The Retreat of the Five Armies

The better part of valour is discretion.

~ William Shakespeare

The Dwarves had watched their Master Burglar creep down the tunnel with apprehension in their hearts. They had grown to like the little fellow and several of them were on the verge of racing down and bringing him back. But they were in the Mountain, their ancient home, and the feeling of Home worked upon them until they thought they would do anything to have it back again.

It was about that time that Gandalf made his appearance.

The Old Stories no doubt tell about how Gandalf didn't arrive until later and Lake Town burned and Bard killed the Dragon, but these are all stories. Minstrels have never been known for their honesty.

"Where is Bilbo?" Gandalf asked immediately.

"He has gone to spy out the Dragon," Thorin replied.

"Oh dear," Gandalf said.

I think they were all very surprised (except Bomber, who was asleep, and Gandalf, who had reasons of his own) when Bilbo came back so quickly. He was whistling cheerfully with his hands in his pockets and behind him trotted (rather shyly) a very little Dragon.

"You mean we were chased out of the Mountain and the city of Dale was destroyed by…by that?" Bomber exclaimed with incredulity, suddenly waking up.

Smaug snuffed (snuffing is something dragons do), "I'm not so small," he said in hurt tones. "I thought I did the job rather well."

"What is the meaning of this, Gandalf?" Thorin asked, turning to the Wizard. Gandalf may have stood a foot taller than the Dwarf, but the intensity of the king's stare was so powerful, he swayed as if he'd been struck with a battering ram.

"Naturally, I hired our friend, here," Gandalf said. "The old Dragon, Pryftan, who destroyed Dale, died long ago and something had to be done to protect Erebor before someone with no right claimed it. I did what I thought best."

"But why didn't you tell us?" Thorin thundered (good alliteration there, eh?).

Gandalf preened slightly; he attempted to look modest, "Professional pride?"

Thorin rolled his eyes.

It was after this that the armies began to descend upon the Mountain. They were after the gold, of course, and Thorin knew it. There were only thirteen of the Dwarves, but all thirteen were determined to defend their Home to the Death.

"There's only one problem with this place," Smaug said, sneezing loudly (and shooting sparks in all directions), as they all stood at the gates of the Mountain, overlooking the armies of Men and Elves. "It gives one a nasty gold in the head."

"A gold in the head?" Bilbo asked curiously.

"I believe it's called 'dragon sickness," Smaug continued. "Has something to do with the dust. I hate catching golds."

And that is why Thorin was rather grumpier than usual; he had caught the gold from Smaug and was feeling miserable. And it's hard to be an imposing King under the Mountain when one is constantly blowing one's nose. There was talk that he might have been running a fever after someone spotted him pretending his sword was a mandolin and solemnly strumming it ("Bats. Completely bats," Bofur said afterwards). Thorin was even more annoyed when an envoy from the Town of Men rode up and declared their intentions.

"I will give you what I promised you," Thorin called down, "But not while you stand armed at my gate. Go back to your camping place and rethink your coming. I will be fair to you if you will be fair to me."

That was when the Goblins arrived, for they, too, wanted gold. Thorin, after a muttered conference with Gandalf and a nod at Smaug, went out to see what they had to say. I needn't bother recounting it, for it was neither witty, nor wise. Thorin, on the other hand, pulled himself to his full height (which was diminutive) and said: "Smaug the Dragon has signed articles with us; flee before it is too late, or feel his wrath." The Goblin army wavered noticeably, but held fast and Gandalf, who was rather good with fireworks, let off one of his better ones: a red dragon with great, outstretching wings and fire bursting from its mouth. It is rumored, even today, that the Goblin army is still running.

There is only one thing left to be recounted (after the portioning of the gold, which was done very fairly) and that is of the Arkenstone. Bilbo had found it almost at once and on coming out of the Dragon's Lair, had handed it to Thorin. It was round, like a globe of glass and seemed to have snow whirling at its heart. After Thorin looked at it for some while, he passed it on to the next Dwarf.

"It's odd how one's memory plays tricks," Thorin said. "I remembered something far more wonderful than that."

"If you wind it up, it plays a tune," Bilbo pointed out the key sticking out of the globe.

Ori wound it up. I'm not sure if you are familiar with 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star', but that is the tune it played.

And that is the very end of the story; Smaug and Bilbo still live at Bag-End for aught I know. Bilbo is often seen out walking his pet Dragon on a leash and it is rumored that Smaug has set up a detective agency and has a blog called "The Science of Combustion". But this is strictly confidential. I know I can trust you not to spread it around.

Author's Note: There, that's the end of it. I hope it wasn't too disappointing. Part of this sprang into being when I read that in early drafts of The Hobbit, Smaug was originally called Pryftan, which is Welsh for "Worm of Fire".


PS: It ought to be noted that plush versions of Smaug are available from the gift shop, which is situated through that door to your, not that one; that's the exit...oh, fine, be that way...Goodbye to you, too.