I was in a mood. Yes. That's the best explanation as to how this was born. Not that I'm not fond of said mood… But anyways. Here's something new! I really loved the new Hobbit movie (a lot more than the first one) and, of course, BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH. Those six syllables have ruined my life, but I don't particularly mind…
The basic idea (or at least the first chapter) is based off a book called Dragon's Bait that I read when I was younger and still love to this day.
PS. I can see people storming the reviews section with comments on how Bard's wife is dead, and therefore Arya offhandedly thinking of her pregnant state would be awfully strange and stupid (on my end). That was put there to show the timeframe of the story (aka. At least a few years before the movie-canon would begin.) ALSO. I'll admit, I've yet to read any of the books, so I'm going pretty much all off the movies, so feel free to correct any canonical mistakes I make! Thank you!
Chapter 1—Be the Bait
'Witchcraft' was just one of those words.
No matter how much magic coursed through Middle-Earth, no matter how many wizards appeared in pubs to blow sweet smelling smoke rings in the faces of those taking shelter there, or how many prophecies or elves or shape shifters there were, people still shuddered when 'witchcraft' was mentioned. Arya was able to understand that to an extent. The idea of a cackling, unseemly, old woman brewing potions and placing people under curses was a bit more unsettling than a wise, long bearded man parading through Middle-Earth with a staff… but the discrimination against witches still seemed a bit unfair.
Particularly if said person accused of being a witch, was, you know, not a witch.
Arya tugged halfheartedly at the ropes binding her wrists to the wooden pole. She'd been squirming around in hopes of escape for the better part of a day now, and all that'd gotten her was a set of matching cuts across each wrist and enough scratches to make any kind of movement uncomfortable. She shivered in the cold. The black of night was unnerving on its own, let alone when one was tied to a pole with naught but internal fury for warmth.
How she wished she was back at home… so that she could strangle the people who'd left her here.
Arya was not a witch! She had no powers, no special skills, and no more than thirty pence to her name. If she had been a witch, wouldn't she have—oh, who knows?—been able to escape her bindings? Or perhaps smote her accusers? Just a thought.
She'd argued vehemently for her freedom at the trial… if one could have called it that. She'd practically been pronounced guilty the moment she trudged into the room. The Master of Esgaroth was worried of upheaval in the Lake-Town, and what better way to unite the people than to give them a common enemy?
There's a witch among you!
A witch who spoils your food and dirties your drinking water!
A witch who spreads sickness and death to your loved ones!
A witch who wears holes in your clothes and make grime adhere to the floors of your homes!
Arya hadn't been a 'trouble maker' per se—not to the extent that Bard had been at least. (Offhandedly, she wondered how his wife was doing. Arya assumed pregnancy kind of sucked…) Arya hadn't been known for thievery or acting as the heroic daredevil, but she had been somewhat known for her ungracious attitude and for the one time she'd shoved a boy named Grendy into the water for pulling her hair. Apparently, that more than qualified her as a person of interest.
The Master had planted a seed in the people's minds, and—as unfertile of an environment as it may have been—an idea began to sprout.
Suddenly, people would send her slant eyed glares from across the docks. Conversations faded into hushed whispers when she passed and the snippets she managed to hear were always unpleasant.
Do you really think she could be the witch?
Just look at her!
Do you see her eyes?
Do you see her?!
There's no doubt in my mind.
Silver eyes—witch eyes!
That was when Arya had begun to feel a bit unnerved. She really wasn't all that abnormal looking… at least, she didn't think so. But people saw what they wanted to see. Suddenly, plain, grey eyes glowed silver like the moon and dirty, auburn hair shone like crimson hell fire. She hadn't become sick with typhus, so obviously she had cast a spell to ward it off. Neither she nor her family were completely emaciated, so she had clearly sold her soul to keep her pantry full. The buckles on her boots held a bit of shine—it was blatant she'd never bothered to clean them, but instead used black magic to keep her shoes looking new.
In short, there was nothing she could have done to escape conviction. It was somehow both depressing and refreshing to know that.
Determining what her sentence ought to be had been the only interesting part of the trial. Should she be weighted down and sunk to the bottom of the lake, or should a more traditional route be taken, in which she would be taken to land and burned at the stake…? Then there was the issue of the dragon slumbering in the Lonely Mountain. Would the stench of burnt witch irritate his nose and awaken him? If a source of magic was destroyed, would he be able to sense it? If that was the case, should Arya have been abandoned to die in the Mirkwood? Or left to the mercy of what or whomever passed her first? So many choices…
The Master of Lake-Town, ever the suave and composed party, had held up one bejeweled hand and announced, "I have an idea that I believe will satisfy everyone."
It was decided.
The witch was to be offered up as dragon's bait. If the great dragon Smaug should appear (as the people feared), perhaps Arya would satiate his hunger. If not, she would simply end up dead one way or another—starvation, illness, the cold…
Arya shuddered, half from the chill, half from the unpleasant memory of first hearing her death sentence.
