Disclaimer: All the characters appearing in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are copyrighted by Warner Brothers and the J.R.R. Tolkien estate. No infringement of these copyrights intended, and is not authorized by the copyright holder. I write this fanfiction only for love of the The Hobbit and not for profit.
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I began making my way down the dank stairs of the entrance that led to the treasure room. The algae and moss in this part of Erebor that clung to the stair caught between my toes, giving me a squishy feeling that was neither aromatic or pleasant. Finally making my way to the entrance of the treasure room, I wiped my feet against dry stone.

"Hello?" I softly called and heard a faint echo bounce off the granite walls. Gingerly, I walked forward when silence was the answer I received. "We are all here because we are not all there. Not at home and all alone."

I walked along an elevated footway, slowing gaining confidence to match my bravado. I came to the end and peered over the edge and I thought my jaw nearly fell off my face when I saw the expanse of the treasure room. It wasn't merely a room; it was the size of a small nation and it brimmed halfway to the ceiling with gold.

"Sweet Yavanna!" I swore under my breath. "Where do I start?"

I scampered down the stairs, tiptoeing carefully across the sea of precious metal. Hobbits are known for moving in silence, but I made more noise that a drunken Orc as I walked on gold. Coins clinked and dishes clanged with each step, the sounds reverberating off the walls so loudly I cringed with each footfall. Some of the miniature metal mountains were steep and the sliding coins and trinket underfoot made me lose my balance more than once. One caught itself between my toes and I pulled it free, "you piece of -"

As I threw it to the side, it skipped along the mountains of gold, clanging merrily as it went. "Oh, bullocks! No, no, no!

I searched for nearly an hour through several piles filing polished gems, uncut crystals and fine silver necklaces. Bleakness began settling on me when I wondered how in Mt. Doom was I supposed to find one gem among millions of gold pieces. I had heard of looking a needle in a haystack, but I liked the Dwarrow's saying better, "looking for a diamond in a gold pile."

Suddenly, a rock fall, or I should say, a goldfall, slinked downhill in my direction, making me land soundly on my backside as my feet slid from beneath me. I turned my head in the direction of the avalanche to see a large amber eye surrounded by dull, red scales staring in my general direction.

"Oh, shit," I whispered. My breath came in short gasps and my pulse pounded so hard at my wrist that I thought my veins might explode. Instinct led me to my safest place and my most precious treasure. I reached into my waistcoat pocket, my fingers searching for my lovely ring. Pulling it out, I held it firmly in my fingers and felt calmer when I felt the cool metal on my skin. My breath came in longer intervals and relieved, I stopped for a second to admire its timeless beauty. "There you are."

I heard the gold slide down toward me and watched a scaled, horned head rise up from the treasury surrounding me. I knew I wouldn't find the Arkenstone and at that moment, I didn't give an Orc's arse about it, either! Frack Thorin and his fanatical devotion to a rock! I wanted to get out of there alive and in one piece. If I managed that much, then I'd thank Yavanna later.

I covered my mouth to keep from screaming as the large head rose above me. That blunted snout and that long craggy smile were something from which nightmares were made. It moved its head around slowly, gently sniffing the air. I rose to my feet, ready to make my last fight count and yet, the dragon still hadn't directly looked at me. I repressed the urge to jump up and down at the fact that my lovely ring could hide me even from dragons.

"Well. . . Thief," it lisped. I stifled a nervous giggle from my unintentional rhyme. His voice was deep and resounding; he commanded my immediate attention. His long neck arched toward me. "I smell you. I hear your breath and I feel you near. Where are you?"

"Hmm," I scoffed. "I hear you, I smell your breath and, Sir, you are quite ripe. Have you ever thought of having a mint?

The moment the snarky quip left my mouth, I realized that even my large Hobbit feet fit well in it. Smaug let forth an indignant roar, angered by my insult and flabbergasted by my Tookish impulse. In his rage, the old wyrm snaked toward my scent and I knew that he'd gobble me alive in one bite. So, I decided to listen to my logical and refined Baggins sensibilities.

I ran!

"Where are you?" he demanded, following my scent as I scampered and slid against slanting angles of gold. As he wound around stone pillars, I found a small nook where I took shelter. "Cheeky thing, aren't you, Thief? Come now, if you are as brave as your words, step into the light."

I was slightly eccentric, but certainly, not stupid. I stayed put.

"Hmm," Smaug mused as he seemed to follow my scent and come too close for my comfort. "there is something about you. It is something that you carry made of gold, but, far more precious."

