragon's voice came from the passage behind them. Dain looked up and saw the muzzle, with an expression of disinterest plastered on it. The fact that he could see the worm wraggle and scrunch its own tail in its front paws told quite a different story.
Dain glanced down. Thorin wasn't doing that well. He had received two major blows from Azog and was now limping.
"Couldn't we interfere?" the dragon spoke up again a few minutes again. It had moved closer and was now looming over them, its eyes following the movements of the fighters.
And then it gasped loudly, when Azog's blade pierced Thorin's shoulder, and the Orc emitted a triumphant roar.
"But really, I can just pick him up and stuff him somewhere. No one will hear from him again..." the dragon was muttering at the background, and then Thorin rolled aside, and onto his feet. And then in a long precise lunge he slid low, along the ground, and the blade of his sword entered under the ribs of the Defiler. The filth was done with.
The Orcs roared in fury and anguish, but none dared moving.
"Is it over yet?" the dragon asked in a strangely muffled voice - it turned out it was hiding its muzzle behind the front paws.
"It is, and we won. But Thorin is wounded," the Halfling answered.
The giant wings clapped, a gust of air ruffled everyone's hair and beards, and the dragon descended onto the valley; sadly, just to pick up the fallen Dwarven King; and not to stomp and chomp. The Orcs nonetheless decided that a quick and efficient retreat was the right way to proceed.
The dragon passed Thorin's limp body to Oin, and then stood over them, its clawed fingers wriggling nervously.
"So?" it asked, when Oin finished his examination.
"He needs bandages and bed rest, but he will recover," was the verdict, and the worm exhaled in relief, the rest of them mirroring its sentiment.
To be continued...