Once again, she tugged at her bindings. When it did nothing more than further irritate her raw wrists, she groaned and slid dejectedly to the ground. She let her hair fall in front of her eyes with a sigh. Maybe she should just call it quits for the night and go to sleep. Perhaps she'd somehow not die from the cold and then she could try to free herself again tomorrow morning—
The sky hanging over the Lonely Mountain came alive with brilliant, golden, flames. There was no accompanying roar, though Arya supposed that wasn't quite necessary. The point had been made, and made well. Whoever lived in that mountain was not someone (or something) to be trifled with. Grey eyes widened in terror.
Was the dragon alive?
A black mass appeared from the smoke and hurtled into the night sky.
Yes. Yes it was.
So much for waiting until morning to work her way out of the ropes.
With that, the struggle began once more. The ropes may have been shoddy quality, but they were thick enough to prevent her from breaking loose. She didn't have a knife stowed away in some secret pocket, she didn't have any special power or quality that could save her from the dragon's fiery jaws…
Think, Arya, think!
She pulled and fought and struggled until her muscles ached and gave way to exhaustion. Arya fell forward with a thud, knees buried in cold mud. It was hopeless. She would die here. The dragon would use her bones to pick his teeth or she'd turn into a human Popsicle. There was no hope for her. She was going to pass away in this damn mud pit—
Her head shot up, eyes sparking with realization.
Arya dug the heels of her boots into the gooey earth, kicking and digging her toes into the muck that had accumulated at the base of her makeshift prison. She forced herself to stand as straight and tall as she could, and took in a shaky breath through clenched teeth before once again beginning to tug. She raised her arms as high as the ropes would allow and pulled. And pulled. And pulled.
The mud beneath her feet seemed to slurp and gurgle as it slowly released the wooden stake from its goopy hold. Gradually, it became easier to raise her shoulders and the end of the pole broke free from the brown sludge. The rope slackened and she couldn't help but let out a giggle of triumph. Cumbersome as it would be to drag a six foot stake around, it was much more pleasant than being rooted to the ground like an animal caught in a trap.
Cautiously, she lowered herself to the ground so that the pole and her bound hands were resting limp in the damp dirt. From there, she rose into a crouch and scooted backwards and through the small loop her arms had created. Now that her hands were in front of her rather than strung up behind her, she could work on unknotting the rope and… and…
She paused, fingers buried in the coarse bindings.
And then what?
As the rope fell from her aching wrists, so did her celebratory grin.
Where would she run to?
Home? No. She couldn't go back to Laketown—not with her parents still residing on the floating mass of decaying wood… They'd try to help her, and then they'd be caught, and then they'd be killed. That was how things like this worked. Besides, it wasn't like she had any way to get back there.
The lake separated her from any and all other places of refuge. And even if she somehow managed to reach another town, how would she survive? She had no trade, no money…
There was still Dale she supposed. She could head that way… But that was only prolonging the inevitable.
Arya stood, shaking from cold and fear. She tilted her head towards the star splattered sky and could see the dragon circling lazily overhead—no doubt searching for his next meal. There was no way he hadn't seen her by now. She was in the center of an empty field for heaven's sake! She was practically being served to him on an unattractive and muddy platter! Unless… he thought she was too boring of a meal.
Carefully, she crouched back down and reached into the muck—searching. A few minutes later, she pulled back, successful, with a large, round, rock in hand. Arya weighed the stone in her palms, letting it roll heavily back and forth between both her hands. It had weight, no doubt, though not so much so that it would plummet straight to the ground the second it was thrown.
Smaug was closer now—close enough that she could see just how large and menacing the beast was, and she knew this was a very bad idea.
How would it kill her? She'd heard tales of the dragons of old demanding they be brought fair maidens to eat. Arya wasn't exactly fair, but she was a maiden the last time she checked… Was it for the flavor? Did young ladies just taste better somehow? Alright. Okay. So the dragon would eat her. That was established. But… would it start to eat her right away, while she was still breathing and screaming and knowing that oh gods she was going to die, or would it kill her first? Perhaps with its massive claws, or maybe by biting off—
She shook her head.
This wasn't helping. She just… needed to get it over with. It was either a quick death by dragon or a tortuously drawn out one…
Arya clenched her eyes shut and, seeing as her hands were occupied with the stone, crossed her toes for luck.
Dear whatever powers there are out there,
Please let him just swallow me whole.
P.S. Let me die before the digestion process begins. Thanks.
"Hey! You! Smaug the Stupid!" she screeched at the top of her lungs. "Come and get me!"