The word triggered the panic attack that I had thought I had abated. How could he have possibly known about the ring? I had told no one. I couldn't and wouldn't give up my precious treasure. The thought of Sauron's evil eye being able to see it was more than I could bear and I gripped the ring tightly in my hand. Being a dragon and all, I figured he had talents that no little Hobbit could match. I had to save my ring from his clutches.

Perhaps, if I removed it, he wouldn't be able to feel it's magic. It was mine and I was damned if I was going to let that leather-bellied piece of snake dung have my ring!

Wrong move.

The next thing I knew, I saw two large amber eyes staring down at me. At that moment, I knew I'd have to change my undergarments if I made it out of that treasury room alive. His dry lips pulled back to reveal long rows of sharp, crooked teeth that would make my skin shred and my bones crack.

"There you are," he smiled, "Thief in the shadows."

My bones creaked, my knees knocked and my teeth chattered as I dared to look into the face of about to eat me. As I trembled, my lips decided I needed to ramble. "Oh, great and powerful Smaug, I haven't come to steal your treasure, the impossibly wealthy a-a-and mag-magnificently malodorous. I only desired to gaze upon your exaltedness and to see if you were as great as he old tales say."

He pulled away from me and out of my sight until he stood in the middle of the vast treasury room with wings unfurled and chest puffed. He sat proud and straight in the middle of the hoard, quite please with my words. The old lizard loved to be flattered, I realized. I knew there might be a way to save my life yet because I knew there wouldn't be an army of Dwarrows to come and save me. I was on my own.

"Oh, verily, I say to you, Smaug," I pulled the words from the air and let them flow. "The legends and operas that sing of your glorious awesomeness do no justice to your enormity and lingering halitosis. I bow before your wondrousness and long to avoid your wrathful flatulence."

"Do you think that flattery will keep you alive?"

"It certainly can't hurt," I muttered. "I am at your mercy of your wisdom and will, O Great One."

"Indeed, you are, Thief," he reminded me. "You have me at an advantage knowing my name, but I don't remember smelling one such as you. Who are you and from where do you hail, if I may ask?"

My jaw went slack as I stuttered, lost without a glib remark or another masked insult. My mind became blank as I gawked at a pile of gold, desperately grasping for any inspiration it might give me. Shimmering white and argent, buried partially by the gold surrounding it, came a luminescence like no other I had seen.

'This is my heart and I give it you," a feminine voice lilted through my thoughts, too quiet for one to hear. It was like no voice that I had heard before or since that moment. I knew that that Erebor had spoken to me or I had finally went raving starkers in my last moments alive. 'Simply answer as your heart tells you."

"I come from under the hill," I began.

"Underhill?"

I nodded quickly. "And over dales where my path has allowed me to travel unseen. I have seen fire and flown through air with eagles beneath me."

"Marvelous," the dragon chuckled, only a few feet away from me. His breath stank of rotting flesh and dung. I attempted to fan away the stench with no luck. "Who else do you say to be?"

"I am," I coughed, trying not to gag on the stink. "Luck rider and troll taker, wizard's friend and riddle-maker."

"Quite lovely," Smaug said. "Amuse me. Please, continue."

"Oh," I tried to think of anything else to buy me time until I could grab that glorious white stone buried beneath the gold and scramble to safety. "I am Barrel-rider."

"Barrels," he huffed. "You have caught my interest, Thief, but what about your little dwarf friends? Where are they now?"

"Dwarves?" I asked innocently, crossing my fingers behind my back as I tried to make my voice not shake with every word. "I think you're quite wrong, Master Dragon, no Dwarves here."

Smaug's large nose came within only inches of me as he inhaled deeply, letting his eyes close slowly as he took in my scent. "First of all, if you know anything of me, Barrel-rider, then you know I am not a 'master', but a 'mistress.'"

I said nothing, but knew my eyes widened to the size of saucers at this unexpected revelation. Smaug was truly a Smaugette and I wondered what other dangerous surprises the dragoness held in store for me to discover.

"0h, that would explain your inexplicable beauty and majesty," I stuttered, trying to recover my composure from her startling announcement. "I didn't know of this, I swear, O beauteous reptilian seraph of the depths. I am humbled by this revelation."

"While you are charming, Luck-wearer, you are also an accomplished liar," Smaug's breath smelled of rotting flesh and death. I fanned my hand in front of my face to disperse the stink that made my stomach churn. "You are Dwarf-rider. You reek of them. The scent of Thorin Oakenshield clings to your flesh like dried sweat. The residue of your mating wraps you in the stench of Dwarf and you thought didn't notice?"

"Erebor used to know be known as the realm of the Dwarves," I said, hedging to divert her from her correct assumption. "that is what you smell."

"They sent you here as their lackey, their minion, to do their dirty work while they cower in shadows, creeping about in the dark."

Balin didn't warn me of the uncanny sensitivity of a dragon's olfactory senses. I wondered, if next, if she'd predict what I had eaten for second breakfast. I felt my pulse race as her eyes traveled along my path in the treasury back to where I entered the chamber. She was not only observant, but cunning and astute. I learned in that moment that I was guilty of the same mistake twice: underestimating those whom I thought less intelligent than myself; first with trolls and, now, with this scaly cow.

"I mean no offense, O Lady of Gold," I thought quickly. Rather than try to deceive one whose senses were far sharper than mine, I decided in that instant to try a very Tookish tactic: the truth. "O, Smaug, Queen and Empress of Calamities-" I never had a chance to finish my sentence.

"You have nice manners and pretty words for a thief and a minion," her deep voice purred as she folded her front legs in front of her, resting her head upon them. "I think they do you an injustice, Little Liar. I know the smell and taste of Dwarf better than most, Dwarf-rider. They are drawn to the gold and to treasure as flies are to a corpse."

"Dwarves are a proud lot with much love for their gems and metals," I agreed. "But, you are mistaken-"

"Oh, am I?" Smaug blinked at me, staring at me those glowing gold eyes. "Did you not think that I know this day would arrive? I have a proposition for you, Dwarf-rider."

"A-a-what?" I gaped at her.

"A proposition," her words were sweet and alluring in their rumbling persuasion. "They took from me long ago my home," Smaug raised an arm or a leg, I'm not quite sure what to call her front appendage, but motioned a talon toward the roof of the treasure chamber. "This was my home long before it was theirs and they stole from me what I treasure most."

"And what does a dragon treasure most?" I couldn't speak above a whisper as I found myself lost in her hypnotic stare. Gold, amber and tangerine swirling with hints of green held me fast as I found myself truly wanting to hear the rest of her tale.

"Like most, gold," she cocked her head. "A place for my hatchlings to live in safety.'

Had Erebor truly been hers first? Hatchlings? What hatchlings?

"For ten generations before Mahal's cockroaches awakened, this was my family's ancestral home. My mother hatched me here in this very chamber as her mother had her and so it goes backward to the time of the Elves' awakening. We were at peace with them as they with us. All was well and it mattered little to them that gold infuses us with health and longevity. When the Dwarves awoke and made their way here, they mined this place of its healing and almost left Erebor little more than a raped skeleton."

"Erebor?" I parroted.

"You know she is alive and has spoken to you," Smaug challenged. "I heard her speak or the first time since the Dwarves left her. She spoke to you today as she once did to me. I haven't heard her voice since the Dwarves left and that is why I'm toying with the idea of letting you life if you and I can come to an arrangement.'

"Whatever could I have that could possibly interest someone like you, Queen of the depths?" I inquired, intrigued by Smaug's interest in striking a deal.

"I will let them have a small portion of the gold," she showed her crooked teeth as what I think she meant as a smile. "There is more than enough for my nest and health and for satisfying their greed. I let them take a small amount. If they leave me in peace, then I will let the cowards leave with their lives along with their promise never to return."

She motioned with her left paw, he talons skimming along a pile of gold bullion that sent several pieces flying in the air along with a bright glint of white that caught my eye. I watched it skim along the surface of the golden sea that surrounded us. It skittered past me and out of my grasped before my fingers had a chance to wrap around it. "I am toying with the idea of letting you leave alive with just enough gold to satisfy their lusts. I find you amusing with your silver tongue, Barrel-rider. What say you to my deal?"

I put my finger to my lips, considering her proposition, not knowing what to say. I must've taken longer than what Smaug considered reasonable as she began to clicker her talons impatiently upon the gold. "What is your answer?"

"I'm considering the magnificent magnitude of your generosity, O Smaug," I stalled.

"Consider this, mate of Thorin Oakenshield," she motioned to the gold around us. "Males robbed this blessed lady, Erebor, for her golden marrow. They pierce us," she tapped her chest. "and did this to me when I tried to protect my eggs."