She flung the rock with all her might, but her poor muscles, practically dead from the cold and all the strain that'd already been placed on them from her valiant escape attempts, rebelled. The stone arced and plummeted back to the ground with a gentle thud, far short of Smaug. Still, her screaming must have been loud enough to attract his attention and the dragon wheeled gracefully and glided toward her.
As he grew closer, Arya felt her bravado begin to fade. Rapidly.
This… may have been the wrong choice.
She scrunched her eyes shut, bracing herself for a fiery doom.
She felt the wind of his wings as he settled onto the ground. Arya stayed stiff, prepared for the worst, but… She cracked one eye open the tiniest bit. She was expecting something along the lines of a torrent of flames, but instead…
Oh look. She didn't even reach the knees of his front legs. How nice.
She gulped and, mustering up every last smidgen of courage left within her, tilted her head back, and back, and back, in an attempt to look him in the eyes (a failed attempt, seeing as she could not see his eyes as they were so far above her, but a valiant attempt none the less). Smaug towered over her, red scales shining in the moonlight. Her nostrils were flooded with the scent of smoke and copper and… dragon, she assumed. She had no other word for it.
Exasperated, she flung her arms out to the side. "Well? Eat me!"
There was no response.
With a frustrated growl, Arya stepped closer. "Can't you hear me?! I said, EAT. ME." She punctuated the demand with a solid kick to the dragon's clawed foot. It left her toes stinging and her brain rebelling about how could she be so stupid, but at least now it was certain that she—
"It is not very often that I find a human flinging pebbles at me."
His voice was like thunder, reverberating throughout her entire frame. She shuddered.
"Uhm… I see?"
"Is that yours?"
Arya glanced over to the wooden stake that lay alone on the muddy ground. She nodded. Smaug lowered his monstrous head so he could sneer at her. His golden eye was larger than her entire head.
"You had a chance to flee."
"…I didn't think you saw me."
"Of course I saw you, vermin," he hissed. "Do you believe me to be so pathetic? I simply was not interested in a meager snack like yourself until you acted out of the ordinary."
"A girl staked in a field outside of a deserted city is ordinary?"
He ignored her comment. "Why didn't you flee?"
"That's not really important," Arya frowned. "Now, if you would just eat me and get it over with already—"
"I suggest you answer me, vermin. Old and wise as I may be, I am not quite so patient."
She swallowed heavily. "You… You said you saw me all along. So what would've been the point?"
"Why didn't you run?"
"To where?!" she snapped. "Oh, let's head to the town the dragon destroyed! Or, I know, let's swim across the lake back to the town that staked you out here in the first place for… for witchcraft!"
This seemed to pique his interest a bit. "So you are a little witch then?"
The eye that was visible to her narrowed. "Hmm… How dull."
"Yes, yes. I'm perfectly aware of how boring I am. So just EAT ME."
Smaug pulled his head back, choosing instead to glare down at her. A smirk twisted his scaled lips. "And why, pray tell, should I do that, little oaf?"
Arya opened her mouth to protest but hesitated. Was she really about to argue about all the reasons a dragon should kill her? She'd been so certain heading into this. She would let the dragon kill her and that would be the end of it… But this was turning out to be a heck of a lot more than she'd bargained for. She peered up at him cautiously.
"So…. You're not going to kill me?"
"Oh, I don't recall saying that, little oaf," he mocked, twisting his serpentine neck back down to stare at her.
"I see…" Arya carefully began to inch backwards—her suicidal aspirations squashed for the moment. "So what are you going to do with me?"
There was a small patch of woods nearby. The trees looked thick and close together. Perhaps he wouldn't be able to reach her if she… she… Oh, who was she kidding? He could just cough up a fireball or sit on the trees and crush them… Screw it. She was just going to book it as fast as she could. Maybe then he'd...
Without bothering to think or look where she was headed, she turned and sprinted. Not seconds later, she was knocked flat on her stomach—face pressed into the mud. She coughed, spitting chunks of dirt from her mouth. The gigantic, clawed, foot, pressed into her back pushed her further into the ground.
"Now, now. Running is a very bad idea, little oaf."
"And throwing rocks at a dragon isn't?"
Smaug growled. The low grumble was like thunder and it made her shake beneath his claws.
"Do you enjoy life, little oaf?"
"I must say that in all my glory, I have become… quite bored. My hoard and all its splendor is still naught but gold, and after dozens of years, it seems to provide very little entertainment other than simple visual pleasure. So tell me, little oaf, what do you humans do to eliminate your boredom, hmm?" Smaug hummed. Arya stayed silent, not sure how to answer. Smaug's claws gripped her more tightly and she felt a rush of wind as he stretched his wings, pumping them a few times to relieve some of the stiffness in them. "I was thinking of adopting a pet."
Her eyes widened in horror as he pushed off the ground and into the chilly, night air.
So. Should I continue or not…?
I would like to, but if it seems absolutely horrid, I'd like to know so I can revise it first. Hopefully I'll be updating soon :D