I stared at the center of her chest where she laid her paw over a gaping hole that was glowing ember red. "I am wounded and infected because of what one of their iron lances did to me. It almost killed me, Barrel-rider, and the gold has nearly healed me, but not completely. Within five years I will be well and my eggs hatched. I am still in pain from what they did to me. If your mate were a good one, why would he send you in here to skulk about? Isn't he Dwarrow enough to face his enemies himself? He uses you."

I saw the gaping red wound where a scale once was rested. Still red, I noticed the scales around it had dulled in color and the aroma near that part of Smaug was the rotting flesh I had smelled earlier. She thought herself healing, but by the black and green on the edges of the wound, I knew the opposite to be true. She didn't have much time at all and she was doing what any good mother would do to protect her children.

I almost sympathized with her, but only almost. I also remembered this dragon had killed thousands of innocents, Human and Dwarrow, alike. I didn't know if she was lying to have me reveal and compromise the safety of my husband and company or if her ploy was to have me sympathetic to her plight because we were both female, if she truly was at all. If the Dwarrows had driven her from Erebor, then that lay upon Thorin's ancestors' shoulders and was not my concern. As she protected her family, so I protected mine.

I slipped on my golden treasure and followed the white light dancing atop the sea of gold. "Not today, Smaug." I knew that that white gem that had eluded my grasp was the very thing that I came into the treasury to collect. Today, I would offer the Arkenstone to my husband and king.

She crashed her paw down upon the gold coins as I became unseen to her. "You dare support a pack of canting Dwarves that dare scour in the darkness of the mountain?" The riptide of gold moving below me made my balance fail me and I fell head over hills down the tall pile of gold. "You are stupid and don't deserve to live."

"Screw you, Scaly Cow!" I gaffawed, falling past the gleaming white stone and pocketing it in my waistcoat as I tumbled toward the treasury entrance. I found my footing and skipped every other step as I race to the portal to lose the dragon behind me. Her footfalls caused a tidal wave of gold to rise into the air, it's pieces showering me in a waterfall of rapid projectiles that I darted and dodged.

"Why do you protect him?" she bellowed, searching for me as she tried to find my trail. "Your King Under the Mountain is as good as dead. I claimed his throne and took back what was stolen from me. He stole my eggs and I devoured his people like a wolf among sheep."

I trembled.

"I live where and as I wish," Smaug was only within a few yards of me as I neared the door. "My scales are iron armor; no blade can wound me. I protect what is rightfully mine."

I listed to my Baggins sensibilities and said nothing, only shivering behind a nearby pillar hoping the she-dragon didn't catch my scent. I did my best to remain upwind of her, but didn't know how long I had until she discerned my location. "Oakenshield isn't only your mate, is he, Barrel-rider? He is your husband, isn't he and this is why you do this, betraying your sex for that filthy Dwarvish usurper. He sent you here for the Arkenstone, my beloved egg. You would steal a mother's child from their home for him?"

"No. No. No!" I answered in spite of myself, inching another few feet toward the treasury entrance while Smaug's back was turned. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Don't deny it, Thief," Smaug turned in my direction, sniffing the air and a smile of victory revealed her teach as she savored her discovery. "I deduced his intention once I caught his scent upon you. However, it matters little because Oakenshield's quest will fail. Darkness is coming, Lady Oakenshield, and it will spread to every corner of the land, healing me and protecting my unhatched child."

"Show yourself now and I will let you live, despite what your husband attempts to do," she growled. Her rumbling words reverberated countless times off the cavern walls. I felt my nervous sweat slick the side of the pillar that I leaned against as I tried to catch my breath. "I understand your plight, realizing that love blinds us to all. Oakenshield uses you and you are his means to an end. The coward has decided the value of your life lacking in comparison to mountains of gold."

"No," I yelled, hating the truth of the dragon's words and wanting to deny it, but found honesty in her accusations. My heart broke as she spoke and I wanted to call the scaly cow a liar and found that I ould not. "You're lying. You're wrong!"

"What did he promise you, Lady Oakenshield?" She asked. "Undying, eternal love? A warm hearth and a brood of children? A share of the treasure? It isn't his to give and I will not part with a single coin. Not. One. Piece. Of. It."

I ducked as the great thunder lizard slammed her tail in rage against the gold and took the open path toward the treasury door. My heart pounded inside my bosom as I took my one chance to escape because instinct told me I wouldn't have another one.

"Make no mistake, Lady Oakenshield," she roared, searching for me as I bast beneath her left wing. "I will defend my life, my home and child with teeth of iron and claws like blades. By wing and tail, I will smite Oakenshield into an early grave. I am the eastern wind of justice bringing wrath mightier than a hurricane."

"Since the black arrow found it's mark. You don't have long," I whispered aloud, seeing that the wound now glistened with a red viscous liquid, realizing that somehow while search for me, something in the chamber had aggravated her wound. "You're weaker than you appear. You're dying."

When she planted her wing in the floor of the treasury, she blocked my escape. "What did you say?" Smaug said in my direction as she pinpointed because of my speaking.

"I was just saying that I am considering your generous offer, O Smaug, great and powerful," I stammered as I took a careful step atop the gold to duck into the negative space between her body and wing. "Truly, there is none like you on this earth, Great Lady."

I took another careful step and I stood next to her junction of where her body met her tail, thanking Yavanna that I hadn't yet become dragon appetizer.

"I am almost tempted to let you have the Arkenstone, if only for a little while," Smaug said. I realized she had lost my scent again because her aroma masked mine since I stood only a yard from her. It would be a tale I'd be happy to tell my children one day of how I stood three feet from an ancient worm and survived to tell it. "If only to see Oakenshield in agony as it tortures him. Mark my words, Lady Oakenshield, it will banish you from his heart and drive him mad. You will be less than nothing to him."

I knew she found me when she backed away from me, inhaling deeply, but never taking her eyes from me. "I extend one more mercy to you, Lady Oakenshield, as you are blinded by what you think is love. It ends here and I will spare you the pain of what is to come. Do you have any last words before you die?"

"Not at the moment," I chirped, racing past her tail. I bounded up the steps, dancing around the corner as I heard a roar of frustration echo off the cavern walls. A roar was followed by a sudden heat just as I found shelter behind a pillar just beyond the treasury door. I leaned against the cool stone, but fell forward as I heard the rush of fire explode through the chamber and out the treasury door, blowing it off its hinges.

I heard footsteps coming toward me and a familiar voice calling my name. I removed my precious ring, jamming it into my waistcoat pocket. My wonderful little ring had saved my life more than once today and I treasured it close to my heart. As I heard Thorin's voice, my heart exploded that I had escaped scaly death to see him again.

"By Mahal," Thorin exclaimed as I ran toward him. "You're alive!"

"Barely," I admitted, my chest heaving as my lungs fought for breath.

"Did you find the Arkenstone?"

"We have to go, Thorin-"

"The Arkenstone, Bella," he demanded. "Did you find it?"

"The dragon is coming," I said, pointing down the stairwell. "She's right behind me. We have to go-"

"Bella, did you find it?" The quiet urgency of his words made think of Smaug's. She had told me that the damned rock would banish me from his heart and make me less than nothing to him. I refused to believe it, I didn't want to believe it. I didn't want to know she was right. I didn't wan't to believe that the Arkenstone, her supposed egg, was the Desolation of Thorin.

I gaped at him, saying nothing, while I tried to catch my breath. How could the Dwarrow I loved be more concerned about a stone than my safety? How could I give it to him if it made him insane? "Thorin, she's coming! We have to get out."

I heard the clang of iron against stone as he blocked my exit to the outside world. He turned the blade so that its edge was toward me and he used it to push me back from the door. "I warned you, wife, not to defy me. Don't now. Did you find it?"

"Thorin," I said as he brought the blade to my chest and I backed up avoid it impaling me. "Thorin, please! This isn't you."

His single-minded mission reflected in his gaze as he never took his eyes from me. In the distance, I heard the jostling of gold, seeing the triangular shadow if wing in silhouette against the wall to the right of us. I glance over at it, then desperately back at my husband. I choked back a sob as I saw a stranger before me and not My Love, bringing my hand to my mouth to stifle the sound. At that moment, his expression changed to one of bewilderment as though he had been awoken abruptly from a nightmare. "Ghivashel . . ."

I nodded toward the dragon and Thorin came back to me in that instant, looking in the same direction. I exhaled in relief that the madness clouding my husband's mind had left him. Perhaps, Smaug was wrong after all.

"Bella, get behind me now!" Thorin commanded and I didn't have to be told twice. I scampered up the stairwell and heard the familiar roar of eleven warriors I was very glad to see at that moment. They roared their battle cries, falling into formation along the precipice and beside Thorin.

The dragon roared, charging toward us with gleaming rage and scarlet glowing in her chest and emitting red light between her scales. "You will all burn!"

"Run!" Dwalin commanded.

You didn't have to tell me twice as we ran for our lives...

TO BE CONTINUED...